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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #9, 98-01-20

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>


1135

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Tuesday, January 20, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

STATEMENTS/DEPARTMENT
		Ecuador/Peru: Agreement to peace talks on border dispute
		Tajikistan: Concern over delay in implementation of peace
		  plan
		Former Amb. Seitz' book and allegations that Amb. Smith is
		  an IRA apologist

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 1,2,3,10 President Clinton and Secretary Albright's meetings with PM Netanyahu: discussions on the four-part agenda, other administration officials' meetings and redeployment 1,2,3 Discussions of redeployment and the Oslo accord, percentages, quality, security situations and timing 3 American ideas and the bridging of gaps 4,5 Comments made by an (unnamed) "Administration Official," concerning the importance of meetings and press events with PM Netanyahu 5,6,7 Possible visit by Chairman Arafat to the Holocaust Museum/Head of State versus a VIP 7,8,9 The question of politicizing the Holocaust Museum 9 Possible discussions between PM Netanyahu and President Clinton 9 Human rights organization's report on the treatment of prisoners in Palestinian jails 10 The issue of "maps" with discussions on redeployment

IRAQ 10,11 Amb. Butler's comments on talks with Iraqi officials/ U.S. options and unilateral action/Possible position of allies

IRAN 12 President Khatami's negative comments about the U.S. 12 Visas granted to Iranians seeking entry to the U.S./Security of Iranian-Americans living in the U.S.

GUATEMALA 13,14 Comments made by President of St..Mary's college/ Investigation into robbery and rape of American citizens / Information on travel in Guatemala contained in the State Department's Consular Information Sheet 14 Criminal Act vs. Political Act/No FBI Involvement/Review of upgrading to Travel Advisory 15 Question concerning victims possibly having to return to Guatemala for court proceedings

CUBA 15 Reports that Fidel Castro invited President Clinton to visit Cuba/Iraq and Cuba comparison

DEPARTMENT 15,16 Ray Seitz's accusation that State Department leaked reports to IRA in his published book/Conflict in Northern Ireland and USG's role 16,17 Issue of clearance of manuscripts by State Department

NORTH KOREA 17,18 Reports of underground construction of a nuclear bomb / Status of KEDO agreement

CHINA 18,19 Status of arms sales embargo/Sale of spare helicopter parts not approved/Tiananmen Square


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #9

TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 1998, 12:55 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. We're still having trouble getting to our 12:30 p.m. start time. Please forgive me. We have two statements we'll put out after the briefing, one on Ecuador and Peru, and the other on Tajikistan. But let's go right to your questions.

Barry.

QUESTION: The Secretary met with Mr. Netanyahu and there were no statements, which we didn't take as a personal snub, because they were going off to the White House. I wondered, though, at this point, if you could tell us if she reiterated any of her multifaceted proposal -- the things she wants mostly from Israel, like a sizable withdrawal, a time-out? Did he hear those words again today?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me get into the question. I just spoke to the Secretary. She said that the meetings this morning have gone extremely well. She had a breakfast with --

QUESTION: You mean the White House -- (inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN: I'm going to get into that. She had a breakfast with Prime Minister Netanyahu, lasted over an hour; it was a very good meeting. Then she and the President had a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes. As I understand it, the Vice President is now having lunch with the Prime Minister.

And what she told me was that the meetings were what she expected them to be. The Secretary felt the meetings were business-like; that substantive issues were fully explored and fully addressed; and that she is planning another meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon.

As far as the American view is concerned, I am confident that Secretary Albright reiterated our view that in order for us to put all the pieces of the Middle East peace process back together, one of the important pieces is the further redeployment; in addition to the work that the President will be doing with Chairman Arafat later in the week, focused on the important task he has to combat terrorism on a full-time basis.

With respect to further redeployment, we do believe that it needs to take place in a way that it is credible; that the size needs to be significant; and that there are other issues related to the quality and the timing that have to be run through. So that was discussed, and the fact that she said we got down to substantive business, I think very clearly demonstrates that the issue of the further redeployment did come up in a substantive way, and our substantive position has not changed.

QUESTION: That's a substantive answer, so I won't feel bad about your not answering the time-out question. But if you have it --

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, in order for us to put all the pieces of the Middle East peace process back together, the view of the United States is that the kind of unilateral actions that make it difficult to create an environment for the negotiations and make it harder to create success in those negotiations if we get to that, is a very important one of the four agenda items. And I am sure that that is no surprise to the Prime Minister.

Whether they focused as much on that as they did on the further redeployment, perhaps we can tell you a little more as the day continues.

QUESTION: One quick scheduling question.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: We're hearing from the Middle East, not from here, sort of an outline of Arafat's schedule. It includes the Secretary giving him a dinner. Will the Secretary be giving Arafat a dinner while he's here?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister, in questions in Hebrew, said that he did not bring any percentages with him for further redeployment. Can you address that in any way?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, in order to get to a point where we have a package on further redeployment that meets the needs of the parties and meets the outlines set forth in the previous agreements, it's not just a question of percentages. It's also a question of the quality of the land that will be turned over; the timing that the land might or might not be turned over; and the security situation that would obtain when that would happen.

So these four pieces - percentage/quantity, quality, security situation, timing - are all part of what would be necessary to get a successful step forward in this area. So we are not concerned at this point if an exact percentage has not been agreed to. I think the Prime Minister has made it quite clear that he still needs to talk to his Cabinet meeting.

But what is important, and what I think the Secretary's comments to me indicate, is that we need to get down to the nitty-gritty in examining each one of those issues to see whether the four of them - quantity, quality, timing and security - can be put together in a way that yields progress in the peace process.

QUESTION: What do you mean by quality?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what type of land. There are different types of land specific in the Oslo accord - category A, category B, category C - which have different implications for the civilian and military security situation. So that would be an example of type of land.

QUESTION: Yes, I asked because those of us who actually heard Mr. Netanyahu last night - there were a few reporters there - he talked about being willing to give up land that wasn't crucial to Israel's security. You're not responding to that in any negative way?

MR. RUBIN: No, Barry, I think there are two issues here and often they get confused and lead to some confusion.

Issue one is what the further redeployment will look like - how much land; what type of land, as categorized by the Oslo accord; when; and what the security situation would be that pertains.

The second issue is the question that has come out of Israel of what the long-term possibilities are if we get to permanent status, and what issues the Israeli Government feels strongly about and what the possibilities are for these final status issues.

As you know, we don't think it's useful for us to comment every time one of the parties specifies what its advance negotiating position would be in a negotiation that hasn't even started yet. So we think that would be very premature.

But with respect to the further redeployment, this turning over of additional territory now or in the near future, that is something that we have said needs to be significant and credible.

QUESTION: Jamie, did the American side put forward any ideas?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. I think we have been quite clear that we have ideas on how to bridge the gaps. Ambassador Ross has worked very hard in the region, and Secretary Albright has worked very hard in her meetings, three of them, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat in recent weeks to try to identify the areas where there are significant gaps and propose US ideas to close them. That is very different than a US plan, which some people talk about; but ideas to close the gaps, that's something that is very much part of the American role.

QUESTION: Is this specifically on redeployment?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to be in a position to get into very much detail here. I mean, these are meetings that are ongoing. The President's meeting just concluded. The Vice President is having lunch with the Prime Minister right now. The Secretary will be meeting with him again this afternoon. So it's not normal practice to give you a rolling report of everything that's said. But in principle: Is the US Government prepared to propose ideas in these four areas? The answer is yes.

QUESTION: Jamie, does the Administration identify itself with comments from an unnamed US official that appeared in several publications and wire services about jogging with the President of Bulgaria being more important than having lunch with the Prime Minister of Israel?

MR. RUBIN: You know, having read the newspapers very carefully most of my time here in Washington, my view is you can get an Administration official, if you would define him that way, or her, to say just about anything. But this view is not the view of the United States Government. This idea that was presented in some of these comments is simply nonsense.

Secretary Albright and the Prime Minister talked about the importance of this meeting. This is an official working visit. It entails a lot of hard work. And there are no - I'm not even going to use the words insinuations or suggestions -- from anything that I've seen that this is anything other than the hard work of trying to pursue the peace process, and all the examples used are not serious examples.

With respect to Blair House, it's not routine that Prime Minister Netanyahu stays there. With respect to the luncheon, as I said, the Vice President is meeting with - having lunch with the Prime Minister right now. With respect to press events, again, we have a unique situation where it's not often that you have back-to-back visits like this so closely linked. So it's inappropriate to have reports in the middle of a negotiation, if that could interfere with the prospect of getting to yes with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat.

So these comments are surely somebody's view. I'm not suggesting that they were made up, but they don't represent the views of the President or the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Well, when you say you get - there's always somebody in the government who will say something like that, are you suggesting --

MR. RUBIN: I'm saying on any subject you can get somebody in this large Administration or government this big, if you push hard enough, to say just about anything. But the question is, what is the policy of the United States, what was the thinking going into the visit. And what I can tell you from this podium is the policy of the President and the Secretary was to accord the Prime Minister the necessary arrangements to conduct a serious, substantive working visit.

QUESTION: Again, under our rules, officials come forward sometimes and say things, and don't want to be quoted.

MR. RUBIN: And sometimes --

QUESTION: No, no, the background briefings.

MR. RUBIN: Right --

QUESTION: You don't believe this was offered by the US Government?

MR. RUBIN: I do not. In fact, it strikes me as one of those times when reporters have ideas in their head, and they go, oh, come on, isn't that really true? And someone doesn't deny it really loudly, and then they state it as Administration policy. That's my view about it.

QUESTION: Do you have any - (inaudible) - from Bulgaria about this?

MR. RUBIN: No, I haven't heard from the Bulgarians.

QUESTION: Sort of a similar kind of question about Mr. Arafat and the Holocaust Museum. Does the Administration regret what has happened? Apparently, he was first invited and then dis-invited. And was the Administration in any way involved in his now being re-invited?

MR. RUBIN: The return of Schweid!

QUESTION: I thought Mr. Schweid might return. (Laughter)

MR. RUBIN: Well, thank you for getting our esteemed AP correspondent to return.

The answer to your question is that Secretary Albright said on Sunday that she thought it was too bad if this kind of a visit could not be arranged. It is our view, and the Secretary's view, that one of the aspects - certainly not the most important, but one of the aspects of the peace process that is important is the psychological aspect. Breaking down barriers is one of the ways that peace will hold if agreements are ever reached. That has been true in many other parts of the world.

For Secretary Albright, she has routinely encouraged visitors to go to this museum for its obvious historical value. But in this case, it's particularly important for Chairman Arafat to understand one of the defining events in Jewish history that clearly affects the views of the Israeli people and Jews around the world.

The horrors of the Holocaust should be understood better by everyone, in particular in pursuing the peace process. This, we believe, is a good thing.

With respect to regret or not regret, all I can say is that we believe that such a visit would be an important step. We'd like to see it happen. I gather the museum has had some additional comments today. It's really up to the museum to work out its arrangements, and we are hopeful that arrangements can be worked out to permit this visit.

QUESTION: You're working on the visit of Mr. Arafat to town, and trying to make sure that the arrangements are proper. Is it your understanding that Mr. Arafat would be able to lay a wreath in the event that he goes to the museum? And is it your understanding that Mr. Arafat would be willing now to accept an invitation that was once taken away?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see how this unfolds in the coming days. I'm not going to get into commenting on every step that Chairman Arafat may or may not take in a visit that may or may not happen. What I can say is that we believe that he should be accorded the treatment due to a very important person.

He has been on the White House lawn. He's met with the President of the United States. So clearly he is a VIP in that sense. As far as what arrangements the Holocaust Museum makes, that's up to them to make those arrangements. I'd refer the question on that issue to you.

QUESTION: But a VIP visit in the first place, was that a State Department official's idea?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to comment on all the specifics of who said what to whom. But I can say - and I think this really does go straight to your question - that the idea of breaking down this kind of a barrier where you have a situation that we think it would be good for the world, good for the Palestinians, and particularly good for the Israelis for Chairman Arafat to understand this defining event in Jewish history and all that it entails is a good thing, and that we are supportive and Secretary Albright is supportive of the visit.

As far as who made the first phone call to who, I'm sure this is the kind of situation where everyone will either take credit or deny credit for it, but what I can say is that we here in the State Department, and Secretary Albright specifically, are supportive of this visit.

QUESTION: You want to just say so much and not go further. You want to say it's their decision --

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: But you're not shy about telling them what you think they ought to do. The Secretary said so on Sunday.

MR. RUBIN: Right, in general. In general.

QUESTION: In general, of course, in general. So I'm just trying to close the - sort of catch up with one little fact, which is that someone in the State Department -- I think he's on the peace team --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- who has these kinds of ideas that go beyond the instant situation but thinks big thoughts, and I thought it was his idea. And I'm asking you if it was a State Department initiated idea - I don't know if it was the first phone call; I don't care. Did the State Department tell the Holocaust Museum, we think it would be a good idea if you'd have Yasser Arafat come make a VIP visit?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm very sure that the person mentioned will be very pleased that you think he has big ideas.

QUESTION: No, I just heard that. I'm asking you whether it's true or not.

MR. RUBIN: And I'll certainly report that to him.

As far as the initiation of this idea, it's not possible for one to get to the bottom of it. But I can say that in communications between the State Department and the Holocaust Museum, the idea of such a visit was supported by the State Department, and Secretary Albright herself is supportive. As far as who --

QUESTION: Proposed it.

MR. RUBIN: -- proposed the idea, again, this is the kind of idea that either will have a - be an orphan or have a thousand fathers, if it does happen and goes well.

QUESTION: Can I just make sure I understand what you said earlier, Jamie?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, please.

QUESTION: You said that you thought he ought to be accorded the treatment accorded to a very important person, a VIP, but that is a term of art at museums. That means a specific set of things, VIP.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: It does not mean - and I want to make sure that I understand whether you're making this distinction or not - it does not mean the same sort of treatment as a head of state.

MR. RUBIN: Again --

QUESTION: VIPs go to that museum, they don't lay wreaths at the --

MR. RUBIN: All right. We all know that Chairman Arafat is not accorded the treatment of a head of state by the United States, because he is not one. And I'm not going to fall into the trap of defining exactly for you to use for all time the proper treatment of Chairman Arafat. What I am prepared to say is that he is a very important person and clearly a partner in the peace process. He has met with the President. He has affixed his signature to extremely important agreements, and therefore we think he should be accorded provisions and procedures consistent with a very important person, who is the leader of the Palestinian Authority and is our negotiating partner as we pursue peace in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Jamie, does the Administration really think it's appropriate to politicize this visit, at the behest of the peace team, to a memorial that commemorates the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust?

MR. RUBIN: Are we suggesting that we have? Is that the premise of your question? It appeared to be.

QUESTION: That's what the question is.

MR. RUBIN: No, is that the premise of your question, that we have?

QUESTION: That you're politicizing the whole --

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, that's the premise of my question.

MR. RUBIN: All right. Well, there's no evidence for that. Visiting a museum is hardly politicizing. World leaders have gone there before, and I reject the premise of your question.

QUESTION: But you think that's a stop, one of the stops along the station of coming to Washington. You do certain things; right? You try to see the President, if you can; you see the Secretary of State; and you go to a memorial which is a memorial to people who were killed by people who didn't like Jews and killed them, if they had a chance.

MR. RUBIN: Right. Yes.

QUESTION: And you think this is something that should be routinely part of a VIP visit?

MR. RUBIN: I certainly can say the following. Secretary Albright has encouraged world leaders to go to the Holocaust Museum because of its important descriptions and analysis of this important event in Jewish history. She, in the case of Chairman Arafat, thinks it's particularly important that he make such a visit, and is therefore supportive of it.

I don't know what else you can expect me to say, other than we believe this is appropriate. We believe that those who suggested it's politicizing the museum should think long and hard about what the purpose of this museum is.

QUESTION: Well, you've drawn a notion of what you think the museum represents.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: And that's a personal notion, which the Secretary has. She thinks it's instructive.

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: Tells people what can happen --

MR. RUBIN: And I fail to see how this --

QUESTION: There are other things to be drawn. The museum represents other things. The museum is a museum, historically recording the murder of Jews. Is that something you think appropriately Arafat should be invited to visit?

MR. RUBIN: I think I've answered that about 18 times, Barry. The answer is yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to this morning's discussion?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Do I understand you correctly that the bulk of the dialogue at the White House and at the breakfast had to do with the terms of Israeli redeployment?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly the focus of the issue that we are trying to deal with here in order to restart the peace process are two things. Number one, the importance and ways in which we can promote maximum cooperation by the Palestinian Authority on security, and ways in which we can promote the possibility of a further redeployment by the Israelis. Those two issues together, because they are linked, are a focus of the discussions. But beyond to say a focus, I'm not in a position to give you a recording of the amount of time spent on any one issue.

QUESTION: But other aspects of the interim agreement came up as well, such as the airport --

MR. RUBIN: I am sure that in the course of two and a half hours of discussions, there were other issues discussed. Whether they got into the interim issues, I do not know. But perhaps by the end of the day, we'll be able to give you more information.

QUESTION: The timing may not be too convenient from some standpoints, but a Palestinian human rights group has come out with a report saying essentially that the mechanisms of a police state are in place in the realm of the Palestinian Authority. I was wondering whether you have any comment on that.

MR. RUBIN: Well, as far as the specific question of the trial of Hamas members, we have seen reports of the trial but we do not want to get into the specifics of the trial, based solely on these reports.

Those responsible for involvement in terrorism and terrorist incidents should be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions. As far as how the Palestinian Authority conducts its trials, we have in the past, in our human rights report, commented on this in general. But until we have more information about this particular trial, I wouldn't be in a position to say.

QUESTION: The gist of this report, actually, concerned the deaths of Palestinian prisoners in Palestinian custody. The numbers are up this year over last year. Apparently, there are --

MR. RUBIN: Right, I haven't seen the report but, again, I would point you towards our human rights report which indicates quite clearly that we have concerns in this area.

QUESTION: New subject - Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: Please.

QUESTION: I have --

MR. RUBIN: You have more on the Middle East?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how, but I'd be happy to try.

QUESTION: Oh, what the heck. You described the meetings as business-like. Did you - can you give us a characterization of whether any progress was made in the meetings? Was Secretary Albright happy with what she heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu, in terms of a plan or a ceiling or whatever his ideas are for a further redeployment? Do you think there's a chance for progress soon, in the next couple of weeks?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's 1:15 P.M. There have been two and a half hours of meetings this morning. There will be continued meetings during the course of the day. I'm not going to give you a minute-by-minute progress report, because that is not the best way to promote progress.

What I can say is she was happy that the meetings were substantive; that the serious nitty-gritty was gone into in detail, and that she feels that, as expected, the substance ruled and that's what they focused on.

But in terms of progress made or no progress made, it's mid-stream, and it would be inappropriate to try to make a judgment at this time.

QUESTION: One detail -- was this discussion about redeployment, the quality, taking place around a map?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. But there seems to be an obsession - I've been in meetings where maps are used. Maps are often used. The issue that seems to obsess some people is that - will it be the map that is the plan by which the Israelis will establish their final position. And we don't expect to see a final proposal for further redeployment at this time, because the four elements that I went into need to be put together in such a way that you can get to that point.

QUESTION: On Iraq, Mr. Butler has been telling reporters that he is dispirited after his talks with Tariq Aziz; that he has been basically told there will be no new information. And he said, I don't think this play has got many acts left to it. Is the United States moving towards military action against Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen those specific comments you have made or the specific report of what he did or didn't say. Certainly, we support Ambassador Butler's efforts to convince Iraq to change course; to convince Iraq to allow inspections; to convince Iraq to finally let the international community know what it did and didn't do in the area of weapons of mass destruction. And we support his efforts in that regard. If he's frustrated, we're frustrated, but only to the extent that we know that this is a long- term policy. Containment is a policy that requires determination on our part, and we are going to continue to pursue this policy in a determined way.

With respect to military action, the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Berger talked about this on Sunday, and until we have the full extent of Ambassador Butler's meetings - and I don't think they are over - and he makes a report to the Security Council and the Council has a chance to absorb that, I can't really go beyond saying that military action has not been ruled out.

QUESTION: Is it ruled in, though, is I guess what I'm asking, in the event that those talks are unsuccessful?

MR. RUBIN: Well, being how long you've been here in the briefing room, I think when you say something is not ruled out, it has a certain meeting.

QUESTION: Does that include unilateral military action, not ruled out?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: But are other allies going to be involved in the event that - have any other allies expressed willingness to be involved, in the event that it moves in that direction?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I don't think it's common practice to publicly speak about the views of our allies on a subject that we haven't even addressed for ourselves. In other words, we've said that military action is not ruled out, and when and if the time comes, we are confident that those who - if and when the time comes - that those whose assistance we need and whose support we have seen in the past will be with us.

But I'm not going to get into naming names or naming countries or giving you a daily temperature reading on everybody's views on this subject; other than to say that I think that Secretary Albright made clear that the frustration level on the part of Iraq's sometime advocates is growing, and that they are getting tired of trying to explain what is the unexplainable, which is Iraq's continuing attempt to deny inspectors the right to do their work and to block what the Security Council resolutions demand.

QUESTION: Jamie, could we do Iran?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you see the comments of President Khatami, and do you have any response?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there have been many statements in Iran in recent days and weeks. I think we're going to probably have to get out of the habit of commenting on every new statement, for fear of confusing people. But let me say this -- generally, we have spoken a great deal about what is going on in Iran, and we're not going to make a detailed response to every speech. We've heard some encouraging words from Iran about America, as well as some continued criticism. Obviously, we believe our concerns are justified, and we would bring them to the table in a dialogue between our two governments. Iran could raise the subjects it wants. But ultimately, US policy towards Iran will be affected by change in Iranian actions of concern to the international community, and we would respond appropriately if there is such a change.

Secretary Albright has said many times that she found President Khatami's statements encouraging, and that we would examine the possibility of people- to-people exchanges, which could be a useful step. As you know, we don't ban travel by Americans to Iran. We do have a travel warning in effect. But there is dialogue going on in Iran on the question of the rule of law and the more Iran pursues the rule of law domestically and internationally, the better off everyone will be.

QUESTION: Can I follow on that? We get a lot of questions sent to us, and I don't usually ask them to you. But this one is sort of interesting, and it relates to the subject you've just gone on. An Iranian-American says that a lot of Iranian-Americans who disagree with their government in Tehran have found themselves murdered in European countries, but that this country has been a safe place for those who disagree with the regime in Tehran to live, up until now, for the most part. He wonders whether, if more visas are going to be offered to Iranians to travel here under cultural programs or if other efforts like that are going to be made as a response to Mr. Khatami's previous remarks, whether security arrangements are going to be increased to make sure that these people don't come in planning to kill people.

MR. RUBIN: I can assure whoever this anonymous proposer of a question is that when and if we were to make any adjustments in our visa policy, that we would take into account that issue. I think there's no issue that receives higher priority in this Administration than the issue of terrorism. Certainly going overseas to assassinate people would constitute terrorism. Our visa policies put at the highest priority the protection of Americans. Americans of Iranian extraction or who have come here from Iran should know that the protection of Americans is the highest priority of the Secretary and obviously the President. Any adjustments, if any, would take that into account.

I would also point out that there is a watch list and there is a system in place to make sure that any proposals for visas from Iranians that are made in other countries, like Paris or wherever, take that watch list very much into account. But as far as exactly how the system works, and how many people are on it and what steps we take now, all I can say is that it's the highest possible priority, and would continue to be so.

QUESTION: Jamie, Guatemala - the American students attacked there. The President of St. Mary's (College) has said that she received no warning - the institute, in other words, in general about travel to Guatemala. She felt as though it was safe to send the students there. She almost seemed to imply or inject a little blame toward the State Department in her remarks. How do you respond to that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to make a comment about what she almost did. I can say this - we feel very strongly that it's our responsibility to provide American citizens the best possible information about the risks and dangers in other countries when they travel.

This is obviously a very tragic incident. After being informed of the incident on the evening of January 16, embassy officials rushed to the scene with transportation and an armed escort. They accompanied the group back to Guatemala City that night and obtained medical attention early Saturday. We facilitated the departure on Saturday of those who were assaulted. The Guatemalan Government has arrested five people. A combined police-military patrol arrested one assailant. That led to the arrest of a second person. It is not clear whether the three additional people arrested most recently directly participated in the attack, although they are believed to be members of the gang that committed it.

The Guatemalan Government has responded expeditiously. They have set up a task force there, and we are working very closely with them in this area. Both our governments -- the US and Guatemalan Governments -- are concerned about the crime problem. Fighting this crime wave is one of the priorities of the government, as they have indicated, and we have provided assistance to them in this regard.

I would urge you to take a look at the Consular Information Sheet, which I think we can make available to all of you. Just to read to you a couple of sections from it, which indicate quite clearly that we are concerned about the situation there and that we made quite clear that violent crime has been a growing and serious problem, and that in 1997, there's been a marked increase in incidents involving Americans, that no area in Guatemala can be definitively characterized as always safe.

In the past, travel during daylight hours and travel in groups generally afforded some measure of personal security. However, the most recent incidents reported to the US Embassy, which include shootings, kidnappings, rapes and violent assaults have, for the most part, occurred during daylight hours, and in many cases have affected entire groups of American tourists.

In short, there is a lot of information in this sheet. We put it out as best we can. The Consular Bureau informs me they get 70,000 hits on their Internet website for this kind of information. And we can always look at ways to do more to try to make sure that those Americans who are traveling get the information they need and understand the risks before they travel.

QUESTION: So the State Department is confident enough that their advisories before this incident happened - the language was clear and strong enough that anybody traveling to Guatemala could see the dangers?

MR. RUBIN: Again, we're not going to engage in a sort of a who said, he said, she said. This is a tragic incident, and we always want to do more to protect Americans, and we will do all we can to protect Americans and alert them to the problems.

I'm merely telling you what we have done and telling you what the sheet says, so that we can demonstrate what the dangers are to perhaps additional people who might consider going. This is a problem. We've laid it out. But as far as trying to do Monday-morning quarterbacking here, I think we're much more concerned about what happens the next time and whether we can do all we can the next time to let Americans know what the dangers are and try to avoid these kinds of horrible incidents.

QUESTION: Jamie, so the Administration or the State Department is convinced this was a criminal act, not a political act?

MR. RUBIN: As far as we know at this point, we believe that the evidence is pointing that way, yes.

QUESTION: Secondarily, if you can say, since an American was attacked overseas - Americans were attacked overseas - will the FBI now be dispatching a team down to Guatemala to investigate, as they are supposed to?

MR. RUBIN: First let me say that the Guatemalans have not asked for US law enforcement assistance. As a rule, US law enforcement gets involved in incidents broadly defined under the rubric of terrorism. So to the extent that we end up confident that this is an incident of crime as opposed to terrorism, that would not be the normal practice.

QUESTION: Are you going to upgrade the travel advisory?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we're looking at that. We always look at that any time new information comes across or incidents that are as tragic as this occur. We take a look at what we might do to adjust our information systems to maximize the chance that as many Americans as possible can know what the risks are before they travel or when they are there.

QUESTION: Jamie --

MR. RUBIN: Same subject?

QUESTION: On another subject.

QUESTION: Do you know if these --

MR. RUBIN: We're over there, on the same subject. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you know if these women will have to travel back to Guatemala in order to appear in court?

MR. RUBIN: That's a few steps down the road right now. I think they are still trying to track down the criminals, but I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary of State (inaudible) to review the invitation of Fidel Castro to the President of the United States to visit Cuba?

MR. RUBIN: You know, I was reading a little bit about that, and it doesn't look like that's exactly what Castro said. I think he was more interested in trying to show that he was open, than he was seriously inviting the President.

Let me make clear that in comparing Iraq and Cuba, as was done at that point - or Iran and Cuba, we have government offices in Cuba. We have an Interests Section in there. We've had a series of extensive negotiations with the Cuban Government on migration. As you know, other discussions have occurred that have been talked about publicly. So there are no analogies here between Cuba and these other countries.

We obviously have fundamental differences with the Cuban regime. We are obviously hopeful that the Pope's visit will bring a message of hope and promote the maximum religious freedom in Cuba that has been missing for so long. The more the Pope's visit can do to bring religious freedom to the people who are suffering from a lack of freedom in general in that country, the better, as far as we're concerned.

But I can assure you the President has no plans to visit Cuba.

QUESTION: Jamie, on another subject, has the State Department seen the excerpts from a book by Ray Seitz, the former ambassador to Britain, in which he alleges some information was wrongly leaked to the IRA?

MR. RUBIN: I have not seen the book. The book was not cleared with the State Department, as far as I know. Let me say this - I cannot comment on intelligence matters. The charge that Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith is an apologist for the IRA is ridiculous.

This Administration, led by the President, has worked tirelessly and even- handedly to promote a just, lasting settlement of the Northern Ireland conflict. I think our record speaks for itself. The President's involvement in creating the conditions for a cease-fire and promoting the peace process has led us to a point where everyone is sitting down and talking about peace right now. They may not agree on what's necessary, but they are clearly - we have moved far beyond the situation when Ambassador Seitz was there. Sometimes people on the other side of a policy battle wish things weren't true that were true.

But the reality is that this Administration's effort has advanced the process. And as far as Ambassador Smith is concerned, the Secretary -- and I believe Mike McCurry has spoken to this-- but certainly on behalf of the Secretary, has the highest confidence in her and believes that she is pursuing the policies of the President and the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Well, without getting into the substance of intelligence, or whether it was, in fact, secret intelligence, has the State Department in the past or is the State Department now conducting any sort of inquiry into the --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I asked whether anyone was asking the question. I don't even think we have the book yet. You know, sometimes these books, for reasons of trying to promote sales, are given to the press in advance. So we haven't seen the book; it wasn't cleared with the State Department; and I guess all I can say is that we have the highest possible support for Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. Sometimes those on the other side of policy issues wish things weren't true that are true, and the truth is that President Clinton's efforts in the peace process have borne fruit. There has been a cease-fire; there has been a peace process, which wasn't there before.

QUESTION: But hasn't the US taken - the ambassador taken a very strong and unprecedented effort at a reconciliation and broadening the web of people that are involved? I mean, she's done several important symbolic things. She is reaching out to all Irish parties -isn't she? - people that in the past were --

MR. RUBIN: Right, but I'm talking about these specific charges, which have seen a lot of --

QUESTION: Well, apologist aside, but she's pursued a very active policy that --

MR. RUBIN: But that's the --

QUESTION: -- deals with all sorts of groups that used to be outlawed.

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - Ambassador Smith has pursued the President's policies. The President's involvement and Secretary Christopher's involvement in the last Administration together prompted a situation where, for the first time in a very long time, there was a cease-fire and there were - now are genuine peace talks being conducted.

In the context of this conflict that has occurred for so long, that's a major step forward. Those who wish things were done the other way or some other way will always be entitled to their opinion. But it's not appropriate to make - cast these kinds of aspersions on someone who is implementing the President's policies.

QUESTION: But you're suggesting that's motivation for the book - opposition to this policy.

MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that.

QUESTION: Well, you said it hadn't been cleared by the State Department. You're saying the writer is trying to take advantage of a pre-distribution for sales purposes. And you're sort of suggesting he's against the policy. You're not happy with the book, even though you haven't seen it, right?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm certainly not happy with the reporting about a book that I haven't seen, yes.

QUESTION: Do you know Mr. Seitz?

MR. RUBIN: I've met him, yes.

QUESTION: Did Ambassador Seitz violate any regulations in putting this book together --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. We haven't seen the book. All I know is we checked, and he didn't submit it for pre-publication review.

QUESTION: Should he have?

MR. RUBIN: I'll check what the formal requirements are. But traditionally in these cases, there is a review process.

QUESTION: Also in the book, in Parliament - the success of the peace process aside - a member of Parliament said that the end result of some information leaking to the IRA is that some people wound up dead.

MR. RUBIN: You know, even when I read the quote, that's not what it said. It said if - so that's not the quote about a press report about a book that we haven't seen. So I don't know how to help you on that question.

QUESTION: Last week, The New York Times has quoted Pentagon secret report saying that North Korea is still actively engaged in developing a nuclear bomb at their secret underground bases near Pyongyang. In view of the KEDO nuclear power plant under construction in exchange of their earlier promise not to develop the bomb, it is a clear breaking of the promise. Does the United States have any intention to suspend the construction of the plant until IAEA verifies the report?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what report you're referring to. I can say this -- that we believe that the agreement that led to the freezing of North Korea's nuclear program was a landmark achievement that avoided great dangers; that we believe that that agreement is proceeding apace; that the IAEA is able to verify and inspect what it needs to verify and inspect; that we have a long way to go before that agreement is fully implemented. But the sound of your question, suggesting that the agreement is breaking down, is not consistent with the information that I've received.

QUESTION: On that subject --

QUESTION: If I may return to matters related to Secretary Cohen's visit to Beijing --

MR. RUBIN: Let's stay on this subject, then we'll go over there. Yes.

QUESTION: I may have missed it, but isn't there still a waste site at Yong Byon nuclear waste site that the IAEA has not been allowed to get into?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I can get you a briefing for what steps are still yet to be taken, but the suggestion that the agreement has broken down with some new, elaborate, dramatic finding of information is something I'm not familiar with. But yes, there are additional steps to go. Precisely what steps need to occur before we move to the light water reactors and the provision of the key technology includes a series of inspections, one of which may be what you suggested. But we'll get you a fact sheet that lays out what the additional steps required are.

QUESTION: As Defense Secretary Cohen concludes his visit to Beijing, it's been suggested that the US arms embargo to China may be lifted. Can you confirm that, or can you say that's going to happen anytime soon?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me distinguish between the arms embargo, which is a so-called Tiananmen sanction, and the question of spare parts for a particular set of helicopters. As I understand the situation, the - from memory - is that the spare parts are on a munitions list, which therefore make it requiring a waiver in order to permit those spare parts to be sold. And the waiver requires a decision by the President either that there has been movement towards democracy - I guess the standard is that there's a program of political reform - or that the export is in the US national interest.

The question of an arms ban -- meaning arms sales as opposed to spare parts -- is a much broader question that, as far as I know, is not on the agenda. I wouldn't want to rule out the spare parts, but the question of an arms ban is not on the agenda. The Tiananmen Sanctions Act included a wide range of trade-related programs and activities with regard to export licenses, et cetera. But again, I would want to distinguish between the arms sales issue, which is a much larger issue which is not on the agenda, as far as I know, and the question of spare parts for helicopters that, as I understand it, can be sold even under the arms ban.

So there's an anomaly in the system, and people may look at that, but it's certainly not been approved, and I just wouldn't want to rule it out.

QUESTION: Jamie, wouldn't you like to see the Chinese Government admit that something happened in Tiananmen Square during those days before you lift the sanctions that you imposed on them for it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly, our view on Tiananmen Square is well-known, and that is that something did happen and that it was a great tragedy, and we've condemned that over and over again. Obviously, we would like to see that recognized. But the question of when we might, hypothetically, adjust a policy that is not on the front burner, I just don't think is fruitful to get into today.

QUESTION: We thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)


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