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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #6, 98-01-12

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>


996

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, January 12, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

DEPARTMENT
1		Secretary's speech at the Center for National Policy on
		  January 13

IRAQ 1-2,4-6,9 UNSCOM inspectors, inspections : Iraq may not pick and choose 2-3 No connection seen with Iraqi behavior and Iran 2,3,4,8,10 Inspectors chosen by UN on basis of professional expertise 3 Nationality of UNSCOM inspectors varied 4,10 Inspection delays hurt Iraqi people 4 Views of UN Security Council members 5 Policy overview on Iraqi sanctions 5-6,10 Iraqi non-compliance an issue for the UN 6 Iraq discussed during Under Secretary Pickering's trip to France 6 Certain sites' access denied to UNSCOM for months 6 Amb. Butler to travel to Iraq later this week 2,8,9 UNSCOM team makeup, activities 11 US reaction: No options ruled out

IRAN 5,7,8 Basics of US policy 6-8 Use of existing channels for US-Iran contacts 8,9 People-to-people exchanges

NON-PROLIFERATION ISSUES 11 US policy defended

RUSSIA 11-12 Amb. Wisner's trip to Moscow ongoing 12-13 US and Russia agreed on preventing spread of weapons of mass destruction

BALTICS 13 US-Baltic charter of partnership to be signed on Friday 13-14 US policy on NATO membership

CANADA 14-15 Salmon fishing treaty: Document, statement to be released today 14 Press conference to be held in Seattle 15 US view of dispute

AZERBAIJAN 15 Questions on internal politics

ALGERIA 15-16 US position on dialogue, fact-finding mission 16 Responsibility for atrocities


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #6

MONDAY, JANUARY 12, 1998, 1:30 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department today, on Monday. We have three statements we'll be putting out after the briefing - one on the arrangements for the Secretary's speech; the other on the arrest of a person we were seeking from Guinea; and a third on the assistance to Gazans through the UN Refugee Agency. But let me start here with your questions.

QUESTION: Assuming that the arrangements notice will not include this, will reporters be permitted to ask questions?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know that those arrangements have been worked out. It's not designed for that purpose; it's designed to have an opportunity for the guests of the Center for National Policy to talk to the Secretary. But I wouldn't rule it out.

QUESTION: And do you know if the text might be available? It's a strange time, it's a little difficult.

MR. RUBIN: I doubt very much the Secretary will be reviewing for the second or third time what she wants to do later this afternoon. My experience in these matters suggests that it probably will go to a point where it's no longer useful late tonight.

QUESTION: The wires will be there. Can we move on to news now?

MR. RUBIN: If we've satisfied you in full, yes, we can.

QUESTION: Sure. The Iran, the Iraq situation, of course - do you have anything to say? Let me twist the question a little bit. Do you think it has something to do with the Iran policy --which, of course, hasn't changed, but seems to be undergoing some review -- that Iraq would revert to this type of behavior? But basically, what is your response to what they're trying to do about screening out Americans again?

MR. RUBIN: Right. We have not had a full report from UNSCOM about what is going on. We've seen differing accounts of what it is the Iraqis are suggesting. Let me first say that inspections, as we understand it, did go ahead today as planned. However, if Iraq should carry out its threats to deny inspectors the right to operate, based on the composition of the inspection teams - and namely, if Iraq should try to pick and choose who can do the inspections - this would constitute a clear violation of the Security Council's demands, and would be flouting UN resolutions.

Those demands require Iraq to give UNSCOM full and unfettered access to all sites. Let me make clear, it is not for Saddam Hussein or the Iraqis to determine the composition of these teams. They have to be determined by expertise; and that expertise is judged by the United Nations. So it is for the United Nations and UNSCOM to make those decisions, based on the professionalism and the expertise of the different individuals. If UNSCOM wants people on a specific team because of expertise, that is the reason they want them on the team.

But let me also point out that many of these teams adjust at all times, and they're adjusted based on the team leader and UNSCOM chairman's decisions as to who are the best experts. So these teams - who was on yesterday's inspection may not be on today's inspection; who is on today's may not be on tomorrow's. So these change all the time, but if Iraq is purporting to suggest that they can pick and choose who can do the inspections, they are in clear violation of the international community's demands.

QUESTION: Get back to Iran in a minute, if you will, but so far as the latest inspection, bearing in mind what you said -- it's based on expertise, not nationality -- still the US represents, I think, about 42 percent of the group. So was an American - even though it would be expertise and not a national selection - was an American on the latest inspection team, do you know?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you'd have to check with the UN to give all the details, but if the question is, was any American on this team --

QUESTION: No, in doing the inspection, the latest inspection.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think the latest - the ones today, I believe --

QUESTION: Today.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know for a fact one way or the other. You'll have to check with the United Nations.

QUESTION: Sure. But do you think there's any echo of Iran?

MR. RUBIN: But again, whether an American is on or a British citizen is on, it's not up to Saddam Hussein to choose who can do it; it must be chosen based on expertise that only the UN can determine.

Sorry. Iran, I don't see the connection, other than - I don't see a connection. Saddam Hussein's Iraq has gone through differing phases of upping the ante and lowering the ante and trying to make changes and always running into the same problem, which is that the Security Council is determined to let the United Nations inspectors inspect; and until they have inspected, there's no chance that sanctions can be relieved.

So it's impossible to judge what goes on in that gentleman's mind -- and he's not really even a gentleman. But all we can say is that this is not the first time that he has used this argument when the Iran issue was not germane. So I don't see the connection, but it's impossible to read the mind of that kind of gentleman. Non-gentleman.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this focus Iraqis have put on the one inspector, Scott Ritter, the Persian Gulf veteran -- these charges that he's a spy for the United States? Can you comment in any way about that?

MR. RUBIN: Obviously, that's not true. The experts in this enterprise are chosen based on professionalism and based on their knowledge of a very obscure subject, which is nonproliferation and the monitoring of weapons of mass destruction, the monitoring techniques that are needed to prevent concealment, the monitoring techniques that permit you to know that what you know is all there is to know. It's an elaborate technical expertise, and that's the way these people are chosen.

Again, I don't want to over-analyze what we don't know yet; and that is whether, indeed, these inspections will go forward, because many times there's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and hewing and crying out of the Iraqi regime, but the inspections go forward.

So for now, the principle that it appears they're suggesting, which is that they can pick and choose, is unacceptable. It is one that is a clear violation of the international community's demands. And that's all there is to it.

QUESTION: As far as you know, did the team that went in today - was it the one headed by Scott Ritter?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I don't want to purport to speak from this podium about the UN's activities. We can try to get you some answers later this afternoon, but I urge you to call the UN yourself and get that information.

QUESTION: I'm curious, I guess, philosophically, even though you say that Saddam cannot or does not have the right to pick and choose, when you see a team that is made up of five, four Americans, Brits and then two others, aren't there other people around the globe that also have this expertise, even though it's obscure? For example, Russians, who would certainly seem to be less objectionable to Saddam?

MR. RUBIN: Let me make two points on that answer technically, and then make the policy point. Technically, the UN has put out calls over the recent years for experts to come assist them in that work. There are a limited pool of expertise in these areas. Russians are in the UN Special Commission; French are in the UN Special Commission. The Special Commission consists of individuals from dozens of countries.

What's clear here is that excuses are being sought. The expertise of the Americans is unquestioned in this operation. The expertise of the British is unquestioned; the expertise of the Russians is unquestioned; the expertise of other countries is unquestionable. Americans have, because there's a limited pool of people in this narrow field, have tended to respond to the appeals of the UN for expertise; and because we care very much about making sure - American citizens appear to care very much about using their expertise for this noble purpose, which is to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting weapons of mass destruction.

We have no problem with other experts being on the teams. This is the way it's come about. And that's why - let me get to the second point, which is that if Saddam Hussein can start to pick and choose who's on the team, he's going to try to start to pick and choose how the team operates, where it can go, who it can see on what time frame. You begin down a slippery slope that is precisely what we've been able to avoid all these years; and that is to have the Security Council stick together - that it's up to the UN to decide how these operations will be conducted and who will conduct them.

QUESTION: Jamie, to follow up on a couple of questions, you said that Iraq can't pick and choose, they can't decide on the terms of the inspections and when they're going to happen. But as we've seen in a pattern over last year, and now we're into '98, they do seem to pick and choose, and they are effective in disrupting the inspections for a period of time - whether it's a couple days or longer. So some would say that they are effectively holding the deck of cards here, and telling the United Nations what to do. How would you respond to that?

MR. RUBIN: I would say that that is wrong. I would say that Iraq can think it gains a victory if it postpones inspections for a week or two weeks or three days; but what it's done is forced a loss. And the loss is on the welfare of its own people and its ability to operate in the international community.

The way to judge who's up and who's down is to judge whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq is better off for this or worse off. This is not some game of ping pong. This is a serious situation where the Iraqi people have been isolated because of the actions of their government. Iraq's attempt to pick and choose, a delaying of the inspection, postpones the day when its people can rejoin the international community; and that makes Saddam Hussein the loser.

QUESTION: Jamie, the same old questions keep coming up. Where can you go, ultimately, with the French and the Russians and the Chinese not willing to go as far as the US and Britain against Saddam Hussein? And how can you - in your last statement - I mean, this is a guy the US accuses of not caring about his own people, caring more about his palaces. Isn't it there a bigger risk involved that they get another week or another two weeks to hide things?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we've had many crises; we've had many times in which Saddam Hussein has sought to dictate terms. Each and every time, he's backed down in the face of the united view of the British, the French, the United States, the Russians and other members of the Security Council. On this issue, they are united. They have been united all along, and there's never been an argument in the Security Council over whether Saddam Hussein can pick and choose who the experts are on UN inspection teams. So there is no issue between us and the French, us and the Russians, us and any other country over whether Saddam Hussein can dictate the terms of an inspection.

The only question now is whether he's really going to do it tomorrow, or whether this was just one of those statements designed to garner attention that seems to have succeeded.

QUESTION: Just on the Iranian connection, just for the record, is there still a policy of this government, known by the shorthand term, dual containment -- treating Iran and Iraq as parallel pariahs?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that was never what dual containment was or wasn't. Let me state what our policy is. I gather there are new terms that pundits - we'll leave the labeling to the pundits, and I'll explain what our policy is.

Our policy is to use our influence to isolate and, if necessary, sanction countries when we believe that is the best way to prevent them from engaging in dangerous behavior. In the case of Iraq, it's very clear that the most comprehensive sanctions regime in history has been placed on Iraq. It's still in place. For all the discussion and the to-ing and fro-ing we have, the sanctions are still in place. Every day that goes by, the most comprehensive sanctions regime in history is on for a day longer.

When it comes to Iran, we still have our existing policies. We still believe that it's unwise to provide funding for Iran in such a way that will enable it to use its money for other purposes, so we are still pursuing our existing policies. However, our existing policies have always included the hope that a dialogue between the governments would be possible -- an authorized dialogue -- one that was openly acknowledged and one that would allow both sides to address their concerns. In our case, obviously, the concerns of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the Middle East peace process are first and foremost. We believe that dialogue between the two authorities is the best way to make progress. So there's been no change.

QUESTION: Within those guidelines, would it be permissible for, let's say, an American wrestling team to go and compete?

MR. RUBIN: We have no objections to a wrestling team going.

QUESTION: Jamie, I know it is hypothetical, but I'm sure you've done some thinking -- if Iraq does go ahead tomorrow and block the inspections, what would be the likely response out of Washington and up in New York?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first and foremost, this is an issue between the Iraqis and the United Nations. And it's never been an issue between the United States and Iraq; it's been an issue between the Iraqis refusal to accept the entire world's demands that are reflected in the UN Security Council. So that would be the first stop for the immediate action, and that would be one that would begin to be discussed in New York.

But we'll have to see. Again, it's a little bit of the cart before the horse, but I would be prepared to emphasize that this is another case, if it's implemented, of Saddam Hussein against the world.

QUESTION: Jamie, Secretary --

QUESTION: Some sort of action at the United Nations?

MR. RUBIN: Something, yes.

QUESTION: Jamie, Secretary Pickering was in Paris last week, talking this issue with the French. Did they say anything to him that was encouraging, discouraging, et cetera, on the subject?

MR. RUBIN: Of Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RUBIN: They did discuss Iraq in detail, and I think they had a good discussion on how to move the process forward. I think there was unity on an issue like the one we're addressing today - that it's not up to Saddam Hussein to pick and choose these inspections. They were discussing a whole range of issues about sensitive sites, about next steps. But on this issue, there was, as far as I know, unanimity.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about sensitive sites? To you knowledge, has UNSCOM been able to inspect any of the so-called presidential sites? Is there any timetable or any sense of deadline after which there will have to be further action taken if access has not been given to those sites?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, there have been sites that have been denied access to UNSCOM for many, many months by Iraq. The effect of that is to make it impossible for the UN to give Iraq a clean bill of health, and therefore make it impossible for sanctions relief to be even considered.

So the response is one where Saddam Hussein digs himself deeper and deeper into the hole of sanctions, the more he refuses to allow the UN to do its business. As far as specific inspections are concerned, I know that Ambassador Butler is heading to Baghdad later in the week. We'd expect to get a report from him to the UN next week, after his discussions there. I suspect the primary topic will be the question of sensitive sites.

QUESTION: Jamie, on Iran, the machinery that's available for dialogue, has the US pursued in that way the offer of a dialogue with the US?

MR. RUBIN: That sounds like a trick question, and I've been up long enough today to not fall into that question.

I think my able deputy, Jim Foley, made very clear on Friday that we are not going to get into a question of what substance or frequency or types of communications might be made in diplomatic channels -- whether they were or weren't. So I really don't have anything to offer you, other than to say I don't think anybody needs a diplomatic channel to know that the United States is prepared to have a dialogue with Iran.

QUESTION: I didn't ask any of the questions that your loyal deputy evidently addressed Friday. I asked you if the channel is being used, because I just heard that there's always been a dialogue with Iran. I thought that's what the Europeans had with Iran; that the US didn't use, didn't like. If you threw the word critical in front of dialogue, you'd be totally lined up with Europe --

MR. RUBIN: I didn't say there was a dialogue.

QUESTION: You didn't?

MR. RUBIN: No. I said, we've always been prepared to have a dialogue if - and then you know our two procedural conditions and our three substantive conditions, which I'd be happy to repeat for you, which are not new.

QUESTION: No, but they're not prerequisites to using the existing machinery to sound them out, are they?

MR. RUBIN: Again, a dialogue --

QUESTION: That would be a public --

MR. RUBIN: -- a dialogue is normally, especially the critical dialogue you're talking about, was a moniker, again, chosen by pundits rather than government officials to describe ambassadors being in Tehran, high-level discussions between their officials and Iranian officials. That was described as a critical dialogue. I fail to see how you're comparing the possible use of a diplomatic channel to that.

QUESTION: All right, so maybe I've muddied it on this. Let me ask a straightforward question. Has the US used yet, since the Iranian president made his initial offer - has the US used existing machinery to inquire about this, to talk about this, to look into this, apart from what we know that's publicly been going on?

MR. RUBIN: I think my able deputy answered this question by saying very carefully on Friday - and I'm looking for the exact words - but I think I could summarize them as follows. We will not comment publicly about allegations of what transpires in diplomatic channels, or respond directly to questions about what transpires in diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: I didn't ask you what transpires.

MR. RUBIN: Yes you did.

QUESTION: I asked you if the channels are being used.

MR. RUBIN: Either whether they're being used, what they're said in them, we're prepared to acknowledge the existence of this mechanism. That's no surprise, it's no secret, there's nothing to that. But what we say, when we say it in such a means is not something we're prepared to discuss even allegations about from this podium.

QUESTION: Doesn't that mean that, like some previous Administrations, the US is prepared to have some private, secret diplomacy with Iran? It won't own up to it.

MR. RUBIN: No, no.

QUESTION: No?

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: Are you finished Barry? Okay. Jamie, does the United States yet understand, or could you find out by inquiry, as you mentioned with UNSCOM, as to whether the 17-man team, or 16-man team is an additional manpower; whether it's replacing other personnel; whether it's going to operate as a team; and specifically why it's - how it's been trained, what it's been trained to do? Is it going to the forbidden, denied access places? Could you find some of these things out, or do you --

MR. RUBIN: We'll do our best to get you some answers, but let me emphasize here that these are decisions for UNSCOM to make. Every day they make decisions based on expertise - which are the experts, not based on where they come from, but who are the people best suited to do the job? They make these decisions every day.

This one team is part of a much larger UNSCOM operation that's in Baghdad, and others who come in and out. Decisions are made by the UNSCOM team leaders and by the chairman, based on expertise. We don't get involved in the kind of second-guessing that's implicit in your question.

QUESTION: Jamie, the Iranians apparently have said no to Congressman Lantos, who wants to visit Iran in the next couple of weeks. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: And the comment being based on an apparent Iranian - I don't know what the Iranians have or haven't said to Congressman Lantos. I can say this - that we are prepared to look at the people-to-people exchange issue that Sandy Berger, our national security advisor, mentioned yesterday.

But the question of how to engage in a dialogue with the Iranian Government is one that we think is best done through government-to-government - meaning the Executive Branch - to channels, and not these other possible channels.

QUESTION: It sounds like you are discouraging congressional visits.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I wouldn't put it that way. What I would say is that we have the highest possible respect for Congressman Lantos. Secretary Albright knows him extremely well; they've worked together very closely over the years.

The question is what's the best way to work on the issues of concern to us - namely, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the Middle East peace process. It's our view that the best way to do that is to have an authorized, government-to-government dialogue.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Iraq.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any Russian promises made to Iraq during the last confrontation to make the composition of the inspection team more representative of Security Council members? And would you say that the Russians support your position on the formation of the teams as much as the French?

MR. RUBIN: It's my understanding that nobody is challenging the technical expertise of UNSCOM; that no countries are making that - agreeing with Iraq that there's some bias because some technical experts come from some countries and not others. There are some very subtle, diplomatic issues that came up in the UNSCOM meeting a month ago. I don't really want to get into what goes on behind closed doors on that issue; other than to say that if the question is, should Iraq be able to determine who the inspectors are and which country they come from, I think there's a unanimous and resounding no from all members of the Security Council.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any promises made by the Russians?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any promises along the lines you suggested.

QUESTION: I'd just like to know if you'd expand on what Sandy Berger said a little bit. What do you mean by looking at people-to-people --

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything new to say other than we're looking at it. Sorry.

QUESTION: On Iraq --

MR. RUBIN: Still on Iraq? I-words, only I-countries.

QUESTION: Two questions on Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I know what's coming next.

QUESTION: Basically the same ones you've been answering for five years, but what the heck. Can you tell us a little more about Scott Ritter? What makes him qualified to be UN weapons inspector? Are you sure he's qualified? What makes these charges, as Iraq charges, that he's a spy so, in your view, ludicrous? And then I have another question.

MR. RUBIN: I'd rather leave it to the United Nations to make a statement about its reason for choosing a UN employee, who - he's now working for the UN - and leave it up to them; other than to say that this is - a pattern has developed for Iraq to try to find excuses for not doing what the international community has demanded. Some days their dog ate the homework, some days the particular story that was told to one particular inspector changes the next day, and today's it's that the American guy is this or is that. They've never proven to be true, so I don't think it's useful for us, from this podium, to respond to every one of these ridiculous charges.

But as far as the technical expertise and integrity of the UN teams, I would just refer you to New York, and I'm sure they would be happy to --

QUESTION: But you're sure in your own view, and the view of the State Department that --

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to make a comment about this spy issue in any - we've made very clear from this podium - Sid and I have gone through this a few times. We're not going to get into a position of every time somebody says somebody is a spy, to having a dialogue from this podium about intelligence matters.

But obviously, we believe that the basic point Iraq is making about this gentleman to be unfounded.

QUESTION: Secondly, is there anything, again - this would be termed under the cheat and retreat category - this is, I don't know, the third crisis within Iraq in four months or something like that. When is the United States going to do about it? Is there anything the United States is going to do besides mention it at the UN?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, let me state that if the inspectors are not allowed to do their jobs, and Iraq purports to intervene in that selection process, we will be discussing the matter in New York.

But I would remind you that for every time Iraq refuses to allow inspectors to go forward, the day at which sanctions can possibly be relieved is delayed. That is a significant issue if you are an Iraqi citizen and you care about your country's place in the world and you care about the effects of sanctions on your country's isolation and integrity. That has consequences; this is the most comprehensive embargo in the history of the United States.

As far as the overall Iraq situation is concerned, many Administration spokesmen have said this before, and I will say this again, we haven't ruled out any other options.

QUESTION: Including military action?

MR. RUBIN: We haven't ruled out other options.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. RUBIN: New subject. Thank God.

QUESTION: Senator Thad Cochran's coming out with a report about proliferation today, I believe. He's saying, or his committee has found that the United States has become lax, this Administration, when it comes to proliferation. And in fact, the report says, or charges the US with actually stoking the fires by permitting the sales of super-computer technology to countries like Russia and China. How do you comment on this report?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, I haven't seen the report, but it sounds like I'm not going to agree with it.

The United States, under President Clinton and Secretary Albright, and Secretary Christopher before her, has made the fight against proliferation one of its highest priorities, if not the highest priority.

In every way that has been reasonable, that we believe has been appropriate, we have made the strongest possible efforts in this fight. I would point you towards the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty having been signed. I would point you towards the permanent extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I would point you towards new Chinese assurances across the board on proliferation. I would point you towards Russia's willingness to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. I would point you towards the Chemical Weapons Convention, itself. So whether it's a procedural question of the conventions designed to help on proliferation, or whether it's the actual nuts and bolts of implementing those conventions or other rules of the road, this Administration has done all it reasonably could to stop proliferation.

There are some who will wish that we could wave a magic wand and make the horrible world of proliferation go away. But that's not the way the real world works. In the real world, we work very closely with governments. We try to get them to get control of their companies that may or may not be conducting unscrupulous sales. We've had success after success, but like in a lot of issues, we have a long way to go because proliferation is a matter of the highest possible priority for the Administration. But when the report comes out, maybe we'll be able to get you something more specific.

QUESTION: In that respect, did your loyal deputy report on the Wisner mission Friday, when neither of us was here? If not, I'd ask you --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know, but I believe he's coming back next week, is my understanding.

QUESTION: Well, how well is he doing in leaning on Russia not to help Iran, or how poorly? I mean, how's he doing?

MR. RUBIN: When he comes back, we'll be in a better position to say. Let me say this - that we believe we have a meeting of the minds with the Russians that they need to do all they can to make sure that technology and expertise is not being funneled to Iran in such a way to permit them to make dangerous weapons systems.

There have been some successes the Russians, themselves, have pointed to publicly. Beyond that, I'd prefer not to comment on what goes on in these areas, because often the best way to get success on matters like nonproliferation is precisely not to talk about them.

QUESTION: Well, the mission was announced with great excitement, as being critical.

MR. RUBIN: But I'm saying the specific --

QUESTION: Yes, I know about specific cases. What we're at least minimally looking for is whether the government told Wisner that they would curb the companies that are doing this.

MR. RUBIN: We've had a meeting of the minds. The Russians agree with us that they should do all they can to try to prevent this kind of proliferation. But as far as a specific read-out of this specific trip, I prefer to wait until the trip is completed.

QUESTION: If you have a meeting of the minds, then why is Ambassador Wisner going there?

MR. RUBIN: He's there to work on - I think we have meetings of the minds with governments all over the world, and that doesn't mean that experts don't try to work together to turn a meeting of the minds into making sure that it's implemented in full. I don't understand the question, I guess.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you both agree to limit the export of dangerous technology to Iran --

MR. RUBIN: If you're trying to get me to talk about Russian internal developments beyond what I've just said - which is that Russia and the United States have agreed to try to stop this kind of activity, and we are working together on the means by which that agreement can be implemented; we are sharing information and sharing techniques and sharing devices that have worked for us, laws, how to stop these things, how to deter things - that's a process that engages the experts in this Administration very heavily, and one that we are sharing with the Russians.

QUESTION: So would you say it's more of a consultation on implementing a stricter export control regime, as you worked with China?

MR. RUBIN: I mean, I'm hesitating to allow words to be put into my mouth. What I can say is that we are working with the Russians; that this kind of commitment has been sought and received at the highest levels to do what we reasonably can do together to try to prevent any dangerous proliferation of technology and expertise.

As far as specific ways in which that happens, other than pointing to the use of deterrents through laws, pointing to information-sharing, I don't have anything to report until Ambassador Wisner is in a position to talk about what he's done.

QUESTION: While we're on the Russians, just a throw-away question. With the White House planning to showcase on Friday its support for the Baltics' aspirations, would presumably include NATO membership and economic support, have you - has the US said anything to Russia yet about the their sensibilities on the subject?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me go directly to the issue. The charter of partnership among the United States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is to be signed by President Clinton and the three Baltic presidents on Friday. It's a framework for the development of our relations, and clear statement of our support for Baltic integration.

The charter does address Baltic integration into European and trans- Atlantic institutions. It notes that the United States welcomes and supports Baltic aspirations to join NATO. It affirms several other important principles. It stresses the promotion of cooperative relations, formalizes bilateral working groups. It is not a security guarantee, nor is it an alternative to NATO. The charter does not commit the United States to Baltic membership in NATO; in fact, it reaffirms US policy that aspirants can become members only as they prove themselves able and willing to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. It would be a NATO decision, not an American decision. We have briefed the Russians here and in Moscow on this charter.

The charter contains specific language welcoming the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the strength in NATO-Russia relationship as core elements of their shared vision of a new and peaceful Europe. We have not received any official Russian reaction.

QUESTION: I hear everything you say, but on one small part - well, not so small. Just to clarify, because in another building, it's being said that this isn't a commitment of the US to come to the defense of the Baltic countries. I can understand a confusion here, possibly. If - I know you're saying this isn't a commitment to support them in NATO - but if they were to be admitted into NATO by all 16 or 19 - however many countries there will be in NATO by then - wouldn't the US be obliged, as it is now, to come to the defense of countries if attacked? There's no exception, is there?

MR. RUBIN: Let me first say that I always agree with what people in the other building say.

QUESTION: Not if you saw this sentence.

MR. RUBIN: But the question of what NATO membership entails, if it happens, is quite well-known; and that is, it's a defense alliance. An attack against one is to be considered an attack against all, and that's what NATO means.

If it were to happen - somehow I have a feeling we're going to fish --

QUESTION: We're going to fish, but we're going to stay on the Northern Hemisphere. Later this afternoon - in fact, in a few minutes - you're going to release that report from Ruckleshouse-Strangway. Those who have seen the document - and apparently, in both countries, lots have - say that the key point is that the stakeholder procedure has failed, and that neither author of the report or their staffs think that it's useful to continue with the stakeholder process for finding a solution.

Given that point in the document, does that mean this building will change its view on how to find a solution to the issue of salmon?

MR. RUBIN: Without taking issue with anything that you said, let me say this - we are going to be releasing this document at 3:30 p.m., with a statement by Secretary Albright, who the report is directed to. That will be available at 3:30 p.m. Prior to that, I am restricted from discussing it in any serious and substantive way.

There also will be a press conference - and what time will that be? Three o'clock for the statement, 3:30 p.m. for the press conference. That obviously is not here. So what I would only urge you to do is to read the report, read her statement in about an hour and a half. Then if you, perhaps, need to come back at this after that, we could try to arrange that.

QUESTION: Can you help me with this press conference? What are the details of that? Where --

MR. RUBIN: It's going to be held in -- the special representatives' report is being released here at the Department at approximately 3:00 p.m. today. It will be available to you at about that time, along with a statement by the Secretary of State. At 12:30 p.m. Pacific time - 3:30 p.m. our time - Ruckleshouse and Strangway will be briefing the press in Seattle on the contents of that report.

QUESTION: Think you can make it?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, there are, nonetheless - getting back to this issue, just very briefly. You have, from this podium, as have your predecessors, talked continually about the way to go was stakeholders. This report clearly indicates that the authors don't feel that that is the way to go. Where does that leave this building? Are we back to government-to-government --

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this -- I think none of our positions have changed, in terms of the fundamental difference of opinion between the United States and Canada on how the principles of the treaties are to be interpreted and implemented. And that has not been broken; clearly, it has not -- that fundamental difference.

But we've all been working closely on it. We prefer to have this report come out by those who worked so hard on it and have the Secretary's comments then available to you. If some special arrangements need to be made for you to do your job, please give me a call.

QUESTION: You understand that there's a public participation in our conversation, and so I have to just continue with one final question.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Alaska is definitely designated as over-fishing in this report.

MR. RUBIN: The US - in our view, the US take of salmon has been fully consistent with the conservation of the stocks. Canadian references to over- fishing appear to spring from their view that we are taking more Canadian- origin salmon than Canada believes the treaty allows. This is a view the United States does not share. There is no basis for an assertion that US fishing has harmed the stocks.

QUESTION: I have two questions about an eternal subject.

MR. RUBIN: What kind of subject?

QUESTION: Eternal subject.

MR. RUBIN: Eternal subject. I hope not.

QUESTION: After the Armenian side rejected the OSCE peace plan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the negotiations came to a dead end. What is the current status of OSCE Minsk Group, including American efforts regarding negotiations over Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict? This is my first question.

My second question, what is the official US position on Congressman Frank Pallone's recent illegal visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan, and his statements that the US should recognize the separate region independence?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me get official answers to both of those questions to you immediately after the briefing.

QUESTION: One on Algerian massacres. This I take from a Reuters wire this morning. Mr. Abdelkader Hachani, one of the spokesmen for the Islamic Salvation Front, the FIS, says, and I quote, "Only a political dynamic which opens perspectives to the Islamic movement could marginalize these extremists." He says in the opening paragraph that the massacres in Algeria can be stopped if the West persuades the government of Algeria to talk to its Islamic fundamentalist opponents. Does the US agree with this approach? And is the US going to be active, as a member of the West, in trying to get all parties to talk in Algeria?

MR. RUBIN: Our position on dialogue is well-known there, and I have nothing to add to that. I can say that we have been seeking to encourage a fact-finding effort to make sure that the basic facts in this area are as well-known as they can be, including a UN special rapporteur, including NGOs, including the media, to try to encourage the Algerian Government to that effect. But as far as our views on dialogue, they are well-known, and they have not changed.

QUESTION: Mr. Hachani seems to be saying that it's the Moslem fundamentalists that are, in fact, to blame for the atrocities. Can you comment at all about that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, there have been various reports about who's been responsible for this. Several Algerian policemen who were seeking asylum in Britain claimed they were involved in violence against civilians under orders from their government. I cannot confirm the validity of the report, and thus cannot comment on its specifics.

As for the general question of responsibility for the atrocities which the Algerian people are suffering, we believe that the Islamic extremist organization, the GIA, is responsible for the great majority of these atrocities, and we condemn these terrorist atrocities in the strongest possible terms. Some personnel in local government guard groups may also be involved to some extent.

The situation is complex, and that is why we've encouraged groups like fact- finding missions to go in and try to clarify what's going on. But let me emphasize that we condemn these atrocities, that the Algerian Government should do all it can to protect civilians and bring the perpetrators to justice, while meeting the standards of the rule of law that we have long sought.

QUESTION: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.).


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