US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #127, Friday, 8/30/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:35 PM, Washington, DC Date: Aug 30, 19918/30/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Poland, Lebanon, China, Cape Verde, Hong Kong, Taiwan Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, Security Assistance and Sales, Terrorism, Human Rights, Travel, POW/MIA Issues (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As far as announcements today, I'd just like to say I hope everybody enjoyed August. [Laughter] We all didn't have as relaxed a time as we might have liked to, but we'll be going back to the regular schedule of briefings starting next week. So expect to hear from the State Department every day starting next Tuesday. Of course, Monday is a holiday, and we'll be taking the holiday. O.K. Now I'd be glad to take your questions. MR. GEDDA (AP): Pass. Q How close are we to recognizing the Baltic states? Is there anything more today? MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing more today. I'll refer you back to what the President said yesterday. Q Isn't it embarrassing, sort of, to the United States? Everybody's recognizing the Baltics. MR. BOUCHER: No. And I'll refer you back to what the President said yesterday. Q Richard, tomorrow the EC ultimatum on Yugoslavia falls due. In the last 20 hours since you put out your statement yesterday, have you seen any change in the situation there? Are things getting worse, better, or are they the same? MR. BOUCHER: As far as the situation there, the level of fighting continues unabated in Croatia, with clashes continuing to be reported in several areas. Q Is there anything new since the coup on the status of American POWs said to have been transported to the Soviet Union during or after the Vietnam war? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new since the coup. We've raised this issue in the past with the Soviets. We've asked them for any information that they might have. We've asked them for access to the archives, but I haven't heard anything since the coup. Q Anything else on POWs at all? MR. BOUCHER: Anything else you're particularly interested in? No. Q Well -- MR. BOUCHER: That's essentially where we are in the situation. We've raised it on a number of occasions with the Soviets. We haven't heard recently. Q Back on Yugoslavia, have you heard from the Serbian officials or the military since your statement of yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that we have in specific terms. I know that our Ambassador in Belgrade continues to meet with a wide range of federal and republic officials. He's met with leaders of political factions and various ethnic groups. The most recent meeting I heard about was with President Tudjman. Q The Polish Government offered its resignation today. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: That's an internal matter that I'll leave to the Polish Government. Q Back on Yugoslavia for a second: Your travel advisory of a couple of days ago said that some U.S. Government personnel were being pulled out. What's the status of that? Is that for Croatia or -- MR. BOUCHER: I think it said people had been pulled out of Zagreb, it's my understanding. At one point, we took our one person out of Ljubljana, but I think he's back -- he or she is back. Frankly, I don't know.

[Travel Advisories: New Measures/GAO Report]

Q Speaking of travel advisories, have you seen the GAO report which was put out -- I think Wednesday or Thursday -- suggesting that your travel advisories are at best inconsistent and at some times politically motivated? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We've seen the report, Jim. In fact, it wasn't unexpected. We've been consulting with the GAO on the report for several months. As the report itself mentions, most of the GAO suggestions to improve our travel advisory system have already been implemented. Others are in the process of being implemented. We're constantly looking for ways to improve what we believe is a very important tool for the traveling American public. For this reason, we welcome the GAO suggestions and note that we've taken many actions in response to the report. Q What kind of actions? MR. BOUCHER: We have drafted, at least at this point, new language to codify the travel advisory policies and procedures. These will be finished up and put in the Foreign Affairs manual. We expect to have that done in the next few weeks or months. We've redefined the various categories of travel advisories to make them more simple and consistent. Travel notices are no longer considered separate from other travel advisories, and they receive the same clearances, processing, and distribution as the cautions and the warnings do. Information on crime abroad will be made available to the general public on the electronic bulletin board, which we expect to be operational by October 1. Information on crime is also included in several of our travel advisories. It's one of the factors that we examine before issuing a travel advisory, and several of our recent advisories have dealt exclusively with the issue. We're also revising several of the "Tips for Travelers" pamphlets, and we'll address in those crime as it applies on a regional basis. Q Another republic declared its independence today, making it the eighth, I believe, of the Soviet republics. How is this affecting the way the U.S. approaches that country? Is there the need for more diplomats, in Moscow at a minimum -- Q Or Ambassadors, even. Q Or Ambassadors? What is the U.S. view of these independence claims by various republics? MR. BOUCHER: We're not taking volunteers at this point, Norm. [Laughter] Our view is the way the President's been saying it, that there's a lot of things for them to sort out. We have, in the past, been dealing with the republics and the powers that the various republics had. We have dealt with the center on some issues; the republic on others. Obviously, that is going to change as the republics take more issues and authority into their own hands, and we'll expect to continue doing that. But the process of more power in the republics and more contact with republics is something that is dramatically accelerated because of the coup. But it was a process that was underway. It was something that -- we've been, I think, expanding our contacts with republic leaders and will continue to do so. As far as how that will deal with diplomats, staff, and ambassadors, I think it's just premature to try to address those. Q Would you are to address the report in the Washington Times about Ambassador Strauss' unhappiness with the quarters in Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: I talked to him this morning, and as far as some of the specific allegations that were in that article, they're just pure trash. We have had needs in Moscow to upgrade our facilities. We've had problems in Moscow, many of which you are aware of, including fires and general degradation of conditions of the buildings there, and we're trying to address those needs as fast as we can. I must say, in my conversation with Ambassador Strauss, about three or four times he mentioned that his primary concern was over the working conditions for the Embassy employees who have been working 24 hours a day in the last few weeks -- or for a period in the last few weeks worked 24 hours a day. And he mentioned three or four times the Embassy office space. Q I mean, what is the status of "top hat" and all that nonsense? [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: Let's not call it "nonsense," please. [Laughter] I'll have to check on "top hat," at where that stands. I hadn't checked recently on that. Q And does the U.S. not think there is a need for more staff, more diplomats, in Moscow at this point? MR. BOUCHER: Again, David, how those things sort out, I think, has to first depend on how the Soviets and the republics themselves sort out what their functions and responsibilities there are. There are discussions going on in Moscow about who's going to have what aspects of foreign affairs and economic policy and how they will formulate those policies. So until they've sorted that out, I can't identify specific needs for more, or adjustments, or something like that. Q And did Ambassador Strauss tell you when he plans to go back to Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: Actually, I didn't ask him, but I understand it's not quite set yet. But it's probably going to be late next week. Q Continuing along that line, have there been any increases in the staffing at Embassy Moscow since the coup or any recent increases? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Norm. I'll have to double-check that. I don't know of any at this point, but I'll check. Q And in dealing with the republics, is that done by the same sort of political officers who would normally be dealing with the center, or is it necessary -- and is it necessary in dealing with the republics to get more people on the road more of the time? MR. BOUCHER: We have, for some period of time now, tried to get more people on the road more of the time, and I expect that will certainly continue. They're not just political officers. You know, depending on passports or Americans, we might have consular officers go out. Economic officers certainly go out as well. Q I mean, having more personnel traveling outside of Moscow, is that a sort of first commitment to begin negotiations or at least acknowledging the existence of these republics, or what is the -- MR. BOUCHER: It's been a process that you've seen go on in the Soviet Union, and I've said was clearly dramatically accelerated by the events since the coup; that the republics have themselves become more involved and had more authority in various areas. And this is a process that will continue. It's a way of our keeping in touch with what's going on in the Soviet Union. If you look back at the Secretary's trips, for example, and the meetings that he's had here, he's had many, many meetings with the republic leaders, together and separately. And that's the process that, as I said, is going to continue. Q So you do acknowledge the importance of -- or developing certain ties at least? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. But I can't predict exactly what those ties will be, because, as the President has so frequently reminded you -- and I've tried to remind you several times already -- the Soviets are going to have to sort these things out. Q Richard, does the United States own any buildings in Tallinn, Riga, or Vilnius? Is the United States working right now to reassert its control of what were once its embassies in those cities? MR. BOUCHER: As for the question of ownership, I don't know, and questions on this I think I should defer and say it's premature for me to try to address them at this point. Q I'm not asking what the future holds. I'm asking whether right now any work is being done to try and figure out what facilities, what buildings, the U.S. might use, were it to open embassies. MR. BOUCHER: If you're going to forgive me, whatever construction is used on "were it to open embassies," or others, I'd have to deal with this as "premature" until the President has finished his consideration of the issue and decided what we're going to do. Q Let's try history. Did the U.S. have embassy buildings in those three cities? MR. BOUCHER: I'll be glad to say I don't know. I'm sorry, David. I can't help you on this, and I'm not about to start giving answers that will lead you to conclusions about future events that I can't assert for you or for me that might or might not be the right ones. Q Another area, Richard: Has the United States had any contact with Iraq about incursions into Bubiyan Island? MR. BOUCHER: Contact with Iraq and contact with other Security Council members. Let me try to run through that for you. We have consulted with other members of the Council on the incursion at Bubiyan Island. The United Nations Security Council President has raised the matter with the Iraqi acting Perm Rep in New York. We have asked the Secretary General to provide a report to the Council on the incident, and he has promised to do so. We called in the Iraqi Charge yesterday, as well as the Iraqi representative in New York, to make a direct protest to the Iraqi Government. The extent and nature of the Iraqi Government's involvement in the incident will determine whether the Council should take action on this. We're increasingly concerned about the pattern of Iraqi violations under the terms of U.N. Security Council 687, and we intend to follow this up, as you see we've been doing. Q What possible actions could you take? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, at this point the extent and the nature of the Iraqi Government's involvement will determine what action the Council should take. So I can't, at this point, speculate on what those might be. Q The Iraqi Government has apparently said that they think they might have been pirates. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: It's not true. In fact, when we called in the Iraqi Charge yesterday and talked to him about this, he gave us a copy of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement. We told him right back it's not true. He promised then to convey the points we had made back to Baghdad. Q Richard, you talked about a pattern of violations. My understanding was that, although there had been scattered scavenging of weapons going on on the ground in various border areas, this was one of the first sort of organized military operations. When you say "pattern of violations," are there other organized military operations of this kind going on? MR. BOUCHER: There has been the pattern of violations of the border, the kind of scavenging expeditions that we've seen. There has been this attack against Bubiyan Island. I'm sure the Kuwaiti Government can probably provide more details on that and who the people were that carried it out. There are also, in many other areas, violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 687. One only has to look at the process of nuclear and other inspections that have been carried out to see that Iraq has consistently violated various provisions of that resolution. Q You've now called this an "attack" against Bubiyan Island. Who were they attacking? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I should use -- they were attacking the island. I should probably use the word "incursions," since that's what my drafters used for me. Q No. I just wasn't aware that they actually took it from anybody. MR. BOUCHER: The rundown that I have is that there were about 85 to 90 Iraqis who violated national Kuwaiti territory on Bubiyan Island. The Kuwaiti Government told us that. They said that when challenged by Kuwaiti forces, the Iraqi contingent opened fire with machine guns from bunkers used by the Iraqi army during the war. Now the Kuwaitis have reportedly picked up five more Iraqis, making the total that they have captured come to 59. I understand also from the Kuwaitis that they have searched Bubiyan and have not found any other Iraqis. Q Do they know what they were trying to do? MR. BOUCHER: I think Iraqi motivation at this point is best described as unclear. Q Do you have anything new on the hostages? There seemed to be such a strong momentum for a while right after the release. Has that changed at all? MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the Secretary General and his representative, I think, have talked about their continuing contacts and their continuing attention to the issue. We continue, as the President has said, to fully support the efforts of the Secretary General; but, at this point, we have no indications of an impending release. Q Do you have anything on the Chinese protester in front of the Chinese Embassy? A Chinese dissident group says that you have guidance. [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: If you'll let me finish something up, we will, I think, give to you later in the day our views on the situation of some Chinese dissidents that are in prison in China. Q Richard, has the State Department seen reports that Housing Minister Ariel Sharon has announced some new settlement starts? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen it, but I'm not going to comment on everything that happens. Q You have in the past. MR. BOUCHER: I think in many cases, we've avoided commenting on every specific statement that has been made, and I think I'd like to continue that. I'll take a look at the statement and see if we feel it necessary to say something. Q Going back to the working conditions -- MR. BOUCHER: Let me go back to the people with their hands up. Q Back to the Soviet Union and their potential membership in the IMF and the World Bank, Prime Minister Major said yesterday, as has been said couple times before, that they could become members in due course once they had finally committed themselves to a program of economic reforms. Do you have any elaboration on that, on what that means, since he had said yesterday that both the United Kingdom and President Bush had reached an agreement on that particular aspect as far as economic aid? And what types of elements of reform would signal a commitment from the Soviets that we could accept? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't think I can go much beyond the way that Prime Minister Major described it yesterday. He emphasized accelerating the implementation of the special association for the Soviet Union with the IMF with a view to full membership in due course for those who qualify, and made clear that "qualify" means as well in terms of effective reform plans. We've been discussing these issues with our allies. There was a G-7 meeting in London yesterday. The sherpas met to discuss the situation in the Soviet Union, as the President said yesterday, to exchange views on further steps. The President and the Prime Minister also spoke yesterday about our general views toward reform. We continue to see our plan that we developed at the London summit as a flexible program, one that's adaptable and that remains valid. It's designed to support Soviet efforts in reform. We believe there is a need for the new economic commission in the Soviet Union to develop an effective and new economic reform and adjustment plan as soon as possible and, as mentioned also by Prime Minister Major yesterday, to work with the international financial institutions under the special association arrangements as was agreed in London and as the Prime Minister said yesterday. Q Was the Prime Minister speaking for the U.S. as well as the British when he described that plan? I was interested by his phrase "those who qualify," which sounds plural and makes it sound as if perhaps we're not talking about the one Soviet Union joining the IMF and World Bank, perhaps various republics joining. Is it the U.S.'s thought that perhaps some republics may qualify for membership and others not? MR. BOUCHER: David, the Prime Minister and, I think, the President both made clear that those were six points that we had agreed on. They concerned the points that were agreed on in London and the implementation of those points. I really don't have anything to go beyond what was said yesterday.

[Cambodia: Peace Process]

Q Do you have anything today on the Cambodian peace process? MR. BOUCHER: There have been two sets of meetings taking place in Thailand. We're encouraged by the positive movements of the talks that the Supreme National Council had. The members of the Supreme National Council were able to make progress on a wide range of issues, including military issues, Prince Sihanouk's role as a final arbiter, adoption of a multi-party system, and adoption of Perm Five language on the protection of human rights and freedoms. There are still a number of other issues; for example, regarding the electoral system and process. These need to be resolved before a final comprehensive settlement can be reached. We understand that Supreme National Council members will continue to meet in the next couple months to try to reach agreement. As for the Perm Five meeting, it just ended a few hours ago. I understand there is a communique that they have issued, but I don't have the text back here yet. Q Do you have any information or a comment concerning the APEC Asian Pacific council which is held in Seoul, Korea, in December where the three Chinas -- P.R.C., Taiwan, and Hong Kong -- agreed to participate in the meetings simultaneously? That might be one of the big improvements in the sense of the -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything with me. Let me see if there's something to say about that. Q There's a rumor -- speculation or reports -- going around that the Secretary is planning a trip to the Middle East. Have you anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q When is he due back? MR. BOUCHER: He'll be back in the office on Tuesday. Q Do you have anything on what he's going to be paying attention to next week when he comes back? MR. BOUCHER: Events change so rapidly, I'd hesitate to predict what we'll have to be dealing with next week, but I'm sure he'll be paying attention to all the issues on our plate. Q Back to the Soviet Union. I know that we have said that we weren't necessarily in favor of sending them more money in the way of aid. But the Soviet Ambassador said that it might be an idea, I guess as another way to help them, to give the green light maybe to industry for maybe doing business with them. Do we have any thoughts on that yet? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of what specific comments by the Soviet Ambassador you're talking about, so I really can't comment specifically. The President and Prime Minister Major described yesterday the efforts that we could make to implement and accelerate what we were doing both with the program that we outlined in London together and in terms of humanitarian food and medical type of assistance. Those things come in conjunction, of course, with a variety of steps that we've already announced, including the medical assistance that we have, the technical assistance that we have, the Commodity Credit Corporation guarantees for food sales, the eligibility for Ex-Im Bank, and the President's announcement that we would seek to remove some of those restrictions on -- the limits on the level of lending. So there are a whole variety of things that we have that we believe can serve the cause of reform in the Soviet Union, emphasizing once again that the Soviets here have a real opportunity, and it's an opportunity that has to be taken advantage of by real reform. Q Do you have anything you want to say about Mr. Pankin's appointment as Foreign Minister? MR. BOUCHER: Generally, on the appointment, I'd say that we welcome his appointment as the new Foreign Minister. The Secretary of State looks forward to working with him. We understand, however, that he has to be confirmed still by the Supreme Soviet. Q At the moment, how many Soviet employees are working for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow? And do you have any plans to expand the Soviet employees? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check. Q A question about the COCOM core list. Why are there still strong restrictions for the democratic states in Eastern Europe? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll just refer you back to the press release that the Commerce Department issued yesterday where they describe the rather massive reduction in export controls; I think it comes to some 50% of the list. They mentioned, I think, some specific areas where the Eastern European states were being favored. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:58 p.m.)