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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #26, 98-02-27

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


Friday, February 27, 1998

Briefer: James B. Foley

1		Reverend Jackson's African-American History Month at
		  the Department
1,2		Steve Hurst of CNN Last Briefing
10-11		Secretary's Travel

IRAQ 3-4 Efforts to Get UN Resolution; Requirements of Iraq; Consequences for Non-Compliance; Resolution Language; 4,5 MOU and the Force of Law; Agreements in the MOU; Binding Directives; Reversal of Course 5 Chalabi's Meetings with US Officials 5,6 Israel's Support/Non-Support for the Agreement; Israel's Possible Military Action; 8 Iraqi's Claim of Victory 9,10 Timeline Issues; Appointment of a Sri Lankan Diplomat Ambassador Dhanapala to Inspections/Addition of Diplomats to Inspections 10 Question of Negotiations Between Annan and Hussein

LIBYA 6-7 Libya's Reaction to World Court Decision Concerning Libyan Claims Regarding Indictees in the Bombing of Pan Am 103; US Reaction To Decision 8 Authority of Security Council; Sanction Against Libya; Victim's Families 8 Libya and Iraq Similarities in Claims of Victory

UN ARREARS 11-12 UN Arrears and Senator Helms; UN Package; Attempts to Make Agreements

LANDMINES 12-13 USG Position on landmines, NATO and the Ottawa Convention

INDONESIA 13,14 White House Announcement of Mondale's Trip to Indonesia; US Examination of Indonesia's Problems, Soeharto and Indonesian Elections

TERRORISM 14 Iran's Fatwa and Security Issues to US Citizens Overseas; Dialogue Between US and UK on Issue of Security Issues

KOREA 14-15 Four-Party Talks in Geneva

SOUTH AFRICA 15 Gore's Lifting of Sanctions in South Africa; Erroneous Reports on the Ban of Weapons in South Africa; Arms Trade Between South Africa and USG

NARCOTICS 15-16 National Security Threat to Mexico and US 16 Syria and Lebanon and Narcotics Report

CAMBODIA 16-17 Announcement of Ceasefire; US Contact;

BURMA Japan's Financial Aid to Burma


DPB #26

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1998, 1:40 P.M.


MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. I apologize for the late briefing today, but as you know, we were commemorating African-American History Month in the Department this afternoon. Reverend Jackson was addressing the State Department; I wanted to wait until that ceremony had been completed before we came out here today.

I don't have any policy announcements, but I do have the sad duty to acknowledge the fact that this today is the last briefing for our esteemed colleague, Steve Hurst of CNN, who is going to be leaving us today. Steve, as you know, began his assignment here at the State Department some three years ago.


MR. FOLEY: 1994 - four years ago. You add better than I do.


Which maybe bodes well for your continuation in the private sector and my continuation in government.


In any case, Steve came with us following his assignment in Moscow, which was a period of interesting times and interesting happenings. Steve has covered two Secretaries of State, and has traveled around the world with both Warren Christopher and Secretary Albright - one a world-mileage record breaker, and another one in the making. Steve is also the immediate past president of the State Department Correspondents Association. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us - he's not only an esteemed colleague who we respect for the fine work and fine reporting under difficult and pressurized circumstances, but also a good friend and someone we're going to miss.

I won't ask you to reveal personal information, though I hear your future is in the northern parts of the country. You'd better not give out the address, because it's a wonderful vacation spot, and we'd be liable to be following you if you gave it out. But Steve, our best wishes.

MR. HURST: Well, thank you very much; and you're all welcome.

MR. FOLEY: Do you have the address?

MR. HURST: Well, Judd has it --

QUESTION: I have it.


MR. HURST: I wanted to just reveal a secret as regards your briefings, and I'm beginning to see a pattern in Rubin's briefings, too; and that is for my colleagues, it will be helpful. If you read the transcripts backwards, if you hold them up in a mirror, you get the answers to future questions.


MR. FOLEY: Not hypothetical ones, I hope.

QUESTION: No, no. So if the attendance drops off a bit, it's because people discovered that if they read all briefings backwards, they have the answers to future questions.

MR. FOLEY: I urge you to read old briefings backwards. Thank you, Steve.

MR. HURST: Thank you.

MR. FOLEY: Do you have a tough one for me today?

MR. HURST: Yes, I do, actually.

MR. FOLEY: George, can we break protocol?

QUESTION: I'll make the sacrifice.


MR. FOLEY: And let Steve throw out the first ball.

MR. HURST: I do have a question --

MR. FOLEY: George?


MR. HURST: My desk asked me to ask something broad, and my question is "why?"


No, actually, it's a more specific question.


MR. FOLEY: I don't know where in my book to look - "why," though, I must say, is normally written on the top of my book.

MR. HURST: Yes, there is a question coming from CNN, wondering - I'll ask this later. It's off the news of the day, so let me come back later. I'd hate to open your briefing and my last one this way.



MR. FOLEY: George.

That was eloquent, Steve.


QUESTION: Do you want to talk about how the efforts to get a UN Security Council resolution are going?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's a work in progress. I understand the Security Council did meet this morning for I think what they call a "tour de table." They had - all the members had an opportunity to comment initially on the draft of the resolution. I think that they're not likely to be voting on a resolution for a few days. It may be as late as early next week. But we look forward to supporting a resolution that acknowledges the good work of the Secretary General and that puts Iraq on notice that it must now fully fulfill its commitments this time.

QUESTION: And is there strong language about the consequences that you would like to put in?

MR. FOLEY: I Obviously can't give you the text of the resolution because it's still under discussion in New York. But I can repeat what I just implied -- that we expect that this resolution will put Saddam Hussein on notice of the serious consequences that would ensue, without doubt, in the event that he fails this time to comply, after having put his signature, his government's signature on paper to comply fully with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: As I understand it, it's your position - the US Government's position that such a resolution would not be necessary.

MR. FOLEY: That remains the case. We believe we have the authority, under existing resolutions, to undertake action, if that proves necessary.

QUESTION: Jim, as the Secretary and the spokesman both said publicly, you feel that - or you've gotten commitments from key countries to support you in the Use of force if Saddam breaks this agreement, as most people feel he will. Why can this not be in the resolution? Why is there a sort of shyness to sort of step forward, if, in fact, as the U.S. is claiming, there is this support for that kind of action in the future?

MR. FOLEY: Well, you're making assumptions which may not be founded. I think --

QUESTION: What are the assumptions --

MR. FOLEY: Your assumption that the resolution will not address the issue of consequences, in the event of a failure on the part of Iraq to comply. They just had an initial discussion today in the Security Council. Certainly, the United States is pushing for language that would make clear the serious consequences, in the event of a failure to comply. We look forward to a resolution that reflects that.

QUESTION: But even if it says "serious consequences," my understanding is that this would not be seen by other members of the Council as an automatic -- sort of an endorsement of military action. Why is that?

MR. FOLEY: I would say two things. First of all, you know very well that the United States was prepared to act, up until the visit of Secretary General Annan and his return with an agreement that looks like, if implemented, can achieve the objective of bringing Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction under control. So we were prepared to act, and that is unchanged. I think all members of the international community, including the Security Council, know that. So with or without a resolution, we remain vigilant and prepared to act. A resolution would certainly be helpful in conveying to Saddam Hussein that the other members of the Security Council recognize that serious consequences would ensue. I think that speaks very eloquently for itself.

QUESTION: Do you regard the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Baghdad as having the force of law already, or not?

MR. FOLEY: Well, what we believe has the force of law are the relevant Security Council resolutions, which set up UNSCOM in the first place. The Memorandum of Understanding covers the inspections that will take place on these so-called eight presidential sites. And if the Security Council, in its resolution, provides some acknowledgment of those arrangements, then you can consider that the international community is supporting their implementation.

I would hasten to add that we had questions, as you know, about the nature of the agreement. We've received some very firm and positive reassurances on that score, and we simply emphasize that really the testing is what's necessary; that these agreements are good agreements if they are implemented faithfully by the Iraqi regime.

QUESTION: You're probably right in assuming that a resolution will be passed next week that endorses the deal among other things. But I'm just wondering whether you know whether as a matter of law, that Memorandum of Understanding is already a binding document on the United Nations, or whether it is not.

MR. FOLEY: I think only the Security Council can produce binding directives, if you will. So I think the answer to your question is, not yet.

QUESTION: Is the United States currently drawing up plans for a new program that would seek to undermine Saddam?

MR. FOLEY: I can't comment on that. As you know, there was a newspaper article that made certain allegations of an intelligence nature, and it's not possible in a public forum to comment on such allegations.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up to this? I mean, not all programs of that nature would necessarily be covert. I mean, you could choose to have an overt program. So --

MR. FOLEY: Well, I have nothing to announce in that regard today. What we have said is that we look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime in Iraq; that we've worked with the opposition groups before, and we will do so and we will look for more effective ways of doing so. I have nothing to announce in that regard today.

QUESTION: Were there any meetings here this week with Chalabi and U.S. officials?


QUESTION: Who did he see, and when did that happen?

MR. FOLEY: They - well, I don't remember the exact date; it was several days ago. I can't remember if it was late last week or early this week. I believe it was late last week they met at the National Security Council. They met with David Welch, the Deputy Assistant Secretary here in the Department. I have no details for you on those meetings, though.

QUESTION: Jim, the reaction of the Israeli Government to this whole peace agreement has been less than enthusiastic. I was wondering if the U.S. Administration were concerned that the Netanyahu Government might strike out on his own or do something preemptively. They don't always play ball. The Netanyahu Government has had differences with the Clinton Administration over policy in the area. Are you concerned that you might be dealing with a loose cannon here, or have you had any agreements with the government that they would go along with the agreements that were signed?

MR. FOLEY: I just can't share in any way the numbers - premises in your question. I would refer you to the comments of the Prime Minister and the Israeli Government at the time when Kofi Annan was returning from Baghdad.

As I recall - and you can correct that, it's not a State Department pronouncement but just a recollection of what was in the press -- I think the Prime Minister recognized, as we do, that if this agreement is implemented by the Iraqis, it's a good step. I think the entire world - and that would include the United States, it would also include Israel - wished for a peaceful settlement, a peaceful resolution to this crisis, but one which met the objectives of dismantling, ultimately, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

So I think that everyone is skeptical, and rightly so, as Secretary Albright indicated in testimony yesterday. No one, especially the United States, is na&iuml;ve about Saddam Hussein, but he signed on the dotted line; his government signed on the dotted line. They're the ones who have put themselves in the toughest position now, because what they've indicated on paper is that they're going to reverse course. Now they have to do it. They're the ones who are really facing the question of what happens next.

In terms of the attitude of the government of Israel, as I recall it, there were questions raised in this briefing room and other public fora about what might happen in the event of military action. And I believe the Israeli Government made clear they were not looking to participate in any military action, but they stood vigilant in the case that they needed to take defensive action. So I see no merit or foundation to the question.

QUESTION: Are you happy with --

MR. FOLEY: I'll be with you in a second.

Yes, Howard.

QUESTION: Different subject. Libya is claiming victory as a result of the World Court decision. I wonder what the U.S. reaction to that might be.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that's an exaggerated claim. Let me first tell you that in 1995 the United States and the United Kingdom filed separate motions, asking the International Court of Justice to make preliminary rulings dismissing Libya's claims against them in the Lockerbie cases. What the court announced today is that it was not prepared to make such a preliminary ruling dismissing Libya's claims. Instead, the court decided to have further briefings and hearings before making a final decision. So no decision on substance has been made, to this point.

The court will now ask the United States and the United Kingdom to file detailed answers to Libya's legal claims. There will then be another round of oral hearings. These further proceedings may, in fact, take several years. So this was a procedural matter. But on the matter of substance, Libya's challenge to the UN Security Council resolution which placed Libya under sanctions and required Libya to turn over the two suspects to UK or U.S. legal authorities remains fully in effect.

QUESTION: Aren't you dismayed that this could drag out for years to come?

MR. FOLEY: Actually, no, because, as I said, the Security Council resolutions -- there are two of them -- remain in effect. The sanctions, pending Libyan compliance with the resolutions, remain in effect. So the status quo remains unchanged.

QUESTION: But is the status quo something to be content with? It doesn't bring the suspects any closer to justice.

MR. FOLEY: That depends on Libya, whether they're willing to surrender the two indictees for trial in the UK or in the U.S. or in Scotland. We think it's something that Libya ought to do. They are under legal obligation, under Security Council resolutions. We believe they're under a moral obligation, given the horrendous crime that occurred and the seriousness of the charges that have been filed against the two indictees. If they believe that the two are innocent, then they ought to put them before a court of law where they'll get a fair trial to attempt to prove their innocence.

I'm sorry. I'll come to you in a second, Sid.

QUESTION: Are you happy with the appointment of a Sri Lankan diplomat?

MR. FOLEY: Is this on the court case, the Libya --

QUESTION: No, it's on Iraq.

MR. FOLEY: I'll come to you next.


QUESTION: Technical point. You might not have the answer. If you could ask the lawyers.

MR. FOLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Which has ultimate authority, the Security Council or the court?

MR. FOLEY: On --

QUESTION: Which would be above the other?

MR. FOLEY: I don't -- I think that's a question for the legal experts. I could ask - this is a matter before the International Court of Justice. They're the body that's determining this case, both on procedure and substance. But I'd be happy to check with the lawyers.

QUESTION: Right, but if they don't rule in a way that the United States and Britain like, the ruling could always be challenged on the basis that the Security Council is above the court.

MR. FOLEY: It's a good question. It's a hypothetical question in the sense that probably a judgment or a ruling in this case, as I indicated, is perhaps several years away. But I'd be glad to look into it for you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Sorry. I wonder, is it completely too late now for the United States to have any role in this trial? And also, I want to ask what can the State Department say to the families of these crash victims who - I mean, they want to know, why isn't the United States Government going to punish anybody responsible for killing their family members?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, this is a matter that's under the purview of the Security Council, which has acted. Libya is a pariah state, is isolated, is subject to severe Security Council sanctions - mandated sanctions. Libya cannot hope to rejoin the family of civilized nations until it complies with those resolutions. So we think that very firm action has been taken. Obviously, though, the decision to render the two suspects to justice in the United Kingdom or in the United States is a matter that Libya has to - a decision that Libya has to take.

But in terms of the court case itself, at the International Court of Justice, again, that's separate from the Security Council action. Libya is challenging the Security Council's resolutions in this case. We're going to present our case, as will the United Kingdom, in that court; and I can tell you we are very confident that the decisions of the Security Council will be upheld. But in the meantime, the sanctions remain, the resolutions are in effect.

QUESTION: And as for the families?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we feel very strongly that the perpetrators of this crime have to be brought to justice. We are in contact with the families on a regular basis, consulting with them on steps that we take to try to persuade Libya to surrender the two indictees.

The case at The Hague, at the International Court, though, as I said, it's a separate matter. It's an attempt by Libya to try to get out from under the sanctions, to negate the effect of international law, which we think, at the end of the day, will not succeed. But in the meantime, the situation remains - Libya is an isolated pariah state under UN sanctions.

QUESTION: Are there any similarities between this case in which Libya is claiming victory and the Iraqi case?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure I understand the question. First of all --

QUESTION: Regarding the American position.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can tell you - maybe I can give one kind of an answer to it. In both cases, the nations have declared victory in recent days. In the Libyan case, it was a procedural issue. Libya got no satisfaction at the court, except that the case will continue, which we expect to win.

In the Iraqi case, victory was declared by - as Secretary Albright indicated yesterday in her testimony - by the controlled press of a police- state regime. I mentioned a few minutes ago, I think that the agreement reached by Kofi Annan in Baghdad actually puts Saddam Hussein in the most difficult position of anyone involved in this; because until now, for seven years, he has refused to fully cooperate with the UN inspectors, apparently -- and I would say obviously -- because his programs of mass destruction are dear to him. He wants to keep them and have sanctions lifted at the same time.

Now he has made bold as to affix his government's signature to a full commitment to allow the UN inspectors to do their job everywhere in Iraq, wherever they need to go, whenever they need to go, until they're fully satisfied that the disarmament process is complete. The ball is very much in his court, and he's got a very tough decision to make now; because, as Secretary Albright has said, in the event that he does not abide by this agreement, the entire world will have been witness to his having reneged on his solemn promise. And we expect to have significant international support for the kind of tough action that would be necessary in the event that he repudiates this commitment.

Can I get to you now?

QUESTION: Are you happy with the appointment of a Sri Lankan diplomat by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to oversee these inspections in Iraq? And also, how much time more are you going to give to Saddam Hussein this time, because it's been dragging and dragging on and on and on?

MR. FOLEY: In answer to your second question - it's a very good question, and I can't give you a day or a date, but we would like to see this agreement implemented and tested very soon. That's going to be up to Chairman Butler as to when he believes the time is right -- and some of these new procedures have to be ironed out-- but to begin anew the inspection process and to test these procedures, to test Iraqi compliance. So the sooner the better, as far as the United States is concerned.

Now, in terms of Ambassador Dhanapala, he earned international respect for his leadership of the 1995 NPT Review Extension Committee. He has excellent credentials as an international diplomat and as a diplomat representing Sri Lanka. He has considerable experience with nonproliferation and arms control issues. We would expect Ambassador Dhanapala to be very aware of the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Can we get a copy of --

MR. FOLEY: A copy of what?

QUESTION: Of this Ambassador Dhanapala -- the statement you're reading. Can we get a copy of --

MR. FOLEY: Well, there will be a transcript that you can probably access after the briefing.

QUESTION: Just to follow, the ambassador and other diplomats that will be joining the UNSCOM team: Weren't they asked for in the negotiations between Annan and Hussein? Were they not a concession to the Iraqis? And do they not slow down the process of UNSCOM getting back in to test?

MR. FOLEY: It would have been a concession had diplomats been accorded some independent, autonomous status as inspectors, with an ability to interfere with or second-guess or prejudge, or post-judge the work of the inspectors. And that is not the case. We've received solid assurances on that score that these will continue to be UNSCOM inspections, UNSCOM judgments, passed by Chairman Butler himself to the Secretary General and the Security Council.

Was there a second part to your question?

QUESTION: Well, yes. We're in the first part. Maybe there were three parts. I'll go back a second. How did it come about - how did it come about that diplomats were added to the inspection teams? That was a concession to Iraq, no.

MR. FOLEY: I would urge you to ask the UN whether they consider that a concession. We don't insofar as the diplomats will have no role in the inspections themselves.

We, I think from this podium, indicated that we regarded the presence of diplomats as observers -- before Mr. Annan went to Baghdad we said this - as a detail, and not as a matter of substance.

QUESTION: What do you have to say about the Secretary's possible travel next week?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to announce today. I hope we'll be in a position to announce something early next week. There may be international travel; it's something under consideration. If I had the announcement, I would make it. But you can watch this space, I would say, very early next week for an announcement, not for the travel itself.

QUESTION: The Secretary again yesterday made a strong appeal to Congress to make the UN arrears available. But Senator Helms last night released a letter and a list of demands that the United States apparently - or that the Administration is seeking in the agreement that was negotiated with Congress last year. And Helms is rejecting it and saying absolutely not. And I was wondering how you - I mean, you've already got a problem on your hands with the abortion issue, and it seems to me that now asking for changes in that agreement is only complicating the matter. And I just wonder how you see this ever passing.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd like to stress one thing above all, which is the fact that we -- Secretary Albright and the Administration worked very closely with Senator Helms last year, with Senator Biden and other senators to put together a bipartisan consensus and a package on UN arrears and reforms. We greatly appreciate the time and energy put into crafting the agreement by Senator Helms and his staff, as well as the broad bipartisan support the agreement enjoys.

That formula that produced the package last time is the formula that's going to produce the package that we hope to have approved, and that we hope to be able to use to get the kind of changes and reforms that both of us on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue would like to see accomplished in the United Nations. We're going to work closely with Senator Helms and his staff.

I would recall, as you noted, that unfortunately there was a small group of House members last November which succeeded in blocking final passage of the reforms and arrears package for the UN. And the U.S. has paid a price for the failure to get the UN arrears signed into law. It's created some problems of timing and credibility for us in New York that we need to work our way through. But we believe that we'll be able to do that, working with Senator Helms. So I would not jump to any big conclusions concerning the nature of our discussions with the Senate and the Senator on this issue.

We're going to work together with him; we're going to reach agreement with him on a package that we can both agree on so that we can advance our interests in the UN.

QUESTION: How does the US --

MR. FOLEY: Is this the same subject?

QUESTION: Yes, how did the US paid price - you said, US paid the price.

MR. FOLEY: Well, in the sense that we - with the package that we had last year, we felt somewhat confident - I wouldn't exaggerate it because it requires a lot of slogging, a lot of negotiating at the UN. But we felt fairly confident that we could get some of the changes, some of the benchmarks that we'd agreed with Senator Helms and the Senate implemented in New York.

Now, we still have the same set of goals. Circumstances have changed somewhat, but not too much, and we think we can get essentially the same package and then go pursue our joint, our common goals in the UN. I'm not going to be in a position to get into the details of the package at this point, because this is precisely what we're going to sit down and work with the Senate and Senator Helms and his staff on.

QUESTION: Well, did you accept Helms' statement that there are 27 new demands?

MR. FOLEY: I think that in light of the changed circumstances, there were some things that were initially put on the table of a technical or procedural matter. I'm not in a position to talk about the substance or talk about the numbers.

Again, what I'd like to stress - I understand the nature of your questions - are we going to be facing a gap or a gulf between ourselves and the Senate on the package that we'd like to see passed so that we can advance our goals in New York? And without getting into specifics is that at the end of the day, we have to reach agreement with the Senate. We can't get a package if the Senate's not on board. We can't work for American interests that are recognized by the Senate, as well as the Administration, as happened last year, unless we reach agreement this year.

And I'm confident that we'll reach that agreement.

QUESTION: This delayed question.

MR. FOLEY: Is this the time bomb question?

QUESTION: Yes, this is the time-release question. And realize, I'm only the messenger here, but a question about land mines. As the various countries that signed the ban on antipersonnel mines begin to ratify that agreement, has the United States developed a policy as to what it will do as regards U.S. forces in other countries that have control of such weapons, aside from Korea, which is the specific issue, as I understood it from President Clinton?

For example, would troops in Germany, having land mines, shed those if the Germans, for example, said, we ratify this treaty; or is that just far too hypothetical; or is it out of left field too much for you to answer?

MR. FOLEY: I'm unlikely to call on you very much in the future, Steve, if you persist in this vein. And I recall, also, that I opened the briefing by saying how much I regretted the fact that you would be leaving us.

But that said, I can tell you that we are consulting with allies which have signed the Ottawa Convention, to work out practical implications related to their becoming a party to the convention while we are not. This is similar to consultations we have with allies on a wide variety of issues -- of security issues.

Although several of our NATO allies have signed the convention and the U.S. has not, we do share two goals: first, to eliminate humanitarian suffering caused by antipersonnel land mines; and second, to maintain NATO's ability to fulfill mutual defense obligations. The U.S. believes the best way to deal with these issues is through discussion by experts in bilateral consultations for stockpile issues, and also discussions, consultations at NATO for the remaining issues such as operability.

QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: The situation with Indonesia seems to be getting increasingly worse. And I'm wondering, A, if you've got any comment on it; and B, what the State Department's role has been in trying to cash in some sort of a resolution?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have new information on that subject for you today. You will note that earlier this week the White House announced that former Vice President Mondale would be serving as the President's personal representative for further discussions with President Soeharto and other Indonesian officials on the overall situation facing that country.

I have no information today on what the latest contacts and consultations have been on the issue, but as we've stated previously, this is a matter of great concern to us. We're facing the general problem of the Asian financial crisis in various countries, but Indonesia is a particularly important case, given its size, its population, its natural resources, the increasing integration of the region in the world economy. Indonesia's fate is critical to all of us, so we're working very closely with other members of the international community, the IMF, on the reform package that we think is necessary. We're discussing with the Indonesians, bilaterally, the challenges that they're facing; continuing to urge them to implement fully the IMF package. But I have nothing new to give you today.

QUESTION: And another subject matter --

QUESTION: Excuse me.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, Sid, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on that. One newspaper today said the State Department had concluded there's no viable alternative to Soeharto. Can you comment on that?

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen the article.

QUESTION: Could you at least speak to the subject?

QUESTION: You don't have to comment on the article - comment on the State Department's conclusion.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think we believe that the matter of choice of Indonesia's political leadership is for Indonesians to make. I believe next month their national parliament or assembly is meeting to vote on or to approve the vice presidential and presidential positions. But I have no comment on internal Indonesian political choices.

QUESTION: You don't want to say anything about the undemocratic nature of that election?

MR. FOLEY: No, as I said, we believe this is a matter for Indonesians to decide.

QUESTION: Does it seem a little disconcerting to you that at a time when you're trying to get Soeharto to rid himself of cronyism that he's hiring one of his chief cronies as vice president?

MR. FOLEY: I don't wish to comment on, as I said, on internal Indonesian political choices.

QUESTION: Regarding this London-based Islamic coalition that issued the fatwa the other day, has this led to increased - statements have been made by Administration, saying - warning people about traveling in the Middle East and traveling abroad. But have measures also been taken in the U.S. concerning the possibility of increased terrorism here as a result of this fatouah*?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as you know, the State Department has responsibility for the safety and security of Americans overseas, but not domestic responsibilities in that nature. On the other hand, we do sit with other agencies on a regular basis to discuss security issues, because there's obviously connection between security threats overseas and security threats at home. And you can be sure that the relevant federal agencies are apprised of all the information that we receive, as the State Department, of threats overseas. That information is disseminated and appropriate precautions and actions are taken.

QUESTION: Has anything been done with regard to speaking with the British Government concerning the activities of these groups in London, which apparently are able to operate quite much more freely than they would here in the U.S.?

MR. FOLEY: I would be surprised if we were not discussing with Her Majesty's Government this issue on an ongoing basis - security threats in general and particular information when it surfaces. But you would also not be surprised that I'm not in a position to comment publicly about those discussions.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on four-party talks beginning?

MR. FOLEY: Well, perhaps you will remember better than I when the date is for their - for the holding of those talks. I believe it's March 14 or March 16 in Geneva. We can check that for you. And also, there are going to be the inter-sessional or preliminary talks to take place several days before that in Geneva at a slightly lower level.

QUESTION: Today in South Africa, Vice President Gore and Mbeki apparently announced that the United States was lifting its ban on arms sales to South Africa. And there seems to be a trend here as the President, just a few months ago, did the same thing with Latin America. I wonder how you square this with the Administration's alleged commitment to nonproliferation.

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, I'm not aware that the Vice President was in South Africa. But I believe there was an announcement, though, that was made. I was given a draft of the announcement; I'm told it's not final. So I really can't comment in any kind of detail about it. I'd have to refer you to the Vice President's office.

What I can say, though, is that there were reports a week or so ago about this issue that were erroneous insofar as they indicated that there was a ban on defense trade or sales - a blanket ban on South Africa. That was not the case. There was no such ban. What there was were prohibitions on certain companies because of certain actions that they had taken during the apartheid period. And what I believe has been announced - and I can't confirm it - is that the ban on those companies was lifted or suspended, based on the establishment of export control compliance programs that were satisfactory under U.S. law. But I have no more details on that until I can confirm it.

QUESTION: But my core question there was, how does this - however you parse it in terms of the legalities, the end result, apparently, is to open up the door to more arms trade between the two countries. And how does this square with the Clinton Administration's alleged commitment to nonproliferation?

MR. FOLEY: I don't see the connection in any way whatsoever. South Africa is a good friend of the United States. It is an emerging democracy, a country with whom we have excellent relations, with whom we work throughout Africa. We believe that democracies have legitimate self-defense needs, and any kind of arms trade or defense trade that we have with South Africa will be consistent with what we believe and agree with South Africa as necessary to their own defense needs. I think there's nothing to apologize for, in that respect.

QUESTION: Yes, Mexico and the United States. Randy Beers yesterday spoke about the national security threat to Mexico and to the United States from the drug trafficking. I would ask, can you quantify that threat to the security of the United States -- expand on that? And secondly, doesn't the consumption of drugs in this country, in fact, threaten all the other countries that are either transit or suppliers of drugs?

MR. FOLEY: I think what the Secretary indicated, as did Attorney General Reno and General McCaffrey, yesterday is that this is a problem, a menace that we all face in common; and that, increasingly, our efforts are focused on an integrated, multilateral approach towards dealing with this problem.

It joins and affects and subverts the security and the well-being of the youth of all of us, in terms of the noxious effects of corruption - excuse me - of consumption, of drug dependence, which is not only an American problem -- it's a growing problem throughout the world, including in the hemisphere -- but also the corrupting influence on societies, both ours and in some of the originating countries, of the narcotics trade.

It's a problem that we face together, and our efforts are increasingly oriented towards dealing with the problem on a genuinely multilateral basis.

QUESTION: But it depends on consumption and consumers and dollars going out; right?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it starts with consumption, and we recognize that, as General McCaffrey indicated yesterday.

QUESTION: Jim, can you talk about why Lebanon and Syria are no longer listed as problem countries --

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to get that information for you, Betsy. I'm aware - what we do prior to the certification decision every year -- I'm not sure what stage in the annual process it is, but we develop a list of the countries that are most affected, either as growers or transit countries, problem countries involving narcotics. And this year those two countries were not on the list, and it had to do with changes in those countries.

I would not want to give you wrong information, so I'd be happy to check the record to get the information for you. I'm not sure if it had to do with the elimination of crops. I think it had something to do with that, that there were significant inroads in those areas. But let me check the record and get that for you.

QUESTION: Jim, two questions, one is Cambodia. Could you give us your understanding of the latest situation in Cambodia? It seems to be two parties close to, at least, cease-fire.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, that's our information, that both on the government side and on the side of the forces that - the troops loyal to ousted Prime Minister - First Prime Minister Ranariddh, that there has been a cease- fire. We welcome this announcement. I believe that the Japanese played a significant and very positive role in the achievement of the cease-fire. We'd like to salute that role.

If the cease-fire holds, we believe that it would be one step toward creating conditions for creating conditions for free, fair, and credible elections this year.

QUESTION: What's your communication with both Ranariddh and Hun Sen's side?

MR. FOLEY: I have no information on what our latest contacts are. But through our embassy in Phnom Penh, we've been in contact with the government. We, in the region, have been in contact, I believe in Bangkok, with Prince Ranariddh. But we want him to go back to Cambodia. We want him to be able to go back under circumstances which permit him to participate freely without fear or hindrance in the electoral process. That's very important to the credibility of that process.

QUESTION: Have you heard any help to Ranariddh, because he seems to --

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I didn't --

QUESTION: Have you offered any help to Ranariddh, because he seems to have difficulty to go back --

MR. FOLEY: The help we've offered is to encourage him to return to Cambodia.

QUESTION: And the other one is Burma. Japanese, I think, I believe they have decided to resume the financial aid to the government --

MR. FOLEY: We've discussed this matter with the government of Japan, and we, for our part, do not support the resumption of large-scale aid projects to Burma at this time.

The U.S. Government continues to believe that non-humanitarian, bilateral assistance to the government of Burma, absent significant improvements in the human rights and narcotics situations there is inappropriate.

QUESTION: But you don't oppose the character of the Japanese decision?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as I said, we don't support the resumption of large- scale aid projects to Burma at this time.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:25 P.M.)

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