TRANSCRIPT: STATE DEPARTMENT NOON BRIEFING, NOVEMBER 16, 1998
(Indonesia, Iraq, Afafat/Netanyahu, Italy/Kurd rebel, Malayasia, NKorea)
November 13, 1998
State Department Spokesman James Rubin briefed.
Following is the State Department transcript:
Harold H. Koh is the new Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor.
US deeply regrets peaceful demonstrations turned violent: 18 confirmed killed, 450+ injured.
US believes it essential that momentum toward a peaceful transition continue.
Secretary Albright follows the situation closely, believes violence will harm, not help matters.
Secretary Albright anticipated need to return from her trip quickly, given the situation in Iraq.
Secretary talked with President Clinton twice about Iraq from her hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
US to engage more deeply with Iraqi opposition groups, consult with Congress.
First, most important step is to form an effective viable political opposition.
President Clinton spelled out elements of containment, plus added goal of replacing Saddam.
Congressionally appropriated funds are for military assistance.
UN's Kofi Annan agrees that UNSCOM inspectors should have complete cooperation.
UNSCOM has supervised destruction of large amounts of weapons, munitions.
Baghdad has yet to account for much chemical, biological weapons material.
Iraq must clarify matters: It bears the burden of proof.
If Iraq were to decide to comply fully, other issues could be resolved.
Unanimity favoring US position was not an accident; a range of views on Iraq exists.
US is ready, willing, able to act if President Clinton so decides.
Secretary and all President's national security advisers support his decision.
US nearly acted, and only by last-ditch capitulation did Saddam Hussein avoid consequences.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
There is no place in the process for words encouraging violent actions: They were wrong.
Wye memorandum was signed without conditions; US expects it to be carried out.
US will be in direct contact with Israeli PM Sharon about his statements.
US expects positive vote from Knesset Tuesday.
Much mistrust had built up over time. Wye broke its back, but some still remains.
US expects both parties to fulfill their obligations.
US welcomes Abdullah Ocalan's arrest, commends Italy's action, expects justice to be done.
Secretary Albright met with Anwar Ibrahim's wife, expressed US concerns on his behalf.
US believes access to underground facility is a major problem.
Failure to resolve the access issue would call into question viability of Agreed Framework.
Failure to resolve access issue would have negative consequences.
US urged Russia to work on a plan to meet debt obligations.
MR. RUBIN: (In progress ) -- In any event, let me start by saying that
on last Friday, Harold Hungju Koh was sworn in as Assistant Secretary
of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Secretary Albright is
thrilled to have Assistant Secretary Koh with us, and there will be a
statement laying out his extensive credentials for this job that I'll
provide you after the briefing. During the course of the day, we'll
also have a statement on Bosnia.
With those preliminary comments, let me turn to your questions.
Q: Jamie, authorities in Indonesia --
RUBIN: Were you on the plane? No, no, go ahead.
Q: No, no, I missed her - I didn't have access by staying off
the plane. In Indonesia, authorities have arrested six leading critics
of the government and the government is saying there will be a
crackdown. Now, the Secretary couldn't make it to Indonesia, or
presumably she would have weighed in. But could you sort of tell us
what you think of this and what she might have said had she had the
chance to say it personally?
RUBIN: Yes. We deeply regret that peaceful demonstrations
focused on the People's Consultative Assembly turned violent last week.
We expect the Indonesian Government to continue to allow peaceful
Obviously, we urge students to keep their demonstrations
peaceful, but we strongly urge security forces to show restraint and
refrain from violence. Violence cannot solve any of the problems
It is extremely important that the international community
collectively reinforce the message, that momentum towards a peaceful
transition continue and that this process reflect the broad aspirations
of all Indonesians. Failure to continue such a peaceful process will
undermine the credibility of any outcome and further erode both the
domestic and international confidence so essential for Indonesia's
I am not aware of the specific cases that you mentioned. We've
seen quite a few cases - 18 individuals were confirmed killed and more
than 450 wounded during clashes November 10 through 13. The dead
include students, security personnel and other citizens. The violence,
of course, differs in scale from that of May when lethal force led to
over 1,000 casualties. But nonetheless, we strongly urge the government
there to not use violence in cracking down on peaceful demonstrations.
Q: Will the Secretary have said pretty much --
RUBIN: Absolutely. Secretary Albright has been following the
Indonesia situation very closely. For those of you who may remember a
speech she delivered this spring about the need for change there, and
would, had she had been there, made very clear that Indonesia's future
will be harmed not helped if security forces use violence to deal with
Q: Do you know if there's any assistance program? Is there any punitive action planned or --
RUBIN: At this point, I don't know of any punitive action. Let's
remember, it's always tricky in situations like this. We do have a
social safety net program that we're working on for countries like
Indonesia, humanitarian assistance. And you don't want to doubly harm
those who are being attacked by the security services by stripping them
from possible assistance. But we feel very strongly about the subject.
Q: What about the aim of the demonstrations, which was to
criticize the assembly for not doing enough - and Habibie for not doing
enough to bring in democracy? Do you sympathize with the aims?
RUBIN: I'm not going to broadly state that, because so many
different views may have been stated from the street that it would be
wrong for me to make a broad statement like that.
Let me say that it is essential that momentum toward a peaceful
democratic transition continue and that the process reflect the broad
aspirations of all Indonesians. Failure to continue such a peaceful
process will undermine the credibility of any outcome.
To the extent those were calling for a peaceful democratic
transition that reflects the broad aspirations of all Indonesians,
obviously we're supportive of that; and especially when those views are
expressed peacefully. Beyond that, it's hard to speculate, given the
difficulty in knowing precisely who said what in what particular time.
Q: So from what you know of the assembly itself, is it
proceeding in the direction you want or do you fear that, in fact, they
RUBIN: We'll have to see; we're going to await judgment on that. But I think our goals have been clearly stated.
Q: Can you give us some idea of the Secretary's involvement in
the events over the last couple of days and why the decision was made
for her to come home?
RUBIN: Yes. The Secretary anticipated the possibility of
needing to return home quickly in light of the situation with regard to
Iraq. As you saw from well-published accounts now what was likely to
happen or almost happened on Saturday, with respect to the use of
force, which did not occur because a decision was made to take a look
at what Iraq was offering, but nevertheless, we were on the verge of
using force during the course -- shortly after her arrival in
Indonesia. So she always knew that there was going to be a possibility
that she would need to come back.
At the same time, she thought it was extremely important for
her to make a presence at APEC, because this is an issue -- that is,
economic and financial health of Asian countries - that is extremely
important to the Administration and something that President Clinton
helped escalate to a leaders-level meeting in 1993.
Furthermore, had there been the use of force, it would have
been important for her to work directly with a whole series of
ministers who were there to explain what we were doing and why we had
done it and what our long-term thinking was in the aftermath of the use
of force. So that didn't happen.
In light of the fact that we have now received a series of --
Kofi Annan has laid out a series of -- requirements that constitutes
serious concessions on the part of Iraq, a wholesale reversal . Let me
remind you from this podium, Secretary Albright said on Friday: either
Iraq reverses course or faces the consequence. Well, it reversed
course. But in order to sustain that position over time, a great deal
of diplomatic work is necessary; a great deal of discussion is
necessary. The President, for the first time, talked about the need and
the way in which we look forward to an alternative regime in Iraq.
That's something that draws on and states even more clearly something
Secretary Albright said last March - I guess it would be two Marches
ago. That's a very serious statement, and it has serious policy
implications that she believes it's important to work on.
So, knowing that there was a very high likelihood she would
come home if force were used and knowing now of the important elements
of this decision not to use force at this time, she felt it was more
important to come back and work on the other issues that could not be
done from Thailand or Indonesia if she had gone on.
Q: Might she go with the President on his trip and then do Indonesia and Thailand from there?
RUBIN: Only if she wants to put her spokesman through
unnecessary physical and mental torture, but I will have to check that
Q: The thing about -- (inaudible) - she did say that at length
on PBS, so she was on the subject again just last week - that we look
forward to a post-Saddam regime.
RUBIN: Correct. I do think that's the first time the President has said that in those words.
Q: That is significant. I wanted to ask about, I think, daily
meetings - at least one a day - in her absence. The Deputy Secretary
was there. Can you tell us, mechanically did she weigh in even though
she was on an airplane? You know there's a State Department view, but
of course people have particular ways of putting things. Did she get
the opportunity to weigh in herself?
RUBIN: Well, when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, there was an
extensive meeting that took place that she was able to participate in
through the miracles of modern technology from the hotel in Malaysia.
Her plane did have communications. I can say that at certain times,
those communications were not working perfectly and there was some
frustration about that at some important moments.
But beyond saying that she was regularly updated by Under
Secretary Pickering, Deputy Secretary Talbott and she spoke to the
President at least twice while she was in Kuala Lumpur. I would say she
spoke to Mr. Berger over a dozen times. She was involved in the
discussions and the decision-making with the exception, as I said, of
that small window when there were some communication problems.
Q: (Inaudible) - decisions being made?
RUBIN: Well, I'll have to check back and see that. I do know there were some communication problems.
Q: To follow up on this intensifying the effort to bring about a
post-Saddam regime, are there any meetings planned with Iraqi
opposition figures in the coming days? And can you tell us how you
intend to go about bringing this about?
RUBIN: Well, we're not promising to bring about such a thing.
What we're saying is that we're going to intensify our work. As you
know, Secretary Albright worked very hard on the reconciliation between
the Kurdish factions that occurred some weeks ago here. That was an
extremely important development.
Right now, we're focused on providing political support for the
opposition, and Congress has given us the authority and funding to arm
the opposition. We don't rule that out, but we want to make sure that
any action is effective in achieving the goal and is well-prepared. We
don't want any ill-prepared efforts to lead to a tragic or unnecessary
loss of life.
So what we're going to try to do is engage more deeply with
opposition groups, work with the Congress on some of the ideas that
they've had and try to step up our activity with them. I don't have any
new meetings to report to you, but when and as we do take action that's
right for public consumption, I will communicate that to you.
Q: Do you see any way in which political action alone could possibly bring about the downfall of Saddam Hussein?
RUBIN: Well, first of all, let me say we're not going to lose
any sleep if Saddam Hussein suddenly isn't their leader from whatever
reason; no tears will be shed. Obviously, the President spoke quite
clearly at the extent to which Saddam Hussein violates the
international community's standards for his people, embodied in
Resolution 688, and the extent to which his regime is in flagrant
violation in several occasions in recent years with other Security
With respect to what is necessary, I'm not going to speculate
on what is necessary. There are a whole range of possibilities around
the world that have caused regime change. What I am saying is that we
intend to step up and intensify our political work with opposition
leaders and will then look at other options and consider them after the
first and most important step is taken, which is to try to get as
effective and as coordinated and as viable an opposition leadership and
political grouping as possible.
Q: Do you have any idea what the political views of that group
- or general policy - you don't think Thomas Jefferson is waiting in
the wings in Baghdad --
RUBIN: Well, I think another way of --
Q: If Saddam is so terrible, I suppose you can't do worse.
RUBIN: It's hard to imagine you could do worse than Saddam Hussein.
Q: Do you consider this to be a new policy? Is the policy of containment over?
RUBIN: No, I think what the President did is spell out the ways in
which containment remain - that is, the importance of maintaining the
no-fly zone, maintaining the prohibition on deploying Republican Guard
forces in the south, maintaining the toughest sanctions regime in
history, plus working more intensively with the opposition. So it's
containment plus this additional element.
Q: Is this $97 million package that Congress approved, is that
going to give you the tools that you need to carry out this policy to
its conclusion, or are you going to be looking to the next Congress to
do something more to take the strategy in a different direction?
RUBIN: If one looks at that package, what that is is $97
million of military assistance, provided as authority that the
Executive Branch can use should it deem appropriate.
What I'm saying to you is I wouldn't rule out using that
authority, provided we have a capability politically , through
stepped-up efforts, to develop a viable and effective and coordinated
So that's certainly something we wouldn't want to rule out, but
first things first. This is no easy task, and no one is exaggerating
the ease with which we can do this, but rather merely signaling our
intent to work harder on it.
Q: There are those who say that any effort to unseat Saddam
would require the support of neighboring countries such as Jordan or
Turkey. Do you have any thoughts on that?
RUBIN: I think I will leave it to neighboring countries to
describe their own views in this matter. I think that I can say without
fear of contradiction there are few countries in the world that would
shed tears if Saddam Hussein were suddenly to pass from the scene.
Q: Could I ask about the other possible track of developments,
and that is there's going to be now inspectors going back; they're
going to have more rigorous demands, I suppose. The question is, what
happens should they be able to exhaust their questions? What are the
conditions now for lifting sanctions?
RUBIN: Well, that would be a lovely situation and one that the
world's been waiting for for seven years. What Kofi Annan made clear
was that the inspectors are going to be able to go where they need to
go; they're going to have free access; they're going to turn over
relevant documents; they're not going to interfere with the
independence or professional expertise; they're going to resolve the
That is a view that we are pleased that Kofi Annan is going to
adopt very clearly in his examination of these issues. All we've said
is that if the UN determines that there is a pattern of cooperation,
then we will be prepared to review the situation. The easiest way for
Saddam Hussein to begin down a path he's never gone down - which is to
begin to cooperate in full with UNSCOM's inspections - I've seen some
who somehow doubt what it is that UNSCOM's done and even suggest that
I've not been clear in that regard.
Let me give you some detail. UNSCOM has supervised the
destruction of - in the missile area - 48 operational missiles, 14
conventional missile warheads, six operational mobile launchers, 28
operational fixed launch pads, 32 fixed launch pads; in the area of
missiles as well, 30 missile chemical warheads, other missile support
equipment and materials, supervision of the destruction of a variety of
assembled and non-assembled super gun components; in the chemical area,
38,537 filled and empty chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical
weapons agent, more than 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals, 426 pieces
of chemical weapons production equipment, 91 pieces of related
analytical instruments. In the biological area, the entire Al Hakam
biological weapons production facility and a variety of production
materials all have been destroyed by UNSCOM. Anyone who suggests that
UNSCOM hasn't done anything should take a long, hard look at what the
damage that could have been done from that material.
With respect to what remains to be done, there is a large
discrepancy between the amount of biological growth media - that's the
culture in which you grow biological weapons - procured and the amount
of agents that were or could have been produced. Iraq's accounting of
the amount of the agent it produced and the number of failed batches,
is seriously flawed and cannot be reconciled on the basis of this full
disclosure Iraq has made.
Of the 31,000 kilograms of biological weapon growth media that
Iraq imported, Baghdad has not accounted - ready for this - about 3,500
kilograms. That's an enormous amount of growth media that can grow
these most horrific of weapons. In the chemical area, Iraq has declared
that since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, it produced four metric tons
of VX, 100 to 150 metric tons of G agents such as sarin, and 500 to 600
metric tons of mustard. But on the basis of public UNSCOM reports,
plenary meetings and unaccounted-for CW precursors, we estimate that
Iraq could have produced as much as an additional 600 metric tons of
In other words, these are the differences between what they say
they have and what we have reason to believe they have. The importance
of this agreement now is it clarifies for all to see, that the burden
of proof is on Iraq, to clarify the difference between what UNSCOM
thinks is there and what Iraq says it has. That burden of proof will be
resolved only when Iraq begins to provide the relevant documents, let
UNSCOM go where it needs to go, cooperate with UNSCOM in determining
how to get to the bottom of this.
I haven't given you an exhaustive list, but these are the
problems. The burden of proof is on them. We would be happy to deal
with the situation in which Iraq was beginning to resolve all these
myriad questions, and that's the easiest way for them to go down the
path of lifting sanctions.
Q: I guess my question - that is a staggering list that you give
there, but my question is that assuming - and maybe it may be a huge
leap - that there is an accounting and a destruction, of course, of the
weapons found, are there other conditions, then, that have to be
satisfied before sanctions would be lifted? All relevant resolutions -
the issue of prisoners, the issue of --
RUBIN: Let me simply say given the staggering nature of the
information I've described, I think if Iraq made a strategic decision
to finally do what it has refused to do for six or seven years - and
that is, come clean on its weapons of mass destruction, disclose its
weapons of mass destruction - the other issues could be easily
It is our view that under 687, Iraq has to demonstrate peaceful
intentions. We believe that to do that, he must comply with relevant
resolutions, including and most importantly -- given the extreme danger
that they pose - the full compliance with weapons of mass destruction.
If he's serious about wanting sanctions lifted, the easiest way to show it is to comply with these issues.
Q: The question is the prisoners issue and property - are those still alive?
RUBIN: I think he has to comply with all relevant resolutions.
But as I said, if he made a strategic decision to give up his weapons
of mass destruction, which many analysts think he is determined not to
do, it seems to me the other issues, although important, could easily
fall into place.
So it's a moot point, Roy. It's the kind of point that matters
in technical legal terms but doesn't matter in the real world. In the
real world, the big issue is will he finally and fully give up what he
said he would give up in 1991 and what, for seven long years, he's
refused to do so.
Q: How do you put that together with the attempt to clear the
air and clear the accounts with the President's determination,
basically, to seek a new regime? Because in order to do the one, you
have to have cooperation with the current regime. The other, however,
seeks the removal of that regime.
RUBIN: Well, a different regime that was committed to the rule
of law and international security would have no trouble meeting all
Q: But how do you go to this regime and say, we want you to
cooperate and actually clear these accounts; by the way, we'd like to
remove you at the same time?
RUBIN: I think promoting democracy around the world is
something we do all the time and still work to push dictators to meet
international standards. That's not a new phenomenon.
Q: Why did Secretary Albright decide that she had to come back
this week and not just complete her trip and in the meanwhile make her
phone calls and what not? What is the difference that's made with her
being back in Washington in pursuing promoting other opposition
RUBIN: Well, I didn't say that was all it was. What I said is
that she always anticipated the possibility of returning quickly to
Washington in light of what she knew may well go on over the weekend.
So she had contingency plans to do so.
She, at the same time, had a very strong desire to participate
in the economic forum occurring in Kuala Lumpur. As a result of the way
the situation turned out, she made the judgment that the best place for
her to work from on this issue, in light of its now nearly exclusive
focus on ensuring that other countries and other actors are in sync
with the American position - because let's remember what was really
unique about this situation this time was the fact that the entire
world was supporting the American view and was opposing the Iraqi
position. Whether it was in the Arab world, whether it was Russia,
whether it was China, whether it was European countries, they all
placed blame for this crisis on Iraq. That didn't happen by accident.
She feels that in order to ensure that if we get down the road
where Saddam is not complying with this resolution, we have said we are
prepared to act. We need to be sure that we can master the same type of
support for action, if necessary, in the future.
Q: If, for instance, the inspectors who are due to return
tomorrow are rebuffed, then and there, the Secretary wants to make sure
that everyone is on the same page if the US were to decide to launch
attacks as soon as this would --
RUBIN: That would be a fair conclusion if we made the decision to use force.
Q: Who do you see the problems might come up with? Is it with the Europeans, the --
RUBIN: We don't normally talk about problems from here; we talk
about solutions. But let me just say that having a lot of experience
with the Iraq issue and knowing the ease with which some want to take
yes for an answer, if you saw what happened over the weekend, you know
some countries were just thrilled to grab on to anything they saw as
evidence of an Iraqi turnaround. We waited and we examined it carefully
and we made sure that Kofi Annan agreed with us on the meaning of all
of this before we decided that it was a complete reversal and a climb
down by Saddam Hussein.
So we're well aware that there are ranges of views in the
international community on this subject, and work always needs to be
done; but I'd prefer not to name those who need the most work.
Q: Jamie, just to be clear, if Saddam does not cooperate then strikes will ensue immediately?
RUBIN: I'm not going to specify in writing for you to read back
to me every time you think you found an example of non-cooperation.
Suffice it to say we are ready, willing and able to act if the
President makes that decision.
Q: What I'm trying to get at is, are you going to go through
this whole exercise of diplomacy and buildup and waste of taxpayers
money with every one of these crises, or will you act - and not to
mention the inspectors that are now there and the IAEA people, will you
move forward with them there, will you withdraw them? How is it going
RUBIN: First of all, I don't think you were very thoughtful and
kind to those who work very hard on this issue and all our soldiers who
were deployed at sea, regarding that as a waste of taxpayers' money.
The work that our soldiers do is something that means very much to us,
those of us in government who are responsible for them. We do not
regard ourselves as having wasted taxpayers' money.
On the contrary, in order to defend the United States and
defend America's interest, sometimes one has to make deployments to be
prepared to act. There are costs to those deployments, but as one
former Secretary of State said yesterday, sometimes that's the cost of
being the world's leader. And we don't regard it as a waste of money.
With respect to how we would proceed, I think it is fair to say
that we are ready and we are willing and we're able to act. Beyond
saying that, I don't care to specify the tactical situation which may
arise depending on the circumstances.
Q: Jamie, the build up of forces has been suspended, although what's there is staying there for the --
RUBIN: Yes, and I think some that was on the way will continue on the way; but the Pentagon would have to deal with it.
Q: Not as much about the level, I was wondering about the people who withdrew from embassies. Are they still --
RUBIN: We haven't changed our notice at this time. As soon as we do that, we will.
Q: Jamie, although I can't say I'm overly hopeful of getting a
response on this, I've got to ask the question for the record. You
spoke of a range of views, talking about allies and other peoples'
views. Can you speak to the issue of a range of views, if any, in the
decision-making process to proceed with the strike or not to proceed,
and where specifically the Secretary stood or where she weighed in on
RUBIN: Well, your answer to your question comes in your
preamble. Let me simply say that the Secretary, and I believe all the
President's national security advisors, support the decision the
President made, and it is not my practice to provide her personal views
in any form.
Q: (Inaudible) -- sidewise, thinking we had half a chance at an
answer by asking you while she was away and a stand-in was at the
meetings, if that stand-in represented her views -- the State
RUBIN: Yes that is the kind of detailed-discussion of the inner workings of government which I am not prepared to provide.
Q: Now, this is a little tougher. Not until day -- you came the
closest I've heard an official come -- to saying if Saddam Hussein
provides unfettered access, those other resolutions just kind of
RUBIN: I definitely did not say that. Let me rephrase it.
Q: All your allies who aren't your allies all the time, say that's all the guy's got to do.
RUBIN: I sure hope that nobody misquotes what I said or misunderstands it.
Q: We're not out of the room yet.
RUBIN: Good. What I said was since most analysts believe that
Saddam Hussein has been determined, as one of the prime objectives of
his rule, to do two things: keep his weapons of mass destruction and
get sanctions lifted. We've said those two are incompatible. But
certainly nearly everyone agrees that trying to retain of mass
destruction is the highest national goal of his government or his
All I am saying that if he were to change to his goal and
decide, nope, I'm going to provide all the information that UNSCOM
needs, the other issues that we believe are relevant in any decision
that would be relevant in determining his peaceful intentions are very
important issues to the people involved, including those Kuwaiti
families who have not found out what happened to their relatives,
including those who have lost material and equipment.
But if the first decision was made, it flows from natural logic
that it might be easier to resolve the other ones. But none of that is
to say we have changed our view on the importance of so doing.
Q: Earlier today Secretary Cohen said that this was Saddam
Hussein's last, last chance. Is that something that Secretary Albright
RUBIN: It nearly wasn't.
Q: But I mean, would she say the same thing -- this is the last time we could expect to step back from the brink with Hussein?
RUBIN: Saddam Hussein would be making a very big mistake if he
didn't see the writing on the wall. The United States was ready,
willing and able to act this weekend; we remain ready, willing and able
to act. We nearly did and only through this last ditch capitulation was
he able to avoid the use of force. He'd be making a big, big mistake if
he thinks he should play games in the future.
Q: Can we move off to the Middle East, because there's a big story there?
RUBIN: All right, let's move to the Middle East. I think we really exploited that issue to the max.
Q: Well, I just have a follow-up on Barry's question.
RUBIN: You may ask.
Q: Thank you. Which is, I wouldn't imagine that you would have
wanted to have any light between the Secretary and her deputy who is
representing her. Barry had asked the question whether that person did
represent her views and you said you don't want to get into the
technical questions. But I would have thought the answer would be a
RUBIN: If you would like my job, you're welcome to have it at
any time -- especially after a long weekend flying on the plane. My job
does not answer questions the way you would think I would answer them.
The answer I gave stands.
Q: Arafat's rifle is ready.
Q: Obviously, there's another serious crisis. There was meant to
be an Israeli re-deployment today. It's not going to take place. What's
the United States doing about it; and do you have any views on either
the statement by Chairman Arafat over the weekend or on Prime Minister
Netanyahu's response to it?
RUBIN: There is no place in this process for statements which
call for or suggest violent actions. These remarks were wrong and we
will be raising them directly with Chairman Arafat.
I would point out to you, however, that in his speech in
Washington, Chairman Arafat made clear that the Palestinians would not
retreat, that they would not go back to violence and confrontation. We
welcomed that statement made at the White House -- the spirit of which
should guide our efforts.
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks that Israeli
troop withdrawal will not begin unless and until Arafat issues a public
retraction, let me say that the Wye Memorandum was signed without
conditions. It is our expectation that both sides will implement the
agreement as signed. We understand the two leaders have spoken today,
and it is our expectation that both sides will do what is necessary to
meet their obligations under the Wye Memorandum.
Q: Now, there's not - right, without what is your word? Preconditions or conditions?
Q: But there are things that are on track. There are
simultaneous parallel tracks, right? So this came up before, and it is
going to come, I guess, again. If one side does something wrong in one
respect, is the other side entitled by the very structure of the
agreement to say, if that's the way you are doing it, we stop.
RUBIN: Are you suggesting when one side did something wrong, like Har Homa, like I suggested -
Q: Well, it came up last week, exactly.
RUBIN: -- and then Arafat does something wrong like today, then suddenly the agreement is off? That's not our view.
Q: No, no, I don't mean the agreement's off - of course, you'd
like the agreement to go through. I'm putting it badly. I'm just saying
I thought this intricate arrangement involved parallel, simultaneous
actions. And if one group is going down the track, is the other side
supposed to --
RUBIN: We're talking about actions. We're talking about
security cooperation. Steps needed to be made in the anti-incitement
committee; steps needed to be made on the letter; steps needed to be
made on a work plan. It's also true that Foreign Minister Sharon called
for every settler to seize every hilltop. It is absolutely essential
that the right kind of environment be created for permanent status
negotiations. Statements such as the one made by Foreign Minister
Sharon undermine the trust and confidence necessary for such an
environment, and we will be raising this statement with the Foreign
Q: I think I understand a little better.
RUBIN: He started it, so let's go back to him.
Q: Can we just clarify that? You're saying that anyone can say
what they like without affecting the agreement, but it is only actions
that count when you judge whether the agreement has been violated?
RUBIN: Well, certainly the way the agreement was structured, the
agreement was structured that parallel steps would be followed with
parallel steps. Those are actions. We've also said broadly that we do
not think that provocative statements help the peace process, and
certainly the one by Chairman Arafat did not. I indicated that I
thought that statement was wrong by advocating violence in that way. I
also pointed to other statements he's made which said that they will
never retreat from the peace process -- they would never go back to
violence and confrontation.
So it is our expectation that the Knesset is expected to vote on
the agreement on Tuesday. We expect and hope that that will be a
positive vote, and we expect that both parties will carry out their
obligations and responsibilities under the terms of the Wye Memorandum.
Let's bear in mind that there has been a long period of time in which
trust and confidence has broken down. It's pretty easy to get one side
or the other into a hostile climate. What Ambassador Ross is doing over
there is going to try to sway some of these problems and limit the
damage that they would otherwise cause.
Let's also bear in mind that we had a long, long period where
there was no trust and confidence where many words were thrown back and
forth, many actions were taken; and that built up a lot of mistrust. We
think that we broke the back of that at the Wye River Memorandum and
negotiations, but there is still a lot that remains. Ambassador Ross
will be there and when he leaves, I believe tomorrow, Aaron Miller,
Deputy Special Middle Eastern Coordinator, will be staying on for an
We think we can help insure that there is smooth
implementation. We understand there have been delays, but that doesn't
mean that each side can't carry out its respective obligations which we
expect the parties to do.
Q: Can you deal with the situation a little more directly? Are
you saying that irrespective of the rhetoric, which you disapprove of
on both sides, Israel should proceed with the withdrawal? That's the
RUBIN: The Israelis and the Palestinians signed a document at
the White House which imposed certain obligations on them. Those
obligations did not come with conditions about every word that was said
by every party. As I recall, there were some rather dramatic exchanges
of words that occurred prior to the build-up towards the agreement of
the Cabinet. That is not to say that we don't regard Chairman Arafat's
statement as wrong. We are going to raise that with him. There is no
place in the peace process for statements which call for or suggest
Nevertheless, we expect both parties to abide by the agreement
they signed, which did not include conditions about subjects like this.
Q: So the answer is, yes, Israel should proceed with -- well,
that's the visible thing, the most immediate visible thing. Israel
should proceed with the 2 percent pull-back, irrespective of --
RUBIN: Both sides should live up to its obligations in the memorandum.
RUBIN: There are a number of obligations that I could run
through with you in the first phase that I'd be happy to read for you.
They do include the obligation on the Israeli side that you mention.
Q: Well, if you want to get into the Palestinian obligation,
which I think is a less clear area because land is land and a pull-back
is a pull-back. But if you have obligations to counter terrorism and
your leader says, we will raise our rifle in Jerusalem, you think that
corroborates a process of countering terrorism?
RUBIN: Barry, you know full well there's a distinction that's been made a long time about --
Q: Well, one's tangible and one's intangible. It's difficult.
RUBIN: No, about violence and terrorism. I'm not going to go down that road with you.
Q: But you understand the Israelis have to do physical things on
the ground. What the Palestinians have to do is harder to grasp. And
you don't put that in a category of violating the commitment to counter
RUBIN: I don't know how to help you any more than I have.
Q: Well, you could just say it doesn't violate the commitment; it's bad rhetoric, but it doesn't violate their commitments.
RUBIN: It's wrong for either side to make statements that harm
the climate. There is no place in the peace process for Chairman Arafat
to say what he said.
Q: Jamie, the Palestinians are saying today that President
Clinton told Chairman Arafat in a private meeting that if things don't
go well in the final status talks when May rolls around, that he is
prepared to go along with a declaration of a Palestinian state.
RUBIN: Well, I have no idea what you're quoting, and I can
assure you that I will not confirm in this job, so long as I have it,
any statements that are made by President Clinton privately - whatever
he might have said. I have no idea and I just don't intend to get into
Q: There are a number of stories, I think on all the wire
services today having senior Palestinian officials saying that. I'm
RUBIN: Well, Palestinian officials are welcome to talk about
whatever they want to talk about, but this spokesman is not going to
talk about what President Clinton says privately.
Q: (Inaudible) - last week's meeting between Greek -- (inaudible) -- and Under Secretary Marc Grossman for their --
Q: In this rhetorical volley that's going back and forth between
the Israelis and the Palestinians, between Sharon and Arafat, is there
a heavier burden on the person who fires the first volley? I don't even
know whether it was Sharon or Arafat in this case.
RUBIN: I think we'd all have a tough time trying to figure out who started the verbal volleying on any subject.
Q: But this round, which is a very serious round, is there a heavier burden on the person who started it?
RUBIN: I certainly think both sides shouldn't start it and both
sides shouldn't do it; and the phrase "turn the other cheek" is one
they could do well to remember.
Q: Any read-out on last week's meeting between Greek Archbishop
Spyridon and Under Secretary Marc Grossman for the Ecumenical Patriarch
issue in Constantinople?
RUBIN: I am advised that no such document is yet available, but as you've asked the question, it will shortly be available.
Q: Anything on the leader of the Kurdish (inaudible) Liberation Front, PKK, General Abdullah Ocalan has been arrested in Italy?
RUBIN: In this case, you've struck.
We welcome Ocalan's arrest as an important step in the fight
against global terrorism. We commend the Italian Government for its
action on this matter. The US designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist
organization under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act. We believe he should be extradited and brought to justice, and we
believe the governments of Italy, Germany and Turkey should work
together to find a solution that brings him to justice.
Q: What was the US role in his arrest, since the Turkish Prime
Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, expressed his gratitude to your ambassador in
Ankara, Mr. Parris?
RUBIN: I don't know what expression of gratitude was had on
that subject. But I can say that whenever a terrorist anywhere is
apprehended, we think that's a good day for those of us who oppose
Q: What do you consider Abdullah Ocalan as an international terrorist - why?
RUBIN: I think the State Department has put out very often an
annual study of terrorism in which it spells out the reasons why we
regard the PKK as a terrorist organization. I'd be happy to provide you
a copy of that.
Q: Do you have any doubts about the Turkish demand for extradition? I mean, you didn't really endorse it directly.
RUBIN: We believe the governments of Italy, Germany and Turkey
should work together to find a solution that brings him to justice.
What's important is that this terrorist is brought to justice. Given
that he's now in Italian prison and there are other warrants for him
elsewhere, this is a matter that we needn't immediately express our
opinion on, especially when we're talking about three NATO allies who
are perfectly capable of working on this subject together.
Q: I have a question about my colleague's question.
RUBIN: Can you ask your colleague?
Q: No, no, about you. Do you know any city in the world that's
name is Constantinople right now? The United States now recognized that
the city's name is Constantinople.
RUBIN: This sounds like a discussion you ought to have with your colleague after the briefing.
Q: No, no, the question is directed to you - name is Constantinople.
RUBIN: I will certainly check the long list of names of cities
in the world and give you a - I guess it would be an atlas answer to
this question and look forward to additional questions of this type in
Q: Vice President Gore has apparently offended the Malaysian
Prime Minister. He said some of the things that the Vice President have
said in defending Anwar have been the rudest thing that he's heard. Do
you have a comment on this and on the Vice President's comments?
RUBIN: Well, I don't know exactly what's transpired today. I
did witness a rather bizarre exchange yesterday, when Secretary
Albright merely stated that she hoped that Malaysia would be a good
host to this conference and permit Secretary Albright to meet with Wan
Azizah the wife of Anwar, who came over to the hotel. They had a
meeting for about a half an hour in which Secretary Albright expressed,
on behalf of the United States, our concern about his treatment in
prison, our concern that he have due process, our concern about the
extent to which the certain state security acts -- I may have gotten
the name wrong -- were being deployed.
When she mentioned that, the host from Malaysia brought up some
unrelated matter with respect to who she might want to visit when she
were here. We regarded that as a rather pathetic analogy that said more
about the Malaysian defensiveness on this subject than anything else.
Q: Talking about interesting international cities -- Pyongyang.
I wanted to know basically whether the meetings went ahead as planned,
whether you've got any reading yet from them?
RUBIN: Well, he arrived today. As you know, our position is to
focus on the importance of getting access to this important site that
is suspicious to us - this underground site.
Let me say to those of you who seem to draw dramatic and
unjustified conclusions from Secretary Albright's comments on Friday,
it is her view and it is the State Department's view that a failure to
resolve this issue would call into question the viability of the agreed
One doesn't need to repeat that position every time to have it,
and I hope people will take a look at the panoply of statements the
Secretary has made about a subject like that before imputing a
particular view based on the absence of one sentence at one time or
Secretary Albright from the beginning has taken the view that
this is a major problem, and that if we don't get access to this
underground facility -- that means verbal assurances are not sufficient
-- that it will call into question the viability of the agreement.
One can have that view and also have the view that at the
Pyongyang facility, where the IAEA is doing its inspecting and where
the rods are being transferred, that that is going according to plan.
In other words, at the known declared facilities, the North
Koreans are doing what they need to do to ensure that they're not using
that facility to develop a nuclear weapon material capability; and
still be concerned about what they might do in the future at this other
facility. So that is Secretary of State Albright's views, contrary to
what some of you might have read.
With respect to what they're doing now, I'm advised that they simply just arrived and so nothing really has happened yet.
Q: Are they expecting to have meetings today or hoping to?
RUBIN: I believe the 16th is the first day of meetings, so they
should, according to reliable sources, be having meetings very shortly.
The moment they've read out those meetings or told us that they've
occurred, provided communications is good, we will pass that on to you.
Q: I mean, you know as well as anybody who says what in this
town makes a huge difference. If a senior US official is speaking on
background and says they're going to withdraw from the agreement,
that's one thing.
RUBIN: I don't believe that's what they said, and certainly the
way that whole questioning proceeded argued to me to avoid having
senior US officials brief you ever.
Q: Well, it would be better if they make a -- when they announce a huge policy shift --
RUBIN: There was no policy shift.
Q: -- they could say it -- can I finish, please?
RUBIN: But, I mean, you're making things up.
Q: Jamie, look at the -- I'm not making anything up and you know I'm not.
RUBIN: Yes, you are. Fine, make it up some more in your question and then I'll answer it.
Q: The point was that the Secretary of State was asked to
reiterate what someone else said. She even started to say exactly what
you said and stopped.
RUBIN: Now you know what she was about to say?
Q: No, she started with that exact sentence that you have.
RUBIN: And you know what was in the remainder of the sentence?
Q: No, I don't.
RUBIN: Are you a mind reader now?
Q: No, I don't. She started the exact formulation you've started and stopped in mid-sentence.
RUBIN: How do you know what the rest of the sentence was?
Q: I don't know what the rest of it was.
RUBIN: So why are you saying she started to say a certain formulation and then stopped?
Q: I say, she started what you just said - a failure to resolve
this issue would call into question the viability of the framework.
RUBIN: How could you know she started to say that if you don't know what the rest of the sentence was?
Q: Because she said -- look at the transcript.
RUBIN: Pose a question without mind reading, okay?
Q: Look at the transcript. Look at the exact words she used - "a
failure to resolve this question" -- and she stopped and went with
another thought. She just stopped right there, we'll just leave it at
that - just stopped after that --
RUBIN: So you retract all your mind reading about what she was going to say afterwards.
Q: I didn't say what she was going to say afterwards.
RUBIN: You did; you said she started to say something. So what's the question?
Q: The question is, what is the policy of this government? Is it
that the viability of the agreement will be drawn into question to the
point of altering your obligations if they don't give access to the
site, or, I mean, what is it?
RUBIN: I think I said what the policy is. If you all think that
your job is to take every word that someone says on background and see
if you can get the Secretary of State to say it, then you don't seem to
have any interest in having background briefings. And I will take that
to heart, and I will encourage them not to have background briefings in
the future on this subject. That is going to be my policy until I can
understand better the logic of your questioning.
But with respect to our policy, our policy is the one that I
stated from the podium and that the Secretary of State stated when she
was here - which is that this is a matter of major significance to us.
If it's not resolved, it will affect the viability of the regime.
Using words like "affecting the viability of the regime" have
consequences. I even said, I believe, from the podium that if we don't
have this resolved, there will be negative consequences. So it seems to
me beyond that, it's inappropriate for me to say other than that we are
working to get to the bottom of it.
Q: Well, background briefings -- if the sole use for background
briefings is to manipulate information prior to negotiation and to give
information that US officials will not stand by publicly in the future,
then maybe it's better, by my point of view, that you don't have
RUBIN: I'll make sure you're never at a background briefing.
Q: On the contrary, background briefings are very helpful --
especially those on North Korea. That moratorium in Russia is over, and
it appears that there will be quite a shortfall of repayment -- I think
about $2 billion out of $6 billion, question one. And question two,
what is the state of play with regard to the food agreement?
RUBIN: I think the food agreement has been on track and the
Russian bank issue is contingent upon working on the IMF facility. So I
don't have any new information for you on that.
Q: And this moratorium being off and they are still talking about reneging on debts --
RUBIN: Well, we've urged the Russian Government to work on a plan by which they can meet their debt obligations.
Q: Thank you.
[ U.S. Embassy in Israel | www.usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/press/state/archive/1998/