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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #18, 98-02-11

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

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 11, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

STATEMENTS
1		Afghanistan

IRAQ 1-2 Latest Proposal by Deputy PM Tariq Aziz / Procedural Gimmick / Excludes UNSCOM & Limits Inspections and Monitoring 2 Ultimatum Conveyed by Russia / No Timeline / US Message on Deadline 2-3 Update on Oil-for-Food Program / US Position / Security Council Action 3-4 Possession of Scud Missiles, Chemical & Biological Weapons / UNSCOM Aim to Determine Possession 4-8,15-16 Uncovering & Destroying WMD / Use of Diplomacy / Military Objectives / Aftermath of Military Strike / Knowledge of Reconstituted Weapons 8-9 Authority for US to Act / Special Situation of Iraq 9-10,16 Arrival of Russian Humanitarian Flight / Humanitarian Workers At Risk / US Contacts 10-12 Support for Strike and Offers of Assistance by UK, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, GCC, Jordan, Egypt / Support Different from 1991 Situation / Saudi Cooperation / French Efforts to 12-14 Reports of Turkish Actions in Northern Iraq / US-Turkey Consultations 14-15 Threats to Neighboring Countries 16 Agent 15

MEXICO 17,19 US Response re Interior Minister Dealings with Drug Traffickers

CUBA 17,24 Political Prisoners Released / Congressional Proposal to Ease Sanctions / Congressional Bill Easing Sanctions

CONGO (K) 17-18 Pres Kabil Cancels Meetings with Special Envoy Rev Jackson

GREECE 18-19 US Embassy Retracts Item in Human Rights Report

GEORGIA 19-20 Attempt to Assassinate Pres Shevardnadze / US Security Experts

CAUCASES 19-20 Pattern of Instability

MIDDLE EAST 20-23 Readout of Israeli & Palestinian Envoys Mtgs Here / Filling the Gaps / Written Procedural Information

ILSA 23 US Finding of Sanctionability / Presidential Waiver for Companies


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #18

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1998 2:10 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing room. We're starting today at 2:00 p.m., as you know, because the President was here on an important ceremony related to NATO enlargement.

We have one statement that we'll be posting after the briefing on Afghanistan. So let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Jamie, everybody - State, Richardson, White House - are putting down this Iraqi proposal, which sounds like old stew. But is there anything there that suggests that there is some thinking in Baghdad about proffering something that might be acceptable?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as explained in the media, the proposal by Tariq Aziz falls short - significantly short - of compliance with UN resolutions. What it really is it's another attempt by Iraq to come up with a procedural gimmick, rather than agreeing to accept the terms of UN inspections. That is because it explicitly precludes UNSCOM from conducting the inspections.

UNSCOM is the expert body charged by the Security Council with conducting this job. It is no easy task; it is a task that requires great expertise and great experience. It's not something one can learn overnight.

Tariq Aziz also called the UNCOM Iraq's adversary. UNSCOM is nobody's adversary. UNSCOM is the body charged by the international community with getting to the bottom of what Iraq has in the area of weapons of mass destruction .

Secondly, this so-called proposal seeks to limit inspections to a one- time, finite duration exercise. And it does not commit Iraq to access over time, and continuous access, full access for inspections or monitoring, as provided by UN Security Council resolutions.

If we were to allow UNSCOM to be adjusted procedurally in the way that Iraq suggests, we would be heading down a slippery slope to more obfuscation, more confusion and more attempts by Iraq to prevent the international community - and the United Nations, in particular - from finding out what it has in this area. And for example, I note that Tariq Aziz whipped out some piece of paper, suggesting that UNSCOM is not accurately describing the presidential sites that exist in Baghdad. And I would point out that Iraq has refused to provide UNSCOM with information about those sites.

So if there's a problem here with what Iraq deems to be the proper description of these so-called presidential sites, then Iraq can solve the problem by coming clean, describing what these sites are and allowing the experts to get back to business.

To directly answer your question, Barry, to the extent that this and other proposals in recent days indicate that Iraq has realized that its position is untenable, that might be a step in the right direction. But since this proposal is so clearly a procedural gimmick to get around the requirements of the Security Council, we're skeptical that there is a diplomatic resolution. That continues to be our position.

QUESTION: One quick follow, please. There have been reports of a Russian ultimatum, or an ultimatum conveyed by Russia and/or a date that if we don't hear something acceptable by February 16, there's going to be some sort of a grave situation. Is the US part of that? Is this a credible report? Are the Russians, on their own, beginning to get tired of these warmed-over proposals?

MR. RUBIN: Again, you'd have to ask the Russians whether they're getting tired of Iraqi stonewalling. I can say this -- that I'm not aware of any effort by the United States to signal to the Russians a timeline. We've been very clear in public to all of you that we're not going to get into timelines; other than to say, as Secretary Albright said over the weekend, that it's not months and it's not days, it's weeks. But I'm not aware of any effort of that kind.

QUESTION: Follow up -- there was an al-Ahram report that suggested that the US had sent a message to Iraq, giving it a deadline, a specific date.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of anything like that.

QUESTION: The Brits are saying, in New York, that they want action on the oil-for-food resolution as soon as possible. Where does the US stand at this moment on timing of any action? And have you made a decision about whether you'll support the actual number that Kofi Annan has put forward?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say that, in general, we support the idea of expanding the oil-for-food program for one simple reason: that unlike Saddam Hussein, we do have concerns about the Iraqi people. We want to see oil be sold to allow people to eat and medicines to be provided.

He could have done that all along. Food and medicine can be purchased under the sanctions, but he has refused to spend his scarce resources on that objective. Instead, he's spent his scarce resources on building luxurious palaces and trying to rebuild his military, and other actions that support him.

So we support the idea of expansion. We believe that it is important that the supplies of critical food and medicine be increased, and we strongly support the Secretary General's recommendations, in general. We're continuing to study the details. We want to be sure that whatever system is put in place ensures that there is an adequate mechanism so that projects are prioritized and that the Iraqi people, not Saddam Hussein, benefit.

As far as the specific timing of any action in the Security Council, I would have to refer you to New York for that. But in general, we are supportive of an expansion. We want to see food and medicine go to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: You said something there that was a little different. I want to make sure I understand. Are you signing on to that Kofi Annan five point whatever -- $2 billion figure?

MR. RUBIN: Well, in general we support the proposal he's put together, but we need to see the details. Contained in the proposal are ideas about large-scale projects that we want to take a good, hard look at. So I can't sign off on the whole package; but in principle, we support the expansion that Secretary General Annan's proposal envisages.

QUESTION: But would you acknowledge that action is unlikely to be swift?

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: Given all your concerns.

MR. RUBIN: No, I wouldn't acknowledge that at all. I think this is an elaborate program that we have to put very careful safeguards on, so that the food and medicine goes to the people, and money doesn't go to the leadership. I wouldn't rule out quick action on the general goal and other steps to be taken later to ensure that the procedures were in place so that the projects were prioritized and the goods went to the right people, that that can conceivably be done through the sanctions committee. So we're studying the proposal. There's no timing yet established, as I understand it, for action in the council, other than that they're beginning to talk about it this week.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there concern that Iraq still has a dozen or more Scud missiles, either with conventional or chemical or biological warheads; and that these missiles threaten the United States forces or US allies? And if there is such concern, what is to be done about that?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - we don't know exactly what Iraq has in the area of chemical and biological weapons. We have grave concerns about what they might have.

The purpose of the UN inspections is to figure out, once and for all, what they built, what they hid and what they still have, and to make sure that what they do have is destroyed. I can say that on December 18, 1996, the president of the UN Security Council briefed the press that then-UNSCOM Chairman Rolf Ekeus had informed the Council that he thought significant numbers of Scud missiles still existed in Iraq. We agreed with former Chairman Ekeus, and that is because Iraq has consistently hid what it has and threatened UNSCOM inspectors for so long.

As far as our policy on this, in light of the potential for military action, Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen have made quite clear that if Iraq were to make the serious mistake of using chemical or biological weapons against any of its neighbors - any of them - that our response would be swift and forceful.

QUESTION: Could you just expand on something the Secretary said yesterday about reserving the right for additional strikes?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Is the Administration's position that it will keep bombing Iraq until all the sites are opened?

MR. RUBIN: No, there's been a lot of confusion on this. Let me see if I can try to clarify, but I know all of you have to write a different story every day. But our position has been quite clear from the beginning. The best way to uncover the weapons of mass destruction and then destroy them is to do what UNSCOM has been doing for the last six years, where they've uncovered the thousands of tons of material that we've gone through with you in some detail.

That is the best way to protect ourselves against this threat. So the best way to combat the threat is to convince, through diplomacy and the threat of force, Saddam Hussein to reverse course and come back into compliance. If diplomacy fails and it is necessary to take another decision, we're in a different situation; and then we're in a military situation. What we have said very clearly is that in that situation, our military objectives would be to diminish substantially Saddam Hussein's ability to reconstitute weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, as well as threaten his neighbors. Those would be military objectives, in furtherance of our desire to combat this inherent threat of weapons of mass destruction .

If after that military action - which has not been decided upon - were to take place, and the United States believed that Saddam Hussein were in a position again to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction, Secretary Albright and National Security Advisor Berger have made clear that we would reserve the right to strike again. But I'm not going to be in a position to get beyond the principles involved here, and talk to you about how many days or at what point we would make that decision.

But the principle is clear: if we believe that weapons of mass destruction are being reconstituted, we would reserve the right to use military force again.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up, so I'm clear. It appears as if you're now prepared for the outcome that, if there is military action, that the inspectors will not be allowed to go back, and that in - so the American bombers will in fact take the place of the weapons inspectors, and they will strike Iraq when they thing there's evidence of weapons production. Is that --

MR. RUBIN: Well, those are your words. I try to choose mine much more carefully than that. My words are the ones I'm going to have to stick with, which is that the preferred way to combat this threat is to have the inspectors in there doing their job, finding out what Iraq has and destroying it through their procedures. If diplomacy and the threat of force does not convince Saddam Hussein to allow that preferred course to occur, we have set the military objectives as I have indicated.

If after the use of force, there is a belief that they are reconstituting their weapons of mass destruction, we would reserve the right to act again. That is because it is a possibility that in the aftermath of military force, that UNSCOM's inspectors will not be able to do their job in the best way that we believe to get at this problem.

QUESTION: But Jamie --

QUESTION: Jamie --

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. RUBIN: Excuse me. Let's go over here.

QUESTION: Is the US Government confident that it would know if Saddam were reconstituting those weapons, through other means than the weapons inspectors?

MR. RUBIN: We have our means to determine what we think our threats are. We think the best course is to have people on the ground working the problem, inspecting sites, proving what the Iraqis say is true or not true -- that the combination of our national technical means with those types of on-site inspections is a better way to keep track of and destroy.

But in the event that UNSCOM is not able to now do its job -- in other words, those inspections are not able to operate -- we need to face the question of whether military force will be necessary. That has not been answered yet. And in that event, be prepared to deal with a situation where there were not inspectors. In that case, we will use whatever means we need to determine what's going on there. And if it reaches a threshold that we believe constitutes the reconstitution of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, we will reserve the right to act.

QUESTION: I'm not asking you what those methods are; I realize you can't talk about that. But are they adequate, is the question I was asking? Are you confident that they would be adequate?

MR. RUBIN: Again, we believe we will be in a position to act on that right we're reserving for ourselves.

QUESTION: Jamie, how do you take Senator Kerry's assessment yesterday that Saddam can reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction in as little as six months - and he says everybody agrees on this; I'm not sure if they do - if you --

MR. RUBIN: Do you agree, Roy?

QUESTION: I'm not an expert.

MR. RUBIN: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Perhaps you have access to experts.

MR. RUBIN: I think - I'm sure everyone doesn't agree on a number like that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if it is six months, or maybe it's 12 months, isn't there the possibility, if you go down the track now of the military course, that you're going to wind up having to go to war every six to 12 months?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you're taking the presumption of a particular time period that I'm not going to accept. I will agree that the preferred course is diplomacy. The best way to deal with the problem of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses is to have inspectors finding out what occurs, getting the access they need, uncovering the weapons and destroying them.

But if that can't happen - as it now can't happen - and there is no access or not full access for UNSCOM, then we're in a different situation, and the President will have to decide whether the use of force is the next step. What the objectives of that next step would be are the ones I specified. And precisely to deal with the possibility of reconstitution, we are reserving the right to act again. But it would be folly to presume to know at this point, one, whether inspectors would be able to go back; and two, how often one would have to exercise that right. But we are prepared to answer the question of why, in the absence of UNSCOM working now, the use of force is better than doing nothing.

QUESTION: Back to your point on diplomacy, you say that diplomacy is the preferred outcome. But --

MR. RUBIN: Again, because that will mean that the UNSCOM inspectors will be able to do their job.

QUESTION: But there's two questions on diplomacy that I have. One is that there's no sign of any American diplomacy -- not even a meeting with Tariq Aziz, as occurred before the Gulf War several times. And the Secretary yesterday repeated her position of a year ago that she looks very much forward to negotiating with Saddam Hussein's successor - implying that she really has no intention of --

MR. RUBIN: I don't remember her saying those words, but I think I understand your point.

QUESTION: And the person - if you have diplomacy, it's got to be with the man who's in power now, obviously, and not with his successor.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: But the one point - the second is, I'm wondering whether the limitation now of American and British goals in whatever military strike might have to be undertaken almost cramps the diplomacy; because you now are - it seems to be restricting --

MR. RUBIN: You just switched sides, haven't you?

QUESTION: I don't take sides. I'm just - the position --

MR. RUBIN: It's nice to be able to come at it from both angles, right?

QUESTION: That's right.

(Laughter.)

The fact is you've limited - the public statements now limit the goals as destroying the weapons of mass destruction, and not the military infrastructure, not the Republican Guard, not the man himself. They're much more restricted. Well, if you want to have diplomacy work, if you want to have coercive diplomacy work, you have to - ordinarily, the logic is you have to threaten the man and his power base, otherwise there's no incentive.

MR. RUBIN: Are we getting to the question mark soon?

QUESTION: Well, the question is --

QUESTION: I've got a follow.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: The question is how you are supporting diplomacy either through the United States itself, or through the other countries, by the policies you're pursuing.

MR. RUBIN: All right. Let me answer the first part of your multipart question. The Iraqis have no illusions on what they need to do. Secretary Albright has met with many of the countries who are talking to the Iraqis. We are fully comfortable with the work that Ambassador Butler has done in explaining to the Iraqis what they need to do.

This isn't about messages being confused and the need to have a face-to- face meeting so that those messages can't be garbled. The message is clear: Ambassador Butler needs to be able to do his job with full and unfettered access. So the issue of a face-to-face meeting is different than it was at that time, when perhaps Iraq didn't believe the United States was prepared to use military force in 1991 and a decision was made that they needed to hear it directly from the United States. That's not the case here; we've used military force many times with regard to Iraq.

Now, switching to the other side of the question, I'm not going to get into targeting for you, but I will point you, with some emphasis in my words, to perhaps the answer to your question. The objectives, if military force is to be used, are, first, to diminish substantially his ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction; and second, his ability to threaten his neighbors. Those are military objectives that entail actions the Pentagon would take that I think make clear that this would be a substantial use of force.

To the extent that Iraq may be understanding that its position is untenable and beginning to come up with new ways in which it wants to show that access is possible -- even if it falls well short of full access -- I suspect the problem here is not that Iraq doesn't believe the threat is real and the threat is substantial.

QUESTION: The question really is whether diplomacy can conceivably work without the use of credible threat to his survival as a leader or to the survival of his regime or of his power structure.

MR. RUBIN: All right. Let me try to -- I think I really came as close as I can to answering your question, Roy, in this setting. But let me try another way, and that is that we've seen in repeated occasions, over the last several years, that Saddam Hussein has responded to the threat of force. On several occasions, material breach resolutions -- which are implicit threats that the cease fire is over and therefore force might be used -- have led to him changing his position and allowing UNSCOM to do its job.

So the issue is not whether Saddam Hussein believes that there will be a substantial use of force going at those things he holds dear. This crisis is about his refusal to let the inspectors get at the weapons of mass destruction. So he obviously cares a great deal about that. And there's no question he cares about the Republican Guard units that make up part of what his capability to threaten his neighbors are.

So I would disagree with the premise of your question that our objectives are so limited as to not pose a substantial threat, and thereby undermine our diplomacy. I would think, on the contrary, that this is a serious - the use of force contemplated is substantial, and that is not the problem. The problem is Saddam Hussein has not reversed course.

QUESTION: This is going to sound like a think-tank luncheon without the rich dessert.

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been think-tanking for a while here.

QUESTION: Well, but you know what's getting remote here - and maybe - I don't know what you want to do about it - but the UN connection. I mean, isn't Iraq a special case? All this isn't in - isn't all this in the context of the US having authority to act, the US says, under a UN resolution that's very specific and tailored for Iraq? Otherwise, the Secretary of State and Berger and you are laying out a doctrine, almost, that the US has the right to attack --

MR. RUBIN: In the case of proliferation of --

QUESTION: -- countries, because Iraq is not the only member of this club. There are others. There's Libya, there's North Korea --

MR. RUBIN: Thank you for that helpful question.

QUESTION: No, I'm not trying to steer you, but it's getting to be --

MR. RUBIN: I'm steerable.

QUESTION: You're beginning - the Administration is beginning to get to be the cop, the international cop. And maybe you want to be, and maybe you should be. But this -- isn't Iraq a special situation?

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer that directly. Iraq is a special situation. Iraq is under Chapter 7 sanctions by the Security Council. Iraq has invaded another neighbor, and the cease-fire resolution - the decision to stop using force -- was premised upon his giving up his weapons of mass destruction. At the time, some hoped that might occur in as quick as 60 to 90 days. Well, here we are almost seven years later, and he's still playing hide-and-seek, still playing procedural gimmicks to try to stop what has been the ultimate decision of the Security Council on behalf of the world, because of the threat his regime poses.

Our view that we have the right to use force, pursuant to international law, as well as pursuant to the President's constitutional authorities, is at least partially premised on the Security Council resolutions; and therefore, to that extent, this is a special case.

QUESTION: And that resolution authorizes continual strikes?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I don't want to misstate the legal case here, because the lawyers can really work themselves into a frenzy over this issue. But we do believe we have the authority, and that authority is based at least in part on the fact that Iraq has fundamentally violated the cease-fire resolution.

QUESTION: What's the reaction of this government to the landing in Baghdad of Vladmir Zhirinovsky? And I believe 30 Russians went with him. And secondly, is there a fear that these Russians might become human shields, get in the way of any air campaign that might come? Just finally, is Mr. Butler's UNSCOM people going to get out before anything happens?

MR. RUBIN: Let me first say we have very little reaction to that flight, other than to say that the sanctions committee approved the flight, subject to the following conditions. Russia provided assurances that the flight was purely humanitarian in nature. The number of passengers - originally over 200 - would be greatly reduced, and would include primarily people who are necessary for distribution of the humanitarian items on the plane; which may mean that some of your colleagues may no longer be on the plane, I really don't know. The plane would spend only the time on the ground in Baghdad necessary to carry out its humanitarian purpose. The UN would inspect the flight upon arrival and departure to ensure that only humanitarian items are on board.

The point here is, we can't rule out that Saddam Hussein would break all the laws of civilized behavior and put women and children and even humanitarian workers and even journalists in the way of - at risk, in the case of the use of force. That is something that we're very cognizant of, but I wouldn't be able to comment further.

QUESTION: Okay, but the UN is going to monitor who gets off the plane, who gets back on the plane. Is that the part of it?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Follow-up --

MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll go here, and then we'll go over there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: I can't imagine I have much more to say, but I'll give it a whirl.

QUESTION: Well, one of the people who are overseeing the distribution is Zhirinovsky, who's been there before, the parliamentarian. But my question is, are you at all concerned that this aid and this food and medicine aid is going to not go to the people of Iraq, but will actually go to the military or official --

MR. RUBIN: Well, what we're - the reason why we've imposed some restrictions in the sanctions committee was precisely to combat that possibility, and we understand that the UN would inspect the flights on arrival and departure to ensure that only humanitarian items are on board and that they went to the right places.

QUESTION: What kind of consultations is the United States in now with Russia over Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: That's a different question. Let's go over here. I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Just to revisit this question - the follow-on strikes, have the members of the core alliance that have agreed to participate in the military action -- what I guess some observers are now calling the Anglo-Saxon alliance - have they agreed to this?

MR. RUBIN: All these anonymous observers always come up with this great stuff.

QUESTION: Have they agreed to this approach of follow-on strikes? And also, have the Arab states - Kuwait, Bahrain, et cetera - also agreed to provide whatever support they've agreed to provide, under that scenario - under the continuing strike scenario?

MR. RUBIN: Let me get at the question this way - first by saying that we're particularly grateful for the unequivocal and firm support of the United Kingdom for the United States in the ongoing crisis. The best indication of this support is Her Majesty's decision to send combat aircraft to be based in Kuwait for possible use in a military operation.

Canada and Australia have also expressed willingness to participate in a military operation to enforce UN Security Council resolutions. Portugal and Germany have stated publicly that facilities in their territories - there goes Anglo-Saxon - would be available for use in a military operation. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have expressed support for the US position. Poland has offered forces trained in countering the effects of chemical weapons. Hungary and the Czech Republic are examining what help they can give.

The GCC has just issued a very strong statement, placing the entire responsibility - there was a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council today -- for the crisis on the Iraqi regime. The GCC also states repeatedly that any dangerous consequences resulting from Iraqi intransigence would be the responsibility of the regime alone. They ask Saddam Hussein to yield to international efforts. And I would point out that Jordan and Egypt have also emphasized the need for Saddam to comply.

Directly on point to your question, I can assure you that Secretary Albright and Sandy Berger -- National Security Advisor Berger's public comments have been something that we have said privately to those we have talked to about the use of force in recent days, and I don't think it came as a surprise to them.

But again, it's not - we don't expect to have the same level of support for this situation as we had during the Gulf War. That was a situation where Saddam Hussein had invaded another country. What we expect to have is a range of views, including full and complete support; including the support of joining us militarily; including the access to military facilities that we need; including public support for the use of force; including private support for the use of force, and public blame on Saddam Hussein for the consequences.

So there will be a range of views, including, obviously, the possibility that Russia would oppose us, if it came to that. We've expected that, and that's not surprising, considering the differences in this situation. As I've indicated to all of you in the past, I don't think it is an equivalent standard, and therefore each of the countries are going to have different ways of expressing their support.

But Secretary Albright was feeling that, in her discussions with Gulf states, that privately they were quite supportive; and each of them has their own constituencies that require them to say words differently in public. But overall, as she indicated, they did not urge her to come back and try to tell the President that this would be a disaster that he needed to not follow through on.

QUESTION: Can you plug in France and Saudi Arabia in that fairly comprehensive wrap-up?

MR. RUBIN: The Saudi Government has stated -- as part of the GCC statement and separately -- that the consequences would fall on Saddam Hussein. And we believe we will have the necessary Saudi cooperation and support to perform the mission, as things have evolved over the last two weeks.

QUESTION: Do you think that the --

QUESTION: And France?

MR. RUBIN: France, at this point - sorry. We'll get right over there. The Secretary was heartened at the time when the French Government made clear that all options were open. I think I pointed out to you that that was a different view than existed prior to October, when this issue first came to a head of access to sensitive sites. The French are now engaged in an effort to try to convince Saddam Hussein to reverse course. We're supportive of that effort, and that may require them to say things differently because of their efforts to be an interlocutor.

QUESTION: Do you feel that the Turkish action, attacks against Northern Iraq right now, are complicating this scenario?

MR. RUBIN: The short answer is no, because I don't have any firm information on this. We've seen press reports claiming that this is the case. We still have no information confirming - independent confirmation of such troop movements. A Turkish Government spokesman has repeated that no such operation is taking place. I would have to refer you to the Turkish Government.

But I can say this -- Turkish forces have entered Northern Iraq for limited periods in the past to destroy bases and arms caches of the terrorist PKK. We have consistently supported the right of the Turkish Government to defend itself against terrorism, as long as any incursions are limited in scope and duration, and fully respect the rights of the civilian inhabitants in the region.

QUESTION: But even though the Turks have gone in and come out, they've often been there for a long time - months at a time, in fact. I wonder if you were convinced that in fact this was going on, whether you would find it a complication at this time.

MR. RUBIN: The United States recognized Turkey's very real security concerns and its desire to avoid a repeat of the massive influx of refugees seen in 1991. We want to work constructively with the government of Turkey on these issues.

I wouldn't use the word complication, but we certainly recognize what the potential contingencies are.

QUESTION: The large number of the Turkish officials, which include the Prime Minister and President of Turkey, they are complaining about the level of the dialogue between the US and Turkey on the Iraqi situation. They said that they don't have several events before the actions and the build-up on the Iraqi borders. Can we describe this complaint as a change or differences of US-Turkish relations in the near future?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright spoke to Prime Minister Yilmaz during the course of her trip. She authorized Assistant Secretary Grossman and the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to go to Turkey to discuss these issues. Our ambassador is in regular contact with the Turkish Government, and we will continue to consult as closely as possible as we can with the Turkish Government during the course of this crisis.

The Secretary herself was heartened that following her call, the Turkish Government made clear who was responsible for this crisis, and made clear that it supported our efforts to get Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions on this point.

QUESTION: It seems to me you were just now expressing support for the Turkish aims in dealing with the refugees, which are reported to be the aims of an operation that you say doesn't exist.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I always hesitate to answer questions when it seems to you, Roy. I stated words --

QUESTION: Your words.

MR. RUBIN: Right, I stated the words; I'll be happy to repeat them. The United States recognizes Turkey's very real security concerns and its desire to avoid a repeat of the massive influx of refugees seen in 1991. We want to work constructively with the government of Turkey on these issues. We have no information on such an operation or a refugee movement of that kind. Should the question arise, we will consult with the government of Turkey regarding a proper response.

I don't know how to be more clear than that.

QUESTION: The point is, those are the stated aims, at least in the news reports, of the Turkish operation - and you're expressing sympathy for them, but you can't even confirm that the operation is going on right now. And there's another report --

MR. RUBIN: I don't see why those two are inconsistent -- that we can't confirm an operation that's going --

QUESTION: But how can the United States --

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer your question.

QUESTION: How can you not know that something is going on?

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer your question, Roy, OK? I can't always confirm an operation that you all see press reports about. I can say that we have no independent confirmation of that. With regard to the specific question of refugees, I've stated what the U.S. Government's position is. I don't know how to play - answer your question any more concretely than that.

QUESTION: There's independent confirmation that - it's coming in news reports. Are you disputing the news reports?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer your question any further.

QUESTION: Second point --

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Over here, please.

QUESTION: Just to follow up - can I follow up, please? Because there's another report on the very same subject, which is that -

MR. RUBIN: That I also can't confirm?

QUESTION: -- that F-16 aircraft, U.S.-provided aircraft, are being used in this operation?

MR. RUBIN: I have no comment on the operational details of any military plans.

QUESTION: Let me try --

QUESTION: You have no - don't you have a position on what - if US --

MR. RUBIN: I'm not sure we're making progress here.

QUESTION: Has the United States asked Turkey, straight out, if an operation is underway?

MR. RUBIN: Sorry?

QUESTION: Has the United States asked Turkey if an operation was underway; and if so, what was the response?

MR. RUBIN: I will try to get an answer to what our contact has been, but I've been given the information that I've provided you.

QUESTION: Jamie, can I ask you about the assurances from Baghdad - if that's the right word - that no outside - no other country is threatened. I mean, if you're an Israeli or a Saudi or a Kuwaiti, would you relax over the latest Baghdad assurance that they would only target - if that's the word - their foes within Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to get into a position of unnecessarily alarming people, but certainly the fact that we have stated what our response would be to such a serious mistake indicates that we take - how we take the threat.

QUESTION: Jamie, there are people on the Hill who are saying that - and elsewhere - who are saying that they feel that the objectives of this operation are unclear --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- and that they, in fact, have changed from the beginning of this conflict several months ago. How - would you agree with them, and how would you assess their remarks?

MR. RUBIN: The short answer is no. There is a tendency to take a snapshot of a given situation and look at what we're trying to achieve, and then graft onto that the assumption that military force is designed to achieve that.

As I responded to Sid, I can say this: The military goals for this operation have been clear from the beginning. And they are: If diplomacy fails, to substantially diminish Iraq's capability to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, or to threaten its neighbors. That is a very clear military objective - - the kind of military objective that members of Congress have quite rightly said ought to be clearly stated in advance of the use of force, so that the American people clearly understand what the goals are and know whether they can be achieved, and whether they can be achieved at a reasonable cost.

That is different than the desire that we have to use the best way to combat the weapons of mass destruction threat -- and that is UNSCOM inspectors going in and doing their job. To the extent that diplomacy and the threat of force can coerce or convince Iraq to do that, that would be all to the good. But if that fails, we need to state very clearly to the American people what our objectives are. Other than a different verb here or there, or maybe a missing adjective, or at most, a missing adverb, I think we've been quite clear on our military objectives; and those are the ones I just specified.

QUESTION: So our sense and thrust of - this government's sense and thrust of this crisis has not altered, even in discussions with other countries, taking in their views. I mean, Arab countries have a different view of this crisis and how it's constructed.

MR. RUBIN: No. What hasn't changed is the military objectives we would set for a military operation, should that become necessary, that would be conducted primarily by the United States. So we've made clear what an appropriate military objective would be, and we've done that for a very simple reason, because members of Congress, quite rightly, want to know what it is we're seeking to achieve; that that is a clear objective; and that it's an achievable objective at acceptable cost and risk. That is the kind of discussion we've had in this country regarding the use of force for many years, and it's appropriate that we set forth those objectives.

That is different, however, from the desire we've had all along to see Saddam Hussein reverse course in the face of the threat of the use of force, or as a result of diplomatic efforts, and allow UNSCOM to do its job, which would be a better way to get weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: Can we switch to another subject?

MR. RUBIN: Let's go over there, please. One more on this subject, and then we'll change.

QUESTION: Just to repeat my question about any contact with the Russian Government or consultations on Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, Secretary Albright is in regular contact with Foreign Minister Primakov. I'm not going to be able to share with you every phone call or every letter; but she's in regular contact with him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - this week?

MR. RUBIN: She's been in contact with him this week, yes.

QUESTION: Could we try something else?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think we're doing that.

QUESTION: One more.

MR. RUBIN: One more. Is it an answerable question?

QUESTION: I bet it is. Do you have anything on something called - a chemical agent called Agent 15?

MR. RUBIN: I would have to get you information for the record for that.

QUESTION: Do you know what the question is about?

MR. RUBIN: It sounds like I'm not going to have an answer.

QUESTION: Well, the British Defense Secretary --

MR. RUBIN: I'm aware of that report, and I will try to get you some details about it. I don't have anything, OK? I don't have anything here, but I'd be happy to get it for you.

QUESTION: On Mexico, Mexican Government has received the answer from the State Department about the report that appears in The Washington Times, saying that the Interior Minister of Mexico has been - when he was a governor, had kind of relations with the narco-traffickers. Can you share with us the response that the State Department gave to the Mexican Government about it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't normally comment on the details of diplomatic exchanges. We did send a diplomatic note yesterday to the Mexican Government, responding to its note dated February 6, asking for information related to press allegations against Secretary of Interior Labastida. We have no comment on the contents of that, but I can say that US officials continue to have normal dealings with the Interior Secretary, and we see no reason to change that practice.

QUESTION: A different subject - Cuba.

MR. RUBIN: All right, let's try that one.

QUESTION: The government of Cuba has just released seven political prisoners. Do you have any answer to that? And you say the U.S. policy will be in a reciprocal way to the Cuban Government. Have you seen these release of the politician as another step that Castro is trying to change his policy? And what the United States is going to respond to that action?

MR. RUBIN: We understand that six members of a human rights group in Santa Clara, who have been on a fast since October and are now hospitalized, have ended their fast. We also understand that the government of Cuba has offered to release the six, plus a seventh person, who is under house arrest, provided they leave Cuba. The seven human rights activists have indicated they plan to apply to the United States, as well as other countries, for refugee status. Once they do apply, we will expeditiously review and process their cases. I can't prejudge them before their applications have been submitted.

As far as your broader question is concerned, I think this is woefully inadequate to the kind of support for basic democratic principles that the Pope has called for while he was there and that the Administration has made clear. These are a very small number. There are dozens of political prisoners in Cuba, and we would like to see them all released, not just those who have conducted hunger strikes.

QUESTION: The Congo?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Jesse Jackson apparently has been unable, despite trying for a couple of days and having many appointments, to see Laurent Kabila, ostensibly, as I understand it from what Jackson has said, because he met with opposition leaders. Have you heard from Jackson? And what does this say about Kabila's commitment to reform?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we are disappointed that Reverend Jackson was unable to meet with President Kabila. He intended to use the meeting to underscore U.S. support for a successful post-Mobutu transition. He also intended to discuss issues of democratic reform and human rights.

Our embassy approached the government first to find out when it would be most convenient for Foreign Minister Karaha and President Kabila to receive Reverend Jackson. At that time, our embassy advised the government of Jackson's plans to meet with the full spectrum of Congolese society, including government officials and a variety of political and civil leaders.

The government agreed to our request for appointments with Foreign Minister Karaha and President Kabila. These meetings were originally set for first thing Tuesday morning. Other meetings were arranged around the president's schedule. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the meetings with both Foreign Minister Karaha and President Kabila were postponed by the government and not later rescheduled.

We believe that Reverend Jackson's stop in Kinshasa was useful in promoting and articulating our strongly-held views on democracy, human rights and good governments. We obviously wish that the meetings had not been canceled. We have seen, as you know, a mixed bag in the Congo. We've seen the inspection - human rights investigative teams are back at work. But we still have serious concerns in the area of allowing political parties to operate, including those with differences of views, the development of democratic institutions. So we still have serious questions, and that would be the kind of subject that Reverend Jackson would have wanted to go into in a meeting that we thought was scheduled, but were disappointed was canceled.

QUESTION: How does the government follow up on that?

MR. RUBIN: We've made clear our lack of understanding of why this meeting was canceled. We will be in touch with the government about this issue and to try to promote the democratic values and democratic institutions, in the course of our relationship.

Yes, in the back, and I'll come back to the front.

QUESTION: The other day, your government --

MR. RUBIN: By the way, is this what I get for not briefing three days in a row? We're still here.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: The other day, your government, via a written statement of your embassy in Athens, retracted the part of the annual report on human rights which was criticizing the present Greek Government for accusing two Greek reporters as spies. I'm wondering, what brought your government to retract the specific paragraph?

MR. RUBIN: We endeavor to make our reports as accurate as possible. We regret a factual error in the report. The embassy issued a statement that corrected the error. We believe the statement speaks for itself, and I'd be happy to get you a copy of the statement.

QUESTION: Jamie, is that the first time you've corrected the human rights report?

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check that for the record.

QUESTION: And can I ask a follow-up on the Mexico thing we were talking about before? You said that officials continue to have normal contacts with the official.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Does that imply that you do not believe this report that the CIA believes that he was involved with - being soft on drugs; not that he was receiving money, but that he tolerated drug --

MR. RUBIN: Some like to talk about intelligence reports in this room; I don't.

QUESTION: On Shevardnadze and the assassination attempt, what does the United States know about who might have been behind that? And do you see it related at all to the struggle over pipelines in the Caucasus?

MR. RUBIN: We condemn acts of terrorism, in general, and want to make clear our support for President Shevardnadze and for peace and stability in Georgia and the Caucusus.

Yesterday we dispatched an inter-agency team of forensic and crime specialists to assist in investigating this latest attempt on his life. No one has yet claimed responsibility. The Georgian Government has not, to my knowledge, specified - they have launched a full-scale investigation into the attack. We don't want to speculate about the identity or the motivation of the perpetrators until we have more information.

QUESTION: Considering what's going on there and in Armenia and elsewhere in that region, is there a pattern of instability that the State Department has detected? Do you see any linking of these things; and have you talked to the Russians about it? You know why I'm asking you.

MR. RUBIN: Well, you want --

QUESTION: Because you want the Primakov doctrine.

MR. RUBIN: Because you want the briefing to go on until Thursday.

QUESTION: No, I'm going to ask about the Middle East, which will take ten seconds, because of who's running your talks. But on the theory that something is afoot here, while the U.S. is focused on Iraq, to destabilize Western interests in the Caucusus, is there such a feeling in this building?

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to get a concrete description of what our objectives and goals are in the Caucusus. I can say this: We are working very hard at trying to promote peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are working very hard to try to promote the independence and territorial integrity of the countries in the region.

I have not heard, at the levels that I hear about, people suggesting that somebody is seeking a diversion during the course of Iraq. Our view has long been that the countries in this part of the world need to be supported, and their independence needs to be supported, their territorial integrity needs to be supported. And I would be happy to get you a more comprehensive description of our policy in this region.

QUESTION: And the change in the leadership in Armenia is not a setback to efforts to solve Nagorno-Karabakh?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we certainly hope that we can work with the new leadership to try to promote peace.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Middle East, while I have your attention, because I don't think it will take - past performance suggests this won't take too long.

MR. RUBIN: I'd be happy to have you follow up on Shevardnadze.

QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago, U.S. security experts were in Tbilisi and training the Georgians, and in fact helping form the bodyguard team for Shevardnadze. Is this program still continuing? Are any American security experts helping the presidential --

MR. RUBIN: Well, that sounds like the kind of question we don't normally talk about in this forum, as you probably know. But I will say this - that whoever his bodyguards were probably saved his life.

QUESTION: Middle East - you've got Israelis, Palestinians here, you have them separately with Ross yesterday. We understand that they've been together with Ross, or at least were supposed to be by now. Erekat has told The AP in Jerusalem by telephone - he doesn't talk much here, but he was on the phone - that he doesn't like the U.S. proposal for a pull-back on the West Bank as being not substantial. Could you get into what it is that may or may not have been accomplished; and is it another setback for peacemaking efforts?

MR. RUBIN: For the scorecard.

QUESTION: I'm sure this is something you keep score on.

MR. RUBIN: OK, let me say this: Israeli and Palestinian envoys met separately yesterday with Ambassador Ross and other U.S. officials. The purpose of these sessions was to allow U.S. officials to hear the parties' responses to the ideas the Secretary laid out in her most recent trip to the region. The responses covered all issues contained in the four-part agenda. Those discussions will continue today. As I understand it, Israelis and Palestinians will meet together with Ambassador Ross this afternoon. There are no meetings scheduled with the Secretary.

Without characterizing whether it's thumbs up or thumbs down --

QUESTION: Or steady as she goes.

MR. RUBIN: Or steady as she treads water -

(Laughter.)

-- that we do not believe that we have closed the significant gaps that need to be closed, and that the decisions that need to be made have not been made.

As far as Chairman Arafat's quote, I believe --

QUESTION: Not Arafat, the negotiator --

MR. RUBIN: -- Saeb Erekat's quote is concerned, I haven't seen the quote, I can say that our understanding is that both parties were prepared to discuss with us the substantive issues of the four-part agenda -- especially on further redeployment and security -- in the context of our ideas of a step-by-step, parallel, simultaneous effort; and that the issue wasn't so much a problem with the parallel, step-by- step effort, as a problem with how much, when, what type and what type of security would be entailed. So it was a specific problem related to the substance, rather than the idea of simultaneity.

QUESTION: The U.S. takes a larger role. Is that now a U.S. proposal?

MR. RUBIN: No, these are the ideas the Secretary --

QUESTION: I mean for a withdrawal. She's used adjectives, but is there a numerical U.S. proposal?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what there are U.S, ideas to close the gaps. There is no formal U.S. proposal for Middle East peace, but it's certainly true that we try to come up with ideas to close the gaps. And we have proposed ideas to close the gaps--

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I've started to extend this.

MR. RUBIN: -- including general numerical figures, yes.

QUESTION: So you're giving - now the U.S. knows - is telling the two sides how much it thinks Israel should relinquish?

MR. RUBIN: No, it's --

QUESTION: Is that what you're saying? Not in a formal way, necessarily.

MR. RUBIN: I assume you would also be referring to what steps the Palestinians need to take in the area of security, not just in the area of Israel. I assume --

QUESTION: No, it's not a matter of even-handedness. He is saying that what he is hearing from the U.S. --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- if I hear from the Israelis on security, I'll take that up with you. He is saying he doesn't like what the U.S. is proposing on territory.

MR. RUBIN: We have not seen the fundamental decisions made by either side -- hold on, I'm going to try to get there - made by either side that would close the gaps. Since our proposals are designed to close the gaps, if they're not making the decisions to close the gaps, then presumably they don't like the way that we have put forward to close the gaps.

QUESTION: I hear you. Is the U.S. now making proposals for how much land Israel should give to the Palestinians?

MR. RUBIN: If you frame it that way, I would have to answer the question no.

QUESTION: Informally or formally?

MR. RUBIN: I will say that the U.S. is prepared to promote ideas to close the gaps in this four-part agenda, with the full support of both parties in pursuing ideas to close the gaps.

QUESTION: Well, that's just symmetry and synchronization and all that.

MR. RUBIN: And we are proposing that, including specific ideas --

QUESTION: All right.

MR. RUBIN: -- at the suggestion of both parties, to try to close the gaps. But there is no U.S. proposal, per se.

QUESTION: So could we have an arrangement here that, before the end of the day, there will be something in the Press Office saying whether the meeting took place and whether this is, as it seemed it would be, the final go-round, yesterday and today, or will there be further talks?

MR. RUBIN: At this level, you mean.

QUESTION: Oh, yes. Well, I mean, did they say good-bye; did they go home?

MR. RUBIN: We'll try to give you as much procedural information as possible.

QUESTION: Yes, because of the uncertainty whether they're meeting --

MR. RUBIN: David, yes.

QUESTION: ILSA question. There are people around town who are saying --

MR. RUBIN: I may even need my book for that one.

QUESTION: Yes, I thought you might. I'll let you turn to the page and ask a long question while you do that.

There are people around town who are suggesting that the Administration may be on the verge of making a finding of sanctionability, even perhaps this week. First of all, is that true or not? And secondly, is there any consideration - is it going to be done in the standard format? In other words, you make your determination, and if you find sanctionability, a 90-day process starts. Or is there consideration being given to simultaneously announcing a presidential waiver for some or all of the companies?

MR. RUBIN: All those terrific questions are unanswerable; other than to say that the United States is - the Secretary will be making a determination soon about the sanctionability question. And if sanctionability is determined, there are certain possibilities that flow from that. But since the first decision has not been made, I can't start speculating with you on what possible combinations of decisions will be made in that event.

QUESTION: Can you rule out a simultaneous waiver?

MR. RUBIN: I can't rule in or rule out anything until we get to a point where decisions are made.

QUESTION: Jamie, one last Cuban --

MR. RUBIN: Sorry?

QUESTION: You're not there this week? There will be no such announcement this week?

MR. RUBIN: Soon I think there will be a decision.

QUESTION: On last Cuban question, please.

MR. RUBIN: Soon.

QUESTION: One last Cuban question. Senator Dodd yesterday asked the Secretary if she had thought about this congressional bill that's been out for some months to ease the sanctions on Cuba, and she said she was thinking about it. Do you have anything more on that?

MR. RUBIN: We are going to take a look at all the legislation that has been put forward in this area. We're going to take a good, hard look at it, and we'll consider that. But I have no information on any formal position on the part of the State Department at this time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 3:20 P.M.)


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