U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Tuesday, April 12, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry DEPARTMENT President's Tour of Operations Center/Rwanda Task Force ......................................... 1-2 Strobe Talbott's Trip ........................... 19-20 CHINA Annual Joint Commerce/Trade Talks in Washington . 2-4 Report Illegal Immigrant Ship off California .... 21 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Situation Update/Fighting/Diplomacy ............. 4-19 -- Gorazde/Battle Lines ........................ 5-19 -- Serb Discussions with UN Envoy/Commander .... 5,7 -- Reported Harassment of UN Personnel ......... 7 -- US Coordination with US/Russia/Others ....... 8-10 -- Russian Reaction to Airstrikes .............. 9-10 GUATEMALA American Youth Kidnapped ....................... 17 UN Upcoming Meeting on Peacekeeping ............... 20-21 HAITI US Immigration Policy/Congressional Views ...... 21-22 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 1994, 12:58 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon everybody. Given your mood, I'm going to start with a story. It's a Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton story. It would be called, I guess, "The President and the First Lady Come to the Operations Center." So it's a story, really, about the State Department Operations Center, and it will involve a little history lesson.
The Operations Center, for those of you who don't know, is really sort of the nerve center of the U.S. State Department. It is the place on the Seventh Floor which 24 hours a day manages a lot of the incoming news that keeps the Secretary and other Departmental officials up to speed on what's the latest going on in the world. It's the operational arm of the Executive Secretariat of the Department and it works directly with the Secretary to assure orderly operations of both the policy and decision-making process within the Department.
The Secretariat was created back in the 1940s during World War II, but the Operations Center itself was created in 1961, a story that may be apocryphal was told of President Kennedy during the Congo crisis early in his Administration: Picking up the phone one night and, as he often did, attempting to find a Desk Officer who could give him some information and the President was unable to get through.
Presidents like to be able to get through to people when they need to, so he suggested to Secretary of State Dean Rusk that they do something to establish some type of 24-hour monitoring program at the Department of State.
Much to my surprise, the President -- I didn't realize this -- the President sent Stephen Smith, who was his brother-in-law over here to the Department to actually set up what is now the Operations Center. It opened its doors on April 30, 1961.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson visited the Operations Center and, among other things, found himself fascinated by the wire ticker machines that were there. The wires here will appreciate that. At that point, there were no wire machines in the White House. The President, seeing them here at the State Department, decided he wanted some of them himself, not the last time when the State Department found itself ahead of the White House in matters relating to information and technology.
The point of the story is that -- I'm getting to the point -- the point is, last night, I think you know, the President and the First Lady were here at the Department for the sort of conclusion of the 250th Commemoration of Thomas Jefferson's Birth. They had a big dinner here on the Eight Floor last night.
The President asked if it would be possible for him to stop by the Operations Center and visit the Rwanda Task Force, which had been doing some extraordinary work in recent days, helping secure the safety of Americans. Secretary Christopher and Mrs. Christopher were delighted to give the President a tour of both the Operations Center itself and then also the Rwanda Task Force.
They sort of were toured around by Mark Grossman, the Executive Secretary, and Glen Davies, the Director of the Operations Center itself. They met a lot of the folks, saw how we monitor the world's business there on the Seventh Floor, and then the President stopped by and had a very nice visit with those who have working on the Rwanda Task Force. Prudence Bushnell who was there at the time as the senior officer present introduced the President around. He took pictures, and that's just a nice story.
It was a very nice gesture on the part of the President. Obviously, very much appreciated by the Department, by the Secretary, and by all those who have been working hard in recent days.
I get to say some good news every once in a while. They were fully operational. They still had an open line open to Bujumbura to check on the status of those who were still to depart. By now, I think all of those who have made their way south to Bujumbura have gone out by air either by U.S. military aircraft or aircraft of other governments, or, in some cases, I think charters. So we've got people safely accounted for. And those that remained, I think largely of their own choice in Rwanda, we have been in contact with them and we understand that they are safe.
So, with that, we can go onto other parts of the world. Yes, Barry.
Q Well, maybe this is a little bit out in left field. But the Chinese delegation coming here, I think later today, including the head of their Science and Technology Division, could you tell us whether China is now eligible for sophisticated technology? Or tell us to what extent, please, China is eligible? They're not one of the seven proscribed states.
MR. McCURRY: I think Dr. Davis got into some of that in her discussion of sensitive technologies and the successor regime, the COCOM, when she briefed last week. I really don't have anything new on that.
There are certainly some indications that they are here pursuing some economic interests that China has, but I think they will also hear from the United States a very strong expression of our concern about the human rights situation in China, as certainly I believe Under Secretary for Commerce Jeffrey Garten delivered last night. I think they're going to hear that message from everyone in this Administration.
Q On the human rights side of this, Dr.Garten did what --
MR. McCURRY: He gave a speech, you may want to get from the Commerce Department, in which he certainly cited some of our concerns about the human rights situation in China.
Q Is that where the Chinese responded and called it, reportedly, according to the BBC, I believe called it a "puny issue?"
MR. McCURRY: I have no idea.
Q You don't know about that?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know if that's been their response. Carol.
Q Who is this delegation meeting with?
MR. McCURRY: They're meeting with Commerce officials.
Q Any meetings here?
MR. McCURRY: Some from the State Department are participating in some of those sessions. It's the Annual Joint Commerce and Trade Talks. Is that right? Yes. I think they're handling a lot of the details for that at Commerce. If you check over at their Public Affairs operation, I think they've got more details on the visit itself. It's been expected.
We were certainly aware that the delegation was coming. They are having a variety of economic-related and trade-related discussions.
Q And those are Chinese Government officials?
MR. McCURRY: There are some Chinese Government -- yes. I think there are probably some people participating in some of the semi-state enterprises.
Q So we're having this Annual Joint Committee on Trade Talks only two months before the date we might be yanking away their trading rights, their favorable trading rights with the United States.
MR. McCURRY: You heard the Secretary on that subject often over the past several days. I'm not going to speculate on whether we are going to deny them Most Favored Nation status.
Q But isn't it sending sort of a signal to Beijing --
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q -- and you guys come on in and --
MR. McCURRY: They're going to get a very clear signal about our concern about human rights, and they'll hear it from a wide variety of Administration officials they encounter during their stay here.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Can you comment on what has happened since the last bombing run by the U.S., in terms of Serb behavior, mining various areas, holding up U.N. movement, etc.? Do you have a comment on that?
MR. McCURRY: There appear to be several activities that the Serbs have undertaken in the last 24 hours that most likely are designed to express some opposition to air strikes that were ordered in by U.N. Commander General Rose. I think that those steps are certainly very much of concern to the United States as well as to UNPROFOR, and those participating through the U.N. operations on the ground.
I do believe that U.N. personnel have made clear their strong concerns and objections to the Bosnian Serbs, and we would join those protests and saying that any unwarranted interference with the legitimate operations of U.N. personnel in Bosnia are a very grave matter.
Q Mike, a question here. What the Serbs appear to be doing is to have stopped these heavier weapons but still advancing on Gorazde. If they're just advancing troops, hand-to-hand combat, small arms fire, is that the kind of threat that would also, in this Administration's opinion, trigger air strikes?
MR. McCURRY: I think, as the Secretary made clear yesterday, and I think the President has spoken of that today, we remain fully supportive of General Rose.
We remain of the view that through NATO we will be prepared to respond to requests made by General Rose to address the situation in Gorazde; but we have our own diplomat there, our Special Envoy, Ambassador Redman, who has made it clear on behalf of the United States Government, publicly, and to the best degree that we can communicate directly with the Serbs, we've made it clear directly to them that the current assault on Gorazde must end. The Serbs must withdraw from the Gorazde enclave.
The discussions that had been underway about the cessation of hostilities throughout Bosnia must continue, and there must be agreement by the parties now on a peace settlement that will end this conflict. We have delivered that message consistently.
I believe we're being joined in delivering that message by the Government of Russia, among others, and I think that's a clear and consistent message that's being delivered to the parties themselves.
Q Sorry, just a quick follow-up. Is there a mile- range they have to pull back to? Or are you just saying, pull out?
MR. McCURRY: They need to pull back. You heard the Secretary suggest yesterday the lines that existed on March 30, prior to the commencement of this latest offensive. Those are important lines because they withdraw at least the bulk of the Serbs forces from a position in which, in recent days, they have been directly shelling the city of Gorazde itself.
Q What if they were to stop in their tracks and not pull back? Would NATO air strikes continue?
MR. McCURRY: That is a question that is hypothetical because it depends on what degree the U.N. personnel in Gorazde are threatened and what degree they remain in a position in which they can threaten those forces. That's, ultimately, a decision the commanders on the ground will look at and will make an appropriate request to NATO as a result of their assessment of what the situation is on the ground.
Q But could you anticipate that if they stopped in their tracks and stopped the shelling that the international community would allow them to keep whatever extra territory they may have gained?
MR. McCURRY: It's hard to conceive that those things could happen. That's why it's a hypothetical question that I prefer not to address.
The Secretary made clear yesterday, they need to withdraw back to those positions they occupied on March 30. My strong assumption is that the Bosnian Government, in order to proceed effectively and in good faith with peace discussions, would want to see the Serbs withdraw to those positions as well. They'll have to address that themselves. I can't imagine that they would want to attempt to negotiate unless they know that the Serbs have withdrawn to a position where they're no longer capable of shelling Gorazde directly.
Q It's the Bosnian Muslims who are causing the trouble today in addition to the Serbs.
Q If we know so clearly what we want them to do, why not make it the subject of an ultimatum?
MR. McCURRY: Why not make them --
Q Why not set a deadline?
MR. McCURRY: I think as President Clinton indicated today, General Rose had been quite clear and firm in making exactly that point to the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Mike, I think the difficulty is that yesterday, here and at the Pentagon, the rationale for the air strikes was drawn very narrowly to protect U.N. forces; not for any other purposes. The other purposes were incidental.
The question is, if the Serbs decide to take Gorazde but not harm the U.N. personnel, the rationale seems to indicate that that might be possible. This is not a hypothetical question.
The question is whether the United Nations is committed to saving Gorazde with or without the danger to U.N. personnel?
MR. McCURRY: The United Nations has made clear its views of Gorazde in U.N. Security Council Resolution 836.
Now, Carol's question was whether or not air strikes continue if there is a cease-fire. A cease-fire would be welcome because it would stop the current offensive which is a danger not only to the residents of Gorazde but to the U.N. personnel who are located there. But that would not be enough from the view of those who are participating in the peace process.
The peace process consists of discussions that have included the status of Gorazde. In any event, the current enclave has got an informal boundary, and the Serbs need to withdraw to those lines of March 30 in which the enclave itself is more secure.
Q So we're not specifically protecting U.N. forces? The air strikes are not specifically to protect U.N. forces?
MR. McCURRY: Close air support by NATO has been requested pursuant to both U.N. Security Council Resolution 836 and the decisions taken by NATO last June in Athens, Greece. Those decisions allow for NATO to respond to a request for close air support to U.N. personnel who are under attack and who request assistance.
Q Can you characterize how -- can you say whether the Serbs are showing interest in a settlement? Because that, indeed, was one of the reasons given for this offensive.
MR. McCURRY: They have had discussions, I understand, with both U.N. representative Akashi and with General Rose about the conditions under which they would proceed to further negotiations.
We take the view that they need to return to those negotiations promptly because that is where, as the Secretary said yesterday, that is where the solution lies. It does not lie with continued fighting on the battleground.
Q You began by saying there appear to be several activities by the Serbs designed to show defiance. What precisely are those?
MR. McCURRY: There have been some reports about harassment of U.N. military observers in and around Sarajevo. There have been sporadic reports that some French non- government organization drivers have been detained or somehow interfered with -- speaking of reports of that nature.
Q Yesterday, in his news conference here, the Secretary seemed to be saying that this is sending a forceful message to the Bosnian Serbs, that certain things will not be tolerated.
There was another message sent about eight days ago by Defense Secretary Perry and one day later by the Chief of Staff in which they seem to suggest that it would not be feasible to carry out air strikes in areas like this.
Do you think that this resulted in some kind of incoherence which may have inadvertently triggered what happened in the intervening week?
MR. McCURRY: No, I don't.
Q Well, do you think there was incoherence?
MR. McCURRY: No. Tim.
Q Mike, can I just step back and follow that up, please?
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q The reports of harassment, have you independently confirm these? Are people still missing? Have they been kidnapped?
MR. McCURRY: We're trying to find out about it now, mostly through contact with the U.N. The report is a number of U.N. military observers have been confined to their residence. That's all I have on that at this point. We are trying to find out more about it. We heard the report yesterday that apparently there had been either detention or harassment of drivers from, I believe, some relief organizations.
I believe the French Government has been making some comments on that.
Q Can you share with us the conditions under which the Serbs have said they'll return to negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to get into that. The Serbs are plenty outspoken. They will address that themselves.
Q But you didn't say there can't be conditions? You didn't say "unconditionally return." You said they ought to and it's important.
MR. McCURRY: I just said it's important that they promptly return to these discussions. We have our Ambassador there ready to resume discussions. We've been in close contact with the Russian Government to coordinate the message we are delivering, both to the Bosnian Government and to the Bosnian Serbs. My understanding is it's a consistent one.
The Secretary did have a good conversation again this morning with Foreign Minister Kozyrev in which they reviewed where things stand -- sort of a situation report -- and also discussed other ways in which we can respectively advance the prospects for getting the dialogue back on track.
I understand that Deputy Foreign Minister Churkin and Ambassador Redman met today in Sarajevo and reviewed their respective efforts. So there is close coordination occurring at that level.
As to the Secretary's other calls, he also just touched based today with Foreign Minister Juppe, Foreign Minister Kinkel, and I believe he plans to talk to Foreign Secretary Hurd this afternoon. We continue dialogue with some of our European partners.
Q The March 30 lines, can you be more specific about where those are?
MR. McCURRY: I can't. My understanding is the United Nations never formally demarcated a boundary around Gorazde and said that's what constitutes the enclave. The commanders on the ground and U.N. personnel are certainly well aware of the lines that were occupied as of March 30. I think the Serbs know where they are and so does the United Nations.
Q So what's your assessment of what the Muslims have been up to in terms of military action? And what have you told them?
MR. McCURRY: That's not entirely clear. But I think the President himself made it clear what we've been telling them. He said this morning, "We've cautioned Bosnian Government forces not to try to take advantage of this situation and violate the understandings themselves."
And quoting the President, the President said: "General Rose has been very firm on that," and I think they have been firm on that. The message has been, to the Bosnian Government, that now is not the time to try to take any advantage of the situation on the ground at a moment when the important thing is to return to the peace table and continue the discussions there.
Q Did we consult with the Russians before the second air strike, do you know?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know what time yesterday Secretary of Defense Perry was talking to Defense Minister Grachev. So I don't really know if I can answer that with complete detail. I know that Secretary Christopher had a discussion with Foreign Minister Kozyrev as the air strikes were unfolding.
I think you know from probably looking at the chronology that UNPROFOR put out yesterday that there were series of calls back and forth between General Mladic and General Rose in which General Rose made it very clear that the Serbs had to stop the activity that was underway yesterday afternoon or else there would be air strikes.
I think during the course of that discussion about that time, the Secretary called Foreign Minister Kozyrev and said, "Listen, it's very clear what's going on, and the situation continues, and there mostly are going to be air strikes if they're not already occurring."
Q Any progress of getting any other U.N. peacekeepers?
MR. McCURRY: By the way, Tim, on that question, I think it's important, too, to note that the Russians do have a diplomat attached to General Rose's command, so they do an ability to get real-time information from UNPROFOR command as well.
It's not our position to notify the Russian Government of an action that is being requested by the United Nations and is being taken or responded to by NATO.
Q I understand, and they still took umbrage at the first notification process, and I was just curious whether we were responsive to their sensitivities?
MR. McCURRY: They took umbrage at not being notified by the United Nations, if I read correctly some of the things they said.
I believe that Deputy Foreign Minister Churkin also took some umbrage at being misled by the Bosnian Serbs, as he indicated yesterday.
Q I was just trying to find out whether there was any activity on getting more U.N. people into Gorazde?
MR. McCURRY: There had been discussions underway on that. I'm not sure what the status is of trying to get into Gorazde additional units, such as the Ukrainian units.
We believe that's important. We believe it should be done as soon as possible. It would be most helpful if it were done in connection with an agreement on a cease-fire in which you were interpositioning UNPROFOR units between the factions. That would be most the helpful thing, but that's clearly not a cease-fire.
Q You remember, the French and British were supposed to possibly go in, too. Is that (inaudible) the conversations on the phone today?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know if that subject was addressed in the conversations today, but I'd leave it up to UNPROFOR and to General Rose to talk about how they're going to deploy forces there.
Q Are Serbian infantry units, as far as you know, still advancing on Gorazde?
MR. McCURRY: Mixed report. I haven't heard a report of further advances onto Gorazde itself as the day has gone on today. I've heard some sporadic exchanges of fire, and otherwise the situation seemed to be a lot quieter today and did not seem to cause General Rose to believe there would be an imminent request for additional air strikes.
Q Earlier, you, in responding to Saul's question on how far the United Nations or the U.S. is willing to go to protect Gorazde, you indicated that the U.N. was willing to use close air support to protect U.N. personnel in Gorazde. But you seemed to also be indicating that the U.N. does not plan to let Gorazde fall. Can you help define that anymore? Or would you just as soon stay away from that?
MR. McCURRY: I can't define that anymore clearly. It was our assessment -- and I think it was General Rose's assessment -- that Gorazde might likely have fallen over this past weekend. He'll have to address that, but certainly that's our understanding. I think they took some action.
Again, it's important to note they did take action after U.N. personnel themselves came under what might have been direct fire, if not targeted fire.
Q So if I were a Serb commander, I would say, "Keep your fire away from this one building, we can take the town."
MR. McCURRY: If I were a Serb commander, I would think about now is a good time to get out of Gorazde.
Q Given the seriousness to which this situation has evolved, as the State Department sort of looks back over the last ten days or so, I'd like some of your assessment.
Apparently, Rose had been getting pretty good information that the Serbs were mounting a very significant attack on Gorazde two weeks ago. Do you feel that the U.N. or its member nations or its military commanders underestimated the severity of that buildup of forces?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q And if you had acted sooner by issuing some sort of threat, could you have obviated what's now come to play?
MR. McCURRY: If you look back over time, remember, that Goradze has been under assault one way or another for months; not just in recent days.
I think there was good information that was available to UNPROFOR, that was certainly shared through UNPROFOR participating countries, about the status of the situation in Goradze.
Your question might be a little different: "Was there any way that we knew precisely what Serb motives were connected with Gorazde?" Frankly, we don't. We did not have a good understanding then nor now of what their true objective was around Gorazde.
Q So just to follow up. While you saw this buildup of -- granted, the city has been under attack for quite a while. But my understanding is that within the last two weeks there was a significant buildup and advance of troops. Are you saying, well, yeah, we saw this evidence but we didn't really think that they were going to try to capture the enclave?
MR. McCURRY: I just would reject that analysis. I think General Rose was aware of the situation in Gorazde. There were U.N. military observers there who could give him accounts of what was developing. I think he took a variety of steps that culminated in the decisions he made this past weekend.
Q Could I follow that up? You mentioned General Mladic. Do you have any reading -- is he operating under controls from the central Bosnian Serb Government, or do you think he goes off the reservation from time to time as, for example, (inaudible) last week?
MR. McCURRY: That requires a degree of knowledge that we just don't have about the internal workings of the Bosnian Serb Government and the degree of influence that the Serbian Montenegro Government has on the Bosnian Government. It really would have to be clarified with them, describing what their own command and control operations are. It would have to be answered, in a sense, by knowing what the relationship is between Karadzic and Mladic and what degree Milosevic and the Serbian authorities have any direct degree of influence over the Bosnian commander.
It would be highly speculative for me to sort all that out because I don't know that we know what some of the personal relationships are there.
Q Maybe you can answer it this way: Do you think that Karadzic lied to Churkin the other day when he said that there would be no advances? Or do you think that he didn't have any control over him?
MR. McCURRY: The United States was not privy to that conversation, so we have no way of knowing. But I think Deputy Foreign Minister Churkin was quite blunt in giving his assessment of the veracity of the information given to him when he commented on that yesterday.
Q A year or so ago, when sanctions were imposed on Serbia and Montenegro, the Administration was pretty clear that they had a lot of influence over the Bosnian Serbs. Do you think that that influence has lessened over time as the conflict has matured?
MR. McCURRY: I think they continue to be in a position where they can exercise influence. But it's just impossible for me to degree how influential.
Q Mike, I just want to go back to this question of the ultimatum for a second. You mentioned that Clinton indicated that Rose is talking tough to these guys. Have we, as a government, decided -- made any decisions about whether we would, if the U.N. chose to go the ultimatum route, whether we would support that? And was that a subject in any of these conversations that Christopher had with other Foreign Ministers?
MR. McCURRY: I am certain that the Secretary discussed next steps on what they might pursue in Gorazde, but I would decline to really get into any extensive discussion about it.
You've heard a variety of Administration officials talk about the concept of an exclusion zone a la Sarajevo. I don't have anything new on that.
Q Mike, I'm sure you've heard that many commentators and a number of former government officials from other parties have expressed consternation that this Administration is apparently so willing to put the entire future of the Western world and the NATO Alliance and everything else in the hands of one British General who works for the U.N.
Could you respond to just why it is the United States has decided to put so much power into this single individual?
MR. McCURRY: I categorically deny that such silly analysis came from people who occupied any positions of real authority. It couldn't possibly be true.
Q Is it?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q I think that actually there were some people in previous authority who expressed precisely those feelings last night.
MR. McCURRY: Some connected to the effective handling of Bosnia in the last Administration? That would be very interesting.
Q (Inaudible) Eagleburger.
MR. McCURRY: I'd say NATO responded to a request from an UNPROFOR commander. An UNPROFOR commander on the ground has the right under U.N. Security Council authority and under decisions that have been adopted by the North Atlantic Council to request assistance that's provided by the Alliance. And the Alliance operated in this case exactly as it should, exactly as we said it would, and exactly in the contours of the command and control structures that have existed in NATO for 40 years. And those former officials know exactly how that's structured and how that worked and how it was intended to work, and they also know exactly what the objectives are there. So I'm not sure what their criticism is about.
Q Mladic has called on his men to shoot at any NATO planes flying over Bosnia. Is this a credible threat? Do they have the weapons?
MR. McCURRY: Let them try.
Q If he did try it, what?
MR. McCURRY: They shoot back.
Q Do they have the weapons?
MR. McCURRY: The NATO airplanes flying over Bosnia are well equipped to handle antiaircraft fire.
Q Would it be said that a person like General Rose, things were kind of sped up in Bosnia, because he seems to be a very energetic man and obviously very much depends on him.
MR. McCURRY: There is a difference between this commander and previous UNPROFOR commanders. I think I will leave it at that. But he is earning the support of all those participating in UNPROFOR and also he's earned the support of others who are working in the world community to try to bring this conflict to an end. And I think to my knowledge there's almost a universal assessment that he's doing a very effective job as UNPROFOR commander of Bosnia.
Q Mike, you said a minute ago, "If I were a Serb commander, about now would be a good time to get out of Gorazde." I'm not sure I understand what that threat means.
MR. McCURRY: Let me tell you what the best reason for that thinking would be. The best reason is because the future of that country, the future of the Bosnian Serb portion of Bosnia, depends on a peace settlement that can bring this tragic conflict to an end.
There is no ground to be gained, no mileage to be gained at this point to continue these hostilities that have now gone on far too long, and the future of their country is in their hands to a very real extent -- both the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian Croats.
Two of those parties have made a choice for peace and are on the way to putting their country back together. The Bosnian Serbs gain nothing by continuing this type of hostility, and that is the best reason for a Bosnian Serb commander to decide now is a good time to end the siege of Gorazde.
Q But you made it sound as though we are threatening to do something to them.
MR. McCURRY: We've made it very clear what the United States is willing to do as a participant within the NATO action in Bosnia, and we've made it very clear we don't rule anything in or out. We're in a position to respond to the requests that come from the UNPROFOR people.
Q But, Mike, if I may, please: The Serbs have lied even to their allies, or their traditional allies, the Russians, on what their intentions are, and the history of the Serbs is that they'll take advantage of any loophole that's left by the West in order to gain ground. They gained ground at Gorazde while the United Nations was busy in Sarajevo.
The point that we're trying to make here is that we have drawn -- and you just did it again -- a very narrow mission for the NATO aircraft to protect the UNPROFOR forces on the ground. And may I say that the Secretary even yesterday and on television took no issue with Perry's statement that we will not enter the war to protect, to save Gorazde from falling. That still stands apparently.
What I'm trying to find out is whether Gorazde --
MR. McCURRY: Saul, in fairness --
Q -- saving Gorazde from falling --
MR. McCURRY: In fairness to Secretary Perry, I saw him last night on television, and he at some great length clarified that remark, and I don't think it's fair to continue to quote that in a fashion when the Secretary of Defense has made clear exactly what he meant. You continue to misinterpret what he said, and he indicated last night that the press continues to misinterpret what he said.
Q He clarified it by saying we never said we wouldn't protect U.N. forces, and that's true.
MR. McCURRY: And he also said that we are not entering this war on behalf of the Bosnian Government, and if we were, it would be a much different application of force. You are correct that this is a prudent, cautious application of force at the request of the U.N. commander in Bosnia. We have not suggested otherwise, to my knowledge.
Q But if the United States does not say from the podium that the Bosnian Serbs by strong arms -- by small arms fire and infantry is welcome to take -- cannot take Gorazde even if they let the U.N. troops alone, then that is the opening that the Bosnian Serbs might use.
MR. McCURRY: Saul, I have no idea what you're talking about. The Secretary of State stood here yesterday and said that the Bosnian Serbs have to withdraw to the lines of March 30. Now, they can't take Gorazde by small arms fire if they withdraw to the lines of March 30. He made himself very clear on that.
Q But they have not withdrawn, and they have not been bombed, but their infantry continues to advance in places.
MR. McCURRY: You've got better information than UNPROFOR has provided to the United States then.
Q New subject.
MR. McCURRY: Yes, Chris, or Alan, either one. Flip a coin. Mr. Elsner.
Q I have a very simple one. Can you confirm -- do you have any information about reports from Guatemala about the kidnapping of an American child?
MR. McCURRY: We did a little taken question on that last night, and let me check and see if there's anything new on that. It was an elementary school age child who's a member of an American family residing in Guatemala who was kidnapped from a bus on the way to school early Monday morning.
We have not been given -- or don't have a Privacy Act waiver from the family, so I can't provide further details on that case. That is consistent with the law. We can't provide you details on cases like that that we are working very aggressively. But suffice to say we are in direct contact with authorities there about the situation.
I will say there does not appear to be, as far as we know, any information that connects this kidnapping to some of the recent anti-U.S. sentiments that we've seen.
Q Is this an American child?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. Member of an American family.
Q So there is no -- I mean, the United States -- the State Department put out a warning, I believe it was, two weeks ago advising people to defer nonessential travel --
MR. McCURRY: And to be aware of some of the recent reports. I think we covered that in the past. There has been a wave of semi-hysterical reports in the Guatemalan press about child-napping by Americans there. They are just utterly untrue. But, as I say, the information we have at this time does not appear that this kidnapping is motivated by anti-U.S. sentiment.
Q Mike, can I take you back -- I hope I won't take too long with it -- on your statement twice now that they have nothing to gain by trying to take more territory. You know, very stirring --
Q Bosnian Serbs, yes. You know, very stirring bit of rhetoric, but they have gained quite a bit by territory. Nobody that I know of in this building harbors any hope of rolling back the Serbs from territory they took by force. So I'm asking you if this literally is true.
MR. McCURRY: That's not true.
Q Wait a minute. Minor adjustments. They control more than 70 percent of the country --
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q -- and you guys are talking in terms of about a 50/50 split between them and that federation.
MR. McCURRY: Well --
Q No, all right.
MR. McCURRY: That's different from what you --
Q Forgive me. That's what I'm trying to say.
MR. McCURRY: They have to give -- land that they have occupied by force, they are going to be required one way or another as part of any settlement that's been discussed so far, to my knowledge, to give up some of that territory.
Q All right. I'm being long-winded here.
MR. McCURRY: That's different from what you said in a long-winded way.
Q What I'm trying to ask you is whether what you just said twice today means that whatever that split is, they can't get an inch more by moving ahead in Gorazde.
MR. McCURRY: I was not prejudging the outcome of the discussions underway in Sarajevo about a peace settlement here at the podium now. Absolutely not.
Q What if they take more territory? The way it's been working, you get to keep some of it.
MR. McCURRY: We've covered this before. Gorazde is a U.N.-declared safe area. It has been central in a lot of the positions advanced by the Bosnian Government in peace settlements, and among other reasons that's why it doesn't seem to serve any useful purpose for the Serbs to advance on Gorazde.
I mean, under any conceivable peace settlement, they're likely to have to get out of there and give it back in any case.
Q Mike, are there other areas in Bosnia where the Serbs are on the attack that we are concerned about?
MR. McCURRY: There have been some sporadic skirmishes around, but this is clearly the most pivotal offensive that's underway by the Serbs there now. The situation in the other safe areas is much less threatening. There have been, from time to time, reported incidents of fighting around -- virtually all of them around, but in each case the situation is somewhat different from Gorazde.
Gorazde was the U.N. safe area that had not seen a lot of U.N. personnel deployed. But I think you're aware the situation in Srebrenica is different. There's been a rotation of UNPROFOR units there. In Tuzla there have been ongoing discussions with the Serbs about trying to open the airport again that would include a U.N. presence there, and that's been back and forth several times.
Zepa -- I think there's a U.N. presence there, although I have not been able to get a better degree of information about that. Sarajevo. You know the situation in Bihac is different, only because it's in Western Bosnia and is involved in the discussions going on between the others.
Q There's an insurrection by pro-Serb Muslims.
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q Where does the Tuzla threat stand? The airport -- you're trying -- as I understand, preparation is being made to open the airport. The Serbs say, "You do it, we go on the offensive."
MR. McCURRY: There have been discussions underway about opening that airport peacefully so it could operate and provide humanitarian relief to people in need in that part of Eastern Bosnia. Now, that's preferable, we believe, to taking it through hostilities.
Q Change subject.
MR. McCURRY: Change.
Q Strobe Talbott's trip.
MR. McCURRY: Strobe Talbott's trip?
Q Yes. (Inaudible) Slovakia or something on it?
MR. McCURRY: We can do it. I don't have much on the trip. I'll say he's at various places along the way, has met with the press and has had some good discussions about his progress. And my intent remains, if he's not completely jet-lagged, to try to have him do a little discussion of his trip upon return. At least we're still urging him to do that when he gets back.
I think he doesn't get back until late Thursday, so the earliest we could do it would be Friday, although I don't have a promise that he would be able to do it.
Q Could you take a, please, question for tomorrow about Poland and Slovakia? Do you have something new?
MR. McCURRY: I'll see if I can get something about his discussions there, or at least get you some limited information about what he's done. But I'd also check with news organizations that are actually there reporting on his visit, because they probably will have more current information.
Q The U.N. official who is trying to put together the U.N. rapid deployment force spoke at a breakfast this morning and said that he was still -- has still been unable to get U.S. participation in this force and is apparently having some meeting on Thursday, at which point he's going to present his final report, and then he moves on to his old life. Why is the U.S. continuing to resist this?
MR. McCURRY: Carol, I checked that. I tried to find out more about this meeting on Thursday. I tried what I thought would be the right people to get an answer on what's going on there. I didn't have any success. I would say that our general view of U.N. peacekeeping is the one that is set forward by the President when the President spoke at the United Nations, and I think he made some of our views clear, and to my knowledge our discussions with the U.N. peacekeeping office have proceeded very consistent with the message that the President gave the United Nations when he was there.
Q Yes. But what about the Presidential directive that still hasn't been issued, right, finalized? Peacekeeping.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not --
MR. McCURRY: Oh, PRD 13?
MR. McCURRY: PDD 13. Someone know? Someone must know. This has been in gestation for quite some time. I don't believe it has yet been delivered, but I will inquire further.
Q And no anticipation of an early completion?
MR. McCURRY: There have been a number of discussions. I mean, this involves -- there have been a number of discussions underway recently at a very high level within the government about issues related to funding and those are, I think, most of the issues -- those are the issues that are still being addressed, I think, -- within the United States Government are related to funding; and, of course, they involve discussions we have to have with Capitol Hill as well.
Q The Coast Guard says there's a ship off southern California full of -- maybe full of illegal Chinese immigrants. Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: I've got something on it, and I haven't had a chance to explore it further, so I'd like to take the question, unless you will indulge me and let me wing an answer.
Q Sure, that's always interesting.
Q Take the question. (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I have nothing for you on that at this time. (Laughter)
I've got something for you on that at this time, but I can't find it, but we'll put it up and post it.
Q On Haiti, Randall Robinson, I believe, today announced his intention to fast over what he perceives as flaws in the U.S. policy toward Haiti.
MR. McCURRY: I think he announced that yesterday, and I addressed it yesterday, did I not?
Q He begins the fast today.
Q Today he begins to fast, I don't know.
MR. McCURRY: My understanding from what I've read publicly that he said yesterday, that I responded to yesterday, was that he indicated that he'd like to see a change in policy, and I've indicated that we are looking at some matters related to Haiti and how we can proceed in discussing things with Aristide. So I hope he doesn't endanger himself with his fast.
Q Do you think it would be a wise decision for him to fast until the Administration changes it policy on Haiti? (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to give him that kind of advice. I don't think he should fast until President Aristide returns, but we hope that would be very promptly. Maybe it wouldn't be a long fast in that case.
Q Mike, he was backed by a number of black -- members of the black Congressional caucus who did voice an extremely brave and harsh criticism of the Clinton Administration, so I think it would be appropriate if you responded to that.
MR. McCURRY: Randall Robinson is a very good guy and has done a lot of heroic work on a number of subjects in which there has needed to be people present who could be really witnesses to conscience and truth.
I personally would say I don't hope anything happens that endangers his health. I certainly understand the strong feelings that many members of Congress have. We have strong feelings about how difficult the situation is in Haiti, too. But, as I said yesterday, we have taken certain steps. We have had conversations with President Aristide.
We remain very focused on our goal of returning democracy and President Aristide to Haiti, and I believe that those are not objectives that Randall Robinson or his congressional supporters dispute.
Q I thank you.
MR. McCURRY: Okay.
(The briefing concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
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