U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #37, 99-03-24
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, March 24, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
3 Closure of Embassy Belgrade
1,2 Secretary Albright's Efforts/Contacts with Foreign
1 US Interests in Kosovo
1,2 Humanitarian Situation
2 Impact of Kosovo Instability to the Balkans
2 Overview of Rambouillet Negotiations
2 Prospects for Military Action/NATO Authority/Planning
2-6 NATO to Initiate Military Operations
12-16 NATO's Objective in Serbia
1 Closure of Independent Media
8-13 Escalation of Serbian Crises into Neighboring Countries
5 Role of Diplomacy
5 Milosevic Rejection of Proposals for Peace
9-10 Montenegro's Position in Balkans
12 US Position on Kosovo Independence
2-6 Impact of Possible NATO Action in Kosovo on US-Russian
6-8 Russian Position on Siding Militarily with the Serbs on
9 Duma Permits Russian Citizens to Assist Serbia
10 Russian MIG's Enroute to Serbia
4-5 Gore/Primakov Commission Discussions Continues
16 Pinochet - Summary of Decision in House of Lords
16 US Policy
17 Unidentified Ships Enter Japanese Waters
17 Unaccounted Reactor Parts
17 US Customs Service Investigation
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 1999, 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to today's daily briefing
here at the State Department. Let me start by saying that the
United States strongly condemns Belgrade's assault on the independent
media. As Serbia has been escalating its conflict in Kosovo and
NATO prepares a military response to halt aggression, the citizens
of Serbia are being denied their right to objective news and information
supplied by a free and independent media.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms Belgrade's closure
of radio B-92 and the arrest of its editor and chief, Veran Matic.
At approximately 3:00 a.m. Belgrade time this morning, police
entered the Radio 02 premises and shut down the station, arrested
Mr. Matic and seized equipment to silence what was once Belgrade's
preeminent independent broadcaster.
In Kosovo, Koha Ditore, a leading Albanian language daily was
fined by Serb authorities who claimed that the newspaper violated
Serbs' information law. We are heartened to hear that the daily
continues to publish, but we are concerned about the future of
The threat of NATO bombing has given Belgrade another pretext
to engage in what has been going on for a long time. That is an
assault against independent thought and independent media in Yugoslavia.
Both B-92 and Koha Ditore have been leading lights of free expression
in Serbia. Their silencing sends confirmation of Belgrade's widespread,
systematic and ongoing campaign against independent voices in
Serbia, a campaign that has been ongoing for the last seven years.
Before turning to your questions, let me say that - well, actually,
let's just go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: Well, what can you tell us about the situation?
Has the Secretary - I understand Mr. Berger went to the Hill.
Did the Secretary get into the action this morning?
MR. RUBIN: The Secretary was at the White House for a breakfast
meeting this morning with some of her colleagues. She's been on
the phone during the course of the day. I would expect her to
have a very, very hectic schedule of telephone calls, both abroad
and here at home. As she has been making the case with her colleagues
for some time, she's been making clear that we have very strong
interests at stake in Kosovo; that Belgrade's accelerating repression
in Kosovo is creating a humanitarian crisis of staggering dimensions.
The estimates are that up to 30,000 Kosovars have been displaced
from their homes. More than 60,000 Kosovars have been displaced
since the end of the peace talks in late February. The total number
of displaced persons in Kosovo is now estimated at 250,000. There
are already 18,500 Kosovar refugees in Albania; 10,000 in Macedonia;
and 25,000 in Montenegro, with more on the way. In North Central
Kosovo, Serb forces in recent days have burned villages. Homes
throughout the region have been looted. So this humanitarian crisis
is only accelerating.
Secondly, I think she will be making the point that instability
in Kosovo directly threatens peace in the Balkans and the stability
of Europe, because continued fighting in Kosovo can reignite chaos
in Albania, destabilize Macedonia, exacerbate rivalries between
Greece and Turkey - two of our NATO allies, create thousands more
refugees, and create a breeding ground for international terrorists.
She has also been making the point to her colleagues that we have
tried for a very, very long time to achieve our objectives of
a political solution through peaceful means. Since the fighting
erupted last February, we have been actively engaged seeking resolution
of the conflict through diplomacy, under the auspices of the Contact
Group. We have had extensive shuttle diplomacy in the region;
we've had extensive negotiations at Rambouillet and Paris. All
this time, Belgrade has refused to sign and rejected out of hand
all efforts to achieve a peaceful solution. The Contact Group
clearly assigned exclusive responsibility for failure to reach
agreement to Belgrade.
For those reasons, we have now moved from a phase where force
was serving diplomacy to a phase where diplomacy is now serving
the military option. Secretary Albright's activities will therefore
be in that regard.
QUESTION: I'm sorry - the concern of a spill-over, I just
wondered, did Holbrooke, or on other occasions perhaps, did the
US warn Milosevic or inquire as to whether - this is, in a sense,
kind of a naive question - whether he could be held to some
sort of a promise. But did the US try to extract any sort of a
pledge from him about not going beyond his borders? Or did the
US ever tell him, look, don't reach out, don't lash out; that
would be very, very bad for you and very bad for Europe?
MR. RUBIN: We have made very clear to President Milosevic
the mistake he would be making to seek to escalate or broaden
this conflict. Doing so would mean he would face extremely serious
consequences. Obviously, any military operation inevitably contains
risks and uncertainties. We believe, however, that the dangers
for US national interests of not responding to Serbia's escalating
offensive is far greater than the uncertainties that tend to any
There are a number of ways in which Milosevic might respond to
air strikes against Serbia. NATO is formulating detailed plans
for reacting to all of these possible scenarios. We are confident
that NATO is prepared to protect its forces in the region and
respond to potential attacks.
On the American side, let me say that our embassy operations were
suspended. Remaining American staff left the country this morning.
American citizens have been informed of the ordered departure
of US Embassy personnel. State Department travel announcements
have warned against travel to Serbia-Montenegro and strongly urge
US citizens in Serbia-Montenegro to depart the country.
The authorities in Belgrade should be aware that we will not tolerate
attacks on Americans in Serbia, Yugoslavia or neighboring countries.
QUESTION: Do you have an estimate, possibly, of how many
that might be?
MR. RUBIN: Americans? I'll try to get you that after the
QUESTION: The arguments you were just reciting - that the
Secretary's been giving her colleagues, which colleagues is she
actually calling up about this? Because in a sense, her NATO colleagues
are probably making the same arguments to their publics right
now. Is this to non-NATO members or is it to NATO members?
MR. RUBIN: She will be in a process today of discussing
this matter with foreign ministers from all over the world and
key figures from all over the world, not just in NATO. I don't
have a list of who she has spoken to today. These are the points
that she's been making in recent days. It would not be limited
QUESTION: And could you talk to us about Russia, in particular?
Has she spoken to Ivanov?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is she was expected to speak
to him this morning or shortly after I left her office this morning.
I would expect her to be in contact with the Russians. She spoke
to him last night in an extensive discussion for 45 minutes or
so. She urged him to see this issue as an area where we and the
Russians must agree to disagree, and that we had a lot of work
to do together on a broad array of subjects, and that Russia should
not let our relationship be stymied by the activities by a petty
The Russians, obviously, have a different view on the use of force,
but one of the characteristics of our relationship with Russia
has been openness and candor. That was clear yesterday when Prime
Minister Primakov indicated he felt he couldn't remain in the
US while NATO was carrying out air strikes in Yugoslavia. That
was his decision to postpone his visit.
I would note that several of the expert groups of the Gore-Primakov
Commission are continuing their work now. We expect positive results
from those discussions, including the signing of an agreement
to purchase natural uranium from Russia, associated with 1997
and 1998 deliveries under the HEU agreement, which calls for the
United States to purchase uranium extracted from Russian nuclear
weapons. So on that critical issue of arms control and disarmament,
we're continuing to work with the Russians.
We recognize that there are forces in Russia that oppose better
relations between us and that will try to exploit our differences
over the use of force. We believe that President Yeltsin, Prime
Minister Primakov and Foreign Minister Ivanov see the value of
keeping the relationship on track and not letting someone like
Milosevic derail everything that's at stake.
QUESTION: Following on the Russians, the experts from the
Gore-Primakov panel are meeting anyway here --
MR. RUBIN: I believe it's Adamov and Richardson are meeting.
QUESTION: In spite of Primakov staying away?
MR. RUBIN: Right
QUESTION: And they've gone forward with this HEU agreement?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I said, expect - we expect positive results
from these discussions, including the signing - is what we expect.
QUESTION: On Iran - anything on --
MR. RUBIN: Adamov will be in a position to talk about that
as well, is my understanding.
QUESTION: Jamie, why does the Secretary feel it's important
now that she has contact with members of the NATO Alliance? Is
she concerned about maintaining the unity of the alliance?
MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, I think what we've seen in
the last several weeks and month is the leadership that the Secretary
and the Administration showed in garnering international determination
to act against President Milosevic, following the Racak massacre
has borne fruit. We have a political program evidenced by the
Rambouillet accords that have now been signed by the Kosovar Albanians.
On the military side, NATO military authorities have been given
all the authority they need and the various planning and other
military decisions that needed to be made have been made. Solana
has made clear that he has now authorized General Clark to initiate
military operations. So the unity has never been more clear.
But maintaining unity, keeping the consultation going, requires
constant tending and discussion. Secretary Albright spoke yesterday,
at least a couple of times, with Foreign Ministers Vedrine and
Cook. I would expect her to speak with all of those ministers
again today. This is a very significant decision on the part of
NATO, to use military power; and it would be appropriate and proper
for the Secretary to keep in touch with her key colleagues, even
while she talks to former Secretaries of State, members of Congress,
ministers from other parts of the world.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate a little bit on the point
you made earlier about the role that diplomacy is playing now
in supporting what looks like impending military action?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that for many, many weeks now we
have said that marrying force and diplomacy is the best way to
give peace a chance, the best way to convince President Milosevic
to make a peaceful solution to this conflict he started in Kosovo.
He obviously has rejected those proposals. Now that NATO has decided
to use military force, rather than force backing the diplomacy
we've been pursuing for many weeks now, the diplomacy is now backing
the force that NATO has decided to engage in.
QUESTION: But could you elaborate on how that is being
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, through discussions on the telephone
with key ministers making sure everybody stays up to speed on
what the latest developments are. It means ensuring the countries
in the region around Yugoslavia we talk to directly so that their
concerns we can try to deal with. It means preparing for contingencies
through international diplomatic channels. It means continuing
to talk to the Russians, as the President did this morning and
as she will during the course of the day. So that's the work of
diplomacy in support of force.
QUESTION: The diplomatic contacts you mentioned seemed
to be to put the case to allies. Have there been any contacts,
direct or indirect, with the Yugoslavs or their friends to try
to find a last minute resolution on this?
MR. RUBIN: Obviously, that's something that comes up in
these calls - because remember, our goal here has not been to
use military force. We wanted to solve this problem diplomatically
and peacefully. We have no quarrel with the people of Serbia and
Montenegro. NATO military action is intended to support the political
aims of the international community. It is directed towards disrupting
the violent attacks being committed by Serb Army and Serbian police
forces and weakening their ability to cause a further humanitarian
What we have said is that NATO is prepared to take this military
action because the Serbs have refused all three demands set out
in NATO's decision-making: one, to accept the interim accords;
two, to observe the limits on their forces agreed last October;
and three, to end the excessive and disproportionate use of force.
That is what we are seeking. We are seeking clear evidence, a
clear indicator from the Serbs that they have accepted the accords,
especially the military implementation envisaged by the Rambouillet
accords, and that they are going to stop this offensive.
That has not happened. You hear a lot of feelers here and there
- I hear Milosevic's brother putting words out on Moscow television
about accepting the political agreement. We've been there before.
In Rambouillet, the Serbs were inches away from accepting the
political agreement, which is fine, but it's woefully insufficient;
because an agreement without military implementation is no agreement
at all. We see no indication that that position has changed.
QUESTION: There are reports that the European negotiator
and the Russian negotiators were in Belgrade today. Were they
meeting with Milosevic; were they trying to get ---
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information about it. It was
my understanding that yesterday late that they were staying. But
I don't have any information that they had any critical meetings.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where Richard Holbrooke is today?
MR. RUBIN: He's in Budapest.
QUESTION: Was there any follow-up to the Serbian Assembly's
yesterday? They had a two-pronged decision. One was to not allow
NATO troops to come in; but the second part was to say they would
consider an international force if all of the Kosovo ethnic groups
agreed to some kind of a peace plan. It was an ambiguous collection
of resolutions. Did anybody try to pursue that and find out what
was the meaning of that?
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Holbrooke was in Belgrade, discussed
these matters extensively with President Milosevic, left with
the conclusion that he was not prepared to engage seriously on
the two relevant subjects. I think the decision of the Serb Parliament
opposing military-led implementation was the message that most
people received from the parliamentary debate. I'm not aware that
people saw any silver linings.
QUESTION: But there was a second message, as well; there
was a second resolution.
MR. RUBIN: I am aware that there was work done, but I'm
not aware that anybody in this building regarded it as a silver
QUESTION: Can you say why he's in Budapest?
MR. RUBIN: I understand he's on personal business in Budapest.
QUESTION: So he's not continuing to work diplomatically
MR. RUBIN: He's on the phone, as all of us are when we're
on our personal business - we're on the phone all the time. So
he's on the phone the whole time, continuing to work; but he's
not returned to the United States. Today is the era of modern
communications, including satellites and telephones. You can get
a lot done as long as you have a telephone, and you can pretty
much have a telephone anywhere now days.
QUESTION: Do you mean under the term the possibility that
the Serbs - under the term escalating - is there a possibility
that Serbs can attack neighboring countries, especially American
military base in Hungary? And what would be the NATO reaction
in that case, if the Serbs retaliate -- (inaudible) --
MR. RUBIN: Let me simply say, with respect to neighboring
countries, Milosevic is well aware that if he attempts to broaden
or escalate further the conflict, he will face extremely serious
QUESTION: In her talks with the Russians, did they mention
that they might take this to the United Nations Security Council?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe that came up in the call last
QUESTION: And have you seen the statement by President
Yeltsin today, basically saying that Russia would do what it can
to help Serbia?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm familiar with his televised statement.
We have no reason to believe at this point that Russia would act
in a way inconsistent with Security Council resolutions prohibiting
any arms from being transferred, if that what the question is
QUESTION: But is the US concerned about this apparent increasing
belligerence on the attitude of some in the Russian Government?
MR. RUBIN: We recognize that there are forces in Russia
that oppose better relations between us and the United States,
and that they will try to exploit our differences over the use
of force in Kosovo. But at the end of the day, we believe that
the relationship we have with Russia is important enough to them
and important enough to us that we can work our way through these
differences. Managing differences over issues like the use of
force in Kosovo, the use of force in Iraq, is what we need to
We do not have any illusions about how easy that will be, but
it's something we're determined to do because we believe that
we should not let Russia's opposition stand in the way of what
we think is the right thing to do.
QUESTION: What is the position expressed by countries neighboring
Yugoslavia, which are not NATO members, countries like Romania,
for example? And a second question - a follow-up to a previous
question, do they have, these non-NATO member countries, some
security guarantees just in case something goes wrong?
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright has been very concerned about
the situation with respect to countries surrounding Yugoslavia.
She's been on the phone with some of those countries. I know she
spoke to Prime Minister Gligorov yesterday. We are quite pleased
that the Romanian President Constantinescu issued a statement
which declared that if the negotiations failed, Romania considers
that a NATO intervention is both necessary and legitimately welcome;
Romania's unequivocal support for the Rambouillet process and
its solidarity with NATO.
One of the things the Secretary was doing all morning was working
very carefully with her top advisors in the bureaus and Under
Secretary Pickering on the very subject were making sure that
careful attention is being paid to the legitimate concerns of
countries -- (inaudible) -- in the region.
QUESTION: Back to Russia, if I might. What is the State
Department's reaction to the Duma permitting Russian citizens
to go to help in Serbia? Is this possibly going to come to Russian
citizens being in harms bay in our campaign? And secondly, what
about the report of five Russians Migs loaded in a giant transport
also heading that way? Can you shed any light on it?
MR. RUBIN: Let me just - I'll get to those questions. Let
me just add a point.
In addition to the countries surrounding, there is also the question
of Montenegro and while we recognize Montenegro's special position,
Montenegro is a part of the FRY and does border Kosovo. We cannot
exclude the possibility of NATO air strikes on military targets
in Montenegro. However, NATO is not waging war against Yugoslavia
and NATO has no quarrel with the people of Yugoslavia, including
the people of Montenegro. We have staunchly support president
Djukonovich and other democratic elements in the FRY, because
of their stances on political and economic reform.
Montenegro, in fact, has become a beacon of hope in the region
and is leading the way for democratization and reform in Yugoslavia.
Our position on this has not changed. We are highly concerned
about the possibility of civil strife within Montenegro, and we
urge continued calm in this sensitive republic. A Belgrade takeover
in Montenegro would destroy the most credible and potential democratic
force in the region and would have negative implications throughout
the region. We urge the public to remain calm and avoid confrontation
with public security forces.
We have reiterated in the past, and it is very clear to President
Milosevic, that world attention on Kosovo does not mean that Yugoslavia
has a free hand to cause problems in other parts of the country
or the region. Our message to the leadership is clear: any attempt
to overthrow the democratically-elected Montenegran Government
would only fuel wider regional instability, lead to deeper isolation
for Yugoslavia, and escalate the conflict with NATO.
With respect to Russia, let me simply say that we have looked
into the reports about the Migs. I gave an answer to that yesterday;
that answer still applies. We're looking into it; we don't have
any new information. With respect to what the Duma members have
suggested might happen in the future, I just don't want to speculate
on the kind of hypothetical. We heard about that during the Iraq
crisis, and it never materialized then.
QUESTION: On Montenegro, do you have any reason to believe
that Milosevic may be planning something hostile toward Montenegro?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't want to take any - leave any
stone unturned here. We're always concerned about that.
QUESTION: Are there any indications, specifically?
MR. RUBIN: There are always indications about unsettled
differences between the democratic forces in Montenegro and the
illegitimate or the non-democratic forces in Belgrade.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary call the Montenegran Prime
MR. RUBIN: I believe she's communicated with him by letter.
QUESTION: Jamie, how concerned is the United States that
Milosevic might attack any of the allied countries, perhaps in
the Adriatic or elsewhere?
MR. RUBIN: What I've indicated is that we are pursuing
our policy, and inevitably there are risks and uncertainties.
There are a number of ways in which Milosevic might respond to
air strikes. NATO is formulating detailed plans for reacting to
these scenarios, and we are confident that NATO is prepared to
protect its forces in the region.
President Milosevic knows well that if he attempts to broaden
or escalate further the conflict, such as in the way you describe,
he will face extremely serious consequences.
QUESTION: Did this come up during the Secretary's conversation
with any of the leaders of the allied countries?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any specific discussion, but clearly
in all of our contacts with NATO allies in recent days these kind
of questions have been discussed.
QUESTION: Was this part of Holbrooke's message?
MR. RUBIN: Not particularly.
QUESTION: Back on Montenegro and also -- (inaudible) -
do those regions of Serbia fall under the protection of NATO that
you are now prepared to give to Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe any NATO decision has been made
to protect Kosovo. A NATO decision has been made to use military
force to deter further escalation and to damage Milosevic's capability
to conduct such operations. But any suggestion that we have created
some protectorate has never been part of our policy.
QUESTION: My fault - badly worded question. Will NATO do
what it's doing - and you can characterize it any way you want
- for Montenegro and -- (inaudible) - do the same thing it's doing
there that it's preparing to do in Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: I have no comment on that.
QUESTION: So there's no guarantee of stopping Serbian troops
if they do go into those regions?
MR. RUBIN: I said that any escalation of the conflict would
be an extremely serious mistake.
QUESTION: Have the Montenegrans asked for this statement
that you made today?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that.
QUESTION: Well, have the Montenegrans been in touch with
you to express their concerns --
MR. RUBIN: We've been in touch with the Montenegrans. I
said she spoke - wrote a letter to Djukonovic yesterday, at least
QUESTION: Last week, I believe it was the Macedonians asked
for a meeting of the NAC. They were concerned about what might
happen. Has anything been done about that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, there have been some countries in the region
that have proposed meetings with the North Atlantic Council and
NATO, and I think there have been a lot of contacts. I would expect
Secretary Albright spoke to President Gligorov yesterday, and
clearly that's very much on our minds. We have a very able ambassador
there, Ambassador Hill, who's now in Skopje working with the government.
As you may have noticed, a border reopened this morning.
We also are in touch with the Albanian Government. I think the
Secretary is expected to speak to the Albanian Prime Minister.
QUESTION: So Djukanovic was pretty much it, as you've said
MR. RUBIN: We try to keep our public and private messages
in sync, yes.
QUESTION: If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Clinton yesterday, during
his talk at the -- (inaudible) - three times characterized Kosovo
as a country, including "this little country." Does
this is any way reflect a shift in the position of Kosovo's position
as a province within Yugoslavia is sustainable? Is there any signal
MR. RUBIN: No, none.
QUESTION: Do you regard it as a country?
MR. RUBIN: Part of a country, yes.
QUESTION: Not a country?
MR. RUBIN: Anyone who's ever tried to talk about this issue
at any length - and that includes me - at some point or another,
you're going to say the word "country." But there is
no change in American position that Kosovo - we haven't changed
our view about independence. Just because you can find the word
"country" and Kosovo in the same paragraph, doesn't
mean we have.
QUESTION: Jamie, this is not a new criticism, but as air
strikes appear imminent, many critics question the exit strategy
here. If US and NATO go in and launch these air strikes, what
if they don't get Milosevic to back down and halt the aggression;
what then? How do you respond to that?
MR. RUBIN: Other than my normal, which I will dispense
with - from now on, when you get to the critics questions, I'll
just go like this. Then you know I'll have said my thing about
how they have to earn a living and I'll go right to answering
So there are grave costs of inaction, and the critics have been
unable to answer the question of why we would be better off to
allow this slaughter to spread, the humanitarian catastrophe to
grow, instability to spread throughout Europe and places that
are of concern to the United States. In their opposition to the
use of air power, they've offered no alternative, other than appeasement
of President Milosevic's policies, which is something unacceptable
to this Administration.
Therefore, what we have decided is to confront this attempt by
President Milosevic to crack down and engage in offensive, indiscriminate
operations in Kosovo with NATO Secretary General Solana's decision
to use air power.
There are always uncertainties with the use of military power;
but there's one certainty, which is, if we don't use it, the situation
will be far, far worse. So what we are seeking to achieve is to
deter Belgrade from launching an all-out offensive against helpless
civilians; and two, seriously damaging Belgrade's military capability
to take repressive action against Kosovars. That, we think, is
something that military action can help achieve.
QUESTION: In the past you've said that the best way for
Mr. Milosevic to preserve Kosovo as part of Serbia would be to
accept the plan. But now that military action has begun, it appears
increasingly likely that he'll accept the plan. Do you think that
Kosovo may now be moving further away; maybe independence is a
step closer than --
MR. RUBIN: We went through this yesterday. I think the
point was that a failure to accept the peace accords over the
long term risks greater loss of control of Kosovo than acceptance
of the peace process. I don't think we've crossed that threshold
irrevocably. He can still accept the peace accords and have an
interim accord for Kosovo.
QUESTION: Could you just briefly address the problem that
- if military action begins, it may be increasingly difficult
for Mr. Milosevic to accept the peace plan.
MR. RUBIN: Well, he's clearly not accepted it in the absence
of military action. So he's been given every possible opportunity
to accept this peace agreement. Holbrooke was there twice; he's
had numerous visitors from foreign countries; he's been on the
phone with numerous leaders. The Secretary spoke to him twice
during the early phases of Rambouillet. He's had every chance
in a non-conflict situation to accept the peace agreement. So
I don't think we're comparing - if one says the chances are lower
of him accepting it if force is forthcoming, there is no chance
for him accepting it prior to that. So he will have an opportunity
to accept a peaceful solution at a time that he chooses. But because
he's failed to take the numerous peaceful opportunities presented
to him, NATO has made the decision Secretary General Solana has
QUESTION: The Secretary talked to Gligorov, was it yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: And at that point, the border was still closed
to refugees --
MR. RUBIN: She wasn't addressing the border issue directly.
QUESTION: Did somebody else - did the State Department
ask the Macedonians to reopen their border?
MR. RUBIN: I believe so, yes.
QUESTION: And do you suppose that their response was to
the request by the United States or -
MR. RUBIN: I don't know; you'd have to ask them.
QUESTION: You've listed two points as to why the air strikes
have been ordered: to degrade Milosevic's forces, and then to
MR. RUBIN: To damage - seriously damage Milosevic's capability.
QUESTION: Right, and then to stop --
MR. RUBIN: And to deter Belgrade from launching an all-out
QUESTION: What happened to the idea that this was designed
to force him to sign the Rambouillet? Is that not --
MR. RUBIN: The threat of force was there to help him to
come to the conclusion that a peaceful solution was the best solution.
We don't -
QUESTION: So is it no longer the point of air strikes to
try and --
MR. RUBIN: Air strikes are justified by his failure to
agree, by his failure to stop the crackdown, by his failure to
comply with the October agreements. But should military action
be required, NATO's objectives would be the ones that I described.
QUESTION: So NATO's objective is not to get the peace agreement
MR. RUBIN: Again, we never said that the result of bombing
would be a signature. We said that there were three major problems:
that he was not negotiating seriously in the peace process; that
he was not coming into compliance with the October accords; and
that he was conducting an offensive. Those were the grounds, the
justification for the use of force. If force is used, the objectives
are the ones that I described. The objectives were never anything
QUESTION: So then, if the bombing goes ahead and if he
signs, that's kind of just sort of added gravy to this?
MR. RUBIN: We're not expecting the result of bombing for
him to sign the agreement. What we are expecting, if force is
used, is that we would deter Belgrade from launching an all-out
offensive against helpless civilians and seriously damage Belgrade's
ability to take repressive action. If he decides that the peaceful
course is the best way to maintain his position in Kosovo, as
we talked about yesterday and today, there is a very easy way
for him to pursue that through the peace process.
QUESTION: Turn that around -- the bombing would stop, if
it ever starts, it would stop if he agrees to sign the agreement?
MR. RUBIN: Look, I'm not going to spell out what circumstances
NATO's political leaders are going to turn on and off bombing
at l:15 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon; I'm not going to do it.
QUESTION: But if he calls off the offensive and he agrees
to sign --
MR. RUBIN: We've made very clear what the objectives have
been of Ambassador Holbrooke's mission: come back into compliance;
call off the offensive; accept NATO-led military implementation
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- the air strikes?
MR. RUBIN: I am not going to tell you what NATO's political
decisions will be. Those are the objectives that Ambassador Holbrooke
went in with and Milosevic did not respond to them. But those
remain our objectives.
QUESTION: Jamie, what does NATO anticipate the status of
Kosovo would be at the end of a bombing campaign?
MR. RUBIN: Same as now. It would be nothing will have changed
with its formal status.
QUESTION: So it wouldn't have autonomy then within the
MR. RUBIN: The same status it has now. It's part of Yugoslavia.
QUESTION: But it wouldn't have the benefits of the deal
that the US --
MR. RUBIN: If they accepted the peace agreement, the people
of Kosovo would be far, far better off than if Milosevic continues
to prosecute a war.
QUESTION: You mean if Milosevic accepted the peace agreement?
MR. RUBIN: If Milosevic accepts the peace agreement and
there is a peace agreement, the people of Kosovo -- including
the Serbs in Kosovo -- would be far better off. NATO's forces
are there, not only to protect Kosovo Albanians, but also to protect
the Serbs who live in Kosovo, who have also faced repression and
attack. So the best solution for all the people in Kosovo is for
Milosevic to accept the peace agreement.
QUESTION: Okay, I'm just following along with what you've
laid out there - because NATO is not laying on the table the fact
that it wants Milosevic to sign the peace deal once the air strikes
MR. RUBIN: Of course we want them to sign the peace deal.
We've always wanted them to sign the peace deal. What I'm saying
is that if military action is required and taken, the military
objectives are the ones that I described. Our political objectives
continue to include to try to convince Milosevic to do the right
thing: sign this peace agreement; protect the Serbs in Kosovo;
protect the Kosovars in Kosovo; and open the door for his country
to rejoin the family of nations. I think we're kind of going over
the same ground.
QUESTION: With regard to the principle number two that
you read us - the protecting of the Kosovars - is, then, the main
focus of military action going to be in Kosovo, directed at those
forces who are currently repressing the Albanian Kosovars; or
will it include all Serbians that are in --
MR. RUBIN: Bill, as you probably noticed during this briefing,
I'm not going to address the when or the what of targeting - when
an attack might occur and what the specific targets would be.
I am prepared to discuss the why; I think I've done that extensively.
I've explained what the purposes of military force would be, and
I really don't having anything further to add.
QUESTION: Well, then, how about the little detail of the
border police - the Serbs believe - endorsed Serbia to have
their own border police around Kosovo and other policing functions?
Will those people be exempted from any kind of air activity?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to get into targeting.
QUESTION: Jamie, a few minutes ago - I want to try to clear
something up. A few minutes ago you said that opponents of the
Administration's strategy have offered no alternative if they
didn't approve the action, other than - and I believe you used
the word "appeasement" of President Milosevic. Now,
you know that word "appeasement" is loaded in diplomatic
history in this century. Do you - you don't mean to equate those
opponents with --
MR. RUBIN: Thank you for your that helpful suggestion.
There will be an extra nickel in your box at the end of the briefing.
QUESTION: You're the one who says words are important,
MR. RUBIN: Words are important. Appeasement is a loaded
word, and for that reason I take it back.
What I meant by that was those who have presented criticism have
not offered any alternatives, other than to accept the realities
of Milosevic's policies, which include the crackdown on the Kosovo
Albanians. We think that would be worse than the uncertainties
and risks attending the use of military force. But if there was
any suggestion that there was a loaded reference to pre-World
War II appeasement, I take it back.
QUESTION: Holbrooke's being on the telephone a lot. Is
he on the telephone to the authorities in Belgrade?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: Do they have his number in Budapest?
MR. RUBIN: I think that there is no communications problem.
Ambassador Hill has been in contact with people in Belgrade for
many, many months now and they all know how to get in touch with
QUESTION: Who is the primary contact person?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know who would come first, but
Hill and Holbrooke talk a lot, too.
MR. RUBIN: Pinochet. Fire away with Pinochet.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the ruling
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I can. We heard the summary of the decision
read today in the House of Lords, but we have not yet had a chance
to study it in detail. As a matter of policy and as we have explained
many times, the United States is committed to principles of accountability
and justice, as shown by our strong support for the International
The US Government strongly condemned the abuses of the Pinochet
regime when it was in power. The United States also believes it
is important, consistent with the principle of accountability,
to support countries like Chile that over a sustained period of
time have made significant efforts to strengthen democracy and
to promote reconciliation in the rule of law.
We're not prepared to comment further on the Pinochet case at
this time, except to note the careful process the British courts
have undertaken in this case. We understand that the question
of whether the UK courts have authority to proceed with the extradition
is now back with Home Secretary Jack Straw. There may well be
further court proceedings in this case.
QUESTION: So your guidance is basically word for word what
it was a couple of months ago?
MR. RUBIN: Looks pretty similar to me, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have a date when the United States is
going to release a new set of documents on Pinochet?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the Pinochet documents, the
process is underway and we will proceed as expeditiously as possible.
We hope to begin releasing documents by mid year.
QUESTION: There was an incident between Japan's defense
forces and two North Korean fishing boats.
MR. RUBIN: We understand that Japan's maritime self-defense
forces broke off their pursuit after the unidentified ships departed
the area. I would refer you to the government of Japan for further
QUESTION: Speaking of going back to one question before
about documents, I'm sure the answer is going to be no comment
or something like that - but the reports in Germany --
MR. RUBIN: Sounds like the word "intelligence"
is going to be in there.
QUESTION: Stasi would be in there.
MR. RUBIN: Stasi, intel, no comment.
QUESTION: On Korea, any comment on the missing reactor
parts in North Korea or the story?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've seen this story; I think we've seen
it before. It's not a new story. The issue has been discussed
with Congress on the public record in a GAO report in 1998. I
can give you some extensive comments on it.
It's one of several important issues that remain unresolved with
respect to North Korea's activities. The United States and North
Korea and the IAEA continue to pursue these issues with North
Korea. We cannot confirm or deny the North Korean claims about
whether these components were or were not ever manufactured. The
IAEA has never described the equipment as missing; rather they
have said it's unaccounted for. We have no basis or presence to
conclude that North Korea is in violation of the agreed framework.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the North Korea ship incident.
Do you know the United States aircraft -- (inaudible) -- North
Korea. So, are you going to have any conversation with North Korea
on this issue? Because the United States does have a very strong
connection with the North Koreans.
MR. RUBIN: We expressed concern about this intrusion and
indicated we were working closely with our Japanese allies. US
forces in Japan cooperated with Japan's self-defense forces and
maritime safety agency, and some of our surveillance aircraft
were involved in tracking the ships. Beyond that, I have no comment.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the incident at the
beginning of this month between military officers of Mexico who
shot - trying to persecute drug smugglers with US Customs agent
MR. RUBIN: On March 23 - is this the chase into the US?
MR. RUBIN: On March 23 - we understand the US Customs Service
is investigating the incident on March 2, in which a five-man
Mexican military unit may have crossed into the United States
near San Miguel, Arizona, while in pursuit of drug traffickers.
Shots were fired in the direction of a US Customs officer. The
Mexican military commander told US Customs officers at the border
crossing that his unit had captured two traffickers and seized
a pick-up load of marijuana at the border, but had not crossed
the border to pursue a second truck that escaped into the United
States. We will await the US Customs Service investigation.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that. Has the State Department contacted
the government of Mexico on the incident or is Customs dealing
MR. RUBIN: We're waiting for a Customs investigation.
QUESTION: On Cuba, - do you have an official reaction to
the sentence of the Salvadoran citizen by the Cubans? It was two
MR. RUBIN: I'll get that for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Jamie, going back to earlier questions, do you
have any comment on Lord David Owen's analysis of the situation
in Kosovo? His article in The Los Angeles Times yesterday
said that unless you're prepared to commit ground forces, bombing
would probably be ineffective, if not counterproductive.
MR. RUBIN: Lord Owen, like many others, is entitled to
an opinion. Everyone has an opinion. Opinions are like noses;
everybody has one.
QUESTION: But he spent quite a bit of time over there trying
to work this thing out.
MR. RUBIN: We will give his opinion due consideration.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)