US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #85: Tuesday, 5/21/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:18 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 21, 19915/21/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, China, Burma, Cambodia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mongolia, Jordan, India Subject: Arms Control, Trade/Economics, POW/MIA Issues, Development/Relief Aid, State Department (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I have one statement I want to make, and then I will give you a brief update on Secretary Baker's meeting.

[Ethiopia: Situation Update]

On Ethiopia, we have been officially informed by the Government of Ethiopia that President Mengistu has resigned and departed the country for exile. The Vice President has under the constitution replaced Mengistu. Ethiopia is thus embarked on an important political transition. We welcome these developments and hope that the door is now open for the establishment of peace and democracy in this war- ravaged country. In light of these developments, we urge that all government and opposition forces immediately cease military operations in order to allow a political dialogue to begin. The United States is moving ahead with its plans to hold a meeting in London beginning May 27, including both the government and insurgent groups, to discuss a peace transition. Q That's it? MS. TUTWILER: That's it. Q Have you received assurances from the Ethiopian government that they will be there? MS. TUTWILER: That they will be there? We haven't been told that they would not, George, and as of yesterday, it's my understanding they were all going to be there. Now, I can't say that I have any different information today. And it's my understanding as of yesterday, it was the United States Government, it was the three factions, and it was the Government of Ethiopia. That's still my understanding this morning. Q Do you have any idea where Mengistu went? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is that he is currently in Kenya. Q At what level will this meeting take place in London, and will the U.S. participate? MS. TUTWILER: I believe that Hank Cohen told me yesterday that he'll be representing the United States. I can't speak to who will be representing the others. Q Did the United States play any role in facilitating the departure of Mengistu? MS. TUTWILER: No. And the United States was not asked. Our Charge who is in charge there in Ethiopia was called in and told by the Prime Minister after Mengistu had left the country. Q Had the United States previously urged Mengistu to step down and leave? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I know of, Mark. Q Margaret, for years our ability to provide famine relief has been made very difficult by this civil war. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q What are the prospects now that we might be better able to aid the starving people there? MS. TUTWILER: We hope, Pat, that a ceasefire will make it easier to deliver relief to the many tens of thousands of drought victims. The conflicts between the Ethiopian government and the various insurgent groups have been the prime cause of food insecurity. These conflicts have not only caused food shortages by interrupting normal market mechanisms, they have also made relief programs much more difficult to carry out. So we're hoping that this will help and ease that situation. Q Is there any initial indication that that is true, and have these new leaders given -- MS. TUTWILER: This just happened several hours ago. No. I don't have that type of indication yet. Q Margaret, I don't think the United States had made a point of suggesting that Mengistu played a personal role in preventing the factions from reaching agreements in the past. I'm not quite sure I understand why the U.S. now feels that his personal departure will change the views of the Government of Ethiopia. MS. TUTWILER: My understanding, Ralph, and I'm not an expert in this, is that everyone who is in a rebel faction was united in one regard, in that they were not supportive of the current leadership; and there is belief and hope, I said -- not definite -- that with that situation having alleviated itself, maybe now they can talk and not entangle the two situations and connect the two. And maybe the relief which is desperately needed can get to these people. It is only our hope at this point. Q Leaders of the Ethiopian Liberation Movement, I think they call it, said that the escape of Mengistu doesn't change anything for them, and they are looking forward to a wholesale change in the government. Do you have any comment on that? MS. TUTWILER: No.

[Iraq: US Policy on Economic Sanctions]

Q Margaret, last night the President said in his press conference with Chancellor Kohl that the United States was not going to lift economic sanctions against Iraq until Saddam Hussein had left power. Does this mean that the United States now has an objective of getting Saddam Hussein out of power, which apparently was not our objective when we went into Kuwait? Is that correct? Now there's -- MS. TUTWILER: No. Our objectives and goals have not changed. We are still a member of this coalition. The coalition is still, as you know, working out many of these issues in the United Nations and the Sanctions Committee, etc. There was just a vote last night. And in my reading of what the President said -- and as Pat came over yesterday from the White House briefing and asked me a number of questions that Marlin had addressed -- I don't see anything that's new here. I could read to you a statement the President made on April 26, saying there will not be normal relations with the United States or many other countries as long as he is in power. Those sanctions are going to stay there. Q So you're saying that an objective of U.S. foreign policy is not to get Saddam Hussein out of power? MS. TUTWILER: We have said that getting Saddam Hussein has never been a stated objective or goal of the coalition. We have said that, as you're well aware, for months. At the same time, the President has expressed his personal views -- and I think expresses the views of many Americans -- that there would be no tears shed -- the phrase that he's used most frequently -- should Saddam Hussein leave or the Iraqi people choose to have Saddam Hussein leave. And at the same time our policy has been that it's up to the Iraqi people to determine their leadership. But he has also said the third layer of this is there is not going to be normal relations with our country as long as he remains in power, and I believe that is what he restated again yesterday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, I believe it was, with Chancellor Kohl. Q Now he is saying that they're not going to lift sanctions until he's out, and that is a little bit different than normal relations. Does it mean that the United States is now saying that it will veto any attempt to lift sanctions in the Security Council? Is that what that means? MS. TUTWILER: That's a futuristic question for me to deal with today, and it's something that I can't hypothesize with you on or speculate on. Q So it apparently means what the President is saying is that the U.S. will do its best to keep sanctions on Iraq regardless of an outbreak of a cholera epidemic, regardless of what other humanitarian problems are created? I know he is allowing emergency shipments of food into that country, but he is not allowing Iraq to earn any revenues so it can provide or buy food on the open market. MS. TUTWILER: Well, it's not just him. It's my understanding the Sanctions Committee just last night -- I believe the vote was 14 to zero with one abstention, with the abstention being Cuba -- just last night worked out a mechanism that they've been trying to work out for weeks concerning the types of compensation. It's my understanding, they have reached a ceiling, but they have not yet reached a number for the ceiling. And once that is agreed upon, underneath there you can -- for lack of a better word -- float what the percentages would be if the Committee decides one week to have one number and another week another. So a lot of this is still being worked out. I would point out when you mention the United States allowing cholera to go on, that, if my memory serves me correctly, throughout this we have never prohibited, nor has the international community, medical supplies. And I could tell you that so far the United States Government has contributed 6,000 metric tons of food to the World Food Program for emergency feeding of vulnerable groups inside Iraq. As you know, we do not send anything directly into Iraq other than what is being provided through other refugee relief organizations. The United States Government has contributed $1 million for UNICEF and ICRC activities inside Iraq. By the end of April, approximately 300 tons of food had been distributed by the ICRC to hospitals and social centers throughout Iraq. The ICRC transported 3,500 tons of medical and relief supplies to Baghdad in mid-April. And overall it is my understanding there's been a total shipment of 103 tons of foodstuffs to Iraq. Q Margaret, as long as the sanctions remain in full effect, you can't pay reparations. Isn't that correct? MS. TUTWILER: Right. And that's why I said the international community, the Security Council, just last night voted on the first steps in forming a mechanism for determining what it is going to do to get these compensations, and how the Iraqi government is going to be billed for this. Q But aren't the two American policy goals in conflict here -- MS. TUTWILER: Not in my mind. Q -- the one being reparations, and the other being not to lift sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. MS. TUTWILER: The President stated yesterday what his views are and what our policy is. We are at the same time, as you know, still a member of the international community, a member of the Security Council. We attended the meeting yesterday. We are going to continue to work in our coalition. But he has stated again yesterday -- I told you what he stated in April, which is the only other one I could find this morning -- what our clear policy is concerning this.
Refugee Count
Q Margaret, do you have up-to-date figures on the number of Kurds still up in the mountains? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I do. In Turkey they have decreased and today's numbers -- this is northern Iraq and Turkey -- are: Combined Task Force personnel report that the total refugee population in the mountain camps is now about 114,000. 50,500 Iraqi displaced persons are currently at the three coalition-established transit centers near Zakhu and about 25,000 refugees remain in the vicinity of the way stations in northern Iraq. Yesterday approximately 33,000 refugees departed mountain camps in southern Turkey. And in Iran, Alan, as I remember it, there are currently about 900,000 Iraqi refugees in 94 camps that are inside of Iran, and another 150,000 are located along the border. Q Margaret, what are we doing as part of this coalition to pursue a war crimes case against Saddam Hussein? What, if anything, are we doing? MS. TUTWILER: As I remember, in the final resolution -- off the top of my head, I cannot remember the number -- it was the 25-page, I remember, resolution -- war crimes was not addressed in there by the Security Council and the U.N. Q Do you have any update on why we're not, or what we are doing to pursue a war crimes case against -- MS. TUTWILER: Our policy had always been stated that this is something we were willing to discuss with our coalition partners. We have discussed it with them. And, as I made reference to, it did not make it into the final resolution of the United Nations. Q I'm just curious, though, why we are not pursuing that more vigorously, that particular case? MS. TUTWILER: It is not something that we have ever said that we were vigorously pursuing. As you will well remember, there are a number of other countries -- I can think of, specifically, several Arab countries -- that were very interested in pursuing that subject. And when you really got down to it and you started to work on this final U.N. resolution, that was not in it. So you'd have to ask a number of people within the coalition why they decided not to go forward on that. Q Right. I'm just asking the United States Government why you decided not to go forward. MS. TUTWILER: The United States Government never said and never stated that we were going to pursue war crimes. The United States Government throughout said that we would be collecting this information, and that the Defense Department was the depository of such information. But I do not remember the President, nor do I remember the Secretary of State or anyone else, ever saying that we had made a firm decision to pursue war crimes. Q Why not? Q Since the U.N. Security Council took its vote last night on the sanctions -- Q Why not is the question. Q Why not? MS. TUTWILER: I don't remember that the President ever stated explicitly why he decided to make such a decision. It was a decision that he made. I'll be happy to go back and check the record and call Marlin after the briefing and say, "Do you have a clearer explanation of why this is something that our Government decided, either independently or at the United Nations, not to push extremely vigorously for." And I will see what I can dig up off the record for you or get a clearer explanation. Q Margaret, I think you'll recall that the last time this came up, we were told either here on the record or on background that the United States was deferring this decision to the Kuwaitis. MS. TUTWILER: I don't remember ever saying that, Johanna. I'll check the record, but I don't remember saying that. Q O.K. I was wondering if your statement today reflects a decision by the Kuwaitis not to -- MS. TUTWILER: All of this was decided, to be quite honest, several -- many weeks ago, when in the United Nations resolution -- (TO STAFF) Do you remember the number, Richard (Boucher)? It was the big one. MR. BOUCHER: I think it's 687. MS. TUTWILER: 687, which is about a 25-page resolution. Obviously, a number of nations decided -- and everything that they were going to do, at the cessation of hostilities, the ending of the ground war -- not to pursue this. We were one of those nations. Q Margaret, can you at least say that it is a matter -- Q You know -- MS. TUTWILER: What? Q Can you at least say if it is a matter of policy or a matter of procedure? MS. TUTWILER: If it's what? Q A matter of policy taken by the United States Government or a matter of the complexity or the results that could come out of putting the man to trial? Procedures or policy? MS. TUTWILER: It was always, and we've stated any number of times, the United States view, the United States policy. This was not something that the United States said, to my knowledge -- I know I never did --that this was something that the United States was going to do, was going to pursue. I just don't remember it that way. What I do remember saying was this is something we will continue to discuss with our allies. You have to put yourself back in that timeframe. The war ends; it's discussed with our allies. This is how it was handled. Q Can we go back to the sanctions for just a second, Margaret? You noted that the Security Council had made a decision on a mechanism. Is the U.S. now prepared to be explicit about what the United States would like that floating percentage to be for the amount of -- MS. TUTWILER: Did you get an answer, Mark [Dillen]? You were going to check. No. We have a number, but so far -- Q But you're not prepared to say it yet? MS. TUTWILER: -- we've not made the number public. I'll find out for you. We were going to check this morning and we got busy on something else -- getting two more clearances -- on giving you the number. Q Also, could I ask whether the United States is -- MS. TUTWILER: It's a high percentage, Ralph, which is what we have said in the past. Q Is it fair to say near the top of the ceiling at this point? Is that fair to say? MS. TUTWILER: It's not 99.9. Q About half that, wouldn't you say? Q The ceiling set by the U.N. was 50, I think. MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is they didn't set a ceiling last night. It's been referred to the Secretary General, and he's got to work out what the ceiling will be -- it's my understanding this morning. Q They set a ceiling but not a number. MS. TUTWILER: That's right. They set a ceiling but not a number. Within that, that can float, it's my understanding, when they decide to either make it greater or less. Q Does the U.S. agree with the idea of letting it float? Is that a way of essentially compromising so that the U.S. can have its high percentage in there and -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware that it was a problem to us. I'll ask, but I'm not aware that was a problem. Q Can I also ask you whether the United States is considering at this point re-opening its embassy in Baghdad? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I've heard of, no. I'll ask, but I haven't heard anybody talking along those lines. Q The Poles have an Interests -- Q (Inaudible) doing so, and a number of other countries are opening their embassies there as well. MS. TUTWILER: If they are, I hadn't heard about it. Q We have an Interests Section with the Poles. MS. TUTWILER: I know. Q That should be the answer to the question. (Laughter) Q Thank you very much, George. I'd just as soon have the Spokesman for the United States Government answer my question. MS. TUTWILER: I knew that but I didn't know that we were going to open ours. Q We're aware of who represents the U.S. interests there. The question is, whether we're re-opening the embassy. Q Can you tell us anything about the Secretary's meeting with General Moiseyev? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. I went to the meeting because I knew you all would be interested. The meeting ran over its originally scheduled time, so I had to make a decision and I decided to come down here and be with you all. So when I left, they were still meeting. What I had sat through was Secretary Baker's opening presentation on what you all have heard him speak to many times on how important this is to us; and the General's presentation -- his opening statement -- and then I had to make a decision and so I left and came down here. So I don't know. Q Did the General say anything illuminating? Q What was the General's opening statement? MS. TUTWILER: Well, I don't want to kind of do that to him. Q We've heard Secretary Baker's comments many times, but -- MS. TUTWILER: His comments were -- I want to be fair to him because I did not stay for all of the back-and-forth. I want to be fair to the meeting. I don't even know if it's stopped yet, so I want to be careful. You have, I believe, the General's schedule of who else he will be seeing today. I talked to Reggie [Bartholomew] this morning. Prior to Secretary Baker's meeting, Reggie's plan was for them to meet again later this afternoon. He did not have a time yet. He did not know how long they would go or if it would carry on until tomorrow. If you all will check with me or the Press Office, I will try to keep you updated. Q Who else was in the meeting, Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: In Secretary Baker's meeting? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: Off the top of my head, Dennis Ross, Jim Woolsley, Ron Lehman, Reggie Bartholomew, the interpreter, and myself. That's what I remember. Q Were the topics limited to CFE, or did they discuss START as well? MS. TUTWILER: For the portion that I was in there, absolutely, it was CFE.

[Yugoslavia: US Aid Halted Pending Review]

Q Has the United States informed Yugoslavia about certain conditions for a resumption of economic aid? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding, Alan, the White House confirmed this morning that the President had spoken to the Prime Minister. I don't have a date for you. I'd check the record over at the White House. It's my understanding that the President explained to the Yugoslav Prime Minister that a May 5 aid cut-off was mandated by our Congress pending further decision by the Administration. The President advised the Prime Minister that the mandatory cut-off was prompted by actions taken by the Serbian government and that the U.S. continued to strongly support Prime Minister Markovic's government and its reform efforts. The President told the Prime Minister that the Nickles Amendment is still under review by the Administration. Q Did he state, for instance, that that aid question would be influenced by the transition of the Presidency in Yugoslavia? The Croatian guy is supposed to become the President -- MS. TUTWILER: I know that. I don't have a full brief of the President's conversation. I don't know, Alan. Q Just to be fair to that procedure there, wasn't there another step in there? Wasn't the Secretary of State asked or requested by Congress to certify certain things about the state of human rights in Yugoslavia? MS. TUTWILER: I believe that that is a part of this legislation, Ralph, but I cannot remember literally and specifically. Secretary Baker had a meeting concerning Yugoslavia this morning. As you know, the Deputy Secretary of this Department served at one time as the Ambassador to Yugoslavia. He has been someone, while the Secretary has been out on the road, who has been watching very closely this situation for the Secretary. I'm not myself personally that familiar with the literal legislation. Q The question is -- your explanation earlier suggested that the United States was behaving this way because Congress had required the aid cut-off. MS. TUTWILER: And yesterday I explained that in that legislation, as I remember it, there were three parts, one of which I believe was human rights, one of which I believe was free and fair elections; and off the top of my head, I cannot remember the third one from yesterday. Q But my point is simply that it's mandated by Congress if the Executive Branch does not certify that certain things have taken place. The Executive Branch doesn't seem to have made that certification. MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is that the Executive Branch says, and the President told the Prime Minister, that this is under review by the Administration. Q I understand that the Foreign Minister of Croatia is in Washington at the moment. You don't know if he has any meetings here in State? MS. TUTWILER: I'll check for you. One, I hadn't heard that he was in town, and (2) I don't know if he has any meetings here or if he requested them, but I'll find out for you.

[Vietnam: US Official Resigns over POW/MIA Policy]

Q Margaret, the former Chief of the Defense ∧ Intelligence Agency's Office of POW and MIA affairs has resigned, leaving behind a memo which criticizes policy people, apparently intended to include people here at this Department, of disregarding and possibly and even covering up information on prisoners of war left in southeast Asia. Do you have any comment? MS. TUTWILER: One, I don't know anything about this. I have heard that Senator Kerry delivered a letter to the Department. My understanding is Hun Sen gave a letter for the Secretary to Senator Kerry about two weeks ago asking the United States to send observers to Cambodia to verify Vietnamese troop withdrawal. I don't know anything in reference to POW/MIAs. I do not at this time have a specific response to this particular letter, if it's commingled with the issue that you've raised. As you know, though, our long-held view has been that the Vietnamese troop withdrawal should be verified by the U.N. as part of a comprehensive settlement. The last I remember, Bill, on POW/MIAs is, I believe, General Vessey -- when was it, Richard [Boucher], 10 weeks ago? That long ago. For the first time we set up or sent some type of experts from General Vessey's office into -- where did we send them? Cambodia or Vietnam. It was Vietname, wasn't it, Richard? Q They opened an office in Hanoi. MS. TUTWILER: Set up an office. That's the last I remember on POW/MIAs. Q Could you take the question as to the specific allegation raised by this -- MS. TUTWILER: Who is this? Q The man's name is Army Colonel Millard A. Pack, or Peck. He used to work at the DIA. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know anything about it. I'll check into it. Q Do you have any readout on the Foreign Minister from Zimbabwe? Why is he here? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I didn't know he was here. Q He's meeting with Cohen. MS. TUTWILER: Sorry, Connie. Q If you have anything later. I don't know, but maybe I missed this along the line, but Israel apparently has protested claiming that Syria is swallowing up Lebanon. Do you have any guidance on that? MS. TUTWILER: Nothing new from our standard policy, Connie. One, I'm not aware of that statement, and (2) our policies concerning Lebanon are well known. Q If you have anything on those two, could somebody let me know, please? Q Margaret, is the Secretary considering or about to make a decision on this Greek banker held in Massachussets, whether or not he's going to be extradited? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I'll be happy to ask for you. Q CNN had an Iraqi official -- I did not catch the name -- on the air this morning accusing the U.S. of blackmail for trying to use sanctions as a way to get Saddam Hussein out of power; that's not the way democracies are supposed to -- it's not the kind of example democracies are supposed to set. Any reaction to that? MS. TUTWILER: It's hard to react to something, Pat, that I haven't seen. I think that I've already stated earlier this morning what our policy has consistently been concerning Saddam Hussein. I'm not sure that I have much more to add to that. Q As a matter of fact, you have not succinctly stated what U.S. policy is on Saddam Hussein. Is it a goal of the U.S. Government to have Saddam Hussein get out of office? MS. TUTWILER: OK, we'll do it again. There's never been a stated goal or objective of the United States Government or of the coalition for the removal of Saddam Hussein. Having said that, the President has said on any number of occasions, he wouldn't shed any tears if the guy left; that it's up to the Iraqi people to determine who their leaders are; that there will be absolutely no normalization or routine business or business as usual with the United States Government as long as he is in power. Q So it sounds like a goal of the U.S. Government is the removal of Saddam Hussein. Why is that so hard to state in a declarative sentence? MS. TUTWILER: Because our policy is stated the way I have just articulated it. Q Maybe the goal is not to have normal relations with Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me? Q Maybe the goal is not to have normal relations with Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: No, we don't want to hurt the Iraqi people. As you know, we have said that -- the President has said -- I believe he said it again yesterday -- there will not be a normalization of relations with our government as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. Q You seem to equate the phrase "normalization of relations" with "lifting of sanctions." Sanctions were not in place and relations between the U.S. and Iraq need not be normal in the absence of sanctions. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. MS. TUTWILER: I believe if I was in the Iraqis' moccasins, I would say that one indication of things getting back to normal would be the international community getting these economic sanctions off my back. So it is one big indication of things would be getting "back to normal." Q Is the U.S. lobbying the U.N. to try to adopt the policy to get rid of Saddam before sanctions are lifted? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure, Pat, if we're lobbying the United Nations. The President has made no secret of his views concerning this. He did it again yesterday at 6:00, so I don't think there's any surprise. Q No, but it sounds like the President wants this position but he's not ready to part company with the U.N. and he's not sure the U.N. is ready to adopt that policy yet. MS. TUTWILER: To be perfectly honest with you, I'm not aware of -- maybe you are -- anyone that has stepped forward -- any leader, who is a part of the coalition or supported the coalition's efforts -- who has stepped forward and said today or now is the time to release all sanctions. I just personally am not aware of who's leading that parade. Q Margaret, you earlier gave figures in which you said there were 900,000 Kurds -- MS. TUTWILER: Approximately, I think. Q -- or mostly Kurds who are still in Iran. Several weeks ago, the United States sent one shipment of blankets -- one planeload of blankets to Iran. At the time it was stated that indirect contacts were underway with a view of sending a planeloan of medicines which, to my memory, never left. MS. TUTWILER: I don't believe the second flight ever did take off, Alan. Q Why is that? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I'll have to go back and look into it for you. Q Are these refugees adequately supplied with medicines or was it a question of political sensitivities between Iran and the United States? MS. TUTWILER: Number 1, I cannot remember that specifically, the second flight limited itself to medicine. That's a fact that I just don't remember. I know there definitely was a second flight that we said that we had offered and was being discussed. To be honest, I don't know what happened to it. Q Could you try and find out why that flight never went? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. But I've also stated that the United States has, since the very beginning of this situation, been contributing, as we have throughout -- in Iraq, too -- international organizations that are in turn helping the situation in Iran. Q I gather throughout the day yesterday there was some revisionist thinking on the trials that have been going on in Kuwait and that the President ultimately went quite a bit further than the State Department. Do you have some new words this morning on whether or not you think those trials are meeting the various standards that the United States judicial system likes to impose on -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't have any new words other than the words the State Department put out yesterday afternoon that was specifically addressing two questions Bill Plante, I believe, had raised, or how the President expressed his views of the situation last night which had, as you, I'm sure, saw, two parts to it. Q Margaret, is the United States willing to accept a kind of partial lifting of sanctions which will be applicable to oil in order to satisfy those who are asking for compensation or repatriation, or whatever? MS. TUTWILER: I would just have to refer you, sir, to the President's very own statement last night at 6:00 p.m., and he addressed himself, I think, fully to this. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (Press briefing concluded at 12:48 p.m.)