Search

 

Cablegate: Background Briefing On Twa Hijacking

O 172213Z JUN 85
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BONN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY KUWAIT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY MANAMA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY RABAT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY SANAA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TUNIS IMMEDIATE
USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY VIENNA IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY DOHA PRIORITY
USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN
AMEMBASSY DHAKA
AMCONSUL DHAHRAN
AMCONSUL KARACHI
AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
AMEMBASSY LISBON
AMEMBASSY MADRID
AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT
AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK

UNCLAS STATE 184826

FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

INFORM CONSULS, PASS PAO'S, CENTCOM FOR POLAD LOWRIE

E.O. 12356: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PTER LE
SUBJECT: BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON TWA HIJACKING
MONDAY, JUNE 17, 1985,

1. FOLLOWING IS THE TEXT OF BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON TWA
HIJACKING ON JUNE 17 GIVEN BY ROBERT OAKLEY:

BEGIN TEXT:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL: I'M GOING TO HAVE TO BE
VERY, VERY BRIEF BECAUSE WE HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO,
AND I'VE GOT SOME OTHER MEETINGS TO GO TO. AND,
OBVIOUSLY, OUR PRIMARY OBJECTIVE IS TO DO EVERYTHING WE
CAN TO GET THESE PEOPLE LOOSE, WHICH ALSO WILL HAVE
SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT HOW MUCH I CAN RESPOND TO YOUR
QUESTIONS.

LET ME OPEN BY REPEATING THE STATEMENT WHICH YOU ALL HAVE
HEARD FREQUENTLY, INCLUDING FROM LARRY SPEAKES THIS
MORNING:

WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS TO TERRORISTS. WE DO NOT ASK
OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO DO SO -- ISRAEL, KUWAIT, WHOEVER
THEY MAY BE. WE ARE CONTINUING OUR INTENSIVE EFFORTS TO

SECURE THE RELEASE OF ALL THE PASSENGERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN
LAST FRIDAY'S HIJACKING. WE'RE GRATEFUL TO THE
GOVERNMENT OF ALGERIA FOR THEIR EXTENSIVE EFFORTS WHICH
HAVE RESULTED IN THE RELEASE OF 87 OF THE HOSTAGES.

DISCUSSIONS WERE HELD YESTERDAY AND RESUMED THIS MORNING
BETWEEN THE HIJACKERS AND LEBANESE JUSTICE MINISTER NABIH
BERRI, WHO IS ALSO THE HEAD OF THE SHI'A AMAL GROUP.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR BUD MCFARLANE HAS BEEN IN
TELEPHONE CONTACT WITH MINISTER BERRI. OUR AMBASSADOR TO
BEIRUT, REG BARTHOLOMEW, HAS ALSO BEEN IN FREQUENT TOUCH
WITH MINISTER BARRI, AND OTHER RESPONSIBLE OFFICIALS OF
THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT AND VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS THAT
HAVE INFLUENCE.

THE PURPOSE OF THESE CONTACTS IS TO OBTAIN THE IMMEDIATE
RELEASE OF ALL THE REMAINING PRISONERS; THOSE WHO WERE
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE EARLIER, THOSE WHO APPEAR TO HAVE
BEEN TAKEN OFF THE PLANE LAST NIGHT, ALL THE REMAINING
PRISONERS WHO HAVEN'T ALREADY BEEN RELEASED WHO WERE ON
THAT PLANE WHEN IT WAS HIJACKED.

WE'VE ALSO BEEN IN CONTACT WITH A VARIETY OF OTHER
GOVERNMENTS AND PARTIES TO ENLIST THEIR ASSISTANCE IN
SECURING THE SAFE RELEASE OF ALL THE HOSTAGES. WE HOPE
THIS TRAGIC SITUATION WILL BE RESOLVED AS SOON AS
POSSIBLE BY THE RELEASE OF THE HOSTAGES. ITS
CONTINUATION DOES NO ONE ANY GOOD. THE INNOCENT VICTIMS
OF THIS ACT OF TERRORISM ARE SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY AS ARE
THEIR FAMILIES.

THE HIJACKERS ARE NOT GETTING SYMPATHY FOR THEIR
DEMANDS. INDEED, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE HIJACKING, AND
THE WAY IN WHICH THEY HAVE LINKED THE RELEASE OF THE
FORMER ANSAR PRISONERS, MAY DELAY THE PREVIOUSLY PLANNED
RELEASE OF THESE PRISONERS, AS STATED BY ISRAEL.

WELL, THAT'S MY STATEMENT. I'LL BE HAPPY TO TRY TO
ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS.

Q. HOW MANY HOSTAGES ARE THERE NOW, INCLUDING THE CREW,
AND DO YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WE DO NOT KNOW PRECISELY
WHERE THEY ARE. I'LL HAVE TO GET YOU THE PRECISE FIGURE
ON THE NUMBER OF HOSTAGES.

Q. YOU'VE MENTIONED ONE THING -- THE PRISONERS THAT WERE
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE FRIDAY, AND THOSE, YOU SAID, APPEAR
TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN OFF TODAY.
DO WE NOT KNOW FOR SURE THAT THEY ARE IN NABIH BERRI'S --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WE THINK THAT THEY HAVE
BEEN TAKEN OFF THE PLANE. WE HAVE NO INDEPE DENT
CONFIRMATION, BUT WE BELIEVE THAT IS TRUE. THERE'S BEEN
NO ACTIVITY ON BOARD THE PLANE, AND WE THINK THEY'RE
OFF. WE CAN'T SAY FOR SURE THAT THEY'RE ALL OFF. I'LL
JUST SAY IT'S A QUESTION OF NOT HAVING INDEPENDENT
CONFIRMATION. WE BELIEVE THEY'RE OFF.

Q. WHAT DOES BERRI TELL YOU ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE THEY'RE
SUPPOSED TO BE UNDER HIS CONTROL, ARE THEY NOT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: BARRY SAYS THEY'RE UNDER
HIS CONTROL.

Q. IF THEY ARE, HOW DOES THIS COMPLICATE THINGS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: EXCUSE ME?

Q. IF THEY ARE OFF THE PLANE, IF ALL THE PRISONERS OR
ALL THE HOSTAGES ARE OFF THE PLANE, FROM OUR POINT OF
VIEW, HOW DOES THIS COMPLICATE THINGS OR DOES IT
COMPLICATE THINGS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THE QUESTION IS NOT SO
MUCH WHERE THEY ARE. THE QUESTION IS, ARE THEY GOING TO
BE RELEASED? IF BERRI HAS CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR
THEM, THIS IS FINE. IT'S NICE TO SEE SOMEONE IN A
POSITION OF RESPONSIBILITY STEP FORWARD AND ACCEPT IT.

OUR POSITION IS, THAT BEING THE CASE THE PRISONERS -- THE
HOSTAGES SHOULD BE RELEASED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; NOT
BEING HELD UP FOR SOME SORT OF NEGOTIATION, CONCESSIONS,
TRADE OR HAGGLING.

Q. IS IT YOUR INFORMATION THAT BERRI KNEW ABOUT THIS
OPERATION BEFORE IT STARTED, OR WAS HE PART OF THE
PLANNING OF IT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THOSE OF WHO HAVE BEEN
FOLLOWING THIS THING, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE
BEEN OUT TO BEIRUT AT ONE TIME OR OTHER, KNOW JUST HOW
DIFFICULT IT IS TO SAY WHO KNEW WHAT, WHEN, I JUST CAN'T

ANSWER THAT QUESTION.

Q. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ONES WHO WERE TAKEN OFF THE
PLANE IN ITS SECOND STOP IN BEIRUT AND THOSE WHO APPEAR
TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN OFF LAST NIGHT ARE NOW TOGETHER? DO
YOU HAVE ANY INDICATION FROM BERRI THAT THEY'VE BEEN
REUNITED?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WE DON'T KNOW EXCEPT
BERRI'S STATEMENT, THAT HE IS ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR
ALL OF THEM. WHETHER THEY'RE ALL PHYSICALLY TOGETHER OR
NOT, I COULDN'T TELL YOU.

Q. WHAT ABOUT THE ONES THAT WERE THERE PREVIOUSLY, THE
NINE OR -

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THERE'S NO REASON TO
BELIEVE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN PUT TOGETHER WITH THE PEOPLE
WHO WERE ON THE TWA FLIGHT. SO FAR THE - THERE HAS BEEN
NO MENTION OF THE DAWA PRISONERS IN KUWAIT IN CONNECTION
WITH THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ON THE TWA FLIGHT.

Q. WHEN THE ISRAELIS TRANSFERRED THOSE DETAINEES, THE
LEBANESE SHI'ITES, TO ISRAEL, WE INFORMED THEM THAT THEY
WERE IN VIOLATION, I THINK, OF INTERNATIONAL LAW -- I
THINK THE FOURTH GENEVA PROTOCOL. WHAT WOULD BE SO WRONG
WITH JUST REMINDING THEM AGAIN THAT THEY ARE HOLDING
THOSE DETAINEES IN VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: OUR POSITION HAS NOT
CHANGED. THAT THEY WERE TRANSFERRED FROM ISRAEL TO
LEBANON. IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WE OPPOSED AS
INCONSISTENT WITH THE FOURTH GENEVA CONVENTION. BUT WE
DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE IS ANY REASON TO LINK THESE TWO
QUESTIONS. INDEED, WE OPPOSE SUCH LINKAGE. AND, AS I'VE
SAID, THE PRACTICAL EFFECT IS GOING TO BE, WE THINK, TO
DELAY THE RELEASE WHICH THE ISRAELIS HAD PREVIOUSLY
PLANNED.

Q. IF WE WON'T ASK THE ISRAELIS TO LET THEM GO, AND THE
ISRAELIS WON'T LET THEM GO UNTIL WE ASK THEM TO DO IT,
DON'T THE HOSTAGES SUFFER IN THE MEANTIME WHILE WE TRY
AND WORK OUT A FACE-SAVING COMPROMISE BETWEEN THESE TWO
POSITIONS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WELL, OUR POSITION, AS I
SAID, IS QUITE CLEAR AND WE'RE NOT CHANGING IT.

Q. TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE, ARE THE PEOPLE --

Q. HAD WE KNOWN BEFORE THE HIJACKING THAT THE ISRAELIS
PLANNED TO RELEASE THESE SHI'ITE PRISONERS?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THE ISRAELIS HAVE
CONSISTENTLY SAID THAT THEY INTENDED TO RELEASE THESE
FORMER PRISONERS OF THE ANSAR CAMP OVER TIME, AS THE
SECURITY SITUATION IN SOUTHERN LEBANON IMPROVES.

Q. TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE, ARE ALL THE
REMAINING HOSTAGES AMERICAN? AMAL WAS SAYING THERE
WERE FOUR GREEK CITIZENS WITH THEM. DO YOU HAVE ANY
IDEA ON THE NATIONALITY BREAKDOWN?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'LL HAVE TO GET THAT
FOR YOU. WE DO HAVE THAT INFORMATION SOMEWHERE AND WE
CAN GET IT.

Q. IN THE COURSE OF YOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH BERRI,
DOES HE SAY, DOES HE REPEAT THE DEMANDS OF THE
HIJACKERS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WE'RE NOT NEGOTIATING
WITH BERRI. I BELIEVE THAT HE HAS POINTED OUT THE
DEMANDS OF THE HIJACKERS, AT LEAST; WHETHER HE HAS
ENDORSED THEM OR NOT, I'M NOT QUITE SURE. BUT OUR
POSITION ON THAT REMAINS VERY CLEAR.

Q. WELL IF I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE SAYING THAT IF
BERRI HAS CONTROL OF THESE PEOPLE, THEN IT WOULD BE
WITHIN HIS POWER TO RELEASE THEM, RIGHT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: BERRI -

Q. SO IF HE DOES NOT RELEASE THEM, HE IS MAKING
DEMANDS UPON THE UNITED STATES, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
COULD YOU CITE WHAT THOSE DEMANDS ARE?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THE ONLY DEMANDS THAT
HAVE BEEN MADE, SO FAR AS I KNOW, ARE FOR THE RELEASE
OF THE FORMER ANSAR PRISONERS, AND OUR ANSWER IS VERY
CLEAR, "WE DON'T GIVE IN TO TERRORIST DEMANDS."
ON THE OTHER HAND, AS HAS BEEN POINTED OUT, THERE WAS A
TIMETABLE FOR THEIR RELEASE. UNFORTUNATELY, THESE TWO
THINGS HAVE BEEN PUT TOGETHER AND THEY SHOULDN'T BE PUT
TOGETHER. THE PRISONERS SHOULD BE RELEASED AT ONCE.

Q. TO CLARIFY THAT, ARE YOU SAYING THAT BERRI
SPECIFICALLY HAS ASKED FOR THE RELEASE OF THE 766
HIMSELF?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THAT I'LL HAVE TO
CHECK.

Q. HAVE YOU ASKED BERRI -- SINCE HE ASSUMES
RESPONSIBILITY -- HAVE YOU ASKED HIM SPECIFICALLY TO
PLEASE GET THE PRISONERS RELEASED?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THAT WAS THE THRUST OF
THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN MCFARLANE AND BERRI.

Q. AND WHAT DID BERRI REPLY TO THAT, SINCE HE SAYS HE
HAS RESPONSIBILITY?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I CAN'T GET INTO THE
DETAILS OF THE CONVERSATION, BUT THAT INDEED OBVIOUSLY
THEY HAVE NOT YET BEEN RELEASED.

Q. IS IT CLEAR TO YOU THROUGH TALKS WITH MR. BERRI
THAT HE IS TALKING TO YOU IN HIS CAPACITY AS A LEADER
OF AMAL, OR IN HIS CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE LEBANESE
GOVERNMENT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: SO FAR AS I KNOW, HE
HASN'T MADE THE DISTINCTION. FORTUNATELY, IN TERMS OF
ACCEPTING SOME RESPONSIBILITY, HE HAS BOTH POSITIONS,
SO HE IS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GOVERNMENT AS WELL AS
A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SHI'A COMMUNITY. AND LET ME
REMIND YOU, THE SHI'A
A COMMUNITY HAS SUFFERED ENORMOUSLY OVER MANY YEARS OF
VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT AND DEPRIVATION.

THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS ALWAYS SUPPORTED
POLITICAL RECONCILIATION AND REFORM AMONG THE LEBANESE
COMMUNITIES, WHICH WOULD PROVIDE ALL OF THEM WITH
EQUITABLE POLITICAL DISTRIBUTION. SO NABIH BERRI, AS A
RESPONSIBLE LEADER OF THE SHI'A COMMUNITY, HAS OUR
APPRECIATION. NABIH BERRI, AS SOMEONE WHO HAS ACCEPTED
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF THE PRISONERS, HAS
DONE SOMETHING WE CONSIDER TO BE POSITIVE. BUT NOW WE
CALL UPON HIM, AS WE HAVE, TO BRING ABOUT THEIR RELEASE.

Q. THE SITUATION, IN LIGHT OF YOUR ANSWERS IN THE LAST
FEW QUESTIONS, SEEM TO HAVE CHANGED -- IT'S NO LONGER A
HIJACKING; IT IS A SITUATION IN WHICH A LEBANESE
GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IS CLAIMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE
POSSESSION OR THE CARE-TAKING OF AMERICAN HOSTAGES.
HAS THIS CHANGED THE SITUATION IN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S
VIEW?YOU'RE NOW DEALING WITH ANOTHER GOVERNMENT THAT
HAS CONTROL OF AMERICAN HOSTAGES. IS THIS IN ANY WAY
SIMILAR TO THE GOVERNMENT-TO"GOVERNMENT SITUATION THAT
OCCURRED IN IRAN?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THIS GETS BACK TO THE
PREVIOUS QUESTION, WHICH I COULDN'T ANSWER, IS THE WAY
IN WHICH NABIH BERRI IS SPEAKING AS A LEADER OF THE
SHI'A COMMUNITY OR AS A MEMBER OF THE LEBANESE
GOVERNMENT? AND IT'S A VERY INTERESTING SITUATION. I
CAN'T SPEAK TO WHAT DEGREE HE'S SPEAKING AS ONE; TO
WHAT DEGREE HE'S SPEAKING AS ANOTHER. BUT YOU ALL
UNDERSTAND THE VERY LIMITED CONTROL WHICH THE LEBANESE
GOVERNMENT, AS AN INSTITUTION, HAS OVER WEST BEIRUT.

Q. DO YOU KNOW WHETHER BERRI ACTUALLY DOES HAVE
CONTROL OVER THE HOSTAGES?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: NO.

Q. IN LIGHT OF THE DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PAST 24 HOURS,
WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS "MORE OPTIMISTIC" OR
"LESS OPTIMISTIC" ABOUT GETTING THESE HOSTAGES SAFELY
RELEASED?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I WOULD DESCRIBE
MYSELF AS NEITHER. I HAVEN'T BEEN MORE OR LESS. AND
ALL WE CAN DO IS WORK AT IT WITHOUT MAKING ANY VALUE
JUDGMENTS UNTIL THEY'RE RELEASED. THEN --

Q. THIS CHANGE MEANS NOTHING IN TERMS OF IT BEING MORE
LIKELY THAT THESE PEOPLE WILL BE RELEASED SAFELY?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: ONE CAN DEDUCE A WHOLE
HOST OF ARGUMENTS POINTING BOTH WAYS, PLUSES AND
MINUSES, IF YOU WILL. YOU MIGHT SAY THAT THEY ARE
SAFER AT THE MOMENT. ON THE OTHER HAND, THAT DOES NOT
NECESSARILY MEANS THAT THEIR RELEASE IS MORE LIKELY.

Q. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IN PRINCIPLE BETWEEN THE
ISRAELI RELEASE OF A BUNCH OF CONVICTED TERRORISTS AND
GANGSTERS A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO AND THIS OPERATION?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THAT'S SOMETHING
YOU'LL HAVE TO ASK THE ISRAELIS, NOT ME.

Q. SIR, CAN I GO BACK TO MY QUESTION ABOUT MR. BERRI'S
CONTROL FOR A MOMENT?

Q. SIR, COULD YOU TELL ME IF THE UNITED STATES OPPOSES
HAVING ISRAEL RELEASE THESE PRISONERS WHILE AMERICAN
HOSTAGES ARE STILL BEING HELD?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: OUR POSITION, I THINK,
IS VERY CLEAR. WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS TO
TERRORISTS. WE DO NOT ENCOURAGE OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO
DO SO. THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT PREVIOUSLY HAD A PLAN
FOR THE RELEASE OF THE TERRORIST -- NOT OF THE
TERRORISTS, BUT OF THE PEOPLE FROM THE FORMER ANSAR
CAMP.

Q. DOES --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: WHAT IT DOES, WE WILL
SEE.

Q. DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE UNITED STATES DOES OPPOSE
HAVING ISRAEL RELEASE THESE PRISONERS WHILE THE
HOSTAGES ARE --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: NO. I DIDN'T SAY
THAT. I JUST REPEATED OUR POSITION.

Q. COULD YOU SAY IF THE UNITED STATES DOES OPPOSE IT,
SIR?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: OUR POSITION IS VERY
CLEAR. WE DO NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS WITH TERRORISTS. WE
DON'T ENCOURAGE OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO DO SO.

Q. BUT IF THE ISRAELIS WERE INDEPENDENTLY TO DECIDE
NOW TO RELEASE THOSE HOSTAGES, WOULD YOU OPPOSE THAT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: IF THEY WERE TO
INDEPENDENTLY DECIDE TO DO SO IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR
PLAN PREVIOUSLY, IT WOULD PRODUCE PERHAPS A DIFFERENT
SITUATION, IF IT WERE NOT LINKED TO THE QUESTION OF THE
TERRORISTS. BUT WE BELIEVE THAT THE HIJACKERS SHOULD
DROP THEIR DEMANDS FOR -- WHICH INCLUDE THE LINKAGE
HERE.

Q. HAVE WE TOLD BERRI THAT THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THE
HOSTAGE SITUATION IS TO DELAY THE RETURN OF THE
PRISONERS IN ISRAEL? DID WE ACTUALLY TELL HIM THAT?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: IF YOU LISTENED TO THE
(SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL) BACKGROUNDER THIS
MORNING, HE TALKS ABOUT THAT. HE SAYS THAT IF THE
HOSTAGE SITUATION WERE TO BE CLEARED UP, IT MIGHT BE
POSSIBLE FOR THE ISRAELIS TO PROCEED ON THEIR
PREVIOUSLY PLANNED RELEASE OF THE LEBANESE PRISONERS.

Q. BUT DID WE TELL BERRI THIS?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (SENIOR ADMINISTRATION
OFFICIAL) WAS TALKING ABOUT MCFARLANE'S CONVERSATION
WITH BERRI.

Q. YOU, A FEW MINUTES AGO, TALKED ABOUT THE PLUSES AND
MINUSES OF THE NEW SITUATION. DOESN'T THE FACT THAT
THEY'RE OFF THE PLANE AND SOME PLACE THAT WE DON'T KNOW
WHERE THEY ARE, MEAN THAT THEY COULD BE SUSTAINED FOR A
LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, SEPARATED PERHAPS --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: MY COMMENT, I SAID IN
SOME WAYS THEY MAY BE SAFER, IN OTHER WAYS IT DOES NOT
NECESSARILY MEAN THAT THEIR RELEASE IS MORE IMMINENT.
BUT YOU COULD TURN IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND AND SAY THAT
NABIH BERRI AS A RESPONSIBLE LEADER OF THE SHI'A
COMMUNITY AS WELL AS A MINISTER HAS ACCEPTED
RESPONSIBILITY. THEREFORE, IF HE IS WILLING TO
EXERCISE THAT RESPONSIBILITY, THIS COULD LEAD TO THEIR
EARLY RELEASE RATHER THAN DEALING WITH A BUNCH OF
HIJACKERS WHO HAVE NO SUCH PERSON IN A POSITION OF
RESPONSIBILITY. THAT'S WHY I SAID YOU GOT PLUSES AND
MINUSES.

Q. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AS A COUNTER-TERRORIST
OFFICIAL --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I DON'T WANT TO GET IN
ANY SORT OF VALUE JUDGMENTS.

Q. WELL, WHAT IS EFFECTIVELY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
BERRI HOLDING AMERICAN PASSENGERS AS HOSTAGES TO
CERTAIN POLITICAL DEMANDS AND THE ORIGINAL HIJACKERS
HOLDING THE AMERICAN PASSENGERS HOSTAGE --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: OUR POSITION --

Q. -- TO THE SAME DEMAND?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: MARVIN, OUR POSITION
IS EXACTLY THE SAME. WE WANT THEM RELEASED AT ONCE, NO
CONDITIONS ASKED.

Q. YOU ARE AT THE SAME TIME REFERRING TO BERRI AS A
RESPONSIBLE SHI'ITE LEADER.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: YES.


Q. HOW RESPONSIBLE IS HE IF HE IS IN FACT, IN EFFECT,
PERFORMING THE SAME FUNCTION AS THE ORIGINAL HIJACKERS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: MARVIN, THAT'S WHY WE
HAVE SAID, IN OUR VIEW RESPONSIBILITY IS NOT MERELY TO
KEEP THEM SAFE BUT TO RELEASE THEM AT ONCE.
Q. AS A FOLLOW-UP TO THE "-

Q. THEN DOES THE PRESIDENT'S THREAT TO FREE THE
HOSTAGES FOR THE UNSAFETY OF THOSE HOLDING THEM STILL
HOLD?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THAT'S A SUBJECT THAT
I REALLY CAN'T COMMENT ON, GIVEN THE SENSITIVITY OF THE
SITUATION WE'RE IN.

Q. HAVE YOU MADE CLEAR TO MR. BERRI THAT WE WANT ALL
OF THE HOSTAGES RELEASED, AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WITHOUT
DISTINCTION BETWEEN OFFICIALS, NON-OFFICIALS, MILITARY,
NON-MILITARY, JEW, NON-JEW?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: YES.

Q. AND SO THAT INCLUDES THE SIX OR EIGHT THAT WERE
TAKEN OFF THE PLANE -

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: INDEED.

Q. - FRIDAY NIGHT. IT DOES NOT -

Q. MR. --

Q. BUT JUST TO UNDERSTAND YOU CORRECTLY, IT DOES NOT
NECESSARILY INCLUDE THE SEVEN AMERICANS WHO ARE --
STILL REMAIN HOSTAGE IN SOME OTHER PART OF LEBANON?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: BERRI HAS CLAIMED NO
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEM. WE HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH WITH
BERRI, WITH ALL OF THE RESPONSIBLE OR INFLUENTIAL, IF
YOU WANT TO PUT IT THAT WAY, LEADERS IN LEBANON ON THE
SUBJECT OF THE OTHER HOSTAGES OVER A LONG PERIOD OF
TIME. BUT THAT IS SEPARATE FROM THIS, ALTHOUGH HE IS
ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT WE'VE TALKED TO ABOUT THIS ABOUT
THE OTHER PROBLEM.

Q. WHAT ROLE SYRIA PLAYS SINCE THEY ARE KNOWN FOR
THEIR GOOD RELATIONS WITH NABIH BERRI?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I DON'T WANT TO
COMMENT ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SYRIA AND NABIH
BERRI --

Q. HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- EXCEPT THAT WE
THINK, REFERRING TO PRESIDENT ASSAD'S STATEMENT, PUBLIC
STATEMENT OF LAST WEEK, HE HAS TALKED ABOUT HIS VIEWS
ON THE HOSTAGES, ON THE WHOLE IDEA OF HOSTAGE-TAKING
AND KIDNAPPING AND TERRORISM, WHERE HE SAYS HE OPPOSES
IT.

MR. DJEREJIAN: WE'RE GOING TO TAKE TWO MORE QUESTIONS.

Q. HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PRECISELY DEFINE THE
AFFILIATION OF THE HIJACKERS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: NO.

Q. JUST A MINOR CLARIFICATION: DOES THE UNITED STATES
HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THAT BERRI HAS INFLUENCE OVER
THE SIX TO TEN PEOPLE THAT WERE INITIALLY REMOVED OFF
THE PLANE?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: BERRI HAS CLAIMED
RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL OF THEM. THEREFORE, WE DO
BELIEVE THAT BERRI HAS INFLUENCE. CONTROL, INFLUENCE.
THE DEGREE OF CONTROL, THE DEGREE OF INFLUENCE, IS
SOMETHING THAT'S VERY HARD TO SAY.

Q. HOW MUCH BERRI HAS INFLUENCE ON THE HIJACKERS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: EXCUSE ME?

Q. HOW MUCH BERRI HAS INFLUENCE ON THE HIJACKERS?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: THAT'S WHAT I SAID.
HOW MUCH IS HARD TO TELL.

END TEXT.

SHULTZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Swing States: Gordon Campbell On Why The US Needs MMP

After the bizarre events this week in Helsinki, the world will be hoping and praying that the US midterm elections in November can put a restraining brake on the presidency of Donald Trump. This may happen, but there’s a highly undemocratic reason why such hopes may be frustrated. More>>

ALSO:

putin, trump scalpGordon Campbell: On The White House Romance With Russia

Tough on Europe over trade, at the G-7. Tough on Europe over defence, at NATO. And utterly smitten as usual by Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit. More>>

ALSO:


Gordon Campbell: On This Week’s NATO Debacle

For someone routinely cast as a clown presiding over an administration in chaos, Donald Trump has been very consistent about his agenda, and remarkably successful in achieving it, in the short term at least. More>>

ALSO:

NZ Law Society: Rule Of Law Threatened In Nauru

“The recently enacted Administration of Justice Act 2018 is another clear sign of the deterioration of civil rights in Nauru,” the Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee convenor Austin Forbes QC says. More>>

ALSO:

'Fixing' Family Separation: Executive Order Imprisons Families Indefinitely

Amnesty: President Trump signed an executive order today mandating for children to stay with their parents in detention while their asylum claims are processed. More>>

ALSO: