U.S. Department of State 96/02/26 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, February 26, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Students from George Washington University .....1 Impending Expiration of Ceasefire in Tajikistan ...........1 Bosnian Federation Military Commanders' US Visit ..........1-2 Cuba Shootdown of Civilian US Aircraft ....................2 TERRORISM Bombing Attacks in Jerusalem and Ashkelon -- Death of Journalist's Son in Jerusalem Bombing .........2 -- Indyk Remarks, PLO Ability to Maintain Security ........4-5 -- US Policy re Palestinian Contacts with Hamas ...........4-5 -- Israeli Action to Seal, Open Borders ...................5 -- Hamas Responsibility Claim, Syrian Reaction ............6,9 -- Reported Arab-American Car Crash at Bus Stop ...........6-7 -- US View of Potential Israeli Response, Hamas Contacts ..7-9 -- Deaths, Injuries of Americans in Bombings ..............4,7 MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS Wye Talks Resume February 28; Goals .......................2-4 Military, Economic Representation on Delegations ..........3 ISRAEL/TURKEY Signing of Military Cooperation Agreement .................5-6 CUBA Cuba Shootdown of US Civilian Aircraft -- Possible US Response ...................................9-10 -- Violation of Cuban Airspace, Motivation of Pilots ......10,12-16 -- US Chronology of Incident ..............................10-11 -- USG Warnings to Exile Groups, Cuban Government .........11-12,14 -- Cuban Claim to Hold Pilot; USInt Seeks Access ..........15 -- Level of Cuban Authorization for Shootdown .............16 -- USG Knowledge of Pilots' Intent to Land in Cuba ........17 -- Meeting at State with Cuban Officials ..................17 -- Russian Calls on US To Prevent Air Space Violations ....19 -- UN Response; Possible Support of US Economic Embargo ...19-20 Concilio Cubano Secretariat Member Convicted, Sentenced ...18 Increasingly Harsh Cuba Government Actions ................18-19 CHINA Effort to Curtail UN Haiti Mission Due to Taiwan Ties .....20-21 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA Equip-and-Train Program, Departure of Foreign Forces ......2,21-24 BANGLADESH Government Detains Opposition Members, Intimidates Press ..24-26 MALAYSIA List of Major Drug Producing & Transiting Countries .......26-27 MISCELLANEOUS Farrakhan Potential Passport Violation; Funds from Libya ..27-29 SERBIA-MONTENEGRO Soros Office in Belgrade Closed ...........................29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1996, 1:31 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Sorry. I'm a couple of minutes late. Welcome to the State Department briefing. There's a lot going on to cover.
What I'd like to do quickly is just start off by welcoming some students from George Washington University. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Q: Is there anybody here from the University of Massachusetts?
MR. DAVIES: And then, if there isn't anybody here from U-MASS, to go to a couple of announcements.
One, we will release a statement today on Tajikistan, on the expiration of the ceasefire there and the kidnapping of an opposition official. The United States notes with concern that the l6-month ceasefire in Tajikistan is set to lapse today. Expiration of the ceasefire would jeopardize progress achieved in the U.N.-mediated peace process in Tajikistan and risk a return to full-scale fighting between the forces of the Tajik Government and the opposition. We call on the Tajik parties to agree as soon as possible to an extension of the ceasefire and to refrain from any military actions that would exacerbate the situation. There's more to that, and that's available for you.
Secondly, to note for you that there's also a statement on the visit to the U.S. of the military commanders of the Bosnian Federation. Just in brief, the senior military officers of the Bosnian Federation -- General Rasim Delic and Major General Zivco Budimir -- are in Washington today to meet with senior Administration officials, including the National Security Advisor, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The meetings for them commence a week-long orientation tour for the commanders in the U.S., during which they'll be shown training facilities and activities and exposed to the ways in which military forces are organized in a democratic society. They, of course, will be here as well, discussing some of the aspects of the train- and-equip program. Their trip here to the United States is a demonstration of the President's commitment to stabilize the military situation in Bosnia- Herzegovina. A stable military balance will help ensure that war does not return to Bosnia when IFOR leaves. The effort is conditioned, of course. The equip-and-train effort is conditioned on the removal of foreign forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Third -- and I guess more to what's on people's minds, Cuba -- just to make a brief statement, and then I can take your questions. The shooting down by Cuba of two unarmed civilian aircraft over international waters on Saturday, February 24, which apparently resulted in the deaths of four persons, is indisputably a violation of international law and international aviation standards. There is no justification for the Cuban Government's unlawful use of armed force against civil aircraft in this incident, an incident which is incompatible with elementary considerations of humanity and the norms governing international behavior. The Cuban authorities acted in total disregard of these international standards.
Q Before we get started, I wanted to note with regret that one of the victims in the Israeli blast is the son of an Israeli journalist who was a member of this Press Corps for many years. Nachum Barnea who lost his son Jonathan in one of those attacks.
MR. DAVIES: I'm very sorry.
Q He was a 20-year-old soldier.
And on the talks, or on the situation, I assume the talks are resuming Wednesday?
MR. DAVIES: That's correct.
Q And the U.S. is the host. Since the U.S. is the host, can you give us a little bit of the rationale of the host for resuming talks that are focusing on security and, if successful, will strip Israel of one more security buffer?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, obviously, it's up to Israel on security in the final analysis to come to the terms that suit them to make peace, if they're able to make peace. The talks are going to go ahead. They're going to start on the 28th, on Wednesday. Both of the delegations are already in town.
The venue will be the same: the Wye-conference site. Dennis Ross will be holding consultations with both sides over the next day or two. We expect that the Secretary will be able to join the talks at their end, after the Secretary returns from Latin America.
The rationale for continuing these talks, obviously, is that the United States believes and has advised the parties -- and they have apparently agreed, since they're here -- that no stone should be left unturned in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. We're not anywhere near any kind of an agreement.
There are a range of things that they're talking about. I won't sit here and say the Golan Heights aren't a central issue. Obviously, they are. But I think the devil will be in the details when it comes to a discussion of the Golan Heights and what it is that Israel will do and what it is Syria will do, if there's to be an agreement on that issue.
Q Even if you don't have the names, do you know if there will be a military presence in the two legations and economic experts as well, as there were the last time?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, what I know is that I don't have a list yet. I actually made an attempt to get a list but couldn't.
My understanding is that there will be military experts. I don't know about economic experts. We will do our usual very up-front and detailed job of briefing you when those talks begin -- perhaps in advance of those talks beginning -- Wednesday, I assume Wednesday afternoon.
Q What are they going to focus on when they resume on Wednesday?
MR. DAVIES: I think it's essentially a continuation of the previous Wye rounds and, of course, a continuation of the Secretary's talks in the region. Of course, he was just out there.
The notion is still to define the scope of the talks -- to talk in some specificity about issues where the parties have reached a little bit of agreement. I would refer you back to the Secretary's statements in the region for whatever detail we're willing to provide on that.
Q Are they going to be focusing on security issues? Will they talk about the economic side of things?
MR. DAVIES: I think security issues are obviously central to these discussions. But what we'd like to stress as they go into them, of course, is the importance of there being an agreement on the totality of issues here -- so not just security issues but economic issues and the rest of it. We've heard expressions from both sides that they too are interested in something more than just a narrow agreement on the security issues -- i.e., on the Golan, and a few of the others.
Q Glyn, on the other side of the coin with the Palestinians, Ambassador Indyk this morning blasted Yasser Arafat for his attempts to talk to Hamas, to bring them into the peace process. He said they should be cracking down on them and not talking to them, that yesterday's events clearly showed that talking to Hamas was not the course. Is that sentiment shared by the Administration as a whole, and would you care to say on that that --
MR. DAVIES: I haven't seen his statement. I don't know precisely what he said. It's clear that the recent terrorist incidents that have occurred in Israel are really heinous acts. These are, as I understand it, the deadliest acts that have occurred in quite a number of years -- I think since the late seventies, if I'm not mistaken.
This is serious stuff that the Palestinian opposition, the terrorists, are engaged in actions that are not ultimately going to redound to their benefit, actions that will not stop the peace process train from continuing.
I'll be happy to take a look at what he said and see if we've got any further comment on it, but Yasser Arafat clearly has a challenge on his hands in dealing with all elements of Palestinian society now that he's been formally invested as the President of the Authority.
Q Glyn, can you comment though on his approaches to Hamas? Is that something you all are hesitant to deal with?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think I'm going to get in today into talking about Arafat's approaches to Hamas and start assigning adjectives, happy or not, to what he's up to. I'm just not going to get into commenting at length about that, especially since these attacks have just occurred. I think it's important that there be, obviously, a period for the Israeli people to absorb this loss, which was a tremendous loss. There were two American citizens who died in the attacks over the weekend.
What's needed here is, obviously, a redoubling on all sides of efforts to keep the peace process on track and not to allow terrorists to derail it.
Q On your opening subject, statement on Cuba --
MR. DAVIES: I want to stay with the Middle East for a second here.
Q Does the U.S. have a view of the techniques that Peres has used -- for instance, sealing off the border, forbidding Palestinians from getting into Israel proper? They do this all the time, and then they lift the ban. Do you have a view whether that technique makes sense, and do you have a view about the wisdom of having lifted the restriction which was followed -- not necessarily cause-and-effect but which was followed by the terrorist attacks? Or is that something that is entirely for the Israeli Government to decide?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, we do have a view. You can rest assured that we've got a view. It's not something though that I think it's worthwhile for me to attempt to articulate today. The question of Israel's sealing/unsealing of its borders is primarily a matter for Israel to decide. Furthermore, it's a matter for Israel to decide in the context of their consultations with the Palestinian Authority and with others. But they make those decisions based on their own security needs and concerns, and we are not going to question either the motivations or the tactics that they're employing.
Q Have you any comments on the capability of the PLO to maintain order and deter attacks?
MR. DAVIES: It's my understanding that the PLO capability is a growing one, that they're working hard to train up the appropriate law- enforcement personnel. It's a very difficult challenge for them, clearly, to meet this kind of a threat. Beyond that, I don't really have anything that would help you.
Middle East? Do you have any more Middle East?
Q Israel and Turkey: They signed a military cooperation agreement. Do you have any comment on it?
MR. DAVIES: Israel and Turkey?
Q Yes, last weekend, Friday, they signed a military cooperation agreement?
MR. DAVIES: I don't. I don't have any comment on that. I haven't seen that.
Q Can you take the question?
MR. DAVIES: We can look into that and see if we've got some comment.
Q Reports early on, after these blasts, that claims of responsibility or some cackling came from Hamas or affiliated groups in Damascus. Does the State Department have any knowledge to that effect?
MR. DAVIES: No, I don't any knowledge of any cackling that occurred --
Q Claims of responsibility?
MR. DAVIES: Claims of responsibility. The point is that these acts were beyond the pale. These were acts of barbarians, of people who -- it's clear they don't want peace. They probably don't want peace at any price, for them to engage in this type of activity.
Q Do the Syrians view it that way, because their state media released some statements today to the effect that this is what happens when separate peace agreements are made between Israel and other parties.
MR. DAVIES: I can't speak for Damascus or the Syrians. Obviously, we think that all nations should step up to condemning these types of attacks when they occur, but we're not in the business of twisting their arms to make rhetorical statements. It's up to the Syrians to make whatever pronouncements they will.
Q There was another incident, one with apparently a Palestinian-American who either ran into a group of people who were waiting for a bus or who lost control of his car. What do you know about that incident?
MR. DAVIES: We don't know much about it except that we've seen these reports that an Arab or Arab-American has plowed into some individuals. I think there were some deaths associated with that. We don't yet know whether that's at all associated with the activities, the sad events of the weekend. We'll just have to wait and see. I haven't seen any claims of authorship on the part of any of the groups out there, so I don't know.
Q Have you established, though, that this indeed was an American who --
MR. DAVIES: No, we don't yet have that information. We don't know.
Q Middle East?
MR. DAVIES: A Middle East question. Do you have one, Jim, as well?
MR. DAVIES: Okay. We'll get to Cuba real quick.
Q Six months we had absolute silence from Hamas. The Arafat tactics succeeded. Then came, of course, the killing of Ayash in a particularly difficult assassination which everyone in Israel said was going to result in what happened over the weekend.
The Israeli radio has not said one word about this in making a connection between that, nor has it given any graceful thanks to Arafat for all the things that he has done in bringing a lot of Hamas people into the peace process as such. Does the Department of State think that another retaliation by Israel is warranted now, that another person should be assassinated like the one in Malta and the one in Gaza? In other words, are we going to see another IRA tit-for-tat?
MR. DAVIES: The last thing I'm going to get into is prescribing that assassinations occur on the part of any of the parties in the Middle East. It's up to Israel to decide how it's going to respond to what's occurred.
For our part, we obviously have somewhat of a personal, emotional stake in what occurred over the weekend because of the deaths of the two Americans involved. There was a young man named Matthew Eisenfeld who died. He was with a young woman, Sara Duker. They were killed in that bus bombing in west Jerusalem on Sunday morning. We offer our condolences to the family of the victims. We've been assisting the family as they deal with this.
In addition to those two who lost their lives, one American was injured and was hospitalized and treated for minor injuries. There may have been other Americans engaged or involved as well who were injured by the blast.
I'm just not going to stand up here and either predict what Israel will do or Hamas or any of the other actors, much less call on Israel to take particular action in this case. I think they're perfectly capable of responding in an appropriate fashion.
Q Does the State Department have a view? There are reports -- I don't know if they're valid or not -- that Hamas is offering to negotiate in some way with Israel, some sort of co-existence. Does the State Department think that they should be picked up on that?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I haven't seen that --
Q In The Times, for instance, today. They've cropped up from time to time. "If you'll call off" -- this follows the question here -- "this spiraling need not go on if the two sides could get together."
MR. DAVIES: Something on the Irish model?
Q I guess. I don't know.
MR. DAVIES: Look, we haven't been called in as intermediaries here, probably because there aren't any such discussions envisaged by Israel.
I don't think it's the place of the United States to prescribe to Israel how it reacts to the events of the weekend, so I'm not going to get into that.
Q In the past, both Israelis and Americans have said Hamas is free to join the peace process if they renounced terrorism and truly join it. Is that still the position --
MR. DAVIES: Sure, of course. Obviously, anybody who expresses peaceful intentions and then, more importantly, follows up by demonstrating that they've moved to a peaceful track, the circle can be drawn to let them in. I'm certain of that.
It's not ours to draw the circle, in the first instance, of course. It's Israel.
The events of the weekend were all about mindless terrorism, people living in the past, kind of lashing out without any provocation in a despicable manner. They obviously would have to change their stripe in a big way before they could even make application to sit at the table. Then, of course, we wouldn't be the only party involved in deciding whether or not they could come sit at the table. We wouldn't even be the main party. We are not Israel. It would be up to the Israelis to make that decision.
Q So you say the attack is without justification? You're saying that their claim that it was in response to the Ayash killing, if it was indeed the Israelis, holds no water for the United States?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that that kind of an attack -- any attack against innocent people is ever justified. I don't care what wrongs have allegedly been done to the attackers or to their relatives or to people who share their language and culture. It simply doesn't make sense to conduct business that way or to bring people to the table by killing fellow citizens who are completely innocent. That's a no- brainer to me.
Any more on the Middle East? I think what we want to do is first go to Cuba.
Q In response to what you say is an indisputable violation of international law, what can the United States Government do to Cuba that it is not already doing?
MR. DAVIES: There are, I am sure, a number of things that can be done. I can let you all in on an announcement that I think Mike McCurry has just made, that the President will be going out at about 3:45 this afternoon. He may have something to say about how the United States is going to proceed on this.
Obviously, there are a range of things. I don't want to try to second guess or presage what the President may say. There is some very limited intercourse that occurs between United States citizens and Cuban citizens pursuant to the announcements made in October of last year that set up some of these people-to-people contacts. This is obviously exclusive of the continuing embargo that the United States has against Cuba which prevents there being any government-to-government contacts and has a whole raft of other provisions that I think are well known to you.
There are ways in which we can (a) express our displeasure over what's occurred, and (b) pressure Cuba. We'll just have to wait and see what it is that the President announces later on this afternoon.
Q Just to take your example of perhaps cutting off the people- to-people program, who would that hurt?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to speculate about whether we're going to do that or whether we're going to modify that or what some of the others are that we could do. We are going to try to do the right thing to pressure the Cuban Government and Fidel Castro to stop acting like outlaws. What they did on Saturday, in shooting down two single-engine planes outside of Cuban territorial waters, was an act of outlawry. It had no justification. Innocent people died. It's completely beyond the pale.
We will examine all of our options, and the President will have something to say a little bit later on about what we plan to do and what we can do.
Q By saying that it was a pure violation of international law in the aviation sense, are you saying there was no violation of Cuban sovereign air space?
MR. DAVIES: As near as we've got it from the FAA -- and you can address more specific questions to them -- there was no violation by those two aircraft of Cuban air space. If you'd like, I can go down for you very briefly the events that occurred so you can get a sense of what we know and the information that we've got. This is, I would stress, definitive information -- information that we know to be accurate.
On Saturday two U.S. registered private aircraft operated by the group "Brothers to the Rescue" took off from Opa Locka, Florida, between 1:15 and 2:00. At 2:57 the "Brothers to the Rescue" aircraft contacted the Havana civilian air traffic controller and indicated that they planned to operate south of the 24th Parallel.
The Cuban air traffic controller informed the aircraft of the danger in operating south of the 24th Parallel. The pilots, in response, said, "We're aware of the danger but we're flying in anyway." At 3:01 the three aircraft were operating below the 24th Parallel which, I think roughly speaking is within the area controlled by Havana Tower, the Havana authorities, but is not Cuban air space or Cuban territorial water.
At 3:09 two Cuban MiG's were airborne. At 3:18 the lead aircraft, which later returned to Opa Locka safely, was one nautical mile north of Cuban air space and heading south. The other two aircraft were approximately eight nautical miles north of Cuban air space and heading east, so they are not over Cuban territorial water or in Cuban air space.
At 3:20, one Cuban MiG reported the citing of a small red, white and blue aircraft flying at a low altitude and identified the aircraft as a Cessna 337. At 3:22 the lead aircraft, the BTTR aircraft penetrated three nautical miles into Cuban air space. That was the one headed south. At 3:24 the MiG pilot requested and received permission to destroy the second aircraft. The pilot noted that the aircraft had been shot down. He confirmed that that had occurred.
We've all seen footage and heard from people on that cruise ship nearby who saw this incident. This occurred approximately five nautical miles north of Cuban air space.
At 3:31, the MiG pilot noted another aircraft in sight, requested and received permission to fire and reported the third aircraft destroyed. So that's now two of the three blown out of the sky. This occurred at approximately 16 nautical miles north of Cuban air space, so no where near Cuban territorial water.
I think you know the denouement to that, what happened afterward. After being informed of the incident, the President directed U.S. Coast Guard units in the area to conduct search-and-rescue operations.
The President instructed the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to seek an immediate explanation from the Cuban Government. The Cuban Government subsequently informed our U.S. Interests Section in Havana that it had authorized the U.S. Coast Guard to enter Cuban waters to conduct joint search-and-rescue operations.
As of today, unfortunately -- and this is the tragic part of it -- neither planes nor survivors have been located, and the Cuban Government has yet to provide an acceptable explanation for the action that they quite consciously took.
Q Tragic as it is, this group has been warned repeatedly about this type of thing. Do you think it might behoove them not to fly so near Cuban air space, for whatever reason it is they do that?
MR. DAVIES: We obviously are concerned about American citizens who go into Cuban air space because it can be dangerous. I think this tragic incident indicates to what degree there is danger.
The Administration has taken a number of steps over the past eight months to discourage Cuban exile pilots from proceeding to enter Cuban territorial air space without prior authorization. We issued a statement -- that is, the Department of State -- on July 7; a public announcement August 8, and another statement on August 29 about entering Cuban territorial air space or seas without prior authorization from the Cuban Government.
A similar statement on October 18, repeating the earlier warning, went into more detail. We've also spoken with these activists to let them know that it's dangerous to fly over Cuba or over Cuban air space. We've warned them of the potentially serious consequences of penetrations that aren't authorized by the Cuban Government.
But more to the point, we've met with Cuban authorities repeatedly just on this issue, here and in Havana. We've strongly urged that the Cuban Government exercise discretion not to attack unarmed civilian aircraft; that they act in accordance with international legal principles concerning the use of force and the Law of the Sea.
We've let the Cuban Government know -- on the narrow issue of these pilots, this group, the BTTR -- that they have said that they are doing this for peaceful purposes; that their intentions are peaceful. Of course, we've all seen the statements they've made, that the primary purpose of the group is to look for Cubans, perhaps in danger on the high seas, who have fled Cuba and are trying to make it to American shores.
Q Didn't you say one went into Cuban air space?
MR. DAVIES: That's correct.
Q Was there any reason for the Cubans to think that these are three isolated planes?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, there was no --
Q Isn't it logical that they be seen as a group with a joint purpose?
MR. DAVIES: There was no reason for the Cubans to shoot down those two planes.
Q You think it's inhumane, and I understand that. I'm just saying, this is a group of three planes. These are not three individual pilots out on a Sunday flight in the area of Cuba.
MR. DAVIES: No, it was Saturday.
Q Or Saturday, a weekend sport. One of them ventured into Cuban air space. Whether the reaction fit -- the punishment fit the crime, I think, is separate from the fact there was a violation of Cuban air space and that the three are part of a group. They were not perceived as -- the other two didn't just happen to be there, the two that were shot down?
MR. DAVIES: What's I'm saying is that the Cubans, by shooting down two unarmed civilian aircraft that were part of a group -- and the Cubans had figured that out when they shot the two down that were way outside of Cuban space -- that, in doing that, Cuba violated an international convention to which they are a signatory, which is the Chicago Convention of 1944 that governs the use of force in such incidents. They did not warn those pilots -- the MiG's that scrambled and took off and were flying at whatever speed -- did not warn the pilots of their intention to take forceful action. That's required. Cuba signed up to those rules of the air, if you will.
Q Does the U.S. believe the rationale given for this group who were making these flights? Does it sanction these flights? Does it really believe that they're looking for rafters?
Q How many rafters --
Q How many rafters have there been in the last -- are we entering the rafting season now that it's spring? Or are they trying to harass the Cuban regime and knowing that the politics of this country is such that a Democratic or a Republican Administration, whichever, will crack down on Cuba with a venom and with a force that is not usually applied to most outlaw countries in the world?
MR. DAVIES: It's up to the group to explain why it was doing what it did. We've been aware of what they've been doing over the last eight months. We've warned them repeatedly and we've issued public warnings to others who might engage in such activity of the dangers in flying over Cuban air space.
This action on the part of the Cuban Government is a clear manifestation of the danger that's involved. Was the group being provocative in flying down there? Perhaps they were, but that's not the relevant question. The relevant question is, did these unarmed civilian aircraft and their pilots deserve to be blown out of the sky by MiG 29s with air-to-air rockets? The answer to that quite clearly is "no." That's out of line. That's something that can't be countenanced, and that's something that deserves, I think, this nation reacting to with some serious displeasure. I believe that's what you're going to see.
Q Glyn, has the group been warned since the incident to cut it out?
MR. DAVIES: Since the incident?
Q Since the incident, have you issued a new warning to this group and said --
MR. DAVIES: Carol, I don't know that we have. We had people in this building -- and I'm certain in the FAA and the White House and other places around town, ever since this thing was reported -- working hard on it, in dealing with the aftermath of this violation of international law and the shootdown.
I don't know that we've gotten to the stage where we've contacted the group formally. I think, obviously, the action that the Cuban Government took in shooting down those planes was a fairly serious warning.
It may be that the group is standing down for the time being. I don't know. You would have to put this to Mr. Basulto and the others.
Q You're convinced that those two planes that were shot down did not violate -- at any time during their exercise -- they did not violate or enter into Cuban air space?
MR. DAVIES: Carol, I'm convinced of that. The information I've got convinces me of it. The FAA -- I don't know to what extent people are asking them questions -- they have radar tracks of these aircraft. It's based on analysis of those radar tracks and, as I understand it, analysis of the radio transmissions that occurred, that I made the definitive statement about the timeline and where the various aircraft were.
Q To your knowledge, Glyn, does Cuba and the United States define Cuban air space in the exact same dimensions? There are some countries where we have a disagreement on this, namely, Russia.
MR. DAVIES: My understanding is that the Cubans have declared that their air space extends 12 nautical miles out from their coast. I don't know of any disagreement that we've got with them on that. I don't know that this is a country where we have such a disagreement.
You're referring, I think, to some countries that make exorbitant claims of 200 nautical miles --
Q Has there been any attempt by the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba to find out about this so-called pilot that the Cubans claim to be holding?
MR. DAVIES: Yes.
Q Is he an American?
MR. DAVIES: We are obviously making inquiries about that. If, indeed, this is an American citizen, then we should be granted consular access to this individual. We've seen so far, really, just the press release from the Cuban Ministry of External Affairs -- their Foreign Ministry -- which was published this morning in Havana. The operative words in that communique are that "we have with us a pilot, essentially, from "Brothers to the Rescue." So our Interests Section in Havana, that I believe is under the shelter of the Swiss Embassy there, has approached Cuban Government authorities in an effort to clarify the situation.
But right now we have no further information beyond that; we are seeking access to these individuals.
Bill. Do you have a direct follow-up, Bill?
Q Yeah, but not a direct --
Q Do you know about reports that the FBI has raided --
MR. DAVIES: I've seen those reports, Judd.
Q Do you know anything about this?
MR. DAVIES: I've only seen the reports, and I've seen further FBI --
Q There's some suggestion he may have been double-agent. There's something very strange about this incident.
MR. DAVIES: Judd, I just don't have anything on that. I've seen those reports. They're intriguing.
Q Two details relevant, I hope. Have the Cubans complained to the U.S. Government, the FAA, about these flights that have come?
The second part is, "Brothers to the Rescue" have violated their air space repeatedly, going over Havana dropping leaflets and the like? Is that also true, or do you know?
MR. DAVIES: Bill, that may be the case. I don't know for a fact. I've read some of the press reports about the BTTRs previous activities. My understanding is that the Cubans may well have expressed concern about their activities, but I can't tell you precisely.
Q Isn't the U.S. Government responsible for flights emanating from Florida, taking illegal actions to violate air space of another country?
MR. DAVIES: The basic principle here is one of freedom of movement. Americans have the right to file a flight plan and take off from American territory and head in any direction they wish, subject to safety regulations and some other regulations that pertain to the operation of aircraft.
They absolutely had the right to do what they did, which is take off from American territory and head out. They filed a flight plan which they might have deviated from. That's another matter. That may be a question that you could address to the FAA, but it's not up to the United States Government to provide escort aircraft to every private American who takes off and leaves our shores for some destination.
Any others on this issue?
Q You said that the MiG pilots asked for and received permission for the shootdown. Any idea how high up the ladder that went?
MR. DAVIES: I don't.
Q The political echelon?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I really don't. What I've heard is, on a related matter, that they may have, in fact, requested permission repeatedly and been granted repeated permission. In other words, it wasn't just a one-time thing -- got an aircraft in my sights and can I press trigger. They went at it at some length in a compressed period of time -- the MiG pilots and their controllers. But I don't know how many stars were on the shoulders of the person who gave the order or how that works.
Q Do you have any idea for the motivation? Were they falling short of their quota of flagrant violations?
MR. DAVIES: This is not an incident that occurs everyday. Why did the Cubans decide to do what they did? At what level did they decide to do what they did?, I don't have those answers.
Q Glyn, there was a report on AP quoting a Pentagon official as having told that reporter that the U.S. Government had "indications" that the planes might have been planning to land in Cuba and pick somebody up. Did the U.S. Government have any such indications that you know of?
MR. DAVIES: Not that I know of, David. I've seen nothing on that.
Q Could you look into it?
MR. DAVIES: I'm happy to look into it. It strikes me as the kind of question that may be difficult to develop an answer that I can give you publicly. But, sure I'll look into it.
Q You said that there was no warning. You said that the air controller told the aircraft pilots that they were in danger and they acknowledged and said they're aware of that. Does that not constitute fair warning?
MR. DAVIES: My understanding of how this sort of thing works -- and you really have to ask the FAA about the track record on this -- is that it's a fairly standard thing, whenever you cross -- what is it? -- the 24th Parallel that Cuban air traffic control comes up on the net and warns pilots, you're crossing into an area that's dangerous. That's not what is important here.
What's important here is that according to the commonly accepted norms of international behavior in such matters, it's not enough just to have somebody radio from a tower, "Hey, you're hundreds of miles away from us, or dozens of miles away from us, be careful."
What needs to happen is that the intercepting aircraft has to make contact of some kind with the aircraft that's being intercepted and has to issue them a warning. There's no indication that anything like that occurred. That's what gives us great pause here beyond the basic point, which is that these people were not even in Cuban air space and hadn't been in Cuban air space. There was absolutely no provocation or basis for the Cuban Government taking such action.
Q (Inaudible) Cubans who are going to be here this afternoon at the State Department. Do you know who is going to meet them?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, I don't. There is to be a meeting in this building. I don't have particulars about who is coming to that meeting.
Q Something related. Another Cuban subject -- but last week. Several people from Concilio Cubano were tried last week. I think the question was taken. Maybe you have something today for me?
MR. DAVIES: About Concilio Cubano?
Q Concilio Cubano, yes.
MR. DAVIES: That's right. The information we've got is that Lazero Gonzalez, who is one of the five members of the Secretariat Concilio Cubano was summarily tried and convicted and sentenced to 14 months imprisonment. That occurred, I think, on Thursday, on the 22nd.
The charges were disobedience and resisting arrest. Mr. Gonzalez had been dragged from his home in the early morning of February 15 at the outset of the crackdown on Concilio members countrywide. That crackdown, we understand, is on-going.
Several other members of the Concilio were arrested as they attended his trial. We also understand that Leonel Morejon, the founder of the Concilio and head of the Secretariat will be tried on unspecified charges. That may have already occurred. That might have been, in fact, Friday.
The only crime that these people committed was to dare to request permission to gather together and hold a meeting to talk about the problems of their country and peaceful means of bringing about change in Cuba.
We've expressed to the Cuban Government our serious concern about this wave of repression. We'll continue to do so.
Q You've been asked before, but let me ask again. At this point, are you beginning to see a pattern? Is the State Department beginning to think that perhaps Cuban policy is taking a harder turn?
MR. DAVIES: It's clear that Cuban actions in recent days and weeks have gone beyond the normal actions that we see that government taking. I don't know that I would yet try to define any kind of a longer term pattern here out of what we've seen.
These are really contemptible things -- arresting people who are simply trying to get together and talk; shooting American citizens out of the air. It all adds up, I think, to a fair degree of desperation on the part of the Cuban Government. It's a desperation that is born of the fact that Cuba has a bankrupt system. All it's doing is repressing the people. It's not obviously making any progress for that country.
Our interest in this is in seeing that change occurs. Any more on Cuba?
Q (Inaudible) was calling upon the United States, in the future, to prevent deliberate violations of Cuban air space. It sounds very reminiscent of the days of the Bolsheviks in Russia taking the side of Cuba. Have you any comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: On the Russian pronouncement?
Q On the Russian pronouncement on this particular incident?
MR. DAVIES: No, I don't have any direct comment. Obviously, we think that all civilized nations should condemn the action that occurred. I think the European Union has issued a strong statement. The only other one I've seen so far -- I'm sure there are others -- was from the Government of Chile.
Our efforts now are two-fold: One is to decide what we do as a nation unilaterally, vis-a-vis Cuba. The other track, if you will, is at the United Nations where Madeleine Albright, our Ambassador, is leading our effort in the Security Council to come up with some firm measures in response to what's occurred.
Q (Inaudible) U.S. position?
MR. DAVIES: I'm certain that the international community will join us in taking strong exception to what's occurred outside of Cuban territorial waters in the last 48 hours. I can't gauge right now precisely what countries are going to line up, how they'll line up, what they'll say. But I don't think there's much doubt here.
Q The range of options for the U.S., short of a military attack, are rather limited since the U.S. has a pretty strong embargo in place now which nobody else supports. One option would be to try to get some sort of international support for that embargo. Is there any attempt to do so?
MR. DAVIES: We obviously engage in a dialogue with a lot of nations about our Cuba policy. I think it's fair to say that we have traditionally sought support for the actions that we take unilaterally against Cuba.
But regardless of what nations join us in precise measures that we might adopt, the United States has a strong conviction that the regime in Cuba is an outlaw regime. This latest act was a perfect demonstration of the extent to which they will go to in their xenophobia.
We hope that the international community joins us as we lead the community to take steps in reaction to this but I can't predict now to what extent they'll join us.
Q The Chinese Government is likely to propose in the United Nations to reduce the number of the peacekeeping force in Haiti as well as cut back their duration to two months because Chinese Vice President Li attended the presidential inaugural ceremony in Haiti. Do you have any response to that?
MR. DAVIES: The issue of extending the U.N. Mission in Haiti is one that is currently before the Security Council. The Haitian Government itself has requested that UNMIH remain past its currently mandated termination date, which is February 29.
The United Nations Secretary General recommends that there be an extension, that a substantially reduced mission -- perhaps 1,900 troops/300 civilian police monitors -- about one-third of the current size of UNMIH remain past February 29, gradually transferring its security functions to the Government of Haiti.
We expect that that vote will occur in the U.N. Security Council on or before February 29. The United States strongly supports extending UNMIH, a smaller version of UNMIH. There won't be any U.S. troops directly involved in that extension.
This, we regard, as a necessary and appropriate follow-on operation which will help secure Haiti's security in the long term. Obviously, we'll be working very hard to convince our Security Council partners to come along with us on that.
Q What do you have to say about this sort of extended Chinese tantrum over Taiwan and how its seeped into the Security Council? What do you think of their efforts to block what seems like a reasonable request to continue with the Haitian police force?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know really to what extent the Chinese -- I've seen reports that this may be in offing, but I don't know to what extent they are actually going to, at the end of the day, block this.
We think that this is inappropriate linkage, obviously. We would hope that the Government of China would come to the view that what occurred in the granting of that visa and the trip of Taiwan's President here, that that's history; that's behind us, and it's important now to move on to constructing a more positive relationship.
We'll see what happens when the vote occurs in the Security Council on that.
Q You were talking before about the Bosnian military commanders who are here. You said that they were going to discuss the train-and- equip program.
MR. DAVIES: Right.
Q Does this suggest that it's moving forward again now and is not being delayed because of the presence of foreign fighters?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that the effort to prepare equip-and- train has ever been really delayed or slowed down. Our requirement that foreign forces leave Bosnia remains before the equip-and-train program will commence on the ground in Bosnia. So it's really up to the Bosnian authorities -- President Izetbegovic and his lieutenants. Of course, President Izetbegovic is now, unfortunately, resting after his heart ailment, but that the Bosnian Government will get these foreign forces out of the country. That is a hurdle that they've got to jump before we can begin equip-and-train on the ground.
There's nothing wrong in our view in continuing to prepare the groundwork for equip-and-train so that if the Bosnians meet that challenge, we can go ahead with equip-and-train.
Q It seems to me as if you're sending two signals. On the one hand, one day, Nick Burns says that the contract has been delayed, at least by two weeks -- maybe more -- because you're having problems with the Muslims getting all these Iranians and others out of the country. And on the other hand, you're having these military commanders come over so that you can have apparently high-level discussions about train-and- equip which suggests to me as sort of a schizophrenic approach.
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't call it "schizophrenic." First of all, the visit of these Bosnians -- these Federation officers -- is about more than equip-and-train. They're here to get a little look at, a little taste of how a military operates in a democracy. That's very important to the future of Bosnia that they see how that works and take back some conception with them.
We haven't changed our position that the foreign fighters must leave Bosnian territory in order for equip-and-train to go forward. But equip-and-train, it's a complicated effort. We've got a fairly senior American official, James Pardew, who devotes all of his time to it. He has a number of people who work with him.
We're not going to put on hold efforts to prepare the way so that equip-and-train can go forward if and when the Bosnian Government meets its commitment to get foreign fighters out of the country.
Q The contract still has not been let, right? The contract still has not been let?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that it has. I think if there's progress that's occurred -- the latest wrinkle that I've got here is that the Institute for Defense Analysis, this private sector company, is in the midst of making an assessment. We hope that that assessment by the Institute for Defense Analysis is available to the press in the near future. It may be that that assessment is in fact complete. So now we're trying to work out getting you some word about what they've come up with.
There are some concerns on the part of the Bosnians that are natural about public distribution of the assessment. Because, of course, the assessment is all about the Bosnian military, its strengths and weaknesses. So they have, I think, some natural security concerns.
Q That's not the contract you were looking for, is it -- the Institute?
Q I was talking about the overall contract --
MR. DAVIES: Who would run it? I don't know the status of that. I can check that for you.
Q What is the status of trying to get the fighters out? Any progress over the weekend?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any specific progress over the weekend. We keep talking to the Bosnian Government about it and trying to get them to -- holding their feet to the fire, as it were.
Q They're over a month in violation, or the deadline for the removal of the foreign fighters. But you're proceeding with the preparations for equip-and-train. The deadline on equipment is D-plus- 90. There is no deadline on training, is there? They've already violated -- other than the one they've already violated? So why proceed with it if they're in violation of an important aspect of Dayton?
MR. DAVIES: Why proceed with preparations?
Q Yeah. They've already violated the deadline.
MR. DAVIES: That's right. And everyday that they remain in violation, obviously, compounds the problem.
Q So at what point do you make the decision to pull the plug on training? They've already violated it.
MR. DAVIES: Judd, we haven't reached that point yet.
Q But you have. You reached it on January 19.
MR. DAVIES: That was the deadline -- you're quite correct -- by which they were to have gotten foreign fighters out of Bosnia. Yes, this is obviously serious. In our assessment, there are still foreign fighters in Bosnia. The Bosnian Government knows that it's serious. But I don't see any contradiction going ahead with laying some of this groundwork.
Q Groundwork for what? The fact is, when you have high-level Bosnian military over here, you're already beginning to engage in training. They're in violation of at least one, if not more than one, aspect of Dayton.
MR. DAVIES: Ultimately, of course, the Bosnian Government must get the foreign fighters out of their country. If they're able to do that, then we can proceed -- and we haven't yet done so and we won't -- to do what we can, following through on our commitment to work with other nations to ensure that when IFOR leaves at the end of their year's deployment, there is on the ground a better balance of forces so that fighting does not recur -- so that the temptation is removed for the forces to engage in fighting based on some kind of an imbalance in forces.
We are leading the effort to provide the Bosnian Federation with the capability but they now hold the key to this and that key is the presence of the foreign fighters in Bosnia. So we look to them to get the fighters out.
We have not yet reached a point where we're going to throw up our hands and say, "Okay, no more movement of any kind to prepare" because they haven't gotten the fighters out. We'll just have to see how things go.
We're not even half way through our year yet in Bosnia. Only about a third of the way.
Q What happens on March 19, though?
MR. DAVIES: We'll have to see. I can't predict for you what will happen on March 19.
Q Thank you, Glyn. This is Arshad of the Daily Inquilab. A frightening threat has been passed by the government -- top political leaders have been arrested. A warrant of arrest has been issued against leading politicians, editors and newsmen. Yesterday, Inquilab, my editor's residence has been bombed and attacked by hired goons of the ruling party.
The Foreign Ministry warned me not to write or send reports from Washington or ask questions at the State Department either to you or to Nick.
Under these circumstances, Congressman Bill Richardson is in town. What message does Congressman Bill Richardson taking in a situation which is explosive and which is riddled with a lot of problems now? The general sense is that the United States should take a firm stand, either we stay out of this entire process or if, taking a firm stand, should ask (inaudible) to stand down and make room for a participatory election contested by all political parties.
I would like to have your --
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Arshad, Congressman Richardson works for another branch of government, so I don't know that he's carrying any particular message from the Administration. It might not be wholly appropriate that he do so. He's there as a member of the United States Congress.
As we've said before, we call on both sides to avoid violence and work instead toward ending this long-standing political impasse.
The recent elections, quite clearly, fail to resolve that impasse. We understand that on February 24, three senior members of opposition parties were detained under an act that is known as the Special Powers Act, which allows for detention for up to 30 days without charges. It's apparently renewable after that. Others may be in hiding as a result of those arrests.
We've got a jaundiced view of that act. Because over its 22 year history, the Special Powers Act has often been used to detain political opponents or others against whom there may be insufficient evidence for criminal charges.
We're very concerned about those arrests, and we've made that concern known to the government.
Q (Inaudible) the intimidation to journalists, such as Mr. Arshad?
MR. DAVIES: We believe in a free press. You obviously have the right to come here and ask questions. We may wish to discuss it at some later moment, Mr. Arshad, some of your recent reporting -- just in terms of the accuracy of the quotes of American officials standing at this podium. But that aside, we can get into that at some other time.
That aside, you have the right to come here and ask us questions as long as you abide by the very simple rules of this modest forum.
Q The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it issued a specific warning to me that if I do not desist from writing reports they would, you know, take action against me in absentia as well as, you know, threaten my relations. And my brother is a lawyer. He has been, you know, threatened that he would be taken to task.
Now, this is a bit worrying for me, you know, in relations -- and in absentia, if they try to do something, which is really unfortunate, that I'm writing for democracy. I'm writing for knowing that United States policy should be crystal-clear as far as the United States is concerned and to uplift the friendship between United States people and Government, and Bangladeshi people and government.
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Arshad, perhaps you should be back in Dakha running for office. You're very eloquent. You are -- seriously.
The United States' view of freedom of the press is very well known. We don't believe that journalists should be intimidated or prevented from keeping their appointed rounds, which for you includes coming here every day and asking good questions about your country. So, obviously, the United States does not in the least associate itself with any efforts to muzzle you; and we would hope that you will be able to continue to come here and join us.
Q Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: You're welcome.
Q Malaysia seems to have been included as one of the 3l countries of the major drug-producing and drug-transiting countries in the Administration's drug report to Congress. Why was Malaysia included in the list despite Malaysia's tough stance on drug-trafficking?
MR. DAVIES: The list is a list of nations that, according to some fairly specific standards that we set, are major drug-producing or transit countries -- actually, major drug-producing and transit countries.
A country, for instance, is determined to be a major drug producer on the basis of the number of hectares of opium, coca, and cannabis cultivated or harvested. It's determined to be a major transit country if there is a significant transit of illicit drugs through that country on the way to the U.S.
The key date to look for is the end of this week, March l, Friday. That's the date on which we'll make some announcements about whether or not the nations on that list have fully cooperated with the United States or have taken adequate steps on their own in meeting the counternarcotics goals and objectives of the l988 U.N. Convention on Drugs. So that's the key date.
The list is not much different from the list that's appeared in the past -- with the exception, I believe, that Cambodia and Belize have been added. In the President's letter, which I think you all have access to, there's a fairly lengthy explanation of why those countries were added.
So this is, if you will, a fairly mechanical step where we simply note the countries that fit those criteria for being producing and transit countries; and stay tuned for March l, the date by which the President must transmit to the Congress his certification decisions about those nations.
Q Will this be on the list in play? What action would the Administration, or the U.S., take against countries on that list?
MR. DAVIES: As I tried to explain, there isn't any action that's yet called for. I think technically, as I understand it, we are bound to cut by half all of our aid flowing to those countries if they do not receive certification by March l.
So we'll have to wait and see whether or not Malaysia and the others receive certification on March l, but the actions countries can take are spelled out in the U.N. Convention on Drugs. I don't think it's any secret to those in charge of narcotics' policy and in charge of the governments of those nations what actions we're looking for -- obviously, actions to reduce the production of these drugs or the transit of these drugs.
Q Do you have anything new on whether or not Louis Farrakhan violated U.S. passport law; and do you have any response to his comments over the weekend in his speech, in which he said that he confirmed that he had, indeed, been offered a billion dollars by Muammar Qadhafi and listed the ways in which he was going to spend it?
MR. DAVIES: Yes.
Q Does that make him in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
MR. DAVIES: David, on your first question, the issue of the passport, I don't have anything to offer you today. Passport violations, passport matters, are governed by the Privacy Act, so we can't talk about whether or not there is any action pending against an individual based on his or her use of a United States passport.
In terms of his announcement that he would make use of this money, we have embargoes. The U.S. has embargoes administered by the Department of the Treasury, and under those embargoes unauthorized travel-related transactions are prohibited for both Libya and Iraq.
That's a matter that's run for the United States Government by the Treasury Department, so you should address yourself to them if you have specific questions about in theory how we would react to somebody taking money out under that circumstance.
Q But leaving aside money associated with travel, is it legal for an American citizen to receive a very large sum of money from the Government of Libya?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know the answer to that. In fact, that question may be sort of too broad to be able to answer. You know, dollars to doughnuts, you've got reams of regulations that apply to this. You sort of have to analyze those to come to some kind of an understanding.
So I don't know. I can look into whether receiving money is necessarily a violation of those embargoes. I'm sure it depends on the conditions in each case.
To come back to what I said earlier, I think Treasury is your best bet if you want something specific on that question.
Q I'd like to follow up.
MR. DAVIES: Bill.
Q All right. Two questions.
In the wire report from yesterday, Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, where he basically confirmed most all the reports of his travels -- many of them, anyway -- Farrakhan downplayed accusations of Libya's involvement in the Pan Am l03 bombing. He said -- I quote -- "One hundred or so odd Americans were killed," and "As though your hands are clean," he said, "You've got an embargo on my brother." I believe he was referring to Qadhafi, his "brother."
Do you have a comment on that ludicrous statement?
MR. DAVIES: I think that Nick has said it all -- repeatedly -- about what Minister Farrakhan had to say in his visits to nations with which we do not enjoy normal relationships.
I think, obviously, that what Libyan agents did in bringing down Pan Am l03 over Lockerbie was shades of what we saw occur over the weekend in the shoot-down of American civilians.
This is the type of activity that's simply beyond the norms of accepted international behavior. What they did in bringing down that aircraft was commit a massive crime against over 200 individuals, whose families continue to this day to suffer.
So we take sharp exception to what Minister Farrakhan had to say; and there's already reams on the record, if you're looking for further on that.
Q Going back to David's question, when he landed in Hawaii was his passport examined? Was it photocopied? Does the State Department have the evidence on what was in that passport?
MR. DAVIES: Bill, as I said, what I can't do, because of the Privacy Act, is discuss individual passport cases. So I can't give you any further detail about what's been done or what will be done in this instance.
We may have more to give you in the fullness of time, but I don't for you right now.
Q I have an unrelated question. There's a report out of Belgrade that the Soros Foundation office has been shut down by a court citing faulty registration papers by Soros. Do you have any information on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on that, and I apologize for ignoring you. You've got bright lights behind you.
Q It's okay we see.
MR. DAVIES: I don't. I'm sorry.
Q Thank you, thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
(The briefing concluded at 2:4l p.m.)
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