U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing 5 Apr
Ukraine – Russia – Cuba – Iran/Iraq – Japan – Serbia – Middle East Peace Process – Department – Balkans – Libya – Peru – Zimbabwe –North Korea
U.S. Department of State 04/05/00 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, April 5, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
UKRAINE 1.....Secretary Albright to Travel to Ukraine, April 20-21
RUSSIA 1-2.....American Citizen Detained For Reported Spying
CUBA 3-4.....Issuance of Visas for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Others 3-5.....Status of Other Visa Applications
IRAN/IRAQ 5-6.....Reported Iranian Interception of Ship Carrying Smuggled Iraqi Fuel
JAPAN 6.....Condition of Prime Minister Obuchi 6.....Election of New Prime Minister
SERBIA (Kosovo) 6-7.....Reported Clash Involving US KFOR Troops
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 7.....Resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks
DEPARTMENT 7-8.....Status of the Emergency Supplemental Bill
BALKANS 8.....Situation in the Region/Situation on Montenegro Border
LIBYA 8-9.....Status of Assessment of Visit by US Consular Team
PERU 9.....Upcoming Presidential Elections
ZIMBABWE 9.....Violence in Zimbabwe/Elections
NORTH KOREA 10.....Resumption of Japan-North Korea Normalization Talks 10.....Status of US-DPRK Missile Talks/High-Level Visit
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 29
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 2000 11:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the not only on-time but early State Department briefing here this morning.
QUESTION: And well announced.
MR. RUBIN: And well announced in advance so that all of you, you know, can get up in time for the briefing.
Secretary Albright will travel to Ukraine on April 20-21st following her visit to Central Asia. This will be her second trip to Ukraine as Secretary. Her previous visit was in March, 1998. While in Kiev, the Secretary will consult with Ukrainian Government officials on a broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including Ukraine's efforts to accelerate market reforms and speed its integration into the Euro- Atlantic community. She will underscore the United States strong support for the ambitious reform agenda being undertaken by President Kuchma and Prime Minister Yushchenko.
That is the only statement I have, and I'd be happy to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the American in Russia who was accused of spying by the Russian Security Agency?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. An American citizen was detained yesterday by the Russian police. No formal charges have been made, but the authorities have advised that he is presently under investigation for violation of Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code, which pertains to espionage. He has an attorney appointed by the Russian authorities. The American Embassy was notified yesterday of an American citizen's arrest by the Russian authorities. Consular visitation was promptly arranged and the American citizen was seen today by the Embassy's Chief of the American Citizen Services Section. The citizen appeared to be in good health and made no complaints of mistreatment. He indicated that he expects this matter to be resolved in a short time.
Obviously, details are scare in terms of what I can say publicly and given certain Privacy Act issues, but that's the information I can provide to you.
QUESTION: Can you explain what happens to him as a private citizen now, what could happen under this criminal code, what kind of penalties?
MR. RUBIN: Right. Obviously, American citizens abroad are subject to the laws of foreign countries. That remains a fact of travel and life. What we try to do through our Consular Affairs department is work with the Russian authorities and the citizen involved to make sure that he gets the most free and fair process and due process of law. That is what the consular visitation and consular relationships are designed to achieve, and that's what we're seeking to achieve here.
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to be able to get into more detail than that.
QUESTION: How about on the fact that he indicated to the Consular Affairs person that he expected the matter will be resolved quickly? Does that mean that he said that he was basically innocent of whatever charges he might be --
MR. RUBIN: Again, there are a number of restrictions on what I can say about this given the lack of a complete Privacy Act waiver. I tried to get as much information as I could to you on a real-time basis. This is all I have at the present time.
QUESTION: What do you say to the charge that this person was, in fact, supplying US intelligence with information?
MR. RUBIN: Again, as I indicated in response to your colleague's question, I've just provided you all the information I was able to obtain before this early briefing here this morning.
QUESTION: So don't bother asking any other questions; is that the hint?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: How about a little history here?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let's try history. If we can't do future, we'll do the past.
QUESTION: Do you remember any other cases where an American was detained and a Russian at the same time? Is that unusual?
MR. RUBIN: We'll have to check through our Historian's Office.
QUESTION: Different topic?
QUESTION: Wait, wait. I got one more on this. How long is it going to be before the FBI arrests a Russian citizen in the United States? Is that coming soon?
MR. RUBIN: Betsy.
QUESTION: Can you say if any of - on the Elian Gonzalez case. Can you say if any of the other 22 visas have been issued or what their status is?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I can say that we haven't issued any other visas. We issued the six visas that I reported to you yesterday, I believe, or the day before yesterday, based on our assessment of what was appropriate in this case. We are reviewing the other visa requests, and that review continues.
QUESTION: Yesterday we heard the Cuban version of the story of what happened in the meeting from Mr. Remirez. Can you give us the American version?
MR. RUBIN: The meeting where?
QUESTION: Here. The meeting between Mr. Remirez and Mr. Shapiro.
MR. RUBIN: Right. As far as we're concerned, what I can say is as follows. The Cuban Government has informed us that Juan Miguel Gonzalez has expressed his wishes to come to the United States only under one of two conditions: either he picks up his son and leaves immediately, or he comes to the United States for an extended visit with the 27 other individuals who have requested visas. To this end, the Cuban Government said they are requesting on behalf of Juan Miguel Gonzalez that we issue the remaining 22 visas.
An official from the US Interests Section in Havana provided the Cuban Foreign Ministry with the passports and visas for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and five others. They may travel whenever they wish to.
I'm not going to speculate on what will be done on the remaining 22. We have received some of the responses to the questions we sent to the Cuban Government about the rationale, travel plans, for the other 22. As I said, 6 of the 22 visas have been issued. In response to some of your questions over the last couple of days, I can say they received B- 2 visitors visas and, since they are not government of Cuba officials, they will not have travel restrictions. Their length of stay in this kind of case is normally determined at the time of arrival.
If you have any other questions on where they would intend to stay and what they would intend to do, I recommend you contact their lawyer.
QUESTION: Jamie, can you say whether you all have given more questions to the Cuban authorities to try and clarify the answers they've given you, or do you expect more information?
MR. RUBIN: I think my understanding is we're waiting for additional answers. They've only given us partial answers.
QUESTION: What is the justification given by the Cuban Government for having the 22 other visas?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated, they have said that Elian Gonzalez' father has expressed his wish to come under only these two circumstances. It doesn't strike me that the Cubans have lacked for spokespeople to pursue their cause publicly and make their case publicly and, in my final days as Spokesman, the last thing I want to do is explain their case to you.
What I can be happy to do is explain our position to you, and our position is that the six visas that we provided we think are sufficient to provide an environment appropriate for the child in this case - and that has been our objective all along. And the other 22 visas, at this point, we are still reviewing.
QUESTION: Jamie, it sounds from your answer as if you don't see a justification for granting the other 22 if you say that the 6 you've reviewed so far are sufficient. Why would that change tomorrow or in the next week?
MR. RUBIN: Well, circumstances can change and I'm not going to speculate on what will happen to the other 22 visas; certainly, I'm saying that the 6 are justified, and thus were issued. Whether the other 22 will turn out to be justified as a result of answering these questions or developments in the case, I'm not going to speculate.
QUESTION: The questions are part of the review which is being done in the national interest, you said the other day, correct? Can you describe a little bit more what those national interests are, or is that not possible?
MR. RUBIN: I think what I can say is that --
QUESTION: I mean, is it basically you don't want these people to be - this larger entourage to be cops or people that might intimidate the immediate family?
MR. RUBIN: We do not believe it would be wise to reflect publicly all of our thinking about the remaining 22 visas at this time because, again, I'm not going to speculate on what might happen to these other visa requests. The kind of questions that we've asked, I can certainly give you the broad contours of those questions. What is the purpose of this individual accompanying Elian Gonzalez' immediate family? How long would these individuals intend to stay? Where would they stay? And that kind of thing. So they're very pointed, direct, honest questions about the intent for these other visas.
QUESTION: But are not those the kind of questions that would be answered normally in an application for a visa?
MR. RUBIN: No, not in extensive detail, no.
QUESTION: Jamie, they just gave partial answers to these? There are no new questions, but the six visas you granted they gave full answers?
MR. RUBIN: At this point, I'm not aware of a new set of questions going from us to them, but; rather, we asked a set of questions pertaining to each of the remaining 22 visa requests, and we have received some partial answers in our exchanges with the Foreign Ministry in Cuba.
QUESTION: Then the questions you asked of the six you granted?
MR. RUBIN: The six we granted without asking the questions.
QUESTION: Were the questions for Mr. Alarcon different than the others?
MR. RUBIN: That strikes --
QUESTION: It's a semi-serious question.
MR. RUBIN: Well, semi-serious? Maybe I'll give you a semi-serious answer. Thank you, Charlie.
Let me say that if the question included what is the individual's relationship to the child, I think the answer obviously is contained in the question itself.
QUESTION: If Mr. Gonzalez and his party do come to Washington, is the State Department concerned at all about security and what kind of preparations, if any, are underway to ensure that --
MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, we'd play a consultative role, but our role really here is to communicate with the government, to be the point of contact for the United States Government in Cuba and, obviously, to be a point of contact for Cuban Interests Section individuals here in Washington. But the decisions about what would happen in this case have been made by the Justice Department and the INS in consultation with the State Department, including arrangements about what might go on inside the United States. So that is not something that we would normally be the central organization or department involved in.
But I am sure that there are consultations now ongoing between us and the Justice Department and the INS and the White House and others to try to manage this arrangement as best as we can if, indeed, they choose to come to the United States.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. RUBIN: Please.
QUESTION: The Iranians say that they've intercepted some smuggled Iraqi fuel from the Gulf. Do you have any independent corroboration of this, and do you have any comment on this since you've urged them to do this kind of thing many times?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. With regard to that issue, let me say the following. We've seen reports - I'm not aware that we have independent confirmation at this time. But if the reports are true, we are pleased to see that Iran is taking measures against this illegal traffic. We have previously expressed our concern about the high level of smuggling through the Persian Gulf. In the past, Iran has taken measures to halt smuggling along its coast and we hope this is an indication they intend to do so vigorously again.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - contact with the Iranians on this?
MR. RUBIN: I would doubt it.
QUESTION: The Diet has elected Mr. Mori as their new prime minister and re-appointed a cabinet. Any reaction to that piece?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. First let me say that we continue to hope for a recovery for former Prime Minister Obuchi, who has been a great friend of the United States. Our thoughts and prayers remain with him and his family.
With regard to new Prime Minister Mori, we warmly welcome his election by the Diet and congratulate him on his victory. We have a long history of working closely with Prime Minister Mori in his previous leadership positions within the Japanese Government and his party. We have found him to be an extremely able and experienced political leader. We also consider Prime Minister Mori to be a strong supporter of the US-Japan relationship and look forward to continuing our close and cooperative relationship with Japan under his leadership.
QUESTION: Since his election, has there been any contact from this Department with the Japanese Government?
MR. RUBIN: I am confident that we've had contacts with Japan in the last 48 hours, extensive contacts. I don't have the specific nature of what level. I know Secretary Albright has sent some condolences and wishes of speedy recovery to the former Prime Minister. I know that our Embassy has been in touch with them there and we've been in close contact, and I certainly expect a more formal process to occur during the course of the day.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - on this from the Pentagon yesterday, but do you have anything to add on the 11 Americans who were wounded in Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: Not really much beyond - in terms of the facts. I think the Pentagon would be in a better position to give you the latest detail on the facts of the case. We understand it was a local incident arising from a routine weapons search by NATO forces there. This is one of many such searches that are carried out regularly as part of the mission to maintain a secure environment, including confiscating illegal concealed weapons from those who might commit acts of violence.
In our view, we strongly condemn the kind of violence against peacekeepers carrying out their legitimate duties and we support NATO forces, in particular American forces, taking all necessary measures to protect personnel and deter all parties from violent acts, and that KFOR will respond vigorously to any attacks on its forces.
We call on extremists from both sides to cease violence and confrontation and to seek political solution to grievances. And, in general, the detention of persons suspected of illegal activities is consistent with KFOR's mission to provide a secure environment in Kosovo.
QUESTION: The Israel-Palestinian talks resume tomorrow. Do you care to set the stage for --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we do believe it's important to have an away-from- the-limelight, serious discussion that will include brainstorming to pursue the very important issues on the agenda - and those are the permanent status issues. They are extremely important issues and we want to move as soon as possible to try to obtain a framework agreement so that it is possible to achieve the permanent peace by September 13th that the parties have called for.
QUESTION: Is this round still open-ended or is it --
MR. RUBIN: My expectation is that this round, in the tradition of Middle East peace talks, will last about a week.
QUESTION: These Stasi files are off being transferred to Germany. It started yesterday, I believe. Do you have anything on that, and do you see this as being a factor for improving US-German relations after all the worry about this?
MR. RUBIN: Let me check on what I can say about that. I don't have anything right now, but I'll check that for you.
QUESTION: The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, is here today. I believe he's having talks with Madame Secretary now. Could you comment on the content of the talks, where the EU stands or - -
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I will have to get you that after the briefing, but I will make sure we get that to her during the course of the day.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the position of Senator Lott to the bill that includes the $1.3 billion aid for anti-narcotics fight in Colombia?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this: We certainly urge, in the strongest possible terms, Congress to act expeditiously to pass a bill to provide funding, both for the important work of Plan Colombia to fight the drug war, as well as to help stabilize Kosovo and Southeastern Europe. These are both parts of the world where the United States has a strong national interest, demonstrated time and time again. And we think, therefore, it's very important to meet the request the President has made as soon as possible, both to help reverse the flow of drugs onto America's streets and the serious threat posed to Colombia's democracy, as well as the urgent need for funds in Kosovo to maintain the peace and provide increased stability in the region. Further delay in this effort will harm our efforts in Colombia and Kosovo.
We've heard a lot of concern expressed, in Kosovo for example, about the difficulties in getting the civilian implementation to be as effective as the military implementation. And we should recognize that civilian implementation doesn't come for free. And you can't, on the one hand, criticize the development of, in Kosovo with respect to civilian implementation, and then not provide the funds to do that civilian implementation.
So these are both urgent needs and we're calling on Congress to act urgently as well.
QUESTION: Back to the Balkans. In Montenegro, a couple of months ago the State Department put out a public announcement or something along those lines raising concern about Yugoslav forces massing on the border with Montenegro. What is the current state of play in Montenegro? Has it diminished in terms of the number of Yugoslav forces there? Has it increased? Is it the same?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I don't have an order of battle available to me right now in terms of the location of Serb forces. I think I can say with confidence that we are watching very closely the situation in and around Montenegro. We remain concerned about it and we regard the security and the stability of the Balkans, including Montenegro, as important to the United States.
QUESTION: How goes the preparation of this non-existent, as of yet, report on the Libya situation?
MR. RUBIN: Boy. How goes it? Well --
QUESTION: Is it done?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of the status of bureau-level reports, and it's not our practice to give you updates on what every bureau's memo- writing time frame is. I can say the following: that the Secretary has not received a recommendation from Consular Affairs with respect to this consular issue. And let's bear in mind this is a consular issue. It's a question of the safety of travel for Americans.
The Secretary has not received a recommendation about lifting the restriction on the use of passports to travel to Libya. When she receives a recommendation, she will study that recommendation along with other information she deems relevant and, in due course, make a decision as to how to proceed.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure, then, that she's the only one that's going to make this decision; an unnamed official in this Department isn't going to be making the decision here?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I would reiterate that unnamed officials, even senior officials - who I've learned in reporting practice can now be below the level of Deputy Assistant Secretary. I'm aware of recent cases where an office director was labeled a senior official by some of your colleagues.
So let me be quite clear. Whether they be senior or they be non-senior officials, the person who will make this decision is the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: On Libya, so what did the group that visited Libya for - what was it - 26 hours find?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated in response to your colleague's question, we do not make it a practice of providing the deliberative process publicly. Obviously, they made a trip. Obviously, they will have findings and they will incorporate those findings into a consular recommendation to the Secretary as to whether or not to lift the restriction on the use of passports. And when that recommendation comes to the Secretary, she will, in due course, make a decision based on that recommendation, that report, and any other information she deems relevant. But I'm not going to get into the practice of reporting low-level recommendations or reports.
QUESTION: On Peru, there is a growing concern from independent groups that maybe some forgery or irregularities could happen this Sunday in the presidential elections in Peru. Do you have any concern about the environment that surrounds the elections for this coming Sunday?
MR. RUBIN: We are not going to prejudge the outcome of these elections. We have clearly stated our view that the elections must be free, fair and transparent. We are deeply concerned that there continue to be disturbing developments in the electoral process. As outlined in our statement of last month, we renew our call on the government of Peru to complete a vigorous investigation into allegations of forgery in the registration on President Fujimori's "Peru 2000" party. It is essential that the credibility of the National Office for Electoral Procedures, which has been implicated in this incident, be restored. Additionally, we continue to urge the government to increase media access for opposition candidates, to cease ad hominem attacks on the political opposition and domestic observers, and to continue cooperation with international and domestic election monitors.
A third report from the US-funded pre-election observation mission was recently released, and we issued a statement on that. But from our standpoint, we are concerned. We are watching it closely and we're urging that the elections be free, fair and transparent.
QUESTION: On another election - I don't know if you're going to have this, but Zimbabwe is about to have elections. Do you have anything on violence leading up to that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have been concerned about some violence and the interference with the rights of free speech and freedom of assembly in recent days as a result of a number of civil disturbances. That remains of concern to us, and we obviously hope that any elections can occur in an environment free of intimidation.
QUESTION: And one other election. I realize that Assistant Secretary - a senior official is up on the Hill talking about this --
MR. RUBIN: That is a senior official, an Assistant Secretary, yes.
QUESTION: Haiti. Or should he speak for the Department today on that?
MR. RUBIN: I think that probably is wise.
QUESTION: If somebody asked you already, forgive me. Japan and North Korea talks. They resume talks, diplomatic talks --
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's long been our view that a North-South dialogue between Japan and North Korea - we've indicated in the past we strongly support improved relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang. We therefore welcome the resumption of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea. An improvement in these countries' bilateral relations is consistent with the trilateral policy of dialogue with North Korea that is being closely coordinated between the United States - among the United States, Japan and South Korea.
QUESTION: One thing we haven't heard about for a while are the US- North Korean talks. Where do things stand? The last time they broke off, there was no date given for resumption of talks.
MR. RUBIN: Right. There are several different sets of talks. There was an agreement to set up discussions on the missile issue, on the nuclear issue, and then continue discussions on the high-level visit. And I will try to get dates as they emerge for those three talks for you as soon as they're available.
QUESTION: Are you still expecting a senior North Korean official?
MR. RUBIN: Our view hasn't changed that that would be a useful development and that it's consistent with our past discussions. We did get an agreement to have talks on missile issues and on nuclear issues, and when I have the dates for those I'd be happy to provide them.
QUESTION: But this month is - so have you now given - decided that it's going to be much later, or at least later than were originally expected?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:15 P.M.)