US Department of State Daily Briefing #26: Wednesday, 2/19/92

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: Feb, 19 19922/19/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, Europe, Eurasia, E/C Europe, East Asia Country: Lebanon, Israel, USSR (former), Jordan, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom, Cuba, Yugoslavia (former), North Korea, South Korea Subject: Military Affairs, Travel, Mideast Peace Process, Immigration, Democratization, POW/MIA Issues, Cultural Exchange 12:31 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Terrorism: Increased Terrorism Risk to Americans Travelling in Agrica/Europe/Middle East]

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start out with one statement to call people's attention to the increased risk to Americans because of some of the threats being made by Hizballah. After that, I'll be glad to take your questions. The Department of State advises American citizens that the killing of Hizballah Secretary General Sheikh Abbas Musawi has increased the security risk to Americans traveling or residing in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Press reports quote Hizballah officials as calling for "vengeance against the U.S." There is a possibility that Americans could be targets of terrorist action, including renewed kidnappings. The situation in Lebanon is particularly dangerous for Americans. The Department's latest travel advisory for Lebanon, issued in December, warns that no U.S. citizen can be considered safe from terrorist acts in Lebanon. I would remind Americans that U.S. passports remain invalid for travel to, through, or in Lebanon. While we do not at this time have information on a specific threat, it is likely that terrorist events may occur for which we have no forewarning. Should specific and credible information on a threat to the American public be received, the Department will provide information to travelers and other concerned parties. Barry. Q Richard, is your statement based on their public statements or does the State Department have more information to cause you to make this statement? MR. BOUCHER: I would say it's based on their public statements as well as our reading of the situation currently. Q Richard, in line with that, I asked you yesterday if the United States had any problem with the use of its supplied equipment by the Israelis north of the border in such operations as the killing of Musawi. Have you researched that? Does the United States have any problem? MR. BOUCHER: I think we gave you an answer on that yesterday afternoon. Q Do you believe the Hizballah group in Lebanon has the capacity to implement their threats against the United States and Israel, and all that? MR. BOUCHER: This is a dangerous group. This is a group that has been particularly active in Lebanon. It has potentially capabilities in other areas as well, so I think I'd just repeat what I said to Barry. This is based on their public statements as well as our reading of the situation with regards to their capabilities and intentions. Q What do we expect Americans to do about this other than not go to Lebanon? Should they stay home and not travel, or what? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, don't go to Lebanon. And, second of all, exercise standard precautions; be careful about your baggage and all those things that we try to frequently remind people of. Q Not only if traveling to Lebanon. You mean, in international airports? Americans have been targeted before -- places like Rome. MR. BOUCHER: That's why we said the situation is particularly dangerous in Lebanon, but we see an increased risk in these other areas as well and we would advise people to be careful. Q Do you have anything new to say about the cross fire of attacks today, the shelling of Israeli villages and the Israeli bombardments? MR. BOUCHER: Our position hasn't changed, Barry. We're concerned about the rising cycle of violence there. We certainly regret the loss of life. Our position is that we've continued to urge all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to end the violence. Q It's now more than just the mere violence because Israel this morning rolled a tank-led force and is asking to expand the so-called security zone. They asked the villagers to vacate about three or four villages, according to a UPI report. So, they are in a situation of war now there in the area. MR. BOUCHER: I know there are some press reports to that effect out there. I don't have any confirmation of that for you. Q You mentioned yesterday -- you criticized Israel using the helicopters in the raid which resulted in Musawi's assassination or killing or murder, whatever you want to call it. Are you concerned now that Israel, according to these reports, they have been massing a lot of weapons and tanks and other things which are U.S. made, I believe, tanks and artillery? With all of this detail of the story, it's quite -- MR. BOUCHER: Since I can't confirm that there's any such massing going on, I certainly can't confirm the origin of the equipment. It's not something that I have confirmation of for you. Q Richard, on the travel advisory, does the Department have any sense of how many Americans might be in Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we do. I don't know if we do. Q Richard, you made a reference before to "our reading of the situation," as you put it. Does State have any reading of the situation regarding Hizballah and Israel? In other words, is there -- do you suspect -- does the State Department suspect this has anything to do with the peace talks -- the fighting? Is it an attempt to impede the peace talks, perhaps? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't know of any particular connection that these people have made. I'm not sure if in the Hizballah statements they've mentioned the peace talks or not. Certainly, we don't think that violence contributes to the peace talks, but we've consistently said that it's very important to pursue peace. Q There's been a report that Faisal Husseini is coming to Washington to meet with Secretary Baker. Can you confirm that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. The Secretary just got back this morning. I understand that there are reports that he's coming. I think we have a request for him to see officials here. I wasn't able to get the information on the Secretary's schedule at this point. Q Richard, two quick things related to that. First, will he -- can you say -- indeed, he'll see somebody at the State Department. Is he welcome to see State Department officials? And, secondly, entwined with this incident about Israel's jailing of two Palestinian negotiators, there's been a lot of announcements with the PLO. The PLO says the talks will continue; Husseini checks with the PLO before he comes to the United States. Is the State Department revising its notion that the PLO isn't playing an active role in this process? MR. BOUCHER: No, we're not revising our notion nor our notion of the Palestinian delegation. We understand now that the Palestinian delegation does plan to attend the bilateral talks for next week. As I said, I'm not able to confirm for you any particular meetings that Faisal Husseini may have with us. I just wasn't able to get the schedule information this morning. Q Yesterday, you said all the parties would be here. Are you saying that you know they'll be here -- ready to go Monday, or are you just saying that they'll attend the next round? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm trying to think of what statements I've seen from them. I think the implication, at least of their plans to attend, was plans to attend on Monday, but we'll have to reconfirm that for you. Q All right, but you realize -- the point of my question is the PLO has been making the statements that they will be here on Monday and attend. MR. BOUCHER: There have been statements by the PLO before. As you know, we work with Palestinian delegation members who are part of this process, and those criteria remain the same. Q Then why is Husseini doing all this? Why is all this public contact coming out? Does Husseini need the support of the PLO? Is it just sort of taking out insurance? I mean, what is your analysis of why -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Barry. You can go out and ask other people why they make various statements. Q No, actually, I'm asking the State Department because the State Department has said for months and maybe a year now that the PLO isn't involved in this process -- that Israel is negotiating with other people. MR. BOUCHER: Our position on that, Barry, hasn't changed. Our position on the Palestinian delegation members hasn't changed. As you know, we don't have a dialogue with the PLO. We deal in this peace process with Palestinian delegation members who meet the criteria that were agreed to. Q The two Palestinian delegation members who were arrested, are they going to be released? Are they coming to Washington next week or -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that. We've made our views on that known to the Israeli Government. As I said yesterday, we oppose the practice of administrative detention, and the Israelis are very well aware of our views. Q Have you had any special visa requests you want to tell us about -- in this case? Not that I'm aware there are, but, I mean, before, I guess, the last two rounds there have been requests for exceptions to the barrier to PLO officials being in the advisory group? Has that come up again by any chance? MR. BOUCHER: These were requests for visas by people who might require waivers. We checked yesterday and at least as of yesterday when I checked, we hadn't gotten any such requests for this round. As for whether these two individuals under administrative detention, whether they have visas or not, we haven't issued any visas to them recently, but there's the possibility that they may have valid visas from before. Q Do those two individuals meet the criteria to join the delegation? MR. BOUCHER: I was asked that yesterday. I said we were still looking into it. I think I have to stick to that today. I can't give you a definitive judgment on that. Q Richard, what is the U.S. position vis-a-vis the Lebanese request for a Security Council meeting to look at their complaints? MR. BOUCHER: Our Ambassador was asked to come to the Foreign Ministry yesterday, I think, along with the other Ambassadors from the Perm Five U.N. Security Council members. The Lebanese Government made a request for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. We have the matter under consideration and will have to consider what is the best course of action for the Council to pursue in this matter. Q Another subject? Could you elaborate -- Q Just one for me, please. Did you have anything on the meeting this morning between Ambassador Reedy of Egypt and Assistant Secretary Cohen? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Can I go back to the two Palestinians, and did you hear from Israel since you -- or was there any reaction to your displeasure of some -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific Israeli reaction to report. I think I'd just say that Israel is well aware of our views. Q On the statement you issued late yesterday -- the State Department did -- about concern about the use of American equipment. Specifically, do you know at this point whether American equipment was used in the attack on the Hizballah convoy? Specifically that incident. Does the U.S. know? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information like that for you, Barry. I think we put out a fairly extensive answer yesterday, and I'd just like to stick with that, if we can. Q Well, it was general. It was about the use of, you know, American equipment in attacks in southern Lebanon. This is, you know, the major event, I guess, in that whole operation, and I wondered if U.S. equipment was used against Hizballah? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Barry, I'm sorry, I just don't have that kind of specific information for you. Q New subject? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q The Ukrainian President today registered strong objections to the talks that Baker had in Moscow with Yeltsin and Kozyrev on arms reduction. He says that Yeltsin has no authority to speak for the other republics that hold nuclear weapons, and he's suggesting a meeting with President Bush and the four presidents of the nuclear republics. Does the United States share Kravchuk's position that negotiations on further strategic and other arms reductions have to be conducted with all four nuclear republics? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that statement, so I'm sorry, I don't know. I think we'd want to look at the statement first and see if we have anything to say on it. Q And can you tell us anything about the Secretary's recommendations on establishing diplomatic relations with the republics he visited, specifically, Azerbaijan where I understand the fighting has increased today and there are about 25 dead in Nagorno-Karabakh. MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't tell you anything on the Secretary's recommendations. As you know, during the course of his visit, he discussed the issues involved in diplomatic relations with these other republics. I think he said he'd want to talk to the President when he came back. I'm sure that when he does that and when they decide something, that we'll tell you about it. Q Richard, I wonder if there's more information beyond what was in that statement yesterday about Americans missing in World War II? You know, the suspicions that they were taken into Russian -- Soviet labor camps? There was a statement yesterday that -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We gave you the information that we had, including the public statements that had been made, and I'm sure our Embassy in Moscow will continue to follow this up. I don't have any more information for you. Q Well, there's one thing particularly that I wondered about. This statement has the Russian general confirming that Americans were interrogated or questioned. MR. BOUCHER: After World War II, right? Q Yes. And it doesn't say whether they were detained. You know, the inference is that they weren't just questioned and sent on their way, but I don't know that. Do you happen to know if this is -- the State Department takes this as confirmation that American prisoners of the Germans were actually detained, obviously against their will, by the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Barry. I'll have to check. Q Richard, if I may try again on the meeting between the Egyptian Ambassador and Assistant Secretary Cohen. Can you tell if it was related to the events in south Lebanon or to Libya or whatever? MR. BOUCHER: Assistant Secretary Cohen is the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, so I doubt if it had anything to do with Lebanon or Libya. Just to hazard a guess, I'd say it had something to do with Africa, but I don't know. Q Libya is an African country. MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid the way we're organized, Libya is in the Near East Bureau, so -- Q O.K. Q Could you give us an update on the project Provide Hope -- on the number of sorties and how many remain and what's being delivered where? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get that for you. I think Pete Williams or Bob Hall at the Pentagon gave some sort of update yesterday. I'll see if we have anything new today. Q Richard, there are reports that a Mr. Doherty who's an IRA suspect has been extradited to Britain. Do you know anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: Reports that he has been extradited? Q That he has been sent on a plane today. Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that too, Alan. Sorry. Q Do you have anything on five Cubans who might have defected to this country? They were wearing military uniforms, reportedly. MR. BOUCHER: I think we got an inquiry yesterday. It's not anything that we have information on. I think they were headed to Miami. I think that's the place to check. Q Richard, would you have any readout on Mr. Eagleburger's meeting with the Bosnian president? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. I'll provide you with one a little bit later. I think the meeting started a little bit late, so they were still meeting as I came out.

[North/South Korea: US Welcomes Peaceful Steps]

Q Under Secretary Kanter said before the Senate that the U.S. hoped that North Korea would ratify the IAEA agreement before 19th of February, this month. Do you have any comment on that? It's sort of -- the deadline is over. MR. BOUCHER: Our position has always been that we think that North Korea should ratify and implement these agreements as soon as possible. The 19th was a date because the two accords that they signed in December -- one on "Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation," and the other which was a "Joint Declaration on Non-Nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" -- came into effect on February 19th at the sixth North-South Prime Ministerial meeting in Pyongyang. These are further welcome steps toward peaceful resolution of the problems of the Korean Peninsula, and especially the threat from the North Korean nuclear program. We look for North Korea's full and prompt implementation of these accords, particularly its agreement to early inspections of the North Korean nuclear facilities. Just as importantly, and given the extent of international concerns so clearly expressed over North Korea's nuclear program, we believe it essential that North Korea move quickly to fulfill its public promises to ratify and implement its IAEA safeguards agreement without further delay. So we maintain the position it should be done promptly, in full, quickly, and without further delay. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:48 p.m.)