US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #103, Friday, 6/21/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:37 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 21, 19916/21/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Central America, East Asia, Europe, Southeast Asia Country: Kuwait, Israel, Germany, USSR (former), South Korea, Colombia Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Trade/Economics, International Organizations, Immigration, Narcotics, State Department, Human Rights, POW/MIA Issues, International Law (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start off by reminding you that there will be a briefing this afternoon following the Tenth U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue. The briefing will be in this room. We've changed the time. It will be at 4:30 rather than 4:00 o'clock. The briefers will be the heads of the respective delegations. For our side, it is the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. For ASEAN, it will be the Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As you know, these meetings began yesterday morning, and they will conclude this afternoon. With that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Q Any more word today on the four Filipino women who say they were beaten and raped at the Army base in Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any more word at this point. We did get a report from our Embassy on it. It said essentially what I said here yesterday. It confirmed what we had heard and had not heard at this point. We have not gotten more information back. Q So you still aren't exactly sure whether the women actually worked at the base or whether they were friends of women that worked at the base? MR. BOUCHER: No. The report that we got was from women who work for the U.S. Army who reported that some of their friends, who do not work for the U.S. Army, had been beaten. Q Richard, two newspapers in Israel are reporting today that at Washington's initiative, Germany is withholding about a billion dollars worth of aid to Israel in an effort to pressure them to halt the settlements. Do you have anything at all on that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, Mark. I just saw that story. That's another one of the sort of vague stories without sources and indications that, you know, I don't think we have a way of commenting on it. The meetings -- as I remember it, there were readouts of Chancellor Kohl's visit. I'll leave it to that. Q I don't recall that coming up in the readouts of Chancellor Kohl's visit. MR. BOUCHER: I don't either, Mark. Q Could you take the question and see if anything was worked out between the United States and Germany? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything we have to say on it, but we're rather disinclined to start jumping every time there's one of these vague reports out there. Q President Gorbachev, apparently today, beat back efforts to usurp some of his powers in Moscow. Do you have any comment about that, or about the general situation over there with respect to Gorbachev? MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, no. It's an internal matter for them. I really don't have anything to say. Q Boris Yeltsin has now left us after several days. Does the State Department have any assessment about that trip, that visit and the relationship of the U.S. to the Republic of Russia? MR. BOUCHER: Again, General Scowcroft did a briefing yesterday afternoon over at the White House. It was on the record. He went through the trip, how we deal with Gorbachev, and other points like that. I think I'll just stick with what he said. Alan.

[Kuwait: Laws/Trails/Due Process]

Q The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has put forth a new law which says that anyone that's caught driving dangerously in Kuwait can be deported. Are aware of this and -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not aware of it, Alan. Q Oh. Can I draw it to your attention -- MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. Q -- and ask if your human rights experts and legal experts find this in accordance with the high standards that you expect and which Kuwait has generally adhered to in its conduct of justice? MR. BOUCHER: Do you have a real question, Alan? Q I have one. Is this kind the thing the Ambassador would bring to the attention of the Kuwait Government -- the American Ambassador who has been described here as vigilant about trying to get Kuwait to adhere to some semblance of Western -- or not only Western, but standards of justice, universal standards of justice? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, are you going to -- I think you would have to find for me the international standards on punishments for driving. I don't want to get to this point where everything that you guys notice, that every law that the Kuwaitis promulgate, that we have to comment on. Q There's a rough idea that -- MR. BOUCHER: At this point we have -- as you know, we've stressed various human rights concerns. There have been serious problems in Kuwait in the past with abuses. We have raised these concerns. The Kuwaiti Government has taken action about many of them. There have been new concerns raised as trials went forward. The Kuwaiti Government has taken some action on those as well, and we've continued to have this dialogue with the Kuwaitis on due process. Q With due respect, Richard, deportation is a matter that you do get involved in when it happens in other countries, and it happens in Israel, for instance. MR. BOUCHER: And we have spoken to the general question of deportation with the Kuwaitis before, and I'd refer you back to that record. Q I think you said something about there ought to be some sort of a hearing process, because that's basically this elusive but somewhat -- even in a common law country like Britain, there is a notion of justice that's fairly well understood. And as verbalized from that platform, it's been -- at least before you throw somebody out of country, you ought to give them a proper hearing and a chance to respond to any allegations. MR. BOUCHER: I'll refer you back to what we've said. We've said something along those lines, Barry, but I'll stick with the words that we used before. Q Richard, can we go to this question of due process. Yesterday I asked you whether or not you had determined whether Kuwait was, in fact, using due process and your words about fair judicial systems and things. Have you had a look -- have the legal experts had a chance to determine whether it is due process? MR. BOUCHER: I have not exactly a legalistic answer for you, but I have sort of a general view of the situation. We have consistently stressed to the Government of Kuwait the importance of respect for the principle of due process. Important questions of due process have been raised by defense lawyers, by human rights groups, and by others inside and outside Kuwait. The Government of Kuwait has moved to address these concerns in the course of the trials. Some of the concerns have been met; others have not. We and others will continue to push for the adherence to the principle of due process. As the President has said, one can understand that there is a lot of bitterness from those Kuwaitis who saw their country raped and pillaged in an unconscionable way, but it is in everyone's interest to extend a fair trial to everybody and to be as compassionate as one can, given the outrages they faced.

[Germany: Move to Berlin]

Q May I ask about Berlin? Even mechanically, do you have -- has the State Department had a chance to see what -- at least mechanically -- this might mean and, of course, anything you want to say about the decision to shift the capital? MR. BOUCHER: The decision itself is clearly something that is for the Germans to decide. We've obviously followed the debate with interest. We've never expressed any preference between the two cities, and we've had very close and excellent relations with people in both cities. For planning purposes, we find it helpful to have a decision. At present, our Embassy is located in Bonn, as you know, and we do have an Embassy office in Berlin. By the terms of the Bundestag's resolution, the move will be spread over many, many years. During this period, we will continue to have a presence in both cities. Many details, including the timing of the move, will have to be worked out once more definite plans are made by the German Government. At present, we own some property in Berlin. We have made a proposal to the Germans to acquire additional property for our present operations. In addition, we've been doing an assessment of further requirements for future Embassy operations in Berlin in the event the Germans decided, as they now have, to move their government. But in the end, specific decisions about whether to build or use existing buildings will be done on the basis of our requirements. Q What happens to that vast complex in Bonn after it moves? MR. BOUCHER: At this point it's premature for me to try to speculate about that -- about what our needs will be 10 years from now. As I've said, we've been studying future operations in Berlin, trying to come up with an assessment of what that would mean if they took this decision. They have taken the decision. We'll obviously look to finalize that study. I don't have any sort of reading on Bonn at this point. Q Yesterday you said that no State official is going to Senator Smith's travel to Panmunjom, Korea. However, yesterday Mr. Smith's office said that one high ranking State official is accompanying him to the meeting. Still you are denying that participation? MR. BOUCHER: I think you should check exactly what it was I said yesterday. Your version is not what I said yesterday. We'll get it to you in writing. Q You said that any plan for a State Department official to participate to the meeting, something like that. MR. BOUCHER: I said, first of all, that we would have people going out with him, but we would not be participating in meetings with North Koreans, if you remember what I said. I'll get you the exact text and you should check it. Q OK. And one more regarding that: The five remains that Representative Montgomery received last year -- one year before -- not identified as whether it is really of American soldiers during the Korean war, and some said that the five remains was compiled from seven bodies, including Oriental people. Yesterday I confirmed through the State Department that the five remains have not been identified as really American ones. Concerning that matter, do you have any plan to ask [for] some proof that the 11 remains could be identified as really American soldiers [who] perished during the Korean war? MR. BOUCHER: I think you asked that question or a similar one the other day, and we told you that you'd have to go to the Defense Department. They're the ones that handle the process of identification. Q Richard, do you have -- I'm sorry. MR. BOUCHER: She's been waiting.

[Iraq: Travel and Visa Request for Official]

Q I wanted to ask you, Al-Anbari, Iraq's official representative at the U.N., was hoping to come to the National Press Club to speak on Monday, and he's been denied permission to go there. I wanted to confirm under what order he's been denied permission. And, also, if he can't come to like say Washington on a plane, be here an hour and go back on the plane, what types of things is he permitted to do outside of the five boroughs of New York? MR. BOUCHER: We have denied his travel request to come down to Washington to speak at the National Press Club. Travel unrelated to official U.N. business is restricted to the five boroughs of New York City for members of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations. So in answer to your second question, what could he do outside of the five boroughs, he could do travel related to U.N. business -- official U.N. business, if there were such a situation. Q How do you define that? His office kind of considers this as all related; this is to respond to charges that have been made. He thinks it's appropriate. MR. BOUCHER: First, he can respond to charges in New York. He's free to speak to the press or anybody else he wants to in New York in the five boroughs, and he frequently does so, as you all know. We have an obligation as host country of the United Nations to ensure that representatives of member countries enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the exercise of their functions in connection with the United Nations, which obviously is located in New York City. We don't consider that speaking before the Press Club in Washington is a "function connected with the United Nations." Q Richard, related in a sort of ambiguous way to that, how is the State Department involved -- MR. BOUCHER: There are too many segues around here. Q -- in -- well, you know, we try to make these elegant segues, but they don't always work. How was the State Department involved in the plan for the alien tribunals, which the Administration has now dropped? And what was the State Department's position on it? These are secret trials for people who were -- foreigners who were considered to perhaps be a terrorist? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we were involved in any way that I'm aware of. I think the Justice Department would have to express the Administration's position. I believe they probably already have. Q But overseas issues and overseas peoples -- would you not have been involved in this? MR. BOUCHER: We leave people once they enter the borders of the United States. They become the property or the concern, excuse me, the concern of the INS and the Justice Department, except for a few -- Q This would have had nothing to do with you whatsoever or -- MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Jan. Q -- the Office of Counterterrorism or anything like that? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Jan. Q Could you check into that? MR. BOUCHER: In any case, I don't think whatever small piece of the puzzle we may have had that we would be the ones to express the Administration's view on it. I think that's already been expressed by the people who have the big piece of the puzzle, and I'll leave it to them.

[Foreign Aid: House Vote on Authorization Bill; Jordan]

Q Have you had a chance to analyze the House version of the foreign aid bill yet? And, specifically, the part about aid to Jordan, and what do you think of it all? MR. BOUCHER: We talked about aid to Jordan yesterday. We said we are strongly opposed to the provisions. Q Now, since that House version is passed, what do you think of it all? MR. BOUCHER: Overall? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: This is HR-2508, as passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday. We feel it falls well short of the goals that were outlined by the President when the Administration submitted our proposed International Cooperation Act of 1991. In recognition of rapidly changing world events, the President sought to delete the many restrictions, prohibitions, and burdensome and unnecessary reporting requirements and statutory waiting periods that have accumulated over the several decades since enactment of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Unfortunately, HR-2508 does not meet this challenge. The bill contains two provisions that would substantially change federal policy with respect to abortion. The President has indicated that he would veto any legislation containing such items. In addition, it includes unworkable and damaging cargo preference requirements, it contains numerous earmarks, and imposes many country-specific conditions, notification requirements, and other restrictions. These requirements are contrary to the spirit and letter of the Administration's request, and they would compel the President's senior advisers to recommend a veto of the bill in its present form. We strongly encourage the Congress to take into account the concerns which we have repeatedly expressed with regard to this bill as it is considered by the Senate and in subsequent action by the Congress. Q In other words, as it now stands, the Administration would prefer a continuing resolution, as it's been going on for some years, to this bill? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an alternative for you at this point, Jim. We hope to, as I said, work with the Congress to see that they take into account our concerns. But, certainly, I think our position on this particular piece of legislation is expressed quite clearly here. Q Since a superpower summit date sort of hinges on the progress -- overcoming the obstacles on a START treaty, can you bring us up to date on where we are in terms of the ability to solve the START problem? MR. BOUCHER: I think the best thing for me to do is to give you a transcript of the Secretary's press conference with Bessmertnykh yesterday where he did it, if I can. Q Moving out of that area, lifting the sanctions seems to depend on this political prisoner issue. Can you bring us any further information about the political prisoner issue and how far apart the government and the African National Congress are? MR. BOUCHER: That's something that they would have to address themselves. As we've said before, we will be making our own determination. We've asked our Embassy to do that for us. Q That's what I'm asking about -- we're making our own determination. What have we learned here? What are we saying? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any sort of determination for you.

[Immigration: US Policy on Visas; AIDS]

Q Do you have anything to say about the International AIDS Conference decision to not come to Boston next year as long as U.S. travel restrictions on AIDS victims remain in place? MR. BOUCHER: Mike, I don't have anything specific on that. I have looked into this question of AIDS and how it affects the visas for the United States. I think we've discussed this before. If I remember, it was in a previous conference where we established a readily available waiver procedure for people who wanted to come to the conference. At this point, the law is somewhat in transition with the old immigration legislation, the Immigration and Nationalities Act of 1952, as amended, which specifically listed -- I think the phrase was "dangerous, contagious diseases," which, over time, HIV positive came to be designed as one of those diseases. At this point, we have new legislation that addresses it, as I understand it, more generally. The new immigration bill doesn't list that specifically, and we are required to make a determination -- the executive branch is -- as to what the diseases are that prevent people from coming in. There is an interim arrangement which, basically, continues the policy of the past, but various government agencies, including Public Health officials, have to come up with a final judgment on that. Q Richard, to follow up on Pat's question, you said that the Embassy was sorting through the political prisoners issue. There was a report -- I believe it was yesterday -- in the Financial Times that you have addressed before that said that the Administration was sending a team of lawyers to South Africa to examine the whole question in an effort to come up with a determination fairly quickly. MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see that, Mark. I haven't heard about it, but let me check on it. It's possible. Q Is there anything new about the release of American hostages in Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing new for you. Q Do you have any comment on the ABC report -- they had apparently an Iranian arms dealer who was confirming the story that [William] Casey went to Spain and cut a deal to delay the release of the hostages? Any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: No, thank you. I'll stick with what the President has already said on that one. Mike. Q Richard, in answer to a taken question yesterday, it said that the extradition treaty with Colombia remains in effect. I'm wondering if the United States now would be seeking Pablo Escobar's extradition? MR. BOUCHER: I don't, at this point, have any answer on that, Mike. Q Are you looking into that possibility? MR. BOUCHER: That is something that we shall see. At this point, I'd say it's a hypothetical that hasn't really been addressed. Q One more question, please. Actually, it's not my own question. But the Korean (inaudible) Association in the U.S., they say that DoD -- the Defense Ministry -- has asked North Korea about the plight of 398 U.S. POWs, whose existence was attested by pictures and letters for the last 40 years. Have we ever tried, or thought, of getting help from a now opened China and (inaudible) in getting any information concerning the missing persons? MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I'd suggest that if you want something about the specific report of what the Defense Department has done, you'll have to check with them. I'm not familiar with that. Let me check and see if we have anything to say on how we pursued the question of Americans missing in action in Korea. As you know, from what I said the other day, there are some 8,000 Americans that are still considered missing in action from the Korean war and that we've made that one of our priorities. Q Among the 8,000, at least 398 was attested. MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't know that number. I can't certify that for you. Q Richard, as the main arms supplier to Israel, is the United States at all concerned/interested in the repeated offers from the Soviet Union to sell arms to the Israelis? MR. BOUCHER: I'd say we're interested, but it's really a matter between the two governments. I think they've been addressing it themselves. Q Richard, one more on Pablo Escobar. Do you have any position on whether you now believe he should be extradited or whether the arrangement that Colombia has reached with him is satisfactory? MR. BOUCHER: Didn't Mike just ask that question? Q Not exactly. Q Not quite that way. I'm trying to be more vague so that you can answer the question. MR. BOUCHER: I'll be more vague in my answer, Mark. We have stressed repeatedly that the important thing is that drug traffickers stop the trafficking and be brought to justice. That's what's happening now in Colombia. It's a process that we're going to follow very closely. I can't address other questions at this moment. What is happening is that the man is in Colombian custody. The Colombians have said that they will take him out of the business, that he won't be able to operate from jail, and that they intend to prosecute him. That's the kind of thing that we think ought to happen. We'll be following as it proceeds, and other sorts of speculation, I think, would be hypothetical on my part. Q You're not able to say at this point whether the United States is satisfied with what has been done so far? MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we are generally very satisfied and very positive about what Colombia has been doing in fighting the drug war. There are statistics like they've seized more cocaine in the first half of 1991 than they seized in all of 1990. There's some 420 Colombians -- judicial and police officials -- who gave their lives last year in the war on drugs. They have moved, and we have helped them to strengthen the judicial system and to make it possible to punish people who are arrested. So that's the general tenor of things. I can't give you a final judgment on Pablo Escobar's trial because it hasn't occurred yet. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:00 p.m.)