US DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING MAY 6, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, May 6, 1994 Briefer: Alexander Watson Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENTS Secretary's Speech at Mexican Foreign Ministry/ Joint Press Conference with Mexican Foreign Secretary .....................................1 -- No Regular Press Briefing on that Day .....1 Contact Group Meeting on May 13 .................8-9 MEXICO Assistant Secretary Watson's Briefing ...........1-8 -- Opening Remarks .............................1-3 -- Secretary's Meetings ........................3 -- Economic Reform .............................3 -- Illegal Narcotics/Cooperation ...............4-5 -- Environment/Recent Sewage Spill .............4-5 -- Elections/Observers .........................5-8 SINGAPORE US Diplomat's Visit to Michael Fay/Family .......9-10 NORTH KOREA IAEA Talks on Observing Refueling ...............10,15-16 Letter Sent to US Yesterday .....................10,17 YEMEN US Travel Warning to Americans/Embassy Drawdown .10-12 Update on Fighting ..............................10-11 HAITI UN Vote on Tougher Sanctions Today ..............12-15 -- Border with Dominican Republic ..............13-14 -- US Humanitarian Aid .........................14 Repatriated Boatpeople/Treatment/US Monitoring ..23-25 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Update on Fighting ..............................17-18 US Concern re: Serb Tanks Allowed to Transit Sarajevo Exclusion Zone .......................18-22 IRAN Treatment of Officials Visiting the US ..........22 PANAMA Upcoming Elections ..............................23
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MAY 6, 1994, 12:30 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, we are kicking off today with an appearance by our Assistant Secretary of Inter-American Affairs, Alexander Watson. He's going to give you a pre-brief for the Secretary's trip to the U.S.- Mexico Binational Commission Meeting. The Secretary departs on Sunday and will be returning on Monday night.
I wanted to mentioned to you in connection with that that Secretary Christopher, when he's down there for these events, we will, barring technical difficulties, pipe in two events from the Mexico visit into this Briefing Room on Monday.
The first is at 12:30 Washington time. The Secretary will make an address at the Foreign Ministry followed by a Question and Answer Session. That will last approximately one hour. Again, that will be beginning at about 12:30. At 3:30 Washington time, we will pipe in a second event here. Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Tello will hold a joint news conference.
As a consequence of those two events being piped in here, we will not hold a normal Press Briefing on Monday. We will do that on Tuesday.
I will have one or two other short things when I begin questions and answers on other subjects, but I will pass the microphone at this point to Assistant Secretary Watson. He will follow the usual format. He's going to make some remarks and then take a few questions and answers. After that, I'll continue with your questions on other subjects. Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: Thanks, Christine. The Secretary will be leading the delegation. As Christine said, on Sunday we will be leaving -- and be back Monday evening -- for the meeting of our Binational Commission with Mexico. The last such meeting was in June of last year here in Washington. There have been 11 such meetings since 1981.
It's really a unique institution that we have with Mexico. We don't have such a formalized, high level, universal set of meetings with any other country. The Secretary will be accompanied by Janet Reno and Henry Cisneros, Bruce Babbitt, by Carol Browner, and by Deputy Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Education; by Larry Sommers, of Treasury; the President's National Science Advisor, and some others as well.
We'll meeting in 12 working groups. They'll be meeting simultaneously on Monday. They will be covering a wide range of issues, which I can go over, if your interested, in a minute.
The Secretary will be meeting with the Mexican Foreign Secretary for breakfast -- a working breakfast meeting -- and also have a working lunch with President Salinas of Mexico.
As Christine has said, he'll be giving a speech in the morning at the Foreign Ministry, which will be piped in here. After the Binational Commission meetings are over in the afternoon, around 3:30 here our time, there will be a press conference offered by himself and Foreign Secretary Tello of Mexico.
This is an important visit. It's the first visit that Secretary Christopher has made as Secretary of State. Of course, he has been to Mexico many times before. He's met with his Mexican counterparts, of course, up here and elsewhere, including in New York. This is the first time in this Administration that he has traveled to Mexico.
We have a very, very rich agenda for the meeting. I think it's important to understand also that there's been lots of other things going on in our relationship. Last week, there was a transportation meeting between Frederico Pena and his colleagues from Canada and Mexico that was important. Carol Browner has been meeting with her colleagues from the NAFTA countries in Vancouver in March. Bob Reich had a meeting in Washington with his colleagues in March. And Secretary Brown has been in Mexico recently and Secretary Bentsen has been there twice in the last few months.
So there's a very fluid and active relationship. But the number of issues that we're dealing with is really extensive. This kind of Binational Commission Meeting gives us a chance to deal with all of the outstanding issues on a simultaneous basis, identifying problems and hopefully solving some of them and planning future meetings for cleaning up those details or addressing new issues which arise.
The visit by the Secretary, I think, also comes at a very important time in our overall relationship. Mexico has had a difficult period, as you're all aware. They've handled these problems extremely well, in our view. It's important for the Secretary to go and talk directly and personally to his counterpart, Foreign Secretary Tello and President Salinas about our bilateral relationship, about the specific issues that they'll want to be talking about, including about our expectations that there will be a free, fair election in August and our willingness to, of course, expect to continue to work as closely with the successor government to President Salinas' government as we have with him and his colleagues.
I think that's how I would open it up, and I'd take any questions that you may have on this.
Q Did he consider a meeting with the leading opposition candidates?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: He will not be meeting with any of the Presidential candidates on this trip, and the real reason for that is there simply isn't time on this trip to do that. So he won't be meeting with Mr. Zedillo or Mr. Fernandez or Mr. (inaudible) or any of the other six candidates.
Q The Mexican Secretary, Serra Puche, speaking to the Council of the Americas on Monday, reported that inflation in Mexico had gone from -- in 1987 135 percent to this year five percent. Is everything else going so well with the NAFTA arrangement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: The Salinas Administration has done an extraordinary job on macroeconomic reform and getting their debt under control and bringing the inflation down and getting their deficit under control. What has been troubling them the last couple of years is growth has been really very slow, and they're trying to pick that up but without at the same time stimulating inflation. They've done an outstanding job, an exemplary job in that regard.
Q You don't expect any extra measures like the one that was announced recently, those $6 billion or more, to prop up the peso? Any extra measures either on the political or the financial side?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: We're not planning to sign any specific agreements at this particular meeting of the Binational Commission. We'll be working through a whole series of issues -- as I mentioned, I can go into them in a minute, if you'd like -- but we're not going to be signing anything in particular.
You're aware that they've set up this cooperative arrangement among Canada, Mexico and the United States -- the Treasuries of the various countries have done that -- and recently, which is sort of an augmentation of what was provided before. But we don't see any need for going beyond where we are in terms of making the $6 billion available to the Mexicans if they would need them.
Q Is this government satisfied with Mexico's action against narcotics trafficking?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: Essentially, yes. The level of cooperation between our two governments on narcotics has never been better than recently. It is a huge and difficult issue, as you're well aware, but we have a very productive relationship with them and cooperate with them extensively.
Q Do you think, for example, that the assassination of the Presidential candidate in Tijuana was related to narcotics?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: A lot of speculation on that score. I certainly can't speculate beyond what others are speculating. We have no independent information on that.
Q A sewage line broke last week and pumped, I think, something like 13 million gallons of sewage onto the beach or threatened the beaches of San Diego and southern California, which I believe is close to where the Secretary comes from.
How long can this -- how long is this kind of thing going to go on, and what can be done to stop it, because it surely doesn't promote good and neighborly relations across that part of the border.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: It's a very serious problem, and I'm glad you raised it. It pollutes the whole Tijuana estuary, which is one of the last salt-water estuaries on the Pacific Coast, really, and it's a very serious problem for the residents of San Diego as well as for Tijuana.
You may be aware that they're expanding the plant and doing a lot of things, and what really happened was that it should have been done by now. But for all sorts of reasons, including some bureaucratic reasons imposed by us -- our own environmental standards -- slowed down the progress in dealing with this problem. But it is a major issue we work on almost every day, because I think (inaudible) fails from time to time. But we expect to have it done in the next -- I forget -- I think maybe by '96, I think is when they expect to have this problem under control.
But it highlights a much more important problem. All along the frontier there are environmental problems, and one of the results of the NAFTA negotiations was to create the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank. The former will be located in Juarez in Mexico, and the latter will be located in Houston. And the "BEC," as we call it, is a bilateral affair, and it's just being set up now, and it will design environmental projects all along the region, all along the frontier, and some of those will be federal projects, some will be state projects and will be local projects. And then the North American Development Bank will provide the funding for those projects. Virtually all of the funding will be going for environmental projects there. Some funding will be going for sort of community adjustment issues as well, but basically it's an environmental question.
The Water and Boundary Commission that's already been existing there for five or fix years has been working on all of these border and water issues will be incorporated into the BEC and provide sort of technical/engineering services to it. But it's one of the most important issues and one of the things that we're sort of really excited about, one of the things that we ought to be seeing some fruits of the NAFTA very early on.
Q You were asked earlier about possible links between drug trafficking and the Colosio assassination. The other major school of thought, as you know, is that the assassination may have stemmed from some sort of struggle for the future of the PRI, and I wonder whether you have any information that either goes in that direction or tends to knock that done, number one.
And, secondly, in a more general sense, how confident are you that the PRI is irreversibly set on a reformist path?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: We have no information whatsoever to substantiate the charge that somehow Luis Donaldo Colosio's assassination was related to struggles within the party or was perpetrated by members of the party or anything like that. You can hear every rumor on this subject, as you're aware, in Mexico. At this stage of the game we have nothing to substantiate that.
I think all we can do is sort of rely on the Mexican investigation to see what it will eventually produce. I must say, I mean, it's produced some confusing signals from time to time up until now, but we have no evidence to substantiate that.
On the second part of your question, we are really encouraged by the political reform that the Salinas Administration has undertaken throughout its tenure, and none more than those agreed to by the -- under the leadership of Carpizo, who's now the Minister of Government but formerly the Attorney General on January 27 where eight of the nine parties, including the three big ones, all agreed to a whole series of reforms that we expect will be enacted fully in time for the election. I think this is really very, very hopeful.
The U.N. -- you may be aware that the Mexicans are talking to the U.N. elections unit now to see how the U.N. might be helpful and they've also been talking to the OAS to see what kind of international cooperation might be available to them. And the government has submitted to the Congress some legislation for change to current law.
The current law prohibits foreign observers for elections. They have submitted legislation which would authorize international visitors, they would be called, to come and participate in the electoral process, and we think that's a great idea. I think that will help not only in the observation process but also in confirming the legitimacy and credibility of the election.
My understanding from chats with U.N. people is that they find the Mexican electoral system, as such, one of the most sophisticated and fraud resistant that they have seen. But we'll just have to see. We're confident that the administration in Mexico really wants to have a free and fair election, as do the candidates for the PRI. So we're providing all the support that they would ask of us, and, of course, we would enthusiastically cooperate with anything that the United Nations or the OAS would do in this regard.
Q Can I follow that in one regard? I understand that both the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute have weighed in, saying that they would like to be able to go as observers and not merely as visitors. Do you support that idea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: I don't want to get too specific on this. I mean, I think that, as I said before, we would encourage the Mexicans to take advantage of the international facilities that are available and used all over the world nowadays for observing and helping with elections. And I don't want to say exactly what the Mexicans should or should not do.
I think one of the ideas is that there might be observers of -- local observers. There are a lot of domestic observers now, not only from the parties but also from non- partisan groups, and many of those have had experience working with the IRI and the NDI and others around the world and had some training, and I think that one of the ideas is to let the Mexican observers do most of the observations. It's a huge country with a great number of polling stations, but maybe have some other observers observing how well they do their job and helping them out.
MS. SHELLY: One last question.
Q Is the Secretary going to be exploring with the Mexicans next steps in Haiti, urging them to keep an open mind on the possibility of military force in Haiti? Most Latin American countries are not interested in that kind of solution. Is that subject even going to be on his agenda?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: I can't predict definitively what will be on the agenda of discussions, but I would think that Secretary Christopher and Foreign Secretary Tello in their private meeting on Monday morning most likely will discuss Haiti, yes.
Q Christine, there are lots of questions still pending. Can we have five more minutes?
MS. SHELLY: No. Unfortunately, he has another commitment. Do you want to do one last quick question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: Sure, I'll do one last, but I've got --
Q (Inaudible) Chiapas and now the Government of Mexico -- they come to the United States right from (inaudible) equipment for the elections over the 21st. What does the Administration think about this statement by the Carlos Salinas administration? They are expecting another (inaudible) after the elections, or it's something like they're not going to have free elections within Mexico.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: I'm not sure I entirely grasp the question. Give it to me again.
Q They spent $10 million to buy equipment for anti-riots, so they are expecting another rebellion or something after the elections. So you are concerned over this kind of statement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: You'll just have to ask the Mexican Government why they bought this equipment and for what purpose. I have nothing I can possibly say to you about that. Maybe they're just replenishing old equipment. Maybe it's nothing special. Maybe it is. But you'd have to ask them. I don't think anybody's anticipating anything like Chiapas elsewhere, so you'd just have to ask the Mexican Government why they bought that equipment.
Q To what extent do you think it's important for the perception of a free and fair election? Why is it relevant to the kind of instability that Chiapas demonstrates in the future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WATSON: I think the reality of a free and fair and legitimate election which gives true legitimacy and authority to the victor is crucially important for Mexico, and I think that's what the political leaders also see.
As you're certainly aware, one of the demands made by the EZLN, the Zapatistas, in Chiapas concerned this process, which was already ongoing. And I mentioned what happened on January 27, which was just a month after the outbreak of the Chiapas rebellion, and, who knows, maybe it gave some incentive to it. But this process was certainly moving forward.
In terms of the Chiapas process itself, Manuel Camacho, the Peace Commissioner, announced yesterday he expected to have a response from the EZLN very soon, so that they can continue to discuss how to deal with the problems there. But I think the question of a free, fair and legitimate election is of enormous importance to Mexico and of course to us as well.
Thank you very much.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you very much.
I have one additional announcement before we go to other questions. As you all know, after the Secretary's meeting in Cairo with Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev, we issued a statement, indicating there would be a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group in Geneva on about May 13. In anticipation of this trip, we have posted a sign-up sheet in the main Press Office for those of you who might wish to apply for a seat on the Secretary's plane.
The sheet will be taken down and applications closed at 12 noon on Monday, the 9th of May. Because of the short lead time on this trip, all applicants should give their passports to Sondra McCarty in the Press Office as soon as possible.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have details on that yet. Geneva is what I have details on, and even that's an "about May 13" detail. So I'm not really announcing the trip, but we are putting the sign-up sheet up, given the short lead time.
Q Do you have anything on the condition of Michael Fay? I understand a consular officer visited him.
MS. SHELLY: Right. I have really very little on this. After Singapore authorities announced that Michael had been caned, our Embassy requested an immediate visit by an Embassy Consular Officer, the family, and a private physician.
Singapore authorities allowed an Embassy Consular Officer to visit him today. The next scheduled family visit is for May 17.
The Consular Officer is not a physician and therefore was not in a position to make a medical determination about his condition. But after he met with Michael, he briefed the family on his visit.
Q You can't say anything at all about Michael's condition?
MS. SHELLY: I can't. Because, frankly, we are prescribed from having our Consular Officer make that kind of assessment.
Q Did he pass on an assessment or his sense of condition to the family?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I just said that -- that he briefed the family after he had the visit.
Q But Michael Fay's mother, if I read correctly, said that she wasn't able to speak about his condition. Is she under some restriction? Did she have to commit herself to not relaying what she was told?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of. I think that she, for her own personal reasons and I understand, generally, that the family, at this point, doesn't wish to engage publicly on discussions of reports that they are getting on him, that maybe they'll have more to say after they've had a chance to meet with him themselves. I don't know. But I think for the moment they've decided that they don't want to comment publicly.
Q The IAEA just made an announcement -- I guess just before you came into the briefing -- saying that they would not be sending an observer team to the refueling of the North Korean reactor. Where does this leave the diplomatic track?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen the report, so I'm not going to comment on that specific report until I have a chance to study it. Our position on this, I think you know, is pretty clear.
We feel that having the IAEA present for the refueling of the reactor is necessary for the United States to be able to proceed to a third round of talks with the North Koreans. So that is our position.
My knowledge was that the IAEA and the North Koreans were still in contact about that possibility. To the best of my knowledge, the North Koreans have not yet started to unload fuel from their reactor. Until I have a chance to actually take a look at the report and see what we want to say, I don't think I'll go any further.
Q There's been a report in Seoul that North Korea sent a fax message to the State Department yesterday evening. Can you confirm that?
MS. SHELLY: I can confirm that another letter was received from the North Koreans yesterday. I don't wish to characterize the North Korean letter, but I will say that we are studying it and we are preparing a response to it.
Q On another subject. Is the United States thinking anymore seriously about evacuating Americans from Yemen?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I can bring you up to date on the decisions we have taken on that.
As I think you're probably aware, we have issued travel warnings and have updated our Consular Information Sheet. We did this yesterday afternoon, so those are available in the Press Office.
We understand that the fighting has intensified. As I mentioned yesterday, the United States is not an official mediator but we are using our good offices to try to promote a cessation of hostilities and a resumption of the political dialogue.
What happened vis-a-vis our staff there is that the Under Secretary for Management has ordered -- the State Department's Under Secretary for Management has ordered a reduction of Embassy staff in Sana'a. Dependents and non- essential staff must depart. The Ambassador and a small number of personnel will stay and the Embassy will remain open.
As I mentioned, we have issued a travel warning. The travel warning advises Americans to avoid travel to Yemen and we are recommending that Americans in Yemen depart.
The Embassy, consonant with our policy of "no double standard," is making every effort to notify all non-official Americans of our decision to reduce Embassy staff. We're now making arrangements to facilitate the evacuation of official and non-official Americans who might wish to depart.
We will continue to remain in very close touch with the American community present in Yemen regarding all developments. A Consular Officer will remain at the Embassy after the Embassy's drawdown to assist those private American citizens who might not wish to depart Yemen.
Q How many are there, roughly? How many unofficial Americans running around in Yemen?
MS. SHELLY: Approximately 5,000.
Q Do you have any breakdown on who they are?
MS. SHELLY: I gave the numbers, I think, yesterday. There are approximately 150 official Americans, and that includes dependents and Peace Corps personnel who are there.
As to private American citizens, the estimate is 5,000.
Q I mean a breakdown of the private -- that seems like a large number. Are these oil workers, full nationals - - do you have any sense of --
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything more precise in the way of numbers.
Q Are they all or nearly all in Sana'a or some in Aden where conditions are difficult? And what's your understanding of the operation or condition of the airports in Sana'a and Aden?
MS. SHELLY: On the first part of your question, I think the majority of the American community is concentrated in the northern part of the country, but there are Americans in the southern part as well. Again, I don't have the breakdown between North and South.
I'm not aware of the fact that there's any problem with the airport in the North. I don't have precise information about the airport in the South. I know that some preparations were being made for evacuations, I think by ship -- not by us, by some other countries -- for evacuation from the South.
We are trying to communicate, of course, as best as we can, with the other embassies in the region and to determine exactly what they are doing, what their plans are. I don't precise information on that.
We do have some reports that Russia, France, and other European nations are also making similar arrangements to evacuate their citizens from Yemen. But as to more precise details, you'd have to get those from the nations in question.
Q How many Americans do you expect to depart as a result of this directive?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's very difficult to predict. I think that we're expecting, at a minimum, there would be something in the range of 400/500. It could also be up to about 1,000. Of course, if the situation gets worse than it is now, it certainly could be well higher. But I think our initial estimate, based on the situation on the ground, would be something in the range of 500 to 1,000.
Q Is Pelletreau still there?
MS. SHELLY: No, he's out. He's continuing with his travel in the region.
Q Now that the U.S. is considering, or actually there will be a vote shortly in the U.N. Security Council on Haiti, are you in a position to answer questions about that proposal and some of the holes which are left in it, or are you still in a no-take questions on it?
MS. SHELLY: I'll share with you what I can. The vote has taken place. It took place just a few minutes ago. Ambassador Albright delivered her explanation of vote on the situation which was just passed to me prior to coming in here.
As I have not seen the final text of the resolution, I can't give you a whole lot. I've got some details on where it was this morning and I'm just not sure if there were any last-minute changes.
But as of the text that was being taken up at about 11:00 this morning, in the final draft the air ban -- this is a ban on flights except for regular passenger flights -- and targeted financial and travel sanctions go into effect without delay.
The broad trade sanctions, which we have referred to before, go into effect not later than 15 days after the adoption of the resolution.
The new resolution maintains provisions to allow for the continued delivery of humanitarian assistance to Haiti - - assistance the U.S. and other countries are providing on a rather massive scale.
Adoption of these sanctions is a serious step but it's a step that is absolutely necessary to rid Haiti of military rulers who have defied their people, defied the world, and defied all decency.
We are determined that these sanctions will work. We're already engaged with the other countries and with the U.N. to ensure that the measures are fully enforced and that they achieve their objective in the shortest possible time.
Q In connection with that, did you see the picture on the front page of the Washington Post today which showed hoards of Haitians crossing from the Dominican Republic, ignoring or violating an embargo which was in effect even prior to today's vote?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I've seen the pictures. Is there a question that goes with that?
Q Are these sanctions going to be more serious than the ones you've had for the last several months up till now?
MS. SHELLY: I think there's no question that these sanctions will be more serious, but also part of our initiative is to focus on enforcement. Certainly, as you are aware, there have been contacts between the Dominican Republic and the United Nations about how the enforcement of those sanctions might be toughened.
The Dominican Republic invited the United Nations to send a team down. This was, I think, about a week or so ago. They asked the U.N. to please send a team down so that they could work with them to develop a much tougher enforcement regime which probably would include the placement of observers; presumably, international observers at various points along the border.
I don't think that there is any secret about the fact that the border has been porous, particularly with respect to fuel supplies and gasoline. We are reassured by the determination of the Government of the Dominican Republic to toughen that up.
Q Thank you, Christine. Former President Bush, in the press yesterday, came out very strongly against military intervention in Haiti. Has there been anymore that you can say with regard to plans or such about military intervention by the U.S. in Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: I can only say what other officials have said, which is, "we neither rule it in nor rule it out;" but we have not taken a decision toward that end at this point. I don't have anything further to add.
Q How is enforcement of the different aspects of this actually going to take place? Are American ships going to boarding other ships that are heading to Haiti? Are American aircraft going to intercept non-commercial flights that are going to Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: Those are very good questions. I just don't have the answers with me today. I will endeavor to post a full answer to that after the briefing because they're very good questions. As I said, since the vote has just taken place -- and I'm not privy to the enforcement details - - I'm just going to have to take that one.
Q Earlier, the President declined to take tougher sanction steps such as this because of the profound impact on the poorest of the people in Haiti. Now the government has changed its position, saying, well, we'll do what we can for the poor people but it's necessary. They seem to be almost 180 degrees flip-flop on the part of this Administration. What's going to happen to the bottom end of the scale?
MS. SHELLY: I take issue with the fact that it's a flip-flop. A very critical element of our policy toward Haiti has always been to couple pressure on the military with a view to securing their departure with a very, very strong humanitarian food and medical assistance effort.
We have been very, very mindful of the need to cushion Haiti's poor from the worst effects of the sanctions. We have undertaken assessments from time to time to try to determine what the exact state of play on nutrition was and particularly nutritional requirements of children. The United Nations has also looked into this. The relief agencies have also been looking into this.
We have tried to keep our finger on the pulse of that on virtually a daily basis to try to determine if there was any discernible worsening in the situation. We have always admitted that sanctions were tough and they could have a potential negative impact. That's one of the reasons that the international community has responded in the way that it has, to feed close to one million people daily under the relief programs.
Our aim, as you know -- in terms of the elements of our initiative -- was also to bring that feeding up so that it would be able to reach at least 1.2 million people by the end of May, which is the period of time that we expected the full effect of the tougher sanctions to go into effect.
We're not just leaving it out there for the people to suffer. It's a program of tougher sanctions and tougher pressures on the military, but very clearly coupled with a very strong humanitarian element that provides food for those who need it the most and medical assistance.
Q Will these tougher sanctions include goods assembled in Haiti and being imported to the United States?
MS. SHELLY: My understanding is, yes, that is correct. Under the previous regime, an exception was made for goods which were assembled in Haiti and that that exception will no longer apply. It's my understanding.
Q Can I question on North Korea again?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Could you tell us if the United States hinted that if we're allowed to complete the inspections which the IAEA inspectors were not able to complete in March?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry, what's the question?
Q My question is, if North Korea (inaudible) hinted to the United States that it will allow to complete the inspections which IAEA inspectors were not able to complete?
MS. SHELLY: In March?
Q In March.
MS. SHELLY: If you're referring to the latest communication that we received from them, I don't have any information on that. I can tell you that the possibility of completing those inspections -- the March ones -- were never ruled out by the North Korean Government despite the fact that the inspections were not able to be completed in the March timeframe. So that has been something which has been under discussion. It's something that we've indicated very strongly to the North Koreans that we would like to see occur.
Q Do you think North Korea's position on the sampling from the used fuel of the Yongbyon 5-megawatt reactor will change?
MS. SHELLY: Do I believe -- what position?
Q North Korea's position on the sampling --
MS. SHELLY: On the sampling?
Q -- will change?
MS. SHELLY: The exact technical aspects of the requirements that the IAEA indicated that it would like to undertake in the context of the refueling, that is really something I think I'd have to leave up to the IAEA. This is very, very technical stuff. They are the ones who really make the determinations about what they think is necessary for the safeguards issue. So that's really something that we would defer to the IAEA on.
Q So you're not talking to the IAEA officials on this subject?
MS. SHELLY: We do talk to them on it. But basically we have -- normally, they tell us what their requirements are and give us an indication of that. We also participate as a full member of the IAEA Board of Governors.
But as to the requirements that the IAEA itself believes that it needs in order to make the safeguards determination, that is something that we really let the IAEA determine. If they tell us that they need something, we accept that, that they need it.
Q Can you tell me if this letter, or whatever that you received overnight, from the North Koreans, was that about the refueling or was it about some other element of this controversy?
MS. SHELLY: We have had discussions with them, as you know, about, generally speaking, the circumstances under which we can agree to have the third round with them, that has touched on the North Korean nuclear issue in a variety of ways.
But the issue of the refueling has never -- it's not one in which there has been a specific linkage, although we have made it quite clear that if the refueling was to take place that we felt that IAEA inspectors needed to be present because that is very critical to the safeguards determination.
But as to, again, whether or not specifically that was addressed in the letter, I just don't have details on that.
Q Have there been any other contacts in the last ten days in New York with the North Koreans on this or other issues?
MS. SHELLY: There was a meeting which took place last week. We indicated that a meeting had taken place at that time. I don't have the details of that with me. We did put out a little bit on that, and you would be able to get that - - I know you've been on the trip -- you'd be able to get that from the Press Office.
Q Are there any meetings planned in the near future?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q About Serbia?
MS. SHELLY: Sure. Any other questions on Korea before we leave Korea?
Q In an interview on Tuesday, the Serbian Ambassador, Mr. Alkalaj, told me once again that he was confident there was an intention on the part of the Bosnian Serbs to initiate hostilities in the Brcko area. I note from your briefing yesterday that you spoke about some shelling. There was a CNN notice -- on the CNN radio, at least -- about the U.N. trading off, allowing certain armor to go through in order to get their observers into Brcko.
What is the reliability of our information from the Brcko area? And has there been any hostilities in the last 24 to 48 hours that you know about.
MS. SHELLY: That's kind of a loaded question. I think you've touched on the Bosnia issue in virtually every respect. What we try to do from here is to provide a brief update on the fighting, because we can't be in a position here ever to give a complete picture of on-the-ground things, so we don't report on every single small arms fire and things which take place.
We try to give a general picture of that. We try to give a picture of what is happening on the diplomatic front, and obviously if there are any particular aspects of UNPROFOR activity that touch on our overall policy objectives, we try to be able to get into that as well.
Yesterday I reported on the information that we had on that, and again in terms of a fighting update today, I don't have a lot to tell you. The situation in Gorazde and Sarajevo remains generally quiet. Shelling was reported in the Bihac area and low-level fighting between the government and Bosnian Serbs occurred in the central Bosnian towns of Doboj and Vitec. The situation in Croatia -- a cease-fire between the Croats and Krajina Serbs forces still basically is holding.
As to the reports that you have seen about Bosnian Serb tanks passing through the Sarajevo exclusion zone, when this report came to our attention, we found it extremely troubling. We contacted senior United Nations officials immediately in the Secretariat to try to seek an explanation about exactly what had transpired.
The general thrust of those facts was confirmed to us by U.N. officials. We made our concern, our very strong concerns, about this type of incident known to the Secretariat at senior levels. We understand that the NATO Commander, General Joulwan, also expressed equivalent concerns.
We certainly did not support a decision of this type. We would not like to see decisions made by those officials out in the field that have the effect of acquiescing in actions which violate the exclusion zone which clearly an agreement of that kind did.
Q So the United States has confidence in Mr. Akashi still?
MS. SHELLY: The United States recognizes that Mr. Akashi's job is extremely difficult. We don't support calls for his resignation. We would like to see him do a better job. We would not like to see him continue to acquiesce in actions which violate the exclusion zone.
Q Do a better job in what way?
MS. SHELLY: In exactly the way that I just described.
Q In other words, not letting any exceptions for the exclusion zone?
MS. SHELLY: Correct.
Q Can you confirm, Christine, that this happened?
MS. SHELLY: I just told you that --
Q That you were confirming it?
MS. SHELLY: -- when we heard the information that the Bosnian tanks had passed through the Sarajevo exclusion zone, we sought a clarification of this to find out what had happened and confirmation, which essentially U.N. officials did do. Once we had that, we made our views known.
Q Did they think in the undertaking that it wouldn't happen again?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q What kind of -- or could you characterize their response?
MS. SHELLY: No, I cannot. I don't have the details of their response back to us. But we have made our position to them very clear.
Q Has the Administration asked the Secretary General to instruct Mr. Akashi to straighten up and fly right?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not in a position to answer that.
Q Christine, you've now publicly criticized a senior official of the U.N., which is a pretty rare occurrence. How, in view of that criticism, can he actually do his job effectively, vis-a-vis the Serbs when they know that now he doesn't have the confidence of the United States behind him?
MS. SHELLY: I have not said that he does not have the confidence of the United States behind him. I also said that we recognize that he has a difficult job to do. But we do not concur in decisions that acquiesce in violation -- in actions which violate the exclusion zone. I think I've made myself absolutely clear on that point.
Q Is that the first and only action that he has done which has prompted you to come to the decision that you would like to see him do a better job, or have there been other actions in the past which you have found lacking?
MS. SHELLY: This is the action I'm prepared to address today.
Q There have been other problems between the U.N. and NATO and the U.S. Where do you see things headed at this point?
MS. SHELLY: What we would like to see is implementation of the decisions which have been reached by NATO and also by the United Nations. That's generally where we are and what we would like to see happen. I don't see any benefit gained in getting into a rehash of some of the events and words and actions which have taken place, except for the one which has occurred most immediately, which we feel it's very important to stand up and say something on.
We would like to see the situation work better. We would like to see -- we recognize that it is a very, very difficult operating environment. We're not trying to second guess every decision which is made out there, but there are decisions where the impact on events in the region can be discerned rather sharply. And an action like this, which results in essentially a U.N. sanctioned violation of the exclusion zone, is clearly not the type of action that we would like to see happen.
Q After the last flareup between the U.N. and NATO, you said there were consultations. They were trying to figure out how to get along better. Obviously, they haven't.
MS. SHELLY: This is a serious incident, and we treat it as such. And, as I said, when we heard the reports, we found them extremely troubling. We asked for clarification and confirmation, and once we got that we relayed our views very strongly on it.
There are lots of things which happen out in the region, and I think for the most part the arrangements out there and the situation -- decisions that are made -- I think for the most part the situation is working, and for the most part the relationship between United Nations UNPROFOR and NATO out in the field, that that functions relatively well.
There have been some difficulties. There have been some glitches. All of the attention, particularly in the press, tends to focus on the times when there are problems, so there are dustups, but I think that there is a tremendous amount of interaction and activity that in fact does work well but doesn't normally receive very much attention.
Q How many tanks were involved?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not absolutely sure. The latest report that I had, I think was something like five. I don't know if that is absolutely the definitive number, but that is the latest report I've seen.
Q What message does this send to the Bosnian Serbs when the United Nations makes a deal like this? What does that tell the Bosnian Serbs?
MS. SHELLY: Jack, I just can't answer that. I don't know. I'm not a Bosnian Serb. I don't know how to interpret that. I think you can speculate on what the message is probably just as well as I can. But I think the United Nations, I think UNPROFOR knows also when it takes a decision of that kind, that there's an impact, and it's unlikely that that impact is going to be a positive one.
Q The other part of my question, Christine, about getting the U.N. observers into the Brcko area and regarding other steps that the U.N. may be taking to bring quiescence to the Brcko -- or prevent the outbreak of hostilities in Brcko -- did this deal succeed? Is the U.N. being permitted to put their observers in?
MS. SHELLY: I have seen reports, and they have mostly been press reports, that indicate that this was in exchange for some kind of a deal regarding presence of U.N. military observers and possibly actions of another kind. It's possible these reports are accurate. I'm simply not in a position to be able to confirm them.
Q Can I just go back to the tanks? Could you tell us when you made your concern known, because I believe that another tank actually went through earlier today. I wonder whether that tank went through after you made your protest or your concern known to the U.N.?
MS. SHELLY: I'll look into that and see if there's anything else we want to say. But exactly when we made the concern known and what tanks had or hadn't passed through, frankly I don't see the point. They know our concerns, we've made them, and we can't profess to know absolutely every single movement of everything that happens out there.
The point is we've made our position on this known very clearly.
Q Christine, has there been any response from the U.N.? In other words, have they said, "Yes, you're right," or have they said, "No, we're going to let any tank through we want."
MS. SHELLY: I'm just not in a position to get into details on the response back to us.
Q Perhaps you said this Christine, but I missed it, if you did. How was this transmitted to the U.N.? Has the Secretary spoken to the Secretary General, Redman? How did this happen?
MS. SHELLY: We communicated this at a senior level to senior levels in the U.N. Secretariat, and I'm just not going to get more specific on that.
Q Are you satisfied with the U.N. response?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not going to get into that.
Q Filing break.
MS. SHELLY: Filing break. Any objections? I think they said no, Alan.
Q A question about Colombia. I understand the constitutional court has legalized possession of small amounts of cocaine and hashish and marijuana, and it looks like they're weakening in their resolve vis-a-vis the drug question, and do you have a response?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't, but I'll see if we would like to make one. Thanks.
Q Christine, the Somalia Government has apparently launched a protest to the State Department concerning the treatment of a couple of senior officials who were here last month for the IMF/World Bank meetings. Are you aware of this? Do you have any sort of a response?
MS. SHELLY: No, I'm not. I'll look into it.
Q What are the latest developments in the Turkish decision to flush the oil from Turkish-Iraqi pipeline, and also has there been a date given to you for the flushing? The Deputy Prime Minister announced that Turkey is now intending to open the border gate -- Hubbell border gate between Turkey and Iraq for regular trade. What's your reaction to that?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any guidance on that. I'm going to have to check. I'll see if we can answer your questions this afternoon in written form.
Q Do you have anything to say about the election in Panama in which the projections are that the party that follows General Noriega's line is likely to win?
MS. SHELLY: As to the party that follows the Noriega's line being likely to win, I don't have anything on that point. I have a couple of points that I can make on the election. The election is Sunday. We consider that an honest, fair election. It symbolizes Panama's return to democracy. It will be the first totally free election for Panama in 25 years.
Unlike the 1989 elections under Noriega, the campaign has been conducted, I understand, with full freedom of the press, speech and assembly. We expect a peaceful and honest election, as I said, scheduled for May 8. This would be followed, I understand, in September by a peaceful handover of power to the new government.
President Endara has also said that he will work with whomever is elected to enable a smooth transition between administrations, something which would actually be unique in Panama's history, and we certainly hope to see that happen.
Q Do you anticipate that the United States will be able to work well with whichever party is elected?
MS. SHELLY: It is certainly my expectation that we will do so.
Q If the party of General Noriega were to win, would you see that as a stinging rebuke to American policies of the last few years?
MS. SHELLY: That is very clearly a hypothetical question, and all of my counselors for what to say and do at this podium say no hypotheticals, so I am going to follow that advice.
Q Returning briefly to Haiti, the 400 boat people and then the 97 boat people, the 400 have apparently now been allowed out of incarceration and the 97 appear to be headed in that direction.
Can you clarify that? What is the U.S. Government doing, changing position?
MS. SHELLY: Well, I got a little bit into that earlier in the week, and I was told that this is absolutely not State Department's jurisdiction, that it is absolutely INS's jurisdiction, so unfortunately I am going to have to pass.
Q Okay. Second question, the returnees that Randall Robinson and other critics of the Administration are so frequently talking about, they get off the boat, they are harassed, some are dragged off and killed.
Does the U.S. Government have any better feel for what happens to those individuals when they get off the boat?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, we do. When boat people return to Haiti, they certainly face harsh economic conditions. They face a repressive political system, but to date our understanding is that they have not systematically been the targets of political repression and persecution.
Our findings have indicated that most boat people are overwhelmingly economic and not political migrants. Upon their return, they are given a chance to apply for refugee status. Few take advantage of this. Most return directly to their homes.
Of those who have been repatriated this year, only about 40 have actually applied for refugee status. Seven of those who have applied have been approved. All names of the returnees are entered into the refugee data base, even though the persons may not request or be qualified for refugee status. These persons are monitored routinely to see if they are subject to any kind of persecution or abuse.
Whenever there are reports of alleged killings, kidnappings, disappearance or abuse of a repatriate or of a refugee applicant, whether disapproved or approved, the data base is checked. If the name appears, an investigation begins into the circumstances surrounding the incident. Even with the recent rash of allegations of deaths, kidnappings of returnees and refugee applicants, the Embassy has only confirmed the death of one repatriate, Omann Dessanges, who was apparently a screened-in Haitian from Guantanamo, who, as we have already acknowledged, was repatriated to Haiti by mistake in June of 1992.
Monitoring repatriated boat people is necessarily limited by the information which the boat people actually provide themselves. In an attempt to contact as many of the returnees as possible, the Embassy monitoring officer typically will travel to an area where boat departures are common to determine if the returnees have had any problems.
Now, as to those who have been detained upon their return, because this is obviously a category of people that we try to watch quite closely, the Embassy's Refugee and Migration Affairs Coordinator follows up with immigration police, to monitor the release of any returnees who have been detained.
Generally those detained have not been held for more than 48 hours. Those boat people detained on April 22nd, for example, were released within 24 hours. No boat people are currently in custody. Last month, there was one incident at the port, a very highly publicized one, which involved port authorities striking a returnee. Our staff successfully intervened on the returnee's behalf.
As to checking out other kinds of reports, the only additional information that I have been able to get, having the Embassy check, and being sure we can give a complete picture of this, there have been two confirmed killings of disapproved refugees, but what I can tell you is that the circumstances surrounding both of those deaths were very difficult to ascertain.
We continue to seek additional information on those, but it is not clear, so far at least, that they were politically motivated killings, and therefore -- and other factors appear to be the case.
Q You seem to be saying that the critics of the Administration are wrong.
MS. SHELLY: I'm saying that the hard evidence, that there is a pattern of systematic actions taken against the returnees, that the hard evidence just is not there. There are clearly instances where this does take place. I don't profess that we have absolutely a total and complete picture of every single incident, but, as I said, we have a very, very strong monitoring system in place. We check out these reports. We send people to check on them, and the incidents that we have been able to actually confirm are relatively few.
Q On Japan, a comment of a Japanese Justice Minister on the rape of Nanking in China during the Second World War aroused lots of (inaudible) within the neighboring countries.
I wonder if you have anything on that?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have anything on that. We saw the remark when it was made. We have also seen its disavowal by the Japanese Prime Minister. I chose -- I was asked about this yesterday, and I indicated we did not have any comment on it. I went back and checked in response to some pressure from one of your colleagues here to see if we wished to comment on it, and I can absolutely, categorically reaffirm that we don't wish to comment.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at l:50 p.m.).
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