News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 1999
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
1-2,4,5,8UN Security Council resolutions state that Iraq must disarm by disclosing its WMD programs.
1-2,5That is the context in which US will evaluate French proposal, and others.
1-2,3,8Positive elements of French proposal are clear mention of need for monitoring program, as well as accounting for spending of oil revenues..
2Iraqi regime is making hypocritical complaints about the plight of its people.
2US remains very focused on the humanitarian problem.
2-3US is prepared to look at ways to ensure that Iraq can pump all the oil allowed under UN program.
4US is not prepared to 'leapfrog' over UN sanctions resolutions.
5,7US is in contact with Saudi government on plight of Iraqi people.
6Iraq has not begun to fill in hole it dug for itself with other Arab governments.
6No-fly zones are there so Saddam Hussein cannot use air power to repress his own people.
6Latest incidents resulted in direct hits to missile sites, with no damage to coalition aircraft.
18UNSCOM has performed important work, carrying out UNSC mandates.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #6
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 1999, 1:22 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

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QUESTION: I'm sure you know France has got a proposal now on Iraq on more oil, which the US isn't going to get but anyhow, you know the point. Is the US - I haven't seen a US reaction. There have been some Russian, et cetera. Is this the place for an American reaction?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that the Security Council resolutions endorsed by all the permanent members and all members of the Council make clear that Iraq must disarm, and that it must do so by fully disclosing their weapons of mass destruction programs. The burden to disclose those weapons of mass destruction programs is on Iraq, not on the Security Council, not on any body of the Security Council like UNSCOM or anyone else. The burden is on Iraq to disclose its weapons of mass destruction if Iraq wants to get out from under the sanctions regime that the Security Council imposed at the end of the Gulf War. The regime actually began prior to the war upon the invasion of Kuwait.

The fact that Iraq must disclose its weapons of mass destruction and that the Security Council is committed to disarming Iraq through that mechanism is the context in which we will evaluate any number of proposals, including the French proposal, as to how we move forward. We are aware of the French proposal. We have a number of questions and concerns that we are going to address to France about the proposal.

In addition, let me say that there are some positive elements in the French proposal that deal with the essential task of ensuring that Iraq does not rearm and is disarmed -- for example, the important stress on having a monitoring and inspection regime to fulfill that task; and secondly, a means of controlling how the Iraqi regime spends its money so that we are in a position to ensure that money the regime gets is not funneled into weapons of mass destruction programs or an effort to rearm.

Finally, let me say that what we have seen in recent days is clear evidence of the hypocrisy of the Iraqi regime in complaining about the fate of its people. While complaining that the Iraqi people are suffering, Iraq has failed to order and distribute food and medicine that would alleviate problems in this area. Iraq has refused, according to certain reports, humanitarian donations from certain countries.

In the current oil-for-food program that we constructed, Iraq plans to order less food and medicine for the Iraqi people than in previous phases. We also understand that enormous amounts of medicines ordered by Iraq after months of waiting sit undistributed in Ministry of Health warehouses. Iraq has also refused to propose improvements in the food basket the Iraqi people get - that is, the metaphorical food basket - and Iraq has promised for months to order nutritional supplements for vulnerable groups but has failed to do so.

In short, Iraq continues to manipulate with cynical means the plight of its people, even as we and other members of the international community are deeply concerned about the Iraqi people. In my final comment on this, since the French proposal is partially related to the humanitarian issue, let me say that we are very focused on the humanitarian problem. We have ideas and are looking at ways to improve the program so that the people of Iraq do not suffer as a result of the actions of the leadership.

So in short, to summarize, the context in which we need to address this proposal is that Iraq must disclose its weapons of mass destruction, pursuant to the unanimous decisions of the Security Council. The French proposal has some areas where we have some concerns and some questions. In other areas, we see some positive elements because it gets at the problem of ensuring there is an inspection and monitoring regime and ensuring that the regime does not misuse resources in order to rearm or reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Two things, please. When you deal with their warehousing pharmaceuticals and food, and this is well-known -- also, you didn't touch on the fact that they don't even pump the amount of oil that they're entitled to. Apologists or a rationale for their behavior say that they simply don't have the equipment to all of the things. They don't have the trucks to distribute; the embargo keeps them from the spare parts they need to keep their oil petroleum industry going. Is there a point to that, or is it the cynical deprivation of humanitarian needs?

MR. RUBIN: I do not think there's a point to that, and I think it's a little tiresome to see people making excuses for a regime that is so clearly manipulating cynically their people. When we know that they're going to order less food and medicine than in previous phases; when we know that after months of waiting, enormous amounts of medicine are waiting in warehouses; when we know that they're not taking steps to improve the food basket for the average Iraqis or ordering nutritional supplements for vulnerable groups, I think you don't need to know more than that to know that this Iraqi regime is not doing all it can to help its people.

Let's remember -- and please, once I'd like to see you all include this fact - the embargo does not prohibit the provision of medicine and food to Iraq. If Iraq were to use its money on food and medicine for its people rather than weaponry and weapons and palaces for the regime, a lot of this problem could be handled. The fact that they won't do that is what has caused us to create an elaborate program to control the revenues, to control the use of those revenues and to try to encourage the purchase of food and medicine.

On the supply side, the oil side, all I can say is that we are ready to work with other countries to ensure that there are no obstacles to allowing Iraq the means necessary to produce the oil that is permitted by the oil-for-food program, provided we have confidence and safeguards that those efforts will not be misused for purposes other than the oil program or exaggerations or bad analysis will be used to explain why they need to spend scarce money on equipment rather than spending scarce money on the food and medicine. In other words, we are not the impediment to them being able to sell the amount of oil that is permitted. It is Iraq that is using that as an excuse, just the way it is using the demand and distribution side to cynically manipulate the international community.

QUESTION: Does that over-extend to distribution of food and medicine?

MR. RUBIN: Which offer?

QUESTION: You seem to be making an offer to make sure they - unless I misunderstand you, it seems the US is ready to help mechanically to get the oil out of the ground.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not proposing American oil companies going over there pumping oil. What I am saying is that we're prepared to look at ways and explore ideas to ensure that the humanitarian program - that is, both the demand side of the food and medicine and the supply side, which is the sale of oil - that there are no impediments to them moving forward as comprehensively as possible.

QUESTION: Can I get to the other question? You've just seen the French proposal. You're talking about the objective of wanting Iraq to declare its weapons, true. But the issue is inspection, and they're blocking inspection. Do you have a sense yet that the French proposal would permit adequate search, adequate monitoring of what they may have hidden, or are the French more inclined to take Iraq's word for it than the US would prefer?

MR. RUBIN: I'd rather not comment on French motivations, other than to say that certainly I think it's fair to say the United States has always been fairly skeptical about Iraq's intentions and actions; and perhaps some are not as skeptical as we are. But they will have to speak for themselves.

With respect to the French proposal, let me say that one of the positive elements that I identified was the clear need spelled out for a monitoring and inspection mechanism. Obviously, I'm giving you a preliminary reaction to some initial ideas. It's going to require further exploration and discussion. And until we've done so, I wouldn't be able to get into the level of detail that you've described.

QUESTION: As I understand it, though, the heart of their proposal is to lift the oil embargo with the monitor - while monitoring it in an appropriate way. How do you feel about lifting the embargo?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say I am sure that French officials in Paris are spinning at your description of their proposal as them proposing the lifting of the oil embargo.

What I can say on the sanctions side is that we do agree and find positive the aspects of the French proposal that make clear there must be a means of controlling how the regime spends its money so that we can ensure that Iraq doesn't use that money to rearm or reconstitute or for other nefarious purposes.

Exactly how we will get from here to there are one of the things that we are going to discuss. But we have certainly made clear that we do not support leap-frogging Security Council resolutions to lift the sanctions on Iraq in the absence of the resolutions' required confirmation that Iraq has been disarmed and is monitored.

QUESTION: Is what you're saying in any way different from or in addition to what Under Secretary Pickering had announced before Christmas about there being more oil that could be pumped in the oil-for-food program? Is this an addendum to that?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that question. All I can tell you is that I've given the importance we attach to exploring ideas on the humanitarian side. One way in which one could do that is by increasing the limit on the oil that could be sold. On the inspection and monitoring aspects of the French proposal, I've said what I can about that.

QUESTION: Jamie, would you outline or at least give us some kind of sense as to what aspects of the French proposal the United States does not agree with?

MR. RUBIN: I know that disagreement is your stock and trade, but it's not ours. We think it's preferable at this time to make clear that there are issues of concern that we want to ask for the questions about, and there are some positive elements that I have identified.

QUESTION: You've often made clear that the conditions for lifting sanctions against Iraq are laid down in Security Council resolutions and, as you say, you just can't leap-frog those resolutions. What about a brand new resolution that in a sense superseded existing resolution that, perhaps, reformulated those conditions and laid down, perhaps, even some new ones? Would you then be at a point where you would reappraise this whole issue?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that is why I gave you the main point, and that is the context in which we continue to approach the problem and would evaluate the French proposal -- namely, that under Security Council resolutions, which we continue to support, Iraq must disclose its weapons of mass destruction; and that burden has to be on Iraq. That is our view today, as it was at the time that the resolutions were passed. What other's views maybe they can speak to but, again, it is my impression that in none of the discussions that we've had - and Secretary Albright has talked to the Russian Foreign Minister in the last couple of days and we have been in contact with the Russian delegation and other delegations -- and that no delegation is saying that they want to step away from the requirement, which is in the national security of Russia, of France, of the countries in the Middle East and all the countries in the world, that Iraq must be disarmed to protect us from the threat that he poses from his behavior.

As far as what a new system would look like if we moved and talked to the French and others and find out how to move forward, I can't speculate for you. That's too many steps down the road. What I can say is we've looked at the French proposal. There's some things we have concerns about and questions about and there's some things that we find positive, and I've identified those.

QUESTION: Theoretically, that requirement could be, if not stepped away from, perhaps, rewritten?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would think that every time a Security Council resolution passes of a substantive content, since 687, there have been new elements on the disarmament side added - 715 added certain requirements on Iraq to accept the various programs of UNSCOM and the IAEA. So, yes, a resolution was passed that created an exception for the oil-for-food program, and that's what you do as you continue to work on the objectives. I'm simply pointing out that the objective of disarming Iraq and making clear the burden of proof is on Iraq to disclose its weapons of mass destruction is and objective we continue to support strongly and is the context in which we will discuss any new proposals.

QUESTION: Is there any likelihood that the Secretary will go to Paris either to or from Moscow?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that. For those of you who have been with us for a couple of years, I'm sure you've gotten use to the fact that stops can be added and removed as per the needs of our diplomacy and the Secretary's decisions. When those stops are removed or added, I try to provide that information to you as quickly as I can.

QUESTION: Have you seen details of the Saudi initiative yet? If not, are you coming to the conclusion, perhaps, that it's not very substantial? Secondly, what do you make of Iraq's apparent attempt to mend its fences with Arab countries after the outburst last week?

MR. RUBIN: On the first question, we are in contact with the Saudi Government. Secretary Albright will be there shortly. We want to work with the Saudi Government on ideas to deal with the humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein is uninterested in dealing with. We will do that. As I just indicated, we have some ideas and are looking at ways to improve that program, and we are doing that in consultation with the Saudi Government.

But as far as the specifics and our specific reaction to any specific idea, I don't have one at this time.

QUESTION: And the --

MR. RUBIN: Oh, and the Iraqi attempt to get out of the deep hole they've dug for themselves in the Arab world, I don't think they've even come close to filling up that hole. They can say a lot of nice words about how they want to work with other countries, but I don't think anyone will soon forget the intemperate, irrational diatribe of Saddam Hussein against fellow leaders in that region. I don't have any reason to believe that they all suddenly think he's terrific because they finally say something that's not irrational and not intemperate.

QUESTION: Yes, Jamie, today, I believe, was the seventh attempted attack of SAM reaction to patrol planes of the United States over no-fly zones in Iraq. My question is, what does the Administration see as the objective of Saddam's administration in trying to do what is technologically not likely to succeed? To shoot down a US plane, is that what they're trying to do, to get a pilot or something else? And then what is the remedy for this current situation that's going on in the no-fly zones?

MR. RUBIN: As far as Saddam's attempt, again, I think we've said this before, it's by lashing out in this way and the remarks he's made about other Arab leaders and trying to deal with the no-fly zones, we need to start from the premise of what the no-fly zones are for. That is to ensure that Iraq cannot use the skies over the North and the skies over the South to repress his people so brutally in the way he has in the past.

We have made clear that Saddam Hussein and his regime suffered damage during the last set of air strikes. I described two days ago some detail about certain assassinations in Iraq. Clearly, in the past, Iraq has tried to demonstrate that its regime is still there through actions such as this. I wouldn't rule out that as one of the motivations.

But the bottom line is that we are determined to enforce the no-fly zone; that our air crews have been acting in self-defense, firing precision guided missiles and HARMS, and there were direct hits of the Iraqi surface-to-missile sites and additional damage is being assessed. There was no damage to Coalition aircraft. Since Desert Fox, the Iraqi military has obviously increased both the pace and severity of no-fly zone violations. Despite repeated warnings, Iraqi forces have posed threats to our air crews. The actions like the ones taken today are appropriate military responses to that threat.

We have served notice, since the beginning of the no-fly zones, that we would take action to protect our forces; and on a number of occasions, we have had to resort to the use of force for this purpose. My understanding is that since the end of Desert Storm, the US has flown in excess of 140,000 missions in support of the no-fly zone. Most have been conducted without incident. However, since the no-fly zones were declared invalid on December 23, there have been some 40 separate and distinct violations.

Our military actions are prudent responses to these violations and Iraqi actions that endanger Coalition aircraft and crews, and we have made clear that our pilots will take the necessary actions to defend themselves while carrying out the mission of enforcing the no-fly zone.

Let me simply say that with respect to the rules of engagement in dealing with this problem, I would have to refer you to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Do you think that in view of the superior technology and the general superiority of American air forces in this theater that Iraq, Saddam is in fact acting in a suicidal way; he's sacrificing his people by one SAM battery after another, and this just shows the insanity of the regime?

MR. RUBIN: Well, if I were an Iraqi pilot, which is something I certainly wouldn't want to be, that might be a conclusion that I drew.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on Jonathan's earlier question about the Saudi proposal. Did I understand you correctly to say that we've recognized or acknowledged that there is the need to improve, did you say, the program?

MR. RUBIN: No, what I said was the same as I said in response to your earlier question - that we are looking at ways and exploring ideas to improve the plight of the Iraqi people through these humanitarian programs, like the oil-for-food program. The Saudis have put forward some suggestions in this area, and we are going to work with the Saudi Government because, like the Saudi Government, we share a deep concern about the plight of the Iraqi people - a concern that Saddam Hussein does not share.

QUESTION: Are those the only such ideas that the US is willing to entertain?

MR. RUBIN: No, we're exploring many different ideas, including the Saudi ideas as to how to improve the program.

QUESTION: I meant only within the oil-for-food, humanitarian aspect of the --

MR. RUBIN: Well, that's the mechanism by which they - there's only three ways to get food and medicine to Iraq: either people donate it or the Iraqis spend some of their money and but it as permitted by the sanctions. They can use their money to feed their people; they don't, but they can. Or we create a mechanism by which we induce them to sell oil for that purpose. It's hard for me to imagine any other way in which food and medicine could get to Iraq. So in those three areas - either donations or Iraq's using its own money for this purpose or using oil revenue for this purpose - that's the comprehensive set of possibilities from which one can work. That is what we'll be working from.

QUESTION: Have they been part of that discussion?

MR. RUBIN: They have traditionally been part of that discussion. We've tended to consult with many of the governments in the region about that.

QUESTION: A question and a follow-up, please. Is it the American position that a complete Iraqi disarmament and full disclosure of its past weapons of mass destruction program must occur before there can be a lifting of the oil embargo?

MR. RUBIN: I think that is pretty clear from what I have said. We cannot leap-frog the requirements of Security Council resolutions. Any lifting of sanctions pursuant to those resolutions need to be in accordance with the resolutions' requirement that Iraq's disarmament is confirmed. The resolutions lay out a decision tree based on confirming Iraq's disarmament. We believe in those resolutions.

QUESTION: To the extent that the French proposals for inspection and monitoring would replace the practices of UNSCOM, is that okay with the United States?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that question. What I know how to tell you is what I've told you about the French proposal; which is that we find a positive element to be their focus on an inspection and monitoring system. We have always said we are prepared to look at ways to improve the effectiveness of the inspection and monitoring that UNSCOM does.

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