US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #138, Thursday, 9/19/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:45 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 19, 19919/19/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Central America, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Guatemala, Tunisia Subject: Environment, Terrorism, Development/Relief Aid, Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Democratization (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so why don't we go right to the questions. Q Is there anything you can say about the diplomatic contacts which the Administration is carrying out concerning the situation in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: The principal focus, George, remains in New York. We, with other members of the Security Council, as you know, are actively engaged in efforts to assure Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. To remind you, Iraq is required under U.N. Security Council resolutions to comply with provisions demanding the destruction or rendering harmless of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological weapons capabilities and its ballistic missiles. A key element is Resolution 687, which set terms for the cease-fire with the assurance that Iraq could no longer pose a threat to international peace and security. The inspection teams are carrying out the mandate of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, Iraq has long been on notice that the international community expects it to comply fully with the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 687 and 707. We expect Iraq to indicate its unconditional acceptance of Resolution 707. Members of the Security Council have conveyed to the Iraqi U.N. Permanent Representative the Security Council's demand that Iraq comply unconditionally with the requirement in U.N. Security Council Resolution 707 to allow U.N. helicopter flights in Iraq to assist U.N. inspectors in carrying out their responsibilities. The Security Council President talked to the Iraq representative, I believe, the night before last. Since then, we've been awaiting an Iraqi unconditional acceptance of the resolutions in writing. I think you've all seen various reports that speculate that there might be a response today. At this point, we have no firm indication of when the Iraqi response will come. Q Richard, do you have any comment on the statements made by the United Nations Ambassador of Iraq, Mr. Anbari, to the effect that his country is being subjected to threats and terrifying kinds of statements from the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't prepare anything on that. I thought we'd rather deal with reality than various statements. The President, yesterday, said that we're not making threats; we're expressing our determination, a determination that's shared by other members of the international community, to see that Iraq complies with mandatory resolutions of the Security Council. Q Richard, do you find any kind of indication for the kind of response that you expect from Iraq in his statements? MR. BOUCHER: The only thing, I think, we're looking for in his statements or statements from Iraq, is the unconditional acceptance of the resolution. Q Richard, a couple of questions: Yesterday, you indicated that you would be watching Iraqi actions rather than words. Today, you seem to indicate that an assurance, a verbal assurance by them would suffice? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I don't think I indicated that yesterday. I said, in the end, what matters is actions, not words. Certainly, one part of getting to the action, which means permitting the deployment of the helicopters without any conditions and their full use by the inspectors, would be Iraqi acceptance of that. The Security Council has requested the Iraqi assurances in writing, their unconditional acceptance of it, and that certainly would be one step on the way to the action that's necessary and that's to permit the deployment of the helicopters. Q And one other question: What would be the problem with letting Iraqi officials or officers aboard the U.N. helicopters as the U.N. helicopters made their own way at their own speed across the Iraqi terrain? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, the final arrangements for how the helicopters are used -- whether there's an Iraqi navigator or something on board or not -- are things that the Special Commission and the inspectors can specify. The point here is that the Special Commission and the inspectors have to have the ability to conduct surprise inspections. They can't be allowed to be hampered, thwarted and hung up by Iraqi conditions. And under the resolution, the Iraqis have no right to establish any conditions. Q Richard, what do you make of the Iraqi assertions that there are mine fields and other things around some of these sites that the U.N. team could stumble into and hurt themselves? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those particular assertions. I don't have any particular comment on that except, I guess, I would say that's something the inspectors, I'm sure, will be aware of and deal with. If the Iraqis know of mine fields, they could just tell them about it. Q Do you have any assessment or expectation of an Iraqi response? Some have said they are expecting compliance, or an agreement to comply. Do you have any other indications from other sources that suggest -- MR. BOUCHER: I've said -- as you've seen, there have been various reports that expect some sort of Iraqi response today, but we have no firm indication of when the Iraqi response will come. Q Richard, there have been reports, some of them from United Nations officials, that the Iraqi forces are not doing terribly well against the Kurds in the fighting around Kirkuk. Do you know anything about what's going on up there? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't looked at the situation for about a week now. I think I'll just have to look for an update for you. As far as I know, we described the tensions as remaining high, and I think that's still the case. Q Have any of the former allies that were in the coalition expressed any reservations about possible military action in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask individual countries what their thoughts are, but I would refer you back to what the President said yesterday, and that is, we believe we would have the support of the international community with whatever was necessary to carry out the resolutions. Chris. Q The potential escort mission the President spoke of yesterday, would that be for one particular inspection team seeking to see particular things, or would it be an on-going role that would go into months of all the various inspection teams doing all their various inspections? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Chris. You can ask the Pentagon what is involved in the contingency planning, and I expect they won't be able to tell you at this point. Q Another question: When you asked for free access by helicopter to, basically, all of Iraq, doesn't the logistics of that really suggest that you would have to have a fairly major ground presence to fuel and service the helicopters, and that sort of thing, within Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know, Chris. Again, that gets into aspects of the Defense Department's contingency planning, and they will say as little or as much as they want to about it. Q Richard, you indicated earlier that Iraq represents a threat to peace; certainly, a threat to its neighbors. Is it still U.S. policy that it's up to the Iraqi people to remove Saddam Hussein, or would the United States consider, in consultations with its allies, to speed up that process? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, the U.S. policy remains that it is up to the Iraqi people to decide on their leadership and their government. We haven't changed our opinion of Saddam Hussein and we certainly we haven't changed our view that there can't be a normal relationship between Iraq and the rest of the world with Saddam Hussein still in power. The President, yesterday, was asked about the mission and what more might be added to the mission. He spoke eloquently about two things. One was the fulfillment of the mission to get Iraq out of Kuwait; and the second was the continuing process under the U.N. resolutions to ensure the inspection and destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction so that Iraq could not longer pose a threat to the region. Q A follow-up on this question. Do you consider Iraq as a threat to peace in the Middle East, and to the meeting of the peace process now going on? MR. BOUCHER: The question of the current state of Iraqi forces, I think, is something that the Pentagon has dealt with over time. Certainly, I think the Generals have said that they don't pose an immediate threat of invasion. But the situation with Iraq and the weapons that Iraq has developed and amassed is such that, without the destruction of those weapons of mass destruction, the ultimate threat can't be discounted. Q I didn't make myself clear. MR. BOUCHER: As far as the exact reflection on the peace process, I don't think I have any thoughts on that. Q Richard, could you tell us which of the allies in the coalition have said they will actively participate in the flights, the helicopters flights, in protecting them? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Does the U.S. have a reaction or a position on the U.N. decision to allow Iraq to begin selling oil again? MR. BOUCHER: This is the implementation resolution for Resolution 706 which, as you recall, asked the Secretary General to come up with a plan that would be approved by the Security Council. The Security Council this morning adopted a resolution which authorizes the Secretary General to begin the implementation of Resolution 706. The U.S. was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution. It is aimed at bringing relief to the people of Iraq who have suffered under the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein. The resolution also provides for an initial contribution from Iraq to the Compensation Fund, so that relief can also begin flowing, at last, to those outside Iraq who have suffered as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The third major benefit of the resolution is that it will generate funds for the work of the Special Commission, the Boundary Commission and the return of Kuwaiti property still being held by Iraq. The Security Council has repeatedly stated its concern about Iraq's non-compliance with Resolution 687, particularly with the work of the Special Commission. The resolution will provide essential funding to help us ensure compliance, and it's entirely appropriate that the Iraqi Government should be made to pay. It's also important to emphasize that the limited authorization for the sale of Iraqi oil is being made entirely within the existing sanctions regime, which remains firmly in place. It does not in any way represent a weakening of the sanctions. In this regard, the crucial feature of the program, as mandated by Resolution 706 and detailed in the report and the recommendations of the Secretary General, is that no funds will ever pass into the hands of the Iraqi Government. The sale of Iraqi oil and the procurement and distribution of relief supplies will be conducted under close supervision of the United Nations to ensure that the supplies reach those for whom they were intended. Q Does Iraq have to accept this resolution for it to be implemented, or can you actually force them to pump oil? MR. BOUCHER: I think Iraq has to accept the resolution in order for it to be implemented, as a practical matter. At this point, the Iraqis have neither formally accepted nor rejected the resolution. As we said at the time, if Iraq has any sincere concern about the fate of its people and the hardship that they are facing, this is a way for them to see that the people get what they need. Q Anything on the hostage situation? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new for you. Q Richard, just to back up a step. How will the goods that are bought through this plan, how would they be distributed? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have all of the details of it at this point. It's under a system that will be established by the report of the Secretary General and the passage of the resolution. I suspect that that kind of information will be available at the United Nations. Q There seems to be a growing number of observers in this country and abroad that the United States does not really have a genuine interest in the removal of Saddam Hussein because of fear that further destabilization of Iraq may not be in the best strategic interest of the United States, and also because of uncertainty that the removal of Saddam Hussein may lead to the emergence or takeover of a group that may not be friendly to the United States. Can you clarify this, please? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know what you're talking about. I think these issues have been addressed before. Our dislike for Saddam Hussein and the ways in which he's led his country, I think, have been something we've made no secret of. At the same time, we've never called for the dismemberment of Iraq. What we've held forth is that the people of Iraq should be allowed the opportunity to choose their own government. That remains our view. Q Richard, additional Patriots were sent to Saudi Arabia because of their concern about the situation in Iraq. Has Israel requested any additional help in that regard? MR. BOUCHER: As far as the exact status of the Patriots, I think you better check that with the Pentagon, and you can ask Israel. I haven't heard of anything. Q Richard, back on the fighting around Kirkuk. Does the United States have any evidence that the Iraqis are using air power in any form that would violate the terms under which the coalition forces withdrew? MR. BOUCHER: I think the last time that we and the Pentagon addressed that, the Iraqis hadn't been using air power, but I don't have an update on it. I'll try to get you something. Q Richard, the amount of food aid the Soviets are asking for for this winter has, again, doubled. I think it started at something like $2 billion. Now it's up to over $14 billion. What is your reaction to their estimate of their needs? MR. BOUCHER: What I saw was a press report saying that they sent something new to the European Community. As far as we stand, in terms of food aid, there is a team of experts that the President sent to the Soviet Union to survey the food situation and to determine potential needs for the coming winter. They returned to Washington on Tuesday. The team was led by Under Secretary of Argiculture, Richard Crowder, and they will report to the President on their findings and recommendations. I don't have any of their findings and recommendations for you at this point. I do know it was an 11-day mission. The team traveled to locations in the Urals region of the Russian Federation, to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia, as well as to Moscow. They met with union, republic and local officials, as well as individuals connected with the agricultural and food distribution sectors and social institutions dependent on the state for supplies of food. At this point, they have to report to the President, and we haven't made any decisions on food assistance. Q When it comes to food assistance and humanitarian aid, does the United States apply a constant standard worldwide, in terms of the amount of distress that people have to be in before that triggers that aid? Do people have to be hungrier in Africa than -- MR. BOUCHER: That sounds pretty grim, Alan. I've never heard that there's some specific level of distress. I would say throughout the world, whether it's refugees or earthquakes, or whatever else, we always try to do what we can to help people. Q Well, that's been argued by some that actually people in the Soviet Union are not hungry in the same way as people in Africa are hungry, and that the United States is more inclined to give people in the Soviet Union aid before they get hungry? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to make comparisons between hungry people around the world. Each situation has to be studied. We have to examine what the needs are, and we always try to help out. We're helping with refugee assistance in large quantities in Africa. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of refugees that we're providing food for; millions and millions of dollars that we're providing to help people in Africa. So I think our concerns, whether it's Africa or Bangladesh or earthquakes in Armenia or in Iran, have always been clearly stated. We've always tried to examine the situations and do what we can to help. Q Richard, is this aid supposedly a free grant or would you like to have the Russians pay for it? They have gold. They happen to be the second largest gold producers in the world. They produce oil. They have natural resources, and so forth -- diamonds. MR. BOUCHER: Frank, I don't know the answer to that. I just can't speculate at this point on how the aid process will turn out in terms of those kinds of details. The team is back. They will report their findings and recommendations to the President. As I said, at this point, no decision on the details have been made. Q Do you have anything on this hijacking? Are there any Americans on board? MR. BOUCHER: The hijacking, I understand, is now the former hijacking. The Government of Tunisia and United States officials on the scene confirmed that the hijacker has been taken into custody and that all the passengers have left the plane. We understand that there was a lone hijacker and that he asked that the plane be taken to Algeria. The plane actually, I think, went to Tunis. It was an Alitalia airplane. Our Embassy got in touch with the Tunisian authorities. We set up a monitoring group here briefly. We knew that some of the passengers boarded the flight in New York. At the point that I checked, we hadn't verified their nationalities yet. Q Richard, back on aid for a moment. There have been various figures bouncing around for what exactly the U.S. financial aid to Israel is. The conventional figure given is $3 billion, but the President, the other day, said that it's in excess of $4 billion. The House Foreign Affairs Committee comes up with a figure something like $5.6 billion in the current year. Could you give us the State Department's interpretation of what the amount of aid is to Israel? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to check and see if we have something like that. I assume different numbers relate to how to handle things that are announced but maybe not delivered until the next year, and things like that. I'll see if we have numbers like that. I think for the moment I will stick with the President's number that he used a week or so ago. Q Right. What I would like to know is how it's derived and what figures you use and what you don't? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll see if we have something like that, but I would take the President's number as being the most accurate. Q Richard, you mentioned U.S. concern for disasters around the world. Have you got anything on Guatemala and the earthquake there? MR. BOUCHER: I let myself in for it, didn't I? No, I don't. I'll check into that and see what we're doing. Q Richard, on the question of reservations by some of the allies on using force against Iraq again, it seems you did not exclude the idea that there are some reservations maybe. Am I right? MR. BOUCHER: I'm just not pretending to speak for other governments here. The U.N. Security Council members have acted through the President of the Council to convey a clear and consistent view to Iraq that Iraq must comply with the resolutions. If you check, and you should check around the world, you'll find that that's the view of most, if not all, of the countries. As the President said yesterday, he expects the international community will support the need for Iraq to comply. I'm not going to try to speak any further for other countries. Q You used this term "international community" as a general term, but it seems that you are not saying, "No, there are no" -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not speaking in one way or the other for specific countries or trying to convey their views. Q Without any specifics, are there reservations? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to convey the views of other governments. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:07 p.m.)