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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #138, 99-11-10

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


869

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

STATEMENTS
1-2	Upcoming Trial In Serbia of Albanian Kosovar Activist Dr. Brovina
2-3	BUDGET: UN Arrears/Albright-Holbrooke Congressional Letter
GREECE
3-5	President's Travel/Security Issues
5-7	US Views on Greece's Counter-Terrorism Efforts/Ambassador Sheehan's
	 recent trip 
NARCOTICS/CUBA
7-8	Cuba's Absence from the Major's List/Impact on US-Cuba Bilateral
	 Relationship/Cuban Response to US Offers for Cooperation on
	 Narcotics  
8-9	Listing of Countries/Implications for Countries listed/ Impact on
	 Foreign Assistance 
COLOMBIA
10	US Reaction to possible Extradition of Jaime Lata
10	US Aid to Colombia for Counter-Narcotics Efforts
RUSSIA
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 
IRAQ
12	US Non-Military Assistance to Iraqi Opposition
CHINA/TIBET
12-13	Fate of Panchen Lama/Recent US Representations to China on Panchen Lama
AFGHANISTAN
13	Next Steps with Taliban regarding Usama bin Laden/Sheehan-Mujahid
	 Discussions/Mullah Omar Letter 
CYPRUS
13-14	Future of Cyprus following next week's OSCE Summit
SYRIA/ISRAEL
14	US Efforts to Move Syrian-Israeli Talks Along/Ross Travel to the
	 Region 
MEXICO
14	Readout of Meetings

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #138

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 week?

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 conflict.

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 this case.

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 lives.

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 hands.

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 breath.

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- terrorism efforts?

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 that?

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 security concerns?

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 week?

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 bilateral cooperation.

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 final destination.

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 country.

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 that.

QUESTION: When and where are we going to get more information about the list?

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 of cooperation.

QUESTION: What is the definition of foreign assistance? Is that all foreign aid?

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 full definition.

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 planned meeting.

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 help.

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.)


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