US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #134, Friday, 9/13/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:50 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 13, 19919/13/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Lebanon, Zaire, Cyprus, Afghanistan, North Korea, Nicaragua Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations, Terrorism, Development/Relief Aid, Military Affairs, Trade/Economics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q There have been more optimistic statements today concerning the hostages and their possible release. Can you add anything to what's been said? MR. BOUCHER: Not really, George. I'm not in a position to predict any releases. We're watching the situation carefully. As the President and the Secretary have said in the past few days, we want to avoid getting hopes up. We want to avoid trying to take the temperature daily. We've noted the many public statements coming from the region, but I can't really react or analyze each of these for you. What we're looking for is action. We repeat our call for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all hostages and a full accounting of those who may have died while in captivity. Q The Soviet Union looks like it's trying to accommodate the United States in many areas -- Cuba, the Baltic states, and so forth. Do you find, overall, this process helpful to speed up potential U.S. aid -- massive aid, perhaps -- to the Soviet Union? And what else would you like to see in the Soviet Union, vis-a-vis their foreign policy? MR. BOUCHER: Alan wants to answer the question for me, but I will give you the answer. The Secretary of State is over there. He is discussing these foreign policy issues, as well as the question of economic reform in the Soviet Union. He's made very clear that the first requirement for the Soviet Union to get its economy going is economic reform. He said that we will be there. He said that we will be there with the technical and humanitarian assistance that we've spoken of, and I think I'll leave everything in the context of his remarks. He had quite a few different things to say yesterday that, I think, gave a very accurate picture. Q But do you see -- besides the aid question -- do you see any major Soviet foreign policy issues that still trouble the State Department? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm going to leave that to the Secretary, who is dealing with any troublesome issues while he's in Moscow. Betsy. Q Do you have any comment on the incident in south Lebanon this morning, and the death of the U.N. peacekeeping member? MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you what we know about it at this point. We have preliminary reports from Lebanese army forces, UNIFIL and Israeli sources. Our understanding is that several small boats of Palestinian guerrillas, apparently intercepted by an Israeli patrol, put to shore in south Lebanon early this morning. One boat was detected by south Lebanon army forces who captured the guerrillas after a firefight. Another boat was detected by U.N. forces. In a firefight, a Swedish soldier was reportedly killed and three French soldiers wounded. The Palestinians reportedly took hostage 14 U.N. soldiers. The hostages were released at approximately noon local time -- that's about, I guess, 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. our time this morning -- when the Palestinians were overcome. One Palestinian was killed, one wounded, and a third uninjured person was captured. Q Do you have any idea of responsibility? How does this affect the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't know which group of Palestinians was represented in this attack. Of course, we've always condemned any attacks such as this. Certainly, this kind of activity doesn't contribute to peace. Q They said they are Fatah -- well, you don't know that that's so -- the State Department doesn't? MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't know at this point which group the Palestinians represented. Q In your description, did you say what their purpose was? I can't recall. MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. I'm sure the people on the ground may have more information by now than we have here. Q When you say "guerrillas," are you using the word advisedly or interchangeably for "terrorists?" MR. BOUCHER: I'm using the word to describe people who were clearly carrying out an attack that was of a guerrilla or terrorist nature. I don't think there is -- "interchangeably," I guess is the answer. Q Richard, going back to Frank's question -- MR. BOUCHER: Although, Alan, I have to say I don't know the precise target. I'm not trying to draw any fine distinctions here. Q Going back to Frank's question about the changes in the Soviet Union. A couple of numerical questions: In the agreement announced this morning to halt military supplies -- mutual agreement to halt military supplies to Afghan parties -- can you tell us what the current level of the U.S. military aid to the Afghan side was? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Can you confirm, then, in fact, there has been a continuing military supply? MR. BOUCHER: I'll get the standard language that we have to use in these cases, Jim. Q Well, since they announced the end of it, it would strike me that this would appear to remove the stricture on you to confirm that, in fact, it did exist? MR. BOUCHER: At this point in time, the strictures on me have not been removed. So I am not going to comment further. Q One more numerical question, maybe you can answer. In announcing the removal of the Cuban training brigade or whatever, Gorbachev used a figure of 11,000. Does that jibe with what the State Department was counting in terms of Soviet troops in Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: That's not a number that I can confirm. We put up some numbers yesterday, I think, that talked about "approximately," and these are just estimates -- approximately 7,600 primarily military, but some civilian, Soviet advisors in Cuba as far as we know. But if you want more accuracy on the figures, maybe the Soviets would provide it. Q Well, do you have any explanation for the apparent discrepancy? Are they including civilian advisors? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know where that figure comes from. It's just not the number that we have. Q Richard, your Ambassador in Zaire has made a speech in which he's announced the cutoff of U.S. aid for that country because of human rights -- because of its human rights record. Could you, for the record, tell us what has been decided and why? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, we should say "she" about our Ambassador in Zaire -- Ambassador Melissa Wells. The full details of this are, first of all, that there has not been any new suspension of aid to Zaire. One category of our aid -- development assistance -- has been blocked since June 1 by the Brooke Amendment. Under this U.S. law, development assistance must be suspended to any country more than one year behind in its repayment of official debt to the United States. PL-480 food aid is not affected by this law, and that will continue. What Ambassador Wells has made clear, in her public statements and in her meetings with government officials, and what we have been saying for months, is that resumption of aid on the scale that Zaire may need will require re-initiation of a serious economic effort, including restoration of budget discipline and the cooperation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. We also believe that the economic impasse underscores the need for the Government of Zaire and its political opposition to come to an agreement in the current national conference on the future of Zaire. Q There's no human rights component to this at all? MR. BOUCHER: I would say that the human rights component comes in the area of our encouragement for a political process in Zaire that's been undertaken that will result, we hope, in national reconciliation and an agreement between the government and the opposition about fundamental freedoms. Q Richard, another area? Q Can we just stay -- I have one more on Zaire, since we only ask about it once every seven or eight months. During the years of the Angola war -- the Angola civil war -- Zaire was a key U.S. ally in Africa. Has Zaire's strategic importance to the United States diminished as a result of the cease-fire in Angola? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to give an appraisal of Zaire's strategic importance at this point. What has been important to us in our policy with Zaire is to encourage economic reform efforts that would be done in consultation with the IMF and the World Bank; to support a process of enhancing freedoms, enhancing democracy in the country and national reconciliation between the government and the opposition. Those have been the fundamental aspects of our policy. Q Let me put a cynical question to you. Is it not a fact that during the civil war -- because Zaire was a key resupply point for UNITA -- the United States was willing to overlook certain shortcomings in that country's human rights record, which it no longer is, because as far as one can see their human rights record is no worse now than it was, say, five years ago? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, I think our record in support of democracy and in support of human rights has been clear and consistent. Q After the reported failure of the Paris talks between the Prime Minister of Greece and Turkey -- Mr. Mitsotakis and Mr. Yilmaz -- to agree on the participation to the U.S.-backed and U.N.-sponsored conference on Cyprus later this month, and in light of President Bush's report yesterday to the Congress, what is the assessment today of the U.S. Government on the prospects of an ending peace with the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus after 17 years? MR. BOUCHER: We've seen reports about the meeting. And, of course, we would be disappointed if the U.N. Secretary General's efforts were further delayed. We are reviewing the results of the meeting. I think, basically, I'll just have to say that we will continue our efforts to help resolve this dispute peacefully. Q Do you still want the conference to take place by the end of this month or before the Turkish elections in October? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we would be disappointed to see a delay, but we'll continue our efforts and try to resolve this difficult dispute in a peaceful fashion. As much as we can help support the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General, we will. Q Do you have any comment -- Q I was going to ask you about Cyprus, too. I got a little bit pre-empted. Do you have views on the agenda, and what caused the lack of headway in the bilateral meeting? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, at this point, Barry. As I said -- Q And an agenda for the peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we are reviewing the results of the meeting. I'm sure that we're in touch the parties, and we'll be doing what we can to support the efforts of the Secretary General. Q How would you characterize the results of that meeting? The people involved are saying it was a failure. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I am not going to try to characterize somebody else's meeting. I'll leave it for the people involved to characterize it. Q Have you any comment on another area -- on the withdrawal of the inspectors looking at ballistic missiles in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: We understand that the ballistic missile team conducted all the inspections that it could without the use of helicopters. In order to complete its mission, the Special Commission needs to be able to use its own helicopters and other aircraft. Resolution 707 specifically affirmed the appropriateness of the use of such aircraft. Iraq's defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 707, by refusing to allow U.N. helicopters in Iraq, is unacceptable. We and other members of the Council are consulting on the most appropriate mechanism to ensure that Iraq complies with its requirement to allow the Special Commission to use its own helicopters in Iraq. Iraq is making it harder for the Special Commission to conduct the mission required under Resolution 687, which was reaffirmed under Resolution 707. Iraq is also violating its own agreement to abide by Resolution 687. Q You've been consulting ever since word of the helicopters came out earlier this month. Are you any closer to -- MR. BOUCHER: Three days ago, or something like that. Q -- a U.N. resolution on this? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we're in close touch with key allies at the U.N. on what course of action we should pursue, and I'd just have to leave it at that. Q There's a report that the U.N. Perm Five are considering a plan to ban all Iraqi flights as retaliation. Is that in the cards? MR. BOUCHER: There have been reports on various options for several days now. I'm going to decline to get into any specific option at this point. We are talking to key allies and others about how the U.N. should respond. Q Another area: What's your reaction to the latest developments in Nicaragua, with President Chamorro vetoing the law returning the property confiscated by the Sandinistas to the rightful owners? And also the re-emergence of large contra forces who claim that Chamorro has failed to fulfill the promises made to them when they laid down their arms? MR. BOUCHER: The issue of the contra forces and their disputes in various parts of Nicaragua, I don't have anything new on. I think we've said before that many of these disputes were over land and the distribution of land, and the continued control, in some areas, by Sandinista police forces. As for the issue of the confiscated property, the Nicaraguan Government has stated it wants to rebuild Nicaragua's economy, increase investor confidence in Nicaragua, and bring about national reconciliation. Resolution of the problem of confiscated property in Nicaragua will be crucial to the success of the Nicaraguan Government's efforts in these areas. As we've said before, though, how to deal with the property problem in Nicaragua is a matter for the Nicaraguans to decide. For our part, we hope this problem will be resolved rapidly. Q How about the situation in El Salvador, where there is a lot more military activity? How much of the aid package for El Salvador remains to be distributed? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked on that recently. I don't know. I'll try to find out for you, if I can. Q Does the Administration have any new plan about introducing the new request for aid for next year for El Salvador? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure where we stand on that. Q Richard, the Japanese Government decided to recognize North Korea at the beginning of this week. But yesterday, they postponed the (inaudible). Did you receive any official notice or consultation from the Japanese Government about this issue? And do you have any comment about this wishy-washy policy of the Japanese Government? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check if we've been in touch with our Japanese allies on this issue. I think, as you see from the vote in the Board of Governors at the IAEA the other day, and the requirements on North Korea to sign and implement fully a safeguards agreement that covers all its facilities, that the international community is united on the need for North Korea to absolutely implement a safeguards agreement. Q Do you have anything to say about the North Korean diplomat who defected and has been talking about a previously secret nuclear weapons construction site? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q This morning, North Korea announced that they will not sign the safeguards agreement at the IAEA session next week. Do you have any comment? MR. BOUCHER: I believe I had some comment that we may have used yesterday, but I'll go through the issue. First, to say that we welcome approval by the Board of Governors of the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement for the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea. This approval is an important step towards implementation of the safeguards obligation under Article III of the Treaty. The Board of Governors overwhelmingly passed this resolution calling for early and full implementation. We've made clear on previous occasions that implementation of the safeguards agreement will require the IAEA to apply safeguards to all facilities, including those not now safeguarded. I don't have a copy of the North Korean statement. But I think we'd have to note that the IAEA Board of Governors called for North Korea to promptly sign, bring into force and fully implement this agreement. North Korea's obligation in this regard is a result of its 1985 accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is not conditional and it does not open any doors to the establishment of conditions in that regard. It's an obligation that comes as a result of the accession. As the Board resolution made clear, this is not a bilateral issue with the U.S. It is a matter of concern to the entire international community. Q And what might be your ultimate ways and means to deter the obstinate will and effort to produce (inaudible) weapon? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on that. As I said, it's not a bilateral issue with the United States. It's a matter of concern to the entire international community, and I'm sure the international community will continue to press for the acceptance, signing and full implementation by North Korea of its safeguards obligations. Q So you have no defined policy or any possible ways and means to deter that kind of effort? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on future steps. As I said, I expect that we, as well as the other members of the international community, will continue to press for the full implementation of the safeguards agreement by North Korea. Q Back to Nicaragua: Does your government have information that the FMLN, that is, the Salvadoran guerrilla command and propaganda operations, are still continuing in Nicaragua? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I haven't checked on that recently. I don't know. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:10 p.m.)