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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 1999
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
8US strongly believes UNSCOM has done an enormous service to the world.
8UN sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq disarms.
8US has always been open to ideas to improve inspection regime.
8-9Reports of Iraqi planned disavowal of its border with Kuwait are extremely disturbing.
9US is determined to work with its friends at UN and in region to assist Iraqi people.
9War of words with other Arab governments a sign of increasing Iraqi isolation.
9-10Reports that 25 Iraqi officers were executed have surfaced since mid-December.
10Opposition sources say 63 additional civilians have been executed in past two months.
10,13US welcomes productive meeting of two Iraqi Kurdish leaders on January 8, and their agreement to share revenues.
11Proposed disbursement of funds in Iraq Liberation Act will be reported to Congress.
13US sees no need to investigate UNSCOM.
13UNSCOM's mission remains extremely important, and the best method to disarm Iraq.
14US uses elaborate national technical means to monitor Iraq.
14US is determined to enforce the no-fly zones.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #5
MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 1999, 12:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

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

QUESTION: On Butler, he spoke today in Washington. He acknowledged there may have to be a different UNSCOM - that is, one that just monitors as opposed to carrying out intrusive inspections. What is the US position on this; is it UNSCOM or nothing as far as the US is concerned?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen Ambassador Butler's comments, so I would not be in a position to respond to a rendition of them. Let me simply say on UNSCOM, we believe very strongly that the UN Special Commission has done an enormous service to the world in its effort - largely successful in the early phases - to disarm large quantities of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We believe very strongly that the Security Council resolutions make it clear that sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq complies with the requirements to disarm.

With respect to particular ideas, we have said, and we will continue to say, that we look forward to discussing with any country ideas they have on how to get the most effective regime to disarm Iraq into Iraq. But Security Council resolutions make it clear that sanctions can only be lifted when Iraq complies. These resolutions simply can't be leap-frogged; they are on the books. Iraq has not disarmed, and the United States is committed to see that years of work by the Security Council and the UN Special Commission calling for Iraq's disarmament are respected.

We expect the discussions in New York this week to continue with an emphasis on the need to sustain a disarmament program and to improve the humanitarian program which the Council has mandated. Having said that, let me also add, we have always been open to ideas to improve the professionalism, the competence and the effectiveness of the UN Special Commission's regime. We will continue to be willing to discuss any such ideas with our partners in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Saddam Hussein has said that Iraq should not abide by the border between Iraq and Kuwait. Does that cause the blood pressure to rise?

MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly the one area where there had deemed to be some progress during the time that Secretary Albright was Ambassador in New York was a time when Iraq formally went through the process of recognizing that border. The reports that Iraq may consider rescinding that recognition of Kuwait and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions are, therefore, extremely disturbing.

We think this is an extremely serious matter, and we will be watching this situation very carefully. We will act if Iraq threatens its neighbors.

QUESTION: Jamie, are you encouraged that the Iraqi Parliament decided not to take up the issue itself?

MR. RUBIN: We are hard-pressed to be encouraged by anything that is done by the Iraqi leadership or its parliament because not doing something illegal is hardly something to be encouraged by.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia has - I don't know if this was a part of another question - but Saudi Arabia has said that they are encouraging the ouster of Saddam Hussein; his regime is a blot on the Arab world. I believe Egypt has joined, and Kuwait has said something to this effect. This comes in reaction to the fact that Saddam asked for revolution in the Arab states that did not support him in this military incursion. So I would ask you, is this a welcome development, that Saudi Arabia has taken the lead?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say that there are several aspects to Saudi Arabia's position that I'd like to address. First of all, the United States has been among the foremost advocates for humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. The Saudis have suggested some proposals to provide increased aid to the people of Iraq. We have not yet seen a detailed proposal and, therefore, can't comment in detail. We can say that we are determined to work with our friends and allies, including Saudi Arabia, in the region and on the Security Council to assist the Iraqi people.

We will be consulting closely with Saudi Arabia, members of the Security Council and others about ideas for improving and expanding the humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq. Of course, this must be done in such a way as to ensure that we deny Saddam Hussein access to revenue from exports or control over imports. He has proved time and time again that he would use such resources to rearm rather than help his own citizens.

With respect to the call for ouster, let me say that the war of words being waged between Iraq's leadership and the other countries in the region are yet another in a series of signs that the Iraqi regime is getting increasingly isolated in the Arab world and around the world. We would welcome a new government in Iraq, one that is committed to living in peace with its neighbors and fulfilling its international obligations. We would work with such a government to lift sanctions and relieve its debt burden if that were to occur.

In that regard, let me add a couple of points about events in Iraq. Opposition sources have reported at least four separate incidents with more than 25 officers executed between December 13 and December 19. On December 13, 18 officers were reportedly executed at Abu Ghuraib prison, four for plotting to assassinate Saddam Hussein. On December 18, at least five officers, including two generals, were reportedly executed for attempting a mutiny at the Al Rashid military base outside Baghdad. On December 19, two lieutenant colonels were said to have been executed on unspecified charges at the Al Taji military base outside Baghdad.

Opposition sources also report that the commander of the 11th Mechanized Division was killed on the orders of Ali Hassan Al Majid. They and several members of his staff met the same fate shortly thereafter. In the past, the 11th Division has been noted in action against civilian targets. The exact reason for Al Majid's dissatisfaction with the division is unclear, but all accounts describe insubordination related to an order to strike against Shia civilians.

We have seen reports from the Iraqi opposition in the civilian side that 63 civilian political prisoners were killed at the Abu Ghuraib prison outside Baghdad starting December 13. Combined with some of the reports I gave you earlier, this brings the total summary execution total for the last two months to nearly 500 persons.

Reports of a heightened number of summary executions in Iraq have been reaching us since 1997. They evince a profound disregard by the Iraqi regime for human life, human rights and political and religious freedom. We deplore and condemn in the strongest terms this reported activity, and we call on the government of Iraq to allow human rights monitors to enter Iraq.

With respect to confirming and I use the word "reports," the exact accuracy of these reports, obviously only human rights monitors could do so if Iraq permitted them to enter the country. The UN Special Rapporteur for Iraq considers past reports of summary executions emanating from Iraq to be credible, as do we, because they are from multiple, independent sources; provide a telling level of detail; and in denying access by human rights monitors, the regime is going out of its way to prevent efforts at confirmation.

Meanwhile, in the North, the two Iraqi Kurdish leaders held very congenial and productive meetings in Salahedin in Iraq on Friday, January 8. We were in close contact with them before and after the meetings, as were our Turkish and British colleagues. The talks focused on ways to implement further the reconciliation agreement the leaders concluded during their meetings with Secretary Albright in September. We welcome this development and congratulate the leaders for taking one more courageous step forward on behalf of the people of Northern Iraq.

In their joint statement, they reaffirmed their commitment to the provisions of the Washington agreement; indicated they would implement immediately - and this is important - provisions related to finance and revenues; announced that the few remaining prisoners each side was holding would be released; and several other provisions.

Certainly the fact the two parties are now sharing revenues is of major significance. With this financial link established, it should be much easier for them to coordinate administrative

programs throughout the three Northern provinces. Obviously, the fact that Mr. Talibani was able to travel to the headquarters of the KDB in itself indicates the high degree of trust.

So all of that information is designed to suggest to you that Saddam Hussein is becoming increasingly isolated in his region, amongst the Arabs, amongst the world; that people in Iraq are obviously are sufficiently appalled and abhor the decisions he has made to take the brave steps that some have taken. Also, obviously, the reported assassinations are an indicator of the deep unhappiness of the Iraqi people and many in the Iraqi regime system with the policies, practices of Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: But why doesn't, then, the United States join with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and take this matter, say, if I may be so bold as to say, to the UN and suggest an ouster to the Security Council, some kind of Security Council pronouncement for the ouster of this man while there are still those in Iraq to revolt?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we have made clear our support for a policy of containing Iraq so long as Saddam Hussein is in power, while working to promote regime change during that period. That is our policy; that is what we are doing. We've been meeting with opposition groups to that effect. Obviously, we are making known in private our policy to all the relevant governments. That is what we are pursuing.

With regard to your specific idea, I'm not sure that would advance the cause of overthrowing the regime, but I'm sure there's someone in the State Department who wouldn't mind that if you fleshed it out and sent it to them.

QUESTION: As long as you're talking about regime change and working with the opposition groups, can you bring us up to date on how much, if any, of the money appropriated by Congress has been spent in that part? Not the military $97 million part but the other, I think, $7 million?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't have a number for expenditures. We are going to be reporting to Congress on the decisions as to which groups are eligible for the assistance provided in the Iraq Liberation Act, which specifies that groups are committed to democratic values, respect for human rights, peaceful relations with Iraq's neighbors, territorial integrity of Iraq and cooperation among democratic opponents of the regime.

With respect the discretionary authority - with respect to the $5 million, I don't have a list of expenditures. I do know that we have a plan in that area, and I'll try to get you more details on it.

QUESTION: Has any money been spent, specifics aside?

MR. RUBIN: I will try to check the exact status of expenditures.

QUESTION: A couple of points. When you gave all these long lists of incidents and then you spoke of multiple independent sources, you're referring specifically to the US reports coming from these latest reports of executions and so on?

MR. RUBIN: I will check, but my understanding of that language was designed to suggest the opposition groups in different places have corroborated accounts, and that they have come from sufficiently multiple places with sufficient details that we believe these are credible reports. That is my understanding.

QUESTION: The other thing is, you spoke in passing of relieving Iraq's debt burden under an alternative government. Is that a new phrase, or has that been standard part of US policy?

MR. RUBIN: I think you would have to go back to the Secretary's March speech in 1997 to see the official language we've used with respect to our looking forward to the day when we can work with a regime after Saddam Hussein is gone. Certainly, we would, as I indicated, be looking at that question with an eye towards trying to work with such a government both to lift sanctions and relieve its debt burden.

QUESTION: The dates you say here are interesting -- December 13th and 19th. I think the bombings started on the 15th. I don't know whether you could establish a link between these rebellious movements and the US-British bombing campaign.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'd prefer to report to you what I've been provided as the situation. I know General Zinni talked to this issue at the Pentagon last week, and I don't know how far he went. I think he probably is in a position to go farther than I am.

QUESTION: Establishing two Kurdish TV in Northern Iraq. Do you have any financial and technical assistance -

MR. RUBIN: Are you still on the subject of Kurdish TV?

QUESTION: Yes, Kurdish TV in Iraq.

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check for you. If you would provide those questions to us in time for us to get specific answers, then maybe I'd be able to do something.

QUESTION: Let's go back to Butler for a second. How do you feel about his decision to cancel all U-2 flights over Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: I am not aware of that information, but we certainly have confidence in Ambassador Butler's decisions on this subject; and certainly the Iraqi interference and refusal to cooperate with UNSCOM has made it difficult for UNSCOM to do its job, one element of which has been to use U-2 photography to assist them in their task.

QUESTION: He said that.

MR. RUBIN: I'm just not aware of it.

QUESTION: That in the wake of the - didn't say in the wake of the allegations, but he said while the Security Council was deliberating, he has suspended all U-2 flights. He also said that - and he didn't say it too hard, but he did say that an investigation into these allegations - some sort of internal UN investigation -- might be something he would consider in the future.

MR. RUBIN: I understand the Secretary General has made clear he's not looking to such an investigation.

QUESTION: Okay, how would the US feel about such an investigation?

MR. RUBIN: We don't see the need to look into the fact that the United States has been responding to a call by the Security Council for us to provide assistance and information -- obviously, that included intelligence information - to UNSCOM to work on the task that required a vigorous effort by UNSCOM to overcome Iraq's intransigence, concealment, obstruction and other activities that made it impossible for UNSCOM to act without a very active program to get to the bottom of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

That is what we did. We don't see the need to investigate that. We understand the Secretary General has said he doesn't intend to do so.

QUESTION: On the revenue sharing agreement between the two Kurdish factions, does that deal include any potential American aid? And was such a deal in any way a condition for their getting any American aid?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this meeting took place with limited American involvement - the meeting that just took place in Northern Iraq. So I don't think that was a critical factor. What is important here is that they can't coordinate administrative programs throughout the Northern provinces without this kind of revenue sharing agreement. I will check what our intentions are with respect to assistance, but I can tell you that it's my impression that the prospect of American assistance was not what made them decide to work together and share revenues. It was more a joint decision about the importance of working together to advance the interests of the Kurdish people as Saddam Hussein has tried to suppress the Kurdish people in Iraq.

QUESTION: On Butler, he said today in response to a question that he expected UNSCOM would be back in Iraq possibly in a month or a little bit more, and would have the power, the authority to do their job that they haven't had in the past, et cetera. I just ask you, does that seem realistic?

MR. RUBIN: I haven't, again, seen that particular quote from Ambassador Butler. It would surprise me if he put it just the way you put it. But let me say that we believe that the UNSCOM mission is extremely important; that until Iraq cooperates with whatever proposals UNSCOM has to disarm Iraq, there is no way for Iraq to get the sanctions lifted. Therefore, we think, as we've always said, that the best way and the best method to protect the world from the weapons of mass destruction Iraq has or could have would be a vigorous UN inspection system. We would be supportive of a test of such a system as a precursor to UNSCOM's return; we've said that before.

We have our doubts - extreme doubts - that Iraq has changed its stripes. It's been pretty clear for the last year or so that Iraq wants to do two things that are incompatible: one is to keep its weapons of mass destruction; and two, get sanctions lifted. But if that were to change, that would be fine with us and we could start down the path of confirming the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, as we have always wanted to do.

QUESTION: Jamie, it's been said perhaps by you, but certainly by others publicly, that Iraq could begin reconstituting the biological weapons program almost overnight in the absence of monitoring. Now that there's no U-2 flights, no on-the-ground monitoring at all, I'm just wondering how serious that threat might be in this interim period; and how are you monitoring it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we are always concerned about the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We believe that the use of force that took place - the significant and substantial use of force that occurred last month makes clear to Saddam Hussein the costs in stark and dramatic and compelling terms of any effort that he might make to move in that direction, both to reconstitute and/or to use such weapons of mass destruction. We think that that military action will make it less likely that he would make such a move in the direction you've described.

If he were to do so, we have made clear that we reserve the right to use military force and we are prepared to act if he reconstitutes his weapons of mass destruction. What will exactly trigger that decision and what level of evidence and what level of reconstitution, I wouldn't be in a position to specify in this forum for you.

QUESTION: Without specifying, is there some kind of monitoring going on, or is there really nothing?

MR. RUBIN: We have a very elaborate national technical means of keeping track of what goes on in Iraq, and we will continue to pursue that vigorously.

QUESTION: Regarding the latest confrontation in the Northern no-fly zone today, is the US prepared to keep this "policy of containment" indefinitely; or is it getting to the point that more aggressive action is increasingly becoming more likely?

MR. RUBIN: As far as what steps need to be taken to ensure the successful enforcement of the no-fly zone beyond what has been taken, I wouldn't be in a position to speculate. What I can say is that the President and the Administration are determined to enforce the no-fly zone and use what means they think are appropriate and necessary to do so.

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(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)

[end of document]