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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #20, 99-02-16

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

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

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 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 to Talks 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 / Trial

IRAQ 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 / Butler

IRAQ / RUSSIA 10-11 Reports of Transfer of Military Equipment / US Contacts With Russians

LIBYA 14-15 UN Report on Transfer of PanAm #103 Suspects / Clarifications & Conditions on Proposal

KOREA (NORTH) 16,17-18 US Food Assistance Pledge / Dr. Perry's Policy Review & Travel

MEXICO 16 US Congressional Visits / Decision on Certification

CUBA 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 Process

SYRIA 20-21 Dec 1998 Attack on US Embassy / US to Receive Compensation / US Protest Defense Minister's Comments

NATO 22 Status of Accession of Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland


DPB #20

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1999, 1:10 P.M.


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 Press Office.

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 misinformed?


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 Milosevic -

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 the talks.

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 Hill.

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 force?

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 specific question?

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 artificial deadline.

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 Kosovo.

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 time.

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?


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 Milosevic?

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 proposed.

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 Crimes Tribunal.

QUESTION: I have a question regarding the apprehension of Mr. Ocalan in Kenya.

MR. FOLEY: Are we finished with Kosovo for now?

QUESTION: You didn't give us any idea of what Milosevic said to Albright, did you?

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 you.

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 autonomy?

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 Milosevic.

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 region.

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 obligations.

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 his people.

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, though?

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 previously.

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 -

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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 recognized.

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 obligations.

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 Koreans?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we're not going to pay compensation. We made that very clear.

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 that.

QUESTION: That's basically what I meant - whether you've come up with a package.

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 increased.

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 Mexico?

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, though.

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 society.

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 Cubans.

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 organizers.

QUESTION: Anything new on the Orioles game with the Cuban national team?

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 completed.

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 Department?

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 documents, though.

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 one-day affair?

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 , culture, whatever?

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.


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 East Jerusalem?

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?


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 another question.

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 attacks?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we sought clarification. The Syrians have indicated to us that they regret that it happened, and they pledged to protect our diplomatic installations.

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 us.

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 two countries.

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.)

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