U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #20, 99-02-16
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
Tuesday, February 16, 1999
Briefer: James B. Foley
ANNOUNCEMENTS / STATEMENT
1 Conference on Fighting Corruption, Dept of State, Feb 24-26
1 US-DPRK Meeting on Underground Construction, NY, Feb 27
1 Niger Local Elections
1 Israel / Lebanon Monitoring Group Statement
1-2 Happy Birthday to Sid Balman
2-3,5-7 Rambouillet: Secretary's Call to Pres Milosevic Today / Amb
Hill's Mtg with Pres Milosevic / Pres Milosevic's Choices
/ Conditions re War Criminals / Inviting Pres Milosevic
3-4,7 NATO Force: Benchmarks for Participation / Lessons from
Bosnia / Police Force / Time Lines
5 Russian Influence With Serbs
TURKEY / GREECE
7 PKK Designated as Terrorist Organization
7 Kurdish Protests & Demonstrations in Europe
7-9 PKK Leader Ocalan: Operation to Apprehend / US Involvement
9-11 Threats Against Neighbors / Frustration & Desperation / US
Position / Visit by Deputy PM Tariq Aziz to Turkey
11-13 Discussions with French Pres Cheric re French Plan / Oil
Embargo / Support for Sanctions / Inspection Regime
12-14 Status of UN Assessment Panels / Not Comprehensive Review /
IRAQ / RUSSIA
10-11 Reports of Transfer of Military Equipment / US Contacts
14-15 UN Report on Transfer of PanAm #103 Suspects /
Clarifications & Conditions on Proposal
16,17-18 US Food Assistance Pledge / Dr. Perry's Policy Review &
16 US Congressional Visits / Decision on Certification
16-17 Efforts to Combat Narco-Trafficking / Effect on Exchanges /
Opening Up Since Pope's Visit
21 Direct Telecommunications Services
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
18-19 US-Palestinian Joint Commission Meeting Today / Readout
19-20 Mufti's Office Location in Jerusalem / Effect on Peace
20-21 Dec 1998 Attack on US Embassy / US to Receive Compensation
/ US Protest Defense Minister's Comments
22 Status of Accession of Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1999, 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. I have a few announcements. First, Vice
President Gore will host at the State Department on February 24-26 the
first-ever international conference on fighting corruption among justice
and security officials. Over 300 officials from more than 70 countries and
over 20 multilateral non-governmental organizations will join the Vice
President for the world's first conference to target corruption from the
receiving side; in other words, among police, prosecutors, judges, military
personnel, Customs officials, border guards, financial regulators and
budget and procurement officials.
I would urge all media intending to cover the Global Forum on Fighting
Corruption to register in advance to receive an official conference press
credential, which permits access to cover events. You can register in the
Secondly, I'd like to announce that the next round of US-DPRK discussions
on the Kumchang-ni underground construction will be held in New York,
commencing February 27. In these talks, as in previous rounds, the United
States will seek steps by the DPRK to remove fully our suspicions about the
site, including by providing access to it. Ambassador Charles Kartman, US
special envoy for the Korean peace talks, will lead the US delegation.
Finally, a comment on local government elections in Niger. The local
government elections which took place on February 7 in Niger marked a
significant step in an ambitious program of decentralization. These
elections were also a critical test of the government's commitment to the
return of civilian democratic rule. We commend the government for
overcoming last-minute obstacles and ensuring the safe deployment of
international election observers. We are, however, concerned about reported
incidents involving security personnel and others who interfered with the
work of Niger's independent electoral commission. We urge that President
Bare and his government ensure the integrity of the vote count and
prosecute anyone who tried to undermine the electoral process.
I'll be posting, as well, in the Press Office, a statement on behalf of the
chairman of the Lebanon Monitoring Group.
Finally, I understand there's a birthday, today. Sid, am I wrong? Am I
QUESTION: That's right.
MR. FOLEY: You're a spring chicken. You must be heading for spring
training. That's your favorite team.
QUESTION: That's right. I got the call from the Red Sox this morning.
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry. We retired that metaphor. I take that back.
But Barry, if you're so willing, he can have the first question.
QUESTION: Oh sure, what the -
MR. FOLEY: Birthday boy. How about a softball to start?
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR. FOLEY: Happy Birthday.
QUESTION: On the Rambouillet talks, Albright, I believe, spoke with
MR. FOLEY: She did.
QUESTION: Secretary spoke with Milosevic this morning, and Chris Hill is
gone. Maybe you could -
MR. FOLEY: Well, yes, the Secretary spoke with President Milosevic this
morning. The purpose of the call was to brief him on where we are at this
stage of the talks in Rambouillet, and to urge him to receive Ambassador
Christopher Hill today to sit down and discuss the outstanding issues at
My understanding is that Ambassador Hill is now in Belgrade and will be
meeting, I think momentarily, with President Milosevic. He's being
accompanied by representatives of the two co-chairs: Gerard Errera, the
Political Director of the French Foreign Ministry, and Peter Rickert, I
believe, of the UK Foreign Office. The essential purpose of this meeting
with President Milosevic is to make sure that he fully understands the
choice that lies before him.
Secretary Albright spoke in France over the weekend about the fact that
President Milosevic is facing a fork in the road. He has a very stark
choice between signing an interim political settlement and allowing a NATO
implementation force to help implement that agreement in bringing peace and
stability and an end to the crisis in Kosovo and the crisis that envelopes
his country; or on the other hand, if he refuses to agree to the interim
settlement or to agree to a NATO peace implementation force, to face the
very real prospect of NATO air strikes. So that's what Ambassador
Hill is doing in Belgrade today.
QUESTION: Could you embellish that a little? Is this recognition of
Milosevic being really the only one who could deliver the Serbs? I mean,
you have an arrangement in Rambouillet. Are you saying that the Serb
delegation doesn't have the authority to cut a deal, and that you have to
go to Milosevic for the deal? I mean, it would seem obvious, but is that
what this is all about?
MR. FOLEY: I don't think there's ever been any secret that any decision
involving the Serb or FRY authorities would have to receive the personal
stamp of President Milosevic. He may not be present in body in Rambouillet,
but he's certainly present in spirit. He will not have failed to get the
elements of the interim arrangement that's being proposed, nor the elements
of the peace implementation force that's being proposed. In other
words, he's not ignorant of what decision lies before him.
But Secretary Albright felt that it was important that that message be
brought home personally to him by her representative, Ambassador Christopher
QUESTION: Could I ask you about - the Serbs are resisting, aren't they, a
NATO force? I mean, they haven't budged on that, have they - a NATO
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that there's been any change in their position.
QUESTION: How long would American troops remain in Kosovo? What would be
the benchmarks for their removal? I'm asking you to share with us what the
Secretary told one TV network this morning so we could have the State
Department's words as well as ABC's words.
MR. FOLEY: I don't have a complete list of the benchmarks. I would note,
moreover, that President Clinton on Saturday indicated that he believed
that the United States should participate in a NATO peace implementation
force if quite a number of conditions were fulfilled. I don't need to go
through them for you. But the essential one is that there is a peace
agreement; that the parties do agree to invite NATO in; that there be a
permissive environment; and that other necessary conditions obtain. I don't
have before me the list of benchmarks, and this may not be complete at
the negotiating table or at NATO.
The principle, though, is as the Secretary stated it today - that we
learned a number of lessons at Bosnia. I would say the essential lesson we
learned in Bosnia is that it's certainly a lot better if the international
community acts early to prevent a crisis from spreading and getting worse.
That's what these talks at Rambouillet are all about - bringing this
conflict to an end right now and not waiting for the conflict to go on and
perhaps to spread. That's the first lesson.
But another lesson from Bosnia is that we - I'm sorry, what was your
QUESTION: Deadlines for telling the troops to go home.
MR. FOLEY: We learned in Bosnia that it was imprudent to set an
artificial deadline, to say that we know that one year from now, for
example, that we'll be able to remove our troops. That was certainly what
was hoped at the time that the IFOR mission went into Bosnia in 1995; but
it was an unrealistic hope. So we've learned that it is a mistake to set an
That does not mean, by any token, that US forces, if they are deployed, if
the President, in consultation with Congress and our allies, makes that
decision, that our forces will be there for an inordinate period of time.
As Secretary Albright stated today, there will be benchmarks that will be
written into the agreement or written into NATO's mission. Among them, the
Secretary mentioned, I believe, today, elections, standing up the
local police force. I don't have the list, as I said, but the basic
principle is clear: that the peace implementation force would be able to
withdraw when the Kosovo institutions are up and running and considered to
be self-sustainable and that stability itself has become self-sustaining in
QUESTION: Explain a little bit more about that, then. The benchmarks are
if the local police are up and running. If they're not, it seems like that
can move - that benchmark or that measure of effectiveness could move
forward and, in fact, troops could be there an inordinate amount of
MR. FOLEY: Well, theoretically you're right. I can't get into the details
of what's been negotiated. Our spokesmen in France, as you know, are not
giving many of those details. I'm even in less a position to do so at this
distance. However, my understanding is that, for example, the benchmark
that you cited, the police force, is a very specific one. It's critical to
peace, stability, to confidence there in Kosovo on the part of the Kosovar
Albanians and, indeed, to the Serb minority in Kosovo that there be a
local police force that is trained, that follows standard police practice
and is not the repressive arm of a repressive state, that respects the
human rights of the people there. This is absolutely critical. My
understanding is this is an integral part of the plan; it's not some sort
of wishful notion in the peace plan, but rather is a spelled out,
integrated aspect of that plan with specific time lines attached to the
recruitment, to the training and to the deployment, under international
supervision, of this force.
So it's not something that's going to be fudged in that respect. Theoretically,
I take your point; but this is not, as I said, a notion. It's very specific
in the agreement.
QUESTION: So there is a time line on when that's supposed to happen?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Then isn't that doing what you just said the lesson was learned
in Bosnia - that if it's not done by this point, we leave or --
MR. FOLEY: I think you're really jumping to several logical conclusions
that don't become logical at the end.
As I said, we're not going to set -- if we do pursue this mission -- an
artificial deadline. We will set benchmarks. Now, maybe the benchmarks
themselves can contain time lines, but that's different from there being a
specific timeline attached to a withdrawal.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about what the Russians are doing to
try to exercise their much flaunted, but usually ineffective influence with
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm glad I'm not the Russian spokesman at the receiving
end of that question. In fact, I would have to refer you to the Russian
spokesman about that. I believe that the Russians are in regular diplomatic
contact with the Serbs in Belgrade and in Moscow. That's my understanding.
As, I believe, the French President's spokeswoman said today, there is
Contact Group unanimity on what needs to be done in terms of the agreement,
the elements of the agreement. We would expect that the Russians are
conveying to the Serbs the imperative need to agree to what's being
QUESTION: But are you satisfied with what they're doing, what you know of
what they're doing?
MR. FOLEY: Well, to this point, we're not aware that the Serbs have
changed their fundamental position of opposition to the introduction of a
NATO peace implementation force. I'm not sure the Russians themselves are
the spokesman on that issue, either. That's another question.
But Ambassador Hill is in Belgrade today to drive home the point to
President Milosevic that agreeing to the peace proposals also requires
agreeing to a NATO implementation force. That is an option that is in the
FRY and Serbia's fundamental interest. They need to look upon this force as
a stabilizing element, as a force which will bring this conflict to an end.
And if the Serbs can bring themselves to invite this force in, then they
will find that it is a friendly force - friendly to all the people of
Kosovo and that is able to bring peace to the people of Kosovo.
They have not changed their position, but Ambassador Hill will be
discussing the other side of the coin, which is the certain prospect of a
different form of NATO intervention if President Milosevic cannot bring
himself to see reason and accept the peace plan.
QUESTION: Is Ambassador Hill and his French counterparts - are they going
to be offering Milosevic assurances that if he allows NATO troops onto his
soil, they will not have, as part of their authority, arresting those
indicted for war crimes, either in Kosovo or in Bosnia?
MR. FOLEY: Well, you're getting into a level of detail that I cannot get
into from this podium. My understanding is a general one -- that they're
going there to lay out the stark choice that President Milosevic faces:
either accepting the peace agreement, accepting a NATO force or facing the
prospect of NATO air strikes. I'm not aware of that kind of detail.
QUESTION: There are those in the Belgrade Government who are saying he
will not agree to this -- that's one of his conditions for agreeing to the
arrangement. He thinks that he's been secretly - that his indictment is
under seal in The Hague and that one of the things these forces will do is
arrest him when they come to Kosovo -- or others.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not aware that President Milosevic is planning to be
in Kosovo. I don't know the last time he was in Kosovo. The NATO implementation
force would be inside Kosovo. I'm not aware and I would be surprised if
anyone were negotiating any aspect of the work of the International War
QUESTION: I have a question regarding the apprehension of Mr. Ocalan in
MR. FOLEY: Are we finished with Kosovo for now?
QUESTION: You didn't give us any idea of what Milosevic said to Albright,
MR. FOLEY: I don't have that detail.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, she came away --
MR. FOLEY: He agreed to receive Ambassador Hill; that's all I have for
QUESTION: But she came away from the talks with the Albanians saying that
they seemed to think - she had indications that they thought the plan was a
fair idea. But does she have any indications what the Serbs think, now that
she's talked to Milosevic?
MR. FOLEY: Well, in general terms - and I'm not necessarily referring to
her phone call, I don't care to get into that. My first answer is that
until now, there's not been a change in the fundamental Serb position. I
answered that question earlier.
In a general sense, I believe that the Serbs maintain that they can favor
autonomy in Kosovo and protection of the rights of all the people of
Kosovo. Obviously, that runs counter to Serb behavior in Kosovo over the
last decade, which is why we believe the introduction of a NATO peace
implementation force is absolutely critical, is the sine qua non to a
successful interim settlement in Kosovo.
QUESTION: I know you don't want to go into the conversation, but did
Albright come away from this phone call with Milosevic today with any sense
that her message had been heard in a positive way? Did she come away
encouraged in any way?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't say that. I don't want to read too much into it.
The basic thrust of the conversation was that she wanted to send Ambassador
Hill; that she wanted him to hear directly from our senior negotiator what
the stakes were, what the status of the negotiation was, what the
outstanding issues were and the need to come to terms now, before the
deadline passes, with the decision that he has to make.
QUESTION: Some analysts are saying, too, that the Contact Group is really
going to have to put a more sort of muscular offer before Milosevic in
order to get him to agree to this Kosovo deal. I think I know the answer to
this, but I'm going to ask you anyway. I mean, has there been any thought
given to trading off the Bosnia Serb Republic in exchange for greater
MR. FOLEY: Absolutely not. I think, perhaps, you saw Ambassador Gelbard's
letter to the editor of a major American newspaper, I believe over the
weekend, that took issue with that very notion. I think when you're talking
about a muscular message, that message, the muscularity is in the form of
NATO air power. We take the deadline for agreement on Saturday very
seriously. That message, as I said, will be brought home to President
QUESTION: Jim, two quick questions. In that phone call, did the Secretary
herself directly reiterate the ultimatum to Milosevic that if he does not
comply, he will face air strikes?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not aware of the detail of the conversation. I
wasn't present for the conversation. But I think it's certainly implied in
everything that I've said and what the Secretary has said that the Serb
authority's face a fork in the road. One of the two directions lies and
goes ineluctably to NATO air strikes. So that's clear.
QUESTION: Just one other thing, is Ambassador Hill likely to invite
Milosevic to come to France? I mean, is there any thought about trying to
bring him to the parties to discuss?
MR. FOLEY: That would be news to me. I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: The apprehension of Mr. Ocalan in Kenya - any reaction to the
apprehension? Secondly, any reaction to the problems with Greek embassies
around Europe? And is there any involvement by the US to this apprehension?
MR. FOLEY: A number of questions there; I'll try to answer all of them.
First of all, as we have said repeatedly and publicly, the United States
has designated the PKK as a terrorist organization. We believe - we have
believed that its leader, Ocalan, should be brought to justice, certainly
in a manner consistent with international standards of due process for the
terrorist crimes of which he is accused. So that is our reaction to what
has happened in a general sense.
In terms of the events that are taking place in Europe at various Greek
embassies and diplomatic installations, let me make clear that in the view
of the United States, the hostage-takings and other attacks on Greek
facilities in Europe being carried out by Kurdish protesters are completely
unacceptable and should stop immediately. These acts are certainly not
helpful to any cause that the perpetrators may think they are supporting in
performing these acts.
Did you have a third question?
QUESTION: The third question, what do you know about this whole operation
of the apprehension, and if there is any US involvement by helping Turkey
or any contacts with the involved governments?
MR. FOLEY: I believe Mr. Lockhart spoke to this briefly this morning over
at the White House. What I can tell you is that the United States did not
apprehend or transfer Ocalan or transport him to Turkey.
QUESTION: Mr. Lockhart, since you mentioned his statement, he said "no
direct involvement in Ocalan's hand-over to Turkey." Can you explain to us
this use of hand-over, by whom?
MR. FOLEY: Well, let me repeat what I said. The United States did not
apprehend or transfer Ocalan or transport him to Turkey. In other words, US
personnel did not participate in any of those actions that I just
described. It is no secret - because we've been saying this publicly from
this podium and elsewhere - that our policy toward the whole Ocalan issue
has been a very clear declaration on our part that he should be brought to
justice. We have had extensive diplomatic efforts that we have undertaken
to bring him to justice. We have been in frequent diplomatic contact with
all governments concerned. I can't get into the nature of our diplomatic
exchanges, but this is not new. This has been the case ever since he turned
up in Italy some months ago.
QUESTION: In recent days, have you had any contact - except with the
Turkish Government that I understand you have regular contacts about,
probably, this issue. Have you had any contact with the Greek Government
either today, regarding the hostage situations around Europe, or --
MR. FOLEY: As I said, we've been in frequent diplomatic contact on the
Ocalan issue going back to, I believe it was in January, when he showed up
in Italy, if I'm not mistaken, with quite a number of governments,
including the two that you mention.
QUESTION: But you are not in a position to say who handed over Mr. Ocalan
to the --
MR. FOLEY: No, I'm not.
QUESTION: But your answer stops short of ruling out an operational role
in some form or another by the US in his apprehension.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think I was fairly clear about what I said - that the
United States did not apprehend or transfer Ocalan or transport him to
Turkey. US personnel did not participate in those actions. I think I've
answered the question as best I can in terms of what US personnel did and
did not do, and I really have nothing more to add to that.
QUESTION: But there are other ways the United States can be helpful , and
that includes sort of finding where he was, knowing his movements,
counseling people on how to lure him into Kenyan --
MR. FOLEY: Well, some of what you're referring to may have to do with
intelligence matters that, as you know, I can't get into. I'm not, as I
said, going to talk about our diplomatic exchanges, either.
QUESTION: I didn't use the word "intelligence."
MR. FOLEY: I just did.
QUESTION: Do you expect Mr. Ocalan will now receive a fair trial?
MR. FOLEY: We certainly hope so. We believe that Turkey and all of its
citizens should take this opportunity to redouble their efforts at
reconciliation, in line with Prime Minister Ecevit's recent plea. Moreover,
we believe that a lasting solution to the situation of Kurds in Turkey lies
in the long-term enhancement of democracy for all of Turkey's citizens. We
certainly trust that Turkey will conduct a fair and open trial in a manner
consistent with international standards of due process. We don't have
any reason to expect otherwise, but certainly the world community
will be looking forward to a trial of that nature.
QUESTION: Have you anything to offer on Iraq's continuing menacing
approach to Turkey?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, I do. Iraq's explicit threats to strike against its
neighbors are ample proof - as if any more were needed - that Saddam
Hussein continues to present a danger to the security and stability of the
It is really astonishing -- Saddam Hussein's continuing propensity to
damage his own cause. He is on one day trying to make nice with his
neighbors, to build bridges to his neighbors; on the next day, he is urging
the overthrow of the governments of his neighbors, he is threatening
military strikes on his neighbors. This all harks back to what the crisis
with Iraq is all about in its origins - namely the fact that Saddam Hussein
invaded and conquered one of his neighbors.
The international scrutiny and the international framework of obligations
that have been imposed on Iraq since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait all stem
from this fundamental sense on the part of the international community that
Saddam Hussein represents an inherent threat to his neighbors, and as well
to his own people.
It is precisely because of Saddam's threat to regional peace and security
that we maintain a robust military presence in the area. As Secretary
Albright has made clear in the last few days, including this morning, we
are prepared to use force in response to Iraqi actions against our forces
in the region or against its neighbors.
So the long and the short of it is that once again, Saddam Hussein is
damaging his own cause. He is reminding everyone why the international
community needs to remain vigilant and to hold him to his international
QUESTION: What does or do these actions -- Saddam Hussein's actions - say
to the US in terms of the success of its policies since the end of Desert
Fox? Is this a sign of Saddam's weakening control over his own regime?
MR. FOLEY: That's difficult to assess. As you know, the ability to
monitor closely events in Saddam's inner circle is very difficult from this
remove. It's a very opaque system and opaque regime. One can judge on the
basis of certain forms of evidence. We've been saying ever since the end of
Desert Fox that Saddam Hussein seemed frustrated and seemed desperate -
desperate and frustrated because his military was missing in action
during that conflict; desperate and frustrated because he didn't enjoy
much support in the region.
So we've seen a series of actions since Desert Fox which, to our mind,
speak to his frustration and desperation. We've spoken about incidences of
repression and execution of Shia elements in the south. It's very clear
that Iraq's attempts to defy and to violate the no-fly zones in the north
and the south are intended to cause a stir, to summon support for his
cause. The end result has been clearly a bit-by-bit degrading of Iraq's air
defense systems, which we've been happy to cooperate in as Saddam continues
to challenge the no-fly zone in the north and the south.
So I think taken all together, there's every sign that he feels the
profound failure of his efforts to escape from sanctions. We will remain
vigilant; we will defend our forces; we will enforce the no-fly zone; we
will insist that Iraq comply with all of its international obligations. We
believe, as we've said for many months now, that increasingly people in his
region understand that he has cynically exploited the plight of his own
people in order to try to escape from sanctions, precisely so that he
can build the kind of weapons that will threaten his neighbors, threaten
In other words, he's simply making our case every day that he lashes out
irrationally and attacks his neighbors verbally or otherwise. But from our
point of view, it would be a serious and profound mistake, as Secretary
Albright said this morning, if Iraq were to try to make good on the threats
that they've issued in the last few days to its neighbors.
QUESTION: On Iraq and Russia, what do you know about any attempts by
Russia to sell weapons and equipment to Iraq? And I don't - I mean, there's
been - I guess the Russians deny that there was any contract. Well, I mean,
there can be a deal without a contract. Is there any --
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think what's of import is not so much whether there's
a deal or whether there's a contract -- that may be a semantic matter - but
whether there is actually some transfer of military equipment to Iraq in
violation of UN Security Council resolutions, something which, if it
occurred, we would take very seriously.
However, having seen the press reports about such a deal, we have no
information to confirm the content of these stories. So, again, it's simply
a press report, and we've not been able to confirm it. We've not seen
evidence that it's true, either.
QUESTION: Is that something you'll be discussing with the Russians,
MR. FOLEY: I believe we will be discussing it with the Russians. I don't
know if it's been taken up yet. But again, at this moment, we do not have
reason to credit the report.
QUESTION: More on Iraq, last week you said there was going to be
discussion on the Turkish invitation of Tariq Aziz and the visit of Tariq
Aziz to Ankara. I'm wondering if during those discussions, expressing
whatever it was that the US expressed to the Turks about that information,
if the subject of Ocalan came up at all during those talks.
MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a very nice way to shoehorn in another question.
I have, in response to a previous question, indicated that issue has been
discussed through diplomatic channels with quite a number of governments,
including the Turkish Government.
However, your lead-in question, I'll take at face value, which was about
the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Aziz to Turkey. Our understanding of his
meetings in Ankara yesterday is that those meetings served to underscore
the Iraqi regime's total isolation and the consensus within the international
community that it is Iraq's refusal to comply with UN Security Council
resolutions which is solely responsible for the current confrontation. I
believe the Turkish authorities made clear in public that that was
the message that they delivered to Mr. Aziz in private.
QUESTION: Your statement in the beginning about North Korea, has the US
found a way to -
QUESTION: Given what you've just said, I take it, then, that when
President Chirac comes here this week, you won't even entertain his
suggestion that the oil embargo be lifted, which he said publicly today he
would propose to President Clinton?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't want to foreshadow or forecast the nature of
President Clinton's discussions with President Chirac; in any event, that's
something that the White House will comment on. But I'm pretty certain that
this issue will be raised. I believe President Chirac has said that he
intended to discuss it with President Clinton. The US and France are
historic allies. France was our first ally, dating back more than two
centuries. We have historically waged common battles, and we are united in
many fora on many tough challenges, including Kosovo, including Iraq.
There may be differences of view about a given approach; but we look
forward, though, to discussing French ideas with President Chirac.
We've said before that the French proposal has some interesting elements,
which we wish to engage on with the French and with other Council members.
However, we still have a number of questions about details of the plan,
which remain unclear.
It is important to bear in mind that the central issues on Iraq have not
changed and must be addressed, as I indicated a few minutes ago. First,
Iraq must comply with its obligations under all relevant resolutions of the
Security Council. Second, the Council has decided that Iraq must be
disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. That process is not complete.
QUESTION: You've said a half-dozen times this afternoon that Iraq must
comply. Now you specified, of course, one of those resolutions - disarmament;
but you're willing to talk to the French about lifting the oil embargo. How
do you expect to know if they've disarmed since you backed off the --
MR. FOLEY: We're willing to talk to France about French ideas. The United
States does not favor the lifting of the oil embargo, as we've stated
QUESTION: All right, well, how are you going to make sure now that Iraq
disarms now, now that you've backed off the inspection system, the Scott
Ritter approach to Iraq? This is never the time or place to challenge Iraq -
MR. FOLEY: Well, we've not backed off the inspection system.
QUESTION: You've backed off; the Russians have backed off; the French
have backed off, and you've sort of trailed behind them like a puppy,
backing off, too, because you don't have enough allies to be tough.
MR. FOLEY: I don't know you can accuse the nation which launched, with
our UK allies, Desert Fox being a puppy on this. We have -
MR. FOLEY: I'm talking about in December.
QUESTION: I understand.
MR. FOLEY: We would be pleased if UNSCOM were able to go back into Iraq
and do its job. We've always said that that's the best way of ensuring
disarmament because of UNSCOM's capability and expertise and credibility in
this regard. That has not changed, and we don't favor any kind of watered
down inspection system that will go in and do a phony job in Iraq.
In the absence of such a credible inspection regime, we remain prepared to
use force as necessary under the conditions that we've stated. I think
perhaps I could bring you up to date on what's happening in the Security
Council. I believe it was last Friday that the Brazilian permanent
representative, Ambassador Amorim, finalized his plans to name members of
the three panels in the Security Council - the assessment panels that will
be looking at the separate issues of disarmament, humanitarian issues
and Kuwait issues.
Each of the three panels has a discreet agenda defined by the Security
Council for examination at this time. What the Ambassador did last week was
to announce the naming of the panelists on each of the three panels. We've
reviewed that list announced by Ambassador Amorim, and we are very
satisfied with the list. The members of all three panels are respected
professionals, whose expertise in their respective fields is widely
We note, for example, that the majority of the disarmament panelists are
members of UNSCOM or the IAEA. Their thorough knowledge and extensive
experience will be essential to enabling the panel to make a substantive
and factually-based review of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament
As the Council said in its January 30 note creating the panels, the overall
goal is to achieve "the full implementation of all relevant Security
Council resolutions regarding Iraq." With that goal in mind, the assessment
panels will look at the facts and evaluate the extent of Iraq's compliance
or non-compliance with the requirements of the Council's resolutions. Based
on that evaluation, the panels will suggest ways to reengage on securing
full Iraqi compliance with the resolutions.
So that's where we are now. The panels have been established, and they're
going to get to work in New York.
QUESTION: Just to go back to the French - the embargo thing here. It
seems to me there's an inconsistency between what you were saying earlier,
that Iraq's isolated, its neighbors don't like it, nobody likes their bad
guy and they're just proving that again and again and again. And yet, the
President of France is coming here, publicly saying the embargo should be
lifted - the oil embargo - and that's a pretty juicy plum for them; and I
believe the Russians agree. So the Chinese, who knows? So arguably,
almost half of the Security Council disagrees with you and does not
accept the United States' characterization that Iraq is further isolated,
when they're, in fact, trying to give it the biggest favor they could
possibly give it.
MR. FOLEY: I think that if you put that question to Saddam Hussein,
whether he's satisfied with the status quo, satisfied with the level of
international support he's gotten for his continued intransigence,
satisfied with the response he's received following Operation Desert Fox,
I'd be willing to wager - especially based on his actions and the comments
of the Iraqi leadership - that they are something less than fully satisfied
with the levels of international support they've been receiving.
In terms of sanctions lifting, Saddam Hussein wants sanctions lifted
yesterday. That has been consistently thwarted and disappointed. As far as
the United States is concerned, that is not going to happen. What we have
agreed to in New York is the establishment of these three panels to assess
Iraqi compliance across the board on the different areas of Iraqi
obligation - be they disarmament, humanitarian and Kuwaiti issues -- which
are of importance to the United States.
So I believe that this is a very measured process. The United States will
participate in this work and participate in the Security Council, where we
continue, of course, to have a veto.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up. You mentioned the three panels, but Richard
Butler is not on any of those three panels. That was another key demand of
Iraq, lift the embargo, get rid of Butler and now that's two of the things
that he wanted.
MR. FOLEY: I think what Iraq wanted was a comprehensive review of
sanctions, which they're not going to get because they weren't deemed to be
in compliance and to be cooperating with UNSCOM. As I indicated, the
professional expertise of the IAEA and UNSCOM is going to be brought to
bear in these panels and we're confident of that. That's why I'm in a
position to say that we welcome these panels.
QUESTION: So there will be no problems that Butler is not -
MR. FOLEY: Not that I'm aware of, but you could put the question to him.
My understanding is that he's satisfied with this arrangement.
QUESTION: Another subject - have you all now seen the report or this
agreement that the UN and South Africa and what not have arrived at with
Libya on Pan Am 103?
MR. FOLEY: Well, we've seen all kinds of reports, especially over the
last few days.
QUESTION: But you have not gotten a document from the UN? You have not
been formally appraised of this?
MR. FOLEY: Not to my knowledge. I'm not aware that we've received any
sort of confirmation.
QUESTION: Does that bother you at all?
MR. FOLEY: Well, it may be coming. I wouldn't rule out that some such
confirmation may come. Look, we can take yes for an answer. If, indeed,
Libya transfers the suspects to Secretary General Annan for Scottish trial
in The Netherlands, we will be very pleased. Of course, we have been
skeptical until now because Libya has dragged its feet and looked for
excuses not to meet its obligations. But if, in fact, they do transfer the
suspects, we will be pleased.
QUESTION: And you'll accept any conditions that are negotiated? I mean,
there are some amazing conditions, which are being, at least, rumored to be
part of this.
MR. FOLEY: Let me just, if I could, interrupt one moment to make clear
that the United States and United Kingdom made it crystal clear that our
offer was non-negotiable. Certainly, the United States will not support any
changes in the offer. My understanding is that the Libyan authorities were
seeking from the United Nations some kinds of clarifications, the details
of which I don't know and I don't have before me. But clarifications are
one thing; any change to the fundamentals of the US-UK proposal --
namely that the suspects be brought to The Netherlands for a Scottish
trial for a trial and, if convicted, incarceration in Scottish prison - is,
as I said, non-negotiable. We don't anticipate any changes.
QUESTION: There may a little bit of interpretation room within that
phrase, you won't accept changes. But let me ask you a couple of things. If
these guys were to demand a special wing of a Scottish jail for their place
of incarceration, is that the kind of thing that you would accept?
MR. FOLEY: I'm really not in a position to go into those kinds of
details. If there any clarifications that were sought and received, we
would expect to be informed of them by Secretary General Annan. But I don't
believe we received any such communication.
QUESTION: But you might consider clarifications; other people might
consider conditions to -
MR. FOLEY: If we consider them not clarifications but changes to the
offer, then they would not be acceptable to us.
QUESTION: Let me throw another one in.
MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to get into the details of the hypotheticals
that you're raising. We'll have to see it when it comes.
QUESTION: Well, could you - I mean, you've said that you haven't received
this yet. Have you inquired of the UN as to when you might expect to get
it? I mean, I'm surprised -
MR. FOLEY: Maybe we have; I'm not aware of that, though. We just had a
long weekend. As you know, these reports surfaced over the weekend. Today's
the first day back. I'm sure we're in some communication with the UN, but I
just don't have that.
QUESTION: If something comes out - I mean, if you find out something
later in the day, could you sort of let us know?
MR. FOLEY: If it's something I can talk about, yes.
QUESTION: And let me just ask one more thing about this. I'm particularly
interested about this point, which is also rumor, that there would be no
attempt to embarrass or implicate the Libyan Government in any prosecution.
MR. FOLEY: I don't want to comment on details that I haven't seen, that
we've not been officially informed of to my knowledge. As I said, we're not
going to accept changes to our proposal. I'd rather not comment speculatively
any further at this point.
QUESTION: But if you're in a position later in the day to talk about
those things --
MR. FOLEY: If I am - if I'm in a position, then I will do so. But it may
have to wait until tomorrow or whenever I'm in such a position.
QUESTION: Just a quickie on North Korea, because you made a little
statement in just a sort of - make it a two-paragraph instead of a one-
paragraph story. Has the US found a way to provide food on a humanitarian
basis to the starving populace without appearing to reward the North
MR. FOLEY: Well, we're not going to pay compensation. We made that very
QUESTION: I know that, but if they interpret food as compensation that's
their problem, right? What are you doing about food?
MR. FOLEY: We announced, I believe in the fall of last year, our pledge
for 1999 for food assistance through the World Food Program. Subsequent to
that, I believe in December, the World Food Program launched another
appeal. My understanding - and it's maybe dated by a few days - is that we
were still looking at that appeal. I don't have any new for you on
QUESTION: That's basically what I meant - whether you've come up with a
MR. FOLEY: Sorry I kept you waiting there.
QUESTION: On Mexico, in less than 24 hours since President Clinton
praised the Mexican efforts to combat narco-traffic, the number of voices
to the opposition for the certification for Mexico in Congress has been
MR. FOLEY: In the Mexican Congress?
QUESTION: No, here, in Washington. My question is, are you dealing with
the legislators about it? There's a delegation of congressmen going to
Mexico next week. Have they been in contact with you to set up meetings in
MR. FOLEY: That may be true; I'd have to take the question. I know that
there was a significant number of members of Congress who accompanied the
President yesterday in Mexico. I'm not familiar with further visits,
QUESTION: These are Republicans who are in favor to decertify Mexico.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I can't announce or prejudge what the Secretary's
recommendation or the President's decision will be on certification issues,
as you know. But that will happen in a couple of weeks.
QUESTION: I have a question on Cuba. Do you have a reaction to the new
measures to combat narco-traffic in Cuba, especially to -- (inaudible) -
kind of death penalty to those guys who traffic drugs in Cuba?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not aware of the particulars in the sense that there
may be some elements that have to do with narco-trafficking and other
elements that appear to be designed to further repress the rights of
political expression. On that latter aspect, we are not surprised by those
announced measures, however regrettable they are. But they are in keeping
with the repressive nature of the regime.
We've repeatedly and forcefully condemned the Cuban regime's efforts to
suppress fundamental freedoms and human rights. The legislation under
consideration is clearly intended to stifle independent thought and civil
QUESTION: How concerned are you that this will mean that the initiative
that this building launched a number of months ago will not be completed,
and that exchanges by journalists and there's a concert that's supposed to
take place down there - that these other things that this Administration
had planned will not be able to go through?
MR. FOLEY: I think it's difficult to speculate at this point. We've just
seen reports of some of this proposed legislation. In the past, we have
certainly regretted any efforts by the Cuban authorities to prevent our
help to the Cuban people and our efforts to help them deal with the
conditions they live under and to promote greater contact with ordinary
In terms of the musical event you're referring to, I can tell you that the
organizer of Music Bridges, they're called, was issued a license for US
musicians to interact and perform jointly with their Cuban counterparts.
The license was issued because it was consistent with US policy to promote
contact between the people of Cuba and the United States.
We note that the concerts will be free and Cuban citizens will be able to
attend. No funds will be going to the Cuban Government or to the American
QUESTION: Anything new on the Orioles game with the Cuban national
MR. FOLEY: I have nothing new for you on that today.
QUESTION: Two follow-ups on North Korea. The first one, did you say
exactly -- the start date was the 27th of the month for the talks?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, the 27th, yes.
QUESTION: Did you say roughly how long you were intending to continue?
MR. FOLEY: It's unclear at this point.
QUESTION: Is it a couple of days or a week or --
MR. FOLEY: It's unclear; I only have the commencement date.
QUESTION: All right. The second one, really quick, the last one on North
Korea - regarding Dr. Perry's report, do you have information on his travel
plans, prior to the release and then also after the release of his repor,
to the region?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not sure when he will be completing his work, his
policy review. So it's impossible to describe other events surrounding the
completion of his review when we don't know when it's going to be
I can tell you he's considering to travel to consult with officials and
experts in the Republic of Korea, Japan and China. But my information is
that no itinerary has been finalized. We will announce his travel plans
when they are firm.
QUESTION: Is he planning to go to Pyongyang and meet with President Kim
in North Korea?
MR. FOLEY: He has no plans currently to visit there.
QUESTION: Will the report be released in a general way here at the State
MR. FOLEY: I don't know. I mean, certainly we will be in a position to
describe the report to you. I don't know if we would be releasing any
QUESTION: If I could just ask a favor of you.
MR. FOLEY: It's his birthday, Barry, remember.
QUESTION: If you decide to leak the report, why don't you leak it to
somebody who comes to the briefings every now and then?
MR. FOLEY: Anyone in particular, Sid?
QUESTION: Barry Schweid.
QUESTION: The Palestinian-US joint commission meeting here today, is it a
MR. FOLEY: I believe it is a one-day affair, yes.
QUESTION: Has it happened yet?
MR. FOLEY: I believe it's ongoing.
QUESTION: Could we have some sort of a - it being a novel idea of having
a joint commission with a non-state, could you give us some sort of a read-
out at the end of the day - what kind of agreements were reached, trade ,
MR. FOLEY: If we're in a position to provide that information at the end
of the day or the end of the workday, I'll make that available to the press
corps. I don't know that I'll be in a position today, as opposed to
tomorrow, to talk about it.
QUESTION: Well, I mean just at some point.
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And on the ground today there's another controversy in
Jerusalem, this time over the Jerusalem Mufti's attempt to establish a new
office in Jerusalem. That's got the Israeli Government up in arms. Does the
US have a position on this? Is that a final status issue like new homes in
MR. FOLEY: Well, it's not one that I'm prepared to talk about today. I
can tell you simply that it's an issue that's been raised and that we have
looked into it. It was raised by the government of Israel and we have
looked into it. I don't have anything further to say now. If I'm in a
position to say more, I'll do so later, Barry, maybe tomorrow.
QUESTION: You mean that they raised with the US Government?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: It got raised today. Your spokesman at the embassy in Israel
says that it would be raised - that the Israelis have requested that it
gets raised in the meeting here today. Is that when it was raised?
MR. FOLEY: Not in this meeting. That's not the forum, no.
QUESTION: Also, apparently at least the Palestinians say that they moved
his office so that - this man has a heart condition - so that he wouldn't
have to climb stairs. Is that --
MR. FOLEY: Look, these are legitimate questions. I'm just telling you I
don't have information for you know; I just don't. If I do later in the
week or tomorrow or something --
QUESTION: All right, but I mean, I don't think you'd have to have a lot
of details for the State Departments to say, oh, this is a final status
issue or not.
MR. FOLEY: Let me take the question.
QUESTION: Would you kindly?
MR. FOLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: That would be good. Is it helpful to the peace process would be
MR. FOLEY: We'll take all of them.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the retraction of the statements by the
Syrian official on the storming incident that happened in Damascus?
MR. FOLEY: What's the question, are we surprised?
QUESTION: Are you satisfied?
MR. FOLEY: Are we satisfied?
QUESTION: Are you still seeking financial compensation, as well, for the
event that happened in December?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, but Syria has expressed its intent to resolve that aspect
of the issue very soon.
As you will recall, we viewed the December 9 attack on our facilities in
Damascus, including the ransacking of the Ambassador's residence, with the
utmost gravity. Immediately thereafter, we lodged a protest with the Syrian
Government. The Syrian Government subsequently apologized and agreed to pay
compensation for the damages. I think we've said that previously.
However, on February 9, Defense Minister Talas was quoted in an interview
in the official newspaper, Tishreen, saying that those who attacked the US
facilities were courageous and were giving a slap to the US. Upon seeing
these comments, Secretary Albright called the Syrian Ambassador last week
and lodged the strongest protest. She spoke also on Friday with Syrian
Foreign Minister Shara on this same subject.
In yesterday's issue of Tishreen, Defense Minister Talas formally and
publicly retracted his earlier comments, noting that they did not reflect
Syrian policy. He also stated that Syria is committed to the protection of
embassies and diplomats in accordance with international law. As I
indicated, Syria has agreed to pay compensation in full for the damages
inflicted on US facilities.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - status of contacts now?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - believe the Syrian Government was behind those
MR. FOLEY: Well, we sought clarification. The Syrians have indicated to
us that they regret that it happened, and they pledged to protect our
QUESTION: So what is the status of contacts now? Are you waiting for the
financial compensations? Are you -
MR. FOLEY: Well, we expect to receive very soon the compensation that the
Syrians have agreed to, and we hope that when this happens - also, in light
of the retraction - that both sides will be able to put the matter behind
QUESTION: Do you know what the compensation is?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have the figure, no.
QUESTION: -- is a figure?
MR. FOLEY: I would certainly assume, yes. There is a specific figure.
QUESTION: She called Shara only to discuss that matter?
MR. FOLEY: That's my understanding.
QUESTION: Okay, on Cuba, several years ago, four US-based pilots with a
Cuban-American organization were shot down by Cuba. Now families are trying
to force the federal government to go after Cuban assets and money. How
does the State Department want this to play out? What impact might that
have on, for instance, long distance service?
MR. FOLEY: The United States filed a statement of interest in order to
advise the court in Florida of the important national interests that would
be affected if the payments owed by US carriers to the Cuban telephone
company are garnished. The Treasury Department has specially licensed these
payments pursuant to the terms of the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which
authorized restoration of direct telecommunications services between the
Direct communications is a critical element of our policy of support for
the Cuban people. The Cuban Government has stated that if the Cuban
telephone company does not receive the payments for current services,
telephone service between the US and Cuba would be interrupted. Promotion
of a civil society and contacts between the US and Cuban peoples are
policies which have received support abroad and in the United States and
bipartisan support from the US Congress.
In brief, the telecommunications payments are immune from garnishment for
two reasons. First, the Cuban telephone company is an entity separate from
and is not legally responsible for the debts of the Republic of Cuba and
the Cuban Air Force, who are the defendants against whom the judgment was
rendered. Second, the specially licensed payments to the Cuban phone
company are immune from garnishment under the Treasury Department's Cuban
assets control regulations. I would urge you to contact the Justice and
Treasury Departments for any additional information.
QUESTION: I have a question about NATO enlargement. I'm from the Czech
Radio. I was informed that on Friday, the US side informed the Czech side
about the date for the delivery of the ratification documents for March 12
in Independence in Missouri. I was wondering whether you could confirm it
and whether you have heard also from Poland and Hungary - whether you have
heard their reactions?
MR. FOLEY: I don't know if I'm in a position to make a formal announcement
to that effect today. We're working very much on that issue.
As you know, the United States is the repository of accession documents
under the Washington Treaty. That is precisely what must happen -- the
three new members must deposit their accession documents to the United
States. We expect that that will take place on March 12. I believe we are
looking towards some kind of an accession ceremony that would take place in
Independence. But I'm not able to tell you that we've finalized the
arrangements yet, but we'll let you know when that happens.
QUESTION: I have one more Cuba question. Do you see these new laws as an
eroding of the gains that were made after the Pope's visit in Cuba?
MR. FOLEY: Well, there were hopes raised when the Pope visited Cuba --
raised that the Cuban authorities would give the Church a wider space for
social activity; that they would give greater scope for religious
observance - and there has been some of that -- but that that might also
have collateral effects, in terms of opening up Cuban society. We've really
not seen those hopes materialize. The basic nature of the regime - it's
repressive nature - has remained unchanged. Human rights activists,
those trying to express their political views, continue to be harassed
and, in some cases, jailed. Therefore, the high hopes raised by the Pope's
visit, as I said, have largely failed to materialize. We regret that very
much because it's to the detriment of the Cuban people.
QUESTION: May I go back to Ocalan?
MR. FOLEY: If you wish; I don't have much more to add.
QUESTION: The Turkish Prime Minister announced today that the terrorist
organization, PKK, had brought Turkey to face justice. He said, "He will
pay the price of his accounts to independent Turkish courts." Do you have
any comment, a little bit more on that?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have any more to add. I thought I spoke at some length
about how the international community views the prospect of such a trial in
Turkey. We certainly expect that it will conform to international standards
of justice, of due process, of openness, a protection of defendant's
rights. We have no reason to expect otherwise.
Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 2:10 P.M.)