U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #14, 98-02-03
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
Tuesday, February 3, 1998
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 Provision of Humanitarian Aid, Including Food for Peace
1-2 South Pars Case / Implications Under ILSA / Extension of
Sanctions or Waiver of Sanctions / Fact-Finding Mission /
Case of Bakrie and Bow Valley
2-3 Russian Proposal & Negotiating Efforts
3-4,6-7 Expansion of Oil-for-Food Sales / Secretary General's
Recommendation / Monitoring Distribution / Bishops' Fast
4 Reports That Saddam Hussein Should Be Target of Air Strikes
/ U.S. Preferences / Pattern of Use of Weapons of Mass
5 Invitation to U.S. Congressmen to Visit Presidential Sites
/ Attempt to Avoid Compliance
5-6 U.S. Goals
7 Arab League & Arab Ambassadors Involvement
7-8 IOC Suggestion for Truce During Winter Olympic Games
8 U.S. Contacts with Kuwait and Jordan
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6-7 Impact of Iraqi Crisis
GREECE / TURKEY
8-9 1996 Invasion of Imia (Kardak) / Amb. Holbrooke Involvement
/ Notification of Greek Foreign Minister
9-10 Decision on Responding to Food Aid Appeal
10 Inter-sessional Meeting Rescheduled / Second Round of
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1998, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. I'm not sure we have a quorum, but we do have
a briefing. I don't have any announcements, so I'd be glad to go right to
QUESTION: Last week you expressed interest in providing humanitarian aid
to Cuba, possibly including food for peace. Castro in his speech last night
ruled out that possibility; said Cuba would not accept such assistance, and
called it dirty handiwork, or words to that effect. Do you have any
response to his reaction?
MR. FOLEY: I've not seen his speech or any press reporting on the speech.
If he made remarks to that effect, then I think that would, to a large
degree, indicate where the responsibility lies to the extent that there are
problems with food shortages or medicinal shortages in Cuba. If he's
refusing the efforts of the international community to help in that respect,
then it proves not only, as we've said all along, that the problems in
those areas that exist in Cuba are the product of the dysfunctional
Cuban economic system, but that Mr. Castro was also refusing the goodwill
of the international community to help the Cuban people deal with those
problems. I think, really, that speaks for itself. It's unfortunate.
QUESTION: Have any decisions been made against Total, Gazprom or
MR. FOLEY: Are we finished with this area of the world?
There was press reporting to that effect yesterday. I think I saw an
article in the newspaper also. I can report that that report is absolutely
untrue. We are, in fact, continuing to review the facts of the South Pars
case and the implications under ILSA. But we're still in the fact-finding
and assessment stage. At this point no decisions have been made, although
the imposition of sanctions remains a real possibility.
QUESTION: -- a 90-day extension to continue to consult with these
companies, any decision at all; and especially with Bakrie and Bow
MR. FOLEY: The question of a 90-day extension or a waiver of imposition
of sanctions, which you mention, which was in the press reports, would only
become relevant in the event that the Secretary determined that the South
Pars and the other activities are sanctionable, indeed sanctionable under
ILSA. That decision has not been taken. In the event that such a decision
is made by the Secretary, then the law envisages several possibilities
that the Secretary can choose from.
But again, that's not in any way a relevant question today, unless and
until the Secretary has made her determination on the sanctionability
QUESTION: When does the fact-finding end?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't really speculate as to how much longer that
process is going to take and when the review will be complete. I don't
think that - obviously we've been in this assessment mode for a number of
months. I can't put an exact time on when that process is going to end. But
it won't be in the distant future, I can tell you that. We're taking a very
serious look at it, and the Secretary intends to apply the law.
QUESTION: So it will be in the near future?
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that.
MR. FOLEY: In all seriousness, though, the Secretary takes her responsibilities
very seriously. She will make a decision on these issues as called for
under the law, and you can be sure of that.
QUESTION: Have you been able to determine what was or was not agreed
between the Iraqis and the Russians?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to venture too far forward into the whole area
of situation involving Iraq and the Middle East, with the Secretary still
in the region. As you know, that is our general policy from the podium --
not to comment on matters where the Secretary is involved overseas at the
There were obviously conflicting reporting, an initial report, I think, a
Russian press source that indicated that there was some kind of a proposal,
which then the Iraqis promptly rejected. So I think it's impossible to say
what the state of those efforts may be at the current moment.
I think, from our perspective, though, it's a very simple matter. What
we're looking for is Iraqi compliance, 100 percent, with their obligations
under UN Security Council resolutions. That means access for UNSCOM to all
sites that UNSCOM deems necessary to inspect. And there can be no
qualifications, no caveats and really no negotiations over that bottom-line
demand of the Security Council.
So we're not in the process, really, of encouraging or of evaluating
negotiating efforts. We have said that we prefer a diplomatic solution, but
a diplomatic solution is different from a negotiated outcome. We don't
believe that there's anything to negotiate.
QUESTION: Still on Iraq.
MR. FOLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: What's your view on the UN plan to step up the oil-for-food
MR. FOLEY: Yes. Well, of course, this was just announced by Secretary
General Annan yesterday, and we have said that we have been generally
prepared to support an expansion of oil sales to permit a greater
distribution of food and humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people. However,
we're going to have to look very closely at the specific details of the
Secretary General's recommendations to make sure, indeed, that what is
involved is that the Iraqi people truly get the food and medicine that they
We truly understand that the Iraqi people are suffering under the Saddam
Hussein regime. We do not wish to see Iraqi people sick and hungry because
their leader sees food and medicine as his lowest priorities. The President,
the Administration and the people of the United States have no quarrel with
the Iraqi people.
I would point out that under UN sanctions, Iraq has always been permitted
to purchase food and medicine. The United States proposed the original oil-
for-food deal and fought for it for five years against Iraqi opposition.
And we proposed Resolution 986 also to accomplish the same objective, and
we met with constant Iraqi obstructionism in efforts to make that program
work on behalf of the Iraqi people. We've always said that we would be
pleased to look at ways to make the program work better. So we're
going to take a good look with our colleagues on the Security Council
at Secretary General Annan's recommendations.
QUESTION: Is it the - what is it that you're going to look at? Is it the
figures concerned, or the details of the program?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think it's premature to speculate at this point,
because I understand that it's a long report with many recommendations. But
I think we've stated before that our concern is that the food and medicine
actually go to the Iraqi people in need. We would be looking for a
distribution mechanism that ensures that that objective is met.
QUESTION: But do you have any problem with the figures that are quoted in
MR. FOLEY: I am not prepared or authorized, really, to speak in detail
about the Secretary General's report at this stage. Really, we're going to
be in a study mode right now and consultation mode. We'll have something, I
think, full and substantive to satisfy your questions on this important
subject, but not today.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate that the mechanism for monitoring distribution
would have to be expanded if the program itself, the amount of goods coming
in was enlarged?
MR. FOLEY: Well, again, that would be speculative on my part. If we're
talking about, though, increasing the sale of oil and increasing the
resources, the humanitarian resources that would be going to the Iraqi
people, clearly the United Nations is going to have to be in a position to
make sure that that aid is going to the people in need. But we've felt that
way all along, including with the existing program.
QUESTION: Yes, Jim, can you address the content of an article in The
Washington Times, stating that the Saudis prefer that Saddam Hussein be a
target of any air strikes, that he be the principal objective to eliminate
him. Is that accurate, or can you comment on that?
MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, I'm not going to comment on our private,
diplomatic conversations in any kind of detail. Secondly, we've stated that
we would prefer to see this crisis resolved peacefully and diplomatically,
although time is very seriously running out on that option. Third, in the
event that we move to use force to achieve our objectives, what I can
tell you is that our objectives are two-fold: number one, to thwart
Iraq's capacity to develop and use weapons of mass destruction; and second,
to limit Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten his neighbors. I think that
addresses in a general way the concerns that all the states in the region
have about Saddam Hussein. In our view -- and I think the Secretary has
been able to confirm this on her trip, this view is shared by all of Saddam
Hussein's neighbors who recognize the threat posed by not only his
programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, but his track record
in actually using such weapons in the past on his neighbors and on
his very own people.
QUESTION: Okay, and just to follow briefly, does this government believe
that that is indeed the intention of Saddam Hussein, to have and to hold
and to sacrifice all he can so he'll have these weapons to use in the
MR. FOLEY: Well, at a great distance and with the removal of time, I
hesitate to quote the Secretary of State directly. I believe perhaps it was
at this podium, I think, about a week ago, she said that it's clear that he
wants to have it both ways. He wants to have sanctions lifted, but have
sanctions lifted and keeping his programs to develop of weapons of mass
QUESTION: Have you seen the statement by the Iraqi ambassador to the
United Nations, Nizar Hamdun, offering --
MR. FOLEY: Can I add to --
MR. FOLEY: I don't want to leave any misimpression there, though, I'd
rather directly answer your question, Bill. We believe his track record
speaks for itself. He has used weapons of mass destruction on his neighbors
and on his own people.
QUESTION: Have you seen the statement by the Iraqi ambassador inviting
members of Congress to come and visit the presidential sites? Is that
something that you would encourage?
MR. FOLEY: Well, in principle, a decision of this kind is for the
judgment of individual members of Congress to make. But as I indicated, I
believe in a question that you raised a few minutes ago, we don't believe
that there's anything to negotiate. What is necessary is that UNSCOM
inspectors have unfettered access to all sites. The purpose of diplomacy of
any kind, no matter what kind of envoys from what nations we're talking
about, is simply to achieve full compliance on the part of Saddam
And given the track record which I spoke to a minute ago, I think we
maintain a healthy skepticism about the prospects for success of these
efforts, much as we hope for their success. But it may be a case of hoping
against hope. Certainly, we have reason to be wary about diplomatic feints
on the part of Saddam Hussein and his regime -- efforts to muddy the waters,
efforts to undertake diversionary tactics in the face of what is a growing
consensus that he must comply 100 percent with the requirements of the
Security Council, which Secretary Albright is encountering in the
QUESTION: Have you had any indications from any members of Congress that
they are --
MR. FOLEY: Not to my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: Over and over we've heard from the podium that Saddam Hussein
seems to come back like a bad flu, over time. He just keeps coming back and
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure anyone use that formulation from this podium.
QUESTION: Well, not in that metaphor or analogy, if you will. But you
keep saying he keeps - he comes back, he's continually defiant, what do we
do next? The diplomatic route has been exhausted. Should military action
take place, which seems to be what everybody's talking about, do you think
that that's really going to be the last gun to permanently extinguish his
defiance and sort of stop him from this behavior in the long run?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't get into any specificity about the military
option, for obvious reasons. But whatever course we take, at the end of the
day we aim to meet our two objectives, which are to thwart his ability to
develop and use weapons of mass destruction, and to limit his ability to
threaten his neighbors.
We've always said that the best outcome is for the UNSCOM inspectors to be
able to carry out their work; and if that can be achieved by diplomatic
means, that's preferable. But our goal is to thwart his capacity to develop
weapons of mass destruction by restoring the inspectors or by whatever
other steps may be necessary if the inspectors cannot carry out their work,
which is the situation that we're faced with today.
QUESTION: Let's say you have a military strike, you thwart it for a
little while, and he comes back again. You strike again. You just keep
along the same route, this same pattern?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't get into the details of what the military option
would entail. It's simply not possible for me to speak to that issue from
this podium. But whatever we do, the aim is to thwart his capacity to
develop weapons of mass destruction and threaten his neighbors. That will
be the yardstick by which our actions will be determined in the days and
weeks to come.
QUESTION: Three questions - one, she spent - I'm sorry, Madame Secretary
spent half of her --
MR. FOLEY: I thought you were apologizing for three questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary spent half of her time with Mr. Netanyahu, the
Prime Minister of Israel, talking about the Iraqi crisis. Can you give us
any insight into how the Department views the peace process and its impact
on the Iraqi situation?
Secondly, could you answer concerning the food-for-peace deal which you're
now deferring any decision on until maybe after the strike or after the
settlement with Iraq?
MR. FOLEY: I have to correct you on that. I didn't say we're deferring
our response to the Secretary General's proposals to any subsequent event.
I simply stated that we're going to have to study the details and consult
with our colleagues.
QUESTION: That's true; I stand corrected. But three Catholic bishops are
continuing their fast from Pax Christi here in the United States, urging a
decision on the expansion of food-for-oil.
MR. FOLEY: Let me answer that one, then, before I lose track of your
first and yet-to-be-asked third question.
MR. FOLEY: I think I've made clear in the last few minutes our view as to
who has been responsible for thwarting the delivery of food and medical
assistance to the Iraqi people both before the passage of Resolution 986
and in its implementation.
We've made every effort to make that program work, and we have stated very
clearly in the last few months - since the time Secretary General Annan
announced he was going to make recommendations - that we would be prepared
to support improvements in the system. So we share the concerns and the
goals of those bishops. And I am not in any way implying that we're going
to delay our response. I'm simply stating that the Secretary General had a
lengthy report, a complicated report. We have to study the details, and I'm
sure we'll be able to move forward positively once we've been able
to discuss those details with him and with our colleagues on the Security
In regard to your first question, you're asking a question about the peace
process. I don't really want to get into that at this point, because all of
our Middle East negotiators -- Dennis Ross, in particular -- are with the
Secretary. They're returning here late tonight, and I'm sure from this
podium we'll have more to say about the aftermath of her visit, the
Secretary's visit to the region.
Clearly the peace process was discussed with Chairman Arafat, with Prime
Minister Netanyahu in a context of a wider trip having to do with the major
crisis the international community is facing with Iraq. So I don't really
have anything new to add, except to say that we're pursuing the peace
process because it's in the interest of the United States, Israel, the
Palestinians and Israel's neighbors. We're working on that process because
we've been working on it for many months and many years. It's a paramount
US national security interest.
And we're working on the Iraq crisis simultaneously. We don't see linkage
between the two crises, and we're moving forward on both. And your third
QUESTION: Probably ought to defer it, but what about the fact that the
Arab League and Arab ambassadors are rushing to Baghdad to try and keep
this from becoming a military response? Do you have any comment on opening -
MR. FOLEY: Well, we understand that they don't want to see a military
response. We've stated that we prefer a diplomatic response. There's one
avenue to a diplomatic solution, and that is Iraqi compliance, 100 percent
without qualifications, without tricks, without caveats or missions or
subterfuge, but honest, credible 100 percent compliance. And I think that
all the interlocutors Secretary Albright has spoken with in the course of
her trip in Europe and the region have understood what the bottom line
is because it's been defined already by the Security Council. So
there's no ambiguity there.
I think to the extent diplomatic initiatives have a chance of succeeding
depends solely on complete Iraqi agreement to the terms of Security Council
resolutions. As I stated, we don't see a need for negotiations.
QUESTION: The international Olympic committee has suggested that the US
should observe a truce during the Winter Olympics in Japan. They point out
where a UN resolution to that effect that the US has sponsored, I think,
last November. Does the US Government consider itself bound by this
resolution or by the Olympic charter as far as this truce is concerned?
MR. FOLEY: It is true that we were a co-sponsor of that resolution back -
I don't have the - it was sometime last fall. All I can tell you is that we
don't have timelines or deadlines. Our interest is in the bottom line, is
in achieving Iraqi agreement to implement their obligations under UN
Security Council resolutions. We'll take the steps we need to protect our
interests and achieve our objectives, according to the timeline that we
believe is necessary.
Yes. Are we finished with Iraq? Is that an Iraq question, Mr. Lambros?
MR. FOLEY: Okay. Yes.
QUESTION: Let me see if I translate correctly what you just said. You
just said that you would not let the Olympics be a consideration in
whatever the United States felt it had to do militarily; is that right?
MR. FOLEY: I don't think I said that. We respect the call for peace
connected with the Olympics, but we are working at the same time, with
friends and allies, to ensure Iraq's compliance with its obligations under
mandatory UN Security Council resolutions. Obtaining such compliance and
reducing the threat posed by Iraq to international security is our first
QUESTION: And obtaining that -- couldn't it be as easily obtained after
the Olympics as before?
MR. FOLEY: As I said, we don't have timelines or deadlines.
QUESTION: Has the US been in contact with Kuwait and Jordan, with these
reports that Kuwait is perhaps preparing for a strike and Jordan is
preparing for refugees?
MR. FOLEY: Well, the Secretary has just visited Kuwait, and we're in
close diplomatic contact with all our friends in the region, including
Jordan. I don't have a specific answer to your specific question,
QUESTION: Any sort of reports that they are preparing their own forces to
MR. FOLEY: No, I've not seen those reports, no.
QUESTION: Yes. It was disclosed that based on information provided by Mr.
Holbrooke, the Greek Embassy here in Washington, DC notified urgently the
Greek Foreign Minister, Theodhoros Pangalos, about the Turkish invasion of
Imia ahead of time, during the crisis. Could you please check and let us
know if Mr. Pangalos asked your mediation to stop this Turkish invasion,
since President Clinton was involved all day long, to avoid a Greek-Turkish
war in the area?
MR. FOLEY: What was the territory or location that you mentioned? I
didn't understand the area.
QUESTION: The Greek Embassy, based on information --
MR. FOLEY: I heard the question. I didn't hear the location that you're
QUESTION: The location, Imia.
MR. FOLEY: Imia.
MR. FOLEY: Thank you. I'll take the question.
QUESTION: Yes. One more question to this effect. Since Mr. Holbrooke was
aware ahead of time about this Turkish invasion of Imia, could you please
check also if Mr. Holbrooke passed this information to Mr. Pangalos and
what Mr. Holbrooke did himself to prevent this invasion, since your
government was involved --
MR. FOLEY: Are you talking about current events?
QUESTION: Excuse me.
MR. FOLEY: Are you talking about current events in 1998, or are you
talking about what happened --
QUESTION: The Imia anniversary was disclosed to the President in recent
days, so it's again out of discussions to this effect, so I would like to
clarify some points of the crisis.
MR. FOLEY: Are you talking about a current event, or are you talking
about what happened with Imia/Kardak back in 1996?
QUESTION: In 1996. But as I told you, it's the Imia anniversary, and
there's a lot of discussion to this effect, and we have to clarify at some
point what happened exactly.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't know what we have to do, but your question had
quite a number of premises and suppositions which may or may not be true.
So I couldn't possibly answer the question, but I agreed to take the first
QUESTION: Do you have any - has any decision yet been made on the
question of food aid for North Korea?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new for you today on that. There was an
appeal back a number of weeks ago which was a little different in nature,
because it would cover an entire year on the part of the World Food
Program. We said we would be taking a serious look at it. I think we
pointed out the fact that we have an excellent track record in responding
to such appeals by the World Food Program, and I expected that we would be
able to respond affirmatively.
But I don't have anything to announce today, and I'm not sure whether that
is imminent or not. But we're obviously studying it very closely.
Anything else on Asia?
QUESTION: Anything on the so-called inter-mission - in February in
Beijing, the meeting scheduled to take place in regarding - the four-party
MR. FOLEY: Oh, the inter-sessional meeting.
QUESTION: Inter-sessional - oh, sorry, inter-sessional meeting.
MR. FOLEY: Yes, remember we coined that phrase. Although we were
disappointed by North Korea's request to reschedule the four-party inter-
sessional meeting that was initially planned for mid-February in Beijing,
we are currently discussing with the other parties how to respond.
The four parties will announce any agreed rescheduling of this event.
QUESTION: -- the March meeting will be delayed?
MR. FOLEY: No.
MR. FOLEY: I have no information to that effect. We believe, the United
States believes that there is firm agreement by all four parties, including
ourselves, to the next - the second round of the four-party talks, which
are scheduled to begin, I believe, on March 16 in Geneva.
The question, though, is the scheduling of this inter-sessional meeting.
And we're consulting with the other three parties, and hopefully, jointly,
the four of us will have something to announce on that.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)