U.S. Department of State 96/05/24 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, May 28, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT Deputy Secretary Talbott's Trip to Haiti, Venezuela and Panama ................................................ 1-2 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Resumption of Monitoring Group Meetings ................. 2-3,14-15 ISRAEL Upcoming Israeli Elections .............................. 3,15 LATIN AMERICA USG Meetings with Mexico and Canada/USG Meetings with Other Governments re Implementation of Helms-Burton ......... 3,6-7 --Prospects for Mtg Between Secretary Christopher and UK Foreign Secretary Rifkind re Helms-Burton ............ 4 --U.S. View of Secondary Boycotts ....................... 4 --Behavior of Cuban Government .......................... 4-5 --Other Governments Opposition to Helms-Burton .......... 6 ALBANIA Albanian Elections/Evaluation of Elections .............. 5 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Reports of "Secret Meetings" held in Region on Fate of Karadzic and Mladic ..................................... 7-8 A/S Kornblum's Travel to the Region/Secretary's Mtgs in Geneva ................................................ 7,13 Violence in Prijedor Area/Bosnian Serb Stoning of Bus Carrying Muslim Women ................................. 12-13 Status of Train and Equip/Reports of Troops Being Trained in Turkey/Reports of Weapons Arrival .................. 13-14 RUSSIA Chechen Ceasefire Agreement Signed by President Yeltsin and Chechen Rebel Leader Yanderbiyev .................. 8-9 NORTH KOREA Congressman Richardson's Trip to North Korea ............ 9-10 Famine Conditions Continue/Prospects for Further US Food Assistance ............................................ 11 Defection of North Korean Pilot/Any US Access to Pilot .. 11 Economic and Political Situation in North Korea ......... 16-17 COLOMBIA Colombian Officials Statements re: U.S. Interference in Colombia/Reported US "Plot" Against President Samper .. 10 INDIA Reports of Voting Irregularities in Kashmir ............. 17 SAUDI ARABIA Health of King Fahd...................................... 17-18 GREECE/TURKEY Reports of Ships Colliding Near Imia-Kardak ............. 18-19 LIBYA Qadhafi Proposal re Union Between Libya, Egypt and Sudan 19-20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1996, 12:48 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. You've got me to kick around today. Nick won't be back until tomorrow.
A couple of quick announcements at the top. First, to welcome to the State Department briefing room five Portuguese journalists who are participating in the Luso-American Development Foundation Journalism Training Program at Boston University. They're in Washington, D.C. to gain a general overview of the U.S. Government and American society. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Second and last, a statement to let you know that Deputy Secretary Talbott is traveling beginning tomorrow to Latin America. He's visiting three countries. He'll start off in Haiti where he'll spend about a day. In Haiti, he will express continuing U.S. support for democracy and encourage the Haitian Government to move forward with President Preval's ambitious economic modernization program.
Next, he'll go to Venezuela where he will meet with the President of Venezuela -- President Caldera -- to review a broad range of bilateral and regional issues. He'll also meet with Venezuela's economic cabinet to express strong support for President Caldera's economic liberalization program.
Then after that, towards the end of the week, he will move on to Panama -- his last stop -- where he will spend a weekend as the leader of the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. He will also, while he is in Panama at that meeting, meet with the Foreign Ministers of countries in the region to review the progress made in implementing the action plan that the leaders of the hemisphere created at the December '94 Summit of the Americas.
He will, while there, sign on behalf of the United States Government, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, which we view as a great step forward in our efforts to coordinate support for the rule of law across the Americas. He'll also meet with Panama's President, President Balladares, and then he'll come back to Washington after about six days.
That is it for my announcements. George.
Q Anything exciting to report on the monitoring talks?
MR. DAVIES: I can tell you that they're not going to meet today. They won't get back together again until Thursday, when we hope the final few issues that remain unresolved can be resolved, and we can roll out the Monitoring Group in all its glory and how it will function, and what have you.
There were no changes over the weekend to report. We're essentially where we were when they broke up last week, which again is with a couple of differences -- brackets, if you will -- in this document that's been worked on. We hope that when negotiators come back on Thursday, we'll be able to remove those brackets and have an agreed document.
Q These delays have nothing to do with the Israeli elections?
MR. DAVIES: Well, no, I think it would be a little bit much to try to hold these -- to keep these negotiations going during the Israeli elections. We had two holidays over the weekend -- one an Israeli holiday, and one an American holiday -- which prevented meetings from occurring.
I think it makes sense during the Israeli elections not to try to do this. The Israelis ought to be able to concentrate on their domestic issues for the next couple of days, and again, we'll have them back here on Thursday and try to wrap it up then.
Q You won't even have a government to deal with on Thursday. How can you expect any progress or any feedback from the capital?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that that's the case. I mean, I think there will still be authorities in Tel Aviv who will be in a position to pass judgment on the issues that are raised in the Monitoring Group meeting. We don't know what we'll have on Thursday, obviously. The elections are tomorrow, and we'll just have to see how they roll out, but there will still be Israeli Ambassadors around the world. There will still be an Israeli Government that will be functioning sufficiently to negotiate on these matters, and we'll see if we can't wrap it up on Thursday.
Q Do you expect Rabinovich to get back in Washington by Thursday?
MR. DAVIES: I just don't know exactly who will be here to negotiate for the various parties. It's my assumption it will be Rabinovich, but again we'll just have to wait and see.
Q Mr. Davies, when do you expect the first American official reactions to the results in Israel, or do you plan something ahead or --
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything planned. We don't have anything planned -- a date and a time when we are going to stand up and say what we think about the Israeli elections. I think it's a bit premature. We'll simply have to wait and see what happens and decide whether it even makes sense to do anything formal from the standpoint of the United States Government. I mean, these are, of course, important elections -- we recognize that -- by all accounts reasonably close. But we'll wait and see what happens, and then we'll decide if we say something and, if so, when we do so.
Q On the Helms-Burton law, today it's end of the meeting with Mexico and Canada --
MR. DAVIES: Right.
Q And do you have any announcement to make regarding also the list that will be --
MR. DAVIES: There's been a lot of talk about "a list" or "lists." I would steer you away from there being any kind of a list -- a blacklist or a magic list of companies that will fall under the purview of that legislation.
In point of fact, we are today getting together, as we have several times in the past, with representatives of other governments to answer some of their questions and discuss with them what they can expect to see as we move to implement Helms-Burton.
We're not far away from, I think, making a couple of moves in the direction implementing Helms-Burton, but we're not yet there today. So we'll see if in the next couple of days there isn't something to say about how the United States Government is going to go about implementing the Libertad bill -- the Helms-Burton bill.
Q The British Foreign Secretary is going to be in town, if he's not in town already, and he's one of those who's vocal about the inadmissibility of the secondary boycott and the extraterritorial features. Is he planning to meet with Christopher or any State Department officials?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if he is. That's something we could check. It's true that Rifkind and other allied officials have expressed concerns about the extraterritorial impact of the Libertad bill. But one of the reasons we're meeting with representatives of some of these governments is to try to explain to them what it is they can expect to see when the bill rolls out, if you will, or when we move to implement the bill.
We take those concerns seriously. We're trying, as we move to implement this legislation, to maximize its impact on the Castro regime and minimize its impact on the nationals of third countries.
But it would be inaccurate to say that there won't be some impact on third-country nationals, and we'll simply have to wait and see what happens in the coming days and weeks.
Q Does the U.S. Government take any position on secondary boycotts, per se, without regard to any specific country?
MR. DAVIES: Do we take a position on? I don't know that we have any kind of a hard and fast decision on secondary boycotts. I think it would be highly contextual, the extent to which we would view them as positive or negative.
Obviously, in the case of this legislation -- the Helms-Burton legislation -- we believe it's important to try to bring great pressure to bear on the Castro regime to try to get Castro and his government to change their behavior, since they've been acting essentially in lawless ways in the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft; the shutdown of the Concilio Cubano movement; the confederation of various opposition movements in Cuba.
There are a number of recent very troubling signs that Cuba, far from reforming, is going in the other direction. So this legislation is meant to ratchet up the pressure on Castro and see if we can't bring about some change.
Q What are some of those signs that Castro is going in the wrong direction?
MR. DAVIES: I mentioned the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft, which was essentially coldblooded murder over international airspace, international waters; and also the fact that Castro has moved very strongly against opposition movements in Cuba. He has prevented people from speaking their mind; people from gathering to meet and discuss what is occurring in Cuba; and he's basically, we believe, set his country on a path that can lead Cuba to nothing but further economic ruin and deprivation, and he continues to deny his people fundamental rights.
So this Act -- the Libertad Act -- is an attempt -- one among many -- to try to pressure Castro to change that approach to governing his country.
Q On Sunday we had elections in Albania, and I'm wondering if you have a comment, because the opposition parties withdrew from elections, and they accused the government of irregularities.
MR. DAVIES: We do have a bit of a comment about the elections that occurred over the weekend in Albania. We are looking at and will be looking at in coming days the reports of elections observers who are in Albania. There were between 150 and 200 election observers, including observers from a number of American-based groups and, of course, observers from the U.S. Embassy in Tirana.
What we have preliminarily from those observers are reports of some irregularities -- some of them serious -- that have given us some pause as we try to evaluate what has happened in Albania. We're concerned about elections of -- or reports of irregularities at the polling places. There have been reports as well as some violence that have occurred.
We note that one of the opposition parties pulled out of the elections at the last moment, and we don't yet know precisely why or what the effect of that pullout will have on the results of the election.
So we're looking at all of this, and we will, in coming days, try to evaluate it further and perhaps we'll have something more definitive to say about the elections. But the polls have only just closed.
We are, right now, looking at those results and urging the Albanian Government, and all the political parties in Albania, to take all the necessary steps to ensure that the disputes that have arisen are addressed in a peaceful fashion.
Q On Sunday, Cyprus had elections. Do you have a comment on the Cyprus elections?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any particular comment on the elections in Cyprus.
Q Back to Helms-Burton. Do you expect to reach a deal before the meeting with the OAS organization in Panama -- I mean, with Mexico and Canada, or to make the announcement?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think there is any deal-making here. We're not negotiating with Canada and Mexico and the European community and others. We're simply explaining to them our intentions as we move to implement the Helms-Burton legislation.
It's not as if we're trying to accomplish anything in particular in talking with those governments before the OAS meeting next weekend in Panama.
Q Just the group of Rio has pronounced against the Helms-Burton, and they are planning to present a request to the government like a (inaudible). It's in the country.
MR. DAVIES: They're in numerous company since many others have also expressed concerns about the Helms-Burton legislation. One of the chores, I'm sure, that the Deputy Secretary of State will have to perform when he's down there is to answer some of the questions of those attending the meeting about the Helms-Burton legislation.
All I can say at this stage is that in coming days, we hope to have some more answers for people. We think it will become a little clearer how it is we intend to implement the Libertad bill.
Q Can you tell us more about the meetings? Who was attending them? Who is the lead U.S. delegate to the meeting?
MR. DAVIES: The meeting today?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have details on that. I don't believe that the State Department has the lead in that. I could try to get you some details. I don't think it's in character or composition any different from the several previous sessions that we've had.
Q You don't know who has the lead -- Commerce, Treasury, STR?
MR. DAVIES: I believe it's the Commerce Department.
MR. DAVIES: The meetings previously have been held at STR. I don't know whether today's meeting is being held at STR, but we can check into that for you.
Q Bosnia. There were reports on the wires of secret meetings underway to determine the fate of Karadzic and Mladic. These would be meetings that were being held in Belgrade and would have included Milosevic. There were also reports that Karadzic and Mladic were in Belgrade, either attending the meetings or on the sidelines?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything for you on any secret meetings in Belgrade to discuss the fate of prominent indicted war criminals. I don't have any information for you on that.
I can tell you I think what you already know, which is that John Kornblum, our Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs has been reactive in pressing, especially in Serbia with President Milosevic, for a resolution to this; pressing Milosevic to make good on his promise, when he signed the Dayton peace accords, to remove from power Karadzic and Mladic. John Kornblum, of course, is going to be going back to the region very, very shortly.
The Secretary of State will be discussing Bosnia on the weekend when he's in Geneva on his trip out there. But beyond that, I don't have anything about secret meetings.
Was the inference that the United States was somehow involved in this?
Q That the United States had pushed for meetings to try and resolve the status of Karadzic and Mladic with the elections fast approaching.
MR. DAVIES: We certainly want, as you put it, the status of Karadzic and Mladic to be resolved in favor of their being removed from power and taken out of the political picture. I simply can't confirm for you that we pushed for any kinds of specific meetings that may or may not have occurred in Belgrade. I don't have anything on that.
Charlie, did you something?
Q I think you've clarified it. The first reference you made in answer to Betsy's question was no knowledge of any secret meetings in Belgrade. Then, you later said something more general. I take it that you're not trying to -- that you don't know anything about any secret meetings?
MR. DAVIES: I think that's a fair statement to --
Q No secrets?
MR. DAVIES: That's right. No secrets.
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q Aside from the obvious ecstasy over the potential breaking out of peace there --
MR. DAVIES: Do I look ecstatic?
Q Yeah. Has the State Department developed a line on the agreement yesterday?
MR. DAVIES: We welcomed the agreement that was signed yesterday, May 27, by President Yeltsin and the Chechen rebel leader, Mr. Yandirbiyev. It's a development that gives us hope that we can eventually see an end to the bloodshed. We strongly support the negotiating process that was launched yesterday. We hope that the parties involved in it will take the maximum advantage of this opportunity to reach a settlement that's comprehensive -- a political settlement -- to the issue.
So I guess, to sum it up, what we're looking at now is to see what will happen in coming days; whether parties will, in fact, take further concrete steps to demonstrate that the agreement represents a true momentum toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
For our part, we obviously want to applaud the announcement and the developments in the last couple of days but also, to emphasize again, our strong support for the OSCE's efforts which helped get the talks started. The role of the OSCE and the OSCE group has been critical. We stand ready to do whatever we can to promote a negotiated settlement.
Q Is there a note of skepticism in that statement?
MR. DAVIES: You should not go away from here with a note of skepticism. We're positive about what's occurred here. We welcome it. We hope very sincerely that this now is the beginning of the end of that very terrible conflict which has taken tens of thousands of lives and which has preoccupied the Russian-body politic.
Q (Inaudible) cynical the Russian --. Leave out the word "cynical."
MR. DAVIES: I can't really speak to people's motivations here, given the job that I've got to do. I think what's important is that this has happened. It promises an end to the fighting in Chechnya.
We hope -- and this is even more important than an end to the fighting which can always relapse -- eventually that there be a political settlement that puts an end to the incentive to carry on this conflict on both sides.
Q Glyn, what about the Russian military? Do analysts in this building think that the military will follow the President's orders?
MR. DAVIES: The last time I checked, there was civilian control over the military in Russia. So we expect that if the duly elected civilian authorities of Russia issue orders, that the military of course will follow through on them, despite stray comments that might have been made by officers about what is occurring.
Q Has there been any feedback from Congressman Bill Richardson's trip to North Korea?
MR. DAVIES: Not that I can report to you. My understanding is that he's just arrived back in Seoul from his trip to North Korea. He went there, of course, first and foremost, to talk with the North Koreans about the issue of accounting for Americans lost during the Korean war. But while there, our understanding is that he also raised with North Korean authorities the joint U.S.-South Korean proposal to hold four-party talks to finally put an end to the Korean conflict which, of course, has never formally been concluded.
He may have something to say to the press in the next little while. It's up to him. I noted over the weekend a number of accounts of his trip began by saying that the Administration had dispatched Congressman Richardson to North Korea. Of course, while we might at times wish we could dispatch Congressmen, we can't. It's up to them to decide what to do. He decided to go, and he's played a useful role. He went, of course, accompanied by some U.S. officials who were there to help him, which is a normal occurrence when Congressmen travel.
So we'll see what happens. But I would hope in the next half day or day, we'll have a full account of what it is he's able to accomplish out there.
Q Colombia. What is your reaction to some of the declarations of the members of the Cabinet of President Samper that is mentioned today in the Post that the U.S. Government, one more time, is trying to interfere in the internal matters of Colombia?
MR. DAVIES: These are the charges that have been leveled -- and this was not the first time -- by the Interior Minister of Colombia, Minister Serpa, who has made these charges of there having been or there being some kind of a plot -- a U.S. plot -- against the President of Colombia. That's simply not the case.
It is true that we've consistently registered our concern about the pervasive influence of drug-related corruption in the hemisphere. We have repeatedly talked about the need for a full, transparent, and credible investigation of the charges against President Samper within the framework of Colombia's laws and constitution. But it's ludicrous to assert that there's any kind of a U.S. plot against Colombia's President.
Q A follow-up.
MR. DAVIES: A follow-up? Sure.
Q So the United States is not embarking in internal matters about Colombia?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry?
Q The U.S. Government is not embarking in internal issues in Colombia?
MR. DAVIES: As a general statement, that's true. We are not involved in -- we are not interfering in Colombia's internal processes, no. We may have opinions about some of what's occurring down there but we're not down there moving and shaking and making deals and trying to bring things about necessarily. We have a very active U.S. Embassy, which is doing its job of expressing to the Colombian authorities our views; and, on the other hand, reporting back to Washington what it is they see and making policy recommendations.
We are not interfering in Colombia's internal affairs, if that's your question.
Q Glyn, just to go back to North Korea. Has the Administration made a decision yet on whether or not there is a need to contribute more humanitarian aid to North Korea? I understand there might be a report out -- another report out -- from the World Food Program about the dire situation?
MR. DAVIES: I have nothing to announce in terms of a decision having been made. It's true that we continue to follow very closely reports from those who visit and operate in North Korea -- the World Food Program is one of the principal among them -- that the famine conditions continue, and that there remain some very serious, drastic shortages of foodstuffs in parts of the country. That may well have been part of what Congressman Richardson was able to look into. We'll find out.
We have not at all ruled out further food aid to North Korea, but we don't have any plans right now to announce in terms of providing further food.
Q Have any U.S. Government personnel spoken directly with the North Korean military pilot who defected? Or do we have any plans to, or is all of our information going to come -- passed along from the South Korean Government?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we've had any contact with the defector -- the pilot -- who landed just recently in his aircraft.
My understanding is that the information that we're getting is largely through the media because he has spoken publicly; but then, also, from the South Koreans who are perhaps talking with him. But I don't know that we've had access to him. That's something I would be happy to check into.
It's actually a question that is probably better directed to the Pentagon since they would naturally have the lead on that kind of an issue.
Q Bosnia. The case of those seven Bosnians who were handed over to the Serbs, it seems every few days there's another twist and turn in that story. The only things that seem clear is they were speedily handed over and just as speedily the Serbs began torturing them.
Does the U.S. have a better idea, two or three weeks later, who they were, what they were doing? Anything else to fill in the story?
MR. DAVIES: I can't add much to what's been said about that. We've addressed the issue a number of times.
Again, I think the best source for, if you will, what happened at the time would be the Pentagon which, obviously, is in touch with IFOR and has people on the ground out there and was involved in this to some extent. But I don't have anything to add to what's been said about the circumstances surrounding the turning over of those individuals to Bosnian Serb authorities.
Q Do you have anything to say on the -- I know that it's new; it seems to persist -- of Muslims getting back to their homes, prevented by Serbs again?
MR. DAVIES: Over the weekend there was an incident in which, I believe, a group of women tried to, in the Prijedor area, hold a memorial service or lay some kind of a wreath. They were confronted by Bosnian Serbs who threw rocks and otherwise opposed their entry into their territory.
In fact, authorities around Prijedor have been notably uncooperative. IFOR and the international police task force will be addressing this issue with the responsible parties in the coming days.
In general, we condemn that kind of violence -- the violence that we saw over the weekend. We call upon the parties to adhere to the spirit and letter of Dayton as the only way to ensure that the right of freedom of movement is established and respected.
IFOR did a good job of containing the situation. It should be noted in that context that despite that very regrettable incident, there were over the weekend a number of successful crossings at the inter-ethnic boundary line by large groups which weren't reported in the press.
Furthermore, there are many hundreds of crossings that occur without incident everyday, none of which excuses or takes away from what occurred over the weekend and the fact that we condemn it. It's an issue that the United States raises constantly -- the issue of freedom of movement. Assistant Secretary Kornblum certainly did so with high-ranking officials last week. We look forward to continued close consultations with IFOR, with the international police task force, and with the parties to try to spell out further guidelines which can forestall such confrontations in the future.
There is a procedure if large groups want to cross the inter-ethnic boundary line where, essentially, they make known their wishes. In effect, it's like registering for a demonstration in a major city in this country. As a result, the IPTF and IFOR and other authorities are able to do whatever possible to try to facilitate the planned movement.
We would hope that all large groups would follow that procedure.
Q He goes back, does he, around Thursday?
MR. DAVIES: I believe he's heading back in the next couple of days. I don't have any itinerary for you. His plan is to go back, it's my understanding, to help prepare the Secretary's trip out there on the weekend.
Q Will he see all three leaders? Is that the idea?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if that's his plan, Barry.
Q Apparently, the training of the Bosnian Muslim soldiers has started in Turkey. Is this part of the official U.S.-led project? Is it under way officially or is Turkey doing something on the side at this point?
MR. DAVIES: The U.S.-led train-and-equip project is not under way officially as of this date. We await certification that all foreign fighters have been removed from Bosnia. We haven't yet initiated that program of train-and-equip.
Q Has the U.S. contacted Turkey about the program which has already started? There are several hundred Bosnian soldiers being trained in Turkey right now.
MR. DAVIES: We've been in touch with Turkey all along. Of course, there was the Ankara Conference several months ago in which we tried to lay the groundwork for a future program of train-and-equip to assist the Federation forces in establishing a more modern military to counterbalance the Bosnian Serbs.
But as far as whether or not we've been in touch with Turkey about any training that's begun, that you're referring to, I simply can't say. I don't know.
Q Are you saying that you're unaware that any Bosnian soldiers are being now trained in Turkey, irrespective of U.S. equipment?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not aware of that report. It's something I can check for you, but I'm not aware that training has necessarily started.
Q Would you broaden the deck to include weapons as well? I know the building here was upset last week of reports that the first batch of American weapons had arrived. They said it hadn't -- people were saying.
While you're checking on training, could you check on equipment?
MR. DAVIES: Check on weapons. Sure. Train-and-equip.
Q Could I ask you, did you explain why it's so difficult to get an agreement on monitoring the cease-fire? In fact, why the delay in even talking in the negotiations, if that's what they are?
MR. DAVIES: What I can't do for you, Barry, is, I can't get into the agreement itself and define what's in the brackets and kind of tell you the precise state of play in these confidential talks.
I think it's relatively obvious why this is not built in a day. That is, of course, there is a lot of emotional baggage attached to the issue.
Israel and Lebanon have just been through a very tough period, and we want to make sure that we get this right and that we have on board all of those who are prospective members of the Monitoring Group; and that the procedures that are arrived at and agreed to have the full backing of all the parties within the Monitoring Group.
So it's just a question of getting it right and making sure that everybody is comfortable with the procedure.
Q I mean, there hasn't been any big problem in a couple of weeks. Maybe it's like the follow-on counter-terrorism conference. It will just go away.
MR. DAVIES: Well, I don't --
Q The Luxembourg Conference -- are you ready to announce that?
MR. DAVIES: I have nothing to announce today for you, Barry. But, no, I think the prudent thing to do is --
MR. DAVIES: I think the prudent thing to do is to follow through on the promise of the agreement that the Secretary brokered after seven days and seven nights in the Middle East, and set this thing up to further insure that the current tranquility continues. I mean, I think it makes perfect sense to go forward with it.
Q I think you said that the U.S. has opinions -- or the State Department has opinions about various things in Colombia. Does the State Department have any opinion about the Israeli election? Does it have a preference?
MR. DAVIES: If we do, we're not going to be stating it publicly. That would constitute interference in the democratic processes of a close ally -- a friend of the United States -- and that would be wrong. So we're not going to go there.
Q I'll bet you've been reading the papers as closely as all of us have, and there doesn't seem to be any -- I mean, there seems to be a consistent description of the Clinton Administration as campaigning even, certainly tilting for the Peres people. Is that a case of massive stigmatism, or has all the press got it wrong, or they misunderstand the --
MR. DAVIES: I'm not aware that we've bought any time on prime-time television in Israel to support any one candidate.
Q Well, I'm wondering about that defense agreement that the Israeli Foreign Minister was rushed here to work on. He was here about four hours and went back home, and that's the last we heard about the defense agreement. It sounded good, though. (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: Barry, you're saying --
Q I think it may be PR to try to show how close this Administration is to the current Israeli Government, no?
MR. DAVIES: I simply wouldn't characterize it that way. I mean, our relationship moves forward with the Government of Israel regardless of who constitutes the Government of Israel. We only hope that whatever government is elected will continue to have an excellent relationship with the United States, and we expect that to be the case.
Bill. Welcome back. I haven't had a chance to welcome you back.
Q Well, thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Welcome back. You're looking good.
Q Well, thank you, Glyn. Let me go back to Korea, if I could, because -- and the question will be as -- well, anyway, Ambassador Laney was at the Press Club this morning, and he had some very sobering things to say about North Korea, and I wanted just to lay out what I heard and ask you how close this is to the State Department's understanding and policy.
MR. DAVIES: Well, give me a tight excerpt of what you heard.
Q Okay, here's a tight excerpt. (Laughter) "There's a serious potential for destruction on the peninsula, either by accident or intentionally." He further said that, "It is the desperation of the North Korean Government, the North Korean economy, their whole system, that could bring about some kind of a desperate military act," although he does not think that they intend to take military action against the South.
Does the United States Government see it as this serious?
MR. DAVIES: You're talking about perhaps the most heavily fortified border in the world -- that between North and South Korea. I mean, we have troops there. Both sides have large armed forces. The North Koreans have millions of men and women under arms, many of whom are deployed in an offensive posture very close to the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.
It's absolutely dangerous. I don't think anybody would quarrel with that characterization of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
As far as North Korean intentions are concerned, there's a lot of common wisdom about what perhaps is motivating them, what moves they might take, but in point of fact it's a closed society that nobody has a really good beat on who is not inside North Korea and part of that society.
So I think what Ambassador Laney said makes perfect sense, given what we know. Obviously, all of our efforts are directed at preventing any kind of a conflict from occurring between North and South Korea.
Q Does this government view North Korea's situation as increasingly desperate?
MR. DAVIES: I think from a number of standpoints it would appear that certainly the situation of many of the North Korean people is getting difficult with the shortage of food. Of course, that is one of the most repressive societies on earth, as near as we can tell from the outside looking in.
Does that mean that the government is getting desperate, and what does "getting desperate" mean? I can't help you much there. I really can't. But the important thing to do now is to put our efforts -- and we're doing this, the United States Government -- into promoting the four-party peace proposal that President Clinton and President Kim offered to North Korea during the President's visit to that country.
So we're directing our effort to trying to move down that road, regardless of what the intentions of the North Korean Government might be.
Q As you know, there were elections about a month back in India, except in Kashmir, where elections were held to some (inaudible) of the Indian Parliament last week on Thursday and some more are due next Thursday -- day after tomorrow. Almost the entire Western press has reported widespread use of force to coerce people to vote, and troops, as these reports have said, herded workers to the polling stations and those who refused are arrested. They were subjected to violence. Do you have any comment on these reports, and do you have any reports of your own from your own sources?
MR. DAVIES: The United States is always concerned when there are reports of voting irregularities in countries around the world, and we've seen those reports of coercion having occurred in Kashmir -- in districts in Kashmir -- and we're doing what the American people would expect, which is looking into it and making that issue part of our very broad dialogue with the Indian Government.
But I certainly don't have any developments to give you that would take us beyond what we were saying about what was occurring in Kashmir at the end of last week.
Q Time Magazine in its latest issue has said that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is about to be packed off to some other country and will effectively relinquish power on health grounds. Do you have anything on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't. I don't have anything to report to you that would tend to confirm that at all. As far as we know, King Fahd is alive and doing very well in Riyadh, and the relationship that we maintain with the Saudi Government continues quite smoothly.
Q Who's running the Saudi Government currently? This isn't the first --
MR. DAVIES: King Fahd is the Chief of State of the Saudi Government. I can't give you a list of all the various ministers in the Saudi Government but --
Q The Time Magazine report is not the first to suggest because of illness or other reasons other people in the family -- you have to be in the family to run Saudi Arabia -- other people in the family had taken prominence and were running the country, and he's sort of pushed to the side whether or not he departs the country.
The U.S. analysis is what -- that King Fahd is firmly at the helm?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any analysis to share with you about the state of play politically in Saudi Arabia right now. As I say, King Fahd is there, and we maintain a relationship with his government and with his ministers and have received no word that there's going to be any change in the status quo. I can't handicap for you what is occurring within the Saudi Government or within the al-Saud family.
Q Glyn, this morning Turkish and Greek coast guard boats hit each other nearby the Imia-Kardak island --
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, they did what around Imia-Kardak?
Q Imia-Kardak -- nearby the Imia-Kardak.
MR. DAVIES: Okay. They collided -- ships collided?
Q Yes, hit each other. Do you have any reaction? Do you have any concern about it, because this is the second event in the same area. The two countries are increasing the tensions, especially the --
MR. DAVIES: Before having a specific comment about that kind of an incident, I think I'd have to know a little bit more about it -- the circumstances in which it occurred. But I'm happy to repeat what's been said a couple of three, four dozen times from this podium that our relationship with those two nations is very important to us. They're both members of --
MR. DAVIES: Barry's doing it for me over here.
Q NATO partners.
MR. DAVIES: NATO partners. We have strong bilateral ties and ties within the alliance, and we would hope that they would work their differences out peacefully.
Q And you're willing --
MR. DAVIES: And we're willing to do whatever the parties think we can do to help them facilitate this.
Q You've said that four dozen times? (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: Count it.
Q It's more than that. (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: Probably, George. He's got these little check marks on his book -- notches on his book.
Q There are reports that Qadhafi, during his visit to Egypt, has proposed a union between Libya, Egypt and Sudan that would serve as a defense against U.S., European, and Israeli influence. I was just wondering if you had any comments?
MR. DAVIES: Bad idea. (Laughter) I was prepared to tell you all about his comments to Mubarak on Tarhunah -- the big Tarhunah.
MR. DAVIES: But I really -- I mean, my goodness, I don't think I've got anything that would make sense to say. We have very strong views about Libya and its leadership, and we have a strong relationship with other countries in the region, most importantly, of course, Egypt, and we look forward to continuing our good work with Egypt and Tunisia and the other countries of the Maghreb. We think it's very important to try, to the extent possible, to prevent Qadhafi from going forward with some of his more dangerous schemes, but as the construction of this chemical weapons plant in a mountain at Tarhunah about 50 kilometers from Tripoli.
Q You don't agree with your good friend President Mubarak that Qadhafi has taken a turn toward civilized behavior?
MR. DAVIES: I mean, we certainly note what President Mubarak has to say, and we have no reason to think he's not telling us what he believes. But I think what's important here is, if these reports are true, that we've got Qadhafi for the first time admitting that Tarhunah is a chemical weapons plant, it sounds to me, which takes us sort of one step further toward salvation, maybe, for Qadhafi -- and redemption which would follow that.
Q I think that's it, thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:33 p.m.)
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