US Department of State Daily Briefing #16: Thursday, 1/30/92

Snyder Source: State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Joseph Snyder Description: Washington, DC Date: Jan, 30 19921/30/92 Category: Briefings Region: Caribbean, East Asia, MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Europe, Southeast Asia Country: Haiti, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Czechoslovakia (former), France, Vietnam, China Subject: Human Rights, Regional/Civil Unrest, Refugees, Immigration, Security Assistance and Sales, Nuclear Nonproliferation 12:35 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. SNYDER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to begin with a statement, if I could.

[Haiti: US to Screen Haitians for Refugee Status in Port-au-Prince]

The Department of State has directed the Embassy in Port-au-Prince to establish immediately information and screening services in Haiti for those who wish to apply for refugee status. Details about this program will be announced soon. The temporary holding facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have reached capacity. The great majority of those who have been taken to Guantanamo Naval Facility seeking entrance to the United States, have been found inadmissible under U.S. law. Those who do not qualify will be returned to Haiti. We urge Haitians once again not to put out to sea expecting to be transported to U.S. territory or facilities. The journey is long and dangerous and could well result in loss of life. Q In connection with that, Joe, do you have anything on reports taken from court filings or papers filed with the INS which allege that there are 20,000 people along the coasts of Haiti preparing to debark? MR. SNYDER: I don't have any further details. We do have -- a statement was made by Assistant Secretary Aronson before the court to that effect. I don't have any further information on that, however. Q So this came from Aronson? MR. SNYDER: From Aronson. Yes. Q So your new program is sort of an orderly departure program, right? MR. SNYDER: We're not using that phraseology, but the idea is to let people apply for refugee status actually in Haiti. Q And what's the cause -- or what's the reason behind the timing? This recent surge of boat people? MR. SNYDER: We think that the time is right now to do this. I don't want to attribute anything further to that. Q Can I ask you to take the question on Aronson's statement and provide us whatever details -- MR. SNYDER: Yes. Further details. Sure. Be happy to. Q What is your information on the situation at Guantanamo? How much more room is there, and what are you going to do when there's no more room? MR. SNYDER: I don't have any further information. You might want to check with DoD on the situation at Guantanamo. I've got the numbers that are there. If you'd like, I can give you the new numbers. Q Yes, please. MR. SNYDER: There were 286 Haitians picked up yesterday, according to information provided by the Coast Guard. This brings the total number of Haitian boat people picked up since the coup to 14,276. A further 165 Haitians were flown from Guantanamo to the U.S. yesterday, making a total of 1,402 Haitians who have already gone to the U.S. to pursue their claim to asylum. To date, 3,379 Haitians have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum, and the total -- the status of those who remain are approximately 9,250 ashore at the Naval Facility in Guantanamo Bay. This number includes those who have been screened in and who are awaiting transportation to the U.S. There are some 2,300 Haitians now on board Coast Guard cutters, and then we have the numbers who are in Venezuela and Honduras which haven't changed. Q So how is this system in Port-au-Prince going to work? MR. SNYDER: We'll announce the details later. We don't have the details now. Q But among the details that raise questions now are the fact that you have, what, about a dozen people left at the Embassy, and you're going to have tens of thousands of people lined up outside the Embassy? MR. SNYDER: We will be announcing the details of the program later -- how we're going to be doing this. I don't have that for you now. Q Do you have anything on reports about the possibility of tightening the sanctions as a means of bringing increased pressure to bear on the Haitian authorities? MR. SNYDER: No, nothing specifically on that. Q Joe, regarding returning the people who are at Guantanamo who will not qualify to come to the United States, has it been determined that's within the legal parameters of the judge's order about repatriation? MR. SNYDER: No, the legal situation remains the same. The ban remains in effect, and we are urging the judge to change that decision. Q In other words - MR. SNYDER: We're not going to be moving anyone as long as the ban remains in effect, certainly, from Guantanamo. Q But by accepting applications on the ground in Haiti, aren't you acknowledging that you are there for the long haul; that the sanctions are not really working, and you are in effect giving up on pressing ahead with the return of the ousted president? MR. SNYDER: I wouldn't say that at all. I think that the OAS efforts remain active, and we remain strongly behind them. However, we are dealing with a practical situation. Some of those who have left by boat -- dangerously by boat -- have been found eligible for refugee status, and we want to discourage people from leaving the country. It's dangerous, people are losing their lives, and we want to see that stopped. Q Are you making appeals via the Voice of America to encourage Haitians to stay home? MR. SNYDER: We have been in the past. I don't know that this is something especially new. Q Do you have any comment concerning the North Korean signing of the International -- IAEA Safeguard Agreement this morning? MR. SNYDER: Yes. We welcome this first step by North Korea to fulfill its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Given the extent of international concerns so clearly expressed over this issue, we look for North Korea to now move quickly to fulfill its public promises to ratify and implement the IAEA Agreement without further delay. Q And how soon do you expect that the (inaudible) inspection could be worked out in North Korea with the general procedure of the IAEA? MR. SNYDER: That will be up to the North Korean Government in terms of its ratification and implementation of the agreement. We've set no timetable, but we want to see that happen without further delay. Q I thought they've already ratified the acceptance of the treaty but just had a condition on inspections, isn't that right? MR. SNYDER: They've just signed the Safeguard Agreement, and that needs to be ratified -- Q I see. MR. SNYDER: -- and we want them to do it as soon as possible. Q In light of the recent North Korean signing of the Safeguard Agreement, do you have any schedule to re-open the high-level talks with North Korean officials in the near future? MR. SNYDER: No. Our dialogue continues in Beijing, but we have no plans for another high-level meeting.

[Cuba: Cuban Security Forces Shoot Cubans Attempting to Enter Guantanamo]

Q Joe, what can you tell us about that assault on that Cuban family trying to gain asylum in Guantanamo yesterday? MR. SNYDER: In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 25, a family of 13 tried to jump the fence at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. They tripped an alarm. Cuban security forces opened fire and wounded a young boy and girl. The Cuban authorities proceeded to round everyone up except for one man who was able to make it to the Naval Base by crawling through a cactus field. He is receiving medical treatment at the base for cuts and bruises. He was not shot. We have no information about the individuals who were taken into Cuban custody. Q Did he make an asylum request, and what's the status of that? MR. SNYDER: We have a policy of not confirming whether particular individuals have requested asylum. I should add that we deplore this whole incident -- the Government of Cuba shooting people as a way of stopping them from fleeing their country. It's reminiscent of ugly activities that took place at the Berlin Wall. Now that Germany is free, two border guards who shot at individuals trying to cross to the West have been convicted of manslaughter. We're concerned by the fact that Cubans attempting to enter the base were fired on by Cuban border guards. When incidents of this nature arise which are of concern to the U.S. Government, we review them with the Government of Cuba. We will be raising our concerns about this incident. I should also note that it is extremely dangerous to attempt to enter the Naval Base at Guantanamo because it's surrounded by Cuban minefields, and we strongly encourage individuals wishing to immigrate to the U.S. to do so in accordance with U.S. immigration law.

[Iran/Iraq: US Exports of Arms/Dual-Use Equipment]

Q Joe, on another subject, there have been a spate of reports in various papers about U.S. arms sales to both Iran and Iraq. Have you been looking into those, and what can you say? MR. SNYDER: I've got something on the sales to Iran -- the story in -- I believe it was The Times this morning -- The Post this morning. First of all, I should say general export trade with Iran is not barred. We have export limitations on arms and items which have military applications. Export Administration regulations are administered by the Department of Commerce. These provide guidance regarding the export of such controlled commodities to Iran. The Department of State does make recommendations on the licensing of dual-use equipment when cases are referred by the Department of Commerce. But absent any details on a specific export to Iran -- there are no details in this article -- we are unable to comment on these reports, and I would refer you to Commerce for further information. Q Well, generally speaking, is it the State Department's policy in its recommendations to oppose the export of dual-use equipment such as computers? MR. SNYDER: Each of the requests are examined on a case-by-case basis. I don't want to make a general statement. We do have a policy of banning the export of dual-use items -- items with military applications. Q And so if any of these dual-use items such as computers got through, then it was a breakdown in the system, is what you're saying? MR. SNYDER: I think it's very much a question of interpretation. I'm not going to characterize it as a breakdown in the system. To answer questions, I think it's important to have the specific details. I don't think it's fruitful to discuss the question in general. There were no details in the two articles in question. Q But you can't discuss specific cases because of proprietary restrictions; is that right? MR. SNYDER: To be able to answer your question, I think it's important to know the specific details that they're talking about in terms of whether there was a breakdown. We could do that without discussing individual cases. Q Okay. Did the State Department recommend against shipment, or at least give a non-approval to items which were later shipped? MR. SNYDER: I don't know. I'll have to check specifically on that. Q And on the issue of weapons to Iraq, it has been alleged in a series of articles, I think, in The Times that the sales were much earlier and much larger than earlier reported, going back to 1982. Have you been looking into those? MR. SNYDER: I don't have anything on that. Q Have you been looking into them? MR. SNYDER: I'll check and see. Q Joe, speaking of arms shipments, the Germans have apparently intercepted a freighter carrying Czech tanks to -- Czechoslovak tanks -- to Syria. Any knowledge of that? Any comment on it? MR. SNYDER: I don't have anything. Let me look into it. I don't have anything specifically here. Q Do you have anything generic on the pledge of the new Czech government to stop relying so much on arms exports? MR. SNYDER: We've been working closely with the Czechoslovak Government to try to discourage arms exports, to work on defense conversion activities, and we welcome that. Q Do you have an update? How are they doing? MR. SNYDER: Sorry, I don't have anything in the absence of anything that led me to ask about it. I don't have anything specifically. Do you want a report card? Q In light of this story, it would be interesting to know how the Department of State feels they're doing. MR. SNYDER: All right. Q Do you have any comments of the hospitalization of Mr. Habash in Paris, please? MR. SNYDER: No, not really. No comment at all.

[Vietnam: Update on Meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Quinn]

Read Q Joe, do you have a readout on late yesterday's meeting between senior U.S. and Vietnamese officials? MR. SNYDER: Yes, I do. The first working group meeting between the U.S. and Vietnam lasted for about two and a half hours yesterday. We would characterize the session as constructive and useful. The U.S. side reiterated that progress toward normalization depends upon continued implementation of the Cambodia peace settlement and on Vietnam's cooperation on POW/MIAs and other humanitarian issues. Discussion then moved to consular issues, financial and property claims, and humanitarian assistance. Both sides agreed on the need for further meetings for continued discussion on these subjects, but no date was set. Q Can you say anything specific about the financial and property claims -- what value you're sort of working with? MR. SNYDER: No. The discussions continue, and we're going to continue them in private, so long as they're continuing. So I don't have details. Q And you have no specific date for the next meeting? MR. SNYDER: No date has been set. Q Can I follow up on the Habash thing? MR. SNYDER: Yes. Q This man has a rather notorious record, and he always figures prominently in U.S. Government reports about terrorism. Does the United States not have any feeling about France, an ally, harboring him, providing him with assistance? MR. SNYDER: France's decision to admit Mr. Habash was its own decision. We don't have any comment on that. Of course, our views on Habash himself and his group -- the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- are well known. This is an extremely violent terrorist group that was most active in the 1960s and 70s and it is responsible for numerous terrorist atrocities, including highjackings, armed attacks and bombings that killed scores of innocent people. We have frequently condemned Mr. Habash and the terrorist activities of his group. Q But despite this, you think it's okay that France would open its doors? MR. SNYDER: We think the question of admitting him to France is a question for France. We don't have a comment on it. Q Is he wanted in the U.S.? Is he under indictment here? MR. SNYDER: I don't know. I'll ask. Q Joe, a housekeeping question. What are your plans about the Human Rights Report? MR. SNYDER: We will be releasing the report to Congress on Friday, and we will be making copies available in the Press Office some time on Friday. We don't have that pinned down specifically. It will not be today. Q And Schifter is going to come here? MR. SNYDER: Yes. I think Schifter will be coming in -- right now, it's tentatively planned for a 4:00 p.m. briefing on Friday. Q This is designed entirely to keep the story out of the press -- 4:00 p.m.? Q You make nobody's deadline that way. MR. SNYDER: I'm sorry. We're trying to do our best. The report is going to be released to the Congress during the workday on Friday, and we're not going to be releasing -- Q What's the reason for the delay? MR. SNYDER: It's not ready -- not ready to be released. Q Does it have anything to do with the President's meeting with Li Peng on Friday? MR. SNYDER: There are reports on every country in the world. It takes time to put the whole thing together. There are controversies about many of them, and they're just not ready. Q So is it accurate to say that the report is delayed because the State Department is still debating its judgments on certain countries? Is that the conclusion to draw from your remarks? MR. SNYDER: You can draw your own conclusion, but some of the individual country papers will not be ready until that time. Q Have you taken into consideration the fact that the lateness of the briefing may make it necessary for members of the press to go with the leaked version from the Hill? Those portions which are leaked from the Hill earlier in the day are likely to be the very portions that others in the Administration might wish to de-emphasize? You can protect yourself. MR. SNYDER: Yes, we have taken that into consideration and we're prepared to live with it. Q I see. Q Are you worried at all that what you report on China might sort of muddle the President's meeting with Li Peng? MR. SNYDER: I'm really not going to comment on the President's meeting with Li Peng from this podium. If you want to check with the White House, you can. Q What sections are still being written at this late hour? MR. SNYDER: I don't know. Q I thought the report is for the previous year? In other words, it goes up to December 31, 1991. So what's still unsettled? MR. SNYDER: What the reports are going to say. Q Isn't it fudging a bit? You're supposed to be dealing with 1991. MR. SNYDER: That's right. Q It's now 1992. MR. SNYDER: Right. Q So why are you still writing? It should be pencil down time. MR. SNYDER: The reports are factual. They certainly contain judgments and it takes time to write these things and get them exactly right. Q And they're not written yet? Today is the day before the report is going up. It's not written? MR. SNYDER: Of course -- Q I just want to make sure I understand correctly. MR. SNYDER: Yes, the individual reports are largely written, but they go through a process of drafting and review and that process will not be finished until -- Q At the right -- MR. SNYDER: They will be released when that process is finished and we're ready to release them. Q Will they be released by 12:00 o'clock tomorrow to the press? MR. SNYDER: I don't know when they'll be ready. I'm sorry. Q Also on China, there's a report that written assurances -- or assurances have been received from Chinese authorities that they will provide a written promise to abide by the terms of the Missile Technology Control Regime. What do you have on that? MR. SNYDER: During the Secretary's November visit to Beijing, the Chinese agreed to observe the MTCR guidelines and parameters in their exports to all countries and specifically acknowledged that these would apply to transfers to Syria, Iran, and Pakistan. In return, the Chinese requested that we lift the sanctions we adopted in June 1991 in response to transfers of PRC missile technology to Pakistan. The Administration's goal in adopting these sanctions was to induce Beijing to cease such transfers and to join with other ballistic missile-producing countries in adopting the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines. Since the November meeting, the two governments have exchanged views on modalities for finalizing this agreement. This exchange continues. Once the two sides finalize the November agreement, the Administration plans to take the steps necessary to lift the June 1991 sanctions. We have no set timetable for lifting the sanctions. I should point out this Administration decision would affect only the package of missile sanctions adopted in June. Other U.S. sanctions adopted after the suppression of the Chinese democracy movement in 1989 and intended to encourage human rights improvements remain in effect. These include such things as a ban on weapon sales and support of international lending, only to meet basic human needs. Moreover, U.S. law would require re-introduction to missile sanctions if China were to undertake new transfers that are inconsistent with the MTCR. Q Can you say specifically what's holding up committing all of this to paper? Are the Chinese reneging in any way? MR. SNYDER: We are continuing our discussion. I can't go any further than that. Q A follow-up to yesterday's Vietnamese talks. Even though you said that the next meeting has not set the date, are you going to keep contact with them by telephone or mail to narrow the gap between the U.S. and Vietnamese? MR. SNYDER: On many of the issues that were discussed at the meeting yesterday, we've got regular contact. There's a technical office in Hanoi, for instance, to deal with POW/MIA questions. Of course, we remain in touch with Vietnam. Q Thank you. MR. SNYDER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:56 p.m.)