US Department of State Daily Briefing #124: Wednesday, 9/9/92

Boucher Source: State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: Sep, 9 19929/9/92 Category: Briefings Region: Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, East Asia, MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Somalia, Macedonia, Russia, Nicaragua, Israel, China, Iraq Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Development/Relief Aid, United Nations, CSCE, Mideast Peace Process 12:13 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to do a housekeeping item, a Yugoslavia update, and a brief update on Somalia. Housekeeping is that the BACKGROUNDER on Yugoslavia that was originally scheduled for 3:30 today, we've had to reschedule for tomorrow at 2:30.

Update on the former Yugoslavia:

There are media reports of Serbian shelling in Sarajevo last night, particularly around Stari Grad and Dobrinja. Four people were killed by a mortar shell in central Sarajevo. Elsewhere in Bosnia, there was continued fighting in Bosanski Brod. As I think many of you know, two French peacekeepers were killed last night when an UNPROFOR convoy bringing supplies from Belgrade to Sarajevo was attacked. The convoy was traveling in a heavily contested area, but safe passage had been negotiated with all parties along the route. We deplore this despicable attack on U.N. peacekeeping forces, whose mission is to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies without taking sides in the conflict. Such attacks serve no other end than to aggravate the situation and to increase the suffering of the civilian population. Our sympathy goes out to the colleagues and families of the people who were killed. I've seen some statements by various people on the wires as to where the fire came from. We don't have any independent information on that, and we understand the U.N. is still looking into who was responsible. On convoys -- other convoys: Today, UNHCR in Split sent a convoy of 40 metric tons of relief supplies to Mostar; a 100 metric ton convoy went to Sarajevo. Yesterday, it sent an 85 metric ton convoy to Sarajevo and a 50 metric ton convoy to Capljina. Tomorrow's plans call for 40 metric tons to Siroki Brijeg, and then 85 metric tons to Sarajevo and 81 metric tons to Vitez. The convoy that was attacked yesterday -- the Belgrade to Sarajevo convoy -- wasn't a relief supply convoy. It was an UNPROFOR convoy that had supplies for the UNPROFOR troops in Sarajevo. Some totals: The Embassy in Zagreb reports that during August the UNHCR-Split shipped 2,624 tons of relief supplies into Bosnia and parts of Dalmatia. Of these, 640 tons were shipped by UNHCR convoys and the rest of it was picked up by relief coordinating committees of various municipalities who send their own trucks down to Split to pick things up. For the ICRC in August, the ICRC shipped 1,124 metric tons of relief supplies into Bosnia-Hercegovina. This compares with 666 tons in July. Among the supplies in August were 115,920 ready-to-eat meals.

A few other updates

on some of the things we're doing. Ambassador Frowick, who is going to lead the mission to Macedonia, met with the CSCE Steering Group in Vienna this morning. He's putting together his multinational team for the mission. I think we said he planned his initial visit on the 11th. That's now changed to tomorrow, the 10th. So he plans to proceed to Macedonia tomorrow for a initial visit; and there's a second U.S. representative who is accompanying him. The U.S. and other interested parties met on September 7 in Brussels with the Romanians to discuss an operational plan for a sanctions monitoring mission. We haven't worked out the final details of this mission. At this point, there's a further meeting now scheduled for September 11. But along with other interested governments, we're working to deploy monitors within the next two weeks to Romania and the Danube. The U.S. will participate in the monitoring teams, and we will be working with our CSCE partners to expand their participation. The U.S. has also offered logistical support and urged others to do so as well. As I said, the final plans have not yet been worked out. We're also looking at ways to integrate this mission into the wider international sanctions monitoring efforts pertaining to the former Yugoslavia that were agreed to at the London Conference -- that is, U.S./EC-led CSCE monitoring missions that are being planned for Hungary and Bulgaria as well.

And then briefly on Somalia:

Yesterday, there were six flights to Belet Weyne, three flights to Baidoa, and one flight to Wajir, Kenya. They carried about 116 metric tons of relief supplies. Today, the Defense Department is projecting five flights to Baidoa, six to Belet Weyne, and one to Wajir, with a total of 136 metric tons. And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Q Can I ask you a couple about the things you've just said? The U.S. will participate in the Romanian/Danube monitoring operation. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Can you tell us in what way will the U.S. participate? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I can't offer you the details because the detailed plans are not worked out. We've offered some logistical support. We've also offered experts and people to participate -- personnel to participate in the missions. These would be people like customs officers and experts. Q And do you have an update today on what these status is of the heavy weapons surrendering operation, for lack of a better phrase? MR. BOUCHER: As you know, Saturday is the deadline to concentrate or group the heavy weapons around several cities in Bosnia-Hercegovina. We do have some reports that the grouping has begun, and I'd say we're encouraged by that news. But, of course, we want to see it carried out to the full. Q With regard to the attack on the ground convoy of UNPROFOR supplies, does the U.S. -- there are reports from France today that some French officials consider that an act of war against France. Does the U.S. agree with that approach to the attack? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports. I haven't characterized it that way. Certainly, it's truly an outrageous and despicable attack. It was an attack against a convoy whose safe passage had been agreed to and negotiated, that were in clearly marked, identifiable U.N. vehicles, and people's whose clear mission is only to bring relief to the people who so badly need it. Q Richard, to follow up on that, is the U.S. ned at all about what this means for the ongoing safety of those convoys? We've already had an Italian plane shot down. Now, we've had these people directly attacked, and the French are openly accusing the Bosnian Government in this. Is there any kind of review going on here or any attempt -- are you going to make any attempt independently to try to investigate this? MR. BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, it's the U.N., which has people on the ground, that will be looking into it and investigating it. There have been other statements. I think the Egyptian commander out there is being quoted about some things that might have happened that led to this. So, certainly, they have the best position to investigate and find out. But, yes, we are concerned about what the implications are of this attack. We have agreed with others that we will use all necessary means to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies, and we've reported to you in various ways on the work that's being done to do that. Q But, Richard, did you ever suspect that when you said that that you might have to be using those means against the Bosnian Government since these supplies are for the Bosnian people? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, if you look back at the very unfortunate and tragic history of many of these convoys and attacks that there have been -- not only the most recent events, but there have been shots fired at the airplanes in the past, people have taken bullets. There were difficulties faced by the convoy that went to Gorazde and tried to come back. They found mines in the road. Months ago there were attacks directly on ICRC convoys. So convoys at various times have faced these problems. They've managed to work them out or keep going despite the odds and despite the difficulties. But, certainly, the implications that there are difficulties, a whole variety of difficulties, faced by the onvoys is clear, and that's something that we'll have to deal with. Q What are the implications that you say you're concerned about? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to draw any firm conclusions at this point, Ralph, because I think it's not completely established what happened in this particular attack. So I'll just leave it at that. Q What's the status, by the way, of the investigation into the fire that appeared to have been taken by the two U.S. helicopters? I think it was last week or perhaps the week before. I've forgotten now. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the status of that. That's something we probably have to check with the Pentagon on. Q Richard, on the Danube mission, last week someone asked about the legality of intercepting boats in international waters. You said you'd check with the legal department here. Did you ever get an answer to that question? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember saying that, Sid. What I remember saying is that it was established -- and particularly if you look at the London Conference documents, it was established. I think we all agreed that the obligations of the U.N. resolution superseded any provisions of the Danube Convention. That was the conclusion that I think was publicly stated in London. Q Richard, the French, in London, tried to push forward a "no-fly zone" idea over Bosnia. Apparently, they're trying to revive this idea in the U.N. now. What is the position of the U.S. on that "no-fly zone" possibility over Bosnia? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have a specific position for you. We are looking to the arrangements, the detailed plans that will be worked out by the U.N. Secretary General in terms of the beefing-up of UNPROFOR. Q But, in general -- MR. BOUCHER: In general -- I mean, in the most general sense, the President has stated that we're prepared to provide air and naval assets to contribute to the mission of ensuring the delivery of humanitarian supplies. But at this point, I can't define that further without knowing what specifically the U.N. has in mind in terms of how they believe the best is to go about that. Q Are you saying that if the U.N. is requesting the assistance of the U.S. to go forward with that type of mission, are you saying that the answer could be yes? MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying what I said yesterday, and that's the U.N. is working on a plan and we'll look at our contributions and our specific -- you know, whatever they might need from us, we'll look at in that context. Q Richard, there have been occasional reports of air activity by Serbia. Can you give us any indication as to whether that's continuing? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have that information with me. Q In other words, what would be the purpose of that -- of a "no-fly" zone, if you have a flight every other week? MR. BOUCHER: A flight by whom every other week? Q In other words, is there any hostile air activity by Serbian aircraft? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to examine in great detail an idea that has been proposed and floated and discussed, but which is not something that's clearly planned at this point. Q Richard, General MacKenzie, when he testified on the Hill a couple of weeks ago -- the former U.N. Commander -- said that as long as there is any hope of any kind of military intervention by the outside, the Bosnians will seek to provoke that intervention by firing on U.N. convoys and other acts. Do we have any evidence of that? And have we explicity gone to the Bosnians and suggested that that is reprehensible and it won't work? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, we have gone to all the parties out there and told them that the fighting and these attacks are reprehensible. I think our position has been made abundantly clear, both in public and in private on that. As far as responsibility for specific attacks, many times it's very difficult to identify that. People have some idea of who was occupying the area where the shell or the rocket or the fire came from, but it's often very hard to pin down. We're aware of reports that people think that the Bosnian Government or Bosnian forces are responsible for some of these attacks. Many of them we find very hard to believe, and I'd say most of them are not confirmed. But, indeed, the fighting goes on. The fighting has continued from a variety of sources. What we're trying to do is to get the fighting to stop. Q Is there some concerns that the Bosnians might themselves be doing this firing so as to lure us -- the United States and others nations -- into military intervention? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, I can't reach that conclusion. Q Richard, can you tell us, please, if you do find out that the Bosnians, for instance, are responsible for this latest atrocity, which you call a despicable act, what implications does that have? Does the U.S. Government have any view -- MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I've declined about seven times already in this briefing to stop drawing conclusions from something that has yet to be established. There are various statements today that we're watching. We're obviously very concerned about this situation, and we'll follow closely the results of any investigations. We'll have any information that we might be able to develop independently. But I'm not going to try to spin out a whole plan of action based on something that's still in the process of being established. Q But, Richard, you did seem to indicate -- some French officials were saying that perhaps relief convoys should be suspended. You said -- you went back to the formulation that the United States has said that all necessary means should be used. So you're saying that under any circumstances the relief convoys should be continued; is that correct? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I wouldn't quite put it that way. You're asking me to say that a specific convoy ought to go down somewhere tomorrow. That's for the people on the ground to determine. We have confirmed our determination, along with the determination of the rest of the international community, to ensure delivery of humanitarian relief supplies. That is in the U.N. resolutions. There were decisions taken at London, along with other governments, to beef up the UNPROFOR contingent, to ensure that that was possible. That is what we're working on in terms of specific plans right now. The U.N. Secretary General is working on detailed plans which we expect to see shortly. That is the way that we and other members of the international community are proceeding. Q Richard -- MR. BOUCHER: We had one over here. Q I'm a little confused about what the U.S. is doing at the moment. Are we just waiting for the U.N. to come up with a new plan, or are we contributing ideas about how to protect the convoy, or what? MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with other governments, both in NATO, bilaterally -- a lot of areas -- NATO, bilaterally. There's been discussions going on in the CSCE. We've all, I think, contributed to the U.N. planning that was going on. There was some fairly intensive discussions of this during the London Conference. So it's something we're working on, but in terms of finally putting the pieces together in a plan, that's something the Secretary General has to do. Q Are we involved in drafting the proposed language of a new resolution, or are we leaving that to somebody else at the U.N.? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there's draft language on the resolution yet. Q Richard, I think you left a loose end in your answer to Saul's question. You said you cannot reach the conclusion that the Bosnians are provoking incidents in order to lure the United States and the international community into the -- or deeper into the conflict. Can you reach the conclusion that they're not, or is it simply an open question? MR. BOUCHER: I really haven't tried to address the question in any detail, Norm, and I'd hesitate to draw any conclusion whatsoever at this point. Q It's certainly one of the things that you have to be investigating. I mean, if the Bosnians -- MR. BOUCHER: There have been reports and statements like that. I went through and said that it's hard to establish responsibility for any particular attack; that there have been reports and statements like that. Frankly, many of them we find very hard to believe. But at the same time, there's plenty of violence. We've always said there's plenty of blame to go around in this situation, although the preponderance of the blame rests on the Serbian shoulders. Q But, Richard, is the United States doing any investigation? I mean, are they leaving it up to the U.N. to ascertain who's responsible for the attacks, or do we have on-ground people who are looking into this? MR. BOUCHER: We don't have people on-ground in Sarajevo, so the U.N. is the best place to do it. But, obviously, we have other ways of acquiring information, and, should we be able to get any that pertains to this, I'm sure we'd find that most interesting. Q I understand the French have reached some sort of conclusion. Is that just an initial report, or do we know yet who -- the French seem to be blaming the Bosnian Government. MR. BOUCHER: Saul, we've gone around on this. There have been statements reported in the press this morning by the French local commander, by an Egyptian who's out there on the ground. These people are obviously in a good position to know and try to figure out exactly what happened. The U.N. is, you know, still looking to try to draw the pieces together and to figure out exactly what happened in the incident, and I don't have any independent -- other information for you. That's just where we stand right now. Q Richard, has a determination ever been made about whose fire killed those two schoolchildren on a bus trying to flee? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q I ask because there were similar rumors at the time that perhaps that was provoked. MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know. Q Richard, when you say that some of the reports are hard to believe, would you put this latest report in the category of hard to believe? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I don't know enough about this latest report at this point. Q You listed at the beginning of your situation report earlier that -- some additional shelling last night by Serbian forces. Does the United States have a view on whether the Serbians in Bosnia or in Belgrade are adhering to the spirit and the letter of the agreements they made in London? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know exactly what you're asking about. If you're asking about the question, for example, of placing the heavy weapons under the control of the United Nations, I've reported to you on that and said there were some indications that the weapons were, in fact, being moved. But at this point we want to see it happen all the way. You know, certainly we haven't seen a cease-fire since London, but that was not what we promised when we got out of London. What we promised was a process, that was the focus -- attention and pressure on the parties to make sure that these commitments were reached, and that they were adhered to. Q Can you say that since London, to use an earlier phrase, that the preponderance of blame is still on Serb shoulders? MR. BOUCHER: I'd think in terms of the overall fighting, certainly. Q Recent fighting in the last two weeks or so? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly. Q Can I go to another subject, please? MR. BOUCHER: Please. Q I understand from the wires that Yeltsin has called off his trip to Japan because they can't -- apparently can't reach an agreement on the Islands. I wonder if the United States has a view -- has any kind of view on that and whether it's -- and what importance might it have? MR. BOUCHER: That's something I saw in press reports this morning. I'd prefer to get you something this afternoon on that. Q Has the U.S. been involved in -- the U.S. some time ago indicated it would be glad to help Japan and Russia resolve that dispute. Has the U.S. played a role in mediating or intervening in some way in settling that dispute? MR. BOUCHER: We have certainly had discussions with all the various parties, and we've stated our view many times, which is basically support for the Japanese position. I don't know of anything that I would describe as mediation. The preparations for this visit, I think, were handled by the Japanese and the Russians. Q Richard, are there any plans to expand the Somali relief beyond the towns already being -- having food deliveries? MR. BOUCHER: I know that they've been surveying other sites. I'm not sure what the results of that were, so that's something I'd have to check, or we could check with the Pentagon on. Q Any change in the aid situation for Nicaragua as far as the Administration is concerned, or are consultations still continuing between Nicaragua and the U.S. and between the Bush Administration and Capitol Hill? MR. BOUCHER: Well, our consultations with the Nicaraguan Government and the Congress continue. So you were right, Ralph. Q Can you be any more specific about who you're consulting with on the Hill? MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think I can. Our Embassy is in touch and talking to the Nicaraguans down there, and we are talking to some people up on the Hill, but at this point I don't have a list for you, and I can't speculate as to when we might see the conditions established so that we could start releasing the money. Q Does the Administration have a view as to -- can you explain the Administration's view in these consultations? Is the Administration's view that the aid ought to be continued or resumed soon? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can explain it in any detail at all, except to say that I think I expressed our view on the events -- the recent events that we've seen and the changes that were made in Nicaragua yesterday, and we've seen some positive movement along several fronts. Q Is that enough to justify, in the Administration's view? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't go into that much detail at this point. Q Do you have any response to the critical remarks of President Chamorro about the United States meddling in Nicaragua's internal affairs? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't really. We've expressed our concerns about certain specific things. We've discussed those with her government. We think those things are important, and we want to pursue them, and that's where we stand. Q Anything on the situation in Tajikistan? MR. BOUCHER: Not today. Is there something particularly you'd like to know? Q Well, I just wondered, you know, about the level of concern here about the prospect of civil war or how we feel about this? MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, we're concerned about the prospect of any sort of violence. We have been following the events there very closely. In the contacts that we've had and the statements that we've made, we have expressed our view that people should try to solve these differences peacefully and in a democratic manner. That's about all I could say for you at this point. The situation is somewhat unclear. Q Are we talking directly -- MR. BOUCHER: I think Nabiyev is out of town, and he is -- the National Assembly now has to take action. Q Are we talking to anyone directly? MR. BOUCHER: We have a variety of contacts out there, but nobody specific I would cite. Q Richard, on the package -- the Administration's package for the loan guarantees to Israel, can you tell us any of the details of that proposal? MR. BOUCHER: No. The President said yesterday that he's sending to Congress this week the legislation requesting up to $10 billion in loan guarantees to help Israel absorb immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. The Administration has been in discussion with interested parties on the loan guarantee proposal and we will not be putting out any further details of our legislation until it is ready for transmittal. Q When will that be? MR. BOUCHER: We expect that this week. Q When you use the phrase "up to $10 billion," does that indicate that the Administration is considering whether to ask for the full amount, or is that simply a phrase that will be used or that is part of the Administration's proposal? Is it possible the Administration would ask for less than that, or are you -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to go into any details whatsoever of this, Ralph. But, as I remember it, with other loan guarantees, that it's that kind of phrase that's used. Q On a related topic, Richard, the sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia that President Bush is considering, is there any thought being given to hinging that sale to a lifting of Saudi Arabia's participation in the Arab economic boycott of Israel? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Sid, I'm not prepared to say anything more than the President did. Consideration is being given to that sale, but no final decisions have been made. Q Still on the Middle East, now that we're in a break in the talks, are you able to enlighten us any more about the Administration's plans for inviting the delegates to meet with former Secretary of State Baker, as to when that might occur? MR. BOUCHER: No. I mean, it won't occur until they get back to town, which is next Monday, but I don't have any schedule for meetings after that. Q Is it still the U.S. view that the talks would end on or about September 23, or is there some consideration to either expanding or contracting the period of time? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've ever quite stated the view that way, Ralph. We've never told people when they have to leave or put a close to the talks. There was an expectation that people would want a break for the U.N. session, but it's up to the parties to determine when they want to meet. We're open and ready for business whenever they want us to be here. Q Just a follow-up on something that Sid asked a moment ago. On the Secretary of State's last trip to the Middle East, he made it clear again that he would like to see some sort of sign from both sides -- some sort of confidence-building measures on both sides. He made that statement going out there, and then he found that in Israel there was, as he put it, a genuine change of direction on the settlements, and he sought a similar signal in the Arab world. And now in the Arab world we're considering F-15s for Saudi Arabia. Is there any evidence, any indication, of any signals from anybody in the Arab world that they -- especially the Saudis, where we were seeking the signals -- that there might be some confidence-building measure towards Israel like a suspension of the Arab boycott while Israel suspends settlements, now that they're also probably getting F-15s. Is there any sign at all from the Saudis of some sort of signal that Secretary Baker asked for? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, if you're going to tie this to F-15s, I'm not really going to address the F-15s in any more detail than the President did yesterday. As far as the general subject of confidence-building measures, I think we've expressed our views on those before, and I don't have any sort of rundown for you today. Q But is there anything from the Saudis that we know of or confidence-building measures from them? MR. BOUCHER: That would be something for a good reporter to look at. Q What? MR. BOUCHER: That would be something good for a reporter to look at. I don't have a rundown for you today, Saul. I'm sorry. Q Richard, do you have any comment on reports from China that they're going to slap higher tariffs on American goods in response to the sale of F-15s to Taiwan -- F-16s. MR. BOUCHER: I haven't exactly seen that report. No. Q Apparently, there's a report from China this morning that they plan to slap heavy tariffs on U.S. imported goods such as computers and other electronic components in retaliation. MR. BOUCHER: I'd seen actually a different report from China, but I can't sort it out for you at this point. Q Richard, could we go back to the Middle East? On the "no-fly zone" over southern Iraq, it's been in place for three weeks now. Do we have any idea how long that "no-fly zone" can continue? Are we satisfied with the results so far? And in light of those results, are we prepared to continue no flying over southern Iraq forever? MR. BOUCHER: Forever is a long time, Jacques. I think we made clear that we're prepared to continue this as long as it's necessary. Q And do you believe that it's still necessary? MR. BOUCHER: We are continuing it. Q Are things quiet below the 32nd parallel? MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, yes. I think Pete Williams did an update on it yesterday. Q Well, he didn't say it was quiet, did he?. MR. BOUCHER: Well, whatever he said yesterday, I agree with today. (Laughter) Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:24 p.m.)