News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1999
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

INDIA/PAKISTAN
1-3Downed Pakistani Plane/Diplomatic Contacts Regarding Incident
4-7Travel Warning to Pakistan/Security Concerns/Threats to Americans


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #101
TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1999, 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)


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QUESTION: What do you have on the latest on the conflict between India and Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: We have seen a number of reports that a Pakistani naval reconnaissance aircraft flew over Indian territory near the Arabian Sea and was shot down. We have asked our embassies to work to try to ascertain the facts in this situation and to look into it.

I can say that such incidents, regardless of the precise details of how it occurred, illustrate the continued high state of tension between India and Pakistan; the need for the two countries to resolve their difference through dialogue. We certainly hope that with respect to this incident, the appropriate officials are in contact from the two governments so that restraint can be the order of the day.

QUESTION: There are reports that in the Kargil sector, Pakistan is still hoping to -- (inaudible). That situation has not resolved itself. And also, the Prime Minister of India requests specifically that before we can enter dialogue, Pakistan has got to dismantle the structure of terrorism in Pakistan -- (inaudible) - and arm the militants, send them across the border. Almost every day now people have been killed by the militants sent from across the border. How do you expect a dialogue to take place under these circumstances?

MR. RUBIN: We do believe that a dialogue should take place; we believe that very strongly. We believe that the only way to resolve issues between India and Pakistan is through dialogue. We believe that the commitments made by Prime Minister Sharif have been met with respect to the Kargil situation. We do not believe that the Kashmir situation in general has been resolved. You're describing reasons why that is true, and we agree that the situation hasn't been resolved.

But we believe that the best way to resolve these problems between India and Pakistan - a whole host of problems -- including the Kashmir problem - is for the two sides to talk to each other pursuant to the Lahore process that began some months ago.

QUESTION: Is there a role for the US to play in helping this situation not to escalate further? Has the Secretary of State been on the phone at all with her counterparts and does she plan such a phone call?

MR. RUBIN: No, not at this time. Right now the appropriate thing to do is to get the facts, and we don't have all the facts. We certainly, in talking to both India and Pakistan through our embassies, which we believe at this point is the right level to deal with this situation, will be urging restraint and urging the two parties to talk to each other.

More broadly, we have said that we want to be helpful where we can be helpful and where both parties want us to be helpful. We think we were quite helpful in the most recent situation, with respect to Kargil. Clearly, the United States played a critical role in ensuring that the situation didn't spin out of control. But each situation is different; and for now, with respect to this reported shoot-down, we think the first step is to get the facts.

QUESTION: When you have the facts, will the State Department consider it wise or will the State Department, in a practical sense, announce the facts it has found, or would you consider that something that might hurt an attempt to do some quiet mediation? I mean, there's a

dispute -- did the plane intrude into Indian airspace or not? Now, you folks still don't know, hours after the plane was shot down, presumably. But if you did know, would you tell everybody, would you say something publicly, which would be a way of coming down on one side or the other?

MR. RUBIN: Well, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. It depends on the circumstances; it depends on the situation. We will act commensurate with what we believe to be the best way to promote our national security by avoiding escalation of tensions in the region. Every situation is different.

QUESTION: On that point, does the US Government have any means of knowing now which side of the border the plane was when it was shot down?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not in a position to describe for you our intelligence methods and capabilities around the world in any specific case. That's never been my practice. If you would like to know what our means are to know things like that, I'd suggest you address that question to the appropriate authorities in other agencies.

QUESTION: No, the question wouldn't go to - we don't have to ask. To answer the question, you don't have to disclose --

MR. RUBIN: If I say that we're seeking the facts, usually that means we don't have the facts. If we had the facts, we wouldn't be seeking the facts.

QUESTION: If a Pakistan plane intruded into India airspace, the US Government could say that, couldn't it, if it found that to be so, without revealing any secret methods of detecting things?

MR. RUBIN: That wasn't the question.

QUESTION: I think that was the question.

MR. RUBIN: The question was whether we knew --

QUESTION: No, the question was (inaudible) precisely, does the United States have the capability of knowing?

MR. RUBIN: So in defense of your defense of your colleague, your colleague was asking precisely the question that I was reluctant to answer.

QUESTION: I would think eyeballs are sufficient capability to know if a plane intrudes --

MR. RUBIN: Well, assuming you have human beings all over India and Pakistan to know everything in real time.

QUESTION: I'm not thinking about secret codes. I mean, if Pakistan intruded into India airspace, I would hope that the US Government has the wherewithal to know that and would have the courage to say so, without revealing any state secrets.

MR. RUBIN: Your hope may exceed the capabilities of any technical ability to know everything at all times. The idea that the United States or anybody would be guaranteed and confident that it would know where any aircraft is at any given time is not borne out by the technical capabilities that exist in this world.

QUESTION: When you say you're still waiting for the facts, surely you accept the fact that the plane has been shot down, yes?

MR. RUBIN: There are different accounts that have been put forward by some. I've seen reports that suggested it wasn't shot down.

QUESTION: A plane is down.

MR. RUBIN: A plane is down. We have no reason to dispute that.

QUESTION: Apart from trying to ascertain the facts, have you already urged restraint in any way, through any channels? Have you called the ambassadors here, for example?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe there has been anything done here. I believe at this point, right now the best way to deal with it is - it's late, but we are talking to the parties in India and in Pakistan, trying to ascertain the facts. In ascertaining the facts, the message that we will be sending - and probably have sent by now - is to urge restraint because we don't want to see the situation grow and we want the two sides to resolve their differences through dialogue.

QUESTION: Can we put a couple of questions on the travel warning, which I hope you've seen, just distributed a few minutes ago?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Several things - it speaks of gathering growing information that terrorists may strike at US interests in Pakistan. Could interests be elaborated at all - people, buildings, embassy; or is it as vague as that - that the threats -- (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say what is new about the travel warning first, before we go try to examine and analyze the normal language that's in this travel warning. What's new about the travel warning is that our embassy in Islamabad decided to defer all official travel to the tribal areas of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, areas which lie outside the normal jurisdiction of the Government of Pakistan. These are areas under Pakistani law that are governed by local, traditional, tribal authorities not by the national government. We've decided to defer official travel to those areas. That is what is new about it.

It is not related to the latest incidence, and either the false report about what was going on in Qatar yesterday, or the suggestion or the events of today with regard to the plane.

As you know, in recent days, certain leaders of radical Islamic political parties and factions in Pakistan have made speeches praising Usama Bin Laden and threatening Americans because of our case against Bin Laden. Most recently, the head of the Jumiat Ulema-I- Islam Party renewed such threats following a meeting with a US Embassy official. We take such threats seriously - this was just last week - and asked for the meeting to raise our concerns about irresponsible remarks by him and others that can heighten the danger to Americans in Pakistan. We try to make these judgments as best we can and be as vigilant as possible with respect to security and safety.

With respect to how to define the word "interests," American interests can be broadly defined. They could be property; they could be the interests of commercial businesses associated with the United States; they could be official Americans. It depends on how the wide the terrorist wants to define it. We've seen cases around the world where to kill private Americans is somehow deemed to - or non-official Americans or just plain old Americans - has deemed to be, illogically, some benefit to somebody.

QUESTION: One more thing. You pointed out what's new about this, but this sentence is written in the present tense and the word "growing" is used. It says, "US Government continues to receive a growing body of information." A statement dated August 10 that says that - to give words their normal meaning - means that you have more information now than you had yesterday or maybe a week ago or the last time a travel warning was issued. So there is continual accumulating evidence. You also say flatly in this - the State Department says -- that Usama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan. There's no reported, believed to be; you know he's there.

MR. RUBIN: I think Mr. Sheehan confirmed that at this very podium about a week ago.

QUESTION: So is there material - given this growing information, is there cause --

MR. RUBIN: I should say Ambassador Sheehan confirmed that about a week ago.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR. RUBIN: Newly confirmed.

QUESTION: So taking all that into account, is there cause for action now by the US Government? If you know this and you know where he is, what do you do? Do you wait for him to hit, or do you have a basis for going after him?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think that it would of help to our policy to bring to justice Usama Bin Laden and the others responsible for the embassy bombings to speculate in public about what we will do or won't do, or when we will or won't do anything. Usama Bin Laden and the others indicted should know that this country will not rest until they are brought to justice; and the less they sleep knowing that, the better I feel.

QUESTION: Specifically the threat that's caused the embassy to defer travel to the Northwest Frontier - is that related to Bin Laden or is that something separate?

MR. RUBIN: What I'm prepared to say - for the purposes of you all understanding today's events - is that this travel warning bears no relation to the plane being shot down -- let me tell you what I can say and then what I can't say -- the plane being shot down; the false report yesterday about American soldiers arriving in Qatar. What I cannot say is - or was it Oman? A report by Qatar TV - zero, which had that false report.

What I can say is that this travel warning does not relate to that. What I cannot say is to parse for you the reasons and the rationales for every single security decision that is made by our embassy and our Diplomatic Security officials. I will not be in a position, as a matter of practice, to describe for you a particular group's threats and the particular effects it has as a matter of policy. That is something our security people do not want me to do.

QUESTION: I don't understand why this is such a difficult question for you to answer. I mean, it --

QUESTION: Can I put it another way? Has something changed in the tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier Province in the last week? I mean, these areas have always been rather unruly.

MR. RUBIN: Right, and so one has to make judgment calls. The security business is not a perfect business. One doesn't have perfect knowledge and one doesn't have perfect defense against knowledge that one has. So one makes judgments.

Based on recent threats against US citizens in Pakistan, including the one I just read to you, by particular political leaders praising Usama Bin Laden's threats against Americans - including those - we have made a judgment. The judgment is that these particular places we will not send official travel to.

It doesn't necessarily mean that there is a person in those places who has threatened us. It may mean that in those places, it is harder to secure official Americans because there is not Pakistani authority there. So making these connections that you often - I understand how you have to make because you're trying to figure out how to write the sentence - is very different from those of us who are trying to protect our people.

QUESTION: Jamie, these various hard-line Islamic groups that have been now issuing these recent threats, is it due to new - can you explain why it is, because we've been building a case against UBL for some months now, why it is that we believe they're heightening their attacks against US officials - excuse me, Americans - now?

MR. RUBIN: I can't answer that. It's beyond us to understand the logic of anyone threatening terrorism to kill innocent Americans. We are careful to observe what it is that they're doing; to listen carefully to those who would pose threats to Americans or support those who would and we respond as appropriate. As far as devining their evil reasons for threatening innocent civilians through terrorism, I don't have any ability to do that.

If the question is are we doing something that is making them more or less concerned, let me say to you as I did in response to Barry, which is this government will not rest until Usama Bin Laden and the people connected with him are brought to justice. We are determined to see that happen. But as far as being more specific about that, we think that would be a mistake.

QUESTION: How large an organization is this? How many people are we talking about that would be threatening US citizens?

MR. RUBIN: The political party is a radical Islamic political party that has made a political statement praising Usama Bin Laden and threatening Americans because of our case against Bin Laden.

What we're concerned about in a case like that - not that this party may be a large or a small party or may or not have followers who are armed and dangerous -- but that they will feed the idea that this a good thing to do rather than an evil thing to do, which is what it is. So we don't have a new amount of people joining some battle. This is a phony battle; there is no battle between Islam and the United States. There is an attempt by a very small but very determined group of evil men to kill innocent Americans and innocent Kenyans and innocent Tanzanians through mass murder through the bombing of these two embassies and other activities. That's what I can say about it.

QUESTION: Just one other thing. Is this group called the Harakat ul-Ansar? Is that the same?

MR. RUBIN: This group is --

QUESTION: Or previously known as?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what they were previously known as and --

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if they're the same group that's upset about the fact that Pakistan or at least --

MR. RUBIN: I'll check the genealogy of their current name; but as I understand it the current name is Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam.

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