US Department of State Daily Briefing #29 Friday, 2/20/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 11:30 pm, Washington, DC Date: Feb 20, 19912/20/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Europe Country: Greece, Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, USSR (former), China Subject: Military Affairs, Security Assistance and Sales, State Department, Human Rights, Democratization (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I have probably as many answers as I had for you yesterday for today's briefing. Q (Chorus of groans) MS. TUTWILER: Won't it be good? So I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have that I am at liberty to answer. Q Let me try it from a lateral direction. MS. TUTWILER: O.K. Q Have you heard -- had any readings about the talks in China between the Chinese and the Iraqis? MS. TUTWILER: Not yet, but we fully expect to, and we have seen Chinese officials quoted in press reports after that meeting, saying that they, as we know, fully support the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. We expect, Jim, that this briefing will happen. It had not as of my coming down here -- a readout. Q As far as you know, are both China and the Soviet Union on a parallel track insofar as they both are insisting on an unconditional withdrawal by Iraq from Kuwait? MS. TUTWILER: As far as I know, yes. And that certainly bears out in all of their public statements by various public officials representing their government. Q Margaret, do you have any comment on Italy's reaction to the Soviet proposal? It's a lot warmer than the President's yesterday. MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, Warren, I haven't seen Italy's reaction to this, so I don't know. Q Margaret, when it's convenient could we -- maybe not here, but maybe in printed form, could we have -- we do hear every day about the unconditional withdrawal. Is it possible to get what the U.S. objectives are sort of put down nice and clean and neat, so that we'll know whenever this Soviet proposal becomes clearer, we'll know how many of those objectives are being met? Nobody's arguing now about an Iraqi -- MS. TUTWILER: There's been no secrets here. They've all been out there a hundred times. Sure, I'll be happy to give you White House transcripts and Secretary of State transcripts and -- Q Oh, I have all those. MS. TUTWILER: -- and any other officials and put it together. Be glad. Q No. I have all the old information. What I'm wondering is what is the current U.S. demand, because when you keep repeating -- MS. TUTWILER: It hasn't changed, Barry. Q Well, when you keep repeating that we want Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait -- MS. TUTWILER: Unconditionally. Q You're sort of behind the curve, because the proposal calls for it. The Iraqis have said they'll withdraw. We know all this. What we're asking these days is whether the U.S. is insisting, for instance, on the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iraq paying reparations. I haven't heard about restoring the Kuwaiti royal family, but I assume that's still part of the deal. In other words, it's the peripheral or the secondary issues that may be the discrepancy between the U.S. and the Soviet position. So it would be nice to know what the U.S. position is anew. MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that you or anyone else or any foreign governments have any doubt about what the United States position is. It is quite simple. It is that Iraq must abide by 12 United Nations sanctions, one of which is for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Another is that the legitimate Government of Kuwait must be restored. You just characterized or stated that the Iraqi government has said they're withdrawing from Kuwait. I'm not aware of that. Q That they'd be willing to. But let me ask you, does one of the U.N. resolutions, as you interpret it, require the trial of Saddam Hussein as a war criminal, for instance? MS. TUTWILER: I don't believe that there's a United Nations resolution addressing itself to that. I'll be happy to give you -- Q I don't need that. MS. TUTWILER: -- a public copy of the 12 United Nations resolutions and the language contained within them. I never read one that said that. Q Again, I have them. MS. TUTWILER: You do. And you've got -- Q Yes. But lawyers make a living -- MS. TUTWILER: -- one that said that? Q No. The point is -- MS. TUTWILER: Nor do I. Q -- how do you interpret them -- the State Department interpret them, because resolutions -- even if we go back to 1967 and the withdrawal from Occupied Territories, that's still being analyzed and interpreted 20 -- whatever it is -- 24 years later. So the question is, does the United States think that a U.N. demand that must be fulfilled is the trial of Saddam Hussein, the removal of Saddam Hussein from authority, Iraq's making good on the damage it's caused Kuwait? These are where probably the state of play is. So to keep harping on withdrawal, you know, everybody knows -- the Soviets, the Chinese, the U.S., the French, the British -- they're all for withdrawal from Kuwait. What are you for that maybe the Soviets aren't any more? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to answer for you, which is indirectly what you're asking me, what the Soviet proposal is. As you know, the Soviet government to this date has not put out the specifics of their proposal. The President of the United States said yesterday he was going to honor that request. I answered the question yesterday, Barry, and you were here, concerning compensation, which you just mentioned is a United Nations resolution. I have said that I am unaware -- and you've just confirmed that you're not sure of United Nations language concerning trial of Saddam Hussein or the removal of Saddam Hussein. Our policy is very well known concerning that issue. It's been articulated hundreds of times over the last six months that we are not engaged in enlarging or expanding the United Nations resolutions. Q Margaret, a basic contradiction that puzzles many of us is that you're saying that both the Soviet Union and the Chinese insist on unconditional withdrawal by Iraq from Kuwait. Yet the President says the plan falls well short of what is required. But you have been saying -- the U.S. Government has been saying all along what is required is an unconditional withdrawal. So the question then becomes why does it fall well short? Are there conditions attached? MS. TUTWILER: I understand it. I understand why you're asking me the question that you're asking me. I'm in the same position today that I was in yesterday in not being able to progress any further than the President's response to the Soviet proposal that he received. One thing that I have already seen on the wires that many of you may know is that Secretary Baker had another conversation yesterday with the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, and they continued to discuss the Gulf situation. The Foreign Minister did not put out through his government a further characterization of that conversation, and it will come as no surprise to you that I don't have a further characterization. But they have, as we've said and I said yesterday, continued -- and I have every reason to believe will continue -- to stay in close contact. Q When was this conversation? MS. TUTWILER: Sometime late yesterday. I didn't ask the specific time. Q Margaret, what do you make of a Soviet statement today that Iraqi Foreign Minister Aziz has no plans at the present time to go back to Moscow, and Iraq also came out today with a rather hard-line statement. Do you see -- as limited as this peace process may be at this point, do you see it stuck in the water. Do you see it going anywhere? MS. TUTWILER: Number one, Carol, I haven't seen this morning an Iraqi response, and I apologize. I just haven't seen it. Number two, I have seen any number of Soviet officials this morning, saying everything from, "We're waiting hour to hour. We may use the FAX machine. We may use our Embassy." So I don't know. We have never said that we knew that the Foreign Minister of Iraq was positively, date certain, going back to Moscow, and I think that's something that, obviously, the Soviet Union and the Iraqi government are working out. Q Margaret, have you been given any reason to expect an Iraqi answer at any time soon or any time certain? MS. TUTWILER: No. The Soviet Union themselves have put out very publicly that they would like an Iraqi response and would like one rapidly. Q Does the Administration have any response to the opinion voiced by some members of Congress and some allies, including Prince Bandar, that even if Saddam Hussein remains in charge as a result of withdrawing from Kuwait at this juncture, he won't last very long; that his own people will get him? MS. TUTWILER: No. That would be highly speculative for me to engage in that type of hypothetical thinking with you about what may or may not happen. It gets right into how the war ends. I would only be able to restate what you know really well, which is our policy. That is not one of the goals and the objectives of coalition or, certainly, of the United Nations. Q What is not? MS. TUTWILER: The removal, is I believe how you stated it, of Saddam Hussein. Q Is not one of the goals or objectives? MS. TUTWILER: We have said that I don't know how many times, and, yes, you're going to ask me, probably, about what the President has said -- that he would not shed any tears. So has the Secretary of State. But that is a personal expression. That is quite different than saying that the coalition has broadened or expanded or enlarged their goals. Their goals remain that he must withdraw, one way or the other, from Kuwait. Q But, Margaret, if he stays in power, doesn't that make the United States worry about the stability or the security of that area? MS. TUTWILER: Secretary Baker has answered that many times, Barry, and has said, of course, you would have a different situation. The coalition and people in the region would look at things, obviously, differently if he withdraws and is still in power in Baghdad. He said that. Q One other thing: I asked you to explain why I'm asking you this, so you know that the Iranians have made a statement to this effect. They have talked about a security arrangement that would be limited to the Gulf region, that wouldn't include what we think of as the Middle East. You know, Egypt, Israel, etc. Can you say off the top of your head if the U.S. theory about a security arrangement should encompass the Gulf and the Middle East, or is it just the Gulf region that you're focused on now? MS. TUTWILER: I will answer you this way -- by the way the Secretary has continuously answered this -- by saying this is, obviously, something that we will be in conversation about with our allies in the region, with our friends in the region. It is something that must be addressed at the termination of this war, and I fully expect that any number of people, countries, will have any number of ideas. I'm not familiar with the particular report that you've just cited to me. Q As you indicated, the Soviets wanted an immediate response to their peace proposal. They gave it Monday morning, and here we are, it's late Wednesday, Baghdad time, and apparently no response. What do you take from that? Do you take from that, that Iraq is not interested? MS. TUTWILER: I couldn't draw that conclusion, Pat, for the Iraqi government. I certainly wouldn't attempt to do such a thing. They have a Charge here. Maybe you could ask him what they're doing. They know -- they were in the meetings with the Soviet Union. According to public statements by Soviet officials they had requested an early and prompt reply. I have no idea why they have not. Q You see no significance at all in the fact that given a looming, possible ground war, that they haven't responded? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to characterize whether it's significant or not significant. I'm going to deal with the facts. The facts are as of 12 noon, to my knowledge, either by -- as they have said all morning long -- Soviet officials -- by FAX, by getting in contact with their Embassy. As you know, they maintain an Embassy there in Baghdad. By being notified that the Foreign Minister is enroute, that he's in Tehran. They don't know. So I know if they don't know, it is really a stretch to assume that kind of we would know. Q Margaret, when the Secretary spoke to Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh on Monday, I think you said that that was a very brief conversation; that Bessmertnykh did not want to get into detail on the phone but instead followed it up with some sort of written readout. Could you characterize the conversation they had yesterday? Was it the same sort of situation where it was just a brief call or was it -- MS. TUTWILER: I didn't ask him. What the Foreign Minister wanted to refrain from doing was going into the specifics and, I assume, reading the details of the proposal which is, indeed, what they sent us. He had specifically said that he did not want to do that over open lines. There are any number of times, whether it's with the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union or other Foreign Ministers, that the Secretary does talk and you can speak elliptically, etc., on open lines. This was a very detailed paper and they felt it would be -- which is correct -- more secure to send it through their Embassy, and that's how they chose to do it. Q You're referring to the first conversation? MS. TUTWILER: I'm referring to the one he's discussing that was -- Q Monday -- I mean Tuesday -- Monday's conversation? MS. TUTWILER: Monday; right. Q OK. But he's asking you, now that the Secretary -- first of all, I don't even know who initiated this conversation. I assume the Secretary called Bessmertnykh? MS. TUTWILER: You're right, Barry. Q The second one. OK. Now that the Secretary had what you call a full brief -- a nice lawyerly phrase -- he had sent something back to Moscow through the Embassy. Elliptically or overtly, what did they talk about? MS. TUTWILER: They discussed the situation in the Gulf. Q The situation in the Gulf. Thank you. Very helpful. MS. TUTWILER: You're welcome. Q Is there any change concerning the status of the Iraqi Embassy here? MS. TUTWILER: No. I asked this morning, George, for you. They have not gotten back to us concerning whether they want an Interests Section or who they would suggest would be their protecting power. They've just not gotten back to us, and I definitely checked for you this morning. Q Just to follow up George's question. What's the status, then, of these gentlemen? Are they still diplomats and all? MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely. Under the Vienna Accords, they remain diplomats. Q Margaret, is it up to them to decide when they want to leave? Aren't they kind of getting a free ride? They sever relations and they stay on as diplomats? MS. TUTWILER: I wouldn't characterize it as a "free ride." My understanding is, under these circumstances, you are given a reasonable period of time. Obviously, the United States has it within its power to say a reasonable time has expired. We have not chosen to do that, to date. Q Is there any inclination to do that any time soon? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I've heard of. I know that the Bureau here continues to consider this circumstance. Q Margaret, Tunisia's foreign aid again. I asked yesterday whether the cut in Tunisia's foreign aid was due to its position on the Gulf. I got details of the actual cuts in aid but not an answer to that as yet. MS. TUTWILER: I think 4 years back is what we gave you yesterday. Q Yes, but there was nothing in there as to whether or not it was its position on the Gulf. MS. TUTWILER: I believe, Jan -- excuse me -- when I read those figures this morning -- and I'm not as thoroughly briefed in this as you seem to be -- I believe they went back to 1989. It seemed to me, as the question posted for you said, that there seemed to be a cut every year. To be honest, I did not spend that much time on this, and I'll be happy to re-ask your question -- I think this is the third day in a row -- and also ask them if maybe someone could personally call you and discuss this situation with you in depth and see if we can get you a satisfactory answer. Q Actually, my concern is, how much is the position of siding with the United States or supporting the coalition being used as a yardstick for cutting foreign aid? I now understand that Yemen's foreign aid has been slashed. MS. TUTWILER: We've answered that. Q Again, I'm told because of its position on the Gulf. Are there other countries whose aid, other than Jordan which is under review, that could well face losing more money because of their position on the Gulf? MS. TUTWILER: I've never asked the question. I'd have to go to, obviously, every Bureau in the building and ask them if they are making these types of recommendations to the Secretary. I haven't done that type of compilation. To be honest with you, I'm probably not going to have time this afternoon to do that. But, again, I will be happy to ask someone to call you and give a really full, thorough briefing on Tunisia. Q You mean that might not occur with the Secretary on his very own? MS. TUTWILER: Well, if all of you want it, sure, we can see if somebody can do it. Q If you're punishing people by cutting their aid because they're not supporting you in the war. It's as simple as that. MS. TUTWILER: I understand. Q You wouldn't have to call every Bureau, Margaret. The Secretary might know on his own. MS. TUTWILER: Let me answer this, too, because yesterday -- and you've continuously asked -- "When are we going to get the country reports?" I asked that also for you today and they are probably not going to be ready to go to the Hill until the end of this week, if then. So I wouldn't envision giving them to you, obviously, before we give them to the Hill, and that's what we have from the Congressional Office. Sorry, Bill. I interrupted you. Q Can you tell us why Deputy Secretary Eagleburger went to Morocco? MS. TUTWILER: Yes; to discuss the Gulf and bilateral issues. Q Could we be more specific? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Is he going to go anyplace else to discuss the Gulf and bilateral issues -- MS. TUTWILER: There are no -- Q In any other countries -- their bilateral issues? MS. TUTWILER: I can't rule out forever, but there are no current plans that I'm aware of to ask the Deputy Secretary of State to take any trips. Q Did bilateral issues include aid? MS. TUTWILER: I am on a very short leash on this subject as I am on almost every subject that is on your minds. I literally have to leave it with, the Deputy Secretary made a very quick trip. It was, as you know, over the weekend. He was back here on Saturday. I believe it was Saturday morning, if I'm not mistaken. He discussed, while there, two issues: the Gulf situation and bilateral issues. And beyond that, they really would like to refrain from further elaboration or characterization. Q Let me just try it one more time. MS. TUTWILER: No problem. Q Was the decision made for Eagleburger to undertake this trip after Morocco expressed support for Iraq's proposal on Kuwait? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not exactly sure, Carol, to be honest with you, on what dates this decision was made. When I first found out about it, it was days before he actually left. I would be happy to ask Larry exactly when a final decision was made. My impressions were that this is something that had been under discussion for, I think, quite some time. Q Margaret, without straining your leash, can you tell us if the State Department -- MS. TUTWILER: You won't be able to.

[Greece: Reaction to Human Rights Report]

Q No, I can tug it a little bit. Without straining your leash, can you tell us if the State Department is about to reconsider or revise its assessment of Greece's human rights policy on the basis of Greek challenges to that -- they went public yesterday and questioned -- MS. TUTWILER: There is a letter, it's my understanding -- I believe it's dated February 18; let me check that for you -- that was from our United States Ambassador to Greece to the Foreign Minister. The Greek government has released a translation of it. I'm correct, the February 18 letter. You'll love this. I have absolutely nothing to say about the letter other than to confirm, as you already know, that, yes, this indeed did happen. Obviously, the contents, it's my understanding -- and I have not read the letter this morning -- yes, it has to do with concerns that the Greek government has over our human rights report. Q OK, but let's try to focus on the question. MS. TUTWILER: I understand what you're going to ask me. Q The question is: Is the human right report about to be revised or reconsidered or in some way amended to take into account the complaints of the Greek government, or does it stand on its own? MS. TUTWILER: Without answering for the Greek government, I only can answer you on a hypothetical, generic basis. It's my understanding of this process -- and I know you're more familiar with it than I -- that once we issue a human rights report that governments, if they have facts that they would like to challenge, it's my understanding that there is a process and a mechanism for that to take place. I do not know what the history is -- if there's ever been a case of a country -- that then the human rights report is changed. I just don't know. But I know that there is this process that exists. Q Same subject. Do you know why the letter had not been signed by Assistant Secretary Richard Schifter who is in charge of the report? MS. TUTWILER: I have no idea. It's my understanding that it's our United States Ambassador's letter to the Greek Foreign Minister. Q Are you aware if Mr. Schifter -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't find anything that unusual about that. Q One more question. Are you aware if Mr. Schifter will circulate the Sotirhos letter in the same way he circulated the report? MS. TUTWILER: Would Ambassador Schifter be circulating -- Q The Sotirhos letter. MS. TUTWILER: -- our United States Ambassador's letter? I doubt it. Q If I may, can I ask you a question that doesn't get you to say "you don't want to talk about the contents of the letter?" MS. TUTWILER: I really haven't read it. Q Oh, fine. The question is: Does the State Department stand by its human rights evaluation of Greece? Or does it find reason to reconsider that evaluation? Whether or not you're going to put out a new report or not, is the State Department satisfied that it pegged Greece exactly right in that human rights report or is there reason to reconsider? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding, Barry, in our view of this, is that the letter speaks for itself. I have told you that I can only explain to you that there is, generically speaking, a process that is available to governments who are written up in the human rights reports. I have no reasons to believe, Barry -- but I am not intimately involved in this -- if the Greek government is, for instance, coming forward with facts -- I don't know this. If, then, Ambassador Schifter and his staff are looking at the facts. You're asking me stuff, to be quite honest with you, that I am not personally aware of. Q I wasn't sure you would be aware of everything going on in this building -- MS. TUTWILER: It would be pretty difficult to. Q -- but I thought you might have a bottom line. You might just know if the Human Rights Office has decided that its evaluation of Greece is correct or if it is reconsidering it. MS. TUTWILER: I don't have any reasons to believe, Barry, that the Human Rights Office has any doubts about their report. At the same time, it is only fair to point out that any country has, it's my understanding, at its avail to challenge or to question a human rights report. Q Hey, we're a democracy. MS. TUTWILER: I believe that -- this letter is only February 18. Today is the 20th. So for me to answer for you that we've received anything from the Greek government or any other government, I just haven't asked Ambassador Schifter. Q Could you please make the letter public, then? MS. TUTWILER: I'll see about it. It's public in your country, I believe. Q It's in Greek. I would like to hear it in English. Q Back on the Eagleburger mission, have there been any high-level envoys to Syria over the last week or two, or is one planned? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I personally have any knowledge of. Q Margaret, some of the military leaders have indicated that the Iraqi army is on the verge of collapse and that leads some to think that perhaps we're no longer interested in a diplomatic solution. We've got a clear-cut military solution that may be imminent. Would you comment on that? MS. TUTWILER: I will not comment on any comments that have been made by United States military officials. I'll refer you to the Pentagon for that. I will say, as the President said yesterday, "Our goals and objectives in this situation have not changed; that Saddam Hussein must immediately, unconditionally withdraw from Iraq." That hasn't changed. Q Margaret, on that subject. One of the theories going around this town is that there is a certain nightmare scenario in which Saddam Hussein should, in fact, withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait but would leave with his military relatively intact and his political prestige throughout the Arab world, particularly, enhanced. Would the State Department consider such a scenario a nightmare situation? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to use that adjective for you, Jim. As you know, the Secretary and the President have any number of times addressed themselves to this. We have said that should Saddam Hussein go back to Baghdad, withdraw all of his troops, that that obviously is one situation which we would look at quite differently than if there is another situation. But we have never said, nor have we today, that that is one of our goals or objectives or that we have expanded or enlarged the United Nations sanctions which do not, as you know, say that that is what this is about. What this is very clearly about is Saddam Hussein leaving Kuwait. Q Margaret, I'd like to go back to the Iraqi Embassy. You said the Iraqi diplomats didn't get back to you. When was the last time you talked to them? MS. TUTWILER: I believe it was on February 9, at the Deputy Assistant Secretary level. It was Deputy Assistant Secretary Mack, as we announced at the time. Q What are they doing, then? If they're not talking to you, what is their function here? MS. TUTWILER: You would have to ask them. I don't know. There are four of them, as you know. Q The reason I'm asking is that they're faxing to the media some official declarations from the government. Is that considered as enemy propaganda, or what? MS. TUTWILER: Is that any different than us reading what's being put on Radio Baghdad? Q OK, thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (Press briefing concluded at 12:28 p.m.)