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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #28, 00-04-03

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, April 3, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1	Spokesman thanks those who called or sent cards congratulating him
	 on the birth of his son last week. 
1	Will travel to Boston on Thursday, April 6; will focus on
	 importance of granting China permanent normal trade relations. 
1	Briefing at 4 p.m. today in State Department on results of
	 Stability Pact conference. 
1-5	US has received 28 or 29 visa applications in conjunction with
	 Elian Gonzalez case. Application swill be adjudicated fairly
	 quickly. Review of applications is ongoing. Visa adjudication not
	 part of any deal. 
5-6	Secretary Albright welcomes apprehension of Mr. Krajisnik, charged
	 with genocide, crimes against humanity. There is no statute of
	 limitations for war crimes. This sends message to Mr. Karadzic
	 that time is against him. 
6	Secretary Albright was greatly saddened to learn of sudden illness
	 of PM Obuchi, sends her prayers, best wishes for his speedy
	 recovery. US will continue to work smoothly with Government of
	 Japan during this difficult situation. 
6-10	US planning for meetings between Chairman Arafat and President
	 Clinton, Secretary Albright later this month. Talks at Bolling AFB
	 to resume later this week; talks are expected to be intensive,
	 substantive. Ball is squarely in Syria's court to respond to
	 serious  Israeli proposals. Israel wants to withdraw from Lebanon
	 as a result of negotiations, but is prepared to withdraw
	 unilaterally. Secretary Albright has spoken with UN Secretary
	 General Kofi Annan concerning Lebanon. Syrian FM Shara made clear
	 Syria has no interest in moving forces to border.  
7	US has expressed serious concerns over certain arms sales to China.
10	US supports right to self-defense against PKK, as long as
	 incursions into Iraq are limited in scope, duration, and rights of
	 civilians are fully respected. 
10	US is deeply concerned over killing of radio station owner. US
	 believes credible elections can be held in time for seating of
	 parliament in June. Failure to constitute legitimate parliament in
	 timely fashion risks isolating Haiti. 
11	US focused on Libya taking further steps in compliance with
	 relevant UNSC resolutions. 


DPB #28

MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2000, 12:40 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: On a personal note, let me thank all of you for your notes or calls of congratulations. For those of you who have been around for a while, you might be pleased to know that during our stay in the hospital, my wife wore a t-shirt that you gave me before we got married, which was "Someone at the State Department loves me." So I want to thank you all for your notes of congratulations and, as you can see, I'm back from my one week of paternity leave - for whatever that might mean to others. And I do have a picture - when the cameras go off, I'll be happy to show you a little picture.

A couple of announcements, and right to your questions. First of all, Secretary Albright will be traveling to Boston this Thursday. The Secretary's -

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: It's a little early for that, Barry. The Secretary's visit obviously is part of her normal process of meeting with American citizens around the country but, in particular, she is going to be focusing her comments and discussions on the benefits to the United States of permanent normal trade relations with China to the people of Massachusetts and the rest of the country. There will be a fairly extensive schedule for the entire day; she will be going up and back that day.

QUESTION: And where is this?

MR. RUBIN: It's outside of Boston. We'll be giving you more details, but it's in the Boston area.

In addition, we have a statement on the release of a certain volume of foreign relations. We also have an on-the-record briefing this afternoon on the Stability Pact with Dan Hamilton.

With those opening announcements, let me turn to your questions.

QUESTION: What do you have on the visa applications from Juan Gonzalez and his entourage?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we have received - I think the number is 28, it could be 29, I'm still checking on that - requests for visas from the Cuban Government to our Interests Section in Cuba. That list is probably well- known to many of you because, in an unusual situation, the names have been published already in the Cuban media. It is not our practice to give out the names of each one of those visa applicants. The immediate family is obviously part of that list as well as classmates of Elian Gonzalez, teachers, medical personnel and the President of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.

That is the list that we have received. We received those earlier today. We do expect to be making decisions on these visa applications fairly quickly. It has been our policy for many, many days now that we have indicated that we will stand ready to expedite the processing of visa applications for the immediate family of Elian Gonzalez.

QUESTION: What about the applicants who are not members of the immediate family?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that is obviously what is being reviewed right now. That review is ongoing. I can't predict the outcome of that review, other than to say that obviously we stated our policy in the past for very good reason in trying to make sure that whatever happens in this case is consistent with the American national interest.

QUESTION: And are there any individuals on that list who would be excluded by the regulations as they stand?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that presumptive exclusions, other than to say that the presumptive acceptances are the immediate family, and the rest will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis based on what we regard to be the national interest. That process will be ongoing during the course of the day.

QUESTION: Mr. Alarcon, is he not - there's no - is there anything that would keep him from getting a visa?

MR. RUBIN: I think he's traveled to the United States before in conjunction with his duties as part of discussions at the United Nations, so he's not - not been to the United States. On the other hand, what we have said is that we would expedite the processing of visas for immediate family members, and we did that because of the nature of the case and what we regard the nature of the case to be. To the best of my knowledge, Ricardo Alarcon is not a member of Elian's immediate family.

QUESTION: Does that mean that, basically, for the immediate family it's pretty much a done deal?

MR. RUBIN: I'm trying to be as candid and forward-leaning as I can prior to decisions being made. There have been no visas yet proffered at this time. They're going to be processed as quickly as possible, and the presumption is that those visas for immediate family members is something we will process favorably and quickly. Beyond that, we're going to have to review each of the individual requests.

QUESTION: Could you put a time frame on that? Could we expect the family visas to come out as early as today? And how about the time frame on the others - today, tomorrow, next week?

MR. RUBIN: The US Government officials - and let me be very frank here. The State Department's role is to meet with the Cubans, receive the visa requests, consult with other agencies of the US Government, try to make a government-wide decision that we're all comfortable with, and then get back to the Cuban Government through out Interests Section to provide the visas.

There are a number of agencies, obviously, that have an equity in a case as complex and politically sensitive as this has become, and we're trying to do this by the book, do it based on the national interest, so there may be some time elapsing between the arrival of a request and the proffering of a visa.

I think it's fair to say that those visas that fall in the category where we've already indicated our presumption should be able to move quite quickly. But whether we deal with each and every one in a matter of hours, I doubt it, but we're going to be moving as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: That was my question.

QUESTION: Are there ever group visas given for Cuban citizens? Is it possible that they would be considered as a group; for example, a head of a group, people who may have been waiting in line for visas already?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, when we say we're going to expedite the processing of visas in this case - and we said last week we would expedite the processing of visas for Elian Gonzalez' immediate family - that does involve expediting it. Beyond saying that, there are separate passports that have been offered to us to be stamped with visas, each separately, so there are not any group requests.

Might we come back and say we'll do these today and those tomorrow? I just don't want to prejudge the way this is going to unfold in the coming days. Obviously, there has been intense discussion all morning; inter-agency deliberations have already begun, and we're going to review the other categories, the categories of classmates, teachers, medical personnel, as well as the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.

QUESTION: I have another question. Can you tell us what kinds of visas these would be and how good - I'm sorry - how long they would be good for?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think once the decision is made as to processing them and making a decision - it's this kind of visa for this amount of time - we'll be trying to communicate that information to you as quickly as we can as the day unfolds, but I don't want to prejudge that before we've made any decisions.

QUESTION: Would you likely put limits on where they could go? Would that be an aspect of it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this is a complex issue. And, traditionally, a government official, for example like Mr. Alarcon, has had limitations placed on where he can go pursuant to our normal policies vis-a-vis Cuba in New York and Washington, etc. So there is precedent for placing restrictions on government officials. As you know, there were other individuals who came to the United States, the grandmothers, and there were modalities and arrangements worked out for their presence here in the United States. I don't think they felt they were particularly restricted by anything other than their own views, but I can't speak for them on that. So I think it depends on the case.

QUESTION: Are these visas and the granting of them part, in any way, of the discussions going on in Miami?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this is not part of any deal. That's not what we're doing here. We have indicated all along since this case began that we would be prepared to expedite processing of visas for family members, and so we are specifically not assuming that the issuance of visas necessarily means one way or the other on the discussions that the Attorney General is obviously having with relevant lawyers in Miami. So I'm not going to dip my little State Department toes into that issue at this time. I'm trying to give you the straight story as quickly and fast as I can on the issuance of the visas.

QUESTION: Mr. Rubin, has the State Department or the Clinton Administration taken the spirit of Mr. Gore's idea of last week and pleaded to the Cuban Government to give John Gonzalez a visa to come to be in the United States, if he chooses, with his son, as that's the other alternative to this and I haven't heard it play?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think you're familiar with my practice here at the State Department is to try to avoid involving myself in partisan political issues as they emerge. I speak for the Secretary of State and the State Department, and we all obviously speak for the President. To the extent the Vice President has different views, that is for other podia to discuss, not this one, and I welcome your intrepid journalism over at the White House.

QUESTION: You've mentioned national interest a couple of times, sir. In this case, what are the standards of national interest that would allow someone to come into this country, or standards that would keep them out? Could you just explain?

MR. RUBIN: That's a very good question, and I think to answer it completely or in any way might preview decisions that might be made. All I'm indicating is that the Secretary's standard in issuing visas and responding to these requests will include prominently the question of what's in the US national interest. But until those decisions have been made, I don't want to preview it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Have you determined whether these doctors might be intelligence agents as well?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously security is always a factor as we examine visa requests and, as Carl asked, restrictions on certain individuals. So that will be weighed very carefully as we make a decision as to who to allow and who not to allow.

QUESTION: Another subject? Today Krajisnik has been arrested on war crimes suspicions. Does that mean the day is closer for the arrest of the prominent suspects, Karadzic and Mladic and Milosevic?

MR. RUBIN: Well first of all, let me say that the Secretary heartily welcomes the apprehension of Mr. Krajisnik. He was charged under a sealed indictment for genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war. He is specifically charged with the willful killing, extermination, complicity and genocide, deportation and inhumane acts. This is a pretty nasty case here. He is charged both on the basis of individual responsibility and command responsibility.

From Secretary Albright's perspective, this arrest is good news for justice for the people of Bosnia and good news for all of those who care about what went on in Bosnia during that time. And it is a positive step towards peace and reconciliation in Bosnia, because it is only by the assignation of individual responsibility can collective responsibility be expunged.

This arrest also demonstrates clearly, for all to see, that there is no statute of limitation on war crimes, and that indicted war criminals will be brought to justice and that their day will come. With respect to who is next, I don't want to make any predictions, other than to say that Mr. Krajisnik was obviously at the top of the bloody regime that was run by Mr. Karadzic, and this is a serious, serious arrest for a serious crime. And it demonstrates, for those who have doubted, our determination to move forward on the war crimes agenda our determination to do so. In that regard, let me say that Secretary Albright is intending to call Foreign Minister Vedrine of France to congratulate him and all of us in working together to keep the war crimes agenda moving forward.

QUESTION: Are his whereabouts known? Why hasn't he been apprehended yet?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we think that today's arrest sends a message to Mr. Karadzic that time is against him and that the international community will not let up in its efforts to bring him to justice. With respect to his whereabouts, I would prefer not to speak publicly about issues that might affect the potential to arrest him, but I think the arrest of Mr. Krajisnik should be something that causes Mr. Karadzic to get even less sleep than he's been getting up to now.

QUESTION: On what you were talking about just before Barry's question, is this arrest all the more sweet because it was done by the French, who there have been people who were criticizing them for not doing enough?

MR. RUBIN: This arrest is sweet to those who are seeking justice in Bosnia. I'm not going to comment on some of those other reports other to say that Secretary Albright will look forward to talking to Foreign Minister Vedrine and discussing with him and congratulating all of us in our determination to keep this agenda moving forward and to work closely with the French Government to that end.

QUESTION: Can I go to a Japan question?


QUESTION: Prime Minister Obuchi is in coma so, at this stage now, what can you say?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Secretary Albright was greatly saddened to learn of Prime Minister Obuchi's sudden illness. She sends her best wishes and prayers to Prime Minister Obuchi and his family during this difficult time. She hopes for his speedy recovery and return to complete health. The Secretary also reiterates to Acting Prime Minister Aoki and Foreign Minister Kono American support for and confidence in Japan's interim government and offers whatever help we can during this difficult time.

QUESTION: The Okinawa Summit is three months to go, and it is likely new cabinet or new prime minister will take Obuchi's position. At this stage, can you comment whether --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we believe we will continue to work smoothly with the Japanese Government while it deals with this difficult situation, including in our efforts to work together with them in the run-up and the preparation for the upcoming meeting in Okinawa.

QUESTION: One of the names being tossed around is former -- (inaudible) - minister Yoshiro Mori. Do we have, up to now, any kind of contacts with him or has he been in contact with the US Government on various issues, financial or otherwise?

MR. RUBIN: I would prefer not to engage in that kind of discussion at a time like this.

QUESTION: The President is traveling, just to get a name and a correct attribution. Arafat is coming here, number one, and the US is displeased that Israel is going ahead with providing radar or some advanced capabilities to China. And the Israeli media thinks that you might strike out and cut aid to Israel.

Could you tell us - normally we'd ask the White House but they're on the road.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Arafat coming here - is it just checking in? Does it portend more than that? And what about aid to Israel?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the visit, yes, we do expect and are planning for a meeting between President Clinton and Chairman Arafat, and the Secretary as well, later this month. The dates haven't been set.

The two leaders do meet regularly to consult on the peace process, and we would expect consultations to focus on how to accelerate the permanent status negotiations so that we can get a framework agreement pursuant to the discussions that have been held at Bolling Air Force Base and the discussions that are being resumed at Bolling Air Force Base this Thursday, all of which is designed to get a framework agreement as soon as possible so that the September 13th date for a permanent status agreement can be met.

The Bolling talks will continue this week. We expect them to be intensive, substantive, carrying forward from what they discussed in the past. It's a little early to speculate on exactly what will happen, but we do expect an intense set of discussions.

QUESTION: What level is it?

MR. RUBIN: Same level as before.

With respect to the broader question of arms sales and arms package, obviously the Syria track, we're in a position now where we have gotten a better idea of what the Syrian views are. The ball of this negotiation is squarely in Syria's court to respond to the serious proposals the Israelis put forward. And pending that, we will continue to stay in touch with both sides.

In that regard, let me also add that on the Lebanese issue, the Secretary has been talking to Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. And obviously Prime Minister Barak would prefer to withdraw from Lebanon as a result of a negotiation, but he has made clear that, if necessary, he will withdraw unilaterally. And we're going to be working with them pursuant to Resolution 425 to implement Israel's decision.

With respect to your last question on the aid and the weapon sales, it's no secret that the United States has had some serious concerns about certain arms sales from Israel to China, and we have a serious, intense process by which we discuss those kinds of issues with the Israeli Government - and we have done so and expressed our concerns. I'm not aware of any plan to respond by cutting aid as a result of this; on the other hand, it's fair to say that if Israel were not to respond to our concerns that it would have some effect. Precisely what, I'm not prepared to speculate.

QUESTION: Just a couple of loose ends. Could the Arafat visit - because anything could happen - but could the Arafat visit in maybe three weeks build up into a three-way meeting with Mr. Barak here, the President and Mr. Barak? I mean, you say you know more about the Syrian position. It isn't a very complex positions, is it? I mean, they haven't elaborated. They've made it plain: they want everything back, period, and they refuse to discuss beyond that.

I'm just asking you if --

MR. RUBIN: That's the second part of the question.

QUESTION: No, no, you've been away a week. Is there something new --

MR. RUBIN: And, oh, what a week it was. A lot has changed in my life, I can assure you.

QUESTION: Has the US discerned some deeper layer of the position, or is it where we knew it was last week?

MR. RUBIN: Okay, so you want to do the Palestinian track and the Syrian track.

QUESTION: A three-way, yes.

MR. RUBIN: On the first question, I'm not aware of any such plans. In this business, you never rule anything out, but the plan is for a bilateral consultation between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.

With respect to the Syria track, all I'm saying is that we have been trying to clarify the positions of both sides on a number of technical issues. It's not a simple matter as the way you described it. There are many issues that comprise the Israel-Syrian negotiation, far beyond just the one you mentioned. There are several key points that remain outstanding.

President Clinton was able to explain a very serious Israeli proposal to deal with those outstanding issues, and the ball is now clearly and squarely in Syria's court as a result of that meeting. I don't know what else to add.

QUESTION: Well, let me try one more time. The President was rather clear what Syria was saying to him, what Assad was saying to him. All I'm asking is, have you had any further elaboration of Syria's position since Geneva?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we stay in contact with Syria and Israel on a daily basis. I don't think there has been any major movement on the part of Syria since that meeting.

QUESTION: You said that Secretary Albright had been speaking to Kofi Annan about Lebanon.

MR. RUBIN: Yes - has already done that -

QUESTION: Are they discussing what forces might take control on the Lebanese side of the border after an Israeli withdrawal?

MR. RUBIN: I don't want to speculate on what will happen, other than to say that Israel has made it clear that it's going to withdraw one way or the other. It would obviously prefer to withdraw as a result of a negotiation. If that doesn't happen, they have said they would withdraw anyway. And we are working with them in furtherance of their objective of withdrawing pursuant to Resolution 425 of the Security Council.

What steps might or might not be taken by the UN in that context, I don't want to speculate other than to say that obviously she has been in touch with Kofi Annan. She'll will stay in touch with him. The Israeli Foreign Minister is going to be meeting with Kofi Annan. So there is discussion of implementing and withdrawing of Israeli forces pursuant to Resolution 425.

QUESTION: Your understanding, if I remember rightly -- perhaps you can remind us -- of Resolution 425 is tied to the Mandate of UNIFIL, which does in fact specify that UNIFIL would deploy right up to the border. Is that correct? Is that something --

MR. RUBIN: I don't think it's entirely clear exactly to what extent that resolution would or wouldn't pertain, and what additional steps might be taken. That's the kind of thing that is being discussed.

QUESTION: Jamie, as to the resumption that talks of Bolling, today you've called the upcoming round - you expect them to be intensive and substantive. Should we read anything into that vis-a-vis your past characterization of brainstorming? Is one a different level than another, or are you just trying to use different words?

MR. RUBIN: Well, all of the above, I guess. Intense and substantive seem like good words to describe the meetings that we're expecting to have. I met, myself, with many of the negotiators at the house of Deputy Special Middle East Coordinator Aaron Miller, who - and all of them describe their discussions as substantive and intense. So we expect that to continue, but these are difficult issues. I think the Brainstorming rubric hasn't gone away.

QUESTION: Would you comment on the head of the Lebanese Army suggesting that the Syrian Army would - do you have anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we understand that Syrian Foreign Minister Shara has made it clear that Syria has no such interest in moving its forces up to the border. It remains our view that a negotiated settlement is the best means of addressing the needs of all sides. That's where our focus continues to be. So that is our response to the suggestion by the Defense Minister of Lebanon.

QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up on that? Lahud, the President, has already undercut his own general on this. But when he was general in charge of the Lebanese Army, which has largely been trained by the Americans, his assertion to us was that he was prepared to take the Lebanese Army down and act quite independently of UNIFIL or anything else, in closing the border and assuring that there was security on the border. What is the use of the Lebanese Army in the 425 and UNIFIL? Do you have any -

MR. RUBIN: I'm going to have to defer that question. All the issues associated with unilateral withdrawal or withdrawal in implementing Resolution 425 are things that are under discussion. I'm not going to comment on every time some Lebanese official makes a comment. There was a suggestion that the Syrian forces would move up to the border. That's the one I was referring to. That's obviously quite significant, and I'm pointing out to you that we understand that Foreign Minister Shara has indicated that Syria has no such interest in moving its forces up to the border in that way. That strikes me as reaching the threshold worthy of comment by the United States.

QUESTION: It seems the Turkish Army is fighting the rebel Turkish Kurds inside Northern Iraq after a military incursion. Do you have something to say on that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I probably don't even need my briefing book for this one. Let me say that, with respect to this question, our policy remains the same. We support the right of Turkey to defend itself against PKK attacks, so long as its incursions are limited in scope and duration and fully respect the rights of the civilian inhabitants of the region.

QUESTION: Has Turkey been attacked -- (inaudible) -- ?

MR. RUBIN: We regard - we have no independent confirmation of the specific details of this event, but as to our position on the subject, that's our position.

QUESTION: Last week in New Orleans, the Secretary pulled aside the Haitian Foreign Minister and told him of the importance the US places on their elections being held in a kindly and peaceful manner. As she was making those comments, there was violence going on down there this morning. A prominent radio commentator has been killed. Do you have anything to say about this?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we are deeply concerned and troubled by the killing of Haitian radio station owner Jean Leopold Dominique. We urge the government of Haiti to ensure a thorough and prompt investigation. We are aware through our embassy of scattered protests in Port-au-Prince over the weekend after a week of demonstrations related to the delay of legislative and local elections.

There have been a number of reported threats against opposition candidates. There is a lack of clarity regarding some of the circumstances of recent events there. From our standpoint, we believe that credible elections can be held in April and May in time to convene the new Parliament by the second Monday of June, consistent with the Haitians' constitutional law. Significant further delays would undermine the credibility of the electoral process and greatly put at risk the current momentum towards holding the elections soon.

In our view, the government of Haiti must publish new dates for elections soon and lend full financial, logistical and security support with the provisional electoral council to ensure those dates are met. Failure to constitute promptly a legitimate parliament will risk isolating Haiti from the community of democracies and jeopardize future cooperation and assistance. It would be a great tragedy after all the world has done to help Haiti restore its democracy and to throw off the oppression of those junta members who were responsible for mass killings and human rights violations for them to risk isolating Haiti in this way by not moving forward with the timetable as specified.

QUESTION: Has the team that went to Libya come back with its recommendation yet?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of a particular recommendation at this point. I will take this opportunity to say that suggestions that we have changed our policy on Libya are simply inaccurate. We are focusing on ensuring that Libya takes further steps to meet the outstanding requirements of relevant Security Council resolutions, which include full cooperation with the trial of the PanAm 103 shootdown, an end to support for terrorism, acknowledgment of responsibility for actions of Libyan officials and payment of appropriate compensation. With respect to that report, I'm not aware of any final recommendation that's gone to the Secretary.

QUESTION: And do you have any comments on Qadhafi meeting in Cairo earlier today, or yesterday, with EU - Prodi and the Irish -- ?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there's nothing new about European governments meeting with the leaders of Libya, but that doesn't change our view.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 P.M.)

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