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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #183, 96-11-13

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Wednesday, November 13, 1996

Briefer: Glyn Davies

Paraguay--Passport Fraud Case Announcement .............. 1
A/S Winston Lord to Discuss Trip to Asia ................ 2

ZAIRE Possible U.S. Participation in Multinational Mission .... 2-6,8-11 --Airport/Goma-to-Rwanda Corridor Security .............. 2,4,7 Refugee Situation: Cholera/Repatriation/War Criminals ... 6-8 U.S. AID Disaster Assist. Response Teams (DART) ......... 2-3 Joint Military-Civilian Team ............................ 3-7,10 UNHCR/WFP/UNICEF Assessment Team ......................................... 3 Status of Cease-fire/Hutu Militia ........................3-4,8 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli PM Netanyahu's Trip to U.S. Canceled ............ 12 Dennis Ross in Region ................................... 12 RUSSIA Vladimir Galkin Case .................................... 13 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA NATO Proposals for IFOR Follow-on ....................... 13 NATO Secretary Christopher/Sec. Gen. Solana Mtg. ............. 13 BURMA Report of SLORC Expelling Journalists ................... 14


DPB #183

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1996, 3:00 P. M.


MR. DAVIES: Sorry to be late. I wanted to first let the White House do their thing on Zaire, and you heard Mike McCurry make his statement and answer dozens of questions about Zaire. If you have more, I'll be happy to take them in a moment.

First a couple of quick announcements. On Paraguay, to let you know that on November 6, the police in Paraguay arrested an individual by the name of Marwan Abid Adam Kadi, who was using the name Ibrahim Mahmood Awethe. Mr. Kadi is wanted in the United States on passport fraud charges. The Department's Diplomatic Security Service is providing assistance in this case.

Mr. Kadi was returned to the U.S. on November 9. He is facing passport fraud charges in Chicago. Most of you know, since we've had cases like this recently, that passport fraud is a felony that is investigated by our Diplomatic Security service.

This is, of course, a pending case. I therefore can't comment at any length any further on that, but we have an announcement that you can have. It's in the Press Office.

Second --

QUESTION: Could you take a question on that? Was this related to the travel warning or the -- in Paraguay around election day? Was this the same individual?

MR. DAVIES: I can look into that. I don't have anything for you on that now, but I can look into that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. DAVIES: Simply because this individual was brought back to the United States. It doesn't happen every day that a government picks up somebody and the person is brought back to the United States and arraigned on passport fraud charges. I wanted to point this out to you.

The Diplomatic Security Service is proud of its work, and they wrote the announcement, so the announcement is back there for you.

Second, tomorrow, Ambassador Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will come to the podium and will lead off the briefing to talk about the Asia trip that the Secretary is taking. Of course, the President is also going to Asia, to Australia and Thailand, in addition to the China and APEC meetings.

Ambassador Lord will discuss the trip and answer your questions.

Third, just on Zaire, you heard what Mike McCurry had to say. Just to outline some of the high points of it, he talked about a possible U.S. participation in a multinational mission that would go to Zaire to address the humanitarian situation. He indicated the mission would last about four months; that the force would have robust rules of engagement; that the U.S. mission would not include disarming militants or forcing entry in Zaire, and that the cost of the mission would be borne by participating states.

There was, of course, a great deal more in his statement. I think what I will do is talk briefly right at the top here about the refugee situation, which he didn't get into at great length, simply to underscore the extreme concern of the United States about the situation of the Rwandan and Burundi refugees, as well as the internally displaced Zairians in eastern Zaire.

We've seen, of course, a number of reports of starvation and outbreaks of disease. Those reports remain unconfirmed. Our hope at this stage is that the parties to the conflict that is ongoing in eastern Zaire will agree to an effective cease-fire and will allow the international community immediate access to the refugees as well as to Zairians displaced by the fighting.

Of course, the United States' twin objectives in eastern Zaire remain to address the immediate humanitarian needs and to encourage the maximum number of refugees to return home.

Now, I spoke yesterday about the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. In fact, there are two in the region; just an update on what they're doing. One of the DART teams was turned back by Zairian rebel officials yesterday, minutes after being allowed into Goma. They were invited to return to Rwanda.

A second DART team was also prevented from entering Bukavu. It was told to return at another time when officials with the necessary authority to grant passage would be there to facilitate their entry into Bukavu.

You heard a little bit from Mike McCurry about the team that has gone in from Italy -- the team of 40 or so military and civilians. That's an interagency team, a joint military/civilian team, that on the civilian side is being led by Ambassador Richard Bogosian. You heard Mike McCurry talk a bit about that.

Meanwhile, an assessment team from the UNHCR World Food Program and UNICEF successfully crossed into Goma yesterday, for the second day, in order to assess how to deliver assistance and re-establish a humanitarian presence in the area.

That's what I have by way of an update. George.

QUESTION: Mike McCurry didn't say anything about when the forces would go, and also do you have anything on efforts to achieve a cease-fire?

MR. DAVIES: Mike McCurry didn't say anything about when for a good reason, and that is that the agreement that was reached -- that we've reached now with the Canadians -- is in effect an agreement in principle that the United States would take part -- that United States forces would take part - - in this mission, which would be led by Canada.

What we still have to work out are many of the details here, and that's being done just as rapidly as possible and at very senior levels. The discussion that occurred last night between Canadian officials and U.S. officials here in Washington was an important discussion, because it enabled us to reach this stage of agreement in principle.

George, your second point?

QUESTION: What is being done to achieve a cease-fire?

MR. DAVIES: The United Nations, according to reports I've seen, has achieved at least a preliminary cease-fire in a region of eastern Zaire near Goma to allow them to begin the process of moving humanitarian supplies into at least Goma town, if not the surrounding area.

In conjunction with UN efforts, of course, Ambassador Bogosian and our Embassies in the region -- in Kinshasa, in Kigali -- are very active in trying to deliver this message to the militias that it's important that they understand that the international community is working very hard on this mission; that we are now, as Mike said, just days away from making final decisions and actually launching something in motion; and they would be well advised to create the kind of environment that will facilitate this mission going forward.

QUESTION: Can I follow up. Did I hear correctly from Mike that first there must be a cease-fire in place? And, second, a prerequisite before any U.S. troops would enter into Goma would be that the country of Zaire would invite the U.S. in. I take it that would just be Zaire's invitation, because the CNN reporter on the ground has said that --

MR. DAVIES: Bill, on the second question, I don't think there's going to be a problem from the Zairian side in terms of U.S. forces and other forces entering Zaire. The signals we get are that this is not going to be an issue, so I don't think that's a problem at all.

QUESTION: There are armed forces -- according to reliable reports -- armed forces around the airport, controlling the roads, controlling Goma --

MR. DAVIES: That is a concern -- a serious concern -- the fact that there is fighting going on. It's important to bear in mind that the inter-ethnic fighting between the militias is not fighting directed at outsiders. It's fighting directed at each other. So we're not talking about an environment that is per se hostile to this outside intervention. But we are talking about a dangerous environment, and that means that the work over the next couple of days on the ground has to be impressing upon the militias the importance of ceasing their fighting and cooperating with the international effort that's to be mounted.

QUESTION: There are also not many outsiders there at present, correct? What happens when an armed force from outside shows up and adds to the mix?

MR. DAVIES: I mean, there are some unknowables here, clearly. But we do have the 40-person team which went into Uganda today, which intends to next go into Rwanda and which may or may not pass and cross into Zaire, depending on what they find in Rwanda and what they develop as their mission while they're out there.

That team will be prepared clearly to defend itself if it needs to, but I don't think at this stage anyone is anticipating that the militias would be reckless enough to try to take on an international force of some considerable size that is contemplated here.


QUESTION: Could I follow that up. Yesterday, you were saying that one of the things that was delaying any U.S. decision was that you needed to know what the U.S. forces would be getting into and what the mission would be and even where the refugees were. You are now telling us that the U.S. teams which have been sent out to collect such information have not been able to get into the area.

So the question is, what do you know today that you didn't know yesterday?

MR. DAVIES: Jim, it's not that they haven't been able to get into the area; it's just that they've just arrived from Italy, and they're moving forward now, and they'll move into Rwanda.

QUESTION: What do you know today that you didn't know yesterday?

MR. DAVIES: What has changed from yesterday is the fact that we've had a very good in-depth discussion with the Canadians; that our diplomacy both in the region and with our other partners has advanced a considerable bit. We're in a position now to go the to next step, to make the statement that you saw Mike make, which is to agree in principle that the United States can be part of this, provided we can work through certain issues. So there are still issues to be worked through. There's no question about that.

QUESTION: Among those issues to work through, are you going to have to send your teams in first, and are they going to have to bring back an authoritative assessment of what the situation is, where the refugees are, and what the food needs are before you actually send in your people?

MR. DAVIES: An important part of this is finding out what the team that's out there on the ground has to say. That absolutely will be factored into the decision-making that's made in the U.S. Government.

You heard Mike McCurry go through a list of, let's call them issues, that have to be worked through here. In essence, all of those issues have to be addressed satisfactorily, or we have to be sufficiently far along for the United States to commit itself finally to do this. But there is no lack of commitment on the part of the United States to do what is necessary to see that the international community responds to the humanitarian crisis that is clearly emerging there.

We've had these reports of cholera outbreaks. There are reports of terrible privations of food and water among the refugees. That's a serious situation that the United States wants very badly to see addressed and will help address, depending on how we work through some of these issues.

QUESTION: I think I hear you saying that it may be weeks before the U.S. people actually --

MR. DAVIES: No, I wouldn't say that. People are working very, very hard on this. They have been for a number of days. We got into this a bit yesterday, and I won't bore you with the recitation of all the factors I listed. But we're talking about a very, very complicated situation that the United States has to have a certain number of assurances before it can go into, number one. Number two, you can go in there willy-nilly and try to bring some relief on a humanitarian basis, and you can end up creating a situation that at the end of the day will be even worse.

I mean, you don't want to reset the trigger that was pulled when this crisis began a matter of weeks ago. You want to get yourself in a position so that you can move on to something better.

QUESTION: Ambassador Bogosian's team -- can you give us a little more precision on what precisely they are supposed to do, and how is security being handled for them?

MR. DAVIES: The 40-person team which Mike discussed is jointly led, as I said, by Ambassador Richard Bogosian, who's the Rwanda-Burundi Coordinator; and then also U.S. Army Major General Edward P. Smith, who commands the Southern European Task Force, headquartered in Vicenza, Italy.

They are going in with a number of specialists; they'll have specialists in the medical field, in engineering, in civil affairs, in security assistance. And their objective -- and they've just begun today to perform their work -- is to develop an itinerary and develop a set of objectives there on the ground as they work through some of the challenges that you heard Mike McCurry outline.

So they are going to be the eyes and ears out there on the ground of planners back here as we move forward with this.

QUESTION: Are they going to be surveying landing strips?

MR. DAVIES: They have with them, obviously, experts who will be able to help with questions like the Goma airport: Is it in the kind of condition for U.S. aircraft to go into? They'll have security experts with them, civil affairs experts.

QUESTION: What kind of security arrangements are being made for the team? Have they got armed Marines supporting them?

MR. DAVIES: You would have to ask the Pentagon. My understanding is that they're lightly armed and they're prepared to defend themselves if that should arise. We don't expect it to, though.

QUESTION: Could you discuss the repatriation aspect of this, please? What does the U.S. Government -- we know what you hope to achieve, but how do you hope to achieve it? And will you be arresting people that you come across who are wanted by the War Crimes Tribunal?

MR. DAVIES: To answer those questions, well, we have to have answered a number of questions that are still out there. We don't have precise answers on how the refugee situation can be dealt with. This is part of the dialogue that we're engaged in with our partners; specifically, with the Canadians. This has to be worked out. There's a security dimension to this that's very, very important.

You heard Mike talk about the mission of U.S. forces, that they would be concentrating primarily on running the airport, on airport security and providing security along the corridor from Goma to the Rwandan border -- about a three-mile long corridor. That corridor could well be part of the system, if you will, of getting Rwandan refugees back to Rwanda.

Of course, before you can get them to go back into Rwanda, you have to convince them it's in their interest to do so.

QUESTION: The policy hasn't changed?

MR. DAVIES: The international community is not in the business -- and certainly the United States is not in the business -- of forcing people at gunpoint to go where they don't want to go.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) those wanted in war crimes?

MR. DAVIES: That's an issue that will have to be dealt with. Absolutely.

QUESTION: About 10 days ago Brian Atwood talked about -- this is before this crisis really reached a peak -- Brian Atwood was talking about establishing relief centers in Rwanda that would be a magnet for the refugees to go back. Is this still something that's being talked about?

MR. DAVIES: He gave you a little bit of a window on some of the thinking. This is quite a challenge and, in a sense, unprecedented. How do you convince over a million people that in fact it's safe to go back to Rwanda? We believe it is safe. We believe that they can go back to Rwanda. They clearly have a different view.

Influencing their thinking are the actions of some of these armed Hutu militia forces that are out there. So this provides a real challenge to the international community to try to figure out how to make the case to the Rwandan refugees that it is, indeed, safe for them to go back.

QUESTION: Why does the United States think it's safe? Because of the rhetorical commitments of the government in Rwanda, or is there some -- have you found some complete change in their attitude?

MR. DAVIES: Of course, in discussions with Rwandans -- have made clear to the Rwandans the importance of a safe atmosphere for these refugees to return.

Our assessment, based on our diplomatic activity on the ground, is that it is in fact safe for these refugees to return. But within that general assessment, of course, we have some of these issues about the Hutu militia and how to deal with these some 40,000, which is a small fraction of the 1.1 million Rwandan refugees, but a fraction that has to be paid attention to.


QUESTION: Why is this operation in the national interest of the United States?

MR. DAVIES: Because people are dying. People are under a great deal of stress. There is, I think, in the United States, a very strong humanitarian streak that understands that when you're confronted by a situation like this, it's important to help resolve it.

QUESTION: It was arguably just as bad in Bosnia for three years, and the list is endless?

MR. DAVIES: And you'll recall that in Bosnia we engaged in an extensive, expensive, elaborate air drop campaign to get foodstuffs behind the lines to those who were in need of them.

We're talking here about a humanitarian crisis that's very serious, that's evident to the world community. We can see it on our television sets and we hear the reports coming from the region. It's very much in the interest of the United States to address this crisis and to play a role in the international community to do so. So that's the basic rationale for it.

QUESTION: I must have missed something. I thought this was the Administration that said humanitarian concerns were not in our national interest. Although we commiserate and sympathize and feel bad about it, that's not something that's worth American lives. When was the change and why?

MR. DAVIES: I would turn that back on you. When was the statement? I don't recall the United States Government ever coming out and saying that helping starving, thirsty people is not in our interest.

QUESTION: Sometime between the dragging of American helicopter pilots through the streets of Mogadishu and the death of 2 or 300,000 Muslims in Bosnia?

MR. DAVIES: I take strong exception. I think many, many Americans understand the need to respond to a crisis of this kind, and many Americans would support it. I would think the vast majority of Americans.

QUESTION: Glyn, is the French participation in this multilateral force a problem or a concern? This morning, Zairian rebels were saying that they will shoot at the French if they show up in eastern Zaire?

MR. DAVIES: I think that's a question that has to be addressed to the French and to the Canadians who are organizing this effort.

QUESTION: Will the U.S. troops come to the aid of French troops if they came under fire from --

MR. DAVIES: Carol, you're getting so far out ahead of where we are and so speculative. We can paint all manner of scenarios in eastern Zaire and try to kind of walk through them, but it just simply wouldn't be useful because we don't yet know the full shape of this.

QUESTION: I think the last question was pretty fundamental. If you're going to be part of an international mission, don't you have responsibilities to protect --

MR. DAVIES: But the degree of speculation there is so deep. I don't know what role the French would play, if any. We would have to see.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that they would be participating, then?

MR. DAVIES: I'm sure there will be some French participation. The degree, the shape of it, I simply don't know.

QUESTION: On Sid's question, is it fair to say at this point that the decision the President has made, in principle, that there will be U.S. forces involved in this means that in this humanitarian effort there is going to a risk to American lives? American soldiers are going to risk their lives to try and stop starvation?

MR. DAVIES: There's an element of risk here that's not inconsiderable, clearly.

QUESTION: Casualties?

MR. DAVIES: You have reports, even today, of mortar fire, for instance, small arms fire in the vicinity of Goma. I think it would be a massive error for me to try to underplay the degree of difficulty involved here and the degree of danger.

That said, I am not a military planner and I can't sit here and tell you exactly what kind of danger calculus the military is going to use as it plans this. They plan for danger. That's one of the reasons they exist, to deal with it. They may have more specific answers for you.

QUESTION: If we can come back to my inquiry, following David's question, is the United States prepared to accept the risks of a peace enforcement role that's under UN Chapter 7, specifically without the consent of the Rwandans, consent of this group -- this rescue effort coming in against the will of the Rwandans? What do you say?

MR. DAVIES: What I can say is that, first of all, in the run-up to this, everything is going to be done to create a permissive environment to ensure that there is not any kind of resistance. That's number one.

Number two, decisions will have to be made down the road, as we move to making a final decision on our participation here, about how to deal with any non-permissive activity that is found on the ground by this assessment team that's out there.

We have to see to what degree the militias in the area are willing and able to provide the kind of secure conditions that we need. Based on that, we'll have to make some decisions.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Did you ask the European Union to participate with troops in this humanitarian mission in Zaire?

MR. DAVIES: Canada is organizing this mission. That's important to note, so we're working with the Canadians on this.

QUESTION: Since all the neighboring countries around Zaire's territory claims against Zaire, I'm wondering how you're going to complete this mission in such a hostile environment?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know that all the neighboring countries have territorial claims against Zaire.

QUESTION: Last Sunday, there was a big article as far --

MR. DAVIES: Then, it must be true, huh, if it was in the paper? I don't know that that's the case. There are eight or nine countries bordering Zaire.

QUESTION: Who controls, politically, Zaire today?

MR. DAVIES: I believe President Mobutu Sese Seko is the President, and the Prime Minister is Kengo wa Dondo.

QUESTION: Do you communicate with him directly? He's in France.

MR. DAVIES: Have we communicated directly with President -- we're in touch with the Government of Zaire.

QUESTION: The dictator, Mobutu --

MR. DAVIES: We're in touch with the Government of Zaire.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. DAVIES: We are in touch with the Government of Zaire. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Does that include the President?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know if we've had recent contact with --

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. DAVIES: I don't know if we've had recent contact with President Mobutu.

QUESTION: Switch the subject. There is a report out of Jerusalem that Prime Minister Netanyahu has postponed or canceled his private trip to the United States. Have you seen it, and does that have any relevance to the negotiations?

MR. DAVIES: I've seen it. I've seen that he's canceled his trip. We understand from Ambassador Indyk that, in fact, that's the case that he's put off his trip. I can't comment for you any further. I'm not an Israeli Government spokesman so I can't explain why he's canceled the trip. I've seen all the speculation about it. I simply have nothing to add.

QUESTION: Where is Dennis?

MR. DAVIES: Dennis is, I believe, on his way to Israel. I don't know whether Dennis is simply going there to catch a flight back to the U.S. or whether he has plans to do any work in Tel Aviv, or in Israel. We'll just have to stay tuned and find out.

QUESTION: Has Indyk and Abington given any sense that a deal is close?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything to report to you. You've heard what the Secretary said just earlier this week about our desire to see an agreement quickly and our hope that, indeed, we see an agreement in a matter of days instead of way down the road. But I don't have anything to add to what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: How could the Israelis and Palestinians have reached an agreement without Dennis?

MR. DAVIES: Dennis' presence is felt, even if he's not there, believe me. Dennis is engaged even when not present.

QUESTION: Well, he stayed in Cairo to continue talks, correct, when the Secretary went off to France. Do you know that he had talks last night with the various parties?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have a rundown on Dennis' activities. It's correct that he stayed behind in Cairo to do some further work, but I simply don't have a listing of with whom he spoke or what he was up to. I understand that after remaining in Cairo for a little bit, he's now moved on to Israel, and whether he comes back here or stays there, I don't know.

QUESTION: But wasn't Dennis just supposed to change planes in Israel and then come to the United States?

MR. DAVIES: That was one plan that I heard. I'm watching that bouncing ball, as are you. We'll see.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Secretary to go back to --

MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any. I have none to announce to you, no.

QUESTION: Another subject. Have the Russians informed you of their intention to arrest American former intelligence officers in Russia in the future in the event that Mr. Galkin is not released?

MR. DAVIES: David, I have no such information. I don't know of any words from the Russians like that.

QUESTION: Could you take that question?

MR. DAVIES: I can look into that.

QUESTION: Bosnia. Back to Carol's question about the French and U.S. relations with the French at this time. In the wires today, the French have stated that they proposed an IFOR peacekeeping force to stay in Bosnia until 1999, slowly tapering off, I believe, in numbers, and they would like -- I believe they would like to turn over the command and control of this force to the Bosnian Government. Does the U.S. favor this kind of --

MR. DAVIES: Bill, the action on IFOR follow-on is right now with NATO, and you followed the news recently that NATO authorities have come up with a set of proposals for the political leadership, and right now the various member nations of NATO are looking at the proposals that have been made. We may have some further word as early as next week, as there are NATO meetings scheduled in Brussels. But right now I can't tell you anything more.

QUESTION: Is Secretary General Solana still seeing Mr. Christopher on Friday?

MR. DAVIES: I believe that meeting is still on, yes.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. be in favor of having U.S. troops under IFOR -- under the command of the Bosnians?

MR. DAVIES: No, what we're doing right now, Bill, is we're looking at the proposals that have come to us from NATO authorities for follow-on options in Bosnia, and it would be irresponsible of me to try to get out in front of that process.

QUESTION: On a different subject.


QUESTION: On Burma. Is it your understanding that the SLORC has ordered all foreign journalists out of Burma?

MR. DAVIES: I had not heard that, no.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the wires.

MR. DAVIES: On the wires. I had not heard that. I'll look into that. That would be a dramatic development.

QUESTION: Would you take that?

MR. DAVIES: Sure, absolutely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DAVIES: Anything else? Thanks.

(The briefing concluded at 3:30 p.m.)


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