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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #13, 99-01-28

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


Thursday, January 28, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

1		On-the-Record Briefing at 2:00 pm Today on US Disaster
		  Relief to Central America

IRAQ 1-2,4-5 Opposition Groups: US Position / Funding Authorization / Next Steps / Groups' Abilities to Effect Change / Situation in Iraq / Secretary's Talks With Egypt & Saudi Arabia / Some Groups Turn Down US Offer 3-4 Nuclear Capability and Ambitions / IAEA Monitoring & Verification

JORDAN / IRAQ 2-3 Internal Stability in Jordan / Orderly Succession to King Hussein / US Military Acts Against Iraqi Threats / Message to Saddam Hussein re Jordan

GREECE 5 Meeting With Former King / President's & Secretary's Plans to Visit

HAITI 5-6 Institutional Crisis / OAS Foreign Ministers' Mtg

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 6-7 Massacre: Responsibility / Support for ICTY Investigation / Results of Autopsies 7-8 Building Consensus to Bring Serbia into Compliance / NATO and Contact Group Coordination of Political & Military Measures

IRAN 8 Demarche re US Violations of Air Space During Attack on Iraq

SIERRA LEONE 9 US Humanitarian Assistance

SOUTH KOREA 9-10 Former Secy Perry's Review of North Korea Policy

DEPARTMENT 10 Status of Investigation re Amb Holbrooke

INDONESIA 10 Autonomy Proposal for East Timor


DPB #13

THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 1999, 1:10 P.M.


MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. We're doing it a little earlier than the other day; it's 1:12 p.m. not 1:30 p.m. But one thing that motivated me to get out a little earlier is the fact that we do have an on- the-record briefing at 2:00 p.m., which I hope you'll cover, by the Counselor of the State Department, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and Mark Schneider, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for USAID, who will brief about disaster relief and reconstruction efforts in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: It's on-the-record but off camera. So I hope we could conclude perhaps with a five-minute break so you'll be ready to attend their briefing on time.

QUESTION: Did you see the remarks by General Zinni this morning, to the effect that he doesn't see an opposition group in Iraq that has the viability to overthrow Saddam Hussein?

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen those remarks. I was informed briefly and orally about those remarks. I think we've reached a turning point on our policy on Iraq, following passage by the US Congress of the Iraq Liberation Act. The Administration is determined to redouble its efforts to work closely with the members of the Iraqi opposition in order to promote regime change in Iraq.

We designated a number of groups that we're going to be working with and who would be eligible for US assistance. We will be reviewing the possibility of different ways of working with them in the coming weeks and months in terms of the specific authorization provided by Congress under that act to make use of draw-down authority for DOD arms and materials. That is something that will be subject to ongoing review.

We've made no decisions in that regard. But I would fully endorse General Zinni's conclusion that we believe that this is not going to be an easy or short-term effort. Given the nature of the regime in Iraq, its brutality and the fact that it does have totalitarian control over much of the country, this will be inevitably a difficult and long-term effort. I think the important point is that we have begun this effort; we have accelerated our outreach with members of the Iraqi opposition - credible groups who have support inside Iraq and who can work, if they work together, towards hastening the day of the advent of a democratic regime in Iraq. But we have no illusions and I think based on past experience, we've made clear that we don't want to rush into any kind of solutions that might end up becoming counterproductive and leading to the loss of the lives of those who are seeking to promote change in Iraq.

So we're going to take this step by step. We've been in consultation with Congress on this. I think the Congress understands (a) that we are committed to this initiative and (b) that it is a long-term initiative. So we are hopeful about the long-term, but realistic about the short- term.

QUESTION: When you talk about solutions that might be short-sighted, are you referring to 1991 and the abortive uprisings of the Shiites and the Kurds?

MR. FOLEY: I'm referring to the fact that it could be dangerous to overestimate the ability of some of these groups to effect change in the short term inside Iraq. We want to be sure that our support is designed to achieve demonstrable results and does not result in the loss of life of those who are seeking to promote change inside Iraq.

QUESTION: As has happened in 1991; is that what you're saying?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think there's been a long-standing historical experience on the part of Iraqi opposition groups who have sought to counter Saddam Hussein, going back to the early years of his rule, or misrule, in Iraq. I think it's not just one incident or one period, but it's been, obviously, a very difficult situation for the Iraqi opposition.

But what I think has changed is the sense that inside of Iraq, there is manifest alienation with the regime. Obviously, when you're dealing with a totalitarian regime, it's difficult for independent media, international media to have access to the real opinions of people inside Iraq. But just simply, judging by the obvious desperation that Saddam Hussein has shown in recent weeks in lashing out against other governments in the Middle East, calling for their overthrow, questioning the previous recognition of Kuwait, bemoaning the lack of support in the Arab world, obviously - and we've had also anecdotal reports, following Operation Desert Fox, of executions inside Iraq, of a growing sense of unease on the part of the regime. We believe that Saddam's days are numbered. But again, this is not something that can be measured in the short-term. We regard it as something that we can help promote over the medium to long term.

QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date - where does the Iraq Liberation money stand? Is it now freed by Congress; is it now available for use? And we're talking about, what, $98 million?

MR. FOLEY: I believe it's $97 million. This enables the Administration to avail itself of this draw-down authority. But to my knowledge, no decisions have been made yet in that regard.

QUESTION: A related issue - are you concerned that Iraq could try to take advantage of any change of government or change of leadership in Jordan? The second question, related, is, is the United States committed to come to the defense of Jordan if it was attacked by Iraq?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that Mr. Rubin, yesterday in the region traveling with Secretary Albright, indicated that the United States Government has confidence in the stability of Jordan. We believe that Jordan has a history of institutional stability. King Hussein has now made provision for an orderly succession. We certainly wish him a recovery in his current illness, but it is reassuring that he has provided for such an orderly succession. We remain confident in Jordan's stability and in Jordan's security.

I would say in a general way that the United States has made it crystal- clear that we would act again militarily if Saddam Hussein moved to threaten his neighbors, and that remains the case. We demonstrated just last month our capability of acting in that regard.

QUESTION: What is the message that you have for Saddam Hussein regarding Jordan? Because there are many ways that Saddam Hussein could interfere in Jordan - not just a direct attack, but through internal destabilization. There's a lot of Iraqi nationals that live in Jordan. Do you have a message for Saddam Hussein regarding this?

MR. FOLEY: Our message to Saddam Hussein is, obey the Security Council; comply with your obligations under Security Council resolutions. Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor. He was defeated militarily, and the terms of the conclusion of that obliged him to meet certain obligations in the area of disarmament. He has yet to do so; so he is in violation of his international obligations.

As a result of that, we have made it clear, as I said a minute ago, that we will continue to act militarily if Saddam either attempts to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction programs or threatens his neighbors. Again, we acted on that basis last month; we will continue to act on that basis in the future if he crosses any of those lines.

QUESTION: Could you clarify what - there seems to be information coming out of the party that the US is going to try to force a political settlement on the parties in Kosovo.

QUESTION: There was a report on TV last night where some analysts in Washington were saying that Saddam Hussein was several months to a year from having nuclear capability. What is the US feeling about that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the United States remains concerned about Saddam's nuclear weapons ambitions. We have not lost sight of Saddam's continued desire to acquire nuclear weapons. While the IAEA has destroyed all known elements of Iraq's nuclear program, it continues to have concerns about the possibility of ongoing research and development activities. The IAEA has also stated that Iraq's lack of transparency over discussing the details of its past programs is cause for concern, and that Iraq has not supplied all of the answers to the questions put to it by the IAEA.

On May 14 of last year, the Security Council took note of these remaining disarmament issues in a presidential statement. The Council's statement made clear that only when Iraq supplies answers to all remaining questions and concerns, will it - the Security Council - endorse a transition to ongoing monitoring. The IAEA's future ongoing monitoring and verification regime under UN Security Council Resolution 715 is intrusive, requiring no- notice inspections, interviews with key personnel and the use of various technologies to support its efforts in the field.

The US and other member nations continue to actively support the IAEA's efforts to build and strengthen its long-term monitoring regime. The resumption of inspections and monitoring under relevant UN Security Council resolutions and continued international vigilance will be key to ensuring Saddam does not realize his ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication here as to how far, today, Saddam would be from having such nuclear capability?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd refer you to the IAEA for their judgment in that regard. We believe that the IAEA has done a very good job in terms of accounting for all elements of Iraq's nuclear program. But the relevant point is, we believe Iraq retains ambitions in this area, that Iraq refuses to come clean totally with the IAEA on a number of outstanding issues. So there's every reason for ongoing concern and continued vigilance.

QUESTION: Staying on Iraq, going back to the opposition groups again, from the Secretary's meetings with the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians, did she get any support? Did they state any support for these opposition groups? Are they willing to give money, weapons, any kind of support for these groups?

MR. FOLEY: Well, Kelly, you're new to this briefing room, and I should tell you, that we don't normally comment on the Secretary's trips before she has returned because Mr. Rubin, in particular, will be able to address some of those questions since he's been with her. But certainly I'm not aware of any important member of the region that has stood up and stated that it favors Saddam's remaining in power in Iraq. I think it's universally recognized that he's an impediment to Iraq's return to the international community and to a better life for the people of Iraq. But those discussions just took place in the last day or so with Secretary Albright. I understand they were positive discussions, but I have nothing to report on them until Mr. Rubin returns.

QUESTION: May I ask one more quick one about the opposition - you addressed this very briefly the other day, but at least two - and I think three - of these opposition groups that have been designated say that they are not interested in getting any US aid. What's the response?

MR. FOLEY: I think we've addressed that in previous briefings. We made these designations without having been contacted by any of the groups, in terms of whether they would seek such a designation. It's their right not to take such assistance as we may offer. We understand, though, that all of the groups that we designated intend to work together and that they share common aims. Although these groups hail from different parts of Iraq, in some cases, although some of the groups do represent a membership that covers the different ethnic components of Iraq and religious components, but that all of them are committed to a democratic, pluralistic Iraq, to the respect for human rights and to the territorial integrity of Iraq.

We believe that we'll be able to work with all of those groups and we respect all of them and we respect the decisions that the two you mentioned have made.

QUESTION: It was disclosed to the Greek paper -- (inaudible), that the Excellencies Richard Holbrooke and Tom Miller met privately with the former king of Greece -- (inaudible) - Constantinople. Could you please confirm that?

MR. FOLEY: No, I can't confirm that; it's not true.

QUESTION: But I was told by a US official in this building that a meeting has taken place at the courtesy call of Mr. Holbrooke to Mr. -- (inaudible) -- and it was not political. Two minutes later, however, the same official told me to forget it because it was said by mistake as a miscommunication. Any comment?

MR. FOLEY: I've already answered the question, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: There is a report in the Greek press that President Clinton is planning to travel to Greece after the OSCE meeting in Istanbul in November; and that before that, Secretary of State Albright is planning to travel to the region.

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of any such plans. It's certainly premature for there to be media speculation on presidential travel. Of course, anything would have to be announced by the White House; but I'm not aware of any such piece of information.

QUESTION: Haiti - there are moves in the Congress for the convening of an OAS foreign ministers meeting because of the constitutional crisis there.

MR. FOLEY: Yes. The United States remains concerned about the impasse between the executive and legislative branches in Haiti. We urge Haiti's political leaders to continue negotiations to end the current institutional crisis. We note that President Preval has invited all the major parties to meet with him in upcoming days to find a solution. We also understand that OAS Secretary General Gaviria is scheduled to be in Haiti today.

We, along with other members of the international community, continue to stress the importance we attach to the continuity of all Haiti's democratic institutions.

QUESTION: You're not going to make a value judgment about the correctness or non-correctness of what Preval did two weeks ago?

MR. FOLEY: No, I'm not going to comment publicly on that; except to say that the United States continues to urge Haiti's leaders to continue their negotiations to end the institutional crisis. We are very attached to the principle of the continuity of Haiti's democratic institutions. We believe that with goodwill on all sides and with the assistance of the international community, it ought to be possible to find a way ahead that maintains that continuity.

QUESTION: So you're saying it's premature to call an OAS foreign ministers meeting at this point?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to announce in that regard.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, what do you have to say about these reports of Western wiretaps that show that senior officials in the Belgrade government were behind that massacre and that they then tried to cover it up?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't have any comment to make on intelligence matters. That's our standing practice, so I can't comment on your question.

QUESTION: Without reference to intelligence or wiretaps, then, do you have any reason to believe that senior officials in Belgrade were directly responsible for that attack?

MR. FOLEY: Well, what I can say is that we are cooperating fully with the ICTY in its investigation, and we certainly hope that other and all members of the international community would do so as well.

I'm not in a position to comment publicly about what we may or may not think about that massacre when what we're seeking -- and what the both Contact Group last Friday and NATO today have endorsed -- is an international investigation under the ICTY with the full cooperation of the FRY authorities. We've called them to bring to justice those who are deemed responsible for the massacre. But I'm not here to prejudge the outcome of that investigation.

QUESTION: You and other officials have expressed skepticism about the Serb denials in the past. Is that still an accurate characterization of the US position?

MR. FOLEY: We've called for an ICTY investigation. Inasmuch as the Serb authorities have refused such an investigation, their protestations of innocence ring hollow. But in terms of Carole's specific question as to whom we think is responsible for that massacre, I'm not prepared to say that. I don't know if we have any such information, so I can't confirm that report which is based on intelligence -- questions I cannot comment on in any case.

But I think the relevant point from our perspective is that the massacre be investigated by an impartial tribunal, namely the ICTY; that they have complete access to all the information that they need; that they enjoy the full cooperation of the Serb authorities; and that, therefore, an investigation be conducted which will lead to the truth, regardless of where the truth may lead.

QUESTION: Do you accept the substance of the verdict of the autopsies conducted by the Serbian authorities on the bodies of the victims?

MR. FOLEY: Well, my understanding is that Finnish forensic investigators have undertaken an investigation of their own; and before commenting, I would prefer to await the results of their investigation.

QUESTION: Jim, can you address the question of what seems to be a changed policy by the US to try to force a solution on the parties in Kosovo?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd just quibble with the word "US" because what we're talking about here is a concerted international effort, in which the United States is working with our NATO allies and also working with Russia to build a consensus approach to dealing with the crisis in Kosovo.

What is new in recent days is a determination on the part of the United States and our friends and partners in the international community to address both the flagrant issues of Serb non-compliance that were so horribly manifested in that recent massacre in Racak with an accelerated effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict on the basis of an interim settlement that has been proposed by Ambassadors Hill and Petritsch. So we expect NATO and the Contact Group to work in parallel over the next few days to develop a coordinated series of political and military measures which seek to bring the Serbian and FRY authorities into compliance with their international commitments and move both sides toward acceptance of a political settlement for Kosovo.

So that is what is unique about this approach. I would refer you to Secretary General Solana's statement that he issued on behalf of the North Atlantic Council this afternoon in Brussels, in which he noted that NATO fully supports the early conclusion of a political settlement under the mediation of the Contact Group. Among the many elements which constituted this warning issued by NATO today was the provision that the appropriate authorities in Belgrade and representatives of the Kosovo Albanian leadership must agree to the proposals to be issued by the Contact Group for completing an interim political settlement within the time frame to be established.

So the Contact Group will meet tomorrow in London. Secretary Albright will be participating in that meeting. We expect the Contact Group to agree and to announce on a political strategy for settling this conflict and on a series of demands upon the parties in order to make such a settlement happen. I would expect that, as Secretary General Solana stated today in Brussels, that NATO will be meeting 'round the clock, will meet following that meeting of the Contact Group in order to decide how to support the political action of the Contact Group.

QUESTION: But Jim, the thing which is different here from, say, the solution in Bosnia was that the parties wanted a solution along the lines that were eventually arrived. It's not clear whether the parties to the Kosovo conflict want the same thing. I mean, the Kosovar - the KLA seems to want total independence. The Contact Group and others are saying no, no, autonomy within a greater Serbia. I mean, those two things seem to be at war with each other. How can you impose a solution on people who don't want it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, I would challenge the assumption that the parties at Dayton - before and during Dayton - were going with enormous enthusiasm to the negotiating table in order to undertake what they knew would be negotiations that would involve compromises of cherished, long- held, long-fought-over positions.

I think Ambassador Holbrooke would be the first to tell you that those were not easy negotiations by any means. I think rather the contrary - Dayton proves that it can be done. In this case now, the international community has determined that it's not going to wait longer for the parties to come to their senses; but is rather going to impose demands on the parties to accept a political interim settlement that can meet many of their basic needs and certainly promote the interests of the people of Kosovo and the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at large.

We believe that by marrying an accelerated diplomatic effort with a willingness to back that effort with NATO's capabilities, that it will be possible to achieve a negotiated settlement to this conflict. I would gladly quote what Secretary General Solana said in this respect just a few hours ago. "What we have seen" - and I'm quoting him - "what we have seen in Yugoslavia during the past decade is that it is very difficult to stop internal conflicts if the international community is not willing to use force and when all other means have failed. We may be reaching that limit once again in the former Yugoslavia," said Secretary General Solana.

So as he also said, the Contact Group will launch this political initiative tomorrow in London and it will be backed by NATO's military capabilities. No one believes that this is going to be an easy approach. But we believe that the interim settlement that we've been calling for, as I said, does meet the basic needs of the people of Kosovo and of the Serb people of the FRY - that it is in the interest of all sides for the violence to cease and for a diplomatic settlement on an interim basis to be agreed that can bring an end to the hostilities and offer hope for a better future for all the ethnic peoples of the FRY.

QUESTION: Are you able to comment on Iran's complaint that the US has violated its airspace during the attack on Iraq? Iran asks for a US apology.

MR. FOLEY: First of all, I'm aware that the Iranian Government did demarche the Swiss Government in Iran, which is the US protecting power in Iran, and that they had passed that information along as of yesterday. I did not check the story today. We had no such information confirming such a report. We did speak about -- the Pentagon did acknowledge that a missile had gone astray within Iraq but we have no such information, to my knowledge, of another such episode. I'd refer you to the Pentagon to see whether there's any updating to be had over there.

QUESTION: If it is conformed that this incident did happen, is the US willing to offer an official apology to Iran?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe that during Operation Desert Fox that something similar did occur, and we did respond to the concerns of the Iranian authorities. But I'm not aware that that is what has happened in this case.

QUESTION: On Sierra Leone, the Post had a very sternly worded editorial today about US inaction in Sierra Leone. They pointed out that maybe almost 100 people a day died there over the past month. Could you tell us what the US is trying to do to help ease that situation?

MR. FOLEY: Sure. It is a very serious situation in Sierra Leone. On Tuesday, our ambassador to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Joe Melrose, accompanied by an officer from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, returned to Freetown to assess the humanitarian crisis and provide relief. Our humanitarian support to Sierra Leone now totals more than $50 million.

For this immediate crisis, our ambassador has arranged for medical supplies to Connaught Hospital, where over 300 atrocity victims are being treated. OFDA will provide material for shelter and is working with seven non- governmental organizations to provide medical and food relief. NGOs, which were already established in Freetown before the December attack by the insurgents, are returning with UN and other humanitarian agencies. Large quantities of food, which have already been warehoused in the capital by the NGOs, are already being distributed to the internally displaced people of Freetown who have sought shelter in the Freetown stadium.

During this same trip on Tuesday, Ambassador Melrose met with President Kabbah and ECOMOG to ensure that our logistic support to the West African troops was functioning effectively. Over the past year, we've given ECOMOG over $5 million for the repair and maintenance of communications equipment, the procurement of spare parts and equipment and the maintenance of 150 trucks donated by the US and Dutch Governments; also for the operation of helicopters to move troops throughout the country.

With congressional approval, we intend to provide another $1.7 million for this purpose. Within the past several weeks, we have deployed a medical assessment team to Nigeria with four tons of supplies to treat wounded Nigerian troops.

So in answer to your question, we are certainly aware of the depth of the humanitarian tragedy which has occurred and is occurring in Sierra Leone. We've had our ambassador on the spot to assess what the situation requires, and we're going to be working with Congress to obtain additional funds in order to support ECOMOG so that they can do the job they need to do to counter these horrendous brutalities perpetrated by these insurgents.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the former Defense Secretary Perry and South Korean -- (inaudible) - had a meeting?

MR. FOLEY: A meeting between former Secretary Perry and -

QUESTION: South Korean National Security Council.

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of his schedule, at least today, so I can't answer that question specifically. I do know that he is certainly involved in conducting his review of our North Korea policy, that is ongoing. I have nothing to report at this point on the results of his work because the work continues.

QUESTION: Have you seen the report about the possible early resolution of the problem that Ambassador Holbrooke has been having?

MR. FOLEY: I read the newspapers just as you do, George. As you know, we are forbidden to talk about ongoing investigations until those investigations or the investigation is completed. We're not able to comment on them. But I can repeat what Secretary Albright said last week, which is that she very much wants Ambassador Holbrooke to be there fighting for US interests at the United Nations at New York and hopes for a very prompt resolution.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more than the guidance yesterday on East Timor? Is there a meeting in the UN?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we didn't brief yesterday, so perhaps somebody spoke to you about the situation in East Timor. I'm not aware of any further developments. Do you have a specific question?

QUESTION: No, I was just wondering. I mean, yesterday it was said it was a positive - appeared to be a positive development.

MR. FOLEY: What we do know is that the Indonesian Government announced the other day a proposal for "autonomy-plus," they called it. If its proposal is rejected by the East Timorese, the Indonesian Government suggested that it will propose to the incoming Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly in August that "East Timor be released from Indonesia."

A number of ideas have been under discussion among the parties and the UN Secretary General's representative, Ambassador Marker. We welcome any agreement on the future status of East Timor that is supported by the parties and offers the possibility of a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem.

The new Indonesian policy appears to explicitly give the people of East Timor a direct role in deciding East Timor's future. As such, we believe it is a positive development. However, at this point, we don't have details regarding the Indonesian Government's plan for consulting the people of East Timor or the means by which the people there will be asked to consider this latest proposal.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)

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