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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
4-5Status of the US Option of Military Force in Dealing with Iraq
5-6Status of Iraqi Compliance with UNSCOM Inspections
6 Adjustment of Force Posture in the Region
6UNSC Sanctions Committee Review of Iraqi Compliance
6Russia's View of Iraqi Sanctions
6-7Reaction to Reports of Large Numbers of Shia Being Put to Death


[EXCERPTS] U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 49
THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 1998, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
)

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

QUESTION: There's a report today that suggests that the United States is giving up the military option vis-à-vis Iraq. I was wondering if, in fact, you had either come to a conclusion or at least were moving in that direction?

MR. RUBIN: First let me state my normal caution against believing everything you read in the newspapers or in the wire services or even those things you watch on television. Did I miss anybody? Magazines - news mags.

QUESTION: Radio.

MR. RUBIN: Radio, as well.

QUESTION: Internet.

MR. RUBIN: And the Internet. I think I've covered everything now. And always believe that your able Spokesman is doing his best to tell you everything he knows and everything he can tell you.

Our objectives on Iraq remain the same: to diminish the threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and reduce his ability to threaten his neighbors. To pursue those objectives, we are supporting the UN Security Council resolutions that demand the Iraq provide a full disclosure about it's WMD -- weapons of mass destruction -- programs. The US remains willing to use all appropriate means to secure Iraqi compliance with these resolutions.

The issue at hand in the earlier crisis was Saddam Hussein's demand that all the inspectors be kicked out of Iraq and complete their work in a month's time; and secondly, Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow access for UN inspectors to presidential complexes that provided a sanctuary for potentially hidden material, referring to weapons of mass destruction. The United States deployed military force to the region. Those forces are still there. They, in combination with our diplomacy, made it possible for the palaces to be open to inspection, and made it possible for Saddam Hussein to cooperate to the extent of allowing those inspections.

But the fundamental problem remains. Whether it's Anthrax, whether it's missiles, whether it's VX, whether it's other germ warfare weaponry or germ warfare components, whether it's other poison gas, Saddam Hussein will not come forward and positively provide to the United Nations what he produced, and what he did with what he produced, and eliminate the huge discrepancy between what the UN can confirm was destroyed and what the UN knows has been imported. That is what this crisis is about; and so long as he refuses to do so, we will hold the line in preventing any adjustment in the sanctions policy.

With respect to the use of force, I think I've made clear that the United States remains willing to use all appropriate means to secure Iraqi compliance with these resolutions; but we are not going to get into a public discussion of what would or would not trigger what type of military action.

QUESTION: Well, you have in the past talked about military actions.

MR. RUBIN: I think we've been very clear on not providing you a specific trigger for the President's decision. I think we've talked about what the results would be of a failure to comply with it, being that we would consider the military option. But beyond saying that, I think we've been very careful not to preview for Saddam Hussein what would or wouldn't result from some specific action.

QUESTION: A couple of follow-ups. I believe it was last week you were playing off of the most recent report by Butler; you were very critical about Iraq and what it wasn't doing.

MR. RUBIN: I hope I was equally today.

QUESTION: No, you were. But the question is raised, then -- and I apologize if this seems to be sort of going over the ground where we covered -- but I just want to make sure it's explicit. Does this failure of Iraq to comply still with UN resolutions, and specifically the arms inspections, make it more or less likely that you feel that you may have to keep force as an option on the front burner?

MR. RUBIN: Well, with respect to what we would or wouldn't do with our forces in terms of drawing them down, we have not made any decision to draw down the forces we now have in the region. With respect to what would or wouldn't trigger the use of force, again, what I'm trying to distinguish between, is the refusal of Saddam Hussein to even allow the inspectors to do their work, to allow them access to these presidential complexes, and to threaten to kick them out on the one hand; and on the other hand, the fact that his failure to positively provide information, material and analysis that proves what they do or don't have, is non-compliance of a different type. That kind of non-compliance makes it impossible for the Security Council to ever declare him in compliance with Resolution 686 on weapons of mass destruction, and therefore means that so long as he refuses to comply on this critical point, sanctions will remain.

On the other hand, non-compliance by threatening to kick out the inspectors and declaring huge sanctuaries in Iraq was something that we believed required us to deploy our forces to the region, it is one of the reasons our forces are still there. If we make any adjustments in our force posture, we'll obviously talk about why we did so. But for now, what I can say is that we remain willing to use all appropriate means to secure Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions.

QUESTION: Is the Administration seriously discussing now the draw down of those forces?

MR. RUBIN: Again, I wouldn't want to preview any discussions that we may or may not be having internally; other than to say that on a regular basis we carefully review our approach to further challenges by Iraq and meet regularly to discuss it. And if and when there is any decision to adjust our force posture, it would be announced either by the President or the Secretary of Defense.

QUESTION: So Jamie, when the sanctions review comes up in the next week or two, I gather that the United States will vote against any easing of sanctions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there isn't a formal voting process. I can't imagine, based on the report that Chairman Butler has provided, that any country in the Security Council - any country would be advocating a suspension of any part of the sanctions regime because the organization authorized to make judgments about Iraq's compliance with weapons of mass destruction requirements has made clear that in case after case, in time after time -- whether it's poison gas, weapons of mass destruction, biological warfare, missiles, missile warheads -- there is a wholesale pattern of lying and non-compliance, which would have to change dramatically for any serious country on the Security Council to want to adjust the sanctions regime.

QUESTION: So you have no doubt that Russia will stand by you - (inaudible) - sanctions?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any country that is now proposing that sanctions be adjusted in the face of a report of Iraqi across-the-board non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to reports of a large number of Shia being assassinated, or put to death, rather?

MR. RUBIN: We have no independent confirmation of these reports. However, we note that these reports are entirely consistent with the practices described by UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Max Van der Stoel in his most recent report on Iraq. He makes clear that torture and execution without trial and due process are normal practices in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: The same wire report said that there were also reports of increased action by Shia in the south against the regime.

MR. RUBIN: We hear that from time to time; I don't have any information assessing the current level of opposition activity. I can say that, overall, Saddam Hussein continues to oppress and abuse the human rights and the basic rights of Iraqis in the south who are trying to have a minimum of human rights, and that continues.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)

[end of document]