U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Monday, April 4, 1994 Briefers: Robert Gelbard, Michael McCurry ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS REPORT Asst. Secretary Gelbard's Open Statement .......1-3 Syria...........................................3-5 Nigeria.......................................5,8-9 Panama..........................................5-6 Iran............................................6,8 Latin America...................................6-8 Peru ............................................7 Burma ............................................7 China ............................................7 Eastern Europe ...................................7 Haiti.............................................8 DEPARTMENT Press Corps Elections .........................9-10 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Continued Fighting/Ceasefire Efforts 10, 13-17,28-29 Ambassador Redman's Discussions with Parties .....12-13 -- Positions of Parties ........................12-13 Reported Serbian Flights in No-Fly Zone ..........13-14 Chain of Command Streamlining .......................15 ICRC/Evacuations ..............................15-16,29 SOUTH AFRICA Summit Meeting/Elections .........................17-18 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Resumption of Talks in Washington ...................18 FYR OF MACEDONIA Status of Diplomatic Relations with US ...........18-19 Report of Establishing Military Safe Zones ..........19 HAITI Human Rights Violations/US Statement .............19-20 Treatment of Repatriated Haitians ................20-22 Treatment of Haitians Applying for Asylum ........20-21 Efforts to Restore Democracy .....................22-23 ALGERIA Prospects for Civil Unrest/US Concern ...............23 NORTH KOREA Nuclear Capability/Increased Capacity.............24-26 US Conditions for Further Talks ..................26-28 Report Chinese Envoy to Visit ......................27 Status of Team Spirit Exercise ......................28 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, APRIL 4, 1994, 12:35 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon everybody. As you know, I've got a guest attraction today so I will be back to you later on in the briefing. But I'd like to begin by introducing Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters, Robert Gelbard. Ambassador Gelbard has served in his current position since November 1993. From 1991 to 1993, he was principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. He served as Ambassador to Bolivia from 1988 to 1991. A career Foreign Service office, his other overseas assignments have been in Manila, Brazil, and Paris. He's also worked in the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the Bureau of European Affairs, and the Bureau of African Affairs.
The biographical information here describes him as a native of New York City and a lifelong fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, but I, of course, would not take notice of that, myself being a San Francisco Giants fan.
He is prepared today to discuss the President's narcotics certification decisions which I think, as you know, were made public over the weekend, and the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report which the Department is releasing today.
He's got an opening statement, I believe, and then he will be able to take some questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I would like to make this statement first, and then be happy to take your questions.
On Friday, President Clinton sent to Congress his decision on narcotics certification for the 26 major drug producing and transit countries. The State Department also sent Congress its Annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. You should all have the report which describes the anti-narcotics efforts of Europe, the former Soviet republics, plus all countries that have received U.S. anti-narcotics assistance in the past two years.
In his directive on international narcotics policy signed last November, the President instructed his Administration to conduct the certification process strictly and aggressively. This year's decisions reflect that position.
Before I talk about the specific decisions, let me briefly describe the two-stage certification process. First, the Foreign Assistance Act requires that the President and the Secretary of State prepare a list of the major drug producing and transit countries. This year's list was based on information from last year's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report as well as other sources.
The President transmitted the list to Congress in early January. Twenty-six drug producing and drug transit countries are on the list, and therefore subject to the second stage of the process -- the certification decisions.
Half of most types of U.S. foreign assistance to these countries is withheld by law, pending the President's certification decisions. He must determine whether, during the course of 1993, they cooperated fully with the United States or took adequate steps on their own to meet the goals and objectives of the 1988 U.N. Convention on Drug Trafficking.
The 1988 Convention obligates countries to outlaw and prosecute illicit drug production, trafficking, and money laundering; to restrict chemicals which can be used to process illegal drugs; and to cooperate in international drug control efforts.
The law provides the President three certification options:
First, he may certify a country's counter-narcotics performance.
Second, he may deny certification.
Third, for a country whose counter-narcotics performance does not qualify for certification, he may make a "national interest certification." This is done when vital U.S. national interests require that the U.S. be able to cooperate, provide aid, or vote for assistance from the multilateral development banks, despite the country's failure to meet full narcotics certification standards.
If the President determines that full certification or national interest certification is appropriate, then the aid which had been withheld is released.
However, if the President denies certification, most categories of assistance are immediately cut off. This means cutting off most forms of aid under the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and financing through the Export-Import Bank. The U.S. also is obliged to vote against any loans to the country in the multilateral development banks.
The President notified Congress of his determinations last Friday. The law gives Congress 45 calendar days, if it chooses, to disapprove the certifications by enacting a joint resolution.
This year, the President certified the following countries: The Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Thailand, and Venezuela.
The President granted "national interest certifications" to Afghanistan, Bolivia, Laos, Lebanon, Panama, and Peru.
The President denied certification to Burma, Iran, Nigeria, and Syria.
In doing this, the President employed very stringent standards in arriving at this determinations. The certification process was objective and carefully considered. We hope this year's certification decisions send a clear message: This Administration is serious about combatting international narcotics trafficking.
The issue is an important part of our foreign policy and our bilateral relations, especially with the major drug producing and transit countries.
My message to countries that did not receive full certifications is that this Administration will not conduct business as usual on narcotics certification decisions. We will be taking a hard look at their anti-drug efforts, and the efforts of all the major drug producing and transit countries against next year. The United States will cooperate with other countries, but the cooperation must be reciprocated.
That's the end of my statement. I'd be happy to take your questions.
Q Could you tell us what changes there were on the second and third categories compared with last year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I think we'd have to post that. I want to be very clear about this. Off the top of my head, George, I would say the additions on national interest certification, I think, include Bolivia, Laos, Panama, and Peru, which received full certification last year -- I believe.
The addition to the denial of certification was Nigeria.
Q Could you describe or just tell whether there was some controversy of placing Syria on the list of countries that could not be certified? That is to say, did the State Department want to place them on it while the White House, for reasons of the Middle East peace process, wanted to keep them off?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: The Secretary recommended de- certification to the President. There was considerable discussion about this issue. But in the final analysis, that was the Secretary's recommendation. I don't want to go into, obviously, the internal deliberations in the Department or within the Administration as a whole.
I will say that some of the press reporting was inaccurate on some of the give-and-take.
There was some progress in the sense that there has been increased eradication in the Bekaa Valley, an area for which we hold Syria, at least, partially accountable, given its control over that area -- eradication of opium poppies. On the other hand, we have remained quite concerned about trafficking activities that continue through that region and the considerable presence of both cocaine and heroin laboratories. In addition, we remain very concerned about the problem of government officials -- military and other -- who continue to go unpunished for their protection of trafficking activities.
Q Could you expand on that a little bit? Do you have like a blueprint that you've given the Syrians of things that they could do or should do either unilaterally or in cooperation with the United States? And what kind of response have you gotten if you are trying to point the way to the Syrians for how they could get off this list?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: There's been considerable discussion with the Syrians in the past, as I understand it. What has been quite clear -- certainly, in recent times, since they were denied certification last year -- was that there was a clear explanation of why they were denied certification. This is a subject which has been discussed bilaterally with some consistency.
Under the umbrella of the new bilateral discussion mechanism that was set up in the wake of the meeting between President Clinton and Assad, we expect to be holding further discussions with them over the course of the Spring.
Q On this specific issue --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: On this specific issue.
Q -- to clean up their act?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Yes.
Q So Clinton and Assad talked about it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Yes. It's one of the issues which remains, for obvious reasons, a major bilateral problem.
Q Your jargon threw me for a minute. What exactly do you mean by "de-certification" -- when you say Christopher recommended de-certification?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: As I said in my opening statement, there are these three categories. We denied certification.
Q They were already denied --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: They had been denied it before, but it's an annual renewable process.
Q Could you discuss Nigeria's position? What's the situation there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Nigeria has become a major source of trafficking around the world, as Nigerian trafficking organizations have become one of the most extraordinarily organized phenomena of carrying heroin and cocaine, both into the United States and Europe. We calculate that some 35 to 40 percent of all heroin coming into the United States comes from Nigerians who bring it into this country.
These are not random mules, or individuals who are doing this on a freelancing basis. These are people working for very organized groups which we have felt is with the protection of government officials who are travelling to Asia and then carrying heroin into the United States, into Europe, into other areas.
It's a problem which has been growing and has now achieved enormous proportions.
Q Regarding Panama, sir, could you discuss whether this is the first time that Panama has failed to receive full certification, particularly with regard to the time of the Noriega regime -- even the years when he was under indictment as a drug trafficker? And could you also explain what considerations caused you to move Panama off of that list this year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I don't know the answer to your first question. I just don't know whether we have not certified them fully in the past.
Our concern with Panama is that while they have taken, or tried to take some steps in a few areas, such as eradicating coca that's been found in their southern border near Colombia, Panama has increasingly become a major money laundering center. We have held ample discussions with Panamanian authorities, as have international banking organizations, about the extraordinarily serious concerns we have that their financial sector and non-financial organizations -- institutions in Panama -- have become the major centers for money laundering in Latin America.
We've seen this in the Colon free zone and we've seen it lots of other areas.
We have been discussing it, as I say, with Panamanian authorities and we hope there will be significant improvement this year.
Q They have an election in about a month. Is this part of the debate leading up to the election? Are there anti- drug candidates in the race, to your knowledge?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I'm not sure that that has been a major subject for debate within the campaign which may be, in fact, part of the problem.
We feel it's critical if Panama is going to establish a respectable financial sector, and we would like to help them achieve that. But there are some fundamental rules of the game that are needed to protect legitimate financial organizations and entities that are operating in Panama, as well as for the country to really help buttress their own democracy.
Q Is the Iranian Government directly involved in narcotics trafficking? And, if so, what does that say about their commitment to Islam which has very strong rules against that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: The Iranian Government has certainly at least permitted the use of its territory as a major point of transit for heroin passing through from south Asia to Europe and then onto the United States. We have seen this to be an increasingly significant phenomenon over the course of the last year and have not witnessed any steps by the Iranian Government to try to curtail this heroin traffic.
This is a basic problem, in part, because we have seen heroin production increasing dramatically in Afghanistan, largely aimed at Western Europe but also toward the United States, as we've seen heroin consumption rising here.
Q What are some of the -- for someone who studies this -- some of the more alarming conclusions that you have come to? In the report, you talk about mixed results of the different efforts; but you also had a number of really interesting trend lines. Can you go over some of those trends in terms of the flow of the different types of drugs and rise?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Well, first, in this hemisphere, we've been quite concerned about the efforts, or the lack thereof, on the part of some governments which have caused a lack of progress in some areas on the flow of cocaine into this country.
There has been -- I want to be very clear about this -- in Peru, in particular, there has been a significant decrease in coca leaf production, but that seems to be due to natural causes --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Exactly -- which the United States had nothing to do with. We've been very concerned that the governments have not taken the measures that we feel are really required to really curtail or cut back significantly on the production cycle all the way through; and we really hope that we, working together with them, are able to produce much greater results over the course of this year.
Second, though, we are seriously concerned about a fairly significant increase in heroin production and traffic into the United States and Europe coming through -- originating in Afghanistan, as I mentioned earlier, but particularly toward the United States from Burma.
We've seen a significant increase in heroin production flowing out of Burma through other countries in southeast Asia. There's serious concern in countries such as China about the increased trafficking through its territory passing through into the United States, much of which, as I said earlier, is being carried by Nigerians but also other trafficking groups.
A lot of concern, too, about traffic on the increase through the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We are seriously concerned, as are our allies in Western Europe, as are the governments in those regions, about the potential this may have to undercut the consolidation of the democratic processes in these countries.
So we look forward to working with our allies and those countries to try to establish mechanisms that will be more effective to cut down on trafficking and production.
Q The flow of heroin and cocaine down into the United States -- is it up?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I'd say the flow of heroin is significantly up, but starting from a very low base; significant higher purity levels. We're seeing an increase -- well, change, in the method of people taking heroin.
Cocaine has tailed off somewhat, as I understand it, although it has been holding steady in terms of hard core users.
Q So how do you measure success of a program like this, as you see an increase in heroin into the United States? You're sort of nibbling at the edges of a huge problem.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I think the President's strategy -- particularly in the Western hemisphere, and we're working now on trying to develop an international heroin strategy -- is really geared at trying to aim at the source countries. We're trying to work with those countries aiming at dismantling the organizations and eliminating production -- illicit production.
The true test is going to be measured, we feel, by how much we're able to cut back there as well as continuing to try to increase dramatically the results of the emphasis that the President has on demand reduction within the United States.
Q Can you talk, please, about the role of Haiti as a drug transshipment point? And, in particular, the role of the Haitian military and Messrs. Cedras, and Francois in particular?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We have continued to look at that issue, particularly because there has been considerable public attention to the question. We know that there has been some transit activity through Haiti over the course of the last several years, as there have been through other places in the Caribbean.
It has been very difficult to quantify significant transit of drugs going through Haiti.
Q And the role of the military and Cedras and Francois?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: There is belief that there are some people in the military who have been and are involved. But we are continuing to look at this issue with great attention.
Q For a country like Syria or Iran, which doesn't receive U.S. aid -- it's barred from military assistance and most military sales -- what does being on this list mean in practical terms?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Certainly, with a country such as Iran, it has little practical effect in terms of U.S. relations. But I feel it has significant political and symbolic effect in terms of the condemnation which it will accrue from being labeled as a country which supports drug trafficking or does nothing to try to abate it.
Q The U.S. relationship --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: In the case of Syria -- excuse me, George -- we have a dialogue. We are hoping to improve that dialogue. The Syrian Government is well aware that this is one of the top priority issues which will be discussed in the course of that dialogue, as I mentioned earlier. We expect to discuss this in the course of the next few months.
Q The U.S. relationship with Burma is minimal. There's no Ambassador there, and there's not much interaction between the two countries. Couldn't the case be made for upgrading the level of representation to engage the Burmese in a discussion about this since they are perhaps the primary culprit vis-a-vis heroin?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: They are the primary culprit. The question is, how culpable the regime really is and whether we are able to achieve much by engaging the regime. These are issues that we're going to have to try to explore over the course of time in the very short term because we obviously want to get to the source of the problem.
Q On the heroin strategy you were talking about, I don't understand how a concentration on source countries makes any sense because your report talks about -- first of all, poppies grow in many different places; and, second of all, they grow in many places where we have no influence. So why does a source -- I can understand why a source-country strategy makes sense with cocaine, but I don't understand for heroin?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Because as it happens at this point there are about four or five sources of a fundamental supply of the product. We really need to figure out how to get to those sources. There's no immediate fungibility between moving production from one area -- say, from Burma -- to another area quite readily.
In point of fact, production has gone down rather significantly in some of the neighboring countries.
What we want to look at is a combination of the source countries as well as transit and try to develop some regional strategies. This is something we're going to be developing over the course of the next couple of months.
MR. McCURRY: Thank you, Ambassador Gelbard.
I'm open for other questions, if you have any.
MR. GEDDA: Just let me say that the State Department Correspondents Association has elections of officers before the briefing on Wednesday at 12:15, and you're all invited to come and cast your vote in this free and --
Q Historic. Free and fair elections.
MR. McCURRY: And transparent election. Let the record show that we don't express any views whatsoever here from the podium on candidates. Who's running, by the way?
Q Fixed slate.
MR. McCURRY: Fixed slate? We're happy to have the record reflect the importance of this coming election to which the State Department itself will be paying very close attention and monitoring carefully, looking for any example of fraud or abuse.
Q We're going to lock the door. Believe me.
MR. McCURRY: We probably have nine governmental organizations that would be willing to monitor this election, if there be any desire.
Q Mike, I think the record will also show that Gorazde is a haven by U.S. definition, and the Serbs were warned, I think last Spring, that should they pummel the poor civilians in that town, they run the risk of retaliation of which the U.S. would be a part.
I don't understand how that squares with what the Defense Secretary said yesterday. Could you put the two together for us?
MR. McCURRY: We are pursuing through UNPROFOR and through our involvement in NATO a variety of steps that we believe can help accelerate the peace process that's been underway. Now, with the signing of the agreement between the Bosnian Government and the Croatians and the Bosnian Croats, there is a momentum for peace that we are now attempting to extend to the Bosnian Serbs. We need to bring them into this peace process and get the fighting to stop. That is ultimately the purpose being pursued by the United Nations through UNPROFOR. It's the purpose that we are pursuing through our participation in NATO-related activities.
Gorazde is a safe area so declared by the United Nations. Whether or not it would be possible to extend the type of success we've had through NATO in Gorazde is something that, frankly, we will have to look at as the situation in Gorazde deteriorates.
As Secretary Perry said yesterday, we're not today, at this moment, looking at extensions of the use of airpower as it might relate to Gorazde. But you could conceive of a situation like Sarajevo arising where we might consider it. And, indeed, there --
Q Wait a minute. The U.S. was on both tracks regarding Sarajevo. There's all sorts of eloquent quotes that go all the way back for centuries of how diplomacy, reinforced by the threat of force, is more effective.
I think you would have claimed that about Sarajevo -- that your combination had some positive results. Why go only on one track, which you seem to be saying, while Gorazde, today, is being pummeled mercilessly.
MR. McCURRY: We have not ruled considering extending the type of success we had in Sarajevo with the exclusion zone to other parts of Bosnia.
Q What does it take? How many people -- is there some --
MR. McCURRY: Those are exactly the types of questions that you have to look at: What would it take? Would it enhance the overall effort for peace?
Remember, in the case of Sarajevo, we always said that any steps or action that we took had to contribute to the overall peace process. We had to know whether it would be effective or not.
In the case of Sarajevo, we had reason to believe that we could bring an end to civilian casualties. We had to know exactly what the mission was that was being defined either for NATO or for UNPROFOR. Those are the types of questions that I think we are examining now within the United States Government. While we're not prepared today, as the Secretary said, to make recommendations concerning multilateral action through the United Nations, that is a question that we're looking at.
Q Are you worried that if you were to move in that direction at this moment that you would reinforce an attitude on the part of the Muslims that they could make more territorial gains by continuing the war?
MR. McCURRY: We're in very close contact with the Bosnian Government. I think they know the type of diplomacy that we are pursuing at the moment. But I think we do need to be conscience that those steps we take are designed to encourage the peace process.
I think as Secretary Perry indicated very clearly yesterday, we are not going to enter this war on behalf of one of the belligerants.
Q There was some reporting over the weekend to the effect that the Muslims have indicated to the United States that they wanted more territory than perhaps had been discussed. Is this true?
MR. McCURRY: I can tell you that Ambassador Redman has had now very detailed conversations with the Bosnian Government, reviewing their position. He was, as you know, in Pale last week and met with the Bosnian Serbs. At this point, it's not useful for me to tell you much about the nature of his diplomacy. He clearly is at a point now where he is engaged in between the two sides who must get on with the business of reaching a political settlement and bringing this war to an end.
Suffice it to say that he has explored these positions with them, but we are not in a position now to comment on the respective positions the parties are taking. We know that they say things publicly. But as in any negotiation, they say things publicly and then they continue to negotiate.
Q Just to clarify. You're saying that right now, at this minute, the U.S. is not prepared to do anything militarily, but that that very question is being discussed between the various agencies -- the question of U.S. military intervention under a NATO umbrella?
MR. McCURRY: I would say how you would address this situation similar to the Sarajevo model in which we acted not unilaterally but in concert with our NATO allies and then with the United Nations itself. That was the process used in the case of Sarajevo. Whether or not that type of process or that model would be effective in addressing the shelling going on in Gorazde is something that we are examining. We're not prepared at this point to say we are initiating any steps, for example, with the North Atlantic Council or within the United Nations.
But, certainly, the situation in Gorazde compels a very close look by the United States.
Q But we are studying it?
MR. McCURRY: I would say it's accurate to say we are studying a range of things that the United States might do in cooperation with UNPROFOR and NATO to address this situation in Gorazde; yes.
Q Don't you think you are encouraging the Serbs? You could just say nothing. Just leave it up to the Serbs -- that they won't risk any airpower from the United States?
MR. McCURRY: I didn't say that.
Q Perry is saying that we are not going -- you just said that we are not ending the war on behalf of one of the belligerants.
MR. McCURRY: That's correct.
Q During an offensive of the Serbs, saying that means that you just let them do what they want?
MR. McCURRY: No, I wouldn't say that. We would not enter into direct hostilities on behalf of one side or the other but we have used airpower, and the threat of airpower effectively in the past.
I think as Secretary Perry indicated, you could conceive of a situation like Sarajevo where that model might be useful again.
Q Can I go over a couple of details of things that appear to be happening in Bosnia? One is reports of helicopter movement by the Serbs, moving troops in and around. Why are those not fair targets for control of air space?
MR. McCURRY: We can't confirm the accounts we have seen in the press of helicopter flights. But, obviously, there are a number of people looking into this, including UNPROFOR.
NATO aircraft are patrolling the "no-fly" zone. I've got some information -- I don't know whether this has come from UNPROFOR or not -- on the flights that have been banned under U.N. Security Council Resolution 781 and how they operate.
On February 28, as you know, there was a direct action that did enforce the "no-fly" zone. Those were under conditions in which two warnings had been issued. The violators ignored the warnings and the pilot witnessed the release of ordnance from the aircraft.
Whether or not those were the situations that exist related to helicopter flights or not is something that we'll have to find out more from UNPROFOR and NATO about.
You all know probably from your contacts with NATO and UNPROFOR how NATO interprets the "no-fly" zone as it relates to helicopters and how they enforce it effectively, cognizant of what their own needs are and what their assessments are. We've demonstrated at least once in the recent past that there is no hesitancy on the part of the West to enforce that "no-fly" zone, in the case of ordnance being dropped and hostilities being engaged in --
Q -- by troops is different?
MR. McCURRY: There are movements that take place by helicopter of not only military personnel but also diplomatic personnel and others. That's something that NATO has been conscious of.
Q But you cannot confirm that there have been troops movements by helicopter by Serbs and Bosnians?
MR. McCURRY: I can't confirm. We are looking into the reports that we have seen.
Q The continued use of Serbian forces inside Bosnian Serb areas, do you have any general comment on that? You confirm that there are large chunks of Serbian forces fighting in this war now?
MR. McCURRY: You mean Serbian regular army units?
Q Serbian regular army troops and tanks?
MR. McCURRY: We've indicated in the past that we are aware that they are fighting. I don't know that I have anything new on that. I'll see if I can get something for tomorrow that provides a more current assessment on that.
Q A couple of thoughts, based on what you had said. You may be saying -- if that's what Mr. Perry and the Administration means. Maybe you can clarify. "Enter the war" means on the ground? When he excludes entering the war now, he's not excluding the use of airpower?
MR. McCURRY: He was clear in indicating that he would not use airpower to enter the side on behalf of one of the belligerants. That's consistently something that we've indicated in the past. Our use of airpower is designed to accomplish very select objectives, very specific missions, for example, as we did in Sarajevo, that are designed ultimately to advance the peace process; not to further the position of one of the belligerants engaged in battle on the ground.
Q The way this labor is divided, isn't the United States the lead country in NATO so far as the air duties might be? The suggestion is that we're conferring -- whatever -- with the allies.
Aren't we leading? Isn't the U.S. in the leadership position when it comes to airpower? It always -- it has been.
MR. McCURRY: We have been the principal contributor through a variety of NATO efforts, including humanitarian airdrops and airlift through "no-fly" zone enforcement, through a willingness to provide close air support if called upon by UNPROFOR.
We've clearly played a very strong role in NATO related to the air strike, and I think it is true to say that within the context of those things being conducted by NATO, we've taken a leadership role. That's right.
Q But we are not taking a leadership role at this moment, urging NATO or the North Atlantic Council to do anything on Gorazde?
MR. McCURRY: We said, as of today -- as the Secretary said -- we have not initiated anything at the North Atlantic Council. As I said earlier, whether or not that's a step that we would take is something that's being looked at by the United States Government.
Q U.N. troops -- I think British troops -- came under attack in a couple of incidents in the last few days. That is obviously one of the contacts that airpower could be used. Were there any requests in that case for close air support?
Another question: What is the status of the chain of command that was supposed to be streamlined? Perry was asked about that yesterday and he said, "They say they've streamlined it. We're not sure that they really did."
MR. McCURRY: They are streamlining the chain of command, but that's a UNPROFOR-NATO question. I'm not the best prepared to deal with that.
I was not aware of any request from British UNPROFOR troops for close air support, but the offer of close air support to UNPROFOR troops that request assistance under attack stands and remains valid.
Q Does the Administration think there needs to be additional U.N. consideration or action before going forward with a NATO op -- if they do decide to go forward with a NATO operation for Gorazde? Is the U.N. still in the loop on that, or is it just now a NATO decision?
MR. McCURRY: We believe that the provisions of the June 2- June 9 NATO communiques stand.
Q One more on Bosnia. Does the United States support the actions of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bosnia in evacuating civilians from these areas -- in effect, sort of benign ethnic cleansing?
MR. McCURRY: We are aware certainly that the ICRC does plan that movement. It's very much described by the ICRC which has to address this question as a last resort, given the status of the 7,000-or-so people who remain in a position where they have to be evacuated to Croatia or face the very real prospect of dying.
I think even Prime Minister Silajdzic has indicated that the Bosnian Government itself understands the situation that they are in. Again, I don't take a position, or the United States doesn't take a position on the ICRC's best determination of what's necessary to save lives; but we certainly do take a very strong position on the type of ethnic cleansing that has occurred in northwest Bosnia, around Prijedor and Banja Luka and have said so repeatedly and often.
Q Wait a minute. You don't take a position on evacuating?
MR. McCURRY: The ICRC needs to make the best judgments themselves. They make independent judgments on what's necessary to save lives. We fully support the work of the ICRC, but it's up to them to make the type of decision on what's necessary to save lives and how to do so in a way that doesn't contribute to further violence, and those are tough calls.
Q It is a tough call. The U.S. has no position? Isn't that cop-out in terms of --
MR. McCURRY: It's not a cop-out. It's the case of the United States allowing the ICRC to continue to do the incredible work it's been doing.
Q Can I ask you another one about the position on Gorazde?
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q You said twice, I think, at least, that the U.S. doesn't want to enter the war on the side of one side or the other. Is there some judgment that both sides are at fault for what is going on in that city; that there's enough blame -- as it was said by the previous Administration, which your folks criticized -- there's enough blame to go around --
MR. McCURRY: There's a lot of fighting underway that we're trying to bring to an end. There's fighting in some parts of Bosnia -- different types of offenses involving different participants and different places. But Gorazde is very clearly a case in which there has been Bosnian Serb shelling in recent days that is bringing -- and has been for months and months now -- which has imperiled that city and which the United Nations, through UNPROFOR, has attempted to address.
Q Could it be that the U.S. -- I've got to think in terms of the on-going process, which seems to be working today in Croatia. It's positive there. Is there concern that if you did something to rescue or try to assist civilians, the Serbs would walk out on you and your diplomacy would be at a loss, or what?
MR. McCURRY: I think you're correct that we have seen some hopeful developments elsewhere in Bosnia, particularly as it relates to the agreement between the Bosnian Government and Croatia. We're trying to accelerate that process and see if we can't bring that type of process to other parts of Bosnia.
The fighting, however, continues certainly in eastern Bosnia and around Gorazde and elsewhere. We, as I say, are looking at ways in which the international community might be able to address that.
One more? Last one?
Q Sorry. Does it mean that if the Serbs breaks the lines, the defensive lines of Gorazde and enter the city, you will -- where does start the June NATO communique?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what might trigger the communiques.
Q They are reporting that they're breaking the lines now.
MR. McCURRY: There have been a variety of reports that we're watching very carefully. Yes.
Q Just to follow up on Barry's question. So, we don't want to jeopardize the progress. It may be seen that --
MR. McCURRY: I didn't say that. Don't put words in my mouth.
Q I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. I'm trying to get you to issue forth some --
MR. McCURRY: What's the question?
Q Are you saying that there is some concern that air strikes, or whatever, on Gorazde might somehow retard the process, the successful process that's on-going?
MR. McCURRY: I think it's our view that any use of airpower or threatened use of airpower, as in the case of Sarajevo, be done in a manner that contributes to the overall search for peace in Bosnia. Nothing should be done that complicates the business of getting the warring parties to cease the hostilities, to reach a political settlement which can then be effectively implemented by the international community.
Q Mike, can I get a reaction to two, I think, positive events? One is the peace talks in South Africa, and the other is the PLO-Israeli agreement? Either, whatever you'd like.
Mr. McCURRY: On both of those, let me address them separately. I think in the case of South Africa, there will be a four-way summit between the leadership on Friday. I think that is a very hopeful development, something the United States itself had encouraged, and we certainly hope that a result of this summit is an agreement on the part of all the factions within South Africa to proceed with the elections in an atmosphere of non-violence and to allow the people of South Africa to freely express their will in the coming election.
In the case of the Middle East, we are very encouraged by what is clearly an acceleration of some of the negotiations surrounding the Declaration of Principles, but I think it's best for the parties themselves that have been negotiating intensely, to address themselves to what type of progress they're making.
Q Do we know when talks begin here again? It's the 16th? Is that --
Mr. McCURRY: It's April. We have not set a date.
Q You know, again, this past Friday, Israel Radio, today it's the Egyptians turn to have the Secretary go out there.
Mr. McCURRY: That's right.
Q Has that gotten to be more of a reality?
Mr. McCURRY: I think it's now a fairly routine that various people place the Secretary of State in the Middle East. I think that will be true months from now, next week. When we've got something to say on his travel schedule, we'll certainly tell you, but there's nothing that I'm aware of that's officially placing him at any travel schedule in the region.
Yes. We'll go here and then Alan.
Q About diplomatic relations between the United States and Macedonia, when they will be established?
Mr. McCURRY: Negotiations are still underway involving Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz. He's been in the region and been discussing both with the Government of Greece and Athens and with officials of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Skopje -- 0arious issues related to that question. Nothing new from where we were last week on that.
Q Excuse me, do you connect now the establishing of diplomatic relations with these negotiations between Macedonia and Greece?
Mr. McCURRY: Yes, just as I did last week. Yes. Alan.
Q So there is no more differences between the White House and State Department considering establishing --
Mr. McCURRY: No differences between the White House and the State Department.
Q And one more question, please: What you can say about some reports that American officials didn't disagree with some Greek plans to enter inside -- military -- to create military safe zone, about 20 miles into Macedonia?
Mr. McCURRY: I'm not aware of those reports, but I'll look into them.
Q On Friday you put out a statement on Haiti, talking about a great increase in violence there which seems to coincide with the divisions between the United States and Aristide. Do you see any connection between those two things, and is there anything that the international community can do to protect Aristide supporters in Haiti?
Mr. McCURRY: We did, as you just said, on Friday had a very tough statement that we did issue concerning human rights abuse and violence in Haiti. What we can do is to do exactly what our Embassy in Port-au-Prince has been doing, which is to very consistently and directly report on those human rights violations, to share that information with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, which has an international civilian mission and which operates there, and to develop every bit of information that can be treated both publicly and then used by the international community to attempt to address the ongoing political crisis in Haiti.
That's what they've done. I think they've done in many cases -- I'm speaking of our Embassy staff in Port-au- Prince, but certainly there are others connected to some of both the international mission and also non-governmental organizations that are operating there that have done a very patient job of documenting these human rights abuses for the attention of the world community, and that work will certainly continue.
Q That's it?
Mr. McCURRY: What they're doing about is the program of international sanctions that have been adopted by the United Nations. You're aware of the discussion that we have at the United Nations about finding ways to increase pressure to bear on the Haitian civilian and -- or Haitian military and police authorities to attempt --
Q How long have those discussions been going on at the United Nations to increase the pressure on the Haitian Government, and what action have they taken?
Mr. McCURRY: They've been going on since the beginning of the year.
Q Mike, what about reports that political dissidents who have been returned to Haiti by the United States have subsequently been murdered and in some cases pulled out of queues just stepping off the boat by Haitian officials and have disappeared?
Mr. McCURRY: You're talking about Howard French's piece in The New York Times, probably, but we believe in general Haitian people who are interdicted and then returned are generally not mistreated. There is one incident in which a returnee was struck in the eye by a port official that received heavy press coverage. U.S. Embassy officials intervened in that case and the port captain apologized for the incident. We understand the offending police officer was transferred.
That's the first time that we're aware of that a returnee has been harmed in the port area itself upon return. Embassy officers also remain in contact with those who have been returned to see what type of treatment they get, because, as you know, one of the aspects of our return policy is that we do follow up with people who are returned to see if they want to make application through our in- country processing centers in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien and Les Cayes where actually officials will process any requests for transfer back to the United States -- processing in a way that protects the individual from the likelihood, if not the certainty, of death on the high seas by taking their lives in their hands and entering out in these unseaworthy vessels.
The Embassy, in the cases where they have followed up, they have determined in most cases they find that people are largely economic migrants. However, those who claim political persecution are given interviews with INS officers to determine if they meet criteria necessary for refugee status. If so, they are permitted entry into the United States.
Q May I follow that --
Mr. McCURRY: I was looking for cases.
Q With the death rate that you, yourself, reported in your statement on Friday, I think you referred to 70 people being killed, it's obviously very dangerous to be a political opponent of the military regime in Haiti. So how can you maintain a position that those people have to be processed in-country when clearly they're being killed at the rate of scores every month?
Mr. McCURRY: Because there are ways in which they can apply for refugee status and attempt to exit the country and come to the United States. We're trying to encourage that process as opposed to a process that might lead to the deaths of many of these same people if they attempted to flee the country in ways in which they would put their own lives in jeopardy, working with unscrupulous elements in Haiti that are clearly willing to exploit them for financial gain.
Q Just one, I'm sorry, excuse me, Mark. But from the time that they apply for asylum in-country, can you then guarantee their safety until they're processed?
Mr. McCURRY: If they meet the requirements of the U.S. law and if we are able, as we have been in the past, to have follow-up contact with them through our Embassy, that certainly is something that encourages them to be safe from any belligerence on the part of Haitian authorities, and that has had some effect. We do believe our ability to follow up with some of these cases, remain in contact with them, has in fact helped protect some of those involved.
Q Mike, you cited the Saturday French story which says, "In recent months nearly every time the United States Coast Guard has returned fleeing boat people to Haiti, plainclothes agents have pulled returnees out of Red Cross processing lines and hauled them away for arrest." Are you saying that's not happening?
Mr. McCURRY: No. I'm saying that we're aware of -- I think we're aware of about ten cases in which that has happened in the port area. People have been detained by Haitian authorities say because they are believed to have been connected to putting together the out-migration in the first place, either arranging for the use of the vessels or that they are somehow or other by Haitian authorities considered responsible for putting together the group that is leaving.
Of the ten cases that we know of where people have been detained are three who remain in detention, I'm told by our Embassy staff.
Q Do you have any report on what happens to these ten or the three in detention? Does the Embassy know how they're treated?
Mr. McCURRY: They have some ability to follow up on what their conditions are, and they make inquiries of the Haitian authorities about what the status of those are who are detained.
Q But are they physically mistreated or intimidated?
Mr. McCURRY: As I say, in general we're not aware of mistreatment that occurs.
Q And the other seven?
Mr. McCURRY: I think they were released, but I'm not -- they were released, but I'm not sure what their current status is.
Q Mike, you say that these cases have to be judged against U.S. law which gives asylum to those who have a reasonable fear of persecution. Given the state of persecution -- general persecution and anarchy and violence, gangsters, in Haiti, does that change the standards by which you judge a reasonable fear?
Mr. McCURRY: I think the in-country conditions are examined as they examine the refugee process. I'm not sure how they apply that criteria in the case of Haiti, but I can check further on that.
Q Let me come back to my original question which was that you talk about an increase in killings and murders dating from January, and that's the time at which the ultimatum by the Four Friends expired without anything else having been done since then, and it's also the time in which a split emerged between your Administration and President Aristide. Are those things not unconnected, and is it not a reasonable implication to infer that the military in Haiti, seeing they have nothing further to fear from the international community which sets deadlines and allows them to lapse without any action being taken, now feels unconstrained to go after its opponents and kill them?
Mr. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any split between the United States and President Aristide. We, I think, want the same thing President Aristide wants, which is a return of democracy to Haiti and his return as the duly elected President.
We have been working diligently within the world body at the United Nations and through the OAS and the United Nations to devise some process that can make that happen. That ultimately will address the situation that people face who are currently subject to human rights abuses in Haiti as well. I think you're aware that we have recently presented to President Aristide and to Haitian military authorities some new ideas to try to stimulate the political process to in a sense enhance the same process that's been underway since Governors Island. We'd certainly like to see those steps that we've recommended proceed to an effective conclusion, because they can result in all of the things that would lead to the transformation that needs to take place in Haiti and an end to the political crisis through the return of the duly elected President and the freely expressed will of the Haitian people would be then allowed to be placed in the form of a government.
Q On a different subject, there's been a couple of interesting, even alarming, articles recently in The New York Times about the situation in Algeria, and quoting Algerian officials as predicting that we may see a Yugoslav or Afghan style breakup of that country with enormous consequences, particularly for France, vis-a-vis refugee flows if something like that happened.
Is the United States paying any attention to this? Any thoughts on it?
Mr. McCURRY: We do. I don't have anything prepared today on that, but I would throw you to something that I think was a very detailed description of U.S. policy as it relates to Algeria, and then a discussion of the situation as we understand it in Algeria. I believe some time in the third week of March -- it may have been March 22 -- Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Parris from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs testified on the Hill and did a very detailed treatment on how we see political conditions in Algeria, the fighting between the various factions in Algeria, and what their ramifications were both for refugee flows and others.
I would draw your attention to that. I don't have that handy with me, but I think it was a useful treatment, and it certainly did reflect the growing concern the United States feels about the situation in Algeria.
Back here and then Carol.
Q My name is Betty Brannan, and I write for the Panamanian newspaper, La Prensa.
Mr. McCURRY: Hello.
Q And, as was noted earlier here, there are elections coming up on May 8, and I wondered if I could ask you, did anyone in the United States Government is paying or whether the State Department is paying attention to those upcoming elections, and which of any of the seven Presidential candidates enjoy American support?
Mr. McCURRY: Not surprisingly, the United States does not interfere in the internal political dynamic of another country. I don't have handy with me an assessment of the coming elections, but I'll see if we can generate one. As is usually the case, we refrain from any direct commentary while an election period is underway, so that citizens of the country can exercise their own free will by voting.
Q On North Korea, apparently international inspectors have found that Pyongyang has doubled its capacity to produce plutonium, and I was wondering what the U.S. assessment of this is. Is there now a conclusion that Pyongyang is just determined to go forward with a nuclear program regardless of all the entreaties of the international community?
Mr. McCURRY: There's not that conclusion. I think that we are aware that they had made modifications in this second reprocessing line. We've learned that in greater detail from the information that we got from Director General Blix of the IAEA. Obviously, this is a disturbing development and underscores the danger posed by North Korea's nuclear program, which is why we have been addressing it so carefully and aggressively with others in the international community.
It's important that we have not seen any evidence at this point that North Korea has separated any plutonium over the last three years. That would indicate a change of status in their program that would be alarming and that would lead us to suspend any possible dialogue with North Korea. But the fact that they have increased that capacity is something that, as I say, we find disturbing.
Q When did you first find out that they had increased that capacity?
Mr. McCURRY: We have various ways of understanding things about the North Korean program. Our most recent information directly about that program comes from the observations of those who were in North Korea to make the inspections on behalf of the IAEA, and I believe that information about that was available from Director Blix a short while ago in the context of his report to the IAEA Board of Governors last month.
Q Doubling about right?
Mr. McCURRY: I think they've created a second line --
Q Oh, is that what doubling means -- a second --
Mr. McCURRY: It's a second reprocessing line which is under construction, and it will take several months for it to complete. The capacity of the line -- I think it parallels the existing line at the Yongbyon facility and probably has - - I don't know enough about what its capacity is.
Q Michael, just to follow up on that, several months ago before Secretary Aspin resigned, he was on one of the talk shows, and he said that it didn't matter how long the diplomacy went on, because the North Koreans were not proceeding with their nuclear program; that it was in effect frozen.
This seems to say that he was wrong, or he was not telling the truth?
Mr. McCURRY: No, no, no. That's not correct. Adding to your capacity to reprocess plutonium or separate plutonium is a lot different from doing so. I think any indication that they were actively diverting plutonium or that they were reprocessing it or taking steps to enhance the capacity of their program is what the Secretary was referring to. And, as I've just said, we don't have any evidence that that's occurred.
It's very important to understand that this story suggests they've added to their capacity to do so, and, if they were to do so, in effect the diplomatic effort that we've had underway would be at an end.
Q But to what end have they done this? Is it merely as a negotiating tactic or is it evidence that they are really proceeding?
Mr. McCURRY: In the case of North Korea, it's very difficult to know the answer to questions like that.
Q Mike, in plain English, as long as they don't turn off their reactor, we feel that they cannot be using this additional capacity to reprocess plutonium.
Mr. McCURRY: We have ways of understanding what their program is doing and what the capacity and the nature of their program is. The important thing is we need to have greater understanding, and that's the purpose for requiring that IAEA inspectors visit those facilities and make closer examination of the facts, and that's now that the international community through the U.N. Security Council and its President have called upon North Korea to do so, perhaps North Korea will understand that those obligations to the world community must be met.
Q Mike, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement this morning that in reaction to the U.N. statement, it was "normalizing" its nuclear program. Do you know what that means, and do you have any response?
Mr. McCURRY: No, we don't, but they react often to things publicly in a fashion that is both hard to predict and sometimes hard to understand. It's time for North Korea to respond constructively to the Council President's statement by cooperating fully with the IAEA, and the statement issued on March 31 by the President of the Council is an expression of broad international concern and support for efforts to achieve resolution of the nuclear issue through dialogue and through diplomacy that's based on North Korea's acceptance of its international obligations.
That's the path that's available to North Korea. That's the path that we hope in the end they elect to choose.
Q Has the United States or the U.N. not received any communication from Pyongyang since this statement was approved?
Mr. McCURRY: I believe that's correct.
Q And are there any plans for any contacts between the United States and North Korean officials?
Mr. McCURRY: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q Yesterday, Korean Government expressed its intention of dropping its position for the exchange of special envoys between the South and North Korea. This seems that they regard this as a kind of concession for the third round of talks between the United States and North Korea. Do you have any comment on that?
Mr. McCURRY: Who offered that -- the first part of your question? I'm sorry.
Q As you know, the position of the Korean Government on the third round of talks was to exchange your envoys -- a special envoy should be done before the third round of talks, otherwise there are full inspections, but yesterday Korean Government announced its intention of dropping that kind of position. So I'm asking about the response of the United States about that.
Mr. McCURRY: I think it remains the view of the United States that an exchange of envoys on the North-South issue, along with the full completion of the IAEA inspections, are two steps that are very centrally connected to a third round of high-level talks between North Korea and the United States. That remains our view.
Q Are they centrally connected? Are they preconditions?
Mr. McCURRY: They remain conditions that would have to be fulfilled before we could proceed to a third round of talks.
Q Are there any conditions for the U.S. talking to North Korea in a more informal way?
Mr. McCURRY: I think we have had discussions with them in a more informal way in the past --
Q No, I mean, still having new ones?
Mr. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I'm not aware of any discussions that would occur at the level that we've had in the past through New York and elsewhere.
Q Mike, the South Koreans are reporting that the Chinese are going to send some high-level envoy to Pyongyang to talk about their compliance with the U.N. Do you have any knowledge of that mission, any reason to believe that it could be fruitful?
Mr. McCURRY: I'm sorry. The Chinese will send --
Q Envoys to North Korea.
Mr. McCURRY: We've certainly discussed the situation related to North Korea's program with the Chinese often. I don't have full details on all of the discussions that we've had with China about their work on this issue.
Q Do you think an envoy is going from China?
Mr. McCURRY: I don't have any knowledge of whether an envoy is going or not.
Q The North Korean Government has also said that they will reject further inspections, and that they also hope to hold a third round of talks with the United States. Do you have any reaction to that statement?
Mr. McCURRY: We believe that they need to fulfill the obligations now that the international community has squarely placed on North Korea to complete the IAEA inspections and to resume the North-South dialogue with the exchange of envoys. Those conditions, if they are satisfied, would allow us to proceed to a third round of high-level talks. There's been no change in our view on that.
Q Does that happen simultaneously, all those three things?
Mr. McCURRY: We'd have to wait and see. I wouldn't want speculate on that.
Q This may be the wrong building to ask, but could you explain what -- I mean, not that an explanation is necessary, but could you give us the status of "Team Spirit," why there was no decision taken last week?
Mr. McCURRY: I think there's been no change in that. We're discussing scheduling with the South Koreans.
Q So, I mean, it's an ongoing matter?
Mr. McCURRY: It's an ongoing discussion that we've been having, yes.
Q Do we still see eye-to-eye with South Korea on "Team Spirit"?
Mr. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Their Foreign Minister indicated publicly Friday that it wasn't necessarily just a question of when but maybe whether.
Mr. McCURRY: We're working very closely with the Government of South Korea and all aspects of the North Korea program.
Q Is Mr. Christopher still Secretary of State?
Mr. McCURRY: He is, yes. Why do you ask?
Q (Inaudible) Mr. Stephanopoulos -- I wanted to be sure that it's not Mr. Stephanopoulos --
Mr. McCURRY: I'm not sure what your question is. Your question sort of comes out of left field. (Laughter)
Q It was in Jim's Hoagland's column.
Q Can we return briefly to Bosnia? Is it the judgment of the State Department that ethnic cleansing is being conducted in Prijedor?
Mr. McCURRY: Prijedor. Jack, we have addressed the situation around Banja Luka. The pattern of violence around Prijedor so closely resembles Banja Luka, which we've said we have concrete evidence of, I would sort of by extension suggest that that is also our assessment of the events around Prijedor.
In the case of Banja Luka, we actually have some reporting that comes from teams that have gone there from Zagreb, from our Embassy in Zagreb, that have actually given us some good, direct accounting. And in Prijedor, I don't know whether we have that type of accounting, I'll certainly check and see, but it squares with the assessment we've made of Banja Luka generally.
Q The position of the U.S. Government throughout the Bosnia conflict has been that when there is evidence of ethnic cleansing, the U.S. has not supported evacuation of people from those areas.
Mr. McCURRY: That's right.
Q That has been the consistent view of the U.S. Government. Today you are taking no position in terms of an ICRC effort to evacuate people. I wonder why the change in American policy.
Mr. McCURRY: Because we are conscious of trying to keep people alive. That's why.
Q But you've always been conscious about trying to keep people alive.
Mr. McCURRY: The ICRC has made a judgment in this case, and we fully support the extraordinary work that they've been doing in Bosnia.
Q And you take no position on the issue of aiding and abetting ethnic cleansing.
Mr. McCURRY: We have feelings on that question very similar to the feelings of the Bosnian Government as expressed by the Prime Minister.
Q Thank you, Mike.
(The briefing concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
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