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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #82, 99-06-28

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


Monday, June 28, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1-2   US Embassies Reopen; One Remains Closed; Security Measures; Surveillance

EGYPT 1 Asst Secy Indyk's Briefing Tomorrow on President Mubarak's Visit

TERRORISM 2 Whereabouts of Osama bin Laden

PAKISTAN 2-3 Congressman Ackerman's Call for Adding to Terrorism List


3-5 Adm Zinni's Mission & Talks; Insurgents Crossing Line of Control; Plans for Dep Secy Talbott's Visit; US Role; China's Mediation Role; Pakistan's Prime Minister's Visit to US; Pakistan-China Military Agreement; US Loans to Pakistan

CYPRUS 5-6 Report on Illegal Deployment of US Military Equipment by Greece & Turkey; Greece & Turkey Agree to Remove Equipment


6 Swedish Consular Access to Arrested US Citizen

6-7 Response to Dr. Perry's Proposals


7 Interpretation of Right of Abode; Effect on Independent Authority of Judiciary

CHINA 7-8 Reports of Serb Pres Milosevic Taking Up Residence

DEPARTMENT 8-9 Sen Grassley's Hold on Nominations; Ms. Shenwick's Allegations; Investigation Continues; Secretary's Views on Achieving UN Reforms


9 Dialogue on Aegean Issue

9 Death of Greek Junta Leader

COLOMBIA 9-10 Stock Exchange Chairman Visit With FARC Leadership


10 Obligation to Comply with War Criminals Tribunal

10-12 Policing Efforts; Issue for G-8 Ministerial; UN Involvement; "Friends of Kosovo"

SECRETARY 12 Bilateral Meetings in New York

RUSSIA 12 Law on Foreign Insurance Companies; Affect on Foreign Investment

AFGHANISTAN 12 US Demining Efforts


DPB #82

MONDAY, JUNE 28, 1999, 12:05 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We've got an early one for your today - a 12:04 p.m. starting time - making it possible for all of you to go to those long lunches you're so accustomed to here at the State Department.

Let me turn to the embassy issue. The United States Embassies in The Gambia, Togo, Liberia, Namibia and Senegal reopened today with regular hours and full service. For security reasons, the US Embassy in Madagascar remains closed today. We will reevaluate the security posture at the embassy every day. These missions - in response to one of your questions from last week - the ones that were closed were not completely abandoned. Security personnel remained on site to provide security support for each embassy. That included security officers, Marine security guards, local guards and local law enforcement.

As you know, the safety of our people is a top priority for us at the State Department. We constantly evaluate security situations at all of our missions and take appropriate measures when necessary. Sometimes that means temporarily closing embassies. We have done this in the past and will do it again in the future, if needed, anywhere in the world. A number of our embassies in Africa have been under surveillance in recent weeks, and we have seen an increased activity indicating continuing planning for terrorist attacks by members of Usama bin Laden's network.

We evaluated this information carefully and determined that temporarily suspending operations at those six embassies was the appropriate prudent measure to take. We do not discuss the security situation at any specific embassy. As you know, since the bombings of our embassies in East Africa last August, we have significantly improved security at all of our missions around the world, including the six posts that temporarily suspended operations last Thursday. Additional security measures have been implemented at these missions since the suspension of operations. For security reasons, we are not in a position to describe what specific measures have been taken.

That is all I have in the nature of an opening remark. Just one scheduling matter: Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk will hold an on-the- record press briefing tomorrow at 9:15 a.m. with regard to the visit to the United States of President Mubarak of Egypt.

QUESTION: Where is that?

MR. RUBIN: Here in this room.

QUESTION: Your last point, does that explain why you decided to reopen five of the six; that you were able to take additional measures?

MR. RUBIN: No, I wouldn't make that assumption. The timing of suspension and then reopening is maybe related to other information. We've made a general process of improving the security at various missions. There wasn't necessarily a correlation between our process of improving security at these embassies in general and the decision to close them over the weekend and re-open them on Monday.

QUESTION: Well, I know we can go just so far in intelligence, but when you speak of information, I mean, did that information relate to the surveillance suspicious folks were conducting that caused the - or at least prompted the closings? Did you find out that they were just examining the brickwork?

MR. RUBIN: No, we didn't discover that suspicious surveillance wasn't suspicious; that suspicious surveillance remains suspicious. We are taking what steps we think are prudent.

QUESTION: Can we safely assume then that absolutely nothing untoward happened today at these five embassies?

MR. RUBIN: As far as I know, yes. Absolutely nothing untoward - that's a pretty broad definition. But there weren't any security problems at those three embassies.

QUESTION: Can we also assume that there was something in Madagascar?

MR. RUBIN: No, I wouldn't assume so. Each of the embassy decisions are made based on their own situation.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you know where about bin Laden is now? Or why is it taking so long to catch him when you know where he is at this time?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we have made a very strong effort to pursue Usama bin Laden. We had made clear that he is a wanted man. He's on the FBI's 10 most wanted list. Previous people on that list, or who have been wanted, have ultimately been captured and brought to justice. Usama bin Laden's day will come. I don't have any information to provide you as to what our knowledge of his whereabouts would be, because I wouldn't want to help him know what we know.

QUESTION: Congressman Gary Ackerman said, according to the India Globe newspaper, that the State Department must put Pakistan on the countries sponsoring terrorism because, including bin Laden and his people are training terrorists in Pakistan and now he's sending them into Indian line of control in Kashmir. And unless Pakistan withdraws from the line of control and catches bin Laden - so what do you have on, since he's a member of the International Relations Committee?

MR. RUBIN: We certainly know that he's a member of the International Relations Committee. That doesn't mean we agree with everything he says. We certainly know he's a respected member of the International Relations Committee, but that also doesn't mean we agree with everything he says. I would be happy to get you a copy of our terrorism report and state sponsors and the various decisions that went into that. That would be the same information we would provide to Representative Ackerman.

QUESTION: Has General Zinni completed his mission to Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: As far as I know, he has. We remain in close contact with the Indian and Pakistani governments to urge them to work together to resolve the crisis. Let me say that General Zinni had productive talks in Pakistan late last week. A member of his team, Deputy Assistant Secretary Lanpher, has briefed Indian officials in New Delhi on those talks in order to keep both sides fully informed. The United States and the international community have an interest in seeing this crisis resolved. This must be done directly between India and Pakistan. The United States is not a mediator, nor have we offered any specific proposal for resolving the dispute. And we are urging the two sides to talk to each other to resolve the dispute.

QUESTION: When you say his talks were productive, what exactly do you mean? I mean, -- (inaudible) - Pakistan --

MR. RUBIN: They were productive and constructive but I don't want to get into the details.

QUESTION: Well, let me try another way. Have the Pakistanis promised or indicated that they would withdraw their forces back to the line of control ?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't want to comment on specific aspects of those discussions. I think what is needed to resolve the crisis is well known. We are focused on a rapid diplomatic resolution between the two parties. It is certainly our hope that following a resolution of this crisis, there can be a quick revival of the Lahore Process which is a process that we strongly support. But I wouldn't be able to get into what the Pakistanis said in a private diplomatic exchange.

QUESTION: Is the United States prepared at this time to say that most of the insurgents who crossed the line of control were Pakistani regular soldiers?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to that question, I don't have anything to say about composition of the forces that crossed the Indian side of the line of control. We have stated that we want to see withdrawal of forces supported by Pakistan from the Indian side of the line of control.

QUESTION: And one more thing - is there any plan for Strobe Talbott to take another mission?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that.

QUESTION: Jamie, just to follow up that question - if the US is not a mediator between India and Pakistan with Kashmir, then what the US officials are doing on a regular basis in India and Pakistan, including now and also future visits there as far as LOC, or line of control?

MR. RUBIN: We're trying to be helpful. I think it's fair to say that US diplomats - very senior diplomats - play a role in many parts of the world without being considered mediators. Mediator has a certain term of art in this business, and that's not what we're doing.

QUESTION: Jamie, it's reported that Pakistani officials are going to Beijing to consult about the Kashmir conflict. I would just ask if the United States would urge or does urge or would expect China to play a peacemaking type of role?

MR. RUBIN: It's my understanding that the prime minister of Pakistan will be in Beijing this week. We have been in touch with the Chinese Government. As you know, the United States has worked closely with China since the nuclear issue first arose last year. We and China share an interest in not allowing this issue to escalate and trying to tamp down the incentives for an arms competition in that part of the world. We have been in touch with the Chinese in urging them to urge the two parties concerned to avoid escalation and pursue an approach consistent with the steps that the G-8 has stated.

QUESTION: Is there any talk of the Prime Minister coming here after he goes to Beijing?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we talk about a lot of things in government, and I have no new information to provide you on any contact between us and the Prime Minister. Since it would be a prime minister visit, I would urge you to contact the White House with respect to any presidential involvement.

QUESTION: Pakistan and China have signed a -- fighter plane deal - according to the India Globe newspaper. Do you have any comments on the military deal?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'll have to check that India Globe newspaper report very carefully and have our other experts read it carefully and make an assessment based on their judgment of that report before I could comment on it.

QUESTION: I have checked with the Pakistan and Indian officials, and they have signed it between Pakistan and China.

MR. RUBIN: Well, if you'd like to come work for the State Department, then the fact that you've done some checking will help me be sure the report is true. But pending that, I'd like to have our experts check that out.

QUESTION: You had said that the US isn't going to act as a mediator, but could you comment on reports that the US might pressure - basically delay loans to Pakistan from international agencies?

MR. RUBIN: Nothing of this nature has been proposed.

QUESTION: Last Friday the State Department submitted to Congress a report on the illegal US weapons deployed in Cyprus in violation of a US law. Can you give us anything about this report?

MR. RUBIN: This report responds to allegations that we received in May 1998 that US Government military equipment sold had been inappropriately transferred to or used on Cyprus. The Department of State, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, investigated these allegations. We submitted a classified report containing the results of that investigation to Congress on the 25 of June. I can't go into all the details. I can say the following.

Both Greece and Turkey sent US origin military items to Cyprus in contravention of the commitments they made to the United States related to the provision of US military items. As a result of our investigation, we asked the Greek and Turkish Governments to withdraw certain US origin items from Cyprus. Both governments agreed to do so, and have informed us that the items of concern have been removed.

QUESTION: These arms that have been removed are considered weapons that deal with the specific law? I mean, after the --

MR. RUBIN: Right, the issue here is that Congress enacted a specific provision related to Cyprus on December 27, 1987, which requires that our government-to-government agreement for sales of items on the US munitions list entered into after this provision became law must state that, "the article is being provided by the United States Government, only with the understanding that it will not be transferred to Cyprus or otherwise used further the severance or division in Cyprus."

The provision applies to both Greece and Turkey, as well, in fact, to all other countries with which we enter into such contracts. The law does not make exceptions for transfers to Cyprus that have the consent of the Cypriot Government. These certain items did go in contravention of that provision, and that's why the governments of Greece and Turkey have agreed to move the equipment.

QUESTION: A final question -- how do you characterize the cooperation by the two governments with the US?

MR. RUBIN: We were concerned about this; we investigated it; we believe that Greece and Turkey are NATO allies. They've agreed to remove this equipment, and they've informed us that the items of concern have been removed. So we think we've solved the problem.

QUESTION: What type of weapons are involved?

MR. RUBIN: That's the part that's classified.


QUESTION: Well, can you say whether this is just a technical violation of minor stuff, or is it substantive?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's substantive enough for us to require that the equipment be removed; it's substantive, yes.

QUESTION: Could you specify the amount of weapons to be withdrawn?

MR. RUBIN: No, it's the same question that Mr. Gedda asked me. I wouldn't be able to get into that kind of detail.

QUESTION: Are these the ones that were deployed after 1987?

MR. RUBIN: That was the same question your colleague asked me and I answered in the affirmative. Some of them, yes.

QUESTION: New subject? North Korea -- is there anything new on this woman who was arrested there? Have the Swedes been able to --

MR. RUBIN: I have no new information on access. I don't believe there's been any new access. She was arrested on June 17; the North Koreans notified us through our protecting power, Sweden, on June 22. Consular access was requested by the Swedes on June 23. We have not yet had access, to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Have you asked the North Koreans to give you a response to Perry's proposals by a date certain? Is there any time frame on this?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so. Remember, former Deputy Secretary Perry was not there as a negotiator. He was not presenting proposals for which responses were needed by a time certain. He was an envoy gathering facts, discussing with the North Koreans various issues. His review is not contingent on some formal response from North Korea.

QUESTION: Well, your announcement after Saturday's meeting said that you were waiting for a response from the North Koreas. And so --

MR. RUBIN: Right, but it's not linked to his closure of his review. That's all I'm trying to say.

QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, have you gotten any indications from the North Koreans so far on how they regard these proposals?

MR. RUBIN: I think that Dr. Perry's group has spoken to the reactions he received in North Korea. There have been a number of informal contacts since, but I'm not in a position to characterize them.

QUESTION: Jamie, I'm sure you saw the stories about China and Hong Kong and the fact that the Chinese may be trying to assert their role on the folks in Hong Kong?

MR. RUBIN: The interpretation by the National People's Congress was requested in May by the Hong Kong Government. We have refrained from commenting on the immediate question of which individual should or should not have the right to live in Hong Kong because that is an internal matter. We attach the highest priority, however, to the preservation of and respect for Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, its rule of law, judicial independence and the protection of individual liberties.

Seeking an interpretation from the National People's Congress is lawful, but we are concerned that the power of interpretation has the potential to erode the independent authority of the Hong Kong judiciary and that broader frequent review of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeals power of final jurisdiction could thereby erode the independent authority of the Hong Kong judiciary.

QUESTION: Could I ask on another subject? Can you bring us up-to-date on the -

MR. RUBIN: Let's stay over here - she'd like to stay over here.

QUESTION: A number of human rights advocates, including Martin Lee and democracy advocates and legal experts, have suggested that this is really a blow to Hong Kong's independence. I wondered - it sounds to me like your interpretation is very, sort of carefully drawn. Do you see this as an assault on the independence of Hong Kong and the kinds of things that you were hoping that Beijing would not do?

MR. RUBIN: I think for those who followed the Hong Kong story for some time, I think it's been by and large a success story. There's been the basic way in which the people of Hong Kong have lived has not changed -- both in political terms and economic terms. We do support a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong. There have been issues that have occurred that we've expressed concern about. We certainly view this question ultimately as a question for the people of Hong Kong to decide as to how much damage has been done to their rule of law. But as I indicated, we are concerned that the power of interpretation has the potential to erode the independent authority of the Hong Kong judiciary.

QUESTION: Potential - not a fact right now?

MR. RUBIN: Beyond saying what I just said, that's our position.

QUESTION: Somewhat on the subject of residency in China, I'm sure you've heard of this report out of Germany.


QUESTION: Well, it's - China is in the question.

MR. RUBIN: Go ahead -- which report?

QUESTION: About Milosevic -- (inaudible) - opposition --

MR. RUBIN: Would go to China? I heard that a few times. Look, I'm sure we're going to hear a lot of rumors about all the places Milosevic will go. As far as we're concerned there's only one place he belongs, and that's in The Hague facing justice for the war crimes that he's been charged with.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the latest request by Senator Grassley to "put a hold on the Holbrooke nomination were it approved by the Foreign Relations Committee?" Where does this whole situation stand, in particular the woman in question?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, with respect to the hold situation, I would urge you to put your question to members of the Senate the Majority Leader of the Senate, who creates the rules of the Senate and would have to decide what rules did or didn't apply in the case of a nomination.

Our view is that we don't think that every time there's a nomination of importance, individual senators ought to be trying to resolve every concern they have with the Administration. We have important work to do at the United Nations on Iraq, for those who care about ensuring that Iraq doesn't develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction. They would want a UN ambassador in New York; that's why we want a UN ambassador in New York.

With respect to Ms. Shenwick and that issue, let me say the Department continues to vigorously contest Ms. Shenwick's allegations. The matter is currently under investigation. In respect of that process and of Ms. Shenwick's privacy, the Department will not comment further except to say that Secretary Albright, as Secretary and as Ambassador, always treated all her employees fairly and according to the rules and has no vendetta against any individual.

QUESTION: In other words, the State Department has no intention of writing or submitting a letter of apology, such as Senator Grassley demanded?

MR. RUBIN: It's a matter under investigation, and that will continue - that investigation.

QUESTION: Jamie, who's investigating and what are they investigating?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to get you details on what - it's not a Department of State internal investigation; it's more of one of the special investigators. But I would not be in a position to speak to it because it's not the Department of State that's investigating it.

QUESTION: I recognize that there's an investigation going on, but one of the assertions that Shenwick has made is that Secretary Albright has in the past expressed displeasure when information about UN finances is provided to members of Congress. Did the Secretary express displeasure at any time?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright, like all Secretaries of State, expressed displeasure when confidential information is in the newspapers. I think that's pretty much it goes with the job, that confidential information ought not to be in the public domain. That is a general principle. I'm not making any comment about the specific case, and any suggestion that I was is not justified by what I just said.

With respect to Secretary Albright's views, let me say that she made all her decisions

in New York as UN Ambassador with one goal in mind: what would be in the best interest of the United States to achieve reform at the United Nations and what would be the best way to ensure that we were able to get reform of the United Nations; what would be the best personnel to ensure that we got reform at the United Nations. That was her goal. Beyond that, she treated all her employees fairly, and she has no vendetta against any individual. I think I've gone as far as I can before the lawyers come in and give me the hook.

I've done a lot of Greece and Turkey before you got here.

QUESTION: Okay. It was reported by Reuters news agency that, at the request of the Athens Government, a Greek-Turkish dialogue is imminent on the Aegean, under the initiative of the Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou, who's coming to the United States this coming Wednesday. I wonder, do you have anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: I've heard there will be a meeting, and we think a meeting is good. Meetings are good, especially between allies.

QUESTION: According to The Washington Post, the leader of the Greek Junta, George Papadopoulos has died. Since your government was very supportive of the Greek Junta, I am wondering if you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: I will check with the historians.

QUESTION: Colombia -- do you have anything to say about the Chairman of the stock exchange visiting the FARC leadership?

MR. RUBIN: Mr. Grasso and other US citizens are free to talk to whomever they want. Mr. Grasso's visit does not change American policy of no talks or meetings with the FARC until those responsible for the March 4 murder of three US citizens are turned over to Colombian authorities.

QUESTION: Does this annoy you at all that people are making these free- lance trips down there?

MR. RUBIN: If I got annoyed every time some American made a free-lance trip, I couldn't stay in this job very long.

QUESTION: One more - go back to Yugoslavia? The Yugoslav --

MR. RUBIN: In fact, I think we didn't do any Yugoslavia today. We've not - oh, you got Milosevic in there, that's right. China and Milosevic.

QUESTION: That's what I have to follow him, that question. If he goes to China, that means the United States will be directly in conflict with China, and will the US take action? What kind of action?

MR. RUBIN: Without speculating on a completely hypothetical question based on a rumor in a news report, let me say that every country has an obligation to comply with the War Crimes Tribunal -- every country in the world - to ensure that they take action to ensure that indicted war criminals are sent to The Hague.

QUESTION: Can I break the spell and go to Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: Oh, it was so long - it was 90 days without a full Kosovo section. Now we have to have the whole section in the briefing transcript.

QUESTION: I think you can answer this in one clear answer and we'll move on. Does the United States have any plans to deal with the pressing problem of policing the province now that they're in the state of transition?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Secretary Albright, as you know, will be in a meeting with several of her foreign minister colleagues - a kind of a Friends of Kosovo meeting -- in New York on Wednesday; and getting the United Nations to move quickly to stand up a police force is certainly something that will be discussed at that meeting. In addition, I do know that the UN is planning to move some of the police in Bosnia that are under the UN police program into Kosovo very quickly; and we certainly want it to be done as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Do you expect, Jamie, that increased troop levels will help in this - help to keep the violence down?


QUESTION: This meeting in New York started out as a G-8 meeting and then apparently the Secretary General invited a bunch of other countries - China and what not; no? I mean, I just wondered whether you are concerned -

MR. RUBIN: It was always going to be hosted by the Secretary General of the UN, so it was never a formal G-8 meeting. I think G-8 ministers have spent a lot of time working on Kosovo, so there was a desire to have them continue their work. So given the important role the United Nations is going to play, a decision was made to try to put those two groupings together. It's up to the Secretary General to invite ministers and members to such a meeting, and he has done so. It was always going to be taking place under his auspices.

QUESTION: These add-ons - are they the - you remember there were countries in the region -

MR. RUBIN: And that's why you've heard me several times now use the phrase "Friends of Kosovo"; that is a formulation that I learned in New York. They have a friends of this and a friends of that. It's up to the Secretary General to decide who those other countries are, and I'm sure his briefer will give your colleagues great detail.

QUESTION: Does this bring China into it by any chance?

MR. RUBIN: If it does, then China will be there.

QUESTION: Into Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that would be for - if you have a question on whether China is a friend of Kosovo, I would urge you to ask China and then ask the Secretary General.

QUESTION: For the record?

QUESTION: Is this the official name now - Friends of Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: I would think for this particular mechanism - as you know there are many mechanisms in our foreign policy business. There's the G-8; there's the Contact Group; there are certain members of NATO that meet sometimes alone; there is all of NATO; there is the G-7 without the Russians. In New York at the UN, their formulation - they don't have a G-8 or a G-7 -- they do have a P-5, however, a P-3 sometimes, a P-2 occasionally. I even recall P-4s without the Chinese. So they have their own nomenclature, and one of their nomenclatures is Friends of Kosovo.

QUESTION: Okay, but, I mean, there was a Friends of Cambodia a couple of years back and that was the official name that was given to it. So I'm just wondering --

MR. RUBIN: Right. But the UN has to be the official namer; we don't name it here. That's the UN that names it.

QUESTION: The other thing is that I was under the impression that the Germans were actually the official host of this?

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure the Germans and the UN will discuss how the gavel will be passed back and forth if they believe that. I was always under the impression it was the Secretary General.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary going to have any bilateral meetings when she's there?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

QUESTION: Anybody else?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think so.


MR. RUBIN: Probably not.

QUESTION: Could I ask you something else that's a little esoteric? In the Duma flurry last week, there was a whole series of actions. They evidently did something to restrict operations of foreign insurance companies in Russia. I thought there was some concern here about it, but -

MR. RUBIN: Maybe there is.

QUESTION: Maybe our signals are crossed.

MR. RUBIN: We have made it clear to Russian officials that the recently passed restrictive law on insurance is contrary to Russia's goal of revitalizing its economy and attracting foreign investment and may complicate Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.


QUESTION: Only one more, please. According to the State Department, Afghanistan is one of the heavily mined countries in the world. The Secretary of State said that we are doing everything to demine more than 26 countries. Now, everywhere you walk in Afghanistan, the injuries are 10-15 a day. So what is the US doing and --

MR. RUBIN: We had a briefing on this on Friday; I'll get you the transcript.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. Let's eat lunch.

(The briefing concluded at 12:35 P.M.)

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