U.S. Department of State 96/11/22 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #189 FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1996, 1:21 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Spokesman for the Mayor of Guadalajara ...... 1 ZAIRE Stuttgart Meeting on Situation in Zaire ................ 1-2 Return of Rwandan Refugees ............................. 2 Estimates of Numbers of Refugees/Locations/Movement .... 2-3,14-15 Update on DART Team Whereabouts ........................ 4 U.S. Ambassador's Interview with BBC re Situation ...... 4-6 U.S. Efforts re Situation in Zaire ..................... 6-7 PHILIPPINES Situation in Manila/Possible Threat to US Diplomats .... 7-8 ISRAEL Sentencing of Israel Soldiers for Negligent Death of Palestinian ........................................... 8-9 TURKEY Reports Turkey Withdrawing Request for Cobra Helicopters 9-10 COLOMBIA Reported Colombian Commission Action to Confiscate Assets from Drug-Traffickers/Impact on Certification ......... 10-11 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Dennis Ross Travel Plans ............................... 11 CHINA Secretary Christopher's Meeting with Chinese Officials/ A/S Shattuck's Participation/Meetings with Chinese ... 11 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Zagreb Radio 101/US Discussions with Croatian Officials 11-13 Municipal Elections in Serbia/Charges of Attempting to Changes Results ...................................... 13-14 Reported Kidnapping of Wife of Serbian Opposition Leader 14 SYRIA Rumors President Asad is Ill ........................... 14 KAZAKSTAN U.S. Official's Remarks re Oil Pipeline ................ 15 BELARUS Political Crisis in Belarus ............................ 15
MR. DAVIES: Hello. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have just one announcement and that is to welcome a gentleman who is visiting us from Guadalajara, Mexico, Federico Torres. Welcome to you, the spokesman for the Mayor of Guadalajara, which sounds like a big job, so welcome to our briefing. And that's it for announcements.
QUESTION: What are you hearing from Stuttgart?
MR. DAVIES: We are hearing that Stuttgart may be held over to tomorrow. There is obviously a lot to discuss in Stuttgart about the situation in eastern Zaire. They had very productive meetings in the morning, I am told. They had talked about having some kind of a press conference. They may, in fact, postpone that, or not have it today since they seem to be reaching a consensus to continue their discussions tomorrow.
The Stuttgart meeting is not, as some have portrayed it, a meeting that will reach any hard and fast decisions about a course of action in eastern Zaire. It is a meeting to coordinate among close to twenty countries and a number of organizations, the actions that are being taken now and to look at options for dealing with various contingencies in eastern Zaire.
We still -- we have yet to define the precise nature of the problem in eastern Zaire, and until we do, we can't arrive at a plan that we can put into effect for dealing with the crisis. But what I can tell you is that the United States and a number of other nations are poised to deal with the ongoing humanitarian situation in eastern Zaire, once we get a little more definition on the numbers of refugees and their status.
QUESTION: Most of those in eastern Zaire will come out of Rwanda itself.
MR. DAVIES: Well, absolutely. In fact it almost goes without saying that much of the work that is being done at Stuttgart and in Kigali and elsewhere is to deal with the 600,000 or so Rwandans who have already come back into Rwanda, who voluntarily repatriated themselves, given the changed conditions in the Goma area. Most of them, of course, came from the Mugunga Camp, just east of Goma; and there is a huge effort underway to help these 600,000 resettle themselves in their home villages to make sure that they have what they need to take up their lives again after, in some cases, two years, two-and-a-half years outside the country.
So that effort is a big part of what is being discussed at Stuttgart and a big part of what is being done on the ground in Rwanda. The United States has, at this stage, over 300 personnel in the region -- both in Kigali itself but also at Entebbe and also in Kenya at Mombasa -- who are in effect civil affairs officers and officials, engineering experts, people trained in psychological operations, people trained in planning for contingencies, and all of this work is being done both to deal with the situation in Rwanda and to deal potentially with the situation in eastern Zaire.
QUESTION: On the question of numbers, could you please give us your best estimate today as to how many have been located and where they are and where they are moving?
MR. DAVIES: Well, there is going on a big kind of a numbers game and there are all manner of numbers out there being put out by various governments and organizations and others, and of course, we have been through this before. At the high end, you have perhaps 700,000 being spoken of and at the low end, considerably fewer.
What I want to do is stay away from discussing specific numbers at this stage because we don't know with any great certainty exactly how many people there are and exactly where they are. We have a fair amount of evidence about various concentrations of people, but it is very difficult when you are measuring numbers of people from the air to get a firm number that you can use, and you certainly cannot, from the air, measure the intentions of the people on the ground.
So it is difficult to know whether, if you find a concentration of many tens of thousands of people -- perhaps even over l00,000 people -- whether these are all Rwandan Hutus who want to get back to Rwanda, whether among their number are displaced Zairians, whether you have Interahamwe fighters and Banyamulenge fighters and their families, who have no intention of going back to Rwanda. It's a very complex situation and very difficult to know.
QUESTION: Well, that's granted, but can't you give us some sense of just where are the concentrations now and where are they -- is there movement in certain directions?
MR. DAVIES: Well, I can give you a little bit of a sense of that. There is, of course, this one group of refugees that is to the west of Lake Kivu, which is to say between Bukavu, the south of Lake Kivu, and Goma at the north of Lake Kivu. That's one concentration of refugees. There are also refugees in the Goma area, to the west -- or rather the east -- no, the west of Goma. There are also some to the north of Goma, and then finally you have refugees, there are other concentrations of refugees, around Bukavu.
But to give you one example, just one example -- of the challenge that faces those who are trying to figure this out -- in a couple of weeks of flying between Bukavu down to Uvira, which is to the south of Bukavu, we were having a hard time finding any concentrations of people at all in that area. And yet that's one area where reports have it there are quite a few people. So it may be that there are quite a few people, but it may be that they have dispersed in some fashion.
But certainly we are not picking up large encampments of people in that particular area, and it is simply difficult to know, with the cloud cover that sometimes afflicts these flights, and with the conditions on the ground, exactly where people are.
QUESTION: General Smith today said in Kigali, I understand, that this group on Lake Kivu is something like l75,000. Is this a figure you are not willing to confirm now?
MR. DAVIES: Well, I would call that, let's call that General Smith's raw estimate and input to the process. It's -- you know, he clearly has been hard at work out there and has come up with that figure. I'm not going to say it's wrong, but I'm not going to stand up here and say, well, actually it's a little on the high side, a little on the low side.
It just doesn't, at this stage, make any sense, I think, to play this numbers game if you are the Government of the United States of America. I think what is important is to deal with the refugee crisis as it unfolds in Rwanda, i.e., the resettlement of refugees and, at the same time, to do everything you can to position yourself to lean into the problem of eastern Zaire. And much is being done to define the nature of the problem in eastern Zaire, and to prepare to deal with it, including, as I said, all of these personnel who are now on the ground in Kigali and Mombasa and Entebbe.
We had a DART team go into Bukavu yesterday. They came out of Bukavu after staying overnight today, so they are back in Rwanda. They are making their way back to Kigali, and they, in looking around the Bukavu area and visiting a couple of refugee camps, did not find a whole lot of evidence of any people left there right now.
They could not go any further, because you are talking about a part of the world that is sporadically a war zone, and there is some fighting that is also going on.
So all I can say is that we are working on this very, very hard from the standpoint of the U.S. Government and, indeed, the entire international community is working on it very hard.
QUESTION: Was the big refugee camp near Bukavu then emptied, this one in Masisi, or I may have it wrong?
MR. DAVIES: Well, I don't know if what I had described to me, Roy, I was told about a couple of refugee camps that they visited, the DART team, the Disaster Assistance Response Team. I don't know how large these camps were before they were emptied, or before they emptied themselves. It's just -- it's very, very difficult to say.
QUESTION: Can you address Ambassador Gribbin's remarks on the BBC and then the criticism he has received for it. He seems to be suggesting that most of the refugees are already in Rwanda. There is a number of organizations which dispute this vehemently. The UNHCR citing satellite photos that must have come from the United States among others, or at least information from satellite photos, talks about numbers beyond a half a million. And granted, even though we are talking about maybe different groups being bunched together, there is a tremendous discrepancy, and the Ambassador is at the center of what does now seem to be controversy.
MR. DAVIES: Well, Ambassador Gribbin is doing, we think, a terrific job in a very tough situation. He is our Ambassador to Rwanda. I don't imagine that an Ambassador to Rwanda often gets this kind of attention and has this kind of spotlight shown on him. We think he is doing a great job.
Now, a couple of things about the interviews that he gave and the one in question is an interview given to, I think, the BBC World Service. He characterized the views that he expressed as personal views, and they were his personal views. He also did not say, "I think there are only some tens of thousands of people in eastern Zaire." He said that he thought there were only some tens of thousands of people in eastern Zaire who wanted to come back to Rwanda. So that's the evidence that he has got. At the end of the day, as he said in the interview, the decision on whether or not a multinational force goes into eastern Zaire is not going to be made by Ambassador Gribbin or, indeed, anybody else on the ground in the region. The decision is going to be made in world capitals. We will make our own decision about whether we will participate. And he understands that full well and he expressed that in the interview.
So, you know, I wouldn't take what Ambassador Gribbin has said, because he didn't mean it as such, as sort of the final definitive word on the situation. He is doing what he can from his perspective.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) his instructions?
MR. DAVIES: We haven't instructed -- you know, we had not instructed Ambassador Gribbin not to express his personal views to the media. I mean, I think Ambassador Gribbin was simply trying to be helpful and he put out his personal view. It is the view of the United States Government right now on numbers of refugees in eastern Zaire is that we are not going to take a hard and fast numerical position. We are simply going to continue working very hard here, in Stuttgart, in Geneva tomorrow where there is a donors meeting, where Brian Atwood will represent us, and in the region, in Kigali and Entebbe and Mombasa, to find out what we can and try to design some smart options to deal with it.
QUESTION: Can you give us some sense of the overall numbers? If UNHCR, quoting the satellite data from three countries, comes up with a figure of 6- to 700,000, and Ambassador Gribbin says he doesn't think very many want to come back at all, it's such a tremendous discrepancy -- and, granted, you can't tell intentions -- still, what is the --
MR. DAVIES: Roy, what I think what's important here is that the United States Government believes that there is a humanitarian problem of some serious dimensions in eastern Zaire, and the United States Government is working on that very hard as are other governments around the world, as certainly the American people would expect the United States Government to be doing. So that's very, very important.
Number two, I could rehearse for you again the many complicating factors in coming up with numbers on the ground. Let me just highlight one again, which is, you're talking about a welter of different kinds of people, displaced Zairians -- Banyamulenge Interahamwe -- or rather Interahamwe and Ex-Far fighters and their families, Rwandan refugees, Burundian refugees.
Of course, you've seen the reports that there are over 100,000 Burundian refugees, still. And all of this -- this pot has been stirred for years now is the problem. Then there was the final trigger, explosion almost, when people began to scatter. So you have a very difficult diaspora to get any kind of grip on.
QUESTION: Is it an assumption that the government is making that there's going to need to be some sort of intervention? In other words, at minimally, military assistance for airlift and other kinds of help to get a major humanitarian mission going in there? Or is the discussion in Stuttgart and in the capitals, including the possibility that there may not be the need for any mission?
MR. DAVIES: The U.S. Government is still looking at all options as are, I think, most other governments. But, we are not -- this is not simply bureaucrats and military officials sitting around pushing pencils and ruminating on the situation. We're acting, and we're acting by putting people actively into the area; as I said, over 300 already, approaching 400, who are in the Great Lakes area -- in three countries.
We are working hard to get teams into eastern Zaire. We've had some success. Not enough. We want to have more success doing that.
I simply think it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to sit here and try to preview for you what kind of action the United States Government is necessarily going to sign up to in the future because we're not there yet. And we are -- we, the world community, but certainly the United States -- are working very hard on the problem of the refugees in Rwanda which some of you seem to have forgotten was the big, dramatic development of not too many days ago, when 600,000 came into Rwanda from Goma, Zaire. That has created a humanitarian situation in Rwanda that has to be dealt with.
In dealing with that situation, we are also leaning into the situation in eastern Zaire and trying to determine what needs to be done.
QUESTION: Is it a baseline assumption that something does need to be done?
MR. DAVIES: It's a baseline assumption that there is a humanitarian problem of serious dimensions in eastern Zaire that the world community ought to address. The United States wants to be part of that solution.
QUESTION: When you say "problem," -- you use the word "problem," not "crisis." You don't view the movement of maybe hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Zaire as a crisis?
MR. DAVIES: I think the world "crisis" could fit as well. I think you could call it a crisis. The problem is, since you can't, as I say, measure the intentions of all of these people and you can't know yet today whether the vast majority of them don't want to go back to Rwanda and are reasonably happy to be doing what they're doing or the vast majority want to come back to Rwanda. That's not knowable at this time.
I assume, and I think most in the government assume, that many of these people would like very much to get back to Rwanda and are working hard to do so. That does make it a crisis of considerable proportions, and we're going to work on it very hard.
QUESTION: I'd like to switch to a different area?
MR. DAVIES: Okay. Anything more on Zaire? No.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Manila and the security situation there for Americans?
MR. DAVIES: I can tell you that an announcement was put out on the ground in Manila based on some information that they had of a possible threat -- terrorist threat -- to U.S. diplomats. We are, here in Washington, now repeating that warning -- that public announcement, rather -- to all of the traveling public so that they know about it.
As is often the case with this kind of intelligence information and terrorist threat, we're not going to go into a great deal of detail. But I can tell you that we've received information -- that the U.S. Embassy received information -- regarding these possible threats to U.S. diplomats. The Philippine authorities have taken steps to assure the safety of visitors. Also, that all American citizens should exercise security awareness during and after the APEC summit meeting period.
All Americans, of course, are encouraged to register if they're there with the U.S. Embassy. That's part of our public announcement, and we do have an announcement that you can have after the meeting, but I'm not going to get into the specifics on this.
QUESTION: The Middle East, please? The Israeli military court, last Sunday, issued an order arresting four Israeli soldiers for one hour and fining them with one-third of a penny for the killing of an 18-year old Palestinian. Do you see this judgment decent and serious to the level of the crime? Do you have any comment on such atrocity?
MR. DAVIES: Clearly, anytime there is a taking of human life, it's a very serious matter.
The United States views that incident with some concern. But that said, I don't want to talk about a process that, in my understanding, is still ongoing in Israel. I don't know that that was, in fact, the final word on it. So I'm not going to go beyond saying that it appears to have been a serious incident. I'm not going to get into it any further.
QUESTION: This incident was, or this action was condemned worldwide by Israelis, American Jews, Arab-Americans, and Europeans, a lot of human rights groups. I think there was, last week, a request -- an appeal -- to the U.S. Government to step in and show that it cares for the life of Palestinians as much as it cares for the lives of Israelis and other people around the world.
In light of the fact now that the Israeli court also sanctioned -- which is something else that, or an additional problem -- sanctioned to allow specific torture for Palestinians under detention by Israeli security forces; that it is sort of legal for the Israeli soldiers to torture Palestinian --
MR. DAVIES: The United States does not believe that torture should ever be an instrument of a civilized state. That position is quite clear.
I'm more than happy to reiterate that. But I don't have any particular comment on that incident.
QUESTION: You condemn, or do you have any reservation or are you calling on the Israeli Government to cease and desist? If you've seen the video which was aired on CNN and it was on Israeli television, Israeli security people were --
MR. DAVIES: Right. It was shocking and very, very disturbing.
QUESTION: -- Palestinians, and I think they called it the "Rodney King" of the Palestinian case. What are you doing? What is the United States Government -- is the United States State Department making this case well-known to the Israelis besides the podium? You send any demarches -- explanations --
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Abdulsalam, this is a case where, as I understand it, the Israeli Government knows full well what kind of reaction the world community and its own population this has elicited from them.
I've seen statements from Israeli Government officials deploring what has occurred. Anytime, on the face of it, something like that occurs, it's to be deplored. The United States Government, of course, shared the shock of many others in viewing some of that evidence. I think we're going to leave that for the Israeli society to sort out just as, quite frankly, I think in the case of the Rodney King incident, we would have preferred to work it out ourselves and not take gratuitous advice from others around the world.
QUESTION: A last point here. Don't you think this is really strange or unbelievable that Israeli courts, the justice system, will possibly (inaudible) or possibly take decisions and take orders or issue orders and decisions to the Israeli security forces at this time to sanction torture of Palestinians --
MR. DAVIES: I've spoken to that. Torture is not something that the United States condones. It's something that we condemn whenever it is employed around the world. It certainly is not an instrument that should be employed by any civilized state. That's a view that's been plain from the United States Government for many, many years.
It certainly is spelled out clearly in our human rights report that's been issued now for a number of decades.
QUESTION: A couple of questions about Colombia. Last night --
MR. DAVIES: Anything more on the Middle East? Let's stick with that and then I'll come back to you.
QUESTION: About Turkey. The Cobra helicopter sales to Turkey? We got conflict statements both in Ankara and in Washington, DC because the Turkish Government said that they canceled the request. Last week, I asked Nick Burns and he said that we didn't get any official cancellation request?
MR. DAVIES: That's still the case.
QUESTION: That's still the case?
MR. DAVIES: Yes. We have not received any formal notification that Turkey is withdrawing its request for the Cobra helicopters.
QUESTION: The other question is, the Turkish military said that it is delaying the delivery on this subject, putting it in the danger of the Turkish defense deals.
How long are you planning to wait for Congress to approve on this sale?
MR. DAVIES: Congress isn't in session so you can't notify a sale if they're not in session. But in terms of the sale itself, we've not received word from the Turks, formally, that they're withdrawing their request for the Cobras. We're aware of the press reporting that's out there that they may be canceling the order, or they're contemplating this.
We choose not to comment on those press reports. It's not in our interest to do so, so we're not going to do so. But I would say, just in general, that we have a security commitment to Turkey. It's a strong and serious security commitment. We have a strong security relationship with Turkey. It includes -- it has an element of it arm sales, and we intend on continuing that relationship with Turkey.
Anything more? Middle East? No. Colombia.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Last night, a Congressional commission in Colombia approved a project to confiscate drug traffickers' condemned assets. What is the impact of this approval pertaining to the relations between Colombia and the United States?
MR. DAVIES: So I can clarify, you said that -- I have not seen this report. I'm not familiar with it. The decision they made was to take assets away from --
QUESTION: -- condemned traffickers; any illicit money that they have gotten from money laundering. What will be the impact? It was something that was approved by a Congressional commission last night.
MR. DAVIES: Since I'm hearing this for the first time, I can't assess the impact. I can say, on the face of it, it sounds positive. We would have to look into it for me to say something more.
QUESTION: Also, last year, Colombia was not certified. This was one of the conditions that the U.S. Government put on paper. If this is something that is going to work from now on from the Colombian Government, would this be a guarantee that Colombia would be recertified on the process in March?
MR. DAVIES: I can't -- that would be making foreign policy from the podium in a dangerous way. I haven't seen that report, so I don't know whether this now means that Colombia has a lock on certification next year. I think that would be a leap -- sure, go ahead. Why not? I could save myself a lot of heartache in the future.
I would have to look at that report. We would have to assess it and decide what it means. It sounds like a positive report. But right now, to me, it's only a report. So, we'll look into that.
QUESTION: Does Dennis Ross have any travel plans?
MR. DAVIES: He does not; no.
QUESTION: John Shattuck, I know, is with the Secretary. Does he have any separate meetings scheduled with Chinese officials?
MR. DAVIES: They're now out of China. I don't think he did. Given the nature of the trip, which was essentially a very heavy day in Beijing, from early in the morning until late at night where he was with the Secretary in his meetings with the government, followed by the trip to Shanghai where the Secretary gave a speech, my understanding is that John Shattuck has basically been with the Secretary of State in his meetings. I don't think he's had any separate meetings with dissidents.
QUESTION: Or with Chinese officials separately?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think he has. I could look into that. I would be more than happy to look into it, but I don't think so.
QUESTION: Did you have any discussions --
MR. DAVIES: Dave, did you have other questions?
QUESTION: Did you have any discussions with any representative of the Croatian Government over the issue of Radio 101?
MR. DAVIES: There have been discussions with representatives of the Croatian Government on the subject of Radio 101. I can report to you that Deputy Secretary Talbott, who is now the Acting Secretary of State, had a conversation with Defense Minister Susak during the Defense Minister's visit here. I believe that was in the last couple of weeks. I can check that for you.
Then, of course our Embassy in Zagreb has had a number of conversations with Croatian officials.
The United States, as you know, believes that Radio 101 should have its license renewed at the same frequency or a comparable frequency to the very good frequency that it has.
We believe that the Croatian State Broadcasting Council's decision delaying action to take Radio 101 off the air is a step in the right direction. We don't believe that it goes far enough.
We believe that Radio 101, which is a voice of independent news and opposition viewpoints in that country, is an important independent voice in Croatia. We believe that it should be allowed to stay on the air. We place a great deal of importance on this issue.
Of course, we took note of the fact that, as reports have it, up to 100,000 people rallied in Zagreb on November 21 in favor of keeping Radio 101 on the air. We think it should stay on the air as well.
QUESTION: What was the response of the Croatian officials in the meetings that your Embassy officials had in Zagreb?
MR. DAVIES: I would leave it to them to characterize their response. We were very categorical in our views. We're certain that they heard what we had to say. You could ask them how they viewed the U.S. intervention on this.
QUESTION: A final thing. In your statement two days ago, you said you would raise your concerns with the Council of Heros and OSCE. Did you do that?
MR. DAVIES: I can't report to you that we have. I know that we are placing this issue squarely within the context of the OSCE Framework -- and that is, according to OSCE norms, Radio 101, we believe, should be allowed to continue to broadcast.
We think that the way this worked, it looked awfully artificial and very much like a setup that a radio station that seemed to exist only on paper was awarded the frequency -- the Radio 101 frequency. We've taken note of the fact that everyone from the owner of -- I think it's called Globas Radio, which is the radio awarded the frequency to -- even some in the government have made the point to those in charge of Radio 101 that they regret the action that was taken; that they want to see Radio 101 kept on the air. We'd like to see that done as well, but not if it means sort of every month some kind of temporary extension given. That should not be the effect here. They should be granted a license and kept on the air.
QUESTION: Does closing of Radio 101 adversely affect U.S. relations with Croatia?
MR. DAVIES: It might well.
QUESTION: Can you suggest in what areas it might have that affect?
MR. DAVIES: I don't want to speculate too broadly. I think we're going to keep the focus today on to see if we can't keep it on the air because of its importance in Croatia. After all, about a third of the residents of Zagreb listen to it.
There are very few -- in fact, this is the premier independent voice in the country, as we understand it. We believe it ought to stay on the air.
QUESTION: Do you want to deal with the events in Serbia while we're in that part of the world?
MR. DAVIES: You're talking about the municipal elections; is that --
QUESTION: The new reports in from --
MR. DAVIES: The situation is not yet fully resolved. It remains, in fact, much the same. There was another rally, this time in Belgrade, on this issue yesterday; and another, we understand, planned for today.
Official results in the municipal elections have still not been released in several key areas, including the town of Novi Sad where preliminary results show the opposition running well.
So we will continue to follow this situation closely and make our concerns known to Serb authorities. As we understand it, there is a delay in releasing the results of the vote in many of these areas that cannot be explained through technical means.
QUESTION: The authorities are trying to manipulate and change the results? That's why they're holding back the results?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we have any deep analysis of what's going on that we would want to share publicly. As I said yesterday, there clearly seems to be some kind of monkey business going on that ought to be ended. That's the message that we're conveying to Serb authorities.
QUESTION: Do you know what really happened to the wife of the opposition leader? Was she actually kidnapped and threatened?
MR. DAVIES: We know that she is at home today. This is Danica Draskovic, the wife of opposition leader Vuk Draskovic. She is at home today. She claims to have been detained yesterday by government authorities. Last night, our diplomats in Belgrade contacted government authorities in an effort to find out what the situation was, and we are still continuing to try to track down the facts of it. So, at this stage, I don't have a final report on that for you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) before -- ?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if they have done it before.
QUESTION: And there is some news from the (inaudible) they suggest that the Syrian President, Hafiz Asad, is very sick. Did you get any information on this subject?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on that. I simply don't.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Zaire for one brief question?
MR. DAVIES: Okay, one more Zaire, sure.
QUESTION: Which is that the whole issue comes about, I think, because there is some question about how many people were in the camps, in the first place. The UNHCR -- it is all based on a UNHCR census, and they have given out exact figures, in fact, for the number of 1.2 something million.
Is there any doubt in the State Department about the accuracy of those numbers and some question whether, you know, they were inflated by the residents of the camps when the census was taken?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think we have a concern that there was any inflation done in the census. Our understanding of the census was that it was not completed fully, and I mean, you could put that question to the UNHCR and ask them whether they were able to complete what would have been a very vast census of many, many hundreds of thousands of people. But I don't have a particular concern to report to you on behalf of the U.S. Government about their methodology in conducting the census.
Anything else? One more.
QUESTION: Senior State Department official, James Collins, was in Kazakstan, I believe, and he was reported as saying that the United States supports an oil pipeline project which passes through Azerbaijan and Turkey. Do you stand by his statements?
MR. DAVIES: I am not aware of his statements at this stage, but you may be aware, so we will look into them.
Let me go to one more in the back, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: There seems to have been some kind of political compromise in Belarus and the Russian Government seems to have played a role in it. Do we have any comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: Well, the situation in Belarus is not yet over, is my understanding. I got a report right before coming out that there is now still some back and forth between President Lukashenko and the parliament. Our understanding is that he is requesting, demanding, that the parliament by a two-thirds majority ratified the agreement that they have reached, according to which, from his standpoint the referendum would not be a binding referendum, but from the parliament's standpoint the impeachment process would end.
Now, given the make-up of the Belarusian parliament, this kind of a two-thirds vote may not be possible, and we would call simply and reiterate that it's important to continue to step back from the confrontation that was achieved through Russian and international efforts just in the last 24 hours. We want to see this process, of course, brought to a democratic and reasonable outcome, and we think that the agreement that was reached with the good offices of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin of Russia and others, ought to be kept, and that they ought to go forward on the basis of that, and that this kind of maneuvering in the parliament should be ended.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:58 p.m.) (###)
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