State Department Noon Briefing


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2000 - 1:15 P.M.

Q: You mentioned that both the President and the Secretary had spoken
with their Russian counterparts over the last couple days, but I'm
wondering, did they also discuss the visit of Defense Minister
Sergeyev to Iran and his - and also - well, I don't know if it
happened, if they called before this happened, but this morning
Sergeyev and his Iranian counterpart announced a brand new chapter in
Russian-Iranian military cooperation.

MR. REEKER: I don't have specifics on those phone calls as to what was
discussed. I know the Middle East was obviously the focus in terms of
the President's call, and I know the Secretary's call to her
counterpart Foreign Minister Ivanov.

Let me just say in terms of the visit of Russian Minister of Defense
Sergeyev to Iran and those comments today, we have made very clear our
views for some time now on arms sales to Iran, and we are particularly
disturbed by Russian press accounts that we have seen today of Defense
Minister Sergeyev's discussions with the Iranians which suggest that
Russia is ready to sell Iran missiles, submarines and other equipment
which would clearly place the national security interests of the
United States, its allies and friends in the region, at risk.

It is not sufficient for Russia to simply call this type of equipment
"defensive." Some of the equipment reportedly being discussed between
the Russian Minister of Defense and his Iranian counterpart would pose
a serious threat, and so calling it "defensive" is not going to
diminish that threat. And this is something obviously we will watch
very closely and continue to monitor.

Q: Isn't this something that they were going to stop doing? Am I
wrong? I can't remember. Russia had taken some sort of a pledge a few
weeks ago.

MR. REEKER: Well, we have had discussions, Barry, at the experts level
following Secretary Albright's meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov in
Vienna some weeks ago about this, and we are going to continue to
discuss this and continue to monitor these developments. I am simply
responding to what we saw as reports in terms of what has been
reported out of Iran and expressing our concern with those reports and
what they would mean.

Q: If the reports are true, are they reneging on a promise or just
doing the wrong thing, which is bad enough?

MR. REEKER: Well, you will recall that the Russians had indicated some
time ago that they were no longer participating in the aide memoire
which had been in place since 1995 and had quite successfully kept
weapons from going to Iran. We are continuing those discussions. As I
said, we had the expert talks and I know it is a subject that will
continue into the future in terms of addressing the concerns of both
sides on that issue.

Q: Would we be notified - I don't know if we're going to have a
briefing tomorrow - if the reports have been verified and, if
possible, whether the US got back to the Russians --

MR. REEKER: Well, again, the reports are of something that hasn't
occurred yet, and so for discussion of such things I think it is
appropriate now that we make clear our views that any sale of
missiles, submarines and other equipment is something that would place
security interests at risk.

Q: I'm just wondering, if you found out that was indeed their
intention, could we be told?

MR. REEKER: Again, I don't think we are the ones that will be able to
define someone's intention. What we can do, Barry, is simply tell you
our position in response to what was reported as being --

Q: Well, there will be contracts and presumably be a relationship with
Russia. You can say, "Have you people signed a deal like this?" And
they would either lie or tell you the truth.

MR. REEKER: I am not aware, Barry, that anything has been signed.

Q: Can I just make sure that I understand this correctly? You're
saying you've seen these reports, but officials in this building have
not yet sought to clarify from Moscow whether those reports are
accurate? MR. REEKER: I just would have to check as to who has spoken
with whom. I mean, Defense Minister Sergeyev was in Iran. Things like
wire services, with which you are extremely familiar, have reported
certain comments attributed to him from Iran. And we are disturbed by
those press accounts, and I think I made clear why we would be
disturbed by that.

Q: When the Russians announced that they were pulling out of the
Gore-Chernomyrdin aide memoire, there was talk about how the Russians
could be subject to sanctions if they went ahead and sold more of
these weapons.

Is anyone in this building now kind of dusting off the sanctions book
and looking at --

MR. REEKER: I think that book stays dusted off all the time, Matt, so
I just - again, I don't think we are --

Q: Well, I realize --

MR. REEKER: We monitor this stuff very closely. We are prepared to
take action that --

Q: Do you know - (inaudible) - ?

MR. REEKER: I just would have to get you a briefing on that. It is not
just the kind of thing I have now. They are very much proscribed by
law, I believe.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 P.M.)