US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #133, Wednesday, 9/3/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:10 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 11, 19919/11/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, East Asia, Europe Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Cuba, Philippines, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Terrorism, Trade/Economics, Development/Relief Aid, Human Rights (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements for you today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you know anything about -- Boris Yeltsin apparently said this morning that they were working out some deal for the Northern Territories and that the Soviet proposal for Japan would be relayed via the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that. The Secretary, of course, is in Moscow, and he's met, I think, by now with Mr. Yeltsin. So any news on that might come out of there. Q Richard, do you have any reaction to the Israeli move to release some of the prisoners? Are you hopeful that it might help the whole process of trying to have the U.S. captives released? MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently called for the release of everyone held outside the legal process in the region. In that context, of course, we welcome this release. Five Americans, as well as citizens from several other nations, remain in captivity. We repeat our call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional release of all hostages so that their suffering and that of their families may end. We also have called for an accounting of all those who may have died while in captivity. At this point, we have no information on an imminent release of hostages. But I would point out, as President Bush has said, that we continue to support fully the Secretary General's efforts to secure the immediate, safe and unconditional release of hostages. And, of course, we hope that those efforts can succeed. Q Are you readying any kind of team? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, at this point, we don't have any information on the imminent release of other hostages. Q Are you talking to hostage families here? MR. BOUCHER: We always talk to the hostage families here. Q Have you today, in light of this particular development? MR. BOUCHER: I assume that we have, Alan. I haven't confirmed any specific phone calls, but we're in very frequent touch with them, particularly when there are reports or developments. Q Is there any higher degree of optimism considering the comments of Perez de Cuellar and Musawi of Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize any specific degree of optimism. Of course, what we're looking for is the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all hostages. At this point, we don't have any specific signs of further releases of the Westerners and others that are held in captivity. But, of course, we remain hopeful that the efforts that are being undertaken by the Secretary General can succeed. Q In the past, has the U.S. Government used any form of persuasion or influence with the Israelis to do this? MR. BOUCHER: I think in the past we've always made very, very clear that that was not our position; that was not something that we were doing. Q That you're not going to use your influence? MR. BOUCHER: We were not in a position of making deals or encouraging others to make deals. Q Well, do you think this is a deal, a bargain? MR. BOUCHER: You have to ask the parties involved. Q Well, does it pass your test of purity? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a test of purity for you, Jim. You'll have to ask the parties involved. Q How do you rate the prospect of the United States leading the effort to use military force against Iraq in case it continues to disobey the United Nations resolutions? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to rate prospects of any particular course of action. Our position, I think I can state for you again. In defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 707, Iraq refused to allow the the U.N. to fly its own helicopters and based this on its offer to fly the Special Commission inspectors in Iraqi helicopters. The inspectors want their own planes in order to carry out surprise inspections of suspect sites without being subject to Iraqi control and observation and in order to be able to reach distant sites rapidly. My understanding is that the inspectors have used Iraqi helicopters twice. Once on July 5 for a medical evacuation; once on August 12 to fly a Special Commission official to designated site. But at those times, the U.N. Special Commission told the Iraqis that this was not to be taken as a precedent for agreement to the use of Iraqi helicopters. In our view, U.N. Security Council Resolution 707 is a mandatory resolution and Iraq is required to comply with it. Q Is the United States supporting a move to have a U.N. resolution that would authorize the use of force? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, the United States is considering what course of action we should pursue with this, and we're consulting closely with other countries. Q You have not decided finally on a U.N. resolution? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any final decisions on next steps. Q What is the current status of Iraqi aviation? For a while there they weren't flying anything. What is the U.S. view of what they are permitted to do? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can recite the whole thing for you. I believe Pete Williams did in his briefing yesterday, frankly. I think I'll just stick with what he said. Q Did you receive a report from the Secretary General which you led us yesterday to believe was in the pipeline on the pipeline, so to speak? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have, Alan. We've looked at it. We think it provides a solid basis for moving ahead with Resolution 706. The Security Council, over the next few days, will be studying the report carefully. Based on the results of its studies, the Council will prepare an implementing resolution to put the program into effect, reflecting its reaction to the Secretary General's recommendations. Q What amount of oil does the United States believe Iraq ought to be able to sell? MR. BOUCHER: What the resolution itself -- Resolution 706 -- authorized was a sale of $1.6 billion worth of oil under the supervision and control mechanisms that the Secretary General would be reporting on. That's what his report recommends. It does foresee a need for continued monitoring of the food situation in case additional procurement is needed. But the report deals with the sale of $1.6 billion worth of oil. Q Richard, there have been a number of incidents over the last couple of weeks: The border with Kuwait violation, Bubiyan Island, flying helicopter gunships after the Kurds, the defiance of the U.N. Is there any sense that the Iraqis are challenging the international regime that they are being subjected to and that they are just sort of seeing what they can get away with? Is there a pattern to all this? MR. BOUCHER: The pattern all along, Chris, since the beginning of the inspection process, since the beginning of the process set out in Resolution 687 -- and, in fact, I guess if you go back way before that -- has been a pattern of Iraqi intransigence; of their lack of willingness to accept the requirements of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, where they have only disclosed items to the inspectors or cooperated with the inspections as they were pushed by the inspections themselves. It's been one where -- in the inspection process and other areas -- where the international community has had to, step-by-step along the way, compel the Iraqis into compliance through vigorous enforcement and follow-up to the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Q But is there a sense that they -- in the past, they've gone along, albeit reluctantly; but they have gone along. Now they seem to be seeing what they can get away with and sort of going the other direction? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would draw a conclusion either way on that, Chris. In the past, they have put up obstacles and then, in many occasions, been forced to rescind them. That has been the consistent pattern, and that's the pattern that continues to this day. Q Ambassador Ekeus said today that they had no full accounting of all the calutrons that Iraq apparently had, and there was no clear pattern to what they intended to do with their various projects and nuclear research. What's the U.S. view about what the Iraqis were trying to do, please? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. I believe that the reports that we've seen from the inspectors said that they had very widespread programs that could not have been for peaceful purposes. That's been the view of experts who have spoken out on this on many occasions. That remains our view. There is the process of inspections -- I did not see the remarks this morning from Ambassador Ekeus -- but I think our view is basically that there is much more to be seen; that the inspections can and must continue. Q He went on to say that -- I'm paraphrasing -- that the pattern was somewhat suspicious, that they didn't know whether they had given up any weapon systems. Does the U.S. have a particular view on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particularly new at this point, except to cite the fact that they have obstructed at every step the work of the inspectors; and that we believe that this is a vigorous process that has met with some success so far in forcing further Iraqi disclosures, and it's a very important process to continue. Q Have we gone beyond disclosure? Has the special team taken possession of any of the gas or chemical warhead -- sorry -- chemical weapons or biological weapons or missiles or nuclear material? Could you get for us an accounting, not only of the disclosures, but what is actually being taken possession of and if any has been destroyed? MR. BOUCHER: Some of this is already a matter of public record, Alan, and I believe some of the reports from the inspectors have been made public, or at least that they have talked themselves about what they've done. Yes, there are examples of items that have been obtained and destroyed. I think we all saw pictures on TV of the destruction of some missiles. We know that the various pieces of nuclear equipment and nuclear material have been, at least, taken possession of by the inspectors, and this is a process that will continue. Q Now that Gorbachev has announced the intention to withdraw most, if not all, of the Soviet troops from Cuba, how does that change the equation in U.S.-Cuban relations? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I can't speculate on that. The Secretary is in Moscow. He's discussing this with the Soviets. I'm sure any further comments on it would come from him rather than me. Q Richard, he called Gorbachev's statement "very substantial." MR. BOUCHER: I agree with that. (Laughter) Q We've been led to believe that the Cuban-Soviet relationship was -- a change in that relationship was one of the strings attached to increase American aid to the Soviet Union. Has this condition been met? If not, what else do they need to do? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think that's really a question that I have to leave for the Secretary, who's in Moscow discussing these very issues with the Soviets right now. Q Just to follow that up, does the U.S. consider trade -- or what the Soviets call "trade" between the USSR and Cuba, such as the exchange of sugar for oil -- does the U.S. consider that aid to Cuba, or does it consider it trade? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, you're just asking me to describe what it exactly is that we want to happen in the Soviet-Cuban relationship, and what our response is going to be. And those, of course, are the very issues that the Secretary is dealing with in Moscow, and I'm just not going to get into it. Q You can't tell how the Secretary defines that -- where it falls? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't spoken to him today. Q I have a factual question: Can you give us a rundown on Soviet personnel, military and civilian, who are now believed to be in Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can get something like that for you. I don't know. Q Going back to the Moscow news conference, Baker also had some very strong words on Yugoslavia, stronger than before. Is the United States prepared to back those words with actual action, or are you still sitting back and hoping that the Europeans can sort this out by themselves? MR. BOUCHER: Jan, I can't accept the choices that I'm being offered here. I'm not exactly sure what words you're referring to. I may not have seen them yet. But I would characterize our overall position as being one where we have had an active process of diplomacy, where we have worked with the CSCE and the European Community to try to offer an opportunity for peace to the people in Yugoslavia who are fighting, and that is certainly a process that continues. Q Well, he was talking about isolation of Serbia, and he was talking about an "abyss of violence," and he was becoming more colorful than normal, and certainly a lot more -- the words were much stronger than he's used in the past. MR. BOUCHER: That sounds wonderful, Jan, and I'm certain that if the Secretary's words were so admirable I don't have anything to add. Q I didn't say they were admirable; I said they were colorful. That's not the same thing, Richard. MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to add something to what the Secretary has said. Q Does the United States have any views of the European proposal to set up a task force that would be used to be sent into countries where there was a severe threat to human rights? MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about ideas that are floating around the conference in Moscow, which the Secretary is speaking to today. I'm not in a position here to offer a view. I'd suggest that has to come out of Moscow as well. Q Richard, the Trade Representative, Carla Hills, has announced that the U.S. will extend MFN status to the Baltics. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, Chris. Q And what is the status of -- Soviet MNF status? Where is that stuck? MR. BOUCHER: My recollection is that it was sent up to the Hill. It was clearly one of the things put on hold during the coup, and then the President lifted the hold, and I heard there were going to be some hearings soon, but I don't remember exactly when. Q Do you have anything to report on progress or lack of it towards a peace conference in Cyprus? MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point. I think we put up an answer the other day about what we've been doing. Q Would you put up another one? MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'll see if there's anything, but I don't think we're in a position today to comment on that. Q Also on the Middle East, has the State Department now had a chance to see the Middle East Watch Report on human rights in Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: We have, Jim. Q What do you think? MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, with regard to the section on U.S. Government efforts, we find the report to be one-sided. We don't think it really addresses the continuing effort our government has made to exercise influence in Kuwait at the highest level to improve human rights practices, nor does it address the progress that has been made. Kuwait clearly has a way to go in ending abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice. We have made this point to the authorities at all levels repeatedly, and we will continue to do so. At the same time, credit should be given where it is deserved, and in this case it's clear that the Kuwaiti Government has improved its own record on human rights over the past several months. Q Historically, do you find the report accurate? For example, in the accusations of summary executions by military authorities and the detention of, I think, 5,800 foreign residents? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any confirmation of specific details in the report, Jim. I just haven't been able to go through it in that much detail. Q Richard, do you have anything on a replacement for Assistant Secretary John Kelly? MR. BOUCHER: I have the announcement that Marlin made about an hour ago. Be glad to get it for you. Q Who is it? MR. BOUCHER: Ed Djerejian. Q Do you have anything on the Philippines on this latest setback to efforts to reverse the Senate decision there? MR. BOUCHER: What exactly are you describing? Q The Supreme Court has apparently refused to act, and it just looks now like there's no recourse left to reverse the decision. MR. BOUCHER: I again -- we're sort of on different wavelengths here today, aren't we? I hadn't heard about that decision either. The question of ratification and how they do it is one for the Filipinos to decide and to go through. For us, we would continue to hope that the agreement would be ratified. We think it's an agreement that's in both our interests. Q Well, what were you focusing on today? Why don't you just tell us. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: I've already told you. Q Richard, there seems to be some confusion -- MR. BOUCHER: Let's go there. Q O.K. Q There seems to be some confusion over the -- MR. BOUCHER: Same question. (Laughter) Q -- what exactly the U.S. commitment is on Israeli loan guarantees. Is it a commitment to a certain amount? Is it a commitment to have them? What is it? MR. BOUCHER: It is exactly the way the President described it this morning. I'll leave it at that. I think you've seen the transcript of his remarks. Q There seems to be a shift of policy toward the Soviet Union vis-a-vis economic aid. Can you amplify that and tell us about how you see the situation? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, no, I can't. I can't amplify that, because frankly we don't consider it -- I think this is based on reports written about the Secretary's remarks yesterday which I have and I can read to you if you need them. We don't consider that to be any policy switch. The Secretary's statements reflect our policy. I think Marlin made clear this morning that we want to see a commitment to serious reform before we commit aid. We want to make sure it's useful. We want to make sure that the reform is real, meaningful, and that they can use U.S. aid before it's given. The President has always said that he wants to be supportive of political and economic reform. We're at an important moment now. In particular, we recognize the new circumstances and the needs for the Soviets to come up with a new, comprehensive economic plan as soon as possible. Q But I believe before this you insisted on action. Now you say a full commitment and plan would be sufficient to get the aid rolling. MR. BOUCHER: We have never said -- I guess the best way is to use exactly what the Secretary said yesterday. He said, "If you're asking me, am I coming over here and saying, 'If you do X, we will do X million dollars,' that's not true. That's not the way it's going to work." We have never said that there was some specific step or full implementation or specific steps that had to be taken. We've always stressed our willingness and desire to support political and economic reform in the Soviet Union, and we've got a framework that we've worked out with the G-7 -- both technical assistance and humanitarian aid -- and that's the framework that we're working in. Q Richard, back on the hostage situation for a moment, please, you know, apart from the release by Israel of these prisoners, do you see any other signs or changes of attitude in countries such as Iran about their general attitude toward the hostage situation and toward the West in general? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I think the important point for the hostages for us is that we have always called for their immediate, safe and unconditional release. That is what really matters to us. Q Well, that's not an answer to my question. Have you detected any change in the attitude being expressed by the Iranian authorities who clearly have some influence over the hostage holders? MR. BOUCHER: The answer to your question, Jim, is that certainly we have been following statements and developments over the past weeks and months as much as you have. I'm not prepared to give you some broad analysis of that. I'd reiterate what remains most important and vital to us is that the hostages actually be released -- immediately, safely and unconditionally. Q Has there been any change in the status of The Hague mediation tribunal, or whatever that thing is called? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particularly new that I'm aware of -- contacts from time to time and discussions. But, as you know, those are purely legal and technical matters that have nothing to do with hostages. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)