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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #7, 98-01-14

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>


1035

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, January 14, 1998

Briefer: James B. Foley

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1		U.S. welcomes Jan 9 Angola agreement to complete the
		  implementation of the Lusaka Protocol

IRAQ 1,9 UN Security Council presidential statement 2-3 Level of U.S. patience with Iraqi non-compliance/Time frame for continued diplomatic efforts 3-4 No connection between Russian-brokered agreement in November and the current composition of UNSCOM teams 4-5 Possibility of additional sanctions or steps 5 Status of other inspection teams 5-7,8-9 Other options for U.S./Diplomatic discussions with allies 7-8 Effect of sanctions on Saddam Hussein/Iraqi quest to obtain weapons of mass destruction 8 Congressional views on current situation 8 U.S. reaction to Tariq Aziz' press conference 9 U.S.-Turkey dialogue about Operation Northern Watch 17 Reports of chemical and biological warfare tests on humans

CUBA 9-10 U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting on embargo/U.S. record of licensing the export of humanitarian assistance 11 U.S. view on possible political effects of the upcoming Papal visit/U.S. policy on Cuba 11 License required from the Dept. of Treasury to visit Cuba during Papal visit

HONDURAS 11 December 1997 elections

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 12-14 Israeli Cabinet's document outlining conditions on troop re-deployment and President Clinton's meeting next week with PM Netanyahu 13-14 U.S. view on the level of progress in the peace process so far in 1998

ALGERIA 14-15 Algerian rejection of an EU fact-finding mission/U.S. support for the visit of a UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur

GERMANY/TURKEY 15 German prosecutor's designation of PKK as criminal, not terrorist, organization

AZERBAIJAN/ARMENIA 15 Congr. Pallone's visit to Nagorno-Karabakh

RUSSIA 15-16 Amb. Wisner's trip to Moscow

BALTIC STATES 16-17 Charter of Partnership and the possibility of NATO membership in the future


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #7

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 1998, 1:20 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Thank you for your forbearance. I have one announcement, before taking your questions. The United States welcomes the January 9 agreement by the government of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola - UNITA - to complete implementation of the key outstanding elements of the Lusaka Protocol.

The calendar of activities was agreed to after direct consultations between President dos Santos and Dr. Savimbi. It provides a realistic blueprint for completing the disarmament and legalization of UNITA as a political party, with Dr. Savimbi as the recognized leader of the largest opposition party. It also provides for the completion of the extension of unity government administration throughout Angola.

This calendar is an act of courage that indicates both Angolan partners are willing to take the steps necessary to bring peace to their country. We urge both the government and UNITA to continue working constructively to resolve the remaining issues and complete implementation of the calendar by February 28th. That milestone will signal the unification of Angola, after decades of conflict, and the beginning of true multiparty democracy in Angola.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what the Secretary and others may be doing with respect to Iraq and Security Council resolutions and so forth?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the reason I delayed coming in here was because we just had the announcement of the passage of the UN Security Council - excuse me, the presidential statement deploring Iraq's actions. So we -- as Ambassador Richardson indicated just now, coming out of the Security Council meeting - we welcome this presidential statement. We think it sends a very firm and unmistakable signal to Saddam Hussein that once again his efforts to seek fissures and differences within the Security Council has failed; that the Security Council remains united; and reiterates its demand that Iraq must cooperate fully and unconditionally with the UNSCOM inspection regime, and that its attempts to pick and choose inspectors, to introduce the question of nationality when only the question of expertise is applicable, are unacceptable and again have failed.

We also think that this provides, as Ambassador Richardson just said, it in effect arms Ambassador Butler with the support that he needs in order, when he visits Baghdad next week, to attempt once again to convince the Iraqi authorities that they have no choice but to comply fully with the terms of UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: Jim, several officials that you referred to before we came in here are expressing a tone of frustration - almost as if the United States is hitting a wall with these diplomatic measures that you've tried since last year. My question is, how long, then, does the US wait and allow Saddam Hussein to sort of string the international community by the nose and delay these inspections before tougher action is taken? You say that he's going to delay the time when sanctions are lifted and all this, but it seems like it's the same talk over and over again. How long do you allow him to thumb his nose and act this way?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, I can state that our patience is not limitless; that we are giving high priority to diplomacy at this moment; that we want to see this situation resolved diplomatically and peacefully; but that at the same time, we have other options, formidable options, that remain at our disposal. But for the time being, we want to see diplomacy have every chance of succeeding.

However, I would challenge, I think, the notion implicit in your question that Saddam Hussein is in, in any way, a victorious mode over these past months, and indeed, over the last six or seven years. He's gone from failure to failure to failure. Remember, as you indicated, his aim is to achieve a lifting of sanctions, and to achieve a lifting of sanctions without having complied with the demands of the international community to come clean on his weapons of mass destruction and see their complete elimination.

So I don't think that this gentleman in Baghdad can be in any way satisfied with the results of his latest gambit to divide the international community. We remain united. There is no division. He must comply fully, and the effort to do otherwise has once again failed.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Would the United States be sort of complacent, I guess - I don't know if that's the word - but would you - are you prepared to just sit back and let this thing extend into another couple months, while he continues to play cat and mouse? I'm just trying to figure out the time frame on this diplomacy. I mean, it seems to be - we hear this over and over again, but once again, I mean, how long do we sit back and wait?

MR. FOLEY: Let's remember that we've been in a crisis of sorts since Saddam first flouted the UNSCOM regime back in October; but that, nevertheless, following the last occasion when the international community united to oppose his attempts to undermine the UNSCOM regime, that indeed UNSCOM returned and resumed its work and was able to do its work. For upwards of six, seven weeks, UNSCOM has been about the country and doing its inspections.

So I can't accept the premise that really we've been in a non-compliance mode throughout this period. We're back in the non-compliance mode. We have been since Monday or since the morning when the particular UN inspection team was not allowed to go about and do its business. So we're back in the crisis mode itself that we saw back in late October and early November.

Now, it remains to be seen what happens next. Ambassador Butler is going to Baghdad next week. And he will be going with the firm and total backing of the Security Council to obtain once and for all Iraqi compliance with the terms of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We'll have to see the results of his mission. He will return to New York and report to the Security Council. If he has not found compliance on that visit, then we're going to face decisions in New York in the first instance.

QUESTION: Jim, a couple of questions. I was wondering if you could address question one, and that is, how forthcoming have the Russians and Primakov, in particular, been in the latest crisis? And secondly, there is evidence to suggest and support that when he helped diffuse the crisis in November through his mediation with the Iraqi president, that there was an unstated and implicit agreement that the make-up of the inspection teams might be more balanced; because immediately after that crisis was resolved, there was at least an outward greater balance with representation by a larger number of countries other than the United States and Great Britain, in terms of numbers. Coincidental with a resumption of the crisis was a resumption of large numbers of Americans and Brits represented in those teams. Thus, is that just a coincidence, or in fact was there that implicit agreement with the Iraqis and the Russians at the time?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I warn you, you've given me a lot of ground to cover in your question. First of all, we made crystal clear -- Secretary Albright did at the time of her meeting in Geneva with the other foreign ministers; notably, including Foreign Minister Primakov - that the discussions between the Russians and the Iraqis that had transpired did not engage the United States, did not engage the Security Council; but that we welcomed Russia's willingness to attempt to persuade Saddam Hussein and his regime to see the light of reason and to come into compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions. So, we had no problem with Russian efforts to seek those shared and common ends and objectives.

In terms of the question of composition of UNSCOM inspection teams, our position has never changed. I don't believe that Chairman Butler's position has ever changed on this matter. The composition of those teams is first and foremost a question of his personal discretion as chairman of the commission. Secondly, the criteria upon which he solicits and accepts contributions, volunteers to work under his mission are based solely on the question of expertise, and professional expertise in the area of arms control, in the area of weapons of mass destruction, in the area of monitoring and so forth, involved in an inspection regime.

There is nothing in the UNSCOM mandate that talks about the nationality or the composition of the inspectors. And we, the United States - and we believe this is shared in the Security Council - reject unconditionally that the composition of the team should be dictated by national considerations, dictated by any considerations other than the question of expertise.

As my boss, Jamie Rubin, has expanded upon here from the podium on Monday, the United States supports Chairman Butler's efforts, has supported -- and this is not new - his efforts to seek a wide array of volunteers from a wide number of countries that he would select; again, upon the basis of expertise. We have no problem with that. We think that if we can get more expertise, that's good. But again, the question of nationality is not one that we accept as a criteria for membership in the UNSCOM inspections regime.

QUESTION: That's not what I was asking, though. The question I was asking was, was the agreement that defused the last crisis - did it contain an implicit agreement at rearrangement of nationalities? I know what the policy is. I know what the UNSCOM dictates are and what its mandate is.

MR. FOLEY: The answer to your question is no. I can repeat what I said, which is that we have always supported Chairman Butler's efforts to seek volunteers from a wide range of countries, based on expertise. That's not new, and we continue to support that.

I do think, though, that the underlying point which you are discussing needs to be challenged, because it's the Iraqi position -- which is that they halted this inspection this week on the basis of nationality. Certainly, that is the pretext; that's what they have stated as the reason for having done so. But we believe that the reason the Iraqis undertook this obstruction had more to do with the nature of the work that the UNSCOM team was performing than it did with the composition of the team itself.

QUESTION: I was just simply asking about what ended the last crisis.

QUESTION: Jim, Secretary Albright has said, I think, that the sanctions against Iraq are probably the strongest in history. Are there any other sanctions that could be imposed if there is no compliance on the part of the Iraqis?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think you have to take her comment literally. They are remarkably comprehensive sanctions. We've debated from this podium in this room, over the last few months, the question of the humanitarian impact and our desire to ensure, in spite of the lack of cooperation from the Iraqi regime, our desire to ensure that the Iraqi people themselves, in terms of their food and medicinal needs, are not unduly harmed.

But the fact of the matter is that Saddam Hussein is, as the Secretary has said, in his box, cannot move, is isolated and is severely limited in terms of what he can trade for and how he can operate internationally. And it's clear that he is suffering severely under these sanctions, which is why he is trying by all means to come out from under the sanctions.

QUESTION: That's why I asked the question. Since they are already so severe, is there any other step that might be taken?

MR. FOLEY: We think that the question remains to be answered whether, first, Saddam Hussein has gotten the message that his efforts to divide the Security Council and the international community have failed. We think we've sent a resounding message today that he's tried again; he's failed again.

Now, when that sinks in, what he concludes as to whether finally, at last, in order to see the prospect of an escape from sanctions; in order - if he had a sudden inspiration on behalf of the needs of his own people, he wished to see Iraq rejoin the international community; whether on the basis of concluding the he was faced with an unbreakable united front on the maintenance of this severe sanctions regime, he might then reach down and examine the question of relinquishing once and for all his programs of weapons of mass destruction, and that remains to be seen.

QUESTION: Does this most recent blockage of inspections have any impact whatsoever on the overall monitoring mission?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the mission has continued in other components. I believe there have been - I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM for the details - but I believe other teams have been out and about Iraq this week throughout. But I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM on that.

QUESTION: Can I just pursue something? I mean, your own recitation of the situation, as you well know, sort of leads some people to the conclusion that while the United States maintains that Saddam Hussein is in a box, others, critics maintain that the policy has obviously failed because, despite all of these sanctions, he continues to thwart the international community and give you problems with the inspections, and basically put you through the ringer with great regularity. And I wondered - and Jim was trying to get at this, I think - what else can you do to make your policy a success, short of military action?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't want to - as you won't be surprised to know - I don't want to venture too far forward in the area of hypothetical questions, especially hypothetical answers. We'll have to see how Chairman Butler's mission goes next week, and await his report to the Security Council. What we may or may not want to do in the event of continued intransigence, what we may or may not propose in the Security Council remains to be seen, and I don't want to speculate on that.

But I can - really, Carol, I firmly believe that, as I've been saying over the last number of minutes, that the fact that the sanctions are tough and they hurt and they box him in and they limit his ability to move on the international scene, that hurts. He cannot feel happy about what happened today, about what happened in November when the previous gambit failed. We've seen a return, following the November crisis, to a compliance, to an ability of UNSCOM to go and do its work. We think that he's going to have to think long and hard about whether he wants to do what's necessary to be eligible for the consideration of the lifting of sanctions. We're prepared to see those sanctions maintained.

But I don't want to go into hypothetical questions about where we might be going. We've made very clear that we do have other options. It's not for me to explore from this podium what those options are. Some of them are quite tangible in the vicinity of Iraq, and they remain a live possibility.

QUESTION: The United States said the last time this happened that military action - that it would go the length for diplomacy, and that military action was obviously the final lever. And I wondered whether you - do you feel now that having gone as far as you went in November, whether now you have more consensus from Russia - whether you have any support from Russia and France and China for a military option, if that became necessary.

MR. FOLEY: Again, I don't want to answer hypothetical questions of that nature. We've stated that we believe that the authority exists to take action of that nature if necessary.

QUESTION: But it's not a hypothetical question.

MR. FOLEY: If we have to cross that bridge.

QUESTION: I mean, you're in a real crisis now, again.

MR. FOLEY: To the extent that I can comment on the attitude of other nations in the Security Council, I would limited to the evident fact, as demonstrated today, that they have supported unanimously the notion that Iraq must comply without exceptions, without qualifications, with the terms of the inspections regime. I don't want to venture further down the road in terms of the attitudes of other nations concerning other options which we're not about to deploy when we're still trying to make diplomacy work.

QUESTION: Jim, the Russians said today that Primakov communicated with the Secretary and said yet again - well, stated yet again the well-known Russian position that military force should not be used. Is that true?

MR. FOLEY: I know that Secretary Albright talked to Minister Primakov yesterday. They had a telephone conversation; I believe it was a good conversation. I cannot confirm -- I don't believe that that conversation would have covered options such as those you and Carol are raising that may come to play down the road if Iraq does not get the message and comply. I believe the focus of their conversation was the - had to do with the Security Council arena, the presidential statement that has just been successfully passed, and had to do with the diplomacy involved in that positive result that we got today.

I can tell you also that Undersecretary Pickering followed up on that conversation between the two foreign ministers last evening. He spoke today with the deputy foreign minister, Ivanov, and he told me that was a very productive conversation; and we can see that reflected in New York.

QUESTION: So the Russians haven't restated, as far as you know, to the United States --

MR. FOLEY: As far as I know. I am not aware of --

QUESTION: -- their opposition to the use of military force?

MR. FOLEY: They've done so publicly, though, Steve.

QUESTION: Jim, even though it is hypothetical, what would military strikes do for your policy and goals that diplomacy won't?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't want to try to answer a hypothetical question of that nature.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) But you are presenting military strikes as your trump, and there are those, quite a few, who think that even if you do stage a military strike, it won't do anything but hurt the Iraqi people; it won't compel compliance.

MR. FOLEY: That was your word, "trump." We're calling them an option, a real option, a tangible option. But what we're saying is that we're going to make every effort to exhaust the diplomatic path. We would like to see this resolved diplomatically and peacefully. As to what might happen if that does not succeed, as to what the consequences of other options might be, I'm not prepared to get into from this podium.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the premise of sanctions? You just said a moment ago that the sanctions have been tough, that they've hurt Saddam, and that they've put him in a box. Are the sanctions tough and do they hurt Saddam? Or is it - are the sanctions tough and hurt Iraq? And is there - are you sort of implying that by putting constraints on the Iraqi nation that that hurts Saddam, because of the possibility of uprisings, the possibility of dissatisfaction by the Iraqi people with their leadership?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we don't think that the sanctions have dented in any significant way Saddam Hussein's personal standard living and mode of living. I think the anecdotal evidence is quite convincing that, on the contrary, he's continued to maintain a regal lifestyle with more and more so-called presidential palaces built around the country.

That's not the point; the point is, his aim, his geo-strategic aim to become once again a player -- and undoubtedly a threatening player -- in the Gulf region, in the Middle East, on a wider international scale, to be able to marshal and to mobilize the resources of his country as it would become reintegrated into the world economy, were sanctions to be lifted, and as he has done in the past, to exploit that economic potential into a power projection capability. Clearly, that's not happening; that's not going to happen as long as the sanctions are on, and he's not happy about it.

QUESTION: Is there evidence that the United States believes credible to say that Saddam has been -- by UNSCOM, by any sanctions -- has been held at bay at making any more weapons of mass destruction, from going forward with his programs? Have these been stopped, or do you know?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM for the precise and technical answer to that question. Clearly, the sanctions, as a whole, and the inspection regime, after all, which has been scouring the country and doing a remarkable job against difficult odds has achieved significant results.

Obviously, the very fact that Chairman Butler is still intent on pursuing his mission is evidence that serious problems remain, potential activities remain ongoing. The record of previous activities remains to be shared and better understood by the international community.

QUESTION: Senators McCain and Lugar and Congressman Hamilton all have been on television in the last 24 hours, talking in very bellicose terms, doing a lot of saber-rattling, talking about the possibility of military strikes. Do you know whether they have been doing so with the encouragement of the Administration, in order to send a message to Saddam Hussein?

MR. FOLEY: I doubt that very much. Certainly we're in agreement with those eminent congressional leaders that you cite about the goals of our policy towards Iraq. They understand that, for example, military capabilities remain an option to be used down the road if necessary. They also understand that we are actively and seriously pursuing all diplomatic avenues. But I don't believe that they've spoken on behalf of the Administration, because we've stated clearly what we're attempting to achieve diplomatically, and what remain options if diplomacy doesn't fail.

QUESTION: Did your people have a chance to watch Tariq Aziz this morning on television?

MR. FOLEY: I imagine some of our people did. I did not do so myself; I was getting ready to --

QUESTION: Did anybody get any sense of shift or change or possibility?

MR. FOLEY: I have not had a read-out of his comments. I'm not aware of precisely what he said.

QUESTION: Could you ask your folks?

MR. FOLEY: We're certainly going to analyze his comments; but again, it's not something I can comment upon in terms of how he reacted to this very important signal from the Security Council. Whether he indicated give on Iraq's part and a change of direction, I just couldn't tell you.

QUESTION: Just for the record, could you get an assessment, if your people saw anything new in it at all?

MR. FOLEY: We will analyze his comments, and if we have something to say in response, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Can you say if there have been any other contacts between the Secretary and any of her counterparts since the Primakov phone conversation?

MR. FOLEY: I don't believe so. She's in New York today, as you know. I couldn't rule it out, because I haven't been in contact with Jamie Rubin, with her party. She spoke to Foreign Minister Vedrine yesterday, and Foreign Minister Primakov. But I'm not aware if she's had telephone contact with other counterparts this morning.

QUESTION: Yesterday?

MR. FOLEY: Right. Are we done with Iraq?

QUESTION: Did you ask the government of Turkey for more efficient rules of engagement for Operation Northern Watch, which airplanes airborne from the Turkish air ways at Incirlik?

MR. FOLEY: I'd like to refer you to the Pentagon on that question. We will be happy to contact them and see if we have anything new to report on that; but I don't have anything to report on that right now.

QUESTION: Jim, Mike McCurry said that this is not an endless loop in which we will keep repeating the same episodes over and over again. Then Ambassador Richardson pointed out that this is the fourth in a row of statements that the UN Security Council had issued. You call these statements firm and unmistakable signal. Do you think Saddam is not getting the signal? Are we being too subtle here, or crying wolf, perhaps?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's been about 30 minutes that we've been discussing this, and I have discussed - especially in the first ten minutes - at length, and I don't really think it's productive to review the fact that we believe it's a strong signal. We had a previous strong signal; there was compliance for a number of weeks. Now the Iraqis have reacted again and gone against their obligations. Chairman Butler is going there next week, and we'll have to see the results of his mission as to whether they've gotten the message. The fact of the matter is, the Security Council is united; there's no opening; there's no potential for Saddam to divide the Council. He's faced with that existential choice that has always been there -- does he cooperate or not? And we will have to see. We are pursuing diplomatic options, but we rule nothing out in the future.

QUESTION: Another subject.

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: On yesterday there was a meeting on the embargo on Cuba in the Department of Commerce. Do you have anything on this? Some people were proposing to lift, partially, the embargo.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I believe that this was under the sponsorship of the US Chamber of Commerce, which, I would note, has opposed the United States embargo on Cuba since the 1960s. We respect the Chamber's position and its right to advocate an approach with which we disagree.

US policy toward Cuba, I'd like to reiterate, is to promote a peaceful transition to democracy. Maintaining economic pressure on the government of Cuba is one aspect of a multifaceted approach which includes a US-led effort to develop multilateral pressure to promote democracy and human rights.

At the same time, we are committed to reaching out to the Cuban people to encourage development of civil society and providing humanitarian assistance. The President, very recently, and other senior officials have made clear that the United States would be prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government undertook fundamental, democratic change.

On the question, though, that was raised at that meeting or that press conference concerning the issue of food and medicine, the United States, in accordance with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, permits US firms to export medicines, medical supplies and equipment to Cuba, provided that end-use monitoring arrangements are in place. United States citizens are also permitted to make humanitarian donations.

I think the statistics here are fairly impressive, and I think they belie some of the concerns that have been raised. The United States has licensed donations of over $227 million in medicines and medical supplies since 1992. Moreover, over $1-billion worth of donations of all types of humanitarian assistance, including food and a variety of other goods, have also been licensed in this time period. I would refer you to the State Department's Health Care Fact Sheet, dated last August 5, 1997.

So we believe that we are authorizing the types of humanitarian commerce and assistance that helps meet the needs of the Cuban people on a properly licensed basis, that there is not a crisis of this nature. We've stated before - I can restate the fact that the problems in the Cuban economy, in the Cuban health sector, are a direct result of mismanagement of the Cuban economy, which is a dysfunctional economic model; that, in fact, through these licensing arrangements, the United States has, in effect, provided more medical assistance to the people of Cuba than their own government has. We're satisfied with the record and with the results of this policy.

QUESTION: Will there be much more - will there be many more medicines and food and things sent to Cuba?

MR. FOLEY: Well, there is nothing in United States policies that prevents Cubans from obtaining medical supplies and equipment anywhere on the world market. And again, we provide significant licensing to American citizens and concerns to provide such goods.

As to the embargo itself, though, we believe that it is part and parcel of our approach to maintain economic pressure in the interest of promoting change in Cuba.

QUESTION: Does the United States really believe that the Pope has the capability to at least provoke a change, a political change inside of the Cuban Government?

MR. FOLEY: Well, hope springs eternal; although the record of the Castro Government, over almost four decades does not ordinarily lend itself to optimism. But we certainly believe that Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba is an important and positive event in bringing to the Cuban people a message of hope, of freedom and the need for respect of human rights. The Pope has given other messages, powerful messages that have had a reverberating effect in other closed and totalitarian societies.

The President, I can repeat, and other senior officials have made clear that the United States for its part is prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government undertakes fundamental, democratic change. Insofar as the Pope's visit is concerned, we have taken measures to facilitate religious travel of those going to participate in the Pope's visit.

We certainly hope for the best. We wish Pope John Paul II well on his visit. It will be very interesting to watch how his message is received as he goes about the country. And if it can be a spark for a humane response to the hunger and thirst of the Cuban people for real democratic change, then we certainly would welcome that.

QUESTION: There was a congressman, like Mr. Rangel and Torres that believe with the death of Mr. Mas Canosa, the policy of the United States toward Cuba can be different. Is the United States, I mean, at least the Clinton Administration, prepared to defend a change in the Helms-Burton law, for example, that the United States has to comply with the European Union as a sign of this fragmentation inside the Cuban-American society in the United States with the death of Mr. Mas Canosa?

MR. FOLEY: I don't see any relevance in that respect. I can repeat what I've said now for the third time - that we would be prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government itself undertakes fundamental democratic change.

QUESTION: Jim, can you speak perhaps more to the issue of religious travel? I understand maybe as many as 10,000 pilgrims from the United States will go to Cuba; 4,000 journalists, spending tens of millions of dollars in Cuba. Will they be required to have Treasury licenses?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes. We put out a fact sheet or an information sheet yesterday or Monday. I urge you, if you have it, then, to read it.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to look at the December elections in Honduras? There are now new charges that the election was marred by widespread fraud and false registrations. Do you accept it as a free and fair election?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check the record on our reaction at the time. I wouldn't want to risk misspeaking. But I'm not aware of the reports that you're referring to, so I'd be happy to take the question and get back to you with an answer.

QUESTION: Jim, would it seem at this point that the meeting next Tuesday, I think it is, between President Clinton and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might now be near pointless? What with the two countries' positions on the issue of troop redeployment being almost diametrically opposed?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't accept the premise of your question in any way. That would imply that the United States was prepared to walk away from the Middle East peace process, which we're not.

Clearly, we're at the stage where very difficult and tough decisions have to be made. What the Secretary of State and what the President have said is that they're willing to do all they can to encourage the leaders concerned in the region to take the tough decisions. We believe that meetings with the President in advance of those decisions would give the President an opportunity to share some of his views, and to encourage them in the right direction. So we think those meetings are important, maybe even critical; but we're certainly going forward with them.

QUESTION: Well, Jim, do you see the tougher line that Israel's taking in particular as a sign of encouragement to the peace process? Or do you see that it might be an ominous sort of attitude?

MR. FOLEY: I think you have to define the terms of your question.

QUESTION: Well, the fact that Israel seems to be becoming more rigid; the fact that the --

MR. FOLEY: I'd like you to be a little more specific.

QUESTION: The Cabinet today apparently took a decision about blocking off huge tracts of the West Bank that it would not cede in a redeployment. I wondered how you see that. Do you see that as an encouraging sign?

MR. FOLEY: Well, of course in a negotiation, all sides can take all kinds of positions. The trick is to get to the negotiating table and achieve progress on the basis of compromise. I can respond only briefly to the specific reference you make to an action of the Israeli Cabinet, or a document, because we've only just received that document this morning, and are only now just studying it.

This document and what it may include, as we've seen referred to in the press, has not been part of our discussions with the Israelis. We are not aware of whether Israel has shared it with the Palestinians. Thus, I am not in a position to, and I'm not going to comment on it. But as for the more general question you and others in the room have raised about what needs to be done, it is our view that both sides need to meet the obligations and responsibilities that they have undertaken in all the relevant documents -- the interim agreement, the Hebron protocol and the note for the record. The parties need to act on this.

And the really important point is that this process is about partnership. I talked about negotiation and the need, in the end, to compromise. I would refer you to the Secretary's speech last summer on the Middle East peace process, when she talked about the transforming nature of the Oslo Accords, in which each side proved willing to acknowledge the other's legitimacy and to begin a process in which they took each other's needs into account in moving forward to a final, durable, peaceful settlement.

We believe that this whole process is, indeed, about partnership, and that involves both Israelis and Palestinians taking into account each other's needs and concerns. It's going to be that spirit of partnership that is going to determine whether or not the current process moves forward.

But again, at this early stage of just having received the document this morning, I'm not prepared to comment on it.

QUESTION: I want to make sure I understand you. Even though Dennis Ross has just had extensive conversations with the Israelis, pursuant to Netanyahu's meeting next week with Clinton, the United States knew nothing about this document that the Cabinet apparently approved today?

MR. FOLEY: It's not been a part of our discussions with the Israelis.

QUESTION: You knew nothing about it?

MR. FOLEY: It's not been a part of our discussions.

QUESTION: Well, how do you react to that? I mean, here Dennis is out there trying to make sure - trying to move the process forward, trying to make sure that the meeting is a success, and the Israelis pull a fast one on you?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can only say it obviously puts me in a position where I can't comment on it substantively to you. That's all I would say about it.

QUESTION: The Secretary said in her speech yesterday that 1997 was not a good year for the peace process, and you've highlighted that they have to work together in this partnership. But is '98 gearing up to - are we getting off on the right foot when the Israelis are talking, they're backing themselves into a corner, saying there's not going to be any more pull-outs or anything until we get some kind of guarantees from the Palestinians? Is '98 gearing up to be a better year already?

MR. FOLEY: It's January 14. I'd at least like to wait until January 20, January 22 and our analysis of the aftermath of both visits before we decide whether or not we want to forecast what the weather is going to be like throughout the next calendar year.

QUESTION: The meeting coming up with the President next week?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: So are we getting off on the right foot?

MR. FOLEY: We'll be prepared to say what foot we're getting off on when we've had the meetings.

QUESTION: Let's go back to this document. Was the idea of the document presented to - the underlying ideas in that document, that is, keeping large chunks of the West Bank for security reasons, was that something that was discussed, leaving out whether they presented him with a piece of paper? Was that concept something that was discussed?

MR. FOLEY: I can't comment about Ambassador Ross' private discussions, and I do repeat what I said -- which is that this document was not a part of our discussions with the Israelis.

However, the notion of percentages has been floated in the press in Israel and abroad over the last few weeks. We've seen different percentages thrown out, different plans, and we've not commented on those. What we're focusing on at this point is the four-part agenda, and a central element of the four- part agenda is the issue of the further redeployment. I think that's really the focus of our diplomacy at the moment.

QUESTION: Jim, do you - this idea of reciprocity, which is part of the note that Warren Christopher gave to the Israelis, that they've lifted and are now using it as the main rationale for their current approach, do you accept their interpretation of - do you accept the way they're using that approach -- the conditions they're laying down, the extended time frame for grading the Palestinians and then they would act? Or do you feel that they're taking that out of context, misinterpreting it and using it just to delay things even further?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've said that both sides have obligations and responsibilities that need to be met on both sides.

The partnership that we believe was committed to in Oslo and its subsequent junctures, and which needs to be reaffirmed, is critical to getting the peace process back on track. If the process is to succeed, it has to be based on partnership. That is certainly the larger point that the President is going to be making to the two leaders. In advance of his meetings with them, though, I'm not going to try to comment further on the issues you raise.

QUESTION: The Algerian Government has just refused entry of the fact- finding mission by the European Union on the recent massacres. Since you advocated yourself a fact-finding mission in Algeria, can you comment on that decision?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as you know, we supported EU efforts in this direction. Therefore, we regret the decision by the government of Algeria concerning the EU mission. We believe that the Algerian Government has lost an opportunity to respond to the legitimate concerns of the international community. We continue to encourage the Algerian Government to allow outside observers to view and study the human rights situation in the country.

Again, I'm not saying this for the first time. The Algerians have told us that they would accept a visit by a UN human rights rapporteur. We're encouraging this visit. We think that the international community has a legitimate right to information on the situation involving the loss of so many hundreds and even thousands of innocent men, women and children in Algeria.

QUESTION: German Federal Chief Prosecutor Nehm, N-e-h-m, yesterday said that PKK could not be said terrorist organization. But since they are involved in extortion, assault and illegal ownership of weapons, it could be said that perhaps it's a criminal organization. Do you find such distinction meaningful and helpful, in terms of fighting international terrorism?

MR. FOLEY: I think what we're concerned about is the bottom line. Our understanding is that the government of Germany has emphasized that the PKK is still banned in Germany. We think that's the essential point.

We're going to be seeking more information from the German Government about this announcement, but our position, as announced by the Secretary some months ago, is that the US designation of the PKK as a terrorist organization, for our part, remains unaffected.

QUESTION: You were asked questions about Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations and about the illegal visit of American Congressman Frank Pallone to Azerbaijan last time.

MR. FOLEY: Yes, we got answers for you on those questions, had them available yesterday, and will be happy to provide them to you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Can you talk about Frank Wisner's whereabouts and how his talks in Moscow went?

MR. FOLEY: No, I can't. As Jamie Rubin said on Monday, the first step is for him to come back. I don't have that exactly. I believe -- and will check - I believe that he'll be meeting for debriefings with Department officials, I believe tomorrow. I'll have to check that.

QUESTION: Is he back yet?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure.

QUESTION: Did he cut short the trip?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that. But I stand by what Jamie Rubin said, that the first thing is that we're going to await his report to us before we decide what we can say about it.

QUESTION: Well, when the trip was announced last week, it was said he would be there for most of this week, and now he's been --

MR. FOLEY: I said, when I was asked about it, that he was leaving around the weekend and would be back sometime this week. I don't believe that we put a day of return on that.

QUESTION: Reports out of Moscow say he has cut his trip short and that the Russians refused to budge an inch on the Gazprom deal with Iran, the Total deal, or on the provisions of the civilian nuclear reactor to Iran. Can you offer - there are reports out there, can you offer - with no US official commenting on the record. Can you offer anything in the way of an explanation, rationale, or you just - do you care to deny flatly that he cut his trip short?

MR. FOLEY: I'd be happy to check. I can check with colleagues to see whether his visit was in any way shortened. I'm not aware that it was. But in terms of what we can say about his visit, which has been part of a series of visits involving a mechanism that was established on extremely sensitive matters of utmost national security concern to the United States, we've not always said a lot about it. But we will look at the issue.

Again, I'm not aware that he cut short his visit. I believe we were expecting him to return about this time, and I think that we're going to be seeing him in the Department tomorrow. But I'll be happy to check those sort of technical facts, in terms of his whereabouts.

QUESTION: Jim, the Baltic presidents are arriving for a signing ceremony. During their time here, there is undoubtedly going to be considerable discussion of NATO enlargement. Despite the Secretary's remarks yesterday, there appear to be at least more than one version of what they're going to be told on the subject of the US position on possible invitations to them to be in the next tranche, as it were, of NATO enlargement. For the record, what are they going to be told?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can repeat what Jamie Rubin said on the subject, which was authoritative, I believe on Monday. The charter reaffirms United States policy that aspirants can become members as they prove themselves able and willing to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and as NATO itself determines - by NATO I mean all the member states of NATO - determine that the inclusion of these nations would serve European stability and the strategic interests of the alliance.

Other questions?

QUESTION: Just to follow briefly, then. How would you address the suggestion that during their conversations with officials here that they are going to be told that the US will support their membership in NATO at some point?

MR. FOLEY: We've said that we support their aspirations for NATO membership and their preparations to make themselves able to fulfill the obligations of membership. I think that's a strong signal of support. But the issue of a next tranche of membership is one that, as I believe the Secretary noted yesterday, will not be addressed by NATO - and it has to be addressed collectively by the alliance - until 1999.

QUESTION: Just one more quick question that we hadn't touched on about Iraq. Do you have any comment on Ambassador Butler's reports that Iraq might be testing biological and chemical weapons on human beings? And how would you characterize that if it's true?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I saw Ambassador Richardson comment about that, and he said, go ask Ambassador Butler. I really don't want to --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I meant Ambassador Butler, is who I meant.

MR. FOLEY: Ambassador Butler has that information, in terms of where currently the inspection teams are and what they're looking for. It's obviously a sensitive subject. It's one that he would be best placed to determine whether he can talk about or not.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:20 P.M.)


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