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

.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Thursday, February 17, 1994


      Briefer:  Michael McCurry

Subject                                            Page

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Ban on Heavy Weapons around Sarajevo ..............1-3,7-10
--Statement by Vitaly Churkin .....................2-3
--US Continuing Contact with Russia ...............7
Meetings of Ambassador Redman .....................2-3
Security of FYR of Macedonia ......................4,6
Authority to Call in Airstrikes ...................5-6
Discussions at UN re: Additional Troops ...........6-7
Report of Redeployment of Russian Troops ..........7
UN Report re: Croatian Military Activities ........9
GREECE Reported Restriction of Trade with FYR of
Macedonia/US Concern ...........................  .3-4
Ambassador's Meeting at Department ................9

FYR OF MACEDONIA
Security of FYR of Macedonia ......................4,6
Nationality of Citizens ...........................8

HAITI
Aristide's Meeting with Parliament Delegation .....10,14-15
US Meetings with Aristide .........................10-11
Parliament Delegation's Plan ......................14

ISRAEL
Deputy Foreign Minister's Meeting with Secretary   11-12

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Secretary's Contact with Counterparts in Syria/
Lebanon re: Attacks on Israelis ...................12-14
Bilateral Talks ...................................14

DEPARTMENT
OMB Draft Regulations re: Fees for Asylum .........12-13
Balanced Budget Amendment .........................15

OAS
US Support of President Gaviria for Secretary
General ...........................................13
SUDAN Situation in South ..........................16


DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPC #29

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1994 (1:03 P.M.)

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. McCURRY Good afternoon everybody. No announcements. Questions? Answers?

Q Mike, a Bosnian Serb commander -- maybe the commander -- in an interview with the Washington Post paper this morning, says that they will be able to keep those weapons armed even though those that can't be moved would be under U.N. control.

Could you tell us whether the weapons -- we're talking, of course, about the immovable, because of weather, etc. -- whether those weapons will be torn apart or will they be left whole and simply guarded by the U.N.?

MR. McCURRY I know that this question got addressed yesterday, and there's really nothing new for me to say on this. All artillery and other heavy weapons must be withdrawn beyond the 20-kilometer perimeter or put under U.N. control by the deadline established by the North Atlantic Council. The Serbs know what they have to do to be in compliance. If they don't do it, they know what's going to happen.

Q Yes, but even the President said last night, which also was known, that there are some weapons that simply for logistical reasons can't be moved. The question is, what happens to them?

MR. McCURRY If there are some logistical questions like that, that's a matter for military commanders on the ground to work out. We're not going to attempt to work that out here in Washington.

Q Well, Mike, the State Department just said ON BACKGROUND yesterday that, in that case, those weapons would be guarded by U.N. troops and the firing pins would be removed or disabled in some way. And, as a follow-up --

MR. McCURRY I think as General Rose said -- just to respond to that -- General Rose, the UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia, has said that if the warring parties want back weapons put under U.N. control, they're going to have to take them back by force. He's very clear about that.

Q That doesn't address my question, the question of the weapons that are dug in. Also, the guidance that was phoned around yesterday, is that representing NATO's position or is that the U.S. position? MR. McCURRY We work these questions very closely between NATO and UNPROFOR. That's the understanding of the alliance.

Q Michael, what is Ambassador Redman doing, and is he under some kind of deadline to provide some kind of answer to the questions before Monday?

MR. McCURRY No. He's working on a political track that obviously relates to the decision taken by the North Atlantic Council, but he is working on a specific set of ideas and proposals that certainly are going to take some time to get agreement on. We have never suggested there would be a full agreement in good faith by Monday, but we have acknowledged, and we certainly believe, that the decisions of the North Atlantic Council will contribute overall to the effort to achieve a political settlement.

Q Mike, what do you know about --

MR. McCURRY Go ahead, Jacques.

Q What have you heard from him with respect to the Bosnian proposals?

MR. McCURRY He's continuing very active work with the parties. He was in Sarajevo, I think as you know, on Monday and Tuesday. He is currently in Zagreb. We understand that he plans this weekend to be in Athens to brief the EU presidency troika on the progress that he is making in his discussions.

At the current moment, the plans for the talks themselves to resume -- I think, they're pointing to the first week in March for any resumption of talks in Geneva. But the Ambassador is obviously heavily engaged with the parties, exploring ideas.

Q This meeting with --

MR. McCURRY Hold on for a second.

Q What do you know about the meeting between Churkin and Karadzic and the comments from both to the effect that there is agreement or a resolution on Sarajevo?

MR. McCURRY I'm aware that Vitaly Churkin has made some remarks. I just don't have an assessment of those remarks at this time. He spoke just a short while ago. He made some comments, apparently, about the willingness of the Serbs to respond. I think willingness and actually carrying through and complying with the terms of the NATO ultimatum is what we are interested in seeing.

Q The other element was that Russian troops apparently would go to Sarajevo?

MR. McCURRY I don't know whether that has been in response to any request from UNPROFOR, but we are trying to find out more about that.

Q On the Redman meetings this weekend in Athens: has he by now obtained the Bosnian Government's bottom-line position, and is his aim this weekend to get the European Community to sign onto that?

MR. McCURRY No. I would say he's thoroughly familiar with the views of the Bosnian Government, that these are things that will explored in talks. I think the purpose of his visit is to touch base with the EU and to coordinate his activities, as we had said we would, with the EU-sponsored peace effort.

Q This is not the stage where he will bring the EU on board and then go to the Serbs?

MR. McCURRY I don't have any sense that they are on the verge of announcing a draft settlement.

Q Can I just follow that? Do we have any position on the Bosnian idea of autonomous regions, of keeping the country whole, as recognized by the U.N., and then having three autonomous regions within that semi-autonomy?

MR. McCURRY In light of Ambassador Redman's work with the Bosnian Government on that issue, I would prefer not to get into any of the substance of the discussions he's been having. If the Bosnian Government is addressing that, that certainly is well within their purview as one of the parties to the talks.

Q On the Redman visit: is he also going to take up the Greek actions on the Macedonian border? MR. McCURRY He is not. That has been raised in separate diplomatic conversations that we've had with the Government of Greece. My understanding is that senior U.S. officials in Washington and Athens have expressed our deep concern about this matter to the Greek government.

Q Has there been any Greek response?

MR. McCURRY Not that I have reported at this point.

Q Could I just follow up? Is it a total blockade along the border?

MR. McCURRY It's described to me as a restriction of trade between the FRYOM -- the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- and Thessaloniki.

Q But that presumably includes oil, which is a vital resource?

MR. McCURRY I can't make that presumption. I don't know. I can check further.

Q Is the United States going to do anything to ameliorate the plight of the Macedonians which seems likely to grow worse as this bites?

MR. McCURRY We're expressing our concern. We're indicating that it does have consequences, and certainly, we are concerned about those consequences. How to address them is something we'll have to take up at a later date.

Q Can we just stay on that. Greece has got the revolving presidency of the EC at the moment. In the United States view, is this the kind of behavior that would be fitting for a country that's got the presidency of the EC?

MR. McCURRY I don't want to comment on the EU presidency. Greece does hold the EU presidency at the moment, and they have responsibilities associated with that that really are the responsibility of the Union itself.

Q What kind of an act is this? It could be seen almost -- act of war. When Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tehran in 1967, that was seen as an act of war.

MR. McCURRY This is the kind of act that has provoked deep concern on the part of the United States, as I indicated.

Mark. Did you have another one?

Q Are you concerned that the Balkan war could spread as a result of this?

MR. McCURRY No. That's exactly why we've taken steps to ensure that it won't. That's the purpose of our deployment of troops in Macedonia, and we have made clear, repeatedly, our interest in not seeing the conflict in Bosnia spread beyond Bosnia.

Q Mike, if you can take it one more time. There's still confusion as to who would call the shots if there's an action to be taken against the Bosnian Serbs. There's a strong feeling on the part of this government that Boutros-Ghali would have to authorize the so-called icebreaker.

MR. McCURRY If action is necessary to be taken beyond the expiration of the deadline, it's action that will be taken together by the United Nations and NATO. They're working in close harmony. There are different ways in which the chain of command works through the NATO command structure and works through the political and military structures connected to UNPROFOR and the United Nations, but they are working in complete synchronization at this point.

Q Is that a way of saying that if the NATO commanders on the ground see -- and, you know, they're not eager-beavers exactly -- but they see clear violations of the ultimatum, they don't have the authority to order strikes? They have to call up the U.N. and ask if it's all right?

MR. McCURRY I will not describe Admiral Boorda as an eager-beaver, but I think his comments have been very --

Q No. I'm not talking about Admiral Boorda. I'm talking about --

MR. McCURRY I thought you said NATO commanders.

Q I'm sorry, I should have said U.N. commanders.

MR. McCURRY Oh, UNPROFOR commanders. UNPROFOR commanders have been working in very close cooperation with Admiral Boorda and others, and we don't see any discrepancy in the views. The specific question you have is, does the United Nations have to give approval for the first-time use of airstrikes? That's true. That has been true and it remains true. We are, among other reasons, working very closely with the United Nations to ensure that we have complete straight signals when that moment arises.

Q Let's go a little further on that. So far as violating the edict, I guess, on Tuzla and Srebrenica, I thought it's an established fact that the U.N. man-on-the ground -- Boutros-Ghali's First Deputy, or whatever -- can order the strikes?

MR. McCURRY I'll leave --

Q I know that's not what we're talking about now; but using that as an example, we're getting back to Boutros-Ghali has to say whether or not NATO can swing into action?

MR. McCURRY I think I'll leave it up to the U.N. Secretary General to address that. He has delegated -- on some of the questions related to action in Bosnia, he has delegated authority to Mr. Akashi, who is his Special Envoy in place on the ground. I think Mr. Akashi, if he has the authority on behalf of the United Nations to deal with any request for airstrikes, it's something that he most likely would be in contact with New York on; but I will leave it to the United Nations to describe that further.

What I will tell you is that we feel that there is very good working synchronization at this point as we go into these final hours with the United Nations. We don't expect there to be any problems in making clear that we have good lines of communication as we go into Monday.

Q Michael, to go back to Macedonia. Do we have any plans to beef up the military presence there? There's a report in the press in Macedonia this morning that the U.S. Government is planning to send 3,000 troops to Macedonia?

MR. McCURRY I heard that report earlier in the week and checked into it. I'm not aware of any plans to expand that troop presence in Macedonia; but the status of that deployment is something that is under constant review because it does involve United States troops in a presence where they're, in effect, acting as a deterrent from any spillover of a military conflict. So it's under constant review.

I'm not suggesting that there's any particular proposal to look at expanding that force. I'm not aware of any and couldn't learn of any in the last day or so; but I'd leave that to others to address, too.

Q Mike, yesterday, the subject came up that the United States was approached about participating and providing troops. The question was asked yesterday -- I'll ask again -- who, exactly, approached the United States? Was it within the U.N.? Was it the Secretary General? Can you be more specific?

MR. McCURRY I don't know who precisely. It was a discussion that was held in the context of reviewing the situation in Bosnia at the United Nations in New York. I'm not sure who participated on behalf of the United Nations. Ambassador Albright participated on behalf of the United States.

Q And can we presume that the request had the blessing of the Secretary General?

MR. McCURRY I think he's very intensely involved in working on the situation in Bosnia, but I'll leave it to the United Nations to answer that.

Q Aside from the Churkin comments, where do things stand with the Russians on the Sarajevo issue again? Can you just update? Have there been any recent contacts?

MR. McCURRY It's been very important to the United States to make sure that we are in close contact with the Government of Russia. We believe that as a member of the Security Council and as someone that we've worked with the problem of Bosnia on, it's very necessary for us to stay in close communication with them as planning unfolds; and we have done so. Q Mike, Russia apparently is going to redeploy

some 400 troops from Croatia to the Sarajevo vicinity. Do you know exactly what those troops would be doing, and does that complicate things in Sarajevo?

MR. McCURRY I don't. Actually, that's the answer that I meant earlier. I'm aware that Ambassador Churkin has apparently made that announcement. How that fits with UNPROFOR's needs on the ground, any requests that General Rose may have made for redeployment, or whether it's something that is resulting out of U.N. Headquarters in New York is something I just don't know at this point. We will find out more as we go along today.

Q A follow-up. Does the United States think it would be necessary or advisable to check with President Yeltsin before any airstrikes are launched?

MR. McCURRY As I said before, we consider it very important to remain in close contact with the Government of Russia as events in Bosnia unfold. I don't want to suggest at what level that contact would occur.

Q Is that a "yes," though, that you would check with the Russian government first?

MR. McCURRY I said we would be in close contact with them as we go into this weekend.

Q Is there an undertaking or a promise to the Russians to do that?

MR. McCURRY We, certainly, by sending Ambassador Collins there, as you know we did earlier ... We will continue to be in contact with them as the situation unfolds.

Q The state of the ultimatum seems to have been evolving this week from sort of a "move it or lose it" to a "use it and lose it." Now we're back to "move it or lose it" Some of us are being told ON BACKGROUND from U.N. sources that the idea was not to try and be too aggressive with the Serbs as long as they were making progress and as long as the cease-fire was holding.

Why is the line being hardened now? Is it because they weren't responding?

MR. McCURRY You may have been talking to people who just were not familiar with the terms of the NATO ultimatum. I apologize if you got any incorrect information.

Q But in here we've been told that there were some things short of physical control of the weapons that might be acceptable, and now we're being told that that's not the case.

MR. McCURRY I think that this got addressed in abundant detail yesterday.

I'll say it again: the Bosnian Serbs know precisely what they have to do to comply with this ultimatum. They know what will happen to them if they don't comply with this ultimatum.

Q Can I ask you about compliance?

MR. McCURRY Let's go to a question back here.

Q On Skopje again. Since you recognized Skopje, could you please clarify now the U.S. position vis-a-vis the nationality of this multinational republic which has been artificially created, as you know, by Hitler, Stalin, and Tito?

MR. McCURRY Do we have a question?

Q Very important.

MR. McCURRY The question is . . ?

Q Is the nationality.

MR. McCURRY The nationality of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It's a question that I will take so that we can address it with some precision, because you're correct that it is a multi-ethnic state.

Q Could you confirm reports that your recognition has granted the request and pressure of German Chancellor Kohl during his recent visit to Washington, DC?

MR. McCURRY I do not know whether that subject came up in the Chancellor's meeting with the President. I can ask and find out. I have seen nothing to indicate that it did come up.

Q The Greek Ambassador, Mr. Tilas, met yesterday with Mr. Oxman and today with Mr. Tarnoff. Could you tell us something about these meetings?

MR. McCURRY I only heard briefly that they had met. I've not heard a result of that meeting. I will attempt to get some further information on those meetings. It's clearly connected to the subject we were discussing earlier, which is the action by the Greek Government that has caused the United States deep concern.

Barrie.

Q Mike, I think today is the day that the Secretary General was supposed to report to the Security Council on his findings of the activities of the Croatian Government in Bosnia. Do you have any indication, as the report seemed to suggest, that that report will say that the Croatian Government and Croatian regulars have, indeed, been involved in Bosnia?

MR. McCURRY You're right. We understand that the Secretary General will shortly be reporting to the Security Council on the status of Croatian compliance with the Security Council's requirements. The Council will then consider possible further actions after reviewing the Secretary General's findings. My understanding is that's probably going to happen later today, so we don't have anything new on that.

Q You don't have any previews as to the content of that report?

MR. McCURRY No, no. We have a general idea of what the conclusions are, but we'll wait to see the report later today.

Q Can we go back to Serbian compliance? The guns by all accounts seem to be moving slowly. Maybe a third of them have been moved. Suppose -- and I hope you won't call this a hypothetical, because there's a very real possibility given the weather and all -- if this slow pace continues, will a good-faith effort be enough to forestall a retaliatory strike, or must they totally and completely comply by the deadline?

MR. McCURRY: I think that NATO has made quite clear, and certainly we would re-emphasize, that there will be no extensions of this deadline.

Q Mike, you mentioned Ambassador Collins in Moscow. There was a report yesterday that he had been unable to see President Yeltsin. Is that the case and, if so, how high did he manage to reach into the chain of command there?

MR. McCURRY: He had very good meetings at the Foreign Ministry. My understanding is that he never had any plans or any schedule that included a meeting with President Yeltsin. We checked into that after hearing some concern raised about that.

Q On another subject --

Q Another question that I think came with that question was any American intelligence or observations on the state of Mr. Yeltsin's health.

MR. McCURRY: President Yeltsin certainly looked fit when he met with U.S. officials during our summit meeting in Moscow last month. We're unaware of any significant deterioration in his health since then. We are told that he had a serious cold recently, and that led to some changes in his schedule; but we've also talked to foreign leaders who have met with him in recent days who report that he looks vigorous and fit.

Q Another subject: have you had any further success, or any more success in bringing President Aristide together with his parliamentary delegation?

MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that they are. I think they may have announced that they are having a meeting with the parliamentarians -- the President (Aristide) is meeting with the Parliamentarians this afternoon. There obviously will be a meeting between these democratically elected representatives of the Haitian people -- both the President and the parliamentarians. We hope this will produce the beginning of a healthy, constructive dialogue that will lead to a unified course of action by Haiti's democratically elected representatives because we believe that unified action is essential to a viable political solution to the political crisis in Haiti.

Q Will that be here in Washington?

MR. McCURRY: It will be here in Washington and will not be here at the Department.

Q Mike, the question was taken yesterday about U.S. contacts with Aristide. Is there an answer to that? Recent U.S. contacts with Aristide?

MR. McCURRY: There was a question taken. I know of several contacts that Ambassador Pezzullo and others have had from time to time with President Aristide. I think they've had a dialogue. They obviously have dealt with intermediaries who represent President Aristide on a regular basis. (TO STAFF) But as to most recent contacts, did we post anything specific on that?

MR. JOHNSON: No.

MR. McCURRY: We can find out. I know that there have been meetings during the course of last week.

Q Yes. This difficulty, I think, emerged on Friday when the plan emerged, and so the question went to whether Aristide was playing hard to get in the most recent days, say since last Friday.

MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware whether that is the case now or not.

Q That's why we asked if there were any meetings in the last day so we could determine if that was the case, and you said you'd take it -- you said the question would be taken yesterday, and it wasn't answered.

MR. McCURRY: Okay. I'11 find out more about specific contacts; but, clearly, now that the President has agreed to meet the parliamentarians, that maybe suggests something of an answer.

Barry.

Q The meeting today between Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister and the Secretary, specifically about the flare-up in Lebanon, and could you tell us what assurance he may have given, and did he include some admonitions that Israel shouldn't fire back?

MR. McCURRY: Your information is better than mine, Barry, because I'm not aware that they spent any length of time on that question. I think this was mostly a courtesy call. I think they discussed it very briefly, but I'm not --

Q He came down and talked to some of us and said --he said in some vague sense the Secretary had assured him that he would help in the situation in southern Lebanon. I wonder how that help would manifest itself, if the U.S. is making any appeals to people. By the way, did he -- same old question -- did the Secretary say it would be helpful if the Israelis don't shoot back. Maybe we can leave it as something somebody might be able to look at -- his view.

MR. McCURRY: I can tell you the Secretary has been directly involved in the discussions that our government has had with governments in the region. I am not going to get into any details on that, but we have been working the issue.

Q Well, without getting into details, what does the U.S. want? Does the U.S. want everybody to hold their fire?

MR. McCURRY: I think that we continue to believe that attacks such as the -- well, particularly the Katyusha attack -- are designed to disrupt the peace process. We've seen actions like this before when there has been a gathering of the peace negotiators here in Washington, and clearly the effort to disrupt the peace process is something that we condemn.

Q Has the Secretary called the Foreign Ministers of either Syria or Lebanon?

MR. McCURRY: I believe he has. I will check and make sure with certainty that he has.

Q Mike, this attack comes just a number of days after the Secretary wrote letters to Syria, Lebanon and Israel -- about what, we're not exactly sure. It also violates the agreement that he brokered last August in which the Arab parties agreed not to shell into Israel. What do you make of that? MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to attempt to analyze what the motives are of those who are conducting these attacks. I will say what's important here is that the parties have got to work to prevent these types of incidents and to prevent escalation of the violence. That is the point that we have made clear to them.

I don't know that you're right that we have necessarily sent letters. I think we have communicated our views fairly regularly to the parties, asking them to show moderation and restraint at a point at which peace has to be given a chance to flourish.

Q But, Michael, clearly Syria is not really responsive to this, and the Israeli Government is even accusing this morning Damascus to be directly responsible for this Katyusha attack against northern Israel. Are you trying to push harder on Syria?

MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to suggest one level of pressure or another level of pressure, but we've made our strong views very clear to governments in the region.

Q Mike, can I ask, have you anything to say about this plan published in the newspaper today to charge asylum -- political asylum seekers a fee?

MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that that's something that's been discussed and put out in maybe an OMB

circular that there's going to be further interagency comment on. So the State Department to my knowledge has not submitted any formal comments on that.

Apparently the draft regulations have not even been circulated from OMB into the register for comments, so I really don't have anything more. I think the INS is the one that probably is commenting on that story today.

Q But the State Department will have a voice in the interagency discussion that will ensue.

MR. McCURRY: Absolutely. Certainly on a matter like that, we would have views that we would make known in an interagency process, yes.

Q And one could assume that the United States views free immigration, and a view which is upheld by other countries, allowing their people to go without hindrance would be reflected in the view that it made in terms of accepting asylum- seekers here?

MR. McCURRY: I think some of our views in these types of matters are pretty well known. I wouldn't want to suggest, though, that we've responded to specific regulations that haven't even emerged in draft form at this point.

Q Mike, back to Syria for a second. Are you all concerned about Syria's lack of compliance with the Taif Agreement? How does that fit into the picture?

MR. McCURRY: I think we've talked about that so often that I'm not aware of any change in our views on that.

Q Mike, our Spanish service is asking me if there's anything on President Gaviria's announcement that he would run for Secretary General; if he's got the votes, if the United States is pushing for those votes, etc.?

MR. McCURRY: Yes. The United States Government does support President Gaviria's candidacy for OAS Secretary General. The United States will cast its vote for him. The United States, as well as many other member countries, has consistently sought a candidate with hemispheric stature for the position of OAS Secretary General, someone who's demonstrated a commitment to democracy and sound economic policies and exhibited strong leadership and management skills.

We agree with President Gaviria's assessment that the upcoming OAS election is critical to the future of the inter-American system as we approach the 21st century.

Q Michael (inaudible) but I'd like to finish up something on Syria. Is there a sense of regret or frustration within the Administration for the lack of tangible results after the summit, Clinton-Assad, in Geneva?

MR. McCURRY: we were under no illusions that there would be instant progress as a result of the meeting. What we hoped there would be is a continuing determined effort by the parties to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region, and the work obviously continues towards that goal.

Q And you are satisfied with the effort put by Syria into the peace process?

MR. McCURRY: The parties are here. They are meeting. They will continue to meet. We want them to make progress. We want them to make progress as fast as they can, but we also understand the realities of the process and these factors that sometimes affect the process.

Q Do you think the rise of tension in south Lebanon reflects lack of progress in the peace negotiations here in Washington?

MR. McCURRY: I think it clearly reflects that there are enemies to the peace process that use every opportunity they can find to try to disrupt the process, and that's why it's so important for the parties themselves to urge maximum restraint on whom they have influence.

Q Are the parties here making any progress at all?

MR. McCURRY: Each case has its different dynamic, and I'll leave it to the parties to describe that dynamic.

Q Haiti again. you're asking now for some kind of unified action among the democratically elected leaders of Haiti. Does this mean you're backing off the idea that President Aristide ought to appoint a Prime Minister?

MR. McCURRY: No. I think, if I'm correct, Ms. Shelly talked a little bit about that plan yesterday. I know I did the day before. We welcome the plan developed by the parliamentarians as a very useful way to move the process forward, and we hope they have a positive, constructive discussion about the plan.

Q Mike, could I switch briefly to another subject.

Q Back on Haiti for a second. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Aristide's people have put out word that he is not prepared to discuss the plan at the meeting today.

MR. McCURRY: That would be regrettable because we think that the purpose clearly the parliamentarians have in seeking a meeting with the President is to have that discussion. I certainly hope they don't sit there and find that they have nothing to discuss.

Q Next week the Senate begins debate on the balanced budget amendment. I'd like to know whether or not the Secretary has any concern about this, whether the State Department itself has any concern, how you think this potentially could impact over the long haul on U.S. commitments for foreign aid.

MR. McCURRY: The Secretary is fully supportive of the views reflected by the President and the Administration on the balanced budget amendment.

Q On Skopje, can you comment on the recent movement on the part of the 40 percent pure Albanian population of Skopje for declaration of an autonomous entity?

MR. McCURRY: I think that's a question that I'll cover in the taken question we took earlier on the issue of nationality.

Q I'm not going to ask about your position on the Partnership for Peace, because we've had two positions already on Macedonia. You know, whether they're eligible or not eligible. Maybe I will ask. Are they eligible, whatever the name of the country or the former name is? Do you want to try that today?

MR. McCURRY: I think we've tried in two straight taken questions to get an answer.

Q They don't jibe.

MR. McCURRY: And they don't jibe.

Q No, but that's all right. I guess they have to apply first.

Q They did apply.

MR. McCURRY: I think it's safe to say that there's a lot of discussion before we sign that agreement.

Q Would they be a former Partner for Peace if they were allowed to join? (Laughter)

MR. McCURRY: I think I'll let that ride. Q All right. I think we can have lunch, then.

Q (Multiple questions) MR. McCURRY: wait, wait.

Q On Qadhafi's latest proposal, he said that he was ready to send those two guys to be put on trial here in the States, given the fact that the jury will be all Muslim. Any remark, any comment on that?

MR. McCURRY: That one does come flying into me from the clear blue. (Laughter)

Q Give it a try, give it a try.

MR. McCURRY: I think it's probably not wise to respond to the Colonel's remarks without checking them a little more deliberately, but that one does not sound like much of a starter to me.

Q Mike, what is our latest assessment of the situation in southern Sudan, and is the United States involved in any efforts to halt the fighting there?

MR. McCURRY: Let me check and see. I think we've got the possibility that there will be someone who can make a little news on that in the region itself. I'll tell you more about that later when we've got some details arranged.

Actually, I do have some -- I mean, we've got some of the latest --

Q Do we have to come back tomorrow to get it?

MR. McCURRY: No.

Q Do you mean the Ambassador in Khartoum went down south?

Q Do you mean like the Secretary of State may be going there?

MR. McCURRY: No, no. Let me just hold on for a second. We have got an assessment. Let me put this together in a form that we can post as an answer and, if there's something else, I'll alert you to when we get it worked out. That might be useful, particularly for you.

Anything else?

Q No, thanks.

MR. McCURRY: Okay.

(The briefing concluded at 1:34 p.m.)

To the top of this page