U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #24, 98-02-23
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Monday, February 23, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Secretary's Appearances on the Hill This Week
1 Secretary: Briefing by Amb Richardson / Consultations With
Foreign Policy Team
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
14 Rotation of US Troops
IRAN / RUSSIA
14-15 US Position on Nuclear Cooperation / Complete Bushehr Plant
/ Impact on Total Sanctions Decision
16 Lebanese-Born US Citizen in Jail
16-17 EU Resolution on Human Rights
GREECE / TURKEY
17 Reports of Non-Aggression Pact
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1998, 12:35 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
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
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
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
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
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
What we're interested in is substance; and the substance is based on
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
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: A couple of very quick ones. When you talked about the
commission, you're still upholding the principle of the commission's
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
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
MR. RUBIN: I think I used the phrase, all relevant resolutions right
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
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
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
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
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
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
MR. RUBIN: No, no. I was saying the Secretaries General often used that
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
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
MR. RUBIN: No.
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
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.)