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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #102, 98-08-26

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, August 26, 1998

Briefer: James B. Foley

1-2		KOSOVO: Visit by Assistant Secretary for Population,
		  Refugees and Migration Julia Taft
3		ISRAEL & LEBANON: US regrets acts of violence
3		NIGERIA: US welcomes elections timetable

FRY - KOSOVO 2-3 US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance assessment team yet to receive visas 2 FRY not fulfilling its agreed-upon granting of access to aid workers 2 Aid vehicle deliberately targeted, attacked

LIBYA 3-4 Request for delay not encouraging, unsatisfactory 4 US to continue to pursue UNSC resolution 4-5 No rational reason for delay

EGYPT 5, 14 US in contact with GOE on whereabouts of Abu Nidal 6, 14 Abu Nidal has committed crimes around the world 6, 14 US believes Abu Nidal should be brought to justice for his cimes

SOUTH AFRICA 7 US condemns bombing of Capetown "Planet Hollywood" 8 Capetown plagued for several years by violent incidents 8 An FBI person is assisting the investigation

STATE DEPARTMENT 7-8 There is increased security presence in light of recent events

SUDAN 8 Investigation of the pharmaceutical plant by UN not necessary 8 US has physical evidence of chemical weapon precursor at pharmaceutical plant 9 US believes military strike was effective 10 US sanctions have been in place for a long time 10-12 Links with IRAQ on chemical weapons

PAKISTAN 9 Claim that US cruise missile struck Pakistani soil referred to Pentagon

BURMA 12 Situation in Rangoon tense but quiet; Aung San Suu Kyi returned to capital 12 US strongly opposes abridgment of freedoms of movement and peaceful assembly

NORTH KOREA 13 Talks have recessed; resumption still undecided 20 Agreed Framework implementation terms are critically important to US 14, 20 US committed to meeting its obligations, expects North Korea to meet its obligations 20 US has no reason to conclude that North Korea is in violation of Agreed Framework

CUBA 15-16 US fully committed to investigating allegations of violence against Cuba

INDIA-PAKISTAN 16 Deputy Secretary Talbott's meetings took place on August 24 and 25

BOSNIA 17 Secretary's trip conditioned by elections there, plus her meeting President Clinton in Moscow

AFGHANISTAN 17-18 US has been in touch with Taliban about Osama bin Laden

RUSSIA 18-19 Financial situation is difficult

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO 19-20 US supports effort of South African President Mandela


DPB #102

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 1998, 2:20 P.M.


MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the noon briefing.


My watch stopped about two hours and 20 minutes ago. I beg your indulgence.

I have a few announcements to make before I get to your questions. First, a senior State Department official is visiting Serbia Montenegro, including the province of Kosovo, to assess the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees in the region, and to encourage the return of Kosovar internally displaced persons to their homes. I'm talking about Julia Taft, who, as you know, is the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration. She will meet with government officials in the region and representatives of major international organizations and non- governmental organizations during her visit, which will last from today until Saturday.

The bureau that she heads has primary responsibility for US refugee assistance programs. Her visit will underscore US concern and commitment to provide assistance for conflict victims in Kosovo and the region. The US Government has provided more than $11 million in the last few months through AID and the PRN bureau to meet humanitarian needs caused by the conflict in Kosovo. As a result of the ongoing conflict there, we estimate there are some 250,000 internally displaced persons in Kosovo, another 26, 000 in Montenegro and 14,000 refugees in Albania. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 of those displaced within Kosovo are without shelter - a situation that becomes increasingly grave as winter approaches.

Assistant Secretary Taft will urge Serb officials to make concrete progress on creating conditions for the return of internally displaced persons, particularly those who are shelterless and inaccessible to the delivery of humanitarian aid. She will also meet with relief agency representatives to encourage their increased presence in key areas of return, which we think is very important.

Julia Taft's visit to the region will be one in a series in coming weeks by senior United States Government officials as the US acts to help meet humanitarian needs in the region.

The second announcement has to do with --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - where she's been, and I didn't quite grab it. You mentioned the stops she made or is making, did you?

MR. FOLEY: In the region. I believe that she is in Belgrade and going to Pristina today.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - to the architect of this whole business?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes - well, I don't believe she is meeting with President Milosevic. Ambassador Hill met with President Milosevic yesterday. I did not have an opportunity to talk to him; he called and we didn't connect earlier this morning. But the high agenda item yesterday in Belgrade for him with Milosevic was, indeed, this issue of allowing humanitarian access. I can get to that if we come to this question a little later in the briefing.

QUESTION: Well, this is short, but far from allowing humanitarian access, it appears that the Serbs are now targeting aid workers. They blew up a convoy carrying three Mother Theresa workers. How does she expect to reverse this trend?

MR. FOLEY: Well, let's get into the topic, then. I have a few other announcements to make. Barry, you're the dean; what do you want to do?

QUESTION: Let's just go - (inaudible) --

MR. FOLEY: Okay. You're absolutely right that international organizations and non-governmental organizations continue to report serious access problems throughout Kosovo. A UNHCRCRS convoy was unable to deliver humanitarian supplies to the region south of Pec yesterday.

As I said, Julia Taft is in Belgrade and Pristina today, where she is meeting with humanitarian organizations. That's in answer to your specific question, Barry.

The assessment team from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance had planned to arrive in Kosovo this week, but is yet to receive its visas from the FRY. Clearly, in answer to your question, Jim, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is not fulfilling its previous commitments to the international community of unrestricted access to Kosovo and to internally displaced persons by humanitarian organizations and diplomatic observers.

The Kosovo diplomatic observer missions have confirmed reports that three humanitarian aide workers were killed between Malisevo and Kijevo yesterday. The three victims are Kosovar Albanians who are working for the Mother Theresa Society, a local NGO that distributes aid directly to internally displaced persons. The evidence indicates that the workers' vehicle was deliberately targeted by a Serbian armored vehicle less than one kilometer away in broad daylight. The targeting of civilians is, indeed, a cowardly act. We deplore deliberate attempts to disrupt humanitarian relief work, which shows indeed the emptiness of Mr. Milosevic's promises.

We call on Serb authorities to halt immediately their offensive. All NGOs - both local as well as international - must be allowed to deliver humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons, free from fear and obstruction.

Can I move on to my other announcements?

QUESTION: Can I just - who did you say has not received visas?

MR. FOLEY: This is the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They have been held up. But I understand that Assistant Secretary Taft had some difficulty in getting her visa also, which eventually came through. We certainly expect that will be the case for the OFDA personnel.

A couple other announcements. The United States regrets the incidents of August 26, 1998, that's today, in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon - especially in view of the casualties which have occurred on all sides. We have been in contact with both the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon, and are urging restraint.

The April 1996 understanding, which established the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, provides a process for resolving complaints. We call upon all the parties to use this process. The Monitoring Group should meet as soon as possible to consider these latest incidents.

Lastly, the United States welcomes the August 25 announcement by the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, presenting the time table for the forthcoming elections designed to return Nigeria to civilian democratic rule. I won't go into the particulars, because the announcement you'll see we'll post lays out the different elections at all levels of government to be held late this year and early next year.

The announcement fulfills head of state, General Abubakar's public pledge to schedule the election of a civilian president in the first quarter of 1999. It is also consistent with his statement that the new elected president would be sworn into office on May 29, 1999. We are committed to working with Nigeria to ensure continued progress toward a rapid, transparent and inclusive transition to civilian democratic rule.

Barry Schweid.

QUESTION: Libya apparently has told the UN it isn't ready to say yea or nay to your compromise arrangement, which I thought the US - it is a compromise - that is, a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Do you suppose they're expecting you to fall back even further?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that it's not encouraging what Libya has done today. Libya gave indications, I believe, yesterday, that their response would be forthcoming today; and this is certainly not a response.

Our information is that Libya sent a letter to the president of the Security Council informing him that they are studying the US-UK proposal. This is not a response. The UN Security Council is considering a resolution authorizing a Scottish court sitting in The Netherlands to try the two suspects.

As we have said before, this initiative is non-negotiable, and should be accepted promptly. Indeed, one would have to infer from the Libyan action today that what they seem to have in mind, through this delaying tactic, is to in effect open up the bazaar and attempt some form of negotiation about a proposal which, Secretary Albright made crystal clear here on Monday, is non-negotiable. So this is an unsatisfactory response. The Security Council resolution we will continue to pursue. It is important because it's needed in order to allow the UK and the Dutch authorities to enact the necessary legislation to make the Scottish trial in The Hague possible.

QUESTION: Jim, you said it was a bizarre kind of attempt to negotiate; but what if they come through tomorrow and say, hey, we accept this, we're going to turn the guys over. How does that change --

MR. FOLEY: That's what we're looking for.

QUESTION: So tomorrow would be better than - I mean, you said they can't delay; they should be prompt; they were supposed to tell you today. But you're saying, too, if they tell you tomorrow, that's okay.

MR. FOLEY: We don't believe there's anything to study - let me make that clear - and certainly nothing to negotiate. This proposal has been the subject of discussion for many years, with Libya and its supporters having argued in its favor for over five years. As we said on Monday, we expect Libya to respond promptly, positively and unequivocally.

I think that there is little room for maneuver on Libya's part. I would remind you that the Foreign Minister of Libya himself - I believe it was on January 2 - wrote to the United Nations specifically endorsing the proposal of a Scottish trial in The Hague.

QUESTION: Are you setting a deadline?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I would refer you to the briefing that was held on Monday. I think we were careful to indicate that we expected a prompt response. We didn't set a deadline as such. But the families of the victims have waited ten years; that's far too long. We have made an offer that Libya has previously stated it would accept. So there is no rational reason for any delay.

QUESTION: What if they don't accept; what happens? Will there be more sanctions?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to foreshadow what we might or might not do. We have a menu of options. I think the briefers on Monday were pretty clear about that without getting specific. We believe that in calling Libya's bluff -- and I would note, indeed, that the Secretary General of the Arab League yesterday issued a statement saying that "the American-British proposal is compatible with the previous Arab suggestions which Libya has accepted."

What we hoped would happen has happened, in fact - that various international bodies and nations that had supported the idea and obtained Libya's concurrence to the idea earlier that a Scottish trial be held in The Hague have now stood up and endorsed this proposal and stated that Libya must accept the proposal.

So it would really be very difficult to fathom a Libyan refusal simply to comply with this offer. I don't want to foreshadow what we might or might not do. I think, as I was saying a minute ago, certainly if Libya does not follow through on what they've previously said they would accept, then Libya's international isolation will, I think, increase overnight and we will be in a much stronger position to pursue stronger measures against Libya.

QUESTION: Jim, there was a wire report this morning that Kofi Annan was being asked to have some kind of role in transferring the suspects from Libya to The Hague, I presume. Does the United States know any more of what's being asked of Kofi Annan -- how is he to be involved or what Libya is asking of him?

MR. FOLEY: We asked the Secretary General to convey our proposal to Libya, which he has done, having welcomed the proposal. I couldn't answer your question about the modalities of transfer. It seems to me that is not going to be a difficult matter to resolve if Libya decides to transfer the suspects to The Hague, someone can find an airplane and an appropriate escort. That's not really the problem.

QUESTION: According to an extensive study in The New York Times, your servicemen in Turkey are suffering a lot - (inaudible) - via the same methods of the well-known movie, "Midnight --

MR. FOLEY: Excuse me, Mr. Lambros, have we finished with the subject of Libya?

QUESTION: I have a related question, if we could stay on that subject. Do you have any information on reports that Egypt is holding Abu Nidal?

MR. FOLEY: The United States has been and will continue to be in touch with Egyptian authorities on this question. I don't have a read-out - that will be your next question - in terms of our discussions with the Egyptians on this subject. Our information hasn't changed from yesterday, when Ambassador Pickering stated over at the Foreign Press Center that the United States does not have determinative information about his whereabouts.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, when you say the United States has been touch with Egypt, meaning you've asked Egypt this question and they haven't answered satisfactorily?

MR. FOLEY: We have seen those reports. Anyone who can read has seen those reports.

QUESTION: Have you asked the Egyptian authorities --

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't want to get into those discussions; and I don't, frankly, myself have a read-out on those discussions. But it's something that we've raised, yes.

QUESTION: On the same subject, does it really make any difference where he is or in whose custody? He seems to be pretty much a burnt-out case. He's obviously in ill health. You don't have any indictments; you have no basis on which to extradite him. Does it make any difference where he is?

MR. FOLEY: Sure, it makes an enormous amount of difference, given the litany of crimes that he and his group committed over a 20-some year period - conducting terrorist attacks in 20 countries. We believe that his organization has killed upwards of 900 people, and he must answer for his crimes. Justice cries out for investigation and trial and punishment.

Now, where - first of all, this is a hypothetical question because I'm not in a position to confirm his whereabouts, as I just made clear. But certainly, if he is in custody, we believe he ought to be brought to justice to answer for these crimes. The fact is he has committed crimes around the world. I think probably a number of nations would be interested, who would have jurisdiction over him in the even that he was in some form of custody.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: You'd have to ask the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: In light of the fact that he is a notorious terrorist and you've spoken not too highly of him just now, why wouldn't the US be more forthcoming - or rather have a greater sense of urgency about finding out whether or not he was in custody in Egypt and want to say something publicly about his whereabouts or confirm that --

MR. FOLEY: Because, Crystal, we have to be very careful, I think, from this podium, to give out correct and accurate information - even if it's sometimes disappointing to journalists. I understand the problem. We have to be careful and get it right. What Ambassador Pickering said yesterday is that we don't have determinative information about his whereabouts. So if we're in a position where we can confirm something and we can say it publicly, we'll do so; but we're not there yet and I've been very careful in choosing my words.

QUESTION: Egypt has denied having him in custody today.

MR. FOLEY: I saw those reports.

QUESTION: Do you feel they're holding out on you guys if they haven't given you a real answer?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have a read-out on the nature of our discussions with the Egyptians, so I couldn't comment on it.

QUESTION: On the subject of terrorism - is that all right with you gentlemen - what comment have you about the bombing yesterday in Cape Town, I believe it was, of the Planet Hollywood?

MR. FOLEY: Okay, I do want to return to Mr. Lambros. So I will answer this question, but in fairness we have to return to his question.

QUESTION: I will be happy to wait.

MR. FOLEY: At about 7:20 local time in South Africa yesterday, a bomb was detonated at Planet Hollywood restaurant, which is located on Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred waterfront shopping area. We are not aware of any American citizens among the casualties, but tragically our consulate general in Cape Town is reporting two persons killed and 27 injured. Obviously, we condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be an outrageous and despicable terrorist attack against innocent people.

We understand that an individual claiming to represent a Cape Town group calling itself the "Muslims Against Global Oppression" claimed responsibility for the attack, but that subsequently a spokesman for this group denied involvement. South African authorities are investigating the attack and have emphasized their determination to bring the perpetrators to justice.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that this is retaliation for the missile attacks?

MR. FOLEY: I think it's too early in the investigation to draw any links. I'm not aware of any links; I'm certainly not going to speculate, though, on something which has just begun to be investigated.

QUESTION: Can you speak at all to the increased security around the perimeter of this building that's in progress?

MR. FOLEY: Which building?

QUESTION: This building.

MR. FOLEY: Oh, the State Department. I may have something --

QUESTION: Can you say anything at all about that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, in general terms - I'm not going to, certainly, speak in specific terms. But our facilities worldwide are on heightened state of alert. We've stated that. That applies to federal installations as well. Local law enforcement has been apprised by the FBI of the need for heightened awareness. In this building I think you've seen an increased security presence. I don't want to comment any further on the details.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - an indictment in the United States of Osama bin Laden; and if so, what charges might be brought against him?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to refer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: What do you know about this group claiming responsibility for the Cape Town bomb - Muslims Against Global Oppression?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have a lot of information about them. I understand that Cape Town itself has been plagued for several years by violence between different kinds of groups - gangster-type groups - that appear to be involved in the drug trade. There was an organization, or there is one there - a small group of radical Muslims whose organization is associated, apparently, with this group Muslims Against Global Oppression. They have been involved in some violent incidents, which have certainly received the attention of South African authorities; but I don't have any information beyond that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the FBI is going down there to investigate?

MR. FOLEY: We were asked to provide - I think the question came over there - some assistance, and there is an FBI person who is assisting, but who was already in South Africa as part of our embassy.

QUESTION: Also on terrorism and responses, the Sudanese Government is continuing to deny your claims that this pharmaceutical plant was a chemical - manufactured the precursor to VX. They've proposed inviting former President Carter to visit the site. What evidence do we have beyond sort of taking the Administration's word that this in fact was a facility for production of the precursor to VX?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't, in a public forum, go into too much detail about that evidence. In response to your question about investigations, we've made very clear -- the Security Council took this up on Monday - we made clear that in our view that in our view it wasn't necessary. We believe we have convincing evidence that satisfied us; and the Security Council didn't go further with it on Monday.

It has been indicated that the United States had physical evidence. I don't want to go into the detail, but it related to a precursor which is not used in commercial applications, does not occur naturally in the environment and is not a byproduct of another chemical process. We also know that Sudan has had an active interest since the 1980s in acquiring a chemical weapons capability, and that Sudan had sought help in this endeavor from other countries - Iraq, notably - in connection with developing a chemical weapons capability. We've also detailed to some degree the known ties between bin Laden and these concerns in the Sudan. But in a public forum, I can't really go farther.

QUESTION: Can you say if this strike against this plant was effective in that it - did you actually achieve your goal of preventing bin Laden or other terrorists from using chemical weapons as a form of terrorism? Was this strike an effective strike?

MR. FOLEY: We believe it was an effective strike. We believe we had convincing evidence this plant was involved in production of precursor chemicals for VX. As to where Mr. bin Laden has now suddenly eschewed interest in obtaining weapons of mass destruction, to include chemical weapons, we have no illusions on that score. We're going to continue to be extraordinarily vigilant both in regard to him and regard to chemical weapons production such as it may exist in other places.

QUESTION: One last question. As far as you know, was this plant that you targeted in Sudan, was this bin Laden's sole source, as far as you know, of these sort of weapons of mass destruction?

MR. FOLEY: I can't comment on intelligence matters.

QUESTION: Can I ask a related question? What's the current status of Pakistan's claims that a cruise missile landed on its territory during the strike on Afghanistan?

MR. FOLEY: I don't know if there's been a change in the status. We've seen reports in the press that a cruise missile crashed in Pakistan's southern province of Balochistan with no damage or casualties. Indeed, the Pakistani Government claims this occurred and has lodged a protest at the United Nations.

What I can tell you, as we stated last Thursday, is that our attack on bin Laden's facilities was designed to cause minimal collateral damage or injury. It was certainly not our intention for the strike to affect Pakistan in any way. But in terms of the heart of the question, it's really an operational matter. I don't have the answer myself, and I'd refer you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Sudan again - first of all, I'd like to know if the US has gotten any cooperation from other countries in terms of having sanctions on Sudan in terms of Sudan sales of gum arabic or other products. I'd also like to know what has happened in the last few days in terms of freezing Osama bin Laden's assets? I don't think that any numbers have been made public or any specifics yet. We were wondering in terms of bank accounts or what assets he has here that can be frozen.

MR. FOLEY: Well, of course, that was announced by the President on Saturday; but that's a measure that the Treasury Department implements. I'd refer you to him.

QUESTION: Are there other countries that --

MR. FOLEY: Again, Treasury is working --

QUESTION: -- the sanctions on Sudan --

MR. FOLEY: Treasury is working both on the issue of investigating any domestic financial linkages to bin Laden and his network, and also going to be working with foreign governments to urge them to do the same.

QUESTION: What about the sanctions? That's separate from the Osama bin Laden assets. Are there any other countries that have followed the US sanctions towards Sudan?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the sanctions the United States has in place on Sudan are long-standing. The latest were announced by Secretary Albright within the last year or so. But I'd have to check the record to see what nations have or don't have ongoing sanctions on Sudan. I'm not aware of any developments in that regard.

QUESTION: According to an extensive study in The Washington Times, your servicemen in Turkey are suffering a lot in Incirlik base via the same methods of the well-known movie, "Midnight Express." In one case, for example, Turkish strikers beat up an American serviceman in front of his pregnant wife and three-year-old daughter. The paper is talking about controlled terrorism. Do you have any comment?

MR. FOLEY: To be perfectly honest, I didn't get more than a little bit of what you said. But what I heard was certainly enough to refer you to the Pentagon to see if they have an answer to your question involving that military base.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - about what is going on at Incirlik base against the Americans by the Turks?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. But it's a military base question. I'd refer you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Is it linked to --

QUESTION: On the Aegean, on your legal opinion that Greece is going to lose the case of Imia in the International Court of Justice, you stated before yesterday you had not come to such a conclusion. I'm wondering how do you know this, and could you please once again, for the record, take this question and let us know if this negative conclusion was drafted by your legal department prior or after the Imia crisis?

MR. FOLEY: I will turn to your colleague over here. I was very clear in my answer to that very same question two days ago. I simply rejected the three or four premises of the question.

QUESTION: The pharmaceutical plant - is it linked to both bin Laden and to Iraq?

MR. FOLEY: Well, in a public forum, I cannot go into the kind of detail that you're interested in, to be perfectly honest. We have indicated that we had information that bin Laden was involved in the sort of umbrella military industrial complex -- the Sudanese group - under which that facility was operated. We've also indicated that we believe there were links between the Sudanese and Iraq on this issue of Sudan's pursuit of chemical weapons.

Sudan and Iraq established very close relations following the Persian Gulf War. We are concerned about the possibility Iraq may have made an agreement with Sudan to allow it to continue its pursuit of chemical weapons without being subject to the scrutiny of UN weapons inspectors.

Hundreds of other Iraqi experts have worked in various fields in the Sudan since the Gulf War, to include the manufacture of munitions as well as civilian activities. We have evidence of ties between Sudan's chemical weapons aspirations the Shifa facility and other chemical weapons actors. There is evidence that Sudan sought help in the pursuit of a CW capability from other countries, principally Iraq. Beyond that, I can't go into details; but that certainly is something that we have evidence and that was of utmost concern to us.

QUESTION: Well, was it targeted because it's bin Laden or because of Iraq?

MR. FOLEY: I think we made very clear on Thursday at the time of the attacks that we had been concerned about this facility and that we were aware that bin Laden had an active interest in acquiring a chemical weapons capability. I think we've been very clear on this. And in view of the attacks he just conducted against Americans and Africans in East Africa, in view of the imminence of another threat from him, we attacked accordingly.

I think that the fact that there were Iraqi connections to this plant and to this Sudanese intention to develop such a capability was certainly a matter of concern to policy-makers in Washington - a matter of ongoing concern. But the attack itself, though, was motivated by the concern of bin Laden's evident desire to obtain such a capability.

QUESTION: I've got two questions - one on Burma and one on Korea.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the Iraqis supplied the technology or the knowledge by which the Sudanese were able to manufacture these precursors?

MR. FOLEY: No, I deliberately avoided getting into the details of the information that we have. The question was whether we were concerned about an Iraqi connection. I tried to give you what I could about that concern. I have no information on specific transfers.

QUESTION: This plant, as I understand it, was one of those authorized to sell humanitarian supplies to the oil-for-food program. (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: I was asked that question on Monday and I --

QUESTION: -- could there not be an innocent explanation for the presence of Iraqis?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the very fact of trade relations between the two countries that included the export of veterinary drugs from the Shifa facility to Iraq, which I was asked about Monday, was authorized by the UN Sanctions Committee - could very well have been developed to help cover the export of agents for chemical weapons or to cover prospective exports once the relationship was established and legitimized, if you will. I have no detailed information that I can talk about, though.

QUESTION: My question on Burma - several things have happened during the last week. There have been demonstrations in Rangoon. Aung San Sui Kyi has said that she will convene the parliament that the army refused to allow to seat itself after the last election. And then apparently, the army has closed the Shwedagon Pagoda, which some people feel may have been the intended site for this parliament's gathering. Does the government have any statements to make on these events?

MR. FOLEY: Our embassy in Rangoon reports that the situation there is tense but quiet. Two demonstrations took place on Monday in Rangoon; no arrests were reported. We have no reports of subsequent demonstrations. We certainly call on the government of Burma to show restraint in dealing with peaceful demonstrators, and to permit the Burmese people to freely exercise their rights.

As you know, Aung San Sui Kyi has returned to Rangoon after a 14-day stand- off when Burmese security forces were blocking her efforts to travel. She is currently regaining her strength from this ordeal. It was very taxing on her, and we had some reason to worry about the deteriorating state of her health. Secretary Albright engaged in conversations over the telephone with a number of her counterparts in Asia over the weekend because of this concern. Our embassy will seek to visit her as soon as her health permits.

As we've stated before, the United States strongly opposes the abridgment of her freedom of movement and assembly, which is what led to this stand- off, and calls on the government of Burma to lift the restrictions placed on Aung San Sui Kyi's ability to travel freely within her own country. We call on the government of Burma to stop its harassment of the non-violent political opposition; to release the members of parliament who are detained; and to enter into substantive dialogue with the National League for Democracy, including Aung San Sui Kyi and the leaders of the ethnic minorities as a means of solving the decade-long political conflict in Burma.

QUESTION: And then with regard to Korea, talks, I think yesterday or the day before --

MR. FOLEY: Burma?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: She called the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, the Foreign Minister of Japan, the Foreign Minister of the Philippines and the Foreign Minister of Thailand.

QUESTION: The talks that broke down in New York between our representative to North Korea and the North Korean delegates on this nuclear program in the North, does the Administration have any views on that?

MR. FOLEY: It's my understanding that the talks did not break down; they recessed. Let me describe to you what I can, though, about those talks, which may yet be ongoing and therefore don't lend themselves to extensive public comment at this point.

The US and the DPRK held discussions in New York on August 21, 24 and 25. The US delegation, as you know, was headed by Ambassador Kartman; the North Korean side by the Vice Foreign Minister. These talks are part of a series of such meetings, with the last one having occurred this March in Berlin.

The talks in New York covered a variety of issues of bilateral concern, including matters related to implementation of the agreed framework. Again, in keeping with usual practice, I'm not going to get into the details of the discussions. They are in recess. I don't believe it's decided whether or not they will resume, and we should have that for you by tomorrow.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: For consultations.

QUESTION: Is that - (inaudible) - or is that something that the US had requested or did the North Koreans request it?

MR. FOLEY: I know that Ambassador Kartman came back here for consultations; I couldn't speak to the North Korean side. I don't know that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: They are in recess right now. Ambassador Kartman has returned to Washington. If we have a resumption of those talks, we'll certainly let you know.

QUESTION: Well, at the end of the long --

QUESTION: Can you please comment -


MR. FOLEY: You are an unruly group today.

QUESTION: I just want to finish on North Korea. Did the US side express any concerns about --

MR. FOLEY: As I indicated, matters related to the implementation of the agreed framework most certainly came up in these meetings, as they have on previous occasions.

QUESTION: Do you have a copy of the heavy fuel oil status for us?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have a detailed update. What I can tell you is that we are committed to meeting our obligations. We are working with Congress in order to be in a position to meet those obligations, and we have certainly conveyed that position to the North Koreans.

QUESTION: That was in New York, right?

MR. FOLEY: In general, I can say that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - nuclear facility; has that been confirmed?

MR. FOLEY: Obviously, you're referring to some newspaper reports which were based on intelligence information about which I cannot comment.

What I can tell you, though, is that we fully expect the DPRK to fully - without exception - conform to all of its obligations under the agreed framework; and we've certainly made that clear to them.

QUESTION: I want to double back if I could on Abu Nidal, because of the end of a very long sentence or series of sentences.

MR. FOLEY: Mine or a questioner?

QUESTION: You said we've raised - we can go with this logic and we'll end up in a circle; so I don't want to push you too hard. But do you want to say that the US has raised reports of Abu Nidal's capture or detention with the Egyptian Government?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't know what I said in that long-winded sentence. I know what I began with.

QUESTION: I'll give you a chance to take it back.

MR. FOLEY: I know what I began with, which is that we have been in touch with Egyptian authorities on the subject.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - have been, and you say we don't know where he is, you can see the problem we're getting into here. You've been in touch?


QUESTION: Now, they say they don't have him and you've been in touch, and you say we don't know whether he's in detention. Do you see where we're getting?

MR. FOLEY: I think I was --

QUESTION: And then you're calling for justice being served.

MR. FOLEY: I'm speaking in the event that he can be brought to justice, he should be brought to justice.

QUESTION: As we know it - legal machinery and all.

MR. FOLEY: Brought to justice, yes, for the crimes that he has committed in various countries of the world. But we are not in a position today to confirm his whereabouts.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: After the indictment for the seven Cubans that were planning to kill Fidel Castro, some Cubans in Miami are saying that this government is trying to defend Castro himself, not his government. They feel that this Clinton Administration has changed position in terms of the long-standing US policy regarding Cuba. Do you have any response to this?

MR. FOLEY: Well, for the most part, this is something I can't comment on because it's a law enforcement matter. The indictments were announced by the Department of Justice and are the result of an independent federal law enforcement investigation; and I can't comment on the cases.

But I can tell you that the United States - and this is very pertinent in this month of August when we are dealing with the horrible incidences of terrorism we saw in East Africa and elsewhere - the United States Government has repeatedly made clear its commitment to fully investigate credible allegations of violence against Cuba or any other country supported by persons or groups in the US and to prosecute, if warranted, by the facts and the law. The United States has consistently taken a strong, principled stand against the use of terrorism throughout the world.

In terms of your specific question, I've seen that idea raised and it really is ridiculous. The indictments, after all, were the outcome of an independent federal law enforcement investigation. Any change in our policy towards Cuba would - as President Clinton and Secretary Albright have made clear on many occasions - would be wholly dependent on fundamental systemic democratic change in Cuba of a kind we certainly have not seen.

Our policy continues to be to maintain pressure on the Cuban regime to bring about democratic change and respect for human rights while reaching out to support the Cuban people and to prepare them for a peaceful and democratic transition.

QUESTION: If you remember the attacks on the hotels last year, have you found any conclusions regarding the claims of the Cuban Government that they were held or organized --

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think you'll remember at the time, we certainly offered our assistance in any investigation. I don't believe that the Cuban Government ever took us up on that offer. I could check the record to see if that had changed in the interim. But that's my understanding.

QUESTION: Do you have a read-out of Secretary Talbott's meeting with the Indian and Pakistani officials? And also, when will he meet with them next?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have a lot about those meetings, because it's our philosophy that they are of such paramount importance that we had better leave the negotiations to the negotiators and not to the pundits and the commentators and, dare I say, the journalists.

The United States is working with India and Pakistan to address their security concerns in a way that strengthens the international non- proliferation consensus and to reduce tensions between the two countries. I won't go through all of this, because you know Deputy Secretary Talbott met with Jaswant Singh here on Monday and he met with the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shamshad Ahmad, yesterday in London. I think when the Deputy Secretary was in South Asia the last time, he said that we would be transparent about the meetings but not about the discussions.

So I really don't have anything to say except I understand they were positive meetings. Clearly, when we have something to announce we will do so, and I'm not in that position.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - agreement out of this London meeting to restore international loans to Pakistan?

MR. FOLEY: During that meeting, the United States expressed -- with the Pakistanis in London, the US expressed support for the efforts of Pakistan and the IMF to reach an early agreement to alleviate Pakistan's economic difficulties. The two sides also agreed on the need for an early resumption of the Pakistan-India dialogue. Beyond that, I have no information on the meetings.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the Ross meetings in Oslo and the connection with the Oslo agreement anniversary? Did he meet with all the sides --

MR. FOLEY: I haven't had a chance to speak to Ambassador Ross. My understanding is that he was going to be returning to the US from Oslo today. I hope I have that opportunity tomorrow. Those were ceremonial functions in Oslo; but at the same time, I would be surprised if he hadn't had the opportunity to meet with both Palestinians and Israelis there. But I'm not aware yet of with whom he met.

QUESTION: Returning back to your opening remarks on Kosovo, given the status and given the concern expressed by you in that statement and the Department about refugees, I wonder if there's been any reconsideration on the Secretary's part of visiting Kosovo or dealing with this issue on her upcoming trip; and if not, why not?

MR. FOLEY: Well, her trip to Bosnia was long conceived as one that would take place in the immediate run up to those national and local elections that will take place there that are of such importance in consolidating the Dayton peace agreement in Bosnia. Of course, her schedule is also determined by the fact that she'll be going to Moscow to join the President for the summit. So there's not room for changes to that schedule.

But also, we have to consider the utility of such a visit to that region. The fact of the matter is that we're engaged, as I said before, on different fronts -- in NATO, in the negotiating effort led by Ambassador Hill and on the humanitarian side. We have our able diplomats working on all of those fronts. The Secretary, of course, is involved in that effort in all of its components, both discussing with her negotiators and with her military planners at NATO and with Julia Taft and those working on the humanitarian side. She's talking to her foreign minister counterparts in the Contact Group and others about the issue.

But the idea of a visit would have to be one that we determined would advance the ball; and I think we're relying on our negotiators at the moment.

QUESTION: On Osama bin Laden again, have you any new information as to his whereabouts; or has there been any communication with the Taliban about his whereabouts?

MR. FOLEY: We have been in touch with the Taliban, and we have reiterated the fact that we think it's incumbent on them to cease allowing Osama bin Laden to use Afghan territory in a way which is not only abominable to the civilized world but is at variance with what the Taliban tell us are Afghan traditions of hospitality in which the guest respects expected norms of behavior. We've continued to make crystal clear to them that if they want to have any hope of having a different kind of relationship with the international community, one place to start - and to start immediately - is to cease allowing Mr. bin Laden to use Afghan territory in any way.

QUESTION: How do you contact them?

MR. FOLEY: I really don't want to get into that.

QUESTION: What was their response?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have their response. I think it's something that - let me put it this way. In our contacts with them over time - and I'm referring in particular to Ambassador Richardson's visit there in April - they had claimed that bin Laden was respecting their traditions and not undertaking activities inconsistent with a guest in Afghanistan. We argued at the time that was not true. Now the evidence is overwhelming, alas, that bin Laden has used his training camps and infrastructure in Afghanistan to plan and implement terrorist attacks around the world.

The evidence is incontrovertible, and we've simply pointed that out to them. What they choose to do is their decision; the ball is in their camp. I think we're not so much interested in the words given communication, but rather in the action that we would like to see follow.

QUESTION: Do you believe he's still in - (inaudible) - or where do you believe he is?

MR. FOLEY: I can't comment on his whereabouts; I don't have that information.

QUESTION: The contacts you've been talking about have been since the Richardson visit.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Have they been since the bombings?


QUESTION: (Inaudible) - Taliban chief has come out and said that bin Laden has reasserted that he will not use Afghan territory to launch --

MR. FOLEY: Well, really, having killed nearly 300 Africans and Americans, I think that kind of a claim is simply tragically belated and of no meaningful relevance to us.

QUESTION: Question on Russia and Strobe Talbott's visit - was it scheduled? Is it going on as previously scheduled?


QUESTION: Has he arrived?


QUESTION: Can you say anything about the US concerns that are out there right now concerning Russia's economic problems and the ruble's instability?

MR. FOLEY: The kind of questions you asked are often the kind of questions that are the province of the Treasury Department to talk about. But what I can tell you, though, is the obvious, which is that Russia is in a very difficult situation. We believe the challenge for the Russian Government now is to work through this problem in ways that stabilize markets and mitigate the negative effects.

Certainly no one has said the transition to a market economy, given some 70 years of command communist economy would be an easy one; and we always expected tough moments. But what is critical now more than ever is that Russia get its fiscal house in order and establish policies on the ruble, on government debt and on the banking system that will lead Russia back to financial stability. There are certainly no shortcuts in returning the market to a situation of confidence, and this will certainly take time to sort out.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - tough moment. I mean, some analysts would say that it's actually more serious than that.

MR. FOLEY: I think that the facts speak for themselves; they're in a very difficult situation. I don't want to use words that overdramatize the situation. I think a very difficult situation is entirely appropriate.

QUESTION: Jim, the proxy war that threatens to divide the Congo is continuing to escalate. I believe the President of Rwanda said his country was likely to get more deeply involved militarily in that war.

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen that comment.

QUESTION: That's Mr. Mazimhaka. I believe they already are involved but more deeply involved is what he said, Jim. It doesn't seem to be getting any better.

MR. FOLEY: This morning there was heavy mortar and gunfire in Kinshasa around the airport and in other neighborhoods. The government has cordoned off some areas of the city and set up roadblocks. There are conflicting reports of whether the rebels have entered the city or not. We don't have precise information at this time. I would remind you that we have withdrawn our personnel from our embassy, so we don't have people on the ground there to monitor these developments.

In the east we've seen reports about the killing of a priest and three nuns in Kasika, and we've heard credible reports that Kisangani was bombed, but we don't know who was responsible nor can we confirm independently the report. But if true, it would represent a truly deplorable attack on non- combatants. We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect the security and human rights of all civilians.

This is critically important in the long run as well. We are faced with a situation which already does involve regional states and which could become a regional conflict. That's why we are supporting President Mandela's initiative. We are urging a peaceful settlement, withdrawal of foreign forces, respect for the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo in all of our contacts with regional leaders. I can tell you that our special envoy, Howard Wolpe, is in the region. He's been to, I think, almost all of the relative capitals. I think he was in South Africa today and Zimbabwe yesterday. He's working very hard on behalf of the United States to support the regional efforts to achieve a cease-fire, withdrawal of foreign forces and negotiation.

As I was saying, though, in the long run, when we get over this hurdle, as we must, of the potential for regional conflict, the peaceful future of Congo depends on respect for human rights within the country of all citizens of the Congo. So we call upon all parties to respect human rights.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify - back on North Korea, in Ambassador Kartman's discussions with the Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea, did he ask, demand, hint directly to the Vice Foreign Minister to halt any projects, any plans to construct or any ongoing construction with regard to the reports of this nuclear facility being --

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think I've already been very clear that I'm not going to get into the details of those discussions. What I have indicated to you is that the terms of the agreed framework are of critical importance to the United States. We believe they ought to be to the North Koreans as well - that they have an interest in abiding by those terms. This is of extraordinary national security importance to the United States - the agreed framework, its terms. It's something that we monitor extraordinarily closely and we expect that the North Koreans will abide by those commitments.

QUESTION: In the briefings back here in Washington, does he give any suggestion of the tone of the North Koreans?

MR. FOLEY: I have no characterization of that kind for you. I've not met with him; he's back here consulting with officials other than myself.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: We have no reason to conclude that they are in violation of the terms of the agreed framework; that's a very important point. You see a lot of things written in the media about this, and the words I just chose are very important because the agreed framework, I think, sometimes has been, over the years, subject to some criticism in this country. Let's remember what it's about. It's an agreement that meets critical US national security needs. It's an agreement that succeeded in shutting down a North Korean nuclear reactor in which the reprocessing of spent fuel for plutonium has been halted. That is very important to the United States. We expect that the terms of that agreement will be met by the North Koreans. We have no reason to conclude that they are not being met; and for our part, we are committed to meeting our commitments under the agreed framework.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 3:15 P.M.)

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