US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #81: Friday, 5/15/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:40 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 15, 19915/15/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, E/C Europe, Subsaharan Africa, Central America, South America Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Israel, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Yugoslavia (former), Bangladesh Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Trade/Economics, Terrorism, Narcotics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start off with a short statement about the death of the former Japanese Foreign Minister and MITI Minister, Shintaro Abe.

[Japan: Death of Former Japanese Prime Minister]

Secretary Baker and those of us in the Department were saddened to learn of the death yesterday of former Japanese Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe. The Secretary knew him well and enjoyed working with Minister Abe over the course of many years in both the Reagan and the Bush Administrations. He will be sorely missed. The Secretary and those who worked with him here would like to personally extend their condolences to Minister Abe's family. Minister Abe was one of the outstanding statesmen of his generation, and good friend of the United States. He was, for many years in various high posts, a tireless advocate of strong U.S.-Japan relations. He will be particularly remembered for his efforts to foster deeper understanding between our two peoples. The Fund for Global Partnership, which the Japanese Government established at his initiative last year, will make possible greatly expanded cultural and educational contacts for generations to come. It stands as a lasting memorial to friendship between our two countries. With that statement, I'd be happy to take your questions.

[Iraq: Situation Update]

Q Do you have anything to say about what's going on with respect to the effort to get the U.N. police force into northern Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I think you're probably familiar with the remarks that the U.N. Secretary General made yesterday. He indicated that the discussions could involve a lightly armed presence, possibly consisting of some 400 to 500 personnel. We encourage the Secretary General and his representatives in this effort. This could help provide the feeling of security the Kurdish people need to return to their homes throughout northern Iraq and it could expedite the complete U.N. takeover of the relief effort. My understanding of the situation is that the Secretary General's Executive Delegate, Sadruddin Aga Khan, began the discussions with the Government of Iraq on the idea of a U.N. guard force during his recent visit to Baghdad. Sadruddin's special representative in Iraq, Bernt Bernander, is continuing the discussions with the Government of Iraq. The United States keeps in regular contact with the Secretary General and with Sadruddin Aga Khan on matters related to the relief effort. As I said, our goal remains to turn over the operation to the United Nations as soon as possible. Q Would their mandate be to protect the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any more on their mandate. As I said, that sort of thing is being worked out by the United Nations in their discussions with the Iraqis. Q Is that the sort of scale that you had in mind when you were talking originally about the U.N. police force -- 400 to 500 men? MR. BOUCHER: The issue of scale, Jim, is one that comes back down to what it is that will make people feel comfortable in going back to their homes. We are working through our own efforts, through the efforts of the United Nations, and others to create a situation where people feel comfortable going back to their homes. We've said that a U.N. armed presence is one element of this, and that's an element that the United Nations is pursuing with the Iraqi Government. Q Would the allies continue to maintain a security zone even if there were a U.N. police force? MR. BOUCHER: Gil, the process of transition is one that I can't give you any more details on. We have to see what the United Nations works out with the Iraqis, and then how the process works out as we work it with the United Nations. The ultimate goal, of course, is to be able to withdraw U.S. troops and to have, as I said, a complete takeover of the operations by the United Nations. Q Do you think that 400 to 500 lightly armed police will provide adequate security and create that sense of security that you spoke of among the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Ted, that's the kind of question that Jim just asked. I have to leave it to saying that we're trying to work out a whole variety of relationships and measures by various people -- the United Nations people in northern Iraq, the other stations around the country -- that will create the conditions under which people feel comfortable going to their homes. Q Are you able to assure the Kurds that the United States will not pull its troops out until you're satisfied that the situation there is secure for them? MR. BOUCHER: The ultimate decision on when people feel comfortable in going to their homes is one that the Kurds will be making. Some of them have been making it already, and we will continue to work the process on the ground. Q Richard, do you have anything on the latest incident of Iraqi soldiers firing on a U.S. chopper? MR. BOUCHER: I have what the Pentagon gave me which is: The crew of a U.S. Army OH-58 Helicopter was flying inside the declared security area. They observed small arms fire directed in the general direction of their helicopter last night at approximately 10:00 p.m. local time. The helicopter was flying approximately 12 kilometers west of Dohuk. It was not hit and none of the crew were injured. They observed 3 to 4 tracer rounds being fired. The fire was not high enough above the ground for the crew to consider it a threat to the helicopter. They illuminated the area with a flare. Nothing unusual was seen. They took no action in response to the ground fire, and the helicopter continued its mission and returned safely to the base in Zakhu. Q So what mission was that? Was it a relief mission or military? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly. They were part of Operation Provide Comfort. I don't have exactly what mission they were on. Q Will we discuss this with the Iraqis the next time the General meets with them? MR. BOUCHER: I can't say for sure. That depends on the General. At this point, my understanding is they did not consider this really a threat to the helicopter. It was something that they observed. It's the kind of thing that does get discussed in our military meetings, but I can't tell you specifically whether they will raise it or not. Q Can we go back for just a moment to the U.N. peacekeeping force? Are you in consultation with -- or can you specify any of the objections of the Permanent Members of the Security Council of a peacekeeping force of this nature? MR. BOUCHER: If people want to specify objections, it's for them to specify. We are in touch with the Secretary General; with his Executive Delegate, Sadruddin Aga Khan; and with other members at the United Nations about the issue of security and police forces. Q But the Chinese and the Soviets have expressed some concern about this. MR. BOUCHER: If they want to express some concern, that's fine. We have addressed the issue in the past. We have said that we are operating under Resolution 688 which provides authority for relief operations, which provides authority for U.N. operations. The issue of security is something that we've long been discussing with officials at the United Nations and other member governments. Q In other words, you won't have to go back to the Security Council, in any case? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there's no resolution on the table. But as the Secretary said last week, we'll do what's necessary to make sure that we can carry this out.
Refugees
Q Is this reversed exodus still continuing in the same proportions as it was yesterday -- 25,000? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. There were approximately 15,000, I think, that left in the last day. The update on numbers is that the population inside Turkey or along the border is now about 190,000. There are more than 40,000 refugees in the now 3 temporary tent villages at Zakhu. The latest estimate is that about 15,000 refugees left the mountain camps yesterday. The Zakhu transit camp is the term that the United Nations is using to identify the temporary tent village near Zakhu for which they assumed responsibility on Monday. Coalition forces have completed the construction of a second temporary tent village near Zakhu, and they have begun construction of a third temporary tent village nearby. The populations are about 18,500 Iraqis at the United Nations camp -- that's what we used to call Zakhu I; about 19,192 at the second camp. There are an estimated 6,800 who have moved into the third camp. There are about 4,000 people waiting to be registered in the third camp.

[Ethiopia: London Peace Talks]

Q Do you have anything on Ethiopian peace talks starting May 27. Do you have something on that? MR. BOUCHER: We've discussed this, I think, somewhat in the past. We've tried to be helpful in setting up roundtable talks between the various parties. I think we've said that Assistant Secretary Cohen will go out for the United States. The projected starting date is the last week of this month. Q Do you have a location? MR. BOUCHER: London.

[Peru: Joint Policy for War on Drugs]

Q Do you have anything on a drug agreement between the United States and Peru? MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday the Government of Peru and the United States Government signed a declaration laying out a joint policy for continued cooperation in the war on drugs. This is another sign of President Fujimori's strong determination to stop the flow of coca products out of Peru. He wants to give incentives to farmers to grow other crops and to put more pressure on drug traffickers. The Peruvian Air Force is now operating in major coca growing regions to interdict drug shipments, and there is increased anti-narcotics cooperation between Peru's police and the military. We will continue to help President Fujimori in his efforts to combat the scourge of illegal narcotics. Q What does the agreement say? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that it's a framework agreement for our anti-narcotics cooperation for economic assistance, for military and police cooperation. It doesn't have specific monetary amounts in it. It's to be followed by agreements in each of the specific areas where we will be cooperating. Q Do you have anything more on this report yesterday that there may be some Israeli troops massing at the northern border? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Does that mean then it's not happening? MR. BOUCHER: It means I don't have anything more on it. I think I declined to try to address the issue in any detail yesterday, both because of the kind of information that was reported in the article and for the fact that the Secretary's currently in Israel.

[Bangladesh: Situation Update]

Q Richard, do you have an update on relief for the victims in Bangladesh? MR. BOUCHER: There will be an AID situation report on Bangladesh today. I didn't see the final before I came in here, but it should be available shortly. The newest information is that the U.S. amphibious task force sent to assist the relief effort in Bangladesh is arriving at is assigned operational area at this very moment. The task force includes seven amphibious ships and one oiler. The equipment aboard the ships includes 28 helicopters and a number of landing craft, including air cushion hovercraft. These will be used to distribute relief supplies to areas covered by shallow water. The focus of the U.S. military relief effort is on supplementing the distribution of supplies which are already in the country. Q Let me try again with the question -- Q Can we stay on Bangladesh? MR. BOUCHER: O.K. Q You were saying the helicopters were not a feasible way of dealing with the relief problem in Bangladesh. What happened between last week and this week? Last week you were saying trucks and boats were the way to go. MR. BOUCHER: George, I don't think I quite said that. I said that there were relief supplies available in-country. There were transportation assets in-country, including trucks and boats, that were being used that were getting things to people in the affected areas; and that we were continuing to look at the issue of helicopters, and that we would provide those if they were needed. Indeed, that determination was made late last week, and on Saturday, I think it was, the White House announced these various military elements would be sent in. On May 13 the C-5 transport that had five Blackhawk helicopters was sent in and we're doing a lot more. Q Are we considering more monetary or other kinds of aid? MR. BOUCHER: We're continuing to consider the needs of Bangladesh, and I'm sure we'll respond as appropriate. I can give you some sort of rundown, if you want it, overall on the assistance effort, if you bear with me for a few minutes. I've broken it out into three parts that basically characterize our efforts. The first are the efforts of our military forces and the Defense Department. The second is the specific disaster relief funds that we're providing, and the third is the way we're using our $130 million aid program. On the military side, advance elements of the Joint U.S. Military Task Force arrived in Dhaka on May 12. On May 13, there was a C-5 transport aircraft that arrived with five helicopters, crews, air traffic control team, Seabees and environmental preventive medicine specialists. The amphibious crew, as I said, is arriving today. There was also on May 10 a C-141 from the Defense Department that flew from Okinawa to Dhaka with relief supplies. I don't have a dollar value on these Defense Department contributions. I think the Defense Department will provide those when they're able to. On the specific relief efforts, because of the cyclone we've provided over $7 million in funds and supplies for disaster relief. That includes $2 million worth of medical supplies that were provided by Defense to the Health Ministry in Dhaka just before the cyclone struck. It includes $25,000 of the Ambassador's disaster relief funds. It includes a $100,000 grant on May 2 for non-governmental organizations, to be used for water purifying agents, oral rehydration salts and other relief supplies. The Embassy in Bangladesh has also provided $14,000 worth of water purification tablets. The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has purchased four million water purification tablets from Switzerland -- those are worth $512,000 -- and we're seeking additional sources of oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. These are still a critical need. On May 7, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance contributed $4,250,000 to be used by non-governmental organizations for relief supplies. Then in addition, the United States funds a $130 million annual program of economic assistance to Bangladesh. This program in the past has enhanced disaster preparedness. It's being used this year in part to address the needs of people affected by the disaster. Under that program, 67,000 tons of PL-480 wheat were delivered about seven weeks ago. Another $60 million worth of wheat is due to arrive in Bangladesh within three or four months, and 42,000 tons of fertilizer worth $9.5 million that will also be shipped to Bangladesh by the end of May. Q Do you have any information about any changing in the itinerary of the Secretary or information that he is going back to Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. I think we got a schedule this morning that shows him coming home tomorrow night. Q Tomorrow night? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Do you know if somebody from his entourage is going back to Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's a question that would have to be addressed to people that are in his entourage. Q Could I ask again what your plans are for pushing legislation up on the Hill on the enterprise program in view of the apparent victory on the "fast track"? MR. BOUCHER: Well, we haven't declared victory on "fast track" yet. We still think it's important. We're still working on it. We're still pushing it. As for the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, I think we put up an answer the other day in the Press Office. I don't have it with me, but we'd be glad to get that for you.

[Yugoslavia: Election Debates]

Q Richard, do you have anything on Yugoslavia today in response to events there? MR. BOUCHER: In accordance with the Yugoslav constitution and political practice, the Croatian member on the Yugoslav Collective Federal Presidency is due to begin a one-year term as the President of the Presidency today. Initial reports indicate that Serbia and its allies acted to block this step at the beginning of today's meeting of the Yugoslav Presidency. That meeting is still going on in an expanded session which includes the Yugoslav Prime Minister and leaders of the Republics. As we've said before, we support progress towards a democratic and united Yugoslavia. We believe that an orderly constitutional transfer of power in accordance with accepted practice is a very important step in this direction. Q At some point, does this become the kind of crisis that you want to take to the CSCE or other institutions that were set up to deal with ethnic problems in the last couple of years? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I don't want to predict anything specific. We have discussed the situation in Yugoslavia at the CSCE before. I'm sure that could happen again. Q Do you have any comment on Serbia's move, beyond saying what you said last week prior to this development that you support -- what? -- democratic reforms and unity? MR. BOUCHER: I think I said it again, and I said I think that we think it's very important that the orderly transfer of constitutional power take place as it has under the constitution and in practice. Q But no direct response to this latest move, as far as you're concerned? MR. BOUCHER: I gave a response, and I'll stick with it. Q Back on the agreement with Peru, who signed the agreement, and where was it signed? Do you have that? MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check that. I'm pretty sure it was in Lima by our Ambassador, but I'll double-check. Q Richard, on that same topic, what is the current status of U.S. support for anti-narcotics efforts there in Peru? MR. BOUCHER: Do you mean like dollar figures? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't have them with me. I'll get them for you. Q Isn't it suspended or -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and get it for you. Q Richard, twice now U.S. military forces have been involved in relief efforts in Turkey, northern Iraq and in Bangladesh. Does this signal any greater willingness to use the U.S. military in relief? Is this part of a pattern that we'll see repeated in the future, or is it coincidental? MR. BOUCHER: I can't draw that broad a conclusion for you at this point. I'm not sure if the Pentagon would like to or not. I know you're familiar with the repeated remarks that the President has made that we want to help out where we can, where there are people suffering. And we're finding ways to do that very expeditiously by using the military. They can be proud of what they're doing, but I don't think I'm going to commit them to every disaster in the future. Q I'm thinking about Somalia, where American forces evacuated the Embassy, for instance. Might they be used to bring in food at some point? MR. BOUCHER: I really couldn't speculate on that at this point. Q Any comment on the situation in El Salvador where the FMLN continues to attack despite so-called agreements? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new today. I think we had a statement -- Q Friday. MR. BOUCHER: Friday -- on the continued attacks that they were making against the power grid. We said that that kind of stuff ought to stop. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:00 o'clock.)