U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #139, 99-11-12
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
Friday, November 12, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1-4 US Condemns Attacks in Pakistan / US will not be Deterred From
Pursuing Foreign Policy and Maintaining a Presence Around the
World / US Facilities to Continue to Function Under Normal
4-5 Payment of UN Dues / Failure to Pay Dues Has Harmed US National
Security / Other
19-20 Governments Becoming Reluctant to Support US Efforts to Fight
Terrorism; Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction due to
Non-Payment of UN Dues / Issue of Family Planning Should be
Debated and Adjudicated Separately
6 Plane Crash in Kosovo
6-9 US Views Mrs. Arafat's Observations as Baseless Charges / Special
Middle East Envoy Ross to Depart for Region
9-10 US Has No Reason to Believe that the Sale of Radar by Israel to
China Contains US Technology / US has Active Dialogue with Israel
on Arms Sales
10 Sentencing of Four Members of Falun Gong
RUSSIA / CUBA
10&12 Press Report on Deployment of Russian Nuclear Capable Strategic
Bombers to Cuba
10-12 Statement by Defense Minister Sergeyev / Alleged US Promotion of
Conflict in the North Caucuses is Baseless / US Supports the
Territorial Integrity, the Independence and the Sovereignty of the
States Around Russia, Including in the Caucuses and Central Asia
/Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty - Maldova and Georgia / US
Denies Sending Military Articles to Region
13-15 Russian Forces Take Control of the city of Gudermes / US Calls on
Russia to Begin a Dialogue with Legitimate Chechen Partners / US
encourages Russia to Look at how the OSCE Can Play a Useful Role /
US Supports Russia's Right to Defend its Sovereignty and
Territorial Integrity / Indiscriminate Bombing is Inconsistent
with OSCE Code of Conduct
12 Summit Meeting of Latin America, Caribbean, Spain and Portugal /
Continuing Violation of Human Rights
15 Loren Willie Case / US View There Is No Linkage Between
Mr. Willie's Case and that of Former Georgian Diplomat Makharadze
16,20 Car Bombing / Colombian Supreme Court Approves Extradition of
Alleged Heroin Trafficker, Jaime Lara
17 Internally Displaced Persons / Missing Albanians
NORTH KOREA / CHINA
18-19A dmiral Blair's Comments on Deployment of Regional Missiles / US to
Continue to Assist Taiwan in Meeting its Legitimate Self-Defense
Needs / Taiwan Relations Act
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 1999, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Let me start with the subject of intense interest and that is Pakistan. At
approximately 1:25 a.m., our time, this morning, nine projectiles were
launched from three parked vehicles in the vicinity of the American Embassy
and the American Center is Islamabad. The vehicles contained improvised
launchers and were destroyed from the back blast from the projectiles. The
attack appears to have been well coordinated.
The projectiles did not hit the American compound. The projectiles struck
the fence surrounding the American Center and the Center was hit by
shrapnel from that explosion. There have also been reports of explosions at
other locations, including an office housing UN offices, a Pakistani
government office and a few other locations in the city. We can confirm
only those that took place at the American facilities.
Having explained what we know, let me say the United States strongly
condemns these attacks. As far as we can tell at this point, there are no
reports of any Americans injured. No one at the American Embassy was
injured and there was no damage to the building. At the American Center,
however, there were broken windows and some damage to the exterior walls.
No Americans were injured at the American Center, either. A Pakistani
contract guard was wounded and is receiving treatment at a local hospital.
We are very pleased to report that he is out of danger.
We have advised US citizens to take extra precautions, to limit travel
outside their homes and to stay in touch with the American Embassy and
consulates near them. We do not have an ability at this time to determine
those responsible. It is in our view to early to characterize the incidents
beyond what I have said. The Pakistani government has so far provided
excellent support and increased security. There is Pakistani and US
officials who are now investigating the incidents. So far no one has
claimed responsibility. We are sending some additional diplomatic security
personnel here to deal with our assessments and the issues related to this
With those opening comments, do you have any questions?
QUESTION: Has the US Government monitored the Taliban to the extent that
it can say whether Taliban has denied or insisted or in fact actually
condemned or criticized the attack?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me be clear that sanctions will go into effect on
November 14, just three days from now, if the Taliban does not assist in
bringing Usama bin Ladin to justice. That is our view.
With respect to this incident, we are aware of a public statement by the
leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, condemning the attack and denying any
responsibility for them. We continue to conduct a thorough investigation
and will conduct a thorough investigation of the attack and we are not
prepared to speculate on who was responsible on the ground until we are in
a position to gather more information. At that time - obviously, we are not
going to speculate but, in other words, with this event having only
occurred a few hours ago, we are not prepared to speculate on who was
I am aware of a public statement condemning the attack by Mullah Omar.
QUESTION: So you are unwilling - you are unprepared, unable at this point
to rule out Taliban, correct?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what we are not going to do is speculate on who was
responsible. This investigation is beginning now and that is all I can say
QUESTION: No, I wasn't asking - we're not asking for speculation. We're
asking for, even though it's early, you have some information about the
type of explosives. You have a statement from Taliban. There is a pattern
of activity. These are the pieces that conclusions are drawn from. So what
you know so far, what the US Government knows so far, can it say that
Taliban was or wasn't involved?
MR. RUBIN: We can't rule out anybody until the investigation continues.
QUESTION: Have you all been in touch with the Taliban representative in
New York on this issue?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so. I don't believe so this morning.
QUESTION: You said the weapons involved were - the launchers were
improvised. Were these rocket-propelled grenades? What were these? I should
think that the Taliban could get a hold of some functional RPGs for
MR. RUBIN: I am not in a position to get into more detail on the specific
type of weaponry. It's a good question. I've been advised - they were
described to me as improvised launchers which presumably mean they are
jerry-rigged for this purpose. Again, the question of responsibility is
just one that is not possible to speculate on at this time.
QUESTION: What is the status of the embassy and consulates in Pakistan as
well as the status of the US personnel?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I believe Assistant Secretary Inderfurth spoke to
Ambassador Milam earlier this morning. The Embassy's operations will be
normal except they will have a heightened state of alert. In other words,
we are not closing embassies or reducing functions, but they will be
operating under a heightened state of alert. As is their practice, they
will not be operating on a weekend.
QUESTION: What about personnel? Are they all staying?
MR. RUBIN: There is no change planned at this time for American Embassy
QUESTION: Working hours (inaudible)?
MR. RUBIN: As I understand it was described to me, it's normal operations,
meaning the same functions, the same hours, the same people, but all of
that being done with a heightened state of alert. That's the kind of thing
that our diplomatic security people who are going over there will be
QUESTION: Earlier this week or perhaps last week, the Mullah Omar had
sent a letter to the AP which is addressed to the American people which
also addressed the subject of the forthcoming sanctions and said that the
American people should expect surprises, which he later clarified as
earthquakes and floods and that sort of thing. I wondered, given this
attack, apparent attack today, if you all had a chance to reevaluate the
letter which at the time you called provocative.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say we did regard that letter as provocative. We
are investigating all possible sources of the attack and we take all
possible security threats seriously. I suspect probably a little less
seriously the weather weapons that were suggested.
QUESTION: Jamie, may I ask is it accurate that you feel the attacks were
aimed at US facilities and none of the rockets actually hit any US
facilities? Is that correct reporting?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. probably before you came in, I mentioned that at
approximately 1:25 a.m., the projectiles were launched from three parked
vehicles in the vicinity of the American Embassy and the American Center.
The vehicles contained improvised launchers. The attack appears to have
been well coordinated. The projectiles did not hit the compound. The
projectiles struck the fence surrounding the American Center and the Center
was hit by shrapnel.
QUESTION: There is no doubt that the American facilities were the
MR. RUBIN: I think the fact that the attacks were well coordinated and
the fact that the American Center and the location indicates that this was
one of several targets because there have been a number of reports about
attacks throughout the city. So, again, it would be wrong to draw too many
conclusions just a few hours after this has occurred.
QUESTION: Jamie, you all had been concerned about car bombs or truck
bombs, several incidents in the last couple of years of that nature. These
were attacks that were launched against US facilities from now a distance
away. Does this cause you all to rethink the security and the setback that
our facilities --
MR. RUBIN: Again, I don't think we are doing any rethinking in the last
six hours. What we are doing now is trying to find out exactly what
happened, trying to make sure that all necessary precautions were taken.
Again, security is not a perfect science. One can never rule out that new
ways will be found to attack American facilities.
What we can rule out is that the United States will be deterred from
pursuing terrorists and pursuing justice until justice is served. What we
can rule out is that the United States will be deterred from pursuing our
foreign policies around the world or will be deterred from maintaining
presences around the world. We are not going to be intimidated by these
people. These cowardly acts will not intimidate the United States. We will
continue to conduct our foreign policy.
With respect to the fact that setbacks are not the only security method
that exists, certainly that is correct. And certainly the more sophisticated
terrorists become, the more sophisticated we are going to become in our
effort to protect. But there is no such thing as perfect protection.
Nevertheless, our determination to pursue our foreign policy and to be
undeterred from these cowardly acts will never change.
QUESTION: The government of Afghanistan has issued a statement condemning
MR. RUBIN: That was discussed before you came in. Yes.
QUESTION: On a different subject, is the Secretary really prepared to be
the sacrificial lamb on the altar of UN dues paying, as was reported this
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. Secretary Albright has been working
assiduously on the issue of paying our UN dues since she became ambassador
to the UN. Most recently, she has approved and negotiated with Senator
Helms and Senator Biden a piece of legislation, some of which we didn't
like very much but which we thought was practically required in order to
get these dues repaid. That legislation was passed in '97, it was updated
earlier this year in June and Secretary Albright had to overrule several of
those in the Administration who were worried that the provisions were too
specific. But because she feels so strongly that we must for our national
security pay these UN dues, the failure to pay these dues has harmed our
national security and will only get worse.
More and more, other governments are becoming reluctant to support our
efforts to fight terrorism, to work together in combating weapons of mass
destruction, to work together in a number of areas because they feel that
we have not paid our dues to the United Nations. That is a reality. Some in
Congress may wish that weren't so but it's a reality.
So the national security argument has only increased in her mind and she
feels it is absolutely critical that we get this money paid so that we get
the support from the other countries in the world we need in the United
Nations on subjects like Iraq, subjects like Kosovo, subjects like East
Timor. The absence of American commitment to pay these dues has harmed our
ability to pursue our national security. So she feels very strongly about
Secondly, Secretary Albright continues to feel very strongly that the issue
of family planning, which is a contentious issue, should be debated, should
be voted and should be adjudicated separately from the critical national
security question of paying our UN obligations. With respect to various
suggestions of ways to solve this problem, clearly Secretary Albright wants
to work with the White House to find a solution to the national security
challenge and danger posed by our failure to pay our dues.
Let me point out in the family planning case, there are no American dollars
that are used to promote or perform abortions. It continues to be suggested
by those who don't understand the issue that there are American dollars
used to promote or perform abortions. That is simply not so.
So we want to find and Secretary Albright is determined to find a way to
get the national security benefit from paying these dues and to find a
solution to this problem, obviously not a solution that would interfere
with critical women's health issues.
QUESTION: That said, does that mean, has she said, has she offered to go
out and say, look, I'll take the flack for agreeing to the congressional
MR. RUBIN: This matter is now the subject of very intense discussion
between the White House and the Congress, as it should be. Certainly the
Secretary feels very strongly about the importance of paying our dues and
she has made clear to the Congress that it is critical that we pay those
dues and she wants to find a way to solve this problem. Beyond that, it
would be wrong or risky for me to comment about specific discussions that
are going on between the White House and the Senate.
QUESTION: You just said that no American dollars were going to promote or
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Would it then be possible to write into the UN dues legislation
language to that effect?
MR. RUBIN: Oh, I don't think that's what the issue is. The issue is a
much more profound issue for people from - I think that is not what has
been sought by Congressional Republicans. Again, we don't spend US dollars
for those purposes. Secretary Albright does believe strongly in the women's
health issue and the important role that can be played by the United
Nations and other organizations in promoting women's health. That
remains a strongly held view that she has.
QUESTION: The plane crash in Kosovo, do you have anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: I was informed just before I came in that the United Nations
Office, the Spokesman's Office, had reported that there was a plane crash
in Kosovo and that there are 24 people missing. That is something that I
was just informed about.
QUESTION: Mrs. Arafat's remarks -- Ms. Clinton said something today,
she's not an American official yet. I wondered if the US government has
anything to say about Mrs. Arafat's observations that Israelis cause cancer,
that they are poisoning Arab children and other such things. Do you have
anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that Ms. Clinton is an American official in the
sense that she is the First Lady of the United States and was traveling
there in her capacity as the First Lady.
QUESTION: Well, that's not the point.
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright has traveled with Ms. Clinton before and
worked closely with her and she has represented America extremely well as
the First Lady of the United States.
With respect to the substance of the question, let me say that in our view
these are baseless charges. We certainly do not believe that these kinds of
inflammatory charges or excessive rhetoric are helpful. President Clinton
has made clear to Chairman Arafat and, frankly, he has made clear to both
sides that excessive rhetoric will only interfere with the ability to make
the tough decisions that he has urged them to make and that these are the
kinds of issues that should be raised at the negotiating table --
questions about this and many other subjects -- and not in the public
realm because the excessive rhetoric cannot help the situation.
President Clinton has made clear to Chairman Arafat and President Clinton
has made clear to both parties that excessive rhetoric is not helpful and
that the issue should be hashed out at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: You mean the issue of whether Israel is poisoning Palestinian
children should be hashed out? You don't mean that. You mean the issues of
Jerusalem, statehood, et cetera?
MR. RUBIN: No, no. We think in general excessive rhetoric is --
QUESTION: This is excessive rhetoric.
MR. RUBIN: -- in these cases cannot help the peace process and that when
there are issues about water - and I think you do know that one of the
issues here was water, and water is one of the permanent status issues, the
question of water is a subject on the negotiating table. And as far as the
specific reports of what she said, because there have been conflicting
reports of what she said, as far as we are concerned, the charges are
QUESTION: There is some question that she said these things?
MR. RUBIN: No, Barry --
QUESTION: You can't be in doubt what she said? I mean, the US State
Department can't be.
MR. RUBIN: Barry, I'm trying to be accurate.
QUESTION: I understand.
MR. RUBIN: And you need to give me the opportunity to be accurate, not to
just say what some might want me to say.
There are conflicting news accounts of exactly how the various words have
been translated. For example, poison gas, as opposed to poisonous waste or
tear gas. Those are different issues and you and I have spent many, many
hours talking about differences between key words. So in either case, the
suggestion that poisonous wastes - the suggestions in these cases, I'm sure
poisonous wastes do cause cancer. I have no doubt about that. But that
these kinds of inflammatory charges, as far as we can tell in their most --
depending on each one, are baseless.
So we have made clear, and the President has made clear and I think Mrs.
Clinton said that they are the kind of excessive rhetoric that the
President has asked not to be pursued while we are negotiating and we agree
with the statement - Secretary Albright agrees with the statement Mrs.
Clinton made about that.
QUESTION: But is the US relying on news accounts of what was said? Didn't
they have people there that know what she said? If we're going to make this
point, I'd like to know.
MR. RUBIN: With all the experience that you and others have in covering
this, you know that translation is important and sometimes the reporters
don't have the same translations as others.
QUESTION: We realize that. I am asking you if the US has its own
MR. RUBIN: Right. Right. The account that we have includes charges that
we regard as baseless and that we think excessive rhetoric should not be
put forward in this critical time.
QUESTION: Some Palestinian official has subsequently deconstructed what
she said to be a reference to tear gas. Do you know, as a matter of fact -
I know this is not a science foundation, but do you know if tear gas causes
cancer in children?
MR. RUBIN: I am not a scientist. There is a lot of - I am not a lawyer, a
fisherman. I am just a regular guy trying to keep a peace process
QUESTION: Which is good for everybody.
MR. RUBIN: Which is good for everybody. And if you want to switch places
at any time --
QUESTION: You're doing a good job. You're also suggesting Israel should -
you brought the other side into this. I have no idea why you did that. But
let's not go off on a tangent.
Excessive rhetoric on both sides. I'm asking you what Arafat's wife had to
say. Could you kindly address it? What does the US know that she said? Does
the US know that tear gas or anything else Israel may or may not have done
causes cancer in children? Is it an incitement to riot, an Israeli official
who often reflects the views of the prime minister? What has the US got to
say about this besides some business about excessive rhetoric? That's
MR. RUBIN: I think I've said --
QUESTION: That's all you've got to say about it?
MR. RUBIN: I think I have --
QUESTION: Is it inciteful language, the kind of language you don't like
MR. RUBIN: I think this exchange has now gone on for quite some
QUESTION: You can pull the clock on me, but you have to either not answer
the question or say you don't want to answer the question. Every time we
get into something like this you tell me how experienced I am and how long
this has gone on. If an Israeli official said anything like this, I have a
hunch you would have a different answer. Is this the Israelis are saying
this incites --
MR. RUBIN: Maybe you are not as experienced as I thought.
QUESTION: I'm pretty experienced in this even-handed stuff. The Israelis
say this incites. remember "incitement." Remember how you didn't like
"incite?" Words that incite?
MR. RUBIN: Could you pose a question? I'd be happy to answer it.
QUESTION: The question is is this language - does this language incite
the kind of activity or lack of good will or whatever it is of the
atmospherics that you need for successful negotiations?
MR. RUBIN: As Ms. Clinton said, we don't think that baseless charges -
and this is an example of that - help the peace process. If there are
issues or concerns on either side, they should be resolved in a dialogue
between the parties, not in inflammatory charges. That is our view.
QUESTION: One last fact. Is Ross going to the region next week?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. I think on Wednesday I said that he was going on Monday
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. RUBIN: Yes? New subject?
QUESTION: No. Still on Israel. Has the United States looked into the
possibility that the radar sale by Israel to China might include some US-
MR. RUBIN: We have no reason to believe that the sale in question
contains US-controlled technology. We have discussed the issue with Israel
and we have no reason to believe it involves US-controlled technology.
American laws would, therefore, not be applicable, nor are there international
agreements prohibiting sales like this.
At the same time, we do have an active dialogue with Israel on arms sales
and this is certainly the kind of arms sale that we do discuss with them
and given the sophisticated technology involved, one that we would be
discussing with them.
QUESTION: You say you have no reason to believe. My question is slightly
different. Have you looked into the possibility that that sale may have
included US technology?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I usually don't use the phrase, "reason to believe,"
unless we have looked into it. I don't just make that up.
QUESTION: You have looked into it.
MR. RUBIN: We have no reason to believe based on our work that there is
US-controlled technology, yes.
QUESTION: The other countries --
MR. RUBIN: On this subject?
QUESTION: Yes. Just out of curiosity, the reverse of this question.
MR. RUBIN: Reversibles?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what that is.
QUESTION: When the US sells military equipment to, for example, Arab
countries that might be considered as (inaudible) do the Israelis bring
that up, is that part of the dialogue?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. We have an active dialogue. I don't know that there are
cases involved. I just don't know the facts here, whether there are some
cases where we are getting Israeli technology that we're then reselling to
Arab countries. I think primarily the technology-sharing has gone the other
direction. Certainly, we discuss with Israel, given the friendship and
support we have for the State of Israel and their security, we discuss arms
sales on a regular basis.
QUESTION: The Chinese. The Chinese court has just sentenced four members
of Falun Gong to somewhat lengthy jail sentences. I am wondering if you
have anything to say about that.
MR. RUBIN: On the sentencing of the Falun Gong, let me say that our views
have not changed. We have no reason to believe that the individuals
involved have done anything other than exercise their internationally
recognized human rights to freedom of assembly. We think this is a step in
the wrong direction and a violation of their internationally recognized
human rights. We have made that view known to the Chinese.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: With regard to this report that came out of a Russian military
newspaper that Russia may sell nuclear capable strategic bombers to Cuba
and Vietnam, I wonder if you could interpret that for us. Do you see that
as posturing which may be linked to the elections? Or is this a genuine
MR. RUBIN: We checked into that. I think what we have seen in the report
involves a deployment, not a sale. It is certainly true that Russia has not
flown nuclear capable antisubmarine warfare variants or reconnaissance
variants of heavy bombers to either Cuba or Vietnam since 1991. We are
going to closely monitor this situation as we do of all movements of this
kind. We do not have information of our own to confirm their intentions as
described in the report.
QUESTION: On Russia also, I wonder if you could comment on the statements
of a senior Russia official. I think it was (inaudible). I forget the exact
name - which is alleging that the United States is meddling in and stirring
up trouble in the north Caucasus.
MR. RUBIN: I think you are talking about Defense Minister Sergeyev's
statement. We find Defense Minister Sergeyev's statements hard to
understand. Neither our public nor private statements nor any actions we
have taken lend any support to these kinds of baseless allegations.
We do recognize Russia's territorial integrity and right to protect itself
and its citizens. We share Russia's interest in stability and security in
the North Caucasus, an ability for all citizens to enjoy a normal life. No
one benefits from instability in the North Caucasus -- neither Russia nor
the United States nor the neighboring states of the region.
It is equally a principle of American policy, however, that we support the
territorial integrity, the independence and the sovereignty of the states
around Russia, including in the Caucasus and Central Asia. We also believe
in the importance of full respect for sovereignty, independence and
territorial integrity among all new independent states, including by
QUESTION: Could you elaborate on that a little bit? Why you are referring
to the other states in the area? Is there some pressure for one thing from
the Russians --
MR. RUBIN: He said that we were meddling, as I understand it, we are
"promoting conflict in the North Caucasus." That is his charge. I think, as
I said, it is a baseless allegation and I explained what our policy
QUESTION: For example, the other states I think like Armenia and Moldova
have been urged by the Russians to allow some of the equipment that Russia
is sending into the region to be deducted from their quotas under the CFE.
I wonder if the United States has expressed a position to those countries
about whether they should go along with Russia, because it would allow them
to have a much higher number than they are allowed to have.
MR. RUBIN: I don't think that is actually the case as best as I know. I
think that there are a lot of complex issues associated with the so-called
"flank" issue of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, but the Russians
have indicated that in either the old treaty or the new treaty number, they
are going to be way over the number. So there is no question of allowing
them to get into compliance by using allocations of other countries. In
either case, they are going to be over the number given what is going on
We are concerned - and there is an issue with respect to Moldova and
Georgia in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty where the treaty
envisages each country having the right to make its own agreements with
Russia as to deployments of Russian forces there and that it ensures that
each country has the right to have no forces from another country on its
territory in the absence of an agreement. Those are more about the basing
of Russian forces in Moldova which has gone for some time and the basing of
Russian forces in Georgia which has occurred for some time and which
both countries want to have reductions, if not removals, in those
forces. That is one issue. The Chechyna question and the flank limit
is a separate issue.
QUESTION: But have we advised Georgia and Moldova - has United States got
an opinion on whether those countries should allow the stationing of
Russian forces there?
MR. RUBIN: That is their own decision. We have urged them strongly to
make their own judgment and that we will back their judgment. That is what
we have told them.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything about suggestions from some Russian
customs officials that the shipment of US military uniforms going through -
I can't remember where it was going through, but they were hinting that
they were going to Chechyna.
MR. RUBIN: I do have something on that. There were some allegations that
they were part of an official shipment to Georgia destined for the Chechen
rebels by some Russian authorities.
I'm sorry to say again that this is an absurd and baseless allegation. We
do not and will not send military articles of any kind to the Chechen
republic. We have publicly announced an assistance program to Georgia which
includes such nonlethal military items as uniforms. These programs include
foreign military financing efforts under the Partnership for Peace and the
Georgian Border Security, Export Control And Law Enforcement Assistance
We cannot confirm at this time if the exact shipment in question is part of
an official US Government assistance but the idea that we were sending
uniforms for the intent of getting to the Chechen republic is a baseless
and absurd allegation.
QUESTION: If we can go back to the Russian bombers in Cuba, is it your
understanding that they are planning to resume the kinds of routine flights
up and down the east coast of Cuba that they did for many years during the
MR. RUBIN: Again, we have no further information beyond what was in the
press. So we don't have an understanding. Normally, when I say "an
understanding," that means we have talked to the Russians and we are
obviously going to monitor this situation closely and talk to Russia about
it. I am just reacting at this point to a press report by saying what the
facts are, that what has not happened, and indicating our policy to closely
QUESTION: Cuba is hosting a summit meeting of all of Latin America and
the Caribbean and Spain and Portugal starting Monday. I just thought you
might have some observations on Cuba as a venue for that kind of meeting.
MR. RUBIN: We certainly think that the fact that Cuba is the only country
in this hemisphere that is not a democracy remains one of the sad tragedies
for the people of Cuba as we enter the 21st century. And the fact that Cuba
continues to violate in clear and demonstrable ways the human rights of its
people and their desire for democratic development while so many other
countries in Latin America and in the rest of the participants are
democracies, we certainly hope that since such meeting is, as a practical
reality taking place, that all the leaders there will make clear their
support for democracy, their opposition to violations of human rights,
including the violations of the human rights of the Cuban dissidents who
have been trying to express their internationally recognized human
QUESTION: The Russians say today that they have captured a city, that
they may declare a new capital. And the other day they declared that all of
their operations have been completely appropriate, they have rejected any
charges that they are not living up to their obligations under the Geneva
Conventions. I wonder if you have any more precision now on the ways in
which they are not living up to their obligations?
MR. RUBIN: We have seen press reports that Russian forces have taken
control of Gudermes, the second largest city in Chechnya. Although
operations continue there, Russian forces have also surrounded Groznyy. We
note recent statements by Russian and Chechen leaders renewing calls for
political dialogue, including Foreign Minister Ivanov. We call on Russia to
begin a dialogue with legitimate Chechen partners. We do not believe that a
purely military solution to the conflict is possible. We encourage Russia
to look at how the OSCE can play a useful role. We support Russia's right
to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are concerned,
however, that continued conflict threatens stability throughout the
Caucasus. We are also concerned - deeply troubled by the humanitarian
situation. The head of the OSCE mission, Kim Traavik, pronounced the
humanitarian situation alarming. It is important and critical that Russia
deal with the immediate humanitarian problems. The international community
is doing our part. A seven-truck convoy carrying 20 tons of food arrived in
Ingushetiya today. One truck with UNICEF medical supplies arrived in North
UNHCR plans to stock the next convoy with winterization materials such as
tents and stoves. Ingushetiya now hosts well over 200,000 people from
Chechyna according to local authorities. We do not see how the pursuit of
this conflict by the Russians will end and that we are troubled by the
casualties it is causing in the civilian population and the risks it poses
to stability throughout the Caucasus.
With respect to the specific question about what I said earlier this week,
Russia does have obligations under an international humanitarian law and
commitments it has made under the OSCE Code of Conduct on political-
military aspects of security. The military conflict in Chechnya is a source
of great concern. Our information base, however, is not as full as we would
like. Clearly, if the Russian military were intentionally targeting
civilians, then they would be violating international norms. Nevertheless,
it is clear to us that an intense bombing and artillery campaign
is being carried out in many areas of Chechnya and that civilians not
involved in the fighting have almost certainly been killed by these
attacks. This is, in fact, inconsistent with Russia's own statements they
are seeking to avoid or minimize civilian casualties.
What I can say on the legal question, which I know you're interested in and
it is a very subtle issue because international law in this area is subtle.
Let me explain it to you as best as I can. It is premature for us to make a
formal determination at this time, given the detailed analysis and
determination that would be required and the absence of information. We are
continuing to watch it closely. Let me give you some examples of why I
indicated earlier in the week that Russia is not acting in conformity
with it commitments and certain international conventions.
Article III of the Fourth Geneva Convention which requires humane treatment
of persons taking no part in hostility and prohibits violence to their life
and persons. The customary law of internal armed conflict which prohibits
the intentional targeting of civilians. The OSCE Code of Conduct on
political-military aspects of security which provides that states should
take due care to avoid injury to civilians or their property.
Now, on the first point with respect to humane treatments of persons taking
no part in hostilities, Article III of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in
that case, what we are talking about is the fact that for many weeks people
who were trying to escape the conflict were not treated humanely by being
allowed to leave. That is an example with respect to Article III. That was
our assessment from afar, obviously. We don't have people on the ground, we
haven't sent investigators, there is no international legal instrument
by which that has been done.
Secondly, the OSCE Code of Conduct indicates that due care should be taken
to avoid injury to civilians or their property. We think the indiscriminate
bombing is inconsistent with taking due care to avoid injury to civilians
or their property. Again, that is based on what we know and can know from
afar and a reading of a couple of examples of international commitments.
With respect to a formal determination by the United States or any other
legal body of a violation, that is a different question and, obviously, the
lawyers in this not entirely settled area of international law have not all
agreed on what the exact standard is. Obviously, there are limits to the
facts that we can know from afar. We have every reason to believe in the
first case with respect to people trying to flee the violence and what we
have seen with respect to the indiscriminate use of bombing and shelling,
those two provisions that I described to you apply.
QUESTION: How about the attack on this convoy about 10 days ago where it
contained trucks that were clearly marked with red crosses, people were
killed? Is that not a war crime --
MR. RUBIN: I am aware of the report and I am aware of your description of
the report about the clear markings and we certainly were profoundly
troubled by the effect of this; but, again, to go to the threshold of an
intentional targeting requires a lot of facts and a careful analysis.
What we are trying to do is make clear to Russia that the world is watching
what is going on in Russia, that there are commitments that are relevant
and that from our vantage point with numerous reports at our disposal, it
appears that in the two cases that I mentioned they are not acting in
conformity with their commitments.
QUESTION: Just to follow up briefly, the Russians are trying to damage,
trying to shell and bomb the Islamic radicals that they say that they are
in Chechnya to punish.
MR. RUBIN: Clearly, we have no reason to doubt that that is their
military objective. We have grave doubts about the way they are pursuing
that military objective.
QUESTION: How concerned are you that the OSCE delegation which had been
invited to actually to also to visit North Chechnya was not allowed to do
MR. RUBIN: I am not familiar with what specific --
QUESTION: This happened last Monday in Moscow.
MR. RUBIN: I will just have to check the facts for you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) said that Putin had invited the OSCE to go to
Dagestan, Ingushetiya and to northern Chechnya but they obviously did
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, I am not aware of the particular request and
the reasons for its denial.
QUESTION: I have several questions about the Loren Wille case.
MR. RUBIN: Okay. I hope I have several answers.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on what the status of his case is at
this point and how he is?
MR. RUBIN: We continue to follow Mr. Wille's case very closely and to
assist him as appropriate. We understand that the investigation is almost
completed but that Mr. Wille's attorneys have petitioned to have several
reports, including the conditions and quality of the road, added to the
investigatory report. This may delay the issuance of the report.
Once the report is issued, it will be presented to the court and then the
judge will render a decision on whether Mr. Wille's case will go to trial.
Our Ambassador, Kenneth Yalowitz in Georgia, has conveyed our government's
continued and strong interest in the case to President Shevardnadze. I know
that Secretary Albright has mentioned and discussed this with Georgian
officials as well when they were here and he has continued and followed up,
our Ambassador, with Georgian officials at various levels.
We understand that Mr. Wille remains in the hospital, although he is free
to go anywhere in Georgia but may not leave the country while the
QUESTION: Jamie, does this Government continue to believe that these two
cases are not linked in the mind of the Georgians?
MR. RUBIN: In our view, there is no linkage and those who have written in
a contrary way, we certainly hope that they will take note of that. There
is no linkage between Mr. Wille's case and that for the former Georgian
diplomat. The cases are completely different and cannot be equated. Mr.
Makharadze has been tried, convicted and sentenced in the United States
while Georgian officials are still looking into the events surrounding the
accident involving Mr. Wille, so we do not believe there is linkage.
QUESTION: A couple of days ago, which I am sure you remember very well,
you put out a statement that caused great upset amongst the government of
the Cote D'Ivoire about the arrest of opposition leaders. Those opposition
leaders have now earlier today been sentenced. I am wondering if you would
like to --
MR. RUBIN: I would like to get an update on exactly the sentencing and we
will get you something as soon as possible.
QUESTION: There was a car bombing in Colombia. The United States has long
been requesting that the Colombians extradite drug traffickers - to resume
the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. At the time when
the Colombians stopped doing that, there was a whole drug war going on
where many people were killed by car bombs. Is the United States feeling
partly responsible for the resumption of narco-terrorism in Colombia?
MR. RUBIN: Boy, that takes American responsibility to new heights. Let me
start by clarifying for you that the United States is not responsible for
every bad thing that happens in the world. Okay? Nor are we partly
responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world. I think people
ought to take that to heart.
With respect to the extradition issue, the Colombian Supreme Court approved
Wednesday the extradition of alleged heroin trafficker, Jaime Orlando Lara.
It is our understanding that President Pastrana has approved this decision
as well. Provisional arrest and extradition of Colombian nationals is
authorized in accordance with Article 35 of the Colombian Constitution, as
amended by the Extradition Reform Act which entered into force in December
1997. This is a Colombian decision to extradite this alleged heroin
With respect to the bombings, it is with deep regret that we learned that
two bombings took place in Bogota this week that killed and injured a
number of people. It is not possible at this time to have information that
these acts are related to the extradition. We certainly call for an
immediate end to violence that targets innocent civilians.
QUESTION: Do you think the narco-traffickers are trying to intimidate the
Colombian government or other groups? (Inaudible) or something?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, we have no information to indicate that the
bombs are linked to these cases at this time.
QUESTION: Jamie, since this extradition has been approved by the
President, do you know how long a period of time there is before this
person could actually be brought --
MR. RUBIN: I will check that for you.
QUESTION: Jamie, on Kosovo, there have been a number of articles recently
questioning just what the death toll is in Kosovo and alleging that the
State Department had overstated this. Have you dealt with this already this
MR. RUBIN: No. I'm just laughing about the way the media cycle works.
Let me say that yesterday, for example, there was a claim in one of our
nation's finest newspapers that the State Department indicated on April
19th that 500,000 people were missing and feared dead. That is a quote from
the article. I checked the transcript. In fact, I remember it well. It
might have even been in response to one of your questions. We were very
clear and I tried to be exceedingly clear about what we knew and what we
didn't know. In the case of Kosovo at the time, we had reporting from the
UNHCR that there were 500 to 750,000 internally displaced persons.
Not missing persons. That's a different category. I sourced the information
to the UNHCR. I said, "We didn't have independent confirmation."
I remember you and some others often asked me what was our assessment of
how many internally displaced persons there were and I refused to do that
because we couldn't confirm those numbers, but I was prepared to use the
UNHCR information and indicate that it was their information.
Others have written about the fact that when I said that a 100,000 people
are missing, that I said they were dead. I was also very careful not to do
that. I said that - and, again, citing the source of what we knew and what
we didn't know, there were 100,000 people who we couldn't account for based
on the number of women and children who came into Macedonia and Albania,
that we couldn't account for those people.
MR. RUBIN: I'm answering his question, thank you.
That we couldn't account for that. I expressed my fears and my concerns
based on a pattern of war crimes violations by Serb forces in Srebrenica,
in Croatia and in Kosovo. The fact is that thousands of graves have already
been uncovered and the work is not complete.
Had I wanted to say that they were killed, I am perfectly capable of doing
that. I did not do that. I expressed my fears, the same fears that the
Albanian families themselves expressed to us. There is a difference between
expressing concern - in this case, justified concern based on the practices
for which President Milosevic and his military have been indicted by the
International Tribunal for War Crimes violations, and asserting as a
statement of fact by this Department that we know how many people are
missing and that we think they are dead. Had I wanted to say that, I
would have. I am capable of it.
QUESTION: Really, what is the best estimate at this time of the death
toll from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: Look, the State Department can provide you sourced reporting
from the Tribunal, from other human rights groups and people on the ground.
We can try to get you some information that sources those who are actually
trying to count those international - we are not - the State Department is
not on the ground trying to answer that question. There are War Crimes
Tribunal investigators, there is international human rights groups, there
is the international community, UN organizations are on the ground trying
to determine the location of missing Albanians. We know there are
thousands of Albanians in prisons in Serbia - at least we have been
advised as to that.
The irony here is that those of you who most try to get me to make a flat
statement of fact and I avoid it, then try to come back and say that I made
such a statement of fact when I specifically, consciously, and clearly by
the record did not. Yes?
QUESTION: Yes. On this number killed, I think in the last week or two
General Wesley Clark has used the number 10,000 as his best guess. Is that
not one --
MR. RUBIN: Again, General Wesley Clark has indicated he is guessing. If I
were advising him, I would advise him not to guess because then three
months later someone will say that he "said" there were 10,000 dead. I am
not going to guess because, obviously, people don't know how to read when
people are guessing. I understand your question is a totally legitimate
one and certainly thousands have been uncovered by the Tribunal. Whether it
will be 10,000 or 12,000 or 8,000 is anybody's guess.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: There is an article, Admiral Blair met with the press yesterday,
especially the Washington Times press, and says that the United States
should immediately deploy regional missiles to protect US troops and allies
from the growing threat of North Korea and China. He says that this should
be done now.
And he also says that there are about 600 short-ranged missiles now facing
Taiwan from Mainland China, Taiwan has no defense against these and that we
should do something immediately to help them out. Can you respond to his
MR. RUBIN: Yes. To protect American forces against theater ballistic
missiles, the United States embarked on programs to develop and deploy
improved defenses against theater ballistic missiles. Theater missile
defenses are a response to the global proliferation of theater ballistic
missiles including those you mention.
We have been consulting with our allies and friends on this topic. No
decisions, however, on deployment have been made other than for protecting
forward-deployed American forces in the region. We will continue to assist
Taiwan in meeting its legitimate self-defense needs in accordance with the
Taiwan Relations Act and consistent with the 1982 joint communique.
Among the items Taiwan has already purchased have been items related to
technology for Taiwan's modified air defense system which has anti-aircraft
and anti-missile capabilities. The Taiwan authorities are assessing their
own capabilities and needs for missile defense. No decisions on deployment -
again -- other than for protection of US forces have been made. We do not
preclude the possible sale of TMD items to Taiwan in the future. Our
interest is in preserving peace and stability in the region. Theater
missile defense is a system still under development. It is premature to
make that decision at this time.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary will be attending the ceremony on
MR. RUBIN: When I have announcements to make about the Secretary's travel,
I will be happy to do so.
QUESTION: I know you were on this subject, but I was asked to try it
again. Someone else tried it a different way. Has the Secretary agreed to
be the lightening rod, to take the criticism - no, no. To answer that
question. I know your position on abortions. I mean the position that US
money is not used for abortions. The question is has she agreed to be the
fall guy, the lightening rod, to take the flack, if the President has to
broker a compromise in order to save, you know, in order to rescue what he
can of his programs.
MR. RUBIN: The Secretary believes very strongly in the paying of American
dues because it has now reached a threshold where failure to pay is harming
the nation's security. She believes very strongly that a way has to be
found to pay those dues. As far as what the White House and the Congress
are pursuing as a solution, the Secretary is certainly working with the
White House to try to find a solution. I would point out, again, the
Secretary's strong view that these issues should be debated and voted
QUESTION: Jamie, what is the minimum requirement for a solution? What can
you live with?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think it would be constructive to these kinds of
discussions to discuss them in public.
QUESTION: What would the consequences be of losing our vote in the
MR. RUBIN: General Assembly resolutions in and of themselves have a
limited impact. They are not binding. The idea that the United States of
America that was responsible for founding - a founding member of the United
Nations, the idea that we would not be in the General Assembly would be
extremely damaging to the reputation and the leadership role the United
States plays in the world.
Moreover, the failure to pay these dues has unfortunately led close allies
to make decisions about how to pursue important policy issues with this
complaint in mind. We have found that it is harder to get support on
subjects like Iraq, on subjects like fighting terrorism, on subjects like
East Timor, on subjects like Kosovo while the failure to pay dues has
clouded and distracted our discussions with our allies in New York.
QUESTION: Jamie, this has been an issue for a number of years, now. I
think you said since Secretary Albright was Ambassador Albright. It was for
a number of years linked to the whole Mexico City language issue. I wonder
if the article in today's New York Times and your statements are intended
to signal that because it is such, as you said, a national security issue
that you all are willing to change your position which was firm up until
now. The Mexico City language prevented some funding until this point.
Are you saying now that you are willing to compromise on the Mexico City
MR. RUBIN: What I am saying is that for several years running, there has
been a refusal to put forward anything but the kind of extreme positions
that were unacceptable to officials in the Administration and that made it
impossible to resolve this issue and forced it to be linked in a way that
didn't allow the dues to be paid. We have tried time and time again to find
a way to resolve this and, so long as only the most extreme position
is put forward, there is no way to resolve it.
It is our view that the linkage of an extreme view of this issue to the UN
arrears is unacceptable. If a solution is going to be found, it is not
going to be found by me discussing the details of it in public.
We do believe that a solution must be found, that we are working to find a
way to solve the problem. The Secretary believes that paying our UN dues is
such a national security issue that a solution must be found.
QUESTION: One last follow-up. Would you all favor linking the Mexico City
language to another issue?
MR. RUBIN: No. We think that the Congress is perfectly capable of voting
on this issue and voting on the UN dues. That is the way it should work.
And that a highly contentious issue where there are extreme views put
forward, and if you don't accept those extreme views, some other issue that
is unrelated that affects our national security is not passed is what we
have trouble with.
QUESTION: You said before that there are very intense discussions on this
issue between the White House and the Congress. I know you don't want to go
into detail, is it safe to say that an agreement is near?
MR. RUBIN: I think it is safe to say and I think I said it that we are
more optimistic than we have ever been before that there is good will among
Republicans and Democrats to focus on the importance of paying our
obligations to the United Nations and to try to resolve this issue, but
optimism is not the same as a solution in an issue as complex as this.
QUESTION: The State Department listed Colombia as not cooperating on the
drug war for a couple of years and removed that listing recently. I am
wondering whether the State Department insisted that Colombia, as a price
for that or as a condition or one of the reasons was Colombia's willingness
to start extraditing accused drug people to the United States again? Was
there a link between that?
MR. RUBIN: I am certainly aware that in the certification process
involving cooperation with the United States and fighting narcotics
trafficking and drug trafficking, the extradition is one of several tools
that we think is necessary to combat trafficking successfully.
(The briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)