US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #78: Thursday, 5/9/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:45 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 9, 19915/9/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, E/C Europe, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Germany, Israel, China, South Africa, Angola, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Immigration, Security Assistance and Sales, Democratization (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everyone.

[Iraq: Refugee Update]

On the situation today as regards refugees, I have just a little bit of additional information, the first to note that no decisions have been made regarding expansion of the security zone where multinational forces will provide security. Multinational forces continue to patrol the entire security area from Zakhu to Suriya. There's also been no decision on the exact location of a second temporary village, nor has there really been a final decision to build one. The Combined Task Force reports that movement of refugees into the temporary tent village at Zakhu continues. As of midnight our time last night, more than 12,443 refugees had moved into the temporary tent village. Coalition forces have set up 2,418 tents, and we expect that the number of refugees moving back to their homes into Zakhu will continue to increase. The Task Force also reports that about 20,000 refugees have voluntarily departed the mountain camps along the border area yesterday. The measles vaccination program continues. At this point we have vaccinated over 10,000 children. As you know, the target for that program is 92,000. And with that, I think I'll stop and see what you're interested in. George?

[China: Consideration of MFN Status]

Q Do you have any comment on what the Chinese have had to say today, I think, at their weekly briefing at the Foreign Ministry concerning some of the issues that Mr. Kimmitt raised during his visit? MR. BOUCHER: That's a pretty general question. If you're referring to the question of MFN, Marlin said this morning that we haven't made our decisions about renewal. You'll remember that Mr. Kimmitt spoke about this at his press conference in Beijing the other day. He noted that a decision has to be made on MFN by June 3. The President had said we wanted good relations with China and we wanted trade relations with China, but Mr. Kimmitt said that he made clear that the decision on MFN would be made in the political context of concerns about human rights, non-proliferation and trade and that prospects for renewal of MFN would be improved by progress in these areas. Q Well, to sharpen the question just a bit, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman made a very blunt statement -- for the way the Chinese often make these statements -- about if there is to be a period of worse relations with the United States, then the Chinese Government is prepared to have that happen rather than change its policies as a result of pressure from other governments. I'm paraphrasing, but I think I'm fairly paraphrasing what he said. Do you have any comment? That's a fairly negative kind of comment to make following the Kimmitt meeting. MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any further comment on that. I think we gave you our readout of those discussions. Mr. Kimmitt said he laid out our concerns. Both he and the President have said that we want to improve the relationship with China. That would require steps from both sides. And in particular we've laid out our concerns on issues that are of importance to us. Q Are there further high-level exchanges planned between the United States and China to discuss this issue? Or have these talks thoroughly vented the opinions of both sides and do we then wait for some action to be taken by the Chinese government? MR. BOUCHER: The other thing that Kimmitt noted in his press conference in Beijing was that he invited Vice Foreign Minister Liu to visit Washington to continue the dialogue that he began there. That's still not set yet. It's for a mutually convenient time. Mr. Kimmitt also noted that the next visitors from Washington would be Under Secretary Bartholomew to discuss non-proliferation matters and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Massey to discuss bilateral trade issues. Q All this before June 2? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact dates of those. Q Richard, could we get a background briefing on an overall general state of play of U.S.-China relations? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really see any need for that now. Mr. Kimmitt has just given you a good briefing on the overall state of play -- Q In Beijing. MR. BOUCHER: -- in U.S.-China relations in Beijing. Q Those of us who report on the United States and its policy towards China are based in Washington and not in Beijing. MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's fine. If we haven't yet, we'll make you copies of Mr. Kimmitt's briefing where he covers all these issues. Q Well, we'd like to extend the invitation to Mr. Kimmitt to answer questions from the Washington press corps. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. I will pass it on. Q Thank you. He may choose not to do that because he may be a little afraid of it, but we'd welcome the opportunity. MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure, once a decision on MFN extension is made, that the Administration will want to provide you with ample information on the situation. Q But our invitation is more immediate than that. MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Ralph. Thank you.

[China: Release of Detainees]

Q Do you have any comment on the Chinese release of a man identified as an underground labor organizer? MR. BOUCHER: There are two releases that we've noted. One is the release of Mr. Li Jinjin who was a legal adviser. We welcome the news that Mr. Li Jinjin has been released from detention. We are also pleased to note that Mr. Han Dongfang, who was a trade union organizer, has been released for medical treatment. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that he will then be free to resume his employment. Once again, I refer you to what Mr. Kimmitt said when he was in Beijing. He said that he had laid out our concerns on human rights and other areas and that he had urged leniency for all and amnesty for those who have engaged in political acts. Q Can I come back to a question about northern Iraq for a second? Does the U.S. see in any way that the extended problem of dealing with how to expand or not expand the safety zone in northern Iraq impinges in any way on decisions being made in the broader Gulf region about regional security? Does it cause a problem for these nagging smaller problems to be existing in northern Iraq when the United States wishes to pursue a bigger regional security regime? Does it prevent anybody from making decisions on those things? MR. BOUCHER: I think the short answer is probably no. The presence of U.S. forces in northern Iraq we've said clearly is temporary. It is something that is devoted to humanitarian ends. The question of broader regional security is a long-term one of establishing the kind of security structures for the region that will maintain the peace and keep Iraq from becoming a threat to its neighbors again, and that's something that's being pursued as well. Q How does the United States feel about Egypt's announcement yesterday to -- you were asked this question yesterday. I'm going to try to get an answer as to how the U.S. feels about the Egyptian announcement to withdraw its troops from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment beyond the way I addressed the question yesterday. Q Does the United States still believe that the GCC six nations and the additional two who formed the conference that Secretary Baker attended in Riyadh recently is a continuing and ongoing Arab regional security alliance, or does the Egyptian announcement diminish the ability of that group of eight to take action on Gulf security? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've ever described the group of eight quite that way, Ralph. We have said -- Q Describe it any way you like. MR. BOUCHER: We have said that the GCC countries and other regional organizations should take the lead in establishing the security arrangements. That continues to be our view. Q But the Egyptians were part of that conference, and the Secretary went there and made a point of noting that the GCC had expanded its invitation to include two non-Gulf nations. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q If the Egyptians pull out, it's hard to see how they play a role in that group any more. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess my answer would be it's not for me -- given our policy that we've been saying that they should take the lead in establishing and working out the kinds of arrangements, it's not for me to dictate those kinds of arrangements; and, if you want to know whether we think there's still a viable group of countries working together and what sort of plans they have, given the Egyptian announcement, those questions really have to be addressed to them. Q Yes. But the U.S. was part of that conference. I mean, Baker sat at the same table. It's not as though the U.S. had no interest in that. MR. BOUCHER: Certainly we're part of it. We have Secretary Cheney in the region right now talking to those countries about the kind of future security arrangements that there should be. Q Richard, we have a report today that Iraq has rejected a U.N. civilian peacekeeping force in Iraq. In view of the fact that the United States is pulling out or has pulled out, do you have any comment at all? MR. BOUCHER: That report, I think, comes out of something that Perez de Cuellar said as he was going into the meeting with the President this morning. Those meetings at the White House are taking place, there will be briefings at the White House about it, and I would expect the issue to be addressed there. Q Richard, could you explain why Perez de Cuellar is on a state visit? What's the protocol for that? I mean, he's staying at Blair House; he's being accorded all the trappings of a head of state. Is the United Nations considered to be a state? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't really noticed that this time. I'll check. I think that some of his visits in the past have been that way, too. Q Buttering him up.

[USSR: Update on Armenia/Azerbaijan]

Q On another subject, on Armenia. Do you have an update on the situation in Armenia? And also, any news of the two Americans? I know something was posted yesterday -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q -- but it's another day. MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any news of the two Americans. As far as the situation, in our view the worsening violence on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and in the areas surrounding the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is a setback for the dialogue that must take place. As we said yesterday, we deeply regret the loss of life, and we urge all parties to step back from confrontation. We note that TASS reported yesterday they confirmed that joint forces of the Soviet and Azeri Interior Ministries had launched an assault on a town populated by Armenians inside Azerbaijan and that 13 people died in the attack. We believe that any use of force to maintain order must be done with a minimum of force if it's to avoid exacerbating tensions and with a view towards preventing further bloodshed. We hope to see an early resumption of the political dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan that began last year. We believe that only such a dialogue can address the causes of the continuing dispute and lead to legitimate, lasting solutions. Q Was this excessive force? MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you that kind of judgment, Carol. Q And have you made arrangements yet to send somebody to the region? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we described yesterday afternoon the fact that we were looking to do that with appropriate Soviet permission, and I don't think anything's changed from that. Q Also on the subject of excessive force, do you have anything to say about the reports of rather heavy-handed treatment by Indian forces in Kashmir? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Carol, I did note one thing new that I have here: that we also anticipate that an officer from our Embassy will travel to Azerbaijan to meet with Azerbaijani officials and report on developments there. But, as far as I know, those two requests are pending.

[Germany: Visit of Foreign Minister]

Q I understand that the Secretary is meeting with Foreign Minister Genscher tomorrow night. MR. BOUCHER: On Friday. Yes. It's tomorrow. Q What's the purpose of that meeting? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that Genscher arrives this evening in New York. The German Government has announced that he'll meet Friday with the U.N. Secretary General, and he'll receive the Distinguished Statesman Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai B'rith. Friday evening he will stop in Washington for a brief meeting with Secretary of State Baker, currently scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and then he goes on to South Carolina to receive an honorary degree on Saturday. Q Can you be specific about the agenda for the meeting with Baker? MR. BOUCHER: I can't be too specific about the agenda, because I just don't know what it is. I assume that they will discuss, as they have in the past, a wide range of issues. Certainly, the Middle East situation, CFE, Soviet Union -- subjects like that are likely, but it's only an hour meeting. Q Could you -- sorry, Carol. Q I was going to go on to a different subject. Q Oh. I was going to the Baltics, so go ahead. Q That's what I was going to. (Laughter) Q Well, maybe your question's the same as mine. MR. BOUCHER: You two can fight it out. Q Do you have any comment, Richard, on comments made yesterday by the Lithuanian leader that Lithuania and the other Baltic states could destabilize the Soviet Union and would do so if the United States doesn't help the Baltics get independence; that they would help to encourage the breakup of the Soviet Union by encouraging other republics to secede? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I didn't see those comments. I don't have any reaction. Q There were a couple of other things that some of the Baltic leaders said after they met at the White House. One was that they understood that the U.S. was supporting their demand for an international parliamentary conference on the Baltics; two, that they understood that the Administration was at least looking favorably on a proposed Baltic development bank; and three, that the United States was going to support their demand for observer status at the CSCE conference in June. Can you respond to that? MR. BOUCHER: I can't, really. The meeting did take place at the White House, and the White House did provide a readout of the meeting. So I just hadn't really researched all these specific questions based on statements that I frankly didn't see. Q Well, then, put aside their statements -- MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has discussed the question of CSCE participation and status, and the fact that it requires consensus but we always encouraged it. As for the other issues, I'm just not familiar with them. Q How strong a position, though, is the United States taking on this CSCE observer status? Is this Administration going to push that? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Carol, I think you're really asking for a readout of a meeting that was done at the White House. I would rather defer to them. Q I'm really looking to the State Department for an expression of what U.S. policy is on some specific issues that relate to the Baltics. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'll see if I can get you an expression of policy on Baltic participation in the CSCE. Q And how about the two other issues -- the international conference and the -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into those as well.

[Nicaragua: Arm Sales]

Q Can we move to Central America? There are increasing reports of former contras getting weapons from Honduras and starting action against the Sandinista army and President Chamorro's Government. Do you have anything on Nicaragua? MR. BOUCHER: The issue of the violence that's occurring -- it's usually over land disputes -- is something that we've addressed in the past. I think I'd rather just get you that. Q Wait, wait, wait. We have never addressed the question of cross-border arms deliveries from Honduras to Nicaragua. MR. BOUCHER: From Honduras? I'll see if we have anything on that. I haven't seen anything on it. Q Back to Iraq for a moment. It's my understanding that the Iraqis are actually supplementing their forces in the city of Dohuk, or in that region, and have put several thousand Red Berets or something in there. Is there a potential for confrontation with U.S. forces? MR. BOUCHER: The situation, as I understand it -- the information that I got this morning -- is that a general Iraqi withdrawal from the area around Dohuk actually continues. I believe that was just stated over at the Defense Department as well. So this idea of supplementing is not something that we've seen. Our information is that they are withdrawing generally from that area. Q They may have put some people in but they've taken more out than that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how to reconcile the reports, frankly. Q Richard, on southern Iraq, we have a report that right after U.S. troops withdrew Iraqi secret police came and grabbed several refugees in Safwan. Do you know anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: We've seen those reports. We have no confirmation as yet of the incident nor of its alleged perpetrators. We are seeking additional information from our people that are out there. The U.S. military did provide, as I said yesterday, the opportunity to leave to people who wanted to leave the area. We would also note, however, that Resolution 688 demands that Iraq cease its repression of its citizens. Q Back to Dohuk for just a second. One of the other reports out of the area today is that the refugees who are poised in the mountain, I guess north of Dohuk, have made it clear to allied officials, including U.S. officials, that they have no intention of moving into the city unless there are allied forces in the city to protect them. Is that a factor that the U.S. is considering in its decision-making on what to do about Dohuk? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what report you're referring to. I hadn't seen it. But, certainly, the -- Q The one I'm specifically referring to was on National Public Radio, but I feel certain it was reported elsewhere. MR. BOUCHER: The decision on Dohuk has not been made at this point. There has not been a decision to extend our security presence there. That's where I really have to leave it. Q Does that decision have anything to do with Secretary General de Cuellar's visit to Washington today? MR. BOUCHER: The general issue of security and U.N. takeovers and things like that, I'm sure, is being discussed over at the White House. Whether this specific issue is or not, I just don't know. Q Do you have anything new to say about more flights to Iran? MR. BOUCHER: No.

[South Africa: Meeting of Leaders]

Q South Africa talks? MR. BOUCHER: This is the meeting between Nelson Mandela and President de Klerk? We welcome the meeting yesterday between President de Klerk and Mr. Mandela. We actually have little if any information on the substance of the talks. We understand that they are continuing today. We hope that progress will be made and that all parties will continue forward into negotiations on a non-racial democratic constitution for South Africa. Q Richard, Secretary Baker has spoken many times of prepositioning U.S. equipment in Saudi Arabia in the event that a future incident like the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait were to occur again. Have the Saudis continued to this moment to be receptive to that idea? MR. BOUCHER: Secretary Cheney is in the region discussing post-war security arrangements. He is discussing these kinds of issues with people out there. I would leave it to him to provide any readouts of what his discussions have produced. Q If we move the clock back and say: until the moment Secretary Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia have the Saudis continued to be receptive to that idea of prepositioning? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that there had been change in Saudi policy at that point. Q Would it be fair to characterize Secretary Cheney's visit there as an attempt to urge the Saudis to accept that principle of prepositioning? MR. BOUCHER: It would be fair to characterize Secretary Cheney's visit the way he and the Defense Department have characterize it, and that's a discussion of post-war security arrangements. I'm not going to try to brief on his behalf, Ralph, particularly when I haven't talked to him and he's out there. Q Only the U.S. Government gets to characterize the Secretary of Defense's visit? Nobody else can do a fair job of that? MR. BOUCHER: You can do what you want, Ralph. But if you want me to characterize it, I'm going to characterize it with whatever Cheney decides to say. Q Have you heard any indications that the Saudis are interested in speaking again with Secretary Baker while he's in the region? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any changes to the Secretary's schedule at this point, but we've said that everything we've given you so far is tentative and we'll have to leave it at that. Q Richard, do you have anything on any contacts the Secretary may have had with the various parties in the region since he left two weeks ago? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Given that it's a matter, as the President said yesterday, of quiet diplomacy, I wouldn't expect to be able to provide that information to you. Q In the past, in between some of the other trips, I believe Margaret has commented on telephone calls or contacts. MR. BOUCHER: On occasion. Q This isn't one of those occasions, I guess. MR. BOUCHER: It's not one of them for me. Q Richard, would you characterize yourself as moderately optimistic about the Secretary's efforts to achieve Middle East peace? MR. BOUCHER: I would agree a hundred percent with what the President said yesterday, Ralph. Q Imagine that. Q Richard, on a related question. The Soviet Foreign Minister today apparently said -- at least implied -- that the Soviet Union might be willing to sort of slow down immigration to Israel as a means of forcing Israel to stop settlements. Would the United States consider this an effective way to influence the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen those remarks, Carol. I'm not going to try to base my response on something that you're telling me he said or that he may be reported to have said. As you know, he has been discussing the Middle East peace process with the Secretary. We put out just the other day our view of ideas that sanctions might be used. The Secretary has said many times that you can't impose peace on the parties but that people have to be willing to reach peace, be willing to reach agreement. But I'm sure the Secretary and Bessmertnykh would want to compare notes directly among themselves on their respective trips and their views as they travel in the region. Q Would you take that question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave that for the Secretary to answer during the course of his trip after he talks directly with Bessmertnykh. Q Speaking of Baker and Bessmertnykh, the Portuguese Government, I believe, yesterday announced that the two of them would meet on May 31 in Portugal to observe the signing of the Angola accord. Does the United States Government have anything to say about that report? MR. BOUCHER: It came up yesterday, and I said we really hadn't advanced that far in scheduling. Q But today is another day. MR. BOUCHER: Today is another day. Q You still haven't advanced -- MR. BOUCHER: We still haven't advanced that far in scheduling, Ralph. Q Richard, back to Iran for a minute. Yesterday you said that the State Department had heard reports that there were difficulties with their relief efforts. Do you have any more information? There are more and more reports that seem to come out that goods from the United Nations are not getting to the Kurds. Do you have any comment? MR. BOUCHER: There have been reports like that, reports of corruption of some kind. We don't have confirmation of those. We are about where we were yesterday, saying that we've heard stories that local officials were interfering in efforts. We described what happened to AmeriCares with some local relief officials. I believe we made very clear yesterday that we find it very distressing to find that political considerations were interfering with the need to get help to people who need it. Q That's a slight difference from yesterday. Yesterday you said you would find it very distressing "if." One minute you say you don't have confirmation; the next minute "it is very distressing that." MR. BOUCHER: If we're going to be that careful about my language, I'm going to turn the page and correct, revise and extend my remarks to exactly what we want to say on this. Q You're welcome to freelance all you wish. MR. BOUCHER: I know. It makes it more interesting for you but less interesting for me afterwards. We cannot verify any charges of corruption. As I said yesterday, we have heard stories from several Western aid donors about local government officials in Iran impeding some of the relief efforts due to political factors. I said then and will repeat today, it would be very distressing if political views or any other factors were an obstacle to relief efforts in Iran. Period.

[Iran: Relief Efforts]

Q What's the State Department's position vis-a-vis of continuing aid to Iran under these circumstances? You said that you're continue to aid the Kurdish refugees through the international relief organizations. But if that aid is not actually getting there, is there a change or a possible revision of that position? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there's no change. Our policy continues to be that we think that these people need help. I can run down for you the kind of things that are going into Iran and the amounts that are being sent in. Our assistance, with the exception of the one flight, continues to be through the international organizations that are working so actively there. Our understanding is that the international donor community -- that is, governments and relief organizations -- has pledged over $702 million in cash and in-kind to international and private voluntary organizations for the massive relief effort for Iraqi refugees and displaced persons in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. That amount does not include the U.S. cash contribution of $23 million to international organizations working in these countries or the 49,800 metric tons of food valued at $31.6 million contributed by Food for Peace for humanitarian assistance in the region. So out of that overall effort, the assistance is being provided to refugees in Iran. Approximately 70 percent of the EC's $180 million pledge for humanitarian assistance to Iraqi refugees has been channeled to Iran. As of May 7, we understand the EC had funded more than 180 relief flights and the transport of nearly 45,000 tents, 1,250,000 blankets, 10,000 tons of food, and 120 expatriate relief staff. In addition, Belgium, German, and Swedish relief teams are assisting the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Iranian Red Crescent. You'll see from the AID updates of the situation that there is a very extensive international effort aimed at assisting Iran and the Iranian Red Crescent Society to meet the needs of the refugees. Q Are you attempting to determine whether or not these allegations of fraud and corruption are true? MR. BOUCHER: That is certainly something we would be interested in. As you know, we don't have people there, so I guess we would expect to receive reports from the organizations who are carrying out the relief. Those organizations themselves, I'm sure, will be most interested in ensuring that what they do is going to help needy people. Q Therefore, based on those assessments, you may or you may not change your position on Iran? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to predict some sort of big review or change in position at this point. Q Can I just come back to one or two more on the Egyptian announcement? Can you tell us whether the United States Government was consulted in advance by the Egyptian Government on its announcement of the troop withdrawal yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know, Ralph. I'd have to look into it. I'll check. Q Do you know if the U.S. Government has consulted with the Government of Egypt since the announcement on that subject? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. Q Where do things stand? Has there been any developments on the Iraqi request to export some oil? MR. BOUCHER: The Sanctions Committee met this morning. I don't have a readout. There was some stuff on the wires about it, as far as I know. Certainly, our attitude has not changed. Let me see if we can get some sort of readout after the Sanctions Committee is finished. Q Okay. Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:15 p.m.)