U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #18, 99-02-10
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
Wednesday, February 10, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
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.
2 Secretary Albright has spoken with Ambassador Hill this
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
4 US believes President has authority to commit troops to any
NATO peacekeeping force.
5,6,7 Counter-narcotics effort, especially regarding cooperation
with US, is better than ever.
7 Congressman Burton's charges are outrageous, false.
7 US met with FARC to assert US positions, not to negotiate.
8,9 US is concerned about potential deterioration of Russia's
missile warning system.
10,11 US carefully monitors military balance in Taiwan Straits on
an on-going basis.
11 Interest in theater missile defense appears to be
11 Assistant Secretary Scheffer is there at the Secretary's
11 US calls on rebel forces to refrain from attacks on
12,13 Narcotics trafficking reports viewed with concern by US.
13 US takes no official position on FYROM's relations with
14 Deputy Secretary Talbott engaged on proliferation issues.
14 Talks on East Timor are best vehicle to achieve a lasting
14 US believes views of East Timorese must be taken into
15 Fighting continues; US urges restraint, immediate end to
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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
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
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Holbrooke has spoken to this. He has a statement
accompanying the announcement. I will leave it to him to describe that
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
QUESTION: This is stuff that should have been in the article that
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
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: China and missiles - reports this morning in The Financial
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Okay, thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)