U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #10, 00-02-14
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
Monday, February 14, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Anti-corruption briefing by U/S Alan Larson
1 U.S strongly supports a democratic and constitutional government.
1-3 New threats against Salmon Rushdie / A dialogue is the best way to
resolve relationship problems. Iran has been designated for severe
religious freedom violations. The government is urged to protect
members of the Baha'i faith.
3-4 Resignation of Mr. Von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator /
15,16 Visit of US diplomats
4-10 Framework agreement has not been reached / US is in contact with
parties / Travel of Dennis Ross to the Region / Defense Treaty
11-12 Travel Warning was issued / Deployment of KFOR Soldiers /
Additional police are being sent to Mitrovica / Additional funds
have been requested from Congress / Buildup of troops in Montenegro
12,13 November 17 Terrorist Organization / Visa Waiver Program
13,14 US Views on talks with foreign secretary
14 Visit of President Aliyev
14 US participation
14 Release of report on oil industry in Sudan
15 G-8 Summit
15 Possible removal from list of States sponsoring terrorism
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2000, 12:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing on this Monday We
have a briefing shortly by Al Larson on the anti-corruption efforts of the
United States Government with respect to the Anti-Bribery Convention, and
that is the only notice I have.
Let me start by indicating that the United States strongly supports
democratic and constitutional government in Indonesia. President Wahid has
exercised his constitutional authority to suspend general Wiranto as
Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs pending the outcome
of further investigations into his involvement in human rights abuses
committed in East Timor. This action comes after General Wiranto was named
in preliminary findings of international Indonesian investigations.
This action reflects President Wahid's government's intention to seriously
address charges against individuals alleged to be responsible for human
rights abuses in East Timor. It is a significant step forward in development
of democracy and the rule of law in Indonesia after decades of authoritarian
rule and ignoring these key values.
We strongly support President Wahid's determination to assert civilian
control over the military leadership. The military is in the midst of an
important transition as part of Indonesia's broader democratic transition.
President Wahid's decision to investigate the actions of individual
military officers identified as suspects promises to strengthen the
institution of the military. So we're in strong support of the action that
President Wahid has taken.
QUESTION: If nobody has questions on that, I'd like to try a few things
on Iran with you. The new threats against Salmon Rushdie, for instance,
groups associated with the supreme leader. The administration keeps holding
out hopes of moderation in Iran. Maybe it's a confused picture, but would
you deal with that, if you could? There were threatened executions of
Baha'is. I don't know the status of the Jews now. Three or four of them
have been released, but more were supposed to be - not the accusation
lifted against them but, you know, released from jail temporarily.
Could you deal with the situation in Iran and give us your insight?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, our views on Iran are based on the idea that a
dialogue with Iran is the best way to resolve problems in our relationship.
Those problems include terrorism. They include opposition to the Middle
East Peace Process, and human rights issues like these. So the fact that we
want to talk to Iran about these issues doesn't mean that we believe that
they have moderated behavior in these areas. Obviously, there has
been improvement in terms of the free press that exists in Iran and
the elections that have been held and are to be held, and there has been
major developments in that area. And by recognizing those, we are not
suggesting we don't have problems with other actions.
With respect to the Baha'i, the White House issued a statement on Friday on
that. Let me just say we first spoke publicly of this case in October when
the initial sentences of death were made public. These sentences have now
been reaffirmed. As far as we can tell, these individuals are being
persecuted for the mere practice of their faith. They were first arrested
in 1997 for violating a government ban on religious gatherings. Since
then, they have been subjected to more than two years of prison and a
judicial system that does not accord them due process.
The Secretary of State, as you know, designated Iran as a country of
particular concern for severe violations of religious freedom. So we urge
that the government of Iran protect members of the Baha'i faith and that it
ease restrictions on the practice of religion so that all Iranians might
enjoy the fundamental human right to freedom of conscience and belief.
With respect to the Salmon Rushdie situation, I don't think there's
anything new there. These groups of people have been saying this for some
QUESTION: Right. Well, actually, Jamie, the Foreign Minister is now
saying it as well, that -- (inaudible) - was never --
MR. RUBIN: Right. And a week after the British Government and they talked
about it, the Foreign Ministry was saying the same thing. There is
obviously some dispute as to exactly what was the significance of that
statement. Clearly, it was a step forward at the time. There is nothing new
here as far as I can tell.
QUESTION: Do you know how many of the Shiraz Jews remain in prison?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know, and it's generally our view that the best way to
improve the fate of these people is to continue to have the private efforts
made by other governments to improve the chances for them getting their
QUESTION: You didn't get a response yet from Tehran to these overtures,
both the US overture for dialogue, et cetera, which is sounded every couple
or three weeks but, so far, you haven't heard anything?
MR. RUBIN: We have not. They still have not welcomed the opportunity to
talk to us officially, to work on issues of mutual concern.
QUESTION: Jamie, you often comment on electoral practices. In the case of
Iran, you haven't said anything. Would you like to say anything about the
way the election is being run and specifically the vetting process which
candidates have to go through?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, the election hasn't been held yet. We don't
always comment on a day-by-day basis of every development. Clearly, there
is a freer press in Iran than there ever has been before. Clearly, there is
a lively political culture that has developed there. Clearly, candidates
from different orientations are able to run.
With respect to the vetting process itself, we will look into what we have
to say about that, but that doesn't change the fact that there is certainly
key elements of a free and fair election in the sense of the free press and
the different views being put forward by different candidates. But with
respect to the specifics, I will get back to you on that, yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what your hopes and expectations are from the
MR. RUBIN: Well, we obviously don't want to say anything that could
affect the elections, so I think it probably would be wise for me not to
answer that question.
QUESTION: Can we move next door to Iraq? I notice that your - your friend,
Mr. Von Sponeck has resigned, beaten you to the punch on the resignation
game, and I am wondering if you have anything to say about his impending
MR. RUBIN: We are very pleased about his impending departure. I'm sure he
has a similar view. So we can both talk about that as private citizens and
I am sure that it will be better for the US Government and the people of
Iraq and the people of the world after that happens.
QUESTION: What was the US role in his departure?
MR. RUBIN: Well, look, this is a personnel decision for the United
Nations to discuss. It has long been our view that Mr. Von Sponeck has
exceeded his mandate in purporting to comment on areas that are without -
beyond the range of his competence or his authority with respect to the
wisdom of sanctions. Mr. Von Sponeck was a humanitarian affairs coordinator.
He was not the arbiter of national or international security for the
The arbiter, to the extent there is an arbiter for the world on what the
proper decisions are on national and international security grounds, is the
Security Council. The Security Council has imposed and reaffirmed dozens of
times the imposition of sanctions on Iraq. So Mr. Von Sponeck's comments on
sanctions are irrelevant beyond his competence and were one of the sources
of our concern about his behavior there. In addition, he had a tendency to
simply accept Iraqi claims for various events without having an independent
research into them.
For example, with respect to the effect of air attacks on Iraqi air defense
sites, he tended to simply report under the UN banner Iraq's claims, even
though Iraq has had a long history of abusing information for propaganda
purposes and has a very poor record of accuracy.
QUESTION: Can you move a little further west?
MR. RUBIN: On Von Sponeck?
QUESTION: Yeah, one more. Within this range of competence, however, were
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: And he says - basically he thinks - he says on UN surveys that
somewhere between 5 and 6,000 premature infant deaths occur in Iraq each
MR. RUBIN: Right. With respect to infant mortality, there has been
numerous reports on this. I would be happy to get you the various
conflicting data on it. The bottom line is that Saddam Hussein has billions
of dollars to spend on his military machine and his palaces and luxuries
for the elite, and so every time an Iraqi child suffers or dies, it is
because Saddam Hussein has refused to spend his money to help them.
There is no sanction on spending on humanitarian supplies. It's a great
misnomer. One day I would hope one of you would include in one of your
stories the fact that Iraq can spend all the money it wants and purchase
all the humanitarian supplies it wants and help deal with these true
problems that exist there.
QUESTION: Jamie, today being February 14th, it's not only Valentine's Day
but one day after the Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement was due to be
reached. It doesn't look like there is a prospect for that agreement to be
reached soon. I'm wondering how you feel about this missed deadline and I'm
also wondering about how you feel about that in combination with the
fighting which has further stalled the Israeli-Syrian peace talks and
dampened any hope of any peace agreement with Lebanon.
MR. RUBIN: I thought you were going to ask me my feelings about
Valentine's Day, but you didn't. You asked me my feelings about other
Seriously, February 13th has come and gone. As we indicated, we thought it
was an increasingly unlikely in recent days and weeks that this goal for a
framework agreement could be achieved. The reason why we felt it was
increasingly unlikely is because of the complexity and the difficulty and
the political pain associated with the decisions that could lead to a
framework agreement for a permanent peace with the Palestinians and,
ultimately, an actual comprehensive agreement on a permanent peace between
Israel and the Palestinians. So these are extraordinarily complex,
emotional and difficult issues, and that's why it has been so hard to
reach this goal set forth of February 13th.
We had always envisaged, from our perspective, the framework agreement as a
way to help us to reach the comprehensive agreement that the two sides have
agreed to conclude by September the 13th. And to the extent that a
framework agreement is helpful in reaching that objective, which is the
concrete objective, the actual agreement as opposed to a framework
agreement, we would be supportive of it. We want to do whatever we can
through our assistance to help achieve the goal of September the 13th, the
And, clearly, there are negotiations. They have taken place. There is
substantial contact between Israel and the Palestinians on these issues,
but the enormous complexity of this subject matter, the emotional nature of
the issues and the complexity of some of the specifics has made it not
possible to reach this agreement. So we in the peace business don't get
discouraged; we move forward, and we're going to move forward to continue
working with the parties to try to achieve their stated objective of
concluding a comprehensive agreement by September the 13th.
QUESTION: In the overall situation, wrapping in the freeze in the Syrian
talks and the fighting in Lebanon, is it time for people to pick up the
pace a little bit and start - if there is peace agreements to be reached by
MR. RUBIN: Could you ask me a specific question and I'll try to answer
it? I don't know how to answer that general one.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed in the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian
talks are - failed to reach an agreement by deadline --
MR. RUBIN: I think I just answered that one, I hope.
QUESTION: And are you disappointed with the fact that cumulatively, as
well, the Syrian-Israeli talks and the prospect of Lebanon joining the
peace talks also seem to have been dashed for the moment?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think anything has been dashed. This is a difficult
process; it's always got its ups and downs. Secretary Albright has been
through numerous ups and downs in the Middle East Peace Process in her
tenure and she is determined to keep her shoulder to the wheel and to help
where we can.
With respect to the Lebanon situation, obviously it has been troubling in
the last week. It has been quiet over the weekend. We remain concerned
about the situation there and the potential for escalation of violence.
We believe the situation deteriorated as a consequence of provocative acts
by Hizballah in an effort to create tension and prevent progress towards an
agreement. We regret the loss of life. We deeply regret the loss of life
and the damage to civilian infrastructure and the disruption to civilian
We are in touch with the parties to try to prevent further escalation and
we are calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid
actions that could lead to an escalation of violence. We have indicated
that Syria has influence on Hizballah and we want them to exercise that
influence even more. It is certainly our view that the tension was
difficult enough during the time when there was not tension in Lebanon and
that tension has gotten even more difficult as a result of the tension in
Yes, over there, please? On this subject?
QUESTION: Yes. Can you add into the mix the fact that Arafat has now, as
of yesterday, apparently said that he will declare a Palestinian state by
this September 13th deadline?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that there were two dates in the Sharm el Sheik
accord. One was February 13th, the other was September 13th. The February
13th date was essentially a best efforts date, let's try to see if, through
our best efforts, we can achieve a framework agreement by February the
With respect to the September 13th date, it was an agreement to conclude an
agreement. It didn't have that qualifier of best efforts. So we are going
to put our shoulder to the wheel. We are going to help the parties. They
have been in contact with each other. Unlike in past years, there is a
great deal of contact between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Issues are
discussed, worked out. There isn't the kind of crisis of confidence that
existed in the past. So we believe there still is time to work harder,
to achieve the agreement that the two sides indicated they intended to
conclude by September the 13th.
With respect to statehood, your comment about Arafat, let me say that if
this agreement is reached as they intend to do so, that becomes a moot
point. Beyond that -
QUESTION: Unilaterally, without -
MR. RUBIN: I'm about to get to that.
It would be a moot point if they follow through on their intent to achieve
the agreement by September the 13th and we see no reason why they can't
achieve that agreement with continued good will, hard work and ingenuity,
that this is a goal that can be met. If it's not met, we have never seen
the wisdom of unilateral actions, especially these kinds of actions which
have no meaning in the absence of them being agreed and implemented through
QUESTION: Could I try a couple of things you left out?
MR. RUBIN: Charlie.
QUESTION: Jamie, on the Syria track, can you tell us whether the
Secretary has had any further conversations with Minister Shara, or if you
know whether the President perhaps has spoken with Mr. Asad in the last
three or four or five days?
MR. RUBIN: I have no comment on the President's contacts with the Syrian
leadership. You should address that question to my colleague at the White
House. With respect to the Secretary's contacts, I am not aware of new
contacts on the Lebanon issue with Foreign Minister Shara.
I can say, for those of you who are either partially asked or are
interested in the Syria track more generally, is that we have stayed in
contact with the two parties, the Syrian Government and the Israeli
Government, to try to build a base for the resumption of direct talks so
that they can move quickly towards a conclusion. We want to build that base
so that each side has greater confidence than it does now that its needs
can be met as a result of a resumption of talks.
We are continuing to do that through diplomatic channels, and what I can
say on that is that the problem that has been there all along has not gone
away; namely, that the sequencing is the problem, is that each side wants
its needs met first. And so what we're trying to do is come up with a way
that these issues, as complex as they are, can be dealt with in a parallel
way, in a simultaneous way, and that will be the key to unlocking the
But we have had contact. We continue to have contact. I don't have any
major announcements on that to offer you.
QUESTION: Picking up on several points here, on the framework which has
passed the deadline, are you in effect announcing that you're going to roll
past that; there will no longer be a drive for a framework accord; you're
going to go for the full boat, for an overall agreement? Number one.
Number two, jumping back and forth on Syria --
MR. RUBIN: Do you want to do them one at a time?
QUESTION: Do them one at a time, sure.
MR. RUBIN: No, the short answer is. I was simply pointing out that it has
long been our view that the two parties agreed to the concept of a
framework agreement. We don't think you can get a concrete agreement, a
comprehensive agreement, the details of it, without a conceptual understanding
that would constitute a breakthrough. That is what the framework agreement
was always about.
So whether it's in a framework agreement or in some other form, we do
believe a conceptual understanding is a necessary prerequisite to achieve
the September 13th date. If a framework agreement can help achieve that
conceptual understanding, that would be fine with us. We want to work on
whatever way can best achieve the objective of conceptual understanding
that allows a breakthrough that allows, then, for completion of the
agreement by September the 13th.
QUESTION: Hizballah was killing Israeli soldiers. The Secretary publicly
urged - she actually was, at least indirectly, critical of the Syrians,
saying they should do more. Now that it's been quiet a bit, would you like
to say that this has been Syria's influence, that they have somehow used
their influence? And whatever you say to that, is it too naïve for the
State Department to consider the notion that Syria turns it off and on to
suit its own purposes, that Hizballah isn't truly just a bunch of
guys who make decisions on their own?
MR. RUBIN: The short answer to the second question is we're not
naïve, and the first question I've already spoken to Syria, yes.
QUESTION: No, no. What about the sudden quiet. Is that to Syria's
MR. RUBIN: I've already spoken to that issue. I've spoken to the
QUESTION: One last thing. What about the experts? Is that back on
MR. RUBIN: We're in contact with both governments.
QUESTION: Are you going to jump past that?
MR. RUBIN: We're in contact with both governments.
QUESTION: No, I mean is it still necessary for experts to come here or
would you like to just get back to the business of --
MR. RUBIN: We're trying to build a base for resumption of talks that is
based on a greater degree of confidence of the two parties, yes.
QUESTION: Jamie, two things on this. One, last week the Secretary said
that Dennis Ross was going to be going this week. Do you know when he is
going to be leaving?
And the second thing is that there is - I realize that you denied this as
much as you could at Shepherdstown, but there are renewed reports with some
kind of confirmation, or partial confirmation from the US embassy in Tel
Aviv, about a defense treaty being worked on between the two sides.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. There has been no decision by either party to pursue a
mutual defense treaty. The President and the Prime Minister of Israel vowed
to strengthen and deepen the unique US-Israeli bilateral relationship. We
are discussing a number of ideas, including in the security area.
Obviously, this discussion is taking place in the context of our efforts to
achieve a comprehensive peace, but we haven't taken any decisions. There
are always ideas out there and when I said what I said at Shepherdstown, it
was accurate, as all of my statements are to the best of my ability. And we
have made no decisions on that subject.
On the first question on Dennis Ross' whereabouts and travel plans, I saw
him earlier this morning and he indicated to me that he is expected to
travel this weekend to the region.
QUESTION: Would you go back to what you just told Matt about? He asked
you about a defense treaty, which is a very specific thing, and you spoke
of discussions of various security arrangements. Could you be a little more
specific and say whether or not these conversations include the possibility
of a defense treaty?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss what goes on
in our private diplomatic discussions with the government of Israel.
QUESTION: What would you say that the US and Israel are discussing in the
area of security?
MR. RUBIN: We are discussing how to improve the security of Israel in the
context of a comprehensive peace arrangement.
QUESTION: On Kosovo? Do you have any more information on the travel - I
don't know if it's a travel warning, that was put out --
MR. RUBIN: That we put out over the weekend?
QUESTION: Yeah, right, yesterday.
MR. RUBIN: I mean, I can get you another copy of it but it's pretty
straightforward, I hope.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the - I don't know what you could say
except deplore more violence but a mostly Albanian-inspired - yeah in
MR. RUBIN: She was going to ask me that question over there.
QUESTION: Could you just - just again clarify your statement about the
best way to achieve a deal that means that it's not strictly necessary to
have the framework agreement?
MR. RUBIN: I think I said it three or four times. I'll try to say it
again. Maybe I'll be more clear, because I try to do the best I can.
The two parties indicated their desire to develop a framework agreement by
February the 13th. Obviously, that didn't happen.
We do believe that the logic of obtaining a conceptual breakthrough and a
conceptual understanding is a necessary prerequisite to achieving a
comprehensive agreement. If a framework agreement done publicly is the best
way to get that conceptual breakthrough and thus achieve the agreement on
September the 13th, that would be terrific. If there are other ways of
doing that, they would be terrific, too.
QUESTION: Do you leave the idea open that there might be some secret
agreement done behind the conceptual agreement?
MR. RUBIN: No, but there's always discussion privately that involves
conceptual breakthroughs. One doesn't always necessarily put it on paper
and have a framework agreement signed. That happens in diplomacy every day
that you have a conceptual understanding that's new, that breaks through
the previous log jam and then allows you to discuss the details more
Are we on the Middle East because, if not, I want to go over there.
QUESTION: Has there been any discussion at all about setting another
target date for this conceptual breakthrough which you seek?
MR. RUBIN: I am not aware of that but, obviously, we would want that to
happen as soon as possible.
QUESTION: What's the thinking at the moment about the validity of these
agreements come September the 13th, if there is nothing to replace them?
We've had this problem in the past, I seem to remember.
MR. RUBIN: Right, and we've managed to get past them rather well, I think,
and I am sure we will in the future. And hopefully we won't have to worry
about that because --
QUESTION: Because you'll be long gone?
MR. RUBIN: You can ask my successor that favorite type of question.
QUESTION: What again is the conceptualizing, a little bit? It may sound
obvious to you but I would like to hear your words. You're talking about
the US talking to Israel about security arrangements. What's the rationale
for that if, indeed, your position has been - the administration's position
is Israel's security is enhanced if it makes peace with Syria and other
neighbors, why would there have to be a better security arrangement between
the US and Israel? Wouldn't the nature of peace be such that Israel - it
isn't necessarily anything new - it's more secure when you live in a
MR. RUBIN: I think you severely mischaracterized our position on
QUESTION: Then why - forget what I said. Tell me why, please, the US and
Israel are engaged in talks about new security arrangements? What's the
MR. RUBIN: There would be a new security environment that would be
created by a number of the ideas that are out there as a result of
comprehensive peace with Syria and one with the Palestinians. They would
create new security environments. Given the close relationship that we have
with Israel and the way in which we've been working together on a number of
issues, it is normal and proper when there is the potential for a
dramatically different security environment, which obviously is not simply
a static plus-minus calculation, but is a complex calculation over a
variety of factors, that we would stay in close touch with Israel and try
to work with them on that.
QUESTION: KFOR soldiers were the target of ethnic snipers in Albania - I
mean, Kosovo this weekend. Are you all concerned with their deployment
there? What are you all doing about it? Is there a chance that you might
pull them out? Is this another Somalia situation? What's going on?
MR. RUBIN: Right, I think the short answer to your question is we have
always believed that Kosovo was going to be a difficult enterprise. And
while, by and large, the KFOR troops throughout Kosovo have been successful
in establishing a secure environment in a province just recently riven by
war and ethnic strife, there are still problems in Kosovo and I think the
events in Mitrovica demonstrate that quite clearly and clearly more needs
to be done to restore stability under these exceptionally dangerous and
Let me start by saying that we strongly condemn the violent and murderous
incidents that have taken place in Mitrovica and call upon all parties to
cease violent acts. We are pleased that KFOR has increased, increased the
number of its forces in Mitrovica and we note that a dusk-to-dawn curfew
has been re-imposed.
The KFOR commander met with Mr. Hasim Thaci to appeal to him yesterday to
use his influence with the Albanian community to calm the situation. These
violent incidents are deplorable. We call on all the parties there to cease
confrontation and it should be very clear that the confrontation is coming
from both sides.
We recognize the outstanding work KFOR has done. Every day there are
reductions in tension throughout Kosovo but that is not as newsworthy as
the problems. So there is often a disconnect in what is understood here in
the United States about what is going on there. But week after week, in
place after place in Kosovo, the situation has improved in terms of
security, in terms of murder, in terms of robbery and crime. This
particular spot, Mitrovica, is a particularly hot spot and obviously these
events are impossible to prevent in every case. But we need to impress upon
the parties their responsibility to deal with the hatreds and animosities
that have built up.
We are also pleased that additional police are being sent to Mitrovica.
With new funds, we have now been able to raise our pledge from 450 to 550
police. We expect these personnel to be deployed in the next few weeks. We
have also asked Congress for additional funding to increase our police
commitment by another 130.
So we clearly are focused on this problem. It is not another Somalia. There
are no - you know, Somalia was a unique set of circumstances. Kosovo is a
very different set of circumstances. And we believe that the Kosovo mission,
given what had gone on in that province for dozens of years, in which
ethnic strife and the repression against the Albanians had been so intense,
that upon being liberated from an Apartheid-like system that there was
revenge and hatred, it was no surprise to us. And we were very clear in
making public that the early months were going to be difficult, and it has
been difficult in some cases.
But, by and large, KFOR has done an excellent job in dealing with this pent-
up hostility that is clearly in some cases being stoked by President
Milosevic in Belgrade who, when things go bad, he feels like he had a good
QUESTION: Is that - I mean, you've lost me. You've gone - you were sort
of implying - virtually everybody - everybody but one person about are
Albanians by the last account.
MR. RUBIN: No, the violence --
QUESTION: Is this an incident of - I mean, is there any finger-pointing
here? You began to imply pent-up feelings of despair, revenge maybe, behind
this which implies the Albanians are beating on people now, and then you
end up criticizing Milosevic. So I don't know - has the administration made
any assessment of the cause of this?
MR. RUBIN: We think both sides are responsible for the problems in
MR. RUBIN: I thought that was the clearest statement I've made in
QUESTION: Can we stay with Yugoslavia?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: What is your take on the buildup of troops in Montenegro?
They're saying that they're a regular army but there are reports that
they're paramilitary. What do you think that they're doing?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information on that. I'll try to get that
for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: The other day, Wayne Merry of the US Atlantic Council testified
before the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives regarding
November 17 terrorist organization against Greece. I'm wondering, does the
US Government have a list of suspects of the November 17 group?
MR. RUBIN: I'll check that for you.
QUESTION: Another question? The same person, the same testimony,
testified against Greece for the visa waiver pilot program. I'm wondering,
what is the US Government position regarding Greece's admission to the visa
MR. RUBIN: Well, the views expressed by Mr. Wayne Merry as a former State
Department employee - something that's an important title that people
should have, a former employee of the State Department - I hope they should
be treated with respect as well. This is already - you can see my
transition to the former - you know. In previous times, it was suggested to
me that by critiquing these former employees I was setting myself up for
big problems, so let me just say that we do think that former employees'
views should be taken into account.
But in this case, the views do not reflect US Government policy but, rather,
a personal opinion. And Greece's participation in the visa waiver program
is contingent upon Greece's satisfying several conditions set by the
Attorney General, who has the final authority on approval of countries for
participation in this program, including improved border control procedures
and passport security systems and guaranteeing reciprocal duration of stay
for US citizens.
Obviously, we work very hard on the terrorism issue and we're aware of what
Greece must do to improve its record, but the short answer to the question
is we don't agree with the suggestion that the visa waiver pilot program is
linked to the terrorism issue in the way suggested by this former
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - India. One is that it is a little late but I
would like to know the US view on the talks you had with the foreign
secretary last week because of holidays and also there are no briefing --
(inaudible). Secondly, I'm a little confused how the US views in there
because I heard in this building that India is a natural ally being the
world's largest democracy and the US being the world's most powerful
On the other hand, not once but twice, the Under Secretary of Commerce, in
charge of the export administration, Mr. William Reinsch, has said that
India is neither a friend nor a foe. At one point, he even says it could be
an adversary. So I was wondering how you --
MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, I would want to check very carefully his
comments on that and maybe you can provide them to us and we will check for
them and we can respond to that. But, clearly, India is the world's largest
democracy and is only going to get larger, and we do think it's important
to have a good working relationship with India. That is something we've
tried to build.
On the other hand, that doesn't mean we don't have problems in the
relationship and the nonproliferation was a major problem. The decision by
India to initiate a nuclear explosion and the resulting effect on Pakistan
and the dangers the whole world felt were created by that led to international
views that India must take steps to deal with the dangers of the nuclear
arms race to the whole world and to the Indians and to the Pakistanis.
So there are a number of issues where we have specific concerns, sometimes
profound concerns, and those are issues that I would expect the President
and the Secretary to be discussing with the Indian Government. And I don't
know how to do the designation other than to say that we want to have a
close working relationship with the world's largest democracy.
QUESTION: Does what you just said mean that the Secretary is definitely
going with the President to India?
MR. RUBIN: When I have her whereabouts to provide you - I certainly think
that's a possibility, yes, a strong one, yes.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary plan to have a meeting with President Aliyev
while he is in Washington and, also, are you planning any contacts with the
Armenians, high-level contacts in the near future?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there is a meeting at the White House that I think she
will join and I will check on the Armenians.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about his health? Can you say whether he --
MR. RUBIN: I really would prefer not to comment on another leader's
QUESTION: Do you know anything about a summit about African leaders
coming up this week, US participation in it?
MR. RUBIN: I think they just had that in New York. The Secretary convened
it. I will have to check that. I guess we have something.
QUESTION: Is it here?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: It may be premature but the Canadian Government has released
its report on the oil industry in Sudan in which you take a great interest.
And I wondered if you had a chance to take a look at the report and come to
any conclusions about it?
MR. RUBIN: We are very concerned that investment in Sudan's oil sector
strengthens the capacity of the Khartoum regime to maintain and intensify
its brutal war against its own people. We have raised our concern with the
government of Canada and with the governments of Talisman's partners, the
national oil companies of China and Malaysia. Under our comprehensive
sanctions regime, all Sudanese Government assets and those of individuals
or organizations owned or controlled by or acting on the behalf of the
government of Sudan have been blocked. Almost no goods or technology or
services may be imported from Sudan without a license.
Secretary Albright has raised this issue personally with Foreign Minister
Axworthy and we certainly have concerns about the way in which this
Canadian and other companies have essentially provided a new source of hard
currency to a regime that has been responsible for massive human rights
abuses in Sudan and sponsoring terror outside of Sudan.
QUESTION: Turning to Japan, the Japanese prime minister said that he
would explore with the other G-8 nations whether China should be invited to
the G-8 summit in Okinawa as an observer. Can you comment on whether it
would be appropriate for China to attend the G-8 summit?
MR. RUBIN: We have received no formal request from Japan to invite China
to participate in the G-8 summit meeting that Japan will host this summer.
There has been a tradition in recent years for the host of the G-8 summit
to consult with non-G-8 countries so as to be able to reflect their views
in G-8 deliberations.
Asian issues will surely be addressed as part of this summit. Four of the
eight members, Japan, the US, Canada and Russia, are Pacific nations. It is
really up to the Japanese to comment publicly on this idea, other than to
say that we would consider any proposals carefully.
QUESTION: Last week, a group of US diplomats visited northern Iraq and
the Kurdish area and they met with the Barzani and Talabani, get some
promises from them. And do you have any announcement how it is going to
Washington agreement? Is everything okay?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I do have some comments on that. A US delegation did
visit northern Iraq last week from February 8 through the 12th, to advance
the reconciliation process between the two Kurdish parties there and to
assess the humanitarian situation. They met with Mr. Talabani and Mr.
Barzani as well as other KDP-PUK and local officials. The two parties
recommitted themselves to reconciliation, in accordance with the Washington
agreement and the Ankara accords. They agreed to work quickly, as quickly
as possible, towards full implementation of the Washington agreement,
including an end to terrorism and other steps that will help the people of
We agreed to work with the party to accelerate and improve reconciliation.
They also discussed the status of the Oil for Food Program and how to
improve the current program and better address humanitarian needs of the
people as the program expands. The delegation of the United States
confirmed its understanding that the 13 percent program established for
northern Iraq will continue under Resolution 1284.
QUESTION: Can you say who was in that --
MR. RUBIN: It was at the office director level from the State Department
and the embassy in Ankara, and a representative of the Turkish foreign
ministry accompanied the delegation as an observer.
QUESTION: Do you have the names?
MR. RUBIN: I will get you - I don't have the names here. I would be happy
to provide them.
QUESTION: How long --
MR. RUBIN: Four days, 8th through the 12th.
QUESTION: I would like to follow up your comments in Friday briefing that
North Korea might possibly be removed from the list of states sponsoring
terrorism. You described the necessary additional measures as "evidence of
steps that we consider sufficient to justify the lack of linkages to such
MR. RUBIN: That's a perfect syllogism.
QUESTION: Do you think that any such terrorist groups independent of
government can exist in such totalitarian regime?
MR. RUBIN: The question of state sponsorship for terrorism is not simply
a matter of what happens inside of Korea, it is also what support is given
to groups outside of Korea. For example, in other countries we're often
concerned not just by actions taken by groups inside that country but money
and support they give to groups outside that country. So if I implied that
it only related to actions inside the government, I didn't mean to.
I think that it is fair to say that we are going to look at ways to satisfy
ourselves that North Korea is not directly and repeatedly assisting those
who are responsible for terrorist acts and we will judge that by criteria
that we've developed across the board in every country, and that's what we
would hope to discuss in a dialogue with North Korean experts on terrorism.
QUESTION: You said, "We're going to look for ways to satisfy ourselves."
Does that imply a certain kind of generosity of spirit in which you
MR. RUBIN: This is the - after 50 minutes, the questions take on a
certain tone, I've noticed over the years, and they're of a certain
No, there is no generosity of spirit. This is judged on the merits, based
on substantive criteria by the counter-terrorism experts. What I am
suggesting in the phrase "satisfy ourselves" is not a generosity of spirit
or a warm and fuzzy feeling on this Valentine's Day but, instead, that
often we need evidence and we need information that helps us prove
propositions. That's pretty standard fare in the diplomatic trade and
that's what I was referring to, yes.
QUESTION: On terrorism, do you have anything on the Lebanese - Lebanon's
refusal to extradite these Red Army --
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check on that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 P.M.)