MR. RUBIN: I'm going to try to summarize what Secretary Albright said
in the meeting, and then take your questions--just like in the old days.
Secretary Albright began by making clear that the United States believes
it is time for serious efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, and that
although only the parties themselves can make such decisions, this group
has a critical role to play.
She believes that the Special Envoy Brahimi should be given a mandate to
visit Afghanistan and its neighbors very soon and to make
recommendations on restarting a dialogue among the factions.
She pointed to the special responsibility that the neighbors of
Afghanistan have not to fuel or provoke regional conflicts, which are
dangerous for all of us. She also made clear that outside parties must
refrain from providing weapons or other support to Afghan factions;
doing so only prolongs the bloodshed.
She emphasized the importance of working with the UN drug control
program to stamp out the narcotics trade that helps fund the flow of
weapons to Afghanistan. And finally, she made clear the disapproval of
the Taliban's policies that the United States disapproves of, including
the excesses in war, its intent to impose a narrow and autocratic
fundamentalism on a diverse and independent peoples. But at the same
time, Secretary Albright emphasized the importance of all nations
respecting the territorial integrity of Afghanistan.
She made clear that the minimum standards the international community
expects of its partners are not Islamic or Christian or Eastern or
Western, but universal standards. She, in that regard, expressed the
regret of the United States at the deaths of Iranian diplomats in Mazar-
i-Sharif. She offered America's condolences to their families and the
Iranian people, and urged the Taliban to permit an international
investigation and to ensure punishment of those responsible. She also
urged that the Taliban live up to international obligations by releasing
all Iranians detained in Afghanistan.
She made special mention of the terrorism issue, making clear that
nations that harbor terrorists have no place in the international
community, and that the Taliban should expel all terrorists now using
Afghanistan as a safe haven. With special emphasis, she mentioned Osama
Bin Laden and his followers.
That is the gist of what she said, and I'd be happy to take any
questions anybody has.
Q Jamie, what's the future in continuing to ask for dialogue among the
factions when the Secretary General, himself, has noted in his statement
that the Taliban is really now sort of de facto the government of
Afghanistan; and why not talk directly to them more?
MR. RUBIN: Our view is that in the absence of a broad-based government
with all relevant parties participating, there will be no successful
long-term future for Afghanistan. So while the territorial situation
[inaudible] in the absence of a broad-based government in which all the
political groups are represented in some form or another, this conflict
will go on indefinitely. That is the reason why we're advocating direct
Q Is there any joint statement or any--(inaudible)--Secretary Albright-
MR. RUBIN: Well, I believe there's been some discussion of some points
that everyone agrees on. It's my understanding that Special
Representative Brahimi will be briefing you after the meeting on some
points that everyone agrees to. But I think they follow along the lines
that I just stated on the major points.
Q Did Secretary Albright feel snubbed in any way because the Foreign
Minister of Iran did not attend the meeting? And also, was there any
discussion between Iranian representatives and--
MR. RUBIN: No, on the contrary; we responded positively to the
Secretary General's invitation to this meeting immediately, precisely
because of our concern about the danger in Afghanistan. Those of you
who I've spoken to in the last week who tried to encourage a meaning to
this meeting above and beyond Afghanistan, I think those of you know
that I down-played that to a large extent precisely because in our minds
this was not a US-Iranian meeting.
The United States and Iran have met in this forum at a fairly high
level, I believe, seven times before. So this wasn't an unprecedented
It's certainly true that if the Foreign Minister had been here, there
would have been a meeting with the two Foreign Ministers in a smaller
group than has occurred in a long time. But if you understand what our
motivations were in having the meeting, they were to get the relevant
neighbors to work together on Afghanistan, and not as part of the
efforts we've made, quite clearly, about our willingness to have a
So the two were not connected in our minds. I know it was heavily
connected in many of your minds, but I hope you don't make a self-
fulfilling prophecy come true.
Q On that subject, what is your understanding of the reason that the
Foreign Minister was not there?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding was the fact that his president was here,
but I would urge you to ask them that.
Q Did Mrs. Albright and (inaudible) greet each other, diplomatically at
MR. RUBIN: Did they what?
Q Did they greet each other and say hello to each other, at least?
MR. RUBIN: I think it came off the way such meetings normally do, in
which heads were nodded appropriately, but I don't believe there were
handshakes around; certainly none that I saw in my presence.
Q What is going to happen to Taliban - their Afghanistan seat in the
UN; have you made a decision?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't believe in the concept of empty seats; and,
as you know, our position on the Taliban hasn't changed.
Q And are you willing to change your position on Taliban if they are
willing to negotiate with you on releasing bin Laden; or helping you
perhaps get more of the terrorists in that region?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've stated--and as I stated in the statement that
Secretary Albright delivered and I summarized for you--that there are
many things the Taliban has done that are reprehensible. It is only by
acting in conformity with the standards the international community has
come to accept, whether it be on killing diplomats, investigating these
matters, whether it be on drugs, whether it be on harboring terrorism,
whether it be allowing the ICRC in, allowing humanitarian assistance in,
there are a whole series of actions that we regard as reprehensible that
would need to be changed.
Q Another question--do you think that the Madame Secretary is going to
meet with Kharrazi during the next six weeks?
MR. RUBIN: I've heard nothing to suggest that at all.
Q So, Jamie, what is in it for the Taliban to help the US in expelling
terrorists, in expelling Osama bin Laden? What do they get out of
making positive steps?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't think somebody should be given credit for
living up to the minimum standards of international behavior. When it
comes to terrorism, there is no excuse for harboring terrorists who kill
innocent people. The hundreds of people who died in Nairobi, in Kenya,
are directly related to the fact that Osama bin Laden was involved and
that people helped him, assisted him and harbored him. That is the
responsibility of those who do so.
It certainly would be in the interest of any country, if they want to be
part of the international system, to not take steps that in the
international system are regarded as reckless and illegal.
Q Jamie, did the Iranians give you any indication of how long they will
let diplomacy play its hand here? They still have a couple hundred
thousand troops, they claim, on the border.
MR. RUBIN: As far as we can tell, the build-up does continue, and there
is no question in our minds that the Iranians have the capacity to
attack. Whether they intend to do so is another question. I don't
think we came away from this session with a firm conclusion on that
I will say that we are encouraged by statements their president and
others have made in recent days indicating that they want a diplomatic
resolution of this. But what will happen? I think, at this point we
are not sure.
Q The Iranians want a resolution, a Chapter VII resolution in the
Security Council containing the Taliban and maybe for some kind of
punishment they said. Would the US vote for such a resolution?
MR. RUBIN: Well, that was mentioned in the meeting, and we haven't seen
such a text. We would have to look at such a thing.
I think we've been quite clear in explaining the extent to which we
condemn its action. We voted for other resolutions, making clear that
this was something we oppose. But we have to see a text.
Q What U.S. interests are at stake in the question whether Iran does
send troops across the border?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Afghanistan is already a place that, by the fact that
they harbor terrorists, has posed negative implications for the United
States and to the whole world. Further instability in that region is
not good for the neighbors; it's not good for the people of Afghanistan;
and it's not good for the world.
So as a general proposition, we have an interest in seeing the
territorial integrity of countries upheld; and specifically there has
been a humanitarian disaster occurring in Afghanistan for years and
years and years, and we would have every reason to think that some
action much like the one you describe would only make it worse.
Q One other question--I'm sorry--who's going to be telling the Taliban
about the meeting today? How is the--
MR. RUBIN: They usually find out what happens.
Q Any response to Khatami's speech to the General Assembly, or did you
all get a chance to hear it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we listened and saw references. But I think the one
we'll be reading and looking at with great interest is the speech that
we understand is supposed to be made by the Foreign Minister.
Return to Vinnie's Home Page
Return to Central Asia Page
Return to Clinton Administration Page