U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #30, 99-03-11
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Thursday, March 11, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 No bilateral meetings were held yesterday. There has been
1-2 US does not link food aid to other matters.
2 US pursues every report of transfers of sensitive
3-4 US believes Agreed Framework has functioned properly.
4-5 US continues to hold FARC accountable for recent murders of
5 US wants FARC to cooperate fully in an investigations.
6 Return of New Tribes missionaries remains a high priority
6 Admiral Crowe's report came out after FY 2000 budget was
6-8 State Department believes its $3 billion building plan can
build 50-60 new embassies.
FRY - KOSOVO
9 Amb. Holbrooke delivered clear, forceful message to
9 US policy is to try to promote peace in Balkans.
9-10,17 US can't want an agreement more than the Kosovar Albanians.
11,17-18 US is concerned escalation of violence is possible; that's
what US is working to avert.
12 Fighting on both sides makes it harder to implement NATO
decision of Jan. 30.
13-15 Negative congressional signal could complicate effort to
get Kosovar Albanians to sign agreement.
SPRATLY ISLANDS DISPUTE
18-19 US continues to call on all claimants to exercise
restraint, refrain from destabilizing actions.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 1999, 12:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I don't see anyone
of you -- only one of you who participated in the famous snowball fight. I
guess the rest of them are licking their wounds.
I took some magic healing medicine and my forehead shaving cut has
evaporated. I have no statements to make. We have a notice on the Chicago
Passport Agency initiating some automated telephone appointment systems
that we will post after the briefing. With that, I don't know what to do
without a representative of the Associated Press. So let my flip a coin and
go to the representative of Reuters.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the status of talks in New York with
the North Koreans? My understanding is that the two sides were consulting
with capitals yesterday. What does that signify? Are you close to a
MR. RUBIN: On the subject of this very important topic, which is to be
able to get access to the site in North Korea that we are concerned about
on their nuclear program, it is correct that there was no meeting yesterday
because both sides were consulting with their capitals, and we think there
will be additional contact between the two sides.
What we have been seeking is steps by the North Koreans to remove our
suspicions about the site at Kumchang-ni, including by providing access to
that site. There has been some progress, some headway in the discussions.
But the talks are now continuing today, and I won't be able to say more
about the specifics while such talks are going on. But we have made some
QUESTION: Have you made a decision about the pending food aid request?
MR. RUBIN: As far as food aid is concerned, we have a long-standing
policy to provide food aid based on humanitarian need. We determine our
response based on the assessments by the WFP and the resources available to
us. I have no announcement for you on that.
QUESTION: Jamie, on that, it may be US policy not to link food aid with
any other issue, including this nuclear issue, but is it not possible that
the North Koreans could make such a link?
MR. RUBIN: Well, they always try to make such a link. That's not news to
us. Every time we sit down at a meeting, they try to make such a link. We
explain to them our long-standing policy, that we respond based on need and
resources available to us and the appeals put out by the WFP. That has long
been our policy, it long will be our policy and we have no illusions that
the North Koreans will continue to try to link it.
QUESTION: But whatever the US policy, can it not be the case that the
North Koreans are or could be making concessions on the basis of the
humanitarian food policy established by the United States?
MR. RUBIN: If the North Koreans decide to provide us access to the site
that we need access to based on our long-standing policy of providing
humanitarian relief, that's fine with us.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about something else - about Colombia?
QUESTION: Can you comment on reports that North Korea is in the early
stages of uranium enrichment capabilities and will be able to provide fuel
for nuclear weapons in the next couple of years?
MR. RUBIN: I particularly like the way you kept the word "intelligence"
out of your question.
The report that you're referring to is based on alleged intelligence
information, and therefore I cannot comment on that specific report. We do
pursue every report concerning possible transfers of sensitive technologies,
and we work closely with other responsible governments to prevent transfers
of such technology that may contribute to weapons proliferation or regional
We remain concerned about North Korea's intentions regarding nuclear
weapons, including the possibility that North Korea may be seeking uranium
enrichment technology. We also have very serious concerns about the
construction of an underground facility at Kumchang-ni, and that is why we
have worked so hard and Ambassador Kartman has logged so many hours in
aircraft and across the negotiating table with his North Korea counterpart
in order to get access so that we can confirm that North Korea remains in
compliance with the agreed framework.
Let me emphasize, we have no basis at this point to conclude that North
Korea has violated this deal with the United States and the rest of the
world, and we consider compliance with that 1994 agreement essential.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) question, if you step back a bit. You know in a
catalogue -- when critics catalogue --make complaints about US foreign
policy - and you've seen one very hot criticism by columnist Krauthammer
the other day - they bring up the framework agreement as being a naive
agreement that the Koreans flout and that the US has no way of enforcing it
except to wish that it sustains itself. Is it still a credible agreement?
Has it restrained Korea?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say I've been waiting for the first critic
QUESTION: No, I'm not associating with it; I'm just saying it's asked all
MR. RUBIN: I'll answer both the question and the implication of the
particular column. Early on, when Secretary Albright became the Secretary,
she had a meeting with Dr. Kissinger and he told her that when he was
Secretary of State he thought it was very important for former Secretaries
of State to be as supportive as possible for the policies of the Executive
Branch. Then he told her that he has contracted to write a column for a
major newspaper and he wanted her to understand that he's got to put
out 1,000 words, and "I agree with Madeleine Albright" is only five. So she
had to bear that in mind.
QUESTION: But he's lived up to that.
I can't recall a policy since he left government that goes back further
than Madeleine Albright's tenure that he thought was just terrific.
MR. RUBIN: Yes, well, he's got a column to write and he's --
QUESTION: But it's Krauthammer, of course, that I mentioned.
MR. RUBIN: And he's got a column to write, too.
QUESTION: No, but I'm sort of drifting afield, but the framework
agreement, which most people thought looked terrific at the time, the
question is it has no teeth. Again, it's another thing where the US seems
to have very little leverage.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I would disagree with that fundamentally.
QUESTION: I mean, you're not going to withhold food; you're not criminal
in that --
MR. RUBIN: Remember where we were in 1995. The North Koreans had the
prospect of moving rapidly to a major nuclear weapons program with many,
many nuclear bombs for themselves and possibly sold to others. That was a
very real and horrific prospect for the world.
Through the freeze that was instituted by the 1994 agreement, all that
capability was frozen. So that danger has been prevented. That is real,
concrete non-proliferation. That's the real stuff; not the stuff you write
in columns, but the real stuff where you change things.
Now, we are concerned and have concerns about what could happen in the
future and what this site might mean for the future - not the present,
which the whole world was rightfully concerned about in 1994. We are now
working very hard through these negotiations to resolve those concerns. If
we don't, we have said the viability of this agreement would be threatened
and that would have consequences.
So we think our policy has had teeth, and the teeth has been to extract
from the North Koreans the threat of an immediate and significant nuclear
capability. That has worked; that has made the world a safer place and made
the Korean Peninsula a safer place.
Some critics can write a sentence in an article that says, "you should get
more." That's easy to write on the computer; it's very hard to do at the
QUESTION: Could I ask you about Colombia, or are we still on this?
QUESTION: Isn't the problem, though, that the 1994 agreement was narrowly
drawn to refer mostly to Yongbyon. While you can stand up there and say
honestly that they kept with the agreement as it pertains to Yongbyon, that
there are these other things at Kumchang-ni and apparently other places
that were not captured in the agreement. So there's this dichotomy.
MR. RUBIN: But that's what these talks are about so there's no problem.
We have taken the position that whether or not something is explicitly
referred to in the agreement, the whole object and purpose of the agreement
was to prevent them from developing a nuclear program. If we develop
evidence and suspicion, we act on it. So the very charge that has been made
Upon developing evidence and concern, we confronted the North Koreans.
We've had several rounds of very serious discussions in order to get access,
in order to confirm that they're in compliance and prevent some concern
down the road that we had developed. That is called a rigorous compliance
policy, a rigorous assurance that we're going to meet the objective that
was the basic object and purpose of the 1994 accord.
So we have made the Korean Peninsula safer, temporarily, but it requires
being ever vigilant about the North Koreans' intentions and capabilities
because we have no illusions about the regime and what they might do in the
absence of vigilance. That has long been our policy. We think it has made
the Korean Peninsula a safer place. I think all the reasonable evidence
that was generated in 1994 that hasn't come to fruition after five long
years is pretty convincing proof of that case.
QUESTION: Okay, Colombia. That notorious rebel group says they didn't
authorize it, but one of their commanders killed the three Americans. Can
you tell at this point if that's a credible account of what happened?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we have every reason to believe that the FARC
is responsible for these brutal killings. We continue to hold them
accountable for this despicable event. Accepting responsibility and the
identifying at least one of those responsible for the kidnapping is only
one of several steps that we believe the FARC must take.
We insist that the organization fully cooperate with the appropriate
authorities in the investigation of the case. Once that investigation
identifies all of those responsible, the FARC must turn them over to the
competent authorities. Failure on their part to do so would belie any of
the expressed sentiment today about who was responsible by the FARC.
QUESTION: You may answer it, but are you saying even if one commander
actually did this without authority, the fact that he worked for this group
makes the group responsible? Who do you find incredible that one commander
on his own would carry out such an act?
MR. RUBIN: At this point, the only way to find out what happened is to
not know it in advance. One can't know everything in advance. So what we
need to do is investigate. What we want to see happen is that the
investigation by the appropriate authorities gets the full cooperation of
the FARC so that any and all members of that organization who might be
responsible are brought to justice. We have every reason to believe the
organization was responsible. It's clearly unprecedented for them to say
this, but it's not significant and sufficient until they meet the other
steps that I laid out, which is accept the investigation, cooperate
with the investigation, and once the investigation is concluded and
individuals have been identified - all of the individuals responsible -
then to turn those over to the proper authorities. I think that's a pretty
clear answer to the question.
QUESTION: No, that is, but I just wondered about a precedent. They seem
to have this reputation of taking responsibility where indeed they aren't.
What do you mean unprecedented?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the people who follow this say it's not normal for them
to stand up and say, we did this and we're going to put on a show trial.
For those of you who doubted that they were responsible, I think even they
themselves admitted that at least one of them has been responsible.
But from our standpoint, that's not significant and sufficient because it
doesn't involve cooperating with authorities who are investigating,
identifying all those responsible, and then turning over those responsible
to the competent authorities.
QUESTION: Were those three Americans the subject of discussions between
US officials and FARC in the past?
MR. RUBIN: Those discussions were about the past and about what not to do
in the future. I don't believe this event - the meeting preceded by many
weeks this horrible atrocity.
QUESTION: Jamie, have they asked for another meeting?
MR. FOLEY: I don't know, but it's inconceivable that we could have such a
meeting in the absence of them doing what's necessary in this case.
QUESTION: Given that they seem to have admitted to this crime in some
level, are we also going to ask them about the New Tribes missionaries?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have a position on the New Tribes missionaries that
we have brought up with them in the past. Throughout 1993, members of the
FARC tried to extract a multimillion dollar ransom for the missionaries.
The return of these men remains a high priority of the US Government, and
we are committed to working with the families to resolve the case.
In December, a few months ago, a Department of State official met with
representatives of the FARC and pressed them for information on the
whereabouts and condition of the three missionaries. Again, today let me
say they should respond to that request.
The point here is that we need a full investigation of this most recent
event. We need them to accept responsibility by allowing that investigation
and if people are identified, by making sure that they're turned over.
QUESTION: They already said that they're not going to hand those
responsible to justice and they are not going to permit any extradition of
any of the guerrillas who are responsible for this.
MR. RUBIN: The question was what's our view; and our view is that they
should cooperate in an investigation and that if individuals are identified,
they should turn those individuals over to the appropriate authorities.
That is our view; that is why simply saying well, one guy was responsible
is woefully inadequate.
QUESTION: What if they don't do that? I mean, they have said that they're
not going to do that. What is going to happen?
MR. RUBIN: Again, we have declared this organization a terrorist
organization, and there are certain consequences that flow from that. Any
attempt they may want to get out from under that designation would be
impossible if they continue to act in this despicable way.
QUESTION: New subject. Two quick questions on embassy security. Admiral
Crowe today, going before Senate Foreign Relations, said that quite simply
the Administration's budget is not enough for embassy security. He said
we're talking money and lives here and he said he's very concerned.
Assistant Secretary Carpenter was there, but none of the senators asked him
to respond to the Admiral's comments, and I'm wondering if you could
MR. RUBIN: He is much taller than I am, so I'm sorry he didn't have a
chance to respond. But this is a very serious matter. Let me say that the
Crowe report and his specific recommendations came out after the Fiscal
Year 2000 budget was put together and finalized. Upon receiving the
recommendations, the Secretary has been working vigorously with the White
House and the Office of Management and Budget to look at Admiral Crowe's
recommendations and see if we can get more money faster, especially for
But let me say that we do believe our $3 billion building plan is not
insignificant. It can build 50 to 60 new embassies. Although we recognize
that some have concerns about advance appropriations, we think this is an
important part of the plan. Also, as all of you know who follow the State
Department, we are in a period of very tight budgets and we have very
little resources for the programs that we're carrying out through these
platforms, the embassies. It would be ironic in the extreme if we were to
create a situation where we had secure platforms but no programs to carry
out if the money for the security came out of those programs.
QUESTION: This is kind of an unusual situation where you have both
parties in Congress complaining that the State Department hasn't asked for
enough money and saying that basically they're willing to throw as much
money at the State Department. Is there a way to ask for and plan for
additional money? I mean, one of their main concerns is that there's no
money for Fiscal 2000 for this.
MR. RUBIN: We have set up, following Admiral Crowe's report, a task force
with the White House to look at these very issues. That is being discussed
between the White House and the Office of Management and Budget and the
State Department on an urgent basis. We're working on that problem.
QUESTION: Is there a disagreement in philosophy between the White House,
OMB and the State Department over the priority that embassy security should
be given? After all, you mentioned that the Crowe report came out after the
2000 budget was in place. But the 2000 budget probably wasn't fixed before
the embassies themselves were bombed -- I think also the Secretary said
MR. RUBIN: No, the $1.4 billion over ten years was recommended after the
Fiscal 2000 budget was finalized.
QUESTION: Right, but you all have conceded in recent days that the State
Department, in its negotiations with OMB, had wanted $1.4 billion for the
FY 2000. So I'm asking -
MR. RUBIN: I'm talking about the specific ten-year plan. I thought you
guys liked me here doing this job. If you're trying to get me to attack the
White House from this podium, it isn't going to happen.
MR. RUBIN: This is a government - one government - and we work together,
and we try to work things as best as we can. There are budget constraints
the President faces overall. Every agency has its concerns, and we work
together with the White House to come up with a budget. Following the Crowe
report on the ten-year $1.4 billion recommendation, we set up a task force
with the White House precisely to look at the very problem that you have
described and that your colleague had described. Now we're working
with them on that.
QUESTION: Yes, but the fact that two years ago there was bipartisan
criticism of the White House low-balling what had to be spent on foreign
operations and, in fact, the White House was compelled or at least found
itself reconsidering and coming up with more money for the State Department.
So there's a precedent for the White House underestimating what the State
Department needs. Now that's not a contentious matter, is it?
MR. RUBIN: Let me in response to an earlier question, it's one thing to
hear members of Congress saying the right thing about more spending on
security. That's important. It's another thing when members of Congress say
but that money has to come out of your existing budget, which poses the
problem I discussed earlier; which is, you can have a secure platform
that's impervious or as best as possible to terrorism, but inside you can't
afford to have people working there and they have no programs with
which to conduct. That is the real world.
It's one thing to say we'll spend all the money we have on secure embassies,
but then what's the point of having a secure embassy if the people inside
and the programs they are operating there's no money for. So this is a very
tricky thing. So when you say it's an unprecedented situation for them to
be offering to throw money, it would be unprecedented if they were offering
to throw money out of somebody else's budget where they were saying
we want to have a supplemental appropriation off the top and not
coming out of your budget to fix the security problem. They're just saying
they want to have the security problem fixed and then shrink even further
at very large numbers - we're talking about billions of dollars here --
State Department programs are very small by comparison.
Some members of Congress are saying we want you to take your very scarce
resources and spend virtually all of it on security. We don't think that
makes sense. So this is a very complex issue. We're working with members of
Congress; we're working with the White House; we're working with the
security people and we're trying to come up with the best solution.
QUESTION: So is it fair to say the State Department is somewhat
suspicious of this alleged largess on the --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I mean, the way you were quoting or asserting or
generalizing the views of members of Congress - and I wouldn't do that. I'm
just saying to the extent one thinks members of Congress are prepared to
throw money at this problem, I would point out it what's extremely
important is what is the source of that money? If it eliminates all the
programs we're supposed to operate from abroad, then there's no point in
having a terrorist-proof embassy with nobody inside it and no programs to
QUESTION: Jamie, can you talk about where we stand today on Kosovo with
the apparent failure, at least some people are calling it, of the Holbrooke
MR. RUBIN: You guys love that word, don't you?
QUESTION: Maybe you want to characterize it differently. I'll be happy to
let you do that.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this -- Ambassador Holbrooke did exactly what the
Secretary of State and the President asked him to do, which is deliver a
very clear and forceful message to President Milosevic about the importance
of complying with the October agreements, restraining Serbian forces in the
run-up to the March 15 agreement and agreeing to the accords that were
hammered out at Rambouillet.
We do not believe that the Serbian position has changed as a result of
these discussions, but that should not be a surprise. What is very
important is for President Milosevic to hear very clearly and forcefully
that the US is determined to pursue the course that it has set out.
There are other leaders who have been in and out of Belgrade, and we have
been trying to make sure that they have sent a similar message. That will
help us try to convince the Serbs to adjust their position, to accept the
idea of a NATO-led military implementation force. So this diplomatic
pressure that has put on by Ambassador Holbrooke and others is part of the
necessary activity to do what is an extraordinarily difficult thing. It's
very easy to take potshots at an extraordinarily difficult policy; but
let's remember, nobody has any alternative.
The only alternative that I've seen is by some in the Congress and
elsewhere, which is to say that we should walk away from this problem and
it's not our problem. Other than that, there are no alternatives. That
means that we, as a government, have decided that it is in our interest to
try to make peace in this part of the world. As hard as it may be and as
difficult as it may be - meeting after meeting, day after day - we want to
try to bring peace to this troubled part of the world. That's our job.
And for those who can find criticism in that, I'm proud to be part
of a government that is trying to make peace in the Balkans and to try to
do it with an extraordinarily difficult set of circumstances.
Number one, the Kosovar Albanians have never operated on the international
stage before. Number two, unfortunately and sadly this war is at an early
stage and is only likely to get worse. Number three, you have a whole
series of European participation which makes it more complicated. Number
four, you have the Russians involved for obvious reasons. Number five, you
have a Congress that's reluctant, at least some, to participate.
These are very, very difficult circumstances, but we believe it's the right
thing to do, and we believe Ambassador Holbrooke made very clear that if
the Serbs don't come around and the Kosovar Albanians sign, that he should
understand what is to follow.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, please, and ask you what the situation is with
getting a signature on the Kosovar side?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we can't want this agreement more than the people
of Kosovo. The Secretary of State and Senator Dole went on Albanian
language television yesterday and explained in very clear terms why this
agreement is in the interest of the people of Kosovo. Senator Dole
expressed, as you know, some frustration with the particular leadership of
the Kosovar Albanians that has not signed the agreement yet. Ambassador
Hill and Senator Dole have been promised that they will sign. We expect
them to sign soon.
But at the end of the day, as hard as we work and as determined as we are,
we can't want to pursue this peace process more than the parties themselves.
If the Kosovar Albanians don't sign -- and soon -- it is going to be hard
to put the necessary military pressure on the Serb side.
QUESTION: What happens next, though, and specifically on March 15, when
these talks are supposed to resume?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we're going to continue to work the problem because we
believe that this is an effort worth pursuing; because we know how hard it
is; and because this is in a part of the world we think there are real
risks to the United States. We will continue to pursue that. As far as the
next step is concerned, we'll be in touch with both sides. Ambassador Hill
is still in Belgrade, is my understanding. The talks are scheduled to
resume in Paris on the 15th of March. Ambassador Hill will be there, and we
will try our best.
But at the end of the day, we know despite our best efforts, despite our
interest and our concern and our willingness to work hard, put troops on
the ground if a peace agreement is signed, that it's the people themselves
and their leaders who need to make these decisions. They have not yet done
so. At Rambouillet, they told the Secretary of State that they had decided
that the agreement was a good agreement. They wanted to consult on it. That
was better than the situation that we faced when we went into Rambouillet.
Two weeks have gone by. The KLA leadership has told Ambassador Hill that
they voted in favor of the agreement. They told Senator Dole that. So we're
expecting a signature.
QUESTION: Do you mean the 15th? Do you mean Paris, by the way? Do you
know, at this stage at least, that the Serbs and Albanians will have people
MR. RUBIN: Well, I would ask you to address that question to the French
and the British hosts, but it's my understanding that the talks are
scheduled to resume on the 15th. There's an expectation that in Paris that
the parties will be there, but we'll have to see.
QUESTION: Your statement earlier, "this war is at an early stage, and
it's only likely to get worse," that sounds pretty pessimistic, and I
wondered, is that an accurate interpretation?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I hope I've been accurate.
QUESTION: No, I don't mean the statement. I mean, is the interpretation
accurate that you seem increasingly pessimistic?
MR. RUBIN: For those of you who have followed this issue, I think when
Ambassador Holbrooke worked last October and was able, with the threat of
NATO air strike in his quiver, to convince President Milosevic to allow the
KVM in and that got the hundreds of thousands of people out of the hills
and back to their homes or to shelter, we said that that was not a
permanent solution because there was a political problem.
Before and during and after Racak, I think all of us expressed great
concern that this spring the fighting was going to intensify and get worse.
So the point that it's only likely to get worse is a point we made before,
during and after Racak and then before, during and after the Rambouillet
talks. So that is a view that we hold. That is why we are working so hard
because we're concerned that this thing is going to escalate and get
QUESTION: And it is on the ground. There's fighting today. So quiver as
opposed to quaver, you have a threat out there that doesn't depend on the
Albanians signing on. You have several threats out there. One is, if
Albanians sign and the Serbs don't, NATO is likely to take action. But
you've got another thing -- if they violate the cease fire - the Serbs do -
that in itself could trigger a NATO reaction. The story today from the
ground is that the Serbs are on the march again. Are they running up that
possibility now, of attack simply for restoring fighting; let alone saying
no to NATO?
MR. RUBIN: So what's the question?
QUESTION: The question is, how many things do the Serbs have to do wrong
before you people will act on the threats you so regularly enunciated?
MR. RUBIN: I think for those who followed our threats carefully --
QUESTION: I follow them every time - every step of the way and every time
they change, I've been here.
MR. RUBIN: They haven't changed.
QUESTION: No, you need an Albanian signing was the latest one.
MR. RUBIN: Do you want an answer, or do you want colloquy?
QUESTION: No, it has changed.
MR. RUBIN: If you want a colloquy, that's fine.
QUESTION: They have changed a little bit, but go ahead.
MR. RUBIN: I don't agree with that.
MR. RUBIN: Can I go now?
MR. RUBIN: You sure?
MR. RUBIN: Okay. We have unconfirmed reports of fighting around Prizren
this morning. KVM is now investigating those reports. There are also
reports of skirmishes around Vacitrn and other towns. We also have reports
that Yugoslav army forces conducted extensive sweep operations this week,
attempting to dislodge KLA units to the west of Kacanik to Djeneral
Jankovic highway. There are no reports of fighting around Kacanik
Yesterday, KLA units reportedly attacked Serbian police engaged in similar
sweep operations northeast of Malisevo and in the Orahovic region. UNHCR
estimates that since these sweeps around Kacanik began on February 26,
about 5,000 villagers have been driven from their homes. Some 4,000 of
these spent at least one night outside in the open. It is not clear today
how many of these internally displaced persons remain in the open. That is
the situation on the ground.
With respect to NATO's willingness to act, I would only need to quote the
Secretary General of NATO for you, who has said that a Serb crackdown, a
Serb offensive could well lead to NATO's being ready to act. Beyond saying
that, President Milosevic knows what the situation is. The kind of fighting
that is provoked by both sides does make it harder to implement a decision
that NATO made on January 30.
QUESTION: Drawing on just a small bit of the last question, how much more
difficult, if at all, was Holbrooke's job in Belgrade, due to the fact that
the Albanians hadn't yet signed?
MR. RUBIN: I think all of us would be in a better position to put
military pressure on the Serbs and therefore be able to convince President
Milosevic to allow NATO implementation of this agreement if the Kosovar
Albanians were to sign the agreement. It is the signing of that agreement
that allows the military pressure to build up again on President Milosevic,
without which it is hard to imagine him allowing the necessary NATO forces
to have a peace agreement.
So the Kosovar Albanians, by not signing the agreement, make it harder for
us to make peace. But remember, this is their peace; it is not our peace.
They have to make this decision and in the absence of their decision, we
can't want it more than they do. They have to make the decision for peace.
If they make it, they sign it, we're in a better position to put pressure
on the Serb side; we're, therefore, in a better position to get the Serb
acceptance of the peace plan and, therefore, we're in a better position
to actually bring the peace to the region.
QUESTION: Jamie, is there anything you want to add to the fact that there
is a debate going on on the Hill today and possible vote on whether to put
US troops into Kosovo were there to be an agreement?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Secretary Albright spoke to this yesterday. In various
meetings, she's spoken to, I believe a dozen or so members of Congress on
her way to Guatemala, in addition to speaking with Foreign Ministers
Vedrine, Cook and Ivanov in the last 24 hours.
Our view is that an excessive debate or a negative signal from Capitol Hill
could complicate our ability to get the Kosovar Albanian agreement to sign,
without which we can't put the military pressure on the Serbs that is
necessary to get them to agree to the peace plan. So we believe that this
could be a complicating factor that could destroy the ability of the peace
process we've instituted to work.
We have made clear to members of Congress that there will be time to debate
this issue; that the President's final decision about sending troops will
only come once the agreement were agreed - if it were agreed - and once the
clear rules of engagement were established. Congress would have time to
consider the issue at that time.
Apparently, the House wants to go ahead. Our view is that this is important
to the United States; it's important to our European allies; it's important
to the world to try to prevent a disaster in Kosovo from spinning out of
control. Those same members of Congress who are expressing concerns now
might think about what kinds of concerns they would be expressing six
months from now if the fighting escalated, the situation began to spin out
of control, further massacres occurred. They'd be calling for action.
So we're trying to take action; but we need their help, as we do so, to
convince the world that NATO is prepared to send in forces. Anything that
complicates that perception complicates and makes less likely the prospect
of peace in Kosovo.
QUESTION: There are several ideas circulating up there. In fact, one of
them you certainly wouldn't object to; it sort of mimics, mirrors the US
position, which is a Democratic idea. You send troops in if there's peace.
But what is it that would send a negative signal?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to --
QUESTION: No, I mean, is there a specific action or resolution that
you're focusing on?
MR. RUBIN: Certainly any action opposing the participation of American
forces or creating unmeetable conditions for the participation of American
forces would send a green light to the parties that the United States is
not going to be there. That will make peace impossible or certainly far
less likely. Impossible is one of those words I should know never to use
from the podium.
QUESTION: On that specific point, do you think Milosevic's intransigence
has anything to do with the divided opinions within this government between
Congress and the Administration?
MR. RUBIN: I think that he would be more likely to agree to this
agreement if the Kosovar Albanians signed it.
QUESTION: Your analysis, though, is that the debate that would be going
on in Congress would more negatively impact the Kosovar Albanian decision
process less so than Milosevic's decision.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I mean, it's sequential so I don't know how to answer
the question. I said that the Kosovar Albanians expect American participation.
It's the premise on which they agree in principle to the agreement. If they
were to believe that wasn't coming, that would have an impact on them - we
think more so than any other single issue. If they don't sign, then the
military pressure we're trying to put on the Serbs is not possible.
QUESTION: I wish you could be even a little more specific.
MR. RUBIN: Boy, I thought you've been tying me down pretty good
QUESTION: No, no. Some of the criticism strikes me as isn't so much over
the specifics, but over the consultation process. More specifically, what
some folks up there are saying is that if they act now, it's the wrong time
to debate it; if they wait until there's an agreement - in the hopes there
is an agreement - then troops will be rushed in and they'll again not have
not have an opportunity to weigh in. Are you saying that there will
be a pause, a period where Congress can actually express itself?
MR. RUBIN: Let me make two points. First of all, there's been an enormous
amount of consultations about this issue. There's been hearings at the
highest level, Cabinet officials, at medium levels. There have been
numerous phone calls, numerous discussions, dozens of briefings. So there
has been a lot of consultation with Congress. Congress has been fully part
of this process as we've gone step by step.
With respect to the timing of a vote, that is up to the House of Representatives
to decide the timing of its vote. What we've said is that the President's
final decision on sending troops will only come after an agreement is
signed and after clear rules of engagement have been established, a
permissive environment has been confirmed. So if Congress wants to not
complicate the process and wants to be sure it votes, Congress has shown
itself able to act very quickly when that's important to them. So
that is the point that the Secretary has been making to them is that
QUESTION: Will it come with an exit strategy at that point? That's one of
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been consulting with Congress very clearly on our
plan for how benchmarks would be established. They know a lot of the detail
-- as much as one can know in advance on any subject. So what we're saying
is if you want to participate and make your decisions, that they should
take into account the fact that a negative decision or a negative signal or
a negative message now could complicate, if not harm, the peace process
that we are pushing forward, not without some difficulty. This is
a tough process, and that only makes it harder.
If they want to be sure they can vote, we've assured them that the
President's final decision won't come until after the agreement is signed
and he has reviewed the three measures that I described. They could vote
QUESTION: A couple questions. One on the Speaker of the Congress. The
Speaker of the House, just this morning, said in the opening of the debate
on Kosovo, he said, I have serious reservations about putting troops in
Kosovo. Do statements like that alone complicate peace or give a green
light to those who -- both sides not taking the US efforts seriously?
MR. RUBIN: Look, we had made what we think is a compelling case for
American participation. The President gave a radio address; the Secretary
of State gave a major speech. She's testified; Secretary Cohen has
testified; Hugh Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has testified.
There have been numerous briefings and numerous descriptions. We believe
there is a compelling case for the United States to participate.
Remember, only 4,000 of the 30,000 or so troops would be American. Many
members of Congress have spent a lot of time urging burden-sharing on this
Administration and previous Administrations; that is, the Europeans should
bear a heavier share of the load. We took that advice very much to mind
when the size and the American participation of the force was created. It's
a rather unique force in that regard. Most NATO forces have a much greater
So those reasons why we think the members of Congress should be supportive,
but every member of Congress is going to make their own decision as to
whether they agree with those points. What we're saying is that a negative
signal, a negative vote will complicate if not make extremely difficult
peace in Kosovo. All of those members of Congress who know that six months
from now when the fighting escalates and the refugees are in the hills and
the situation deteriorates and it will be calling on the Administration to
take action, should know that we're trying to take action now. We're
trying to prevent this situation from getting worse.
QUESTION: You said that the Serb position has not changed. Can you share
any more specifics about what Holbrooke heard from Milosevic in their
MR. RUBIN: Look, Ambassador Holbrooke spoke to his meetings. All I can
tell you is that the Serb position has been to not engage seriously on the
question of a NATO military implementation force. That is the key point for
us and that hasn't changed.
QUESTION: What about the other hand? There were things back in Rambouillet
they didn't go for - parts of the political half of the agreement. Are they
still a problem on political issues as well as -
MR. RUBIN: Well, the talks haven't reconvened so it wouldn't be possible
to give one a detailed listing of where the Serbs stand on each of the
points that you may believe the Serbs took the position on.
QUESTION: No, we were told that.
MR. RUBIN: Told how?
QUESTION: No, we were told in a briefing.
MR. RUBIN: What kind of briefing?
QUESTION: We had a briefing, a background briefing.
MR. RUBIN: So why don't we just publish the briefing, and then you can -
I don't understand.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I think you misunderstand what I'm saying. We were
MR. RUBIN: The last one you'll get, too.
QUESTION: What? What are you talking about? We were informed not only did
they object to the NATO peacekeepers that on the political side, there were
things that they objected to - and I can name a couple of them. I just
wondered if their objections are still out there or if any of that has been
MR. RUBIN: When Ambassador Hill is in a position to brief you or somebody
else in a position to brief you on the Serb position on the talks, I'll try
to make that happen.
QUESTION: You mean you can give us the Serb position on NATO but you
can't give us the Serb position on the political side?
MR. RUBIN: We've missed you. I hope you had a very good vacation.
QUESTION: I did.
MR. RUBIN: The answer is yes, I can't.
QUESTION: Are the Kosovar Albanians still coming to Washington?
MR. RUBIN: No schedule yet.
QUESTION: One more on Kosovo, every day for the past - not since
Rambouillet, but the past week, the Kosovar Albanians are supposed to be
signing. Every day they say they're going to sign; people waiting every
day. Why do you think the Kosovar Albanians have not signed?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's a question you should direct to the Kosovar
Albanians - a very good question.
QUESTION: It's point of view. Why do you think they're not signing?
MR. RUBIN: We want them to sign; we expect them to sign. We think we've
made a powerful case to the people of Kosovo for them to sign. As far as
what reasons they have to not sign, that's a very good question and you
should address it to them.
QUESTION: Is Senator Dole going to be playing a role in this upcoming set
of talks? Is he going to Europe at your request?
MR. RUBIN: I have no information about a planned schedule. Senator Dole
has played a very important role in the recent weeks in contributing to our
effort to convince the Kosovar Albanians to sign the agreement. For those
of you who saw his statement on Albanian language television, you know the
difficulties of getting that signature were demonstrated quite clearly by
QUESTION: What about the Secretary? Wouldn't it give more push if she was
back in Paris on the 15th?
MR. RUBIN: There is no current plan for her to go to Paris on the
QUESTION: Going into the weekend, it seems like it's inconclusive that
possibly the talks might even take place. I mean, would you say, going into
the weekend, that the whole concept of what might happen - whether there's
any chance for peace in Kosovo - is up for grabs going into the weekend
before the talks?
MR. RUBIN: It is going to be very difficult to make peace in the Balkans
if the Kosovar Albanians don't sign this agreement and allow us to put
military pressure on the Serbs so that they sign the agreement.
The Paris talks are scheduled to begin. It's hard to have such high hopes
for such talks in the absence of forward progress by either party. We have
had movement since the talks ended. Secretary Albright managed to get them
to agree to the agreement in principle, pending consultations. They had
those consultations. They said that those parts of their community that
were most reluctant voted in favor of the agreement. That was, in theory, a
significant step forward. They reported that to Ambassador Hill and they
said that they had authorized the agreement to be signed.
But in the absence of it being signed, we're in a situation where we're
going to continue to have to convince both sides to sign it and we're not
in a position where it will be clear that one side has agreed and the other
has not. Therefore, the prospects for peace are not terrific right now.
They have never been terrific, contrary to what I've often read, because of
how hard this issue is to resolve. You have a conflict at a very early
stage. Unfortunately, it hasn't gone on that long. The Kosovar Albanians
have been repressed for ten years, have responded with an insurgency. That
insurgency has not worked before with the political leadership. That
has made it difficult for them to come to a unified decision. This
is an extraordinarily difficult enterprise for all the reasons I've said.
Therefore, it's hard to be optimistic that we're on the verge of peace at
any given time, but especially right now.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to yesterday's two car bombings attack
in Istanbul? The attack was in front of the shopping center and the PKK --
MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Also, yesterday the President of Turkey, he laid down some
conditions for dialogue with Greece.
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen those particular conditions.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the Italian Prime Minister's
statement in parliament yesterday on the possible need to review the NATO
accord on American military bases in Italy?
MR. RUBIN: On the review - please repeat the question.
QUESTION: On the possible need to review the NATO accord on American
military bases in Italy.
MR. RUBIN: No, I don't have a specific reaction to that; but we'll try to
get one for you.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment or response on the resignation of the
German Finance Minister?
MR. RUBIN: Domestic matter.
QUESTION: How about the President of the Philippines? Maybe the headlines
in the British papers were over-written, but --
MR. RUBIN: Let me fill that out a little. That's an internal matter for
Germany, and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment.
QUESTION: Well, President Estrada apparently is asking for more US
involvement in issues out there. Of course, the Spratly Islands is a hot
issue. Do you have something on that?
MR. RUBIN: US interests are in the maintenance of peace and stability and
freedom of navigation in the area of the South China Sea. We continue to
call on all claimants to maintain diplomatic efforts which address issues
related to competing claims, taking into account the interests of all
parties and which contribute to peace and prosperity in the region.
The United States is willing to assist in any way the claimants deem
helpful. We urge all claimants in the South China Sea to exercise restraint
and to avoid destabilizing actions. We have repeatedly spoken out both
publicly and through diplomatic channels against unilateral actions that
increase tensions in the region. We again call for all claimants to resolve
their differences in a peaceful manner consistent with international law.
We have strongly denounced the use of or the threat to use force to resolve
the conflicting claims.
QUESTION: Your willingness to assist, I guess, is sort of something that
has always been a US position?
MR. RUBIN: The United States is willing to assist in any way the
claimants deem helpful.
QUESTION: Is that a new willingness or has the US been -
MR. RUBIN: We tend to be willing to assist when claimants deem it
QUESTION: Very quickly - and I doubt you have anything on this - are you
aware that the Sudanese are claiming that there is a thaw in relations
between the US and Sudan, and there had been meetings at the US embassy -
MR. RUBIN: Let me check into that for you.
QUESTION: That's it, and we thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)