US Department of State Daily Briefing #61: Thursday, 4/23/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Apr, 23 19924/23/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Subsaharan Africa, North America, Southeast Asia, E/C Europe Country: Israel, USSR (former), Georgia, Afghanistan, Mexico, South Africa, Lebanon, Thailand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Iraq Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Development/Relief Aid, Arms Control, Military Affairs, CSCE, Security Assistance and Sales, Nuclear Nonproliferation 12:05 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Georgia: Opening of US Embassy in Tbilisi]

MS. TUTWILER: I have one announcement I'd like to make. It concerns the opening of our Embassy in Tbilisi. The United States Government is pleased to announce the formal opening of its Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. State Department personnel have been in Tbilisi since April 15, as we had announced they would be. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Mr. Cavanaugh raised the United States flag at a ceremony today that marked the formal opening of our Embassy in Tbilisi. Attending the formal opening were the Chairman of the Georgian State Council, Eduard Shevardnadze, and other leaders of the Georgian Government, members of the American community in Georgia, and visiting Senator Alan Cranston. The United States Embassy currently occupies offices at a local hotel, the spelling of which I can give you after the briefing, if you want to know. The establishment of a U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi is an historic event for both nations. It is a key step in the continuing development of strong ties between Georgia and the United States. With the opening of the Embassy in Tbilisi, the United States Government has now established embassies in each of the capitals of the new states of the former Soviet Union. I would also like to let you know, we had mentioned several weeks ago that we were sending humanitarian aid, assistance into Georgia. That is supposed to arrive in Georgia next week. Those flights are being staged through Turkey. The shipments will come to about 150,000 pounds and will include vaccines and other medical supplies for the largest women's and children's hospital in Georgia. American doctors and nurses will be travelling with the shipments. State Council Chairman Shevardnadze has been personally involved in helping arrange these shipments. On the United States side, we are working with a private voluntary organization: The Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Additional humanitarian assistance will arrive in the weeks ahead. And, as you know, Georgia has been the only one of the newly independent states which has not, to date, received such shipments or supplies, and we're very glad to open our Embassy in Tbilisi and at the same time be able to take humanitarian assistance to the people of Georgia. Q Is this a single airplane -- MS. TUTWILER: A single airplane? To be honest with you, I didn't check with Rich Armitage. Q (Inaudible) airport mined? MS. TUTWILER: Apparently not, or we wouldn't be going. Q Has Secretary Baker been in touch with his old friend, Mr. Shevardnadze, about all of this? MS. TUTWILER: About this? Q Yeah. MS. TUTWILER: Not that I know of, no. Q Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. Just so I'm totally accurate with you, the last time we saw him in Moscow, we had dinner with him. The Secretary explained the runway situation to him in person. He explained why at that time we were not able to make Georgia part of our operation Provide Hope. He also at that time said that depending on how things evolved in Georgia he hoped that the United States would, indeed, be able to open and establish an embassy. So they have had a conversation on it before. Q When you say Shevardnadze was personally involved in this supplying of food and so forth, what do you mean? MS. TUTWILER: What do I mean? I'm sure it's similar, Don, to other efforts he's been involved in. He works with private American groups here in the United States. They get in contact with him. I don't have the literal details on this one. But he was -- about two months ago, we announced a Project Hope shipment that was not going to Georgia. It was when he was still in Moscow that he personally was involved with the Project Hope people in San Francisco. Q When does Secretary Baker plan to visit Georgia for the first time? MS. TUTWILER: I have no idea. He certainly wants to go there, as he's told you many times, but there are no scheduled plans right now. Q Margaret, can we ask about Afghanistan? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q The guerrillas are poised, ready to move into the city. Does the State Department have a position on whether they should enter Kabul or whether they should hold back? What is your position on the march to Kabul? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding -- you describe it as a "march to Kabul." That's not exactly how we would describe it. Our understanding is that Kabul remains calm. Resistance leaders outside the city and the ruling council remain in contact. Discussions are continuing among resistance groups on forming a new government. The U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan continues to assist in these negotiations. We are very encouraged by calls from Commander Masood for broad representation within a new ruling body. In our view, this is the path to resolution of the Afghan conflict. We regret the tragic death of an International Committee of the Red Cross worker who was shot outside of Kabul yesterday, and we repeat our call for all sides to exercise restraint and to respect the safety of international representatives. We continue to urge all Afghan factions to cooperate with the United Nations representative, Mr. Sevan. We support his efforts to assist in finding a way for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power to a new government that enjoys broad support. Q Margaret, that's a prepared statement. MS. TUTWILER: That's correct. Q I'm trying to get an answer to a live question. The question -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm trying to answer it. Q I know you were going to read that no matter what anybody asked on Afghanistan. MS. TUTWILER: That's right. Q But I'm trying to address the instant situation. You addressed a couple of the items there. The question before the House, which you may or may not want to answer, is whether the rebels -- you call them "resistance." Well, there's nothing to resist against anymore. The government has fallen. Should these folks move into Kabul, is that what -- you've been calling for an end to fighting. Now their path has been rather easy, but I'm not sure that it will be that easy getting into Kabul. Do you think they should keep marching into Kabul? MS. TUTWILER: I will continue to characterize my answer as you continue to pose the question to me as "march into Kabul." We do not have any evidence -- Q Should they enter Kabul. MS. TUTWILER: Do you want me to answer? Q Leave the verb out. Should they enter Kabul? MS. TUTWILER: What we are for, Barry, which we have been consistent in every day, is for the Afghan people to work this out peacefully. I just told you that we are very encouraged that the factions are continuing to talk. We are very encouraged that everyone so far to date has acted responsibly. They have not taken arms into their hands and gone and just blatantly killed people. We are very much supportive, strongly supporting the efforts of the U.N. Special Representative who is there, who is working untold hours, talking to all the factions, all the elements to try to resolve this transition in a peaceful manner. I am not aware and have no independent knowledge that they are marching to Kabul, as you've characterized it. Maybe there's something that's happened since I left my office. Q Where are these meetings taking place? Are you talking about the Masood people talking to the arch-fundamentalists? Are they in touch with each other to form some sort of a coalition; is that what you're saying? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know who -- I can't give you a readout. This is a fluid situation, as you know. It's still sorting itself out there not only in Kabul but outside of Kabul. I reported to you yesterday that the U.N. Special Representative had had meetings with groups outside of the city. I don't know if he has today, and I do not have a literal readout of who all he is meeting with. But we personally, right now, are encouraged by -- to date, as I said -- the responsible, so far, positions that everyone so far has taken. It is our hope and prayer that this will be -- this transition will evolve in a peaceful manner. That is what we're supporting -- this gentleman's efforts, and what he is continuing to do. Q In your statement, you spoke about the resistance leaders being in contact. You meant among themselves -- between each other; right? You don't mean with the U.S., do you? There was a thought there that wasn't clear to me. It said the resistance leaders are in contact, but we're in -- I don't know. Is the U.S. in contact with these leaders, or are you talking about them talking to themselves -- to each other? MS. TUTWILER: I think that we ourselves -- as I've said before, we have talked to people; other nations are talking to people; they're talking to each other on the ground. Overall, we view there has been a commendable restraint by the elements that are there on the ground. Q There are two major groups: The Masood group and -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm aware of that. Q -- an arch fundamentalist group. Is the U.S. talking to those two groups? MS. TUTWILER: I'll ask your literal question. I did not ask it this morning. I don't know if a specific U.S. official has spoken in the last, let's say, 24 hours to representatives of those two groups. I didn't ask that question. Q Even 77 hours. I don't care. MS. TUTWILER: All right, 77. I haven't asked. Q You're saying we're in contact with groups, and I'm trying to bring this down to reality and ask you if you are talking to the leading groups -- these being the two leading groups. One is fundamentalist much more than the other; there's some friction. They have opposite aims. The question is: is the U.S. working both sides of the street? Who are you talking to? MS. TUTWILER: That's a very valid question. It is one that I will ask Ambassador Djerejian as soon as we finish the briefing. I literally don't know. Q And do you have any answer to yesterday's question, whether the arms that the United States provided covertly to all these people that you've asked them to lay down -- have these arms been returned; are any of them coming back? Are they getting out of the hands of the guerrillas? MS. TUTWILER: I got it. I can go one sentence further for you today. Let me repeat what I said yesterday, which is that we undertook in our September 13, 1991 agreement with the Soviets to work toward the withdrawal of major weapons systems from Afghanistan. That's what I stated yesterday. We are actively working on this. Q You're working on it? MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q You're not telling me that you succeeded; you're working on it? MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q Now, what about Boutros Ghali going there. MS. TUTWILER: Who? Q The U.N. Secretary General. Does the United States support his effort? He's leaving from India for Afghanistan. MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is that, as we do in all cases, we refer you to his office for his onward travel. We don't discuss his future travel. Q I know where he's going. I'm asking you if you're supporting his mission? MS. TUTWILER: His office has asked us not to discuss it here at this podium. Q Have you had any success in actively working on this, meaning getting back any of the Stinger missiles which the U.S. has been trying to get back? MS. TUTWILER: Beyond the additional sentence that I was able to give you today, I will be unable to give you any further details concerning this matter. Q Margaret, coming back for just a second to the political situation. Does the U.S. definition of "peaceful transition" in Afghanistan include a peaceful departure or an orderly departure or safe departure of Najibullah? MS. TUTWILER: That's something, Ralph, that we have refrained form discussing. It is something, obviously, that is extremely sensitive and that the United Nations Special Representative there on the ground is working on. It is something that we're going to honor, as I have seen that others have, a request that we not discuss that. The only thing I can tell you is that he remains in Kabul. Q When you call for restraint and responsible positions -- but you use the word "restraint." When you call for that, does that apply not only to attacks on Kabul and militant movements and military activities in Kabul, but is it also meant to apply to the fate of Najibullah? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know of anyone that the United States Government supports being killed, if that's what you're asking me, even no matter how radically we disagree with him or have disagreed with him in the past. Q That's true, although there are some people the United States would shed no tears over if they disappeared. MS. TUTWILER: That's correct. Q I'm trying to get a characterization of that sort, to get a feel for how the U.S. feels about Najibullah's fate. The U.S. would shed no tears over him also? MS. TUTWILER: This is a person, Ralph, who has voluntarily stepped aside in his government. It's my understanding that he has a wife, he has children. This is a very sensitive situation. The U.N. Special Representative is personally involved and is working there on the ground with the parties. He has respectfully asked our Government and other governments that we not discuss the specifics that he is sharing with us, and I'm going to honor that request. Q Margaret, all the factions are calling for Najibullah to be put on trial. Does the United States have a position? You and the previous Administration berated him for six long years as being a despot. Now, all the factions that have succeeded in overthrowing him, or forcing him to withdraw, want him to be put on trial. Does the U.S. think he should be put on trial? MS. TUTWILER: That's honestly the first I've heard of that. I have not heard it either verbally or read it in any of my own reading here at the Department, so I've never had to seek a characterization of that. Again, I go back to Ralph's question. This is someone who has stepped aside, who has resigned, who is not in power. I don't know, to be honest with you, what all the factions there want done. I just have not heard that. Q I just want to know if the U.S. thinks he ought to be tried. Could you try to get an answer, if you don't have it off the top of your head? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I'll be happy to. Q Does the United States have any evidence that Stinger missiles have been used in the last ten days? MS. TUTWILER: Not to my knowledge, but I'll be perfectly honest with you and tell you it's something I haven't asked. Q Could you? MS. TUTWILER: I'll look into it. Q Margaret, the U.N. Special Envoy, Benon Sevan, had public remarks this morning -- very pessimistic. He said nobody was ready to compromise and that Afghanistan was a powder keg. I wonder if those remarks about you being encouraged by some statements by Commander Masood were prepared before Sevan made his public remarks? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know where these two things crossed in the daylight. As you know, in this age of information, it's next to humanly impossible to stay up on every single thing. I have talked myself personally with Ambassador Djerejian about this situation this morning. I've talked to the expert who is the expert for this building. Your statement which you've just read to me, to my knowledge, he hasn't seen. I know I had not, so they must have passed. I don't know. Q You said you have another statement? MS. TUTWILER: No. My only one was on Tbilisi. Q Just sort of an update for a moment on -- where do we stand on the invitations to the regional -- Middle East regional talks? MS. TUTWILER: They were supposed to go out yesterday, and I forgot to ask this morning if they did. I told you yesterday I thought they were going out. I'm sorry. I'll check with Djerejian. I don't know. Q Has Mr. Johnson given a report to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary? MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. I might know the answer to that. I don't think they went out yesterday. So they'll probably be going out today. Q Has Ralph Johnson given a report to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary, and do you have anything? MS. TUTWILER: First thing this morning, to both gentlemen. He gave them a full debrief of his trip. In general, Mr. Johnson stressed, while there, to all of his interlocutors, particularly Serbian President Milosevic, and the JNA leadership, that the quality of their future relationship with the United States will depend on how they conduct themselves in the on-going conflict in the former Yugoslav republics. He underscored that those leaders and governments who support violence will find that their actions will have a direct and negative effect on our relationship with them. The pursuit of policies of violence and disruption will inevitably lead to their isolation from the international community, is what Ralph told them. As you know, he went to a number of republics and met with a wide range of people. He went through each stop that he made, or each meeting this morning, with the Secretary. He also said, or left a message that we will be judging the results of what all Mr. Johnson had to say to them on the basis of actions of the parties with whom he spoke, not words. Q Did he offer any kind of his own -- assessment or prognosis of what's going to happen there, and a recommendation of what the United States should do? MS. TUTWILER: I couldn't characterize it in those terms. He obviously gave the Secretary an overall assessment -- that was part of the debrief -- and went into quite some detail of the discussions that he had had with the various different leaders. This meeting wasn't designed -- it was a debrief -- to discuss next steps. As you know, we have called for the special meeting on April 29. That is the next step. So there was nothing that was intended in this particular meeting to discuss what kind of thing next. We know what we're doing next. It's next Wednesday, I believe -- on April 29. I believe Assistant Secretary Niles did a briefing at the White House -- I believe yesterday -- on this subject also where he discussed this. Q Was there any consideration in the interim -- between the time Ralph Johnson got back and the time the April 29 meeting convenes -- of the U.S. taking action on recognition -- I'll call it "recognition" -- of the Serbian leaders, Milosevic ∧ Co., in Belgrade? MS. TUTWILER: Of us doing what? Q Of changing the state of U.S. recognition of that? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of. I hadn't heard anybody talk about that. Q You use the phrase "isolation from the international community." Could you be more specific? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know what will happen. As you know, on April 29, we have said that if behaviors do not change we would be prepared -- as you know, all nations who were there voted, too -- to seriously consider and discuss suspension from the CSCE. That is a form of isolation. There's nothing further that I have that's a specific on that for you. Q Did he -- or would you characterize Milosevic at this point as unbudging? MS. TUTWIL0ER: I don't want to do that. Ralph [Johnson] left a strong message with him. It is no different than the message that Deputy Secretary of State Eagleburger has continued to give those people who are here. The President has, the Secretary of State has. It was the same message. I will leave it to the President to characterize what his reaction was to the visit. Again, we said that what we're looking for are actions, not words.

[Bosnia: Situation Update]

Q Margaret, do you have an update on the situation in Bosnia? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Last night and this morning, Serbian forces launched heavy attacks against Sarajevo, including intensive shelling. Damage to the old section of the city is severe. Shells hit, among other structures, a Mosque, a Muslim library and the oldest Muslim cemetery in the city. We do not have any estimates of civilian casualties. For the moment, the shelling has stopped. Sarajevo is fairly quiet, but sniper fire continues. The Government of Bosnia-Hercegovina's defense forces, mainly composed of Muslim soldiers but also including Serbians and Croats, continue to defend Sarajevo. We commend the Government of Bosnia for its efforts to maintain unity among its ethnic groups and to avoid turning the battle of Sarajevo into a purely ethnic conflict. Militant Serbian forces are maintaining a virtual blockade around Sarajevo. Their leaders are explicitly demanding a partition of the city along ethnic lines. Normal commerce remains impossible. The food situation in Sarajevo is very serious and worsening. Because of the fighting, Western relief workers are unable to distribute aid. They report that food shortages will soon become critical, especially for children and the elderly. We are aware of reports of significant numbers of Croatian troops in western Hercegovina. It is a matter we are looking into. If the reports are true, obviously we will condemn this action also. We are also concerned about reports that Croatian officials in the town of Capljina are refusing to allow the withdrawal of JNA troops from their local base. We have raised this issue with the Croatian authorities. We categorically reject all efforts to use force and intimidation to divide Bosnia-Hercegovina or challenge its legitimate government. It's my understanding -- I did see one wire copy before I came down here -- that the Foreign Minister of Portugal who is -- Portugal, as you know, is the Presidency of the EC right now -- is on the wires as saying -- as you know, he is in Sarajevo -- I'm quoting a wire copy: "That the three sides have agreed to sign a declaration to respect the April 12 cease-fire and to do the utmost to make it a reality immediately." That's the three sides in Bosnia. Q Is Sarajevo cut off from the outside world at this point? If we wanted to send in further aid flights, could we? MS. TUTWILER: They -- it's my understanding, this flight, with -- I believe Lord Carrington is with them, and other EC officials -- landed there. It's my understanding they met at the airport, because it is not safe for them to go into town. Former Secretary of State Vance landed and took off from there recently. I don't know how to exactly -- I mean, obviously, some things are cut off -- it's not working normally -- and it's a very serious situation. Q Have you figured out what the Croats are up to? You -- in one section you compliment them for defending the capital, and in the next section you accuse them again -- as you did last week -- of launching attacks. Is there some pattern to this, or is it just coincidence, or what? MS. TUTWILER: Well, as you know, we -- Q I mean, there are irregulars, and there are, you know -- MS. TUTWILER: There are Croatians -- Q -- who knows -- you know, they're -- MS. TUTWILER: -- from Croatia. There are Croatian irregulars. There are Serbians. There are Serbian irregulars. There's the JNA. Yesterday we said the Muslims that live in Bosnia. So there are -- as we said, no one's blameless here. And so -- Q No, no. I know. But you had a little -- MS. TUTWILER: I did. Q -- compliment for them for defending the -- MS. TUTWILER: The Croatians that live in Bosnia. Q Oh. They're locals. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q Do you have any update on the situation in Guadalajara and whether any Americans or other -- the tabulation of other foreigners that might be killed? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have an update, Connie, and there were no Americans that were either hurt or casualties. Q Are you sending any aid? MS. TUTWILER: Not at this moment, no. We haven't been requested, and our Ambassador has not authorized the $25,000. I'm sorry. You had a question on Yugoslavia. Q Yes. Back to Yugoslavia. Since no one's asked you today, has anyone -- has Johnson or anyone in the U.S. Government, in part of those discussions with the Serbian Government or leaders, included a specific warning that the U.S. might break whatever kind of diplomatic ties it has with the Serbian/Yugoslavian Government? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of, and Ralph [Johnson] did not mention that in his debrief to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary this morning that that was part of his message. Q On Yugoslavia again: Germany and The Netherlands called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Do you support that call? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard about that. I don't know what our position would be, but I don't know why we would object to it. But I haven't heard about that yet this morning. Q Again on the Afghan refugees, remember yesterday the question, whether the U.S. is doing anything to help them get home? MS. TUTWILER: Right. And we gave you the answer yesterday afternoon. Q I didn't notice it. MS. TUTWILER: Yes, we did. I read it this morning around 7:00. I'm sorry. I forgot to bring it with me. I don't remember what it was. Q O.K. Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: And also Jim Anderson, who's not here today, yesterday said we had published a figure of seven million for the refugees. We explained that in the same answer yesterday. The figures have changed, and he was correct about the two million that are in Iran, and there are other international organizations that helped them. MR. GEDDA: I asked that. MS. TUTWILER: George is correct. Q We went with George. MS. TUTWILER: George was correct. Q We went with George even though he's (inaudible) -- MS. TUTWILER: George was correct. Q We had a wire report and went with it. (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: Then it must be accurate. Q Well, you're always careful about wire reports. The Mideast situation. I think you volunteered to offer some assistance as to giving us the arrivals, even though you don't have any -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I did, and we don't have any. None of them have told us. We're assuming they're coming some time over the weekend. Someone asked me yesterday what time we thought they would begin on Monday. It's true that they will decide that. We suggested in our proposal, maybe 9:00 a.m., but we don't know if that's acceptable to all of them, and we don't know when any of them are arriving yet. When we get it, we'll give it to you. Q No planned Baker action at the outset, seeing heads of delegations and -- MS. TUTWILER: No. So far it hasn't come up. Q Do you have anything on proposals for an election for an interim government in South Africa? De Klerk made the proposal today. MS. TUTWILER: No. That's something else I don't know about. Q Want to look into it, please? MS. TUTWILER: I'll look into it. Q Margaret, on Lebanon, it's been reported that Defense Minister Michel Murr asked Ryan Crocker whether the United States would lift the arms embargo against Lebanon, and Crocker promised to reply within a few days. Do you have anything on that? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard of that either. Sorry. Q One more question on Stinger missiles. Why is it the U.S. wants to get these missiles back? MS. TUTWILER: I would assume that the United States would think that would be a prudent and responsible thing to do. But I have just said that it's something we're working towards, and today I was able to go a little bit further and say that we're actively working on this. Q By next week we'll actually know what's going on, maybe. MS. TUTWILER: (inaudible) (Laughter) Q Why is it prudent to get them back, and what difference does it make? MS. TUTWILER: Well, someone obviously thinks it does make a difference, and it's something that we have addressed, and that we have addressed -- as far back as September, it's my understanding -- with the Russians who also said they were going to work towards what they could possibly do. And so we, it's my understanding, are actively working on this. Q Is there some concern that these weapons might fall into the hands of the Iranians? MS. TUTWILER: I think that I -- obviously, just to be totally honest, I do not have a very good answer for you, and I'm not going to sit here and wing it. It's been very difficult to get even what we've been able to say about this subject in the last two days, to be able to say it, and I certainly don't want to go further than I feel comfortable going, to be honest. Q Margaret, another question on the Mideast, please. MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q There are reports that Israeli military commanders in the West Bank are going throughout the municipalities there, suggesting to Arab leaders that municipal elections might be a possibility in the future, and that in fact the Israelis plan to propose municipal elections at the peace talks here in Washington. Does the United States feel that municipal elections would be a good idea? MS. TUTWILER: We're not going to take a position, John, to be honest with you. We have seen any number of named and unnamed officials from the entire region discussing different things they are or are not coming to the fifth round with. And we think that it would be, to be honest with you, irresponsible to give an opinion in advance, since we can't judge yet until they get here exactly which one of these proposals, if any, that we have been reading are indeed what they will be tabling. The question of the nature and timing of elections is a matter for the parties to discuss at the negotiating table. We look to the parties themselves to resolve any differences in their positions. And I noticed on a wire copy this morning, Israeli officials who are negotiators are on the record saying they are not going to discuss any of these rumors or proposals that are floating around in the press. So it would be hard for me to give an opinion on something when I don't even know what they're going to actually put on the table or what they're coming with. Q Is it the U.S. position that we don't know what the Israelis plan to propose here? Is that what you're saying? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know whether an expert here or not has in-depth knowledge of exactly what any delegation is coming with. We obviously stay in constant communication with them, but that is their perogative and their business. But what I am saying is that I acknowledge and am aware of the various press reports of what the -- particularly you've suggested -- Israeli delegation is coming with. I'm equally aware of, for instance, Yosi Ben-Aharon who's on the record this morning refusing to discuss any of this. And he is, as you know, a leading negotiator who's coming to town. So it would be, in my opinion, extremely irresponsible for me to start freelancing on, well, maybe they're coming with this or that. Q I can understand your unwillingness to discuss it in a public forum, but it strains credulity to believe that the United States does not know what the Israelis plan to put on the table at these talks. MS. TUTWILER: Not in my mind. The United States goes to many meetings, and we do not tell in advance of them every single solitary thing that we plan to discuss with the parties we're going to meet with. I guess we could have shared before we met with Tariq Aziz Secretary Baker's brief -- we didn't -- nor did he share with us his. So do we have discussions, obviously, with the Israelis and with others -- yes. But do I know of my own knowledge that one of our experts or one of our officials knows exactly, verbatim, what the Israeli delegation is coming here with -- I can't tell you that I do know that. I really don't. Q As a matter of policy, aren't you in favor -- for years haven't you been in favor of elections on the West Bank to implement an autonomy plan? MS. TUTWILER: What I don't want to get drawn -- Q That's how this all began, didn't it -- MS. TUTWILER: I understand. Q -- with a proposal for elections. MS. TUTWILER: What I really want to avoid being drawn into here -- as you know, right now because the fifth round is beginning on Monday, there's a lot of speculation, there's a lot in the press, about what different people are coming with. I'm going to stick exactly where I am, which is, the question of the nature and timing of elections is a matter for the parties to discuss at the negotiating table. Q All right. Because you were asked about -- specifically about municipal elections. That's a specific form of election. MS. TUTWILER: I understand that. Q But on the principle of elections, when we left the last round, the U.S. State Department was unhappy and accused the Palestinians of playing to the media and posturing and not negotiating autonomy, which is the business at hand. Now, in a general sense, doesn't the U.S. support elections as a means of furthering an autonomy plan -- MS. TUTWILER: As a general -- Q Without getting into what kind of elections or when they should be held. MS. TUTWILER: Which I will not do. Q Right. I understand. MS. TUTWILER: As a matter of general principle, the United States, of course, supports the principle of elections, just as we do everywhere throughout the world. Q Does the U.S. still think the target set in the original invitation to the Madrid Conference -- the target of beginning the interim period in the Occupied Territories approximately one month from the Madrid date -- is that still in the U.S. view a target? Q One year. Q One year, I'm sorry. What did I say? One week? I'm sorry. MS. TUTWILER: You said one month. It doesn't matter. Q One year. MS. TUTWILER: As far as I know, yes. Q Margaret, on the multilaterals, can we expect a formal announcement that the invitations have indeed been sent, and will you publish the text of the invitations as you did for the Madrid talks? MS. TUTWILER: We did for Madrid, but for our various proposals for the bilaterals, we did not. I haven't asked about multilaterals. Let me ask. I don't know. Q Margaret, can we have a list of the people to whom the invitations will be sent? MS. TUTWILER: We put that out yesterday. Q You did? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. We don't send them to individuals. It's going to be handled in the same way that the Madrid invitations were handled, the bilaterals have been handled. It's the exact same mechanism. Q (Inaudible) -- Secretary Baker and others in the Department have put on a successful conclusion of the GATT -- long-going GATT round. Is there disappointment, or what is the feeling about the fact that they did not seem to have gotten anywhere yesterday, which was again one of the big days in which it had been hoped that movement was going to occur? MS. TUTWILER: I'm going to duck that, Don, and let Marlin [Fitzwater] handle that question today, which I believe is what he's doing. Q Margaret, on Thailand, did -- MS. TUTWILER: Thailand? Q Release of assistance. MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. (TO STAFF) We were supposed to ask this yesterday. Have we got an answer? Q And the day before. Is there some message here -- MS. TUTWILER: No. Q -- that it has taken -- it's been asked four times over a week and a half? MS. TUTWILER: Sloppy staff work. We'll get you an answer. Sorry. (Laughter) Q Coming back to the Middle East for a second, on Iraq: Is there a new U.S. interest in using Iraqi assets to fund the dismantling operation inside Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: No. It's my understanding that that consideration is one of the options that is still being reviewed and discussed. Q Is it -- to borrow a phrase from your dealings with Afghanistan, is it under "active consideration" right now? Are you actively working on that? MS. TUTWILER: I think we've been actively working on what to do about this particular situation, Ralph, for quite some time, to be honest with you. I don't know that there's any more urgency to it right now. But I have always characterized it, to be honest, as active. I mean, it's something that we're seriously looking at. Q Margaret, has there been any progress on START? MS. TUTWILER: Overnight? No. Q Has there been any further -- did Baker ever talk with Kozyrev yesterday, as you indicated he might? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q How about today? MS. TUTWILER: He hasn't yet today. Q Margaret, do you have confirmation of a new Iraqi assault on Shi'ites in southern Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: No. We knew about that this morning through press reports. We are unable to confirm them independently ourselves. Q Does the Secretary think that the next contact with Kozyrev will somehow -- I mean, is he expecting an answer of some sort that might put this START ratification procedure to bed? MS. TUTWILER: That would be a level of detail that would be unfair for me to characterize for the Secretary. This is something that he is going to continue to work, and hopefully he will be able to help, as he's been trying to. It's not only with the Foreign Minister of Russia, as I've expressed. He is also dealing with the leadership of the other three countries, and he will continue to do so. Q Has he had recent conversations with Foreign Ministers or perhaps other officials of those other governments? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, he has. Q Can you be more specific? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. He spoke over the weekend to President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. He spoke at the end of last week to President Kravchuk of Ukraine, and around the same time at the end of last week he spoke -- I believe I'm correct -- with the President of Byelarus. Q Is he expecting to be speaking with those again as well? MS. TUTWILER: Could be. There's nothing set. Q Thank you. Q Wait. We have two more here, please. MS. TUTWILER: No. This gentleman has waited for a while. Q He was first, and then I'll go. Q O.K. Margaret, there was a very detailed report in the Israeli press that you're setting up a super-economic cabinet with a $1.5 billion fund to change the nature of the economy of Israel with George Shultz as its head. Would you care to comment on that, or could you take -- MS. TUTWILER: First I've heard of it. We're setting up a super-cabinet here in our government? Q No. It's a joint -- MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard about that. Q -- super-economic cabinet. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. Q A fairly detailed report from a good source in Israel. MS. TUTWILER: Really? I don't know. I hadn't heard about it. Q Would you look into that one too? Q Would you look into that? MS. TUTWILER: We'll be happy to. Q And on Mexico, do you have any expressions of sympathy or anything? Any statement you can make on this Mexican gas explosion? A lot of people died in that. MS. TUTWILER: Well, yes. Your question to me, though, was about Americans. But, of course, we are very saddened by the events that happened in Guadalajara. There are no Americans that were there which -- maybe I misunderstood you -- I thought was your question that you asked me. And so, of course, we are. Q And has the United States formally done anything with the Government of Mexico? MS. TUTWILER: No. That was Jan's question, and I said specifically that on the $25,000 an Ambassador has at his discretion in emergencies, we have not been asked, and to my knowledge as of yet, we had not offered that. But my understanding is a Consular Officer is there, is on the ground, and is being of whatever assistance he can be. Q Margaret, just one last question: Do you have any detail on this Red Cross worker who was killed in Afghanistan? Any more than you said? MS. TUTWILER: No, other than he was a male. Q Who he was killed by? How he was killed? MS. TUTWILER: Not yet. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (The briefing concluded at 12:42 p.m.)