Public Papers - 1990
Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Aspen, Colorado, Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom
The President. Let me first welcome Prime Minister Thatcher back to the United States. It's a very timely visit, and as you can well imagine, we have been exchanging views on the Iraq-Kuwait situation. Not surprisingly, I find myself very much in accord with the views of the Prime Minister. I reported to her on contacts that I've had since I left Washington: personal contacts with King Hussein [of Jordan]; Mr. Mubarak of Egypt, President Mubarak; President Salih of Yemen -- a long conversation just now. I can tell you that [Secretary of State] Jim Baker has been in close touch with the Soviet leadership, and indeed, the last plan was for him to stop in Moscow on his way back here.
We are concerned about the situation, but I find that Prime Minister Thatcher and I are looking at it on exactly the same wavelength: concerned about this naked aggression, condemning it, and hoping that a peaceful solution will be found that will result in the restoration of the Kuwaiti leaders to their rightful place and, prior to that, a withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
Prime Minister, welcome to Colorado and to the United States. And if you care to say a word on that, then we can take the questions.
The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for the welcome.
We have, of course, been discussing the main question as the President indicated. Iraq has violated and taken over the territory of a country which is a full member of the United Nations. That is totally unacceptable, and if it were allowed to endure, then there would be many other small countries that could never feel safe.
The Security Council acted swiftly last night under the United States leadership, well-supported by the votes of 14 members of the Security Council, and rightly demanded the withdrawal of Iraqi troops. If that withdrawal is not swiftly forthcoming, we have to consider the next step. The next step would be further consideration by the Security Council of possible measures under chapter VII.
The fundamental question is this: whether the nations of the world have the collective will effectively to see the Security Council resolution is upheld; whether they have the collective will effectively to do anything, which the Security Council further agrees, to see that Iraq withdraws and that the government of Kuwait is restored to Kuwait. None of us can do it separately. We need a collective and effective will of the nations belonging to the United Nations -- first the Security Council and then the support of all the others to make it effective.
Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
Q. Mr. President, when Kuwaiti shipping was in danger in the Gulf war, you put those ships under American flags. Now Kuwait itself has been invaded. The Kuwaiti Ambassador says that they're desperate for help and that American intervention is of paramount importance. Will you answer that call, and how will you?
The President. I answer that we're considering what the next steps by the United States should be, just as we strongly support what Prime Minister Thatcher said about collective action in the United Nations.
Q. Are you still not contemplating military intervention?
The President. No. I mentioned at the time we were going to discuss different options, which I did after that first press conference this morning. And we're not ruling any options in, but we're not ruling any options out. And so, that is about where we are right now. We had thorough briefings -- you know who was at the meeting today -- by General Powell [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], General Schwarzkopf [Commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf] and others. But I think it would be inappropriate to discuss options.
Q. What are the chances of U.S.-Soviet cooperation in restoring peace to the Gulf?
The President. I would say they're very good. I reported to Prime Minister Thatcher on a conversation that I had with Jim Baker on the plane flying out here. And I think you could say that he would not be stopping in Moscow unless there would be a good degree of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States. But again, the Soviet Union is a member of the United Nations. They voted with the United Kingdom and with the United States. And so, I think there is a good level of cooperation with the Soviets and, hopefully, with other permanent members and, hopefully, with the rest of the members of the Security Council.
Q. We understand that the Soviets have announced that they are cutting off arm shipments to the Iraqis. Are the French, which is the other big arms supplier to Baghdad, also planning to cut off arms shipments?
The President. I've not talked today -- I believe you had contact, Prime Minister, at some level with the French Government, but I can't answer that question.
The Prime Minister. We had contact. Douglas Hurd [British Foreign Secretary], I believe, had contact with Mr. Dumas [French Foreign Minister]. This was about the Security Council resolution which France, of course, fully supported.
Q. Mr. President, isn't Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] at the root of this problem? Hasn't he replaced Qadhafi [leader of Libya] as sort of the bad boy of the region? Would you like to see him removed? And what can you do about him?
The President. I would like to see him withdraw his troops and the restoration of the legal government in Kuwait to the rightful place, and that's the step that should be taken. I might say that I am somewhat heartened by the conversations I had with Mubarak and with King Hussein, Mr. Salih -- all of whom I consider friends of the United States -- and all of them who are trying to engage in what they call an Arab answer to the question, working diligently behind the scenes to come to an agreement that would satisfy the United Nations and the rest of the world. So, there are collective efforts beginning to be undertaken by these worthy countries, and let's hope that they result in a satisfactory resolution of this international crisis.
Q. But, Mr. President, Saddam Hussein has been the source of the most recent mischief in the region -- nuclear triggers, missiles, the big gun -- as Prime Minister Thatcher knows about. Is he going to be a constant source of problems there in that region?
The President. If he behaves this way, he's going to be a constant source. We find his behavior intolerable in this instance, and so do the rest of the United Nations countries that met last night. And reaction from around the world is unanimous in being condemnatory. So, that speaks for itself.
The Prime Minister. Did I hear someone say Prime Minister?
The President. You hope you did. [Laughter] Please.
The Prime Minister. I'm sorry. I told you I'd finished. [Laughter] But so, I thought that that guy shouldn't have it all. [Laughter]
Q. Prime Minister, is there any action short of military intervention that Britain or the other United Nations countries could take -- --
The Prime Minister. Yes, of course.
Q. -- -- that would be effective against Iraq?
The Prime Minister. Yes, of course. Yes, of course there is -- you know, the whole chapter VII measures. And that, of course -- obviously we're in consultation now as to which measures we could all agree on so the Security Council would vote them. And then they'd become mandatory. The question then is whether you can make them effective over the rest of the nations. And obviously, the 14 couldn't do it on their own. And so, there will be a good deal of negotiation as to what to put in the next Security Council resolution if Iraq does not withdraw.
Q. But are you confident that you'd be able to mobilize that kind of international support?
The Prime Minister. I believe that further chapter VII measures would have a good chance of getting through. We certainly would support them.
The President. May I add to that, that the United States has demonstrated its interest in that by the action that I took this morning by Executive order: cutting off imports from Iraq to this country.
Q. Mr. President, can I ask both of you to answer this? How does the fact that they apparently have chemical weapons now affect your decisionmaking and narrow your options?
The Prime Minister. I don't figure it affects it at all. What has happened is a total violation of international law. You cannot have a situation where one country marches in and takes over another country which is a member of the United Nations. I don't think the particular weapons they have affects that fundamental position.
Q. But doesn't it affect what actions we can take? And doesn't it make military action -- --
The Prime Minister. No, I do not think it necessarily affects what actions we can take.
The President. I would agree with that assessment.
Q. What did the Arab leaders that you talked to ask the United States to do? Did they ask you to either restrain yourself or to become militarily involved? And have you contacted Israel?
The President. We've had contact with Israel, yes. I have not personally, but we have. And they asked for restraint. They asked for a short period of time in which to have this Arab solution evolve and be placed into effect. And they are concerned, obviously, with this naked aggression. But it was more along that line: Let us try now, as neighbors and Arabs, to resolve this. And I made clear to them that it had gone beyond simply a regional dispute because of the naked aggression that violates the United Nations Charter.
Q. What did Israel say it would do at this point?
The President. I would have to think back to the details of it; but offering cooperation, I think, was about where I would leave it there.
Q. Mr. President, we're hearing reports now that some of the Americans, particularly in the oil fields, may have been rounded up by Iraqi troops. Do you have anything to that? How does that affect your reaction?
The President. Well, I don't have anything on that right now. And secondly, it would affect the United States in a very dramatic way, because I view a fundamental responsibility of my Presidency as protecting American citizens, and if they're threatened or harmed or put into harm's way, I have certain responsibilities. But I hadn't heard that, Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network], and I hope that that is not correct.
Q. May I also ask about British citizens? Any word? Are they safe?
The Prime Minister. We have some British citizens in Kuwait. You probably know that there was a British Airways flight there on its way to Africa, and the passengers there are now in a hotel in Kuwait. So, we have some there, and of course, we have a number of other British citizens in Kuwait. And we, too, are concerned for their safety.
Q. Mr. President, some of the smaller nations in the Persian Gulf -- Bahrain, the Emirates, and the others -- obviously have reason to worry about what has happened here. What can the United States and Great Britain say to those countries and those people who are feeling very concerned today?
The President. Well, the United States can say that we are very much concerned for your safety. And this naked aggression would understandably shake them to the core. And so, what we are trying to do is have collective action that will reverse this action out and to make very clear that we are totally in accord with their desire to see the Iraqis withdraw -- cease-fire, withdraw, and restitution of the Kuwaiti government. And that would be the most reassuring thing of all for these countries who, whether it's true or not, feel threatened by this action.
Q. At the risk of being hypothetical, if Iraq does not move out quickly and has gained a foothold among the smaller Gulf nations, what can the United States and other nations do militarily?
The President. We have many options, and it is too hypothetical, indeed, for me to comment on them. And I'd refer that also to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister. That's precisely why you're looking at the next stage in the Security Council; second, what other measures can be put into action mandatorily; and why the very nations to whom you refer -- we should also need their cooperation in putting other actions into effect.
Q. Mr. President, have you dispatched the U.S.S. Independence to the region, and have you heard from Saudi Arabia?
The President. Well, I would not discuss movement of any U.S. forces. And what was the second part of your question?
Q. Have you heard from Saudi Arabia?
The President. No, but I have a call to King Fahd, and I was supposed to have taken that call before now, but it's been delayed by a few minutes. And so, I hope before I leave here I will talk to him. I think it is very important I do talk to him. And I'd leave it there.
Q. What do you expect him to say?
The President. Well, that's too hypothetical, too. I know he'll be expressing the same kind of concern that we feel.
Q. Prime Minister, if I could, the President's Executive order this morning established a U.S. embargo on trade with Iraq. When you mentioned chapter VII measures, would you support in the Security Council a call for an international embargo on Iraqi oil?
The Prime Minister. We are prepared to support in the Security Council those measures which collectively we can agree to and which collectively we can make effective. Those are the two tests. We have already frozen all Kuwaiti assets. Kuwaitis have very considerable assets, and it's important that those do not fall into Iraqi hands. Iraq, we believe, has only very, very small assets and rather a lot of debts, so the position is rather different with her.
Note: The question-and-answer session began at 2:10 p.m. outside the residence of Henry Catto, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.