US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #117, Tuesday, 7/23/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:15 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jul 23, 19917/23/91 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. I think those of you who are interested have seen the little notice we put up about the briefings at the White House on the Mugabe visit. And, having called your attention to that, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on the story about the Administration supposedly drawing up plans under which some sanctions against Iraq would be lifted? MR. BOUCHER: This issue is one that, as you remember, we all discussed here last week on a number of occasions, and John Bolton and Ambassador Pickering testified about last Thursday. The President also spoke this morning, I think, on it and said that we had made decisions, looking at a number of things. That's pretty much where it is. Let me try to give you the rundown of the way we see the situation. Saddam Hussein has proven he cannot be trusted. He has diverted food from vulnerable populations to his loyalists. He has prevented the U.N. from establishing humanitarian centers near the marshlands, and he's flouted the U.N. inspection teams in carrying out their mandate. We are studying the various reports on the food situation in Iraq. And, as we've made clear before, and as the President made clear again this morning, we don't have a quarrel with the people of Iraq. We've always felt that there were needy people there who needed to be taken care of. Resolution 687, indeed, has the means in it to provide for food imports to Iraq, and you're aware that since March 22, the Sanctions Committee has been authorizing and receiving notifications of food shipments to Iraq. Before an exceptional step is taken, such as the sale of oil, we need to look carefully at food stocks in Iraq and the resources which Iraq has to get food. Whatever decision we make, we want to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that the food reaches vulnerable populations. Q Richard, on July 14, the National Security Adviser was asked about the possible sale of oil, and he discounted that idea and said something to the effect, you know, "Iraq isn't broke yet." What's happened between then and now that has made this Administration look seriously at this proposal? MR. BOUCHER: I think, as I just said, that we need to look carefully at food stocks in Iraq and resources Iraq has to get food before exceptional steps are taken. There have been proposals by various people that we're looking at. There have been reports on the food situation in Iraq, but our view continues to be that we need to look very carefully at the food and other resources that Iraq already has available. Q Would you reiterate, though, what Scowcroft said on the 14th, which is that Iraq isn't broke yet and does, in fact, have the financial resources to buy whatever it needs to buy? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly if you're quoting General Scowcroft correctly, first of all. Second of all, I don't have an estimate of Iraq's resources. That is one of the things that is being looked at, and, as I said, that's one of the things that has to be studied in this connection. Q Richard, on that, you say one has to look carefully at the food stocks. Sadruddin Aga Khan has looked carefully at it, and he comes up with a different assessment of the situation than the U.S. authorities have made in the past. He says that it's "moving toward a catastrophe," I think was the phrase he used yesterday. Do you disagree with his assessment, or do you not accept it? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're studying the various reports on the food situation in Iraq. Sadruddin has done, I guess, the most recent one on the situation. I think I'd just have to say that we're consulting with the allies on this. He provided yesterday an assessment on the food and health situation to the Sanctions Committee. The chairman of the Sanctions Committee is starting a round of bilateral consultations with the 15 members. There will probably be another meeting to discuss this issue on Wednesday. So it's something that's being looked at, that's being studied, and that we're consulting with allies about. Q In other words, you don't accept his assessment as necessarily authoritative. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any analysis of his assessment at this point. It's something that was discussed yesterday with the Sanctions Committee, and I'm sure will be discussed again tomorrow. Q Last week you were implying that there was plenty of food in Iraq by suggesting that since March 22 -- what was it? -- one ton of food for every 18 Iraqis had been authorized. That was the implication anyway. Now you say you're not so sure what the food situation is. MR. BOUCHER: This is something that we talked about last Friday as well. The point is that some of the reports that have come out on the food situation in Iraq have said that there's food, but Saddam Hussein's not giving it to the vulnerable people. And, indeed, we've been supporting the efforts of UNICEF, the U.N., the ICRC, and others who are operating inside Iraq to make sure that things get to the needy populations. What I said here today -- and I'll reiterate -- is whatever decision we make, we want to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that food reaches vulnerable populations. Q What kind of safeguards would you consider appropriate? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I can't give you more details, since these are still under consideration and discussion. Q What would be the matter with a U.N. specialized agency such as UNICEF acting as administrator and distributor of the food stocks? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't said that anything would be the matter with that, Jim. In some ways, some of these U.N. agencies are already doing that. Q Isn't that -- MR. BOUCHER: But I don't have a final mechanism for you, because I said this is something that we're still discussing with our allies. We're still interested, as I said again, in looking at the situation as regards Iraqi food stocks, as well as Iraqi domestic resources and other resources available to buy food. Q Richard, you say you're looking at the sale of Iraqi oil. Would that be oil that is somehow outside of the country, like shiploads that have been seized during the embargo or -- MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer all these "would that be," "would that be," questions today any better than I could answer them last week, or that John Bolton could answer them when he testified on Thursday. This is a subject that's under discussion with other allies. Whether there is an appropriate mechanism to do this depends on a number of factors which I have outlined for you already, but I don't have the answers at this point. Q Are discussions progressing at all? I mean, you've been discussing that for more than a week now. MR. BOUCHER: And we continue to discuss it. We've been discussing Sadruddin's report, which is the latest report since yesterday. Q So that you expected it 2 weeks ago, and some people say you're stalling for time. MR. BOUCHER: I'd just say that this process is proceeding. We're looking at this. Saddam has continued to flout the will of the United Nations. He still hasn't let people back into the marshlands; he hasn't let the U.N. set up the centers there that it wanted to set up in order to help the people who are there; and we still have other problems inside Iraq with the way these programs are going. Q On the matter of oil, do you know if the Iraqi oil fields up north have begun producing again? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q It seems to be material if you're talking about it coming from the fields or whether it's in tankers already at sea. MR. BOUCHER: Again, Jim, I can't answer those questions at this point. This is an issue that's being discussed, that's being explored. I gave you the factors that go into our consideration and the way we're approaching the issue, but I'd just have to say again, I don't have those answers at this point while we're still in consultations with our allies and with other members of the Security Council. Q Any changes in the situation in northern Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: No. Nothing new to report since yesterday. The situation appears pretty much the same. The important thing to us is that it remains quiet. We continue to follow it closely. We're in touch with international relief officials who receive reports from their people on the ground. Q Anything about Iraq's willingness or unwillingness to show its nuclear capabilities to observers? MR. BOUCHER: We haven't seen anything new since last week, I guess it was, when the Iraqis provided some answers to questions from the inspectors. Members of the Security Council, as you know, have demanded that Iraq come clean on all aspects of its weapons of mass destructions. Furthermore, they've said that Iraq should do so in a timely fashion. Whatever they've provided by July 25th will not be taken at face value. We will look carefully at it, and we expect that the Special Commission and the IAEA will continue their inspections to ascertain whether or not Iraq is in full compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 and with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Q Richard, do you have any comment on the heightened alert that we're hearing about in Iraq, people saving up -- stockpiling food and guns being placed on buildings, and what have you? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, back on the stockpiles of Iraq weapons of mass destruction. As I understand it, Resolution 687 covers ballistic missiles. Is that right? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q But it wouldn't cover cruise missiles? MR. BOUCHER: It has a definition in it which I think is missiles over 150 kilometers, something like that. You can look it up in the resolution. Q What I'm trying to find out, would it cover the Silkworm cruise missiles that they have been known to have? MR. BOUCHER: It's a technical question, but the definition is in the resolution. I'd suggest you look at that first. Q You said that an evaluation process has to take place starting Thursday to determine whether the Iraqis have been forthcoming. Are we to infer then that Thursday is not D-Day? MR. BOUCHER: I certainly have never called Thursday D-Day. This has been a process which has gone on over time. Iraq has provided declarations before. They have come up short. We think they're still short. They've been asked to provide more information and to come clean. We gave them the date of July 25th. What I said today, as we and other members of the Security Council have made clear in setting forth this demand that they come clean, and by July 25, is that whatever they provide is basically fodder for the inspectors to look at, to ascertain the whereabouts of the equipment, to inspect, and to carry out their function under the U.N. resolution. Q There was a report some weeks ago, in at least the Minnesota papers, that Andrew Natsios, when asked about food aid which would be available through his service for use in Iraq which was requested at that time by the Catholic Relief Services, was available, he said to the extent, I think, of $9 million worth of food aid relief; but that the United States, for political reasons, was not going to utilize this in spite of the request of the Catholic Relief Services. Is that money still available, or is that still being impounded, or whatever? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not familiar with whatever Andrew Natsios might have said to the Minnesota papers some time back. We have provided -- and I think we can probably get this information to you from the Press Office -- we've provided support for UNICEF and the other international organizations that are providing food and medicine to vulnerable groups inside Iraq in addition to the vast quantities that we provided for people in the north in the area that we were operating in. Q Richard, now that the Secretary and his party are no longer in the Middle East, are you free to talk about the Middle East again? MR. BOUCHER: I've got lots of quotes by the Secretary. He addressed, I think, all the remaining issues at his press conference in Jerusalem, and I know he was asked about these questions again today in Kuala Lumpur. I'm sure that whatever he said was more correct than anything I could try to make up here. Q Maybe you can refine a point made by General Scowcroft on the airplane coming back from Europe. Is there any association -- you'll notice I don't use the word "linkage" -- is there any association between the Israeli negotiating position and the possibility of getting a housing loan guarantee? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I really don't have any further information on that. Q Richard, remember those SS-23s in Eastern Europe that the Soviets had or had not transferred to various countries and had or had not control over them, or whatever? Whatever happened to them? Did we ever get an accounting of them? MR. BOUCHER: We're continuing to analyze the legal and compliance aspects surrounding the discovery of SS-23s in Eastern Europe. In this connection, as part of our on-going efforts to resolve this problem, we have recently asked the Soviets for clarifications of information that they provided to us on their transfers of SS-23 missiles. We have not yet made a determination; and, contrary to some reports, we have not accused the Soviets of lying. This is an issue that we expect to report on in our compliance report when that comes out. Q Wait, wait. Does that cable, alluded to in the Washington Times this morning, exist? MR. BOUCHER: I don't go into any specific, allegedly, cables. Q When is that report due? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact date. I think it's something that has been underway for some time. Q If there was fudging on the INF Treaty, how would that reflect on the upcoming START treaty? Do you expect that President Bush will have that in the light of the cable sent by Secretary Baker to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow -- that he will have the treaty ready for signing when he goes to meet Gorbachev next week? MR. BOUCHER: Let me say, first of all, what cable? I haven't confirmed any cables, and I won't. Second of all, these issues of compliance are important to the United States. We issue regular reports on them; and certainly they are part of the framework in our minds when we address new treaties, address verification issues, and certainly when we address ratification with the Congress. As far as the progress on START, our delegations continue to meet at an accelerated pace in Geneva to work out the treaty text. They're doing that. The latest estimate I saw was, I think, they expected to come to 746 pages when it's all put together. They continue to work on these things and appear to be making some progress in getting the text finished up for Moscow. Q Back to the SS-23s for a second. Just a simple yes or no question. Do the Soviets seem to have any SS-23s themselves? MR. BOUCHER: Can I answer "I don't know"? I'll have to check on that, what exactly their status was under the treaty. Q Richard, yesterday, you explained the U.S. position on the sale by British Aerospace of BA-146 jets to an Iranian airline. British Aerospace points out that last year, within the last 6 months, the U.S. export controls did not -- or were not seen to fit apply, were no obstruction to the sale of some Dutch planes -- Fokker 100s -- to Iran Air. These planes also had more than a 10% component of U.S.-supplied technology. Can you explain why that sale late last year was approved while this latest proposal was not? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, yesterday I didn't address any specific sales because we are enjoined by law from not addressing specific export licensing cases. Therefore, I'm not in a position to do the comparison you ask for. Q Can you tell us if there is any change in the position of approving such exports to Iran, without reference to any specific manufacturer? MR. BOUCHER: I stated the policy yesterday. My understanding is that policy has been long-standing. Q Then can you explain why a sale -- again, without mentioning any manufacturer -- was approved last year? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I'm sorry, I can't do that. To the extent that specific sales might be discussed or specific licensing decisions might be discussed, I don't know if the Commerce Department can do some of that for you; but I'm not in a position here, both with not having the information and knowing that I'm not in a position to give out any comment on specific deals. Q Specifically, could you ask your Export Control Bureau if there has been any change in the application of the U.S. policy? MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on that. Q What kind of topics will be discussed at the Bush and Yeltsin meeting? And does it seem a little out of courtesy to have another summit meeting in Moscow where President Bush was invited by Gorbachev? MR. BOUCHER: All these questions on the summit, really, Marlin just did a layout of the briefings that we'll have and the summit schedule. I think he'll just have to handle all these questions. Q President Bush has (inaudible) scheduled to meet Yeltsin in Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know. I know Marlin just did a rundown of the schedule, and it's for the White House to talk about the President's meetings. Q Richard, would you have anything new to say about the latest fighting in Croatia? MR. BOUCHER: We are deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Croatia. The initiative discussed at the Ohrid summit point the way toward bringing the increasing violence to a halt. Those initiatives should be followed through immediately to establish a peaceful process to resolve the intensifying Yugoslav crisis. We call on all parties in Yugoslavia to cease all provocations and to respect the principles of peaceful settlement of disputes embodied in the July 7 Brioni agreement and the Yugoslav presidency's peace declaration of July 18. Given the high levels of mutual distrust, we urge that all parties in Yugoslavia accept the CSCE and EC offers of good-offices mediation. We strongly support a role for the EC monitors and efforts to bring a halt to violence in Croatia. Once again, the basic U.S. policy is that the United States strongly opposes the use of force or intimidation to resolve political differences, to impose unity, or to change Yugoslavia's external or internal borders. Q Do you have anything about the Deputy Prime Minister's visit from Bulgaria here today? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. I think we'll try to get you some sort of readout afterwards. Q I was wondering, on the oil sales possibly being allowed from Iraq, you said we've been talking with our allies. Could you tell us what our allies have been saying to us? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, you may have been asked this; I don't recall. Yesterday, another new photo purporting to be of an MIA has surfaced. Has the State Department seen that? MR. BOUCHER: We were asked that yesterday and put up an answer in the afternoon. The answer is basically no. Q Do you have anything on Ken Quinn's travel plans? MR. BOUCHER: At this point we remain where we were, and that's that he has proposed travel to Hanoi, and we hope to get a positive response from the Vietnamese. Nothing specific at this point. Q Do you have anything on the report that China is falsely labeling textiles and sneaking them through Macao and places like that? MR. BOUCHER: This is an issue that has been addressed in hearings and that certainly has been addressed in the recent letter that the President sent to various Senators on the Hill. To review, over the past year the U.S. Customs Service and the Commerce Department have been accumulating evidence of illegally trans-shipped textile products entering the U.S. from China in circumvention of our bilateral textile agreement. Last December the U.S. Government charged China's textile and apparel quotas for various product categories imported into the United States under false country-of-origin declarations. These charges in December amounted to about $85 million. Subsequent to those charges, China has begun to take a number of steps to curtail textile fraud. The P.R.C. has adopted and publicly announced new regulations which forbid false labelling and trans-shipments which violate textile agreements. China has also welcomed U.S. Customs inspectors to inspect Chinese textile factories whenever illegal activity is suspected. We continue our active discussions with the Chinese on this problem, and we are, of course, monitoring the situation closely. U.S. Customs continues to report evidence of on-going trans-shipments, however. The U.S. Government has prepared more charges against China's quota, valued at about $14 million. We anticipate that these will be levied against China's quota after consultations with China in coming weeks. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:40 p.m.)