US Department of State Daily Briefing #31: Monday, 2/25/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:32 pm, Washington, DC Date: Feb 25, 19912/25/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, E/C Europe Country: USSR (former), Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Albania, Iran Subject: POW/MIA Issues, Military Affairs, Democratization, Security Assistance and Sales (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I guess it's you, George. Q Pass. MS. TUTWILER: Anybody? Q Perhaps you can tell us -- MS. TUTWILER: We can go home. Q -- what the Secretary has been up to. As a beginning point, has he been making phone calls to various Foreign Ministers around the world? And if he hasn't, why not? MS. TUTWILER: He has not. He has received one call today from the Foreign Minister of France, Roland Dumas. Obviously, it was to share their view on the situation in the Gulf and to talk about the future. The Foreign Minister will be coming here to D.C. and meeting with the Secretary some time later this week. As a result of this conversation, it's one of the things they discussed. I don't have for you yet a date or time. As far as what he's doing today: He's attending the President's Cabinet lunch, and then I believe Marlin will be announcing -- he's briefing right now -- that the President is having a briefing on the Gulf. I believe it's at 1:15, and the Secretary will be attending that. He has not, as I've been asked many times today, talked again to the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union. He talked to no Foreign Ministers or Ambassadors yesterday. Q Do you have anything by way of reaction to official Soviet media criticism in Tass and on Vremya of the U.S. failure to grasp the Soviet peace initiative? MS. TUTWILER: No. What I've seen, to be honest with you, was Vitaly Churkin -- I think it was yesterday -- expressing regret. I didn't see him, in my interpretation of what he said, criticizing the United States. As you know, the Secretary and the President have both said that they feel the Soviet role has been very useful and they appreciate the efforts that the Soviet Union made. Q The critical comments were in print and on television, not attributed to official figures. But I wondered if you would have some opinion as to their sudden appearance in what are, in those two instances, still state-controlled media? MS. TUTWILER: Not really. I would be guided by the conversations that the President had with the President of the Soviet Union and the Secretary of State had with the Foreign Minister. They have certainly not expressed -- I haven't read the sentiments you're expressing. The views of our President have been articulated very publicly by him. Q Margaret, I think the Secretary said yesterday on television that the United States would welcome a continued Soviet role in dealing with the Middle East. Can you give us any indication of what kind of -- how that's envisioned; what they would be doing and how they would be involved in the conferences? MS. TUTWILER: No. I don't have a lot of specifics, Susan, when you say the "various conferences." I'm not even aware that there's a conference that's set yet. I'm not aware if it's one that the United States will even be going to. I think it was just a general, broad statement. I think he said before that they have played a useful role and that he would hope that they would continue to play a useful role in the region. I think that, as he has also said, he was predominantly addressing himself to post-crisis issues that must be addressed. He said at the same time that, obviously, the countries of the region will be the lead, which is very similar, almost exactly what he said in his own testimony. Go Mark. Q Following on that, the U.S.-Soviet communique says that "In the aftermath of the crisis, mutual U.S.-Soviet efforts to promote Arab-Israeli peace and regional stability." Is that still American policy? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, Mark. Just as I know you know, because I think you were there both days, the Secretary testified and elaborated further, especially concerning the United States, his views concerning addressing many issue, one of which is the one that was articulated there after this. None of that has changed. Q Margaret, another aspect of the Baker-Bessmertnykh communique -- I'm curious whether it is still U.S. policy -- and that has to do with the cessation of hostilities. Now that we are in a ground phase, is it still U.S. policy that Saddam Hussein could stop the hostilities by raising his hand and saying, "I make an unequivocal commitment to withdraw," followed by immediate concrete steps? Or is there a new standard as enunciated by the President Friday? MS. TUTWILER: Obviously, Johanna, the terms under which this would be acceptable were laid out by the White House, by the President, and his Spokesman, Mr. Fitzwater, on Friday afternoon. They were very detailed and very explicit. Q Yeah, but we're past that now. How does the war end? Does Saddam Hussein still need to make an authoritative comment to the United Nations, or is it over when their troops are pushed back across their border, considering there are now apparently thousands of coalition troops inside Iraq cutting off their retreat? How do you end this now? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure, John, that I have an explicit answer to, "How do you end the war?" That will obviously depend on many factors which we don't know at this particular moment. But the first part of your question is, it's definitely still relevant. The Iraqi government -- the terms that were set out on Friday afternoon are still very relevant. There has, to my knowledge, not been anything that would come anywhere near an authoritative, public statement followed by -- I believe there were 7 or 8 things that were specifically listed; I could restate them for you. I've seen, to be honest with you, quite the opposite. I believe since noon on Saturday, there have been as many as five Scud launches from the Iraqi government. They continue not to do anything concerning our POWs. They have now set fire to over 500, it's my understanding, wells or installations in Kuwait. There are other reports that are coming out that buildings such as banks are even being destroyed or harmed. So I can't say that I've seen anything that would lead anyone to believe they have made any type of authoritative or public statement. I might point out one other thing they've done since then. He has once again, on Baghdad Radio, called for terrorism. Q Is the war over when Iraqi troops have been driven from Kuwait? MS. TUTWILER: Our war aims have not changed. That is a complete and total withdrawal from Kuwait and the implementation -- I'm sorry, the restoration of the legitimate Government of Kuwait. Those are war, military aims, as the Secretary said yesterday. Q But he also distinguished them from political aims. I repeat the question: When Iraqi troops are driven from Kuwait, is the war over? It seems to me there are many scenarios by which the war will not be over. MS. TUTWILER: That is correct. As the Secretary of State said yesterday, a lot depends on what position the Iraqi government takes after its forces have been ejected from Kuwait. On a totally speculative hypothetical, what if they say, OK, we'll get over the border but they keep firing; they keep shooting? Is that the "legitimate" end of the war? Are they really serious? Have they stopped? That's why I think you would understand, we think that it is premature to speculate on how the war ends. Our war aims are those two that I've just enunicated. Q You said restoration of "a" legitimate government. MS. TUTWILER: I didn't mean to. I meant "the". Q The one that was announced in August? MS. TUTWILER: Thanks for correcting me. I did not mean to say that. Q Margaret, the U.S. and other coalition troops that are in Iraq, how long will they stay there? Will they leave Iraq once Kuwait is liberated? MS. TUTWILER: To my knowledge, Alan. That might be better asked at the Pentagon. The reason they are there, as you know, is to cut supply lines, which are obviously vital to the troops that are in Kuwait, and we have said throughout, to help degrade, if not destroy, their military control and command. So that is why our military troops are on Iraqi soil, and I think that has been, always, anticipated in order to liberate Kuwait. Q You have just laid out a possible scenario in which the firing doesn't stop, even after the liberation of Kuwait and those troops, presumably, might have a role in what happens after that. MS. TUTWILER: What I cannot do today, and I know that it is understood, is go through a number of "what if's." That's why we do not have a crisp, concise, definitive answer for you -- no one in the coalition does -- on how the war ends. We do not know the answers to these questions because, obviously, it's going to be determined by a number of factors, including the position of the Iraqi government. Q Margaret, what can you tell us about Israel's request for an additional billion dollars in aid? MS. TUTWILER: That request came into the Department, I believe it was on Friday. As we had said throughout, up until that point, any official request that we got, would be given full consideration, and that's what's being done today. Q You don't have an answer for them? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, Jan. Q Have they asked for aid or have they asked for loans or loan guarantees? What have they asked for? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is, this is specifically in the military area. It is for -- I believe I read they characterized it as "emergency military additional assistance." Q That's one billion dollars; right? MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q Another obscure question for you, Margaret. There are tanks and soldiers in Tirana. What do you know about the situation in Albania this morning? MS. TUTWILER: In Albania? Not a whole lot for you, Jan. As you know, we don't have an embassy there. We basically have to rely on news reports. As you know, we don't have representatives there. These news reports indicate that students ended their hunger strike after the government conceded to student demands that the university be renamed. The present situation in our estimation is calm but tense. Concerning what is going on in Albania, we support the process of democratization underway in that country and the efforts of the Albanian people to build a more open and prosperous society. Q Margaret, what's the status of U.S. conversations with Albania about normalizing relations? MS. TUTWILER: The most recent conversations were held in Washington, D.C., last week. They were, again, represented on the United States side by Curt Kamman. I think it's the fifth such meeting. We believe that we have made significant progress, but no final decision has been reached concerning the restoration of relations. Q Margaret, there have been new reports over the weekend of atrocities in Kuwait. Have any preliminary or tentative decisions been made about war crimes? What kind of court would have jurisdiction? Whether any American courts would? Can you shed any light on that at all? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have any further answers for you concerning which mechanism, what process would be used. I would only state that international law establishes clearly the laws for dealing with war crimes. The United Nations resolutions reaffirm that fact. This is something, I believe I have mentioned a number of times, that we are working on in our government. The depository for such information, as we've said, that is being collected is the Defense Department, but I do not have an answer for you on the mechanism or the process. Q How about the overall planning that the United States Government, or the State Department, is doing for the post-war era, which the Secretary was very fond of alluding to repeatedly in the days and weeks before the war? Where does that stand? Is there definitive work being done now, and what kind? MS. TUTWILER: Not really. I would refer you back to the Secretary of State's two testimonies where he laid out four areas which would be obviously areas for discussion of the coalition and people in the region, one of which addressed itself just to the United States which was that we need to develop a sound energy policy ourselves. The areas, as you remember, included security arrangements, arms control, a peace process, and economic issues. Those are the areas that anyone would anticipate that will be discussed. He anticipates having discussions but it's very difficult, John, to have meaningful discussions on many of these subjects until we see how the war terminates, how the war ends. Q That doesn't foreclose planning, though? MS. TUTWILER: It doesn't foreclose planning, Bill, but you have to plan at a certain level, which we have done on any number of the various options. I would envision, at the point that the Secretary of State begins what I call "meaningful" discussions on this subject, that you will no longer be dealing with various numbers of options or scenarios. As we have said, the countries in the region will be the lead on these issues, as they rightfully should be. We are sure, just as they have got many meetings going on and preliminary planning themselves, that there are going to be various and different views on many of these subjects. Q But, Margaret, have you already determined a mechanism for dealing with these various issues? I mean, I know you can't plan specific programs, but, obviously, with the ground war underway, going better than expected, it is becoming much more of an imminent challenge that you'll have to face. Has the United States, in discussions with the countries in the region, come up with a way of dealing with the specific things? MS. TUTWILER: No. The only one that I would say that is very familiar to you, that the Secretary addressed himself to yesterday, is that we have all said in one form or another that if Saddam Hussein is in power, that we would, obviously -- the international community -- look at some type of continuing arms embargo. But as far as whether a meeting is being contemplated, whether there is more fleshing out on the detail level, no, Susan, at this point there is not. Q Still on the -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. But, obviously, that could evolve very, very rapidly, but I do not have any details for you today. Q Still on the post-war scenario -- MS. TUTWILER: The what? Q The post-war scenario. The Secretary, when he was testifying on the Hill, talked about the development -- the setting up of a development bank, and a piece in The New York Times yesterday, Tom Friedman, alluded to the fact that that plan had been scotched. What's the basic lay of the land on that? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not familiar with the plan being scotched, and, furthermore, the Secretary of State said this is an idea that will need to be discussed -- could be discussed with many of the states in the region. Obviously, they would be the lead on it. So I'm unaware that the Secretary has changed his thinking on it since, I believe, Jan -- and I think you were there at the testimony -- he said, "This is a thought. These are our preliminary thoughts. It's something we will be exploring and discussing with the countries there in the region." I'm not aware that those discussions have gone forward yet. Q And what about food aid to Kuwait, AID and their involvement? MS. TUTWILER: I just saw, to be honest with you, 30 seconds before I came out here, an AID official saying something concerning this. I'm just not familiar with it. I'd refer you to the AID. Q Two quick questions: Do you have anything on the status of the Iraqi diplomats left here, the four -- MS. TUTWILER: There are three. One was asked to leave, remember, Saturday. Q But is there a -- I mean, they could be there for the duration of the war, in other words. The bottom line of Iraq cutting off relations is that they're still here. Q They can't get reservations before the war is going to end. (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: But, as we've said, they broke relations with the United States under normal international law and procedures that guide these types of matters. The ball's in their court to come back to us, to suggest to us, if they want to -- it's up to them -- have a third party where they would set up an interests section. It then is the United States' responsibility or decision to say, "Yes, we accept your protecting power that you suggested," or "We don't." Late last week, I believe that they came in with a suggestion of a protecting power. We have not yet gotten back to them, and I cannot make public at this time who they suggested as a protecting power. But the three are still in town.

[Warsaw Pact: Agreement to Dissolve]

Q One more: Do you have anything on the Warsaw Pact decision of today? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Press reports indicate that Warsaw Pact foreign and defense ministers meeting today in Budapest have signed a formal document that dissolves the organization's military structures as of April 1. Those reports also say that existing secret military agreements between the defense ministers of Pact members will be annulled, although it is unclear whether those arrangements will be made public. As you know, Johanna, we've stated before the decision to dissolve the military structures of the Warsaw Pact is a significant step in the efforts being made to reduce military tensions and increase cooperation throughout Europe. As we come closer to a Europe whole and free, we will continue our joint work to enhance confidence-building measures and pursue further arms control dialogue in Europe. Q Margaret, on reparations, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington -- I think it was yesterday -- said that Kuwait would seek reparations from Iraq regardless of whether Saddam Hussein is toppled. What are the American thoughts on that? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure, Mark, that I know off the top of my head. This is another of these "what ifs" concerning what would, in my mind, fall under how the war ends, termination of the war. But I know that compensation is contained -- I believe it's in Resolution 674, if I'm not misspeaking, and that has not changed, our position on compensation. I just will have to duck answering you on "if someone else is in power, etc." Q In the walk-up to this war, there was great concern expressed by the Administration about the potential of mass Arab demonstrations in the streets of the Arab world, number one, and the outbreak of terrorism, number two. It does not appear that either of those have materialized. Do you have a thought about why they haven't, or an expression of glee that they haven't, or --

[Terrorism Update]

MS. TUTWILER: I don't know why they haven't. As I said earlier, Saddam Hussein again called yesterday for terrorist attacks on the interests of the United States and other coalition partners. You all haven't asked in a number of days, but as of Friday -- and it still is true today -- there have been approximately 150 terrorist incidents around the world. The vast majority are property related. There have been no other individuals, other than the five we named previously, that have unfortunately died. And as far as demonstrations around the world, since Saturday there have been very, very few and far between. For instance, the one in Jordan only had 150 females that were demonstrating outside of our Embassy. So you're correct. They haven't materialized. Q Why is that? Because the world suddenly thinks that Saddam Hussein was marching down the wrong road, and George Bush is marching down the right road, or "back a loser," "back a winner?" What do you suppose is going on here? MS. TUTWILER: I don't want to analyze this, John, and then all of a sudden this afternoon, things will look very, very different. I'd rather deal with what's real and what the facts are. I would say that the demonstrations that we have seen so far in various countries have been what we described as pro forma, and the best one I can give an example of where you might have anticipated that something would happen -- and I certainly hope nothing does, and don't want to lead you to believe I think something will -- is in Amman, Jordan, where only 150 women showed up outside of the Embassy . I don't know why they are not, but it obviously is encouraging, for lack of a better word, that they are not. And maybe they do see that Saddam Hussein is terribly arrogant, as we have said before, to put his country and his people through what he continues to put them through. Q What about Niger? What happened at the Cultural Center there? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is that there were some student demonstrations. The targets included the United States Cultural Center where vehicles have been burned, and the building has been stoned. The Cultural Center has been evacuated. There are no known injuries. Q Is it still true that of the 150 incidents, there was only one in which there was a direct Iraqi hand -- the one in Manila on -- MS. TUTWILER: Correct. January 19. Q Margaret, there have been some suggestions emanating from the Saudi government about somehow indicting and trying Saddam through an Islamic court. Does the United States have any opinion on such a maneuver? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't seen anything like that, and, as you know, our policy does not contain a provision for the removal of Saddam Hussein. That is not a war aim. Q Margaret, in your conversations with the Kuwaitis, do you have any indication about when they will -- or how they will determine when it is safe for the Amir to go back? Will they rely on U.S. military officials to tell them that, or will it be a judgment -- MS. TUTWILER: Those conversations, yes, Susan, have gone on at many levels of the Kuwaiti government and our government and, to be honest with you, with other coalition forces. I'm not sure that I'm in a position to elaborate on them, but, yes, it is something that has continuously been looked at and is being addressed. Q Is the U.S. keeping the Iranians informed of developments on the front? After all, I would think that Iran has more than a passing interest in the fact that there are half a million soldiers on the warpath right next door to them. MS. TUTWILER: Other than, George, the meeting that Under Secretary Kimmitt had Saturday night at 11:45 p.m. here at the Department with the Swiss Ambassador to pass a message on to the Iranian government for us. That message was very similar to the messages we were sending around the world that evening. I'm not aware of another additional message that has been sent, but I would remind you that even though we refrain from giving out the number and substance of messages we have passed throughout this crisis, we have been passing messages back and forth with the Iranians. Q Did you get any reply to the Saturday night message? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that it was the type of message, Mark, that needed a reply. Q Margaret, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the Soviet initiative was actually a hybrid proposal cooked up by the Soviets with the Iranians. Do you have any knowledge of that? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard that the Soviets, your quote -- "cooked it up with the Iranians." I think they would be best to answer that than me. I haven't heard anything like that.

[Iraq: Access to Coalition/Iraqi POWs]

Q Any progress on prisoners of war, trying to get the International Red Cross to visit American or coalition POWs in Baghdad? MS. TUTWILER: Zero as far as our POWs are concerned. As many of you may remember, on Friday I mentioned that the Middle East representative of the ICRC had been in Baghdad just last week, and had come out and was rebuffed on even having a meeting at the Foreign Ministry concerning the alliance's POW's. Concerning their POWs, it might be helpful to remind everyone that the United States is obligated to provide Iraqi prisoners of war the protections of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 which deals with prisoners of war. The Third Geneva Convention only deals with POWs, and there are over 100 articles in the Convention. Some of the main points contained in there are: (1) it prohibits public display of POWs. It says prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation, insults or public curiosity; prohibits physical or mental torture or any form or coercion; says prisoners of war shall be evacuated as soon as possible after their capture to camps situated far enough from the combat zone for them to be out of danger. It prohibits sending prisoners to areas where they may be exposed to the fire of the combat zone. It provides that POWs may be transferred only to other signatories to the Convention. Saudi Arabia is a party to the Convention. And I have been told this morning that in our contacts with the ICRC in Geneva, that they are working on sending additional staff to Saudi Arabia to deal with the -- obviously, the last number I think the Pentagon put out this morning is -- Q 20,000. MS. TUTWILER: It's now 20,000? I'd heard 18,000. Q But then one of the coalition partners said they had another 2,000-3,000 in the pipeline. MS. TUTWILER: Also, what we have done, which is very, very obviously in contrast to what the Iraqi government has done, is notify the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities of the Iraqi POWs and will, obviously, as we have throughout and all along, allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the camps and to conduct interviews with the POWs to assess how they are being treated. The same courtesies, as I say, continue to be denied to the coalition. Q A quick question on the Middle East bank: You said that it was an idea that the Secretary -- MS. TUTWILER: As I remember -- I mean, get his record in the testimony. It was something that he said that "could be looked at" or "might be looked at." Just get the record. Q Would you care to try if the U.S. is committed to the idea or not? MS. TUTWILER: I would characterize the United States as where the Secretary was when he announced it -- again, I'll refer you to the record. If you don't have it, our Congressional Affairs Office can get it for you. One of the things that could be looked at would be such a bank. So I don't think that he said the United States is locked in concrete on this as an absolute, must do thing that the United States absolutely must have. That's not how it was presented in open testimony. Q Margaret, when Bessmertnykh was here, the Secretary said he hoped that START would be wrapped up by the end of February. It's three days away. Is there any chance of that? MS. TUTWILER: I guess, Mark, you can always hope. To be honest with you, over the last 72 hours, it's just a subject I have not heard a thing about or asked about. I'll be happy after the briefing to ask the arms control expert where they are on it. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (The briefing concluded at 1:00 p.m.)