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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
August 8, 1994
 
 
 
 
                      U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                        DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
 
                              I N D E X
 
                      Monday, August, 8 1994
 
 
                             Briefer:  David Johnson
 
 
CUBA
   Castro Statement re:  Emigration Policy .........1-6
   --  Contacts with US ............................1-2
   --  US Reaction .................................1
   --  US Immigration Policy/Processing in Country .2-4
 
HAITI
   Interdictions/Safe Havens/Returnees/Processing ..6
   Effectiveness of Embargo ........................6
   Departure of Haitians Certified by US as
      Refugees .....................................6
   US Discussions with Countries to Participate
      in Invasion/Peacekeeping .....................7
 
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
   US Support for Early Elections ..................6
 
BOSNIA
   Contact Group's Peace Plan ......................7-8
   NATO Air Strikes/Bosnian Serbs Return Heavy
      Weapons ......................................8
   Closing of Bosnia-Serbian Border ................8
   Fighting ........................................9
 
NORTH KOREA
   Talks in Geneva .................................9
 
SAUDI ARABIA
   Reported Purchase of Nuclear Reactor from China .9-10
 
ALGERIA
   French Contacts with US .........................10-11
 
 
 
 
 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPC #115

MONDAY, AUGUST 8, 1994, 1:19 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. I don't have any prepared statement. Mr. Gedda, if you'd like to start the festivities.

Q Could you update us on Cuba? Have there been conversations with Cuban officials about the statement by President Castro on Friday, and are any preparations being made to head off another exodus?

MR. JOHNSON: I would let you know that in terms of meetings with officials, there have been meetings through the weekend with the Chief of our Interests Section in Cuba with various officials in the government.

I don't have anything directly responsive to a meeting with the individual that you named.

Q What are these meetings about?

MR. JOHNSON: As many of you know, we issued a statement on Friday night in response to some reports we had gotten out of Cuba to say that we were deeply concerned about recent statements by Fidel Castro; that we had stated repeatedly that we were not going to permit Castro to dictate our immigration policy or to create a replay of the Mariel boatlift.

We urged the Cuban Government to carefully consider all the implications of any incitement and urged the citizens of Cuba and their relatives in the United States to remain calm. We called on the Cuban Government to refrain from the use of force against its own people and noted that it was the obligation of the Cuban Government, as it was of any other, to provide for its own people.

Q Did the Cubans provide any clarification in their meetings with the Interests Section officials?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm unaware of any direct response.

Q David, to follow that up, yesterday Mr. Panetta on television seemed to suggest that there had been some kind of communication from the Cuban Government when he said that Castro had backed down and that we were expecting that things were going to be calm.

I have seen nothing in his public statements which suggests that he has changed his position regarding the emigration. So on what would Mr. Panetta have been basing that statement?

MR. JOHNSON: I am not going to comment directly on what Mr. Panetta said, but I would note that our own people at our Interests Section in Havana through direct observation of conditions on the ground came to that conclusion, that the incident of Friday afternoon was not followed by similar activities the following day, and that activities in and around Havana led them to believe that the situation had calmed down.

Q That's based on activities. What about this whole question of the Cuban Government's position about the possible lifting of emigration restrictions?

MR. JOHNSON: We made known to them, as we have in the past, that we wanted to deal with the immigration issue in a safe and orderly way; that Cuba was one of the few places in the world where we had in-country refugee processing, and that we were interested in working through the problem in that fashion.

I'd also note that the United States and Cuba have held periodic talks on migration issues since 1984. The most recent series was in December of this past year, and we'd expect these talks to continue.

Q So their basic allegation is that the United States promised up to 20,000 Cubans would be allowed to emigrate to the United States, and the figure year after year has been much lower than that. Do you have any response to that?

MR. JOHNSON: I think that our program operates in accordance with U.S. law, and the reason for people not coming has nothing to do with the restrictions based on numbers.

Q Along the same lines and maybe it's been pretty well covered, but Castro is quoted as saying that today the United States continues to encourage illegal exits, but they do not permit them legally, but they try to promote all kinds of disorder.

In other words, I think he's saying that we should encourage more in-country processing, this government should.

MR. JOHNSON: We have an effective and we have an ongoing in-country program there now which permits refugee processing. We believe it's an effective one, and we believe that's the avenue people should pursue, should they wish to depart.

Q Along the same question, why is it that the United States has this process to allow some Cubans to come if they go through the processing in Havana, but the United States gives practically precedence and all the benefits to whoever comes across the sea? That is what Castro is saying, the United States is promoting the illegal way to go, because each Cuban that makes it to Florida gets all the protection.

MR. JOHNSON: I'd say that we are acting in accordance with our own law, and that, as we all know, anyone who flees Cuba is subject to imprisonment, should they return; and in accordance with U.S. law, they are by that definition a refugee when they arrive in the United States.

Q David, George's original question was what steps are being contemplated or going to be taken to prevent another Mariel, should there be one, in terms of the use of the Coast Guard, practical, physical steps.

MR. JOHNSON: We've made very plain over the last several months and even before that we had active and ongoing contingency plans to deal with any type of issue which might arise that could presage some conditions such as you describe. Consideration of those options is ongoing, but those are contingency plans. There are a number of contingencies which might come up, and in order to continue to make such possibilities effective, we've chosen not to lay them out in full detail.

Q The number of people coming by boat to this country from Cuba has increased markedly this year, as you all have said a number of times. Has the in-country processing likewise increased considerably?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have specific numbers on the trend in in-country processing, whether there's been an increased demand there. It's our assessment that the reason for the increase in the number of Cuban rafters is due to the Cuban Government's unwillingness to reform politically and economically. I'll look into the question of whether or not there have been similar increases in demand for the type of in-country processing which we offer at our Interests Section in Havana.

Q David, some of the Cubans are trying to get out by hijacking ferry boats and such. Is there still an arrangement in place between the United States and Cuba that hijackers, whoever and no matter what their motives, are either returned or prosecuted?

MR. JOHNSON: I believe that that is in full force and effect. Let me look into that for you, because my recollection of that has to do with aviation hijacking. I'm not sure about the boat issue, and I'd like to clarify that and put something out on that this afternoon.

Q Castro and others have said that the United States has been, in effect, fomenting the unrest. Have you -- has the U.S. Government reviewed its broadcasts over Radio Marti and other outlets to assure itself that there is no such fomenting of unrest?

MR. JOHNSON: We've made clear all along that our objective in Cuba is to foster peaceful change to a government which respects democracy and human rights, and that the Radio-TV Marti outlets have, as their objective, of providing the Cuban people with truthful information. I don't see that objective or the broadcast of those organizations as fomenting anything other than respect for human rights and democracy.

Q You said that contingency planning was being made in case Castro called for another Mariel-type boat lift. Does this country intend to stop people coming here and to stop Cuban-Americans going down to Cuba to pick up people to bring back here?

MR. JOHNSON: I think we made ourselves very clear in our statement on Friday, that we would do whatever was necessary in order to take account of whatever contingencies might come up, but I'm not in a position to spell those out for you and I don't plan to.

Q Do whatever is necessary to prevent an exodus?

MR. JOHNSON: Do whatever is necessary to prevent a replay.

Q Do you have the most recent figures as to the number of illegal -- at least, illegal by Castro's definition -- emigres this year?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have anything at my fingertips here, but those numbers are certainly available. I'll be glad to take a look.

Q They are up this year?

MR. JOHNSON: They're up substantially. In the last few weeks, I believe there's been a statement from this lectern giving you what the numbers are. But since a few weeks have passed, I'll get something that's more up to date.

Q What do you attribute Castro's backing off his initial statements? Is it the impression of the U.S. that he was just trying to scare us, if you will, or to get our attention?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm simply not in a position to tell you what's going through his mind. He made a statement; we made a policy statement that set forth our views on Friday night. How he drew his conclusions is something I'm not going to be in a position to try to draw for you here.

Q Are you repeating Mr. Panetta's statement that the U.S. Government believes that Castro has, in fact, backed down on this issue?

MR. JOHNSON: I haven't seen Mr. Panetta's statement. I'm referring back to the one we made on Friday night. I'll also go back to telling you what I did before. From our assessment of condition on the ground, it looks like there is calm in Havana.

Q Do you have anything to say about the anti- American demonstration yesterday? Were there any incidents affecting the U.S. Interests Section?

MR. JOHNSON: I can only tell you, we understand a large number of people gathered at the public funeral of a Cuban policeman reported to have been killed during the diversion of the ferry on Friday, and that Cuban authorities used the occasion to blame U.S. immigration policy for recent disturbances.

I don't have any information that would confirm that there was ever any threat to any official U.S. Government people in Havana or the location of the demonstration vis-a- vis our Interests Section offices.

Q Do you recall a time since Castro's takeover that there has been this kind of a civil disturbance in Havana as the one that occurred on Friday incited by the sinking of the ferry and the death of those 42 people? Is this a sign of instability within? Of things to come, perhaps?

MR. JOHNSON: I wouldn't try to be a soothsayer for you. I'm unaware of any incident of this size having taken place before. As we've said before, we draw the conclusion that this is due to the Cuban Government's unwillingness to perform politically and economically. But beyond that, I'm not in a position to draw assessments for you.

Q While we're in the neighborhood, what's the latest count on the Haitian boat people?

MR. JOHNSON: There were none that departed over the weekend. Eighty-eight were interdicted by the Coast Guard on Friday, the 5th, bringing the total number since shipboard processing began on June 15 to approximately 21,250.

Q Do you have any current assessment of how well the economic embargo is holding up?

MR. JOHNSON: We continue to see signs that it is tightening, but I don't have a lot of specifics about that. I would note that only a few days ago the last commercial flight left, and we would believe that with that departure a little over a week ago -- the end of that type of service -- that the isolation of the regime and its supporters will increase over the next few days.

Q And the Haitians are still refusing permission for a charter aircraft to come in and pick up people?

MR. JOHNSON: We're exploring various possibilities there. You're correct, we still do not have permission. The IOM -- the International Organization for Migration -- doesn't have landing permission as yet.

Q Are you prepared to take measures to show dissatisfaction with the way the Dominican Republic has handled its elections?

MR. JOHNSON: We stated several days ago that we thought that the idea that had come up in the Dominican Republic -- and that was for an advance in the calendar of elections -- was the correct way to go about addressing this problem.

Q Back to Haiti.

MR. JOHNSON: Certainly.

Q The Government of President (inaudible) put on hold a request to Congress to send troops to join in an eventual invasion or intervention in Haiti. Have you received any kind of support from other Latin American countries, or Western hemisphere countries?

MR. JOHNSON: I'd say two things about that. First, we're not going to be detailing our consultations on potential participation in either the UNMIH or in the possible multinational force which would be in Phase 1.

I'd also point out that we believe that some of the press reports on the Argentine position have been somewhat garbled and would refer you back to the Argentine Government for some direct response to the question that you raise.

Q Well, is the press report that the request was put on hold? Is that accurate or inaccurate?

MR. JOHNSON: I haven't seen that report, and I'd refer you to the Argentine Government.

Q Foreign Minister di Tella said that the request had been put on hold; that Argentina remains willing to cooperate in Phase 2 of this process but the request to send troops to a military intervention was put on hold.

MR. JOHNSON: I'm just not going to get into a discussion of what "put on hold" means and what their position is. I'd refer you back to them.

Q Can we move to another subject?

MR. JOHNSON: If you like.

Q Bosnia: Senator Nunn was on TV today talking about, sort of pushing for a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo. Could you respond to that? And also, could you give us some assessment of how Friday's air strike went and what the aftermath of it has been? Have there been any retaliations? Has there been any action in the Sarajevo area or Goradze?

MR. JOHNSON: I haven't seen the material you ascribe to Senator Nunn. I would say that we have made clear all along that our preference is for a multilateral approach to the events in Bosnia, including a potential lifting of the arms embargo; that we have been working with our Contact Group counterparts in order to try to get all parties -- in particular, the Bosnian Serbs -- to accept the Contact Group peace plan without reservation.

But we've also recognized that failure to accept the Contact Group's plan will result in irresistible pressures to remove the arms embargo.

In terms of what's happened with respect to Friday's activities, that was simply an effort -- we believe, a successful one -- to ensure that the Bosnian Serbs understood that when requested by UNPROFOR through its chain of command, NATO would respond promptly and effectively with air support. That was done.

We believe the events of the weekend where the heavy weapons, which had been removed from that cantonment facility apparently had been returned, has proven the wisdom of that action.

Q Do you now believe the Serbs when they say that they are cutting political and economic relations with the Bosnian Serbs?

MR. JOHNSON: What we've seen so far on the ground indicates that there has been a cessation of border activity, of people's ability to take goods across the border, people to transit the border. And we're continuing to look to see that that takes place over time. That could prove to be a promising development.

Q There's been one assessment that it could be a matter of two months, if the border remained closed, as it appears to be now, that that would be the timeframe before it would actually begin to make a difference in political -- does that 2-month figure mean anything to you at all?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't have an assessment on timetables and deadlines. It certainly is going to take more than just a few days.

Q Just one more on Bosnia, David. You said that all the equipment that had been taken from the compound had been returned by the Bosnian Serbs; is that correct?

MR. JOHNSON: A T-55 tank, anti-aircraft artillery gun, and two APCs were returned Friday evening after the NATO action, and the triple-barreled 20-millimeter gun was returned on Saturday.

Q Do we have any idea about any casualties from the air strikes by the A-10s? Or what was accomplished any more than was said at the Pentagon? Have you anymore information?

MR. JOHNSON: No. They are responsible for after- action reports. I'll leave it with them.

Q And the siege, or the re-initiation of hostilities around Sarajevo, what's the status on that today?

MR. JOHNSON: There's been some more activity around Sarajevo. General Rose is reported to be working with the combatants on both sides, trying to reach an anti-sniping agreement. NATO stands ready should he decide that it's appropriate to provide support again.

Martin.

Q David, do you have any readouts on the Geneva talks with North Korea?

MR. JOHNSON: I don't. I've been looking for things on the wires as well as waiting for some message from Geneva. The talks were scheduled to have concluded about an hour ago, at my best recollection. But I don't have anything in response to the close of their business day. I don't know if they've extended longer, or we just haven't gotten anything from your colleagues in Geneva or mine.

Q Do you have anything on the Saudi defector stories?

MR. JOHNSON: Could you state that again? I'm sorry, I didn't hear.

Q Do you have anything on the Saudi defector stories?

MR. JOHNSON: Could you be more specific?

Q The guy who came over here and defected to us and then made claims about Saudi intelligence activity, including targeting of Jewish organizations in the U.S., monitoring their phones, that kind of thing?

MR. JOHNSON: Martin, I think we've had some things in the past on that. If you would give me a call, or one of my colleagues, a little later in the afternoon, we'd be glad to review it with you, but I don't have it with me today.

Q But there's nothing to advance on what's come out before, David?

MR. JOHNSON: There have been some reports in the press today, someone alleging some nuclear activity. We don't have any indications to support that allegation; have no indication that the Saudis sought to purchase a nuclear reactor from China. The type of reactor mentioned in the report -- a miniature neutron source reactor -- we believe poses no proliferation concerns. It's used for basic research and for radioisotope production.

China has supported similar reactors to other countries in the past under IAEA safeguards.

Q Another subject -- Armenia. President Ter- Petrosyan is coming to Washington, basically to seek more aid from the United States. Is the Administration going to link this assistance to Armenia's cooperation in solving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan?

MR. JOHNSON: I'm not in a position to describe for you what type of discussions are going to be held at the White House tomorrow. I think they'll probably be having some press activities after that encounter, and they'll be in a position to describe that more fully for you.

Q On a different subject. Back to my question regarding Algeria, my question from Friday, and I'll be more specific today. Regarding the calls by the Interior Ministry, Charles Pasqua of France, by, I believe, the Foreign Minister as well, asking the United States and Germany specifically, to crack down on Moslem fundamentalists that are operating in either country that may be involved in the terrorism to destabilize the government in Algeria.

I would ask specifically with regard to a gentleman named -- his name is Haddam who's living here in Washington -- how this government is relating to Moslem fundamentalists who may be involved in terrorism there, and specifically about the relations between France and the United States over this particular matter which I understand is damaging our relations -- at least according to the French. And, finally, what is the state of stability of the current government in Algeria?

MR. JOHNSON: We've met on a number of occasions with French officials to discuss the situation in Algeria. We share many of the same concerns, and we've made clear that we believe that a broadening of the political dialogue in Algeria is necessary and encouraged that dialogue to include all sides who renounce the use of terror.

We've also made clear that we are prepared to enforce our laws against anyone who breaks them in the United States.

Q Can you tell about -- David, about the relations with the Government of France? Have they been hurt by this terrorism issue and --

MR. JOHNSON: We have a close and continuing consultation with France on this issue. I'm not going to describe whether they've been hurt or helped. We've been continuing to work with them. Our views are close, but they're not exactly identical.

Q Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

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