WASHINGTON — Vice President George Bush today blamed the Ethiopian government, the country's rebels and the Soviet Union for obstructing delivery of relief food from non-communist countries to millions of starving Ethiopians.
In a speech to the National Press Club, Bush called on the Soviets "to be as serious about the relief of famine in Ethiopia as they were about the conduct of war there."
"We call on them to turn away from the instruments of conflict and toward the saving of lives," Bush said. "We call on the Ethiopian government and the rebels to grant safe passage to convoys of mercy taking food into Eritrea and Tigre.
"Famine has been so devastating in Ethiopia in part because the government has used it as an instrument of war in Eritrea and Tigre," Bush said. "And, with decent people all over the world, this is of great concern to us."
Soviets Send Arms
"Equally shocking" has been the Soviet response to the famine, Bush said, adding that the Kremlin has delivered billions of dollars in military hardware and Cuban troops instead of food.
"(President Reagan) and I are particularly concerned about reports of Ethiopian government and rebel obstruction of Free World relief efforts in Ethiopia itself," Bush said. "You've probably seen a number of the charges, and they're shocking.
"Food for starving millions still takes a back seat to military cargo when authorities decide the order in which ships can dock in the ports of Ethiopia.
"The government controls about 6,000 trucks. It's put only about 5% of these into getting food from docks to the feeding centers," but spent millions in September on its 10th-anniversary celebration of its Marxist-Leninist revolution, Bush said.
Some 'Beaten, Humiliated'
"Many refugees prefer to trek long distances to camps in Sudan rather than risk showing up at feeding stations in Ethiopia where too many have been beaten and humiliated and where others have been drafted or packed off to the southern plains as part of the government's politically motivated campaign to move a million and a half people from the northern highlands."
"But, from our point of view, the most serious abuse of human rights has been the government's refusal to allow relief agencies safe passage to take food into areas of Eritrea and Tigre not under its control," Bush said.