World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


US State Department Daily Press Briefing – Mar 24

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing – March 24

Iraq – Iran – Middle East Peace – Serbia – Egypt – Colombia – Russia – China

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, March 24, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

IRAQ 1-8 UN Security Council Meeting on the Oil for Food Program and Humanitarian Situation / Sanctions / Illegal Gasoil Smuggling / New Headquarters Complex Built for the MEK by Saddam Hussein / 5 National Council for the Resistance Alias for the MEK is a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization

IRAN 2, 5 U.S. Overtures to Iran / Use of Iranian Waterways to Smuggle Iraqi Oil

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 9 Israel / Syria Track 9-10 Israel / Palestine Talks at Bolling Air Force Base 15-16 U.S. Aid to Israel / Israeli Arms Sales to China

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 11 Presevo Valley Leaders State Violence will be Rejected as a Solution to Their Concerns, That They Want to Pursue a Peaceful Solution / Effort is a Result of Intervention by Hashim Thaci

EGYPT 11-12 President Mubarak Visit to U.S. / Moscow Multilateral Talks / Arms Control and Regional Security Meeting

COLOMBIA 12 New Tribes Mission Case / Colombian Authorities Arrest Suspects

RUSSIA 14 Chechnya Travel Ban Imposed for Duration of Election / Russian Human Rights Abuses

CHINA 14,16 Civil Rights Situation / Human Rights Resolution


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to today's briefing on this Friday, the last day of this workweek. Let me begin with a presentation on this particular photo here. Today, the Security Council is discussing reports by the Secretary General on the Oil for Food Program and the humanitarian situation in Iraq. We wanted to take this opportunity to, where a public debate will be occurring in New York on the whole question of sanctions and the Oil for Food Program, to demonstrate a rather compelling example of how Iraq demonstrates no regard for the welfare of its own people.

As you know, the Oil for Food Program keeps revenues from oil sales out of the hands of Saddam Hussein and ensures that it is spent on food and medicine and other supplies for the people. Last month, we showed a number of photos explaining how Saddam evades the Oil for Food Program by pursuing illegal gas oil smuggling to build palaces and luxury areas for himself and his cronies at a cost of billions of dollars.

Today, we wanted to show you an example, much more concrete, of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses because of his willingness to spend money that he has to provide direct state sponsorship for terrorism.

This is a satellite photograph of a new headquarters complex that Saddam Hussein has built for the MEK. This is the main headquarters complex. The whole complex consists of this area all around here, and this is the main headquarters complex that's described in this larger picture.

The complex is located in Falluja, which is approximately 40 kilometers west of Baghdad. Construction was begun in late 1998 and is still going on. The site covers approximately six square kilometers and includes lakes, which is this area right over here; farms, which is this irrigation area; barracks; administrative buildings and other facilities, which are primarily here. The barracks are in this area right there.

The facility can accommodate, in our judgment, between 3,000 to 5,000 MEK members. The headquarters complex is still being built. When it becomes operational, in our judgment, it will be used to coordinate MEK terrorist activities and to plan attacks against targets in Iran and elsewhere.

The important point here is that millions of dollars of Saddam Hussein's illegally obtained money is being focused in the effort to sponsor directly by a state terrorist organizations and terrorist activities - not to help the people of Iraq. Ironically, the gasoil smuggling occurs as a result of smuggling through Iranian waters. So Iranian officials who have allowed this gasoil smuggling to take place have generated revenues for Saddam Hussein to assist the MEK conduct terrorist activities against Iran, which is obviously ironic.

In our view, without the cooperation of some Iranian officials along that waterway that I described last month, Saddam could not smuggle gasoil, and the profits from this smuggling would not be able to be used for these kinds of purposes. In our view, what this photograph demonstrates is that not only will Saddam Hussein continue to try to evade his responsibilities in giving up weapons of mass destruction, but he continues to spends his scarce resources on one of the worst activities any government can spend its money on; that is, state sponsorship of terrorism. This photo is available on our website.

A little background on the MEK. This organization has been around for several decades. It was driven out of its headquarters in France in 1987 and moved its base of operations to Iraq. It is estimated to possess approximately a division's worth of heavy equipment - that is, tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery - in Iraq to conduct raids, bombings, and mortar attacks in Iran. In 1992, a number of attacks were conducted against embassies in several, almost a dozen, countries around the world. In April '99, the MEK assassinated the Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, General Shirazi. And according to press reports, the MEK has stepped up its activities in the last several weeks.

With those comments, I'd be happy to take your questions on this and other subjects.

QUESTION: What evidence does the United States have that the Iraqi Government actually paid for this place?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that this kind of building that costs millions of dollars in a major area near Baghdad would not be being conducted without costs accruing to the government of Iraq, and that we have evidence that this is a building that operates the MEK activities, that the refurbishment of this site was conducted by not just the MEK but by Iraqi officials. And that is sufficient evidence for us to conclude that scarce efforts, scarce resources, scarce funds, are being focused on this effort.

QUESTION: Do you know which group bankrolls the MEK?

MR. RUBIN: They get money from a variety of sources. What I'm suggesting to you --

QUESTION: I know what you're suggesting, but I'm looking for complicity. You say the smuggling was in cooperation with Iran.

MR. RUBIN: No, I said Iranian officials who turned a blind eye to smuggling who have been paid off as a result of smuggling. I didn't say -


MR. RUBIN: I suspect the government of Iran would want to know - not want this to go on.

QUESTION: Because, as you said, it could be the target of attacks?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: But most terrorist groups have a variety of sources for their funds, so while Iraq may be housing them in a headquarters way --

MR. RUBIN: But it's not housing, Barry. It's rebuilding. This site was a former military site that was empty.

QUESTION: Well, forget the housing --

MR. RUBIN: It was an abandoned site. And now in the last year and a half, enormous expense has been spent to turn this from an abandoned site, an unused military facility. For example, these areas right here are abandoned buildings that were part of a military site. So all this effort has been made to build an elaborate complex - and that costs money.

QUESTION: I hear you. It was loose wording on my part. I'm just trying to find out where this terrorist group gets its money.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I can look into that for you to see where they get it. We have a law in this country that prohibits fundraising by this organization, and the Justice Department is engaged in a process of trying to ensure that no one in this country provides funds to an organization that has been declared by us a terrorist organization.

As far as what other sources of income this organization has, I will have to check that for you.

QUESTION: How much has Iraq funded?

MR. RUBIN: I'll be happy to check that for you.

QUESTION: Have you expressed your concerns on this to the Iranians through whatever means you do talk to them, or is this how you are conveying the message?

MR. RUBIN: Well, with respect to the gasoil smuggling, what has normally gone on there is the Sanctions Committee chairman has been in contact with the government of Iran about concerns about the use of Iranian waterways to smuggle gasoil. With respect to this particular issue, I'm not going to make it a practice of saying what we do or don't say in diplomatic channels but, as I understand it, this photograph has now just been released, right now, for dissemination.

QUESTION: Jamie, you knew about this for a while and you said the construction started in 1998.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Why are you declassifying these documents now? Is it to push the Iranian Government to stop the smuggling or is it further to prove your good intention, the government of American's intention, towards the Iranian people in line with Madame Secretary's speech of last week?

MR. RUBIN: No, this has nothing to do with the Secretary of State's speech. We have been organizing this effort for several weeks now. It is very hard to get a photograph like this declassified, I can assure you, and it's been going on by those officials who work on the Iraq problem, not those who work on the Iran problem.

The motivation is very pure and very simple, and we hope very honest. Today, a debate is going on in the Security Council about how Iraq spends its money, with many countries challenging and many individuals challenging sanctions. We think to the extent that we can prove, number one, the danger of letting Saddam Hussein have money at his disposal and, number two, the perversity with which he allocates his resources, that it will help our case internationally for maintaining the strongest possible coalition for sanctions. That is what this is about, and we think that this information demonstrates that Saddam Hussein will not only spend scarce resources hiding, rebuilding facilities for his military, but also doing what the whole world recognizes is and should be a taboo, which is sponsoring by a state of terrorist organizations. And we think that is what is significant about this information.

QUESTION: What evidence do you have that the money that you say Saddam has used to rebuild that facility in fact came from the smuggled oil?

MR. RUBIN: The irony that I was describing is a generalized irony. We don't have direct information that the x-million dollars from this particular oil smuggling was spent on this particular facility. But we know that Saddam has a limited ability to get money. Basically, he has a few different ways: taxes, black market activity, kickbacks on government contracts and gasoil smuggling. And those are the main ways that he earns hard currency. The ones that can be affected from the outside are, obviously, the gasoil smuggling. So to the extent one wants to squeeze his revenue base and limit his choices about where to spend it, one would want to limit his gasoil smuggling.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable, though, that that facility was built with one of the other two sources of revenue?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's conceivable. There is no way really to know that. Money to a certain extent is fungible. What I am indicating is there are only a few sources of money for a regime under this kind of sanction, and it is ironic that the Iranian officials would be giving additional resources to the regime when some of those resources could well have been directed towards this kind of support for a terrorist organization that conducts terrorist attacks against Iran. That is the irony that I was describing.

QUESTION: There is a lot of Iranians in this country. Some of them have been identified with the Mujahedin in the past. Is the FBI pursuing the possibility that money is being transferred, collected and transferred for the MEK?

MR. RUBIN: I am sorry that a particular correspondent wasn't here today for me to answer this question, but perhaps he will be reading this transcript. The NCR, the National Council for the Resistance, has been designated as an alias for the MEK, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 makes it illegal to knowingly donate money or provide material support or resources to a designated organization and generally bans the issuance if visas to those organizations. It also requires financial institutions to freeze funds in which such organizations have an interest.

We will vigorously enforce the law against designated foreign terrorist organizations and all those who knowingly provide them material support or resources. Material support or resources includes funds, facilities, and most other physical assets. The provision that allows us to freeze these assets, however, does not give us the - the government - statutory authority to freeze all assets or to seize offices belonging to a designated group. That is for you, Jonathan Wright. Only funds are subject to freezing.

There are complex legal issues involved in enforcing this Act. The Department of Justice is prepared to answer questions concerning criminal enforcement of this particular law. There have been successful prosecutions of certain violations, but I am not in a position to talk about the details for legal reasons.

QUESTION: Jamie, you've been asked to relate this in some way to the new overtures to Iran. I mean, in the Secretary's speech she spoke of how both Iran and the US have been wronged by Iraq and that there is a joint interest the two have in the Gulf region. Could you somehow - is there a relationship here?

MR. RUBIN: I was asked this question earlier and I am indicating there is no relationship.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - targeted? Is this --

MR. RUBIN: We are doing this for one reason and one reason alone, and that is to demonstrate to the world the way in which Saddam Hussein spends his scarce resources to sponsor - through state sponsorship, terrorist organizations. That is what this is about. It has no relationship to the Secretary's speech.

QUESTION: What evidence do you have? I mean, this is only 40 kilometers from Baghdad, which has never been that far away from the Iranian borders. What evidence do you have that Mujahedin-e Khalq are using it and not Saddam's forces?

MR. RUBIN: We have very concrete evidence that convinces us compellingly that this is the MEK headquarters and not an office for Saddam Hussein's forces. I am not a position to get into the evidence, but I think our evidence is quite compelling.

QUESTION: Do you have anything that -- (inaudible) -- it's one of theirs?

MR. RUBIN: And certainly the MEK has publicized its ability to have such offices in Baghdad.

QUESTION: This group has large meetings in England and in Europe and has lots of people who are contributing money to it abroad. What evidence do you have that that money is not the money that built this facility?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think before you walked in we had a discussion about the fungibility of money. And what I was indicating was that we believe that Iraqi officials have spent scarce resources, either in the form of construction or land or funds, that they have complained they don't have to build hospitals, to deal with oil equipment.

Every time you see an Iraqi lament list, "Here are all the things we can't do," think about all the effort that went into helping this modern administrative facility be created and know that all of these efforts that obviously went into this from an old military base could have gone into humanitarian needs. That is the point we are making.

We can't rule out that the MEK paid for part of this, but clearly scarce Iraqi resources were devoted to this effort; that is, state sponsorship of terrorism, rather than to the effort of providing schools or medicine or electricity or all the other Iraqi laments that they have about their fate.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, I don't follow your reasoning at all because --

MR. RUBIN: I thought it was quite compelling.

QUESTION: Yeah. You know, you're saying there's no indication - that you have no knowledge how much of this was paid for from funds from abroad, yet you're saying there is compelling evidence that they're using scant resources. That doesn't sort of match. I mean, for all we know, all of it was paid for by funds from abroad.

MR. RUBIN: Right. We think that significant resources from Iraq were devoted to this effort and that it could not have occurred - a building doesn't come up from the desert like this from an abandoned military base and sprout into this rather modern administrative facility, in our judgment, without significant resources from the Iraqi regime being devoted to it.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how much the facility cost to build?

MR. RUBIN: Our estimate is that this kind of facility takes tens of millions of dollars to construct.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea, again, how much of it would have had to come - you said a significant amount, but I mean are we talking like greater than 50 percent?

MR. RUBIN: I can't give you a numerical figure at this point, but we will look into that for you.

QUESTION: What is the feeling: elation or wait-and-see on whether the anti-terrorism people are going to get the airplane they've been trying to get from Congress?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that for you.

QUESTION: I thought you knew about the to-and-fro'ing on the Hill over the funds.

MR. RUBIN: Right. I just have to check that for you.

QUESTION: Representative Gary Ackerman of New York leads a large group of people in the Congress that have asked the United States to stop calling this group a terrorist group, and they say that this group, MEK/NCR, is a legitimate anti - you know, to change the government, that they're for democracy. Could you comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as a New Yorker I sure hope I can still go to his district, but we respectfully disagree with Congressman Ackerman. We have designated this group a foreign terrorist organization and, in fact, Americans have been killed by the activities of this organization. Congressman Ackerman is familiar with the legal justification, the elaborate legal justification, that we have used to make this designation. We are aware of his difference of opinion, but we intend to continue to follow the law and continue to designate it as a foreign terrorist organization.

With respect to the question of an aircraft, the administration has agreed that a Boeing 757 would be the most suitable aircraft to replace the 37-year-old converted tanker now used by the forward emergency support team coordinated by the Department of State. The Air Force procurement section of the pending emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Kosovo and Colombia contains funding for this specially configured aircraft, and it obviously contains other funding requests of importance to us, and we believe this plane to help us deal with anti-terrorism problems and to deal with terrorism as it occurs is another reason why we hope the Senate will move expeditiously on the bill.

QUESTION: The last point is you're not sure that they will?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: And wasn't there some disagreement before the type of plane was the consensus choice?

MR. RUBIN: You mean an interagency disagreement?

QUESTION: God forbid. "Disarray" is what the New York Times used to do.

MR. RUBIN: Disagreement, disarray. Well, you know, the administration I've been working in has never, ever had a disagreement. That was a joke.

QUESTION: One more question, just because you were very specific in your numbers between 3- to 5,000 thousand people would be in that barracks.

MR. RUBIN: That's an estimate based on the number of people that could sleep in that area, the number of buildings, and our judgment of what similar facilities involved in the past. That's a judgment.

QUESTION: Where are they now, these people? Are they in Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: There are thousands of MEK supporters in Iraq. I indicated to you they have a division's worth of equipment, and that's well more than 3- to 5,000. So we believe there are such people in Iraq of that order of magnitude of numbers.

QUESTION: Do you want to tell us your expectations, although it's a White House show, for Sunday? The Secretary will certainly be front and center and actually giving an account on television, after or before I'm not sure. But can we at least finally admit that this will unlock the formal negotiations and they can resume?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely not. There is no pre-cooked aspect to this. We believe that a face-to-face meeting is the next logical step in this process. We have worked with both sides to try to clarify the needs and the requirements in order to get the two sides' objectives met. We're trying to do that in a simultaneous way. Up to now, each side has wanted its needs and concerns met first, and we want to make sure it can be done simultaneously.

We've obviously had a lot of contact with Prime Minister Barak directly and now we think it's appropriate to have the President meet with President Assad. Secretary Albright will obviously play an important role in that discussion on Sunday and she may have more to say after that. But there are no expectations that this is going to be a breakthrough session; on the contrary, there remain substantial, substantive and procedural differences, contrary to some other reports that were suggested that there's just a few process issues to resolve. That's not accurate. We have no way of knowing how President Assad will respond to what the President will have to say to him, and we will obviously have more to say after the meeting.

QUESTION: You have accurately, I'm sure, described how they - the stances the two sides took in Shepherdstown. Are you able to characterize whether there has been any greater spirit of, as you described the spirit between Israel and the Palestinians essentially, a good atmosphere?

MR. RUBIN: Right. But that atmosphere has been over pizza at the Pizza Hut at the Bolling Air Force Base where they're together and working together. The Syrians and the Israelis have not been working together since Shepherdstown with our supervision.

QUESTION: Do you sense any sense of a conciliation on either or both sides?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to try to characterize that. This is a hard negotiating session about real issues - security, normalization, borders, water. There are very hard-core, very difficult issues that have to be overcome, and they haven't met together and so I don't want to comment on the tone of our bilateral conversations because it's not really responsive to your question.

QUESTION: Last thought. The issue of Jerusalem is a kind of a tough one, too. Is there an administration view whether both accords, which you want, could be simultaneously or within a short space of time presented dually to the Israeli public?

MR. RUBIN: I think that's wildly premature from our standpoint. From our standpoint, we will pursue each track vigorously. We think we can continue to work on the Palestinian track even while we're working on the Syrian track, and we will follow the pace of each negotiation and not try to pre-cook some joint outcome.

QUESTION: You just said that you don't know how President Assad will respond to what the President has to say to him. Are you saying that President Clinton is going with concrete proposals to solve the difficult --

MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't have meetings like this if we don't have something to say. I'm not going to say that we have American ideas. That's not what I was suggesting. Obviously, the President will have something to say to President Assad, and we'll have to see what he has to say back.

QUESTION: So it's not a brainstorming session entirely?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't regard it as a brainstorming session.

QUESTION: Jamie, the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to meet at Bolling. Can you say how that's going and what will happen this weekend and how long you think these talks might last?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, the Bolling talks continue. And partially in response to one of the previous questions, on Sunday Ambassador Ross will be meeting up with Secretary Albright and the President in Geneva, and Aaron Miller will be leading the US effort.

QUESTION: In a separate --

MR. RUBIN: Here at Bolling. The parties are engaged in sustained and intensive discussions. They have been meeting with each side just about every day to receive readouts of what their bilateral discussions have involved. There are full delegation meetings, smaller working groups, a variety of structures, and they meet in a variety of formats and a variety of venues.

The focus is clearly to reach a framework agreement as soon as possible so that the September deadline for a permanent status agreement can be met. We expect the talks to continue until early next week, but I don't have a specific time for you. The parties are not going to be negotiating all weekend; apparently, they will have some free time.

There has been developed a very cordial working relationship there. It is clear that both sides like and respect each other, and we think it is an important ingredient in ultimately being able to reach an agreement.

QUESTION: Is it a positive sign that they're going into next week?

MR. RUBIN: I think the time frame was always thought to be about a week. And as you know, in the Middle East peace process a week is a very elastic concept.

QUESTION: President Mubarak arrives today. Is there any chance that he would become involved in those talks?

MR. RUBIN: I have no indication that that is planned.

QUESTION: The President's trip to Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I would prefer to refer all questions on the President's travel to the party traveling which is having regular press conferences and events.

QUESTION: It is actually just a broad question about Pakistan in general.

MR. RUBIN: And, similarly, I would prefer to refer all questions about the President's trip to Pakistan to the party that is talking about it extensively with the media.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - questions on Pakistan altogether should go there as well?

MR. RUBIN: That is kind of what we normally do to justify me doing this.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the stories about the Inspector General and Tony Coelho?

MR. RUBIN: I do not have anything on that because it's really something the State Department IG has to respond to. I can certainly urge that some information be provided to you. I have seen the reporting, as I know you have. We do not normally comment for the Inspector General, and I will tell them that you will probably be giving them a call.

QUESTION: Has she normally been briefing every day, just like you do?

MR. RUBIN: I think it would be less informative.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about the fact that Wesley Clark and the NATO Secretary General canceled their trip to Mitrovica?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think that is really up to them to describe the reasons for that. You know, clearly, we are all working to try to deal with the problems in Kosovo. I would point out that yesterday afternoon the leaders of the - the Presevo Valley leaders put out a very important statement that indicated that they will reject violence as a solution to their concerns, that they want to pursue a peaceful solution.

That effort was a result of intervention by Hashim Thaci, the leader of the KLA who now has his own political effort there - the former KLA. That was something that Ambassador Hill and I had urged the leaders of all Kosovar Albanian groups to do, which is to convince the leaders of these Presevo Valley efforts to stand down from provocations that could only cause a worse situation for them.

With respect to that effort, we think it is a step in the right direction. Obviously, there is a lot more that needs to be done to ensure that that situation doesn't get out of hand, but it was a step in the right direction yesterday late afternoon.

With respect to their trip, I think it would be better for them to comment on the reasons for their not going to Mitrovica other than to say that I understand they are going to Kosovo, just not to that particular town.

QUESTION: Can I get back to the Middle East peace process?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: This morning the Egyptian Foreign Minister told reporters that Egypt during President Mubarak's trip wants to talk about - even though there has not been any final peace, they want to get going right now on having some sort of an arms freeze, some kind of an arms deal in which there wouldn't be the sale of further weapons to anyone in the region, and that would include Israel. Does the US think that that's a reasonable request?

MR. RUBIN: We have been working with, as a result of the Moscow Multilateral Talks to get a meeting of the so-called ACARS group, Arms Control and Regional Security, scheduled. I believe we still expect that meeting to occur not later than the end of the first half of this year, so that gives us still a little more time to get that developed. That's the multilateral track.

With respect to our overall position on the question, I think what we have said is that in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement that brought security to the State of Israel, we believe that any effort to develop a weapons of mass destruction free zone is appropriate, and we have been prepared to try to develop these talks, the Arms Control and Regional Security table at the multilateral talks, and we are working on putting those together.

QUESTION: But I mean in terms of further sales once there has been a peace deal --

MR. RUBIN: I would have to see precisely what he was referring to. I am sure he wasn't talking about any piece of conventional weaponry. I think he probably had some other ideas, and I would like to see precisely what he said before commenting.

QUESTION: Is there any reaction on the capture of the possible murderer of the three Americans this year?

MR. RUBIN: We understand that Colombian authorities arrested two men in Saravena, Colombia earlier today. We do not have confirmed information from the Government of Colombia as to whether one of the men is, indeed Gildardo Gonzalez, a/k/a, "The Pig," the alleged killer of three US citizens who were activists for NGOs.

We are in close contact with Colombian law enforcement agencies as they seek to definitively establish the identity of the man they arrested, March 23rd, I guess. We have long said that we will seek justice for these crimes, but it would be premature to speculate pending the additional work of the Colombian authorities.

QUESTION: How long do you think it will take for US and Colombia to identify this man?

MR. RUBIN: We will have to see. I think we are in close contact with them and I don't want to make a prediction on that.

QUESTION: Just another one. Is the extradition issue on the table anyway even though it is under consideration and waiting for a confirmation, because last year the US said that it will look for extradition for every single person that will be involved in the murders.

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I said, we intend to ensure that justice is pursued. In cases like this, we will pursue that vigorously. I think it would be premature to make a specific comment on this issue pending the identification of these people and further discussion with Colombian authorities.

QUESTION: The Elian Gonzalez case moving more quickly now. Has there been any movement on the part of Elian's father to seek a visa?

MR. RUBIN: I have nothing new on that case.

QUESTION: Yes, Iraqi Kurdish reception in Ankara as the -- (inaudible) - meeting I asked before. And do you still commit to Iraqi territorial integrity or some --


QUESTION: Thank you. Or any form of - do you support any form of the independent Kurdish state?


QUESTION: Okay, second question. Several Turkish press reports mentioned about that the chief prosecutor in Ankara, Turkish prosecutor in Ankara, said that US Government support one of the political leader and the political law change which permit banned some former mayor in Ankara to enter the policy. Do you have any idea?

MR. RUBIN: I'm going to have to look into that one with a real microscope.

QUESTION: You might need a microscope for this, too. Do you have any reaction to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's comments about NATO? They seem to be following Mr. Putin's language.

MR. RUBIN: If you can give me a few quotes, I'd be happy to make it up on the spot.

QUESTION: Hang on. "Belarus has suggested to NATO signing a charter similar to that with Russia and Ukraine. We don't have an answer yet from the NATO leadership, although we also have not had a definite no."

MR. RUBIN: I think we still have such substantial problems with the policies and practices of the Belarusian Government on so many spheres, that that strikes me as wildly hypothetical.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the fact that there has been a travel ban imposed in Chechnya for the duration of the election? Do you know that?

MR. RUBIN: I am unfamiliar with the travel ban.

QUESTION: Would you like a quote?


QUESTION: "A temporary restriction of rights and freedoms --

MR. RUBIN: This could be a new development in the Spokesman's job.

QUESTION: This is a good one, though. "A temporary restriction of rights and freedoms, especially on territory where there are armed clashes, is fully justified." This from a member of the Presidential Human Rights Commission.

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we certainly believe that international human rights groups and international human rights workers and journalists and others should have the freedom of movement necessary to do their jobs and deal with the tragedy that Chechnya has become.

QUESTION: Are you saying - has there been any concern or do we know about extra concern during the ballotting? It doesn't appear to be a very highly contested race at this point.

MR. RUBIN: Right. Follow-ups on this procedure will be tough if we do these read-the-quote, I react, and then we follow up.

QUESTION: "We will not vote for the executioner," said Chechen separatist leader, Aslan Maskhadov.

MR. RUBIN: I'll check into that.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright laid it on straight yesterday in Geneva on the China civil rights situation. What can we expect from the United States Government to come to follow what she has said?

MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, the fact that Secretary Albright did make the decision to leave the President's party in India, fly all the way to Geneva to give this speech, I think is a very clear demonstration of the commitment of this administration to working on the human rights issues through the Commission on Human Rights. And you can therefore assume that additional efforts will be made to try to convince countries of the wisdom of allowing a discussion and a debate on the China human rights resolution and to try to defeat a no-action resolution, but I wouldn't want to describe in public what precise steps we are going to take in that regard.

QUESTION: Will something be done in the UN once again?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the Commission is where this activity is focused in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Commission.

QUESTION: I'm sure you have already been asked this in the past, but if you could just repeat: Why is it that the United States which has spoken out so strongly against various human rights abuses within Chechnya decided not to sponsor a resolution criticizing Russia?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the Secretary addressed the question of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya in her speech. There is a many-week process at the Commission and we think it is to be expected that in light of what has gone on there that the issue of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya will be discussed. We've been consulting with European governments about what the appropriate course of action is, and our priority in those discussions is to try to focus on ways to bring Russia into compliance with its obligations. But this is a many-week process and I don't think anybody is ruling anything out, but I couldn't really add to that at this time.

QUESTION: The Bolling field negotiations seem to be sort of stealth negotiations --

MR. RUBIN: Good.

QUESTION: -- in comparison to, let's say, Shepherdstown.

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. I fully agree with the premise of your question.

QUESTION: You haven't said --

MR. RUBIN: I fully agree with the premise of your question.

QUESTION: All right. How many people are involved out there, because there is only supposed to be about eight altogether?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that there are about five negotiators on each side with two support people. That's seven plus seven, plus the US involvement.

QUESTION: How big is the US involvement?

MR. RUBIN: Along those lines.

QUESTION: About the same?


QUESTION: A one-on-one game.

MR. RUBIN: No. I don't think it is precisely one, but roughly those are the order of magnitude we're talking about.

QUESTION: Can you give us - I mean, these guys may leave town without seeing anyone on the --

MR. RUBIN: Good.

QUESTION: All right. Are you going to be giving any hints or indications --

MR. RUBIN: I will try before they leave to see that some wrap-up discussion occurs, but I wouldn't hold your breath that it will be horribly substantive at this stage.

QUESTION: But you are going to go to bat for us in any case, right?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I guess you can see my predilection in this regard.

QUESTION: One quick question. Our friends in the Israeli media with their impeccable sources, there was a report today that the US is conditioning aid to Israel - the military aid with the Golan withdrawal - on stopping arms sales to China.

MR. RUBIN: Well, there has not been an aid package that we have identified for ourselves. We have had some preliminary consultations with the Israelis and the Congress about what the Israelis are seeking. There is no question of the subject of Israeli arms sales to China remains one of concern to the United States. We have an extensive dialogue with Israel about those issues and we will continue to make known our concerns. But I don't think I want to begin talking about what might be attached to a package that we haven't even settled on that hasn't even been forwarded to Capitol Hill.

QUESTION: Hasn't been forwarded to where?

MR. RUBIN: To Capitol Hill.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Asylum: More Manus Refugees Fly To US But Hundreds Still In Limbo

“The US deal was never going to provide enough places for the refugees Australia has held on Manus and Nauru. There are over 1800 refugees needing resettlement,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. More>>


Food Security: African Swine Fever Rapidly Spreading In Asia

African Swine Fever is rapidly spreading in East and Southeast Asia threatening food security and livelihoods of households relying on pig farming... More>>


"NZ Leadership Needed": Japan Resume Commercial Whaling

The Green Party is deeply concerned by Japan’s resumption of commercial whaling, Green Party Animal Welfare Spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Collective Punishment In Venezuela

Yemen, Venezuela, Iran, Gaza… beyond the particulars of their suffering, each of these countries currently share one thing in common: their ordinary citizens are being subjected to collective punishment, in order to bring about regime change. More>>