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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait

1990-08-02

The President. Let me make a brief statement here about recent events. The United States strongly condemns the Iraqi military invasion of Kuwait. We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all the Iraqi forces. There is no place for this sort of naked aggression in today's world, and I've taken a number of steps to indicate the deep concern that I feel over the events that have taken place.

Last night I instructed our Ambassador at the United Nations, Tom Pickering, to work with Kuwait in convening an emergency meeting of the Security Council. It was convened, and I am grateful for that quick, overwhelming vote condemning the Iraqi action and calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal. Tom Pickering will be here in a bit, and we are contemplating with him further United Nations action.

Second, consistent with my authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, I've signed an Executive order early this morning freezing Iraqi assets in this country and prohibiting transactions with Iraq. I've also signed an Executive order freezing Kuwaiti assets. That's to ensure that those assets are not interfered with by the illegitimate authority that is now occupying Kuwait. We call upon other governments to take similar action.

Third, the Department of State has been in touch with governments around the world urging that they, too, condemn the Iraqi aggression and consult to determine what measures should be taken to bring an end to this totally unjustified act. It is important that the international community act together to ensure that Iraqi forces depart Kuwait immediately.

Needless to say, we view the situation with the utmost gravity. We remain committed to take whatever steps are necessary to defend our longstanding, vital interests in the Gulf, and I'm meeting this morning with my senior advisers here to consider all possible options available to us. I've talked to Secretary Baker just now; General Scowcroft and I were on the phone with him. And after this meeting, I will proceed to deliver a longstanding speech. I will have consultations -- short ones -- there in Aspen with Prime Minister Thatcher, and I will be returning home this evening, and I'll be here in Washington tomorrow.

I might say on a much more pleasant note, I just hung up from talking to Mr. and Mrs. Swanson, the parents of Tim Swanson, the Peace Corps volunteer who has been held against his will -- held hostage or kidnaped -- there in the Philippines. And I want to thank everybody in the U.S. Government that was so instrumental in working for his release. And, Bob, I hope you'll convey that to the Ambassador and others in our Philippines country team.

Q. Mr. President?

The President. Yes, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?

Q. Do you contemplate intervention as one of your options?

The President. We're not discussing intervention. I would not discuss any military options even if we'd agreed upon them. But one of the things I want to do at this meeting is hear from our Secretary of Defense, our Chairman, and others. But I'm not contemplating such action.

Q. You're not contemplating any intervention or sending troops?

The President. I'm not contemplating such action, and I again would not discuss it if I were.

Q. What is the likely impact on U.S. oil supplies and prices?

The President. This is a matter that concerns us, and I don't know yet. Again, I'm going to hear from our experts now. Our Secretary of Energy is here, if you'll note, and others who understand this situation very well indeed -- our Secretary of Defense. And we'll be discussing that. But this is a matter of considerable concern, and not just to the United States, I might add.

Q. Are you planning to break relations?

The President. You've heard me say over and over again, however, that we are dependent for close to 50 percent of our energy requirements on the Middle East. And this is one of the reasons I felt that we have to not let our guard down around the world.

Q. Are you contemplating breaking diplomatic relations?

The President. I'm discussing this matter with our top advisers here in just a minute.

Q. Is this action in your view limited to Kuwait?

The President. There's no evidence to the contrary. But what I want to do is have it limited back to Iraq and have this invasion be reversed and have them get out of Kuwait.

Q. Do you think Saudi Arabia is threatened or any of the other Emirates?

The President. I think Saudi Arabia is very concerned; and I want to hear from our top officials here, our Director of Intelligence and others, as to the worldwide implications of this illegal action that has been condemned by the United Nations.

Q. And you were taken by surprise?

The President. Not totally by surprise because we have good intelligence, and our intelligence has had me concerned for some time here about what action might be taken.

Thank you all very much. And I expect I will say something further because I'm having a joint press meeting with Margaret Thatcher and, at that time, I might be able to take a few more questions on this subject. But the main thing I want to do now is hear from our advisers, and then we will go forth from this meeting all on the same wavelength. I'm sure there will be a lot of frenzied diplomatic activity. I plan to participate in some of that myself, because at this time, it is important to stay in touch with our many friends around the world, and it's important that we work in concert with our friends around the world.

Q. Gorbachev?

The President. Thank you very much.

Obviously -- Helen, you might be interested -- this matter has been discussed at very high level between Secretary Baker and the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union. And so far I've been pleased with the Soviet reaction.

Q. Well, do you expect to make decisions?

The President. That's all I've got to say right now. We've got to go on with this meeting.

Note: The President spoke at 8:05 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom; Robert M. Gates, Assistant to the President and Deputy for National Security Affairs; Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; William H. Webster, Director of Central Intelligence; and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.

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