US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #113: Monday, 7/15/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12: PM, Washington, DC Date: Jul 15, 19917/15/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start off with a housekeeping announcement: We won't have our regular press briefings here on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Tomorrow you'll find the Secretary is going to hold a press conference in London at approximately 12:00 noon our time, so we'll leave it to him tomorrow. On Wednesday, President Bush will be having a press conference and probably several other opportunities, and I certainly won't want to try to run any competition with him. So we'll see you again in this room on Thursday. Q I'm sorry. What is Baker's press conference about? Why is he having it? MR. BOUCHER: Why is he having it? Q What occasion? MR. BOUCHER: He's briefing on the summit during the summit. Q Which summit? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave you to research that on your own, Steve. As usual, we'll have our Press Officers available to answer your questions during the course of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday. The other thing I thought I'd start off with is, I have some information on Iraq and the food situation. It has been something in the news. I think there was a press conference this morning in Geneva -- or there was supposed to be one -- and I thought I'd just run through that for you right off the top before we get to the questions that you want to ask and I won't answer. Elliot Richardson, who was a member of Sadruddin Aga Khan's assessment team to Iraq, met with Assistant Secretary John Bolton this morning. They discussed the report of the team on the food situation in Iraq. I want to point out there has never been any question about our willingness to feed vulnerable groups in Iraq. You remember what the President has said in the past on humanitarian assistance, on the need to get food to needy people. He said we would help, and indeed we have been supporting the efforts of UNICEF, the ICRC and others who are operating inside Iraq to bring food, medicine, potable water, and things like that to needy people. We've also, I think, provided you with pages and pages of the notifications to the Sanctions Committee of what was being sent. Our view has always been that humanitarian needs can be met within the existing sanctions regime. But at the same time we're cognizant of the fact that Saddam Hussein has proven that he can't be trusted. The President talked yesterday about the sanctions issue and about the diversions which have taken place. I think that's ample evidence of the need to look at this situation very closely. We think that any mechanism developed to provide essential supplies to the Iraqi people must include strict control and close monitoring. We are closely consulting with members of the Security Council and with our coalition partners. We would note that since food shipments were permitted by the Sanctions Committee on March 22, shipments of over 1.1 million tons of food have been reported to the Sanctions Committee by various bodies. That amounts to one ton for every 18 Iraqis. And we note that not all food shipments have been reported to the Sanctions Committee. Medicine, of course, has never been subject to sanctions -- not under the old resolutions nor under the new ones. We would also note a study by two Tufts University nutritionists. The study was commissioned by UNICEF. Their conclusions were that while there were problems with malnutrition, particularly in southern Iraq, these problems are endemic due to longstanding Iraqi Government policies. Dr. Jean Mayer, President of Tufts, said, "The Iraqi Government appears to be using food as a weapon by cutting off the shipment of food and medical supplies to the southern part of the country. This situation must be monitored closely." We are prepared to work with international support and other members of the Security Council to move rapidly to support humanitarian assistance under a regime that ensures that food, medicine and other humanitarian items get to needy people and are not diverted by Saddam Hussein. And that's what we're talking to our allies about. Q Can I ask a question about that, Richard? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q A Congress person proposed -- I believe last week that he spoke to the President and to probably State Department officials -- to unfreeze part of the three or two billion Iraqi dollars in this country to U.N. agencies, with which those agencies could buy food and medicine to send to Iraq. Has anybody here made a decision on that? Are you familiar with it? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any decisions on this point as to exactly how we are prepared to proceed. I said it was something that we're consulting with our allies about. There are various ideas out there, and we're talking with allies about them. Q But the Iraqis have actually complained that they lack the money with which to buy more food. MR. BOUCHER: And in addition to that, they have over the last, I guess it's two or three months, when requested by the Sanctions Committee to provide information on what money they did have and what resources they did have domestically -- they have not provided that information. Q Richard, you said that the humanitarian -- it's long been the U.S. view that the humanitarian needs can be met within the existing regime, and yet you keep talking about formulating this new mechanism with partners and allies on the international scene. Is that a tacit admission that everyone else wants to do more than the existing regime allows? MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not. It's a reference to what the President said yesterday, that he won't have our people voting to lift sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. The existing regime provides for the maintaining of sanctions: with the authorization -- well, the free movement of medicine that is not covered and the authorization by the Sanctions Committee for various other shipments as might be necessary to meet humanitarian needs. But it just basically means we think the humanitarian needs can be met without changing the existing pattern of sanctions that are laid down. Q But there is a new mechanism of some kind being talked about? MR. BOUCHER: We are looking at ways that we can ensure that any authorized humanitarian shipments -- looking at mechanisms and ways of ensuring that they get to the people who really need it. Q Richard, on that point and following up Ghassan's earlier questions, this group last week suggested that the food that would be bought with the unfrozen assets then be distributed through UNICEF. Is that the sort of thing that the United States would find acceptable -- UNICEF actually distributing and administering the humanitarian program? MR. BOUCHER: Without focusing on one particular organization, what I said was we thought that there should be strict control and monitoring of anything that went out there. So, yes, that kind of thing is what we have to look at. Q What about Iraqi oil revenues? Is that something the U.S. has agreed to allowing? MR. BOUCHER: Again, there has been an Iraqi request to export some oil. That request has been up in New York with the Sanctions Committee for lo these many months, as Iraq has failed to provide the information the Sanctions Committee requested on domestic resources. So there are various things that are being looked at as to money and monitoring and things like that, but I don't have a specific mechanism or a specific procedure to outline for you today. It's just something that we're talking about with our allies. Q Are you in fact considering to unfreeze some of the Iraqi assets to U.N. agencies such as UNICEF and others? MR. BOUCHER: I am not at this point able to go into specifics of how this might be done. Q Richard, what's the purpose of this new regime? I mean, what is the ultimate goal here? Is it to say, you know, until Saddam is out of power we're not going to lift the sanctions? Is that really the aim? MR. BOUCHER: No. The aim is that we're aware of the humanitarian needs in Iraq. These have been studied and reported by various people. You have a new U.N. report coming out today after Sadruddin's assessment that points once again to the humanitarian needs. We're trying to point out that we've always been concerned about these, that there are provisions and ways for them to be met under the existing procedures, and that we are consulting with other countries to move as rapidly as possible to make sure that those needs are being met. Q Richard, over the weekend the Independent in Britain reported that UNICEF officials in Baghdad had disagreed with Dr. Mayer's conclusion from that Tufts' study, and said that they stuck by the Harvard study, report, initially. And the question I would have with that is that the Harvard report points to the infrastructure problem -- power generating, water supply and other things that you haven't addressed. Do you still feel these are not legitimate issues to be discussed within the context of the sanctions and the humanitarian concerns? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to take sides between Tufts and Harvard, so I'll have to defer on that. These questions of exactly what is needed -- I referred to the possibility of food, medicine and other humanitarian items. I think that's the way the U.N. resolution addresses it, and that's the way we'll address it with the allies. Q Richard, was there any kind of a separate note from Elliot Richardson suggesting some kind of political contacts be resumed to improve the Iraqi/U.S. relationship? MR. BOUCHER: We spoke to him this morning, as I mentioned. We haven't had a chance at this point to consider the report of what he was told by Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials. I think you have seen some reference in the Iraqi press to statements that they made to him about desire to improve relations with the United States and things like that. I would note that what is needed from the Iraqi Government is not more offers of improved relations but in fact full compliance with U.N. Resolutions 687 and 688, including Iraq's obligation to fully disclose its chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities and to cooperate fully with U. N. inspection teams. Q Is there any consideration of sending any American diplomats back to Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: None that I've heard of. Q Richard, on the subject of compliance, is there any guidance this morning of whether the latest Iraq list satisfies information requests? MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to clarify what we know of the latest Iraqi list. We have not received an official copy of what their letter is, nor have we been able, of course, to study it. We understand, however, that the latest document from the Iraqis is not the full list of Iraqi nuclear facilities and equipment which U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 demands. Rather, it's a response to questions, specific questions, posed by the chief U.N. inspector about Iraq's previous declarations. We sincerely hope that Iraq will provide a complete declaration of its nuclear program, but we have seen a number of previous so-called "complete" declarations, and frankly we're skeptical. Q Well, one of the requirements for improving relations is not the removal of Saddam Hussein. The U.S. can have improved relations with Iraq with Saddam Hussein in place? MR. BOUCHER: I certainly didn't say that; and as the President spoke very eloquently about it yesterday, I stand by what he said. Q Britain apparently weighed in with it's the support of the use of force as well if needed to resolve this situation of nuclear facilities in Iraq. Do you have anything about what sort of consensus may or may not exist now for allied military action in this case? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q When does the bombing begin? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the Pentagon. (Laughter) Q Can you help out any on the Syrian letter? MR. BOUCHER: Not really. You have seen the Secretary characterize it and talk about it yesterday. The President and Marlin Fitzwater both discussed it this morning. Q But that was based on a preliminary reading, they hadn't read the whole thing, and I thought the intervening time might helped clarify it. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the President said this morning that our analysis was continuing; but he said, as the Secretary said yesterday, that we saw the response as positive, that it represented real movement, that it represented movement of Syria farther along in the peace process than we had ever seen before. Q Press reports have -- MR. BOUCHER: So they have had another, well, twelve to eighteen hours to look at it, and that remains their judgment of it. Q In press reports last night about the letter, there was no mention of the hostage situation. Is there in the letter, to your knowledge? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any more details for you on the letter, Bill. Q Do you know when the contents of the letter are going to be shared with the Israelis? MR. BOUCHER: No, not precisely. I'm sure we'll be talking to the Israelis -- we probably are talking to Israelis and others about the situation, where we stand in the peace process. Q What about the possibility or likelihood of a Baker trip to Syria or Israel? MR. BOUCHER: That's something for the party to contemplate, for them to make decisions and announcements on when they do. Q You don't know if he is going to? MR. BOUCHER: I said, it is something for the party to contemplate, for them to announce anything they might like on it. Q Last night, Baker said that he wasn't sure if the letter contained any new conditions or not. Is that still your reading of the letter? MR. BOUCHER: No. As the President said this morning, our analysis continues. He and the Secretary are both out in London; some of the experts are with them there. They obviously have copies of the letter. They are in contact with experts back here, and as the analysis proceeds they will determine what the next steps are. Q Richard, do you anticipate that the analysis will take as long as it took for the letter to get here? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any way of commenting on that. Q Do you have a date for Ambassador Glaspie's next appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. To bring you up to date, General Scowcroft responded to questions over the weekend. Had the Secretary been asked, I'm sure he would have responded in similar fashion. On Friday, Deputy Secretary Eagleburger requested that he and Ambassador Glaspie be permitted to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the Committee's earliest convenience. At this point, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not yet responded to our request. Q It's Thursday. MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me? Q Thursday. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you, Chris. We'll double check that and see if this afternoon we have any more detail to provide. Q What is the State Department's position on the cables? Apparently the Committee would like to see them, or hadn't yet seen them on Friday. MR. BOUCHER: We have provided large numbers of documents to the Committees, including the cables. Q Will they be provided to us? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, the question of releasing the cable is something on which our position has not changed. Q But you have at least released it to the Committee? MR. BOUCHER: The Committee had it, yes. Q Why did you request the hearing? MR. BOUCHER: There had been charges, accusations, questions raised by members of the Committee, and we wanted to go up and respond to any questions that they might have. Q Richard, does the Department still stand behind Ambassador Glaspie? MR. BOUCHER: As General Scowcroft explained over the weekend, we have faith in Ambassador Glaspie's reporting. She sent us cables on her meetings based on notes that were made after the meeting. She also provided five hours or more of testimony in front of the Committee about the series of meetings that she had, including this meeting with Saddam Hussein. Q Well, were there any inconsistencies between what she told the Committees and what she reported in the cables? MR. BOUCHER: If anybody perceives such inconsistencies, I'm sure that she and the Acting Secretary of State will be happy to respond when they go up and see the Committee. Q Would the Secretary be going with Ambassador Glaspie if he were not out of the country? MR. BOUCHER: That's a hypothetical, but the -- Q Just checking. MR. BOUCHER: The Acting Secretary said that he was taking this action on the Secretary's behalf. Q The last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq today. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: Not really. The Pentagon did a rather extensive briefing on it on Friday. I think the only question hanging at that point was the arrangements for the deployment of the force to Turkey. The Turkish Government issued a statement on the 12th -- I guess that was Friday -- saying that they were happy to host this force on their territory. So things are proceeding as planned. Q Richard, I'd like to go back to Glaspie for a moment. We have not had a briefing since these accusations by Cranston and the Hill were made, and I think you and the Department are in a position to say if there is inconsistency in your view between the cable reporting and her testimony, which of course is public. And you just haven't made an answer to that simple question. Is it your view that there are inconsistencies between the two? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, I want to leave something in anticipation of the prospect that the Deputy Secretary and the Ambassador will be able to go up and talk to the people on the Hill, and that's exactly the kind of question that I'm sure they will be asked. We note that she wrote a cable after her meeting. As is the practice with most cables, cables reporting meetings from the field emphasize what the foreign leader said rather than what our Ambassador said. That was the nature of this cable. She also provided, as I said, abundant testimony that amplified and expanded on what happened in that meeting, and, in fact, in her whole series of meetings. Q Richard, can I ask just one more on Syria, please? Can you confirm that the positive response from Syria really relates to, as it has been reported, two issues -- U.N. participation and continuation or continued conference? Is that, in general, your understanding of what Syria has responded positively to? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the Syrians put out, I think, a characterization of their response. I'm not in a position to go into more detail on it. Q Can you say what, in your view, is the next step in this process? MR. BOUCHER: My view of the next step is that people much senior to me will consider the next steps. Q Do you anticipate an announcement from the travelling party today about the Secretary's possible changes in plans? MR. BOUCHER: Again, people much senior to me will consider what the next steps are with that, too. Q The old pay-grade argument, isn't it? MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. Q Are the technical negotiators meeting on the remaining START problem today? MR. BOUCHER: We have people in Geneva. Our negotiator is heading back there. I think he was here over the weekend. The experts are looking at the remaining START issue, and will be addressing that -- the possibility exists to address that at various levels. I don't have anything precise for you at this point. Q They are not meeting here? MR. BOUCHER: There are no meetings with the Soviets going on here, if that is what you are asking. No. Q Richard, can we get the logistics straight here a little bit? It's about 6:30 in Geneva. Have they been negotiating all day now, or where do things stand? And wouldn't they have to complete these details by tomorrow night, essentially one more day, for Bush and Gorbachev to announce a summit on Wednesday? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any more details for you at this point, Steve, on what may have been discussed today in Geneva, if they had discussions there in Geneva today. As I said, the experts are looking at this remaining issue, and we will be addressing it further. The possibility exists at various levels, but I don't have any precise plan of attack for you at this point. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:39 p.m.)