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State Dept Breifing (2)

State Department Briefing - August 10 - Part 2 of 2. See previous item for beginning of briefing...

CONTINUES...

What I'm saying is that there are contingency --

QUESTION: Is completely useless.

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: Right, it's an intellectual point. Contingency plans always exist. The military in a global power like the United States has to have contingency plans.

QUESTION: You're not saying whether this was a contingency plan.

MR. RUBIN: Correct. Now, can we move on to Colombia - a nice, easy problem to solve.

QUESTION: Colombia? Secretary Albright says in her op-ed that Colombia's problems extend beyond its borders and have implications for the region. Does this mean she shares General McCaffrey's view? General McCaffrey said in Congress that the guerrillas in Colombia are crossing the borders; they're having a paradise in Panama and also crossing to Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela.

MR. RUBIN: Well, General McCaffrey and Secretary Albright both work for the same person -- President Clinton - and we do share General McCaffrey's views on a number of situations. We certainly were indicating -- Secretary Albright was - that this is a regional problem. When you have instability caused by guerrilla activity, damage and instability can spread beyond simply the borders of Colombia.

QUESTION: And also, Secretary Albright says that this serves regional support of President Pastrana. Presidents from the region have already said they support the peace process. Is this peace indicating that the United States is talking about something else the countries of the region should do to support President Pastrana?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Ambassador Pickering, Under Secretary Pickering, is now in Colombia. We're going to be working very closely with the Colombian Government on any ideas that they have that can assist in the promotion of law, democracy and the fight against drugs in Colombia.

To the extent that new ideas are developed, we certainly believe that in order for them to succeed, they need to have regional cooperation. We're not indicating that there isn't regional cooperation in principle, but we believe one has to get much more specific.

QUESTION: On what?

MR. RUBIN: On any new ideas that might be developed by the Colombian Government.

QUESTION: You say the Secretary was indicating in her op-ed piece that this is a regional problem.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Does she also indicate, then, that there is a regional solution?

MR. RUBIN: I think in response to the question, I said that if new ideas are developed by the Colombian Government and we want to assist them in pursuing those new ideas, that we believe that they also should be supported and assisted by countries in the region. Therefore, we do believe countries in the region should be supportive.

To what extent they are supportive and on what particular issues, they will each be in a position to make those decisions. But because we believe it's a regional problem, we believe everyone would benefit from a solution; and therefore, a number of countries should be supportive. They have been, but we all may need to do more.

QUESTION: She also suggested it's a hemispheric problem - the United States being the demand side of the problem. Does she also think that the United States should be part of this regional solution?

MR. RUBIN: I think I've said three times now that we want to be supportive and assist Colombia with any new ideas, provided we think they're good ideas that we want to assist in, and that we want to be helpful. That's why Under Secretary Pickering is there; that's why he has an interagency team with him. We've been extremely supportive of President Pastrana and we would want to be even more supportive as he develops more ideas to deal with this problem.

QUESTION: General McCaffrey and Secretary Albright work for the same person. McCaffrey is going to travel in two weeks to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. He said he's going on a request made by President Clinton to start consultations with the countries on the Colombian issue. Is this the --

MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that particular quote by General McCaffrey. I know that General McCaffrey works very closely with officials at the State Department, whether that's Assistant Secretary-designate Pete Romero or other officials in the drugs part of our building; and he consults very closely with the State Department in making any decisions or any actions outside the United States, and wouldn't do so without the full support and approval of the Department of State.

QUESTION: You just said that - Romero is designate. He hasn't been confirmed?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think so, no.

QUESTION: Pickering is going to Venezuela tomorrow. Do you have anything on what he hopes to accomplish there?

MR. RUBIN: I do not but I'll try to get you something during the course of the day.

QUESTION: Going back to North Korea for a moment, are we operating fairly much under Mr. Perry's recommendations now? I realize that no report per se has been released, but have his sentiments fairly well been implemented vis-`-vis North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that question since the report hasn't been filed.

QUESTION: Hashim Thaci yesterday had some comments about the French peacekeepers and the situation in Mitrovica.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I was asked about them yesterday. Do you want to do that again?

QUESTION: You were asked about them yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay, well, I hadn't seen them yesterday; I didn't know.

MR. RUBIN: Read the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on --

MR. RUBIN: But I'm happy, after you've read the briefing if you want to do it again, I'd be thrilled to do it again. I'd even be happy to do it again.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Lee's televised statement about Chinese air force jets crossing strait lines?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. With respect to that issue, let me say that we, for some time now, have been monitoring the situation over the Taiwan Straits very closely. We are aware that recently a number of sorties have been flown by both China and Taiwan - military aircraft - in the Taiwan Strait.

Any time you have military aircraft flying this close to each other, there is a need for and appropriate for there to be concern about accidents. We have repeatedly stated both to Taiwan and China that it is not beneficial for either side to take steps that increase tensions across the Taiwan Strait. We continue to urge both sides to exercise restraint and not take actions or make statements that make meaningful and substantive dialogue more difficult, and to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION: What about Congressman Gilman's statement that he supports Taiwan's position? It seems that contradicts --

MR. RUBIN: This is a House delegation that's in Taiwan lead by Chairman Gilman. They are there; they will meet with President Lee and others; they will speak for themselves, as members of Congress do; and it will be up to them to describe their own views. We certainly didn't ask the members to convey a message on our behalf.

QUESTION: Jamie, on Gilman -- I've got this one - are you going to ask the same thing I'm going to ask? In light of this Washington Times story, Jamie, would you like to make any public comments about the Congressman's sense of humor or lack thereof?

MR. RUBIN: Let me suggest to you that sometimes in this job, one is presented with a piece of legislation and a question that the Administration has never even heard about or been provided. That happens quite a bit when some over- eager folks are more interested in having the journalists know about a piece of legislation than they are about actually introducing it or presenting it for serious consideration by the Administration.

In the course of that, that puts the Administration in the uncomfortable position of being forced to respond to legislation through the media that they've never seen before. So on a slow, summer day, I think I made that point humorously and amusingly and obviously not everyone thought it was as funny as I did.

QUESTION: Dagestan - Mr. Stepashin yesterday said that we - the Russians - may really lose Dagestan; the situation is very serious. Have you any comments on the continuing fighting on the borders of Dagestan? And I would ask you if this group called the Wahhabi Islamic Movement is aligned with Mr. Bin Laden, or do you know?

MR. RUBIN: Clashes continue between Russian Federation authorities and armed groups from Chechnya in the Russian Federation Republic of Dagestan. According to the Russian press, the armed groups are subordinate to outlaw field commanders who oppose Chechnyan President Maskhadov and support establishment of Islamic law in Russia's North Caucasus region. There are a variety of reports about casualties. We are following the situation closely.

Obviously, Dagestan is a volatile region and the situation there is complex. We view with concern the marked increase of violent clashes in the region of Chechnya in the past months and condemn this action by armed groups from Chechnya against lawful authority and innocent civilians, which has resulted in loss of life and is displacing families from their homes. It is important for all concerned to act responsibly and to respect human rights. We urge all parties to refrain from steps which could harm innocent civilians.

With respect to that question about the linkage between any of these groups and Usama Bin Laden, I have no information to provide for you.

QUESTION: Does that include the Russians you're urging to look out for the safety of civilians?

MR. RUBIN: We recognize the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, as I indicated yesterday in response to your question. That does not mean, however, that we have no concern or interest in what goes on there. We urge all concerned - that means everybody concerned - to refrain from actions that could harm innocent civilians.

QUESTION: One more on East Timor.

MR. RUBIN: Let's go back there first, then we'll come back for round two on the non-report.

QUESTION: Back to North Korea -- there was a report that the United States has proposed some more detailed, more specific proposal in relation to Dr. Perry's proposal in Geneva. For example, how do you improve North Korea and the United States' relationship? Is that true?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Dr. Perry went to North Korea and spoke in detail about ideas that he was considering recommending. Certainly our discussions with North Korea since then have involved elaborating on, discussing or further reiterating aspects of that. But I'm not going to be in a position to give you any detail here in the United States on what the actual proposal is. I know that some in other governments give you detail on what they think has happened in meetings by the United States and other countries; but from our standpoint, we think it's better for the diplomacy and the objective to not provide second-hand accounts of what happens in meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)

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