|1,5,6,9,11||UNSCOM's aggressive information gathering efforts have been necessitated by Iraq's violation of pertinent UN Security Council resolutions.|
|1,5,7,15||US has assisted UNSCOM in its work, at UNSCOM's specific request, as called for by UNSC resolutions.|
|1-2,5,6||US support was specifically tailored to facilitate UNSCOM's mission, and for no other purpose.|
|2,6||US support for UNSCOM is a matter of public record; 40-plus nations also support UNSCOM.|
|2-4||Secretary Albright spoke with UN Secretary General Annan today. He said: views attributed to him were not his; he had no evidence of misuse of UNSCOM; he supports Amb. Butler.|
|2||US will continue to reject efforts to undermine UNSCOM.|
|4-5||US continues to have complete confidence in Ambassador Butler and UNSCOM.|
|7||At no time did US work with anyone at UNSCOM to collect data for the purpose of undermining the Iraqi regime.|
|8||US has always provided maximum support to UNSCOM; at no time did we change the practice.|
|9||To extent that disarmament of Iraq hurts Saddam Hussein, the US favors that.|
|9-10||Saddam is lashing out in frustration and desperation.|
|12||US is not aware of any response from Cuban government to yesterday's announced new measures.|
|12||Fighting in, around Freetown continues; US in contact with ECOWAS; Embassy operations have been suspended since December 24.|
|12||Arrests of 'rogue elements' in intelligence and security ministry are a positive step.|
|13||Use of torture is abhorrent to US.|
|13||US has seen report of torture of Catholic priest, and will raise case with Chinese government.|
|13,14||US will resume bilateral dialogue on human rights here on January 11-12.|
|14-15||US has discussed case of Hua Di with Chinese officials, and with Stanford University.|
|13||Fourth plenary session of four-party talks to take place in Geneva, beginning January 19.|
|14||Discussions on suspect underground construction will resume in Geneva January 16-17.|
|MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS|
|15-16||US does not share Ambassador Shoval's assessment. Palestinians have worked hard to fulfill many Wye commitments; Israel has not fulfilled any Phase Two obligations.|
|16||More needs to be done by both sides; they should be talking to each other, not pointing fingers.|
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me start with a subject that many of you have been calling me about all morning. That is the subject of Iraq.
First, let me remind everyone and reiterate that the reason why UNSCOM, the UN inspectors, have needed to take such an aggressive effort to discover information and learn the whereabouts of concealed weapons of mass destruction, and try to figure out where Saddam Hussein is hiding the weapons of mass destruction that he has not given evidence he has destroyed, is because UNSCOM is dealing with a totalitarian regime of great brutality that is not abiding by, and significantly violating, Security Council resolutions.
Iraq has taken, for many years, an affirmative position to prevent, deny, obstruct and deceive UNSCOM about the subject that UNSCOM, the UN inspectors, have been given a mandate by the UN Security Council to discover. This has required UNSCOM to take an aggressive effort to determine the location, the whereabouts, and the procedures by which the weapons of mass destruction Iraq refuses to disclose are hidden.
If Iraq were to disclose its weapons of mass destruction, to come forward and comply with the requirements of the Security Council, as set forth in resolutions going back to 1991, UNSCOM would never be in this position. Some thought this could be done in a matter of weeks.
So the reason why UNSCOM, the UN and countries around the world have needed to operate in this fashion is because Iraq refuses to disclose what it has done, and has taken an aggressive posture of concealment, denial and obstruction; which leads us to the question of US support for UNSCOM and what it is for and what it is about.
The United States, like many other countries, has assisted the United Nations in carrying out its work in Iraq. This is something that is called for -- specifically called for -- by Security Council resolutions. Our doing so is therefore meeting an international legal call - an obligation, in a sense.
It was provided -- our assistance to Iraq -- at the specific request of the UN Special Commission, and involved the provision of intelligence and technology by UN members, that has been vital to the effectiveness of the United Nations carrying out its inspection mandate. Given the highly sensitive nature of some of this, obviously UNSCOM's own procedures limited the knowledge of these efforts to relatively few people. Let me emphasize this -- American support was specifically tailored to facilitate UNSCOM -- the UN inspectors' - mission, and for no other purpose, and was done at the direct request of the UN Special Commission.
Intelligence cooperation with UNSCOM by the United States and other countries was intended to assist the UN and member states in assessing Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions, and the status of the programs that were the targets of UNSCOM's work.
The fact that we provide support for UNSCOM is a matter of public record, in accordance with calls in specific UN resolutions. As Ambassador Butler has said, there are 40-plus nations who do this. Obviously, we are uniquely qualified and uniquely capable in this area. We have provided both logistical support and intelligence to UNSCOM, to help it carry out its mandate of disarming Iraq.
These resolutions clearly call on all states to provide whatever assistance they can to help UNSCOM. We are, therefore, acting in full accordance with the letter, and the objective, and the spirit of these resolutions. It is the bottom line here that if Iraq were to fully disclose its weapons of mass destruction, then we wouldn't have this kind of a problem of Iraq claiming that it's all because of spying that the situation has developed.
With respect to the Secretary General, let me say the following: Secretary Albright spoke to Secretary General Kofi Annan this morning, and obviously asked for an explanation of what she, along with others, read in the newspapers. We are aware of a statement that he has just issued, in which he has made clear that the views attributed to him in The Washington Post and other newspapers are not his views, and that he does not believe there is evidence of this kind of misuse of UNSCOM.
Significantly - and secondly - he's made clear that he is supportive of Ambassador Butler and Ambassador Butler's work.
Now, clearly, given the sterling reputation of the news organizations involved, somebody must have been telling them this information. In that regard, let me say that the people who were purporting to speak for the Secretary General, and are attributed as such, must be either incredibly ignorant about the workings of UNSCOM, or be misguidedly sympathetic to the position of Saddam Hussein; because the result of all this is to give armament to those who say that it is not Saddam Hussein's fault, when I think it's clear from the Secretary General's statement, from the comments of all the Arab leaders that you are familiar with, and several other comments, that the problem here is a problem that has begun because Saddam Hussein has refused to comply.
With respect to these suggestions, let me simply add that sanctions cannot be lifted until Iraq is disarmed. Determining whether Iraq has been disarmed is a technical judgment only the UN Special Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency are qualified to make. We will continue to reject any political, diplomatic, or bureaucratic efforts to undermine the professionalism and integrity of the UN Special Commission, because we believe that both the Special Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency must be able to operate as professional, technically-oriented arms control entities if the Security Council resolutions are to be carried out.
With that short opening statement, let me turn to you, Barry.
QUESTION: You had two possible - obviously it's guesswork, but two possible motives: one being sympathy for Saddam Hussein. Is it possible that this is an attempt to undermine UNSCOM; that there are people who don't like UNSCOM? And secondly, I haven't seen his statement - Kofi Annan's statement - but could you say whether there is any space, any disagreement or any - not even disagreement, any difference in view as to operations undertaken in behalf of this mission? You know the old bit, where one person's intelligence may be another person's fact-gathering or another person's interpretation of something. Assuming it's not malicious - which I'm not ready to assume - but suppose it isn't malicious: Could it be a matter of an honest distinction between his interpretation of what the people should be doing and the US Government's interpretation?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say, the Secretary General's statement directly rejects the characterizations of his state of mind attributed in these articles. So he doesn't accept that any of these so-called confidants speak for him. Being a spokesman, I believe very strongly that the media should try to focus on those people who can speak authoritatively, rather than those who you can always get to say something.
Having said that, let me say that every diplomat, every journalist, every technician, every expert that enters an opaque dictatorial, totalitarian regime -- whether it be Iraq, North Korea, Libya, or you name it -- comes away with more information than they came in with, because of the limited amount of information that's available in those regimes. I'm familiar, from my days in New York, with numerous times when diplomats from the Secretary General's office or the United Nations went off to Iraq, and came back and presented themselves as having unique knowledge about the functioning of the Iraqi regime, and who was up and who was down.
So, this is a standard fare for people who enter into dictatorial regimes where there's no information. And people who get the rare experience to go there often come out and speak to that and learn things. That is the normal way of doing business. Anybody who's shocked - shocked -- that people who go into Iraq come out hopefully better understanding the Iraqi regime, I think are naïve in the extreme.
QUESTION: And Kofi Annan would not be in that category?
MR. RUBIN: Not based on his statement.
QUESTION: Do you know if, by the way, did he say - and again, I don't have his statement here - was there anything said about whether the newspapers that reported this approached him and gave him an opportunity to say whether - he didn't get into that with Albright?
MR. RUBIN: He indicated that he did not agree with the characterization of his state of mind attributed in various newspapers, and he made that clear to her. He made clear to her that there is no issue with Butler as described in these newspapers, and I think his statement speaks to that.
QUESTION: Yes, Jamie, still on that point, then another question: Did he tell her -- the Secretary -- that he does not believe there's evidence of this kind of misuse of UNSCOM?
MR. RUBIN: His statement says as follows -
MR. RUBIN: I can't reveal the details of a confidential conversation between the Secretary of State and the Secretary General, but I think I can answer your question. In his statement he says - his spokesman on his behalf - "We not only have no convincing evidence of these allegations, we have no evidence of any kind." I think that's pretty definitive.
QUESTION: The article also raises sort of a side point -- that, for whatever reason, the Clinton Administration is now prepared to consider a change in UNSCOM, a successor to UNSCOM, some such notion. Can you address that at all?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think that is a misunderstanding of the views of anyone who spoke to this issue. Let me say that, first of all, we continue to have complete confidence in the professional and independent efforts of Richard Butler and the rest of UNSCOM to vigorously work to meet its disarmament mandate, as called for in the Security Council's resolutions. We have long taken the position that UNSCOM exists because UN Security Council Resolution 687 set forth a disarmament obligation. UNSCOM was set up as an independent body in order to fulfill that obligation.
We have always taken the position that we will look with interest at any proposal to improve the effectiveness, the integrity, the professionalism, and the ability to operate of UNSCOM; and that continues to be our position. But it's clear from Iraq's behavior of the last nine of the last 12-to-13 months, that their position is to block the work of UNSCOM, to block the work of any entity trying to discover the location, and then destroy the weapons of mass destruction. It is currently our judgment that Iraq believes that it can somehow keep, on the one hand, its weapons of mass destruction and, on the other hand, get sanctions easing. That is simply not going to happen.
QUESTION: So you say you're willing to consider changes to UNSCOM if it improves their ability --
MR. RUBIN: Let me just make sure we get this exactly right. It has long been our position, for the last several years, that any proposals to improve the effectiveness, professionalism and ability to operate of UNSCOM we would be supportive of. There have been minor adjustments here or there, and we have no problem with that.
But the idea that somehow there is not going to have to be a disarmament regime that vigorously determines what Iraq has and disarms Iraq is fantasy-land, and it may be something that some think is going to happen, but it's not going to happen as long as the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Would you consider the removal of Richard Butler?
MR. RUBIN: I think I indicated to you that we continue to have complete confidence in the professional and independent efforts of Richard Butler, period, full stop.
QUESTION: Let me go back to the text of Bart Gellman's article and ask: Does the United States deny -- or what is the United States' response to this allegation, that the US asked for the collecting of eavesdropping intelligence, and did take steps to assist, or ask that UNSCOM take steps to assist the United States in this? Can you also respond to the allegations that the Iraqis have made for a long time, that US and other agents in UNSCOM have been spying?
MR. RUBIN: On the second point first, Iraq has consistently taken the approach of trying to change the subject. Rather than allowing the focus to be on their failure to disclose the weapons of mass destruction that they built and are secreting away in various facilities, they are trying to blame the messenger, shoot the messenger. The messenger is UNSCOM, the UN Special Commission, that tells the world that Iraq has failed to do so.
So whether it's by personal attack, by hysterical suggestions about intelligence or other means, Iraq consistently tries to blame UNSCOM and the messenger for the message they're sending, which is that Iraq has refused to fully disclose its weapons of mass destruction.
With respect to the first point, I think I addressed it in my comments at the outset; and that is that our support was specifically tailored to facilitate the UN Special Commission's mission and for no other purpose, and was done at the direct request of UNSCOM. That is my understanding of the situation, and it's hard to go much beyond that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, that's still confused. UNSCOM has been aiding the United States in some kind of eavesdropping within Iraq or not. Has it happened, is it a fantasy, or what?
MR. RUBIN: No, you're putting the situation in reverse. The United States has been helping with intelligence and logistical support of UNSCOM, to try to get to the bottom of the concealment mechanism which operates primarily through the special Republican Guard units of the leadership, to hide its weapons of mass destruction. Through intelligence, logistical support, expertise and personnel, we have been helping UNSCOM to try to find out where these weapons of mass destruction are, as called for by Security Council resolutions. That's the fact situation.
QUESTION: So the gist of this article is erroneous - that the US has been asking UNSCOM to provide information?
MR. RUBIN: UNSCOM has asked us to help them try to determine where the weapons of mass destruction are. Like 40 other countries, we have assisted UNSCOM in this work. It is my understanding that our support was specifically tailored to facilitate UNSCOM's mission and for no other purpose, and was done at the direct request of UNSCOM.
QUESTION: Jamie, you're not answering his question. Okay, we accept the point that UNSCOM asked for intelligence help from the United States in intelligence matters and such. The question is, did UNSCOM personnel at any time provide the United States with intelligence information which did not go through the usual UNSCOM chain of command?
MR. RUBIN: Look, you're going to have to talk to the relevant authorities.
QUESTION: I'm not talking about the United States helping UNSCOM; we're talking about UNSCOM personnel working on behalf of --
MR. RUBIN: You're going to have to talk to the relevant authorities, who can speak more specifically on such a specific question.
What I can tell you is that the assistance we provided, the support we provided was - listen to the words carefully - specifically tailored to facilitate UNSCOM's mission and was done at the direct request of UNSCOM and for no other purpose.
In answer to previous question, I also pointed out what I hope you as a professional journalist and others like you understand what I would call the obvious fact; which is that anybody going into a dictatorial, totalitarian regime is going to learn information about that regime that they didn't know. That applies to the UN diplomats who travel to Iraq and come back wiser, presumably, about the workings of the Iraqi regime, and purport and speak to other diplomats and to the press as if they have been improved in their knowledge of what goes on in Iraq. That applies to journalists, to colleagues of yours, that go to Iraq and learn information about Iraq. That is the normal way of diplomatic intercourse around the world. Every diplomat who comes to the United States, obviously, if they think they are earning their salary, is writing cables back to their government, presumably learning things about the way things work in the United States.
It's particularly acute in a totalitarian system like Iraq. But the hysterical suggestions that this - what's ironic about this is in similar news reports some six months ago, it was suggested that we somehow were not using UNSCOM aggressively enough. And now six months later, we're being accused of using UNSCOM too aggressively. So the bottom line is that we're using UNSCOM pursuant to Security Council resolutions. The reason why this has all become so controversial is because neither anyone on the 38th floor of the United Nations, nor any diplomat from Russia, or France, or anyone else, can convince Saddam Hussein to disclose what he has and prove those disclosures in a way that you wouldn't need to be aggressively seeking information about the special security apparatus that controls weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Can I take it - I mean, your declining to confirm or deny the specific allegation that UNSCOM eavesdropping information was passed the United States. Which authority can comment on this?
MR. RUBIN: I disagree with your characterization. I can add as follows: It is my understanding that at no time did the US work with anyone at UNSCOM to collect information for the purpose of undermining the Iraqi regime.
You didn't write that down. I thought that was going to be helpful.
QUESTION: To follow up, then, are you saying as a by-product of providing intelligence and technology to UNSCOM, the US, as part of that, may have obtained some intelligence and sensitive information?
MR. RUBIN: What I'm trying to communicate to all of you is that all of you need to understand that just because one uses the word "intelligence" doesn't make it interesting. I know, for you, whenever the word "intelligence" is used, this has to be fascinating, and this has to be something great. The reality is that we have been providing information, technology, expertise to the UN in order for them to do their job. Iraq has caused that problem because it won't disclose its weapons of mass destruction.
What I'm suggesting to you is that those on the 38th floor of the UN were focused on these allegedly sexy issues of who did what with whom, and who learned what when they were in Iraq, are undermining the mission of the world to get the focus on Saddam Hussein's failure to comply.
Beyond saying that, it is very difficult for me to be more specific, without going into the details of what UN inspectors or others are doing. The bottom line is: None of this activity that UNSCOM is performing to try to locate weapons of mass destruction, would be necessary if Iraq wasn't failing to disclose the locations, and the apparatus, and the procedures, and the paperwork associated with WMD.
QUESTION: I think there's actually a further allegation this morning through another charge by Scott Ritter. That is -
MR. RUBIN: I didn't see him quoted in this particular article.
QUESTION: He was quoted in The Boston Globe today.
MR. RUBIN: Oh.
QUESTION: That is that it wasn't just that the US helped in the intelligence gathering with UNSCOM, but the US shut off the faucet of turning over that intelligence to UNSCOM. He said that's been happening since early 1998. Can you respond to that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, on that point, let me first say that if you're going to use Mr. Ritter as a source, I hope you'll bear in mind, all of you, that he has indicated that he doesn't believe these allegations in today's papers: that the work of UNSCOM served some other purpose. I hope that's as relevant to you as other suggestions that he makes.
Now, with regard to other suggestions that he's made, let me simply say that we have always done our utmost to provide the maximum amount of intelligence, logistical, personnel and other support to the UN Special Commission; and we have done that across the board and continuously. At no time, for no policy reason, did we change the practice of assisting the work of the UN Special Commission.
It is well-known, to Mr. Ritter and others, that we do consult with the Special Commission chairman, and we have talked to him about issues like last August - if Iraq is about to make an announcement that they're going to cut off cooperation with all UN inspections, we don't see the point of conducting a particular inspection -- or giving him our political judgment about what will best yield support for UNSCOM in the Security Council. But that is very different than scaling back our support for UNSCOM in the intelligence, logistical and other avenues.
What I can say to you about that is that it's ironic that on the one hand, some are accusing us of not supporting UNSCOM strongly enough, and others are accusing us of supporting it so strongly it's going beyond its mission. So obviously, UNSCOM is a complicated piece of business; and for those who don't truly understand how it works, not only at the technical level, but how it works at the political diplomatic level in ensuring continued support for it, sometimes they miss the forest for the trees.
QUESTION: But is he correct in that charge?
MR. RUBIN: I think I specifically refuted the charge, and that was any suggestion that for policy reasons we changed our practice of providing maximum intelligence, logistical and personnel support to UNSCOM is simply not correct.
QUESTION: We now have two denials: one that United States intelligence helped UNSCOM - went beyond the mandate; and secondly that anyone in UNSCOM ever provided information for the purpose of undermining the Iraqi regime. Can you go a bit further and say - tell us whether anyone in UNSCOM ever provided --
MR. RUBIN: I'm always stunned by the appetite.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether anyone in UNSCOM ever provided information that went beyond the strict limits of the UNSCOM mandate to the United States?
MR. RUBIN: Let me again state that the more that the world focuses on the technicalities of UNSCOM, and the more that Saddam Hussein tries to keep the focus on the subject of UNSCOM doing this, this UNSCOM inspector doing that, the more that we lose what is the larger reality. I hope in your coverage and in the coverage of your colleagues, the larger reality is not lost. That is: The aggressive approach UNSCOM has to take as a result of Iraq's failure to disclose.
If you want more information on what every UNSCOM inspector did or didn't do, you'll have to go to UNSCOM. I think Ambassador Butler has been rather categorical, in much the same way I have been categorical, that this is an attempt of mischief-making, to change the subject from Iraq's failure to comply to the question of US support for a UN operation that is called for by a UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: I just wondered why, if they do their job and search for hidden weapons, wouldn't the net result be undermining Saddam Hussein? What's wrong with that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, to the extent that disarmament of Iraq hurts Saddam Hussein, we're in favor of that. In fact, we're in favor of the regime changing. I'm being asked questions about the technicalities of our support for the UN mission, because of what I would call exaggerated focus on the fun "intelligence" word rather than a focus on what the reality is.
QUESTION: It's just that it struck me that gathering information is part and parcel of an attempt to expose Saddam Hussein and possibly cause him to depart.
MR. RUBIN: Well, any one of you who's actually taken the time to read an UNSCOM report - and I urge you to do so - will see treasure troves of information along these lines. Therefore, you might conclude there's less new here than meets the eye.
QUESTION: Jamie, the matter of the provocations of the Iraqi aircraft and the Iraq missile batteries and such: Is it the State Department's perception that these things are happening to gain Saddam some kind of a victory when he failed to inflict any casualties or any equipment damage on US and British forces back during the Desert Fox operation? And shouldn't the United States be cautious not to enforce the fly-zone; or on the other hand, should that be enforced, and should US air cargo into Iraq where they're based and take out the aircraft?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the second part of your question, I respectfully suggest that you address that to the Pentagon, about their operational approach to enforcing the no-fly zone.
With respect to the first part of your question, let me simply say it is our view that Saddam Hussein has rarely, if ever, been as isolated internationally and in the Arab world as he is today. We saw his intemperate lashing out against other Arab leaders in a speech yesterday, and clearly he realizes that he is alone in the Arab world, and alone in the world. There is no one who is prepared to stick up for a regime that uses the kind of tactics that he is using, including simply for seven long years refusing to cooperate with the United Nations inspectors and get this job done, so that his people could be freed of the sanctions regime, and his country could move forward.
He's refused to do that. I think it's increasingly clear that the blame for that, and the resulting use of military power by the United States, is resting squarely on his shoulders. So he is lashing out in frustration and desperation, with intemperate speeches, with attempts to show that he can still fly his planes; and all that it ends up showing is that his planes get chased away. What we're seeing is the acts of a desperate regime and a desperate man.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - on this with respect to the State Department, either with -- (inaudible) -- or in a quarrelsome way?
MR. RUBIN: On which subject?
QUESTION: On the report.
MR. RUBIN: On the report. I believe Secretary Albright spoke to several foreign ministers today in an unrelated call, and explained that this is normal procedure for the United States to provide intelligence assistance to UNSCOM for the purpose of disarming Iraq, and that the Secretary General made clear to her that he did not share the allegations attributed to him in the newspaper report.
QUESTION: Was Russia one of those?
MR. RUBIN: No.
MR. RUBIN: No, this was, as I said, an unrelated call. I believe they were several Latin American foreign ministers.
QUESTION: Does she intend to talk to any Arab countries' foreign ministers?
MR. RUBIN: We don't regard this as all that new. She spoke to Kofi Annan because he was reportedly of a view that he has now said he doesn't have.
QUESTION: Earlier you talked about how, when someone comes in contact with one of these regimes they come away with more information. What I think you're - correct me if I'm wrong - are you saying that through your efforts on behalf of the United Nations, the United States came away with information on the regime that it didn't have before?
MR. RUBIN: What I am saying is that everybody who went into Iraq, since they've become an opaque, dictatorial, totalitarian regime - UN workers, UN diplomats, diplomats from foreign countries, the United States, all the people, everybody who goes into Iraq -- presumably comes out wiser about the workings of that regime; just as you or any of your colleagues come out wiser about that regime. That strikes me as an obvious fact that is being blown way out of proportion by some in a misguided attempt to shift blame from Iraq to UNSCOM.
QUESTION: Okay, so, you did get more information than you had before?
MR. RUBIN: I'd be happy to repeat my answer if you'd like me to.
QUESTION: No, but that information, then, doesn't leave - isn't somehow purged from US files, if you will. It goes to the UN; it stays here; and you use it for whatever else you choose to use it for.
MR. RUBIN: What I'm simply pointing out to you is that the United States, like every government, obtains information, analysis, judgments, wherever it can. That's the way governments do business. Anybody who finds that fascinating, it strikes me, is quite ignorant of the way of the world.
QUESTION: But it wouldn't, then - this is wildly speculative - it wouldn't, then, be surprising that any information you might have gleaned from these UN operations you participated in, such as the site of Republican Guard barracks or what time they sleep, you would have used.
MR. RUBIN: Let me simply say if Saddam Hussein were to have disclosed the locations, information and paperwork associated with his weapons of mass destruction program, the United States' assistance to UNSCOM and the assistance of 40 other countries to UNSCOM, to try to locate those facilities and weapons of mass destruction would never have been necessary.
QUESTION: How much concern is there here that as Saddam Hussein feels more desperate and isolated, he might do something insane, like making use of his weapons of mass destruction?
MR. RUBIN: I think we have taken the view that Saddam Hussein's regime is an extremely dangerous regime. We have deployed our forces and made our planning on that assumption. We have made clear that if he were to be foolish enough to use weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors, that our response would be swift and devastating.
In addition, we have made clear that we are prepared to act militarily if he were to move against the North, if he were to threaten his neighbors, or if he were to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction. We are concerned always about that, given the track record of his invasion of Kuwait, and his regular attempt to distract attention from his failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions by moving forces to the South, attempting to violate no-fly zones, kicking inspectors out. Whatever the method is, we're quite aware of the danger he poses. That's why we thought it was so important to use military force in December to degrade his capabilities in this area, and send the sternest possible message about our determination to protect our vital national interests.
QUESTION: Can I switch to the subject of the last couple of days: Cuba? First of all, has there been any response, or has the Secretary talked to Chairman Helms? Secondly, has there been any response from the Cubans?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any new response from the Cubans. I've seen some press reports about their wait-and-see attitude. As far as Chairman Helms is concerned, she spoke to him, or there was contact between us and the Committee the day before the decision was finally made. I take it from some of your colleagues accounts that some member of Senator Helms staff thinks we didn't go far enough. I don't think there's a problem in that area.
QUESTION: On Sierra Leone if I may? The American Embassy is still closed there. Are there Americans there? What's your take on the situation?
MR. RUBIN: We understand that there is fighting in and around the capital of Freetown, but we do not know the details of the situation on the ground. We have been in touch with the Economic Community of West African states in Abuja, and understand that ECOWAS troops remain committed to the defense of the capital and the elected government of Sierra Leone.
As you know, we suspended operations at our embassy in Freetown on December 24. Last week, the foreign ministers of six of these countries expressed total support for the government there. The six West African governments also strongly condemned support by external forces to the rebels in Sierra Leone and the atrocities being perpetrated by the rebels against the civilian population.
With respect to - we attended this meeting on the subject of our embassy. We believe that - we're not sure how many Americans chose to remain in Sierra Leone; we believe the number to be small. There were only 120 Americans registered with our embassy, and they were notified of our decision to suspend operations, and so they are suspended. They were encouraged to leave. The embassy assisted those who wished to leave Sierra Leone.
QUESTION: Iran: No doubt you've seen the reports that the authorities have identified the people responsible for the killings. Since you were concerned that they do so, I wondered whether you had anything to say about that; and whether you saw this rather dramatic turn of events as a good sign for the rule of law in Iran and so on.
MR. RUBIN: We have noted statements by Iranian officials that rogue elements in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security have been arrested in connection with the recent murders of certain writers and political activists. The arrests are a positive step towards maintaining the rule of law in Iran and providing for the security of Iranians to express their views.
QUESTION: Do you think that this might facilitate the rise to prominence of elements favorable to dialogue with the United States?
MR. RUBIN: We have taken the position that it is not useful for us to speculate about the future. There have been a number of events in Iran over the last year, some going in different directions, as I think you and others have reported. So we're aware of the vibrant political climate of Iran, and certainly we're prepared to state quite clearly our view that this is a positive step. But what the future holds, only time will tell.
QUESTION: On the subject of religious freedom in China, there's an article yesterday that comes from Fides, the news agency of the Vatican missionary arm, about a Roman Catholic priest named Father Li,, who, in Hubei province, China, was tortured and subjected to sexual abuse by prostitutes. Have you heard this story and what is your reaction toward the Chinese Government about this?
MR. RUBIN: On the 60 political prisoners that were allegedly tortured - I'm familiar with that story. Our view on that is that we have not yet seen the study entitled, "Tales of Terror: Torture in Tibet," published by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights. The study reportedly states that reports of torture and ill treatment are prevalent in Tibetan prisons.
We have long been concerned about credible reports of torture in Tibetan prisons. The Country Report On Human Rights Practices describes the use of torture as one of the serious human rights abuse that occurs in Tibet. The use of torture is abhorrent and unacceptable to the United States. It is also a violation of international human rights instruments, including the Convention Against Torture that China has signed.
We regularly raise our serious concerns about the use of torture in our high-level discussions with China. Let me point out that we will resume our official bilateral human rights dialogue with China on January 11 and 12; and that will provide us an opportunity to discuss fully our concerns about the human rights situation in China.
With respect to the specific priest mentioned, let me say we've seen this disturbing report; we will raise our concerns about the case with the Chinese Government. We believe -- it is the strongly held view of the United States that Chinese citizens be allowed to worship as they choose and that China should respect internationally recognized fundamental freedoms. The practice of torture is particular abhorrent to us and we condemn it.
Before closing, let me also add two announcements on North Korea. A four-party working level group met in New York on Tuesday, January 5, to discuss arrangements for the fourth plenary session of the four-party talks. As a result, the four parties have agreed to convene the plenary in Geneva beginning January 19. Obviously, Ambassador Kartman will lead our delegation.
Let me remind you that the US goals in these talks continue to be the reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula, and replacing the armistice by the achievement of a permanent peace arrangement. As agreed at the third plenary, two subcommittees will convene during the fourth plenary to discuss, respectively, the establishment of a peace regime in the Korean Peninsula and tension reduction there.
In addition, let me say that, with respect to the next round of talks on the suspect underground construction, consultations on arrangements for the next round were completed on January 5 in the New York channel. These discussions on the Kumchangni underground construction site will resume in Geneva on January 16 and 17.
With respect to our view on that, let me say: We are seeking that North Korea fully satisfy our concerns about this site, including by providing access to it. Let me make clear we are not prepared to pay North Korea to ensure compliance with this obligation under the Agreed Framework. We have said that were we able to improve our economic and political relations with North Korea in the context of an Agreed Framework implementation, missile proliferation progress, and cooperation on the return of remains of missing Americans, as well as terrorism, success in the four-party talks would also have a significant improvement -- impact -- on our bilateral relations.
So were we able to make success in those four areas, we are prepared to improve our economic and political relations, including by sanctions easing. But that is a long way off, given the current posture of North Korea.
QUESTION: Will Dr. Perry be at those talks?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Who will lead?
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Kartman.
QUESTION: That's Kartman, too?
MR. RUBIN: I believe so.
QUESTION: What about January 11 and 12 on China? You said you'll resume -
MR. RUBIN: I said Assistant Secretary Harold Koh.
QUESTION: And where will that be?
MR. RUBIN: I believe that's here.
QUESTION: Would you be able to comment on the AP wire news report about Hua Di, a Chinese rocket scientist, who has been under house arrest? Has the United States Government urging the Chinese Government to -
MR. RUBIN: This is a Chinese citizen who had been in the United States in California for awhile?
MR. RUBIN: Let me get you some information on that. We have discussed the case through embassy Beijing of this Hua Di with Chinese officials, and we've been in touch with Stanford University regarding this matter. We are concerned that Mr. Hua's detention may have a chilling affect on academic exchanges between the United States and China. We are also concerned about his reported health problems, and we're seeking further information about the situation.
QUESTION: Has the United States Government talked to the Chinese Government on that?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, we have discussed this case with Chinese officials.
QUESTION: Jamie, Ambassador Rauf Ekeus has said that because, as a part of UNSCOM -
MR. RUBIN: You've been out there gathering information with which to make my job more difficult.
QUESTION: As part of UNSCOM's daily work, they would gather tremendous amounts of data, and on occasion what they would do because - simply for limited resources and to sort of help speed things along - they would farm out some of the processing of this data to countries, including the United States. He raised a number of instances, for instance with U2 planes, the fly-overs -- they get 1,000 frames of film sometimes. They had asked the United States to develop this film and then screen it and pass it back to UNSCOM. Can you comment on this?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. The United States has provided major intelligence, logistical, technical and personnel support to UNSCOM, including of the kind that you mention. The U2 that is loaned to UNSCOM involves procedures - because it's an American airplane on loan - that we try to help UNSCOM. I'm not familiar with that particular case you describe, but it strikes me as a perfectly reasonable way by which the United States can assist UNSCOM in doing its work, as called for by the world body's Security Council calling on member states to provide information, assistance, technical expertise to Iraq.
So the kind of example you're giving is something the UN Security Council -- including the Russians, the French and all those who are on it -- asks the United States and other countries to do, and we do try to help. That kind of an example strikes me as quite likely.
QUESTION: Did you see Ambassador Shoval's commentary in The Washington Times today, in which he claims the Palestinians had gone back to what he calls "business as usual," not living up to their obligations?
MR. RUBIN: We do not share Ambassador Shoval's assessment at all. The Palestinians have, in fact, worked hard to implement many of their commitments under the Wye agreement, including annulling clauses in the Palestinian National Council Charter, and stepping up the fight against terror. There are some commitments that still have to be fulfilled; but in our view, overall, they are making progress here.
Let me point out that it is the Israelis that has not fulfilled any of their Phase 2 obligations by failing to pull back further re-deployment, as required by Phase 2. We think more needs to be done by both sides, and that instead of pointing fingers at each other, as this particular article does, both sides should be talking to each other about how to get the job done. That includes implementation actions by Israel and by the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:35 P.M.)
[end of document]
Back to the Press Briefing
Return to the Home Page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.