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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #113, 99-08-30

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>


1004

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, August 30, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

MIDDLE EAST
1-8	Peace Process / Final Negotiations / Secretary Albright's Meeting
	 with Palestinian Representatives /Wye Implementation / Chairman
	 Arafat / Secretary's Travel to the Middle East / US Support /
	 Prisoner Releases / Final Status Talks Target Date 
2-9	Secretary Albright's Travel to the Region / Syrian Track / Lebanon
	 / Mistreatment of American Prisoners 

INDONESIA 9-10;15 UN Administered Vote in East Timor / Security Concerns

RUSSIA 10-12 Money Laundering / IMF / Crime and Corruption in Former Communist Countries / US Bilateral Assistance

JAPAN 10 State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Visit

CHINA 12-13 Humanitarian Payments to Bombing Victims / Discussions on Property Damage to Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, and US Diplomatic Installations

VENEZUELA 13-15 Democratic Procedures / Constitutional Change / Constituent Assembly

NORTH KOREA / SOUTH KOREA 15-16 Food Aid / Easing of Sanctions / Efforts to Improve Relations with US and International Community / Security Issues

CUBA 16-17 Fight Against Drugs


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #113

MONDAY, AUGUST 30, 1999, 1:10 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Sorry for the delay. I don't have any announcements.

QUESTION: Well, it may be "end game" maneuvering but, all of a sudden, a lot of the hopeful statements of last week are vanishing, and the Palestinians are particularly speaking of some crisis atmosphere. What is the US view of the situation? Does it still seem positive and on track?

MR. FOLEY: I am tempted to read my guidance. The guidance starts with the word "look."

QUESTION: Look?

MR. FOLEY: I think this is the dumbing down of State Department guidance, which I will resist. Look, there have been ups and downs in the peace process and I will tell you after the briefing what I think about it.

QUESTION: There have been ups and downs.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, and especially in the last few days but, of course, this is not the first time this has happened but I think if you read the newspapers or even monitored the wire services hour by hour, you would see that the parties are blowing hot and cold hour by hour there. And I think this is characteristic of a negotiation which is, as you implied, entering what we hope to be its final stages.

We are endeavoring on our part to facilitate the parties reaching agreement, but that is precisely the point; it is up to the parties to reach the agreement, and we don't believe that there is any substitute for the parties engaging directly and meaningfully to solve problems. As you know, Secretary Albright met with Mr. Abu Mazen and Mr. Erakat on Friday, to get a status report from them of how things were going -- also to look ahead towards her visit. But it was precisely that: to hear from them how things are going.

We believe that it's the Israelis and the Palestinians, through these direct talks, that this matter can be successfully resolved. In our view, this is precisely the kind of effective bilateral engagement that was lacking for several years, and is now present between the parties, and we think they need to continue their efforts to work together to reach agreement as quickly as possible. We certainly hope that the parties will succeed in concluding an agreement on Wye implementation before the Secretary's trip to the region.

QUESTION: You're certainly not withdrawing her rather hopeful statement after that meeting Friday, are you?

MR. FOLEY: No, we're not. But I think it's not surprising that, as the parties narrow their differences, and are able to glimpse success within their grasp, that it gets more difficult when peace or - excuse me - agreement is within the grasp of the negotiators. She received what she considered to be a hopeful report on Friday. And again, we've seen further hopeful indications over the last days, including this morning, just reading the wires. We've also seen other reports that some of the negotiators are more pessimistic than other ones, but we continue to expect, and certainly hope, that they will actually achieve an agreement on Wye implementation, before the Secretary reaches the region.

QUESTION: OK, last then because there are so many other people. Mr. Arafat is on the move in, evidently, Morocco where she is headed.

MR. FOLEY: Right.

QUESTION: Are they apt to meet there? And what's the view here about he being in motion in this vital end period? Doesn't he have to be pretty much on the premises to seal the deal? Does this hamper the final negotiations -- that he's doing a little traveling in the region?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't want to read that into it. I hadn't heard he was going to Morocco. I do know that Egypt, for example, has played a role - also a litative role -- as the two parties inch their way towards what we hope will be an agreement. Nevertheless, the telephones work wherever he is. He's not the lead negotiator; he's designated other Palestinians to play the negotiator role. So I would not see that as an impediment in any way.

QUESTION: And she's not meeting - (inaudible) -- ?

MR. FOLEY: I have no information on that. She'll be meeting with him in the West Bank. Yes, that's all I know.

QUESTION: If they don't have an agreement by the time the Secretary arrives in Jerusalem Thursday night, would she then see it as her mission to insure that they did have an agreement by the time she left?

MR. FOLEY: That's a good question. However, we have made clear - and I just did today - that we regard this principally, if not exclusively, as a matter for the two parties to negotiate between themselves. We have played a facilitative role, and we've tried to be helpful. But the Wye implementation negotiations are not the focus of the Secretary's visit to the region; it's more longer-reaching, looking towards how, over the next 14 to 15 months, we can assist the parties as they engage in final status negotiations on all tracks, with the aim of achieving an overall, comprehensive Middle East peace agreement by the end of the year 2000.

So that's really the focus of her trip, is to - you'll love this phrase - to take stock of where the parties are, but also to look ahead. And as I said a minute ago, it is our expectation and it is most certainly our hope that this aspect of the negotiations, namely the implementation of the Wye Agreement, will be successfully completed before the Secretary departs.

Now, you're asking a hypothetical question. If those are not completed, my understanding is that the Israelis have made clear that if there is an inability to reach agreement on some of these modifications to Wye implementation, then the Israelis are prepared unilaterally to implement Wye as it was agreed last October.

QUESTION: How does the US State Department feel about that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've been agnostic on the question. Obviously, we were a sponsor of the Wye talks. We support them; we support their implementation. We've always said that, if the two parties themselves could reach agreements on any changes or modification to Wye, we would certainly be supportive -- if the parties were able to agree. This is not a US effort, though.

QUESTION: But the opposite might happen if the two parties don't agree on modification. I mean, this is today; tomorrow it might change again. It might change in three hours.

MR. FOLEY: I don't think that contradicts our policy, though.

QUESTION: No, but it does leave it open and it does leave something uncovered here. I know your policy: They have to agree on the minor changes, and that's OK with you - minor changes. What if they don't agree on a minor change and Israel says, for instance, this is the way it's going to be, and goes ahead to implement that revised slightly - whatever, revised scheme? Would the US disapprove of such action?

MR. FOLEY: As I said, we're a sponsor of the Wye agreement. We continue to support them. We want to see Wye implemented. That's our view. If they're able to achieve real agreement between them on any modifications, we're supportive of that. But we're not being prescriptive in this area; we're playing a facilitator's role.

QUESTION: Jim, was the Secretary in touch with Prime Minister Barak or the Foreign Minister, or is there any US official in touch with Israeli officials urging them to get rid of this midnight deadline, and extend the talks until Secretary Albright's visit on Thursday?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that. Secretary Albright did call Chairman Arafat on Friday after her meeting with Abu Mazen and Saeb Erakat, simply to review the meeting and say that she looked forward to her visit. But US officials have been in contact with their Israeli, as well as Palestinian, counterparts. I'm sure that continued over the weekend, because that's been an ongoing contact. But I'm not aware of your specific report, though.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the Secretary is not going to get drawn into the specifics of this negotiation?

MR. FOLEY: I've indicated that's not the focus of her visit.

QUESTION: I understand it's not the focus of her visit but are you saying, as she said before, that she's not going to get sucked into it, and that's that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not aware that anybody has used those words. I've described the purpose of her trip, which is to take stock, and to look ahead to the intensive period we're entering in which there are, we hope and expect, going to be final status negotiations, and negotiations on all tracks to close the circle of peace in the Middle East. The specific matter of implementation of Wye is not the focus of her visit, and I am treating it as a speculative question, though, precisely because we hope that the parties will actually achieve agreement on implementing Wye before she gets to the region.

QUESTION: Have the Palestinians requested, for example, in the conversation between the Secretary and Chairman Arafat on Friday, have they requested US mediation in their dispute, specifically on the prisoner issue?

MR. FOLEY: They discussed prisoner releases in that meeting. I'm not going to get into the details of the meeting. Again, our long-standing view is that this one aspect of the negotiations is a matter to be discussed and determined by the parties dealing directly with each other. It's not something I'm going to comment on.

QUESTION: Well, on the prisoner release, the political prisoners are the main issue remaining to get to final status talks, in a sense -- at least that's what the Palestinians are saying. Is the Secretary, if she does take up the issue of political prisoners or the numbers to be --

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say she was.

QUESTION: Yes, you didn't, but the Palestinians are saying she will. Maybe you want to comment on that.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I am going to bore all of you by repeating myself ad nauseum but, again, that's not the focus of her visit, number one. Number two, it is our hope that actually these issues will be resolved by the time she gets to the region.

QUESTION: My question addresses the American citizens that are also political prisoners.

MR. FOLEY: That's a more specific matter. We can get to that if we're done with the Secretary's trip and the peace process. I'll come back to you on that.

QUESTION: You said earlier in the guidance somewhere about concluding the final status talks by the end of the year 2000. Is that something that you said?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe that when Prime Minister Barak was here at the end of June he, himself, laid out an ambitious 15-month timetable. You can do the math in terms of where that gets us in the year 2000, but that's roughly the case, yes.

QUESTION: So the target date then, we all agree, should be end of the year 2000?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Wrapping it all up?

MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a very ambitious aim. We recognize that nothing will be harder than the final status issues, which have long been postponed. We are encouraged by the fact that the region seems poised to grapple with those issues, finally, after years of treading water, as you indicated, where we had a crisis of confidence between the parties, and they were paralyzed over issues that, in the larger scheme of things, are of secondary importance to the final status issues. So we realize this is going to be an extraordinarily difficult period ahead, to achieve success in final status negotiations to close the circle of peace in the Middle East. It is simply a fact, though, that it is a hopeful sign that the parties are apparently on the verge of grappling with those issues.

QUESTION: Does what King Abdullah did yesterday or today, as far as tossing in the towel on Jerusalem and the holy sites, is that helpful to the negotiations?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of what you are referring to.

QUESTION: He said that he has delegated -- according to the reports -- he has delegated authority for negotiating the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat, to the Palestinian delegation. I mean, it's been all over the wires for eight hours.

MR. FOLEY: Sorry,, I haven't been spending all my time reading the wires.

QUESTION: Could you take that question?

MR. FOLEY: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: It could be quite important.

MR. FOLEY: Sure, but we're probably not going to be in a position to comment specifically about final status issues. If what you've said, the report you've given, which is a procedural matter in terms of negotiations, if that helps matters then that's obviously positive. But the issues themselves -- for example, Jerusalem as a final status issue -- will be extraordinarily difficult to deal with. We are very aware of that, but the Secretary's trip is aiming to begin to set the groundwork for that phase of the negotiations to begin.

QUESTION: Come Saturday or whenever it is, does she believe that she can really fly out of the Middle East and tell the Israelis and Palestinians just to keep working on it and leave them to it?

MR. FOLEY: I think it's the view of the Israeli government that these discussions over Wye implementation will not continue ad infinitum. I believe their view, and our view, is that this is a matter for the two sides to decide. The Israeli side has made clear that they are prepared to implement Wye as it was agreed last October, and that they're not going to stretch this out indefinitely.

QUESTION: I know there's no answer to what I'm about to say. I do have a question at the end of it though. You're in the end game, too. It would be odd for the US to say, just wait until we get there, we'll help wrap this up, because the effect of that might be --

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that.

QUESTION: Of course. And you can't say it even though that may be very much the plan because if you said that --

MR. FOLEY: No, not necessarily.

QUESTION: -- the two sides would sit back and wait for you, and you don't want them to sit back. You want them to get it done themselves.

MR. FOLEY: But we have made that clear all along, that we want them to get it done themselves.

QUESTION: It's hard for me to believe that as eager as the State Department is to get Wye back on track and how she has said - as Sid quoted from a couple of years ago - she doesn't go there just to tread water. It's hard to believe that if they're not in agreement when she gets there she's going to say, hey, it's up to you to work out and just go on to Vietnam to open a consulate. It's really hard to believe she would depart the scene. But that's not a question. I just have trouble --

MR. FOLEY: But you're assuming --

QUESTION: I think you have - I think the statement has a motive too, in saying what postures they should work at and I think the motive is to make sure they work at it.

MR. FOLEY: Right. But the point I'm - the larger point I'm trying to make is that they are going to move - at least on the Palestinian-Israeli track - they are going to move to final status negotiations with or without agreement on these

QUESTION: That's true.

MR. FOLEY: With or without agreement on these - on this question of modification

QUESTION: All right, here's my question. Here's my question.

MR. FOLEY: Her visit is not material, if you will, to the question of whether final status negotiations will take place. Both sides are agreed to enter the final status negotiations on an accelerated basis. That's linked to Wye implementation. There's going to be Wye implementation. The question is whether the two parties agree to changes to Wye, or whether the Israelis will simply go ahead and implement the agreement as originally negotiated.

QUESTION: I understand and the US - the US endorsed the Israeli notion of accelerated action on final status talks a long time ago. Now that seems to be entwined with a final phase. According to some accounts, Israel is delaying the final withdrawal phase, to see how these final status talks are going - in fact, to see if there is a format for an accord.

MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to be able to help you with the actual specifics of what they're discussing.

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

MR. FOLEY: We've refrained from doing that all along.

QUESTION: But your description, which is not unusual, of these issues as being very thorny, doesn't suggest you're going to wrap it up in three months. Is it the US view that it's plausible to hold up withdrawal until there's a clear vision of what's going to happen, so far as an overall settlement is concerned? Don't you want Wye wrapped up one way or another?

MR. FOLEY: Again, my impression is that these are not negotiations that are going to drag on the way this briefing has dragged on on this subject. They are in the final phases; they are very close; they have an agreement within their grasp, if they have the will to cross the finish line. But failing that, there is going to be Wye implementation according to the terms negotiated last October, with all of the provisions of Wye, including redeployments.

So that will go forward. The question is how it goes forward - whether changed or unchanged - from October.

QUESTION: So you're saying the broader focus of the Secretary's visit was longer-term peace-making. What do you think her message will be for the Syrian leader, Hafez Assad, on that score?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to be in a position, publicly to talk about private meetings she's going to have. I simply laid out the broad goal of her visit to the region. Clearly, a critical component of closing the circle of peace in the Middle East is achieving peace between Israel and Syria and between Israel and Lebanon. Without getting in, in any way, to the specifics, obviously there has been disagreement between the parties about how they resume the Israeli-Syrian track. Yet we've seen evidence - I think it's obviously been in the public domain -- that each side is eager to resume those negotiations.

So if the Secretary can help contribute to progress in their resuming that track, and to lay the groundwork for their resuming that track, then this will be worthwhile. She's going to be exploring that possibility. I would not expect there to be, necessarily, something concrete or imminent coming out of that particular aspect of the visit, but she is hoping to make progress and lay the groundwork for resumption of that track.

QUESTION: If you won't agree that she will be talking prisoners, political prisoners on the Palestinian side, what about the American prisoners who have been tortured? We now have evidence, and the affidavits have been submitted to the Department of State, and there are five or six that have not been released, and have also been tortured and forced confessions. Is the Secretary intending to take any action on these cases while she's meeting with Barak?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't answer questions about additional cases that have not been brought to my attention. As a rule, though, it is the obligation of the American embassy or consulate in any country to take seriously any charges involving mistreatment of American prisoners wherever they may be, whoever they are.

We met with the three who were prominent in the news last week, and they did detail their charges of mistreatment and the conditions that they were detained under, and they provided us with the written affidavits that we had requested and that we required in order to be able to move forward with those cases. So what we are going to be doing is sending these reports to our embassy in Tel Aviv, and they are going to look into the reports and take them up with the relevant authorities. So we are going to be looking into these cases. Additional ones I'm not familiar with, but certainly as a matter of principle, though, our embassy has an obligation to act on behalf of American citizens who have been detained.

I would, of course, point out that American citizens, wherever they are -- whether it is in Israel or anywhere else in the world -- have an obligation to abide by the rules and laws of wherever they happen to be traveling. So it's not a question necessarily of our protesting in this or any case about an arrest, as such, depending on the circumstances. If we feel an arrest is unjustified, certainly we will act on behalf of the American. In any case, whether an arrest leads to legitimate prosecution or not, we do have an abiding concern in the treatment of Americans regardless of the facts of the case, and so we will weigh in in each and every case that this is brought to our attention.

QUESTION: But the overwhelming evidence - can I follow up here? The overwhelming evidence is that every political prisoner, including all the Americans, have been tortured and forced confessions. The Amnesty International informed the Department of State in 1994, asked for representation. Nothing was done. These three testified that nothing was done. You have five - we have names of five more who are undoubtedly - in fact, we know -- were tortured and forced confessions and the Department has done nothing on them.

What is the ground rule for working with Israel on this subject? Is the Secretary of State going to raise it with the Prime Minister?

MR. FOLEY: That's a lot of questions. First of all, I reject your sweeping characterization of Israeli policy in this regard. Our human rights reports does speak to our concerns about some Israeli practices in this area.

QUESTION: Including torture?

MR. FOLEY: Secondly, your characterization of the three who gave a press conference last week, and who came in to visit us on Friday, is also incorrect. As I stated on Thursday, one of the three requested that we not intervene. In one case, we did intervene. He claims he testified that his medical needs were met following the intervention of US authorities.

In the third case, we have a difference of view. I understand when the gentleman was here on Friday, he indicated that we had failed to act on his request to intervene. Our records show differently: that he had requested that we not act. I believe while he was still in detention he was supposed to get back to us with the written affidavit, which we got on Friday, and had not received from him in the many months either when he was still in Israel or had returned to the United States. That's the information I have on the case.

QUESTION: Can we get out of the Middle East? East Timor? (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Sure. Yes.

QUESTION: How do you assess the results of the -

MR. FOLEY: From a variety of sources, both from our embassy reporting, from press reports, from the statements by Mr. Jamsheed Marker, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative - all indicate that the UN- administered vote in East Timor was a success, with approximately 90 percent of those registered casting ballots. That is really an extraordinary figure, and shows the enthusiasm and commitment of the people of East Timor to undertake this democratic consultation.

Security concerns did lead to the temporary closing of a small number of polling stations. But the reports we have indicate that none of these interruptions interfered with individuals' ability to vote. I think I heard Mr. Marker state that, in fact, that no one had been disenfranchised.

Tragically, one UN employee, who was a locally-hired East Timorese individual, was killed during the voting and two others were injured in the same incident, which marred what was otherwise a generally peaceful day.

The United States welcomes this successful vote, noting that it is a very important step in the UN-administered transition of East Timor to a new status. As we move into the next phase, which is the vote-counting itself -- which I believe begins in about two days -- we call on all sides to accept the results of the poll, regardless of the outcome, and to exercise restraint.

Again, you've had three critical phases all along in this consultation process in East Timor. One was the vote and, aside from this tragic death, it appears to have been a successful vote. Second is the vote-counting, which must go forward in an orderly, peaceful and credible and transparent manner. Thirdly, you have the aftermath of the vote and the vote-counting; namely, the period of transition to whatever the people of East Timor have decided will be their future status, be it a status of autonomy within Indonesia or a status of independence.

Again, we deplore the killing of the UN employee and the wounding of two others. We note that in these next phases - vote counting and transition - that Indonesia retains the responsibility for maintaining order. And we remain concerned about the potential for violence; in particular, the government of Indonesia should prevent armed militia from resuming their activities.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on allegations of money laundering by high officials in the Russian Government, and suggestions that IMF funds might be among that?

MR. FOLEY: I didn't hear the latter part - suggestions that --

QUESTION: That International Monetary Fund moneys are among those that are being laundered?

MR. FOLEY: I have little to add to what we said last week, which is that this is a serious matter, and it is being investigated by relevant authorities, and we don't comment on ongoing investigations. But, of course, we are concerned by the reports that we've read about the type of corruption that might have been involved. We expect that the IMF, for its part, is examining closely its lending to Russia, to determine whether or not there has been any diversion or corruption in that respect. But I have no information to impart to you, first of all, because I don't have it; it's with the law enforcement community. And secondly, it's a general policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on a meeting taking place later today with the Japanese State Secretary of Foreign Affairs - Mr. Takemi?

MR. FOLEY: I'll have to get an answer for you. I wasn't aware of the meeting, and so let me find out who he's meeting with and what we can tell you - if not this afternoon, then maybe tomorrow.

QUESTION: Jim, can I follow up on the Russia money laundering?

MR. FOLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I know you don't talk politics in this room, but a few Republican presidential candidates have criticized the Administration, in particular Vice President Gore, over this alleged money laundering case, saying that the Administration and Gore ignored warning signs that Russia was in trouble; that the Administration and Gore were not sensitive to the levels of corruption that potentially was going on; and that Gore, in particular, was too willing to take pledges of reform. How do respond to this criticism?

MR. FOLEY: I think the criticism is very misplaced. First of all, we've always been aware that corruption is a major problem in Russia; it's a problem in virtually all communist countries in transition to democratic rule, and to the free market. The very period of transition has been rife with possibilities for corruption, and we've never discounted that possibility; it's something we take very seriously, and monitor as best we can. But the Vice President himself has a long-standing commitment to working on this problem - to reducing this problem - and in fact has used the Binational Commission, which he co-chairs, to advance programs that combat crime and corruption, and he took a proactive role in encouraging high-level Russian participation in February in the anti- corruption conference.

I think one point ought to put some of this debate into context, which is that US bilateral assistance was not provided as cash but as technical assistance and training, on a whole range of issues having to do with good governance and better economic management and the transition of a communist society to a society governed by the rule of law in a free market, which has been a very difficult transition, as we know. But US assistance has involved training on issues like tax reform, commercial law, development of an independent judiciary, small business development, private ownership of property. These are all, as I said, transitional issues. It's hard to call Russia, in these areas, a success. But it's important that Russia has embarked on the journey to democratic governance and the free market economy, as rocky as that has been.

But US assistance has been provided, not as cash, but as technical assistance precisely to help combat problems such as corruption, which afflicts this post-communist society. Of course, significant elements of US assistance have gone towards meeting our national security needs in the area of denuclearization, and bringing Russia's nuclear arsenal under control and in reduced amounts.

QUESTION: Jim, just to follow, do you believe - you say that corruption is a problem in Russia. I just would ask: Is corruption a problem at high levels or the highest level of the Russian Government, in that the Russian mob or the Russian mafia has some control of that government, do you think? Do you believe that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, those reports which indicate that the investigation is focusing on all levels demonstrates that the investigation is serious. We would take any evidence of high-level corruption seriously. It would be very disturbing. But we've been very careful -- as we are, not only in this context, but in any other context -- that when an investigation is ongoing, it's important not to leap to conclusions at this stage. We will obviously be in a better position to know more when the investigation has run its course.

QUESTION: One more time. Were the State Department and Vice President Gore aware that this investigation into alleged money laundering was going on?

MR. FOLEY: You'd have to ask the Vice President's office in terms of whether the law enforcement authorities kept the White House informed about the progress of their investigation. I don't have that information.

QUESTION: This building was kept in touch?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to get an answer for you on that.

QUESTION: Was the Secretary of State informed?

MR. FOLEY: I'll take the question.

QUESTION: OK.

MR. FOLEY: Well, you were rumbling, Matt, so - rumble goes first.

QUESTION: Sorry, but it's OK. The State Department's ace legal adviser is in Beijing again, for meetings today and tomorrow on the restitution --

MR. FOLEY: He's our only legal adviser.

QUESTION: He's an ace legal adviser, right? Anyway, so I'm just wondering --

MR. FOLEY: He's an ace legal adviser - David Andrews, for the record.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly. What do you expect out of it? Do you expect a resolution to the whole compensation, not just the --

MR. FOLEY: On the issue of humanitarian payments to the families --

QUESTION: I know that's done.

MR. FOLEY: -- and the victims, that not only was agreed, it's - the moneys have been transferred.

QUESTION: That's not what I'm talking about.

MR. FOLEY: I'll get that for you after the briefing. I had that last week. But what he's gone to Beijing for, is to begin to discuss, with his Chinese counterparts, the issue of property damage. And so --

QUESTION: Do you expect a resolution - I mean, I guess these talks are today and tomorrow?

MR. FOLEY: I don't know if we would expect a resolution this week on that; he's hoping to advance the ball. Obviously, I think it's probably a very complicated issue, so I wouldn't want to predict that they're going to reach any agreements this week. I just don't know about that. But they're discussing both - obviously the tremendous damage or the destruction of the Chinese Embassy - the mistaken destruction of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and also property damage to US diplomatic installations in China.

QUESTION: Venezuela: You last spoke - you expressed concern on Thursday about - that the government would stick to democratic procedures --

MR. FOLEY: Right.

QUESTION: Quite a lot has happened since then - the confrontations. Has your concern deepened over the weekend?

MR. FOLEY: We are watching the events in Venezuela with growing concern. The dispute between the National Constituent Assembly and the Congress has become an obstacle to the mandated task of defining institutional change. We hope that all parties will come to agreement about how to exercise power during the tenure of the Constituent Assembly, and to assure the establishment of a constitution that preserves Venezuela's long-standing democratic tradition.

As I said last week, we have been very mindful of the fact that Venezuela has, through legal means, embarked on constitutional change, and this not a matter for the United States to intervene upon. It's a matter for Venezuelans to determine their own future themselves. We, as well as the other members of the hemisphere, have a stake in the preservation of Venezuela as a functioning, credible democracy; and therefore the statement I made last week was an expression of our concern that, as the Constituent Assembly commences its work and begins to elaborate institutions for the future, that those institutions retain the checks and balances and the essence of a democratic form of government. That is a matter of principle.

But this current standoff - if you will - between the Constituent Assembly and the existing Congress, as I said, is an obstacle to the mandated task of defining institutional change. We hope that this can be worked out satisfactorily to all parties in conformity with the Constitution. We understand that, actually, there were arrangements that had been agreed and that the Church had played a helpful role in promoting such an agreement towards the end of last week, and then problems arose in the last few days, and we hope those problems can be eliminated, and that they can reach agreement to move forward.

QUESTION: To follow that, do you think that either side has violated democratic practice in the way they've --

MR. FOLEY: If you saw what I said last week, I indicated - and I was careful to indicate that we believed - our judgment was that the procedures that had been followed thus far were legal in the formation of the Constituent Assembly by a referendum. But let's be honest, though. A constituent assembly has awesome powers to shape the future of Venezuela and shape its institutional makeup, and our concern is that its democratic essence -- in substance, as well as form -- be preserved, both for the people of Venezuela and for the people of the hemisphere.

QUESTION: The government of Hugo Chavez respond to your deep concerns saying that the United States has to worry about its own problems, not about Venezuelan democracy. How do you get that response from the Chavez Government?

MR. FOLEY: I think what I said previously sort of anticipates your question, because I made clear that these are decisions for Venezuelans to make, not for the United States, and nothing I said indicated otherwise. But we, along with many other governments and peoples in the hemisphere, all have a stake in a democratic hemisphere, and have a stake in the continuation of the momentum in favor of democratic change and democratic consolidation in the hemisphere. So as friends of Venezuela - as friends of a democratic Venezuela - we express that concern.

QUESTION: Following on that, have there been discussions between the State Department and some of the other countries in the region specifically been about Venezuela in the last few days?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing specific to report. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if Venezuela hasn't come up in our diplomatic discussions with other nations in the hemisphere. That would be -- not abnormal.

QUESTION: Does the US have a preferred solution?

MR. FOLEY: I think I've made very clear that we're not in the business of micro-managing the -

QUESTION: No, no, no - I'm not suggesting that -

MR. FOLEY: Oh, you mean in the current standoff?

QUESTION: Yes, exactly. I mean, is there something other than peaceful --

MR. FOLEY: No, I believe that the Church has been involved in trying to brokering a solution, and again, we trust this a matter that Venezuelans can resolve themselves.

QUESTION: If US investments in Venezuela were affected by constitutional change, would the US take a more interventionist approach - a more active approach?

MR. FOLEY: We don't answer hypothetical questions. We've not seen that that is a risk or a danger, and I wouldn't expect it to materialize. We certainly wouldn't - we would hope that it would not materialize. I think Venezuela recognizes that, in a globalized economy, that Venezuela will grow and gain economically by remaining integrated and open in the world economy.

QUESTION: On Albright's trip - would it include Turkey?

MR. FOLEY: I have nothing for you on that today.

QUESTION: You're not ruling that out, though?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not ruling it out. I don't have anything to announce, though.

QUESTION: Don't you have any comment on the commitment of the United States to East Timor in 1975? According to several documents, the United States supported for the - (inaudible) - regime when he decided to send the troops to East Timor. So do you have any comment on that?

MR. FOLEY: You know, I have enough difficulty commenting on events in 1999, not to commence a historical review of policy 20-some years ago. I'm afraid I can't help you with that. It might be preferable to deal with 1975 than 1999, but I'm not going to do it now.

QUESTION: North Korea. Tony Hall said this morning in Seoul that signs were good that if the North Koreans got some food aid, or if they were promised an easing of sanctions, that they'd basically kind of forget the fact that they even had a missile to test. Do you have any reaction to that, or is this just - I mean, if you don't have anything more than what you've said over the last few weeks --

MR. FOLEY: I don't, I don't. As you know, food aid is something that we have provided, upon appeal by the World Food Program. We regard it as a humanitarian issue, and on that basis we provided it. As you know, Ambassador Kartman is going to meet with the Korean Vice Foreign Minister in Berlin beginning, I think, September 7.

We're going to use those talks to stress the advantages to the DPRK of taking steps to improve its relations with the US and the international community, based on the ideas that former Secretary Perry's been working on, that he presented when he was in Pyongyang.

QUESTION: On the same topic, guys, has there been any feedback from the South Koreans on their diplomatic offensive to Japan, to China, on the matter of the North Korean missile testing? Have we heard anything from that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the US and the South Koreans continue to pursue parallel, coordinated approaches designed to improve relations with the DPRK and enhance peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. I think President Kim's article, that appeared in an American newspaper today, clearly spells out the benefits that could flow from North Korean willingness to follow this positive path.

You raise a different perspective - that of another missile test. We've made clear our position on that issue many, many times. I don't think I need to repeat it for you, about the kinds of consequences that were to ensue if there were one. But we, on the other hand, prefer to focus on the possibility that we can have a different kind of relationship with North Korea, that meets our concerns and that opens the door to a better kind of relationship.

QUESTION: So there's nothing to report about the --

MR. FOLEY: No.

QUESTION: A couple of things on North Korea. Some well-informed sources say Dr. Perry has, in fact, finished and presented --

MR. FOLEY: That's not my information, no.

QUESTION: Secondly, the South Koreans seem to be getting quite excited about the Berlin meeting, saying it might be a turning point in relations between North Korea and the outside world.

MR. FOLEY: Well, it was you or somebody who tried to pin me down on that when I announced the meetings last week. I indicated that this was part of our ongoing contact with the North Koreans; that the idea for such a meeting was discussed in August in Geneva, between the US and the North Korean sides. We regard it as positive that the US and North Korea are going to meet, and want to continue these discussions. I wouldn't rule out future meetings as well. I wouldn't want to attach a specific expectation to that meeting, though, at least in advance of the meeting.

QUESTION: You want to discourage excessive optimism about breakthroughs and --

MR. FOLEY: I think we've had enough experience in this particular area to know that it's slogging, progress is slow. But we are hopeful that we can achieve progress in defining a different relationship between North Korea and the United States and the international community, and one which improves the prospects for the people of North Korea, and which allays our serious concerns about security issues.

QUESTION: Last week, General McCaffrey - (inaudible) - says Cuba is working fine with the United States in narco-traffic --

MR. FOLEY: Cuba is working what? I didn't hear you.

QUESTION: Fine in the fight against drugs. Do you consider Cuba's fight against drugs as an ally, or that Cuba is an ally of the United States in the war against drugs?

MR. FOLEY: I would never use the word "ally" and the United States and Cuba in the same sentence. If it's in our national interest, because we suffer greatly from the scourge of narcotics consumption in this country, if it serves our interest to fight that scourge, to work on a practical or pragmatic basis with other countries in the world, we will do so, because that's in the interest of the American people.

Is that it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Wait, I'm sorry, one more question. Regarding President Clinton's possible decision to pardon some imprisoned members of the FALN, did this building issue any report on this?

MR. FOLEY: I can look into it; that's not a State Department issue.

QUESTION: Do you know when the last time the group was considered a terrorist organization by the US? Do you know when it was taken off the State Department list?

MR. FOLEY: We judge foreign terrorist organizations here in our annual report.

QUESTION: Right, it's never been on the --

MR. FOLEY: The State Department deals with foreign governments.

QUESTION: I know.

(The briefing concluded at 2:00 P.M.)


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