US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #96, Tuesday, 6/11/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:30 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 11, 19916/11/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, USSR (former), Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Arms Control, Human Rights, Terrorism, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Mideast Peace Process (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I'd just start off because some of you were wondering what the Secretary is doing up in Princeton today. I thought I'd just tell you he went up this morning. He's receiving a honorary doctorate from Princeton University today at the the university's commencement ceremony. There are no remarks that are planned, and he returns to Washington this evening. With that little bit of information, that's all I have to say, so I'm glad to take your questions. Q Richard, will we get any kind of transcript of his unplanned remarks? MR. BOUCHER: He's not planning on saying anything, Mark. I don't think there's any transcript involved. Q Did you say that -- Q (Inaudible) remarks? MR. BOUCHER: It's an L.L.D. Q Could you tell us anything about the meeting today between Under Secretary Bartholomew and the Pakistani delegation? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. They're having a series of meetings. I'll have to check and see if there's anything I can say. I mean the Pakistani delegation is having a series of meetings in Washington over the next several days. I'll have to see if there's anything I can say today about this specific one. Q One member of the delegation said that they did discuss nuclear matters. Can you confirm that, give any details about what they -- MR. BOUCHER: That's what we expected. I mean -- Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: -- that was part of the program, as Margaret described it the other day. So I didn't try to check before coming down to get a readout. I'll have to check in the afternoon to see if there's anything we can say at this point. Q There was a question asked yesterday about some report that the U.S. had offered to sell Pakistan conventional weapons if they held off on their nuclear program, and I thought there was supposed to be a reply from the State Department. MR. BOUCHER: There was an answered posted yesterday -- Q Oh. MR. BOUCHER: -- afternoon. The first two letters were "N" and "o." Q That's right. (Laughter.) Q As usually, fulsome! Q Do you have anything on the reports of an Iraqi offensive against Shi'ites in the southern part of the country? MR. BOUCHER: I checked with the experts this morning, and the answer is that we have no evidence of an escalation of Iraq military in the southern region. Scattered clashes continue between the Iraqi military and opposition forces, but there's no evidence of a large-scale attack. Q While we're at it, any notion of the expectation of U.S. forces being removed or -- MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing new to say at this point. Q Nothing new beyond yesterday. MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that's right. Q Richard, the reports that I've seen said nothing about a military attack but rather a series of massacres and exterminations of the Shi'ite population by the Iraqi military. Have you seen or heard any evidence of something like that? MR. BOUCHER: I saw reports of both kinds, Jim. On the question of massacres, I didn't ask for any particular update, but I think you're all aware of the actions of Iraqi forces in the past, particularly during the uprising and the way they handled that -- the use of weapons that we thought resulted in a large number of civilian casualties at the time. And we described, I think, in a lot of detail the mistreatment of Iraqi citizens by the Iraqis. Q And has that been going on, to your knowledge, more recently than the previous incident, such as you just described? In other words, is it a recent event? MR. BOUCHER: Has it -- I don't know. I'll have to check on that. I hadn't seen anything recent. I'd have to check on it to make sure. Q Anything about -- any reaction to the reports out of Israel about Shamir having set new conditions with respect to Palestinians in vetoing any Palestinian who would be part of a delegation to peace talks? MR. BOUCHER: Not a lot. That's the kind of detail that we've refrained from commenting on, I think, all along in public in the course of these discussions. Obviously, as we've said before, Palestinians must choose those who would represent them in negotiations. As you know, the issue of representation has been thoroughly discussed with both the Israelis and the Arabs. Q Can I follow that same thing? Some things have been said. What's been said very emphatically is that you were down to two issues, and the Palestinians were not one of the issues. The issues that the -- you were traveling; I'm trying to remember whether it was background, foreground, or whatever (laughter) -- but there's been no -- it's been said repeatedly that the only two issues that are in the way are the U.N. representation and whether the conference could come back and convene again. Now, do you now have a third issue -- MR. BOUCHER: The -- Q -- called "Palestinians"? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has discussed the issues involved with the points of agreement. He's discussed to some extent this issue of representation and the points of disagreement that we were trying to solve in his previous testimony. He may do so again tomorrow. At this point, I would only characterize it the way I have and say that the issue of representation has been thoroughly discussed. Q I mean -- all right, we can wait till tomorrow, but he is -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not predicting anything in particular. Q You know, he's represented the results of his four trips as being just these two technical issues to get over, and he never included in all the last days of his travels the Palestinian issue as being an issue that wasn't resolved. Now, either it wasn't resolved, or Shamir has reopened it. MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, Barry. At this point, I'm just not prepared to give you any more detail on the question of how this issue stands. Q All right. It isn't exactly right either to say that it's the U.S. position that the Palestinians must choose their own representatives. Maybe in broad terms, that's been the U.S. position, but the U.S. position has been a little more refined than that; and it's been that the PLO cannot participate. So the U.S. has had some things to say. It's isn't just the Palestinians who decide who represents the Palestinians. But the U.S. has had something to say about it -- MR. BOUCHER: Barry -- Q -- the Israelis have. So -- MR. BOUCHER: -- the message I'm trying to convey is that the U.S. has had some things to say, and I really don't have anything new to say. So -- Q I don't mean to beat on you, but the point is if this is an issue now in Israel, there has to be a U.S. response, which, you know, has to come today, not tomorrow. And it's just, you know, the fact that the issue has been closed and now it's open and that the Palestinians are now deciding on the Palestinians, whereas the U.S. has had a role to play. You know, it really throws it all around again. Q What do you mean, Richard, when you say the issue has been "thoroughly discussed" -- that, therefore, this did not come as any surprise to the Secretary -- or, I mean, Mr. Shamir's remarks -- that this is something that had been discussed back and forth by them and this was expected by the American side? Is that what you mean when you say -- MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say. I said -- Q No, I know that. MR. BOUCHER: -- it has been thoroughly discussed. It's been discussed in public on occasion by the Secretary, but the details on exactly where the parties stand on this kind of issue and where we are in terms of our discussions with them are something that we've determined we do not want to do in public; and it's the kind of detail that I'm not prepared to get into any more than we have in the past. Q How about the Levy -- Q Richard, -- Q Wait a minute, the Levy -- the possibility of a Levy trip here. Is there anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: We now have a meeting scheduled with the Israeli Foreign Minister for the Secretary at l0:00 a.m. on Thursday. Q What about remarks afterwards? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that yet. Q What is it you don't know? MR. BOUCHER: Remarks afterwards. Q What is Secretary Baker doing tomorrow? Q At whose request is this meeting? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly. Frankly, this is something that we have talked about as a possibility over the past several days. We now have it on the schedule. Q Richard, do you know of any plans for Levy to go from here to the White House to meet with President Bush? MR. BOUCHER: I only know the schedule so far as being the meeting here at the State Department. If there is something scheduled for the White House, you would have to check with them. Q Richard, there is a report in Tel Aviv saying that Mr. Levy was coming to Washington at the invitation of Mr. Baker overnight, and he was going to come later than Thursday, but he moved his plan ahead. Can you comment on that? Mr. Baker invited Levy to come on Thursday? MR. BOUCHER: No. As I said, I don't have a play-by-play of how the meeting was set up. We have said it was something that has been discussed over the course of several days. If Levy has changed his plans, you can check with him. But the meeting is now scheduled for l0 o'clock on Thursday. Connie wants to know what the Secretary is doing tomorrow? Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: He is up on the Hill testifying. Q What's the subject, what time, all that? MR. BOUCHER: Margaret announced it yesterday. I don't have it all in my head. Q Thank you. Q Going back to the Palestinian representation, for whom is it to decide who will represent the Palestinians? MR. BOUCHER: I think I said, obviously the Palestinians must choose those who would represent them in the negotiations. Q In other words then, you are saying that in the policy you have just repeated, the Israelis or any other party would not have a veto over the choice of representation made by the Palestinians, however they choose to do it. MR. BOUCHER: That's not exactly what I said, Jim. What I said was what I did just say. I'm not going to go into any more detail about the back and forth among the parties on this at this point. Q But it is essentially an issue for the Palestinian people to choose their own representatives. MR. BOUCHER: Obviously the Palestinians must choose those who would represent them in the negotiations is what I said. Q Have you heard -- Q Is there anything from the Syrians in response to the President's letter? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of, no. Q How about Jordan? MR. BOUCHER: You might double-check that with the White House. Q Which, double-check Jordan or double-check Syria? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, Syria. Q Okay. Syria -- MR. BOUCHER: Jordan, I think -- Marlin talked about the reply from King Hussein on Friday, right? Q Syria is not a note now? MR. BOUCHER: Syria is -- I'm not aware of any reply, but since it was a Presidential letter, one should double-check with the White House before taking my word as being definitive. Q Is the U.S. doing anything to accelerate the reply by the Syrians? (Laughter.) MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know what you are asking about, but I have nothing particular to cite in response to the question, no. Q In regard to an earlier question about withdrawal of U.S. personnel or forces from the northern Iraq area, there was a report by an official from CARE who said that U.S. personnel had been pouring out of the area. This was in an interview that apparently he did with us this morning. Is there anything to substantiate that? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't bring with me today the numbers of personnel. It struck me that the coalition forces in that area were somewhere in the range of 2l,000-22,000, and that, as of yesterday, they were down in terms of about l7,000. I think we can check the numbers afterward for you. There have been redeployments of coalition forces out of the area of northern Iraq. We have always said our presence is temporary. It is there to accomplish the humanitarian mission in caring for the refugees and making it safe for people to go back to their homes. Q How thick is -- MR. BOUCHER: But as far as setting a time-frame, I don't have that for you, and I'm not sure we would have the updated figures today, but the Pentagon usually, in their briefing, will provide the exact number of coalition forces in the area. Q Richard, going back to the Middle East for a bit, Amman Reader is reporting that Hussein is in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. Do you have any independent confirmation of this or anything about his condition? MR. BOUCHER: No, no. Q Richard, yesterday, Marlin talked about there being some movement on the question of hostages. Is this government involved in trying to gain the release of our hostages? Are you aware, in this building, of movement on that question? MR. BOUCHER: I think Marlin said he was referring to some of the public statements that have been made, some of the positive public statements that he has seen. Clearly it is an issue that has always been on our agenda, that we have discussed during contacts with people in the region. And the Secretary, I think, mentioned once or twice that he had discussed it but did not go into any further detail. We have always called for the safe, immediate, and unconditional release of our hostages, and that remains our goal. Q Are you aware of any movement? Has there been any stepped-up activity? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particularly new to report, no. Q Richard, has there been any reply from the Soviets yet to the new ideas on START presented by Secretary Baker last week? MR. BOUCHER: When we last checked with the Secretary, which was about 7:30 last night, he had not talked to Bessmertnykh, and since he didn't come in the building this morning and went right up to Princeton, I doubt if there has been anything since then, but I do have to say I haven't talked to him. We haven't checked with him this morning. Q Have they established a time and place for their meeting yet next week? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q The Soviets are saying it's Wednesday. MR. BOUCHER: Read the latest reports out of Moscow. There have been various statements by Soviet spokesmen this morning on meetings with Genscher and meetings with Baker, and I think it's a little straighter now than it was an hour ago.

[Kuwait: Deportations]

Q Richard, do you have any comment on the latest deportations out of Kuwait, and whether that violates any understandings that were made earlier? MR. BOUCHER: Our Embassy reports that they have seen evidence that Kuwait has deported a number of Iraqi civilians who had been held in Kuwait since the liberation of that country. We cannot confirm The New York Times report that some of them were deported against their will, but we understand that the International Committee of the Red Cross is raising this issue with Kuwait and that we will be doing the same. As for whether it violates an agreement with the ICRC, I think that's a subject the ICRC will have to discuss with Kuwaiti officials. Q Is there evidence that maybe some of them wanted do go back to Iraq? The way you phrase it, it sounds like -- MR. BOUCHER: That is the question that I think we have to address with the ICRC, or the ICRC and the Kuwaitis have to address, that we have to address with the Kuwaitis, as well, whether it was deportations against their will or whether people consented to it. Q Richard, on the subject of the Soviets -- forgive me if I missed this, but have they responded yet to the invitation from France to attend the meeting? MR. BOUCHER: To the Paris meeting? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Not that I am aware of. I checked again with people this morning, and nobody thought that they had. Q Richard, since Mr. Shamir's mentioned -- since Mr. Shamir said overnight that he would like for Jordan to appoint or select the Palestinian representation or representatives, did he hear from the Jordanians about this? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q Do you have any comment on the upcoming election in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, yesterday Margaret said that there had been no direct assurances from Iraq about the safety of Kurds once the coalition forces are all the way out of northern Iraq. Have you anything to add that "no direct assurances"? MR. BOUCHER: No. I think we described the situation yesterday. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:45 p.m.)