US Department of State Daily Briefing #126: Friday, 9/11/92

Boucher Source: State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: Sep, 11 19929/11/92 Category: Briefings Region: Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, East Asia Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Somalia, Russia, Iran, China Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Development/Relief Aid, United Nations, CSCE, Arms Control 12:21 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, gentlemen and lady. (Laughter) It's nice to see all eight of you here, ten of you -- whatever it is. But for the purposes of the record and those who might be listening over the airwaves somewhere, we'll start the briefing. I'll do, if I can, today some updates on new things that I've noticed about Yugoslavia and what we're doing there or in Geneva, and then give you a few facts on Somalia, and then we can go on to your questions.

[Yugoslavia: Update]

The airlift into Sarajevo remains suspended. Our Embassy in Zagreb reports that because of the suspension of the airlift to Sarajevo, beginning tomorrow there will be 14 planes per day that will fly relief supplies from Zagreb into Split, and then from there the supplies will be put on convoys to Sarajevo and to other destinations. I think I gave you just the other day some overall summaries of the amount of stuff that's been moving through Split already with convoys. UNHCR-Split has a 40 metric ton convoy to Citluk scheduled for today. Tomorrow they plan a 40 ton convoy to Tomislavorad and a 100 metric tons to Sarajevo. So that is the convoy situation as of now. As I think you all know, Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen are in the former Yugoslavia. They've had meetings in Sarajevo. Now they've traveled to Belgrade where they plan to meet with President Cosic and Prime Minister Panic as well as Serbian President Milosevic. They announced yesterday in Sarajevo that Bosnian President Izetbegovic, Bosnian Serb leader Kradzic and Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban have agreed to meet in Geneva starting September 18 for negotiations, and we welcome that development. On sanctions monitoring, there's a meeting today in Brussels that involves us, our NATO and NACC partners, the Romanians, of course, Austria and the European Community. We expect the meeting to result in some initial planning documents that can be passed on to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe as part of their putting together of the comprehensive monitoring plan. The Committee of Senior Officials of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe will meet on September 16 in Prague, with a strong mandate to put teams on the ground as soon as possible, and the United States is pressing for the monitoring teams to be deployed beginning on September 21. I think by now you've all read the Secretary General's report on expanding UNPROFOR. We think it's a good report. We think it sets forth a sound plan for the expansion of UNPROFOR's mandate to protect relief convoys throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina, to protect released detainees, and to provide rules of engagement that would ensure that much needed supplies do indeed to get through to people who so desperately need them. The plan calls for an increase of UNPROFOR forces by four or five battalions through voluntary contributions of troops by individual nations. The troops would be under UNPROFOR command. We're seeking expeditious approval of the report by the Security Council. Informal discussions of the Secretary General's report are scheduled for today in the Security Council. And, finally, one more update on the Iranian arms shipments into Croatia. On September 9, Croatia notified the Chairman of the U.N. Sanctions Committee that on September 4 an Iranian cargo plane carrying significant quantities of arms landed at the Zagreb airport. The Croatian Government has impounded the arms and inventoried them with the assistance of UNPROFOR. The Iranian aircraft has returned to Iran, as I think I told you yesterday. Croatia has asked the Sanctions Committee for its guidance on what action should be taken to address this situation. The Sanctions Committee will meet to discuss the Croatian request this afternoon. For our part, the United States is urging the Committee to recommend that the weapons be destroyed under U.N. supervision. On Somalia: We had six flights to Belet Weyne, four to Baidoa, and one to Wajir, Kenya, yesterday. The total for yesterday is 115 metric tons of relief supplies. Today they're planning on six flights to Baidoa and one flight to Wajir. That's a total of 83 metric tons. You might notice that Belet Weyne is not included. We're told that the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the cosignee in Belet Weyne, has requested a temporary suspension in order to resolve a labor dispute, and the Department of Defense airlift to Belet Weyne will resume when the Red Cross notifies us that it can continue. And that's the updates, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on possible U.S. participation in the increases proposed by the Secretary General? MR. BOUCHER: The information on the U.S. participation is more or less what you're aware of. The President has made clear that the United States is prepared to employ its air and naval assets, should that be necessary, to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief in Bosnia-Hercegovina. We're also prepared to contribute airlift, communications and logistics support. We're currently engaged in discussions with other members of the Security Council and with the United Nations on the report and on the means of implementing it. Q But, Richard, the U.S. is not -- the flip side is the U.S. is not prepared to commit ground troops to this expanded UNPROFOR mission? MR. BOUCHER: We're not planning to contribute ground combat troops. No. Q How about ground support troops? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. It's possible that some of this airlift, communications or logistics may involve people on the ground, but we're not planning on ground combat troops. Q Would the personnel and equipment and facilities that you just mentioned be under the command of UNPROFOR in the same way that the forces of other nations will be, as you said a moment ago, under the command of UNPROFOR? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is the whole operation will be under UNPROFOR. Yes. Q The U.S. in the past has resisted committing its forces to the command of United Nations operations. I'll try to think of another example off the top of my head, but one of the arguments that is always made is that the U.S. wants to retain civilian control over its own military and doesn't want U.S. military forces to fall under anyone else's command. That argument doesn't apply in this case? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's something you might have to check with Defense. I'm not sure what exactly the policy, the history might have been. I think I'd just say that the exact command arrangements under the overall command of UNPROFOR I think have yet to be worked out. And so I don't think I'd draw any specific conclusions at this point. Q Is that a reason -- is that issue a reason why the United States has not committed itself to contribute ground forces for protecting the convoy? MR. BOUCHER: I think the President, Acting Secretary Eagleburger and many others have addressed on numerous occasions the issue of putting people, putting American troops, on the ground there, and frankly I've never heard them cite that as one of the reasons. Q Have you ever heard them cite anything as one of the reasons? MR. BOUCHER: I think they have. Yes. Q What were the reasons? Quagmire? MR. BOUCHER: That word has been mentioned, yes, Ralph, if I remember correctly. Q But, Richard, the U.S. would be willing to bring in troops from the sea and put them on the ground in the event of a search and rescue type operation, as they did with the Italian transport plane? MR. BOUCHER: Sid, I don't want to get into specific scenarios for various things. I said we're prepared to contribute airlift. We're prepared to contribute communications. We're prepared to contribute logistics. The President has made clear he's willing to devote air and naval assets to this. So we're going to work out the details in carrying out this report of the Secretary General, along with the other governments that are interested. I don't want to talk about a very specific scenario. Obviously, the air and rescue capability remains off the coast, and we've used it, and I expect we would use it again if we needed to. Q A question about the little "newslet" on the Iranian shipments that you referred to. The United States says it thinks the weapons ought to be destroyed under U.N. supervision. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q That means the U.S. -- does that mean the United States does not envision or request any punishment of the breaker of an arms embargo -- the violator of an arms embargo? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, at this point I think the Sanctions Committee is going to have to address what it can do about the violation of the arms embargo. The question -- the first question is that Croatia has asked for guidance on what to do with these arms, and that's the answer that we think the Sanctions Committee ought to give. Q What is the answer the United States thinks the Sanctions Committee ought to give to the question of whether the violator of an arms embargo ought to be in some way penalized for that? MR. BOUCHER: That's an answer I don't have for you at this point. I'm sorry. Q Richard, you said yesterday -- Q Same subject, on the Iranian arms shipment: I've seen some reporting that the shipment included personnel as well. MR. BOUCHER: I think I mentioned that there were some military personnel on board. I mentioned that yesterday. Q What happened to them? Did they go back with the plane? MR. BOUCHER: I think I mentioned yesterday that -- Q I'm sorry. MR. BOUCHER: -- we didn't know for sure. Q And you don't today? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q And one other thing, there's been some confusion about what these things were destined for ultimately. What is the U.S. view on that? MR. BOUCHER: I think I mentioned yesterday that we thought they were for transfer into Bosnia. Q O.K. I'm sorry. Q Do you have any further information on previous shipments by Iran or anyone else of weapons? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q What about -- I came in late, so you might have touched on it -- but the shadowing by Serb aircraft -- MR. BOUCHER: Haven't done that yet. I'll be glad to do that. We're aware of incidents in which humanitarian relief flights have been shadowed by Bosnian Serb combat aircraft. The shadowing, which includes flying in very close proximity to the humanitarian flights, presents a serious threat to the safety of United Nations flights. We condemn this practice in the strongest terms. There is no reason to do this shadowing of humanitarian flights. The purpose of the humanitarian relief flights, as well as their schedules and their air corridors, are well known. We've repeatedly stressed to all the parties the importance of ensuring the safety of the humanitarian airlift, as well as the safety of U.N. personnel and convoys in general. We have made specific demarches to Prime Minister Panic and to the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Mr. Karadzic, on this issue. We have told them that shadowing humanitarian relief flights is absolutely unacceptable, and it's downright dangerous. We have insisted that they take every step possible to halt these operations. Both Mr. Panic and Mr. Karadzic have agreed that shadowing of U.N. flights is an unacceptable practice, and both have promised to do their utmost to halt these operations. One of the principles agreed at the London Conference is a ban on military flights in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Implementation of this ban is being discussed in the working group on confidence-building measures, and we think that a successful ban would, of course, put a stop to the practice of shadowing. Q What is the status of the heavy weapons movement at this point? I think you said earlier this week that that was expected to be done by Saturday. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The deadline is Saturday. That's tomorrow. There are conflicting reports at this point on the state of compliance. Press reports quote Lord Owen yesterday in Sarajevo, as a matter of fact, to the effect that the Serbs promised him to put their heavy weapons under U.N. supervision. We expect to see this happen. This has been agreed to. This is the deadline, and we'll see if we get it. Q Just a little bit about the shadowing, the chronology of the demarches. Has shadowing occurred since the demarches were made, or was that after the Italian shoot-down and suspension? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember exactly when the demarches were in relation to the Italian shoot-down. Obviously, it's a practice that we don't want to see repeated as soon as the flights can resume, but there also haven't been relief flights since the Italian plane was shot down, and therefore I'd say there's no way to test it in the recent days. Q Can you give us an idea of the frequency of this or -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't, Sid. Q And, secondly, just a definition of "shadowing." What exactly does that mean? MR. BOUCHER: Airplanes flying in the wake or flying up behind others. Q And those aircraft were not from -- were never from Serbia proper; they were Bosnian Serb aircraft? MR. BOUCHER: I described them as Bosnian Serb aircraft. I can't go into too much more detail except, you know the history of this. These are airplanes that were part of the Yugoslav National Army, the air force, obviously controlled from Belgrade, given by Belgrade to these other people. And we, I think, told you yesterday that Belgrade authorities were continuing to supply arms, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and a variety of other things to the Bosnian Serbs. So there's no question that Belgrade bears a certain responsibility. Q And control over them? MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into any more detail on the exact departure points and specific control of the aircraft. Q Just because they take off from places in Bosnia? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. I can't say that. Q Richard, this would argue for a "no-fly" zone over Bosnia if this, indeed, has been going on. Do you have any idea how long this practice has been going on? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't get into that. The information we have on this is not the kind of information that I'm at liberty to share. I would say that we have been concerned about the use of combat aircraft in Bosnia. I think we've reported to you before that these combat aircraft have been used to bomb and to attack various cities, including cities under siege. In London, there was agreement to a ban on military flights in Bosnia. We and others, working in the confidence-building measures group in Geneva, are working to implement this ban. We've also talked to the French who, as you know, are suggesting the idea of an air cap of some sort. We'll consider this idea along with our allies. There have been no decisions made at this point. As you know, the Secretary General has just made recommendations on ensuring the delivery of humanitarian supplies. We're also working with our allies in the Security Council to implement his plan as soon as possible. The President, as you know, also has said that he is willing to provide air and naval support, if that should be appropriate, in supporting an expanded U.N. operation. Q Was the United States, during these periods of shadowing, prepared to protect planes belonging to them that were falling victim to this practice? MR. BOUCHER: Sid, I haven't said exactly whose planes were victim to this practice, and you would have to check with the Pentagon on something regarding rules of engagement. Q Well, were U.S. planes shadowed? MR. BOUCHER: That's not a point I can go into. I'm sorry. Q Can you say whether the U.S. helicopters that were involved in the search and rescue operation last Friday were shadowed? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, that's again the kind of detail that I wouldn't be able to go into, but I would point out that I talked about incidents in which humanitarian relief flights have been shadowed. Q The U.S. is not aware of any instances in which other flights have been shadowed? MR. BOUCHER: I just have to stick with describing them the way I described them. Q You're telling us the truth but not the whole truth in this case; right? Is that right? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, I'm telling you the truth, and I'm not able to tell you more than that. Q At the London Conference, which you made reference to, did the Serbs commit themselves to halt military flights immediately, as of the London Conference? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the exact language. There was agreement to a ban on military flights that, I think, everybody there agreed to. As with many of the things agreed to at the London Conference, we're following them up in Geneva. That's a subject that has been specifically taken up in the working group on confidence-building measures to see that that agreement is implemented. Q So this is a verbal agreement? MR. BOUCHER: I think it's in the documents, Sid. I don't remember exactly which one. Q One more question on something you said a moment ago when you were discussing the Italian plane. I may have missed something here along the way this week. But you said, in your answer to Mike's question, that the Italian plane had been shot down. Has the U.S. concluded that it was brought down by hostile fire at this point? MR. BOUCHER: We're still awaiting the results of the UNPROFOR and the Italian investigations. If I used the phrase "shot down," that was just to reflect his characterization. Q At this point, the U.S. view is that the plane crashed and we don't know what caused it to crash; is that right? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we're waiting for the final results of the investigations. I think various people involved have said what they think, but we'll wait for them to get their final results. Q Richard, have you seen evidence of "ethnic cleansing" in Central Asia, specifically, Tajiks driving Uzbeks out of their homes? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Alan. I'd have to check. Q Could you? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I'll check. Q Richard, do you have anything at all on the President's proposal yesterday to cut the salary by five percent of the heavy-hitters here who make more than $75,000 a year? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, George. Q Would you be one of them? MR. BOUCHER: It's privileged information. I'm not sure. (Laughter). Q Richard, do you have -- MR. BOUCHER: Probably not, actually. Q Do you have anything on the sale -- the agreement between China and Iran wherein China will help Iran develop a nuclear, a commercial nuclear reactor? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any details of the sale, but I can tell you what the U.S. view has been, and that's the same view that we've had for some time: That any nuclear cooperation with Iran, even for peaceful purposes and even under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, as this cooperation on a nuclear power reactor is represented to be, we think that any cooperation like that is highly imprudent and should be avoided. The Iranian regime's conduct in recent years raises serious questions about whether Iran can be trusted to live up to its commitments in the nuclear non-proliferation area. This conduct includes statements by high-ranking Iranian officials in support of acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. We have made our views on nuclear cooperation with Iran known to all nuclear suppliers, including China. The Iranian Government is aware of our position. According to the announcement that was made in Beijing, the reactor, if and when it's built, will be under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Iran is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is therefore obligated to subject all its nuclear activities to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards inspections. While the provision of a nuclear power reactor under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards does not necessarily pose a direct nuclear proliferation risk, such cooperation would inevitably result in an enhancement of Iran's nuclear infrastructure which could be applied to activities of direct nuclear non-proliferation concern. That's the basic reason why we oppose this kind of cooperation with Iran. Q Have we let Chinese or Iranian officials know of our view? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we've discussed this with a variety of nuclear suppliers. We've discussed this with all potential nuclear suppliers, including China, and the Iranians as well are well aware of our views. Q It sounds like you're trying to say on the one hand that since they're pledging compliance with IAEA inspections and safeguards that there's no legal way the United States can oppose it, or the U.S. can't make a claim to that. But you're just sort of saying, because the Iranians are bad guys the U.S. doesn't think that it -- MR. BOUCHER: Well, we think -- there are safeguards requirements that they have said would be applied here and that they've both signed up to applying. That means that this particular project may not pose a direct nuclear threat, in terms of nuclear proliferation. At the same time, the conduct of Iran, the statements made by senior Iranian officials that they support acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, lead us to doubt, as we've said in the past, their intentions lead us to doubt their adherence to these arrangements that they have signed up to. And therefore we have made our view very well known to a whole variety of nuclear suppliers that we just don't think it's a good idea. Q I've forgotten what the status is now of North Korea's nuclear compliance with IAEA safeguards. But I think the U.S. position there was that as long as they complied and opened themselves up to inspections, and so on and so forth, the U.S. didn't express any similar uncertainty about the commitments or anything of that sort; it didn't say it was a good idea -- or a bad idea for them to have it as long as they complied. MR. BOUCHER: First of all, no two countries, no two situations are alike. But your characterization of our view of nuclear safeguards on Korea is not really accurate. I'd want to look it up. We have supported extensive, intrusive, wide-ranging inspections of nuclear facilities in North Korea. Q If Iran agreed to extensive, intrusive, wide-ranging inspections of their facilities under IAEA safeguards, would the U.S. have any objection to the -- MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, we have objections because this is the introduction of nuclear technology, the development of nuclear expertise and infrastructure inside Iran that would be introduced from outside, and we don't think it's a good idea for outsiders to give them that kind of capability. Q How are we communicating these days with the Iranians? Are the Swiss still the conduit in Tehran? MR. BOUCHER: The Swiss are still the protecting power for us. Q If the United States were able to sell those facilities to Iran, providing thousands of jobs in U.S. nuclear development industries, would the Administration's position be any different at this time between now and November 3 or 4? MR. BOUCHER: Without dealing with the underlying implications of your question, Ralph, I can assure you the answer is no, absolutely not, and you've got to be crazy. Q Richard, there's a story in the Washington Times today that says that Russia has not allowed some challenged inspections under the CFE Treaty. Is this true? Are we concerned? How serious is this? MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the rundown on that. The CFE Treaty has an extensive on-site verification regime. This allows teams to inspect sites that are declared by the various parties to contain treaty-limited equipment. During some inspections, however, Russian authorities have denied access to some so-called "common areas" of sites. That is, things like shared storage, administrative, or other facilities. I'm told that this first came up as a problem in a mock inspection that was done in July of 1991. Then, during the real inspections that have been occurring this year, it wasn't a problem for a while, and then we had a problem in a couple of the inspections in August and September of this year. Additionally, in a recent information exchange required under the treaty, the Russians identified inspection sites in a manner that could leave some of these common areas out of the site. We're addressing these concerns along with our CFE partners. This is a multilateral agreement that involves all of our NATO allies. Concerns of this nature are, in the first instance, raised by us in NATO. We have fully briefed our NATO allies on our concerns and our experiences during the CFE inspections in Russia. Our allies take the issue seriously as well. There are ways both bilaterally and within the treaty to resolve this problem along with the other concerned governments. For example, the treaty establishes the CFE Joint Consultative Group to deal with issues of treaty implementation. It's a complex treaty. We think the problems in its implementation are probably inevitable, as we've seen with other arms control treaties. Overall, the treaty is working well; and all the available information confirms that the parties are complying with their reduction commitments. This sort of problem that has arisen with inspections in Russia does not detract from the importance and the utility of the treaty. But clearly it is something that we want to see solved. Q Richard, what is a "common area?" What are you talking about exactly? MR. BOUCHER: It's parts of the inspection sites that -- storage, administrative, other kinds of facilities. Not necessarily a sensitive part that could be blocked off. Q Common with what? Is it common with -- MR. BOUCHER: That's the description I think that they have used, and I don't really have a detailed description for you. Q Have they said why -- Q Is the problem that these areas are also used to administer programs which are not inspectable under the CFE Treaty? MR. BOUCHER: I would assume so, but let me see if I can get you a more detailed description of it. Q In other words, you're saying when inspectors have come to bases, they're saying that some areas of these bases or sites are off limits? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Areas that we don't think should be off limits. Q F-15s? Do you care to talk about the status of Israel's qualitative edge and the distinction being made between the type of F-15s being sold to Saudi Arabia this time and the type that were sold to them the last time? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware there's been any announcement on F-15s for Saudi Arabia. Q So you're not prepared to discuss that issue? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not prepared to discuss any issues like that. Q "No comment" from -- Q You've got to be crazy, right? Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:48 p.m.)