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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, March 4, 1999 - 1:40 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
March 04, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I suspect that many of you have questions about the verdict at Camp LeJeune today in the cable car case. Let me just start with a brief statement about that.

I'd like to repeat once again the sympathy that the U.S. government has for the families of those who died in this accident and all others who were touched by this tragedy. It's been a tragedy for everyone, particularly the families, the ski area, the cable car operators, and the Marines as well.

From the very beginning the Marines set out to determine culpability in a fair, open, and thorough way. As you know, the proceedings were open to the press. They were widely covered. I believe there were some five dozen news media representatives at Camp LeJeune following the trial at the end.

The whole process was open and candid, and the jury reached the verdict it reached after considering the evidence. There's no more I can say about this right now because there are other charges pending against Captain Ashby as well as against other people. So we cannot comment further on it now. The legal proceeding is ongoing, and I'm sure it will be followed in the same open way that it has by the press and be conducted in the same candid and thorough way that it has by the Marines.

With that, I'll take questions, but there's not much more I can say on this topic or others.

Q: Ken, what would you say to the families of the victims who have said after the verdict that justice wasn't served, and that if Captain Ashby was not responsible, then that means nobody was taking responsibility for this tragedy.

A: As I said, the legal proceedings are ongoing. I think it's premature to comment at this stage. But legal systems are designed to present evidence and to allow people to reach conclusions. That's what the jury did in this case.

Q: Can you comment about what the process.... The families of the victims have filed claims with the Italian government, but they're also trying to get some direct compensation from the United States because of the long Italian bureaucracy.

What is the process for and what is the willingness of the United States to compensate the families of the victims? How is that working?

A: First, we have already compensated the families of the victims in two ways.

Right after this tragedy occurred, the Secretary of Defense authorized a discretionary payment of $5,000 to each family to cover immediate transportation and burial expenses.

In addition, under Italian law the government there made available approximately $60,000 U.S. dollars to the survivors of the 20 people killed in the accident. That money was reimbursed by the U.S. government. So there were fairly prompt payments made of $65,000.

Now the overall claims question is handled by a Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Italy, and that agreement provides that the claims should be filed with the Italian government and that they'll be processed by the Italian Ministry of Defense, which will apply Italian tort law. So Italian tort law is the deciding law here for the remaining claims.

My understanding is that 10 of the 20 estates involved have filed wrongful death claims with the Italian Ministry of Defense. These claims range from, in U.S. dollar terms, $812,000 to $5.4 million. All 20 families have hired attorneys and we anticipate that all 20 families eventually will file claims, but not all have done that yet.

Those claims are being processed by the Italian government. We have worked very closely with the Italian government from the beginning. We share the feeling that this was a terrible tragedy, and we've tried to work as hard as we could with the Italian government to do everything we can afterwards to deal with claims and other issues that have come up.

My understanding is that there have been no payments yet on these wrongful death claims.

It's also my understanding that the Italian government has set a goal to make offers within 30 days of receipt of all the documents, of the receipt of all the documents they request in processing the claims.

So I don't know where the families stand in their dealings with the Italian Ministry of Defense.

Q: One last follow-up question. Does the verdict in this trial, whether it was guilty or not guilty as it turned out to be, does that have any effect at all in how the compensation is granted? For instance, do you get greater compensation if there was a guilty verdict? Or does it have any effect on how the compensation to the families is handled, or is it completely independent of what the verdict in the trial was?

A: One, I'm not a lawyer. And two, I'm not an Italian lawyer. And three, I'm not an Italian tort lawyer. So I can't answer that question, but my guess is that these are, will be decided by Italian standards that will be applied under Italian law. I can't say anything more than that.

Q: The tort lawyers, Italianos, will come up with some kind of a figure with each of these cases.

A: Right.

Q: Then the U.S. government then is going to compensate the Italian military? Is that the way this...

A: We will end up paying 75 percent of all the claims they pay. That is established by the Status of Forces Agreement that we signed with the Italian government. Now that Status of Forces Agreement happens to be similar to one that we have with other NATO allies.

Q: And the Italians will pick up 25 percent?

A: That's what the Status of Forces Agreement provides.

Q: Did this incident strain U.S./Italian relations? And if so, have those strains.... How is that being addressed?

A: This has been a very difficult episode for both the U.S. and Italy. We are, however, extremely strong allies. Our forces continue to serve and train together. We share the same goals for resolving this as fairly and as quickly as possible. Although this is a human tragedy of unbounded dimensions for the families involved, and certainly a difficult issue for our two governments to handle, I think we've handled it, we've tried to handle it as well as possible and I think we've succeeded.

These are always difficult times, but we have a very, very strong alliance.

Q: Does the United States government, Ken, take full responsibility for the accident? Or have we already taken that responsibility?

A: The Marines have done investigations and accident reports. I think I'll just refer you to those reports.

Q: What measures has the U.S. taken, if any, to try to prevent a similar tragedy in the future? For instance, have the maps given to pilots been updated in any way? Have commanders taken any action to ensure that pilots are not hot dogging or...

A: There are three principal steps that have been taken. There is now a clear minimum flight ceiling of 2,000 feet. Because of that restriction, the planes do not do any low-level flight operations in the Alps. Third, after every flight there is a third party review of the flight tapes to make sure that there was full compliance with all the flight rules and regulations. Those are the three main steps that have been taken following this tragedy.

Q: Ken, has the map that, the flight map that covers this area, has that map been updated now?

A: There is a separate, as I understand it, a separate litigation involving the mapping agency, the National Imaging and Mapping Agency. I'm not aware that a change has been made yet in the map, but I really can't talk about that because that's the subject of a separate litigation.

Q: Another subject?

A: Yeah. Let me before moving to other subjects cover a couple of other announcements before we move on and take questions in other areas. If we're through with this?

First, I'd like to point out that 20,000 active National Guard and Reserve forces are currently working in Central America as part of a training operation called NEW HORIZONS 1999 where they are helping with the recovery efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This is to repair the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. I guess they're also working in the Dominican Republic where Hurricane Georges imposed damage.

They're in the process of rebuilding or constructing medical clinics, schools, redrilling wells, providing civil engineer support, and performing various medical tasks as required. This expanded NEW HORIZONS operation will go on until September of 1999.

Second, I'd like to make an announcement about something of which we're very proud, and I'll show you in just a minute an excerpt.

This weekend, Armed Forces Radio and Television will begin airing a half an hour interview that Janet Langhart Cohen did with President Clinton last weekend on Air Force One, last week on Air Force One when he was flying out to the West Coast. This is the first of a series of programs that she is going to do for Armed Forces Radio and Television. She's donated her time to do this. She will be interviewing prominent people outside of the military and also in the military to ask them questions that would be of interest to a military audience, and to get their perceptions on what the contributions of the U.S. military are today and what the men and women in the military are doing.

I'd like to just show you a brief excerpt here. This is in response to a question that she asked President Clinton about how he would compare the contribution that the U.S. military made in World War II to the contribution they're making today.

"...genuine self determination, for freedom, for free commerce, for free exchange of ideas in a way that no generation has ever tried to do or had to do before. Because the world is so inter-connected and one of these little problems can become a forest fire and spread around.

"So they really, I think 50 years from now when they look back, they will see that they didn't bring an end to an era of slaughter the way the World War II generation did with heroism and great sacrifice, but they did put America's military might to work in building a new world, which is something I think their children and grandchildren will be very, very proud of.

"And there's no doubt that the United States could not have done it by economic power alone. Without our military alliances, without the expansion of NATO, without the deployment in Bosnia, without our ability to continue to try to stop bad things from happening and weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, without our willingness to stay on the Korean Peninsula to try to stabilize situations there, work through the other tensions in Asia, we would not have been able to do this.

"If people in my position, the decisionmakers, if we don't mess it up, then the military will know that they were part of literally building a world different from any in all previous history. I think that's a legacy to be proud of."

The transcript is available on our Web site or the White House Web site, and we have copies of that and other excerpts available if you'd like them.

Two other announcements...

Q: Can we get a tape as well?

A: If you'd like a copy of the tape, we have the whole tape as well.

Women's History Month will be celebrated on Monday, March 8th. As part of our observance here, Dr. Sue Bailey, who has addressed you here on health topics because she's the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, will speak at 2:00 p.m. in the departmental auditorium, so I invite you to go to that.

And finally, I'd like to welcome the latest in a seemingly constant string of Air Force interns coming through as part of the important Air Force intern program.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Ken, we keep hearing about a buildup of Serb military forces along the borders of Kosovo. Can you give us something on that in terms of numbers?

A: I spoke about that some when I briefed last week. I guess I can give you some update on that.

There has been a buildup along the border, and basically there are currently about 9,000 to 10,000 troops near the northern border of Kosovo -- not in Kosovo. There are other troops in Kosovo, but these are troops that have moved recently down toward the border. They have around 100 tanks, fewer than 100 armored personnel carriers, and about 100 artillery pieces. And our--we don't know exactly why they're there.

There are two possible reasons. The first is, they're both not good reasons, but the first reason would be to stay in reserve for doing something to attack the Kosovar Liberation Army; or the second would be to oppose entry of NATO troops into Kosovo under a peace agreement. That doesn't make any sense because there won't be a peace agreement unless the Serbs agree, and presumably if they agree there wouldn't be any opposition. But they may have felt that NATO troops might come in to Kosovo anyway without a peace agreement.

Of course NATO's policy is that NATO troops will not go in until there is a peace agreement.

Q: Ken, do you have anything on these reports that the Serbs have rigged explosives in some of the bridges and roads that provide access to Kosovo from Macedonia, presumably to deter or stop the NATO extraction forces if they needed to go in and assist in the removal of international monitors?

A: There is some evidence that there has been that type of activity along bridges, yes.

Q: You talked about the situation on the northern border of Kosovo. Can you tell us anything about the situation on the border of Kosovo and Macedonia where there has also been a buildup?

A: There has been a heightened presence there, and it looks to be sort of a vicious cycle. There's been some heightened UCK activity in the area which has triggered an increase in Serb forces in the area which of course has heightened--I guess they have it the other way around.

There was an increase of Serb forces in the area which heightened more UCK resistance which has then triggered some counterinsurgency operations by the Serb forces in the area. There has been a buildup in the south. I can't give you firm figures on it.

Q: For domestic consumption Mr. Milosevic seems to be talking about these troops as sort of looking south against possible NATO intervention. Do you see them as poised in that way by the way they are deployed?

A: As I said, NATO doesn't have any intention of intervening without a peace agreement, and a peace agreement would allow us to intervene permissively without opposition. So I don't think this is something that Mr. Milosevic should be worrying about. If he has the good sense to sign a peace agreement, and we think he should, because it's the best way to end the fighting and restore stability in the area, then he will have nothing to fear from NATO forces, so we'll be there merely to make sure that peace reigns under the agreement and that both sides carry out the obligations that would be imposed upon them by the agreement.

Q: Were NATO troops put on a higher state of alert last week when there were tensions over the...

A: I don't have any evidence that they were. But first of all, we don't have.... The troops involved would have been the extraction force, and there is not American participation in the extraction force. We have, I think, two liaison officers connected to it, and that's it. Certainly a local commander would have the authority to increase the alert of his troops, but I can't confirm that this in fact was done.

Q: Ken, I was just going to ask, is there any evidence.... There have been some reports, and is there any evidence to the effect that Milosevic has reinforced his numbers of troops and police inside Kosovo, or are they--does the U.S. think they are at the limit allowed by the agreement?

A: Well, the OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, recently reported that the Serbs were not in compliance with the October guidelines, that they had up to 20 company-sized units deployed beyond the limits imposed last October. There clearly also has been a movement of troops and weapons from garrisons where they're supposed to be out into deployed conditions in Kosovo. So there has been an increase in the number of VJ or Serb troops in Kosovo.

Q: The United States believes that Serbia is in violation?

A: Yes, or the OSCE has reported that they're not in compliance and we don't question that.

Q: I think last week talking about the garrison versus deployment, I think you said twice as many were in garrison roughly than were deployed, something like that. What is it now?

A: Well, it's changed. The number in garrison has fallen and the number of deployed has gone up. I would guess that probably the number of deployed equals about 60 or 70 percent of what's in garrison. So as they've drawn down the garrison, they've increased the deployments.

Q: You're talking about troops that are internal in Kosovo, not coming across the border.

A: I'm talking about troops and equipment within Kosovo moving out of garrison into deployed status.

Q: What's happened to the, what's the status of the United Nations preventive deployment mission in Macedonia [for] which the mandate expired at the end of February. Are those troops, including U.S. troops, still there? Are they still performing their mission? Will there be a different authority...

A: The troops are still there. As you know, the mission was not renewed by the U.N. because of opposition by the Chinese. We are now looking at what to do next. That's currently under consideration by us and by our allies.

Our troops are there now. There are 350 Americans as part of Task Force ABLE SENTRY, and that's about a third of the total task force. There are Europeans and others there. We're currently in discussions to decide what to do next.

Q: Is it possible that it will continue for instance as a NATO-sponsored mission?

A: I think that rather than speculate about what might happen we should just wait for the discussions to bear fruit, and at the appropriate time we'll make an announcement.

Q: The parties to these discussions are who?

A: Well, all the countries who want to keep forces in Macedonia. Remember, Task Force ABLE SENTRY was put in there to prevent the destabilization from leaching across the border into FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And that's why we've been there since July of 1993, I believe.

Now things are more unstable than ever in Kosovo along the border of the FYROM, so it seems like an odd time to pull out the troops.

However, I should point out that there are now quite a number of troops in Macedonia under various hats. We have a little more than a thousand troops there for Task Force ABLE SENTRY. Then there are probably about 5,600, I believe, NATO troops there. Some are there as part of the extraction force, I'd say around 2,600, 2,800 I believe, and the balance are there as part of an enabling force. These are mainly British forces, but some are French forces. These are forces that have moved in to Macedonia or are moving into Skopje to set up the routes and the infrastructure that will be necessary to move into Kosovo should there be a peace agreement.

So there are now, I would say, between 6,000 and 7,000 troops in Macedonia under various responsibilities.

Q: Are the U.S. troops and the other, I think Norwegian or Nordic Brigade, still in the positions they occupied since '93?

A: I believe they are, but I'll have to double check on that. It actually takes a long while to draw the troops out, and I believe they're still pretty much in their forward positions.

As you know, they occupy observation posts along the border. They go out there for a period of time, seven to ten days, small groups, then they come back to their headquarters in Skopje and they're replaced by others.

Q: Another subject?

Anything on the DoD investigation against the Greek Ministry of Defense? There's a report by the Washington Post with the allegation that the Greeks have supplied secret NATO aircraft jamming codes to Russia. And let us know if the matter has been closed.

A: Well first, we did look into concerns about the possible unauthorized use of U.S. military technology. We had a very thorough investigation with complete cooperation from the Greek government and the Greek Ministry of Defense.

The preliminary findings are very promising, that nothing was wrong, that nothing went awry, and we're in the process of analyzing those findings. We hope that it will be resolved very quickly. But both within our government--we're continuing to consult with Congress, and we're continuing to consult within the government on this issue.

Q: So the matter is still open.

A: It has not yet been completely resolved, but we hope it will be resolved completely and satisfactorily.

Q: And how many DoD officials have briefed in the last two days Members of Congress during a special briefing...

A: I'm afraid I can't answer that question.

Q: Since it was a NATO matter, why the investigation was conducted by the Department of Defense and not by a NATO coalition?

A: This was a matter that involved some--that could have involved U.S. equipment. As it turns out, the preliminary findings are there was not a problem, but as I say, we're in the process of completing our full assessment now.

Q: Did you notify NATO of this investigation, and did NATO get involved in the investigation?

A: I don't know enough about all of the details to be able to answer that question.

Q: There was an allegation on why the DoD proposed to your government to [cut off] arms sales to Greece on February 11th, and when are we planning to install those sales?

A: First of all, the relationship between the United States and Greece is extremely strong. And I think that one example of that is that there was recently signed in Athens a contract by the Greek government to buy $1.4 billion of Patriot missiles and associated equipment, training, support, etc. That agreement would not have been signed if there weren't a strong trusting relationship between the United States and Greece.

Q: But did you cut off the arms sales to Greece on February 11th?

A: There is no formal cutoff. There has been an informal and temporary delay, and as soon as this is resolved, my anticipation is that the exports will resume again.

Q: This deal, such as that Patriot deal, are on hold until this thing is closed, is that what you're saying?

A: Yes.

Jamie?

Q: Iraq?

A: Iraq.

Q: Can I have one more on that?

A: Sure.

Q: The preliminary findings, is that in the form of a formal report that was delivered to the Pentagon and is that available?

A: No, it's not available to the public. It's something that's still being analyzed by the government, and I don't think it will ever be available to the public given the subject of the report.

Q: On Iraq, can you shed any more clarity on whether or not the United States bombing attacks shut down the flow of oil to Iraq's pipeline to Turkey? Iraq, I guess claims that a critical control center that controlled the pipeline was hit during the military strikes. Is that the case? Are the Iraqi claims exaggerated in any sense?

A: First, we are responding to attacks against our aircraft. There have been significant threats and provocations by Iraq against coalition aircraft since the end of DESERT FOX on December 23rd. There have been more than 100 no-fly zone violations, some 20 surface-to-air missiles have been fired at coalition aircraft, and there have been many, many times when our planes have come under anti-aircraft or multiple-launch rocket fire. And we have also been threatened by radar, targeted by radar in a threatening way, dozens and dozens of times since the end of December.

So when that happens, our pilots have the right to protect themselves by firing back, and that's what they've been doing.

As General Zinni explained here back in January, they have rules of engagement that allow them to respond against the entire system that's targeting them, not just the particular element of the system, such as the particular anti-aircraft installation or surface-to-air missile site.

Given that, we have been attacking on a fairly regular basis radars and communications nodes that help link the whole air defense system together.

On February 28th and March 1st, we did attack some communications facilities which we believe are primarily, if not entirely, military, but they may be dual-use facilities as well. We have no information whatsoever that we, one, hit a pipeline, as has been misreported in some press accounts, or a pumping station, which has also been reported in some press accounts.

We only have confirmation that we hit communications facilities, which we believe are integral parts of their air defense system that is using, used to communicate among radars and firing units or between various radars to help cue attacks against our planes.

So we have absolutely no evidence that any specific part of the oil infrastructure system was hit, and, in fact, we try hard to avoid that. That's why we use precision guided munitions.

The United Nations has sent a team of experts to Iraq to assess the situation. They have made, the United Nations made an initial report that communications facilities were damaged. We have not seen any evidence from our own sources or from U.N, sources that anything else but communications facilities were damaged.

Q: Didn't that report also conclude that those communication facilities were in fact, as the Iraqis claim, a critical link in the system that controlled the flow of oil and therefore it did result in the shutdown of the pipeline for several days?

A: The pipeline is, as I understand it, up and running again. We don't know exactly what the link is between these communication facilities and the pipeline. It could be that they are multiple-use facilities, and they could transmit some information from the pipeline to control centers. We don't have any independent analysis of that, and that's one of the things we're waiting for from the U.N.

Q: Ken, you said the pipeline is up and running again, so...

A: It is.

Q: So it was down.

A: The pipeline was down. We don't know why it was down, but it was down for awhile.

Q: I see. And the Turks have been raising quite a bit of objection to the pipeline being down, I think casting aspersions on the U.S. What do we know from our relations with the Turks about their oil supply? Have they, was it interrupted?

A: There are millions of gallons of oil in storage in Iraq [Turkey] that have come in from this pipeline, and are being held there for eventual shipment or use elsewhere. So it didn't create an oil shortage of any, of any sort that we're aware of. But beyond that I can't comment on the Turkish comments.

Q: What about the broader Iraqi claim that the shutdown of the pipeline resulted in hardships to the Iraqi people by denying Iraq the ability to export oil for a period of time?

A: As I said, Iraq has millions of gallons, there are millions of gallons of Iraqi oil already in storage in Turkey for shipment. Iraq also, as the U.N. recently reported, has a large amount of food and medical equipment in warehouses in Iraq which it hasn't distributed to its people -- $275 million worth of food and medical equipment in warehouses.

I also saw a report yesterday that some of the medical equipment they're ordering are things like liposuction machinery and machines to whiten teeth and other things that don't seem to be crucial if they're facing a humanitarian crisis.

As you know, the U.N. has commissioned a review to be completed by April 15th of the humanitarian situation in Iraq to answer questions that have been raised from a number of sources about the true dimensions of problems in Iraq. But we believe that under the current system they are clearly able to import a lot of food and medicine, in fact, so much that they're keeping it in warehouses and not distributing it to their people.

They have also not taken advantage of certain opportunities that they have under the program. There's, for instance, an $8 million set-aside as part of the program for high protein bishops--I'm sorry, biscuits. They may need high-protein bishops as well, but these are biscuits. (Laughter) They have not taken advantage of that. Nor have they taken advantage of the special set-aside for therapeutic milk that they're allowed under the program.

So I think it's a mixed picture and I think there are many questions and the U.N. is trying to answer those questions with its own investigation.

Q: Anything on the incidents in the no-fly zone, the southern no-fly zone, today? There was a British plane...

A: I don't have anything beyond what has been put out by our Central Command, but there was at approximately 8:15 this morning a Royal Air Force Tornado [that] struck a radar site near Basrah in response to anti-aircraft fire in the no-fly zone.

There was also, I believe, a violation of the no-fly zone by a plane today.

Q: Is any thought being given to the efficacy of these ongoing attacks? If the point, as has been said, is to stop the Iraqis from threatening allied pilots, it doesn't seem to be working.

A: Well, the allied pilots, as you know, police the no-fly zone as part of our, the United Nations policy to contain Iraq, and that containment has two elements. One is to contain Iraq from attacking its own people, either Shiites or Kurds within Iraq, which has happened in the past. They've actually used gas against the Kurdish minority in Iraq. And also to prevent Iraq from attacking its neighbors as it did, of course, most notably in 1990 against Kuwait, but it's also in the past launched attacks against Iran.

An integral part of policing the containment policy is patrolling the no-fly zone because it's the no-fly zone that allows them -- it's actually a no-fly/no-drive zone in the south -- that prevents them from moving troops and equipment south toward Kuwait or toward Iran. So we've been policing on a regular basis since 1991 the no-fly zones.

For the vast majority of that time, they have not threatened our planes in any way. They haven't turned on their targeting radar, they have not fired at our planes. But since last December they've been doing that on a regular basis.

We are responding to those attacks. We are continuing our job of patrolling the no-fly zone. They are trying to shoot down our planes. They've announced that publicly. They've offered a bounty for shooting down an American pilot. They continue not only to make menacing comments, but to fire anti-aircraft weapons at our planes and rockets and other things on a very regular basis.

So in light of that, we are responding. And we will continue to respond as long as they attack us.

They have suffered fairly significant losses in terms of surface-to-air missiles, in terms of early-warning radars, and in terms of communications facilities that link their, that knit their system together. Obviously they haven't suffered enough loss to stop targeting us. They still have an ability to fire at our planes. And we will continue to fire back.

It's a very risky business for our pilots. We understand that. It's not easy or fun flying over anti-aircraft installations or surface-to-air missile installations, but this is the job these pilots have been doing in the face of great danger for some time.

Q: Is it not felt that at any point it might be necessary to engage in a broader suppression campaign?

A: I think right now we're doing our job patrolling the no-fly zone, they're trying to interdict these patrols, and we will continue to fight back until they stop trying to prevent us from doing the job we set out to do.

Q: There are some people who suggest that the real objective of these bombings is to lower the morale of the Iraqi troops and therefore create the conditions for military coup. What would you say to people who think that's the...

A: People who have been betting on that scenario in the past have lost their money. The goal of what we're doing is pure and simple. We are enforcing our containment policy. And when we're attacked, we fire back to protect our pilots and to continue to do our job as well as possible. That's what we're doing, pure and simple. And if you look at the number of provocations and threats our pilots have faced in the last two months or so, I think it's very clear that we are responding to attacks against our planes and pilots.

Q: One more oil pipeline question. You conceded that these communications facilities may have had some dual use, it might have been linked to the pipeline operation. Do you have any evidence or are you suspicious that Iraq may have been overstating the impact on the oil pipeline in order to attempt to win sympathy for its case?

A: Well, clearly Iraq either overstated the impact or didn't know what had happened at first and leapt to conclusions that were unjustified by the facts, because when this incident occurred over the weekend and they stopped sending oil through the pipeline, they said it would take weeks to repair. And they've managed to get oil going again in just a couple of days.

So whether or not they were trying to exaggerate the impact or they just didn't appreciate what the problem was, I can't sort out.

Q: Just a point of information, Ken, these oil pipelines are transshipping crude down to the refining and port facility whereby it is then shipped out of the Persian Gulf and around to Turkey?

A: No, just the opposite.

Q: Oh, it's going to Turkey direct?

A: This is oil that's going into Turkey.

Q: Direct.

A: It's going into Turkey through a pipeline.

Q: Could you elaborate on the offer that Madeleine Albright made in Thailand for used F-16s, I guess to replace the F-18s they can't afford?

A: I'm afraid I can't. I can give you a little bit of background. Turkey was going to buy--sorry. Thailand was going to buy some F-18s. They could not because of their financial crisis. I think they still want to update their, modernize their air force. I suspect that the offer came up in that context, but I haven't had a chance to talk with my colleague Jamie Rubin about the details of this.

Q: A different subject.

On Tuesday General Clark mentioned that, or announced that he thought there was a breakdown in Bosnia. I think especially with regard to Bosnian Serbs. Can you respond or do you have anything on that particular statement of General Clark's?

A: I think General Clark was talking about an illegal weapons shipment that we interdicted, and as a result of that, we not only seized a fairly large number of weapons that were being illegally shipped, but we stood down a Republic of Serbska unit, the 311th, as I understand it. We disbanded it. And General Clark gave a pretty full description of that, and I don't have much to add to it.

Q: On the subject of military aviation safety. Have there been an unusual number or fighter jet crashes so far this fiscal year? We're almost six months into the year. In particular, are there any alarming statistics on the F-16?

A: I have not looked into the--all these figures are on the basis of per 100,000 flight hours. I have not looked at--the last time I looked at the figures globally for all of our military aviation, it was several months ago, and we were pretty much on track, as I recall.

We've been at an extremely low level. We would like to be at a lower level. One crash is one crash too many. But we have sort of plateaued at a low level, and we're trying to figure out how to get lower still.

I have not specifically looked into any individual aircraft. But we can provide those figures for you.

Press: Thank you.

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