US Department of State Daily Briefing #125: Thursday, 9/10/92

Boucher Source: State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: Sep, 10 19929/10/92 Category: Briefings Region: Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Somalia, Macedonia, Iran, China, Israel, Syria, Romania, South Africa Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Development/Relief Aid, United Nations, CSCE, Mideast Peace Process 12:20 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

[Yugoslavia: Updates]

I would like, if I could, to start off with some updates on the situation in the former Yugoslavia and give you some brief information on Somalia, and then I'd be glad to take your questions. On the airlift -- as you know, the airlift remains suspended. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, announced yesterday that she could not recommend resumption of the airlift until the U.N. reports on the investigation into the crash of the Italian aircraft, until the Security Council considers expanding the U.N. Protective Force mandates, and until security assurances are received from the parties in Bosnia. We are urging the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to make all possible efforts to expand land convoys into Sarajevo while work goes on in achieving those other things. As far as land convoys go, the High Commissioner for Refugees' office in Split reports its convoy plans have not changed as a result of the attack on the UNPROFOR convoy two days ago. They are planning to send an 8l metric ton convoy to Vitez today; 85 metric tons to Sarajevo tomorrow; and a 40 metric ton convoy is scheduled for Citluk tomorrow as well. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees land convoy planning team has completed a draft report on assistance to Bosnia-Hercegovina. The planning document is an exhaustive analysis of logistical, security and coordination issues that need to be addressed to sustain a massive humanitarian assistance operation into Bosnia-Hercegovina in the months ahead. We are studying the document and hope to be able to support rapid implementation of the recommendations. And you know that that was something that was very important to us, that we get the planning under way to cope with the difficulties that might be faced during the winter. Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen are travelling to Sarajevo today. We understand that they plan to meet in Sarajevo with Bosnian President Izetbegovic and with Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic. Mr. Vance and Lord Owen also called the warring parties in Bosnia to an urgent meeting in Geneva to discuss security for the UNPROFOR forces, but we don't at this time know when that meeting will take place. On Red Cross access, we have some new numbers. The International Committee of the Red Cross, as of this morning, has 8,485 prisoners registered in 2l centers. Of these, 9l3 are held by the Croats; 854 by the Muslims; and 6,7l8 are in Serbian hands. The Committee has also contracted with Aeroflot to fly into Banja Luka and evacuate 69 detainees who require urgent medical attention. They will be flown to London, we understand. On the humanitarian mission, the mission that was led by Sir John Thomson, has gone and come back. Sir John Thomson met yesterday with Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Moravcik, who is the Chairman-in-Office of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. They met to discuss the mission's findings. We are urging that the mission's final report be made public soon, or as soon as possible. So you may see that in coming days, or at least next week. On Macedonia, the leader of the team, Ambassador Frowick, is on his way to Macedonia today for an initial visit, accompanied by a Foreign Service Officer, Marshall Harris. The purpose of the mission, first proposed by President Bush on August 6, is to serve as an early warning mechanism to detect impending trouble and as part of the international community's effort to prevent the widening of the conflict in the region. The initial exploratory visit beginning today will involve visits to border areas and discussions with the authorities in Skopje. Ambassador Frowick will then report back to the Committee of Senior Officials at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe on September 16th. And then at that time, we expect a final mandate for a continuous mission will be approved, and once that's established, the mission would remain until it is no longer needed. Finally, on the fighting situation, the local media in Bosnia and Serbia report heavy fighting last night and this morning in Sarajevo, particularly in Dobrinja. Street fighting was also reported in several districts of Sarajevo. As I said I think before, the Sarajevo airport remains closed. There are press reports of an announcement by the Government of Bosnia-Hercegovina that Bosnian Serb forces are indeed pulling artillery back from Sarajevo. If that proves true, we would welcome this as a development in keeping with the London Conference undertakings. Then briefly on Somalia, the numbers for flights yesterday are: six flights to Belet Weyne; three to Baidoa; and one to Wajir. Total is l0l metric tons of relief supplies. For today, they are projecting five flights to Baidoa, six to Belet Weyne, and one to Wajir. The total is l4l tons, metric tons. With that, I will be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have any comment on the report of Iranian shipments of lethal equipment to Croatia? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I'll give you the rundown on that. An Iranian aircraft that was supposedly carrying humanitarian relief for Bosnia landed in Zagreb on September 4th. Along with some relief supplies, the aircraft contained a substantial quantity of arms and ammunition, presumably for transshipment to Bosnia. There were also some armed men aboard the aircraft. At President Tudjman's direction, the Croatian authorities took control of the shipment, including the arms and the ammunition. This prompt, commendable action by Croatia was entirely in keeping with the United Nation's arms embargo. Croatian authorities contacted the United Nations in Zagreb. They also notified the United Nations Sanctions Committee yesterday about this incident. The Iranian action, on the other hand, was an effort to contravene the U.N. arms embargo, which Iran, as a U.N. member state, is duty bound to uphold. All U.N. member states must honor the arms embargo. The Iranian aircraft departed Zagreb without its cargo. We do not know whether the armed men were on the plane when it departed or not. And finally to note that the U.N. played a helpful role in cooperating with the Croatian authorities to inventory the contents of the arms shipments, and that's in consonance with the United Nations arms embargo. Q Richard, what kind of effect do you think this is going to have on the wider relief efforts? I mean, given the fact that this plane has now been found, are other relief planes going to come under suspicion for carrying arms? MR. BOUCHER: I don't see why they should come under suspicion, unless there were reasons for them to come under suspicion. Certainly we have been only sending in relief flights, only relief shipments, and it is being done with U.N., under the control of the U.N., with the observations of the U.N. throughout. So, I don't expect this to have any effect on the relief flights. Q I didn't mean the United States, per se. I just meant on everybody else. MR. BOUCHER: Well, on the other relief flights, all the other relief flights that have gone into Sarajevo certainly have been done with the U.N. -- under U.N. control. Q Do you believe the warring factions got some of these arms? Has that been determined? MR. BOUCHER: Well, they certainly didn't get this shipment, because the Croatians took them and have control over them. Q Does the U.S. think there were other shipments? MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any confirmed evidence of other attempts to circumvent the arms embargo by arms shipments in this way to Bosnia, but it is possible that previous Iranian flights might have carried some arms. Q How many previous Iranian flights were there? MR. BOUCHER: That I don't have the details of. Q Do you have any details on the type of equipment which was sent? MR. BOUCHER: You mean what the arms and ammunition were? No, I'd have to refer you to the Croatians or the U.N. for that. Q But after they got the arms, then what happened to the arms? That's what confuses me. Where are they? I mean, who's using them? MR. BOUCHER: The Croatians took control over them. The United Nations, as I said, helped them inventory the contents of the arms shipment. At this point, I don't know exactly in which warehouse they are being kept, but they are under Croatian control, and they are being kept. The Croatians have notified the Sanctions Committee, as they should, and they have asked the U.N. Sanctions Committee for guidance on the disposition. Q On the inventory, the U.S., as a member of the Sanctions Committee, I think, should have that information, shouldn't it? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to give it to you, Ralph. I'd have to ask you to get that from the U.N. or the Croatians. Q Can you give us some idea of whether these were bombs, small arms, heavy weapons, that would fall under the U.S. -- MR. BOUCHER: They were guns and bullets. That's arms and ammunition, a substantial quantity of arms and ammunition. Q Would any of them fall into the category of heavy weapons? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, no. Q Do we know where these arms were manufactured, Richard? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Again, that's a question you'd better ask the Croatians or the U.N. Q Richard, what kind of action do you think -- does the United States think should be taken against Iran, if any? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, first of all, the first action is this kind of shipment ought to stop -- these flights ought to stop. The action that should be taken will have to be determined by the Sanctions Committee as they look at the Croatian letter, and, as far as I know, at this point they haven't responded. But they're the ones to consider what's the appropriate follow-up. Q All right. But the United States has a role to play in that. MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have a role as a member of the Sanctions Committee. Q And what -- have you come to some determination as to what kind of action might be taken in this case? MR. BOUCHER: That's something that we'd have to consider along with the other members of the Sanctions Committee. Q Richard, what's the status of -- have there been any more intelligence about arms shipments from Belgrade to Bosnian Serbs, do we know? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. I think you've always heard us talk in the past -- Q I don't know -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've ever talked about intelligence on arms shipments, but -- Q Do we -- MR. BOUCHER: -- we have always stated that the Bosnian Serb forces were not only created out of the former Yugoslav army, the JNA, but that they continue to get support. Q And do they still continue to get arms in to the forces around Sarajevo and other places in Bosnia? MR. BOUCHER: That's something I'd have to check on and see if we can give you anything. Q I just wondered if the arms embargo -- MR. BOUCHER: But they have continued to get support, but whether they're actually shipping arms across the border, that's something I'll have to check and see if we have information that we can give you. Q Could you, because we used to be able to monitor and spot trucks, for example, heading in that direction. I just wondered whether that's still happening. MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember ever talking about trucks heading in that direction, Saul, but you'll remember that one of the things that we decided to do at London, for this very reason, was to take up the offer and station observers on the borders, so that we had people there that could monitor any sort of support that was going on and hopefully by having people there cut it off, and that's something we're working on in the context of the meetings in Geneva. Q Richard, you just said that the U.S. believes the Bosnian Serbs continue to get support from the Serbs in Belgrade. Does the U.S. believe now that Bosnian Serbs are still under the control -- effectively under the control -- or under the effective control, let's put it that way, of Bosnians in Belgrade? Or is it a situation now where the support that had been previously provided has gone -- is running amok? MR. BOUCHER: You used -- depending on where you put the word "effective," you used sort of two or three different characterizations in your question. Q Well, we can make them separate questions, if you wish. MR. BOUCHER: The characterization I would use -- and I don't remember it exactly -- was the one that I think Eagleburger used at the press conference in London, and it was basically that they can effectively be controlled, or words to that effect; that while they have -- the Bosnian Serb forces have a certain independence, that there are pressures and influence that can be applied to make sure that they do what's necessary to bring peace to this region. Q Do we know what kind of help the Bosnian Serbs continue to get from Belgrade in terms of arms and ammunition? MR. BOUCHER: That's similar to the question you just asked. I'd have to check and see if there's anything I can give you on that. Q Richard, as far as this Sanctions Committee response to the Iranian arms shipment, what is the array of things they might do? What things are available -- what avenues are available to them? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly, Sid, but I think the point to stress is that by finding these things, seizing such shipments and bringing them to the attention of the Sanctions Committee, that you effectively sensitize people to monitoring such shipments, make it more likely that they will be deterred and prevented by exposing them to the light of the other governments and the Sanctions Committee and by exposing them to public light to some extent. It makes it less likely that these shipments will be able to be conducted in the future, and that obviously is the goal. Q Richard, just for the record, what do you say to the Bosnians who say that the Serbs have all of this -- all of these arms that they continue to get? "We are a country that's been invaded, and we do not have the means to defend ourselves because of the embargo." MR. BOUCHER: We say what we've always said, Saul, is that there's too much fighting going on already. There's too many arms in this area already. That there is fighting being launched by various sides. Our position, our view, is still that the preponderance of the blame rests with the Serbian side, with the Serbian forces. They are, by and large, responsible for most of the fighting that goes on, most of the violence that goes on, most of the horrors that have gone on. But there's plenty of blame to go around for everybody, and what the region needs is not more arms. Q Richard, does the appearance suddenly, the public appearance suddenly of this shipment of weapons under the guise of humanitarian assistance offer any of the parties in the conflict an excuse for jeopardizing -- does it put the relief convoys and the relief operation in general in jeopardy by having given some of the factions, of whatever color, an excuse for saying, "Well, we can't be sure these really are relief flights after all." MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, this goes back to the question that Carol was asking before; that this is not a U.N. relief flight by any means. This is not a flight or a convoy delivery within the U.N. structure. The flights, the delivery of U.N. relief that we have carried out, that the United States has been part of and proud to be a part of for these many months, and that we do with a great deal of -- many other countries, is done under the U.N. auspices, with the checking, and it's solely relief supplies. And I think all the parties -- since all the parties received these various supplies, and civilians of all types receive them -- people know what's getting in and people know who's doing it, and there's no reason for any aspersions to be cast on that effort. Q But I'm not sure I understand then. So there are two kinds of relief flights being allowed in by the U.N. to -- MR. BOUCHER: This was a flight into Zagreb by Iran -- Q Unauthorized by the U.N.? MR. BOUCHER: -- that was purported to be a humanitarian flight, but it was not part of the U.N. flights, no. Q Are there other such flights, other than -- from countries other than Iran? Are there other things going on? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd probably have to check with Croatia on what other deliveries there might have been. Q Well, since that raises the question of whether the U.N., which has mounted a major humanitarian aid operation and is now discussing providing military support and protection for that operation, is not in control after all of what stuff gets in and out of the former Yugoslavia. It has not exercised -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the U.N. ever pretended to be the sole channel for assistance. The United Nations and the countries involved with this effort have mounted a major and substantial effort to bring assistance to people who need it. Q Richard, had Iran notified the U.N. that they were taking this flight in? I mean, are -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You'd have to check with the U.N. on that. Q Because that really goes to Ralph's question as well, as to whether countries that fly flights in that are not part of the U.N. operation, whether they are supposed to notify the U.N. that they are flying into certain areas? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's a question you'd have to ask the United Nations. Q You seem to be taking fairly lightly and maybe I'm taking too seriously the idea that even one incident like this -- like a terrorist breaking in -- you know, posing as a restaurant delivery person or something in a terrorist incident -- casts doubt on all such deliveries, regardless of whether it was part of the U.N. operation or not. MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, we take very seriously the attempts to violate the U.N. arms embargo. But we don't see any reason for casting aspersions on what is a laudable and carefully controlled effort and a major effort by the United Nations to bring true humanitarian relief to people who desperately need it, and we don't see any connection between this attempt to violate the arms embargo and the efforts that the United Nations has under way, that we're part of, to bring relief to people who need it. Q This is a distantly related question, but Rafsanjani was in China yesterday, according to some reports, seeking nuclear weapons. Is this something we worry actively about? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen anything on that, but I think our position on Iran and its nuclear cooperation in general has been stated many times, and it hasn't changed. Q Well, has the worry become more acute with the change in -- with the recent aggravation of our relations with China over arms control? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have any basis for saying that or for considering that. The concerns that we've had about Iran and nuclear developments have been expressed many times. They remain the same. Q Richard, I would like to ask one other sort of basic question on Bosnia. Does the United States view that Bosnia, which is a sovereign country, has the right of self-defense against an invader? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, that's a theoretical question -- Q No, it's not. It's a rather practical question. MR. BOUCHER: Well, if you're asking me practically on the ground -- Q It's a country the United States recognizes -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it is. Q -- and they've been invaded. MR. BOUCHER: And every country has the right to self-defense. But practically, what's the way to resolve this question, what's the way to restore their integrity, that's what we're dealing with, and that's why we're making the efforts that we're making. Q But the United States acknowledges that it's a sovereign country that has the right of self-defense, like all countries, sort of inherently. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any reason to question that, but I'm not about to let you apply it to any given course of action at this point. Q Well, it's just that there seems to be an ambivalence in statements that you and the Secretary have made about whether this is a civil war or whether everybody is to blame but somebody is to blame a little bit more, or whether it is a -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any ambivalence. Q -- it is an invasion of -- there seems to be an ambivalence. I don't know whether this is an invasion or a civil war. MR. BOUCHER: Saul, it a very complex situation. Q Officially speaking. MR. BOUCHER: We've tried to explain that to you many times. I'll try again right now. It's a very complex situation. You have people on various sides fighting in this. You can count on your fingers and your hands and your toes, depending on how detailed you want to count, the number of different groups and organizations that have guns and are trying to get one thing or another thing out of this situation. It's an ethnic conflict. It's a civil war. It has certain international repercussions. We're trying to deal with all that. We're trying to reduce it to basics, stop the fighting, help the people who are being harmed, and prevent this thing from spreading. Q You mean it's an invasion of one country, but another with civil war aspects; is that what you're trying to say? MR. BOUCHER: I can't say it any more than I've said it now and that we've said it a thousand times. Q Richard, this sort of asks Saul's question a different way -- MR. BOUCHER: No, don't. Q Does the Administration feel Bosnia has a right to purchase weapons? MR. BOUCHER: Sid, there is a United Nations arms embargo on all the parties. The Administration has felt all along, has stated many, many times, in answers to questions to here and elsewhere, that we don't think they need more arms in this region right now. Q Why do we think that this was under the guise of a relief flight, if it wasn't registered with the U.N. and it landed in Zagreb? MR. BOUCHER: Because that's what they said it was. Q The Iranians said that it was a relief flight? MR. BOUCHER: That's the way they declared it when it came in. Q Richard, still on Bosnia: Does the U.S. think that the Sanctions Committee or the U.N. relief operation ought to provide or perhaps call for others to provide observers or monitors of some sort to check all flights coming and going to see if there is such instances in the future? Should the U.N. take over supervision of that aspect of the problem? MR. BOUCHER: That's something I'd have to look at before specifying that the U.N. should take over some particular supervision of -- some particular new mandate for that. I think, certainly, the flight points out the importance of checking flights where we're not sure what's on board, as the Coatians did in this case. Q Coming back to the questions we were asking yesterday and the day before about responsibility for the attack on the UNPROFOR convoy and for the attack on the Italian relief flight, you said that the U.S. finds it hard to believe many of the reports that -- MR. BOUCHER: Not about those. It was asked more broadly. Q -- that Bosnians are involved in attacks. Does the U.S. find the reports hard to believe that Bosnians may have been responsible for either of those two -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't want you to misconstrue what I said yesterday. We were asked -- when I said we found some things hard to believe, we were taking about a whole broad spectrum of reports that certain of the more horrible attacks against civilians, in fact, might have been provoked by the Bosnians. Q But were you excluding these incidents? MR. BOUCHER: At that point, these incidents, it was not very clear. Where these incidents stand, as far as the Italian flight goes, I think the investigations by the U.N. and UNPROFOR are still continuing. The President of the Security Council in a statement last night asked the Secretary General to inform the Council as soon as possible of the results of the U.N. inquiry into this attack, including information about the responsible party, when they have it. But the investigation by the Italians and UNPROFOR continue into that. On the killing of the French troops and the convoy, the U.N. has not yet made any official determination on responsibility. In that statement yesterday, the President of the Security Council asked the Secretary General to inform the Council of his findings in the inquiry into this incident as soon as possible. As you know, the UNPROFOR commander on the ground has stated that Bosnian Government forces were responsible for the attack, and we support the UNPROFOR request that this matter be fully investigated by the Bosnian Government and that those responsible be brought to account. Q Does that raise questions in the U.S. Government's mind about the U.S. support for the Bosnian Government -- everything from recognition down to its political support for the Bosnian Government's resistance against Serbian attacks? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, first of all, this needs to be investigated fully and we need to find out all the facts on this, and anybody who is responsible ought to be punished. We don't have any information that would substantiate the stories or speculation that there might have been some motive here to provoke an armed intervention. It's clear, by the nature of these attacks, that regardless of the motive, the only thing that deliberate targeting of U.N. personnel can accomplish is that it can only harm the interests and the welfare of the Bosnian population who, clearly, the U.N. personnel are there to help. Q Sometimes in other instances -- I know you don't you make comparisons, but in other cases, the United States Government sometimes asks other governments for explanations of incidents that occur. It calls through diplomatic channels for such explanations. Does the U.S., in its relationship with Bosnia, has it asked for an explanation of this incident? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure if we've formally asked them for an explanation. But, as you know, there was a letter yesterday from the U.N. people, from the UNPROFOR commander on the ground, and I'm telling you that we support that request that this be investigated. As a member of the Security Council, obviously, we joined in supporting the President's statement yesterday that the Secretary General get the information and report to the Council. Q On another subject. Q Still on the same subject. Q Richard, you made a comment before about Bosnian Serbs and moving their heavy weapons. Can you be a little bit more expansive about that? MR. BOUCHER: I can't. All the information I have today is that there are press reports that quote the Bosnian Government as saying that some of these weapons are being moved out from -- some of the artillery is being moved away from Sarajevo. Of course, that would be a very good development in keeping with what happened in London, if it were true. Q But you have no information of your own? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any independent confirmation for you. Q Richard, on the detention camps, you mentioned the figure of 8,000 in 21 camps. Now, that figure is down by 4,000, I think, from the previous figure you gave. MR. BOUCHER: It's down about 3,000 from the earlier figures that I saw. Q Does it mean that those 3,000 are free? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The figure show that some 3,000 -- possibly more people -- have been released from camps. You're aware, I think, of a few of the releases that have taken place with the ICRC involved. There apparently have been other releases where the ICRC was not involved, and therefore we don't have too much information where those people went and what their whereabouts are now. Q Are you confident that this figure you just gave us today -- those 8,000 -- it's a definite figure on the number of people still in detention camps? MR. BOUCHER: As of today, that's the Red Cross figure as of this morning -- Red Cross figures that they released this morning, so that's the best information that they have as of this morning. Q Turning to the U.N. for just a second. I understand the U.N. -- I think the Security Council was actually having a meeting this morning to discuss the Bosnia situation and the provision of protection for humanitarian relief operations. The British, I think, have announced that they're prepared to contribute 1,600 to 1,800 troops, and I think the U.N. Secretary General's recommendation was something around 6,000 troops needed. Does the U.S. endorse that figure of about 6,000? Does the U.S. have a contribution it would like to make known? MR. BOUCHER: I believe if you look back at various reports and announcements that various governments have talked in the past about their willingness to contribute in one way or the other to the expansion of the UNPROFOR forces, or to ensure that we achieve the goals that were specified in the U.N. resolution; that's to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies. I know that there have been public statements by the British, I think the French, the Italians, possibly some others as well. For our part, you're aware the United States has said that -- the President has said -- that we're willing to contribute our naval and air assets. In addition, we're willing to contribute things like logistics and communications support. We've also said that we don't envisage using U.S. ground forces. The meeting at the U.N. today, I understand, was going to be an informal Security Council session, basically, to receive the draft, or the plan from the Secretary General on the beefing-up of UNPROFOR; that there probably wouldn't be a lot of discussion today, that people would take it back and study it and we'll get our comments in that context. Q Is there any further word on the NATO offer to CSCE to take part, some military part in -- MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing new on that. That was NATO planning that had been done that was provided to the Secretary General on September 3. So it was information and planning that he could use in preparing his document, his plan that is being presented today. Q So that would be part of whatever plan that is being considered, or is going today to the U.N.? MR. BOUCHER: Taken into account or factored in, I guess, not necessarily appearing verbatim. Q Another subject, Richard. There is already a week-long hunger strike, protest hunger strike by Laszlo Tokes, the famous Hungarian Bishop in Romania. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I don't. I'll have to check on that and see what we have. Q Do you have anything on the Israeli offer on the Golan Heights? MR. BOUCHER: Don't hold your breath. We've seen the reports of the various statements that have been made by both Prime Minister Rabin and President Assad. We welcome any positive signal or gesture which the parties send to each other. Q Is the U.S. directly in contact, facilitating or helping out? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not going to have any other comment on their statements. As you know, we have peace talks that are due to resume again on Monday, a round that's been going on. We let the parties negotiate in that round. Q Does the United States think those statement, the reports of which you noted, were positive gestures -- positive signals or gestures? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, and we welcome any such gestures or signals. Q Richard, President Chamorro announced that she was ready to give back the confiscated properties in Nicaragua. That was announced yesterday, I think, or early today. Do you have any reaction to that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly -- I'm not sure I saw the report that you're referring to. I think on Monday I reported that we've seen some positive steps in a number of the areas that we were concerned about. Certainly, we would welcome any further positive steps on the return of property. Q Richard, anything further on an agreement reached on unfreezing the aid money? MR. BOUCHER: We're still in consultations with the Congress and the Nicaraguan Government on that. Q So there's no decision? MR. BOUCHER: No decisions. Q Are any Nicaraguan officials expected in town today or tomorrow on this subject? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I've heard of, but I better check. You may have heard something I haven't. Q Anything further on the violence in South Africa? Again, has the U.S. given any suggestions? Have you been in contact with any of the parties of the government there? MR. BOUCHER: We certainly have been in contact with the parties and the government. We've expressed our views the way we've expressed them from here, and especially encourage people to get back to negotiations. Q Do you have anything to say about the status of the international efforts to use Iraqi assets outside Iraq further than they may already being used to fund U.N. operations, to seize them? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:56 p.m.)