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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #46, 98-04-15

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


Wednesday, April 15, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1,2,3,6,7	Execution of Angel Breard / SecState to Governor
		  Gilmore / Release of the "Consular Notification and
		  Access," booklet to Law Enforcement Agencies 
2-3		Relationship between Department of Justice and Supreme
		  Court / Comparison of the Sheinbein Case / Federal
		  Court's Decision Regarding a Extradition of Mr. Ross from
		  Northern Ireland / Details of Notification booklet,
		  Access Reference Card, Instructions for Arrest of
4-5		Detention of Americans Overseas / Importance of Vienna
		  Convention / Good Faith Effort of the State Department /
		  Obvious Guild of Breard and Virginia Sentencing Laws 
5,6		Contact Between the State Department and the World Court /
		  Appeal Requests and Duration of Time / Criticisms of the
		  State Department / Questions of a Fair Trial 
7,8		Violations the Vienna Convention / Human Rights and the US

BRAZIL 7-8 General Patrick Hughes Remarks re: Amazon and Environment

IRAN 8,9-10 Radio Free Europe and Voice of America Money Used for Broadcasting Persian Language to Iran / Discussions with Congress / Funding / Czech Government's Concerns and Terrorism

CAMBODIA 10-11 Reports that Khmer Rouge is Seeking Contact with US in Regard to Pol Pot / Brining Pol Pot to Justice / Pickering's Visit to China and Discussions on Cambodia

IRAQ 11-12 Human Rights Report by Mr. Van der Stoel / Resolution 688 / Voices of Wilderness / UNSCOM Access to Presidential Sites

SOMALIA 13 Kidnapping of AmCit and Other Foreigners / ICRC Naming the American

NORTHERN IRAQ 13 Alledged Capture of Kurdish Terrorist Leader by Turkish Commanders / Question of Terrorists Group Operating in Damascus

TURKEY / CYPRUS 13-14 S-300 Missile Purchase / Military Threats Against Cyprus / Special Cyprus Coordinator Miller Remarks to Greek Newspapers

COLOMBIA 14-15 Blackhawks and Counter-Narcotics Operations / Update on AmCit

CZECH 15 Havel's Health / Vote of the Czech Chamber of Deputies in Favor of NATO Membership


DPB #46

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 1998, 1:00 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings, welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is Wednesday.

Let me start by offering you some comments about the execution of Angel Breard. On Monday, Secretary Albright wrote to Governor Gilmore asking that the Governor stay the execution of Mr. Breard for murder. The Governor decided to allow the execution to take place as scheduled last night. In our federal system, that was his decision. There is no doubt in our minds that Mr. Breard was guilty of the brutal crimes for which he was sentenced; however, he was not told that Paraguay's consulate could be notified of his arrest as required by the Vienna Convention. That concerned the Department of State and his case was given careful attention here.

When we learned of Mr. Breard's case, we investigated thoroughly. We wanted to determine whether he had been prejudiced by the lack of consular assistance and, if so, we would respond appropriately. We did a painstaking review, showing that Mr. Breard had not been prejudiced; he spoke good English, he had a fair trial with good lawyers and the support of his family. The Supreme Court reached the same conclusion last night.

This case does show, however, how important it is for federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in the United States to be aware of the US obligation to notify foreign nationals of their right to consular access. This right is of great importance to foreigners here and it is of particular concern to the Secretary for Americans overseas.

We should, in the United States, see to it that foreigners here receive the same treatment that we expect and demand for Americans overseas. That is why the State Department will continue to work with governors and mayors and law enforcement officials across this country to insure that consular notification obligations are understood and honored. In that regard, Secretary Albright has sent to all the 50 states a copy of this document, "Consular Notification and Access", which is a lengthy booklet, explaining what the requirements are because, in many cases, this doesn't happen.

The recent proceedings in the International Court of Justice also underscore the importance internationally of consular notification obligations. The United States took the Court's decision very seriously. Working with the Department of Justice, the State Department concluded that the federal government needed to do what it could in response to the Court's request to delay Mr. Breard's execution. That is why working in full agreement and cooperation with the Department of Justice, the Secretary wrote to Governor Gilmore.

For those of you who seem to have misunderstood this, the United States acted as one - the Department of Justice brief before the Supreme Court was signed by the legal advisor of the State Department. And I urge those of you who report on these matters to investigate those questions a little more carefully before you misunderstand them. There is no disagreement between the State Department and the Justice Department.

Jointly, both the Justice Department and the State Department decided that the best way to respond to the Court's decision was to, on the one hand, make clear that we did not believe that the Supreme Court was required to stay the execution. On the other hand, a reasonable response that we jointly chose for sending a letter to the governor was a way to respond to this other court's request for a stay. Furthermore, that court's decision was not a binding decision, it was not written in the binding form. Those two thoughts have been somewhat lost.

But for now, we must go forward and insure that all countries, including the United States, respect the vital role of consular notification in a world where international travel is becoming increasingly frequent and where the Secretary is concerned about making sure that American citizens do not get the consular notification they deserve because, in many parts of the world, that is particularly important.

We want to be sure that nobody around the world misconstrues the fact that this execution went forward for the fact that the United States does strongly believe that the consular convention is important and intends to do all it can in good faith to see that it is abided by.

QUESTION: But, indeed, for foreign policy reasons the Secretary would have preferred that the Governor grant the stay? Not for legal reasons, but foreign policy reasons.

MR. RUBIN: Let me put it this way. Everyone played their proper role here. The State and Justice Departments made clear that it wouldn't have required the court to decide to suspend this execution, and we thought it was appropriate to make clear that we believed that an appropriate response was for the Secretary to request the Governor to stay this execution. But at this point, in our federal system, this decision was his to make and our decision was for us to make this request.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about implications, if any are discerned?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Because when she - certainly at Howard she made the point that it has potential implications for American citizens when they get in trouble. Just, you know, off the wall pretty much, this celebrated Sheinbein case, do you think that in some way this would cause another government to be more reluctant to cooperate with American prosecutors?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we would certainly -

QUESTION: No two cases are alike but -

MR. RUBIN: We would certainly hope not, and that case it's more a question of extradition than it is a question of consular notification. What we think was very important here was to demonstrate to both the court and the world and countries who may be watching that we made a good faith effort to see that the court's opinion was considered, number one; and, number two, that we do believe strongly in America's responsibility to see that local governments do their best to try to notify suspects of their rights if they are from foreign countries.

So that was our foreign policy concern is that the rest of the world not misinterpret the fact that we, as the State Department along with the Justice Department, intended to state as our opinion that this court's decision should not require the court to stop the execution. So while we were taking that legal position, we didn't want people to get the wrong idea that we didn't take the convention seriously or that we didn't take the court seriously. And so splitting between, on the one hand, making clear that with respect to a requirement, the United States was not required to stay the execution, with respect to a discretionary capability she made the request that she made.

QUESTION: Do you know this Ross case in Oklahoma? There is a judge who ruled that a fellow named Ross, who is facing all sorts of financial manipulation charges in Northern Ireland, should be extradited. According to accounts from Oklahoma, the judge has passed it on to the Secretary to clear the extradition. Is this something that is being acted on?

MR. RUBIN: We understand that Mr. Ross has been found extraditable by a federal magistrate. We do not know whether he intends to pursue this matter further in the courts by filing a petition for habeas corpus. Once all judicial procedures have been completed, the Secretary of State has the final authority to determine whether an individual found extraditable by a court should be surrendered to the country requesting the person's extradition. In making the decision to extradite a fugitive, the Secretary takes into account any issues the fugitive wishes to raise. The case has not yet been presented to the Secretary, and because there may be further judicial proceedings, we will withhold comment other than saying that she would consider it.

QUESTION: Is the Department doing anything other than what you've said here and the Secretary has said to get the word about how seriously the US takes the Vienna Convention to foreign governments?

MR. RUBIN: We would certainly hope that you could help us, and right here is a Consular Notification and Access Reference Card, Instructions for Arrest and Detention of Foreign Nationals. And this card is easily accessible. We have many of them. We are going to try to make the available to as many local and state authorities as possible. This makes clear what the consular notification requirements are, which countries are mandatory notifications because we have a bilateral agreement, and what to do if a national is not on one of the mandatory agreements.

QUESTION: If Americans are detained overseas, are ambassadors going to find governments, for example, saying, "We take this very seriously and this should not be a precedent for any kind of retaliation against Americans"?

MR. RUBIN: I think that our embassies overseas spend an enormous amount of time in this exercise. Consular affairs is, in many ways, the highest priority of the US embassies overseas; namely the protection of American citizens. And, frankly, there are major problems with this Convention being complied with overseas. In many countries, in South America and other places around the world, there are serious problems and we regularly let governments know of the importance of living up to this Convention.

I suspect, in the course of discussions that will be held regarding any specific cases, that ambassadors will be letting host governments know of the Department's views. Let me just point out that some 3,000 US citizens are detained overseas every year; about half of those, 1,500, are in long- term detention. The most prisoners are roughly 400 in Mexico, there is a large number in Thailand, a large number in Peru, and so we work very hard to make sure that those governments in particular, where the likelihood of arrest is highest, understand our focus and concern about this Convention.

QUESTION: I know that the Secretary said yesterday she was very - and she wrote to Governor Gilmore saying that she was particularly interested in having the ICJ look at the Breard case. Is she worried that now that the execution went forward, the cases the US has before the ICJ might be, or involving the US interests, might be adversely affected by this decision?

MR. RUBIN: We believe we did take the court's request seriously and we believe we found the right balance between making the case before the Supreme Court that there was no requirement to stay the execution and writing this letter to the Governor requesting such a stay of execution. Now I think that demonstrated, we hope for all reasonable judges and lawyers and people concerned with the international legal system, a good faith effort on our part. And considering that we made a good faith effort, we would certainly be surprised if any judge or any lawyer of any international scholar thought that it would be appropriate to retaliate in some unrelated matter for a clear and good faith effort we made to comply and respond to this request.

QUESTION: Where does this leave the other death row convicts who have not received consular -

MR. RUBIN: Again, every case is different and I know, because of our own needs and requirements here in the briefing room, there's a tendency to lump things together. But what I think is extremely important about this case, for those of you who are interested and have the chance to look at the legal brief filed by the Justice Department and signed by the State Department, is that this gentleman, not so gentleman, was guilty in our view; that nothing that happened during this case would have changed had he been notified that he could call the Paraguayan authorities. This gentleman spoke English. He had very good counsel. The idea that he could have plead guilty and had life imprisonment is not correct. There is no life imprisonment, there is only life imprisonment with parole in Virginia, so it's a hypothetical argument that some are making that he could have had such a choice of facing life imprisonment. And given the nature of the crime, I think it would be highly speculative for people to just guess that the prosecutor would have offered life imprisonment with parole in this kind of heinous crime.

So there's a lot of speculative lawyering going on. Considering that I didn't go to law school, I've been doing a little bit of phony lawyering from the podium here, but the point being that whether it was the fact that he understood the language, whether it was the fact that he had good lawyers - who spent hundreds of hours on his case, by the way - whether it was the fact that he was in contact with his family; his mother flew down, there wasn't any effect from the lack of notifying him that he could call a Paraguayan authority, and especially in light of the sentencing laws in Virginia. So that's this case.

As far as other cases are concerned, I can't make a broad, sweeping judgment other than to say that we spent a lot of time on this case because we wanted to demonstrate to the court that there was no effect from the failure to notify.

QUESTION: Has the State Department responded to the World Court and, if so, what did it say and can you make a copy of the State Department's response available to the World Court?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything for you on that right now. I suspect there will be contact between the US Government and the World Court. I wouldn't expect it would be much different than the kind of things that you've seen filed before the Supreme Court and the comments that I just made, but as soon as we have a formal communication available, we'll make that available to you.

QUESTION: Do you find it at all curious that the appeal in this case came so many years after the conviction?

MR. RUBIN: I would have to ask our lawyers whether that it curious. All I can say is that we believe we made a full faith effort to investigate the situation when we became aware of the fact that he wasn't notified, that he could call. And again, for those of you who have to write about this, the point is not that we provide him a Paraguayan authority, just merely that we tell him that he could call Paraguayan authorities. That' s the notification.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

QUESTION: Today, working on this story, a number of lawyers who work in this area and human rights activists made a number of criticisms of the State Department. I'd like to hear your response to them.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: One of the things they said, first of all, was that it is the State Department's responsibility, under law, to make sure that state and local governments are aware of the requirement that they make this notification, and these people said that the State Department has done a very, very poor job of doing that up to now.

They also told me that there are somewhere in the area of 70 foreigners on death rows in the United States and that a majority, if not most of them, were not notified of their right to consular access and were not given consular access. How would you respond to all of that, first of all?

MR. RUBIN: Critics will criticize because they have to make a living and if they had to work inside the government, they would discover that it's very easy to make a press statement and say, "More should be done". But when you actually look at what you can do, you discover that usually good, hard-working citizens here in the State Department and the government are doing what should be done.

I've pointed out to you that Secretary Albright has written to each of the governors, sending them a copy of this booklet so they can make it available to local law enforcement officials. We have these consular notification cards that are available and we've been making them available and we've been making them available. There will always be people who think that more could be done and it's very easy to say that. It's much harder to do something about it.

With respect to the fact that there may be other cases pending, I would obviously have to refer that to the Justice Department with respect to any specific case. But what I can say is that it is not, as the Breard case demonstrates, necessarily true that because someone wasn't informed that they could have called their consular officer, that they didn't get a fair trial. And we believe that a careful look at the evidence and the trial that our lawyers did in this case - and I urge you take a look at the brief that was submitted and the testimony submitted by the legal advisor's office here to the ICJ, to The Hague - that this gentleman did not lose anything by not being able to make this call and that this gentleman was guilty of a brutal rape and a brutal murder, and that in our system, our federal system, the Governor of Virginia made his decision and we have no problem with that.

QUESTION: Would the arguments that Mrs. Albright made in her letter to the Governor of Virginia be equally applicable to similar, other cases?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I can't make a sweeping generalization based on 69 other cases.

QUESTION: Do you believe the executions should be stayed in cases where consular access was not -

MR. RUBIN: I would prefer to leave broad, sweeping generalizations like that to those lawyers who are capable of making broad, sweeping generalizations. What I can say is that, in this case, we do not believe that the failure to notify had any material impact on the trial and that a guilty man was executed.

QUESTION: On the first question again, do you believe that the State Department's work in informing state and local governments, up to the time when you've issued these pamphlets and documents, was adequate or are you trying to remedy what you regard as an, up to that point, inadequate effort?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would have to check with the people responsible for this, but certainly the fact that we have written to 50 governors, the fact that we have made available these consular notification cards, demonstrates that we are making a good faith effort. As I said, there is always more to be done, but there are limits on our resources and capabilities. But we will continue to make a good faith effort to try to make sure that local officials do make these notifications to prisoners from other countries.

QUESTION: Jamie, could we go to another subject?

MR. RUBIN: A couple more on this and then we'll -

QUESTION: Do you feel there should be any consequence for the United States if it does not uphold the Vienna Convention, if it violates the Vienna Convention?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, I think that those of you who are working here in the United States, if you are interested in violations of the Vienna Convention, I could probably get you a list of about 25 countries in the world that have regular and repeated violations of the Vienna Convention. So it isn't just the United States. It isn't just the United States that has had local law enforcement officials fail to notify a prisoner. It's many, many, many countries in the world. This happens all the time. So as part of the system, we try to work to improve the knowledge, improve the awareness, so that the possibilities of this happening are reduced.

As far as what the remedies ought to be, one thing I can say for sure is we do not believe a remedy for a failure to notify in this case should be that an international court seeks to overturn a valid conviction in the United States.

QUESTION: Thank you. But this case did violate the Vienna Convention and, therefore, violated his human rights. How can the US, the police of the world, actually expect Brazil, Peru, or any other country to respect human rights if this country has not? And if you - can I get into another issue also and you respond to both?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just today, it was published also in Brazil that a general from the US, Patrick Hughes, made the statement at MIT, and I'll quote, that, "In case Brazil decides to use the Amazon to put in risk the environment in the US, we have to be ready to stop this process immediately." And that is like two days before the Summit of the Americas. They were supposed to be working toward more collaboration in the hemisphere. And I just wonder if you would comment on both.

MR. RUBIN: As far as the second one is concerned, there are regular misquotes on the position of the Department of Defense in this regard, and I would recommend you pose that question to them.

As far as the first question is concerned, let me repeat something I have to say here from time to time. We believe that the United States is not only the county that does the most to protect the rights of its citizens but does the most of any country in the world to promote the rights of citizens around the world. I think that there should be no doubt that the United States is a country that cares deeply about the human rights of citizens all over the world, spends enormous resources, occasionally even puts those views above narrow, parochial concerns which other countries rarely do. So I think we stand second to none in caring about the human rights of our citizens and the human rights of citizens around the world.

With respect to whether there has been a technical violation of this convention, I think we have already said there was. But we do not believe it had any impact on the fact that this murderer and rapist should receive justice in the United States. The real victim of this is the victim, not this particular criminal.

QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: Is the administration and State Department concerned, or worried I should say, that money that the administration has apparently decided to give money to Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America for Persian language broadcasting to Iran? Will this undermine the tentative steps the US and Iran have taken towards improving relations?

MR. RUBIN: With regard to reports about this subject, let me provide a few clarifications. The purpose of these broadcasts is not to beam anti- government propaganda into Iran; rather, this new service would provide more detailed factual reporting on political, social and foreign policy issues affecting Iran. Improvement in the breadth and diversity of information in the public media will add to the political debate, which we note is already taking place in Iran. In other words, whatever happens with this radio broadcasting, we think it will enrich what is already a lively political debate in Iran.

With respect to what we support and don't support in this area, let me be very clear. We support increased Farsi language broadcasting, and our view is that the best way to do this is to have it done by the Voice of America and not by a surrogate broadcasting. So we have discussed this issue with Congress, we will continue to discuss it with Congress, and we think the best course is to have the Voice of America broadcast on all issues around the world so that the people of Iran are better informed.

Our general view is that information is a good thing, and the more information people have, the better the information. We certainly should not let anyone misinterpret this as an attempt to undermine the Iranian government; rather, our view is that there ought to be more Voice of America broadcasts. The Congress had a different view. We are now engaged in a discussion with them about what the best approach to this is, but our strong belief is that the better course is to spend this money on Voice of America broadcasts, not surrogate broadcasting. But we will continue to work with Congress on this.

But no one should misinterpret this as an attempt to undermine the Iranian government or as in any way diluting the very clear position we have that we are encouraged by the developments in Iran, that we believe that the best way to overcome the differences between our two countries is to have an authorized and acknowledged dialogue, and we believe that those differences can be overcome in such a dialogue.

QUESTION: Jamie, can you address then the facts in the report today? Is this now a done deal? There will be this Radio Free Iran that is going to receive $900 million, and the Voice of America will also receive some funding for similar broadcasting?

MR. RUBIN: Nothing has been decided here. This is a subject that is still being discussed. The name that you see bandied about I wouldn't expect to see ever used.

Let me just say that we are continuing to discuss this with the Congress. We never officially requested the checks to base this service in Prague, and that is one of the factors. The other factor is where it might be located, how much money might end up being available. You know, with each day passing, the FY 98 money becomes harder and harder to spend as FY 98 runs out. So we are continuing to discuss this, but I don't think it's a done deal yet.

QUESTION: It would be incorrect then to report that this is a done deal, as it was reported today?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you know, I've been learning more about this during the course of the morning. I mean, it's certainly true that the Congress feels very strongly about the way its money that it's appropriate should be spent. It's also true that the broadcasting board of governors is an independent entity. So I can't speak for the broadcasting board of governors and tell you what they will or won't do, whether as far as they are concerned it's a done deal. They'll have to talk about that.

But as far as we're concerned, in terms of our role in this, which is to provide guidance to the broadcasting board of governors, we want to continue to discuss this so that the objective of increased Farsi language broadcasting that we support is not lost in proposals that we think are not the right way to go.

QUESTION: Can you confirm whether the Czech government said that it had concern about terrorism if the service is based out of -

MR. RUBIN: Well, you will have to ask the Czech government for its views. Other than to say that they informally, when we discussed this with them, they said they would give it consideration, I can't comment.

QUESTION: Do you have concerns about whether this news service, you know, if it was based somewhere in Europe or whatever, that it could be a target for Iranian terrorism?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think there are any places that are off limits to determined people trying to make a political point.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. RUBIN: Okay.

QUESTION: The Far Eastern Economic Review is reporting that remnants of the Khmer Rouge want to contact the United States about handing over Pol Pot. Have there been any such contacts and, if not, how would you urge the Khmer Rouge to get in touch with the United States?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, I don't think that's all that difficult. We believe strongly that the Cambodian leaders responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia should be brought to justice. We have discussed this issue with a number of parties and are exploring various ways to bring to justice Pol Pot and other senior Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for crimes against humanity.

We do not intend to get into detail of our discussions or to speculate on various hypothetical scenarios, nor are we prepared to comment on hypothetical situations or contacts we may or may not have had on this issue.

QUESTION: Wait a minute now. You said you don't think it's all that difficult.

MR. RUBIN: I thought that was pretty clear.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up, if I may.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: You said you don't think it's all that difficult, but is the United States eager for the Khmer Rouge remnants to contact the United States? Many people fear that Pol Pot may end up with a bullet in the brain and the question would be whether he will ever be put on trial because there are many people who would prefer, I suspect, that his story not be aired publicly.

So the question is, is the United States eager to get in touch with Khmer Rouge remnants who may be interested in turning over Pol Pot?

MR. RUBIN: We've made very clear that we believe that Khmer Rouge leaders, who may have been responsible for some of the most horrendous war crimes of the modern era, should be brought to justice.

Let me try to be more clear on the second point. We are not going to entertain any discussions of any hypothetical ways in which this could happen, for fear of it not happening; We are concerned with it happening. We want this to happen. We want to bring to justice those responsible, including Pol Pot. And for Mr. Gutman*, who unfortunately wasn't able to be with us today, or fortunately, I guess, depending on your perspective, the State Department has put out material making very clear that we believe there is a prima facie case for genocide against Pol Pot. But as far as the modalities, we are not going to speculate, comment, hypothesize, or get into any discussion other than to make clear to you that it is our objective.

QUESTION: But Pickering did go to Beijing, didn't he?

MR. RUBIN: And I confirmed, as it was publicly stated, that he talked about the subject with the Chinese, and I can confirm that he did, yes, talk about the subject with the Chinese.

QUESTION: Would you be able to tell us now or later whether there will be similar high level contacts made by the US?

MR. RUBIN: I can assure you that we're going to do what we think is necessary to continue to focus on this issue. But as far as specific contacts with specific countries or specific groups, I've been advised very strongly against making any comments about them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) did come up the day before yesterday about the response from China. Has there been any further response?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so.

QUESTION: Do you all have an opinion on the report, the human rights report on Iraq, given by Mr. Van der Stoel in Geneva?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. UN Security Counsel Resolution 688 condemned the repression of the Iraqi civilian population by the government of Iraq and that resolution demanded that Iraq end this repression. So, clearly, Iraq is in violation of Resolution 688. This report has underlined in stark terms the total lack of basic freedoms in Iraq. As Max Van der Stoel put it, the only solution is a radical change in the political-legal order.

The increasing pace of summary executions is clearly troubling and demonstrates that this is a regime out of control when it comes to human rights. The regime reportedly returned bodies bearing clear signs of torture to families and reportedly charged the families for the bullets used. These are the kinds of heinous, unconscionable acts that turn all of our stomachs.

Mr. Van der Stoel explains that the suffering of the Iraqi people is due to actions by the Iraqi regime, not the imposition of international sanctions; that there is plenty of money available to make more food and medicine available for the people, if that were the decision of the Iraqi leadership. We will continue to raise the issue of human rights at the highest levels in various international fora until the predatory actions of the Iraqi regime against its people come to an end.

QUESTION: Another Iraq question. There was a report that five members of a US-based group, called Voices in the Wilderness, arrived in Iraq yesterday to deliver $75,000 worth of medicine to Iraqi hospitals. Are you aware of that?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything on that. But again, I think it demonstrates that we, in the international community, have made clear that we're prepared to do our part to see that the sanctions regime doesn't affect food and medicine going to the Iraqi people. If only the Iraqi regime would spend even a fraction of the resources it spends on its luxurious palaces and cars and body guards and other luxury goods for its leadership, then any concerns that might exist about food and medicine would probably go away.

QUESTION: This would be illegal for a private group to do this?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it depends on whether they had a license and whether they've been approved and who they were with and whether the Sanctions Committee approved it - all questions that I absolutely don't have answers to right now.

QUESTION: If you could get something on that, I'd appreciate it.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Also on Iraq, UNSCOM reports that a (inaudible) - access to Presidential sites?

MR. RUBIN: Can you be more specific?

QUESTION: The report submitted Tuesday to Annan by the special investigator, said there had been a problem in connection with defining boundaries at a Presidential site.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would prefer to wait. That's a premature description of a report that we haven't had an opportunity to receive officially and examine, and so until we have the entire set of information, it would be hard for me to comment, other than to say with respect to obstruction in the future, regardless of what people may or may not say now, the real way to insure that UNSCOM is not -- and to test whether UNSCOM will be obstructed in the future is for UNSCOM to go forward and seek additional access.

In our view, the memoranda of understanding states unequivocally that Iraq must give immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access, meaning that this was clearly not a one-time-only exercise.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the kidnapping in Somalia today which apparently included -

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'll come to you in a minute.

Along with our embassy in Nairobi, we are working to confirm that an aircraft of the International Committee of the Red Cross was seized today in Mogadishu, Somalia. The aircraft was carrying ten foreigners, including one US citizen. Obviously, given the situation in Somalia, this is difficult. We are in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as with officials of the ICRC, to learn of the circumstances of the incident. Our Consular Affairs is working on it. We do not have a waiver with respect to the US citizen.

QUESTION: The ICRC has said publicly this has happened and has named the American. Do you have reason to believe that it might not be exactly as they say, that it might be unclear?

MR. RUBIN: I suspect that the way we're getting this information is through them, primarily, since we don't have a lot of access in Somalia right now. But I don't know for sure that every piece of information they're putting out is right.

Let's go in the back there and we'll come back to you next.

QUESTION: Turkish commanders captured a Kurdish terrorist leader, Mr. Sakik, in Northern Iraq. He told the Turkish authority in Northern Iraq, the Syrian military officers coordinate them attack and train them and give them logistic support. Turkey, as a NATO country, is under the military threat of the Syrian military and do you have any reaction on the subject?

MR. RUBIN: The PKK is a known terrorist organization and we understand that one of its leaders, Mr. Sakik, is now in Turkish custody. In the press there are varying accounts of how this occurred and we have no independent confirmation of the details.

With respect to Syria, let me just say this. I think we've made clear in the past that Syria grants a wide variety of terrorist groups basing privileges or refuge in areas of Lebanon's Bakka* Valley under Syrian control, and we believe the PKK trains there.

QUESTION: Don't many of these groups, aren't they also allowed to operate offices in Damascus?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any more information than that which I was just provided.

QUESTION: Your review on the S-300 missile purchase from Cyprus is well- known. But at the same time, many times from the podium you have called on Turkey to restrain itself from military threats against Cyprus regarding the missile purchase. Yesterday the Turkish Foreign Ministry repeated the military threats against Cyprus for the missile issue. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: The S-300 missile deal increases the danger of conflict on the island and is a serious obstacle to our efforts to reach a settlement of the Cyprus dispute. We continue to urge the government of Cyprus to cancel the deal, but the missile problem cannot be resolved by brandishing threats. We have urged Turkey to address the S-300 issue through diplomatic means and to refrain from threats to take the missiles out militarily.

QUESTION: Last week the State Department's c Special Cyprus Coordinator, Mr. Miller, told several Greek newspaper Turkey using softer language against the Greek Cypriot S-300's. That remark, is it just his view, or the State Department's view?

MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Miller works for the State Department and, normally, I get most of this terrific information that I provide to you from Ambassador Miller, so any attempt to distance Ambassador Miller from the State Department will fail.

QUESTION: This is on Colombia. General Serrano, the director of the National Police, sent a letter to the State Department warning the US because of the helicopters that have been grounded are harming the counter- narcotics operations, and also warned that it is important for them to have the Blackhawks available as soon as possible. Has the State Department received the letter already?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not familiar with the particular letter, but let me say this. Our position on the Blackhawks has not changed. We believe that providing a huge portion of our budget to this particular exercise will undercut the other 9, 10 or 11 things we need to do with other countries. So our view on whether this is the wisest use of our resources has not changed.

QUESTION: But also, General Serrano said in that letter that it has been -

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen the letter, but continue, please.

QUESTION: Right now the whole operation is in danger and it's working just half way of the regular eradication program and, you know, the fumigations. But what he is saying actually is not about the Hueys that have been grounded already but the problem that it goes to Colombia because they don't have the Blackhawks, which is like the best way they can actually get to those.

MR. RUBIN: You're asking me a question about our policy towards the Blackhawks, basically. It hasn't changed. We don't believe this is a wise use of these resources. We have the same policy on the Blackhawks.

QUESTION: So, are requests like that from General Serrano -

MR. RUBIN: We wish we had unlimited resources provided by Congress to provide all the different people fighting the war on drugs, the money that we need to fight the war on drugs. But so long as we have limited resources, we need to decide how to best deploy them, and we believe that is not the best use of those limited resources.

QUESTION: On Colombia, any update on the hostages, the American hostages?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything new for you on that.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright met today with Czech Prime Minister Tosovsky. Do you have any comments on the approval of the accession of NATO by the Czech parliament, as it h happened today? And, also, do you have any comments on the health of the Czech president?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. First let me say the Secretary did pass along her best wishes for a full and speedy recovery for President Havel, who is recovering from surgery in Innsbruck, Austria. She sent a message to him yesterday in that regard. We are pleased to learn, as far as we know, that his operation was a success and that his doctors have said he is out of danger. She sent a personal get well message to the president yesterday.

Secretary Albright also congratulated the prime minister on today's historic and decisive vote of the Czech Chamber of Deputies in favor of NATO membership. The Czech Chamber voted 154 to 38 to approve the NATO accession protocol at a special session today. This represents a milestone in Czech history and we believe the new prime minister deserves praise for his nonpartisan leadership to insure that this process was done smoothly. She will also talk to him about perspectives on the upcoming elections.

(The briefing concluded at 1:55 P.M.)

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