May, 1992

US Department of State Daily Briefing #66: Friday, 5/1/92

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: May, 1 19925/1/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, East Asia, E/C Europe, South America, Caribbean, Subsaharan Africa Country: Israel, USSR (former), Sierra Leone, South Korea, Kuwait, Vietnam, Peru, Bahamas, Bosnia-Herzegovina Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Development/Relief Aid, State Department, Military Affairs, Science/Technology, Terrorism, POW/MIA Issues, CSCE, Regional/Civil Unrest, OAS, Travel 12:50 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Richard, has the State Department been hearing from foreign governments in any way, shape or form about the events in Los Angeles? Anything special? Any special inquiries, concerns, whatever? Q Offers of humanitarian aid? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen any cable traffic from embassies. I've seen a number of statements on the wires that governments have said things. But I'm not aware of any special approaches that we've had. Q You don't detect any special anxiety about conditions in this country and maybe -- well, I don't want to tell you what they might be asking, but things occur to me they might want to know. But nothing, nothing except -- MR. BOUCHER: Again, you see on the wires reports of advice that companies or countries might have given to their citizens and travelers. There have been a few statements that I've seen by foreign government officials. I'm sure we're all anxious and concerned about the tragedies in Los Angeles. I don't really have any analysis at this point. Q Have any countries issued travel advisories about the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I've seen some things on the wires. I don't know exactly how they described them, but I'll leave it to them. Q Any reaction to the French President's rebuke that he delivered publicly? MR. BOUCHER: No. I think just what I said before, I'm sure we're all concerned about the tragedies that are there and various people are saying different things about it. Nothing specific on any individual's comments. Q Does the U.S. have any advice to offer travelers from other countries? It often offers advice to U.S. travelers about travel to other places. MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Ralph. Q And has the U.S. offered any kind of explanation to other governments about the events in Los Angeles? Or does it trust the American news media to handle that? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we trust the American news media, Ralph, but we might perhaps supplement your efforts in our conversations. I'll have to check on that. Q Richard, really, on a lot of occasions we've been told -- I think specifically of the Middle East some 20 years ago -- where American diplomats had to explain the American process to countries that didn't know too much about how the U.S. process works in various ways -- the kind of system we have. MR. BOUCHER: I understand that. There may have been questions. There may have been questions at our Embassies about the judicial procedures or about what's going on or about what's happened and what the Federal Government can or should do or will do. Q Is this a blot on -- MR. BOUCHER: The President has explained some of that already and I'm sure he and the White House will explain more on that. To the extent that foreign governments inquire, I'm sure we'll be glad to explain it to them as well. Q There's no special guidance that's being distributed to U.S. posts abroad? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I've seen, Howard. I'll check on it. Q In the Administration's view, will it be harder for the United States Government in the future to criticize handling of judicial cases and human rights cases in countries -- just to name a couple but not to limit it to those -- such as South Africa or North Korea or China as a result of the pictures and scenes that are being shown from Los Angeles? MR. BOUCHER: I would not draw that conclusion at this point, Ralph. As the President said the other day in his statement, he said the legal process continues. As I said, I'm sure we'll be glad to explain to foreign countries the legal process that we have here, the judicial process, the various responsibilities that different levels of government have, if anybody asks. We believe in our system. We're happy to explain it to people. We're obviously as concerned as anyone about what's going on out there. Q Another country with a problem? Is it all right to ask specific -- Q I just wanted to ask one thing. I understand South Korea has closed their consulate in Los Angeles, at least temporarily. I was wondering if the United States advised them to do that? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check. I have not heard that. Q That's an interesting point, though. There are several foreign consulates in Los Angeles. Is the United States going to offer special protection for them? MR. BOUCHER: You mean in terms of police and security protection out there? Q Yeah. I mean, lots of buildings are being torched. I'm not suggesting that -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that they are targets. I have no idea where they might be located. I'm sure, if anybody asks, we'd try to do something. I'll check and see if we have.

[Sierra Leone: Update]

Q Can you shed any light on the situation in Sierra Leone? Specifically, the 18-member commission, and there's someone named Kanu, the top man there, or what? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the 18-member commission -- I'm told that the membership in the National Provisional Ruling Council has not been made public, but let me explain as much as we do understand of the situation. President Momoh has been overthrown and the National Provisional Ruling Council has declared a state of emergency. The Council states that it overthrew the Momoh government to solve chronic domestic problems. A new government is expected to be formed today. The membership of the Council has not been made public. Mid-level officers of the Sierra Leonean army -- military -- Lieutenant Colonel Yaya Kanu and Captain Valentine Strasser are believed to be the leaders of the Council. Diplomats from our Embassy in Freetown, as well as diplomats from other countries, have met with these apparent leaders of the Council, and they have assured the diplomatic corps that foreigners will be protected. Q A typical -- the usual question: Americans there? MR. BOUCHER: The number of Americans, we have -- for some reason, we forgot to add it up, but I'll give you the figures. You can add them. The Embassy estimates that there are approximately 800 private Americans, 27 U.S. Government employees and 16 U.S. Government dependents. There are also 80 Peace Corps volunteers, and there's an 80-member U.S. military medical team that arrived in Sierra Leone recently on a previously scheduled mission. There are no reports of injuries to American citizens in Sierra Leone. The Embassy has advised U.S. citizens to remain in their homes until the situation stabilizes. Q Any thought of airlifting dependents out? MR. BOUCHER: We're keeping the situation under review. There have been no decisions like that at this point. Q Richard, can you tell us what the date is for the next round of the Middle East peace talks? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Has one been suggested to the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I read what the parties said. I did not see that there was any agreement on dates at this point. Obviously, it's for the parties to decide when to meet again. As you know, at the end of previous rounds, they've not always set a date as they ended one round. We'd expect them to share their ideas with us as co-sponsor and with the other co-sponsor. As usual, we'll do what we can to help them work it out. Q Are you aware that this morning the question was put -- there was a press conference. It was more kind of a series of speeches by the four chief Arab negotiators. When we finally got around to questions, they asked about that -- MR. BOUCHER: And they said? Q -- and their answer was, "It's up to the host, which they meant Italy, and, of course, in consultation with the sponsors, meaning the U.S. and Russia. So it looks like they're waiting for you to -- you and the Italians and the Russians -- to give them a date? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I would say, Barry, we're at the same situation that we've been at the end of previous rounds. The parties, we expect, will go back and evaluate the rounds. The Israelis have made publicly some suggestions on dates. We'd expect that the Arabs would go back and they would evaluate this round and possibly be back in touch with us as regards their views on possible dates. In previous rounds, I think sometimes we have made a suggestion and sometimes we've not. Q What about the Israeli suggestion of how to get over this problem of the multilaterals? They made a suggestion and it's been pretty widely reported. You don't want me to go through it, I don't suppose, but you know what I mean -- a way to get Palestinians from beyond the territories into the talks? MR. BOUCHER: Margaret said to you a day or two ago that they raised a suggested approach with Ambassador Djerejian. The position of the co-sponsors on participation in various multilateral working groups remains the one that we stated in Moscow. The Israelis have been considering their position on attendance at the multilateral talks. We're encouraged that they've developed some ideas, and we hope that they continue to consider the issue. Obviously, as we've said all along, we hope that they will find a way to participate in all the working groups. Q Is their suggestion in agreement, in accord with Mr. Baker's expressions of what the ground rules are? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really want to try to characterize their suggestion at this point, Barry. I can't do that. Q For the record, can you just remind us what the U.S. position, as stated in Moscow, was? MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you a copy of Secretary Baker's statements. Q Well, just to elaborate -- as I recall, he said that the United States would favor the participation of Palestinian exiles from the occupied territories as long as they were not PLO members or residents of Jerusalem. But to my best recollection, he didn't say which delegation they should be a part of. MR. BOUCHER: That's approximately my recollection as well, Alan, but I'll be glad to get you a copy of the text. Q I'm just trying to get some more clarity on your answer when you said the co-sponsors' position remains the one we stated in Moscow. Does that mean that the Israeli suggestion didn't solve the problem? Their formula was not in accord with the position that you stated in Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're encouraged that the Israelis have developed some ideas. We hope that they will continue to consider the issue, and we certainly hope they can find a way to participate. That's about as much as I can say for the moment. Q Could I go to another area? Q A different part of the Middle East? Any comment, Richard, on continued governmental pressure and harassment of the press in Kuwait? There was a story to that effect in --- MR. BOUCHER: There is a story to that effect today. We've looked into it. The reports apparently say that charges have been brought against two journalists on the grounds that they published secret military information. We understand that this may be followed by a court inquiry to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges. The Kuwaiti Government abolished censorship of the press on January 12. The Kuwaiti press since then has covered events with remarkable vigor. You know our strong support for freedom of the press and freedom of expression. I would just say that we'll follow the situation closely, and at this point we'll see whether the court inquiry determines that there is sufficient grounds for these charges. Q Would Ambassador Gnehm raise that issue with the Kuwaiti Government? Because there is concern that this could be a harbinger of things to come before the election next October. MR. BOUCHER: I think it's probably premature to start making predictions like that at this point. I'm not sure if Ambassador Gnehm has raised this at this point or not. Q If the censorship is lifted, I mean, this is an example that the press will not be allowed to be as vibrant as you would like it to be. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can get into analyzing the different laws that different countries have about the press. You know there are different laws, not only between us and Kuwait, but between us and many countries. So that I don't think is the point. The point is that censorship has been lifted. There's a process that's underway. They have brought some charges and it will be followed by a court inquiry. We're obviously concerned. We continue to support freedom of expression, freedom of the press. We've made that very clear to other governments, including the Kuwaiti Government, many times, so we'll keep watching this one. Q Staying in the region but go to the terrorism report and note that -- ask you, Syria is still on the list of countries that support state-sponsored terrorism for two reasons. Those same two reasons are listed in the report on Sudan -- that it has also enhanced relations with international terror groups; that it allows terror groups to train on its territory, and that it offers a safehaven. Why is Sudan not on the list of countries that sponsor state-sponsored terrorism when Syria is? MR. BOUCHER: The publication of this report, Jan, is not necessarily the specific occasion for changing the list. It's a review of the evidence. The annual report from the Commerce Department, I think it is, goes in January. It's a report to Congress concerning legislation on export controls relating to foreign policy. In connection with that report, the State Department formally reviews the terrorism list. We've made, I think, very clear in statements from this podium our concerns about the situation as regards Sudan and terrorism. The evidence is recounted in the report. I think we've said before that consideration was being given to their status as regards the list. That remains where it is now. But there's no -- the publication of the report doesn't necessarily prompt the addition. That's something that we keep under review. We can do it, really, at any time. The only scheduled and formal review is the one that happens in January. Q How close is Sudan to becoming one of the outlawed six? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't think I can describe any particular time frame for you. I think the evidence of their association with terrorist groups has been made clear, not only in the report, but in the things that we've said before. So I think we have serious concerns about the situation there. Q Do you happen to know when the phrase "a leading supporter of terrorism" is used in the report only for Iran or Iraq, is that just a matter of -- Q Libya. Q Libya, too? Q Yes. Q That phrase. It wasn't used for all six, and I wondered if it was just -- you know, when you write something, you don't use the same words all the time, or is there something pointed about that? Are they the worst case examples of state sponsors of terrorism? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I haven't gone through and compared individual phrases for individual countries, so I don't know that your premise is correct. I would assume that whatever characterizations are in there are based on our experts' and analysts' conclusions. Q No. I have no premise. I'm just saying the words -- that that phrase is used. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know. I haven't counted the number of times that that phrase is used. Somebody says -- you say two, he says three. I haven't analyzed it to that point. Q It's not used for Syria. It's not used for -- Q It's not used for Libya. Q It's not used -- I don't think it's used for Libya. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I really don't -- the report is extensive. It provides extensive information. It provides analytical conclusions by the experts, and I think I'll just say it's -- you know, it's an attempt to describe the situation as we see it. Q Last year's report was extensive and probably met all the same criteria you just mentioned. Last year's report named Syrian President Hafez Assad as being personally responsible for supporting terrorist attacks in Israel. This year's report makes no mention of Hafez Assad, although Syria is, of course, mentioned in the document. Is there any explanation as to why the President of Syria was removed in personal reference from this year's report? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know, Ralph. I haven't checked. Q Richard, could I ask you about Sudan also. Could you give us an update on the food situation there? If you don't have anything current on this, could we -- could you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's something I'd have to check on. I'd be glad to. Q Richard, twice in the last two weeks the U.S. has eased the embargo on Vietnam, and I was looking for some assessment from the government as to whether you think the pace of improved relations is quickening, and when you thought full normalization might come. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'd make an assessment like that for you, Carol. We tend not to try to predict events. As we've made clear in the statements on the steps that we've taken with regard to Vietnam, we were prepared to undertake certain humanitarian steps because we believed that they were cooperating in the areas of POWs and MIAs. I think we've reported to you fairly extensively on some of the efforts we've had underway after Solomon's trip, some of the things that we have worked out, that we've done, in that area with the Vietnamese. And so we've taken some actions of our own, but I wouldn't draw any particular conclusions about the pace and make predictions out into the longer term for that.

[Former Yugoslavia: CSCE Calls for Cease-Fire in Bosnia]

Q Richard, could you explain to us what was finally decided by the CSCE in Helsinki, and what the meaning of that decision is? Q Yugoslavia, you mean. Q I'm sorry. Yugoslavia. MR. BOUCHER: Yugoslavia. O.K. First of all, let me say I have the statement that they have issued today -- three pages. We'll give it to you right afterwards. It's their declaration on Bosnia-Hercegovina. The CSCE's Committee of Senior Officials met on the 29th and the 30th and continued to meet today, May 1, even though it's a holiday for most of the countries in Europe. They're considering the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Today they issued a declaration on Bosnia-Hercegovina that calls upon all parties to the conflict to end violence and to cooperate fully in efforts to achieve a stable and a lasting peace. They stated in particular that continuing aggression by the JNA and Serbian irregular forces must immediately cease. As I said, we have that text available for you. On April 30 -- that is, yesterday -- they admitted Bosnia-Hercegovina to full CSCE membership, subject to formal approval by the Foreign Ministers. The U.S. fully supported this decision. Bosnia-Hercegovina took its place immediately at the CSCE table and is welcomed to participate in all CSCE activities. Representatives from Belgrade remain in place in Helsinki, and they are participating in the CSCE discussions. The U.S. and many others made clear at the meeting that this procedural arrangement is without prejudice to any succession issues, including the status of the "Yugoslav" CSCE seat. The U.S. view is that the best mechanism for resolving succession issues is the EC peace conference. Agreement there on succession issues among the former Yugoslav republics would form the basis for other decisions on representation in the CSCE and international fora. As we've said before, we continue to strongly support the efforts of the European Community in arranging a political solution. Q That's you -- the last sentence? MR. BOUCHER: That's me -- the last sentence. Yes. Q Can I just follow up -- Q That's the U.S., the last sentence? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. These are not quotes all the way through from the text -- you'll see the text that they issued. Q On about April 14 or 15 when the civil war was raging in Bosnia-Hercegovina, your colleague, Ms. Tutwiler, threatened to make Serbia -- not threatened -- said that if Serbia continued its aggression, it would become a pariah state, and she told us to watch out, because in two weeks' time, on April 29, the CSCE was going to have a meeting and some countries valued their legitimacy. In the intervening two weeks the fighting didn't stop and the cease-fires were broken; dozens of people have been killed; thousands of people have been made homeless. And come April 29 and the great occasion when Serbia would become -- begin to become a pariah state, you leave them at the table. How on earth can you expect anyone in Belgrade to take what you say seriously? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, I've pulled out the piece of paper that my colleague, Margaret Tutwiler, used on April 15, and let's go through this and say what we've said. On April 15, in a statement at the Helsinki Conference, our representative, Ambassador Kornblum, said that we were suggesting three things: One is that on April 29, there would be a meeting to examine carefully the situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina and especially the actions of the Serbian authorities and the JNA. That meeting has taken place now. It's in its third day. It has set up a process to continue that, and basically that those actions are subject to the careful scrutiny by the 51 member countries of the CSCE. The second -- we said that they would consider stronger actions, such as the full membership for Bosnia-Hercegovina in the CSCE on an emergency basis. That stronger action was taken. As we said, Bosnia-Hercegovina has taken its place in the CSCE immediately, and they, too, are participating in this scrutiny, in this review and in this discussion. And the third -- we said that if the situation is not improved by April 29, careful consideration should be given to the possibility of a decision to suspend their participation. That remains an option, that remains a subject for discussion, and we have made clear that their continued participation in the discussions at this point is without prejudice to eventual decisions on representation issues. Q You said a few moment ago, though, that -- I think you said the U.S. position was that those decisions on that very last point would be taken in the context of the EC peace conference. Did I hear that correctly? MR. BOUCHER: I said that the chief venue for discussion of the status of the Yugoslav successor state is the EC-sponsored peace conference, which is an attempt to work out political arrangements to settle those issues; that if those issues are settled there, then their status in other fora would flow from that. What we suggested and what the CSCE Committee of Senior Officials continues to have as an option is the possibility of a decision to suspend participation in those discussions. Q And because that meeting is still going on, that's still an option. When that meeting ends, will that option end, or does the U.S. think that -- MR. BOUCHER: No. Once you see the statement that was issued at the Committee of Senior Officials, you'll see that they have set up a process of scrutiny to keep this situation under careful observation and discussion. The issue here is the possibility that Serbia might be excluded from those discussions. At this point, that step has not been taken, but it remains an option. Q Well, would you say that things have improved since April 15? MR. BOUCHER: If you look at the fighting on any given day, if you look at the situation on any given day, frankly it's gone back and forth. Today Sarajevo is much quieter than it was before. There's no shelling. We have reports of some sniper fire. Very heavy fighting continues in Mostar. There's shelling from combined Serbian and JNA artillery. Several towns, some fighting continues. We remain gravely concerned that the JNA continues to join Serbian irregular forces. That's an aggression that we find unacceptable. So at any given -- that's the situation today. The situation yesterday -- the fighting was intense. It was much worse. There have been various declarations and statements and promises that have been made. Those have been a matter of discussion at the CSCE. We've worked closely with the European Community, with our other partners in the CSCE, on this situation, and we continue to do so. Q So the situation hasn't improved. MR. BOUCHER: I'd say it's gone back and forth. As Margaret noted the other day, there were some potentially hopeful signs. Some of them didn't pan out. Most of them probably didn't pan out, but there remains the potential for progress. Q Richard, is Assistant Secretary Aronson in Peru? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure if he's there yet. He's on his way to Peru today. In Peru, he will meet with President Fujimori and other Peruvian officials. Mr. Aronson will urge Peruvians to work with the OAS Mission to develop a solution that all democratic parties in Peru can accept in accordance with the OAS resolution. He will also point out that a democratic solution is necessary before Peru can expect the support of the international community. Q Having brought him back when he was down there -- when the, well -- Q Coup. Q Coup. I was going to say "coup" happened. Why have you decided to send him back there now? MR. BOUCHER: The specific mission that he and his team are on, when President Fujimori issued his declaration, was a mission to discuss -- I believe it was assistance, especially in the counter-narcotics area. We said at the time that we felt that would be totally inappropriate, given the moves against democracy which had just been made. In the intervening weeks, you've had an OAS meeting; you've had an OAS mission. As I think I tried to make very clear, Mr. Aronson is going down there to support the OAS effort. He's consulted with the OAS Secretary General and the head of the OAS mission. He's not going to Peru to mediate. That's the task of the OAS. And, in fact, there's an OAS permanent council meeting this afternoon on their trip at 3:00 p.m., and at that point they will announce their own next trip to Peru. Q This trip was at U.S. initiative? MR. BOUCHER: I believe so. Yes. Q And why do you think that the United States -- I mean, the U.S. seems to have had little influence with Fujimori to date. Why do you think that a face-to-face meeting might be more successful? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I can characterize our level of influence at this point. Obviously, we have been an important participant in the OAS process. We had previously been an important provider of aid to Peru. I can't say what influence he will have, but certainly any efforts in support of the OAS and their mission and their calls for the restoration of democracy is worth making. Q Will the U.S. attempt to resolve the outstanding questions in the Peruvian aircraft -- U.S. aircraft incident? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if I could go so far as to say "attempt to resolve." I'm sure that will be discussed down there. I haven't checked to see where we are in terms of our investigation. I'd have to check with Defense and see whether he had any results to share, or anything like that. Q Will he be meeting with the Vice President/President? I don't know what you all referred to him as, San Roman. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at this point. I really don't have his full schedule at this point. Q And do we have a position on these reports that they're going to try Mr. -- the Peruvian Government is going to try Mr. San Roman? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports. Q Is he taking with him some military officials to look into that -- either the air incident or U.S. military presence? MR. BOUCHER: The only other official that I know of that's going is Phil McLean, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for South America. I don't have anything on military officials, Don, but I'd have to double-check whether that's a statement that no military officials are going, or whether I just don't have the names of any that might be going. Q What is the status of U.S. military personnel in Peru at this point? Are they still under review? Is their status still under review, or does his -- does Aronson's trip indicate the review is complete and some decision might be told to the Peruvian Government? MR. BOUCHER: I really think I have to leave that to the Defense Department to say. My recollection is that they have announced the withdrawal of the Green Berets that were down there on training. Q What about other anti -- counter-narcotics personnel? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any other personnel that have been withdrawn at this point. As you know, we have continued some counter-narcotics efforts, although they remain under review. Q One last question, Richard. Will the Secretary be going to the Bahamas May 18 for the OAS meeting? MR. BOUCHER: I had not heard that. I don't think I know one way or the other at this point. Q Could you check to see if there's an answer? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything to say at this point. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:20 p.m.)