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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #109, 98-09-25

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

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


916

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, September 25, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

BOSNIA
1,4,5,15	Elections Results and Gelbard Briefing

TAJIKISTAN 1,2 Suspension of Embassy Operations/Security Threats

LIBERIA 1,2 Departure of Johnson Party to Sierra Leone/Location of Third Country

GERMANY 2,3 Bomb Threat on US Consulate in Hamburg

SAUDI ARABIA 3,4 Secretary State's Meeting with Crown Prince Abudullah / Iraq / MEPP / Terrorism / Energy / Khobar Towers / Taliban

AFGHANISTAN 4 Taliban and USG Promotion of Peace/Harboring International Terrorist / Osama bin Laden

KOSOVO 5,6,7 NATO - Logistics/North Atlantic Council and Last Step/NATO Prepared to Act/Upcoming Winter and Humanitarian Disaster / Time Table/Refugees and Availability of Supplies/Access and Stopping of Oppression

BELGRADE 7 Status of Embassy

UGANDA 7 Twenty People Arrested for Plot Against US Embassy

TURKEY 7,8 PKK and Offer of Cease Fire/Turkish FM Statement re Kurdish Agreement

CHINA 8 Upcoming Visit by Foreign Minister

IRAN 8,9 Iran Foreign Minister Upcoming Speech at Asia Society / Government to Government Dialogue / Rushdie

N. KOREA 9,14,15 September 29th Meeting on Terrorism Talks/Baker's Criticism / Access to Underground Facility

TAIWAN 9,10 Cross Strait Dialogue/Setting up of Meetings/Passing Defense Appropriate Bill

PAKISTAN 10,11 Signing of CTBT and Sanctions/Conditions for Lifting of Sanctions / Authority from Congress / Possibility of Travel to Region by SecState

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 11,12,13,14 SecState Remarks on MEPP / Taking Parts of the Agreement / Term of "Nothing is Agreed Until Everything is Agreed" / Mtgs w/Presidentand SecState / Locking in on Progress / Issue of Three-Way Mtg" / London Talks / Ultimatums and Original Strategies / Scope of Re-deployment and Percentages / USG Opposition to UnilateralActions / White House Mtgs


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #109

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1998,2:05 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. This is a Friday afternoon briefing, so let me give you a flavor of the schedule.

We expect the OSC to put out results of the election in Bosnia during the course of the next half an hour and shortly thereafter, we are going to ask Ambassador Gelbard to come down for an on-the-record briefing. So what we will try to have is a break after this session so any of you who have anything you need to do quickly can do that and then move to Ambassador Gelbard's briefing on the Bosnian elections.

Let me start with an announcement about our embassy in Tajikistan. The State Department is ordering the suspension of embassy operations in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. This decision was taken due to concerns about threats to US facilities worldwide, turmoil in Tajikistan and an limited ability to secure the safety of our personnel in the current facility. All diplomats - US diplomats - will leave Dushanbe shortly. Our relations will continue and we intend to put a small team drawn from our Dushanbe staff in a neighboring country to maintain contacts with Tajikistan.

This is a response to a serious security situation in Tajikistan and reflects no change in our support for the peace process there or in our broader engagement with the countries of Central Asia. It is a temporary suspension and we intend to resume operations as soon as a suitable new site is identified and a more secure facility for our embassy can be built. Identifying such a site will be a top priority. If there are no questions on that announcement, let me turn to the subject of Liberia.

The United States would like to sincerely thank the government of Liberia and especially its president for the enormous cooperation and assistance we received in amicably resolving the situation at the US Embassy in Monrovia. Through our ongoing collaboration and close friendship with the government there, and with the support and assistance of other west African states, especially Nigeria and its Head of State General Abubakar, we were able to resolve the problem. Roosevelt Johnson and his party were flown from the embassy compound in Monrovia just a few short hours ago on two helicopters. The Johnson party will transit Sierra Leone to a third country in west Africa. It appears that the situation has been resolved satisfactorily and we look forward to continuing our work with the government and people of Liberia as they embark on the important task of rebuilding that war- tattered country. Any questions on Liberia?

QUESTION: The Liberian Government wanted the United States to turn Johnson over for trial for treason - I guess that's a dead issue now?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that Johnson will remain in another country pending a trial in absentia by the government of Liberia. International observers will be present at such a trial and Roosevelt Johnson has pledged not to in any way support actions against the government of Liberia that are contrary to law during his stay outside Liberia.

QUESTION: Reports from Africa say that the third country is Nigeria. Can you confirm that?

MR. RUBIN: What I can tell you is that he is going to be leaving Sierra Leone for a third country and it will be up to any other country where he might be received to make statements about where he ends up; not the United States.

QUESTION: But the idea being that he would be extradited back to Liberia eventually?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that, no.

QUESTION: On Tajikistan, this security situation - is that local conditions, terrorist related, or what?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's a number of factors. First of all there is a security threat to American personnel worldwide that we've just updated in a worldwide warning yesterday. As a result of some of the arrests that have been taken and obviously all the events that began in August, there is generally higher level of danger that we are dealing with. And as you know, we have worked very hard to do an examination of our embassies and our buildings and to try to make sure that all of them are up to the right standards in the context of this worldwide situation.

So there is a certain vulnerability of our chancery in Dushanbe; there is turmoil in Tajikistan -- that's a factor as well, and the final factor is the overall increased threat to US personnel worldwide.

QUESTION: On the same subject but in a different place -- can you describe the situation in Hamburg, Germany?

MR. RUBIN: I have limited information on that for you for obvious reasons; let me say the following. The operation of the US consulate continues normally. The German police are taking a number of measures designed to shield the consulate from any potential threat. We can confirm that German authorities have received word that a potential threat exists and they are taking all prudent measures. Let me say that today, Friday, the consulate was open for business as usual. There is an additional police presence which remains unchanged. The investigation continues and we are working closely with the German Government and the German police in this matter.

QUESTION: Have any arrests been made by the German police?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that, but that would be up to the German police who have not been reluctant to report on this.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the Secretary's talk today with Crown Prince Abdullah?

MR. RUBIN: The Secretary had an extensive one-on-one meeting with Crown Prince Abdalla* and then she hosted a lunch for him. For those of you who made that famous trip to the desert, I'll have you know that she returned the truffle favor by offering him a box of chocolate truffles. (Laughter).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: We don't grow chocolate here. We grow some things, but not chocolate. Let me say the meetings covered a full range of topics -- Iraq, the Middle East peace process, Iran, the dangers of proliferation, as well as terrorism. There was an extensive discussion of the Middle East peace process, the state of play and the hopes and expectations in the coming days. There was a clear meeting of the minds about the common interests in promoting peace in the Middle East and the discussion was very detailed and we talked about where the Saudi Government could be helpful in encouraging progress from the parties.

With respect to Iraq, the Crown Prince expressed strong support for the effort by the Security Council to persuade Iraq to resume cooperation with the UN Special Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Like us, the Saudis are concerned about the threat that Saddam Hussein continues to pose to the region and they, like us, insist on full compliance with all Security Council resolutions. They expressed concern at the policy of some members of the Security Council and pledged to work with us to maintain the maximum degree of Council unity and resolve.

With respect to the Middle East peace process, again the detail really focused on Secretary Albright's statements to the Saudi side about her intention to - and commitment to achieve as much agreement as possible as quickly as possible. The Crown Prince expressed concern about the prolonged stalemate and expressed full support for our efforts. And they, as I said earlier, discussed ways in which we and the Saudis could work together to achieve the necessary breakthroughs in the key categories.

They also talked about terrorism and reviewed ongoing cooperation that we and the Saudis are undertaking, and discussed ways to enhance that cooperation as we deal with the scourge of terrorism all around the world.

QUESTION: If I can just follow up - you didn't say anything about energy as a topic of conversation. Was that discussed and was there any discussion about the need for Saudi Arabia to open up its energy sector to foreign investment?

MR. RUBIN: It wasn't at the meeting that I was at; I do believe there is supposed to be a statement of some kind that will reflect that issue and coming out soon.

QUESTION: From where?

MR. RUBIN: From the White House is my understanding.

QUESTION: Was the any discussion of the Saudi investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing?

MR. RUBIN: We make it a practice of regularly reviewing the various issues in the area of terrorism that we and the Saudis need to cooperate on and without getting into the details of what may or may not said on that level of specificity, let me say that I am sure the Saudi Government understands the importance of this to the United States and we expect full cooperation from them and I believe that he did have a meeting with the FBI Director, Louie Freeh, or spoke to him on the phone, so I would be surprised if during the course of the consultations here in Washington that the importance of that was not stressed; that being, I would be surprised if it was not stressed.

QUESTION: Did they discuss their recent cutting of relations with the Taliban - closing their embassy?

MR. RUBIN: There was some discussion of the Taliban; certainly we have very strong views about what needs to be done in order to promote peace in Afghanistan and we have made very clear about the importance of the Taliban not harboring international terrorists like Osama bin Laden. But despite our warnings, the Taliban has continued to use Afghan territory as a base for the planning, organization and launching of terrorist attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of hundreds and wounding of thousands of people. If the Taliban wished to gain greater international acceptance and respectability, they need to act in line with the values of the world community and honor internationally recognized norms, particularly on human rights and terrorism and narcotics.

The Taliban has made certain statements in recent days about its view of terrorism and what we would say is what we would like them to do is have some actions. And the action is, as I stated, to deny Osama bin Laden the base from which to operate in the planning, organization and launching of terrorist attacks and that has not happened. So these words have little meaning to us.

QUESTION: Are there any specifics on the ways that the Saudis may be able to work with the US on the peace process?

MR. RUBIN: Those are the kind of details that diplomats like to keep to themselves so that they have a chance of being successful.

QUESTION: The Bosnian elections - those results were due today --

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I think you must've missed this before you came in - I announced that Bob Gelbard will be doing a briefing shortly after --

QUESTION: Oh, he's going to do that --

MR. RUBIN: After we finish the questioning here and there'll be a short filing break and then Bob will come down roughly about 2:45 to talk about that. So maybe you could save that question for him.

QUESTION: Very well. I have another.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'm sure.

QUESTION: Kosovo - the world, NATO especially, is leaning hard on Kosovo and I just wondered if any arrangement had ever been made on the part of the Kosovar Albanians to represent themselves in negotiations with Mr. Milosevic's forces - if that had ever come to pass or is that's still on pediment?

MR. RUBIN: We don't think the problem right now is the logistical or procedural arrangements on the Kosovar Albanian side. Let me be very clear. In the course of this week, two very important steps were taken. First, the international community sent a powerful signal that it is fed up with Slobodan Milosevic's failure to comply with the requirements set forth in numerous documents and in his meeting with President Yeltsin -- that is to stop the repression; to stop creating a humanitarian nightmare and to start being serious about negotiating a peace.

Secondly, the North Atlantic Council took the last necessary step to prepare for the use of military force and an activation warning was agreed to; forces are going to be identified and NATO will be prepared to act. It is now up to President Milosevic to respond to these very clear statements the international community has made; the ball to prevent a further crisis is clearly in the court of Milosevic. That is where the problem lies and not in some procedural question about who is on the Albanian delegation and how they will communicate with - (inaudible) -- .

QUESTION: All right; I see. But let me just follow briefing with - has the United States received any indication - or has NATO for that matter - can you speak to the issue of Mr. Milosevic coming to realize that he can't continue his war during the winter; that there will be a tremendous humanitarian disaster that will be on his hands? Has he spoken at all about having a cease fire?

MR. RUBIN: We have seen nothing to indicate a change of intent on the part of President Milosevic. He has made a lot of statements in recent weeks; I saw a statement by one of his compatriots indicating that there is no problem out there. And these kind of blatantly false statements designed to mask the humanitarian nightmare are fooling no one. The international community knows where the problem is; the international community has acted this week. President Milosevic should have not doubt as to NATO's capabilities or resolve.

We hope that he finally understands the seriousness of the situation he has created and moves to abide by his promises and alleviate the suffering that has been caused by his actions. But we have seen nothing to indicate that there is a change in behavior.

QUESTION: Jamie, now that you've given Milosevic - or the international community has given him this red line ultimatum, how long would you say that your - since you're ready and prepared are you willing to wait to see what his responses may or may not be?

MR. RUBIN: Well that decision about timing and further steps is a decision for the highest political authorities in NATO capitals, including in Washington, and I would not want to preview that. I would say that, as I understand it, Secretary Cohen called it a pen ultimatum, what NATO did yesterday and so I would just amend your preamble premise just in that way. But it is up to political authorities to make a decision as to whether he is moving in the right direction; whether he's responded to this very clear message of these two actions this week. And I have nothing new for you on that.

QUESTION: But another week, though, would be --

MR. RUBIN: Well, we want him to stop the repression now. We're not going to set a timing to stop the killing and to stop the repression. As I understand it, we have reports that heavy clashes continued in the mountains and the Drenica region; we are aware of the continuing problem of the refugees and the internally displaced persons. This has to stop now. As far as what the next step will be if it fails to stop, I'll have to leave that to others to speak to.

Yes, let's go over here, please.

QUESTION: In regards to the arrests that were made in Uganda, what is the --

MR. RUBIN: Let's just see if there's anymore on this subject. One more on this subject.

QUESTION: Is there thought to be enough food, clothing, and fuel in the homes that have been abandoned to sustain the refugees if they were able to get back to their homes safely and throughout the winter?

MR. RUBIN: We -- first of all, our humanitarian organizations would have to make the final judgment on what they think the available supplies are and whether those supplies can be distributed. But from our standpoint what has to happen first is the Serbs have to allow access for humanitarian organizations, access for the monitors, stop the repression, and what we found is that the only people who are going back to their homes where they can make it through the winter are those people who are going to places where there are no Serb police or no Serb authorities. These people are justifiably frightened from the presence of Serb authorities who have committed very serious acts against the civilian population there. So in order for this to be possible, the troops have to be withdrawn from those places where people need to go, and that is the most important requirement that we expect from President Milosevic.

QUESTION: And have the Serbs won the war -- won their objective militarily, do you think?

MR. RUBIN: We have no reason to believe that the determination of the Kosovar Albanians to have greater autonomy and greater control over their lives, have been changed.

QUESTION: What is the status of the American embassy in Belgrade of difficulties there and warnings for Americans in Serbia?

MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that. I'll check it for you, but I don't believe so. Yes?

QUESTION: On another subject --

MR. RUBIN: We were over here and then I'll come over there.

QUESTION: In regards to the arrest in Uganda, what was the specific nature of the threat that the 20 people arrested are believed to have posed?

MR. RUBIN: As you probably know on the - this kind of a question is a very limited amount of information I can give in this forum. The investigative agencies, in particular the FBI, give more information in certain forms because it's a criminal matter.

There have been a number of arrests for a plot against the US Embassy; we are working with the Ugandan Government on this incident. There is a criminal investigation underway. That is the limit of what I can say in this forum.

QUESTION: The PKK terror organization offered a cease fire and a leader of this terror organization asked the United States and the European Union to put the pressure on the Turkish Government. Do you have any reaction on this subject?

MR. RUBIN: We've stated quite clearly our views on the PKK. They are a terrorist organization; we've made that quite clear. We've heard a lot of nice words from them in the past which have borne no relation to what they're prepared to do on the ground. So we have nothing new for you on that.

QUESTION: Another subject - the Turkish Foreign Minister made a statement last week on the - to the Iraqi-Kurdish leader which they have an agreement in Washington, DC - they claim that the disagreement lay down to some kind of cease for the Kurdish Government - independent Kurdish state or something. Do you have anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: We welcome in general the support the government of Turkey has expressed for the agreement and the work that we did here in Washington and in the field. In general, they have expressed support for these two groups' desire to preserve the territorial independence - integrity of Iraq. We're aware of Turkey's concerns with respect to the point you mention, and we would like to point out that the Kurdish agreement is consistent with the principles laid down in the 1996 Ankara Accords, which are designed again to make clear that we support the territorial integrity of Turkey and all countries in the region.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you have anything on the Chinese Foreign Minister's visit next week?

MR. RUBIN: I do know there is a visit; there will be press availability on Tuesday. As far as the topics and the details, it's a little early for that.

QUESTION: So he is meeting with the Secretary on Tuesday?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Is this press availability where the press gets to ask questions?

MR. RUBIN: That's what I call a press availability. If it's not a press availability it's called a photo op where the cameras get to do their thing.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the issues?

MR. RUBIN: It's a little premature for that on Friday.

QUESTION: You and others have raised some expectation - or had raised some expectations - of interest - a lot of interest - in the speech that the Iranian Foreign Minister is to give to the Asia Society. Is that interest still there in light of Mr. - President Khatami's more or less throwing cold water on the idea of government-to-government dialogue?

MR. RUBIN: No. We did not expect that that was a speech in which there would be a proposal for a government-to-government dialogue, and we had no reason to expect that. We consider what's going on here a process. The process includes the calls for civilizational dialogue from the President of Iran -- the President's comments about Islam and the West being not incompatible and needing to work together; the comments the Secretary made at her - during her speech on exploring further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings and we think that a parallel process should be created in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides. And as this wall of mistrust comes down, the Secretary indicated we would like to develop with the Islamic Republic when it is ready, a road map leading to normal relations.

There was a lot of activity in this area in New York this weekend. Certainly with respect to the Salman Rushdie example, the decision on Rushdie is a very positive development, and one of the issues that was always on our agenda was human rights and this is an action on human rights that is a welcomed development. There are other welcomed developments including cooperation in drug interdiction, cooperation in the UN context on Afghanistan. That doesn't mean that there are not other areas that trouble us, and we have indicated that we are going to monitor this closely; we're going to be waiting to see what they say and waiting to see what they do. An example of something they did that we've welcomed very strongly and that Salman Rushdie himself has very strongly welcomed is the actions this week on that threat.

QUESTION: Jamie, isn't it disappointing for you that Iran is showing some political will to improve relations with Britain and not with the US?

MR. RUBIN: Well as you know, we are the United States and we are different than other countries, and other countries - it perhaps has less significance to them to make such a step; that is the nature of being the United States. We've made quite clear that we are ready when they are ready to develop a road map and to take parallel steps. We can't be more ready than they are.

QUESTION: Does the Administration think it prudent of him to have emerged now based on the assurances from the Iranians and the British?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're not going to make judgments about what his security situation is. This is something that has been done by the British for a long, long time. We are not his security minders and we are not going to second-guess his own judgment about his own security.

QUESTION: Is he free to travel now in the United States?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think there was ever a problem there, but I'll have to check. It wasn't a question of not being free.

QUESTION: Is his travel in the United States being discouraged given the security situation?

MR. RUBIN: Well I'll have to check that; I'm not aware of that fact. But again, I hope that those involved wouldn't want to second-guess the person involved?

QUESTION: In North Korea, is there a discussion with North Korea on the issue of terrorism set up for Monday of next week?

MR. RUBIN: September 29, I believe, is the date. I don't have it in front of me, but I believe the plan is for September 29, in Washington? I think it's in Washington -- the terrorism talks. I don't have a time for you.

QUESTION: Do you know the agenda for that?

MR. RUBIN: The terrorism is the agenda -- how to stop North Korean support for terrorism. That's the agenda. It's a big agenda.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, the top negotiator of Taiwan with China has just finished his visit to Beijing and paved the way for the high-level meetings between the two sides of the Taiwan strays, and in his discussions in Beijing, he even mentioned about setting up meetings between the Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui and the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin. I'd like to know what the US Administration's reaction to it?

MR. RUBIN: We have long been in favor of a dialogue of this kind and the greater the dialogue, the more chance that the issues between them can be resolve successfully. That is something the cross-straight dialogue which we have long supported and so we welcome steps in that direction and hopefully they will yield fruit.

QUESTION: Another one -- yesterday the House of Representatives passed the Defense Appropriations Bill in which appropriation was proposed to facilitate Taiwan with the theater missile defense capabilities. What is the Administration's reaction to that?

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check -- it's a DOD question. I'll have to check that.

QUESTION: The Pakistanis say that they will sign the CTBT if sanctions are lifted. In the discussions with the US government, have the Pakistanis insisted on the lifting of the Pressler and Glenn Amendments and other - (inaudible) -- ?

MR. RUBIN: We don't normally discuss what another country is secretly or privately discussing with us. We talk in generalities on such a matter. I hope you wouldn't want us to reveal what another country said; what would be the point of having a private discussion if we just told you about it? But broadly speaking, we have made clear that in order for sanctions to be lifted, there has to be substantial progress across the board on the matters of concern to us. And those are laid out in the Declaration of the Five and the UN Security Council Resolution 1172, which call upon Pakistan and India to adhere to global nuclear non-proliferation norms and to settle their differences through dialogue.

That is our view. There has to be substantial progress on the goals set forth in several areas and I would be happy to detail more specifically those goals for you, including the actual signature and ratification of this CTBT as a goal; a restraint regime covering the nuclear weapons and their means of delivery; an export control system; a moratorium on the production of fissile material; pending negotiation of the treaty and direct talks between India and Pakistan. These are essential components of those international statements. What we are looking for is substantial progress across the board in those areas. And so that is what we would regard as sufficient to consider suspension of sanctions provided we receive that kind of flexibility and authority from Congress which we now do not have.

As far as what the Pakistani's position is, I would encourage you to contact the Pakistani Embassy and they, I'm sure, will be happy to answer your question.

QUESTION: Is there a chicken and egg problem here? In other words, you seem to be saying that there must be substantial progress before the sanctions can be lifted; the Pakistanis are saying that they won't lift the sanctions - they won't make any concessions until the sanctions are lifted.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not sure that's an accurate representation of the Pakistani view, but let me say this. If we had reason to believe that there was going to be substantial progress - and it would be up to us to measure that across the board - then we would be seeking - could well seek authority or have already received the authority and act to suspend sanctions. I've described the goals; I didn't say that each of those goals had to be fully met. I said that there has to be substantial progress towards them. That's the kind of problem that diplomats are very good at working out is how to make sure that things go in parallel so that both sides' objectives can be met. But before we would even reach that point we would need to believe there was progress across the board and not simply in one area.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate any travel to the region by the Secretary this year, either with or without the President?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information with respect to travel. I know the President is going to have to review this matter with his advisors in the coming days and, as the Secretary said yesterday, there was some progress, but significant progress still is yet to be achieved and that discussion will have to be had before one can report on any future travel plans.

QUESTION: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that you've said in the past as regards the Middle East peace process that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, and I think that you just said that the Secretary in her talks with the Crown Prince said that she -- on the Middle East peace process would like to achieve as much agreement as possible, I think as quickly as possible. How do -- how do those two jive?

MR. RUBIN: Well I was asked this question earlier; I think it's pretty straight forward. One can break off parts of this very complex piece and try to get agreement on it. That agreement can still be contingent on other actions taking place. The question is whether you can nail down and lock in in some diplomatic form, parts of the package. So it doesn't mean that that part would necessarily be implemented, but rather that an agreement had been reached on what would happen contingent on other things happening.

So when I say that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, what I'm saying by that is the normal negotiating process for those of you who followed in any negotiation is that you discuss different positions and you agree to certain steps provided you get agreement on everything, and each side waits to the last possible moment to finally confirm a whole series of things that they would have expressed their intention to do.

So these are not inconsistent at all. The question is whether the political will is there to make the hard decisions. As you know, President Clinton spoke to both of these leaders yesterday. Secretary Albright will be meeting with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu Saturday night. For those of you who need to cover that, we will try to figure out a way to work with you, but it's going to be fairly hectic and late and I wouldn't expect a lot of ability to communicate in the middle of the night on Saturday. I do expect the Secretary to remain in New York all day Sunday in order to continue to work on this effort in advance of meetings the President will hold with the two leaders separately next week.

We're trying to lock in progress where we can; we've made some movement, but in order to nail it down, one has to find a diplomatic way to record agreement or to lock it in in some other way. And these are very tricky issues and there's a tendency to take one step forward and two steps back and that is the reason why the Middle East peace process has been stalled for so long, and we're going to do what we can to lock it in where we can; contingent, of course, on a whole set of actions that need to be taken. Yes, Charlie?

QUESTION: Both meetings will be Saturday night?

MR. RUBIN: Correct, but I wouldn't rule out further meetings on Sunday; that's why I indicated she would be there all day Sunday.

QUESTION: Are you also sticking with what you've said in the past that you wouldn't rule out a three-way meeting with Secretary Albright?

MR. RUBIN: Again, on any of these areas I'm not going to rule out them deciding to do such a thing, but at this point what I can report to you is what I know is planned.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. RUBIN: Well we can talk about this a little bit later in our sort of planning discussion, but I wouldn't expect much more on this. Yes?

QUESTION: Are you saying that the idea of locking in the certain pieces of - are you saying that's standard procedure or that's a novel procedure here in these discussions?

MR. RUBIN: There is no precedent in these things; you do what you can where you can. I think if you track other Middle East peace process negotiations, you would see both formats. Sometimes it's waited until everything is done to talk about it; sometimes things are nailed down, locked in and then one focuses all one's energy on another piece - the same goals as in any negotiation; that you apply the diplomatic tool that you need to deal with the current situation.

QUESTION: So this is not a change in approach on the Administration's part?

MR. RUBIN: I can't see how one could even construct that logic.

QUESTION: I just remember the news conference in London - I'm sure you've heard this a lot the last day or two - the news conference in London where there was an ultimatum which you all - (inaudible) - accepted in five days and here we are six months later and now you're talking about partially --

MR. RUBIN: What's that got to do with his question?

QUESTION: What?

MR. RUBIN: What's that got to do with his question?

QUESTION: I don't know what it's got to do with his question - it's what it has to do with my question.

MR. RUBIN: All right, then why don't you articulate it?

QUESTION: My question is why is there not a change of approach and what happened to all these six months? Why are you all not sticking with your original strategy?

MR. RUBIN: Our strategy, unlike some of those who want to comment on this, is not designed to achieve a confrontation; our strategy is designed to achieve an agreement. And at the time that you're referring to, we did not have agreement. We didn't even have on paper all the details that would've filled in the security steps that needed to go forward; the - how you would record the further redeployment; what you would do about unilateral actions and how you would organize the permanent status talks. What we were talking about at that time - and I hope you all remember all the words that we used - that these were a set of ideas; not a formal plan which was written out in great detail. I'm sure you remember the phrase "set of ideas" - that's chosen very carefully because that means that they're not all written out in detail. And when Chairman Arafat agreed in principle to this set of ideas, he did not agree in totality to all the details because they weren't there.

What we've been doing in all that time - and I hope that you wouldn't think that we were wasting our time - was working very hard on the details and this requires excruciating work. For any of you who've actually read through the Oslo Accords and all that goes with it, you know how excruciatingly detailed these are and you now how important it is to get those words right. And so that's what we've been doing for all these months. We've made some progress, but in order to close it, it's often required to meet with the Secretary of State and try to nail down agreement where we think it can exist; record that agreement; lock it in in some way and move on to the other areas where more work needs to be done.

QUESTION: For your - at the moment you are now - this last period you've been drafting an agreement and that's where all the effort has been going into?

MR. RUBIN: We have been getting into detail on the different categories of issues that we have talked about, including the further redeployment, including the myriad steps that need to be taken in the security cooperation area, including the unilateral assurances and other steps, some of which has required detailed written work; most of which required detailed discussions back and forth. I'm not saying there is a prepared agreement across the board; what I am saying is that we are trying to record progress where we can and using the combination of meetings, discussions and written material where that's appropriate.

QUESTION: In relation to that, are you still working the Israelis and Palestinians on an assumption of nine and four percent withdrawal? And can I also ask you - how much of an issue or a concern Mr. Arafat's insistence that he will declare statehood in May is for you now knowing that that's looming and knowing how the Israelis feel about that?

MR. RUBIN: On the first question, we have been reluctant to detail in public forum any authorized way the details of our ideas for fear of making it more difficult for the other side to agree with it. Although I wouldn't particularly agree with your particular numerical addition, let me say that we're working very hard on the question of the scope of the further redeployment, and we're continuing to do that.

With respect to the Palestinian state, we have made very clear over time -- with respect again to the proposed suggested declaration of that word which I was only applying to someone else's question lest I make a historic boo- boo from the podium -- we have made repeatedly clear that we oppose unilateral steps or unilateral actions which prejudge the outcome of the peace process, and the kind of step or action you describe would fall into that category. A unilateral declaration of statehood falls into that category and in this basis we would oppose it. And we do not think it would be helpful to the cause of peace because it would make it harder to make peace, and we think those who are interested in peace -- those who are friends of the Palestinians -- would be well advised not to encourage them to do something that would be unhelpful because then they would be acting in an unhelpful fashion.

We have adopted this position about unilateral actions with respect both to the Palestinians and to the Israelis. It is a position of principle that we apply to both sides on unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of final status talks.

QUESTION: The meeting is at the White House next week?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Can you say which days?

MR. RUBIN: I believe they've announced Monday for Prime Minister Netanyahu and later in the week for Chairman Arafat.

QUESTION: Former Secretary of State Jim Baker was very critical of the Administration in handling North Korea; I think praising in other regards, Jamie, but how do you respond to Jim Baker's assessment? And secondly, in the detail, has anymore oil been delivered to North Korea in say the last four or five weeks?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check on the oil. With respect to - I did see briefly Secretary Baker's comments, and would like to remind all of you that some of his top advisors on this subject were the strongest supporters possible of the agreed framework, including Arnie Kanter, who is the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, including Brent Scrowcroft, and we, like they, and like any responsible critic, have no illusions about North Korea and contrary to Secretary Baker's comments, nothing we do is based on trust. The agreement is premised on verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the sites where the freeze is supposed to take place, and premised on our national technical means where inspections aren't possible. So the suggestion that this agreement is based on trust is ludicrous political rhetoric that is surprising coming from Secretary of State Baker.

With respect to the work that we're doing now, we are working very hard on trying to get access to this suspected facility and we are going to insist on access to that facility in order to make clear what it is and to what extent it does and doesn't bear on the agreed framework, and if we cannot get access, it will directly affect the viability of the agreed framework. So that is our view on that and our view on your question.

One more - on Taiwan, I don't have anymore information for you.

We've had a little bit of a change in schedule; I hope you guys can bear with us here. Ambassador Gelbard is here and I think we should go straight to it, and he will be in a position to comment on the Bosnian elections, having returned not so long ago from that country. Ambassador Gelbard, do you want to head our way?


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