U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #4, 98-01-08
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Thursday, January 8, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Bosnia Contact Group meeting
1 Pres. Khatami's address to the American people/kind of
1,8 New tone welcomed/ regret for hostage-taking/ rejection of
all forms of terrorism
1-2,6 US takes exception to characterizations of bilateral
relations, US-Israeli relations, whether there is racism
in Israeli society, US history
2,4,8-9 People-to-people contact
3,4 US procedural and substantive emphases in a US-Iran
3 Established mechanism for US-Iran contact
3,5 Congressional travel
4-5 Issues of Khobar Towers and Salmon Rushdie
6-7 Effect on US sanctions policy toward Iran
7-8 Whether there is a US "action plan" for Iran
8 Effect on US policy toward Iraq
9-10 Public nature of a US-Iran dialogue
13 US consultations with its allies
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
11 Number of redeployments
11-12 Expansion of existing settlements
12 Ambassador Ross' discussions in the region
12-13 Possible alliance with Syria
14 Assessment of US policy
13-14 Under Secretary Pickering's trip
14 Dates for Wisner mission to Moscow
14 Reports of flights over Greek airspace
14-15 Ambassador Holbrooke's meetings in the Department
15 Whether the US has warned about results of not implementing
15-16 U.S. support for UN human rights Special Rapporteur
16 Under Secretary Eizenstat's speech on sanctions policy
16 State and local sanctions
17 Dispute over ownership of artworks on exhibit in New York
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8, 1998, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. We have three announcements today for you. One is
that Ambassador Gelbard will be hosting today a meeting of the Contact
Group for Bosnia at the State Department. Representatives from the United
States, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, France and Italy - the Contact
Group nations - will be joined by a delegation from Sarajevo, including
High Representative Westendorp, and a representative of the European
Commission. They will review the general situation in Bosnia, and will also
discuss the situation in Brcko, Kosovo and Eastern Slavonia during
this day-long session. We would expect them to issue a statement at
the end of that session, which will be available to the media.
We also have a couple of other statements that will be issued after the
briefing. Let me start with the Associated Press, Barry Schweid.
QUESTION: Jamie, what is the US impression of the kind of relationship
the Iranian President is talking about? Is he talking about a cultural
relationship or a more natural government-to-government relationship? He's
talking to the American people. What is your handle on it? What is he
MR. RUBIN: Let me try to make some comments. Obviously, Secretary
Albright, the President, the National Security Advisor and others in the
Administration examined very carefully what was said yesterday, and Mike
McCurry has made some initial remarks. But our view is as follows.
We welcome the continuation of a new tone in Iranian statements. President
Khatami's extensive comments with respect to US civilization and values
were interesting. We appreciated the spirit in which those remarks were
offered. We also noted the President's comments that the conduct or
relations between nations must be based on mutual respect and dignity; we
We also heard what he had to say about Islam. We respect Islam as one of
the world's great mono-theistic religions, and have excellent relations
with many Islamic countries. We also noted with interest his regret
concerning the hostage-taking. We welcome his statement that this period in
Iranian history is over, and that the rule of law should be respected both
domestically and internationally.
On terrorism, President Khatami's rejection and condemnation of all forms
of terrorism directed at innocents was noteworthy. However, there were a
few points that we take exception to. Obviously, the United States is not
solely responsible for all our bilateral differences. Characterizing our
foreign policy since World War II as mistaken is also unfounded. Similarly,
the characterization of the US-Israeli relationship was simplistic and
wrong, and a continued reference to Israel as a racist, terrorist regime
is not acceptable.
Finally, I would note that we would not characterize US history in the same
manner as President Khatami. We are proud that both religion and democracy
remain important elements in our civilization. At the same time, though,
pluralism and tolerance are important American values.
With regard to the relationship and the dialogue, we listened very
carefully to his remarks. We agree that over almost 20 years, the mistrust
and distance between us is great, and it will take a lot of effort to
overcome this distance. We will look closely and take a serious look at
what President Khatami has said regarding people-to-people exchanges and
people-to-people dialogue. However, we believe the best way to address our
bilateral differences would be to engage in a government-to-government
dialogue. We should sit down and air differences. We would raise our
concerns; the Iranians could raise their concerns.
So let me stress that changes in Iranian policies on support for terror,
the development of weapons of mass destruction, and support for violent
opposition to the Middle East peace process remain key to forging a better
relationship. With regard to President Khatami's statements on Iran's
grievances, we take Iran's concerns seriously. We would listen to what they
have to say. We would hope Iran would take our concerns seriously, as
QUESTION: Do you understand - I hear what you would prefer, the best way
you say would be government-to-government. But is he offering that, or is
he at the brink of offering a government-to-government dialogue, or is he
speaking in vague terms of cultural, people exchanges? Ping pong exchanges
sometimes do lead to --
MR. RUBIN: As we read it and saw it, there was a significant discussion
of the prospect of increased people-to-people exchanges -- journalists,
historians, experts, people, tourists, et cetera. Let me point out that
some of that occurs right now. There are American journalists that go
there. There are American citizens that travel there as tourists. As far as
an expansion of that is concerned, in any way that would have a certain
formalized aspect to it, that's what we're going to take a serious,
hard look at.
As far as the government-to-government dialogue, as we interpreted the
remarks, that was not what the President of Iran was suggesting at this
point. What we are trying to say is that we think that that would be the
best way to overcome the differences.
QUESTION: So "best way" implies not the only way in that you might accept
another. I'm trying to get at whether there's a significant shift in tone
on your part, because as I heard you up until the speech -- that is, up
until yesterday, at this podium and elsewhere -- was insisting on a
government-to-government dialogue as the way to begin. And I don't hear
that tone today, or those words.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't see the difference in saying that the government-
to-government dialogue that we have offered yesterday, the day before that,
that President Clinton has talked about -- one that would be authorized and
publicly acknowledged -- is one that we believe would be the best way to
overcome differences. To the extent that a dialogue between peoples can
help minimize mutual concerns and begin to overcome differences, fine. But
if the differences are to be overcome, it is our view and our experience
around the world that a dialogue is the best way to do that.
QUESTION: One more quick question. Would a visit by a congressman, for
example, be a good way to begin this?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, you're trying to split the difference; I
understand why. We have not offered or suggested or authorized a dialogue
to begin in that way between the governments. What we're suggesting is that
we understand the value of people-to-people exchange. Let's bear in mind,
it's the United States, during the Cold War and at other times in our
history, that has done so much through people-to-people exchanges on
democracy, free press, the rule of law, to promote universal values around
the world. So we're fully aware of the benefits from that.
So we welcome the suggestions that this could be useful; and it could be
useful. To the extent it needed to be made more formal, it would be
something we have to take a serious look at. Let's bear in mind that the
United States does not have a travel restriction on citizens going to Iran.
We have a travel warning, and I can provide that to you after the
So between those two what you might call self-appointed envoys that may or
may not pass messages back and forth, let me say this. We have an
established mechanism for contact. We have maintained official contact for
many years through a diplomatic channel. Both sides continue to use that
channel. We don't comment publicly about what transpires in it. So it's not
as if we need people to pass messages back and forth.
QUESTION: Has there been an attempt in recent days by either side to set
up a government-to-government meeting?
MR. RUBIN: I am not aware of any such attempt.
QUESTION: Does the United States intend to try to make such an attempt?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I think what I tried to answer by saying that we have a
way to talk to each other; we've stated what we think an official dialogue
would need to be successful and to meet our reasonable conditions - in the
sense that it be authorized, that it be publicly acknowledged, that we
raise our concerns and that they raise their concerns. So there's not a
communication problem in creating such a dialogue. At this point, the
interpretation we have of the remarks made by President Khatami is that
they are not yet ready for such an official dialogue. I think he stated
that fairly clearly.
QUESTION: You said that you were going to study this idea of people-to-
people dialogue. I wondered what might be wrong about it. I mean, is there
any chance that you would reject that kind of --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we're going to give it a serious look. We think it could
be a useful step. This is a very serious subject, relationship that has
gone through what the US-Iranian relationship went through. We're going to
take a very deliberate path. The comments that I made were very carefully
made by the United States Government as an attempt to respond deliberately.
So any new program or new idea of this kind that was just proffered a
matter of hours ago, it seems reasonable to take a good hard look at
As far as what the difficulties might be, I would just point out that
without government-to-government contact on a regular basis, rather than
this channel I mentioned, often programs like these are difficult to set
up. If you look at other parts of the world where you have large exchange
programs, there are parameters that are set by governments. So that would
be an example of why it might be more difficult in a case where there
wasn't diplomatic relations.
QUESTION: Jamie, how does the edict to the death of Salmon Rushdie and
the Khobar Towers bombing play into your thinking on this subject?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think our position on those are very well known with
regard to both Salmon Rushdie and the investigation on Khobar. What I can
say to you is that I did not suggest or mean to suggest that the dialogue
was going to be limited to those three issues. These are three identified
issues of concern, and issues that we would expect to raise. If we came
into a dialogue, we'd have an opportunity to raise other issues. But our
positions on those issues have not changed.
QUESTION: Would you raise those issues?
MR. RUBIN: What I've been prepared to say is what the issues of concern
that we have are. Our position is well-known on those two other subjects,
and I'm not going to get into every possible permutation of what we will
and won't discuss in a dialogue that has not yet been set up.
QUESTION: Jamie, I don't think your position is well-known on the Khobar
MR. RUBIN: Yes, that it's under investigation.
QUESTION: That's not a position.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't understand the question, then.
QUESTION: I mean, the basic question is - and I've asked it before - it
would seem difficult to enter into this friendly dialogue, the beginning of
a friendly dialogue, without resolving the Khobar Towers or without having
them lift their death warrant on a democratic author.
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me make two points. Number one, you are jumping to a
conclusion about Khobar Towers based on I don't know what. We are going to
make our judgments based on the evidence. As I've told you in the past,
when we are prepared to talk about what the conclusions of the Khobar
investigation are, we will do so. In the meantime, it's a law enforcement
Obviously, the issue of terrorism and international support for terrorism
is one of the three issues. So I fail to see why you are focused on what
must be in your mind regarding terrorism, and not focused on the fact that
one of the three issues we would focus on would be terrorism.
As far as Salmon Rushdie is concerned, our position on that is well-known.
And all I am saying to you is that the three issues that we would surely
raise in a dialogue, and would want them to know in advance we would raise
in a dialogue, are these fundamental national security issues. Other issues
could be raised if there were a dialogue, but I'm not going to get down the
road in describing all the different issues we could possibly raise in a
hypothetical dialogue that has not yet begun.
QUESTION: At the time not too long ago, when a prominent California
congressman was saying that he was interested in possibly traveling to Iran,
one of the things that was said from the podium was that the Administration
was trying to discourage such a trip. Do you still wish to discourage such
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen a transcript of my loyal deputy's words, but
what I'm saying is that, when officials from Congress travel, it is normal
practice for us to brief them, and we would brief any congressman who
sought a briefing about our policies on any trip.
As far as dialogue between the government of the United States and the
government of Iran, we are in favor of an authorized, publicly acknowledged
dialogue. With respect to the case you mention and any cases like it, what
I am signaling - intending to signal - is that we think the best way to
make progress on the issues of concern to the American people and to the
national security of the country are through an authorized and openly
QUESTION: Follow-up to his question, if I could, in that particular --
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how it can be followed up, but give it a
QUESTION: was talking about this issue - Mr. (Khatami) yesterday said to
engage in a dialogue with the United States on these three main issues
would be tantamount to a judgment, I think he said, of Iran -- Iran's being
subjected to the judgment of the United States a priori. So how do you
respond to that? And secondly, did he not many times demonize the United
States Government in his talking about reaching out to the US people?
MR. RUBIN: Let me make - in response to the second question, I think if
you read carefully, if you were here the whole time, I was very careful to
lay out things that we welcomed, things that we thought were interesting,
things that we noted with interest, and things with which we took exception
- one of which was the characterization of the US Government. So I think I
have answered that question.
As far as the question of - what was the first question?
QUESTION: He said, the US - in response to Christine's question about
terrorism and such, he said the US is trying to put Iran on trial by asking
for a dialogue.
MR. RUBIN: Oh, okay, right. The answer to that is - and again, we're
focusing on the answers - and the answers given were that we believe it is
normal practice, it is standard diplomatic practice for governments, when
they talk, to raise issues of concern. We have diplomatic relations with
many countries around the world, and certain practices they have, we have
deep and profound differences over. I could name half a dozen or more; you
ask me about them on most days.
We discuss those differences, deep differences, fundamental differences
with governments every day. So we don't regard it as a prejudgment or a
trial to talk with another government about the issues of serious concern
that we have.
QUESTION: This would be a non-starter, right?
MR. RUBIN: Sorry?
QUESTION: This attitude would be a non-starter.
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to allow you to put words in my mouth. I
have stated very clearly what our position is and what it is not.
QUESTION: How does this overture from Khatami affect and influence your
decision on sanctions?
MR. RUBIN: Again, the first priority is to make a factual based
determination on whether the particular actions meet the criteria laid out
in the legislation. So in the first instance, it wouldn't in the sense that
we first have to make a determination as to what the fact situation is; and
then make a determination as to what to do about it. So as far as I
understand the first phase, it's basically a legal assessment of what the
cases are and how the law applies.
QUESTION: Even if you decided -- your legal experts decided that the
Total deal was a blatant violation of the ILSA law, if you were to apply
sanctions, wouldn't it be at cross purposes with an attempt to try to have
a dialogue with Iran?
MR. RUBIN: There are too many "ifs" in your question for me to answer.
QUESTION: Jamie, I don't know, maybe I'm the only one, but I don't have a
sure feeling - maybe you've said all you're going to say and we'll just
spin our wheels now. But I don't have a sure feeling where the US wants to
go with this, let alone how it wants to get where it wants to go. The only
parallel - let me just try a quick parallel. In the Nixon Administration,
clearly the US wanted to have a relationship, a real relationship
with China. So even though it began with ping pong team exchanges,
everybody in the government knew where they wanted to go - well, not
everybody knew what was being done about it. The Secretary of State didn't
know, for instance, Henry Kissinger was going to China.
But there was a game plan. No, I'm sorry, but this Administration is
leaving the impression that they're attentively listening to overtures and
they want to hear more and they'll adjust to what they hear. Do you have an
aggressive plan for action, as Carol asked, for instance? There are ways to
follow this up, privately, publicly. Is that what's going on, or do you
want to hear more? And do you want to figure out if he's speaking for
himself or for the whole Iranian Government?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, let me try to handle your legitimate question as best I
can. President Clinton and his advisors - Secretary of State Albright among
them - are seized with the issue of Iran. They have had numerous discussions
about the issue of Iran. They understand the significance of a dialogue
like this if it were to occur.
I can assure you that if such a dialogue were to occur, that the US
Government would know where it wants to go and have road map for getting
there through the dialogue.
To date, our policy of containment has been based on not having a
MR. RUBIN: Okay. So if you change one of the conditions, of course there
would be a recognition that one of the conditions had changed. But what I'm
not going to do is scope out in advance for you what the results of a
dialogue would be; because remember, a dialogue is a discussion, and it
doesn't necessarily lead to change. That is why from this podium and
elsewhere, Administration officials have emphasized that a dialogue is a
necessary but not sufficient condition for change. The sufficient condition
is change in actions.
So all the adjustments that might come are based on actions occurring. But
I can assure you that were such a dialogue to start up, that this
Administration, led by President Clinton, would know where it wanted to end
QUESTION: Is dual containment over?
MR. RUBIN: The basic policies of the United States, as I just indicated,
are determined based on actions. But as I said yesterday, words often
precede actions. And the pattern of Iranian behavior that has so troubled
the United States is one that will take some time to assess whether it has
QUESTION: So the answer is no?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, you can put words in my mouth, but I'm not going
to put them there for you.
QUESTION: Didn't you hear - I thought maybe I heard some movement on the -
in the position of the Iranian Government on the subject of support of
terrorism, specifically on their attitude towards terrorism. I thought I
heard him agreeing with the interviewer that slaughter of innocent women
and children - no matter what the reason is - is terrorism, and Iran
condemns it. Isn't that a new position for that?
MR. RUBIN: President Khatami's rejection and condemnation of all forms of
terrorism directed at innocents is noteworthy, and I noted it at the outset
of my remarks.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have anything on patterns of Iranian terrorism,
say over the past six months? Last April, the State Department said that
Iran was the premier terrorist state in the world. Has anything happened
since then to change that?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to - I don't have any judgment that has
been made on a snapshot basis from that six-month period to this six month
hence to offer you today; other than to say that the concerns we have are
based on patterns of behavior, and therefore it takes some time to assess
QUESTION: Jamie, does this situation help US policy toward Iraq? Is it a
salutary thing to be happening while you're trying to come to terms with -
not come to terms, trying to get Iraq to comply with UN resolutions?
MR. RUBIN: We think the critical factor in convincing Iraq to comply with
UN resolutions is the unity and determination of the Security Council and
not necessarily every development up or down in the region. That is why the
focus of our efforts to pursue our policy toward Iraq is to ensure the
maximum support from Security Council members.
QUESTION: In terms of starting up a dialogue with Iran, just to clarify,
why would the use of an intermediary not be desirable, or is it?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to rule it out for all time, any day, because we
don't rule things out for all time, for every day; other than to say that
we have a means of communication. I've talked about that. What we have said
very clearly - and frankly, a lot of you noted the fact that this
discussion has occurred publicly through public interviews, and some of the
previous needs for intermediaries were in an era when there wasn't this
television diplomacy occurring, which clearly is occurring. So it's not
a communications problem; it's a problem of trying to get both sides
to a point where the minimum conditions can be met.
QUESTION: When you say we have a means of communication, do you mean the
Swiss and the Pakistanis?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to comment specifically on the means of
our communication. I can say that we have them and we've used it, but I'm
not going to get into the modalities.
QUESTION: Was this an authoritative offer you heard yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: Certainly, we take the words of the President of Iran very
QUESTION: No, I'm using your word. The government's word - this
government's word was they wanted to hear --
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: -- the overture put in authoritative terms.
MR. RUBIN: You asked me this question on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Yes, but now that he's spoken.
MR. RUBIN: Certainly we consider the words the authoritative statement of
the Iranian Government. The question is less about that than whether that
government would be prepared to have a dialogue, which we just discussed,
and whether that dialogue would include the issues of concern to us.
QUESTION: And not only because we're news people, but I'm listening to
heard the word "public" come out --
MR. RUBIN: "Publicly acknowledged"?
QUESTION: No, from your - from so far as how the US plays this.
MR. RUBIN: Sorry, I don't understand the point. I must be slow today, on
QUESTION: No, you're not slow today. It's complicated. You keep - you
have referred several times to having already some - some way, some modus
for dealing with Iran. That sort of drifts our thinking into the private or
secret diplomatic channels. Whereas, before yesterday, you laid great
emphasis on the need for this arrangement, this approach, this possible
discourse to move in a public way. What I'm saying is are we going to wake
up one day and find somewhere the birthday cake or a --
MR. RUBIN: I can assure you there will be no birthday cakes.
QUESTION: No keys.
MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer.
QUESTION: Because you've certainly eased off Iran today, I tell
MR. RUBIN: Barry, let me try to answer.
QUESTION: From Saudi, the bombings, to everything else.
MR. RUBIN: Can I try to answer the question, please?
MR. RUBIN: The answer to your question is, when we say "publicly
acknowledged," we mean that the idea and the fact of a dialogue is
acknowledged by both sides, as opposed to even the fact of secret
discussions occurring is not known. So what I'm saying is, because we want
the dialogue to be publicly acknowledged, does not mean we want to say how
it happens and what happens in it; but rather that both governments
acknowledge that there is a dialogue.
That is very different than telling one reporter how we communicate,
telling another reporter what we say to each other; but rather the fact
that we are doing that is what needs to be publicly acknowledged.
QUESTION: -- level of what might have been said to them on Tuesday. Your
reason, I understand, for calling for a public statement on their behalf is
to make sure it's a genuine offer. You want them on the record. What I'm
asking is if the US will be on the record, so to speak, as it proceeds in
groping with this possible new relationship.
MR. RUBIN: We've said that the dialogue we want - government-to-
government dialogue - needs to be publicly acknowledged. We stand by our
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. RUBIN: New subject, thank you.
QUESTION: Middle East?
MR. RUBIN: Please.
QUESTION: There are reports out of Israel that Prime Minister Netanyahu
is going to be coming and offering, or suggesting that there should be only
one redeployment, which would, from his perspective, as I understand it,
have the virtue of being smaller than the total three would be in terms of
size and would be politically less painful for him. He'd only have to face
the fire once. Does the US insist that there be three redeployments?
MR. RUBIN: The US position on Israeli redeployments is contained in
Secretary Christopher's letter accompanying the Hebron accord. The letter
states that the US believes that all three phases of the further redeployment
should be completed no later than mid-1998. If the two sides were to agree
to a different arrangement, then that would be a different situation.
QUESTION: But it would have to be mutually agreed to - the Palestinians
would have to assent.
MR. RUBIN: That's what I just said, yes.
QUESTION: Jamie, have you seen the reports that there has been an
expansion of an existing settlement in Israel? And do you have anything to
say about the fact of it or the timing of it?
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright has made clear our view on these kind of
activities, and that they undermine confidence, and that these kind of
actions do not create the environment required for successful negotiation.
That obviously includes settlement activity.
We believe there should be a time-out on activities that undercut the
confidence on either side needed to move forward. As I said, that does
include settlement activity. As far as what kind of building is acceptable,
what is natural growth and what is not, I'm not going to get drawn into a
specific discussion because time-out and what would be a time-out is one of
the issues that Ambassador Ross is discussing. Our position on settlements,
however, is quite clear.
QUESTION: You're saying that the issue of expansion as opposed to
development from scratch might be something that is left out of the time-
MR. RUBIN: I'm specifically trying to avoid answering questions like
that. Ambassador Ross is engaged in the process of discussion of security
steps by the Palestinians; the question of a further redeployment; and the
question of a time-out. Exactly what that would mean in the context of
getting to a negotiation, what steps would be avoided, what steps would
both sides take a time-out on while they're negotiating the permanent
The definition, therefore, of that time-out is under discussion, and I do
not want to be drawn into what that definition would be. But as far as
settlements are concerned, our position is clear that they are the kind of
actions that undermine confidence in the environment needed to move
QUESTION: You're fishing kind of generally.
MR. RUBIN: I'm trying very hard to speak generally, yes.
QUESTION: The specific case before us today, the one that was announced
in some fashion yesterday --
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: -- can you address that specific case?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm trying to do my best to speak generally, because if
you take a specific case and then you say what type of settlement activity
was this, then you begin to define the time-out publicly, rather than
making clear that settlement activity undermines confidence and makes it
harder to reach a peace agreement, which is what we care to do publicly.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary any more optimistic or more pessimistic,
especially since hearing the news of the planned settlement activity?
MR. RUBIN: She has received reports from Ambassador Ross over the last
couple of days, and she has told me that she's neither more optimistic nor
more pessimistic than she was before his visit.
QUESTION: She told that you yesterday.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Is she no more optimistic or pessimistic than she was yesterday,
you're saying --
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: -- when she was no more optimistic or pessimistic than she was
the day before. Is that right?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: According to The Washington Times, Syria is looking for a new
ally with Iraq, and Asad sent a letter to Saddam Hussein, asking his
support for the PKK and Mr. Talibani and act against the US and the Turkish
forces in Northern Iraq and Eastern Mediterranean. Do you have any reaction
on this subject?
MR. RUBIN: Generally speaking on Syria and Iraq, I'm not going to comment
on any specific report. As you know, all UN members are obliged to enforce
the UN sanctions against Iraq. As you know, Syria reopened its border with
Iraq last year, after 17 years of closure. The Syrian Government has given
us assurances that it will continue to abide by the sanctions against Iraq,
and pledged that any renewed trade between Iraq and Syria would be in
accordance with those sanctions.
We have no reason to believe that that situation has changed in any
significant way. We will be monitoring very closely. But I would say this -
anyone who knows the Middle East at all knows that the idea of a serious
reapproachmount between Saddam Hussein and Hafiz al-Asad is not going to be
an easy one.
QUESTION: Jamie, just to go back to a - (inaudible) - briefly, are you
coordinating with the allies your thinking and your tactics on Iran? I ask
particularly because some skeptics have suggested that one thing the
Iranian President is after is splitting the US from its allies. And you've
had a different policy, a tougher policy.
MR. RUBIN: On the question of dialogue, yes, primarily.
QUESTION: Right. Are you talking to them about all this?
MR. RUBIN: Under Secretary Pickering was just in Paris, and had a full-
fledged discussion with the French Government about Iran. He just arrived
back late last night. So yes is the short answer.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a little more? Did the French pat him on the
back and say, go to it; have a critical dialogue with them, it's very good
Or for business - mostly business.
MR. RUBIN: Again, somehow I doubt they said that, Barry. But other than
saying that he had good, in-depth exchanges on this issue, I think we'll
keep it confidential for now.
QUESTION: Who did he see? Can you tell us that?
MR. RUBIN: We'll get the exact names for you.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: A little bit more on Pickering's discussions - other subjects
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Iraq was raised; the Middle East peace process was
raised; Secretary Albright specifically talked to him in my presence about
reviewing what she found in her trip in Africa; and I suspect Algeria was
discussed as well, given the situation that has been going on over the last
QUESTION: I've lost track of the Wisner mission, which sounded important
MR. RUBIN: Soon is a word I feel comfortable with; date, I will get you
for the record.
QUESTION: But you will have the same objective, as you had before the
President of Iran spoke on CNN.
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely, absolutely. We still have the same concerns about
weapons of mass destruction, and that's why it's one of the issues that we
want to talk about.
QUESTION: There's a report of more flights by Turkey over Greek airspace.
Are you aware of that?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen the latest reports. But I'd rather get you an
answer for the record on that.
QUESTION: The report in The Washington Times also stated that Saddam had
gained the upper hand, and in fact was the winner in the weapons stand-off;
and that the US policy has been a failure. This contradicts President
Clinton's statement earlier, that Iraq's defiance has been a setback for
Saddam. Could you comment on this? And what's the US going to do to put
more pressure on Saddam?
MR. RUBIN: I hope it won't surprise you, stun you or upset you to say
that we regard that report as fundamentally incorrect. Let me put it this
way - we regard any suggestion that Saddam Hussein is better off as
fundamentally incorrect for the following simple reason. You can always
parse these things diplomatically, look at a particular snapshot on a
different day, say who's up, who's down. But if you keep your eye on the
main ball, the fact is, Saddam Hussein has postponed the day when sanctions
can be released on his country. The judgment of any leader should
be on what good he does for his country; and over the last two months,
he's done a lot of bad for his country.
QUESTION: -- on the CIA report, then?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not commenting on any CIA report. You know I don't do
QUESTION: While we're in that area, Ambassador Holbrooke was around
yesterday. Is there something you want to tell us about Cyprus, or --
MR. RUBIN: Yes, he met with David Hannay, who's the British Cyprus
coordinator, and he met with officials in the Department about next steps
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: It wasn't Greece-Turkey?
MR. RUBIN: Underpinning any discussion of Cyprus, obviously, is Greece
QUESTION: Well, sure.
MR. RUBIN: But his role is focused primarily on Cyprus.
QUESTION: Just to go back to Indonesia and the financial situation there,
has the United States warned Indonesia that it runs the risk of losing its
supplementary American financing, for lack of a better word, if it does not
implement the reforms that both the United States and the IMF have called
MR. RUBIN: Let me get you a specific answer for the record on that. But
obviously, what I said yesterday has not changed, in terms of the US
Government position. But let me get a specific answer to the warning
QUESTION: A little more meat to it.
MR. RUBIN: I'll try to do the best I can.
QUESTION: Can we go to Nigeria? There are reports that on January 4 in
Ogoni land, that there was a crackdown on the celebration there and that
the villages were raided and so forth -- assaults on people, people being
shot and killed. Can you comment on that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we have some material on that we can get you for the
QUESTION: Algeria -- I don't want to belabor it, if there's nothing to
say, but I mean your - the US's account of what the Algerians were willing
to do differed, of course, from what their state agency news service or
whatever was saying. You had them open to a UN human rights specialist --
MR. RUBIN: Special rapporteur.
QUESTION: I don't speak in foreign tongues.
MR. RUBIN: Algerian authorities have told us they would accept a visit by
a UN human rights rapporteur.
QUESTION: A special rapporteur.
MR. RUBIN: Special rapporteur. We encourage this step, and we have no
reason to believe the Algerian Government's position has changed overnight.
QUESTION: Jamie, what exactly does a "rapporteur" do?
QUESTION: He reports.
MR. RUBIN: He reports. That's what you do.
QUESTION: He doesn't investigate?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I don't want to get too deeply into the - I've
been in New York, and I know what sweat and blood goes into the distinctions
between different UN organizations and their mandates and what titles
people get and all that goes with that. A UN special rapporteur, I can say
with confidence, is a UN special rapporteur.
QUESTION: I think I can say thank you.
QUESTION: Can I get one in on the Eizenstat speech? I was just a bit
confused that this was put in a context of this is a new sanctions review.
Because a few weeks ago, David Moran, from the Office of Economic Sanctions
here at the State Department, also talked about this sanctions review that
MR. RUBIN: Sometimes the news media finds some statements more newsworthy
than others. But let me say this -- the review is not about a review of
specific existing sanctions, but rather a review of the fact that the State
Department and other agencies need to know that sanctions is an increasingly,
commonly used tool of foreign policy, and that all the ramifications and
means and mechanisms need to be reviewed so that they work better.
So it's designed to provide technical assistance, expertise, institutional
memory for the development of sanctions proposals in the future, develop a
set of principles and policy options to guide a more methodical approach to
the selection and use of sanctions in the future. So again, it's taking a
look at this very important tool, trying to learn everything we can about
it, so that when we use it in the future, it's honed as the best possible
instrument it can be.
QUESTION: Will there be more liaison with state and local governments
MR. RUBIN: Sorry.
QUESTION: Will there be more liaison with state and local governments
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to take that question for the record.
QUESTION: One quick one, Jamie. There's a brouhaha going on in New York
over two pieces of art that belong to the - that used to belong to the
Austrian Government and were now seized by the US Government. Do you have
any comments on that situation?
MR. RUBIN: The Department was contacted this week by one of the two
claimants and by the Holocaust Art Restitution Project of the National
Jewish Museum, in reference to the two paintings by Austrian artist Egon S-
c-h-i-e-l-e, at the risk of pronouncing it incorrectly, which were about to
depart New York. We were in touch with the government of Austria through
our embassy and also here in Washington. We are encouraged that the
Austrians and the Foundation have indicated their willingness to work with
the claimants to resolve the issue of ownership amicably. And I can give
you some more information for the record.
QUESTION: What is your - I mean, the people involved are saying the State
Department is acting in some fashion in this case. They are also saying
that this action is going to hurt efforts to convince governments such as
Austria or the former Soviet Union to let priceless works of art go on
tour. And there was a another vaguely similar incident here in Washington a
few months back.
MR. RUBIN: Well, the only solution to such incidents is for the two
parties to work them out amicably. That's what we're for; that's what we're
encouraging, and hopefully, that's what will happen. But I can give you
some specific information for the record.
(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)