US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #119, Thursday, 7/25/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:36 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jul 25, 19917/25/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Estonia, Latvia, Micronesia, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Laos, Thailand Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations, Arms Control, POW/MIA Issues, Military Affairs, Refugees (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Announcement: Department Press Briefings]

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start off with a couple of announcements and catch-ups. First, I'd like to formalize what we've been talking to many of you about for a little while, and that is that we won't be having press briefings in this room next week. Q Have it in another room? MR. BOUCHER: No. We won't be doing a daily State Department press briefing in this building or anywhere next week. As you know, the summit in Moscow is next week. They'll be briefing on the road. Margaret and the Secretary will obviously be out there. Myself, I'm going to be out of town, so we're going to rely on our Press Officers to follow up on issues that aren't being addressed by the briefers at the summit. So keep in touch with them. You won't have to show up here and wait for me every day next week.

[Vietnam: Investigation of MIA Photos]

Second of all, we've been talking about Vietnam and meetings with Vietnam. I have a little more detail for you; first of all, that Assistant Secretary of State Richard Solomon will meet with Vietnam's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Le Mai, in Bangkok on July 30th. In addition to that, Deputy Assistant Secretary Quinn plans to go to Hanoi on July 26th for the sole purpose of pursuing with the Vietnamese Government our request for assistance in investigating the photograph in which family members have identified their missing relatives. On July 27th, in Vientiane, Laos, he will present the same message to the Government of Laos, and he will return to Bangkok on the 27th. Those are two upcoming meetings with the Vietnamese and one with the Laotians. Q On the meeting between Solomon and Le Mai -- incidentally, is he the replacement for Mr. Thach who apparently got purged? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q And is that about MIAs, or is that about things -- MR. BOUCHER: The meeting in Bangkok was requested by the Vietnamese to exchange views regarding our "bilateral relationship" was the way they put it. This will be Assistant Secretary Solomon's first meeting with the Vietnamese since April 9th when he presented the "roadmap" which deals with Cambodia and POW/MIA issues. He'll be there, prepared to receive Vietnamese views on that. Q Richard, has any progress been made since the "roadmap" was presented? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the exact quote, but the Secretary described the progress at ASEAN, I think yesterday, and I can get that for you. Q Richard, apparently the Vietnamese are complaining that this "roadmap" is too difficult and are requesting that the United States just normalize relations and go from there. Is there any thinking at all in this building on -- (laughter) MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Let me say yes before more people laugh. (Laughter) Q No, you know, modifying that? Is there any thinking about a possible modification in that "roadmap"? MR. BOUCHER: Carol, we'll have to see what the Vietnamese come forward with when we meet with them in Bangkok. As I said, this is the first meeting that Solomon is having with them since we presented the "roadmap" on April 9th. The Secretary, again in ASEAN yesterday, described the process and the importance of the Cambodian settlement to that process. Q The deadline day. We are all excited about what you're going to do to Iraq today, before we go home. MR. BOUCHER: Marker day. Q What? MR. BOUCHER: Marker day. Q Marker day. Right. Is this being done here or is the White House the thunderbolt -- MR. BOUCHER: You're asking me what about today. Q What about today?

[Iraq: UN Deadline Disclosures; Update]

MR. BOUCHER: The President said yesterday that the 25th is not "D-Day." It was a marker laid down by the U.N. Security Council against which to measure Iraq's compliance with U.N. resolutions. In any case, we hope that Iraq will make full and complete disclosure of all its activities. Whatever disclosures are made, we expect that the Special Commission and the IAEA will continue their inspections of suspect sites to determine whether Iraq continues to be in violation of U.N. resolutions and its obligations under the NPT, as well as its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. As I came down to brief today, we have not received anything new from the Iraqis. Q The President was a little less clear about what the U.S. position is on whether Iraq could sell oil for revenue to be used for humanitarian purposes. Can you clear up what the President was saying? No -- do you have a statement there of what U.S. policy is at the moment? MR. BOUCHER: I can review the issues for you once more. We've discussed them many times here. I've tried to put them together once again today. What the President said yesterday was what we've been saying for awhile. He said yesterday that there is machinery in place to see to the humanitarian needs of vulnerable people inside Iraq. There are basically two questions that have to be discussed and are being discussed at the United Nations. First is how can Iraq be made to pay for the assistance? And you know there have been various proposals about that. And second is how can the international community ensure that assistance gets to those people who really need it? Given Iraq's track record, I'm sure you'll agree that these are questions that need to be looked at thoroughly. And then besides the issue of food, medicine, and essential goods for the vulnerable groups inside Iraq, there are other funding questions that are being discussed now. There is the payment of reparations, compensation; there is the payment for the activities of the U.N. Special Commission engaged in weapons destruction; and there is the payment for the commission which ensures the integrity of the Iraq-Kuwait border. Whatever is done, the Sanctions Committee has made it clear that there must be close U.N. monitoring and supervision of all humanitarian relief. Q Maybe I haven't been following it closely enough, but if all those very complicated and serious and reasonable areas of concern are resolved, the United States is in favor of permitting Iraq to go ahead and sell a certain amount of oil for such purposes? I don't know what should be tidied up first -- you can't tell if it's going to get to the -- MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell if -- Q -- starving kids until they have the revenue. MR. BOUCHER: There are a number of questions. There was a lengthy discussion yesterday in the Sanctions Committee about Prince Sadruddin's report and the way these questions relate to it. At that meeting, there was no consensus on the issues raised in the report. It was decided that the chairman of the Sanctions Committee would brief the Security Council today and remand the issues to the Council. Now today, the Council discussed the issues. I don't have any specific results coming out of that. We've cited a number of things that we're looking at, including the factors that I just raised for you. We believe that Iraq still has significant reserves of gold and foreign exchange, for example. We've talked about that before. The Sanctions Committee has previously asked for Iraq to make clear what it did have to buy food, and Iraq has not done so. As part of any consideration of the funding question, we believe the Sanctions Committee and the Council need complete disclosure by Iraq of its current holdings of gold and foreign exchange and its own ability to pay for its humanitarian relief supplies. So these issues are being considered very carefully by the members of the Security Council in New York -- the Sanctions Committee and the Council itself. We're still discussing them with our allies. There are no new resolutions before the Council at this point. Q Richard, is it fair to say that we're going to wait until this U.N. inspection team finishes its latest inspection before we decide about military action? MR. BOUCHER: It's not my decision. I can't tell you when such a decision would be faced or made. I'm not going to speculate on that kind of thing. Q There are reports out of Iraq, quoting unnamed high officials that we have given some assurance that there won't be imminent military action. MR. BOUCHER: We have said publicly that the date of July 25 was not a deadline for military action. We've also said, as other Council members have made clear as well, that we've called for a clear, full, and timely compliance with Resolution 687 by Iraq. As I noted, the President said yesterday that July 25th wasn't "D-Day." Coalition members and others may also have communicated that view to the Iraqis. In any case, whatever message was communicated to the Iraqis would have been nothing more than what we said publicly. Q The military option is still a viable option, though? MR. BOUCHER: I don't rule in and rule out options for the President. I'm sorry. Q But can't you confirm that a message was passed to the Iraqis that no military action would be taken for the time being? MR. BOUCHER: I can't. Q Richard, there are some reports from the Middle East that -- Q Wait a minute. Q Hang on for one second. Q Stay on Iraq for a moment. Q I'm still on the same subject. There are reports from the Middle East that -- at least a number of the Arab leaders are feeling unease about the possibility of another strike in Iraq by the U.S. forces, even for the nuclear devices, or whatever it is. Did you receive any official presentations now from the Arab countries? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I don't know for sure. Q Richard, going back, you say you hope that Iraq will make a full and complete disclosure about the issues raised in 687. You didn't complete that thought, though. What if they don't? MR. BOUCHER: We said on Tuesday, and I think I said again today, that Iraq is under this requirement from the U.N. resolution, from the specific request of the inspectors, and from the specific request of the members of the Security Council to come clean by July 25. This is part of a process. Iraq has provided some information in the past that the inspectors have checked out. There are inspections scheduled. There is a nuclear inspection scheduled for the 27th, and I think I made clear that we expect that the inspectors from the IAEA and the Special Commission will continue to do their job and will continue to check out everything that Iraq discloses, as well as suspect sites. Q Yes, but can I just pin you down, if I can, a bit further on that? Supposing this goes on ad infinitum. Does that mean that the sanctions go on exactly as long? MR. BOUCHER: We've made very clear that we don't expect to lift the sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. Q Richard, in the absence of any more data from the Iraqis today or tomorrow, or whatever, does the team that's going into Baghdad have things that it wants to see right now, or is it just left -- if it doesn't get anything from the Iraqis, it just doesn't have anything to do? MR. BOUCHER: Oh, they have plenty to do right now. They have follow-up to things from previous inspections -- things that have previously been asked of the Iraqis -- and they have always had the option of visiting suspect sites and areas where they suspect there might be something more than Iraq has disclosed. Q This unnamed official -- Iraqi official -- in the wire story indicated that he was under the impression that it was a nuclear facility in northern Iraq that was the principal bone of contention here rather than other issues. Can you confirm that much, that that is, in fact, what the U.S. is most concerned about? MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, Pat. I think that would be prejudging what the inspectors are going to do. They'll have to make their decisions, and in many cases these are decisions to go to suspect sites on very short notice, and I wouldn't want to try to prejudice their work. Q What are the consequences if Iraq continues to not come clean, as you say? MR. BOUCHER: The consequences -- this is sort of another way of asking some of the questions that I've been asked before. I'm not going to speculate on possible military consequences. The consequences are clearly Iraq's continued isolation from the world community; the continuation of the view of we and other members of the Security Council that Iraq is not in compliance with the various resolutions; and the continuation of the inspection process, particularly the suspect-site inspection process, until we know we've done everything that we're supposed to do under the resolution. Q And just to follow up. I wasn't clear on your answer. Did our government in any way indirectly convey to the Iraqi Government that we would not attack? MR. BOUCHER: That's not something that I have a specific answer on. I said that we've stated our views publicly. We've talked to other coalition members and other countries about them. Coalition members, other countries, may have communicated those views to the Iraqis. But, in any case, since our views are the same as those which we've conveyed to you publicly, whatever message was conveyed would only be, in that case, what we've said publicly. Q Richard, on these inspections, [inaudible] it comes down to proving a negative. Assuming that you've exhausted all the suspect sites, the Iraqis say that's it, there's nothing else, but you continue to be skeptical. How are you going to prove that there is nothing there if, in fact, there is nothing there? MR. BOUCHER: By thorough and complete inspection. I think if you watch the activities of the inspectors, the places they've gone, their ability to identify things that were not previously disclosed, their ability to identify locations where they would want to go to, that they have shown, so far, that they have very ably carried out this task that's mandated by the U.N. resolution. I don't agree with you that it's an impossible task. It is obviously a task that's made much more difficult by Iraq's failure to comply so far and its rather begrudging willingness to provide the information that it was required to under the resolution and a requirement that it supposedly accepted. But the process of U.N. inspections is one that is being aggressively carried out by the inspectors and one that we have a certain degree of confidence in. Q Richard, has this deadline, in effect, already passed, or is still like midnight tonight U.N. time? I realize it's a marker but still -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a specific time of day. Iraq is required by the resolution, has been all along required by the resolution, to provide full and complete disclosure, as well as full and complete access for the teams that have gone out there. You've seen the pattern of Iraq's behavior: the begrudging willingness to put forth information; the difficulties and problems, including in one case a shooting incident -- shooting over the heads of the inspectors -- that Iraq has placed in the process. This was a date that was given to the Iraqis as, shall we say, another chance to come clean and to change their behavior. The Council will certainly measure their compliance with the U.N. resolutions again by what they do or do not provide. Q What precisely is it? Is it midnight? Is it noon? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it was specified. Q It was not specified? Another related thing. Do you have any independent reports confirming news stories of people fleeing Baghdad in anticipation of a possible military strike? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q You do not? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, on the meetings that the President will be having in Moscow, with nine government people, is the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, or the consulate maybe -- if there is one in Kiev -- are they screening who these people are? There's this overall phrase "opposition leaders," but they can range from virulent anti-Semites to people who just think Gorbachev isn't moving fast enough. Is the Embassy going through these so-called opposition leaders list to see who is right to meet with the President? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I think that's a question that you might want to address at the White House, how exactly they're identifying and inviting people to these meetings. I think we've spoken out before against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, and our views on that are very clearly known. Certainly, I think the Embassy, if the White House asks them to assist, will identify appropriate, interesting people for the President to meet with. Q But even pamyat capitalists are not eligible to see the President. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any determinations of eligibility from here. If you want to ask the White House if they set up criteria for the people, then you can ask them. Q I have several questions. Number one, on the Estonian President's meeting today with Eagleburger, it's the second time in 6 days. Can you tell us a little bit more about it, and can we get a readout afterwards? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can get you something. Q SS-23 missiles: Bulgaria has said today that it bought seven of them before the treaty was signed in December 1987 and hasn't bought any since. That doesn't seem to tally with the numbers that you've been talking about this week -- 24 in each of these countries. Can you say whether these are controlled or were under Soviet control where troops still remain? Or is there anything new that you can tell us about the situation? Why is it suddenly an issue now when it's been on the books for at least a year and a half? MR. BOUCHER: The question of control is not something that I can answer for you at this point. As I said yesterday, I think it was, we've really had a series of discussions with the Soviets about the issues that are raised by these transfers. We haven't made final determinations on some of these things. Why is it an issue now? It's been an issue that we've raised and we've discussed in the past. It's an issue now because you keep asking, basically. Q Vitaly Churkin who says "why now?" He wants to know why you brought it up now. MR. BOUCHER: As I remember it, you guys brought it up, frankly. That's why it's an issue in terms of our public discussion of this. As I've mentioned before, it's an issue that we've been working on with the Soviets. We've had a series of exchanges. It's an issue that we've made clear in our diplomatic exchanges with the Soviets is important to us. We've had an on-going back-and-forth dialogue in which we've asked for information that provided things. We've asked for clarifications. We've gone back and forth on this. It's an issue of concern to the United States; but it's been one of concern, as you point out, for some time. Q Richard, to follow up on that. The Bulgarians, in their statement, seem to indicate that they're not inclined to dismantle these missiles or get rid of them, as the United States has urged. What can you tell us about what the three countries have said to the United States about what they're willing to do with these missiles? MR. BOUCHER: I tried to check on that yesterday and didn't get any good information. Let me try again for you today. Q Richard, anything about a definite, final answer -- reply, I mean -- from the Israeli Government? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Back on that. Logistically, what can you provide? The Secretary, before he went off to the Gobi Desert or something, left Dennis Ross and Kelly and a couple of others behind. They had talks. There were talks here yesterday. Apparently, it hasn't been resolved. Are there further talks to be held? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm no more in a position today to get into a discussion of the specifics of what we're doing on this. As the Secretary said in Jerusalem, this is a subject that's under discussion with various parties. We're not going to do that in public. Q No, no. God knows, I know you wouldn't tell us what they're talking about. But I just wondered if you could tell us where they're going to talk next and who/what? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't. Q What about the Palestinians? How do you keep in touch? Although they're rather clear what they want -- maybe there's nothing to talk to them about. MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I'm not in a position to provide those kinds of details, Barry. Q How about the notion that the United States has no position, that what the United States is doing is saying the Palestinians say this and Israel says this and somehow is hoping that this can be accommodated? Does the U.S. have a position on whether people from East Jerusalem should be in not only the ceremonial but the bargaining sessions? MR. BOUCHER: That would get me into the point of discussing what is being discussed, which even you said you didn't expect me to address, so I will have to decline that one, too. Q But you couldn't say whether the United States has a position or is just sort of a relay station? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to discuss any more about these discussions other than to say that these discussions, as the Secretary said, have been continuing and it's not something that we're going to do in public and through the media. Q Are you expecting a response on the issue of the SS-23s before there would be a signing of a START treaty which, as I understand, would be much more difficult to verify if there is unclarity in terms of Soviet compliance with earlier treaties? Is that going to have an effect on that? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any deadline related to the START treaty or the summit. Q Richard, where are we in Geneva -- the people actually, physically putting together the document, the START document? Have they completed that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new statistics for you today. They are still working on it is my understanding. I guess we're look for another update tomorrow. Q Richard, will there be a need for the Secretary to go back to the Middle East, since it seems you don't have a Middle East peace conference nailed down yet? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, again, I'll have to stick with what the Secretary said on that. Anything is possible. He has gone there before when it was required. My understanding is there are no plans at this point. Q Do you expect the Israeli reply to come before the Moscow trip? Q Ask them. MR. BOUCHER: Ask them, really, as George says. Q But what are your expectations from them? MR. BOUCHER: We have said before, over the past 3 days -- various briefers have said -- that, of course, we'd like a reply as soon as possible. But the Secretary has made very clear he set no deadlines. Q Do you have anything on April Glaspie? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new at this point. Q Any comment on the renewed fighting in Afghanistan? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything to say on that. I don't have anything with me. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded 1:00 p.m.)