U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Wednesday, September 25, l996 Briefer: Glyn Davies ANNOUNCEMENTS Palestinian-IDF Clashes in Ramallah/U.S. Response ........... 1 American Arrested on Charges of Spying for South Korea ...... 2 SOUTH KOREA Arrest on Espionage Charges of Robert Kim ................... 2-4 - Bilateral Relations/Contacts with ROK Officials .......... 2-4 - Diplomatic Status of ROK Naval Attache ................... 3 - Investigation of Charges, Judicial Process ............... 4 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Violence in Ramallah ........................................ 4-11 - Israel Opens Temple Mount Tunnel ......................... 4-5,6,8-9 -- Status of Jerusalem, Final Status Issues/Oslo Accords .. 1,8-9 - Effect on Peace Talks, Cairo Economic Summit ............. 6-8 - U.S. Efforts to Defuse Situation ......................... 5-7,9-11 IRAQ Evacuation of NGO Kurdish Employees from Iraq ............... 11-16 - Possible Routing Through Turkey; Final Destination ....... 11-14 - Secretary's Meeting with Dep Prime Minister Ciller ....... 12-14 - Threat to Kurds with U.S. Connections .................... 13 - Effect on UNSC Res 986 Implementation, Humanitarian Aid .. 14-15 Communication with PUK Leader Talabani ...................... 16 RUSSIA Privations of Military; Subordinate to Civilian Authority ... 16-17
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1996, 1:08 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome as well to a number of students from the Washington Journalism Semester at American University. Thanks for coming and joining us today.
I thought what I'd do today is start off by addressing just two of the many issues that appear to be in the news at the moment, perhaps to get the ball rolling.
First, there are these reports that Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian protesters have exchanged some fire; that the Palestinian protests in Ramallah in the West Bank have resulted in clashes between the IDF and Palestinians.
With regard to that, the United States would like to urge all sides to move quickly to restore calm, to exercise restraint and to avoid further violence. The parties to the Oslo accords have agreed that issues relating to Jerusalem will be dealt with in the permanent status talks; that these are final status issues.
The important point now from our standpoint is that Israelis and Palestinians focus on using negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues related to the implementation of their agreements. We believe as well that they should avoid creating other issues that will make this process more difficult.
The U.S. Government at various levels is engaged with the parties to convey this message. We're doing it both from Washington and in the region itself. For instance, our Ambassador Martin Indyk -- our Ambassador to Israel -- has been in touch with key actors in the Israeli Government. Our Consul General in Jerusalem, Mr. Ed Abington, has been in touch with Yasser Arafat directly. Dennis Ross, who is here in Washington, has been in touch with Dore Gold of the Prime Minister's office. He has also been in touch with the Egyptian officials.
We know separately that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Mubarak have been in touch. So there's a great deal of diplomatic work underway, very important work, to try to get both sides to back off from this confrontation and to get back to dealing with these issues peacefully. So I wanted to say that at the top.
The other issue that I'd like to just mention, since I'm sure it will come up, is this report that the Department of Justice has announced the arrest last night of an individual by the name of Robert Kim, a computer specialist at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland, and has arrested him on charges of passing classified documents to an agent of a foreign government. In this case, we're talking about the Republic of Korea.
In the wake of this arrest, the State Department called in the senior Korean diplomat in Washington this morning and met with him, and indicated to him that we are very disturbed at this development. I would like to note, though, that the U.S. and South Korea are strong allies and friends. Because of that, we count on full South Korean cooperation in bringing this very disturbing and puzzling case to resolution.
With those as teasers, George, your questions.
QUESTION: I believe there was somebody at the South Korean Embassy who was involved in this. Do you have anything to say about him?
MR. DAVIES: At this stage, I don't have anything to say beyond what's been said. There is a judicial process that will begin. I believe it will begin today as Mr. Kim appears before a magistrate, according to the reports that I've seen. At this stage I think we'll reserve on commenting much further on the case, except to again reiterate that we've been in touch with Korean officials, and we've expressed to them our concern at this case and at what it might imply. We will clearly have to have more conversations with the Koreans about this matter before it's resolved.
QUESTION: I believe the Secretary met with the Korean Foreign Minister yesterday.
MR. DAVIES: That's correct.
QUESTION: Do you know whether that issue came up?
MR. DAVIES: My understanding is that it did not, and I believe Nick said so on the record.
QUESTION: A quick clarification. The Korean Naval Attache has diplomatic immunity.
MR. DAVIES: I believe he would have diplomatic immunity. I could check that specifically, but normally he would be on the blue list.
QUESTION: Would you want him to leave? Would you want any South Korean to leave?
MR. DAVIES: We're not at a stage yet of discussing publicly where we're going to go on this, beyond simply noting our concern -- the fact that this is very disturbing -- and that we hope and expect that the South Korean Government will cooperate fully with us, as they're very good allies.
QUESTION: Have the South Koreans told you that they are going to withdraw this individual?
MR. DAVIES: I have no such communication to report to you from the South Koreans, no.
QUESTION: They have not told you that?
MR. DAVIES: I do not believe they have, no. I can't report that to you.
QUESTION: Have you asked them to withdraw this --
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to get into the substance of the conversation that occurred this morning with the South Korean diplomat, except to note what I already have -- that we expressed to him our concern.
QUESTION: Would that be an appropriate way for South Korea to handle this matter?
MR. DAVIES: I think for the time being, we'll leave sort of what's appropriate between the United States and South Korea.
QUESTION: You said you might discuss what this may imply. What might it imply?
MR. DAVIES: That goes back to what I said about this having been for us a very disturbing development. Clearly, if there has been any kind of espionage or any kind of relationship, passing of classified materials to officials of an Embassy that's stationed here in Washington, you would expect it's a very, very disturbing thing for us, and we would look for action to be taken quite quickly on this -- if that turns out to be the case.
But what we still have to establish here are some of the facts of the case, and that process will begin as the magistrate opens up the process today. I think in terms of what actually are the facts of this, we'll have to wait and see what comes out of the judicial process.
Any more on Korea?
QUESTION: Yes. What does this say to you when some of the United States' closest and dearest friends, including Israel and France and whatever and now South Korea, basically have spies operating under your noses?
MR. DAVIES: Again, I don't want to get out in front of where we are on this and leap to the conclusion that there's some kind of a deep, dark, long-standing spy network here. We don't know that. We don't know that yet.
What we know is that the FBI and Navy investigators picked up this individual, Mr. Robert Kim; that they did so on suspicion of his having passed classified information, classified documents, to an agent of a foreign government, that government being Korea. Right now, what we have to do is establish the facts of the matter.
QUESTION: Regardless of whether there's some, you know, long established, entrenched net, I mean, you've obviously got an incident where the South Koreans were using this guy. So it doesn't really speak well of the relationship, does it?
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't draw any conclusions about the broader relationship. We have with South Korea a very deep, very long-standing relationship. South Korea's a very, very good ally, and we work with them on a broad range of issues. We have troops stationed in Korea, and many, many interests in common. Right now, we're putting the accent on our common interests and we're looking to the South Koreans to cooperate with us as we try to unravel the facts of this case.
QUESTION: The Middle East?
MR. DAVIES: Any more on Korea? No. Middle East. Let me first go behind you to Abdulsalam.
QUESTION: Glyn, quite a few questions about what happened yesterday and today in Jerusalem and Ramallah. First of all, did Israel by opening this tunnel -- did it consult with the United States over the issue of opening the tunnel at this present time?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any prior consultation with the Government of Israel on this, no.
QUESTION: Okay. Is Israel taking advantage of the hiatus as a result of the upcoming elections in the United States, that they are creating facts on the ground to embarrass or possibly not to have any reaction from the United States, which is supposed to be keeping the status of Jerusalem as it is untouched, because excavation and the tunnel is going into holy places for Muslims; and, as Yasser Arafat said overnight, that this is a crime against the holy places of both Muslims and Christians.
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Abdulsalam, you've asked a question about Israeli motivations. You'd have to address that to the Israelis. I don't have any analysis to offer to you.
QUESTION: So what are you offering now with this -- it looks like this is a tinderbox, I think, whereas here the indications of not just an intifada or uprising where they throw stones; there are guns on both sides, and I'm afraid -- and I'm saying it to you with all sorrow and sadness -- that it might create more explosions, and we'll have really bloodshed on our hands.
MR. DAVIES: It's a very charged issue, obviously, and the kind of violence we've seen hasn't been seen in sometime, and that's why the United States think it's important that all sides take a breather from this, step back from it, and not add to the already tough list of issues to be dealt with in the final status negotiations; but rather urge their partisans to act calmly and to get away from any further violence of this nature. Right now the enemy is violence, and the answer is restraint.
QUESTION: Would you suggest or propose to Mr. Netanyahu to cut his trip short in Europe and attend to Israel in order to face this hot issue --
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't presume to suggest to the Prime Minister of Israel how to handle this. I've already seen him, as you have, on television, addressing the issue. I'm certain he's seized of it, and I wouldn't prescribe where he should do it. I mean, he's dealing with the issue now as near as I can tell.
QUESTION: Last question. Since you are the main sponsor of the peace process in the Middle East and in light of all tension at all fronts between Israel, Egypt, Jordan -- not Jordan -- Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians, what are the things that you should develop -- you have to develop? Do you think you should develop a strategy of dealing with all of these things immediately with no hesitation, with no reluctance about facing the whole situation in the Middle East?
MR. DAVIES: Right now, Mr. Abdulsalam, it's hard to look past the events of the last few hours to some of these broader issues. Right now, job number one for us, the first challenge for us as sponsors of the peace process, is to do all we can diplomatically to convey this message to the parties that what's needed is a measure of calm, a measure of restraint, and to try to put an end to this confrontation, which is, I agree, a dangerous confrontation.
QUESTION: Do you have a specific position vis-a-vis this tunnel digging? When you said "no new issues," do you mean specifically that Israel should not do that, or it was something that should be discussed beforehand? And also, what's going to be the implication, would you say, of the situation now on the Cairo summit? Are there any voices coming from Cairo which puts some -- casts some shadow of doubt on the possibility of --
MR. DAVIES: This should not have an effect on whether the Cairo summit goes forward or not. The Cairo summit stands on its own. It's a very important event to further the economic development of the Palestinian areas. Beyond that, I really don't think it makes sense for me to get into what particular views we would have on the tunnel, on the opening of the tunnel.
To the extent we were to get into how we viewed Israeli actions on the tunnel, I think we would probably only add fuel to this fire. What's important now is to put the fire out. In fact, there have been -- just in the last few minutes, last hour or so, some indication that the violence may be dying down, and that's very, very important.
QUESTION: The statement you were given to read is highly ambiguous. It certainly points, Glyn --
MR. DAVIES: I don't agree. I think it's very clear on one point, which is what's needed here is restraint.
QUESTION: Well, what you're saying is the parties shouldn't do new things. You would appear to be accusing Israel of doing new things that complicate the peace process.
MR. DAVIES: The last thing we want to do right now is accuse either side of anything, because that wouldn't be constructive. We don't want to go back to the opening of the tunnel or back beyond that or go back to who threw the first stone or who fired the first rubber bullet. What we want to do is look forward to a time, we hope, in the very near future when the parties can get beyond this and get to talking about the issues that are already out there on a rational basis.
QUESTION: I understand your desire in the past to do this, but you're not past it, and the statement you've made appears to blame the Israelis. I just want to know if that's the impression you intend to leave, because I don't see -- other than the Palestinian police firing on the Israeli police, I don't see anything new that the Palestinians have done.
MR. DAVIES: You would be wrong to draw the impression that we're accusing Israel of having precipitated this or having accused the Palestinians of having precipitated the violence. That's not what we're about today.
QUESTION: Where's the problem, with relations with Egypt --
MR. DAVIES: The problem is that there have been violent clashes in Ramallah and the West Bank. That's the problem today, and the problem is how to get beyond that.
QUESTION: But, Glyn, the relations between Egypt and Israel have been in a downward spiral for some weeks, continuing to go down, and now this Palestinian stuff.
Is this something that the Israelis hold some culpability for in their policy, or is this something that maybe Iran and some of the enemies of Israel are agitating the Palestinians and --
MR. DAVIES: Egypt and Israel -- Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel. That peace holds. I just reported to you our understanding that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Mubarak had spoken this morning. I think that's a very good sign, and I think what we want to do today is keep the focus on this particular violence and keep the focus on how to solve the violence, prevent it from recurring, and how to get the parties back to the table to talk about these issues rationally. I'm not going to get into kind of the larger issues in the Middle East at this stage.
QUESTION: You wouldn't admit there's Arab disaffection with Mr. Netanyahu and his new government? A general disaffection of the Arabs in the area for the new Israeli Government?
MR. DAVIES: As I said, Bill, our job today is to try to put an end to this violence -- help the parties put an end to the violence and move on from there.
QUESTION: Can I move on to northern Iraq.
MR. DAVIES: I'm happy to do that unless there's more on this issue.
QUESTION: Yes, there is.
MR. DAVIES: Okay, there's more here.
QUESTION: The construction on this tunnel, you're saying that the status of this tunnel is a final status issue?
MR. DAVIES: No. We're saying that the question of Jerusalem and its disposition is a final status issue.
QUESTION: Does that include this tunnel?
MR. DAVIES: It's up to the parties to figure out what precisely it includes, but it's going to be a little hard for them to move forward with the final status if they are at loggerheads over an issue like this -- the tunnel.
QUESTION: And the broader question is, what area of its country does Israel have sovereignty over? Certainly there are areas that have been marked as final status issues, and there seems to be more being added to it all the time. Are you now saying that even this is part of the final status negotiations? And, if this is, then where do the final status negotiations stop? What's included? Does it include all of Israel, or does it include just the areas that were specified by the UN resolutions? You know, where are you all on this issue of Israeli sovereignty now?
MR. DAVIES: I'm certainly not going to take you past the Oslo accords. I mean, that's what defines what is to be looked at in the final status negotiations.
QUESTION: But I don't believe the Oslo accords talk about this tunnel.
MR. DAVIES: I don't believe they do. That's correct.
QUESTION: So you're saying then that's not a final status issue.
MR. DAVIES: I think the question of the tunnel, as with the question of Jerusalem are, at large these issues; however, the parties themselves care to define them, are issues for the final status talks, and it's important not to freight those talks with too much more negative baggage. It's for them to work out what precisely is on the table when they engage in the final status talks, and we want to help them in this process.
Clearly, the violence of today doesn't move the process any closer to the positive outcome that we would hope for.
QUESTION: Would you expect the Secretary to be heading to the Middle East or here to see what he can do?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything to report on the Secretary's travel. He's very much engaged in this issue in New York, from New York, and will in fact be meeting in coming days with many of the leaders from that part of the world.
QUESTION: Glyn, the Israelis overnight -- I heard some of the statements -- saying that this tunnel will be helpful for tourism for both sides, Palestinians and Israelis alike. How could this be helpful for Palestinians to benefit from this tunnel at the time that the Palestinians were not consulted. They've taken proper care in territory that belongs to the Palestinians and the Muslims and the Christians. How will the Israelis will justify that, if you know, that this is going to be good for tourism?
MR. DAVIES: That's a question really for the Israelis. I'm not familiar enough with this particular issue to be able to get into it, even if I wanted to, which I don't, because that would get me beyond today's job, which is the question of violence that's been occurring in the West Bank.
But we're simply going to reserve on getting into whether or not this tunnel is a good idea, breaking through the last foot-and-a-half of dirt or opening up the tunnel was a good idea, because that would all be counterproductive.
QUESTION: Is there any mechanism of putting the fire down besides voicing the hope that everybody will restrain? Is there any idea about maybe a meeting or a move -- a diplomatic move that will help to put the fire down as your effort goes, without casting blame on each side? But how do you propose to actually do it? Is there any idea that you propose on the table now to restore the calm to the area?
MR. DAVIES: Right now, we're in the midst of this very active diplomacy that has only been underway for a matter of hours. So in terms of what may come out of our contacts with regional leaders, it's too early to say whether there will be a specific proposal made or not. Right now the important thing is to stop the confrontation from continuing.
QUESTION: Could I go to northern Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Can we do that, or do we have another -- okay.
QUESTION: One of the things that came out of the Clinton -- most recent Clinton-Netanyahu meeting was they agreed there would be no surprises, such as this. Are you upset that you were surprised by this? You said earlier you weren't told about any of this?
MR. DAVIES: First, Sid, I don't know that that's the case, coming out of their meeting. Second, again, what you're trying to do -- and I understand it from your standpoint -- is to draw us into further parsing this issue or laying blame or pointing fingers. It's simply not useful to do that, because the important objective today is to put an end to the violence.
That is in the first instance up to the parties on the ground to do, but we have important interests in the area. We want very much to play a positive role, and that is why our diplomacy today is very active on this score.
QUESTION: My second question: Is it correct, as some have reported, that it was actually the previous government that had approved this plan, as Netanyahu has claimed, and that he just carried it out?
MR. DAVIES: We've seen the claims. I don't have anything to add to that. I simply can't help you with that.
QUESTION: Since you were not consulted about the opening of this tunnel, were your diplomats in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem aware of such a thing happening?
MR. DAVIES: Let me be clear, Mr. Abdulsalam, I'm not aware of our having been told in advance of what was to occur. That doesn't mean that at some level, there wasn't some indication. I don't want to necessarily mislead you. It's my belief that we were not told in advance of this action.
QUESTION: So it was a surprise to you?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if I'd characterize it as a surprise. I'm not sure that their opening the tunnel is something that we would necessarily have wanted advance notice of. Again, I'd like to get away from a discussion of the tunnel and the actions taken by both sides and get back to the general point, which is that the violence is what's standing in the way of progress right now of getting back to the peace track.
We have called on both sides to exercise restraint and to put a damper on the violence, to end the violence, so that they can sit down and talk about this rationally.
QUESTION: One of my colleague's questions (inaudible) about, do you think that this is time to bring about your presence in a high-level meeting between the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MR. DAVIES: We'll just have to see what today's diplomacy brings by way of tomorrow's news. I don't have anything to report to you today beyond the fact of these contacts that we're having with many, many officials and leaders in the Middle East.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Can we go to northern Iraq now.
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
QUESTION: There was a wire story yesterday mentioning a second wave of refugees, possibly on its way --
MR. DAVIES: A wives story?
QUESTION: A wire story.
MR. DAVIES: Wire story. Okay. I'm sorry. That's correct. It was. The author is sitting right here. (Laughter)
QUESTION: Yes, indeed. It's an interesting story, talking about 4,000 refugees, this time belonging to NGOs, crossing the border into Turkey. (1) Can you confirm that? And, second, what the modality will be? Are they going to stay shortly in Turkey again before being airlifted to Guam, and the whole security question is, is the U.S. in a position this time as was previously to issue them security IDs and all that?
MR. DAVIES: Your first question is the easy one. I can confirm that we are looking into evacuating employees of non-governmental relief organizations that are of interest to the United States.
But your second question right now is more problematic, because no decisions have been made on this. What we're doing now is working with these NGOs -- these non-governmental organizations and the private voluntary organizations -- pick your acronym -- to get lists of their employees, lists of what organizations might be part of this.
In terms of how logistically it would be carried out if a decision were made to do this, the most likely way -- just speculating a bit here -- would be to do it as we did with the just over 2,000 direct-hire U.S. Government employees, which is to say through Turkey.
Would they end up in Guam as the original 2,200 or so did, I don't know the answer to that; because we're still short of a decision, and we're short of the subordinate decisions of what kinds of measures would be taken to get these folks out of northern Iraq, if that's what's decided.
QUESTION: In other words, decision has been made at this State Department, yes, to transfer these NGO workers out of -- is it northern Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: The decision has been made that having completed the evacuation of the 2,137 or so employees of U.S. Government organizations, we're now at a stage where we can look at these requests that are coming to us from non-governmental organizations to help some of their employees who may be at risk in northern Iraq.
It's our inclination to do this, if we can, but we're not at a stage where we've made any decisions yet. We may be shortly in that position, and we'll be able to say more. But this was a matter that was raised in the meeting between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Ciller of Turkey. On the operational aspects, all of this is being looked at, is being worked out, and, if we decide to go forward, we'll make that announcement, but we're not there yet.
QUESTION: Why the NGOs second? Why are you considering -- why didn't you take them out in one 6,000 person group?
MR. DAVIES: Partly, the decision-making on this was based on how logistically easy or difficult it would be to bring various groups out. The American direct-hire employees of American organizations in northern Iraq were known to us already. We already had those lists. They were card-carrying employees of the United States Government. They were together physically; as you'll recall, gathered in Zakho, just across the border in northern Iraq.
So we first had that consideration. Also, our first loyalty, quite frankly, was to those who worked directly for the United States Government and who were at most risk, given our understanding of the situation on the ground in northern Iraq, where it stood to reason and seemed logical to us that those who might be targeted first by Saddam Hussein's intelligence services would be those who worked directly for Uncle Sam.
QUESTION: There had been reports of Saddam's intelligence services finding people --
MR. DAVIES: We've seen --
QUESTION: Are any of them -- any of the people who you claim to have been killed by Saddam's intelligence services belong to this group of NGOs you've delayed in taking out?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know the answer to that. But we do believe that there are credible threats to this second group of people that we're considering helping bring out of northern Iraq, and that's why we're considering doing this and why we're contemplating making a decision to do so.
We think that they are threatened if they remain in northern Iraq, or they may be threatened. So we're right now in the process of deciding whether or not in fact the threat is real -- if so, how great is it -- and then going beyond that to decide whether or not we should make a decision to bring them out.
QUESTION: But can you be specific about the threats coming from the KDP or Saddam's people or what?
MR. DAVIES: At this stage, no, because that would get me into intelligence matters. Suffice it to say that we believe that there is -- that there is a sufficient threat in northern Iraq to those who have in some respect been associated with the U.S. Government or U.S. Government-assisted non-governmental organizations -- really, organizations that have an affiliation to the United States -- that we ought to consider this. That's why we're considering it.
QUESTION: What was Foreign Minister Ciller's response when the issue was brought up? Do you know?
MR. DAVIES: I would direct you to her for that. I'm not going to try to characterize her response.
QUESTION: The discussion was between Secretary Christopher and her Monday that took place in New York City. I mean, what are your expectations from Turkish point of view? Do you think they'll vote on this second group?
MR. DAVIES: Clearly, we hope to be able to work with the Turks on this, but we're not at a stage -- we haven't made a decision ourselves. Therefore, we haven't yet gone formally to Turkey to make a request here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) satisfied her response?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you satisfied her response?
MR. DAVIES: The Secretary and Foreign Minister Ciller had a very good discussion on this issue and other issues.
QUESTION: When do you expect a decision on this?
MR. DAVIES: It could be in a matter of days, but I don't know precisely.
QUESTION: Not today, though.
QUESTION: Does this 4,000 figure include family members?
MR. DAVIES: George, I wouldn't even -- I'm not in a position at this stage to confirm that we're even talking about 4,000.
QUESTION: Well, can you -- there are thousands.
MR. DAVIES: I think it's fair to say that there are thousands of people, yes.
QUESTION: I guess it's already the case, but this leaves the field even more completely in the hands of Saddam Hussein.
MR. DAVIES: But the premise of your question is that these people are somehow engaged in active resistance to --
QUESTION: No, but they do supply or have supplied humanitarian relief. They do represent outside interests in trying to stabilize and provide security there. So that's the first point. It's not a question. The second question is what happens now to Resolution 986? I mean, it had already been clearly derailed by what had happened. Who's going to implement that, and how could that ever be applied in the north?
MR. DAVIES: 986 is an issue for the United Nations to work out, and it was the Secretary General -- Mr. Boutros-Ghali -- who announced -- who made the decision that 986 could not go forward because of the changed conditions in northern Iraq.
In terms of the void that could be left by these people coming out in northern Iraq, if the PVOs themselves decide that they can't operate in the circumstances they find in northern Iraq, there's certainly no way that the United States Government is going to go to them and try to force them to perform humanitarian work.
They have certain parameters that they can act in, and they've decided for the most part that they're not capable now of doing the humanitarian work they were doing.
QUESTION: Has the United States given up the pretense of trying to reconstitute the Kurdish safehaven now? And, if not, how do you plan to do it?
MR. DAVIES: The United States is engaged in discussions with the PUK and the KDP and with others -- Turkoman representatives and others -- to see if there isn't some way to find a diplomatic solution to the problems of northern Iraq that began when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded northern Iraq on the side of one of the Kurdish factions.
QUESTION: You do hope to reconstitute, and, if so, I mean, you just --
MR. DAVIES: The United States is still active diplomatically.
QUESTION: Your 6,000 employees. How could you possibly hope to build that up again?
MR. DAVIES: Again, they're not our employees that are at issue right now. They're employees of --
QUESTION: Well, they're contract employees.
MR. DAVIES: -- NGOs and PVOs, some of which get money from the United States.
QUESTION: But there's no mechanism, no apparatus, nothing now, in terms of trying to help the Kurds administer relief -- if the situation abates, I mean, you start from scratch or --
MR. DAVIES: As we've said before, Saddam Hussein brought this on northern Iraq by "helping" one of the Kurdish factions. He's the one who made the situation untenable for employees of the United States Government, and then now for employees of private voluntary organizations to remain there to do the work.
QUESTION: I'm sure he was happy to do so. I'm sure --
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I mean, his motivations are a bit difficult to plumb.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. DAVIES: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) met with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Pelletreau; have you heard any communication from Mr. Talabani and is a meeting scheduled between the United States and --
MR. DAVIES: Nothing to report, Abdulsalam. Nothing to report to you.
QUESTION: Another topic, Russia.
MR. DAVIES: Okay.
QUESTION: Referring to yesterday's Q&A, Glyn, specifically regarding the communists' complaints about Mr. Yeltsin's health, the situation not being fully revealed during the election, there's another rather troubling report in the WashingtonĘTimes today about the military -- the Russian military not being paid for some time. Certain bases -- there not being enough supplies; that soldiers are going hungry. Morale is apparently very low, especially after the Grozny defeat.
What is the reaction of the U.S. Government to this rather disturbing report?
MR. DAVIES: There are a number of reports that in fact Russian military installations are experiencing severe shortages of supplies, and that there are substantial delays in payment of wages to Russian forces.
But Russia is today a democracy. They have set up a situation not unlike our own in which the military is subordinate to the elected civilian government, and the United States has no reason to believe that this relationship will change.
QUESTION: Mr. Keith Bush of CSI was quoted as saying, "The army is in extremely desperate straits." Do you think this is an accurate portrayal?
MR. DAVIES: I think what's accurate, as I said, is that there are these reports; there's some credibility; that Russian military installations are suffering various degrees of privation. I'm not saying it's not a serious matter. I'm simply saying that our judgment today is that the Russian military remains subordinate to civilian authority. That's the way it's been set up under the Russian system. That's the way it should be, and we expect it to remain that way.
Anything else? Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
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