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DoD News Briefing, October 22, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
October 22, 1998 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Pentagon briefing.

Charlie, you live with the misimpression that I always start these briefings late, when in fact, I strive to be on time so you can continue with the work of the day after the briefing.

I'm going to start with a question. How many of you plan to run in the Marine Corps Marathon?

Q: I plan to do part of it. A: You do? Great. Which part?

Q: The end. My daughter in the last eight miles.

A: Then you'll miss the Secretary. Secretary Cohen is the official starter of the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

Q: Is he running?

A: He is not running. He has taken marathon walks across the state of Maine and the length of the state of Maine in his earlier life as a politician, but he will not be running. He will be starting it officially.

Q: Admiral Johnson would run it. A: Well, that is admirable. An admirable act by Admiral Johnson. (Laughter)

That will happen on Sunday at 8:30 in the morning at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

On Monday, Secretary Cohen will be in Houston where he will meet with the astronauts of the space shuttle Discovery. That crew, of course, includes Senator John Glenn. He will meet with them just before they leave the Johnson Space Center in Houston and go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for the launch later in the week. After he meets with the astronauts at 9 o'clock on Monday he will take a tour of the Johnson Space Center and spend some time with the military astronauts in the program. I think there are 25 military astronauts and he'll meet with many of them. Of course, two of the military astronauts are in the Discovery crew so they'll be on their way to Florida while he's meeting with the other military astronauts in Houston.

Let me just acknowledge a couple of groups here. There are 14 Arab-speaking journalists from Africa and the Middle East here. Welcome. They're touring the area as part of a U.S. Information Agency-sponsored program.

We also have a journalist from China, Mr. Gang Sun. Are you here? Welcome as well.

With that, I will... One other thing here. Let me fill you in on what the National Guard is doing to help Texas cope with its crippling floods that you've seen so much about on the TV news.

The National Guard has assigned 423 soldiers and 90 vehicles, they're Humvees and trucks, to help with search, rescue, security, and cleanup activities in Texas. The Guard has also distributed large numbers of sandbags -- 56,000 sandbags -- and they have another 150,000 in reserve if needed.

With that, I'll take your questions about sandbags or anything else. Charlie?

Q: Has there been any additional discernable movement of Serbian troops out of Kosovo?

A: Let me give you a brief review on where things stand in Kosovo.

The situation is generally calm. I'm sure you've read in the press of reports of shooting. There are some reports of shooting that generally occur at night. The Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM), which is on the ground, does its patrols during the day and it reports a general sense of calm, general freedom of movement, and an increase in access to villages by humanitarian groups. There were three convoys yesterday and two convoys today taking food in.

There has not been any significant movement of forces in the last day. We continue to monitor that closely and expect that there will be more movement before the deadline of next week, Tuesday.

Q: On this point, have you now been able to resolve which MUP and which VJ units specifically were there pre-hostility, pre-February, and which ones are allowed to stay?

A: Let me talk about that in general terms. I'll start by talking about the police, the so-called MUP, and then I'll talk about the army, the so-called VJ.

The MUP is divided into two groups essentially. MUP refers to police that work for the Interior Ministry. There are, basically, two types of police who work for the Interior Ministry. There are what we would call beat police, the people who walk the beat and do regular police work, patrols; and then there's paramilitary police who are, as their name implies, more militaristic and have been more aggressive than the so-called beat police.

The main concern of the UN and of NATO has been the paramilitary police who came into Kosovo early in the year, toward the end of February, early March. We believe that most of those paramilitary police have moved out, and that the remaining police in Kosovo were basically what you would call beat cops. They remain there and will remain there largely after the... They can remain there under the terms of the UN and of NATO performing normal police work.

Q: So they do not fall, of those that can remain, none of them fall under the category of having to go into a garrison?

A: Well, some of them move in and out of garrison, but basically many of them will be able to remain in the area doing their work.

You have to make a distinction between the paramilitary police -- those are largely the ones identified as having been brought in to repress civilians -- and the so-called beat police. There's some overlap, obviously, but the paramilitary police have been the primary concern, and we, as I say, we think that most of the police left, maybe as many as 75 percent right now, are the beat police. Much of the paramilitary police has withdrawn.

Q: What are the functions that you would allow, that NATO under the terms would allow the beat police to continue to undertake?

A: Every society, certainly since Hobbes, has seen a need for police, and they'll perform normal police work. It could be traffic work, it could be arresting bank robbers, providing area security, etc.

Having said that, the international community led by Michael Sheehan of the State Department is working very aggressively to create a new indigenous police force in Kosovo that would be not just a Serbian police force. This is basically, the MUP is the Serbian police force because it operates under the Interior Ministry of Yugoslavia.

They want to create an integrated Kosovar-Serbian police force that will be more reflective of the population of Kosovo than the MUP police are. That's a program that's underway. In fact Michael Sheehan is in Pristina today, and I think appeared at a press conference or was in the wings of a press conference with Ambassador Hill earlier today where some of these issues arose.

Let me move, basically, to the VJ. The VJ, or the army, moved in four units, we believe -- three combat units and one engineering unit, that came in from outside of Kosovo to augment the military forces that are naturally stationed or normally stationed in Kosovo. We believe that three of those units have pulled out. That one engineering unit remains. In fact, I think, President Milosevic announced this last week, the pullout of these units.

There will remain some army forces in Kosovo and our expectation is that they will return to their current status, their current jobs, which is primarily border patrol. But in Kosovo, as in parts of the United States, there are military units stationed in the area. So there will be some military units remaining in garrison, we expect, within Kosovo.

Q: You make it sound like it's not all done.

A: It's not all done. There is more to be done. There is more to be done in terms of withdrawing to garrison. All of the special, the paramilitary police are not out. And there are still roadblocks that we don't believe are proper taking place within parts of Kosovo. So there is much more to be done.

Where we have been very successful in meeting, I think... We've been successful in meeting all four of the UN's goals so far, but not completely successful. There's still a way to go for the Serbs. They have to pull out more, they have to put more weapons into cantonment or get them out. There are still deployed tanks and APCs that we think should be back in garrison or in cantonment or out of Kosovo altogether.

But if you look at what the UN Security Council Resolution 1199 called for, it called for a cease-fire. We think the cease-fire is holding. Fighting has basically stopped. There are occasional skirmishes and we're working with both the Kosovar Albanian Liberation Army, the so-called UCK and with the Serb side to try to reduce that skirmishing even more. But the cease-fire basically is holding.

There have been withdrawals. Not enough withdrawals, but there have been withdrawals. Unfortunately, there haven't been many in the last couple of days. We still expect more troops and more paramilitary police to be withdrawn.

Q: Can you be specific about what needs to go to cantonment or what needs to go back...

A: No, I can't.

Let me just run through the other two elements of the UN Security Council Resolution.

The third is the facilitation of humanitarian aid, the resumption of humanitarian aid, and the return of refugees to their homes -- increased freedom of movement. We think there is very encouraging progress on both those fronts.

As I said on Tuesday, of the 50,000 to 70,000 refugees who are basically living outside on mountaintops, in the forests, we believe that about 35,000 have returned to some sort of shelter in villages, in homes. They may have partial roofs, they may be disabled homes, but they're basically back into some sort of shelter. And importantly, they're back into communities where it's easier for aid to be delivered to them.

I mentioned that there were three convoys yesterday and two convoys today. The convoys today are supposed to be delivering food to about 45,000 people, so we are making progress with humanitarian aid.

The fourth part is working toward a political solution. As you know, the Serb president has proposed a unilateral framework that moves toward autonomy that sets up local institutions and also calls for elections. There are discussions going on in the United States, in Europe, and specifically in Kosovo and Belgrade, that are designed to bring the two sides together -- the Kosovar Albanians and the Serb sides together so they can start sitting down, creating a schedule for political negotiations that are designed to lead to a settlement.

So in those four areas we are making progress. We'd like to make more, but we are making progress.

Q: When do you expect more troops to be withdrawn? Has he given some sort of assurances that more will be?

A: We are... Yes. We believe that more troops will be withdrawn, and that they will be...

Q: Who's told you so?

A: We have had discussions with the Yugoslavs, and we believe that more troops will be withdrawn, yes. And we expect that to happen.

Q: If there are deficiencies in the four stipulations when the ten day period runs out, will NATO then evaluate and decide either to give more time to the Serbs or to use, either use force or to do something... Will there be a range of options that will then be decided upon?

A: NATO will have to evaluate compliance early next week and decide what to do next, and decide whether the compliance they've seen to date, whether the commitments for compliance that may go beyond the 27th, and whether the humanitarian situation have all changed enough to allow a lifting of the so-called Act Ord, the activation order. That's a decision NATO will have to make. It hasn't made it yet. I think it will wait until it has as much information as possible before it sits down to make that decision.

Q: I'm still confused. You say there's essentially only, if I understood you correctly, one engineering unit left of the buildup troops, but yet you expect more troops to come out. Is NATO now asking for Milosevic to reduce below what was in Kosovo prior to the buildup? Where are these other troops coming from that you think are going to come out?

A: I think you have to focus, you have to look at what the end goals are for this effort, and the end goal is to one, produce a cease-fire; two, eliminate the threat of further repression; three, to create an environment that's secure enough to encourage people to return to their homes, the refugees, 200,000 to 300,000 in Kosovo, to return to their homes and to allow humanitarian aid to resume through freedom of movement, etc., and to begin working toward a political settlement that will lead to some more permanent solution so that we don't get back into this problem again. That recognizes the legitimate concerns of each side.

We're making progress on all of those things.

The goal, one particular part of that goal is to create a more secure environment, and that involves withdrawing the troops that have been threatening or have actually repressed the civilian population in Kosovo. Some of that has been done, not all of it's been done.

There are two parts to eliminating those threats of repression or the actual ability to repress. One is withdrawing some troops out of Kosovo back into Serbia. The second is getting troops that are on the ground back into garrison or back into border control positions that they were in before, so they're not all in central Serbia in a somewhat predatory or threatening position. That's what we're working on.

It's complex, because measuring exactly who should be where has not always been easy because there's been an ebb and flow of people in and out and moving around in Kosovo, but that's what we're working to do.

We know that there have been some withdrawals, but not enough. We are working aggressively with Milosevic and his people now to pave the way for more withdrawals and a greater sense of security for the Kosovar Albanians.

Q: Following up on that, General Clark I thought had explained to Milosevic that, detailed the troops that should be withdrawn, and it was in the neighborhood of 4,000 to 5,000 army troops and 3,000 to 4,000 of the police units. Until now I've not heard anyone talk about anywhere near that number withdrawing from Yugoslavia, anywhere from Kosovo back into the rest of Serbia. You said there hadn't been much movement in the last day or so. I can't quite add that up.

Are you saying now that somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 of the army and 2,000 to 3,000 or 3,000 to 4,000 of the police units have withdrawn now?

A: I would say that we are possibly at around the halfway point but not much beyond that.

Q: Did General Clark nail down the parameters two days ago, that Milosevic has the troop numbers?

A: We are continuing discussions with the Serbs on these details and they're being worked even as we speak here.

Q: You said earlier that the two sides, the Serbians and the Kosovars are talking about settlement. That means independence for Kosovo or autonomy?

A: I'm sorry?

Q: That means independence from Kosovo or autonomy?

A: It does not mean independence. It means a moving towards self government.

Q: In an obvious fabricated story, the U.S. News and World Report magazine reported that a Greek official disclosed to Slobodan Milosevic the secret NATO, U.S. plans against Serbia. Do you have anything on that?

A: Did you tell me you thought the story was fabricated?

Q: It's obviously so, I cannot prove this.

A: Why are you asking me about a story that was fabricated?

Q: It's not a statement, sir, that its obvious, I don't know. But even if it is I would like to know if you have anything to say?

A: This is an issue really for NATO to address but let me just point out that members of NATO certainly have an obligation and a right to report back to their host governments about what goes on at the North Atlantic Council meetings and at other NATO meetings. If that information is classified by NATO, then they also have an obligation to protect that information. This is really an issue for NATO to look at, and I think the question should be directed at NATO.

Q: But it's a report of the U.S. because you are involved up to the teeth in this operation in the Balkans.

A: I think every country in NATO is involved up to the teeth in efforts to bring peace to Kosovo. I wouldn't single us out. I think that all nations in NATO have made an obligation to try to stabilize conditions in Kosovo.

Q: Are you concerned about these disclosures, as the U.S.?

A: We would be very concerned if there were a violation of classified NATO information, but this is an issue for NATO to look at.

Q: Did you not use the U.S. U-2 spy planes assigned to the Balkans who will patrol also the Greek airspace?

A: We don't talk about the paths of these planes, but planes that are being sent up -- not only U-2 planes, but other planes from NATO countries -- are being sent up or will be sent up to monitor what's going on in Kosovo, not in Greece.

Q: One more question. Since news stories again that Turkey is going to join the U.S./Israeli Arrow ballistic program in an effort to challenge the Russian S-300 missiles in Cypress. I'm wondering if you could comment on that.

A: What was the end of your question about Cypress? Did you say something about Cypress?

Q: They say that Turkish side is going to challenge the S-300 missiles over Cypress, joining the U.S./Israeli Arrow ballistic program. So I'm wondering if you could comment on that.

A: Well Turkey isn't involved in the Arrow program. Turkey is not involved in the Arrow program, and I don't anticipate that it will be involved in the Arrow program. The Arrow program has nothing, is not a program that's being developed in response to the possible stationing of Russian missiles in the Greek sector of Cypress.

Q: What is the status of forming up this observer force, observers, and what is the status of the rapid reaction force that would be close by to protect it?

A: You're talking about the Kosovo verification mission? Well, first of all, as you know, William Walker has been appointed to head this force. He will be working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The OSCE needs a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the establishment of this force, and we hope that will happen tomorrow. The Security Council is considering this, is beginning to talk about it.

Once that's done, then the force can start being constituted. I understand that members of the OSCE have volunteered about 1500 people so far. I think the U.S. has volunteered about 150 people to participate in this mission. So the force is being built on paper, at any rate.

The OSCE is not waiting for UN authority. It's already taken I think almost $3 million, $2.7 million, out of its contingency funds to help start paying for the establishment of the force, doing some of the preliminary work.

In the mean time, the existing observer force, the so-called KDOM, Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission which includes representatives from the United States, Russia, and several European countries, has grown from about 50 people before the recent agreement that was provoked by the NATO action, to about 145, 150 people today. That force will continue to grow. I think it's supposed to reach about 300 people by early November. The idea is that that will sort of transform itself gradually into the broader OSCE Kosovo verification mission. So that's the status of the verification force.

Q: How about the rapid reaction force?

A: The rapid reaction force is a work in progress. NATO passed, I think yesterday or today, voted on the political guidance for the force which is the necessary first step for setting up any type of force. Now we're in your -- going back to your NATO lexicon, we're approaching would be called the activation requirement or request state where General Clark and his staff will actually put out a list of requirements for participation in the quick reaction force. Then people will pony up their contributions, countries will pony up their contributions to the force.

Q: Has anything been named yet about whether it's going to be land or sea bases?

A: I don't think those decisions have been made yet, no.

Q: These 150 people in the OSCE mission, the 150 Americans that have been offered, would any of those be...

A: Hold it.

Q: The United States...

A: I want to make sure... Right now there are about 145 or 150 people operating in Kosovo as part of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission, KDOM. The 150 people we've offered are for the broader verification mission which will be run by the OSCE.

Q: It will be the same people who are there...

A: No. Some of the people there now are military people. I think 21 of the people there are military people operating in civilian clothes. U.S. military people. The rest are State Department people.

I would anticipate that our contribution to the OSCE verification force will be civilian; largely, if not exclusively civilian.

Q: Surveillance flights? How many, how frequent?

A: The U-2 flew today and has been, I think has flown every day since October 17th. There's one day it couldn't fly because of weather. The Predator has flown the last two days. Those are the main verification activities taking place now. Once the whole mission is set up and underway, and NATO has adopted an operating plan for the air verification mission, and they will also go through the same requisitioning of forces procedure that it always goes through and get the forces from other countries.

Q:...air defense network that was of some concern, certain aspects of it in the early going, has that basically been unplugged, moved to the necessary places it needs to be moved and unplugged from?

A: First of all, the observation flights to date have been flying without any threats made to them. The Yugoslavs have sent some liaison officers to our combined air operation center in Vicenza, and we, NATO, has sent some liaison officers to Belgrade. So we've begun to knit together the systems that will be necessary to make sure that there is compliance with the air verification regime once it takes place.

Q:...moved the...

A: They have not begun to move their radars.

Remember, the main thing they have to move, they have to disconnect their radars from their missiles, the SAM-6 missiles. They have not done that yet.

Q: The agreement that Wes Clark has negotiated with President Milosevic is still not out in public, the specific words of the agreement. Do you plan to keep that a secret, or do you plan to publish that? If you're going to keep it a secret, why?

A: First of all, I think I read portions of that agreement at one of my briefings, either Tuesday or last Thursday. I suppose at the appropriate time it will come out. I just haven't asked that question.

Q: But you can't conceive at this point of why it would need to be a secret?

A: I'd have to go back and review the agreement and talk to General Clark about it. But that's something we'll look into.

Q: Where is the Predator being based?

A: It's still being based in Hungary, Taszar, Hungary.

Q: That's a long way away.

A: Well, it has a long range. One of the Predator's advantages is that it can stay airborne for a substantial period of time. Another advantage is, as some of you have seen who have been to Bosnia, is it provides a real time video of what's happening on the ground. That makes it a very valuable surveillance tool because you can actually send it over areas you want to look at to record what's going on right at the moment it's flying over.

Q: How is the video, where is it downlinked to? It can be downlinked all the way to Hungary.

A: It can be downlinked pretty much anywhere we want to downlink it.

Q: I just wanted to ask you about the remarks that General Zinni made yesterday. Apparently he didn't think too much of the plan to spend $97 million to support opposition forces in an effort to topple Saddam Hussein. Do his comments reflect the Pentagon's views on the efficacy of spending that money?

A: This was not money that the Administration requested. It does not -- we are not required to spend that money, as I understand it. We are authorized to spend the money if certain conditions are met. Over the next few months the Administration will be looking at opposition groups in Iraq and deciding if any of them meet the standards that are specified in the law.

Q: The point of the question was that General Zinni expressed strong opinions that the opposition is so fragmented that to provide them with this sort of stuff would not be in America's best interests.

A: That's one of the issues that the Administration will have to look at.

Q: Does the Pentagon at the current time, in Zinni's words, see any "viable, united, coherent opposition", democratic opposition to Saddam Hussein?

A: Look, we're going to have to be looking at this whole thing in light of the legislation. And the standards that we have to look at, we have to find groups that are committed to democracy, that are broad based, have broad based support, that are opposed to Saddam, and we'll be looking to see if groups meet those standards.

Look, I think we all agree that Iraq would be better off with a different leader. We are in favor of a unified Iraq. We would like to see an Iraq that does not threaten its neighbors. We would like to see an Iraq that is devoted to peace and stability in the Middle East rather than disruption and conflict. We would like to see an Iraq that over time moves towards democracy.

I think right now we don't see broad based opposition groups that meet the standards that are laid out in this law, but that's one of the things we'll be reviewing over the next couple of months, to see exactly what's there.

Q: The legislation calls for $97 million. Apparently most of it would be the value of stocks taken out of your war reserves or your surplus reserves. Do you know how that breaks down?

A: I think you're leaping to a conclusion here. You're leaping to a conclusion that this money will be spent. That decision hasn't been made yet. We have to look at the facts and decide whether we find groups that meet the standards in the law. And that is something that will have to happen over the next weeks and months.

The legislation, as I understand it, does not require the United States to take actions. It authorizes the President to take actions if certain conditions are met. So now the question is are the conditions met, and that's what the Administration will be looking at.

Q: But to understand the legislation, whether I'm leaping to conclusions or not, it is there in black and white. I'm trying to understand what it means. Does it mean that you would take surplus stocks of tanks and other weapons and ship them somewhere to some foreign country where...

A: This is precisely what the legislation says. It says "The President is authorized to direct the drawdown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations." It says the President is authorized. It doesn't say that he's required to do that.

So the issue will have to be, is yet to be determined. That is do we find any groups that meet the standards in the law. That will be the task to determine over the next couple of months.

Q: Don't you have 90 days to do this under the law?

A: That's what I said, a couple of months. Ninety days.

Q: Are you going to enter active discussions... (Laughter)

A: Charlie, the law was just passed when, this week or last week? We've got some time. The Administration will be paying attention to this. Right now the President has been quite busy on another issue involving stability in the Middle East. His staff has been involved in that issue.

Q: Isn't the Pentagon going to be at the very heart of this? After all, you are the ones who control the equipment.

A: Most decisions in government are made by several departments at once, and I'm sure this one will be made by several departments at once.

Q: Doesn't this undercut the statement you've made from the podium many times, the dispute between Saddam Hussein and the United Nations, when the United States now is talking about funding a program that would arm Saddam's opponents and try to topple him from power. Doesn't that make it a fight between, a dispute between the United States and Saddam?

A: I think the people who are trying to make this a dispute are you. I've tried to point out that this law does not require the President to take any action. It requires him to decide whether there are opposition groups that meet the standards of the law.

In terms of the conflict between the UN Security Council and Iraq, I think the terms of that conflict are absolutely clear and they do not relate specifically to this law. The terms of that are, is Iraq meeting its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program so it won't be a threat today or in the future to its neighbors. That's the issue between the UN and Iraq.

Q: We're just trying to find out whether the Administration supports the approach outlined in this new legislation.

A: The Administration will look at this and will take whatever actions are appropriate given our policy. And our policy is to contain Iraq and over time we believe that Iraq should have, the Iraqi people would be better off with a different government.

We have worked closely with the Iraqi opposition in the past, and I assume that if appropriate we will work closely with them in the future. But in terms of specific response to what we're going to do, I can't give you that because it has to be based on what we find out to be in compliance with this law.

Q: Are you disowning General Zinni's comments on this? He seems to have a much more pointed perspective on this than...

A: This is the advantage of being a general. He can have an extremely pointed perspective, and he apparently was perfectly willing to give his perspective to you or your colleagues.

Q: But you see no problem in the views that he expressed, right?

A: Far be it from me to contradict General Zinni who is an expert in this area of the world.

Q: Do you agree then with what he said that if the United States backs the long horse there...

A: I agree it's time to move to a different topic. Do you have a different topic? (Laughter)

Q: You agree that if the United States backed the wrong faction here, that Iraq could fractionalize and end up a lot worse off than it is now.

A: I see this topic has unified the normally fractious and factionalized press corps.

Q: Are there other requirements than just that this be a broad based opposition group? Before they see any military equipment, for instance, do they have to come up with a viable military plan? If so, who passes judgment on that military plan? Do they have to have a base of operations? If so, who will provide that base?

A: My understanding, and I have not read or memorized this law, but my understanding is that the legislation requires the Administration to review opposition groups and decide if any of the groups meet certain eligibility requirements, and those requirements are that they include a broad spectrum of Iraqi people or groups opposed to Saddam, and that they are committed to democratic values.

So one of the things we'll have to do is look at the Iraqi groups.

I think anybody who's looked at Iraq understands that these groups represent different parts of the Iraqi population. There are some groups that are comprised primarily of Shiites. There are other groups that represent Kurdish interests. Then there is a broader, overarching group called the Iraqi National Congress. We will look at all these groups and decide what their viability is and whether they meet the standards that are laid out in the law. This is something that hasn't been done yet. It will have to be done in the future.

Q: But the standards don't require having a viable military plan or having a base of operations.

A: My understanding is they don't, but I have not read the law, as I said.

Q:...think of the (inaudible) perhaps setting up safe zones in Iraq?

A: We have a safe zone in Iraq already. We have a no-fly zone in the north and in the south.

Q: Where these groups might be based, armed, and then protecting them with possibly U.S. air attacks?

A: That is a proposal that has been made by some of the Iraqi opposition groups, and I think it would impose very dangerous obligations on the United States right now.

Q: Since Turkey disagrees with this U.S. plan to reach an agreement with Baghdad as far as the plan. How do you comment?

A: I don't comment.

Q: It's an agreement between Baghdad and (unintelligible), they explain this agreement about this plan.

A: Well Turkey has its own interests to pursue with Baghdad and they turn primarily, I believe, on two issues. One issue is the Kurdish problem, and another issue is economic interests that the two countries share.

We believe that all countries should honor the UN embargo against dealing with Iraq. That embargo was set up by the UN Security Council Resolution. Until Iraq is in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions, we think that economic embargoes should stand.

Q: One last question about Iraq. It seems doubtful that there's any broad based opposition group, and the real issue seems to be the weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's willingness to use them and seeming determination to develop them.

Now that UNSCOM has been essentially kicked out of the country, what is the Administration going to do in order to keep him from developing these weapons of mass destruction and perhaps using them?

A: This is an issue between the UN Security Council and Iraq, and the UN is working diligently to try to resolve this issue.

Q: You're telling me the Defense Department doesn't have any plans to...

A: I'm telling you this is a dispute... The issue here is the credibility of the UN and the UN Security Council. There's an agreement between the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, and Iraq, and the issue now is whether that agreement is going to be followed or not. That is what recent meetings between Iraqi officials and the UN have been designed to sort out. That's clearly an issue for the UN Security Council to address, and it's in the process of trying to address that.

Q: Ken, can we go to Russia, Bill Gertz article; can you comment on the reports that nearly half the banks in Russia are now controlled by one segment or another of the Mafia, and that large amounts of cash are being withdrawn from Russia, being bled out by the mob? Can you comment specifically on this statement that Russia...

A: Right now I can't. This is an issue for the Treasury or for some other agency to deal with, but not for me.

Q:...pose a tremendous strategic problem?

A: Bill, I'm sure it's a grave problem one way or another, but it's not a problem for me to address. It's a problem for the Treasury to address.

Press: Thank you.