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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #73, 99-06-08

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


Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

SERBIA (Kosovo)

1 Secretary Albright's Meetings in Germany with G-8 Regarding Kosovo

3 President Ahtisaari's Travel to Beijing Regarding Kosovo

3-4 Update on International Rescue Committee's Air Drop Mission In Kosovo

4-5 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Plans to Travel to Moscow Regarding Kosovo


1,5 Arrest of Members of Iranian Jewish Community on Charges of Spying for US and Israel

5-6 US-Iranian Relations


1-2 Results of US Team's Visit to Kumchang-ni

2 Status of Dr. Perry's Ongoing Review

7 Reported Naval Encounter Between North and South Korea at the Northern Limit Line


2 Status of Envoy / Travel to Beijing Regarding Embassy Bombing Investigation

3 President Ahtisaari's Travel to Beijing Regarding Kosovo


6 Update on Indonesian Elections


7 Reported Hunger Strike


7-8 Update on Fighting in Kashmir/Indian Government Invitation for Pakistan's Foreign Minister to Visit New Delhi


TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 1999, 1:18 P.M.


MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. It's cool in here, which I fear may motivate you to prolong this briefing.

QUESTION: No, no, no way.

MR. FOLEY: Because I'm not going to discuss Kosovo here, since Secretary Albright and Mr. Rubin are doing so on an almost hourly basis in the field, I suspect that the range of subjects of interest to you will be a narrow one.

I don't have any announcements to make, so let me go, George, right to your questions.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the 13 people arrested by the Iranians on charges of spying for Israel and the United States?

MR. FOLEY: We are aware that 13 members of the Jewish community in Iran have been arrested and are expected to be charged with espionage for Israel and the United States. These arrests send a very disturbing signal.

We call on the government of Iran to ensure no harm comes to these individuals and to release them.

QUESTION: Specifically, they're charged - or at least accused - of spying also for the United States. Can you deny categorically that they were not serving in any function?

MR. FOLEY: Well, you know our policy on this general issue. So without crediting in any way the thesis behind the accusations, we simply don't comment on intelligence matters.

QUESTION: Did they have any connection at all with the United States?

MR. FOLEY: I think the answer was very much implied in what I just said.

QUESTION: To another subject. Jim, do you have any -- or can you state anything with regard to the inspection of Kumchang-ni - the Kumchang-ni site? What has Mr. Perry done? Anything that has to do with us and North Korea in the last couple of weeks, has been very sparsely reported, if at all.

MR. FOLEY: Well, Bill, you may not have been here; it may have been one of the days you weren't here, when Jamie Rubin actually addressed the issue of the visit to the site. It went very well. They found simply an empty, unfinished tunnel. They had the access they needed, and the right and ability to return there. I believe it's expected they will return next year in May. So it was a productive visit.

That is a separate matter from Dr. Perry's ongoing review. He is, as it happens, in Washington this week, and is taking the opportunity, with Congress back in session, to consult with members, as he has many times in the past, and to brief them on his trip to Pyongyang. He will brief appropriate Senate and House committees, and meet with a number of individual senators and representatives tomorrow and Thursday, to further consult with them on matters related to North Korea policy.

As I indicated, his review is not yet complete. It is in its final stages, and we expect Dr. Perry to be reporting to the President soon.

QUESTION: Once again, pardon my being ill-informed about this, and I don't believe I was here for that briefing, but what was the final conclusion - that the underground site - or is there a final conclusion? Was it something that could be used for a nuclear facility, or was it judged to be something more benign, or was there any judgment about it at all?

MR. FOLEY: I'd want to be careful and refer you back to the specific transcript of Jamie Rubin's remarks, simply because I don't want to - not having dealt with this issue for a couple of weeks now - contradict what he said. But to repeat what I just said a minute ago, they found an empty hole, if you will; an unfinished, not completely excavated site. And in terms of determining what the intention had been or might have been behind the site, I don't know if we've drawn those conclusions. But it's clear that the site itself was empty.

QUESTION: What's the next step in the bombing of the Chinese Embassy? When's a delegation going there and what -

MR. FOLEY: We expect that an appropriate envoy will be traveling in the not-too-distant future to Beijing, to explain to the Chinese authorities the results of our investigation into the mistaken and tragic bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. I don't have, yet, the name of the envoy or the date of the travel; but, as I said, in the not-too-distant future I would expect that to happen.

QUESTION: Do you think that person will come from this building?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have the name, so I don't want to rule anyone in or out.

QUESTION: So it's not Pickering?

MR. FOLEY: I didn't rule anybody in or out.

QUESTION: Do you have any knowledge about a plan of President Ahtisaari traveling to China?

MR. FOLEY: I believe he's departed Beijing now. And if that was a clever way to get me to address the Kosovo issue, I will do so in a very limited way; simply to say that clearly the matter is now before the Security Council. I believe that the draft resolution that the G-8 ministers reached agreement on in Germany has now been tabled in New York, and therefore will be subject to, eventually, a vote in the Security Council. And we expect to hear from President Ahtisaari about how his visit went.

But as a general matter though, we do not expect that China will stand in the way of the peaceful settlement of the Kosovo conflict that's envisioned in the resolution prepared by the G-8 foreign ministers. China has long supported an end to the conflict and a peaceful, diplomatic settlement, and that's what the proposed resolution embodies.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - not on political things, if you can answer that.

MR. FOLEY: I guess I opened the door.

QUESTION: The situation inside Kosovo - I mean, is there concern, as these negotiations go on or are completed, about what's happening to people within Kosovo? I think the International Rescue Committee over the weekend said they were very concerned that there was starvation.

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've been very concerned, obviously, since the beginning of the conflict, since the beginning of the campaign of ethnic cleansing, which actually preceded the start of the NATO air campaign on March 24.

In that regard, what I can tell you is that the IRC conducted its fifth, I believe, air drop mission from Pescara, in Italy -- the IRC being the International Rescue Committee - early this morning. They flew two planes; both returned safely. All of the cargo was successfully delivered and, fortunately, the planes did not encounter any fire.

The planes delivered a total of 3,220 humanitarian daily rations (HDRs) and 525 high energy biscuits that were provided by the Swiss. Thus far, almost 8,000 of the HDRs and 525 of the biscuits have been air dropped into the province.

We understand that IRC is currently exploring means to rapidly expand the operation. We believe that the condition of the internally displaced persons inside Kosovo has indeed deteriorated dramatically, due to lack of adequate food and shelter.

Regardless of when a peace agreement is finalized, it is extremely important that food be provided to those in need as quickly as possible. Therefore, we believe there will be a continuing need for air drops of food and supplies into isolated and hard-to-reach areas, where some of the internally displaced peoples have sought refuge. Clearly, beyond that, it will be of the utmost priority of the international community, once the international civil and military presence is deploying into Kosovo, to immediately seek out and attempt to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of those people.

QUESTION: Does that mean as soon as the international force begins to go in, it's possible that NATO could take over the air drops from the IRC?

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that.

QUESTION: I know you didn't; I'm just saying, is that a possibility?

MR. FOLEY: I have not heard that said. I think the air drops will continue, as I said. As to whether the IRC will continue them or not remains to be seen, but certainly the provision of humanitarian assistance is the province of the international civilian organizations, as it has been.

QUESTION: So there is this urgency, or even perhaps emergency --

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've called it an urgency or humanitarian emergency for two-and-a-half months now. But certainly, I take your point - as each day has passed that these internally displaced people have not had access to food, to shelter, to medicine, our concerns have grown.

QUESTION: There is this urgency to get this peace settlement and to get in on the ground and minister to the needs of the internally displaced?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. Yes, of course.

QUESTION: Back to the arrests of the Iranian Jews. Do you know why --

QUESTION: On food, one more, please, Jim. Is there any evidence that this food is getting to these people?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to take that question, Betsy, to know. You know the IRC had an initial flight on its first day of operation, in which I believe they leafleted some of the areas, to inform people that these airdrops would be ensuing. I'm not sure - I've not seen any reference to the assessment about it getting into the hands of the internally displaced peoples. I think that - let me look into that, to see if we have any information on that; probably we do have anecdotally some information, I would think.

QUESTION: Can you give a little more detail on Deputy Secretary Talbott's mission to Moscow - exactly how that fits in with what's going on at the United Nations?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry - Deputy Secretary Talbott's trip to Moscow?


MR. FOLEY: Well, as a result of President Clinton's telephone conversation with President Yeltsin, President Clinton and Secretary Albright have asked Deputy Secretary Talbott to travel to Moscow to work with the Russians on their participation in the Kosovo security force.

Deputy Secretary Talbott and an interagency team will depart tomorrow, Wednesday, and arrive in Moscow on Thursday. We don't yet, I think, have the full scope of his meetings and of his length of stay in Moscow, but it's for the purpose that I just described; which is to try to address and work out the arrangements for Russian participation in both civilian and military sides of the implementation presence in Kosovo.

QUESTION: Could I return to the Iranians --

MR. FOLEY: Yes - I don't have more for you on it, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you know when they were arrested?

MR. FOLEY: Our understanding is that it happened some time ago. We learned of the arrests ourselves several months ago, and have been monitoring the situation closely. We treated the matter with a certain degree of discretion, at the request of those who were directly involved in attempting to seek the release of the individuals. Now that it's in the public domain, we believe it's appropriate to speak out on the matter.

QUESTION: Will this have any effect on the budding relationship between the United States and Iran?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure I can share your characterization of the relationship.

QUESTION: Well, with wrestling teams and such?

MR. FOLEY: I think we've demonstrated, Jim, that we have been interested in pursuing a different and better relationship with the government of Iran, after 20 years of no relations, and of little communication, and no fruitful progress in our relationship; that we've been committed to pursuing that option, while at the same time not in any way abandoning our serious concerns on a number of fronts. We would like to arrive at an authorized, official dialogue with the government of Iran, in which we would have the opportunity to lay on the table our issues of concern, as they would from their perspective. But that is short of that because the authorities in Tehran have not embraced that idea. But I think on both sides there has been a willingness to proceed on the civilizational dialogue that President Khatemi talked about. From our part, we've encouraged people-to-people exchanges and we think that's - since it's in the realm of the possible, that that can help create an atmosphere for better relations.

But that does not mean in any way that we've relinquished or abandoned any of our concerns.

QUESTION: I understand that, but my question is: Does the arrest itself affect the dialogue or the attempted dialogue that you're trying to set up?

MR. FOLEY: Let me repeat what I just said. We have a number of areas of concern that remain and that we would address in any kind of a dialogue.

Obviously, this is something about which we are very concerned. As I said a minute ago, the arrests send a very disturbing signal.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Indonesian elections?

MR. FOLEY: Well, very preliminary reaction because, as you know, George, the vote-counting has just, in effect, begun. What I can say is that while it is premature to provide an overall assessment of the Indonesian election, Indonesia is to be congratulated on the conduct of the election campaign to date.

Political violence was contained; numerous political parties were permitted openly to express their ideas; and citizens were able to freely participate. I think congratulations go, in the first instance, to the people of Indonesia. I think anyone who's been reading the newspapers, yesterday and today, can see all kinds of anecdotal evidence that the people of Indonesia were thrilled with the opportunity to cast their ballots in a meaningful election.

As I said, overall, the election day itself proceeded smoothly in most parts of the country. In most areas, polls opened on time and citizens were able to vote for the political party of their choice. We noticed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, as I said, on the part of the electorate. Domestic monitors, both political party representatives and independent monitoring groups, turned out in force to observe the elections.

There were some problems reported on the election day - cases where election materials were not present in sufficient quantity at polling stations. But these do not appear to have affected the overall conduct of the election.

As I said, it's too early to assess the votes. Little more than one percent of the vote has been tabulated and released. We understand that the international observer missions, including the Carter Center - former President Carter, who leads the Carter Center - and the NDI delegation, are expected to issue findings tomorrow on the processing of the vote and the vote tabulation.

I think that our interest, at this point - and it's a very fundamental interest - is in seeing credible election results, that reflect the wishes of the Indonesian voters, and that's what we're going to be assessing in they days to come.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about the trial of PKK leader Ocalan?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new on that today for you, no.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the hunger strike in Cuba?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've seen the press reports on that just this morning. I don't have any hard information about those who are beginning the hunger strike. But certainly, we're not surprised that the Cuban people are taking dramatic steps to call attention to the increased repression and to the ongoing abuses of human rights in Cuba.

In that regard, I think it was demonstrated very clearly in Geneva, that the international community is aware of and seized of the matter of violations of Cuban human rights. So certainly, there's going to be attention given, not only to the fact of the hunger strike, but that which the hunger strike is meant to highlight, which is the ongoing record of human rights abuses in Cuba.

QUESTION: North Korea, just real quick. Are there any US concerns or reactions to the report that North Korean patrol ships crossed into South Korean waters?

MR. FOLEY: We understand that report is, actually, not technically accurate. What I can tell you is that we are in touch with Republic of Korea officials, who confirm that the northern limit line was approached by those vessels, but not violated by the DPRK vessels. The situation is apparently calm. I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon for specific details, however.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about the Pakistani Foreign Minister's planned trip to India? Will it take place this weekend?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I understand that the Indian Government has tendered such an invitation. Just to update you on the situation, however, Indian air and ground attacks continue in the Kargil area of Kashmir against infiltrators from Pakistan. While India reports the capture of some strongpoints, it has not made major advances.

As you say, India has proposed that Pakistan's Foreign Minister visit New Delhi on June 12 for talks on the fighting. I'd like to emphasize that the United States strongly supports talks between India and Pakistan to resolve this latest dispute. We remain in contact with the Indian and Pakistani Governments to express our strong concern, to urge them to show restraint and to respect the line of control, which was agreed to over 25 years ago by India and Pakistan.

We also urge them to prevent the fighting from spreading beyond the Kargil sector, and to work together to reduce tensions.

QUESTION: Are you aware that the Pakistanis have accepted? I thought I'd seen that on the wires.

MR. FOLEY: When did you see that, because I had not before coming in.

QUESTION: I could be wrong; I thought it was like 20 minutes ago or something.

MR. FOLEY: If they have accepted it, we would welcome that, because we think direct talks are the best avenue, the best means of defusing tensions and resolving this latest dispute.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about Scheffer's trip to Africa?

MR. FOLEY: I don't; I can get that for you afterwards, if you'd like.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. FOLEY: OK, thank you.

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

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