U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing (1)
U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing
A softening position on the return of a Cuban boy and the Pope's visit to Iraq is off, apparently. The US says Iraq's reasons for cancelling the invitation are bogus.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, December 10, l999
Briefer: James B. Foley
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1-5 Under Secretary Pickering's Travel to Africa / Developments in Cote D'Ivoire US Commemorates Human Rights Day / Iraqi Oil Smuggling
IRAQ 1-6 Refusal to Participate in Oil-For-Food Program / Oil Smuggling 13 Pope John Paul II's Visit to Iraq / UN Sanctions / No-Fly Zones
CUBA 6-9 Migration Talks / Elian Gonzalez / Diplomatic Note Delivered to Cuban Government
PANAMA 6 Secretary Albright will not Attend Handover Ceremony
MEXICO 8 Police Incident Involving DEA and FBI Agents
DEPARTMENT 9-11 Expulsion of Russian Diplomat / Exceptional Cooperation Between FBI and State Department's Diplomatic Service
EU SUMMIT 11 US Supports Turkey's EU Candidacy / Threats to Cutoff Financial Aid to Russia / US and EU Deplore the Indiscriminate Use of Force Against Civilians in Chechnya
RUSSIA 12-13 Deployment of Nuclear Missiles in Saratov Region
PAKISTAN 13 Pakastani Ambassador to the US / US-Pakistan Relations
NORTH KOREA 14 Lifting of Japanese Sanctions / US Supports Japanese-North Korean Dialogue
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #151 FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1999, 1:25 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: I apologize for being more than ten minutes after Ambassador Ross' briefing. I have a number of announcements. Something tells me this is going to be an ordeal today; I hope everyone grabbed lunch after the last briefing - those of you who weren't filing.
I have, as I said, a number of announcements, most of which I'll just post. One is concerning Under Secretary Pickering's travel to Africa beginning on Sunday through December 15. He's going next week to Angola and to Nigeria and we'll post that statement. Secondly, in terms of developments in Cote D'Ivoire, the United States is concerned about the reported issuance by an Ivorian judge of an arrest warrant for Mr. Ouattara, who is the leader of the opposition Republican Rally Party. We've not seen either the warrant or the evidence upon which it's based. But I think the significant point is that Cote D'Ivoire is having presidential elections in October of next year and the United States supports no specific candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Cote D'Ivoire, but we believe that all eligible candidates should be allowed to compete in an open, fair and democratic election.
Moving along, today is Human Rights Day and we have a rather lengthy statement from Secretary of State Albright in commemoration of Human Rights Day.
Finally, if you'll go to - not the video, but the static chart, I'd like to make a brief comment about the ongoing phenomenon of Iraqi oil smuggling which continues to this day.
Recently declassified satellite photography - of which this is one example - reveals that Iraq continues to smuggle oil in violation of UN sanctions.
This comes at a time when the government of Iraq has refused to participate in an extension of the Oil-For-Food Program. While Iraq's refusal to sell oil during this period has not caused immediate disruption to the humanitarian program because of the back log or what was in the pipeline, it's refusal to fund UN-approved purchases while filling the regimes coffers with illicit revenue in defiance of the UN shows the regime's arrogance and indifference. It demonstrates yet again that Saddam Hussein puts the interest of his regime ahead of those of the people of Iraq. That is because the revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil under the UN-administered Oil-For-Food Program are controlled by the United Nations to ensure that Iraqi imports are devoted solely to humanitarian purposes; whereas, the proceeds from the illicit and illegal sale of Iraqi oil obviously are not controlled by the international community or by the UN. They are controlled solely by Saddam Hussein and his regime and therefore there is every reason to believe that they are going for illicit purposes, or at least non-humanitarian purposes. There's no reason to believe that Saddam Hussein, who is denying his people the fruits of the UN's Oil-For-Food Program, is surreptitiously providing for humanitarian needs of his people through this sort of illicit smuggling.
Now, satellite photography taken on November 26 of this year - and this is a satellite photograph taken on that date - shows that Iraqi oil tankers - excuse me; not Iraqi, but differently flagged oil tankers - and these are where the arrows are. This is in the Shatt al-Arab and you see tankers in this waterway in the process of loading gasoil at a facility associated with the Basra refinery in southern Iraq. That refinery is somewhere off the satellite photograph.
Under UN Security Council resolutions and the Oil-For-Food Program, Iraq is permitted to export oil only through the approved facilities in Mina al Baqr in the northern Persian Gulf, which is, of course, way off the charts here; and by the oil pipeline through Turkey through the port of Ceyhan. The gasoil being loaded onto tankers in this photograph is being smuggled illicitly outside the Oil-For-Food Program to supply revenue that is totally under the regime's control.
What you see here, this is an oil storage facility. You see barges here; what the barges do is they go out to the different oil tankers that are positioned here and load the oil onto those tankers. These illicit oil exports via the Persian Gulf averaged about 70,000 barrels per day in November. And that represents the highest level since sanctions have been in place. During the last month, Baghdad earned an estimated $21 million from this trade. And again, at the same time, the regime of Saddam Hussein has rejected two-week and a one-week extension of the Oil-For-Food Program.
So, once again, the evidence shows that Saddam Hussein has no compunction about preventing the international community from helping the people of Iraq while at the same time insuring that he has enough money to line his family's pockets, to build palaces and vacation villages for regime supporters, and to buy prohibited goods, including inputs into weapons of mass destruction.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.
QUESTION: Are there any penalties that could be applied since he has violated UN sanctions?
MR. FOLEY: This is a very difficult challenge for the international community, precisely because there are a number of buyers and brokers in the oil market that are willing to purchase smuggled Iraqi gasoil. There is a maritime interdiction force which routinely patrols in the northern Persian Gulf to intercept these kinds of vessels smuggling gasoil but it is impossible to completely cut off the flow of illegal exports, given the fact that even the littoral states in the Persian Gulf don't all necessarily know what's going on in some of the shorelines there where the gasoil is offloaded, sometimes to middlemen, illegal smugglers themselves who are not necessarily acting with the knowledge, let alone the consent, of host governments.
Our aim is to ensure that as much of Iraqi oil production as possible goes through the approved Oil For Food facilities and to work with our partners in the international community to limit Iraq's ability to evade sanctions. I think you're aware that today there is, if it hasn't happened already, there is going to be a six-month rollover of the current Oil For Food Program which allows Iraq to sell, legitimately, up to $5.2 billion every six months of oil, the revenues of which are strictly controlled by the international community under the Sanctions Committee at the UN.
And, moreover, the Omnibus Resolution that is supported by the United States, that is supported by a majority of the members of the Security Council, would further enhance the Iraqi's ability to import oil. It would lift the ceiling in fact. And this would really open a much wider perspective for the provision of humanitarian assistance, of food, to the Iraqi people. This kind of smuggling has nothing to do with the international community's ability to help feed and care for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. It occurs precisely because it evades the controls of the United Nations, allows Saddam to line his pockets, to build his palaces and to otherwise import goods that would be prohibited by the UN.
It is a problem. I don't want to overstate the dimensions. We had not seen activity of this degree through the month of September. It picked up significantly in November. In terms of what punitive measures the international community can undertake, it is obviously something that we are taking up with our friends and allies in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Did you say 70,000 barrels a day earning $21 million in November?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, that's what I said.
QUESTION: I'm not familiar with the term "gasoil." Is that diesel fuel?
MR. FOLEY: I would have to get the technical definition for you. It's something like that, is my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: Speaking of parts for weapons of mass destruction, earlier this week I asked about these electronic switches that the Iraqis were buying up, apparently buying medical machinery. Did you get any response yet?
MR. FOLEY: We're looking into it. We have begun to be in touch with the UN Sanctions Committee. The facts are not, I think, firmly established. I know I owe you an answer on that and we're going to continue to pursue the matter. When I am in a position of having confirmed those details and that information, I'll be willing to share it with you. In other words, we're working on it.
QUESTION: Can you say, given the increase in this kind of activity, has there been also an increase in the number of ships that have been caught by the international community in -
MR. FOLEY: That's a good question - that's a good question. I'd have to take that. As I said, it is difficult. Certainly, there is interdiction. As I said, the maritime interdiction force operating in the northern Persian Gulf area is patrolling and is intercepting vessels that are smuggling the gasoil. And I don't have the latest report on the incidents of intercepts, if you will.
But as I indicated, as these tankers go out into the Persian Gulf, they're able to hug the coastline and evade detection to some degree and it really requires a more concerted and vigilant effort on the part of some of the littoral states in order to crack down further. I don't think it's a problem that's going to be eliminated, but by giving greater publicity to the problem today we hope to increase awareness and therefore cooperation.
QUESTION: Which countries' flags these tankers carrying where oil is going to - which countries are they?
MR. FOLEY: There are numerous international flags, I think, under which these tankers operate in terms of where the gasoil is going. As I said, it's offloaded on the shoreline of the Persian Gulf. That involves, I think, a number of countries. But that is not necessarily the destination of the gasoil. It obviously can disappear or lose its identifying characteristics once it arrives on the market. But we don't believe - at least it's my understanding that the primary market for the gasoil would be the states along the littoral of the Persian Gulf.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the US or the UN are not putting pressure on those countries who are buying the oil from Iraq?
MR. FOLEY: Again, I drew a distinction between those who actually wind up buying the gasoil. That's, I think, probably impossible to track once it's been offloaded and gone to market. But what we are doing is trying to work with the countries of the Persian Gulf to try to see if they can upgrade their efforts in cracking down on the smuggling. Other questions on this or do you want to move on?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, sure.
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say complicit. I said that to some degree we do have a problem with some of the states in the region. But to a large degree we believe that a lot of this is happening without the knowledge of governments in the Gulf.
QUESTION: So the ships whose flags are being flown may not necessarily be involved?
MR. FOLEY: That's a separate issue and I believe that is also true, yes.
QUESTION: To what do you all - you had mentioned earlier that the this activity significantly since November and that relative to September it was a greater volume of smuggling. Do you all have an analysis or to what do you attribute this uptick in the smuggling?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure we've arrived at a judgment on that. As I said, it was actually, in our judgment, rather negligible for most of 1999 and through September and then it picked up significantly since then. I'm not sure that it's possible at this stage to analyze the ups and downs of the illicit activity. What we do know is that these revenues are not controlled by anyone except Saddam Hussein and his regime and that's why it's so disturbing.
QUESTION: You had also suggested in a previous statement that some of this money may go to the regime's efforts to purchase items that may help it reconstitute some of its WMD programs and we used to ask you and the other spokesman from time to time about what your analysis was of Iraq's progress while the inspectors were gone. What's your latest sort of sense of that?
MR. FOLEY: I'd be happy to - or I'd be willing to go through that for you. I did on Wednesday, I believe, and I'd refer you what I said because I kind of probably to the consternation of many of your colleagues, I went on at length about it. It was either Wednesday or Monday when I briefed.
QUESTION: Does the United Nations Security Council have all of this information about this process throughout last year for example and how does that factor into the discussions now under way on whether to continue Oil For Food or vote on the Omnibus -
MR. FOLEY: Certainly, we are sharing this information with countries in the Persian Gulf that are affected and with the United Nations and with members of the Security Council.
In terms of how it affects what's going on in the Security Counsel, in other words, the review by the Security Council of the current Omnibus Resolution which is designed, as I said, to actually enhance the Oil For Food Program to the benefit of the Iraqi people, to return inspectors to Iraq to do their job and to really do their job of disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, that as this matter is being considered in the Security Council today, we believe that it only - that this phenomenon of gasoil smuggling only reinforces our determination to see that the resolution which is going to be voted upon is a real resolution, a credible resolution, especially insofar as it pertains to two factors. One, the credibility of the inspection regime to go into Iraq to pursue disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and, secondly, that under the Oil For Food Program, that the revenues and therefore the imports continue to be monitored and approved by the United Nations because it is clear through this effort that Saddam is trying to circumvent that system to obtain revenue that he can use for his own purposes, purposes, of course, which we cannot verify and certainly approve.
QUESTION: On Cuba, Jim, in a couple of days the United States and Cuba is going to start negotiations and discussions and the immigrations accords.
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't call those negotiations. These are periodic meetings to discuss the status of the implementation of the migration -
QUESTION: Are these going to take place or have they been suspended by Cuba?
MR. FOLEY: What was your question?
QUESTION: Are they going to take place?
MR. FOLEY: My understanding is that those talks are going forward. Certainly, I am not aware that on the Cuban side they've made any move to suspend or to cancel those meetings and certainly not on our side. We think it's important, but not only in our interest but certainly in everyone's interest that we continue to assure safe, legal, orderly migration to the United States.
QUESTION: We understand that the Secretary of State has decided to stay in Washington and not to attend the ceremony for the transfer of the Canal. Who is going to head the US delegation?
MR. FOLEY: I'd have to refer you to the White House because it's a White House delegation that's going to Panama.
MR. FOLEY: Yes, I can confirm that she unfortunately will not be able to go to Panama.
QUESTION: Who is the highest-ranking member of the State Department who will go?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have a final answer on that. I do know that Ambassador Romero will be traveling to Panama to attend the hand-over ceremony. But that, as I said, the list of all who are going is going to be put out by the White House.
QUESTION: Has the father of the boy - the Gonzalez boy been interviewed by the US mission in Havana?
MR. FOLEY: No. Let me back up and give you a status. Do you have a follow-up question?
QUESTION: No, go ahead.
MR. FOLEY: On Wednesday, we delivered to the Cuban Government a diplomatic note outlining the procedures that the Immigration and Naturalization Service must follow in this case, including the need for the INS to interview the boy's father, Mr. Gonzalez Quintana, and the type of documentation he should present. We also asked the Cuban authorities to facilitate the delivery of a letter to Mr. Gonzalez Quintana from the INS district director in Miami detailing the procedures that he should follow.
Up until now, at least at the time of my briefing, the Cuban Government has not responded to our diplomatic note. However, Cuban diplomats and officials in both Washington and Havana met twice yesterday with US officials to clarify the process and the regulations that will be followed in this case. The Cuban Government, though, to repeat, has not agreed to allow US, INS and State Department consular officials to deliver the letter to the boy's father. What we understand from our contacts yesterday is that the Cubans indicated that the father was aware of the offer of the United States and that he would contact the US authorities if he wished to do so. But that is really the latest information in terms of our contact on this matter.
QUESTION: Do you see this - until recently, the Cubans have insisted that the US just return the boy, no talk, just that this is some sort of inalienable right and, you know, we don't want to discuss it. They did so as recently as last night.
Do you see or can you say if these two contacts yesterday signal a greater willingness by the Cubans to approach this in a more process-oriented manner rather than simply a declarative manner?
MR. FOLEY: You mean in a propaganda exercise?
MR. FOLEY: I think it certainly is important to watch how the Cuban authorities respond. We've seen a lot of demonstrations in the streets, we've seen a lot of declarations and demands and certainly President Clinton in his press conference here and Secretary Albright in some of her television interviews this morning made it very clear two essential principles that we're following in this case. One is, above all, what is the interest of the child. The child is not a political football; this is a six-year-old boy and his interests will guide the decision makers in this case above anything else.
Secondly, we are a nation of laws and we respect procedures and that's exactly how this case has been handled and will continue to be handled according to the book. And so it is not a question simply of acceding to demands or to demonstrations but, rather, (a) doing what's in the interests of the child and, (b) doing it by the book according to procedures.
Now, we have made clear - and I said this on Wednesday - that the regulations of the INS recognized the right of a parent to assert parental interest in an immigration proceeding. That is very important. And so what we have done is, through our contact with the Cuban authorities, was to lay out the process by which, according to normal procedures, the Immigration and Naturalization Service can ascertain the father's rights and claims and interests in this case.
So to the extent that the Cuban authorities are really interested in the welfare of the child and in a just disposition of the case, I think they would respond in a cooperative and a facilitative manner to the communication that we sent to them on Wednesday.
QUESTION: On another diplomatic note, we are aware that the US Government presented a diplomatic note to the Mexican Government on December the 3rd and asked them to clarify if the Judicial Police was involved in the incident in Matamoros where a DEA agent and an FBI agent were surrounded by narco-traffickers. It is true that you present to the Mexican authorities that diplomatic note?
MR. FOLEY: I have not heard that. I have to take the question and look into it for you.
QUESTION: Who will decide where the child goes? Is it the INS or is it the state court of Florida?
MR. FOLEY: The determination in this case will be made by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That's how the system functions. It is their decision to make.
QUESTION: And then can the relatives in Miami block the INS in state court?
MR. FOLEY: My understanding - I'm not a lawyer - is that they are separate issues. The Immigration and Naturalization Service determines custody based on the law and regulations in this case in the interests of the child. And the INS will, hopefully on the basis of having been able to meet with Mr. Gonzalez and establish his relationship to the child, will be able to make its decision, I believe in a matter of weeks, and will do so the way it would in any similar case.
After that decision is made, it is at least theoretically possible that it could become a matter for the courts if anyone were to challenge the INS decision. But that's not the procedure, though, for determining in the first instance custody of the child.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - yesterday, is it your understanding that the Cuban government, as they have said, the father understands the nature of this note and what is required of him, even if he has not seen it particularly, so the next step then is for him to come up with these papers and have the meeting or do you still have to wait for an official diplomatic response to the earlier note?
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question? Do we have to have a response from him by letter?
QUESTION: A response back. Do you have to have a letter back or can he now come, if he understands correctly what the next step is, have that meeting and then move from there? What's the next -
MR. FOLEY: I would hesitate to get into the particulars of the issue. After all, you are raising a sort of a procedural question, whether we need to have a letter from him. I think what we are interested in is not sort of the bureaucratic aspect of this case. It is important for the child that we have all the facts and we believe that the way to - and the only way to adjudicate this is for the INS to be able to talk directly with Mr. Gonzalez. So what's important is that this meeting take place. How the Cubans or the father himself is able to communicate to us, I think, is of lesser importance than the actual fact or not of a meeting.
But referring back to Ben's question, what must happen is that the INS must make a decision regarding who has the legal authority to speak on Elian's behalf. Once that is established, then the INS can assess what Elilan's immigrant status is. And the documents that we're seeking from the father are necessary to help the INS answer these questions. And we are well aware, certainly, whatever the outcome, there is going to be a political reaction and we're going to have to take the heat, regardless of how the INS decides the outcome of the case. And it's important, I think, in all things but especially in this sort of a matter that the right thing be done, regardless of the outcome or regardless of the consequences. It's important to do the right thing on behalf of the child.
QUESTION: Different subject. On the spy investigation, can you tell me how the investigation is going? Are you continuing to interview people in this building and out?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not going to be able to comment in any kind of detail about the work of law enforcement, the work of the FBI, the work of the State Department's Office of Diplomatic Security. I can certainly underscore what was said here yesterday, which is that there has really been exceptional cooperation between the FBI and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Office in the months preceding the apprehension on Wednesday. And you saw that displayed here at the podium yesterday and that cooperation is continuing.
I can confirm, because Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Carpenter yesterday told you, that the process of the investigation has shifted and they are now interviewing people in order to determine or develop leads in the case. I can't comment, though, on the specifics of how that is going and we'll have to see how that goes. I think Secretary Albright, in some of her TV interviews this morning, I think, pointed out the fact that there are different phases of this case and we've now entered a new phase and that it has to be done in a sequential way; that it was necessary in order to protect our ability to detect and neutralize the operation, that a certain approach be taken up until the time that it was shut down. And Mr. Gusev was apprehended on Wednesday. And now we're in a new mode and a more open investigation is underway to determine everything that needs to be known about the incident.
QUESTION: Are you absolutely confident that there are no other bugs in this building?
MR. FOLEY: I'm glad you asked the question because one of your fellow networks - a major network - in its report last evening, made the rather remarkable claim that people in the State Department are pulling their hair out over the possibility that there are many bugs here in the State Department and that walls are going to be torn down to look for those bugs. And that, of course, was at complete variance with what Mr. Carpenter said yesterday.
He made it crystal clear; (a) that we had a program of sweeps that did not cover the entire building - and he explained that - underway before the incident but that, upon learning of the existence of the bug, a very thorough going sweeping effort was undertaken throughout the Department. And so I checked when I saw that television report and I checked not only in this building, but elsewhere and the reaction was one of dismay. I can assure you that Diplomatic Security has undertaken extensive sweeps and believes that there are no such instruments here in the building at this time.
QUESTION: And what about any of the other numerous buildings that this Department occupies around town?
MR. FOLEY: Certainly it's an ongoing effort and it's one that has to be prioritized, as Mr. Carpenter indicated yesterday. Given that we have only so much manpower, one has to concentrate in the first instance on the most sensitive and important areas of the State Department. Although, let me back up and underline what Secretary Albright said this morning and what Mr. Carpenter said yesterday that the effort to ensure the integrity of the most sensitive areas of the State Department had been ongoing even before this incident and that the bug that was found was not in any such area. But the effort to complete the task of sweeping all of our facilities, I believe, is ongoing.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you quickly, the Russian foreign ministry today has made a statement that the way that this accused Russian spy was treated was a crude violation of the Vienna Convention, that he has been improperly treated and this is clearly a tit for tat, any reaction?
MR. FOLEY: There are two parts to the question. On the allegation of a tit for tat action on our part, I think that the briefing that you had yesterday was fairly compelling in that regard, that indeed this was something that was spotted and identified many months ago. Secretary Albright indicated this morning she had been briefed a number of months ago; it was something that we were watching and watching in a way so that we could, at the right moment, neutralize the operation. And our briefers yesterday indicated why the timing occurred as it did and when it did.
In terms of the first part - and so therefore this was not a retaliatory exercise by any means. In terms of the first part of your question, I have not heard or seen that quotation from the Russian authorities. Was it the foreign minister you are referring to? I have not seen that. But, certainly, without seeing it, I can reject the claim. I think that Mr. Gusev was treated very responsibly. He was - because he enjoys diplomatic immunity - was given back into the custody of consular officials of the Russian embassy. He will not be charged. Because he has diplomatic immunity, he will - has been required to leave the United States within 10 days, starting Wednesday, last Wednesday, so he has eight days to go.
(continues - see next story.)