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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #43, 98-04-08

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


267

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, April 8, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

BOSNIA
1-2		SFOR Apprehends Indicted War Criminals / 30 Indictees in
		  Custody / War Crimes Tribunal Process Works / Karadzic
		  Should Surrender

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 2-3 Whereabouts of Amb Ross / Purpose of London Meeting / Contacts with EU /Future Travel 3-4 Palestinian Authority Finding on Death of Sharif / Hamas Call for Attacks Against Israel

KOREA 4-5 Under Secy Pickering's Mtgs with South Korean Pres Kim Dae-Jung / North-South Vice Ministerial Talks / Agenda Items / Future US Role

PHILIPPINES 5 Visit by Pres Ramos / Secretary's Mtg with Foreign Minister Siazon

BURMA 5 Amb Richardson's Visit Denied / Agenda Items

PARAGUAY 6 Possible Disruptions to Presidential Elections

NORTHERN IRELAND 6 Status of Peace Talks / US Representative

IRAN 6-7 Visit to Washington by Wrestlers / Immigration Procedures 7 Remain on "List" of Terrorist States

SLOVAKIA 7-8 US Visas Denied in Two Cases / No Humanitarian Waiver

IRAQ / IRAN / KUWAIT 8,9 POW Exchanges / Kuwaiti Prisoners Should Be Released

CUBA 8,9 License Issued to Explore Holding Exhibit to Promote Sale of Medicines


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #43

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 1998 12:40 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry I didn't come earlier, and I didn't know that cell phones were permitted in the briefing room, but I guess they are. Remember that phrase "cell phones", it will come back in the next 24 hours.

Let me start by saying that it is my understanding from preliminary reports that SFOR has conducted an operation involving the apprehension of two indicted war criminals. These two officials are officers associated with the operation of the Omarska prison camp; their names are Mladin Radic and Miroslav Kvocka. These are part of the February 1995 indictment. This was an SFOR operation where the indicted war criminals were arrested and detained and no injuries are reported and the indictees are still in country and are expected to be transferred to The Hague shortly.

QUESTION: Do you know their ethnic persuasion?

MR. RUBIN: I do not. I can try to get more details.

QUESTION: Do you know which troops did it?

MR. RUBIN: If they ran the Omarska camp, as Sid points out, they're -- but I want to get. They are Bosnian Serbs, yes.

QUESTION: Do you know which country's troops did it?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't be in a position to discuss that.

QUESTION: In what town?

MR. RUBIN: We'll try to get you more details as soon as we can; this just came in.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: I've given you the information I have. I'll try to get more for you.

QUESTION: Do you know - (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: I believe it's in the UK sector in Bosnia. The important point for us here to bear in mind is that the process of pursuing the war criminals in Bosnia is working, that there are now over 30 indictees. That's the last time I give you any news -- everybody leaves.

(Laughter.)

Is there anyone else who wants to leave now? See you later CBS, UPI, AP - I guess we can call off the briefing now.

QUESTION: It could also mean they don't think you can top yourself.

MR. RUBIN: The important point here, again this is a very serious matter, is there are now over 30 indictees in custody in The Hague. This signals the determination the United States and the other countries that are part of SFOR have to make the War Crimes Tribunal process work, and it has been working. Contrary to a lot of the skepticism that has been put out there by a lot of people about the War Crimes Tribunal, it is clear that the process is working; that increasingly the space for the remaining indictees is shrinking; that increasingly it's apparent to Mr. Karadzic that he has no place to run and no place to hide; that it's time he realized his only choice is to turn himself in; and that the noose is gradually tightening around his neck, and it's time for him to make the choice that other Bosnian Serbs have made to voluntarily surrender. It's clear from the work of the court in the various cases that have come before it that this court is going to be fair and is going to pursue a legal process that he would be well advised to avail himself of.

QUESTION: If he doesn't voluntarily surrender, might he face an operation like this?

MR. RUBIN: I think we've made very clear that all our options are open in this regard. We've conducted operations in the past designed to apprehend indictees and they have been successful operations. We've made clear that we are maintaining our options in this regard, but I have nothing more for you on that.

QUESTION: Assuming Dennis Ross did not participate, could you tell us where the secretive, elusive American mediator is these days, and what he's up to?

MR. RUBIN: Let me start by saying the mediator is neither secret nor elusive, and it is not appropriate for us to pre-announce every time Dennis Ross has a meeting. When people ask, we try to give you the information as quickly and as accurately as we can. Ambassador Ross did have a meeting with an Israeli representative in London. He's on his way back now. It was part of the normal process by which the United States and its close ally, Israel, meet and talk and discuss different issues.

There are numerous meetings, numerous discussions, numerous contacts that you all never know about or write about. That is the process of diplomacy. And there is nothing magical nor secretive about this process, other than that we don't normally announce every time Dennis Ross has a meeting or has a phone call or writes a letter or sends a cable. That is the way diplomacy is done.

As far as what this meeting is about, I think it will come as no surprise to you that the meeting was about seeing whether any of the new ideas that are out there, and any of the refinements of those ideas, will be successful in bridging the wide gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the necessary steps to restart the peace process. The gaps are still wide. We have no information to suggest that they are about to be overcome. Secretary Albright is still deeply concerned about the state of the peace process, the difficulty the two sides have had to talk to each other to resolve these issues. Ambassador Ross' meeting is part of that process.

QUESTION: Why London?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any particular reason for that. I mean, you could argue that it's half-way.

QUESTION: Yes, you could, but Prince George's County is closer for Dennis Ross.

MR. RUBIN: And it's also true that the UK is the chairman of the European Union during this period, and we have tried to keep in touch with them when we can about the peace process.

QUESTION: So that's why he saw him. And what are the results? And did you have - or did he or did anyone have contact with the Europeans while --

MR. RUBIN: I believe he did have a chance to brief certain officials in London. I don't have results of the meeting; I wouldn't expect to have any results of the meeting to offer you at any particular time. It's a contact to discuss ideas. When and if we have new things to say about the Middle East peace process, I will; but I wouldn't expect it to come out of this one meeting.

QUESTION: Is Dennis definitely traveling after Passover?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's likely that he would travel again after Passover. That's likely, but no dates have been nailed down.

QUESTION: Different country --

QUESTION: Did you say where they were --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I did the whole kit and caboodle.

QUESTION: Have you heard yet from the Palestinian Authority about the incident in which the bomb- maker was killed?

MR. RUBIN: I would be surprised if at some level they didn't contact us about their findings that they've made quite public.

QUESTION: Well, as of the other day, they hadn't, was the response.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'll check that. I would be surprised if they haven't made - I believe I've seen something to that effect. But I'd be surprised if, in some form or another, that information was not communicated to us.

QUESTION: That aside, Hamas is not buying their explanation and has issued a call for a jihad of sorts - attacks against Israeli targets and Jewish targets worldwide. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, these kind of efforts to stoke up the Middle East and to destroy the peace process are reprehensible, and should be condemned by all those who believe that peace in the Middle East is good for the Palestinians, peace in the Middle East is good for the region and peace in the Middle East is good for the Israelis. These kinds of efforts to exploit situations like this are unacceptable and demonstrate that this organization is dead-set aimed at killing the peace process and has no other goal, no consideration for the lives of the Palestinian people that can be improved by the peace process, and is simply looking for ways to promote itself and its pathetic cause.

QUESTION: Jamie, Mr. Pickering left South Korea today. Do you have anything on that - about his meetings there, and whether there's any more information on the North-South talks, which are scheduled in Beijing for the 11th?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, President Kim Dae-Jung met with US Under Secretary of State Pickering in a productive and friendly exchange. They discussed, obviously, the economic situation, US policy and South Korean policy towards North Korea.

With regard to the North-South issues, let me just say this. We understand that the South and the North have agreed to Vice Ministerial talks. Some details, including the venue, are not yet determined. As far as we're concerned, we have long supported a direct dialogue between the South and the North, and this is fully consistent with the four-party talks that we're trying to promote.

QUESTION: What would the US consider successful in the North-South talks? I mean, what do you think should be on the agenda?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we want to improve confidence; we want to see confidence-building measures; we want to see tensions reduced; and obviously there are a lot of humanitarian issues that could be discussed, and those would be appropriately discussed in that channel. There are a myriad of ways that two countries that have been so isolated in the past could begin to work out some of their problems through such discussions. But broadly defined, they are in category of confidence- building measures and humanitarian issues.

QUESTION: If the North-South talks are successful in whatever it is supposed to be doing, what kind of continued US role do you see in the peace process?

MR. RUBIN: We've long said that we want to see them talking to each other, and clearly the US has a role in this. The North Koreans are anxious to talk to us about these issues, and we have no reason to believe their desire to talk to us is lessened or reduced by the possibility that they would talk to the South. There are myriad issues out there in the area of confidence-building measures, military issues that can be discussed. And so the two are not inconsistent; in fact, they're complementary.

QUESTION: You may have covered this in a previous briefing that I missed, but I was curious as to what our agenda is with President Ramos during his visit here?

MR. RUBIN: The meeting is scheduled for this afternoon. Secretary Siazon is accompanying President Ramos during his visit. This has obviously been a long and enduring friendship between us, and Secretary Albright wanted to meet with the Foreign Minister on the occasion of the centennial of US- Filipino relations.

The meeting underscores the importance of our bilateral relationship and our treaty alliance with the Philippines. I suspect, despite the regional economic difficulties, there will be some discussion of the economic issues. The Philippines is currently the chair of ASEAN, so certainly the Burma issue will come up; the Cambodia issue will come up. And I would expect that the bells issue that has been an issue between us would come up, as well.

QUESTION: What is the position the US is taking on that as far as these talks are concerned? There have been various statements from veterans groups. What's the official word?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're going to wait and see what he has to say. Obviously, the members of the Congressional delegation have had very strong views, and we'll have to see what they propose.

QUESTION: On Burma, do you have anything to say about Ambassador Richardson's difficulties?

MR. RUBIN: Clearly the Burmese Government missed an opportunity. We are disappointed that the government has chosen to forego the chance to speak with Ambassador Richardson, and a visit would've been an opportunity for dialogue. If he had been able to go, we would have been trying to promote our basic objective of encouraging the government there to begin a meaningful dialogue with the democratic opposition. The Burmese cited the reciprocal visa bans on senior government officials as their reason. As you may or may not know, Ambassador Richardson would have sought a chance to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi , as well as the Burmese military regime, but they missed an opportunity for some discussion.

QUESTION: Jamie, there were some strong words yesterday and seeming threats from the President of Paraguay that elections would be disrupted if he felt that his party was not winning. Are you all concerned about this?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. The United States has been following closely events in Paraguay related to the upcoming presidential elections. We share the concern expressed by Paraguay's neighbors about the possibility of extra-constitutional action aimed at disrupting the elections process and undermining democratic institutions. We applaud the commitment on the part of Mercosur countries, those in the region, to act against any undemocratic action in Paraguay by suspending it from Mercosur, as provided in the Treaty of San Luis.

The United States strongly supports democracy in Paraguay. In the event of a disruption of the democratic process, the United States, joined undoubtedly by the community of democratic nations in the hemisphere, will also take action with the aim of isolating those responsible. We hope all parties will fully support the constitution, the Supreme Court and the electoral tribunal so that a democratic transfer of power can take place in August.

QUESTION: Have you all transmitted this by way of our ambassador?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think they're well aware of our view that this would be a grave mistake.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about the Northern Ireland talks on the eve of the --

MR. RUBIN: Well, other than saying, as Tony Blair said yesterday, now isn't the time to make comments; now is the time for the people involved to come to closure. This is an historic moment, and obviously we think this is the best opportunity in a long time to make some progress. We urge all sides to show the political courage and spirit of compromise necessary to reach a comprehensive settlement.

We share the view of many that these talks offer the best hope for a just and lasting peace and resolution of the problems that have divided the two communities for so long. So it's now not a time for public statements; it's a time to come to closure and to exploit this historic opportunity that has opened.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Senator Mitchell is running that process, as far as our contact. I don't have any more information for you.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there any update on the Iranian wrestlers here - any further contacts?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. We wanted to make clear the wrestlers were welcome guests in our country and discussed with them the possibility of an informal get-together with Health and Human Services Secretary Shalala, who served in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer. Their scheduling made this impossible, but they made clear they appreciated the gesture.

We understand the visit went very well, and that the Iranian wrestling team was very pleased by the hospitality shown them. They departed Washington today, after spending a couple of days visiting the city.

For the Iranians' departure, we worked closely with airline and other officials to ensure smooth completion of departure procedures. And as you know, the Secretary asked the Department to look into the appropriateness of existing procedures in the case of such a visit. We intend to work with other agencies to ensure that the US law is implemented in such a way as to reflect our sense of hospitality and our support for people-to-people exchanges.

QUESTION: Was there any attempt by anyone at the State Department to meet with them, or on their part to meet with us?

MR. RUBIN: I think the idea was, given who they were, that Donna Shalala was the right person; but it couldn't be scheduled.

QUESTION: On Iran, has the State Department made a determination on whether they should remain on the list of states that sponsor terrorism?

MR. RUBIN: There is no reason to believe that Iran will be removed from the list as part of this reporting process. But I would remind you that the report that's due at the end of the month is not the sole criterion for whether you're on the terrorism list. It's not the sole vehicle by which countries are placed on or removed from the list. The report discusses evidence that countries on the list have sponsored terrorism during the calendar year in question. The terrorism list is a result of US statutes, including Section VI J of the Export Administration Act. So we formally review the terrorism list, so to speak, at the beginning of each year; and it shouldn't be assumed that this report is the conclusion of what we have said were encouraging signs from the Iranian President and Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: I had a question, too, regarding issuing visas in Slovakia. Do you have anything about this?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think we answered it as best we could. I hope it was made available to you. Obviously, we can't talk about any specific cases. I think it's fair to point out that we've given thousands of visas to Slovaks coming to the United States. There is no such thing as a humanitarian visa.

We can't comment on any specific cases, except to say they're adjudicated on their own merits, and that consular officers do everything possible within the constraints of law to accommodate applicants who have compelling needs to travel. But the burden of proof is on the traveler, not on the consular officer, in these cases. They can re-apply if they're denied a visa, pursuant to Section 214B of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

QUESTION: What's the US' reaction to the massive POW exchange between the Iraqis and Iranians?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't have an official reaction. Obviously, to the extent that prisoners are released from prison so long after a tragic war, that's a good thing.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this company that asked for a trade show -- do you have anything new?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think that company's spokespeople may be sorry about the extent to which they exaggerated the points of the license. Let me bear in mind, for those of you who are still interested in this story, the license was to explore opportunities to have demonstrations for medical equipment. It wasn't the most important signal of the end of the embargo in modern history. That is the kind of exaggerated rhetoric that probably doesn't serve anybody's cause. All this was was a license - a very narrowly restricted license - to explore the holding of an exhibition to promote sale of medicine and medical equipment, using the $100-a-day limit for spending funds in Cuba.

So this situation has been vastly exaggerated. The license is only for travel-related expenses related to exploratory trips. The company would have to apply for another license in order to expend any funds related to such an exposition, such as payment of fees to the Cuban Government. No such request has been submitted, nor does the issuance of the license for travel necessarily guarantee that other licenses will be issued. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis. And let me state very clearly that misrepresentation of the purpose of the license could result in its reconsideration and possible revocation, and certainly would make it extremely unlikely that a subsequent license would be authorized.

But let me say that any US pharmaceutical or medical supply company wanting to participate would require a separate Treasury license. And the actual sale of any medicine or medicines must be separately licensed, including meeting the end-use monitoring requirements to prevent abuse by the Cuban Government. So there were some wildly exaggerated statements by various people about what this did and didn't do. It was a rather minor matter, which was an exploratory license; and to the extent there is misrepresentation of that license, it will make it that much harder for a follow-on license to be issued.

Let me point out on the Iraq-Iran question, that the Kuwaitis should be released.

I'll come back to Cuba in a second. The Resolutions of the Security Council demand that Iraq release Kuwaiti prisoners of war. I believe there are about 600 of them that are still unaccounted for. To the extent that Iraq is now getting into the business of prisoner release, which is, generally speaking, a good thing, it's high time they got into the business of accounting for the 600 Kuwaiti prisoners that are still unaccounted for.

Back to Cuba.

QUESTION: You mean that the license that this person already has may be revoked before he flies to Cuba?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think I said that. Only in the case that it were to be deemed that it was misrepresented, it could be reconsidered or revoked.

QUESTION: Do you have the language there of precisely what was authorized, because the company says the word "explore" was not used in the license?

MR. RUBI: Well, we've checked into this quite a bit in recent days, and I think people are making clear -- both the Treasury Department and we -- that we issued a license to the company to spend funds for travel to Cuba - $100 a day - to explore the holding of an exhibition. This license was issued because it was consistent with existing regulations, and we are quite clear that the license is only for exploratory trips.

Now, what happens here is their exploratory trip may be aimed at a certain end, which is the holding of such an event, and they may be just reading that part of the letters or other documentation they got to -- I hesitate to use the word "spin" what is a rather small license into something well beyond what it is.

(The briefing concluded at 1:10 P.M.)


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