U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #138, 99-11-10
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
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1-2 Upcoming Trial In Serbia of Albanian Kosovar Activist Dr. Brovina
2-3 BUDGET: UN Arrears/Albright-Holbrooke Congressional Letter
3-5 President's Travel/Security Issues
5-7 US Views on Greece's Counter-Terrorism Efforts/Ambassador Sheehan's
7-8 Cuba's Absence from the Major's List/Impact on US-Cuba Bilateral
Relationship/Cuban Response to US Offers for Cooperation on
8-9 Listing of Countries/Implications for Countries listed/ Impact on
10 US Reaction to possible Extradition of Jaime Lata
10 US Aid to Colombia for Counter-Narcotics Efforts
11 US Reaction to OSCE Statement that Chechyna is no longer Moscow's
Internal Problem/US and UN roles in Refugee Relief
12 Russia Claims that US has sought to postpone next week's ABM and
START Talks/Holum Talks/ Possible Talbott Trip
12 US Non-Military Assistance to Iraqi Opposition
12-13 Fate of Panchen Lama/Recent US Representations to China on Panchen Lama
13 Next Steps with Taliban regarding Usama bin Laden/Sheehan-Mujahid
Discussions/Mullah Omar Letter
13-14 Future of Cyprus following next week's OSCE Summit
14 US Efforts to Move Syrian-Israeli Talks Along/Ross Travel to the
14 Readout of Meetings
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1999, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
As you know, Secretary Albright will be delivering a speech this evening in
Chicago. I will endeavor to get an advanced copy of that speech to all of
you as soon as is humanly possible.
We will have a statement, also, after the briefing on the National Dialogue
on Jobs and Trade.
I also want to say that we have received reports from human rights
organizations that Dr. Flora Brovina, a Kosovo Albanian pediatrician and
activist whose clinic provided medical services to children and women in
Pristina during this spring's conflict, will be tried before a Serbian
court on Thursday in the southern city of Nis. She was arrested on April 20
and charged with committing terrorist acts. She is the founder of the
League of Albanian Women, and is only one of thousands of Kosovar Albanian
detainees who were transferred on legally questionable grounds from Kosovo
to Serbian prisons last summer in advance of KFOR's entry into Kosovo.
The United States is especially concerned about the fate of dozens of women
and children among the thousands now languishing in Serbian prisons. There
are reports that a prisoner as young as four months old, born during the
mother's incarceration, remains in prison. Many other prisoners are under
18 years of age.
Prisoners who have been released regardless of their ethnicity tell of
beatings while in detention, lack of sufficient food and of appropriate
medical care. There has been extensive documentation by human rights groups
of the Serbian legal system concluding that a Kosovar Albanian, especially
an active figure such as Dr. Brovina, cannot expect to receive a fair trial
under the Milosevic regime.
We want to express our concern over the apparent abuse of the legal system
in this case and others and condemn Serbia's actions as a continued
demonstration of Serbia's disregard for international norms of behavior.
QUESTION: I think you began by saying, "we have learned." I mean, was the
US aware of her persecution, if that's the right word, long before this
MR. RUBIN: We were - human rights organizations reported it to us that
she will be tried before a Serbian court on Thursday --
QUESTION: You knew about her troubles all along?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: How do you spell her name, her last name?
MR. RUBIN: Brovina, B-r-o-v-i-n-a. Flora is the first name, Dr. Flora
Brovina, age 50, a Kosovo Albanian pediatrician and activist whose clinic
provided medical services to women and children in Pristina during the
QUESTION: Is there anything that this government will do to protest this?
I mean, is there anything --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't have an ambassador in Serbia, as you know. I
think I have just expressed very strongly our views. I think we will
certainly be encouraging governments that do talk to the Serbs to raise
QUESTION: Do you know the sentences she might face?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, we just learned about her indicated trial and
that she is expected to be tried for committing terrorist acts, which
obviously would include stiff sentences. As far as we can tell, the only
thing she has done is to provide pediatric and medical services to women
and children in Pristina during the conflict.
QUESTION: Apropos of Betsy's question with the labyrinth of the network
of various things that followed Dayton, that followed intervention and all
of the above, isn't there some mechanical handle the United States or the
Europeans or some combination thereof can use besides a forum to try to --
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, I don't know where there is a - there has
certainly been a process for missing persons and things like that, but on
raising cases like this it has normally been up to international organizations,
human rights groups, diplomats who have accreditation and are in Belgrade
to raise these cases. As I indicated, we will certainly be encouraging
others to raise this case with Serbian authorities directly.
Before turning to your question, let me raise one other issue. One of the
key priorities for the Year 2000 Budget has been to pay our arrears to the
United Nations and other international organizations. Our failure to do so
yet again this year would damage our national security and further erode
America's leadership and prestige. It would also lead to the embarrassing
loss of the United States' right to vote in the UN General Assembly.
Our work on this issue with Congress dates back many, many years. It was a
major preoccupation of Ambassador Albright when she was Ambassador at the
United Nations, and in 1997, Secretary Albright worked closely with
Congress to fashion a plan that would simultaneously pay our arrears and
provide incentives for further United Nations reform.
The result of this effort was the Helms-Biden bill, which we support and
which passed the Senate this year by a vote of 97 to 1. The choice the full
Congress now faces is whether to approve such a measure and thereby move
ahead both on American leadership and United Nations reform. In making that
choice, Secretary Albright will strongly urge legislators to take note of
the efforts the Administration, the UN leadership, have made in responding
to congressional concerns.
Since 1993, UN headquarters staffing has been cut. There has been far
greater budget discipline. Peacekeeping operations have become more
professional. The Inspector General's Office which was created six years
ago has grown steadily more aggressive and is responsible for tens of
millions of dollars in savings.
Moreover, throughout the UN system, leadership has improved and the General
Assembly will soon meet another congressional concern by electing the
American candidate as the UN's key budget oversight panel. Despite all this,
more needs to be done. But the way to make that happen is for the United
States to meet its own financial obligations.
Further, as both Secretary Albright and Ambassador Holbrooke have made
clear numerous times, it is in America's national interest to have a UN
that is adequately financed and increasingly professional. The contribution
that the United Nations makes to our interests include peacekeeping,
safeguarding nuclear materials, prosecuting war criminals, enforcing
sanctions against Slobodon Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, protecting
intellectual property rights, fighting disease and saving children's
In all the time Secretary Albright has been working on this issue, she
believes the prospects for agreement this year are the highest. She
appreciates the constructive approach many on Capitol Hill are taking and
the strong expressions of support from both sides of the aisle on the need
to pay our arrears and ensure UN reform and the support that we have also
received from the American public, including the business community.
She is available to contribute in whatever way she can to an outcome that
will meet America's obligations, bolster America's leadership and serve
American interests in a UN that works. To that end, Secretary Albright and
Ambassador Holbrooke are sending a joint letter containing essentially this
message to Capitol Hill this afternoon and she will also be discussing this
in her speech.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) will be available?
MR. RUBIN: I'll do my best, yes.
QUESTION: The President is cutting short, delaying and shortening his
visit to Greece and the White House says it was at Greece's request. Well,
of course, that might just be a formality. Didn't the US indeed suggest to
Greece that the President might have to shorten his stay because of various
concerns? And, secondly, isn't this in some way - isn't this permitting
terrorists or the fear of terrorism to set the US agenda? Aren't you
submitting to terrorists by doing this?
MR. RUBIN: No. I certainly wouldn't agree with that at all. Obviously,
the security issues were fully discussed between the US Secret Service and
the Greek Government and Greek officials. The Greek Government made a
recommendation to shift the date. The additional time will be used to work
on the best possible schedule for the President's visit and to complete
substantive preparations. The President looks forward to discussing a
number of issues with Greece.
We agreed to the Greek Government's recommendation to shift the dates and
we will continue to work with them on the best possible schedule. With
respect to demonstrations, we understand that people have a right to
demonstrate in countries like Greece and express their views freely and
peacefully and we didn't ask for demonstrations to be canceled. We are
confident that the Greek Government will provide adequate security for the
President's visit. I am not in a position to go into all the reasons why
the Greek Government recommended a shift in schedule but I can say security
is always a concern when the President travels, wherever he goes,
whether it's Greece or Africa or the Middle East or anywhere else,
and security considerations have to be taken into account. That's
the reality of the modern world.
I wouldn't assume the terrorists or demonstrators or anybody win any points
because we are careful about our security. It would be a grave error to
dismiss security concerns and then potentially have a disaster on our
QUESTION: On the first point, I mean, the Greek Government may have taken
the formal step but since security, American security is concerned most
directly with the well-being of the President, isn't it a little bit of a
dodge to suggest that this came from the Greek Government and didn't
originate with the United States out of reasonable concern about safety? I
mean, they are the host. They have to say why don't you change your
schedule; I mean, otherwise you couldn't just arrive. You have to have them
say something formally. But I think to throw it on the Greek Government
may be a little bit of a diplomatic maneuver there by the White House
and by the State Department. Didn't the Secret Service say we don't think
he ought to go there as scheduled and why don't you shorten - why don't you
change your invitation?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm glad you've been able to satisfy yourself as to what
transpired. What I can tell you --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) what I think.
MR. RUBIN: I understand that's what you think, and what I'm --
QUESTION: I didn't pull it out of the air.
MR. RUBIN: I don't know where you pulled it out of. (Laughter).
QUESTION: But I also know how diplomacy works. I also know you would
rather lay it on the Greek Government than step forward directly and say we
think the President oughtn't to stay in Greece two nights.
MR. RUBIN: I'm going to have a giggling fit if I don't take deep
Let me say that obviously we and Greek authorities discussed security
issues. I think I indicated that. I wasn't at those discussions. I don't
know who said what to whom. I do know that the recommendation - that is,
the formal process by which dates are chosen and events are organized -
came from the Greek Government.
Did that come as a result of discussions with us? Well, I'm sure that those
discussions were an element in the Greek Government's recommendation. But I
can also assure you that we don't believe the Greek Government has any
interest in allowing a security situation to develop which would pose risks
to the President any more than our Secret Service does.
QUESTION: I never suggested it would.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. RUBIN: I hope.
QUESTION: More on this.
MR. RUBIN: More on this?
QUESTION: Are you saying that the President's trip schedule was changed
for any reasons other than security?
MR. RUBIN: The Greek Government made a recommendation. I think that if
you really are interested in the President's schedule and the President's
scheduling and the reasons the President makes those decision, I urge you
to ask your colleagues to pose those questions to my White House counterparts
who are involved in the day-to-day decision-making of the President's
schedule. I have given you what information has been provided to me here at
the State Department and I would urge you if you are looking for additional
information about the President's decision-making and the White House
scheduling information, I would urge you to pose those questions over at
the White House.
QUESTION: And if I may follow up, what is the US view on Greece's counter-
MR. RUBIN: We continue to cooperate closely with the Greek authorities to
eliminate the threat from 17 November and other terrorist organizations. We
are working well with Prime Minister Simitis and Minister of Public Order
Khrisokhoidhis who visited Washington in October to discuss this issue. We
do take this matter very seriously. We are working together seriously on
the problem of terrorism and we need to continue to do that work.
We did issue a Public Announcement advising Americans to exercise caution
and avoid demonstrations that are planned against President Clinton's
visit. And, in light of violent acts in the last week, we have a responsibility
to ensure the American public is fully informed on the security situation.
QUESTION: But, Jamie, the Patterns of Global Terrorism for 1998 said that
Greek authorities have only arrested one member of the 17 November
organization ever. Do you think that's a sign of good work? How does that -
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think what I indicated, you know, obviously, we're not
satisfied. We think more needs to be done but we are working cooperatively
with Prime Minister Simitis.
QUESTION: Did you see the op ed piece in the Washington Post by a former
Foreign Service officer who had some very unkind things to say about the
Greek efforts in anti-terrorism? Do you have any comment, any reaction to
MR. RUBIN: I think it would be the same as the reaction to the last
question. With respect to the author's suggestion that we should place
sanctions on Greece if progress is not made, we are not considering any
such option. Greece is a valued NATO ally and a longtime friend of the
United States. We want to work together in a serious way with Greece to
confront the problem of terrorism.
Security at the Athens embassy does cost considerable funds but we think it
is important to protect our people and we go to great lengths to protect
our people. But I couldn't get into the details of some of the security
arrangements as the author did, other than to say that Ambassador Sheehan
has visited there to try to improve counter-terrorism cooperation in recent
weeks and that we are obviously not satisfied with the specific case I
mentioned earlier but we are working cooperatively with them.
QUESTION: Just to take up a minor point, when he went there, did he go to
the other stops or was it a visit entirely to Greece?
MR. RUBIN: I will have to check his schedule.
Yes, on this?
QUESTION: On the same subject. The President's visit of -
MR. RUBIN: I don't enjoy this too much, okay?
QUESTION: Okay. The new date, does that satisfy your concern, all
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think the President would have agreed to respond
positively to a recommendation from the Greek Government if we weren't
satisfied with security concerns.
QUESTION: The problem is - my question is, what will be changed in a
MR. RUBIN: Again, if all of you want to get into the nuances and the
details of the President's scheduling decisions for this trip, I would urge
you to go, transport yourself, teleport yourself right now to the White
House briefing where Joe Lockhart, I suspect, will have more complete
answers to the President's schedule on this matter.
QUESTION: Just briefly, did Ambassador Burns have any recommendations or
input into this?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. Yes.
QUESTION: The "majors" list is out and Cuba, as I understand it, is not
on it. You can expect some criticism from some people on the Hill who
believe that drug trafficker use of Cuban airspace and Cuban waters means
Cuba belongs on the list. What is your response?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. I understand the President has signed the majors list and
it has been sent to Capitol Hill based on the recommendations of the State
Department. Obviously, we remain concerned about trafficking through and
around Cuba and around Cuban waterways and airspace, yet during this past
year we have seen an apparent decrease in the trafficking patterns. We
believe it is important for Cuba to take steps to improve its interdiction
efforts, including cooperation with other nations in the region. We are
taking certain steps in this regard and we would want to see improved
Cuba was not placed on the list of major drug transit countries because
there is no clear evidence that cocaine or heroin are transiting Cuba on
the way to the United States in quantities that significantly affect the
United States. According to our government's inter-agency estimate of
cocaine movement during the first half of 1999, there was no cocaine
detected transiting Cuban soil or ports on the way to the United States.
One December 4th, 1998, there was a major seizure in Cartagena, Colombia,
of some 7.2 metric tons of cocaine apparently bound for Cuba via Jamaica.
Because the shipment never arrived in Cuba, it was not included in the
government estimate of cocaine transiting Cuba. Because the preponderance
of information available to us indicates that the ultimate destination of
the shipment was not the United States, this shipment would have not
figured in our calculations.
The Department of State asked the intelligence and law enforcement
communities to look at all the available information concerning whether the
7.2 metric ton shipment of cocaine seized in Cartagena in December 1998 was
to have transited Cuba en route to the United States. They conducted a
comprehensive review and recently concluded that the preponderance of
information indicates that Spain and not the United States was the intended
With respect to what it means to significantly affect the United States, we
mean that for a country to be designated a major drug transit country the
drugs transiting that country must enter the United States in sufficient
quantities so as to have a significant impact on the consumption and
availability of those drugs in the United States. If this particular
shipment were determined to have been destined for the United States, that
would have been strong grounds for designating Cuba as a major drug transit
Designation of a country as a major transit country or not is a separate
process from determining when it is in our interests to cooperate with a
country to stem or to prevent illegal drug flows. So that is the basic
reason for why we made that recommendation to the President.
QUESTION: You said that the United States wants to improve bilateral
cooperation with Cuba. Can you flesh that out at all?
MR. RUBIN: I can't really at this time. Obviously, we want them to make
more efforts to interdict and prevent Cuba from being used to trans-ship
narcotics and other drugs, and we would want to see that improved. But I
wouldn't be able to give you any details on that.
QUESTION: The question that you were asked the other day, you never had
an answer. What response did the Cubans give to you, to your proposals,
your specific proposals on improving cooperation on narcotics? This came up
about two months ago. They gave you a --
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information to provide. Obviously, those
kinds of questions are - we, when we think it's in our interest to
cooperate with Cuba in counter-narcotics efforts, do so. Those discussions
occur from time to time but I don't have any new information to report on
QUESTION: When and where are we going to get more information about the
MR. RUBIN: I think I just gave you an enormous amount of information.
QUESTION: But there are other countries in the world besides Cuba.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. With respect to that, let me say that 26 countries are on
the majors list - Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma,
Cambodia, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala,
Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama,
Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela and Vietnam.
The major changes is that two - Aruba and Belize - were on last year's list
and not included this year. I will try to get you additional information
during the course of the day in greater detail on any of those countries.
QUESTION: Have any been added?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so, no.
QUESTION: Cuba wasn't on --
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: So then this is both transit points and producers, right?
MR. RUBIN: The list of majors is based on a judgment that --
QUESTION: I want to make sure. Not all these countries that you just
listed are producers.
MR. RUBIN: Well, they're either an illicit drug-producing country or a
major drug transit country, yes.
QUESTION: What does the being on the list do?
MR. RUBIN: It basically requires that half the foreign assistance be
suspended pending a judgment as to whether there is cooperation with the
United States in counter-narcotics efforts and then various determinations
are made as to whether there is cooperation and, if not, whether the
national interest so requires us to waive the fact that they were not
certified for cooperation. So it sets up the process that ends in March of
next year on the question of cooperation. First you need to decide what
countries are the countries of concern and then you examine the question
QUESTION: What is the definition of foreign assistance? Is that all
MR. RUBIN: It's defined in the Foreign Assistance Act. I'll have to get
you the exact wording after the briefing, but essentially what that does is
countries not certified are subject to potential US vote against assistance
by six multilateral development banks, in addition to direct foreign
assistance, bilateral foreign assistance.
QUESTION: But right now, until that determination is made in March, these
countries don't have to worry about losing anything, right?
MR. RUBIN: What happens is half the assistance is suspended on the
assumption that it wouldn't be provided by March anyway pending the
judgment about cooperation.
QUESTION: So I just want to make sure you'll take the question and give a
MR. RUBIN: An exact, precise definition of which multilateral development
banks and what assistance. Generally speaking in these cases, it's normally
things other than food aid and humanitarian assistance.
QUESTION: So the big loss to a country isn't going to come until March?
That's when they --
MR. RUBIN: -- could potentially lose foreign assistance.
QUESTION: Does the US expect the Colombian Government to immediately
extradite a Colombian by the name of Jaime Lata whose case was given a go-
ahead by the Colombian Supreme Court in a decision yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on whether the US has decided to
postpone a proposal that they were supposed to send to Congress on an aid
package to Colombia to help that country fight narcotics?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this on that: Secretary Albright spoke to President
Pastrana, I believe the night before last, to make very clear that we think
that he has done an outstanding job in developing a comprehensive strategy
called Plan Colombia that addressees Colombia's inter-related problems of
the insurgency, crime, economics and drugs; that we support very strongly
his Plan Colombia.
We want to provide the resources necessary to assist Colombia in that
effort. We want others in the region to do the same. We already provide
substantial sums in direct counter-narcotic assistance, including $78
million for Colombia directly; some portion of $305 million worth of
counter-narcotics assistance can be assigned to Colombia; and, $59 million
worth of drawdown authority exists. So there is a lot of authority and
funds already in the pipeline for Colombia that we are very pleased to be
able to provide.
We want to work very strongly - and Secretary Albright discussed this with
the President yesterday - to develop a plan for additional funds to be
provided to Colombia when Congress returns. So that is something we are
going to work on very closely with the Congress, with the Colombian
Government, so that we can add to the already substantial funds that are
provided to Colombia.
QUESTION: That means that there is no hope that any of this aid will be
approved by the end of this year?
MR. RUBIN: Again, what I indicated to you is there is a difference
between authorization, appropriation and actual expenditures. There is
already an enormous amount of aid in the pipeline that's available, and we
think if we move quickly upon Congress' return we will be able to provide
the support necessary to help President Pastrana implement Plan Colombia.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how much the US contribution is expected
to be in the ideal world over the next three years, which is the duration
of the Plan Colombia?
MR. RUBIN: It's a substantial contribution that we're going to be looking
at. I'm not in a position to give you exact figures.
QUESTION: The OSCE today, based on a recent fact-finding trip, said
Chechnya is no longer Moscow's internal affair. Is the US prepared to make
a similar statement?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen that specific report so I wouldn't be
able to comment directly. I think we have made very clear in numerous ways
our concern about the conflict in Chechnya and the situation there as it
has deteriorated and as humanitarian concerns have grown; that we are very
concerned about the refugees, the internally displaced persons; and we have
also talked about Russia's obligations under international law.
So I think we've been quite clear that the international community does
have a right and an obligation to raise questions and concerns when such a
tragedy befalls innocent civilians.
QUESTION: About Chechnya, Mr. Rubin, things are - the weather is getting
considerably colder. There is at least somewhere between 100,000 and 200,
000 refugees in Ingushetiya. What part, what role, does the United States
and the UN have to play there in the relief of those people?
MR. RUBIN: We do understand that operations have been slowed in the last
two days due to weather conditions and that Russian forces have surrounded
Groznyy and Gudermes, the second largest city in Chechnya. We note recent
statements by Russian and Chechen leaders renewing calls for political
dialogue. We welcome these statements and call for Russia to begin a
dialogue with legitimate Chechen partners.
We do not believe that a purely military solution to the conflict is
possible. We have seen reports indicating that now 4,000 people are
crossing daily and being able to leave Chechnya.
We welcome this news.
We recently provided four and a half million dollars to help support UNHCR
and Red Cross programs in the region, and the Administration will quickly
answer the Red Cross' specific appeals for funds to help civilians
displaced by the conflict in Chechnya. In the past week, three air
shipments of US humanitarian supplies arrived in the North Caucasus to
support these Red Cross efforts.
QUESTION: I take it that Russia basically has control, has the lead, on
any activities in Ingushetiya; is that correct?
MR. RUBIN: Well, that's part of Russia, yes.
QUESTION: On another situation of aid, Macedonians are blocking relief
convoys going into - does that mean, no, they're not?
MR. RUBIN: No, I just don't have any information on that. Did that just
come across your desk?
QUESTION: Since early this morning.
MR. RUBIN: Our former spokesman from Macedonia has not heard about it
either so I don't feel so bad.
QUESTION: The Russians say the United States has asked to postpone talks
next week on ABM and START.
MR. RUBIN: I think that's an inaccurate report. We are going to continue
to discuss the ABM and START issues with Russia. I believe the next formal
discussion at the technical level is with Under Secretary Holum and his
team, and Deputy Secretary Talbott is available on short notice to meet
when appropriate with senior officials in Russia.
QUESTION: What I'm saying is that there are no firm plans for Mr. Talbott
to go to Moscow for a meeting on November 16th?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that we have not walked away from a
QUESTION: A few weeks ago the Iraqi Opposition held a meeting in New York,
and I wonder if you have any sense as to what the pace is of the dispersal,
distribution, of the various military materials that the US --
MR. RUBIN: We have been providing certain non-lethal assistance in the
form of computes and other information systems to Iraqi Opposition figures.
We have also been doing some training for certain Iraqi Opposition figures
in civil-military relations. I think that we have not ruled out providing
assistance under the drawdown authority, that is, military assistance. But
for now, we believe to provide military assistance would cause more
damage than it would help and we would put at grave risk Iraqis trying to
overthrow or to change the regime and, thus, we want to do that in a very
prudent way after we have taken into account all their capabilities and not
inadvertently cause more death and damage to Iraqis that we hope to
QUESTION: Over the past couple of days, there has been a flurry of
speculation among the exiled Tibetan community about the fate, possible -
including possibly the death in Chinese custody of the Panchen Lama. I am
wondering if you have any -
MR. RUBIN: We have no information indicating that the boy identified by
the Dali Lama as the Panchen Lama is dead. The Chinese Government has
publicly denied the story. We remain concerned that the boy is being held
incommunicado by Chinese authorities. Our embassy in Beijing has made
formal representations there, expressing our concern about the whereabouts
and welfare of the boy.
We have raised the issue repeatedly since Secretary Koh raised the issue
last January in formal human rights dialogue. We've also repeatedly urged
the Chinese Government to address continued concerns about the safety and
well-being of the boy by allowing the boy and his family to receive
visitors if he and his family wish and to return home freely.
But we have no information indicating that the boy is dead.
QUESTION: Have there been any very recent formal representations made to
the government or are these -
MR. RUBIN: I think we do this very often. I would have to get you the
specific date of the last one.
QUESTION: One more thing. I wonder if you had any reaction to the article
in the Post and elsewhere about the Army being stretched too thin and some
divisions not ready for war?
MR. RUBIN: I think that would also require you to teleport yourself over
to the Pentagon to get the appropriate response. I read the article but
it's really about - we certainly would support - and Secretary Albright has
always supported - Secretary Cohen's effort for having the best equipped,
best trained, and best led military in the world, and that would continue
to be here view but I wouldn't know how to respond to the specifics.
QUESTION: It looks fairly clear that the Taliban don't intend to hand
over Usama bin Ladin.
MR. RUBIN: The other day you were sure they would.
QUESTION: Assuming that sanctions go ahead in that doesn't work, what is
your next plan? What is your Plan B for this? What other measures could you
contemplate taking against them?
MR. RUBIN: We will continue to pursue our goal. We think that the
sanctions will have an effect in denying certain funds from being available
and preventing Ariana Airlines from flying and that, hopefully, that direct
sanction on the Taliban as opposed to the people of Afghanistan will
persuade the Taliban to have a change of heart.
We want Usama bin Ladin to be expelled from Afghanistan. If that hasn't
occurred by the 14th of November, the sanctions will go into effect. We
have had ongoing discussions with the Taliban, including a meeting as
recently as last Friday when our Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, the
very able Ambassador Sheehan, spoke with Taliban representative Mujahid.
To date, our discussions have not resulted in any resolution of the problem
but we are prepared to continue those discussions. We haven't seen the most
recent letter but we think the threatening tone is provocative and we in
the international community - this is the letter by Mullah Omar. We in the
international community will not be deflected from our common goal of
bringing Usama bin Ladin to justice by such letters or any other actions.
QUESTION: Next week at the OSCE summit, among topics to be discussed the
future of Cyprus and trying to bring about a negotiated solution. Is the US
at all optimistic that there will be any progress made in those talks?
MR. RUBIN: I have been following this for roughly the six and a half
years that I've been here or in New York and the Cyprus issue has been
before us and, at various times, people get bursts of optimism followed by
bursts of pessimism. So I have concluded that there is no way to really
know what will cause the two leaders and the relevant leaders in Greece and
Turkey to make the hard political decisions to yield a peaceful settlement.
We certainly hope that. We certainly hope that the recent rapprochement
in certain cases between Greek and Turkish officials following the
earthquake increases the chances for that.
Certainly the President will be raising these issues in his discussions in
Greece and Turkey, but as far as knowing whether those tough decisions will
be made I prefer not to speculate other than to say that we're ever hopeful
but ever realistic.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the United States has been doing in the
last week or two to try to get Syrian-Israeli talks going again, and is
there any possibility of high-level contacts with the Syrians in the next
few weeks on this?
MR. RUBIN: What I can say about this is Dennis Ross is going to the
region next Monday and Tuesday. He won't be going to Syria. We've made
clear we are working with both parties in an effort to restart negotiations
and lay a basis that would give each side the confidence that talks would
lead to an agreement.
There are lots of communications going on as part of this effort. We'd
prefer not to get into such communications publicly but it is very
important that we lay a basis that gives both sides the confidence that
negotiations, once started, would lead to an agreement. We will continue in
an effort to achieve those goals so long as we think that we have a chance
of success, but clearly, very, very, very hard decisions will be required
on both sides if an agreement is to be possible.
QUESTION: So where is Mr. Ross going? Just to Israel?
MR. RUBIN: Israel and the Palestinian Authority, I believe. The West Bank
and Israel next Monday and Tuesday.
QUESTION: I just would ask could you summarize and reiterate the issues
and progress made on the issues between the US and Mexico in this week,
visits by Mr. Madrazo and Ms. Green?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get that for you after the briefing.
(The briefing concluded at 2:00 P.M.)