U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #188, 97-12-30
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Tuesday, December 30, 1997
Briefer: James B. Foley
1-2 Texas Judge Release of Rwandan War Crimes Suspect
2-3 Primakov's Remarks Concerning US Position on Iraq
3,4-5 History of oil-for-food program
4 Baby Milk Powder
5 Iraq's use of Expenditures From Oil-For-Food Program
6 Comments Allegedly Made by the Pope Concerning Sanctions in Iraq
5-6 Alleged Sighting of Kidnapped New Tribes Missionaries
6-7 US-Russian relations
7-8 Detention of President Kaunda by Zambian authorities
8 Elections in Kenya
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
8-9 Dennis Ross' Trip to the Region
9 Reported Visit to Iran by Congressman Tom Lantos
9-10 Pipeline Between Turkmenistan and Iran
9 South Africa's Diplomatic Recognition of PRC vs Taiwan
9 China's comments on South Africa's view on human rights'
policies in other countries
10 Massacre in Chiapas
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1997 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. I don't have any announcements.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the release of a Rwandan war crimes
suspect by a Texas judge?
MR. FOLEY: I do. We believe that there is a proper legal and factual
basis for surrender to the Tribunal, and are disappointed by the magistrate's
We are actively considering our options, and cannot speculate further on
this law enforcement matter. We have proceeded in good faith with the
intention to take the steps to surrender the indictee to the Tribunal. Our
policy is to fulfill our international obligations, and we fully expect
other countries to fulfill their obligations.
QUESTION: Have you considered that the US could become a haven of sorts
for war crimes suspects?
MR. FOLEY: Well, as I said, we intend to fulfill our obligations to the
Tribunal. This is a matter that we have under review.
It's certainly not a closed issue, as far as we're concerned.
As I said, we intend fully to fulfill our international obligations, and
we look forward to being able to effect this indictee's transfer to the
QUESTION: But under US law --
MR. FOLEY: That's right. But we believe that there's a legal basis and a
factual basis for his surrender to the Tribunal.
QUESTION: If the legal case - if the Texas judge's decision - I presume
that means you'll appeal. However, you're not willing to comment.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to say what steps we're considering.
We're in consultation with the Department of Justice on this matter. It's
a serious matter, and we take note of the magistrate's decision. We're
disappointed, but we have not exhausted all legal remedies.
QUESTION: Well, the obvious next question takes us into speculation; you
may not want to answer. But if this decision is upheld at higher levels, I
mean, US law would take precedence; wouldn't it?
MR. FOLEY: Well, it is speculative, Judd, so I wouldn't want to walk down
QUESTION: It would take precedence, wouldn't it?
MR. FOLEY: We of course would respect the decisions of US courts. But
this was a magistrate's ruling, and there are other avenues for pursuit of
this matter that we intend to explore.
We haven't chosen which option at this point. As I said, we're in
consultation with the Justice Department. It's an important matter; we
take our international obligations seriously.
I would note that the effort to transfer the indictee to the International
Tribunal is a product of legislation passed by the US Congress, which
permits and provides for surrender and extradition to both the Yugoslav and
the Rwandan Tribunals. So we feel, as I said, that we're on sound legal
footing in this matter.
QUESTION: Do you know where this individual is right now?
MR. FOLEY: I can't comment on that.
QUESTION: Are you looking for him?
MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a law enforcement matter, so it's not something
that I can comment on from the State Department podium.
QUESTION: Do you know he's in this country, though?
MR. FOLEY: Again, I can't comment on that.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, sure.
QUESTION: On Iraq, Primakov was quoted in an interview today as sort of
complaining that the United States has been on emotional overload on Iraq,
and I wondered what you thought about that view.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I've not seen his comments, so I can't comment
specifically on what he may or may not have said. But I don't think
emotion is in any way an element governing US policy towards Iraq. This is
a very serious matter that, after all, stems originally from Saddam
Hussein's war of aggression on Kuwait.
We have to go back to that.
We're focused very much on the issue of Saddam Hussein's continuing efforts
to develop weapons of mass destruction. This is a matter not only of
interest to the national security of the United States, but we believe to
the region, the Middle East region; and it's a global security concern that
is shared by, we believe, all members of the international community --
including Russia -- sitting on the Security Council.
So emotions do not enter into a matter of this profound seriousness.
QUESTION: On the same issue, Iraq also struck back at some comments that
you made yesterday about the food rationing issue, calling the United
States a big liar, and other things.
I wondered how you reacted to that.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd like to step back not for the first time, but to set
the record straight again on the whole background and history of the oil-
for-food program, since Iraq continues to make this an element of
propaganda in its efforts, I would remind you, not to deal with the
humanitarian plight of their own people, but to divert attention from their
failure to meet the requirements of dismantling their weapons of mass
So I'd like to make a number of points. First of all, the oil-for-food
program itself was never intended to be the sole source of humanitarian
goods for the Iraqi people. The program was intended to supplement, not
substitute for, Iraq's other resources.
But there is strong evidence that Iraq has reduced its own purchases of
essential goods in the spending of its own resources. I would point only
to the proliferation of so-called "presidential palaces," which indicates
that Iraq itself chooses to spend its own money and its own resources on
items that have nothing to do with meeting the essential needs of its own
people. And I think that's increasingly becoming aware to the Iraqi
people themselves, given the very propaganda that Saddam Hussein has
given to these palaces in his effort to thwart the work of the UN
Secondly, the original program under Security Council Resolution 986 was
carefully devised to meet the nutritional needs of the Iraqi people. This
was the original program. The Secretary General specifically wanted to
tailor this program to meet the needs of population groups that were most
vulnerable in Iraq. But again, the Iraqi regime rejected this effort.
Thirdly, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, nearly 95 percent
of the more than 1,600 applications for humanitarian goods in the UN
Sanctions Committee had been approved since the program began a year
Fourth, I would point out that many of the delays in contract approvals are
directly the result of Iraq's refusal to follow the procedures to which it
agreed when the program began. Often applications have been submitted
without necessary contract documentation or without evidence that the items
would be used for humanitarian rather than, say, commercial or military
Finally, delays in purchasing humanitarian goods have also resulted from
Iraq's refusal to sell oil for many weeks after the adoption of the program
-- first in December of 1996, then in June of this year, and again this
very month. So these interruptions in oil sales have forced the UN to hold
contracts until there is money available to pay for them.
And lastly, there have been claims on the Iraqi side concerning a so-called
blockage of delivery or purchase of baby milk powder for Iraqi children. I
would like to clarify that we, the United States, in the Sanctions
Committee, received a Tunisian contract for consideration on December 23 --
this, again, is for the baby milk powder -- and we responded positively to
this contract within one day.
I would emphasize that we recommended approval of this contract even though
it actually exceeded the amount that was allowable under the oil-for-food
distribution list. We have confirmed, I believe, today with the Sanctions
Committee Secretariat that the contract was approved without objection. So
this is just another example of Iraq's attempt to simply fabricate stories
and manipulate the sanctions regime for its own political purposes.
QUESTION: Two points on that - one, I mean, you sort of lay all of the
blame at the feet of Iraq for any delays. And yet, when the Secretary was
on her trip concerning the - when the crisis with Iraq was brewing, she
agreed to look into ways in which to accelerate, expedite the processing of
these applications; and in agreeing to do that, seemed to acknowledge that
things could - not seemed to acknowledge, but she did acknowledge
that things could be done better.
So it seems to me that even the US side has already acknowledged that there
is something to be done procedurally to expedite this process.
MR. FOLEY: We have agreed with Secretary General Koffi Annan in this
respect. We are really following his lead. We agreed with him when he
noted that the program - the oil-for-food program itself - is unprecedented.
Any program that attempts to coordinate the use of nearly $4 billion a year
in humanitarian aid is by definition unprecedented and exceptionally
complex. We believe that the UN, through its various agencies and the
Sanctions Committee, has done an extraordinary job under extremely
At our insistence, the Sanctions Committee has worked to streamline its
procedures so that contract applications can be reviewed and approved as
quickly as possible. In his own report on November 28, the Secretary
General welcomed what he called the considerable improvements made in the
approval process since the program was renewed in June.
That said, though, Carol, you're right that we're expecting a further
report from the Secretary General in early 1998, making specific recommendations
on how the oil-for-food program could be improved. We look forward to his
recommendations and would be prepared to act immediately to improve
delivery of food and medicine to the Iraqi people.
I understand your point. I would simply say that while we believe the
blame is 100 percent on Saddam Hussein's shoulders for denying food and
medicine and humanitarian assistance to his own people, that we are willing
to redouble our efforts and to do everything possible to ensure, in spite
of his own obstruction and exploitation of this issue, to make sure that
the program is improved where it needs to be improved so that, indeed, food
and medicine can reach needed recipients in Iraq; and also, frankly, so
that this hypocritical argument can no longer be used by Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: All right, and one other question. You accuse Iraq of reducing
its normal expenditures on essential food items.
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And all I heard you say was, well, look at the palaces, which
is an argument the United States has often used.
I mean, do you have any other evidence to prove your assertion that he, in
fact, has reduced expenditures on essential food items?
Besides the --
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd have to refer you to the UN itself, which has people
on the ground and is monitoring the food situation in Iraq. I think we
have anecdotal evidence. The palaces are certainly the most obvious
example since the Iraqi authorities have themselves given so much attention
But I believe that it's clear that the food distribution itself, on the
part of the Iraqi authorities, has been degraded, has been reduced over the
years. Without getting into what we know and how we know it, it's clear
that Saddam Hussein has continued to plow resources into areas that have
nothing to do with meeting the humanitarian needs of his own people.
QUESTION: On a different topic. There are reports out of Costa Rica that
three missionaries with the New Tribes Mission in Panama, who were taken
hostage five years ago, have been spotted alive. Do you think these men
are dead or alive? Do you have any information?
MR. FOLEY: Well, it's really difficult for us to speculate about the
missionaries' fate, but we do continue to assume and certainly hope that
they remain alive. The plight of the three New Tribes Mission missionaries
-- Richard Tenenoff, Mark Rich, and David Mankins, three American citizens
held hostage in Colombia -- is of the greatest concern to us. We are
actively engaged with the Colombian authorities and New Tribes Mission
representatives, also with the wives of the hostages and other foreign
governments, in an effort to locate the men and secure their safe
We do understand, in response to your question, that representatives of the
Costa Rican Government have told the New Tribes Mission in the past that
they have received reports of sightings of the men. Our embassy in San
Jose has been following up on these leads.
We met with the wives and the New Tribes Mission local representatives
just over one week ago, but we are not aware of these new reports.
But it's a matter that we continue to follow up on regularly in Colombia,
with the Colombian Government and also with regional governments, to pursue
whatever leads there may be.
QUESTION: So you don't have any information that would lead you to
believe that these reports of them being spotted alive -- that that's good
MR. FOLEY: Well, we're continuing to follow up with the Costa Rican
authorities on this latest report, and we've discussed similar reports.
And I'm not sure whether this is a new report or whether it is really a
reference to older reports, and we're following up on that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iraq?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: It seems that the propaganda has reached the Vatican and that
the Pope is beginning to ask that the sanctions be dropped against Iraq.
Do you have any comment on this?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that the Pope has directly called for an end of
sanctions. We understand and share his concern for the humanitarian plight
of the Iraqi people, and as I indicated a few minutes ago, we're going to
do everything we can to redouble our efforts to make sure that food and
medicine go to those who need it inside Iraq.
But let's remember, though, that the sanctions themselves - and we make a
very clear-cut distinction in the United States Government between the oil-
for-food program and efforts to address the food and medicinal needs of the
Iraqi people. We make a clear-cut distinction between that and the
sanctions themselves, which I think one could argue are related to a
humanitarian concern that involves the people of the world, because if
Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs are not shut down
once and for all, this is a menace. After all, if you look at the
potential for killing mass numbers of people involved in biological
weaponry, for example, this is a humanitarian concern that simply
cannot be ignored.
So we share the Holy Father's views about the food and humanitarian
situation inside Iraq, but we regard the sanctions regime, though, as
related to something serious and compelling in its own right.
QUESTION: Primakov, he also expressed concerns about US domination of
world affairs. How do you evaluate the US-Russian relations now? Is there
hidden tension between the two countries?
MR. FOLEY: No, I wouldn't say that there is tension. On the contrary, we
work very closely and productively with the Russian Government on a wide
range of global issues. If you look at Bosnia, for example, where the
international community was so divided prior to the Dayton agreement, and
where we've managed to achieve a consensus to deploy forces side by side in
Bosnia to promote peace in Europe and our common interests and stability
in Europe; and you can look around the world in all kinds of hot spots in
areas of mutual concern where we're working cooperatively.
That said, of course we don't always see eye to eye. Our interests are not
always the same. I believe our common interests in peace and stability,
economic development, and democratization in the world are paramount. But
given differences in geography and history, there will be difference in
interests in given situations. Also there will be different views on
tactics in situations where we do agree on common objectives. I think
that's inevitable in international relations.
I would add also that Secretary Albright's professional relationship with
Minister Primakov has been excellent over the course of the past year.
QUESTION: Former President Kaunda is still in detention.
I believe Jesse Jackson has been on the phone on this matter.
Do you have a message for Zambian authorities on this matter?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, I mentioned that after the briefing yesterday, George,
and I'd be happy to reiterate it. I can reiterate the message that our
Special Envoy, Jesse Jackson, gave to Zambian officials, calling for his
release from prison.
As I mentioned yesterday, there were assurances given on his -former
President Kaunda's well-being, and a commitment, we believe, to prompt due
process under Zambian law.
The fact of the matter is that he remains under detention. We continue to
condemn his arrest and detention, and to urge his immediate release from
prison in the spirit of reconciliation and peace. We hope that this
incident will be concluded in the near future, with the release of Dr.
Kaunda, and we look forward to renewed forward momentum in the inter-party
talks and in our bilateral relations with Zambia.
QUESTION: Have there been any new contacts since you told us that
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of any new developments since yesterday.
QUESTION: Just for the record, since you're calling for his release, you
dismiss the charges that the Zambian Government is raising against
MR. FOLEY: Well, we're not pronouncing ourselves on the charges. We
believe that he ought to be released, and we believe that the judicial
system in Zambia can run its course; that any charges that there might be
would have to be rendered publicly; and that due process be given in this
But we certainly think that, given the former President's role and his
status, that he ought to be released.
QUESTION: Regardless of the seriousness of any charges against him?
MR. FOLEY: We believe he ought to be released, yes.
QUESTION: Also on Africa, any observations on the charges and counter-
charges concerning the election process in Kenya?
MR. FOLEY: It's difficult to comment authoritatively on the situation
there at this point today, given the murky nature, complex nature of the
ongoing and unfolding electoral process there. There was apparently a
great deal of confusion in Kenya today about the election process. Some
polling stations opened for an additional day of voting. Others in places
where the process yesterday was also incomplete did not reopen. There was
uncertainty about when vote counting would actually begin. We certainly
regret the poor organization that has marked the polls thus far.
However, despite the bureaucratic flaws in the process, we are encouraged
by the level of peaceful, popular participation in the election, and the
conduct of party agents, election observers and presiding officers at many
polling places. Certainly the Kenyan people, through their actions, have
demonstrated a powerful commitment to democracy.
Now we urge all parties to resolve uncertainties regarding this election
process in a nonviolent and transparent manner. But again, it's a complex
and unfolding situation. We're continuing to collect information on the
elections. We understand voting was expected to continue in some
constituencies until as late as 6:00 p.m. Kenya time. So it's too early to
judge the overall impact of these irregularities on the process, and the
results are not expected until later in the week.
What is critical at this stage, as I said, is that all Kenyans work
together peacefully to resolve uncertainty surrounding this process. I
think our bottom line, the United States believes, number one, that all
registered voters should be able to vote; and number two, that the counting
of those votes be done fairly; and that the next president of Kenya be
recognized as having won election fairly, in a fairly counted electoral
QUESTION: Middle East -- do you have a date for Dennis Ross' trip?
MR. FOLEY: My understanding, when I checked yesterday, was that he might
be leaving at the end of the weekend, arriving on or about January
QUESTION: And what - does he have a specific goal in mind on this trip,
or is he going --
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think his central focus will be on the four-part
agenda, which I don't need to repeat for you. However, I believe that the
interim committees have been continuing to work over the last several weeks,
both before, during and after the latest meetings that the Secretary held
with the Prime Minister and the Chairman. And as has been indicated here
recently, we hope to achieve further progress on those interim issues as
what we believe will be a helpful background or incentive to progress
on the four-part agenda, itself.
QUESTION: Is he going to be telling the Israelis, for example, to come up
with a serious map and percentages for when they come - when Netanyahu
MR. FOLEY: We have called, from the very beginning, when the subject of
the further deployment arose, for a significant and credible next stage of
further redeployments. So that's not a new message. Insofar as the
planned meetings in Washington with the President are concerned, as has
been indicated, we believe that even in advance of that important decision
that the Israeli Government faces, that it would be helpful for the Prime
Minister and also Chairman Arafat to sit down with the President and
to discuss these tough issues.
QUESTION: Any new development on Lantos and the Iran issue?
MR. FOLEY: Nothing new today.
QUESTION: Jim, does the United States Government view that the People's
Republic of China has succeeded further in their campaign to politically
isolate Taiwan through their success in recognition, diplomatic recognition
by South Africa of the PRC, thus dropping Taiwan?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that the issue as you frame it is not one that
is directly relevant to the United States Government, insofar as we only
recognize one China. We do not recognize Taiwan, although we have
unofficial relations with Taiwan. So that does not apply, really, and
doesn't call for, I think, an official comment on our part.
However, we have long called for restoration of the cross-straits dialogue,
and we look forward to its resumption.
QUESTION: Mr. Qian Qichen said in South Africa - he said South African
leaders had made it clear they do not support the use of the question of
human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. I
presume that's their country - the PRC. Do you have any comment to that
MR. FOLEY: You're talking about a Chinese comment on South African views
and policies. I wouldn't have a comment on it --
QUESTION: Views and policies to recognize the PRC.
MR. FOLEY: That does not engage the United States.
QUESTION: How does the US Government react to the opening of Turkmenistan's
MR. FOLEY: I addressed that issue rather clearly yesterday.
I noted that there were two separate pipelines in the report that came out
yesterday - one between Turkmenistan and Iran that was, I think, two years
in the making. On the issue of the feasibility study that was announced or
indicated, concerning a possible pipeline across Iran, I made clear the US
Government's view that we opposed the construction of such pipelines.
QUESTION: Any new information on the massacres in Chiapas?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new today on the latest developments in
the case. We note the swift and, we believe, very serious actions taken by
the government of Mexico to bring to justice those involved in this heinous
Mexico Attorney General Madrazo has made clear that the investigation of
this case is ongoing and will continue. We certainly expect the investigation
now underway in Mexico to shed light on the question of how such an
atrocity could have occurred, and to indicate what steps can be taken to
prevent further incidents.
You'll remember President Clinton expressed his outrage at the massacre the
day before Christmas. The President supported President Zedillo's swift
action to investigate this massacre, and to bring the perpetrators to
QUESTION: Would the US Government favor a federalization of Chiapas, at
least temporarily, to bring order?
MR. FOLEY: A federal what?
QUESTION: The Mexican Government is considering making Chiapas federal -
taking federal control over Chiapas.
MR. FOLEY: That's an internal Mexican matter --
QUESTION: That's their matter?
MR. FOLEY: -- that we wouldn't comment on.
Any other questions? Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)