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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #139, 99-11-12

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>


1242

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, November 12, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

PAKISTAN
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
	 Operations
UN
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
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
6-9	US Views Mrs. Arafat's Observations as Baseless Charges / Special
	 Middle East Envoy Ross to Depart for Region 
ISRAEL/CHINA
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 
CHINA
10	Sentencing of Four Members of Falun Gong
RUSSIA / CUBA
10&12	Press Report on Deployment of Russian Nuclear Capable Strategic
	 Bombers to Cuba 
RUSSIA
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  
CUBA
12	Summit Meeting of Latin America, Caribbean, Spain and Portugal /
	 Continuing Violation of Human Rights 
GEORGIA
15	Loren Willie Case / US View There Is No Linkage Between
	 Mr. Willie's Case and that of Former Georgian Diplomat Makharadze 
COLOMBIA
16,20	Car Bombing / Colombian Supreme Court Approves Extradition of
	 Alleged Heroin Trafficker, Jaime Lara 
SERBIA (KOSOVO)
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

DPB #139

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 event.

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 responsible.

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 on it.

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 example.

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.

Yes?

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 personnel.

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 addressing.

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 target?

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 this action.

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 morning?

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 that.

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 proposal?

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 perform abortions.

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 baseless.

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 account.

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 going.

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 it?

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 to see.

MR. RUBIN: I think this exchange has now gone on for quite some time.

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 or Tuesday.

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- supplied technology?

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?

QUESTION: Yes.

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.

Yes?

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 threat?

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 Russia.

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 was.

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 there.

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.

Yes?

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 Program.

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 Cold War?

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 monitor it.

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 rights.

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 Ossetia today.

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 that.

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 not.

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 investigation continues.

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 trafficker.

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 week?

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.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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 assertions?

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 December 14th?

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 separately.

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.

Yes?

QUESTION: What would the consequences be of losing our vote in the General Assembly?

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 stuff.

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.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)


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