U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ________________________________________________________ The State Department does not guarantee the authenticity of documents on the Internet. If for legal or other reasons you require the original version of a document in hard copy, please contact the Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs. Note that State Department information is not copyrighted unless indicated and can be reproduced without consent. Citation of source is appreciated. Permission to reproduce any copyrighted material (including photos or graphics) must be obtained from the original source. ________________________________________________________ U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING August 22, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, August, 22 1994 Briefers: Peter Tarnoff Mort Halperin Doris Meissner Christine Shelly CUBA Opening Remarks by Under Secretary Tarnoff ......1-2 US Immigration Policy/Safehavens/Asylum .........2-11 -- Cuban Adjustment Act ........................7 Discussions with US re: Migration ..............4-5,9 Reason for Migration ............................5 Policy on Voluntary Repatriation ................5 Treatment of Cubans Applying for Emigration to US .........................................5-6 US Consultations at UN ..........................6 NIGERIA Arrest of Labor Leaders/US Reaction .............15-16 SOMALIA US Motorcade Fired on ...........................16-17 UN Indian Peacekeepers Killed ...................17 MEXICO Elections .......................................17-21 KOREA Resumption of Expert-Level Talks ................21-22 IAEA Inspection Policy ..........................22-23
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 1994, 1:39 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm pleased to begin today's press briefing by introducing Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff, Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for Democracy Mort Halperin, and Commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service Doris Meissner who are here to address the Cuban issue.
Under Secretary Tarnoff will begin with some remarks, after which all three will be prepared to take your questions. Following this, I will address your questions on other issues, should you decide that you have any. Thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Thank you, Christine. Good afternoon. Why don't I begin with a statement and then, as Christine indicated, we will be available for your questions.
For over 30 years the United States has had a policy of promoting peaceful change in Cuba. The measures announced by the President over the past few days are fully consistent with this policy. They are designed to control unauthorized migration to help address the humanitarian plight of desperate people and to keep the Castro regime from benefiting from its abuse of human rights.
By encouraging Cuban citizens to put to sea in flimsy vessels, the regime has callously endangered the lives of thousands. The fact that so many are willing to take such an extreme risk is a sign of their belief that meaningful political and economic change in Cuba is not possible under the present regime.
Fidel Castro has spoken correctly of the Cuban people as the country's leading resource. But by his attempt to use unregulated emigration in order to create a safety valve for his regime, he is sacrificing that very resource.
We are actively exploring with other nations in the region the establishment of safehavens. When such arrangements are arrived at, they will be announced by the host countries concerned. I believe that there will be such announcements shortly.
For the past decade, there has been an in-country refugee processing program, one of only four in the world, in Cuba. We give great importance to legal immigration from Cuba, and the legal immigrant ceiling for Cubans coming to the United States has not been reached since the signing of the 1984 Migration Agreement.
We are considering means of augmenting legal emigration from Cuba, and we are also prepared to discuss legal emigration with the Cuban Government. The proper form to do is the Bilateral Migration Talks which began in 1984.
The additional measures announced Saturday by the President are not aimed at the Cuban people but are intended to limit the ability of the Cuban Government to accumulate foreign exchange which it can use to sustain its structures to suppress dissent. These steps are also aimed at expanding the flow of information to the Cuban people. These measures also are entirely consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 which the Administration strongly supports.
Again, let me repeat that it is the Castro Government which bears heavy responsibility for the suffering of the people of Cuba. We're prepared to go to questions.
Q Could I ask you just a couple of technical questions. So far as the people who will be given sanctuary in other countries in havens, will they be eligible to be processed as political refugees, and how about the people who we -- I assume that people still can maybe get to shore here without being intercepted, which also raises the question, are you simply trying to block -- I know Perry's ruled out a blockade. Are you trying to make it impossible for Cubans to get here on their own hook? And what if they do? Are they still eligible to be political refugees? What did you do to the law which granted them political asylum? Did you find a loophole?
MS. MEISSNER: As to those who are presently at Guantanamo and will move on to other safehaven sites, they are being, as you know, rescued, and they will receive international protection. Those safehaven sites are situations of first asylum, such as exist around the world. They will be administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they will receive international protection.
You ask then about people intercepted and coming to --
Q Before you leave them, will those people -- I don't know what they mean.
MS. MEISSNER: And they will not --
Q If they wanted to stay home, they would have stayed at home. Now they're going into camps, which may be marginally better than staying at home. Their objective was to come to the United States. Do they have a shot at it?
MS. MEISSNER: No, they do not.
Q So you keep them for a while and then ship them back? Is that the idea?
MS. MEISSNER: Their stay is indefinite at this point.
Q Okay. How about the folks that manage to get here on those rafts, if people do get here, if you're not out hunting them down?
MS. MEISSNER: There are very few that actually are getting here. The vast majority are being rescued by the Coast Guard, and we expect that will continue.
Q And the few that get here also --
MS. MEISSNER: The few that get here are being detained. They are in detention, presently at the INS detention center called Krome in Miami.
Q Can't they try to make a case that they're political refugees?
MS. MEISSNER: If they're in the United States, they have the right to apply for political asylum.
Q And what if somebody's given haven in some island, can he try to make a case, or is he automatically sent back home?
MS. MEISSNER: At the present time, we do not envision any kind of screening or refugee processing for those people.
Q Has there been any evidence so far that any of the Cubans that have been intercepted are prisoners in Cuba? That was a problem with the Mariel boat lift.
MS. MEISSNER: We have no evidence of that at the present time, although we are checking everybody's records.
Q And the second question would be, will there be processing actually taking place at Guantanamo Bay, or will that be -- that's where the processing will be taking place?
MS. MEISSNER: What will happen and what is happening at Guantanamo Bay, because the first 575 have now arrived there, they are being registered, and then they are being counseled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as to what safehaven involves.
Q Peter, your statement that peaceful change is not possible under the Castro regime has a certain implication -- possible implications. Is the implication that the United States is prepared to do something more directly to remove the Castro regime and therefore create the atmosphere for peaceful change?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Jim, in my remarks, I said that the Cubans who were taking to the rafts and going out on the sea had reached the conclusion, on the basis of our conversations with them, that it is highly unlikely that there will be peaceful change in Cuba, and that is the reason that they have taken this great risk by going out onto the ocean.
I think our point of view has been, again for three decades, that it is in the interests of the hemisphere and above all the people of Cuba for this peaceful change to occur, and the Cuban Democracy Act provides a blend of incentives and measures for the United States to help promote that change.
Q You mentioned in your opening statement the United States was prepared to discuss migration with Fidel Castro. Is that like a face-to-face type discussion, and are you willing to discuss anything other than migration with him?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: No. As I mentioned in the statement, we have had for the past ten years a series of talks with the Cuban Government at mid-level in both of our governments -- talks about migration issues. There have been, I think, half a dozen of those meetings over the last three years, and we are proposing that the same level meeting dealing only with migration issue be reconvened so as to discuss the present condition.
Q So discussions with Castro, other than on that topic, are out?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: That's right. There's no prospect of a dialogue on other matters. We feel that the Cuban Government must attend to its responsibility for the current emergency, and that the proper place for that dialogue to take place is in the migration talk format.
Q Secretary Tarnoff, several questions come to mind. I think we'll start with are the Cubans -- is the Castro regime and the police authorities doing anything at all to prevent this exodus, or (1) are they forcing any people into the sea; and I think it would be interesting to know if any of those who have been returned have been captured -- recaptured and taken back into Cuba have been persecuted? What is happening to them?
And then, finally, why are so many going to sea at this time? What's behind it?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Let me answer the question first of all in a larger context and then a more immediate one. I think a larger context is that there is very little evidence that the Government of Cuba is taking the kind of measures which will reassure its population that there is much hope, and that is why we are seeing the levels of despair leading to this kind of mass emigration. People are simply giving up on the government because of the dismal record not only of political persecution but of lack of interest in political and economic reform.
The government clearly is not unhappy to see people leaving the way they are now departing. There is not any evidence, as Doris Meissner indicated, that they are evacuating facilities as they did in 1980, so that so- called undesirables would be part of the flow. But, nonetheless, the government is finding ways to encourage and make it possible for this emigration to take place.
When you talk about people who are returning, I think you might only be referring to those few Cubans who over the past years have chosen to return to Cuba. And when a Cuban who has taken refuge in the United States asks to return, we notify the Cuban Government, and we make arrangements for that person -- again voluntarily -- to go back to Cuba, and we seek assurances from the Cuban Government that these people will not suffer consequences as a result of their desire to return.
Q Do we see persecution of those few that have been returned on boats and have been recaptured and those who are going to our Interests Section and making application? Do we see persecution, particularly of those people who want to get out?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: There have been cases in the past in which not only people -- not people who were returned, but people who have expressed a desire to emigrate have suffered when they have had to go back to their neighborhoods and wait for the legal emigration to be effected.
Q You say you're going to discuss safehaven possibilities with a number of countries in the region. Well, there are a number of countries in the region that have diplomatic relations with Cuba. Do you expect those countries to be open to safehaven possibilities?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Again, it will be up to those countries to make the announcements, and I think we will have some shortly, but, yes, I think that among those countries providing safehavens will be countries which have diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Q A question: Now that some of the people are talking about blockade, some other time comes to mind. Have there been any consultations with the Russians? Have the Russians showed any interests in what's going on? Have you been communicating with them, or is it just U.S.-Cuban matter?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: To my knowledge, the conversations with the Russians have taken place in the context of the U.N. Security Council where informally the matters have been discussed. I can't tell you of any direct bilateral conversations with Russia on the issue, but the matter is discussed in New York and, of course, Russia as a permanent member of the Security Council is a part of those conversations.
Q (Inaudible) -- with the blockade issue which is being mentioned over the last two days. Do you think you have to consult the Russians or again would you just go ahead and do what you want?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Let me say that the Administration, the President in particular, is not ruling in or ruling out any particular measure, but that a blockade as such is not presently being contemplated.
Q Do we understand correctly that Cubans in Cuba who seek to come to the United States -- the only way they can now do that is in-country processing in Havana or somehow eluding the Coast Guard and arriving on our shores, which is very unlikely. Is that correct?
MS. MEISSNER: For people coming out of Cuba legally, they can come, number one, through the in- country refugee processing program, if they have a claim for persecution. But they may also come as legal immigrants in the same way as the people who want to immigrate here from any other country. We have a normal migration relationship with Cuba where legal immigration is concerned.
So they are eligible for immigrant visas. More than 2,000 people have come so far this fiscal year with immigrant visas, and that process operates by people -- relatives in the United States filing applications for them. We intend to be emphasizing that much more directly than has been the case in the past, and we intend to be working much more closely with the Cuban- American community in this country to be sure that they are making applications for their relatives.
Q Just to follow up, but if you do get in a raft or a boat, is there any way that you are going to gain entry to the United States under the new regime -- under the new --
MS. MEISSNER: No.
Q Peter, or whoever is best equipped to answer this question: The Administration's critics are saying that this policy is in fact against the law, it's breaking the law. Newt Gingrich, among others, has made that charge. Can you walk us through how you rationalize the existing policy, and how it is not in contravention of existing law?
MS. MEISSNER: The existing law that is referred to is called the Cuban Adjustment Act. The Cuban Adjustment Act is a law that was passed in 1966, and it allows for the adjustment to permanent residence of Cubans who have been in the United States for at least one year.
The law says that the Cubans who are in the United States eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act must have been inspected or admitted, which is a legal procedure of coming to the United States under authorized means.
The Act was passed in 1966 in order to give a legal status to people who were brought to the United States, again in an authorized fashion, after the Cuban revolution. It is a law that has remained on the books, but it applies only to people who are already here and have come, having been inspected or admitted.
Q So the custom of allowing people in, as they were, even in the Mariel boat period, was more a custom rather than the actual -- we weren't fulfilling obligations of the existing --
MS. MEISSNER: That's right. It was a policy choice.
Q The people who are being held right now at Krome, what is their status? How long are they going to be held there? And is there any chance of their being released, or what's their situation?
MS. MEISSNER: Their situation is that they're detained. There are a little more than 500 right now. They will have full due process rights as do other people who come to the United States improperly but who can take advantage of their rights under the immigration law.
Q What happens with the Cubans that leave through the Guantanamo base? Will the procedure be the same as the ones that come in rafts?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: People who leave -- I'm sorry?
Q Who leave through the base at Guantanamo?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Who --
Q Leave the island and walk directly to Guantanamo base, what will happen to them?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: The gate is closed and people will not be admitted. If anybody does find their way onto the base directly from Cuba, they will be treated in the same way as the people who are rescued at sea and brought to the base.
Q How long -- if their detention is indefinite and there is no prospect for democratic or economic change in Cuba, as you have said, how soon are you going to start negotiating, or will you start negotiating with Castro to take them back even though Castro himself said recently in a press conference that, according to their own laws, these people are subject to jail?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Let me answer the political part of that, and that is, since the Mariel boat lift the United States has been attempting to reach an agreement with Cuba for the Castro government to accept back several thousand people -- the so-called "excludables" who were put into the Mariel boat lift deliberately by Castro in 1980. We've not succeeded in doing so. Obviously, if there are people in that category in the current flow, we would continue our attempts to have them returned as well.
Q What about the rest of the people who are not criminals and such as happened with the Mariel excludables that you're talking about? We're assuming that not all of the thousands of detainees will be criminals. So what will happen with the rest of them? Where are you going to hold them indefinitely, and how soon, or will you negotiate to send them back?
MS. MEISSNER: As Mr. Tarnoff said, that is not a negotiation that is contemplated. The very, very, very large majority of this flow will be in safehavens settings in the region. There are a small number, as we know, that are in the United States. Their detention is indefinite. As I said, they have due process rights available, and that due process will play itself out.
Q Can we ask again, how long do you contemplate them staying in these safehavens?
MS. MEISSNER: As we said, that's indefinite.
Q Have our people from the Interests Section in Havana met with the Cuban Government to discuss this change in policy? And has there been any response from the Cuban Government?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Yes. Before the announcement and after the announcement by the President on Saturday there were meetings both here and in Havana when U.S. officials informed -- notified -- the Cuban Government of our policy and the reasons for the policy. There was not a significant exchange, but we did notify the Cuban Government both before and after the President's announcement of what our intentions were.
Q You've had no response since then?
Q To what extent is the United States now treating Cuba pretty much the same as Haiti with the recent steps, both on the question of refugees and putting pressures to try to bring about a change of the government?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I think you can say that for now we are treating both cases substantially in the same manner.
Q Can you give us some idea of the numbers you're expecting in terms of your preparations in the safehaven areas -- those announced at Guantanamo Bay and those not yet announced? What are you asking these other countries in terms of numbers?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I'd rather not get into a speculation about numbers until the announcements are made by these countries. But I think that we will have substantial slots available in the near future for Cubans going into the safehavens. But those invitations, so to speak, will have to be confirmed by the governments themselves.
Q So logistically, you're asking them to prepare safehavens and there has to be some amount expected?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: That's right. And when the countries themselves decide to make the decisions, it will be possible for all of you to know exactly what's available in the countries.
Q Just a little factual question. Slots -- normal immigration: How many slots are there for Cubans; how many have been used at this point?
You're speaking of the normal way of coming in?
MS. MEISSNER: Right, right, the normal way of coming. So far this year, through July of this fiscal year, 2,300 refugees have come to the United States from Cuba; 2,059 immigrants have come from Cuba, again, through July of this fiscal year. It gives us the final quarter to go.
One can work up to a ceiling of 20,000.
Q That's for immigration?
MS. MEISSNER: That's for immigration, and refugees that are apart from that. So there's substantial room for additional immigration.
Q Just to follow up on that. That's not filled because you don't have enough applicants, or because you're finding people ineligible?
MS. MEISSNER: No, because there are not enough applicants.
Q Can you explain to us why, if you can talk to North Korea, you can't talk to the Cuban Government except on these low-level migration talks? Do they need to get a bomb?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Each country is different. But all I can say is that over the year -- and not just in the course of this Administration -- the Government of Cuba has given absolutely no indication that it is prepared to deal in a serious way with the root causes of the crisis in Cuba; namely, the lack of political and economic reform, the repression of its own people. This is only a determination made by the Clinton Administration. But there has not been any significant evidence that the Government of Cuba is prepared to deal with the root causes.
Given the fact that these consequences directly impact on the United States, we feel that the first measures have to be taken by the Government of Cuba to address what happens to be the crisis in its own management of its own society. That's where the process should begin.
Q In the Wall Street Journal this morning, there was some speculation that a significant presence of Cubans in Guantanamo would provide an opportunity for perhaps some political agitation for a political presence of opposition on the island of Cuba. To what extent would the United States be willing to tolerate any political activities by these people on Guantanamo?
MR. HALPERIN: No such step is contemplated. These people are in a safehaven status, protected by the U.N. High Commissioner and that will remain their status.
Q Since you drew a parallel between Haiti and Cuba, does the United States now expect to go to the United Nations for support from the Security Council for a certain kind of resolution? If so, what kind of resolution?
UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: What the President announced on Saturday was that we would make increased efforts at the United Nations to bring a whole series of Cuban human rights abuses to the attention of not only the Security Council but the U.N. Commission for Human Rights.
There has been a pattern of abuse that has been pointed out in various U.N. fora for decades. We are determined to make even clearer to the Security Council and elsewhere in the U.N. that the human rights abuses of the Castro Administration are among the policies that have produced the kind of crises that we're now seeing.
Q Just a follow-up. What do you want the U.N. to do?
MS. SHELLY: Thank you.
(Following the above briefing, the Daily Briefing commenced at 1:05 p.m. with Deputy Spokesman Christine Shelly.)
MS. SHELLY: Thank you very much. Sorry, our briefers do not have anymore time. They've all got to get off to other meetings which were actually supposed to start a few minutes to go.
I'll be happy to take your questions on other subjects. Barry.
Q I'm afraid it's sort of on the same subject. I'm sorry they didn't have more time. As you can see, there's a lot of interest.
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry they didn't also.
Q No, they're busy, but maybe you can pick up some of the pieces of that question before -- of course, there's the question being asked over and over again in this town: you can talk to North Korea, you can talk to other totalitarian regimes, you can't talk to Cuba. The answer to that was, the Cubans show no interest in dealing with the root causes of the lack of democracy.
It would be instructive, and I would be happy to have it -- if you couldn't ad lib it here -- anytime this week would be nice -- could you give us some accounting of your discussions with the North Koreans about the root causes of their lack of democracy, and what progress have you made? And are they willing to talk to you about it, because you're willing to have a dialogue and even relations with North Korea?
MS. SHELLY: I think that's a fair question but it's not one in which I'm prepared to get into today, so I will take it under advisement and see if we can address that in some kind of more satisfactory way later in the week.
Q Also on Cuba, what precisely does the United States believe are the Cuban Government's responsibilities --
MS. SHELLY: I've got to stop it right here. I'm not doing Cuba. That was off my script. That's why I brought three people in here, to let you have an opportunity with them. I'm very sorry that the time was constrained, as it was. That is simply both the fixing of the starting time as well as how much time they had with something that was set by parameters outside of my preferences.
As a consequence of that, I'm not going to do anymore Cuba questions.
Q A question with respect to Cuba, I didn't get to ask a question that I think is relevant.
MS. SHELLY: And lots of other people had their hands up in the air. What would happen is, we'd spend the rest of the afternoon chasing down answers on the Cuba questions.
I'm extremely sorry, but I am constrained. I can't get into it. We will be briefing, as will other senior members of the U.S. Government, on Cuba on other issues. If it's a very specific thing, you can see whether our Press Office might be able to help you this afternoon. I'm just not in a position to take all of the additional questions which might have been asked.
Q Could you request for us that Peter Tarnoff come back quite soon?
MS. SHELLY: Peter Tarnoff was here today, which was a great achievement for me to be able to get him down here and help me out on Cuba. So, unfortunately, I'm going to insist, we're going to have to switch subjects.
Q Can I switch subjects to Saudi Arabia, which I'm sure -- (Laughter).
MS. SHELLY: Can we try another subject? We talk to Saudi Arabia.
Q The mission -- Friday, I guess -- a secret mission -- not secret mission -- I don't know what you all call it -- why did we go talk to the Saudis? Are we completely pleased with their participation in the multilateral peace talks? Is there some friction? Are they happy about King Hussein's -- our designation of King Hussein having the final say on the Holy sites of Jerusalem?
MS. SHELLY: Actually, I don't have guidance with me on that point. On that particular mission, I understand that the White House has addressed that already. I'm not sure that there is anything -- at least, I'm not prepared at the moment to add beyond that.
I certainly, from our transcript, will get the range of your questions. If there's anything else we'd like to say on that today, we'll put up an answer.
Q It seemed to me from the stories -- I was out of town, so I'm sorry if I missed something, but the White House basically said they went and they're back and everything was great.
MS. SHELLY: I think they said a little bit more than that. Let me look into it. If don't post anything today, I'll see if we can get a fuller readout on the general state of our affairs with Saudi Arabia -- to come back to it a little bit later in the week.
Q Christine, moving to leaky plutonium, leaky nuclear stuff. The Natural Resources Defense Council this morning faulted the IAEA and the U.S. Government for putting the estimate of how much nuclear material it takes to make a bomb way above what it actually is. They say that as little as one kilo can make a one kiloton bomb, and they're calling on the United States and the IAEA to up their estimates.
The letter they sent was dated the 18th. Is that anything the State Department is aware of? Anything it has comment on?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to take that. I don't have guidance with me, and that's a very technical thing. So I'm certainly not going to wing it, but I'll take your question. If we can't post an answer to that this afternoon, again, we'll come back to it either tomorrow or Wednesday.
Q While you're in the business of taking questions, maybe you can take this one. I don't expect you to have an answer right away.
MS. SHELLY: I'm taking a lot today. But my colleagues in the Press Office are taking all these down.
Q Human Rights Watch and some human rights organizations based in the United States are putting out a report this week on the situation in Kashmir. They're talking about wholesale abuses of human rights. But where the United States Government comes in is, this organization says that the Indian abuses have become more since the United States has made a policy decision not to take India to task publicly anymore on human rights.
Could you respond specifically to that? One, has there been a decision not to take India to task publicly on the human rights abuses in Kashmir? And, two, how would you respond to that charge of worsening the situation?
MS. SHELLY: With a little heads up, I might have something more concrete to tell you. I don't have guidance on that. I'll look into that one as well.
Your general policy question, "Have we taken a decision to absolutely not publicly comment on something, is there a kind of categoric position on that," I find that would be most unlikely.
But as to the specific points raised in your question, I'll look into that.
Q When you have some time. It's embargoed until Friday?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Do you have anything on arrests in Nigeria of labor leaders?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, good. Feeling better about that one.
Q Can I also ask my taken question? (Laughter)
MS. SHELLY: Can you also ask your what -- your Cuba question?
Q Yes, as a bonus or something. A daily double.
MS. SHELLY: You're always free to ask the questions that you want and I'm always free to give the answers that I want. I'm telling you now that I much more inclined to answer your Nigeria question than your Cuba one.
We're going to put out a statement on Nigeria right after the briefing. Basically, we will acknowledge their arrest of prominent labor and pro-democracy leaders last week, and indicate that once again that demonstrates the lack of commitment on the part of Nigeria's military leaders to restoring civil democracy.
We certainly deplore these moves and believe that they will only serve to exacerbate the tensions in Nigeria and to complicate the efforts which we had hoped were more seriously underway to return to democracy.
What we understand, sort of factually, to be the case is that approximately 20 people, including leaders of oil workers union and pro-democracy groups, were arrested. While we understand that most have been released, two top officials, Frank Kokori and Anthony Enahoro, remain in custody.
Despite the Abacha regime's dissolution of labor unions last Wednesday, the oil workers remain on strike. Many Nigerian workers returned to work and some factories remained opened in Lagos. Commercial activity is still running way below that which is considered to be normal, something like 30 percent of normal activity in the Lagos area.
The Guardian newspaper remains closed. The Abacha regime's decision to close the Guardian and to stifle freedom of the press is certainly another step in the thwarting of the democratic processes in Nigeria.
We call upon the Government of Nigeria to respect the right of the press to operate freely and to allow the Guardian to resume publication.
Q Any additional moves on the part of the United States in prospect with respect to the Nigeria, either additional sanctions or a new trip by Jesse Jackson or some other person?
MS. SHELLY: The last part of your question, I don't have anything specific on that. I think the United States has pronounced itself on several occasions, and you'll see, with a few additional details on our statement, we've made our position quite clear.
We are continuing to support all responsible efforts that would result in the restoration of civilian, democratic government in Nigeria. Our approach to this has been to support the democratic process. It's not linked to support for any particular individual.
Our primary goal in Nigeria is the establishment and respect for an open, pluralistic, democratic process that ensures that the will of all of the Nigerian people is respected.
We'd like to get the military to stop breaking the promises that it has made previously to restore civilian rule, and we would like to get Nigeria returned to a situation where their rights of its citizens are respected.
Q Do you have anything on the reports that the senior American diplomat in Somalia, his motorcade was fired on over the weekend? And also, any reaction to the killing of the seven Indian peacekeepers?
MS. SHELLY: I have a little bit on that for you. What I understand to be the case this morning is that a motorcade of the U.S. Liaison Office in Mogadishu was fired on at around 10:00 -- that's their time -- in Mogadishu. No Americans were hurt, and there were no known Somali casualties. No U.S. vehicles were actually hit by gunfire.
People in the motorcade heard machine gun fire and saw two Somalis carrying an AK-47 and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. A U.S. Marine, in an escort vehicle, fired four rounds at the individual with the AK-47. I don't have any further details on whether there were any casualties with respect to that.
On the Indians, we don't have a lot of details yet about the incident involving the Indians that took place on August 22, near Baidoa, in Central Somalia. At least seven Indian peacekeepers were killed when the convoy that they were escorting was attacked by Somalis.
The Indians reportedly killed 10 to 15 Somalis. We deplore this violent incident. It underscores the continuing need for progress toward political reconciliation.
Q Christine, what's your assessment of the election in Mexico? Was it free and fair?
Q Who was in the motorcade -- the person in the mortorcade?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the details on that. I'll check. Fair question. I'll see if I can get an answer to that.
Q A follow-up, Christine. Does this indicate that it may be increasingly dangerous for U.N. and U.S. diplomatic personnel in Mogadishu -- that there is apparently a design to attack motorcades?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's hard to draw an absolute conclusion from this episode. Again, we don't have all of the details on what transpired. Certainly, we have been extremely concerned about the deterioration in the security situation and certainly, the overall lack of progress toward national reconciliation. Against that backdrop, we continue to assess, of course, the value of maintaining our diplomatic presence in Mogadishu.
Certainly, the general security situation and incidents of this type will certainly weigh heavily in our assessment on future decisions.
Q Talks with North Korea --
MS. SHELLY: Sorry, I think Mexican elections are the next one on the screen. Then, we'll come back to you.
What's the question?
Q The question is, was the election free and fair? Do you have anymore of an assessment of it than that? Do you have that (inaudible) assessment of it?
MS. SHELLY: Let me share with you what I've got so far. I anticipated this was likely to be a fairly major topic of interest for today. I'm not going to be able to give you a free and fair determination today because it's simply a little bit too early to do that. I can give you a little bit of our reaction to the election and talk more specifically, if you like, about some of the early reports which have come in from the observers.
From all of the reports that we've seen, yesterday's elections in Mexico appear to have been conducted in an orderly, peaceful fashion despite some irregularities.
We understand that there was a very high rate of participation by the electorate. Some 60,000 domestic electoral observers, hundreds of foreigners accredited as electoral visitors, Mexican and international journalists, and thousands of poll watchers from various political parties have scrutinized the election.
I think it would be inappropriate to comment on the results, per se, until more complete returns are released by the Federal Electoral Commission, which we expect will occur sometime within the next few days.
There are several "quick count" operations which have come up with some numbers. Preliminary figures, even from the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute, have indicated that Ernesto Zedillo of the PRI appears to be leading.
We have, of course, been watching, as you have, some of the early reports about the irregularities and some problems which have been noted. As I mentioned, some of the irregularities were things along the lines of some polling places opening late.
Some of the problems were things like insufficient ballots at special polling places during the course of yesterday's balloting.
Certainly, there have been some allegations that we've seen so far of other irregularities, but we will want to have inputs from a number of sources, in particular from a mix of groups from domestic observers from the political parties themselves -- certainly from the foreign visitors, such as the Combined NDIRR and Carter Center delegation before commenting on the points raised about irregularities.
I would note that Mexican electoral law provides for redress of voting irregularities, and we certainly would expect that all credible charges of this kind, including if there were any raised about fraud -- that they would certainly be very fully adjudicated under that system.
Q Could you go back to the point about the shortage of ballots. You said at special places. According to one TV network account, and maybe others have had it, where the opposition is strong, where there are many poor people, where they're inclined to vote more radically there weren't enough ballots.
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q I don't know what you mean by "shortages in special places."
MS. SHELLY: Let me get into that. Under Mexican electoral law, special polling places are established to accommodate voters who might be away from their place of residence on election day. I understand there are 687 special poling places, and most of these were located in tourist areas throughout Mexico or along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Earlier this year, the General Counsel on the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute -- this is the IFE -- unanimously agreed to provide 750 ballots to each of these special polling places -- as I said, the 687 -- along the U.S.-Mexican border and 300 ballots to each of the remaining special polling places.
All three of the major political parties -- the PRI, the PAN and the PRD, and the six other parties which fielded presidential candidates -- supported this arrangement. So in total approximately 215,000 ballots were allocated to special polling places.
Again, to try to put this in some kind of numerical perspective, what we're talking about is about one-half of one percent of all of the ballots distributed. It's very hard at this point to know how many people were unable to vote at a special polling place because of a lack of ballots, but it's certainly something which did occur yesterday. I think it drew quite a bit of attention. And there were places where clearly they were not able to anticipate the numbers of people who would turn up to vote, as we say, out of district.
Then in response to that, what we understand is that some of the people who obviously were feeling very frustrated about their inability to cast a ballot, that they mounted a kind of impromptu demonstration.
So this is something that we are paying a lot of attention to as well. We understand that in, I think, one or maybe a couple of cases that the protests reached a kind of level that local security forces had to actually use tear gas to disperse them.
I would note that the balloting in San Cristobel de las Casas, which is one of the major population centers in the indigenous area of Chiapas, which is also an area that attracted a lot of attention, that that was overall quite orderly.
Let me just address one additional point. The United States Government did not send an official delegation to monitor the elections, but we had this combined delegation of visitors to which they referred from the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and the Carter Center. They deployed throughout Mexico, and they in fact are in the process of coming back to Mexico City today to link up with the rest of the delegation.
I'm not aware that there's been any formal pronouncement from the U.S. delegation, and we will certainly want to hear what their information has been and see what their statements are before we would want to pronounce ourselves, I think, more fundamentally about the election itself.
Q I think you're talking about a special arrangement.
MS. SHELLY: Right.
Q I guess what I was -- and I don't know much about the situation -- what I'm asking about is the notion that a particular class of people were targeted to not be able to vote by an insufficiency of ballots, particularly the poor -- in fact, the poor who might vote more radically. You have no evidence of that? I realize you don't have observers there.
MS. SHELLY: Barry, that's certainly a very fair question, and that's exactly the type of question that we would want to look into, I think, before we would say something ourselves in making an overall judgment about the election.
We are certainly aware of the fact that there are reports or allegations to that effect. We will look into them. We will certainly hear from our own delegation as well as, as I mentioned, domestic groups and others who are involved.
But it's a serious charge, if that is in fact the case, and it's certainly something that we would want to respond to in a responsible and informed kind of way.
Q In the runup to the elections, some of the parties claim that they were effectively blocked out of access to television, particularly. Do you have any feedback from these unofficial delegations on that particular point?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't. Not so far.
Q Can you look into that?
MS. SHELLY: Sure, be happy to.
Q Could I change the subject to the Cairo conference.
MS. SHELLY: Sorry, Korea is next. Were there any other questions on Mexico and the election before we switch to Korea? Okay, Korea is up next.
Q North Korea. When in the future are you going to discuss the procedures to open the liaison offices in Pyongyang and Washington?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry. What exactly was the question? When we're going to discuss the procedures?
Q Yes. To open the liaison offices in Pyongyang and Washington, D.C.
MS. SHELLY: The Asian offices?
MS. SHELLY: Liaison offices. I'm sorry. Excuse me. I didn't understand. We addressed this, I think, last week at the press briefing, and today I don't really have anything new to tell you on that. We are expecting that there will be some expert level talks which I think you were briefed on last week; that these would be starting -- I think the expectation is some time in early September. No date has been set yet, but it was agreed that these talks would take place before September 23.
I don't really have any other details on this at this point. I'll certainly look into that and see if we might have some more to say on this for later this week, but I don't have anything new to report on this today.
Q You know it was announced initially as September 4, Geneva --
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q And then both facts were withdrawn. Is Geneva the place at least, or is that still unsettled?
MS. SHELLY: I think that we are likely to have some contacts with the North Koreans sometime within the next week or so that would try to nail this down. I think that the expectation is that there are a number of different things which will be probed and not necessarily by simply one group of people sitting down in one place. So I think it's the modalities related to that is what they're working on now. So I would guess that probably some time within the next week we'll have a few more details on how that's going to work.
Q Push it a little bit --
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q After the fact, after the talks, after the hats are settled back on the ground, there was disturbing word about the reactor; that the promise to keep it de- active lasted only through the next round of talks, which made the opening of technical talks important.
Now you're suggesting there may be several sets of talks. Do you know when the -- will the reactor problem be taken up separately and, if so, when, or will it wait for September 23?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any answer to that. I'll look into that, and when we can come back to this with a few more details, we'll address that.
Q Christine, as far as the Administration is concerned, are special inspections at the two nuclear waste sites a complete deal breaker in the whole broad and thorough approach?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I don't have special guidance on the special inspections. We've always said that that was an important part of resolving the issue in the context of being necessary to determine the history of the reactor. I'm not aware that there's any specific change from that, but again, I hope that we'll be in a position later this week to get into this a bit more. I'll be happy to see if we have more to say.
Q Does the Administration think it should be linked to the provision of light-water reactors?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I'm just going to have to take that question and see if we can come back to that later.
Q Do the South Koreans have something to say about it?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I'm aware of the fact that there's been some reports on this coming out of Seoul. We certainly are looking into those as well. I just don't have anything specific on that for you today.
Q To Cairo for a moment. I believe that's next week -- next weeks' big story. Christine, I have basically two questions for you. One concerns wire reports and newspaper stories that the Vatican -- and that's the Magisterial of the Church, the Pope -- and various conservative orthodox Muslims, some fundamentalist Muslims, but quite a number of Muslims have joined in their opposition to the agenda -- the population agenda specifically of the Cairo conference.
There has not been a compromise between the United States Government in negotiating with the representatives of the Vatican here in the State Department. So apparently -- I'd like a comment about the Muslims taking opposition to some of the abortion, sterilization and artificial birth control provisions.
And then my second question I'll wait, if I could.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. My answer to your first question is that this is a passionate interest of yours which we're very familiar with. Basically, at last Wednesday's press briefing you raised, I think, a question in a similar way. You're asking it slightly differently today. Mike McCurry got into that, I think, at length about how we feel generally about where the conference is going, and I don't have anything to add to what he said last Wednesday.
Q Okay. Then specifically with regard to a press conference on Friday with Ambassador Shelton, where she was asked if she was aware of -- this goes back to a question I asked you about two months ago -- she was -- to see if she was aware of the church giving knowledge, of warnings that had been received concerning abortion, specifically mostly abortion, and she replied -- if I got it correctly, she simply did not respond to the question -- to the issue.
Could you respond to that issue again as to whether the Cardinals that have been coming to see Mr. Wirth have been bringing him information regarding these types of warnings?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything to say on that. Anything else?
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:30 p.m.)
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