US Department of State Daily Briefing #2: Thursday, 1/3/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:45 PM; Washington, DC Date: Jan 3, 19911/3/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Central America, Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe Country: Iraq, USSR (former), El Salvador, Syria, Latvia, Lithuania Subject: Terrorism, Human Rights, State Department, Military Affairs, Democratization MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have three statements for you: El Salvador, the Baltics, and Somalia; and we'll get onto other matters. Q Consider them done. Q Just hand them out.

[FMLN Downing of US Helicopter in El Salvador]

A No. Let's start off with Salvador. Yesterday, at 2:30 p.m., three U.S. Army crew members were killed when their transport helicopter was shot down by small arms fire in eastern El Salvador. The FMLN guerrillas have claimed responsibility for the shooting. The helicopter was on a routine mission returning from San Salvador to its base in Honduras. The bodies of the U.S. servicemen were recovered by the Salvadoran armed forces and taken to San Salvador. Their names are being withheld pending notification to their families. The FMLN claimed in radio broadcasts that the three servicemen were found dead inside the aircraft. However, there appears to be a serious inconsistency in the FMLN's story. The helicopter landed in a controlled fashion. Nevertheless, all three U.S. servicemen had apparent gunshot wounds to the head and two of them had no other apparent wounds. A forensic team from the United States is about to arrive in El Salvador to investigate the circumstances of these deaths. This FMLN action comes at a time when the FMLN claims to be interested in reaching agreements to end the war. Once again, the guerrillas' actions belie their words. This time, it is Americans, not Salvadorans, who are the victims of the FMLN's hypocrisy. We extend our sympathy to the families and colleagues of the servicemen who died yesterday. Questions on that? Jim. Q You're suggesting, then, that they were executed after they crash-landed? A We have a forensic team that's on its way down there that will investigate more fully the circumstances. There were also some eyewitnesses. Our Embassy has sent people up to the site and was interviewing them this morning. As I said, the evidence, the information, that we have so far on the gunshot wounds shows that the initial story put out by the FMLN is very much inconsistent with the facts as we know them. Q Do you have radio tower traffic that indicates it landed safely? A I can't go into, I think, the basis of our statement, but we do know that it landed in a controlled fashion. Q Richard, do you have any evidence of the kind of range at which these shots were fired into the head? A At this point, those kinds of things have to be investigated, and I can't give you that information now. We hope that our forensic team and the Salvadoran government and army investigators who are working on this will give us more information shortly. Q You said that -- you referred to this FMLN action. What is it exactly that the United States is accusing the FMLN of doing? A They have claimed responsibility for the shooting down of the aircraft. Q So the action you're referring to there is the shooting down of an aircraft which you say landed in controlled fashion? A And which they say -- they claim that the aircraft was shot down and that there were three servicemen who died as a result of that action. I can't tell you exactly who shot them, when, where, and how, but they have claimed responsibility for the whole incident. Q OK. I guess what I was getting at is, the United States doesn't say that the plane was shot down. The United States says the plane came down in controlled fashion. Yet you say there is some action taken by the FMLN. A The United States says that the helicopter was shot down by small arms fire in eastern El Salvador although it was able to land in a controlled fashion. The gunshot wounds to the three servicemen who died were to the head and that two of these people had no other apparent wounds. Q You're not accusing the FMLN at this point of firing those gunshot wounds into the head of American soldiers, are you, or -- A That has to be developed by the forensic team. Q Were there other people in the helicopter? Q Richard, can you add anything at all to the way in which this helicopter was shot down? A Excuse me? Q Can you add anything at all to the way that this helicopter was shot down? A No, I can't at this point. As I said, we're going up to the site. We are interviewing people. It was flying a route along the Pan American Highway, which is not a zone of conflict. Q Richard, do you hold the FMLN responsible for the deaths of the American servicemen? A I think they themselves have admitted their responsibility; and, yes, we do. Q Were there others in the aircraft other than the three Americans? A I don't know that at this point. Defense might be able to give you that. Q Why was the helicopter there? A As I said, it was a routine, regular kind of mission. The helicopter and the crew are based in Honduras. They were returning to Honduras after completing a mission to El Salvador which involves logistical and administrative support to the U.S. military personnel in El Salvador. The aircraft has no role in supporting the Salvadoran armed forces and no role in combat in El Salvador. Q Do you know what the number of the U.S. military personnel stands at now in Salvador? A I'm not sure of the exact number. I think it's limited to 55. Q Is there action by the United States against the FMLN contemplated pending the results of this investigation? A I'm not exactly sure what further action you're referring to. But certainly as more information is developed on the exact responsibility, we will hold those accountable who performed this action. Q It's not clear to me what it is this helicopter was doing there. You said it was not supported by Salvadoran -- A It was flying. Q Yeah, well. It was not supporting the Salvadoran military. A It's a regular, routine kind of flight that comes in from Honduras. It involves logistical and administrative support to our U.S. military personnel in El Salvador. I think you may be able to get more information from the Defense Department on the exact mission. Q Do you rule out a U.S. military response against the rebels? A Pat, I'm not going to get into speculative and hypothetical questions, whatever they are. Q President Bush, by the weekend, has to provide a report on whether or not the rebels are complying with -- are likely to -- whether conditions are likely to favor a renewal of complete restoration of full military aid. I'm wondering if this will have any effect on that? A It will certainly be taken into consideration. Under the law that provides military aid to El Salvador in the current fiscal year, we're required to make these periodic reports to Congress on the conditions in El Salvador. The first is due at the beginning of next week, and we won't have any more detailed comment until that report is prepared and released. Barry. Q Just for the record, what is the role of the U.S. military so far as the FMLN is concerned? You say the helicopter was on a routine function, but it was assisting the U.S. military. What is the U.S. military's function? Is it to oppose the leftist in El Salvador? A I don't have a precise mission statement. They're generally down there, I think, as trainers for the Salvadoran armed forces. Q To help them beat the FMLN; right? A Check with DoD -- with Defense -- to get a more detailed expression of -- Q What I'm saying, your remarks separating the helicopter from any activity against the FMLN, I understand. But this helicopter is part of the U.S. military mission; and is that U.S. military, indeed, to help the Salvadoran government defeat these very guerrillas who attacked the plane? Aren't they retaliating against a mission that -- A I don't have a full statement of what the precise military mission is of the military trainers that are down there. You can get that from the Defense Department, I think. Let's not get too far from the point. The point is this helicopter was flying in a zone which is not a zone of conflict. It was shot down and claimed to have been shot down by people who claimed that they're actually interested in peace. Q Richard, my recollection is that there was a Salvadoran helicopter shot down last week, but I think that was by a missile, a surface-to-air missile. Have you been following up that case? A I don't have anymore on that particular case. I remember it about as -- Q Have you asked for -- can you check to see if you have asked the Soviets whether they supplied the launcher and, if so, to whom? A Yes. We have been watching and following up on the question of the SA-14 missiles. The developments on that are that the Nicaraguan army has announced the arrests of four officers and 11 Salvadorans for providing surface-to-air missiles to the FMLN. The announcement stated that six SA-14 launchers with 16 missiles and two SA-7 launchers with 12 missiles were stolen and sold to the FMLN. The Nicaraguan army confirmed that the SA-14 launcher found in El Salvador last year was part of a 1986 Soviet shipment to Nicaragua and announced the formation of a Soviet army commission to investigate the illegal transfers. We find these arrests are an encouraging sign. We hope they represent a real commitment on the part of the Nicaraguan army to end illegal arms transfers and not just a response to the incontrovertible evidence that they occurred. Q Richard, coming back for just a second to the current incident. I don't think your description of the events on the ground indicated this, but was the U.S. aircraft armed? And if so, were any weapons fired by U.S. personnel on the aircraft, either at the ground or at any other -- was there any exchange of fire as far as the U.S. knows? A I think I'll have to refer you to the Defense Department for that. I'm not aware of any, but I don't know if that means there wasn't any or not. Q Who says this is a zone of no conflict? Is this an agreed-upon zone of no conflict between the two sides or is this something we declare as a zone of no conflict? A My people tell me it's an objective fact. It's not a zone where conflict has been occurring. Q Richard, where was it? A I think as close as I can come to telling you where it was is eastern Salvador. That's what I know. Q That's a good place where there's lots of combat. A Well, it sure is. But it was following a route along the Pan American Highway. Again, some of the more detailed information about the helicopter and the mission and exactly what the helicopter was doing, you can probably get from the Defense Department. Q Can we go on.

[The Baltics: USSR Military Seizes Property]

A Can we go on? The Baltics: The United States is concerned about yesterday's seizure of Latvia's main printing plant and of the Lithuanian Communist Party Central Committee Building by Soviet Interior Ministry troops. These actions were provocative and give rise to concern that the already tense situation in the Baltic states may be exacerbated by actions not conducive to a peaceful outcome. The governments and peoples of Latvia and Lithuania have responded with restraint and have relied solely on non-violent protest in opposing these actions. As the President said on December 10, we urge an end to actions that might serve to obstruct or to delay the start of constructive dialogue, which is needed to achieve a peaceful and satisfactory solution, and to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Baltic peoples. Carol. Q What's your understanding of what authority prompted that crackdown? Did it come from Moscow? Did it come from the Kremlin? A At this point, we don't have a clear indication of whether the actions were originated locally or at the instruction of the Soviet government. Let me say that regardless of who initiated these actions, however, we do feel that the Soviet government has the ultimate responsibility for the actions of its security units. Q If you don't have a clear indication, do you at least have some suggestion of where the authority came from? A No. Q Even though Shevardnadze is Foreign Minister in name, are you still dealing with him on these issues? Or, who is the power? A I don't know if we've had any recent meetings with him but we deal with the Foreign Ministry, including the person at its head. Q Isn't it a bit of a problem where the Foreign Minister resigns warning of dictatorship and warning of exactly this kind of action but he's still at his post and obviously not in control, obviously in disagreement with the policy and he's the only person you have to deal with? A Well, I didn't say he was the only person we had to deal with. Q All right, then who else do you have? A I said we deal with the Foreign Ministry of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and they represent their government. We can deal with that. Q But the Foreign Minister has resigned in clear disagreement with these kinds of policies. So if you go to him, he's bound to be sympathetic, presumably, but does he have any pull? That's the question. A Well, Alan, I can't answer that question for you. That's a question of analyzing the internal Soviet political situation that I can't do from here. Q While we're on the Soviet Union, will the Secretary be going to Moscow on his still amorphous itinerary? A We'll do any questions you might have about the trip later. But just for a sneak preview, I don't have anything for you on the itinerary. (Laughter) Q Would you elaborate on that later? Q Is that sort of like the -- A Somalia? Q No, no, we are not ready with that one yet. You've been urging dialogue with the Baltics for months -- months if not years -- especially, I recall, trips to Moscow, meetings between the Secretary and Mr. Gorbachev, a meeting with the Lithuanian Prime Minister in Moscow, meetings in New York at the CSCE, Foreign Ministers' meeting in Paris at the CSCE Summit. You've been urging dialogue and dialogue and dialogue and there's been no dialogue. Every sign of incipient dialogue has been crushed. Aren't you a bit discouraged by all this? A Alan, I think I've expressed today our concern and the basis for our concern. Q "Concern" -- is that the strongest word you have? A It's the word I'm using today. Q Somalia?

[Somalia: Update:]

A Somalia: The United States extends its sympathy to the victims of this week's violence in Somalia. We appeal urgently to all sides and forces to lay down their arms. We join other friends of Somalia in calling for an immediate and extended ceasefire which would create an atmosphere of tranquillity necessary to begin the dialogue and political reconciliation which the great majority of Somalis want, and after years of bloodshed which is so badly needed. The ceasefire would also allow the orderly departure of foreigners intending to leave. Q You're saying the United States has not been able to evacuate any of those people? A At this point, we have not been able to evacuate people. The fighting is continuing in Mogadishu. There is unfortunately no evidence that a ceasefire might be coming into effect on the ground. We have issued a new travel advisory to Americans and broadcast it over VOA. It says that people should stay in touch with our Embassy and anybody who feels it's safe to get to our Embassy should do so. But at this point we're still working on evacuation plans and haven't been able to put anything into effect given the security situation. Q Richard, could you explain why the United States has only called for a ceasefire after the President of the country has been forced to flee? Fighting has gone on for at least four weeks and dozens if not hundreds of people have been killed there and that only today we are calling for a ceasefire? A Well, two things, John. The level of violence has risen dramatically in recent days. Second of all, we have consistently called and supported a ceasefire. I did so, I believe, yesterday. Q You said yesterday that you supported a ceasefire but you didn't call for one, and you haven't -- John is absolutely right. You haven't called for one the whole time this has been going on, Richard. It's a case of, really, what I said yesterday. It seems from that point of view, from a lot of people's point of view, you stood back and waited for Siad Barre to be removed, a man that you no longer support, but you used to support. A You can put your own interpretation -- Q It's an admission by silence. A -- on what you want to say. I don't think calling for a ceasefire and supporting a ceasefire is that much different. Q Richard, in your suggestion that Americans try to get to the Embassy if they can safely do so, does that mean you still believe the Embassy is safe territory, that it's secure? A Yes. Q Are you saying also that there can't be an evacuation until there is a ceasefire? A No, I'm not saying that, George. I'm saying that a ceasefire would certainly greatly facilitate the evacuation of foreigners. We're obviously looking at various contingencies. I don't have any specific evacuation plans for you at this point. Q Richard, could I just follow up on my question? Do you have any assurances from the combatants, from any of the forces, that the Embassy is secure? How do you know in this situation that the Embassy is secure? Is there anybody guarding it? A The observation that the Embassy is basically secure is based on the fact that there are people there who are safe and who have been safe. We have had some contacts in recent days with both the government and the opposition leaders. We've talked to them about the safety of American citizens and about our desire to see a ceasefire. Q That could change at any moment, though. The people in Kuwait were safe, too. A So? It's a dangerous -- it's a difficult security situation. We think right now the best place to be is at the Embassy if people can get there. We see that the people who are at the Embassy have been safe so far. The fighting is obviously unpredicatable. It's obviously a dangerous security situation, and we're looking at the contingencies and making plans to evacuate people. Q Can we move on to the Secretary's trip. A We can go on to any questions you might have. Q Tell us everything you know about the Secretary's trip? Q We know it starts on Sunday. A He's going to the Gulf region and to Europe. That's all I have. Q In what order? A I can't give you a full itinerary at this point. Q Do you have a starting date or some of the various stops that he's going to make? A The starting date is Sunday, January 6. Q And have you had any response or initial reaction from the Iraqis so far to the President's proposal this morning? A No. The proposal was made to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Under Secretary Nizar Hamdoum, at noon today Baghdad-time -- that's 4:00 a.m. our time -- by Charge Joe Wilson. The meeting did take place at the Foreign Ministry. We had no reaction at that time nor have we heard anything from the Iraqis since then. Q What was the atmosphere in that meeting? It was described, at least in wire reports, that it was very cordial and very positive. A Wilson described the atmosphere as good. He may have used "cordial and positive." I don't know. But we don't have an Iraqi reaction to the proposal. Q Can you tell us anything about the thinking behind dropping back from President Bush's proposal to allow the Iraqis to have a meeting with him to the current proposal which is to foreclose a meeting with him and have a meeting simply with Baker? I don't mean "simply with Baker." I mean at a different level. It's obviously a different level. A Well, you know what our original proposal was and that was that Tariq Aziz should be able to come to Washington and Secretary Baker should go to Baghdad. We've said we got no meaningful response from the Iraqis on that proposal. They hadn't expressed an interest, as Marlin said this morning, in the meeting with Saddam Hussein. The President wanted to go the extra mile and make a proposal for some discussion, some contacts with the Iraqis, and this is the proposal that he's now made. Q Is the offer for a meeting between the Secretary and Saddam Hussein and a visit by Tariq Aziz to President Bush now totally off the table? A I don't really know how to describe it, John. Marlin, I think, just gave the best explanation this morning that I can give, and that is we had no indication that Saddam Hussein was interested. So we've made another proposal, another offer to have a meeting in Switzerland. Q Richard, it's a truism to say that Iraq is a one-party state and Saddam Hussein is in charge and also that Tariq Aziz is a member of an ethnic minority, is not seen as a particularly powerful figure with decision-making authority in that country. Is the withdrawal of the offer to meet with Saddam Hussein and the substitution of a meeting with Tariq Aziz not going the extra half mile, at the most? A Alan, I just don't accept your characterization of the situation here. We made one proposal, which was very generous. We offered dates when Secretary Baker could have traveled to Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein. At this point, we proposed another meeting with their Foreign Minister, and we hope they take us up on that offer. Q But surely you agree that Saddam Hussein is the man who makes all the decisions in Iraq; and surely if you want that kind of decision, you have to go and see him? A At this point, as Marlin said this morning, we have no indication that Saddam Hussein is interested. We proposed to meet with their Foreign Minister. Q We're saying today that we're willing to meet in Geneva on the 9th. Saddam has said he will meet Baker on the 12th. We're talking about a difference of three days here that would allow us to meet with the head man. What is so critical about these three days, that we will meet him on the 9th but we won't meet him on the 12th? A The date of the 12th, I think, has been repeatedly explained by us as being much too close to the U.N. deadline. Obviously, we don't think that the dates of the 7th to the 9th are affected by that. Q The 9th is also very close to the deadline and there's only three days separating them and Saddam is the man who makes the decisions. It's an opportunity for Baker, as the President said, to look Saddam in the eye to make sure he doesn't misunderstand. How do you explain to the American public that three days is so critical at this point? A Pat, the rejection of the idea that he should go to Baghdad on January 12 was something that we explained, again, repeatedly as being much too close to the U.N. deadline for us to go. We obviously don't think that the 7th to the 9th for a meeting in Switzerland is affected by that consideration, and therefore we're interested in having this meeting and we made this proposal. Q Richard, are you ruling out that Baker will not go to Baghdad, perhaps spontaneously, since he's already going to be in the Gulf either on the 10th or the 11th or the 12th? A I guess I'd have to say I'm just not in a position to rule anything in or rule anything out. Things happen. Q So it's possible either for the Iraqis to come back and say, "We accept this meeting but we'd also like the Secretary to come the next day to Baghdad." Is that -- A Why don't we say it's hypothetical, because it is. Q Is that something that's been discussed by this Administration as a possibility? A Our proposal to the Iraqis was for a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Switzerland between the 7th and the 9th. Q And you are firmly ruling out Baker going to Baghdad on the 12th? A No. I said that's firmly hypothetical. Q Richard, does the U.S. Government have any explanation on President Bush's announcement for this new proposal -- setting a date for Iraqi reply by the 5th? Because at the end of last year, Secretary Baker told us that he is ready to go anywhere at a moment's notice. So the Iraqis can reply by midnight of the 6th, if the Secretary is -- A The need for a reply by January 5 is something that I'm sure you can all understand; and that is, that we can't put a trip together unless we know what date he's got to be in Switzerland for this meeting. Q But as everyone is asking you, the Secretary will be there already in the area and that includes this timeframe. So he must be ready by a moment's notice. A I guess I don't quite understand what you're asking. I said I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals about things -- Q I guess I'm asking you why you have to set a deadline for Iraq's answer to the new proposal? A Because we have to set up a trip with our coalition partners. We're not just going to go to Geneva and sit there for three days. We have to schedule the meeting and we have to schedule other meetings around it. It's a practical consideration. Q Richard, does the United States view this invitation to attend this meeting as the beginning of a dialogue with Iraq, as a single event, a single meeting, or as an exploratory meeting at which future schedules might be discussed or some other option? How does the U.S. view this meeting -- the beginning of something longer? A We view this as the way we've expressed it before and the way Marlin expressed it again this morning. It's a meeting to go the extra mile, to take the opportunity to make sure that they understand the U.S. position, the international position, and the views of the international community and the coalition. Q Richard, on the question that was asked earlier here, you said that you have an indication that Saddam Hussein is not interested in a meeting. Does the fact that Baker is proposing to meet Aziz indicate that Aziz would like to see Baker? A Their response would indicate whether he's interested in meeting with Baker or not. Q You say that one is not interested. You offered the other. Do you have any indication that Aziz is interested in such a meeting? A We don't have a response yet from the Iraqis. Q Can I ask another one, please, on going the extra mile? I'm not questioning that. In the statement, you say that the United States would like to go the extra mile but, here, it says "no negotiations, no compromises, no attempts at face-saving, no rewards for aggression." If you're offering to go the extra mile, why actually add these "no's" in there? A Because we want to make clear what the position is and what our intention is in the meeting so that there can't be any misunderstanding on the basis of which the meeting is established. That is the position of the United States. That is the position of the international community, and that is the position expressed in the United Nations resolutions. Q Richard, does the United States still support an approach by the EC, if they choose to make one, to Baghdad on this issue, or is this an attempt to foreclose that? A Our position on meetings by the EC remains what I said it was yesterday. That is that we don't discourage meetings; we think that meetings should convey a uniform and consistent message to Baghdad, and that has full compliance with the U.N. Q Could we have a filing break? A Sure. Q What is Baker prepared to talk to Aziz about, apart from the known U.S. demand for a total withdrawal by January 15 and restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty? If the Iraqis bring up the Palestinian issue, for instance, which is not unlikely since they bring it up in every public statement, will Baker be ready to talk to them about that? A Barry, at this point I'm not going to speculate on the exact contents of a meeting which hasn't been scheduled yet. Q It's not speculation I'm asking for. You either -- there are a lot of things you can say without using the word "speculate." You know as well as I do that the Palestinian issue is running a close second to the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait as the topic of discourse. U.S. officials usually have an answer to that. I'm just asking if Baker is ready to talk to him; and if so, what would he tell him? A Our position on Palestinian issues is very well known. I'm sure the Secretary would be happy to say it to anybody who asked. But also our very firm position that there be no linkage with the Iraqi aggression in Kuwait with any other issue is also very firmly known. Q Well, Richard, let me try it another way. Do the aims of the talks that the Secretary would hold with Tariq Aziz remain the same as those which he proposed to hold with Saddam Hussein? That is, simply to reiterate the U.S. position on this or is the Secretary going there with a somewhat broader mandate or more flexible mandate at this point? A The aims of the talks, as expressed this morning in a statement by the President and the statements by Marlin Fitzwater, and I think in the little bit that I've said about it, are clearly stated and they are, I think, very clearly the same aims that we had when we originally proposed the series of meetings with the Iraqis. Q Is the United States ruling out any meeting between President Bush and Saddam Hussein? A That's completely hypothetical at this point. I can't deal with that. Q Does President Bush -- does the United States Administration still want to look Saddam Hussein in the eye, as President Bush has said in the past? A Again, Ralph, that's another way of asking the same question. We've expressed our view that the importance of these meetings is so that we can convey very clearly to the Iraqi government our commitment, the commitment of the international community, and our willingness to use force if that proves necessary. Q You keep saying that certain things don't change; policies don't change; positions don't change, and so on. One of the reasons for asking that question is to determine whether anything has changed and it's important to know whether the United States still wants to have a meeting with Saddam Hussein, regardless of whether if the Iraqis don't want to have one. That's up to them, obviously, to decide. But does the United States still want to have one? A Obviously, we made a proposal that there be one. There was no interest expressed in that proposal. So at this point we have made another proposal. Q To say there was no interest, I'd say, is a bit of an exaggeration because they came back and they accepted the proposal and then they offered a date. Q Within President Bush's parameters. A As we've said before, we found that date was not acceptable to us. They were unwilling to consider another time. They never made any other proposal that would have been in line with what we could accommodate. We've noted, as we've noted in our public statements, that Saddam Hussein had very frequent meetings with a variety of other people and somehow couldn't find serious enough interest in our proposal to settle a meeting that was in a timeframe that we could make. Q So three days earlier, we're willing to do it. That's bizarre. We threaten to go to war for three days? A You have to explain your question a little more, John? Q If we're willing to meet him January 9 and we weren't willing to meet him January 12, the consequences of meeting or not meeting may be conflict. I still don't feel you've adequately explained yourself as to what the big difference is between three days. In fact, you haven't explained yourself. You've just said, well, it's a different set of circumstances. A I'd hate to say it but it is a different proposal, John. We made a proposal that was open, that was flexible, and that was generous. We proposed 15 different dates for a meeting with Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis did not pick up on that proposal despite the fact that they repeatedly found the time and very often at very short notice to meet with a whole variety of other people coming through. Since the Iraqis expressed no serious interest in that proposal, we have made another proposal and that new proposal is to meet in Switzerland between January 7 and January 9. Q Under that new proposal, the State Department cannot rule out a meeting afterward between Baker and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. The ruling out of the 12th no longer applies; am I correct? A No. The ruling out of the 12th does apply. Did you ask the 12th or some other -- Q I asked you and you said -- A I thought you were asking some other date. OK. Let me correct that. The ruling out of the 12th still applies. The same considerations apply to January 12 in Baghdad. Q But even to narrow John's good question -- A As far as some other speculation on dates in between and things like that, I think that's only hypothetical at this point. Q He's willing to see Tariq Aziz between the 7th and the 9th, and the 9th is almost the 10th already in Iraq, and he's prepared to go on from there to Baghdad but he's got to get there by the 11th. Is that what this is all hanging on? A Barry, I didn't -- Q I'm not trying to burlesque it but it's getting very -- A Well, I think you are. I did not say that he was prepared to go from there to Baghdad. Q No, no. You said you can't rule it out. A I did not offer any proposals for the Secretary to go on from there to Baghdad. I said you're asking me hypothetical questions of what might happen after a Tariq Aziz meeting if a Tariq Aziz meeting is accepted by the Iraqis. And at this point, I'm not prepared to deal with such speculation. Q Richard, I'm not obviously on the offensive against you. You have to stand up and defend a policy that first offers the guy a meeting any time to the 15th; then he says the 12th, and the Government says the 12th is too close to the 15th. Then you come back and say, how about the 7th to the 9th, and then you're asked, how about going onto Baghdad and the Government spokesman says, "We can't rule out going onto Baghdad after the 9th." It's just mind-boggling -- and then he has to get there. The only conclusion I can draw is that what's possible and ruled out is a meeting on the 10th or the 11th, which is John McWethy's point. A Barry, I think you're reading too much into my saying that you can't rule out, or my refusal to deal with questions that are obviously hypothetical and speculative. We don't do that from here. I'm not going to start today just because it's fun. It's just not something that we're going to do. Q You often cast it in terms such as "highly unlikely," so on and so forth. You're not casting it in any terms. You're leaving it out in the "either" for us. A Well, I'll see if there's anything more than "either" that we're prepared to provide at this point. Q Richard, it's been said that the 15th is not -- it's a deadline after which force is authorized but it's not a deadline for force to be used. Why would it not be possible to carry on talking after the 15th, presuming that hostilities haven't broken out? A Again, that's a very hypothetical and speculative meeting of some carry-on to a meeting that has not yet been set. Q Well, let me put it another way. Does dialogue become impossible after the 15th? A The proposals we have made are for meetings from January 7 to 9 in Switzerland. I don't have any new proposals or extended proposals beyond that to give you, a mere five or six hours after those proposals were made and before the Iraqis have any response to us. Q Richard, I wonder if you could tell us whether American officials have met with Iraqi Ambassador Adnan Barzan al-Takriti in Switzerland at any point during this crisis? And if you don't know, could you take the question? There are reports in two Parisian publications today that the Americans have, in fact, been carrying out secret negotiations with Iraq through this Ambassador and that there's been an Iraqi proposal put on the table for being willing to withdraw from Kuwait under certain circumstances. Do you have any comment on those reports? A We have seen those reports. I have looked into them. We have not received any word that the Iraqis have made such an offer. As you know, the U.N. resolutions are clear: Iraq must withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait. We have made a public offer of meetings with the Iraqis, and we are not engaged in any secret negotiations. Q Have there been such meetings? A I don't know if we've met this guy or not in the course of diplomatic contacts. Q Wait a minute. You've looked into it and you don't know? A I didn't ask the specific question if we had, at some point in our diplomacy, in our usual conduct of diplomacy, encountered the Iraqi Ambassador in Geneva. I looked into the question of whether there were any secret talks or if we had heard of any of these offers that have supposedly been reported. Q Since you looked into those reports, another aspect of them is that French President Francois Mitterrand received a written communication from Saddam Hussein which discusses terms -- allegedly discusses terms for withdrawal from Kuwait. Has the United States learned anything from its French ally in the coalition that would bolster or support that report? A We have not received any word that the Iraqis have made such an offer. Q To the United States or to any other -- A To the United States, to France, or to anyone else. Q But, Richard, are you going to take the question about meetings with the Iraqi Ambassador, Mr. al-Takriti? A I'll see if we have anything to say on that. Q If you don't have anything to say about it, what it leaves open is that you've looked into the reports but you haven't denied or -- A Ralph, the reports, as I understood them from reading the press reports on these press reports -- on these reports -- said that Mitterrand received a letter, that Iraq had made an offer and that there were secret negotiations going on. Q And that U.S. officials had acted as intermediaries -- the same report, the same Reuters story? A That we were involved in some sort of secret negotiations. Q With the specific -- A I asked those three questions. I didn't ask the specific hook at the end, "Well, about this guy in Geneva?" That's the one that I will ask and see if we have anything for you. Q One more question on the Gulf. Another aspect. There was a question I asked a long time ago on what the definition of the State Department was with regard to the compliance -- Iraqi compliance of the U.N. resolutions. I don't think the State Department has come up with a clear definition of what it means by "compliance." A I don't think it's ever been unclear. The United Nations resolutions called for the complete Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, unconditional withdrawal, the restoration of the Kuwaiti government, and a few other things. Q Provided that Iraq has come out with saying "yes," we are ready to see you somewhere between the 7th and 9th in Switzerland. Physically, it's not likely that Iraqi troops can pull out of Kuwait by the 15th. If the Iraqis say we are ready to pull out, is this promise enough for the United States? A I don't know what you are asking. Promise enough for what? What we want is total and complete and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Q By the 15th? A By the 15th. Q Richard, can you explain why the 12th is too close to the 15th? You have 72 hours. A Owen, I think the best thing for me to do is to get you the extensive transcripts of people who have explained that question over the course of the last four weeks, three weeks. Q You haven't really explained it. You said it's too close. But too close to what purpose? A You may not think the explanation is adequate but we've provided, I think, a clear and consistent explanation. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:28 p.m.)(###)