US Department of State Daily Briefing #19: Thursday, 1/31/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:01 pm; Washington, DC Date: Jan 31, 19911/31/91 Category: Briefings Region: Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa, East Asia Country: Egypt, Sudan, Israel, Kuwait, Peru, Iran, Turkey, Chile, Lebanon, Belgium, Iraq, Jordan, Philippines, South Africa, USSR (former), Estonia, Yemen, Latvia, Lithuania Subject: Terrorism, Military Affairs, Travel, Democratization, State Department, Arms Control (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: What I thought might be helpful for you today, since I haven't done it in several days, is to give an overall terrorism, around-the-world, update.

[Terrorism: Update]

Several additional small-scale terrorist actions have taken place in the last 24 hours. These incidents have resulted in property damage. So far the injuries have been relatively few. We have a report of one death -- a bank guard at a bank in Lebanon on January 23. The latest incidents raise the number of terrorism directed against coalition states since the outbreak of hostilities to approximately 70. Most of them have been property damage attacks conducted by indigenous groups which have carried out similar violence in the past. In some cases of the recent violence, they have issued statements linking their attacks to sympathy for Iraq in the Gulf crisis or anti-Americanism. The exact nature of the relationship of these groups with Iraq is unclear at this point. Iraqi nationals have been implicated directly in only one incident -- which I've mentioned to you before -- which was in Manila on January 19 where an Iraqi was killed and another injured when a bomb went off when they were carrying it near the USIS building. The most recent incidents include -- I believe it was either yesterday or last night -- a drive-by shooting of the American Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. Three rounds of automatic weapon fire hit a gate and a wall of the Embassy. There were no injuries and no claim of responsibility has been made at this time. In separate incidents in Sanaa, a hand grenade was thrown over the wall of the Turkish Ambassador's residence in Sanaa. One person was injured. There also was an explosion in the garden of the Japanese Ambassador's residence. There were no injuries. In Lima, Peru, a minor bombing took place at the U.S. Binational Cultural Center. Two other bombs blew up the statue of John F. Kennedy in a major city park. A fourth bomb shattered windows at the Italian Embassy. While there have been no claims for these attacks, they are probably the responsibility of the Tupac Amaru group. The French Cultural Center in Amman was burned. Two-thirds of the Center was damaged in this attack. A branch of the Islamic Jihad Movement claimed responsibility. In the Philippines, police defused several improvised time bombs at a VOA transmitter compound in the northern province of Tarlac. In Manila, an explosion apparently caused by a large firecracker occurred in a building housing the Saudi Embassy. In Santiago, Chile, an incendiary bomb damaged a Chase Manhattan Bank office. A stick of dynamite exploded outside the Qatar Embassy in Beirut. We also want to note that in Ankara, Turkey, police report three assailants shot and killed the security chief adviser to the Prime Minister's office. We have no information that would confirm this was related to the Gulf crisis. The attack was claimed by Dev Sol, the leftist group which has claimed responsibility for some of the recent attacks in Turkey because of the Gulf war. The group, however, also has claimed responsibility for similar assassinations of retired military officials in the past year or more. Q Can we get a copy of that? A Sure. Q That's all in the last 24 hours? A The specifics that I read for you are in the last 24 hours. The overall number I quoted to you is since hostilities began. I said it was at approximately 70, and predominantly at coalition members' facilities around the world. Most of the incidents I reported are property damage. Q While we are on the subject of terrorism, there's a big row going on in Belgium about the visit there of a senior operative of the Abu Nidal group. The Foreign Minister is under pressure to resign. I understand that the United States made some request for information from the Belgian government. Can you shed any light on that? A My understanding, Alan, is I believe there is a vote going on, probably right as we're briefing, concerning this situation in their government, and I would like to refrain from answering questions about it until after the situation works itself out. Q Regardless of their internal political debate, which nobody here expects you to comment on, did you receive any clarification from the Belgian government about this incident? A There's very little doubt in my mind -- we have a full Embassy there, an Ambassador -- that our Government, through our Ambassador and our Embassy personnel there, have been informed of the situation. It's also been very public, as you know, in any number of press reports. Q Margaret, can you confirm a report that Iraqi diplomats are among those that have been arrested in Bangkok in the investigation there? A No. I'll look into it for you. I don't know off the top of my head. Q What is this meeting about between the Secretary and a U.S. Jewish leader? A That meeting -- the original request came in some time over the Christmas holidays. The Secretary accepted the request on January 3, and it's something that, you know, we've had scheduled now for over three weeks. Q So it's -- A It's at their request. They asked to see him. I don't know, Jim, off the top of my head if this is something that this group annually does with a Secretary of State or not. But it's a longstanding request, and it's been on his calendar for well over three weeks. Q For today? A For today. Q And it's not connected with any disquiet -- A No, sir. Q -- because of the joint statement. A No, sir. Q Margaret, back to terrorism. Your recognition that these are mostly indigenous groups that have been -- their anti-Americanism is known, and all that kind of stuff. Basically, what you believe you're seeing is groups that may be sympathetic to Iraq but not directed by. Is that a fair -- A That would be a fair generalization. I want to be careful here. I am not in any way trying to, nor are we as a Government, devalue at all the seriousness we take of Saddam Hussein's claim to strike terrorism around the world. Nor are we in any stretch of the imagination letting any of our guard down. But many of you -- you know, last week we did this a number of times -- were asking, "Have you seen a pattern here?" The only one that we can tell you is clearly Iraqi is in the Manila incident on January 19. Q Excuse me. Last week we did talk about a credible threat by Iraqi terrorists in Tanzania. A That's correct. I stand corrected by Alan. There was one other one we did mention last week. Thank you, Alan. Q But just so I have this, so far as you know, these are all serious and without taking anything away from that, you do not see within this an orchestrated Iraqi-Saddam Hussein-oriented terrorist attack. You see a number of groups within countries that pre-existed this that are sympathetic to -- may be sympathetic to the Iraqi cause. A That's a generalization, fair characterization as of today. Q Margaret, an Egyptian opposition paper says that Iraqi planes have gone to Sudan and Yemen as well as Iran. Can you shed any light on that, and is there any concern about the Sudanese alignment with Iraq, and what it's doing to a coalition member, Egypt? A I have not seen anything concerning either one of those two reports, Jan, that you've mentioned, so I don't have anything specifically for you on that. Q Well, there's a big piece in today's New York Times about the tensions in Cairo, and the concern that they have over the hardening stance of the Sudan. A Concerning the second portion of your question of tensions between the Egyptians and the Sudanese, that is something that we have seen reports of. We've noted these reports. Egyptian President Mubarak has on numerous occasions stated that Egypt will react forcefully to any attack on its territory or installations. We view any threats of attack on Egypt with grave concern and support President Mubarak's strong position on protecting his country from outside incursions. Q Is this a subject that came up in the talks with Mr. Abdel Meguid and Mr. Baker -- concern over Sudan? A Not in the portion of the talks that I was in. As I mentioned, the two Ministers met for about 15 minutes, one-on-one, in Secretary Baker's office. The Secretary said they discussed the Gulf. So in the portion of the meeting which I think lasted -- I don't remember -- 40 or 45 minutes, no, it was not brought up. Yes, Owen? Q Has this Government been in touch with Iran through intermediaries in the last 48 hours to talk about either the Iraqi airplanes, terrorism, the hostages in Lebanon or any other issues involving the two countries? A I didn't check this morning. I'll be happy to check for you. You weren't here on Monday; on Monday I said, as did the White House, that in the last 24 hours through our third parties we had received additional assurances concerning the Iraqi airplanes. Q Right. That's why I was asking about the last 48 hours since Tuesday or even Wednesday. A I hadn't even asked. Q Any communication with Iraq? A Not that I know of. No. Q Do you have any idea of what the current status is of al-Mashat, the Ambassador to the United States? Is he or his family -- members of his family seeking asylum? Have you heard? A I don't know. Q Margaret, on the "cease-fire offer," have you heard any word from the Soviets yet that they might carry this forward as some sort of another attempt -- A No. We haven't. Q -- to get the fighting stopped? A No. Q Nothing? Q Margaret, can you comment today on a growing number of reports that Gorbachev is having to share power now with the Soviet military, and that the agreements negotiated by Shevardnadze in Houston are not recognized by the people now in power? A The first part of your question, I don't have an analytical analysis for you or response. The second part I answered yesterday, I believe, when I gave you an update on START. I said that basically what had been accomplished -- while the Ministers were here -- in the working group session all last week was, basically, the firming up of what had been agreed to in Houston and moving a little bit beyond. That's the best way I know how to answer that for you.

[Baltics: Some Soviet Troops Withdrawn]

Q Anything new on the pullout of Soviet troops from the Baltics? A I have a little bit, not a whole lot. Basically, the United States Government has confidence in the Soviet press reports that some troops from outside the Baltics are leaving. The overall situation in the Baltics again today remains tense but calm. Lithuanian officials report that some Soviet troops deployed there earlier this month have left. The Lithuanian government spokesman is quoted as saying there was no visible Soviet troop presence on the streets of Vilnius overnight, and President Landsbergis is quoted as saying, "Perhaps this is a good sign; a step towards a better situation." I also want to take note that they also report that pro-Moscow units have not withdrawn from the government buildings seized two weeks ago and have not dismantled checkpoints on major highways. Q Margaret, why do you frame it as "confidence in Soviet press reports"? Are you not being told the same thing by the Soviet government? A This is the way that we are going to characterize this for you today. As you know, in the President's State of the Union, he said "representations have been made." I have said that the two Foreign Ministers discussed this during the last three days of meetings, but we have refrained from giving out any specifics of those discussions. And please keynote off of -- as I know you would -- I said "some troops." Q Yes, of course. But are we to take from that that you've not heard anything directly -- A Since he left? Q -- since he left -- from the Soviet government about withdrawal of "some troops"? A Not that I'm personally aware of. Q Margaret, the Japanese Parliament is debating the $9 billion that the government has offered for the cost of Operation Desert Storm/Shield, and it appears that from the speech of the Prime Minister, that that money has certain strings attached to it. It's not to be used for military items. Has the Japanese government put any conditions on that contribution, should it be approved by Parliament? A If they have, Alan, I'm unaware of it. I'll have to ask the cconomic people. As you know, we have a Task Force here who are the technical experts, who monitor the working group, etc., and work with the various nations. I'm just not to that level of detail. I'll be happy to ask them. Q (Inaudible) -- question, Margaret: Are you going to release the human rights reports tomorrow? A Can I answer that after the briefing for you? Q Yes. Q Margaret, there's a story yesterday in the Financial Times which says that this grand jury in Atlanta investigating the problems of the fraud in an Italian -- in a branch of an Italian bank -- bear with me -- involving Saddam Hussein's son-in-law in apparently some bank fraud and loans in which they stole money and turned it into military hardware for Iraq. According to the Financial Times, the prosecutors there are awaiting State Department approval before they go ahead with indictments. First, does the State Department approve or disapprove of such things? And can you enlighten me as to -- A I don't know, Saul. Q -- whether it needs State Department approval? A I'll be happy to take your question. I'm unaware of this entire case. I've never heard of the case, and I didn't read the Financial Times article. Q Can you check for me? A Sure, I'll find out. I'll just have to ask the lawyers. I just never heard of it before. Q Margaret, what can you tell us about yesterday's meeting between the Secretary and the Israeli Ambassador? In your view, are the Israelis convinced that the statement did not represent a change in policy? What kind of assurances did Baker give him on that? A Well, first, let me tell you that had there been some type of -- as was portrayed in some reports -- urgent meeting, I can assure you that when Ambassador Dennis Ross talked to the Israeli Ambassador the night before, as I mentioned yesterday, I think they would have scheduled the meeting at a very early hour instead of at 4:30. In fact, Dennis said that he and the Ambassador said, "Let's get together in a day or two." Their staffs worked out and scheduled it for 4:30 yesterday. While he was here in the building meeting with Mr. Ross, the Secretary called him down and said -- to be quite honest with you, it was late in the day -- "Why don't you come down. I'll buy you a drink." So they had a ginger ale together. During that meeting, in Secretary Baker's office, of course, the Secretary took that occasion to say to the Israeli Ambassador what he has said to you all, what we all have been saying, that there is nothing new in this statement. I would only say that in my opinion, if you get a transcript of what the Israeli Ambassador said when he left after that meeting, he said, "The United States is consistent in its approach. It does not contain a substantive change; possibly no change at all." So that is all there was to that meeting, to be honest with you. Q A follow-up, Margaret. His meeting today with the Jewish leaders, was that hastily arranged or was that -- A I answered that earlier, Connie, for Jim. That request came in over the Christmas holidays and it was scheduled on January 3. Q The Ambassador did speak about Mr. Baker giving assurances that in the future, when such statements were to be issued, the Israelis would be consulted; isn't that correct? A I'm not aware of that specific assurance, Alan. I'll have to ask the Secretary. Q Do you have any comment on the Safire column this morning, which was rather tendentious? A I have made it a habit in 24 months of having this job not to comment on specific columns. Q Do you have any comment -- I mean, does the United States Government have any comment on the fact that since the day after the fighting broke out the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been under curfew virtually the whole time? It's been impossible for them to earn a living, to actually do much shopping, and they're all virtually under house arrest. This is l.2 something-or-other -- a million people who aren't able to move around. A What I'd prefer to do for you, Jan, I'm not aware that for the entire -- what has it been now, 14 or 15 days -- Q It's the longest house arrest -- A -- that they've been under, as you characterize, "house arrest." Let me check that out with the experts and see if that characterization is accurate. Q What about the administrative detention of Sari Nusseibeh? A I answered that yesterday. Q On South Africa. I know that there was guidance on a meeting. But as a follow up to that, there has been renewed violence despite the meeting. Do you have any comment on that? A Number 1, I'm not aware of renewed violence as of this morning's briefing. It would be our same comment, Connie. Of course, we are for a peaceful settlement to this situation. We abhor violence, but I'm not aware of a specific violent act this morning. Q Magaret, you said yesterday you weren't aware of the sort of tick-tock involved in the U.S.-Soviet statement. But I'm just wondering if, since yesterday's briefing, you've become more aware of that, particularly in terms of communication between the White House and Baker about it? A Marlin answered that question yesterday, as I believe I did. We both addressed ourselves to that. Since you're asking me from a White House angle, Marlin said -- which is obviously, absolutely accurate -- "There's no reason to have clearance on statements that say nothing new." So that was answered yesterday. As far as other tick-tock, yes, Jim asked me the question yesterday and I used words like "aware" and I also believe I said, as you know, we don't really do tick-tocks. So that's kind of the same today. Q Or windows. A Right. Q Pardon me if I missed this. A That's OK. Q The Christian Science Monitor reported in its front page today that China was trying to smuggle weapons to Iraq through a third country in an attempt to play both sides of the Gulf war. Do you have any comment on that? A Yes. As you know, China has supported resolutions which imposed the trade embargo on Iraq and all available evidence indicates that the Chinese have steadfastly upheld that embargo, including arms sales. We fully expect China to continue to do so, and we have no information to substantiate the allegation in the article that you refer to. Q On a related -- Q A second question. Sorry. Q Do you have any information that North Korea has been supplying Iraq with Scud missile parts or entire missiles? A I don't, but I'll ask for you. Q Margaret -- A Who called me? Mark.

[US Attempts to Minimize Civilian Casualties]

Q The Jordanian Foreign Minister complained to the American Ambassador about the deaths of Jordanians from the bombing on the highway going to Jordan. Do you have anything on that? A Yes. We very much regret any civilian deaths or injuries no matter what the nationality. At the same time, everyone knows that this is a war zone and will continue to be an extremely dangerous area, especially given the continuing campaign against Scud missile activity. Coalition forces, including the United States, have a strict policy of avoiding civilian targets. They have made every effort in this regard and will continue to do so even though it means extra risk for our coalition personnel as has been pointed out by General Schwarzkopf. Yesterday, there was a military briefing in Saudi Arabia. I will read to you some of the quotes given by that person. He said, "We are striking only military targets. The Iraqi government insists on storing Scuds in culverts and other things along the highway. When we see those types of vehicles go into those types of facilities, we bomb them. We make every attempt to minimize any possibility of civilian casualties." I also would like to point out that the International Relief officials, who are monitoring the Jordanian-Iraqi border, report that they have seen no war wounded or evidence of displaced persons being attacked. Q Margaret, as a follow up to that, we've never heard much about the results of Richard Armitage's visit to King Hussein. Is there any -- A Can I be more englightening today? Q Yes. A No. Sorry. Q Margaret, on the Jordanian response -- just a follow-up to that. Do you know anything about a warning that they intend to take action the next time their civilians are -- some casualties as a result of the allied bombing? A A warning? Q Yes. A No, I haven't heard -- Q Improbable as it may be, I thought I heard something like that. A No, I haven't heard about that. Q Margaret, do you have anything today on the planes that have gone to Iran? I have two specific questions. One is the same as yesterday. There are Iranian officials who are quoted as saying that whereas they've offered assurances that those planes will stay on the ground for the duration of the war, if Israel should get in the war or if Shi'ite holy places in Iraq should be attacked, they might have to reconsider those assurances. First, has the U.S. heard those same conditions placed on the assurances? And, secondly, do you have any comment on those conditions? A My answer to the question is the same as yesterday. When I was asked, "Is this the type of message that was passed to the United States?" I said, "No." What do you want me to characterize this hypothetical? Q Not hypothetical. There are reports -- A Well, it is to us, if they haven't said it to us. You're saying there are reports that Iranian officials have said. I can refer you to statements made by officials who have spoken on the record on the position of their government concerning this and concerning their pilots. In fact, there was just yesterday -- you may not have seen it -- a letter that was delivered from their U.N. Ambassador to the Secretary General of the United Nations on this very subject. Q Can I just follow up with one more question on the planes? Yesterday, an American military briefer confirmed that he knew of one Iraqi plane having done a round-trip -- a transport plane -- after the war started, having gone back to Iraq again. Do you know of any other planes doing a round-trip? A Number 1, I'm unfamiliar with that specific. I'm sure -- if the Pentagon has told you about it. I don't know of any other ones. I'll be quite honest with you. Many of these are what I consider in the category of military and I do not follow them, as I have other things that I've got to pay attention to and get more specific about. Q Somebody has suggested that international law requires that any neutral country, or any country that proclaims himself neutral, must therefore accept any refugees from war and give sanctuary, but they have certain obligations. I wonder if you're familiar with, or does the State Department have that section of whatever international law we're talking about which tells us the obligations of any neutral country like Iran -- A I have it right here with me, Saul. Q Terrific. I wonder if you could -- A I will share it with you. Q Well, you don't have to read it. A You want me to just put it out? It's all in the Geneva Conventions, and this apparently -- it's consistent with the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war for Iran to treat Iraqi pilots as prisoners of war. The 1949 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war provides that "A nation that is not a belligerent and who receives onto its territory armed forces will treat those forces as prisoners of war. "Such action is without prejudice to more favorable treatment which may be provided in accordance with the specific terms of the convention. "However, they may not be allowed to return to Iraq." Remember, I said I'd really like to leave, if I could, if at all possible, at 12:30. Q If I could follow that. I asked you about the status of the pilots yesterday. Has there been any communication by the Iranians, indirectly to you or through the Secretary General or whatever, that suggests that they are treating the pilots as POWs? A I believe, and I think it, again, was their U.N. Ambassador yesterday who addressed himself to this and has spoken to the record saying that they are, but check their record. But I remember yesterday seeing some Iranian official, and I think it was out of the U.N., who said this very thing. Q Yeah, but to the media. How about to the U.S. Government? A You want to know if they're saying something different to us than they are publicly? Q I want to know whether they said that to the U.S. Government. A I'll have to ask that specific question. Q Margaret, a White House official said yesterday that any contribution by any country to the Gulf operation would be welcome and it's up to that country to decide what type of contribution is to be made. I wonder whether that also includes Taiwan? Because last year when Taiwan wanted to make a contribution, it was told to give the money directly to the frontline states. Right now, lawmakers in Taipei are debating what types of contribution they can make to the Gulf operation. Because they think as a member of the international community, they should also contribute something. So my question is whether you can specify the Bush Administration's position regarding what type of contributions Taiwan can make? A I'm not sure that I have a specific concerning Taiwan. You heard what the President's spokesman said yesterday. He said, "All nations making contributions." I'm not familiar with the specific case you're talking about -- 1990 dollars versus giving to the military portion of this or to the frontline states. I just don't know whether someone in our Government, at present, is talking to Taiwan concerning 1991 contribution and what type that may or may not be. Q OK, thank you. A Thanks, Jim. (Press briefing concluded 12:29 p.m.)(###)