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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #188, 97-12-30

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, December 30, 1997

Briefer: James B. Foley

1-2		Texas Judge Release of Rwandan War Crimes Suspect

IRAQ 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

COLUMBIA 5-6 Alleged Sighting of Kidnapped New Tribes Missionaries

RUSSIA 6-7 US-Russian relations

ZAMBIA 7-8 Detention of President Kaunda by Zambian authorities

KENYA 8 Elections in Kenya

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8-9 Dennis Ross' Trip to the Region

IRAN 9 Reported Visit to Iran by Congressman Tom Lantos 9-10 Pipeline Between Turkmenistan and Iran

CHINA 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

MEXICO 10 Massacre in Chiapas


DPB #188

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1997 12:45 P.M.


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 decision.

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 International Tribunal.

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 that road.

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 destruction programs.

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 inspectors.

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 ago.

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 purposes.

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 difficult circumstances.

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.


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 to it.

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 release.

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 information?

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?


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 yesterday?

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 him?

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 case.

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 process.

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 5.

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 comes?

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 particular quote?

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 gas pipeline?

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 crime.

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 justice.

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.)

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