U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING SEPTEMBER 23, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, September, 23 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry ANNOUNCEMENTS Switzerland Disbands Carrier-Pigeon Service .... 1 Iran Cracks Down on Pigeon Hobbyist ............ 1 IRELAND Gerry Adams Granted US Visa ..................... 2-3,13- 14 HAITI Amnesty ......................................... 3-5 Aristide To Convene Session of Parliament ....... 3-4 Return of Legislators Supporting Aristide ....... 3 Secretary to Meet with President Carter ......... 5-7 Working Relationship between Department and NSC . 6 DEPARTMENT Freedom of Information Requests by Terry Anderson .......................................9 Policy on Freedom of Information Requests ........9-10 BOSNIA Serbia's Border Closing/UN Talks on Sanctions ....11-12 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Elections in Gaza ................................13
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1994, 1:13 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: As promised, Mike McCurry returns to the State Department podium to brief today, Friday -- whatever the date is.
I start with two very important pieces of news that I need to share with you now. Get this. This is from Reuter. I credit where credit is due.
About 30,000 pigeons are being discharged from the Swiss army. The army's carrier-pigeon service will be disbanded next year under measures aimed at cutting military costs, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. Those pigeons, however, are better off than those in Iran. Police in the Iranian holy city of Qom have beheaded 12,000 birds in a crackdown on the popular hobbies of pigeon-rearing and racing, a Tehran newspaper said on Thursday. The Daily Abrar gave no explicit reason for the slaughter but said that pigeon-flying on Qom rooftops has created some problems. (Laughter)
The story also notes that Iran has many thousands of pigeon-fanciers but their hobby is often regarded as a pastime for idlers and wastrels. (Laughter)
News most foul from a regime most foul. (Laughter)
Q (Inaudible) Iran to pigeon rights?
MR. McCURRY: I have nothing here on pigeon rights and most-favored-nation status.
Q Were any of those pigeons NATO --
MR. McCURRY: There's no designation here. They were not involved in "Operation Deny Flight" or any NATO enforcement that I'm aware of. And who they were carrying messages to is not entirely clear.
We do know that they were trying to make two-way flights, so they could go between two command posts. Interesting.
They do have telephones in this world. You never know; you never know.
Q Can you be as equally as forthcoming about the personnel decisions which apparently have been made at the White House over the past 24 hours?
MR. McCURRY: I won't. I think that's up to the White House to announce. As far as I know, I'm not a part of the scenario, so I think I should leave it up to the White House to comment on that.
But if the reports that I hear breathlessly coming across the news from CNN are correct, I must say I'm very happy. I think it's a very, very good choice, because Dee Dee Myers is, in my opinion, one of the best and finest Press Secretaries that has worked in Washington. I think she's serving and will serve the President very well.
Q Are you disappointed?
MR. McCURRY: Am I disappointed? No, I get to be here with you guys everyday. I have what I think, arguably, I would say is one of the very best jobs in Washington. I enjoy this job a lot.
Q Would you rather be talking about the CSCE Minsk Group than Whitewater?
MR. McCURRY: No comment on that one. I don't comment on those matters. But I'm very, very interested in the CSCE.
Q Can you say anything about Gerry Adams and his visa?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, I've got something on that. He was granted a B-2 Class visa this morning at the consulate in Belfast. The visa was annotated so that he may not engage in direct or indirect fund-raising for the duration of his visit here.
We expect he'll meet with government officials while he's here although they haven't worked out the details of that yet.
Q Which part of government?
MR. McCURRY: I would presume NSC or State Department, but they're working on that, but not necessarily will it be at a senior level.
MR. McCURRY: Haiti.
Q I know you ran through this at some length yesterday, but could you once again try to explain to us this whole amnesty situation? In other words, what does the agreement call for? How does that differ from Governor's Island? Can the current Haitian parliament deal with amnesty, or does it have to be the former Haitian parliament. Can Jonassaint call that together? Does it have to be Aristide? What is the State Department and the Administration's view?
MR. McCURRY: Just a nice, simple question on the whole terrain. The arrangements that were negotiated by President Carter, Senator Nunn, and General Powell don't specifically define "amnesty." It's just referred to as a general amnesty that would be declared.
"Amnesty," in the context of the Governor's Island agreement has had different connotations over time, as it has been addressed by the Haitian parliament. But, again, these are not issues that the United States would settle. These are issues that would be settled by the Haitian parliament.
We understand from our conversations with President Aristide that President Aristide will likely, in the very near future, convene a special session of the Haitian parliament which is his sole responsibility under the terms of the Haitian constitution. Then that issue can be properly addressed by the proper Haitian parliament.
Q How soon will we be able to provide transportation and such for the parliamentarians in this country?
MR. McCURRY: We would be prepared to do it at whatever point we deem the situation in Haiti is secure and stable so that those functioning institutions of democracy can meet.
Q Mike, we understand that Aristide will soon convene a special session of parliament. Is that something he's likely to do before he returns but the special session would await his return to meet?
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that he would convene a special session. It would be for the purpose of considering the amnesty prior to the October 15 deadline for the departure from power of General Cedras.
Q And he'll be on hand for that -- is that your expectation? -- in Haiti?
MR. McCURRY: No, not necessarily. I don't believe so. Not as far as I'm aware.
Q Where would that be then, Mike? Would that be in Haiti?
MR. McCURRY: They would most likely meet in Haiti. And, obviously, one of President Aristide's concerns and one of our concerns is the safety and security of those parliamentarians who have been associated with President Aristide's party who would wish to return to Haiti. We are taking steps, as the question indicated, to provide for the secure transportation of those parliamentarians to Haiti.
Q There's a number of members of parliament who were installed by the de facto regime who have taken seats as legitimate members --
MR. McCURRY: The so-called "January 18 Senators."
Q How does the Administration see that working when the new parliamentarians come in? Will we help install them? Does the agreement address that? Do we have an idea, if it doesn't, of how that would work?
MR. McCURRY: The agreement does not address that. It's really pretty simple. The Haitian parliament itself consists of those who were elected -- I'm looking for the date. The legal members are those who are elected according to the last legal elections, which I believe were 1990. Is that correct, George? (Gedda)
Most of the world community does not recognize the results of those elections on January 18, 1993. They are illegitimate in the sense that Jonnasaint and others who have formed a government are illegitimate as well. They are illegitimate in that same sense.
Q So it has to be the "Exiled 40" to vote on the amnesty? I don't know if 40 --
MR. McCURRY: They are the duly elected members of the Haitian parliament, yes, for there to be action. The question is, "Is it possible to achieve any type of quorum within the Haitian parliament without the arrival in Haiti of those who are currently in exile? That is not entirely clear.
I'm not familiar enough with the parliamentary procedures within the Haitian parliament to know exactly how they constitute a quorum. But, in any event, they could get a majority of the lower House, in the Chamber of Deputies just with those who are representatives of the so-called anti- Aristide party.
So it's not really clear. But, again, this is something that properly should be addressed by the legitimate authorities in Haiti and the elected representatives of the Haitian people.
Q But nothing can be done until those 40 go back?
MR. McCURRY: That's what I'm saying. It's not entirely clear, Sid, because they could conceivably get some type of majority in the lower House, the Chamber of Deputies, with the people who are apparently in Haiti and who are, by and large, anti-Aristide. The lower house has got a majority that is associated with the opposition party, in effect.
Q On TV this morning, the Secretary spoke about a meeting which he apparently is planning shortly with President Carter. Can you say what that's about?
MR. McCURRY: I can't. I'd say it's as he indicated this morning on television, more a private meeting than anything else. I will say this. President Carter just had a very intense negotiating experience in Haiti with Senator Nunn and General Powell in which he had an extended period of time with General Cedras and others.
Secretary Christopher, at exactly the same time, was sort of at the other end of the conversation here in Washington in the Oval Office with the President. The chance for the two of them to sort of exchange their perspectives from the two separate sides of the conversations they participated in seemed to be a very, very good idea at this point.
The Secretary referenced also this morning the interest in discussing with President Carter the subject of Korea. That's for very, very good reason. Ambassador Gallucci has had some conversations with former President Carter as well. It's just a good time for a lot of different reasons for the former President and the Secretary of State to get together and have a chat. I think that's about all that I would want to say on what will otherwise be, I think, a private meeting.
Q So you say they want to talk about policy and none about any misunderstandings which may have arisen over the past few days?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't be surprised if they talked about any misunderstandings that might exists. Again, I would leave that in the category of being a private conversations.
Q In that general arena, Mike, do you have anything to say about The New York Times story this morning?
MR. McCURRY: That article -- that article -- I'm choosing my words very, very carefully. It's just totally without any foundation. I suspect that the reporter knew it and the newspaper knew it.
It alleges something in the very first paragraph which is then specifically denied on the record moments later in the same story. I have a hard time understanding how stories like that can be hyperventilated into front-page coverage. It's kind of one of the things about Washington that sometimes is not particularly savory.
Secretary Christopher and Tony Lake work very closely together. I sat in a meeting this morning with a group of Assistant Secretaries, many of them career civil servants in this building, and to a person -- they went around the room -- they said their working relationships with their counterparts at the NSC couldn't be better. In their own experience, going over many years -- some of them dating back through the last Administrations -- they said, by and large, the relationships between the NSC and the State Department are the best that they've ever seen. Several of them testified to that.
That's the result of some very hard work, personally, that both the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State have done to keep that relationship solid. It's a good relationship from the top on down.
It's The New York Times we're talking about, which I think is one of the world's greatest newspapers, but I don't know how that type of story can make it to the front page.
Q There is one part in the -- point in the story where they talk about after the speech Thursday night and the President decided to call Carter and to get that mission underway.
Was the Secretary called at any time during that --
MR. McCURRY: Yes, yes. I said the Secretary had been at the White House most of the day. He knew exactly what the President was going to say in his televised address, so the fact that the Secretary was not at the White House when the President was sitting in the Oval Office looking at a television camera, it mystifies me why that is a major point.
The Secretary then talked to the President by phone later that evening to talk about the Carter visit, and we've talked about that here in the briefing earlier in the week.
Q Did the President decide -- the point is did the President decide to launch the Carter visit without first talking to the Secretary of State?
MR. McCURRY: No, absolutely not. The decision to dispatch the Carter mission was not finalized until that Friday, and the Secretary had talked to a number of people at the White House during the day on Friday; talked to the President directly Thursday night about it. So absolutely not.
Q Do you have anything on humanitarian assistance for Haiti? Anything more that this country is doing or that others --
MR. McCURRY: I do, although I want to direct you all to the comments that the President made just a short while ago. He indicated that the U.S. Agency for International Development will increase the food program that we have been running there. So it will increase from about one million meals per day that are being delivered to about 1.3 million meals per day. The President has already done this. I'm just repeating some of the things the President has already said.
The first shipment arriving on the 26th, and a couple of other things. He also made reference to the fact that we've got a group of Haitians returning. A little more detail on that. This is the voluntary return from Guantanamo, those Haitian refugees who have been intercepted at sea and taken to Guantanamo. We had been returning them to Haiti as we could. I think the last return was on September 7.
So we expect now that the first group of volunteers for return to Haiti will go back probably by cutter to Haiti early next week, maybe even Sunday.
Q How many?
MR. McCURRY: About 200 to 300. That's about the capacity of a cutter, and they've got apparently a number of volunteers at Guantanamo who are indicating an interest or have indicated an interest in the past to go back to Haiti. All in all, there are about 5,783 Haitians who have returned -- that's about -- 5,783 Haitians who have returned voluntarily to Haiti from Guantanamo since the safehaven policy went into effect on July 5, and 14,108 remain in safehaven at Guantanamo.
Q Do you know if more than the 200 or 300 that will go on the cutter do want to return?
MR. McCURRY: There are some indications that people are interested in returning. There are also indications some people are waiting to see what happens now. I wouldn't be surprised if people changed their previous disposition on wanting to return.
Q It's not going to be a daily shuttle at this point then?
MR. McCURRY: I don't believe so. I think in the past we were doing this once every several days, Steve, as far as I remember, and they do it by cutter. So it depends partly on what type of operations they've got in and out of the port, too.
Q What about the Haitians that are being trained as police on Guantanamo?
MR. McCURRY: They have been screened. They've now gotten apparently enough volunteers to exceed the number that they could actually use for this part of the operation that they're thinking of. The last time I checked, their training was continuing, but there had been no decision yet on deploying them or taking them back in. I believe that they were still doing the process of screening people and then seeing what type of training would be necessary for them to participate in the police and police monitoring.
It was two thousand something. I can't remember the exact number.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Do you have anything on Terry Anderson's complaints about his inability to unfreeze files?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. I forgot to check on something. I actually have done some work on that. I better be very careful here. It is within the function of the Bureau of Public Affairs to do appeals on FOIA, and I've actually reviewed some cases that involved requests that he has. So I'd like to say that at the outset as sort of a caveat.
I'm not aware of any restrictions that permit me from also commenting on them in my role as the Spokesman, but I do have a review function that is part of my job. But I will say that they have already provided to Mr. Anderson over 7,000 pages of material. We're still in the process of reviewing other documents for possible release.
When we withhold documents, we do so on grounds that are specifically cited within the Freedom of Information Act and privacy provisions do have to be -- we have to comply with terms of the Privacy Act when we judge and look at much of this material.
There's also provisions in law that allow us to withhold any information that would cause us to believe for national security reasons that the release of information might pose a problem.
I can't tell you how other agencies that he has directed FOIA requests to have responded. I mean, they respond to the requests they get. You'll have to go to them to find out what their own individual policy is. But I'd say as a general matter this is Administration has been quite aggressive in screening material for release and using a standard that suggests that the American people have a right to know as much as they possibly can about the functionings of government.
One of the principal tasks of the Bureau of Public Affairs, my bureau, is to public the Foreign Relations series, and there is a long, extended effort to gather the documents related to the diplomatic history of the United States and release them to the public. We are taking the approach -- the Clinton Administration is taking the approach that there ought to be an aggressive effort to open up as much of this material as possible.
That's how we're responding. I can tell you personally that I have in some cases taken material that's been requested by Mr. Anderson and sent it back to experts in our government and said take another look at this and see if we can't open up some of this material. Obviously, the nature of that I can't describe to you because it's currently classified.
Q I think one of his complaints was that some documents were being held because of concern about the privacy of his captors.
MR. McCURRY: It varies. Given the volume of material he has requested and the volume of material he has already received, there are differing reasons why material might either be withheld or redacted -- in other words, edited. But I can tell you there are some cases in which -- there are some Privacy Act considerations that are, in fact, associated with some of those requests.
I'd have to go back. I'm not sure all of the material, whether that relates to people who might have been his captors. But it might not necessarily be Privacy Act. There might be national security considerations as well. It's a difficult thing to talk about in the generic, because this is a process by which individual documents are very, very carefully reviewed, and this government and particularly this Administration, attaches a very high value to doing that job effectively so that that material that can be made public will be made public.
Q Sort of a related question. I know there's been some discussion in here about some people drawing links between Russia's near-abroad problem and Haiti. Brent Scowcroft said earlier this week that there was sort of a nod-and-a-wink, or at least he suggested there was some sort of a nod-and-a-wink relationship now between the two countries; and that Russia -- even though there's no formal agreement, that the Russians believe they have a certain amount of carte blanche now in that area, and they can point to Haiti and some of the justifications we cited on that.
How do you differentiate between that?
MR. McCURRY: Each and every peacekeeping operation that is conducted has its own history and its own authority under U.N. mandates. The current operation in Haiti is obviously an action that is suggested and authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 940. Not all the activity that you're talking about in connection to areas proximate to Russia fall in that same category. So they are much different situations almost by definition, because they represent different actions by the world community.
As a general proposition -- that is not an analysis -- the analysis that Mr. Scowcroft suggests is not one that this Administration subscribes to.
Q Related. The Chinese this morning, Chinese news agency, made a similar criticism about the U.S. adventurism in Latin America. Have you seen the reports?
MR. McCURRY: I have not seen that report. But again I would stress that whatever the report, the United States is operating pursuant to a U.N. Security Council Resolution that obviously had the support of the Chinese Government, and that we are operating as a multinational force. So we are not taking this action unilaterally.
Q On Bosnia, I understand Madeleine Albright is pushing for a vote today on the resolution which the Secretary seemed to say should be delayed a couple of days.
MR. McCURRY: The Secretary is anxious about one thing. He referred to needing to -- making sure that we have some reports from the region. The issue is, are we absolutely satisfied that we will have reports from those international observers along the border that, in fact, that border has been closed to the degree it can effectively be closed by Milosevic and the Belgrade regime?
It's my understanding that the resolution does have that feature, but there was discussion about that and discussion about the status of the observers earlier today, and I believe that those issues have been resolved, so they probably will proceed to a vote today. But we'll see how that develops.
Q My understanding is that there are only 30 monitors- - about 30 monitors are on the border now. There's a whole group. There's supposed to be about 100 to 130.
MR. McCURRY: I think that's right, yes.
Q And that the Administration wants all the monitors on the border and wants a report back from them before they vote, which be a week or so.
MR. McCURRY: No, they want the report. That's the issue that they were discussing today. They want the report back to the United Nations from the observers before any sanctions are eased. Not necessarily the vote taken, but before any sanctions are eased. So there will have to be a report to the United Nations, to the Secretary General, by those observers that, in fact, the border has been effectively closed by Milosevic and the Belgrade regime, and then this easing of sanctions -- I describe it as easing of sanctions, because again it affects, I think, cultural and sporting events, and it might affect air flights. I'll have to see the text of the resolution later.
But it would not take place until we get that report back to the United Nations. That's the issue I believe they were clarifying earlier.
Q So the vote will be taken and then it will be -- it will depend -- the resolution won't go into effect unless the report --
MR. McCURRY: Comes back. Comes back, indicating that they have substantiated Milosevic's claims that steps are being taken to control the border.
Q Why the rush to make a vote? Why not wait another week?
MR. McCURRY: The Contact Group has for some time indicated they would take this step. They are also simultaneously, remember, working the resolution which would tighten enforcement of the sanctions on the Bosnian Serbs, and there was a desire to take that step as quickly as possible as well.
MR. McCURRY: It was, as is everything at the United Nations, complicated.
Q I've read where the issue that we're speaking about, the easing of the economic sanctions on Serbia will be a big issue to the Russians in the summit. Is there some relationship to the speedy attention of this matter, to that summit? And, secondly, what about the helicopter flights coming from Serbia into Bosnia? What are they bringing? What are they doing?
MR. McCURRY: I did the helicopter flights as best that I can do them. We talked about that yesterday, Bill, so I don't have anything newer than that.
On any connection between the discussions in New York about easing of sanctions and the prospective summit between President Clinton and Yeltsin, I can't speak authoritatively on that. I don't know whether those were linked in the way you suggest by the Russian Federation.
Q Mike, what is the rationale for the United States State Department to block any discussion in the United Nations General Assembly or the United Nations Resolutions pertaining to Palestinian refugees, settlements and other issues as specified in Resolution 242 and 338; and that only refer -- as I understand, Mrs. Albright is doing her best to do that -- only refer to the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO which stipulated a fine line for discussion or define the settlements between the Palestinians and Israel?
MR. McCURRY: It's a question that, because it involves a lot of sensitive subjects, I want to check and get the answer, because I don't have the answer to that.
Q Okay. I understand --
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware that that's the case, but I can try to find out.
Q I understand that Israel and the PLO are at odds over the issue of elections, Palestinian elections on the West Bank and Gaza relating to the time and scope of the council to be elected. Since Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin are meeting Sunday in Gaza to discuss this issue, what does the United States Government have to say to them or to advise them to do regarding this issue?
MR. McCURRY: Our advice has been that that is an issue that they need to resolve between the two as they work to implement the declaration.
We also had some suggested answers on this from earlier in the week. Check with the Press Office. We addressed this question -- we didn't address it here at the briefing but we do have a prepared for that answer that I'd like to get because it had some delicious nuance in it that I might miss otherwise.
Q The last of my questions. Any comments on the reported arrest or detention of some Saudi nationals who are considered human rights activists? Has the United States been meeting, or consulting, with such Saudi dissidents at places in the United States or in Europe? You might want to take the question.
MR. McCURRY: I thought I might have something that touched on that, but I don't. I'll take the question, and we'll see if we can work something up. Can you get together afterwards and pinpoint those?
Q Back on Gerry Adams. Do you have the dates for which the visa is --
MR. McCURRY: It's a 14-day visa, I believe. I believe his visit is scheduled to begin tomorrow. It's September 24 until -- what would that be -- October 6-7, something like that?
Q Do you have words there giving the rationale for approving it?
MR. McCURRY: The rationale is that it is our view, and certainly United States support, for the peace process in northern Ireland is considerable. It is a matter -- his visit is something that we believe will be in the context of our own policy that is supportive of the work that is being done now to bring about both a permanent cessation of violence and a peace between the parties.
Q Just one last question. Is the Secretary going to be giving a briefing tomorrow, either here or at the White House, on the question of Haiti -- sort of a look forward? There was some word around that he might.
MR. McCURRY: No, not that I'm aware of. There was some discussion earlier that the Secretary might run through some of the items that the President covered in his remarks earlier today. The President covered some of the same material that the Secretary would otherwise have done. The Secretary has also got another -- coming up very shortly now -- another meeting with all of you. So we figured two photo- opportunities probably two times today.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:43 p.m.)
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