U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #9, 00-02-10
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
Thursday, February 10, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Status of Iraqi Inspection Commission
1-2 Oil Smuggling and Oil for Food Program
2-3 Hijacking Ends/Passengers Released/Arrests Made
3-4 Ambassador Sheehan's Remarks at Brooking Institution on Terrorism
4 Trial of Pan Am 103 Suspects/Sanctions
4-5,6 Meeting of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group/Situation in
5 Reported Iranian Arms Shipment to Hizballah
5 International Child Custody Cases
6-7 Reported Nomination for US Ambassador
6-7,11 Reported Travel by Under Secretary Pickering to Venezuela
7 Gejdenson's Letter to Secretary Albright on Contacts with
7-8 Situation in Austria/Ambassador Hall's Return
8-9 Congressional Resolution on Rebiya Kadeer
9-10 Security/Military Ties
10 Signing of Friendship Pact
10 Secretary Albright's Meeting with the Foreign Minister
11 President Aliyev's Visit
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2000, 12:35 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing on this here Thursday,
the first briefing of the week. It might be the last briefing of the week.
Other than that, I don't have any announcements and I'd be honored and
privileged to take your questions.
And don't call me a short-timer, okay?
QUESTION: How about lame duck? (Laughter).
The Iraqis are being even more assertive than usual about not accepting a
renewed inspection program. Do you have any comment?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say that we have seen Iraqi authorities time and
time again denounce the inspection regime, denounce the United Nations, and
we've often found ourselves in a situation where one day they say no way,
no how, and the next day magically they decide to cooperate. If they don't
cooperate, it's very simple: the sanctions will stay on and Iraq will not
be able to get the benefit of the new resolution that was put forward that
will permit sanctions adjustments consistent with the necessary steps
being taken by the new inspection commission.
Hans Blix is beginning to conduct his consultations. This inspection
commission is going to get off the ground, and if Iraq wants to flout the
will of the international community it will only have itself to blame as
the sanctions stay in place.
We have reason to believe that the other countries on the Council, even
those that abstained on the resolution, are united in their support for
Hans Blix and for his mission. And so if Iraq refuses to comply with this
resolution, not only will it be harming itself but it will be undermining
even those who have from time to time sought to give them the benefit of
the doubt on some technical points.
QUESTION: On that, do you believe that the leakage by smuggling of oil is
sufficient so that they don't need the Oil for Food money?
MR. RUBIN: No. On the contrary, the Oil for Food numbers are much, much
higher. We have seen an up-tick in that. For much of 1998, it was around 50,
000 barrels a day, and recently we've seen an up-tick to some 100,000
barrels a day. That is, illegal, illicit oil exports.
But even with that leakage, this is still the most comprehensive and
tightest sanctions regime in history. Saddam Hussein continually seeks to
get around it and continually seeks to get it lifted. So we believe it's
very clear that it continues to sting despite this leakage.
QUESTION: But with oil prices getting up toward $30 a barrel, that
amounts to a lot of money that they didn't have before.
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, the price of oil is not something that one can
take into account in trying to keep a sanctions regime tight. That's just a
fact of life that is not directly related. So we still believe that Iraq
will need to sell oil to purchase food unless they do what they've never
done before, which is use their own resources. Remember, the Oil for Food
Program - Iraq could always purchase humanitarian supplies. They could use
the billions of dollars that they've spent on their palaces and on
the regime and the military hardware they continually try to buy, and buy
humanitarian goods for its people.
But the only way to get aid in in the absence of them spending their own
money, which they have refused to do because they really don't seem to give
a hoot about their own people, is to use this controlled Oil for Food
Program so that the oil sales go directly into an account used for
QUESTION: How do you feel about the resolution of the hijacking in
Britain? And are you concerned about further terrorist incidents,
particularly since we've seen a couple of this nature recently?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think we're always concerned about terrorism. It's one
of the highest priorities this government has. It's something that
Secretary Albright follows closely every day, with Ambassador Sheehan's
With respect to the particular hijacking in the UK, we are thankful that
the ordeal ended peacefully. We applaud the British for their superb
handling of the situation. All the passengers were released without any
concessions having been made. Several arrests have been made by the British,
and they are continuing to interview occupants of the plane.
In our view, this was a brilliant performance on the part of British
Could you make sure that the Reuters correspondent heard that?
QUESTION: Are you going to use that?
QUESTION: Jamie, is that equivalent to "bravo"?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say, "Bravo."
QUESTION: On that, may I ask probably a dumb question but I --
MR. RUBIN: There are no dumb questions. There are only dumb answers.
QUESTION: No, this one is. In light of the flight - I mean, will there be
an exemption for the flight ban to get this plane back to Afghanistan?
MR. RUBIN: Well, you know, these flight bans have historically in the
case of Libya or Iraq or wherever, there are humanitarian exceptions and
exceptional circumstances by which the sanctions committees in New York
exempt certain flights. Whether they will choose to do that in this case
and what the Afghans want to do and what the British intentions are with
respect to the plane and its condition, I really don't know. But there are
ways that that can be done.
QUESTION: On terrorists, Ambassador Sheehan suggested today that there
may be a rethinking under way on the various - the two terrorist lists.
MR. RUBIN: Where did he suggest that?
QUESTION: He was speaking at the Brookings Institution.
MR. RUBIN: Well, that's good that he's getting out there and talking to
QUESTION: I wonder if you could throw any light on what possible changes
are under consideration, not necessarily removing countries but adjusting
the way that it's structured.
MR. RUBIN: I don't think he was intending to suggest that we would adjust
the way it's structured. I think he was, perhaps, prematurely indicating
that they're reviewing very carefully some of these cases.
Certainly, for example, if North Korea and the United States resume our
dialogue on counter-terrorism and they were to take the additional steps
that we think are necessary, they are a country that could be removed from
the list. As you know, Ambassador Kartman is intending to work this month
on the final arrangements for a high-level visit here next month of a North
Korean official, and one of the things that we would be wanting to do -
we've been prepared to do this for some time - is to sit down and explain
the additional steps necessary. And, hopefully, those steps will be
Beyond saying that, I don't have any comment on any specific countries, but
it's not my understanding that there is a fundamental restructuring of the
report and its laws.
QUESTION: Given that the public perception of this list is - it has many
questions about it, and transparency is important in this, could you throw
light on what steps they do have to take in order to get off the list?
We've asked this question many times and we just get rather evasive
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think there's a big problem with the public. I
haven't had any demonstrators outside my door demanding to know what the
additional steps -
QUESTION: They're not allowed to pass.
MR. RUBIN: And I haven't seen them outside the State Department
demonstrating to know exactly what it is that North Korea has to do to get
off the list.
Let me be very clear. Counter-terrorism is a very sensitive subject. It's
not a subject that lends itself to a lot of public discussions. But,
obviously, we would need to have the kinds of assurances that there is not
going to be the state sponsorship of terrorist acts on a repeated basis and
evidence or steps that we consider sufficient to justify their lack of
linkages to such groups.
Beyond saying that, I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss it in
QUESTION: You volunteered the case of North Korea as a possible candidate
for removal. Would you like to volunteer any more?
MR. RUBIN: I only volunteered it in the context of a recent development.
For those of you who were around when we made an announcement about the
high-level visit here in March, there was some commentary in the region
about counter-terrorism and the terrorism list. That was a new development
that I responded to at the time, and so I used that as an example of
developments that are new. But, again, it requires actions by the North
And beyond that reference to new developments, I think my volunteering has
come to an end.
QUESTION: Well, how about this: Isn't there also the possibility in the
near future that there might be a development regarding Libya?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to go country by country. If countries take the
necessary steps to meet the criteria, they can be removed.
QUESTION: Regarding the Pan Am 103 trial, whenever it's over - I mean,
however it ends, on trial are two suspects. Once it ends, would the United
States consider the case of Pan Am 103 closed or does the United States
have any intention or any mechanism or any desire to continue pursuing this
MR. RUBIN: I prefer not to speculate on what the outcome of a trial will
be. It depends on what the outcome of a trial will be. We'd obviously have
to review the trial, what the results were, what the evidence was, and make
our own judgment. But with respect to the sanctions and the suspension of
sanctions by the Security Council, obviously the trial was an important
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have any more information about the meeting by
the Monitoring Group tomorrow?
MR. RUBIN: No, just that the meeting is intending to take place tomorrow
morning, and the five parties that have been the parties that have
traditionally met, with the US and France as the co-chairs, will convene
Friday. It's certainly something that we think is helpful in trying to
defuse these crises.
Let me be clear. We've made it known - and I want to repeat - that we
deeply regret the loss of life and injuries on all sides. We also regret
the civilian infrastructure that has been damaged and the disruption to
civilian life that has occurred. Now we have to focus on defusing the
crisis but, at the same time, one shouldn't expect these things to happen
overnight. There is every reason to think that this is going to continue to
be a difficult process.
But more important in the long run, these kinds of crises will continue
unless and until we can get the kind of comprehensive peace arrangements
put forward that we were discussing, for example in Shepherdstown, and that
we would like to see Israel and Lebanon discussing directly.
QUESTION: In the context of Chechnya, you spoke a lot about the
disproportionate use of force. Do you think that bombing power stations and
depriving hundreds of thousands of people of electricity is a disproportionate
use of force?
MR. RUBIN: Well, at this point, I think we prefer to have this issue
discussed in the Monitoring Group. I think it's fair to say that we
certainly regret the loss of life. We regret the damage to civilian
infrastructure and the disruption to civilian life. I think we clearly
With respect to the situation, I think it's clear that Hizballah, which is
an enemy of peace and therefore enemy of peaceful life for the people of
Lebanon, the people of Israel and the people of the region, saw an
opportunity to try to throw a wrench in the works of peace for the people
of Lebanon, the people of Israel, and provoked attacks with the Israeli
soldiers. And that remains our view.
QUESTION: There is a report that that the Hizballah recently received a
shipment of arms from Iran that included TOW missiles. Do you have anything
MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything on that kind of specific report. We've
been concerned for some time about Iran and support for Hizballah, but I
have nothing on that specific report.
QUESTION: Yesterday on the Hill there was an event at which some parents
of abducted children talked about their cases and were quite critical of
the State Department - insinuating, if not actually saying, that very
little is done on their cases and the State Department hesitates to ruffle
feathers with some of these countries like Sweden, like Austria previously -
irrelevant to the situation now.
Is that fair, or is it so that these cases are brought up recurringly with
the governments in these countries when there is international law
governing the cases?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have the specific cases in front of me, but let me say
that my sense is that is unfair; that our Consular Affairs people work day
and night to try to resolve many of these custody cases; that, especially
with countries that we have good relations with, they know that we work
assiduously for them. And I think it's a disservice to the people who work
in this Department every day trying to deal with these types of issues to
say that somehow there is a policy of not wanting to ruffle feathers.
It's simply not correct.
We recognize that these cases tend to be very emotional and the people
involved are obviously frustrated in this area, but I think it's just
simply wrong to suggest that we have some policy of not ruffling feathers.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the countries that are
refusing to send these children back in defiance of international law, in
defiance of custody arrangements?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'd need to see the specific cases and get some more
information about them. But in general, yes, we do believe that countries
should be respecting international law in these cases. And those who don't,
we have no hesitation in saying so.
QUESTION: Could I go back to Lebanon? You talked about you regret the
loss of life and loss of civilian life and of the attacks on the infrastructure.
Do you have evidence that the Hizballah has been attacking civilian
MR. RUBIN: The issue there is not that, Jim. The issue in respect to the
agreement is whether they have been using civilian infrastructure from
which to launch attacks, and there is plenty of evidence of that during
recent weeks and months.
QUESTION: Could I switch to Austria?
MR. RUBIN: Let's go in the back and we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: The US Embassy in Caracas has announced that Donna Hrinak going
down as US Ambassador. Can you confirm that? It must be true because it's
being published down there.
And, also, that Mr. --
MR. RUBIN: Boy, you gave me a nice, big softball there. I can't wait.
QUESTION: Mr. Pickering is going down in mid-March for the high-level
delegation, a congressional group is going. Does all of this represent some
change in policy towards Venezuela or some effort to get something done,
like increased production of oil?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say that I wouldn't assume that if it's published
somewhere that it's necessarily been announced by the United States or
anyone else. I don't make announcements about US Ambassadors. That's done
by the President.
With respect to our interest and engagement with Venezuela, I think it's
been quite strong for some time. Secretary Albright has been following
events there closely. Assistant Secretary Romero has obviously spent a lot
of time on it. So I wouldn't assume that there is some grand linkage
between the price of oil and our interest in Venezuela.
QUESTION: Sam Gejdenson, ranking Democrat of the House International
Relations Committee, wrote to the Secretary earlier this week asking her to
contact allies within OPEC and press for an increase in production. Do you
know whether she has responded or whether she is going to? Have there been
MR. RUBIN: Yes, she has responded to the letter. Let me say this: We are
regularly in touch with oil-producing countries about these kinds of
questions. I don't have any details to provide to you, but I can seek
QUESTION: Yesterday the Secretary several times was quite vociferous
about Austria and the statements and lack of clear action. Is the Secretary
worried that this situation in Austria -- xenophobia and rejection of
foreign refugees -- that this might replicate itself in other European
countries, such as Germany or France?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that certainly many of the leaders in those
countries have made that point and have expressed quite openly their
concern about this issue beyond Austria.
With respect to the Secretary's actions and statements about Austria, it is
focused on Austria. That doesn't mean that she's not aware of concerns
throughout Europe about a potentially broader phenomenon.
But from our perspective, what the Freedom Party leaders have said is what
has concerned us, and our actions have been focused on those statements and
our concern about the Austrian Government. And that has been the motivation
for our actions. That doesn't mean she's not aware of concern that you
QUESTION: Do you know what day Ambassador Hall is going back?
MR. RUBIN: I believe this weekend she'll be going back.
QUESTION: Mr. Haider said that --
MR. RUBIN: What did he say today?
QUESTION: He said that European politicians - and I think he might
include US politicians, too --
MR. RUBIN: He might? Is that your interpretation?
QUESTION: That's my interpretation.
MR. RUBIN: I see.
QUESTION: -- had insulted his country and his party and owed them an
apology. He said Europe is adopting an attitude which could be dangerous
for the continent. Do you have any respect to this?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think the United States owes Mr. Haider an apology.
That strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black. I hope that translates
well. And with respect to his view about the Europeans, I'll leave them to
But let's be clear. It's the statements of Mr. Haider one day saying one
thing, the next day saying he didn't mean it or he apologized, the next day
saying something else, that have created this situation. And just as
Austria has every right to create a government based on its election, we
have every right to have an opinion about it. And that is what we've done
is used our rights to express our concerns. And that doesn't mean we don't
respect Austria's right to have its government.
QUESTION: Did you see the story about the Chinese woman who was arrested
in western China shortly before she was supposed to meet with congressional
staffers, and that the Chinese basically have stonewalled congressional
efforts at least, and perhaps Administration efforts, to find out what has
happened to her?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Ms. Kadeer is a successful private business woman. She is
not known to be a member of any political movement and is, in fact, a past
member of the Chinese Political Consultative Congress, an important Chinese
Government body. She was arrested while en route to a meeting with a
congressional staff delegation in Urumqi in Xinjiang Province in China.
We are deeply disturbed by her arrest and her long detention without formal
charges, as well as the fact that she was arrested on her way to a meeting
with congressional staff. We note that her long detention without formal
charges is in violation of China's own criminal procedures law, as well as
international human rights standards.
We've seen nothing to suggest there is any basis to Chinese charges that
she has provided state secrets and intelligence to foreign organizations.
We've met several times with Ms. Kadeer's husband who lives in the United
States, and we have repeatedly raised the matter of her arrest with Chinese
authorities, including at high levels.
We call on China to immediately release Rebiya Kadeer.
QUESTION: This arrest took place a long time ago, I understand?
MR. RUBIN: Some time ago, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for it? It's been months or something?
MR. RUBIN: One second. Last April.
QUESTION: She's still held?
MR. RUBIN: It says last April here. Last August 11th it says as well, so
let me get you the date.
QUESTION: It says August as well?
MR. RUBIN: We'll get you the date.
QUESTION: She was arrested twice, or there's a mistake in there
MR. RUBIN: Thank you for --
QUESTION: Well, I'm not sure --
MR. RUBIN: And should we get the person who made the mistake up here and
you can ask him some more questions? We'd be happy to do that.
QUESTION: No, I wasn't - I was just trying to figure out --
MR. RUBIN: After the briefing we'll try to get you our knowledge of the
exact date. But if you want to go over there and, you know --
QUESTION: And pummel someone.
MR. RUBIN: Okay.
QUESTION: Why does this come up today?
MR. RUBIN: I think it's that congressional concerns have led to the
possibility of a congressional resolution being put forward.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the report of the increased military
cooperation between Russia and China?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. On that, let me say that sales of Russian military
equipment to China have been reported for several years. We are well aware
of these developments. We monitor them quite closely. We don't want to
either minimize the potential threat, nor exaggerate that threat.
We maintain an active dialogue with Russia on the issue of arms sales
reflecting our concern about proliferation. We closely monitor the
development and modernization of China's military and its potential impact
on US security.
As far as that particular destroyer is concerned, we don't believe that the
purchase by China of the ship poses a significant threat to the US military
posture in Asia. While clearly improving China's naval capabilities, it is
fair to say the appearance of one additional modern warship will not
fundamentally alter the regional balance of power.
We have made clear our concerns to the Chinese Government regarding Chinese
military developments, including its missile deployments and their
influence on the situation in the Taiwan Strait. We retain and continue to
have a strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the
Taiwan Strait. That is why we have approved defensive arms sales to Taiwan
in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and consistent with the various
We will continue to monitor the military balance in the Strait closely and
meet our obligation to make available to Taiwan the arms it needs for an
QUESTION: And do you have anything to say about this new friendship
treaty signed between Russia and North Korea?
MR. RUBIN: Right. With respect to the friendship treaty, let me simply
say we haven't seen the details of it. I would say we welcome any measure
that members of the international community take to engage North Korea to
enhance the possibility for greater stability and peace on the Korean
peninsula - and we certainly hope the treaty will have that effect.
We've certainly been in close contact with Russia regarding our efforts
with North Korea to deal with fundamental issues like the nuclear weapons
issue, the missile development issue and nonproliferation concerns.
QUESTION: The US and Argentina have always had a close, tight relationship,
particular with the Menem administration. And some analysts have said that
now with the new administration, things might get a little moderate. You
know, they might cool off a little bit.
We understand that the Secretary met this morning with Minister Rodriguez-
Giavarini. And did you see that reflected on that meeting, or what was the
overall meeting about?
MR. RUBIN: Obviously, it was a get-acquainted session because it's the
first time they've met since the Foreign Minister took office in December.
They certainly had a good meeting and we have exceptionally good relations
with Argentina, and that we're always seeking for ways to improve those
We certainly welcome and have thanked Argentina for support they've given
us on issues at the United Nations on subject like Haiti, for example, on
Ecuador. And I expect this to be more of a get-acquainted session for the
Secretary to give a briefing on Middle East issues and that kind of
QUESTION: Anything on President Aliyev's visit on Saturday? And, in
particular, do you expect him to be announcing any progress in relations
with Armenia? There was a partial agreement --
MR. RUBIN: I've heard about that visit. I don't have the details of it
and I will try to get those for you immediately after the briefing.
QUESTION: Going back to the visit of Secretary Pickering to Caracas --
MR. RUBIN: Did I announce that visit?
QUESTION: Has it been announced?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think so, so it's hard to talk about it.
QUESTION: Yeah. You don't want to talk about it, then. It's being
described in the Caracas press as an attempt at reconciliation.
MR. RUBIN: I didn't know there was anything to reconcile. We have a good
working relationship with Venezuela, but that doesn't mean that in any good
working relationship there are not issues of concern that need to be worked
on. But we certainly will continue to do that.
(The briefing concluded at 1:05 P.M.)