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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #140, 99-11-16

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, November 16, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1	Election in Macedonia
1-4	UN Arrearages / Separation of National Security Issue and Women's
	 Health Issue 
2-3	Payment of $350 Million to Avoid UNGA Vote Loss
4-7	Omnibus Iraq Resolution / Return of Inspectors for WMD Monitoring
	 and Inspection 
7-8	President Pastrana's Rejection of FARC Condition on Christmas
8-9	US-DPRK Bilateral Meetings in Berlin
9	Reported Defection of North Korean Official
9	Reported Compliant by South Korea of Use of Defoliants by US Along
	 DMZ in 1960s 
9-10	US Discussions with Serbian Opposition
10-11	Status of Investigation Into Egypt Air Flight 990 / State
	 Department Role 
11	Proximity Talks Scheduled in New York on December 3
11-12	US Earthquake Assistance / Request for Technical Assistance
12	Russian Defense Minister's Comments Regarding North Caucasus


DPB #140

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1999, 1:15 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing.

We have a statement we'll be issuing on the election in Macedonia. And before going to your questions, let me just make a brief comment about the UN arrears issue because there's been obviously a lot of attention paid in reporting about that.

First of all, let me say that we consider - and that Secretary Albright considers - the tentative agreement that has been reached the best possible under terrible circumstances. We're not happy about this agreement; we recognize that there are many who - who regard this agreement in a way that expresses unhappiness about the need to make such an agreement at all. And we share that unhappiness.

Our clear preference - and the Secretary's clear preference - has been to deal with the issues of UN arrearages, our debt to the United Nations, the national security issue, and the issue of women's health programs separately. I am sure all of you can recount how many times the Secretary, from this podium and elsewhere, made the case that it is unfair, illogical, and wrong to link the women's health issues to the United Nations arrearage issues. In our view, no one should have to make a false choice between the United Nations, our national security and the health and welfare of women and families around the world. But the reality is that the Constitution grants the power of appropriations to the Congress and a controlling minority in Congress succeeded in linking these issues last year, this year and the year before last year. That's the reality in which we're working.

Given the fact that the Congressional leadership refused to separate these issues despite constant efforts on our part to urge them to do so, and given that this year is the last best chance to pay our United Nations arrears and assure our voice at the United Nations and protect our national security, we did pursue the best agreement we could accomplish. And we are pleased that the tentative agreement has broken the impasse over the United Nations arrears and we do, like many others, support meeting those obligations and regard our national security as requiring it.

Having said that, we do share some of the concerns that some have expressed about this issue. And that is why we insisted that it would only be a one- year agreement that will be debated again and hopefully with a different outcome in another year. Secondly, that we are committed to insure that the full range of women's health programs can be implemented despite this new language. And thirdly, that we will do our best and expect to be able to ensure that our goal - that this minimizes the impact on our programs - is met. And we believe that goal can be met. That is why - reluctantly - we can support the emerging agreement, again, with the caveat that had we had our way, as Secretary Albright said so many times from this podium to so many of you, we would have not wanted to have to deal with this issue in the context of the United Nations arrears at all.

QUESTION: How are you going to come up with the $350 million by the end of the year, if only $100 million has no strings attached, unless miraculously you expect the UN to reduce the US share?

MR. RUBIN: We do not expect any miracles in New York. There have never been any miracles and there won't be any miracles.

QUESTION: That's where the pennant was --

MR. RUBIN: Except for the "Miracle on 34th Street" -


MR. RUBIN: Which was eight blocks down from the United Nations. I guess, it's more like 10 blocks.

QUESTION: Canadian blocks, yes.

MR. RUBIN: Our current estimates indicate we need to pay the United Nations some $350 million by the end of the year to avoid losing our vote. With the passage of the Helms-Biden bill, we still face the prospect of losing our vote. To avoid that, Congress must provide and we must pay our current dues - the 1999 assessment -- to the UN in full.

We will seek these funds from the Commerce-State-Justice bill to enable us to pay our calendar '99 assessments in full with no unacceptable conditions. Combined with the $100 million that's in the Helms-Biden bill, we can avoid a vote loss. So, again, two things have to happen. Congress must authorize and appropriate the Helms-Biden UN arrears language and package. Two, it must fully fund the fiscal 2000 UN regular budget assessment without any unacceptable conditions.

So if you put those two together, we're able to deal with it. Then we get over the year two and year three, in a position to start paying off in major ways the debt that has accrued.

QUESTION: Have you finished your announcement? I mean, is it time for questions? Okay, let me go into it --

QUESTION: But I have one more question about the UN.



QUESTION: What is the calendar year '99 dues? What is the amount, please?

MR. RUBIN: The amount we need to pay to avoid losing our vote is $350 million.

QUESTION: What is calendar year '99?

MR. RUBIN: What I'm saying is that the fiscal year 2000 - the one that starts October 1 - bill on the United Nations, the Commerce-State-Justice bill, if there are no unacceptable conditions, will have enough money in it, combined with the Helms-Biden language which has $100 million in it, to meet the $350 million required.

QUESTION: Yes. I'm asking, what is the amount of fiscal year '99 dues?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not a computer. I don't have that kind of information available to me at will.

QUESTION: If I could then, go back to the announcement. You said that you are hoping that the full range of women's health programs would be included. Now, does this - how does this relate to funds given by the US to the UN that might be used for abortion? Is abortion out insofar as Helms and Biden are concerned?

MR. RUBIN: Let me make two points on that. First of all, there is a great deal of misinformation. And I certainly hope you would make your best effort to clear it up. No American dollars are used to fund abortions or promote abortions. There is no such program and anyone who suggests there is is simply not being honest.

The question is, what do groups that we fund do with their own money? And that was the issue that was addressed here. And we believe that the money we provide to other groups, the $385 million in family planning money, will be spent in a way that minimizes the impact of this legislation and that the President's program of funding these family planning programs to the tune of $385 million will not be jeopardized by this agreement. So the long and the short of it is that we do not believe that this tentative agreement, as its details emerge, will have a significant or substantial impact on the program that we now conduct.

QUESTION: So you are saying that the United States in paying dues to the UN would not be contributing to any programs that the UN was running with regard to funding of abortion but there would be some private NGOs that might receive funds?

MR. RUBIN: Again, you're not listening carefully. What I am saying is that our programs do not - our funding does not fund the promotion or performance of abortion. We don't spend any US taxpayer dollars for that purpose. Zero, is my understanding.

Secondly, those organizations, nongovernmental organizations that we provide money to to perform other family planning services, not abortion, not promoting abortion, we will continue to fund. And it is our judgment that when the details are put together, that we will - the basic program, the basic mission of the President's program, that is women's health, not promoting abortion or performing abortion, will continue without any significant or substantial impact.

QUESTION: I don't want to get too technical here so please don't feel the need to get that deep. But the $385 million for family planning, is it not correct that once this - the 100 percent chance that Clinton will - the President will use the waiver, doesn't that get reduced to $372.5 million?


QUESTION: Okay. And then on the $15 million cap, is that a cap on the amount that the US can give to organizations or is that a cap on the amount that organizations that use some money at all for abortion can spend?

MR. RUBIN: The former. But the details have not been worked out yet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Former and first both start with F, yes.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date - the Washington Post reported today that you all think the French are closer to some sort of compromise language on the UNSCOM or the inspection regime for Iraq. I wonder if you could bring us up to date on where things stand?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. There is an omnibus draft resolution that has been supported by a large majority of members of the council. We are meeting today with the Permanent Five and we have made a lot of progress in recent weeks. Those discussions are continuing.

We would like to see this omnibus resolution passed within a few weeks with the broadest possible support among members of the council. The goal is to establish a consensus so that the Security Council can put pressure on Iraq to complete its disarmament tasks by allowing the inspectors to return and do their job. We are pushing very hard to get a resolution that ensures that Iraq has to perform the required tasks of disarmament before there is any change in the sanctions regime.

Iraq's obligations have not changed. It must fully declare and destroy its weapons of mass destruction and prohibited missile. And we believe - the council believes that this obligation has not been met.

What this resolution is designed to do is identify those steps Iraq must take before there could be any temporary suspension of sanctions, such as letting the inspectors back into Iraq, fulfilling the key disarmament tasks required by Resolution 687, and cooperating fully with inspectors for a substantial period of time. If that were to happen, then there could be modest adjustments to the regime that would allow certain civilian exports and imports for humanitarian purposes but also, and this is critical, the establishment of financial controls on Iraq's ability to sell oil.

The objective of sanctions in its essence is to make sure that a regime that has used its resources to oppress its own people; to spend money on weapons of mass destruction; to waste money on elaborate palaces; does not get new revenue that it can then use for nefarious purposes. And so what we've done is insure that even if there is progress on Iraq - and that is a big if - in other words, even if Iraq were to actually let the inspectors back and even if Iraq were to cooperate with the inspectors and fulfill key disarming tasks and even if that were to occur for a substantial period of time - three huge ifs - that we would still have very effective controls on their ability to use oil revenue to advance any of their nefarious purposes.

So that's the structure we're working on. I'm not going to be able to describe for you who's position is what other than to say that a substantial majority of the Council supports this approach. There are obviously a few members - permanent members - who have not yet endorsed the approach, but we're hoping to move towards that in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: In the past Iraq has challenged some inspectors or wanted to limit how many inspectors would come from which member countries and that sort of thing and in your comments now you said, "when the inspectors return" a few times. I wonder if the US will accept any sort of limitations or restrictions on what inspectors can come from where and what they can do?

MR. RUBIN: The resolution that we could support would establish a new organization with the same mandate, the same rights, the same privileges, and the same immunities as UNSCOM. So the point here is that Iraq cannot dictate how independent experts do their job. It must be up to an independent organization that has the confidence of the key member states of the United Nations if we're going to get to a point where they ever can meet the key disarmament tasks.

Remember what the objective here - the objective is disarmament. And we believe the only way to promote that disarmament and to protect ourselves against Iraq pending that disarmament is to have a tight sanctions regime. So that means that we and the rest of the world must agree on what the facts are and what the situation is because it's that independence of UNSCOM which gives us the ability to insure support from a wide variety of countries.

So, in short, what I'm saying is that what we challenged was Iraq's right to dictate to the independent inspection regime how that independent regime would do its job. And we will continue to oppose any attempt by Iraq to manipulate the independence of any new organization because it's that independence that gives us both confidence that it's doing the job and gives the other countries confidence so that they hang with us in a consensus to maintain the strongest sanctions regime that's ever existed.

QUESTION: Do you know - and I don't remember this from the previous UNSCOM battles - but does this organization - this resolution envisions - you've mentioned disarmament - but I wonder does it also cover future development of WMD?

MR. RUBIN: Right, there's two tasks. One is to find out what they had and make sure it's all destroyed. The other is ongoing monitoring to make sure that whatever programs they have that are permitted are not translated or transformed into programs that are prohibited - such as, shorter range missiles are permitted, and we want to be sure that monitoring tells us, or protects us against the possibility that those ranges would be extended.

QUESTION: On the new --

MR. RUBIN: I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: On the new UNSCOM, would the United States insist that there be US representatives in this inspecting?

MR. RUBIN: We never insisted that the United States be represented in UNSCOM. What happened when UNSCOM was started was that the United States became the country where the original inspection leadership came to for expertise because we had enormous expertise. We had knowledge in missiles, in chemical weapons, in disarmament.

So the question for us is independent experts. It's up to the new leadership of the new inspection agency to decide where that expertise is going to come from. I would find it hard to imagine they could put together an effective inspection system without any Americans. But our position was not, there have to be Americans.

It was Iraq's position to try to say there can be no Americans. Our position is that whatever it takes to have an independent organization that we have confidence in, that has independent experts that are expert-based and not politically-based, that actually know what they're doing in the substance is what the test for us is. Not the nationalities.

QUESTION: Who makes that determination over its --

MR. RUBIN: That would be the leadership of the new inspection agency.

QUESTION: Who makes the determination on the leadership?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that would need to be selected. There would be a process by which the new leadership would be selected.

QUESTION: But that hasn't been determined, the process?

MR. RUBIN: That would be determined if the resolution were to mature to that point.

QUESTION: Didn't the Post story say that there would be an initial suspension of sanctions and that the actual lifting would take place much further down the road after good behavior was verified?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. If it did, I don't recall what it exactly said. But let me tell you what I know the resolution requires, which I think is more important than even what comes in such a fine newspaper.

The suspension of sanctions would not occur until three things happened. First, that Iraq would permit the return of inspections. Second, that it had fulfilled key disarmament tasks. Third, that it had cooperated for a substantial period of time with the inspectors. Then and only then could there be an adjustment in the sanctions regime, one in which, again, we would still ensure that Iraq's leadership would not have control over the revenues that it could produce.

So those things have to happen first. Then there's the suspension, and then, obviously if the day ever came when an Iraq - presumably under new leadership - were to fulfill all the requirements of the relevant resolutions, then you could imagine lifting the sanctions.

QUESTION: Jamie, don't your requirements for the membership of UNSCOM, too, make it absolutely mandatory that there be at least a preponderance of Americans in it?

MR. RUBIN: I think I very carefully answered that question. We don't have a nationality based requirement. And so I think for you to say does our requirement include a preponderance of Americans, the simple and short answer to that is, no. What our requirement is, is that it be expert-based and that experts be gathered who are based on their expertise, not what countries they come from. Just as we wouldn't want countries that we might have a problem with to be guaranteed a place in such a regime, such an agency, our position is not there have to be X Americans or XY percentage of Americans.

Our position is there have to be experts. I said, in response to Andrea's question, I find it hard to believe that that many experts could be gathered in such a highly technical area without any Americans present. But to suggest, as you did, that there must be a preponderance of Americans, as an American condition, that would be inaccurate.

QUESTION: I understand that it is not a specific requirement but obviously, in order for you to have what you said, confidence in this group, it just seems to me that this is kind of a de facto way of saying that there have got to be - anyway, if it's not, then -

MR. RUBIN: What is important is that they be experts and that we have confidence in its leadership and that we have confidence in their independence and in their willingness to base their decisions on the facts. And judging those facts without a political bias. That would be what is required for us.

QUESTION: Colombia?

MR. RUBIN: Colombia, yes.

QUESTION: One of the conditions on the fact - for the continuation of the peace process is for the government of Colombia to stop the extradition to the United States. What is the US position on this matter?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we - the FARC's demands demonstrate their lack of commitment to a real cease fire and their lack of commitment to the peace process. We understand that President Pastrana has rejected the FARC's response to his proposal for a Christmas cease fire. We are troubled by the fact that the FARC was unwilling to accept a Christmas cease fire without imposing unacceptable preconditions. It's not surprising to us but it is disturbing.

These preconditions are completely unreasonable since the intent of the cease fire is to give the Colombian people a respite from the violence during the Christmas season. Obviously, the FARC is not interested in giving the Colombian people any breathing space in this terrible conflict.

QUESTION: But will the US be willing to remove extradition as a requirement from the certification process to avoid more innocent civilians deaths in Colombia?

MR. RUBIN: What's killing innocent civilians in Colombia primarily are the rebels' willingness to continue a war. That's what's killing innocent civilians in Colombia. Colombia also has a series of other problems related to drugs, drug traffickers killing innocent civilians in Colombia; narco- terrorists killing innocent civilians in Colombia; and those who continue to avoid a cease fire killing innocent civilians in Colombia. That's what's killing innocent civilians in Colombia and our desire for cooperation in counter-narcotics efforts is not killing innocent civilians.

What's killing innocent civilians are the narco-traffickers who use terrorism; who are interfering with the ability to get this kind of cease fire. That's what's killing innocent civilians.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the talks in Berlin with North Korea.

MR. RUBIN: Right. I've got a general update on that. Charles Kartman is leading our delegation. He's there with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan. They are continuing to explore ways to improve relations while addressing the concerns of both sides. The atmosphere was good at the session today and the talks will continue tomorrow. I believe that the - we're prepared to continue to work diligently to pursue a serious dialogue. I'm not in a position to get into the details of those discussions while they're going on other than to say we're pleased to be able to have these discussions and we look forward to conducting a high-level visit by a North Korean official sometime after the Berlin talks. No date has been set for such talks. We will make an announcement when there is a schedule for that. Obviously there are a number of issues that are being discussed in Berlin and most of them would not come as a surprise to you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - one of them?


QUESTION: The identity of the person who was -


QUESTION: On that, what would the subject of the talks here in the states be? Would it be following --

MR. RUBIN: Well, there would be a number of issues that obviously we want to improve our relations with North Korea based on being able to have each side address each other's concerns. From our standpoint, that means moving towards agreements in the missile and nuclear area; that means dealing with a number of other bilateral issues of concern. And that is an example of the kind of issues that we would raise as the dialogue level increases.

QUESTION: Would Secretary Albright be meeting with this senior North Korean official?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's premature to speculate on what that schedule would be for a trip that hasn't been scheduled and a person that hasn't yet been named.

QUESTION: New subject?


QUESTION: Still on North Korea - have you seen the report or the complaint by South Korea that the United States' forces used defoliants along the DMZ in the late 1960s with possible health effects on the people?

MR. RUBIN: No. I'll take a look into that.

QUESTION: On North Korea - there is a report about a North Korean official from - a North Korean Government official has defected to the United States. Do you know anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: I've not seen that report.

QUESTION: Vuk Draskovic has said - or apparently is going to go to the OSCE Summit and is drawn the wrath of Milosevic and his agents and I'm just wondering if there are any plans that you are aware of for him to meet with any high-level US officials?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say that any time anybody can draw the wrath of a war criminal, they've probably had a good day. With respect to our discussions with the Serbian opposition, we've had a number of discussions with a number of the leaders, including Vuk Draskovic, at a variety of locations in Europe. I would expect that Vuk Draskovic -- if he is in Istanbul, and I think he will be, that he will have an opportunity to meet American officials. I don't know quite who yet but certainly Ambassador Dobbins is there and a number of others. I don't know what the Secretary's plans would be but I would expect him to meet high-level Americans. Whether it would be her or not, I am not in a position to confirm yet one way or the other at this time.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about what, if anything, the State Department has been doing with Egypt today in regards to the shifting of the focus of this investigation?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. On the investigation, there will be more to say on this during the course of the day. I understand that the National Transportation Safety Board will be speaking to this matter fairly shortly and they are the lead agency.

With respect to the State Department's role, let me say that from the beginning, we have been working very closely with the Government of Egypt to coordinate our efforts. Immediately following the crash, we worked with the government and the Egyptian Government asked the United States to take over the investigation. It had occurred in international waters.

There have been a team of Egyptian aviation and technical experts led by the deputy director of the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority that have been participating directly in the investigation. The director of the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority has arrived today, is the senior Egyptian Government official in the investigation. Officials from this department and the White House have been in close and regular contact with their Egyptian counterparts as this investigation has progressed.

Last night, for example, Under Secretary Pickering did speak with Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, as did FBI director Freeh. We have been in touch with them in a number of ways and will continue to do so.

It is our view that the government of Egypt has provided excellent cooperation and support in this obviously very difficult circumstance and we are grateful to them for that and we will continue working with them to get to the bottom of this terrible tragedy.

QUESTION: Just as a small point, can you say if any State Department language specialists have been tasked to this investigation as translators?

MR. RUBIN: I think they have participated, yes.

QUESTION: With the Egypt Air transfer over to FBI, do the Egyptians have to formally request the FBI to help, as they did with NTSB, or do you have any idea?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the precise answer to that question and, at the risk of speculating, let me suggest the following. They've asked us to investigate. It occurred in international waters and they gave us the lead to investigate. And so we have to investigate in whatever way we think is appropriate. But we want to do that only after as extensive consultative process with the Egyptian Government. That's why each step of the way, as the investigation has unfolded so far, we have made sure that different Egyptian experts are part of it. that's what's going on right now.

The head of their Civil Aviation Authority is arriving - has arrived today and they will be working - he will be working with various US government agencies as our internal decision-making develops as to who should take the lead. But I can't preview what is going to come out during the course of the day.

QUESTION: On the same subject --

MR. RUBIN: Andrea, yes.

QUESTION: I know the NTSB has the lead on this, but why is it that the head of civil aviation would only just now come over? Is there some --

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, there are developments that require higher level authorities to help join with us and consult with us in making important judgments.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Jamie, is the Department of State's Counter- Terrorist talent involved yet in this investigation?

MR. RUBIN: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Another subject. On December 3rd, in New York, Cyprus - (inaudible) - leader, they are coming for indirect talks. Do you have any information? Will any of the US officials be involved in these discussions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what I can tell you about that is that we are certainly willing to make ourselves available to the Secretary General as this effort is led by the United Nations. Our good offices are available. Obviously, the President and Secretary Albright and others played a critical role in enabling this discussion to begin, this negotiation to begin. We would be ready, willing and able to help at key moments.

QUESTION: Also, about the earthquake --

MR. RUBIN: I think in the field, the President has been visiting there. I think they would be appropriate to have the latest information that.

QUESTION: No, the problem is, is the Turkish Government is asking several governments for technical assistance --

MR. RUBIN: Right. I think there has been briefings by the President and the Secretary's party in Istanbul. I would prefer not to get crosswise with that.

QUESTION: Have you all received any clarification of the Russian defense minister's remarks on Friday, claiming that the US was trying to take over the North Caucasus?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated to you at the time, we do not think there is any foundation for such a claim, that we don't think it's in our interest or Russia's interest or in the interest of the countries in the region for there to be some attempt to promote the conflict. That's simply utter nonsense.

Secretary Albright has been in close touch with Foreign Minister Ivanov in recent days on Chechnya, on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. We are pleased that Prime Minister Putin has indicated and reiterated his intention to seek a political solution for the conflict. We call on Russia to begin a dialogue with legitimate Chechen leaders and partners. We do not believe that a purely military solution is possible. So I don't think they have particularly clarified it.

We think the charge is without foundation. She has certainly discussed it with Foreign Minister Ivanov.

QUESTION: On that same line, what did you make of the prime minister's editorial piece in Sunday's New York Times?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I just mentioned that as indicating that we were pleased about his intention to seek a political solution to the conflict. Obviously, we still don't believe - having read very carefully the prime minister's article - that they have spelled out a strategy to resolve the conflict.

QUESTION: Yes, but are you satisfied with the fact that they have basically appointed - excuse me - appointed their own person with whom they want to deal with, who Chechens feel is just a --

MR. RUBIN: We think they need to work with legitimate leaders --

QUESTION: Is that person legitimate?

MR. RUBIN: -- who we think can effect change on the ground in Chechnya. So far we do not believe that Russia has begun such a serious dialogue.

QUESTION: So they have chosen the wrong person?

MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that. You can certainly attempt to put words in my mouth. But I will avoid that as much as possible. What I said is, we do not believe Russia has yet identified and begun working with the kind of leadership that is necessary to have a lasting and sustainable solution to this conflict.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 P.M.)

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