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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #22, 00-03-22

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


Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1,2,13-14	Upcoming Clinton-Assad Meeting/Status of Israeli-Syrian Track
1-3		Update on Israeli-Palestinian Talks at Bolling Air Force Base
SERBIA (Kosovo)
4-6		Milosevic's Recent Comments on NATO's Actions and Sanctions
6-8		Upcoming Russian Elections/ Secretary Albright's Views re
	 	 Acting President Putin 
8-9		Ambassador Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary Roth Visit
8,9-10		Former Congressman Lee Hamilton's Private Visit to Taipei
9		US Assessment of Taiwan Elections/Situation in Region
10		Reported North Korean Demand for Compensation for Civilian
	  	 Korean War Losses 
10-11		Reaction to Secretary Albright's Recent Speech
11		Iranian Support for Terrorism
11	Reported Turkish Government Strengthening of Relations with Sudan
12		Pope John Paul's Visit to Region
12,14-15	Class-Action Suit Against USIA Settled
12-13-14	US Consular Visit to Libya /Assessment of Safety for
	 	 Americans to Travel 


DPB #22

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 2000, 12:30 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing on this Wednesday, I believe, the first briefing of the week and another on-time performance. Let's see if we can have an on-time ending.

I have no statements, no announcements, nothing other than the pleasure of answering your questions.

QUESTION: Well, I don't know if it will be a pleasure for you to contradict Mr. Mubarak, but are the Israelis and the Syrians close to an agreement?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the meeting that President Clinton is going to have this Sunday, let me say the following. We've seen President Mubarak's remarks. In our view, we've been working to clarify the needs and positions of both sides so that there is confidence that if the negotiations resume in earnest there will be a reasonable chance of success. It is in this context that President Clinton will meet with President Assad and try to take advantage of the opportunity we see to move the process forward.

But in our view, this is going to take time, substantial time, and it is not simply a question of process. There are substantive issues that are outstanding that need to be overcome. There are still substantive gaps between the parties and tough substantive decisions that are required to be made by both sides, in our view.

QUESTION: This opportunity to draw parallel to what seems to be fairly positive talks at Bolling. Are there substantive gaps on the future of Jerusalem and on a Palestinian state?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think if there were agreement on all the permanent status issues that we would be where we are. There is not agreement on all the permanent status issues. We are, in fact, at a brainstorming stage where we're engaged in a serious brainstorming effort to try to see whether the needs and concerns can be met. And we're not even at the stage where American ideas are being presented but, rather, we're there to hear each side out and to encourage them to talk to each other.

Yesterday, Ambassador Ross brought the sides together for lunch and stressed the importance of using this venue to work intensively on the permanent status issues and brainstorm in an informal way to discuss ways to resolve the gaps and the concerns that still remain. There was a dinner last night -- I guess the Israelis and the Palestinians had dinner last night. The US will host a dinner for the parties tonight. In general, the atmosphere has been described as excellent and it reminded our negotiators of the fact that, even though there are difficult issues in the negotiations, there is enormous goodwill and respect between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

I am told there is a Pizza Hut on base that has been used extensively. There is an exercise room, to respond to some question I got yesterday. I don't intend to put my cameras inside the exercise room to see who's exercising with whom and what they're wearing during that process. And that's where we are.

QUESTION: At the outset you made the point, of course, if they were in agreement there would be no reason to have the talks. I'm just looking for you to parallel what you said about the other front. Are there still substantive and procedural gaps, because if there were just procedural gaps there would still be reason for them to talk? Are there substantive gaps on Jerusalem and on a Palestinian state?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to comment on any specific issue, but I certainly can say that there remain a number of big issues to be determined in substantive terms in the permanent status talks. We're talking about trying to get an agreement in several months and so, obviously, there are some big issues out there that have not been resolved.

QUESTION: How do you interpret Syria's new call, renewed call, for the Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights up to the 1967 line?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's not new for such a call to be made. The positions of both sides, the public positions, are fairly well known to us and their reiteration doesn't surprise us.

QUESTION: Getting back to the Israeli-Palestinian talks, you said we're not even at the stage where American ideas are being presented. Do you see that as a necessary step that they'll have to go through, knowing the intransigence of both sides?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we certainly hope that won't be necessary; ideally, that through bilateral discussions they find ways to bridge these gaps. What we've been doing is generally brainstorming with them privately about these issues in the hopes that they will then, both sides, adjust their positions sufficiently to bridge the gaps.

It's probably not realistic to say that if there's an agreement going to be struck between now and September that no American ideas would be put forward, but I'm just saying that right now where we are is that we're focused on having each side explore fully through a brainstorming process its needs and concerns on each of the substantive issues.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the third redeployment is also being discussed during these talks?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's been our experience that the permanent status talks in previous times spent a lot of time talking about remaining interim issues, so to speak. Now, with the bulk of the Sharm El-Sheikh Agreement having been implemented, it's our view that the primary attention is being placed on the permanent status talks. I can't exclude that the issue that you mentioned will come up, but it's our expectation and my understanding from yesterday that the bulk of the effort is on the permanent status side.

QUESTION: Jamie, you've used the word "brainstorming" about half a dozen times already today. In addition to brainstorming, what are the expectations for this set of negotiations, about a week long, and do they include getting to any drafting?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there will be some brainstorming, and I expect that to be an important part -- the brainstorming -- so, in addition to brainstorming, I would expect them to work on the substantive issues. We do not expect there to be major breakthroughs at these talks. The report that there was preparation being made to draft a treaty, in our view, is not accurate. The parties, again, are focused on getting a framework agreement as soon as possible so that the September 13th date can be met. Obviously, people will be exchanging ideas and proposals, but we don't expect to begin drafting during this session.

QUESTION: Will they put those ideas on paper? Isn't that what normally people do?

MR. RUBIN: Well, thank you for telling me what people normally do.

QUESTION: No, no. While you're knocking down a story that some draftsmanship isn't possible by the end of the week --

MR. RUBIN: The story about drafting a treaty.

QUESTION: No, the report didn't say drafting a treaty. It said that they would begin drafting.

MR. RUBIN: Let me assure you that when we make a schedule we draft it on a piece of paper. So if you want to use a piece of paper as your standard, then you can assume that they gave me stage directions to come in the room here and I used those stage directions to count the number of steps to come to the podium and look into the microphone. So, yes, there will be papers and pencils brought to the Bolling Air Force Base, but the suggestion or the implication that we're at the stage of drafting a treaty is incorrect and inaccurate.

QUESTION: What the report said is that -- and then I'll get off it because the report is accurate. But the report said -- you're slightly misstating it -- the report said by the end of the week, things are going well, and they may be able to begin drafting which means, in this kind of a setting where eventually stuff has to be legal and put on paper, that as they talk they'll put down words on paper. That's all.

MR. RUBIN: We regard that report as inaccurate, and "drafting" is a term of art that is understood in the context of this diplomacy to mean the preparation of a joint document that would constitute a draft of an agreement or a framework agreement. That story is, therefore, inaccurate in our view because the focus of this effort is brainstorming and serious exploration, and not the drafting of a peace treaty.

QUESTION: Some Israelis are under the impression that there may be an outline of areas of agreement and disagreement, not so dissimilar to what we saw come out of the Shepherdstown talks. Is that on track with what US expectations are?

MR. RUBIN: As I indicated in response to Barry's question, paper and pencil will be brought to the Bolling Air Force Base, and I expect pencils to be used and paper to be used. The suggestion that we are -- what you may recall the working document was was a draft treaty, for those of you who read it. And therefore, when I said that it won't be a draft treaty, I was saying that it won't be like the working document in Shepherdstown.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. RUBIN: Please.

QUESTION: Nearing the one-year anniversary of the NATO campaign against Kosovo, new/old statements from Slobodan Milosevic that Serbia won the war. We're heard that before, but now he's also claiming credit for the fact that the EU is lifting the flight ban. Can you just give us some retrospective comments?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. Slobodan Milosevic is more isolated than he's ever been before. He's now lost control over Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and now Kosovo. The fact is that if Slobodan Milosevic had agreed to negotiate seriously at Rambouillet or thereafter, the war could have been avoided and there could have been Serb forces in Kosovo pursuant to the Rambouillet Accords; there would have been extensive constitutional protections for Serbs in Kosovo built into the accords; and the involvement of Serbs in Kosovo would have been greater than it was because Milosevic refused to sign the agreement, suffered 78 days of air strikes, then was forced to remove all of his forces, police and military forces, that had he agreed at Rambouillet to that approach then, some of which could have stayed.

So he has lost greatly by this conflict and the bombing campaign obviously set back Serbia's infrastructure significantly, so in that sense as well the people of Serbia lost.

With respect to what's going on now in Kosovo and the sanctions question, let me be very clear. The European Union and the United States agreed to a suspension of the sanctions for one reason and one reason alone: because it was requested by legitimate opposition leaders. They have been in contact with us on a regular basis, and had it not been for the work of those opposition leaders, those sanctions would have not been suspended.

So Milosevic may use the few remaining media outlets that he's allowed to broadcast and publish and present their views to say black is white, but clearly the fact is that it's the opposition leaders who deserve the credit for this decision. Similarly, what you've seen in recent weeks is a massive crackdown on the independent media by Milosevic's forces which demonstrates how isolated and troubled and weak his regime is because it can't sustain an environment where a free press is able to comment on developments there.

With respect to Kosovo in general, a year ago the United States and its NATO allies did conduct and begin the conduct of an air campaign. We didn't do that by choice; we did that because Milosevic left us no choice. His ethnic campaign of murder and mayhem began. He refused to pursue any peace effort that we tried and, instead, went forward with the massive ethnic cleansing campaign.

The result of the air campaign is that the objectives NATO set forth were met. We said -- and I'm sure you all heard me time and time again -- say that we would use air power until NATO forces went in, Serb forces left, and the refugees could go home. And those three objectives have been met.

Since that time, last summer and fall, the focus was on humanitarian concerns, the million or so refugees having housing and food and schooling and medicines. And we've met largely those goals and now the focus is on trying to create security in the civil society there above and beyond the security that NATO forces have created.

I was recently there. The situation is far, far better than it was last summer. Murder rates are down. The situation is much calmer. The humanitarian needs have been largely met, but if we're going to achieve the objective of a Kosovo where there is democracy and coexistence and some level of self- reliance, we have a long distance to go. We've been working on that. The first free and fair elections are scheduled for this fall, the first free and fair elections in the history of Kosovo.

So, clearly, there are important milestones ahead, but the long and the short of it is the people of Serbia, the people of the world are much worse off from the fateful miscalculation of Slobodan Milosevic a year ago, and the people of Kosovo are obviously much better off than they were a year ago when they faced the boot of Milosevic's oppression and now they have liberation from that oppression.

QUESTION: Well, there's not complete liberation. He's still in power.

MR. RUBIN: I said liberation from Milosevic's ability to control events and crack down on the people there. A year ago, Milosevic was beginning and was intensifying an ethnic cleansing campaign that massively killed Kosovar Albanians that led to a million people being expelled from their homes and a number of other horrible atrocities. So that's what Milosevic was able to do to them a year ago. They are now liberated from not only that threat but from the ten years of apartheid-like oppression they suffered under Milosevic from essentially the '90s.

QUESTION: How likely does the US believe it is that Milosevic would direct any kind of military campaign against Montenegro?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've made our views on Montenegro very clear. We regard the security of that region, including Montenegro, as of interest to us. We think that it would be a grave mistake for Milosevic to take actions that would affect the ability of Montenegro to continue on its democratic course. Actions he's taken in the past have only led to disaster for Serbia and Croatia and Bosnia and in Kosovo.

QUESTION: Do you think that the people of Montenegro should feel the same sense of security that the people of Kosovo did, that should Milosevic sort of carry out any kind of attack against them that NATO would come to their defense?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate on such a question. What I can say is that the security of the region, including Montenegro, is an important interest of the United States.

QUESTION: Jamie, what would you say the analysis here is how Milosevic, despite all the things you've recited, is able to stay in power? If he's so hated by his people --

MR. RUBIN: His dictatorial regime of security services --

QUESTION: But dictatorial regimes eventually collapse. It takes a while sometimes but --

MR. RUBIN: Right. Well, I think your question contains the answer within it.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. RUBIN: Please.

QUESTION: Russia. The elections are coming up on Sunday. I know that we can't say that Putin has been elected, but considering it's like an unstoppable train at the moment, could you please tell us what kind of partner you think Putin is going to be for the United States and how hopeful the Clinton Administration is of achieving its goals this year, particularly compromise on NMD?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first let me say obviously this is an election that hasn't happened yet. The polling, I confess, is quite one-dimensional, and that is a reality.

As far as our experience with Putin so far has been, the Secretary laid these views out quite clearly in a piece recently -- and let me reiterate them for you -- is that in certain areas we've been encouraged and in certain areas we've been profoundly discouraged. We've been encouraged that he has identified the necessary steps that need to be taken for economic reform to move forward. He hasn't yet implemented those steps but he has identified them. He has clearly indicated an intention to work with the West and understands, in his view, the importance of working with the United States. That was demonstrated by the decision of Russia to resume work between NATO and Russia through the NATO-Russia Joint Council.

We've also been encouraged that he seems to want to have an open discussion of the whole ABM/National Missile Defense issue with us and that he shared our concern about the growing threats from other nations around the world. He also indicated that so long as the fundamental principles of the ABM Treaty could be protected that he wanted to work with us on this issue. The ABM/NMD issue is extraordinarily complex and we are long way from resolving it. Obviously, that's something we would want to intensify work on after the election, whoever is elected president.

More broadly, the Secretary expressed profound concern and profound criticism about actions in Chechnya that have involved the attacks on Chechen civilians, that have involved restrictions on the ability of the international community to find out what's going on there, to provide relief and shelter for those in desperate need. And on the logic behind the war which suggests that through this military campaign that the problem can be solved when, in our view, it will take far, far more than that. It will take a political solution to resolve it.

In addition, the Secretary obviously was profoundly disturbed by the actions taken against Mr. Babitskiy and the general issue of press freedom in Russia. There have been some blows to press freedom in Russia in recent weeks and months, and those are matters of concern to us.

So those are the assessments that we've had to date. It is impossible to predict what Mr. Putin will do if he were elected, what steps he will and won't take, but we judge our relationship by steps he takes, not so much by words he uses. And in some cases, that may lead to a profound concern and criticism and, in some cases, that may lead to encouraging cooperation.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Does the United States actually want the Russian Government to pay for the human rights abuses which have happened in Chechnya since there seems to be a general consensus emerging, not necessarily in the US Government but in general in supporters of Putin's candidacy that the Chechen war has actually helped Russia or, rather, will help Russia in the long run?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't see it that way. We think the Chechen war was a grave miscalculation because it is something that will not end as a result of the military campaign, that it only engendered increasing anger and resentment on the part of the people there. We think on the human rights abuses that an independent investigation is required. We have urged in the strongest possible terms that Russia investigate the human rights abuses that have been alleged, some of those allegations coming from highly credible international groups that have interviewed refugees and others. So we think these abuses must be investigated and those responsible pay the consequences.

QUESTION: That was a pretty good scorecard, but I wonder if you can embellish a little bit. I hate to ask you to do comparisons because comparisons aren't always fair, but it sounds like a show-me or a wait-and- see but you're not predisposed, as the first Clinton Administration was, to a warm embrace of Boris Yeltsin. You approached Yeltsin, I think it's fair to say, in a sense that he's going to be on the right track, we want to help him, we like the prospects of democracy and capitalism growing in Russia. But your rundown on Putin sounds like there's good and bad and you're going to have to wait and see.

Aren't you going to start out with Putin as if he's a continuation of the kind of reform with some blots that Yeltsin began, or is he a different sort of a leader? He's been accused of being anti -- you notice he's -- I mean, there have been analyses that he's somewhat less than a democrat, with a small "d."

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that there was a particular word in your question that I will take to give a very short plea. For those, especially opinion writers, who seem to want to quote out of context the Secretary's statement that he was a leading reformer without the other half of the sentence about him being from the KGB and not knowing which is the outcome, I urge that those writers stop this misleading and unfair plucking of three words out of three paragraphs that does a grave disservice to journalism in general when those kinds of pluckings take place out of context.

With respect to your question, let me say that it's clear that Acting President Putin is indicating that he is going to put together a very energetic leadership of Russia, that they will be working on 100-day plans and they will be trying to jolt the system through an election of an actual president as opposed to an acting president.

And to the extent that that jolt and those actions are consonant with the kinds of policies and principles that we've described, that would be encouraging -- and clearly we're going to see that kind of energy from Mr. Putin if he's elected. So that in certain cases will be very encouraging; in others, it could be problems, as it was in the case of Chechnya. So that is our view. We're going to wait and see what Mr. Putin does and judge him accordingly.

QUESTION: Can I move to another subject?


QUESTION: Can you tell us something about the talks Ambassador Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary Roth had with the Chinese leadership in Beijing and also, for that matter, former Congressman Hamilton's visit to Taipei to meet with the president-elect there?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that other visit, he's a private individual. You'd have to approach Mr. Hamilton to see about what he --

QUESTION: Where, though?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm sure you can track him down with your energetic investigative steps.

With respect to the Holbrooke-Roth trip, let me simply say that they concluded a good visit to Beijing. They met with a number of officials, including the president, the vice premiere and the foreign minister. The focus of the trip was on UN issues but, obviously, the full range of bilateral issues came up.

The team indicated that the discussion of Taiwan took place in a constructive atmosphere and China's wait-and-see approach on Taiwan was encouraging. From our standpoint, obviously we've been urging restraint and prudence and patience and urging both sides to develop an active dialogue that can resolve the cross-Strait issue.

QUESTION: You say wait-and-see, Jamie. Did you get a response? Did Ambassador Holbrooke get a response to the US's appeal for restraint? Wait- and-see sounds like they'll see how Taiwan behaves and then they'll decide what to do about it. I thought you wanted -- I think you want some expression of restraint generally.

MR. RUBIN: Right. I am sure that the Chinese officials have not been shy about expressing their views on this. From our perspective from these meetings, let me say that Ambassador Holbrooke indicated it was encouraging to him to see that China was reacting to the elections with prudence and caution.

QUESTION: There was a report --

QUESTION: Can we stay on the subject for a couple more questions?

MR. RUBIN: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of the situation in the Taiwan Strait after, you know, the dynamic changes as embodied in the election and victory of Mr. Chen Shui-Bian, the opposition party candidate?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the election has taken place. We've expressed our views on the election, congratulated the victor. On the military side, there are no indications of unusual buildup of forces in or around the region. On the political side, we're urging all concerned to make statements and actions that will make it possible for dialogue to resolve the issue to develop. In general, we have taken the view that improving cross-Strait economic ties serves the interest of both Taiwan and the PRC and is conducive to peace and security in the region.

QUESTION: On Mr. Hamilton's mission --

MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, you'd have to -- I'd refer you to Mr. Hamilton.

QUESTION: I understand, but part of the situation would be whether you expect or have gotten a report from Mr. Hamilton. I can't believe that the Administration wouldn't be interested in the discussion because it's part of the picture, however formal you are about not acknowledging Taiwan's status.

MR. RUBIN: All I can say is that he is traveling March 22 to 24 -- today is March 22 -- that he's traveling in a private capacity, that we welcome his willingness to travel to Taiwan. Senior officials have spoken with Mr. Hamilton since the election. In addition to being familiar with our thinking, he is well acquainted with the views of senior members of Congress. And the visit just began.

QUESTION: I don't know if you've seen this report yet, I think it just came out, but the North Korean News Agency says the United States military during the Korean War was responsible for killing about a million North Korean civilians and is demanding compensation.

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that report, and I will pass the question on.

QUESTION: Did that come up during the talks in New York?

MR. RUBIN: I have no idea.

QUESTION: The weekly question about Iran: Have you heard anything in response to the US overture?

MR. RUBIN: Heard anything?

QUESTION: Well, I don't want to say "been a response."

MR. RUBIN: You want to stay on Korea?

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the Foreign Ministry, in case you're wondering what I'm going to bring up, their spokesman --

MR. RUBIN: You do better pronouncing my name.

QUESTION: Anyway, their spokesman has said the following: "The contradictory remarks of American officials over the recent days, at times was inappropriate (inaudible) reveal their little knowledge about the geography of the region and indicate insincerity."

Do you have any reaction?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say that we've seen a variety of reactions to the Secretary's speech in a variety of fora, both the Foreign Ministry, the UN Ambassador, certain other political figures. A number of people have reacted in a variety of ways. And as you may recall from this podium, Secretary Albright said that we expected that this would take time for the political system in Iran to digest, that we weren't expecting any response of any significance quickly, that we were trying to make -- I won't elaborate on what the Secretary's speech was intended to do. She did that herself. So we're not surprised that there is a variety of opinions expressed.

With regard to one point, I think that most people I know refer to that body of water as the Persian Gulf, so I think people are probably not appreciating our language if they think there was any meaning to excluding the word "Persian." I think everybody I know calls it the Persian Gulf.

QUESTION: There are some people who probably appreciate the way you referred to the body of water, which is probably why you referred to it that way.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. Everyone I know calls it the Persian Gulf.

QUESTION: Pope John Paul II seems --

QUESTION: Can I ask another on Iran, do you mind? When the Administration talks about Iran, it regularly makes the point about the continuation of Iranian terrorism and links that to the Middle East peace process. But I'm curious to know whether the Administration believes that Iran is still responsible for terrorism outside of the context of the Middle East peace process? I mean, there have been charges in the past about the Iranians involved in Europe, Pakistan, South America, Turkey.

Does the Administration believe that that continues, or are we strictly talking about support for Hezballah and Hamas?

MR. RUBIN: I would prefer to get an expert to give you a precise answer to that question.

QUESTION: On another terrorism subject, I believe the Sudan is still in the terrorism-supporting countries, and I heard that the Turkish Government decided to strengthen its relations with Sudan's Government. As a good ally of Turkey, the United States, do you have any reaction on this subject?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to that question, let me say that I do have an answer to it. I'm just struggling to find it. In general, the United States would hope that any country considering relations with Sudan would take into account Sudan's abysmal human rights record, its ongoing prosecution of the war in the south which is ravaging the country, and Sudan's support for international terrorism.

QUESTION: Another subject. This week, early this week, several European governments or ambassadors in Ankara and also the low-level US diplomat from the US Embassy, they attended Iraqi Kurdish group reception in Ankara. And the Turkish Government, they didn't attend any officials.

MR. RUBIN: Not Americans?

QUESTION: One American, low level.

MR. RUBIN: Okay. Well, I'll have to check with the Embassy. I mean, this is way below my radar screen, but I will check.

QUESTION: The Pope in his visit to the Holy Land appears to be interested in speaking words of reconciliation and bringing about unity. What is the State Department's take on this man's pilgrimage?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, it's a very important visit for His Holiness to go to the Middle East to visit these sites, and his message of reconciliation is one that we fully endorse. And the more that the peoples of the region can focus on reconciliation rather than revisiting past grievances, the greater the chances that the enormous opportunities for peace this year can be realized.

QUESTION: So you think that the Pope's visit, in fact, can engender that peace process?

MR. RUBIN: We certainly hope so, yes.

QUESTION: Any comment on the settlement today of the $508 million lawsuit in a sex discrimination case against USIA?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. As you know, our able Deputy, Jim Foley, has been able to address that question in the past and I will get him to give you a answer; if necessary, even go on camera for you.

QUESTION: That would be very nice. Thank you, Mr. Foley.

MR. RUBIN: Good.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you want to add on your statements yesterday about the trip to Libya?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this. The visit to Libya of several consular officials will occur -- they're leaving today. This is a visit to assess conditions pursuant to the Secretary's authority under law to assess conditions for Americans traveling abroad. The Secretary has authorized these four officials to travel to Libya for a single purpose, and that is to assess safety conditions for Americans.

It's very important for people to recognize that the Secretary of State's authority to restrict the validity of passports only occurs in three cases: when there are armed hostilities, when there is imminent danger to the public, or safety of travelers. And the law specifically says that the passport restrictions are not intended to be used as foreign policy tools or sanctions.

So if the assessment leads to a change in the travel restriction, that is not an easing of sanctions, by definition, and so those who may see it that way should be urged to take another look at the law and how it's applied.

This is a visit that follows up on a recommendation and an assessment about changed conditions on the ground in terms of Libyan Government behavior, in terms of the number of Europeans who have been traveling, and the Secretary thought it would be appropriate to have this one visit. This is not about Libyan policy in general. The United States does not believe that Libya has satisfied all the requirements necessary to be removed from the terrorism list. Although there have been some positive steps, there remain substantial and significant steps remaining for Libya to take, including disassociation with certain groups.

So any suggestion that this action reflects a larger policy question on Libya is simply incorrect. So, in short, the visit is intended to help the Secretary make an informed decision about what the situation is on the ground with respect to American travelers.

QUESTION: There are family members of Pan Am 103 who believe that the timing of this visit is somewhat inopportune with the trial only six weeks away.

MR. RUBIN: Well, with respect to the timing and the trial, let me say that any time we're dealing with a situation like this with family members it is a difficult circumstance. They obviously lost loved ones and family members, and anything related to Libya is obviously a question of concern.

We worked very, very hard to get this trial. The Secretary of State personally intervened on numerous occasions to get this trial that the families richly deserve, and the trial is going to be under Scottish justice. So we have worked very hard on their behalf and we will continue to work hard on their behalf, but with respect to this question they are just going to have to believe us that it's unrelated. The timing is more related to the assessment provided to the Secretary last fall that indicated that there were changed conditions on the ground, but she still believed that it was appropriate to extend the passport restriction and continue to make assessments, and this assessment follows up from information provided to her last fall.

We don't know how long the trial will last and it is her statutory responsibility, as I've described it, to make assessments as appropriate about the travel of American citizens. Although we do recognize how painful any question related to Libya is for members of the families who lost people in the terrible act of terrorism.

QUESTION: Jamie, I'd like to go back to where we started and clear up one thing that I'm uncertain about, at least. In the upcoming meeting on Sunday between President Clinton and President Assad, is it the expectation of the US that an agreement to restart talks could come out of that meeting, or is that not the expectation and would it take more time even if things go well?

MR. RUBIN: I do not want to predict what will come out of that meeting. We have no expectations. It's impossible to predict and speculate on what will occur in that meeting. We think that the correct next step is to have a meeting at this level that a face-to-face meeting can involve potential progress that cannot be made any other way, but I'm not going to predict or speculate or describe expectations that people can't have since we don't know what will happen.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, to go back to Libya, the assessment that the Secretary is responding to, did that come from within the Department?

MR. RUBIN: Conditions are regularly reported to her about these questions, and last November they were reported that there were significant changes -- the ones that we have talked about in terms of Libya's open support for certain terrorist groups that have now been expelled, the conditions of increased European travel.

Despite those assessments, she decided to extend the travel restriction but asked to be kept regularly informed about conditions. And so as that date -- since November she's been getting regular reports about the assessment of conditions, and it is therefore appropriate now to have this visit of consular officials.

So rather than seeing it as six weeks before the trial, if that is indeed what it becomes, it's more like several months after she extended the restriction despite the fact that some objective conditions had changed.

QUESTION: On a tangential issue, is there --

MR. RUBIN: We love tangents here. You can go anywhere, anywhere on that board.

QUESTION: Is there any apprehension on the part of the State Department that pressure to increase oil production might reduce the ostracization of so-called rogue states -- Iran, Iraq, Libya?

MR. RUBIN: Our determination to pursue our national interests in the area of countries that support terrorism or pursuing weapons of mass destruction will not be affected by those other questions because, in the meantime, we are working diplomatically and we hope to have progress in increasing production that way. So I don't see the two as connected in any way, shape or form.

QUESTION: One serious question. If that note from Jim said he's not going to let you push off the answer on him, could you please give me a response on the lawsuit?

MR. RUBIN: No, that note indicated that Jim would be happy and thrilled to answer that question for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you want to do it now?

MR. RUBIN: No, no, after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. On camera, though?

MR. RUBIN: If you need that, he will do that.

QUESTION: I do need that.

MR. RUBIN: If you build it, he will answer it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

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