US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #122, Thursday, 8/15/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:35 PM, Washington, DC Date: Aug 15, 19918/15/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, East Asia, Central America Country: USSR (former), China, El Salvador, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yugoslavia (former), Syria Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, Arms Control, Terrorism, Science/Technology, United Nations, Development/Relief Aid (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q I think Alan has a question on Senegal. [Laughter] Q I would have the first question because Barry is nervous, and I thought we would just kind of ease him into the briefing slowly. [Laughter] Q The excitement.

[Arms Control: START Treaty]

Q Let me ask, there are revelations about the START Treaty today in one of the newspapers. Apparently neither side will have to destroy any missiles. Do you have a reaction to this? MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't call them "revelations," Alan. Q They're not even true. MR. BOUCHER: Slip back to what the Treaty does. The Treaty emphasizes the reduction of deployed strategic weapons and their means of delivery. It focuses on weapons and launchers that are ready to use. The Treaty reductions will require the destruction of hundreds of launchers on each side. The Treaty would require the destruction of mobile missiles in excess of Treaty limits. The other missiles and warheads don't necessarily have to be destroyed under the Treaty. Both sides in negotiating this were interested in the potential usefulness of old missiles for research or for space launches, saving the considerable expense of building new rockets for these purposes. But the bottom line remains the same: The Treaty will produce the reduction of thousands of strategic missiles, warheads, and launchers that are available to both sides. I remind you of the way the President characterized it in Moscow: This is "an historic first for arms control... We will actually reduce U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear arsenals. But reductions alone are not enough." So this Treaty, in addition, "requires even deeper cuts of the most dangerous and destabilizing weapons." We think that's a pretty good thing. Q A follow-up to that. Accepting your point about rockets being used for other uses, what are the warheads that are not going to be destroyed? What possible other uses could they have? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a question you'll have to address to other departments. I don't have anything for you here on warheads. But it's similar. The point of the Treaty is to reduce deployed weapons that are available for use, to make it so that these weapons are not available for one side to send at the other. That's what it will, in fact, result in. Q Isn't the best way for making sure that warheads aren't available for use actually destroying them? MR. BOUCHER: There are ways that have been found in the Treaty that we think will result in effective reductions that are both in the interests of both sides and that are very significant and historic. Q Richard, though, why was it so important for the United States and the Soviet Union to ensure that all the INF missiles and warheads would be destroyed and not in this case? I mean, it was indicated that that was such an important aspect of that treaty. I just don't understand why it doesn't carry over this other one? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do a comparison for you. Different treaties are different. They have different goals. The INF Treaty was to eliminate a class of weapons, and therefore there was no appropriate use for those things anymore. It dealt with destruction. This Treaty is a reductions treaty. It reduces significantly the number of missiles, launchers, and warheads that are available to both sides; and it does that in various ways that are specified in the Treaty. Q As a convenience, do you know if it's possible for us to get a copy of the briefing that was given at the summit, mostly by ACDA and State Department people, which made exactly the same points. I don't know why this is coming up again except it's in the newspaper. MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we can probably get it for you. I didn't pull out my copy this morning, but I'm sure it's available. I think it was probably part of the White House releases. Q That's okay. And I won't ask you about challenge inspections, but let me ask you about El Salvador. Q Let's stay on arms control. Has the United States changed its position on chemical weapons verification? MR. BOUCHER: Challenge inspections. Q I didn't ask about challenge inspections. MR. BOUCHER: He did. Q And tell them when you changed it -- July 19. MR. BOUCHER: How about July 15? Q Well, okay. MR. BOUCHER: On July 15 the United States tabled a new position on challenge inspections at undeclared sites in the Chemical Weapons Convention negotiations in Geneva. The proposal was co-sponsored by the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. This is one component of a complex verification regime. For example, inspections of declared chemical weapons and chemical production plants, the sites where cheating is the easiest, will be extremely intrusive and on very short notice. The July 15 proposal on undeclared sites does permit the country being inspected to limit access to some degree in order to protect non-chemical weapons related national security information. The proposal, in our belief, strikes a reasonable and necessary balance between the need for intrusiveness for verification reasons and the need to protect sensitive national security information.

[El Salvador: Status of Peace Talks]

Q Something else? El Salvador? Does the United States have any idea whether the negotiations to end the civil war will resume, and when? MR. BOUCHER: We certainly hope they do. Let me give you an update on what's going on with that. Last month, the Governments of Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia -- this is a group called the "Four Friends" of the Secretary General -- issued a communique on the Salvadoran peace talks. They called for final approval of the constitutional reforms agreed last April, for no new issues to be introduced into the talks by the FMLN, and for both sides to resume an intensive schedule of negotiations to reach a cease-fire. In recent weeks, the U.N. mediator has been meeting separately with the government and the FMLN in preparation for the next round of talks. All the Salvadoran political parties in the current legislature have reached agreement on a schedule for final approval of the constitutional reforms, beginning with the human rights reforms. We hope the FMLN will agree to resume negotiations at the earliest possible date. We also urge the FMLN to stop violating its long-standing commitment not to target the civilian population. The latest violation of this commitment was the FMLN's admission that it kidnapped ARENA Party member Gregorio Zelaya. That was about two weeks ago. Q Richard, does that mean, or can you can say, please, if the United States thinks that the reform should move before the cease-fire or are you avoiding that contentious issue with that statement? The government does not want the reforms to go through until there is a cease-fire. Does the U.S. agree with that? Or does the U.S. think that those reforms, the electoral reforms, should be put into effect? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check on the precise -- whether there's any linkage in the timing. What I did report is that the political parties in the legislature have reached agreement on a schedule. Q True, but there's nothing ratified. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know enough about the schedule to say how it fits with the cease-fire, so I'll have to check. Q The simple question is -- let me rephrase the question: Does the State Department take the view that the reform should be ratified irrespective of a cease-fire? MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I'll try to find out. Q Richard, the United Nations is, for the moment, scheduled to vote today on three resolutions, including two which would authorize the sale of oil by Iraq under a complex formula. So far the Iraqis are saying they'll have none of it. They don't want to sell oil under this formula because it won't give them the money directly. Why bother go ahead with this if the Iraqis aren't going to play ball? MR. BOUCHER: The basic answer to that, David, is that the resolution comes as a way of implementing provisions of Resolution 687, which the Iraqis claim to have accepted. This is a way of feeding and caring for needy people inside Iraq. If the Iraqi Government has any interest in doing that, this is the way of doing it. I can give you the rundown on the resolutions, if anybody needs that, although I expect you'll see it from the U.N. As David said, they are scheduled to vote, at least, this afternoon on three resolutions concerning Iraq. The first is a resolution that authorizes the limited sale of Iraqi oil under tightly controlled circumstances for the purpose of purchase of emergency food and humanitarian supplies. We think this will benefit the Iraqi people but not the Iraqi Government. It's a limited sale that will take place fully within the sanctions regime, and there is no consideration of lifting sanctions against Iraq. The U.N. will control the proceeds of the sale of $1.6 billion dollars worth of oil in an account that would be administered by the Secretary General. It will also monitor and manage the distribution of foodstuffs and other items purchased with the proceeds. I think I went over the other day the fact that part of the proceeds will be used for the Compensation Fund, for the costs of the Special Commission, for the costs associated with the return of stolen Kuwaiti property, and to pay half the costs to the Boundary Commission. It also demands that Iraq immediately facilitate the return of Kuwaiti citizens. Q Richard, though, even if Iraq does not accept these resolutions, the U.N. will go forward with their implementation. Is that correct? You don't need concurrence? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's something that we would say is a hypothetical at this point. I'm not sure how the logistics and the practicalities of that, frankly, would work out, so I don't think I can address it at this point. Q It's apparently more than a hypothetical because Iraq is saying it won't. MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they have. They have said that they don't like this. But they have also said many times in letters to the United Nations and elsewhere, in public statements, that they face a difficult if not desperate situation as regards food and medicines and other special needs for their people. They claim to have some concern about that. Our point here is that we are establishing a way for those needs of the Iraqi people truly to be taken care of under an arrangement that meets the concerns that other governments have about the way the Iraqis have acted in the past. Q Richard, two questions. First of all, do you believe that Iraq has a serious problem with feeding its people? And, secondly, if Iraq is not willing to go along with this, is the United States prepared to support the use of force to pump oil out of Iraq and supply money to pay for feeding its people? MR. BOUCHER: That becomes truly a hypothetical situation at this point, David. I don't think there's any way I can address it. As for the needs inside Iraq, there have been a number of reports that have identified the fact that there are people who are not receiving enough food or medicines or other humanitarian supplies inside Iraq. Some of those reports have addressed the causes of that situation, including saying that it was because of the Iraqi Government's mal-distribution of food supplies and the supplies that are available. In any case, there have been a number of reports that identified the fact that there are people who need food and other supplies inside Iraq. As we said, we see this resolution as a way of getting it to them. Q Has Iraq supplied any information on its gold and foreign currency reserves? MR. BOUCHER: That's something I'll have to check on. It hadn't when I last checked, but it's been a while. Q Richard, the Iraqis characterized the resolution, the coming resolution, as a violation of their sovereignty. You didn't address this part of their reaction to the resolution. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to address everything that the Iraqis have said one way or the other at this point. We want to see the resolution passed. We want the Iraqis to take it seriously. We want them to consider carefully whether they do have any sincere concern for their people and addressing the needs of their people, and then we will see what else they have to say on it.

[Hostages: Syrian Role; UN Efforts for Release]

Q On the hostages. This is an interlude we're in now, and can you say whether Syria has done anything on behalf of the hostages? There were accounts that Iran has been very active and that Syria really hasn't done a thing. Is that the U.S. impression? And what can we expect next, please? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm not going to try to make comparisons between different countries. With the last releases and previous releases, the United States -- the President, in particular -- has expressed our appreciation for the various efforts that people made. We certainly do appreciate that. As far as where this goes next, we see this as an on-going process. You note the President this morning said that it sounds like there's flexibility on all sides. He said he hasn't changed his assessment of the prospects for success. As you know, the parties have said the process will continue through quiet diplomacy. The President has expressed our full support for the efforts of the Secretary General. We have never put a timeframe on the process, but of course we would like to see the hostages released unconditionally and as soon as possible. We'll continue to support the process. We hope that the Secretary General is able to succeed in his efforts. Q Richard, a Shi'ite cleric in Lebanon today is calling for more information on the fate of the seven missing Israeli servicemen. He is asking for his countrymen to supply that information. Does the U.S. see that as an encouraging sign? MR. BOUCHER: I think we said on Tuesday, and I'll say again today, we're not trying to take the temperature at any given statement or any given date on this. We see this as part of an ongoing process that the Secretary General is handling, and I think we'll let him handle it without trying to give our feelings about it every day. Q Richard, the release of two hostages -- the British and the American, Mr. Tracy -- were not by any means reciprocated by the Israelis or any other side in this episode. How do you look at this? MR. BOUCHER: We look at this as we always have, and that is that we're not in a position of prescribing deals or concessions or urging any particular course of action. We've always called for the release of all hostages, and we welcome those that are released. Q Richard, regarding Lieutenant Colonel Higgins and Mr. Buckley, have you made your concerns known and how have you made them known to the hostage-takers? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have made our concerns known. As I said, we're in contact with many others in this situation. That has always been part of our policy, and therefore, when we express our policy, that's part of it that we express. Q And what is it on those two men -- the policy? MR. BOUCHER: The policy is that we've called for the safe, unconditional release of all hostages and a full accounting of those who died while in captivity. Q The three-person team that was in Israel has now left, and no doubt you have a detailed and lengthy readout for us which I'd appreciate hearing now, if there's time. MR. BOUCHER: You might have to skip lunch, Alan. Secretary Baker, as you know, asked the team to meet with Israeli and Jordanian officials and with Palestinian representatives to get a sense of the types of assurances they seek from the United States in the context of the upcoming conference and negotiations. The Secretary also asked the team to start preliminary discussions on these assurances. The team is now back, as I said -- I think on Tuesday. They are sharing their assessment with the Secretary, and he will decide on the next steps. Q They're sharing it with him now from Wyoming? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q The construction is kind of a little odd, because I thought the assurances simply had been given to Israel and they were to be committed to paper. And now you're talking about the sort of assurances. Am I missing something, or are the Secretary's assurances now all as concrete as they were when he gave them to the Prime Minister? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I think the Secretary described this process in somewhat more detail to you when he was in the region, and I think I'll leave it with that. This is just a way of taking it all into account in one sense. Q And any word on whether the Palestinians -- any word from the Palestinians since, whatever, that Friday? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to get into details about what the Palestinians said. We see this as part of an ongoing process of discussions. Q Well, not details. The Secretary was telling us daily that he hadn't heard from them since that Friday. Then he went off to Wyoming. So I'm just trying to keep up the sentinel here. Have you heard from the Palestinians? No details. Have you heard from them? MR. BOUCHER: We have talked to the Palestinians. This team talked to the Palestinians. I think I said that the other day, and I said it again today. Q Richard, on Tuesday you said you didn't know who the Palestinians were. Do you know now? MR. BOUCHER: No. I forgot to check. No. I'll see if I can get that for you. Q Richard, are there any plans for this team to go back to the Middle East in the next few weeks or any plans for Palestinians to come here and meet with officials? MR. BOUCHER: This is one of these "as of this moment, I know of no plans for the team to go back." But, as I said, they're sharing their assessments with the Secretary, and that will be the way we decide on next steps. So I don't have any next steps to describe for you at this point. Q Richard, pro-Israel people in the Senate are drafting legislation that will grant Israel $10 billion in housing loan guarantees spread over five years, and they intend to present this legislation in the first week after Labor Day. Has the Administration solidified its response to this upcoming request? Is it working on the drafting on -- MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of that, but I don't have anything new for you on housing guarantees. Q Is the State Department aware of any change in Saudi Arabia's practices so far as admitting travelers who have passports stamped in Israel, or is Senator Lieberman's admission just a special courtesy to a Senator? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. Q Do you have anything on reported clashes between Iraqi patrols and Kuwaiti patrols on the DMZ -- near the DMZ inside Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Richard, do you have anything on reports that there are some differences between Saudi Arabia and the United States in talks for the storage of equipment and ammunition on Saudi soil? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid that's another one I don't have anything on. Q Richard, I'm going to try for the hat trick. There was another report today that Iraqi troops were surrounding Kirkuk. Anything on that or how they're behaving themselves generally vis-a-vis the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: Kirkuk, yes. The situation around Kirkuk is that there have been significant Iraqi military and security forces in and around Kirkuk for some time, probably including elements of the Republican Guard. The situation in the Kirkuk area has become more tense in recent weeks, partly the result of last month's outbreak of fighting between government forces and armed Kurds around Sulaymaniya. We are concerned about these reports, and we are monitoring the situation. Q Has the tension led to any fighting or what? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware at this point of any significant fighting, but we believe the situation is generally more tense. Q So there's some fighting. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what the level is. I'll try to see if we have anything on that, Steve. Q Is the United States satisfied at this point with the access the Iraqis have given to the U.N. inspection teams that are looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How forthcoming have they been, and what can you tell us about that? MR. BOUCHER: The question of access I don't think is one that I can answer precisely at this point because there have been teams out there and there are other teams going in. I don't have a new assessment of that. The real question for us is a question of disclosures. I can talk about that a little bit. Q Please do. (Mr. Snyder hands note to Mr. Boucher) MR. BOUCHER: Oh, Okay. Here's an update on the teams, if you want it. Q Oh, good. MR. BOUCHER: The ballistic missile team that was in Iraq -- I think they entered on the 8th -- they left today. The chemical team arrives in Iraq today. The biological team was in Iraq from August 2 to August 8, and there was a nuclear team that I think just returned from Iraq. So this is an ongoing process of inspections. Some of these reports, of course, are being prepared; and some have not been done yet because the teams haven't left or are just leaving. In general, the Special Commission and the IAEA have conducted a number of inspections of Iraq's nuclear, biological, chemical and missile capabilities since the passage of Resolution 687. These inspections must and will continue. The pattern throughout has been that Iraq has admitted to additional facilities and capabilities only under the pressure of international inspections, and then only in a piecemeal fashion. In recent inspections, for example, Iraq admitted to having undeclared nuclear material, to having the "super gun" as it's called, to having a much larger number of chemical munitions, and to having a biological weapons research program for both offensive and defensive purposes. Based on the pattern of Iraqi behavior, there is every reason to believe that they have not yet disclosed all their capabilities. We will continue to provide the inspectors with complete and accurate information to carry out their important work. Q Different continent. Do you have anything on the reports about the Chinese sterilization program? MR. BOUCHER: This is an issue that's dealt with somewhat -- well, in somewhat more detail -- in our Annual Human Rights Report, the whole population policy in China, and I would invite you to read that. One thing it says in the report is that the Chinese Government strongly opposes infanticide and has prosecuted offenders, but it notes that female infanticide persists in some impoverished rural areas. Physical compulsion to submit to sterilization is not authorized, but it does continue to occur as officials strive to meet population targets. Thus the reports of forced sterilizations continue, although we believe they are well below the levels of the early 1980s. As you know, we don't provide any funding for population control programs in China. Q What is your response, though, to such a program? What is the U.S. Government's position, if you will? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I say I think our response is most accurately portrayed in the way we deal with the question of funding for population programs in China. Certainly these are not things that we can countenance. Q Do you know if Secretary Kimmitt broached this subject with Chinese officials when he was there recently? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it has been discussed in those meetings. Q Are you characterizing the program as a human rights violation? MR. BOUCHER: It's covered in our Annual Human Rights Report, and I think I'd like to have you look at that more extensively. Q But you said the report goes to thousands of cases, and the U.S. position is that these are not authorized by the government, they're sort of wildcat eugenics in China or something? MR. BOUCHER: These are the policies, the things that we are told by Chinese officials. In some provinces there are laws and regulations that seem to contribute to the problem. But, as I said, these things seem to persist in various areas because of officials on the local level striving to meet various targets in the overall program. Q On Yugoslavia, the Serbian leader appears to be redrawing the map of what was Yugoslavia, using force; and you have denounced that. But denouncing it hasn't had any effect. Is the U.S. ready to support any further move, any use of peacekeeping forces or anything else? It seems that the Common Market has been unable to agree on a policy that will change anything. MR. BOUCHER: Let me get something more fleshed out for you than I could do off the top of my head. Q Richard, now that the Soviet republics are moving to sign a unity agreement with the Kremlin, apparently the agreement has been made public in full. Has the United States had a chance to assess it, and does anything strike you as new or unexpected? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure this is the final version, Carol, so I really don't have any new comments on it at this point. They're still working on it, and they're, I think, trying to sign it shortly, so we'll leave it for them. I don't have any new comments on it. The Secretary, the President, and others have described before our feelings about the importance of this process. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:00 p.m.)