U.S. Department of State 96/11/18 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Monday, November 18, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT--Announcements Welcome to Stephanie Eicher, Press Officer ............. 1 Congratulations to ABC Correspondent David Ensor ....... 1 Mother Theresa Receives Honorary U.S. Citizenship ...... 1 Regional Foreign Policy Town Meeting in Dayton ......... 1-2,21 95th Anniversary of Signing of Panama Canal Treaty ..... 2-3 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program ....................... 3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Croatian President Tudjman at Walter Reed Army Med. Cntr. 3-4 ZAIRE/RWANDA Refugee Situation: --450-500,000 Refugees Return to Rwanda ................ 4 --$25 Million in Humanitarian Assistance from U.S. ..... 4 --DART/Humanitarian Assistance Team in Rwanda .......... 4-5 --Reports of 350,000 Refugees in Bukavu/Uvira Area ..... 5 --Planning Meeting in Stuttgart on 11/21 ............... 6,21 RUSSIA Aleksandr Lebed Visit to U.S. .......................... 6 Probe to Mars .......................................... 18-20 MISCELLANEOUS World Food Summit--Declaration on World Food Security .. 7-9 --Fidel Castro's Remarks ............................... 15-16 United Nations--Secretary General Vote ................. 9 Intelligence--Arrest of CIA Employee Harold Nicholson .. 13 ROMANIA Presidential Elections ................................. 9 MOLDOVA First Round of Presidential Elections .................. 10 BELARUS Political Crisis/Violent Demonstrations in Minsk ....... 10-11 Report on VOA Broadcast Spending ....................... 21-22 ARMS CONTROL/NON-PROLIFERATION Middle East: Iran/Syria ................................ 11-12 AEGEAN SEA Report of Turkish NOTAM for British Military Exercise .. 12 Air Safety Regulations ................................. 18,20-21 TURKEY Report of Mtg. on Re-Opening of Oil Pipeline ........... 13-14 IRAQ U.S./Iraqi Contacts .................................... 14-15 Kurdish/Turkoman Talks in Ankara ....................... 19,22 CUBA Pope John Paul's Plan to Visit Cuba .................... 16 U.S. Embargo/Humanitarian Assistance to Cuba ........... 17 THAILAND Elections .............................................. 22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1996, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a number of announcements, Barry, if you will bear with me. Some may be of interest to you.
First, to welcome to the staff of the Press Office a new colleague, Stephanie Eicher, who is joining us for a couple of years of work in the Bureau of Public Affairs. Wait a couple of weeks before you tell her the truth about this place, will you? We wanted her to enjoy her first couple of weeks, and then we'll tell her the truth about how tough it is here.
Second of all, to congratulate one of your colleagues, someone I consider a good friend -- David Ensor -- on the birth of his son on the weekend, Andrew Jones Ensor, who is over 9 pounds, I understand, and doing well -- mother and son doing well.
Third, to let you know that on November l6, l996, Ambassador Frank Wisner presented a Joint Resolution of Congress and a letter from President Clinton conferring honorary U.S. citizenship to Mother Teresa. The presentation ceremony took place in Calcutta at Mother Teresa's residence. According to Ambassador Wisner, it was simple but very emotional. Mother Teresa was "deeply moved and delighted" to receive the honorary U.S. citizenship and was very taken with the letter from President Clinton.
Next, there will be tomorrow a Regional Foreign Policy Town Meeting, another in our long series of town meetings -- this one a bit special. It will occur in Dayton, Ohio. It's being co-sponsored by, of course, the U.S. Department of State, along with the Wright Memorial Chapter 2l2 of the Air Force Association, the Dayton Council on World Affairs, the Center for International Programs at the University of Dayton. They are all co-sponsoring a Regional Foreign Policy Town Meeting, entitled "Bosnia: One Year After Dayton." It will occur at the Hope Hotel, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base -- a hotel known to some of you -- tomorrow.
Ambassador John Kornblum, our Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, will discuss the Dayton Agreement and answer questions.
The keynote lunch address will be given by Strobe Talbott -- who is today Acting Secretary of State, and will be tomorrow, with the Secretary out of the country.
The Town Meeting is open for media coverage, and there's an announcement on it in the Press Office.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) will arrive (inaudible) from Dayton.
MR. DAVIES: He is from Dayton, that's correct. Strobe Talbott --
QUESTION: That's the lead.
MR. DAVIES: -- is a Dayton native who is going back. But I knew you knew that, Barry. So I didn't need to mention that.
QUESTION: It's a helluva story.
QUESTION: Has Holbrooke been invited?
MR. DAVIES: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Has Richard Holbrooke been invited?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry. Yes, that's very important. He will, I believe, be there. So that's the second tag line I missed on that.
He will be honored. He won't just be there, but he will be honored at the dinner. We've got phone numbers and contact names, all of that, in the Press Office.
Next, second to last, another in our series of announcements about the history of diplomacy, "This Day in Diplomacy -- all of this designed, over the heads of the press I should say, through the Internet and other means, to get across to the American people the importance of diplomacy in the history of the United States and in building this nation.
Today is the 95th Anniversary of the signing by Secretary of State John Hay and British Ambassador Sir Julian Pauncifote, of a treaty which confirmed the right of the United States to construct and maintain a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. It took a couple of years after that before the work actually began, but the treaty -- and there's much more on it in the lengthy announcement in the Press Office -- established the firm friendship of the United States and Great Britain after about a year of on-or- off conflict; and, of course, it was the precursor to the end of U.S. isolationism with our entry into World War I.
Final announcement. The final announcement is on our Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which will take place. This is the fourth of what is commonly known as the "Visa Lottery" but technically known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
The lottery will take place between February 3 next year and March 5, l997. And this, of course, is the means by which the United States apportions some 55,000 permanent resident visas each year by random selection of persons from countries around the world -- and I've got more detail on that if you're interested.
Barry? Your questions.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the President Tudjman's medical treatments in Washington?
MR. DAVIES: I can't take you much beyond what's already been reported and what Nick said on Friday. He is, of course, being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
I'm going to have to refer you, if you have specific questions on his status, to the Croatian Government. I don't have anything beyond simply confirming, as Nick did on Friday, the fact that he is there being treated.
QUESTION: The embassy is a dead end so don't bother with that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how long he's expected to --
QUESTION: Is he a guest of the United States? Is the United States paying for his medical treatment?
MR. DAVIES: No. I think we addressed that. As I understand, at the end of his medical treatment, his government will be asked to pay for the treatment.
QUESTION: How long is his medical treatment expected to last?
MR. DAVIES: That's a specific question about his medical treatment to which you'll have to ask the Croatian Government.
QUESTION: Actually, you didn't mean to -- but you went further than Nick did the other day. He said that Tudjman was simply there. You're saying now that he is being treated for some malady.
MR. DAVIES: I am saying that he's there for treatment, that's correct.
MR. DAVIES: That advances the story?
MR. DAVIES: Good. (Laughter)
QUESTION: What can you tell us about any sort of relief operations for the refugees in Zaire or Rwanda -- how far along are we, what kind of action is being taken?
MR. DAVIES: Sure. I'll give you an update based on what occurred over the weekend.
According to the best numbers that we can come up with, an estimate 450- to 500,000 Rwandan refugees from camps in North Kivu -- primarily the Mugunga refugee camp -- have returned to Rwanda since last Friday.
The numbers are very difficult to verify because nobody is registering the refugees as they come across the border.
We do understand that there are now very few refugees waiting at the border to return to Rwanda. What you have essentially is a column of people about 40 miles along at the Rwanda end. Of course, it splits up as people go to their home villages; and some have already reached their home communities.
At the end of the column are those who are in the best physical shape; and at the back of the column, unsurprisingly, are those who are the worst off.
The majority of the refugees though -- and this is important -- appear to be in good health.
On Friday, you caught the White House announcement, I hope, that the U.S. would make available immediately $25 million in humanitarian assistance funds. Our Disaster Assistance Team -- the DART Team -- which is right now in Rwanda, reports that food and medical supplies appear to be adequate.
The World Food Program has more than adequate food supplies itself in the region to meet the needs of the returnees. There is adequate water being provided along the route, using water tankers; and the plan, as we understand it from UHCR and WFP and the others, is that returning refugees, once they get to their home communities -- having received some food and water along the way -- will be given in their home villages a 60-day food ration as well as tools and seeds and whatever else they need to get going.
The team that was sent out last week from the Pentagon -- the Humanitarian Assistance Team -- is now in Rwanda, still assessing the situation and reporting back on the results of their assessment mission.
And then we have in another area unconfirmed reports of about 350,000 Rwandan and Burundi refugees who are in the Bukavu-Uvira area, which is to the south of the Great Lakes region. The international community has yet to be granted access to that area, so it's very difficult to know exactly how many people are there and what kind of condition they're in; and then the final, smallest group -- as near as we can determine, is in the forests around the northernmost camp, which is called Katale, north of Goma.
That's essentially it for the refugee situation.
QUESTION: Does that mean that there won't be any need for American troops, if it's going all that well?
MR. DAVIES: What it means is that the team that's in Rwanda now and planners back here and our diplomats around the world have to reassess, given these very dramatic developments of the last four days or so, exactly what ought to be done to -- on the first hand -- take care of the refugees who've come home; and, secondly, what should be done to help, on a humanitarian basis, those left in Zaire. And, of course, an accounting needs to be made of those who are still in Zaire, and some means has to be found to help repatriate them to Rwanda as well.
There is not yet a plan, partly because everything's changed in the last three or four days -- there is not yet a plan for the President to decide whether or not the United States would formally be part of yet.
QUESTION: You've pretty much dispatched in one sentence the 350,000 who are in the south area of the lake. Do you have anything more you can say about their situation?
MR. DAVIES: We really don't. We know that there are a considerable number of people there. We don't know much about their condition. And, as you would imagine, we're doing everything we can to try to find out about it.
The fact that there are 350,000 people there or the fact that you have now the problem of actually helping out these half million who are returning to Rwanda -- all of that adds up to a need for continuing attention to be paid to this problem by the international community. And, of course, the United States is very interested in playing a role.
So this has to be worked out in the course of the week. There's to be a meeting on Thursday in Stuttgart of primarily military planners, but also some civilians, to look exactly down at the level of drawing up the plans of what it makes sense to do.
QUESTION: Who will be at the meeting?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have a specific list of persons to be at the meeting. It will be a team from the Pentagon, along with officials from the State Department. I'm not sure of the level.
Essentially, it's a planning meeting. It's a meeting to work out in detail what it makes sense to do in Zaire.
QUESTION: An American meeting?
MR. DAVIES: It's an American meeting in Stuttgart, that's correct. But there will be representatives of other nations there. Certainly, the Canadians will be pleasant -- will be present -- and we expect others will be there as well.
The Canadians are always pleasant. (Inaudible)
QUESTION: Aleksandr Lebed is in the United States and is expected to be in Washington later this week. Can you tell us whom he'll be meeting with in this building?
MR. DAVIES: My understanding is that's a private visit. It's something I would be happy to check on for you, but I don't have anything specific about his itinerary or whether he's seeing anybody here.
QUESTION: But I think the request has been made for him to meet with somebody here.
MR. DAVIES: Okay. I'll check into that.
I think it's a private affair.
QUESTION: At the recent FAO Conference, there were a lot of nations -- I think, including the Vatican -- that were calling for making a declaration that the right to food be declared a human right; and the United States opposed this.
Now, nobody was asking, you know, that the food be produced, that aid be given, or anything like that. It was simply a simple declaration, and the United States was one of the nations which opposed this. Why? What was the rationale on that?
MR. DAVIES: The United States didn't oppose the declaration. In fact, the declaration was adopted by acclamation, by all of those in attendance at the Summit.
QUESTION: But making this a specific right --
MR. DAVIES: As a declaration, of course, it doesn't have the force of a treaty or a binding international agreement. The dispute was over the language that was in the agreement, or in the declaration, which talked about the right of everyone to food.
Our position is -- and I think you'd have to be in the legal field to understand this distinction appropriately -- but our position is that there absolutely is a right of everyone to access, to safe and nutritious food. And this is, in fact, a position that can be traced all the way back to the Roosevelt Administration, when Franklin Roosevelt did his Four Freedoms speech and talked about the right to be free from hunger as one of the Four Freedoms.
And, of course, this is a right that's enshrined as well in international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
That's what's important here. We're talking about ensuring that people have equal access -- that there's food available for people who are in need.
But in terms of a right to food, we thought it best not to set a precedent and come out with language that is specific. "A right to food." What does that mean? It doesn't really mean a whole lot.
QUESTION: Well, isn't it important -- especially now, where you have this situation in central Africa where people are becoming accustomed to genocide on a scale that we really haven't seen before -- potential genocide. If this thing in Zaire really doesn't go in the right direction, isn't it important to restate some fundamental principles similar to what freedom from want represented in the l930's under Roosevelt? Don't we have a right and a duty -- especially the United States with its tradition -- to assert the right for people to a reasonable standard of living so that they can live as human beings?
MR. DAVIES: I think that right is there. It's there in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it's there in the pronouncements of American Presidents and officials going back two generations-plus.
We believe there is a fundamental right to be free from hunger. We believe that that's a goal or an aspiration that all the people of the world, all the governments, should share.
The issue you asked about was this interpretative statement that we filed --and 14 countries filed interpretative statements -- that took exception to the precise wording of the declaration that came out of the food summit. We were one of the 14. We did it on this narrow issue because it's just simply not clear what "a right to food" means.
I think everybody understands intuitively what it means to say that it ought to be everyone's goal to ensure that there's adequate food and access to food for all the world's people. That's where we are. I think it's a reasonable position.
QUESTION: If you had so many nations, minus these 14 -- I assume that everybody else who attended this conference was supporting this move to designate a right to food -- wouldn't it be important now more than ever because of the situation we have in certain parts of the world?
MR. DAVIES: Again, you're drawing a distinction here where one really doesn't exist. We were there at the summit. We played a large role in the summit. Dan Glickman, the Secretary of Agriculture, was there; Tim Wirth, our Under Secretary for Global Affairs, was in attendance. The United States was absolutely active and a leader at the world food summit.
This declaration that was issued -- from a narrow legal perspective, we took exception to one phrase in it. We were one of 14 countries that wanted simply to mark a difference on a legal issue that really doesn't go at all to the point of principle, which is that everyone should have access to food. That's a goal we should all work for.
(Inaudible) between access to food and the right to food?
MR. DAVIES: You're getting me into an area -- I wasn't at the conference. I wasn't in the rooms late at night; clearly not smoked- filled anymore, but the negotiations over the precise wording of the text. So what I can't do is sit here and parse this out for you and tell you exactly what the difference is.
What I can say is that in our statement that we issued, our interpretative statement, we reiterated our acceptance of the language in the text regarding the right of everyone to access to safe and nutritious food.
The statement that we issued also restated our position that the right to adequate food, or the fundamental right to be free from hunger, is a goal or an aspiration to be realized progressively by national governments. So I would really be speculating if I were to stand up here and tell you precisely what it was about that combination of words that gave pause to our negotiators out there.
QUESTION: Anything new in the continuing saga of Boutros Ghali?
MR. DAVIES: There's action occurring up at the United Nations today. I would direct you to the UN for some kind of an update on what's occurring up there. But nothing has changed in terms of the U.S. position on his candidacy -- his announced candidacy -- for a second term. We have a great deal of respect for him, but we believe it's time for new leadership. We've said as much.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments about yesterday's Romanian election results?
MR. DAVIES: Yes, I think I do have something on the Romanian elections.
According to the preliminary results that have been made available, Emil Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention has beaten incumbent President Iliescu in the run-off election for the presidency of Romania by a margin of almost nine percent.
Through this election, the United States believes that the people of Romania have reiterated their dedication to the democratization that was started back in 1989.
What we know about Mr. Constantinescu is that his long pledge to put together a government that would strengthen the democratic system, open the economy, and encourage private enterprise -- we congratulate him on his success this weekend, and we're looking forward to working with him.
Moldova had the first round of their presidential election the weekend. It's too early to tell who will win, but do you have an assessment of how the election was conducted?
MR. DAVIES: I don't, at this stage, have an assessment of how the election was conducted for you. I think what we have to do is wait and see exactly what comes out the other end of the election and then perhaps we'll have something to say.
QUESTION: Regarding Belarus, there was a demonstration over the weekend in which a number of people were hurt. The Prime Minister has threatened to resign. The head of the electoral commission was summarily dismissed and literally removed by force from his office. Things seem to be in turmoil over there.
What is the latest view of the United States, the latest position of the United States on what's going on in Belarus?
MR. DAVIES: This does constitute a crisis that's occurring in Belarus. The United States believes that it's a crisis that's causing, in fact, some damage in the political system, the political process.
Our understanding is that about 5,000 demonstrators fought with government forces in Minsk over the weekend. The troops used force. They used batons and other non-lethal but serious means to break up the demonstration. There were a number of injuries, both on the police side and then about 20 demonstrators were injured as well.
What's happening now is that the parliament is meeting in extraordinary session. Although President Lukashenko retains a significant base of support, the announcement that was made just recently by the Prime Minister suggests that some leaders in Belarus understand the damage that the current crisis is doing.
The Prime Minister has called on the President to implement reforms.
I have more on it as well. It's basically what looks to be a news report. If you cut to the bottom line, there does not appear in our view to be any legal basis in the Belarusian constitution for the action that President Lukashenko has been taking.
He, of course, on November 14, dismissed the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission of Belarus and indicated that a majority of the members of the Commission had appealed to him to do so. But our reading of the law does not give him the right to do what he has done.
More on that?
QUESTION: The parliament issued an appeal last week for the support of the international community in its battle against the President -- legal battle. Is the United States concerned about the deterioration of the situation there with this growing violence? What else can we do?
MR. DAVIES: We are concerned. That's why we've gone so far as to describe it as really a crisis that's occurring. We've consistently urged the President and the parliament to work together within the context of the existing constitution. We would call on the Executive Branch to respect the decisions that have been taken by the Judiciary.
QUESTION: The Iranian military buildup and also nuclear inventory is beginning to disturb, I understand, more nations under the Middle East area and the Gulf area also. Some research claim that after 2000, the military balance of the Gulf and the Middle East will give a big advantage to the Iranian military against Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations.
On the same token, Syria is adding to her arsenal some chemical weapons. If you look at the bottom of both countries' purchases, the Russians are selling some chemical weapons factory and some submarines to Iran.
Do you have any concern on this subject? The Middle East area is getting -- it's looks like it's ready to explode?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that it's ready to explode. I'm not sure I would go that far. We've long been concerned about Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. To the extent we've seen outside nations supplying materials to Iran that were part of that effort, we've made our concerns known to those nations.
There have been instances in the past where we've raised concerns with the Russian Government in Moscow and with other governments about that.
QUESTION: How about the chemical weapons factory in Syria?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything in particular on that.
QUESTION: Can you take it?
MR. DAVIES: I can look into that for you, sure.
QUESTION: During Carey Cavanaugh's visit in Athens and Cyprus the other day, the rulers in Ankara under Necmettin Erbakan, cut off all the air and sea lands between the Greek mainland and the Greek islands of eastern Aegean for 24 hours, using force, with the British military exercise.
I would like to know the U.S. reaction to this Turkish piracy in the Aegean of international dimension?
MR. DAVIES: Don't have anything on that for you, Mr. Lambros. I had a conversation with Carey on Friday, which I reported to you. I'm not aware of the fact that there's any piracy going on.
QUESTION: The Erbakan Government is doing a similar exercise in the Aegean with Mr. Cavanaugh in the area, making mock of international law issued the illegal NOTAM against the ICAO rules pertaining to the Athens FIR.
The Turks included in the same NOTAM a Greek islet. This NOTAM has been turned down immediately by ICAO authorities as totally unacceptable on the basis that only Greece is in charge of issuing a NOTAM for the Athens FIR covering the entire Aegean Sea.
Since you are mediating between the two countries, could you please comment on this action?
MR. DAVIES: You've asked me about NOTAMS and FIRS and such before. Those aren't issues that I'm normally prepare to address when I come out here because they're at a level of specificity that I think we shouldn't be getting into. I simply can't confirm if any of that's true.
QUESTION: What is the position of your government vis-a-vis to those NOTAMS by ICAO internationally?
MR. DAVIES: I wasn't aware that we had to take positions on NOTAMS that have been issued by governments. They usually do so for very good reasons.
QUESTION: The last one. I would like to know if the (inaudible) Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Theodore Pangalos, was in touch at least with your government to condemn this Turkish publication equal to an act of war against Greece in the Aegean?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything to report on that for you.
QUESTION: I wouldn't ask you about intelligence matters or Justice Department matters. But maybe you have something else to say on this spy story?
MR. DAVIES: There's much being said I think right now, because the Director of the CIA, Mr. Deutsch, and of the FBI, Mr. Freeh, are right now giving a press conference on this.
I can say that the State Department commends both of those agencies for the work that they've done and their people have done. They work together as a team to secure the arrest of Harold Nicholson who is an employee of 16 years duration with the CIA, charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and then arraigned today.
The arrest is a direct result of the President's mandate and Congressional attention to reforming our counter-intelligence effort in the aftermath of the Ames case.
As a result of these developments, the United States will take all necessary steps to make our views unmistakably clear to the Russian leadership. Of course, we will take appropriate measures to protect our interests. But I don't at this time have anything further to announce.
QUESTION: You're putting that in future tense. Has the U.S. been in touch with Russia on this to this point?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything to report to you at this stage.
QUESTION: You're saying that the alleged espionage took place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
MR. DAVIES: That's what I understand. But I understand that, in this case, only from press reports. The State Department hasn't been the lead agency on this; it's been the FBI, their counter-intelligence people, and the CIA who have worked together to bring this about.
I'm not in a position, nor should I be in a position, I think, to comment specifically about this case: when it began, when it ended. We'll leave that to them.
QUESTION: Glyn, the Wall Street Journal reported --
MR. DAVIES: Anything else on this? No. Okay.
QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal reported today that a secret meeting was held among Turkish, the United States, and Iraqi officials last week about the reopening of the oil pipeline in Ankara. Could you confirm this report? How do you see, in light of consistent U.S. policy, of making contact with Iraqi officials?
MR. DAVIES: I can't confirm that. I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Also Turkey is said to have made it clear to the United States that unless the United States agrees to the reopening of the oil pipeline, by the end of this year Turkey will not renew extension of "Operation Provide Comfort" at the end of this year?
MR. DAVIES: I don't believe we've gotten any information like that from the Government of Turkey.
QUESTION: Glyn, can you state U.S. policy today on contacts with Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: I probably have to check it to get you the golden words right now. Basically, we deal with Iraq through a protecting power, Poland, in Baghdad. So we don't have normal diplomatic intercourse at all with the Government of Iraq.
QUESTION: Does the United States participate in meetings with Iraqi officials?
MR. DAVIES: There may be instances where that occurs. I don't know there's an absolute prohibition against being in a room where an Iraqi official is present. It's hard to record that.
QUESTION: No, no. You're denying this report --
MR. DAVIES: I'm not denying --
QUESTION: Excuse me, excuse me, you're not denying the report. You say you have nothing on this report. But the report is very specific. I'm trying to see in general terms if there is a prohibition on the U.S. working with Iraq in behalf of oil deliveries?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not aware of one, Barry. You know that we had a number of instances, a number of occasions when we did communicate with the Government of Iraq. That was, in the main, as we took action against them after the incursion in northern Iraq.
We deal with the Government of Iraq. We have to, to protect our interests. But I'm not aware of any prohibitions against dealing with them. You know our policy on Iraq.
QUESTION: As you know, Fidel Castro is in Rome for the conference. He met this morning with the Italian Foreign Minister, Mr. Dini. In the end, Mr. Dini said that he is seeing a kind of new Castro --
MR. DAVIES: He wears a tie now.
QUESTION: Yeah, the tie. He's kind of a star there. He said that he seems to be in favor of some kind of reform.
MR. DAVIES: He's a star like Jesse James is a star, I suppose.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any comment. We all follow his comings and goings, and his visit to Rome. He had a number of things to say at the World Food Summit. I really don't have any particular comment on it.
QUESTION: Was he wrong when he speaks --
MR. DAVIES: It sounds like he's got religion, though.
QUESTION: He may be a little bit --
MR. DAVIES: He's starting to quote the Bible. Did you see that? He's quoting the Bible.
QUESTION: You deal with all sorts of people who have and don't have religion. Castro seems to be a very special case for this Administration as it has been for several.
Mr. Castro made an impassioned plea late last week at that conference on behalf of people who are starving and suggested that countries like the United States only discover starvation as a problem when it is such an overwhelming instant situation as the one in central Africa.
Is there anything the State Department finds at fault with Castro on that subject?
MR. DAVIES: I can say two things about that. One is, he ought to be a little more concerned about the problems closer to home where there is a degree of privation in Cuba.
QUESTION: Is there starvation in Cuba?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that there's starvation in Cuba. I don't want to say that.
QUESTION: I think there's an access to food right in Cuba -- in the United States, for instance.
MR. DAVIES: The standard of living of the Cuban people is certainly very low because of the system that Castro has set up. That's point number one.
QUESTION: It's a poor country, but I thought they had a subsistence. I thought as a Socialist country they try to make sure that people have a minimum of education, medical attention, and food which is rather rare in this world?
MR. DAVIES: I know. We can go into life expectancy if I had those statistics, and I bet they would compare unfavorably --
QUESTION: Maybe it's the heat; I don't know.
MR. DAVIES: -- with a number of other countries. The second thing I would say is that the United States has nothing to apologize about. In fact, it's second to none in terms of the provision of humanitarian relief worldwide both privately and publicly.
I could check this, but, there is no nation on earth that is more generous if you look at the amount of giving by the citizens of the nation around the world. For Castro to be trotting around the world and accusing the United States of being heartless when he's at home oppressing and suppressing his own people and perpetuating an economic system that brings privation to the Cuban people, I think it's kind of sad if not ironic.
QUESTION: As you know, tomorrow Castro will be received by the Pope. They will discuss basically the next trip of the Pope to Cuba. Do you see it in a positive way, considering what the Pope did in Poland? You remember, the Pope went to Poland with Jaruzelski.
MR. DAVIES: When the Pope travels, he travels as a head of state. But more importantly, he travels as the head of a church, the Roman Catholic Church. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense for me, as the representative of the United States Government, to stand up here and make a particular comment on the Pope's travel to Cuba. He has, in recent years, traveled all over the world. He's chosen now to travel to Cuba. Obviously, we'll watch that visit and see if it creates some change in the way Castro operates or the way he thinks. Just don't know.
QUESTION: If there is indeed privation in Cuba, do you think the U.S. embargo has anything to do with it?
MR. DAVIES: I think that the blame for the privation in Cuba can be laid squarely at the feet of the system in Cuba, at the top of which sits Fidel Castro, as he has for decades. That's the problem.
The United States embargo is not directed at the people of Cuba. It's directed at the regime in Cuba. The United States has made efforts to reach out to the people of Cuba; in fact, it has approved licenses for tens of millions of dollars worth of assistance -- humanitarian assistance -- to the Cuban people.
So there is assistance going to the Cuban people from the United States. The U.S.. Government doesn't stand in the way of that.
QUESTION: On Turkey.
MR. DAVIES: On Turkey.
QUESTION: Did the Turkish Government provide finally a copy of its deal with Iran? This question has been known for a week. Actually, it was a taken question.
MR. DAVIES: I would suggest you keep asking it. I don't have an answer.
MR. DAVIES: I simply don't have an answer for you.
QUESTION: Was it a taken question?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think it was a taken question. That's why I told him to keep asking. If it were a taken question, he would get the answer. I'm not sure it's an answerable question, is the problem.
QUESTION: Why you're not sure it's not answerable?
MR. DAVIES: Because I'm just not certain.
QUESTION: Does your government accept the ICAO rules defined in the Athens FIR covering the entire Aegean up to the borders between Greece and Turkey despite the fact that the Greek Under Secretary, so-called Professor Khristos Rozakis -- R-O-Z-A-K-I-S -- considers this issue bilateral and not an international one?
MR. DAVIES: You're trying to mix up air safety and air regulation with high politics. I don't think that's appropriate.
QUESTION: It's not hypothetical. It's a fact. I'm asking you, does the U.S. Government recognize the ICAO rules covering the Aegean Sea --
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Lambros, we're members of the International Civil Aviation Organization, headquartered, I think, in Canada, so we belong to that organization. We're very active in ICAO. We've been one of the nations that's worked hard to set up the various regimes around the world that guarantee the safety of air passengers and allow air craft.
QUESTION: Excellent statement. On my question, what is your reply then?
MR. DAVIES: You're asking me to give a position on a particular area of flight restriction.
QUESTION: This is international. Do you consider this an international issue or is it a bilateral issue?
MR. DAVIES: It's not an issue that I think makes sense for me to comment on.
QUESTION: I don't know if you can answer this one, but I'll try. The Russian probe to Mars that fell into the Pacific, it had some plutonium on board.
MR. DAVIES: That's right.
QUESTION: Were there any diplomatic communications about this? Is there concern that it might present some sort of hazard?
MR. DAVIES: There have been diplomatic communications between the United States and the Government of Russia. In fact, a lot of work was done over the weekend, including at very senior levels. I know that the Acting Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, communicated with the Russian Ambassador, for instance, about this.
The United States stands ready to help and has made that plain to all the countries in the area should there be a need for American assistance.
Our understanding, though, and the assurance that we've gotten from the Russians is that, in fact, there is not likely to be any contamination. There should not be any contamination from the nuclear material that was contained in the Mars probe.
Our information is that it fell some 200 miles from the nearest coastline. It's in a very, very isolated part of the world.
QUESTION: Have U.S. laboratories been measuring the levels? Have they got any assessment that --
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if we've actually dispatched aircraft to measure levels of radio activity or not. I'm not sure that that's even warranted given the very small level of radio active material. I think it was 200 grams of some kind of radio active material that was contained in the Mars probe.
From what we know, this is not any kind of a nuclear disaster that has occurred.
QUESTION: On the second round of talks among Kurdish factions and Turkomans held last week in Ankara, what are the items that remain to be negotiated? Is it true that the participants have agreed on a provisional government, demarcation lines, sharing of revenues from --
MR. DAVIES: I can say at this stage, since this is still a work in progress, that there has been progress. The United States is going to keep at it until we can work our way through all of these issues. What I don't want to do is open up a window on the negotiations at this stage and describe for you the precise state of play. We haven't finished this yet.
QUESTION: Again, on this Russian Mars experiment, is there not concern from the State Department about the fact that the Russians failed to get this thing off since the space program was kind of the center of the Gore-Chernomyrdin collaboration? There was an attempt to maintain the science capabilities in Russia in order to prevent nuclear weapons from leaving the country and for a variety of reasons and that the space collaboration in which the U.S. and many others have invested a lot of money, was seen as key in this.
Obviously, the Russian capabilities now, because of the general austerity in the country, have come to a point where they can no longer put these things up. Isn't that of concern also to the U.S. foreign policy?
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't conclude that the Russians can no longer put these things up. They've had a setback. It looks serious. They were trying to launch a probe to Mars and the fourth stage malfunctioned. It did not escape earth's gravity.
That doesn't mean -- I'm not going to extrapolate from that to some grand conclusion about the sorry state of affairs in Russia. I don't think that's fair.
I would also observe that all space-faring nations have had setbacks. Some of them tragic, as they have worked to explore outer space or launch rocket ships.
This is the unfortunate byproduct of taking a risk and actually going out into space and trying to do scientific work out there. We're not going to conclude that there's anything more dramatic at work here.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the question -- previous question -- FIR lines, would it be fair to say --
MR. DAVIES: Not you, too; please.
QUESTION: I think you gave an answer there. I just want to confirm, if I heard it right. Would it be fair to say that the United States considers the FIR Agreement as a technical agreement? And as such, it does not constitute a basis to assert any sovereignty rights over the Aegean Sea?
MR. DAVIES: That's not a bad way of putting it. I would certainly have to check to see if there is any nexus at all between these types of matters -- the flight zones that are set up by agreement around the world and a recognition of political boundaries. I don't think there is. We are just talking about a technical arrangement.
I don't think it makes sense to extrapolate from that into some grander political statement.
QUESTION: I would like also like my question as a taken question, as far as, does your government accept the ICAO rules, defined in the Athens FIR?
MR. DAVIES: Does the government accept --
QUESTION: Does your government accept the ICAO rules -- International Civil Aviation Administration, defined in the Athens FIR?
MR. DAVIES: I think I answered that. We belong to ICAO, and anything agreed at the level of the organization we're part of.
QUESTION: But they complain, because with your statement -- so will you undertake this question?
MR. DAVIES: I've gone as far as I can with that, Mr. Lambros. We belong to ICAO and --
QUESTION: I know this.
MR. DAVIES: -- we play by ICAO's rules.
QUESTION: But I'd like to know what your position is, vis-a-vis to the Aegean FIR.
MR. DAVIES: We don't have a book with positions on a all different arrangements made under ICAO.
QUESTION: But you can check with those above in this building so they know; they have experts.
MR. DAVIES: I think that's kind of nonsensical, frankly.
QUESTION: In the meeting tomorrow, have any of the parties to the agreement been invited too, or is this just a sort of in-house domestic sort of thing?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not aware that we have invited representatives from the other nations. That's a good question. I can look into that.
One other thing that I want to clarify before we break up is just that I understand that the meeting to occur in Stuttgart on Thursday is, in fact, a Canadian-led meeting. They will be in the Chair, and the United States will attend that meeting. So that's different from what I said.
All the way in the back.
QUESTION: One more question on Belarus. There was an article in Rossiskaya Gazeta, which is a very nationalist publication in Moscow, that said that the VOA is spending $l00 million on broadcasts to Belarus. I understand that the VOA has broadcast denials of this, that our Charge in Moscow has written the editor of the paper denying this. Do you have any comment on this kind of --
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any specific statistics on how much has been spent to broadcast in that part of the world. That's a big number.
MR. DAVIES: Maybe it's a multi-year number. It doesn't sound like VOA's budget for one year to broadcast in Belarus. That sounds excessive to me. But I'd be more than happy to check to see what is spent to broadcast in Belarus.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the conclusion of the general election of Thailand?
MR. DAVIES: In Thailand?
MR. DAVIES: No. At this stage we don't have anything yet to say. I'm not sure. John, is that election completed?
I'm not sure.
QUESTION: It's likely that Prime Minister Banhan might be forced to step down from his position. So does it give any effect to President Clinton to --
MR. DAVIES: Of course, that hasn't happened; and I think we'll have to wait to see what develops. And if there is such a development, we can comment on it.
Mr. Lambros, one last question. (Laughter)
QUESTION: In those talks in Ankara under your auspices, who is in charge, to include also an Assyrian group? Assyrian, with a capital "A." It's a minority of northern Iraq.
MR. DAVIES: You're asking if they're there or not?
QUESTION: Who's in charge to include, also, (inaudible). There is no such representation at those talks.
MR. DAVIES: Again, I don't have any details on who precisely is attending that meeting. I can look into that for you, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.) (###)To the top of this page