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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #37, 99-03-24

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

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


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


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
7		Holbrooke
9-10		Montenegro's Position in Balkans
12		US Position on Kosovo Independence

RUSSIA 2-6 Impact of Possible NATO Action in Kosovo on US-Russian Relations 6-8 Russian Position on Siding Militarily with the Serbs on Kosovo 9 Duma Permits Russian Citizens to Assist Serbia 10 Russian MIG's Enroute to Serbia 4-5 Gore/Primakov Commission Discussions Continues

CHILE 16 Pinochet - Summary of Decision in House of Lords 16 US Policy

JAPAN 17 Unidentified Ships Enter Japanese Waters

NORTH KOREA 17 IAEA 17 Unaccounted Reactor Parts

MEXICO 17 US Customs Service Investigation


DPB #37

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 1999, 12:40 P.M.


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 this paper.

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 military action.

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 briefing.

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 to Europe.

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 dictator.

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 done?

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 catastrophe.

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 lining.

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 on this?

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 consequences.

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 night.

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 about.

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 do.

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 Minister?

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 one.

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 earlier?

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 in this?

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 questions.

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 announced.

QUESTION: The Secretary talked to Gligorov, was it yesterday?


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 offensive.

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 signed?

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 else.

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 force.

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 province?

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 go forward.

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, so --

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 each other.

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.

QUESTION: Pinochet?

MR. RUBIN: Pinochet. Fire away with Pinochet.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the ruling today?

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 Criminal Tribunal.

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 details.

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 in Arizona?

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 with this?

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 days ago.

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.)

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