US Department of State Daily Briefing #40: Tuesday, 3/12/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:26 PM, Washington, DC Date: Mar 12, 19913/12/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, Europe, South Asia Country: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Albania, Libya, Chad, Kenya, USSR (former), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Terrorism, Travel, POW/MIA Issues, Development/Relief Aid, Human Rights, Democratization, Refugees (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thought maybe I'd start out by running through a couple of things. The first is to clear up what exactly it was that we did yesterday on travel advisories. The second is to give you an update on the unrest in Iraq, and the third is to tell you about Albania, a subject I'm sure you're all most concerned with.

[Travel Advisories: Update]

On travel advisories yesterday, I saw different reporting about what we had done. I just wanted to run through again where we are on travel advisories and terrorism for the posts that we had authorized departure from. The thing we did yesterday was that we issued new advisories for the Middle East -- it was the Middle East, Africa and South Asia -- in order to update people on the posts where we have already authorized our employees or dependents, depending on the case, to return to post. We also issued a new advisory on the Persian Gulf -- northern Persian Gulf, which is in effect the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar -- where we have not authorized our dependents to go back. The reasons for doing that now include the oil fires and, as yet, the uncertain health effects of that. And that's the reason that we didn't do it. And third of all, we cancelled the worldwide travel advisory that related to the hostilities -- to the war in the Gulf -- because of the cessation of hostilities. As for terrorism, we really didn't change our advice on terrorism. Our latest advice on terrorism is the statement that Margaret issued on March 4, where she said that while the numbers of attacks and the overall threat of terrorism may have lessened, that terrorism remains a serious concern. So that remains our current advice on terrorism. And what we did yesterday with travel advisories doesn't change that. Q The matter in which that information was transmitted to us yesterday made it somewhat difficult to decipher, and I'd just make this appeal to make it a little more comprehensible when you do issue these kinds of advisories. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. We have tried. We've tried to put a line on the bottom of every advisory to tell you what's new and what's different. I guess that wasn't done with the cancellation of the world wide advisory, but it was done in the case of the other two.

[Iraq: Civil Unrest Update]

..............Unrest in Iraq: First of all, I need to emphasize that the situation inside Iraq remains very fluid. This, plus the limited information available to us, often make it difficult for me to accurately characterize the situation in Iraq at any given moment. Cities and towns where unrest has been suppressed by government forces often revert entirely or partly to control by dissident elements once heavier forces depart to deal with the unrest elsewhere. This has been taking place, for example, in the cities of southern Iraq. Here government forces appeared to be gaining greater control over the situation yesterday, particularly in and around the Shi'a holy cities of Najaf and Karbala but seem to be dealing with considerable unrest in this general area today. And in the Kurdish north, there continues to be high levels of dissident activity. Q On that, do you have anything about the military deserters going over, rebels with mortars, anything like that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Have you heard or have any confirmation of reports that the Iraqi forces are using napalm against some of these cities? MR. BOUCHER: That's not something that I can confirm for you. Q Nothing on CW? MR. BOUCHER: At this point we have no confirmation that they've used any CW. Q You only had that one report. MR. BOUCHER: What report? Q Well, you told the other day about one press report -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we referred to exactly what kind of information we have on that, and I don't have anything further to say, other than what the Secretary said last week -- that we had indications that they might use CW, and, therefore, we had warned them. Q Some in the Iraqi opposition are charging that mosques have been shelled. Does the United States have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specific, but with heavy fighting going on around the holy cities and with the government using its heavy equipment that it has, you know, I would assume that they are shelling some areas at least close to mosques, if not mosques themselves. Q The Turks have reportedly met with Kurdish leaders from Iraq. Any comment on that, and will that change the U.S. approach to the Kurdish leadership? MR. BOUCHER: I have no particular comment on that. We haven't seen anything that would indicate that Turkey, for example, had changed its policy on the territorial integrity of Iraq. As you know and as we've said yesterday and in days before, that we have met with Iraqi opposition figures. It's a case-by-case decision. The last time we met with Kurdish figures was on March 1 when we discussed with them things like their humanitarian concerns and their legitimate cultural and political aspirations, but we felt that political meetings with them, particularly with groups that had traditionally advocated independence, would not be appropriate for our policy at this time. Q Do you have anything on outside forces having joined in the fighting? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, I understand what you're saying about the situation being fluid, but how many cities in total have been involved in these various activities? MR. BOUCHER: That's both difficult to say, because the situation remains fluid, and because it's not just cities. We've referred in recent days to town, cities and outlying areas. So clashes are occurring in various kinds of areas, and it would be too hard to try to enumerate exactly how many of those constitute cities and other things. Q How about Baghdad itself? MR. BOUCHER: There have been reports from sources -- from people outside Iraq, news reports and statements -- that relate to unrest and things in Baghdad. At this point I don't have anything I can confirm for you. Q Anything about reports that Saddam sustained some injury in an assassination attack? MR. BOUCHER: No. I have no information on that. Q Richard, how would the United States view the confirmed use, if it were, of napalm against rebels? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can refer directly to napalm. We certainly see the suppression of dissent in Iraq and the methods that Saddam has used in the past and has been using now as being very brutal, as being entirely inappropriate. We certainly think that the popular unrest shouldn't be put down the way he's apparently trying to do it. Q Would the United States consider air strikes against any units that use napalm? MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call a total hypothetical. I'm not about to deal with that. Q Does the United States consider napalm to be in some way an illicit weapon like chemical weapons? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid that's not a question I'm prepared to deal with. I don't know. You might ask the Pentagon if they have some categorization of the appropriate uses of napalm. Q Richard, in your explanation of what seems to be going on in Iraq now, I detect sort of a change in tone; that you indicate it's getting to be more like Afghanistan, or something, where they -- where something is never really put down, but it is -- government forces move in, secure a city, and then they lave, and then things occur again. That suggests sort of an ability by the rebels to operate over a large area that they just don't go away when the government forces come in. Is this what you're trying to -- MR. BOUCHER: That's pretty much what I've said, Chris. I used different words, but that's pretty much what I said. And it's something, again, that we've referred to before. We've tried to describe things as fluid. We've tried to say that even in cities at some points where it appeared the government was in control, the clashes were continuing. This is perhaps a more precise statement of that, to say that in fact the government does appear to suppress the dissent, but then dissident elements return after the heavier forces depart. Q Richard, do you have a sense that the fighting is spreading to a larger area, or is it still around the holy cities and in the north? MR. BOUCHER: We've described it in the past as being in the north around the holy cities and in southern Iraq, which is a pretty large area. I don't have any characterization of how it's expanding or getting smaller. Q Is it fair to extrapolate from your answer to Chris that Saddam doesn't have enough forces that are loyal and well armed enough to keep this from bubbling up and continue moving down to the next town? MR. BOUCHER: I can't extrapolate for you. I can't make predictions like that. Q Could I just ask a -- what are the largest weapons the rebels have that you know of? MR. BOUCHER: It's not something I can go into David. I'm sorry. Q Have you seen the report that Saddam Hussein's Deputy, Mr. Ramadan, had been under attack or may have been injured in the assassination attempt? MR. BOUCHER: I guess that was part and parcel of these reports that Saddam was wounded, right? No. I don't have anything that I can confirm that with. Q Can we do Albania? MR. BOUCHER: Albania. Q One last one on Iraq. MR. BOUCHER: We can always go back to it. Q In terms of air space, any reports of any movement or change in policy vis-a-vis the planes that had been taken to Iran during the conflict? And, second, as kind of an extension of that, is the U.S. still doing any extensive monitoring or policing in any way of the air space in and around -- over and around Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I think those are questions better asked at the Pentagon. I'm not aware of any change with either of those situations.

[Albania: US to Resume Diplomatic Relations]

O.K. On Albania. The United States and Albania have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations this week, following a hiatus of nearly five decades. A senior Albanian official -- that is, the Foreign Minister, Mr. Kapllani -- will be traveling to Washington to formalize the re-establishment of diplomatic ties on Friday. We also intend to receive leaders of the main Albanian opposition party, the democratic party, this week. We view the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Albania as an opportunity to support democratic reform in that country, and to encourage Albania to play a constructive role in Europe. I would also note that leaders of the democratic opposition in Albania have urged the United States to proceed with the resumption of relations as soon as possible in order to show our support for the process of reform. Q Last time this came up, you had said that the United States would want to wait til the elections were held -- I think the last day of this month. Can you explain why that's been moved up? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember precisely saying that. I may have. (Laughter) Basically, I think that our view of the situation -- we've had a number of meetings with the Albanians. The first one was on May 1, 1990. There were six meetings since then; the latest one was on February 26. In these meetings, we have emphasized the importance of increased respect for human rights. We've also noted the elections coming up on March 31, and we believe that it's important for Western countries to support and encourage the process of reform in Albania. We believe that this now argues for greater engagement, not less. On the elections, let me note also that the recent wave of refugees in our mind has highlighted the terrible conditions in Albania, and this calls for further change. This is in fact recognized in Albania by the calling of democratic elections for March 31. There will be several U.S. groups in Albania to observe those elections. Q Can you spell the name of the Prime Minister, please? MR. BOUCHER: Kapllani. Q Richard, what's the methodology? Once he comes here and he signs whatever he needs to sign, what happens next? What do you do about consulates and ambassadors? How does the housekeeping get done? MR. BOUCHER: You wouldn't accept the answer that "I'm sure it will be handled in the usual manner." Q What's the usual manner? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know. We do expect to send an initial group from the State Department out to Tirana. We're hoping to get them there before the elections, to go out and start setting up our presence. Q Are they going to take the plywood off the Embassy windows? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I didn't check whether we have an embassy with plywood on it or anything like that. But you go through a process of appointing ambassadors, of getting teams out there to survey for sites, to look at facilities and that sort of thing. You obtain facilities and you set yourself up. Often, as probably in this case, we'll send an initial team of people out there to do the surveys and establish contacts with the government on a formal level, and they might work out of temporary facilities. Q Exactly when were diplomatic relations with Albania broken off? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have the date. Five decades ago. Let me try, if I can find out, what the date was. Q How about the year? MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I don't have that. Q I don't think there have been any since Mussolini took them over. MR. BOUCHER: Some of the press reports indicated 1945, but I would have to double-check. Q '39. MR. BOUCHER: OK. Well, let me double-check and see if I can find the date. Q You're saying you don't know if there's a U.S. Embassy extant? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the situation might be as regards facilities. Q Can you find out because the Albanians offered a building a couple of months ago and there is, in fact, some plan for the American Embassy to have a staff of 10 people, and it's all pretty concrete? Could you get some details on that? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see what more I can find out for you. That sort of information may await the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that establishes the relationship and that deals with many of these issues. That will take place on Friday. But if there's something I can share with you today, I'll do it. Q Has the United States and Albania been using protecting powers, or has it be a complete break? MR. BOUCHER: No. A complete break. Q Did they have a building here? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't know. Q Who will join the Albanian Foreign Minister for the U.S. side? MR. BOUCHER: You mean, who's going to sign on the U.S. side? I don't know precisely at this point. It depends on some travel plans and things, so we'll have to see on Friday. Q Where is Eagleburger? Q It will be here in the State Department? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Open to press coverage? MR. BOUCHER: I'll take that under advisement. I assume so but I'll have to check. Q Is Eagleburger out of town? MR. BOUCHER: Uh -- Q I take it that's a "yes." MR. BOUCHER: Let's talk about it afterwards. Q Could I ask you about the meetings that were held before, the series of meetings you mentioned? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Were those, the latest ones, in the United States? And has the Albanian Foreign Minister attended any of them before? Has he been to the United States before? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he has. Those meetings were held up in New York with their United Nations representative. Curt Kamman went up from our side. They were with representatives from the U.N. Mission up in New York. Q Wasn't the last one here in Washington? MR. BOUCHER: I guess that's right. One of them was here in Washington. Q Richard, you referred to the terrible conditions in Albania. Is that possibly a prelude to the United States offering some form of humanitarian aid? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything like that at this time. Q Have they asked for anything like that? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that they have. Let me check on that. Q New subject? MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

[Libya/Chad: Former POWs Resettled as Refugees]

Q What can you tell us about these Libyan former prisoners of war who are claimed to have been disbursed all over Africa? MR. BOUCHER: They've been interviewed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. They were interviewed after they left Chad and some of them decided to return to Libya. Presently, the rest of them are being accommodated as refugees at a camp in Kenya where the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is processing them for permanent resettlement elsewhere. The Government of Kenya is providing transit facilities to these individuals in cooperation with the Red Cross and the UNHCR. The arrangements for the resettlement of these individuals are being handled by the ICRC and the UNHCR in accordance with the prevailing international laws and conventions. Q Was there an intention to train them as commandos? MR. BOUCHER: That gets back to articles that appeared in the past. And as much as we've had to say is what I'll say again today, which is after the fall of the Habre regime in Chad last December, some of the Libyan ex-POWs who were in Chad were unwilling to return to Libya. And as a humanitarian gesture, the United States provided transportation out of Chad for a number of them. Q At the time you didn't say transportation to where. Was it transportation to Kenya or was it transportation to a variety of places? MR. BOUCHER: It was transportation to an intermediate point. I don't think I'm in a position to tell you that, but let me check if we're able to do that. Q What I'm getting at is, we had the impression that they were sort of disbursed somehow but now we seem to get the impression that they had a long and winding road that went to Kenya as a unit, as a group. MR. BOUCHER: Let me see what more I can get you on how they travelled. Q And is their current processing and resettlement being done as a group? Will they be processed and resettled as a group or are they all going off to different places? MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's really in the hands of the Red Cross and, more important, the UNHCR which is interviewing them and which helps makes arrangements for permanent resettlement for refugees. So individuals are reviewed on an individual basis. Whether a number of them end up in one country together, I can't say at this point. That's really for the UNHCR to address. Q Did they have an extended stay in a military base in Zaire? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I'll look into their intermediate travel -- itinerary -- and see if I can get you something on it.

[Kenya: US Military Aid and Human Rights Conditions]

Q Is there any connection, as has been alleged today, between their being accepted by Kenya and our releasing of the military aid to Kenya despite the confines about the human rights situation? MR. BOUCHER: I guess, as I would characterize it, perhaps a partial and indirect one. The reasons that we released the $5 million in 1990 security assistance for Kenya, were basically two-fold. We did this in February. The first was to acknowledge limited steps that had occurred in the area of human rights; and, second, was to recognize the Kenyan government's helpfulness in several areas that were important to us. On the human rights side, we noted that following hearings on party reform, Kenya's ruling party abolished queue-voting and reinstated secret balloting in primary elections. It ended the practice of expelling dissidents from a party. The government also limited the President's authority to dismiss judges, restoring some independence to the judiciary in Kenya. Of course, we do remain concerned about other human rights abuses, including detentions without charge in Kenya, and we urge the government to move promptly towards greater respect for human rights. On the other side, Kenya has recently been very helpful in key areas important to us. As examples, I would cite that they provided access and support when we had to evacuate Americans and others from neighboring embassies. The Kenyan government cooperated closely with us against the threat of Iraqi-sponsored terrorism. And, finally, it did give temporary refuge to these Libyan ex-POWs who had to flee Chad when the Habre regime fell. Q How many ex-POWs are you talking about here? MR. BOUCHER: I have to check and see if I can give you a number. Q Are there hundreds? MR. BOUCHER: Several hundred now. Q Richard, do you have any comment on the new report about these people who were apparently killed in Syria after what has been reported as being a mistaken leak through the United States of information to the Syrian government? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any new comment. This is an article that appeared before. I'm not sure if it was the same article, but a story -- Q There are several new elements. MR. BOUCHER: -- that appeared before. Margaret addressed it in her briefing, I believe, on February 8. She had a very specific and detailed statement that she had used with the New York Times that I think was quoted in the original article. I can give you a copy of that again if you want it. Q Should I ask you questions about the new elements such as -- now they're saying -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm really not prepared to go beyond what we said before, but, sure, you can ask. Q OK. Maybe I'd better. For example, the article says that these were Jordanian agents? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't think that's something we would comment on. In any case, but I'm not prepared to go beyond what we said before. Q Could we go back to eastern Europe, and three countries that I have in mind? Any comment on the independence demonstrations in Slovakia? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Any comment on the draft law in Romania to imprison journalists for up to 5 years if they criticize the government or its policies in print too excessively? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that. I'm not familiar with that. Let me check on it. Q And maybe you'll have something on this one. Lithuania's first anniversary of their declaration of independence was yesterday. A year later they seem to be in a worse position than they were when they made it. Any comment on the situation? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can really characterize the situation the way you have. I think our principles and what we stood for all along has been very clear. In fact, yesterday, Ray Seitz met with the Lithuanian Charge d'Affaires in Washington. Stasys Lozoraitis thanked Ray for the -- thanked the United States for all the support that we've given to the Lithuanian cause. Mr. Seitz said that U.S. support for Lithuanian efforts to achieve self-determination would continue and that the United States looks forward to working with the Lithuanians as they move towards their clearly expressed goal of independence. Q Can I go back to Albania for a second? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q By recognizing Albania at this time, can't you be accused of giving legitimacy to a communist government instead of waiting until after the democratic elections? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the step is intended to encourage reform. They have set democratic elections for the end of the month, and we are in close touch with the democratic opposition in Albania. These people have also encouraged us to open relations with the government in order to further encourage this progress towards reform. Q Richard, anything on the latest moves in Thailand to appoint more military men to a new national assembly? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, back on Europe for a minute. Do you know anything about a CSCE meeting planned for Berlin, I think, next month or May? Do you know what that's all about? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing rings a bell. Let me check. Q Richard, do you have anything on Solomon's visit to China? MR. BOUCHER: He gave an extensive press conference this morning in Beijing. I think we'd be better off just getting you a copy of that. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:21 p.m.) (###)