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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #3, 98-01-07

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>


892

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, January 7, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

ALGERIA
1-3		U.S. support for UN human rights Special Rapporteur and
		  international non-governmental organizations to
		  investigate violence in Algeria 
3		Reports of Iranian support for radical, armed Islamic
		  groups in Algeria

IRAN 3-5 Pres. Khatami's address to the American people/U.S. criteria for resumption of bilateral dialogue with Iran 5-6 Status of claims on frozen Iranian assets in the U.S. 6 Reports of Iran pursuing long-range ballistic missiles

DEPARTMENT 5 Under Secretary Pickering's Meetings in France

CUBA 6-8 Cuban migrants in the Bahamas will go to Nicaragua

COLOMBIA 8 Gen. Serrano's comments on U.S. concerns of narco-trafficking and Colombia 8 Reports of Colombian Army attempts to create paramilitary groups

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8,14 Amb. Ross' Discussions in the Region 9-10 Progress in the fight against terrorism and a further re-deployment 10-11 Current political situation in Israel

AFGHANISTAN 11 Reports of Massacres in northern Afghanistan/U.S. policy on political situation

UNITED KINGDOM 11-12 Status of peace talks in Northern Ireland

SOUTH KOREA 12 Ordered release of arrested American citizen Choi

NORTH KOREA 12 Status of U.S. decision on new WFP appeal for food aid

MEXICO 12 Release of murderers of American citizen 13 Reports of Mexican Army forming paramilitary groups in Chiapas

HONDURAS 12-13 Cost of Congressional delegation's stay at a resort

INDONESIA 13-14 U.S. View of Indonesian compliance with IMF package/ Regional economic stability 14 Threats from Indonesian military on protests against layoffs

RUSSIA 14 Update on Bliss case 14-15 Update on President Yeltsin's health


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #3

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 1997, 1:00 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Like yesterday, no announcements and no statements.

QUESTION: Algeria, like yesterday. Evidently the Algerian Government called on the American ambassador, is just not interested in the proposition of an international inquiry. Is that the end of it, as far as Secretary Albright, the State Department are concerned? Is there anything you can or plan to do?

MR. RUBIN: I spoke to Ambassador Hume this morning, and he described the circumstances that unfolded yesterday. The short answer to your question is no. We share the concerns of other nations in the international community with regard to the massacres in Algeria. An international interest in the ongoing tragedy is normal and understandable.

But let's focus first on the culprits. These terrorist attacks must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The terrorists must be condemned by the entire international community. The question is, what's the best way to get at some of the fact situations; not blaming the government, but getting at the fact situation. We do believe that outsiders may provide additional information on the scope and the source of these heinous crimes.

Ambassador Hume told me that we continue to discuss with the Algerian Government the idea of a UN human rights rapporteur. There are different ways in which the fact situation can be determined, and that idea, as far as we know, has not been rejected by the Algerian Government, and it is still a possibility. Other options include outside NGOs being able to go in and inquire and get to the bottom of this and be in a position to provide us with information that the international community has not had - how many people are really dying; what are the sources of this; what additional steps were or weren't taken.

The point is that this is a terrible situation, and that we have encouraged the Algerian Government to allow outside observers to visit and to look at the situation. They told us that they would accept a visit by a UN human rights rapporteur. What we are reiterating here is that the terrorist acts are condemnable; they're something that the entire international community is right to condemn. We want to see these barbaric attacks stopped. We're encouraging the Algerian Government to do all it can to protect civilians, bring the terrorists to justice, while also respecting the rule of law and human rights.

QUESTION: Did they set any conditions for this UN official - in other words, that he must be from a certain region, or they would discuss only x, y and z?

MR. RUBIN: I think at this point it is still under discussion, and I prefer not to get into the details. But the idea of a UN human rights rapporteur has not been rejected, and something we continue to encourage them to pursue.

QUESTION: What about non-governmental organizations going in there, such as Amnesty International, which has not been able to go since '97?

MR. RUBIN: Right. Again, we support the idea of outside NGOs being able to go. We think that the prospect of deterring, and ultimately stopping, these terrible atrocities would be improved if outsiders, like a UN human rights rapporteur, like NGOs, were in a position to provide the world and the Algerian Government with additional information on the scope, nature, and source of these crimes.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify. In this conversation between the ambassador and the Algerian Foreign Ministry, did they actually say they were opposed to non-governmental organizations coming in?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe - I don't have any information on the question of opposition to NGOs. I can say that we support the idea of NGOs going in.

QUESTION: Yes, again, just to clarify. You said the Algerian Government told you they would accept a visit by a UN human rights rapporteur?

MR. RUBIN: In principle, yes.

QUESTION: In principle --

MR. RUBIN: And we are continuing to encourage them to do so.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you have a response to the Council of National --

MR. RUBIN: Are we still on Algeria here?

QUESTION: It's Algeria.

MR. RUBIN: Okay.

QUESTION: But apparently the special rapporteur -- I think he's for extrajudicial killings - has been trying to go to Algeria for quite a long time.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: So what has changed, really?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, what's - I don't know what has changed, in the way you framed the question. I can state to you what the US position is -- that a special rapporteur ought to be able to go; that in our discussions with the Algerian Government, they have not rejected that idea; and that is an option we are pursuing in conjunction with the idea of outside groups, NGOs, other people who can help get to the bottom of this.

QUESTION: And also, if I could ask, the Algerian Government said that they take offense to the fact that you're suggesting that there's a need to get to the bottom of the facts concerning the massacres, and they see a suggestion there that it would be other forces, other then Islamic extremists. Do you have any --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen them state it quite that way. I think their position is more general than that. But it is our view that outsiders and a UN human rights rapporteur would help the world know better what's going on in this terrible tragedy that's unfolding in Algeria.

QUESTION: To follow David's question of yesterday, Iranian resistance officials this morning reiterated that they believe that a link between terrorists in Iran and this terrorism in Algeria existed, and if the government were changed in Iran, there wouldn't be this problem. Can you respond to that statement?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I can make a few brief points. Obviously, this is a tricky one. Let me say this -- that we have noted in the past that the Algerian Government has accused Iran and Sudan of supporting Algerian extremists. The Iranian Government, however, has condemned the massacres and said it wanted to see those responsible exposed internationally. The question of our assessment of what Iranian relationship might exist with these extremist groups would be a matter I'm not in a position to get into from this podium.

QUESTION: But your comment, then, about Iranian sources saying that there is a link, and there is a direct connection --

MR. RUBIN: I referred to Algerian Government statements that there's a link.

QUESTION: Okay. You can't comment on the Iranian National Council?

MR. RUBIN: I'm pointing to two types of statements -- I haven't seen that specific one; we haven't cited that - that the Algerian Government has accused Iran and Sudan, on the one hand. On the other hand, the Iranian Government has condemned the massacres, and said that it wanted to see those responsible exposed internationally.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence in the last month that Iran has ceased its development of weapons of mass destruction or its support for international terrorism?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I am going to withhold a little bit on any dramatic sweeping assessments of those kind until the day unfolds. The President is going to be watching carefully what President Khatami has to say. Secretary Albright will be watching carefully what President Khatami has to say. Based on what he says, we will find an appropriate way to respond.

But I can say the following - that we have concerns in those three areas, and we still have. We've had them for a long time, and we still have them. But trying to give you a grade is not something I'm prepared to do from this podium, especially at this time of day, given what we're expecting to see - what the President has called an historic message to the American people.

QUESTION: I know what you mean, and you probably don't mean what I'm going to suggest you seem to be saying. But you're watching words instead of deeds.

MR. RUBIN: No, on the contrary.

QUESTION: There must have been enough deeds or lack of deeds for you to come to some --

MR. RUBIN: I'm trying to use the delay to avoid saying what I wouldn't say yesterday or tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay, gotcha.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Wouldn't say tomorrow, either?

MR. RUBIN: We're not in a position each day to give a grade on each three of these issues.

QUESTION: Another subject --

MR. RUBIN: Because some of the - basis for those judgments are things we are not in a position to talk about on a daily basis.

QUESTION: On this subject, would you care at all to talk about what kinds of signals you are looking for; what kinds of tea leaves might be meaningful to you in a Khatami message?

MR. RUBIN: Again, we're looking for -- substantively, our policy has been based on changes in behavior in those three areas, two of which Sid mentioned.

As far as what would be sufficient to justify a dialogue, I went into great detail yesterday, and I'm happy to do that again. A dialogue between the United States and Iran must be an authorized dialogue; it must be one that is openly acknowledged; and it must be one in which we are able to raise our areas of concern - concern about weapons of mass destruction, concern about terrorism, and concern about opposition to the Middle East peace process. Those three issues lend themselves to criteria. We will be in a position to judge what is significant based on actions, not words. But words often are the precursor to actions; so it will be a combination.

QUESTION: Cuba.

MR. RUBIN: Any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Iran - (inaudible).

MR. RUBIN: Under Secretary Pickering is on his way back. He will be reporting to the Secretary upon his return; but he's in the plane now.

QUESTION: Do you have anything today, Jamie, on the status of what the US is holding in terms of Iranian assets?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. There is not US holdings of Iranian funds provided for undelivered military equipment, as has been suggested.

During the 1980s, Iran filed claims before the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague, including a claim seeking billions of dollars, primarily for alleged overcharges and nondeliveries of military equipment under the foreign military sales program that we had with Iran prior to the revolution, and for allegedly unjustified charges billed to Iran for terminating that program. Those claims are under active arbitration at the Tribunal. Decisions on them will be issued by that tribunal.

The question of whether we owe Iran funds based on those claims is something to be decided by the Tribunal. We vigorously contest these claims. I can say that the Iranian claims in this area, as well as the area of property the Shah and his family allegedly have in the United States, reach the billions of dollars in terms of their claims. But it's not about funds; it's more about moneys owed because of changes in the military sales program, or alleged property the Shah and his family owned. I can't comment specifically on these things because they are under a legal process, but we are vigorously contesting the claims.

I can tell you that, as a result of the revolution, many US individuals and businesses had claims against Iran, and filed those claims at the Tribunal. Since its creation in 1981, the Tribunal has disposed of about 4,000 cases and awarded $2.5 billion to US claimants. US and Iranian lawyers have discussed possible settlement of pending cases on a regular basis since 1986 at The Hague. We do not regard the discussion of claims pending in The Hague as a political matter.

For example, former legal advisor Conrad Harper conducted discussions resulting in the settlement of the Iran Air 655 case that Iran had brought to the ICJ, and of certain bank claims against the United States. These are confidential discussions until a settlement is concluded, and legal and technical exchanges do occur regularly in The Hague.

QUESTION: Most of the claims by individuals have been paid, haven't they? Do you have any --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know whether it's most. I just indicated that 4,000 cases have been adjudicated, with the result of awards over roughly $2.5 billion.

QUESTION: You don't know the overall numbers?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how many remaining claims there are, no, but I could try to get you that and put our lawyers back to work.

QUESTION: The United States is not holding any frozen Iranian assets?

MR. RUBIN: Not in the way that it has been publicly portrayed. It is, rather, a dispute about what funds they are owed as a result of changes in policies rather than moneys. Because in 1981, almost $10 billion was transferred as part of the Algiers Accord in 1981.

QUESTION: So - but you say there are no frozen assets. Is there any money being held in escrow or in any other kind of account by the US Government?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the account that yields funds for the individual claimants was part of the original accords. A certain amount of money was put into this account, which accrues interest and has generated funds of $2.5 billion towards the award of claims. How much money is left in the account, I do not know.

QUESTION: Jamie, can you just say simply, did the Iranians purchase - pay money for military supplies in the United States that they never received?

MR. RUBIN: We are disputing the claims they have made, and beyond that I'm not prepared to comment.

QUESTION: One more on Iran. This morning the Iranian resistance announced, here in Washington, that there were - there's at least one prototype of a 1400-kilometer-ranged missile that has been produced, that is operational. They plan to produce 14 or 15 more of them this year. This is an over-one- ton payload, Jamie. This was done with the help of the Chinese and the North Koreans, according to the Iranians, well-informed Iranians. Do you have any comment to this threat to Israel and Saudi?

MR. RUBIN: It won't surprise you if I say that we do take reports of Iranian pursuit of long-range or medium-range missiles very seriously. But I'm not in a position to comment on the specifics, because of the intelligence nature of the information.

QUESTION: On Cuba, do you have something about the people waiting in the Bahamas? Apparently they are leaving.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I do. We understand that Orlando Hernandez and Alberto Hernandez, as well as the five other Cubans who accompanied them to the Bahamas have been issued temporary visas by the Nicaraguan Government, and that they will soon travel to that country.

As you know, on December 31st, the US granted permission for Orlando Hernandez Pedroso, his common-law wife, and Alberto Hernandez Perez to enter the US. I have gone through in great detail with you on several occasions the reasons for those special circumstances. But obviously, with the visas offered by the Nicaraguan Government, that particular parole is not as germane as it was a couple of days ago.

QUESTION: At least four of those five people have relatives in the United States. While are in Nicaragua will they be eligible to come to the United States?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it will depend on what happens. But I would point out that the distinction between the three who were granted parole and the five who were not, I think you've asked me this question and I've quite gone into a great detail to explain the special circumstances that, in our view, justified the three receiving parole while the five did not. And as we indicated, we did not believe the five were heading back to Cuba; as this new information indicates, they are indeed not.

Let me remind you that the question of the freedom and the safety and the position of these people vis-a-vis harassment is a region-wide concern. Cuba is the only dictatorship in the region. It's the only country that does not have some form of democracy. We believe all the countries in the region - Central America, Latin America, South America, the Caribbean - have a responsibility. So this kind of an outcome, where another country also plays a role - Bahamas played a role, Nicaragua's playing a role, and it wouldn't surprise us if some of these people did end up in the United States in one form - one profession or another, is a reasonable outcome that protects them and spreads the responsibility regionally.

QUESTION: Because on Monday, a Congressman from Florida, Diaz-Balart, wrote to the Bahamian Prime Minister, asking him to leave those people in the Bahamas until the relatives in the United States arranged for them to get a visa into the United States.

MR. RUBIN: Well, they're all heading for Nicaragua now. So I don't have anything --

QUESTION: And from Nicaragua they cannot come here?

MR. RUBIN: I didn't rule that out. I'm just saying that that's where it looks like they're going now. Again, we all have - I want to point to you the regional responsibility; that it's not just the United States' responsibility.

Any more on Cuba?

QUESTION: Yes. Jamie, so it would be your assumption that you had said earlier that the UN human rights people would be interviewing them.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: And so it would be your understanding that they would then be interviewed in Nicaragua.

MR. RUBIN: They could well do that in Nicaragua, as well, yes.

QUESTION: The offer of parole, though, is still out there for Hernandez; isn't it?

MR. RUBIN: It is.

QUESTION: And he can go to Nicaragua and then --

MR. RUBIN: An offer of parole was based on a particular set of circumstances. Those circumstances are different now, but I'm not saying anything other than they're heading for Nicaragua. If it needs to be reviewed, it will be reviewed.

QUESTION: But he can go to Nicaragua and subsequently come to the United States; that's still a possibility.

MR. RUBIN: If the circumstances change, the review has to be conducted. That is something the Justice Department would do, and I'd direct your questions to them.

QUESTION: On Colombia, General Serrano, the chief of the national police of Colombia has said that there are some forces in the United States that are trying to pursue the political instability in Colombia because the only interest of the United States is to stop narco-traffic in Colombia. Do you have any response to that argument?

MR. RUBIN: Our interests in Colombia and other countries in the region are not solely based on narco-trafficking. They're based on narco- trafficking in part, but they also include the promotion of democracy, the promotion of trade, the promotion of regional responsibility and peace and security. So it's broader than that.

QUESTION: And there is an argument that the Colombian army is trying to create paramilitary groups in Colombia. Do you have any source of that kind of accusations?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to take that question.

QUESTION: Jamie, even before reports that Netanyahu is willing to give up 10 percent of the West Bank to be substantiated, there were reports that he isn't going to do it; that the political situation and such --

MR. RUBIN: There's a lot of reporting out of that part of the world.

QUESTION: But precious little from Dennis Ross, publicly, at least. So I wondered if, based on --

MR. RUBIN: Could be good, could be bad.

QUESTION: Could be the same.

MR. RUBIN: Could be the same.

QUESTION: Is that good or bad?

QUESTION: Could be.

(Laughter.)

Knowing what the odds are of prying any information out of the Dennis Ross mission, could you tell us what you can - please don't say, there's been some progress. But could you give us some specifics of what he has accomplished or hasn't accomplished.

MR. RUBIN: Well, if there were progress, I would tell you about it.

QUESTION: But you wouldn't spell it out, of course. We would take it on faith.

MR. RUBIN: Often one wants to keep diplomatic progress private so that it can yield fruit, diplomatic fruit.

Let me say this, Secretary Albright has received a number of reports from Ambassador Ross. He is now meeting with Chairman Arafat. He's met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Based on those reports, she indicated to me that she is neither more optimistic nor more pessimistic than she was before sending him out. This is a difficult process. But we are determined to continue it with the same sense of urgency, the same focus on the substance that we've had in the past, and again, the same timetable that we've had in the past.

Ambassador Ross is expected to be in Israel through the end of the week. Hopefully, as we get closer to the end of the week, perhaps we can be more forthcoming about what he has specifically been able to achieve, or what information that is new he has.

QUESTION: Much of the reporting, much of the focus has been on Israel and what the US wants from Israel. Just to round things out a little bit, assuming it's a two-way street you're on, what is it exactly you want from Yasser Arafat?

MR. RUBIN: I think we've made quite clear that the fight against terrorism is the sine qua non of the Middle East peace process, and we are looking for a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week, 52-weeks-a-year progress by the Palestinian Authority. This is a fight that they should be in for their own sake, not just for the sake of the Israelis, because the terrorists are their opponents as well as the opponents of the Israelis and, obviously, the killers of those that they kill.

So we are looking for a comprehensive approach, a sustained approach over time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, from the Palestinian Authority. And we believe, and have said so before, there is a connection between the ability of the Israeli Government to redeploy their forces, and the connection is to the security situation that the Israelis face. So the question of a further redeployment is one that depends on quantity, depends on quality, depends on the security situation that pertains during the further redeployment and after the further redeployment, and it depends on the timing.

All of those are connected. But first and foremost, it is a sine qua non for the peace process to have the Palestinian Authority engage in a comprehensive, sustainable fight against terrorism.

QUESTION: Now, the Secretary, in her major speech to the Press Club several months ago, also asked that - or demanded that the structure of terrorism be dismantled by Mr. Arafat. Can -- Ross aside, it's just been a few days --

MR. RUBIN: Over the recent --

QUESTION: Over those months, how well have they done in --

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I'm going to avoid --

QUESTION: -- removing terrorist groups, root and branch?

MR. RUBIN: Much as it will surprise you, I'm going to avoid a direct grade in this area and tell you that progress has been made, steps have been taken, but more needs to be done.

QUESTION: Do the United States and Israel agree on the degree of progress?

MR. RUBIN: We have not seen - the problem in this area has not been disagreement between us and the Israelis; the problem has been the extent of the fight against terrorism and the sustainability of that fight. We think there has been significant progress, but there is significant work that needs to be done to make it a comprehensive, sustained fight against terrorism.

QUESTION: It's not unusual for the Secretary of State, envoys to sound out the opposition in a democracy, where there is opposition in Israel.

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any particular contacts in the last few days.

QUESTION: Given the situation, the -- (inaudible) -- of it, you don't think Ross is taking a - doing some close - what should I say - close monitoring of what might happen if the Laborites get back in power?

MR. RUBIN: Let me make two points on that. Secretary Albright, when she was there, did meet with the Labor leader --

QUESTION: Traditional.

MR. RUBIN: -- traditionally - as is traditional. Ambassador Ross is going to be in Israel, and as you know for being there, the topic of the political future of any government is something that is talked about morning, noon and night in Israel; so therefore I'm sure it will come up.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: It's been 20 years now, we are in 1998, and civil war is still continuing. Both sides are accusing each other of killing civilians. Civilians are the victims in the hundreds and thousands. Now the ousted president, Mr. Rabbani, he has accused - or he has written a letter to the UN secretary, Kofi Annan, accusing the Taliban that over 600 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan. And vice-versa, the Talibans are accusing them of killing civilians.

And when Mr. Inderfurth was in Russia, he discussed Afghanistan with the Russian officials, and also Taliban leaders were here in the State Department. So what is the future, what's going on after twenty years?

MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Brahimi, a special representative of the Secretary General is here, I believe, today, discussing these matters with Department officials.

Let me tell you what our policy is. We would like to see an end to the fighting and the formation of a broadly representative government that will protect the rights of all Afghans and abide by Afghanistan's international obligations.

We welcome any constructive effort to bring Afghan groups together, and believe the UN remains best placed to help broker a settlement. The United States supports no particular faction, movement, group or individual. We've maintained contacts with all the major groups for several years, including the Taliban, primarily through our embassy in Islamabad and consulate in Peshawar.

QUESTION: Jamie, the Irish situation, a couple of setbacks. Do you have - it was looking good for a while; now maybe it's slipped a little. What is the State Department's current appraisal?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the peace talks on Northern Ireland are scheduled to resume after their holiday break, on Monday, January 12. Former Senator George Mitchell will preside. We are hopeful that the groups that are associated with the loyalist parties participating in the peace talks will maintain their cease-fire.

Obviously there are problems, but Senator Mitchell is an able negotiator, diplomat; and we're hopeful that he will be able to help the parties see the wisdom of not letting violence interfere with what is the only chance for them to improve their lives, which is peace.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you have an update on the situation of this American reporter who is jailed in South Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I do have such an update. Richard Choi was scheduled to be released from the Seoul detention center, where he's been held since his December 19 arrest, today, January 7, at 6:00 p.m. local time.

We understand bail was not involved. The conditions of his release are that he not leave Korea without the judge's permission, and that he remain in Korea for his trial. The order for his release is valid for three months, and can be renewed. Two consular officers from our embassy visited him earlier today, and reported that he appears to be in good condition and does not have any complaints about his treatment. The embassy will continue to monitor his case.

QUESTION: Moving off a little bit to calls for North Korean assistance. Anything new the US has in the works to help those starving folks?

MR. RUBIN: Our view hasn't changed since yesterday. If you'd like me to repeat that, I will.

QUESTION: I didn't know you --

MR. RUBIN: I even - yes, I addressed the new appeal, and stated that we have in the past responded positively to previous WFP appeals. And to answer your question from yesterday, Sid, there were some delays in issuing and renewing visas last fall, but all visa issues were successfully resolved previously - prior to this new appeal.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the suspects released in Mexico? They allegedly murdered a US citizen.

MR. RUBIN: Only to say that our embassy in Mexico sent a diplomatic note to the Mexican Government, requesting a formal explanation for the judge's decision to release the five men who confessed to the murder of US citizen, Peter John Zarate. We are awaiting a response.

The prosecutor's office has publicly denounced the judge's action, and we unequivocally condemn it.

QUESTION: Also, there was a report in today's New York Times that has the American Embassy in Honduras negotiating a fairly drastically reduced rate at a resort for senators that was lower than their rate for US troops, and much lower than the normal rate. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: Generally speaking, my comment is, it is always easy to find ways to deter congressmen from traveling. If journalists continue to deter congressmen from traveling by trying to play gotcha with them, then the United States will suffer because one will not be surprised that there's an increasing isolationist tendency in the Congress.

If congressmen and senators don't have an ability to travel and see the rest of the world, then it will not be surprising when they are not as open to activism around the world as some would like them to be.

I don't have any specific comment on these charges. It seems to me reasonable that one would have a meeting at a nicer place, rather than a less nice place. I expect journalists, as well, try to stay at nicer places, rather than not nice places, and try to get the best rate they can.

QUESTION: On a different subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Indonesia --

QUESTION: You get charged for four nights --

MR. RUBIN: Well, sometimes it doesn't work, but we try.

QUESTION: Four nights for two hours?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I go back to Mexico for a moment? In the US continued observation - (inaudible) - developments of the investigation of the massacre in Chiapas. Has the United States received any information that the Mexican army has been creating paramilitary groups in Chiapas, as it was reported in Mexico this week by military papers?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get you an answer for the record on that.

QUESTION: On Indonesia, is the Administration satisfied with Indonesia's record of reforming its economy and adhering to the conditions of the IMF loan?

MR. RUBIN: The economic assistance package to which the Indonesians agreed with the IMF included commitments on cutting government spending and increasing revenues, reducing subsidies, adjusting import and export taxes, and tightening monetary policy. President Soeharto and other government officials have expressed their willingness to undertake reforms outlined in the IMF program.

Some steps have been taken, including the closing of 16 banks. But far more remains to be done, especially if markets are to have confidence that Indonesia is fully committed to implementing the letter and spirit of the program. In short, we are awaiting full implementation of the package.

QUESTION: Jamie, just a quick thought on the Middle East. I guess you would have said so, but did the Secretary get on the phone with either Arafat or Netanyahu this morning?

MR. RUBIN: Not in the last day or two. I know she did last weekend, but not in the last day or two.

QUESTION: I had a quick question on the Asian - continuing Asian economic troubles. Is it concern to the US foreign policy, and also, do you see any more nations in the same situation like South Korea or in Asia?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - a stable and growing American economy depends upon a stable and growing world economy. The United States participates in these programs for a very clear reason: ensuring the stability of the Asian-Pacific region is in our economic and national security interests.

As America's economic destiny becomes more closely linked to the world's economic prospects, we cannot and must not bear the burden of global leadership alone. That's why we work through the IMF; but we work very hard to support the IMF in the different programs that we've described to you. We have acted to intervene to help stabilize these situations. We're making progress, but these problems will not be solved overnight; and there's additional work to be done.

QUESTION: Jamie, on the same subject, there's been two rather bellicose statements by the Indonesian military this week, regarding steps they would take against protests against mass lay-offs, which is a result of the IMF conditions. I know it's a ticklish question, but do you have anything to say about those threats from the Indonesian military?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen them specifically. Obviously, we would both respect the right of people to protest and respect the right of a government to ensure that protests didn't go into violence. So it's a fine line, and I haven't seen the specific comments. But we respect the rights on both sides in that kind of a case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Barry, one more. Do you have any update on the Bliss case?

MR. RUBIN: Just that he's still here, and I don't have any update about him returning at this point.

QUESTION: And Yeltsin's health - is there any update on that?

MR. RUBIN: Nothing new for you on that.

(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)


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