US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #141, Tuesday, 9/24/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:39 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 24, 19919/24/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, Subsaharan Africa, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Chile, Zaire, Burma Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations, Arms Control, Military Affairs, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Media/Telecommunications (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have an update on the standoff in Baghdad? MR. BOUCHER: I have a rundown. I'm not sure you could call it an update, since we see the individuals themselves describing their situation at the moment periodically on our televisions. Why don't I run through the whole thing -- sort of yesterday, last night, and today -- and then we can go on from there. As far as yesterday goes, let me review. The IAEA and U.N. Special Commission team entered the Iraqi facility on early Monday morning Iraqi time. Initially, the Iraqis offered no resistance to the inspection team. However, when the team discovered critical information relating to the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, the Iraqis told them that they could neither copy nor remove the documents. After holding the team for most of the day, the Iraqi authorities took the documents from the team by force, after which the team was allowed to depart the facility. Late Monday night Iraq time, the Iraqis delivered a pickup truck to the IAEA/U.N. Special Commission team with several boxes and bags of documents. The U.N. Special Commission has reported that the Iraqis had not returned the most sensitive documents, microfilm, and computer tapes, which the Iraqi officials had taken from them the previous afternoon. On Monday, the Security Council met to discuss the issue, as well as the question of a continued Iraqi obstruction of the U.N. Special Commission's use of its own helicopters. The consensus of the Council was that Iraq's behavior and flouting of the will of the Security Council was unacceptable. The Security Council President informed the Iraqi Perm Rep of this yesterday, and the Security Council President began consultations with other members of the Security Council concerning the most appropriate steps to enforce the U.N. resolutions. Now, this morning in Baghdad, the IAEA/U.N. Special Commission team conducted a challenge inspection of another suspect site in Baghdad. Once again, the Iraqis initially provided access to the facility. The team found and took possession of a quantity of records related to Iraq's nuclear program. This time information was included on personnel and procurement practices for that program. When they tried to remove the documents from this facility, the Iraqi authorities again prevented the team from leaving the site with the documents. Subsequently, the Iraqis also demanded that the inspection team turn over the film which they had taken of the documents and of the facility. When the team refused, the Iraqi officials prevented them from leaving the site. My understanding is that's where that stands in Baghdad as of this moment. Ambassador Ekeus of the Special Commission met with the Iraqi Per Rep this morning to demand Iraqi cooperation with the team. The five Permanent Members of the Security Council have discussed this latest incident this morning, and the Security Council President called in the Iraqi Perm Rep to protest this violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. As far as our views of this, I think the President spoke most eloquently already this morning, as he said the efforts of the Iraqis to block the inspections are completely unacceptable. They demonstrate an increasing effort on the part of Iraq to obstruct the U.N. and to reject the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 707. We continue our discussions and consultations with other members of the Security Council on further steps we might take. Q Has the Administration in the last 24 or 48 hours asked the Saudis for permission to send additional aircraft and Patriot missile batteries there? MR. BOUCHER: I think Pete Williams just addressed some of this at his briefing and said that those sorts of discussions would take place in military-to-military channels, so you'll have to get further updates from him. Of course, we're in touch with the Saudis. We've discussed over the last week the fact that we were doing some military planning, and obviously in this case that would include the Saudis. Q Richard, is the United States considered to have the authorization from the U.N. to use military force against Iraq? In other words, do the resolutions from last year still hold at this time? MR. BOUCHER: This has been addressed a number of times. I think the President addressed it once or twice in late June. He said, basically, "yes." The Secretary General discussed it last week. John Bolton, in testimony about July, gave a more legal view; but basically the view is "yes." If there are material breaches of the cease-fire resolutions, then the authorization for the use of force continues. Q Richard, does the IAEA conduct their own intelligence? I mean you said yesterday that some documents are being held in residences. How have they established this? Do they have their own intelligence operation or do they rely on other forms? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to describe to you where people get their information. I'm just not. I think we've said all along that we have been supporting the inspection process, and I'll have to leave it at that. Q Richard, can you say -- forgive me if you already have -- that we now believe Iraq is developing a nuclear program? MR. BOUCHER: I believe we have said that. The Iraqi nuclear program, I think, is something we've talked about before -- something that the inspectors and the IAEA experts have talked about before. It's an extensive program that goes well beyond any possible peaceful uses, and these documents help show that. These documents are documents that show critical information that relates to the Iraqi nuclear program, including nuclear weapons development and procurement activities. Q Do we know any more than we did 6 months ago about the particulars of that -- how close they were and how -- MR. BOUCHER: Every time there's an inspection and the Iraqis are confronted by the inspectors with facts, they have admitted to further aspects of their programs. There are preliminary reports on the documents that they found yesterday and today; and I said that these relate to critical aspects of the Iraqi nuclear program, including weapons development and procurement activities. Obviously, the full extent of that program is yet to be disclosed by the Iraqis. These are documents that the inspectors felt would help them get to that point. Q Do they indicate the testing of implosion packages? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I mean the Iraqis have most of the sensitive documents still in their hands, so until the inspectors are able to get a hold of the documents and analyze them fully I don't think I can give you any more details from them. Q But the resumes that were transmitted back to the U.S. don't indicate that. MR. BOUCHER: At this point I can describe the preliminary reports the way I just did, and I can't go beyond that. Rick? Q Two questions. Apparently Tariq Aziz has said that the head of the U.N. inspection team is a CIA agent. Can you comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: I just heard that on TV before I came in. Obviously, that's a ridiculous charge. The inspection teams are composed of members of the IAEA and Special Commission representatives who are authorized and instructed by the Security Council to carry out a task that the Security Council has set for them. They're there under the Security Council resolutions, and further under an agreement that Iraq agreed to. There was an exchange of letters in May. Iraq agreed with the Special Commission that the Special Commission could "request, examine, receive, and copy or examine, retain, move, or photograph" any item relevant to its activities. Q Secondly, you said twice in the last 2 days, the U.N. Security Council President has protested to the Iraqis the actions taken with respect to the inspection teams. Has the Security Council President issued any deadline by which Iraq must comply, must state its compliance, unconditional compliance, with U.N. resolutions concerning inspections? Have any deadlines been set, any time-frame been set? MR. BOUCHER: The President said once more this morning that he wasn't drawing any deadline. Neither the United States unilaterally nor the Security Council has set any ultimatum or deadline at this point. Iraq was asked to provide a written acceptance of Resolution 707 last week. Their replies, as you know, Saturday -- Sunday, I think it was orally; yesterday, a letter that was delivered. Their replies and responses were found to be inadequate. Q Isn't a deadline or an ultimatum the logical next step? MR. BOUCHER: I'll let the President decide on the logical next steps. Q One of the things the Iraqi Foreign Minister or Deputy Prime Minister said, was quoted as saying, is that they feared the release of the names of people involved in this nuclear program might land in the hands of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Have you any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to comment on everything that was reportedly said at a news conference that I haven't even seen the transcript of yet. I think the important point is that these inspectors are there under U.N. resolutions, under an agreement signed with the Iraqis. They are doing exactly what I just quoted to you, the Iraqis agreed that they should do. And for people to run around making other charges is just ludicrous at this point. Q Going back to the question of current Iraqi activities in the field of nuclear research, can you categorically state that it is the Administration's belief that Saddam Hussein is trying to build a nuclear bomb, and whether that belief is based on information obtained from those documents? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I know what the question is, Frank, because if I hadn't said that already, I think I'd made very clear that Iraq has tried to conceal its weapons, nuclear weapons programs, its programs related to the weapons of mass destruction, has tried to keep those viable by hiding them from the inspectors. We have made very clear our view and the view of other experts that have examined the program that it can only be a nuclear weapons program, and I said the documents provide further critical information relating to those activities. Q Any reaction to the arrest in Chile? MR. BOUCHER: A brief one. We are pleased that the Chilean Government is vigorously investigating the Letelier-Moffitt murders, but it would not be appropriate for us to comment further since the matter is now the subject of legal proceedings in Chile. Q Anything on Zaire today? MR. BOUCHER: Anything you want to know about Zaire today? Q There seems to be some problems in Zaire today, and I wondered if the U.S. has any comment? MR. BOUCHER: The situation I think you understand from yesterday, there was widespread looting and disorder in Kinshasa yesterday, September 23rd. We put up a travel advisory yesterday. We also ordered the departure of our dependents and non-essential personnel. My understanding is that today we are told that at about 9:00 a.m. this morning, shooting had ceased in Kinshasa, although we have reports that looting has occurred in parts of Shaba Province, particularly in Kolwezi. The French paratroopers are securing Kinshasa's international airport. I understand they are controlling some key points in the city. We haven't, at this point, determined exactly what number of people will pull out or exactly when and how they will go. We are keeping in touch with the American community in Zaire through our warden system, keeping in continual contact with groups of Americans. As of last night, we contacted the vast majority of private Americans in Kinshasa. Of course we will do everything we can to help them. We have advised them to leave the country as soon as they can safely do so, and basically to stay inside until that point. Q Did the French consult you before they sent in their paratroopers? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q Can you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if anybody feels the need to address it. You might more appropriately address that to the French and see what they want to say. Q Okay. Do you just have any general policy statement with respect to Zaire? How the United States perceives this crisis, and if it has any advice to offer Mr. Mobuto? MR. BOUCHER: I have no particularly new advice at this point. I think we have discussed this situation in Zaire repeatedly over the last several weeks, and I'll leave it at that. Q There was some kind of incident involving grenades or bombs in Rangoon, Burma, and there was a charge, or at least the Burmese radio was quoted as saying that it was a U.S.-made device. Have you anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: There was a grenade that exploded outside a movie theater in downtown Rangoon yesterday. The initial Burmese reports indicated that seven people were injured. We understand they are investigating the incident. As you note, their media report said the grenade was probably U.S.-made. That is about all I know of the charge. As far as we are concerned, the United States doesn't provide assistance of any sort to any armed insurgent group in Burma. Q Do you have anything on a possible meeting between Secretary Baker and Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi this week? MR. BOUCHER: There is no meeting scheduled at this point. I think after he met with the Palestinians in the region, he said that we would keep in touch. So I expect those discussions will continue, but I don't have anything on a meeting at this point. In the back? Q Do you have anything on the Cuban issue and the visit of Valeri Nikolaenko, the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister? MR. BOUCHER: No, I have nothing particularly new to say at this point. The President has addressed it repeatedly and talked about it again in his speech yesterday, and that gives a clear reflection of our views. Q Azerbaijan? MR. BOUCHER: Azerbaijan. Q Any reaction to the mediated truce? MR. BOUCHER: We welcome the efforts of Russian President Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nazarbayev to stop the violence in the Caucasus and to mediate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. You will remember that the Secretary, in his five principles of September 5, called on the Soviet peoples to determine their future peacefully and consistent with democratic values and to provide equal treatment for minorities. We are encouraged by the progress that Presidents Yeltsin and Nazarbayev have made in beginning such a dialogue, and we would urge all parties to stop the violence and begin negotiations on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Q What about Tadjhikistan? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new to say on Tadjhikistan. Of course, you are familiar with the Secretary's five principles, and I would say that that generally governs our attitude toward things that happen there. Q So we do not welcome the recent developments of the reassertion of the Communist Party in Tadjhikistan? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have anything particularly to say about internal changes within each particular republic. I have something to say about the general process, and that is that the Secretary laid out in five principles the importance of democratic processes and using democratic processes. Q Is that your answer on Yugoslavia, as well? MR. BOUCHER: Again, what do you want to know about Yugoslavia? Q Do we think this truce will hold, or have we any more faith in it than the others? MR. BOUCHER: So far, the reports indicate that the cease-fire is generally holding. There is a low level of fighting in areas of eastern Croatia. That's what I know. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:55 p.m.)