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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #23, 98-02-20

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>


1400

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, February 20, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

DEPARTMENT
1		Secretary Albright's Calls to Olympic Medal Winners
1,21		Secretary Albright's Meeting with Prime Minister Dodik of
		  Republika Srpska and Bosnian Ambassador to US Sven
		  Alkalaj

IRAQ 1-3,16 Authorized Voluntary Departure of USG Dependents and Non-Emergency Personnel from US Embassies in Kuwait and Tel Aviv and Consulate General In Jerusalem 3-4,5 Under Secretary Pickering's Meeting with Arab-American Leaders 4-5,6,14-16 Prospects for a Diplomatic Solution/UN Secretary General Annan's Visit to Baghdad 6-8 Number and Size of Iraqi "presidential sites" 8 Calls From Distinguished Americans For Administration to "Replace" Saddam 8-10 Department Official's Meeting with Iraqi National Congress 10-11,13,23-24 Authorization for Use of Force 11-12 Summary of Countries Providing Support for Possible Military Operation 12-13 Iraqi Ambassador Hamdoon's Editorial In Today's Newspaper 13 Former President Carter's Statement Against Attack on People of Iraq 13-14,17 Secretary Albright's Plans for Public Discussion on Situation Next Week 18 Secretary Albright's Call to Turkish Foreign Minister Cem

ARMS CONTROL 18 Reported US "plan" to Use Land Mines on Bases in Countries Accepting Treaty

NORTH KOREA 19 Reported Invitation to South Korea for Dialogue

MEXICO 19 Deportation of American Citizen from Mexico

COLOMBIA 20,22-23 Colombian Police Capture of Narco-Trafficker 20-21 Affect of Capture on U.S. Certification Process

CUBA 22 Reported Release of Political Prisoners


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #23

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1998, 12:45 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing room. It's Friday. I do have a few announcements and statements to read this morning.

First of all, Secretary Albright earlier this morning, spoke to both Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski. Kwan won the silver medal and Lipinski the gold in figure skating today. The Secretary spoke first to Kwan, who then handed the phone to Lipinski. The Secretary congratulated both and expressed how proud we were of them. She also invited both of them to visit the State Department when they return. They were found in Nagano, Japan, in the athletes' Olympic Village.

Secondly, the Secretary met this morning with Prime Minister Dodik of the Republika Srpska, as well as Bosnian Ambassador to the United States, Sven Alkalaj. They had a very good, businesslike discussion. Secretary Albright felt like a breath of fresh air had blown through the room with regard to Bosnia. A few of the highlights are first of all, that Prime Minister Dodik has committed to helping refugees move home. He hopes to see tens of thousands of Muslims and Croats return to their homes in the Republika Srpska this year. He agreed, also, that all war criminals should go to The Hague, voluntarily or otherwise. He promised to work intensively to facilitate voluntary surrenders, but acknowledged that, under any circumstances, all must face justice.

The Secretary said that the US Government intends to provide $5 million in cash assistance in addition to projects planned for next year. Prime Minister Dodik emphasized that all assistance would be handled honestly and transparently. That would require activities subject to our laws and consultations. The Secretary also emphasized the message she's been emphasizing to all of the leaders in Bosnia -- that each side should implement Dayton without making excuses about the other side and using those excuses to prevent itself from moving forward. Dodik agreed.

Lastly, I have an announcement about the Iraq situation. Secretary of State Albright has decided to authorize the voluntary departure of US Government dependents and non-emergency personnel from US Embassies in Kuwait and Tel Aviv, and the Consulate General in Jerusalem. The Secretary made this decision as a precautionary measure, in response to individual concerns. It is not based on any intelligence of an imminent threat against Kuwait or Israel, or Americans in Kuwait, Israel or in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. However, the Department of State advises Americans to consider carefully all available information before undertaking non- essential travel to Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Those Americans already there should consider their personal situation in determining whether it would be prudent to depart.

This decision to allow voluntary departures does not change our basic assessment of the possibility of attack by Iraq, which is that the probability of Iraq resorting to the use of chemical or biological weapons is remote but cannot be excluded. The government of Iraq continues to defy the international community by refusing UN representatives full access to inspect and verify Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. In response, the United States and other countries have dispatched military forces to the Middle East. While no decisions have been made with respect to the use of military force, and while diplomatic options have not been exhausted, the government of Iraq continues to refuse to comply.

There are two Public Announcements that are going out to the three locations with regard to this decision by the Secretary on authorized departure.

QUESTION: If everybody takes your advice, how many people would be leaving?

MR. RUBIN: I do not have a number right now. We're talking about dependents, primarily. There are people in the region who have expressed some concerns; they have some anxiety. We have decided to allow family members and non-emergency employees of our official American community to exercise the option of voluntarily departing these three missions, should they feel it better for themselves or their families. In other words, we'll start getting information in the coming days about how many people intend to exercise this option.

So we can't give you a specific figure right now, but each of the Ambassadors and the Chiefs of Mission in the relevant locations felt that they were getting enough signals of anxiety among dependents and others to recommend authorized departure to the Secretary, and she made the decision yesterday.

QUESTION: Let me ask you something more substantive, if I may. And again, it's a matter of parsing words maybe more carefully than is called for. You said this decision or this advice is not based on intelligence of an imminent attack; right? Is the - let me see if this translates -- is the State Department saying that it has no intelligence that there will be an attack, or is the State Department saying it is not basing this decision on such intelligence?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know if I can answer your question directly, but I hope --

QUESTION: Because you don't usually comment on intelligence except --

MR. RUBIN: When I read the word, I was sorry I said it, and I will make sure it is excluded from all my statements in the future, precisely to avoid this legitimate question that you've asked me. But this is a serious matter, and let me explain the rationale.

Our decision was based on anxiety among people there who expressed that anxiety to the Ambassadors and to the Chiefs of Mission, the Consul General. Based on that anxiety that people wanted to have this option to leave -- not based on any other information with regard to the current situation in Iraq -- the recommendation was made by the two Ambassadors and the Consul General to the Secretary, and she authorized this action yesterday.

QUESTION: You see, but to us, far from the human factor, which is important, probably more important is what is the State Department's understanding -- intelligence understanding -- of what might happen? You're saying, Go, you're anxious; it would be a good thing, if you feel that way, to get out of town; we understand that,

we'll facilitate that. We're also interested in knowing what is the State Department's intelligence telling the US about whether Israel or Kuwait would be targeted?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I did actually read a sentence --

QUESTION: Without the word intelligence in it.

MR. RUBIN: I read a sentence that said what our view was.

QUESTION: Your view.

MR. RUBIN: And our view was that the probability of Iraq resorting the use of chemical or biological weapons is remote but cannot be excluded.

QUESTION: That sort of confuses me a little bit, because on the one hand, you're saying Saddam Hussein and Iraq are a threat because they possess weapons of mass destruction, and they are a threat to their neighbors, they used it before and they could use it again. Now you're going out of your way to say, we'll let these people go because they're anxious about the situation, but the threat of a chemical or biological attack is remote. So it seems like you want to have it both ways.

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, Carol, I think what we're talking about here is a situation where people have expressed anxiety. In the aftermath of a potential US military attack, would the Iraqis respond in certain ways, and that's created anxiety. Based on what we believe is a powerful deterrent of the American military force in the region and our statement that any attack on Kuwait or Israel or any of the neighbors would be met with a swift and devastating response, is part of the reason why this prospect is remote.

That's a very different thing from saying there's no inherent threat from chemical and biological weapons, which I think there clearly is, and I think the world has increasingly seen that in recent days.

QUESTION: Jamie, the Arab-American leaders that met with Ambassador Pickering this morning came out and spoke in front of the building for a few moments. They said - and if you could comment on this - Under Secretary Pickering told them that the United States felt that a diplomatic solution was possible. Then they went on to outline what this solution was that he presented to them, and it involved - not surprising - unconditional access to the weapons sites, but with a layer of diplomatic - layer of diplomats added to the inspections, as observers, I take it.

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this -- Secretary Albright has been working very carefully on this issue for many, many days. She has talked to Kofi Annan; she's talked to people who have talked to Kofi Annan; she's talked to her counterparts. And what we are basing our hope on - and it is no more than a hope; in fact, we're quite skeptical that it will occur - is that when push comes to shove, Iraq will reverse course and give UNSCOM the access and the operational control it needs to ensure that it's UNSCOM that can go where it needs to go, know whether it's gone where it needs to go and make the evaluations of the information.

If a few diplomats were to accompany UNSCOM under certain conditions, we don't have a problem with that. The important point here is UNSCOM having operational control and access to sites it does not now have access to. It's not just about alleged luxury residences inside presidential compounds, six or eight of them; it's about a whole slew of sites outside of the residence but inside the compound. It's about a whole slew of sites unrelated completely to the presidential complexes, so-called sensitive sites where UNSCOM is not now able to go. I think that is our bottom line.

We are hopeful, but we have to bear in mind the fact that, time after time, Saddam Hussein and his government have made decisions, national decisions, not to allow UNSCOM and its inspectors to go where they want to go. If they were to reverse course and give UNSCOM operational control of the inspection process it has now in these additional locations that it cannot now go, that would be a step forward in terms of what UNSCOM has been able to do in the past.

But I want to remind you that what we've seen in the last day or so is the release of very important information about what Iraq has not done. An international panel of experts has reviewed Iraq's WMD record and concluded that serious concerns remain. These were unanimous conclusions of UNSCOM's team, chaired by a Russian, and including other missile experts from Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

With regard to Iraq's cooperation, they said that Iraq has not provided the supporting documents to the team that UNSCOM had requested; that Iraq did not respond with factual statements; the Iraqi side objected to the introduction of relevant facts; and the Iraqi side would withdraw or change its explanations if they were not satisfactory to the team.

This finding of this international - these experts is very important. It concluded that only 32 of 51 chemical and biological warheads that Iraq claims to have secretly destroyed have been verified. It concludes that evidence of warhead designs and testing activities have not yet been declared by Iraq. It concludes that Iraqi explanations of remnants of warheads at a third site undeclared by Iraq are inconsistent with already known findings and Iraq's previous explanations.

With regard to the chemical weapons, the experts note that Iraq was capable of producing significant quantities of VX before January 1991 -- as much as 50 to 100 tons -- while the Iraqis have declared only 3.9 tons, and only under pressure. This is a clear example of what this crisis is about. UNSCOM has information that 50 to 100 tons could have been produced, and the Iraqis have only permitted them information to conclude that four tons have been destroyed. So the difference between 50 to 100 tons and four tons has the potential for being significant chemical weapons activity.

Until Iraq provides the team information by allowing it to go where it needs to go and providing not only access but information, and allowing it to interview people - this is what UNSCOM is about. It's an elaborate process. I guess, to conclude my very long answer to your very short question, it is that UNSCOM has to make a judgment of whether it can do its job.

If, after Kofi Annan's mission, Iraq were to reverse course, change its position, allow access, and UNSCOM were to believe that it were in control of the operations of inspections and were in control of where to go, when to go, then we would have significant new access that we don't have now, and that would be a markedly new situation.

QUESTION: Jamie, just to follow up -- I just want to understand. You're saying the compromise, I guess - use your own word.

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't use that word.

QUESTION: Whatever word you want - that was presented to this group of Arab-Americans, you said that is your bottom line. In other words, that's the US position --

MR. RUBIN: No, no, on the contrary. I'm not going to be quoted confirming any statement by someone who heard third-hand, from a senior US official, what may or may not be our position. I can tell you what our position is, publicly. I have no idea what these people said.

I can say the following --

QUESTION: What you just said, if a few diplomats were to accompany UNSCOM, we wouldn't have a problem with that. The important thing here is that UNSCOM has unconditional access. That is our bottom line.

MR. RUBIN: Fine. I have no trouble with that. In the event that these Arab-Americans said other things that they were describing as the US proposal, I just don't want to be - have someone think that I was confirming what their account of a meeting with Pickering is, because there are very expert technical issues that need to be used, the correct language needs to be used; and I just didn't want to be associated with non-expert language.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure everybody understands. The only change in the American position, publicly at least, is that the few diplomats can go along. That's it. Period.

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, I would reject the characterization as a change of American position. If you look back at all our statements, we had two bottom lines, which were unfettered access and the integrity of UNSCOM. And UNSCOM has never gone to these places, so it can't be a change in a position that never existed before.

If, as a result of Kofi Annan's mission, Saddam Hussein reverses course and allows access to these sites, with UNSCOM having operational control, and a few diplomats go along, that's a detail as far as we're concerned. What the substance is, is whether UNSCOM has the operational control and whether UNSCOM has the access. That's substance; a few diplomats are details.

QUESTION: Jamie, the United Nations inspectors or special team that Kofi Annan sent in advance of his trip produced a report which leaked or somehow got out yesterday. It talks about eight sites that they visited and hundreds of buildings on the sites. The total space or size of these sites was something like 27 square miles, which was a far smaller size than the President, in his Tuesday speech, was referring to one site as being. I'm wondering if you can now explain these discrepancies.

And also, what is the significance of these eight sites? Are these really the heart of the problem, as some of the wire reports were saying yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as far as the discrepancy is concerned, I would look back at what the President said. What we are talking about when we make that point is that there are 60-plus presidential palaces spread out over the country -- some in places where Iraq's leader used to live, where his family comes from, and in other sites he deems luxurious and pleasant enough for him to place these palaces.

So there are a series of these palaces -- more than 60, in the range of 65, 68 -- some of which, some of which are huge complexes that are nearly the size of cities in the United States. That does not mean that the eight sites that the Iraqis like to talk about are the same as what the President was talking about.

What the President was demonstrating is that there are 60-plus locations in Iraq that are labeled so-called presidential sites, some of which are huge. And if Iraq were to say, in the context of those 60-plus sites, that the only access would be to the primary residence in that site, but huge swaths of territory, with hundreds of buildings or dozens of buildings outside of the residence in that site were not to be visited, then that wouldn't be unfettered access. That's the point the President was making.

QUESTION: Well, I'm really still unclear on what you just now said --

MR. RUBIN: I thought that was pretty clear.

QUESTION: -- whether the eight sites that the UN team visited reveal something of significance? Because some of those sites had hundreds of buildings on them, and they have now listed them all. And I heard from the French Embassy here that the figure of 68 refers to the suspected or the buildings that were sought to be visited in these eight sites, and that these two are in one - to be looked at --

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me start by saying, I recommend you don't go to the bank on whoever the French official was who told you that.

QUESTION: It was the spokesman of the embassy, but that's not important.

MR. RUBIN: But Roy --

QUESTION: What's important is that you have not put out any figures from this podium or from this government that explains --

MR. RUBIN: Roy, do you want to have a debate, or do you want me to answer your question?

QUESTION: Well, just the question.

MR. RUBIN: Well, keep putting it out, and then, when you're all done, I'll try to answer it.

QUESTION: I mean, this is a question I asked two days ago, and I tried yesterday at the White House, and I tried at the State Department. I'd like to know what - I'd like to get this --

MR. RUBIN: I know what you want to know, so get it out.

QUESTION: -- some handle on the sites.

MR. RUBIN: Sorry?

QUESTION: I'd like to have a handle, an understanding of the sites.

MR. RUBIN: Right. This is a matter for UNSCOM to describe to you in detail. If I make my best efforts to explain to you the nature of the problem, putting things in generalized categories, I recommend you go to UNSCOM, who is in charge of this operation, and if they'll talk to you, you'll probably understand it better. If you won't, come back to us, and we'll try to help you as best we can.

What I'm saying to you is, it's not correct to say that the President of the United States was referring to a huge site, and then the Iraqis say that these sites are smaller. There are many sites. The 60-plus number refers to presidential complexes throughout Iraq. That is our understanding of the issue. If another government has a different understanding, I think they're mistaken.

And when the President referred to the size of one of those sites, he did not specify that they were one - that was one of the eight sites that you're talking about. So what I'm trying to do is help you understand it. And the way to understand it is, there are eight sites that the Iraqis talk about as presidential residences. There are 60-plus sites that are broadly under the category of presidential complexes, and then there are a slew of other sites that are broadly under the category of sensitive sites.

What we're talking about in this crisis is whether UNSCOM is going to have access to all of those places -- not just the question of these eight sites and will a few diplomats accompany UNSCOM to those eight locations. What we're talking about is stonewalling over and over again by the Iraqis in the way that I just laid out for you by the UN evaluation team, everywhere in Iraq. It's not just a question of do they let somebody in; it's a question of whether they cooperate with UNSCOM and give UNSCOM the mechanisms to go where they need to go.

That's the best I can do on specifying these sites.

QUESTION: Jamie, about three dozen Americans who have been prominent in foreign policy thinking circles, whatever, over time, including Steven Solarz and Richard Perle, today called on the Administration to change course and actively go after Saddam Hussein, and replace his regime with a provisional government. I know you've addressed this issue, but can I ask you again to --

MR. RUBIN: Yes. These distinguished Americans are entitled to their opinion. These very issues that they have raised today are issues that top officials in our government have given plenty of thought to.

Without getting into the specifics, the conclusion of the President and his advisors is that the right policy for the United States is to contain Saddam Hussein. Over the long term, containment has worked. Containment may not be the most aesthetically pleasing policy; it may not be the knee-jerk simple solution that some would like, but it's a solution that's consistent with our vital national interests, at a cost and a risk that the President deems is acceptable.

That is the basis of our policy. As Secretary Albright said yesterday, if Saddam Hussein were not around, we would look forward to dealing with a post-Saddam regime and working with that regime. But as long as Saddam Hussein is around, we are going to keep him in the tightest possible containment box we can create, and make it impossible -- or as best as we can, make it impossible -- for him to threaten our vital interests. And the vital interests identified, obviously, are the possibility of threatening his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction or threatening his neighbors with conventional armament.

QUESTION: In the last two days, have any officials in this building met with representatives of the Iraqi National Congress?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that David Welch, our deputy assistant secretary, will be meeting with them. I believe it's today; is that correct? Yes.

QUESTION: And what's the - I know you made some comments - or Jim made some comments the other day about our interest in looking again at supporting an opposition movement, but what's the current thinking on that? Is there any --

MR. RUBIN: Well, this particular group - sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I mean, this group or any other - anybody else.

MR. RUBIN: We obviously would want there to be a government in Iraq that's democratic, that allows effective opposition. And one of the ways to pursue that long-term goal, in the aftermath of - well, anyway, that long- term goal -- is to have -- the INC is an umbrella organization made up of many independent Iraqi opposition groups. We've invited leaders of these groups to come to Washington before, either independently or as members of the umbrella group.

These meetings reflect our interest in finding effective ways to support Iraqi groups opposed to Saddam Hussein. We would prefer to see the Iraqi people led by a new government, so it's therefore appropriate for us to meet with those people, but that's a very different thing than making it a matter of national policy, national security policy, as some have suggested, to send hundreds of thousands of ground troops into Iraq and change the regime. And that is a decision the President and his advisors have decided is not appropriate, and the better choice, over the long term for the United States is to contain Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: Can you put this meeting today in this context? I mean, is it the start of a new effort by the United States to try to work with this group to build up a credible and cohesive opposition that could supplant Saddam?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would hesitate to use the word new. It's certainly part of an effort that we've long made to meet with opposition groups, to discuss matters with them in the hopes that the more serious they became in their capabilities, the more likely they would be to mount effective opposition. But that's a very different thing, again, than the question of going after Saddam Hussein, and making it a matter of national policy to use military force or other means to unseat him.

QUESTION: I understand that, but just --

MR. RUBIN: I'm just making sure it gets in all the answers.

QUESTION: I see. Two more questions, though. Do you see this group as more - I forget the word you used - more serious --

MR. RUBIN: Effective?

QUESTION: -- or more effective, at this point in time, to sort of carry out that kind of goal, which is to install a more democratic government --

MR. RUBIN: Well, all I can say - sorry.

QUESTION: And do you have any new ideas which you might present to - will there be new ideas? Will there be a new plan? Will there be new initiatives presented today to try to move that forward?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, it's very difficult to discuss any details of a discussion like that. All I can say is that we are looking at ways to find effective ways to assist opposition to Saddam Hussein, and we have said that for some time now. And one of the ways you look at ways to do that is to have meetings like this.

QUESTION: Jamie, on that subject, isn't it the experience of the earlier Clinton Administration that it didn't work to rely on the INC; that they spent more time feuding with each other, and they were so heavily infiltrated, it would have been cheaper to send the money directly to Baghdad?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that's your characterization; it certainly wasn't a conclusion of the Clinton Administration. But as far as your question is concerned, I did use the words more effective. So clearly implied by that is that the previous groupings were not effective.

QUESTION: Another question - a simple one of process. Kofi Annan goes to Baghdad; he comes back. Supposing he comes back - just for the - just to outline the procedure.

MR. RUBIN: For the sake of hypothetical argument, yes.

QUESTION: Just to outline what procedure you are planning to follow. If he comes back with a response from the Iraqis which is not satisfactory. At that point, does this government make the decision on its own to go with military force? Or do you have - or are you planning to go back to the Security Council to notify, at least, that the United States is going ahead?

MR. RUBIN: It's a legitimate hypothetical process question. Let me try to do the best I can without actually answering it. And that is -

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: At least you're honest.

MR. RUBIN: No, I may give you something you'll find useful.

We have said in the past that we do not believe we need Security Council authorization to use military force if the President were to make that decision, and we have not changed that position. So if we believe military force is necessary, we do not believe we need Security Council authorization. That's the best I can do for you.

QUESTION: But for political reasons, would it be prudent, at least to win international support, to go back to the United Nations in some form or at some level to say, this is what we're going to do, and this is why, and we wanted to let you know first?

MR. RUBIN: In the hypothetical procedure that you have outlined, the Secretary General of the UN has been stiffed by the Iraqi Government, and so that's a different situation than we face now. He's gone over there. He's trying to get them to see the wisdom of reversing course. And if he succeeds, that will be a peaceful solution. And if it meets the substantive criteria I laid out before, we will be supportive. If he comes back, as Ambassador Richardson said, we reserve the right to disagree.

But we want to be hopeful about this. We want Secretary General Annan to go to Baghdad, or now to do his work in Baghdad, with the support of the United States in achieving a change in position by the Iraqi Government on how UN inspectors can operate inside Iraq.

QUESTION: Maybe you can answer if I put it more simply. Will a decision to go or not go be made in Washington? Or will it be made after consulting - - in Washington after consulting with New York?

MR. RUBIN: The best answer I can give you is, we have made clear that we do not need Security Council authorization. We have also made clear that we would welcome a strong message from the Security Council - in the past several days we've said this - making clear that the grave consequences that would ensue from a failure to solve this diplomatically would be the responsibility of Saddam Hussein. I can reiterate that we do not believe we need such authorization.

QUESTION: On Mr. Annan's mission, this morning the prime minister of Italy said, if Saddam - here I'm quoting - "If Saddam Hussein slams the door on Mr. Annan's face, then Italy - it would be very difficult for Italy not to contribute to a possible military action against Iraq." Now, in the country, as you probably know, there is some controversy about the use of air bases for strikes against Iraq. Could you comment on this? And could you anticipate whether the US is going to ask for the use of those bases?

MR. RUBIN: Any specific decision about the use air bases, logistical support and over-flight rights would have to be addressed to the Pentagon. But let me take this opportunity to point out to you -- those of you who seem determined to write about the small size of the coalition at least should hear before you write it again - that there are over 20 countries that are providing either military forces, that are supporting us with over- flight clearances, that are providing basing rights or other support necessary to mount a military operation.

They include: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Kuwait, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Spain and the United Kingdom. We also have a group of countries within that - and there are more - who are what we might call contributing forces directly, and those are a subset of that. So there is broad support around the world, broad military support that will be with us, if this decision has to be made.

As far as a specific decision to seek over-flight rights, I can say that it's my understanding that Italy is in that category of countries that are supportive either -- through one of the ways that I suggested. And we certainly recognize that some of these decisions may be domestically difficult. As you saw in Ohio, it's not without its difficulties here in the United States. But these are decisions that leaders have to make, based on what their view of the threats are and their view of the rights courses of action.

QUESTION: Jamie, I noted by absence -- I believe, in your list, I did not hear Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. Is that correct or did that --

MR. RUBIN: Well, you're again going to make me wonder why I provide you with information. But the answer to the question is that just because you're not on the list doesn't mean you're not on the list.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Did you see Ambassador Hamdoon's op-ed piece this morning?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I did. I read that, yes.

QUESTION: He responded to the accusation Iraq is withholding technical information, which you repeated today.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: He says that information was either destroyed or is nonexistent. I take it by your comments that you don't believe that argument.

MR. RUBIN: We don't know. The problem is that the experts commission that the Iraqis specifically asked for to address these questions concluded that when they met with the Iraqis to address these very pieces of information -- namely, where is the information; where has it been; could it have been destroyed; could they not have it and it really happened -- received the following kinds of responses: Iraq did not provide the supporting documents to this team that UNSCOM had requested; Iraq did not respond with official declarations or factual statements; the Iraqi side vehemently objected to the introduction of relevant facts; the Iraqi side would withdrawal or change its explanations if they were not satisfactory to the team.

That's sort of a procedural point. Are they giving the teams the information and the cooperation they need to answer these questions? That's the problem. The problem isn't the way Ambassador Hamdoon put it. The problem is that his compatriots, when confronted with serious questions and serious information respond by obfuscation, if not outright lying. And if they wouldn't, then maybe the inspection teams would come to different conclusions about what may have been destroyed or not.

QUESTION: How do you comment to the former US President, Jimmy Carter's statement, who said today, I really disapprove the attack against the people of Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: Jimmy Carter is a former President of the United States, and former Presidents of the United States are well respected from this podium, and we certainly respect his opinion.

QUESTION: Do you know finally if Turkey is going to allow US forces to use the Incirlik base?

MR. RUBIN: I will not be in a position to comment on that level of military detail.

QUESTION: -- question about authorization. You said you don't need Security Council approval. Is that because one, you view your action as a multilateral action - you and the 20 other countries; or is that because you believe that previous resolutions give you the right to mount a military attack? And if so, what resolutions?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that Resolution 687 of the United Nations Security Council, which is the cease-fire resolution, makes clear that the Iraqis must comply with the UN to give up their weapons of mass destruction. Several times, the Security Council has declared Iraq in material breach for the kinds of activities they are now undertaking. We do not believe that every time Iraq fundamentally violates these obligations of the cease- fire that we need to go back to the Security Council to have Security Council authorization.

And I would remind you that 687, the cease-fire resolution, is based on Resolution 678, which authorizes the use of military force.

QUESTION: What are the Secretary's plans for public diplomacy in the next week?

MR. RUBIN: At this point, she has been asked to do some television this weekend, which would be the last thing that any sane person would want to do after the week we had. But I can't rule out that it'll happen, given the desire we have to continue to explain to the American people what our position is and how we arrived at it and why we think it's wise. Beyond that, I don't have a schedule for you, but as soon as we have new information, I'd be happy to give it to you.

QUESTION: On "Nightline" last night, maybe she was just joking; she was talking with children and asked them, did they believe everything they read in the newspapers, expecting a big no answer, which she got. I was wondering what was really on her mind when she asked that?

MR. RUBIN: I think the response was general applause from some four- and five- and six-year-olds.

QUESTION: What was on her mind in asking the question, was my question.

MR. RUBIN: Whose parents must have told them what they think of the newspapers.

QUESTION: No, what was on her mind when she was thinking - when she asked the question? Why - does she have a problem with the way the press has covered this week's events in Columbus?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think it would be a wise policy for me to get into press criticism here from the State Department podium, because then the briefings would be even longer.

QUESTION: This morning Mr. Annan - (inaudible) - said that I hope I will turn back to New York with a package which will satisfy everybody. We know the United States package everybody knows. Does this mean a different package can be discussed in future?

MR. RUBIN: Could you try that again? I didn't get it.

QUESTION: Well, he said, I hope that I will go back to New York with a package which will satisfy everybody. We know the United States package in details. So if he comes with a different package from Baghdad, is United States going - will United States be going to talk about that package?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me quibble with a few of the words you used. I wouldn't say that you know the United States package. You know the United States principles; and the principles that will guide us in deciding whether this crisis can be resolved peacefully. The principles involve UNSCOM having full access, and then UNSCOM having operational control of the inspection and process. Those are principles; they're not a package.

If Kofi Annan comes back with a package that meets those principles, we'll have a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: What if he comes back with a package - I know we're talking hypotheticals here, and you may duck - but he comes back with a package he says is acceptable?

MR. RUBIN: To whom?

QUESTION: To him.

MR. RUBIN: Again, we have confidence in the Secretary General. We believe the Secretary General's goal in going on this trip is to implement Security Council resolutions. And any plain reading of Security Council resolutions makes clear that Iraq must give full access to the UN inspectors and must let the UN inspectors have operational control over the process. There is no other way to read those resolutions, and we expect the Secretary General will be going with that in mind.

In fact, as a result of our meetings, we have every reason to believe that. So I wouldn't presume any outcome other than to say that he would like to see the UN Security Council resolutions implemented. The UN Security Council resolutions are based on the two principles that I described to you. If it's something else, we reserve the right to disagree.

QUESTION: But if he says - so in other words, if he says that he did it; that's the end of the story.

MR. RUBIN: No, I didn't say that. Didn't I just say that he reserves the - we reserve the right to disagree?

QUESTION: But you said you're fully confident in his judgment on these issues.

MR. RUBIN: I mean, I think you're now starting to quibble. This is what I call a quibble. We have confidence in the Secretary General's intention to seek the implementation of Security Council resolutions, based on the two principles that I described to you. If the Secretary General comes back from Baghdad with a package based on those two principles, then we have the basis of a peaceful resolution. If he does not, we reserve the right to disagree. I don't know how else to put it.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary General bringing - carrying with him proposals that - or the framework of some sort of resolution that would adhere to your principles, your bottom-line principles, and yet have some other, let's say, inducements, beyond this idea of having some diplomats go along with UNSCOM?

MR. RUBIN: All right. We're in a situation now where the Secretary General of the United Nations has arrived in Baghdad. The United States is poised and said it's prepared to use military force. He has described his proposals in the most general of terms, and I certainly am not going to describe them in any more specific terms. This is not a time to discuss in public the details of these matters. This is a time to discuss in public the principles that will guide the United States in judging this issue; but it's not a time to be describing for him the details contained in his package.

QUESTION: But I didn't ask you for the details; I just asked you if he was carrying with him other inducements or ideas?

MR. RUBIN: Those would be details.

QUESTION: Well, I'm just asking --

MR. RUBIN: Do you mean, as a generality, does he have other things in his package?

QUESTION: That's right.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to get into the position of characterizing the Secretary General's package. As you could see, he is not either; so I certainly wouldn't want to do that for him.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the issue of the departure? Would the voluntary departure or possible ordered departure, could those be seen as necessary steps before military action?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this is not an ordered departure, and an ordered departure would be a different step. This is an authorized departure. I'm not going to get into a situation where we're beating the war drums here from this podium. All I can say is, we received recommendations from the chiefs of mission and the ambassadors, and we acted on those recommendations. If we want to lay out for you what the steps we think are necessary prerequisites for a military decision, I think that would have to come from the Commander-in-Chief.

QUESTION: Well, can I just turn it around then?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Would the US initiate military action without giving US citizens a chance to get out the way?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly, as a matter of principle, this government would do what it could in every circumstance to protect American lives.

QUESTION: Jamie, -- (inaudible) -- just to clarify.

MR. RUBIN: We're coming right back, yes.

QUESTION: You used a term I haven't heard in this voluntary departure, dependents and "non-emergency" personnel, or did you say nonessential?

QUESTION: He said it both ways.

QUESTION: Is there --

MR. RUBIN: I'll try to get the consular folks to give you a differentiation, but I suspect --

QUESTION: Nonessential.

MR. RUBIN: -- nonessential is the word.

QUESTION: He said what's been said every time.

MR. RUBIN: I certainly meant to say what's been said every time. I didn't intend to include a new word in the lexicon.

QUESTION: But there's a new threat, and does that mean the US is doing anything so far as medical and --

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to get you more information on that. Obviously, the --

QUESTION: The folks at State.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Obviously, the Pentagon is taking steps in that regard.

QUESTION: Besides anthrax.

MR. RUBIN: And I will have to get you information on what specific steps we're taking.

By the way, Roy, to answer your question, the Secretary of State is testifying before Congress three times next week. I consider that part of the public discussion about this issue, and I suspect that members will be interested in asking her about Iraq.

QUESTION: And that raises a question whether the events of this week and the questioning you're getting from the public will cause a kind of a delay in whatever timing the Administration might have for the eventual need for military force?

MR. RUBIN: I'm going to make it a practice of not getting into timing discussions with you on the question of the use of military force. I can certainly say that the United States Government will take that decision using the greatest care and taking into account all the factors that need to be taken into account. But I don't have any intention, from this day forward, of giving you any clue or signal, at least by my desire, on a question of that sensitivity.

QUESTION: If you take away the word timing and just use timetable, I mean, does it put back the overall timetable because you have to do more public diplomacy first?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this -- I think President Clinton made clear yesterday, as Secretary Albright did yesterday, that we believe that if military force needs to be used, the American people will be behind us; that the Congressional leadership made clear there's a broad-based support in Congress for confronting Saddam Hussein's threat.

So all I can say is that we're not going to make our decision by public opinion polls; Secretary Albright made that very clear. We do feel an obligation to explain our policies to the American people. That process has taken place. Whether there are additional explanations being considered by the President or others, I'm not in a position to say. But certainly, next week there will be plenty of testimony.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, Secretary Albright called the Turkish Foreign Minister Cem, and they had a long dialogue on the phone. Are you happy to hold dialogue, or do you have some disagreement on the Iraq policy, or Iraq crisis?

MR. RUBIN: I think they had a very good discussion on the Iraq crisis.

QUESTION: You didn't count Turkey on the list of supporting countries.

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't assume - as I said, I wouldn't assume, if you're not on the list, you're not on the list.

QUESTION: Can we dispose of one or two other issues?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, please. I would welcome it.

QUESTION: All right. The anti-land-mine activists are saying that the United States is pushing to plant land mines on bases in countries which only recently signed the land mine treaty. Do you have any response to that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. That doesn't sound like the behavior of the United States Government; it sounds like the behavior of the suspicions of those who are suspicious of the United States Government.

We are not putting pressure any government not to sign the treaty. Obviously, we're consulting with countries in NATO on the implications of this treaty on our military alliance. We're approaching these consultations in a problem-solving way. We believe the countries that do intend the sign or have signed will - are also approaching this in a problem-solving way. And we're confident that at the end of the day, we'll be able to maintain essential defense cooperation with our NATO allies in the face - despite some concerns by some about the effect of the Ottawa treaty.

QUESTION: As I understand it, the US is pressing them to accept to land mines on bases in these countries.

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I'm not going to be able to get into detail. There is a necessity for defense cooperation that's part and parcel of a military alliance. That is the principle that's guiding us. We also recognize the solemn obligation of signing a treaty. And we are democracies who work very closely together well. There's not pressure being imposed on anybody, but rather there's discussion going on, on how to reconcile essential defense cooperation with the solemn obligations of treaties.

QUESTION: Jamie, have you seen the --

MR. RUBIN: Did you have one other subject, George?

QUESTION: This is another subject. Have you seen the batch - the report of a batch of letters being delivered by the North Koreans, inviting a dialogue with South Korea? Do you think that this is genuine, or is this a piece of theater?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see, obviously. We have long supported meaningful dialogue between the South and North Korean Governments. We do not have much detail on this proposal and therefore can't comment on its specifics, but we support the concept of family reunification and better communication between families. And we're from Missouri on the question of whether this will yield any result.

QUESTION: Jamie, on Mexico.

MR. RUBIN: Please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: It has been in the couple of days, the Mexican Government has deported two Americans, members of organization groups in Chiapas. Do you have any response to that? And I also have a question on meetings on Peru and Ecuador here in the building. Do you have anything to say about it?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I do not have any information on the Peru and Ecuador question, but we can get you some information after the briefing. Able deputy number two, Lee McClenny, will be delighted to discuss with you the Peru-Ecuador situation.

With regard to the deportation issue, our Embassy in Mexico City confirms that US citizen Thomas Hansen was deported from Mexico yesterday. We understand that the government of Mexico charged him with activities not permitted on a tourist visa; specifically, acting as an international observer at the 1996 peace dialogues in Chiapas province. Mr. Hansen alleges threats against his person but no physical abuse.

The United States respects Mexico's right to regulate the presence of foreigners on its territory. We are concerned, however, about Mr. Hansen's statements regarding the manner in which he was treated by immigration authorities in Chiapas, and are seeking further information from the Mexican authorities.

QUESTION: Something on Colombia?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Colombia, there was a --

MR. RUBIN: Let's go to the back, if we still have it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Colombia police captured the last of the biggest narco- traffickers a few hours ago. Do you have any comments about this? And what impact will this new issue have when the certification process is going to announce next week?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, let me say this -- we are very pleased to learn of the arrest by the Colombia National Police, on February 19, of Jose Nelson Urrego. He's also known as "El Loco," or "The Crazy One." He's a major narcotics trafficker, in our view, and money launderer, and a priority target of the international law enforcement community.

El Loco, the last of the big Cali North Valley cartel leaders who had eluded arrest, had been a fugitive for two years. The Colombia National Police arrested him as he was visiting one of his Medellin properties which was under surveillance by the CNP. The National Police did an outstanding job in locating and identifying the drug lord, who had undergone plastic surgery and was carrying false papers when arrested.

We hope that El Loco is quickly prosecuted and that he receives a sentence commensurate to the crimes he committed. He is not indicted in the United States, so there's not a question of extradition.

With regard to how this will affect certification, no decisions on certification have been made. If it will have any impact, that will be only appropriate to discuss after decisions are made and we are prepared to discuss the decisions.

QUESTION: Follow up.

MR. RUBIN: Let's have him follow up, and then I'll come over here.

QUESTION: When this application process is going to announce?

MR. RUBIN: Soon.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)-- suggests that the decisions on certification have to do with results in the previous year. Would an issue that happened yesterday, would that influence any decision on this year's --

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure it will be taken into account, but that is very different than the phrase influence. Taking into account the arrest of a major drug dealer would be appropriate, but whether it will influence the decision would be a preview of which direction the decision is going, and I certainly wouldn't want to do that before it's been made.

QUESTION: This arrest would not be covered in the period under consideration for the certification, though, right?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check the technicalities of the law, but thank you for pointing them out to me.

QUESTION: You say the announcement is going to be made soon, but Secretary Albright has already taken her decision about what she's going to --

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: On the meeting this morning, did the Secretary or has somebody else in the Administration discussed with him the members of his cabinet, some of whom had activities during the war which would put them under suspicion, although not under indictment for war crimes?

MR. RUBIN: He pledged to her that he would not have people in his cabinet who were bad guys, broadly defined.

QUESTION: And did she raise the subject with him?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Jamie, another Bosnia, what's behind the $5 million --

MR. RUBIN: We are working on a record here on Friday, but please go ahead.

QUESTION: The $5 million that was promised, what's the problem about - or is there - what's the procedure for delivering the money?

MR. RUBIN: This is something that has to be consulted with Congress, worked through our government laws, but it's designed to be cash assistance, as opposed to funding of projects.

QUESTION: Will the problems about the members of his Cabinet be a problem for Congress, do you think?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you'd have to ask them. Secretary Albright felt this meeting was a breath of fresh air, and that this is a gentleman who seems determined to do the right thing in Bosnia; to see Dayton implemented. And I haven't seen her have a better meeting with a Bosnian Serb in many years of watching such meetings.

QUESTION: You're going to hate me for asking this --

MR. RUBIN: I'm going to hate you? I wouldn't hate you.

QUESTION: It's been more than an hour.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, it's hot under these lights.

QUESTION: The government of Cuba has just announced that they've released 70 political prisoners. Do you see finally this as a positive step in changing the policy of Cuba, or are you still saying this is a small step?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think we've characterized the step yet. We've very carefully avoided characterizing the step, but talked about what we know and what we don't know. Until we have all the information we need, it's hard to make a characterization of what the significance of this step is.

We understand that over 60 political prisoners have been released. We do not have figures on the number of common criminals being released. Some of the released prisoners have requested information on how to apply for refugee status. We naturally welcome the news that political prisoners are to be released. We are concerned, however, that many political prisoners remain incarcerated, and that many who are being released are being forced into exile.

The purpose of releasing political prisoners is so that they can live in their own country, and allow them to express their views and not to exile them. We also want to ensure that people who are released are not detained again. So we're going to watch this very carefully. What we want is an open process in which there is freedom for peaceful political expression in Cuba; and we'll be monitoring it very carefully.

QUESTION: In other words, there will be no reciprocal response from the United States?

MR. RUBIN: When we've made a decision as to what we think has happened, based on the information we can get, we'll be in a position to decide whether it's a significant enough action to merit a response; but we're not in that position yet.

QUESTION: Colombia?

MR. RUBIN: I think I did Colombia.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Yes, okay.

QUESTION: If you said that he's not being indicted here --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) - here. Does this mean that the US authorities doesn't have any charge - I mean anything that he probably did here and --

MR. RUBIN: I think I described him in pretty stark terms, is what we thought of this gentleman. But because there isn't an indictment current, doesn't mean we think he's a nice guy; in fact, we think he's a very bad guy.

QUESTION: But if he's not indicted here, it means that the US doesn't have any information about him.

MR. RUBIN: You're drawing conclusions based on our criminal law - legal system that I wouldn't, if I were you.

Yes, let's do one more question.

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: Iraq - end where we started.

QUESTION: Jamie, you alluded to Resolution 687 as the basis for the United States to hit Iraq; is that correct?

MR. RUBIN: A basis, yes.

QUESTION: That the US does not need the permission of the Security Council on --

MR. RUBIN: No, no, in fact the contrary - the US already has the authorization of the Security Council.

QUESTION: Some precise wording in this resolution that allows the United States to hit. The question is based on - it's an international law, right? The law needs specific wordings, and if there is no wording with regard to the specific right of the United States to hit any other country, then were is the border between the acts based on UN resolutions and outright aggression?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think you would have had a hard time finding the Security Council Resolutions 678 having specific wording authorizing the Gulf War, if you were going to be a nit-picker. No, there were no words in there that said the United States and its friends and allies may use a large military operation to eject Iraq from Kuwait.

There are legal terms of art. The international legal system is based on principles of international law. When you are operating under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, when the underlying resolution is Resolution 678 that authorizes the use of military force, and when 687, which suspends 678, is nullified by Iraqi action, then 678 is operative, authorizing the use of military force.

QUESTION: Yes, but also when you are talking about the Gulf War, that was the right of Kuwait for the collective defense in the face of the aggression, not this case.

MR. RUBIN: No, it was the authorization under Chapter 7 that actions had been taken that threatened the international peace and security of the world.

You've got to remember I spent four years in New York; you're going to have a hard time out arguing me on this.

QUESTION: But that time was the right of Kuwait for collective defense.

MR. RUBIN: No, it was a decision by the Security Council that Iraq's invasion of Kuwait threatened international peace and security. That is the basis of the Resolution 678; that's the basis of 687; and that's the basis of our legal judgment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)


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