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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #24, 98-02-23

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Monday, February 23, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		Secretary's Appearances on the Hill This Week

IRAQ 1 Secretary: Briefing by Amb Richardson / Consultations With Foreign Policy Team 1-3,8-9,10-12,14,16 Agreement: Transmitted to New York / US Discussions / Details / Acceptance / Next Steps / Reversing Course, Not Negotiating / Russian Rpt of New UN Resolution / Relevant UN Resolutions / Secretary's Talks with Russian FM Primakov 2-4, 6-7,11,16 UNSCOM: Aims / Access to Sites / Name Change / Relevant UN Resolutions / Experts / US Position on UNSCOM's Work 4-5,8,12-13 Oil-for-Food: New Resolution / Linkage to Agreement / Provision of Medicine & Food / Increase in Oil Production / Distribution of Food / Secretary General's Report 5-7,9-10,14 US Military Forces: Remain in Place / Acting Alone / Sharing Costs / Additional UN Resolution to Act 5-6,13 Sanctions: US Policy on Lifting

KOREA, SOUTH 14 Rotation of US Troops

IRAN / RUSSIA 14-15 US Position on Nuclear Cooperation / Complete Bushehr Plant / Impact on Total Sanctions Decision

ISRAEL 16 Lebanese-Born US Citizen in Jail

CHINA 16-17 EU Resolution on Human Rights

GREECE / TURKEY 17 Reports of Non-Aggression Pact


DPB #24

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1998, 12:35 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me start by saying that Secretary Albright will be testifying this week three times before Congress - the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Secretary Cohen tomorrow; the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State, on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.; and on Thursday at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, at 10:00 a.m. Of course, this is part of the budget process, which we expect at this time of year. But I suspect it will be an opportunity to continue discussions with members of Congress on the situation in Iraq, which, obviously, people are very focused on.

With regard to that situation, Secretary Albright has been receiving a briefing over the last several --- the last 45 minutes, from Ambassador Richardson as a result of the receipt of the agreement by the permanent members of the Security Council in New York. She's receiving a briefing; it may be completed right now. I expect her to be consulting with the other members of the foreign policy team during the course of the day. It's my understanding/expectation that the White House will have more to say about rendering more complete assessment of this agreement. So I am not going to be in a position to do so, but I welcome your questions.

QUESTION: So they're not going to know for roughly two and a half hours. So you look like the point person, so I hope you'll indulge us. To begin with, are all the details in? You know, the usual question - are there any handshakes or not-on-paper aspects to this accord that you'd want to know about; or are you confident you have what is that was agreed to?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first off on that, the document was transmitted to Ambassador Richardson at the meeting in New York. And as would be appropriate, Ambassador Richardson would be asking some questions about it and trying to understand any parts that aren't immediately obvious.

But to the extent that I were to declare ambiguities or lack of ambiguities or clarity, that would be part of what we expect to see as a result of discussions. This is a - say this that Secretary Albright made clear that we do not want a phony solution; we want a real solution. So the President's advisors, Secretary Albright, are taking the time to go through this, discuss it so that we will see whether, indeed, it is a real solution. That requires some time, so we're going to be very reluctant to make pronouncements prior to that consultation process, which is ongoing right now.

QUESTION: However much you may know about the agreement, the long experience with Saddam Hussein suggests, doesn't it, that you have to see what happens on the ground; correct? It could be the most reassuring agreement, but would you be satisfied until you see monitors appearing at sites and see how they're received?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this - it's important what an agreement says, and what it indicates in terms of Iraq's willingness to give unfettered access to the UN inspectors; if, indeed, that is what it makes clear.

But it's at the end of day, it's also critical that Iraq provide access. That's what this crisis has been about - failure on Iraq's part to allow UNSCOM, the UN inspectors, the access they need to do their job. So what we're looking for is Iraq to reverse course and agree to allow access to UN inspectors, in the first instance, through an agreement. And if that agreement does make clear that there will be unfettered access, then at the end of the day, we'll be looking for that access to be demonstrated through the implementation of the agreement. That is what UNSCOM is about.

Let's bear in mind how we got to this crisis. UNSCOM has done a terrific job; UNSCOM has destroyed weapons of mass destruction; UNSCOM has uncovered things the Iraqis didn't want it to uncover. So if UNSCOM can now go where it needs to go, that will continue to work - confronting directly in the best possible way, the threat of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.

I think Secretary Albright and the other officials have made clear from the beginning that the best way to deal with this problem is to have UNSCOM continue its work. So for UNSCOM to continue its work, we need words in an agreement; that's important. But at the end of the day, we need the implementation through the actual inspections.

QUESTION: Jamie, maybe you can help on one facet of this. As I understand it, this agreement refers to eight presidential sites. All last week you stressed that there are a lot more sites beyond that - upwards of over 60 presidential sites and hundreds, if not thousands, of other sites that UNSCOM needs unfettered access to. What happens to all the others in this agreement?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to be making statements on an agreement that has just been orally briefed to Secretary Albright by Ambassador Richardson. But I can say this - the crisis is not about eight presidential sites; the crisis is about UNSCOM, the UN inspectors, getting access to all the sites they need -- not just any eight sites designated as so-called presidential sites, but UNSCOM getting access to all the places in Iraq it needs to go in such a way that they can do their job, track down material if it's there, and know that they've been unable to track it down not because they were blocked, but because it's not there. That's what the crisis is about; it's not just about eight sites.

QUESTION: So you need this document to indicate that before the US would sign off on it.

MR. RUBIN: Again, I hesitate to refer everything to any document. I know there's a tendency to do that. What this crisis has been about is access by UNSCOM to do its work. This crisis will be taking a step towards resolution when UNSCOM's access is made clear, and then it will be further when UNSCOM gets that access. The access is across the board.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate the United States possibly making changes in whatever agreement Annan has come forward with? Is that a possibility?

MR. RUBIN: Again, what our expectation is is that this agreement will be examined; the President will be in a position later today to talk about - my understanding is - to talk about it on behalf of the Administration. So I don't want to do that, other than to say what our principles are: the principle of access; the principle that it's important what it says, but at the end of the day, it's critically important that the agreement lead to access, if indeed it allows that access.

So the process by which this agreement is examined, and if it's sufficient, implemented, is a lengthy one. Secretary General Annan, I believe, already referred to the fact that Chairman Butler was scheduled to go to Baghdad. Obviously that's part of the process. So it's not - this isn't a treaty- making process, where you make a treaty and then you make an amendment and then you implement the amendment to another document. This is a process based on actions that we would expect UNSCOM to take.

QUESTION: Jamie, I just had a follow-up on that. The French are saying that they feel that they've been vindicated because Annan has been able to reach an agreement. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. RUBIN: If indeed the agreement meets the principles we set out, and if indeed the agreement yields access at the end of the day, then I think all the countries in the world that said they wanted to put pressure on Saddam Hussein through the use of force and through the threat of the use of force will make clear that peaceful resolution was permitted because this leader was faced with the prospect of military force.

I think we would agree with all countries that a peaceful resolution is preferable for the reasons I stated; because that's the surest way to see that UNSCOM gets back to doing its job. But I'm not in a position to make a judgment about something that others were obviously more quick to make a judgment about.

QUESTION: -- and if you're not willing to make that judgment now. I mean, can you at least say that the United States is optimistic that the situation is resolved; or is that going too far?

MR. RUBIN: Again, we're just getting the briefing now - or Secretary Albright is. We're running through this. This is a serious matter, and it's not a time for high fives; it's not a time for down faces. It's a time for looking through the details, making sure that the principles that we've set out are upheld; and then making sure that at the end of the day, whatever agreement is reached, if it's sufficient, is implemented.

QUESTION: -- the UN has suggested that one of the items in the agreement that Annan was able to broker would be that UNSCOM's name is changed to something to represent the diplomats that are going to escort the inspectors into the sites. Is that something that the US would find acceptable, or you would say is maintaining the integrity of UNSCOM?

MR. RUBIN: Without getting into the name game, let me say this - we have made clear that UNSCOM is the unit that has performed so well over the years, and it is UNSCOM that needs to be in a position to go to these places because it's only UNSCOM that can make effective, technical judgments about this. If a few diplomats were to accompany UNSCOM in that work, that's a detail; that's a flourish, a bell, a whistle - whatever you want to call it. What matters is that UNSCOM gets the access.

As far as the name issue, I just don't have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: But changing the name, would that be something that you - UNSCOM plus something else; is that something that represents UNSCOM?

MR. RUBIN: Our principle is simple. Our principle is the expert group, UNSCOM, that has been the one that has done the work so hard, going to be able to go to the places it needs to go. I'm not going to be getting into name issues. That's a big thing in New York for figuring out what you name something.

What we're interested in is substance; and the substance is based on UNSCOM's access

QUESTION: Jamie, on Friday, as you know, the United States approved a Security Council resolution that basically allows Iraq to more than double the amount of oil it can sell on the international market for humanitarian reasons. I had two questions for you on this. One is, why did the United States agree to this just as Kofi Annan was going to Baghdad? And two, do you think this creates the appearance of linkage?

MR. RUBIN: I have some experience on the appearance of linkage with regard to the oil-for-food program. What's important here is that we make clear through actions that we care about the Iraqi people; and this program doubles the amount of food that would be available as a result of oil sales for the Iraqi people.

It is the United States that has cared time and time again about what happens in Iraq. It is Saddam Hussein who doesn't care. So even in the face of the odd questioner who might ask about linkage, we are pursuing our policy; and that policy is to try to do what we can to help the Iraqi people by providing billions of dollars worth of food and medicine to limit the damage that Saddam Hussein has done. He has plenty of money to spend on weapons and palaces, and he doesn't spend any of it on his people. So we are trying to do what we can to direct food and medicine towards those people, under strict controls - to make sure that whatever oil is sold is only sold for this purpose.

And if some people might decide to get the wrong idea, we can't help that. What we can do is do what we can to help the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you realistically think that the military build-up which has happened in the Gulf area can now be reversed?

MR. RUBIN: I think we've made quite clear that the forces are there, and there are no plans, to my knowledge, to adjust those forces. As far as I know, the expectation is that they would stay there commensurate with the threat, as judged by the Secretary of Defense in his recommendations to the President.

But I haven't heard of any stand-down. We aren't even at a point where we've decided that this agreement is sufficient to not use military force. When we've made that decision, it's my understanding that that doesn't mean that the next day or the day after that changes our force posture. The agreement, even it is -- meets our principle, has to be tested through implementation.

QUESTION: Jamie, one technical question. Does the Secretary not have the actual document that was signed?

MR. RUBIN: I think she would have it now, yes.

QUESTION: She does. Secondly, though, let me go to another question that's been raised by the British and French foreign ministers in the last 24 hours; and that is the issue of sanctions relief. Both of them have called for - should the Iraqis comply with this signed agreement, and assuming that this agreement is satisfactory to everybody - the prospect of lifting sanctions. What is the US policy on relief of sanctions for Iraq at this time?

MR. RUBIN: I think the answer was contained in your question. There's a lot of "ifs" that have to go before one could begin to talk about sanctions relief. If this agreement meets the test of access; if the inspectors actually are able to do their job; if after being able to do their job, the Iraqis actually cooperate and allow them to come to some conclusions about weapons of mass destruction - I've counted four "ifs" already. So that is what we call, in this business, a hypothetical question.

But as far as our policy is concerned, our policy is if the Iraqi regime complies with Security Council resolutions in this area, then we would be in a position to look at sanctions relief. But that means compliance; it doesn't mean hope for compliance; it doesn't mean optimism about compliance. It means actual compliance. That means letting the UN do what it needs to do; following all the resolutions that are appropriate. And the past practice doesn't yield a lot of optimism that that is going to happen soon. But we, again - our position is clear, and has been from the beginning.

The ball for sanctions is in Saddam Hussein's court. If he were to allow the UN to do its job, if he were to implement the relevant resolutions, then one could begin to imagine sanctions relief. But we haven't seen that for seven years. We're waiting to see it; we'd like to see it. But it hasn't happened yet.

QUESTION: Jamie, can I follow up on this point - because you talk about the relevant resolutions, the appropriate resolutions, the resolutions in this area.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: What specifically is relevant here? Is it just the resolutions dealing with weapons of mass destruction, or is it every resolution that's been -

MR. RUBIN: Well, our position on that has been that it's the relevant resolution. I'll have to get a legal analysis for you of what our lawyers believe are the relevant resolutions and all the provisions. But one can't even begin to address this question, unless we see cooperation with UNSCOM that we haven't seen before.

QUESTION: Before Albright got a partial account, and certainly before the document surfaced, she said on public television - on television publicly, that the US would act on its own, if need be. Is that still accurate?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely, that's why we're taking our time to examine this document. This is a serious matter. We don't want a phony solution, and we're not going to agree to anything that doesn't meet our goals.

QUESTION: -- the right to take unilateral --

MR. RUBIN: And if it doesn't meet our goals, we reserve the right to disagree, yes.

QUESTION: A couple of very quick ones. When you talked about the commission, you're still upholding the principle of the commission's expertise.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Let's break that down a little bit. Is the US position still that only UNSCOM is to decide, irrespective of nationality, who relevant experts are to go look at a site?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe we've ever stated it that way. Let me remind you --

QUESTION: Well, when they tried to bar Americans, you said the judgment is their expertise, not their nationality.

MR. RUBIN: Certainly this is based on expertise.

QUESTION: This doesn't erode this does it?

MR. RUBIN: But you have to be very careful here, and that's why I'm going to be fairly elusive in response to your question.

UNSCOM has never gone to these places before. Nobody's ever gone to these places. So this is new territory in how access will be allowed. And frankly, it's not so much about these new places, these places, but --

QUESTION: But the principle.

MR. RUBIN: -- but it's about all the places in Iraq that they've been blocked time and time again from going to. So it's a very complex issue that requires the experts, the can-do inspectors who've worked so hard on this issue to judge whether their integrity and their ability to operate has been impaired in any way. Our position is the experts have to be able to do the job; the experts have to be able to render the judgments on whether the job is half-done or is complete.

QUESTION: Fine, I understand. But this latest impasse began over the barring of an American, and the degradation of him as spy. The question is whether experts are to be chosen in any way, based on the nationality. Has Kofi Annan agreed to limit the American presence on these monitoring groups?

MR. RUBIN: I think I'd rather wait until we've talked about the agreement to talk about a technicality that - look, I'm not disputing - I'm sure anything that looks like something that's wrong is a big thing for you all. But for us, what's important is that UNSCOM experts are behind the process of finding out what goes on in Iraq. How it would work in a place where UNSCOM has never gone to - and I've already said that if a few diplomats need to go along, that's not a problem for us.

So as far as the expertise and who are the experts within UNSCOM, I've heard nothing to suggest that any part of any arrangement will be to challenge UNSCOM's judgment about who UNSCOM's experts are.

QUESTION: Two questions - first, did any of the American diplomatic contacts in the region, apart from those with the British, has the idea been broached of sharing the cost of the American deployment; and has there been any positive response to that?

MR. RUBIN: This is primarily a Pentagon question, but I would say that in principle, we have a burden-sharing practice that we've adopted in this area, and that burden-sharing will continue. But I haven't heard of anything specifically, the way you described it.

Let me remind you that many countries in the world - over 20 - were prepared to offer either direct military support, over-flight rights, basing rights or other military cooperation. So I think there is the burden being shared. At the same time, I think we all recognize that even during the Gulf War, the heavy lifting was done primarily by the United States, the British and the French.

QUESTION: And on the oil-for-food deal, it's my understanding that it actually allows for a higher volume of oil than Iraq can currently have the capacity to pump. Is the United States prepared for Iraq to increase its oil pumping capacity by importing the equipment necessary to redevelop its oil fields?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this is one of the issues that will be discussed in the implementation of this resolution.

QUESTION: Is it implanted in the resolution?

MR. RUBIN: There are some questions out there about how much oil they can now pump. There are bigger questions about how much food they're buying, and whether they're distributing it. So it's a balance of issues, including how do you sell the oil; how do you get the oil to the right places; also including how do you get the food and the medicine to the right places?

We do not know whether Iraq will accept this new resolution. As you can see, they still have yet to stand up and say they want to be able to feed their people. They've still yet to say they're happy to sell oil to provide food for their people. They have to be bludgeoned into this process through diplomatic pressure. What we're waiting for is more information from Kofi Annan on how this expanded program is going to work. And the issue you raise is one of the issues that will be discussed in the implementation process. The Secretary General will prepare an independent report on Iraqi production and transportation capacity, and make recommendations on what is necessary in order for Iraq to be able to export this oil.

In short, this is an issue that has to be worked out. The Secretary General is going to make some judgments. You hear oil experts throw around numbers rather casually; and what's important is that the Secretary General decide what additional enhancements are needed, if any, to meet this higher threshold. We need to await that report, and then be in a position to make that judgment.

QUESTION: Jamie, procedurally can you --

MR. RUBIN: Hold on, let's let him finish.

QUESTION: In principle, is the United States willing to let Iraq import equipment to --

MR. RUBIN: In principle, the United States is waiting for the report from the Secretary General on what's necessary.

QUESTION: Going back to the UNSCOM and the agreement which is just arriving, procedurally what happens now? Does the Security Council have to approve it formally?

MR. RUBIN: That is a judgment that will have to be made based on what the agreement says and what one thinks the agreement says. I mean, Secretary General Annan has made clear that it's - this is a matter that rests in the hands of the Security Council. UNSCOM was created pursuant to a Security Council resolution. This sanctions issue is in the hands of the Security Council. He can make recommendations, but it's up to the members of the Security Council to decide whether Iraq is in compliance with Security Council resolutions or not.

So I would expect some way for the Security Council to take into account this agreement if the agreement meets the test. So it's hard to say exactly what will happen, since we haven't made that first point.

QUESTION: And if the - is it the US Government position that it would like to see another very specific, explicit resolution passed by the Security Council?

MR. RUBIN: Prior to this agreement's parent conclusion, we made clear that we would be happy to have a strong message sent to Iraq. We also made clear that we didn't think we needed a Security Council resolution if the President decided to use force. So it's hard for me to answer your question until we've first made a judgment about whether this agreement, as its absorbed and given careful scrutiny, examination by the Administration, what it does to the prospect of the use of force. At that point, it's possible to then decide what steps the Security Council ought to take.

QUESTION: Jamie, I'd like to clarify something I think you said. I want to check. You're saying that if this agreement is accepted, and the UNSCOM inspectors go back to work, that the US would keep military assets in the region until we are sure that the inspectors are able to do their work?

MR. RUBIN: I specifically did not say that parsed sentence, as you put it together. What I said was, we will keep our - the Secretary of Defense, I believe, said and Sandy Berger said yesterday that we intend to keep our forces in the region, even if Kofi Annan achieves an apparent success, because the forces are there commensurate with the threat we think exists.

At such time as the Secretary of Defense deems the threat situation to be different, pursuant to either success in the implementation of this agreement or not, I would presume he would then make recommendations to the President of the United States.

So all I'm saying is that I haven't heard anybody say that in the immediate aftermath of an agreement there will be a drawn-down. But how long the forces stay there and whether they wait for which benchmarks in this area or other indicators of the threat is something I specifically did not say.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I get one more question? Given that, as one of Barry's first questions indicated, Saddam Hussein's word is not something which seems to be kept very frequently, given that we can't trust his word, do you think that the US would keep military assets there on a more stepped- up basis?

MR. RUBIN: I think I did the best I could with that question, Betsy, which is that both Secretary of Defense Cohen and Sandy Berger have made clear that even if there were an agreement struck that met our test, there wouldn't be an immediate draw-down of our forces. They said that yesterday. I can repeat that today.

As far as what would be required for this crisis to be resolved and what level of force would be necessary throughout, that is not something I'm prepared to speak to from this podium. That is a matter for the Secretary of Defense to make recommendations to the President about.

QUESTION: Over the last couple of months you've said even from this podium that you weren't interested in negotiating, or the UN was not going to negotiate with Saddam Hussein; this wasn't about negotiations; this was about access and letting UNSCOM do its job. Well, today all the appearances are that the UN did negotiate with Saddam and he got his way and came out ahead and almost -

MR. RUBIN: Is that your conclusion?

QUESTION: No, I'm just - I'm giving you the impression that -

MR. RUBIN: I thought you said that was your conclusion.

QUESTION: The appearance and what some observers are saying, is that -

MR. RUBIN: Oh, those observers. Those famous observers.

QUESTION: -- that Saddam almost has the UN eating out of his hand. He got the Secretary General to come all the way to Baghdad to have a face-to-face meeting with him. And what happened with no negotiating?

MR. RUBIN: There hasn't been, from our standpoint, any negotiating in the sense that we are going to change our principles. Does that mean one can't have a meeting -- that the Secretary General shouldn't try to get Saddam Hussein to reverse course and allow access he's never allowed before? No. If Saddam Hussein allows access, if he reverses course, if he permits access, that's not negotiating, that's reversing course. And a meeting does not a negotiation make.

QUESTION: You're saying if the meeting got the end result, which is diplomacy, then that was a good thing, even if some are calling it negotiating?

MR. RUBIN: Well, some will criticize whatever we do. We understand that, because people need to make a living.


But as far as the question of negotiation is concerned, what we're saying is the message is what counts, not the messenger. We don't have an objection to people meeting. What we have an objection to is anyone purporting to change the principles that underlie Security Council resolutions. And if, as a result of a meeting with Saddam Hussein, the Secretary General was able to get him change his position and give UNSCOM unfettered access to places it's never gone before and start to let it to go to places it has been blocking UNSCOM from going, then that is a step forward and that's the kind of meeting that is not a negotiation that we can support.

QUESTION: How will the US decide whether UNSCOM has sufficient authority? I mean, you've said in the past that Butler has the right to sort of define that. But you're also saying the US reserves the right to take military action. Is there a contradiction there?

MR. RUBIN: No, I don't see it. I think what I've tried to indicate in the past, that since our UNSCOM - contrary to the impression some critics are suggesting that UNSCOM is some weak organization, that it's bad to allow the UN to be involved in something - these are can-do guys and they do a hell of a job and they've uncovered more weapons of mass destruction over the last several years than has been destroyed -- or was destroyed by the Gulf War. They are the ones who can make judgments about whether they have the access they need to do their job, because they're the experts. Our principle is that UNSCOM have access. And so they are going to have to make a judgment as to whether, indeed, they can do what they need to do.

With regard to the unilateral question, your second point, we have said we would prefer the United Nations being able to get access so that they can find these weapons of mass destruction and confront this threat directly. If we don't believe that that is going to be allowed, because Saddam Hussein is not going to allow that, then we would be in a position to have to decide whether to act to protect our vital national interests. And one of those vital national interests is to protect against his inherent threat from these weapons of mass destruction in a situation where he's not allowing UNSCOM to operate.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, so it's conceivable that UNSCOM and even the Security Council could find this arrangement acceptable, but that the US would act regardless?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think I said that. What I said was that we reserve the right to act based on our national interests, and our national interests are to contain and confront the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM, the UN inspectors, have done a hell of a job in confronting that threat, destroying weapons of mass destruction, and we want them to continue to do their work. If they're unable to continue to do their work, which is a judgment that they and others will have to make based on a variety of criteria, we reserve the right to disagree with any arrangement that has been made.

But it's hard to get heavily into those details until we've had a chance to assess this arrangement and then be in a position to see whether it yields a new position, a reversed position by Saddam Hussein - namely, unfettered access.

Judd, you sound like you've just been handed a note..

QUESTION: This just in - so you probably won't have anything on this, but let me ask anyhow. According to Interfax, the Russians are saying that Russia and the United States are going to jointly introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council on the agreement.

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I would be hard pressed to respond to Interfax, which has mostly, I guess - well, let me not characterize their accuracy.


QUESTION: It's - (inaudible) -- but that's okay.

MR. RUBIN: It would be a bad practice to respond to Interfax reports from Moscow, other than to say that we haven't made a judgment and are in the process of making that judgment. I can say this -- Secretary Albright spoke to Foreign Minister Primakov this morning. She spoke also to Foreign Minister Cook, to Foreign Minister Axworthy, and I suspect she'll continue her discussions during the course of the day to talk about, compare notes, try to decide what the best course of action will be.

But in order for us to decide whether a resolution is necessary, whether no resolution is necessary because the agreement isn't good enough, we need to go through the process of deciding what we think about this agreement. And as I've tried to say, that's still a few hours off.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to the issue of negotiating and you're sort of -

MR. RUBIN: Are you sure?

QUESTION: Yes, I do - disputing the notion of negotiating and asserting that only a reversal by Saddam is acceptable. I mean, in fact, what is increasingly apparent -- all the elements of a deal are out there. The United States went and signed on to this vast increase in the oil-for-food program. You've got the element of the diplomats going with UNSCOM to the sites. You have some sort of paper apparently agreed to by Annan and Saddam in Baghdad. How can you say there's been no negotiating going on?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I know it's hard to resist the effort to link issues, but I can tell you that I never heard any discussion that because we do oil- for-food, we're going to get some better cooperation from Iraq on UNSCOM. At the core of your argument is that somehow because we're going to provide the Iraqi people food and medicine, Saddam Hussein is going to allow more access for UNSCOM. And there's no evidence over the last seven years that he cares one whit about his people, and that he would do anything more or less based on them eating more or less.

QUESTION: I don't think -

MR. RUBIN: You brought up oil-for-food -

QUESTION: Right, I know. But I think that's an element that the French and the Russians and the British wanted, not -

MR. RUBIN: No, it's something we started. The United States was the country that put forward the resolution a couple of years ago that created the oil-for-food program. It was a US initiative - others supported it. So I think you're incorrectly analyzing the lay of the land.

QUESTION: Jamie, could I get - issue of sanctions. The Secretary spoke about this in her speech at Georgetown one year ago March. Do her remarks at that point still stand?


QUESTION: Well, her remarks at that point were that - she said, we do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions, it can only do so by complying with all the Security Council resolutions to which it is subject. Now, does that still stand?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I think I just said that, Roy. But if you go to the next quote - which is what I would have quoted if I were you - and then that analytical point as to whether Saddam Hussein can do this, which she expressed her doubts about. But that is different from asking, as you like and are want to ask, what is the policy of the US Government? The policy of the US Government is if he complies with the relevant resolutions then it is possible that sanctions can be lifted.

It is a different question over whether we think he will comply with the resolutions. And many people have misquoted that paragraph.

QUESTION: But this says, all the resolutions, all the Security Council resolutions.

MR. RUBIN: I think I used the phrase, all relevant resolutions right here.

QUESTION: No, but this does not say, all relevant - it says, all.

MR. RUBIN: Roy, I can't imagine we would distinguish between all non- relevant resolutions. Obviously, they have to be relevant.

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, does the United States see eye-to-eye -

MR. RUBIN: Is it going to be a question more likely to yield an answer?

QUESTION: I don't know. I mean, does the United States see completely eye- to-eye with its allies, Britain and France, on this issue?

MR. RUBIN: They'll have to speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the question of forces in the Gulf? Can the United States maintain that posture and not compromise its ability to respond to a regional conflict elsewhere in the world?

MR. RUBIN: I believe that the view is that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction pose a threat to our national interests; and on that basis, forces were deployed. It is up to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs to make judgments over how to operate in the context of multiple threats to US national interests and where to put forces at a given time. But I think the fact that Iraq is a threat is not going to go away.

QUESTION: -- follow up on that, and this may not be something you can address. Can you discuss this delay in a rotation of troops into Korea?

MR. RUBIN: No. That would be something that would be appropriately directed at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Two questions -- the first, a follow up on Roy's. What about Paragraph XXII? Does the United States believe that that can be responded to, absent compliance with all the other resolutions?

MR. RUBIN: We're now entering what I call a hypothetical world. I have been very happy to talk about our policy on relevant Security Council resolutions. But in order to get to the point that you are asking me, one has to posit, one, the agreement constitutes one that can move the inspection process forward; two, that Iraq actually cooperates with that agreement and sees it implemented; three, that UNSCOM is able to complete its work, which it has not been able to do for six long years. If all of those three "ifs" were answered in a positive way, one would have a problem about that Paragraph XXII.

But in the meantime, we've seen steps backwards in the last several months from Iraq, in terms of complying with Security Council resolutions on weapons of mass destruction. So we've been farther away from addressing that issue.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: We haven't talked about in the last couple of days, but apparently Russia has said, I believe it was Mikhailov, their atomic guy, said they're going to complete the reactor in Bushehr; that he thinks Iran is, in fact, secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapon, but that they're so far off it doesn't make any difference.

MR. RUBIN: Okay. Let me try to address this question as best I can. Our position on the subject of nuclear cooperation with Iran is clear: we are opposed to any form of nuclear cooperation with Tehran, given its demonstrated interest in requiring a nuclear weapons capability. That's our assessment. Our position extends to the Bushehr plant. Reports that the Russians intend to expand their role at the plant, to take charge of some of the construction that was to be handled by Iran, does not alter our view of the project. Moscow has given us some helpful assurances on the nuclear issue in the past, including President Yeltsin's assurance that Russia would not provide Iran with any militarily useful nuclear technologies, including a gas centrifuge facility and a heavy water moderated reactor. Those are the equipment that could have the most danger because of their potential application to a nuclear weapons program.

Given this inherent proliferation risk, they've given us those assurances. And while we appreciate those assurances, we've made clear to them time and again, and will continue to do so, that we oppose any form of nuclear cooperation with Iran.

QUESTION: What is the affect on the Total sanctions decision as a result - well, first of all, have the Russians confirmed to you that they are, in fact, going to finish the Bushehr plant?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think his comments were on the record and so there's no reason to dispute that this is their intention. What I'm saying is that we will continue to discuss this matter with them. We've made clear that we oppose any cooperation at all. But in the areas that it could have been the most danger in terms of proliferation, we've seen the Russians agree not to move forward.

QUESTION: Secondarily, does this have any impact on Total sanctions decision?

MR. RUBIN: I don't see the direct linkage, but I can go to the Total guys and see if this has changed their view of whether another project affects the Iranians ability to gain money, which is what that judgment is based on.

QUESTION: I don't know if you have anything on this, but a Lebanese-born US citizen by the name of Bashar Saidi is currently in an Israeli jail accused of --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq, please, Jamie?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'm not sure we're going to make much more progress, but happy to give it one more question, Charlie, yes.

QUESTION: In Judd's earlier question talking about the Russians and a possible resolution - putting aside the hypothetical of what -

MR. RUBIN: I never do that.

QUESTION: Well, I'm putting that aside. My question is specifically, did the Secretary in her discussions today with any of the foreign ministers, and especially Primakov, talk about the possibility of a joint resolution?

MR. RUBIN: What I would say to you is that I'm not going to repeat what was said in a private communication with the Russians. I will say that they obviously talked about the different scenarios if the agreement does pass muster or if it doesn't pass muster.

Mark, let's give it one more shot; but I'm not sure we're going to make much progress.

QUESTION: The Secretary General said on a CNN interview this morning, in discussing the impasse between UNSCOM and Iraq that some of the fault lay on both sides.

MR. RUBIN: I didn't hear that quote. I know where you're going on the question - do we agree with that some of the fault lays on UNSCOM? All I can say is when you're in somebody else's country -- and it's often polite to try to blame problems on some misunderstandings. That's a diplomatic trick to say that people didn't understand each other. We think UNSCOM has done a great job. We think UNSCOM is a can-do organization. And we think they have destroyed more weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War than were destroyed during it. So UNSCOM has done the world, the entire world a great service.

QUESTION: -- those words - future misunderstandings the Secretary might have overseas?

MR. RUBIN: No, no. I was saying the Secretaries General often used that word.


QUESTION: A Lebanese-born US citizen by the name of Bashar Saidi is in an Israeli jail, accused of being a terrorist. And his supporters says the Israelis have tortured him; the Israelis say he's getting fair treatment. Has this case been brought to your attention?

MR. RUBIN: I believe this is something we're familiar with. I don't have any current information about any new information we might have about it. But I think we're familiar with the case, we can try to get you something on that.

QUESTION: The EU today apparently decided that it would not go forward with a human rights resolution relating to China. And I wondered if this means the United States also is abandoning that effort, at least for this year?


QUESTION: No. All right.


So will the United States propose human rights -

MR. RUBIN: We are still consulting. You asked me if whether any decision that you're reporting to me occurred, which I'm not familiar with, will yield an automatic change in our position, and the answer to that is no.

QUESTION: So you're not aware that the EU would do that?

MR. RUBIN: I just haven't been provided information on that. But I would not assume - assume - that because that were to happen that we were to abandon our efforts on the human rights resolution.

I know where we're going, let's go back there.

QUESTION: It was reported in Athens today that Ambassador Holbrooke, on behalf of the State Department, proposed to Greece and Turkey a non- aggression pact. Do you have anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard anything about that.

QUESTION: Jamie, excuse me, I have a question on Colombia.

MR. RUBIN: All right. We can get that for - record for you, no problem.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

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

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