U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #26, 98-02-27
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
Friday, February 27, 1998
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 Reverend Jackson's African-American History Month at
1,2 Steve Hurst of CNN Last Briefing
10-11 Secretary's Travel
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
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;
8 Libya and Iraq Similarities in Claims of Victory
11-12 UN Arrears and Senator Helms; UN Package; Attempts to
12-13 USG Position on landmines, NATO and the Ottawa
13,14 White House Announcement of Mondale's Trip to
Indonesia; US Examination of Indonesia's Problems,
Soeharto and Indonesian Elections
14 Iran's Fatwa and Security Issues to US Citizens
Overseas; Dialogue Between US and UK on Issue of
14-15 Four-Party Talks in Geneva
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
15-16 National Security Threat to Mexico and US
16 Syria and Lebanon and Narcotics Report
16-17 Announcement of Ceasefire; US Contact;
Japan's Financial Aid to Burma
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1998, 1:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
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
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
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,
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
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: OK.
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
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
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
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.
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
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
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
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
So I think that everyone is skeptical, and rightly so, as Secretary
Albright indicated in testimony yesterday. No one, especially the United
States, is naïve 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
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
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
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
MR. FOLEY: No, as I said, we believe this is a matter for Indonesians to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: But it depends on consumption and consumers and dollars going
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
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
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.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:25 P.M.)