US Department of State Daily Briefing #39: Monday, 3/11/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:18 PM, Washington, DC Date: Mar 11, 19913/11/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, Eurasia, Europe, Central America, E/C Europe Country: Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Benin, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia (former), India, Italy Subject: Terrorism, Arms Control, Military Affairs, International Law, Refugees, Human Rights, Democratization, Regional/Civil Unrest (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have anything particular to give you at this moment, so I'd be glad to take your questions.

[Iraq: Update on Civil Unrest]

Q What do you have on the continued fighting in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: Unrest. Our information on the situation inside Iraq is still limited. Civil unrest is continuing in a number of cities, towns, and other outlying areas. Since last week, opposition activity seems to have increased in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Although fighting continues in several locations throughout southern Iraq, the overall levels of unrest appear to have declined some what in these areas. Q You can't say who's getting the upper hand? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, there is an article in the Guardian this morning by a reporter who was in Baghdad for a long time, and he said that there were indications there that Jordan had sent in a number of technicians to help Iraqis operate the Hawk missiles which were taken from Kuwait up into Iraq and that this missile battery had, in fact, taken out three allied planes before it was taken out itself. Do you have any comment on -- and that Jordanians were injured when the attack took place? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that story. It's something I'll have to look into. Q Has there been any decision on aid to Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: No. It remains under review, as far as I'm aware. Q What about those boxes of ammo and guns from Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: That was being investigated, I think, primarily by our military folks. I haven't heard any results on that. I'll check. Q Do you have any indications at all that poison gas has been used by the Iraqi government anywhere? MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. Well, let me put it this way: I can't confirm any chemical weapons used by the Iraqis at this point. Q You can't confirm. Do you have reports or suspect -- MR. BOUCHER: There are reports which you've seen in the press. I don't have any information that could lead me to be able to confirm that CW has been used. Q Is one of the items on the Secretary's agenda on this trip the hostages -- our hostages -- in Beirut? MR. BOUCHER: The President, I think, in his speech said it would be; yes. Q Do you have anything on reports that the hostages have been moved to the eastern part of Lebanon from southern Beirut? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.

[US Warning to Iraq on Chemical Weapons]

Q Did you find out how the warnings or the caution at the highest levels to Iraq were sent? Were they sent from here as well as from the U.N.? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We had reason to believe, as the Secretary has said, that the Iraqis might be planning to use chemical weapons in their internal conflicts. We took the reports very seriously, and we issued strong warnings both to the Iraqi United Nations Ambassador, al-Anbari, and to the senior Iraqi representative in Washington. That was done on Thursday evening last week. Q That was when he came in here to talk about the journalists. Did you take the opportunity -- how did it happen? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it was in the same meeting. I think it was done later in the evening. Q After he came back? MR. BOUCHER: On Thursday, we passed an updated list of the 11 journalists -- the 11 missing American journalists -- to the Iraqis. That's what she's referring to. But I think the warning on CW use was done later. Q Richard, the Washington Post is reporting that there's an official report from Israel's Housing Ministry which says that more than 10,000 units for the Soviet Jews coming into the country are going to be located in occupied Arab territories despite written pledges by the government to the Bush Administration not to do so. Do you have any comment on this report? Do you know whether it is accurate or not? MR. BOUCHER: No. I expressed last week the fact that our opposition to the settlements was continuing but, for the moment, I think any questions on this will have to be directed to the Secretary who is now in Israel. Q On the questions about the PLO -- do they also have to be directed to the President or to the White House? Or can you answer whether or not there's any change in U.S. opinion towards the PLO? In an interview that the President gave to 4 Arab journalists over the weekend, he said that he wasn't the one that had wanted the talks to end; he had wanted them to continue as long as possible. He said that he wasn't telling the PLO that they were bad guys; that there were some good guys in there. It was a very upbeat and not very anti-PLO interview. Is there any change or any nuance of change in the Administration's position toward the PLO? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any change in our position on the PLO. I believe the Secretary, if news reports are correct, has also addressed himself to the issue. If we can get you a transcript of that, we will.

[UK: US Agreement on Airline Routes and Landing Rights]

Q A totally different subject, Richard. Anything on Pam Am-United Airlines negotiations, which are apparently taking place here? MR. BOUCHER: Heathrow. Q Heathrow. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. In fact, we've reached agreement. U.S. and U.K. negotiators reached agreement today on rights for successor U.S. airlines to serve London Heathrow Airport in exchange for extensive new rights for U.K. airlines. The new agreement will enable the transfer of Pan Am's routes to United Airlines. It will also make it possible for TWA to transfer routes to American Airlines, subject, of course, to the approval by the Departments of Transportation and Justice. The new rights for the U.K. side include a second U.K. airline at Heathrow which will fly U.S.-U.K. routes; the right to cooperate on domestic and international service, something that's known in the parlance as code-sharing agreements; and then new connecting rights to Asia, Western Hemisphere, and Western European countries. Q Why is that negotiated at the State Department, and not at the Departments of Commerce or Transportation? MR. BOUCHER: It just is. I don't think I have a precise answer for you on that. As far as I'm aware, aviation negotiations have always been done from here. We have a negotiator. These particular negotiations have been going on for some time; I think since January of last year. Q As of when will United be able to fly out of Heathrow? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know precisely when that will be. I guess it's subject to the approval of the Departments of Transportation and Justice. Q Are they interagency discussions that are just chaired here? I mean, do you transport -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Obviously, it's an interagency delegation. We cooperate very closely with our colleagues in the Transportation Department, but we head the delegation. Q Does this have anything to do with British Airlines having the ability to have shares of American domestic carriers? Does it affect that in any way? MR. BOUCHER: You mean in terms of financial shares? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. In the briefing I got, the domestic implications were an ability to share tickets between international and domestic carriers to sort of service an interior destination with one ticket but that it would be shared between domestic and international carriers. Q You said that there was one more U.K. airline that will be serving the U.K. into the U.S. -- is that correct? -- out of Heathrow, or did I misunderstand that? MR. BOUCHER: That's right -- a second U.K. airline at Heathrow on U.S. -- Q Other than British Airways, who is it? Do we know who that is yet? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't think it's for us to designate.

[El Salvador: Election Update]

Q Do you have anything on the El Salvador elections? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. First, I have to note that final results are not expected until later today. Preliminary returns show President Cristiani's ARENA party leading in the voting for the legislative assembly. Early informal vote counts from San Salvador give ARENA only around 50 percent of the vote. It is still uncertain whether they will have the votes to elect a majority of the expanded assembly. This election, in our view, makes a significant step towards national reconciliation. The leftist political coalition formerly affiliated with the FMLN's political front has made a strong showing, according to the early reports. This was made possible by El Salvador's major political parties which agreed last year to expand the legislature from 60 to 84 seats in order to give the small opposition parties greater representation. We see the election as a clear and unequivocal signal that Salvadorans reject violence and seek political expression through the democratic process, the best way to end the country's civil conflict. We call upon both the FMLN and the government to return to the bargaining table and make a determined effort to negotiate political agreements and a ceasefire. Q It sounds like you're welcoming a strong leftist showing? MR. BOUCHER: We're welcoming the fact that the elections were apparently -- based on the observer reports from the OAS delegation -- free of fraud; that Salvadoran voters turned out to vote; that all parties had the ability to contest the election and that the votes are apparently being counted now, and we'll see what the final results are.

[Yugoslavia: Update on Civil Unrest]

Q Do you have any comment on the situation in Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: First, let me sort of review the status of demonstrations. There were demonstrations called by Serbian opposition parties to protest Serbian government control of the media that resulted in two deaths -- one of a policeman and one of a demonstrator -- and some 180 arrests on March 9 in Belgrade. Federal military units called in on March 9 by the Federal Presidency to assist Serbian police have returned to garrison. They returned on March 10. On March 10, which was yesterday, and again today the demonstrations continued in downtown Belgrade involving between 10,000 and 20,000 people. One of the demands -- that is, for a special session of the Serbian Assembly -- will reportedly be met tonight. Of course, the U.S. regrets the violence and the loss of life. We urge all concerned to work together in the spirit of democratic dialogue to resolve differences peacefully. Q Anything on the demonstrations in the Soviet Union? Q Can we have a follow-up on Yugoslavia before we go there? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Sure. Q The U.S. policy on Yugoslavia is still that that is a viable nation; that people of Slovenia have stated their determination to leave that union. Do they have the right to do so? The same goes for those in Croatia. MR. BOUCHER: Alan, we have long supported unity, democracy and dialogue in Yugoslavia. Those have been the hallmarks of our policy. I think you'll remember the Secretary talking about it last fall when he met with the Yugoslav Foreign Minister, I think it was, in New York. The structure of Yugoslavia and attendant matters are things for the Yugoslav people to work out. We'll just encourage them to work out these matters peacefully through dialogue and not through violence or through pre-emptive actions. Q Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: Oh, George asked about the Soviet Union. I don't really have anything to say on the demonstrations there, other than the fact that so many people can go out and express their views peacefully without any interference from the authorities is a positive sign. It's a welcome sign of the freedom of expression in the Soviet Union. But as for the views that they expressed, of course, we don't take any position one way or the other.

[Albania: Update on Refugees]

Q Albania? MR. BOUCHER: Albania. We have unconfirmed reports that at least four Albanians were killed and ten wounded on Saturday in Durres when security forces reportedly seized a ship commandeered by citizens seeking to flee the country. We regret the injury and, as before, we condemn the use of deadly force. We also understand that some 1500 Albanians have been returned by the Italians to Albania. We also note that Italian authorities apparently have agreed to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to determine the refugee status of Albanians currently in Italy or those expected there. Of course, for further information you'd have to contact the Italian government, and we understand that a joint U.N. Secretariat and U.N.H.C.R. mission is planning to visit Albanian this last weekend, but I don't have any information on those activities. Q What's the U.S. position on these Albanians? Do you consider them to be political refugees or economic refugees? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think that's something we'd want to see with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the Italian authorities determine by talking to these people and determining that. And, as I said, the Italian authorities have apparently agreed to allow the U.N.H.C.R. to go in and do that. Q Were you making any provision at all for any refugees to come here? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check and see what provisions we have for Albanians -- Q But do you -- MR. BOUCHER: -- but nothing special that I'm aware of. Q Would you see whether or not -- if each country has a quota, does Albania, which doesn't have relations with you, have access to that quota? Can Albanians come here? MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on that. Q Does the U.S. have a view about the Italian decision to ship 1500 back? MR. BOUCHER: No. I think that's really something you'll have to ask the Italians about. Q Do you have something on the renewed violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. The Secretary, as I noted, is in Israel. I believe that Margaret has addressed that out there on the road, and I'll leave that to her and to the Secretary if he might have spoken about it as well. Q Any plans for him to have any press conferences on this trip, i.e., in other words, are you having any days when you're not briefing? MR. BOUCHER: I hope so -- (laughter) -- but I don't have anything definite for you at this point. Q Richard, on the return of non-essentials to a number of Middle Eastern countries -- MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q Can you list the states where they will not be returning to? North Africa, for instance. Lebanon. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. We put out, I think, the new travel advisory this morning that lists the places where we've already permitted people under voluntary departure to return. The places where we still have authorized voluntary departure are Dhahran, Manama, Damascus, Sanaa, Amman, Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Algiers and Oran, Tunis, Bombay and Calcutta. Q Beirut? MR. BOUCHER: Beirut. Yes. I guess they're beyond authorized departure. (Laughter) That's why they weren't listed. Yes. Beirut. Q Anything about the return of the Ambassador to Beirut? MR. BOUCHER: No. Nothing. Q Just to follow that up: What is the problem in Bombay and Calcutta? MR. BOUCHER: In where? Q Bombay and Calcutta. MR. BOUCHER: In Bombay and Calcutta. I don't have anything precise on specific places. I think the reason that these places were not added to the list at this time -- and I have to emphasize it's something that is under continuing review -- is generally because the original reasons for putting out the advisories remain more or less constant or have not changed sufficiently to warrant lifting the authorized departure status. That would be true, I'd say, in all these places with the focus in some places, Dhahran and Manama in particular, on the unknown health effects at this point about the oil fires. So in some places our focus has shifted, but in others it's basically that the original reasons remain more or less valid. Q Could I ask about the referendum that's coming up in the Soviet Union this weekend. When the Baltic republics recently held referenda, the United States was part of an international monitoring effort. Is there going to be any attempt to monitor this national referendum in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I don't know. Q Could you? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into it. Q You've probably got something on the election in Benin. MR. BOUCHER: As a matter of fact, I do. Q Why don't you share that with Patrick, privately. Q Because it's going to come out later, and I won't be in the building.

[Benin: Elections]

MR. BOUCHER: Well, according to preliminary reports, the first round of presidential elections proceeded smoothly in Benin, with an estimated 75 percent of eligible voters participating. There was a U.S. delegation which monitored the election, and they report calm and orderly balloting throughout the country. Should no candidate win an absolute majority of the vote, a March 24 runoff between the top two vote-getters will determine the winner. The democratic process appears to be working well. Q Could you manage to bind and publish in an orderly form your human rights report and, if so, could you make it available to us? MR. BOUCHER: Is it out yet? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I think it's out. Yes. I think I got my copy a week ago or so. We'll get you one. Q I got mine two weeks ago. MR. BOUCHER: There you go. Q Do you have any comment on the meeting of opposition figures in -- Iraqi opposition figures in Beirut, either on the meeting or on what they said, and does the U.S. support the opposition in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen too much of what they might have said at this point. I think they're still meeting for a couple days. Obviously, as we've said before, it would be in the best interests of the Iraqi people and the future place of Iraq in the region for the Iraqis to be able to choose a government that would respect international standards of behavior. But, as we've said before as well, it's for the Iraqi people to decide their political future. It's not the business or intent of the United States to come up with alternatives to the current regime in Iraq, nor do we support any particular group. That's for the Iraqi people to do. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. Q One last one: Almost two weeks ago now, I think, an Ethiopian delegation and an Eritrean delegation started their meeting here with the State Department mediating. We had asked a couple of times about that. The negotiations are still going on. Did they ever wrap up, or did anything ever come of that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember anything particular wrapping up. I think we put out a statement at the time of those meetings here, about two weeks ago Friday, I think. I haven't seen anything subsequently. I think the expectation was that those kinds of contacts would continue. Q O.K. At the time it sounded more substantive than that. Can you check on it and see if they're still going on -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see if there's anything. Q -- or if they actually came to any conclusions at all about -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see. O.K.? (The briefing concluded at 12:38 p.m.) (###)