U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #45, 99-04-07
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, April 7, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Individual Yugoslav army and Ministry of Internal Affairs
commanders warned that army and police forces are committing war
crimes and crimes against humanity.
1-5,7,10 Under international law and ICTY statute, commanders can be
indicted, prosecuted for committing crimes or failing to prevent
crimes from occurring.
2 On a political level, Milosevic clearly bears responsibility for
3 US can't confirm that a cease-fire is in place.
6 US does not have a full account of refugees in "no-man's land"
along Kosovo-Macedonia border.
6 US understanding is that FRY closed the Kosovo-Macedonia border,
told refugees it was safe to return home because of cease-fire.
6,7 US concerned and alarmed about those who want to leave Kosovo but
can't get out.
6 US recognizes difficulty Macedonia faces with accepting large
numbers of refugees.
6,7 However, US has sent strong message to Government of FYROM that it
will be held to highest standard of humanitarian law on treatment
8 US believes 3 abducted servicemen were taken illegally. Only
acceptable outcome of acting Cypriot president's mission is their
8-9 NATO air strikes intensified, targeting infrastructure, armored
units in Kosovo.
9 NATO alliance is united. Milosevic miscalculated his ability to
cause cracks in alliance.
9,16 US in contact with Greek and Cypriot governments over mission of
acting president. His plane will have safe passage tomorrow.
10-11 US has been in regular contact with Russia over Kosovo.
11 Cease-fire without significance unless Milosevic agrees to NATO's
11 US believes refugees should be free to leave Kosovo.
12 US not aware Russian humanitarian convoy contains other than relief
12 Issue of protecting power still not resolved.
12 Serbs have not allowed ICRC access to three abducted servicemen.
13 Any international security force for Kosovo must be NATO-led.
13-15 Secretary Albright did not expect Serbs to accept peaceful solution
in face of air strikes.
14 NATO bombing did not cause refugees; it came after Serb offensive
15 Because of Milosevic's past record, US wanted implementation force
as part of agreement.
16 Not accurate, grossly unfair to compare Kosovo situation with
Turkey's Kurdish issue.
16 Deputy Secretary Talbott meeting today with Russians. NATO foreign
ministers will meet. There will be a G-8 meeting of political
directors over the weekend.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7, 1999, 12:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me start by
reading what we think is an important statement. The United States wants to
send a clear message to the following named commanders of the Yugoslav Army
-- that is the VJ and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the so-called MUP,
as well as all other commanders of those forces -- that they are on notice
that VJ and MUP forces are committing war crimes and crimes against
humanity in Kosovo.
Under international law and Article VII of the statute of the tribunal for
Former Yugoslavia, commanders can be indicted, prosecuted and if found
guilty, imprisoned, not only for crimes they themselves commit but also for
failing to prevent crimes occurring, or for failure to prosecute those who
The fact that someone is ordered to commit crimes does not relieve that
person of individual criminal liability. No commander of the VJ - the
Yugoslav Army or the MUP, the police forces - is immune from prosecution
now or in the future. Any commander of the VJ or MUP who plans, instigates,
orders or even aids or abets in a war crime, crimes against humanity or
genocide is individually responsible for crimes committed in Kosovo. There
is no statute of limitations for war crimes, crimes against humanity or
genocide within the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The United States identifies the following individuals as the most recently
known commanders of the following units in Kosovo: Colonel Mandic,
Commander of the 252nd Armored Brigade deployed in Central Kosovo; Major
General Vladimir Lazarevic, Commander of the Pristina Corps; Colonel Mladen
Cirkovic, Commander of the 15th Armored Brigade in Pristina; Colonel Dragan
Zivanovic, Commander of the 125th Motorized Brigade in Pec, Mitrovica and
Kosovska; Colonel Jelic, Commander of the 243rd Mechanized Brigade,
headquartered in Urosevac; Colonel Delic, Commander of the 549th Motorized
Brigade in Prizren; Colonel Stefanovic, Commander of the 52nd Mixed
Artillery Brigade; Colonel Djosan, Commander of the 52nd Light Air
Defense Artillery-Rocket Regiment in Djakovica; and Major Pekovic,
Commander of the 52nd Military Police Battalion in Pristina.
We are continuing to monitor events in Kosovo, including changes in command
of the Yugoslav military and the MUP units, and we will provide this and
further information, including additional names as we can to the prosecutor
of the tribunal. We will continue to work with the prosecutor to assist her
efforts to bring to justice anyone responsible for ordering and carrying
out war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Kosovo.
The United States provides information to the prosecutor of the Tribunal in
ways that protect American sources and methods. In recent days, we have
worked very hard to accelerate the delivery of information on Kosovo to the
prosecutor. Ambassador Scheffer has consulted today with the prosecutors
office to ensure that information on Kosovo is transmitted securely, in as
current a manner as possible.
QUESTION: That sort of half answers the question. Let me ask anyhow, is
the US in any systematic way cataloguing, particularly from refugees,
specifics - because, as you know, after World War II there didn't seem to
be many Nazis around - they sort of vanished into the woodwork.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - we tried to put out some reports regularly.
Our report today that gathers as much information as possible will include
a number of refugee reports on forced expulsions throughout Kosovo that a
systematic pattern of extortion is continuing; that there is the burning of
residential areas; that refugees continue to say that Serb forces are
separating military age men from the groups; that mass executions continue
to be reported by Kosovar Albanian refugees throughout the province. Serb
forces appear to be targeting young Albanian men, but Serb civilian
militia units are targeting all Albanians regardless of age or gender.
There are number of locations we're going to put out in the document today
that will list places where the reports continue to come in. Ambassador
Scheffer, as you know, went to the region, documented a lot of his refugee
reports. We are going to continue to work with international organizations
and others from the Tribunal and elsewhere who are in a position to take
these refugee reports down and try to sort them in some effective way, so
that as much evidence as possible can be transmitted to the Tribunal.
QUESTION: You're reaching pretty high with colonels, but why isn't the US
government reaching to the top and naming the president of Yugoslavia
because - I don't suppose you think these colonels acted on their
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we've said very clear that we think that at a
political level, President Milosevic clearly bears responsibility for
what's going on in Kosovo. What we're saying here is that we believe that
based on Ambassador Scheffer's interviews and other information that we
have that there are war crimes and crimes against humanity occurring, by
forces in Kosovo. We are naming these commanders because they ought to know
that their forces, in our view, are committing war crimes and crimes
against humanity. I listed very clearly what the implications legally are
for them. As far as President Milosevic is concerned, that is a matter
for the Tribunal pursuing its evidence, wherever it leads, and we
will provide whatever evidence we can in that regard.
QUESTION: What affect do you want this to have on them? I mean, clearly,
as you say, there's been a lot of atrocity already. So, I mean, haven't
they already done their job to a great extent?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have every reason to believe that in the coming days,
terrible things could further happen in Kosovo. We are trying to make clear
to the people there that we know their names of the units and the
commanders of the units. So they should think long and hard before they act
in such a way that their units conduct these atrocities or war crimes, or
that they don't act to prevent it. So we're putting them on notice. It's a
warning to them that they should be aware that the War Crimes Tribunal
is ready and in a position to act; that in Bosnia, people who did these
actions in the early 90's found themselves on trial in the late 90's and in
prison; and that the crimes against humanity and war crimes don't have a
statute of limitations.
QUESTION: Belgrade yesterday announced a cease-fire. Has there been a
cease-fire by the Serbs?
MR. RUBIN: As far as our best information is right now, isolated
offensive actions by the Yugoslav military and the police forces continue
as the Serbs attempt to consolidate their positions. We haven't been able
to ascertain definitively whether these attacks occurred after the
declaration of the cease-fire yesterday. They were concentrated in the Lap
and Podujevo region.
Let me say, we just don't have terrific information on the ground right now,
but we are not yet in a position to confirm that such a cease-fire is in
QUESTION: Going back to these nine names that you mentioned, is the US
specifically accusing these nine people of committing or ordering their men
to commit -
MR. RUBIN: No, I tried to be very clear on that, and let me do it again.
What I said was these are the commanders to the best of our knowledge of
the units that are in Kosovo. We believe - we saw, for example, reports in
Belgrade Radio TV on Monday that Milosevic had actually given medals to
some of these commanders on the ground in Kosovo.
We are not saying that these individuals are, to our knowledge, directly
responsible for war crimes. What we are doing is putting them on notice,
warning them, that we believe that the police forces and the military
forces are conducting war crimes and crimes against humanity; that these
are the names, to the best of our knowledge, of the commanders of those
units; and that the evidence that we provide to the tribunal will be
systematic and as quick as possible. But it's up to the tribunal to indict
and name people as war criminals.
What we're saying here is clearly, the units in the field are committing
war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are the leaders of those
units; these are the commanders; and these are the names we have. We're not
saying we have direct evidence, that these commanders ordered these war
crimes and crimes against humanity. That would be for the prosecutor of the
tribunal to say. What we're saying is these are the names of the commanders,
and we believe these forces are conducting war crimes and crimes against
QUESTION: So you're accusing their subordinates of committing -
MR. RUBIN: I'm making a general point without being specific because we
do not want to be specific at this time. The general point is, we believe
those forces. We have enough refugee reporting and enough of our own
independent information for us to conclude that there are war crimes and
crimes against humanity going on in Kosovo. These are the units that are in
Kosovo that we believe, therefore, are responsible. We are naming the
commanders as a warning to them that the world is watching and that the War
Crimes Tribunal is there, and we are going to assist them in this
process. So all I'm saying to you is that we're not indicting people
or naming them here from the State Department. That is a job for
the prosecutor and The Hague to do.
QUESTION: Jamie, if this announcement was very important and you want to
put them on notice, why wasn't it done a week ago or more when there was
first evidence that this was going on?
MR. RUBIN: Again, there are always opportunities to look back. We didn't
conclude until Ambassador Scheffer did his visit, and we put together our
best evidence that we could say for sure that war crimes and crimes against
humanity were occurring. That's only happened in recent days and as it's
continued, we decided that we wanted to send this signal.
QUESTION: Well, you certainly in the past last week talked about ethnic
cleansing before Ambassador Scheffer's conclusions.
MR. RUBIN: Again, we felt this was the right time to send this message.
This information isn't always that easy to obtain from the system. We
believe this is the right time to send this signal. As I said, Ambassador
Scheffer indicated in his report, that I believe we released yesterday,
that he had concluded after traveling to the region and that crimes against
humanity and war crimes, which are the key terms of art that the Tribunal
is looking at, were committed.
QUESTION: Is the anecdotal evidence you all have collected - the US
Government has collected about these charges enough to meet the evidentiary
standard of the Tribunal, or will it require some sort of forensic
investigation on the ground there?
MR. RUBIN: That would be up to the Tribunal to declare what meets their
standards. We want to provide them as much evidence as possible, both in
terms of refugee interviews that Ambassador Scheffer has done, and other
independent information that I indicated we're trying to accelerate, making
available to them of an intelligence nature.
QUESTION: Do you think there's a prospect of forensic work in Kosovo?
Would you like to see that?
MR. RUBIN: Obviously. Yes.
QUESTION: Jamie, there's a report that you just mentioned - first of all,
would it be publicly available, and can you just describe it in an outline
MR. RUBIN: The report I indicated, we've been trying to put out on a
regular basis are a collection of the US Government's best information
about what we're hearing and what we can provide to you, and there's
expected to be a release this afternoon.
QUESTION: Secondly, in your list there -- I guess it's nine - I only
counted one who was a MUP commander. I thought that the police really were
some of the worst agents of the ethnic cleansing, as opposed to just the
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, the police and the paramilitaries operate under
an overall environment in which the Yugoslav military controls the real
estate. So the point here, we're saying, is that it's not simply whether
you ordered your troops or your forces to act in a way that is concluded to
be crimes and crimes against humanity or war crimes; it's also whether you
let someone else do that, like the MUP and paramilitary, that may be
So the point is that these commanders need to know that it isn't enough
just to say that the forces themselves are not committing these. But if
there are those in the area that they control that are, they have a
responsibility to stop it. In addition, we will be trying to provide
additional information, including names, as we can to the prosecutors of
QUESTION: Do you have a sense now of how many people, or at lease a
minimum figure, may have been executed from the various reports you've
collected of executions?
MR. RUBIN: We don't have that, but we're obviously trying to compile
information as best we can.
QUESTION: Finally, I spoke with Mr. Blewitt yesterday morning at the
Tribunal - asked him what the cooperation with the United States. I asked
whether he's received the Scheffer report, for example, he said he hadn't.
He wasn't even aware of it. He had only received minimal material from the
United States. Did this somehow get called to your attention, too, because
it sounds like you're now trying to gear up?
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Scheffer works very hard to provide the best
available material from the government to the Tribunal. There are some
procedures that occasionally can be maddeningly slow, and what Ambassador
Scheffer has been doing is trying to speed those procedures up. He
explained our plan to speed the procedures up to the prosecutor, Mr.
Blewitt, today, who seemed pleased to hear it.
QUESTION: Also on refugees and war crimes, do you have any idea what
happened to tens of thousands of refugees who were camped out on these
hillsides near the Macedonian border? The German defense minister seems to
think that they're being brought back to Kosovo so serve as human shields.
Does that coincide with anything you know?
MR. RUBIN: We do not have a full account of the location of all the
refugees who are no longer in the no-man's land, at the border between
Kosovo and Macedonia. What we do know is that UNHCR reports that it bused
about 15,000 to an area near Skopje. Others have continued into Macedonia
on their own. In addition, we have reports from Albania that a large number
of refugees from Macedonia arrived yesterday in Albania. We are trying to
get clarification on the number that has arrived. Those are the ones in
As far as the ones that are not been allowed to cross the border are
concerned, let me say that it is our view that they FRY authorities did in
fact close the marina border crossing from Kosovo into Albania early this
morning and told refugees it was safe to go home because of the cease-fire.
We reject the validity of the cease-fire and, therefore, reject the
legality of Yugoslavia's closing of its border.
We expect Yugoslavia to allow its citizens to move freely across borders
subject only to normal controls. In addition, refugees' decisions should be
based on their free choice, not on coercion by FRY authorities. More
specifically, to answer your question, we're deeply concerned and alarmed
by reports of what might happen to those who want to get out and can't get
out. I just don't have any hard information as to what is happening to
QUESTION: There are reports that Macedonia is forcibly removing 25,000 to
35,000 refugees, that they're leaving so hurriedly, that whatever sparse
belongings they are able to bring with them are just strewn all over
fields. I mean, do you have anything to say to Macedonia, albeit their
difficulty in taking in people?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, we recognize the difficulty Macedonia is facing.
However, we have sent a strong message to the government of Macedonia that
we will hold it to the highest standard of humanitarian law and expect it
to uphold internationally accepted laws and the treatment of refugees and
As I said, we understand the burden they face, and we're working to relieve
it. Nevertheless, we believe that, for example, it's simply wrong to
separate family members or to have people not volunteer to leave and to
ship them out. We believe there are now over 100,000 spots the Europeans
have identified so that there is no problem in identifying places where
people can go, and we don't think they should be forcibly split from their
families or anything else.
QUESTION: Do you think that those refugees who are in the no-man's land -
or you said that those refugees in the no-mans land -- were told to go home
because it was safe because of the cease-fire or that they were coerced to
going home? What is your position?
MR. RUBIN: We heard that they were told this. We don't have a lot of
information what's going on inside Kosovo. We're deeply alarmed by it. A
lot of the different reports of what's going on - and the sad fact is it
may be that the refugees are the lucky ones; the deportees are the lucky
ones. The people forced out are the ones who are now getting the assistance
of the international community through the work of our armed forces and
NATO and others. The ones inside are the ones who are lacking any sort of
supplies and under a grave threat.
QUESTION: Jamie, NBC has pictures of people from Blace, Macedonia, from
this large camp that was emptied over night, that are being rounded up
today. There's some evidently that hid or have come across the border and
are now being rounded up by Macedonian - we don't know whether they are
army or police. Do you have any idea from the Macedonians where they plan
on taking these people?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't have any specific information on that particular
incident. We do expect the Macedonia Government to live up to the standards
of international law and to not forcibly seek to remove people and to not
separate family members. I don't have any specific information on the case
QUESTION: When Ambassador Hill goes to the Macedonians to plead our case
and to tell them how we feel about this, what reception does he get?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think that generally they indicate that they're
overwhelmed by this burden; they're concerned about the stability of their
country; they are thankful for the aid that the West has provided. We think
as this assistance increases and as it becomes possible to find locations
where people can go and as, unfortunately, some who may be wanted to cross
are not able to cross, that these bottlenecks and problems in dealing
with such a massive crisis are going to be alleviated and the Macedonian
concerns hopefully, therefore, will not involve them making decisions to do
what we're concerned about.
QUESTION: Jamie, if the Yugoslav people have not been hearing about
what's happening in Kosovo, in terms of what NATO and the US Government
would like them to know, what makes you think that these commanders -- the
MUP and VJ commanders - will get the message? Who is the intended
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think as you know well, we have every reason to
believe that the leadership in Belgrade is in position to get access to
Western media. This statement I made, therefore, is available to the
leaders in Belgrade who obviously know those in the field. There is a lot
of capability to get access to the Western media for the leadership and
those in positions of privilege and power. Unfortunately, the people of
Yugoslavia are forced to absorb and suffer from this unseemly and
ridiculous propaganda every day, still believing that somehow it wasn't the
Serbs that forced the refugees out, even though every refugee has said
that they were forced out by Serbs at gun point or in some other form.
So we're hopeful. We're trying whatever means possible here to send the
signals possible to try to head off additional atrocities. We're hopeful
that the leadership -- that it does have access to the Western media -
would be well aware of the statement I just read.
QUESTION: Does the US have intelligence or any other information that
would leave it to believe that the atrocities and the war crimes are
continuing? Do you know whatever became of the fate of the KLA that were
holed up somewhere in western Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not sure of the specific location. I don't have any
information on the KLA's exact situation. They've indicated to us that they
continue to maintain their structure and their organization, that their
volunteers have only grown. We don't have any hard information about what
is going on inside Kosovo to answer that. I'm sorry, your first question?
QUESTION: Just if you know whether or not war crimes are continuing and
if the commanders that you've -
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have grave concerns about what's going on in Kosovo,
from the refugee reporting, from the knowledge of what's going on in the
past. So we're trying to do what we can to deter that, and this is part of
QUESTION: Jamie, referring to the three American POWs, what can you tell
us? What does the US Government know about what's going to happen to them
and whether Milosevic is going to turn them over to the government of
MR. RUBIN: Our ambassador in Greece, the able Nick Burns, has informed me
that the plane that is taking the Cypriot to Belgrade is expected to leave
tomorrow. We have no way of knowing what the likelihood of the return of
those three. Let's remember that we don't think there was any basis for
them to be held in the first place, nor taken. It was illegal. We have not
received any access by the ICRC or through the Swedes or anyone else as
would be required by the international conventions. We would certainly
welcome their release. We would be happy to see that. But since they
shouldn't have been taken in the first place, we should be very clear that
the only thing acceptable is an unconditional release.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Just two things -- one, what role is
the Greek Government playing, just providing a plane?
MR. RUBIN: That's my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: If I could quickly follow, this comes obviously the day after
Milosevic declared a unilateral cease-fire. Now he's saying he's going to
turn over the POWs. What does the US Government believe? I know it's hard
to predict what he's doing - but what his motivations might be? Do you
think he's trying to build cracks in the alliance?
MR. RUBIN: It's hard to know. I think you've heard the spokesman and the
Secretary of Defense and others talk to the fact that perhaps this effort
we've been intensifying in the military campaign is starting to really make
a difference. Over the last 24-hours, I should point out, NATO airstrikes
against the Yugoslavian military police intensified. Strikes also did
further damage to strategic military infrastructure. They had their biggest
success today in targeting armored units in Kosovo. Several armored
units were hit, my understanding, with one attack striking directly
a convey of 7-12 vehicles. In addition, over the last 24-hours, NATO
strikes hit 28 fixed targets, including bridges and roads along key lines
of communication and supply.
We see increasing evidence that command and control and supply operations
are being disrupted by these strikes, and this is affecting the Yugoslavs
ability to operate in Kosovo. So there may be a factor here where - and
this is a possibility, one can't know - that they are beginning to feel the
real punishment of their military, that the air campaign is now being able
to conduct, especially now that the weather has improved and the number
of aircraft involved has improved greatly.
Milosevic may be trying to find cracks. I can't rule that out. But what I
can tell you is that in Secretary Albright's conversations with her
counterparts - and I think we'll see that quite clearly on Monday in
Brussels when the foreign ministers meet - this alliance is united.
President Milosevic seriously miscalculated his ability to perhaps find
cracks in the alliance. He miscalculated that the alliance was going to
stay unified. I think you've seen day after day, very clear statements from
the leaders of the alliance that they're not going to accept some
inadequate, insufficient phony deal. So that is what is happening. We've
made clear what our conditions are. President Milosevic knows what they
are. This bombing campaign will continue and intensify in a sustained
way unless he accepts those requirements.
QUESTION: --the Cyprus initiative on the three servicemen - except the
contact of the American Embassy - does the State Department have any
contacts with related governments, he government of Greece and the
government Cyprus? How do you follow this issue?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, our ambassador in Greece and our embassy in Cyprus are
talking to the relative governments, and we've been informed of their
intentions. We're not going to take a position on this. If they would like
to do that, fine. We would welcome the release of the servicemen on
unconditional terms, but they've decided to pursue this course, and we're
making arrangements that the flight can be secure tomorrow.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MR. RUBIN: Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: That was the follow-up.
MR. RUBIN: Well, just obviously certain arrangements have to be made for
the flight to be able to go into Belgrade.
QUESTION: -- to ask for safe access? I don't know if - and he couldn't
get it yesterday. I don't know that he has it now. It sounds like he
MR. RUBIN: I think he has it tomorrow, that we've made arrangements. But
I wouldn't be able to get into the details at this arrangement.
QUESTION: But you're not calling it a cease-fire?
MR. RUBIN: Definitely not. There are certain times in which it's
obviously safer than other times, but there is no cease-fire.
QUESTION: Jamie, you said that you intended to send a strong message to
the leadership in Belgrade on the terms of the war criminals. I'm a little
mystified because this is the same leadership that is harboring Arkan and
putting him out on television and harboring Mladic who is an indicted war
criminal. What do you expect them to do?
MR. RUBIN: No, I said it a little differently. I said that we would
expect the leadership to have access to the Western media, to be aware of
this signal and this warning, so that the commanders themselves would be
aware of this warning. Let's remember, Arkan may be in Belgrade, but there
are war criminals in prison in The Hague, and that is the message we're
trying to send.
QUESTION: I don't want to belabor the point on these guys - these nine
guys - but could I ask one more question? Are these names included in
Ambassador Scheffer's report? If they are --
MR. RUBIN: No, the report was released. We'll make it available. It's not
in his report. These are names that we have been able to put forward today.
We intend to continue to provide names as we can to the Tribunal.
QUESTION: Okay, so these names will be given to the Tribunal?
MR. RUBIN: That this is our judgment of who the commanders of these units
are, yes. But again, it's not - it's for their information as to what we
QUESTION: Did the United States ask Cyprus not to go ahead with
MR. RUBIN: No, not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about diplomacy? There's a report
today that the United States has made a very specific request of Russia to
initiate some sort of new diplomatic mediation with Belgrade. Has that been
MR. RUBIN: I would put it a little differently. The United States has
been in regular contact with Russia. The Secretary's had over a half a
dozen phone calls with Foreign Minister Ivanov. As you know, the Vice
President spoke to Prime Minister Primakov yesterday. The Russians have
been part and parcel of our effort to try to find a peaceful solution to
the problems in Yugoslavia from the beginning. They have been part of the
Contact Group. They were endorsed and helped prepare the Contact Group
plan. Unfortunately, they, like everyone else, was unable to persuade
Milosevic to accept it.
So we've been discussing this with him. As we have in our discussions, in
addition to obviously the disagreements that exist over the bombing that I
pointed out to you, we've said that anything they can do to turn Milosevic
around and accept our conditions is fine with us. But I would distinguish
between that an invitation or an urging or a request on our part for them
to play that role. That has not happened.
QUESTION: The basic question is, articulate again why no cease-fire,
especially in view of the fact that the Vatican the Pope on Easter Sunday
said cease-fire was necessary - and he criticized both the Serbs and the
NATO bombing. Can you respond to the Vatican initiative on some kind of a
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know what specific statements were made by the
Vatican. Let me say this - in our view, this cease-fire is without
significance unless the Serbian authorities can answer the following
questions in the affirmative: Is Milosevic prepared for a verifiable
cessation of all combat killings; is Milosevic prepared to withdraw
military police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo; is Milosevic prepared
to agree to the deployment of an international security force; is he
prepared to permit the unconditional return of all refugees; and is he
prepared to put in place a political framework based on Rambouillet. Unless
he can answer those questions in the affirmative, this offer is without
QUESTION: So there is no room without him giving in on those four points
for any kind of a negotiation?
MR. RUBIN: We intend to continue this sustained and relentless bombing
campaign unless Milosevic agrees to those points or the Belgrade authorities
signal that agreement.
QUESTION: Let me clarify something about the refugees. On the one hand,
one of the demands for the cessation of hostilities is the allowance of the
refugees - Kosovar Albanian civilians to return home. Today, however,
you're saying that you're alarmed and deeply concerned that some are being
told it is safe to go home. Can you please tell us where you think Kosovar
Albanian civilians should be right now and when they should be allowed
to go back?
MR. RUBIN: We can't tell them where to go or what to do. What we can do
is make clear we think they should have the freedom of movement to leave
Kosovo if they're under threat, and the border shouldn't be closed to them.
We've been quite clear about being alarmed about what's going on inside
Kosovo, and that's why we're trying to make clear we need an international
security presence that will enable there to be a secure environment for
these refugees. That is what our concern is. What we want is for them to be
able to get away from the fighting, to not be subject to repression
and, in the extreme, atrocities.
QUESTION: So many of the homes and businesses of the Kosovo Albanians
have been wrecked. Do you have any suspicions about where the refugees who
were sent back from the Albanian border have, in fact, been taken or
MR. RUBIN: I prefer not to entertain speculation and suspicion in this
context in a very difficult environment. I think we're all dealing with
snippets of information, and nobody has perfect information. I just think
it would be wrong for me to speculate.
QUESTION: One question about Russia - there's a large humanitarian convey
going to Yugoslavia from Russia. Is there any concern about what might be
contained in those trucks, and would you feel more comfortable to have an
independent look inside them?
MR. RUBIN: I think there are arrangements that have been worked out by
which that will be ensured. At this time, I'm not aware of any concern that
that shipment contains anything but a humanitarian supplies.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about the report that the protecting power
for the United States hasn't been able to operate because China has been
rejected as a protecting power for Yugoslavia?
MR. RUBIN: We are in discussion with Yugoslavia to ensure that embassies
and related interest by the United States and Yugoslavia are covered by the
services of an appropriate protecting power. However, this issue has not
yet been resolved. The Yugoslavian authorities informed Sweden and Belgrade
that it can no longer be the US protecting power in the FRY. We are
discussing the situation and exploring alternatives. We continue to work on
that problem, but no resolution has been accomplished yet.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about whether or not China has been
MR. RUBIN: I'd prefer not to get into diplomatic discussions other than
to say no final decisions have been made regarding a protecting power for
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, is it then the case that - did the
FRY reject Sweden before the issue was resolved here? How are they
MR. RUBIN: Well, when we asked the Swedes as our protecting power to seek
access to the three servicemen and the Swedes sought access, they said
we're not going to accept you as the protecting power because we haven't
arranged a protecting power in Washington. But let me point out, that
neither have the Serbs allowed the ICRC access to these three servicemen.
So the diplomatic difficulties is not the problem. The problem is the Serbs
aren't letting either ICRC - that is the Red Cross - or a protecting power
to have access to these men.
QUESTION: My actual question, though, was that it was on Macedonia and
their treatment of the refugees in deporting or moving, I guess, forcibly
the thousands of refugees into Albania. Has Macedonia, in fact, then
violated its obligations under humanitarian law?
MR. RUBIN: That would be something that the UNHCR, whose procedures we're
in support of, and those on the ground who know all the details. We're
obviously alarmed by the reports that that was happening and we, therefore,
sent a strong message to the government. But it would be up to those
organizations to make that judgment.
QUESTION: I was just curious because for the last couple of days, we've
been hearing you use the term, "international security force." I'm just
wondering if, in essence, it is the same thing as what the NATO-led
implementation force would be. If it isn't, how are they different?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we are still only contemplating a NATO-led force
to the extent that it could be supplemented by partner countries -- the
Russians, Ukraine or others -- under appropriate arrangements. That would
be fine with us. We had a NATO force in place and ready to go to deploy in
the event that the Serbs were to pursue a peaceful solution in the
negotiations. That didn't happen. But if in the course of accepting an
international force, the Russians and the Ukranians or others wanted to
play a role, that's not a problem for us. In fact, we would welcome
QUESTION: But it would still be NATO-led, this security force?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: There have been some questions raised publicly about whether
the Secretary misjudged Milosevic over Kosovo. I was wondering what your
thoughts were on that.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I hesitate to this but despite my respect for a
particular reporter in a particular newspaper, unfortunately, there's been
a grave inaccuracy. Secretary Albright did not expect the Serbs to accept a
peaceful solution in the face of airstrikes. That basic statement in the
article, that was the basic premise of the article, is not based on any
I spend a lot of time with Secretary Albright. I spend a lot of time
talking to her about what's going on in the present and what might go on in
the future. It is simply wrong and inaccurate to suggest that she expected
the Serbs to accept the Rambouillet accords or to back down shortly after
the air campaign.
The President put out a statement at the time of the air campaign, and he
was very clear and very careful. He said our goal is to deter the offensive
but if necessary to damage and destroy the forces of the Serbs, precisely
because we neither expected nor were sure that we would be able to deter
the offensive from going on.
So the suggestion that there was an expectation by the Secretary, or
frankly any of the President's senior advisors, that the Serbs would back
down is factually inaccurate. As an eye witness to it, I can tell you it's
Furthermore, let me say that all of the President's senior advisors
understood that the only chance to get Milosevic to pursue a peaceful
solution was to try to pursue a peaceful solution. Within that context, in
the absence of the threat of force, there was no reason to believe he would
accept a peace agreement at all. In fact any suggestion that something
short of the threat of force like additional sanctions or persuasion would
get him to agree to what the threat of force didn't get him to agree to,
and what even the use of force hasn't gotten him to agree to, I think, is
So, unfortunately, there's a certain degree of finger pointing going on,
and I recognize that. I don't think it's particularly appropriate in a time
of crisis, but that's the nature of a democracy. But all I can tell you is
that the idea that in the - also in the article, it was the use of force
that created the refugee crisis, that caused the consequences of this
crisis, I think, is simply inaccurate. We were deeply troubled by our
concern that there was an offensive brewing, that 40,000 troops had
massed; that a number of indicators strongly suggested they were about
to launch an offensive with many of the same consequences that we're now
So to suggest that the bombing which began after the offensive caused the
refugees to leave, I think, is simply misplaced. We all wanted to see this
problem solved peacefully. That was our goal. We tried every possible
avenue, and we tried everything we could to deal with this peacefully. But
at the end of the day, President Milosevic wasn't prepared to act. Did
people hope that he would accept the peaceful solution? Everyone hoped. I
hope all Americans hoped that he would accept a peaceful solution.
Did we expect him to? No, and unfortunately that's wrong.
QUESTION: Why did not you not expect - I was going to ask, if I may? I
mean, the thrust of the article is that she saw him as a sort of a school
yard bully, and that a little force would get him to change his ways. But
you say - and one of the things - one of the objectives was to get him to
accept Rambouillet. When you say she didn't expect him to accept the
agreement, you mean all along, even while negotiating she thought it's a
hard sell --
MR. RUBIN: No, I know that some have perfect 20-20 vision into the
future. No one in the department does. What the question is, did we hope or
did we expect.
MR. RUBIN: Did we have high confidence that he would sign the agreement --
QUESTION: As a result of the --
MR. RUBIN: -- as a result of the threat of force or something short of
the threat of force. There was no high confidence, but there was a
determination by the President and all his senior advisors that we had to
try. The idea that in the absence of the threat of force he would have
accepted some peaceful arrangement, I think, is unrealistic. The threat of
force was a possibility that we could hope he would accept the arrangement,
and there was some predicate for that in October. But to suggest that
we were confident that this would happen - I remember being around
the Secretary and her telling me that most of the President's - all of the
President's advisors weren't optimistic, that either the Holbrooke mission
would succeed in turning Milosevic around, but they were determined to
So I think it's just soft of unfortunate that people are engaged in a kind
of a Monday-morning quarterback, when the game hasn't been finished
playing. The game is still going on.
QUESTION: Do you think the expectations or hope shift markedly in your
observations between the first Rambouillet conference and the Paris
conference, because there seems to be more expectation that the Serbs would
sign on to the political document at the first Rambouillet conference, when
the Albanians didn't, and then obviously things change. Was there a shift
in your expectations there?
MR. RUBIN: I think throughout we recognize the key question was because
of Milosevic's past, we needed an implementation force; that it wasn't
going to be good enough to just sign a piece of paper; you needed to have
that agreement implemented. I don't recall high confidence at any point
that Milosevic would agree. I recall the feeling that we had to try because
we had evidence that this offensive was going to be conducted. I remember
being here in the fall and all of us talking about how we had averted
a humanitarian catastrophe and telling all of you, but we haven't solved
the political crisis, and we expect this to resume in the springtime in
So, in the general sense, we expected the offensive in the spring; then in
the tactical sense, as February and January passed, we had hard evidence
that the offensive was going to occur. So we tried to solve it peacefully.
But we recognized that one couldn't expect that, one couldn't know that.
But as diplomats, one has to try. But some things can't be solved by
diplomacy if a dictator is determined to reject peace and pursue war in the
way that he has done on the people of Kosovo.
QUESTION: What about once the offensive had begun. Was it the Secretary's
expectation that Milosevic would agree to sign the agreement?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely not. I recall before Ambassador Holbrooke went into
Belgrade, the phase two of the NATO air campaign was approved. That meant
it was going to be a multi-week campaign. We needed to know that that was
approved prior to him trying for this last ditch effort because we expected
that there was a strong possibility this would have to go on for some
Again, did people hope that once he saw we were serious that he would
change course? We remain today hoping that he changes course. But what is
unfortunate is people distinguishing incorrectly between the objective of
diplomacy to try to get a peaceful solution and the expectation that one
can achieve that with a dictator who is obviously determined to conduct and
do his dirty business in Kosovo.
QUESTION: If I can try once more on the Cypriot President who is going to
Belgrade tomorrow. Can you elaborate on what the US ambassadors who have
spoken with him, what message they passed on from the US?
MR. RUBIN: We're assisting the Greek Government in enabling their plane
to fly in a secure way to Belgrade. I think that speaks for itself. We
obviously want these people released unconditionally, and I'm sure that has
been passed as well.
QUESTION: Lately several circles in Washington, they are trying to make a
compilation and try to find out the similarity between the Kosovar refugees
and the Turkish-Kurdish problem. Can you say anything on the subject?
MR. RUBIN: I can. First of all let me say, the comparison I just think is
not accurate. To the extent that it refers to a VOA report, obviously the
VOA doesn't reflect the views of the US Government. We don't think they're
comparable. Turkey is a democratic country, committed to seeking a peaceful
solution to the Kurdish issue. As a member of the NATO alliance, Turkey
is not engaged in a systematic effort to ethnically cleanse helpless
civilians or destroy their homes and force them in a massive campaign of
expulsion. We don't ignore Turkey's treatment of it Kurdish citizens, and
we pointed to certain concerns we have during our human rights report. It's
clear to us that any enduring solution to the Kurdish issue lies in the
expansion of democracy. But I think a comparison is grossly unfair.
QUESTION: Two questions about diplomacy -- do you have any kind of a
readout on today's Contact Group meeting? Will there be a G-8 meeting next
week with the Secretary and to the extent that that gets into efforts to
end the Yugoslav war? At the moment, do you think it's premature since
there are many days of bombing still to go?
MR. RUBIN: Is that just the first question, or is that both?
QUESTION: That's the compilation.
MR. RUBIN: Let me give you my best answer I can to those difficult and
well-stated questions. The Deputy Secretary has been meeting with the
Russians today. He has been reporting back to the Secretary of State during
those meetings. We will be having a meeting of the NATO foreign ministers.
The G-8 political directors will be meeting, I believe, over the weekend.
As a result of the Contact Group meeting and the G-8 political directors
meeting, a decision will be made whether it would be appropriate to
meet at the ministerial level.
As far as what would happen at such a meeting, let me be clear that NATO
countries are united in their determination to pursue this air campaign and
continue this air campaign unless Milosevic meets our conditions. We do
want to work with Russia as much as possible, but not to the extent that it
will change our determination to pursue our objectives.
QUESTION: On China?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, I think most of these questions are going to be answered
at the White House today, given the Zhu visit, but I will try my best to
QUESTION: Well, would you be able to entertain the issue that Mr. Johnny
Chung has recently raised?
MR. RUBIN: No, I have no information to provide to you on an ongoing
QUESTION: On an Ongoing investigation -- but he did make, I believe,
statements that the PRC --
MR. RUBIN: That's an ongoing investigation. I have no comment on
QUESTION: Well, that's a safe way to get out of that, okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.