US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #144, Friday, 9/27/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:15 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 27, 19919/27/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Romania, Zaire Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Travel, Military Affairs, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Any news from the parking lot? [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: Folks in the parking lot are still in the parking lot. Nothing has changed. I don't think any Iraqis have shown up to do the joint inventory with them, and the Iraqis are still holding them. The Security Council President made clear yesterday in his letter to the Iraqis that the IAEA/Special Commission team must be released with all the material it holds. There has been no response at this time from the Iraqis. Q The things that the Iraqis have been complaining about over the past few days is that the U.N. inspectors want some personnel records. What's the significance of personnel records to the U.N. inspectors? MR. BOUCHER: John, we and the U.N. inspectors have dealt with that over the last few days. I'd refer you to what we said. But, basically, I would say that the material that they have obtained -- whatever the personnel procurement records and other things that they have -- deals with the extent of the Iraqi program and the kinds of facilities and efforts that Iraq was making to develop nuclear weapons. That's very important material. But it also gets back to the right of the inspectors to determine what is important to their mission and what is not, and they have that right not only under Security Council resolutions but under agreements reached with Iraqis last May. Q Do the Iraqis seem to be linking the fate of these inspectors, now linking it again to the whole helicopter issue? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, if you want the Iraqi view, you'll have to ask the Iraqis. As you know, I think they've made various demands about travel and inspection, and at one point said this -- about not turning over anything; at another point said different things. The Security Council had made very clear to the Iraqis that the inspectors must be released immediately with all their material. They've said that the Council has no objection to a joint inventory of the materials which the team will take; but the Council has made very, very clear to the Iraqis that these people should be released immediately and with all their material. And that remains our position. Q So where do we stand now on the planning for the helicopter mission, which I believe was supposed to be perhaps as early as Sunday? MR. BOUCHER: The helicopters can be deployed as soon as the Special Commission has completed its operational arrangements. But a decision on deployment dates will be made only when it is clear that their mission can be carried out without obstruction. We question the value of deploying additional U.N. assets until the IAEA and Special Commission are assured that they can carry out their mission without restrictions from the Iraqi Government and that the harassment being conducted by the Iraqis will stop. Q So then, in fact, they are interfering with the procedures that the U.N. is trying to follow. MR. BOUCHER: Absolutely. They have not let the inspectors leave. They have not let them leave with all their materials. People remain in the parking lot. Q But given the fact that it is having such an obvious effect, at what point does the United Nations or the United States support going in and airlifting these people out of there or something? MR. BOUCHER: Steve, I'm not going to speculate on future things, but I would take exception with your "obvious effect." The effect is certainly not obvious to those people who are still stuck in the parking lot surrounded by Iraqi guards. Q Richard, now you seem to be linking the helicopter mission to the standoff. In fact, in other words, it will not take place until that is over. And that's not what you were doing a few days ago. MR. BOUCHER: The situation a few days ago has continued. We're now into -- what? -- the fourth day of obstruction and not permitting these people to leave. I think, clearly, that with that situation continuing -- with the Iraqis continuing to obstruct, continuing to hamstring -- that we would certainly -- I think any reasonable person would question the value of sending additional people in to possibly face the same fate. Q Richard, there's the same question again of what's next? Yesterday you spoke about other courses of action would be or are being considered. But what sort of time frame are you dealing with? The Iraqis continue to thumb their nose. They're frustrating efforts to resume the helicopter operations. MR. BOUCHER: Howard, I just can't get into what's next. As we've said before from this podium, that's not my decision to make. As I said yesterday, we haven't ruled out any steps; but I don't have any next steps for you at this point. Q Richard, Romania? Yesterday the resigning Prime Minister, Petre Roman, said that he would remain in government and that a pro-communist putsch is under way. And today the President said he accepted the resignation. What's your assessment and comment on the situation now? MR. BOUCHER: The comment is basically the same as yesterday. I'll get that at the end. I'll give you the assessment first. First of all, no Americans have been injured or killed in Bucharest, according to our latest information. We've issued a new travel advisory which advises American citizens to defer non-essential travel to Romania. Americans in Romania should avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress and refrain from attempting to photograph them. Striking coal miners and others continue to carry out protests at various sites in Bucharest. Security forces reportedly used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse a large group attacking the presidential palace today. Thursday night, around the TV station, there were serious disturbances, although no additional deaths were reported. There are about 300 people reported injured since Wednesday. There's been no announcement at this point about a new government, but we understand that Prime Minister Roman and his cabinet are staying on at least temporarily in a caretaker capacity. Discussions in Romania are under way about their next steps. As we said yesterday, it's vital that any transition take place peacefully, and we again urge the Romanian authorities to keep Romania on the path of democratic and economic reform. Q Do you feel that this is politically motivated more than economically, that the communist elements are trying to broaden powers there? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can make judgments here. I think the situation is one which is complicated. We're aware of the economic factors. But our sights, I think, are always fixed on the issue of democracy and the continuation of reform. Q On another subject matter, if I may. Has the United States been told by Israel that the two Palestinians -- Husseini and Ashrawi -- would be unacceptable at the peace conference table and that, in fact, if senior U.S. officials would discuss the peace process with these two Palestinian figures that the entire peace process would be in jeopardy? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, I don't have anything on contacts with the Israelis. I think I would simply say that we trust that all parties, Israeli and Palestinian, will act responsibly to facilitate the cause of peace. Q Do you anticipate those two Palestinian figures to visit Washington? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, as the Secretary has said repeatedly throughout the week, there are no plans for such a meeting. But as he told your colleagues on any number of occasions -- for example, when they met in Jerusalem and Amman -- that he would be willing to meet them again as necessary, and there were discussions about possible future meetings. Q Despite the fact that there is now a question raised that at least one of them may have participated in that PLO gathering and that it is U.S. policy not to have contacts with PLO people, or people associated with the PLO? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, as far as their travel, I think you'll have to ask them personally about their travel. We do not have a dialogue with the PLO. We don't deal with the PLO through intermediaries. We don't conduct such a dialogue through intermediaries. When the Secretary meets, he meets with Palestinians from the territories, and he has done so in the context of ongoing efforts to bring about negotiations on the basis of the approach that we have been working on for months. Q But Richard, that really begs the question. Is it the U.S. Government belief that Ashwari and Husseini were at the PNC meeting in Algiers? MR. BOUCHER: Carole, I'm not going to make a judgment on that. If you want to ask them about their travels, you have to ask them. Q It's not a -- I mean -- MR. BOUCHER: You are asking me for a belief of the U.S. Government about somebody else's travel. That has absolutely no standing. Q Let me put it a different way. Does the U.S. Government have knowledge that they were at the PNC meeting in Algiers? MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing to say about anyone else's travel. You can ask them personally about their travel. Q It seems to be a relevant question. There has been widespread reporting that they were there, and that they addressed the meeting and that they made representations concerning their talks with the Secretary. And it goes to the heart of the questions about the peace process and who is talking to whom. MR. BOUCHER: Carole, I think I have answered your questions about who is talking to whom, and you have followed the Secretary's travel. You have seen who he has met with. You have seen his discussions with these people. You have seen his repeated statements that he meets with Palestinians from the territories in order to advance a peace process that we feel is vitally important and that we have been working on for many months. Q But there is also information that the people with whom the Secretary has met also have participated in a PLO meeting. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I have answered your questions about PLO. We don't have a dialogue with the PLO. We don't conduct such a dialogue through intermediaries. Q When you talk -- when you said earlier that we trust that the parties will act responsibly to encourage peace, or something like that, would the United --how would the United States -- well, let me put it a way that you might respond. [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: I'll respond, Carole. Q The Israeli Government has indicated that it is looking into possibly arresting these two individuals for their participation in this Algiers meeting. Would you find that an obstruction to the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I can't comment on what Israel may or may not do under hypothetical circumstances. Q Could you take the question on what the U.S. view is of the relationship between these two Palestinians and the PLO? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is for me to define, George. Q Richard, if you knew, in fact, that the two had traveled to Algiers, would you be able to confirm that to us? MR. BOUCHER: Steve, I don't plan on commenting about their travels, so I'm not going to ask "would" and "if" and those kinds of questions. I'm not going to comment on their travel. Q You are discussing your beliefs about whether or not they had been there or not. It's just a matter -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. I am being asked about it, and I am pointedly not discussing it. Q If you knew that they had been there, would you be authorized to tell us that they had been there? MR. BOUCHER: Steve, I have nothing to say about their travels. Q So you wouldn't be authorized to tell us -- MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing to say about their travel at this moment. If I do, I will get in touch with you first. Q Wait a second. MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I withdraw that comment. Q Richard, now a day later, a characterization of whatever the outcome of the meeting was in Algiers? MR. BOUCHER: There are various reports about what is going on out there. I don't have any comment on them. Q You haven't chosen to focus on one particular report here at the State Department, one interpretation? MR. BOUCHER: No, I haven't. Q But at this point, you are saying that Secretary Baker would be willing to meet with those two individuals? MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying that that's what he said consistently for weeks, and that remains the case. Q Okay. Q Have you heard -- has the Department received a response to the letter that the Secretary delivered to the Palestinian delegation in Jerusalem and then followed up with Ashwari in Amman about? Have you received any word from them on that letter since the meeting? MR. BOUCHER: I am trying to remember. I think the Secretary was asked that in the last day or two. I haven't checked myself. Q Can you --? MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on it and see if we have the answer to that, if we have received anything new. Sonya? Q The Secretary was going to meet with the Soviet Foreign Minister this morning. Is it too early for any comment on that? Do you know? Have you received any information? MR. BOUCHER: He was due to meet with the Soviet Foreign Minister this morning, yes. I'm not going to do the read-out here. I don't do those read-outs. Q Are they still talking? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Sonya. You can call New York. We have a press office up there that is much closer than I am. Q Do you have an update on the evacuation of Americans from Zaire? MR. BOUCHER: The first American evacuees, 22l in number, arrived in Frankfurt early this morning our time. They were tired but in good spirits. They will depart today on a United flight for London, New York, and Washington. Four hundred fifty-nine Americans were to leave Brazzaville at ll:00 a.m. Eastern time this morning. Another large group will depart tomorrow. We don't have the exact number on tomorrow. We estimate that about 200 American citizens have left Zaire through their own means. During the last l2 hours, three U.S. Air Force C-l4ls have departed Bangui in the Central African Republic with 280 evacuees, of whom 94 were American citizens. The other evacuees were mostly Belgian and British nationals. We expect that another 75 Americans may be ferried out of Bangui aboard U.S. Air Force aircraft during the next 24 hours. John? Q The President of the United States is going on TV tonight to announce kind of a "new" New World order and some new disarmament things, and he is going to be -- I guess the United States has somebody in the Soviet Union with whom they can negotiate a weapons reduction treaty. Who is that, or who are they? MR. BOUCHER: John, I think you saw what little the President was prepared to say about his speech this morning. I'm not going to get into things relating to that. And as for who the Soviet arms negotiators are, I can't speak for them. They have to put their people forward when it is time to deal. Q Does the United States negotiate with the Soviet Union arms negotiator or the republics, the independent republics arms negotiators? MR. BOUCHER: Again, those sorts of internal choices about what person they put forward as their negotiator and the arrangement are for them. The Secretary, during the course of his trip, had a number of discussions on arms control with a variety of people. Q Russian workers in Moldavia are arming themselves and the continued violence in Georgia and between Armenia and Azerbaijan; is the United States concerned about the increasing trend toward violence in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: We have seen differing reports in different places. We haven't usually focused on individual republics. I think we welcome the progress that was made in Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia. We have reiterated our view which is basically in the Secretary's five principles that the evolution, the process of reform should take place on a democratic basis, based on democratic values. Q That agreement seems to have broken down today. There was more shooting and more deaths in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific comment on daily events. I think we welcomed the indications that progress could be achieved, and we've urge sides to negotiate seriously. Q Is the United States prepared to sponsor, participate, in an economic embargo against Serbia as was proposed by the Croatian Foreign Minister yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: We put up an answer on that last night, and I have no definitive judgment for you here. Q That's right. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:32 p.m.)