US Department of State Daily Briefing #7: Friday, 1/11/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:07 pm; Washington, DC Date: Jan 11, 19911/11/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, North America Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, Argentina, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen Subject: Military Affairs, Terrorism, Immigration, State Department, Travel (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If it's okay with you, I would like to review briefly some travel advisory information, and then give you a statement on terrorism, and then we can take your questions.

[Travel Advisories: Update]

On travel advisories, I think you all saw the comprehensive travel advisory that we issued this morning. That's on the board, and I'm not going to read it now unless there is some outpouring of popular demand. I would like to review, though, briefly where we stand as regards advice in different countries for Americans who might be considering travel there. I think this morning's statement reviewed exactly what we'd done with our people in different countries. In Iraq and Kuwait, of course, we've advised Americans not to go there and anybody there to leave. You're aware of our efforts on that. Mauritania -- again the advice is to defer all travel. Morocco -- it's defer all non-essential travel. That's part of a North African advisory that covers Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Pakistan -- the advice is to defer all non-essential travel. The Persian Gulf -- which means several of the Gulf states plus the eastern province of Saudi Arabia -- the advice is again to defer all non-essential travel. Sudan -- it's defer all travel. The specific advisory for the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is also to defer all travel. With regard to Israel and the Occupied Territories, you saw it was covered by the statement this morning that says people traveling to all these areas should consider deferring all travel and consider departing, should their presence not be essential. And then finally in Yemen, we've advised Americans to defer all travel. So there are different things for specific countries, as well as the general advice that we put out in the statement this morning. Q Richard, why was Israel added overnight? A Can we do that maybe after the other statement? Well, okay. Let's answer why was Israel added overnight. First to point out that advisories that we have are based on both country specific and on regional conditions. Over the past several days we've issued several country specific travel advisories, and so we wanted again to lay out the overall situation, as we did in the previous advisory of this type which was October 8. So we wanted a new advisory that reviewed the situation with regard to all the countries that we had advice for. We took the decision now in view of the current situation. Recent official Israeli actions and measures have been taken to protect the public, but on the other hand there have been repeated threats issued from Iraq, including the threat Wednesday by Tariq Aziz to drag Israel into any conflict. All of these factors caused us, in consultation with the Ambassador in Tel Aviv and our Consul General in Jerusalem, to authorize the voluntary departure of dependents from those missions. And for that reason we also included advice to Americans in Israel in our travel advisory. Q In that region then you now have two countries which are still unadvised on anything -- Egypt and Turkey -- and yet they fall within the swath of areas that, (a) are easily within range of Iraqi missiles, and (b) have troops in the region and, therefore, one would think logically be targets. Do you have anything planned for either Egypt or Turkey and, if so -- if not, why not? A Jan, I can't tell you that we will or we won't for any given country in the world. We keep the situation under review. Clearly, we have a more focused look now at the countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and, as I just said, advisories are based on both country specific and on regional conditions. And as soon as we feel it appropriate to issue advisories for other countries, we will, but that's not to predict anything for any specific country. Q Richard, not to be too -- to belabor the point, Egypt is above a country where you have deferred all travel, next to countries where you were deferring travel or advising people not to go, south of the country where you're telling people to leave, east of a country where you're telling people -- I mean, west of the country telling people to leave. I mean, why not Egypt? It doesn't make sense. A As I said, they're based on country specific and on regional conditions. You're citing solely regional conditions. We may at some point have advice for Americans in Egypt. At this point, generally, Americans are -- I'm sure Americans in Egypt are aware of the news. They're aware of the need for caution. They're probably considering their plans carefully. Whether we feel like we have to issue other advice is something we keep under review. At this time we don't have one. Q Richard, you are not drawing down diplomats in Jordan or Israel, is that correct? A We are drawing down in Israel -- it's dependents. It's voluntary departure of dependents. And in Jordan it is -- I'll double check this, but on the list I have it's ordered departure of non-essential personnel, which means some diplomats, as well as dependents. Q When will -- those people have left, or they are advised to leave within the next few days? A I believe in the Jordan one, we said we were doing it before January 15, and so most, if not all of them, are out or on their way. Q Could you explain the part of the advisory that says that the U.S. Government has taken steps to ensure continued insurance coverage of American-flag planes to help get these people out of there? A What I can explain is that you can go to the FAA and ask them about it. It's a program that they administer to help with insurance coverage. Q Does that expire on the 15th? A You'll have to check with them. Can I go on to terrorism? Q Were you going to say something else in general about terrorism or -- A I was going to say something about terrorism. Q I'll wait.

[Iraq: Terrorism Threat and Travel Advisory]

A As January 15 approaches, Iraq shows no sign of respecting U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that it withdraw from Kuwait or face possible military force. Since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Department of State has issued three public statements warning Americans of the possibility of Iraqi-sponsored terrorist attacks. These notices were general in nature. No targets were mentioned, and they remain in effect. The U.S. Government has evidence that terrorists supported by Iraq are planning to mount attacks in most regions of the world. We believe the Middle East and Europe are the most likely locations, but we also have reports of terrorist planning in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The American public should be aware that, in the event of military action involving the United States in the Persian Gulf, the threat of terrorism against American citizens would increase significantly. The Department of State recommends that Americans take the following action to minimize the threat: All Americans traveling abroad should review existing travel advisories concerning the country or region to which they plan to travel. Americans overseas should stay in close touch with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They should be alert and pay attention to anyone who may be observing them. If they become concerned about something unusual, they should contact the local police. And Americans overseas should exercise caution when in or near U.S. military or civilian facilities. Should hostilities begin, Americans should keep informed through radio and television broadcasts. While it is likely that terrorist events may occur for which we have no forewarning, should specific and credible information on a threat to the American public be received, the Department of State will provide information for travelers and for other concerned parties. Go back to questions on that. Q It sounds like you must have some specific information at this point. A What we have is information. What we don't have is specific and credible information about an attack or a planned attack. Q Do you believe that this risk of terrorism increases on the 15th or at the onset of hostilities? A Well, we think that -- as I said, now we have information about terrorist planning, I think the -- what I said in the statement was that in the event of military action involving us in the Persian Gulf, the threat of terrorism would increase significantly. Q In light of these threats, what word have you sent out to your Embassies in terms of precautions they should be taking? Have you beefed up security personnel, security procedures? A We won't be able to talk to you about the details, but we have asked our missions to review their respective security situations. We've provided them with things like security checklists, and we've advised them to take appropriate action to make sure that their security precautions are as good as they can be. Q What about beefing up security personnel? Have you done anything along those lines? A I can't get into specifics of what we might have done to make sure that our precautions are more than adequate. Q How would you rate the quality and quantity of intelligence sharing with other countries on terrorism at this point? A I'm afraid I would decline to rate it at all. I think I can tell you that we've been in touch with allies. We're keeping our allies informed about advisories that we issue, and we're working closely with them on joint efforts to deal with the terrorist threat. Q Richard, are you able to mention some countries instead of just continents? A The information that we might have, if it were specific and credible -- for example, if it related to a specific attack in a specific country -- we would provide that. What we have are various reports of planning for terrorist attacks -- things such as surveillance of potential targets. These began shortly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and have continued unabated since that time. Now, I'm not in a position to give you all the information that we may have acquired, but I am in a position to assure that if we had specific and credible threats about an attack that would involve Americans, we would make that public. Q You said that these things such as surveillance of potential targets began right after the Iraqi attack, but now you're announcing that there's a likelihood of terrorism all around the world. What's happened since the surveillance began and today? A We've made three statements on possible risk of terrorism since August 2. We are today making this statement that not only says that this sort of activity occurs, but that should hostilities occur -- should military action involving the U.S. occur -- that we feel it would increase significantly. And at the same time, given that potential threat, we're trying to offer some practical advice to people who may be concerned. Q Richard, earlier this week you posted a warning involving the airport in Lima. Was that in any way connected to this warning today? A The airport in Lima -- that was based on security conditions at that airport. I guess I wouldn't directly link it to this thing today. Q Richard, last night you all put out a piece of paper that said that since August all visa requests for Iraqis and Kuwaitis, I believe, came here to Washington to be reviewed before visas were issued. Were irregularities found? Have you found people who could possibly be coming to this country for other than legitimate means? A That's something I'll have to check on and see if we have anything we can talk about. Q Richard, can we go off terrorism to other Iraq-related -- Q One last question on terrorism. You speak about terrorism threats around the world. What about an increased threat domestically? A Domestically, you really have to check with the FBI. Q Richard, a couple of things. The British Ambassador at the U.N. said this morning that he has it on good authority that Aziz stuck the famous letter in his pocket at the meeting because there were apparently various copies circulating in the room. Do you know if you know that? A My authority is what the President and the Secretary said publicly, and I believe they say that he did not take the letter. That's good authority to me. Q A couple of other things. There was a report on the Secretary himself having a stepson, I believe, about to go to Saudi Arabia. Would you know if that's true? A I don't know. Q Could you look into it? A I'll probably check with people in the party who won't be back until Sunday. I'll look into it. Q Also, the Eagleburger trip. Do you have anything on that? A Yes. Deputy Secretary Eagleburger will be travelling this weekend to Israel for consultations with senior Israeli leaders. He expects to discuss the situation in the region as well as bilateral matters. The trip has been planned for several days. Throughout the crisis in the Gulf, we've consulted frequently with the Israeli government. This includes President Bush's recent meeting and the President's phone contact with Prime Minister Shamir. Q Richard, since Mr. Baker is right in that area right now, why isn't he going? A Mr. Baker, I think, is in three different places today, three different places tomorrow, and four different places on Sunday. Mr. Eagleburger is going to Israel. Q Does this trip concern mostly with the present Gulf situation, or would the question of Soviet immigration to Israel come up? A He expects to discuss the situation in the region and bilateral matters. Q And Iraq? A That's my only answer. Q Is he going to ask Israel to continue to lay low? A He expects to discuss the situation in the region and bilateral matters. I'm afraid that's how we're describing the visit, and I'm not going to talk anymore about agendas. Q How long will he be there? A I don't have that information for you. I'm sorry. Q Will he be out by the 15th? A Again, I don't have any information for you. I said he will be travelling this weekend to Israel. Q Richard, any other stops? A None that I'm aware of. Q Richard, have there been any other contacts with senior Iraqi leaders since the Baker/Aziz meeting, or are any such contacts expected? A I don't know what you call "senior Iraqi leaders." I think Joe Wilson saw Under Secretary Hamdoun at the Foreign Ministry today to talk about his departure -- Joe Wilson's departure with his Embassy people. Q Are there any meetings that would produce, or might be likely to produce any diplomatic initiative towards a peaceful solution? A Well, I think if you're following the press reports and the other reports that we have, you see that there's a variety of diplomatic activity going on right now -- both Secretary Baker and ourselves with our Allies and the coalition members. But there are also people that are interested or are talking with Iraq. The Secretary has said that we welcome any and all diplomatic activity as long as it doesn't send a mixed message and that it's devoted to showing Iraq that it must respect the U.N. deadlines and the U.N. resolutions. Q Is this part of an indirect form of contact that the Secretary is discussing the situation with other nations in the Middle East and they possibly are having contact with Saddam Hussein or other senior leaders? A I wouldn't describe it that way. The Secretary has said that we have solid diplomacy going on with our coalition partners. Obviously, he's consulting with the coalition as he goes through this trip. We've had also on our own direct contacts with the Iraqis, including Secretary Baker's six or seven hours of meetings on Wednesday. Q Richard, about the departure tomorrow, can you tell us anything about what time they plan to leave, when they plan to get back, where they're coming into, etc.? A There's a charter flight, a charter from Iraqi Airways that's due to depart Baghdad for Frankfurt on Saturday, tomorrow, January 12. In addition to Charge Wilson and five remaining U.S. Embassy staffers, the flight will accommodate any remaining private citizens -- private American citizens -- in Iraq who now desire to leave. The flight will be available also to U.S. journalists in Iraq, many of whom are also covered by what I said about American citizens, and a number of Western diplomats are also expected to be on the flight. Q Do you have any idea on the numbers all together? A I don't have anything on the numbers all together. The airplane is a 727 and it can hold, I think, about 130 people. But whether it will be anywhere near full at this point, I can't tell you. I don't think we know. Q You said yesterday that only one family had opted to go on board that flight. Have you got any current number on how many now will depart? A What we know now is one family of four individuals, a few journalists, and a number of foreign diplomats have decided to depart on that flight. They have obtained exit permits in preparation for that. We're told that private American citizens planning to depart on the flight have reported no difficulties so far in getting exit permits. Q Do you know where the plane is going to go from Frankfurt? A At this point, I don't. We have to make travel arrangements for people onto Frankfurt. Q There will not be a charter that will bring them back to this country? A I don't have the travel arrangements at this point. Q Do you know what time (inaudible) A It's late morning. I'm not sure what the exact time will be. Q Just one housekeeping matter. Have you made any plans for briefings if, God forbid, war breaks out? I mean, any changes or anything like that? A At this time, I don't have anything to announce for you. I really don't have any decisions that have been made. We don't have anything for you at this moment. Q Can you say anything about what steps are being taken by the United States Government to protect Americans in Saudi Arabia? Are there any plans for evacuation? Any airlift being organized and any plans to hand out gas masks? A Generally, I think I'll just refer you to the travel advisory for the Gulf region that covers the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. That's our advice to Americans. We have authorized the voluntary departure of our -- I think it's dependents in Saudi. Let me check on my list. Yes, it's the voluntary departure of U.S. Government dependents from the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Q A number of other countries -- Western countries -- have done more than that. Why is the United States not doing more such as helping organize an airlift or distributing gas masks? A I don't know about gas masks. That's something I'll check and see if we have anything to say. I think there were some reports that they're being made available by the Saudis for people who might want them. We organize airlifts and charters in circumstances where people can't get flights out. So far, there have been commercial flights available in most of these countries. I think that remains the case in Saudi Arabia. And as I mentioned earlier, we've taken steps on the insurance side of things to see that some of these flights can continue. Q Richard, there are reports now that Soviet troops have stormed the Defense Department in Vilnius and apparently have taken over a press center. Do you have anything to say about that? A There are also reports that the President has talked to the press for about ten minutes on this this morning, or on his discussions with President Gorbachev and with the Soviet Ambassador this morning. So I think I'll just leave that to Marlin and the President to talk about. Q What can you tell us about the drawdown of Iraqi diplomats here in Washington? A I don't have anything new on that today, Chris. We'll try to get you some information as soon as we can. I said yesterday that once we had notified the Iraqi government, then we would try to make that information available. Q So you haven't notified them yet? A I'm pretty sure that we haven't. I'll check. Q The statement that President Bush made really, simply, repeated previous statements which really don't correspond anymore with what's happening in Lithuania. There are qualitatively new developments yesterday and today. Is there no State Department response at all to that? A Really, I think the President has spoken on this subject, and I think I'd just have to leave it to him. Q Richard, beyond Lithuania, there are now reports that one of the most popular television programs -- public-interest television programs -- in the Soviet Union was cancelled today and Interfax, the independent news agency there, has had its phones cut off. Is it clear to the United States that there is a crackdown going on there? A Again, I'm really going to leave this one to the President and Marlin who are speaking about it. I'd leave them to address the situation as it stands today. Q Do you expect to have any briefing tomorrow or any statements over the weekend, perhaps, making any -- A We're not planning any briefing tomorrow. There's always the possibility of statements. But at this time, I don't have anything planned. Q Do you have anything on the New York Times report today that diplomats understand Saddam Hussein might issue a statement after the 15th about a pullout and a simultaneous calling for a conference? A I'd just tell you what the Secretary said when he was asked about that, and that's that it's a hypothetical question. But he repeated what he said before, that the deadline of January 15 is real, and I think he made that very clear in the remarks he made today in Saudi Arabia. Patrick. Q The President of Argentina has reacted rather violently to a little statement you put out yesterday. Do you have any reaction to that? A I'm afraid, Patrick, everyday you're ahead of me on Argentina. I'll have to check. Q Thank you. A Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:33 p.m.) (###)