US Department of State Daily Briefing #63: Thursday: 4/18/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:41 PM, Washington, DC Date: Apr 18, 19914/18/91 Region: MidEast/North Africa, Central America, E/C Europe, Europe Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Yugoslavia (former), Romania, Japan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Human Rights, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Trade/Economics, Immigration (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, let me update you on the refugee situation and what's being done about it, and then I'd be glad to take your questions.

[Iraq: Update on Refugee Situation]

Iraqi refugees continue to flee to Turkey, Iran, and occupied southern Iraq. While the exact numbers are uncertain, international relief organizations estimate that at least 1.5 million people have fled their homes and crossed into Iran and the Turkey border region, and many more displaced persons have fled from their homes and are heading towards border areas. The U.S. military is in the process of setting up the arrangements that the President announced the other day. I think Pete Williams has done some briefing on the details of that, so I'll leave that to him. As they set up camps inside Iraq, refugees will be encouraged to relocate to the camps, and refugees needing assistance in moving to the camps will be accommodated in that regard. In the meantime, the air drops and the land-based transportation of humanitarian supplies to current refugee locations will continue until the refugees can be moved to new locations. Operation of the temporary refugee centers will be turned over to the United Nations and humanitarian organizations as soon as practicable.
A more specific rundown: In Turkey, over 400,000 Iraqi refugees have entered Turkey, and a similar number are located near the border area. The Turkish Red Crescent Society is sheltering 15,000 people in camps and is preparing for another 50,000 and distributing food to thousands more. American Embassy officials visiting refugee encampments along the Iraqi border report a situation that still has major problems in spite of our best efforts to get relief in place. The three main problems are food distribution, medical problems, and water. Some medical care is available in most of the camps, but the lack of sanitation and the scarcity of water is leading to increased illness. American Embassy relief teams report that distribution of relief supplies remains a difficult problem, with mob scenes around trucks and drop sites. But to date the Government of Turkey has moved approximately 6,000 refugees to a new camp site set up on the flatlands near Silopi, and the Turkish Government continues to move about 2,000 refugees per day to this new location. Yesterday, U.S. military personnel began assessing the needs in existing settlements and conducting surveys for the establishment of new camps. Military air drops and ground transport of relief supplies continues. Yesterday, a total of 293.5 tons of relief supplies were air dropped. This brings the total for the air drops to 316 flights which have delivered 1,854.2 tons of supplies to refugees.
In Iran: International organizations report that nearly one million Iraqi refugees -- mostly Kurds -- have entered northern Iran; 71,000 Shi'ite Iraqis have moved into southern Iran; and as many as 500,000 are moving towards the border. The League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports that some 75 kilometers of roads at the border between Iraq are jammed solid with refugees -- 60 kilometers on the Iraqi side, 15 kilometers inside Iran. The Iranian Red Crescent is providing shelter, medical care, and food to 250,000 refugees in 29 camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that it is delivering relief supplies to Iran via an operation that has 20 flights per day. In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross is providing relief supplies via ground convoy from Syria, Jordan, and Europe through Turkey. The United States and other donor nations continue to provide assistance through U.N. and international relief organizations. We are in touch with Iranian officials through our protecting power, the Swiss; and we are considering ways we might be of further assistance.
Southern Iraq
In southern Iraq: U.S. forces continue to provide necessary food, water, and medical support to the approximate 30,000 refugees and civilians in the area. U.S. forces are implementing a policy not to abandon any refugees who desire to come into the demilitarized zone during the withdrawal process. In addition, the United States is discussing the plight of the refugees with several countries of the region, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and with U.N. authorities. Discussions are focusing on how best to help these desperate people. The United Nations Executive Delegate -- the Secretary General's Executive Delegate for Humanitarian Programs, Sadruddin Aga Kahn, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hussein signed an agreement stating that Iraq would allow the United Nations to provide humanitarian relief to refugees inside Iraq. Let me give you some of the highlights from that agreement. It says that Iraq welcomes the United Nations efforts; that Iraq pledges its full support and cooperation; that Iraq agrees to cooperate with the United Nations to have a humanitarian presence in Iraq wherever such a presence may be needed. Centers will be established and will be staffed by United Nations civilian personnel which, in addition to the regular staff members of the relevant U.N. agencies, may also include staff co-opted from non-governmental organizations. The Red Crescent Society of Iraq shall be called upon to play a role. The centers that are established shall facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance and shall also monitor the overall situation there. Routes of return, with relay stations along the way as well as a logistic back-up capability, will be set up urgently in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities; and United Nations staff will accompany groups of people who are moving back towards their homes. The United Nations may organize air lifts to the areas concerned, as required, as well as transportation by road of humanitarian assistance. All Iraqi officials concerned, including the military, will facilitate the safe passage of emergency relief commodities throughout the country. Inter-governmental organizations, NGOs -- that's non-governmental organizations -- and other relief agencies will be encouraged to participate in the implementation of the program.
UN-Iraq Agreement on Relief inside Iraq
And, finally, the Government of Iraq will help in the prompt establishment of the United Nations sub-offices in support of these centers and other programs in towns inside Iraq. We see the United States and the U.N. efforts as complementary. We're pleased that the Iraqis have formally agreed to the U.N.'s plans to provide humanitarian relief for Iraqi refugees. As you know, this was called for in Resolution 688. The U.N. plan provides for centers to be established inside Iraq, and appears to provide a basis for the U.N. to take over the operation that we will establish and to carry their role from the immediate border area to the return of people to their homes. With that update, I'll be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have any idea of how many of the 1.5 million refugees along the two borders are being reached by your humanitarian efforts? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't. I'll see if some indication of that might be in the daily update that we do on aid relief. But I'll see. If it's not there, I'll take the question. Q Richard, you said in your opening remarks that 1.5 million had fled into Iran and Turkey and that there were many more to follow. Do you mean many more than -- i.e., more than another 1.5 million or just in addition to the 1.5 million? MR. BOUCHER: In addition to that, there are a lot of people who are inside Iraq moving towards the border areas, or near the border areas. Q Not to quibble about numbers, but it seems to me that the numbers that you gave subsequent to that add up to more than 1.5 million? MR. BOUCHER: Well, we said that 1.5 million have crossed into Iran and the Turkey border region. There's more people that are moving towards the border areas -- moving in that direction. So, yes, the numbers of people on the move -- Q Are much, much more. MR. BOUCHER: I guess if you add it all up, probably somewhere around two million. Q You're not sure what's moving them at this point? Any understanding of what -- MR. BOUCHER: I'd go back to what Princeton Lyman said in his testimony the other day, that refugees make their own decisions; and that in coping with the situation like this, in terms of where people want to go, we've always said we have to take care of people where they are and provide facilities for where we can take care of them. Q But since the policy is aimed at getting them back, it would be helpful to know why they're moving. And since there's no military activity in any of these areas from the Iraqis, as far as we know, do we have any indication at this point as to why they continue to move toward places where they might not be very well off? MR. BOUCHER: It's a simple answer. I know it doesn't clarify it much. People are moving because they don't, at this point, feel safe in going back. Part of the effort of establishing the U.N. presence, establishing camps, is to give them places to go. It takes quite a bit for somebody to want to stay on a mountainside in the middle of the rain and the snow with all the illness and problems there. It takes quite a bit to make them want to do that rather than stay in their homes. So one of the efforts is to establish the kind of places where they can go and be taken care of. Q Maybe I should ask whether there's any indication as to -- if there's any overt evidence of anything that's pushing them?

[Iraq: Update on Fighting inside Country]

MR. BOUCHER: I thought I'd take the opportunity of the question also to give you the update on fighting, which is not much. Despite media reports that we see as derived primarily from dissident claims of some fighting, primarily in the south, we cannot confirm any major fighting between Iraqi government forces and dissidents in either northern or southern Iraq over the past 24 hours. There does not appear to have been any activity on the part of Iraqi military helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft over the past 24 hours. Q Richard, could I ask you a question about this complementary relationship between the U.S. forces and the United Nations? In this stage, will the U.S. forces be operating under the aegis of the United Nations? MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. forces are -- they're not operating on behalf of U.N. agencies or anything like that. They're operating under the humanitarian emergency situation, under the announcement that was made by the President and under the provisions of Resolution 688, which we feel provides full authority for international relief operations inside northern Iraq. Q In that sense, since you say that these forces are there under the authority given under 688, does that mean then that you consider the U.S. forces would be covered by that Letter of Agreement signed between the Aga Khan and the Iraqi government? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's implied by the way I put it, or by the word "complementary." The understanding reached between the United Nations people and the Iraqis involves the U.N. activities that will be carried out throughout Iraq. We've described our efforts as a response to an emergency situation. We've said it's intended to be very temporary, but it's intended to provide the kind of assistance that people need right now. We've always said that we would like to turn that operation over to the United Nations personnel as soon as they're ready and they're able to take over. Q The Iraqi government's radio stations have been expressing the suspicion that the camps will be used as enclaves or sanctuaries for Kurds who will go out and fight and then come back in and rest. Is there any means of preventing that? MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing -- I don't know if Pete [Williams] has more to say today, but what he said yesterday was that the sole intention of our establishing these camps is humanitarian. He said that the problem such as you're talking about is a legitimate question, but at this point it doesn't appear to be much of a problem because most of the people who are coming to the camps and to these areas are women and children. I don't really have any more definition than he did, but in terms of maintaining the camps he said he thought that we'd probably disarm people who were coming with arms. Q Can you explain what language in 688 allows us to offer humanitarian aid, and explain whether you think that same resolution would allow us to offer humanitarian aid in Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't bring my copy with me today, so I can't point exactly to it. Q How about the gist of that? MR. BOUCHER: The gist is that the Resolution provides for humanitarian assistance to be given to people inside Iraq. I think it says "in all parts of the country" or something like that. As you know, the problem and our approach to the problem is to deliver assistance to people where they are. In the President's announcements of April 5, you also remember that he announced a million dollars that would be given to UNICEF. I think it was $869,000 to UNICEF and $139,000 to the ICRC, plus a thousand tons of food that would be given for other activities that those organizations are carrying on in other parts of Iraq. Q In your view, are there humanitarian needs in Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there are humanitarian needs in a lot of parts of the country. That's why we're doing various things. We're directly assisting, U.S. military forces have been helping people, in southern Iraq for some time. We have provided assistance to the international organizations that are operating inside Iraq -- from what I just cited of the President's announcement -- and where these enormous concentrations of refugees are, we're providing very direct assistance to them. Q So in your mind, the Resolution would permit us to go into Baghdad to offer humanitarian assistance, is that correct? MR. BOUCHER: If you're trying to set me up as starting an air drop into Baghdad, I'm not going to play that game. Q I'm not trying to set you up for anything. MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you a copy of 688 and you can read it as well as I can. Q But is it the State Department's interpretation that you could offer humanitarian aid anywhere in Iraq? Is that correct? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go beyond what I just said. Q Richard, the Resolution says that it insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq. Does the United States military qualify as an international humanitarian organization? MR. BOUCHER: The United States is providing emergency humanitarian assistance. We've made very clear what our goals are. We've made very clear what the scope of this operation is, the fact that it's very temporary. These things are urgently required, and we are doing what we can to help. I would say that the United States military forces are on a very important humanitarian mission right now, and they're carrying it out. Q Richard, how long does the United States Government expect the U.S. troops to be stationed inside Iraq until the U.N. relief organizations personnel come into place? MR. BOUCHER: You can ask Pete Williams if he has anymore specific timeframe on the presence of U.S. forces. The basic answer is what you said: until the U.N. presence is able to take over. Q Richard, do you know how many relay, or relief stations would be set up under the agreement between the U.N. and Iraq, approximately, and whether they would cover the entire country or just -- MR. BOUCHER: We just got the agreement this morning. I read it and I pulled out some highlights, but it didn't have details like that.

[Iraq: Estimates of Recipients of Relief Efforts]

Q Richard, could I just clarify a number here? You mentioned the figure two million. Is this two million more people moving to the border, or do you expect two million to be there once the people moving towards the border get there? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry to do that. I could go back through the various numbers I used. That was a very rough estimate, out of my head, of what would happen if you took all the numbers that I used in the opening statement about people who had crossed and people who hadn't crossed to get a number on where people are -- because I said that there were l.5 million who fled, who have crossed into Iran and who have moved into the Turkey border region. Later I said that there were 71,000 Shiites, Iraqis, who have moved into southern Iran, and there were as many as 500,000 more moving towards the border. So I took l.5 and added 500,000 and got 2 million, about. That's the kind of numbers that we are dealing with in this overall situation. Q Richard, one of the points in the U.N. agreement is -- reading from my own text here -- "The Iraqi government will establish, together with the U.N., a relief distribution and monitoring structure and permit access to all civilians covered by the program." Given that these refugees are fleeing the Iraqi Government, or forces of the Iraqi government, don't you think it is dangerous to allow the Iraqi government to set up monitoring structures? MR. BOUCHER: I think I really have to leave it to the U.N. to explain their program in more detail than I have. The U.N. presence in itself is intended to help people, first of all, and in some ways to reassure them. We felt a U.N. presence was important, but ultimately we get back to Saul's question, that refugees will make their decisions based on what their own feelings are. We'll see how well it works. Q Well, you earlier have stated that the agreement appeared to provide a basis for the takeover of the centers that you would establish. That means that under this, you would be establishing centers that would ultimately be subject to Iraqi government monitoring. MR. BOUCHER: I can't, at this point, give you a full implementation plan, so I don't think I can really go beyond what I have said already. Q Is it still anticipated that a U.N. peacekeeping force, or monitoring force, will be needed and would replace the American and allied forces that are now there? MR. BOUCHER: I guess that's an idea that has been floated, that has been discussed. It is an idea that is out there. I'm not sure if there are any really specific proposals of that kind. At this point there is no specific resolution or something like that before the U.N. Q You are not aware that the Iraqi agreement with the U.N. would replace that or would rule that out? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see anything in it that speaks to it one way or the other. Q Richard, do you have any details on compliance with the IAEA today? MR. BOUCHER: This is one sentence: No. Q Oh, all right. Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: We understand that the Iraqis have presented some information to the IAEA. We, at this point, don't have an official translation of that. So I don't have any more information for you. Q While we have plenty of access, television access and access by the French and the British and us on the Turkish border, the situation on the Iranian border seems to be just about as bad. But we don't have access there. Have the Iranians, through the Swiss or anybody else, asked for help? Can you give us any more information on what kind of help either the United States or the United Nations or others are bringing to that part of the world? And what are we offering through international agencies to that side of the problem? MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I think what's going on inside Iran with the League of Red Cross, the Iranian Red Crescent, the 20 flights a day and things like that, I think I gave you that at the beginning, so I'm not going to repeat that. Yesterday, in terms of our contributions to international agencies, I mentioned the fact that of the $l0 million refugee funds that we provided, $6 million was going to the UNHCR, $2 million was going to the International Red Cross. These are general funds for use by them for their activities throughout the area. But of course those two organizations are operating inside Iran. As far as our exchanges, also, we have talked in the last couple of weeks, I think, occasionally about our regular contact with Iran through the protecting power in Tehran, the Swiss, about U.S. actions to assist the Iraqi refugees wherever they are located. A little more on that is just to say that the Iranians have indicated that they would welcome U.S. participation in the international relief effort to assist refugees in Iran. They have also given us some indication of the kind of assistance they believe would be most useful, but they are now in the process of further clarifying those needs. Q Does that include the presence of U.S. citizens in those relief efforts? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, at this point, they are in the process of further clarifying their needs. Q When did you get that request? MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to go into great detail about it. I think you can see from the pattern of what we have said that it was since the last time we talked about it, which was last Thursday. Q But this would involve U.S. flights into Iran? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. I said the Iranians are in the process of clarifying their needs. I don't have anything specific for you at this point until we know further exactly what they want. Q Would you be prepared to conduct flights into Iran? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm sorry, I don't have anything further for you until we know in more detail exactly what they want. Q Wasn't that the same statement you had last week on this subject? MR. BOUCHER: Not exactly, no. Q Richard, is the United States concerned that the property and houses of these refugees might be taken over by other Iraqis during their absence and that they might not have anywhere to go back to? And I have in mind the attempted Iraqi-ization of Kuwait during their occupation there. MR. BOUCHER: It's an interesting question. I hadn't seen any reports like that in the current situation, so I'm not aware that anybody has reported that that might be occurring now. Q People are drawing parallels between this migration or flight and the Palestinians in 1948 in which, as we know, a lot of Palestinian property was taken over, so it might be worth bearing in mind. MR. BOUCHER: We'll bear it in mind, Alan. Thank you. Q Richard, can you describe the reaction of the Iraqis through official channels -- there was a meeting here yesterday at the State Department -- to the American military effort? MR. BOUCHER: I can't really describe an official Iraqi reaction because, other than what you have seen various Iraqi ministers and people say in the press, there hasn't really been an official Iraqi reaction. Yesterday afternoon David Mack, our Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Near East and Asia Bureau -- Near East and Southeast Asia Bureau, excuse me -- explained to the senior Iraqi representative in Washington, that is Khalid Shewayish, the plan for aiding Iraqi refugees as it was outlined by the President Tuesday evening. So that was done, I think, yesterday. Pete Williams said it had been done in New York as well yesterday morning. But at this point we don't have any official reaction other than the statements we have seen people make in the press. Q Richard, I'd like to get back to the Iranian border where we have a million and possibly two million people, I think -- MR. BOUCHER: Possibly one and a half. Q -- one and a half million people, and it is also bad terrain there. They do not have a safe haven. If they were to cross or head towards Turkey, they would have to cross through Iraqi troop areas or Iraqi-controlled areas. When we have sent word through the Swiss to the Iranians, are we in any way sort of suggesting that what we are going to do in the Turkish border area we -- the United States, France, Britain -- might be willing to do in the Iranian border areas? MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to provide you with any more details of our exchanges with the Iranians. I think maybe Pete Williams may be able to provide you with some idea of the scope of the operation as is currently planned.

[Kuwait: Amnesty International Report]

Q Do you have a reaction to the Amnesty International report on conditions in Kuwait in which it says that hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and scores tortured brutally or executed in Kuwait, and that the violations are still continuing and appear to be largely unchecked? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen that report. I think this is an issue on which we have reported to you many times. We have reported to you our concerns. We have reported that arbitrary detentions or persecution of Palestinians is completely contrary to Kuwaiti government policy. We have reported, I think, on the steps the Kuwaiti government was taking to improve the situation. Specifically with regard to detentions, I think you are aware that they have established things like, done things like put Ministry of Justice officials, civilian officials, in detention centers. I understand the International Red Cross has also been visiting detention centers in Kuwait. So, without having an update today, I think it is something that we have discussed many times in the past. Q Just one more follow-up on that. Amnesty is often quoted in the State Department's own Human Rights Report, so it would be fair to say that the State Department has a generally high opinion of the work that Amnesty International undertakes -- question mark? MR. BOUCHER: It sounds like it is going on the back of book jacket. I'm not going to offer you any sweeping endorsements, Alan. We look to all the various human rights groups as very important people who are able to provide information and provide assessments. Our Embassy in Kuwait, in fact, is staying in touch with various human rights workers and international organizations that are out in Kuwait. And I am sure we value their judgments and their reporting very highly. But in the end, our Human Rights Report is based on our own judgments. Q Your answer to Alan's first question gave us no sense as to the level of the abuses going on in Kuwait. You talked about what they are trying to do to prevent abuses, but you've given no sense as to the degree of the problem. Could you take that question and get back to us? MR. BOUCHER: I'll take the question and see what we can get in terms of what we see as the degree of the problem at present. In the past, as I said, we have talked about the degree of the problem, as well as these other things.

[Japan: Joint Statement with USSR]

Q Richard, can I ask a question of a different dimension? About an hour ago, Gorbachev and the Japanese Prime Minister issued a joint statement that calls for the Soviet troop withdrawal from the northern islands, except a small contingence of Coast Guards of Soviet KGB forces. Do you have any comment on this, or are you still analyzing this? MR. BOUCHER: My comment is to say I find your question very interesting because I haven't heard that, and I'll be glad to get you something. Q Richard, have you got any comment or can you give us an update on the state of MFN to Romania? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Could you look into that, please? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look into that as well. Q Another question that has really nothing to do with what we have been talking about, but 29 Cubans were found on a raft off Islamorada yesterday, five on a raft off Key West yesterday. Twenty-one were picked up last week on a cruise ship going into Miami by INS. A lot of people down there are saying that this is possibly the beginning of a new influx of Cuban refugees, and it is also an indication that Castro may be having problems. What's your comment? MR. BOUCHER: It's news to me. I'll have to check on it. I'm sorry, I hadn't noted that. Gil? Q. Albania. There is a report of some more deaths and unrest in Albania. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have anything new on Albania either. Q Do we have an Ambassador to Albania? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think an Ambassador to Albania has been announced yet. Q No, one hasn't been announced yet. I mean, are you expecting one to be announced soon? MR. BOUCHER: I won't say anything about expectations or otherwise until things are announced by the appropriate people, which is the White House. Q Has the State Department decided if Rudy Perpich, former Governor of Minnesota, will maintain his United States' citizenship while becoming Foreign Minister of Croatia? Will that be possible for him to maintain his citizenship? And what kind of decisions or factors enter into the process of making that decision? MR. BOUCHER: It is a very complicated legal question. I know we are studying the question, but I don't think I have a definitive response at this point. I'll have to get back to you if there is something. Q Richard, have the Israelis responded to the demarche or protest, or whatever it was, that Ambassador Brown made about the new settlement? MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave that question to the Secretary. He should be arriving in Israel about now. Q Another -- maybe you can answer this one. There is a move afoot in Congress to get the President to push for a war crimes tribunal involving Saddam, among others. What is the State Department's position on that move? MR. BOUCHER: The State Department's position is the Secretary's position as he stated it last night in Luxembourg, and I think we have already distributed the transcript to you. Q Richard, any chance of getting a definitive, easily understandable -- that's the underlineable bit -- on this aid program to Nicaragua? MR. BOUCHER: On the what? Q Aid program to Nicaragua. The President announced $50 million, but as far as I figure it out it comes out at $54l million that had already been previously announced. So what's new in the $50 million? And Bernie [Aronson] said that $20 million was going every month in assistance since she'd taken office, which would make $240 million, but only $200 million has gone. The figures don't add up any which way you try. Is it possible to get a list that sort of details -- a "Nicaragua made simple" basically? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try, Jan. Q Thank you, Richard. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:14 p.m.)