US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #140, Monday, 9/23/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:16 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 23, 19919/23/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former) Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations, Arms Control, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sure we all want to be finished with this in time to watch the President's speech. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd just be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have any response to the apparent Iraqi seizure of a U.N. inspection team in Baghdad? Or at least they were being held in a building against their will. MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Let me give you the rundown on that. Today there was a short-notice inspection conducted by the IAEA U.N. Special Commission Inspection Team that's currently in Iraq. They got to Iraq over the weekend. I think you all know it's a team of about 45 inspectors. The inspection was carried out at a facility in Baghdad that contained extensive documentation of the Iraqi nuclear program. The volume of documentation found is very large, more than several carloads in total. The Iraqis have tried to prevent the departure of the team and the recovered documents from the site. We and other members of the Security Council are outraged by this action of the Iraqis, and we demand that they comply immediately with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. Q Could you elaborate on the several carloads? It's said that some of the documents contained proof that they were building nuclear weapons. MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I have not seen the documents, and I'm sure the U.N. inspectors will report on what they found. As you know, we've been concerned about Iraq's extensive nuclear program, which we and the experts have always said could not be for peaceful purposes and was basically a nuclear weapons program. So these are documents that relate to the Iraqi program, and they are, therefore, required under relevant Security Council resolutions. Q According to at least one report, the inspectors are now out of that building and back in their hotel, but it's apparently unclear whether they have the documents with them. And since you say there are three carloads -- MR. BOUCHER: I said several. Q Several carloads. What is the procedure now to get those documents if they're out of it? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't know exactly where the inspectors are. When I checked a few minutes before the briefing, I guess actually CNN was saying that they had left the hotel. I don't have that confirmation for you here, and obviously it's something that's been developing but which may be changing at this very minute. So I can't tell you exactly where the cars are and where the documents are at this point. As far as what further action is necessary, obviously the further action that is necessary is for Iraq to comply with the Security Council resolutions and let the inspectors do their job. This was discussed, along with the issue of Iraqi helicopters -- or the Iraqi position on helicopters by Security Council members this morning. We expect the current President of the Security Council to have further discussions with the Iraqi Permanent Representative in New York. As you know, the Secretary again this morning stressed the importance of Iraqi full and total and unconditional compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions and will be talking with other members of the Council as well about further steps that might be necessary to achieve that. Q Is the U.S. now proposing the use of force, Richard? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Pete, I think I just have to leave it that we're talking to other Security Council members about the situation, and we'll see how it develops. Q Richard, were arms used in this incident today? In other words, when they forced them not to take these documents -- whatever. MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqis? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Did the Iraqis have arms? I don't know, frankly. Q What is the U.S. view of the Iraqi position, I guess yesterday, on the whole issue of the helicopters? MR. BOUCHER: The Iraqis yesterday, I guess, talked to the President of the Security Council, who then briefed other members of the Council about the issue of the use of helicopters. Our view is that Iraq's response is inadequate. Iraq continues to maintain the conditions that they set out in their August 28th letter. As I said, the Security Council met this morning to discuss the Iraqi response and ways to bring Iraq into compliance. Q But aren't there some reports that France and Britain will also join in any effort to send in warplanes escort for the helicopters? MR. BOUCHER: If you want to know the French and the British positions, you'll have to check with the French and the British. Q Is there going to be an ultimatum? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I have described the situation for you that we are discussing with other members of the Security Council. I will have to leave it at that for the moment. Q A clarifying point on who actually has -- MR. BOUCHER: Clairvoyant? Q -- control of the several carloads of the documents. Is it U.N. control or Iraqi control? MR. BOUCHER: When I left it, the inspectors had the documents in their vehicles, I believe it was. But as I said, we are dealing with this at a great distance, and I'm sure the inspectors themselves will provide information as it becomes available. Q New subject? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q I'm just curious as to where we now stand on the issue of MFN for the Soviet Union. Can you tell us what the view is, where we are, sort of, in the state of play on that now that things are beginning to settle down a little bit? MR. BOUCHER: The President sent up the trade agreement in early August to the Hill. The trade agreement itself is what, when that's ratified, conveys the MFN status on a reciprocal basis. There was a hearing held about 10 days ago; there was another hearing this morning. I don't remember if this morning's was the Senate or the House, but it is on our public schedule. So we are in the process of going through the hearings that are necessary in Congress for ratification of that agreement. Q So essentially it's on schedule. MR. BOUCHER: It's on track, yes. Q This is basically where it would have been had there not been a coup. MR BOUCHER: That's right. The President, I think, mentioned that among the things that were frozen during the coup, but shortly -- 2 days later -- he was able to say that the things that had been frozen were unfrozen. Q Another subject matter? Is the United States Administration now proposing at the United Nations to rescind the controversial "Zionism-equals-racism" resolution? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new for you on that, Frank. As you know, we have always been opposed to it, and we have always sought its revocation. Q How does the United States assess what's happening in Georgia? MR. BOUCHER: We, I think, just have, or are about to put up, the final version of the travel advisory about Georgia. Q I saw that. MR. BOUCHER: I think we've got that up already. We are obviously concerned about the fighting that is going on there. Our Embassy from Moscow reports that the streets are quiet in Tblisi but the situation remains tense. A revised travel advisory has been issued for Georgia. Embassy Moscow reports that all Americans in the region are safe, and we would urge President Gamsakhurdia's government not to respond to the situation with violence or increased political repression. Q Richard, has the U.S. contacted Israel concerning the issue of allowing Palestinians to leave Israel to attend the PNC meeting in Tunis? MR. BOUCHER: It's the first I've heard of it. I don't know. Q Do you have anything at all on the PNC today? MR. BOUCHER: No, nothing particular to say. I mean, the Secretary and the President have made very clear that the conference that they are trying to put together is the best hope for achieving peace in a long, long time. They have also made very clear that they felt the Palestinians should take advantage of the opportunity, and we are looking for the Palestinians to support that process. Q Do you find it encouraging that Yasser Arafat apparently came out in favor of it? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific comment on Mr. Arafat. Q Your reaction to Armenia and also Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: To the fact that they are there, or what? [Laughter] Armenia: The referendum, I think, was noteworthy. We have consistently said that democratic means and legal, orderly mechanisms are the only way for the peoples of the Soviet Union to determine their future. We are pleased that the Armenian people have used such democratic methods in the conduct of this vote. We welcome the results of the referendum as the free and democratic expression of the Armenian people. As far as the situation in Yugoslavia goes, first I'd harken back to our statement of September 20th which warned of the possibility of further escalation of the violence. Unfortunately, that occurred. There was a major escalation of the Yugoslav military's intervention against the Republic of Croatia and a sharp escalation in the level of violence over the weekend. There was a truce agreement reached Sunday between Croatian President Tudjman and Yugoslav Defense Minister Kadijevic. That went into effect Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Zagreb time. We understand the agreement calls for the Yugoslav military to cease offensive operations, for Croatian forces to cease attacks against the military, and to allow the supply of goods and services to barricaded military facilities. And it calls for continued negotiations aimed at implementing last week's overall cease-fire agreement brokered by Lord Carrington. We do understand that the level of fighting has, in fact, declined since the cease-fire went into effect. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:25 p.m.)