George Bush photo

Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Santiago, Chile

December 06, 1990

Chilean Political Transition

Q. President Bush, we would like to know your opinion of the political transition of Chile and on the behavior of the Armed Forces of Chile during this period of transition. We would like your comments.

President Bush. Well, it seems to me that there is great enthusiasm in the United States for this transition, for this solidification of Chile's democracy. And I'm not an expert on how the army and the civilian-controlled government is interacting, but from the United States standpoint, Chile is projecting a commitment to democracy and a country that is controlled by a popularly elected President. And that's the signal that is going out all around the world and is being so well received in the United States and in other countries as well.

Mr. Hunt of the AP [Associated Press].

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, do you view this promise by Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] to release the hostages as credible, and will it affect the U.S. war footing in the Persian Gulf?

President Bush. I hope it is credible.

Do you want to get translation of the question first? The question was -- --

Q. Do you view the promise by Saddam Hussein to release the hostages as credible, and will it affect the U.S. war footing in the Gulf?

President Bush. One, I hope it is credible. Two, no single hostage should have been taken in the first place. And I hope that it shows that the strategy is working and that Saddam understands that his hostage policy has incurred the condemnation of the whole world. And we've got to continue to keep the pressure on. And this would be welcomed, if true, but it will not change my thinking on his need to comply 100 percent, without condition, to the U.N. resolutions.

Chile-U.S. Trade

Q. Mr. President, when you came down at the airport, you really gave good impression on the economic policy and how efficient is market economy. However, many products of Chile still have many problems entering into the American markets. How long will the Chileans have to wait until they have real free trade with the United States?

President Bush. In the first place, the best thing to reduce barriers is to have a successful conclusion of the GATT round, which now appears to be in trouble because the agriculture question has not been accepted by several key players in this negotiation.

Secondly, we had good discussions with the President of Chile and his top officials here at lunch on how we can move forward on a trade agreement between the United States and Chile that also would be helpful in reducing barriers to bilateral trade.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, thank you. I wonder if you'd take the context of what's going on since you got the U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force. You know, you made the announcement last week that they were resupplying or helping to resupply the U.S. Embassy, now the announcement on the hostages. My question, Mr. President, is whether you believe Saddam is serious about diffusing the tensions, or is he playing chess?

President Bush. Well, first, I don't consider a couple of cases of Pepsi Cola a serious release on our beleaguered Embassy in Kuwait. I hope, though, in response to the broader aspects of your question, that Saddam Hussein is getting the message, the message so clearly stated in the last U.N. resolution. And the release of all hostages would be a very good thing, but the problem is the aggression against Kuwait. And the man must leave Kuwait without reservation, without condition. And the whole world is united in this. And I will not speak for Chile, but I believe the Chileans agree with that.

Chile-U.S. Trade

Q. President Aylwin, with the United States is the case of the poisoned grapes. During the lunch with President Bush, did you advance something of that matter? Is he going to have some conversation or ask for a position for the damage done and the losses of Chilean exporters?

President Aylwin. During the luncheon that we had and up to now, we have spoken about many topics related to the world situation and the relationship between Chile and the United States. As President Bush has said, we have progress in the idea of a bilateral treaty of free trade between our two countries.

I have pointed out to the President our satisfaction for the progress: the position of the United States concerning the topics as to what is concerning the insurance investment, the General Preference System, and the Kennedy amendment. The topic you're talking about is going to be the subject of some of our conversations in the meeting that we will have this afternoon, President Bush and myself.

President Bush. Let me say I will be prepared to fully discuss that and to assure the people of Chile that there is no discrimination that was intended or that is intended, and that I'm glad our country is moving briskly forward on these bilateral trade matters.

Mr. Cochran, NBC.

Middle East Peace Conference and the Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, there were reports this morning out of New York, apparently, linking American diplomats to a suggestion that the U.S. might go along with a U.N. resolution backing a Mideast peace conference. This was linked with Saddam's latest statement about the hostages. Since then we understand that Secretary Baker has denied any change in the U.S. position. Certainly, you have said there should never be any linkage, and you're aware that Saddam is trying to link them. However, having said that there is no linkage, can you offer any hope that the United States might take a favorable position toward a Mideast peace conference?

President Bush. The question is the aggression against Kuwait. There will be, and is, no linkage to the West Bank question. And to help clarify, I would refer people to Secretary Baker's statement today, to my comments at a press conference in Helsinki with Mr. Gorbachev, and to what I said at the United Nations in my speech. I hope that will make clear there is no linkage. The United States, of course, remains interested in a solution to that other question; but there is no linkage with what has to happen in Kuwait or what will happen in Kuwait.

Tough way to make a living. [Laughter]

Assassination of Former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier

Q. One of the main people accused of the Letelier crime, General Manuel Contreras, one of the first persons accused of participating in the crime of the death of Letelier -- he said that the people responsible for that crime had to be searched for in the United States. What is your opinion about this particular point?

President Bush. I'm afraid I don't know the details of what he was referring to, so I just can't help you. I think the President has moved to try to get that contentious matter cleared up, but I just am sorry, I don't know the details of that enough to know to whom he's referring.

Jim, excuse me, did you finish? Sorry, I thought you -- too bad. [Laughter]

Q. To bring Mr. Contreras before the civil courts, will that satisfy the United States?

President Bush. I know what you're talking about, but I just can't respond on that specific point because I honestly don't know the answer to that question.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, in making his announcement today, Saddam Hussein said he was moved to release these hostages by what he called positive diplomatic changes. Are there any secret negotiations, backdoor negotiations, going on now between the Iraqis and the U.S.? And when you sit down with Foreign Minister `Aziz, will you be laying down the law, or will you be offering further incentives to encourage Iraq to leave Kuwait?

President Bush. One, there are no secret negotiations, direct or indirect, with Iraq over this question -- none. And there will be none -- secret negotiations of that nature. Secondly, I am not looking for incentive or further incentive. What I want to do is be sure, by going this last, extra step for peace, that the Iraqis know from me, and `Aziz knows from me, and Saddam Hussein knows directly from the Secretary of State, what is at stake in this matter and how supportive the United States is of the consolidated U.N. position. And that's what it's about.

And I said that before, and I'll keep repeating it because I don't want any people to think there are secret negotiations going on or that I, on behalf of this worldwide coalition, will even consider making a concession, if you will, or you can call it incentive -- incentive, if you will. That is not what these meeting are about.

Chile-U.S. Trade

Q. President Bush, although President Aylwin has said that you're going to talk about the grapes in private conversations, I would like to know what action would your government be able to take regarding this problem that was originated and that has had a negative effect on Chilean exports? And several studies have proved that they were poisoned in the United States.

President Bush. Well, I will discuss this very sensitive question. I can't tell you what steps my country, if any, will take, I do ask you to understand that the question of poison foods and poison medicines is viewed with great seriousness in the United States.

And I think back to an incident involving no international trade, but an incident involving Tylenol, where the company had -- one capsule of Tylenol had been poisoned, and that company went to great ends to remove that Tylenol and to change their packaging and to correct this scare. And I cite that so people in Chile will know that it isn't the Chilean grape that was singled out. This is the way, in the United States, we approach matters that can adversely affect the health of our people.

To show that persistence pays off, I'll recognize this gentleman over here, even though he's not with the North American press.

Enterprise for the Americas Initiative

Q. Mr. President, the Initiative for the Americas has been considered as a positive and in an optimistic way by most of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean. However, there are also strong criticisms concerning the bureaucratic contradictions between your discourse and that of the American Congress, which has meant that there seems to be no real will on behalf of the key agencies of the United States in order to progress in a more speedy way towards integration in our continent.

President Bush. I think that there is a determination to move forward. Some of these procedures take a long time. And, yes, Congress in our system must be brought along as a full partner. And secondly, this initiative is not going to be an empty slogan; I am determined to follow up on this. And I think the countries with whom I have talked feel that the process is moving forward properly. I wish it could be much faster. But let me gun down, let me shoot down in flames, this concept that some bureaucracy in our government will block this initiative. It will not. This initiative will be successful.

Middle East Peace Conference and the Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, I'd like to come back to John's question about a Middle East peace conference. You've so strongly and your aides have so vehemently denied any intention to move to a Palestinian conference of any sort. Is that because you are simply concerned that Saddam Hussein would say, see, I have extracted something from President Bush? Or, if not, just what conditions remain to be met for you to agree to a Mideast peace conference?

President Bush. From the very beginning Saddam Hussein has tried to justify his illegal aggression against Kuwait based on an overall Middle East problem that involves the West Bank and the Palestine question. And we are not going to get diverted from the full implementation of the United Nations resolutions in order to give him some face-saving way out of something he shouldn't have gotten into in the first place.

As you know, Jim Baker has been very active up until quite recently in trying to move that whole peace process forward. We continue to be very interested in moving the peace process forward. But it will not be linked in any way with Saddam Hussein's aggression. I don't care about face; he doesn't need any face. He needs to get out of Kuwait without trying to complicate this matter by talking about some Middle East peace settlement or peace conference. It is clear what his ploy is, and that ploy is not going to be successful.

Assassination of Former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier

Q. My question is for both Presidents. I would like to know how far the United States intends to cooperate in the solution of the Letelier case. Mr. Bush, what do you think -- that this case would go to the civil justice in any case?

President Bush. That question has a familiar ring.

Q. It's different.

President Bush. Oh, it is? Well, help me, because I don't understand the technical differences here.

Q. How far is the United States willing to go in order to -- --

President Bush. Get to the bottom of the matter?

Q. Yes.

President Bush. As far as we can. We want to cooperate fully.

President Aylwin. On our side, we think that the fact that a civilian court -- an administer of the court, a special prosecutor that would be appointed at the petition of the Government by the Supreme Court, will lead to a full clarification of the responsibilities involved in that case. According to the purpose of the Government that in all matters concerned with human rights, there should be a full clarification of truth and justice be made.

We regret that we are just in time -- President Bush has to travel to Valparaiso to meet with Congress. He's got to be there in 1 more hour.

President Bush. Thank you, President.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. -- -- pass a resolution. There is a report that the Perm Five have basically agreed on an alternative that essentially reiterates the U.S. position.

President Bush. Well, let's watch that unfold. That whole question has been on the table for some time.

Q. But you were so adamant in your refusal to grant Saddam even the appearance of linkage there.

President Bush. There will be no appearance of linkage. There will be no linkage.

Q. But you still -- --

President Bush. -- -- very, very clear. And that is the point I want to make. And the United States position on the other question is well-known, very well-known. There has been no change in it. But the concept of linking this in to help him save face or to compel him or encourage him to do that which he should have done in August, to correct that which he did in August, is simply unacceptable not just to the United States but to all the members of this coalition. And I will keep driving that point home. There can be no confusion about it. There can be no misunderstanding about it. There is no give on the United States side on that question. And there will be no give.

And I'm pleased that he -- with the hostage question and the Pepsi Cola to the Embassy, there seems to be a little movement here and a little move there. But my mission is to have him understand that we are very, very serious about full implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions in full, without condition. And I'm going to keep making the point because every day I get asked questions about some new rumor. And you have to ask them, and I have to gun them down because there is no behind-the-scene negotiation. And it looks like we're getting on track, although I can't confirm it, with when `Aziz might be coming; but it will not be with some secret agenda going on in one room and something for public consumption in another. It will not be that kind of a -- --

President Bush's Trip to Moscow

Q. Why did you cancel the Moscow trip, Mr. President? Mr. President, the Moscow trip -- Moscow is off now in January, is that right?

President Bush. Not totally.

Q. Is it off?

President Bush. Not as far as I'm concerned.

Note: The question-and-answer session began at 1:55 p.m. at President Patricio Aylwin Azocar's residence. President Aylwin spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Santiago, Chile Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives