U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING NOVEMBER 30, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, November 30, 1994 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENT Statement on Consultations re: Summit of the Americas ....................1-2 Remaining Consultations .........................2 MEXICO Discussions on Proposition 187 ..................3 BOSNIA UNPROFOR Troops/Safety/Detention ................3-4,8 Senator Robert Dole's Trip to Europe ............4-5,8 Secretary Perry/Ambassador Holbrooke Meetings with Croatian Defense Minister Susak ..........6-7 Update on Fighting around Bihac .................8 Contact Group Meeting ...........................8 SAM Missile Sites ...............................9-10 Enforcement of Closure of Border ................9-10 RUSSIA Fighting in Chechnya ............................11-12 Russian Applications for U.S. Visas .............15-16 HAITI Elections--Timing/Preparation ...................12-15 Transition of Troops ............................13-14 MISCELLANEOUS Achille Lauro: Fire/Rescue of Passengers On Board ......................................16 NORTH KOREA Ambassador Gallucci's Testimony on Capitol Hill .16-17
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 1994, 1:08 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. After the briefing today I'll be posting a statement concerning consultations which took place November 27 through the 29 at Airlie House in preparation for the Summit of the Americans.
As you know, the summit of 34 democratically-elected heads of government from the hemisphere will be taking place in Miami December 9- 11. Senior officials from virtually all of the 34 countries participating in the summit assembled at Airlie House to review the summit draft communiques.
The discussions were extremely cordial and productive, and senior officials were very pleased with the results.
Consensus on most issues was covered by the draft declaration on principles and a plan of action, and we're confident that all remaining issues will be resolved shortly. The two texts will be discussed and then signed by the Presidents and heads of government at the summit in Miami.
As you are aware, the initiatives fall into three categories: on economic integration and trade; strengthening democracy; and promoting sustainable development.
We expect that senior Administration officials will be available shortly to brief you on the summit. And as soon as we're in a position to announce the details of those briefings formally, we will do so.
I'll be happy to take your questions on any subject.
Q I have one about the summit itself.
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Prior to the summit, there will be a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Miami. As I understand, Secretary Christopher is coming back to Miami the night before the summit. Who from the State Department will attend the Foreign Ministers meeting?
MS. SHELLY: I don't actually have any details about there being a Foreign Ministers meeting prior to the summit, so I'm going to check on that point. I don't have any information that that is going to take effect at this point, but let me check and see.
Q What issues are outstanding on this communique?
MS. SHELLY: My understanding is that they generally relate to the trade area. I don't have the specific details on that. There are some meetings that are supposed to be scheduled before the end of this week, I think still taking place in Washington. The embassies of the countries who were here in the consultations out in Airlie House, they have either left people or they'll have representatives from their embassies.
So we're working very vigorously to resolve the remaining issues through the consultations that will take place here in Washington. We're not anticipating the need at this point for another plenary to take place to resolve those.
The remaining consultations are on the trade component. I don't have details beyond the general subject.
Q Can you say that there are no contentious issues remaining on either of the two other categories?
MS. SHELLY: My understanding is that they made very, very good progress. I don't believe that there are any major issues which are outstanding at this point. There are simply some issues left in the trade component of the document. But the expectation was that these could be handled out of the higher level format, which is what was taking place at Airlie House.
The feeling is that the progress recorded was very good and that we are close to agreement on all of the elements in the document.
Q If you can, at least give us specifics on a briefing schedule. Are you thinking about having them this week or the beginning of next week?
MS. SHELLY: I think they're going to be next week. If there's a change in that, I'll certainly make an announcement as soon as I can. But I think that the briefings for this will be taking place over the course of next week.
Q With the passing of Proposition 187 and the expiration of the temporary protective status, there are hundreds of thousands of people from Central America who could lose their work permits and could face deportation. Is this being discussed with the governments of Central America and Mexico?
MS. SHELLY: We certainly have had discussions on Proposition 187 with the Mexicans, as it was first formulated as a legislative proposal and then also at the time that it was actually voted on and then adopted by the voters of California.
Obviously, it's an issue which continues to be of concern to the Mexicans. I don't have details on discussions that we've had with other countries, although I certainly wouldn't rule out that it would have come up in the normal course of our diplomatic exchanges since it is a point which has attracted rather considerable interest in the hemisphere.
But at this point -- further actions -- as you know, there are some injunctions which are pending. We are expecting that there will be quite a bit of legal action that will be underway. It's not something at this point that we are going to get very deeply engaged in. I think it's largely at this point an INS issue, and it also will certainly be something that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice will be watching very closely. But it's not in an implementation phase yet, as there are several challenges in the court system.
Q (Inaudible) 187. What about the temporary protective status for Salvadorans and Guatemalans?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to check on that. I don't have anything with me on that.
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q There are reports that UNPROFOR may be pulled out. The Secretary General made some remarks to that effect in Serbia -- in Bosnia today. What is the U.S. position on the status of UNPROFOR troops staying in Bosnia? And would the U.S. Government participate in evacuating those troops if it came to that?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not going to be able to do a lot on Bosnia today since the action on this is shifting out to Brussels and the meetings which are coming up. So I'm probably not going to be able to get very specific in response to your question.
Our views on UNPROFOR and the function that it has performed and of its value to the situation on the ground and the participation in the provision of humanitarian assistance, and as a force of stability against the backup of a very difficult situation, I think our views on that well known and they're certainly unchanged at this point.
Secretary Perry has also addressed -- I believe even this week -- the point that you raised about the possibility of U.S. forces being used. U.S. forces are there, as you know, for contingencies. We have not specifically been asked to undertake that action. I really don't have anything to say on that beyond what Secretary Perry said.
As you know, the Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, has been in Sarajevo. He went out there to meet with the parties in order to try to bring the U.N.'s influence to bear in stabilizing the situation in and around Bihac and also throughout Bosnia. He obviously also was very concerned with the overall question of the security of UNPROFOR troops.
I don't have a full readout on his visit yet, and so I'm probably not going to be able to say much more on that today until we get more in the way of some readouts from him or from his representative.
But I can just say that the Secretary addressed, on the diplomatic front, where we're headed and what our goals were in a number of different media interviews yesterday. Other than being able to reiterate that, there's not much that I can do on Bosnia as the diplomatic activity has certainly shifted to Brussels where the Secretary will be having all of the meetings which you know of over the next couple of days.
Q Christine, Senator Dole has been very outspoken on his trip to Europe. I wonder whether you thought this was sort of helping in the formulation of U.S. policy or complicating it?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure that I would boil it down to a simple characterization. He certainly had discussed his intention to make the trip with us prior to going. We've seen a lot of his public statements, including some interviews that he gave today. I think that he is a person that we expect to be working very, very closely with in a wide range of foreign policy issues. Certainly, it is helpful to him, I think, to get the first-hand perspectives of the senior leadership of NATO, for example; to hear from the NATO Ambassadors on their views on things and what the constraints are on them.
Certainly, there is no substitute for a first-hand view and I think that's exactly what Senator Dole is getting. He similarly can reflect, certainly, a very important segment of thinking within our own Congress. That is something that he can usefully also share with his interlocutors.
We certainly will look forward to hearing from him after he comes back and to hear what his views are in the aftermath of those exchanges. It's part of normal diplomacy. Congressional visits of this type take place all the time, and we are always very interested to hear from the members of Congress when they come back about what their impressions are.
Q Can I follow that? Have any of the European allies expressed, in their discussions here, a sense that there may be a deadline looming? And when Senator Dole and the others take over Congress in January that there could be a major shift in U.S. policy, i.e., some move to lift the arms embargo? Is that driving diplomacy right now with the allies on Bosnia?
MS. SHELLY: Not specifically that I'm aware.
Q Have they raised it at all?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have the details of every diplomatic exchange that we have. Certainly, the Europeans watch very closely the domestic politics in the United States. They're certainly aware of the fact that there will be changes shortly after the first of the year. But I have not seen a lot of details on those exchanges, or seen enough to be able to support the basic thesis of your question.
Certainly it's out there. They're aware of what the facts of the situation are. But I'm not aware of the fact that it's shaping up in a kind of a pressure of a deadline looming.
Q Has the U.S. warned Croatia not to try to intervene in Bihac?
MS. SHELLY: I do have a little bit on the meetings which took place. As you know, the Croatian Defense Minister Susak visited Washington yesterday. He came to sign a memorandum of cooperation in defense relations, which he did with Defense Secretary Perry.
He also met with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke. They exchanged views on the situation in Croatia and Bosnia and on prospects for settlements in those areas.
On the specific point of your question, we certainly share Croatia's concern about the possible takeover of the City of Bihac by Serb forces. The Croatian Government has repeatedly said that if that were to occur, that it would cause Zagreb to contemplate a military response.
I have no indication that their most recent remarks to us have gone beyond that. As you know, on our side we have consistently counseled restraint, and in the Bihac crisis we have tried to urge all of the parties not to widen the war.
We certainly greatly appreciate the restraint that Zagreb has shown in avoiding a new conflict which would inevitably involve additional casualties and unforeseeable consequences, no matter what the eventual outcome might be.
Q Can I just follow that question up? You say that you've consistently counseled restraint. Well, was this message repeated to the Croatian Defense Minister yesterday by Holbrooke?
MS. SHELLY: I think that the general theme of our exchanges in terms of the area of restraint in the crisis in order to not let it escalate -- that those are themes which we have continued to reiterate.
Q And did he give assurances that they would act in that regard?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot, beyond what I've said, to be able to share. I mean, we know what their feelings are. We also know that they have chosen to exercise restraint and to not get involved up to this point. But since that has not yet occurred, I think it remains in the domain of a hypothetical.
Clearly, I don't think that they want to box themselves in about whatever their ultimate response might be to any particular contingency. But certainly they have expressed very strong concern and indicated the pressures on them which exist to act.
But at this point, I think it is still their feeling at this juncture that they will exercise restraint.
Q As a follow-up on the discussion of what if the Congress were to vote to lift the arms embargo, would the President veto such legislation?
MS. SHELLY: Carol, that's just way too hypothetical at this point. I can't engage on that one.
Q Christine, I understand that Tony Lake is making a speech at Princeton today, and the advance billing on that speech is that he will somehow take issue with what Secretary Perry said yesterday in regard to the American position vis- a-vis a confederation between the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia proper.
I might add that that was a position which seemed to be stated by Mr. McCurry here on Monday, too, that the United States would be open to that if indeed they would accept the territorial integrity of Bosnia- Herzegovina.
I'm wondering if in your guidance today you have the position of the day on that subject.
MS. SHELLY: If I have the position of the day? (Laughter) Barrie, I would love to also take a crack at that myself, but I'm constrained, and I can't.
This was hashed out here both on Monday and Tuesday. The Secretary also addressed that yesterday, and I don't have the details of Tony Lake's speech, so I'm not in a position to pass judgment on that. But that very clearly gets into the diplomacy of what is underway at this point, and the action on that is in Brussels; and so I'm afraid that's a question that just would really have to be addressed to the Secretary at this point.
Q Christine, one of the problems -- not about what your policy is today, but how it was expressed in the last couple of days -- for example, Charlie Thomas is saying that the Plan and the Map are immutable, cannot be changed. That doesn't seem to be the line of thought coming from people here in Washington, including Mr. McCurry and Secretary Perry. Who is right; who is wrong in that?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I just can't answer that question, and it's not because I wouldn't like to try. It's because the diplomacy in this -- and this is very clearly part of the diplomacy -- a Contact Group Ministerial meeting is just about to take place. They're going to be talking the entire game plan for the way ahead, how to bring pressure on the Bosnian Serbs in particular, to try to get back to the negotiating table.
Therefore, I have to draw the line somewhere, and the action on this is clearly with the party. So unfortunately I just can't help you on that one.
Q The question of Senator Dole's role over there is still a little unclear to me. I mean, the question was asked, but I didn't exactly hear an answer. Does the Administration resent what Senator Dole is doing? Does the Administration approve of what he's doing? Do you consider him freelancing foreign policy over there? How does it --
MS. SHELLY: It's the same question asked in another form, and I've already addressed that.
Q Do you have anything -- this is on another subject --
Q I have one more Bosnia question. Do you have anything more on the fighting situation in Bihac itself, and if there are any other reports of SA-6s being moved in. I mean, there were reports yesterday of new ones having been moved in around Sarajevo, posing more of a threat for the humanitarian shipments, and new ones being put in around Bihac.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot on this, but I'll be happy to go over what I've got. I do have a brief fighting update. I don't have a lot more.
The fighting continues within the U.N.-declared safe area around Bihac. Yesterday evening a British convoy of 43 soldiers was released after being held hostage by Serbs for several days. They arrived in Sarajevo this morning in good condition. Three other convoys, with 20 British engineers and 102 Dutch soldiers, are still being held.
General Mladic, the Pale Serb's army commander-in-chief, said that 90 Dutch UNPROFOR soldiers would be released tonight.
Today Serb forces captured seven Ukrainian UNPROFOR soldiers. They're being held near the Bosanska Krupa region in northwest Bosnia.
On the appearance of the SAM missile sites, they have long been a part of the Serb arsenal in Bosnia. We understand that some have recently been activated, and that several new sites have been established. The proliferation of SAM missile installations, of course, is a source of concern for us. We are doing our best to investigate where all of the missiles are actually coming from.
I realize that's not a lot, but that's basically what I can tell you at this point.
Q My understanding yesterday was that they were -- that some of these SAMs were more sophisticated than others, and that this seemed to indicate that the Bosnian Serbs were getting updated armaments from somewhere -- one could presume the former Yugoslavia -- Serbia -- you all seemed to not be able to say publicly that that's where they're coming from. Am I misunderstanding something here?
MS. SHELLY: If we did have intelligence on this about where they're coming from, it would be likely to be from intelligence sources, in which case, if that were the case, we would not be able to comment on it in specificity here.
But we are very concerned about the reports and are doing what we can at this point to investigate where they have come from, and it's certainly something we'll track very closely. And I wouldn't rule out the possibility that we might have more to say on that in the coming days. But I don't have anything more at this point.
Q Can I put it the other way? Can you say how Milosevic is behaving in terms of honoring the commitments he's made to keep the border closed?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything new on that in terms of the last couple of days. It is certainly our view that there is not anything in the way of violations of the border that he or his government have sanctioned. We think that there is a rather considerable effort to enforce the closure of the border except in the cases where there are the humanitarian exceptions. It's another reason why there is a large monitoring force out there.
But on the other hand, given the geography of the land, I think we always were fairly realistic that there could be some leakage across the border. But when we have evidence of that or we are aware of reports of places where there is some kind of activity, through the monitoring source which is there, they take these things up with President Milosevic or his representatives, with an effort to taking corrective action.
In cases, generally, where we have found there to be a weakness in the border, the observer team has taken it up very quickly, and I think that thus far they have been satisfied with the response. There has been an effort to then get new monitors or observers in place and to try to block any places where there might be leakage taking place.
So I think, overall, we feel that President Milosevic has taken this commitment on his part seriously, but he still has indicated openness to trying to do more to keep the border closed.
Q Can I follow up on what Betsy was talking about? Are you saying that it is the U.S. view that the Bosnian Serbs are acquiring -- have acquired in recent months, in recent weeks, whatever, new SAMs?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think that my guidance addressed that question directly. As I said, I think what we've said is that there's evidence of additional sites. Whether these were old sites that simply had not been activated before and therefore we had no evidence of them, I mean, I don't know if we can absolutely identify what might be a totally new site versus a site where there had not been previous information on its activation.
So therefore the fact that we've seen indications of there being some additional sites, that's I think what we're able to say; but whether these are there as a result of new things coming in or simply our not having information on their activation before, I'm not sure that we could concretely make a differentiation in each and every case.
Q I mean, what's your sense, though?
MS. SHELLY: Beyond what I've been able to say, I don't have a sense that we are able to be more clear at this point in terms of trying to put what we've seen in one category or another.
Q The issue of hostages, is the trend line that the Bosnian Serbs are taking increasing numbers of U.N. peacekeepers hostage?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's also hard to identify a trend. I think that the latest figures that we had a couple of days ago were still that they were in the range of something like 200-400. I don't remember the most recent figure, but 200- 400 UNPROFOR soldiers who were detained in some fashion or other, because they're not all being detained in necessarily the same way. Some have physically been moved; others have been surrounded. There are different forms of detention.
But I think there certainly have been instances where some have been released, but the fact that some -- new ones have been detained, certainly suggests that the practice has not stopped.
Q Do you think this is a centralized order or freelancing, or what?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's impossible to make a judgment on that at this point.
Q It was reported today that both sides are growing increasingly frustrated with UNPROFOR and both sides may want UNPROFOR to withdraw in order to slug it out among themselves. Has the State Department or anyone in the Administration received indications from the Muslims that they want an UNPROFOR withdrawal?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a specific answer to that. I answered at the beginning of the briefing a question about how we felt about UNPROFOR, but taking it beyond that about specific exchanges, I'm not in a position to get into that today.
Q Christine, on the matter of the hostages, can you confirm the report that three U.N. personnel were forced to lie on an airfield sort of as a human shield for eight hours earlier this week?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have information on that, so I'm not in a position to confirm it.
Q Another subject?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Do you have anything on what's going on in Chechnya?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I have a bit on that. Fighting escalated in Chechnya over the weekend as opposition forces attacked the Chechen capital of Grozny in an effort to topple Chechen President Dudayev.
Forces loyal to Dudayev beat back the assault and reportedly captured dozens of opposition troops, including up to 60 Russians. Moscow has denied Dudayev's claims that these Russians are regular Russian military personnel.
President Dudayev issued an ultimatum November 28, on Monday, demanding that Moscow admit within 48 hours that it was directly supporting the opposition forces or else he would have all prisoners captured over the weekend executed.
President Yeltsin responded with an ultimatum Tuesday, demanding that the fighting stop and that all armed units be disbanded, all prisoners freed within 48 hours, or else he would use all available forces and means to put an end to the bloodshed.
We view the conflict as an internal Russian affair. Chechnya is a sub-state entity. It's a republic within the Russian Federation. It's not an independent state, as you know. It declared its independence from Russia in November of 1991. Russia and the United States have never recognized a separate Chechnya. No other state has recognized Chechnya either in an independent capacity.
We hope that order can be maintained in a manner which minimizes violence and respects law, and also of course all of the human rights of all of the people concerned.
Q And what do you think about Yeltsin's order to use military forces?
MS. SHELLY: Certainly, it's a source of concern for him, and he is reacting to the events which are emanating from there. We hope that in the efforts to pursue a solution to the problem that all of the sides will refrain from violence and be able to find a way to seek a peaceful outcome to the current situation.
Q Do you have anything on Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I've got a bit. What would you like to do on Haiti?
Q About the elections -- the postponement of the elections and how long U.S. troops will remain?
MS. SHELLY: This is in the nature of a reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement on the likely time frame for the elections being postponed until March. As I think you know, it's the electoral council, which is yet to be formed, which will actually formally set the date for parliamentary elections.
We certainly agree with the Haitian Government position that it is in everyone's interest to hold the elections as soon as possible. As you know, the process of the restoration of democracy is underway, but it is, of course, a process. Elections are part of that process.
We are working with the United Nations and with the Haitian Government to try to prepare for the holding of elections as soon as possible. But a very key element in the holding of those elections will be that they will be declared free and fair when they do occur.
The Prime Minister's estimate that the elections would be held in March -- that may prove to be accurate, although as we've noted, the definite date will be set by the council.
We have already provided some rather specific assistance to support those preparations. We've contributed $3.7 million to the U.N. elections assistance unit. That has now opened an office in Port-au- Prince, and they are now actively engaged in the preparations which will ultimately permit the elections to be held.
The issue of the U.S. troops, as you know, is something which is directly linked to our participation in both of the multinational forces, first as a larger share of the multinational force, and then in a significantly reduced share of UNMIH.
The conditions for the transfer from one to the other are already set out in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 940. So I don't have anything new on that score. But the number of U.S. troops is already on its way down, and we expect that trend to continue.
We expect that the hand-off from the MNF to UNMIH will be a very, very smooth process, a kind of seamless transition. The Security Council, I would also note, adopted a resolution -- I think it was yesterday -- which authorized an increase in the UNMIH advance team. That's now authorized to go up to its maximum strength of 500 persons.
The expansion is not going to take place all at once, but it will be taking place in phases over the coming weeks; and the increase, of course, will permit for the smooth transition to UNMIH and also helping to contribute, we think, without any kind of pause or reduction in the overall secure environment which now the MNF and also later UNMIH will be working to preserve in Haiti.
Q When will the hand-over take place?
MS. SHELLY: There is not a fixed date by which that would occur. As you know, the element in the U.N. Security Council resolution is when the secure and stable environment has been established, and it's also subject to a range of recommendations that would be coming from the member states and the multinational force and an assessment by the multinational force commander; and then also factoring in recommendations by the U.N. Secretary General.
Q Some politicians in Haiti and in the United States are saying that they've lost confidence in the United Nations' ability to control the situation in Haiti; that they want the U.S. forces to remain through the election in March. Is that likely? I mean, that the forces will remain under U.S. control, not under U.N.
MS. SHELLY: We certainly have confidence in -- I can't speak on behalf of every other government, and I think that the Haitians -- while I think the government has expressed a preference for elections to take place while the MNF was there, on the other hand, I think that their hope and expectation was that the elections would take place sooner rather than later.
March may be the timeframe that it takes place. As you know, President Aristide had also expressed his strong hope that they could take place by December. But we feel that the process of transition, particularly with the arrival of larger numbers of the advance team for UNMIH, that this will be a very, very smooth process and that there will not be an identifiable moment whereby there has been more security under one configuration and less security under another.
So we feel that with the process of integration, which has been established, that it will be a very smooth transfer from one to the other and that there will not be a moment whereby there will be a difference in the gradation of security being provided. It's all part of the multinational community's effort to contribute to the safe and secure environment. As soon as we've reached the stage where that formal hand-off can take place, I'm sure it will.
Q Just to follow that, you mentioned that President Aristide wanted to have the elections by December, and perhaps more importantly the constitution requires those elections by the end of the year.
Why does the U.S. now support that postponement until at least next spring of those elections?
MS. SHELLY: Why does the U.S. now support -- is that what you're - -
Q The postponement of those elections until at least March?
MS. SHELLY: The issue here is not the U.S.'s position on elections. The elections are for the Haitian Government to formally indicate, and particularly for them to take the remaining steps necessary to get the electoral council up and running so that the council can name that.
I'm aware there are some provisions regarding that in the Haitian constitution, but I'm not a constitutional expert nor am I an expert on Haiti's particular provisions on that. The feeling by all was that there was a certain process that the preparations for the elections would have to go through, and it perhaps is something that, at least, some of the Haitian authorities would have liked to have moved more quickly. But I think that their concern has always been the security situation on the ground and having the whole preparations take place in a way that the elections, when they are held, will be able to be declared free and fair.
The key point is, have the elections as soon as they can be done but have them take place in a secure environment and have them take place in a way where that declaration can be made.
Q A different subject?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q In Moscow, there has been criticism from lawmakers, the media, and at least one human rights official about the treatment of Russians applying for visas. The embassy says there's something between 15 and 20 percent of Russians coming here overstay their visas. Has there been any change in U.S. policy about visas for Russians? And have you received any complaint from the Government of Russia?
MS. SHELLY: About the process or about the numbers?
Q About the treatment of Russians who apply for visas?
MS. SHELLY: This is not a new issue, and the issue of complaints has come up before. I don't have anything in particular with me on this, although I might refer you to the Press Office because we have worked up a little fuller guidance on this before.
I'm not aware specifically of a new problem relating to the overstaying of the visas. But I know that some of the Russians who have applied have indicated that they had very short interviews and made complaints along that line. I think we have addressed that, including publicly, before.
It's a very heavy demand on our consular section. We are certainly confident that the applicants who are interviewed are treated with the respect and courtesy that they certainly deserve as a visa applicant.
I will check and see if there's anything new on this in terms of the first point that you've made. But I would also invite you to check with the Press Office on this because we have worked up guidance on this from time to time in the past.
Q Do you have anything at all on the Achille Lauro or U.S. involvement in that rescue?
MS. SHELLY: I checked on that earlier. I have very little on that. I was trying to ascertain whether or not we had any knowledge of American citizens being on board.
As far as we know, there could be as many as eight U.S. citizens who were working aboard the ship, as members of the crew of the Achille Lauro. We understand that all of the crew is safe and that they are all on boats on the high seas.
We'll continuing checking on that and provide additional details as they become available.
Q Nothing on the cause of the fire?
MS. SHELLY: No. I don't have any other details at this point.
Q Anything on North Korea -- on the U.S.-Korea relations? Some Republicans want to review the treaty. Is there any possibility of changing some aspects of the treaty? Mr. Gallucci is going to go up to the Senate tomorrow and defend the treaty against the Republicans.
MS. SHELLY: He's got a couple of different testimonies tomorrow up on the Hill on this. I've got information with me just on the schedule of meetings. So unless you're specifically interested in that, I don't -- I can go through that. I have no problem going through that.
One of the things which, of course, is very important in the context of this agreement is the Congressional consultation side. We have already begun that, and we will continue that.
Congress did decide that they did want to have some hearings on this this week, so that's what Ambassador Gallucci will be doing tomorrow. He will address the elements of the agreement in greater detail and obviously also respond to their specific questions.
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't. Because since he's testifying, and the first one of these is -- if not the second one -- I don't have the details on this, but I know that at least one if not two are taking place in open session. I will leave it up to him to get into the details on that.
Q But the agreement doesn't require Congressional approval for ratification?
MS. SHELLY: That's correct. That's my understanding also. But we feel very strongly in the need for Congressional consultation on it. We certainly wish to have an agreement which is transparent in every aspect.
Q Why? Because of the funding involved?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Another subject, please. The Rwandan Prime Minister is in town. Does the United States have any new creative thinking along those lines -- how to solve that crisis? The refugee crisis, particularly?
MS. SHELLY: In Rwanda?
Q Yeah, in Zaire and Rwanda.
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to take that because I don't have anything new on Rwanda for today. So let me check on that both in the context of the meeting but also I'll see what we can work up and then also see about coming back to it in a fuller way later in the week.
Q If you're going to take that, could you also see about any possibility of new U.S. aid for reconstruction?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check on that also.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
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