U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Thursday, April 14, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry IRAQ Accidental Shoot-Down of Two Helicopters ........ 1,5 -- US Regret ................................... 1 Operation Provide Comfort II .................... 2-4 -- Iraqi Interference/Harassment ............... 2-4 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Harassment of UN Personnel ...................... 1-2,5,10-12 Violation of Exclusion Zone at Sarajevo ......... 5-6 Diplomatic Consultations with Parties by Churkin/ UN/US/EU ...................................... 6-9,12 US-Russian Working Relationship ................. 8-9 Update on Fighting in Tuzla ..................... 10 Pledge of Troops by Ukraine ..................... 12 Impact of UN Bombing on Russian Political Leaders 12-14 Suppression of Media Coverage/US Reaction ....... 17 LEBANON Murder of Iraqi Opposition Leader/Contacts with 4-5 NATO Kozyrev's Remarks re: Partnership for Peace .... 13 RWANDA Update on Fighting/US Call for Ceasefire/ Evacuation/American/Other Journalists Remaining 14-18 UN Peacekeeping/US Policy .......................... 18-19 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Talks on Declaration of Principles .............. 19 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 1994, 1:23 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon everybody. I'd like to start with two statements. Most of you know that the details that we're able to provide at this point about the incident in Iraq today are coming from the Pentagon. But I would like to say on behalf of the Secretary that the State Department deeply regrets this morning's accidental shootdown of helicopters carrying personnel assigned to "Operation Provide Comfort II's" military command center in Zakho. We express our condolences to the families of those who perished in this tragedy.
"Operation Provide Comfort" was undertaken pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 in response to Saddam Husayn's brutal efforts to repress the people of northern Iraq. This multinational effort has been a critical factor in deterring further Iraqi repression and in ensuring that the humanitarian needs of citizens in north Iraq are met.
The operation has been conducted since its inception with professionalism, discipline and courage in the face of very harsh conditions and repeated Iraqi provocations. It's important work must and will continue.
Second, on the on-going harassment of UNPROFOR personnel in Serbia, that continues today. There continues to be repeated instances of Serbian harassment and interference with freedom of movement by U.N. personnel in Bosnia.
This testing by the Serbs will have only one response: Determination by the world community and continued enforcement of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
We understand the U.N. officials are seeking a commitment from Bosnian Serb leaders to end this unacceptable conduct. We're monitoring the situation with great concern. We again strongly condemn any interference with the freedom of movement of U.N. personnel or other harassment.
We call upon the Bosnian Serbs to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and to cooperate with UNPROFOR and other international organizations to ensure the safety of its personnel and to ensure them free movement as they seek to continue their mission -- a mission that is, for the large part, designed to save lives in Bosnia.
We are pursuing these objectives, obviously, through a variety of diplomatic channels, and we'll continue to do so in the days ahead.
Q Can we talk first about the incident in Iraq?
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Do you have anything on who was on board?
MR. McCURRY: No. The Pentagon is later today providing more information. I think you heard what information we can provide at this point about casualties from both General Shalikashvili, Secretary Perry, and of course from British Minister of Defense Michael Rifkind as well.
Q Michael, what about the overall atmosphere? You've been talking at the podium for a few days about problems in that area. Was there an overall atmosphere of increased tension, would you say?
MR. McCURRY: There has been for months an atmosphere of tension in northern Iraq, based primarily on the assaults that occur from time to time by Iraqi forces north of the 36th Parallel; by instances of harassment, intimidation, and we believe terrorism such as those that we've discussed here recently; and there have been a very clear need for continued vigilance on the part of "Operation Provide Comfort II" and an enforcement of the "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq.
There are reasons why those planes have been running patrols constantly. As recently as January, I believe, there's been a military response involving some of those aircraft. It very clearly is an atmosphere of tension and one of continuing humanitarian need, which is the purpose of "Operation Provide Comfort II" itself.
Q Mike, do you see any foreign policy implications for this tragedy at all?
MR. McCURRY: I don't at the moment. I don't see any -- we are putting a very clear emphasis today on the need to continue "Operation Provide Comfort II." It has done extraordinarily work in helping, I think as many as a million, displaced people in northern Iraq return to their homes -- principally Kurds, but other ethnic groups as well.
They've provided humanitarian relief -- electricity. They've helped the people of northern Iraq constitute some type of civil authority in the vacuum created by Saddam Husayn's continued brutal repression of his own people, and his continued non-compliance of related-U.N. Security Council resolutions.
It's a reminder, if anything, that there is still a need for an international presence in northern Iraq to deal with the fact that Saddam Husayn refuses to comply with those resolutions adopted by the international community.
Q Do you see the danger that the American people - - this issue as been well away from the front pages for a long time, and many Americans may even have forgotten that U.S. military personnel are conducting dangerous missions in northern Iraq and in southern Iraq, for that matter. Do you see any danger that this very unwelcomed reminder might raise questions in the minds of the U.S. public about this mission?
MR. McCURRY: If anything, I hope that it focuses attention on the very courageous work being done by U.S. military personnel in the theatre and by those civilians and Americans on the ground who participate in the humanitarian effort and who participate in some of the activities of non- governmental organizations.
There's been an extraordinary amount of work there to keep people alive and to assist the people of north Iraq to deal with the repression that resulted from the war and from Saddam Husayn's incursions north.
Today's incident is a reminder that it is dangerous doing this type of work. The American people ought rightfully be proud of the contributions we have made and the contributions of the people of the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey in providing the relief and the humanitarian work that goes on as part of "Operation Provide Comfort II."
Q Last Thursday was the last time we asked you if there had been any other incidents, as you described several days prior to that. Have there been any other attacks on U.N. or press since?
MR. McCURRY: No. The only latest information related to those incidents we described the other day is the local Kurd authorities indicated that they made some arrests in connection with some of the incidents that we had described. They have described those they've apprehended as being working at the direction of the Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk -- in northern Iraq but south of the parallel.
Q Are you seeing any movement by the additional Republic Guard that had been brought north and were on the border?
MR. McCURRY: Not any additional movement. Their pattern of activity there, I understand, is consistent with how they've been deployed recently. I suspect very much that that's a question they'll be doing at some of the extensive briefings over at the Pentagon today. So as to their military posture in the region, I'd shift it over to the folks who know best.
Q Could I follow that up? You say there have been some arrests. Does that include the perpetrators of the killing of the AFP reporter?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not sure if it is that. I believe the information I saw, Jim, was in connection to the death of, I believe, of some of the Swiss relief workers. We'll get that out. We had that, I think, a couple of days ago. I can get that out, and we'll post something on that.
Let's go to Howard and then back.
Q As I recall a week ago when you addressed the issue of the regime putting bounties on the heads of foreigners, you were only citing reports. You didn't have independent confirmation. Have you been able to pin that down any further?
MR. McCURRY: We've continued to do the best we can, working with some of the international organizations that are present there, and then some of the work we do to gather information on our own. We believe that the charge that there's Iraqi involvement in some of these incidents is a very credible one.
I can't provide any more detail than that. Alan.
Q An Iraqi opposition figure was murdered in Lebanon yesterday and then some arrests were made. What information have you received from the Lebanese authorities - -
MR. McCURRY: We checked on that understand and we believe that there had been diplomatic contact between the Government of Iraq and Lebanon on that. I'm not sure if we had any further information other than the two had been in contact, and I gather the Government of Lebanon had expressed concern and had raised the issue. That's the most information we had as of yesterday. I didn't check on that again today.
Q Maybe this will come from the Pentagon or later briefings, but was there a higher state of alert on the part of the American pilots flying the "no-fly" zone because of what has happened lately?
MR. McCURRY: Saul, I can't answer that question. I don't know, and I assume that's one they'll get into later today.
Q There was an unconfirmed report earlier that a State Department official was one of the people on the helicopters. Can you confirm that?
MR. McCURRY: We do have State Department people who have been attached and also USAID people who have been attached to the military coordination center in Zakho, but I'd prefer not to provide any further information until we really make absolutely sure we know about casualties, and I believe that they're looking into that now at the Pentagon.
Q On another issue: Bosnia. You're describing what's going on with the Serbs as harassment. Hasn't it moved beyond that, at least, in Sarajevo? Aren't they violating the terms that NATO laid out by encircling these depots?
MR. McCURRY: They've got a tank -- there was a standoff with a tank, I think as some of you know, in Sarajevo involving some French UNPROFOR units that were guarding one of the collection sites there. We're getting conflicting reports right now about where things stand there. That incident certainly doesn't change the NATO ultimatum which exists. It says that any heavy weapon found in the exclusion zone not under U.N. control is subject to NATO air strikes. That mandate has not expired.
Q Mike, can I ask you, (inaudible) some conflicting reports. One report is that a tank has withdrawn?
MR. McCURRY: Right. I've got another report that they're not sure where the tank is. That's why I just say, we don't have, we believe, information we feel confident in relying upon. It seems to be quiet there based on the latest report from Bosnia that we've had. We'll have to wait and see how that situation develops.
Q Mike, practically speaking, a tank in Sarajevo is not going to be a target that NATO is going to be able to hit without inflicting massive collateral damage.
MR. McCURRY: That's something that the UNPROFOR commander on the ground would know better than I would standing here.
Q Just to follow up. You used the term "testing." What do you mean, the Serbs are testing? Are the Serbs trying to elicit a NATO response, trying to see if there will be a NATO response? What do you mean by "testing?"
MR. McCURRY: Our view is that they, in a variety of ways, through this attempt to harass and intimidate U.N. personnel are testing the alliance and testing the United Nations.
Their exact motive, of course, is something I can't speak to because it's impossible to understand the motives of the Bosnian Serbs on many occasions.
Q Mike, what's your assessment of the diplomatic situation right now? Is Churkin the only one who is still having conversations?
MR. McCURRY: Churkin is having conversations. I believe that U.N. Special Envoy Akashi has had some conversations with the Serbs as well. We understand that Deputy Foreign Minister Churkin remains in Pale. He has been in and out of Bosnian Serb headquarters, I believe. He reported to us that the Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic had assured him that Bosnian Serb forces would not resume attacks on Gorazde.
I can't say that we report any significant progress in our overall goal, which is a cease-fire, a cessation of hostilities in Bosnia, and moving forward in discussions on a long-term political settlement.
Q Mike, can you go into the Russian --
Q Can I just follow up on that, please? There was a report that Owen and Stoltenberg were back in the picture. I just wonder what you thought of that, and who invited them in?
MR. McCURRY: They are there. I believe they have gone to -- they arrived in Pale at the Bosnian Serb headquarters yesterday. They, too, have reportedly met with Bosnian Serb officials, but we have not had any readout on their conversation yet. That is important, as the designated lead negotiators on behalf of the European Union.
Our efforts -- Ambassador Redman's efforts on behalf of the United States have always been integrated with what the European Union had in mind and what they were doing as well. I think, obviously, anyone who can play a welcome role in getting these parties to stop the conflict and to proceed with the peace discussions, that participation is welcome.
Q But who invited them to come back in at this particular time?
MR. McCURRY: I do not know the answer to that.
Q And did the United States know they were going back in?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. We had good contact with them. I don't know whether Redman directly talked to Lord Owen. But I do think that through some type of diplomatic contact we were aware that they were re-entering the picture.
Q Vice President Ganic, in a news conference today, made it very clear: he doesn't appreciate Stoltenberg's intercession. He speaks of the U.S. as the only force out there, the only mediating force that, in effect, is willing to give the Bosnian Government a break.
But let me ask you to go a little deeper, if you can, into the Russian activity, which he's not too happy about either.
The President today complimented the Russians for trying to obtain a cease-fire. That's one thing. By Ganic's description, the Russians are trying to get the Serbs territory that the Bosnian Government thinks they're not entitled to. He makes a clear distinction between U.S. efforts, which he appreciates, and Russian and U.N. efforts and other mediation efforts which he doesn't appreciate.
What is it that the Russians are doing that you like? And is there anything they're doing that you disagree with -- the State Department?
MR. McCURRY: Let me take two slices to that. First, we believe that the Russians are working in furtherance of the objectives that we, too, have, which is an end to the fighting wherever it's occurring -- Gorazde, Tuzla, or confrontations in Sarajevo --; resumption of discussions about cessation of hostilities; and a continued pursuit of an overall political settlement that the international community can then help enforce.
We believe that Russia's diplomacy has been aimed at that objective. We have been in frequent discussion with them from the highest levels on down. As you know, we've talked about that in the last several days here. We believe that they are using their diplomacy in the way that they think they can be most effective, which is clearly to pursue discussions with the Bosnian Serbs.
The second point I'd make, I don't want to react to anything the parties are saying about what positions are being advanced because, frankly, that's a hopeful sign to me. It means maybe the parties are beginning to exchange and try to explore the limits of flexibility they might have in a negotiation.
If points are being made about what types of things might happen at the negotiating table, that's certainly a lot better than hearing very hard line statements, as we've heard in the last several days about the military situation on the ground.
Q No, I wouldn't expect you to respond to something said an hour ago that you haven't seen. I'm talking about the Russian pattern.
In this city, from the Administration, you only hear complimentary things about Russian activity in Bosnia. I'm just asking, if across the board the U.S. and the Russians are in agreement as to what proposals they're making for the future of that troubled country, because the Bosnian Government doesn't think the two of you are working the same side of the street and prefers your side of the street.
MR. McCURRY: What I'm telling you is, we believe they are aiming their work at the same objective. I don't want to suggest that on every aspect of the negotiation underway that we necessarily see things the same way. That's frankly somewhat immaterial. The important thing is, how do the Bosnian Serbs see these issues; how does the Bosnian Government see these issues, and what are they doing between the two of them to resolve their differences and to try to move on with a discussion that will lead to peace.
Any views that the Government of Russia has on that or the Government of the United States, frankly, matter far less than the parties themselves proceeding with a dialogue that can lead to results.
Q I'm just wondering about Churkin in Pale. You speak of him, talking about Gorazde. Has the United States or the U.N. asked him to demarch the Serbs since they only seem to be speaking to him right now about the seriousness of the situation with the U.N. peacekeepers?
It seems you have two issues going here. Gorazde isn't the only issue going here.
MR. McCURRY: That's right.
Q Are the Russians taking a position on this? Did the Russians agree that the Serbs have to stop blockading these people and harassing them?
MR. McCURRY: The Government of Russia will have to address that question. But are we asking them to use their influence, whatever it is, with the Bosnian Serbs to see that the Bosnian Serbs cease and desist any harassment or intimidation or confrontation with UNPROFOR? The answer is, yes. Not only are we urging Churkin to do that, but I believe we're also urging that at higher levels in Moscow as well.
Q Mike, is there concern in the State Department that this potential for cease-fires being used by the Serbs as more or less a smoke screen for buying time so that they can continue amass greater and greater numbers of UNPROFOR people who they control the movements of?
MR. McCURRY: That rationale probably is explored or examined, or we try to look at that as a possible explanation. But it doesn't make a lot of sense on the face of it because the contours of the peace discussions and what would be required of the Bosnian Serbs are fairly well known. So, in that sense, as a military question, the acquisition of additional land in Bosnia doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.
Q How about additional hostages?
MR. McCURRY: Well, additional harassment or additional military pressure is a way of trying to pressure the Bosnian Government into making concessions. That may be a rationale. Frankly, I'm not in a good position here to explain with their rationale is; why they might be pursuing some of this type of activity. But the important thing is, in the view of the United States and the world community, it has to stop.
Q Can you tell us what's happening at Tuzla? I understand that there was some shelling of the airport at Tuzla which is another violation of --
MR. McCURRY: We have the following information. Eleven artillery shells impacted at the airfield in Tuzla at approximately 11:20 a.m. Bosnia time this morning. The United Nations tells us that Bosnian Serb forces are responsible for the shelling.
The United Nations has also blamed Bosnian Serb forces for striking the marketplace in Tuzla with three shells. It doesn't identify what type of shells.
We don't have any report from that attack on casualties.
The United Nations has not, to my knowledge, requested any NATO close air support for the protection of personnel in Tuzla. There are unconfirmed reports from the area that there are NATO planes that have flown over Tuzla this morning and that the shelling stopped.
Q But as I understand it, that's a violation of what we said the Serbs should not do. Otherwise, they get bombed. So we have not bombed them. We have not done anything at Sarajevo.
I wanted to ask whether the fact that they've got these hostages has now given us pause about retaliating for these violations? Maybe that's the reason they have the hostages.
MR. McCURRY: As I said, in the case of Tuzla, there have been no requests for protective airpower from NATO in support of UNPROFOR troops, which is the condition upon which we provide that through NATO.
Q Maybe the people are not asking because they don't want to endanger the lives of hostages. That's what I'm asking.
MR. McCURRY: I have no information that indicates that's the case.
Q When you said before that they're testing us, can you tell me what constitutes passing the test?
MR. McCURRY: What constitutes passing the test? OK. Continued demonstration of the resolve of the West to make good on U.N. resolutions and to continue to move the process forward that will bring peace to Bosnia.
Q And does that include --
MR. McCURRY: As we remain determined on that course, as I strongly suspect we will, that constitutes passing the test.
Q Does that mean, include military action where --
MR. McCURRY: It could very well.
Q Speaking of tests, are the U.N. peacekeepers in Tuzla endangered by the shelling -- by the U.S.'s evaluation?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have an independent evaluation of that. The best evaluation would be the one that would come from UNPROFOR itself; and, as I say, they have not requested protective power from NATO.
Q On the UNPROFOR troops, how concerned are you that the Serbs may be taking a page from Saddam's playbook and trying to get human shields to deter further attacks? How can you determine the location and the safety of these troops, should there be a request to NATO for some sort of close air support where you don't have much time? How do you know where they are?
MR. McCURRY: That's an UNPROFOR question. I think Commander Rose knows the status and the whereabouts of the troops that he has deployed.
Q Michael, does the U.S. consider there to be hostages? You're using the term "harassment." We're using the term "hostages." What about the Dutch peacekeeper who has been missing for a couple of days?
Do you think anybody is a hostage?
MR. McCURRY: You're using the term "hostage." That's a determination you have to make. We have cases of people who have been intimidated, threatened, told to stay at home. We have, in the case of the French UNPROFOR units at the collection depot in Sarajevo, a case where they clearly are being threatened in a military fashion.
I associate the term "hostage" with different types of facts. You write the words.
Q But you're not willing to issue any kind of warning to the Serbs against taking hostages?
MR. McCURRY: I just said at the beginning of this briefing that we call upon them to cease and desist from the type of activity they've been engaged in the past couple of days.
Q Mike, if the Department had some sort of working legal definition of the word "hostage," could you provide that to us today?
MR. McCURRY: If we've got a working definition of the word "hostage," we will post that.
Q Mike, you said that Churkin had gotten some assurances from the Serbs that they would not resume the offensive on Gorazde. What about the question of withdrawal? I assume that remains the goal. Are there any indications that they might entertain the idea?
MR. McCURRY: There are no indications at the present time. Of course, I think the Bosnian Government feels that it's difficult for them to proceed with further discussions if they don't see a pullback from Gorazde. That's one of the issues that I think that continues to remain in dispute between the parties themselves.
Q Do you have any other information about the deployment of the Ukrainian troops to provide?
MR. McCURRY: I did see something on that. Can you hold on for a second? It said that Ukraine has pledged 500 additional troops for Bosnia. They're scheduled to be deployed by the end of the month, and at this point we are not aware of any delay in the deployment.
They were staging them and getting them ready to deploy them to the theater.
Q Is 500 sufficient?
MR. McCURRY: Five hundred is what the Ukraines are providing. I think overall troop contributing levels are things that come from requests from the Secretary General who makes determinations on what they need.
Q Michael, in Moscow there are reports that even - - as you know, that even members of Yeltsin's own party have taken issue with NATO's bombing around Gorazde, and the argument -- the consistent argument seems to be that this undercut the Russian's diplomatic efforts; that there's some sort of rivalry now between the West and the Russians.
My question to you is, has any sense of that been conveyed to you -- to this Administration by Kozyrev or by Churkin or by the Russians you're dealing with that, "Hey, you've made our job more difficult."
MR. McCURRY: I think they've expressed concern. We've told them in return that Gorazde was about to fall and the status of the U.N. personnel in Gorazde was very much in doubt, and I think they understand our views, and I think that we understand the views they've communicated to us.
Q Kozyrev has reportedly said that he won't be going to Brussels or that they're rethinking their PFP signing. What do you know about that?
MR. McCURRY: We know that apparently Foreign Minister Kozyrev has given an interview to Interfax news agency, and we've seen some of the text of the interview as reported by Interfax. We don't have any complete transcript.
The Interfax report caused us concern. Our Embassy in Moscow has been in contact -- it's nighttime, obviously, in Moscow -- we've been in contact with those we could reach at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask for some type of elaboration. There wasn't one immediately forthcoming, and we will pursue the matter when the Embassy opens tomorrow.
Q Mike, why are you concerned? What's the nature of your concern?
MR. McCURRY: Because of the remarks as reported.
Q Mike --
Q No, no. You said you expressed your concern. What is it that the U.S. --
MR. McCURRY: We're just concerned about the substance of the interview as it was reported by Interfax, and we're asking for an elaboration to see what the context was.
Q The President suggested it would be a bad thing if the Serbs began looking at the U.N. forces as adversaries and you in your opening statement said -- you called upon the Serbs to cease and desist from what you called harassment.
What's the "or else" in here? Is there anything?
MR. McCURRY: It's not useful for me to speculate about "or else." I think the Serbs have come to know in the last several days there is an "or else."
Q Michael, just to follow up on my earlier question, don't you think the Russians arguably have a case here that diplomacy has been undercut, because look at what the Serbs are doing now?
MR. McCURRY: Mary, you missed my answer. My answer was Gorazde was about to fall, and U.N. personnel were in very grave danger. And we have made it abundantly clear what would happen under those circumstances, and what happened, happened.
Q Wait, wait, Michael. Just to follow up. What you're saying then is that maybe diplomacy was hurt but the situation left you no choice, because Gorazde was about to fall.
MR. McCURRY: I think it was very clear, the response that we would make as part of NATO if we got a request like the one we got from General Rose, and I don't think General Rose had much doubt about the request that he made.
Q Mike, there's a sense that I have and I guess others do that things are slipping away here. Only a week ago the Secretary was talking about how close you were to a general cease-fire throughout Bosnia, and since then there's obviously been a sharp deterioration.
What do you put this down to? What's your analysis of what's actually happening?
MR. McCURRY: I think it's not terribly difficult. They were very close in discussions in Sarajevo to an agreement that would have advanced the peace process, beginning with the cessation of hostilities and a very determined Serb assault on Gorazde set that process off track. It's pretty clear what happened.
Q You seem to suggest that the two are not connected. I mean, there have been many occasions in the past. I remember one where the Serb Parliament had to vote on the Vance-Owen plan, and there were occasions before your Administration came in, and every time that it seems to have been close to peace, what you've got instead is an outbreak of war. So the basic question I won't have to ask is, are the Serbs ready for peace?
MR. McCURRY: The Serbs know the answer to that question. I do not.
Q Do you have something about the situation in Rwanda?
MR. McCURRY: I've got a little more on it. Ready to switch subjects?
Q Yes, Michael, to follow up on that, the reports about the U.S. journalists trapped in the hotel? Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: Let me do what I've got on Rwanda. First of all, let me say that the United States is deeply disturbed by the escalating fighting in Rwanda. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities. We condemn in the strongest terms the brutal killing of political figures and the slaughter of innocent civilians.
These are revenge killings, and they must stop. The parties should agree and honor an immediate cease-fire and establish a meaningful political dialogue. Both the Government and the Rwanda Patriotic Front have professed the desire to install a broad-based transition government, as called for by the Arusha Accord.
We fully expect the parties to honor this commitment and to begin political discussions to achieve that end. These discussions must be grounded in the principles of the Arusha Accord which still represents, we believe, the best opportunity for peace in Rwanda.
As I think as you know, just an update, there are no U.S. Government employees in Rwanda. Our Embassy is temporarily unstaffed. Because we don't have a U.S. Government presence there, it's difficult for us to get firsthand reports on the situation, but we have seen some secondhand reports that indicate that heavy fighting continues in Kigali, and that the Rwanda Patriotic Front has apparently taken more ground in and around the city itself.
The RFP has called for the departure of foreign troops that have been deployed there, mostly to assist with the evacuation that was ordered by most foreign governments that had citizens in Rwanda. The status of UNAMIR seems somewhat unclear, and that's under discussion, I think as you know, at the Security Council.
We have been, throughout last night and into the early morning, in contact with a variety of news organizations about 12 journalists, including seven Americans, who we understand are still in Kigali, and there are efforts still underway to safely evacuate them. I would include, in describing that, a very heroic effort by Belgian troops -- Belgian UNAMIR troops to attempt on three separate occasions to reach these journalists who asked to be evacuated, as I understand it, after refusing to leave yesterday.
I think it takes extraordinary courage for these journalists to remain in Kigali and continue their reports from there, and it takes extraordinary courage to be an editor in a news organization that would ask an employee to go to a place where it's clear there is mortal danger, and where it's clear the United States Government ordered Americans not to travel.
Q Mike, you sounded as if you're being sort of mildly critical of American editors who are sending their reporters in there.
MR. McCURRY: I think that they need to pursue the truth as they see fit, but they have put their employees in extraordinary danger.
Q Is there any plan for any kind of American rescue operation of those Americans?
MR. McCURRY: The Belgians are working on that right now. We've been in very close contact with General Dallaire and others, and they are doing a very heroic job.
Q Michael, doesn't that put the United States in a very awkward position? Are we actually asking the Belgian troops to risk their lives to try to get these journalists who refused to come out when they were told to come out?
MR. McCURRY: They are there on the ground and in the best position, the fastest possible way, to provide assistance. They are there as part of the UNAMIR presence, the international presence there.
Q But has the U.S. asked them to try to save these journalists?
MR. McCURRY: We've asked them to see if they can help, and they have -- of course, it's up to them to decide, and it's not like they don't have a lot of other things that they're trying to do taking care of their own foreign citizens, but they are trying to help the journalists that were trapped at the hotel.
Q Do you know if -- are they still at the hotel?
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to get into that. We're working very hard to make sure that they are safe.
Q But have the U.S. Marines in Burundi -- are they still there, or did they go away?
MR. McCURRY: I think they were scheduled to depart Burundi yesterday.
Q To go back to -- offshore or --
MR. McCURRY: They were going back to their -- I think that was an amphibious unit offshore. I think they were scheduled to go back probably out through Mombasa. I'm not really certain of that. The Pentagon might know that, although I think they probably have got other questions they're looking at.
Q Michael, just to go back to -- I mean, we should have asked you this before. It's a journalist question again. What are you hearing from Serbia about pulling credentials of all U.S. journalists -- no longer allowing any U.S. journalists in, after you said yesterday that they're limited actions (inaudible).
MR. McCURRY: They were not impressed with what I had to say yesterday or with the demarches that were delivered, and they have indicated now that they are harassing virtually all Western journalists, if not specifically U.S. journalists. And I think the action, in a way, is an apt commentary on the type of regime that currently occupies authority in Belgrade.
Q Do you have any plans for any reciprocity on journalists covering (inaudible)?
MR. McCURRY: I don't like that idea. If someone wants to pursue that idea, I'll see what I can do personally to beat it back.
Q At least some kind of limitations on travel, for example, is one way.
MR. McCURRY: I don't think restrictions on the press get you very far.
Q Mike, isn't Tanjug a government agency? It's not as if you would be retaliating against real journalists if you retaliated against Tanjug.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to get into a description who are real journalists and not real journalists. That's an issue that you, yourselves, in this community debate often.
Q Back to Rwanda. Are there any plans for the American Marines or any American forces to go to the assistance of Belgians or the Americans, for example?
MR. McCURRY: We had U.S. Marines deployed to Burundi to assist with a very carefully planned evacuation that was successfully carried out by our Ambassador in which we were able to make contact with all Americans who were in Rwanda. We got them out, and the fact that some news organizations decided after our evacuation to send their employees back in is something that they're going to have to deal with and the responsibility for that.
Q Michael, when you say you were in contact with these news organizations, you know, the press reports say that the Belgians said Wednesday to these journalists in the hotel, "Now is the time to get out." Were you communicating to the news organizations back here what the Belgians were telling you -- "Now is the time to get out" -- and they ignored you?
MR. McCURRY: We had a travel warning, telling Americans not to go to Rwanda that I sat here at this podium and read, and we put those things out for a very specific reasons.
Karen, you had a question.
Q Mike, given the colossal difficulties of various peacekeeping missions around the world this week, does the State Department still think peacekeeping is a good idea?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. We think it has a very useful role. I mean, you look -- Jack McWethy is not here, but he had a wonderful piece about Mozambique on ABC News recently. And you look around the world to places where you can do a very effective job under the auspices of the United Nations in helping societies repair themselves, helping save lives, and that's very, very important work. Ask the people of Cambodia if you have any doubt about that.
On the other hand, knowing exactly how you do it, under what circumstances, what the conditions are in which you use force and how you structure that force is the type of very serious thinking this Administration has been doing in an exercise known as PRD-13 that you're all aware of; and that document has taken a long time to work its way through the U.S. Government and to the desk of the President for the precise reason that it ought to be done with exactly the right answers in the decisions asked of the President, and that's, I think, what's happened.
Q Michael, you brought up McWethy's piece. The bottom line in his piece was it worked in Mozambique because a million people died, and you have to wait until they are completely done killing each other before you intervene. Do you buy that, too?
MR. McCURRY: I think you're doing a disservice to his journalism. That's not what the piece said as I saw it. I think it said that peacekeeping works when the conditions are right, and I think that -- you know, go back and look at the piece. It was a little more textured than that.
Q Appropros of the subject, has the United States given the U.N. an answer on its request for a specific commitment of materiel, services, whatever, for its standby force?
MR. McCURRY: No. I think that answer is related to the decisions that flow out of the PRD-13 exercise. I understand from the White House folks that they think that that's moving quickly, but they don't report that there's been any decision.
Q Any ETA on PRD-13?
MR. McCURRY: I don't make calls on Presidential decisions.
Q North Korea. Is there going to be another meeting very shortly between the U.S. and North Korea in New York?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no. There are going to be the meetings that -- most of the meetings that are going to occupy our key policy-makers on North Korea are going to be over there with -- you've seen, I think, Ambassador Gallucci's account of some of the sessions in Beijing today. He then goes on to Seoul and Tokyo for additional consultations, and he links up with Secretary of Defense Perry, who still is scheduled to depart tomorrow, the last I've heard.
Q Mike, the Secretary's remarks today -- tonight - - scheduled for the Israeli Independence Day -- are they going to be substantive or more in a kind of courtesy mode?
MR. McCURRY: Given the awful events that have occurred in Israel and the occupied territories, they will be substantial in the sense that they'll express a very real determined sense of the Secretary that we need to get the peace process moving and moving quickly. But I'm not certain what the arrangements --
(To staff) Anyone know what the arrangements are for press coverage? We'll try to find out. Contact the Embassy, too.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You're welcome.
(The briefing concluded at 2:03 p.m.)
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