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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #10, 00-02-14

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

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


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


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 /
	 Infant Mortality 
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


DPB #10

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2000, 12:30 P.M.


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 time.

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 freedoms.

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 elections?

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 departure?

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 world.

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 infant deaths.

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 month.

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 matters.

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 comprehensive agreement.

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 then?

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 life there.

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 Lebanon.

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 13th.

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 an agreement.

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 Syria track.

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 na&iuml;ve 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 na&iuml;ve, and the first question I've already spoken to Syria, yes.

QUESTION: No, no. What about the sudden quiet. Is that to Syria's credit?

MR. RUBIN: I've already spoken to that issue. I've spoken to the issue.

QUESTION: One last thing. What about the experts? Is that back on track?

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 Kosovo.

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 specifically.

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. Yes.

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 peaceful world.

MR. RUBIN: I think you severely mischaracterized our position on peace.

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 rationale?

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 challenging circumstances.

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 day.

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 Mitrovica.


MR. RUBIN: I thought that was the clearest statement I've made in months.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Yugoslavia?


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 waiver program?

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 employee.

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 democracy.

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 health.

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?


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 the region.

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 groups."

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 approach this?

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 type.

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.)

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