U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #6, 98-01-12
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
Monday, January 12, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Secretary's speech at the Center for National Policy on
1-2,4-6,9 UNSCOM inspectors, inspections : Iraq may not pick and
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
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
5,7,8 Basics of US policy
6-8 Use of existing channels for US-Iran contacts
8,9 People-to-people exchanges
11 US policy defended
11-12 Amb. Wisner's trip to Moscow ongoing
12-13 US and Russia agreed on preventing spread of weapons of
13 US-Baltic charter of partnership to be signed on Friday
13-14 US policy on NATO membership
14-15 Salmon fishing treaty: Document, statement to be released
14 Press conference to be held in Seattle
15 US view of dispute
15 Questions on internal politics
15-16 US position on dialogue, fact-finding mission
16 Responsibility for atrocities
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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 --
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.).