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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
JULY 18, 1994
 
 
 
                  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                   DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
 
                       I N D E X
 
                 Monday, July 18, 1994
 
 
                                 Briefer:  David Johnson
 
ANNOUNCEMENT
  President Authorizes New Refugee Relief Funds for
    Rwanda/Burundi ................................  1-2
 
RWANDA
  US Humanitarian Assistance ......................  1-3
  Situation Update ................................  4-6
  Closing of US Embassy/Rwandan Embassy in US .....  5
 
CUBA
  Report of Cubans Killed by Gunboats .............  6-10
 
ARGENTINA
  Terrorist Bombing ...............................  6-7,9
 
HAITI
  Boatpeople Interdictions/Processing/Repatriation   7-8,10-11
  US Public Information Broadcasts/Radio Democracy  8-9
  --US-Aristide Agreement on Messages .............  8-9
  Transition Government/Peacekeeping Force ........  9-12
 
BOSNIA
  Status of Peace Proposal ........................  12
 
NORTH KOREA
  Postponement of Kim Il-Sung Funeral .............  12-13
 
 
 
 
 
 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPC #107

MONDAY, JULY 18, 1994, 1:23 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. Sorry to keep you waiting for a few moments. Before I start taking your questions, I have a statement I'd like to read.

The President authorized on July 17 the use of up to $19 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to meet the unexpected and urgent needs of refugees, returnees, and conflict victims from Rwanda and Burundi.

The number of refugees who have fled the conflict in Rwanda to the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Zaire, Uganda and Burundi has now reached over two million. The flow of almost a million people into the Goma area of Zaire over the last few days is unprecedented. Moreover, there are as many as three million displaced persons inside Rwanda.

The needs are enormous and international relief agencies are overwhelmed. The continued outflows threatens the stability of the region.

This funding reaffirms our commitment to assist the humanitarian relief effort caused by the Rwanda crises. It will be made available to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which is coordinating basic assistance to Rwandan and Burundi refugees throughout the region and to other international organizations providing critical relief in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire.

This new funding is in addition to the $100 million which the United States has already contributed since April and to the 80 new Department of Defense airlift missions which will begin this week with flights into Goma.

The U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Brian Atwood, who is also the President's Special Coordinator for International Disaster Assistance, visited Goma today to assess relief efforts and the need for enhanced assistance caused by the wave of new refugees across the border from Rwanda into Zaire.

That's the only prepared statement I have for you today. I'll be glad to take your questions.

Q Do you know what the size of the U.S. airlift capacity is going to be?

MR. JOHNSON: I know that we are planning to make 80 new missions, but I don't have a tonnage capacity for you there, if that's the import of your question.

Q It is. And what will they be carrying?

MR. JOHNSON: They will be carrying foodstuffs, medicines, shelter -- items of that nature -- for disaster relief.

Q David, is the $19 million -- is that any of that going to be put into the airlifts, or is the airlift totally separate?

MR. JOHNSON: No. The $19 million is separate from the airlift.

Q Do you have any idea how many people can be fed with that $19 million, and for how long?

MR. JOHNSON: I do not know. I don't have an assessment of how the international organizations might put that amount to best use. I think that they would have to give an assessment of that. We couldn't provide it on their behalf because we will be providing the funds to them and they, in turn, will be making the best relief efforts they possibly can with it.

Q Is this being coordinating with any other countries?

MR. JOHNSON: We're working with all the countries in the area, but I can't say specifically that this particular disbursement has been coordinated in some concrete way with others, no.

Q What has the U.S. done up to this point. You mentioned, I think, $100 million since April?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes. You want a breakout of that?

Q A breakout, and have there been DoD flights? I guess there were the APCs.

MR. JOHNSON: Since April 1994, the United States Government has provided over $100 million in humanitarian aid to the relief efforts for the Rwanda crisis. The Department of Defense is going to undertake this other 80 airlift missions. They've already carried out over 100 airlifts of relief supplies since the start of the crisis.

Airlift support, to date, is valued at nearly $7 million. The Department contributed about $15.6 million to UNHCR, the World Food Program, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and the International Rescue Committee to support their assistance programs for the earlier waves of refugees.

USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has made available $5.8 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross for relief operations in Rwanda and another $3.9 million to non-governmental organizations working inside Rwanda.

Food for Peace has approved contributions of almost $66 million in food commodities for the Rwanda-Burundi regional emergency since April. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $4 million worth of food commodities for the Rwanda-Burundi emergency since April.

The APCs you referred to have already been turned over to the U.N., but I do not know exactly where they are located at this point.

Q Do you have a general description of the situation in Goma from Brian Atwood or somebody else?

MR. JOHNSON: I do not know if there's been a direct report from Atwood since he left Goma earlier today.

Our information is about 800,000 to 1 million Rwandan refugees are believed to have crossed into Zaire and are now in the Goma area.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, they are continuing to enter Zaire at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 per hour.

As I mentioned, Atwood is in the area today to look at the assistance needs.

Q And the money goes directly to the refugee organizations? It's not run through the Zairian Government?

MR. JOHNSON: No. It's to the NGOs that I mentioned in the statement.

Q David, how is this figure of 80 arrived at for the airlifts?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't know how the assessment came up to that number.

Q What is the logistical situation in terms of getting this aid distributed? How bad is it?

MR. JOHNSON: It's clearly a humanitarian disaster of almost unprecedented proportions. It's going to be a very difficult situation. I can't cite for you specifics as to how that's going to be worked out, I'm afraid.

Q A release said Cubans were killed by Cuban vessels when they tried to leave Cuba.

MR. JOHNSON: Could I find out if we've got anymore questions on Rwanda before we move to another area.

Q The political situation: Is there a cease- fire? What's happening in terms of the new government?

MR. JOHNSON: U.N. sources report that the RPF has taken Gisenyi. According to other press reports, a cease- fire may have already been declared.

No clash between French forces and the RPF has been reported since yesterday's confrontation which the U.N. has described as minor.

Q You said "humanitarian disaster of almost unprecedented proportions." Could you flesh that out? I know that the numbers of displaced are huge, but do you have a lot of deaths as well?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have any statistics. I've heard the same reports that you have this morning about all types of incidents that have happened in the area. But, no, I don't have anything beyond the number of displaced within and those I've cited for the refugee camps in Zaire and in Tanzania.

Q This situation which has now been going for a number of months is really much worse than Somalia. Why hasn't the United States done more?

MR. JOHNSON: I think the response that you see today is the type of response that we should be doing to this type of problem. It's a humanitarian disaster, and we are approaching it from that point of view.

We have also, as you will recall, worked closely with others in the U.N. and supported the French effort to try to limit the acts of genocide which were taking place there.

Q The Secretary spoke the other day about U.S. readiness to start working towards a coalition government. What hopes do we have in that area in terms of being able to turn that situation around?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't really have anything for you beyond what he said at that point. I don't have an assessment today as to where we stand.

Q David, do you assign any blame for what happened yesterday with the absolute mayhem close to the border and the resulting trampling of refugees?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't think we have an assessment exactly where the rounds came from. I'm not in a position to assign blame.

Q What's the current status of the Rwandan Embassy mission here in Washington, D.C.? I know Christopher had talked about de-recognizing it. Has that gone through?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes. I believe the White House put out a statement on that on Friday, announcing that the mission had been closed.

Just to flesh that out a little bit for you, I can tell you that there were three diplomats and six support personnel assigned to the Rwandan Embassy. The Ambassador is required to leave the country not later than July 22. That's the date upon which the Embassy will cease diplomatic operations.

Remaining personnel and the 18 dependents are required to depart by August 14. One individual could be allowed to remain longer if necessary to deal with administrative matters pertaining to the closing of the mission. We believe that timetable sets forth sufficient time to wind down affairs and do not anticipate any extensions.

Are we ready to move on from Rwanda?

Q No, one more. I wasn't going to ask this, but nobody else did. David, has the United States Government received information, or has the U.S. Government been in contact with the rebel government or received information via the United Nations on efforts on the part of the rebel government to help alleviate the problems that are driving so many people over the borders?

And, secondly, you've mentioned security of the region being threatened. Could you expand upon that?

MR. JOHNSON: Not beyond, I think, what's obvious, with all of the countries being overrun with refugees. I'm not sure about contacts, and I don't want to speculate on that. I'll see if I can find out something about contacts which may have been made and try to flesh that out a bit for you.

Cuba.

Q David, at least 30 Cubans died -- were killed by Cuban vessels. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. JOHNSON: I presume you refer to an AP report which was in the --

Q (Hands report to Mr. Johnson) Let me give you this.

MR. JOHNSON: -- thank you -- published last Friday. We've attempted to get some information on the incident which was alleged to have occurred in that report, and I do not have anything for you with which I can flesh that out.

As you know, getting information out of Cuba is not an easy task. I would say that if this did in fact occur, it's another example of the type of lengths to which people are pushed in that society and another reason for the need for reform.

Q As you know, this happened before several times, this sort of incident. Will the State Department have any comment or renounce this practice?

MR. JOHNSON: If we are in a position to confirm the report, we certainly will have a statement to make.

Q Buenos Aires. Do you have any information on the source of the bombing today? Any comment on it?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm going to refer you to the Secretary's remarks that he made from Jerusalem regarding the incident where he said, "The events in Buenos Aires are a reminder that despite the growing prospects, there are still the enemies of peace around the world, not only in the Middle East. The best antidote to that is to be striving and working to remove the underlying problems that have given rise to these tensions historically."

Our information currently about the extent of damage and the number of casualties remains incomplete, but it appears there was a substantial loss of life. At this time we're not aware of any American citizens who have been injured or killed in the incident.

Q The perpetrators -- do you have any information on that?

MR. JOHNSON: We've seen a claim by a previously unknown group called Islamic Command, but we don't have anything beyond that claim.

Q Central Europe, Partnership for Peace.

MR. JOHNSON: Sure.

Q In the Senate last week, they voted on an amendment to the annual Foreign Operations Bill qualifying Hungary and the Czech Republic for excess military equipment. Slovakia, as a member of the Visegrad countries, has been omitted. My questions are: What is the position of the State Department, if any, for not including Slovakia as a member of Visegrad Four, and what's your view of the amendment as such, because it's clearly not in line with Partnership for Peace.

MR. JOHNSON: Since that is an event that took place several days go, I'm not in a position at this point to comment on it, but I'll look into it and give you a call back.

Q Do you have any new figures on Haiti boat people?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes, I do. On Friday, the 15th, the Coast Guard picked up 149 Haitians in five boats. There were no interdictions on Saturday or Sunday, and thus far today there have been none either. That brings the total number of Haitians picked up since the processing facility on the Comfort began operations on June 15 to approximately 20,580.

While the numbers have been much lower for some time now, we're not in a position to speculate on whether this trend will continue. It could be that the message is taking hold in Haiti: That the options for Haitians who leave by boat are either temporary protection in a safe haven or voluntary repatriation and not refugee status in the U.S., but it's entirely unclear.

Q Do you have any idea what the weather was over the weekend?

MR. JOHNSON: I've heard conflicting reports about that. I'm not a meteorologist, but one person told me there were white caps and another told me the weather was quite calm, so I don't have any independent information.

Q David, Radio Democracy got started, I guess, on Friday, but there have been reports that the U.S. Government is broadcasting using other planes -- messages to discourage people from leaving Haiti. In other words, that is not part of Radio Democracy but is being done using other Defense Department means. Is that true, or is it strictly commercial?

MR. JOHNSON: The United States has had a longer running program of what we call public safety information to let the people of Haiti know about the situation for people who intend to leave by boat. We've used, I believe, both commercial operations as well as other USG assets. That is separate from Radio Democracy which only began operation on Friday, and the program you described has been ongoing for some time.

Q David, do you know whether broadcasts are getting through -- Radio Democracy's broadcasts?

MR. JOHNSON: They have been monitored there, and some of your colleagues have made reports on them, but I don't have any demographics for you to tell you on how many people and that sort that have been listened to.

Q There were reports that on the first day, Friday, that the reception was pretty spotty; that there were problems with it, and that they were going to try to improve that. Do you know whether that --

MR. JOHNSON: I don't. Those sorts of technical questions I think I'm going to ask that you to contact DOD who's running the technical side of the operation.

Q The U.S. has a look at what President Aristide says in these broadcasts, right, beforehand?

MR. JOHNSON: The Department of Defense is broadcasting them, so certainly, yes, we would.

Q All right. What is the purpose of that?

MR. JOHNSON: We've come to mutual agreement over how we would review both the broadcasts that the United States would eventually use on Radio Democracy and the ones that are being used now. It's a joint activity, and it's perfectly logical that both of us would take a look at what each other were saying.

Q This is not a press freedom issue?

MR. JOHNSON: Not to my knowledge. Our government broadcasts, helping another government.

Q Has anything that he has broadcast been substantively changed?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not aware of any changes made at all. I think we reviewed for you on Friday, or were in a position to, our assessment of the broadcast, and we characterized it as a message of reconciliation. That's where we're staying.

Q Speaking of radio stations but getting back to Rwanda, early on in that crisis, I remember there was active consideration of the United States Government going and taking out a radio station that was basically fomenting genocide.

Now this radio station seems to be doing the same thing and is one of the factors in this horrendous refugee flow, above and beyond the obvious. Is there any consideration being given to doing something about that now?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not aware of the allegations you first made that there was some consideration given at some point in the past, but I'll look into the question you raise and see what I can find out.

Howard.

Q As I recall, when the Israeli Embassy in Argentina was bombed, the U.S. offered help in investigating that. Are we offering any such help this time around?

MR. JOHNSON: I think that where we are right now in this tragedy is such that we haven't gotten to that point yet, but I wouldn't exclude it.

Q Back on Haiti --

MR. JOHNSON: If you wish.

Q Do you have any comment on Boutros Boutros- Ghali's comments of last Friday, particularly those suggesting that he would prefer a non-U.N. combat force, if it came to that.

MR. JOHNSON: Our assessment is that the U.N. Secretary General supports the formation of an international peacekeeping force for Haiti that in its totality is the size and composition that we have proposed. He also shares with us the sense of urgency about the need for early and effective international action to restore the legitimate authorities in Haiti.

He's suggested as one option a two-phase international approach to restoration of democracy in Haiti. Phase one could be a U.N.-sanctioned coalition force with a mandate to establish a secure and stable environment.

Phase two would be undertaken with a U.N. peacekeeping force with a mandate to support implementation of the Governors Island agreement. We believe this two-phased approach has merit and is worth active consideration.

We believe that an international peacekeeping effort with broad multinational participation will be necessary to help bring about a peaceful, stable transition to democracy in Haiti. We will be studying the Secretary General's report and will continue to work closely and cooperatively with him and other U.N. member nations to bring about an agreed approach to the task.

Q Is this the first time you've ever said that you favor a U.N.-sanctioned force for Haiti?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not sure.

Q Back to Cuba. Castro likes to blame the United States for this incident when Cubans tried to leave the island. Do you have any comment?

MR. JOHNSON: Only that the United States supports the right of anyone to depart his country and to return, and it's guaranteed by the U.N. Convention on Human Rights, and that's something we stand behind. So, no, we do not accept that as an allegation that we are fomenting any type of activity.

Q Haiti: Other figures. Do you have any on repatriations since Friday and total at Guantanamo, and so forth?

MR. JOHNSON: 2,765 of the approximately 11,000 interviewed have opted for voluntary repatriation, while 8,203 have asked for temporary protection in a safehaven. Of those who have volunteered to return, all but nine have already been repatriated or are enroute to Port-au-Prince. Approximately 16,500 are presently at Guantanamo, of which 7,750 are awaiting processing for voluntary repatriation or for temporary protection.

Q Has anybody asked for and not received temporary protection?

MR. JOHNSON: To date, no one has been forcibly repatriated from Guantanamo since the new policy went into effect on July 7. Under this policy, Haitians interdicted at sea are advised that their only choices are to return voluntarily or to apply for temporary protection. Applications are reviewed to determine eligibility for temporary protection. The standard applied is whether the applicant is seeking temporary protection for reasons linked to personal safety or protection or for reasons of personal convenience.

It's possible that there will be cases in which applicants for safehaven are found to be excludable for refugee status or for temporary protection; for example, because of serious criminal activity. Such people may be returned to Haiti, but to date no case such as that has occurred.

Q Just comparing the numbers on the repatriation figures from today and I guess Thursday, it looks like since then only about ten percent have opted for voluntary repatriation, whereas until that time it had been running at something over a third. Do we have a (inaudible) here?

MR. JOHNSON: No. I think your statistical analysis can be misleading, because when the policy and the assessment of individuals was first undertaken, it became known that people who had no wish for safehaven and wished to voluntarily return could do so without assessment, and so there may have been a time in the beginning where there was a temporary surge. But I would suggest that you not try to draw statistical conclusions based on the numbers from day to day until there is a longer-term trend.

Q Getting back to Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the U.N., and so on, that Phase One sounds like a big U.N. sanctioned force that would go in and basically stabilize the situation. It sounds a lot like Somalia or whatever. It sounds like a much more muscular sort of action than has previously been talked about in the U.S. participation of a peacekeeping force for Haiti. Is that not -- is that assessment not accurate?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd make a couple of points. First of all, this is a report which remains under discussion. The details, and even the concepts of it, remain to be worked out. But it is distinct from the UNMIH group, the expanded one that has been talked about up until this time.

Q To Bosnia?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes.

Q The Bosnian Serbs, in an Associated Press story in the Washington Times this morning, are talking tough. They're talking about not accepting the peace plan and talking about greater war and more widespread wars around the Balkans. Could you review, David, the current status of the peace -- of the attempts to make peace in Bosnia? Or, indeed, is this posturing on the part of the Serbs? There's some positive indications coming in. By the way, what's the deadline for this?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not going to give you a formal assessment of everywhere we've been and where we're going. But I would note that both of the parliamentary bodies you referred to are reportedly meeting today. We've not yet received any reports on votes on the peace proposal.

I would note that this is an important juncture. Both parties need to give it every consideration and to choose to the road to peace. Both parties understand that there are consequences to rejection and, if necessary, we intend to pursue those consequences.

The Contact Group will be meeting later this week, and that is when they expect to receive a more formal response from the parties.

Q And what is that deadline, again?

MR. JOHNSON: It's later in the week. I don't have the number right off the top of my head.

Q Korea: What is your assessment of the -- perhaps this happened on Friday; I wasn't here -- the assessment of the postponing of the funeral until tomorrow?

MR. JOHNSON: North Korea has stated that the delay was necessary to allow more people to visit the funeral bier and to complete preparations for the funeral. We have no evidence of any other motivations.

Q Could I just follow that with, there is some bad news also reported in our papers about the North Koreans saying some very ugly things about the South Korean leadership. I was just curious to know if they've made any movement to reset the date of the talks between North and South?

MR. JOHNSON: In regard to the first assertion that you started out with, I'm not really interested in commenting on press reports of that nature. But I would tell you that as the North Koreans indicated before leaving Geneva, they intend to resume dialogue with the United States after the official mourning period for Kim Il-Sung has ended.

Since the North Korean announcement concerning the delay of Kim Il-Sung's funeral, they have been in touch with us to reassure us that this remains their intention. Therefore, we can expect the North Koreans to contact us later this week to discuss dates for resuming a third round.

Q There's no news as to the two Koreas talking to each other?

MR. JOHNSON: No.

Q Is the United States doing any kind of diplomatic work in order to take the fuel rods out of the country to a third country? Or what's the status of the fuel rods?

MR. JOHNSON: I know that the inspectors remain there and they remain under IAEA supervision, but I don't have anything for you on the question you raise about what sort of plans might be for them.

Q Thank you.

MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.

(Press briefing concluded 1:51 p.m.)

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