State Department Daily Briefing – 21 November
China – Cuba – Syria – Middle East – Serbia – Sudan – Peru - Libya
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Tuesday, November 21, 2000
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
CHINA 1-8,9-10 China's Commitment to Strengthen Its Missile-Related Export Control System / US Decision to Waive Economic Sanctions for Past Assistance by PRC Entities To Missile Programs in Pakistan and Iran and Resume Certain Commercial Space Interactions with China 2-4 Missile Sanctions Law / MTCR Category Items 3-5 Imposition of Sanctions Against Iranian and Pakistani Entities
CUBA 8-9 Reported Abduction of US Citizen Child to Cuba 20-21 Reported Request by Senator Helms for Department to Revoke Visas of Executives of a Spanish Company
SYRIA / IRAQ 10-11 Reports Iraqi Oil Flowing Through Syrian Pipeline
MIDDLE EAST 11-15 Continuing Violence in Region/US in Touch with the Parties / Call For Restraint 12 Egyptian Ambassador Summoned to Cairo for Consultations 15 US Travel Warnings for Region 16 Prospects for Dennis Ross to Travel to the Region
SERBIA (FRY) 16 Prospects for Secretary Albright to Meeting with Yugoslav President Kostunica 17-19 Cooperation with International Crimes Tribunal 18 Whereabouts of Milosevic / Prospects of Prosecution for War Crimes
SERBIA / MONTENEGRO 17 US Assistance to Montenegro / US Position on Possible Independence for Montenegro
SUDAN 19-20 Travel by Assistant Secretary Rice / Sudan's Decision on Visas for US Diplomats
PERU 20 Update on Situation / President Fujimori's Resignation
LIBYA 21 Status of a Decision on US Passport Use Restriction
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #117 TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2000, 1:05 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start out with a statement on China and missiles. And I'll try to go through this very carefully for you and then answer what questions you have, and then we'll have somebody available at the end of the briefing who can further explain, as necessary, the areas that I may not be precise on.
First of all, we welcome the People's Republic of China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's statement of November 21 regarding China's clear policy commitment not to assist in any way other countries to develop ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons and to further improve and reinforce its export control system, including by publishing at an early date a comprehensive export control list of missile-related items, including dual-use items.
This development can strengthen cooperation between the United States and China to achieve our common objective of preventing the spread of ballistic missiles that threaten regional and international security. In consideration of China's commitment to strengthen its missile-related export control system, we have decided to waive economic sanctions required by US law for past assistance by Chinese entities to missile programs in Pakistan and Iran.
Given the relationship between missile nonproliferation and peaceful space cooperation, the United States will now resume the processing of licenses that are necessary for commercial space cooperation between US and Chinese companies, such as launching US satellites in China. In addition, the United States and China will resume discussions as soon as possible on extending the 1995 US-China agreement regarding international trade and commercial launch services.
The US stands ready to continue to cooperate and hold consultations with China and other countries on the issues of nonproliferation with a view to strengthening their respective export control systems for missile-related equipment and technology.
If I can just add at this point, this has been a subject of ongoing discussion with the Chinese for quite some time, many years in fact. I know there have been reports about China's missile-related activities in the past. What we have done here is to work out an arrangement that commits China not to assist other countries in the development of Missile Technology Control Regime Class ballistic missiles in any way, and to put in place comprehensive missile-related export controls. In exchange, the US side has decided to waive sanctions under US law for past Chinese assistance to missile programs in Pakistan and Iran, and to resume certain commercial space interactions with China. Sanctions have been imposed upon Pakistani and Iranian recipients of the Chinese assistance.
The effective implementation of China's new commitments would be another important step by China to join the international nonproliferation mainstream, and it would promote international security and further US-China cooperation.
China's statement includes broad new commitments on nonproliferation and security importance, but its value ultimately will depend on whether those commitments are implemented fully and conscientiously. In that connection, while the United States is waiving sanctions that would otherwise be imposed for past transfers to missile programs in Pakistan and Iran, the waiver does not apply to any transfers that might occur in the future. We are confident that the next Administration will follow this question closely.
These discussions with China have been ongoing for some time. I think most recently we had a team go to Beijing after the talks with North Korea in Kuala Lumpur about a month ago. The team went up to Beijing and held some further discussions. This was certainly a topic of the Secretary's discussions and the President's discussions in Brunei, where they confirmed the understandings and emphasized the importance of full and complete implementation of the understandings that have been reached.
So with that introduction, I will be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any more information on the sanctions which are being waived?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to go through that as much as I can. There is a limit to the amount I can go into this because of the kind of information we have and where we got it. We do have an ongoing process that reviews very carefully all the available information on potentially sanctionable activity. The missile sanctions law imposes a number of requirements that must be met with high confidence in order for the legal standard for sanctions determination to be met.
Moreover, because we do take seriously our responsibility and because of the serious national security foreign policy and economic consequences of imposing sanctions, we have always insisted on a high standard of evidence. These factors contributed to the amount of time necessary to make these sanctions determinations.
On the activities itself, some Chinese entities and Pakistani entities were involved in transfers of Missile Technology Control Regime Category I items; that is, complete missiles, their major subsystems, or their production facilities, and of Missile Technology Control Regime Category II items, components and materials used to make Category I missiles and subsystems to Pakistani entities that contributed to Missile Technology Control Regime Class Missile Programs in Pakistan.
With regard to Iran, some Chinese entities and Iranian entities were involved in transfers of Missile Technology Control Regime Category II items to Iranian entities that contributed to Missile Technology Control Regime Class Missile Programs in Iran. But that is about as much detail as I can give you in describing the transfers
QUESTION: But is it -- I take it that the waiver is allowed under the statute as the President's prerogative, so Congress does not have to approve the waiver?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm assuming that's true. I'll have to reconfirm that for you.
QUESTION: Do you know -- leaders in Congress that may be critical of this, have they been consulted? What kind of congress notification --
MR. BOUCHER: We've been doing congressional consultations this morning.
QUESTION: This morning?
MR. BOUCHER: This morning. So I don't have a readout yet.
QUESTION: The first thing is, do you know how it is that Xinhua actually announced this about 45 minutes ago?
MR. BOUCHER: Do I know how it is? We agreed that we'd do it more or less simultaneously, and they wanted to do it before the morning came.
QUESTION: And the second thing is, are there sanctions against Pakistani and Iranian companies that are being lifted, or is this strictly on Chinese entities?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the sanctions are being imposed upon the Pakistani and the Iranian entities.
QUESTION: They're being maintained, or were they being newly imposed?
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on a sec. I've got the entities listed somewhere here. Okay. We determined under US law that a number of Chinese entities transferred missile-related equipment and technology to entities in Iran and Pakistan; that those transfers contributed to so-called Category I missile programs in Iran and Pakistan; and that all of the entities knew they were involved in Category I missile activities.
Therefore, under our law, sanctions against these Chinese and Iranian and Pakistani entities are required to be either imposed or waived, as permitted by the sanctions law. In consideration of China's commitment not to assist the development of MTCR-class ballistic missiles in any way and to strengthen its missile-related export controls, we are waiving the sanctions required against the Chinese entities.
We are imposing sanctions against the Iranian and Pakistani entities, and those sanctions will be announced in the Federal Register shortly. The sanctioned entities in Iran are the Defense Industries Organization, the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, and their sub-units and successors. The sanctioned entities in Pakistan are the Ministry of Defense and the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, and their sub-units and successors.
QUESTION: Can you go through this one more -- the Ministry in Iran is --
MR. BOUCHER: In Iran, it's the Ministry of -- sorry, the Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics, I guess, Agency, Armed Forces Logistics Command, or whatever, and the Defense Industries Organization, and their sub-units and successors. In Pakistan, it's the Ministry of Defense, the Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission, and their sub-units and successors.
QUESTION: What, in effect, do these sanctions mean? What happens? I mean, do you stop dealing with the Ministry of Defense or put a hold on defense purchases?
MR. BOUCHER: What they mean is that, for a two-year period, all new individual export licenses for Commerce- or State-controlled items and all new US Government contracts are denied to the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, and their sub-units and successors. In addition, for a two-year period, all imports into the US of products produced by the Pakistani Ministry of Defense and its sub-units and successors will be denied. Finally, for a two-year period, all new individual export licenses for Commerce- or State-controlled MTCR Annex items and all new US Government contracts related to MTCR Annex items are denied to the Iranian entities, the Defense Industry Organization, the Ministry of Defense, and their sub-units and successors.
Because of the ongoing US embargo against Iran and preexisting US sanctions against Iran and Pakistan, the new sanctions will actually have very limited economic effect, but they do send a strong signal that the United States opposes these countries' missiles programs.
QUESTION: Well, what are the current sanctions against Pakistan right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look those up for you, but what they generally cover is the area of military and dual-use items.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on what you mean by an entity and whether in fact, specifically with regard to China, because so much of the defense industry is run by the government, if in fact the Chinese Government itself was aware of these sales?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a hard question to answer because we all know that there are Chinese entities that have close government connections, including being part of ministries and things like that, so I don't think at this point I'm able to answer it. What happened was, because the Chinese Government itself committed to impose and publish a set of controls that were of the same sort as the Missile Technology Control Regime and agreed to implement these restrictions for the future, we were able to waive the sanctions that might be applied to Chinese entities generally.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up on that? Why does the US think that China felt it necessary to essentially duplicate part of the MTCR and sign that, rather than just signing on to the MCTR? What distinction is there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime is taken by consensus of the members; there are currently 32 countries. China's new commitments, if they are implemented fully, certainly would constitute major steps towards Chinese membership in the regime in the future. But, at this point, what is important is getting control of the activities that might be considered proliferating, and for China to do this we think is a major step forward.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, does that mean that China would like to join the MTCR but is not eligible right now?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think you have to ask China what their considerations are with joining or not joining. What is important to us is that China control its missile-related exports, and what we have done here is reached agreement with the Chinese, through many months of very detailed discussion on the items and the controls and the publication of rules and the means of control, to make sure that China will impose a set of controls that are largely equivalent to the Missile Technology Control Regime ones.
QUESTION: Richard, from your understanding of what the Chinese are proposing in this, how difficult would it be for there to be any leakage of this kind of technology from China now, if the rules were applied? Are you pretty confident that this is hermetically sealed?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, if the rules are applied, there won't be any leakage. How difficult is it to apply the rules? We believe that the Chinese Government is capable and indeed is committed to applying these new rules and to implementing thoroughly their decisions not to assist other countries in developing missile technology -- ballistic missiles of this class. And that is why, I think as I noted, the Secretary's discussions with the Chinese Foreign Minister or the Vice Premier, the President's discussions of this topic with the Chinese President in Brunei, focused on the issue of implementation and the need to thoroughly implement the commitments that China is making here.
QUESTION: You mentioned, I believe, if I heard you correctly, that Iran won't suffer very much economically because of the current situation. What will the economic effect be on Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I put both economic -- both Iran and Pakistan in the same sentence there; that because these duplicate other sanctions, the direct economic effect may not be large, but it certainly makes it very clear our position against the development of missiles in these places.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Jonathan's question? Can you get into any kind of discussion about what sort of verification -- have you set up any sort of verification steps on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything for you on that, except that both China and the United States said that we would remain ready to continue to cooperate in consultations with each other on these matters, and therefore on the complete and full implementation of these restrictions. And obviously that is something that we have done all along, and now we will be continuing to do it in terms of the rules that China is putting in place.
QUESTION: You said this statement came from the Spokesman's office. Where should we attribute it in terms of government agency, or government official from China?
MR. BOUCHER: It's the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Spokesman's statement. And I not only have it for you in Chinese, but I also have a translation, which some of you might appreciate. We'll give Andrea the Chinese. And then we'll have copies of my statement available by the end of the briefing.
QUESTION: I actually have another question. Sorry. Can you say in terms of what will now this allow US companies in terms of what kind of business would it be allowed to do in just plain terms, with China now that you have looked at the sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I think I mentioned in the statement that we will resume processing certain licenses and resume some discussions with the Chinese on missile launches. Let me go back to more detail.
If the sanctions had been imposed upon the Chinese entities, one consequence would have been to preclude commercial space interactions, like launches of US satellites on Chinese rockets. We decided several months ago not to begin negotiations on the new US -- on a new US-China space launch agreement to replace the 1995 agreement that expires next year, and not to conduct normal processing of export licenses for commercial space interactions until the sanctions process has concluded.
Now that the sanctions process has been concluded, and due to the fact that China is imposing its own set of controls on exports that contribute to ballistic missile programs, we have been able to make this decision to waive sanctions that otherwise would have been required against Chinese entities; therefore, we have decided to resume discussions on the launch agreement and to resume the normal processing of commercial space licenses involving China.
Now, that doesn't require US approval for any specific exports to China. All applications for these export license continue to be subject to case-by-case review on the merits of the individual license. They also remain subject to normal requirements for technology transfer restrictions and other things like that. But we will simply be lifting the suspension that has been imposed and return to a case-by-case review.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but could you -- you said you're resuming discussions on a launch agreement? I mean, I don't know -- have we ever helped the Chinese launch any satellites, and would this be launch discussions on launching a satellite in China?
MR. BOUCHER: This has taken place in the past where US-made satellites have been launched on Chinese boosters subject to rigorous technology safeguards that are administered by the Department of Defense. And so companies can apply to us to have their satellites launched on Chinese rockets, basically.
QUESTION: I believe it was -- was it Hughes that caused the original problem about passing technology that was not allowed?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, Chinese exports of missile technology is a problem that we've dealt with here. The relation to satellite launches, yes, there were, I think, several companies that were being looked at for the way they had handled the technology safeguards that are required. Those issues continue. Obviously our licensing takes into account any legal issues that are related to the specific companies. Those aspects are not affected by the new arrangements with China.
QUESTION: So will these companies be allowed to deal with China again for satellite launches? Is that what you're saying?
MR. BOUCHER: That would depend on a specific case-by-case review. I don't have a blanket approval of all licenses or of any specific company's license. That will depend on the specific applications and how we see the situation. With regard to the company, it's the legal situation as well as its ability to apply the required technology safeguards.
QUESTION: But they can apply, like anybody else?
MR. BOUCHER: They can apply.
QUESTION: One final question on this so that we don't torture Barry too much longer. Is it fair to presume at this point, Richard, that with this now taken care of on Class I MTCR missiles, that the US doesn't have any other proliferation concerns with China?
MR. BOUCHER: Proliferation is a broad area. I would have to check it. But certainly on the missile issue we think that this takes care of the need for -- of the need for China to have a system to control exports that contribute to ballistic missile programs. They are instituting a comprehensive set of controls. We think that's important and we welcome that; and, in return, we're waiving sanctions.
But as I've stressed, I think several times, the key to this is going to be implementation and making sure that implementation is thorough and that all Chinese entities, be they government-associated or not, adhere to this, and that the system works. So I'm sure there will be individual instances that we might raise from time to time in order to make sure that these rules are fully implemented.
QUESTION: Would you take the question under whatever it is you do and see if there is an answer?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on the nuclear area, the missiles and all that other stuff. I'll check and see if we have a broad statement on Chinese proliferation.
QUESTION: Richard, is the State Department involved in an effort by a fellow from Florida named John Colombini, who says his wife or ex-wife has gone to Cuba with their child, and he would like the kid back in the States? Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are. We are in touch with Mr. Colombini and we're working with him to, first of all, locate his child and then see what we can do to get him returned. Let me look back here somewhere and see if I have any more details for you.
All right, I'm at a loss. You guys help me out over there. Here we go. It's under Colombia Pickering trip. (Laughter.)
We are aware of the situation. The Office of Children's Issues in our Bureau of Consular Affairs is working with the child's father. They have been working since last Wednesday, November 15th. We are in touch with local law enforcement and the FBI, as well as the US Interest Section in Havana. Our immediate goals are, first of all, to locate the child, and, second of all, to verify the child's well-being.
Mr. John Colombini contacted our Office on Children's Issues on Wednesday, November 15th. He reported that his ex-wife had possibly taken their five-year-old son to Cuba. Since then, we have been working with him, with local law enforcement officials in Florida, and with the FBI in locating his son. We have also been in touch with the US Interest Section in Havana to advise them of the situation and seek their help as appropriate.
Our hope is certainly that Jonathan Colombini will be returned to his father very soon.
QUESTION: He has custody of the child? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a full rundown on custody, but I have to assume so. At least, and first and foremost, we need to locate the child and make sure the child is okay.
QUESTION: I think his wife -- or his ex-wife -- is Cuban. Does that matter?
MR. BOUCHER: In --
QUESTION: I know it's kind of early in the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure under that. But the issue, I think, is that the boy has been taken from his father, who I assume has custody.
QUESTION: Richard, can I mess up the flow by going back to China for another question, or do you want to finish with this and then go back?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with this and then go back.
QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Colombini is American, or was he Cuban and came to America with his wife and son? Do you know any of that kind of biographical details?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know.
QUESTION: Do we have any reaction from the Cuban Government yet? Have they commented on it?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of at this point.
QUESTION: And I apologize if this has been asked, but there is almost certain to be criticism of this development on China from certain quarters on Capitol Hill, to the effect that this is letting China off the hook, so to speak. What is your view on that? What would your response be to that criticism?
MR. BOUCHER: I would make the argument that the goal here is not to put somebody on the hook or off the hook; the goal here is to end sales of missiles and missile-related components. If we can stop a program, if we can stop exports of missiles, technology, equipment, parts, whatever, that have been contributing to the development of ballistic missile capabilities around the world, and particularly in places like Iran and Pakistan which are dangerous enough already, it is very important to us to be able to stop those sales and stop that assistance.
So that is the goal, and we have succeeded in that goal in working out with China arrangements for China to put in place a very comprehensive set of controls on missile sales and exports. And that is what really matters, that is what we have been working on for many years, and that is what we have achieved.
QUESTION: Is there any way that the talks with Pakistan are also been held on the same subject, on instituting some kind of controls? And, secondly, where does India's missile program, which is very well developed, figure in all this in Chinese -- in American concerns? MR. BOUCHER: Well, we are prepared to discuss with Pakistan the conditions under which a waiver on the Pakistani entities might be warranted, but there is also no basis for waiving the sanctions against Iranian entities.
As far as Indians, in terms of what the Indians think or have to do with this, I think you would need to ask the Indian Government. We certainly believe that the Indian Government would agree with our determination that Chinese entities have made missile-related transfers to Pakistan. We believe that India should welcome the comprehensive and explicit assurances that China has given that no such cooperation will take place in the future.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you yet have any evidence to support the claim that Iraqi oil is flowing through the pipeline to Syria?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the press reports, and we are checking into it. Our Embassy in Damascus has met with the Syrian Foreign Ministry on the subject.
Let me make clear, we are not opposed to oil going through the pipeline, provided that the Security Council first approves the pipeline as an export route under the Oil-for-Food Program. That will ensure that the money that gets paid for the oil is, in fact, used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. The import of any commodity from Iraq, including oil, is prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions. The Security Council can approve additional oil export outlets.
QUESTION: Well, do you know if that's the idea?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point, Syria has not made an application to the United Nations.
QUESTION: Don't you just --
MR. BOUCHER: They would have to apply to the United Nations to include the pipeline in the December renewal of the Oil-for-Food Program. QUESTION: If they don't apply, doesn't that --
MR. BOUCHER: They haven't done that at this point.
QUESTION: Doesn't that take -- whatever the legal phrase would be -- doesn't that quiet the issue? I mean, doesn't that tell you that it is actionable as a sanctionable act?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, we have seen the press reports that oil is flowing; we haven't confirmed that yet.
QUESTION: Oh, I understand. But I'm looking ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: Second of all, they can apply, and they should apply.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I was just asking. I don't think it is entirely hypothetical. It is not entirely hypothetical.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not entirely hypothetical.
QUESTION: If they don't apply, what happens?
MR. BOUCHER: But you are asking me to declare a violation before being confirmed that there is oil flowing. Well, that's somewhat hypothetical.
QUESTION: No, I'm asking if there are sanctions that would stand to be applied. Of course it's hypothetical until the oil reaches the Exxon station on the corner, but all right.
MR. BOUCHER: Let us take this step by step. At this moment, we are trying to confirm that there is any oil flowing. We have seen the press reports. We don't have our own confirmation. We are talking to the Syrians. We are telling them, as I am telling you, that they can apply and should apply for approval of this as one of the oil export routes under the Oil-for-Food program because, fundamentally -- and let's get back to basics -- that's the only way to ensure that any money that is gained from these sales is used to help the people of Iraq and not used to bolster the regime.
QUESTION: You haven't seen any reports that the oil is not, in fact, flowing?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I think what we have seen is reports that it is flowing, but we don't have confirmation.
QUESTION: Are you sure you haven't -- I mean, not published reports but industry reports or -- I mean, is it --
QUESTION: Well, it might just be a big hoax.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there is some news agency that begins with "R" that is reporting it, so I doubt that it is a hoax.
QUESTION: You don't have anything verifiable.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what's going on vis-à-vis the US efforts on the Middle East today, what kind of phone calls are happening? Palestinian negotiators calling the peace process "clinically dead." Is Secretary Albright or is President Clinton doing anything today to try and revive the patient?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that the Secretary has made any phone calls on the subject today. She has talked with Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov on the subject, but not other parties in the region today.
I think we made quite clear yesterday that we condemn this heinous attack on a school bus filled with innocent children. We do expect the Palestinian Authority to do the same, and we expect them to do all they can to stop the violence and restore calm. In addition, while we are pressing the Palestinians, we think the Israelis also need to understand that the use of excessive force is not the right way to go.
The Secretary has said we are deeply troubled by the continued violence. There is over 240 people who have been killed, the vast majority of them Palestinians. It is a terrible tragedy to see this suffering go on day after day. There have been civilian victims from all these attacks, and we certainly deeply regret that.
Both sides need to exercise restraint and to implement their responsibilities under the Sharm el Sheikh agreement. We are in touch with the parties through our Embassy and other means. And that is the point that we have been making: Both sides need to exercise restraint, and we need to implement the Sharm el Sheikh commitments.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that, what kind of notification, if any, did you get from the Egyptian Government that they were recalling their Ambassador? Was the State Department officially notified of this, or did you learn of it through press reports?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's take it one step at a time, okay? Okay. Yes, our missions told us in Egypt and Israel, I take it.
QUESTION: Does that mean they read about it?
MR. BOUCHER: They told us that the Egyptian Ambassador Bassayouni has been summoned to Cairo for consultations in light of the situation in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. The Egyptians have already made statements about this, and I refer you there for their details.
Ambassador Bassayouni has played a very important role in Egypt's efforts to bring about peace in the region, and we hope that we will return to his post as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Did President Mubarak in any way -- did he call President Clinton? I take it he has not spoken to Secretary Albright?
MR. BOUCHER: I know the Secretary hasn't had any calls. Our missions in the region -- basically our Embassy in Egypt and probably our Embassy in Tel Aviv -- have reported this to us. They have been in touch with the governments.
QUESTION: Richard, your position --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we hope that he will return to his post as soon as possible. We certainly understand that emotions are running very, very high in the region, but overall we believe it's very important for the parties to remain engaged with each other, and for people who can help to remain engaged with the parties, and not to disengage. So it is important that all continue to do their work. And we, as I said, look forward to his return to his post as soon as possible.
QUESTION: As you say, you believe it's important for the parties to remain engaged. So do you think that the withdrawal of the Ambassador, the recall of the Ambassador, is a mistake?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll just say what I've said: We look forward to his return as soon as possible.
QUESTION: You cautioned Israel against excessive force. How about economic force? The blockade that took place obviously reaches people who may have nothing at all to do with the violence. Does the State Department have a view of Israel's blockage of Gaza now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think basically we don't believe that squeezing the Palestinians economically is the right course of action.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? At one point, I guess a couple weeks ago, you said that you weren't keeping score and commenting on some of these specific acts. Has that now changed from the State Department; we're now in scorekeeping mode?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think we're scorekeeping.
QUESTION: Okay. And if I could follow up on that, are you drawing -- I mean, do you think that there is -- sort of mentioning these two things, do you think that the bus attack is in some ways a moral equivalent to the attack on the armed compound? Are you saying that by sort of --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. I mean, clearly in terms of the sequence of events there is a certain relationship, but the attack on a bus filled with school children is heinous and reprehensible. It's something that we've condemned in the strongest terms, and no one should make any mistake about it. We're not condoning it or describing an equivalence in any way.
QUESTION: But are you saying that the Israelis shouldn't respond to this, or are you saying that they shouldn't respond with excessive force? I mean, what would be non-excessive force?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying what I said, that they -- we're pressuring the Palestinians to, first of all, condemn this horrible attack; second of all, to do everything they can to stop the violence and restore calm. As we do this, we think it's important for the Israelis to keep in mind that excessive force is not the right way to go at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, have the Israelis shown you any evidence for their claim that the bombing of the bus had anything to do with Fatah?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen claims of responsibility from several groups, but we don't have any conclusive information on who is responsible. That's what we've seen from --
QUESTION: Right. So you're thinking -- do you think that when you talk about excessive use of force, is it partly that perhaps this force was misapplied, in the sense that it wasn't directed at the people responsible for the attack? You don't seem to have -- you haven't seen any evidence.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I'd say is we're concerned about the amount of firepower that's being used on these occasions, particularly when it occurs in civilian areas and therefore results in civilian casualties.
QUESTION: Are you concerned also about the demonization of Fatah?
MR. BOUCHER: I've described what we're concerned about.
QUESTION: It was the Prime Minister who said that. Are you saying that you have to have your own evidence to know who --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying we don't have any conclusive evidence on who is responsible.
QUESTION: You won't accept the Prime Minister's statement as --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: No, I'm asking you.
MR. BOUCHER: From a whole variety of sources and contacts that we have at this point, we don't have any conclusive evidence.
QUESTION: All right, okay.
QUESTION: A Palestinian cabinet minister, Hassan Asfour says that after the recall of the Egyptian Ambassador that they're waiting for more steps against Israel and the United States. He put them together in the same sentence. Do you know if we've -- besides our general warnings in the area, do you know if we have seen any heightened sense of attack against US interests, given the latest escalation?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have fairly strong warnings already for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and for the region as a whole. I am sure if there is information we would improve -- we would upgrade those. But I'm not aware of anything at this point.
QUESTION: Speaking of those warnings, the Israelis have asked you all to rescind them for Israel, saying it's hurting the tourism industry. What is your response to that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think just generally to say that we have -- we don't make these decisions lightly, but we have an obligation to American citizens to offer them our best advice on travel. We don't do this for or against any particular tourism industry. I know this comes up in a variety of places whenever we have to issue these sort of warnings, but in cases where we think that there is a danger for US citizens, we have an obligation to our citizens to tell them about it.
QUESTION: Richard, this is the second day in a row now that you've used the words "excessive force," warning Israel against using that. Do you think last night Israel used excessive force?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not, at this point, going to try to make judgments on it. I said we're concerned about the amount of firepower that is being used, particularly in urban areas where it results in civilian casualties. I'll stick with that at the moment.
QUESTION: But then why did the State Department -- why did you ramp up the rhetoric yesterday for the first time after seven and a half weeks, finally urging Israel not to use excessive force?
MR. BOUCHER: Because we are against excessive force.
QUESTION: But why didn't you say that from the beginning?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the situation -- we have tried to react in each of the situations as they have come. We have tried to work to keep the violence contained, to counsel people to use restraint. And when we think it is appropriate on a given day to be more specific, we have done that. But as we have said before, the important thing is to exercise restraint on all sides. That is what the Secretary said yesterday, that is what I said yesterday; and to implement the Sharm el Sheikh commitments. On days when we think it is important to be more specific, we are more specific.
QUESTION: Is the US still prepared to veto any resolutions in the Security Council that might criticize Israel for excessive use of force?
MR. BOUCHER: That is what's called a hypothetical. We haven't seen such resolutions at this stage.
QUESTION: Do you think that these resolutions against Israel are a bad idea?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we'd stay with that. She is asking me about something specific that I don't know exists. I would say once again, we don't think it is time for more UN resolutions, and therefore we wouldn't support new UN resolutions.
QUESTION: Can I ask about -- yesterday, the Secretary was asked what she was most proud of, and she said what the US did in the Balkans in her four years --
QUESTION: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Reports from Israel yesterday said that Ambassador Ross may be going back. Can you just tell us briefly whether this is --
MR. BOUCHER: No travel plans at this point.
QUESTION: No travel plans? Okay.
QUESTION: I was going to follow up on the Balkans. I think Kostunica will be in Vienna for an OSCE meeting. They're making their way back into European apparatus, community, et cetera. Will she take that occasion to meet with him? And if she does, is it a chance to make some headway maybe on war criminals, and might she say more about US aid? I mean, is that the next major point of contact, do you think?
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't announced any travel for her to Vienna yet, so that means I have to make this a hypothetical, which I am not wont to do. First of all, let's deal with the fundamentals. Yugoslavia's participation in this meeting, President Kostunica's participation in the OSCE meeting, is a positive step, is a step forward in the integration of Serbia and Yugoslavia to the international community, and that is certainly most welcome.
Second of all, should President Kostunica and the Secretary find themselves in Vienna at the same time, we will have to see whether scheduling would permit arranging a meeting. We would just have to see about that.
In terms of any sorts of meetings, whether it's there or the other meetings that we're having with the government, I think, first of all, our position on Milosevic and the war crimes issue has not changed. There is no statute of limitations. We do see going forward on this issue as part of the process of implementing the rule of law in Yugoslavia.
But second of all, let me also say that we are -- on the other issue that you raise, that certainly is too part of our discussion, that we are looking to assist in any way we can to make sure the people of Yugoslavia see the dividend for adopting democracy, and that we are able to move as swiftly as we can to provide this important assistance that they need in these difficult circumstances that they face recovering from ten years or more of misrule and facing the winter. So we are working, at present, with our Congress to try to move forward on aid and assistance.
QUESTION: Would it be not contingent on war criminals, or is that something that you want to -- turning over war crime suspects, or is that something you want to just wait and see how you work it out?
MR. BOUCHER: There are certain things in the law that have to be considered at certain stages in the process, but I think we have made quite clear, particularly with regard to emergency assistance and the need to show the democracy dividend, that it is important to move forward on those things, even as all these larger processes go forward, too.
QUESTION: May I ask you one more thing? Three of us at least here got up early today to hear a couple of eminent think-tankers -- well, one is actually an editor, and the other is a think-tanker with a long career in the State Department -- who are somewhat critical of the Administration's policy, thinking that -- saying basically that you are propping up Yugoslavia as it exists today, and that maybe you're propping up something that really is going to devolve into an independent Serbia, an independent Montenegro, that you're sort of behind the curve.
That takes in a lot of ground, but what is the US view now of Yugoslavia? Is it viable? Are you supporting a Yugoslavia that includes a Kosovo and a Montenegro, or are you in favor of a self-determination in those two places?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, they are different. The Kosovo situation is clearly covered by UN resolutions, and we support the United Nations' resolutions where the issue there is to implement self-administration before the ultimate dispositions and decisions are made about the future.
In terms of Montenegro, first of all, let me make quite clear, we have not threatened Montenegro with any aid cutoff. We are gratified that our Congress has increased the aid allotment to Montenegro in the Fiscal Year 2001 budget, as well as allocating up to $100 million for assistance to Serbia. And as I said before, we are in consultations with our Congress on how to move ahead on those funding programs.
We don't favor independence for Montenegro. We support a transparent democratic process of discussions between Montenegro and Serbia that will lead to mutually satisfactory arrangements between the two republics. That process of open, transparent, democratic discussion, I think, is fundamentally different from what has happened over the last 10 years during the Milosevic regime. And therefore I think what we support is what they are, in fact, doing, which is that they are initiating discussions between the democratic leaders of two republics on the full range of issues of their mutual concern.
QUESTION: And Kosovo?
MR. BOUCHER: And Kosovo, I started at the beginning by saying it is subject to the UN resolutions, and that is the way it ought to be handled.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the Balkans for a second? Do you have any reaction to the fact that the war criminal Slobodan Milosevic is now appearing on, I guess, national Serbian television rallying his Socialist Party to show up and turn out for the vote on December 23rd?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as we all know, it is pretty easy to get on TV. (Laughter.) No, the answer has got to be that we are certainly aware of it, but our position on him has not changed. He and other indictees belong in The Hague. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes, as I have said. He represents Yugoslavia's unfortunate past, not its future. Public opinion polls show very marginal support for him, and he is widely discredited, even among his former supporters.
QUESTION: Richard, on that front, though, his appearance caused several people in the area to say, you know, the US looks really silly for continuing to take this stance of he-belongs-in-The-Hague. And congressional critics continue to say that it really demeans the whole authority of the US to go about charging people with genocide if they are going to allow him to appear on television and rest comfortably in his home. Do you ever feel like you might appear silly talking about sending him to The Hague when he appears on television?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think if you look -- anybody that looks seriously at the history of the War Crimes Tribunal and our support for it will see that consistency and persistence have paid off in terms of indictments and prosecution of any number of any number of potential war criminals. Those continue to be the hallmarks of our policy. As we have said many times, there is no statute of limitation for war crimes. We are engaged in a process now with Yugoslavia that will involve its integration into international institutions, and rule of law is definitely and absolutely part of that. So these issues are part and parcel of the process under way.
QUESTION: Richard, about six weeks ago, after Kostunica first came to office --
MR. BOUCHER: A mere six weeks ago. I thought you were going to go back to the last question.
QUESTION: You were saying that the priority was that he should consolidate his position and that the Serbian people should see a dividend for their wise choice. Do those priorities still stand, or does the war crimes priority start moving up the scale at this stage?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess I would say those priorities still stand, except to note that in this mere six weeks that have elapsed, they have done quite a bit in terms of forming a government, working out the process of new elections in Serbia, and moving forward on a host of issues, including establishing relations with the United States and other governments.
So we have seen a lot of progress in terms of their adoption of a democratic form of government, their implementation of the choice that the Serbian people made, and the beginning of their integration with European institutions and, indeed, international institutions. So that process -- pursuing that process remains the overall objective.
QUESTION: Okay. So when does war crimes get to the top of the priority list?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's sort of part and parcel of the whole process. I don't have a time table.
QUESTION: Could I ask -- returning to the excessive use of force, you have now raised this issue, and yet the Department serves on the Munitions Export Control Act Committee that determines whether a nation is in violation of the use of such things as Apache helicopters and other things which are being used in the excessive force. Is this a beginning of a warning by the Department of State to Israel that she better not go too far?
MR. BOUCHER: The rules on the use of US military equipment are quite clear. And I can get those for you, but I don't want to characterize what I have said in any other way than I have.
QUESTION: Susan Rice appears to have got the Sudanese's noses out of joint with her visit that resulted in their suspending the visas for the US chargé, who goes into Khartoum from Nairobi. What is your take on that?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, Assistant Secretary Rice has returned to Nairobi on Monday -- that's yesterday -- following a two-day visit to southern Sudan. I think the first thing to note is that she was down there working on very important humanitarian issues, issues of former slaves, civil society, human rights. She met with people down there, leaders and advocates that deal with these issues.
Second of all, as you note, the Sudanese Government in Khartoum canceled the visas of American diplomats who travel to Khartoum. We consider that very unfortunate. Reapplications, we understand, will be considered starting December 1.
She used procedures followed by past visitors, including American officials and international relief personnel, in that situation. She did not obtain a visa, but we did in fact inform the Government of her itinerary.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, apparently she met with women who she considers to be, or the Department considers to be, still held in slavery. Your briefing note says, "former slaves," and I guess that was part of the contention, with Sudan saying they no longer hold slaves, and some of our allies concurring with them on that front. Is it the State Department position that the Sudanese still allow slavery?
MR. BOUCHER: She met with specific individuals that we describe as former slaves who had returned to their homes in southern Sudan. They, in fact, spoke graphically and from personal experience of the physical abuse, rape and forced labor that they suffered.
She reiterated after these discussions that there is no doubt that slavery continues to exist in Sudan, and that it is carried out with the knowledge and the support of the Sudanese Government. We obviously oppose this practice as morally reprehensible and barbaric. We continue to bring the attention of the international community to slavery in Sudan, and we will continue to support the application of international and bilateral pressure against Khartoum until that government works in good faith to eliminate the practice.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Not on Sudan. Do you have any remarks on what is happening in Peru after calling for a peaceful transition? It's still transitioning.
MR. BOUCHER: I will. I do want to point out that we have available somebody to talk a little more to you on background about China, and he is going to have to leave very shortly, so if you want to get on to that, we'll do that. We've got about 15, 20 minutes with him if you want.
Quickly on Peru, President Fujimori has submitted his resignation on November 20th. Second Vice President, now Acting President Marquez, has also submitted his resignation. The Peruvian Congress meets today to determine succession. It appears that the Congressional President Paniagua will be named the interim leader, in accordance with the Peruvian constitution.
We are certainly pleased that all the parties involved are handling this process peacefully and in compliance with the Peruvian constitution. The US delegation that was in Peru yesterday met with the government, opposition, counter-drug officials and private sector representatives. This is a trip that had been planned for some time; the timing of the resignation was a coincidence. They demonstrated our continued support for democratic reform, and we will continue to focus on reform. We don't support any particular individual or political party in Peru.
We understood that Fujimori says he intends to remain in Japan for an indefinite period of time, but he doesn't plan to seek asylum.
QUESTION: He does not?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what he says. So that's as good as we've got on that.
QUESTION: Were you asked about Cuba and about some family problems?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The gentleman from the Associated Press asked me.
QUESTION: What about the other -- what about the request from Senator Helms on the visa --
QUESTION: That was not asked.
QUESTION: That as not asked?
QUESTION: What was that?
QUESTION: Was the request by Senator Helms for the State Department to revoke the visas of the executives in the Spanish company that's -- hotel company?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about that one. I'll have to check on it.
QUESTION: There was a large piece about it yesterday.
Can you bring us up to date on where the Secretary stands on making the decision on the Libya travel passport?
MR. BOUCHER: She has not made any decision on this. The restriction on the use of US passports for travel to Libya expires on the 24th. The Secretary will decide before that date what to do. She can decide to renew it for any period up to one year. She has not decided. Anybody inside this building or outside this building that tells you it is going to be one way or the other is not the Secretary of State, and therefore I would caution you against making assumptions.
QUESTION: But she can also just drop it, too, as well, right?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. She can go from zero to one year, and she will decide when she decides.
QUESTION: Richard, you said tomorrow, did you? MR. BOUCHER: She will decide when she decides.
QUESTION: Does that mean probably about 5 o'clock Thanksgiving Day you can put it out?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not the Secretary of State, so I don't know when she is going to decide, but she will.
QUESTION: And that preempts that kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure she is focused on what you're saying.
Okay? Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 P.M.)