May, 1991

US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #72: Wednesday, 5/1/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:07 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 1, 19915/1/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Angola, Bangladesh, South Africa, South Korea, Israel Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Arms Control, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Human Rights, Military Affairs, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: What I thought I'd do today, instead of reading, which I think is excellently prepared every day by the Bureau of Refugees here, the entire [refugee] update. I will give you what I consider the changes or highlights from this and we'll post it at the end of the briefing. Also, as many of you are familiar, we have been putting out updates from the Agency for International Development. We have a new one of those today that we'll post for you at the end of the briefing.

[Iraq: Refugee Situation Highlights]

Concerning the highlights that I think are important that I took out of the extensive briefing they did today: On Turkey, joint task forces have now delivered 11,013.3 tons of relief supplies to refugees in Turkey and near the border. Coalition forces report that there is now a 3- to 10- day food surplus stockpiled at camps along the border. Twelve hundred tents have been erected at Zakhu and an additional 2,500 have been delivered to the site. More than 3,200 refugees have moved into the Zakhu camp. I saw several news reports myself this morning on large numbers of people coming off of the mountains. As of this briefing, we are unable to give you a number. We, too, have seen this but we just are not in a position to give you any kind of specific numbers. Yesterday I had reported that it was believed that the Kurds were opening all of their control points. They have. The U.N. Humanitarian Center, as we said yesterday, was due to open in Zakhu. It has. Death rates: Though we still do not have accurate information concerning death rates for the camps in or near Turkey, medical personnel working at one of the sites report that the infant mortality rate has declined from 30 per day earlier in the refugee emergency to 3 per day now. On the situation in Iran, the only thing I think you're interested in is where we are on a possible second flight. I'm no different today than I was yesterday. This is something that we're in the process of offering -- a second relief mission. I don't have any further details. There's nothing really that has dramatically changed overnight, in my mind, on the situation in southern Iraq concerning the refugees. That's it.

[Middle East Peace Process]

Q Do you want to give us a little preview of the Secretary's meeting with the President? Give us some idea of, at least, the issues? Is there going to be consideration of a return trip, for instance? What's the state of play right now? MS. TUTWILER: As you know, the Secretary of State has, throughout this Administration, met at least once -- many times twice -- a week in his regularly scheduled meetings with the President. He has one of those scheduled for today. We never discuss what his agenda is or what will be discussed in those meetings, the vast majority of which are one-on-one meetings between the President and the Secretary of State. Yes, Barry, I would envision that he will take this opportunity today during his meeting with the President to give him a fuller debrief of his recent trip to the Middle East. As we said at the conclusion of his trip, he and the President will be discussing appropriate next steps. Q Is the Secretary giving a speech at the weekend? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, he is, to Rice University. Q The subject? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, George, this is a university that his family has been associated with back to, I believe, his great grandfather, and it's more personal in nature than I would just call a foreign policy address. Q Is it Saturday or Sunday, do you know? MS. TUTWILER: It's Saturday, and it's in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Q But would you envision that he would take the opportunity to speak, for example, about the Middle East? MS. TUTWILER: No, I would not. I would steer you away from that.

[Israel: Objections to Kemp Meeting with Sharon]

Q Margaret, on the White House, did the Secretary object to the idea of Israeli Housing Minister Sharon meeting an official on U.S. Government property? MS. TUTWILER: What the Secretary did do is, the Secretary learned of the visit, or upcoming visit, by the Housing Minister of Israel while he, the Secretary, was out on the road, as you know, working at that time on getting a Middle East peace process started. He sent a heads-up message back to the White House suggesting that for a Cabinet officer of this Administration to receive Minister Sharon, who was publicly opposing the President's policies regarding Middle East peace, would not be the appropriate thing to do at this time. That was the end of his involvement and the visit of the Israeli Housing Minister. Q You didn't object to the idea of Secretary Kemp meeting Sharon someplace else? MS. TUTWILER: His involvement was simply that he found out about this out on the road. I've given you the gist of his heads-up message back to the White House and his reasons for that, and that was the end of his involvement. Q What was his reason? His reason was an on-going thing? MS. TUTWILER: His objections -- or what he pointed out in his note back -- was that it was a little awkward, you would say, to have a member of President Bush's Cabinet -- at the very time that the President has his Secretary of State out in the region trying to get a very important process going -- for a Cabinet officer of President Bush's Administration to be meeting with someone who is publicly opposed to what the President is doing and the President's policies. Q Half of that reasoning seems to have gone by the boards because he's not out there now. He's home, and we're sort -- MS. TUTWILER: Well, that was the end of his involvement. So you've got to refer your questions to -- Q Do you object now if Jack Kemp sees Ariel Sharon? MS. TUTWILER: That's never been addressed. Q He's a Cabinet officer. MS. TUTWILER: He sure is. This is something that he sent from the road -- a message back to the White House -- a message stating what his views were concerning this, which I have characterized for you. That was the end of his involvement. Q It's not really the end of the issue because -- MS. TUTWILER: Then, the rest of it you would have to -- to be honest with you, we haven't been involved. You would have to talk to Mr. Kemp or to the White House. We just don't know. Q Some of us have done some work on this. All I'm interested in is sort of the intellectual notion of it that you don't benefit from talking. He brings Shimon Peres in, even in Geneva, who represents a much smaller percentage of Israeli views than Ariel Sharon does. Isn't there something to be gained by hearing what Ariel Sharon has to say, even if you don't agree with him? MS. TUTWILER: It's perfectly legit. It's certainly within your purview to disagree with the Secretary's thinking processes concerning this. Q I'm asking -- I'm sorry. MS. TUTWILER: I've stated what his thoughts were, what his reasons were. Q All right, let me try a quick -- MS. TUTWILER: He did not think, Barry, that it was appropriate at this particular time for a member of President Bush's Administration, a Cabinet officer, to be meeting with someone who, I think you would agree with me, has been extremely public and straightforward in opposing President Bush's policies. It's as simple as that. Q He meets with an Israeli leader, Shimon Peres, who is opposed to his government's policies, and the Secretary evidently thinks there's some benefit in hearing another view -- a view, if you speak of spectrums from the left of Shamir. We can beat this to death, but I don't understand why there isn't something to be learned from Ariel Sharon, too, that you might want to factor into your thinking? MS. TUTWILER: No one said you couldn't learn something from him, but he's been very public in opposing President Bush's policies. I am not personally aware that the other gentleman that you have brought up -- I don't do comparisons, as you know -- has been out publicly opposing President Bush's policies. Q Just his own government's policies. Q Is it not appropriate because it sends the wrong signal? Is that the point -- MS. TUTWILER: We just did not feel at this time that it was the appropriate thing to do. It was just as simple as that. As I said, after sending a heads-up message to the White House, he was out of it. Q You can't elaborate on why it's inappropriate? What aspects of -- MS. TUTWILER: I've said why we thought it was inappropriate. I don't know how more clearly to say why he thought it inappropriate. I don't know how else to elaborate on it for you. I've stated it. I've laid it all out there why he thought it was inappropriate at this time. Q Margaret, just to clarify. In your opening statement, just the first -- MS. TUTWILER: On refugees? Q No, no, on your first answer. On this particular issue, you said it was not appropriate for him to receive -- MS. TUTWILER: Receive -- right -- in his office. Q In subsequent answers you've said "to meet." MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. I meant to stick with "receive in his office." Q So it's OK for them to meet but not in his office? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Of course. Q Is this a U.S. policy that you're enunciating that Cabinet Ministers should not meet with anyone from foreign countries, democratic countries, that disagrees with the President's policies? MS. TUTWILER: This is a particular incident that I have relayed to you exactly what happened concerning the Secretary of State's involvement. Q You frequently praise Israeli democracy and the lively public debate that there is there. Are you saying that you're cutting yourself off from anyone in that country, in that democratic country, that happens not to agree with the President of the United States? MS. TUTWILER: I don't believe I said that, Alan. I stand by the statement that I enunciated ten minutes ago. I don't believe that I interpreted it the way you have -- carried it from where I was to an extreme that I don't believe I have expressed here from the podium. Q Are you saying that it's not appropriate to meet -- to receive -- sorry, using your words -- a person in a democracy who is exercising his free right to express his view just because he happens to disagree with the President of a foreign country? MS. TUTWILER: I got asked a question of about Secretary of State Baker's -- as reported in the paper this morning -- involvement concerning the Housing Minister's meeting with a Cabinet official in the Bush Administration. I've responded. Q Can you tell me, in Baker's trips overseas, has he ever talked to Ariel Sharon? MS. TUTWILER: Not to my knowledge. Q Has he sought out Ariel Sharon to learn his views over there at all? MS. TUTWILER: Not to my knowledge, nor has the Housing Minister requested a meeting with the Secretary of State. I don't know if he has requested to meet with other officials, at our Ambassador level, etc. I just don't know. Q Would Baker object to meeting Ariel Sharon and hearing his point of view? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, that's something I'd have to ask him. I've never heard him voice an opinion one way or the other. Q I'm sorry, because I'm still confused. I really am. Now, Baker sent word back that it wouldn't be right for Baker to meet with Sharon; is that what you're saying? MS. TUTWILER: For Baker? Q I'm sorry, for Kemp to meet with Sharon in Kemp's office? They're billing it as an informal meeting is my point. MS. TUTWILER: The Secretary of State -- I can't even remember how this came to his attention. It was when we were out on the road. Q It's been circulating in Israel for a couple of days. MS. TUTWILER: Well, it came to his attention out on the road. He literally sent a heads-up to the White House expressing what his thoughts were concerning, at this particular time, receiving such an individual by a Bush Cabinet officer. That was the extent of his involvement. You were on the road with us, prior to his mother's passing away. You know how busy he was. You know the hours he was putting in. He never got back in this at all. If it's correct what I've read in the newspaper this morning, which I believe is correct, is how the Administration decided to handle it. Q I can understand why the Secretary might think it's inappropriate, but I don't understand why the Secretary would think it inappropriate since he's dealing on this whole settlements issue, and since he has these great powers of persuasion, why he hasn't talked to Sharon himself -- MS. TUTWILER: It's never come up. Q -- on these issues; sought him out to see if he can't convince him to stop building up -- MS. TUTWILER: I guess there are a lot of individuals that he could meet with. Q -- (inaudible) stop him from doing. MS. TUTWILER: I think there are probably any number of fascinating and interesting people that he could meet with when he's on any number of these trips. But as you know, his schedules are as jammed-packed as any I've seen right now. To be honest, it's something that I've never heard raised internally. I have never seen a cable coming in from our embassy saying that such a request has been sought or even suggesting that the Secretary do that. But it doesn't mean that he doesn't rule it out forever. Who knows. Q New subject. MS. TUTWILER: Suits me.

[Iraq: Nuclear Capability]

Q Does the Administration believe that Iraq has the capability to develop a nuclear weapon? MS. TUTWILER: This gets back into yesterday, Tony. We said that the Iraqi government had submitted a second response to the IAEA. We said that it was a more substantial response than the first one, which we characterized as falling short. On this one, today, the only additional characterization I can give you of the second response is that preliminary understanding, or understandings, are that this is much more extensive and substantial and more in line with reality than the initial first response from the Iraqi government. Other than that, I'd have to refer you to the IAEA agency for any further detailed explanation of what's contained in this second response. Q Does it say that Iraq does not intend to turn over the nuclear material? MS. TUTWILER: I cannot get into any further levels of detail, and I would have to refer you -- and in fact I have their phone numbers, that I will be glad to give to you, in Vienna -- at this point in time have to refer you to that agency who after all received the report. This is just our preliminary understandings of the report. Q Is it the State Department's position that under the United Nations Security Resolution -- was it 687? MS. TUTWILER: I think you're right, Jim. Q -- that Iraq would be required to turn over nuclear materials -- weapons grade nuclear material? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, I'm not that familiar with that level of detail. I'll be happy to ask. I know that there are people here that are -- I just don't want to venture a guess for you, and off the top of my head I do not remember specifically this part. As I remember, this resolution is 25 pages long, and I just don't have every bit of it at my fingertips. Q Just a follow-up to that question, do you have any indication what the Administration's feeling is as to whether Iraq is capable of building a nuclear weapon? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have a characterization for you at this briefing. I would also want to point out that IAEA -- their board is meeting on May 6. And I've been told that the Board of Governors will receive this information, and they too will be studying it and reviewing it. Q Margaret, the same thing: You may have discussed this yesterday, but CBS Radio reported this morning that what the Iraqis are saying now is they had two dozen nuclear facilities; that we were sort of surprised at this, and that most have been destroyed. Is that -- were we surprised, and do we agree -- do we think that most have been destroyed? MS. TUTWILER: It's a level of detail that I simply am not at liberty to get into at this briefing. Q Margaret, there are Iranian press reports that they're somewhat upset with the -- or some of them are upset with the shipment of blankets; that there are even accusations in one radical paper that the blankets are AIDS infected, and they want to send them back. MS. TUTWILER: Unfortunate, isn't it? Q Yes. Have they indicated officially to you any of these concerns that they might want to send these shipments back? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of. I saw a wire story this morning -- it may be the same one you saw -- most of what I read was "unnamed officials" who were characterizing these humanitarian shipments as propaganda. As I recall, reading one word, etc. But I'm not aware of anything that is official that has come through our third party, the Swiss, at all. Q Can you respond to the specific allegation? MS. TUTWILER: No. Because I think that they are obviously insensitive, and they have -- I believe as of this morning, the international community is saying 1.1 million Kurdish refugees are in Iran. And I think that most Iranians, I would imagine, are very appreciative of the international effort, including the United States, to help them, their country, deal with a situation that requires extraordinary help. Q Margaret, do you have any information on Iraqi military around the town of Dohuk and near Zakhu? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q We encountered several Iraqi generals today in the area of Dohuk and have information that there's a battalion size company of Iraqi soldiers near Dohuk with artillery, and this is an area where we are planning on setting up another camp. Have we again met with the Iraqis to tell them to pull back their military? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't, number one, heard of any of the information that you're telling me this morning. I'll be happy to check on that, and I'll also be happy to check at the Pentagon and see, one, if what you're saying is indeed the truth -- and I'm not questioning it -- what are we doing about it, and have we asked to have another military meeting. I just don't know. I haven't heard anything about it. Q Are Iraqi ground forces allowed above the 36th parallel, or is that just a -- was that agreement reached with them just that nothing would fly? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, Betsy -- and I apologize; I was out on the road for two weeks -- I believe that you're correct, but can I please just double check myself with the Pentagon. I want to be accurate here on ground forces above the 36th parallel. Q Aircraft operations. MS. TUTWILER: It was aircraft? But then I know that we had -- right at the end of our trip I remember reading, concerning something about moving military personnel or something. So I need to refresh my memory. Q Margaret, is Mr. Hicks back? MS. TUTWILER: Who is he? Q The State Department person who accompanied Rudy Boschwitz to Ethiopia for the talks with Mengistu. He was expected back today. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. Q Do you have anything further on what, if anything, came out of the Boschwitz trip -- MS. TUTWILER: No. And I don't know Mr. Hicks. Senator Boschwitz is back in Minnesota, and it's my understanding he is planning to come to Washington some time next week and brief the President. You'd have to check with the White House for the actual scheduling of it.

[South Africa: Release of Political Prisoners]

Q Margaret, on South Africa, do you have any comment on the dispute between the ANC and the government over political prisoners? MS. TUTWILER: Concerning the April 30 deadline? Q Yes, ma'am. MS. TUTWILER: It has been our understanding that the April 30 date agreed to between the South African government and the ANC last August was more a target than a deadline. In any case, the South African government has released some 600 prisoners in the last few weeks. This brings the total released since the process began last year to over 900. The South African government has indicated that while it made a good-faith effort to complete this process by April 30 and has expedited its program, it needs more time to work through the full list of persons made available recently by human rights groups and the ANC. Q Could I just ask regarding the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act and the U.S. stipulation that political prisoners be freed, how does the United States define South African political prisoners? MS. TUTWILER: I am not sure that we have an actual definition for you. This is something, as you know, that is part of the legislation contained in the CAAA, and this is something that the President has spoken to on any number of times. Our policy has not changed. We have not yet determined that the South African government has met the requirement of the United States law that it release "all persons persecuted for their political beliefs or detained unduly without trial." Q Do you have anything on Eagleburger's meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister yesterday? MS. TUTWILER: No.

[Bangladesh: Update on Cyclone's Effects/US Aid Efforts]

Q Margaret, anything further on aid to Bangladesh? You began discussing that yesterday. The scale of the catastrophe looks to be considerably bigger at this point. MS. TUTWILER: I have a little bit. The official death toll as of last night was put at about a thousand, but that number is expected to rise. The area affected by the cyclone covers ten districts of Bangladesh. Entire islands were reported to have been flooded by a 20-foot storm surge. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, after visiting the affected area, has appealed for international assistance. The level of damage and amount of international assistance required has not yet been established. Several non-government organizations, under U.S. A.I.D. technical guidance, are carrying out an assessment of the area hit by the cyclone. We should have more complete information within 48 hours. As I mentioned yesterday, our Ambassador was going out to do his own assessment of this. I do not yet have a readout on our Ambassador's trip to the area. Q Margaret, on the Middle East -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q -- some Arab officials pointing to the extraordinary amount of effort and work that the Secretary has put into traveling and trying to reach a solution out there in the last two months have said that it's really time to move this process over to the United Nations and perhaps let the U.N., which already has [Resolutions] 242 and 338 on the books, take a crack at it. What is the United States' position on referring the Arab-Israeli dispute back to the United Nations for consideration? MS. TUTWILER: I believe you were on our first trip. That was frustrating because the Secretary of State did not divulge what he was or was not discussing, and I don't think you were on our second trip. You would have found it just equally as frustrating. And I will not be able today to answer any questions along those lines. How he left the trip, Chris, when it wrapped up, was that the Secretary and the President would be discussing upon the Secretary's return to Washington appropriate next steps. And no one has defined or laid out or clarified what, if any, those next steps might be. So I can't do that for you today. Q That's among the realm of the possible for consideration? MS. TUTWILER: I can't do that. I'm not going to do anything that the Secretary of State himself has refrained from doing for the last seven weeks. Q Margaret, I think in your own statement last Friday you used the word "process" and did not mention a "peace conference." Can you give any hint as to whether the thinking is steering away at this point from a peace conference? MS. TUTWILER: A very similar question to what Chris just asked me, and I know that you will understand, because you were, I believe, on the first trip -- Q Two of them. MS. TUTWILER: Yes. You were the same as Chris -- one and one. They both were equally as frustrating for the press that were traveling with us for their lack of detail, and I cannot today -- and I just said -- I think you came in earlier -- to Saul's question, the Secretary today will be meeting with the President. I have to assume in that meeting this is one of the subjects that will be on his agenda, discussing his trip and appropriate next steps. Q Margaret, was the trip, in your estimation, more frustrating for the press or for the Secretary? MS. TUTWILER: That's a good question, Alan, that I'll duck. Q If you didn't already speak to this before I came in, do you have any response to reports that Gorbachev in his meeting with Yeltsin, in his agreement with Yeltsin, has committed himself or semi-committed himself to direct presidential elections for next year? MS. TUTWILER: No. I don't today.

[South Korea: US Concern about Violent Demonstrations]

Q Back to Korea for just a moment, do you have any concerns about the state of the student demonstrations and the continuing violence? MS. TUTWILER: We have concerns about it -- absolutely. It is something that we continue to raise there in Korea concerning this. We urge all who are participating in this kind of violence to cease and desist with it, and it's something that we constantly watch and something that, yes, is a definite concern to us. Q Margaret, among the conflicting reports that came out of your last trip -- MS. TUTWILER: That couldn't be possible. Q -- was the conflicting report on CFE and whether it was done or not done. Can you bring me up to date on -- that the Russians seem to be suggesting that -- MS. TUTWILER: It was not done. I mean, I don't think that was considered. Q -- that it was done? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that's what they suggested. Q There were stories that it was just about done. There were stories that -- well -- (Several press members shake heads in negative) MS. TUTWILER: Here are two of your colleagues who were right there with us. I don't think, Saul -- I mean, I haven't seen reports that the Soviets would characterize their views of this as that it's all put to bed. I believe that the Foreign Minister said that there was one area where they had reached agreement on. The Secretary later, when speaking to our press corps, had said that there were still issues to be worked out in this basket -- CFE -- subject. And that still is my understanding. Nothing's changed over the weekend where we are.

[Angola: Report Ceasefire Agreement is Near]

Q Margaret, is something going to be signed on Angola today in Portugal? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding on that, Alan -- in fact, we just called -- our Bureau here -- Lisbon, before we came to the briefing. There are reports that they're very, very close. This is something that you know we are very interested in and have been working very hard on. We hope this will happen. We obviously would welcome it if it does, and, if it does, in the next, say, between now and five o'clock, the Assistant Secretary for the African Bureau will be available to do a background briefing for you all here in the Press Room. Q Do you have anything on the Koskotas case since -- MS. TUTWILER: On the what? Q Koskotas -- the banker. -- since the Boston federal court yesterday expressed the final legal opinion to extradite him to Greece? MS. TUTWILER: I'm just not familiar with this case at all. I'm sorry. Q I'd like to do one more on the Ariel Sharon visit. MS. TUTWILER: Go for it. Q I assume that the Secretary still thinks it inappropriate -- he thought it inappropriate then, and he still thinks it inappropriate for a Cabinet officer to meet with -- to receive Mr. Sharon. Is that right? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware that his ideas on this subject changed this morning. Q So if Ariel Sharon, the Housing Minister who is in charge of settlement activity, wants to see the Secretary, if he somehow decided to ask to see the Secretary, is the Secretary available to see him? MS. TUTWILER: Well, that is speculative and a hypothetical for me, and I don't want to pre-empt what the Secretary of State may do. But on my own hook, I can't say that he would think, if he does it for another Cabinet officer, how could he possibly think this appropriate a time to receive him, would it be appropriate for himself. That would be kind of a double standard in my mind. Q Are you saying, though, that the issues separating Ariel Sharon and Secretary Baker are greater than issues separating Mr. Assad and Mr. Baker? (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: Look, I think we have just about beat this thing into the ground. I have explained it -- what? -- 15 times now. I have told you what his involvement was. I have been very forthcoming on what he did with this, and that's really all I really have to say about the subject. Q Thanks. (The briefing concluded at 12:36 p.m.)