US Department of State Daily Briefing #59: Wednesday, 4/10/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:08 PM, Washington, DC Date: Apr 10, 19914/10/91 Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Eurasia, E/C Europe Country: Iraq, Kuwait, China, USSR (former), Lithuania Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Arms Control, Trade/Economics, Democratization, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Iraq: International Relief Efforts for Refugees]

MR. BOUCHER: Let me start off with some more information on status of the aid programs -- the refugee assistance. Overall, I can tell you that nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in cash and in-kind contributions for refugees and displaced persons has been pledged to date by the international community. Relief supplies are already reaching the refugees and relief experts are on the scene to plan and coordinate further activity. I think we've gotten you a copy of a statement by Margaret (Tutwiler) that she put out on the road of the details of the activity that's going on. It runs down a pretty comprehensive list of what's being done. Some of the highlights of that include the 150 metric tons of relief supplies that have been dropped by U.S., U.K., and French aircraft. The fact that we've moved helicopters, or are moving helicopters to Turkey -- have sent helicopters to Turkey, I guess it is -- for use further in this process of putting supplies into the areas where they're needed. There's a lot of information in there on the money, and there's information about the efforts that we're making with other donor countries. We've been in contact with 45 donor countries and we're coordinating very closely with other countries to identify supplies that are available and to offer whatever logistical support we can. In addition to that statement that Margaret put out, I have some more details of what's going on today, some of the things that she referred to. So let me run through just additional bits of information that you can find useful. There's a 17-person Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance response team that will depart today or tomorrow morning to go to the Kurdish refugee camps to coordinate U.S. assistance in the technical fields of medical and health, food, shelter, and water. The team will assess the situation and they will look to the implementation of an emergency bilateral response as a follow-on to the air drop effort. There is an Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance representative who is joining the Defense Department operation in Stuttgart, Germany, today in order to further coordinate the transport of European and U.S. relief supplies to Kurdish refugees. There are supplies, including blankets, tents, water jugs, and shelter materials which are being airlifted by the Defense Department from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance stockpiles in Panama, the United States, and Italy for direct delivery to Turkey to be given to the Kurdish refugees. There's a C-5A with about 70 tons of blankets that will go out to Turkey tomorrow. Q From where? MR. BOUCHER: From the U.S. Q Do you know where in the U.S. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check with the people operating it. I'll see if I can tell you then. There are about 1,500 rolls of plastic sheeting that are being moved by Defense Department flights from Daharan, Saudi Arabia, to Turkey for use as refugee shelter. More specifics on the air drop flights, I think I gave you some of the statistics yesterday. On Tuesday, yesterday, there were 16 military relief flights -- 10 U.S., 2 British, and 4 French. They air-dropped 58.9 tons of relief supplies. Two British flights were unable to drop because of bad weather. These supplies consisted of pre-packaged meals, tents, blankets, sleeping bags, water, and other food stuffs. There are 18 flights scheduled for today.

[Iraq: Situation in Iran]

The situation in Iran: International relief officials report that 771,000 Iraqi civilians -- mostly Kurds -- have entered Iran with perhaps another 500,000 to 700,000 across the border. The U.N. has increased camp capacity levels in Iran to 100,000 persons. Although this is well below the estimated number of refugees, we understand that many refugees are being cared for in Iranian villages near the border. The Iranian Red Crescent Society and previously established U.N. and ICRC infrastructure are providing assistance to the refugees in Iran. The Red Crescent Society is undertaking a needs assessment and preparing a plan of action for an expanded relief operation. We have made clear to Iran, both through our established channel and through international relief agencies that we are prepared to assist these multilateral efforts to alleviate the suffering of those in the border area. Let me add that I understand the ICRC and the International Red Cross are operating in Iraq. I think you've known that for some time. We understand that they are expanding their operations in Iran and that they now have an assessment team in northern Iraq. As far as the United Nations efforts, the United Nations Secretary General has appointed Sadruddin Aga Khan as the Executive Delegate for Humanitarian Programs for Iraq, Kuwait, and the Iraq/Turkey/Iran border areas. We welcome this crucial appointment. Sadruddin will coordinate the overall international effort to provide humanitarian relief to civilians affected by internal strife in Iraq. We look forward to working closely with Sadruddin. The Secretary General has also dispatched Eric Suy to study the Kurdish situation. Mr. Suy is in Geneva today where he is meeting with Sadruddin Aga Khan and other international agency officials. He's expected to travel to Baghdad on Friday. The Government of Iraq has agreed to accept the Suy mission which will visit northern Iraq and explore the possibility of establishing sites from which relief supplies can be administered. Finally, let me say that we are reviewing options for additional humanitarian assistance. We are urgently reviewing, first of all, all possible authorities to identify additional funds which could be committed to the relief effort. As I said, we're talking to other countries about logistic needs, and we're identifying materials that can be sent out. And as Marlin (Fitzwater) just said, we do intend to ask the Congress for supplemental funds to cover the additional costs of taking care of refugees. With that, I'll be glad to take your questions. Q What would really be nice to know is what percentage of the refugees have been aided by the relief efforts, to date? How many lives are at risk? How many refugees are there who have had nothing to eat for days, and so forth? MR. BOUCHER: George, I think from this distance, that's very difficult for us to do. You know that there are air drops that are going in. There are not necessarily personnel on the ground to count the numbers there. A lot of the numbers are very -- they're estimates. I think the thing that we're trying to emphasize is that the relief is flowing. We recognize this requires a massive international effort, and such an effort is being mounted. Q Well, you have been able to provide numbers. For example, when the famines have occurred in Sudan and Ethiopia, you routinely put out X number of lives at risk. It would be nice if you could come up with a similar estimate. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if at some point we can, but at this point I don't think I can. Q How does the United States, or how does the coalition plan to enforce the ban on helicopter and fixed-wing aircrafts by Iraq north of the 36 parallel? MR. BOUCHER: I can't get into any operational details. What I will tell you is what we said last Monday, I think it was. We had told the Iraqis, both in New York and in Washington, that they should not interfere with the relief efforts that were being undertaken, including ours. Q Who are the Iraqis in Washington? MR. BOUCHER: Their senior representative here is Mr. Shewayish. Q I thought he had left? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Does he plan to. MR. BOUCHER: Ask him. Q Have the Iraqis obeyed this stricture? MR. BOUCHER: The situation as far as air activity, I'm told that there was some limited activity on the part of Iraqi military helicopters over central and southern Iraq today. I can't confirm any helicopter attacks that have been taking place against dissidents. Q Why was it necessary to restate this, even on Background -- the prohibition against helicopter activity in there? Has there been some helicopter activity in the area interfering with the relief effort. MR. BOUCHER: As I said, it's a point, first of all, that we've made clear from the President's announcement. It's very clear in the United Nations resolution that the United Nations Security Council insisted that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq. It's just been a clear part of our policy. I think over the past three days I said that this message was delivered to the Iraqis. So you ask, I answer. Q Richard, I assume that the Iranians have not responded officially to our offers of help that were made last weekend. Do you know when the Red Crescent Society, when their assessment will be completed as to what they will need? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know precisely when that will be. And you're correct in saying that they haven't responded through the diplomatic channel on the offer that we've made. I know there were some remarks by the Iranian Foreign Minister yesterday about their desire for international assistance. I think the international community recognizes the problem there. We've stated our willingness to help in multilateral efforts. As I said, the Red Crescent is coming up with information. I understand some of the other international organizations are just now putting together the finishing touches on the appeals defining further what they need.

[Iraq: Cost of US Aid]

Q Can you put a dollar value on U.S. humanitarian contributions as opposed to those of other nations? MR. BOUCHER: It depends when you start counting. There was $35.6 up until the end of March -- $35.6 million. The President announced another $11 million the other day. I think that probably doesn't count a few things like the money that I talked about yesterday that was being spent in Turkey from disaster funds. So it's probably a little more than those totals. Q What's going into this effort is all from those funds; correct? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Let me add that the cost of the DoD airlift, I think, is probably outside of those, too. Let me see if I can get a full list. I tried to do some of this accounting this morning and didn't arrive at a comprehensive total. Let me see if I can try to get a better one this afternoon. Q Richard, speaking of lists, are you going to make available what Margaret put out on the road? MR. BOUCHER: I think it has been. If it hasn't already, I'll make sure it's there right after the briefing. Q Also on the U.N., is there now some suspicion among some members of the Security Council that there may be some loophole in the Iraqi response to Security Council Resolution 678 -- I'm sorry, 687. MR. BOUCHER: The status of that -- this is the letter that the Iraqi sent in response to the resolution 687. We are continuing to examine the Iraqi letter. As you know, it was a very long one with a lot of things in it. One important piece that we still have not seen is the National Assembly decision on Resolution 687. We think this is very important because Iraq, in the past, used the lack of constitutional approval as a pretext to negate the 1963 border agreement with Kuwait. So for us that remains an essential part that we need to examine before we can move further. Q And is that the only loophole that you see, possible loophole? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I said we're still examining the letter, and we will examine the letter further in the context of whatever the National Assembly decision was. Q The text that I have seen -- I never saw the simple, flat sentence that Iraq does accept the terms. It says there is only one alternative, but it never says -- in the translations that I have seen -- that it does accept the terms of 687. Is there such a flat acceptance? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to leave you to read the letter, Jim. I can't tell you at this point. As I said, we're still examining the letter to make sure, in the context of the National Assembly decision, that it does constitute full and unconditional acceptance of the terms of the resolution. Q Richard, other than the limited air activity in southern and central Iraq, do you have an update on any other activity in Iraq, and also on the Iraqi's moving into the southern zone that the U.S. is vacating? MR. BOUCHER: The questions about the southern zone, I think I have to leave to the Defense Department since they are there and follow things more closely there than I do. In general, we've seen very few indications of fighting between government forces and dissidents over the past 24 hours. As of late yesterday, we've continued to see large numbers of refugees in predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Iraq who are continuing to move towards the Iraqi-Turkish and the Iraqi-Iranian borders. Q Do you have anything more to say about the enclave proposal? MR. BOUCHER: I will let you characterize it as "more" or "not more." But our immediate concern is to immediately move necessary food, medicine and other goods and services to the suffering refugees. We're pleased, as I said before, at the U.N. Secretary General's nomination of Sadruddin Aga Khan as its executive delegate to coordinate the U.N.'s humanitarian relief effort, and we are working with the U.N. to facilitate U.N. relief operations. The Security Council is deeply concerned about the plight of refugees. We support the Secretary General's efforts, and we are examining other proposals to further facilitate the U.N.'s efforts. Q "Not more." Q Do you have anything further on the latest reports about Soviet assistance to the Iraqis during the war? MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about some comments made by a General in St. Louis, or something like that. I think that was dealt with pretty clearly by the Defense Department. I believe the White House answered it as well over the last two days. Q Richard, on the long-term question related to the enclave question of the future of these Shi'ite rebels in the south and the Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq, would it be wrong to conclude from what's been said in the last several days that the United States is relying on international pressure to keep Iraq's regime from abusing or going after the rebels once the United States pulls out? MR. BOUCHER: That's more or less true. Let me expand on it a little bit. The U.N. Security Council has clearly spoken. The United States, I think, has clearly spoken that we will brook no interference with our humanitarian relief efforts -- the airlift. We have said -- I think you remember the Secretary said in Turkey -- that we believe that the presence of U.N. organizations and relief efforts would act as a deterrent against any Iraqi attempts to interfere with the process of that or to interfere with the refugees themselves. But in addition I said yesterday that if there was such interference, that we would expect to discuss with other U.N. Security Council members what further action the U.N. might have to take. Q Richard, I wonder if you could discuss to what extent U.S. advance planning for Operation Desert Storm anticipated the problems that we're having with the Kurdish refugees now, and the Iraqis brutalizing the refugees, and some of the problems of dealing with that? MR. BOUCHER: Well, the advance planning for Desert Storm, I think, has to be discussed by the Pentagon. We have said over here several times that these refugee flows or the fact of refugee flows was not unanticipated. We handled something like a million refugees -- the international community did -- who came out in the initial phases of the crisis. Many of those were third-country nationals who were safely repatriated to their home countries. And then there was a second effort at international planning on the possibility of refugee flows out of Iraq during the time period of the fighting. So that was an effort organized in January and which set up camps in Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan in anticipation of those kinds of refugee flows. The numbers that were anticipated at that time did not materialize. It has been subsequent to the fighting inside Iraq, Saddam Hussein's attacks on cities and on people inside Iraq, that these refugee flows have occurred. There was an established infrastructure from that second phase of planning that was available to help deal with the crisis. But, clearly, the numbers are massive, and the international response has to be massive, and that's what's being mounted now. Q Was it anticipated in that same frame that Saddam Hussein would remain in power and would turn against -- in your planning. MR. BOUCHER: If you're asking about specific war planning, and that sort of thing, I really can't attempt to try to explain that. Q Refugee planning. MR. BOUCHER: The refugee planning is planning for refugees. We look at different circumstances that could lead to refugees. As I said, the second phase of the planning was based on people that we thought might be coming out as a result of the fighting. That materialized in large numbers somewhat later than we expected, but it was not unanticipated that there would be more people coming out of Iraq. Q Richard, there are reports that some Turkish troops have entered northern Iraq. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: I just heard about that before I walked in. We have had one initial contact with our Embassy in Ankara. They didn't have any particular information for us about something like that at this time, but we'll continue to look and see what we have. Q Would you let us know later of developments or -- MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Richard, you said that you've observed basically no air activity in northern Iraq over the last 24 hours maybe, and maybe it's even longer than that -- I don't know. MR. BOUCHER: I think it goes back at least virtually none for several days. Q O.K. And you've also said that you still see large numbers of refugees moving on the ground in northern Iraq. Have there been any attacks on them at all in recent days -- ground attacks or any other kind? MR. BOUCHER: I think I said that I just didn't have any confirmed information on attacks -- or helicopter attacks -- against dissidents, or I think that applies to refugee columns as well. Q I don't just mean air attacks, but have refugees per se been attacked in the last several days? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information like that. Q Another subject? Q Could we do one more on Iraq? Have you seen the report that the Commerce Department official who testified on Monday that he worked against the State Department's approvals of sales by tying up in red tape has been notified that he will be discharged? MR. BOUCHER: Marlin just had, what I take from hearing it, a very exciting and enjoyable time answering that question at the White House -- (laughter) -- and I think I'll leave it with him. Q How about the earlier substance of his testimony, which is that the State Department appeared intent on selling things to Iraq at a critical period which might have had military value? MR. BOUCHER: We provided written testimony to the Committee in order to get our views on the record, and I think we made available copies of that testimony either yesterday or the day before. Q Cambodia: Could you give us the details of the status of U.S. aid? MR. BOUCHER: Dick Solomon starts his testimony in one minute on the Hill. I'm going to leave that question for him. Q While we're on different areas, on Panama, President Endara has kicked all the Christian Democrats out of his Cabinet. I was wondering if the United States had any observations about that move? MR. BOUCHER: The question of who should be in anyone's cabinet is really an internal matter that we're not going to get into. Our support in Panama has been for democracy. We continue to support that and support the democratic processes in a whole variety of ways, but I'm not going to get into specific government reshufflings or things like that. Q Is that a democratic move to kick these people out? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into questions of formations of governments.

[START/CFE: Status of Negotiations]

Q Richard, you were asked yesterday about the status of the START negotiations. Do you have something on that? MR. BOUCHER: The START talks are currently in Easter recess. We expect that the negotiations will resume shortly. We're working in diplomatic channels on a resumption date. The key remaining issues have not changed, and that's about all there is to say on it at this point. Q What about CFE? Q (Inaudible) MR. BOUCHER: Again, I said we're working in diplomatic channels on a resumption date. Q Orthodox Easter was last week. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: What can I say? We're working on a date for resumption. Q Do you have something on the status of CFE talks? MR. BOUCHER: I think we put up an answer yesterday about where that stood -- just that we've been consulting with our allies. We continue our exchanges with the Soviets at various levels to achieve the full implementation of the treaty.

[USSR/Baltics: Economic Reforms/Rights/Occupation Suspensions]

Q Have you seen the changes announced by President Gorbachev in his speech yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We don't yet have the full text of his speech. Based on the press reports that we've seen, we'd say that the new program seems to be the latest in a series of measures meant to halt the Soviet Union's growing economic deterioration and political disintegration. The proposed economic reforms -- such as price liberalization, privatization, ruble convertibility and encouragement of foreign investment -- have figured in earlier plans, including Gorbachev's "basic guidelines" from last October. From press reports, we understand that also included a call for a moratorium on strikes, meetings and other political actions which could destabilize the country. In our view, however, stability cannot be restored by suspending legitimate peaceful and democratic forms of expression. Such a moratorium is likely only to further exacerbate the crisis. Soviet leadership should not turn away from the political and economic reform process that it has pursued for several years now. Q Have you made a decision on the kind of help you can provide to Sierra Leone to defend itself against incursions by the rebels? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I'll have to check. LIthuania Q Also on the Soviet Union, there was a report that Soviet soldiers took some sort of hostile action in Lithuania. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Early yesterday a Soviet military unit occupied the building of a training school in Vilnius. According to press reports, the building in question has belonged to a Soviet organization providing military training for young people. Last year the organization was reorganized in Lithuania and was brought under Lithuanian jurisdiction. Soviet Commanders on the scene reportedly said that they were implementing a March 14 directive from their general headquarters. The occupation, we understand, is continuing. All the details of the incident are not yet clear. As you know, we have spoken in the past many times against the Soviet use of force in the Baltic states. As we have for some time, we would again urge the Soviet Union to stop actions and violence and enter into good-faith negotiations. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)