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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #4, 00-01-19

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>


923

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

RUSSIA
1-3	US will judge Acting President Putin by his actions, not his
	 history. US will similarly judge Duma by its legislative actions. 
2,5	Profound US disagreements over Chechnya continue.
4-5	New security doctrine not a major departure from 1997 document.
14	Potential spill-over of Chechnya conflict into Georgia and
	 Azerbaijan a concern of US. 
14	US continues to believe dialogue with rebels in best way to resolve
	 conflict. 
INDIA
1,3	Deputy Secretary Talbott met with Foreign Minister Singh in London.
IRAQ
3-4	US believes UNSYG Annan's nomination of Rolf Ekeus for UNMOVIC is a
	 superb choice. 
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
5-6,8,9-10,13	Chairman Arafat will meet President Clinton tomorrow
	 	 afternoon; Secretary Albright will also host lunch for
		 him. Working-level bilateral meetings will take place
		 also. February deadline for a framework agreement is a
		 goal for achieving progress. Meetings with Chariman will 
		 discuss status of peace process,. 
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6-10,12	US made judgment that it would not be fruitful to return to
	 Shepherdstown today, and that an alternative method was needed to
	 get parties' needs met simultaneously. Plan is for one of the
	 parties to come to US to work on US draft; then for other party to
	 come to US following week to work on draft. Working-level February
	 trip to Middle East a possibility. Parties have tough choices to
	 make. US not going into details on withdrawal in public. 
CUBA
10	Possible visit of Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers discussed with
	 Cuban Government Jan. 17. 
JORDAN
10	Khalil Deek current under legal proceedings in Jordanian courts.
NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE
11-12,13	Failed test last evening combined interceptor with new
		 radar to guide it, along with a new battle management
		 system. Decision on deployment scheduled to be made this
		 summer. Many US allies have serious questions about this
		 issue.  
BAHRAIN
13-14	Visit of Crown Prince is private. Bahrain is a key US ally in
	 region. Secretary Albright is hosting a lunch for him today. 
GERMANY
14	US had excellent working relationship with Chancellor Kohl during
	 his term in office. 
UKRAINE
15	Crime, corruption issues were discussed bilaterally in Washington
	 in December. 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #4

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2000, 12:42 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We put out a statement, I believe yesterday, about Secretary Albright's travel at the end of the month to Russia and Switzerland. We have a statement after the briefing on the seizure of heroin in Thailand and on the meetings between Deputy Secretary Talbott and India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

With those notices, let me go directly to your questions. Mr. Schweid of the Associated Press, why don't you start?

QUESTION: The Associated Press - and I'm sure other reputable news organizations - have been carrying stories about an alliance, for want of a better word, between Mr. Putin's supporters and the communists in the Russian parliament. And I guess I still hear echoes of the Secretary yesterday calling Putin one of Russia's leading reformers, although she did say the administration is not starry-eyed.

We know in this country politics makes strange bedfellows, but do you think she wants to redraft her description of Mr. Putin?

MR. RUBIN: Well, having also heard what she said yesterday, I think the point she was making is accurate, which is that there are different strands to Mr. Putin's history. And what we have said about the Acting President is that we are going to judge him by his actions, not his history, because in his history you find, on the one hand, him having been a KGB authority and, on the other hand, him having been associated and working very closely with some of the leading reformers in the Russian political system, including the mayor of St. Petersburg and including Mr. Chubias.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - a bit of corruption charges --

MR. RUBIN: That's a different point, and if you'd like me to address corruption --

QUESTION: No, no, your point is still well taken.

MR. RUBIN: -- I could give you 15 minutes on corruption. But my point is that there is different strains in his background. And so the question is what will he do, and what will happen in his interaction with the Duma. We're going to judge the Duma and the Russian political system by the legislation they pass and the actions they take, not by the purported alignments which would require us to make judgments about the internal domestic politics of Russia.

What we will do is judge the Duma's actions by whether they are sound in the direction of economic reform, whether they are sound in terms of their foreign policies. We may disagree with many of them. It's no secret that the United States and Russia have had disagreements, strong disagreements on certain foreign policies. Certainly with respect to Chechnya and acting President Putin's leadership of the Chechnya policy, we have profound disagreements. We are deeply disturbed by the intensification of fighting in Grozny. We are deeply concerned about the impact of this intensified fighting on innocent civilians, most of whom are too scared or too old or too injured to flee to safeties.

And these kind of reports only reinforce our view, and our view which is in disagreement with Mr. Putin, and certainly Secretary Albright has been at the forefront of those who have demonstrated that disagreement including, I might add, in authorizing lower level officials to meet with the representative last week, something that was strongly objected to by Mr. Putin's government.

So I think it's fair to say that we are going to have an open mind on legislation and on Mr. Putin's domestic policies pending the decisions on what those policies are, and we're not going to judge those policies based on previous background he may have in either the KGB or in his work in St. Petersburg.

QUESTION: Sure. We had a President who ran the CIA, and going to work for the KGB was not necessarily considered a bad thing for people to do in those days.

But about today's arrangement, I mean two days of protests now about a deal. You have had - the administration has had experience - I can't use the phrase "dealing with" but, you know, hoping for something out of the Duma that, in the thrall of communists and nationalists just simply didn't develop, including the START treaties - you know the promise today.

I mean, isn't it ominous that the communists would have a major role again, apparently with the approval of Putin's backers? Doesn't that harbor ill for you?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the communists have had a major role in the --

QUESTION: Yes, they've had the experience. You know what it means.

MR. RUBIN: And during that time, there have been some steps forward on reform and some failure to take steps forward. The fact that the communists have a role in the Duma does not mean that Mr. Putin is unable to move forward on his stated support for continued economic reforms and strengthening democratic institutions in Russia. We will have to see. We're going to judge Mr. Putin and the Duma by its actions and not by the maneuvering that created the current structure.

QUESTION: Just really quickly, the India thing that you mentioned with Talbott, does that have to do with some kind of a terrorism coordination? You don't have to read it. I just --

MR. RUBIN: I think it does not have any dramatic development in that regard. It indicates that there were several issues discussed, including the recent hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814, counter-terrorism issues and other global issues.

QUESTION: The reason I asked that was because the Indian Foreign Ministry has put out a statement saying the US and India have agreed to some kind of --

MR. RUBIN: Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, which will hold its first meeting in Washington in early February.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know if that was in it.

MR. RUBIN: I never realized my words had such a direct reaction on some of you.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Kofi Annan's nomination for the Iraqi arms inspection position ran into trouble. I'm wondering if you anything more to say about that today then you did yesterday.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. The United States does support Secretary General Annan's work and welcomes his nomination of Ambassador Ekeus for the post of Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC. We believe that both the Secretary General and his nominee deserve the support of the entire council.

Since the beginning of this selection process, we've been focused on qualifications rather than names. We articulated many weeks ago objective criteria including technical disarmament expertise, independence, professional and managerial ability, as the only acceptable basis for this choice. We have not made our agreement conditional on the selection of a particular candidate and are interested in a qualified nominee. In our view, given his background, Ambassador Ekeus is superbly suited to the task of launching UNMOVIC and performing the disarmament mission.

In Resolution 1284, the Security Council asked Secretary General Annan to undertake many complex tasks related to Iraq. In our view, it is important that council members now support him as he begins to carry out these tasks, and we find it particularly ironic that some of the council members who advocated most strongly for the Secretary General to have a strong role in this process are the very members who are challenging his judgment in recommending Ambassador Ekeus.

We expect consultations among council members to continue with the aim to reach a consensus on Ambassador Ekeus. We don't know how long this will take. We don't see the need or the wisdom and needlessly delayed process. Delay will only mean the delay in the potential implementation of this resolution. It's an important choice, and we think it's important to get this choice right.

Finally on this matter, we think it is unwise in the extreme for countries to allow Iraq to have veto power over what the Security Council and the Secretary General's decisions are in the area of arms control for Iraq. That will only be a prescription for problems. Let's bear in mind that Iraq, had they been cooperative, would have gotten out from under the sanctions regime a long, long time ago. If we only allow Iraq to make the decisions as some seem to want, we are putting the whole system on its head, and we're never going to get the disarmament that the resolutions require.

QUESTION: So are you suggesting then that the French and the Russians are acting on stooges of Iraq and their opposition and the Chinese as well, although their opposition is not as strong.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm making a couple of general points, and I'm making the first point that certainly there were several countries, including those you mentioned, who made a strong case for a strong role for the Secretary General. The Secretary General has now made a decision, and we think in this regard it behooves member states to respect that decision and to try to work with the Secretary General, especially those countries that are constantly urging others to work with the Secretary General; that when they are not satisfied with his choices, it might be wise to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, Iraq has rejected Ekeus. And what I'm saying is that Iraq's rejection of Ekeus, in our view, should not be as significant a factor. If Iraq had its way, sanctions would be lifted now.

QUESTION: But are you saying that the Russians and the French are - are you suggesting that the Russians and the French are opposed simply because Baghdad said no?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you have to ask them what their reasons are.

QUESTION: Back to Russia.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: One of the things that Putin already has done is to release a new security doctrine, a military security doctrine, and it is said to be more confrontational than was perhaps believed before and seems to lower the threshold for possible nuclear action. Do you have any comment on this doctrine and how this factors into your analysis about what kind of leader he is or he is going to be?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. We have reviewed the new Russian national security strategy and do not believe that it represents a significant major departure from Russia's concept issued in 1997 or that it makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely. Russian doctrine has rejected no-first-use of nuclear weapons since the mid-1990s. So the fact that they're contemplating the first use of nuclear weapons, there's nothing new there.

Both the 1997 and 2000 national security concept assert the right to use available forces and assets, including nuclear, if all other measures of resolving the crisis situation have been exhausted and have proven ineffective.

The US and Russia hold regular discussions on this matter. We're going to discuss this with them. We try to develop better understanding of each side's nuclear doctrine. And I think it's fair to say that we recognize that there have been some adjustments in the wording, but in terms of a major departure going from, say, no-first-use to first-use, we think that isn't what happened here. They have always retained that right.

QUESTION: Thank you Mr. Rubin. Grozny has become a blood bath. Apparently the Russians are trying to take the city, to possess the city. Is it consistent with our policy that the Russians should have free reign in their military strategy to take Grozny, hold it, and apparently then, after that, we can maybe expect some negotiations?

What can you say about that?

MR. RUBIN: I think in response to one of your colleague's questions I indicated that we were disturbed by the escalating offensive in Grozny. It is not our policy to let Russian forces do whatever they want and then negotiate. We have made very clear our strong opposition to the path Russia has chosen in seeking to deal with a problem that we recognize is real, which is the terrorist problem, but the path they've chosen we've had major problems with.

We have discussed those problems directly. We've met with officials from Chechnya who discussed with us the humanitarian, human rights and military problems. We have a different view than Russia so, no, it's not our policy to let Russia do what it wants.

QUESTION: If I can switch to the Middle East, I wanted to know your expectations for Arafat's visit tomorrow. It's not going to be the three- way with Barak that had been anticipated. In light of that, what do you think might come of it? I assume Secretary Albright will be participating in some fashion.

MR. RUBIN: Right. Yes, I think in response to many questions at our favorite city, Shepherdstown, I indicated that I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a three-way. I think that I was - at least I was - very clear that it wasn't yet an expected event or even an anticipated event, if you'll allow me that slight distinction.

With respect to what we anticipate from this event, the President will be meeting with Chairman Arafat in the afternoon; Secretary Albright will be hosting a lunch for him at her home in Georgetown. I think it will be a one- on-one lunch. We believe it's very important to talk to Chairman Arafat about his concerns and his assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian track and the importance of making progress on that track if we're going to meet the stated goal of a February, mid-February, framework agreement.

I think, in a sense, it will be a stock-taking session to try to see how far we've come and how far we have to go if we're going to meet those goals. There will also be a round of subcommittee meetings of the US- Palestinian Bilateral Committee on Friday, January 21st, to review progress since the last round of meetings. They will be chaired by, on the Palestinian side, Nabil al-Sha'ath and, on our side, by the estimable Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tony Verstaendig. They will talk about economic issues, improving investment climate, some political issues as part of the building of a stronger, deeper relationship between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.

So, in broad terms, that is what the President and the Secretary will do during the course of his visit.

QUESTION: One other follow-on. Is there any thought that the Secretary might go to Syria after Moscow, her trip next week? Has there been any progress in getting the Syrians back, and is that one way you might do it?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that where we are now is that we made a judgment as the mediators that it would not be fruitful to return to Shepherdstown and begin discussions today. We concluded that since both sides had indicated their determination to deal with their issue of concern and have that dealt with and resolved first, that we wouldn't have been able to achieve much. And we decided that we needed to develop an alternative method to enable the parties to get their needs met in a simultaneous fashion.

The parties did indicate that they would have come here if we had insisted, but we made the judgment that that would not have been the most fruitful way to proceed.

I think Secretary Albright and Joe Lockhart indicated that the President spoke to President Asad yesterday. The Secretary has had a couple of calls with Foreign Minister Shara in the last several days.

What the plan now is, is that later in this week or in about a week's time, we'll have one of the parties come to the United States and work with us on the draft, and then the following week the other party will come to the United States and work with us on the draft, at which point we will be in a better position to assess where we go.

At this time, I can not confirm any planned trip of the Secretary from Russia to Syria. I can say that, as I have indicated to some of you - I hope publicly and, if not, let me do it publicly - that when she left the Middle East the last time she indicated that it was her intention following intensified discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis to consider a follow-up trip in the February time frame in order to make a recommendation to the President as to whether a three-way summit process, a framework with the objective of achieving a framework agreement, was going to be a wise decision; in other words, was there a basis, a sufficient basis, for bringing the three leaders together in an intensified working process to yield, hopefully, a framework agreement.

So I would say to you directly I wouldn't rule out a trip in February to the Middle East for that purpose. Whether there would be a Syria component to that or not, I just couldn't say at this time.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - to talk about?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that.

QUESTION: At what level?

MR. RUBIN: It will be at the working level.

QUESTION: Just the group, the committee, the technical --

MR. RUBIN: Working level. I don't know that - no, it will not be at the political level.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on President Arafat's trip here tomorrow, is the US satisfied thus far with the progress or lack of progress that has been made on final status issues?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's really not up to us to be satisfied or dissatisfied. It's our view that the parties have some tough decisions to make, and if they don't make those decisions we can't get either a framework agreement or a comprehensive agreement by the Fall, as planned, or as set out as a goal.

It is certainly our view that mid-February is rapidly approaching and it is going to be a formidable challenge to try to solve the problems that need to be solved if we're going to have a framework agreement struck by mid- February. So we recognize that this is a formidable challenge, but we have not given up hope.

The people who do the work in this business have seen a lot of problems resolved in the final days of a negotiations, and these are tough decisions. We recognize that. And, frankly, we want to talk with Chairman Arafat about that schedule and what is possible, and thus take stock for us in trying to assess how realistic it is to make that schedule that's been laid out.

QUESTION: Does the talks with Yasser Arafat serve the purpose at all of putting pressure on Syria?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we set these talks up with Chairman Arafat at a time, as you probably know, that we were all expected to be in Shepherdstown, so we did not expect there to be a situation where Chairman Arafat was the only leader in town. So they weren't intended for the purpose that you describe.

We've also taken the view that both tracks are going to proceed at their own pace based on the calculations and decisions and political importance that each leader attaches to making the tough calls, and that that's the pace that is going to determine whether the Palestinian track succeeds or whether the Syrian track succeeds.

We have no intention of engaging in some playing one track off against each other, even when Secretary Albright was able to - having met with President Asad and President Clinton - announce the resumption of the Syrian track, she made very clear to Chairman Arafat and informed him of this before it was public because she recognizes that the Palestinian issue is at the core of the comprehensive peace that we're trying to achieve. So they're both important, and we're capable as diplomats and policy-makers of carrying both difficult negotiations on at the same time, depending on the pace that the leaders choose for making the tough decisions.

QUESTION: Two things, one really quick. The lunch that Arafat's having with the Secretary, that's before the Clinton meeting?

MR. RUBIN: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that's his first meeting, then?

MR. RUBIN: I think so. I don't know what his schedule is in the morning. You'd have to check with the very able spokespeople, who are very loquacious.

QUESTION: The other thing is, these talks, the expert level talks, originally it was planned to have them both come together, right? Why has it been decided to have them held separately?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what the original plan that was communicated to you is. I know that there was an understanding that there would be working level people meeting with the US. Whether that was automatically assumed to mean that it would be working teams meeting together or whether that was communicated by somebody in the executive branch, I do not know. But when I checked on what the actual plan is, that is the plan.

So I can't answer your question about whether it changed because the first time I tried to get some detailed information about what would transpire over the next couple of weeks, that was the plan that was described to me.

QUESTION: I'm still a little bit confused.

MR. RUBIN: That's terrible. After all that clarity I tried to bring to this issue?

QUESTION: I'll ask you to try again. Earlier this week, we were told on background that we might expect a couple of folks, experts, from Syria and Israel to come here this week. Is that now off and we're going to wait until the Secretary's back and then we'll have one country and then the following week have another country? Or is that still on and we will still have the --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think you should be confused. You've asked essentially the same question, I think, as Matt. I will check the transcript of what was told to you on background, but I think it was more vague than you all understood it to be as to whether the two sides would meet together late this week or early next week, or whether they were sending people here late this week or early next week. And maybe there was a little vagueness there that I am now able to clarify.

So I wouldn't assume that there was a plan and that that plan changed. That might have happened. I just don't know. But what the plan now is that I can confirm to you, for all the world to see, is that the intention is to bring one side here, work on the draft, try to do it in a very careful and controlled way, look at the problems, clarify the text, discuss the text, and then do the same with the other side some days later. And I don't know who comes first, but as soon as I can tell you that, I will.

QUESTION: President Clinton said this morning that he thought that the sides were only 10 percent away from coming back to the talks instead of - and they're not 90 percent, apparently implying that people think they're much further away from coming than they are.

MR. RUBIN: On the Syria-Israel track? Well, first of all, my standard comment: I agree with the President. I would want to look very carefully at his remarks before commenting, but I can give you my impression of the situation.

QUESTION: And if that's different.

MR. RUBIN: I certainly hope that it is fully consistent with the President's description. We indicated that if we had wanted, they would come back now, so in that sense they're zero percent away from coming back. We made a judgment that we thought it was wiser to wait some time before reconvening in that forum or in some other forum to move forward. So it's not that the two sides are refusing to come to meet together in Shepherdstown or any other location; it's that it was our judgment that doing so would not have yielded fruit; it wouldn't have helped us to close gaps; it wouldn't have helped us to advance the process.

QUESTION: I presume he meant 10 percent away from coming back with something productive?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we believe that there is a good chance that this agreement can be struck. We've always said that. We hope that the two sides will make the decisions necessary to get an agreement, but they have to make them. And we've always said that this is an agreement we think can be made. Will it be made is a different question. And I don't think the President was indicating that it will be done but, rather, that there's a good chance that it can be done, and that remains our view.

QUESTION: Just to come back to the Palestinian track, are you suggesting that during the course of the discussions with Yasser Arafat there might be room for perhaps extending the February deadline, changing it in some way, or is that February deadline a rock solid deadline?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think the Prime Minister and the Chairman have both indicated that it is not, you know, a deadline in the form of, you know, that everybody's going to jump off a cliff the next day, that there is a recognition that having that kind of goal of a framework agreement in mid- February, and a full agreement I believe in September, is the way to focus the negotiators and focus the policy-makers to make the decisions necessary to achieve them.

But I think nobody has described the mid-February time frame as a make-or- break decision. If you were off by a few days or so or more than that and you could still make progress, I think people will work towards it. And I think the Prime Minister of Israel, the Chairman and American officials have made that clear. It's a goal. The goals is to see whether you can have a framework agreement in February which will, in our view and the view of the parties, increase the chances of having an actual agreement several months later.

QUESTION: Since the meeting on Monday evening in Havana between the US officials and the Cuban officials, has any of Elian's family or relatives requested a visa from the US to come here, or have you all done additional work on the subject?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think there has been any request for a visa. What I can tell you is that late on Monday, January 17th, after expressions of interest by the Cuban Council of Churches, we sought confirmation from the Cuban government regarding the parameters of possible travel by Elian Gonzalez' grandmothers to the United States. The Government of Cuba requested assurance from us that the grandmothers would not be subpoenaed.

While we are willing to expedite the visas under the relevant US Immigration laws, should the grandmothers make a decision to apply, we cannot guarantee that the grandmothers will not be subpoenaed. We have not heard from the Cuban Government again on this issue. We meet with Cuban government officials regularly both here and in Havana on the whole range of issues related to Elian Gonzalez, as well as the normal range of bilateral issues.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the US Jordanian citizen that has apparently been - let me get the exact word - indicted - a military prosecutor has indicted a US Jordanian citizen in connection with the arrests made before Christmas?

MR. RUBIN: I have something. I'm not sure you will think of it as satisfying however.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - something.

MR. RUBIN: Something. Mr. Deek is subject to a legal proceeding -- this is Khalil Deek - in the Jordanian courts. I can confirm that he is a US citizen. He has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. This case is currently under investigation by the government of Jordan. We have seen reports that the cases of those arrested are being referred now for prosecution in the courts. It's an ongoing legal proceeding in a foreign country, and the government of Jordan would have to provide you any further comment on this.

QUESTION: Recognizing that the Pentagon doesn't have a briefing today, I'm just wondering if there's any reaction from the State Department to the failed missile test last night?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that I think all of us in government have a great interest in a program that is designed to deal with a growing threat that we all face in this world from the potential long-range missile capability of countries of concern in the Middle East and Asia. So I think all of us in government have a strong interest in this, and there are various functions we all perform.

On the basic issue of the test, I think it's fair to say that being - we always knew - we the administration - always understood that developing and testing a missile system like this in a relatively short period of time was going to be an enormously complex challenge. Essentially, what you're trying to do is, in layman's terms, shoot a bullet with a bullet and have a success when that bullet has a closing speed of 14,000 miles per hour. So this is an enormously difficult challenge.

This particular test combined both the interceptor designed to hit the incoming warhead as well as a first test of the X Band radar to guide the interceptor and to detect the location of the warhead as well as a battle management system to provide command, control and communications for the whole system. So it was a complex test with three key components and the test did not succeed. The test failed. We've had two such tests of this kind of system. One has succeeded; one has failed. There is another test planned for the Spring.

The goal here is for a decision to be made sometime this summer or in summer time frame, and that decision on whether to deploy a national missile defense will take into account several factors; first, the feasibility of a system, and this test and any future tests will weigh in that calculation; second, the threat that we may face from long-range ballistic missiles; third, the cost of such a system; and, finally, the international security environment including the potential impact on arms control and the ABM Treaty. So those are four factors that we're going to take into account. One factor is technical feasibility.

The Pentagon, as I understand it, the experts are now studying the results of this test to try to determine what went wrong, how significant the problem is, and obviously improve the chances for a successful test in the Spring. So this is an ongoing process. It's an enormously complex challenge to hit a bullet with a bullet at an extremely high rate of speed. And this question of the feasibility of the system is one of several factors that we will have to take into account before a decision is made as to whether to go forward with deployment.

Any more on this? Yes?

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if the testing and the possible or future deployment of this ABM shield, if that's one of the most divisive issues in the North Atlantic Alliance at the present time. It has been so stated in the press. Is that really true? Is that a terribly divisive thing?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's fair to say that many of our allies have some serious questions about this issue. Secretary Albright has spent a fair amount of her time talking with our allies about the importance of dealing with the potential threat we face from countries like North Korea and Iran and Iraq, and the importance of dealing with those threats if we're going to go into the 21st Century with the kind of security that we all want.

There are a range of views in the Alliance about ballistic missile defense. That is not news to us. This is an alliance of democracies. They are not simply a uniform body that agrees on every point. I think they understand the motivation, and we're trying to do our best to brief them about the threat that exists from potential proliferators. And the more we are able to explain to them the threat, hopefully the more supportive they will be of our position. But I think it's fair to say that it is an issue where not all Alliance members are in full agreement with the United States.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say, Mr. Rubin, that this test was not a total failure? It only failed insofar as there was not contact of the kill vehicle to the target vehicle, that much could be learned?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I talked to my Pentagon colleagues, and I think they were very clear that this was not a successful test at this stage. They are evaluating what happened. But I think to draw the conclusion you drew would be not based on any of the analysis that they have done so far.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the Middle East for just a second. You're going to love this question. There was a report in an Israeli newspaper this morning that Prime Minister Barak had agreed to the Syrian demand for withdrawal from the Golan, and President Clinton had conveyed this in a letter to President Asad in October. I don't want to damage your reputation with the Israeli press. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. RUBIN: I think that's pretty easy. I've taken this view since this process began with Secretary Albright's trip to Damascus. And when it comes to the specific question of the border and withdrawal, that I'm simply not going to entertain that subject and get into the details of a substantive nature on that subject, and this report falls into that category.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the missile test. Did you say why you all think it's a failure?

MR. RUBIN: No, I said --

QUESTION: Why did it fail or what failed?

MR. RUBIN: -- that the Pentagon officials are now engaging in an analysis of the test, and that will take some time for them to draw a conclusion, but that generally speaking it is fair to say that the test did not succeed.

If you're asking me for the specifics of what went wrong and how significant that is, I specifically said in response to one of your colleague's questions that that is what the experts at the Pentagon are trying to ascertain now. I indicated that this was a complex test of a challenging system. It was complex because it was the first time the battle management system was mated with the X Band radar and the interceptor, and this makes a particular challenging test. But in terms of what the specific problems were, first of all, that would be up to the Pentagon to describe; and, secondly, I don't think from my conversations with them that they have drawn that kind of conclusion yet.

QUESTION: Yes, two questions please. One of them on the Secretary's meeting tomorrow with President Arafat. Could you tell us some substantial insight as what's going to be discussed? Does the United States require anything from Palestinians that they require that they fulfill their part of the deal as for Sharm el Sheik?

And the second question is on Bahrain. Could you tell us about the meeting today?

MR. RUBIN: On the first part of the question, let me say I've indicated earlier in the briefing that it's my expectation that Secretary Albright will in her meeting with Chairman Arafat and the President and his meeting will be discussing where we are in the permanent status talks. I'm sure the Sharm el Sheik issue will come up.

In that regard, we've said many times - between Chairman Arafat or Prime Minister Barak or in discussions between Israelis and Palestinians - and time and time again the two have proven their ability to resolve these problems. And we think that the remaining issues in Sharm el Sheik are resolvable and we hope the two parties will resolve them. More broadly, we want to get an assessment and take stock of where we are in the permanent status talks so that we can see how much work we need to do in order to meet the goal of a mid-February framework agreement.

With respect to Bahrain, the second part of your question, let me say that Bahrain is a close friend of the United States with whom we want to consult on a regular basis. His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al- Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain defense force is in the United States on a private visit. Bahrain has hosted the US Navy in the Persian Gulf for nearly 50 years. It is a key friend and partner in the Gulf. Bahrain has just finished two years in the UN Security Council where it did an excellent job of balancing its Arab responsibilities with its global concerns.

We expect the Crown Prince's meeting in the United States to include discussions on the Middle East Peace Process, probably some of the very same issues we've been discussing here, maybe the Secretary might be giving a little more detail substantively, Iraq, Iran, Gulf security and economic development.

Secretary Albright is right now hosting a lunch for him at the State Department. In addition, the Crown Prince is expected to meet with Secretary Cohen, President Clinton and other US officials. Although he has spent considerable time in the US, this is his first visit to the United States as Crown Prince.

QUESTION: Back to Russia. Do you think Russia is threatening the sovereignty of Georgia and Azerbaijan? And has there been a proposal by Turkey for the creation of establishing a pact in the Caucasus. Anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not familiar with the second part of your question. With respect to the first part, let me say that one of the concerns that Secretary Albright has had about the war in Chechnya is the potential spillover to countries like Georgia and Azerbaijan. It's one of the reasons why we think Russia is heading down the wrong path. And that is something that we have been very concerned about.

QUESTION: What do you know about the arrest last month of a man in Southern California who's suspected of having planted a car bomb that killed Rosemary Nelson in Northern Ireland?

MR. RUBIN: That sounds to me like a domestic law enforcement matter, and I would refer you to the law enforcement agencies.

QUESTION: The current troubles of Helmut Kohl especially since it's been such a long time - seen as a longtime ally of the United States?

MR. RUBIN: I think there's no question that the United States had a very good working relationship, an excellent working relationship with Chancellor Kohl when he was Chancellor. With respect to the current issue in the German domestic political scene, I would have no comment whatsoever.

QUESTION: Question about the compensation deal to the survivors of Nazi slave labor. Does the US Government agree with the position of their lawyers that a freeze which is apparently being put in the bill being considered by the German Finance Ministry that previous payments should be taken into account might lead to some of their clients being left empty handed?

MR. RUBIN: Let me get you an answer on that. I have nothing here for you, but I'll get that for you.

QUESTION: This is in a report by Tass that I haven't seen confirmed anywhere else, but it says that Chechen rebel commanders are holding talks in Moscow. Have you heard anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: We've seen some reports to this effect that there were such talks. We've had no independent confirmation from the Russians of that. But we certainly have taken the view that dialogue is the solution to this problem and that the military solution is the wrong solution.

QUESTION: This is a little bit off the beaten track, and I just read about it before I came in so stop me if you haven't heard anything about it. But the President of Bolivia has either arrived - okay.

QUESTION: Another one a bit like that actually about Ukraine. There was a report in the Washington Times that the embassy there had been telling Kuchma to not have his campaign contributors say anything about his policy including a certain Mr. Buteiko. Is that true?

MR. RUBIN: That they have raised questions -

QUESTION: About the --

MR. RUBIN: -- crime and corruption?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RUBIN: One for three, Bingo. Crime and corruption and their corrosive effects on Ukraine's transition to democracy and a market economy were discussed in detail during the December 8th US-Ukraine Bi-National Commission meetings in Washington. President Kuchma has identified the fight against corruption as one of his top priorities during his second term in office.

Given the negative effect of corruption on economic development and reform and on respect for the rule of law, this is also one of the highest priorities on our bilateral agenda with Ukraine. So, in general, what I can say is that we have raised important ways the issues of crime and corruption with President Kuchma in a number of meetings including the meeting the Vice President had with him.

QUESTION: But you could not go so far as to say that particular individuals had been pinpointed as being those who would be particularly involved in crime and corruption?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've had discussions on crime and corruption with the leaders of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Turkish security forces, they captured in Istanbul the several cells belongs to Hizballah terrorist group.

MR. RUBIN: We need to develop some hand signals here so midway through your questions I can let you know very clearly that I have nothing for you on that.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)


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