US Department of State Daily Briefing #17: Tuesday,1/29/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:31 pm; Washington, DC Date: Jan 29, 19911/29/91 Category: Briefings Region: Eurasia, MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, USSR (former), Germany, Turkey, Israel, Iran Subject: Human Rights, Terrorism, POW/MIA Issues, Military Affairs, Democratization, State Department (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: Go, Jim. Q No announcements? A Zero. Q No questions. A Great. Let's go. Q Have you had any greater success in finding out from the Iranians what their intentions are about those airplanes which are taking refuge there?

[Iran: Update on Involvement in the Gulf]

A Not any more success than what any number of Iranian officials have said over the last 24 hours on the record. As you know, we understand that Iran's Ambassador to the U.N. yesterday told Secretary General Perez de Cuellar that Iran intended to impound for the duration of the war Iraqi planes that fly to Iran. We also note reports that the Iranian Charge in Baghdad has protested the movement of Iraqi planes to Iran. At this point we have no specific information on what Iran intends to do with the pilots who flew the Iraqi planes to Iran, although we noted Iran's U.N. Ambassador said the pilots were being interrogated by Iranian officials. We have requested that coalition members who have diplomatic relations with Iran to urge the Iranians to impound the Iraqi planes until U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq have been implemented. Based on its public statements and private comments to coalition members who have raised the issue, we believe Iran will meet its obligations not to allow these planes to return to Iraq until U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Kuwait are fully implemented. Yesterday, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.N. noted to the press that Iran had promised Kuwait its territory would not be used to attack coalition forces. Yesterday again, Secretary Baker said that we have received assurances through diplomatic channels that the aircraft would be kept in Iran, and that Iran was maintaining its position of complete neutrality. We have received additional assurances within the last 24 hours that as Iran has stated publicly, all aircraft, military and civilian, will be held until the end of hostilities. Q Some of those airplanes apparently arrived actually before the outbreak of hostilities. Are you aware of any kind of arrangements or deal that had been made between the two countries? A No, I'm not. Q Follow-up to the same subject: There were reports yesterday night on one of the networks that the Presidential Guards of Iraq are sneaking to Iran also -- like what's happening with the air force. Do you have any comment on that? A I haven't seen those reports, and I haven't heard about that. Q Margaret, what was the sequence? You said the United States urged the Iranians to impound the planes, and then you say there were additional assurances received in the last 24 hours. Can you -- A Since this first surfaced, Mark, and the first time the Secretary of State commented on it here Saturday to the members of the press, we have been consistently saying, and we're saying again today, that we have received both privately, and we refer you to Iranian public statements, that they have said these aircraft are going to be impounded -- kept there for the duration of the war. Q That wasn't my question. A I don't understand what you're asking me. Q The question was, you say the United States urged Iran. When did that happen, and when -- and can you put that in relation to the additional assurances that you received? A Our policy concerning Iran, concerning the substance of our contacts, the number of contacts and who, other than when we publicly -- which is publicly known, the Swiss -- we do not answer any of those questions. That's a policy that's longstanding before this situation. So those questions I cannot answer for you. What I said today was that we have asked other coalition members who have relations, diplomatic relations, with Iran to also weigh in, ask that these aircraft be impounded, be kept there. But in the same breath, I'm pointing out that there hasn't been anything that differs from that that the Iranian governmental officials have said that isn't exactly along the same lines that I'm aware of. Q Do you have any information or comment about pilots, prisoners of war, being used as human shields, being either wounded or killed in air raids yesterday or recently? A We don't have any evidence that any have, and I believe the military briefing this morning in Riyadh addressed itself to this very question. I, myself, have talked to Pete Williams who will brief later this afternoon, and we don't have any way, Bill, of confirming or denying these reports. Obviously, we think that it is barbaric. We have raised our concerns, as you know, three times here at the State Department. Most recently, we will raise our concerns again this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. when the Iraqi Charge is brought in. He will be meeting with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Mack. The reason for this meeting is threefold. One, to remind them of their obligations concerning -- if there were to be any remains of Americans. Two, to once again tell them that the Red Cross should have access to the POWs. As you know, their government has consistently denied access by the Red Cross. And, three, we will take the occasion to raise our concern about the four CBS correspondents. Q Margaret, just about Iran again -- Q (Inaudible) A 4:00 p.m. Yes, Jan. Q -- the Iranian Radio is currently reporting, within the last hour or so, that a message was received by Foreign Minister Velayati from Bessmertnykh, and there are suggestions that it contained a message from the United States. Was this asking the coalition partners to weigh in -- for those that have relations with Iran -- raised between the Secretary in his meeting with Mr. Bessmertnykh? A You'd have to -- I'm not familiar with this report. What is it? Q Iran Radio is reporting at the moment that a message has been received by Mr. Velayati from Mr. Bessmertnykh, and they're suggesting that that message contains a request from the United States or some message from the United States. So what I'm asking is whether or not this asking of members of the coalition who have relations with Iran was done at the level between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bessmertnykh. A I don't know if they specifically discussed this subject, Jan. It's not something that he's mentioned in his debrief of his meeting. I don't know if this is one of the coalition members. One of the nations I have just mentioned that we are asking who have diplomatic relations with Iran to weigh in on -- that those aircraft should be impounded. It's just something I've never raised with the Secretary or heard him mention. Q Margaret, you have said repeatedly that you have gotten assurances from -- that they will hold these aircraft until after hostilities are over. Is the U.S. Government satisfied with those assurances? Do you believe Iran? Do you have any reason not to believe Iran? A At this moment in time, we have no reason not to believe them. And I would point out that since it's come to light -- I believe it started on Saturday -- that these aircraft are going to Iran, they have been very consistent in every statement they have made, starting at the top of their government with their President, President Rafsanjani, their Security Council, their U.N. Ambassador. I mean, they have been consistent now -- what's today, Tuesday or Wednesday -- throughout. So there's no reason for this Government to not believe them at this juncture. Q Margaret, your reference now to public statements is one that -- A And I said we've had the same assurances privately. Q Sure. And that's why I'm asking you if, because of this indirect communication, is the United States able to have a normal diplomatic exchange with Iran through these intermediaries, or do you get cryptic messages back and have some difficulty getting a real exchange going? A We're not trying to get a real exchange going. As you know, we do not have diplomatic relations -- Q The planes -- about the planes. A -- with this country. As you know, which we consistently remind the public, we do not deal directly with this country. We have no diplomatic relations with them. All of our private contacts, as you know very well, are through third channels. I have not asked for an analysis of are the messages in your characterization cryptic or easy to read. I just haven't asked that. I mean, let me put it to you this way. Why would I then or would the Secretary of State twice say that we have received "assurances." He did it again yesterday. Q Exactly. A If we didn't think we had those assurances, I'm not sure he would choose that phraseology. Q Does he get to ask, or does he get notified is the point. A As you know, we do not deal directly with this government. We have never insinuated that we are doing so. Q I know that. I'm asking you if through channels, does the Secretary of State get to inquire, or does he simply receive notifications from Iran indirectly of what the Iranian government intends to do about the planes? A Are you asking, "Is the Secretary of State personally having meetings with our third party?" Q No. I'm not asking about meetings. I'm asking if the Secretary of State or someone acting in one of his -- you know, one of his top people acting in his behalf, are they able to ask questions, make inquiries, of Iran through these intermediaries and get a satisfactory answer? A I believe I've answered this for Ralph yesterday when he said, "Are these messages -- have they been going on a two-way street, back and forth?" I said yes. Q Margaret, can you tell us whether or not any commercial planes have flown to Iran? That is, airliners. And, secondly, whether any Iraqi planes have flown to other countries seeking refuge other than Iran? A The military addressed this question this morning, John, and I had a brief readout that the staff had done for me. I don't have it with me. And I'd just refer you to the meeting this morning. They did address themselves to this question, and I read it briefly on the elevator. I can't remember. Q It's the question of commercial planes you mean? A The question of commercial planes, I do not know the answer and haven't seen anyone respond to: Is there any evidence of airplanes that are in another country? I don't know. Q Margaret, will you characterize your words to the Iranians through third parties -- A No. Q -- as appeal or warning or something in between? A I'm not going to characterize it at all. That gets into discussing the substance of our contacts which we consistently refrain from doing. Q What would the United States like the Iranians to do with the Iraqi pilots who have flown the planes to Iran? A I'm not sure that I have a policy position for you on that. I've just stated what the Iranians say they're doing with these pilots. I'm not aware that we have a Government position on it. Q Could we try to establish some definition on that. Could you take that question and see if the powers-that-be would put out a U.S. position? Do you want the pilots to go away? Do you want them to be sent to a resort? Do you want them to be put in prison? I mean, there's a wide range -- A I know the military said yesterday -- and I would assume it would apply to the pilots -- that these planes that aren't flying over Iraqi airspace, as far as they were concerned -- it was some military person yesterday -- so much the better. So I would have to assume that applies to the pilots also. I'll ask if we have a Government position on the pilots. Q This is so basic probably, you may have answered it already. But is the U.S. considering the possibility that Iran is helping Iraq stockpile some -- save some of its air force for some future -- whatever, even a post-Saddam Hussein era? They can be both neutral and be doing that, I suppose. Is that one of the -- is that a suspicion -- allied suspicion? A I think the United States -- the Departments that are involved in this situation are looking at all options, Barry, as they have addressed themselves to that -- the military has specifically. And, as I said yesterday, this is a situation that we are monitoring and following closely. Q One more, Margaret, please. The Iranians, you say, have said that they will keep the planes until the end of hostilities. Our position is that they should keep them until the U.N. resolutions are fulfilled. That could be a considerable gap in time. Have we asked the Iranians to re-define the period for which they'd hold those planes and pilots? A I'm not sure how you get that there would be a substantial gap of time. What we're about right now is the implementation of the resolutions, which is the total and complete -- wait a minute -- withdrawal from Kuwait. That is, indeed, what we intend to accomplish and what our objective is. So one way or the other, hostilities are going to stop. Q (Inaudible) are not identical. A One way or the other, he's getting out of Kuwait. Q When he's gotten out of Kuwait, who -- A Then our objectives will be fulfilled. Q Yeah, but who's to say that he's going to stop fighting right then? It seems a bit naive to think that he will stop fighting just because he's out of Kuwait. What if he keeps lobbing Scud missiles at Israel? A Well, we'll see. Q You take the point that the two are not identical? Q Margaret, any comment on Germany's announcement of aid to the Allied effort?

[Germany: Additional Funds for Gulf Effort]

A Yes. The government has announced that it will provide an additional $5.5 billion for the first three months of 1991 to help cover the cost of Desert Storm. In addition, the Federal Republic will immediately provide Roland and Hawk air defense units to Turkey. The Federal Republic has also offered equipment to assist in Israel's air defense. According to the German press agency, Germany is considering provision of Patriot and Hawk systems to Israel as well as chemical-biological weapon detection vehicles and CW protection equipment. It goes without saying that we are very pleased with this additional German contribution and the overall support the Federal Republic has provided to the allied effort in the Gulf throughout this. Yesterday, John, you had asked me, and I said I didn't have and couldn't remember Chancellor Kohl's most recent On the Record statement. It was January 23, and I quote: "In this fight of the world community for the restoration of peace and the implementation of international law, we stand with solidarity by the side of our partners and allies." Q Margaret, can you add the usual footnote in this case as you have in the previous three that the pledge is exactly what the United States requested? A As far as I know, Barry. Q Has the government of -- Q (Inaudible) allies or political allies? Q Does that mean he's going to come to NATO -- to Turkey's aid or not? A There's no question in our minds, and we discussed this subject this morning because I thought that you might ask me again, that Germany will live up to Article V of the NATO Charter. Q Margaret, has the government -- A "Should," obviously, I'm into a hypothetical here -- excuse me, Jim -- should Turkey be attacked. Q Has the Government of Israel approached the United States with a request that Israel be permitted to attack Scud sites? A Not that I'm aware of, Jim. I saw one piece this morning in one newspaper that said that unnamed officials -- Israeli officials -- saying that they were putting new pressure on us, etc., etc. I've checked around the building and no one is aware of it. Q Margaret, there was a new report out of Moscow today that the Soviets were floating some new peace proposal on the Gulf war -- efforts to end the fighting. Did the Foreign Minister raise any particular initiative with the Secretary? A No. And I would refer you, again, to his comments yesterday at the White House on the Soviet government's position concerning this. No. Q Back on Israel, Margaret. Does the United States continue to appreciate Israeli restraint? A Absolutely. Q Margaret, back on the Iraqi Charge being called in this afternoon. There have been reports that the Saudis have not been too helpful in helping CBS track their four missing members of the staff. Have you also asked the Saudis for more help? A I'm not aware that the State Department has. I saw that one report in today's newspaper. I don't know, to be honest with you -- and I want to be careful here -- I think it's more appropriate for me not to step into the middle of this. As you know, the Pentagon has been the lead on this. They have, since this first occurred, been doing everything that they can in the middle of their operation to try to help, to try to assist. I have to believe that they are coordinating their efforts with the Saudi government. I'm not aware of any complaints about the Saudi government. CBS, to be honest with you, talked to me yesterday and asked that the next time we met with the Iraqi Charge, would we take the occasion to raise it through our channels and we said absolutely. Today's the first time we've had the opportunity to do that. Q There's a report from New Delhi -- A What, Alan? Q The three points that you said were to be raised by David Mack, the first one was obligations on remains, was that? A In case any Americans should be killed, their remains -- there are certain international procedures, it is my understanding, of how to deal with that subject. This is for us to once again, just as we did concerning POWs, go back on the record with them and say that we expect you to live up to international standards concerning this. Q Can I follow that real quickly? A Wait one second. Q Just on that same thing. The three, and if you add the (Bob) Simon, you have four points for Mr. Mack to talk to them about. A I have two substantive points, and I said we were going to take the occasion to raise the CBS one. Q OK, OK. I mean, basically, the question is, is there some sort of -- I understand. Is there some sort of an expansion, would you say, of the dialogue with Iraq? No, no, it's a legitimate question, because it's just possible down the road sometime you might be talking to Iraq about finding a way out of this? A Not today. Q Not today. OK. A And when you look at the subjects that we're discussing, I wouldn't call that an expansion. Q No, I wouldn't at all. A The second subject that I mentioned is their continuous denial of allowing the International Red Cross in to help people, to see what assistance they can be to people, and it is continuous. So I wouldn't say this is any expansion at all. Q It isn't on the face of it, but I wondered if the door is opening a little bit? A Absolutely not. Q Will the Iraqi Charge be among those listening to the State of the Union address tonight? A No, he will not. He was not invited. Q Why is that? A I don't know. You asked the question yesterday. I just got the answer right before I came out here. He wasn't invited. I would guess it's for obvious reasons -- for the obvious. Q Can you provide us with the details of those obligations that Iraq is under for the remains? A Sure. I'll get the lawyers to. Q Can you comment on the report from New Delhi -- A The what? Q There's a report from New Delhi that American planes on their way from the Philippines to the Gulf are being refueled in India. Do you know anything about that? And also, actually, the Embassy here said that it is in accordance with the friendly bilateral relations between the United States and India. I was wondering whether you have anything on that? A Your first question, I know I don't. I'd refer you to the Pentagon. I'm not sure I understand your second question. Q The second question is the statement by the Spokesman of the Indian Embassy confirmed them saying that this is in accordance with the friendly bilateral relations between the United States and India? A It's tied into the first question? Q Yes. A You'd have to go to the Pentagon because I don't know if airplanes are or are not refueling. Q Margaret, can you tell us anything about today's meeting between the Secretary and the Soviet -- the Mayor of Moscow, Governor Popov? A Briefly, the meeting went on longer than was anticipated and I had to excuse myself in order to get down here to brief. Basically, it was very similar to the meeting that the Secretary had with the Mayor when they were in Moscow several months ago. The Secretary asked the Mayor for an overview of what is going on there in the Soviet Union, not only in his republic but in the Soviet Union. The Mayor gave the Secretary a fairly lengthy overview of changes that he has seen over the last eight or nine months. I do not have a list of them that I brought with me. The second subject that they discussed was Western aid. They also discussed briefly the Baltics. When I excused myself, they had begun a discussion on the Gulf. Q The press reports from the Middle East are -- A Yes, John. Q Was the Mayor optimistic? Was the Mayor pessimistic in expressing his views on the Soviet Union and the situation in the Baltics? A He never ascribed any adjectives, to be honest with you. It was very factual. He gave the Secretary a number of his personal opinions of various scenarios that could evolve, but he did not, that I remember in the part that I was in, ever use an adjective like that. He really didn't. It was very straightforward. Q Margaret, going back to this question on India. Apparently, these planes have been refueled for the past fortnight. American transport planes from the Philippines have been -- A I just don't know. Q What I mean is, if it's been going on for a fortnight, could it have been essentially a Defense Department initiative or would there have been some diplomatic negotiations before that happened? A There may well have been diplomatic discussions before this went on. I, number one, am not aware of this particular instance. The Pentagon can answer for you if, indeed, their airplanes, as I believe this gentleman said, are refueling in New Delhi. I will be more than glad to ask after the briefing: (1) if the State Department had some role in this, knows something about it, etc.? I just simply don't know at this briefing. Q It may be Bombay and not New Delhi. Just a correction. It could be Bombay, because the story broke in Bombay. A I understand. India. Q There are reports from the Middle East to the effect that Saddam Hussein is using his embassy in Amman as a communication center for his diplomatic instructions all over the world. Do you have any comment on that? A No. Q Do you know if this is true information? A No. Q OK, thank you. I think there's a question. Q Yes, Margaret. I'd like to go back on Carol's question. A Which one? Q I know you haven't seen the report, but Gorbachev's spokesman said today that there was a new Soviet initiative and that Gorbachev has sent a letter to Bush and to heads of state. He didn't make it clear when he sent the letter. Did Bessmertnykh come with a letter from Gorbachev? A No. Let me clear that up. He did not give one to Secretary Baker. I have not heard of such a letter that he presented to President Bush yesterday. Maybe you want to check at the White House. I have heard of no such letter that he presented to Secretary Baker. Q Margaret, a couple more questions on Bessmertnykh. Is he attending the State of the Union message tonight? A I don't know. Q And yesterday he made a statement that the troops -- the special troops -- were leaving from Lithuania and later on this was found not to be quite true. Is there anything that was said in the discussions that gives the United States reason for optimism about an improvement in the Baltic states? A The only thing I would be able to say is that the Secretary has raised our concerns concerning not only troops that are in the Baltics but specifically the Black Berets. Q Margaret, is there a briefing -- is this the end. Do you have Bessmertnykh's schedule. Will he -- A He will, as we announced yesterday, be here today at 4:00. They will meet for as long as they could go -- for 3, 3-l/2 hours. I am unaware of another meeting tomorrow, and I don't know when the Foreign Minister is going back to his country. Reggie Bartholomew and his counterpart have not been meeting this morning. They're waiting for the Ministers meeting and they, too, will probably meet later this afternoon. Q And what are your plans at the end of that meeting? Are they going to be coming out through the lobby? A There are no plans for them to do that, no. Q Traditionally, at the end of these, if in fact it is the end, as you know, they have come out and said something, but you have no plans for it? A We have no plans for that. The main reason is that the Secretary of State has to get to the State of the Union. We are unsure of when this meeting will end. The Foreign Minister, it's our understanding, can meet right up until when the Secretary has to depart. The Secretary has no flexibility in when he must be at the Capitol. So, no, right now, we have not planned anything. Q The focus of the talks this afternoon are arms control? A And some regional issues that they're going to try to touch on. That was the plan as of yesterday. Q And what regional issues? A I don't have the specifics. I'm sorry. I should have gotten it from Dennis (Ross). I don't know. It was predominantly, though, going to be arms control. They said they might try to hit on some regional issues. I'll get those for you. It's a fair question. Q Margaret, just one question. When you do ask this question about India, could you also ask why not Pakistan? What I'm trying to say is, if this cooperation has been going on, whether there has been a shift in strategy cooperation between the U.S. and India? A I believe the question I'm going to try to find an answer to is, "Are United States airplanes refueling?" Right? And you'd like to know if they are, why are we refueling in Pakistan? I can guarantee you most of this is going to be answered at the Pentagon, but I'll see what I can find out for you. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:58 p.m.)(###)