US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #115, Friday, 7/19/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12: PM, Washington, DC Date: Jul 19, 19917/19/91 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. I don't have any statements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on the fighting in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Let me tell you what we know. I think you've seen some things out of the U.N. people in Geneva. We do have reports of fighting around Sulimaniyah and Arbil between Kurds and Iraqi soldiers. At this point, we can't confirm the extent nor the cause of the clashes. The United Nations and other international organizations have personnel in the area, and I believe, as I said, that they have talked in Geneva about what they know. U.N. guards in Sulimaniyah and Arbil have received news of serious clashes between the Kurds and the Iraqi Army. Reports indicate that the Kurds have captured some Iraqis, but there are various reports of the numbers killed and wounded. Iraq has had forces in the area, and there have been movements into and out of the area. At this point I don't have a precise assessment of the forces that are there. We are keeping an eye on everything that is going on in northern Iraq. We're very concerned about the new outbreak of fighting, and we're in close touch with the United Nations agencies who have people on the ground. We urge both sides to avoid any escalation or spread of the violence. Q Is there any possibility that the rapid deployment force could become involved if things keep going? MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to speculate. Q Does this give you any second thoughts about the wisdom of having pulled back? MR. BOUCHER: I think Pete Williams, last Friday, explained the completion of the humanitarian relief mission in northern Iraq. He described the security situation that we expected to occur, after we pulled out, inside the security zone. At this point, I'm not aware of any second thoughts, as you put it. Q Are the Iraqis abstaining from flying any aircraft in that area? MR. BOUCHER: It's something you better check on with the Defense Department. Q Is this, incidentally, in the security zone? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding -- I think the quick answer is no. Put it that way. Q You mentioned Peter Williams. Last Friday when he made that announcement, he also said that any disruption and a disturbance of the peace would be a violation of this agreement and suggested that, at that time, if there was a disruption of peace, that that would be justification to go back in. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. He said that we maintain a clear interest in peace within Iraq, and that remains the case. I've expressed our concern here. I said we're keeping on top of the situation, keeping in close touch with the U.N. agencies that have people there on the ground. At this point, I'm not going to lead you or myself into any further speculation. Q And you know also the Pentagon later this afternoon will be announcing the makeup of that force. Is there any chance that that force will be -- suggests that that force will be immediately called into action? MR. BOUCHER: That's the third time you've asked the question. My answer is going to be the same. I am not going to speculate. Q Do you have any information of provocations by the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, at this point, I can't describe for you the causes or the extent of the clashes. Q Do you rule them out? MR. BOUCHER: I can't describe them for you one way or the other. Q But you are keeping a close eye on them as necessary, you say. MR. BOUCHER: That we are, Jim. Q And how are you doing that? MR. BOUCHER: We always have various means, and I said we're also in touch with the United Nations agencies and other international organizations that have people on the ground. Q Speaking of the United Nations, do you have any clear idea of what went on in the marshlands in the south? MR. BOUCHER: I think we have a pretty clear idea. We've seen various published reports about the Iraqis denying relief workers access to the marshes; in fact, those reports are essentially correct. After allowing executive delegate Sadruddin to visit the marsh region last week, Iraqi authorities expelled the United Nations relief workers Sadruddin had placed there, and they reinstated a military blockade of the area. To us, this is simply one more example of Saddam Hussein's complete disregard for his obligations under the cease-fire agreement and under the memorandum of understanding which his government has signed with the United Nations. We consider this action impeding the work of U.N. relief workers who are attempting to alleviate the suffering of Iraqi civilians to be a violation of Resolution 688, and we would urge that it be corrected immediately. Q What is your estimate of how many displaced people are down in that area? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any estimates myself. I think the previous estimates from the U.N. workers who had gone out there were between 30,000 and 100,000, but I don't have any updated estimates or more precise estimates myself. Q What is the U.S. reaction to Iraq informing the U.N. that it no longer feels obligated to abide by human rights agreements? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that one. I think if you look at Resolution 687 and subsequent things that have been said and done by the Government of Iraq, that they are pledged to respect their citizens in many different ways. Q Just to go back to the marshes for a moment, as you describe it then, there still are X thousand Shi'ites trapped by this blockade in the wetlands or marshes, or whatever they are? MR. BOUCHER: That's our understanding, and we have urged, as Sadruddin has urged, that the Iraqis allow the U.N. personnel to go into the area and help these people and that they withdraw their forces from the area. Q And these Shi'ites are trying to get out but can't get past the Iraqi lines? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what their circumstances are in those terms. Q Back to the use of force just one second. I know you can't speculate about the future, but are there any discussions going on as of now -- any discussions with the U.N. or with our allies about the use of force in that situation? MR. BOUCHER: I'd refer you back to everything the President and other heads of state said during the London meetings about their deep concern about Iraqi violations of U.N. agreements, in particular, in the cases involving nuclear pledges. I would say that we keep in touch with our allies all the time as this situation is developing. I'd say we're also in close touch with United Nations agencies to get a better feel for the exact situation there. Q And what is your recent information concerning Iraqi nuclear capability? There is a (inaudible) report they have or destroyed, something like that. MR. BOUCHER: Let me describe to you where we are in terms of the inspection teams. The third IAEA Special Commission inspection team is just finishing its work in Iraq today. A fourth team is planning to go back to Iraq on July 27. Iraq has finally started to provide information about its extensive nuclear capabilities. However, the latest disclosures came only after intense pressure from the Security Council and the inspection teams and the revelations that Iraq had been hiding an extensive uranium enrichment program. I would say in general that the information that they have been providing now relates to the EMIS program that they recently admitted to. We think that there are many other areas that still need to be investigated. And, as you see, the IAEA inspectors are sending other teams in. Given Iraq's past track record on telling the truth, of course, we remain very skeptical that Iraq has made any sort of full disclosure at this point, and the United Nations remains doubtful as well. I'd point out something that the Director of the IAEA said in the board meeting which voted to declare Iraq in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement. That was held yesterday, and I think you're familiar with that resolution passed in Vienna. He said in connection with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not only that Iraq is not in compliance with its safeguards agreement, but he went on to say that considering the manner in which nuclear-related information has been provided, it's not surprising that the world asks whether there is yet more to declare. Q What about the 90 pounds of enriched uranium that was reported to be located inside Iraqi territory? Do you think that the 90 pounds is quite enough needed to make a nuclear bomb? Where is it stored? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not exactly sure what 90 pounds you're talking about. Is that the declared material that was in the -- Q Yes. It was reported that -- MR. BOUCHER: -- under the safeguards agreement? Q -- Iraqi Government reported that 90 pounds of enriched uranium to the IAEA, so they are under inspection now, they said. MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that the material that they had, and I think Margaret said this a couple of weeks ago, the material that they had under the previous safeguards agreement -- I don't know the precise figure. It's probably in the range you're talking about -- one of the inspection teams has more or less taken possession of that, identified that, and is making plans for its removal from Iraq. Q What is the relation of this fourth team going in on July 27th and the deadline that Iraq is facing for full compliance on -- MR. BOUCHER: What is the relation? Q Yes. I thought the deadline came actually before the date. MR. BOUCHER: Each of the inspection teams, of course, has been exploring the information that Iraq has begrudgingly supplied over the course of these weeks and months. The Iraqis have been asked to provide a complete and full disclosure by July 25th, I think the date was. The inspection teams will continue, I think, as they have done before, and that is to check out everything in Iraq's disclosures to identify and take appropriate action with it. They're tasked with -- I think it's rendering harmless all the equipment and materials. And also as well, I'd like to point out that they conduct suspect site inspections, surprise inspections, at locations that they identify. Q Also on Iraq, are you -- are the inspection teams planning surprise inspections on suspected missile sites? MR. BOUCHER: The mandate of all the inspection teams, whether they're there to do nuclear, chemical, biological, or missiles, is to inspect, verify, render harmless -- whatever the terms are of the U.N. resolution -- the materials that Iraq declares, but also to ensure that they've got everything. And they do that by inspecting sites, doing analysis, and investigating any suspect sites. So the rules are more or less the same for each of the teams. Q Still on Iraq: There's yet another report about the food situation, this one from the FAO, which says that, in fact, large sections of the country are facing famine. You continue to think that there are adequate food supplies for the country? MR. BOUCHER: What we have said, Jim, is that we are talking to our allies about the humanitarian needs. I think you're familiar with what the President has said before about humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq. We had testimony yesterday by John Bolton and Ambassador Pickering on the Hill where they described some of the things we're looking at in terms of the ways that the humanitarian needs can be meet. We've also cited, for example, the various reports that are out there that describe their needs. There are some of them that describe the mal-distribution, I think is the term, of the food due to Iraqi Government policies. So there are various reports out there. I think we've said that it's important that whatever is done to assist the Iraqis, given their records of diversion, given their records of manipulation, whatever is done to assist them has to be done under strict monitoring to ensure that the government is not able to manipulate the food shipments and keep it from the people who really need it. Q One follow-up on what he was mentioning. On ballistic missiles, do you have more information that Iraq is not complying on the identification and the destruction of ballistic missiles? And also, does the U.S. have any concerns that this latest outbreak of fighting might cause some fear among the Kurds and that more will start leaving their homes and you'll face the same situation again? MR. BOUCHER: The two things you ask about aren't related. Let me try to remember them and take them separately. On the ballistic missiles, I can't remember, but there is another inspection team that, I think, is due in there on this issue. I think we put out the information the other day. I'll try to get it for you. Q There is one report that you have not gotten the latest -- MR. BOUCHER: I would say that overall -- you may find more precise statements in the testimony that was given yesterday -- that overall we remain skeptical about Iraq's declarations in all these areas. Q And on Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: And on Kurds, that would bring me into speculation that I'm not going to engage in. Q Do you have concerns, though, about that happening? MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, we're very concerned about the situation. I said that before. We've expressed our concerns that the U.N. relief operations not be interfered with; that the kind of situation which arose before not be allowed to develop again. Q Do you have anything more today on the terrorism statement you had out yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing to add to what we said yesterday. Q Recently, there has been increasing terrorist attacks against Turkish targets in Europe, both foreign missions and other offices abroad. What's the U.S. Government's position against the terrorism and these series of attacks? MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, our position on terrorism is that we condemn all acts of terrorism wherever they occur. There has been recent flurry of attacks on Turkish interests in Europe and elsewhere. This is a subject of deep concern to us. We're particularly disturbed over the recent car bombing in Athens which injured three Turkish diplomats as well as a Greek bystander. This was a cowardly attack. It was claimed by the group "17 November," which, as you know, is an indigenous group responsible for a number of lethal attacks on U.S. and Greek targets. Q Was the United States a participant at the meetings in Guadalajara of the Spanish/Latin leaders? Does the United States have any concerns about the embracing of Castro by the leaders or apparent by the leaders? MR. BOUCHER: We were not a participant at the meeting. It was a meeting, as you described, between Ibero-American countries or whatever. So we didn't participate in the meeting. I think our general opinion is that Castro's presence there really just serves once more to point out his isolation in the hemisphere, that all the other leaders who were there were democratically elected leaders, and that obviously he is not. Q Richard, what about some of the countries re-establishing their diplomatic ties with Castro? Does the United States have an opinion on that? MR. BOUCHER: I better get something appropriate on that. Q Regarding the Iraqi food situation, what are the prospects for some sort of U.N. mission in that area? If something was set up, would the U.S. be willing to supply food to the Iraqis? MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing is that over time we have, in fact, supported the work of United Nations organizations that are involved very extensively in helping the needy people inside Iraq. We have seen -- since March 22, when the Sanctions Committee authorized food shipments -- we have seen very substantial quantities of food shipments, medicines, and other supplies reported to the United Nations Sanctions Committee. We know, in fact, that substantial amounts have actually been delivered already into Iraq. We are now looking at questions, under the current sanctions regime, of providing for a strictly monitored provision of humanitarian assistance. I think what John Bolton talked about yesterday about one of the possibilities that Iraqi oil revenues could be used to meet the needs of the humanitarian relief efforts, as well as things like the compensation funds and the expenses of the Special Commission. That's something that we are consulting with our allies about at this point, and we would expect to move quickly once we finished our consultations with allies and get responses from the other partners. Q Does that mean unfreezing assets? MR. BOUCHER: They also discussed the issue of assets, I believe, on the Hill. What we're looking at this point is the question of oil revenues. The assets is a different issue, where there are many Americans who probably have legitimate claims against the assets, and we're not inclined to release them. Q Oil revenues implies that the sanctions will be lifted to the extent that Iraq could begin exporting oil. Is that what you're talking about? MR. BOUCHER: That was what they talked about on the Hill yesterday, except I would quibble with your terminology. The resolution, as now crafted, provide for various kinds of arrangements that might be made to provide humanitarian assistance, without changing the essential sanctions regime. Q Richard, in the wake of your statement yesterday, has anything been set up for Ambassador Glaspie to go back to the Hill and for Eagleburger to participate? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, no. Q Can I ask one about the Philippine bases? Do you have any conclusion, final conclusion concerning the bases? For example, do you continue to use those facilities with an overhaul, sweeping, or think of moving out to the end of the country -- something like that? MR. BOUCHER: I think the best thing for me to do is to get you the four-page statement that our negotiator issued in Manila just the other day. It may have been a joint statement; I don't remember. But he described the whole situation and the understandings and agreements we have reached now with the Philippine Government. Q In terms of using the oil revenue for food, does that refer to Iraq's request to sell $1.5 billion worth of oil? Is that what's under discussion, then? MR. BOUCHER: That has been under discussion for some time, as I've explained here, over a period of days. I'm sure that Bolton and Pickering explained on the Hill yesterday, that has been held up because the Sanctions Committee was asking Iraq for information on its domestic financial resources that Iraq has not been willing to provide. Q Back on the meeting in Guadalajara, there was some discussion, as I understand it, of the development of the Latin American common market. Does the United States have a position on such a development? And would the United States oppose Cuba's participation if that should eventuate? MR. BOUCHER: The President, as you're probably familiar with, has taken initiatives in terms of our economic relations with Latin American countries, and free trade is certainly one key aspect of this. We have free trade framework agreements -- or trade framework agreements -- with a number of countries in Latin and South America. I'll get you some more details on that. But, essentially, yes, that's the kind of idea that we're working on. I've never heard any discussion of Cuba's participation. Q Is there any reaction to the report by a judge in Israel that it was Israeli police authorities -- not Palestinians -- that were responsible for initiating the violence that ultimately ended in quite a number of Palestinian deaths? MR. BOUCHER: When the incident occurred, the President, the Department here, a U.N. resolution, I think, all expressed our views of the incident. There have been various reports about it, and we haven't commented before, and we really won't be commenting on each and every one. Q Sorry to keep bouncing around here, but back on the Iraqi oil sales, $1.5 billion -- is that what they're talking about, $1.5 billion? MR. BOUCHER: I think that was the Iraqi request to the Sanctions Committee. Q That would seem to imply that it would require opening one of the pipelines; is that right? MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea, Jim. I have no idea on that. Q Could you check into that? MR. BOUCHER: The testimony yesterday by Bolton and Pickering probably goes into more detail. I talked about this situation with humanitarian food; I think it was on Monday. At this point, I think I really just have to leave it as we're exploring an arrangement to help the people who are suffering inside Iraq. We've been helping with this all along. We're willing to look at things that don't change the essential nature of the sanctions regime. We're discussing these things with our coalition partners and the people in the Security Council. We're not at a point now to give you any detailed arrangements. Q Just to go back to statements that you made a couple of days ago, you seem to have the impression that there is adequate food; that 1.1 million tons has been imported. I think there's a newer figure even since then -- MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q -- that almost doubles that. So if the State Department view is that there is adequate food available but maybe badly distributed, why then even discuss the possibility of letting Iraq export oil? MR. BOUCHER: The point, Jim, is that our concern and the concern of others, including people who have done these reports, is that there needy people in Iraq. That's the basic concern that leads us to look at these issues, along with our partners. Q But are you changing your view then? Do you know think that, in fact, there are needy people because there is a shortage of food which could be alleviated by some imports? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have a final determination as to whether that is or needs to be done. It's something that we're consulting with allies about. I just told you, I think that we know that there are very substantial amounts -- I've seen the figure of two million tons now that have been reported to the Sanctions Committee. We know substantial quantities of that have already been sent to Iraq. But the situation, based on the reports of various people, is being studied. One more thing, I guess, I would mention is that Prince Sadruddin is going to present a report to the Sanctions Committee on Monday, and we'll forward to hearing more about the situation in Iraq as well as the situation in the marshes at that time. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:05 p.m.)