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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #137, 99-11-08

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


Monday, November 8, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1,13	U.S. Mexico High Level Contact Group Meeting, November 9-10
1	Democratic Republic of the Congo Peace Process
1	November 6 Presidential Election in Tajikistan
1,2-5	New Website For US Policy Toward Cuba
3-6	Cuba's Involvement in Drug Trafficking/ Certification Process
2	US Arrears
6	Recent Violence/ Security Situation
7-9	Y2K-Related Disruptions / Authorized Departure for USG Employees
9-11,13-14	Update on the situation in Chechnya
17-18	US Contact with Chechen Authorities
18	US Contacts with Russian Goverment / Possible Travel
10-11	CFE Treaty
12	Secretary Albright's Speech in Chicago
16	Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
11-12	Israeli Prime Minister's Statements on UN Security Council
12-13	Trilateral Coordination Meeting
13	Elections in Guatemala
14-17	Foreign Minister Vedrine's Comments on US Role / Global Power
15	Development of european Security and Defense Initiative


DPB #137

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1999, 12:55 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Sorry for the delay. I think most of you understand the reasons for it, but since we don't want to put all the blame on one particular type of medium, let's say that with respect to another network we're very happy to welcome back our new honeymooner from NBC News.

First of all, I have a notice on the High Level Contact Group from the United States and Mexico which will be led on our side by Director McCaffrey and Attorney General Reno and on the Mexican side by their foreign minister and attorney general.

In addition, as you've seen from this picture, we are announcing a new website which will provide information to the public about our policy towards Cuba. This site gives guidance on travel to Cuba by American citizens, outlines the actual provisions of the Libertad Act which are not always well understood, and describes how the people-to-people contacts - which we strongly promote - support better understanding between Cubans and Americans. It also provides some detail on recent human rights events in which independent journalists were harassed, arrested and imprisoned. This is another one of our efforts to make sure that we're as up to date as possible in providing information to the American people, and I'm sure that as soon as this briefing is over you will all be clicking away.

Thirdly, let me say that the actual site is WWW.STATE.GOV/WWW/REGIONS/WHA/CUBA, so it's another one of those easy access websites that we put together so assiduously here at the Department.

QUESTION: Slash or backslash?

MR. RUBIN: I guess that would be a backslash, and I thank you for that correction. It's a forward slash? It's a forward slash. Do we have agreement on that? It's a forward slash. Let me read that again: WWW.STATE.GOV/WWW/REGIONS/WHA/CUBA.

We will have an official from the office, Charles Shapiro, the Director of Cuban Affairs, who will be available to you after the briefing to explain a little bit more about why this site has been put up now and what it will provide.

We also have a statement on the peace talks, the violations of the peace talks in Congo, as well as a statement on the elections in Tajikistan.

And finally before going to your questions, let me say that you know from time to time I've raised at the beginning of the briefing our concerns about various developments with respect to the State Department and efforts we're trying to make. We have made substantial progress, as the Secretary indicated, on the foreign assistance portion of our effort but we still have a major, major hurdle to overcome if the United States is going to be taken seriously on the world stage.

Secretary Albright has worked very closely with the Senate over the past several years to craft legislation that would enable payment of US arrears to the United Nations in conjunction with continued progress on reform by the UN. The Senates passed the Helms-Biden bill earlier this year by a vote of 97-1.

Unfortunately, the House has not passed similar legislation. Some in the House have repeatedly attached unrelated amendments related to family planning to the United Nations arrears. Secretary Albright feels very strongly that we must decouple these issues. The issue of peacekeeping in this bill, the Commerce-State-Justice Bill, is critical. Not only do we risk losing our vote this year, but we risk underfunding critical peacekeeping operations that advance our national security.

If the United States wants to share the burden and share the responsibility for many of the problems in the world - and we and members of Congress often agree on that -- we have to be prepared to step up to the plate to provide support for peacekeeping operations. Right now we are not in a position to do so because of a determined and very small minority in the House that has thwarted this effort in the past. We want to work with them and work with the House to overcome this hurdle.

With those opening comments, let me go to your questions.

QUESTION: Could you say how common these kinds of websites are, country websites?

MR. RUBIN: I think after the briefing, I will be in a position - this is basically off the State Department's website. There are many ways you can work your way into the State Department website. We think this is a particularly important one because, let's face it, American citizens are interested in what they can and can't do with respect to Cuba.

We have made adjustments in our travel policy, in the ways in which funds can be transferred, and the people-to-people exchanges, and so these are the kinds of changing facts that we need to be able to get provided to the American people very quickly. I don't know how many other sites are quite this elaborate, but I can check that for you.

QUESTION: Can you just fill us in on the progress on those measures announced earlier this year to facilitate people-to-people contact? For example, are there more flights going from cities other than Miami?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, there are.

QUESTION: There are?

MR. RUBIN: From a number of cities. A lot of those steps are being taken and have been taken. Some of the details of that may still be in the regulatory process, but there are additional flights from other cities. The remittances at a higher level are now permitted and the food and medicine aspects of those regulations have been largely adjusted.

QUESTION: Do you have any details on - was there direct mail, for example?


QUESTION: No. What happened on that, then?

MR. RUBIN: We will try to get you details on where that stands after the briefing.

QUESTION: Isn't this contrary to the policy of isolation and the embargo that the US espouses to open up this kind of information for Cuba?

MR. RUBIN: No. I think we think it helps the isolation policy to have the world understand that it is a policy that is directed against the Cuban Government, not against the Cuban people. And the more the world understands the nuances and subtleties of our Cuba policy, the more the world will hopefully focus on the human rights and democracy, violations of human rights and the refusal to pursue democracy when visitors make their own decision and go to Cuba.

So we want to provide as much information as possible on crackdowns of dissidents, on information about the ways in which Castro has an embargo on his own people, so that people can't say they didn't know this or they didn't know that when they were meeting with the government in Cuba.

QUESTION: The same questions could be raised about the Iraqi people. Why hasn't the State Department put out a website for Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: There is one.

QUESTION: What is it?

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure it has www in it, a lot of slashes and the word Iraq.

QUESTION: Senator Bob Torricelli has stated, and I think testified, that Cuba should be a major drug transiting nation because Fidel is allowing air, land and water transport through Cuba to be used by traffickers. Can you respond to those allegations of Mr. Torricelli?

MR RUBIN: Well, I think if I were to make a direct answer to that question, I would be previewing decisions that are upcoming by the Department on where Cuba stands in the whole drug certification process, and I'm not prepared to do that.

QUESTION: Also in computers while we're at it, is the United States really pulling out hundreds of diplomats from Eastern Europeans because of the Year 2000?

MR. RUBIN: You want to stay on Cuba?


MR. RUBIN: Oh, good.

QUESTION: Where does providing information to Americans or others who tap into this website stop and propaganda or information some might consider propaganda start? Would that be a problem?

MR. RUBIN: I don't see why. For those of you who, I'm sure like you, have been checking into our website every day, you would see that our policies, practices, regulations and as much information as possible are available. The fact that we're improving the accessibility and the utility and the effectiveness of our information systems doesn't change the difference between explaining our policies and explaining the facts as we know them, and there's nothing different than doing that by computer or coming down and getting a fact sheet on Cuba from the Office of the WHA.

So for those of you who are not perhaps facile with the up-to-date information techniques that are used, you might think this is a dramatic shift in our public affairs policy, but it's not. We want to make sure that the people here that have access to the bureaus in the State Department that can get their fact sheets, that can talk to officials in the bureaus and get our views, that that is as widely disseminated as possible, and this is one of the great wonders of the Internet.

QUESTION: Can I have one more on Cuba? On narco-traffic, besides the -- (inaudible) - for the certification, three months ago the United States made a formal proposal to Cuban Government in cooperation on the war on drugs. And I wondered if you have - if the State Department has received any formal response by the Cubans on the proposal of the United States. And whatever you say, it seems like the US is - it's promoting a new policy on Cuba trying to get more information for the people to travel to the island.

Do you have a response for both things?

MR. RUBIN: We have always said that where we can make progress in the fight against drug trafficking we are prepared to cooperate in limited ways with the government of Cuba. There is nothing new about that.

And I didn't understand the second part of the question.

QUESTION: This new website is kind of promotion for the new policy or shift in the policy of the United States.

MR. RUBIN: No. I know this is hard for you all to accept. We have a very activist effort in the public affairs shop on subjects where we think we can make a difference. When we try to make that information more available, there is not a policy rationale; there is not a secret rationale; it's simply a way to try to make information available and, as journalists, I'm sure that the more information we make available the better from your standpoint. Although I can't speak for you, that would be my assumption.

QUESTION: Something on Cuba is coming up. Reuters out of Havana today is reporting that they have a draft of the statement that's going to be made. The key element is going to be condemning the United States and the embargo. I was wondering if you had any response to that. Is the United States going to be attending in any way as observers or will we have --

MR. RUBIN: We have an interest section down there. There is a pretty standard operating procedure where other governments disagree with our policy on the embargo. They make that known. There is a kind of by-rote process by which that happens. It doesn't surprise us. There's nothing new about it.

What we think is new and different and interesting is that more and more of the visitors to Cuba are understanding the crackdowns in human rights, the attempts to suppress dissent, the inability of people to basically express their views, and we think more and more leaders are making clear that when they go to Cuba and when they're there, they're going to raise those issues with the government.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to facilitate meetings with those leaders while they're --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know that that would be the appropriate role of the interest section. I think those leaders can do that all by themselves. We certainly would want the other countries in the world to know as much as they can about the human rights violations and crackdowns in Cuba, and the more information that we provide from our human rights reports and up-to- date information about these crackdowns, the better it is from the standpoint of those poor people who are actually suffering under the yoke of Castro's oppression.

QUESTION: Do you have any estimates of the number of Cubans who have accessibility to the Internet in order to - as an indication to how many of them can use that?

MR. RUBIN: No, I wouldn't have that number.

QUESTION: Even the Cuban Government is aligned in the war against drugs. You have been receiving a lot of cooperation from Cuba.

MR. RUBIN: I think that reflects the question I asked earlier. The drug certification process is one that we're beginning and we make certain declarations, and I've answered your question about what our intentions are with respect to counter-narcotics cooperation with Cuba.

QUESTION: The President is going to travel very soon to Greece. Do you have any concerns regarding the recent attacks on American targets in Athens and about the planned demonstrations during the President's visit?

MR. RUBIN: There was a bomb that exploded outside a Levi's jeans store and shots were fired outside the Hellenic-American Union in Athens yesterday. Both incidents appeared to be protests against the President's upcoming visit. No one was hurt. We have seen reports of claims of responsibility but we don't have confirmation.

Let me start by saying we deplore and condemn these acts of violence. We are obviously working very, very closely with the Greek authorities, as we do in all visits of this kind by the President. I can't get into the details of any decisions with respect to security that the President and the Greek Government may make, but I can say that we are continuing to work with the Greek Government. Obviously security is a major issue and if we have any adjustments or changes that are in the expected Presidential schedule, I expect the White House will make those known when appropriate.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up. There is consideration by the State Department to issue a public announcement for Greece?

MR. RUBIN: We have a public announcement that's active right now. What we try to do is update those public announcements taking into account the latest available information. So we would certainly and have certainly made it a practice to update public announcements of this kind on the security situation in countries where American citizens might visit, taking into account the latest information, so it wouldn't surprise me if we had an updated version of our travel announcement shortly taking into account this information.

QUESTION: Are you really pulling out hundreds of people from Eastern Europe in preparation for the Year 2000?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that that particular reporter is normally one of the finest in this business, but I think that there may be a little bit of an overstatement of what the real risks and dangers and concerns and expectations of the State Department are.

We did approve on October 29th the authorized voluntary departure effective December 26th; in other words, these people are not going home for Christmas vacation. December 26th they can leave Moscow of eligible US government family members and employees who can be spared from duty in Kiev, Chisinau, Minsk, Moscow, and from the US Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. Those employees who can be spared from duty we'll do so.

With respect to Russia, we are concerned that the possibility of Year 2000 disruptions may cause localized failures of an unknown duration in power and telecommunications. We don't expect a dangerous situation to develop. Our post ability to cope with Y2K-related difficulties would be improved if the number of persons at post were reduced.

With respect to other points on this subject, we have created a Y2K security stability center established to complement the extensive steps taken by both the United States and Russia to ensure the Y2K reliability of their warning systems, nuclear weapons and command-and-control capabilities. Both of us agree that the likelihood of Y2K failure in these systems is extremely remote and that sufficient safeguards are in place to handle these situations; however, given the potential of serious and severe consequences of a problem, we think the establishment of a center is a worthwhile investment.

We don't anticipate closing any embassies. We've taken extensive measures to ensure to the extent possible the continued operation of our embassies. We consider it in the vital interest to the United States to keep lines of communication open between our governments and we have a platform from which we can assist American citizens in need. We think authorized voluntary departure is the appropriate response.

Let me try to put this in a little bit of context. The fact is that we have done this in a way where we think it is the prudent response given the potential difficulties that could exist. I know that some of you and some others have expressed concerns earlier or asked questions about whether we're doing enough to prepare for potential problems. So when we deal with those problems by creating a process where employees can have an authorized departure, that doesn't mean we are ordering them to come home.

Contrary to the suggestions by some in the article, those who told the reporter that up to as many as 800 people might leave, that is not our expectation at all. What we are talking about, based on our experience, is more like dozens of people, not hundreds. We think this is a prudent step.

It is also important to bear in mind, as I think many of you asked these questions, we have to take this step now because we don't want the government employees to have a leg up on the problems that we identified than the average American citizen, so we need to be able to alert average Americans that these are our concerns in time to be able to do something about it. Any of you who have tried to get plane tickets and travel arrangements in late December know how difficult it is, so we thought it was appropriate well in advance to let the American citizens in Russia and these other countries know what our intentions were for our non-essential employees that we were authorizing their departure. The suggestions that this is going to cause a vast expense of 800 people being given plane fare and hotels and per diem is significantly exaggerated.

QUESTION: Will there be a cost to the US Government involved?

MR. RUBIN: We do think it's important and prudent to protect our employees from problems and we pay for the deployment of American employees of the State Department and many other agencies around the world every day because we think having them there serves our national interest. So if we need to make adjustments in their presence, obviously there could be some minimal cost.

But we think that the suggestion that, you know, we're wasting millions of dollars on a non-existent threat would be ironic if there were problems and then all of you asked legitimate questions about why we hadn't prudently prepared for that contingency.

QUESTION: This is limited to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus?

MR. RUBIN: And Moldova.

QUESTION: Could you explain how reducing the number of personnel would help the embassies and consulates cope with potential problems?

MR. RUBIN: Well, if you have major electricity problems, for example, and the electricity goes down and you only have a generator and you have to supply electricity heat - remember, this is the winter time in some of the coldest places on Earth - that the less people that you have to provide the basic essential services to, the easier it will be to cope with such a problem. So I think that's the most practical example.

QUESTION: So you have plans to be able to house people actually in the embassy buildings?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have the details on all the contingency planning, but I think it's our view that if there are disruptions in, for example, electrical service related to -- that in these parts of the world often translate into problems in providing heat -- the fewer Americans that you have in these locations, the less cost and disruption will be created.

QUESTION: I think there are like eleven operating embassies and consulates right now in the former Soviet Union. Do you have any idea was there a survey done of them? Did each embassy do a review to find out that only these four out of eleven would have potential problems?

And then I have another question to ask you.

MR. RUBIN: Obviously some work went into this. We didn't just invent these policy decisions. We made a decision as to where the most people were located, what the risks of disruption would be, and what the prudent course would be.

If you have a place where you have only one or two people and you want to have somebody there to service the American citizens that may be in that region, then obviously you're not going to take any measure unless you're going to take an order departure. So, remember, this is the difference between ordering the closing down of embassies, which we don't want to do because we don't believe the risks merit it nor do we believe we should eliminate the ability of American citizens to get services. So you have to marry the concerns about the potential disruption with the need and the urgency and the importance of providing the urgent services to American citizens.

QUESTION: Not closing any of the embassies?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: So what I'm trying to understand is why - you know, how it was that you all came up with only four out of eleven embassies in the coldest part of the world or in the coldest season of the year that need to have some ordered or some voluntary departures.

MR. RUBIN: Again, as I was just trying to explain, it's a combination of how many people are in these consulates. For example, if you had one person in a consulate and you don't want to close the consulate, so then you wouldn't have an authorized departure from that consulate. So part of it depends on which consulates have the most people, dependents, people from other agencies who are non-essential personnel. So the more non-essential personnel you have in a consulate given this relatively low risk, the more you're likely to order an authorized departure for that particular post.

QUESTION: Could you also give us a little bit more information about this Y2K stability center? When was it established?

MR. RUBIN: I can get you some details on that. This is something we and the Russians have been working on through our defense ministries for some time to make sure that there were no potential catastrophic dangers associated with the arrival of January 1st of the year 2000. We think the chances are extremely remote but given the potentially dangerous consequences, the establishment of this center is a worthwhile investment. It's being done through the defense ministries. I believe Secretary Cohen announced its establishment on one of his most recent trips to Moscow.

QUESTION: It's been announced that reinforcements have arrived in Chechnya for the 100,000 or so Russian troops that are presently there. There is armored columns moving in to reinforce. And the question I have to ask you is does the United States believe that Russia is trying - the goal is to put Chechnya back under Russian control? Is that what they're about to do?

MR. RUBIN: I think we have made very clear that we don't understand the objectives of the Russian policy. We welcome the fact that Prime Minister Putin indicated last week that the conflict in Chechnya, in the end of the day, can only be resolved through political means. We welcome these statements and call for Russia to begin a dialogue with legitimate Chechen partners. We do not believe that a purely military solution to the conflict is possible and we want Russia to look at how the OSCE can play a useful role.

We remain extremely concerned about the indiscriminate use of force. Like other countries, Russia has assumed obligations under the Geneva Conventions and commitments under the OSCE Code of Conduct on political-military aspects of security. The conduct of Russia's current campaign is not in keeping with these commitments. The costs of this approach are too high - costs in humanitarian terms, damage to Russia's international reputation, and in the end making it harder to achieve a political solution.

Let me make clear we support Russia's right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and the fact that Chechnya is part of Russia. We support that. But as I indicated, we are extremely concerned that the costs of their methods are too high and the cost in the humanitarian terms, damage to Russia's international reputation, and in the end the costs of making it harder to achieve the political solution that even Prime Minister Putin, himself, said he supported is what worries us so deeply.

QUESTION: Are they reinforcing?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any facts on their latest troop movements.

QUESTION: You seemed to say there that the Russians were violating the Geneva Conventions. Could you be more specific? Which particular provisions of the Geneva Conventions?

MR. RUBIN: Right. What I can say is that the indiscriminate use of force and the impact of escalation on innocent civilians is a matter of deep concern to us. There are obligations under the Geneva Conventions and commitments under the OSCE Code of Conduct on political-military aspects of security, and our analysis indicates that the conduct of Russia's current campaign is not in keeping with these commitments. I can try to get you after the briefing perhaps more detail on the specific provisions we're concerned about.

QUESTION: Do you think that the CFE Treaty will be signed during the CFE summit in Instanbul later this month at a time when Russia is said to be seriously violating the CFE?

MR. RUBIN: We certainly want to do all we can to see that this important treaty is adapted to the post-Cold War environment that we now live in. Russia's overall record of compliance with the treaty has been good. Clearly, they are above the ceiling and probably above the potentially adapted ceiling as well. They have indicated they intend to provide as much transparency as possible about their deployments and try to get back into compliance with the agreement as soon as possible.

As far as whether an adapted treaty will be signed at the summit, that is still an open question. Our negotiators are working very hard on this question. Secretary Albright has been in touch with Foreign Minister Ivanov and a number of other ministers in the recent days to try to achieve that.

QUESTION: On the same subject, do you have any comment on reports that to accommodate the access of Russian forces in the Chechnya conflict there is a proposal or suggestion that the Russians might make adjustments in Moldova and Georgia.

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't assume those two are necessarily linked. There would have had to be adjustments in Moldova and Georgia regardless as a result of the adapted treaty, but I don't think it would be useful for us to negotiate these final pieces in public other than to say that, obviously, Georgia and Moldova are also in a similar region.

QUESTION: Is it possible that you might make some last-minute adjustments to the treaty to accommodate the present level of Russian forces in Chechnya?

MR. RUBIN: No, we don't intend to codify that Russian deployment in Chechnya. The question is when will they come back into compliance with either the original level or any adapted level, which they are over both of them.

QUESTION: What does the Geneva Convention say or the OSCE? What is the understanding for violators? Is there any mechanism within the convention or the OSCE to deal with countries who --

MR. RUBIN: First of all, I think that the first step is to make a judgment and I have indicated today that it is our judgment that with respect to the indiscriminate use of force against civilians, this current conduct is not in conformity with those commitments. With respect to remedies, I'm not prepared to speculate at this time other than to say that, obviously, the Russians and we will discuss this matter.

QUESTION: When you say not in conformity, is that the same thing as saying that they are in violation?

MR. RUBIN: I indicated that their current campaign is not in keeping with these commitments. A violation is a term of art that often is used for political purposes and sometimes is a legal term. You can use your own words, but our words are, "not in keeping with," or "not in conformity with."

QUESTION: Does indiscriminate use of force against civilians constitute - could that constitute a war crime in any future --

MR. RUBIN: I think for now it is sufficient for me to say that their obligations under the Geneva Conventions and certain commitments, they are not in keeping with those obligations. That is our judgment. I'm not going to overstate this case at this time, but I will try to get as much information as I can for you.

QUESTION: Mr. Ehud Barak said yesterday that - actually, he has reiterated his position regarding UN Security Council resolutions, in particular, 242, saying that it does not require a pull-back from old territories that were captured in '67 and '73. Number one, what is your reaction regarding this issue? The second thing, don't you think that this will not be very helpful for the negotiations, the final status negotiations that started today?

MR. RUBIN: First let me say if one is going to comment on current events in the Middle East, I would think the most important thing would be for us to strongly condemn the act of terrorism that was committed against the people in Israel and offer our condolences to those injured in the attack. That certainly is probably the most important development within the last 24 hours.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made it clear that the enemies of peace will not succeed in thwarting their efforts to reach agreement. We know that the Palestinians have been making efforts to fight terror and that cooperation with the Israelis in the security area has been positive. Given the nature of the threat the terrorists pose, and especially as the two sides move together towards peace, it is important that the Palestinians do everything they possibly can to prevent and combat terror.

Obviously, it would be up to the Israeli government to interpret any statements made by their Prime Minister. I would point out, however, that the Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum contains a phrase that indicates that the parties reaffirmed their "understanding that the negotiations and the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338."

QUESTION: What is the topic of Secretary Albright's speech in Chicago on Wednesday?

MR. RUBIN: I think it will obviously have some broad elements, but the primary topic will be arms control in the current environment, so it will be discussing the Comprehensive Test Ban and its aftermath and other aspects of our arms control policy, including the whole question of the ABM treaty.

QUESTION: There is a proposal on the Japanese side, I believe, that Japan takes full part in bilateral talks - they would then be trilateral talks between the United States and North Korea on missiles.

MR. RUBIN: On that question, we have been closely consulting with our Japanese and South Korean allies on our bilateral exchanges with North Korea. This close cooperation and consultation is going to continue in the future. In that regard, let me say that the sixth high-level Trilateral Coordinating and Oversight Group, TCOG, started this morning two days of meetings and this is a process by which we can ensure that our policy towards North Korea is as coordinated and as effective as possible.

We are going to continue working closely with Japan and South Korea in ensuring that we have the maximum degree of coordination. We do not have any plans to alter the structure of our missile talks with North Korea.

QUESTION: Is the US satisfied or happy with the pace of the reform of Japanese and South Korean policy towards the North Koreans after the release of the Perry report and what the US did?

MR. RUBIN: I think we're all feeling like we're working from the same hymn book. Dr. Perry obviously worked very closely with the leaders in South Korea and Japan prior to issuing his report. We believe that both South Korea and Japan, like us, believe that we're on the right track to try to promote changes in policies and practices of the North Korean Government that affect our security, and doing so in a prudent way and in a careful way.

QUESTION: On Mexico, do you have anything more on the meeting with the Mexican Foreign Secretary and on the primary election they had yesterday in Mexico?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the election in Mexico, this is obviously an internal matter. To the extent that we see the pursuit of the democratic process, we extend our congratulations to the people of Mexico and all those who participated in this historic event.

The Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Rosario Green right now. I know that she is going to be discussing WTO issues. I know that she is going to be discussing the importance of working together in the run-up to the Presidents' Meeting with President Zedillo which is coming later this fall, so they are meeting in preparation for that.

QUESTION: Do you congratulate the Mexican people or the Mexican members of the PRI, and do you have any reaction or comments on the elections of Guatemala, too?

MR. RUBIN: I think I did answer your first question. I don't think there is any point in repeating it.

With respect to the second question with respect to Guatemala - Guatemalans went to the polls yesterday in the first general elections held since the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords. By all accounts the elections were free and fair. There were no reports of serious incidents of violence, intimidation or fraud.

We congratulate the people of Guatemala just the way that we congratulated the people of Mexico for demonstrating their courage and their commitment to civic duty and democracy by voting in these elections.

We also congratulate the government of Guatemala, Guatemala's Supreme Electoral Tribunal which oversaw the elections, and the many international and national electoral observers who monitored the balloting for ensuring a free and fair outcome. This election represents an important step forward in Guatemala's march to consolidate democracy.

QUESTION: Back to Chechnya. You obviously, while saying that Russia is violating the Geneva Convention, were clearly not using the term "violating." Would you have any quibble with -- if the State Department's response was described as saying that Russia's violating the Geneva Convention in Chechnya with the indiscriminate use of force against civilians?

MR. RUBIN: I thought we just did this but we could do it again. Let's do it again. I said what our view is, and in response to one of your colleague's questions, precisely the same question, I repeated what our view is.

As you know, when you ask me these kind of questions I kind of end up saying that one of the benefits that you all have is you own the ink and you decide what you print and you decide what you put on the air, and that's what you'll decide. But if you want to report what our view is, I hope you would report our view accurately.

QUESTION: Regarding drugs, when are we going to see the majors list for this year?

MR. RUBIN: Shortly. I don't have the date for you but I'll try to find out. I mean the process begins --

QUESTION: Aren't we a week past the deadline?

MR. RUBIN: No, no, but that's an internal process and we don't really report the full process until all the certifications have been done, but I can try to find out where we are in our internal process for you.

QUESTION: As you're probably aware, the Prime Minister of - the President of -

MR. RUBIN: Whatever.

QUESTION: Mr. Chirac had a very interesting speech over the weekend in which he referred to the United States in a rather unique way, as a hyperpower rather than just a super power. I'm wondering if the State Department has any reaction to Mr. Chirac's interpretation?

MR. RUBIN: I do know that Foreign Minister Vedrine has called the United States a hyperpower before. Secretary Albright occasionally during the Kosovo conflict would begin her conversations with him by saying this is "This is Hyper Madeleine," which he was amused by.

I think that the fact that he's described the United States recognizing the indispensable role we play in the world in that way is not of a particular concern to us. Clearly there are some comments suggesting that France needs to pursue its own interests and sometimes disagrees with the United States, and thus is concerned about the extent to which we pursue multilateral diplomacy and the extent to which we work together.

Our view is that when we work together we tend to achieve our objectives the way we worked together in Kosovo, the way we worked together in Bosnia. When we have differences, as in the case of Iraq or others, it becomes harder to achieve our objectives. Certainly we want to be a partner with Europeans countries, including France, in pursuing our joint interests and we want to act in a way that is based on partnership.

We also think it's important for countries in Europe to understand the dangers that we as a global power have to confront, from proliferation from weapons of mass destruction. Being the United States means that at the end of the day, very often the French and others expect us to resolve a problem in a part of the world outside of Europe, so often we need their cooperation in dealing with that problem before it needs to be confronted by the United States.

It also would be helpful if countries in Europe didn't always suggest that our policies were based on anything else than our view of our national interest. Our national interests require us, as a global power, often to act in ways different than Europeans countries.

Finally, I would say that the desire on the part of some, occasionally some in France, to differentiate themselves from the United States by disagreeing when they don't really disagree is a matter of frustration. To be different than the United States doesn't add to any country's force unless the difference is justified, and often we feel that being different for difference sake sometimes drives some in Europe.

QUESTION: Do you have a website for France?

MR. RUBIN: Well, maybe we'll need one after that.

QUESTION: On the same subject, what do you make of the suggestion by the same President that the Europeans need to really move on establishing their own separate power, as it were, because the United States foreign policy is often rendered completely impotent by Congress?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I didn't read that anywhere in his speech, but I think I understand the point you're making. With respect to European Security and Defense Initiative, the ESDI, that is something that we're supportive of and we want Europe to be able to act and improve the European pillar in their trans-Atlantic alliance.

I don't think it is so much a question of Congress. I think after the war in Kosovo it became clear to many in Europe that it was only the United States that had the military technical capabilities to conduct the operation in Kosovo and that it was only the United States that was in a position to act with the modern communications, intelligence, and technology necessary to operate in the 21st Century.

It wasn't a question of Congress so much as a question of the fact that the United States has some rather capable military forces that some in Europe wish they didn't have to rely on all the time. To the extent the Europeans want to build a pillar that doesn't duplicate NATO, that doesn't decouple our security from that of the Europeans and doesn't unnecessarily discriminate against certain countries in Europe that can't be part of that, we think that's a good thing. We want the European pillar to be stronger.

QUESTION: That's not really my point. The point was mainly the profound disappointment that many people in Western Europe or many leaders in Western Europe had over the failure of CTBT and the fact that the United States is now - or at least the Executive Branch of the government is not always in a position to be a world leader because it has got this kind of annoying thing called Congress which, unfortunately, is mandated by the Constitution there. So that is really --

MR. RUBIN: I certainly wouldn't put it that way.

QUESTION: I mean that was what I read into it.

MR. RUBIN: All right, let me try to respond as best as I can. Again, we are talking off, I think, a bit of a caricature of what he said. Certainly we, like our allies and friends in Europe, were deeply troubled by the decision in the United States Senate to not advise and consent to ratification of the CTBT, the Comprehensive Test Ban. We think that was a blow to the efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

We think it will be harder to get countries in Europe and countries around the world to support us in trying to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction because of that vote. That was the view that we took. The Senate rejected that view. We are going to try to overcome the damage done to our leadership in non-proliferation by working that much harder with our allies and elsewhere.

I think that the suggestion that the Europeans need to go their own way on the defense side is not related to their concern about the Comprehensive Test Ban. It is related to their concern about what transpired in Kosovo.

QUESTION: When you say we want to try to overcome what happened with CTBT by working closely with our allies on arms control, what do you mean?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly what I intended to say was there was harm done to our leadership effort to convince countries in Europe, countries around the world, to stop the proliferation of missiles, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons. When we are trying to galvanize support for a problem like Iraq or a problem with North Korea or a problem with Pakistan or a problem with India, it is harder now because of the vote. But we are going to just have to work that much harder to overcome the damage done so that we continue to have the support of our allies in cases like Pakistan and India and North Korea and Iraq and elsewhere, but it is unfortunate that we have to overcome the damage caused by this vote.

Our signature holds. We have made clear that we are not going to act to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty, meaning we're not going to test, and we feel that that is consistent with international law because the President has not decided to repudiate his signature and he is going to seek ratification through advice and consent at some future date when the climate is improved. So we're seeking to overcome the difficulties caused by this but we, like others, recognize the difficulties.

QUESTION: You don't see that damage has spread to any other area , though? The damage in the leadership?

MR. RUBIN: Earlier someone asked me about the hegemonic United States, and I said, Well, if I took that personally, we couldn't do business in the international community. There is always going to be an element of people accusing us of hegemony. That is what it means to be the United States. The French do that sometimes. I guess they've got a new word, "The Hyperpower." Other countries in the Middle East do it. Countries in Asia do it. It is not new.

Certainly the fact that the Senate rejected any consideration of the impact this would have internationally in its decision-making, we didn't see a lot of Senators explaining, well, we're going to vote against this treaty, but they had already taken into account the potential negative effects abroad. We don't think they took those into account. We think they should have taken those into account. There are effects.

I remember a few years ago we had the issue of the Secretary General of the UN; we had the ILSA debate; we had Helms-Burton; we had the UN arrears. Most of those we have gotten through and every once in a while there is another issue that feeds the view that we're a hegemonic power and we need to be clear that we'll act alone where necessary, but our preference is to work with partners in Europe and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Sorry for the philosophical question perhaps. In the long term, what do you think the effect on the international influence of the United States would be if the Europeans really did develop an independent and credible common defense which could operate independently of the United States in places like Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: As I indicated earlier, we support them improving their capabilities to act without the United States. We think that's a good thing so as long as it doesn't decouple our security from theirs, so long as it doesn't discriminate against countries that can't be in that defense community, and so long as there isn't excess duplication in the efforts that our fellow allies need to make with respect to NATO. In general, we think that's a good idea.

I think it is pretty clear to us that most NATO countries have no interest in developing an independent capability that would have that effect of decoupling the security interest of the United States and European countries so we don't really think that's a big danger. We want them to do more to create the European pillar; we just don't want it to happen in a way that takes away from their ability to improve their posture vis-a-vis NATO.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Chechen president request to President Clinton to help?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to that issue, let me say that a letter dated September 30 purporting to be from President - listen up - Chechen President Maskhadov and the Chairman of the Chechen parliament was faxed to the US embassy in Azerbaijan. No contacts were made by the Chechens after the letter was faxed. The letter focuses on civilian casualties caused by Russian air and artillery strikes in Chechnya and appeals to President Clinton to protest and stop Russian actions.

Regardless of any contact with Chechen authorities, our actions would be the same as they have been since the start of the conflict. Most recently, as I indicated, President Clinton made clear to Prime Minister Putin our concern over escalating civilian casualties and the need to pursue a political dialogue. We urge the Russians to pursue a political strategy to end the conflict, to consider third-party intermediaries, and to ensure the safety of displaced persons. Yes?

QUESTION: Do you know if this letter was actually from him?

MR. RUBIN: It is purporting to be. We just don't know the facts. There is no way to know. I don't think we have had a lot of contact with him and, as you know, when people have traveled in that part of the world, it is very difficult to have an engagement with the people of Chechnya given what's gone over the last several years, so we are not always in a position to authenticate such a letter.

QUESTION: You have not tried to get back in touch with them?

MR. RUBIN: Not to my knowledge. They hadn't made any further contacts after the letter was faxed.

QUESTION: Are you planning any more high level trips to Moscow in the next few days, before the meet of the OSCE summit?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think so. Secretary Albright is expected to speak to Foreign Minister Ivanov probably more than once in the lead-up to that meeting, and I know Deputy Secretary Talbott is going to Brussels and London prior to the summit, but I am not aware of any plans for officials that high to go to Russia.

QUESTION: China. The other day, the German Chancellor -- (inaudible) - a visit to Japan to China. During his trip, he proposed the idea that China should be a participant of the so-called G-8 economic summit. Do you have any idea that China should join the G-8 economic summit?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think that we have supported that in the past.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 P.M.)

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