U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING SEPTEMBER 22, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, September, 22 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Press Assistant Nicole Deaner ...1 Press Credentials for Summit of the Americas ....1 BOSNIA Reported NATO Airstrike in Support of UN Forces .2,4-5 General Rose's Warning to Remove Heavy Weapons from Sarajevo Exclusion Zone ..................3 Helicopter Sorties over Brcko Region.............3-4 US Efforts to Effect Peace Agreement ............5-6 -- Contact Group ...............................5-6 Prospects for Lifting Arms Embargo/Consequences .5-8 Serbia's Border Closing/UN Talks on Sanctions ...8-9 Situation in Sarajevo ...........................9 HAITI Aristide Thanks US/Timing of Return .............10,13-14 Multinational Force to Protect Haitians .........10 Prospects for Departure of Cedras ...............10-11 Prospects for Amnesty Vote ......................11-13,15- 16 Refugees in Safehavens/Prospects for Return .....16-17 US Humanitarian Aid/Sanctions ...................17-19 Multinational Force Mission/Composition .........14-15 -- Training of Haitian Police/Military .........14-15 IRELAND Gerry Adams Applies for US Visa .................20 CUBA US Immigration Processing in Cuba ...............21
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1994, 1:13 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. This is the State Department Daily Briefing, and I get to start with an introduction, which will be a pleasant chore. I'd like Nicole Deaner to stand up. Nicole.
Nicole is a new Press Assistant in the Press Office, so remember that face. She's been actually a very big help in the Bureau of Public Affairs for a long time. She worked in the speech writer's office with Bennett Freeman; has most recently been in the Historian's Office, which is part of the Bureau of Public Affairs, I remind you all, and she is also a graduate of George Mason University. We're very lucky and happy to have her, and she'll be very helpful to all of you, I know. Thanks, Nicole.
Another announcement: I'll read this into the record, mostly for people who read the transcript. Applications for press credentials to cover the Summit of the Americas scheduled for December 9-11 in Miami are now available through the Press Offices of the White House and State Department, as well as U.S. Information Agency's Foreign Press Center in the National Press Club building.
Photo credentials for members of the press will be required for all summit events, including admission to the International Media Center. Deadline for applying for press credentials is Friday, November 4. Foreign press members can go to the Foreign Press Center for additional information or call 202-724-1640.
MR. McCURRY: Yes, let's do questions.
Q I know you've been into it -- we're going for the big question here -- you've been into it a little bit on Christopher in New York, but to be any more specific, what is he doing Sunday up there, if anything, that is newsworthy, and when does he come back, etc.?
MR. McCURRY: You really want to do --
Q I'm going for the heart of the news here.
MR. McCURRY: That's a hard question for me. Why don't I arrange to have the ever talented Ms. Mary Ellen Glynn just do a little backgrounder afterwards for all of you on the schedule. She's got, I think, as best we know the schedule at this point. We go up some time Sunday morning and then go through things, but she'll run through the schedule for you.
Q Mike, what can you say about the NATO airstrike in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: That's one reason I'm delayed. We've been following that to see if there's anything I could tell you. I can say that the news reports that you're seeing about an action underway do seem to be accurate. We are going to be getting and developing more information from NATO and from UNPROFOR to be able to provide you an after-action report when we can.
The only thing I would say at the moment is that we have no confirmation at this point that any ordinance has been dropped or any targets have been hit, contrary to some of the reports that you're seeing. But as we can develop any more accurate information, we will.
I will say that this action is consistent with the commitment the United States has made for some time through NATO to provide support to UNPROFOR units on the ground if they request assistance, and that we're carrying out any action and telling you about it as we can, consistent with the policies we've followed for some time.
Q Isn't this a little disconcerting, though, Mike to this Administration that the now appear to be engaged in military action on two fronts?
MR. McCURRY: We have been engaged in enforcement of relevant U.N. resolutions on Bosnia for some time. That work has gone on for some time. It's occupied a great deal of time by senior officials here in the Department, even though your attention has been on some of the other problem spots in the world.
Q Do you think that General Rose delayed too long in actually moving on airstrikes this time?
MR. McCURRY: General Rose did issue an ultimatum to -- well, he said it was not an ultimatum. He issued a direct warning to both parties yesterday, indicating that they needed to remove heavy weapons from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo. Whether or not these strikes are connected to that warning yesterday is something we'll have to develop after the action. We've seen various reports, and we are developing information as we can about what triggered the request for airstrikes.
Q You didn't really speak to my question. Are you satisfied with his performance in recent weeks?
MR. McCURRY: With General Rose's performance?
MR. McCURRY: We are satisfied and continue to work in cooperation between NATO and UNPROFOR to carry out relevant U.N. resolutions relating to the former Yugoslavia.
Q Do you have anything -- there are reports that Serbian helicopters are taking part in military operations in Bosnia, and I wonder if you have -- this is a report from a U.N. person, I understand.
MR. McCURRY: We've seen that. The only thing that we know is that the number of helicopter sorties over Brcko -- the Brcko region; I'm talking about up north -- near the Serbian border. It was up yesterday, but there is no evidence that these flights originated in Serbia or that the former Yugoslav Republic helicopters were involved.
I checked into this a little bit. A lot of the information that is developed comes from sources, some of which we can tell you about, some of which obviously we can't. A lot of the UNPROFOR information apparently comes from observers on the ground. Since these flights are very often at night, they're really relying on what they hear, more than what they see, and there's some sense that they might be hearing more than is really up and flying.
But, as I say again, there's no evidence that these flights originated in the former Yugoslav Republic -- in other words, in Belgrade, Serbia.
Q But the observers are saying they're hearing more activity. That's what you're saying.
MR. McCURRY: There have been --
Q There's no difference in the sound of a Serb helicopter or a U.N. helicopter in Bosnia.
MR. McCURRY: That's correct. But we've got other sources of information that lead us to think that there's no evidence that these flights originated in Serbia, and it is true again that the number of sorties near the Serbian border has been up. But we don't know whether those are Bosnian Serb Army -- BSA Army -- helicopters that are doing transport of aircraft back and forth.
As a general proposition, you'll talk to NATO about this. In the steps they take to enforce no-fly, they have to be very careful on helicopter flights. It is difficult for them to determine which types of helicopter flights are militarily significant, and they tend to judge what they're trying to hit at any particular moment -- if they see objection -- based on what is going to pose the most threat from a military point of view. That's why they concentrate a lot of their work on fixed-wing aircraft.
Q Is it possible that these flights are designed to circumvent the closing of the border between Serbia and Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: That is just not known. As I say, there's no evidence that they're originating in Serbia, in other words, no evidence that their flights are originating there and then bringing supplies or whatever across the border. But we do have international observer teams which are along the border now, and they can participate in looking as best they can into that type of question.
Q Was Washington informed in advance of the airstrikes and given any opportunity to approve it?
MR. McCURRY: We already approved it through the action of the North Atlantic Council which provides the proper authorities by which NATO can respond to an UNPROFOR request for airstrikes. We a long time ago laid in place the necessary procedures by which a command can be given to order airstrikes, but that has been part of the work we've been doing in Bosnia for some time, and it's not necessary to trigger any independent review of that.
There's a command and control structure that we've talked about very often here that goes up through the two chain of commands, and action is then taken appropriately.
Q It may not be necessary, but it was in fact done -- was Washington given an opportunity to approve it.
MR. McCURRY: I'd have to check, Mark. I don't know the answer to that. I'll check over at the Pentagon. I don't believe so. I don't think in the previous instances in which airstrike activity has been conducted in Bosnia, I don't believe that was the procedure. The procedure goes through the NATO command. It does go to a U.S. commander ultimately in that chain of command, but it's the NATO command structure that responds.
Q Was Washington informed?
MR. McCURRY: We have been tracking this. I don't know whether we have been informed by UNPROFOR, but we certainly have direct contact with NATO and have been in close contact with them as they follow these developments.
Q Would you talk a little bit as we approach the October 15 deadline? Can you talk a little bit about the U.S. strategy for sort of organizing the Contact Group, dealing politically with this very volatile issue of lifting the arms embargo and how this will factor into the President's meeting with President Izetbegovic on Sunday.
MR. McCURRY: I can say we continue to pursue the policies that we have laid out, both in the comments you've heard from the Secretary following gatherings of the Contact Group Ministers. We continue to pursue those steps that are referenced in Contact Group Ministerial statements. That's the procedure by which the countries working together in the world community are attempting to bring increasing pressure to bear on the Bosnian Serbs to accept a peace proposal that would bring the Bosnian conflict to an end.
We also continue to pursue, as the United States, the policies that have been outlined by the President in his correspondence with members of Congress concerning the option of lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia.
You will recall that the Contact Group, where we are working multilaterally to try to bring this conflict to an end, suggests that lifting the arms embargo currently on Bosnia is a last resort that could prove unavoidable, and in the U.S. view, consistent with the commitments that we've made to Congress, that last resort is now upon us. But we are acting consistent with those policy objectives -- reviewing them, reviewing also how the goals affect each other within the Contact Group process.
Q Is the Secretary planning to meet with Mr. Kozyrev in New York ahead of the summit perhaps to iron out some of the differences they have on this very question of the arms embargo?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any differences on this question to begin with, but I do believe they plan to meet. We've been working very closely within the Contact Group with the Russian representative, Mr. Nikiforov. Those consultations have proved very useful in keeping unity within the Contact Group as we proceed.
Q Is that meeting planned on Sunday or Monday?
MR. McCURRY: We're going to get a schedule briefing in a little while.
MR. McCURRY: I think they are. Is he planning to -- Kozyrev may be traveling with President Yeltsin, since President Yeltsin will be arriving as well, so I'll have to check. They certainly will be having meetings in the context of the summit, which is scheduled to occur next week.
Q You said there were no differences. Does Russia agree that the arms embargo should be lifted?
MR. McCURRY: They're aware of our views on that. Within the Contact Group, there is no dispute that the lifting of the arms embargo is a last resort that could prove unavoidable. The question will arise if that is pursued as a last resort, what the individual feelings of Contact Group members will be at that point. That's a subject that's been under discussion, but the details of those discussions I can't necessarily share. I think you've all seen enough.
Q Along those lines, are you aware of any change on the part of the Bosnian Government on lifting the arms embargo?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any change in their stated public positions, no.
Q Mike, could I ask --
Q I just wanted to follow up on one point, Barrie. You mentioned: consistent with pledges made to Congress. Both the House and Senate versions of the Defense Authorization Bill contain language which say that the President, I think, is urged to undertake diplomacy on the multilateral lifting of the arms embargo starting on October 15.
Does that change anything legally in this language as far as the Administration? Does it give it less wiggle room?
MR. McCURRY: That the language is --
Q The fact that is now embedded in a law?
MR. McCURRY: No. It has the effect now of statute. It says that the President is urged to begin consultations with -- I can't remember if it says "consultations" or to "initiate action" that would lift the arms embargo multilaterally beginning October 15.
Those of you who have heard the views of some of the other members of the Security Council on that question know that is going to be a very, very, difficult task. There's very strong opposition and remains strong opposition to lifting the arms embargo.
Q Just to follow that up, Mike. Evidently, Boutros Ghali has ordered a study today for the withdrawal of the U.N. forces in Yugoslavia. My question is, does the United States consider that an acceptable trade-off -- to get the arms embargo lifted but lose the presence of the U.N. in Yugoslavia?
MR. McCURRY: I can't say whether it would be acceptable because I can't say that it is something that is being pursued at the moment. Other governments participating in UNPROFOR -- other governments with troops on the ground -- have made it quite clear that a request by the United States to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia would result in the withdrawal of their UNPROFOR units from the ground.
Would there be a price to pay for that? Of course, there would be because UNPROFOR's presence has been important, at least, as some type of a trigger mechanism in protecting some of those safe areas, especially in Eastern Bosnia. They have played a very important role in helping humanitarian aid flow to certain parts of Bosnia. So there would be that consequence of the loss of those UNPROFOR troops. We are aware of that.
Q There's a suggestion that U.S. ground troops might be required to help evacuate the UNPROFOR soldiers who are in out-of-the-way places. Could you address that?
MR. McCURRY: There has been some commentary in Europe is all I would say -- I don't think it comes from government sources -- suggesting that if the United States felt strongly about lifting the arms embargo, they ought to assist by providing troops on the ground in the evacuation of those troops.
The analysis goes something like this: An effort to lift the arms embargo would result almost instantly in Bosnian Serbs attempting to take advantage of the disparity prior to any arms buildup on the part of the Bosnian Government. They might likely overrun certain positions; certainly, the Eastern areas like Srebrenica and Gorazda, and Zepa, that they would then face a real likelihood that some of the UNPROFOR contingents that are in outlying areas might well be overrun by Bosnian Serbs and being in need of evacuation.
That's the analysis. We are certainly aware of that type of analysis.
Q You're not aware of any planning within this Administration for that contingency?
MR. McCURRY: No. That planning is taking place already. That was ordered and instructed by the ministerial meeting in Geneva. The last Contact Group meeting said they needed to do urgent planning on what it would take to enforce the measures that were --
Q U.S. ground troops?
MR. McCURRY: U.S. ground troops -- I'm not aware of any planning or any options that involved U.S. ground troops in Bosnia. I think the President has made himself very clear on that subject.
Q The process for reviewing the embargo on Serbia Proper, where does that stand right now?
MR. McCURRY: The process on --
Q The deployment of the border guards was to trigger some review of the sanctions on Serbia Proper?
MR. McCURRY: I've got the world's greatest expert in the room here. Nod yes if I get it right; nod no if I get it wrong.
Those monitors have been deployed along the border, and they're beginning to provide reports on the status of the Belgrade Serbs commitment to closing the border. It does seem to be a commitment that appears to be holding. There have been signs that the border has been closed to all but humanitarian goods. There are provisions for humanitarian goods to transit back and forth across the border.
That has led to discussions at the United Nations Security Council about two separate resolutions concerning sanctions. One, which would tighten those existing sanctions and sanctions-enforcement as they pertain to the Bosnian Serbs; another which would ease some of the restrictions involving Belgrade. Principally, for things like sporting events, cultural events, and so forth.
Those discussions are underway. I believe they are well into the debate and that action may be taken soon in the United Nations on both of those resolutions. Jamie Ruben is looking at me and nodding. Good. That's close enough. Jamie happens to be here today. If anyone wants to talk to him, he can give a little more.
Q On Sarajevo, in particular. You haven't mentioned what was the specific trigger for these reported air strikes. Is there an accumulative process? In other words, a cutting- off of water, electricity, and other necessities of life? Is this part of the foundation of the decision-making?
MR. McCURRY: It's not. Those are questions that we've visited so often here. Those relate to the strangulation of Sarajevo. And at what point do you consider the city of Sarajevo strangled.
There are some reports today that the United Nations may be able to get out in the next 10 days and make some repairs on gas and electricity lines, which is one of the reasons why they're having trouble getting gas and electricity in. But water continues to be a water. Water is shut off, too.
All of these things have been discussed and raised by General Rose in meetings that he has had with Bosnian Serb leaders, Bosnian Serb military commanders. They remain of great concern to us. It's exactly why we continue very urgently the work that we're doing within the Contact Group that's designed to pressure the Bosnian Serbs into full acceptance of the Contact Group proposal.
Q Can we do Haiti?
MR. McCURRY: Onto Haiti.
Q Do you have any reaction to the remarks of President Aristide yesterday?
MR. McCURRY: They were most welcome. I can't provide any beyond those who commented yesterday. He clearly had a very warm reception at the Pentagon. He had a good briefing on "Operation Uphold Democracy," and its status. His remarks of gratitude to the American people were appreciated.
Q How about the remarks of Cedras this morning, where he said he will honor the agreement and step down but he's not going to leave Haiti? He also defended the actions of his troops yesterday, or the day before yesterday, against the demonstrators and said it was inferred that it was justified given the fact they had started some of that.
MR. McCURRY: Our view on that police action were made known to him directly by General Shelton, who protested the conduct of those police units in no uncertain terms. We are taking steps very swiftly to carry out the mandate given to the multinational force by the United Nations to create a secure and stable environment in Haiti. That work continues. The progress of the multinational force and its deployment continues to go well.
That type of violence is exactly what this mission is about. In its long-term objectives and even in its short- term objectives, it is about professionalizing the Haitian military, creating a new police force, and creating the conditions there where proper law enforcement can occur and democratic institutions can prevail.
On the first point, on Cedras' comments of his own plans, he indicated, as we all know, that he will be stepping down from power. That is the commitment that he made. It's certainly one that we expect him to honor.
We have said all along that we believe he should leave Haiti. We certainly believe, as a practical matter, he probably will. It would be useless at this point to speculate how and when that might occur. That is something that we will address as we get closer to the date of his departure from power.
Q Why do you guys think he should leave? (Inaudible) dozens of times. Why should he leave?
MR. McCURRY: Why should he leave Haiti? Because we believe that the most important task ahead is national reconciliation and the ability of President Aristide to accept those responsibilities associated with democratic governance. He clearly needs an atmosphere in Haiti which is one of civil order, is one in which he can proceed with his work. So that's why, as a practical matter, we believe that he should go -- General Cedras should go.
Q Is it also because you think that there probably will not be an amnesty law passed and therefore he will want to get out as quickly as possible?
MR. McCURRY: That may be one of the practical matters. Amnesty is the province of the parliament to address. The arrangements that were made last Sunday included general amnesty, but that is very clearly one that has to be granted by the Haitian parliament.
Since they're out of session at this point, it will be up to President Aristide to convoke a special session of the Haitian parliament.
Q The military government today apparently has said it was going to go forward with elections later this year. I wondered your reaction to that. Is that a good idea?
MR. McCURRY: If they did so, they would have exactly the same status as the January 18, 1993 elections which were widely condemned throughout the world and have not been acknowledged or recognized by most governments in the world community. They would be just as illegitimate as the current illegitimate government.
Q What if this government calls for the parliament to meet to vote on amnesty? Would that vote be binding?
MR. McCURRY: The Aristide government?
Q No, no, the Jonassaint -- the de facto?
MR. McCURRY: The Jonassaint government? It would depend on how they convoke the parliament and who would be included. That is frankly a matter more for the Haitian people to decide themselves. If you compose that parliament, including the nine January 18 Senators, and I guess there are four from the Chamber of Deputies who were elected in the illegitimate January 18 elections. It is hard to see whether or not that would be a viable result.
Again, as a practical matter, it's not clear that that could happen either because there are certain pro-Aristide parliamentarians who are here in the United States. It's hard to imagine whether or not they would return to Haiti to participate in such a session. It's not clear in that case whether or not there would be a forum. That's just about all I know about the current parliament.
Q Why don't you think Aristide has called for a meeting of the parliament to take this vote?
MR. McCURRY: Among other things, he's properly concerned about the safety and security of those members of the parliament who are affiliated with him politically who would want to return to participate in such a session. We are similarly concerned about safety and security for those parliamentarians. That's, as you know, one of the objectives of "Operation Uphold Democracy," too.
Q Is he resisting this vote?
MR. McCURRY: Is he resisting?
Q I have heard -- there have been reports that he is opposed to this kind of an amnesty vote.
MR. McCURRY: You would have to ask President Aristide or his representatives.
Q Mike, the rules for American troops in Haiti allow them to protect, I think, Americans, foreign nationals and certain Haitians. Are the exiled Haitian lawmakers included in that?
MR. McCURRY: The exiled Haitian parliamentarians are here in the United States, so I don't think they're within the scope of the orders of command given to participants in the multinational force.
Q Are we, in effect, going back to the amnesty provisions in the Governor's Island Accords in this, rather than the agreement was just reached?
The Governor's Island Accords, as I recall, set out certain procedures before Aristide called the parliament together which then may wish to grant an amnesty. There was no requirement that he does that, but that he would call the parliament together that may consider an amnesty.
It just seems to me that what you're saying is that that is now what's operating there.
MR. McCURRY: The Governor's Island framework continues to be a scenario suggested not only in the arrangements that were negotiated and made last Sunday by President Carter and his delegation, but also reflected and included in relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions as well.
So I believe, Saul, the correct thing to say is that there's been a scenario imagined as part of the Governor's Island agreement. There was obviously a reference to Governor's Island in the arrangements made on Sunday. We'll have to see if that's the way events unfold now.
Not necessarily is that going to be the scenario that follows. The important things, from the viewpoint of the United States, are simply this: One, that there is a multinational force that will have very shortly 15,000 people on the ground in Haiti, and there is an October 15 deadline by which the de facto leaders must leave power. I think that's about all that needs to be said because that's clear enough.
Q The amnesty would be up to the parliament that we recognize as "legitimate," which would convoked by Aristide?
MR. McCURRY: The amnesty has to be delivered by the Haitian parliament. Really, the Haitian people and the Haitian parliament and their duly elected leaders will be the ones that determine what type of amnesty --
Q But not this parliament that is now sitting?
MR. McCURRY: This parliament is not now sitting. It's not in session. President Aristide is the only one under the Haitian constitution with the authority to convene a special session.
Q President Aristide yesterday said that he would back home in less than 24 days. Is the United States committed to that timetable?
MR. McCURRY: That sounds to us like an entirely reasonable timetable. It will, of course, depend on what type of conditions exist. It is well within the realm of the possible that a safe and secure environment could be created on the ground within Haiti in that type of period. We'll have to see, though. That will be a judgment that the U.S. commander who reports to the -- on behalf of the multinational force will report to the United Nations as they assess what the conditions are.
Q Mike, who is making the decisions now in the U.S. Government about what the next steps are in Haiti? Is that being made here in the State Department and the Pentagon, or in Haiti or at the White House? And what are the next steps?
MR. McCURRY: Well, let's see.
Q Let's say today or tomorrow?
MR. McCURRY: The process is very similar to key decision- making on a wide variety of foreign policy problems and issues. Very key decisions are made by the President of the United States that are then executed and informed and carried out by his chief diplomat, the Secretary of State. The Secretary has been very involved in exactly these issues and some of the questions about next steps.
The President's foreign policy team and national security advisors have been meeting fairly regularly and discussing Haiti, among other urgent issues in the world. Then there is an interagency working group that has been meeting on a daily and regular basis. Many aspects of this -- this is now a fairly complex operation involving everyone from the Justice Department to, I believe, the FAA, to -- not only the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council and the President's staff. So there's large participation.
What happens next is real simple. The multinational force continues its work to create a secure and stable environment in Haiti. The mandates that are contained in the U.N. Security Council resolutions are being carried out. We are preparing for the departure from power of the military leaders and the return of President Aristide.
There are many, many tasks associated with exactly those steps. George.
Q You referred to the multinational force. It looks pretty national thus far.
MR. McCURRY: I'm glad you raised that subject. It's even more multinational today. Australia and Benin are now participating.
MR. McCURRY: We should not have used Benin before but we can use it today.
Q I think you're stretching Benin beyond -- (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I got tripped up yesterday because I kept saying -- we've using the number 24. When I started hearing 25 participants, somebody said, "Mike, the United States of America, that's number 25." I said, "OK, I've got it."
Q When do they show up?
MR. McCURRY: A lot of them are in training now. A lot of them are -- remember, many countries, what they offered by way of participation were police and police monitors. A lot of these countries offered up their military police.
As you heard the President say last night, we're now at a stage in which -- you can tell from the events in Haiti in recent days -- we're not a stage where the deployment of those military police units are very important.
So, as the President indicated last night, the multinational elements will be going in fairly soon. But that's really a question that I prefer, as the operation is underway, to deflect to the Pentagon, because the military commanders on the ground there are the ones who will make the decision about their integrated force.
Q If I can take just another crack at the parliament. I talked to the head of the parliament, Sansaricq, today, who said that the Senate was working on an amnesty law, that he expected it to be passed. And that if it was published by the current executive, which is the Jonassaint government, that it would then become the amnesty law and it would be a generalized amnesty law beyond political crimes. Is that unacceptable to the U.S.?
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to be too strident, but that has the air of illegitimacy about it since there are an awful lot of illegitimates that were just involved in the question as you stated it.
Q That would be unacceptable?
MR. McCURRY: I can't imagine it being acceptable.
Q So your view is that --
MR. McCURRY: I can't imagine it being acceptable to the legitimate government of Haiti.
Q So your view is that unless the legitimate Aristide parliament takes action, there is no amnesty at all?
MR. McCURRY: As I think I've said several times now: Under the Haitian constitution the President can convene a special session of the Haitian parliament. President Aristide, to my knowledge, has not convoked a special session of the Haitian parliament. It is up to him to declare when and if he plans to do so.
Q So absent that, what is the situation with amnesty?
MR. McCURRY: Absent that, there are people pretending to hold office who are talking about amnesty. I can't confer any status upon that type of action.
Q Just back momentarily to the question of Cedras and who the U.S. should protect. I guess he's got his own force up until October 15 to protect him. But after that, if he elects to stay, as he says he will, will U.S. forces protect him?
MR. McCURRY: We'll just have to wait and see what happens when we get to October 15.
Q Do you have anything on the Guantanamo Haitians?
MR. McCURRY: There's a very helpful woman named Hazel who's saying, "Yes, you do, dummy. It's right in front of you." But I can't seem to find it. I don't have anything on that. How about humanitarian relief?
Q All right.
MR. McCURRY: Okay, that sounds good.
Q There were 200 (inaudible).
MR. McCURRY: Guantanamo. What do you want to know about Guantanamo? I'm trying to fill air time while I'm looking for the answer.
Q I want to know if in this planning, all the planning that's going on throughout the government, what the situation is with planning for disposition of the Guantanamo Haitians. That is, if there's any time frame for getting them back, and what happens if and when X number of Guantanamo Haitians say, "We still are worried. We don't want to go back." What's the plan? What do you do with them?
MR. McCURRY: Some have refugee status and can come here. Obviously, we've said that on several occasions, and we are beginning to create the conditions in which we can make that happen. There are some on Guantanamo who have indicated the desire to return who had volunteered or indicated an interest in participating in the training for the reconstituted police force, who said that they might be willing to go back into Haiti.
There no doubt will be some who will indicate a preference to be transferred to another safehaven. We have not, to my knowledge -- that's what I was looking for actually -- I don't believe we have made any provisions so far to transfer people to Suriname. That was the discussion, that we were going to transfer some Haitian folks to the Suriname safehaven. I don't that has started yet.
But there will be a reassessment. I strongly suspect that many of those who are currently at Guantanamo will evaluate the conditions in Haiti, and many of them have left loved ones behind in Haiti when they set off in their rafts, and there might be a strong desire on behalf of some of those to return to Haiti, particularly as they see the hopeful changes taking place that we certainly hope to see ourselves.
Q Can I just follow up? You don't anticipate that Guantanamo or Haitians living, staying at Guantanamo, will be a long-term affair at this point?
MR. McCURRY: We hope it won't be. There's no guarantee that they won't. Since they don't have the option of coming to the United States, they only have the option of going back home or going to a safe area. If they choose to remain at Guantanamo, they may become a fact of life. I mean, you can't rule that possibility out.
I believe it would be correct in many instances to say that as those conditions change, as democracy is returned and hopefully the quality of life for the Haitian people improves, you would see many of those refugees indicating to us a desire to voluntarily return to their homes. That would make a lot of sense, we think.
I imagine at some point we will encourage them to do so. We will not do so until we are satisfied that the environment in Haiti is secure and stable.
I wanted to do humanitarian relief. I want to get into this subject, because I think a lot of people are missing a key feature of the current sanctions regime in place. The question has come up several times, "Why don't you just go ahead and lift the sanctions right now on Haiti, because we've got the commitment from Cedras that he's going to step aside, because among other reasons that would help us feed the hungry children of Haiti."
We are already -- humanitarian aid is specifically exempted from the sanctions regime, as some of you recall, and partly because of that, USAID and other international donors are already feeding about 911,000 people daily. That number went down during the summer, because they do a lot of the feeding through the schools and when kids are not in school during the summer, the number drops down somewhat. So it went down to, I think, around 700,000 or so during the summer, but it's back up now to almost a million people a day.
Q (Is that one meal a day?)
MR. McCURRY: I believe they get one meal a day, because it's through the school program. Most of this is done by the non-governmental organizations that we work with, but the donor community and AID are very actively involved in working with the NGO community in helping to provide that type of relief.
One reason why you might want to consider easing some sanctions is to get the kind of petroleum products into the country that you need so that these NGOs can run their trucks out to the rural countryside. Obviously, a lot of those who are suffering the most live outside of Port-au-Prince in the rural parts of Haiti.
A little more on that. Just by way of an example, the Pan American Health Organization has been getting a lot of supplies -- humanitarian relief supplies into Port-au-Prince over recent weeks -- and we've seen at some of the feeding centers and some of the relief centers that are in Haiti a real increase in the need over the last five weeks, too -- not only kids coming back into school but also just the conditions deteriorating there. So that they've really stepped up a lot of their activity.
The good news is that the arrival of the multinational force is going to make it far, far easier for a lot of these NGOs to work in the countryside, and the U.S. military does have humanitarian supplies that will be available as they can begin to make them available, too. So all of that, I think, is going to make a fairly big difference in the quality of life for the people of Haiti as conditions begin to change there and as they prepare for the return of democracy.
Q Could we switch to Cuba?
Q The accord under which the U.S. Government is now in Haiti was signed by the Jonassaint government, which we're saying is not a legitimate government.
MR. McCURRY: No, that is not correct. The arrangement by which the United States is now in Haiti is the U.N. Security Resolution 940 that authorizes all necessary means. There are arrangements which the United States agreed to pursuant to the negotiations that President Carter conducted that were signed then by Jonassaint, for whatever reason, but they relate to the departure of power of Cedras and the other military leaders of Haiti.
Q One more on Haiti: One of the complaints of the Aristide people is that some of the food distribution and other aid that's coming into the country is being distributed through the government organizations -- that is, the government political organizations, government people -- so that the anti- Aristide people, the pro-coup people, are sort of using it to enhance their political strength for the future. And I wonder if that is so, or whether the NGOs were operating through government entities or --
MR. McCURRY: That is contrary to the information I have. As I indicated, most of the work that we do, that the U.S. Government does, to assist in the delivery of humanitarian relief are through the non-governmental organizations that we work with; and as the multinational force has gone into Haiti, that's who they're working with. We have nine folks who are on the ground from USAID who are working as liaisons between the military command and the NGO groups that we normally work with on a day-to-day basis.
So a large part of that is to specifically bypass the existing government, because they've been doing a lot of their work out on the ground. So I'll see if there's anything more to that. I wasn't aware of that specific complaint. But, as I say, most of that very, very important work is done outside any direct contact with the government, or with the regime.
They do have to work out certain procedures and logistics from time to time, and there may be some involvement at that point, but that's by and large not the pattern, I don't think.
Q A question about Cuba, if it's all right to change.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q But before that, does Gerry Adams have a visa yet?
MR. McCURRY: I forgot to check. That has not been decided as of today, as far as I know. No change from what I indicated earlier.
Q Will you let us know if you find out later?
MR. McCURRY: He has applied. It's under consideration. My guess is they will make a decision very shortly.
MR. McCURRY: What we did in the past is the Attorney General -- if the waiver is granted, the Attorney General grants the waiver, and then we usually announce here that we've granted the visa. It's up to the Attorney General to grant the waiver, then that clears the way for us to grant the visa. And I wouldn't be surprised if that happens some time soon, but I do believe the matter is still under consideration.
Q The Cubans are claiming that they've stopped the flow of boats, and you guys haven't started the flow of visas. What is the response to that complaint?
MR. McCURRY: We are getting ready to implement a new program that has been developed, mostly through INS in connection with the Attorney General's parole authority. They're going to be announcing some of those procedures very soon, is my understanding, but I'll also remind you that part of the agreement reached with the Cubans was to increase some of our personnel at the Interests Section in Havana so that we could process these visa applications.
We have specifically tried to hold off accepting a big bulk of applications until we know we're ready to process them and have in place the procedures to do so.
We fully intend to comply with the terms of the agreement. We've made specific commitments as to the numbers of visas that we will process. But it's a large number, and we just want to make sure we're set up and ready to handle that processing efficiently when it happens. But we are expecting to make announcements about those procedures very soon.
Q Are you satisfied that the Cubans have let you put in the additional personnel, or is there some holdup on that?
MR. McCURRY: There's no reason to think there's any problem with that aspect, but it does involve making some transfer of personnel, and that does tend to take some time to identify people who can do that type of work.
Q (Inaudible) without asking you whether you'd like to say anything about your own plans and whether there's going to be a change in the podium.
MR. McCURRY: My plans are to go to lunch, as soon as you guys let me out of here.
Q They close at 2:00.
MR. McCURRY: I know.
Q There's a couple of firm reports that you will be going to become the spokesman at the White House. Can you say anything at all?
MR. McCURRY: I can't say anything about it, and I don't know for a fact that that's true. That's about all I can say.
Q You said yesterday as you were coming in that you felt like you were cramming for an exam when you came here.
MR. McCURRY: I feel that way every day, sort of like taking a graduate exam in international relations just about every day. I'm not planning to go anywhere.
Q You'll be at the podium tomorrow.
MR. McCURRY: Yes. You will see me at the podium here each and every day, five days a week, U.S. State Department.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:59 p.m.)
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