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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #42, 99-04-01

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>


785

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, April 1, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA (KOSOVO)
1		US is contacting Belgrade about the illegally detained
		  servicemen.
1-2		Subjecting detained soldiers to court martial would violate
		  Geneva Convention.
2-3		Soldiers were illegally abducted.
3-4		US has committed another $50 million in humanitarian aid;
		  new total now $141 million.
4		Total refugees in Albania now total almost 120,000,
		  including 14,500 yesterday.
4		FYRO Macedonia now has 47,500 refugees, while Montenegro
		  has 55,000.
5,10		US will be seeking an opportunity to speak with Dr. Rugova.
5-6		KLA's Mr. Thaqi reported to US on current situation in
		  Kosovo
6		KLA hopes for humanitarian support, including air drops.
6		Serbs continue to loot, burn, expel people from villages,
		  transport them by train, bus.
7		US believes reports of mass murder and forced expulsions
		  are credible.
7,8		US very concerned about possibility of strife in
		  Montenegro.
7		US has warned Belgrade not to overthrow democratic
		  government of Montenegro.
8		For diplomacy to be pursued, Milosevic must reverse course.
9		Continued air strikes will increasingly undermine bases for
		  Milosevic's power.
9-10		Milosevic is jeopardizing his claim to Kosovo; population
		  is increasingly radicalized.
10		Kosovo is being "ethnically cleansed" right now.
11		Secretary Albright has been in touch with leading members
		  of NATO.
11		NATO is determined to stay the course.
12		US hoped for peaceful outcome, but were not surprised that
		  force proved necessary.

LIBYA 12-13 No way to speculate when Qadhafi will provide the suspects.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #42

THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 1999

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing, today being Thursday. Let me start with a statement with regard to our servicemen. The United States Government is contacting authorities in Belgrade through our protecting power, Sweden, in regard to the illegal abduction of three American servicemen who were serving in non-combatant status in Macedonia. There is no basis for their continued detention by the Belgrade authorities. We insist that they be provided any necessary medical assistance and treated humanely and in accordance with all prevailing international agreements and standards. We will hold Belgrade authorities responsible for their safety and treatment.

QUESTION: Have you been working with the Swedes, the protecting power in Belgrade? Have you heard back from them?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information to report. Clearly, under the Geneva Convention which would apply -- whether or not we're at a state of war it applies -- the Serb authorities are responsible to, under the convention, to pursue through the protecting power, allowing access to them, and also access through the ICRC. That is required.

QUESTION: You sort of got into it just there, the crux of the whole question here. You don't think these men or prisoners of war? The Serbs aren't calling prisoners of war. Can you explain what's behind all of that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously there's armed conflict between NATO forces and the Serbs in Serbia and in Kosovo. But as far as the legal definition of a state of war and all that would apply, it's just not relevant to this circumstance. All I'm saying is that there is very clear international law that applies here. What it requires in a circumstance like this is that humane treatment at all times, including protection against acts of violence, intimidation, insults and reprisals; all medical attention required by their state of health; protection from any form of coercion or a threat to secure any information beyond the name, rank, serial number and date of birth; evacuation from any area of danger; adequate food, clothing and quarters; and access, as I said, by protecting powers in the international committee of the Red Cross.

QUESTION: This is under the Geneva Convention?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: There apparently has been a report on Tanjug that these men would be subjected to some sort of military trial.

MR. RUBIN: Well, that would be a violation of international laws I've just specified.

QUESTION: Okay, but you're not aware of that -

MR. RUBIN: I mean, I've seen the report on Tanjug, but I'm not aware of it.

QUESTION: If there is such a trial, will the US be asking the Swedes to monitor or participate?

MR. RUBIN: Well, such a trial is obviously ridiculous for the Serbs to try to court-martial American soldiers. The fact is, it was illegal for them to be abducted. They were performing a mission in a neutral country. There is no basis for their detention and under the Geneva Convention, to subject to them to some phony trial called a court-martial is just ridiculous.

QUESTION: So there's no way that the US would recognize the legitimacy of this by asking a protecting power, the Swedes, to go and attend?

MR. RUBIN: It's very clear what the Serb responsibilities are. I've described them, and we don't - it just doesn't fly in the face of international law for them to be subjected to that. It would be a violation of international law.

QUESTION: But is your argument on them based on the fact that they were in Macedonia as - I forget what the official title was - but essentially -

MR. RUBIN: A non-combat border patrol in a neutral country.

QUESTION: Right, but didn't that mandate expire?

MR. RUBIN: Regardless, to be abducted like this is simply - the situation is that they were illegally abducted. There's nothing more to say. They should not have been abducted and brought to Serbia, and the requirements under international law are pretty clear from what I said.

QUESTION: When this incident took place, were they under UN control or under NATO control?

MR. RUBIN: You'd have to check with the Pentagon on their exact status of the forces there.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there absolute certainty that these troops run a Macedonian side of the border, or is that under investigation by this government?

MR. RUBIN: The Pentagon is obviously looking into it. They have spoken to this during the course of the day. I don't have anything to add to it. It's really up to the Pentagon to describe their exact location and the circumstances of their abduction. But clearly, we believe they were illegally abducted.

QUESTION: Jamie, I may have missed this at the beginning but did you say that they are to be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention?

MR. RUBIN: What I said was they are prisoners, clearly. The Geneva Convention provides for certain treatment. We're not at a state of war but, nevertheless, the international lawyers advised me that the requirements -- that they be treated humanely, that they get the necessary medical attention, that they're protected from any for of coercion, that they get the adequate food and clothing, that they get access by our protecting power and the international committee of the Red Cross -- still pertain.

QUESTION: But the question is, if we're not at a state of war, how do you describe the state?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't have a legal definition but clearly, NATO is conducting air operations against Serb forces. I just don't have a legal description. Clearly, we're conducting air operations. The facts are quite clear to everybody.

QUESTION: This may be a question that Carol was asking, but let me try it from a different direction. With the end of a UN mandate, what is the international authority for -

MR. RUBIN: Certainly they were - the Macedonia Government had no problem with them being there. So there's no question that they were appropriately. What precise form their state of deployment is, is something that I just am saying you have to ask the Pentagon about. But clearly, they were in Macedonia, that the Macedonia Government was happy to have them there. So there is no question of whether they were appropriately there. Describing their precise status is something I would like to leave to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if the Swedes have already contacted the Belgrade -

MR. RUBIN: I don't have that information. We've asked them to.

QUESTION: Is their a time limitation? I mean, is it 48 hours for consular access?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have that kind of information but clearly, it should be in deliberate speed.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the refugee situation?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the refugees, let me make a broader point about the humanitarian situation. The White House announced yesterday that the President has committed $50 million more in assistance to meet the humanitarian needs of refugees in Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and the region. This increases to $141 million, the money the United States has committed in humanitarian assistance to meet the crisis.

Half of the $50 million comes from the President's Emergency Refugee and Migration Act Fund and will be funneled to aid agencies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations, which will procure lifesaving food, health supplies and shelter materials for refugees and internally displaced persons. The other $25 million will be used by the Defense Department to provide logistical and operational support to aid agencies in this difficult region. The ability to transport life-saving aid safely and quickly is as important as the aid itself.

A USAID Disaster Response Team left for Albania yesterday and should arrive later today. This seven-member team of humanitarian experts will immediately begin assessing the nutritional and health status of refugees, provide health care support and provide recommendations for additional government support. The AID has also moved crucial materials assistance from warehouses in Italy to the region, including $260,000 in tents, clothing and water to Albania and $430,000 in blankets, shelter material and health kits to Macedonia.

The Department of Defense and the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration have also dispatched experts to Albania. One of them is working to facilitate registration of refugees in Northern Albania. We are coordinating very closely with the UNHCR and other international organizations and with a number of countries to provide sufficient funding, relief supplies, transport and a secure environment for the refugees. Italy, for instance, as part of its Operation Rainbow will focus on relief and security requirements in Albania.

With respect to your specific question on the numbers, in the past 24 hours - and again, these numbers come from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees - another 14,500 refugees arrived in Albania. This brings the total number to almost 120,000, including 100,000 in the past eight days. The UNHCR, together with the government of Albania, has moved over half of these refugees away from the border area further south into the country, where they will have better access to assistance. Another 14,500 refugees have also arrived in Macedonia.

Since yesterday, this brings the total number there to 47,500, including 29, 000 in the past eight days. These include the ethnic Albanians in Pristina the Serbs put on trains bound for Skopje. 7,000 Kosovars have entered Montenegro in the past 24-hours bringing the total in this republic to approximately 55,000, including 27,000 since March 24th.

QUESTION: One detail on that figure. The $25 million that you announced yesterday is part of the $50 million mentioned by the White House, is that right?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: Do you think Ibrahim Rugova is being held against his will by Serbian forces?

MR. RUBIN: I have no way of knowing the answer to that. All I can say is I'm just not in a position to react to statements he's purported to have made until we have the opportunity to discuss directly with him and make sure that he has freedom of movement and his family has freedom of movement. I just have no way of assessing that situation.

QUESTION: Would you say at the very least the circumstances of his movement, his appearance on Serbian TV, the way he looked and his sudden appearance yesterday at a news conference not calling for an end to air strikes, would you say at the very least, having known him very well, that that would be suspicious?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate. This is a very important time. We're in a situation where NATO is conducting a massive air campaign against the Serbs. I don't intend to speculate on things we don't know. What I can say is that we would like to have an opportunity to speak to him. We're going to be seeking that opportunity. We'd like to know that he and his family have freedom of movement. At that time, we will be in a position to assess what his statements are and his views are. In the absence of that, I'm not going to speculate.

QUESTION: How do you want to talk to him -- by telephone, in person, somebody go to Belgrade?

MR. RUBIN: In the first instance, I'm not aware that anyone is considering going to Belgrade. But in the first instance, obviously, the telephone would be a good start.

QUESTION: I actually had a different question. There was a story in the Post today which suggested that the KLA was all but decimated as a force. I just wondered what your assessment was. I recall when you talked about Thaci the other day, you said something about him saying that their forces were overwhelmed or being overwhelmed, I think was phrase. I just wondered whether you felt they were that -

MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly, as I said the KLA is having a very tough time of it, given the overwhelming fire power of tanks and artillery and armored personnel carriers that the Serbs are bringing to bear there. As you know from the briefings in NATO and from the Pentagon, we are now bringing to bear our air power directly on the Serb capabilities. I did speak again to Mr. Thaci this morning. He said that, with respect to the soccer stadium, he said it is empty, and there is no concentration camp as he earlier reported. He just got this information, and he wanted to pass it on. He does believe that various stadiums are being used for other purposes, including ammunitions.

He said that people in the outlying Pristina areas are being forces to leave. He said the KLA has been able to get some people out of Pristina. In Podujeve, he said that Arkan and Seselj forces are looting, torching and burning the city; that he said the KLA is working to try to protect the population there. In the mountainous area of Shala of Bajgora, a large concentration of civilians is being shelled, and they are coming down with diseases and suffering from the cold.

He said that in Vucitrn, the 5,000 people that were previously held by the Serbs have been freed are now moving to the mountains. He said they still don't have any information on the 20,000 in Kenderaj who are being used by the Serbs, he thinks -- he's received information that's hard to be sure of - to protect their ammunition factory there by locating them there. He said the fighting remains fierce in several regions, including the Malisevo region, and that increasing numbers of the civilian population are moving towards Macedonia and Albania.

So the short answer to your question is clearly the KLA, the Kosovar Liberation Army, is having a tough time of it, but they continue to, according to Mr. Thaci, continue to do what they can in these difficult circumstances.

QUESTION: Did they ask for heavy weapons from the United States, and what was the reply?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not in a position to get into all the details of our contacts with the KLA. Let me say, they clearly are looking for humanitarian support, including air drops. That is something that people are looking at but is obviously made difficult by the fact that it's unclear which areas are fully under the control of the KLA and obviously the air defense question.

QUESTION: Hanging onto another root of a question, while you may want to - or this building, they want to talk to him to find out the circumstances under which he said what he said, in general, does this government consider Mr. Rugova to be the principal spokesman for the Kosovar Albanians?

MR. RUBIN: Well, at Rambouillet, the Chairman of the Kosovar delegation was Mr. Thaci, as elected by all the delegates at Rambouillet, including Dr. Rugova, and he was the chairman of the delegation. In the meetings that I intended, Dr. Rugova allowed Mr. Thaci to be the chairman and to be the leader of the discussions. There has been some discussion amongst the various Kosovar Albanians on how they would formulate a provisional government of some kind. Dr. Rugova and Mr. Thaci have talked about different positions each of them would hold. So I'm not going to declare this situation, other than to say when the Secretary of State had to meet with one person in Rambouillet, by self selection and by selection of the delegation at Rambouillet, the Kosovars selected Mr. Thaci.

QUESTION: Getting back to what Mr. Thaci told you on the phone this morning, how much of the information that he gave you is the US in a position to be able to say is actually -

MR. RUBIN: Again, it's a real time situation. There are a lot of constraints on what I can say publicly and in a forum like this I tried to provide you -- and I'll try to provide you each day the best information we have, with respect to the basic point, that the Serbs continue to maraud and loot and burn houses, and forced expulsions, and send people in trains and buses and on foot and in cars out of their land. That is something we believe is going on.

With respect to specific information, I know that we do believe that around the Malisevo area, there were a large number of tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 50-75,000 civilians that were under threat. That is something we believe. But again, I've tried to be very careful with you during the course of these briefings. I know you're anxious to get as much information as possible -- and I'm certainly anxious to be able to provide you as much information as possible -- is to be very clear on our source. That's why I've been reading accounts from him very directly, and indicating where they come from and telling you what we do know, in general, is that we have our own independent ways of confirming that there are large refugee outflows; there are burning of houses; and we believe the reports of mass murder and forced expulsion are credible.

QUESTION: I may have missed it yesterday, but did you all issue the compilation of atrocities you had said you would yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're certainly going to try to do the best we can to issue all the documents we can. Whether you missed it or not, we'll still try to do the best we can.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. RUBIN: I don't obviously have the answer to that question and when we do have the answer to the question like that, I'll be happy to provide it to you.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Montenegro?

MR. RUBIN: On Montenegro, let me say that the situation is troubling. We are highly concerned about the possibility of civil strife within Montenegro as a result of provocation by Belgrade, and we urge continued calm in this sensitive republic. A Belgrade takeover in Montenegro would destroy the most credible and potent democratic force in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and have negative implications throughout the region. We urge the public to remain calm and avoid confrontation with public security forces.

We have reiterated to President Milosevic that world attention on Kosovo does not mean that Yugoslavia has a free hand to cause problems in other parts of Yugoslavia or the region. Our message to the FRY leadership is clear: any attempt to overthrow the democratically elected Montenegrin Government would only fuel wider regional instability, lead to deeper isolation for Yugoslavia and escalate the conflict with NATO.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if this takes into account the replacement of the head of the second army commander?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we are aware of that. That is one of the reasons why we're so concerned about that. That's a very clear indicator that Milosevic has doubts about the loyalty of his forces there, and it's a matter of deep concern to us.

QUESTION: Can you spell out what escalate would mean?

MR. RUBIN: No, I'm using the terms of art that are provided to me.

QUESTION: You talked about provocation's by Belgrade. Can you be more specific?

MR. RUBIN: Well, for example, as I indicated in response to Roy's question, the changing of the leader of the army there and the reports and indicators we've been getting, that they are going to challenge Montenegrin's democratic course, are troubling to us. We've had a variety of indicators over the last couple of years that at various times Milosevic has considered trying to suppress the democratic course that the Montenegrins have been on. (It was made available yesterday.) The reporting is troubling, and that's why we're making such clear public statements.

QUESTION: Jamie, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has called for an emergency meeting of the G8 foreign ministers. First off, does the Secretary - does the State Department have a reaction to that request?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright, by the way, has been in touch twice in the last two days with Foreign Minister Ivanov, once today and once yesterday. With respect to that particular suggestion, let me say that we think that the basis for a halt to NATO air strikes is well known, that Milosevic must halt his offensive, pullback troops and embrace the Rambouillet accords as the basis for the settlement in Kosovo.

We have said that diplomatic initiatives that reinforce these principles would be constructive. The Secretary is in constant contact with the foreign ministers of the G8 countries. We are not sure that an emergency meeting of this kind is, therefore, an appropriate venue for the discussion of Kosovo. What we need to see is a reversal of course by Milosevic. That's what will enable diplomacy to be pursued and, nor do we necessarily believe that this is the appropriate venue for that.

QUESTION: In her conversations with Ivanov, did she discuss this issue of the Russians sending troops to the Balkan air -

MR. RUBIN: Troops?

QUESTION: I'm sorry, not troops, ships, to the Balkans.

MR. RUBIN: She did raise the issue, and she made clear what I indicated yesterday is we don't think this sends a very helpful message at all.

QUESTION: What kind of a reply did she get?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't normally provide you with the Russian Foreign Minister's end of the conversation. I think they've spoken publicly to what they said about that in the Russian press.

QUESTION: Have you seen government assessments - I understand there may be one from the US Navy that in a matter of days, Milosevic's aim of ethnically cleansing Kosovo will have been largely complete. Does this building agree with that assessment, and what does that mean for the situation confronting NATO?

MR. RUBIN: Again, let me say that there are a lot of people doing a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking and people will do that. I think everyone understood who's been through the Bosnia experience, and we watched the humanitarian catastrophe last fall, that the prospect of a massive outflow of refugees was part of the picture. That's why so much food and other supplies were stored in the region and, as Julia Taft has informed you, that, for example, that all the food that was necessary for these people has been stored in the region.

In the short-term, President Milosevic may think that he is accomplishing his objectives of driving ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo and presenting the international community with a fait accompli. But NATO's commitment to this crisis is not a short-term one. NATO strategy is aimed at disrupting and crippling the assets that enable Milosevic to carry out his atrocities in Kosovo. Those assets also form the basis of Milosevic's power. The longer he refuses to stop his campaign of terror, withdraw his forces and embrace a settlement based on Rambouillet, the longer NATO air strikes will continue. If Milosevic refuses to comply with the demands of the international community, he will increasingly find himself stripped of the military and police assets that have enabled him to maintain dictatorial control over Serbia and to wage a campaign of terror against the population of Kosovo.

The basis of his power will be increasingly undermined. Sooner of later, he will have to come to terms with the demands of the international community, will remove his forces from Kosovo and allow the return of the refugees he has driven out.

QUESTION: General Clark this morning addressed what he said, his discussions about using the enabling force in Macedonia for some kind of small scale sanctuary. Do you know anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not familiar with what General Clark said on that. On our policy and the policy of the allies has not changed on the subject of ground troops.

QUESTION: Jamie, you've made mention of Rambouillet as a basis for a settlement several times. In your discussions with Mr. Thaci or others with the KLA or the Kosovar leadership, do they still believe that Rambouillet is a basis for a settlement after what's happened since they signed?

MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly I indicated the President made very clear that Milosevic is losing his claim to Kosovo, and that is a result of the actions he's taking on the ground. Obviously, part of the calculation of that analysis is the increasing radicalization of the population of Kosovo. While I don't think the Kosovar Albanians have walked away from their signature, I think they do believe that Milosevic has been, by his actions, decreased the legitimacy he has to his claims to Kosovo, and they do believe that. But on the other hand, I'm not aware that they have walked away from what they signed. Remember, what the basis principle of Rambouillet was, was self-government and that self-government backed up by a NATO-led security presence, and that remains our view.

QUESTION: A problem to your answers to both Mark and Charlie, in light of everything that's happened, is it any longer conceivable that NATO can allow Belgrade to rule Kosovo post-war?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to in a real time situation start speculating about the long-term. What we need to see, if we're going to get beyond the current NATO air campaign or the terms that I've described -- and that is the pulling back of his forces, the stopping of the offensive and embracing peace based on the Rambouillet accords. As far what will come out of that, again, self-government and security presence to back up that self-government remains our view. On the other hand, as the President and others have indicated Slobodan Milosevic is jeopardizing with each passing day his claim to Kosovo.

QUESTION: Well, in Bosnia, there's been problems with return of refugees because various factions control various places they'd like to go to. Do you think it would be possible for ethnic Albanian refugees to return to Kosovo if Serbia is still in control?

MR. RUBIN: We are determined to do what we can to ensure that the refugees have an opportunity to return, and that remains our view. I'm just not going to speculate on what a situation would be after President Milosevic reverses course other than to make the general analytical point the President made, which is that he's losing his claim to Kosovo.

QUESTION: You gave a very full answer to Mark's question, but I think the core issue - I'm still unclear about your response to that - how long, how many days or weeks, do you think are left before Kosovo will be ethnically cleansed?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's being ethnically cleansed right now. As far as what the future will hold, we're quite aware of President Milosevic's brutal tactics and what that means on the ground. I'm not going to give you an assessment of the number of days it will take to drive the remaining Kosovar Albanians out of there. Clearly, we are concerned about the situation; we're working on the situation; and, as I said, that NATO is going to continue to disrupt and cripple the assets that enable Milosevic to carry out this policy in Kosovo. But I'm not going to try to track exactly how long it will take him to pursue this brutal policy.

QUESTION: Today is the Serbian television's broadcast Milosevic and Albanian leader meeting. Were you convinced he went to Milosevic his free will?

MR. RUBIN: We just discussed this earlier, maybe you missed it. What I indicated was that I'm not going to speculate on Rugova's state of mind. We would like an opportunity to talk to him and to be able to ensure that he has freedom of movement and his family has freedom of movement. I'm not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Once the cleansing of Kosovo is complete, Milosevic would be in a position to call for a cease-fire. Based on your answer to your previous question, it would appear that such a call for a cease-fire by Milosevic would probably be ignored and NATO would continue. Is that what you're saying?

MR. RUBIN: That's not an outcome that we intend to accept.

QUESTION: As far as you all are concerned, is Milosevic responsible for rebuilding these towns, villages that he's destroyed so that these people will have something to come back to?

MR. RUBIN: We obviously would be delighted to be in a situation where we could begin to work on the rebuilding of the Kosovar Albanian towns that have been destroyed by allowing these people to go back. Clearly, he's responsible for what's gone on there. There's no question about that.

QUESTION: Jamie, going back to the servicemen that were abducted, I mean does the US believe that Milosevic is going to try to use these men as a bargaining chip in terms of halting this military attack?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I wouldn't rule out any tactic on the part of someone who's conducted the terrible policies that he's conducted in Kosovo.

QUESTION: Let me follow up - no concern that this latest crisis is going to lead to any cracks in the alliance and the alliance's resolve here?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright has been in daily contact with most of the members of the alliance or certainly leading members. Today, I know she spoke to Secretary General Solana; she spoke to Foreign Minister Vedrine, Foreign Minister Dini. What we have been quite heartened by is that as European leaders see and their public see more and more about what Milosevic is doing in Kosovo, the determination of the NATO alliance to stay the course only grows. Regardless of whether a particular abduction occurs, the President and the other leaders of NATO are determined to stay the course.

QUESTION: Is it totally a military decision on what level of degradation of the Yugoslav forces is sufficient for NATO to -

MR. RUBIN: That would be a decision for the Commander-in-Chief to decide that the military objectives have been met in consultation with other key leaders of NATO.

QUESTION: Jamie, I understand the consistent line the Administration is taking about how everyone always knew this was not going to be easy and that given his penchant for violence, Milosevic was capable of almost anything. But is there a single person in this government who was surprised that the NATO air strikes to this point have not had any discernible effect on Milosevic or his polices?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've said from the beginning one of the goals was to deter the continuing offensive, and so we did set as a goal deterring the continuing offensive. It has not bee deterred as yet. So that was one goal. But we also made clear, recognizing that that might not happen, that if he wasn't deterred, that if necessary in the original statement by the President, that we would pursue this policy of disrupting and damaging his offensive capabilities.

QUESTION: I understand that. But the question is, is any one of the planners surprised, a single person surprised, that the strikes have not had their desired effect up to this point?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to get into the personal views of members of this building or any other building. I think people hoped that Milosevic would see the wisdom of avoiding this kind of conflict and pursuing peace. I think everyone hoped it in the government, outside the government, at the think tanks, in the editorial pages, in all the commentary in this room, I'm sure, so everyone hoped that. But the idea that one expected that is simply not correct. One knew one had to try to pursue a peaceful outcome. One also knew that in the absence of the credible threat of force, there was no chance of getting a peaceful outcome.

What we knew was last fall, there was a terrible tragedy in Kosovo. Over the last year, there was a terrible tragedy in Kosovo. So what we tried to do is pursue a peaceful path through negotiations through the winter because we expected - and I indicated this to most of you in this room - an offensive in the springtime; that if we didn't solve the problem in the winter, the underlying political problem, that we faced another tragedy in the spring.

So that was always our understanding. The question was what to do about it. So we pursued what we thought had the best chance of succeeding peacefully, that is a policy of backing diplomacy with the threat of force, knowing that if we didn't succeed peacefully, it was going to happen anyway. Once the offensive began well before the air strikes began, I think it only accelerated the decision-making to pursue the air campaign because we would not accept a situation where we stood idly by while this kind of terrible thing was happening.

QUESTION: Do you intend to brief tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have an answer to that question yet.

QUESTION: Has the Chinese told you that they do or do not or are they still discussing the opening of its Yugoslav interests section?

MR. RUBIN: I do not have an answer to the question of who will be the protecting power, yes.

QUESTION: On Lockerbie, are you anticipating any break in that today? There's been some speculation.

MR. RUBIN: There's no way to speculate when Muammar Qadhafi will provide the suspects as required by the UN resolutions. When it happens, we'll react to it.

QUESTION: There are some more reports out of the UN saying that US officials have told the relatives of people who were on the plane that it could happen as early as Saturday, it could happen by Monday. Are you aware of it?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. I wouldn't dispute any such reports but again, from this podium, we will believe that when it happens.

QUESTION: One more thing, completely a different continent, Zimbabwe. There's some report, the US has cut off all aid to Zimbabwe. Do you have anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything on that. We can check for you.

Thank you.


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