US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #162, Thursday, 10/24/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:30 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 24, 199110/24/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Subsaharan Africa, Caribbean, East Asia, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Ukraine, Zaire, Lebanon, Cuba, North Korea, South Korea Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, EC, Travel, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, Terrorism, Nuclear Nonproliferation, CSCE, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm very sorry I'm late. As usual, it's circumstances which I consider beyond my control. I've got two statements today. One on Yugoslavia, the situation around Dubrovnik; and a second on Zaire. So let me proceed with those, and then we'll get on to your questions. We're deeply disturbed by the continuing violations of the latest Yugoslav cease-fire and the tragic cycle of violence. We're particularly appalled by the Yugoslav military's senseless and unjustifiable attacks on Dubrovnik and on other civilian targets in Croatia. We would underscore the position taken by the entire CSCE community that those responsible for these acts of violence against the people in Yugoslavia be held accountable for their activities. Dubrovnik is a city of great cultural and historic value. It is a World Heritage site under the U.N.'s World Heritage Convention of 1972. These attacks on Dubrovnik are an assault on a civilian target which has no military significance. It is an irresponsible move which broadens the violence in Yugoslavia. The cease-fire should be re-established immediately, including the cessation of all military actions against Dubrovnik, and we have called in the Yugoslav Ambassador for a meeting, which just finished right now, in order to convey these points directly to him. Q Richard, there seems to be more cause to ask it now. Any consideration given to any machinery that could be invoked that hasn't been used before? Any European or transatlantic arrangements -- NATO, whatever? MR. BOUCHER: There are other ideas out there, Barry. The EC continues to pursue its efforts. I think we reported that they have another plenary scheduled for tomorrow; and, certainly, we continue to support those efforts. You've seen other ideas out there. No decisions have been taken. The Europeans themselves have mentioned things like peacekeeping and sanctions, and stuff like that. They're discussing a whole range of responses in the context of their overall effort. We continue to support that effort. Q You call for a cease-fire. But recent history shows that every cease-fire has been used to resupply the Yugoslav army forces. What's the point of a cease-fire which just gives them a chance to stock up on ammunition? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure what recent history you're referring to. If you're referring to things outside the country, I think we and many, many others have implemented an arms embargo. Q Yeah, but the past six or eight cease-fires have just been used to stock up ammo which they buy on the open market? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the details of that, Jim. I think a cease-fire should be an effective cease-fire. We've always usually used that adjective, frankly, to talk about an effective cease-fire. It certainly shouldn't be used as an opportunity to rearm. Q Czechoslovakia's President Havel has suggested at a press conference in conversations with President Bush that some sort of peacekeeping force should be deployed there. Would the United States support that kind of idea? MR. BOUCHER: That was the answer I was just giving, that the EC and others -- the EC and WEU, other European bodies -- have discussed a whole range of responses to the situation as part of their overall efforts, including the formation of a peacekeeping force, such as President Havel was talking about. Q But you didn't say what the United States position would be? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, they haven't made any decisions. We have been strong supporters of their overall effort. We've been strong supporters of the specific steps that they've taken to go forward. But these are ideas that they have under discussion. Can we move onto Zaire? The United States Government believes that an effective and credible government in Zaire is an immediate necessity. We further believe that such a government must be formed and led by a Prime Minister having broad popular support and coming from and having the support of major opposition parties. The United States Government has no candidate for Zairian Prime Minister. It supports the process of true democratization which must at this stage involve the opposition leadership in the decision-making of the government. We deeply regret that President Mobutu and the opposition have not been able to resolve this impasse by agreement on a candidate to be designated Prime Minister. The United States continues to call upon all concerned parties in Zaire to come together in a spirit of compromise and, together, work toward solving the many problems facing Zaire and its people. Q Did that overland escape route work today? MR. BOUCHER: I did get a -- I was going to give you that. I got a rundown on the Americans in Lubumbashi. As I think I mentioned yesterday, we've ordered six official Americans to leave Lubumbashi as soon as possible. A small staff will stay behind to keep the consulate open, but only as long as Belgian troops remain in the area. Eleven non-official Americans will probably depart during the next 36 hours assisted by Belgian troops. Some of the Americans will leave Lubumbashi overland via a convoy to Zambia to be organized by the Belgian and American authorities. The convoy was originally scheduled for departure today at 8:00 a.m. but it has been delayed 24 to 48 hours because of the priority being given to air evacuation. Another 20 non-official Americans plan to remain in Lubumbashi and another 10 have not been in contact yet with the consulate. Q Richard, isn't it time for Zaire -- for Mobutu to take the Ferdinand Marcos road to Honolulu or some other (inaudible) of that nature? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, President Mobutu is still President. That has not changed. The current crisis involves the inability to form a government, a government that would be headed by a Prime Minister that we've said is urgently needed for a variety of important tasks in the country. I'll go on to any other questions you have. Q What is the U.S. reaction to the offer of the good offices from the group of three -- Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela -- to mediate differences with Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: We don't have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but we and the Cuban Government do hold regular discussions through our Interest Sections in Washington and Havana. Neither we nor the Cubans have ever believed that a third-party mediation is necessary. We've also seen press reports that President Castro rejected the mediation offer. Q So you agree with Castro? MR. BOUCHER: Unfortunately, yes. Q This is a first? Q Well, in view of the fact that these three countries, and others, have continuing and seemingly cordial relations with Castro, how can the U.S. -- how do you continue to insist that Cuba is isolated in the hemisphere? MR. BOUCHER: Cuba's isolation is a fact by the nature of the system that it's trying to maintain in the face of the movement towards democracy everywhere else in the hemisphere. It's an objective fact. I think these other governments, as I mentioned yesterday, share the view that a transition to democracy in Cuba should come and should come peacefully. That's a view that we support and that's a view that we think needs to be made clear to the Cuban leadership as well. Q Is there any concern that the Bush Administration is becoming the party that's isolated in its policy toward Cuba given that none of our allies have endorsed or agreed to our economic embargo of the island, and there's a U.N. debate scheduled for next month on this issue? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the fact of a U.N. debate on any particular issue means that the United States is isolated. We'll have to see if that happens how it turns out. The basic fact of life is that Cuba is not a democracy, whereas virtually every other country in the hemisphere is. That's the fact of Cuba's isolation. Q Richard, why does the Department of State appear to be punishing Estelle and Eugene Ronnenburg by revoking their travel privileges and their billeting privileges in Germany for distribution of the videotape of the Turner family reunion? MR. BOUCHER: Bill, I want to be very careful on what I say about this, because we think that there is a key question here -- the privacy of the individuals involved. One of the most basic elements of U.S. concern for any freed hostage is his or her privacy. Yesterday, Mr. Ronnenburg violated that policy. In order to prevent a recurrence, he was advised that he would longer have access to the U.S. Air Force Hospital. Q Was he advised to leave the country? Did you tell him to leave the country? MR. BOUCHER: He and his wife decided to leave Germany in the aftermath of that situation. Q Of their own free will, or did the State Department tell them to leave? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is it was their decision. Q Was he also denied further billeting privileges on the base as well as denied access to the hospital? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not exactly sure where the billet was; whether it was in the hospital or not or part of the compound. My understanding is the access was denied to the hospital. Q The Ronnenburgs claim that the family was not upset by the videotaping or its distribution? MR. BOUCHER: Bill, I'm not going to pretend to speak for the family. As I said, I think they have their privacy. What I've tried to do is very carefully to relay to you what we did in this matter. Q They also contend -- MR. BOUCHER: But I'm not going to try to speak for other individuals. Q They also contend -- excuse me for a second -- that a Mr. Ward of the Department of State used threatening and abusive language to Mr. Ronnenburg, calling him a traitor, telling him to find his own way back, and various other threats? MR. BOUCHER: Jim Ward is the senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs. He's the head of the team that we have in Wiesbaden right now. I hadn't heard about any such language being used. That's as much as I can say at this point. Q Did Jesse Turner object to the taping? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to pretend to speak for Jesse Turner or other members of the family, and I don't think it's for me to report on their discussions. Q But the question, Richard, is, did the State Department just decide of its own volition to make an issue of this taping when, in fact, the family had not raised an objection, because you, perhaps, had some larger policy objective in mind? MR. BOUCHER: John, I've referred to what we have done. In our view the privacy of the hostages -- freed hostages -- is paramount. That was the reason for which we took these actions, and I'm not going to pretend to speak for somebody else. I think that would involve me in speaking on their behalf. Q Did the State Department -- MR. BOUCHER: You can ask them if you get a chance. Q Did the State Department know about the taping at the time it took place, or did this occur after it had been shown on television? MR. BOUCHER: I think it's some time in between the two is where it comes out. We did not know that it was being taped for broadcast at the time it was being taped. Q Did you know it was being taped, period? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know the answer to that, John. I think so. There was a video camera in the room. Q In other words, Mr. Turner's family came in; they brought a video camera in the room; there was presumably someone from the State Department or the military there; they took pictures and you raised no objection to this, is that correct? The objection came to broadcasting this on the air? MR. BOUCHER: Essentially, yes, John. Between the time the videotape was made and the time it was broadcast, we learned that it was being taped not for the family's use but for broadcast. Q So, in other words -- MR. BOUCHER: And that was the point where we became concerned about his privacy. Q So, in other words, the State Department tried to prevent this going out on television before the fact? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q You raised an objection about the fact that it had been taped and the family intended to somehow make it available to television -- MR. BOUCHER: I think we learned about it after it had been transferred to the media. I'm not aware that anyone asked anyone not to broadcast it. Q That was the only thing they did wrong -- is violating privacy by the videotape? There's not any other aspect; anything else? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm trying to relate the facts. Those are the facts. Q But that was the only incident -- the videotape. They didn't wander through halls with it? MR. BOUCHER: That's the only fact that was involved. Q The privacy thing is what I wish you could expand upon. Not so much in this instance, or -- MR. BOUCHER: You're asking me what Jesse Turner thinks, whether he objected, and that sort of thing. Q No, no, no. Richard, here's what I think you're saying -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's my right to talk about that. Q Okay. Here's what I think you're saying. If I put it in a statement form, I could do it more easily. It seems that anything any freed hostage or any member of his family does that hasn't been cleared by the State Department is not to be done because "It invades the ex-hostage's privacy." In other words, is the State Department the judge of what's an invasion of privacy? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, let me try to put it this way: Without speaking specifically of what Mr. Turner thinks, and it's for him to do that, I think in all the cases of the hostage releases, whether you're asking us about medical condition or what they want to say about their captivity, or things like that, we have always deferred to the wishes of the released hostage. That has always been our policy. Q But that's why we asked you. MR. BOUCHER: We think that that is necessary in every case. Q That's why we ask you. Let's say I made a phone call and I got an interview with one of the hostages and he told me he was held by terrible people and he wishes all hell would descend on their heads and I printed it. Have I invaded their privacy by printing that interview? Is the State Department the judge of what can come out of the hostage's mouth so far as dissemination to the public? MR. BOUCHER: No. The hostage is the judge. Q When confronted with a situation where the people on the ground in Wiesbaden believed that the issue was made solely by the State Department rather than by the family, and that's what they tell us. MR. BOUCHER: And I'm afraid I'm not in a position to clarify what the views of the members of Mr. Turner's family may be; what his own views may be. I am not going to step inside that family and try to describe what people think. Q If you always defer to the wishes of the hostages, as you have said, the wishes of the hostage and his family clearly were that this tape be disseminated. Why then did you take punitive action against the people who did this once it was done if you defer to the wishes of the hostages? MR. BOUCHER: Again, John, I'm not in a position to describe for you the wishes of the hostages -- of this particular released hostage. Q (Inaudible) Q Was the -- no. Just a moment, please. Was a State Department or military officer present in the room at the time the tape was made? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure the entire, during portions of it, yes. Q At what level was the decision made to kick the Ronnenberg's off the military flight home? Was that made by Mr. Ward? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the decision that I'm aware of was made by the team out there, and that's that he would no longer have access to the U.S. Air Force hospital. I am told that in the aftermath of that decision and this situation, that Mr. and Mrs. Ronnenberg decided to leave Germany. Q Are you saying that they were not asked not to return home on the military flight? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the only one that I'm aware of is the decision that they would not have further access to the hospital. Q Could you clarify that? Q And by what right -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to clarify that, John. Q And by what right does the State Department or the military say that private individuals cannot tape a family reunion and do whatever they want with it? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think -- again, John, I think the only way I can answer that is to say that I'm not aware that we told people that they couldn't -- you know, that we tried to block the broadcast. Q But you then punished them -- MR. BOUCHER: Or that we told people -- Q -- because they did this. MR. BOUCHER: We took an action based on our view of the need to protect the privacy of the released hostages. That is something that has always been very, very important to us, and it's something that we felt was important in this case, and we didn't want this sort of incident to happen again, so we denied them access to the hospital. Q Richard, I go back to what our people on the ground were told by Eugene Ronnenberg, who told them that he was informed that he could not stay there, and that he would have to find his own way home. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. I will try to determine -- I mean, some of these questions relate to access to the hospital, and then how much farther -- what other things might he have been told. I will try to find the answer to that, to the specific things that we told him. Q Did the State Department pay for their transportation to Wiesbaden? MR. BOUCHER: I know we were willing to. I'm not sure if we did. Q They say that you did. So you have a situation then in which the State Department, having brought them to a foreign country, then denies them access to accommodation or food and cuts off their transportation home. How does that square with principles of what we understand in this country to be fairness? MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, John, you're making statements that I can't confirm for you at this point -- that we have denied other things other than access to the hospital. I just have to find out about that. Q Do you have anything on Shamir's delegation, the peace process? Do you have any reactions about that Shamir's going to lead it? MR. BOUCHER: Of course, the Prime Minister of Israel is welcome, if he chooses, to head the Israeli delegation. MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the invitation says the conference will be held at the Ministerial level. Q I wanted to ask, because I wondered when we heard Shamir was coming, and I think there's a report that Mubarak might do the same -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on other heads of government. Q Well, what does it do to the structure? You know, I mean, it's a Foreign Ministers' conference -- the Foreign Ministers plus one minus one, because the Palestinians don't have any and the Israelis will send their President -- or Prime Minister. Right? MR. BOUCHER: Well, if you're asking if it somehow derailed the conference, of course, not. Q Well, I mean, not derailed, but it makes it -- MR. BOUCHER: It's a conference where issues of peace and real peace will be addressed. I think you saw some language in the White House statement yesterday -- Q Oh, yes. MR. BOUCHER: You know, saying -- Q I read it all. MR. BOUCHER: Whatever it was. Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: "We very much hope all those attending will come with an open mind." Q Then why did the United States say that it was inviting the people on the Ministerial level? Why was that a part of the deal, if it doesn't really matter who goes? MR. BOUCHER: To give people some idea of who was being invited. It says "Ministerial level." Q Are you saying that this was advisory? The invitation to the Ministers was advisory? MR. BOUCHER: The invitation -- what the invitation actually said was that a conference will be held at the Ministerial level. Of course, if Prime Minister Shamir chooses to head the Israeli delegation, he is welcome. Q Do you have problems with the fact that the Foreign Minister will not be there? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't -- first of all, I don't have complete names of all the delegation lists, and I -- well, I just don't have it. Let's put it that way. Q Do you have anything on this special envoy -- U.S. envoy to the conference? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing further at this point. Q Was the credentialing such that once Shamir is credentialed as head of the delegation, he -- I mean, is he a member of the delegation? Does he occupy one of their 14 seats? What happens when he goes home? Can he transfer that to somebody else? MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of detail that's going to have to be worked out at the core group -- the people that are working in Madrid on these things. I just don't expect to get into it from here, frankly, John. Q Does Shamir get special or distinguished treatment because he is a head of state and head of a country -- head of a government, as opposed to a Foreign Minister? MR. BOUCHER: Again, exactly how delegations are handled and what will be done will be determined by the people working on it in Madrid at this point. Q Do you have any procedural details even of the minor -- if there is such a thing as a minor detail -- when it comes to Mideast peace conferences? MR. BOUCHER: Have we confirmed that -- there was some information that we think was being put out in Madrid about now, and which we were going to relay to you as soon as we had confirmation that it had been put out. Q Well, we wouldn't need it any more. MR. BOUCHER: I'll just make sure you get that. Q Because it had been put out already. No. That's all right. I wondered about -- MR. BOUCHER: You can make it widely available, Barry. Q Well, not knowing what they're doing in Madrid -- MR. BOUCHER: Not all of us have wire service computers, so some of your colleagues might want to see it. Q It will show up in the Israeli press. Q Well, anyhow -- MR. BOUCHER: They were putting out in Madrid the name of the conference site and location of the press center. I think the Spanish Embassy has some additional information about the accreditation process which in general is being handled by Spanish diplomatic missions overseas. We have some names and phone numbers for travel agents who are handling some of the accommodations for those who need that sort of service. Q No. I meant something more like, for instance, if an American diplomat is to be assigned to each of the delegations. MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have that kind of information at this point. Q Has that been completed? And are you going to have an overall coordinator, etc. That type of -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that kind of information. Q Location of bilaterals. MR. BOUCHER: That is a matter to be decided with the parties. Q Would the U.S. welcome if Ariel Sharon became part of the Israeli delegation? MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call a hypothetical, Connie. Q I figured you'd say that. (Laughter) Q Could I ask another one about Cuba? Has the United States received a formal offer of mediation from these three governments? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any. I'll doublecheck that for you. Q It was announced in this communique. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I know they mention it. They talked about it in the communique, but I'm not sure -- Q Well, from your previous answer, do I understand that the answer would be no if it were -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll stand with the previous answer. Q Is there currently a U.S. delegation to the Mideast peace conference -- I mean, to the Madrid peace conference, and who's the head of it? Who's in charge until the President and Mr. Baker get there? MR. BOUCHER: The peace conference hasn't started yet, Barry. Q No. I know. But there's an American delegation. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. I don't have a full delegation list for you. Q Just the head of it. MR. BOUCHER: You obviously know that President Bush will speak at the opening of the conference -- Q And then go back home. MR. BOUCHER: And then he will return to the United States. Secretary Baker thereafter will head our delegation. Q Right. But so far as now, in the important, in this case, pre-conference negotiations have significance too. Who's handling that for the United States? Q Yes. Who would that be? MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I can tell you. Q What experienced American diplomat is it? Q Who's the person in charge? Q What's the hair color? Q Any progress on the selection of an envoy to the Middle East? MR. BOUCHER: I was just asked that, and I said I have nothing new on that. I think when I talked about it, I said that we wouldn't expect to have decisions and announcements until the bilateral talks. Q Richard, does the U.S. Government have any preference in terms of the choice of a new Secretary General for the United Nations? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I'll read you our standard policy on that. "We consider the selection of the next Secretary General to be a vital issue for the future of the United Nations. We do not discuss the sensitive issue of Secretary General candidacies in public. We have consulted with U.N. members on this subject and are continuing to do so. We will support the best candidate, no matter where he or she comes from." Q Well, the question was rather more narrow. Has the United States a favored choice? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, Jim, we consider this to be a vital issue, and we don't discuss candidacies in public. Q I'm not asking about the name or identity of any specific candidate. I was asking if the United States now has someone it favors? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not able to go any farther than I have. Q One question: Yesterday, North Korean Prime Minister raised a new demand that South Korean government should denounce any protection of a U.S. nuclear (inaudible) and to prohibit any U.S. ship or aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon from approaching a South Korean port. So do you have any reaction to that kind of (inaudible)? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess there are two things to say. I mean, on some of these specific things, it's the -- you know, the South Koreans that are going to have to deal with it. Where I heard about that was in the context of the safeguards agreement, and, of course, you're very clearly, I think, aware of our view and the view of the international community that the safeguards obligation is unconditional, and that there can be no conditions whatsoever attached to an obligation that North Korea entered into in 1985 and which the whole world wants them to sign and implement. My general understanding of the talks they had is that they made some progress, which we welcome, which we're pleased to see; that they turned over the drafting of the new document to a drafting group, and that they'll expect to have further talks soon. Q But not in the sense of the nuclear problem. The North Koreans -- they suggested two more tough conditions. They added the two conditions. MR. BOUCHER: I have no reaction to that. I think reaction to that has to come from the South Korean government. Q Richard, could I go back and ask you just one final question on the Ronnenberg matter? You said the decision to withdraw support there was made on the scene by the team on the scene? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q When did you become aware of that decision? Before it -- "you" meaning the State Department in Washington -- before it was taken or after it was taken? In other words, was it bucked back here for concurrence? MR. BOUCHER: I think it was after, John. Q So this was a local action without any reference to Washington? MR. BOUCHER: I couldn't say 100 percent sure. Q Richard, did you say that they would not pay for the flight home -- the State Department will not pay? MR. BOUCHER: No. I said that's the kind of thing that I would check. The only thing I knew was that we had asked them not to come back to the hospital. Q So if the decision perhaps was bucked back here, was it bucked back to a higher level for decision, or was the actual decision made there on the scene? Can you take the question and see if you can get an answer? MR. BOUCHER: I'll take the question and see if we can get you an answer. Q Are you going to change the ground rules, if and when we hope other hostages come out, as a result of this incident? Is there anything that's going to be done differently as a matter of course now? MR. BOUCHER: I think if we see a video camera, we might ask who's going to get the tape. Make sure that people are aware, make sure that whatever is done is done in accordance with the wishes of the released hostage. That's been the policy. That remains the policy. Q What if the hostage says, "I want it videotaped, and I want it to be shipped to CBS News"? MR. BOUCHER: Fine. Q That's fine? MR. BOUCHER: Fine. We'll help them with their shipment. Q And can you tell us anything of substance on Baker's trip up to the Hill this morning, today? MR. BOUCHER: He's going to brief members of the Senate and senior members of the House of Representatives on the Middle East process. Meetings have been arranged for the leadership of the Senate and House as a closed members only briefing. Q That's combined. One event. Can't tell. MR. BOUCHER: It's plural at the beginning of the sentence and singular at the end, so I don't know for sure. I think it's one briefing, Barry. Q What time of day? Q Now? Three o'clock? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the time, because it's not a public event. Q A couple of questions on the Soviet Union. Do you have anything on the visit of the President of Kirgizia? He saw Eagleburger at noon, and I'd like a readout if possible. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't have anything on it. I'll see if we want to do a readout. Q And do you have any other comment on developments in the Ukraine and the discussion there about not returning the nuclear weapons to the Russian Republic and perhaps a joint command? MR. BOUCHER: I think yesterday I addressed the general issue of the army. I also welcomed -- or applauded the fact that they renounced nuclear weapons and resolved to make the Ukraine nuclear-free by 1995. We do understand that nuclear weapons located on Ukrainian territory remain under central command and control. Q Thank you. See you tomorrow. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 2:00 p.m.)