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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #18, 99-02-10

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>


945

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, February 10, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

ANNOUNCEMENT
1		Secretary Albright is pleased that the matter of Ambassador
		  Holbrooke's nomination is over, and that the White House
		  intends to send his nomination to the Senate very soon.

KOSOVO NEGOTATIONS 2 Secretary Albright has spoken with Ambassador Hill this morning. 2 Jim Dobbins has come over from the NSC to be Secretary's special adviser on Kosovo. 2 Bodies of Racak victims will be turned over to relatives; KVM will serve as facilitators. 3 US finds significance in FRY's Milutinovic's attendance at negotiations. 4 US believes President has authority to commit troops to any NATO peacekeeping force.

MEXICO 5,6,7 Counter-narcotics effort, especially regarding cooperation with US, is better than ever.

COLOMBIA-CUBA 7 Congressman Burton's charges are outrageous, false. 7 US met with FARC to assert US positions, not to negotiate.

RUSSIA 8,9 US is concerned about potential deterioration of Russia's missile warning system.

CHINA 10,11 US carefully monitors military balance in Taiwan Straits on an on-going basis.

TAIWAN 11 Interest in theater missile defense appears to be informational.

SIERRA LEONE 11 Assistant Secretary Scheffer is there at the Secretary's direction. 11 US calls on rebel forces to refrain from attacks on civilian population.

NORTH KOREA 12,13 Narcotics trafficking reports viewed with concern by US.

FYROM 13 US takes no official position on FYROM's relations with Taiwan.

INDIA 14 Deputy Secretary Talbott engaged on proliferation issues.

INDONESIA 14 Talks on East Timor are best vehicle to achieve a lasting solution. 14 US believes views of East Timorese must be taken into account.

ERITREA-ETHIOPIA 15 Fighting continues; US urges restraint, immediate end to fighting.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #18

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1999, 12:50 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing, today being Wednesday. Let me start by saying Secretary Albright is extremely pleased that a conclusion was reached in the matter of Ambassador Holbrooke's nomination. She's greatly pleased that the White House intends to send his nomination to the Hill very soon. We are hopeful that the Senate will be able to act, as well, so that we can get Ambassador Holbrooke to New York, where his extraordinary diplomatic services can be brought to bear.

In that regard, let me also point out that Secretary Albright has been working extremely closely with acting UN Perm Rep, Ambassador Peter Burleigh, and he's done a stellar job during this period.

QUESTION: Just a loose end: The IG investigation, has that also been settled?

MR. RUBIN: The IG issues are not issues that can be discussed publicly by me. If the White House intends to send the nomination forward very soon, that means that any matters that were under investigation that pertain to the nomination -- the White House has said that they need a few more days to deal with some issues. But the basic issues that were being addressed have now been satisfactorily concluded. But I can't make an overall comment ever about the existence or non-existence of an IG investigation on anybody.

QUESTION: Just to follow, is the paying of the $5,000 fine an admission of error or wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Holbrooke? How would you describe it?

MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Holbrooke has spoken to this. He has a statement accompanying the announcement. I will leave it to him to describe that issue.

Let me say that, from our perspective, we are extremely pleased that this matter has been resolved, and that the White House will be in a position very soon to send him nomination forward. There are some elaborate legal documents that were prepared, and I will be happy to get you a copy of those.

QUESTION: I know there is some pretty strong feelings in this building about the way this whole thing unfolded. I wonder, now that it's over, if you would care to make some comment on the climate in Washington that would allow some anonymous letter-writer to put such an important nomination on hold for months and months?

MR. RUBIN: The matter will be over when Ambassador Holbrooke is sworn in.

QUESTION: Jamie, can you give us an update of how things are going in the Kosovo talks? There doesn't seem to have been any forward movement today.

MR. RUBIN: Well, having been part of the Wye talks, and having observed closely the Dayton talks, day-to-day discussions of what goes on don't necessarily give a flavor of whether movement is really occurring. There is a dynamic being created there with the different delegations. The Serbian President Milutinovic is going to be arriving, which will assist the Serbian delegation in its decision-making, we hope. Secretary Albright spoke to Ambassador Hill this morning and, as well, she spoke to Foreign Minister Ivanov and Foreign Minister Vedrine. She's been consulting very closely on minute-by-minute assessment of what's going on there. In that regard, let me say that we will have a formal announcement sometime next week, but Secretary Albright has asked Jim Dobbins, from the National Security Council, who is - Ambassador Dobbins has been a long-time expert both on Europe, and worked very closely with members of the Administration on the Haiti issue, of which there are some similarities. She's asked him to come over to the Department as her senior adviser on Kosovo to work on the ongoing problem and, given the special circumstances, to be working intensively in the inter-agency process, to be able to move forward on the multiple aspects of this Kosovo negotiation and, if an agreement is reached, obviously, the implementation of that agreement.

I will have a more formal announcement, with more formal description of his title and duties and timing next week. But I thought, given the timing of him coming over - and he's already been sitting in meetings in the Secretary's office this morning and yesterday.

With respect to where do we go from here, look -- each day is different in a negotiation like this. Sometimes you're putting out fires; sometimes you're trying to move issues forward; sometimes you're overcoming obstacles. Secretary Albright believes that the atmosphere in Rambouillet is one that lends itself to agreement, if the parties make the hard decisions. But there is no significant report of major progress, or major setback, that would be justified by the developments today in Paris.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the release of the 43, I believe it is, bodies from the Racak massacre?

MR. RUBIN: The KVM reported that the Serbs have agreed to return all 40 bodies of the Racak massacre victims. KVM verifiers will be at the morgue to serve as middle-men between Serb authorities and Albanian families in the hand-over of bodies.

We continue to insist that the Belgrade authorities allow the International Criminal Tribunal to conduct a full investigation of the massacre, suspend those officers operating in the area at the time of the massacre, and bring to justice those responsible.

QUESTION: Regarding Jim Dobbins: Will that in any way affect the status of Christopher Hill?

MR. RUBIN: Not at all. Ambassador Hill is our negotiator for the Rambouillet talks. If we're going to move forward on Kosovo, and given the importance the Secretary's attached to trying to get a solution to the matter, and if there's agreement, certainly there are many pieces of the puzzle that have to be put together in the implementation phase. But it affects not at all Ambassador Hill's important work. He's the one who she's on the phone with every day, and he's the one who will be giving her a recommendation as to when it would be appropriate for her to participate in Rambouillet.

QUESTION: So Dobbins is more the implementation person?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I said, I'll be able to be in a position to describe more formally and completely, in a detailed way, his duties next week. Right now, he's here in the Department, beginning to go to meetings as her senior adviser on Kosovo. The exact duties are going to be worked out. But she believed it was extremely important to have the Department in a position to deal with the Kosovo issue, well before the Racak massacre. That's how government - sometimes it takes some weeks to get these things organized. So he started appearing at meetings in the Secretary's office this week, and I thought, therefore, it was important to point that out to you. But I cannot specify his specific duties until we have a formal announcement.

QUESTION: Just wondering whether his coming on now is some indication as to your outlook for an agreement.

MR. RUBIN: Not at all. This idea was generated by the Secretary prior to the Racak massacre and prior to the momentum that we've been able to create in favor of an agreement, through the backing up of diplomacy by force in NATO. So, this was something that was generated some weeks ago, as something we needed to do, given the importance of Kosovo.

QUESTION: What significance do you find in Milutinovic's coming to --

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, one wants the combination of people in Rambouillet to be able to make decisions. Although one doesn't need everybody there -- phones do work - it does help to have senior figures there. They don't have to stay there the whole time. I'm not sure that Milutinovic will. But we consider that something that, if the political will is there, would certainly ease any procedural problems of who's in the room, and who has to make phone calls back to Belgrade.

I mean, at the end of the day, we know who the decision-maker in Yugoslavia is, and that's President Milosevic. But the fact that Milutinovic has come is significant, procedurally.

QUESTION: Was there an open question that he is bringing the answer to?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not familiar with that. I just think there was a general sense that they needed - there are plenty of open questions for him to bring an answer to.

QUESTION: A number of members of Congress, primarily Republicans, expressed their opposition to US troops in Kosovo to Under Secretary Pickering today; some saying that they don't think the President has the constitutional authority to send troops without going to Congress. I wonder, basically, is the US concerned or the Administration concerned, that the support might not be there in Congress for this?

MR. RUBIN: We have been through, over the last six years -- at least I have - a number of consultative processes with Congress on the use of American military power. Invariably, at the beginning of the consultative process, there are hard questions asked, both on constitutional grounds, and on substantive grounds. But in each of the cases that we've needed to use force, deploy peacekeeping forces, or proceed, we have had the necessary support to do so.

In this case, we do not believe -- given that it's a peacekeeping mission, and for several other constitutionally based reasons -- that the President needs a formal authorization from the Congress. On the contrary, we believe that the President has the - he would be able to authorize deployment pursuant to his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief. This is the same basis on which he deployed ground forces to Bosnia to support implementation of the Dayton Accord.

There are serious questions. Secretary Albright had extensive discussions with large groups of members on the House side and the Senate side. A lot of hard questions were asked. I don't think there's a uniform opposition. I would urge any of you looking at it to look very carefully at how loud somebody talks and how sometimes silence in these cases is considered acquiescence for members of Congress. So we don't think there's a uniform opposition. On the contrary, we think there's some understanding of the stakes, and some understanding of the need for the United States to lead an effort to try to get a political solution. The President obviously has not decided, finally, whether to participate in a peace implementation force. But I would urge you not to draw too many conclusions from a relatively small number of voices, however loud they might have been.

QUESTION: On that point, Under Secretary Pickering said that the ethnic Albanians have made it very clear that they won't sign any agreement unless America is going to participate in the peacekeeping mission on the ground. I'm sort of wondering whether that's new. I seem to have heard it before. Also, whether it's quite that cut and dry?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright, in her speech to the Institute for Peace last week, made the same point, and she made it in a subsequent television interview, that for the Kosovar Albanians, it is very important to know that the United States is going to be there. That's not dispositive as to whether we would participate. We've laid out our own reasons and conditions and thinking on this subject.

But I do think that, for anyone who wants to resolve the problem, to dismiss the fact that even if there's a large European force and the overwhelming majority is European, the presence of Americans makes a big difference. That is what it means to be the United States - to have the people of the world look up to the United States. And it's one of the burdens of leadership.

QUESTION: Do you think it's a matter, then, of just having the last superpower there on the ground with you is sort of their feeling comforts --

MR. RUBIN: Well, you'd have to ask them exactly their reasons. I think it's a reality that we believe that their confidence level in this agreement will be markedly increased and their comfort level and, therefore, their likelihood of agreeing because of the presence of America in this process. That is something that is our assessment from extensive contacts with them. It's a point Secretary Albright made last week at the US Institute for Peace.

QUESTION: New subject? The Post has an interesting story this morning, the thrust of which is that Mexico's counter-narcotics performance over the past year has been dismal. Now, I know you can't get into certification; that doesn't happen for three weeks. But can you talk about their counter- narcotics performance?

MR. RUBIN: "Interesting" is a good word for the story. We expect Secretary Albright to make her recommendations, including on the subject of Mexico, to the White House in the next two weeks. They will be based on the statutory standard, an assessment of the extent to which countries that are major drug sources or supply routes have cooperated with the United States, or otherwise taken steps to counter the drug problem.

There's a difference between cooperation and success. We all need to bear in mind that there is the sheer magnitude of the drug trafficking problem that both Mexico and the United States are confronting together.

While we're both devoting huge resources to combating the problem, the traffickers have billions of dollars at their disposal, and are entirely unprincipled as they ply their illicit trade.

Second, in our view there is no question that the government of Mexico, under the courageous leadership of President Zedillo, is strongly committing to countering what they see as their number-one national security threat. They are cooperating more closely with the United States, at virtually every level, than ever before.

Finally, there are also positives in the recent Mexican record that, quite naturally, seem to be missed in this particular article. These include extensive, behind-the-scenes cooperation on multiple, on-going DEA cases and investigations, with dozens of US agents working side by side with their Mexican counterparts; transfers of Mexican prisoners in several cases to appear as witnesses in US trials; cooperation of Mexico's organized crime unit with the FBI has permitted so-called "controlled delivery" from Mexico into the United States, leading to seizures, stash locations and the arrest of a US distribution network; $200 million in assets and money were seized from a Cancun governor; and there was a plan announced for an additional spending of nearly half a billion dollars over three years for new planes, ships, radar and other law enforcement equipment.

In other words, the key point here is that the question at issue in drug certification is, are they cooperating - not, are they succeeding. Remember, we're confronting a ruthless group of drug traffickers who will use any means at their disposal and have billions of dollars at their disposal. It is not an easy task. The issue, therefore, is, are they cooperating. I've indicated some reasons why they have been cooperating. There are others.

In the major kingpin area, there were arrests of several different kingpins in recent months. We'll see a reduction in the amount of drugs that enter through Mexico only when Mexico, with US help, can solve its own crime and corruption problem. They are making a credible effort.

We do believe that Mexico is now talking much more openly and candidly about corruption. Investigations are undertaken against politically powerful people, such as former presidential brother-in-law, Raul Salinas, and convictions are carried out. We have to support this long-term trend and work with the Mexican Government, recognizing that there are limitations what even full cooperation can achieve.

QUESTION: So you acknowledge that the seizures of cocaine, marijuana and heroin fell significantly over the past year?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have the numbers in front of me; I can try to get that for you. But what I think what I'm trying to say is that, with respect to the certification side, that the cooperation goes beyond simply an examination of numbers, and it talks about money laundering, exchanging data, procedures for prosecuting cases. We've seen some in 1996 and '97, more fugitives were extradited or expelled between Mexico and the United States than between the US and any other country, except Canada. In 1998, Mexico was third because of an unusual multi-person extradition from Thailand.

So there's a lot of work to be done here, and we need to work cooperatively with Mexico. But as far as specific numerical trends on seizures, I'd have to get that for you.

QUESTION: Just a follow, Jamie. Where are the results, say, for the Juarez gang, the Juarez Cartel, the cartel in Tijuana -- the two cartels that have the most bucks? Where are the results insofar as breaking these cartels up, getting these particular kingpins behind jail? Is it something that the US is pushing?

MR. RUBIN: We've seen the arrest and expulsion to the United States of former Juarez Cartel kingpin Juan Abriga. So in that particular case, there has been an arrest and an expulsion to the United States.

In short, we're working on this problem. We're trying to cooperate as best we can. We will make our judgments on certification based on the standard and the law, recognizing that this is a very, very difficult problem, given the resources at the disposal of the drug traffickers.

QUESTION: Would you object to the interpretation of your comments here as indicating that Mexico will most likely retain the certification it has?

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: You've built a pretty strong defense for their cooperation.

MR. RUBIN: No, I'm explaining cooperation is the standard. I'm explaining what cooperation has occurred. But it's always a judgment call, and that judgment has not been made. There have been times when different levels of cooperation have yielded one result or another.

So I am not trying to preview the certification decision. What I'm trying to do is, explain the link between patterns of drug trafficking and certification, which perhaps some might have misunderstood from reading particular articles.

QUESTION: This is stuff that should have been in the article that wasn't?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'll leave that for you to decide what to write. I just give you the facts, and you decide what to put in the newspapers.

QUESTION: Congressman Dan Burton keeps criticizing the Administration for putting drug traffic in a back corner, saying because you are protecting your policies to normalize relations with Cuba. He also continues to criticize the decision to meet with the FARC, saying there was a lack of common sense. I wonder if you have anything.

MR. RUBIN: Congressman Burton's allegations are outrageous and false. The Congressman's accusation that the Department delayed or covered up a major cocaine seizure, due to policy concerns with Cuba, is simply untrue and outrageous to make.

No less an authority than an esteemed head of the Colombian police, General Jose Serrano, has categorically rejected these charges, noting that news of the seizure was made public by the Colombian police, and disseminated to Colombian and international media, immediately after the arrest and seizure had been made. The Congressman has been told of this ongoing investigation, including US cooperation with the Colombians on it, and the wide dissemination of information on the seizure. Nevertheless, armed with all this information, the outrageous and baseless charges continue.

With respect to our meeting with the FARC, it was not a negotiation - and we have explained this to Congressman Burton - but rather an opportunity for us to make clear to the FARC our positions on the need for them to account for the whereabouts of the missing American missionaries kidnapped by the FARC; on the peace process, which we support; and anti-narcotics operations in Colombia, which we expect not to be affected by the peace process.

We have briefed Congressman Burton repeatedly, and his staff, on all of these issues, provided him with written answers to many questions. But there are limits to what we can do.

QUESTION: New subject: from The Washington Post about the Russian missile defenses. How do you answer critics who say the Administration is moving too slowly on helping Russia compensate for its inadequacy in its early warning system?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the capabilities of specific Russian systems, it would be difficult to discuss because of classification. Nevertheless, it's fair to say that we are concerned about the potential deterioration of Russia's ballistic missile attack warning capabilities, without referencing any specific systems.

But let's bear in mind, Russian political and military leaders have repeatedly stated that there is greatly reduced likelihood of a nuclear or large-scale conventional attack, which makes clear they are less concerned about the possibility of a surprise attack, which is where these dangers become most acute.

Therefore, we believe the idea that there are increased risks of a serious miscalculation overstates the current Russian launch posture, which is based on their assessment of whether there is a real chance of a nuclear or conventional attack.

We do recognize, however, the need to minimize even further the consequences of false missile attack warnings. Just last September, the two presidents agreed to begin discussions on the exchange of information on missile launches and early warning. We have pushed aggressively to follow up on this agreement with detailed negotiating sessions occurring in Moscow at the senior levels, and we have presented the Russian side and their experts with a clear and far-reaching vision of where this initiative might lead. We are pushing this very aggressively.

QUESTION: What about the critics who say that the US is not?

MR. RUBIN: Pushing it aggressively? They're wrong.

QUESTION: How much in danger should Americans feel that they are as a result of this lack in ...?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what I'm trying to say is that there are two issues. One is the general posture between the United States and Russia; and two is the possibility of false missile warning data.

The general posture of the United States and Russia has been drastically reduced, as a result of the end of the Cold War and the onset of deep strategic arms cuts. The Russians themselves have said that they do not believe there is a great likelihood - or there is a greatly reduced likelihood of a nuclear or large-scale conventional war. So their whole alert posture has been affected by that. That doesn't mean we can't improve this situation even further, by trying to minimize the chances of false missile warning data, or the consequences of a particular false warning. That is what the two presidents agreed to do.

I don't think Americans should sleep - they should sleep a lot more soundly today than they did at the height of the Cold War, when both sides were on a hair trigger posture. The general improvement in US-Soviet relations -- and now US-Russian relations -- and the reduction in alert postures has made, in our view, this risk from the Russian side reduced. But we are working to reduce it even further. But you can never do too much to reduce the risk of a miscalculation or an accident, when it comes to nuclear forces.

QUESTION: What about the allegation here in the article by Mr. Hoffman that Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was, in September of 1983, in a position where he received a warning that went, let's say, it endangers a launch - came close to a launch, at least in his opinion; he had to make a gut decision? What about that particular incident? There was another incident about a rocket being launched in Scandinavia that the Russians in the 1990s - '92,'93 - thought was another possible attack against them? Did those things really happen; does the United States accept that?

MR. RUBIN: Let me simply say that I read this very interesting article, and it was pointed out deep inside the article - for those of us who read the whole thing - that the particular officer was neither punished nor promoted, that there was a look into what it is that he did. There was no conclusion to the investigation.

With respect to specific incidents and specific failures of specific Russian missile warning capabilities, I have no comment.

QUESTION: You seem to be suggesting that while the Clinton Administration is pushing very hard for this - to implement this agreement that the presidents agreed to in September, the Russians don't be seem to be willing, for whatever reason - don't seem to be as eager as you guys are to move ahead with it.

MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that. What I would agree with is that we're pushing hard, and we need to have more discussion and response from the Russians, in order to be able to move this forward. But I don't think it necessarily is a reflection of eagerness or not. So I would welcome you putting the question to them.

QUESTION: Is there on-going technological assistance to Iran? Is that wrapped up in this question in anyway?

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: Sharing of that sort of technology doesn't --

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: In light of this, is there any concern here that talk of renegotiating ABM and a national missile defense might increase tension with the Russians?

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, I think that as we and the Russians talk more and more about sharing and improving each other's early warning capabilities, some of the nascent fears that might exist with respect to limited national missile defenses will go away. Because remember, the logic is that the Russians may - some experts have suggested that the Russians would be concerned about allowing a limited national missile defense, because of a fear that, with a limited national missile defense, their early warning capability being limited, and lower numbers, that this might all add up to losing their deterrent. But the more that we can convince them that we can assist them in ensuring their early warning capabilities and improving them, then the less this - what we believe an unjustified fear -- may take hold.

So to the extent that we can improve our discussions with them about early warning, there would be less and less concern, we would think, about discussing potential adjustments in the ABM treaty, if it comes to that.

QUESTION: China and missiles - reports this morning in The Financial Times -

MR. RUBIN: You guys are reading too many newspapers.

QUESTION: -- concerns about increased targeting of Chinese missiles of Taiwan. I don't know if you can say anything about that, but in relation to the Secretary's visit there.

MR. RUBIN: Certainly the subject of Taiwan, and our unofficial relationship with Taiwan, is normally part of any high-level discussion, and I would expect it to be part of the discussions the Secretary has in China.

Let me say, on the specific question of the report by the Pentagon, all I can tell you is that we carefully monitor the military balance in the Taiwan Strait on an ongoing basis. The Defense Department is preparing a comprehensive assessment of the military balance in the region, including missile deployments. That report is expected to be transmitted very soon, or in the near future, to the Congress.

With respect to suggestions that this justifies providing Taiwan with theater missile defense, let me say the Taiwan authorities are currently addressing their own capabilities and needs. Their interests at this point appears to be primarily informational. We remain firmly committed to fulfilling the Taiwan Relations Act, and we will continue to assist Taiwan in meeting its legitimate defense needs, in accordance with this law and the 1982 Joint Communique with China.

Consistent with our obligations under this law and part of our policy, we regularly consult with Taiwan on its defense requirements. As part of these defense requirements, we have briefed Taiwan, as we have many other friends, on theater missile defense. We do expect this report that has generated this article in this specific newspaper to be submitted shortly. But it would be impossible for me to talk about a report that has not yet been submitted, or to comment on information that might be of a sensitive nature.

QUESTION: But the Taiwanese -- (inaudible) - want information about purchase of a Patriot?

MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, their interest in theater missile defense appears to be primarily informational.

QUESTION: A question about Sierra Leone. Do you have anything about a visit to that country by David Scheffer, the War Crimes investigator?

MR. RUBIN: He's there. Secretary Albright wanted him to go there. She's authorized him to make a number of trips around the world, to try to deal with issues of war crimes and humanitarian tragedies, and he is there. I don't have the latest update on his findings, but he is there.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the situation of American concern about rebel atrocities against the population?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we have been deeply concerned about rebel atrocities in the past, that have included some of the most horrific kinds of crimes. We call on the rebel forces to respect the human rights of the population. The vicious attacks the rebel forces make upon civilian targets are totally indefensible and outrage the world. We are pleased that the ECOMOG forces have restored sufficient security to the capital, that humanitarian relief efforts - on a modest scale - have been able to resume.

QUESTION: Is the United States satisfied with the amount of support that the international force there is getting?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's no easy task. Let me just say that the Nigerians have paid a heavy price for their commitment to peace.

We intend, with congressional approval, to provide an additional $4 million to assist the efforts on the commercial logistics side - communications equipment, spare parts, trucks and the like. We did deploy, in the past few weeks, a medical assessment team to Nigeria, with four tons of supplies to treat wounded Nigerian troops. But it's a fact the Nigerians have paid a heavy price for their commitment, and we applaud this commitment and recognize the sacrifices made.

We do hope that Nigeria, despite the difficulty, will continue to play a considerable role in Sierra Leone. We do think that the uncertainty about the Nigerian force's future makes it even more urgent that the international community increase its support for the ECOMOG forces, and for the political solution.

QUESTION: One final question. The $4 million - would that be money that's readily available, or is that something that --

MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check on that. I was advised that we are trying to move quickly with congressional approval. It might be as simple as a few phone calls to get that money made available.

QUESTION: Hasn't that $4 million been announced already?

QUESTION: It's in the budget.

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check.

QUESTION: I seem to remember that coming up a couple weeks ago.

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check. It could be additional. This is the information I got, but let me get it final for you.

QUESTION: Jamie, the February 15 issue of US News and World Report has an article that goes into some detailed allegations about narcotics trafficking by the government of North Korea.. Do you have anything about that?

MR. RUBIN: I am better prepared for that question today. As a matter of policy, international narcotics trafficking is anathema to the United States. We have been aware of past reports that the North Koreans may be engaging in such activity. We view these reports with concern, particularly since they suggest the possibility that North Korean officials could be involved.

Because of the continuing reports indicating that North Korea may be producing large quantities of opium for the illicit market, and may be involved in methamphetamine production and trafficking, we need to monitor the situation closely, to determine whether a substantial amount of opium is being cultivated or harvested in North Korea, and whether opium transiting North Korea is significantly affecting the United States.

Because there is not yet sufficient evidence to meet the legal criteria for including North Korea on the majors list - the so-called major narcotics countries - we will continue to monitor and evaluate alleged North Korean involvement in narcotics, and will apply the law as circumstances warrant.

We will issue our international narcotics strategy in the coming weeks, which will include information on North Korean activities in this area. As you know, the majors is based on having reliable information that North Korea fell into particular definitional descriptions about significant quantities reaching the United States. It's very hard to talk about the specific way in which we learn this information, or some of the specific information, without going to a level of sensitivity I cannot.

QUESTION: When you say reports, you don't just mean news reports, do you?

MR. RUBIN: We have reports - and I wouldn't over-interpret that. We are not in a position to have reliable information about this. I indicated to you that we have no reliable information that North Korea fell into either definition of major drug producing or transit countries, as articulated in the law. We do have a variety of reports that indicate what I indicated, but I wouldn't draw elaborate conclusions on the word "report."

QUESTION: Has a date been determined for new talks on the suspected nuclear site?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check for you.

QUESTION: There were a few questions left unanswered yesterday about China and Macedonia. Did you come up with any answers on that, on whether you had an attitude towards the breaking of relations, and how concerned you are about the possibility of the Macedonian peace force being disrupted.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, on that subject, the decision whether or not to recognize Taiwan is for the Macedonian Government to make. The US takes no official position on whether countries establish diplomatic relations with other countries. We have no position on China's decisions regarding its relations with Macedonia. No wonder this might have gotten lost in my book.

The US supports the extension of the UN mission in Macedonia by the Security Council, and we will urge all Security Council members to do the same. We believe that the UN mission in Macedonia contributes to peace and stability in the region, particularly in light of the continuing crisis in Kosovo. We see no reason to connect UNPREDEP's role and mandate with other issues.

I don't have any comment on any potential US-Chinese contacts about that subject. With respect to our concern on the subject, let me simply say that there is a history of times when this has been a problem. So we're not unconcerned about it, but we hope and expect that other countries will make their decisions based on the important role that UNPREDEP plays in promoting stability in the region.

QUESTION: What are the precedents in this case, and how did they turn out?

MR. RUBIN: Haiti. There was concern in the Security Council by one particular delegation, following President Aristide's announcement at a UN General Assembly speech of his recognition of Taiwan. But those concerns were eventually worked through.

QUESTION: Iraq. Today US jets attacked two Iraqi air defense sites in the Southern no-fly zone. Look like all these events doesn't change Iraq -- Saddam's government's attitude. Are you planning to change your policy against Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the agenda of the upcoming talks between Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright next Wednesday?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any particular information we have on a meeting from next week that we don't normally provide a week in advance.

QUESTION: Who initiated this meeting?

MR. RUBIN: We can get all those answers for the record for you.

QUESTION: Secretary Talbot has asked India to define what it considers minimum nuclear deterrence for India. Now, what exactly does he mean? Is he hinting that India should keep its nuclear deterrence to the Pakistan level and not bring it up to the China level? Or is he actually asking India for what it considers its optimum range of missiles and number of warheads? Now, that is the question. Could you please comment? Is this not odd, considering the United States is asking India and Pakistan to join the nuclear non- proliferation regime as non-nuclear weapon states?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I don't see any inconsistency in asking the Indians to define one of their own terms, and our determination to see India and Pakistan join the CTB and the NPT. These are terms the Indians have used. If Deputy Secretary Talbot - and I take you at your word, I don't know - has asked them to define words that they used, that strikes me as trying to be probing and understand the views of the other side in a diplomatic discussion.

QUESTION: Portuguese-Indonesian talks have just finished in New York, with an apparent stalemate. Can you comment on these conversations? And specifically, will the United States be supportive of democratic consultation of the population of East Timor concerning the status of autonomy that Indonesia is proposing now?

MR. RUBIN: We have strongly supported these negotiations as the best vehicle to find an enduring and peaceful solution to East Timor's status acceptable to the parties involved, including the East Timorese. While the negotiations did not culminate in an agreement, the process is continuing, and additional negotiations will be held.

As the East Timorese move, in the coming months, to consider either autonomy or independence, we look to all parties - Indonesia, Portugal, the UN Secretary General and the East Timorese themselves - to work constructively and responsibly towards developing a lasting solution with workable transition arrangements.

As Bishop Belo and other East Timorese leaders have said, these arrangements should be designed to ensure that this transition is constructed peacefully, with regard to the stability and viability of East Timor. We will support whatever outcome is acceptable to all the parties. As a matter of principle and common sense, the views of the people of East Timor have to be taken into account in this process. We know that the ministers and the UN share this belief, and are looking at arrangements to assess the views of the East Timorese on the autonomy package to be offered that continues to be under discussion.

QUESTION: Very, very quickly, yesterday, the White House had a statement on Ethiopia and Eritrea. Does the State Department have one?

MR. RUBIN: On that subject, let me say that fighting continues on several fronts. We are particularly concerned by reports that aircraft and helicopters are supporting ground fighting, although some reports indicate that there has been a lull in hostilities today.

Our embassies in Addis Ababa and Asmara are following the situation closely. We are working to encourage both Eritrea and Ethiopia to exercise restraint, and end the current fighting immediately. Mohammed Sahnoun, a very capable special envoy of the Secretary General, will report to the Security Council on his mission later today. The Security Council is expected to take up the issue shortly.

We urgently call on Ethiopia and Eritrea to work with the Organization of African Unity and the international community to quickly find an equitable solution. We are deeply concerned about the resumption of widespread conflict. We remain convinced that a peaceful settlement is possible and necessary.

We have supported the OAU framework in the past. Unfortunately, it is our view that the air strike moratorium has been violated, and we are calling on both parties to re-commit to honoring the moratorium and cease the use of air power.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility that Anthony Lake will go back?

MR. RUBIN: He remains actively engaged in our ongoing diplomatic efforts, and is available to return to the region, as and when appropriate. But there are no current plans, to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Just one more quick one, back on Mexico. The Secretary, she was supposed to meet with a Mexican official today.

MR. RUBIN: She did. I don't have a read-out of that. I can try to get that for you during the course of the day.

QUESTION: In advance, were you aware that the drug question was going to be one of the things she discussed - that we discussed earlier?

MR. RUBIN: Did it come up? I don't have a read-out on that particular meeting.

Okay, thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)


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