US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #75: Monday, 5/6/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:11 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 6, 19915/6/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Bangladesh Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, State Department, Travel, Democratization, United Nations, International Organizations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I would start off by giving you a few bits of update on the refugee crisis in Iraq and tell you everything I know about the Secretary's travel, so that you won't ask me any further questions after that.

[Iraq: Refugee Update]

On the refugee crisis: The relief officials now report that there's a total refugee population inside Turkey or along the border of about 321,000. You will note that this number is considerably down from the numbers reported in this area earlier. There are another 200,000-300,000 displaced people receiving relief in Iraq north of the 36th parallel. What this results from is the flow of people back to their homes and back to the towns and cities that they came from. The delivery of relief supplies by fixed-wing aircraft has been suspended now indefinitely. Relief supplies are now being delivered by helicopters and land transport. This was a trend that started last week when we started to deliver things on demand to camp populations, and I think if you see in the situation report -- and we have a new one for you today -- that there are stocks at the various camps of three- to ten-day supplies. So things are being supplemented by truck and helicopter as necessary. The security zone now extends about 25 miles eastward from Zakhu to Sirsenk near al-Amadiyah. The security zone includes all territory within 30 kilometers of this line, and to the south the zone extends to a ridge line north of the City of Dohuk. We understand from coalition military forces that Iraqi forces in the Dohuk area are withdrawing. Near al-Amadiyah, coalition forces are building a forward logistics base to facilitate future operations, but at this point no determination has been made concerning the need for a second temporary refugee village. In Zakhu itself, there are now 4,384 refugees located at the temporary relief site. There has been a constant stream of refugees coming down from the mountains, by automobile or other means, and heading for their homes in Zakhu. We believe that many of the refugees are using Zakhu as a way station as they continue homeward. That's about it for the update. Oh, let me do southern Iraq. It's also noteworthy that we've completed the transfer of displaced persons from the Safwan area to the temporary refugee camp in Saudi Arabia. U.S. forces moved over 8,000 displaced persons to the Saudi-administered camp, and the population of that camp is now about 12,300 people. And with that, let me stop the update. Q What about Iran? MR. BOUCHER: The Iranian side of things: There's just nothing particularly new to report. You will see that covered in more detail in the situation report which we'll get you. Q But there's just that one relief flight to Iran? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q You indicated there would be more. MR. BOUCHER: Let me tell you where that flight -- arrangements for a second flight, this time of medical supplies, have not yet been finalized. We will provide you information on the flight once it's complete. Q Is that lack of finalization perhaps the result of Iranian dissatisfaction with the first shipment? MR. BOUCHER: We are still working out the details of this particular flight. I think you've seen various reports about blankets. There were some press reports quoting Iranian officials to the effect that the blankets donated by the U.S. humanitarian organizations and shipped to Iran were somehow old, worn or unusable. These claims are just not true. The blankets shipped to Iran, as far as the U.S. humanitarian effort goes, were new. Q Is there a pressing need for medical equipment and supplies, and so on, in the Iranian sector of the refugee situation? MR. BOUCHER: The Iranians, I think, have indicated to international organizations, as well as to us, that there were a large number of things that they needed. They're getting a lot of them from various countries, and one of the things that they needed was medical supplies. I can't tell you exactly how much more pressing that is, but I think donors are trying to come forth with whatever they have available, and whatever they can make available within Iran's needs. Q Richard, do you have any evidence that the refugees who are in Iran are starting to go back to their homes? MR. BOUCHER: I don't. Q So as far as you know, the only ones who are streaming down the mountains are the ones from Turkey. MR. BOUCHER: It's been from the border down into the zone and onward to people's homes -- on the Turkish side of the border, yes. Q And from Iran? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't have any information like that from Iran. I can't tell you yes or no. Q Richard, I don't think you quite answered Jim's question on whether there was any connection at all between the complaints out of Iran and the delay in the second flight. MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you really have to ask the Iranians. For our part, we're trying to work out the details of this particular flight, to make the detailed arrangements that are necessary for the flight, and we haven't agreed on that yet. Q I have a question on your statement about Iraqi forces withdrawing from the Dohuk area. Have they withdrawn from Dohuk as well? From the city? MR. BOUCHER: I'm told that Iraqi military units in Dohuk are moving out of the area. Q Do allied forces -- MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is yes.

[Iraq: Security for Kurds]

Q Do allied forces intend to use Dohuk as part of the safe zone that they're establishing? MR. BOUCHER: That's something that I don't think decisions have been made on that I can give you any answer on at this point. Questions about whether we will extend the zone further south in order to provide the relief services that are necessary, I can't really answer at this point. Q So the question there is if the Iraqi forces are withdrawing, is it the U.S. view that the Dohuk area from which they are withdrawing is safe enough for the refugees to return there, or are you advising the refugees to hold off until the decision by the allies whether to extend the safe zone is made? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think, Ralph, we're advising people one way or the other. We're extending security where we need it for relief operations to make sure there's no interference. You remember that was called for under the U.N. resolution, and people are making their own decisions about where they want to go and if they want to go home. Q With every passing day, it appears that the United States has carved off a new chunk of northern Iraq, and I know that you don't care to put it in those terms, but that's what appears to be happening. The line creeps further south. Do you have any notion as to how far south you're going to go? Are you going to go to the suburbs of Baghdad? I mean, where are you headed with this line as it goes south? MR. BOUCHER: John, I certainly wouldn't characterize it the way you have, and I remember over the weekend the President, on Saturday, said very clearly once again, "We're not interested in a dismembered or a fractionated Iraq." The point, I think, has been that we have all along said that we would deliver relief to people where they needed it. As people move, as they need way stations, housing, temporary facilities, if we're in a position to provide that to them in a safe area, we are doing that. You're also aware that the United Nations has an agreement with the Iraqis to operate throughout the country in Iraq, and they will be doing that as well. I can, I think, tell you briefly that our request to Iraq to withdraw from an area around each camp is done to assure that the Iraqi military not interfere with relief operations, and we think it's necessary for the humanitarian purposes of these operations. We're not taking over the civil administration in these places, nor are we trying to set up any sort of enclaves. And we intend to hand over our operations to the United Nations and to withdraw our troops from these areas as soon as possible. Q But the U.N. is not stepping forward here. They appear to be doing a lot of meeting and very little beyond that in terms of assuming responsibility. MR. BOUCHER: That's not true. I got a report on that today. The U.N., I think as you're aware, has set up a presence outside the camp in Zakhu. In addition, although they haven't taken over the operation of the camp, they have taken over responsibility for the food distribution system. So they are operating there to distribute the food that we're able to get in there. The system appears to be working well based on the reports we get back from relief officials, and there's been no apparent problems with Iraqi officials. Q If I could just follow on John's and the Dohuk question, did the U.S. request Iraqi forces to withdraw from the City of and the area around Dohuk? Or, I mean, not just the U.S., but did the allied forces? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Ralph, I have to stick with exactly the way I described it at the beginning, that there is a line. We've asked them to withdraw from 30 kilometers around that line, and that that line extends to a ridge north of the town of Dohuk. And as far as any further comments on southward extension of that zone, I just don't have anything for you. Q How are you communicating with the Iraqis? Is the Iraqi Interests Section here now officially set up? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that and see. We have been talking to their senior diplomat in Washington. We have been talking to them at the United Nations, and, of course, you're aware that the United Nations has had discussions with them in Baghdad as well. Q (Inaudible) -- but I want to get at this technicality, because I think it may have to do with policy. Some of your statements about the Dohuk area seem inconsistent. On the one hand, you say you've asked them to withdraw from a ridge north of Dohuk. On the other, you say they are withdrawing in response to U.S. requests from -- not U.S. -- allied requests. MR. BOUCHER: I didn't -- Q The question is, are you implying by your statement today that the Iraqis are voluntarily, of their own accord and without any relation to expansion of the allied safe zone, pulling out of Dohuk city? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, I think the distinction that I would make is that we have told them that there is a zone within 30 kilometers of the line that we consider a safety zone for relief operations, where we want to be able to operate unimpeded, and where they shouldn't have any forces. In addition to that, we have observed -- coalition forces have observed that they are pulling out from Dohuk. And I presume that they are doing that in order to avoid any possible interference or encounters with the relief operations. But at this point, as far as what we consider the safe area for relief operations, we have not extended it southward from that ridge overlooking Dohuk. Q Richard, given that many refugees are bypassing the camps and returning to their homes if they believe an area to be secure, is there any point in setting up additional tents except as the most temporary of way stations when you do secure an area? MR. BOUCHER: That's an excellent question, Mark, and that's why I said that no determination has been made on the need for a second temporary village. If we determine that there is a need for a second temporary refugee community, it will be established near that logistics base near al-Amadiyah once the logistics can support it. But we have not decided that a second camp is absolutely necessary. You see from the numbers of people in Zakhu, how they've gone up and down with people coming in and moving out. The total number of people in the Zakhu camp is at -- what did I say? -- some 4,000, although the camp is certainly set up already to take many more than that. That's the question which does arise now, and we will be providing assistance to people in a variety of ways, both in terms of camps for those who want to settle, who want to stop for awhile, as well as way stations and food distribution systems. Q A follow-up on that: In the absence of camps, what is it that the United Nations is supposed to take over, and how would they provide continued security in the area now occupied by allied forces? MR. BOUCHER: Those are really two questions. The question of what is it the U.N. is supposed to take over, I think, is just basically the relief operations. Some of those things that we're doing now in these areas are described more as "way stations" than as "camps." I really don't have a complete description, but that's a distribution point for the supplies that people need as they move along the road. That kind of operation, as you know, is also envisaged in the memorandum of understanding that the United Nations signed with the Iraqis. So the point is that we would hope that the United Nations would act to quickly take over the relief operations in northern Iraq. As far as the security component of that, I don't have anything new on that. Q The idea of the police force was to provide protection within the camps, and, if you're not going to have camps, can you have any kind of a U.N. police force? And, if so, where would it be located? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question, I think, that really needs to be examined as the United Nations takes over these sites. Whatever relief operations there are, we would assume that the guarantees of safety of people using those services would be maintained. Q Which government is in charge of this area? You said we're not interfering with the civil administration. Who is in charge of this area? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure it varies from place to place. There are still local authorities in these towns. I think you'll remember in Zakhu we said that -- Q Is the Iraqi government in charge? MR. BOUCHER: There are Iraqis who are in charge of these areas. Yes. They have an administration. They have local officials. Q Does the authority of Baghdad extend to these areas, and do we recognize that Baghdad is in charge in these areas? MR. BOUCHER: We have not questioned, for example, the maintaining of some 50 police in Zakhu -- Q That's Zakhu. How about -- MR. BOUCHER: So in terms of these areas -- Q How about -- MR. BOUCHER: -- I don't know which local officials are on the ground and how they receive instructions or don't receive instructions from Baghdad. But we are not trying to challenge the Iraqi civil administration of these areas. We are setting up relief operations, and we are doing what it takes to facilitate those operations. Q But any government, if it's really in charge of a place, also has the right to enforce its laws with police or with the military. They don't have the right to do that. MR. BOUCHER: I think we have just been talking about their maintaining local police forces in the town of Zakhu, which is where the U.S. presence has started, and where we're most heavy. Q Is the United States encouraging autonomy talks between the Kurds and the government of Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: We've been following what's going on. Certainly, anything that can be agreed to that's a step toward greater respect for human rights and democracy, we would certainly welcome. Q Is that something that the United States used as a way to have the Kurds come out of this in a better situation and also extricate the United States from its current involvement? MR. BOUCHER: We have described a number of things: The U.N. process under Resolution 688 to take over the operations of relief supplies; the expansion of the U.N. presence, as outlined in their memorandum of understanding; and potentially, if it serves to provide people with greater assurance, something coming out of these talks the Kurds have had. All of these things are intended to deliver relief to people who need it and to give them a kind of assurance of their safety that they will need if they're going to return home. Q One more question on that, though, at least one of the rebel groups -- the Kurdish group -- is advocating some sort of international guarantee if they were able to work out some sort of political agreement with Baghdad. Is this something that the United States would support? MR. BOUCHER: I think we've described many times our efforts as humanitarians. We've described many times our presence as being a temporary one. We are interested in making sure that the people get the relief that they need, and I think we've talked also about the network -- the web of various things that are being done that would provide assurances to people that they need to go home. So I don't have anything particular on that point, but the overall operation and the way we're working with the United Nations and others is designed to provide the assurance that people will need if they are to decide to go home. Q Richard, just a follow-up to Carol's question. Could you give us, again the official definition of the State Department about the refugees at this time? Some people, as Mark said, are coming down from the mountains to their homes. Some of them are asking for assurances that they will not be subject to harassment and intimidation or even threat of life after the coalition forces withdraw. Do you consider these people as possible refugees in the event your Government has considered that all refugee operations have been completed and you're able to pull out your troops, but these people have fears? Do you consider them as possible refugees? MR. BOUCHER: I think the term that we're using most often -- and I know we use "refugees" a lot -- but the more accurate term that we're using is "displaced persons." We're concentrating -- our primary focus now is to deliver relief to people who need it, where they need it. You'll remember a few weeks ago the President described our goals as not so much resettlement but to make it possible for people to go back to their homes. That remains the goals of the operation that we're setting up, that we're engaged in. That is the goal of the things that others are doing, the United Nations and others. If there is some need, if any, for a resettlement effort afterwards, that's something that really hasn't been addressed at this point.

[MIddle East: Secretary Baker to Return]

Q What can you tell us about the Secretary's trip to the Middle East? MR. BOUCHER: This is everything I know. The Secretary, as you all just heard out in the lobby, is heading back to the Middle East. The present plans -- and I must emphasize that these plans are still tentative -- is that he would leave late Friday. We don't have a schedule at this point, and I don't really expect to have one for you today. We are working on stops in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. These are the places he would like to visit. I think he said in the lobby he'll be going back to the places he visited before. The staff now is working out a detailed schedule, trying to work out a schedule that gets him to all these places. We're also putting up a sign-up sheet as of this briefing. In the interest of making everything easier for everyone who is working on the trip and going on the trip, we would ask that you sign up by 5:00 p.m. today. Q He went to Saudi Arabia the last time, and that's noticeably absent from your list. Is there a cause-and-effect? MR. BOUCHER: I really have to say that we're working on the schedule at this point. I don't want to draw any major conclusions about it because it's still being worked. Q Where will he meet with Bessmertnykh? MR. BOUCHER: That is not defined. They're trying to work out a location. We don't have a location or a timetable. Q Do you have a projected return date? MR. BOUCHER: Sometime next week. Q Will Bessmertnykh occur in the region or perhaps someplace else? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. I think the Secretary described it as looking forward to trying to get together with Bessmertnyk in the region. Q Is there an arms control component possibly to that meeting as well? Obviously, they're going to be talking about the Middle East. MR. BOUCHER: I'm not advanced to the point of agendas at this point. I think the last time they got together, they discussed not only the peace process but also various other issues on the U.S.-Soviet agenda. If the schedule and time permit, I'm sure they would like to do that again. Q Can we anticipate that in Israel he will also meet with Palestinians? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I really don't have anything that specific on a schedule to anticipate. Q There was at least one prominent Palestinian in Washington last week. Did anybody from the Department meet with her -- Hanna Siniora? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. If you give us the name, I'll be glad to look at it for you.

[Israel: Arab League Boycott of Israel]

Q Richard, do you have a reaction to the decision by the Arab boycott office to remove Coca Cola from its list and add 110 other companies? MR. BOUCHER: The position of the United States against the boycott has been firm and unyielding. As we've said many times, the Arabs should end their boycott and end their challenges to Israel's legitimacy. You also are well aware of the fact that we have legislation in place which reflects our strong stand against the boycott. Q Does this constitute a confidence-building measure minus 110? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any characterization of it. We have often and long held that the boycott should end. Q Richard, in the middle of the peace process, don't you have any characterization at all? It's presumed that you've been asking for confidence-building measures and now you have 110 new companies listed. Isn't this going in the opposite direction to what you would have hoped? You have no reaction to this whatsoever? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I'm not going to try to characterize it. I think you'll remember the Secretary has said that we're not going to get in the game of playing who comes first as far as confidence-building measures. Q How would you call -- MR. BOUCHER: He's also -- Q Would you call it an obstacle to peace? MR. BOUCHER: I would call it a boycott to which the United States has long been opposed. Q And you have no further comment despite the fact that the Secretary has been engaged in an effort to bring together the participants in this boycott with Israel for the last 6 weeks and is going back again? This raises no red flags? This Department chooses not to make an issue when it is possibly the most single significant thing that's happened in the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: Bill, I have to reject your characterization that we choose not to make an issue of it. If we stand up here and we say that we are firmly and unyieldingly opposed to this boycott, I think that states very clearly what our view is and often and long has been. I think you'll also remember -- you've been along on the trips. You remember that every time something happened in the region, the Secretary did not characterize it as a positive or a negative. Q Yes, he did. When he was in Damascus, he made a point of volunteering criticism of Israel. MR. BOUCHER: He made a point of our views on settlements. That's true. But he did not comment on every single step that was taken along the way. Q (Inaudible) in the category of every single step. Q But is this not as dire as settlements to the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize it as a plus or a minus of the Secretary's efforts on the peace process. Q You wouldn't characterize it as a plus or a minus? It's a neutral action? MR. BOUCHER: I told you what our position is on the boycott. It is a strongly held position that we've stated many, many times. But I'm not going to try to tie every event into the Secretary's effort with the peace process. Q It seems like a major event. Q Since the old boycott, they are expanding the boycott. That has no -- MR. BOUCHER: And we remain firmly and unyieldingly opposed to the boycott itself. Q It has no significance to the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that, Bill. I said I'm not going to try to characterize it. We've said that confidence-building is not a game of who goes first. It's not an end in itself. It's a way of moving -- Q (Inaudible) MR. BOUCHER: Well, Alan, I'll answer the questions if you want me to, but let me answer it. Q Why would you call new Israeli settlements an obstacle to peace and this is not? I think that's a fair question. MR. BOUCHER: Carol, the easy way is to say we don't do comparisons. But I think the answer is that when the Secretary has chosen to do so, he has characterized different events. But by and large, as various things have happened, whether good or bad, we have not tried to link these to the peace process. We have tried to talk about getting the process going. We said that specific confidence-building steps aren't an end in themselves but rather they are something to move the process forward. We're focused on whether we can move that process forward. You had the Secretary talk about that issue again today. Q Yes. But the reason it raises eyebrows is that the Secretary has chosen to characterize events as unhelpful with regard to Israel but not in the case of the Arab world where there appear to have been a couple of interesting developments recently: Saudi Arabia's unwillingness to participate in direct talks, and now this, and not a word from this Department. MR. BOUCHER: Bill, I'm afraid I've really said, I think, everything I have to say on the subject. I will go back and see if anybody chooses to characterize this event one way or the other. Q Is Coca Cola a more important thing on balance than the hundred new items? They're rather minor? MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of characterization that I'm not about to get into. Q Richard, could you tell us whether the Arab League notified the Department of this, and whether we've had -- aside from what you're saying here -- any communications with the Arab League or with any of the members of the Arab League on this issue? MR. BOUCHER: On this specific step? Q On this specific step. MR. BOUCHER: On this issue, we have. Q No, on this specific subject. MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has discussed it in public. He's discussed it during his meetings. I'll have to check if we were notified of this and if we had any -- Q We had communications specifically with Israel on those specific steps of the settlements. I'm trying to find out whether there were any communications with the Arab League on this specific step? MR. BOUCHER: On this specific step, with regard to the boycott, it's something I'll have to check. Q On two different occasions over the last 6 weeks, the Secretary has made reference to events occurring in Israel by saying that it's easier to obstruct peace than it is to foster it. Would you use that characterization in response to a question about the Arab boycott expansion? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if anybody wants to do that. Q Over the weekend, the Israeli Ambassador said that the Israelis are going to put in a request for $10 billion in housing loan guarantees soon. Have they been bouncing it off you so far? MR. BOUCHER: You'll remember, I think, Jim, in March, when we agreed on the $650 million supplemental aid for Israel, that we also agreed that the discussion of loan guarantees for Soviet Jewish absorption would be addressed after Labor Day. So at this point, I don't have any further comment on that. Q Have they talked to you about that specific figure, $10 billion? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, you remember that this was in the air in the past but we agreed in March that it would be a subject of discussion after Labor Day. So at this point, I really don't have anything further. Q What's the magic significance of Labor Day? Q It puts it off. (Laughter) Q It's after Baker gives up the peace process. MR. BOUCHER: Without trying to characterize it the way you have, I would just say that that's what we agreed to. Q Our Labor Day or theirs? Q On the Gulf Cooperation Council countries saying that Iran should have a role to play in regional security, does the United States have any views on that? MR. BOUCHER: We have said before -- I think you'll remember the Secretary saying on the Hill, where he outlined his views in early February, first of all, that we would expect the states of the Gulf and regional organizations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council to take the lead in building a re-enforcing network of new and strengthened security ties. He also said at the time that Iran could have an important contribution to make as a major power in the Gulf. Q Do you view it as a good sign that they're asking Iran to be involved? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd just have to say that we think that Iran has an important contribution to make. It's up to the states to discuss the roles, and we hope that all countries will take a responsible role in this. Q In the case of the previous aid requests from Israel -- when the request had not yet been made formally, the State Department said when the request come through, it would be given full consideration. Can you say the same thing about what the Ambassador mentioned last night? MR. BOUCHER: I think I said that any discussions of this would take place after Labor Day. That was what was agreed, so that's the time at which we would discuss it. Q Richard, back to the boycott. It's well known that some Arab countries observe this much more than others. The north African countries, for instance, largely disregard it. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, particularly, are rigorous in applying it. Does the United States have any information on compliance with this boycott by the various Arab states? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I don't know. Q Would the United States be interested in finding out which states are more rigorous in applying this boycott than others? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we would be, Alan. As you know, we have legislation that prevents companies from complying with the boycott. Q Just to follow up on that. The U.S. now has a lot of companies which are dealing with the Government of Kuwait to rebuild the country. Has the U.S. Government taken any position with Kuwait regarding whether those requests for American assistance -- private assistance -- ignore or avoid any reference to the boycott? MR. BOUCHER: I'll just have to refer you back to what I've just said, and that's that this position against the boycott has been discussed both in public and in private during the course of the Secretary's visit. Q Richard, which, if any, countries in the Middle East requested Secretary of State Baker's visit? MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me? Q Did any -- I guess none, huh? Q Did they say, "Please come back . . ." Q Is the Secretary going at the request -- MR. BOUCHER: At the request of specific countries? I don't know. I just don't know to what extent a return visit was discussed during the last trip or subsequently. Q Is that list you gave us necessarily chronological? MR. BOUCHER: No. The whole schedule is being worked on. Q Do you know when a decision was made? The Secretary said he discussed it with the President as late as yesterday. Is that when they decided to go, or was it last Thursday? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. If he's been discussing it up until yesterday, I assume that there was still something for him to discuss with the President. So a final decision was therefore made after that. Q They're using the arrhythmia method. Q Do you have any statement of goals or anything that you can make about the Secretary's trip? His statement -- MR. BOUCHER: Just what he said out there. Nothing more. Q That as long as there's even a slightest itsy-bitsy chance, we've got to keep working at it? That's basically -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll refer you back to his exact words. Q Talking of trips, what can you tell us about Kimmitt's visit to China? MR. BOUCHER: Kimmitt is in China. I really don't have any readout of his discussions at this point. We'll see if we can get you something. Q Did he make any toasts? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Bill. Q Has he met with any senior officials yet? Do we know? MR. BOUCHER: He should have by now, but I don't have an instant readout of it.

[Bangladesh: Update on Cyclone/Relief Efforts]

Q One other thing, on a totally different issue. Is the United States planning to send any heavy equipment to Bangladesh to help with the relief efforts? MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you the rundown of aid to Bangladesh. We also now have the excellent A.I.D. situation reports. They're starting a series on Bangladesh. The status now is that we've received the assessment of relief requirements from our mission in Bangladesh based on reports of the U.S. A.I.D. team sent to the cyclone-affected areas of Bangladesh. We are now reviewing on an urgent basis our disaster relief assistance and how best to deliver it. Rail and road lines to the region are now reopened. Large numbers of motorized barges, trawlers, and naval vessels are responding to the crisis. Food stocks in the country appear to be adequate for the near term. We are focusing on how best to deliver drinking water, dry food, and shelter materials to the flood victims. Helicopters are still an option for emergency operations while the flood waters remain over coastal areas, particularly offshore islands, but other options may be more effective. That's one of the things we're still looking at. We are making full use of the extensive network of aid resources we have in the country. We're funding locally established and international organizations which have many years experience in dealing with this kind of disaster and which are already actively providing relief. Our assessment at this point is that disaster prepardedness apparently saved millions of lives. We're reviewing an assistance package which focuses first on meeting the immediate needs of water and food distributed by non-governmental organizations but which would also address the long-term issues of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Within the past 3 months, $14 million of U.S.-donated food and commodities arrived at the Port of Chittagong, and they are available in warehouses for the Government of Bangladesh to distribute throughout the country. While distribution to the isolated victims on the offshore islands continues to be of the utmost urgency, having sufficient food in the country, historically a critical problem in Bangladesh, is apparently not a critical problem in this current disaster. That's where we stand. As I said, we have a more detailed update available. Q Is there any chance the Secretary of State might go to assess the needs of the Bangladesh people while he's -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of such plans at this point, Ralph. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:45 p.m.)