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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #12, 99-01-26

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, January 26, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

1		Briefing on Disaster Relief in Central America Following
		  Hurricane Mitch
1		Death of Diplomatic Security Agent Brad Smith

SERBIA (Kosovo) 1,2 Ambassador Hill's Meeting with Kosovar Albanian Representatives 2 Secretary Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov Joint Statement on Kosovo 3,4,5 Next Steps/Possibility of Contact Group Meeting Later This Week 4,5 Additional US Humanitarian Assistance for Kosovo

RUSSIA/ARMENIA 6 Russian S-300 Missiles to be Stationed in Armenia

BOSNIA 6,7 Reduction in the Number of US Troops in Bosnia

COLOMBIA 7,8 Update on Earthquake/ US Assistance/ Welfare of US Citizens

IRAQ 8,9 US Rules of Engagement/Iraq's Violations of the No-Fly Zones

UNITED NATIONS 9 Status of Richard Holbrooke's Nomination for UN Ambassador/Status of Investigation/Holbrooke's Whereabouts


DPB #12

TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 1999, 1:30 P.M.

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department's 12:30 p.m. briefing. No guffaws, please. I apologize for the tardiness.

A couple of announcements. First, we're putting up a notice to the press that there's going to be a briefing on Thursday here in the briefing room at 2:00 p.m. Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who's Counselor at the Department of State, and Mark Schneider, who's Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for USAID, will brief reporters on the record about the disaster relief and reconstruction efforts ongoing in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.

Ambassador Sherman and Mr. Schneider will have just returned from a first- hand look at the situation on the ground in Honduras and Nicaragua. I believe they returned from that trip over the weekend.

Secondly, I have the sad duty to announce the death yesterday of Diplomatic Security Special Agent Brad Smith. He passed away yesterday after a long eight-year battle with a serious illness. I think many journalists in this room and elsewhere had interviewed Brad because he was instrumental in the development of the HEROES program run by the Office of Diplomatic Security. He devised publicity campaigns to advertise reward offers around the world, including the creation of the immensely popular matchbooks which feature the photos of terrorists wanted under the program. He also developed the HEROES Internet site.

Thousands of innocent lives have been saved in part because of Brad's work on the HEROES program. During his 12-year career with the Diplomatic Security Service, Brad Smith played a significant role in the fight against international terrorism. He is a true American hero and we will miss him very much. We send our deepest condolences to his family.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the efforts to convene a conference of the parties to the Kosovo conflict? I understand the Albanian side is continuing to have difficulty forging a delegation.

MR. FOLEY: Ambassador Hill met yesterday in Pristina with Ibrihim Rugova and other Kosovar Albanian representatives. He urged them to adopt a unified negotiating position and to accept the principles that were endorsed by the Contact Group Political Directors' meeting in London last Friday. Ambassador Hill will return to Kosovo for further discussions with Kosovar Albanian leaders tomorrow.

I have a very limited read-out of his meeting yesterday, but it's my information that the Kosovar Albanians with whom he met agreed or understood the need to reach early agreement on a political settlement, and are prepared to engage seriously in an effort to achieve such a settlement. Beyond that, I don't have details of his meetings, but obviously these are very critical - it's a very critical piece of the puzzle to obtain a unified negotiating position on the part of the Kosovar Albanians, number one; and number two, their acceptance of the principles endorsed by the Contact Group in London on Friday.

It is, of course, equally important that we obtain a similar demonstration on the part of Serb authorities to negotiate seriously and in good faith on the basis of those same principles. But of course, we're involved vis-a-vis the Serb authorities with a more immediate challenge, which is to persuade Belgrade to reverse the dangerous course they've been on over the last weeks and to come back into compliance with their commitments to the international community.

I would note, in this respect, that Secretary Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov issued a very tough joint statement on the situation in Kosovo in Moscow earlier today. That statement expresses their complete commitment to the unimpeded functioning of the Kosovo Verification Mission under the leadership of Ambassador Walker. It demands that all attacks on and threats to the KVM cease immediately. The joint Russian-US statement further demands that the FRY comply fully with UN Security Council resolutions, and that it allow Judge Arbour and ICTY investigators to participate in the investigation of the massacre at Racak in order that those responsible are brought to justice.

It calls upon the FRY to suspend the officers operating in Racak at the time of the massacre until the results of the investigation become available. I think we can make available to you that statement, if you haven't already received it. It goes into further detail, specifically calling upon the Belgrade authorities to come into compliance, as I said, with their agreements in October related to the levels, the numbers and the positioning of their military and special police units in Kosovo, which obviously is a critical element of stability in Kosovo today.

QUESTION: I have two questions. When you say that the Kosovar Albanians with whom Hill met were prepared to engage in serious consideration of coming to a unified position, something like that, are you including the KLA in that? Did Hill make any progress? Did he meet with the KLA and did he make any progress in trying to get them on board?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I said that - and I'm not going to go beyond that -- that Ambassador Hill met with Mr. Rugova and with other Kosovar Albanian leaders and representatives. I don't care to go into specifically the whole list of those with whom he met. But we have long said that the KLA will have to be on board or any such agreement will not be sustainable. We have met with KLA representatives and I'm certain that Ambassador Hill this week is in contact with authorized representatives of the KLA.

QUESTION: And the other question was, there are reports out of Europe that the Contact Group Ministers on Friday will apparent issue some sort of ultimatum to the two sides and say, come together within ten days and work on a peace agreement or NATO is going to use force in Kosovo. Does that sort of approximate your understanding of where things are?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe this is a work in progress. The whole issue of - the whole question of what meetings are going to take place later this week. The United States is in very close consultation with our allies and with friends, such as Russia, to determine next steps to achieve the commonly agreed aim of achieving rapid progress on the negotiating track, and agreement to an interim settlement on Kosovo.

But the United States is equally concerned with achieving Serb compliance to the agreements reached in October. As I said yesterday, we are confronting a situation of across-the-board non-compliance on the part of the Serbs. I would simply point out that it is our view that Belgrade's non- compliance makes it much harder to persuade the KLA to comply with international demands. So we see this as an equal challenge in the coming days. The existing NATO Act-Ord, of course, is specifically directed against the incidents of Serb non-compliance with the October agreements.

QUESTION: What you seem to be saying is the United States hasn't signed up yet to whatever compromise or whatever plan is sort of floating out there. What exactly is it that you are trying to get the allies to do that they haven't agreed to do yet?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not prepared to get into, in a public forum, what we're discussing privately with both friends and allies. What I can say is that the United States has held the view that the international community must act to achieve compliance on Belgrade's part with their commitments, and that should include the use of force if that proves necessary.

We are equally engaged on the diplomatic track. Ambassador Hill and Ambassador Petritsch are engaged in that effort to try to accelerate negotiations such that in very short order we can bring the parties to the table and get them to agree on a three-year interim settlement.

As I said, the general principles to govern such an agreement were endorsed by the Contact Group last week in London. They don't draw any conclusions about the final status of Kosovo. Again, they call for an interim settlement over a period of three years during which Kosovar Albanians and all the people of Kosovo would have a substantial degree of autonomy over key government functions; for example, taxes, financing, police -- which is very important -- economic development, the judicial system and healthcare, and to exercise these functions through their own legislative, executive and judicial bodies.

This is, in our view, the only way to avoid further bloodshed and to put Kosovo back on the track of peace and to put the FRY itself on to a track of reintegration into Europe and into the international community. Therefore, we believe it's in the interests of both sides to make the hard decisions, to make the compromises necessary to get to such an interim settlement.

But as I said, this is a work in progress. There have been wire reports, I think you're alluding to, about the possibility of a Contact Group meeting later this week. I checked a short time ago with the Secretary's party in Moscow and as of that time, Secretary Albright had not scheduled a Contact Group meeting. I'll have to keep in touch with the party. That has not happened to this time. She continues to believe, and it's our long- standing policy, that any such meetings need to be well-prepared in advance. So I have nothing to report to you on that at this moment.

QUESTION: From what you say that Ambassador Hill found yesterday, there is not now - or at least he didn't find one yesterday - a unified position on the Kosovars; is that right?

MR. FOLEY: Well, he's working on it. As I said, he believes that the Kosovar Albanians understand the need to achieve a political settlement rapidly, and that they're prepared to work on that basis.

If we had agreement, I would perhaps be in a position to announce that. He's going to be meeting with them again tomorrow in Pristina, so it's a continuing effort.

QUESTION: Also, the statement in Moscow mentions the possibility of humanitarian assistance in light of the new situation. Is there going to be some new humanitarian effort because of the exodus of all those people from Racak?

MR. FOLEY: The exodus has been, obviously, a recent problem. UNHCR reports that of the estimated 3,000 Kosovars displaced following the Racak massacre, some 30 percent have returned to their villages. But that leaves a significant number who remain displaced. However, fortunately, the UN agency does not believe that any of the remaining displaced persons are completely without shelter.

In terms of US plans in the area of humanitarian assistance, the White House put out an announcement earlier today about additional US humanitarian assistance to Kosovo totaling some $25 million. Of course, I would refer you to the White House for those details.

QUESTION: Does the timing of this Executive Order allowing an additional $25 million in humanitarian aid indicate that the US is concerned about a new refugee or a new creation of homeless, shelterless people in light of the new crisis?

MR. FOLEY: That's something that can't be ruled out. We have no indications currently that apart from the increase of refugees which occurred as a direct result of the Racak massacre and an increase that occurred in the Racak area, apart from that we don't have information about a looming resumption of a refugee crisis such as we witnessed in the fall and was prevented by NATO's decisive action in October - its demonstrated readiness to use force to prevent humanitarian catastrophe.

This is very speculative, but one could imagine that if the type of massacre that occurred in Racak some ten days ago were to go unchecked and if the Serb authorities were to believe that they could act against the civilian population of Kosovo with impunity, that indeed we might be faced with dire humanitarian consequences once again. This only underscores the importance of NATO's willingness to maintain the Act-Ord and to use military force if necessary in the event that the authorities in Belgrade don't quickly comply now with the specific demands of the international community that were outlined by the Contact Group in London on Friday and repeated in the joint US-Russian statement in Moscow earlier today.

QUESTION: Can I follow up to that? Then to what do you attribute the timing of the announcement of the $25 million?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to look into that for you. I believe that that announcement had been planned for some days. I was aware of its imminence last week; but how long had it been in the pipeline, I can't say. But obviously the question of the humanitarian situation in Kosovo is one of ongoing concern and it's something that we and international authorities monitor on an almost daily basis. We have to remain prepared to respond to any needs that we see arise.

QUESTION: I don't know if you're going to be able to answer this. Regarding the possibility of this Contact Group Foreign Ministers meeting, is the US sort of holding out and not signing off on such a meeting until there's more of a chance of some political settlement on the table? I mean, is that the criteria that's - is there any criteria at all?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as politely as I could, I indicated earlier that I wasn't going to be in a position to detail, from this podium, the nature of our private diplomatic discussions on this subject. But as I said, we believe and have always believed that such meetings need to be adequately prepared in advance for us to believe that our attendance would help further progress in this area.

QUESTION: And it's now Tuesday; would there be adequate time to prepare for a meeting Friday?

MR. FOLEY: That's a subject of ongoing diplomatic discussion, and my latest information is that that has not been placed on Secretary Albright's schedule at this time. But today is Tuesday, I take your point.

QUESTION: This is not about Kosovo, this is about Armenia, if I may?

MR. FOLEY: I think we have another Kosovo question. We'll come back to you.

QUESTION: It was announced today that the US would reduce the number of troops - sorry -

MR. FOLEY: That's a different subject. I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: It's still the Balkans.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Question is as follows: In light of US intentions to cooperate with Russia in the Caspian Region, how does the United States view recent Russian plans to delivery S-300 missiles, similar to those missiles used by Iraq, as well as offensive weapons such as MIG-29 fighter jets, to Armenia in addition to the well known fact that $1 billion worth of arms are illegally transferred to Armenia from Russia previously?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've seen the press reports -- they date back, I think, about ten days -- according to which Russian Major General Grigoryev, who is in charge of the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for Cooperation with CIS member states, announced that Russia would send S-300 surface-to- air missiles to a Russian military base in Armenia to replace older surface- to-air systems. Of course, Russia and Armenia have a mutually-ratified basing agreement. Stationing of Russian troops and equipment in Armenia is therefore a bilateral issue between those two nations.

As far as the United States is concerned, however, we see no military need for stationing such equipment in Armenia. We believe that if such equipment were to be placed in Armenia, it would do nothing to improve the security situation in the region.

QUESTION: I was going to actually tie it in anyway to Kosovo, but there was an announcement today that the US would reduce the number of troops from 6,800 to 6,000 in Bosnia. I was just wondering if there was any thought that those troops that were being reduced might be diverted to be used in any Kosovo-related --

MR. FOLEY: That was a diabolically clever, however transparent, way of asking a question which I thought I adequately addressed yesterday. First of all, I can repeat, if you'd like, what I said yesterday at some length. But I see you shaking your heads no.


Let the transcript reflect massive nodding of heads in an east-west direction.

I would quibble a bit with your numbers, having spoken to the Pentagon; my understanding is that the US totals in Bosnia were at about 6,900 and will be reduced to 6,200. This was based on NATO's most recent six-month review, which Foreign and Defense Ministers conducted last month. They determined that a restructuring of SFOR is in order. This will allow a reduction of approximately 10 percent of the total force structure. I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for the details and timing of the reduction. However, I can say that this reduction in no way signals a change in the SFOR mission nor will it affect its ability to support implementation of the Dayton accords.

SFOR continues to play an essential role in the maintenance of peace and stability and the provision of a secure environment. Last year considerable progress was made in a number of areas, but this year will also be critical in other areas. I have no doubt SFOR will continue to do the great job it's been doing.

In terms of the priorities for 1999, the Peace Implementation Council developed a substantial work plan focusing on the following areas: accelerating the transition to a market economy; increasing momentum on the return of refugees; making significant progress on judicial reform and the establishment of a multi-ethnic police; developing central institutions and adoption of a permanent election law; and pressing ahead with media reform and education issues. So the international community will continue to have its plate full in Bosnia in 1999. SFOR will continue to be called upon to play the essential stabilizing role it's played in Bosnia over the last three years. The challenges ahead involve the consolidation of the peace that has taken root in Bosnia, and we're very confident that SFOR will continue to play the same role it has with this 10 percent reduction.

To return to your earlier and serious question, though, this has absolutely nothing to do with the situation in Kosovo. As I said, I answered, I thought, rather thoroughly yesterday the question about the US role in any possible peace implementation in Kosovo.

QUESTION: Different subject - is the US being asked by the Colombian Government to help at all to aid in the earthquakes that have struck that country?

MR. FOLEY: Well, let me say first of all that we are greatly distressed by the reports of the earthquake yesterday in Colombia. We understand that it was at the 5.8 level. It struck central Colombia in the coffee-growing region, near the cities of Armenia and Pereira, approximately 140 miles southwest of Bogota. Initial reports indicate that up to 1,000 people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured. We don't know the full magnitude of the damage at this time. We have received no reports of American citizen deaths or injuries in the earthquake; however, our embassy has activated its warden system in the area to notify and maintain contact with American citizens living in the quake zone. Embassy disaster assistance personnel, including a consular warden, are traveling to the region.

Now, in response to your specific question, the Colombian Government, I can tell you, has asked for help from the United States. We are rapidly looking at ways to best assist them and we have already dispatched a US search and rescue team of 62 persons, who will arrive in Colombia today. We will certainly consider all other requests for help as they come in, but that will depend on the assessments that take place on the ground.

QUESTION: Can you say where the 62 have come from?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, my understanding is that they've come from Dade County's search and rescue outfit in Dade County, Florida.

Is that it? We can make lunch if we close.

QUESTION: North Korea, the talks ended. Do you have anything?

MR. FOLEY: I gave an extensive report on that yesterday.


MR. FOLEY: I'd just refer you to my transcript.

QUESTION: I'll get it.

QUESTION: Going back to Colombia -

MR. FOLEY: I'm not hurrying you to leave, that was in jest. However -


QUESTION: Just in addition to that search and rescue crew, you were saying the embassy disaster assistance - how many personnel are we talking about there that have gone, including the warden you were saying?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have the exact figure. We maybe can get it for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Those people are for American citizens or they're for everyone - - the ones from the embassy?

MR. FOLEY: No, the embassy disaster assistance personnel are there to help the Colombian Government and people deal with the tragedy. Obviously, what our embassy itself can do currently is limited, given the personnel. What their job is to do, in conjunction with Colombian authorities, is to asses the impact, assess the potential need and communicate that to Washington so that we can be in the position to make good on what I just said -- namely the US willingness to consider all requests for help from the Colombian authorities.

QUESTION: Has the Ambassador released the $25,000 discretionary fund that he has for -

MR. FOLEY: I would be surprised if that has not been released. That's normally fairly automatic and is within the Ambassador's discretion.

QUESTION: New subject, if everyone doesn't mind, on Iraq. I know Sandy Berger was talking to defense reporters about this expanded US policy in - the US and Britain policy in Iraq. Can you elaborate on what that is for us here?

MR. FOLEY: No, I can't. I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for any discussion of rules of engagement. You've been with us a short amount of time and you will understand that our normal practice is to refer operational military details to the Pentagon. I can certainly assure you, though, that the United States is and will continue to respond decisively to any provocative attacks on our pilots. As I indicated yesterday, there seems to be a systematic pattern of violation of the no-fly zones in both the north and south of Iraq. The United States is resolute in its commitment not only to enforcing the no-fly zones, which serve a humanitarian purpose of protecting the people of northern and southern Iraq from the repression of their government, but also to do everything necessary to protect our pilots as they do this important work.

QUESTION: Jim, is the IG's office finished with the Holbrooke investigation?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as you know, Betsy, we are almost never in a position to comment about ongoing investigations, including those on the part of - could I ask what that was? I thought I heard my voice coming back at me there.

It's not our practice to comment about either investigations by the State Department's Inspector General or about investigations by the Justice Department. I know there was a media report to that effect on that subject today about a Justice Department investigation. What I can tell you, though, is not news to you; which is that Secretary Albright believes that Ambassador Holbrooke has made extraordinary contributions to our nation's foreign policy and looks forward to a prompt resolution of this matter. As the Secretary stated emphatically in her speech last week before the Center for National Policy on the 21st that she was looking forward to having Ambassador Holbrooke at the UN carrying out the fight to promote American interests in the United Nations. So she strongly supports his nomination and hopes that this matter will be resolved very promptly.

QUESTION: Do you know where he is right now? Is he in Washington or is he in the -

MR. FOLEY: I don't have up-to-the-minute information on his whereabouts.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:00 P.M.)

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