US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #143, Thursday, 9/26/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:48 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 26, 19919/26/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Japan, Cuba, Romania, Zaire, El Salvador Subject: Travel, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Terrorism, Trade/Economics, Development/Relief Aid, Military Affairs (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to make two statements -- one about the El Salvador peace talks; and then the other is -- I think the Croatian Foreign Minister talked to a few of you at C Street today, and I have a rundown of his meeting this morning with Acting Secretary Eagleburger. Let me start out with El Salvador. We applaud the agreement that was reached by the El Salvadoran Government and the FMLN guerrillas as a result of the recent peace talks concluded in New York. We urge both sides to move rapidly to implement a full cease-fire which will end the bloodshed in El Salvador. Both sides in the negotiations showed great seriousness and flexibility, agreeing in principle on several major political issues and concluding a framework for future talks. The strong leadership of the United Nations Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, proved vital to the success of the negotiations, as did the invaluable help which the Secretary General's four friends -- Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and Venezuela -- provided. We congratulate President Cristiani of El Salvador for achieving this major step toward fulfilling his inaugural promise to bring peace to his country. Any questions about that? Q Was there a date set for further talks? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that they were going to get back together in Mexico City in mid-October, but you'd have to check with them to confirm that. Q Is the United States urging both sides now to cease any offensive military action? MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly urged them to reach a full cease-fire as soon as possible. That has been something that I think the government has been proposing and we've been urging the FMLN to do for some time. Q My question is directed specifically to reports over the last 2 weeks that the military has engaged in offensive actions in the northern and northeastern part of the country, which are the strongholds of the rebels. And I was wondering whether the United States was now urging that those offensive actions cease so that a cease-fire can be arranged. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've urged any sort of temporary stand-down, but you'll remember back in the spring that the FMLN agreed to conclude a cease-fire within a fixed time frame and that that was not done, and since then we've been consistently urging them to accept a cease-fire that the government has been proposing. O.K.? I'll tell you about the meeting with the Croatian Foreign Minister. The Acting Secretary met this morning with Croatian Foreign Minister Separovic, and they discussed the present situation in Yugoslavia and particularly in Croatia. The Acting Secretary underscored the U.S. conviction that problems relating to the future of Yugoslavia can only be resolved by peaceful negotiations. The United Stated will accept any future political arrangements that are decided on peacefully and democratically by the peoples of Yugoslavia through dialogue and negotiation. The Acting Secretary expressed to Mr. Separovic our acknowledgment of the Croatian Government's continued commitment to negotiation under the extremely difficult conditions which have been imposed upon it. He urged that the Croatian government maintain its commitment to the EC-sponsored peace conference chaired by Lord Carrington. He also stressed the importance of the Croatian government's assurances regarding the rights of all national groups in Croatia. The Acting Secretary referred to the Secretary's statement on Yugoslavia at yesterday's meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He reiterated that the United States assesses actions by the Serbian leadership and the Yugoslav military aimed at redrawing by force the internal borders of Yugoslavia as a grave challenge to the basic values and principles which underlie the CSCE. The U.S., like the European Community, is firmly opposed to any attempt to change Yugoslavia's external or internal borders by force. All parties to the conflict in Croatia should refrain from any actions that are in contradiction with the cease-fire agreement they have signed. Q Richard, the Foreign Minister said that he also asked Eagleburger for the United States to impose an economic blockade and also to isolate politically on an international scope those in Yugoslavia who are acting aggressively. What was the U.S. response to this? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid, Carole, I don't know what the specific U.S. response was to that. I'll have to look at this. As you know, we've supported the arms embargo. The Secretary, I think, met with Van den Broek on July 3rd. They announced our support of it. The United Nations passed a resolution to that effect yesterday, and we've been supporting that part of an embargo all along and we'll continue to do so. Q The Foreign Minister also urged intensive humanitarian aid from the United States and Europeans and what- not. Was this dealt with? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's something I'll have to check into. Q Richard, Senator Claborne Pell and Senator Jesse Helms sent a letter to the President of Yugoslavia yesterday on the subject of poison gas being used by the Yugoslavian Government. Does the State Department know about it? Did it come up in this meeting today? MR. BOUCHER: The letter itself or the use of gas? Q The use of gas. MR. BOUCHER: We've seen the reports about this. At this point, we don't have confirmation. We're actively looking into the reports, and we would, of course, strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons. Q Richard, what's the U.S. assessment of Iraq's offer to try to defuse the situation with the inspectors? Is it satisfactory? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, let me not agree to your characterization of the offer, but I'll give you our view. Essentially, the Iraqi letter yesterday laid out two alternative conditions for release of the inspection team, who are still where they were last night and the night before. The first was either that Ambassador Ekeus come to Baghdad or, the second, if he does not do so, that there be a joint inventory of documents and photographs which the team wishes to remove. Now, this letter has been discussed by the Perm Five this morning. They consulted with each other. And I understand there was a Security Council informal meeting starting about noon today. So, obviously, in conjunction with the other members of the Security Council, we'll be reaching a view of what the response should be to the Iraqis on this. I can lay out for you the U.S. view of the situation, and that's that we would not support the travel of any high-level U.N. official to Baghdad. There should not be any negotiations over these requirements. The terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 and 707 are clear. These resolutions authorize the full access of the U.N. inspection teams to any Iraqi facility, and they authorize the inspection and removal of any items related to Iraq's program for development of its weapons of mass destruction. We have no problem with the inspection team leader providing a list of the documents to the appropriate Iraqi authorities. Our concern is that the team be able to leave immediately with the documents and film in their possession. The continued detention of the U.N. inspection team in Baghdad is an outrage. We expect Iraq to release them immediately and without condition. We've not ruled out any courses of action if Iraq does not comply. Q So it's O.K. if the team gives Iraq a list of the documents it has in its possession, but you don't want any negotiation between the two -- you don't want a joint inventory, which is also something that they apparently talked about. MR. BOUCHER: I'm not exactly sure what the Iraqi's really mean by a "joint inventory." We would -- you know, if they give them a list of documents that they're taking away, we have no objection to that. The point is that the inspectors have to be allowed to carry out their work, and at this point the Iraqis are not permitting them to do that. And under the terms that they set forth in the letter, we don't think that they would be permitted to do that; and that's why we're not in favor of that. Q Richard, you say the U.S. Government has not ruled out any course of action. Those sound like fighting words to a novice. [Laughter] Is there any sort of -- I mean they've been kept there for like 3 days now. When does the patience of the United States run out, I guess, is the question I have for you? MR. BOUCHER: Those kinds of decisions are decisions for the President to make, and I'm afraid I can't go anywhere beyond that at this point. Q Sure. Q Can I go back, John? Q Sure. Q Richard, do you have anything to say about the decisions reached at the PLO National Council meeting. MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, George. I think the Secretary was asked about that this morning. He basically just reminded people that we've worked very hard to encourage Palestinians from the territories to take advantage of this opportunity to engage directly with Israel, and we hope that they will do so. Q Richard, has it been confirmed that he's going back in 2 weeks to the region? MR. BOUCHER: Not by me, that's for sure. Q I think you apparently got that from Tom. There's a report out of Algiers that Hanan Ashrawi and Faisal Husseini are actually en route to the United States for talks with the Secretary, either later this week or this weekend. Can you confirm that something has been arranged? MR. BOUCHER: I believe the Secretary was asked that twice yesterday and once or twice the day before. He said nothing at that point had been arranged, that they talked about getting together again. I'm not aware of any change in that, but I have to admit that I didn't ask the question again this morning. Q Anything new on Zaire today? Apparently some people were -- there was a firing on demonstrators. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on firing in the capital. My understanding is that Kinshasa and Lumumbashi remain generally quiet. Some unrest has been reported in several provincial areas. French troops are in control of the international airport and the ferry landing in Kinshasa. French troops are positioned throughout the city protecting French and other foreign nationals. As far as the Americans go, the Embassy has contacted most American citizens in Zaire. We have no reports of any injuries. The first group of evacuees, 2l9 in total, has left Kinshasa and arrived safely in Brazzaville. A preliminary manifest lists 69 private Americans, 124 U.S. Government employees and dependents, 7 foreign nationals, and l9 persons whose nationality we couldn't identify from the flight manifest. They will depart from there for Frankfurt aboard chartered aircraft and then the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt will help with onward transportation. The two more chartered flights -- I think as I said yesterday, one Friday, one Saturday -- they'll carry evacuees directly back to Andrews Air Force Base. In addition to that, Americans in provincial areas have been gathered in central staging areas, and they are being transported by and large to neighboring countries. Q Last night, Mobutu got on radio and television and blamed all of this on the opposition. He didn't indicate that he was going to make any changes vis-a-vis the national conference, and so on. Do you have any reaction to what he said last night? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular reaction to that. I think we made very clear that our interest was in protecting the safety and the welfare of our citizens and other foreign citizens who were there and seeing to their evacuation, which is our whole interest at this point. Q Just one more, if I might, on this, if calm has basically been restored to Lumumbashi and Kinshasa, why are we going through with the evacuation? MR. BOUCHER: I answered that question yesterday. I don't have anything more to say today. Q Oh, it hasn't changed? All right. Q You don't have a clearer idea as to how many Americans want to leave the country? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a number. There was some talk that the third flight might not have to be a 747, so I think I gave you the seating capacity yesterday, and I don't think I have a definitive number at this point. I'll see if by the end of the day maybe we have that. Q In light of the fact that King Hassan of Morocco is here in Washington, what role would the United States like to see Morocco play in the Middle East peace process? MR. BOUCHER: That has been addressed before, and I think there is going to be a read-out of the visit done at the White House, and I'll defer to that. Q The Soviet Deputy Prime Minister was in Havana early this week discussing the pull-out of Soviet troops. He said that there were only 3,000 of them and l,000 dependents. That's a little different from the figure that you gave out earlier. But then he said that the Cubans, apparently, protested and insisted on Guantanamo being evacuated, and so forth. He was going up to New York to discuss it with Aronson up there. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: No. As far as the numbers go, I think we gave you our best numbers the other day. I haven't seen these other numbers and don't know how they were defined, so I don't know what the difference might be. I think our views on the Soviet pull-out from Cuba have been amply expressed by the President and the Secretary. I didn't know of any meetings with Aronson. I'll check and see if there is anything like that going on. Q Is there any thought of joint discussions with the Cubans? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard of anything like that. Q He is proposing that. Q Back to your answer to Carole's question about a joint inventory of the documents, you seem to be not quite going along with the joint inventory. You say you have no problems if the inspection leader simply makes his own list of the documents and provides that to the Iraqis. But these documents are Iraqi documents, after all. Why do you object to their jointly just going through them one-by-one and making a list of what the team is taking? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, the precise arrangements on an inventory or anything that the inspectors do really have to be set by the inspectors. I'm not going to set the format or the signatures or something like that from here. I think we are dealing here with two important questions. The first is that the Iraqis cannot start negotiating conditions on things that have been mandated by the Security Council and that they previously agreed to. They cannot start imposing conditions on inspections that are being carried out in accordance with the rules and agreements that they have previously agreed to. So the idea that they can hamstring this whole process and keep people under detention over a question of inventories is very, very objectionable to us. The second is that they asked for a joint inventory of documents and photographs, and at this point you get into things that are clearly the property of the inspectors themselves and not things that are being taken from the Iraqis. And at that point again, you get into the issue of should the Iraqis be allowed to set conditions and negotiate over the conduct of the inspections, and our answer is no. Q Can you comment on a report that discovery of these documents was possible because of a high Iraqi defector? MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer, no. Q Okay. Q Have you kept an eye on the Japanese [inaudible] proposal named peacekeeping battalion which allowed their forces to be dispatched to foreign countries? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd go back to what we said in the past on these discussions, and that's obviously we would welcome the Japanese role in international efforts at peacekeeping or other joint international efforts. How they participate is obviously something for them to decide that I'm not going to try to specify. Q And don't they think that it is denied by the peace constitution of Japan? MR. BOUCHER: That's for the Japanese to determine what their role should be. Q Richard, has there been any talk with the other coalition members, the old coalition members from Desert Storm, about what they are going to do, any official conversations on what they are going to do if Iraq does not live up to the cease-fire agreement? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I'd refer you to the last several weeks of briefings here and elsewhere, that we have been in constant communication with allies, friends, with other members of the U.N. Security Council. I told you this morning that we have been consulting with the Perm Five on these letters. Most of the -- well, all of the specific and direct responses, that I'm aware of, to the Iraqi letters and problems that they have been raising have been delivered on behalf of the Security Council by the Security Council President, so that's a constant process that we have been consulting with other countries on. Q I guess the question is, what's the likelihood of assembling the same kind of coalition? Is there any kind of barometer of the mood of people actually wanting to get the same group together to go in, or would it be mostly U.S.? MR. BOUCHER: If you are talking about the views of other countries that we are talking to in terms of the necessity of Iraqi compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution, I think those have been amply expressed in the actions that the Security Council President has undertaken on behalf of the Council members. If you are asking me to speculate on future military action, I'm not going to do that. Q Richard, as I understand it, the leader of the Romanian opposition was in the building this morning. Do you have any comment on that meeting or on the developments in Romania over the past 24 hours? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know about a visit by the leader of the Romanian opposition, so that's something I'll have to check on, if he is here. As far as the developments, I can give you an up-date on that. The situation in the streets of Bucharest remains in flux, but it has been relatively quiet today. The coal miners began arriving in Bucharest on Wednesday afternoon and now number some l0,000. There were violent clashes between miners and security forces on Wednesday, leaving at least three dead and probably dozens injured. We regret this loss of life. We welcome the statements by the Romanian Government, the opposition, and the trade unions condemning the violence. The coal miners are reportedly pressing pay demands and protesting poor living conditions. They demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Roman, and I understand Roman has offered his resignation and that it has been accepted. The current government, we understand, will continue in office until a new government is formed, but details are not yet available on that. Our belief is that any transition should take place peacefully, and we urge the Romanian authorities to keep Romania on the path of democratic and economic reform. We believe strongly that rapid reform to provide for democracy, human rights, and a market economy offers the best hope for Romania's future. Q What is the impact of this alleged peace agreement in El Salvador on the disbursement of funds for the government? Have you disbursed all of them that we're doing for this year? MR. BOUCHER: You are reminding me that I asked for the numbers this morning and I didn't get them, but the general view I can give to you. The fiscal year 1991 legislation that we have allows our military aid to be used to assist in monitoring a cease-fire and returning demobilized combatants to civilian life once a cease-fire has been achieved. So we hope that agreement can be reached in New York that will lead to a rapid cease-fire. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:08 p.m.)