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U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – 9th March

U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – 9th March

Iraq – Pakistan – Iran – North Korea – Middle East – Vietnam – Cambodia – China – Taiwan - Cuba

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, March 9, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

IRAQ 1 UN Security Council Has Received a Complaint From the Iraqi Foreign Minister on American Delegation's Travel into Northern Iraq / American Delegation Travels to Northern Iraq to Work with Kurdish Officials to Promote Reconciliation between Kurdish Groups

PAKISTAN 2 Easing of US sanctions / Prohibition of US Foreign Assistance / Presidential Visit / Concern on Lack of Democratic Rule and Terrorism

IRAN 4-6 US Prepared to Have and Has Offered to Have a Direct Dialogue Based on Mutual Respect / MEK Releases Video on Human Rights Abuses / Status of MEK Operation in Washington

NORTH KOREA 6-7 US-North Korea Talks in New York City / Preparation for High-Level Visit to Washington /Dialogue Focusing on the Steps North Korea will Need to Make to Meet US Concerns on the Issue of International Terrorism

MIDDLE EAST 7-8 Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) / Activities of the Arms Control and Regional Security Efforts to Resume the End of June 2000

VIETNAM 8,9 Public Announcement on Reports of Threats of Violence Disrupting the 25th Anniversary of the End of the Vietnam War

CAMBODIA 9 UN Team to Travel to Cambodia on March 16th for Further Discussion on a Khmer Rouge Tribunal

CHINA (Taiwan) 9 US Arms Sales Based on the Taiwan Relations Act

CUBA 10 US Immigration Policy


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to another performance of the on-time State Department briefing. We see the wire services as usual, the hardest working members of the State Department Press Corps - at least some of the wire services -- and one network. And I'm just going to keep mumbling, just for a few more minutes, until some of your colleagues decide to visit with us. Mumble, mumble, mumble, blah, blah, blah.

QUESTION: In what areas has our policy changed? (Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: OK. I have no statements. I'm here to answer your questions. Barry.

QUESTION: Well, it's a little bit out of left field maybe, but the Iraqi Foreign Minister is complaining to the UN Security Council that an American State Department delegation has gone into northern Iraq. They don't like it. And I wonder if you could respond to that? Have they got their facts right? And do they have a cause for complaint?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. We have from time to time sent delegations to Northern Iraq from the regional bureau there, to work with the Kurdish officials in Northern Iraq, to promote reconciliation between the officials there to ensure that they comply with and live up to the agreement they reached in Washington that the Secretary of State negotiated with them.

So those visits do occur from time to time, and they generally occur without the support of the Iraqi Government. And we're aware that the Iraqi Government doesn't support such visits. But we have made clear, while we recognize the territorial integrity of Iraq, that we think it's important and appropriate for us to meet with Kurdish officials in northern Iraq, and we will continue to do so as we see fit.

QUESTION: You mean reconciliation between Kurdish groups?

MR. RUBIN: Right. Matt.

QUESTION: I want to find out if you have an answer to my "four-headed man" question from yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what I've got for you is a recommendation, which is that you look on, and you will find all the visits the Secretary of State has made in this administration. And those will be there for all the time of Secretary Albright and, I believe, Secretary Christopher.

If you're interested in Secretaries of State before that, I would welcome your contacting the Historian's Office, and I will urge that they give you listings of all the visits the Secretary of State has made, and then you can make your own judgments about what the proper fitting of this one-eyed man with the three legs is, and then draw your own conclusions. But we certainly want you to have access to all the trips that have been made.

QUESTION: I have a second question on the same Pakistan issue.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: And I would appreciate it if you could keep the level of snideness, which I am sure is going to accompany your answer, to a minimum.

MR. RUBIN: Only to the same level as the questions.

QUESTION: So about a year ago, there was a coup in Niger, in April, and the US, as is required by law, suspended all of its bilateral assistance. Niger is the second poorest country in the world. I don't imagine the US assistance was huge, but it was still suspended.

Two days ago, a statement was released with your name on it saying that the Secretary had found that the new government in Niger, which was elected democratically in November, was a democratic government and these sanctions were lifted.

I realize that Niger is not Pakistan, and that the two are very different. But the point is, is that they - that Pakistan, General Musharaff, has done absolutely nothing, which you have said, of setting a time table for returning to civilian and constitutional rule. Your concerns about terrorism are still very great, your concerns about elements of their government supporting those terrorists and also supporting the Taliban and, by extension, perhaps, bin Laden, are still very great. And yet they are being rewarded with a visit from the President.

So my question is, why should we not see that, when the stakes are very high, that the US is applying - applies a lesser standard to this when, perhaps, some would argue that a higher standard should be being applied in a case like Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: First, let me say that there is no one approach to diplomacy in this world: that it is our job to make judgments. And if we had a simple formula for all behavior, we wouldn't need a Department of State; we would need a computer, and we could plug in the inputs and get the outputs. So, in each case, we make a judgment as to what we think is best for our national interest.

I think the cases that you've described are apples and oranges. We have not removed Pakistan from the prohibition on foreign assistance, in light of the fact that it has not taken the steps to restore civilian constitutional democratic rule. So unlike Niger, there remain the same set of measures in place about the foreign assistance that we provide. So we are consistent as we approach the assistance to Pakistan and Niger.

There is no pre-required, pre-approved, pre-stamped, pre-packaged plan for what interaction the United States Government has with countries that undertake coups, or countries where there are violations of democratic practices. Instead, what we do is make a judgment, in each case, as to what level of interaction is appropriate, given the national interest.

So we've met, and I recall briefing about a meeting we had with the FARC, the terrorist group in Colombia, because we thought it was appropriate to meet with the FARC. We have said we'd be prepared to meet with officials of the government of Iran, even though there is concern and statements by this government about Iran being a state sponsor of terrorism.

So what the flaw in the attempted syllogism you were creating is that diplomatic contact is not the same as applying the rules of the Foreign Assistance Act. And let me be clear, the visit of the President of the United States is not a reward for Pakistan. They may call it that, but it's not. And I think it will be clear when the visit is over that the President will have reflected, very strongly, our profound concern about the lack of democratic rule in Pakistan, and the concerns we have on terrorism and other matters.

QUESTION: So in fact the visit of the President is a punishment for them?

MR. RUBIN: I mean, I think we're now engaged in what I would call a process of a bit of - I'm not sure we're making any progress here. It is not a reward for the President of the United States to stop in Pakistan and meet with the leadership there, when we see that kind of meeting is an appropriate way to try to achieve our national security objectives, including avoiding the possible confrontation and the extremely negative consequences of a confrontation between India and Pakistan.

I recounted yesterday the extremely important role the President played in being able to avoid a major conflict in Kargil last summer, because he had lines of communications open with both leaders. And that's something that we believe is in the national interest.

QUESTION: I mean I don't want to belabor this, but it would seem by reports from Pakistan yesterday, that those lines of communication were exactly -- and the fact that the President was successful -- was exactly the reason that the coup happened.

MR. RUBIN: I think it's not clear at all, and I think that would be --

QUESTION: Well, that's what Sharif said yesterday.

MR. RUBIN: If you gathered in this room the 97 major experts on Pakistan, I can assure you that no significant group of them would say that the coup happened because President Clinton met with Nawaz Sharif last summer.

QUESTION: No, no, that's not what I said.

MR. RUBIN: I think they would say the coup happened because of a number of factors, and that's not one of them.

QUESTION: I didn't say that. That's what you said that I said.

What Sharif said was that his backing down because of the President was one of the main reasons why there was this --

MR. RUBIN: I think we indicated that we had major problems with former President Sharif - Prime Minister Sharif's approach to democratic issues. He was shutting down newspapers, he was denying the ability of parties to operate. We had major problems with the leadership, their commitment to democratic practices. And it is not our view, nor do I suspect it is the view of most experts, that the reason the coup happened is because of him backing down. The coup happened as an accretion of a number of steps.

QUESTION: Will there be an opportunity for the President to directly tell the Pakistani people why he is there?

MR. RUBIN: I am not in a position to detail the President's schedule, provide any new information about the President's schedule. But I will encourage my colleagues at the White House to do so.

QUESTION: Can I ask you on Iran again?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Maybe I can refine my sloppy questions today by saying, David Newsom, a former Under Secretary of State, wrote a piece in the Christian Science Monitor. Again, we hear this from a lot of people, that we should and are -- the US -- actively pursuing a dialogue with Iran.

Is the US now actively engaged in approaching Iran for the purposes of talking to them?

MR. RUBIN: I think I have indicated publicly, on numerous occasions, that we are prepared to have a dialogue. I think I have indicated on a number of occasions that there are a number of different channels of diplomatic communication between the United States and Iran. Some of those have been named and some of them haven't been named. I do not intend to comment on what goes on in those private diplomatic channels. But I think in this case, it is fairly evident that we are prepared, have offered and would be willing to have a dialogue based on mutual respect, where we would raise our issues of concern and they would raise their issues of concern.

QUESTION: One last thing on it. Khatemi years ago, a couple of years ago, said he wanted to talk to the US. The US - I think Secretary Albright must have said several times - we want to talk to them. So what's going to make it happen? Who moves first? How does this happen

MR. RUBIN: I think the Iranian position is that they are not prepared to talk to the US government.

QUESTION: They are going to tell us they don't like us.

MR. RUBIN: No, no, the Iranian position is they are prepared to have a dialogue of civilizations in which there are people-to-people exchanges, scientific exchanges, exchanges of academics, sports exchanges. But they have, to date, not been willing to have a direct dialogue. Our view is that we should approach such a dialogue on an unconditional basis, where we would raise our issues of concern and they would raise theirs. That's been our view. They have a different view.

QUESTION: Today an Iranian opposition group that's based here in Washington released a video as they have before, possibly two years ago, which they say is a secret video that's been sneaked out of Iran. Two years ago it was showing people being stoned to death. And this one apparently shows prisoners with their eyes being gouged out. Is there any - does the State Department have any contact with these Iranian opposition members, especially as we're trying to increase our contacts with them?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know which group you're referring to. There are some groups that we definitely don't have contact with.


MR. RUBIN: Yeah, that is not one we have contact with. They're on our list of terrorist organizations. And despite the fact that we once met with the FARC, we do not share a lot of interest and communication with the MEK -- for that reason. But let me add to that we have made clear in our human rights reports a number of concerns that we have about things in Iran that have taken place, including the issue of the Baha'is, the issues of the 13 Jews, a number of other issues, and I'd be happy to get you a copy of that report. And our investigators and our researchers try to cull as much information as possible in putting that report together.

QUESTION: Do you see these videos ever, or do you just completely boycott their information?

MR. RUBIN: I would be surprised if we weren't - we'd be happy to see a video. We consider a number of sources of information in making these conclusions. With respect to the authenticity of that videotape, it's impossible for us to judge.

QUESTION: On the MEK, the Justice Department doesn't seem to be giving a very high priority to investigating the status of the MEK operation in Washington. Have you heard of any developments on that front? Are you urging them to be more active on this, because obviously this is a gesture which the Iranian Government would very much appreciate?

MR. RUBIN: I suspect my colleagues at the Justice Department would not agree with your characterization. They give a high priority to the implementation of all of our laws. And one of the laws involved here requires us to ensure that terrorist organizations are prevented from getting funds and raising funds here in the United States.

I would be happy to refer this question to my colleagues at the Justice Department and try to get you an answer on what they have done with respect to that, but it is certainly our intent to fully comply with the law and follow through on the necessary work on each of the terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: One of the measures supposedly meant to be taken against them is denial of visas which is, to some extent, a State Department affair.

MR. RUBIN: Right. But in these cases, I don't know the specifics here but it is just important to have the generalities right. There is often dispute. As some people say, some people are in some organizations or have an affiliation with some organizations, and other people say they are simply not affiliated with those organizations. It is often difficult to prove charges and countercharges. But I do have every reason to believe that our Justice Department colleagues are working hard to implement the law, and anything we can do to help implement the law more rigorously, we would be happy to do.

QUESTION: Jamie, last year, a very senior State Department official equated the MEK with the National Resistance Council, which are the people who put on this show this morning in a downtown hotel, and have offices in the National Press Club. And according to that designation, they are not supposed to have even offices. They are not supposed to be able to exist in the US.

MR. RUBIN: OK, it may be that you more accurately read the statutes and more accurately applied the law than our lawyers. And so all I can offer is to get our lawyers to look at that and to offer me some information to provide you. George.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the North Korea talks, the first full day of which was yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. They have been meeting in New York. The talks have been - they would prefer it for me to do these things by memory, I guess - it's not in mine. Is that helpful?

Ambassador Kartman and the US delegation continue to work with the vice foreign minister, Kim Gye Gwan and their counterparts in the North Korea delegation to finalize preparations for the high-level visit which we expect to begin in a month. Ambassador Sheehan will continue discussions we have had in the past with the North Koreans on terrorism issues in separate talks with his counterparts today. The dialogue with the North Korean delegation will focus on the steps it would need to make to meet our concerns on the issue of international terrorism. We have described in the past to Pyongyang in detail what steps they would need to take to meet our serious concerns on this matter.

QUESTION: Did you happen to know who Sheehan is talking to?

MR. RUBIN: The name of his counterpart? I can check that for you.

QUESTION: And has Sheehan started his talks with this guy?

MR. RUBIN: It's happening today. I don't know whether - I suspect they have.

QUESTION: You have a venue for that?

MR. RUBIN: In New York: same location.

QUESTION: North Korea will visit this weekend in Washington, do they have any schedule for visit --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what North Korean delegation you're referring to, visiting Washington.

QUESTION: Not this weekend?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of such a visit, but I will check for you.

QUESTION: The Middle East?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Do we have any details on - kind of logistical details for the resumption of talks --

MR. RUBIN: Nothing today.

QUESTION: How about the revival of the Committee on Regional Security and Arms Control? And also now that the peace talks maybe will resume, anything concerning the Committee on Refugees?

MR. RUBIN: In Moscow, the joint declaration issued by ministers noted the importance of reaching an agreed comprehensive agenda for the working group on arms control and regional security, informally known as ACRS, and called on the parties in the region to intensify their efforts to reach this agreement and resume their work with the help of the co-sponsors, with the goal of getting the formal ACRS negotiations and activities under way within a few months.

Is it the American understanding that we will seek to resume these activities of the arms control and regional security efforts before the end of the first half of the year 2000, that is before the end of the sixth month of the calendar, which would be the end of June.

QUESTION: Is there a date?

MR. RUBIN: That is as far as I can offer you at this time. More generally, we are working on the peace process. Ambassador Ross is returning here, and when we have a date set we'll let you know the site of the negotiations.

QUESTION: And on refugees - Committee on Refugees?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check that for you.

QUESTION: One second, this is going to be a very quick answer I'm sure. ILMG meeting?

MR. RUBIN: Nothing new on that.

QUESTION: I apologize for not having warned you in advance - you may not have anything on this. Count Lamsdorff said today he was shocked to discover that the US side does not consider the issue of German state reparations for World War II and Holocaust issues to be closed. And I was under the impression that Mr. Eizenstat told him this. This seems to refer to the reparations which were done in the '50s and '60s.

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check on that. I will check that for you.

QUESTION: Something else --

MR. RUBIN: The hardest working wire service is keeping it going here.

QUESTION: Late yesterday, you all put out a public announcement about threats, reports of threats of violence disrupting the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. And the announcement was couched very strangely. It said that there have been reports that individuals inside and outside Vietnam - the warning was for Vietnam and Cambodia - that people would try to disrupt this with violence. I am just wondering if you can extrapolate?

MR. RUBIN: We tend to not want to get more specific than we get in those reports. But I will see if I can get you a briefing from our consular people about that specific public announcement.

QUESTION: Basically what I am just wondering is, were they press reports or --

MR. RUBIN: Usually, reports are multiple. When we use the word "reports," it's multiple.

QUESTION: Also sticking in the same region, I see that Mr. Boyce was in Cambodia today or yesterday, talking about the Khmer Rouge trial, and I am wondering if you have anything to add to his comments?

MR. RUBIN: What I can say about that is we understand the Secretary General has announced a team will travel to Cambodia on March 16th for further discussions with the government there on a Khmer Rouge tribunal. We welcome this announcement and remain hopeful that the issues raised by the Secretary General in his letter can be resolved. We share his objective of achieving credible justice with international legitimacy for those senior Khmer Rouge leaders. Both the UN and the Cambodian government have demonstrated a willingness to work together to achieve justice. In that spirit, we are strongly encouraged that UN and Cambodian officials will meet soon in Phnom Penh for further discussions.

QUESTION: Back to the Vietnamese announcement, the announcement referred rather vaguely to Vietnamese authorities taking protective measures, tougher protective measures. Does that include at the US Embassy and at US businesses?

MR. RUBIN: Let me get you information that I can in terms of what protective measures have been taken. As a rule, we try not to tell those who might - that would be important information for people to know what we have done and what we haven't done, so let me check what I can say about that.

QUESTION: Did you get a question yesterday about increased scale of PRC spying in this country, especially by students? Can you comment on such an article as was?

MR. RUBIN: The State Department doesn't normally comment on intelligence activities in the United States. We understand that FBI Director Freeh and CIA Director Tenet testified before Congress on counter-intelligence issues on the 7th and the 8th. They would be in a position to elaborate on intelligence issues inside the United States by foreign governments.

QUESTION: On the spying, do you have anything to add to this new report on - new "old" report on spies in NATO --

MR. RUBIN: I think the short answer is that NATO believes that this allegation is not true, or not proven. But NATO has spoken to that more precisely than I can.

QUESTION: Have you seen the statement by a Chinese official today demanding an end to US provision of air defense systems to Taiwan?

MR. RUBIN: We make our decisions to provide assistance and arms sales to Taiwan based on the Taiwan Relations Act and the various communiques. We have made announcements in the past couple of days about our intent to sell certain equipment, and those will go forward based on our judgment of what is appropriate to ensure defense of Taiwan, and to follow through on the Taiwan Relations Act. I think the fact - it is not new for the Chinese to object to any arms sale to Taiwan. We have made considerable arms sales to Taiwan. I've gone through lists with you in the past of all that we've done in recent years. There are other sources for that information, and we will continue to do what we think is best, regardless of Chinese statements of opposition.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - what the status of this Taiwanese request for the Aegis --

MR. RUBIN: We don't normally comment on specific weapons systems until after we've decided.

QUESTION: Perhaps I misheard you. I thought you said you made some announcements recently on the --

MR. RUBIN: Yeah, I think the Pentagon put that out yesterday on various air defense systems that were agreed on.

QUESTION: Last one from me. There's been a lot of - I mean everyone's been talking about Mozambique lately, and the efforts to help there. But there's another, although slightly less catastrophic disaster in Madagascar, and I don't know if you will have anything on this, but is there any US aid going there?

MR. RUBIN: Let me check on that for you.


MR. RUBIN: You broke the record.

QUESTION: Any elaboration - what's the procedure now after the meeting in Sharm el-Sheik?

MR. RUBIN: In response to one of your colleague's questions, I said I don't have any announcements for you about the venue. When I do, I will.

QUESTION: But do you have any reaction to the meeting in Sharm el-Sheik, the results?

MR. RUBIN: We think the meetings between various senior officials is important and constructive, and we're going to continue to work on this problem.

QUESTION: Can you give us any color from Havana on the continuing protests and the latest Castro speech against US immigration policy? Yesterday he said the mission didn't get him the figures in time to give a speech about how many people illegally immigrate every day? And in light of the Elian case today which has closed for the day - good news for all of us - has been recessed for the day, anything --

MR. RUBIN: Obviously I have no comment on the Elian case. That is being conducted by the courts.

With respect to Castro's latest harangue on some particular aspect of US policy, we think we have a good policy, and we're sorry he doesn't.

(The briefing concluded at 1:03 p.m.)

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