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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #21, 99-02-17

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1210

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

SERBIA (KOSOVO)
1,2		Rambouillet: Peace Agreement Economic Sanctions / Serbian
		  Opposition to Implementation of NATO -led Peacekeepings
		  Force /
2,3,4		Amb Hill's meeting with President Milosevic / Milosevic
		  failure to comply with international community
1,3,6,7		demands / Negotiation deadline / NATO airstrikes / Ottawa
		  Sanctions / US policy /
4,7,8		Outerwall Sanctions / Position of Kosavar Albanians

AFGHANISTAN 8,9,11 Today's meeting with Assistant Secretary Inderfurth and Taliban Repersentative Abdul Hakeem Mujahid 10 Whereabouts and Expulsion of Usama bin Laden 9 US Policy reiterated on harboring of terrorists 9 Honoring Human Rights Norms 11 US assistance to Afghan Earthquake Victims

MEPP 12-14 US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee meeting/ Promotion of Economic Growth in the West Bank and Gaza / Expansion of American Investment and Trade / Cultural and Educational Exchanges

ISRAEL 12 Movement of the Offices the Mufti of Jerusalem

IRAN 14-15 US Policy toward Iran / ILSA Law

KENYA 15 Apprehension of PKK Leader Ocalan

TURKEY 16,18 PKK Narcotics Trafficking / Humanitarian Treatment and Trial of Ocalan / US Policy on Terrorists

CUBA 18 Policy toward Political Activities and Human Rights

LIBYA 18,19 UN letter to Libya on the transfer of Pan Am #103 Suspects/ US Commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1192

RUSSIA/SYRIA 20 Sale of Military Equipment

TURKEY/IRAQ 20 Iraqi Threats Against Turkey


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #21

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1999, 1:50 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: I apologize for keeping everyone waiting. Barry, does anyone else have a birthday here whom I can offer the floor to in your place?

QUESTION: No, but do you have any statements or should we --

MR. FOLEY: No, I don't.

QUESTION: Before you get to old business like the Palestinian meeting yesterday and whether you've come around to any kind of a judgment about the Mufti's new office, let me ask you about Kosovo.

MR. FOLEY: You're signaling your future questions.

QUESTION: I figured, you know, you put some tabs in the book.

MR. FOLEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Kosovo - is it as bleak as it seems? Apparently, what's his name, the Deputy Prime Minister said his country, Serbia, would be prepared to come to terms in a fair settlement. He made some reference, though, to political and other institutions, apparently referring to sanctions being lifted - some set of sanctions, the outer wall. What is the situation now; and will Albright go there, of course, to Paris?

MR. FOLEY: The questions on the situation - you threw a lot in there, and I'm sure we'll cover all of that ground.

QUESTION: Is there a conciliatory gesture lurking behind all the nos?

MR. FOLEY: First of all, there is a fundamental issue on which we're lacking Serb agreement, and that is Serb agreement to the introduction of a NATO-led peace implementation force which is, as I said yesterday, a sine quo non for a successful and peaceful settlement in Kosovo.

Yesterday Ambassador Hill traveled, at Secretary Albright's request, to Belgrade and delivered a very clear message to President Milosevic. There can be no ambiguity on his part following that meeting - if there was any before that meeting - on the decision that he confronts.

I'm sure you're aware that Mr. Milosevic issued a statement following that meeting indicating that there had been no change in the Serb and FRY position against allowing the introduction of a peace implementation force. So on that fundamental point, there has been no change.

I would note that Foreign Secretary Cook and Foreign Minister Vedrine, who visited the talks, met with negotiators and I believe with the two sides in Rambouillet today, made clear that the deadline on Saturday is a real deadline and that time is of the essence. President Milosevic has just a few days to see the light, to see that it's in his country's interest as well as in the interest of the people of Kosovo to not only agree to the political settlement, but to agree to a peace implementation force.

In terms of how it's going there on the ground in the negotiations, I don't have much in the way of detail for you. But what I can say is that it was a very busy day, as it was yesterday. I believe that the important development which occurred yesterday is that both parties gave their substantive formal replies to the negotiators, their substantive comments, and proposed amendments or modifications to the terms of the political settlement that was presented by the negotiators on behalf of the Contact Group.

So today, the negotiators and some of the lawyers on the negotiating team met separately with both sides to go through some of their comments. They are now attempting to incorporate those that they can to modify areas that they can in conformity with the main elements of the Contact Group proposal. I believe the negotiators may be in a position by tomorrow to present the sides with an updated or revised Contact Group draft -- again, on the terms of the political settlement.

So I think progress is slow there, but my understanding is that there has been some progress and that they are moving forward and working hard on the nuts and bolts of how Kosovo is going to look following the agreement, a Kosovo enjoying real self-government and real autonomy.

But going back, though, to the point I was making a few minutes ago about the fundamental difference that remains, as I said, President Milosevic continues to insist that NATO forces will not be permitted on FRY soil to help implement an interim settlement. By his refusal to allow a NATO implementation force, President Milosevic is leading the FRY down the path to further violence, to further isolation and misery for his people and away from a political settlement in Kosovo and integration with the international community.

His intransigence is clearly not in the interests of his people or his country. As Secretary Albright has said, an agreement without a NATO force to implement it is no agreement at all. And if there is no agreement, whichever side is responsible for blocking it will suffer swift and severe consequences and, in the case of the Serb side, will face the prospect of NATO air strikes.

President Milosevic should be under no illusions about NATO's resolve. NATO stated clearly on January 30 that it is ready to take whatever measures are necessary, including air strikes, to compel compliance with the demands of the international community and the achievement of a political settlement. President Milosevic is not only blocking the achievement of a settlement, he has also - until now - failed to comply with virtually all of the demands of the international community as expressed in relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the OSCE and NATO verification agreements, as well as the FRY's own unilateral commitments.

QUESTION: I'm trying to get a little bit beyond the rhetoric, though, to find out if the Serbs -

MR. FOLEY: Well, a lengthy question demands lengthy answer sometimes.

QUESTION: No, no, I understand; I know you are sort of displeased with Milosevic. But I'm asking whether the Serbs have floated the idea that they would be agreeable to what they would call a just agreement, provided it dealt with political and financial institutions, which is easily translated to a removal of some sanctions that deprive them of participating, for instance, in international financial institutions. Is there a "Jeff" to the Milosevic "Mutt" is what I'm asking you? Are they doing a "Mutt and Jeff" act -- that some of them are taking a more lenient, conciliatory position, while the boss is taking a very hard position?

MR. FOLEY: I hesitate to say that you're dating yourself, Barry.

QUESTION: It's still used by the police department.

MR. FOLEY: But there are economic and financial aspects to the agreement itself involving Kosovo. I don't think that's what your question alludes to -

QUESTION: No, I'm asking if the Serbs are taking this hard line or proffering a willingness to reach a fair agreement -

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that that issue has been raised, the particular one you're talking about. You're implying the question of sanctions. I can state, if you're interested, what the policy of the United States is in this regard.

I think Mr. Rubin, the Spokesman, at one point a few weeks ago, when asked about the question of sanctions, allowed, speaking only hypothetically, that if the Serb side were to agree to a political settlement, allow a peace implementation force and therefore cooperate fully with the international community on Kosovo, then some of the sanctions that were implemented by the international community last year in specific response to specific Serb acts of repression in Kosovo might be placed by somebody on the table. I'm not saying that the United States is proposing this; it's just a theoretical question at this point that those sanctions that were specifically geared to Serb repression in Kosovo might look different if there were no Serb repression in Kosovo but rather a peace agreement and an implementation force.

On the question of the outer wall of sanctions, the position of the United States has been clear for quite some time; that we continue to support the outer wall of sanctions. They are related to a number of issues that are separate from the Kosovo issue, having to do with succession issues, cooperation with the ICTY, cooperation on Dayton and democratization issues inside Serbia and the FRY. I would conclude simply by noting that the so- called outer wall of sanctions are enshrined in US legislation, passed by the United States Congress. So they are not only the policy of the government, they are the law of the land.

QUESTION: So is it a fact, then, that the Serbs in the negotiations --

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that.

QUESTION: have made any offer to enter a just agreement? Is all their talk no, no, no?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I thought you were referring to the sanctions.

QUESTION: No, the sanctions I understand; you explained that. I'm just wondering if they've made a conditional offer to accept a just agreement.

MR. FOLEY: My understanding, at a great distance and greatly removed from the scene of the negotiations, is that they are grappling with and dealing with the concrete nuts and bolts issues having to do with how Kosovo will look under a peace agreement - a Kosovo enjoying genuine self-government and autonomy; a Kosovo running its own affairs on behalf of the people and the peoples of Kosovo.

In that respect, I think that one can infer that the Serb side is dealing with the prospect of a peace agreement. The problem we see on the Serb side is rather their opposition thus far to the introduction of a peace implementation force, which, given the long and irrefutable track record on the Serb side of non-compliance, of repression of the Kosovar Albanians, we believe, as Secretary Albright said, a peace agreement without a peace implementation force is no agreement at all.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about that, Jim. So if Milosevic continues to hard-line and says, no, we won't let you come, then the next step could very well be some military action; is that correct? And then with that military action, then Serbia would be in a position not to be permissive, not to be agreeable. They might be forced to do it, but the permissible part of the goal in this negotiation goes out the window, does it not?

MR. FOLEY: Well, President Clinton has made it very clear that as far as the United States is concerned, we will not participate in a peace implementation force in anything but a permissive environment, in anything but a situation in which the parties both have agreed to a peace settlement and have agreed to invite a NATO-led peace implementation force into Kosovo. So that is, as stated by the President, crystal clear as far as the United States is concerned.

In terms of the Serb refusal thus far to agree to such a force, we do not regard the issue as closed. President Milosevic is still against the idea, but he has time still to see the light, as I indicated; to see that it is in his country's interest to allow a peace to come to Kosovo and allow his country, the FRY at large, the prospect of a different future and a future ultimately of reintegration into Europe and into Western institutions and a future that is free of the violence and barbarity that's been occurring in Kosovo.

We think it's in his interest and he still has time to see it as in his interest. But as we have said, the deadline is Saturday and NATO is prepared to act. Secretary General Solana has been empowered or authorized by the North Atlantic Council to conduct air strikes against the FRY in the event that the Serb side does not conclude an agreement. So the consequences are clear if they do not change course and come to terms with the demands of the international community.

Your question, though, about what would happen after such a hypothetical action, my point that I made at the start of my remarks remains the same: it would have to be a permissive environment. If it takes some military action to bring Mr. Milosevic to his senses and to reverse course, so be it. We hope that that's not what will happen. We hope that they will agree by Saturday to the peace settlement and to the introduction of an implementation force.

QUESTION: Just two brief details. By Saturday, NATO has full authorization to act; is that correct?

MR. FOLEY: Excuse me, Secretary General Solana has had authorization to act since, I believe, January 30 in the event of Serb repression in Kosovo, actions in violation of civilized norms, of FRY commitments in Kosovo, actions that would be similar to what happened in Racak last month. If something like that happens, Secretary General Solana has ongoing authority that was delegated by the North Atlantic Council to order air strikes against the FRY.

The second part of the authorization, though, to Secretary General Solana, dealt with the negotiations. If the Serbs blocked progress, refused to agree to the Contact Group proposals, then the Secretary General is equally authorized to conduct, to authorize or order air strikes.

QUESTION: Just one other detail - sorry, Sid. The detail is, then, no NATO troops can be introduced into Bosnia (sic). Is it same with other NATO nations as it is with the United States - unless there's a permissive environment?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that any of our NATO allies has a different position in that regard.

QUESTION: What about the other question, Jim, of whether the Secretary was prepared to go back to Rambouillet.

MR. FOLEY: Did you ask that question earlier?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. FOLEY: There were so many, I didn't catch all of them. There's been no decision in that regard.

QUESTION: On Saturday at noon, can you sort of explain how it happens? Do the bombs start dropping immediately? Do they start dropping if there's recurrence of repression? And doesn't --

MR. FOLEY: Well, on the second point, recurrence of repression, as I indicated to Bill, is an existing authority the Secretary General has. That's not tied to a Saturday deadline.

QUESTION: Doesn't he have to hand authority, trigger authority, to the US Commander in the field? I mean, it appears there's now been another dual- key set up where the civilian director of NATO says yes and the military guy in the field says yes as well. If that's wrong, correct me.

MR. FOLEY: Secretary General Solana has the authority. He doesn't need to go back to the North Atlantic Council. As a practical matter, we would expect he would consult with the United States and with other NATO allies. But he has decision-making authority.

QUESTION: So he will go back again?

MR. FOLEY: Not to the NAC. The NAC has acted formally in that regard. But as an operational matter, though, he would certainly be consulting with the US and perhaps other NATO allies.

QUESTION: And then at noon on Saturday, NATO starts flying air strikes over Serbia, is that --

MR. FOLEY: I'm certainly not going to preview any operational details or time lines of that nature.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I'm sorry, I'm trying to get a - what is it --

MR. FOLEY: That's something I can't give to you in a public forum.

QUESTION: Well, what would be the justification for air strikes? I mean, is this sort of general punishment of the Serbs? I mean, the point, I thought, was to get them to the peace table.

MR. FOLEY: Well, you're going over ground that's old ground, that was covered when NATO made its decision.

QUESTION: No, maybe it's a month later --

MR. FOLEY: When NATO made its decision following the Contact Group meeting and endorsement of the terms of the peace agreement. When the Contact Group called the parties to Rambouillet, NATO subsequent to that acted and authorized Secretary General Solana to order air strikes if two conditions obtained - the two that I mentioned earlier.

QUESTION: Jim, you mentioned the integration of Yugoslavia into Western institutions as one of the inducements to Milosevic to deal seriously with the proposal at Rambouillet. Are outer wall sanctions in any way a factor?

MR. FOLEY: Mark, I answered the question on the outer wall of sanctions.

QUESTION: Let me rephrase it. Is Kosovo in any way a factor in decisions to lift the outer wall of sanctions; and did Ambassador Hill convey anything regarding the outer wall when he spoke with President Milosevic?

MR. FOLEY: Certainly not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: He did not?

MR. FOLEY: Certainly not to my knowledge. He went there with the purpose that I described yesterday and reiterated today, which was to bring home personally, on behalf of Secretary Albright, to President Milosevic of what the stakes are involved -- the outstanding issues, notably, the need for the Serbs to agree to the introduction of a NATO-led peace-implementation force and the fact that the consequences include NATO military air strikes if he doesn't reverse course.

I'm not aware of other elements that he may be addressing. But I think I already answered the question about the outer wall of sanctions. I listed the areas of Serb and FRY activity that are tied to the outer wall of sanctions. I didn't mention Kosovo simply because I was mentioning the non- Kosovo elements. But Serb policies in Kosovo are one of the several elements that are tied to the outer wall of sanctions, not certainly the only one.

QUESTION: You mentioned that Saturday is a clear deadline. If there is progress by the weekend, could another extension be given for negotiations?

MR. FOLEY: That's a hypothetical question I wouldn't want to entertain. I think that what Foreign Secretary Cook and Foreign Minister Vedrine said today reflects the position of the United States, that that is a real deadline; that, in fact, there was a seven-day deadline that was extended last weekend by the Contact Group. That is the deadline. We expect agreement by then.

QUESTION: Are the US and the Contact Group 100 percent satisfied with the position that the Kosovar Albanians are taking, or is there room for improvement on that side as well?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not giving a score card or readout of how the talks are going, of who is saying what, of who's agreed to 60 percent versus 80 percent.

QUESTION: No, let me - is the US happy with the position that they are taking? I mean, obviously, you are unhappy with the position that the -

MR. FOLEY: Well, Secretary Albright had an excellent meeting with the Kosovar Albanian delegation. I believe that she was pleased with the progress they're making and the fact that they seem to be in favor of the essence of the proposals of the Contact Group -- namely autonomy and true self-government. So I think the signs are good on the Kosovar Albanian side, but beyond that I'm not going to get into how the negotiations themselves are going.

QUESTION: There's no reason to issue the same kind of warning - albeit, it's not air strikes - for them -- to the Albanians, is it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, if you heard the words I uttered about 10 or 15 minutes ago, I said if there is no agreement, whichever side is responsible for blocking it will suffer -

QUESTION: But you're not saying -

MR. FOLEY: -- swift and severe consequences. We have not indicated that the remedy, as it were, would be the same for the other side.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. FOLEY: I think we are - we do have reason to hope that the Kosovar Albanians will agree to the settlement.

QUESTION: New subject - I don't know - any more on Kosovo? Okay, great. Can you tell us what 's going to happen at today's meeting between Assistant Secretary Inderfurth and the representative of the Taliban?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth will meet this afternoon in the State Department with Mr. Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, who is a Taliban representative based in New York City. We have regular meetings with representatives of all Afghan factions, including the Taliban.

Now, this specific meeting today is at the request of the United States to follow up on Mr. Inderfurth's meetings in Islamabad on February 3 with the Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Jalil. Mr. Inderfurth will be seeking further information in this meeting today on the whereabouts of Usama bin Laden, and he will reiterate the strong message that he delivered in Islamabad that bin Laden must be brought to justice for his crimes.

The presence of bin Laden in Afghanistan has been detrimental to the interests of the Afghan people and poses a major obstacle to the Taliban in its desire to gain greater international acceptance. Mr. Inderfurth will be raising other issues. I can go through them with you, including the need for cooperation on the Taliban's part with UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi's ongoing efforts to help reach a political resolution of the Afghan conflict; the need for the Taliban to honor internationally accepted human rights norms, including, in particular, the rights of women and girls. He'll also be raising the need to end poppy production and narcotics trafficking in the areas occupied in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Mr. Inderfurth will further inform the Taliban that the United States has proclaimed a disaster in Afghanistan following the earthquakes there during the past week and will be providing humanitarian relief assistance.

QUESTION: Are you saying that bin Laden is still in Afghanistan?

MR. FOLEY: We have no information on his current whereabouts. But given some of the press reporting that came out of Afghanistan and the region over the weekend, we felt it was necessary to ask the Taliban directly what they knew about his whereabouts. His whereabouts have been shrouded in some mystery and confusion over the last days, and we're looking to see if the Taliban can shed some light on his whereabouts.

We do not have information that he is not in Afghanistan. We believe that it is the responsibility of the Taliban inside Afghanistan to ensure that he is expelled from Afghanistan and brought to justice for the horrible, unspeakable crimes against civilians that he has committed.

QUESTION: Follow-up, Jim. I mean, in what way is US policy being reiterated to the Taliban that military action could be used to deal with any terrorist or any person who harbors terrorists?

MR. FOLEY: Well, our understanding, without getting into any sort of security details, but I think it's not a secret that bin Laden continues to threaten Americans, American civilians, American interests. Therefore, his presence anywhere but in the hands of justice is unacceptable to the United States. As President Clinton indicated in August, at the time of our military action against bin Laden's facilities in Afghanistan, we, the United States, reserve the right to act either in anticipation of to prevent terrorist attacks or in retaliation against terrorist attacks. I think the President indicated that as far as we're concerned, there will be no sanctuary for terrorists.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the meeting that ran late yesterday on the Palestinians and the US?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: In this meeting that Inderfurth is going to hold, is Pakistan Embassy invited as an observer status or something?

MR. FOLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: And what exactly is the US expecting out of Pakistan in these negotiations? I mean, is there anything in particular that the US wants Pakistan to help out with?

MR. FOLEY: Well, to the extent that Pakistan may have influence inside Afghanistan, we always urge our Pakistani friends to exercise that influence in the interests of our common interests against terrorists.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - to what you said earlier, but if bin Laden is handed over by the Taliban, is the US leaning towards recognizing the Taliban?

MR. FOLEY: Our policy has been unchanged concerning Afghanistan; it remains unchanged, which is that we don't recognize any particular faction as the official, legitimate government of Afghanistan. We understand the Taliban exercises some control and presence over and throughout much of Afghanistan. But we believe that the question of the constitution of a legitimate government that would be recognized by the United States and the international community has yet to be decided.

It has to be decided on the basis of working with Secretary General's representative, Mr. Brahimi, on the basis of reconciliation, dialogue, discussion among the parties, as a predicate to the constitution of a broad- based government in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: You're saying there's a question whether or not Taliban has effective control of the government? Because as far as I know, the task of recognition is not whether you like somebody or not or whether they follow constitutional principles, because we could spend hours talking about the governments you deal with at the highest level that don't recognize any constitutional rights of its people.

MR. FOLEY: But we don't recognize --

QUESTION: But it used to be that if someone is in control, you've got to deal with them.

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say they were in control of all of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: That's what I'm asking you.

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that they are, in our view, exercising governmental authority. We don't recognize factions as heads, as governments.

QUESTION: Well, when the faction eventually takes control of the whole country, you --

MR. FOLEY: That's not happened.

QUESTION: This hasn't happened?

MR. FOLEY: That's not happened.

QUESTION: Okay, that was --

QUESTION: Jim, how much are they getting in the way of humanitarian assistance?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I don't understand your specific question.

QUESTION: Didn't you say that --

QUESTION: Earthquake relief.

MR. FOLEY: That they were getting in the way -- I didn't say that.

QUESTION: No, how much will they be getting?

MR. FOLEY: Oh, how much will they be getting? I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Not getting in the way of , but getting in the way of.

(Laughter.)

MR. FOLEY: The journalists and the spokesman are two peoples divided by a common language, I'm afraid.

On the subject of humanitarian assistance, first of all, preliminary estimates from rescue workers are that about 30 people died in the earthquake; 100 injured; 3,000 to 4,000 homes destroyed. Those are just preliminary assessments. The earthquake hit in Wardak province, south- southwest of Kabul.

International organizations, including the UN and the ICRC are assessing damaged villages and have begun distributing relief materials. Some relief supplies were pre-positioned in the area as part of USAID-funded disaster preparedness program following earthquakes last year.

Assistant Secretary Inderfurth, who was acting as our ambassadors in the field would normally act - we obviously don't have an embassy in Afghanistan - but he had the authority to declare a disaster in Afghanistan. The US Agency for International Development will coordinate US relief efforts with the UN and other international organizations to provide appropriate humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquake.

I don't have any specific figures on that, George, but if I get those I'll bring them to your attention.

QUESTION: Can we clean up the Palestinian situation? You had a long meeting yesterday; it's possible you have a statement now. And, of course, has anybody made a judgment on Israel's request for you to look into the Mufti establishing an office in the mosque area?

MR. FOLEY: The US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee that was chaired by Assistant Secretary Indyk and Abu Mazen, Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, met yesterday and focused primarily on economic and assistance issues.

The two sides discussed the need to promote economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza and ways to expand American investment and trade. The Committee noted the importance of USTR's November 1996 duty-free proclamation for the West Bank and Gaza. They discussed the need for US assistance to address pressing social and economic development issues over the next three years, including promoting private sector growth, improving social services and encouraging democratic governance.

There was also a discussion of cultural and educational exchanges. Anticipated US assistance includes increased funding for people-to-people activities. The two sides noted the importance of scholarships for Palestinian graduate-level studies in technical fields in the United States. Both sides also shared ideas on encouraging increased contact and exchanges between the US Congress and the Palestinian Council.

The Committee decided that it would meet at least twice a year and report once a year to Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat. Subcommittees on trade, investment, assistance, legal issues and exchange programs were established. An advisory committee from the American and Palestinian private sectors will be created to provide input on ways to promote investment, trade and economic growth in the Palestinian Authority.

Finally, the next meeting of the US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee will be held in the West Bank or Gaza in mid-year, mid-'99.

QUESTION: Business about the Mufti's office?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. Moving the offices of the Mufti of Jerusalem is an issue which relates, obviously, to Jerusalem. As such, it is a very sensitive and volatile issue. For this reason, we urge both sides to refrain from steps that create tension or upset the current situation.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, why did you say before current situation?

MR. FOLEY: We urge both sides to refrain from steps that would create tension or upset the current situation.

QUESTION: Okay, so you shouldn't move the office, right?

MR. FOLEY: Well, as I said, we view it as a sensitive issue and we urge both sides to not do things which will change the situation or create tension. I think the implication of my remarks is pretty clear.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - so I won't quibble with you. But you're not calling it a final status issue, are you?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's Jerusalem; it's in Jerusalem; therefore, there's extraordinary sensitivity.

QUESTION: The meeting with Secretary Albright and the Palestinian today; is that over yet?

MR. FOLEY: No, I don't believe - well, it may have started by now but I obviously don't have a read-out on it until after the conclusion of the meeting.

QUESTION: Do you know what's going to be or what was supposed to be discussed?

MR. FOLEY: Well, she's, as you indicate, she's meeting with Abu Mazen, the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, also members of his delegation who attended yesterday's meeting of the US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee.

They're going to be discussing issues related to Wye implementation, as well as review what the Committee accomplished yesterday on bilateral issues, especially the economic challenges of generating trade and investment.

QUESTION: Several weeks ago there was a report in The Washington Times that Janet Reno was looking into --

MR. FOLEY: Just a second.

QUESTION: To finish up the same subject, the level of this meeting, of these types of meetings are generally Vice Presidential - like Gore- Chernomyrdin, Gore-Mbeki, that sort of thing. How come the level of representation of this meeting was dropped down not only below the Secretary of State, but down to the Assistant Secretary of State level, when the purpose, as you all explained it, was to foster better relations between the two countries?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I wouldn't call it dropping down. When it was established - and it was established, I believe, December of last year - the meeting took place under the auspices of Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat. I'm not sure that you'd find a uniformity of practice in our bilateral relations around the world where we have joint committees or bilateral committees where it's necessarily the Vice President chairing in each and every case.

In many cases, you have senior officials who launch such bilateral fora initially, but then leave the work to the working level experts. I wouldn't read anything significant into that.

QUESTION: But when it was launched, you all were calling it the Albright- Arafat committee. Are you still calling it that?

MR. FOLEY: I never heard that formula.

QUESTION: When Nick Burns announced it, that's what it was called. Are you still calling it that?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry; I think I misspoke. It wasn't launched, obviously, in December; it was launched in November '96.

QUESTION: Is it still officially known as the Albright-Arafat committee?

MR. FOLEY: Sid, I'm not familiar with that formula; I've never heard it.

QUESTION: There was some word several weeks ago that Janet Reno was looking into possibly trying Augusto Pinochet here for the Letelier-Moffitt affair. Is there any word about that since then?

MR. FOLEY: I've not heard anything. I'd have to refer you to the Justice Department.

QUESTION: Two quick ones, I hope. Does the United States still consider Iran to be a rogue state? This is sort of a loaded question.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I know what you're talking about. It's clear you read the newspapers, and you read in a Washington newspaper today that a State Department official, John Limbert, had given a speech the other day. Mr. Limbert was invited to address a conference on the 20th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in light of his long experience in Iran and as one of the last US diplomats to serve there. He is currently working on African affairs; he's not engaged in US-Iranian policy development, but he's a very eminent figure not only in the State Department, but in academic circles, for his work on the subject.

His speech was cleared by the Department, but it was not a formal statement of policy, rather the views of one US Government official. I don't really care to get into a semantic exchange.

QUESTION: It was cleared by the Department?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, it was.

QUESTION: Okay, so can we read anything into this in terms of mellowing or --

MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure that the phrase inside the newspaper article that you clearly read today was in his prepared statement or was in a Q&A format. That's not terribly important because, as I said, it's a semantic issue; it's not really related to the substance of US policy, which remains unchanged.

There is no change in US policy towards Iran, as Secretary Albright and other senior officials have made clear. The US has serious concerns regarding Iran's support for terrorism, also its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles and its support for groups that use violence against the Middle East peace process. We are interested in a government-to-government dialogue with Iran to address these and other issues of mutual concern.

QUESTION: Well, just one more on Iran; I promise I'll be quiet after that. Yesterday Iran approved a $200 million deal with a Canadian company and British company - an oil deal. Now, people who know about this stuff - not me - indicate --

MR. FOLEY: Not me, either.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not me. Indicate that we usually sanction countries that have oil deals with Iran in excess of $20 million. This is a $200 million deal. It's a Canadian company, Bow Valley, and a British company, Premier Oil PLC.

QUESTION: I asked this question yesterday.

QUESTION: Oh, and we got nothing?

MR. FOLEY: Did you ask it - not in this --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've not heard the report, apart from what journalists are asking. I've certainly not seen any reference in the State Department.

QUESTION: Are we going to take any sanctions against them?

MR. FOLEY: We will certainly apply the law; we'll apply the ILSA law in this case and any other similar case. But I have not been made aware of the report and so I have to take the question. If I have an answer, I'll get back to you tomorrow on it.

QUESTION: I have a question. The Kenyan Foreign Minister -

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, who?

QUESTION: Kenyan Foreign Minister talked that the PKK leader, Ocalan, was taken to Kenya by an arrangement of the Greek Government, and was hosted as a guest for a period of time. He also said that Ocalan was brought to Kenya by Greek officials by a false name and passport given by a Cypriot. What is your position, or could you comment on these very serious developments?

MR. FOLEY: I am not aware of the facts of the case. You'd have to refer your question to the Greek and Kenyan authorities.

QUESTION: Do you have an opinion to express on - as we become aware of the Greek role in all of this, do you have an opinion to express on what they did; why they did it -- their explanation for doing it and so forth?

MR. FOLEY: I imagine we've been in diplomatic contact with the Greek and other governments on the issue, but I have no information to provide that sheds any further light on those developments.

QUESTION: It's pretty clear - at least in one point - that they were harboring a man that you all consider a terrorist. What do you think about that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I, again, am not going to get into the substance of our diplomatic contacts on the subject. I think the Greek Government has spoken to its actions and it indicated that it acted on the basis of humanitarian reasons. I'm not going to comment on, again, what we may have been discussion privately with the Greek Government, but I think what is of interest to the United States is the fact that a wanted terrorist -- a leader of a terrorist organization designated as such by the United States -- has been brought to justice.

QUESTION: I'm just curious - the videotape is misleading. Have you had the opportunity to see the videotape the Turks took of him as they were lashing him to his chair in the airplane and apparently giving him some sort of medication or tranquilizer or something, whether that would qualify as the humane treatment? You said yesterday - you read yesterday -

MR. FOLEY: I have no knowledge of any of the facts you're talking about.

QUESTION: Well, you might take a look at it; it's all over the TV today. The Turks took videotape of him as he was being -

MR. FOLEY: You would have to ask the Turkish authorities what they've been doing.

QUESTION: There are reports that several thousand Turkish troops went into Iraq to hit Kurdish bases. Do you have any comment?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I have seen those reports. I can't confirm them. What I can do is state our long-standing policy, which is that we do support the right of the Turkish government to defend itself against terrorism. They have been dealing with this problem for some time. We expect that if there are operations across the border, that they will be limited in scope and duration and will fully respect the rights of the civilian inhabitants of the region.

QUESTION: One more question also about the PKK -- what is the US position as to the PKK's involvement in drug trade?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we're aware of reporting to that effect. There have been persistent reports that the PKK has been involved in narcotics trafficking through Turkey. According to information that we're aware of through these reports, the PKK reportedly uses "taxes" which are extracted from narcotics traffickers and refiners to finances its operations. They may be more directly involved in transporting and marketing narcotics in Europe.

QUESTION: Was that part of the State Department's drug report?

MR. FOLEY: I don't believe it's incorporated in our latest report, but I'd have to check that for you.

QUESTION: Given the fact that the Cuban legislature has now approved the - -

QUESTION: Excuse me, George, one more on that. How will the United States monitor the progress of the trial of Ocalan? Do you have any comment on the reported Turkish denial of entry to the European lawyers who -

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen that report. We made very clear yesterday our expectation that Mr. Ocalan will be given a fair trial through an independent judicial process; that Turkey will uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments. I think it's very premature to comment on the rules and regulations surrounding such a trial, whether there will be international observers allowed to attend, whether it will be open to the press, including the Turkish press and international media. We would hope that, since we fully expect that the such a trial will be conducted in accordance with international standards, that the Turkish authorities will not have any reason not to allow such a process to be transparent.

Again, it's a little early to comment on the details surrounding such a trial, but I think that Prime Minister Ecevit gave a commitment yesterday as to the nature of the trial. We have no reason to expect that it won't meet those standards.

QUESTION: What was his statement?

MR. FOLEY: That he'll be given a fair trial through independent judicial process.

QUESTION: Would your standards of an transparent trial include permission of the media to observe it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to be prescriptive here from this podium. He's just been arrested. I don't know when the trial is going to take place. I've simply stated the view of the United States that we expect it to be a fair trial in accordance with international human rights instruments and international norms.

I also added that I would expect that the Turkish authorities would wish to give publicity, to have attention drawn towards the conduct of a trial that would be conducted in line with international standards and that would be a normal expectation. But as to what specifically the arrangements for such a trial might be, it's way too early to say.

QUESTION: Just a couple questions ago you talked about the Turks' right to defend themselves against terrorism by regularly making these forays into Iraq. I wonder whether you consider their snatch operation in Kenya to fall under the heading of defense against terrorist attacks -- whether you endorse the operation, whether you think it was within their rights.

MR. FOLEY: Well, we support bringing terrorists to justice. The United States undertakes, in pursuit of terrorists who are indicted in the United States for acts of terrorism, different kinds of efforts to obtain custody of those terrorists or to retaliate against terrorists, all measure of activities involving law enforcement cooperation internationally, military steps, diplomatic steps to apprehend, deter, bring to justice those who committed terrorist acts against Americans. So I wouldn't quarrel with the fact that terrorists ought to be brought to justice. We applaud the fact that has happened in this case.

QUESTION: I understand that. But do you endorse the method - that particular method?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of the particulars of the case, as I indicated yesterday.

QUESTION: Given the fact that the Cuban legislature has approved tougher measures against those who engage in political activities, are you prepared to go further than you did yesterday when it was still in the proposal stage?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I would repeat what I said yesterday -- just that we weren't surprised by it. It's very regrettable, but it's certainly in keeping with almost four decades of repressive police state policies in Cuba. It's unfortunate because it goes so counter to the overall trend in the world and in this hemisphere towards greater respect for human rights and political freedoms and democracy in the hemisphere. Instead of moving with the rest of the hemisphere, Cuba's moving in the opposite direction, in a retrograde direction. That is just very sad when you think about what's in the interest of the people of Cuba.

Thank you. I'm sorry, you have one more?

QUESTION: Different subject -- Kofi Annan is preparing a letter to send to the Libyans on the transfer of the two Lockerbie suspects for trial. Mr. Pickering, I think, met with Annan yesterday. Are the contents of this letter acceptable to the United States?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it is true that the Secretary General, in responding to Libya's request for clarification, has discussed his response with the United States and the United Kingdom, also in an earlier phase with The Netherlands and France, to ensure accuracy and clarity. His current response simply puts into a UN letter the same points that we and the United Kingdom have made publicly.

I would add that Under Secretary Pickering did meet with Secretary General Annan yesterday. That was not the sole or even primary focus of his discussion. He goes periodically to consult with the Secretary General and UN officials on a whole range of issues.

QUESTION: Some of the families are very upset. They think that the US Government is selling out - the families of the victims, that is - saying that one of the stipulations of this is assurances that the Libyan Government will not be investigated. How do you react to their concerns?

MR. FOLEY: Well, their concerns are unfounded. We are very committed not only to our initiative, but to the terms and the integrity of our initiative, which was non-negotiable and remains non-negotiable. Our policy is embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 1192. It has not changed. Our aim is obtain justice - long delayed justice both for the victims and their surviving family members through a trial of the Libyan suspects in a Scottish court under Scottish law in The Netherlands.

We have made our position very clear on this matter, both through public statements and diplomatic contacts. What we say privately is exactly what we say publicly, and vice versa. We've made that clear to other states which have asked us about our policy, including South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others. Nothing has changed in our approach, in our policy, or our goals. What matters now is for Libya to transfer the two suspects to The Netherlands.

As you know, the Security Council Resolution 1192 asks Secretary General Annan to facilitate the transfer of the two Pan Am 103 suspects to The Netherlands for trial and also to serve as a channel for clarifications as requested by Libya regarding the initiative. Clarifications - certainly not negotiation or change to any aspect of the US-UK proposal.

Within that framework, the Secretary General and his staff have had a variety of contacts with the Libyans since the initiative was announced last August. His current efforts are in that context only. There is no negotiation. Your specific question had to do with the -

QUESTION: The families being upset. Basically would the US Government agree to any kind of solution that would ensure that the Libyan Government would not be investigated; that is, it wouldn't go beyond the two suspects, this whole issue?

MR. FOLEY: Well, our interest is in a trial. We want to see a trial of the two suspects. It would be just that - a trial of Abdel Basset Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah -- the two suspects. It will focus on the matter of their guilt or innocence in the bombing of Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988. I cannot predict how such a trial might unfold. It's impossible to predict. That is a matter for the Scottish court.

Certainly the accused will receive all the rights due suspects in cases in Scotland. A foreign defendant in the United States, for example, both before and after conviction enjoys certain due process protections, including the right of consular access by representatives of his or her country's embassy. Scottish law provides parallel provisions for non-UK citizens being tried under UK law.

But in terms of the conduct of the trial, let's let the trial proceed. Our interest is in getting the suspects to The Netherlands. Then they will be put on trial for the crime of which they are accused. It's up to the prosecutors to determine how they proceed in the trial. We'll let the chips fall where they may.

QUESTION: Is there any deadline?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've indicated that if the transfer hasn't taken place by the time of the sanctions review at the end of this month, that we'll be looking to propose further measures.

QUESTION: Shara gave a news conference in Moscow today -- perhaps you saw it - talking about his and Russia's intention to go ahead with the sale of military equipment, including anti-tank weapons - something you all have said you would be obligated to consider trimming about $50 million worth of Russia's assistance. I'm wondering if you saw his comments.

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen the comments. I'd be glad to take the question. You're right, we have addressed the issue earlier.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Vice President of Iraq said that "Incirlik base is our target." What's your comment?

MR. FOLEY: I addressed that comment very clearly yesterday. I don't want to bore your colleagues. I think you can look at the --

QUESTION: He said it again today.

MR. FOLEY: He said it again today? Well, he's made a second mistake in saying it. If the Iraqis attempt to make good on those threats, they will regret that. We've demonstrated very clearly and our allies and friends in the region, including Turkey, have demonstrated that Iraq bears the consequences for its flouting of the will of the international community.

Nobody is fooled by either Iraqi lies or Iraqi threats. I think, as I said, it would be a very big mistake if Saddam Hussein tried to act on any of those threats. The US will react and react very, very strongly.

I'm sorry; I'm approaching the time when I have to depart.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up for you.

MR. FOLEY: Okay, we'll talk about it afterwards.

(The briefing concluded at 2:45 P.M.)


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