Return to: Index of 1994 Daily Briefings || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection (ERC) is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the US State Department homepage.
BRIEFER:  Michael McCurry

Subject                                                         Page

Secretary to Brief Press Friday at White House ..................1
Secretary's Television Appearances ..............................1
Background Briefings re:  Secretary's Trip to
  Europe Expected ...............................................1

Strobe Talbott's Activities ...................................1-3
--  Remarks re:  Economic Reform in Russia ....................2-3
Ambassador Albright's Trip to Europe .........................6-10
--  General Shalikashvili/Asst. Sec. Shattuck in
 Party ........................................................6-10

Summit Meeting with President Clinton .........................3-5
--  Possible Participation by Kravchuk ........................4-5

Talks at Department re:  Nuclear Issues .......................3-6
Status of US Assistance  ........................................6

Partnership for Peace 

Decision to Stop Radio Free Europe Broadcasts ........10-11

Congressional Fact-Finding Mission ...............................11
Pledge to Withhold Support for Groups Working
  Against the Peace Process 
US List of Countries Sponsoring Terrorism ................11-12

Pan Am 103 Bombing/Anthony Lake's Letter to
  Relatives of Victims 

US Support for UNPROFOR 
Reported Possibility of UK/French Withdrawal ........13

Insurgents in the South/Identity 
--  US Checking on Safety of Americans ......................15

Security Situation 
Meetings of Rival Factions 

Progress in US Dialogue/Meeting with IAEA ...............16-18

Status of Talks on National Reconciliation .................17

Talks on Kashmir 



DPC #2


MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon everybody. Just to start off with, one or two housekeeping things, just to ask you to tune into some things.

Over the next several days, going into Friday, there will be a series of both Background briefings by senior Administration officials and then an On-the-Record briefing Friday by the Secretary and others who will be participating with the President in the NATO summit. I do want you to keep tuned in. Most of those briefings will be occurring at the White House, as is the custom on a Presidential trip.

I just want to make sure the folks here know about that and know that they need to be in contact with their White House colleagues to make sure anything that you would like to be a part of that they may not necessarily be covering, you make arrangements to participate in. But there will be for everyone, I believe, at the White House on Friday an On-the-Record briefing. The White House will be announcing the time of that, I think, later on in the week.

The Secretary will also be doing some television appearances and other things over the next couple of days and will be available, in that sense, to all of you, too. So I just wanted to make sure people are aware of that.

That's the only item I had to start with. I'll take any questions you might have.

Q Could you keep us apprised of his television appearances before the fact?

MR. McCURRY: You know I will do.

Q Has Strobe Talbott entered the traditional period of invisibility until his confirmation hearing?

MR. McCURRY: He continues to be very visible because of his work on the aspects of this trip dealing with Russia. But as is the custom of someone who's been nominated or going to be nominated, he will refrain from making comments on large policy issues, both because that's the custom of someone awaiting Senate confirmation but it also is just the fact that he is very deeply involved in preparations for the summit in Moscow at this point. So he'll be, obviously, very much occupied with that in the days ahead.

Q Michael, on the subject of Talbott, was he taken out of context when he told reporters after the elections that there should be less shock and more therapy?

MR. McCURRY: I think he was just being quotable, probably. I think he was pretty clear -- my recollection -- pretty clear talking about the progress of reform, our backing for reform, and the inevitable balance that comes between economic liberalization and steps that the Russian people will face as they move to modernize the economy and move to adopt certain measures that will require a period of transformation. I think he was talking about the adjustments and the inevitable balancing between those two things.

I would have to go back and look at how people characterized his remarks.

Q The reason I ask is that there was a briefing at the White House today -- a Background briefing -- in which the briefer specifically said Talbott had been taken out of context; that the Administration now believes that you have to go full-speed ahead on reforms; that there is "no third way,"; and there seems to have been some kind of reassessment again.

MR. McCURRY: I was not aware of that briefing or those comments. I'd go back and check. It may have been true that Ambassador Talbott's initial remarks may have been misunderstood, but not to my knowledge. He made the case that I just indicated, that there was inevitably a balancing between the cost of reform versus the long-term benefits of adopting measures that help the economy transform and make the adjustments that a transforming economy, moving from a command model to a market model, makes.

Q But if I can just get one more follow-up on this. Does that mean -- I guess what I'm asking is, going into the summit with Yeltsin, is the President's message going to be, "Do not slow down radical economic reforms?"

MR. McCURRY: I think that going into the summit with President Yeltsin our message will be very consistent with what it has been over many months which is, the United States stands in alliance with those who are reforming and with the reforms that are being adopted; and that the United States long-term interests reside in a Russia that is making the difficult transformation from a totalitarian, command-style economy to a society and an economy of democratic capitalism. That has been our message and will continue to be our message.

Q Mr. Talbott spoke at length about the need for strengthening a social safety net in Russia. Will President Clinton go to Moscow offering anything in particular to help strengthen that net?

MR. McCURRY: I think he will certainly review the status of the considerable assistance programs that we've offered. He'll be talking with the Russians about the progress of both their own economic reforms and then the efforts on the part of the United States and the West, generally -- especially the G-7 -- to support those reforms. So, in a sense, yes, we'll be talking about the assistance that has been provided and that will be provided in the future to help the Russian people adjust to this transformation.

Q Along those lines, what is going on this week with the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Ukraine, who will be meeting with people here?

MR. McCURRY: He is here for trilateral talks that are underway. It began yesterday and are here today. I'm sorry, when the question came up yesterday, I didn't have the information readily available.

The three delegations are meeting together: the U.S. delegation, headed by Ambassador Talbott and Under Secretary of State Lynn Davis; the Ukrainian delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Shmarov; and a Russian delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov. The three delegations are obviously working closely and intensely on the outstanding nuclear issues involving both Russia and Ukraine.

I think it would be impossible for me to give you any full accounting of where they are in the talks or what kind of progress they're making; but clearly the United States is interested in seeing Ukraine and Russia come to agreement on issues involving their nuclear programs and the commitments they've made under the NPT and the Lisbon Protocols.

Q Is the Administration interested in trilateral --

MR. McCURRY: Hold on.

Q But I thought this was already settled -- several times, in fact, in the past. What has come unsettled?

MR. McCURRY: I don't know that that question has been settled. There have been outstanding issues that have prevented, especially Ukraine, from moving forward completely with the commitments they've made under both the NPT and under the Lisbon Protocols. Those are issues that we've worked on that were raised, as you know, when the Secretary was in Kiev. They were raised again in Moscow when the Vice President was in Moscow recently. Ambassador Talbott, I think, as you know, then went to Kiev and met further with Ukrainian officials.

So I'd say there are certainly matters that have not been resolved, and that's what they're attempting to address.

Q One more follow-up. The Deputy Foreign Minister, is he of sufficient rank or stature so that he can make these commitments? Or is he just here as a messenger who will go back and tell the Ukrainian senior level of leadership what has to be done?

MR. McCURRY: The notion that the trilateral talks would take place at a Deputies' level, I believe -- there's some history of this going back to August, but it was reconfirmed most recently when Secretary Christopher met with both Foreign Minister Zlenko and Foreign Minister Kozyrev of Russia in Brussels at the time that they were attending the NACC meetings.

I think at that point -- that was probably the point -- the genesis for the current talks, the trilateral talks, involving Ukraine and Russia was certainly there. It certainly indicated, on the part of Ukraine and Russia, that they had the authority at the Deputy level to negotiate on these issues.

Q I understand that the talks end this afternoon. In which case, can we get a readout?

MR. McCURRY: I will attempt to see if it's possible to give a readout. I strongly suspect that they will be very minimal in the comments they make at that point, in some sense, for exactly the reason that Jim just suggested. They will be returning to their capitals and discussing further with their governments the talks that have occurred here. But I'll see what we can say publicly at whatever point they conclude, if they, in fact, do conclude today.

Q Is the Administration interested in the suggestion by President Yeltsin of a trilateral summit in Moscow with Kravchuk?

MR. McCURRY: In the last 24 hours, there's been a lot of speculation on people going to Kiev, people being invited to Moscow. I'd take all that circumspectly at this point until we know more.

Our position, as you've heard us state it very often, is that a meeting on those issues depends on the kind of progress they can make in talks on these nuclear disarmament issues.

Q Yeltsin has sent an invitation out to Kravchuk -- it was reported by Itar Tass --

MR. McCURRY: There's a news account suggesting that President Yeltsin -- I think it quotes an unnamed Russian official saying that they are open to that if there can be progress made on these issues. I don't know that they're saying anything that is that different than what we're saying.

There were also some reports out of Kiev yesterday that were just not true.

Q But Michael, today out of Kiev it was the spokesman for Kravchuk who said he has received an invitation from Yeltsin. You're not being real clear with us here.

Did the U.S. know that the Russians are interested in inviting Kravchuk?

MR. McCURRY: There were statements before Christmas that a treaty had already been negotiated, so there are a lot of things being said. I'm telling you --

Q Michael, what I'm asking is, what is the U.S. involvement in this? Has the U.S. suggested to Yeltsin a three-way summit would be a good idea? Do you not know anything about what's going on here? What are you trying to convey to us -- that the Yeltsin --

MR. McCURRY: I think I've just conveyed very clearly what's going on. There are negotiations going on in this building right now.

Q Has there been a letter from President Clinton to Kravchuk within the past few days?

MR. McCURRY: I don't know whether there has been a letter in the last few days. I know there has been communications at the highest levels with President Kravchuk on this issue over time. You'd have to check at the White House whether that has been in the last couple of days or not. But I think there have been a series of communications at the highest level on this issue.

Q One detail: Have these talks with the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister actually begun, or are they going to begin?

MR. McCURRY: They began yesterday.

Q And they will go on for the rest of this week?

MR. McCURRY: They began yesterday, and they, I guess, going on today. I'm not sure at what point they're taking recesses. I don't know whether they will extend beyond today.

Q You said the Deputy Prime Minister or Deputy Foreign Minister?

MR. McCURRY: Two different, in both the case of Ukraine and Russia. Shmarov is Deputy Prime Minister, and then Mamedov is the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia.

Q Michael, is the point of the talks now going on here to close a deal with the Ukrainians so that there can be a three-way summit in Moscow?

MR. McCURRY: It would be great if that could happen. We don't see these negotiations driven by a summit date. These negotiations are driven by our keen interest in seeing an agreement in which the parties live up to the commitments they've made and which satisfies both our non-proliferation goals and the non-proliferation goals of the world community.

But the summit is not -- that's a date approaching, but it's not something that affects the need to get the right type of an agreement.

Q Mike, where is the Administration now on the money that Christopher pledged to Ukraine for disarmament?

MR. McCURRY: I was looking at that yesterday. I can't remember, Sid. The SSD agreements that were negotiated had an obligation level in it, but I'm not sure whether any of that money has been spent yet or not. I'll have to check and find out about that.

Q So we're still willing to give them that money -- for disarmament?

MR. McCURRY: The Nunn-Lugar money that's available under the dismantlement program, depending on the completion of SSD agreements, is available to Ukraine, yes. I can't remember offhand what the status of those agreements is and how much has been obligated or actually delivered.


Q Michael, on another subject. When we were asking you yesterday about the Partnership for Peace and the Administration's efforts to sell that to the Central Europeans, did you know yesterday that Shalikashvili had been dispatched in a last-ditch attempt to sell it to the Central Europeans?

MR. McCURRY: No, because that's not what's happening. He's going over with Ambassador Albright and doing some briefings. I knew he was going over to do some briefings with the East Europeans.

Q But it's not related to trying to -- that there are problems with the East Europeans? I'm sure you saw Lech Walesa's interview today in which he expressed deep concerns about the Partnership for Peace. Shalikashvili isn't related to that?

MR. McCURRY: They're going over there to talk about it. There continues a dialogue we have been having for some time with each of the Visograd countries on this, including -- I think, as you know, it came up with the Secretary was in Budapest. It's come up in a lot of diplomatic exchanges we've had recently with Poland, with the Czech Republic, with Hungary as well; and it will come up as Ambassador Albright and the Chairman make their trip through the region, yes.

Q But is it not true -- the press reports today that he was added onto that trip over the weekend because you have growing concerns about the East European complaints and the possibility that the President might be embarrassed in Prague?

MR. McCURRY: No. He was added to that delegation because we thought he would be a very effective presenter of the partnership concept and how it's evolving and how it will be presented by the President at the summit.

Because of his experience in the region most recently, he has a great deal of credibility with leaders in the region. We were frankly making sure we had our best presenters available to make the case.

Q How come you didn't mention it to us yesterday when we asked about it?

MR. McCURRY: I forgot. It didn't come up. I didn't have in front of me yesterday Ambassador Albright's complete itinerary. It slipped my mind.

Q When was he added to the trip?

MR. McCURRY: I don't know but probably within the last several days. It may have been over the weekend.

Q He was not one of the original players, and he was added; is that correct?

MR. McCURRY: He was added in her itinerary change. I think as some of you know, she's not going initially to Eastern Europe. She's actually going first to Zagreb, and she will be accompanied at that point in the trip by Assistant Secretary Shattuck. So I think it was sort of a fluid itinerary as they were putting it together, and it's a fairly exhausting itinerary.

Q Michael, can I just say that yesterday you presented it to us as a story that everybody wrote out of boredom because they didn't have anything to write. You never hinted to us either that Albright's trip was being expanded or that you were adding on Shalikashvili, which tends to show more concern on the part of the Administration than you were saying yesterday when you were willing to take bets.

MR. McCURRY: I said that we were, as in the walk-up to the summit, continuing to have a number of discussions with the East Europeans and the Central Europeans on the concept. But the fact that we have been trying to sell -- as the point of those stories were that we were trying to sell this idea to the East Europeans and the Central Europeans, that's been a central fact of our diplomacy since the summer. There's nothing new about that.

Q But in reading Walesa's interview, didn't you get the impression that here was a man who was hoping to be offered a great deal and in fact was being offered a single, measly dollar?

MR. McCURRY: I read his interviews. I saw it reported as someone who is interested in knowing exactly what he was going to be offered. I think that's one of the things that we can make abundantly clear to him and one of the things that we are making clear to him. His concern is, as it is with several of his neighbors, that they want to see what is the avenue for participation in NATO as NATO expands. Our answer is the Partnership for Peace; and understanding how that works and what the avenue and the evolutionary participation in the partnership and how it grows into membership in NATO, how that works is something that is going to be made clear to them both in the visits they will get and also the discussions that come out of the summit.

Q One of the criticisms that is raised about the Partnership for Peace is that the United States is refusing to allow immediate entry of the East and Central Europeans, even when they're demanding it, because it would not sit well with Boris Yeltsin. The broader criticism is that the United States is mortgaging its policy in East and Central Europe to the continued success of Boris Yeltsin at staying afloat; that if he goes down, in fact our foreign policy goes down. Could you respond to that?

MR. McCURRY: I just think it's not a sensible analysis of how our own initiative works. Our concern is that it would be highly problematic at this point to draw any new lines that restrict or divide Europe. The beauty and the genius of the Partnership for Peace initiative is that a way is developed that each individual country can work with NATO to establish patterns of cooperation, habits of cooperation, that can lead eventually to NATO membership; and it's done in a way that doesn't threaten any of the existing members of NATO. It is consistent with the interests of the Central and Eastern European states and it's mindful of the debates both externally and internally that affect Russia.

The point is that everyone looking at this through the prism of their own perspective might want some other solution; but this is one that as you take a look at the entire picture works very, very effectively.

Q Mike, what is the U.S. commitment to the continued independence of the Newly Independent States and the political independence, of freedom from Russian domination over the long term? Is there such a commitment?

MR. McCURRY: It's a commitment that is both expressed in our diplomacy with each of those countries and in our discussions with Russia; but it's also -- and this is a key feature of the partnership -- it's one that becomes open and available under Article IV of the NATO Charter. It becomes available to them as they enter into partnerships, so it becomes an expressed commitment in the case of Article IV, and then leading obviously with the possibility of NATO membership to an Article V commitment.

Q But when you're a member of NATO, if you get attacked, then all the other members come to your defense. When you're a partner for peace, if you get attacked, what happens?

MR. McCURRY: You get an Article IV -- as I just said, you get an Article IV of a right for consultation and a right for consultation with the existing membership of NATO.

Q If you get attacked, you get to consult?

MR. McCURRY: If you're attacked, you get to request assistance. But in a way, that's much more formal than you would request in some other -- if you were a country that was a non-member of NATO or not a participant in the security arrangements defined under the NATO charter. There's a tangible difference between those guarantees and the ones that do exist under the United Nations protections.

Q Michael, I'm a little confused about Shalikashvili's mission still. You said that you read the Walesa interview as saying that this is a man who wants to know what's in the Partnership for Peace; Shalikashvili is explaining that.

We're a week away from the summit. You, yourself, have said that you unveiled this proposal in August. You've had from August til now to be explaining it. Are we asking the wrong questions here? Is Shalikashvili going over there with some new element? I mean, are you in any way fleshing this out? If not, why are you explaining it a week before the summit when you've had since August?

MR. McCURRY: The concept, as it's developed since it was initially discussed by the Foreign Ministers in Brussels, has taken on more flesh as it's been discussed by NATO and been discussed by those who will be participating in the NATO summit. So in a sense, yes, there's been more discussion, more understanding of how the U.S. initiative will work.

But I think it's also important to let them know how the President will present it, how it's likely to be adopted, if it is adopted by the NATO leaders, and then what that then means for any potential country that would be invited in to partnership.

I think we've moved beyond presenting the initial concept and into a discussion of how the partnerships would actually work, which is a significant evolution of the idea itself -- all with the understanding and the caveat, obviously, that it has to be adopted at the summit.

It goes without saying, too, that the events that have happened, the elections that have occurred in Russia do affect the climate in which this initiative is debated. That's certainly true, too.

Q But it hasn't caused any revision -- essential revision of the initiative that is why Shalikashvili needs to explain it.

MR. McCURRY: No. As I said yesterday, I think the idea holds up pretty well. We continue to believe it holds up well, even in light of events that have occurred, and we're looking for our best available spokesman, spokespeople to present this idea to folks who clearly are skeptical, who want to know more about it.

Q Has there been any decision on the future of Radio Free Europe as far as the site or --

MR. McCURRY: On the site, I don't have anything new, because I've been told that it would be more appropriate to refer to the Board of International Broadcasting which met yesterday. They apparently are prepared to talk about their deliberations yesterday, which I don't have a lot of information about.

A question came up yesterday on the Slovak denial of frequency for RFE, and I did want to get back on that. On December 23, Slovak authorities did notify Radio Free Europe that they intended to cancel -- under a 30-day notice provision -- intended to cancel an agreement or contract that allowed them to use two Slovak transmitters.

They indicated to us that they believed that Radio Free Europe was broadcasting information that was biased against the Meciar government. The American Ambassador in Bratislava and the Director of Radio Free Europe have now discussed this issue with the Slovak Government, and we are hopeful that the government will reverse their earlier decision; that it's not a subject that came up at the board meeting yesterday. It is something that we are waiting to hear more on from the Slovak Government.

Q Is the position of the State Department that Slovak Government will change its decision?

MR. McCURRY: We are hopeful that they will change their earlier decision. We have not heard back further from them.

Q Mike, the Congressional group that's planning to go to Israel and Syria this week are saying publicly that they're not assured of getting in to Lebanon, which was another promise that the Syrian President made to Christopher. I mean, that on the tail of the missed deadline on the issuance of visas to Syrian Jews.

Are you all -- is the Administration concerned at all about the Syrian President's assurances to Christopher and the impact that may have on his summit with President Clinton?

MR. McCURRY: We certainly hope that that delegation will move through the itinerary they've outlined. I don't know that we would agree that they're not going to be allowed access to Lebanon. I think that's something that --

Q They said they're not sure.

MR. McCURRY: I think they're not sure. We are certainly hopeful and expecting that they will have access to those people and places they need to visit in order to complete the mission that they are assigned, and that Syria very well understands what they've been tasked with.

I'd take some issue with -- and I think I reported yesterday -- there has been progress on exit permits for the Syrian Jews. We covered that yesterday.

Q Can you confirm that the Syrians will remain on the terrorism list as reported this morning by a usually reliable newspaper?

MR. McCURRY: Yes. Syria will remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism so long as it continues to provide support and safe haven to terrorist groups. We've consistently made that clear to the Government of Syria in meetings that we've held with them -- virtually every opportunity we have to meet with them at a senior level, and the President will obviously be discussing our concerns on that issue when he meets in Geneva with President Assad.

Q Mike, is President Assad's meeting with President Clinton assured, or is it somehow contingent on the promises that were made to the Secretary while he was in Damascus?

MR. McCURRY: It's scheduled, and there is at the moment no reason to unschedule it.

Q Do you have a status report on their terrorist activities? Up, down, the same?

MR. McCURRY: I don't have a report here. Obviously, when we were in Damascus most recently, we were mindful of the fact that -- we had raised the issue -- they had made representations to us about their willingness to suspend support for those or to hold back support for those who were working contrary to the peace process.

We took those representations under advisement and continue to monitor their activity. I know that at some point we do the annual review of activities, and I'll check and see when that's going to happen.

Q Mike, I may be mistaken, but I don't recall that ever being told to people who were traveling with the Secretary of State, that President Assad had agreed to withhold support for the groups that he says he supports. Did I just miss something or is this --

MR. McCURRY: I was pretty sure that we indicated that that subject -- their support for groups based in Damascus that we consider to be opposed to the peace process -- was a subject that came up in their discussions. I'm sure we brought that up.

Q And he agreed to withhold his support for them?

MR. McCURRY: As I said, they represented to us that they had withheld support for those groups that they understood were opposed to the Declaration of Principles.

Q How would you define "support"? Are they going to start charging rent?

MR. McCURRY: I don't know what you mean.

Q You're saying those groups are opposed to the Israeli- Palestinian accord, not necessarily Hizbollah.

MR. McCURRY: Those are the groups that have been working contrary to the peace process is what we're saying.

Q But you're just talking about the ten Palestinian groups which are based in Damascus. You're not talking about the Hizbollah.

MR. McCURRY: No, we're not talking about -- groups that we know they have contact with outside their border. There are lots of discussions that we've had with them about activity that assists and supports those who are enemies of peace, including activities beyond their borders, and that subject does come up regularly and often in our discussions with them.

Q And you have no indication whatsoever that they have stopped their support to Hizbollah in south Lebanon?

MR. McCURRY: We have indications that they have influence with those groups, and that they use that influence.

Q The letter by Tony Lake was sent to relatives of the victims of Pan Am 103. Does that somehow convey an impression or does that accurately convey the thought within the Administration that there still is some suspicion that there was a link between Syria and the blowing up of the plane?

MR. McCURRY: No. My understanding is it was a letter in response to concerns raised by the family members.

Q Tony Lake did not mean to suggest any link?

MR. McCURRY: No, no. As we have said, this subject came up fairly recently, and we said our understanding of the evidence is still very much the way it's been stated, and we have not seen evidence that establishes any Syrian connection.

Q Michael, on another subject, on Bosnia: Were you able to track down these reports that the British and the French are saying they're going to withdraw their troops by spring?

MR. McCURRY: I have not been able to. I've asked several times, including just a little while ago, have we heard anything at all from the British and the French indicating that they intend to change their posture with UNPROFOR? The answer is no. We have not seen --

Q There's a report today that the Canadians are going to have a meeting shortly -- I think next month -- to completely reassess their peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

MR. McCURRY: I didn't check on Canada. I was checking mostly on the British and the French. I wasn't aware of that report.

Q The Prime Minister announced that today.

Q Michael, what do you make of the growing frustration of the U.N. commanders in Bosnia? Both Cot and Briquemont have been extremely open in saying that the U.N. has been humiliated there and that we should do more. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. McCURRY: I can't speak on their behalf. I can tell you that the United States supports UNPROFOR, supports the continuation of UNPROFOR. We believe UNPROFOR is performing a very, very important mission under circumstances that are obviously incredibly difficult, especially difficult for commanders on the ground.

The civilian population of Bosnia is obviously heavily dependent on UNPROFOR for the type of humanitarian supplies that get through -- get through sometimes sporadically but do get through, and they help save lives.

Q But do you see, as they do, a need for reinforcing UNPROFOR or to change the rules of engagement to make that force more effective on the ground?

MR. McCURRY: The status of UNPROFOR is something that we would obviously review in the context of working with the United Nations. But I'm not aware that General Briquemont, for example, cited those concerns in indicating that he wanted to be relieved of his duties. He had a long list of frustrations that he cited, but it wasn't necessary those in particular, from what I read of the press accounts that I've seen.

Q The United States is coming to the NATO summit with an initiative of combined joint talks, (inaudible) shadow of Partnership for Peace. This initiative intends to give European members of NATO stronger hands in European issues. Does it mean that is a signal from the U.S. side that Europe should involve more strongly, for instance, in Bosnia?

MR. McCURRY: I think it is drawing on the lessons of Bosnia. The combined task force concept and how it relates to the discussion that's occurred in the preparation for the summit of the European security and defense identity is something that we certainly feel strongly about. We participate in a lot of those discussions. That was a key aspect of Secretary Christopher's interventions that he made that we released publicly when he was at both the NATO and the NACC meetings in Brussels. We do see that as a way to evolve the concept of how collective security is addressed within Europe.

It's a very important and, to be frank, a fairly under- reported aspect of the discussions that are going to be occurring at this NATO summit. There's been a lot of focus on Partnership for Peace, but I think that especially the combined task force concept is something that certainly from the European perspective is very, very important.

Q Can we go to Mexico and ask you for an update on the situation there? Specifically, have you learned any more about whether or not there is Guatemalan guerrilla involvement in the action in southern Mexico?

MR. McCURRY: We do not have any independent assessment of our own on that. We're obviously aware that a Mexican Government official indicated yesterday that violent groups operating in Chiapas may be a mix of local and foreign individuals. We understand that they're developing an assessment. We have not.

As you know, we've got a team of people there, primarily looking into the status of Americans, but who are there and can help us understand the situation. We've asked the Mexican Government to provide us as much information as they can about their understanding, and as we develop our own assessment, we'll perhaps know more. But at this point, we can't say that we understand fully the composition of these insurgent forces. We have very sketchy information at this point.

Q And all the Americans are indeed safe?

MR. McCURRY: Yes, as far as we know. The situation report, as far as we know, we've got mostly information that comes from both the Mexican Government and what we're hearing from our Embassy which tracks very much with what you've seen publicly. We do note that the reaction from the Mexican Government -- that the insurgents have actually declared war -- their reaction has been to try to re-establish control in the municipalities that have been affected, and they do appear to us at this point to be taking care to minimize confrontations in populated areas or highly populated areas.

They've obviously called for a direct dialogue, and all the statements of the Salinas Government have been aimed at trying to do everything they can to avoid any further bloodshed.

Q Michael, on another subject, on Somalia: What do you make of the situation in Somalia? Is the security situation deteriorating? You know the U.N. -- there's been some organizations that have closed their offices and --

MR. McCURRY: We've been trying to track that this morning, because I saw -- there was an AP story I think indicating that both the UNDP and the UNHCR had closed offices there and may have evacuated offices during some fighting.

As far as we know, that's not the case, and we've had people checking on that. So we're not sure about where that account comes from, but we are told that those offices do intend to remain open and they are continuing.

The security situation in Mogadishu is not as good as it is in other parts of Somalia. There is no question about that. And that's one of the reasons why, I think as many of you know, we are going to begin to concentrate -- the relief activities by UNOSOM are going to begin to move out of Mogadishu and move into areas in which there is an emerging civil order, in which there has been less fighting and less strife, and part of that is to create incentives within Mogadishu for violence to be suspended.

Q What's your reading of what is happening in Mogadishu? Is this a problem with Mohamed Aideed and his forces?

MR. McCURRY: Our read of the situation is there are competing factions that are continuing to attempt to have dialogue. Aideed, for example, is still in Kenya, as far as we know, and has been meeting with representatives of several of the rival factions under the auspices of President Moi.

What's going on is pretty obvious. There are rival factions. They are competing and contesting for influence within Mogadishu, and only an effort at national reconciliation and dialogue will suspend their activities which have been violent and which have put in danger not only UNOSOM relief workers or people who are there under the auspices of UNOSOM but also citizens of Mogadishu and Somalia itself.

Q What's your assessment, though, of how the reconciliation talks are going? I mean, we're getting pretty close to March 31.

MR. McCURRY: Those continue. I can't report any progress, but they are occurring. They clearly have rival faction leaders, including Aideed, engaged. They are talking. They have put forward various proposals that have been either rejected or discussed, and that dialogue, obviously, we consider very, very important. We have addressed to the parties our desire that they continue that type of dialogue.

Q Has there been any discernible movement on the part of the North Koreans?

MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. The only thing new is that -- actually there's nothing new. We have made some progress in our own talks, as we've said the last couple of days; but we are now waiting for them, for the North Koreans, to meet with the IAEA to agree on the arrangements that would be necessary for the inspections that could assure continuity of safeguards.

Q What kind of progress in the bilateral talks?

MR. McCURRY: Do you mean in our discussions with them?

Q I think, you know publicly from their own comments, that they've indicated a willingness to allow continuity inspections now. We certainly consider that progress. Obviously, there are other things that could be reported when there's an agreement that can then be talked about publicly, which obviously is going to be after they have this discussion with the IAEA.

Q I'm sorry. On the continuity, you mean they're going to let us put new film back in the cameras and such?

MR. McCURRY: Technically, I'd leave it up the IAEA to describe what type of inspection they need to assure continuity at the declared sites. They're in a better position to describe what they actually do. Those are continuity inspections that we're discussing.

Q Mike, there have been somewhat different reads of the situation. I think a senior U.S. official yesterday was somewhat upbeat on the possibility of a breakthrough, but reports out of Seoul and the Koreans generally seem to be thinking that we're a long way from any kind of an agreement. Do you want to give us your read of that?

MR. McCURRY: I don't really have anything new beyond where we were yesterday. We're awaiting a discussion that we understand will happen between North Korea and the IAEA. There's been a quickening in our discussions with North Korea and obviously some progress has been made, and there would be more that we could say publicly about that once we understand how the IAEA and North Korea are doing on discussing the inspections.

Q Mike, what's the status of the Haiti talks? They're to take place on the 15th, is that right? Who attends?

MR. McCURRY: The status of the talks is what we've essentially already reported. I believe December 22 -- I think it was December 22 -- we indicated the discussions we'd had with both President Aristide and that we attempted to have with the Haitian military leaders, we set forth in those two aide-memoire -- those two papers -- exactly our understanding of what the requirements were both of the Haitian military and then how President Aristide could contribute to the dialogue that would occur. And we suggested if there was no progress in those talks by January 15, that the U.N./OAS Special Envoy, Dante Caputo, might call for a conference that would occur at that point that would address the question of how you get this process going again.

Whether or not those talks occur depends on what happens between now and the 15th. President Aristide has also indicated that he would hold some type of conference, which is an idea that we will look at and see if that fits with our view that it needs to involve all those who are participants in the Governor's Island process if there's going to be any progress in getting this dialogue back on track.

Q Back on the North Koreans, I'm confused. Maybe that's the intention, but I'm confused how there can be progress in the bilateral talks on the same issue -- nuclear installations and nuclear safeguards -- while on the other side, which is dealing with the same issue, same problem, same installations basically, how you can count that as progress when, in fact, they haven't really given any access to anybody so far.

MR. McCURRY: How they would give access to the IAEA is what we hope they will be discussing with the IAEA shortly. That's the issue.

Q But in the U.S.-North Korean talks, they didn't discuss that issue at all on how, in fact, access will be granted?

MR. McCURRY: They discussed the issue of inspections, but how technically you carry out those inspections is something that we obviously defer to the IAEA when it comes to that.

Q Then if you're not discussing that with the North Koreans, what are you talking about with them?

MR. McCURRY: We haven't scheduled another discussion with them that I'm aware of.

Q I mean in the recent talks.

MR. McCURRY: There's a range of things beyond -- how you then move ahead -- there's the question of the North-South dialogue. There's the question of how they then move ahead with the commitments they're going to make, what's the timing. There's been the question of would there be a third round of talks at some point, under what conditions would there be a third round. Those are the issues, the same issues that we have had under discussion with them.

We have not historically in this dialogue with them been the arbiter of how you actually carry out the technical inspections that the IAEA conducts.

Q Then if there had been progress, as you've described in the past couple of days in these bilateral talks, it wouldn't necessarily be on the nuclear issue; it could be on other things?

MR. McCURRY: I mean, the whole basket of things we're talking about here is "the nuclear issue." That's all -- what's rated here. The only thing they're talking to the IAEA about is the specific aspects of how they conduct the inspections. That's my understanding of what now is going to be discussed between North Korea and the IAEA.

Q Thank you.

Q Oh, just a question. One moment. I have a question.

MR. McCURRY: One last question.

Q The U.S. Government had said something -- felt a bit optimistic about the talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, and they sort of fizzled out yesterday. I was wondering, did you have a reaction to that?

MR. McCURRY: I don't. I had a brief assessment of the talks yesterday. I'll see if I can get something and post it on our current understanding of where they are.

Q Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:42 p.m.) (###)

To the top of this page