US Department of State Daily Briefing #44: Tuesday, 3/24/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Mar, 24 19923/24/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Southeast Asia Country: Iraq, Israel, USSR (former), Georgia, Libya, Cambodia, Armenia Subject: Military Affairs, Mideast Peace Process, State Department, Terrorism, Trade/Economics, Nuclear Nonproliferation 12:10 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Georgia: US Establishes Full Diplomatic Relations]

MS. TUTWILER: I'd like to do two things first, if I can. One's concerning establishing diplomatic relations with Georgia, and the second, telling you what we know about the situation concerning Libya releasing these two individuals. On Georgia: As you know, the White House today, Marlin [Fitzwater], announced that the United States is establishing full diplomatic relations with Georgia. We will immediately begin working on getting a U.S. team on the ground in Tbilisi to establish an Embassy, obviously taking into account the security situation for personnel who would be posted there. Yesterday, Secretary Baker received a formal letter from the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Georgia. Based on the developments in Georgia itself and on the new assurances in this letter, late yesterday afternoon the Secretary recommended to the President that we grant full diplomatic relations, which the White House has done today. The assurances that were in this letter meet the same commitments which we sought from the other new states throughout this process, and those are basically the ones which are contained in our five principles. Q Is Alabama next? MS. TUTWILER: Is what? Q Is Alabama next? [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: Alabama? No.

[Libya: Offer to Turn Over Suspects in Pan Am 103 Bombing]

Libya: We have been in touch with the Secretary General of the United Nations, other delegations in New York, and officials of the Arab League over the last 24 hours. They tell us that the Libyans have made the same proposal which they've stated publicly -- to turn over the two suspects to the Arab League. However, to our knowledge there is no written proposal or a lot of details on this one proposal beyond turning them over to the Arab League. We have no information on whether the Libyans intend to have the people then turned over to the courts or what next. In addition, no one appears to have any information that Libya intends to comply with the other three requirements endorsed in resolution 731. As you know, they are to cooperate in the investigations, including the French investigation of the UTA bombing, to pay appropriate compensation to the victims, and to cease all support for terrorism. Abdel Meguid, Secretary General of the Arab League, it's our understanding, is traveling to Tripoli to discuss the proposal. If the Arab League does succeed in obtaining full and prompt Libyan compliance with all the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 731, we would view that, obviously, as a positive step. However, Arab League action is not an alternative to full compliance with the terms of the Security Council Resolution. History would suggest that we should be skeptical that this is an indeed a good-faith offer. We suspect that Libya is once again trying to find another way to buy time and avoid complying with its obligations to the international community. The U.N. Security Council is continuing to discuss actively a proposed resolution on the UTA and Pan Am bombings because of our determination that state-sponsored terrorism be eliminated. Contrary to a report that I saw the last hour, there is no pause in our U.N. activity. Our bottom line is that Libya must comply fully with all the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 731 which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council. Q Margaret, when you -- I wish you could elaborate a little bit on when you talk about "Arab League action." You know, in your statement that Arab League action is no substitute or no alternative for what you want, I'd like to pursue it with you. I mean, I don't understand. If the Arab League is only a way station to the suspects being turned over, isn't that satisfactory? Or, alternatively, are you concerned that the Arab League would not be a channel, would not be sincere, that they would somehow try to deflect any punishment of these people? This has happened before. MS. TUTWILER: It's not a concern about the Arab League's actions, Barry. It is a concern, number one, a lack of knowledge. Number one, all we have is a public statement that they are going to release these two individuals to the Arab League. Well, then what? Then what is the Arab League supposed to do? What we are saying is that not only would we like to understand what in the world are they talking about here, but there are three other "must do's" contained in Resolution 731. So to the Arab League, to the world, we all are in unison, saying that this resolution passed unanimously, and that Libya knows what it must do, and it must abide by all four things called for in the resolution. But we honestly don't have -- and we have tried to get in 24 hours from the United Nations Secretary General's office, from other governments who have been having conversations, and from the Arab League itself -- you know, exactly what is this proposal, what's involved, what are you going to do, what's going on. And the extent of it at this moment in time is basically what I have told you, what we know. Q What about your campaign to impose an embargo, an international embargo, sanctions? Do you want that to proceed even while you're trying to find out? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. I just said there was a report in the last 45 minutes on some -- I think it was a wire story before I came down here, saying that there had been a pause at the United Nations working on this second resolution. I've said that's not the case, there is no pause, and that we are actively working as we have been last week and -- what -- two days into this week on this second resolution at the United Nations, which includes in part an air Embargo which we discussed last week. Q Isn't the State Department concerned that this may be a divisive initiative? I mean, the French and the British and others seem to be less skeptical of the offer. Are you sure all the allies -- hasn't Libya played -- now succeeded in splitting the "Big Three"? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Well, they're not as skeptical as Ambassador Pickering, Marlin Fitzwater and Margaret Tutwiler. MS. TUTWILER: Well, you must have a more thorough reading of the French Government and the British Government than I do. I'm not aware of any difference in -- at this moment in time, Barry, based on what we know -- the conclusions that we have come to, which is basically what I've enunciated: That we basically suspect that they are buying time and avoiding complying. Q The Foreign Office said yesterday that when they first heard about this, that they would in fact be prepared to wait a while and see what happened. They held quite an unusual briefing and said that -- indeed that they had received the Libyan offer, and that they were prepared to wait a while at the United Nations to see what happened. So it is a different position than the one you have. MS. TUTWILER: Well, you have different information than the information that I have, and my information is that there is no pause in our deliberations at the United Nations right now. I will be more than happy to stand corrected to a briefing that you're aware of yesterday that I'm not. But, having checked this morning with our officials that are working today at the United Nations, they said there's no truth to the story that there is a pause at the United Nations. So I'll be happy to go back and re-look, Jan. Q What are they waiting for? I mean, you've had the resolution out there for a number of days now. MS. TUTWILER: It's a draft resolution. We're still working the language in the draft is my understanding. Q And is there general support for this resolution in terms of the consultations you've had so far? MS. TUTWILER: I don't like to do predictions for you or vote counts. We'll wait and see, and there's not a time yet -- that's my understanding -- for an actual vote. Q Margaret, since the Arab League has requested or appealed to the United States and the United Nations not to undertake this step of sanctions and wait for implementation of what Libya has said, are you entertaining the thought of giving a deadline, for instance, for the Arab League to receive the two accused Libyans in order to possibly find an interim period? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't -- Q It's not buying time from one side, but to avoid any confrontation, because I think the Arab League now is sincere about what they were talking about -- to avoid any confrontation between the West and Libya on this matter. MS. TUTWILER: That may well be, but the Arab League also knows that there are four conditions contained in United Nations Resolution 731. The only information that we have -- that I believe is the same information that you have -- is a public statement concerning itself with one portion of Resolution 731, and that is even not fleshed out with a whole lot of detail, other than turning two individuals over to the Arab League. Q But my understanding is that -- MS. TUTWILER: And I've never heard -- excuse me -- the first part of your question. I am not aware of anyone who's discussing a deadline, but I'll be happy to check for you. Q Please. My understanding is that there are two or three stages: To give them to the Arab League, then to the United Nations, and -- MS. TUTWILER: It's all in the rumor mill. I've read all those rumors. But in our conversations with the United Nations, with the Arab League, the Secretary General's office, with other governments, none of us know from Libya that those indeed are the next steps. And so that's why I've characterized it as we know one portion of a resolution, and even that one portion we don't know what in the world they have in mind for next steps. I've read all those types of rumors, but in our view that is all just speculative rumors. Q Margaret, what does the U.S. want on the fourth point -- stop sponsoring terrorism? What is the U.S. looking for -- a statement, a declaration, or acts? I mean -- MS. TUTWILER: That would be a nice beginning, and I know that our counter-terrorism people -- the people who are experts in watching people who obviously support state-sponsored terrorism -- have their ways and means of verifying, if indeed such a statement were made, that indeed they weren't just idle, empty words, that they indeed were ceasing and desisting. I don't have a laundry list for you. The experts may well have one. I just don't. Q But, I mean, it sounds like -- you know, it sounds like until you have evidence that -- and you couldn't get it in one day -- until you had evidence that Libya's done a turn-about in its support of terrorism, you would go ahead with the sanctions. The other things can be -- presumably they'll either meet or not meet those conditions, but this condition is kind of a generalized condition that would take -- MS. TUTWILER: Well, again -- Q -- quite a bit of showing to prove that it's been met. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Again, I don't know what the United Nations criteria or standards are going to be -- have you or have you not met them. Just on my own, it would seem for starters a public statement would certainly, you know, be appreciated. I'm not aware of any such public statement that has been made since this United Nations resolution has passed. But, again, that would be a United Nations Security Council decision; not mine. Q Well, wouldn't the minimum condition be the expulsion, for instance, of the Abu Nidal office in Tripoli -- the closure of that office and -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't know again if the United Nations has spelled out the specifics of what it is it would take to say they were in compliance with that portion of the resolution. I'll be happy to see if there's further language in the resolution that I personally am just not up to speed on. Q Could you check specifically whether that includes the closure of Abu Nidal's office in Tripoli? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q And Abu Nidal himself is believed -- I still think he is believed to be in Tripoli. MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q Can I ask one question about this issue? Since this is a different situation from the allies and the Alliance against Iraq, it looks like that what I see or what I heard or read, that there is a consensus among the Arab League members that they really don't want any confrontation between the West and Libya. And one big ally, you know, very, very strong ally of the United States, which is Egypt, which is almost, if I can interpret what they are saying, they want to vouch for Libya to do this and to deliver and to go through with this whole process of delivering these suspects. Do you have any concern that you are going to possibly create an atmosphere between your allies in the Arab world over not extending the time and saying that there is more period of time and possibly setting a deadline for this matter? MS. TUTWILER: No. And we don't view the Arab League's statement as one that changes the facts of our position on Libya, nor does it change the fact that I believe it's 441 men, women and children were killed, and they represented, I believe, over 30 nations of this world. And I'm not aware of anyone in the Arab League -- obviously, with the exception of Libya -- that does not agree with the unanimously supported U.N. resolution that was passed; that we have said here many times we have in our view irrefutable evidence that these two men did this barbaric act, and that they should be brought to justice. Q Well, let's approach it the opposite way then: why don't you simply say that you don't need the Arab League to be some sort of a channel or a vehicle or a clearing house who should be brought to justice or not? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know what you're trying to -- Q I don't know how the Arab League got to be the -- you know, some sort of a gatekeeper for prosecution of people who are suspected of causing those deaths? Why are you willing to wait and see what Abdel Meguid can find out? I mean, why don't you just demand that they be turned over to the proper authorities and -- MS. TUTWILER: I just did today. I said it twice. Q But it looks like you're going along with the Arab League as a possible arrangement. You're skeptical -- MS. TUTWILER: That's your interpretation. Q No. My interpretation is that you think Libya is playing around. That's fine. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you. Q Right. MS. TUTWILER: We got that right. We're in agreement. Q We got that right. But why are you playing around with the Arab League? Why don't you simply say: "Forget it, we just want these folks directly. We don't need anybody to clear suspects for us."? MS. TUTWILER: Barry, I think I have said what it is that Libya is supposed to do. I do not know that the Arab League solicited this offer yesterday. So why in the world would I come out here and say something negative about the Arab League if this came as news to them yesterday and was lobbed across their transom? What are we supposed to do? Somebody made a public statement yesterday. Q (Inaudible) if Fairfax County (inaudible) wait to see if Albania says it's all right to -- MS. TUTWILER: I didn't say we are waiting. Q -- bring them before a grand jury. MS. TUTWILER: Where have I said today that we're waiting? Q You haven't. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you. We agree on that. I have not. I have said we're actively working it at the United Nations. We haven't stopped that effort. As you know, as was just pointed out, that is an effort that some very much wish would stop. We haven't stopped it. We're up there working on this second resolution, which includes a number of things, one of which we have publicly stated which is this air embargo. So we're well aware that Libya is not too interested in us pursuing what we are continuing to pursue, regardless of their offer yesterday to give these two people to the Arab League, and we have characterized what we think of it. Q Margaret, can we move along a bit? MS. TUTWILER: If you want. Q There's a report that's been carried, I believe, on Radio Monte Carlo and picked up by some Middle East media, that the Secretary -- to the effect that the Secretary is planning another visit to the region, beginning April 10. MS. TUTWILER: Really? That is something that I have heard about this morning from one of your colleagues. It is something that is made up out of whole cloth. There is absolutely no planning right now for a Secretary of State visit to -- where did you say? -- the region on April 10. So I don't know -- again, it's one of these irresponsible leaks, I guess, or people. I don't know where this came from, but there's no truth to it. Q There's no truth to the -- irregardless of the -- MS. TUTWILER: Seriously, there's not. I heard about it from you all this morning. Q Irregardless of -- I just want to make it clear -- irregardless of the date? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not playing games here. I'm not being cute with words. Obviously, I'm not going to stand here and say the Secretary of State will never, ever go to the region again. That's a totally different type of question. But I am not playing games -- Q "Irregardless" isn't in the dictionary. MS. TUTWILER: -- with words here at all. There is absolutely, positively no idea being floated, no secret plan. Nothing. Whether it's April, May, June, it just doesn't exist. Q How about -- can we move and ask -- move ahead and know now if the report of the Patriot inspection team will be made public? And aren't they -- don't they have about a day or two to go and will come back? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know how many days they're going to be there. We said, when we announced their visit, that it was agreed upon that they would be there a few days. I asked this morning. They're still in Israel working. I do not have a return time for them. So that I am clear, I do not know, as I said yesterday, if the report that comes back from -- what is it, 14 or 16 individuals? -- is going to be in a classified form, if it's going to be in an unclassified form. I just don't know that right now. I am positive that there will be something that we will have to say. I just don't -- Q I was going to say, can the conclusions be made public, presumably? MS. TUTWILER: I got asked this yesterday. I'm not trying to cause a problem. I don't know. As you know, many times -- because you've covered this place a lot longer than I have -- you get extremely frustrated, and I understand why, about what whoever stands here can or cannot say. I just don't know what we're going to say. Q I just wondered if it's going to be a public -- MS. TUTWILER: But "say something?" Yes, I am positive we will be saying something, as I said yesterday. But whether that "something" is what you want is what I tried to explain yesterday. I just have no way of knowing. I don't know yet.

[Cambodia: Visit of Prime Minister and Funding for Peacekeeping Force]

Q Margaret, do you have anything on the visit of the Cambodian Prime Minister? MS. TUTWILER: No, but I believe I saw that he's seeing Arnie Kanter today. Sorry, no, I don't, but I'll get you something, isn't it this afternoon? Q This afternoon. MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I'll get you something. Q Margaret, to follow up on that. He specifically is expressing concern that countries, including the United States, aren't moving quickly enough to fork over their contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping operation. MS. TUTWILER: Peacekeeping. Q Whatever taken question you sort of return to us, could you address that issue? MS. TUTWILER: It's something that you know the Secretary spent a great deal of time on recently in testimony. We are committed to paying our fair share. We recognize the increase. We recognize it's a large amount of money, but it is something that the Secretary made quite clear how committed we are to paying our share of this and that it's important to pay our share of this peacekeeping. But the specifics of where we are, to be honest with you, gets a little bit wrapped up in our legislative strategy right now on several matters -- Q Speaking of that -- MS. TUTWILER: -- and there are no answers on that today. Q -- doesn't the Secretary testify this week? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I know of. Q Not this week. MS. TUTWILER: I wish it were true because then we wouldn't all be here. If there's such a testimony, I don't know about it. Q Next week maybe? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think there were any future -- Reggie (Bartholomew) is testifying today. I'm not aware of a Secretary testimony.

[Trade: US Ambassadors to Promote US Goods and Services in Southeast Asia]

Q Continuing in southeast Asia. What's the new initiative, or the heightened emphasis on commercial relations that American Ambassadors seem to be briefed with or instructed to do vis-a-vis southeast Asia and this swing through the United States to look at shoe factories and things like that? Could you give us something on that? MS. TUTWILER: I'll be happy to -- I'm aware of the mission that the Ambassadors are on. I'm not sure exactly what your specific question is. I believe it's the Economic Bureau, to be honest with you, that has organized this mission. I'll see if they can you some more fleshed-out detail. Q A more specific question then: What is the mission? Why the increased attention to -- MS. TUTWILER: I believe we've put all that out. But if we have not, then I'll be happy to see that we do for you. But I believe it's all been announced, and I believe they're all having press conferences in the very cities they're in. Q Margaret, there was a story last night on Israeli television that the team, which is in Israel now -- the American team -- will finish their work or their investigation by Thursday? MS. TUTWILER: Well, they know something, then, that I don't know, and that would fall very similarly in the question Alan asked me: If the Secretary of State is going to the region on April 10. I would tell you if I knew. I don't know. I asked this morning and there's no answer to when the team is returning. Q That's the report? The results of the investigation will be kept secret? It will not be made public? MS. TUTWILER: I've never said they would be secret. I just answered that question with Barry. I have said we will have something to say, but I do not know how or what shape or what classification this mission's report -- I don't even know, for instance, if they will put something in writing. I don't know if it will be a verbal report. If so, to who? I just don't have those answers. But that we will say something, of course, we will say something. I just don't know what it will be. Q So, Margaret, will what you say be classified? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. Or I'll probably come out here and say it's an intelligence matter and it's classified, and so I don't have anything to say. I just don't know. But I am well aware of the interest, obviously -- and it's a natural interest and it's a fair interest -- in what were the conclusions of this mission. Q So if you don't find any violations, it's really hard to classify that, isn't it? MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q There's nothing to keep secret? MS. TUTWILER: Right. I'm not saying that we are. I've never said that. Q Margaret, do you have anything on the meeting with Antonio Lacayo? MS. TUTWILER: With who? MS. TUTWILER: The Secretary's meeting with Lacayo? MS. TUTWILER: No.

[Former Soviet Union: St. Petersburg Nuclear Reactor's Stage 3 Incident]

Q Margaret, on the nuclear scare in the plant near St. Petersburg -- first of all, I see you shuffling through your papers. MS. TUTWILER: I have something, Alan. I have a lot. Q After that, maybe I can have a follow-up. MS. TUTWILER: I won't need to tell you all this if you don't want to know it. What is it that you want to know. Q Everything. Q I want to know what you know. (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: Then I'll tell you what I know. The incident took place in the third unit at a reactor located approximately 60 kilometers from the center of St. Petersburg. The reactor is an RBMK reactor. That is the same design as the Chernobyl reactor. The incident took place at 2:37 a.m. local time. As we understand it, the automatic shutdown system was triggered when a hermetic seal to one of the fuel channels ruptured. This created an area of low pressure and allowed inert gases and some iodine to escape into the reactor building. The gases were eventually vented to the atmosphere through filters in the reactor building. We have no reports that the release constituted a radioactive hazard to the local population. As of 1:00 p.m. local time, the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg reported that Russian officials had declared that the radioactive situation in the area was normal. The Consulate is monitoring the situation and has distributed a notice to American citizens informing them that there is no known health risk resulting from the incident. This was what's characterized, Alan, as a Stage 3 incident. I will explain what a Stage 3 incident is. The Russian authorities reported the incident to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The IAEA has issued a statement declaring this as a serious incident, Level 3 on their international nuclear event scale. According to the IAEA, a Level 3 incident means there is contamination at the site but there is only a very small release off-site. Their scale -- the IAEA scale -- runs from 1, which is the lowest level incident, to 7. The Three Mile Island accident was a Level 5 on their scale. Chernobyl was a Level 7. Got this, Alan? In 1989, there was a reactor accident in Spain which did not result in an external release of radioactivity, nor damage to the reactor core, and that also is classified as a Level 3 incident. Q Did the Consulate go on vacation? MS. TUTWILER: Go on vacation? Q Did anybody apply for vacation? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I know of.

[Former Soviet Union: US Assistance to Strengthen Nuclear Safety]

Q Margaret, my question is this: The United States -- the Congress has allocated $400 million for the dismantling of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. Several experts say that the danger presented by civilian nuclear plants is even greater in terms of their sloppy maintenance which is deteriorating -- bad training, low motivation, lack of spare parts, etc. Would the United States be prepared to consider allocating some of that $400 million, or finding other funds, for the purpose of enhancing nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union? MS. TUTWILER: In fact, we've already had those discussions. And just for the record, can I give you -- there are four areas where we are working on this. One is the most recent one, which you address yourself to. The United States has recognized the severity of nuclear reactor safety problems in the former Soviet Union for several years and has been cooperating both bilaterally and through international organizations in an effort to help reduce those problems and avoid future Chernobyls. Number One: Since 1988, the United States has participated in an extensive joint program on nuclear reactor safety with the former Soviet Union. The U.S. side, led by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and supported by the Department of Energy, has pursued such goals as improving operator-training, modernizing aging facilities, and strengthening safety regulations. Number Two: We have supported the International Atomic Energy Agency's safety evaluation of nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union. We have participated in IAEA safety review missions to two -- Soviet -- Russian reactors, and will be sending a representative to meetings in April on the safety of RBMK reactors. Number Three: At the recent Washington Coordinating Conference, there was broad support for providing further assistance to the former Soviet Union in the area of nuclear reactor safety, and we are following up with other concerned parties. Finally, Number Four: The United States recently co-sponsored the creation of an international science and technology center that will give weapons scientists, in the former Soviet Union, opportunities to redirect their efforts to non-military endeavors. We have held discussions with the center's founding parties, and there is broad agreement that the first projects funded by the center will include projects in the area of nuclear reactor safety. Q May we have copies of the -- MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q Margaret, can we go back to -- Q No, no. I'm not finished. There's particular concern about a reactor in Armenia which was shut down after the earthquake in 1989, and which I'm told is actually sitting on the juncture point of two geophysical faults, and the Armenian Government has apparently announced it wants to reopen it and put it back on line, especially in light of the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and the possible danger of terrorism affecting that reactor. Is the United States making any representations to Armenia about not reopening that reactor? MS. TUTWILER: It's a situation I'm not familiar with, and I'll be happy to ask. Q Margaret, could we go back to the Georgia thing, if there's a little more there -- MS. TUTWILER: Georgia? Q Yes. You spoke of being satisfied that they'll make the necessary affirmations -- you know, a free market democracy. MS. TUTWILER: And things that had happened on the ground. Q That's what I was going to ask. Can you give us examples? Do you have anything that builds your confidence? MS. TUTWILER: I do. In recent weeks, the new Georgian Government, headed by Eduard Shevardnadze, has taken steps to restore civilian rule, begin a dialogue on national reconciliation, and committed itself to hold parliamentary elections this year. Restrictions imposed by President Gamsakhurdia on the press and on the creation of political parties have been lifted. The government has acted to quell ethnic violence by sending representatives to south Ossetia and other regions of ethnic unrest to begin a dialogue with the ethnic communities in those regions. Q Has Baker been in touch Shevardnadze in this role, by the way? MS. TUTWILER: Other than the formal letter that we received yesterday in his capacity as Chairman, no. Obviously, the Secretary, after talking to the President, we have officially responded. Q One little follow up on the team in Israel. The reports out of Israel are saying that when the team is inspecting these sites, they actually posted guards, I think, overnight at the sites. That the U.S. -- MS. TUTWILER: Who did? We did? Q Yes. I thought this was very strange because whose missiles are they, anyway, and -- MS. TUTWILER: Where did we get the guards? I thought the team was only 14 or 16 people. Q Just 17 people, I think. But I wonder whether you knew anything about that, whether -- MS. TUTWILER: I really haven't heard of it; and where would the guards come from? (Press briefing concluded at 12:40 p.m.)