US Department of State Daily Briefing #82: Tuesday, 5/26/92

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: May, 26 19925/26/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, E/C Europe, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, East Asia Country: Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Lebanon, Syria, Thailand, China Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Development/Relief Aid, Science/Technology, Arms Control, OAS, Refugees, Immigration, Security Assistance and Sales, Nuclear Nonproliferation l2:25 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Announcement: Death of Ambassador Habib]

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, at the beginning, I'd like to say a few words about the death of Phil Habib, and then I'll give you the update on assistance in the new independent states, and then we'll move on to your questions, if we can. It is with deep regret and sadness that we learned of the death in France May 25th of Ambassador Phil Habib. Ambassador Habib retired from the Department in 1978 as Under Secretary for Political Affairs. He had earlier served with distinction as Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Ambassador to Korea, and he also led our delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam. Ambassador Habib came out of retirement at the President's request in the early l980s to undertake a number of particularly difficult missions, the most challenging being his role as the President's Middle East envoy in helping to broker peace in Lebanon in 1982. For these efforts Ambassador Habib received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan. He also undertook difficult assignments in the Philippines, Central America and the Caribbean. His accomplishments in the Middle East, East Asia, and Latin America made a profound contribution to U.S. foreign policy and left an enduring legacy. Phil Habib was a man of great courage, unparalleled tenacity, high intellect, and deep warmth. To us in the Foreign Service, Phil was a close friend and a colleague. He nurtured the careers of many of those who have risen to the highest ranks of the Service today, and we will all miss him. We will put up a written statement that has additional information on funeral arrangements. Q Just for the record, I think those of us who knew and worked with Phil in the past would like to associate ourselves with the remarks that you made. He was both a professional and a gentleman and a great man to work with. MR. BOUCHER: That is appreciated, Jim.

[Former Soviet Union: Assistance Update]

As far as assistance to the new independent states, a great deal of information was put out over the weekend in Lisbon, and I think we have that available for you -- all the information on the Lisbon Conference. I'd like to note a few other things on the ground that you might be interested in. On May 22nd, an Air Force C-5A Galaxy delivered over $8 million worth of privately donated medicines and medical supplies to Moscow. Donors included the Heart-to-Heart Airlift. Project Hope flights carried medical supplies to Tbilisi on May 18th and to Kiev on May 22nd. Over the past five months, Project Hope has delivered more than $4l million worth of privately donated pharmaceuticals to the new independent states. U.S. AID has now authorized an additional $l3.8 million for technical assistance in the energy sector. Programs include $3 million for technical assistance for nuclear power plant safety, and $2 million to improve worker safety in coal mines. And as usual, we will have a more extensive statement noting some other things as well. And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.

[Haiti: US Policy Change/Update]

Q Do you have an update on Haiti? MR. BOUCHER: I think you are all aware of the White House announcement that was put out over the weekend about the handling of people at sea. Let me make a few points about that and tell you how it has gone on the first repatriation that happened this morning. The United States has rescued over 34,000 Haitians at sea. No other nation has done that. We have set up a service at our Embassy to allow Haitians to apply for refugee status. That service exists in only three other countries. After interviews, over 9,000 Haitians are being permitted to pursue their asylum claims in the United States. In addition, we are continuing intensive efforts to encourage other nations to help deal with the plight of Haitian boat people. The May l7th OAS resolution calls on the international community to help. We also continue our efforts to monitor the welfare of repatriated Haitians. The de facto authorities in Haiti have made a commitment not to harm these people, and we are out checking on it. Our Embassy officers have contacted over 2,000 repatriated Haitians in the capital and in the countryside, both through spot checks and by following up specific allegations of mistreatment. In no case have they found evidence of mistreatment connected to their repatriation. Information about the in-country processing program will be provided to those Haitians who are picked up at sea and repatriated. Interpreters will be on board the Coast Guard cutters to provide this information. Embassy Consular officials on their monitoring trips around Haiti are informing Haitians about the program. The Creole Service of the Voice of America is continuing to broadcast information on a regular basis. The Embassy has sent letters to all diplomatic missions, international organizations and non-governmental organizations in Haiti, outlining the in-country processing program. Haitians from the countryside can apply by writing to the Embassy in Port-au-Prince. As of this morning, there were 38 people who had been picked up at sea who have been repatriated. They were taken back this morning. I understand a Consular Officer from our Embassy went on board the ship, told the people who were being repatriated that there was the possibility for in-country processing, and that 17 of those 38 decided that they wanted to make applications, and they were then taken to the Embassy. So that is the way we are trying to go. I think you have seen the White House announcement over the weekend that in order to deal with the need to pick up people who were at sea and in danger of sinking, that we will no longer be taking people to Guantanamo for interviews, and therefore the people that are interested in asylum, who believe they have a well-founded fear of persecution, should apply to the Embassy. Q Richard, you said that you have asked other countries to make the same kind of effort that you are doing. What countries do you have in mind? MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position at this point to detail countries or specifically what we might be asking of them. The OAS resolution tries to encourage countries to help and to assist in this effort, and we are also doing that directly ourselves. Q Richard, in this particular instance, you are saying that l7 of the people who were returned decided to accept the applications presumably because they felt that they had a well-founded fear of persecution. Isn't this an extraordinary circumstance? I mean, has the United States ever done this before? Put people who feel that they have a well-founded fear of persecution right back on the soil they were trying to escape from because of, presumably, their well-founded fear? MR. BOUCHER: Well, Mary, we do in-country processing now. It's an exception circumstance, but it is something that has been done in four countries. It has been done in the Soviet Union, and continues to be done in Moscow. It is done in Cuba. It is done in Viet-Nam and now in Haiti. Q How long will such an application take to be processed? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Alan, how long it will take. The numbers to date, the numbers of people applying, are fairly small. What we have working on it now are four Embassy Consular Officers, ten Haitian employees, that are currently assigned to refugee processing. INS officials are available, depending on the caseload. Q Any protections in place for the -- specifically for these l7 -- but for people like them who have expressed an interest in applying for asylum and are then placed back on the ground? Has the U.S. in any way monitored their cases to determine if persecution results? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I can't say positively, Ralph. I believe that our monitoring would extend to these kind of people as well, people who have applied to us. Once they entered the application process, we are in regular touch with people. So, certainly we share the concerns about their welfare that we share for everybody else who is returning. Let's go in the back. Q I'd like to ask about the 9,000 that you have already processed or are in the process of processing. Are those going to be coming off the slots that are available for the Soviet emigrees, for example, and for others? There are only l25,000. Where are you getting the slots for these? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I will have to check on that. Q Richard, do you have an assessment on the state of the Haitian economy since the embargo was imposed? I mean, even before this embargo, that was the poorest country in the hemisphere. Presumably things have not gotten better since then. Do you have an assessment on the kind of hardships that people might be undergoing? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that kind of assessment, Alan. You are aware that during the course of the embargo, we fine-tuned it to permit jobs to go back into the assembly sector where we didn't feel that it would undercut the purposes of the embargo and the pressure on the regime. I think I spoke last Friday about many of the efforts that we are making in terms of providing food and health care assistance. We are feeding close to 400,000 people in Haiti right now, and we are preparing to increase that by another l00,000. So we are trying to be cognizant of the humanitarian needs. We are providing assistance on a humanitarian basis for people in Haiti, and you know that the OAS resolutions, the embargoes from the OAS, have specific humanitarian exceptions which we have been exercising wherever we felt we could lessen the impact on people of Haiti. Q For instance, can you give us an assessment of what kind of pressure you have been able to put on the de facto government in Haiti? I mean, there have been plenty of stories about the thriving black market and how the government people are actually doing quite well off the embargo? Is there -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any assessments like that. Q Is there an assessment here on this? MR. BOUCHER: I gave a political assessment of the situation on Friday. The government has been maneuvering, but the fact is as yet they have not accepted the Washington agreement which we continue to see as the best path for resolving the crisis politically and peacefully; that OAS Ministers were aware of that fact when they met a week ago on Sunday, and that's why they passed additional measures to tighten the embargo and to make public information on violators. Q I think in the last week, maybe less than a week, the U.S. policy on Haitian refugees has changed a couple of times. Would you care to go over the -- give us some insight as to what brought about these changes, and what the rationale was for only a few days ago saying one policy was the right one and today saying another one is the right one? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, I think throughout, and particularly during the last week, I have been stressing, we have been stressing, that our first and foremost interest is in seeing that people don't drown at sea. And we have been doing that. Previously we were able to pick people up and take them to Guantanamo where we could give them interviews and do the selection of people with plausible claims to refugee status there. You can, I think, talk to the Coast Guard and others about the specific changes that were made in the pick up policy last week, but basically the interest in being able to pick up people and have space for people who are in danger of drowning at sea has been at the forefront, and at this point, we think that the only way to continue to do that is to pick them up and take them right back. Q Richard, is the State Department willing to acknowledge, I mean, [given] the fact that about 30 percent of other people who have left have been granted entry to pursue political asylum -- is the State Department willing to admit that it may be sending back people who would qualify for political asylum under this new policy? MR. BOUCHER: We are certainly willing to admit that we are sending back without interviews, and we are willing to say that we have provided an avenue for people who believe that they have a well-founded fear of persecution, a plausible claim to asylum, to talk to us, and to have us look at those claims and adjudicate those claims. As I said, the numbers that have presented themselves at the Embassy so far are fairly small. It's 237,* I think, at the last report I had. The percentage -- what they do at Guantanamo is prescreening. It's to establish people with a plausible claim, not a definitive claim to asylum, and the percentage that have been referred by our Embassy Consular Officers to the INS is about the same as the percentage that get referred from Guantanamo. Q Could I follow-up on that, Richard? Do we think that all the people who have legitimate claims for political asylum have already left Haiti? MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't say that. Q So it's possible -- MR. BOUCHER: That's why we continue to maintain the processing facility and try to publicize it in every way we can. Q All right. So by the law of averages, we may be sending back some people then who would be giving us -- who would probably have gotten asylum under the normal circumstances. MR. BOUCHER: Well, we are not dealing with the law of averages here. We are dealing with real people, people that we want to be able to talk to, people whose claims we are willing to entertain, who we have set up a facility at our Embassy to talk to. Q When the Consular Officer went aboard the Coast Guard cutter this morning and talked to the people who had been picked up, did he or she explain what the -- I'm trying to understand why only about half of those people that were picked * 274 applications for asylum have been received. up, applied at the Embassy, and I wonder whether he or she explained to them what the criteria are for getting an asylum claim? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know in what detail it was done, Chris. I had the briefest of telephone read-outs on what happened this morning. A Consular Officer went on and in Creole explained the existence of the processing facility at the Embassy; explained the fact that we were interested in talking to people who would like to present applications for possible asylum status, and that we were there to talk to them if they wanted to come over. And l7 wanted to come over. Q Did you offer them transportation over, and everything like that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q Richard, you said that -- MR. BOUCHER: Let's go over here. Q -- you were checking on the well-being of those that you have been repatriating. That means that you have been trying to check the well-being of those people, that you repatriated since September, the l3,000? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q Into the island. I mean, how do you go about checking on the well-being of all those people? MR. BOUCHER: We have been doing this for quite some time. Our Embassy officers have gone and visited places where they knew, from the manifest, that various people lived. They have done spot-checks, sort of at random, based on names on the manifest. When they have had specific stories of someone who purportedly was shot. I remember one case where there was a woman who was reported to have been killed the day after she got back, and they said she had been sent back in error. Well, we went out and we found people with the same name. We found the woman and had coffee with her, and she was okay. So, we have gone out whenever we have had allegations, serious allegations, to try to check those out in specific terms. And at this point, we have found no evidence of people being persecuted because of their attempt to flee or because of their repatriation. Q What about the overall level of political violence, though? If these people aren't being singled out as returnees, is there still significant violence that's causing them to flee? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a specific update on the violence, Howard. I think we've recognized all along that there is economic hardship in Haiti, that there are political problems in Haiti, and that there is violence, and a very difficult life and hardship for people in Haiti right now. Q You used to give, in the old days, daily updates of shooting in the streets and that sort of thing. Does this pattern continue? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I haven't seen that kind of information recently. Q Richard, has there been a significant drop-off in the number of Haitians attempting to flee since the announcement -- I guess it was Sunday? MR. BOUCHER: Let's see. Coast Guard: The Coast Guard picked up 35 Haitians on Friday and 38 yesterday. That brings the total picked up since the coup to 34,990. Let me see if I have a few that go back from that. I don't have the days before Friday and yesterday, but it looks like it's dropped off. Q The drop-off seems to be related to the decision late last week not to intercept and to allow people to continue their journey to Florida. MR. BOUCHER: That could be, George. I really would say that we better get some -- we better get the numbers from the Coast Guard on the exact daily totals, and it may be prudent to wait a little longer before we start drawing conclusions from any trends. Q Richard, on the system at the Embassy -- this low number, does that not suggest to you that maybe people are not applying because of fear of intimidation or threat? MR. BOUCHER: There's all sorts of possible explanations, Jim. They may not be applying because they don't think they're qualified; they may not be applying because they're somehow fearful. As I've said, we've tried to make sure that this was widely advertised, that people knew that they could send us applications by mail and they didn't have to go to the Embassy and that our people -- our consular officers who were going up-country and doing the checks on repatriations -- that they were also making the information available. Q Richard -- MR. BOUCHER: Sid. Q -- will every boatload now of Haitians picked up have an explanation in Creole from an Embassy official, or whatever, as to why they're being send back and how they can now apply in Haiti? MR. BOUCHER: Sid, I'm not sure I can promise every boatload forever. It was something that our Embassy wanted to do, and they've done it at least on the initial one, and I'm sure they'll try to keep doing it for a while. Q Is this policy set in stone, or will the policy revert back to the first policy as the numbers of Haitians at Guantanamo base subside? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I can't make any predictions. I'm sure we'll continue to look at the situation, and we'll continue to do whatever we can. Q Richard, isn't the given reason for this that Guantanamo is full? I mean, why would there be a reason to continue this very extraordinary policy if there was room at Guantanamo? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I just can't make any predictions at this point. This is what we're doing and this is what we'll do until we do something different. Q In a day or so. Q Richard, given the reason -- given the notion that some of these Haitian refugees are, at least, fleeing because of fear of persecution, has the U.S. thought about putting -- organizing a U.N. peacekeeping force, or something to at least make them feel safer while they're there? MR. BOUCHER: Without trying to deal with all the ramifications of what you're saying, I think the only short answer to that is that the OAS has been dealing with the crisis. The OAS has decided on various courses that they've taken, including the use of economic sanctions to try to pressure the regime and attempts to create a political solution to the problem, and that's the method that we continue to pursue. Q Can we go to another shift in U.S. policy? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any but you can ask. (Laughter) Q Well, Yugoslavia is what I had in mind. When he left for London and Lisbon, the Secretary and his Spokeswoman were ruling out military force of any kind -- no way, no U.S. troops, no how. Over the weekend, the Secretary allowed as how, perhaps, an international coalition, multilateral-etc.-force might be an option. Can you account for this change? MR. BOUCHER: Well, the first thing I'd invite you to do is look at what the Secretary has actually said several times over the weekend. He was asked specifically about a multilateral force. He said that's a hypothetical question at this point. He repeatedly said, before we consider force, it seems to me we ought to exhaust all of the political, diplomatic, and economic remedies that might be at hand. He once again, as we did before, say that as a bilateral matter on a bilateral basis, we would rule out the unilateral use of U.S. force. I'll get you the copies of what he said. Q And what about -- has he also changed -- is there any change in thinking about whether the U.S. should lead a united sanction assault on Serbia, or is he still content to leave that in the hands of the Europeans? MR. BOUCHER: Are you talking about sanctions or military assaults? Q Sanctions, yes. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'll get you transcripts of what he said. As we were saying last week, we were prepared to take steps alone or in concert with allies. The Secretary, in London, announced several steps that we were taking on our own against Serbia, and we'll continue to review our options and to talk with our allies. Q Baker (inaudible) Chapter 7 actions in that phrase at the U.N. MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q What does the U.S. have in mind on that score this week? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any specific timetable or elements. The Secretary said we were interested in moving forward on this. He said we were discussing it in New York and we'll be discussing the elements of a resolution with other countries in New York. Q Did the elements include the use of some kind of military force? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we have to discuss them with other governments, Ralph. I don't have a list for you. Q Are you planning on moving ahead on that? You say you don't have a time element, but the Secretary certainly seemed to talk in tones of some urgency over the weekend. What are you saying, Richard? Do you guys feel like you ought to move on this, or are you waiting for something else? MR. BOUCHER: We certainly feel we ought to move on this because the Secretary said we ought to move on this. Yes, we're in discussions; we're having discussions in New York, and we'll continue to move on it. Q So is it reasonable to expect something this week? MR. BOUCHER: We said we'd push as forcefully as we could. Q So you're starting to push now? MR. BOUCHER: We're in consultation with other governments. We're talking to other countries about the possible elements of a resolution. Nothing is scheduled at this point in the United Nations. I can't predict exactly when things will happen up there. Q Is the U.S. offering up -- although you've ruled out -- the Secretary's ruled out unilateral use of U.S. force, is the United States offering to contribute U.S. force to some Chapter 7 action? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know the answer to that, Ralph, and I don't think it's one I can give you today. Q So, Richard, are you saying that the media reports over the weekend were inaccurate that said for the first time the U.S. and Britain -- you know, they specifically cited Baker and Hurd, together, talking about this, were raising the possibility of use of force in Yugoslavia. Would you say that's inaccurate, that we still don't really consider that a possibility? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize media reports on meetings that were held when I wasn't there. The Secretary has talked about those specific meetings. I told Johanna I would be glad to get you copies of everything the Secretary said, and I'll leave it to you and your colleagues, who were out there, to try and analyze it. Q Richard, given the U.S. policy on refugees from Haiti, I suppose the U.S. has a certain sympathy for countries like Italy and Germany that are busy slamming the doors on refugees from Yugoslavia. Do you have any words of solidarity to offer? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: Alan, without your sarcasm, I would say that we have been assisting with refugees. We have contributed to the U.N. and others who are taking care of refugees out of Yugoslavia. It has been one of our concerns, and I expect you'll continue to see action on the part of the United States. Q Would you say the concern of the United States for refugees is in direct proportion from the distance from it's border that they're located? MR. BOUCHER: I would say that is definitively not the case. If you look at the amounts and the assistance that we've given for refugees all around the world, whether it's Africa or Europe or Central or Latin American, I think you'll find that we've consistently been a strong contributor to the needs of refugees. Q What's the status of the relief efforts at the airport and the opening and closing of Sarajevo airport? MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing new in terms of the airport. The airport remains closed. In terms of fighting, there was heavy fighting on Saturday. It continued at a reduced level on Sunday and Monday. Reports from Sarajevo this morning indicate continued sniper and mortar fire and random shelling. The siege of the city continues. The food situation remains desperate, and the airport remains closed. Q Richard, how soon are the measures -- like the closing of the consulates -- actually going to take place? Is that -- MR. BOUCHER: It's something I forgot to check on. I'll have to check on that. Q Could you let us know, and about the military attaches? How soon is this actually going to turn into reality? MR. BOUCHER: What kind of deadlines were they given to close up and get out? Q Yeah. MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I'll check. Sid. Q What sort of military-to-military contact did we have with Yugoslavia that we're cutting off? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get you more details on that later. Q And one other question. You probably don't have it on you, but what is the status of the Conventional Forces Treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: You're right, I don't have it on me. I'll try to get something on that for you. Q Richard, on another subject. Do you want to say something about what's going on in Lebanon and the increased tension between Syria and Israel? There's actually been talk from the Syrians--the Syrian Foreign Minister spoke of Israel possibly wanting to provoke a war and Syria being ready for that, and apparently the Syrians did have some anti-aircraft fire that they used against Israeli planes. As you know, there's been a whole series of raids. How concerned are you about what's going on? Are you saying anything to the parties involved? Is it true that you issued a warning to Israel that they should not continue these raids? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, we talked about this on Friday. We've seen a continuation of some of the violence out there. We said we were deeply concerned about the recurrence of violence in southern Lebanon. We are in touch with the Israeli, Lebanese, and the Syrian governments on this latest escalation of violence, and we have once again reiterated the need to exercise maximum restraint. Q Have you actually delivered a strongly-worded protest or a note of concern to the Israelis, asking them to stop these raids? MR. BOUCHER: I would characterize our statements to all the parties the way I did on Friday and the way I did today. We've conveyed our deep concern about the situation and urged everyone to exercise maximum restraint. Q Do you feel you're being ignored? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have an answer to that, Mary. Q Do you feel that Israel is exercising maximum restraint? Is that how you'd describe the latest raids? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, there's been, as you know, continuing violence in the area for quite some time. It's what we've called the cycle of violence. We've urged people consistently to exercise maximum restraint. We've encouraged people who have influence on Hizballah to use their influence to end the violence. We believe that peace and security can't be found on the battlefield, and we've done everything we can to support the peace process. The Madrid Conference launched the peace process. Tomorrow, in Lisbon, the Syrian group will be getting together. Ed Djerejian and his Russian counterpart will be hosting another session of the multilateral steering group meetings in Lisbon. That, too, is an important part of this peace process, and we've been trying to move all those parts forward as best we can. Q Richard, on Friday, you made clear that you were expecting the Lebanese Government to do something to dismantle Hizballah as it did with other militias. Do you see the Lebanese Government, or the Lebanese army, capable of going forward with that project of dismantling Hizballah? MR. BOUCHER: The process of dismantling militias and the withdrawal of non-Lebanese forces is something under the Taif Accords. We have urged all the parties in Lebanon and outside of Lebanon to cooperate with that process. That process has gone forward to a great extent; and we think with the cooperation of the parties involved that it can continue to work. Q Richard, has there been a series of messages with the Iranian Government? Is that what you mean when you said you've urged those who have influence on Hizballah to use that influence? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the precise answer for that, Ralph. I'll see if I'm able to give it to you. Q The precise question is -- MR. BOUCHER: Have there been a series of messages with the Iranian Government? Q Yeah. Let's not get stuck on the question of "series of," okay? MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Q Richard, is there any problem with the use of American-supplied arms by the Israelis north of the border? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that question. Q Is it in conformity with U.S. law -- MR. BOUCHER: I think it's a question you've asked us to look at before and we've looked at it and not really had a definitive answer for you. I don't expect one this time. Q There have been reports that the Secretary had sent to a number of COCOM partners a proposal that the former Soviet bloc countries be essentially taken into the fold on COCOM as the way of protecting potentially dangerous technologies from getting to irresponsible countries. Can you tell us anything about that initiative, in general? You can be more broad, if you want -- not about the letter. MR. BOUCHER: Chris, I saw those reports. I didn't have a chance to check on them. I'll have to check on them afterwards. Barrie. Q In a similar vein, is the United States contemplating the reduction of or the end of nuclear testing, either in connection with the Yeltsin visit or independently? MR. BOUCHER: Barrie, that's not something I have anything to say on. I believe Marlin (Fitzwater) just addressed it over at the White House. I'll just stick with what he said. Q Richard, going back to the Middle East for a moment. What meeting is this in Madrid tomorrow? MR. BOUCHER: The steering committee of the multis -- the multilateral process involved working groups, and the steering committee that was established in Moscow. This steering committee is having a meeting in Madrid tomorrow -- in Lisbon tomorrow. Sorry. Lisbon or Madrid. What did I say? Lisbon, yes. Q Do you have anything to say about the fighting along the Turkish-Iraqi border between PKK elements and Turkish units? MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of anything new, Ralph. We've commented on that fighting in the past. I wasn't aware of anything new. Q I think there's a series of new attacks, but, okay. Q In the last several days, Richard, authorities in Belgrade seemed to have been putting out statements disavowing the activities of groups in Bosnia, including Serbian groups, and sort of asking them to cease and desist. Does the United States buy the sincerity of this effort, and do you see any diminution in the activities of these groups in Bosnia? MR. BOUCHER: The short answer is no. The status of the fighting, I think I reported on. We've seen these disavowals. Frankly, we made clear all along that we saw the Serbian leadership and the Yugoslav army, which is dominated by them, as being the most responsible for the situation in Bosnia, and we've said we thought it was their responsibility to make sure that the fighting stopped. Q Richard, did you do Syrian Jews on Friday? And, if not, do you have any comment on whether the United States has issued visas to Syrian Jews and whether those cases are under consideration for permanent residence in the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I think we did a taken question on Friday that said that we had issued some visas, and some of these people had come to the United States. And as for their status now, that was a question for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Q Were they visitors' visas? What kind of visas were issued? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that information for you. I'm sorry. Q Could you take that question, please? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we can. I'm not sure if I can give you that. Q Richard, do you have any comment on China's formally opposing a U.S.-Hong Kong -- a Hong Kong bill? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q No. MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Would you care to deal with a Franco-German accord today? MR. BOUCHER: No. We talked about that, again, on Friday. I don't have anything new to say now. Q Any comment on the Thailand recent political development, including the resignation of the military Premier Suchinda? MR. BOUCHER: We noted the announcement of Prime Minister Suchinda's resignation and the end of the state of emergency. We understand the Parliament has taken initial steps to approve constitutional amendments, including one requiring that the Prime Minister be an elected member of Parliament. We hope that peace will prevail in Thailand and the differences will be worked out through democratic processes. We hope that these latest developments will enhance the prospect for a productive dialogue and a peaceful outcome. Q Then, you have a plan to revive the economic aid you stopped with the emerging of the military government in Thailand? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any plans or predictions for you. We've said that aid was suspended and it remains there. Q Has there ever been a reply to the U.S. -- the U.S. said last week it was going to talk with the Chinese at a high level -- I think it said -- about the explosion last week. Was there ever any response from the Chinese Government on that? MR. BOUCHER: We talked about -- on Friday, we talked about the fact that we had done that, and the Chinese, I think, issued their own statement. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:00 p.m.)