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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #187, 96-11-19

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


Tuesday, November 19, 1996

Briefer: Glyn Davies

George Moose

  Welcome to American University Students and
    Foreign Service Officers .............................  1
  Statement re: MOU between Dept. & U.S. Air Carriers ....  8
  A/S of African Affairs George Moose on Refugee Situation:  1-7
  --Approx. 500,000 Refugees Return to Rwanda fr. E. Zaire  1,5
  --Refugees Unaccounted for in E. Zaire .................  2,5-6
  --DART Team ............................................  2
  --Planning for Possible Multinat'l Force Continues ....  2-4,7
  --Stuttgart Mtg. Chaired by Canada .....................  3
  --U.S. Pledge Toward Rwandan Relief Effort .............  3
  --Air Head/TALCE Unit at Kigali Airport ................  3-4
  --Need for Nat'l Reconciliation Processes .............  4-5,7
  --Additional Human Rights Monitors .....................  5
  --War Criminals/Judicial Process .......................  5
  --Location of Hutu Militants ...........................  6
  --Report of Arms Supply from Czech Republic ............  7
  --Reports of New Settlements in West Bank ..............  9
  CHINA--Jailing of Wang Dan .............................  9-10
  INDONESIA--Report of U.S. Senators' Letter to President
    re: East Timor .......................................  10
  Closing of Liaison Office ..............................  10
  Submarine Incident .....................................  10-11
  Agreed Framework .......................................  11
  Reported Remark by FM Pangalos re: U.S. Foreign Policy .  11-12
  Pope John Paul II Accepts Invitation to Visit ..........  12
  RFE/Radio Liberty Annual Programming Budget for Belarus   13


DPB #187

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1996, 1: l0 P.M.


MR. DAVIES: Hello and welcome to the State Department briefing. Also welcome to some visitors. We have two students visiting us from American University. Welcome to you. Three Foreign Service Officers from the Washington Tradecraft class, from the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. Three newly hired Junior Officers, all here to see how we do it.

What we would like to do at the top of the briefing is something a bit different. Given the prominence of Eastern Zaire in the news and the great amount of work that is taking place in the U. S. Government to react to the crisis in Eastern Zaire and Rwanda, we have joining us today Assistant Secretary of State George Moose who will say a couple of things to you and then take your questions, and we'll go just as long as you have questions.

Ambassador Moose.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: Let me start off with a caveat which I think all of you will appreciate which is that all of the numbers that all of us have been citing these days are far from hard numbers. They are the best estimates that our people on the ground and various other sources can provide us.

That said, we do believe that over the last several days some 500,000 Rwandan refugees have returned to Rwanda from Eastern Zaire, and we think, based on that estimate and the estimate of those who are still on the road, that by the end of today or some time tomorrow that figure could reach 600, 000.

Needless to say, we are all deeply relieved and pleased by that development because it means that a substantial part of the problem that we were planning to deal with has in fact already been dealt with.

That raises two principal issues now. Number one, we clearly have needs for those returning refugees, and need to assist both the government of Rwanda and the international relief agencies which are currently trying to ensure their safe, orderly return to their home communes, their reintegration into society. And there are a lot of things that are going on on that score, and let me come back to that.

But in the meantime what I want to stress as well is that we remain concerned about the several hundred thousand -- we don't even know how many -- refugees who thus far are unaccounted for in Eastern Zaire.

We have varying estimates and some question about estimates, but let me simply say that it is still thought that there may be as many as 400,000 - 500,000 refugees who are still in Eastern Zaire. We think that most of those refugees are in the vicinity and the area south of Goma, some between Bukavu and Goma on the western side of Lake Kivu, and we have various estimates of that and I won't get into the numbers right now. If you want to come back to that, we can.

But then, moving further south and west, we have varying estimates of the numbers of refugees who might still be in the area around Bukavu, and then moving south towards Uvira, and indeed even further south of Uvira.

Those are the refugees about whom we are still concerned. For that reason, we are doing two things. We are urgently pursuing our information collection by all means available to us. That includes aerial surveillance, and it includes, clearly, our collaboration work with the organizations, international organizations, on the ground, as well as our efforts to get our own people into Eastern Zaire.

Yesterday, our DART team from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance was successful in getting into Goma and into Mugunga Camp. Tomorrow, we are told, they will be able to get across the border into Bukavu. And, on the basis of that, make some better assessment of what the situation is in and around Bukavu.

So, first we are continuing our urgent efforts to collect information with regard to the situation in Eastern Zaire, and, secondly, we are continuing on an urgent basis our planning for a possible military mission to support the repatriation and relief efforts in Eastern Zaire.

We think it would be premature at best, remiss, for us to stand down at this stage. We need to continue that planning effort, and that effort is going forward. As you know, there is a meeting that is planned now in Stuttgart. We think it is now on Friday, not Thursday. That meeting will be chaired by the Canadian designated commander of the multinational force, General Baril of Canada. And the purpose will be, first and foremost, to bring together all of the information collectively that we possess about the situation. And on the basis of that, try to determine if there is still a requirement for a multinational force mission. And if so, what the configuration of that mission ought to be to deal with the problem.

Now, coming back to the Rwandan part of this, some of that you already know, because Brian Atwood announced yesterday afternoon that the United States was pledging $l42.5 million -- I think was the total figure -- largely towards the relief effort in Rwanda, to assist UNHCR, UNDP, and the other UN agencies, and the government of Rwanda to reintegrate the returning refugees into Rwandan society.

As part of our effort there, we are also moving forward with the establishment in Kigali of a small, if you will, air head at the Kigali airport so that our military assets can be used if and as necessary to bring in relief supplies or other equipment that is necessary to respond to the immediate needs in Rwanda.

That effort is underway. I won't try to preempt or get into the details of that, but it simply consists of putting in place in Kigali a small tactical air logistical command element, TALCE, which would be available to establish the end of an air bridge. Other elements of that air bridge will be in Mombasa in Kenya and in Entebbe in Uganda.

That effort in Kigali will also be multinational in nature. The Canadians are also planning to assign some element at the Kigali airport, obviously with the approval and permission of the Rwandan authorities.

The other point I'd like to make is that the presence of that air head, the facility in Kigali, also will enable us, if it is determined that an operation is still required in Eastern Zaire, to move much more quickly than otherwise would be the case.

So I want to stress, we are still concerned about what we don't know about Eastern Zaire. Because of that concern, we are continuing to plan for a possible mission. But the determination of whether such a mission is still required is yet to be made.

I think I will stop there and try to address any questions you might have.

QUESTION: Can you address the question of the hostility of the Rwandan Government to any presence of a multinational force in their country? Does this create problems for people like yourself, and are you encouraging a dialogue of sorts between the Hutu's and the Tutsi's, similar to the one you have been encouraging in Burundi?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: You've got several pieces of that question. Number one, I think the public statements by the Rwandan Government suggest that they question at this time whether there is still a need for a multinational force mission. By the same token, they understand our need to continue to make plans for a possible mission based on the still undetermined fate of the remaining refugees in Eastern Zaire.

I think we have been quite clear about that in our discussions with them. There is nothing we are trying to hide in that regard.

In the meantime, I would say that first and foremost they have indicated to us a need for assistance in supporting the repatriation, the reintegration of the returning refugees, and it is for that purpose first and foremost that they have given their agreement for the establishment of the facility, our small TALCE unit at Kigali.

Now, the second part of your question really relates to Eastern Zaire, I am assuming, what's happening there and what we anticipate will happen in the future.

QUESTION: The internal situation in Rwanda. In other words, you have the situation in which the Tutsi's dominate the government, and they are the minority, and it seems to me to be an inherently unstable situation; are you encouraging them to have some sort of national reconciliation process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: The Rwandans, themselves, have indicated I think on a number of occasions that they recognize the need for a process of national reconciliation. That process in their view, and I think we would agree with that, has multiple components.

I think the most immediate one is to ensure that those people who are now returning are dealt with in a humane and decent manner, in terms of facilitating their reintegration into society.

There are several components of that as well. Some of them are simply material, but others are, if you will, political, psychological. In that regard, you should know that the Rwandan Government has indicated its readiness to receive additional monitors, human rights monitors, to be present in the communes of the returning refugees in order to ensure that they are being dealt with fairly.

But beyond that, there are a whole series of other things that we have talked about before. There is clearly a need to deal with the problem of justice for those who are believed to have been implicated or involved in, in some direct way, the genocide. There are problems with the justice system in Rwanda which we are all aware of. There are now some 85,000 people in detention; judicial processing of them has yet to start in earnest.

That is a concern to us. It's a concern to others, as well. There is beyond that, if you will, the question of a process of national reconciliation and the Rwandans talk variously about mechanisms that might be used to address that.

That is a medium to a longer term problem, and I think it is one we are all cognizant of.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea now what started this tidal wave of people going back to Rwanda? Was it -- did the suggestion of international intervention trigger it, do you think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: I would be misleading you if I stood up here and told you I knew exactly what triggered all of this exodus. I think there were a number of factors involved clearly. The military activities in Eastern Zaire by the so-called Alliance obviously was a factor.

But I have to believe also that the imminence of an international action aimed at Eastern Zaire might have contributed in some way, probably did contribute in some way, to the series of events that prompted the refugees to return. But I don't know that any of us could give you a better answer on that.

QUESTION: Assuming that your figures are right, that there are four to five hundred thousand elsewhere, is there any way to promote a similar exodus?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: Number one, assuming that that number is what it is, yes, we think that there might be ways to do that. But frankly until we have a better sense of where these refugees might be and what their condition is, and indeed what the impediments are to their return -- some of those may be simple physical impediments, and the fact that they simply can't get to the frontiers and across the frontiers under current circumstances.

But I want to be very careful here. We need to know a lot more than we know now before we can make that kind of a judgment.


QUESTION: What do you know now about the disposition, the whereabouts, the capabilities of the Hutu militants, those who would control the camps?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: We know very little, except what we have been able to discern from interviewing returning refugees, and other information that has been brought to our attention.

There is an assumption that the ex-Rwandan military and some of the ex- political leadership, Rwandan political leadership, had been in the area in and around Mugunga Camp, headed west. And indeed their departure for the west is what contributed to the liberation, if you will, of the Mugunga Camp, and then the exodus.

We don't know how many they might be. There are reports variously of somewhere between 75,000 and l00,000 people on the roads west of Mugunga on the way towards Masisi.

Let me stress again, these are all estimates for which we have no hard evidence. Where other elements might be, again frankly we don't know at this stage.


QUESTION: Last week there were threats of war by the Zairian Government against Rwanda and Burundi. Has that threat been rescinded or is that a factor in the United States, let's say, taking a closer look at the situation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: I can't factually answer your first question because I don't know. What I do know is that what we have been encouraging - - we and others have been encouraging for some time now is that there be better dialogue, communication, first and foremost, between the Rwandan Government and the Zairian Government.

But beyond that, between and among other governments in the region, and beyond that specifically, clearly there is a need for a process of internal dialogue within Zaire between the government and various of its citizens.

There was a set of grievances which have been articulated by residents of eastern Zaire. Our advice to the government in Zaire has been for some time that they need to address those grievances in a fairly forthright manner through direct dialogue, discussion with the people on the ground in eastern Zaire.

QUESTION: Is this area in eastern Zaire militarily unsettled and unsuitable for U.S. military-type of intervention or intrusion, or whatever you want to call it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: Let us be clear here, too. The President last week took a decision in principle to participate in a multinational force operation, the purposes of which were humanitarian. In the first instance, to assist in the immediate assistance relief to the refugees who were at risk in eastern Zaire and, beyond that, the facilitation of the repatriation. That repatriation to be undertaken by the UN and other international organizations.

That was the purpose for which we signed onto, in principle, to a possible mission. I think that's also the purpose for which many others signed onto.

There is a problem in eastern Zaire, but that is of a very different nature. Frankly, my own view is that that is a problem that does not lend itself to anybody's military intervention. That is essentially a political and diplomatic problem that needs to be addressed in those terms.

QUESTION: The Czech Republic supplied arms to the Hutus and probably to other warring parties, clearly in violation of the United Nations embargo. Have you something on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MOOSE: First and foremost, I cannot confirm -- I know that the United Nations undertook an investigation. There was a report that has been submitted to the Secretary General. I have not seen that report. I do not know therefore the conclusions of the report. Therefore, I cannot validate your initial assertion about who, if anyone, has been cited in that report for possible violation of the UN arms embargo.

Simply from our perspective, it is important that there be maximum compliance from all of those in the international community with this arms embargo, precisely because of the volatility of this region of the world. We will urge and cooperate in any effort that might result in some restriction on arms and other things moving into that area.

Thank you.

(Following Assistant Secretary Moose, Acting Spokesman Davies resumed the Daily Briefing at 1:27 p.m.)

MR. DAVIES: I have just one announcement before going to your questions. We are, today, making an announcement that on November 18, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Mary Ryan, signed Memorandum of Understanding reflecting best practices and procedures between the Department of State and seven United States air carriers. The seven carriers are American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta, Northwest, TWA, United Airlines, and U.S. Air.

Of particular importance in this Memorandum of Understanding are the provisions concerning exchange of information in airline disasters. The provisions concerning the rendering of passenger manifests is the first commitment on the part of the air carriers to establish a routine for providing the Department of State with this much-needed information.

Many of you who have been in the briefing in the wake of air disasters have asked questions about who was involved in the crash. Of course, we've had a number of instances where family members have sought information quickly after air disasters.

What this MOU does for us is, it sets up a regime according to which, in a matter of hours, air carriers must provide to the government unverified manifests of who was on board the aircraft. This is just an MOU so it doesn't have the force of law. But the Department of Transportation is working on a rule which will codify this so that in the future there will be a very certain process by which air carriers can deal with the U.S. Government in the wake of airline disasters. We, in turn, can perform our function of helping the families of victims to know precisely what has occurred to their loved ones.

There's a statement that goes into more detail on this that's available in the Press Office.

With that, George, any questions?

QUESTION: I have no answerable questions. I'll pass.

MR. DAVIES: No answerable questions? You never know. You just never know. Anything else?

QUESTION: Glyn, have you seen the new reports that the Israelis are announcing a series of new settlements in the West Bank? Do you have any reaction?

MR. DAVIES: I have, Jim. We've seen those reports. I don't have anything beyond what we've said many times from the podium; our position on Israeli settlement activity remains the same; Israeli settlements complicate the negotiating process that's now underway and create tension in the region.

We're looking into these reports to find out what we can about it. I'm not certain that the Israeli Government has, in fact, made any kind of an announcement about this. Our standpoint on this type of activity is clear, that such settlement work, or new settlement work, is not at all helpful to the negotiating process.

QUESTION: In this particular time, with the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations hanging in balance, does this make it more complicating than usual?

MR. DAVIES: It complicates the process. We don't view it as helpful to the process that's underway. The best judges of the extent to which it complicates the process and is unhelpful to the process are those directly engaged in negotiations right now, which is to say Israel and their partners in the region. You would have to go to them for a reading on just what it means for negotiations out there. But we're clear on this. We don't view it as helpful.

QUESTION: Does Dennis Ross have any travel plans?

MR. DAVIES: Don't know of any travel plans. I think Dennis is here in Washington. I don't have anything to announce.

QUESTION: It's been reported that Secretary of State Warren Christopher has said that the jailing of Wang Dan will not be an impediment to the U.S.- Chinese summit. Some are interpreting this as a downgrading of the emphasis upon human rights?

MR. DAVIES: I don't think so at all. A couple of things. First of all, it would be the height of folly for me to get really too deeply into China issues given the fact that the entire Secretary of State team is over there in China right now, and they're answering these very questions.

But just as a general matter, human rights is one of a number of very important issues on our agenda. It is an important issue and it's one that the Secretary raises at every opportunity, that the President raises in his meetings, that we raise at all levels.

We discuss these matters and the concerns that we have with the Chinese when we meet with them. Furthermore, we've said that our relationship can never be as good as it might be while we have in the mix these human rights cases, these concerns that we have. Of course, it's all spelled out in our human rights report on China, because we do have a number of concerns.

QUESTION: In terms of human rights, do you know how the President will respond to this letter from, I think it's 15 Senators, urging the President to take up the East Timor human rights issue with President Soeharto during the APEC meeting?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on if the President has responded, how he'll respond.

QUESTION: Does he intend on taking up the human rights issue, and particularly East Timor with President Soeharto?

MR. DAVIES: I don't know that that will come up. That's a good question for the White House.

QUESTION: North Korea said that they will close the Liaison Office at Panmunjom as of November 20. What is the U.S. response to that?

MR. DAVIES: Our understanding is that, indeed, they are closing a Liaison Office that was established in the wake of the 1991 North-South Basic Agreement, which was an agreement that anticipated expanded cross-border contacts.

The Liaison Office was a working-level office that was unable to fulfill its intended function because there have not been up to this point the expanded cross-border contacts that were spoken of in the 1991 agreement.

That is our understanding of why the office was closed. It was an office that, for the last five years, didn't do much, if anything, and so closed down.

QUESTION: There were some reports in Japanese and Korean newspapers that the North Koreans had indicated to the United States, in New York, in their meetings that they were willing to come out with some statement of regret concerning the submarine incident. Can you comment on that, or can you tell us what your understanding of the current North Korean position on that is?

MR. DAVIES: Our position on the sub incident is unchanged from recent days, and that is, we view the sub incident as a serious act, a provocative event. We've said, and stick by, the fact that North Korea needs to make an appropriate gesture to the South in order to improve the atmosphere. It has yet to do so. We've called on it repeatedly to do so. So that's where it stands.

I'm not going to get into describing for you what the North Koreans have told us in New York or what we've replied specifically. We'll keep those talks confidential. That's our position on the sub incident. It is there as an impediment to the relationship between the two sides on the peninsula. We think the North Koreans should make some kind of a gesture as a way of redressing that problem.

QUESTION: What kind of a gesture -- an apology?

MR. DAVIES: That's up to them. It's up to North Korea to work out. It's really between North and South Korea to work out. We think it's important, though, that the Agreed Framework go forward. By all indications, it is going forward.

We certainly are playing our part in the Agreed Framework in the delivery, for instance, of heavy fuel oil. KEDO -- the organization set up by the Agreed Framework -- has, in fact, taken on some new membership recently, including most recently the European Union. So that process is alive and well and should remain functioning.

QUESTION: Any signs that the North Koreans are seeking to slide out of the agreement in any way?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have any signs to report to you right now that they're sliding out of the agreement. Our understanding is that they're fulfilling their role in the Agreed Framework. We believe they should continue to do so.

What I'm talking about here, as regards the sub incident, is the relationship, such as it is, between North and South Korea and how the North can get back to the slightly better track that they were on before the sub incident occurred with South Korea.

QUESTION: Glyn, the Greek Foreign Minister, Theodhoros Pangalos, was reported as saying that the United States could turn into a global tyrant if it fails to bring its foreign policy under control. I just want to know, what's your reaction to that remark?

MR. DAVIES: Two things. I haven't seen that statement -- number one. And, number two, that's an awfully broad and sweeping statement. I'm not sure what you do in response to a statement like that.

U.S. policy is not out of control. We're not a tyrant. That would be our response. I haven't seen the statement. I don't even know that he made it.

QUESTION: The press reported it; also the major Greek newspaper today.

MR. DAVIES: I'll take a look at that. We'll see if there's something appropriate to say in response.

QUESTION: Is there a reaction from the State Department about the invitation by Fidel Castro to the Pope, John Paul, II, to visit Cuba?

MR. DAVIES: We understand that the Pope received Fidel Castro for about 35 minutes. The meeting was described by Vatican officials as a private, personal meeting.

The Catholic Church has a long history of promoting democracy and protecting human rights. The Pope, undoubtedly, can play a constructive role in promoting democratic change and in protecting human rights in Cuba.

We do understand from the Vatican press briefing that occurred after the meeting that the Pope accepted Castro's invitation to visit Cuba during 1997. Our hope is, if the visit takes place, that it will serve to further the cause of freedom for the Cuban people, which is the cause that we've championed for over three decades now.

QUESTION: Glyn, any comments with respect to the Pope's position on the use of economic sanctions?

MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure I can articulate the Pope's position on the use of economic sanctions. I've seen some press reports.

QUESTION: To be against the use of the sanctions?

MR. DAVIES: I don't have any particular reaction to that. You're talking about in the Cuba context?

QUESTION: Well, yes.

MR. DAVIES: I got into this yesterday. George, didn't I do enough on this yesterday? I did enough on this yesterday -- on Cuba and sanctions. That's our position. You can look it up from yesterday.

QUESTION: I raised this yesterday, but I want to know if there's anything new on accusations that are being made in the extremist press in Russia that are now showing up in Belarus about large sums of money being spent by the United States Voice of America in broadcast in Belarusia? I was wondering if the Department has any comment on it?

MR. DAVIES: You'll be impressed that I actually looked into this and got some statistics on precisely what it is that is being spent for VOA broadcasts in Belarus.

What I can tell you is that the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty annual budget for programming in the Belarusian language is $1.255 million. That's $990,000 for programming, and $265,000 for transmission of that programming to Belarus.

The Belarusian programming is heard 28 hours a week. The Voice of America does not itself broadcast in Belarusian but it's Russian and English language broadcasts are also received in Belarus. So those are the facts as I've got them.

Anything else? Thank you.

(Press briefing concluded at 1:42 p.m.)



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