Return to: Index of 1994 Daily Briefings || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

.
U.S. Department of State
96/04/09 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman


 
                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                           DAILY PRESS BRIEFING 
                                I N D E X  
                           Tuesday, April 9, 1996 
 
                                             Briefer:  Glyn Davies 
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS 
  US Contribution to UNHCR Funding for Rwanda and Burundi 
    Refugees .............................................  1       
  Bosnia Donors Conference, April 12-13, Brussels ........  1       
  Secretary's Stanford Speech on Environmental Diplomacy  
    and Background Briefing...............................  1-2,13 
  Secretary's Upcoming Travel April 14 (Korea, Japan,  
    Netherlands, Russia) .................................  2-3   
  Death of Ambassador Robert Anderson ....................  3-4    
  Liberia:  Situation Update .............................  4-6   
  - UN Action/American Citizens/Refuge in US Compounds ...  4-5    
  - Helicopters, Assessment Team Arrive in Liberia .......  5      
  - Decision on Evacuation Not Yet Made ..................  5-6    
 
DEPARTMENT 
  Secretary's Travel, Luxembourg Ministerial Follow-Up to  
    Sharm al-Sheikh Counter-Terrorism Summit .............  2-3    
  Palestinian Donors' Conference in Brussels .............  3      
 
LIBERIA 
  Helicopters Prepared to Assist Departures; Numbers .....  6-9     
  Number of American Citizens in Liberia .................  7-8  
  Hostilities Not Targetted Against Foreigners ...........  8-9    
  Reports of Hostages Being Held by Rebel Forces .........  8      
  Military Assessment Team to Remain in Monrovia .........  9      
  US Contacts with Faction Leaders .......................  10  
  US Announcement Should Situation Change ................  5,10   
 
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 
  Equip-and-Train On Hold Pending Departure of Foreign 
     Fighters ............................................  10-11  
 
MIDDLE EAST 
  Hizbollah Katyusha Rocket Attack on Northern Israel ....  11-12  
  Syria's Influence Over Hizbollah .......................  12     
  Reported Israel-Syria Summit Meeting ...................  12     
  Whereabouts of US Peace Talks Team .....................  12     
 
NORTH KOREA 
  No New DMZ Incursions by DPRK Forces ...................  13     
 
JAPAN 
  Security Agreement to be Signed at Summit ..............  13     
 
 
 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #56

TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 1996, 1:15 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. A couple of quick announcements and then go to your questions.

First off, we have a press statement -- a release -- indicating that the United States Government has contributed $30 million in new funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in response to its appeal for assistance to Rwandan and Burundi refugees and returnees. This funding, which is to be used to the furthest extent possible for programs that promote the expeditious voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees, brings the total U.S. Government response to the Rwanda-Bunrundi crisis since April 1994 to over $750 million. There's much more in a statement that is available to you.

The second statement that's also available on the Donors' Conference on Bosnia, just to give you some detail about the Donors' Conference which is planned for April 12-13 in Brussels. The conference will be an important step toward the economic reconstruction of Bosnia- Herzegovina. That step will be taken with the convening of this major Donors' Conference in Brussels April 12-13.

The purpose of the conference will be to pledge resources to meet economic reconstruction needs for 1996. The meeting will be chaired jointly by the European Commission and the World Bank. We believe that the convening of this conference further reflects the commitment by the international community to assist in the reconstruction of Bosnia, which is a crucial commitment to the success of the Dayton Accords.

More than 50 nations are expected to attend, and we expect the conference to respond in an effective, urgent manner to the enormous reconstruction challenges in Bosnia. There's more in an announcement in the Press Office.

A reminder that the Secretary will be giving a major foreign policy speech on the subject of environmental diplomacy at Stanford University in actually about 45 minutes. The address, barring technical difficulties, we'll try to pipe it in here so that you can hear it as he gives it. Then afterward, for those interested, there will be a background session with a senior administration official to get more in- depth about the subject of the environment and foreign policy.

Another quickie. To announce to you that we're putting up a signup sheet for the Secretary's upcoming travel. He will, as I think everybody knows, depart Washington with the President on Sunday, April 14, for the President's visit to Japan and Korea.

On Thursday, April 18, the President and his party will depart Tokyo en route St. Petersburg, Russia. The Secretary will travel from Tokyo on Thursday, April 18, to Moscow, where he'll change aircraft and go on to The Hague for his scheduled meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister on the afternoon of Friday, April 19.

He's expected to arrive in The Hague very early on the 19th, and he will overnight in The Hague on the 19th. After that, he'll depart from The Hague on Saturday morning, April 20, for Moscow, where he will rejoin the President's schedule, and there may be some onward travel from Moscow to another European destination, most likely on Sunday, April 21st. I'm not yet in a position to go into detail on that, but time was wasting on putting up a signup for at least that first portion of the trip. So that signup will be up, and I think we'll have it up for a couple of days.

Q What is this travel? What are we signing up for? For meeting him in The Hague and --

MR. DAVIES: Our understanding is that a good many of you wanted to join him in The Hague and go with him from The Hague to Moscow. He'll be there for Qian Qichen, the meeting in The Hague, and then be with him in Moscow for some of those meetings. Then if there is onward travel from there, perhaps accompany him to another destination from Moscow. So that's what the signup is for.

Q But clearly there will be press space on the plane going from The Hague to Moscow.

MR. DAVIES: There will be. That's what the signup is for. I don't know if anybody is going to go with the White House on their trip, but they would be operating, I think, separately.

Q Is your reluctance to talk about further travel indicate that the previously announced Luxembourg ministerial is now in doubt?

MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure who announced that. I don't know that we announced it maybe formally.

Q I thought it was announced in the backgrounder on the working group.

MR. DAVIES: I think the City of Luxembourg has been bandied about, and, as soon as we get something to announce, we'll announce it.

Q Is there any question -- because there was a -- you know, there was a series of meetings scheduled --?

MR. DAVIES: Right. Barry, I'm wouldn't --

Q There is a foreign ministers' meeting coming up some place soon, isn't there?

MR. DAVIES: There is to be a follow-up meeting to the Sharm al- Sheikh follow-up meeting. In essence, it's a foreign ministers' follow- up meeting to Sharm al-Sheikh, and that will happen, and we hope it happens soon, and it may well happen in Europe at the tail end of the President's/Secretary's trip.

Q Glyn, there was also supposed to be -- I guess it was a Palestinian Donors' Conference in Brussels -- I believe it was the 12th -- sort of as a precursor to the foreign ministers' meeting. Is that --

MR. DAVIES: I had seen that. I don't know where that stands. I know that there were some scheduling questions about it, and we can find out about that for you. Happy to do that.

Before I get to Liberia, which I guess is the subject of the day, I wanted, on a sadder note on behalf of everyone here at the State Department, to say a word about Ambassador Robert Anderson who passed away on April 5.

Ambassador Anderson had a long and distinguished career in the State Department, a career which began just after World War II ended, in 1946. It included postings in Shanghai, Nanking, Bangkok, New Delhi, Bordeaux and Paris -- so he finished on a European note -- as well as ambassadorships in places like Benin, Morocco and the Dominican Republic after his diplomatic career at the lower levels was completed.

But most of you will remember him as the State Department Spokesman under Secretary Henry Kissinger. He spoke from the podium between 1974 and 1976. It was -- for those who remember it or read about it -- a difficult and demanding time frame for any spokesman, spanning as it did major events in U.S. foreign policy such as Kissinger's Middle East shuttle diplomacy and the beginning of the START talks with the Soviet Union.

We all in the State Department respected and admired Ambassador Anderson as a diplomat, as a comrade-in-arms, and as a human being. I know those of you who may have known him and worked with him share our sorrow. He will be missed.

On Liberia, let me tell you what I can tell you at this stage about conditions in that West African city. There are continued reports of widespread looting in Monrovia. Fires are being set. There are gunshots heard in the capital. Thousands of Liberians reportedly have left the city to escape the fighting.

The intense factional fighting that characterized the opening hours and few days of this emergency seem to have faded a bit, so we don't have any longer the pitched battles that were occurring, but it's still a very chaotic and dangerous situation in Monrovia.

We have, for our part, been urging the factions to restore the cease-fire, to move back to respecting the Abuja peace accord which they all signed, and we've been urging them to assure the security of all Liberian citizens and the international community.

We've also urged neighboring states and other members of the Economic Community of West African States -- ECOWAS -- to use their influence with the warring factions to impress upon them the importance of restoring the cease-fire.

We are also at the United Nations seeking urgent U.N. Security Council consideration of the situation in Liberia. Indeed, I understand that conversations are already underway up in New York.

On the specifics of U.S. citizens and their situation in Monrovia, just to run over some of the numbers that we've got. There are approximately 320 people on the U.S. Embassy compound. About 110 of them are American citizens. Of those 110, about 40 or a little less perhaps are Embassy staff and dependents. There are no minor dependents, only spouses, in Monrovia at this time.

There are in the Embassy compound a number of third-country diplomats, representatives of international organizations, non-American dependents of American citizens, non-American guardians of American citizens, and others. The Embassy reports that they have sufficient food and water for the time being to support those in the Embassy compound.

Then about a four or five minutes' walk from the Embassy in the housing compound, which goes by the name of the Greystone Compound, there are an estimated 10-15,000 Liberian citizens who have sought security.

We are looking into whether we might alleviate any food or water shortages that could develop at Greystone and obviously are in contact with the Liberian citizens who are there.

My understanding is that there is a military assessment team on the ground in Monrovia. I just got off the phone with some of our colleagues who are out there. They are there to make further contingency plans to protect the lives of American citizens; to evaluate the situation on the ground.

There will be aircraft movements in and out of Monrovia -- at this stage just helicopter movements. Up to this stage, we've gotten excellent cooperation from the Government of Sierra Leone. They've allowed us to position a number of aircraft in their capital city, Freetown, to facilitate the visit of this assessment team to Monrovia and in case an evacuation is carried out.

Any decision on the status of the Embassy or evacuating American citizens is to be made here at the State Department in Washington based on the Ambassador's recommendation. So far nobody has yet been taken out of Monrovia. Several helicopters that are there, that have brought in the military assessment team, will not go back to Freetown empty if we have anything to do about it. We want to make sure that American citizens are given the opportunity on those helicopters to leave the country if they wish.

What I don't want to do -- and I want to be up front about this -- is make any kind of a splashy announcement about what may happen in the next couple of hours, because the next couple of hours for us are very important as we get the military into Monrovia and they make their initial assessment, and we get further assets in.

If we have something formal to announce about evacuation of American citizens, I'll do that, and I'll do that regardless of the time that we decide to make that announcement public.

We are looking at requests for assistance from citizens of other countries as well -- requests to be evacuated from the country or to be otherwise assisted.

I mentioned that there are a number of third-country nationals in our Embassy compound. I have what is I think just a partial list of the nationals who are represented among the 320. There are nationals of Lebanon, Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Australia, Sweden, the Philippines, Britain, Germany, Canada, and Russia with Americans and Liberians on the Embassy compound.

That, I think, pretty much covers it. I may have some more specific information that I can give you if you have questions.

Q Can you call a filing break?

MR. DAVIES: Sure. Filing break.

Q Glyn, so you're saying there are helicopters on the ground who are prepared to take people out whenever?

MR. DAVIES: That is correct.

Q (Inaudible) helicopters to leave loaded with people who wish to leave?

MR. DAVIES: The plan is for those helicopters not to leave empty because we're talking about a distance between Freetown, which is where these helicopters are being staged, and Monrovia of over 200 miles. It takes while to make these trips. It's important that we take advantage of their return to Freetown to carry people who want to leave.

Q How many people are leaving now?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything yet on specifics of how many people might leave. What's important to underscore is that our job here at the State Department is to look after the safety first and foremost of American citizens. That's job one, two, and three for American officials out there.

Obviously, priority will be given to American citizens. There are some 470 Americans registered with the Embassy present in the country. Most of those Americans are in Monrovia, the capital city. It's hard to say exactly how many.

Not all the Americans, obviously, are at the Embassy compound. Among the 110 American citizens there, some are at other places in Monrovia. For instance, there is, I understand, a "Save the Children" compound that may have some Americans in it, a compound that belongs to a big banking company. Then Americans are in some of the suburbs as well around the center of the capital -- suburbs like Painsville, Sinkor and Bushrod Island. Then, there is an apartment building across from the Embassy that also has some Americans in it. So they're in various locations.

Q So, in effect, you're not announcing an evaluation, but you're providing the means for people --

MR. DAVIES: I'm not making any formal announcement of an evacuation at this stage.

Q People are leaving --

MR. DAVIES: But, in fact, people are being given that opportunity; that's correct.

Q What's the capacity of these helicopters?

MR. DAVIES: You'd have to ask the Pentagon, but I think it's on the order of about 25 people.

Q Per helicopter?

MR. DAVIES: That's correct.

Q And how many helicopters came in?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know precisely. I understood that the first flight of helicopters would be two. You'd really have to talk to the Pentagon about how many more helicopters there are and the schedule, if any, for bringing further helicopters into Monrovia.

Q Do you know the number of dual citizenship -- people that are Liberian-Americans?

MR. DAVIES: As a formal matter, of course, the U.S. Government doesn't recognize dual citizenship. You're either a U.S. citizen or you're not, and you may hold documents from other nations. That's neither here nor there from our standpoint.

There are several hundred Liberian citizens who hold U.S. passports, we believe. So the total number of U.S. citizens and the so- called dual nationals, or Liberians who hold U.S. citizenship, might get up towards 700 or 750, something like that.

Q So these people also could be taken out if they requested it?

MR. DAVIES: Absolutely. Once we make a formal announcement one way or the other about an evacuation, they can take us up on it.

Q How about the Europeans and others? Could they be accommodated by a U.S. evacuation?

MR. DAVIES: Barry, what we do is, we entertain requests from other nations. We're in touch with the governments of other countries. I mentioned yesterday that we're in touch with the Government of the UK and with the Government of Lebanon, among others.

But as I said, since job one is dealing with American citizens, we're concentrating on that now. To the extent our abilities allow us, the situation allows us, we will work with other countries and perhaps be able to provide some help to their nationals.

Q Are foreign people, in general, being targeted by this disturbance, or is it mainly an internal Liberian --

MR. DAVIES: I'm glad you asked that, Betsy. Because it's important to underscore that, as of now, there aren't any reports that foreigners are being targeted specifically.

Q Do you know anything about the hostages being held at this warehouse?

MR. DAVIES: I asked about that, and all we have out of the Embassy are these reports that there are some people being held. I think the numbers I was given are about 200 Liberian citizens. There are some ECOMOG forces who are also there -- 20 or so. I'm not sure. There might also be nationals of another country -- Lebanon was mentioned to me -- held at this barracks which is down the coast a bit from the U.S. Embassy. But these are only second/third-hand reports that we've gotten. We don't have anybody who has actually gone to the scene and confirmed this. I can't even tell you which faction is necessarily holding these people or detaining them there.

Q Are there any American ships in the area that would be available for evacuation -- large-scale evacuation?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any ships in the area, Jim; I don't.

Q Glyn, you're making helicopters available for people to leave should they want to. What's the status of the Embassy itself? Are you going to evacuate spouses? Are you going to leave behind a small group of people?

MR. DAVIES: As I said, I don't yet have a decision to announce formally about either an evacuation or the status of our Embassy.

We will be acting in the interests of the people there. I'm sure that if we do move forward with a full evacuation that we'll do it taking account of the various categories of people. I think there are about half a dozen spouses, for instance, who are there. I would imagine they would be given a very early opportunity to leave.

It's the people on the ground who will be drawing up the criteria that are used to decide who gets on the craft and when. Right now, there is no imminent danger to American citizens. Nobody is being targeted. Nobody has reported any kind of aggression against them. So that's positive. It'll make it possible for us to be rather orderly about what transpires out there.

Q Were people to come out -- evacuation or no -- where would they be taken?

MR. DAVIES: My understanding is they would go to Freetown which is in Sierra Leone, the capital.

Q To travel on from there?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything for you on that.

Q The helicopters brought in a military assessment team?

MR. DAVIES: That's correct.

Q If the helicopters are going to bring out people from the ground, that means that they're leaving these people there?

MR. DAVIES: That's right. Not just a military assessment team but military personnel in addition to an assessment team to provide security.

There is a Marine security guard contingent at the Embassy. It's very small.

Q How many people went in?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have an exact figure for you. But there are security people and then there's a team that's there to assess the security situation.

Q Can we move on to Bosnia, perhaps?

MR. DAVIES: Anything else on Liberia? I can come back to it later.

Q On Liberia. Are we in contact at all with Taylor or Johnson or any of the leaders of these --

MR. DAVIES: Our Ambassador, Bill Milam, is in contact with the various factions and he's urging them, I think as I said, to respect the cease-fire, to get back on the Abuja peace accord track; so we are in contact with them.

Q The attempt to arrest one of the leaders. Does the United States think that this is a mistake, that the attempt to arrest this guy was a mistake? Do you take a position on this?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have a particular reaction to that; no. I really don't.

Q Just a footnote on the Bosnia situation. I assume that -- are you still on --

Q One more question. You say that you might have announcement in the next few hours?

MR. DAVIES: I might have an announcement in the next few hours?

Q How are you going to handle that? Are you going to give us 10 minutes notice --

MR. DAVIES: I can do it in here if you'd like.

Q On camera?

MR. DAVIES: Sure.

Q Some of us will be here, I bet. On Bosnia?

MR. DAVIES: Yes, Bosnia.

Q Talking about raising contributions for Bosnia. Train and equip is still -- equip-and-train -- is still on hold, is it not?

MR. DAVIES: That's correct, until the foreign forces are out and they're not yet out, it is on hold.

Q This is not the main part of the story but still I'm puzzled. That's another area where the U.S. wanted other countries to contribute; in fact, to pick up most of the burden of training and equipping the Bosnian army?

MR. DAVIES: The Conference in Ankara.

Q Do you have like two banks -- one you use for other -- are you going to proceed with trying to raise money for other programs or for this as well on the theory that some day this will go into effect?

MR. DAVIES: The conference on the 12th and 13th is not about train and equip. It's about civilian reconstruction. I don't know how the accounting is being worked. I'm sure it's all being kept quite separate and above board.

Q Hizbollah is back in action, as you know. I wonder if you want to whip out that customary call for restraint, or do you have some other -- or cycle of violence was used years ago; now it's restraint. I don't know that Israel has retaliated yet.

Israel itself has been hit, not the zone. I wonder if that changes your boilerplate appeal to both sides for restraint?

MR. DAVIES: Let's see how I do. Unfortunately, Hizbollah has fired a large number of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. They claimed that this was in response to an undetermined explosion which led to the death of a Lebanese citizen -- a teenager. This has triggered renewed fighting in the region.

We have repeatedly called for restraint, but Hizbollah is once again acting to inflame the situation.

That means that we are --

Q It's not quite restraint anymore?

MR. DAVIES: We have repeatedly called for restraint.

Q But then you added --

MR. DAVIES: Hizbollah has once again, by firing Katyushas into Israel, acted to raise the temperature in the region. That's very negative. We want very much for the cycle of violence to end.

Q But you're not calling on Israel to show restraint in response?

MR. DAVIES: We're calling on all sides involved here to exercise restraint. But our particular target of what I have to say is Hizbollah for firing these large number of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. We view that as the proximate cause of this latest round of conflict. We would call on Hizbollah to cease and desist.

Q Once in a while the State Department concludes that it calls for proportional restraint. I wrote "proportional response," not a disproportionate response.

Would you say Israel's response -- does the punishment fit the crime?

MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to get into handicapping the various sides' responses. In our view, Hizbollah got this going. It's very negative, and we would, obviously, like for the Hizbollah action to stop.

Q Does this tell you anything about Syria's influence in the area, whether it's exerting its influence assuming it has influence?

MR. DAVIES: I've got nothing to add to what we've said a number of times about the degree to which Syria may or may not influence Hizbollah.

Q I pose the same question.

MR. DAVIES: Good. All right.

Q (Inaudible) about Syria. The Jerusalem Post is carrying an interview today with Shimon Peres who says that Syrian President Assad has agreed to meet him; this message being passed through American mediators. One, is that true? Did the Americans set up this meeting if it takes place?

MR. DAVIES: I've got nothing for you in terms of any role we may have played. Obviously, any meetings that have as their aim to further the peace process are welcome. But I simply don't have, Jim, a great many specifics to add to the reports that I've seen, that you've seen.

Q Are any of the American players -- the usual American players who sometimes hang out here and sometimes go travelling, have they been travelling in the region?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know that they have. In fact, the people to whom I believe you're referring are here in the building. I spoke with one of them this morning, so I know that.

Q Any update on Korea?

MR. DAVIES: I guess a positive update, which is that in the last couple of days there haven't been any further incursions into the demilitarized zone. The DMZ is quiet for the time being.

We're watching this carefully, as you would expect. We hope that the North Koreans continue to adhere to the armistice agreement and don't send any large groups of troops into the zone again. So that's where we are right now.

Q On Japan. What can you tell us about this upcoming security agreement that will likely be signed when the President goes to Japan and involve some change in U.S. troops there?

MR. DAVIES: The worse thing I could do to my career would be to get into stealing thunder from that trip, so I'm not going to do it. I won't get into any specifics on the security front.

It's true and I think well known that we've been talking to the Japanese about those issues. There may well be something announced at the summit, but I don't have specifics for you.

Q Can we call a halt, unless there's some pressing -- we have a 2:00 speech coming up --

MR. DAVIES: Right; you do, indeed.

Q -- and there's stuff to unload here.

MR. DAVIES: Does anybody have anything else pressing?

Q When are you going to have the text of the speech, incidentally?

MR. DAVIES: Soon.

Q How about the Backgrounder? Is that immediately after?

MR. DAVIES: It's immediately after. It's immediately after.

Q Right here?

MR. DAVIES: No, it will be upstairs. If you're interested, we'll take your name and we'll convey it to the person who is doing the briefing.

(Press briefing concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

(###)

To the top of this page