U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #150, 99-12-08
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, December 8, 1999
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 ICELAND: Secretarial Travel to Iceland - December 9, 1999
1-5 Update on Cuban Boy Case
5,10-11 Signing of Russia-Belarus Union Treaty
5-6, 7 Progress of UNSC discussions of Iraq Resolution / Pickering-Welch
6 US Views of Iraqi Cooperation Toward UNSC Resolution / Oil-for-Food
7-8 Update of Situation / Russian Claims of Usama bin Laden Role in
Northern Caucasus / Reports of Gas Being Used Against Civilians
9 US Threshold with Russia
11 Plight of Civilians in Grozny
9-10 What is US Doing to Help the Plight of the People of Afghanistan /
11 Status of Heating Oil to Nis and Pirot
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1999, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I apologize
for keeping you waiting and I also apologize for the fact that we're going
to have to - and I need your cooperation -- try to make this an accelerated
briefing. I had planned with the Secretary traveling to brief on Monday,
Wednesday and Friday and have stuck to this plan today despite the fact
that the President will be holding his press conference here in the State
Department in little more than an hour. But in order to accommodate that, I
beg your indulgence to try to accelerate this briefing so that perhaps we
can conclude in half an hour or under half an hour. We'll see how it goes.
I know I'll be giving very crisp and satisfactory answers and knocking
these off with dispatch.
So with that, let me just say one announcement, which is that Secretary of
State Albright will be meeting Iceland's Foreign Minister at the NATO base
in Keflavik on December 9 - that's tomorrow - en route back from the Middle
East. There is a little more detail to that announcement, which we will
post after the briefing.
QUESTION: Maybe we could really accelerate the briefing if you could just
tell us what subjects you're delegating to the President. I mean, can you
talk about Cuba, the boy?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, I can. You saw the statement that I issued last evening.
It basically speaks for itself and I'm not going to be able to provide
details that are really the province of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service to explain to you, but if you have some specific questions I can
try to handle them. I'm not going to go deeply into the matter which is, as
I said, being handled by the INS, but you can try.
QUESTION: It's the province of the Immigration Service but you issued the
statement. It says the Immigration Service will be in contact with the --
MR. FOLEY: We issued a statement because we are in charge of American
foreign policy and so this does have a foreign policy dimension, clearly.
But in terms of the actual conduct or adjudication of the case, that is
what the INS is going to be doing according to its standard procedures and
will make its decisions on the basis of standard procedures and considerations.
So those are State Department decisions.
But, anyway, George, you have a question?
QUESTION: You can't say whether the INS plans to interview him in Havana,
by telephone, invite him up here to Florida, those kinds of questions?
MR. FOLEY: Let me give you some general answers. First, referring back to
my statement of last evening, let me just quote and then I'll get to your
question. "The regulations of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
recognize the right of a parent to assert parental interest in an
immigration proceeding. The INS will be in contact with Mr. Gonzalez, the
father of the boy, Elian Gonzalez, in the near future to explain the
process by which it will evaluate his rights in this case."
Now, on Friday, we received a diplomatic note from the Cuban Government in
which the Cuban authorities conveyed the position of the father in this
case, namely that he would like to have custody of his child, and we are in
the process of finalizing our response, our official response to the Cuban
diplomatic note. I expect that will be conveyed to the Cuban authorities,
if not today, then certainly by tomorrow. In that note we are going to lay
out the INS process that I described in the statement by which the
INS intends to evaluate the father's rights in this case.
The long and the short of it is that the INS will need to have contact with
Mr. Gonzalez to establish, according, as I said, to standard criteria, his
desires and his rights in the case. I think there is not - and I have to
refer you to the INS for the details - I think there is not necessarily a
single way in which his desires and rights can be evaluated and determined.
But my understanding, however, is that an opportunity will be offered for
the INS to meet with Mr. Gonzalez in Cuba.
QUESTION: Other Cubans who head northward and are intercepted are
automatically taken back. Why was this case handled differently?
MR. FOLEY: This case was handled in conformity with INS procedures. I
think you have to understand that this was a dramatic situation involving
the young child who had been at sea, in the water, I think for 24 hours or
more, and was in obvious distress. The INS absolutely did the right thing
in bringing the child to shore, bringing the child to a hospital for the
treatment that he needed.
There was, as I understand it, press coverage at the time and family
members in Miami who recognized the boy, were able to go to the hospital
and demonstrate their relation to the boy. The INS, again following
standard procedures, gave him I think what is called - sorry, gave the
family what is called deferred inspection, which means that they released
the child into the family's custody pending INS adjudication of the case
So I think it's very clear that standard and correct procedures were
followed in the case, especially given the humanitarian urgency of the
boy's situation and condition.
QUESTION: But he appears to be fine now so the medical issue is no longer
MR. FOLEY: Right. Therefore, the INS now is doing what it's supposed to
do, which is to adjudicate the case based, above all as we've been saying,
on the interest of the child. Therefore, as I indicated we are going to be
in contact with the father via this diplomatic note to point out the way,
the process to him by which the INS can - with him - determine his desires
and his rights in the case. So in other words, we're following it
completely according to the book.
QUESTION: Jim, there is another alternative here. I wonder if it's been
thought of, or if it would even work, to invite the father to come into the
United States and invite Mr. Castro to let him go. Wouldn't that be another
MR. FOLEY: Well, as I indicated, there are different ways by which the
INS can do what it needs to do, which is determine parental rights in this
case. It's possible it could be done in Havana, as I said. If the father
were to desire to come to the United States in order to make his case, then
what I can tell you is that we will certainly be willing to process his
visa according to the usual standards.
QUESTION: Just on a sort of technical matter, if the INS decides that the
boy should be sent back, would they be within their right just to send him
straight back regardless of whether there are court cases still pending
about his future?
MR. FOLEY: Well, first it's a hypothetical question. I can't really
answer a hypothetical question. What I can say though as a matter, I
believe, of fact though, that following Immigration and Naturalization
Service determinations, parties may challenge such determinations in the
courts. That is a matter of fact. That's not to speculate on what may or
may not happen - either in terms of what the INS decides or how different
parties would react to a decision.
I am in no position to prejudge the INS determination in this case. All I
can tell you is that the interests of the child will be paramount in its
QUESTION: But on a matter of fact, what I'm asking really is whether the
INS is legally allowed to take action in any case, regardless of whether or
not there is a court challenge?
MR. FOLEY: My understanding, as I stated on Monday, is that the courts
theoretically or hypothetically don't become involved in a such a case,
except if there is a challenge lodged with an INS determination in a given
case. I can assure you one thing, though. This case will be followed
according to normal procedures. It has nothing to do with Cuba, as such.
There are no special procedures. It will be followed according to the
QUESTION: Is there any indication at all by the Cuban Government whether
they would allow the father to meet with someone from the American
MR. FOLEY: That's really sort of jumping the gun because we have not
communicated officially yet with the Cuban Government. As I said, if that
does not occur today, it should occur by tomorrow. So it's really premature
to be able to answer your question.
On the other hand, the Cuban authorities have said loudly - and let me
reiterate in this context what we've been saying all along - which is we're
not going to be intimidated by the Cuban authorities. We're not going to be
rushed to judgment in this case by the Cuban authorities. But let's point
out, though, that they have stated loudly and vociferously and on the
streets of Cuba their desire to have the father's rights asserted.
Therefore, it would certainly be in their interest to help facilitate the
process by which - according to the book, according the regulations and
established procedures - the INS can make a determination concerning the
father's rights and interests in the case.
QUESTION: There is another report coming from Havana saying that the
United States already returned a ship that was hijacked this week on the
coast of Florida. I just want to - can you confirm or deny this?
MR. FOLEY: Well, certainly the ship and the crew and the members are in
the custody now of the Coast Guard. I can certainly say because we've had
some heated rhetoric from Havana to the contrary that the interdiction of
the Cuban vessel on Monday indeed demonstrates that the United States
remains committed to the full implementation of the migration accords and
to facilitating migration to the US in a safe, legal and orderly manner.
I'd have to refer you to the Coast Guard, though, for details on how
they're handling the case.
Do we have any more? Can we move on because, as I said, I would like to
finish here in, hopefully, in 20 minutes so if you have other subjects -
there's not much more I can say about this beyond that which I've already
QUESTION: Another procedural question. Did you imply, or do you know, the
immigration officials in - the US immigration officials are in Havana at
the Interests Section. They can't initiate contact with the father until a
diplomatic note is sent, or are these two things separate issues? Is it
required that a diplomatic note be sent in order for the INS to do what
seems like a fairly routine thing of contacting a refugee's father?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure one thing in normal circumstances precludes the
other, but the fact of the matter is that the Cuban Government did choose
to communicate with us formally via a diplomatic note that we received on
Friday and we've proceeded to prepare our response to that note carefully
and methodically, and we're about to present it. That note will cover the
procedures by which the father can be contacted, interviewed, and his
rights and interests determined.
So I think that we're following the correct procedure and it's certainly
one that was invited when the Cuban Government itself communicated with us
via diplomatic note.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about reports that the INS will seek to
verify the paternity of the father?
MR. FOLEY: You would have to ask the INS what their procedure are for
determining adjudication in such cases. Certainly, though, it would strike
me - and I urge you to ask the INS - strike me that it's axiomatic that
paternity - the establishment of paternity is a critical factor.
QUESTION: What have you heard from the Cubans about the next round of
talks on migration?
MR. FOLEY: We have not heard anything from the Cubans officially that
would indicate that they are not planning to go forward with those talks.
Let me put it that way.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Does the Russia-Belarus Union Treaty that was signed today
change anything diplomatically as far as how the US responds with these two
countries? And, secondly, how would you answer those among the political
opposition in Minsk who say the Russian campaign in Chechnya and this act
with Belarus are essentially one and the same?
MR. FOLEY: I would hesitate to compare apples and oranges. I think we
here at the podium of the State Department try to take each issue and
question on its merits and provide you with our assessment on the merits of
a given case or situation, but I can comment though on this signature of a
treaty union by Belarus and Russia.
First a general point. In principle, we do not oppose integration among
European countries as long as it is mutually beneficial, it does not erect
barriers to wider trans-Atlantic integration, and is voluntary. Now, the
critical point for us is that in order for such a process to be voluntary,
integration must be the result of a democratic process, and there is no
democratic process in Belarus; therefore, it's impossible to conclude that
the decisions on the union treaty with Russia reflect the will of the
Belarusian people or that they are voluntary in nature.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts - I know you spoke to this on Monday -
what's the latest with the resolution in New York on Iraq? I think you said
that you would expect a vote this week. I wonder if you could bring us up
MR. FOLEY: Discussions among the Permanent Five members have made a good
deal of progress in recent weeks, including discussions that Under
Secretary Pickering and Assistant Secretary Welch had in New York
yesterday. My understanding is that in an informal session the Security
Council as a whole is taking this matter up today, even as we speak. I
understand that the United Kingdom, which is the President of the Security
Council, is taking the opportunity to brief the full Security Council on
the status of the discussions that have taken place thus far among the
Permanent Members of the Security Council.
I believe they're using this opportunity to discuss the text that exists
now, which has been the result of the efforts of a number of countries,
notably the UK and the Netherlands - also France has contributed and I
believe there have been wider consultations that have informed the work
that's led to this text. We believe that a Security Council vote on the
omnibus draft is likely this week and we would like to see it adopted with
the broadest possible support among Council members.
In terms of Ambassador Pickering's meeting yesterday, let me say that the
United States remains committed to achieving broad support for this
resolution, that while the meeting did not result in an elimination of the
differences, indeed serious questions remain unresolved and the United
States has some fundamental concerns about what the text should reflect
that we believe are critical and that cannot be whittled away; nevertheless,
there are areas that we can discuss and we remain committed to continuing
to discuss the text with Russia and with others. We believe that a vote
should take place soon, in other words, this week, and we are going
to continue our efforts to achieve, as I said, the broadest possible
support for the resolution to be voted upon.
QUESTION: Any resolution needs the cooperation of Iraq to be implemented.
Now Iraq has stated once, twice and lately not anything less than the
suspension or the lifting of the sanctions is acceptable to them. How does
the United States work forward from there if Iraq is not willing to accept
anything less than lifting or suspension of the sanctions?
MR. FOLEY: First, that's not a new position on Iraq's part. It's not even
a new position this year. In other words, in conjunction with this omnibus
resolution, it's basically been Iraq's position for many years and it
certainly is borne out by Iraq's refusal to cooperate fully with the
inspectors under UNSCOM that were doing good work in previous years. So
that's not new.
What our focus on at the moment is not Iraq. It's the Security Council.
It's the effort to reconstitute consensus within the Security Council on
the basis not of concessions to Iraq's desire to avoid complying with its
disarmament requirements but, rather, consensus on the basis of an
assertion, a reassertion, of the requirements of Iraqi compliance.
I would note, however, that the omnibus resolution also envisages
significant enhancements to the Oil for Food Program. It is certainly in
the interests of the people of Iraq that this resolution be passed and that
it be fully implemented but, as you know, Iraq has chosen to exploit the
plight of its people in order to seek a suspension or a lifting of
sanctions without having completed the disarmament tasks.
So we'll have to confront the issue of Iraqi views once this matter has
been addressed in the Security Council. We believe that - in the first
instance - it's certainly very beneficial if we're able to reestablish as
broad a consensus as possible within the Security Council.
QUESTION: If you're trying to establish consensus within the Security
Council, why are you so keen to rush ahead with a vote when - even at the
risk that you won't get consensus in the Security Council and that some
members will not vote in favor of a resolution? Why - which presumably will
be divisive - why this hurry? Why don't you keep talking?
MR. FOLEY: First of all, I don't share your prognosis, which seems to
write off the possibility that we won't achieve a very broad consensus in
the Security Council. Obviously, it's been very arduous, the diplomatic
work that's been going on, and we can't predict the outcome at this point.
But I wouldn't, therefore, predict any particular outcome including the
negative one that you're suggesting.
But we also believe that there has to be end to this process, that there
comes a point when further diplomatic effort is pointless. We have not
reached that point yet. We are endeavoring mightily to try to achieve
consensus and we believe that it's time, nevertheless, though to come to a
conclusion. Therefore, we believe that a vote will be necessary before or
by the end of the week.
QUESTION: Do you expect Pickering and Welch to go back up again?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't rule it out. I don't have a specific plan on their
part. But certainly, we're willing to go the extra mile to try to achieve
agreement and the broadest consensus possible. As I indicated, the meeting
with the Russians yesterday was not dispositive. It didn't produce
agreement. Nevertheless, there are areas that we can continue to discuss
with the Russians, and Secretary Albright is engaged and committed to
working with her counterparts to achieve a positive resolution. We are
Wednesday today, and we have still a number of days left and we are
going to redouble our efforts to achieve consensus.
QUESTION: Also on Iraq, you were asked yesterday about the apparent
importation by the Iraqis of devices capable of producing atomic blasts?
MR. FOLEY: We're looking into that still. That was, of course, on Monday
that the question was asked. I asked late yesterday whether we had gotten
an answer yet. Apparently, this involved events that occurred some time and
we have to look into the records and the work of the Sanctions Committee.
I'm on the line to get you an answer. I understand, hopefully, I'll have
that when we brief again on Friday.
QUESTION: Will you comment on the deteriorating situation in Chechnya?
MR. FOLEY: Well, you don't have a more specific question, but I can give
you, at least, in response a status of what's going and our view of what's
going on. Certainly, we remain deeply disturbed by the implications of the
leaflets that were dropped over Grozny on Monday and the threat to engage
in indiscriminate bombardment of Grozny.
As President Clinton said on Monday, this, "means that there is a threat to
the lives of the old, the infirm, the injured people, and other innocent
civilians who simply cannot leave or are too scared to leave their
We have never questioned Russia's right to fight terrorism or insurgencies
on its soil. But we have strongly and consistently urged all sides to seek
a political solution. A purely military solution is not possible. We have
made clear our opposition to terrorism. I think there was some language
coming out of Moscow in the last 24 hours indicating that the West was not
fully sympathetic with the challenges Russia is facing on the terrorism
That really is not true. We are totally opposed to terrorism in all of its
manifestations. We've always expressed our support for Russia's territorial
integrity and its right to protect its citizens. Our problem, though, is
with the methods Russia has chosen to deal with these threats. We believe
they are undermining Russia's stated objectives.
QUESTION: Mr. Foley, can we discuss about this war in Afghanistan? Now
the plight of the Afghani people is to stop the war and they need US help
badly because also terrifying the women in Afghanistan --
MR. FOLEY: We have another Chechnya question. I'll come back to
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about reports in recent days that
Russian intelligence has produced evidence that Usama bin Laden has, in
fact, played a role in promoting trouble in the Northern Caucasus?
MR. FOLEY: I think Mr. Rubin addressed this question last week. He talked
about the - oh, you weren't here. He talked about the links that we do
believe exist between outside terrorist groups, including bin Laden and
some of the terrorist activities that have occurred in the Russian
Federation and by some of the forces operating in Chechnya and Ingushetiya.
QUESTION: There have been reports - I don't know how credible they are -
that gas has been used against civilians. Do you have anything?
MR. FOLEY: No, we are not in a position to confirm those reports.
Certainly, Russia has engaged in the indiscriminate use of force and that
concerns us greatly. We believe that Russia, as certainly a member of the
CWC, knows its obligations and knows what kind of an outcry there would be
internationally if it used such tactics.
We don't, as I said, have any information to confirm those reports. We are
aware of reports that Russia is using heavier weapons, including fuel air
bombs. We can't confirm those specific reports, but we are concerned about
the impact of a further escalation of Russian military activity, what that
would have on the civilian population.
Again, we don't believe that there is a military solution to the conflict,
that as this conflict goes on more and more innocents are being harmed and
more harm is being done to Russia's reputation internationally.
I'm sorry, is this still on Chechnya?
QUESTION: This is Chechnya. Yes, I didn't understand the thing about
terrorism. Does that mean, sir, that the United States is unwilling to
stand firmer against Russia if you consider Chechen rebels as terrorists or
if you consider the Chechen population as terrorists? Or what would be a
reason for the United States to stand against Russian military advance,
especially having in mind that civilians - like in Bosnia - are mostly the
ones who is suffering this wintertime?
MR. FOLEY: I'm afraid your question implies that somehow we have painted
with a broad brush everyone who lives in Chechnya. That is just not true
and it's never been true. We've always distinguished between Russia's
legitimate struggle against terrorism and terrorists and against those who
have taken up arms against lawful authority and Russia's tactics, which
have tended to - by virtue of their effect - treat the people in Chechnya
with a broad brush.
The fact is that innocent civilians have been killed, hundreds of thousands
of refugees have been created, and it's becoming more and more of a
humanitarian disaster in Chechnya. Therefore, we are very concerned about
Russia's tactics and methods. We believe they are counterproductive. We
believe they won't actually solve the problem. The problem is one we
sympathize with but the methods they're choosing - we believe - are
QUESTION: Where is the threshold? When is the moment when the United
States or the international community would do something to step in and do
something against the military advance which is similar to Bosnia situation,
actually, at the beginning?
MR. FOLEY: I think President Clinton was clear the other day when he
talked about Russia going to pay a heavy price. It's paying a price already
in terms of its reputation. I think the OSCE summit was clear. There was a
universal consensus, and Russia acknowledged the views of others by
agreeing to the visit of the OSCE, which can play a political role in
helping find a solution, as was agreed by all parties in Istanbul. It's
important that Russia arrest this downward cycle now before this continues
to get out of hand.
What was the question? About Afghanistan and the plight of civilians?
QUESTION: Afghanistan - yes, stop the war that's the plight of that --
many people and innocent people are being killed and especially atrocities
are being committed against the women there in Afghanistan, and also Usama
bin Laden is still there and then his --
MR. FOLEY: Do you have a particular question?
QUESTION: I mean, what is the US really doing now after 20 years, as far
as stop the war and the atrocities against women in Afghanistan? President
Clinton also said - and First Lady in the White House - what's really the
plight of the Afghani women?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure I can find a question or a single question in
there. It's a very general question about the situation in Afghanistan --
QUESTION: What the State Department is --
MR. FOLEY: It's a problem that disturbs us greatly, the plight of the
people of Afghanistan, the plight of women and children in Afghanistan. We
have a whole series of problems or of criticisms of the way the Taliban
does business in Afghanistan, including and notably their treatment of
women and a whole wide range of human rights violations. The people of
Afghanistan themselves are victims of this situation, victims of the
Taliban, victims of a political situation that has not yielded a willingness
on the part of the different factions to deal with each other seriously,
negotiate with each other. We support the United Nations efforts to promote
a broad-based coalition in Afghanistan that can lift the people of
Afghanistan out of the plight that you have eloquently described.
We have a separate problem with the Taliban authorities. That's not simply
an American problem. It was enshrined in the Security Council resolution
that Afghanistan is harboring a wanted international criminal and terrorist
and must render bin Laden to a country that can bring him to justice, or
will continue to face sanctions. These sanctions have been very carefully
tailored so that they do not penalize the already suffering people of
Afghanistan. They are directed at the Taliban, at its assets and at its
I just am hurrying because I think I am going to have to bring this to an
end in no more than five or 10 minutes. Yes.
QUESTION: On Chechnya, the United States supports the struggle against
terrorism. Is it considered by US Administration to use its influence on
Chechen field commanders to stop their terrorist activity and to free these
MR. FOLEY: Absolutely, we have been very clear about that. Let's remember
before the Russian offensive occurred, there were terrorist bombings that
took many innocent Russian victims. There was an incursion by Chechen
insurgents in Ingushetiya, and we condemned all of those actions.
Since the conflict has heated up, just as we've been sounding our concern
and our dismay with the Russian tactics that have damaged civilians and
innocent people, we have also equally sounded the alarm about the
activities of the Chechen insurgents who have also been responsible for the
loss of innocent life by some of their tactics. So we've been very clear
and I think you have to be - not only clear - you have to be evenhanded and
condemn terrorism, condemn indiscriminate attacks on civilians no matter
where they occur, no matter who perpetrates them.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about Leonid Kuchma's visit here, who
he's seeing and what the topics might be?
MR. FOLEY: I will have to take the question. I don't have anything for
you on it right now.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Belarus for a minute? Can you tell us
what effect your doubts about the democratic nature of this will have on
the way you handle the union between Russia and Belarus? I mean, the way
you handle relations with the entity created by the union?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure that the entity that is created by the union is
one that's going to respond to some of Mr. Lukashenko's fondest aims and
desires. So I wouldn't read too much into the reality that's been created
here. Therefore, it's hard really to take - with all respect - seriously
the sort of import of the question. After all, we have - even in our
bilateral dealings with the existing Belarusian Government take things with
a grain of salt and we certainly have profound concerns about the
legitimacy of the current government, as well as its human record.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary said after her visit --
MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to be able to help you about the Middle East
peace process with the Secretary in the region. I have to refer your
question to Jamie Rubin.
QUESTION: I wanted to know if you wanted to add anything to what was said
last week now that it appears the Serbian Government is allowing the oil to
go to those two cities - on that process?
MR. FOLEY: Sure. We are certainly very pleased that the people of Nis and
Pirot have finally received the heating oil provided by the EU's Oil for
Democracy Program. The delay caused by Serbian customs officials was
obviously unnecessary and unacceptable. The detention, while it lasted, of
this humanitarian assistance was a cynical gesture by a regime that cares
little for the welfare of its people.
QUESTION: Just one more. Assuming that the flight of the innocents, the
noncombatants, from Grozny is successful and there are combatants
surrounding combatants, would the United States condemn a siege that would
either - will either produce the surrender of these Chechen rebels that we
are supposedly - we disdain, or what? Will we condemn Russia for making a
siege, for that matter?
MR. FOLEY: First, it's a hypothetical question. Second, the assumptions
that you're talking about are, in our view, probably difficult to realize.
We've made the point that there are, I think, anywhere from 10 to 40,000
civilians in Grozy, many of whom we believe are unable to move freely. They
are old, they are infirm, they are afraid, afraid to move because it is
increasingly a war zone; therefore, they are not free to move. And that is
why we were so disturbed by the ultimatum.
We understand that there have been statements made in the last 24 hours in
Moscow that indicate that it perhaps was not an ultimatum, perhaps there
wasn't a desire to go in and level a city that contains many thousands of
innocent civilians, and we hope that those latest statements are indicative
of Russian policy and that we will avoid a humanitarian nightmare in Grozny
which already is in dire straits from a humanitarian perspective.
QUESTION: One question on Uzbekistan. There were charges that the Chechen
rebels were training extremist in Uzbekistan to create a jihad, and I
believe this issue was raised last week here. I wondered whether you had
MR. FOLEY: I think we have looked into the matter. I think we may have
something for you in the press office after the briefing. I'll look into
(The briefing concluded at 2:00 P.M.)