U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OCTOBER 12, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, October 12, 1994 Briefer: Christine Shelly DEPARTMENT Acting Secretary Talbott Hosts APEC Business Dialogue .....................................1 HAITI Possible Presidential Delegation to Haiti ......2 Departure of Jonassaint from Office ............2 Departures of Cedras and Biamby from Haiti .....2-3 Status of Frozen Assets ........................3 CUBA Possible Announcement re: Cuban Immigration ....3-4 --Possible Briefing at Department ..............4-5 IRAQ Discussions at UN re: Exclusion Zone ...........5,6,12 Secretary's Travel to Kuwait/GCC Meeting .......5-6 Iraqi Troop Movements/Positioning/Threat .......6,8-9,12-14 Estimates of Burdensharing Costs for Operation .5,6,12,14 Russian Efforts/US Contacts with Russians ......7 Administration's View of Removing Saddam .......7-8 --Objectives of US Policy re: Iraq .............8 US Diplomatic Exchanges with Other Governments .9 Assessment of Possible Terrorism by Iraq .......9 Sale of Iraqi Oil/Humanitarian Relief ..........10 Fact Sheet/Iraqi Compliance with UN Resolutions ..................................10 Numbers for Newly-Created Shield Force .........6,12 SOUTH KOREA South Korean President's Comments on US-NKorea Talks ........................................11-12 NORTH KOREA Reported New U.S. Proposals at US-NKorea Talks ........................................11-12 BOSNIA Fighting Situation/Status of Humanitarian Relief .......................................14-15 Efforts of Contact Group/Meetings ..............15-16
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 1994, 1:03 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have one notice to the press. In advance of the APEC meeting coming up in Indonesia next month, Acting Secretary Strobe Talbott will host an APEC Business Dialogue with 30 leading U.S. chief executive officers on Thursday, October 13.
In addition to the Acting Secretary, the CEOs will exchange views with Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown; with U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor; Bob Ruben, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; and Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs Joan Spero. They will discuss the upcoming APEC meeting, the role of the private sector in the APEC process, and overall U.S. economic policy in the Asia-Pacific region.
The private sector continues to be central to the success of APEC and its relevancy to the American economy. These consultations with prominent business leaders will help shape the Administration's approach at the APEC meeting in Indonesia.
Expanding trade and investment by U.S. business across the Pacific is essential to a healthy growth of the American economy.
U.S. officials and business leaders will be available to meet with journalists at the end of the roundtable discussion tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Interested press should meet at the C Street Lobby at 1:45. For any further information about this meeting tomorrow or details relating to the press availability, please contact our East Asian and Pacific Bureau of Public Affairs office at 647-2538.
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Will the roundtable or the meeting itself be open for coverage?
MS. SHELLY: I'll have to check on that point. We have a schedule that we'll post with the Notice to the Press. I'll have to get the additional details on that. I would call the EAP Public Affairs Office.
Q Do you have anything on the Secretary's participation in the events of Saturday in Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: We are expecting the delegation on this to be designated a Presidential delegation, so I think you're likely to get a formal announcement on this actually coming out of the White House. Actually, I'm told that this is likely to come out sometime this afternoon, but I don't have anything different to add to what I said on this yesterday. I think it's not going to come as a big surprise what the format of that will be and who will be heading it.
Q Do you what time they'll be leaving? Is the Secretary going to be taking press?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have details on that yet. As soon as we get the White House announcement on that, we'll be getting into the other details.
Q Do you have any comment on the departure of Mr. Jonassaint?
MS. SHELLY: Mr. Jonassaint?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything beyond what I had on this yesterday, which is simply to note that he has stepped aside and that he is now out of the presidential palace. But to my knowledge, he has not approached us about any desire of his to leave Haiti. So if that has occurred, I'm not informed of that. So other than his stepping aside, I don't really have any other information on his plans.
Q Did others approach you about leaving Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: As you know, Generals Cedras and Biamby are expected to depart fairly shortly. Again, I'm still in the position, right at this moment, that I don't have any other further details related to their departure to announce.
I think we've indicated before that there are going to be some family members who will accompanying them. But as to other key personalities down there, I'm not aware of specific approaches. But I expect that when the details on this are finalized, we'll have more to say.
Q But the U.S. Government intends to supply the transportation?
MS. SHELLY: I think the U.S. Government indicated from the beginning that assuming that they were willing to depart prior to Aristide's arrival, that we would facilitate their departure. I know of nothing different to that effect.
Q Is there a problem? Evidently the charter jets are there with their engines running, but they haven't left yet.
There's some reporting out of Panama that the Panamanians are not quite certain that they're ready to take them. So is there a problem?
MS. SHELLY: As to where exactly they're going to go, there would likely be an announcement coming out of the host country who would be receiving them on whatever basis that might be. There are issues related to their departure that are still under discussion. Stan Schrager, down in Port-au-Prince, confirmed earlier today that the planes were there and were ready to go. So we do expect this to take place in fairly short order.
But, again, not all of the details relating to their travel has yet been finalized.
Q Christine, will we unfreeze their assets once they leave -- in this country -- once they leave Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything new on that today from yesterday. That issue still hasn't been addressed yet.
Q Changing the subject, if that's okay, in regards to Cuba and the visas. Do you expect any --
MS. SHELLY: Did anybody else do want to do anything on Haiti before we switch subjects?
Q Actually, on Panama taking them, what if anything is the U.S. Government offering Panama as an inducement to take Cedras and his family?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that the United States is offering any specific inducement to take them. Again, this would be an arrangement that would be announced by whatever the host country would be.
Q Do you have anything in regards to that visa program? Are you going to be announcing anything this afternoon in regards to how that program is going to work, how you are going to divide up the 20,000 visas?
MS. SHELLY: My understanding is that we may actually have an announcement on this as early as this afternoon. I'm trying to get the rest of the details on how this is going to work because there are several different parts of the U.S. Government involved in this. Also, when we do make a formal announcement on it, we also want to make sure that we've got the arrangements in place to brief the Cuban populations at Guantanamo and also down in Panama.
I'm informed that we have this process of getting ready to do these briefings and make these announcements -- to be able to do that fairly simultaneously, and it could come as early as this afternoon. So I don't have any further details to roll out at this point. But, as I said, it could come fairly soon.
Q On clarification of that, you are just simply announcing how the visa program is going to work. This is just in regards to the meetings, the agreements that were reached in Havana, Cuba. This has nothing to do with a change of policy in allowing the people at Guantanamo and Panama to come into the United States?
MS. SHELLY: As I think you know, there are three elements to this program and how it's going to work. One of them has to do with the regular immigrant visa applications that Cubans make in Havana. It also has to do with the refugee processing, which you know is an in-country facility. Then it also had to do with at least another means that would open up channels for immigration for those who have not traditionally had them in Cuba.
The intent of all of that, through those three different ways, is to be able to meet the commitment in the Cuban migration agreement, which is to permit, as I understand, a floor of 20,000 Cubans per year -- in order to permit that floor figure to be met.
So that's where the numbers will come from -- those three different things. It's my understanding we will be putting out details of how that's going to work, not just the part which is commonly called "lottery" and, George, I haven't been able to come up with a better word since yesterday.
We're going to give some further details on how the in- country processing will also work and what additional categories through family connections there might be, and then also how this arrangement for the third category will work. So I'm told that we will have details coming on this very shortly.
Q Christine, will this be the release of a piece of paper or will there be people on camera, not necessarily from this building?
MS. SHELLY: I think that it is probably going to involve the release of a piece of paper and probably also a briefing. It may, in fact, take place here this afternoon. I just found out right before coming out here to brief that this was likely to happen this afternoon. I'm told the most likely prospect for this to happen here this afternoon. We will try to get out as much information as we can. It is certainly my hope that we will be able to arrange a briefing in connection with the release of whatever we would put out in printed form.
Q Can we talk a little bit about Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Can you say anything more today about the conversations that the United States is having at the U.N. about an exclusion zone? Will this involve troops and weapons, or just weapons?
MS. SHELLY: I can't give you a lot of detail on that at this point. There are I think two phases to what our intentions are at this point.
The first phase was certainly dealing with the immediate threat caused by the massing of the Iraqi troops on the Kuwait border.
As you know, the Secretary was in Kuwait today and was meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council Ministers. The parties were discussing, in the context of that meeting, some options for preventing a recurrence of this kind by Saddam Husayn. That's the longer-term focus, of course.
But the primary focus of today's discussion was dealing with the immediate threat. There was also, in the context of those discussions, discussions on burden-sharing and there was certainly a common understanding that there should be an equitable sharing of the costs that would be associated with the operation at this point.
I understand that a statement was also issued following the meeting. I don't have a copy of the statement. I hope I'll have a text available this afternoon, and we can put that out.
But what I'm told from the party is that, in short, what the statement did was that the Gulf Cooperation Council said that it would not let Saddam Husayn intimidate the international community again in this way. The countries participating in the meeting granted overflight clearances and bed-down for a coalition aircraft; that the GCC also agree urgently to review the burden-sharing question to make sure that there would be an equitable sharing of the costs and other support associated with the U.S. presence there and other presence.
And, finally, that the Gulf countries had agreed to deploy what is the Peninsula Shield Force -- that was the common force -- formed in the aftermath of the previous Gulf crisis.
So the Secretary has been out there with a very full schedule. In addition to the participating in the meeting, he also had a bilateral with Secretary Hurd who, as you know, is a participant in that meeting and also visited the newly-deployed U.S. troops and got a briefing on military readiness.
Also to get more directly to the answer to your question, there are discussions, I understand, which have resumed up in New York this afternoon, and they're going to talk about the longer-term issue of how to prevent the reoccurrence.
But I think at this point even though it's been very, very heavily reported that this idea is being pursued -- it certainly is out there as a possibility -- but I'm told that it's way too early to know what form. What is certainly a very common sentiment within the international community and within the Security Council is what form that will take.
So that will be discussed this afternoon, and there may be more coming out of that. Perhaps even U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright will have something to say more formally.
Q What's your reading now on the positioning of the troops?
MS. SHELLY: In terms of what they're doing?
Q The latest from my colleagues at the Pentagon on this is that there has been quite a bit of movement, not all of which is back, some of which I guess has been lateral, and so they are studying the troop movements very carefully. There is also obviously heavy reliance on the aerial photography and that kind of thing.
But I think that there still is not conclusive evidence that the kind of withdrawal that the Iraqi statements suggest has taken place -- that there is not concrete evidence that that has actually occurred so far.
Q Christine, you mentioned the issue of burden sharing. Do you have any idea yet how large the burden is that has to be shared? What's the cost of this whole deployment?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any estimates of that.
Q Christine, do you have any further reaction to the Russian involvement? I understand it's now up to -- Kozyrev is planning to go to Baghdad to talk to Iraqi officials.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot of details on that. The President has talked with President Yeltsin. Secretary Christopher has talked with Kozyrev on at least one occasion so far since he's been on the road, and I think he was planning on talking with him also later today.
The Russians initially announced that they were sending two emissaries to the region. I've seen the wire reports saying that Foreign Minister Kozyrev will be joining them. I understand that that is the case.
I don't have a lot of details on this. The Russian statements themselves and in our diplomatic exchanges with them, they've made it very clear that they share our view about the unacceptability of the recent Iraqi actions, and we are also confident that they have made this very clear in their contacts with Baghdad.
We undoubtedly will also be coordinating with them in the context of the U.N. discussions. We certainly are working very closely to make sure that we are coordinating our positions.
Q Kozyrev mentioned something about requiring or seeking the approval of the Sanctions Committee for his visit. Is there any question of the United States either approving or disapproving of him going?
MS. SHELLY: I think that with respect to Kozyrev's desire to go or the Russian desire to have him there, certainly they're free to send their emissaries and have discussions. But I think that the key points for us, of course, are to make sure that the Iraqis bring about the troop withdrawal so that it relieves the imminency of the crisis which they, themselves, have created.
Of course, we'd certainly very much like to see any effort brought to bear on the Iraqis which would result in full compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. But I think anything beyond that at this juncture is premature.
Q Christine, it was the stated position of the previous Administration that the best way to deal with Iraq in the long term was to remove Saddam Husayn from power. Is it also the view of this Administration that that would be the best possible solution?
MS. SHELLY: I'm glad you raised that question because there was a quote in today's Washington Post by a very prominent columnist, Tom Lippman -- and he, of course, is an excellent journalist who has very, very well-sourced articles - - but he quotes a senior State Department official as saying that one of the purposes of the sanctions regime is to get rid of Saddam Husayn.
It's very difficult to respond to what is in essence a kind of blind quote, hiding behind anonymity on it. But I can stand up here and say I'm on the record. I'm the Acting Spokesman in this capacity, and I can tell you that the objective of U.S. policy toward Iraq since the beginning of this Administration has been fulfilling Iraqi compliance with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. That's still the policy, and I think I'll leave it at that.
Q Would the U.S. shed any tears if Saddam were to disappear? I think that was the old quote.
MS. SHELLY: I'm just not going to get into that. Our policy is directed toward the Government of Iraq and to seek their compliance with the Security Council resolutions. I don't want to get into characterizations of how we would feel if he were to depart.
Q Same subject as that, the previous Administration said it would not lift sanctions while Saddam Husayn was in power. It would never support that. You seem to have a slightly different take on it.
MS. SHELLY: I'm not here to address the previous Administration's policies. I'm here in my capacity as a Spokesman for the Department of State on this issue.
Q You referred to it in public.
MS. SHELLY: I just told you that the U.S.'s position is to seek full compliance, and once full compliance is to take place, then it's clear that other kinds of issues like that could be addressed. But we're not at that point, and so at this point it's a hypothetical question.
Q Christine, could you reply to the criticisms of the Administration regarding the timing, the triggering, of the troop movements since they knew well in the middle of last week -- I believe it was last Wednesday it was reported they were well aware of these troops movements were about to take place or were taking place -- the criticism being that we should have gone immediately into Kuwait to man our armor there, to be ready to help the Kuwaitis, and yet we watched for I don't know how long, but we watched. Why?
MS. SHELLY: I think you posed this question yesterday at the Pentagon's briefing, I think, if I saw you on camera putting the same question, and troop deployments are operational questions which are rightfully posed at the Pentagon, so I don't have an answer for you on that.
Q According to press reports, some of the statements from Turkish Government officials have a different tone. Some are cautious, some are supportive, 100 percent supportive. I believe you have a close contact with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and are you satisfied with the Turkish Government assurance to allies, this latest events?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any specific information on our diplomatic exchanges with Turkey on this. So I'm going to look into that, and I'm not going to give you an off-the-cuff.
Q On the question of what France has said in connection with this and the French Foreign Minister is reported to have said that he doesn't feel that we have the right to go and either create a buffer zone or to put troops in there to respond to these movements by Saddam Husayn. Do we find these remarks helpful? Have they been blocking efforts at all in the U.N. to resolve this situation?
MS. SHELLY: I know we have had intensive contacts with the French on this, and to my knowledge we are not of the impression that there is any kind of big divide between us on the way ahead on this issue. We'll certainly be continuing those consultations in the context of Security Council efforts.
But I haven't seen those specific remarks, and so I would hesitate to respond to them without having had a chance to look at them in their entire context. But I'm not aware of the fact that there's any impression of any major problem with France on this issue.
Q To what extent has this Administration assessed the possibility of increased terrorist acts promoted by Iraq as a result of this whole situation?
MS. SHELLY: I think we recognize that that is always a possibility, but I'm not sure that we've seen any hard evidence suggesting that this is likely to be the case at this juncture. But it's obviously something we'll watch extremely closely.
Q The Secretary suggested -- I think it was in his CNN interview this morning -- that some way might be found to force Iraq to sell the $1.6 billion worth of oil so that the proceeds could be turned into humanitarian relief. Can you elaborate on that?
MS. SHELLY: I can't really. I'm certainly aware of the fact that he said that, and I assume that that will be in the context of a kind of longer-term deliberation. The first phase is obviously getting us past the immediate crisis and to get the Iraqi troops back so that the imminent threat that they pose is certainly reduced.
But I think that's something that would be addressed in the context of our discussions with allies, probably in the U.N. Security Council context.
Q Ambassador Albright stated last night on TV that it was a U.S. policy objective that the Iraqi Government cease all human rights repression. Who is to -- is that defined in the U.N. resolutions? Who's to decide what that repression consists of?
MS. SHELLY: I think that actually raises the issue of the fact that I'm still on the hook for a fact sheet which I promised you yesterday afternoon. I'm told this is slightly more complicated than I had envisaged.
We will be putting out something later today which will have a compilation of -- brief descriptions of the Security Council resolutions and specifically what was addressed in each issue. Then we will also make copies of all of those resolutions available in the Press Office. It's a very, very thick package, so we're not going to attach all the resolutions to the package.
But I think in that you will be able to identify when you take a look at this which portions of U.N. Security resolutions address the human rights aspects and some of the Iraqi Government actions against certain segments of their population.
So I think that if you look at this, you'll be able to identify those resolutions and also which particular sanctions or issues against Iraq flow as a consequence of the Security Council decisions.
But I think that will be evident from what we will be putting out this afternoon, and it basically, simply involved updating some things we had done before; and, if that doesn't specifically answer your question, I'll try to get a more specific answer.
Q Can I change the topic to Korea?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Do you have any comment about South Korean President Kim Young Sam's interview on CNN yesterday afternoon?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any specific comment on that, because normally we don't comment on interviews. Obviously we watched it and were interested in what he had to say in that interview, and I think it certainly supports our view and our position that we are working very, very closely with Seoul every step of the way on these negotiations.
The consultations are continuing, and we certainly still very much share the same ends and the same goals, and we are working closely toward that end.
Q To the extent that he urges that the United States to somehow slow down its movement towards an agreement with North Korea, it sounds as if he's a lot more cautious than his partner, the United States.
MS. SHELLY: I think that it's very, very difficult to get into the slow-down, speed-up characterizations. We consult with the Republic of Korea very, very closely and very intensely. Sometimes there is movement in these talks and other times they take more time, and perhaps there is more time for digestion of what the particular elements are that are under discussion.
But I'm going to decline, because I don't think see that it serves any useful purpose to address directly the go- slow/go-fast modality of the talks. I think that we're confident that we're working toward the same end, and that whatever difficulties might be signaled through some public statements -- our most serious exchange with them is not via the public domain; it's in our private channels of communication. I think we're confident that we are able to work very closely with the Republic of Korea and that we will at the end of the day, when we do reach some kind of agreement, that we will be in agreement that that's the best agreement that could be negotiated.
Q There's a report today that the United States put forward some new proposals in Geneva. Can you say anything about this?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not specifically aware of what the root of that report is. We have certainly been involved in working the same set of issues, and I think within the same basic policy parameters. It may be that there is some element in the packaging of the elements that may have led someone to make a statement to that effect.
But I'm not aware of the fact that -- I mean, I don't believe that we have rolled out anything new in the talks.
Q Could we go back to the Gulf for a minute.
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Do you know the numbers if this "Shield Force" that have been called up -- what contribution they're making?
MS. SHELLY: No. I'll try to get that, though. I'm pretty sure that that would be available, and I'll see if I can post something on that this afternoon.
Q Was this question asked before? Do you have any idea how much money has been pledged by the Gulf States to help defray the cost of this deployment?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything in specificity on that. I think what they agreed -- my understanding from the party is that they agreed to look at the whole issue of sharing the burden and what the contributions would be, because some, obviously, who are closer will have greater burdens associated with a force presence than ones who might be located slightly farther away.
So I think their plan was to determine how best they could structure what it is that they could contribute and also work out some kind of way to address certainly some of the financial costs that will be incurred. But I think they're going to be doing that -- I think they took some decisions in that regard. I simply don't have any other details than what they put in their public statement, which was the announcement about trying to find a formula where there would be the equitable sharing of burdens. But I don't really have any other details at this point.
Q And would I be correct in assuming that this Administration doesn't feel that they need to go back to the U.N. for any reason to create -- in order to get the mandate to create an exclusion zone, were this to be done?
MS. SHELLY: I'm just not in the position to answer that at this point. I think that's an issue that will be worked through in the context of the discussions up in New York.
Q Christine, going back to your statement about some of the Iraqi troop movements are lateral rather than backwards, you leave me with the impression that you're suggesting that there's some kind of shell game going on there; that they're moving things around but not moving them out of place where they would be threatening. Is that what you're trying to say?
MS. SHELLY: No, I'm not trying to signal anything different from what others, including the Pentagon, I think have been signaling on this. It's something we're watching very closely and certainly General Shalikashvili in his briefing yesterday indicated that there were indications of substantial movements that were from south to north rather than north to south.
But it's something that obviously our analysts are tracking on a real-time basis, sort of hour-by-hour as we get the information. We also knew that this was a very large mobilization in process, so that if particularly rail lines were set in certain directions, and things like that, it was not something that we would necessarily see immediate and total movement to support the pullout.
But I think that there have been some movements which I think we all are characterizing as ambiguous. It's not clear what those movements actually mean, and those also have to be looked at very carefully. But we also know what their public statements have been about the degree of pull-back, and so far the evidence that we see is not solid evidence that supports the degree of pull-back which Iraqi Government officials thus far have signaled.
Q Christine, it was not stated, I believe -- clearly stated yesterday or at all -- that there was, a Secretary -- I'm talking about General Shalikashvili's briefing -- the Secretary said in his speech today in Kuwait that Iraqi troops still posed an unmistakable threat, and he said further that as of this moment Saddam's troops -- this is the same quote -- pose an unmistakable threat to Kuwait.
Can you further enlighten us about what the Secretary was drawing on to make this particular statement? Had he been briefed by DoD or where was he getting his --
MS. SHELLY: It's just not useful for me to go off in that direction. The Secretary has said what he said based on all of the evidence that he has, and I'm not going to get into descriptions of what evidence the Secretary did or didn't have. The statement stands on its own. It directly addresses the question of what kind of a risk the presence of those troops pose, and it just isn't useful for me to get into what his information is based on.
Q You haven't got any other information then to corroborate as to what poses an "unmistakable threat" of Iraqi forces to Kuwait.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything to add to the Secretary's statement on that score.
Q Christine, can you tell us whether the American position is that only the Republican Guard units and divisions have to be pulled back, or do they also have to withdraw the 40,000 to 50,000 regular troops that were close to the border even before last week?
MS. SHELLY: Well, Mark, I don't have a specific answer to that. But I would say, generally speaking, we would like to see those troops which have massed along the Kuwait border, of any type, return to their original site prior to the deployment. I think that's what we are hoping to see and that we would expect to see.
I don't think that we are drawing any kind of distinction between qualitative differences or different descriptions of the troops, be they Republican Guard or not.
Q One other question on burden-sharing. Did the Secretary enter the GCC meeting with a clear idea or proposal as to what the various shares ought to be? And can you tell us what the American share ought to be?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have an answer to that. The Secretary certainly is mindful of the need for the burden to be borne by all of those countries that have an interest in the peace and security and stability in the region. But I'm not aware of particular details, and I'm not sure, in fact, it was even presented in a way that had a lot of specifics to it.
I think the role that the Gulf Cooperation Council will play is something that would be worked out in the context of their deliberations, and then we will hear back from them based on the way that they feel that they can contribute individually and collectively.
Q Is the work farther afield in the burden-sharing effort? I mean, we're approaching countries like Japan and --
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have the information on that as we speak.
Q While things have been focused on other areas, the situation in Bosnia hasn't been all that positive. There have been some aid supplies that have been interrupted by the Serbs or blocked by the Serbs. Apparently, there were some attacks on aid planes.
What's the U.S. view of this? And what's the current status of your efforts in the U.N. to meet the October 15 target?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot of information on Bosnia, so let me share with you what I've got and then we'll see if we can say anything else on this this afternoon, or else I'll try to work up something more on where we are on Bosnia for later in the week. Because with the Haiti things going on and the Kuwait things going on, those obviously are the areas where we're directly most of our energies in trying to respond to your questions.
On the fighting situation, generally in Bosnia, we understand that the Sarajevo airlift currently is operating. It was shut down for several hours today after several U.N. planes were hit by some small arms fire.
Heavy fighting has been reported north of Sarajevo and also farther northeast and in the Doboj area. UNPROFOR has also reported heavy shelling by the Bosnian Serbs on government positions in Maglaj and Zavidovici in central Bosnia.
I understand that there have been some threats by the Bosnian Serbs to evict U.N. forces from some of the Bosnian Serb-held territory on the ground. They are making claims, apparently as justification for this, that UNPROFOR is biased in its actions on the ground and in favor of its treatment of the Bosnian Muslims.
On that, it's our feeling that UNPROFOR is performing very vital functions in Bosnia, including in the protection of the humanitarian relief effort to the citizens of Bosnia without regard to ethnicity or nationality. We believe that in the performance of its mandate, UNPROFOR takes great pains to be scrupulously neutral.
We certainly don't support the latest Bosnian Serb statements on that.
On the Contact Group, the diplomatic side, I understand the Contact Group met in Geneva last week. They're still engaged in discussions on how to obtain Bosnian Serb compliance with the Contact Group plan. They have other things that they have been discussing, including the things that they would like to push, which are the mutual recognition of states.
I understand that the Contact Group is also likely to meet on the margins of the UNGA up in New York next week. So I think there will be further discussions up there.
The key thing which we're all watching, as well as the whole issue of the border between Serbia and the Bosnian Serb part of Bosnia, you know it is a very key element in the strategy of the Contact Group and of the international community is to pressure the Bosnian Serbs through the effective closure of the Bosnian-Serbian border. So we will be watching that extremely carefully.
The border was declared closed by the co-Chairmen of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. The resolution which was passed that addresses this -- 943 -- it obligates the co-Chairmen to report on this every 30 days. So we will obviously be watching very carefully to see that there is a kind of full compliance with that.
The October 15 date, which is coming up, that was the date after which the Administration undertook to begin discussions up in the U.N. with a view to introducing a Security Council resolution. I have no information that suggests that we're still not on that same track. We haven't actually started doing that work yet but we will be fairly shortly, but there is no change in the U.S. commitment to the letter which was sent from President Clinton to Senators Nunn and Mitchell -- I believe are the two.
Q The chief of the U.N. mission in Bosnia, Mr. Akashi, is always very slow reacting to Serb attack in inviting closed air support against the Serb attacks. But he was very quick in making a statement on the Bosnian attacks and even gave a false account on those attacks.
Unfortunately, we all heard that even the U.N. people are acting under the instruction of their own government rather than the U.N. Security Council resolution. Therefore, do you think that Akashi somewhat unwise behavior stands up from the fact that Japan doesn't recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina?
MS. SHELLY: That is not a question that I'm really in a position to answer. I think that overall it is our feeling that UNPROFOR and all of the U.N. representatives out there are doing their best to maintain their neutral stance.
We certainly have had some differences over the way that some of the orders have gone up and down the chain of command with Akashi, and we have certainly spoken on that publicly when those types of incidents have taken place. Beyond that, I don't think that I'm in a position, really, to address your question in any greater specificity.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:41 p.m.)
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