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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #10, 98-01-21

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>


788

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

ANNOUNCEMENT/DEPARTMENT
		Heroism Award ceremony: Exceptional service in Sierra Leone

IRAQ 1 Amb. Butler visit to Baghdad: Initial reports not encouraging 1-2 UNSCOM investigations have been crucial 2 Repeated Iraqi declarations have been proven wrong 2 Not aware of recent contact between Secretary Albright and FM Primakov on Iraq 2 Military option has not been ruled out 2 Amb. Butler to report to UNSC on Jan. 23 3 U-2's unique capabilities could be supplemented by other governments' aircraft 3 Long-term aim is to contain Iraq militarily 10 Telephone conversation between Kurdish leaders and State officials

TURKEY 11 Former PM Mrs. Ciller's US status

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 4 Goal of meetings with PM Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat 4-5 Distinction drawn between US ideas on closing gaps and an American peace plan 5 US view: A time-out would be necessary for permanent status talks to succeed 5-6 Focus of discussions: more on re-deployment, Palestinian security efforts 6-7,8 Compliance of Palestinians on Oslo accords 7 Oslo accords in trouble; peace process had a bad year 7 US stands by Sec. Christopher's letter 8 Peace process currently in intensive phase 8 Enormous effort should occur to counter opponents of peace 9 US believes meetings with PM Netanyahu were worthwhile 9 Necessary elements for further re-deployment 10 Sec. Albright to continue President Clinton's ideas with PM Netanyahu

MEXICO 10 US studying next steps in judicial ruling on releasing killer of Amcit

BOSNIA 11-12 War crimes: Progress made, but more needs to be done to aid Bosnia

MISCELLANEOUS 12-13 Human Rights: US key to creation of international legal response to violations


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #10

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21, 1998, 1:00 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me just start by saying that this afternoon, Secretary Albright will present the Secretary's Award for Heroism to Mary Ann Wright and Jeffrey Breed in recognition of their exceptional service in Sierra Leone during the May 1997 military takeover. We will have a statement that we will make available to you after the briefing. Let's go right to your questions.

QUESTION: Butler is finished up in Baghdad. Do you have any evaluation, preliminarily, on his visit?

MR. RUBIN: We have some preliminary reports about what happened in the visit, and obviously both Chairman Butler and Deputy Prime Minister Aziz have had a chance to talk to the press. Let me emphasize that we are obviously looking for Iraq to comply with UN Security Council resolutions to provide full, unfettered access to sites and information, in accordance with the UN's inspections. The Iraqis have never done so.

UNSCOM's chairman went to Baghdad with a clear message from the Security Council -that Iraq must cooperate fully and unconditionally with the UN. However, the initial reports are not encouraging. It appears that Iraq has ignored the message of the Security Council, and instead tried to impose new and unacceptable conditions on the UN's operations there; including some kind of moratorium on UN inspections of certain sites.

So the issue is not one where Iraq is in a position to seek to evade or obfuscate its requirements. What we need is Iraqi compliance, not Iraqi excuses. Ambassador Butler plans to brief the Security Council on Friday. It's premature to speculate on what actions might be taken until after he has had a chance to report fully on his visit. But again, we are not ruling out any options.

QUESTION: Butler quotes Aziz as saying the Iraqis are willing to take their chances with the UN. Do you think they're betting on a lack of will?

MR. RUBIN: Well, on the contrary, I think the will of the permanent members of the Security Council - in fact, all the Security Council members - are increasingly clear; and that is that Iraqi excuses have gone on for far too long. We just saw Deputy Prime Minister Aziz talk about the difference between inspections and technical monitoring. What I think people need to understand is that if it hadn't been for UNSCOM's work and UNSCOM's determination to get to the bottom of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, the hundreds of tons of chemical agents, the dozens of missiles and a whole series of extremely dangerous - horrifyingly dangerous - materials and equipment would not have been destroyed. And if UNSCOM hadn't done investigative work: The declarations that Iraq provided during the course of the last several years have barely resembled what UNSCOM was able to uncover. The simplest reminder of that is the biological weapons information that came about when one of the Iraqi top officials defected and provided details.

So investigation has proven to be critical in uncovering the depth, the extent of Iraq's program. The members of the Security Council have made clear that they support UNSCOM's work not only in ensuring that what Iraq declares it has is destroyed, but in being able to determine what Iraq has. Given Iraqi obfuscation and denial and hiding of these facts over the last several years, there's no way to do that by simply sending an expert, a technical expert, to some site and watch a missile be destroyed. It's their refusal to provide a true declaration of what they've done that has led UNSCOM chairman after UNSCOM chairman to say that they have to take every reasonable step they can to prove everything Iraq tells them, because over and over again those declarations have proved to be wrong and misleading.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you find any more cohesiveness on the part of the Security Council members in regard to military action, should the US or anyone else want to take it? And specifically, has the Secretary been in touch with Foreign Minister Primakov in the last three or four days?

MR. RUBIN: As far as the answer to the last question is concerned, I'm not aware of any contact between Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Primakov on the question of next steps on Iraq in the last 48 hours or so, or even going back three days.

I think the pattern that's appropriate here is to give a strong message of support to Chairman Butler and make clear to the Iraqis that they have to comply with his requirements, and then allow the UNSCOM chairman to try to negotiate or talk to the Iraqis in such a way that the result is new access. What we saw unfortunately was new excuses, not new access. Then, upon Ambassador Butler's return to New York, the Security Council members will be able to get an opportunity to examine in full the report that he makes and be able to consider next steps.

Again, all I can say on the military question is that we haven't ruled that option out, and that our hope is that the determination of the Council to go the extra mile diplomatically will make it clear to all that the United States has done what it can to try to convince Iraq, through the United Nations, to comply.

QUESTION: Short of military action, could you tell us about any of the diplomatic options you may still have?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we are not consulting now about next steps until after Ambassador Butler's report on Friday, later this week. So it would be premature for me to discuss publicly things that require the report to occur -- and a certain kind of report -- to trigger those kind of consultations.

QUESTION: Is the United States in accord with Ambassador Butler's statement that the UN would not object to U-2 flights being supplemented by other national flights, maybe Russian?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we are in accord with the UNSCOM chairman's position on this, which is, as I understand it, publicly stated, that the U-2's unique capabilities could be supplemented by additional surveillance capabilities.

And I would just point out that some of the proposed aircraft other countries have offered are very useful, but don't have the wide-area coverage that the U-2 provides. So let me say this very clearly here: We encourage and support the provision of expertise, equipment and personnel to UNSCOM by countries around the world. That's been our position all along. It's up to the chairman of UNSCOM to decide what equipment, what people and what expertise and equipment best serve his purpose, because he's got a tough job. As you can see, from Iraqi obfuscation after obfuscation, it is a very tough job to nail down exactly what Iraq produced in this area and confirm what it has produced or could produce has been destroyed before we can get to the question of long-term monitoring.

QUESTION: Jamie, not to beat this already dead horse, but you've said, and Mike McCurry from the White House has said this, as well as other officials, that Iraqi excuses have gone on too long. You all keep saying this when we have these flare-ups. But I'm sort of confused as to how long the excuses continue to go on before you leap and jump to some other means of trying to get him to comply, other than not just military action, but something tougher than diplomacy. I mean, when do you exhaust the road -- try to go down another path?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I guess I can answer the question this way: Secretary Albright and the President and the other officials in the NSC, as well as Secretary Cohen, who's now joined the team over the last year, are very determined to get the job done; and they are keeping their eye on the ball. The ball is to contain Iraq militarily and to get Iraq to allow UNSCOM to confirm what it has in the area of weapons of mass destruction.

This is a long-term policy that requires determination and firmness. And we have many times faced situations where Iraq has made excuses or obfuscated or flat-out lied to the special commission - as in the case of biological weapons. When the Security Council's determination has been shown, time after time, Iraq has backed down. That was true most recently in November on the question of no Americans being allowed in inspection teams.

So we have a pretty good understanding of what the right course is here. If the Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor and others believe that diplomacy has run its course, they may make other recommendations and the President may or may not accept them. But we're going to do that in our timeframe and with the considerations that we believe will best serve our purpose.

QUESTION: Jamie.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: May I ask you about the Middle East?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: I heard what the Secretary said this morning. She said - I may not be quoting her exactly - work has been done in the meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and American officials, but work remains to be done. I noticed the absence of the word progress. Am I --

QUESTION: Which was in the question.

QUESTION: Are my nerve endings hypersensitive or --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't read the transcript of what she said. I was there. I can't remember hearing that word either.

But I think the point is that progress in this area will be achieved in a significant way when the Palestinians and the Israelis can agree on a program of action that will lead to better cooperation by the Palestinians and full cooperation by them in the security area; a commitment to implement a credible and serious further redeployment; and a pathway to final status negotiations that would accelerate the timetable; and of course a time-out that will allow those negotiations to succeed. That's success; that's progress; that's getting the peace process back on track.

I think it's hard to say that gaps have been closed when the President has only met with one leader. He will be meeting with Chairman Arafat tomorrow. Secretary Albright will host a working meal with Chairman Arafat this evening at sundown. Then Secretary Albright will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu at Andrews Air Force Base after that meal. Before one can say that one has narrowed gaps and therefore some progress has been achieved, you have to hear from both sides.

But again, let me state clearly that the goal of these meetings was not expected to be an instant realization that the gaps have closed or that this formula will work to restart the peace process; but rather, knowing how tough the two decisions are on the part of each of the leaders, Secretary Albright's view was: The President needed to run through the importance of these decisions, how we felt about them and give them his ideas as to how to accomplish them. At that point, we will be hoping that decisions will be made soon thereafter that would enable progress to be achieved.

QUESTION: These ideas, are they part of a coherent program, or are they just being thrown out piecemeal?

MR. RUBIN: I guess we - that's one of those questions which I think is - our policy is coherent, let me say that first, and secondly say that - distinguish between the idea of ideas being presented to close gaps across the board and the idea that has often been discussed by outsiders of an American peace plan. I would distinguish between the ideas and views of the United States on how to close gaps across the board in this four-part agenda, and the idea of a "American plan." What the President was putting forward, and the Secretary was working on, were ideas to close the gaps coherently across the four agenda items.

QUESTION: Jamie, are you all discouraged that the Prime Minister appeared to rule out a complete time-out in his speech - in settlement activity -- in his speech this morning?

MR. RUBIN: Let me put it this way: I think -- I haven't seen the entire text. Taking you at your word, because that would be a traditional position the Prime Minister has put forward, it wouldn't surprise me that he would say that.

What we want to do here is, if we can get the further redeployment issue resolved - and that's a big if - and if we can get the security commitment from the Palestinians necessary - and that's a big if - we want to move to permanent status negotiations. We don't have the first two covered, nor do we have an agreement on how we would get to the third. But it is our strongly-held view that in order for these permanent status talks to succeed, that a time-out on unilateral actions would be necessary in order for the environment to be created where you could have such a discussion, and an environment existing where you could make the tough decisions on both sides.

But we are very far from that moment. The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has different views on that issue is not a surprise to us. But we do feel strongly that that should be part of the puzzle - one of the pieces of the puzzle, if we ever can get to the part where the puzzle can be put together.

QUESTION: But Jamie, the Prime Minister spent a lot of yesterday with the President of the United States --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- in which the President attempted to sway him on this issue of the time-out, among others. So how would you respond to those who might observe in that that the President failed to sway the Prime Minister on the time-out question?

MR. RUBIN: Whoever those observers might be: The view of the United States is that - and the Secretary, in particular - is that we've been at this for many months now, and we know how hard this business is to try to close gaps and get the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree on the need for restarting the peace process and actually implementing parts of the Oslo accords that have not yet been implemented. So we have no illusions how hard this is going to be.

What I am trying to suggest to you, however, inartfully, is that the focus of our discussions were more on the further redeployment issue and the question of Palestinian cooperation on security, which we believe are ways in which we can restart the Oslo pieces and move towards a permanent status -- a new accelerated negotiation, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated he would like to do. To get that new negotiation to happen, it has been our view that a time-out on unilateral actions is necessary; and to make that negotiation succeed, a time-out will be necessary.

So if we are able to move forward -- the further redeployment and the Palestinian commitment on security - that will be a major step forward.

QUESTION: Can I just do a quick one? Are you saying you would like to see the American plan, ideas, whatever -- further redeployment and the security aspect on the Palestinian side first; and then you move to the time- out?

MR. RUBIN: I'm avoiding the first, second, third type of formulation. These are all connected, and each of them have connections.

We've said in the past that unilateral steps are not helpful to the peace process in general. That means further redeployment; that means security; that means where we are today. But it is particularly true that a time-out on unilateral actions related to permanent status issues (i.e., settlements, Jerusalem) are needed if we're going to get to those permanent status negotiations.

So I am not suggesting that the time-out needn't start now, because we don't even have a further redeployment. I am suggesting that the focus of the President's efforts and the work the Secretary has been doing up until now and will continue to do today is on the further redeployment and the security components, knowing that to get to the next step, to have a real breakthrough, to get the negotiations truly back on track, we need to go to permanent status. And one of the ways to get there is through the time- out.

QUESTION: Follow-up.

MR. RUBIN: Same subject?

QUESTION: Same subject. Every six months for three years after Oslo, the President certified to Congress that the Palestinians were by and large in compliance with their obligations under the Oslo agreement. Is it now your view, as expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the Palestinians are substantially out of compliance on key points apart from security, such as the covenant?

MR. RUBIN: Given the delicacy of this moment, I don't think it would be wise for me to try to take a snapshot today, on January 22 - am I right about that?

QUESTION: Twenty-first

MR. RUBIN: My paper says it's Tuesday, January 21st, so that's wrong; right?

QUESTION: No, it's Wednesday.

MR. RUBIN: It's Wednesday, January 21st.

QUESTION: Are you giving us tomorrow's briefing?

MR. RUBIN: Yesterday's briefing. No, it's yesterday's, Tuesday's.

QUESTION: -- know what day it is.

(Laughter)

MR. RUBIN: That it would be a mistake to take a snapshot and make a declaration across the board about Palestinian compliance. What we've tried to get away from in the course of day-to-day diplomacy is declaring that, with respect to this provision of Oslo or that provision of Oslo, that this side or that side is in compliance or out of compliance. Clearly, Oslo is in trouble. The peace process had a very bad year. And the Oslo process needs to be revived if it's going to lay the basis for a further step forward.

But let me see if I can get our team to put together a definitive answer to your question of what our current assessment of Palestinian compliance would be, if we were going to submit such a report. I fear, however, that the answer will be: Since we don't have to submit such a report today, we don't think that would be wise to do so.

QUESTION: I want to follow up on the answer to Sid's question. You said get a further redeployment, which should be the second under Oslo and get Palestinian guarantees on security, you want to move to accelerated permanent status talks. Does that obviate the third redeployment? Does the third redeployment get rolled up into final status talks? And the Chairman has, I think, Chairman Arafat, has ruled that out.

MR. RUBIN: These are exactly the kind of issues that are being talked about. I can really only say one thing about this, that we stand by Secretary Christopher's letter on this issue. But exactly these issues are being discussed in great detail by Secretary Albright with the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat during the course of the day. All I can say definitively is that we stand by Secretary Christopher's letter.

QUESTION: Jamie, on the compliance question, it used to be, up until six months, nine months ago that a compliance report was compiled by the State Department and issued in the press room through every three months - I think it was adjusted to six months. We haven't seen one of those in a long time. So to prevent - to keep you all from having to give us a snapshot, could you release the most recent PLO compliance report, as you used to do periodically in months past?

MR. RUBIN: Well, since I've only been in this room about six months, and we haven't done one since I've been here, let me --

QUESTION: You've released one.

MR. RUBIN: Well, that's what I mean - released one in this room, since I've only been in this room about six months. Let me find out the answer to that fully legitimate question.

QUESTION: Jamie, I wonder if you could address the other part of the Prime Minister's position this morning. His assessments seemed to be - or his view - he seemed to be saying that the Palestinians are largely out of compliance with Oslo; that the Israelis are completely in compliance - that they have fulfilled all of their commitments, and that Israel in essence is being held up to an unfair, one-sided standard. If you don't want to address the Palestinian part of that, how about the rest of it?

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to put it this way: Clearly, both sides have a lot of work to do if we're going to get the peace process back on track. We don't think it's wise at this point to make a judgment about every one of each party's views as to the other side's position or its own position. We're in the midst of an intensive phase right now.

The President of the United States just met with Prime Minister Netanyahu for two 90-minute meetings. Secretary Albright has spent hours and hours with him all day yesterday. She's going to see him again tonight. She's going to see Chairman Arafat later. Clearly, we need to do a lot of work to encourage both sides to do what's necessary to put the peace process back on track. That is our view, and we're not interested in declaring a US view on every one of the provisions of Oslo.

QUESTION: Jamie, could you give us sort of a preview of the message the Secretary plans to give to the Chairman?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think the primary message is that he needs to be realistic about what a further redeployment would look like; and he needs to understand the linkage between any movement forward by the Israelis and the question of security. And although we have seen some important cooperation in recent days and weeks with regard to the arrest of people responsible for terrorism or the uncovering of weaponry that could be used in terrorism, this is a full-time job and that it's in the interest of Chairman Arafat to see the opponents of his policies, the opponents of peace taken down in the sense of eliminating the space with which they operate and in which they operate. That requires an enormous amount of effort, and that should occur no matter what kind of weekly developments there are in the peace process; because it's a long-term job and as long as those opponents of peace are there working to kill peace, we believe Chairman Arafat needs to understand that his position is weakened.

QUESTION: You'd say he needs to lower his - my words - lower his expectations regarding the redeployment now? We've heard a lot of numbers. Is that the 80 percent number; is that the 20 percent number?

MR. RUBIN: All I'm saying is that realism is part of negotiation; and that it's all fine and good for any party to have wishes. But wishes don't make things come true. One needs to be realistic - both parties need to be realistic about what can be done -- whether it's on security, whether it's on further redeployments, whether it's on a time-out, whether it's on permanent status issues. Those are issues where realism, combined with principled goals, need to be kept in mind. But being more specific about it, I couldn't be at this time.

QUESTION: Did the US get a greater understanding of Israel's security needs in terms of what land it feels it has to keep from this visit?

MR. RUBIN: Well, any time many, many hours of discussion occur, then greater understanding hopefully happens, or else the meetings were not worthwhile. We do think the meetings were worthwhile.

QUESTION: Has the US yet heard the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu make a credible and substantial offer for further redeployment? And then I have another question.

MR. RUBIN: What we've heard is serious business being presented by the Israeli Prime Minister. Serious, constructive work has taken place on all the elements that would make up a successful further redeployment. That means how much, which territory, how quickly would it be turned over and what the security conditions would need to be during the turn-over of land.

All of these together are what will make their further redeployment work. So trying to separate out one -- how much -- is not the issue. The issue is how much, when, what type and what security conditions will need to obtain. So those are the pieces of the puzzle. If we had put them all together, things would be farther down the road than they are.

QUESTION: This is the yardstick you've set. Presumably it deals with all these questions, that yardstick - credible and substantial --

MR. RUBIN: Right, and when we think that we've seen that, we will tell you. And when we think we won't ever see that, we'll tell you that, too. But in the meantime, we're working the problem.

QUESTION: Can you give us anything you have on the Holocaust Museum visit that Mr. Arafat is or is not going to make?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new details. I'm getting new information from reading the papers.

QUESTION: You don't know if he's going or not?

MR. RUBIN: I really don't have his schedule at this point. I read his comments that he would be keen on going, and that he will consider the invitation. But I don't have any information as to whether he's going.

QUESTION: Besides playing maybe messenger this evening between Arafat and Netanyahu, why was the extra meeting set up? Was there some unfinished business?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, I wouldn't quite frame it as messenger. I think that Secretary Albright over the last several months has met with both leaders many times, and tried to get a greater understanding of their needs, what they think is possible, and give them an understanding of what the other side needs and what the other side needs to see for success to be achieved. This is an ongoing process that involves many meetings, many phone calls, work by Ambassador Ross.

So the President laid down some ideas on how to close the gaps. She is going to continue to discuss those with Prime Minister Netanyahu, also talk about procedural next steps, and then be in a position to meet with Chairman Arafat to go through where we are and to help - let the President know, obviously, where Chairman Arafat is before their meeting.

QUESTION: Yesterday a panel of three judges supported the decision of a judge to take out of jail a few Mexican Robin Hoods who attacked and killed an American citizen.

MR. RUBIN: Are you're trying to ask this is the most provocative way possible?

QUESTION: Well - and you said that the State Department requested the support of the Mexican Government to change that decision. According to the decision of the judge, your request wasn't kind of successful. So what is the next step of the State Department to try to change the decision of the judge?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as you know, we had condemned that initial decision. The appeals court has ruled. We are studying the ruling, and after giving it a good legal once-over, will be in a position to plan or take any next steps, if that's appropriate.

QUESTION: Deutsch from the State Department, Near East Division, he had a telephone conversation with --

MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry. Who?

QUESTION: John Deutsch.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Please continue.

QUESTION: And he had a telephone conversation with General Talabani, a Northern Iraqi Kurdish leader. Do you think the two Kurdish factions in the Northern Iraq (are) close to agreement?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check and get you an answer.

QUESTION: I have one more question also.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Former Turkish Prime Minister, Mrs. Ciller, she had before a green card from here. And do you --

MR. RUBIN: Sounds like I'm not going to know the answer to this one either.

QUESTION: Do you have any record (that)she has a dual citizenship with Turkish and American?

MR. RUBIN: I'll check for you.

QUESTION: Jamie, there was a delegation here this morning, apparently led by Justice Richard Goldstone --

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: -- who are calling for tougher use of military force to apprehend indicted war criminals in Bosnia, some other things as well. What is the view here of what they're calling for?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this: Special Representative Bob Gelbard and David Scheffer, the Secretary's ambassador at large for war crimes, had a lengthy meeting with the task force on Tuesday. And we understand the task force met officials at the Defense Department, at the NSC. My understanding, based on the initial reporting of this report is they have some questions about how we've pursued the war crimes issues. So let me address that.

We do believe justice is essential to bringing a lasting peace to the former Yugoslavia. Having war criminals stand trial in The Hague is an essential part of the Dayton process. Clearly, more needs to be done. Those indictees who remain at large, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, must realize that there are no deals to cut; there is no way out; there is no way they can avoid a fair trial in The Hague.

We have been the leading force in bringing war criminals to justice in the former Yugoslavia. We led international efforts to persuade Croatia to facilitate the voluntary surrender of ten indictees. We have used economic sanctions as a lever in promoting progress here. And we have seen SFOR make the decision that indictees could be detained when encountered in the course of normal operations. That happened twice. So we are committing to keeping all our options open in this area. And I think Secretary Albright made it quite clear on Sunday that the statute of limitations on war crimes does not run out, and that Radovan Karadzic's day will come.

QUESTION: If I could follow, what Justice Goldstone and the others appear to be saying in their news conference at mid-day today seemed to be that there should be rather than a detained-if-you-run-across war criminals policy, more of a send-the-military-out-to-go-and-get them. They're also calling for a freeze on assets of indicted war criminals and imposition of UN sanctions on countries that would harbor them.

MR. RUBIN: To respond without getting into all the details, a year ago when Secretary Albright took office and the issue of war crimes was presented to her, she indicated that she and the President wanted to see progress in this area; that we believed that getting war criminals brought to justice is part of what will make Bosnia work.

If you look at the record over the last year, you will see progress. And maybe it's not the particular person that some of you want to focus on, but if you look at the record, people have been turned over voluntarily, they've been picked up and detained and progress has been made in the area of bringing war criminals to justice. As Secretary Albright said, it's an issue she cares deeply about. We've made progress, but like in a lot of issues, there's more that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just follow on that for a second? Some in the human rights community are complaining that during the discussions that are going on now among governments over the possible establishment of a permanent world court, that the United States is taking the position, along with others, that the UN Security Council should have a veto over which cases such a court would be able to take. Is that true?

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer that without diving too deep into the legal world that can only get me in trouble, and let me say it as follows: There is no country that has done more than the United States to see the creation of an international legal response to genocide and violations of humanitarian law.

I think anyone who is being straight on this subject will say that it was the United States that helped create the War Crimes Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda; and it's the United States that has been in the forefront of trying to make those tribunals work. So if people want to point fingers at countries in the world, the last country they should point fingers at, when it comes to the fight to make international humanitarian law an accepted practice, is the United States.

There will always been those who wish that governments wouldn't be governments and wouldn't want to protect their national interests and the national interests of their citizens. As I understand our position, it's not a situation of veto; it's a situation of practicality, just like in the case of Bosnia and Rwanda. The Security Council played a role in deciding to create a tribunal under a scheme that was consistent with efforts to make peace. I vividly remember many of you in this room and elsewhere saying there's no way you're going to have a war crimes tribunal without an amnesty - sorry, a peace agreement without an amnesty for war criminals. It was deemed an accepted fact in the international media. And in fact, there was a war crimes tribunal; there was no amnesty given; war criminals are in jail. And we are determined to do all we can.

So the United States has nothing to feel ashamed about when it comes to pursuing this important avenue. And in fact, it is the United States that has led the way.

(The briefing concluded at 1:35 P.M.)


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