U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – 8th Mar
Announcements - Sudan – Iran – Middle East Peace Process – Pakistan – Cyprus – Greece – Bosnia - Columbia
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Daily Press Briefing Inde
xWednesday, March 8, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1 Statement on Sudan: Bombing of Civilian Population Centers
SUDAN 1-2 Readout of Special Envoy Harry Johnston's Visit / Staffing of Embassy
IRAN 2-5 US Easing of Sanctions / US-Iran Dialogue
MEPP 7 Israeli-Palestinian Talks in Washington / Sharm el-Sheik Agreement & Permanent Status Talks / US Participation in Talks 9 Ross Travel & Meetings 9-11 Israeli-Syrian Track / Impact of Recent Announcement of New PM & Cabinet Changes 10 Update on Ross' Contacts in Israeli-Syria Track
PAKISTAN 11 US-Pakistan Relationship / Has Pakistan Achieved US Goals / US Friend of Pakistani Nation 11 POTUS Trip / Goals of Trip / US Involvement in Kashmir Mediation 12 Secretary Albright Travel Plans to Region
CYPRUS 15 Special Presidential Emissary Moses & Special Cyprus Coordinator Westin Trip to Region / Goals of Trip
GREECE 15 Criticisms of State Department Human Rights Report
BOSNIA 15 Arrest of Indicted Bosnian Serb War Criminal Dragoljub Prcac / Prcac's Whereabouts
COLOMBIA 16-19 Colombian Vice President Bell's Trip to DC / Plan Colombia / Money Laundering & Emeralds
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #19 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2000, 12:28 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Why not start on time, today being Wednesday and it is a prior-to-12:30 briefing here at the Department of State. As I look out on this crowded room, let me try to calm everybody down with the following statements. Seriously now.
The United States Government strongly condemns the Sudanese Government's repeated bombings of relief sites, hospital facilities, schools and other civilian population centers in Southern Sudan.
Since January, the government appears to have intensified its aerial bombardment of civilian targets with attacks reported in the Nuba Mountains, Western Equatoria and Bar el Ghazel.
In the latest bombing incidents on March the 7th, Sudanese airplanes repeated their attack again Lui Town which was also bombed on March the 1st. At least 15 bombs were reportedly dropped near a medical facility run by Samaritans Purse, a US-based non-governmental organization.
The US Government calls again upon the government of Sudan to halt immediately and unconditionally all aerial bombardments of civilian targets in the south. Calling these attacks a mistake is simply not sufficient and not credible. These bombings must stop.
That is all I have on - yes, questions on Sudan?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - hard-liners were purged, right, in Sudan? That's interesting. Harry Johnston wound up his visit I believe yesterday. Do you have any readout on his visit?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. He left Khartoum, my information suggests that he left yesterday, having arrived on the 3rd, Friday. He will stop in Cairo before heading back to the US. He met with President Bashir, he visited with a wide range of government officials. In these sessions, he emphasized the importance of energizing the negotiating process, pressing for human rights improvements and urging increased access to humanitarian supplies.
He also raised the issue of these bombings very directly and indicated that we condemned these bombings and we were looking for progress. He met with a wide range of individuals and I can get you a copy after this briefing of the statement he made upon his departure.
QUESTION: He also had a press conference in Cairo. Is there any movement on this DS thing about re-staffing the Embassy, or is it still --
MR. RUBIN: Well, they continue to assess the situation, obviously, of whether conditions now permit the resumption of near continuous rotating visits and that is ongoing. There are people there now. We have no plans at present to return to full-time American staff.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just people who are there now or some embassy staff who are there now?
MR. RUBIN: There is a number of individuals who are there associated with Harry Johnston's trip, and DS has been there to assess the viability of having this near-continuous process. It is my understanding they are there now but I will check that for you.
I'm done with statements. Let's go to the questions then.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. RUBIN: Why not.
QUESTION: There are reports that the US --
MR. RUBIN: By the way, I think this should be considered a precedent. From now on the networks should ask the first question. (Laughter.) Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: There are reports that the US is considering easing some sanctions against some Iranian goods like caviar and carpets. Any truth to these rumors?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we have not made any changes to our sanctions beyond what was done last April. In April, we welcomed Iranian purchases of wheat and medical supplies and the President exempted these items from existing sanctions, as he did for a number of countries around the world. Iran has been purchasing US agricultural and medical products since then.
With respect to our actions, I have nothing new to report to you. Nothing has changed in terms of our decisionmaking. We're looking at ways to engage Iran in a dialogue and to recognize the important changes that are taking place there, but I wouldn't have any further comment on that specific report.
QUESTION: But -- (inaudible) - in effect be a way to encourage them to engage? We're encouraging them to buy stuff from this country, and this would be a way to reciprocate that gesture.
MR. RUBIN: I've seen that written in the newspapers, yeah.
QUESTION: Obviously there's a permanent consideration of these sanctions.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: You have contingency plans of all kinds I believe.
MR. RUBIN: That's one thing we like to do, be ready for all contingencies here.
QUESTION: Have the elections accelerated the process of considering these sanctions?
MR. RUBIN: Well, without reference to any specific idea or any specific consideration of any specific idea, the Secretary did indicate when she was on the Hill that she thought it was appropriate for us to look at ways to improve the chances of getting a dialogue started and getting our concerns about Iranian actions dealt with through a dialogue. She indicated that after the election. And that was an indicator that people are looking for ways to do that. I'm not going to specify what things they're looking at or what ways they're looking at, but she indicated that we're looking at ways and that's good enough for me.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Israeli-Palestinian --
MR. RUBIN: Did you have --
QUESTION: I mean I was just going to ask you other than when we sitting in this room establish a dialogue with you we don't look for ways. You've said you wanted dialogue, what ways are there? You've said you wanted it - but he's --
MR. RUBIN: I come to this briefing room every day for my dialogue with you.
QUESTION: But you've said you wanted an acknowledged official - I think there was some other word in there - dialogue. What's the problem? I mean you've put it out there. What other ways are there?
MR. RUBIN: The problem is clear that to date the problem is that they haven't been willing to do so. That's the problem
QUESTION: You're looking at ways to convince them to do so? To make it more appealing for them to do so?
MR. RUBIN: To promote that idea. When we have something to report or announce in that regard, we will do so.
QUESTION: Well, now you've opened this up wider.
MR. RUBIN: I thought I was closing it.
QUESTION: I was comfortable until you said "to promote the idea." My impression was the State Department has been as clear as can be and said they want to talk to them and here are three items that have to be on the agenda, period. Right? Terrorism, mid-East, whatever, weapons of mass destruction. Then you had an election which if you hold upside down and look at in a funny light, it looks like Iran has become a liberal democracy.
So now you are going to make a new effort to embellish your offer? Or does your offer simply stand the way it was and you're still waiting to hear?
MR. RUBIN: The nature of our dialogue is not something that is changeable. In other words, our position has been we believe that we should have a dialogue with Iran based on mutual respect and that means that we will raise issues of concern to us and they will raise issues of concern to them. That is our view and that is not changeable or it's not changed, certainly.
QUESTION: My question sort of follows Eric's question. Have you simply said, here, let's talk, and we're going to talk about this? Or are you now approaching them in some various ways to try to set up that dialogue?
MR. RUBIN: I think what I'm trying to do is not tell you what we're thinking. Okay? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You've also not told us what you're doing, what you will do or you have done or what you want to do. So you scored 100 percent.
MR. RUBIN: Let's move on to the Middle East.
QUESTION: And if you don't want to answer it, please say you don't want to answer it but don't answer some other question, please. (Laughter.)
The question is, is the United States --
MR. RUBIN: Wait a minute, I get to choose the - you ask the questions, I give the answers.
QUESTION: It's hard enough not getting an answer when it's not an answer to the question that was asked, okay?
MR. RUBIN: At least it's an answer.
QUESTION: Is the US reformulating its proposition to Iran to have a dialogue?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Has the US newly put it to Iran since the election that it would like a dialogue?
MR. RUBIN: I have made it a practice of not commenting on our contacts with Iran, such as they might be.
QUESTION: I don't know what's been said here or elsewhere but the 16th, Israel and the Palestinians are coming here, yes?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I wouldn't get overly focused on that particular day. The concept is that Ambassador Ross reported to Secretary Albright early this morning that we have agreed to host negotiations here in Washington after the Eid al-Adha. That Eid al-Adha begins on about March 16th, so we would expect the talks to begin sometime after that. I don't have a specific date for you.
When we have a date and we have a site, I'll let you know. It's an important development and Secretary Albright welcomes this development because it is an indication of a willingness to sit down together with us to try to move us closer to the kind of blueprint that a framework agreement would provide for the permanent piece. We want to accelerate the process. This is a way to hopefully do that. At the same time we recognize that the issues are extraordinarily difficult.
At the level we're talking about, that is essentially the chief negotiator level where the Israelis and the Palestinians had designated negotiators who were operating in the region meeting with each other. Those negotiations broke off. We're envisaging taking that same level of negotiators and bringing them over here. We're not envisaging ministers or prime ministers leading these delegations.
Therefore, let me just get a few more points out which may answer many of your questions, I would not envisage you know the kind of situation where we had at Wye or at Shepherdstown where the Secretary and the President would be involved every day. I would not envisage any press arrangements of any particular kind. The Secretary may engage but I would not see it in the same level as Shepherdstown or Wye in that regard. And we have not settled on the site, and we believe that this is the best way to promote the possibility of getting a framework agreement so that we can achieve a permanent peace agreement by September the 13th.
QUESTION: In the Washington area, correct?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: It's no question that all three would sit down together at some point?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I can't rule out that you know Americans may be involved in some meetings and not others and vice versa so.
QUESTION: You had answered a lot of the questions by jumping ahead to the elusive overall settlement. What happened to the only slightly less elusive withdrawal situation? That is unresolved now --
MR. RUBIN: Well, that is something we have generally taken the view that we believe that Israelis and the Palestinians can work out the remaining implementation agreements of the Sharm el Sheik Accord, that they have the kind of contact and linkages and interaction that makes it possible to resolve them. We believe that they did make substantial progress toward that end in these discussions, but we are going to leave it to them to talk about those specific issues.
QUESTION: That is not very - I mean that - there's more to it perhaps than meets the eye, that kind of an approach. It's sort of the way the Israelis would go with this, which is let's combine, collapse, not throw about but let's collapse, let's put two withdrawals together. In fact, why don't we just get on. It sounds like what Netanyahu was trying to do. Let's get on to the overall settlement and let's do these interim things that we can. But the main thing is to get an overall settlement.
Now, if you've already got them coming here around March 17th or 18th and they don't have the next pullback or pullbacks resolved, isn't it possible that they won't be resolved by the time you jump in and try to get them to --
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: So isn't it possible that everything will get folded in just the way the Israelis have wanted it?
MR. RUBIN: I think that your interpretation is not the way I would interpret it. The way I would interpret this is that over the last several months, the Israelis and the Palestinians met face to face in intensive discussions on permanent status. Those same individuals are being brought here to Washington after a hiatus where they did not meet. During that period, when they were meeting, there was progress. Progress was made on implementation of Sharm el Sheik and there were problems on implementation of Sharm el Sheik. And we believe that they have made good progress in recent days in addressing and resolving many of the interim issues already, resolving many of them, but I cannot provide more details to you at this time because that's something for the parties themselves to provide.
So I wouldn't assume that all the interim issues were wrapped into the permanent status talks, or even that the major ones were.
QUESTION: Do you envisage - I know you haven't got a venue yet, but do you envisage some kind of secluded location for these talks and do you envisage them being extremely long and intensive in the same way as some others might be?
MR. RUBIN: We envisage them as a round. And a round can go, you know, from anywhere from a week to a couple of weeks or so. That is notionally what we are talking about here. We are definitely envisaging them not taking place in the briefing room, because we don't think that would be conducive to progress.
QUESTION: Are you envisaging a location?
MR. RUBIN: I am trying to explain that I would not see these talks in quite the same intensity and level as the Shepherdstown talks and so I don't think one necessarily has to go to the same lengths to create that kind of secluded atmosphere because we are talking about much, much smaller delegations. We're talking about a few people rather than dozens and dozens of people on each side. So that is the difference. But, at the same time, I think we do believe that diplomacy is best conducted privately and that is what will guide us as well.
QUESTION: On the same theme, what exactly is the reasoning behind bringing under these circumstances, behind bringing them to the Washington area rather than merely have them meet in the region, especially since the President and the Secretary of State are not necessarily going to have very much input into these --
MR. RUBIN: I do think the Secretary will have some input. We will have to see what dates they're here and how long they stay and what her schedule is. But I think notionally it's fair to say the Secretary would have some input and have some involvement. I was distinguishing between that and Shepherdstown where she was there 24 hours a day for the duration. So wherever they are held, I would envisage if the Secretary's in town and can be in town for her to have some involvement.
Washington is what they all agreed on. It's our view that this is the best way to give a kick start to the process, but we recognize that it's an extraordinarily difficult process and even a good kick start might not get it going.
QUESTION: Just a follow up. You've noted that there has been some progress lately between the two parties themselves. But that progress, it seems to me, has come just lately with the meetings that the prime minister has had with Mr. Arafat, and that at the working level there hasn't been a whole lot of progress and resulted in the hiatus you also referred to. And I'm wondering what's changed to make the working level people come here lead to something?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see. We don't know what it's going to lead to. We think it's an important development to get the process started. I think the fact that Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat did make progress on the interim issues and resolved some of the issues and addressed others shows that they can themselves deal with these issues. The lower level discussions were on the permanent status issues primarily. The Odederan for the Israelis and Abd Rabbo for the Palestinians were the chief negotiators for the permanent status talks. Other issues often came up. So I think the pattern has pretty much followed what we've expected, that big issues tend to get solved by the leaders. Sticky issues tend to get solved by the leaders. Difficult issues tend to get solved by the leaders. But without the kind of work that goes on at lower levels, you cannot identify and organize those decisions.
QUESTION: Jamie, a multiple choice question which goes to why now? Are they coming here because --
MR. RUBIN: Do I get one of my - I don't just have to follow your answers, right?
QUESTION: No, you can come up with D if you want. I'll give you A, B and C.
MR. RUBIN: All right.
QUESTION: They're coming here because the situation is getting desperate and the time is timed to the President's happy time setting of two dates, one of which has been tossed aside already, is becoming kind of a problem for the administration running out of time. Second, if they're doing rather well, it would be a nice place to wrap things up and stand in the limelight and take some bows. And the third is what the heck, I mean you know at some point they ought to get together and why not now, why not here, that there's no special reason for them coming to Washington at this time, it's just - they played their game there. You've moved the game. You know, it's home and away. Now it's time to have it in Washington.
MR. RUBIN: I'm sure glad you gave me D. I think your colleagues were signaling D as you were going through the --
QUESTION: Why now? Why here?
MR. RUBIN: Let me make a few comments on the thoughts that you've offered. Number one, there is this notion that somehow because this administration is ending at the end of this year that we have a great sense of urgency to solve something for our own historical purposes. And let me say for the record that that is utter nonsense. It is the parties, the Prime Minister of Israel, the chosen elected leader of Israel, and Chairman Arafat who have seen this year as a unique opportunity for them. It's not our push, our effort to get a "legacy" that has generated intense efforts in this area. It is their sense that with the unique involvement of President Clinton and Secretary Albright who have been working this problem for years and years and have developed great trust between the parties that is unique that they do not want to go through a renewed process where it may take time for that kind of trust and confidence to be developed between a new administration and the Palestinians and the Israelis.
And let me urge, because there is a lot of misunderstood commentary in this area, that is their reason for pushing for this. And that is the response to your number A. Number B, the suggestion that - well, let me just say it this way. We think this is the best way to kick start the progress.
Obviously, there have not been talks for a while between the two sides on the permanent status issues. The February deadline has come and gone. September is going to be difficult to meet and it won't be able to be met unless we get an intensified negotiating process, and that is what this is designed to do. And it is not just because everybody feels like hanging out in Washington but because everybody senses the importance of making progress and knows that the time requires urgent and intense discussions.
QUESTION: There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a Middle East settlement. It is not necessarily a pejorative observation when people say - the President of the United States has been really upbeat on this thing for many, many, many months, setting target dates and all, involving himself, his prestige, his interest --
MR. RUBIN: They are setting the target date.
QUESTION: Some people may see it as suspicious but other people see it as an attempt to have peace in the Middle East. It is not a libel to say it.
MR. RUBIN: I am just saying those people who are saying it are speculating. What the facts are, are that the leaders of Israel, the elected leader of the state of Israel, the Prime Minister, has been the first and the most clear on setting out this time table and that is the elected leader of Israel's focus on this time frame; and Chairman Arafat has also focused on this time frame, and the signals coming out of Syria have focused on this time frame.
So what I am saying is those are facts. The rest is surmise about what is going on in the minds of this administration. And I am asking all of you to focus on facts rather than speculation.
QUESTION: They also are encouraged by the President and the administration that the US will do everything it can for them, we will aid them with all sorts of devices and ply them with funds and maybe support their positions.
MR. RUBIN: None of those things happened. None of those things you just suggested happened.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about Ross. Just straighten out Ross' logistics, will you please? You said he called the Secretary. He's out there now? Did he call her after having talked to --
MR. RUBIN: He called her before, during, and after is my understanding.
QUESTION: Does he stay out there until then?
MR. RUBIN: I think he is coming back tomorrow.
QUESTION: You have mentioned Syria, so I'd like to move to Syria, since we've solved the Palestinian-Israeli track.
MR. RUBIN: Apparently.
QUESTION: I am sure we can do just as well on the Syrian track.
Two things. First of all, do you have any reaction to the government announcements made yesterday in Damascus and what effect that might have on the negotiating process and, secondly, specifically on the negotiating process. Where does that track stand?
MR. RUBIN: We congratulate the new Prime Minister on his appointment and look forward to working with his government once it has been announced. President Asad has made it clear that Syria is committed to reaching an agreement with Israel, and we do not believe this cabinet change will affect that commitment.
With respect to current developments, I don't have anything new to offer you other than to say that we obviously stay in contact with both governments to see whether we can arrange for the negotiations to resume and make substantive progress.
QUESTION: Has Dennis been in contact while he's been in the Middle East?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not - it's not possible for me to have a total track of all of Dennis Ross' contacts. He's been in Israel, he hasn't been in Syria.
QUESTION: No, no, Jamie, you've been at this -- (inaudible) - and I don't quite understand it. Nobody's asking you to give us a readout of every telephone - it's very simple. You haven't told us yet in weeks whether - you keep saying Ross is working the Israeli-Palestinian track and we can't get someone to say he's also working the Israel-Syria track. Is there some reason you can't say that?
MR. RUBIN: I think you've misunderstood the record. I've made clear that I expected that in his discussions with the Israelis that the Syria track would come up.
QUESTION: And did it? He's on his way home. It's hard to say whether it did or didn't?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I would be stunned and surprised if the subject of the Syria track did not come up in his discussions.
QUESTION: Would any cabinet change in Syria affect the commitment of Syrian Government to --
MR. RUBIN: Too good. Hypothetical. I can't respond to any potential question.
QUESTION: While President Asad is running Syria, do you think that any change in the cabinet there would affect
MR. RUBIN: Too hypothetical.
QUESTION: Oh, come on, that's not too hypothetical.
MR. RUBIN: Too hypothetical.
QUESTION: Can you tell us from your perspective --
MR. RUBIN: Or too much mischief-making.
QUESTION: It appears that since we last checked there hasn't been really any significant counter-terrorist actions by the Pakistani Government. It's still not a democratically elected government. I'm not sure if any of the criteria or the goals or the items that the US wanted to have progress on have had any sort of progress. And why would the President want to go and visit such a regime?
MR. RUBIN: The President is going to Pakistan because the United States is a friend of the Pakistani nation. It is not because he approves of or acquiesces in the government of General Musharaff. We have made clear our concerns about democracy, made clear our profound concerns about not enough being done to combat terrorism; and we've made clear our profound concerns about nonproliferation.
We believe that this is a situation in which conflict in that part of the world could affect our interests, that the President has been able to play an important role in diffusing such conflicts in the past notably with his meetings with Nawaz Sharif in Washington last July. We believe staying in contact with both sides and having communication channels with both sides could prove extremely important to our national interests in the future.
QUESTION: So will he express his -these are all reasons to go there.
MR. RUBIN: That was what the question was.
QUESTION: Right. But the question also enveloped the practices of the Pakistani military government and the US's disapproval. Is it likely that the US, the President or others will renew that disapproval or try to make a push for reform while they're there?
MR. RUBIN: The President will clearly make known to the leadership directly our concerns on many subjects and that is what meetings are about.
QUESTION: In one of the President's last press conferences, he mentioned that the US would be willing or that he would be willing to mediate in the conflict with Kashmir. Do you know if anything has happened on that? We haven't heard much about it since then.
MR. RUBIN: The President is not going to the region to mediate the Kashmir dispute. Our view is that if both sides want our assistance to that end, we would be prepared to play a role. They do not at this time.
QUESTION: That is what I was asking. Has there been any - I didn't suggest that he'd be going there --
MR. RUBIN: Nothing has changed.
QUESTION: No requests.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: The Secretary is going to join the President in --
MR. RUBIN: Her exact schedule, I don't have for you at this time.
QUESTION: I know that. But do you expect her to be with him in Pakistan?
MR. RUBIN: If she goes on the trip, I expect her to be with him in Pakistan.
QUESTION: This is a question, I guess, that's probably for the White House but I'm going to ask it anyway.
MR. RUBIN: We've lost both AP reporters I've noticed.
QUESTION: What was the last country that the President and the Secretary visited that the current government is one that had taken power?
MR. RUBIN: China.
QUESTION: Jamie, that was a revolution over 50 years ago.
MR. RUBIN: Well, right, but it's a communist government.
QUESTION: I am not sure that Pakistan is a communist government.
MR. RUBIN: No, no, I'm saying so it's clearly not a freely elected government.
QUESTION: It wasn't a coup that brought the country --
MR. RUBIN: Some would argue it might be worse. I don't know.
QUESTION: Is this the first government - first country that is being visited by the Secretary or the President in this administration that has taken over by force during the --
MR. RUBIN: Some of your colleagues are obviously giving their - we will do some research for you based upon our definitions of the different governments that are in the world and the travel of the President and the Secretary.
QUESTION: The President will be meeting with Pakistani Government officials, will he not?
MR. RUBIN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Will he be meeting with sort of the common - the common people?
MR. RUBIN: I am not in a position to describe the President's schedule at this time.
QUESTION: I guess the question is you're saying that the US is friends with the Pakistani nation, sort of leaving out the current Pakistani government, which got there in a military coup. Well, he's meeting with these coup-sters.
MR. RUBIN: That's a new one. Could we get a legal definition of a "coup-ster"? That's different than coup plotter, I might add.
QUESTION: You understand that the impression, especially in neighboring India, is that by meeting with those who led the coup and who seized power, he is acknowledging that they are in charge and giving them some legitimacy.
MR. RUBIN: I think it is a de facto situation that they are in charge, and I think that whatever they might view it from India or anywhere else it's a fact. I think it is also our view that Pakistan, as a country, is a friend of the United States. It is also our view that the United States' ability to play a role last summer was welcomed by the Indian Government and the Indian Government saw it in their interest to have the kind of communication between the United States and the leader in Pakistan.
So the question is not a simple question and the conclusion was that our national interests were better served by the President traveling than had he not traveled. And that doesn't mean, and I said this quite clearly, that we recognize or are giving legitimacy to General Musharaff. And we have made clear that we want to see progress towards democracy and that we will not have a business-as-usual relationship with Pakistan until they have taken those steps.
So these calculations are never as simple as some try to make them. We made a comprehensive calculation about what was in our national interest, and this was the decision that was made.
QUESTION: Jamie, I don't think anybody would dispute the fact that Pakistan has been a friend of the United States, certainly during the Cold War. But are there any examples that you can offer of how Pakistan has been a friend of the United States in recent years?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there have been a number of individuals in counter-terrorism cooperation that have been very much a result of work with Pakistan. There have been a number of areas where we have worked closely with them on counter-narcotics issues. So there's a number of things that happened that we don't necessarily highlight that are in the national interests of the United States.
And more importantly, I think I indicated in response to your colleague's question, the President's ability to have an open channel of communication with the leader of Pakistan proved crucial last summer when there was a genuine crisis brewing over Kargil that could have involved major, major confrontation of profoundly negative consequences.
So we believe that having that kind of channel of communication could prove extremely useful in the future if this situation deteriorates. And that calculation is important to us as well as the other questions that have been raised.
QUESTION: As the Administration is aware, I am sure it was, in fact, Army General Musharaff who was running the show in Kargil. Why does the Administration think that General Musharaff would be willing to have the various insurgents in Kashmir back down?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the Kashmir question is a very complex one and I'm not in a position to get into all the nuances there. What I've said that I'm prepared to repeat is that what we're talking about here is having a channel of communication and there were steps taken last summer by the government in Pakistan, including the individuals both of whom we've both mentioned that proved crucial to resolving the crisis.
QUESTION: Jamie, you used the expression, "it doesn't mean that we recognize General Musharaff." Was that a slip of the tongue or --
MR. RUBIN: We recognize countries, not governments, yes.
QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure you understood what my question was and narrow it down. I'm talking about governments that have come to power during the tenure of this administration that have then subsequently been visited --
MR. RUBIN: If you create a one-eyed, four-legged man, your answer will be, you know, the way you describe it. If we create a question for which there is only one answer, I'm sure there will only be one answer.
QUESTION: I don't know that there is only one answer. I don't know.
MR. RUBIN: It sounds to me like you're creating a one-eyed, three-legged man.
QUESTION: No, no. No, no. I think it's a legitimate question ,and if I'm not raising it now other people are going to raise it.
MR. RUBIN: Well, fine. To the extent that maybe after the briefing we can formulate the question in such a way that it doesn't seem purposely designed to create a one-eyed, three-legged man, I would be happy. You know, for example, we could argue when has the President or the Secretary gone to a country that changed governments in the year in which Monica Lewinsky was before the Congress. And you would get a nice, one-hour - one-legged, three-eyed man. So, you know, let's talk about it after the briefing and we'll pose the question in a way that we both think it would be useful.
QUESTION: Mr. Moses and Mr. Weston are in Cyprus now. Do you have anything about that? And, secondly, Eastern Mediterranean University in northern Cyprus has made an agreement with Central Greek University but Greek separatists are opposed to that agreement. What is the reaction of the State Department on it?
MR. RUBIN: On the second question, I haven't been advised of that issue but I will check that for you. This is on a university question?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'll check that for you.
With respect to Mr. Moses and Mr. Weston are visiting Cyprus from the 7th through the 11th to help prepare for the third session of UN-led Cyprus talks. They intend to consult with the parties to try to make further progress in moving toward a comprehensive settlement. The special envoys will meet with President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot Denktash. The talks are scheduled to resume May 23rd in New York.
QUESTION: According to press report, the Greek Cypriot side, they complain about the US State Department's Human Rights Report, which mentions about several of the Turkish side. They claim that.
Did you have any of this kind of complaints on the Greek side?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that we regularly have a series of complaints from all over the world about our Human Rights Report and I will check whether specific complaints came in from that source.
QUESTION: Jamie, I have a war crimes question for you. On Sunday, the British SFOR troops arrested a man whose name I will not try to pronounce, who was a deputy director of the Omarska Camp and he was due to be transported to The Hague. Do you have any other information on him?
There were also reports of another man who was arrested.
MR. RUBIN: I will check that for you. That was several days ago and I will try to see what we had at the time.
QUESTION: Colombia. Vice President Bell is in town and, I believe, earlier today he said that the Colombian government had dismissed seven senior army - I forget their titles, but due to concerns about human rights. Does the US feel that the Colombian government - I mean, is that a step in the right direction? I mean, obviously, he is here because the Colombian government has concerns that this $1.6 million aid package may not have the votes that's needed on the Hill. What is the administration's --
MR. RUBIN: We are making an all-out effort to convince the Congress of the wisdom of support for this initiative, both on grounds of national security and counter-drug efforts, as well as regional interests. The Vice President of Colombia was here yesterday. He saw Assistant Secretary Koh. We shared with him ideas about how to address human rights concerns in Colombia, especially in the area of paramilitaries. We received very positive responses from the vice president.
The particular case involving the Ministry of Defense removing from active duty seven senior officers occurred several months ago. We, in general, support judicial action against any officer involved in human rights abuses or who facilitated such abuses by paramilitary organizations.
QUESTION: What is the administration most concerned about now? When you say that you offered some ideas to the Colombian government, what areas specifically do you feel you need to see action taken in most quickly?
MR. RUBIN: I think in general what I can say about that is that the - ensuring that our assistance and our help does not go to those who have a record of human rights abuses is one of our highest priorities in this package. We have a number of safeguards to ensure that. And to implement those safeguards, it requires a constant level of discussion about a number of details. But the paramilitaries are certainly one of the problem areas that Assistant Secretary Koh focused on in his meeting.
Let me go back to the war criminal issue. The arrest is - he was the Deputy Commander of the Omarska Camp charged with 11 crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention. I'm trying to get to the question that was asked about where he is now and it's not in here. So let me try to get that for you.
QUESTION: On the meeting yesterday between Mr. --
MR. RUBIN: And I hope everyone understands that I would be last person to make light of the War Crimes Tribunal.
QUESTION: Is there any reason why we could not be told of such meetings and the day they happen?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. It is not possible for us to tell you every meeting that happens at the State Department.
QUESTION: The Colombia Vice President is not just anybody.
MR. RUBIN: Well, right, but there are people in and out of this building like 100 times a day. I can --
QUESTION: Yeah, but not all -
MR. RUBIN: Hold on, just let me finish. Now you're starting to create a - okay, we'll tell you about all meetings of the Vice President of Colombia.
QUESTION: Of all the vice presidents?
MR. RUBIN: No, just the vice presidents of Colombia.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you say the Foreign Minister of someplace that comes and is announced is more important than the Vice President of Colombia, Jamie?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: No? Well, what exactly does it mean when you say that you're not going to announce vice presidents?
MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: What did you - I'm sorry, I thought --
MR. RUBIN: I said I would be happy to announce all meetings of the Vice President of Colombia.
QUESTION: I said "Of all vice presidents?" And you said "No."
MR. RUBIN: No, I said that I can't guarantee that I would announce them.
QUESTION: All right. Well, this goes back to this whole constant problem with specifically the Deputy Secretary of State's Office. I mean I really do think, you know, if someone is a senior government official and are coming here to meet to a senior US government official that you know it would be -
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me just assure you --
QUESTION: Unless there is something to hide.
MR. RUBIN: -- that my --
QUESTION: Exactly. (Inaudible).
MR. RUBIN: Let me just brief my successor on this problem and maybe he'll be able to solve the problems in this department that warrant to your satisfaction better than I have.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about the Syrian Government reshuffle?
MR. RUBIN: But I will add we will always make an effort to try to let you know of all possible meetings that we can.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - Syria.
MR. RUBIN: I answered that.
QUESTION: We're spending a lot of money on the Colombian Army to combat the drug trade. But recently there was some indication that one of the means of money laundering in Colombia is --
MR. RUBIN: American news organizations always use the formulation "we." The ones that are considered American for all purposes. The ones that get all the access that American news organizations deserve. You know, all the special arrangements for American news organizations.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) being told of the meeting --
MR. RUBIN: Being told about meetings with the vice president, yes. Sorry.
QUESTION: There is some indication that one of the means of money laundering for Colombian drugs is through Colombian Emeralds. And the President --
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on this. I'd be happy to seek it for you. Maybe we can get Mr. Foley to consult with you after the briefing.
QUESTION: I do have a little bit more information. The President of the American Gemological Laboratories, Mr. Beasley, spoke with two agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency and he told him that a number of the emeralds are plastic-enhanced and they are required to be disclosed - the Federal Trade Commission requires that when they enter customs, if they are not disclosed, the Customs agents are supposed to confiscate them. And they haven't been doing this. But if they were to do it, it would choke off one of the major means of money laundering for Colombian drugs and it would protect the American consumer from exorbitantly inflated prices.
So can you follow up on that and find out whether there is any --
MR. RUBIN: I will. But let me start by adding a new thing that I am not: I am not a jeweler. And so I don't really know how plastic enhancement of jewels works. But I am sure there are jewelers in the government who will be happy to work assiduously to get you a definitive answer to that very precise question.
(The briefing concluded at 1:18 p.m.)