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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #14, 98-02-03

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


Tuesday, February 3, 1998

Briefer: James B. Foley

1		Provision of Humanitarian Aid, Including Food for Peace

IRAN 1-2 South Pars Case / Implications Under ILSA / Extension of Sanctions or Waiver of Sanctions / Fact-Finding Mission / Case of Bakrie and Bow Valley

IRAQ 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 Destruction 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

NORTH KOREA 9-10 Decision on Responding to Food Aid Appeal 10 Inter-sessional Meeting Rescheduled / Second Round of Four-Party Talks


DPB #14

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1998, 1:00 P.M.


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 your questions.

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 Petronas?

MR. FOLEY: Are we finished with this area of the world?

(No response.)

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 Valley?

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 itself.

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 present.

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 program?

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 need.

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 the --

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 future?

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 destruction.

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 Hussein.

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 region.

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 back.

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 Council.

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?

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 priority.

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, though.

QUESTION: Any sort of reports that they are preparing their own forces to strike?

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 referring to.

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 one.

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 talks.

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?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)

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