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U.S. Department of State
96/04/19 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman

 
                        U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                          DAILY PRESS BRIEFING 
                               I N D E X  
                         Friday, April 19, 1996 
 
                                             Briefer:  Glyn Davies 
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS 
   Welcome to Visitors from GW and USDA Graduate School.....  1     
   Release of Declassified Documents for Foreign Relations..  1 
   Public Announcement Re: Central African Republic.........  2 
   Honoring the Victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing........  2 
 
LEBANON/ISRAEL 
   Reported Kidnapping of U.S. Citizen......................  2-3 
   U.S. Diplomatic Efforts/Objectives.......................  3-4,5-7 
   Secretary Christopher's Schedule.........................  5 
   U.S.-Syrian Contacts ....................................  7,9 
   Role of Government in Lebanon............................  8 
   UN Mission in Lebanon....................................  7,8 
   Humanitarian Assistance to Refugees......................  8-9 
   Reported Use of U.S. Weapons.............................  10 
   American Kurdish Information Network.....................  11 
   Sharm al-Sheikh Conference...............................  14 
 
HELMS-BURTON LEGISLATION....................................  11 
 
NORTH KOREA 
   Status of Missile Talks................................... 12-14 
 
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 
   Congressional Investigation of Iranian Arms Transfers....  14 
 
 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #62

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 1996, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. George has his summer attire on which reflects the temperature outside. It's much warmer these days.

I have four bits of business to do quickly, and then I'll go to your questions. First, to welcome some visitors to the briefing. We have joining us today five students from George Washington University. I'm guessing you're there; is that right? Welcome to the briefing. Also joining us is Pamela Oliver, who is right there, who is participating in the Women's Executive Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture graduate school. So, welcome to you, Pamela.

Second of the four bits of business -- to announce today the Department of State is releasing a list of nearly 450 documents declassified for inclusion in a planned volume in the Foreign Relations series covering Cuba for the period January 1961-September 1962, as well as a microfiche supplement. These documents present a detailed and authoritative record of U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation that took place 35 years ago this very week.

Because of the addition of many documents located only recently, the printed volume and supplement will not be ready for publication for a while; in fact, until about 1997, but the Department of State did not want to delay public access to documents that are more than 30 years old; this, due to an October 1991 law which set a 30-year standard for this Foreign Relations historical series that we publish.

The document list, as well as a copy of the working manuscript of the documents now declassified for the printed volume, including 81 excised documents, are available for your perusal in the Department's Freedom of Information Act reading room, Room 1239 here in the building. There's a press announcement with more information about that that's available to you.

My third announcement is a brief one. It's a public announcement that relates to conditions in the Central African Republic. On April 18, 1996, the American Embassy in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, informed the local American community not to leave their respective locations until further notice. The Embassy reports various movements of troops, commandeering of private vehicles, gunfire and roadblocks.

The reason for the unrest is not clear at this time but it appears to stem from a pay dispute between soldiers and the government. We have a Consular Information Sheet which can give you further information about travel to the Central African Republic.

Fourth, and finally, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this morning, just after 10:00, the State Department observed a brief period of silence to honor the victims of the April 19, 1995, terrorist bomb blast at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

At the direction of the President, employees of the State Department joined their colleagues from throughout the U.S. Government in pausing from their work for 168 seconds -- that's one second for each of the 168 victims on the first anniversary of the tragedy.

George, your questions.

Q There are news reports in Israel about an Islamic group in the West Bank having kidnapped an American citizen. Do you know anything about that?

MR. DAVIES: We've seen those reports, and we've been in contact, in fact, with our Embassy about that. We know very little beyond that at this stage.

Apparently, according to our Embassy, there is a report that somebody may have been taken, and taken to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. There is a threat that relates to that. But what we don't have right now is any confirmation that, in fact, that is the case and that there has been any kind of kidnapping. So we will follow that very, very closely and try to get whatever details we can from the authorities in Israel and in the occupied territories.

Q Where is the report coming from? Did the report -- did someone call the Embassy and say, "We've got X, Y, and Z?"

MR. DAVIES: Carol, that's what happened. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv was informed this morning about the report. What I'm not going to do for purposes of security is to give you the source of that report to us.

We also note that there is a report that perhaps has led to George's question, from a journalist in the region, that the kidnappers have said they will kill the American if the Israelis do not announce a withdrawal from Lebanon today. So, as I say, what we're doing is, we're following up with the appropriate law enforcement authorities in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank.

Thus far, those authorities and our Embassy are unable to confirm that any American has been kidnapped, so we will continue to pursue the matter.

Q Did they say why they were taking the American? Did they say they're angry because of the American position, or because of what happened in Lebanon last week?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have any further details. These reports that I'm giving you are at least second-hand -- in some cases third-hand -- reports. I haven't seen myself any ticker items on this. This is what we know. So the job now is to try to find out if there's any truth to it and if there is, obviously, to follow up. Our most important job overseas is to protect American citizens.

Q Would you say there is a relationship between your position over the last week, and this kidnapping?

MR. DAVIES: I would speculate if I told you anything more than I've told you right now. I don't know what this is about. I don't know whether this is just -- we're hoping it's just a straw in the wind, some kind of a stray report that has no validity to it.

But, as you would expect, we're vigorously following up and we're going to try to find out the truth of the matter.

Q I think a lot of people, especially in the Arab-American community here, are wondering why it took a week and over 100 deaths for the United States Administration to call for a cease-fire. Is there any response to that?

MR. DAVIES: The United States has been active, from the beginning of the difficulties in Lebanon, to do whatever we could to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

Clearly, the events of yesterday were of such a scale and magnitude, so horrific, that it simply underscored for everyone, including us, that this was not something that could be allowed to continue. That is why the President, yesterday, made his statement; and that is why we continue, even more intensively, the efforts that we've had underway for a week and a half to try bring the bloodshed to an end.

Q Now that fire is continuing after the appeal made by President Clinton, do you have any comment on that?

MR. DAVIES: The only comment I've got is to draw everybody's attention back to what the President said yesterday. What's needed now is a cessation of the shelling. The conflict must stop. That's the immediate objective.

The President called very strongly for a cease-fire, so we are doing everything we can to try to make that call, on behalf of the President, a reality. The President has dispatched the Secretary of State to the region. He'll be there very shortly. As soon as his meetings in Europe are finished, he'll be there certainly by no later than Saturday to begin himself personally contacts to try to get a cease-fire in place.

Q We haven't seen a condemnation from the United States for this act. What's the United States position on this attack on the U.N. Headquarters?

MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, you haven't seen a condemnation from --

Q A condemnation of this attack yesterday. The President did not condemn it. He just offered his condolences. Does the United States condemn this attack that killed 100 people yesterday?

MR. DAVIES: What the President did was, rather than engage in any kind of blame-laying on one side or another, he underscored what's got to happen now, looking proactively at the situation. What we've got to do is stop the shelling on both sides of the border, shelling that began, of course, with Hizbollah attacks on civilian populations in Israel.

His call for a cease-fire was a very strong one. Right now, the Secretary is engaged very directly and very actively in trying to bring that to a reality. Every spare moment he's got -- I can tell you this from having talked to people out there -- he's been on the phone trying to arrange for his trip and, further, to arrange for a cease-fire.

Q You won't condemn it?

Q I'm not aware if you have already announced if Secretary Christopher will go to Beirut?

MR. DAVIES: We've made no announcement about the Secretary's schedule. We haven't gotten into that yet. We'll make those announcements as the Secretary gets closer to leaving Amsterdam and his meetings in The Hague. I would look for those announcements to come out of the region, or from the Secretary's party.

Q The lack of condemnation by the United States is all the more resonant, I think, because of two other statements that the U.S. issued yesterday. It condemned -- using those words -- the attack on the Greek tourists in Egypt, and it also condemned the IRA bombing in London, and not a bit of criticism at all at Israel for being excessive in its military action. I just think the contrast is so dramatic. Why?

MR. DAVIES: Carol, no two situations are the same. I've said that on other subjects recently from the podium.

The situation in the Middle East is among the most volatile situations the United States confronts anywhere in its diplomacy. The objective now is not to inflame the situation, if you will, further by condemning Israel or engaging in that sort of rhetoric at all. The objective is to stop the shelling. The objective is to try to get all the parties in the region to sign up to the notion that the fighting must stop. That's, as I say, what the President has been speaking to since he made his dramatic announcement last night in St. Petersburg and it's what has deprived the Secretary of State of sleep in the last 24 hours as he's made calls all around the region.

Q But the problem is, Israel is the only one that's sacrosanct, and without fault as far as the U.S. --

MR. DAVIES: I don't think any nation is sacrosanct here. I think again what's important is to keep our eye on the objective, which is to stop the fighting. It just serves no purpose for any government spokesman or government official to get into any kind of a round of condemning Israel at this stage.

Q As I understand, the Secretary of State has the objective -- is going with the objective of brokering a cease-fire somehow.

MR. DAVIES: Right.

Q But do you have any information on how he intends to do that? Do we know what proposals he's going to make? Are they going to come up with a 1993 understanding? Is the option of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon --

MR. DAVIES: In order to bring about the cease-fire, the Secretary will engage in very active, intense face-to-face diplomacy, which is something he's very good at. He will get to the region very shortly, on Saturday, and begin his meetings with leaders on all sides of this.

But it doesn't serve anybody's purpose at this stage for me to go into what kinds of formulations may be out there to achieve a cease-fire and ultimately a peace. That is best left to the Secretary of State in his meetings with leaders in the region, so that's where I'll leave it.

Q Was there any kind of preliminary contacts with the representatives of Hizbollah to pave the way for --

MR. DAVIES: We don't have any contacts with Hizbollah.

Q Not at all?

MR. DAVIES: I mean, there are others who have influence over Hizbollah and perhaps can contact them, and it's their job to use their good offices with Hizbollah to try to bring about a cessation of the Katyusha rocket attacks on civilians in northern Israel. We've called on all who have an influence over Hizbollah to do so.

Q This didn't happen before in 1993, for example?

MR. DAVIES: My history of that part of the world is not complete enough to tell you precisely what we did or didn't do in our diplomacy before the 1993 understanding. I can't help you with that.

Q You said, answering Carol, that there are no situations the same in the Middle East. But when attacks were made in Israel, suicide attacks and killed civilians, you condemned these attacks. Don't you think it's not serving your interest also in the Middle East by not condemning this and jeopardizing American lives in the Middle East, as we've seen so far today even?

MR. DAVIES: You're alluding to perhaps threats against American lives. That's completely unacceptable that anyone would threaten American lives in the Middle East. We are not a party to this conflict. Our role in the Middle East is to do what we can to bring about peace, to complete the circle of peace, if you will, around Israel, which is a good friend and ally of the United States. We're trying very hard to build relationships in the Middle East. So any kind of threats of terrorist actions against the United States are completely out of line, and we reject them.

Of course, the Sharm al-Sheikh process, which we helped get started, is really the international community's response to the threat of terrorism. It will be important, once we get past this initial challenge, to get back to that process of combatting terrorism.

Q It is common knowledge that most of the terrorist organizations and the terrorist groups in this area control at least -- also influence on the Government of Damascus, Syria. What kind of answer you get from the Government of Syria to stopping this kind of conflict of Hizbollah?

MR. DAVIES: What kind of answer do we get?

Q Yes.

MR. DAVIES: We talk to the Syrians quite a bit, both the Secretary of State in his diplomacy and of course our Embassy on the ground and Ambassador Chris Ross. But I think the situation is so delicate at this time that what I'm not going to do is characterize in any way the reactions that the Syrians, the Lebanese, the Israelis or anybody else are giving us.

Q Also Syria is the transit way for Hizbollah some ammunition and logistical support from Iran. Did you ask the Syrians to stop this kind of military support from Iran -- the Katyusha rockets, for example?

MR. DAVIES: Iran is Hizbollah's principal sponsor, and Iran is the principal difficulty here. There's no question about that. We recognize that Syria has influence over Hizbollah. We have, obviously, a fair amount of information about the relationship that -- or the presence, if you will, that Hizbollah has in various parts of the Middle East.

But, as I say, for today what's important, I think, is for us to avoid describing our private diplomatic dialogue with other countries to avoid getting into what the Syrians are telling us in response to our diplomatic dialogue, and simply to leave it at that.

Q Glyn, I have two questions. One concerns the role, the mission, of the United Nations in southern Lebanon. Can you tell us or can we have a briefing from somebody in the State Department to explore it, because some people question on Capitol Hill, some people are asking today, "Well, if Katyushas are being fired two or three hundred meters from the U.N. location, why isn't the U.N. doing anything?" So that's my first question.

And then I would ask, in State Department formulations to this point, what alternatives does the Israeli Government have if there's no civilian government in Lebanon that can put a stop to these Katyusha attacks and the Syrians won't do anything? What can the Israelis possibly do as an alternative?

MR. DAVIES: In answer to your second question, I mean, there is a Government in Lebanon. Lebanon is an independent nation and has a government. Lebanon is a very troubled country, clearly. It's occupied by various nations' forces and is going through a very rough period in its history.

But on your first question, I think the best thing to do is direct you to the United Nations which can fill you in on precisely what the mission of United Nations' forces are in Lebanon. I'd be happy to try to get you whatever information I can about that.

Lebanon is a troubled nation, and the United States is doing what it can to try to bring peace to Lebanon in our diplomacy. Of course, peace in Lebanon is directly a responsibility of those there in the region.

Q Can I follow up on your answer and just try to go at this a different way? Does the United States Government have any expectations of the United Nations forces in southern Lebanon that aren't being fulfilled from our expectations?

MR. DAVIES: That's quite a broad question. Even the United Nations and its forces, which try to do as good a job as they can, perhaps don't always do everything perfectly. There's no question about that. But this is, I think, a version of the various questions I've been getting so far, which are all designed very appropriately, because it's your job, to draw me into discussing the specifics of the situation in Lebanon -- how pleased we are or are not with various parties; what reactions we're getting from various parties; what is it we're proposing.

Given the delicate state of affairs, it's best for me from here not to go into it. So I'm not going to.

Q Is the United States going to provide any assistance to Lebanon, especially for these refugees, the (inaudible) refugees. I understand the Europeans are providing some help now. Is the United States --

MR. DAVIES: We are looking into how we might help on a humanitarian basis with the crisis that's occurring. I don't have any specifics now, but we're engaged in that.

Q Honestly, without trying to convince you to go into details of your diplomatic channels, efforts, at least you can tell us if the Syrians are telling you what they are telling the whole people during their -- through their media. Are they taking the same kind of attitude, or is it different somehow?

MR. DAVIES: Again, that would be telling you in essence or steering you toward what it is that we're hearing from the Syrians, and we believe that it's not useful to, if you will, break the seal on the secrecy of our diplomatic contacts in the Middle East. They should remain confidential in order for our efforts and those of the parties in the region to succeed.

Q The Syrian Foreign Minister today said he expects -- he hopes that a cease-fire will be in effect in a few hours. The Lebanese Prime Minister said a few days. What's your assessment? How long do you think it's going to take to reach a cease-fire?

MR. DAVIES: My assessment is that those are on one level very positive statements. It's better to have those kinds of statements than statements that indicate that a cease-fire is not possible. But I can't describe to you what we view as the difference between those two statements -- whether that should signal a difficultly in the process or not.

The Secretary remains engaged, and he's doing what he can to carry out the President's orders.

Q New subject.

MR. DAVIES: How about two more quickly on Lebanon?

Q I'd like to try something else with you.

MR. DAVIES: Okay, sure.

Q A lot of Middle East experts are saying that America's position in these past few weeks was aimed at strengthening Israel's position when there will be further negotiations on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks for the peace process. How would you react to that?

MR. DAVIES: I'd react the same way I've reacted up to now.

Q Yesterday, Arab-American leaders had a press conference, and one of them said that the Israelis, by using American weapons to kill these people -- the hundred civilians in the U.N. headquarters -- they violated the Arms Control Neutrality Act. Are you in touch with the Israelis over that, and are you telling them not to use American weapons to kill Lebanese civilians?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know that Israelis' use of those weapons does in fact violate our law. I don't have any information on that. Israel knows full well to what uses they can put materiel that they obtain from the United States, and up to this point, I have nothing to say about whether or not Israel is violating our law in their use of these weapons.

Q You're not looking into it to see if they violated American laws by doing this?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know that anybody's looking into it, nor that there's any need to at this time.

Q A last follow-up to the last question?

MR. DAVIES: Sure.

Q Is the United States interested --

Q Can I have the last question?

MR. DAVIES: No, no, this is the last. We can talk afterwards. This is the last one.

Q Is the United States interested in verifying, by its own means, if the Israelis were hitting a target that was used to launch a Katyusha against the northern Israeli settlements?

MR. DAVIES: We don't have any kind of an effort like that underway. I mean, we know what's occurring in the region: that today Hizbollah continues to fire Katyushas into Israel; they did so last night, they're still doing it today; that Israel continues to respond with air and artillery attacks. But, beyond that, we're not going to be launching any kind of investigation into what's occurred. I think it's fairly evident to everybody who's been observing the scene exactly what happened. That's that for Lebanon. We'll talk afterwards.

Q What do you know about the American-Kurdish Information Network?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know anything that would help you about the American-Kurdish Information Network.

Q Does the United States have any reason to believe that it's associated with the PKK?

MR. DAVIES: I know, of course, that Mr. Xulam, who was arrested just recently, was associated with the American-Kurdish Information Network, but I don't have any information to share with you regarding whether or not it's associated with the PKK.

Q Well, the (inaudible) ambassador seems to think that it is, and I wondered if you could take the question.

MR. DAVIES: I will look into that for you.

Q A different subject?

MR. DAVIES: Sure.

Q This week at the World Trade Organization in Geneva there was again a debate on the Helms Burton legislation. The Europeans objected to it. The Group of Rio, major Latin American countries, objected to it and for the first time Japan objected to this legislation. I have two questions.

One is how do you feel the Administration is doing in explaining to its allies what is the situation with this trade legislation? And the second is just technical. Is there any time frame for implementing the legislation?

MR. DAVIES: In answer to your second question, I don't have any kind of a time frame to give you. The legislation is complicated. It has a number of moving parts, if you will, so we're looking at it very intensively to see how we might implement it as soon as possible.

The President believed strongly that in the wake of the unprovoked shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft, it was important to send a strong signal to Castro, to the Cuban Government, of our displeasure with what he had done and his continued obstinacy.

In answer to your first question, we're doing the best we can.

Carol.

Q North Korea. What can you say about the talks tomorrow between North Korea and the United States?

MR. DAVIES: This time missile talks.

Q Missile talks.

MR. DAVIES: Missile talks; not the four-way talks.

Q NO.

MR. DAVIES: I can say that indeed those talks are to start. We've agreed to meet with a North Korean delegation in Berlin, April 20 and 21, for a preliminary round of discussions on missile non-proliferation. The U.S. delegation to those talks is to be led by the State Department Political/Military Affairs Bureau's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation Robert Einhorn.

This, of course, all follows up the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework of October 1994, which provides for a discussion of issues of concern between the United States and the DPRK. The proliferation of missiles and missile technology is one such very important issue.

We've been interested in engaging North Korea for some time, and we look forward to productive talks with them.

Q Are you trying to get Pyongyang to sign on to the MTCR? Is that one of your goals?

MR. DAVIES: This falls into the category of talks that haven't even begun. So what I won't be doing is laying out our game plan going into the talks. This is, in essence, an initial contact, preliminary talks.

So I think what we first want to do is to talk to them about what it is we should talk about. Of course, we'd like to make as much progress in bringing North Korea on board with the notion of responsible non-proliferation.

Q What have they been doing that's irresponsible?

MR. DAVIES: North Korea?

Q Yeah.

MR. DAVIES: We believe that they've been proliferating various technologies that are harmful. They don't belong to all the regimes that they might, including the Missile Technology Control Regime. So this is an effort, in essence, to bring them into the international system, if you will, of non-proliferation.

Q Are you concerned that they've been selling to Iran and Syria?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything specific to give you at this time. Those are nations that, in the past, we've seen evidence that North Korea is proliferating to, but I don't have any specifics for you.

Q What happens if the North Koreans decide they want to broaden the agenda beyond the missile question?

MR. DAVIES: We're speculating. We'll have to see. It's certainly the case that we have no interest in direct security negotiations with North Korea about the future of the Korean Peninsula. That action, if you will, should occur in the context of the four-way talks, the so-called Two-Plus-Two talks that the President announced when he visited South Korea recently.

Q Do you know where these talks are going to be held?

MR. DAVIES: The missile talks? Berlin. Where, specifically?

Q Yes.

MR. DAVIES: I don't have a specific venue for you. You'll have to stake out the whole city. I don't know.

Q Could you get back to us with that because there's a lot of interest among the press in Berlin, to know where to do the stakeout?

MR. DAVIES: George, I'll see if it's possible to give you anymore detail. I wouldn't lead you to sit too close to the phone today, but I'll try. I'll try to do that.

Q At least, you can videotape of the people coming and going. If they don't want to say anything, that's their business.

MR. DAVIES: Having myself been responsible for various international negotiations, including the famous Wye talks, I can tell you it's not always possible to get you the images and words you want to get. Anything else?

Q I wonder if you are discussing the same subject with the receiving side of the missiles?

MR. DAVIES: We're not engaged in any negotiations with nations with which we have no diplomatic relations, if that's the gist of your question.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. DAVIES: We talk to the Syrians about non-proliferation as well as many other subjects all the time.

Q What's the fate of Sharm al-Sheikh? Is it postponed or cancelled? What's the --

MR. DAVIES: Sharm el-Sheikh is postponed. That was by agreement reached between the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Agnelli of Italy yesterday, when the Secretary was engaged in a marathon series of phone calls on his plane trip from Tokyo to Moscow. He phoned her and they agreed it was best to postpone --

Q (Inaudible) date --

MR. DAVIES: I don't have a date for you to announce at this time.

One more.

Q On Bosnia. I've got to get to it. Has the State Department been requested to give testimony on the Hill yet concerning the supposed link between Iranian arms to the Bosnians? Can you give us some status on that?

MR. DAVIES: We've been engaged with the Hill in discussions of how it is that we can help them as they look into the matter. Whether or not we've actually undertaken to send certain individuals up there, I can't say at this stage.

In general, it's our position to be as helpful as we can to the various committees that will be looking into it.

Thanks very much.

(Press briefing concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

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