U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/03/22 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, March 22, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly DEPARTMENT Welcome to Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Students & Faculty .................................1 IRAN Military Build-up in Gulf--Monitoring/Evaluating .....1-2,13 --Weapons on Abu Musa/Tunbs Islands ..................2 Territorial Dispute over Islands .................2 --Possible Threat to Straits of Hormuz ...............14 --U.S. Position on Deployment of Hawk Missiles .......14 TURKEY Incursion into Iraq--Situation Update ................2-3 --U.S. View on Operation: HR/Duration & Scope ........2-3 --NATO Member Views on Operation .....................3 --Civilian Casualties ................................3 Report of Turkish Allegations of Greek Support of PKK ...............................................3-4 RUSSIA Chechnya--Update on Fighting .........................4-5 --Major Offensive against Chechnyan Strongholds ......4 --Secretary Christopher/FM Kozyrev Discussion ........4 PAKISTAN Reaction to President Bhutto's Statements re: (1) U.S. Support for Counter-Terrorism .........5 (2) Nuclear Issue ..............................5-6 Implementation/Restrictions of Pressler Amendment ....5-6,8 Possible Links between Terrorists/Drug Dealers/Gov't .6-7 Possibility of U.S. Support of Pakistani Groups ......7 Investigation of Americans Killed in Karachi .........7 IRAQ Report of Hospitalization of Saddam Hussein's Son ....8 Access to Two Americans being Held ...................12 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Situation Update .....................................8-10 --Theft of Weapons from Sarajevo by Bosnian-Serbs/ Hijacking of Two UNPROFOR Vehicles ...............9 Possibility of NATO Air Strike ...................9 --NATO Alert Status ..................................9-10 CHAD--American Citizen Missing .......................10-11 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS--Israeli/Syrian Talks ......11 UKRAINE--Update on Crimean Situation .................12-13 JAPAN Tokyo Subway Incident --Response to U.S. Offer of Assistance ...............15
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 1995, 1:04 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department press briefing. I would also like to extend a welcome to a group of graduate students and faculty members from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy who are with us today. They're having some meetings with very distinguished State Department officials who also happen to be Fletcher School alumni, and several of them are here at today's press briefing with the opportunity to watch public diplomacy at work. And so for those of you who are not able to be actually inside the briefing room -- I think you're watching from another location -- I do welcome you to the Department. And with no further ado, let's let public diplomacy roll. Sid, I know you've got the first question. I can tell. Q Where's George? MS. SHELLY: I guess we can't start. We're missing George Gedda of AP. An all-points bulletin, AP? No AP, no briefing? Isn't that the rule? Will the wire services yield to the gentlewoman from NBC? Okay. Betsy. Q Do you have any more information on Perry's comments today on the increased buildup by Iran around the Straits of Hormuz and the addition of chemical weapons to that region? MS. SHELLY: I don't really have much to say on that. I've seen at least some of his remarks, but I have not seen them in their entirety. Administration officials have addressed the matter of Iran, and particularly the military buildup in the Gulf, on several occasions in the past few weeks. As we've indicated before, we're continuing to monitor the situation and evaluate it certainly, and we may have more to say in the near future. As I have not actually seen the full text of Secretary Perry's remarks, I think I'd have to refer you to the Defense Department for further comment. The point specifically on chemical weapons on the islands, we are aware that Iran has an array of weapons on the Abu Musa and the Tunbs Islands, but I don't have anything more specific for you today. Q Do you know if there has been a buildup of any sort beyond what was reported several weeks ago when this concern was first voiced? MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I'm not sure that we have seen any information that suggests that there's been a reversal in the trend. But as I said, it's something we're monitoring and we'll continue to evaluate very closely. Q Has the U.S. taken a position on the territorial dispute over those three islands between Iran and the UAE? MS. SHELLY: I do not know. I'm not familiar with the details of the dispute, but I'll be happy to check. Q Christine, do you have any late word on the Turkish pursuit of the PKK in northern Iraq? MS. SHELLY: We've seen quite a bit in the press already in terms of what's happening on the ground. The Turks claim to have seized an area that's roughly l85 miles wide and 20 miles deep and to have met only light resistance for the most part. Turkish officials state that eight Turkish soldiers and as many as 200 PKK rebels have lost their lives. We still do not see any signs yet of Turkish withdrawal. However, as we've said earlier, the Turkish Government has stated that its troops will withdraw as soon as they have suppressed PKK targets along the border. Q I noticed Secretary Christopher said that he was assured that it would be limited in duration and scope. Were any numbers or any periods of time associated with that remark? Is it going to be weeks, months, years -- what? MS. SHELLY: I don't think we have any way of making a prediction. I'm not aware, in terms of our conversations with the Turks, that there have been any precise assurances about how long that might run. Q There's been increasing concern in Europe about the Turkish activities from the French, from the Germans. Are you still understanding of the operation, as the President was said to be earlier this week and the Secretary also? MS. SHELLY: The President spoke to this already, and I certainly don't have anything that would suggest a change in that. We expressed understanding for their need to take action against the terrorist organization, but at the same time we have also stressed, and continue to stress over and over again, the importance of human rights and the importance that this particular operation be as we have said -- limited in duration and scope. That certainly still is very much our view. Q There are other members of NATO -- and Turkey is a member of NATO -- who have come out fairly strongly against this operation. Is it possible that it could cause tensions within NATO if it goes on for longer than you hope it will? MS. SHELLY: It's not a NATO issue, certainly, at this point; and I don't speak for the other governments of NATO. Q (Inaudible) getting any sort of numbers on those? Do the Turks appear to be doing all they can to limit them? MS. SHELLY: I think that the Turks themselves, in some of the statements that they have said, have expressed their own view that they are mindful of the need to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. I'm not aware of any estimates at this point on numbers. Q Christine, this morning a member of the Turkish Parliament, who will in fact be seeing Deputy Secretary Talbott this afternoon, said that he has evidence -- and turned it over to the Greek Government -- that Greek officials have been active in supporting the PKK in the past. Does the United States have any such evidence? MS. SHELLY: That issue has come up from time to time in the past, and we have not been inclined to get into a public discussion of what we know on that score. Reports have been out there, but other than acknowledging the reports, I don't think we'd have a lot to say. Q Well, do you know? I'm not asking you what the answer is, what do you believe, but do you know whether such reports are, in fact, authentic? MS. SHELLY: Again, that gets into not only the what we know but where we know it from, and I think I'm simply not in a position to give you a very full answer to that question. Yes, Howard. Q Under the same general heading of military offensives, can you tell us what the Russians are up to in Chechnya? MS. SHELLY: I have a little bit of an update on the fighting situation. I'm going to have to confine what I can do with Chechnya to essentially the factual, since this is obviously a subject of discussion for Secretary Christopher with Foreign Minister Kozyrev. What I can tell you about the fighting picture -- I'm told that last night Russian military forces began a major offensive against three key Chechen strongholds east and southeast of Grozny. A group of Russian ground forces moved to encircle Argun, which is l5 miles east of the regional capital of Grozny, causing some Chechen formations to flee Argun. Over the weekend Russian forces had intensified aerial and artillery bombardment of Argun. Some Russian ground forces still near Argun are moving further east in the direction of Gudermes, another town controlled by Chechen rebels that has been under artillery attack for the past few weeks and heavy aerial and artillery bombardment for the last few days. Another group of Russian ground forces is reportedly moving southeast of Grozny in the direction of Shali, l2 kilometers southeast of Grozny. Shali, another Chechen stronghold, was also the site of heavy aerial and artillery bombardment over the weekend. As I mentioned, it's an issue which will be on the agenda for Secretary Christopher in his meetings with Foreign Minister Kozyrev today and tomorrow. Q Would you expect him to raise concerns about it? MS. SHELLY: I would expect that he would do so, yes. You know our general position is to urge all of the parties to do everything possible to bring an immediate end to the fighting and to establish a humanitarian cease-fire and to try to begin negotiations as rapidly as possible for a political settlement. Q All parties? Is more than one party fighting? MS. SHELLY: I think there's more than one party fighting. Q In today's papers there is a report from Pakistan, quoting the Pakistani Prime Minister seeking assistance from the U.S. What is your comment? What would be the response? MS. SHELLY: This is specifically her request for help against militants and terrorists in Pakistan? Q Yes. Please, yes. MS. SHELLY: Okay. We have been cooperating very closely with Pakistani authorities in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of terrorists in and out of Pakistan. Pakistan has been in the forefront of nations working to combat this international menace. The issue will be on the agenda when Mrs. Bhutto visits the United States in early April, and we will be looking for more areas of cooperation on counterterrorism. As I'm sure you're aware, because of Pressler Amendment restrictions which were imposed in l990, when the President was unable to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device, the material assistance we can provide to Pakistan is constrained. Exceptions to the law allow limited counternarcotics and humanitarian assistance, but not help under our Counterterrorism Assistance Program. Nevertheless, the United States and Pakistan have worked hard to combat terrorist activities by individuals and groups, and will continue to do so. Q Mrs. Bhutto has also said that she has been assured that the United States would not push any further on the nuclear issue during the course of her visit. Does she have such an assurance? MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that any assurance has been given to that effect. Q When Assistant Secretary Raphel testified before Congress recently, she said the Administration was looking, together with Congress, at ways of perhaps amending the restrictions of the Pressler Amendment. Can you give any more details of the sort of discussions that might have been going on? MS. SHELLY: I can't. I think I'd like to let that testimony stand. I think we've all recognized that the inherent limitations caused by that act have constrained us in the pursuit of some of our other policy goals, specifically in the terrorism and counternarcotics areas; and so I think there is also a growing feeling on Capitol Hill that those areas of cooperation are important to other, broader U.S. foreign policy goals. So I think that there certainly is some willingness to look at how that might be achieved, but the Pressler Amendment is the law of the land and we are certainly keeping with implementation of that. Q If that is so than how would you support -- I mean, respond to Mrs. Bhutto's request? MS. SHELLY: That's something that will have to be worked out and would have to be consulted on with the Congress, I think, very closely to see if there is any possible exception or understanding or any other type of arrangement which might be reached that would enable some of those other types of cooperation to go forward. But again, at this point, I think that's about as far as I can take it. Q Has the Administration found any evidence of links between the terrorists and drug dealers in Pakistan and government officials there? MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure specifically to what you're referring. Q Just that. Does this Administration believe there are links between the Pakistani Government and the bad guys? MS. SHELLY: If you're talking specifically about some kind of government sanction or support for the activities undertaken by terrorists -- no, it is certainly not our view that that is the case. We have a very careful examination process in connection with drawing up the terrorism list, but the terrorism list specifically refers to cases where there is government-supported sanction for terrorist activity. We do not believe that this is the case in Pakistan. And, as I mentioned, the areas where we have had cooperation with them, we have several times made the determination that the facts and U.S. law do not justify naming Pakistan as a state sponsor of international terrorism. Q Last year they were under consideration for being placed on the terrorism list. Is that still the situation? Are they still -- does the U.S. Government still constantly review Pakistan's situation with an eye towards whether to place them or not to place them on the terrorism list? MS. SHELLY: Sid, I think there isn't any question that actions of terrorism still continue to take place on Pakistani soil, as we've seen very recently, and that obviously terrorist groups have operated there and have used it as a base for meeting and for training and conducting other types of activities. So obviously there is a problem on that score. Nonetheless, the Pakistan Government itself is committed to try to rout out these groups. We would like to be able to do more with them in that area, as I've already signaled. But the issue regarding -- possibly being put on the terrorism list -- again it goes back to the issue of state support for terrorist activity, and in evaluating all of the information that we have, that is certainly not a conclusion that we have come to in the case of Pakistan. Q Have any of these groups that operate in Pakistan ever been the recipients of aid from the United States? MS. SHELLY: I'm not in a position to answer that question, and I don't know how much we would know on any of that except possibly from intelligence sources. I'll be happy to look into it and see. I don't have -- based on what I know, I have not seen information to that effect. I'll be happy to check and see if there's anything we can say about that that's more definitive. Betsy. Q Do you have anything more on the investigation into the killing of the consular people in Karachi? MS. SHELLY: I do not. I checked on that this morning and I'm told that the investigation is still continuing, and that there isn't anything new to report at this point. Q Do you have anything on reports that Saddam Hussein's son is in a hospital in Jordan suffering from gunshot wounds? MS. SHELLY: We've seen the same reports that you have, but I'm not sure that we have any independent information that would corroborate that. Q Christine, back on Pakistan, I'm not sure I understood one of your previous answers. You said, I think, that certain exceptions for counter-terrorism narcotics busting are permitted under the Pressler Amendment. And that's the sort of help for which Mrs. Bhutto is asking when she comes here. So why is it necessary then to consult with Congress about these exceptions? MS. SHELLY: There is cooperation. We do have cooperation with Pakistan on terrorist issues. I think, for example, the arrest and then the extradition of Ramzi Yousef was the most recent, but certainly the strongest, example of the fact that we do cooperate and can cooperate with Pakistan very effectively on this type of issue. But, again, the Pressler Amendment relates to the questions related to material assistance that we can provide -- actual programs, money, training, that type of activity. That's what we are restricted by under the Pressler Amendment. Q On Bosnia. The wires are more ominous than they were on Monday. The U.N. spokesman, Alexander Agronko, says that this week's fighting shows the parties are more and more inclined to go down the road to war rather than try to breathe life into fragile cease-fire negotiations. It appears that the Bosnians, Christine, left here last week and went back home, and this offensive was initiated to cut off the Serb corridor. It seems that the last time the Bosnians went on the offensive in the Bihac area the Serbs countered massively, and it was very costly to the peace. Could you comment on this current offensive by the Bosnian Government? MS. SHELLY: I can certainly say that the most recent developments are worrisome. I think in the case of Bosnia it's very difficult to actually start a time line and say who was responsible. We mentioned yesterday about the Bosnian Government initiatives in that area. There also had been reports immediately prior to that of Bosnian Serb shelling against Bosnian Government forces. I think it's very, very difficult to simply freeze time at some point and then focus on single actions, whether it be by the Bosnian Serbs or by the Bosnian Government, itself. It's a cycle of violence that we would certainly like to see come to an end. We'd like to have all of the parties get back to observing the cease-fire. The general trend in the last few days is certainly one which is worrisome. What we certainly want to try to do is to keep the pressure on all of the parties through the diplomatic track, with a view to trying to bring them back to the negotiating table, to hopefully finding a negotiated, peaceful settlement to the problem. Q Is NATO on alert, prepared to withdraw the U.N., if necessary? Do you have any comment about the theft of equipment that the U.N. had impounded which could bring air power to bear again from NATO? MS. SHELLY: There was a theft, which I think you're aware of by U.N. sources. On Monday, Bosnian Serbs stole a small number of weapons and related items from a weapons collection point in Sarajevo which was guarded by French UNPROFOR troops. Bosnian Serbs also hijacked two UNPROFOR vehicles in the Sarajevo area yesterday. It's up to UNPROFOR, of course, in connection with NATO, to decide what would be an appropriate response. As I'd mentioned, also, fighting continues. The picture is certainly not a promising one, but, nonetheless, I think all of the members of the international community who have been deeply engaged in this will continue with their efforts to try to get the cease-fire observed by everyone in the region. Q Christine, is NATO on any special alert? MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware of any special change in NATO's alert status. I think they're always on alert. Betsy. Q Do you know if NATO wanted to call in a strike and the U.N. would not allow it, in the case of the weapons being taken out of the Sarajevo depot? MS. SHELLY: I don't have any independent information on that. Q Is it the U.S. position that NATO air power should be used to secure those weapons, to prevent the Serbs from stealing them? MS. SHELLY: I think that our position on NATO air power has been articulated many times. We have expressed disappointment that there has not been further compliance with decisions that were taken by NATO in very careful consultation with the U.N. But, however we may feel about the use of power to back up the diplomacy on the ground or to support UNPROFOR, the fact of the matter is it's a dual key arrangement between the U.N. and NATO, and it is simply up to them to decide and not up to us to second guess on any other appropriate response and in response to any particular incident. Q You say that in the past tense -- you had expressed. Are you now also expressing disappointment with this recent violation? MS. SHELLY: We believe that the conditions surrounding the possible use of air power by NATO in response to actions against UNPROFOR have been spelled out very clearly, and we continue to support implementation of those commitments. Q Are you disappointed that NATO did not respond to the Serbs' thefts? MS. SHELLY: We are not second-guessing from this podium the decisions and the conclusions that the commanders reach out in the field. I just don't think that's an appropriate action and exercise for us to get into from here. Q Do you have anything on an American -- MS. SHELLY: George Gedda from AP is here. (Laughter) We missed you at the beginning of the briefing, George. Q I didn't hear you call on us. MS. SHELLY: We'll call louder next time. Q Do that. MS. SHELLY: I had to let Betsy Steuart from NBC start the briefing. I hope that's okay. Q That's the last one this year. (Laughter) Do you have anything on an American having been kidnapped in Chad, supposedly, by a Libyan-backed group? MS. SHELLY: Yes, I have some information on that. We can confirm that an American citizen has been reported missing in Chad. I've seen the same wire service report, I think, that you have, saying that it was a Libyan-backed rebel group who claims to have taken this individual captive. The American is, as I said, presumed to have been kidnapped along with several other people. The incident occurred March 19 in northwestern Chad. Because of Privacy Act considerations, no further details can be released at this time. I can tell you that the Bureau of Consular Affairs is in close contact with the family of the missing American. Q Do you know anything about the group which claims to have kidnapped him? MS. SHELLY: I do not. We are in very close touch with the Chad authorities through our Embassy in N'Djamena in our efforts to locate the American. I'm certain that we are also exchanging views with them about the most recent pronouncement about who might be responsible. I should also mention that the Defense Attache and the Consular Officer have traveled to the region in question to try to work with local officials. The Government of Chad has given its full cooperation in the effort to locate the missing American. Q Do you have anything on the first round of negotiations between the Israeli and Syrian Ambassador in Washington? MS. SHELLY: I know it's going to come as a big surprise to you, but I do not. We are sticking with our previously announced position that we're not going to get into characterizations of the talks, and we'll leave that up to the parties to do so. Q Now that they've apparently recessed, can you confirm that they started this week? MS. SHELLY: That puts me in a bit of a bind, but I think I said on Monday that they were likely to begin this week. So that would not be - - Q You kind of hedged it. MS. SHELLY: That would not be inconsistent with my understanding. Q When do you expect them to begin? MS. SHELLY: I don't have an answer for that. Betsy. Q The Red Cross put out a statement saying that they had relayed messages from family members to the Americans being held in Iraq. Do you have any idea whether these messages have actually been delivered and if there has been any communication with the Iraqi Government on the question of these two Americans being held? MS. SHELLY: I checked on the access point specifically to try to see whether there had been any progress on that score. It may be that the ICRC has gotten messages that they have passed on to the Iraqi authorities. But as of this morning I have still been unable to confirm that any of the groups in question -- UNIKOM or ICRC or the Polish authorities -- that any of those groups have been able to have any kind of access, direct or indirect, to the Americans being held. Q Does the Department have any comment on what's been going on in Crimea in the last few days with the Ukrainian Parliament? I think they're abolishing the post of the President of Crimea. I think the Russian Parliament has now criticized those Ukrainian actions. Do you have any comment? MS. SHELLY: I have a little bit on that. This is basically according to reports both from our Embassy in Kiev and also from some of the other reports which we have received. Also we've been reading the press accounts as well. The Crimean situation remains quiet following the Ukrainian central government action to implement measures adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament to enforce Ukrainian law in the Crimea. On March 17, the Ukrainian Government informed us that its Parliament had voted to suspend the 1992 Crimean Constitution, to annul a number of Crimean laws in conflict with the Ukrainian Constitution, and to abolish the Crimean Presidency, and to initiate criminal proceedings against the Crimean President Meshkov. On March 18, Ukraine deployed Interior Ministry troops to secure the Crimean Parliament building which also houses the Office of the President. The troops encountered no resistance. We have seen no reports of violence, and the situation as best as we can tell does not appear to be tense. Crimean President Meshkov has not surrendered, to my knowledge, to Ukrainian authorities, and the Crimean Parliament has appealed to the Russian President and to the Russian Parliament for support. As to the Russian reaction to that, we're not aware of any official Russian Government reaction. The Russian Government appears to be exercising restraint in reacting to these events. As of at least yesterday, I had not seen reports that the Russian Parliament had replied formally to the Crimean Parliament's appeal for support, so you may have more recent information that I do. I'll be happy to check on that point and see if there's anything new we can say. What we've been told, at least through our Embassy there, is that, according to the contacts that they've had, at least some of the Russian lawmakers, while sympathetic, I think, to the pleas for their support, were not inclined to intervene in what they view as an internal Ukrainian matter. We are pleased that the parties so far have chosen to exercise restraint in dealing with the event. We are sensitive to the possibility of escalation and tensions between the Central Government and the Crimean authorities, and we urge all the concerned parties to continue to exercise restraint. Q Essentially you support the action of the Ukrainian Government in extending Ukrainian law throughout Ukraine. MS. SHELLY: I do not specifically articulate support. I can express the U.S. view that we believe that the issue is one which should be resolved between the Government of Ukraine and Crimea. We want them to solve the issues peacefully, certainly on the basis of democratic norms, and also with the safeguarding of human rights. As I think you know, our general policy toward Ukraine is to respect its territorial integrity, and we believe that Crimea, as well as every other region of Ukraine, has a stake in Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and economic well-being. Q To turn to Iran for a moment. You said that we continue to monitor the situation there. Based on what we know at the moment, what does the U.S. think Iran is up to? MS. SHELLY: I think it's very hard to know. As we are not privy to what their innermost thinking is, I think it's really very, very difficult for us to have a very sound feeling, one that's solid enough, to go beyond mere speculation about what their intentions might be. Obviously, with the general situation in the Gulf, it's an area of vital importance to the United States. When there was a threat, most recently when Iraq mobilized last October and also acted in a way that we thought would destabilize the region, we responded very promptly. So it's an area that has a lot of concern for us. But I think it's very, very difficult for us to know exactly what Iranian motives are. Q What we know of the weapons that are deployed there now, is it possible for Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz? MS. SHELLY: I'm not really in a position to make that call. I don't know the answer to that. I'll be happy to check and see if we have a position on that or have an answer to that that we can put up as a taken question. Q How would the U.S. respond to any action that threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz? MS. SHELLY: I think you're familiar with the Carter Doctrine on that which I believe talked about threats to the Straits of Hormuz. I'm not an expert on this subject matter, but I believe that as the region is one which is of vital strategic importance to the United States, we remain committed to the principles contained in that doctrine, which is to support keeping those shipping lines and waterways open. Howard. Q A couple of weeks ago when the news came out that Iran had deployed some older Hawk missiles in that area, the response of the Administration was basically, "Well, it's a legitimate self-defense move." What's led to our increasing concern? MS. SHELLY: Who said that, because I'm not familiar that that is our stated position. Q As I recall, the Pentagon. MS. SHELLY: That it was a legitimate self-defense move? Q Yes, it was pretty much downplayed and written off as a self-defense move. MS. SHELLY: I'd have to go back and check on that. Q Do you have any additional information on discussions with the Japanese on the U.S. offer of assistance for the Tokyo subway disaster? MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have anything more detailed on that. We made a general offer of assistance to them. It was not couched in specific terms, so I think our offer is still on the table. But to my knowledge the Japanese have not come back yet and asked for assistance. But should they come in and do so, we would, of course, try to help them in whatever way we could. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.) (###)To the top of this page