U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – Apr 12
Ethiopia – Eritrea – Cuba – Russia (Chechnya) – Middle East Peace Process – Turkey/Iraq – Russia/Iran/Iraq – Libya – French Polynesia – Russia – Germany - Peru
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, April 12, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
ANNOUNNCEMENTS 1 STATEMENT: Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Process
ETHIOPIA / ERITREA 1-2 Peace Process 2-3 US Assistance to Horn of Africa
CUBA 3 Elian Gonzalez Update / Status of Proposed Meeting at the Vatican Mission
RUSSIA (CHECHNYA) 3 Dialogue Between Russians & Chechen Leader Aslan Maskhadov / Political Dialogue
MEPP 4-12, 14 Readout of Clinton-Barak-Albright Talks / Achievement of Framework Agreement / US Role / Bolling Talks 5 US View of Permanent Status Talks 9 Arms Sales to China 9-11 Syria Track / US Role 11 Turkey as Part of Discussions 12 Possibility of High Level Talks Next Week 14 Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon / US Forces
TURKEY / IRAQ 12 State Department Official's Participation in American University Kurdish Conference
RUSSIA / IRAN/IRAQ 12-13 Test Results on Oil from Seized Russian Tanker / Oil Smuggling
LIBYA 13 Readout of Consular Visit / Lifting of Passport Restrictions
FRENCH POLYNESIA 13 Missing American Citizen
RUSSIA 13 Arrested American Citizen
GERMANY 13-14 US Pavilion at Hannover's Expo 2000
PERU 15-16 Elections Aftermath / Next US Steps
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 32 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000, 12:30 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: The announcement was cut short on when I would arrive, so I will filibuster. I have my book here that lists all the heads of state of all the governments of the world. We could go through a pop quiz while we're waiting here. You give me a country; I give you a head of state.
MR. RUBIN: Kyrgyzstan. Let's see how quick I can do this. Kyrgyzstan. Well, as I knew, the head of Kyrgyzstan is Askar Akayev. I knew that.
Okay, we have a statement on the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process, and Secretary Albright met yesterday with President Isaias. The two discussed the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace process and the continued commitment of the United States to help achieve a just and lasting peace. President Isaias reaffirmed his commitment to the Organization of African Unity peace process and pledged to participate in proximity talks in Algiers before the end of April. The date will be determined by the OAU chair.
With that statement, I have no other statements and I'm happy to answer your questions. And since the Associated Press is not here, why don't we go to another local news agency. Matt Lee.
QUESTION: Well, we're closest in terms of letters to AP.
MR. RUBIN: That's true.
QUESTION: Just one thing on the Isaias thing. Is that something new? Had he not pledged to take part in those proximity talks before?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think that we consider this a movement in the right direction. I think the point is that they haven't been able to schedule those talks yet, and the problem is what happens in the talks as well as the fact of the talks.
QUESTION: What is the state of that war? Can you just sum up what's happened in it? I mean, how many people dead? How long has it been going on?
MR. RUBIN: I'm aware of some important information about the famine situation in the Horn of Africa, which I am happy to provide to you. If you're asking me for a current --
QUESTION: Is the famine connected with the war?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly if resources were not spent on war it would be much easier for the people of Ethiopia to be in a position to get assistance from their government. And we're extremely concerned about the potential for a widespread famine in Ethiopia. A top AID official spent two weeks in the Horn of Africa in March assessing drought conditions and the logistical infrastructure for getting food to people who need it.
He traveled to Gode and southeastern Ethiopia, the area hardest hit, and what he saw was extremely disturbing. He immediately ordered an emergency airlift of 40 metric tons of food aid for emergency feeding centers. A second airlift of 40 metric tons will arrive in Gode this weekend. This is in addition to the 500,000 metric tons of food aid the US will contribute to Ethiopia this year. More than half of this will arrive by June. We're going to consider additional contributions. The Europeans have also announced a contribution of 435,000 metric tons.
Despite this outpouring of assistance, we're concerned that the crisis in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa could spread quickly and we are trying to do what we can to assure there is no return to the famine conditions. This is something the Secretary raised this morning and has raised this morning, and has raised on a number of occasions in the last couple of weeks, and is quite distressed by the suffering in the Horn of Africa. And an inner-agency working group chaired by Assistant Secretary Rice has been established to monitor the situation, along with NSC Senior Director Gail Smith.
The causes of the famine are clearly - primarily a drought caused by three years without rain. But I think it's an axiomatic statement that had the resources of the country not been focused on the war that is, in our view, a needless war, there would have been more available to deal with this kind of problem. As far as statistics on the number of dead and the specifics of that, I would be happy to get you that after the briefing.
QUESTION: Jimmy Carter was using a figure of as many as 50,000 --
MR. RUBIN: I would have to get you a precise figure. It's often very difficult for us to assess how many people died in a particular conflict in any accurate way, but I will see what we can come up with for you.
QUESTION: Same issue. You're saying that you're considering sending more food aid?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that because other countries beyond this country and the EU, that other countries have not been pledging? You had called on other countries to pledge?
MR. RUBIN: They announced a contribution of - the European's 435,000 metric tons. So they have made a significant contribution, and we believe there is an outpouring of assistance. But the need is growing rapidly, and we're concerned about having in place the capability to prevent a crisis from spreading, which often the problem is that if you don't have the materials there when the crisis emerges, it takes too long to get the assistance there to do something about it.
QUESTION: So you're thinking of doing this because the need has expanded, or because other countries aren't ponying up quickly enough?
MR. RUBIN: The need has expanded, but obviously the more others can do, the better.
QUESTION: Why are the Europeans not claiming some of the aid that the United States had provided as their own?
MR. RUBIN: Were they not?
QUESTION: Was there not some mistake in -
MR. RUBIN: I believe there were some figures that were mistaken, yes.
QUESTION: You don't have any details on that?
MR. RUBIN: I was provided some details yesterday morning by Julia Taft indicating that there were -- when the European number came out it included our assistance.
QUESTION: So, then in regard to Barry's question the other day about kind of a European-US tension that exists -
MR. RUBIN: I don't think this caused any tension.
QUESTION: Okay, can we go to Elian? What's the status of this proposal to have a meeting in the Vatican mission?
MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, the Vatican and the Papal Nuncio's office has agreed, at the request of both parties, to make the Nunciature available to facilitate the process, if that's necessary. Whether it will come to that, and whether the parties will indicate their desire for that is unclear at this point.
But what I can say is that we, the Department, have been in touch with the Papal Nuncio's office, as requested by the Department of Justice, so that we could facilitate such a development if it comes to that.
QUESTION: Is it true that the Russians appear to be moving closer to renewing talks with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov?
MR. RUBIN: Right. By the way, he's not in my book because it's - anyway, that's a joke about a recent development.
QUESTION: Political development.
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what kind of development that was.
We have made clear to the Russians that they need to take meaningful steps towards a political dialogue and that they need to have a dialogue with responsible regional leaders that will address the deep-rooted social and economic problems. There are some mixed signals that are coming out of Russia with regard to their intent. Clearly, Maskhadov made an indication that he wanted to talk and the Russians have not taken him up on that.
In our view, until there is a political dialogue, until the deep-rooted social and economic problems are dealt with, that this conflict, this war, will continue. And any claims of victory will prove hollow because the fighting will continue and the potential disaster for the people of Chechnya will continue.
QUESTION: A Middle East question?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the talks yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. On the President and the Secretary's talks with Prime Minister Barak - sorry?
QUESTION: Who is in the book.
MR. RUBIN: Who is in the book, yes. Those talks were serious and productive. They focused principally on the Palestinian track and they also obviously discussed the withdrawal from South Lebanon on the Syria track. The Israelis and the Palestinians have committed to reaching a framework agreement as soon as possible, and a comprehensive agreement by September the 13th. Obviously, this is going to require hard work and enormous effort, some very tough decisions to overcome the significant gaps that remain.
We expect as a result of President Clinton and the Secretary's discussions with Prime Minister Barak that there will be an intensification of this process; there will be a new momentum as a result of these discussions and the discussions we expect to have next week with Chairman Arafat, so that both sides can come up with new ideas and fresh formulations that can contribute to a solution to these big, big problems.
The President and the Secretary do feel there is new momentum and they want to build on that momentum with Chairman Arafat. So the discussions at Bolling will continue as a way to develop formulations and ideas, that when Chairman Arafat gets here and we can intensify this process, perhaps some of those ideas can bear fruit in discussions with the leaders.
QUESTION: With the framework agreement,, you're saying that would be as soon as possible, and the final agreement on the 13th of September?
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: But the framework agreement actually also had a date. Is there any slippage?
MR. RUBIN: Well, one date has slipped, which was last - two months ago - whether we can meet the next suggestion that it's in May, you know, is an open question. This is a very, very difficult process. The issues are very emotional and existential when it comes to Jerusalem and statehood and borders and water and refugees. They are profound issues that don't lend themselves to simple snap formulas. And that's why we think the kind of brainstorming sessions that have been going on at Bolling are a necessary prerequisite for the kind of formulations and ideas that will be required if we're going to overcome these hurdles.
QUESTION: Now, at a certain point it is possible that the parties may want to turn to the United States. Are we nearing that point?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the United States has been a part of this process all along. The Bolling talks are hosted by the United States. I admit and agree that most of the discussions there are bilateral between the parties, but Dennis Ross and Aaron Miller, when appropriate, have met with the delegations together, and Secretary Albright may do that as well.
With respect to the substantive question of new ideas presented by the United States, I don't think we're quite there yet. We think there is plenty more exploratory work that needs to be done to see where people's real concerns and needs are before it would be appropriate for us to come up with bridging proposals.
QUESTION: And a last question on that point. Administration officials said that following this next round - this current round of Bolling talks and Arafat's visit that it would be - that's the appropriate time to make an assessment and try to figure out what kind of bridging proposals might be made.
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry, that was said by some anonymous official?
QUESTION: No, an Administration official who was a briefer last night.
MR. RUBIN: He said that that might be appropriate to do that when?
QUESTION: After the Bolling - the current round of Bolling talks and after Arafat's visit.
MR. RUBIN: Well, right. But that's not now, and Arafat hasn't got here yet. And so what I indicated in response to your question is we're not there now. And so we need to finish the Bolling talks, which is where you develop, brainstorm and discuss their needs and concerns in such a complete and fulsome way - I guess fulsome is a mistake, I see Barry putting his hand on his head - in a full way, in a comprehensive way - I did go to Columbia, and I'm sorry about that one - that you then know enough to put forward a proposal that you think can work.
QUESTION: To follow up Roy, especially his first question - off the plane, the first shot off the plane, with Barak's arrival in Israel - is that Barak has agreed to - acceded to - a Palestinian-US request that the United States play a more active, mediating role. First of all, I wasn't there and, second, there are no quotes in that account, so in a sense I can't verify that is being said by the Israelis, although it's on the AP wire --
MR. RUBIN: What wire?
QUESTION: Plenty of quotes in other stories.
QUESTION: By anonymous people, though. We don't quote anonymous people.
MR. RUBIN: Never?
QUESTION: No, not by direct quotes. "Like, we did a great job." We leave that to AFP.
MR. RUBIN: You leave that to who?
QUESTION: AFP. But, seriously, you obviously what all of us are waiting for and asking in various forms. When is the United States - has the United States, even now, agreed to jump in and start telling the Israelis what to do about Jerusalem, what to do about a state? I mean let's not beat around the bush. That's the whole point. Those are the main sticking points. And the Palestinians say the talks are a waste of time. They want you in there moving things along, and they obviously - and they have their demands, so they know - we know where they want to move
Now, has Barak now agreed that the US should have an enhanced role now?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. With respect to suggestions that the Bolling talks are a waste of time, we regard those statements as unhelpful and inaccurate. And I think that people should focus on the seriousness of the peace process rather than the seriousness of public relations.
With respect to our role and how it will evolve, I think it's fair to say that our role ebbs and flows as necessary by the circumstances, and as far as us getting to a point where we tell Israel what to do about Jerusalem or statehood or borders, that is not envisaged at any time. What we could imagine is a time in which Israel and the Palestinians both ask us to come up with ideas bridging their gaps. That is not the same as telling Israel what to do and telling Israel what would be good or not good for its security. Only Israel can make a judgment as to what is an acceptable formulation and is one that can meet the needs of the Israeli people as well as their security interests.
So the suggestion that we would get to a point where we tell Israel what to do on issues like that strikes me as not likely to happen at any time. What we might get to, however, is a point where both the Israelis and the Palestinians realize that they've done all the brainstorming, all the discussions that they can, and now they need some new ideas. Some fresh ideas. First we want to see if they can come up with those themselves. That's what you do when you have a meeting with Prime Minister Barak and what you do when you have a meeting with Chairman Arafat next week. We encourage them to come up with new ideas, because if they don't come up with them, and they don't come up with new formulations, it's going to be hard to get this process moving forward.
Could we get to a point where, as on the basis of new ideas from Israel and new ideas from the Palestinians, we formulate some suggestions? Yes, that point could come. It hasn't come today, and if it comes after the Arafat meeting with the President and the Secretary, I will be happy to inform you of it.
QUESTION: Back to that in a minute. Two quick fact points. I thought the talks - and maybe I was wrong - and the briefer yesterday was puzzled, he wasn't sure. Weren't the talks supposed to wind up this round, like tomorrow?
MR. RUBIN: Over the weekend.
QUESTION: And wasn't Albright to say goodbye to them before taking --
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that the talks are scheduled to end this weekend.
QUESTION: And - second point - she will though meet with them tomorrow?
MR. RUBIN: Well her schedule, as you know, has been adjusted several times, so I don't want to tell you what her schedule is tomorrow and Friday, given the scheduling issues. But if she can, I'm sure she would want to.
QUESTION: Excuse me - it wasn't an initial schedule that had to be changed. Now can you just - this is going to be existentialist perhaps?
MR. RUBIN: No. She's not --
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. RUBIN: You see. You've got your colleagues all upset here in the front row.
QUESTION: I'll talk to them later.
MR. RUBIN: She now thinks that we're leaving on a different day. They're holding their heads, and they're planning their lives, all because of a misunderstanding between you and me.
QUESTION: No, they shouldn't be mis - they'll have to be talked to later. Existentialist. You used "security" twice. You know, it's a little early in the game to ask these kind of questions, maybe --
MR. RUBIN: But why not?
QUESTION: But, again, you know, you won't be here forever. You used "security" twice. I don't suppose the US Government and its mediators - Mr. Ross and Mr. Miller, especially - consider Jewish occupation or Jerusalem as the eternal Jewish capital simply a matter of security or an existentialist issue, do they?
MR. RUBIN: When you said "especially," did you mean especially Mr. Miller, or especially Mr. Ross and Mr. Miller?
QUESTION: I think they're sort of two peas in a pod.
MR. RUBIN: All right. I have a different characterization of them -
QUESTION: There are shadings of views among all people. But I wasn't including Albright nor the President. The people that are doing the mediating.
MR. RUBIN: Let me just suggest to you that our views on Jerusalem are not ripe for public discussion, and I think that's something we've been quite clear about. This is a permanent status issue. We think to get into our views about Jerusalem would be unhelpful and harmful to a process that has enough hurdles already.
QUESTION: I only asked you because - and I'll drop it - because you made reference to security twice as an issue in these talks, and I wondered if the Administration thought Jerusalem was entirely a security problem, because there is always a way to get around security or to deal with security.
MR. RUBIN: What I said was that the Israel security is obviously something for Israel to make a judgment about. The permanent status talks have several key issues - Jerusalem, borders, refugees, water - all of those issues. And we do believe that together all of those issues will have security implications for Israel that they need to take into account and make a judgment as to whether it would be wiser for them to improve their security by making a peace agreement as a result of this - and in dealing with those four issues.
That's a decision for Israel to make. If they make that decision and they seek our assistance in trying to improve their security by making adjustments in their ideas for that proposal, we obviously would consider responding to an Israeli request to be helpful.
QUESTION: Another comment that came off the plane was that the President and the Secretary and everyone else that met with Barak yesterday told him that things would become uncomfortable and problematic if Israel went ahead with its sale of --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I know the issue of the arms sale to China did come up with both the Secretary and the President, and both Secretary Albright and the President expressed our deep concerns on this issue. Prime Minister Barak indicated that he understood these concerns and that we will be discussing this issue further with Israeli officials.
QUESTION: But is that an accurate characterization?
MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't want to quote - confirm quotes from the President's private meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel.
QUESTION: The briefer spoke, quoting the President, said there was a new energy and a new momentum in the talks. But I noticed it seemed like the one thing we've gotten today is that the May 13th deadline may slip. So where is the new energy? What is the evidence or how do you document the new energy?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't see how those two are logically related, but I will try to answer your question. There is obviously an objective reality prior to the Prime Minister's arrival in terms of the prospect of getting an agreement by September 13th. That's the goal: get an agreement by September 13th. Whatever number you put the scale at the day before yesterday - and I'm not going to give you that number, but whatever number you put it at - we believe as a result of the Prime Minister's visit, the number is higher. And so, therefore, there is a new momentum, a new resolve, to try to get the job done.
Now, we hope we see the same resolve when we see Chairman Arafat next week, in which case the prospect of getting an agreement, which is the goal. The framework agreement is a path to getting an agreement; it's not a necessary prerequisite; it can be helpful. And we think it could be helpful, but it's not a necessary prerequisite. What's the important thing is to get the agreement by September. We see a new resolve to get that. And if we see the same kind of resolve next week on the part of Chairman Arafat, we'll obviously be more encouraged than we are now.
QUESTION: You know, last night - it was quite late, about 11:45, and it didn't go on forever. But the briefer said that now the US will respond to Syria's response. Okay? And if we remember how the Secretary saw it - no "give" in it was her word - but the US is going to respond. Can you elaborate on that at all? Does that raise new possibilities that this track may become unblocked?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think we believe that there is a new momentum in the Syria track. We did receive an oral message from President Assad. As a result of studying that, we do not believe we are closer to resolving the gaps that remain between Israel and Syria. But we intend to continue discussions with Syria and Israel at the diplomatic level to try to see whether we can resolve these issues and overcome these gaps.
QUESTION: That sounds a little - that sounds good. I understand that. Essentially, discussion continues; it isn't like a point-by-point response to their latest proposal?
MR. RUBIN: I think that would be a fair summary of what I was trying to say, in less words.
QUESTION: The oral response, was that --
MR. RUBIN: Oral message.
QUESTION: Oral message. Was that from official to official? Can you be any more specific?
MR. RUBIN: No. Normally - I'm not going to say what it was in this context, but I'll tell you what an oral message normally means. How about that? An oral message normally means an ambassador is called in and given an oral description of a message from a leader. He then takes that message, goes back to his office, and reports that message to Washignton. That's considered an oral message, as opposed to a letter or as opposed to a briefing on current thinking by the government.
So if it's an oral message, it normally has the imprimatur of the leader of the country. Or sometimes the Secretary of State delivers - has an oral message delivered where her ambassador goes in and reports a message in her name. That's what an oral message means.
QUESTION: Do you have any more indications from the Syrians about the meaning of Mr. Al-Shara's statement to the last few days, you know, that land is not negotiable but water is? I mean, there have been a number of hints in the Syrian press. Yesterday, I think there was some statements that this is the time for the United States to come in with proposals to solve the Israel-Syria dispute.
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's up to, obviously, our diplomatic judgment as to what the best course is to make progress. We regarded the best course earlier this year is to bring the sides together for the first time at a political level to discuss these issues in full. We then had a number of extensive conversations with Prime Minister Barak in understanding what his needs were and obtaining from him his proposal, which we regarded as a very serious one.
The President then sought the opportunity to communicate that serious proposal to President Assad of Syria in Geneva, which he did, the result of which was quite clear and the President answered quite clearly the questions as to what happened at that meeting.
Since that time, we have heard, as I said, an oral message from Syria. We do not think that message indicates that we're any closer to resolving the issues or closing any of the major gaps, but we're going to stay in contact with both sides. That's what we believe is the most productive thing to do at this time. Others may have their own views as to what we should do, but I think our proven track record in Jordan, on the Palestinian track and with Egypt demonstrates that we are a pretty good judge of how best to pursue and move forward the peace process - and that's what we're going to do.
QUESTION: On Al-Shara's statement, is there any kind of a glimmer of a hope in that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to try to parse - you know, he said a lot of things. I've read numerous accounts of things that the Foreign Minister of Syria has said since the Geneva meeting, and there are many different points that he's made. What we can work with, and where we will get glimmers of hope or no glimmers of hope, is from the messages we receive from the Syrians privately.
QUESTION: (Inaudible ) -- since the Assad oral statement?
MR. RUBIN: Which was recent. And that's where we think things stand.
QUESTION: Is Turkey part of this discussion even in a collateral way - the water discussion?
MR. RUBIN: We have been briefing Turkey regularly about the Syria-Israel track.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate at all whether Turkey is a likely or a potential contributor to ease this problem?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to speculate. All I can tell you is we consult closely with Turkey on this issue during the course of the Israel-Syria track.
QUESTION: Going back to the Palestinian talks again, on the framework agreement, again, is it then the considered view at the State Department which, as you say, does know how to do these things, that a framework agreement really is not - you said not a prerequisite but, in fact, it's probably just not necessary. You might just want to drop that?
MR. RUBIN: No, we concede the value of a framework agreement.
QUESTION: But is there a willingness to drop it then if it has to - if it will help to --
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to go three steps ahead. Right now, we're working on the idea of pursuing a framework agreement, which we think can be helpful in getting a full agreement by September. As I indicated, we don't think it's a necessary prerequisite, but it can be helpful.
When we get to a different point and I want to say that we don't think that's true, I will. And it won't be the result of the prodding but it will be the result of a new view of the State Department.
QUESTION: And, also, Arafat is coming here next week, I think on the 20th, is it? And I think Barak is going to be back in the country also.
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of the next time a visit --
QUESTION: Is there any possibility of the --
MR. RUBIN: There's always a possibility of high-level meetings, and it's my practice to not rule out such meetings as a matter of practice. But I have no reason to offer you new information that such a meeting is in the works, but I will never rule them out given the nature of this business.
QUESTION: Next week, April 17 and 18, American University has international conference about the Kurds. In this meeting, one of the keynote speaker is the Mulla Mustafa Barzani. He claim he's the prime minister of Kurdistan. The other keynote speaker is Dennis Ross. And also Mr. Ricciardone, he's talking at this meeting.
What that means is that the United States recognizing the independence of Kurdistan, or are you supporting to these kind of events because they announce that they played their national anthem and the national flags?
MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, American University is not the University of the United States of American. That's American University. They are sponsoring an academic conference on the Kurds April 17th and 18th. The conference is entitled, "The Kurds: Search for Identity." It is funded by a newly established endowment for the study of conflict resolution provided by a northern Iraqi Kurdish group.
Frank Ricciardone, the US Special Representative for Transition in Iraq, has agreed to address the conference on "An American Diplomat's Perspective on Kurds in the Global Arena." We think that Mr. Ricciardone's participation is entirely appropriate, and it does not constitute an endorsement of any particular views represented by other participants.
Our policy towards Iraq has not changed. We support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, and the Secretary of State has designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. And we are assured by the American University - not the University of the United States of America, but American University - that the PKK has not association with this conference.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the testing of the oil in the Russian tanker?
MR. RUBIN: I do not have anything new, I don't think, other than to say that we consider recent Iranian actions in support of UN Security Council resolutions to be a positive development, which we welcome, and we hope that it will continue. Iraq has long used Iranian territorial waters to smuggle illegal gas oil, and it is in the interest of all states in the region to do what they can to prevent this activity.
I do not, however, have an update on the particular ship - the investigation of the oil in that ship - but I will try to get that for you.
QUESTION: It's my turn to ask the Libya question.
MR. RUBIN: You're playing Pass the Question. I know you are.
QUESTION: So you do you have anything from the officials who visited Libya recently?
MR. RUBIN: To my knowledge, no recommendation has been presented to the Secretary of State with respect to the passport restriction.
QUESTION: Why is this taking so long? I mean, they've been back for - I mean, I don't know how long normally these reports take to get written but, I mean, it's been over a week.
MR. RUBIN: It's not a question of a report. The report is a review of what they saw. The question is a recommendation to change the passport restriction. I am sure there are reports floating around the building of what they saw in their visit, and what meetings they had, and who they spoke to, and what the significance of those things were. The question, I thought - but maybe when you ask it, it'll be different tomorrow - was has the Secretary received a recommendation as to whether or not we should lift the passport restriction, and the answer to that question is no.
QUESTION: Do you have anything an American who has gone missing off a cruise ship in Tahiti?
MR. RUBIN: I do. Let me get you that answer after the briefing.
QUESTION: Speaking of Americans, is there anything new on Mr. Pope in Moscow?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: There is a World's Fair in Hannover, Germany in June, I believe, and it's a recent development that the United States will not be represented with a pavilion there. And it's apparently some media issue in Germany that the world's only superpower is not going to be represented, except perhaps by a website. Do you have anything on this, and what it means for US people diplomacy?
MR. RUBIN: Well, far be it for me to diminish the significance of a website. As you know, the Internet is a pretty important contribution to knowledge and information and communication, and I hope nobody will downplay the significance of a website.
But it is correct that the US Commissioner General for Expo 2000 announced today the US will not have a national pavilion at Expo. It was not possible to attract sufficient private sector financial support for the pavilion at the Hannover Expo 2000. US law prohibits the expenditure of public funds for international expositions, unless expressly authorized and appropriated by Congress.
We will not have a national pavilion at Expo 2000; however, the US does plan to mount a presentation in keeping with the spirit of Expo 2000, concentrating on what is best about America in arts and culture. We will organize a series of appearances by well-known artists, writers and intellectuals in Berlin and elsewhere around Germany between June and October. We will also create a website to provide worldwide access to these presentations and other aspects of US life and American values.
QUESTION: Can I come back to the Middle East again. Sorry, but the issue of Lebanon and what happens after the Israeli withdrawals. I think it was on the agenda yesterday. I was just wondering if you have any - if the subject of the security arrangements came up, and where -
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Secretary Albright and the President discussed with Prime Minister Barak the importance of this issue. They discussed, and we support, Prime Minister Barak's decision to withdraw his forces from Lebanon. We are pleased that he has indicated that he intends to do this unconditionally. And frankly we are somewhat puzzled by suggestions from certain quarters that this ought to be worthy of criticism. This is the unconditional implementation of a Security Council resolution, and we think should be widely supported, endorsed and assisted, and we expect all parties to operate in such a way that this can occur in a safe and orderly way.
That was one of the issues that were being discussed. The implementation of Resolution 425 is something we support, and we think the unconditional implementation of that, that Prime Minister Barak has endorsed, is something that others should support.
QUESTION: Again, there still may be a security vacuum as a result of the withdrawal. And there have been suggestions that there be an international force on the Israeli-Lebanese border, and obviously -
MR. RUBIN: Well there is a force in there now. It's called UNIFIL. And there is a - as I understand it, there is less troops deployed than permitted under that force. So these are the kind of questions that the UN will discuss pursuant to the Secretary General's mandate to implement Resolution 425 and 426 that authorizes UNIFIL.
QUESTION: So is there any talk about US forces?
MR. RUBIN: We do not anticipate that. We have no plans for American forces participating in that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add on the situation in Peru?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what I can say is that we do expect there to be a second round. We understand the vote count may occur any time now. We would have serious, serious questions if the quite respected international and national observers, whose findings have been reliable in the past, in particular Transparencia and the OAS and separate Peruvian polling companies are all indicating that Fujimori did not go over 50 percent. And we would have some serious questions if that - the official count was inconsistent with these respected non-governmental organizations and international observers.
We urge the electoral authorities to guarantee a faithful count of the vote to ensure the legitimacy of the election and the legitimacy of the next President. We can't make any final decisions until the results are known. We obviously want to take into account assessments by the OAS, Transparencia and other independent observers. We've expressed previously deficient - concern about deficiencies, and let me say this: if there is convincing proof of fraud, the government of Peru will face a substantial challenge in restoring its credibility, not only with the people of Peru, but with the international community and the United States Government.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - consequences if -
MR. RUBIN: I think it's a little premature, but clearly their credibility would be damaged.
QUESTION: Does that mean that if they say that Fujimori did get the 50 percent, that a runoff is not necessary, that the US would be looking at taking punitive steps -
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to speculate - what I said, that the credibility of the government would be jeopardized if the official count was inconsistent with the account of the OAS, Transparencia and other international observers - please let me finish my answer. I can see your mouth is wide open with your next question. And before I can speculate as to what would happen, we need to see how this develops, and to see whether the official count is inconsistent with the counts of these credible observers.
If that were to happen, and thus there would be convincing proof of fraud, in our view, this would pose a substantial challenge to restoring the credibility of the government in Peru, with the United States and the rest of the international community. But it's premature for me to speculate as to what that would mean. I think it's a strong statement, and it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Without you speculating, can you say whether the United States is considering its options at the moment, as regard to Peru?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we always consider our options, with regard to every country. We're option-considerers.
QUESTION: You might expand on that a little, though.
MR. RUBIN: Look, there have been a number of internal meetings. Secretary Albright has been in touch regularly with the Bureau and with Tom Pickering to consider our options.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 P.M.)