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Karim Diff President Algeria Watch International email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://members.tripod.com/~AlgeriaWatch/index.html Phone: (414) 543-6534
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 3 WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 1997, 1:00 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Like yesterday, no announcements and no statements.
QUESTION: Algeria, like yesterday. Evidently the Algerian Government called on the American ambassador, is just not interested in the proposition of an international inquiry. Is that the end of it, as far as Secretary Albright, the State Department are concerned? Is there anything you can or plan to do?
MR. RUBIN: I spoke to Ambassador Hume this morning, and he described the circumstances that unfolded yesterday. The short answer to your question is no. We share the concerns of other nations in the international community with regard to the massacres in Algeria. An international interest in the ongoing tragedy is normal and understandable.
But let's focus first on the culprits. These terrorist attacks must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The terrorists must be condemned by the entire international community. The question is, what's the best way to get at some of the fact situations; not blaming the government, but getting at the fact situation. We do believe that outsiders may provide additional information on the scope and the source of these heinous crimes.
Ambassador Hume told me that we continue to discuss with the Algerian Government the idea of a UN human rights rapporteur. There are different ways in which the fact situation can be determined, and that idea, as far as we know, has not been rejected by the Algerian Government, and it is still a possibility. Other options include outside NGOs being able to go in and inquire and get to the bottom of this and be in a position to provide us with information that the international community has not had - how many people are really dying; what are the sources of this; what additional steps were or weren't taken.
The point is that this is a terrible situation, and that we have encouraged the Algerian Government to allow outside observers to visit and to look at the situation. They told us that they would accept a visit by a UN human rights rapporteur. What we are reiterating here is that the terrorist acts are condemnable; they're something that the entire international community is right to condemn. We want to see these barbaric attacks stopped. We're encouraging the Algerian Government to do all it can to protect civilians, bring the terrorists to justice, while also respecting the rule of law and human rights.
QUESTION: Did they set any conditions for this UN official - in other words, that he must be from a certain region, or they would discuss only x, y and z?
MR. RUBIN: I think at this point it is still under discussion, and I prefer not to get into the details. But the idea of a UN human rights rapporteur has not been rejected, and something we continue to encourage them to pursue.
QUESTION: What about non-governmental organizations going in there, such as Amnesty International, which has not been able to go since '97?
MR. RUBIN: Right. Again, we support the idea of outside NGOs being able to go. We think that the prospect of deterring, and ultimately stopping, these terrible atrocities would be improved if outsiders, like a UN human rights rapporteur, like NGOs, were in a position to provide the world and the Algerian Government with additional information on the scope, nature, and source of these crimes.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify. In this conversation between the ambassador and the Algerian Foreign Ministry, did they actually say they were opposed to non-governmental organizations coming in?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe - I don't have any information on the question of opposition to NGOs. I can say that we support the idea of NGOs going in.
QUESTION: Yes, again, just to clarify. You said the Algerian Government told you they would accept a visit by a UN human rights rapporteur?
MR. RUBIN: In principle, yes.
QUESTION: In principle --
MR. RUBIN: And we are continuing to encourage them to do so.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have a response to the Council of National --
MR. RUBIN: Are we still on Algeria here?
QUESTION: It's Algeria.
MR. RUBIN: Okay.
QUESTION: But apparently the special rapporteur -- I think he's for extrajudicial killings - has been trying to go to Algeria for quite a long time.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: So what has changed, really?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, what's - I don't know what has changed, in the way you framed the question. I can state to you what the US position is -- that a special rapporteur ought to be able to go; that in our discussions with the Algerian Government, they have not rejected that idea; and that is an option we are pursuing in conjunction with the idea of outside groups, NGOs, other people who can help get to the bottom of this.
QUESTION: And also, if I could ask, the Algerian Government said that they take offense to the fact that you're suggesting that there's a need to get to the bottom of the facts concerning the massacres, and they see a suggestion there that it would be other forces, other then Islamic extremists. Do you have any --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen them state it quite that way. I think their position is more general than that. But it is our view that outsiders and a UN human rights rapporteur would help the world know better what's going on in this terrible tragedy that's unfolding in Algeria.
QUESTION: To follow David's question of yesterday, Iranian resistance officials this morning reiterated that they believe that a link between terrorists in Iran and this terrorism in Algeria existed, and if the government were changed in Iran, there wouldn't be this problem. Can you respond to that statement?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I can make a few brief points. Obviously, this is a tricky one. Let me say this -- that we have noted in the past that the Algerian Government has accused Iran and Sudan of supporting Algerian extremists. The Iranian Government, however, has condemned the massacres and said it wanted to see those responsible exposed internationally. The question of our assessment of what Iranian relationship might exist with these extremist groups would be a matter I'm not in a position to get into from this podium.