U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #15, 98-02-04
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
Wednesday, February 4, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Statement on Sarajevo Conference on displaced persons and
1 Secretary Albright consultations with Congress about Iraq
1 Congressional resolution on Iraq being discussed
1-2 Pres. Yeltsin's comments on the ramifications of any
possible U.S. military action in Iraq/Secretary
Albright's conversation with FM Primakov on Yeltsin's
comments/Clarification of Yeltsin's comments by the
Russian presidential spokesman
2-4 U.S. reaction to reported Iraqi proposal to allow UN
Security Council representatives to visit 8 presidential
sites/ Secretary Albright's conversations with allies/
Egyptian view on access to presidential sites
3 Success of Secretary Albright's diplomatic efforts
4 Secretary Albright's phone conversation with Turkish PM
Yilmaz / U.S.-Turkey dialogue / U.S. view on Turkish FM
Cem's visit to Baghdad
4-5 Reaction to critics of U.S. policy goals in current crisis
/ UNSCOM's success
5-7 Status of diplomatic efforts/U.S. view on diplomatic envoys
sent to Baghdad by France, Russia, others
7 Role of Incirlik air base in Turkey
GREECE / TURKEY
7 U.S. knowledge of 1996 invasion of Imia/Kardak
7-8 Destruction and looting of a Greek church on the Turkish
island of Imbros
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1998 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I see none of the
press corps traveling with the Secretary made it today. That's unfortunate.
We have one statement on Sarajevo that we'll be putting out after the
briefing, so let me go right to your questions.
QUESTION: I understand the Secretary is paying a visit to the Hill this
afternoon. Could you tell us what that's about?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I believe she'll be meeting with House Democrats later
today and early this afternoon. She'll be reviewing the results of her trip
and talking about the current state of play with the crisis with Iraq.
QUESTION: What about the resolution that's being discussed up there?
MR. RUBIN: Well, our view is that we would welcome support for our
position and our determination to resolve this problem. But as you know, we
also believe that we have the authority we need, under the Constitution and
the laws of the United States. We've had good consultations with key
members of the Senate yesterday, and will continue consultations on the
Hill in the coming days. But we would welcome expressions of support from
QUESTION: What's your interpretation of President Yeltsin's remarks about
the possibility of a world war breaking out as a result of Iraq? And have
you been in touch with Russian officials on the meaning of his remarks?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Since those remarks were made, Secretary Albright has
spoken to Foreign Minister Primakov. Our position on the Iraqi crisis is
crystal clear: Iraq must comply with all UN Security Council resolutions
and permit full and unfettered access for the UN -- UNSCOM -- to do its
work. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Primakov. It is our
understanding that the Russians fully share our goal of achieving Iraqi
compliance. It is a dispute not between any countries, other than between
Iraq and the international community. We have a very strong and
constructive relationship with Russia. The two presidents are frequently in
touch. Their relationship is strong. Secretary Albright and Foreign
Minister Primakov talked at length about Iraq, and this was not a major
part of their conversation.
QUESTION: Have Russian officials made any attempt to tone down or put in
context his remarks?
MR. RUBIN: Well, it does appear that the presidential spokesman has said
that some of the translations perhaps weren't accurate. But again, we are
moving on with the important business of working together with all our
partners in the Security Council and our allies beyond the Security Council
to try to achieve Iraqi compliance, which is the point of this whole issue.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you think it was productive for President Yeltsin to
make these remarks at a time when tensions are obviously on uncertain
ground and we have a lot of uncertainty in respect to Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: Well, this is an issue where the entire world is focused on
the problem; and the problem is Saddam Hussein's refusal to give UNSCOM
full and unfettered access. And so we want to keep our eye on the ball. The
ball is in Baghdad, and the question is whether Saddam Hussein will reverse
course and allow the UN, that is UNSCOM, do its job.
QUESTION: But was it prudent for him to make these remarks at a time when
tense negotiations are going on; for the President of Russia to come out
and say such a declarative statement?
MR. RUBIN: Again, the presidential spokesman has clarified to some extent
what the Russian President has said. We have a good and constructive
relationship with the Russians. Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister
Primakov spoke on the phone earlier this morning from the aircraft just
before we landed, and they focused their attentions on Baghdad and will
Saddam Hussein reverse course and allow full and unfettered access.
QUESTION: It's reported that the Iraqis might be making some sort of an
offer of access to eight presidential sites, with some caveats on access.
Do you see this as an idea that might be considered, or is this simply more
MR. RUBIN: Let's put it this way - the issue with Iraq is simple: We need
full compliance with UN resolutions. According to those resolutions, UNSCOM
must be permitted full and unfettered access. UNSCOM remains the UN
Security Council's organ designated to undertake inspections and
monitoring. Its integrity and effectiveness must be upheld. These are the
straightforward and clear standards by which we will judge Iraq's
actions. We do not have all the details of these reported proposals that
have emerged over the last couple of days, sometimes being denied by one
capital or another. But insofar as we understand the current Iraqi
proposal, it does not meet these straightforward criteria, this simple
standard; and thus would fall short of the standard of full and unfettered
access for the UN -- that is, UNSCOM -- and that is the standard which must
be met. I would add, however, that the Iraqis seem to be moving towards
some recognition that the blocking of so-called presidential sites is
untenable. This shows the necessity of standing firm; it shows the
necessity of our determination and our united resolve that the Iraqi regime
comply fully and unconditionally with the requirements of the UN Security
Council resolutions. This is our bottom line when it comes to the crisis
with Iraq. Secretary Albright has spoken today, as I indicated, with
Foreign Minister Primakov. She's also spoken with Secretary General Kofi
Annan, with Foreign Minister Vedrine of France, with Foreign Minister Cook
of London. And these are the essential points that she has communicated to
those other leaders.
QUESTION: Jamie, on the issue of President --
MR. RUBIN: A follow-up? Yes.
QUESTION: Do you see, or does the Secretary see in any of these phone
calls that she has made the possibility of some sort of a diplomatic
solution to this crisis at this point, or is it too early to say? _MR.
RUBIN_: Well, Secretary Albright has had a number of meetings in the recent
days, with a number of the countries who have planned to send envoys to the
region. The message that she has delivered to those countries and that they
have agreed with is that Saddam Hussein must get the message: Full and
unfettered access is the only way out. We are not any more optimistic than
she has been in recent days as a result of her discussions. That is because
this crisis has dragged on for a long time. We still don't see a
willingness on the part of Saddam Hussein to reverse course and allow the
full and unfettered access that we think we need.
QUESTION: On the issue of presidential sites, the Egyptian National
Security Advisor, Osama El-Baz, is in print in an interview with an
Egyptian newspaper saying that Iraq should stand firm in refusing full
access to presidential sites, because it's a matter of national
sovereignty. Is that what the Egyptian side told the Secretary in Cairo?
MR. RUBIN: Well, often news reports in that part of the world are less
than a good basis from which I should comment. But let me say this - she
met with President Mubarak; she had an excellent meeting with him. When she
left the meeting she felt that one thing was clear - that the Egyptian
Government, like every other government she met with, believes that UNSCOM,
the UN, must have unfettered and full access - no fetters, no partial
access - to all the sites that UNSCOM believes it needs. So to the extent
that any interview, correct or incorrect, purports to suggest that the
Egyptian position is different than that, that is not what we believe the
international community is united behind. Every country that - every
government that she met with was united on a simple proposition that it's
Saddam Hussein who has caused this crisis, and it is Saddam Hussein who has
to comply with the demands of the United Nations, which means full and
unfettered access: not partial access, full access.
QUESTION: Turkish traffic on the Iraqi crisis picked up quite a bit
recently. I have two questions.
MR. RUBIN: The what?
QUESTION: The diplomatic traffic between the United States and Turkey
picked up pace. And I understand Secretary Albright talked to Turkish Prime
Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, recently. In that discussion, Secretary Albright
reportedly explained to Mr. Yilmaz the measures the United States agreed to
take to prevent a sort of refugee influx to Turkey that happened after the
'91 Gulf War. Could you please explain what these measures are? And
secondly, today Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, will be visiting
Baghdad with a general peace plan. How do you see Turkey's role in this
crisis? Do you support that initiative?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Secretary Albright did speak to Prime Minister Yilmaz
from the aircraft. I cannot remember which city it was, but it was over the
course of her trip. She had a very good conversation with him, and I think
you've seen very strong support from the Turkish Government for the
principle that Saddam Hussein must come back into compliance with UN
resolutions and that the responsibility for this crisis falls squarely on
Iraq's shoulders. As far as what measures might be planned in the event of
the circumstance you described, I'm not in a position to get into detail,
other than to say that our assistant secretary, Mark Grossman, and the
deputy chairman of the joint chiefs were in Turkey and had a chance to
discuss in full the stakes involved, the possible outcomes and what the
United States and Turkey would need to do together to deal with that. But I
have no details for you.
QUESTION: How about Turkish Foreign Minister's visit today to Baghdad?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Secretary Albright is aware of that visit. We believe
that the more Saddam Hussein can understand that there is no way out but
full and unfettered access, the greater the chance that he will reverse
course and allow the UN to do its job.
QUESTION: What do you think of the many people who believe that the US
policy doesn't go far enough, in the sense that the problem will not go
away as long as Saddam Hussein is in power, which is an issue which is not
among the goals which you have outlined?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the first thing I say to those people is, when you're
outside of government, it's always nice to write articles about what can be
easily done. When you're in government and you're responsible for policies,
you deal with the way the world really works. Our view is that the
President and the Secretary and the Secretary of Defense are focused on the
national security concern that faces the world, and that is the prospect of
a Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction threatening his neighbors
and threatening the world. Our policy and our actions, whether diplomatic
or otherwise, are focused on meeting that national security threat; and
that is thwarting Iraq's capacity to develop and use weapons of mass
destruction, and to limit his ability to threaten his neighbors. And I
would also point to the fact that UNSCOM has, up to this point, achieved a
great deal, even while these same critics were calling for the same
policies; and that is the destruction of dozens of missiles, the
destruction of hundreds of chemical munitions - actually almost 40,000 of
those - 7,000 tons of chemical weapons, 3,000 tons of different precursor
chemicals. So these same critics who would have had us - who made the same
argument that as long as Saddam Hussein is there, you're never going to be
able to deal with the weapons of mass destruction threat, need to take into
account that UNSCOM has done a superb job and destroyed more weapons of
mass destruction than were destroyed during the Gulf War, when the
opportunity for other measures might have existed. But that's a long, long
time ago, and we're focused on the problem that faces the nation and the
world; and that is this weapons of mass destruction threat.
QUESTION: So despite all the destruction, he still is a global threat?
MR. RUBIN: No, I don't think I said that. The prospect - the words I used
were very carefully chosen. We believe there is an inherent threat when
UNSCOM is not able to complete its job; and that is why the President has
taken such a firm stance and is determined to resolve this
problem. Ideally, that would mean the UN inspectors going back in, being
able to get the access they need - not partial access, full access - and
uncovering what remains to be uncovered. But if that fails, the necessity
will still be there, and the objective will be clear: to thwart Saddam
Hussein's ability to acquire or use weapons of mass destruction and
potentially to threaten his neighbors. That is a responsible policy based
on where we are today.
QUESTION: Before the Secretary left, I believe she used the word, the
phrase, "the sting was running out" for Iraq, before she left for her
trip. Would you say that after coming back from these meetings that the
U.S. is closer to getting to the end of that rope, or string, if you will?
MR. RUBIN: Well, during the trip, the analogies were being thrown around
by your colleagues. All I can say at this point is that the diplomatic
string is fraying, but it has not fully frayed. (Laughter.) Any other on
QUESTION: Apparently the French are talking with the Iraqis about a
compromise solution concerning the access to the sites by which the UNSCOM
would have access to all the sites but the composition of the teams of
inspectors would be different according to the sensitivity of the
sites. Would that be something that meets your standard of unfettered
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to be in a position to comment in detail
on un-fully formed proposals. I can give you the standard, and that is full
and unfettered access; and secondly, that UNSCOM's integrity and
effectiveness be upheld. The proposals that have emerged, about which there
isn't a lot of detail, insofar as we understand them, do not meet these
simple criteria, and thus would fall short of the standards the
international community has set. But it does seem that the Iraqis are
moving toward some recognition that the blocking of so-called presidential
sites is an untenable position. What that demonstrates is the need for the
entire world to stand firm in our resolve that the Iraqi regime comply
fully and unconditionally with the requirements of UN Security Council
resolutions. The Secretary has been in touch with Foreign Minister
Vedrine, and has laid out these two standards. But beyond that, I'm not in
a position to get into detail or critique reported proposals that might
then be pulled off the table in the next hour. But I think I've laid out as
much as we can in this setting what our standards are and why the current
proposal of the day falls short of that standard.
QUESTION: When you mentioned the proposal that emerged, referring to the
proposal that emerged from Baghdad directly from the Iraqis --
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: -- all the proposals have emerged from the talks between the
French and the Iraqis?
MR. RUBIN: Again, there's a tendency for everybody to claim there's a
different proposal and that there is some - presumably one ownership, and
then some later deny ownership of those proposals. All I can do is try to
reflect for you our standards and respond to what is the proposal of the
day, as stated in news media accounts, but with all the details
unclear. But in general, I've given you the best answer I can, until more
details are available.
QUESTION: Given that you've said that you've expressed the US standards
on this, and that most of these proposals don't appear, at least on first
glance, to meet those standards, is it helpful to have all these diplomats
going to Iraq, offering up proposals that may or may not meet those
MR. RUBIN: What is helpful is the message getting through, through the
leadership in Baghdad. Hopefully at some point, they'll get it, and they'll
realize that the international community is united that they must return to
compliance, they must reverse course and allow full and unfettered
access. To the extent that the messengers deliver that message - and we
have every reason to believe at this point they are - we don't have a
problem with that. That doesn't mean we're optimistic that the message will
be understood well enough for the Iraqis to reverse course, but at this
point, we don't have a problem with messengers. What we have a problem with
is Saddam Hussein not getting the message.
QUESTION: Aren't you concerned with the fact that the messengers seem to
be on the side of staying with diplomacy?
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright had a number of meetings with many of the
countries who have sent envoys, including France, Egypt and several other
countries she met with. They were all united in their demand that Saddam
Hussein return to compliance; that he is responsible for this crisis; and
in different ways, each of the leaders that she met in the Arab world made
clear that they recognize the need for the United States and the
international community to push for compliance. So we, like they, would
prefer a diplomatic solution. We, like they, hope that Saddam Hussein gets
the message. But we're skeptical. And there wasn't a lot of optimism in the
Secretary's conversations with key leaders that he would. But that doesn't
mean that one shouldn't try, although it is fair to point out that the
diplomatic string is fraying.
QUESTION: President Clinton sent a message to Turkish President Demirel
yesterday asking --
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on a presidential message.
QUESTION: Do you know if America, at any point during this crisis, asked
to use the Incirlik air force base from Turkey?
MR. RUBIN: All I can say on operational military details with regard to
the use of force is that we are confident we will have the support we need
if it comes to that.
QUESTION: Jamie, there is a pending question on Imia, since yesterday's
briefing by Jim Foley, related to the Greek Foreign Minister,
Mr. Theodhoros Pangalos. I'm wondering if you have any answer.
MR. RUBIN: Well, what I'd like to do on that, since I did just get back
early this morning from a very long trip, is to get my able deputy, Jim
Foley, to deal with that after the briefing.
QUESTION: One more. On the island of Imbros, in the Eastern Aegean, under
Turkish control, unknown Turks destroyed yesterday totally a Greek church
and stole all the frescos and other items. Do you have anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's going to be another one for Mr. Foley.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. RUBIN: OK?
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:05 P.M.)