U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #13, 99-01-28
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Thursday, January 28, 1999
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 On-the-Record Briefing at 2:00 pm Today on US Disaster
Relief to Central America
1-2,4-5 Opposition Groups: US Position / Funding Authorization /
Next Steps / Groups' Abilities to Effect Change /
Situation in Iraq / Secretary's Talks With Egypt & Saudi
Arabia / Some Groups Turn Down US Offer
3-4 Nuclear Capability and Ambitions / IAEA Monitoring &
JORDAN / IRAQ
2-3 Internal Stability in Jordan / Orderly Succession to King
Hussein / US Military Acts Against Iraqi Threats /
Message to Saddam Hussein re Jordan
5 Meeting With Former King / President's & Secretary's Plans
5-6 Institutional Crisis / OAS Foreign Ministers' Mtg
6-7 Massacre: Responsibility / Support for ICTY Investigation /
Results of Autopsies
7-8 Building Consensus to Bring Serbia into Compliance / NATO
and Contact Group Coordination of Political & Military
8 Demarche re US Violations of Air Space During Attack on
9 US Humanitarian Assistance
9-10 Former Secy Perry's Review of North Korea Policy
10 Status of Investigation re Amb Holbrooke
10 Autonomy Proposal for East Timor
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 1999, 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. We're doing it a little
earlier than the other day; it's 1:12 p.m. not 1:30 p.m. But one thing that
motivated me to get out a little earlier is the fact that we do have an on-
the-record briefing at 2:00 p.m., which I hope you'll cover, by the
Counselor of the State Department, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and Mark
Schneider, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for
USAID, who will brief about disaster relief and reconstruction efforts
in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.
MR. FOLEY: It's on-the-record but off camera. So I hope we could conclude
perhaps with a five-minute break so you'll be ready to attend their
briefing on time.
QUESTION: Did you see the remarks by General Zinni this morning, to the
effect that he doesn't see an opposition group in Iraq that has the
viability to overthrow Saddam Hussein?
MR. FOLEY: I've not seen those remarks. I was informed briefly and orally
about those remarks. I think we've reached a turning point on our policy on
Iraq, following passage by the US Congress of the Iraq Liberation Act. The
Administration is determined to redouble its efforts to work closely with
the members of the Iraqi opposition in order to promote regime change in
We designated a number of groups that we're going to be working with and
who would be eligible for US assistance. We will be reviewing the
possibility of different ways of working with them in the coming weeks and
months in terms of the specific authorization provided by Congress under
that act to make use of draw-down authority for DOD arms and materials.
That is something that will be subject to ongoing review.
We've made no decisions in that regard. But I would fully endorse General
Zinni's conclusion that we believe that this is not going to be an easy or
short-term effort. Given the nature of the regime in Iraq, its brutality
and the fact that it does have totalitarian control over much of the
country, this will be inevitably a difficult and long-term effort. I think
the important point is that we have begun this effort; we have accelerated
our outreach with members of the Iraqi opposition - credible groups who
have support inside Iraq and who can work, if they work together, towards
hastening the day of the advent of a democratic regime in Iraq. But we
have no illusions and I think based on past experience, we've made
clear that we don't want to rush into any kind of solutions that might end
up becoming counterproductive and leading to the loss of the lives of those
who are seeking to promote change in Iraq.
So we're going to take this step by step. We've been in consultation with
Congress on this. I think the Congress understands (a) that we are
committed to this initiative and (b) that it is a long-term initiative. So
we are hopeful about the long-term, but realistic about the short-
QUESTION: When you talk about solutions that might be short-sighted, are
you referring to 1991 and the abortive uprisings of the Shiites and the
MR. FOLEY: I'm referring to the fact that it could be dangerous to
overestimate the ability of some of these groups to effect change in the
short term inside Iraq. We want to be sure that our support is designed to
achieve demonstrable results and does not result in the loss of life of
those who are seeking to promote change inside Iraq.
QUESTION: As has happened in 1991; is that what you're saying?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think there's been a long-standing historical
experience on the part of Iraqi opposition groups who have sought to
counter Saddam Hussein, going back to the early years of his rule, or
misrule, in Iraq. I think it's not just one incident or one period, but
it's been, obviously, a very difficult situation for the Iraqi opposition.
But what I think has changed is the sense that inside of Iraq, there is
manifest alienation with the regime. Obviously, when you're dealing with a
totalitarian regime, it's difficult for independent media, international
media to have access to the real opinions of people inside Iraq. But just
simply, judging by the obvious desperation that Saddam Hussein has shown in
recent weeks in lashing out against other governments in the Middle East,
calling for their overthrow, questioning the previous recognition of Kuwait,
bemoaning the lack of support in the Arab world, obviously - and we've had
also anecdotal reports, following Operation Desert Fox, of executions
inside Iraq, of a growing sense of unease on the part of the regime. We
believe that Saddam's days are numbered. But again, this is not something
that can be measured in the short-term. We regard it as something that we
can help promote over the medium to long term.
QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date - where does the Iraq Liberation
money stand? Is it now freed by Congress; is it now available for use? And
we're talking about, what, $98 million?
MR. FOLEY: I believe it's $97 million. This enables the Administration to
avail itself of this draw-down authority. But to my knowledge, no decisions
have been made yet in that regard.
QUESTION: A related issue - are you concerned that Iraq could try to take
advantage of any change of government or change of leadership in Jordan?
The second question, related, is, is the United States committed to come to
the defense of Jordan if it was attacked by Iraq?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that Mr. Rubin, yesterday in the region
traveling with Secretary Albright, indicated that the United States
Government has confidence in the stability of Jordan. We believe that
Jordan has a history of institutional stability. King Hussein has now made
provision for an orderly succession. We certainly wish him a recovery in
his current illness, but it is reassuring that he has provided for such an
orderly succession. We remain confident in Jordan's stability and in
I would say in a general way that the United States has made it crystal-
clear that we would act again militarily if Saddam Hussein moved to
threaten his neighbors, and that remains the case. We demonstrated just
last month our capability of acting in that regard.
QUESTION: What is the message that you have for Saddam Hussein regarding
Jordan? Because there are many ways that Saddam Hussein could interfere in
Jordan - not just a direct attack, but through internal destabilization.
There's a lot of Iraqi nationals that live in Jordan. Do you have a message
for Saddam Hussein regarding this?
MR. FOLEY: Our message to Saddam Hussein is, obey the Security Council;
comply with your obligations under Security Council resolutions. Saddam
Hussein invaded his neighbor. He was defeated militarily, and the terms of
the conclusion of that obliged him to meet certain obligations in the area
of disarmament. He has yet to do so; so he is in violation of his
As a result of that, we have made it clear, as I said a minute ago, that we
will continue to act militarily if Saddam either attempts to reconstitute
his weapons of mass destruction programs or threatens his neighbors. Again,
we acted on that basis last month; we will continue to act on that basis in
the future if he crosses any of those lines.
QUESTION: Could you clarify what - there seems to be information coming
out of the party that the US is going to try to force a political
settlement on the parties in Kosovo.
QUESTION: There was a report on TV last night where some analysts in
Washington were saying that Saddam Hussein was several months to a year
from having nuclear capability. What is the US feeling about that?
MR. FOLEY: Well, the United States remains concerned about Saddam's
nuclear weapons ambitions. We have not lost sight of Saddam's continued
desire to acquire nuclear weapons. While the IAEA has destroyed all known
elements of Iraq's nuclear program, it continues to have concerns about the
possibility of ongoing research and development activities. The IAEA has
also stated that Iraq's lack of transparency over discussing the details
of its past programs is cause for concern, and that Iraq has not
supplied all of the answers to the questions put to it by the IAEA.
On May 14 of last year, the Security Council took note of these remaining
disarmament issues in a presidential statement. The Council's statement
made clear that only when Iraq supplies answers to all remaining questions
and concerns, will it - the Security Council - endorse a transition to
ongoing monitoring. The IAEA's future ongoing monitoring and verification
regime under UN Security Council Resolution 715 is intrusive, requiring no-
notice inspections, interviews with key personnel and the use of various
technologies to support its efforts in the field.
The US and other member nations continue to actively support the IAEA's
efforts to build and strengthen its long-term monitoring regime. The
resumption of inspections and monitoring under relevant UN Security Council
resolutions and continued international vigilance will be key to ensuring
Saddam does not realize his ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication here as to how far, today, Saddam
would be from having such nuclear capability?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd refer you to the IAEA for their judgment in that
regard. We believe that the IAEA has done a very good job in terms of
accounting for all elements of Iraq's nuclear program. But the relevant
point is, we believe Iraq retains ambitions in this area, that Iraq refuses
to come clean totally with the IAEA on a number of outstanding issues. So
there's every reason for ongoing concern and continued vigilance.
QUESTION: Staying on Iraq, going back to the opposition groups again,
from the Secretary's meetings with the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians,
did she get any support? Did they state any support for these opposition
groups? Are they willing to give money, weapons, any kind of support for
MR. FOLEY: Well, Kelly, you're new to this briefing room, and I should
tell you, that we don't normally comment on the Secretary's trips before
she has returned because Mr. Rubin, in particular, will be able to address
some of those questions since he's been with her. But certainly I'm not
aware of any important member of the region that has stood up and stated
that it favors Saddam's remaining in power in Iraq. I think it's universally
recognized that he's an impediment to Iraq's return to the international
community and to a better life for the people of Iraq. But those discussions
just took place in the last day or so with Secretary Albright. I understand
they were positive discussions, but I have nothing to report on them until
Mr. Rubin returns.
QUESTION: May I ask one more quick one about the opposition - you
addressed this very briefly the other day, but at least two - and I think
three - of these opposition groups that have been designated say that they
are not interested in getting any US aid. What's the response?
MR. FOLEY: I think we've addressed that in previous briefings. We made
these designations without having been contacted by any of the groups, in
terms of whether they would seek such a designation. It's their right not
to take such assistance as we may offer. We understand, though, that all of
the groups that we designated intend to work together and that they share
common aims. Although these groups hail from different parts of Iraq, in
some cases, although some of the groups do represent a membership that
covers the different ethnic components of Iraq and religious components,
but that all of them are committed to a democratic, pluralistic Iraq, to
the respect for human rights and to the territorial integrity of Iraq.
We believe that we'll be able to work with all of those groups and we
respect all of them and we respect the decisions that the two you mentioned
QUESTION: It was disclosed to the Greek paper -- (inaudible), that the
Excellencies Richard Holbrooke and Tom Miller met privately with the former
king of Greece -- (inaudible) - Constantinople. Could you please confirm
MR. FOLEY: No, I can't confirm that; it's not true.
QUESTION: But I was told by a US official in this building that a meeting
has taken place at the courtesy call of Mr. Holbrooke to Mr. -- (inaudible)
-- and it was not political. Two minutes later, however, the same official
told me to forget it because it was said by mistake as a miscommunication.
MR. FOLEY: I've already answered the question, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: There is a report in the Greek press that President Clinton is
planning to travel to Greece after the OSCE meeting in Istanbul in
November; and that before that, Secretary of State Albright is planning to
travel to the region.
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of any such plans. It's certainly premature for
there to be media speculation on presidential travel. Of course, anything
would have to be announced by the White House; but I'm not aware of any
such piece of information.
QUESTION: Haiti - there are moves in the Congress for the convening of an
OAS foreign ministers meeting because of the constitutional crisis
MR. FOLEY: Yes. The United States remains concerned about the impasse
between the executive and legislative branches in Haiti. We urge Haiti's
political leaders to continue negotiations to end the current institutional
crisis. We note that President Preval has invited all the major parties to
meet with him in upcoming days to find a solution. We also understand that
OAS Secretary General Gaviria is scheduled to be in Haiti today.
We, along with other members of the international community, continue to
stress the importance we attach to the continuity of all Haiti's democratic
QUESTION: You're not going to make a value judgment about the correctness
or non-correctness of what Preval did two weeks ago?
MR. FOLEY: No, I'm not going to comment publicly on that; except to say
that the United States continues to urge Haiti's leaders to continue their
negotiations to end the institutional crisis. We are very attached to the
principle of the continuity of Haiti's democratic institutions. We believe
that with goodwill on all sides and with the assistance of the international
community, it ought to be possible to find a way ahead that maintains
QUESTION: So you're saying it's premature to call an OAS foreign
ministers meeting at this point?
MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to announce in that regard.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, what do you have to say about these reports of
Western wiretaps that show that senior officials in the Belgrade government
were behind that massacre and that they then tried to cover it up?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't have any comment to make on intelligence
matters. That's our standing practice, so I can't comment on your
QUESTION: Without reference to intelligence or wiretaps, then, do you
have any reason to believe that senior officials in Belgrade were directly
responsible for that attack?
MR. FOLEY: Well, what I can say is that we are cooperating fully with the
ICTY in its investigation, and we certainly hope that other and all members
of the international community would do so as well.
I'm not in a position to comment publicly about what we may or may not
think about that massacre when what we're seeking -- and what the both
Contact Group last Friday and NATO today have endorsed -- is an international
investigation under the ICTY with the full cooperation of the FRY
authorities. We've called them to bring to justice those who are deemed
responsible for the massacre. But I'm not here to prejudge the outcome of
QUESTION: You and other officials have expressed skepticism about the
Serb denials in the past. Is that still an accurate characterization of the
MR. FOLEY: We've called for an ICTY investigation. Inasmuch as the Serb
authorities have refused such an investigation, their protestations of
innocence ring hollow. But in terms of Carole's specific question as to
whom we think is responsible for that massacre, I'm not prepared to say
that. I don't know if we have any such information, so I can't confirm that
report which is based on intelligence -- questions I cannot comment on in
But I think the relevant point from our perspective is that the massacre be
investigated by an impartial tribunal, namely the ICTY; that they have
complete access to all the information that they need; that they enjoy the
full cooperation of the Serb authorities; and that, therefore, an
investigation be conducted which will lead to the truth, regardless of
where the truth may lead.
QUESTION: Do you accept the substance of the verdict of the autopsies
conducted by the Serbian authorities on the bodies of the victims?
MR. FOLEY: Well, my understanding is that Finnish forensic investigators
have undertaken an investigation of their own; and before commenting, I
would prefer to await the results of their investigation.
QUESTION: Jim, can you address the question of what seems to be a changed
policy by the US to try to force a solution on the parties in Kosovo?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd just quibble with the word "US" because what we're
talking about here is a concerted international effort, in which the United
States is working with our NATO allies and also working with Russia to
build a consensus approach to dealing with the crisis in Kosovo.
What is new in recent days is a determination on the part of the United
States and our friends and partners in the international community to
address both the flagrant issues of Serb non-compliance that were so
horribly manifested in that recent massacre in Racak with an accelerated
effort to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict on the basis of an
interim settlement that has been proposed by Ambassadors Hill and
Petritsch. So we expect NATO and the Contact Group to work in parallel over
the next few days to develop a coordinated series of political and military
measures which seek to bring the Serbian and FRY authorities into
compliance with their international commitments and move both sides toward
acceptance of a political settlement for Kosovo.
So that is what is unique about this approach. I would refer you to
Secretary General Solana's statement that he issued on behalf of the North
Atlantic Council this afternoon in Brussels, in which he noted that NATO
fully supports the early conclusion of a political settlement under the
mediation of the Contact Group. Among the many elements which constituted
this warning issued by NATO today was the provision that the appropriate
authorities in Belgrade and representatives of the Kosovo Albanian
leadership must agree to the proposals to be issued by the Contact Group
for completing an interim political settlement within the time frame to be
So the Contact Group will meet tomorrow in London. Secretary Albright will
be participating in that meeting. We expect the Contact Group to agree and
to announce on a political strategy for settling this conflict and on a
series of demands upon the parties in order to make such a settlement
happen. I would expect that, as Secretary General Solana stated today in
Brussels, that NATO will be meeting 'round the clock, will meet following
that meeting of the Contact Group in order to decide how to support the
political action of the Contact Group.
QUESTION: But Jim, the thing which is different here from, say, the
solution in Bosnia was that the parties wanted a solution along the lines
that were eventually arrived. It's not clear whether the parties to the
Kosovo conflict want the same thing. I mean, the Kosovar - the KLA seems to
want total independence. The Contact Group and others are saying no, no,
autonomy within a greater Serbia. I mean, those two things seem to be at
war with each other. How can you impose a solution on people who don't want
MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, I would challenge the assumption that the
parties at Dayton - before and during Dayton - were going with enormous
enthusiasm to the negotiating table in order to undertake what they knew
would be negotiations that would involve compromises of cherished, long-
held, long-fought-over positions.
I think Ambassador Holbrooke would be the first to tell you that those were
not easy negotiations by any means. I think rather the contrary - Dayton
proves that it can be done. In this case now, the international community
has determined that it's not going to wait longer for the parties to come
to their senses; but is rather going to impose demands on the parties to
accept a political interim settlement that can meet many of their
basic needs and certainly promote the interests of the people of Kosovo
and the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at large.
We believe that by marrying an accelerated diplomatic effort with a
willingness to back that effort with NATO's capabilities, that it will be
possible to achieve a negotiated settlement to this conflict. I would
gladly quote what Secretary General Solana said in this respect just a few
hours ago. "What we have seen" - and I'm quoting him - "what we have seen
in Yugoslavia during the past decade is that it is very difficult to stop
internal conflicts if the international community is not willing to
use force and when all other means have failed. We may be reaching
that limit once again in the former Yugoslavia," said Secretary General
So as he also said, the Contact Group will launch this political initiative
tomorrow in London and it will be backed by NATO's military capabilities.
No one believes that this is going to be an easy approach. But we believe
that the interim settlement that we've been calling for, as I said, does
meet the basic needs of the people of Kosovo and of the Serb people of the
FRY - that it is in the interest of all sides for the violence to cease
and for a diplomatic settlement on an interim basis to be agreed that
can bring an end to the hostilities and offer hope for a better future for
all the ethnic peoples of the FRY.
QUESTION: Are you able to comment on Iran's complaint that the US has
violated its airspace during the attack on Iraq? Iran asks for a US
MR. FOLEY: First of all, I'm aware that the Iranian Government did
demarche the Swiss Government in Iran, which is the US protecting power in
Iran, and that they had passed that information along as of yesterday. I
did not check the story today. We had no such information confirming such a
report. We did speak about -- the Pentagon did acknowledge that a missile
had gone astray within Iraq but we have no such information, to my
knowledge, of another such episode. I'd refer you to the Pentagon to see
whether there's any updating to be had over there.
QUESTION: If it is conformed that this incident did happen, is the US
willing to offer an official apology to Iran?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe that during Operation Desert Fox that
something similar did occur, and we did respond to the concerns of the
Iranian authorities. But I'm not aware that that is what has happened in
QUESTION: On Sierra Leone, the Post had a very sternly worded editorial
today about US inaction in Sierra Leone. They pointed out that maybe almost
100 people a day died there over the past month. Could you tell us what the
US is trying to do to help ease that situation?
MR. FOLEY: Sure. It is a very serious situation in Sierra Leone. On
Tuesday, our ambassador to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Joe Melrose, accompanied
by an officer from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, returned to
Freetown to assess the humanitarian crisis and provide relief. Our
humanitarian support to Sierra Leone now totals more than $50 million.
For this immediate crisis, our ambassador has arranged for medical supplies
to Connaught Hospital, where over 300 atrocity victims are being treated.
OFDA will provide material for shelter and is working with seven non-
governmental organizations to provide medical and food relief. NGOs, which
were already established in Freetown before the December attack by the
insurgents, are returning with UN and other humanitarian agencies. Large
quantities of food, which have already been warehoused in the capital
by the NGOs, are already being distributed to the internally displaced
people of Freetown who have sought shelter in the Freetown stadium.
During this same trip on Tuesday, Ambassador Melrose met with President
Kabbah and ECOMOG to ensure that our logistic support to the West African
troops was functioning effectively. Over the past year, we've given ECOMOG
over $5 million for the repair and maintenance of communications equipment,
the procurement of spare parts and equipment and the maintenance of 150
trucks donated by the US and Dutch Governments; also for the operation of
helicopters to move troops throughout the country.
With congressional approval, we intend to provide another $1.7 million for
this purpose. Within the past several weeks, we have deployed a medical
assessment team to Nigeria with four tons of supplies to treat wounded
So in answer to your question, we are certainly aware of the depth of the
humanitarian tragedy which has occurred and is occurring in Sierra Leone.
We've had our ambassador on the spot to assess what the situation requires,
and we're going to be working with Congress to obtain additional funds in
order to support ECOMOG so that they can do the job they need to do to
counter these horrendous brutalities perpetrated by these insurgents.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the former Defense Secretary Perry and
South Korean -- (inaudible) - had a meeting?
MR. FOLEY: A meeting between former Secretary Perry and -
QUESTION: South Korean National Security Council.
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of his schedule, at least today, so I can't
answer that question specifically. I do know that he is certainly involved
in conducting his review of our North Korea policy, that is ongoing. I have
nothing to report at this point on the results of his work because the work
QUESTION: Have you seen the report about the possible early resolution of
the problem that Ambassador Holbrooke has been having?
MR. FOLEY: I read the newspapers just as you do, George. As you know, we
are forbidden to talk about ongoing investigations until those investigations
or the investigation is completed. We're not able to comment on them. But I
can repeat what Secretary Albright said last week, which is that she very
much wants Ambassador Holbrooke to be there fighting for US interests at
the United Nations at New York and hopes for a very prompt resolution.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more than the guidance yesterday on East
Timor? Is there a meeting in the UN?
MR. FOLEY: Well, we didn't brief yesterday, so perhaps somebody spoke to
you about the situation in East Timor. I'm not aware of any further
developments. Do you have a specific question?
QUESTION: No, I was just wondering. I mean, yesterday it was said it was
a positive - appeared to be a positive development.
MR. FOLEY: What we do know is that the Indonesian Government announced
the other day a proposal for "autonomy-plus," they called it. If its
proposal is rejected by the East Timorese, the Indonesian Government
suggested that it will propose to the incoming Indonesian People's
Consultative Assembly in August that "East Timor be released from
A number of ideas have been under discussion among the parties and the UN
Secretary General's representative, Ambassador Marker. We welcome any
agreement on the future status of East Timor that is supported by the
parties and offers the possibility of a peaceful and lasting solution to
The new Indonesian policy appears to explicitly give the people of East
Timor a direct role in deciding East Timor's future. As such, we believe it
is a positive development. However, at this point, we don't have details
regarding the Indonesian Government's plan for consulting the people of
East Timor or the means by which the people there will be asked to consider
this latest proposal.
(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)