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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #76, 98-06-24

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, June 24, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		Croatian Refugee Return Plan
1		Lebanese Monitoring Group

RUSSIA 1-2 Alleged Remarks Made by McCurry on Vetoing of Sanctions re Iran 1-2 Albright's Remarks before the Asia Society Technology to Iran and Sanctions 11 No Linkage Between IMF Loan Reactor Deal in India 11 Russia's Plan to Deal with Financial Troubles

CHINA 2 Recovery of Encryption Devices and Missing Circuit Board From an American Satellite Mounted on a Chinese Missile 2 Details on Intelsat Satellite and its Encrypted Information 2 Issue of National Security and the Loss of the Circuit Board 3-4 Questions on the Whereabouts of the Circuit Board 3 State versus Commerce and the Issue of the Circuit Board 10 Rumors SecState Will Wear White Upon Arrival at Tiananmen Sqaure

MEPP 4 Referendum for the West Bank and Delays 5 Views Expressed by Saeb Erakat

SERBIA 5 Remarks Made Stating that NATO is Shifting Tactics on Starting Dialogue 5 Contact Group's Demand for Withdrawal 5 Reports of Ambassador Holbrooke's Convoy was Fired Upon 6 Issue of Dialogue in Light of Milosevic's Crack Down 6 Rugova's Meetings with Gelbard and Holbrooke 6 Exaggerated Reports that Holbrooke Meet with KLA 7 Ambassador Holbrooke's Informal Talk with UCK Soldiers 7-8 Possible Formal US Contact with UCK & KLA 8 Definition of Terrorists Groups, Terrorists Activities and the KLA 8 Milosevic's Crack Down 9 Percentage of Control in the Province by the KLA 9 Radicalization of the KLA

CUBA 9 Whereabouts of the Minister of Fisheries of Cuba

NIGERIA 10-11 U.S. Assessment of New President/British to Send an Envoy/Pickering's Mission 11 U.S. Ambassador Talks with Abubakar


DPB #76

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 1998, 12:50 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. It is close to an on- time performance, but not close enough; we will continue to try harder.

I have a statement we'll be posting after the briefing on Croatian refugee returns and the Lebanese monitoring group which met at the UNIFIL headquarters in Lebanon to consider a violation complaint. With that, let me go to your questions.

QUESTION: Before we get on with the big picture, let's take care of a little puzzlement. McCurry, explaining why the President vetoed the sanctions, brought Albright into it and suggested that this was not a good time to sanction Russia because of the opening to Iran. Is that driving you? Can we expect that US policy will be influenced until you get an answer from Iran or some action from Iran? I don't get it.

MR. RUBIN: I spoke to Mike, and he did not say that. Secretary Albright's recommendation for the veto, like others in the Administration, was not in any way based on the discussions that she had in her speech last week before the Asia Society.

What she talked about is a long-term process, by which we would hope to improve relations with Iran, concomitant with their making changes in these policies of concern to us. She also made clear how critical it is that we stop the transfer of ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction technology to Iran; and that has not changed.

The reason the President vetoed this bill - at least with respect to the reason Secretary Albright recommended the veto, which I can speak to, and the White House would have to speak to the President's actual statement - was on the merits. The merits are both we and the Congress want to do all we can, all we can to prevent Russia or any other country from providing assistance to Iran. We think this bill's rigidity, inflexibility and lowering of the standard for what would require sanctioning - namely, simply saying that credible information exists rather than a conclusion had been reached - would open the door to a whole series of sanctions at the very time that the Secretary and the President are trying to make clear and hope Congress understands that these series of sanctions proposals coming out of the Congress harm our ability to conduct foreign policy, tie the Secretary's and the President's hands behind their back and make it harder to achieve the objective.

So Mr. McCurry did not say that, and any suggestion that our policies with respect to stopping the transfer of weapons of mass destruction technology to Iran have changed are wrong.

QUESTION: They made - who knows how they read it, but the argument for vetoing is fairly sophisticated. The net result is leniency toward Russia and leniency toward Iran.

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, we don't see that at all. We see the bill's lack of flexibility and the bill's lack of subtlety as creating situations where you would have to sanction entities without knowing what really was going on; and that is not a serious way to do business. That's the reason for the veto; it has nothing to do with the desire that Secretary Albright and the President stated to overtime improve relations with Iran.

QUESTION: New subject -- I'll try to go back to something that we've hammered away, I know many times, but I'll try at you again. The Chinese rocket that crashed in February 1996 - evidently in the House Committee hearing on this yesterday, some new matters came up. And there seems to be a circuit board that's missing from the American satellite that was mounted to the back of this Chinese rocket. What is the State Department doing to look into the missing circuit board? And is this something that the Secretary might take up in her visit to China?

MR. RUBIN: This is a very complex issue, and there has been testimony on this yesterday on the Hill and there will be further testimony today; so I will be limited in what I can say about it. There have been four failures of Chinese launches of US built satellites. Two of the satellites did not have any encryption devices on board. In one of the other two cases the devices were recovered and returned to the US.

In the other case, the Intelsat failure in February 1996, the command process or boxes as a whole were recovered, but not all of the circuit boards which contained the encryption information, which is used to send coded operating instructions to the satellite once it is in orbit. In this case, the encryption involved embedded single-chip devices that are unique for this particular satellite. Moreover, this encryption system used older algorithms that are no longer used in newer satellites. Therefore any loss of the chips and associated encryption algorithms would have had only minimum impact because the Intelsat satellite used these old keys which are not unique. There is some chance that a third party could examine recovered devices to gain some knowledge, but we believe the impact on national security would not be significant.

With respect to what happened to them, we do not believe that the loss of this device places at risk any government communications over communications satellites. Our requirement was to assure that the control of the satellite remain protected to prevent denial of service. The loss of this particular device at the time of launch, therefore, had no consequent risk to other communications or control of other satellites.

We do not know, as I understand it, what happened and where this is; but certainly in the course of the technical discussions that are ongoing between us and the Chinese in the satellite launch area that are pursuant to the various licensing, we will want to find out what happened to this chip. But again, the context is that we don't believe it had a significant impact because it was older technology; but we will continue to try to get to the bottom of this. Those who are expert in this very technical area can try to get more information to you later in the day.

QUESTION: Two things - do you believe - some officials have said that they believe the Chinese Government has the circuit board. Does the State Department believe this?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to take that for the record.

QUESTION: Have you taken up this at all with the Chinese? Evidently when the crash occurred, they barred US officials from coming into the site, and all that was recovered was the --

MR. RUBIN: This has been gone over in extensive detail on the Hill in public testimony; and I will try to get transcripts that lay out the details of the situation. Let's all remember and let's bear in mind that the process that is ongoing here involves, in general, technology where we are talking about communication satellites; we're not talking about the technology that is used by American military satellites. The encryption device involved here is decades old, and even if reverse-engineered, would only tell somebody where we were decades ago.

QUESTION: You're using the term lightly. You're not ruling out that the Chinese took the board.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not ruling anything out. We know that it wasn't there; whether it was destroyed or whether it was removed is - (inaudible) - question.

QUESTION: By a third party.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: So it's possible, then, that the Chinese could have it. They just haven't, perhaps, turned it over to --

MR. RUBIN: Again, I'd rather get you an answer from the technical experts. This is a highly technical field.

QUESTION: Just one more, if I may, on the purview of State versus Commerce in this - I understand that the State Department oversees the export of the board only, while the Commerce Department, once the board is mounted, in a situation like a satellite and becomes a part of a bigger unit, Commerce has purview and regulates this and is responsible for overseeing how it's used. Why is it that we have that distinction between State and Commerce? Why wouldn't you just follow the --

MR. RUBIN: Well, there are a whole series of technical reasons for this that I'd rather have the technical experts get into.

QUESTION: Have you asked the Chinese if they have the board?

MR. RUBIN: I think maybe you see now that there's public testimony going on. These are highly technical matters, and I'd rather have the technical experts get into a subject where there's been an enormous amount of misinformation in the press, an enormous amount of exaggeration. Rather than letting that go on, the hearings are going on, and the people who are expert in this highly arcane field are in the best position to answer these questions.

QUESTION: Does the US support the West Bank referendum --

MR. RUBIN: Sorry, but did you want to --

QUESTION: I was going to change the subject.

QUESTION: Oh, go ahead, please, please.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. RUBIN: "Alphonse and Gaston"

QUESTION: Is the US in favor of this referendum for the West Bank that seems to be gaining momentum?

MR. RUBIN: It is up to the Israeli Government to determine its own internal procedures. Our emphasis remains in the need for rapid progress to reach agreement on implementing the further redeployments and other steps agreed to in the interim agreement.

Clearly, anything that would delay implementation of a breakthrough would not benefit the parties of the peace process. I know there are some legal issues at play here, where some think this is or isn't related to the implementation of Oslo. It's our view that the work that we're doing - that is, to try to talk to the parties to get an agreement on the further redeployment, on the necessary security measures that need to be taken by the Palestinians - is the work that needs to be completed if we're going to be able to have a breakthrough. To the extent that any delay is involved, we obviously wouldn't want to see delay at a time when it's been too long since we've been able to put the peace process back on track.

But with respect to any internal political conclusion as to what the best way to demonstrate support for it, it's really up to the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: I guess it's one more stage in a long, drawn-out process; is that correct?

MR. RUBIN: I'm saying if it --

QUESTION: With a little difference to it --

MR. RUBIN: If it involves significant delay of any breakthrough, that would be of concern to us; but it's not obvious that it would, because the problem right now is substantive in not having the breakthrough.

QUESTION: The Palestinians weighed in with their - there are reports out that Erakat --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, Saeb Erakat has expressed these views before -- that because the Palestinians have agreed to, in principle, to our ideas, that we should somehow announce the initiative. We're aware of those views, but we think our goal is not announcing some sort of inability to break through; our goal is to try to make the breakthrough. And we think that in trying to produce a breakthrough, it wouldn't be helpful at this time to take that step; and so we're not going to do so. We're going to continue to work on getting the peace process back on track through discussions. But if we conclude that is not possible, then that would be a different situation and we would say so.

QUESTION: On Kosovo -- two things. First of all, it would appear that at least NATO - the body of NATO -- has shifted its tactics in starting a dialogue between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanians. Solana through his spokesman said today that Rugova - Dr. Rugova - to begin talks with Milosevic without conditions. Can you comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that quote, so I will not comment on a quote I haven't seen. But it's our view that the work that Ambassador Holbrooke has been doing in the field and that Ambassador Hill will be doing as he leaves and the work that Ambassador Gelbard has been doing -- who also met with Dr. Rugova in Brussels - is all designed to create the conditions for a successful negotiation. Clearly, the Contact Group has made a demand that the withdrawal of forces that weren't in Kosovo to places where they came from and the cantonment of forces that were in there is the kind of step that will be conducive to a successful discussion.

I do not know what Secretary General Solana said. I don't believe that view is one that is different than the other Contact Group countries, with the possible exception of the Russians. What we're saying is that for negotiations to succeed - for us to have a real dialogue - the principle problem has to be turned around; and that principle problem, is the problem posed by the crackdown of Serbian forces.

Let me say in that regard, there were some reports earlier in the day that Ambassador Holbrooke's convoy was fired upon. I just spoke to him about 45 minutes ago, and he said that neither he nor Ambassador Hill heard any shots or were aware of any shooting near them and there was no action of any significance that he saw in a real-time basis. They obviously saw the results of some military action that involved devastation to certain towns. But they did not believe they were in danger, nor did they hear any of the shooting.

QUESTION: So whether Solana said it or not, the position of the Administration remains that Belgrade must withdraw its regular army troops and canton its paramilitary police units as a condition for beginning talks?

MR. RUBIN: No, I never said that; and let me try to say it as clearly as I can. There have been discussions going on throughout this period. We want those discussions to intensify and become continuous so that we can solve this at the peace table rather than the war table.

To do that, to have success in those negotiations, we believe the principle problem is what Milosevic has done in the area of the crackdown. Rugova has met with Ambassador Gelbard today; he met with Ambassador Holbrooke yesterday. He and Ambassador Hill and the Albanians that are part of this negotiating team have been working with Ambassador Hill all the way through, and Ambassador Hill has been in touch with the Serbian authorities. So there's been a continuous negotiating process that is ongoing.

The problem is, to have success in those negotiations, to really get down to solving the problem, dealing with the need for enhanced autonomy and solving problems, rather than just meeting, we believe that the Albanian authorities are justified in having the view that it is wrong for them to be talking while President Milosevic's forces are cracking down on the Kosovar Albanians.

So this isn't a situation where there are preconditions to talks, but rather a situation where, in our view, there are necessary conditions for success.

QUESTION: Is it your position, Jamie, that Rugova should stop the talks without preconditions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there are talks going on; I don't see the distinction you're making. We've been talking to them; they've been talking. As far as the direct negotiations are concerned, there were some meetings. In order to have additional meetings be successful, we believe there needs to be a change in the military situation on the ground.

Because I don't believe they've said they'll never talk again until x, y or z happens. So it isn't a preconditioned stand-off, to my understanding.

QUESTION: Also on Mr. Holbrooke, apparently he had direct contact today with the KLA. As far as we know, that would be the first time that you brought them into the process. Can you comment on that? And is Holbrooke trying to put together a joint delegation for these negotiations, which would include the KLA and the more moderate --

MR. RUBIN: Right, I think the idea of a first contact is a vast exaggeration from someone on the ground who observed the fact that Ambassador Holbrooke ran into some fighters, who had KLA patches, who were randomly located in a particular city, who he talked to. If we're talking about the first political contact between that entity and the United States, I can assure you it wouldn't happen on a random basis, based on Ambassador Holbrooke running into somebody on a particular street corner. So this has been wildly exaggerated by people in the field.

He did speak to a soldier who had a UCK patch, who described to him the local situation. He was on a fact-finding tour, trying to figure out what went on, and spoke to some of those who were in a position to provide facts, or at least their interpretation of facts to him. So I would regard it as a wild exaggeration that we've now had the first political contact between the KLA and the United States and that we're about to set up a joint delegation.

QUESTION: Okay, so, as you say, he happened upon someone with a KLA patch while he was walking through the street, and he --

MR. RUBIN: Well, now you're making a mockery of it; and I'm not trying to --

QUESTION: No, no, I'm just trying to --

MR. RUBIN: Sid, let me be very clear on this. He was traveling in the region, going to a fact-finding tour. He happened upon soldiers who had UCK patches, and talked to them for 20 minutes; this is what he told me. But then some of the initial reports suggested this was a political discussion. It was not a political discussion; it was Holbrooke hearing from a particular fighter what went on in a particular situation, with no reason to believe that soldier, or whatever one calls him, was a leader of the UCK who was in a position to discuss the positions of the UCK. It was a complete fact-finding situation.

QUESTION: Okay, so, then, at this point, the Clinton Administration does not think it's the time to contact, at a political level, the guerrillas.

MR. RUBIN: We have said, and I'll repeat today, at the appropriate time we believe it would be important to be in contact with all elements of Kosovar Albanian society.

QUESTION: On that subject, is the State Department clear on where such a leadership resides? Where is the UCK leadership located?

MR. RUBIN: If we were in a position where we wanted to have contact with them, I suspect it would not be that hard to try to identify someone to talk to. How much control that person would have, et cetera, is a different matter. And how we would be able to do that, of course, is a subject that doesn't lend itself to public discussion. At the appropriate time, if we decide to have such contact, we're confident that we would be in a position to do so.

QUESTION: It goes without saying, you don't think the KLA has a seat at the negotiations.

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this - we think that we need to deal with the whole array of Kosovar Albanian society. The Kosovar Albanian society has been radicalized in recent weeks as a direct result of the stupid mistakes of President Milosevic in alienating the Kosovar Albanian population, and generating greater and greater support for them by this crackdown.

Yesterday, I believe, Dr. Rugova and Mr. Bukoshi and others talked about the need to bring the KLA into their political umbrella. We don't have a problem with that; frankly, we think that's fine. The issue is, first, what will President Milosevic do to create the conditions necessary for successful negotiations; second, how to ensure that if we got an agreement, or were on the verge of getting an agreement, or saw the possibility of an agreement, that we could be confident that the Kosovar Albanian side could deliver. That is a problem that we frankly welcome the opportunity to have to deal with because it would entail a fundamental change in the policies of Belgrade.

QUESTION: Is the KLA a terrorist organization in the US view?

MR. RUBIN: No, we have never said that.

QUESTION: I didn't say you did; I was asking.

MR. RUBIN: No, we've never said that; we don't regard it as such.

QUESTION: But you did accuse them of terrorist acts.

MR. RUBIN: The definition of a terrorist organization is a very complex subject that requires an elaborate legal justification. Because a particular group of people might include people who did something that we would consider a terrorist act does not make the organization a terrorist organization; and we don't believe it is.

QUESTION: So attacks on Serbian civilians, if they happen, are not necessarily proof it's a terrorist organization?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: A random act of --

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: Can you address that? There was a report about the KLA not being the friendly guerrilla group that it seems to have been painted. There are reports that they are pulling elderly Serbs out of their houses and shooting them in the head, for example. Can you address that? Perhaps that Mr. Milosevic is somewhat justified in some of this thinking.

MR. RUBIN: We don't believe there's any justification for President Milosevic's decisions to crack down in dramatic ways, using modern military equipment and sweeping away whole towns and killing people broadly and driving refugees out of whole regions of Kosovo. The fact that there are incidents that we condemn does not justify a wildly disproportionate, and frankly, self-defeating, response on the part of President Milosevic.

All he's done with these responses is further alienate the Kosovar Albanian population and become, as I've said before, the recruiting chairman for the KLA. Because with every time he wildly overreacts and stupidly overreacts, he is just making it harder and harder for the situation to be resolved in a way that would be in the interest of the Serbian citizens living there and the former Yugoslavia as a whole.

QUESTION: So would you - I'm sorry to drag this out, but does it appear that the more radical Kosovars are also engaged in ethnic cleansing? You commented on what would --

MR. RUBIN: I have no specific information on the veracity of those reports.

QUESTION: Isn't it in the report that the KLA now controls - I'm not sure -- 40 percent of the province?

MR. RUBIN: Right, I mean, clearly they are operating there. What percentage they control would be not a subject that I could give a quick answer to.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the situation had become radicalized, so obviously you see the KLA as expanding its reach.

MR. RUBIN: This port that it has amongst the population - let's bear in mind that Dr. Rugova received overwhelming support in referenda and other political activities there; and what we're saying is that his moderate peaceful approach to this problem, which is, in our view, the right approach, is weakened and Serbia's interests are weakened when wildly disproportionate crackdowns occur and the public, or the citizens, or the Kosovar Albanians in the region become radicalized. As far as how much territory the KLA controls -- whether that's gone up and down in recent weeks -- I'm just not in a position to comment at this time; other than to say that obviously they're operating there.

QUESTION: But the KLA's ranks are growing?

MR. RUBIN: We are not in a position to publicly detail the enrollment of the KLA. We are in a position to talk in general terms that the population's radicalization - that is, where the average Kosovar Albanian is increasingly less supportive of peaceful ways to resolve this problem - is a direct result of President Milosevic's activities, and that political support for radical positions is growing due to his crackdown.

QUESTION: Jamie, is the Contact Group meeting, then, arranged for tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN: Bob Gelbard did not tell me that. I think the idea of a Contact Group was always a little bit dicey on where everyone was going to be. But I don't believe there's a significant meeting tomorrow of those countries.

QUESTION: There's a news report and also rumors that the Minister of Fisheries of Cuba has just renounced to the government, and he's on his way to Miami or he is already in Miami.

MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that.


MR. RUBIN: Yes. I'll try to answer the question, but in general, for the next week, I think you'll understand that most of the answers belong with the very large party traveling to China.

QUESTION: This is in the area of shooting down rumors and speculations.


QUESTION: There's some reports out there that the Secretary plans to - don't laugh - plans to wear white when she's in Tiananmen Square, which, in China, is a symbol of mourning. Can you address that in any intelligent - in any way?

MR. RUBIN: This came up on a tv show on Sunday where she was asked about it and she thought that was an interesting idea. We'll have to see what she wears.


QUESTION: But seriously --

MR. RUBIN: I am being serious.

QUESTION: So she's considering wearing it?

MR. RUBIN: I'm just - well watch the tv and keep your eyes glued on the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Can we put in for color tvs as an expense item?


QUESTION: Black and white will do.

QUESTION: Jamie, if she does wear white, is that going to be a political statement?

MR. RUBIN: I think it'll be something you'll have to ask the party in the field.

QUESTION: Nigeria - what's you assessment of what the new military leader has done there so far? And the British, I believe, are going to send an envoy out there; do you support that? And is there any thought of doing likewise from here -- for example, by reviving the Pickering mission which never happened?

MR. RUBIN: The first answer is so far, so good; that there have been signals that this General Abubakar wants to get the army away from its role as acting outside of civilian rule of Nigeria. He has released prisoners; we've welcomed that. There is some suggestion that he will release additional prisoners, and we would welcome that.

Our ambassador had a very good exchange with him last week, talking about these matters. We're hoping for the best in terms of the decisions that he and others make there. We want to see a return to civilian rule; we want to see all the steps taken, including the return of the - the release of prisoners, the permission for opposition parties to operate, free media, et cetera - all that goes with a successful election. We have talked about that possibility of Ambassador Pickering going, and I wouldn't rule it out; but it's not scheduled to my knowledge at this time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RUBIN: One more, yes.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the talks in Moscow between the IMF and Russia for the release of the loan. I was wondering if there had been, in your mind, any linkage with the reactor deal with India?

MR. RUBIN: No, there is no linkage with the reactor deal. We were encourage by much of what we have seen thus far of the plan that President Yeltsin announced. The plan is broadly consistent, with the positive measures President Yeltsin has supported for some time to address Russia's fiscal imbalances and lay the foundation for growth and prosperity for the Russian people. Cutting spending, collecting taxes, adopting tax reform, for example, are key measures are governing the international financial institutions have encouraged. We'll have to see how things play out between the executive and legislative branches.

(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)

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