US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #82: Thursday, 5/16/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:43 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 16, 19915/16/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, East Asia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, China, Burma, Cambodia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mongolia, Jordan, India Subject: Development/Relief Aid, State Department, Democratization, Military Affairs, Terrorism, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have any update on the discussions between Iraq and the U.N. on a police force? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new information. I understand those discussions are continuing, and I think that's about all we have to say on it. Q Has the United States -- MR. BOUCHER: The U.N. continues its negotiations with Iraq. We encourage the Secretary General in these efforts. Q Do you have any more details about exactly what they're looking at beyond that point? MR. BOUCHER: I don't, really. The Secretary General addressed it the other day, and that's about as much detail as we have. Q Can you tell us anything about the President's conversation with King Hussein of Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you that Marlin just talked about it and explained it all, and I'll be glad to refer you to him. Q What about the Secretary's trip? Do you have any assessment here about the success of that trip? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. He addressed it in Israel before he left. They are in the airplane, and they'll be back tonight.

[USSR: Status of US Embassy Construction]

Q Now that the Embassy issue in Moscow is kicked back to the State Department, do you have anything to say about what you're going to do now? MR. BOUCHER: Well, the House has acted on it. I think we're still waiting for action in the Senate. Let me express our views. We welcome the support expressed yesterday by the House for urgent action to build a secure Embassy in Moscow. Supporters of all options in the House eloquently argued for an immediate Congressional decision to make possible construction of adequate secure office space in Moscow this year. While authorizing the required funds, they also agreed that the Administration should take a fresh look at options for providing such secure space. We'll be doing that as part of our efforts to ensure that yesterday's House action leads to a Congressional decision that will provide the nation with a modern, secure Embassy in Moscow that we so urgently need. Q Do you -- excuse me. Q Other fresh options such as what? MR. BOUCHER: A fresh look at the options. Q Well, in other words, you now think -- MR. BOUCHER: You know that the two main options out there are what's called "Top Hat" and what's called "Teardown." The action expressed support for an immediate Congressional decision. The bill, I understand, passed the House; it hasn't gone through the Senate yet. And the House has asked us to carry out their wishes in taking a fresh look at the options, so I can't give you anything further on options at this point. Q But the House has knocked down the "Top Hat" option at this point. So with one more standing out there does that mean you're going to resubmit the proposal for "Teardown" and rebuild? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on how we will come out on specific building options at this point." Q You've already looked at it, though. You said the "Top Hat" was agreeable. The intelligence community came aboard; they said that's fine with them. MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q So you still agree that that's the best method right now? MR. BOUCHER: We have testified before about "Teardown" and "Top Hat." Those are the two principal options that are looked at. Those were considered and discussed on the Hill. I'll stick with what we said before on those, but the House action basically authorized funding for a secure Embassy and apparently left the construction plan up to us. It was a little more complicated than that, but I can't at this point -- until we finish working with the Congress to get legislation, I'm not going to say which option we can choose. Q Can you reiterate for the record your position, your preference, as you have in the past? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to say anything new on options today. Q Richard, you say you welcome the support from the House, but there were some fairly harsh words about the State Department's past performance in this whole operation. Do you have any defense on those criticisms? MR. BOUCHER: We have testified on this subject many, many times. I think Ivan Selin testified at least three or four times this year. We've been pursuing for many years options, attempts to secure funding for secure office space for us in Moscow. At this point the bill has passed the House. We'll continue working with the Congress to try to get legislation. We welcome the fact that they recognize the immediate need for a decision on office space, and we'll be working onward from there. Q And have you sorted through the legal implications of the House asking the State Department to dun the Soviets for some amount of money? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've sorted through this completely, Jim. The aspects of liability for the previous Embassy have been a matter of discussion with the Soviets, but at the same time we need an immediate decision by Congress that will allow us to get the office space we need. Q Is the Department going to go ahead now with rebuilding the damaged, burned-out old Embassy, How much is that going to cost while you wait for something new? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a final estimate of that nor how much we can do with the old Embassy at this point. Q Didn't Selin say it would cost $200 million for the burned building? MR. BOUCHER: He may have, but I don't have the numbers with me. I don't know.

[USSR: US Agricultural Credit Guarantees]

Q Anything on the Senate resolution on food credits? MR. BOUCHER: The status of food credits is that it's still under review. Q Do you have any reaction to what the Senate did yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: No. The President has stated his desire to try to help meet Soviet food needs. A high-level team of experts that he's sending to the Soviet Union this week will gather information about the Soviet food situation and food distribution problems, and they will make recommendations to the President's about ways that we could be helpful. The team, if you will remember, departs Washington May l7 and is expected to be in the Soviet Union for about one week. Q What is the Administration's position on Most Favored Nation trade status for China? MR. BOUCHER: Let me start off by quoting the President. The President said, "Marlin put it right." So let me go on to quote Marlin. "Formally, we still have to go through a review. There's a possibility that conditions could be placed on any MFN approval. We're in the consultative process within the Government right now," and we'll have to "analyze exactly the human rights situation." Q Well, is Kimmitt -- and to Bob Kimmitt again. Is he having much to do with this review at this point? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly. Q And could he speak to the press about that review? MR. BOUCHER: Let me remind you that he spoke to the press in Beijing on May 7. Q Not since the President's action, however. MR. BOUCHER: Marlin said this morning that when the formal decision is made and we go ahead with the notifications and things like that that we'll be happy to explain to you all at that point our reasons. Q You say "when a formal decision is made." The operative word here is "formality." The President has clearly made up his mind, and it is the President who is going to decide whether to grant a waiver; is that not right? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The President said what he wants to do. There are formal procedures involved here. There are other things -- sort of the total package that has to be considered -- and that's what we're in the process of doing now. Q What will be in that total package that's not encompassed in the President's basic decision? MR. BOUCHER: The various issues that we need to look at, how we analyze the situation, how we present it, and that sort of thing. Q Richard, isn't this a matter of Congressional nose-counting? You simply have got to find out whether or not you can get Most Favored Nation status through without conditions? MR. BOUCHER: That's not the way Marlin put it, and the President said, "Marlin put it right." So I'll stick with that. (Laughter.) Q Richard, you have any comment on the bill -- the Mitchell plan for MFN? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't at this point. Q Going back to the agricultural team leaving tomorrow for the Soviet Union, I understood that they were looking into food distribution, which is more of a long-term thing and it would not really address the short-term needs for grain in the Soviet Union. Yet you make it sound as if they will come back after this week and then at some later point make recommendations on the grain credits idea. Is that what you meant to suggest? MR. BOUCHER: What I meant to suggest was what I said -- that is, that they will gather information about the Soviet food situation and food distribution problems and make recommendations to the President about ways we could be helpful. You will remember from the original announcement of their visit, it said that they will look at all aspects of the problem in food distribution and the food market situation more generally. The information on economic and political reform which the team gathers will also serve usefully in the continuing review of President Gorbachev's request for additional credit guarantees. Q So there are two aspects. The team is being sent specifically to look at the food situation, at the food distribution problems in the Soviet Union, to see generally how we can be of help, but we also see that information as being useful in analyzing the credit guarantee question. You would expect no decision on credit guarantees then, I guess, until after they have had a chance to make this assessment? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't want to predict precisely when that decision will be made. At this point, it remains under review. Q Do you know how long that team is going to be there? MR. BOUCHER: I think I just said about a week. Q About a week? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q I have a local question on embassies. Who is responsible for paying parking tickets for diplomatic vehicles? MR. BOUCHER: It is a question that comes up from time to time. The Department expects foreign mission members and their families to comply fully with local traffic laws and regulations and to pay fines for cited violations. Q What happens if they don't pay them? MR. BOUCHER: We send diplomatic notes to foreign missions informing them of their obligation to pay parking fines and reminding them that we will not intervene with local jurisdictions to cancel valid parking citations. We have also been working with the D.C. Government to help identify offenders and seek compliance with parking regulations. We plan to send letters to the heads of mission citing specific unpaid fines, and our expectation that these fines will be paid. Q Will these vehicles be booted and towed like the rest of the people in the city? MR. BOUCHER: The letter that we are sending will say that failure to pay the fines may result in the loss of privilege of operating motor vehicles in the United States. Q Is that a yes? MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer to how exactly that question gets pursued on a local level is left to local authorities, but we are reminding them of their obligations. We are sending a letter to the foreign missions here that have specific unpaid fines to remind them of their obligation to pay. Q Thank you. Q Can you be more specific about which missions you are sending these letters to? MR. BOUCHER: No. The figures are available from the District Government. We work with the District Government to seek compliance with the regulations. We don't compile the figures on who has the outstanding fines. Q How often do you send out these notices as a matter of course? MR. BOUCHER: The notices on obligations, I think, are sort of standing notices that are informed to all missions. I don't know when the last time might have been, if we have, citing specific fines. But when there is, for example, we have suspended and revoked driving privileges for moving violations in the past. So when something like that has occurred, we have suspended people's licenses, basically. Q Richard, as far as the Office of Foreign Missions goes, then foreign embassies do not have immunity from booting and towing, so that's in the hands of the local parking authorities? MR. BOUCHER: I think you'll have to check some of those details with the D.C. Government about how they handle those things. Our responsibility is to work with the D.C. Government to remind foreign missions that they pay the fines. Q Did anybody ask you yesterday, Richard, whether you had any response to the arrests in Kuwait for people who had homecoming signs? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Could you take the questions please? Or, no, let me amend that. Do you have any guidance on it? MR. BOUCHER: Do you have a question on that? Q Yes. My question is, do you have a reaction to these arrests? MR. BOUCHER: Oh. Q You do? Well, nobody asked you about it yesterday. MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Nobody asked me about it yesterday. We didn't have a lot of information yesterday. We had seen reports that the Interior Minister said that these people would be released. We have asked our Embassy to inquire about it. At this point, I haven't seen anything back. Q You didn't have any more general response to the article that appeared today in the Wall Street Journal about Kuwait and the situation, that it was listless and nothing was happening, and so on? Obviously not. MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm afraid I didn't read that article. We have talked many times about the situation in Kuwait. Q Back to Jordan for a minute. What's the status of U.S. aid to Jordan? And has that anything to do with the President's conversation? MR. BOUCHER: Marlin was asked that this morning. I don't have anything new on it. I'm not aware of anything new. Q It is under review? MR. BOUCHER: That's my understanding, yes. Q Richard, would you know anything of the whereabouts of Soviet Deputy Oleg Kalugin, who was visiting the States last week and, according to Soviet Press reports, didn't go back to the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: No. I know nothing about him. Q Is that it? Q Do you have anything on Yugoslavia, Richard? MR. BOUCHER: The situation in Yugoslavia? Q Will you take the question on Kalugin?

[Yugoslavia: Situation Update]

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything to say about him. Yesterday we noted the importance we attached to an orderly transfer of constitutional authority in accordance with accepted Yugoslav practice. We are disappointed that, despite assurances to the contrary, Serbia continues to block such a transfer. As we noted yesterday, we believe that this step is essential to continued progress towards a united and democratic Yugoslavia. Q Richard, Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher will be here on Monday. Do you think your Administration will ask them for more help through the EEC countries to solve the Middle East problems? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to make predictions at this point about the visit. I'm leaving questions of the EC role and the peace process to the Secretary. So I'm afraid I don't have any comment. Q Richard, on the Bangladesh relief operation, some Indian politicians have expressed skepticism about the U.S. role there and say that it may be a pretext for a longer presence. Do you have any response to that? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I think I would only say that we are one of a number of countries that have responded to the Bangladesh Government's request. India was also one of the countries. In fact, it was one of the first countries to send aid to Bangladesh after the cyclone, and other donor countries are well aware of what the U.S. Government is doing in our common efforts to help Bangladesh. Q And can you state for the record that the U.S. task force will be pulled out as soon as the relief effort permits? MR. BOUCHER: The role of the task force in helping with this particular disaster, I think, is very, very clear. Q Which means that they will be pulled out? MR. BOUCHER: I'm just nervous about speaking to the Pentagon's business about the movement of ships and things like that, but I think we have made very, very clear that we are there solely for the purposes of this disaster operation and not for any other purposes. Q Richard, did you have any comment on the Burma arrests earlier this week? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Thirty-four people were arrested or seen as dissidents. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything on that. Q In the same neighborhood, Richard, in Cambodia, the Asia Wall Street Journal reported this week that a U.S. AID team has returned from Cambodia itself and is recommending that aid be dispensed to that Cambodian part that is under Heng Samrin. I was wondering if you have any statement about that report, and, if not, could you look into it or take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into that. Q Do you have anything on the possibility of a super summit featuring President Gorbachev, President Bush, and other members of the world community to resolve the Middle East problem, as it were? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Have you heard of any such terminology being thrown around here in the State Department? MR. BOUCHER: It was just thrown around in the last 35 seconds, but, no, I don't have anything to say on such speculations. Q The FMLN charge that the Salvadoran army has launched an offensive in Chalatenango and Morazon Provinces. I was wondering if you had any statement on it and, if not, if you could take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it and see if there is anything we want to say. Q Thank you. Q You announced a little while ago in a statement that there is a signing for some Mongolian emergency aid to Mongolia. Is that an aid program that had been announced before? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is this was emergency assistance because of crop shortfalls and transportation difficulties and things like that that are occurring in Mongolia. I think there will be more available information at that time, as well. Q Has the United States given aid to Mongolia in the past? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check back. Q Richard, does the State Department have any comment on the protocol gaffe at the White House, considering Ambassador Reed is based here? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q What gaffe? MR. BOUCHER: You can ask your colleague later. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at l:0l p.m.)