Daily Press Briefing
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
TUESDAY, JULY 21, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN
ANNOUNCEMENT 1Background Briefing Today on Pakistan and the IMF NIGERIA 1US Welcomes Announcement of Release of Political Prisoners and Transition Plan TERRORISM / LIBYA 1-8PanAm #103 Suspects: Exploration of Possible Trial in Scottish Court Outside Scotland / Ensuring Judicial Standards in Third Country / Libyan Compliance 3-5, 7Effectiveness of Sanctions / Libyan Obligations Under UN Resolutions / US Policy 6Qadhafi’s Health 6-7Secretary’s Conference Call Today to Families of Bombing Victims / Families’ Reactions 7Communications With Libyan Govt CYPRUS 8-9Turkish 1974 Invasion / Dispute Gone On Too Long / Allegations of Turkish Airspace Violations / No US Officials Attended Ceremony / EU-US Meeting re Negotiations, Accession to EU, Missiles Purchase, EU-Turkey Relations, Greek-Turkey Relations PAKISTAN 9-10US Power Plant Projects on Dep Secy Talbott’s Agenda / Questionable Contracts 10-11IMF Negotiations / US Sanctions / Background Briefing at 3:30 pm Today INDIA 10-11Permanent Membership on UN Security Council / UN Aspirations and Non-proliferation on Dep Secy Talbott’s Agenda MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 11-12Status of Bilateral Discussions / Travel Plans for Amb Ross CHINA 12Modernization of Nuclear Forces COLOMBIA 12-13Basis for Visa Denial to Pres Samper SERBIA (KOSOVO) 13Rpts of Islamic Mercenaries in Region KOREA (NORTH) 13-14Funding KEDO / Oil Deliveries DEPARTMENT 14Briefing Schedule This Week
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 89
TUESDAY, JULY 21, 1998, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is Tuesday. Let me start by saying that we will have a briefing this afternoon, where several senior officials will talk about the question of US IMF policy on Pakistan. That will be at 3:30 p.m. here in the briefing room.
Let me also say that the United States welcomes Nigerian head of state, General Abubakar’s, July 20 address to the Nigerian people, announcing the release of all political detainees, outlining a plan for transition to democratic civilian government, including election of a civilian president during the first quarter of 1999 and promising the inauguration of a democratically-elected president in May of 1999.
We are committed to working with the people of Nigeria to ensure that a rapid, transparent and inclusive transition to civilian democratic rule takes place. In addition to the promising political measures which General Abubakar indicated, there has been extensive consultation on this. He also outlined an ambitious and commendable initiative in the economic area; and we will have more to say about that in a formal statement.
In short, we welcome General Abubakar’s commitment to move in the direction of democracy and a credible transition to democracy, his stated commitment to respect human rights, to combat corruption and his commitment to international cooperation in combating the drug trade and other crimes. We look forward to working with the government of Nigeria on these issues of mutual concern.
QUESTION: The Pan Am situation – evidently the Secretary and Mr. Berger have talked to, what, about ten family members in a conference call and laid out for them the possibility of having this trial held in The Netherlands with Scottish judges. Since you’ve wanted the American or British justice system to prevail here, I wondered how far along this idea has moved and whether there would be any variations from American and British justice even with Scottish judges, if this is that live a possibility.
MR. RUBIN: Let me start by saying that we have worked very hard for ten years to impose and then keep on an effective sanctions regime against Libya, pending their compliance with UN Security Council resolutions requiring that these suspects face Scottish or British or American justice. We have been exploring alternative ways to meet that objective – that is, again, to bring the suspects who committed this heinous crime where over 180 Americans died before a trial, an effective trial before an effective justice system.
To date we have not found practical alternatives to a trial in the United States or in Scotland. Our bottom line is simple: the accused perpetrators of this heinous crime must face justice before US or Scottish courts. We are working to achieve that goal. It has been ten years, and this delay of justice has been a denial of justice. We have been working very hard to see whether there is a way in which it is practicable to hold a Scottish court outside the United Kingdom and what steps would be necessary to make this possible.
Determining whether such a proceeding might take place and how it might take place without affecting the integrity of the judicial process has taken a great deal of study and reflection, as well as extensive consultations with other governments. It will take a great deal more effort to make this procedure happen. We are exploring it. But let me emphasize very clearly, we have made no decision on this matter. What we are doing is seeing whether the question of a Scottish court in a third country with Scottish judges, Scottish procedures and Scottish justice can be arranged logistically and legally. If that happens, then it will be up to Muammar Qadhafi to comply with the Security Council resolutions which state that he must allow for a US or Scottish justice.
QUESTION: Well, if it does happen, if it does crystallize, this is bound to be seen – already at least one of the mothers of a young woman killed in the crash sees this as a whitewash, sort of Qadhafi winning out; because after all, the reason there hasn’t been a trial is because Qadhafi wouldn’t hand the suspects over. Is this in any sense a compromise – I don’t mean it necessarily in the pejorative sense — but are you trying to find a way to compromise the two positions – the US-British position and the Libyan position?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger did talk to some of the family members, and they can speak for themselves. But I think it’s fair to say there is a wide spectrum of opinion on this subject.
With respect to the fundamental question, the issue is will the standards that apply in an American or a Scottish court – the standards of evidence, the legal acceptance that the world holds for the standards of Western justice in Scotland or in the United States – can those be applied in a third country? That question hasn’t been answered; but if it can be answered in the affirmative, then the United States and the victims of this tragedy will get what they have been long denied – and that is justice before an American or a Scottish court. But there are many questions that have to be answered, and we are not saying we’ve made such a decision.
Frankly, the Libyans have refused to comply in any way with this resolution, and they have proposed any number of ideas as to what they would do. But if we had an arrangement by which the Scottish court could operate in a third country like The Netherlands, then the oneness would be on Libya, very clearly, to put forward these suspects. That is what the international community has demanded. If Libya were to do that, then Libya would be complying and the families and the United States that have sought justice would be getting the justice that has been denied so long. So it would be Libya turning over the suspects under the same procedures and the same details.
QUESTION: Why would you consider allowing a suspected criminal to negotiate the tribunal in which he’s going to be tried? You wouldn’t do that for anybody in Bosnia.
MR. RUBIN: He’s not going to negotiate the tribunal in which he’s going to be tried. Let me try to state this again.
The question is geography, not the quality of justice. We are not suggesting there would be any change in the quality of justice. The question is whether that justice system, with the same procedures, the same prosecutors, the same law, the same process by which justice is provided in a Scottish court would occur but in a different place. That is not allowing the suspect to choose the venue. The venue is a Scottish court. If it were in another location, it’s still a Scottish court; it’s a de facto Scottish justice system. That is the question. The point is to bring them to justice.
There have been indications that people speaking on behalf of Libya indicate the Libyans would do such a thing. We are skeptical. But if we created such a venue and an arrangement was made by which the Scottish court could be located somewhere else, then Libya would be in a position where they couldn’t be seeking to mask their position by saying they would do something else. They would have to comply. They have to comply now; they have to comply then. In either case, it’s a Scottish court.
If they don’t comply then, then some of these people who have been suggesting that the Libyans would comply in some other form are going to be less supportive of the Libyan position, and that will be good for the maintenance of the sanctions regime and the strengthening of it.
QUESTION: Jamie, some have suggested – and I won’t use the word critics, but just observers, people following the story, because I know how much you like that word – have suggested that since the US policy to isolate Libya has been basically ineffective over the last seven years or so, you’re softening your stance toward the Lockerbie situation in order to not only bring the suspects to justice, but open up a new policy toward Libya. How do you respond?
MR. RUBIN: Those observers must have missed what’s been going on over the last seven years. During those last seven years, the government of Libya has been isolated. It has had a sanctions regime imposed upon it. There is a travel ban for aircraft; there are oil parts that are not provided; there is a partial assets freeze. Believe me, all the indicators that are coming out of Libya are that they are desperate to get these sanctions removed. So they are feeling the sting of the sanctions; so those observers are incorrect.
With respect to a new policy towards Libya, they are equally incorrect. This is a simple question, which is how best to bring justice for the families of the United States and the United Kingdom whose family members were killed in this heinous crime. If this moving of the Scottish court to a third country will achieve that objective, the loser is Libya and the winner are those like the United States and like the families who have been seeking justice for this heinous crime.
QUESTION: So it’s incorrect to view this in any way as a back-pedaling of policy?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: Because you all have been adamant in saying that they should be brought either to the US or Britain; and now suddenly you’re throwing it to a third court where you say Scottish law and Scottish judges. But the fact of the matter is, you’re not going to get what you want – which is having them extradited to the US or Britain.
MR. RUBIN: The assertions in your question – all three of them – are incorrect. Number one, we have stated very clearly that we want to get a US or a Scottish court; that is what the resolution itself says – before US or Scottish courts. We have doubted in several occasions when Libya has talked about an international tribunal and opposed that – where it would be the World Court or some international court. Often people have mistaken that opposition for this kind of possibility. So it is incorrect — your second assertion – that we have said that we could never support this idea. I’ve looked through what we’ve said about it; and what we’ve said is that the various ideas that have been out there have all involved an international court or international judges or some other internationalized justice system, which is unacceptable to the United States. What this is is a Scottish court with geography not changing the quality of the justice.
So we are talking about a change in geography, not a change in the quality of justice.
QUESTION: A couple questions – why a Scottish panel and not an American panel in a third country?
MR. RUBIN: It was believed – and this has not been worked out yet – that that would be the most compatible for allowing a third country to permit this sort of a trial on its territory. We have to work with a third country here, and the third country involved – it was decided the most likely way in which one can work this out, if these questions can be answered – and, again, we’re in the exploratory phase and we have not made a decision – but the most likely possibility for this third country, The Netherlands, would be a Scottish justice system.
QUESTION: Do you think it would be any more palatable for the Libyans if it was Scottish rather than American?
MR. RUBIN: I’m not going to try to divine their –
QUESTION: I mean, I’m trying to divine your thinking.
MR. RUBIN: Our thinking was a legal thinking – how do you best make the legal adjustment so that you can have a Scottish court in a third country, in The Netherlands.
QUESTION: Okay, and also, is it the Administration’s position that all Qadhafi has to do is extradite these two suspects — who were allegedly in government employ when they conducted this operation – that all they have to do is extradite them to get the sanctions lifted?
MR. RUBIN: No, that’s not our position. I will get you after the briefing some of the specific resolutions. But it is our view that not only do the suspects have to be provided, but the Libyan Government has to cooperate in the trial; that appropriate compensation has to be paid; and they have to stop their support for international terrorism. Those are the requirements, and those haven’t changed.
QUESTION: That’s if these people are – if the trial happens and if these people are found guilty and if the evidence indicates that the Libyan Government was, in fact, behind it, then those standards would have to be —
MR. RUBIN: Well, it is our view that compensation ought to be paid, and if these nationals from Libya were involved – the four issues that I mentioned are requirements for sanctions to be lifted. It’s not enough to just hand over the suspects; there is a level of cooperation in the trial and the evidentiary proceedings and all that goes with that that would be required, as well as a flat change in Libya’s policy of supporting international terrorism.
QUESTION: One more – there was some talk – when Moussa was in town last week, there was some public discussion in a news conference and private discussions between you all and the Egyptians about his trip to Libya the previous week.
MR. RUBIN: You mean Mubarak’s trip?
QUESTION: Yes, Mubarak’s trip. I’m wondering whether this proposal grew out of your consultations with Mubarak, if he had any input on it, if he had formally presented it to Qadhafi?
MR. RUBIN: No. This has been something we’ve been considering and exploring for many, many, many months now. It grew out of Secretary Albright and other members of the Administration’s desire, following meetings with the families, to see whether we could be creative in bringing these suspects to justice. This is a creative alternative to a court in the US or the UK that serves the exact same purposes and will call Qadhafi’s bluff if, indeed, he doesn’t turn them over.
QUESTION: If in fact Qadhafi is sincere, could this not, in fact, be a sign of weakening, a sign that sanctions and his outlaw status – especially since he’s been wheelchair-bound now for almost two months; he’s looking weak in the eyes of his own people, perhaps, because of his injuries. Could this not, in fact, be a compromise on their part?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated in response to previous questions, we believe the sanctions regime has weakened Libya. They are desperate to get the sanctions regime lifted. Their only international diplomatic exercise, as far as I can tell, is to go around and seek assistance from other governments in getting the sanctions lifted. So obviously, the sanctions have weakened Libya. As far as what their motivation might be and would they, in fact, turn them over, I don’t care to speculate. It is our view that Libya must turn the suspects over for justice before US or British courts.
This idea that we’re exploring is simply a creative way to achieve that objective, if it can pass legal muster and all the questions that it involves can be answered successfully.
QUESTION: What does this government say about Muammar Qadhafi’s physical state and how he got in that state? Do you have anything to say?
MR. RUBIN: I don’t have any information on it. As I said yesterday, with respect to another similar type person, I don’t have any interest in wishing him well.
QUESTION: Jamie, can we go back to the phone call and give us more specifics, perhaps? How many family members? Was anyone else on the phone representing the British Government, perhaps?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Obviously, I assume, you’ve been in touch with them that you would have such a phone call, but maybe not. Has Secretary Albright spoken to families before this time? I know other officials have.
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright, I believe about a year ago, spoke to the families. When she was UN Ambassador, she spoke to them many times when this issue came up before the United Nations.
She has spoken twice to Foreign Secretary Cook in the last two days. With respect to your question of how many, I believe there were over ten family representatives of some kind or another on the call. It was only with American officials – with Mr. Berger and Secretary Albright.
QUESTION: How long was the phone call?
MR. RUBIN: I don’t know – 45 minutes or so.
QUESTION: Are other calls planned, Jamie, with other family members?
MR. RUBIN: I don’t believe so. I think that there will probably be continued discussion and consultation with the family members in the coming weeks; especially if the exploratory phase of this idea improves.
But again, we have not made a decision, and I hope all of you who are covering this issue accurately reflect the fact that we are exploring something. We have not made a decision; we’re exploring a creative way to deal with the fact that justice delayed is justice denied, and that a change of geography does not mean a change in the quality of justice. That is what we’re doing.
QUESTION: The reaction – what did Secretary Albright think about the reaction from the families?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, this is a very emotional issue. Family members who’ve lost loved ones in a heinous crime like this, it tends to be a very difficult conversation. She is quite understanding of their pain, and she and Mr. Berger try to explain the benefits, if this were to work out, of getting these people before an actual Scottish court – something that hasn’t happened for ten years.
Now, this has gone on for ten years, and this delay of justice is something that we’re trying to deal with. As I said, it will be up to the family members themselves to speak about this; and I don’t care to reflect their reactions, other than to say that there was a wide spectrum of opinion.
QUESTION: Just to be explicit, you have no guarantee, then, that if you choose to go ahead with this that the Libyans will turn over these two people? And secondly, how are you speaking to the Libyan Government on this? Is there an intermediary country; is it the interest section; who’s – how’s that working?
MR. RUBIN: I don’t think we’re going to have a communications problem here. The United Nations Secretary General has, on occasion, been in touch with them; various countries have been in touch with them; the OAU – the Organization of African Unity – has been in touch with them.
The question will be, once we make this arrangement – and this is not a negotiation. What we are talking about is a take-it-or-leave-it package that puts a Scottish court in a third country and presents that to the United Nations as an alternative way of meeting the objectives of the UN Security Council resolutions. I’m sure we’ll find out very quickly whether the Libyans are going to put their money where their mouth is or whether they were bluffing.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure I understand the status of this proposal. The Libyans have been going back, at least five years, to when they hired – (inaudible) – to try to work out a deal for them in Washington. There have been all kinds of proposals floated that were alternatives to just turning them over. So now we come to the 21st of July of 1998 and should we understand that there’s been some acceleration of the discussions, or that it’s moving to a more active phase?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, let me try to put this in a little context, because that’s a very good question. The Libyans, every time there’s a sanctions review in New York, come up with some new idea for why the current requirements of the UN Security Council resolution are unacceptable. Every time there’s a sanctions review, we try to remind the other countries of the world that the Libyans are seeking to mask their refusal to turn over with one cockamamie legal idea after another.
There have been ideas for an international court; trying them before the International Court of Justice; any number of ways to internationalize the issue. We have always refused to do that, and we continue to refuse to do that. We are not going to let the Libyans try to get the victims of justice to see the trial outside of the justice system of either Scotland or the UK.
About several months ago, we began to explore quietly, with a bit of discussion with other governments, and extensive discussions more recently, about whether there was a creative way to get a Scottish court in a third country. That’s all this is is an attempt by us to meet the very requirements of the Security Council with a creative idea. This is not a function of Libya’s ideas or any other ideas other than our own thought as to how you could either call Libya’s bluff about willingness to turn them over not in the United States or in the UK or get the actual trial with the same quality of justice we’ve long been seeking.
That is the intent. It’s been going on for some months. But again, there has been no decision, because all the important legal questions have not been answered.
QUESTION: Is the distinction between the Scottish court system and the American court system the issue of capital punishment? Is that why you —
MR. RUBIN: I don’t know the answer to that; I would have to try to get you a legal answer. I doubt it’s that simple.
QUESTION: Any response to my yesterday questions on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus?
MR. RUBIN: The fact that 24 years have now passed since the 1974 conflict only underscores our belief that the Cyprus dispute has gone on too long without a resolution. The US continues to work under the United Nations umbrella to resolve the dispute.
QUESTION: How do you comment on the violation of Cyprus air space and seas by Turkish forces, even with the presence of the Turkish Prime Minister in Nicosia?
MR. RUBIN: To the best of our knowledge, Turkish combat aircraft did not overfly Nicosia during the celebrations, although Turkish-Cypriot Cessnas and helicopters may have done so. A Turkish Air Force acrobatics team staged an air show near Kyrenia. As we have stated before, displays of military equipment by either side only unnecessarily raise tensions on the island and make the search for peace more difficult.
QUESTION: I was told that the US delegation from your embassy in Nicosia participated in the so-called Turkish ceremony of the invasion and occupation of Cyprus, and I am wondering why.
MR. RUBIN: No US officials attended the Turkish-Cypriot celebrations in any official capacity. US Embassy employees on their own time and unofficially were apparently present. Their presence is in no way an endorsement of the event.
QUESTION: And the last one – anything on last Friday’s meeting between DOS official and the EU delegation from England, Austria and Germany here in Washington on the Aegean and Cyprus issues?
MR. RUBIN: Both sides stressed the need, at that meeting, to jump start settlement negotiations on Cyprus. The European Union will look for ways to involve the Turkish-Cypriot side in the process of Cyprus’ accession to the European Union.
Both sides will continue to raise their concerns with the governments of Cyprus over its intention to purchase S-300 missiles. Both sides also stressed the importance of improving relations between the European Union and Turkey, and noted the European leaders’ endorsement at the summit in Cardiff of a European strategy to prepare Turkey for EU membership.
Finally, both sides agreed on the need to improve Greek-Turkish relations. In this context, they acknowledged the importance of NATO Secretary General Solana’s call for confidence-building measures, as well as greater direct contacts between the parties.
QUESTION: On his trip to Pakistan, did Mr. Talbott raise with the Pakistani Government the noticing of cancellation of power projects with US companies?
MR. RUBIN: Pakistan’s treatment of foreign independent power producers has been a subject of strong US concern for some time, and we have raised it at the highest levels of the Pakistani Government. The subject is on the agenda of the Deputy Secretary’s delegation. They, I believe, have a few minutes ago or shortly will meet the Prime Minister.
In its discussions with the Pakistani Government, we will be pointing out how national security has an economic as well as a military component, and that Pakistan’s current economic situation is dire and it would be a mistake to not treat foreign investors hospitably and honor their contracts.
The delegation will raise it. I can’t say for sure who will do it; but it will happen.
QUESTION: The premise of that seems to be that the US Government believes the allegations against the US companies are without foundation.
MR. RUBIN: On the contrary – we are raising with the government there a subject of our concern that this decision or otherwise interfering with these contracts or US businessmen is not correct and wrong and shouldn’t happen. The fact that we raise it at the highest level of governments means we give credence to the reports.
QUESTION: But I mean, the Pakistani Government has alleged that there was corruption in these contracts; that the US companies were involved somehow in corrupt activities with the Bhutto regime. I’m wondering if —
MR. RUBIN: I can’t really be too more specific about the specific issues of each of the companies. What I can say is that this type of discrimination is a matter of concern to us – strong US concern – and those points will be made. Then the actions will be judged on the merits of each of the cases.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more on Talbott’s trip? He has move on to Pakistan?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I don’t have anything new, really, to report; other than, obviously, what his goals are — and the goals today are the same as yesterday, which is how to reduce tensions in the area and get the Indian and Pakistani Governments to move step by step towards acceptance of international norms in the area of non-proliferation.
QUESTION: Did the Indians suggest a seat on the UN Security Council to —
MR. RUBIN: Let me be very clear on that. Secretary Albright has been very clear on that. India is not going to blow its way onto the Security Council as a permanent member. All it has done by conducting these explosions is to harm and make impossible, in the current circumstances, India joining the Security Council as a permanent member. We cannot support that kind of policy.
Let’s bear in mind that Germany and Japan, the other countries that we have supported for Security Council membership, have forsworn nuclear weapons and are members of the NPT. So there is no relationship between having nuclear weapons and American support for permanent membership. On the contrary – with the current trend away from the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with more and more countries forswearing them, India has made it far, far harder for it ever to join the UN as a permanent member.
QUESTION: Do you know if the issue arose during Talbott’s meeting in Delhi?
MR. RUBIN: I would assume that in a full-fledged discussion like this that the issue of India’s aspirations in this regard came up in one form or another. Whether it was in a formal bilateral or on the margins, though, I don’t know.
QUESTION: Later on today there’s going to be a background briefing?
MR. RUBIN: A background briefing on Pakistan and with respect to the international financial institutions.
QUESTION: Is there anything you can say on the record that might get us started, as to why – the reason for the briefing?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say that Pakistan’s serious economic problems, a legacy of severe and lengthy mismanagement, have been exacerbated by sanctions. A default could result in severe hardship for Pakistan’s people, leading to political instability and turmoil.
It was not our intention that sanctions should punish Pakistan’s citizens or precipitate an economic collapse. We need to respond in a prudent manner, and this can best be done through international institutions designed to deal with such problems.
We think it is critical that the IMF be allowed to resume negotiations on reinstating Pakistan’s IMF program. We are re-examining, with our G-7 colleagues, the multilateral approach to the IMF with respect to Pakistan.
Resumed IMF involvement is the minimum necessary to forestall a collapse of confidence in Pakistan’s economy; but it is unlikely, by itself, to prevent default. To turn things around, Pakistan must commit to serious economic reforms. We and our partners, together with the IMF, will do everything possible to see those reforms implemented.
We have not softened or somehow waived the sanctions. We are abstaining and making use of the flexibility that the law currently allows. We are not being softer on Pakistan than India. On the contrary – the overall effect of sanctions is harder on Pakistan; and in addition, India neither seeks nor receives support from the IMF.
Both India and Pakistan will continue to feel the impact of US sanctions. Pakistan will continue to be denied much needed spares for its US-origin military equipment, for instance; and both India and Pakistan will continue to be denied desperately needed financing and insurance for investment. We still retain significant leverage, but we are trying to deal with one of the fundamental problems right now, which is the state of the Pakistani economy.
QUESTION: So —
MR. RUBIN: So the backgrounder will be at 3:30 p.m.
QUESTION: Just one quick question on, I suppose, everyone’s favorite topic. On the Middle East, would you now say a half an inch is as good as a mile, or are we still at an inch being as good as a mile?
MR. RUBIN: Analogies in the Middle East are tough. I worked very hard to come up with that – an inch is as good as a mile – and now you’ve made me sorry that I did.
Look, they are working in these bilateral discussions. They are discussions that we were seeking. We are, as you know, have been working very hard to try to get an agreement to close the gaps and to restart the Middle East peace process. We have not yet reached that agreement; they have not yet closed the gaps.
Are they making progress? It’s up to the parties involved to comment on a bilateral meeting, rather than us. But I can tell you that we haven’t closed this down; and certainly, it’s plausible that just as an inch is as good as a mile in the Middle East peace process, a centimeter is as good as a mile or as a kilometer in the Middle East peace process.
QUESTION: Any travel plans for the special Middle East coordinator?
MR. RUBIN: I’m not aware of any.
QUESTION: The Washington Times says this morning – well, you don’t like to use the name of publications – anyway there’s a —
MR. RUBIN: I know, I try to avoid that unless there’s a really big mistake and then I use it.
QUESTION: Well, it’s published a report today saying that China produced six new ICBMs in the first four months of this year. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. RUBIN: The US and China are building a cooperative security relationship, as symbolized by the agreement of the two presidents not to target strategic nuclear missiles at each other. We believe such cooperative steps help build the basis for a new and improved security relationship in the future.
At the same time, we are aware that China continues its limited efforts to modernize its nuclear forces. I obviously can’t get into the specifics of such an article, allegedly based on intelligence matters.
QUESTION: On Colombia, yesterday President Samper recognized for the first time – openly — his campaign had been flooded by money from the cartels.
MR. RUBIN: I’m sorry, the question, please?
QUESTION: President Samper recognized yesterday openly that his company had been flooded by money from the Cali cartel.
MR. RUBIN: Well, flooded – we certainly – one of the factors that led to our denial of a visa for Samper was the fact that we thought there was too great a collusion between his administration and drug cartels. If he has admitted that, that sounds like admission is a step in the right direction. But visa revocations are based on a finding of ineligibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
As in any other case, a finding of permanent ineligibility, which was the case with Samper, is not altered by the fact that the applicant no longer holds public office.
QUESTION: Well, he recognized it, but at the same time he said that he wasn’t aware of it.
MR. RUBIN: It doesn’t change the fact that this gentleman will never get into the United States.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, I was informed that – (inaudible) — forces are stationed now in Kosovo. I’m wondering if you are aware of that, and do you have anything?
MR. RUBIN: There are reports stemming solely from claims by the Serbian armed forces. We cannot corroborate these reports. We do not have reason to believe there is an organized presence of Islamic mercenaries or volunteers in Kosovo. It is possible, however, that individuals from various Islamic countries may choose to fight in Kosovo, as we’ve said in the past.
QUESTION: North Korea – (inaudible) – had a briefing this morning, the director of KEDO. He said that they would be willing to accept – this is on the funding – money from any source, including Libya, including Iran. But he said that it was up to the United States to take the lead in raising the money. I’m just wondering whether you all have approached Iran for money for the KEDO project.
MR. RUBIN: I’ve never heard of such a thing.
QUESTION: No, it’s a serious question – why not?
MR. RUBIN: We are working with Congress and with other countries around the world to try to fund KEDO, and we see no need to approach Libya or any other such country for funding for KEDO.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, when you say “other such country,” what do you mean – do you mean countries that you consider supporters of terrorism or countries in another region?
MR. RUBIN: That’s a good example.
QUESTION: Could you —
MR. RUBIN: Look, I’ve just never heard of this notion, and so it’s hard for me to say anything other than it’s not happening, Sid. We are not seeking money from Iran or Libya or any other country of that kind to fund KEDO. We are working with Congress and other countries around the world to try to get such funds.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on that?
MR. RUBIN: I have no update on that.
QUESTION: Follow, if I may – that brought to mind the 66,000 tons of oil. Has it been delivered? Has it been —
MR. RUBIN: I have no idea; I will try to get you an update on the status of the oil.
QUESTION: What I really wanted to ask you is, tomorrow you’re off – or no briefing —
MR. RUBIN: There will be a briefing in the afternoon on the Secretary’s trip to Asia.
QUESTION: Do you know what time yet?
MR. RUBIN: 2:00 p.m.
QUESTION: And then Thursday, we’re back here with you; and then Friday, have you decided?
MR. RUBIN: Correct. I’m not clear yet.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)