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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #148, 99-12-03

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


Friday, December 3, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1	FRY (SERBIA): US regrets stoppage of heating oil plan.
1	DROC: US deeply concerned by reports of rebel attacks.
2,4	Secretary Albright considers it important to stop there on her
	 upcoming trip. Terrorism can be expected to be discussed. 
2-4	Sec. Albright & Russian FM Ivanov spoke about Iraq UNSC resolution
	 this morning. She also has spoken with UK FM Cook and French FM
	 Vedrine about Iraq. US believes resolution meets necessary
	 requirements. US goal is for broadest possible support for it. 
18	US hopes Vatican would not allow itself to be manipulated in a
	 visit to Iraq. 
4	Fighting terrorism is the sine qua non for progress on peace process.
8-9	Has been support on Capitol Hill for Wye River process. Premature
	 to speculate on costs of implementing Mideast peace. 
15	One day closer to Secretary's arrival, solution to hand-over of
	 additional 5 percent of Israeli land has not been reached. 
4-5	US aim is to have official dialogue about issues of concern,
	 including support for terrorism. US has not received hoped-for
	 responses, on terrorism cooperation or on visas for Iranians to
	 come to the US.  
9-11	US believes Iran is an important country, located in an important
	 region, and that people of the two countries would benefit from
	 interaction. A group of Iranian clerics, who came to the US,
	 complained of their treatment at the airport, and left. 
5-8	Serbia will not have all the oil it needs this winter; it is
	 cynical to refuse EU-provided oil. Previous US concerns centered
	 on whether heating oil would be allowed to reach intended
	 recipients. Since Milosevic is an indicted war criminal, US
	 believes it inappropriate to invite him anywhere but The Hague. 
15	Has been a general refusal on Capitol Hill to fund national
	 security initiatives. US trying to step up support for helping
11-15	Sec. Albright asked FM Ivanov about extremely troubling report of
	 killing of 250 Russian soldiers. She stated US opposition actions
	 in Chechnya. FM Ivanov restated Russian policy, assured
	 Sec. Albright the OSCE visit would go forward. Chechen rebel
	 tactics play a part in the Chechnya situation as well. US has been
	 concerned for some time over links between international terrorism
	 and Chechen and other rebels. Russia is still  completing economic
	 conditions required by its IMF program.  
16	No comment on UN-sponsored talks while they are in progress.
16-17	Deputy Assistant Secretary Bennett Freeman visited, discussed human
	 rights issues, including practice of interrogations. 
17-18	US has extensive sanctions regime in place. Each one addresses
	 different issues. 


DPB #148

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1999, 12:50 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing, today, Friday's briefing, the fifth briefing in this week of five days, the last briefing I shall conduct in the millennium, the second millennium; and when I brief you again it will be the third millennium. I don't know what the significance of that is, but it's true.

QUESTION: The real millennium -- (Inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN: It depends on how you count it. I know there is some dispute on that but I think you should probably discuss that extensively December 31st with whomever you're with.

Let me start with a couple of statements on this here last briefing of the millennium. First of all the United States regrets the decision by Serbia to not allow the humanitarian shipments that the European Union has made available to go into Nis and Pirot and Serbia. We believe this is a cynical maneuver designed to manipulate public opinion after Belgrade developed one false obstacle after another. If the regime of President Milosevic really cared about the welfare of its citizens, it would allow these and other humanitarian fuel shipments that the EU has put together to move forward and reach their destinations. So we deplore the decision of Serbia, and obviously the European Union announced that it was going to return these trucks to Skopjie pending any ability to have confidence that the aid would go to the intended recipients.

Secondly, in Africa the United States is deeply concerned and troubled by reports of rebel attacks on Congolese and allied Zimbabwean and Namibian troops encircled near the town of Ikela. The United States calls on the rebel forces to halt these attacks immediately and abide by their commitments under the Lusaka Accords.

We express our grave concern about reports of Congolese government offensive military operations in the Equateur province. We strongly condemn these flagrant violations of the cease-fire. These repeated cease-fire violations erode the confidence of the people of Central Africa and of the international community.

There are no valid reasons for any force with troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo to conduct active military operations. We urge participants in the Lusaka process to use the joint military commission or bilateral context to resolve the disputes. We will hold responsible any government or rebel organization that violates the Accord and we call on regional leaders to use their influence with the Congolese government and rebel forces to assure full compliance with the Lusaka Accords.

With those statements, let me go to your questions.

QUESTION: Could you tell us -- maybe we'll hear a little more on the plane -- but the Secretary's first stop apparently is Saudi Arabia. Could you give us an idea of what that's all about besides touching base with an important country?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think you probably will hear more in the coming days, but Secretary Albright's last trip to the Middle East did not include a stop in Saudi Arabia, so she thought it was important that this trip did. We have a close friendship with the government in Saudi Arabia.

I would expect, given the recent heightened activity in our discussions with Russia and others about the Iraq question, that that would feature prominently in her discussion with the leaders in Saudi Arabia. I would also expect her to discuss extensively where we are in the peace process and where we're going and what steps she intends to urge on the parties in her stops in Damascus, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: What would you be seeking from Saudi Arabia in terms of contributing to moving the Iraq issue forward?

MR. RUBIN: I didn't indicate that we were seeking anything. I indicated that we intended to brief them on the state of play. We certainly think it's important for Saudi Arabia and other countries that live in the region where Saddam Hussein poses the most acute threat to understand what the next steps are, to be as supportive as possible of getting all the countries of the world to support a resolution requiring Iraqi compliance, and we certainly would hope that Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region that feel the threat from Saddam Hussein most acutely would urge other countries to be supportive of what we're trying to do.

QUESTION: Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the administration is set to call for a vote next week and that there is apparently an expectation that Russia and France and China would abstain. Could you comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: I think that I can't confirm either of those basic points in that story in that normally very accurate newspaper. Let me say this: Secretary Albright spoke to Foreign Minister Ivanov this morning. They have a very good and constructive discussion about the Iraq issue.

Foreign Minister Ivanov informed Secretary Albright that he was instructing Ambassador Lavrov, their UN Ambassador, to return to New York to discuss the specific details of the resolution with our people in New York, including Ambassador Burley and others, and that we certainly hoped that that discussion makes it possible for us to move forward with the broadest possible support for a resolution.

Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov also agreed that following the discussions between Ambassador Lavrov and Ambassador Burley that they would consult extensively on the phone over the next week.

So that is the main channel of discussion right now. She also spoke today to Foreign Minister Cook about the resolution and she has been in touch in recent days with Foreign Minister Vedrine about the resolution. So we would expect those consultations to intensify in the coming week. We certainly believe that the time has come to move quickly to a vote and that we should move to a vote very, very, very soon. We have not made a specific decision on any specific day that we intend to call for a vote, but this resolution has been discussed and negotiated and mulled over and examined from every different possible direction for many, many weeks and months now, and it's now a question of making some decisions.

We believe this resolution meets the critical test of requiring Iraq to allow the inspectors to return, requiring Iraq to fulfill the key disarmament tasks and requiring a testing period for that cooperation prior to any adjustment in the sanctions regime. So we believe this increases the chances that we can get inspectors back to Iraq, which we want to have, but also ensures that the Iraqi regime would not have access to unlimited and uncontrolled resources in order to pursue a purpose of spending additional money on it's mad military machine.

So that is what we are aiming for. I would expect the discussions to intensify and for her to talk with a number of ministers in the coming days, certainly as she and Foreign Minister Ivanov indicated their intention to consult intensively.

With respect to the report's claim as to the position of the French government and the Russian government, I wouldn't assume that it is accurate.

QUESTION: In fact, it wouldn't be a very good way to go, would it, if only two of the five Permanent Five actively supported --

MR. RUBIN: Our goal certainly would be to have the broadest possible support for a resolution on Iraq. Let's remember, we're starting from a position where the numbers in the Council are now well over ten so the question will be whether it's nearly all or almost all of the Council members support this resolution. Within the Permanent Five, obviously it is important whether there is the maximum possible support.

On the other hand, seeking that support - there are limits and the limits include the kind of points that I just made about ensuring that there is the return of the inspectors, that key disarmament tasks are fulfilled, and that there is a testing period of cooperation, and that the regime does not get unlimited and uncontrolled access to resources for nefarious purposes. So consistent with those goals, our procedural objective certainly would be the maximum number of countries including the maximum number of permanent members to support it.

QUESTION: But you're saying that it looks like the diplomatic impediments to passing such a resolution have been cleared away?

MR. RUBIN: Again, you can write your own leads; you don't need my help. I'm just telling you the situation as I see it. We've got a large body of support, well over ten countries' support, the approach that the United Kingdom and the Dutch initiated, and we are hopeful that we will get support from the remaining countries consistent, of course, with the limits I described.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up question on Middle East peace. Today, Mr. Barak raised the possibility of the terrorist attacks by Palestinians could halt the peace process. Do you have any response to that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen that particular quote, but certainly we're aware that fighting terrorism is the sine qua non of enabling us to move forward on the peace process. We believe that there, generally speaking, has been good cooperation between the Palestinian Authority representatives and security services with the Israeli counterparts and with us, and that there has been considerable cooperation. Effort has been good.

We recognize that even with 100 percent effort, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, that there can be no guarantee against those who are prepared to conduct terrorism. But we think cooperation has been good. We certainly recognize that the climate and the environment would be severely affected if there were acts of terrorism.

QUESTION: Will terrorism be one of the subjects that the Secretary discusses in Saudi Arabia, given the threat that the United States feels from Usama bin Ladin and his network?

MR. RUBIN: Generally speaking, when we have extensive discussions with Saudi Arabia, one of the items high on the agenda is the subject of terrorism, so I would expect that to be extensively discussed. I can't be more specific than that in advance.

QUESTION: On the subject of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, could you tell us about the attempts by the United States to get Iranian support and help in uncovering who blew up Khobar Towers?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say in that regard, I think it should be understood that our objective here with Iran to have a dialogue is not have a dialogue for dialogue's sake; it's to have a dialogue so that we can engage in a process by which Iranian policies of concern would change, including our concern about Iranian support for terrorist organizations and those who are enemies of the peace process.

We have made clear that the policies changing is the objective. We have not received in our dialogue through - let me rewind that tape. We have had contacts, diplomatic contact, messages, to Iran. There is no secret about that. We don't have the kind of direct dialogue that we have been seeking in order to change those policies of concern.

We have not received from Iran, the government of Iran, the kind of responses that we have been hoping for on a wide range of issues, including on the cooperation we seek in investigating acts of terrorism. That is unfortunate and, generally speaking, the Iranian Government's response to our efforts in that area and also our efforts to try to make it easier for visas to be provided to Iranian Americans or Iranians who want to come to America, we've sought visits that would facilitate that process that many people in Iran want, which is to have an ability to come to the United States.

So on those two issues, cooperation on terrorism and making it easier for visas to be provided for Iranians visiting the United States, the Iranian Government's response has tended to be hide-bound and unimaginative.

So that is the state of play. We still believe that it is in our interest to have a dialogue in which our concerns, primarily terrorism and active opposition to the Middle East peace process can be pursued, but it's a fundamental misunderstanding if there is an impression that we're seeking a dialogue for dialogue's sake.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Indyk hand over a message from President Clinton to a third party which was then sent on to Iran?

MR. RUBIN: It has not been my practice to get into the specifics of any diplomatic contact. I'm trying to deal with the policy issues at play here in as forward-leaning a manner as I can about the two substantive issues - cooperation in the Khobar investigation and the question of visits for facilitating visas for Iranian Americans - and I'm not going to comment, and have not before, on what specific message is sent through what specific method.

QUESTION: Could you just remind us how old actually all this stuff is that you just told us and perhaps remind the rest of the world that this stuff was actually reported by apparently all but one news organization several weeks ago?

MR. RUBIN: I'll leave the press commentary to the Columbia Journalism Review.

QUESTION: Would you recommend daily attendance at briefings, though, as a way to get the news at the time it's committed?

MR. RUBIN: Actually, that's an interesting point, and for all those who might not be here but occasionally have the chance if possible to read what is said here in the briefing, there is a sense of the people who are here in the briefing that others aren't here in the briefing. I certainly would share the view that the more attendance there is in the briefing, the more lively the dialogue, the more incisive the opportunity for exchanges and, as you can see, I welcome as full a room as possible.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to your first statement, Serbia, the oil. The Serbs have said that they are going to provide - that the Serb state oil company is going to be again providing oil to these towns especially Nis. I think they sent a shipment there. Is it your view that EU oil is somehow better than Serbian oil for these people?

MR. RUBIN: No, on the contrary. There is clearly going to be an energy - they will not have all the energy resources they need this winter. Serbia is an economy that is suffering greatly and it strikes us as manipulative and cynical to refuse the help of fellow Europeans that is desired and sought by the mayors of these towns. Whether or not the heating fuel promised by the Milosevic regime gets there is very much an open question, but there were I believe 16 trucks filled with heating fuel that were there that would have gotten there had Milosevic, his regime, not played such a cynical and manipulative game.

It is not a question of the quality of the heating fuel; it's a question of whether in a situation like this, the needs of the people should be subordinated to cynical political games.

QUESTION: But certainly you're not saying if they can't the EU oil, they shouldn't get any oil?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think there's anything I said that should allow you to draw that interpretation. What I'm saying is that this heating fuel was made available; Serbia is not a country that can afford to refuse this kind of humanitarian assistance; they've sought humanitarian assistance in general.

The issue is not do they need heating oil. They do; they know they do. The issue is should the opposition mayors get credit for having made that oil available or should the Milosevic regime try to prevent the political support that would go to those opposition mayors as a result of getting that fuel there or try to stop it to prevent that benefit. So it's a cynical political game at which the real losers are the people of Serbia.

QUESTION: No, I'm just not sure why it's not a cynical political game for you to condemn it if they're going to go ahead and give the oil to these people themselves - I mean, provided that they're given enough, I mean.

MR. RUBIN: First of all, I think I've been as clear as I can. Let me be clearer. There is not enough oil and fuel for all the needs of the people of Serbia and; therefore, to deny some for one's own political cynical reasons is to put the political goals of the regime over the needs of the people. If there was oil going to these places, there would be more oil available for other people, and the people of Serbia are the net losers from this effort.

QUESTION: Do you want to say anything about the value of the Europeans offering the oil? I think at one point there was some coolness on this side about --

MR. RUBIN: Well, most of our questions - and it wasn't opposition - were about whether the oil would get there, and so we indicated we wanted to see whether it would really happen. And this unfortunately hasn't yet arrived, and that was a concern we had and questions we had about whether, indeed, you'd be able to get the oil to the intended recipients without the involvement of the regime or the siphoning off of the oil.

QUESTION: You don't want to say, "I told you so"?

MR. RUBIN: We care about the people of Serbia; we're not interested in some game with the Europeans. We understood the motivation the Europeans had. We thought it was a laudable goal; we still think it's a laudable goal. The question is whether it can be implemented, and I suspect this isn't the end of the road but certainly it's not been a good day for the people of Serbia.

QUESTION: A question about the Palestinian authority. Were you aware that Arafat had invited Milosevic to attend the, I guess, the millennial Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I've seen reports to that effect. We don't have any independent confirmation that such a visit was offered or such an invitation was issued. Given the fact that President Milosevic is an indicted war criminal responsible for some of the most horrible massacres in modern European history, we would discourage anybody from inviting him anywhere except an invitation to go directly to The Hague, and that is the only travel that we think is appropriate for President Milosevic - go to The Hague, go straight to The Hague - that's the message the world should be sending to him - without passing go and definitely not collecting the $200.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with Mr. or even Mrs. Arafat to encourage them along those very lines that this is what you would expect them to do and that the invitation seems --

MR. RUBIN: I think I just made clear our position in as clear a way as possible. I'll have to check whether any - as I indicated, we don't have confirmation from them yet that this invitation was indeed proffered, and I expect they will be made aware of our views on the subject.

QUESTION: So you've sought a confirmation?

MR. RUBIN: We're seeking it. We don't have it at this time.

QUESTION: I have some questions about Chechnya.

MR. RUBIN: Let's go over here and we'll go back.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the fuel oil? Are you suggesting that the European --

MR. RUBIN: You're saying your colleague did not exhaust this subject?

QUESTION: No, I just have one question I'd like to ask, if it's all right.

MR. RUBIN: Please.

QUESTION: Would you say that their strategy has failed, and will you be encouraging them to stop sending fuel oil?

MR. RUBIN: No, I wouldn't regard that as a failed strategy. The intent, the motivation, was a good one. The questions we had were about practicality: would the oil get there? Clearly, this tranche has not. These trucks have gone back. That doesn't mean it's the end of the game.

We certainly said our overall support for the program would depend upon how this particular delivery went forward, and it obviously hasn't gotten forward and gotten to the people of Serbia as it should. The losers are the people of Serbia, not any policymakers in Europe who had a laudable goal.

QUESTION: You're not saying you're withdrawing your support yet?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: One question on the --

MR. RUBIN: On this same subject?

QUESTION: The specific point - the trucks are going back. Our last report says that the Serbs are not letting the trucks go back, they're being blocked in that --

MR. RUBIN: What I'm reacting to is the announcement by the European Union today that it was intending to return its trucks to Skopjie after being held up at the border. If the Serbs are blocking their return to Skopjie -- I don't believe they've all entered. I'm not sure that it's possible for them to block someone on the other side of the border. Maybe some were in and being inspected.

I'll have to get the facts as to what's going on the border there, but what I'm reacting to is the unfortunate fact that the European Union concluded that, at least for the time being, these trucks were not going to get to their intended recipient.

QUESTION: Going back to the peace process, even though getting that first installment of the Wye money and securing that this year, there's still a lot of reluctance on Capitol Hill for committing financially long term to the peace process. First of all, is there an estimate of what the costs could be to the United States for the long-term costs; and, second, how does this aversion or concern on Capitol Hill affect the Secretary's upcoming visit?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that there has been a general aversion on Capitol Hill to funding the needs of our national security, and that has been a major problem over the recent years. We have had to work extraordinarily hard to even get the minimum necessary to provide funds, as you indicated, for the Wye Agreement, for our threat enhancement initiative in the former Soviet Union, for things like the Kosovo peace process.

So we've had to work overtime just to get the minimum requirements because there is a general refusal to see that funding our foreign affairs is funding our national security on Capitol Hill. That's a big problem. It's a problem that's existed for some time; it's a problem that we work on all the time.

With respect to your suggestion that there is not support on the Hill for the peace process in general, I would have my quibbles with that. I think there is generally support for the peace process. I think there was support for the Wye Agreement. Clearly there are those who had questions and asked questions, and there will be those who ask questions and have questions about additional funds that may or may not be necessary, and that's the part of the democratic process.

What we hope is that people come at these questions from a point of view recognizing that a peace in the Middle East is in the vital national interest of the United States and that, therefore, should receive substantial support from the United States. We hope that people understand that as the year goes forward, and we will hopefully be in a position of making the argument in favor of support for additional agreements.

I think it would be wildly premature for me to begin to speculate on what the costs, support or other needs would be for an agreement that we have described as extraordinarily difficult to achieve, that we are many, many, many weeks away from even potentially have a framework for. So I don't intend to speculate on what the needs will be for our final permanent status agreement, or Israel and Syria.

QUESTION: Just to go back to Iran for a moment, it seems that you've often described the potential US relationship with Iran in sort of addressing the negatives - support for terrorism, opposition to the Middle East peace process - and I wonder if you have any thought about what value, what positive value, the US might have in relations with Iran?

MR. RUBIN: We believe Iran is an important country. It is located in a very important area. Our two peoples have a long and friendly history prior to the most recent developments in the late '70s and throughout the '80s, and we believe that Iran is located in a part of the world that's important to us.

We believe that the people of Iran would benefit from increasing interaction with the people of the United States. We believe the people of the United States would benefit from the interaction of the long and proud culture of Persia and Iran, and there is much to be gained on both sides, but we do have problems. Those problems are real. Some of them have even increased recently, and I've spoken to that.

So pending a decision by the government of Iran to move to address those issues in a direct dialogue, we believe it's appropriate to facilitate and promote a dialogue of the peoples of the United States and Iran in an analogous way to that proposed by President Khatami of a dialogue of civilizations. We welcome that. We support that. We want that to go forward. We think it brings great benefit to both of our peoples.

We think a relationship that could overcome major problems if we could get Iran to stop supporting the opponents of the Middle East peace process, we think that it would make the Middle East a much more stable place, and that would be good for everybody. We think that if we could make progress on stopping Iran's support for those groups that engage in terrorist activities, that would make the world a safer place, and that would be very important.

Beyond that, the potential for a more normal relationship was put out there and put forward by Secretary Albright in a speech in New York - I think it was a year and a half ago - but it's very hard to discuss the fruits of that normal relationship at a time when we can't even get Iran to see the wisdom in talking about the problems that we think exist.

QUESTION: Can you just comment on - you've just laid out the concerns about Iran and then the question mark about the sanctions in Iraq - how that might lead to a sense of urgency in terms of final settlement in the Middle East talks?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to Iran, the issue is our concern about stepped- up support for those who would use terrorism to thwart the Middle East peace process, and we believe we're at a crucial moment in the future of the Middle East that will affect profoundly the prospect for a stable and economically successful and peaceful Middle East for all the Arabs and Israelis who live there; and that we know that this is an extraordinarily difficult time, and support for terrorism to oppose that peace process is profoundly troubling to us and makes it that much harder to overcome the already high, high obstacles to a peace agreement.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to this delegation of Iranian clerics who withdrew from the seminar after they said they had been maltreated by immigration officials?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that there was a group of Iranians arriving in the United States to participate in an academic conference; they were unhappy with their treatment and canceled their planned activities. We have tried very hard in the Department of State to promote people-to-people exchanges to facilitate this kind of conference and, as a general policy, we support these kind of efforts.

The fact is that the Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are responsible for entry procedures. As far as what happened in the airport, I would urge you to contact them. Suffice it to say from our standpoint, we continue to have an active dialogue with the Department of Justice and the INS to try to see what steps can be taken to minimize these kind of problems.

QUESTION: And then let me just ask, in fact, what the immigration officials said was that it was normal policy to photograph and fingerprint people coming in from Iran. And do you think that's an appropriate way for those individuals to be treated, given -- (inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN: Right. There are exceptions that have been made on certain case-by-case basis, so it's not a simple question of this is the only way to do business. So we are engaged in an active dialogue with the Department of Justice and the INS to try to ensure that we can make the procedures as minimally intrusive as possible. That dialogue continues and we will continue to work to that end.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed that it didn't happen in this case?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I couldn't get into the specifics.

QUESTION: In Chechnya there is a report on the wires now that the Russians have closed the border once again to Ingushetiya, and it's being described as retaliation for an attack by Chechen rebels on Russians in which a large - very large - number of Russian soldiers were killed and maybe later some of the survivors executed.

Do you have anything on any aspect of this?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, the news about the border is news to me. I will have to check that. With respect to the incident that you asked about, let me say that Secretary Albright raised that press report in her conversation with Foreign Minister Ivanov about the reported killing of 250 Russians, and he indicated that that was not the assessment that his military had about what transpired.

She also made very clear in that conversation our strong opposition to a military solution; our concern that the costs of Russia's approach are rising; that there are high civilian causalities; there are refugee flows; and that there is the potential to harm the US-Russian relationship if this path continues. She made that very clear to Foreign Minister Ivanov.

He continues to express his country's approach and their explanation for their approach, and I don't think it would be fair to say there is any change in that regard. Although we've had success in the past in trying to minimize the humanitarian costs particularly in the area of refugees and border closings, we have little success in convincing Russia of the wisdom of pursuing a political solution.

On the mission of Knut Vollebaek, the Foreign Minister of Norway, Foreign Minister Ivanov assured the Secretary that they were going to allow this visit. I understand that Foreign Minister Vollebaek and the Russians have exchanged written communication, and he assured her that they are going to allow the visit. She made very clear that the visit was a commitment that Russia signed up to in Istanbul, and he indicated they intended to fulfill that commitment.

With respect to the specific cases, obviously it is dismaying in the extreme when we read about the growing number of innocent civilians being killed or injured as the fighting intensifies. The reports that you indicate of the border being closed are especially troubling, because it does prevent refugees or displaced persons fleeing the fighting from fleeing to safety.

We've had, as I indicated, some success in the past in explaining and urging the Russians to allow refugees and displaced persons to flee the fighting and to go to safety, and we will be continuing to pursue them. But again, this is at this point just a report about the border and that's mostly what I have.

QUESTION: Did you talk to Ivanov today?

MR. RUBIN: Today. This was just a couple of hours ago.

QUESTION: And so in other words, she asked specifically about these 200 to 250 people?


QUESTION: The report also says that there was an attack on refugees by Russian troops in which a bus was raked by submachine gun fire, 40 people killed, and there's witness accounts in the wires.

MR. RUBIN: Again, the reports are troubling about the damage to and the killing of innocent civilians as a result of the intensification of fighting. I think with respect to the broader point of civilians, we have made clear that we are profoundly troubled by the fact that the shelling and bombing has an indiscriminate aspect to it that has caused civilian casualties in large numbers and civilian deaths. We cannot verify that particular report from where we sit and stand, but that kind of report is extremely troubling.

QUESTION: And would these be war crimes, if they - if the Russians actually attacked a bus full of civilians --

MR. RUBIN: I think we've talked about this. There is an intent question versus an indiscriminate question, and I'll have to check that for you.

QUESTION: Because if the Chechen rebels are killing surrendered Russian troops, is that considered a war crime?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that on the Chechen rebel side that both sides have obligations to respect human right and avoid involving innocent non- combatants. There is no question in our mind that Chechen rebel tactics are doubtlessly contributing to this senseless death and destruction. In our view, all the parties, including the Chechen rebels, should understand that the international community is watching, and we expect both or all the parties concerned to live up to their international obligations.

QUESTION: I just wondered did Ivanov say when the OSCE mission might be allowed to go in?

MR. RUBIN: I think you should - the specific dates are being discussed between Foreign Minister Vollebaek and the Russians. What he assured her was that the visit would take place.

QUESTION: But like when, like two years from now or soon?

MR. RUBIN: The presumption was not that it was two years from now, a presumption that it would be soon and in a timely fashion.

QUESTION: Yes, to follow up, Mr. Rubin, are you advocating or does the State Department advocate that the Russians should negotiate with the Chechen rebels, some of whom they claim to be terrorists? Is this what you're advocating?

MR. RUBIN: No, I've never said that. What we advocate is a political solution. It's not up to us to choose the interlocutors. Frankly, us naming interlocutors only will probably make it less likely that they could be effective interlocutors. There are interlocutors available. There are legitimate leaders in Chechnya, and we urge the Russians to use whatever methods necessary diplomatically to make it possible for discussions to be held and a political solution to be found.

QUESTION: And finally, is there any fear on the part of the United States Government that the Russian military is positioning themselves such that they might be able to enter into the Ukraine or threaten the Ukraine?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not aware of that particular issue. I think it's fair to say that one of the profound concerns that we have about the conflict in the north Caucasus is the potential of it spilling over into Azerbaijan and Georgia, and the instability that could create in the region. I haven't heard any particular concerns expressed about Ukraine, and it strikes me as geographically not relevant.

QUESTION: Geographically not possible. I'm sorry, I was in error, I mean Georgia. That's exactly what you're concerned about.

MR. RUBIN: Well, yes.

QUESTION: Could you comment on accusations by the Uzbek government --

QUESTION: He's on Chechnya.

MR. RUBIN: Is this related to Chechnya?

QUESTION: This is related to Chechnya.

MR. RUBIN: Let's do the related, I love those.

QUESTION: They're saying Chechen rebels are training their youths to help mount a jihad against their government?

MR. RUBIN: Who's this?

QUESTION: The Uzbek Government. And they're also saying that they're beginning to start joint military exercises or joint exercises with the Russians and some of the other Caucasus states to try to stomp out terrorism. I wanted to know if you have a comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: I cannot address specifically the Uzbekistan issue but, broadly speaking, I can say that we do have and have had for some time a lot of worry about the links between international terrorist organizations, including Usama bin Ladin and some of the Chechen Islamic rebels who were engaging in direct attacks against legitimate authority in Ingushetiya. We do believe there are funds and equipment and support that exists between a number of these organizations whose only cause appears to be to oppose the whole civilized world, including rebels in Chechnya and rebels throughout the former Soviet Union in the area you described. There are ties; there are linkages; there is mutual support; and that is deeply troubling to us.

One of the reasons that in the first phase of this conflict we expressed some understanding for what Russia was doing in the summer time was because the fact was that Islamic rebels who could responsibly called engaged in terrorist activities were attacking legitimate authority, and that those rebels did have affiliation with those kinds of people and organizations who have shown no acceptance of the international rules of the road and have shown only contempt for human life.

So that was a concern of ours we share with Russia which is the need to oppose directly organizations, groups and individuals of that nature. There is risk associated with those groups in Chechnya and others throughout the region, and I just don't have any specific data on what I can say to you about Uzbekistan.

QUESTION: Is the US still in support of disassociating the IMF, the second tranche of the IMF with the Chechen war?

MR. RUBIN: At this point the IMF issue is pretty straightforward, and that is that there are - Russia is still completing economic conditions required by its program. Disbursement of the funds depends on fulfillment of these conditions. We'll make our decisions on IMF support based on our national interest including a democratic and stable Russia that is making real progress on economic reform.

We commend Russia for the macroeconomic progress it has made so far, but Russia is still working on structural measures, central bank operations, transparency and financial safeguards pursuant to its relationship with the IMF. So I think the issue that's been out there is at this point a moot point.

QUESTION: On that point, the Secretary said to Ivanov if I quote you right that "Chechnya has the potential to harm US-Russian relations." Did she have in mind the ability of the United States to support more IMF funding?

MR. RUBIN: What's in the Secretary's mind I think I'll leave in the Secretary's mind. What the Secretary said is what I indicated and you repeated, and that is a general statement about the effect that she believes that a prolonged conflict in Chechnya of this kind involving the widespread use of force against - and indiscriminate use of force against innocent civilians could have to our relationship, and I would like to leave it at that.

QUESTION: NATO Secretary General will reportedly be going to New York on Monday to ask that more money and troops be devoted to Kosovo. Will the United States devote - would they actually support that action by committing more resources to the operation?

MR. RUBIN: As I indicated in response to one of your colleagues' questions, we've been troubled by the fact that we have not been able to obtain all the support we need to assist the civilian operation in Kosovo. There are some specific things we're working on right now to try to step up that support. I don't think there's any consideration to my knowledge being given to stepping up the number of troops. We are already a major troop contributor, and some of the other countries that early on had large troop presences, and if I recall correctly, publicized the size of their troop presences in the early days, have very quickly fallen off from their large presences while our large presence remains.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- behind gates and bars and --

MR. RUBIN: I think that if you would travel there, you would find that our soldiers are patrolling widely. They are engaged in a large number of activities throughout their sector, and that your characterization would be inaccurate.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- reasonably so --

MR. RUBIN: We would reject categorically your characterization that American troops are behind bars in their camps and not performing their mission.

QUESTION: I've got a question about the Bosnian Serbs. Have they rejected the New York agreement that --

MR. RUBIN: I've seen that report. I'm trying to get more detail on it, but I'm familiar with the report.

QUESTION: To bring up a question that came up yesterday again, I know that you have said that you hope that the issue of the 5 percent of land will be solved before the Secretary reaches the region, and I just wondered if you had any information today that you didn't have yesterday suggesting that that might happen?

MR. RUBIN: With each passing day it becomes obviously harder to have our hope realized that this problem will be resolved before Secretary Albright gets there, and we're obviously one day closer to the arrival in the Palestinian authority in Israel, and the issue has not been moved substantially, to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea of whether the meeting between President Clinton and Chairman Arafat will go ahead before the --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the facts on that. I think it's a scheduling issue, and I'll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: Would you like to tell us what the US would consider or might consider promising or encouraging outcome of UN-sponsored talks on Cyprus that start today?

MR. RUBIN: I think although some of the figures have availed themselves of their opportunity to speak to the world about those talks in whatever opportunities they might or might not have had, I've been advised that the UN is requesting that those of us who speak to the media not comment on the specifics of those talks while they're going on, and that's often a common practice in discussions like this.

QUESTION: That's why I was just saying some maybe some encouraging or promising outcome, any broad --

MR. RUBIN: We are certainly for encouraging and promising outcomes but, beyond saying that, I think I would probably being exceeding the blackout sought.

QUESTION: A few quick questions on the Middle East. I'm sorry I was a little late, the plane was late. But could you confirm --

MR. RUBIN: The plane? You fly in for these briefings?


QUESTION: No, my daughter did. Could you confirm or deny --

MR. RUBIN: I love questions that start like that.

QUESTION: -- that Bennett Freeman, Deputy Assistant Secretary, did raise the question of human rights and particularly the bypass legislation? And will the Secretary along the same lines as she did with Foreign Minister Levy - is that the correct pronunciation?


QUESTION: -- perhaps raise the question again on this trip of the nine Americans who are confirmed to have been tortured and are in Israeli jails and the one American in a Palestinian jail under the same situation?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that with respect to the legislation authorizing the use of physical force, we try not to interfere with the internal Israeli public debate on this and political debate on this issue. Bennett Freeman, our Deputy Assistant Secretary, did visit Israel on the week of October the 10th, discussed a full range of issues including a number of human rights issues. Our concerns about specific practices with respect to interrogation were discussed as part of this ongoing dialogue, and we would welcome any actions that Israel took on this and similar issues that are consistent with internationally recognized human rights standards.

I suspect the question came up, but I wouldn't assume that Deputy Assistant Secretary Freeman necessarily took a position on a matter like that in the direct way that you suggested or asked about.

The question of Secretary Albright's visit, I think it's fair to say that this is not a visit designed to cover the full range of bilateral issues. It's a visit focused - she'll only be there a short time - on the peace process. She will be in Syria and the Palestinian Authority and Israel all in a matter of a couple of days and will be pretty focused on that issue. I think our embassy and other officials in the government do raise these issues and seek to follow up from previous discussions. So that's the best I can offer. I'm not going to rule it out, but I know the focus of the visit is as I suggested.

QUESTION: May I follow up on that because three affidavits of Americans that have been tortured and eventually released have been presented to the Department of State some 60 days ago. They were referred to the embassy but there has been no report either from your podium or from anybody else as to what the reaction was.

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to get what I can for you on that subject and Jim will follow it up with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I'd like to re-ask the question I asked a few days ago.

MR. RUBIN: That seems to be a practice here today.

QUESTION: Does the US have specific criteria or conditions - and this is the US - that Libya has to meet for the lifting of the US unilateral sanctions? And I ask that because of some of the statements that came out of the visit of the Italian Prime Minister.

MR. RUBIN: There are a whole series of unilateral sanctions. Libya is under probably one of the strictest sanctions regime we have. So each one of those sanctions has different legal linkages to questions like terrorism and many other subjects, and I think it's fair to say when it comes to the UN sanctions I've identified time and time again, and I'm sure you don't want me to repeat, our standard there which is spelled out in the resolution.

With respect to the US unilateral sanctions, there are a whole array of them and each of them address different issues. For example, the prohibition on the use of passports to visit Libya is linked to the threat to American citizens visiting Libya. There are other laws that apply to terrorism. There are other laws that apply to weapons of mass destruction that Libya may or may not be seeking.

So it depends on the law, and I wouldn't be able to give you sort of a simple summary, but since most of these are legal restrictions, I think it would be possible to get you the laws and you can be able to answer the question directly that way.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the Namibian election?

MR. RUBIN: I had something to say about that in the last week, but let me --

QUESTION: Since they just finished counting the votes today --

MR. RUBIN: No, about the imminent Namibia election.

QUESTION: It's over now.

MR. RUBIN: And so I don't have a reaction. I understand there will be a statement made available to you and your colleagues shortly.

QUESTION: Regarding the decision next week by the Vatican on whether the Pope will indeed go to Iraq, would you like to reiterate --

MR. RUBIN: Our view has been that we respect His Holiness' decisions as to where to travel, but we would strongly urge the Vatican to not allow itself to be manipulated by a regime that obviously would love to manipulate any international visitor, especially a visitor as respected as the Pope, to promote their bankrupt regime, and so we'd urge the Vatican and have made that clear to them privately to try to prevent Iraq from doing so to the extent possible.

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

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