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U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing (2)

(continues Part 2 of 2 - see previous story for part 1.)

A softening position on the return of a Cuban boy and the Pope's visit to Iraq is off, apparently. The US says Iraq's reasons for cancelling the invitation are bogus.

Daily Press Briefing Index
Friday, December 10, l999
Briefer: James B. Foley

ANNOUNCEMENTS 1-5 Under Secretary Pickering's Travel to Africa / Developments in Cote D'Ivoire US Commemorates Human Rights Day / Iraqi Oil Smuggling

IRAQ 1-6 Refusal to Participate in Oil-For-Food Program / Oil Smuggling 13 Pope John Paul II's Visit to Iraq / UN Sanctions / No-Fly Zones

CUBA 6-9 Migration Talks / Elian Gonzalez / Diplomatic Note Delivered to Cuban Government

PANAMA 6 Secretary Albright will not Attend Handover Ceremony

MEXICO 8 Police Incident Involving DEA and FBI Agents

DEPARTMENT 9-11 Expulsion of Russian Diplomat / Exceptional Cooperation Between FBI and State Department's Diplomatic Service

EU SUMMIT 11 US Supports Turkey's EU Candidacy / Threats to Cutoff Financial Aid to Russia / US and EU Deplore the Indiscriminate Use of Force Against Civilians in Chechnya

RUSSIA 12-13 Deployment of Nuclear Missiles in Saratov Region

PAKISTAN 13 Pakastani Ambassador to the US / US-Pakistan Relations

NORTH KOREA 14 Lifting of Japanese Sanctions / US Supports Japanese-North Korean Dialogue


(continues Part 2 of 2 - see previous story..)

QUESTION: One of the Russian folks here in Washington told me that Gusev was going to leave today. Have you heard that?

MR. FOLEY: I have not heard that.

QUESTION: The room where the bug was, can we confirm that it was the Oceans Conference Room, the Department of Oceans and Environmental -

MR. FOLEY: I don't know whether you can confirm that, but I'm certainly not going to confirm that.

QUESTION: You're not going to confirm that?


QUESTION: Okay. And the room in which the bug was found, who met in that room? What kind of level of people and what kind of discussions? Were there diplomats from other countries who met in that room?

MR. FOLEY: That is all subject to the current, ongoing investigation. I am not in a position to talk about that.

QUESTION: There was a report that 50 to 100 meetings took place in the room before the bug was discovered. Can you confirm that?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry. This is certainly a matter that is under active investigation at the moment. But, as was indicated yesterday, this is something that we have to let the investigators work on and we're not going to be able to talk about it publicly for different kinds of reasons until their work has advanced and been completed.

QUESTION: And I've asked and been turned down to visit this Oceans and Environmental Conference Room on the seventh floor. Would you allow us to visit this room?

MR. FOLEY: I would have to look into the question. I frankly doubt it.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that you all called the Russian Ambassador in again yesterday and could you describe what the reason for that meeting was?

MR. FOLEY: I will have to look into that and get back to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - made a decision today to give a candidate status to Turkey? Do you have any comment on that decision and the role of Greece in this decision?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I do. Of course, we've said many times we're not - the United States, we're not members of the EU and we believe enlargement is an internal matter for the EU to decide. However, as President Clinton has said on numerous occasions, we strongly support Turkey's EU candidacy. So we are pleased to hear that the EU has decided Turkey is a candidate destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria applied to other candidate states. So the news that we heard out of Helsinki was very welcome.

QUESTION: And the role of Greece in that decision?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: The role Greece played in that decision? Do you have any comment on that?

MR. FOLEY: You know, this has just happened earlier today. I am not in a position to assess the procedures or the deliberations that occurred in Helsinki that led up to this important decision. But certainly Greece, as a member of the EU, certainly played an important role in today's deliberations.

QUESTION: And also, my last question on that issue, according to some information, Turkey is not satisfied with the rules the European Union puts on that decision for Turkey and the other countries, obviously. Do you have a comment on that, if there is a rejection from Turkey of the offer?

MR. FOLEY: I heard that report before coming in here and I checked and I believe that is not true, that Turkey has rejected the EU offer. On the contrary, Turkey is apparently seeking some clarifications, has some questions. I think Mr. Solana and other EU officials are traveling to Ankara. But we believe that this is a strong candidacy offer and that the EU action has created a more favorable situation for progress than was the case after previous EU summits.

QUESTION: Also on the EU, they apparently are threatening to cut off financial aid to Russia over the Chechnya situation and I am wondering whether you have a comment on that.

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to see the specifics as to what the EU has decided to do. I know there have been some declarations by the members collectively and by individual personalities. But I can assure you, though, that the United States and Europe sees eye to eye on the very alarming situation in Chechnya.

I think both the US and the EU have deplored the indiscriminate use of force against civilians. We all believe that the means Russia is using is undermining the ends that they seek and indeed aggravating the cycle of violence in Chechnya. As the situation in Chechnya has unfolded, we have been in frequent close touch with our European partners coordinating our actions and responses and certainly the consensus we reached at the Istanbul summit is a sign of our common approach.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - do you have any idea what kind of message they - (inaudible) - ?

MR. FOLEY: I think that Mr. Rubin was very clear on this last week; that we were going to scrupulously respect the news blackout that the UN requested in conjunction with the proximity talks in New York.

QUESTION: The Russian military deployed ten new - what are known as Topol-M nuclear missiles and for the second time in two years has done so and do you have a comment?

MR. FOLEY: You've got more information there than I've got here. Does it give any specifics about location and other descriptive elements?

QUESTION: The Saratov region - I'm sure you know where that is.

MR. FOLEY: No. I'd be glad to look into it for you, George.

QUESTION: The Iraqis have said that the Pope can't go to Iraq after all. You obviously had reservations about the trip in the first place. Were you pleased about this development or do you have any comment on the way the Iraqis explained their decision?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. There are several parts to your question. First, no, we're not pleased. We certainly had reservations that had nothing to do with the Pope's intent. We were concerned that Iraq would try to use his visit to exploit his presence in Iraq for propaganda purposes. And so we were in discussion with the Vatican about our view that it would be important to the extent possible to try to avoid having or allowing the visit to be exploited by Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine. But we fully respected Pope John Paul II's intentions in that regard.

We believe the Iraqi Government has reconsidered its position on the visit of the Pope precisely because the Iraqis - or the regime, rather, of Saddam Hussein - was concerned that the Pope in his visit would tend to highlight Saddam Hussein's horrible abuses and horrible human rights record. And so we respect the Pope's - as I said, his intentions. We understood what he wanted to achieve by the visit. It's clear that perhaps Saddam Hussein felt that he couldn't adequately exploit the Pope's visit, but rather would have suffered from increased international opprobrium as a result of the visit.

In terms of the last part of your question, though, as to the reasons advanced apparently by the Iraqi regime for disinviting the Pope, we believe those arguments are bogus. The UN sanctions and the no-fly zones were never an impediment to the Pope's travel to Iraq. Had the Pope requested assistance, we, on our part, and I'm sure others in the UN, would have done everything possible to facilitate his visit and to ensure his safety.

QUESTION: Does that include suspending attacks on Iraqi air defenses during his visit?

MR. FOLEY: I can't get into operational matters of that nature. But I can repeat what I said. We would've done everything possible to facilitate the visit and ensure his safety.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the credentials of - Ms. Maleeha Lodhi as Pakistan's new ambassador to Washington have been accepted? And also, since she was for three years in Washington as the ambassador of the civilian government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and now comes under - for ambassador of military government which had ousted the civilian government and - (inaudible) - in jail. So how will the US and Pakistan relations will change under her ambassadorship?

MR. FOLEY: I don't expect that US-Pakistani relations will be affected one way or the other on the basis of the employment history of the next Pakistani Ambassador to the United States. I think that Mr. Rubin has made clear on numerous occasions that when we're in a position to say something about the next Pakistani ambassador, we will. It would probably come out of the White House and so you'll just have to stay tuned on that.

QUESTION: On North Korea, Japanese Government is considering to lift the sanctions on North Korea after a long, long - (inaudible) - sanctions. Although they haven't decided yet -

MR. FOLEY: They haven't decided to?

QUESTION: They haven't decided to lift the sanctions yet. But they are considering.

MR. FOLEY: Certainly we believe - first of all, it's a matter for our Japanese friends to decide. Secondly, we've been fully supportive of the dialogue that's accelerated recently between Japan and North Korea. Thirdly, we've been in very close touch with our Japanese and South Korean friends throughout the past many months as we have dealt with our North Korean policy and we've very much worked in sync and we believe that's the best recipe for success.

QUESTION: New subject. An indictment against Wen Ho Lee is expected fairly imminently. I'm guessing you probably don't want to comment on the specifics, but could you tell us anything more generally about any final assessments on what kind of damage this Los Alamos scientist might have done or what, if anything, the Chinese received from his information?

MR. FOLEY: Not only your first bit of information, which I have no knowledge of, not only is that something I can't comment on because it's a law enforcement matter, but so is the progress of the investigation itself. I'm not in a position to tell you how it's going; certainly to give a snapshot. But it won't be something that the State Department will be announcing in any event.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:15 p.m.)

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