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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
JULY 29, 1994
 
 
 
 
                    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                    DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
                       I N D E X
                  Friday, July 29, 1994
 
 
                       Briefer:  David Johnson
 
 
HAITI
   Security Council Discussions ....................1-2
   Boatpeople Interdictions/Processing/Safe Havens .2-6
   US Policy on Departure of Military Leaders ......5
 
NIGERIA
   Jesse Jackson Visit/Reported Statement .........7,13
 
RWANDA
   Visit by Asst. Secretary Moose ..................8
   Ambassador Rawson's Discussions with Government .8
   US Recognition of Government/Call for Broad-Based
     Government/Humanitarian Issues/Contributions ..8-13
   Foreign Troop Deployments .......................10-11
   Visit of French Defense Minister to Washington ..11-12
 
NORTH KOREA
   Asst. Secretary Gullucci's Trip to Asia .........14
   Status of Fuel Rods .............................14
   Acting Secretary's Contacts with Japanese FM ....14
 
JAPAN
   Acting Secretary's Contacts with Japanese FM re:
     Trade Talks this Weekend ......................14
 
TERRORISM
   US Efforts to Curb Smuggling of Weapons-Grade
     Plutonium .....................................16-17
   US Investigation of Bombings in Panama/Colombia .17
   British Investigation of Bombing in London ......17
 
IRAN
   US Urges Curbs on Trade Credits .................17-18
(###)
 
 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPC #111

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 1994, 1:21 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any prepared remarks for today, so I'd be pleased to attempt to answer your questions.

Mr. Gedda.

Q Could you bring us up-to-date on activities at the U.N. concerning the resolution on Haiti that you were trying to get approved?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a whole lot for you on that because, of course, the activity is taking place there. I can say that our consultations in New York continue among the Friends of Haiti and the members of the U.N. Security Council; and we believe they're going well, but we still have some work to do.

The Council was in session until very late last night and will meet again this afternoon. If necessary, it will continue to meet into the weekend.

We hope that the strong statement by the international community will convince the illegitimate authorities in Haiti that it is time to step down.

Q Is there a deadline you're up against?

MR. JOHNSON: No; I wouldn't characterize it that way. The current resolution on UNMIH, I believe, would need to be renewed, but I wouldn't characterize it as a "deadline."

Q What is the problem? We were told, I think last week, that it would be a matter of a couple of days.

MR. JOHNSON: I don't recall anyone characterizing it that way, and I wouldn't describe it as a "problem." Consultations have gone on throughout several days. You'll recall that Mr. Tarnoff went to Argentina and Brazil. There have been active consultations in New York, as well as in capitals through diplomatic channels, and those consultations are continuing and we believe we'll reach a resolution during the course of the weekend.

Q What are the consultations focusing on?

MR. JOHNSON: The consultations, as with all consultations, do focus on getting input from various people -- the Friends of Haiti, the members of the Security Council, Aristide -- to craft a resolution which will enjoy broad support and will demonstrate the international community's commitment to removing the three military coup leaders from Haiti.

Yes, Bob?

Q Outflows have been sort of trickling the last couple of weeks unless you can update us on some change in numbers. Has a sense of crisis abated now in Haiti? Is it now a --

MR. JOHNSON: I wouldn't characterize it that way. In terms of numbers, the numbers have been quite low over about a three-week period now. I would tell you that 86 Haitians in two boats were interdicted by the Coast Guard yesterday. That brings the total number of Haitians picked up since shipboard processing began on June l5 to approximately 2l,090.

We're encouraged that fewer Haitians feel the need to risk their lives by taking to sea in small unseaworthy boats; and while not speculating on what this may mean, we believe that it could represent knowledge in Haiti that the options when one leaves are safehaven or voluntary return, and also that the opportunities to come to the U.S. are represented by availing one's self of one of the three in-country processing facilities which are in Haiti -- which we continue to encourage those who feel as though they face a threat of persecution, that they should use those facilities.

Q Can you tell us if the numbers of those facilities gone up since we made that announcement a few weeks ago?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes; there was a slight increase in the number of applicants earlier this month. The increase has been more marked this week. The usual number is about 80 per week, and this week there were as many as 200 showing up on some days.

I would note that in order to deal with this increase and to speed up the interview process, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has sent six additional interviewers to Port-au-Prince.

Q Did the 200, David, actually get to see somebody one night, sure.

MR. JOHNSON: They'll all get to see somebody. Are you talking about -- I do not know how many of those were determined not to meet the eligible requirements during some sort of initial screening program and how many were afforded opportunities to apply based on a fear of persecution. I don't have that material.

Q Do you, David, have a statistic percentage of increase of those who are showing -- well, "showing up" is the wrong word. But just to give us an idea of how these numbers are increasing with the decreasing boat exits.

MR. JOHNSON: I believe there's been an increase over the last several weeks. I don't believe that there has been a marked increase just in the last few days when these numbers started to creep up.

The overall number of persons approved for entry in the United States that were afforded an interview after determining that they were eligible for the program is approximately 25 percent, and that has gone up over the course of the program. But I don't have any information that it has gone up markedly just in the last few days.

Yes, Bob.

Q But you're attributing the turndown to a change in perceptions among Haitians on their opportunities for leaving, not to any change in conditions on the ground. Human rights atrocities we were hearing about a month ago. The economic conditions?

MR. JOHNSON: No; we do not perceive any real change on the ground -- certainly, no positive change on the ground. We would attribute it either to a realization of what opportunities are available when one leaves by boat and also, as the numbers indicate here, possibly a realization that the best, safest opportunity -- if one, indeed, does feel a genuine fear of persecution -- is through the in- country processing centers.

Mark -- behind you there.

Q Yes. Do you have a figure for the total capacity of all the safehavens which have now been set up? How does that compare with the 2l,090 which have been taken in since the l5th of June?

MR. JOHNSON: I think that there's not a firm, inelastic capacity number. As you know, there were various numbers we used at Guantanamo during the early days when it was open, and that number proved to be rather elastic. So I mean I have figures for some of the countries which have agreed, under Memoranda of Understanding, but I don't think you come up with a meaningful number just by summing those up.

Q But at the moment there's no prospect of the safehaven system being under serious pressure with the numbers you have at the moment.

MR. JOHNSON: We have adequate capacity for the number that we have at the moment.

Mark, did you have a question?

Q You may have replied to this earlier in the week. President Aristide called for a date certain for his return. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd only refer to our efforts in New York right now to secure the type of resolution which would reaffirm and make more concrete the international community's determination that the three leave Haiti and that Aristide, as the elected president, be returned.

Q But that resolution won't contain a date?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a resolution of a text to read you, so I don't have anything for you on that.

Q Do you have numbers of Haitians who are currently at Guantanamo, and how that processing is going?

MR. JOHNSON: All of the Haitian boat people at Guantanamo except for the 86 picked up yesterday have been processed either for voluntary repatriation or for temporary protection. That's 15,700 that have been approved for temporary protection; 3,577 have volunteered to return to Haiti; 3,410 of these have already been repatriated and a further 167 are enroute to Haiti today.

Q So how many remain at Guantanamo?

MR. JOHNSON: I'll see if I can do my sums here.

Q That haven't been sent to safehavens? A number may have been approved but they may not have been shipped on.

MR. JOHNSON: Guantanamo is the safehaven site for the time being.

Q You can't say when the other sites will open?

MR. JOHNSON: I cannot.

Q Radio Democracy still broadcasting to Haiti?

MR. JOHNSON: Excuse me?

Q Radio Democracy -- is it still broadcasting to Haiti?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have anything beyond what we said several days ago. I presume it is, but let me look into that and see if I can get something more concrete for you.

You had a question over here.

Q That was it.

Q Have you seen this report that General Cedras and his two pals are floating a plan where they would resign and turn their offices over to some cronies but not leave Haiti? Would that sort of thing be acceptable?

MR. JOHNSON: I saw a report of that in a newspaper yesterday. There's been no approach to any U.S. Government person regarding that; and, no, that's not an acceptable outcome. The acceptable outcome is the fulfillment of the requirements in the Governor's Island agreement, and that is the departure of the three and the restoration of President Aristide as the elected President of Haiti.

Q The departure from Haiti?

MR. JOHNSON: From Haiti.

Q Physical departure, not just departure from office?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes, departure. Charlie.

Q In my absence, the Turks in Caicos -- is that up and running?

MR. JOHNSON: Turks and Cacios is completed. We may use the Grand Turk facility as the initial processing site where Haitian boat people may be interviewed for temporary safehaven or for voluntary repatriation. There are no plans, and no one will be interviewed there for potential admission to the United States.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and the Turks and Caicos Islands has been revised to reflect the changed nature of this operation.

With the decline in the number of Haitians leaving by boat, a decision on whether to open TCI has not been made but, in the meantime, the facility is remaining on a 48- hour standby basis.

Q It's not open?

MR. JOHNSON: It's not open. It can be opened within 48 hours.

Q It will be a (inaudible) and not a safehaven, if it was opened?

MR. JOHNSON: That is correct.

Q David, is there any other place that is now in that status that's complete and ready to be used but is not yet functioning?

MR. JOHNSON: I do not believe so. We have Memoranda of Understanding with other places, but we do not have facilities that are up and ready.

Q Are we preparing the other sites?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not sure where we stand in that process.

Q People here were saying last week that an effort was being made to determine the cost of this operation in the Caribbean and it was supposedly going to be available this week. You don't have any numbers, do you?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't. Can you be more specific about it?

Q Well, costs. You have all of these safehaven facilities under construction, you have the Coast Guard expenses.

MR. JOHNSON: I'll look into that. I'm unaware of any accounting project that's been put together to come up with something like that.

More Haiti?

Q Can we cover Nigeria?

MR. JOHNSON: Do you have another Haiti?

Q No, I don't, but I'm concurring.

MR. JOHNSON: Let us go.

Q I believe it's four House members who were denied visas by the Nigerian Government. Do you have a comment on that?

MR. JOHNSON: I saw that item just moments before I walked in. So I'm going to have to take it for a concrete response to you. I don't know the circumstances under which the report is made and whether it's accurate at this point.

Q And to follow, David, Jesse Jackson was quoted on the wires as being very pessimistic about what he has found in his mission to Nigeria. He says -- sorry if I misquote him here -- something to the effect that this could just dwarf the mess in Rwanda, should civil war ignite, which he thinks is about to ignite. Do you have any comments on that?

MR. JOHNSON: Not directly. I'd note that the population of the area is significantly larger and that Reverend Jackson is there on a Presidential mission to assess and see if he can help bring about a restoration of democracy in the area. We're looking to him for a report on how he views that situation, but I don't have any formal readout on his views at this point.

Q Okay. Do you have a formal readout of the State Department's view of the situation in Nigeria as it pertains to the outbreak of civil war?

MR. JOHNSON: I would say that Nigeria is calm today after yesterday's demonstrations in which at least one person was killed in Abuja.

The demonstrators were calling for the release of Abiola who has been imprisoned by the Nigerian Government for the past month. We're continuing to monitor the situation in Nigeria closely. And, as you recognize, Jesse Jackson, as a Presidential envoy, is on the ground there now.

But I'd also like to remind you that we caution all Americans that care should be exercised when they are traveling to Nigeria.

We continue to review the situation there on a regular basis, and we'll take such further actions as may contribute to progress toward democracy.

Q Can I shift to Rwanda? Could you bring us up to date on our diplomatic contacts with the new government in Kigali and tell us what guarantees, if any, they're now offering to people who are contemplating returning to the country?

MR. JOHNSON: First, I'd like to remind you, I suppose, that Assistant Secretary George Moose will be traveling to Kigali this weekend. He's going to be meeting with RPF leaders there as well as others.

He is going to be stressing to them the need to establish conditions that will allow refugees to return voluntarily. In addition, he's going to be consulting with other governments in the region. While his itinerary is by no means firm, he certainly will be visiting Burundi and Uganda.

He's going to be consulting with regional leaders, expressing our thanks for their efforts with the refugees and exploring ways to provide further urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

One of Ambassador Rawson's goals, since being sent back to the area, is to encourage the new government to establish the type of conditions which would encourage the return of the refugees.

He's met with various officials of the new government, with UNAMIR and with other individuals attempting to handle this crisis. We believe his mission has been going well, and we're encouraged by our dialogue with the new government.

There have been positive, concrete achievements, including RPF-UNAMIR patrols, a stated willingness on behalf of the new leaders to allow the deployment of human rights monitors, and confirmation that there will be no rigorous screening of refugees wishing to return to Rwanda.

By that, I mean, they may look for certain individuals who are accused of acts of genocide or suspected of genocide, but there's going to be no uniform screening program in order to encourage as many people to return to Rwanda as we can, because we believe that is where the ultimate solution to the refugee crisis will be found.

Q Your encouraging statements about the RPF raise the question of when you plan to recognize the RPF as the new government in Rwanda?

MR. JOHNSON: We believe that the new government in Kigali is the entity that exercises effective control in Rwanda. We recognize them as such and consider it a matter of urgency to work with them to fulfill our humanitarian mission.

So the answer to your question is, yes, we already recognize them.

Q As of today?

MR. JOHNSON: But at the same time we continue to press for the formation of a truly broad-based government that respects the human rights of all Rwandans and creates conditions which will persuade them to return to their homes.

Q This is as of today, you recognize it?

MR. JOHNSON: I think the recognition is not a pronouncement. It's a series of actions, and we have done that by working with them and dealing with them on the ground.

Q Is the U.S. prepared to open its embassy?

MR. JOHNSON: We have an Ambassador there now who is assessing things like that. Whether we will put another team back there on the ground, is something that he's going to be giving us advice on over the next few days. I certainly wouldn't exclude it, but I don't have an announcement to make on that.

Q Will Rawson stay there?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't know if he will return here for further consultations. He might stay in the region for a prolonged period of time.

Q Do you know if other governments are also recognizing the new government?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't. I don't have an account of -- other governments may be doing, as we have done, and not making a concrete announcement of recognition but dealing with them as the government and through that mechanism recognizing them.

Q Can you explain that -- the semantics of this or the process of this? Why you're sort of letting it slip, that there's a de facto recognition?

MR. JOHNSON: I wouldn't characterize it the way you have. We sent our Ambassador there to attempt to work with the newly constituted government. We found that we can. And by that action, we are in fact recognizing them.

Q Are there any conditions attached to --

MR. JOHNSON: As I said before, we're encouraging them to broaden the base of their government and to deal with the humanitarian problems that are there.

Q David, can you cite a precedent where the United States has, in this sort of backing-into-it way, recognized a government?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not characterizing myself, or associating myself with your question, I can't. I don't have a litany of how we've gone about public announcements or formal announcements or just beginning to behave. I will see if I can find out something, but I don't think it's inconsistent with our practices to deal with things on an incremental basis as opposed to making formal announcements.

Q The language used by Christopher about ten days ago was that the United States de-recognizing the existing government at that time. What you're saying is that the act of re-recognizing has just sort of slipped into place without any formal decision or decree?

MR. JOHNSON: No decree is required. De-recognition, based on the last couple of week's actions, does.

Q But is there not usually some sort of announcement that we recognize this as the duly formed government or whatever?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not sure that there is. I will look into that, whether we've made it our past practice to stand up and tout that sort of thing or not.

Q David, you cited as one reason the fact that the RPF is exercising control -- effective control -- over the country. You never do comparisons but, the military leaders in Haiti control over the country, don't they?

MR. JOHNSON: You're right, I do not do comparisons. I answer your question affirmatively.

Q Can you update us on where we are with the UNIMIR talks in the attempt to put together an African force there? What sort of numbers do we have at this point?

MR. JOHNSON: Yes. Just a moment. The following is the status report.

Ethiopia is expected to send an advance team by August 3, and a battalion of 815 shortly thereafter.

Ghana is expected to deploy its remaining 280 troops within one to two weeks.

The United States is working to expedite the lease and sale and shipment of their equipment.

Nigeria is expected to deploy 120 troops within ten days.

Tunisia is considering the deployment of 1,000 troops in August.

The United States is encouraging the four Francophone African countries now participating in the French-led "Operation Turquoise" to allow their 500 troops to stay on after France's withdrawal and to merge with UNAMIR.

The above deployments would constitute 2,715 new UNAMIR troops. In addition to those, Canada plans to deploy a communications battalion of 350 within two weeks.

Australia will deploy a medical unit of 300 and a security unit of 120 beginning on August 6.

The United Kingdom will send an engineering unit of 250 to 300 beginning next week.

I'd note that equipment shortages have been the principal impediment to deployment troops for UNAMIR. The only troops that have been deployed have been the Ghanians who are being equipped by the United States.

We are working to encourage other countries with the appropriate equipment to make it available to unequipped UNAMIR contingents.

Q There are already 500 Ghanians in-country?

MR. JOHNSON: There are 500 troops -- Francophone African troops -- now participating in the French-led "Operation Turquoise." I don't have a number for you on how many Ghanaian troops* are already in-country. I'll see what I can find about that.

*There are 520 Ghanaian peace keepers in Rwanda. I'm sure that was on the agenda -- that is, the situation in Rwanda and French efforts there -- I don't have any information for you on the tone or tenor or substance of those discussions.

Q David, Defense Minister Leotard is in town. Are you trying to impress upon him the need for French troops there? Or are you resigned to the fact that the French troops are going to go?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a readout for you on his meetings. Obviously, there are a number of issues that could be discussed with the French Defense Minister. While

Q David, regarding the refugees -- the refugee issue -- I'm referring to dispatches I've seen in the last few days. There is one -- I guess the question is -- are we in contact with the rebel government of what is now, in effect, the government in Kigali about the problem of the refugees fearing the rebels, fearing for their lives -- that issue? Do we know anything about that?

And, secondly, I've read about the terrible threat of the spread of the cholera by refugees that might be returning and contaminating their water supplies in their home areas or in Kigali, having even worse epidemics of cholera come from a rapid return or any return of the sick people, these carriers. I noted also that they can't seem to find any way to bury the dead in -- pardon me -- the Zarian town -- I forget the name of the town -- but where most of the refugees are and dying, they can't seem to find any way to buy them. Can you address those issues?

MR. JOHNSON: I'll take your last one first. The United States, I believe, as announced earlier, has sent a contingent there to assist in the burial process and to help there.

I would also say that we have impressed upon the newly installed RPF government that they must work quickly to create the conditions which will give the refugees the confidence that they can safely return home. We believe the installation of a broad-based government, which is representative of Rwandan society, is an important goal in this regard.

The new government has already taken several steps to increase confidence, including, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, the creation of joint RPF/UNAMIR patrols and the statement of its willingness to allow the deployment of human rights monitors in Rwanda. We believe also that the government's commitment not to engage in a rigorous screening process of returning refugees would help facilitate their return.

Q What about the medical risks?

MR. JOHNSON: I can't comment completely on that. Cholera is a problem of crowded conditions and a problem of sanitation which comes from that, and relieving the pressure at the border will help to relieve that crisis.

Q Could you elaborate on -- returning to Nigeria. Could elaborate on what sort of further actions the U.S. could take to contribute to democracy? Could that include organizing an embargo on their oil shipments, or something like that?

MR. JOHNSON: I think that given the fact that we have a Presidential envoy in Nigeria right now who is assessing the situation, I will reserve on what further steps we might take to encourage a return to democracy, but underline that we are prepared to take further steps.

Are we finished with Nigeria?

Q When is Mr. Jackson --

MR. JOHNSON: I'm sorry, I don't have his itinerary.

Q Earlier this week the Pentagon suggested that the U.S. was going to set up a liaison logistical base in Kigali and set up waystations to help these refugees who're returning. Can you give us a rundown on where that stands?

MR. JOHNSON: I can recall for you that that was one of the options under consideration and not an announced plan. I'd also refer you to the Chairman's remarks earlier in the day at the White House as more authoritative than mine would be on the activities of the military in the area.

Q One more on Rwanda. You did outline some of the help -- Canadian, Australian, British, and the military, in a logistic sense, that's in-coming. But is the U.S. satisfied with the contributions being made by other countries so far in the relief effort? What sort of help are other countries offering so far?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a formal rundown. I do note that I have, in here, some help that's been given by the Germans. It's been said a few times that we are the largest contributor but certainly others are working, as are many private persons and even private Americans.

Q I was thinking about foreign governments?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a rundown for you. As you see, courtesy of your colleagues reporting from the region, there is certainly a number of European countries which are making concrete contributions.

Are we finished with Africa?

Q Can I turn to North Korea?

MR. JOHNSON: Sure.

Q I suppose Secretary Gallucci has wrapped up his visit to the four capitals, ending in Moscow. Do you have any kind of progress report of the present situation?

MR. JOHNSON: I would note that he has characterized his consultations all along as very useful and productive. But I'd also note that he's not back yet. I believe he arrives sometime today. Until he's on the ground here, I think it would be premature for me to try to give you any sort of detailed assessment stop-by-stop.

Q Are you willing to give a briefing or so next week?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not sure. He may be departing more immediately for Geneva. He may be available. But with him not actually physically here, it's hard for me to give you a prediction on that.

Q Just one more thing.

MR. JOHNSON: Certainly.

Q I think the big focus upon the spent fuel rods currently now in the cooling ponds. Many people say that the timing will be ripe by the end of August or September, ready for the reprocessing.

I think, in some media, people suggest that one solution for that is to persuade North Korea to take those fuel rods out of the country under the international supervision, or something, and reprocessing in other countries like France or England. Would that be one of the options of the United States Government?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd make two points. One is that IAEA personnel remain in North Korea. We believe that safeguards are in place with respect to those fuel rods.

The primary single -- our objective in the third round is a broad and thorough solution to the nuclear problem. I'm just not in a position to forecast what sort of individual things might constitute that.

Q On Japan, I understand that Foreign Minister Kono was in touch with Ambassador Talbott. Could you tell us when that contact took place and what was discussed?

MR. JOHNSON: Okay. I can confirm for you that Foreign Minister Kono and Acting Secretary Talbott did speak this morning on the phone. That conversation was a continuation of the Acting Secretary's discussions with the Foreign Minister which took place in Bangkok at the ASEAN meeting.

The primary topic of the conversation was the visit of Deputy Foreign Minister Haishi to Washington and his scheduled discussions at USTR.

The Foreign Minister and the Acting Secretary agreed that the United States and Japan should work through the weekend in addressing the trade issues.

Q Turning to Canada, Wednesday the leader of the Partite de Baquachak said that based on meetings he had with State Department and White House officials back in March l993 that he was under the impression the U.S. would support the entry of a separate Quebec into the North American Free Trade Agreement. Is his impression right; is that U.S. policy?

MR. JOHNSON: I would say that no assurances on NAFTA accession have been given to any party. Such an action would involve numerous legal issues. Any discussion of Quebec and NAFTA accession at this point is purely hypothetical; and, as you know, we don't do hypothetical issues. But I would like to repeat our long-standing position that we enjoy excellent relations with a strong and united Canada. However, Canada's political future is for Canadians to decide.

Q Will you take the opportunity to renegotiate NAFTA if Quebec's entry would open up the deal again?

MR. JOHNSON: I would say that that is, at best, a hypothetical question at this point; and, no, I'm not going to deal with it.

Q His impression is then wrong?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd say that we've given no assurances to any party concerning accession to NAFTA.

Q Would it depend on the (inaudible)? (Laughter)

Q At last?

MR. JOHNSON: Further serious questions? (Laughter)

Q Back to North Korea but a different subject -- on the defector: Has anybody from the U.S. Government either made inquiries attempts or actually talked to --

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not aware of any.

Q David, yesterday on the Hill, Secretary Christopher, and then a number of others after Christopher was finished in a later session, spoke about the rise in terrorism and I believe pointed the finger, at least with regard to recent bombings of Israeli SS, to Iran -- with Hizbollah and Iran -- but nothing at all was mentioned yesterday about these stories, these allegations, of large amounts of weapons-grade plutonium being searched for in Europe; and a high-ranking State Department official, when asked about this, simply could not give an answer -- would not give an answer or a comment. And that's been the way it is with most of our American officials on this subject. And what I want to ask is: Is this great nightmare, this great horror -- the greatest horror, I think, of a nuclear terror, a nuclear blackmail -- is this coming true?

There's a story about five Iraqis being pursued by German police. Is the United States able to make any comment about it? Are we helping the Germans in this matter -- which seems to be the great hunt for plutonium in the summer of '94.

MR. JOHNSON: Well, I'd say we take reports about smuggling of nuclear or nuclear-related material very seriously. We follow up on every allegation that we receive.

In early May, German authorities discovered a small quantity of material containing six grams of highly- refined plutonium. We believe this plutonium came from Russia. We're in touch with German authorities on the specifics of this case and we stand ready to provide any requested assistance.

However, we've seen no evidence so far to suggest that this material was connected with any larger amounts of weapons-grade plutonium.

We are intensifying our efforts to combat nuclear smuggling. Under our Nunn-Lugar program, we are assisting Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in strengthening their ability to control fissile material. We're also providing export-control training and assistance to the New Independent States and countries of Eastern Europe.

I'd also note that FBI Director Freeh was recently in Russia and agreed to set up an office there. Among its duties will be combatting smuggling.

I'd also note that the G-7 Political Directors issued a statement that they and Russia would cooperate to fight such smuggling.

Q This is not really to what he said.

Yesterday, Secretary Christopher mentioned the recent explosions in London, Buenos Aires, and Panama -- and linked to Hizbollah. Is there any evidence that Hizbollah was linked to these explosions, including the Panama plane?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have anything beyond what the Secretary said for you yesterday on that.

Q Do you have anything more on the bombings itself?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd say that the investigations into all of these continue.

In Buenos Aires, the death toll is up to 95 dead and l0 remain missing.

FBI agents are actively investigating at the scene of both the Buenos Aires attack and the plane crash in Panama. This step was taken following the announcement that the Panamanian commuter plane crash was definitely followed by a bomb. For that reason the FBI is taking appropriate follow-up action, as three United States citizens died aboard this plane.

The British authorities are investigating both London bombings.

It's premature for us to say who has been responsible for these attacks. No conclusive forensic evidence has yet been uncovered that would confirm the identities of the perpetrators or links to the bombings.

Q The Secretary said yesterday -- I believe he said it was a fair assumption that Hizbollah did it with Iranian backing, words to that effect.

MR. JOHNSON: The pattern of activity is consistent with that.

Q He didn't talk about patterns. He said they did it.

MR. JOHNSON: Well, I would refer you to his testimony then as authoritative on the subject.

Q Another thing he brought up in his testimony was the fact that some of our friends and allies are doing business with Iran, which in turn helps Iran support terror worldwide. Who might those "friends and allies" be?

MR. JOHNSON: I believe he said that he himself declined to give a laundry list of those people. But he did emphasize that what we wished for those who were engaging in this was the cessation of any sort of official credits or credit guarantees for export of goods, as we believe this helps to subsidize Iranian activities.

Q This weekend will they be talking with our French and German allies about this?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a list of his topics in his bilateral meetings.

Q Would you exclude it?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a list of topics. I wouldn't exclude anything.

Q One of the House members reminded him that there's a law on the books that says that certain categories of weapons are exported to either Iran or Iraq. U.S. assistance shall be suspended to that country. And the Congressman was talking about Russia; and I just wonder what Russia's status is as an aid recipient, since it's pretty confirmed that Russia is indeed selling weaponry to the Iranians. And could you take the question as to whether this has arisen here in this building?

MR. JOHNSON: I'll look into it and see if we can get you something on it.

Q Thank you.

MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:03 p.m.)

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