REPORT ON STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING, TUESDAY, FEB. 11
There was no regular briefing, but State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns did speak on-the-record with reporters. No transcript is available of this briefing.
IRAQ -- Burns noted that Iraq's envoy to the United Nations has complained that the United Nations is not implementing U.N. Resolution 986 quickly enough and, as a result, is imposing undue hardships on the people of Iraq. U.N. Resolution 986 -- known as the "food for oil" program -- would allow Iraq to sell limited amounts of its oil on the international market on the condition that the proceeds be used for humanitarian assistance for Iraqi citizens.
Burns acknowledged that the resolution is, indeed, being delayed for one reason: "The Iraqis are dragging their feet. Most notably, the Iraqis are delaying access to transportation and communications by U.N. monitors. And they're denying U.N. monitors the full freedom of movement that the United Nations was promised....
"We have a Memorandum of Understanding between Iraq and the United Nations which details specifically the support the U.N. monitors must have to do their job," Burns explained. "The conditions are not being met by the Iraqi government. If anyone is to blame for U.N. Resolution 986 slowness, it is the Iraqi government."
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (DPRK) -- The World Food Program announced February 11 that it is seeking donations of 100,000 metric tons of food valued at about $41.6 million, Burns said. This food aid would be used to feed 1.7 million North Korean civilians, most especially an estimated 630,000 children under the age of 5, according to Burns.
"We understand that the World Food Program has limited its appeal to only a fraction of the total food shortfall of North Korea, because it wants to focus on meeting the immediate needs of targeted groups -- and they've targeted young children," Burns said. The United States believes the size of the appeal is within the capacity of the World Food Program to monitor effectively, he said.
The United States is "very seriously studying this request," Burns said, and any decision will be made "solely on a humanitarian basis." Burns predicted that a U.S. response would be made within a few days.
Burns noted that the United States contributed to the World Food Program $8.2 million in 1995 and $6.2 million in 1996. "We've responded to all the previous appeals. We do believe there is a food shortage in North Korea. We are very concerned by it. We believe this has led to a humanitarian crisis in North Korea," Burns said.
Burns added that the United States is consulting with the South
Koreans on this issue.