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Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 1997
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY

NORTH KOREA
1-2Agenda for US-DPRK Meetings at the Department of State
2US Troop Presence on Korean Peninsula
COLOMBIA
2-4,7Passage of Restricted Extradition Bill by Colombian Congress
4Visit of Russian Foreign Minister
TURKEY
4-5Meeting Between Assistant Secretary Grossman and General Bir
7Whereabouts of Ambassador Parris
APEC
5Admission of Russia, Vietnam and Peru
DRoCONGO
5-6Delay in Deployment of UN Investigative Team
6Meeting Between UN Team Leaders and Reconstruction Minister Mbaya
7Secretary's Upcoming Visit to Kinshasa
IRAQ
8-9Mandate of UNSCOM Inspectors re: Presidential Sites
TURKEY/IRAN/TURKMENISTAN
9Caspian Energy Development
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
9Report of Israeli Proposal on Redeployments
9-10Ongoing Diplomatic Activities


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #170
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 1997, 1:00P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Could you tell me whether this is yesterday's water or --

MR. MCCLENNY: It's today's water.

MR. FOLEY: Today's water, okay.

I don't have any announcements; except to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

QUESTION: The North Koreans have been in the building for about three hours now. I know that - I think they're still in their conversations. But do you have anything on what the US side intended to raise during those talks?

MR. FOLEY: Well, in a general sense, George, I can confirm -- I think we indicated this the other day -- that we expect to raise a range of bilateral issues, to include discussion of the possibility of the opening of liaison offices in the respective capitals and the question of American MIAs - an important issue to us - remaining since the war more than four decades ago. Also, while this meeting was not about the missile issue, we did hope that we might be able to move towards possibly setting dates for the next round of missile talks.

We didn't necessarily have an expectation we would achieve that, but it was going to be discussed in the meetings today. However, those meetings are continuing --they are ongoing - and I certainly don't have a read-out for you at this point, and I'm not sure that I will have information for you later today. But if we're in a position to say something about those meetings, we will do so before the end of the day.

QUESTION: Following up on that, what's been the status on the liaison offices? Has there been any movement at all in, say, the last half-year or so?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that there's been movement on it. It's been a live issue on which, I believe, there hasn't been a lot of movement. But I think we're hopeful that events of the last months may help us to move forward on some of those issues, as well.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, I would assume you do not expect any kind of announcement to come from these meetings - this meeting today.

MR. FOLEY: I'm not anticipating that, Charlie. As you know, it's the normal practice that any of our diplomatic negotiations or conversations, we believe, prosper best when conducted privately, away from the glare of publicity.

However, in the event that there is a particular achievement, we do tend to announce them. So if there is, you'll hear about it. But I'm not anticipating anything. That's the best I can give you right now; but we'll have to see what happens this afternoon.

QUESTION: Also, ahead of this meeting today, the Korean Central New Agency issued a statement again reiterating the North Korean demand that US troop presence on the Korean Peninsula be an end to the military presence. So how do you explain that issue cropping up again when it seemed to have been tackled in the context of the four-party talks?

MR. FOLEY: Well, you've followed this issue, Carol, as many people in this room. It's probably not the first time that you've seen it mentioned or raised on the North Korean side. It's been a staple of their public posture for probably more than four decades.

So as we were negotiating with our partners in the four-party preparatory talks and in that process, we never said to the North Koreans that this was not an issue that they could not raise at the appropriate point. The issue under discussion was the definition of the agenda item, which, as you know, was resolved last week - resolved successfully in New York.

But we've always said - and continue to say - that under that general agenda item, that any of the four parties may raise any issues of concern. So I would not be surprised if the North Koreans put that particular issue on the table, once the plenary talks begin in Geneva. And furthermore, we expect that to be a lengthy process. Obviously, given the situation that's prevailed on the Korean Peninsula for more than four decades, resolution of the underlying issues and tensions and the achievement and the establishment of a peace regime on the Peninsula is not something that we are going to get to overnight. But the whole gamut of issues surrounding tension reduction on the Peninsula will also be open for discussion.

QUESTION: Can I ask, what steps have to be taken to ease the economic embargo on North Korea?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have an exhaustive list for you there, but North Korea remains on the terrorism list, and they would have to address our concerns in that area. I cite that as just one example.

QUESTION: Colombia, late last night the congress there approved the extradition. However, it is not going to be retroactive. Does that basically mean that it's useless?

MR. FOLEY: I have a rather lengthy statement, if I can test you patience at this point in the middle of the lunch hour. You asked the question.

We recognize that passing a bill to reinstate extradition of Colombian nationals is a step forward in Colombia's efforts to combat narcotics trafficking. I would call it a modest step forward. However, it is regrettable that the Colombian congress failed to pass a strong, unrestricted bill. The bill which was passed allows major narco-traffickers currently in jail in Colombia, including the Cali cartel kingpins to, avoid extradition to countries where they have criminal charges and sentences pending.

We understand that President Samper has asked the constitutional court to issue a ruling on whether the proper procedures were followed in passing this bill. Again, while a step forward, the legislation permitting extradition will require legislation in the next congressional session to clearly define how extradition of Colombian nationals will be implemented. Strong implementation with the absolute minimum restrictions is necessary.

Again, extradition with retroactivity is an essential tool to combat the trans-national nature of the Colombian criminal enterprises. To live up to its international obligations, Colombia should permit extradition of narco-traffickers currently in jail in Colombia to countries, again, as I said, where they have criminal charges or sentences pending.

So we call on President Samper and the Colombian congress to reinstate a provision on retroactivity and not allow further undercutting of the bill.

Finally, I would note that extradition is also a key criterion as we look at next year's certification decision. The failure of the Colombian congress to pass a bill which includes retroactivity will undoubtedly factor into our decision.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what will be the effect of this vote in the Colombian congress to the upcoming certification process as far as Colombia goes?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I could repeat not all of what I just read, but the last two sentences of it. It will be a factor in the decision. Obviously, we are greatly disappointed by the lack of retroactivity. We have had serious concerns in the past, which have led to the decision not to certify Colombia as sufficiently cooperating in the fight against narcotics. This will be an added factor that will be taken into consideration.

I can't speculate on what that certification decision will be next year, but this is not helpful.

QUESTION: What is your opinion about the sponsor of the extradition law? He has an investigation against him for illegal - (inaudible). Does the United States Government think the congressman is paid by the narco-traffickers? And did it influence the - (inaudible)?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of who the sponsor of the legislation is, or the case reportedly existing against him; so I couldn't possibly comment on it.

MR. FOLEY: Also on the Colombian question?

QUESTION: Well, it's a just that - I wanted to ask you actually --

MR. FOLEY: Because I'll come back to you if it's not on the same subject, because we're not finished over here.

QUESTION: Colombia, yes, it figures. I mean, I had an additional question; it just occurred to me. The Russian Foreign Minister is visiting Colombia, probably for the first time, I think, in the bilateral relations. Do you try to kind of coordinate your policies vis-à-vis such countries as Colombia and other Latin American states with other countries?

MR. FOLEY: Certainly we do -- including with Russia. We have a very broad and rich dialogue with Russia on a range of trans-national challenges that we're facing in common, including organized crime, the environment, narco-trafficking, and proliferation. I don't have a specific answer about the retroactivity aspect of the recent Colombian legislation and how that might relate to Minister Primakov's visit, but certainly it's an issue of dialogue. I'll get back to you.

QUESTION: Does it bother you that Mr. Primakov is meeting with President Samper?

MR. FOLEY: I have no particular comment on that.

QUESTION: Does the fact that this extradition law is active now - would it be another option for the United States to work with Colombia in trying to get around the retroactivity problem here? Like, would there be another option for the US later on, to work on the issue and reinstate it later?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I indicated that we felt that this bill was a modest step in the right direction and also that it was a flawed bill. We would be looking to any improvements, any way in which the Colombians can work their way towards restoring or incorporating the retroactivity portion.

If you're asking, will we be pleased if it's added and incorporated two months from now, three months from now, of course we would be pleased. But this is not, obviously, a step in that direction.

Anything else on Colombia? A not-Colombia subject in the back.

QUESTION: Turkish-US high-level defense group finished their meeting today. I believe they issued some statement, a joint statement. If I'm correct, they discussed not only defense subjects, they handled some political situations in the area. Do you have anything on this subject? I know there are several American diplomats who attended the same meetings..

MR. FOLEY: Well, I was aware that Ambassador Grossman, Assistant Secretary Grossman was going to meet with General Bir on the margins of the high-level defense group meeting today. But I certainly don't have a read-out; I think that was taking place earlier, and I have nothing on that.

But they were going to review a range of issues in the bilateral relationship, and regional issues as well; whereas the defense group meeting had to do with the particular agenda of those regular meetings. But he took the opportunity - Ambassador Grossman did - to discuss with General Bir other issues. I have nothing on that meeting yet, though.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you to comment on the results of the APEC meeting. The three countries that applied - Russia, Vietnam and Peru - were admitted to APEC. And apparently, the decision was taken at the very last moment. I would like you to comment on what happened there, why the decision was finally taken and who pushed for it and what the American position was.

MR. FOLEY: I couldn't answer who was pushing for it; this was a decision that was arrived at by consensus. APEC itself is a consensus-driven and run forum on all issues, including membership. The United States certainly supports the consensus decision, joined in that decision, made by the APEC leaders.

President Clinton certainly supported the vote to admit three new members - not only Russia, but Peru and Vietnam - to APEC, and for them to be seated at the 1998 APEC ministerial and leaders' meeting in Kuala Lumpur. And we certainly welcome the opportunity to work with three additional economies from the region that clearly fulfilled the criteria for membership that was endorsed by the APEC foreign ministers earlier.

QUESTION: You don't think the haberdashery lobby was behind that, do you?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't know.

QUESTION: Sell some more coats next time.

MR. FOLEY: Anything else.

QUESTION: Congo. Kofi Annan has been threatening, it seems, to withdraw the UN team from Congo because it's not starting its work. He's apparently put back that deadline to, I think, tomorrow night. There are reports there was under pressure from the United States and from Congo itself - that is, to hold off on the withdrawal.

There are also reports that the Secretary has been on the phone to Mr. Annan, urging him not to withdraw any teams before she, herself, visited the country next month. Can you comment on that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we certainly understand Secretary General Annan's frustration with the continued delays in the UN's ability to deploy the team to the field. But we had reason to believe, though, that the log jam would be broken. And it is true, the Secretary of State spoke to Mr. Annan yesterday in this regard.

It did turn out that the UN team leaders were able to meet this morning with the reconstruction minister, Minister Mbaya. I had mentioned yesterday that we were expecting that meeting to take place. It has taken place, and I cannot confirm this, but I had a press report coming into the briefing that the government in Kinshasa has announced that the team may begin its work immediately and to go wherever it needs and wants to go in the country.

So that is a positive announcement, and we look to see the UN team moving out into the field immediately, as indicated.

QUESTION: But the Congo Government has said, on many occasions I think, that the team can begin its work immediately; but it hasn't done so, for one reason or another. Is there any indication that it will?

MR. FOLEY: I don't know that they've actually said that explicitly. I need to be able to confirm that announcement because, as I said, I'm referring to a press report. But we have the team ready to go there in Kinshasa -- in getting the green light -- I don't think that has happened with that degree of explicitness. After all, we've had a major development since Ambassador Richardson's last trip to Kinshasa - his meeting with President Kabila and the agreement that was reached, and later endorsed, by the United Nations. That was less than a month ago.

The team went back, ready to go out into the field. It needed just the final confirmation from the government. It may be that that's what they've got now, and they will be going immediately out to the field. That's certainly what we expect to happen.

QUESTION: Was this a precondition for the Secretary's decision to include the Congo on her Africa itinerary? Did she know about it beforehand?

MR. FOLEY: Know about what, George?

QUESTION: About the decision of the Congolese Government to allow the inspectors in. I was wondering --

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've regarded the commitment made by President Kabila to Ambassador Richardson at the end of last month as iron-clad, as one that they were going to implement. We haven't had reason to doubt that.

It so happened that there was some delay in the final meeting that the team leaders needed or required with the reconstruction minister. That was a glitch that understandably caused concern with the UN team and at headquarters in New York. But now, apparently, that glitch has been overcome; the team is about to go.

So as the Secretary was putting together her trip - and this had been a trip envisaged for some time - it certainly was the expectation that the UN team would be able to go and do its work.

QUESTION: Was there linkage? In other words, would she have gone there without this expectation?

MR. FOLEY: I can't answer that question, George; it's sort of retroactively hypothetical, and I'm not in a position to answer it. But all I can say is that it's certainly been our expectation that the team would be going out and doing its work, even in advance of her arrival - which is about a couple weeks hence. I think it's December 12 that she's expected in Kinshasa.

So we certainly expect that that UN team will be out and doing its work effectively and as it needs to do, prior to her arrival, yes.

QUESTION: Colombia - do you think the extradition that was approved by Colombian congress --

MR. FOLEY: I think we have Colombia and non-Colombia questions today; that's the category.

QUESTION: Yes, that happens today. Is exactly what the kingpins were asking for. Did they win with this law?.

MR. FOLEY: I didn't hear the question.

QUESTION: Do you think the extradition law approved by the congress in Colombia is exactly what the kingpins were asking for? Did they win?

MR. FOLEY: All I can say is that the kingpins who are in jail now, and who are wanted in the United States, who have criminal charges pending against them, must have breathed a great sigh of relief upon passage of the bill. That's the best I can do to answer your question.

QUESTION: Ambassador Mark Parris after staying only ten days in Ankara is back in town. We learned that he's attending some important meetings. Are those meetings on Cyprus and Turkish-Greek relations or not?

MR. FOLEY: You have sources of information that are better than my own, I must say. But our ambassadors often are coming back to Washington for consultations, for meetings, for personal reasons, for leave, for Thanksgiving. So it could be any number of reasons, and I would even have to confirm that Ambassador Parris has departed Ankara and is back here.

If there's anything of foreign policy significance, maybe we can get that for you later in the week.

QUESTION: Can I ask a non-Colombia question?

(Laughter.)

MR. FOLEY: Yes, that's the category. I'm surprised you're asking a question on this subject.

QUESTION: Yeah, well, normally I would stick to Colombia, but today I thought I'd ask you whether there's any distinction the US makes in any of the "presidential" sites in Iraq. In other words, is it the US position that the UN inspectors should be able to go to any place they want in Iraq? Or are there some sites that the US recognizes as truly presidential, and therefore, off limits?

MR. FOLEY: We believe that UNSCOM is a professional organization that is devoted solely to its mission of uncovering Iraqi programs of weapons of mass destruction. It is not a politicized mission. We believe it is on the basis of their mandate, strictly defined, in the information that they are able to develop that they determine the nature and the number of sites that they wish to visit.

Our position is very simple: if UNSCOM believes it has reason or need to visit a site, then Iraq does not have the right - under UN Security Council resolutions - to deny them that access. So I'd rather not answer your question broadly, and simply state the obvious, which is that we support Chairman Butler and UNSCOM's desire to visit any site they deem necessary for them to inspect.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like a broad answer; that there are no exceptions.

MR. FOLEY: No exceptions to requests made by Chairman Butler and UNSCOM to visit sites and inspect sites in Iraq.

QUESTION: Have they made any requests that you're aware of yet to visit any sites that the Iraqis consider presidential?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that. Of course, that is a growing category of sites. As President Clinton mentioned the other day, the land mass of so-called presidential sites is rather astonishing. So you have to keep an eye on that figure, which increases day to day.

But our information is that there has been no change or little change from UNSCOM's activities over the last 24 hours -- that UNSCOM and the IAEA continue to inspect known weapons-related facilities throughout Iraq in order to assess what happened during the suspension of monitoring operations, the three-week suspension.

I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM headquarters in New York for greater detail. But I'm not aware that UNSCOM has yet requested access to any site that Iraq describes as sensitive. It's obviously up to UNSCOM to decide when and where to exercise its right to inspect facilities of any nature in Iraq.

QUESTION: Well, one of the senior Iraqi officials was quoted this morning as saying that in the event UNSCOM inspectors turned up at any of the "presidential" sites, they would be prevented from entering, or kicked out if they tried to. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, that's an unacceptable threat; one that I assume UNSCOM itself will reject. Certainly the United States rejects it. But we haven't seen the test yet. We've seen verbal declarations, as has been noted from this podium in the last days. When Iraq agreed to allow the inspectors to return, Iraq did not place conditions on their return. And it is our expectation - and we think it's shared by the international community - that UNSCOM will be able to do its work unhindered and unimpeded. But we'll know it when we see it, though, David. As UNSCOM goes about its work on the ground, we will see whether Iraq is truly willing to meet its commitments to cooperate fully with UNSCOM.

It's simply speculative at this point, because we're going to have to see how UNSCOM fares on the ground.

QUESTION: Question on Central Asia, please. The Uzbek Prime Minister was recently in Washington on a visit. And in one of his public comments, he spoke in favor of the so-called EurAsian Corridor that is a route for transporting oil from the Caspian, basically by-passing Russia. Was he, in this instance, speaking his own mind, or was it the result of some contacts that he had in Washington? Is there any shift in the approach of the United States to this problem?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the United States' position on the question of Caspian oil and gas resources in Central Asia generally is to support the construction of multiple pipelines. We, as a matter of policy, oppose the construction of pipelines across Iran. That view does not in any way affect our view of Russia's role in the development and transport of Caspian oil and gas resources.

QUESTION: Jim, with regard to the Middle East peace process, it seems to be a real backwater at this point; at least looking at the headlines after Doha. What do you have to comment about the 8 percent proposal that has been floated by the Netanyahu government for withdrawal? And is there any activity that is going on that we don't know about? What is really happening?

MR. FOLEY: Well, in regard to your first question, I think the operative word you used is floated. I'm not going to be in a position to comment on anything that is floating. We have not discussed figures with either the Israelis or the Palestinians. Therefore, I can't get into discussion of a proposal or a purported proposal that has not been presented to us.

In terms of activities, we haven't had high-level contacts on the ground since the Secretary's meetings in Europe with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu back some weeks ago. Ambassador Ross is active with the parties on the telephone, as are representatives in the region. I believe that work on the interim committees is continuing in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority. Beyond that, I don't have any report of new trips or visits of that nature.

QUESTION: None are being planned for Ambassador Ross or --

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've spoken to him in the last couple days, and I asked the question. There's nothing planned at the moment.

QUESTION: What about the ambassadorship in Israel? Is that going to be filled very quickly?

MR. FOLEY: You'd have to ask the White House.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. FOLEY: Anything else? Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)

.

[end of document]

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