News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
3 ,6Diplomats (Special Group), No-Notice Inspections and UNSCOM
4Discussions About Iraq With Allies on Secretary's Trip to Europe and Canada
4,5-6Iraqi Compliance with Agreement/Possible Use of Force and Ally Support
5,6Language of the Agreement/Message Contained in Language
6Opposition Parties to Iraq
6,10UN "Special Group," and UN and Ambassador Butler's Authority
10,11Russian, Chinese Pope's Remarks Concerning Possible Military Conflicts
11Timeline for Iraq's Implementation of Agreement
11US Ambassador to Kuwait Meetings with Iraqi Mr. Al Bakr


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 27
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 1998, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

........................

QUESTION: I have a question about the diplomats and the inspectors, on Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there any concern here that the diplomats might be there to - or some of them might tip off the Iraqis about inspections, and so forth?

MR. RUBIN: Chairman Butler, I think, has spoken to this. We do not believe a properly organized inspection, even one including diplomats, need be one that would change the procedures that UNSCOM has followed to allow for no-notice inspection. This is not a complicated problem. It's one that we have every reason to believe Chairman Butler and Ambassador Dhanapala, the Sri Lankan diplomat and expert who will be involved in this, will be able to organize quite easily. There are mechanisms in the arms control business to ensure that inspections are not carried out in a way that the Iraqi side knows well in advance where they're going. For example, in the past, UNSCOM has only told their minders where they're going at the last minute. So there are procedures that can be worked out, and we have every reason to believe they will be. We have no reason to believe that this is an insurmountable problem.

QUESTION: Jamie, you said that the Secretary's trip was also to reinforce the relationship between our closest allies and that Iraq would come up. Is it fair to presume that she's going to be following up discussions about military action with our allies, should the deal that was brokered last week fall through?

MR. RUBIN: I would assume that, yes. The view of the United States is that we are better off either way with this agreement. If the Iraqis were to reverse course in action the way they reversed course on paper and allow UNSCOM to have the unconditional, unfettered access across the board to all the sites in Iraq they have been previously denying access to, the best way to confront this problem will be able to be achieved.

If, however, the Iraqis continue their past pattern and block inspectors and interfere with the work of UNSCOM, we have concrete assurances from key allies that they will be more supportive of the need to use force. And President Clinton and Secretary Albright have been quite clear that a failure by Iraq to comply with this agreement will yield the most severe consequences. We have reason to believe that that view is one that is more widely shared than it would have been had Iraq not signed this agreement.

QUESTION: Is this trip in response to what happened last week?

MR. RUBIN: No, the trip is not in response to what happened last week. The trip is scheduled for the reasons that I stated. But when one meets the German Foreign Minister, the French Foreign Minister, the British Foreign Minister at a time like this, I would fully expect them to go over the Iraq issue in great detail and plan for possible contingencies if past is prologue and Iraq does violate the agreement.

QUESTION: Jamie, following up on that, you used the phrase, "the most severe consequences" just now, and I'm sure you didn't just happen across that phrase in your brain. But that does not appear the way the resolution is going at the moment, unless you have something you want to tell us about that.

MR. RUBIN: Let me make this point very clear. It's not so important what this resolution says. What we have is concrete assurances from key leaders, from key governments around the world, that they will be more supportive of the possible use of force if Iraq violates this agreement.

I would urge you to contact your colleagues in New York and you may discover that the wordings have changed a couple of times on that resolution. What we care about is that the resolution is a strong signal to Iraq that if it does violate this agreement, if it reneges on an agreement made before the whole world, that they understand what the consequences would be.

We have made clear what those consequences would be. We have also made clear that we don't see the need to return to the Security Council. And we also have very clear assurances from key governments that they would understand and be more supportive of that position, if it comes to that.

QUESTION: Would you agree that resorting to language other than "the severest consequences," which the United States had urged last week, is a step back for the Security Council?

MR. RUBIN: Let me put it this way -- I am not sure that's going to be the result, so I don't want to speculate on what the result is going to be. They are still consulting right now on this. The process is underway. What I can tell you is that our view is that if Iraq violates this agreement, President Clinton and Secretary Albright have made clear the United States will act. And we have assurances from key governments, including those who are on the Security Council, that they would be more supportive of that action if Iraq were to violate this agreement.

I don't know what the final resolution will say. That's still under discussion. But it's not as relevant as the kind of private discussions that we've had that let us know where people are, because we've made clear that we don't see the need to return to the Security Council if there is a violation of this agreement.

QUESTION: Do you think that Iraq is going to understand this as a strong signal, if the language does get watered down from "most severe" to "mild" or "moderate"?

MR. RUBIN: I think that Iraq knows full well the views of the United States, and they will be no under no illusions about the consequences, if they violate this agreement.

QUESTION: Does the fact that you're saying that the resolution is still under discussion and it could change again, and so on - is the US still, at this moment, urging the Security Council to use the language the US favored last week? Or is the US saying, as you seem to be saying publicly, you guys can say whatever you want to say, because we don't think it's important to go back to the Security Council and because we believe we have these private assurances from the allies; go ahead, do whatever you want to do?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. As someone who has worked in New York and knows how we talk about resolutions, we try not to say what exact words we want, because then if the words change just the littlest bit, reporters are fond of writing about American walk-backs and failures and disappointments.

QUESTION: What are you talking about?

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: So we try to make clear what the point is. And the point is to send the strongest possible message to Iraq that if it fails to comply, it will pay a severe price.

The language is being talked about right now. I am not saying we don't care about the resolution. I am not saying that at all. On the contrary, the stronger the message from the Security Council that comes out, the more likely, in our view, it is that Iraq will comply, and the more clear it will be to them. However, at the end of the day, I don't think they have any doubts as to where the United States stands, and I think that we have made clear that we don't need to return to the Security Council.

QUESTION: Jamie, how frequent are your meetings with the representatives of the opposition who are here? How active is this government in trying to deal with them?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. Secretary Albright and National Security Advisor Berger have made clear in recent days that we will find more effective ways to work with opposition groups; and we want to do that. But beyond that statement, I can't give you an actual number of times. I know that David Welch has been active in our building, and NSC officials have been active over there in meeting with Iraqi opposition figures. We will find more effective ways to work with them.

QUESTION: How cohesive a group is this really? I mean, is it really effective to continue to work with these people? Are they really a viable opposition that presents a united front against this man?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I am not going to malign one force or another, one group or another by answering your question directly. What I can say is that by saying we need to work with them more effectively in the future, I think implied in that is a concern regarding a lack of effectiveness in the past.

QUESTION: Jamie, this weekend the Iraqi ambassador to the UN seemed to suggest that the chain of command within a special group as regards the palaces was open to interpretation, and it depended on how one would look at it or how you look at it. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, the simple answer is Ambassador Hamdoon was wrong; Chairman Butler was right. Ambassador Hamdoon is doing what he normally does, which is try to color clear language with obfuscation and ambiguity.

The Secretary General, the Chairman of UNSCOM Ambassador Butler, have both made clear that Ambassador Butler is in charge of the inspection process in Iraq, everywhere in Iraq. Diplomats may accompany UNSCOM inspectors on their tasks at these particular sites, but there's no doubt in our minds, Ambassador Butler's mind, or, as far as we can tell, in the Secretary General's mind, that Ambassador Butler is in charge.

QUESTION: As far as you can tell. Have you had a discussion with the Secretary General about this subject? And if not, why not?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we have. And "as far as we can tell" was not a weasel phrase. The Secretary General has provided us concrete assurances that Ambassador Butler is in charge. It was just one of those words to lengthen the sentence.

QUESTION: You were ad-libbing. Okay.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'll try to avoid that in the future.

It's a quiet group.

.................


[end of document]