US Department of State Daily Briefing #28: Tuesday, 2/19/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:17, Washington, DC Date: Feb 19, 19912/19/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Eurasia, Central America, South Asia Country: India, USSR (former), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia, Philippines, Nicaragua Subject: Development/Relief Aid, Military Affairs, Terrorism, Trade/Economics, NATO, Regional/Civil Unrest, Security Assistance and Sales (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: The President has answered this morning the questions that I know are foremost on your minds. I, as I know you can understand, will have absolutely, positively nothing further to say on how the President addressed himself to this this morning. As many of you know, because you called me at home yesterday, the Secretary of State spoke with the Foreign Minister at his residence yesterday. He then received later in the afternoon a fuller brief of the Tariq Aziz meeting in Moscow. He then met with the President and his senior advisors at the White House and spent many hours there yesterday. He came back to the Department last night around 7:30, and I think left here some time after 10:00. This morning, he has been spending a great deal of his time back at the White House. As you know, we have, as the President said, communicated our views to the Soviets. Q How have these views been communicated? A Last night, they were communicated to the Charge here, which is the normal system, Jim, and then he goes on and sends it to his government. Q Margaret, why did the United States feel that it had to reply to this offer which was not made to the United States? A I guess I could ask the other question: Why did the Soviet Union feel a need to send to the President a very detailed brief of their meeting with Tariq Aziz? Q He asked you first. (Laughter) A He asked me first; that's correct. But for the same reasons that they felt a need, which I don't know what their thinking was, to send us a full readout and brief of their meeting with Tariq Aziz. Q I guess they feel -- Q The proposal was not made to the United States. It was made to the Iraqis. Was the U.S. trying to pre-empt the Iraqi reply? A Not that I'm aware of, John. But the United States, as you know, has stayed in full and close contact with the Soviet Union over the last six months concerning this crisis and they continued doing so last night. Q Are the Soviets trying to stall the beginning of the ground offensive? A Not that I'm aware of. But, again, that question might be best asked to the Soviets. Q Is there any daylight between the United States and the Soviet Union on this issue of whether to put forward this proposal and whether to accept any sort of conditions, even down the road? A I can't answer those questions, Jim. I have to refer you to what the President said this morning. Q Does it not seem somewhat incongruous that the United States is perfectly willing to be critical of the Soviet proposal in public but is not willing to say what it's being critical about? A Well, the Soviet Union, at least since I came out to the briefing this morning, I don't believe has given out the full context, much less even a quarter of the context of their message to President Bush, or have they given out, that I've seen yet this morning, any of the details of the conversations that they had with Tariq Aziz. I saw the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations refraining from giving out any details this morning. So I'm just not aware, John, to be honest with you, of anyone who is discussing this at that level of detail, including the Soviet Union. Q So, if I understand this correctly, the governments are passing back and forth all the details and our government and now the British Government has basically rejected whatever it is that has been offered to the Iraqis? We've rejected it but the peoples of all these different countries have no idea what anybody is talking about. Is that sort of the way it works? A That's kind of the way it is. Q Margaret, just to follow that up a bit. A Yes, Ralph. Q When you say "That's the way it is," are you agreeing with the characterization that President Bush rejected the Soviet proposal? A No. Those were John's words. The words that I have, that the President used this morning, are: "It falls well short of what would be required." Q And can I ask you on that subject what would be required in order to satisfy U.S. requirements or U.N. requirements, or someone else's requirement? A That, unfortunately, is a question that I simply cannot address myself to. That gets right into the details of this, and I have absolutely no authority at all to discuss any portion of this. Q Does the U.S. have any requirements that are other than the U.N. requirements? A I'm sorry, Ralph. What? Q Does the U.S. have any requirements that are other than the U.N. requirements? A Without addressing ourselves to the Soviet proposal, has the United States' policy changed concerning our objectives? Q That's not my question. My question is whether the United States has any requirements that are different from the requirements established by the United Nations resolutions? A No. Q So if the President didn't actually reject this, then is this his opening position? A I only can work with today -- and I know that you can appreciate it -- what the President said that it falls well short. He also said that "There are no negotiations. The goals have been set out. There will be no concessions." Q Margaret, two things. First, is this proposal by the Soviets have that awful thing called "linkage" wrong with it? A I have absolutely no characterization of what the Soviet proposal has in it or what the United States has sent back in response to the message they received from the Soviets. Q With dozens of proposals -- can I continue? There have been dozens of proposals before and after the war. And without seeing them at all, the United States -- most of them -- the United States, with alacrity, junked and said, "If there's linkage in it, we wont' go for it." Does that apply to this proposal, too? A I have no characterizations of this proposal, Barry. Overall, generally, generically speaking, our policy concerning linkage has not changed. But I'm stating that without connecting it to whatever the Soviets have sent to the United States. Q Can you comfortably -- the other thing is, would you be prepared now, with comfort, to just reiterate what you have been able to say or felt you were able to say all along? Would you make your little speech and say that the Soviets are with the United States every step of the way; there's no disagreement between the two powers; they're working on this in concert; their aims and objectives are the same; there's nothing the Soviets are doing that we disapprove of, and vice versa? Could you make that speech today? A I will refer you to the President of the Soviet Union's spokesperson this morning who has addressed himself to this question. He was quite clear in stating the Soviet Union's position concerning this crisis. If you don't have a transcript of that, I'll be happy to supply one for you. Q I would like your statement and not his. I would like to know if the U.S. Government feels that the Soviets and the United States are moving along parallel tracks here and working in concert to bring about the U.N. resolutions? A The United States, certainly, Barry, sees no change as enunciated this morning by the President's spokesman on the Soviet Union's views on an unconditional withdrawal. I believe he said, "Adherence to U.N. resolutions." But, again, I think it's best if their spokesman speaks for their President. He's just done so this morning, and I'll refer you to that record. Q Did the United States, when it responded to the Soviet message, explain what the U.S. view was about how the Soviet proposal could, in fact, meet the requirements that President Bush was referring to? Did it offer suggestions as to what else would be needed in order to meet the requirements and not fall far short? A I would love to be of help to you but that is going beyond what my directions are. I have absolutely a promise -- nothing that I am at liberty to say concerning the full brief that Secretary Baker received from the Soviet Union or the response that was sent back from our government. I just can't do it. I'm sorry. Q How detailed was the U.S. response? Was it a very brief response, similar to what the President said? Or did he outline any of the aspects of this proposal which the U.S. finds falls short? A Do you mean, was it as brief as the President's statement this morning at the Congressional meeting? Q Was it a detailed response or was it a brief response? A It was a very thorough response. Q And do you know anything about the travel plans for Tariq Aziz? A No. But I just heard before I came out here -- I believe on CNN -- maybe Ralph knows -- it was reporting that there was some type of answer that they were expecting out of Baghdad in an hour or so. I don't know. Q The U.S. Government doesn't know anything all by itself? A "All by ourselves" -- no, we do not. Q Our policy hasn't changed, has it, either on what would constitute an Iraqi withdrawal and a cessation of hostilities on our part? A Not at all. Q That has not changed? A Not at all. Q Margaret, can you tell us who the Secretary of State has spoken to today in terms of his counterparts? The White House said that the President had spoken to world leaders. Has the Secretary of State had phone conversations about the plan? A No. He spent almost the entire morning at the White House. He just returned around 11:30. I'm not aware if he's talked to anyone since 11:30. But prior to that, he had not, Mary. Q Margaret, does the United States still feel that the Iraqis must pay reparations for what they've done to Kuwait and other countries? A Yes. Q Margaret, does the United States -- the State Department -- feel that Iraq's initiative is some attempt to forestall the ground offensive? Is it some sort of a trick or is it a sincere -- A Iraq's initiative? Q I'm sorry, the Soviet initiative, which is -- is there some play here to try to keep the war from reaching the ground stage? Is that the U.S. impression of what's going on? A Bill asked me that question a few minutes ago and I said that I didn't think that I was in a position to judge if that was a case or not a case. I did not have a comment for that on the question that he had asked me. Q Margaret, one more try. Can you say whether the Soviet proposal comports to the standards of the Baker-Bessmertnykh communique? A No. Q Are the Soviets living up to the criteria laid down in that communique, in the opinion of the State Department? A I understand it's frustrating for you. It's much more frustrating for me. I really, honestly cannot get into any characterizations at all on the Soviet briefing to us and our response back. I just cannot. Q As far as the United States is concerned, the Baker-Bessmertnykh -- A To be honest with you, Johanna, that is having me go one step further than the President has gone this morning, and that is our response today. I believe you'll find that Mr. Fitzwater is in the exact same position that I am in. I don't think that you're going to find, to my knowledge, anyone in the Administration, that I'm aware of, going further than the President's own characterization this morning. Q But the follow-up question is whether -- excuse me -- the follow-up is whether the United States still considers that the standard? A The United States' policy concerning the Gulf crisis has not changed one iota. There's no difference in that in any area. Q Has the Soviet policy changed? A I've just answered that. That was Barry's question, and I'll refer you to the President of the Soviet Union's Spokesman this morning who said very clearly that they fully support the U.N. resolutions; that there must be an unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait -- is the gist of it, George. Q Do we consider the joint communique still in force? A Yes. Q Margaret, sticking with the language that the President used, did the Soviets give any indication of why they, as a co-author of these U.N. resolutions, would propose a settlement that falls well short of the U.N. resolutions that they're co-author of? A I don't believe that the Soviet Union has come out -- correct me if I'm wrong -- and said that what they have proposed falls short of the U.N. resolutions. Q The President said it did. So what I'm trying to find out is, did the Soviets intentionally put in something that falls short, or is there a disagreement between Washington and Moscow about what's required? A The President characterized this morning, without calling it a disagreement, what his reaction is to what he received last night. I cannot take this further for you. If I could, I'd be happy to. Q Margaret, can you tell us, since the Secretary was with the President when the President was talking to people in the coalition -- we know that the Brits agree with the U.S. assessment, apparently, of this plan. Have any other coalition members also said that they believe this falls short or that they have problems with this plan? A I'm not aware, Mary, this morning of any coalition partners who have cabled in or sent through our Ambassadors, etc., feelings that it either falls short or doesn't. I haven't seen, to be honest with you, every coalition member's public or private reaction this morning. I can say that I heard a little bit of Marlin's briefing before I came out here. He was asked the question, "If the President" -- it had been reported -- "had spoken to Prime Minister Major?" He said that he had not. So I'm not sure who all they talked to this morning. I don't know. Q Margaret, what does the United States think the Soviets are up to here? Is this an honest attempt to bring about a peace agreement in the area, or do you believe the Soviets are perhaps meddling, trying to carve out a position for themselves in some future Middle East power dynamic? Or is there some other formulation that I hadn't thought of? A Again, John, I think that it is probably more appropriate to ask the Soviets that line of questioning than to ask me. I have stated what they have said, through their spokesman this morning, is their policy concerning the situation in the Gulf. They have been quite open on numerous times -- many times -- On the Record saying that they would like to find a peaceful solution to this. So I can't tell you, of the two you gave me, and you said you didn't if there were any more, what is the Soviet thinking. Q So you take them at their word, then, that this is an honest attempt to find peace in the Middle East? A Yes. Why wouldn't I? Q What about the U.S. thinking on this? That's sort of what he was getting at. It's not what we think about the Soviets; what does the U.S. think about them? A Think about what? What the Soviet proposal is? Q That's it. A The President answered that this morning. It falls well short of what would be required. Q But what does he think they're trying to do? What is the opinion of the United States government -- of the State Department, of the Secretary of State, or of your own good self -- as to what it is the Soviets are trying to accomplish? A We've done this. I have said that the Soviets have said that their policy concerning this crisis is a complete withdrawal from Kuwait. That's been consistent for six months. Q That wasn't the question. A They have also been consistent -- and, again, we stated it this morning -- on complying that Iraq must comply with 12 United Nations resolutions. That is exactly what the United States and the coalition is saying and the U.N. is saying. Q Is the Soviet proposal consistent with that? A I'm not going to comment on the Soviet proposal. Q Do we still welcome such efforts on the part of the Soviets -- Q (Inaudible) A I'm sorry, Saul, what? Q Do we still welcome -- we used to welcome such efforts on the part of people who try to bring peace. Do we still welcome such efforts on the part of the Soviets? A We welcome the efforts of anyone who can get Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and to abide by 12 United Nations resolutions. Q That, of course, is still the only American objective. A Correct. Q Margaret, the President has said in the past that Saddam Hussein would be brought to justice. Is that still American policy? A My understanding of this, Mark, to be honest with you -- are you talking about war crimes and the war tribunal? Q I'm talking about his statement that Saddam Hussein would be brought to justice. A I don't remember this particular statement. I'm usually pretty good on remembering what he said. I don't remember that particular statement. Let me look it up in the context of how it was said and when it was said, and I'll give you a response. Q Margaret, if there were an unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, the Soviets seem to be saying that sanctions against Iraq would no longer be necessary. What is the U.S. view on that? A Our view is that the United Nations resolutions should be adhered to, and one of them, as you know, has to do with that. Q Well, the sanctions, obviously, were put in place at a time when certain things existed. If those things no longer existed, if Iraq was no longer in Kuwait, you still think the sanctions just go indefinitely into the future? A Secretary Baker has addressed himself to this as recently as Sunday in an interview with Ralph [Begleiter, CNN], and he said that those are the types of things that he will be, and the coalition, etc., will be addressing itself to. If your question is, "Should Saddam Hussein still be in Baghdad," he addressed himself to that and said that you would probably, as he has said publicly, have to look at some type of arms embargo. Q Margaret, can you tell us, please, given what the President said this morning, if Saddam Hussein accepts this proposal in toto, that means it's not good enough? A It's a hypothetical for me. Q Margaret, just before we came out here, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Velayati, said it was his understanding from the Iraqis that they had every intention of withdrawing from Kuwait, and that the attachments to the offer on Friday which the United States rejected as conditions and linkage, were in fact simply issues to be discussed. Has the U.S. thinking on this changed at all? You still believe those are conditions and linkage. A As to my recollection of Radio Baghdad's report on Friday, I believe they used the word in paragraph 3, "linked to." So that couldn't have been, I think, any clearer in English to us of here are the following, I think it was nine or ten, conditions that they say are "linked to," which was paragraph 1 and 2, which "we will withdraw from Kuwait." Q Margaret, can I try a couple of subsidiary things? I think I heard after your last briefing some time during the weekend that India no longer would permit refueling. I wondered if that irked the State Department? And should I save the second until you answer the first, if you have an answer? A Did it hurt the State Department? Q Irked is the -- A Oh, irked. I'm sorry. Q Yes. A Yes. You are correct. The United States Government decided to make other arrangements for refueling. We appreciate the Indian government's cooperation and assistance in providing Indian facilities to us. The United States Government made this decision in consultation with the Indian government. We have stayed in close contact with the Government of India since the beginning of this crisis, and we appreciated their support, and we will continue to stay in close contact. Q Did you make these other arrangements after the Indian government told you they didn't like the current arrangement? A I characterized it for you by saying that the United States Government made this decision after consultation with the Indian government. Q Is that a diplomatic way of saying the Indian government chose not to cooperate any more, and you had to find another arrangement? A It's the diplomatic way that I'm going to continue to answer the question. Q All right. And diplomatically last week you said that -- Q Still on that one. Is Sri Lanka where the planes will now be refueled? A You'd have to ask the Pentagon. I honestly don't know. Or I'll ask here if they know. Q On the other thing, the Israeli situation: I think last week you spoke of -- well, of course, Israel is now considered a front-line state by the Secretary of State, and I think you said last week you're asking the -- A No. I believe he said it was a front-line state. Q Yes. I say. Indeed. It now has the official designation of "front-line state." And as a result, I think you said last -- I know you said last week that the Europeans and others were being asked if they could help Israel out. From Israel the word is they haven't received a penny from anybody, including the United States, and, of course, there's been some irritation on both ends. Where do things stand now? Can you give us a box score on whether you were able to raise any contributions for Israel, and whether the United States has any contributions for Israel? A Number one, Barry, I'm not aware of a specific Israeli request from the United States. I am aware of two Patriot deliveries the United States has given to Israel along with American crews. I am not aware -- you say not one penny has been received. Maybe you could check with the German Embassy since they made a public pledge of what they were going to do. As I mentioned to you, the Secretary of State raised this issue with the current head of the EC, the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, when he was here, and to be quite honest, I haven't asked or checked. I'll be happy to for you. Q I'm just curious. Remember all the accounts we were given of aid to Jordan and aid to Turkey and aid to Egypt? Did they make specific requests for this aid, or was it a matter of the United States recognizing they were being hurt by the war, and the United States dug down and forgave $7 billion in Egyptian debts, etc.? Were they specific requests, or was it the United States appraising a situation and doing something? A On the Egyptian debt question, I know that there definitely were consultations with the Egyptian government. Concerning other governments, as you know, the United States has under review right now all of its aid to Jordan. And I am not aware of any aid that the United States has increased or been giving to other front-line countries, but I will certainly go back and check with the Economic Bureau and make sure that I am correct. Q Last point -- A I believe what we were doing, Barry, was soliciting from other Arab coalition partners on behalf of other states of them to give to their Arab neighbors. Q Right. I wonder if you were -- when the Secretary brought the Ambassador in last week to complain about -- A Which Ambassador? Q The Israeli Ambassador. -- to complain about what he had said in an interview, was there any discussion of aid which would take the form of the kind of consultation you're talking about? A In that particular meeting? Q Or in any other meeting? A No. Q Margaret, has aid to Tunisia been cut because of Tunisia's position on the -- on support for Iraq? A I have no idea, Jan. I'll be happy to check. Q Would you ask, please? Q Is the country-by-country aid list ready yet? A I haven't checked today. I don't know. We checked last week, and -- oh, I know what it was. We checked last week, and Congress is in recess. It goes to the Hill first before you give it to the public, and Congress doesn't get back until when? I can't remember. MS. HOGGARD: Today. MS. TUTWILER: Today. So I'll check with Janet [Mullins]. That was the reason last week. Q Margaret, following up on the Israeli Ambassador and the situation involving him, does the United States feel that Israel should withdraw Ambassador Shoval? That he has damaged his credibility to such an extent that the United States Government can no longer work with him? A If the United States Government, John, had held that position, I believe the United States Government would have enunciated that position. We did not. Q So there is no problem in the future then working with Ambassador Shoval? A Not that I know of. Q Margaret, can I come back for a second to your discussion of Mr. Ignatenko's comments earlier today. By citing those publicly and even offering to provide a transcript, you seem to be endorsing them. I don't know whether you are or not, but you leave the impression anyway that you are endorsing those comments as the United States Government's understanding of the Soviet position on those issues. By refusing to comment on the Soviet private proposal -- or the secret proposal, let's put it that way -- you leave the impression that there's a difference between what the Soviets are saying publicly, which you are glad to endorse, and what the Soviets are saying privately, which you decline to comment on. Is there a difference between the public and private statements without commenting on what the substance of those proposals might be? A No. The clear impression, Ralph, that I, obviously, am trying to leave with you -- that I don't think there's much misunderstanding over -- is that I take my lead and my instructions from the White House and from the Secretary of State. And the President has addressed on behalf of all of us, our nation today, the United States official response to what they received from the Soviet Union. I would again point out that the Soviet Union itself -- unless it has done so since I began the briefing -- has not itself put out its own details of its own proposal. Q Right. But that wasn't my question. I was not asking what the details of the Soviet proposal was; I was asking you whether the United States perceived a difference between what the Soviets are telling the U.S. in its secret proposal and what the Soviets are saying publicly -- comments which you have quoted from and -- A And that gets me into commenting beyond where I am able to go on the contents of a Soviet proposal, which I simply, unfortunately, am unable to do for you at this briefing. Q Also, can I ask whether the U.S. has had any contact, directly or indirectly, with the Government of Iraq in recent days? A I didn't ask this morning. I assume the answer is no. I'll be happy to check it out for you. Q Do you know what the status of the Embassy personnel is at this point? A No. On Friday when we left -- I recognize it's been a three-day weekend -- we still had not had any word back from the four Iraqi officials that are here on how they want to handle their breaking of relations with the United States. Q A senior cleric in Lebanon, Shi'ite cleric, commented that the U.S. hostages could well be released as a result of diplomatic activity surrounding the Gulf war. Have you any comment on that? Have you heard anything about that? A I haven't heard anything about it, Bill. I haven't seen that particular statement or comment. And, as you know, whether there is a Gulf crisis or not, our government feels very, very strongly that all of those held against their will, all Americans, should be released, unconditionally and safely. Q Has there been communication with the Government of Iran in the last 24 hours on the issue that's before us now? A I didn't ask. I'll be happy to ask for you.

[Phillipines: Status of Bases ]

Q Margaret, can you tell us where the negotiations on the Philippine bases stand as of today? A Yes. They basically concluded, Jim. It was the fifth round. They concluded on February 16. The two panels resolved many differences on technical issues, including most status-of-forces agreement issues. Our technical committees remain in Manila to work out final details in these areas. Discussions were also held on compensation and duration, but final agreement has not been reached on those two issues. The Foreign Minister of the Philippines may visit Washington before the end of the month. Discussions on compensation and duration will continue then. We believe that final agreement can be reached soon. Q What you're saying, I gather, is that on the issue of compensation you are within negotiating range. In other words, you're not at two ends of the scale. You're getting closer. A I don't know, Jim, to be honest with you. Mr. Armitage did a full briefing when he concluded this meeting before he left Manila. He's back here. I'll be happy to ask that level of detail for you on the negotiations. I do know these are two issues that are not resolved. I also know that a great deal was resolved. Q Margaret, as we stand -- as the situation stands today, it looks as if the United States will continue to have the use of those bases in the Philippines. A If you resolve the outstanding issues. Yes. Q Has there been formal or informal agreement to extend the 90-day deadline which expired on the 17th for clearing up the CFE loose ends? A You didn't have to have formal or informal. As I had mentioned before, that was a deadline that -- I believe it was February, what was it? 18th? Q 17th. A 17th. A deadline that they set, but that the deadline -- the work continues beyond the deadline, and they do not set a new deadline is how it has been explained to me. Q With automatic extensions? A Correct. It just goes on without another date certain. Q Margaret, has there been any movement on any of those substantive issues on CFE or START? A No.

[USSR: Situation in Georgia]

Q Margaret, do you have any comment on the situation in Soviet Georgia, and do you have any comment/update on the situation in the Baltics? A I don't have a situation in the Baltics for you. It has remained basically calm and tense over the last eight or ten days, and I don't have a specific other than that characterization. Concerning Georgia, Soviet army units stormed the camp of an unofficial pro-independence nationalist militia group known as the "Horsemen" yesterday outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. According to press reports, the attack came after members of the militia fired on Soviet army tanks and other vehicles near the camp. The troops arrested approximately 30 militia members and seized 30 guns, a ton of explosives and other military equipment. Two Soviet soldiers were wounded in this incident. The leader of the "Horsemen" said the Georgia Republic government was responsible for the attack. Authorities in Tbilisi have not yet commented on the action. Georgian Republic authorities have tried to disband and disarm the unauthorized militia group on several occasions in the past. The United States believes that the future of Georgia and the other republics of the Soviet Union should be determined peacefully and democratically by the parties involved. Q Just a quick follow-up on the CFE question: When you say there's been no movement, have the Soviets come forward with any additional information on -- or revised positions or anything like that, and they don't satisfy the U.S., or have they not even come forward with anything new? A Last Thursday in Vienna, the Soviet Union submitted new data on its equipment holdings, as they had indicated they would do prior to February 17, and we and the allies are studying this data. I do not have any other comments on it. Q Do you have anything on a call by Yeltsin to Gorbachev to resign unconditionally? A I haven't seen that. When was that? Today? Q Just this morning. A Sorry. I hadn't seen it. Q Margaret, there's also been a new proposal in the Soviet Union for an increase in basic prices, and I was wondering how the U.S. assessed this in terms of efforts toward economic reform? A I'm not sure, Carol, if we have even a thorough readout of what exactly the new proposal is. I'll be happy to ask Bob Zoellick, if he will, if he'll take a look at it when we get it here and get you an answer. Q Margaret, re the question that you're taking on Tunisia, could I ask when it comes down, that perhaps we could have some information as to funding levels for Tunisia over the past couple of years rather than the response to the question last week which was a one-word "yes." A I'll ask. Q Margaret, does the Department have any comment on the killing of Enrique Bermudez in Nicaragua over the weekend? A We strongly condemn the brutal assassination. Like many other Nicaraguans, he had returned home peacefully from exile after a long civil war. This assassination is a crime against the national reconciliation which President Chamorro has called for and which is indispensable to the peaceful reconstruction of Nicaragua. We hope this death will make Nicaraguans more determined to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. The Government of Nicaragua is investigating this crime, and we call on anyone who may have information to turn it over to the Nicaraguan authorities. Q Thank you. A Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:49 p.m.)