US Department of State Daily Briefing,#70: Monday: 4/29/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:35 PM, Washington, DC Date: Apr 29, 19914/29/91 Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Iran, Saudi Arabia Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, United Nations, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, let me start off by giving you the update on various refugee relief efforts.

[Iraq: Refugee Update]

The numbers of refugees in Turkey or near the border has stabilized. You remember those numbers from last Friday were about 453,000 inside Turkey and 400,000 near the border inside Iraq. With the establishment of reliable delivery systems for relief supplies and medical assistance, camp conditions are improving though much remains to be done. International organizations, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and numerous American and foreign private voluntary organizations are coordinating relief activities and working in Turkey to upgrade the relief services being provided to the refugees. We have one commentary from the Danish private humanitarian relief organization Danish Church Aid, they said that U.S. intervention and assistance to aid the Iraqi refugees in Turkey has immediately made the work of the emergency assistance organizations easier. And that based on the U.S. mobilization, there is more control and a number of procedures have been improved in that area. So things are looking up as far as how it's working. Thousands of tons of relief supplies, donated by the U.S. and other Western nations, are arriving daily and are being distributed to the needy populations. The International Committee of the Red Cross is currently carrying out medical and relief operations in northern Iraq for the displaced population. In addition to the dispensary that they set up near Kani Masi last week, the ICRC is now present in the two cities of Irbil and Dohuk. Water-borne illnesses resulting from contaminated water supplies continue to be the primary cause of illness among the refugee population. In northern Iraq, ICRC sanitation experts are focusing their efforts on re-establishing safe water supplies. U.S. military and coalition forces working with private voluntary organizations and international organizations are working to improve main water supplies in southern Turkey and at temporary relief refugee sites in Iraq. Since April 7, the U.S. and multinational military forces have delivered 9,999.9 -- let's say about 10,000 -- tons of relief supplies to refugee sites in Turkey and northern Iraq near the border. Combined task force personnel have nearly completed the construction of the temporary refugee center near Zakhu which will accommodate about 25,000 people when it's finally completed. I think the latest count last night was over 1,000 tents in the area. We expect final completion of the site in about 2 or 3 days. The second temporary refugee site, 9 miles east of al-Amadiyah, has been identified. I think we told you about that last week. Construction on this site will begin later this week. This facility will also be built to accommodate about 25,000 people. The first transfer of refugees to the camp near Zakhu began this weekend. In addition, a small number of Iraqi refugees have begun to move out of the mountains and down into Iraq. We don't have information about exact numbers at this time. United Nations officials plan to be in Zakhu tomorrow to establish a U.N. presence at the camp and to survey what is needed for the U.N. to take over camp management. We want the transition to be as smooth as possible and intend to work closely with the United Nations in this regard. There were some reports the refugees were being involuntarily returned to Iraq. These are unfounded. The Turkish government continues to move about 3,000 refugees daily from mountainous sites at Isikveren to two camps near Silopi and Semdinli. Camps will house about 20,000 people each and will be used to provide assistance to the most vulnerable; that is, to the sick, the elderly, and to children.
In Iran: Numbers are, again, stabilized at about the same place. A million have entered Iran and about 500,000 people are located at or near the border. The Iranian Red Crescent Society is now providing shelter and assistance to over 500,000 refugees in 56 camps. A breakdown of those camps: There are 20 located in Bakhtaran Province, 25 situated in Kurdistan Province, and 11 camps are located in west Azerbaijan. Since the onset of the refugee influx, the Iranian Red Crescent Society has ferried tons of relief supplies to distribution points along the border, getting to that very vulnerable population there. The International Red Cross has sent over 8,000 tons of relief supplies, including food, family tents, blankets, and kitchen sets to Iran and continues to distribute over 80 tons of food daily to several hundred thousand refugees. The ICRC is also working in the border area to provide assistance to affected villages. As I think you all know, a U.S. Air Force C-141 arrived in Iran on Saturday. It was carrying 31,125 pounds of blankets donated by U.S. humanitarian relief organizations. I'll note in passing here that the number that we have been using from the Defense Department on the pounds of blankets last week turned out not to be the one that was actually aboard the flight. I think we corrected it late Friday. At this time, we don't have any specifics to describe to you how the turnover went in Tehran. We will provide additional information, of course, when it becomes available. Last week, the White House announced that the President had authorized an additional $10 million to be drawn down from the Emergency Refugee ∧ Migration Assistance Fund. We've now allocated substantial portions of that. Five million is being contributed to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; 4 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross for relief activities that those organizations are carrying on in Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.
Southern Iraq
In southern Iraq: U.S. military forces continue to provide assistance and protection to Iraqi displaced persons and local civilians in the demilitarized zone.
Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian government, with assistance from U.S. military forces, is constructing a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia near the northern Saudi town of Rafha. The refugees who voluntarily choose to leave Iraq will be provided with free military air transportation to this new temporary refugee camp. The Saudi government will be responsible for administering the camp. Those who choose to stay in Iraq will be provided water and a final ration of food stuffs when U.S. forces depart. All people are currently completely free to make their own choices in this regard. We estimate now there are about 10,000 refugees in the area of Safwan, and there are some others that I don't have the numbers on. This action will allow the U.S. forces to continue the redeployment schedule that was being executed prior to receiving the mission of providing security to the refugees in the area. After the refugees have been relocated and their safety is ensured, the U.S. forces will be withdrawn from the area and processed for redeployment. To date, the International Organization for Migration has moved 1,633 Iraqi refugees from southern Iraq to Iran. An additional flight carrying about 300 refugees is scheduled for later today. That's about it, in terms of the updates. So I'd be glad to take your questions. George. Q Are more relief flights planned for Iran? And are you continuing your contacts with the Iranians through the Swiss? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have anything new for you on contacts. As far as more flights, we've said all along that that was a possibility based on the needs and based on how this flight goes. We're waiting for some people who were on this flight to come back to Washington so that we can talk to them before making any further decisions. Q Richard, there used to be many more refugees in the area of southern Iraq. You've talked about 10,000 today and about 1,500 or so that had gone to Iran, on the way to Iran. What has happened to the remaining 14,000-15,000? MR. BOUCHER: There is another camp, or set of camps that I wasn't able to get updated information on exactly where those populations are going and where they're located today. What I said today was partial on what some of the populations are and where they're moving. I don't have a complete picture of that this morning. Q There is a witness in all of this activity in northern Iraq. How do you assess the status of Iraq from the point of their territorial integrity and their political unity? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have that kind of assessment for you today. I think you know the United States has always supported the territorial integrity of Iraq. We've always described our operations there as temporary, as humanitarian in nature. Many of the things the United Nations is doing are being done not only under the obligations of Iraq not to interfere in the U.N. Security Council resolution -- under that authority -- but also under agreements that they have reached with Iran. Q According to reliable Kurdish sources, the Turkish government is sending settlers into northern Iraq in an effort to change the demographic character of the area. Do you have any comment on that since that affects directly your humanitarian efforts over there? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen anything like that. If the intention is to talk about these reports that there were people being sent involuntarily into northern Iraq, I think I just said that those are unfounded. Q Voluntarily, you said, or -- MR. BOUCHER: Involuntarily. There were some reports that people were being sent involuntarily into Iraq. Q Do you know how many Turks are living today in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Can you check for me? MR. BOUCHER: I assume that information is publicly available. If we have it, we'll share it with you. Q Richard, I understand the U.S. position is that you set up the refugee camps in northern Iraq and when the United Nations teams and the international relief organizations can take over the American military efforts, the American troops will be out of the country. Have we received your information or policy in this room, Richard? How long will the international relief efforts continue with regard to giving safe haven to the Kurds in northern Iraq, even after the takeover by the U.N. organizations has taken place? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on timeframes for that. The purpose of this effort by us and by the United Nations is to take care of people who are outside their homes. I think we've all said that it's eventually hoped that conditions can be created so that these people will return to their homes. Part of the U.N. agreements with Iraq was to facilitate that happening: To provide certain U.N. monitoring, way stations, various kinds of assistance that the U.N. would provide in order to help these people as they head back home. But I don't really have a timeframe or a definitive conclusion for you to that whole effort. Q And the United Nations doesn't have a timeframe either? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I've heard them say. You might check with them if you want to ask. Chris. Q Do you have anything on these reports that Kurdish fighters are in some cases blocking the flow of refugees in northern Iraq, and to the camps, in particular, I guess? MR. BOUCHER: That's something that would obviously be of concern to us. It's something that we are looking into. We would certainly not want anybody to oppose the decisions of refugees to go into the camps. So my understanding via the Defense Department from the people on the ground is that Kurdish leaders and members of the Pesh Merga have gone to review the security measures at the camps; that they are satisfied that it's safe to begin the movement of families down to the area around Zakhu and that movement, in greater numbers, will begin soon. Our people in the field are having other meetings with the leaders -- I guess they're called the Elders -- today to discuss the coordination of that move. Q Richard, it's not clear from the answer on the question posted since April 26 about the Iranian delegation that came to this country to attend the IMF meetings. Did they ask to see officials of the State Department and were rejected, or did they not ask? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any requests. These are routine meetings that happen with the international lending institutions that are located in Washington. We have an obligation under the agreements with those institutions to let people come here and talk to them. But this happens annually or semi-annually. I'm not aware of any requests to see us. Q Do you have any comment on the talks between the Iranians and the Syrians in Damascus? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Has the Secretary responded in any way to the developments in Israel over the weekend, the Levy proposal being basically scuttled? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Can you respond? Do you have anything on it? MR. BOUCHER: The next step on the peace process issues is I think what Margaret put out in her statement as the team was heading back to Washington, and, when the Secretary gets back to Washington, he'll talk to the President about what are the appropriate next steps. So I don't have anything that would move it beyond that. Q But there have been developments since that statement was released on the plane. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm a little hampered here, because, just as many of your colleagues who were on the trip haven't shown up today, so too, many of the officials who work these issues for us have not. At this point, the decisions on the next steps will be made by the Secretary and the President when they get a chance to meet after the Secretary returns from Houston, and I just don't have anything that would advance it beyond what Margaret said. Q Richard, do you have anything on reports that Iraq is attempting to rebuild its military? MR. BOUCHER: There are reports that say that there is some sort of network being established in Jordan. Frankly, we don't have any evidence of that. Generally, the possibility that Iraq might try to rebuild its arsenal is a source of concern to us. We think we've been vigilant in pursuing any leads or information that Iraq may be trying to break the arms embargo. So far we've seen no evidence that they've succeeded in doing so. The United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution has specifically called for the arms embargo on Iraq to remain in effect, and we continue to work with other governments to ensure that the embargo remains effective. Q China and North Korea are mentioned as two countries which have been possibly supplying spare parts or ammunition or other things of that nature to Iraq lately. Any reports of these two countries? Have we talked to these two countries? MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, as for the idea that there was some sort of Iraqi network operating out of Jordan to obtain supplies from these countries or other places, we really don't have any evidence of that. We have discussed arms shipments to the Middle East with the Chinese, and we've also conveyed our views in the past to the North Koreans. Q Do you have anything on reports in Israel that the United States is arranging political asylum for Mengistu? MR. BOUCHER: No.

[Ethiopia: Update on Insurgency; Americans Depart]

Q And do you have any comments or any updates on the situation in Ethiopia? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember when we used the rundown on the fighting, but let me give it to you. I think you may find this somewhat similar to what we had last week -- maybe updated a little bit. To review, the Tigrayan insurgents began a new offensive about February 23. It has forced the Ethiopian government troops out of two more provinces, Gonder and Gojam, and out of most of a third, the province of Welega. Nearly all of the northern third of Ethiopia is under the control of the Tigrayan and Eritrean insurgent groups. Fighting is concentrated in Walega and along the Red Sea north of Asseb. We have seen press reports that Tigrayan rebels withdrew from Ambo, a town about 65 miles west of Addis Ababa which they reportedly captured last week, but we can't confirm that that has taken place. We're not really in a position to predict what course the war will take. As you know, last week we ordered departure for additional U.S. personnel. Embassy employees and private citizens were scheduled to depart Addis on Sunday by commercial aircraft. We understand that another group of private citizens is expected to depart today. Q So there's no deal between the U.S. and Mengistu to allow Jewish emigration from Ethiopia? MR. BOUCHER: Senator Rudy Boschwitz was in Ethiopia over the weekend. I think you'll remember the White House announced the trip last week. He was there to discuss primarily the issue of immigration by Ethiopian Jews -- the Falashas -- to Israel. He did discuss this issue as well as the general situation with President Mengistu and other officials there. At this point I don't have a further readout for you. We'll look to his return to get a more detailed readout. Q There's no quid pro quo that says, you know, "We'll look after you if you look after them." MR. BOUCHER: I know nothing about these reports that there might have been some offer. I've seen nothing to indicate that, but as far as getting a full readout of Senator Boschwitz's discussion, I don't have that yet until they return. Q Richard, I have about three questions on Iraq. Number one, Iraq has sent another letter to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Do you have any reaction yet on the latest letter? MR. BOUCHER: No. I just saw that this morning, the reports that there had been another letter. I don't have anything here for you now. Q And also Turkey's President today was calling for a long-term allied present in Iraq. Today he is saying that. MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports. Q Well, the U.S. reaction to a long-term -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not about to comment on reports that I haven't seen. I think you've seen the way we've described our presence. You've seen the way that we've described our efforts as efforts to get the relief to the people who need it, when they need and where they need it. Q And, number three, could you elaborate a little bit on what the U.N. is going to be doing tomorrow to establish its presence there, if you can avoid saying the word "tomorrow"? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Can you explain what it is that they would be doing and what -- MR. BOUCHER: I think I explained our understanding of what they're doing. If you want to know more about what they're doing, you'll have to get it from them. Q Do you have anything on Administration thinking on lifting the sanctions against Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: Our general thinking, I think, has been explained several times by the President and the Secretary. If you're talking about specifically there was a request that Iraq made to the Sanctions Committee to be allowed to export some oil so that they could buy some things that they thought were needed. Our understanding is that the Sanctions Committee will meet again on Tuesday morning. That when the Sanctions Committee initially considered the request on April 19, members of the Committee raised a number of questions and concerns. The matter was deferred until all those questions and concerns could be satisfactorily addressed. Presumably, there will be a further discussion tomorrow of these issues. Q Is there any relation between the U.S. position towards lifting the sanctions and the remaining of Saddam Hussein in office? MR. BOUCHER: Our concerns about the lifting of the sanctions, I think the Secretary said that the policies and practices of the regime in Baghdad -- Saddam Hussein -- were certainly a matter of concern. They are indicated in the U.N. resolution that policies and practices, as well as the implementations of the resolution, are a matter of concern. I don't remember the exact quote from the Secretary, but I think I can get that for you. Q Do you have anything on reports from Bangkok that the United States has decided to release $7 million in aid to the non-Communist components of the resistance? MR. BOUCHER: I believe this was discussed in recent congressional testimony. We have been restructuring our Fiscal Year 1991 program for assistance to the Cambodian non-Communist Resistance to focus primarily on the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in areas that the non-Communist Resistance controls. We're now talking to key congressional members and to the staff on the Hill about the details of the assistance, and it is our intention to begin the program. The continuing medical needs, as well as the increased need for food aid due to the current drought, make it clear that this kind of assistance is badly needed. Moreover, with the temporary ceasefire set to begin on May 1 and a meeting of the Cambodian Supreme National Council to follow shortly thereafter, we believe that a program focused on humanitarian assistance and support for a transition to the political process is even more appropriate now. Q What about this $7 million figure that was cited? MR. BOUCHER: The amount of assistance is $7 million. It's a program for non-Communist areas that would be exclusively for non-military purposes. In implementing the program, we're asking that civilian supervision be used to the greatest extent possible and be expanded as the program continues. We intend to support the non-Communist medical program, food needs, community development and activities related to democratic pluralism. We will also cover expenses associated with efforts to achieve a comprehensive political settlement and aid program administration in operation. Q Well, was there expansion, and was there a listing of the suspension? MR. BOUCHER: The program for 1991 had not been disbursed, and we did a restructuring of the program, and it's now our intention to begin the new program as it's been restructured. Q Why was it suspended? MR. BOUCHER: There were monies from previous years that were disbursed into the early part of this year, and the annual 1991 money hadn't been disbursed yet. Q Therefore, there was no formal suspension of aid. MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to get the specifics on what the time lag is, and that sort of thing. I don't know that. Q In other words, was the bottom line, was any of this money held up because of the U.S. regarding the Cambodian government, and was that a part of the hold-up in the funds? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you something further on the factors that led to the restructuring. Q I believe that issue has to do with U.S. determination that the non-Communists were cooperating, however indirectly, with the Khmer Rouge. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't have the full explanation for you. I think Dick Solomon has done this in testimony, and rather than winging it off the top of my head, I'd just rather get the full brief on it. Q So you're taking that question, right? Q (Inaudible) -- 1992 aid. I mean, my understanding was the $25 million was supposed to be -- MR. BOUCHER: Our requests for 1992 aid have already been sent to the Hill. I don't remember exactly what's in there for Cambodia, but that should be a matter of public record already. Q Richard, there is a foreign gentleman visiting the United States today by the name of Mr. Konstantine Glyxburg who insists calling himself "King of Greece." He is going to give a speech tomorrow in Atlanta on the political future of Greece. My question is, with what type of visa is Mr. Glyxburg presently in the United States, where was his visa issued, under what name was the visa issued, what nation's passport was the visa issued on, and do you provide him any privileges or special protection? MR. BOUCHER: My answer is I have no idea. I'll have to check. Q It's very important. Can you check for me? MR. BOUCHER: O.K. I will check. Q Going back to Southeast Asia, do you have anything in reaction to reports that France and other countries are pressing the United States to stop blocking multilateral assistance to Vietnam? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports. Q The reports appeared from Hanoi last week -- Thursday or Friday. MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry. I just don't have anything on it.

[El Salvador]

Q How about the El Salvador talks? Have you got anything? MR. BOUCHER: Salvador talks. It seems there's been some major steps forward. We see the agreement signed Saturday in Mexico City as a major step forward. Both sides showed flexibility and the will to reach agreement on a set of constitutional amendments on difficult issues such as the role of the armed forces, judicial and electoral reform. We urge both sides to return to the table as soon as possible to agree on a ceasefire. The FMLN made a commitment last month to the EC foreign ministers to reach a ceasefire agreement by May 30. There is no reason for one more Salvadoran to die in a conflict that is within reach of final settlement. Q Richard, do you have anything on the Philippine talks? I mean, the base talks with the Philippines? MR. BOUCHER: They'll be starting again this week, but I don't have anything on it. No. Q Richard, do you have information if the hostage problem is on the agenda of the Syrian and Iranian Presidents? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you'll have to ask them. Q What I understand is that you must follow the events, because it relates to hostages, among them the Americans. MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, we're very, very concerned about our hostages in Lebanon. We've urged all people with influence to use it to see to their immediate and safe release, but I will take the lines the Secretary took when he discussed this during the trip, and that's, "I'm not going to discuss it." Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:02 p.m.)