U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING APRIL 12, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, April 12, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns NETHERLANDS U.S. View on Report of PKK Parliament in Exile ........1-2 CUBA Implementation of Migration Agreement .................2-3 --Number of Cubans Approved for Migration .............2 --Status of Cubans at Guantanamo ......................4-5 --Number of Cubans Paroled into U.S. for Humanitarian/ Medical Reasons ...................................5 Resumption of Migration Talks .........................3 U.S. View on Helms-Burton Legislation .................3-4 --Report of Warning from Cuban Gov't. re: Exodus ......2-4 IRAN Report of Shipment of Oil Rigs to Serbia ..............5 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Contact Group Meeting in Belgrade .....................5-6 Contact Group Meeting in Zagreb/Next Steps ............6 --Efforts to Achieve Extension of Ceasefire in Bosnia .6,8 U.S. Contacts with Former President Carter ............7 Discussions on UNCRO Mandate ..........................8 UN Dismissal of Russian General from UNPROFOR Command .8 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS U.S. Commitment to Peace ..............................9 Ambassador Ross' Discussions in Region ................9-12 --Preparation for Security/Military/Experts Talks .....11 Arrests/Sentencings by Palestinian Authority ..........9,14 Reports of Harassment/Arrests of Journalists in Gaza ..13-14 Investigation/Prosecution re: Death of American Citizen ............................................9-10, 21-22 Arafat/Peres Agreement to Schedule ....................10 Resumption of Ambassador-level Talks ..................11,12-13 IRAQ Reports on Biological/Nuclear Weapons Capabilities ....15-16 CHINA Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Mtgs. w/U.S. Officials ..16-17 --Possible Discussions of Spratly Islands/ ............18 Release of Dissident Wei Jingsheng ................16,19 RUSSIA Chechnyan Conflict ....................................18-21 --OSCE Group Tasks ....................................19 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement Talks in Berlin ....................21 --South Korean LW Reactor Model ........................21 JAPAN U/S Tarnoff Discussions w/Japanese Ambassador to the UN ..............................................21 GREAT BRITAIN U.S./UK Air Talks ......................................21 PAKISTAN Nuclear Arms Control in Region .........................22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 1995, 1:28 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I apologize for being late. We'll try not to make a habit of that. I don't have any prepared statements for you, so I'm glad to go directly to your questions.
Q Do you have any reaction today to the parliament in exile they are establishing in The Netherlands?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, I didn't hear the last part of your question.
Q The Kurdish parliament in exile -- do you have any reaction? They established today.
MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports that the PKK "parliament in exile" will be meeting in The Netherlands. We've expressed our views both to the Government of Turkey and to the Government of The Netherlands that we think that the PKK is a brutal terrorist organization, and we obviously don't support the creation of any kind of "parliament in exile" that is associated with the PKK.
We've made those views known to both governments in the last 24 hours.
Q But did you ask The Netherlands to somehow make it impossible for this parliament to have its meeting there? I mean, did you make any representations to that effect?
MR. BURNS: I don't have details on our conversations with the Dutch government, and I leave it to them to characterize their views on this, but I believe that the organization -- the people who will be meeting have not violated, at least we understand they have not violated, Dutch law, and therefore there wasn't any grounds to deny them the right to meet.
But I do want to reaffirm that it's our position that this is a brutal terrorist organization, and we obviously don't support the convening of a parliament of this nature in any way.
Q There's a story in the Post today that suggests that the Cubans are upset about the Helms' proposal and that a new exodus of migrants could be unleashed if it's approved. Do you have any comment? And I should just mention that this is what the Cubans have informed the State Department.
MR. BURNS: I do have a comment. I have a general comment about our policy towards -- on the migration talks that I think might help with this question, George.
I'll just take you back to last September and remind you that the measures announced by President Clinton last September provide for a safe and orderly flow of migrants from Cuba to the United States.
We have an agreement with Cuba that is being implemented by the United States and by Cuba. We are on track to meet our commitments under this September 9 migration agreement, and we certainly expect the Cuban Government to meet its own obligations, and we believe it is meeting its obligations.
Remember that we pledged to issue 20,000 travel documents. I believe it's 16,000 people -- Cubans have been approved for migration, 11,000 of whom fall under this category to receive benefits under the 20,000 number.
It remains our policy that Cubans intercepted attempting unauthorized migration will not be taken into the United States but will be offered safehaven at Guantanamo. This policy has discouraged over many months, and we believe that it will continue to discourage, unsafe voyages.
The Cuban Government has not communicated to us any message about a looming, large-scale migrant problem. Now, if you have any specific questions on the numbers of people at Guantanamo or who has been paroled and who hasn't, I've got some figures for you. But let me take the next question, George, if you have one.
Q In effect, then, you seem to be denying a point in this Post story which was that the Cubans informed the United States or warned the United States that if the Helms' legislation were to go through that would result in a large-scale exodus, uncontrollable exodus. Are you saying that they didn't say that?
MR. BURNS: I checked with our experts this morning, the people who deal with the Cubans every day, and I understand that we have not received any such kind of a dire warning from the Cuban Government on this issue.
Q Is this something short of a "dire warning," Nick?
MR. BURNS: No --
Q Has there been any concern -- I mean, use any word you want - - but has there been any sort of communication that might indicate they would do that?
MR. BURNS: Our general view is that this agreement is in force, that both sides are meeting it, that the migrants are being handled in a constructive and orderly way, and that there isn't a large-scale problem here, and we have not heard anything of the kind from the Cuban Government in our private discussions with them.
Q Can I just try that another way? Have they told you that a refugee outflow would be "difficult to control" if the Helms' measure was passed?
MR. BURNS: I have not been in the discussions with the Cuban Government on this issue, so I can't speak to everything that has been said. But after seeing the piece this morning, we certainly looked into this and discussed it with a lot of people, including those people who are responsible for Cuban affairs, and I'm giving you in essence this morning a quite categorical response to the story.
Q Are there any major issues concerning this September 9th agreement still pending that the United States expects to raise when the migration talks resume next week?
MR. BURNS: The migration talks will take place next week in New York. I think we announced that last week. This provides an opportunity for the United State and Cuba to review -- and we've done this a couple of times since this September 9th agreement -- review the major issues surrounding the migrant program, to review the status of the individuals who are still at Guantanamo -- and I think there are a little over 22,000 Cuban migrants who are still in Guantanamo -- and we look forward to the review.
Q Nick, can I try again from another angle, as Carol said. Regardless of what the Cubans may or may not have told you, it's not brain surgery to know that they don't like the Helms' amendment, and the threat of migration is their only trump card in this sort of thing.
Are you folks worried about the Helms' amendment passing and what that might mean for possibly a migration?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to the Cuban view of the Helms-Burton legislation, but I can speak to an American Government view. As you know, we have been discussing this legislation for some time with interested members of Congress. Our policy towards Cuba is based on the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. We believe that is a very good foundation for our policy.
Some aspects of the Helms-Burton legislation support the Cuban Democracy Act, are beneficial, and we could support some aspects. There are other aspects that are troubling to us, and we have made our views known to the interested members of Congress.
Q Can we ask what aspects (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it's wise for me to go into our discussions with the members of Congress on the bill in detail. I think a general response really suffices for the moment.
Q And it's fair to say also you have gotten a number of letters and complaints from allied governments on this, have you not?
MR. BURNS: I think certainly some allied governments have spoken publicly about potential problems that they see in this legislation. Some of those problems are problems that we have identified, and we've made our views known directly to the interested members of Congress.
Q I'd like to switch subjects if there are no other questions on that.
Q Wait. I have one more question.
MR. BURNS: Betsy.
Q Has there been any planning or thinking in this building about what to do to Guantanamo? I mean, are you just going to leave twenty-some thousand people there or less? I mean, has there been any kind of long-range planning at all as to what to do with that facility? If you keep taking Cubans there, there must be some kind of permanent housing or something.
MR. BURNS: It's obviously a very difficult situation, and the status of the people at Guantanamo is of great concern to us. We have made one clear decision, and that is we are not going to compel anyone to leave Guantanamo. No one will be required by force to leave.
I can give you some background on the status of the people there. I believe that nearly 9,000 Cuban migrants have been paroled into the United States on humanitarian grounds or have been medically evacuated to the United States since this agreement came into effect in early September.
Roughly 7,700 of those people are from Guantanamo and roughly 1,200 from Panama. There are no longer any Cuban migrants in Panama.
We are operating under the provisions of humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole is granted by the Attorney General on a case-by-case basis. I'm unable really to tell you how many more Cubans at Guantanamo will be paroled into the United States, because it's done on a case-by- case basis. We don't have set numbers and set targets. They will be eligible for humanitarian parole in accordance with criteria that the President set down many months ago, and I can get into that if you'd like.
Q I asked at the beginning of the week, and Christine said it was being investigated, about an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Iran had shipped two oil rigs en route to Serbia in violation of U.N. sanctions. Have you got anything on that?
MR. BURNS: We're interested in that question. We are looking into it, and we don't have anything for you on it. But on the question of sanctions in general, obviously we're still committed to the sanctions against Serbia. That question has sparked our interest, and I hope to get something for you, but I don't have anything today.
Q Since we're on the subject of Serbia, the Contact Group meeting in -- Mr. Milosevic, has he accepted the deal now, so on and so forth?
MR. BURNS: I have something, yes. The Contact Group representatives met in Belgrade yesterday, as you know, with the Serbian President. That meeting gave no cause for optimism regarding early movement toward the mutual recognition among the former Yugoslav republics or really any optimism about a Bosnian cease-fire.
As you know, the group had to cancel its planned travel to Bosnia today, April 12, because the Serbs in the region would not guarantee the security of the Contact Group's plane to land at Sarajevo airport.
We're going to try to arrange a meeting soon with the Bosnian Government to brief them on the discussions with Mr. Milosevic. The Contact Group is meeting today with the Croatian President, Mr. Tudjman, in Zagreb, and I think the individuals will be returning back to their capitals tomorrow.
For the future, we're obviously going to continue our efforts -- determined efforts to try to achieve an extension of the cease-fire in Bosnia that is due to expire at the end of this month, and we're going to continue our efforts to work with our Contact Group partners on these very difficult problems.
Q Why would you talk to Milosevic about a cease-fire?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the Contact Group has had a number of discussions with Mr. Milosevic on the question of recognition of former republics, and, in that context, all sorts of other issues come up; but that wasn't the focus of the meeting yesterday. The focus of the meeting yesterday was on the suggestion that there might be limited sanctions relief for Belgrade in return for recognition of Bosnia.
Q But do you think he might have the power to stop the Serb guns in Bosnia? He was supposed to have "isolated" them.
MR. BURNS: I think that the people responsible for the shelling have the power to stop the shelling, and that's where one's diplomatic efforts would be focused first and foremost.
Q Is there any thought being given to intensifying -- since offering Milosevic an easing of sanctions seems to be getting nowhere -- is there any thought being given to intensifying sanctions once again?
MR. BURNS: The sanctions on --
Q On Serbia?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything for you on that. I think at this point, with the Contact Group representatives returning to capitals, we'll need to hear a detailed account from our representative, Chris Hill, about the talks, and we'll need to have continuous discussions with our allies in the Contact Group and with the parties in the region to determine the next steps.
But it is clear to us that after having achieved some progress on the Croatian problem over the last two months, we now have to focus our efforts on the problems in Bosnia, and we'll do that.
Q Nick, what about the Serbian-Bosnia border? Does he remain - - he pledged, of course, to keep the border closed. How is his performance at this point?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't have anything really to offer you on that today. Again, we have received a general report from our representative in the talks in Belgrade, but I don't have any details. Maybe it's a question we can come back to later in the week.
Q Is there any talk with Carter about going back to the Balkans?
MR. BURNS: We have been in touch with former President Carter on a somewhat regular basis. We have given him briefings on what we're attempting to do in Bosnia. He has expressed, as you know, a great deal of interest in this over the last couple of months. He was in the region a couple of months ago.
I don't have anything for you on his immediate plans. I think that's probably something you would have to ask the Carter Center.
Q But I'm looking at the Administration. Since your own efforts seemed to have run up against a brick wall again, is there any interest on the part of this Administration to maybe get Carter involved again?
MR. BURNS: At this point, we're operating, obviously, through the Contact Group. We also have bilateral contacts with all the parties.
As you know, former President Carter has recently written to the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serb leaders in hopes of promoting a continuation of a cease-fire and getting on to the issues on settlement talks in Bosnia. He has kept us informed of his efforts. We have apprised him of our understanding of what's happening on the ground, but he is acting independently. He's a private citizen, and he's representing the Carter Center.
Q Nick, in principle at least, is there any U.S. view as to whether Carter would make a suitable U.N. Secretary General? Is there a view that he must come from, or she must come from, a neutral or third- world country?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything for you on that issue, Barry. There is a U.N. Secretary General with whom we are working very closely and we're very satisfied with that relationship.
Q You've mentioned cease-fire in Bosnia. We know that the Contact Group was trying to get into Sarajevo to seek an extension with the Bosnian Government of the cease-fire. In fact, does the cease-fire exists? And didn't the Bosnian break the cease-fire? Has it be re- established? I have not heard of such. What is the current status?
MR. BURNS: I think you know the answer to the question as well as I do. There was a cease-fire established. There's obviously been a lot of fighting over the last couple of weeks. That's most unfortunate.
Our view is that it still makes sense for the United States and the Contact Group to try to work with the Bosnian Government and the Serbs and others involved to try to extend the cease-fire in order to prevent the outbreak of a larger war. Right now, we don't have a large war; we have a lot of fighting on the ground, but we certainly would like to keep it as limited as possible.
Q We were talking about re-establishing the cease-fire that was to have expired May 1, and then extending it; is that correct?
MR. BURNS: We certainly have to extend the cease-fire, and we certainly want to use our leverage and our influence to try to limit the fighting as much as possible.
Q Do you anticipate a more effective operation by the U.N. force in Croatia now?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope so. The U.N. envoy, Mr. Stoltenberg, has been in the region for the last 10 days or so discussing the mandate of the new U.N. force in Croatia -- UNCRO. I believe that he is now back reporting on his discussions in the U.N.
Q Do you have any reaction to the dismissal of this Russian general?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a lot on that. We obviously have been informed by the U.N. about this individual's dismissal. We assume that his departure will be imminent.
Q May I switch now to Israel?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q There are some members that reported this morning to be asking Prime Minister Rabin to abandon the accord and propose sending troops into Gaza to wipe out Islamic strongholds. What view, if any, does the Clinton Administration take regarding this, and do you still stand firm in the commitment to peace?
MR. BURNS: We absolutely stand firm in the commitment to peace. We absolutely do.
Ambassador Dennis Ross has just returned from the region. He had discussions with all the parties on how we can keep the negotiations going on all these tracks.
I spoke yesterday from this podium about the importance now of the Palestinian Authority taking very aggressive and very tough measures to try to deal with the problem of terrorism.
I believe that as of this morning there are now over 200 arrests that have been made by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza itself. There have been two major sentencings of criminals, people who the Palestinian Authority believes have been directly implicated in terrorist acts.
I would just say, it's essential that this policy be sustained over time, and that the Palestinian Authority take it very seriously and prosecute those people who are responsible for these crimes.
Q Basically, you want them to take the leadership role and you would oppose any sending of troops into Gaza by the Israelis to destroy --
MR. BURNS: We've been gratified to see statements since Sunday morning here in the States from the Israeli Government about their commitment to the peace talks on all tracks. We have no reason to believe that there's been any change in Israeli Government policy.
Q (Inaudible) is the U.S. offering in the investigation of the murder of an American citizen in Gaza?
MR. BURNS: I was asked this question yesterday, and I was not aware then but I'm am aware now that we have sent an FBI team to Gaza to investigate the crime, the murder of an American citizen.
These people, from the FBI, will work alongside Israeli and Palestinian authorities. The justification for this and the rationale, of course, is that there is a statute on the books -- a so-called "long- arm statute" -- since 1986 that allows the United States, and indeed asks the United States, to investigate crimes against American citizens and allows us to prosecute people in the United States courts.
Q I'm thinking about Israel and terrorism, etc., etc. There was a schedule set up between Israel and the PLO. Is it the U.S. position that that schedule should be followed, beginning with July 1, to make arrangements for withdrawal? Or is the situation rocky enough that there should be more time to secure the area against terrorists?
MR. BURNS: During Secretary Christopher's visit to Israel in March, Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres did agree on a schedule for concluding certain aspects of issues before the Palestinians and the Israelis. We think that's an important schedule. We think it speaks to the commitment that both sides need to make to these talks, so we therefore very much hope that this schedule can be met.
Q On the FBI -- to return to that -- is the U.S. asking the Palestinian Authority to turn over to American authorities the people responsible?
MR. BURNS: I believe that's getting a little bit ahead of the game. We have just dispatched the FBI team to Gaza. They'll be working, as I said, with the Palestinians' and the Israelis' investigative authorities on this. I really don't have much more to say.
We've got to hear from them what the results of their investigation are. We've obviously got to see if it's going to be possible to find the people who perpetrated the two bombings on Sunday, but we're very concerned, obviously, and outraged that an American citizen was killed and three American citizens wounded in this attack. We think it's appropriate for the FBI to be involved.
Q Did Dennis Ross make any progress on bringing the military into the talks that are going on at the ambassadorial level?
MR. BURNS: Dennis has just returned. He's not in today. He had useful talks with all the parties to the negotiations. He left the region impressed by the seriousness and the commitment which characterized their approach to addressing the negotiations and to achieving peace in the region.
During the course of his visit, he participated -- he and others in our delegation -- in a very successful meeting of the Steering Committee for the Amman Economic Summit, which is set for October. This is a very important meeting for us because it speaks to the issue of trying to work on the economic side, some of the economic problems that the Palestinians and others are facing.
Regarding the talks with the Syrians and the Israelis: Dennis' trip was part of a sequence of steps which we foresaw and which the Secretary worked out during his trip last month to the region. This sequence consists of ambassadorial-level meetings in Washington, which have taken place, and by a visit by Dennis Ross to the region, and the resumption of military contacts on security issues here in Washington.
During his trip, Dennis Ross held useful talks with both the Israelis and the Syrians in a serious effort to prepare the ground for the resumption of the Security-Military Experts Talks in Washington. We consider it to be very important that the ground be prepared to ensure that at a time when the experts meet those talks will be successful.
I think it's fair to say, as a result of his trip, that there's a good deal of work to be done, and we'll continue to work closely with the parties to lay the ground for progress in these talks and to help them overcome their differences.
Q You're saying there's no -- that you haven't succeeded in setting military talks; correct?
MR. BURNS: We're still discussing this issue with all the parties. Dennis is back, and I know that he will continue those efforts.
Q There was a sequence, a schedule --
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q -- and it was fairly clear: Ross goes in two weeks; Ross went in two weeks; Ross stays about a week; Ross stayed about a week. Next was to be resumption of an Ambassador talks with the chiefs there. That isn't going to happen according to schedule, is it? Because it would be happening like pretty soon?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'd remind you, we talked about a sequence of steps. We never attached dates to those dates.
Q They were rough dates -- in two weeks we'll send Dennis to the area. Dennis, indeed, went to the area in about two weeks. It was pretty much --
MR. BURNS: Barry, we didn't attach dates to the steps. When the Secretary was in the region, he said that he thought it was appropriate for Dennis to return to the region in a couple of weeks.
Q Right. He did.
MR. BURNS: And he did. And Dennis has made that trip. Before he made the trip, there were talks here in Washington between the Ambassadors, that were held under U.S. auspices -- talks in which Dennis participated.
We never set for ourselves, or for the parties, dates by which subsequent steps had to be worked out. Dennis' trip, from which he has just returned, focused in part on this issue. What I'm saying here is that we're going to continue to focus on this issue and continue to work it.
Q From a practical sense, I'm trying to figure out how the problem can be worked better here than there?
MR. BURNS: We will obviously continue our talks both here and in the region. We have Ambassadors in the region. We talk to the Syrians and the Israelis everyday about these issues, and there's going to be no change in that.
Q Nick, will the Ambassador-level talks at least resume in the coming days?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have every reason to believe that they will resume.
Q It may not have been scheduled, but isn't it fair to say that the purpose of Dennis' trip -- and this was outlined by the Secretary in Damascus -- was to arrange the Chief of Staff talks preparatory to the resumption of lower-level military talks, and that apparently has not happened, right?
MR. BURNS: Part of the reason for his trip was to work on that issue. What I'm saying is that he worked hard on it and he'll continue to work hard on it.
Q Nick, are you saying they will resume, or you think they will resume?
MR. BURNS: They'll resume.
Q Will they resume focused on security issues, which was the focus, of course, when they recessed?
MR. BURNS: The talks, of course, focus on a lot of issues, among them security issues. So, of course, I think they'll cover as wide an area as is needed.
Q If you don't mind, let's pursue this a little bit. The last two stages, the focus clearly was on security, and we all know why, because they had done so poorly in the other areas. The idea was do security and maybe we can make headway there.
The Secretary's trip focused on security so far as Israel and Syria are concerned. Indeed, military officers are important in that respect and they were coming here, frankly, irrespective of how Dennis did out there. And now they're not ready to come.
So I'm trying to get an idea if the subject -- the agenda is going to now switch off security for a while and go back to land -- what you guys call "land for peace?"
MR. BURNS: I think the talks that we're going to have in the future are going to focus on security issues, obviously, and they'll focus on all the other issues that are important.
We're not saying now that we're going to leave this very important set of issues behind, not in any way. No, no, no. Not at all. Betsy.
Q Different subject.
Q One more on Gaza?
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q Back to Gaza for just a moment. I think it illustrates the confusion. From the UPI wire this afternoon -- or this morning -- it says that the crackdown was also extended to journalists, that a Gaza Reuters correspondent was sought for arrest and interrogation, and some of his friends were beaten.
The UPI journalist, among other journalists in the Gaza, have been -- what does it say? -- "have reported similar pressures by the Palestinian authorities."
How does the Department of State view this pressure and harassment of journalists seeking the truth about what's going on in the Strip?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information about specific arrests of specific journalists in Gaza. I just can't speak to that aspect of the issue, but I did speak to this question yesterday.
The Palestinian Authority has an obligation to maintain security in Gaza, and we fully expect that they'll take that obligation seriously and they'll prosecute people who they think are guilty of violations of order and of crimes, such as the crimes that were committed last Sunday in the two bombings.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority has a responsibility to maintain basic standards of human rights and to construct a system based on the rule of law. Both are important, and we hope that they can deal with both successfully.
Q I gather what you're saying is it's sort of a balancing act they have to perform at this stage between security and democracy, with it tilting one way or the other at times. Would you agree with that assessment, that you can't have a perfect democracy under Palestinian rule overnight, that there will be some tilting away from it in an effort to meet their security goals?
MR. BURNS: I'm saying that the fight against terrorism is an absolutely essential fight for the Palestinians and for the Israelis and everyone else concerned.
I'm also saying -- and this is a complementary thought, it's not meant to be contradictory -- that when the Palestinians attempt to build new institutions, when they attempt to build a system based on the rule of law to enhance the authority of the governing officials there, they also, obviously, have to take into consideration basic standards of human rights. That is a principle that is at the heart of this Administration's foreign policy and, in fact, at the heart of our whole national experience.
It's a very difficult situation for the Palestinian Authority, and we have much sympathy for them as they go about their business. But we do have expectations, and we hope those expectations will be met.
Q This Administration has proposed some measures to fight terrorism that are not particularly democratic, such as wire taps and deportation of suspicious aliens. It seems like you've sort of realized that there is a balance there, that it doesn't always tilt in favor of democracy.
MR. BURNS: I have no comment to make on that, Sid. I don't know what specifically you're referring to. I also don't work for the Department of Justice; we're here at the State Department briefing.
Q (Inaudible) terrorism legislation, except the Administration has proposed this on the Hill, that the Secretary was quite involved in formulating and was actually presented by him during a speech?
MR. BURNS: It is certainly true that this Administration is concerned about the fight against terrorism globally and that we want to be as effective as we can in prosecuting that struggle. It is also true that we have the highest standards of human rights, and we'll continue to meet those standards.
Q I wonder if the State Department -- the Administration -- has a course of action and some other -- other thing to say now that the international reports on Iraq, on biological weapons and nuclear weapons, are coming out just right on the money the way the State Department predicted they would? What are you going to do about it now that they've turned out to be as bad as you folks said they would be?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Ekeus is in New York today. I checked earlier this morning, and I think that the schedule for his appearance to give his oral report at the U.N. has him speaking late this afternoon.
Yesterday we got a glimpse -- but only a glimpse -- at his written report. We have not seen, as far as I'm aware, the detailed version of it. But, certainly, what we saw in our glimpse substantiated the concerns -- you're right, Barry -- that we have talked about.
I went over them yesterday, but I'll be glad to do it again; namely, that we believe that Iraq had, prior to the Gulf war, a biological weapons development program. We also believe that Iraq has the capability to turn on such a program, if you will, overnight if sanctions are lifted.
We very much believe that sanctions have to be maintained on Iraq.
Q The nuclear report is the latest -- nuclear and biological, right? There are two reports coming out.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Ekeus, working for UNSCOM, is dealing with biological weapons. Nuclear weapons are not in his --
MR. BURNS: There was a report a couple of days ago -- and I think Christine spoke to this -- about the possible development of Iraqi nuclear weapons. We saw that report. We don't have any comment on it, and I don't have any information to give you on it.
Q Nick, there's a report in the New York Times today outlining a program by this government to undermine and discredit the governments of Iraq and Iran. Do you see the revelation of this program as being a problem for us with our allies in seeking to try to maintain the sanctions?
MR. BURNS: I have a very short answer to the question: I'm not going to comment on that particular report, for obvious reasons.
Q Can we change subjects? Several dozen members of Congress have released a letter calling for the release of the Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng. Can you tell me what the Administration has been talking about with the Chinese about Wei Jingsheng recently? And specifically, will the Secretary raise that issue when he meets the Foreign Minister next week?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the letter. We have concerns about the detention of the individual whom you spoke about, but also a number of others -- a great number of others. We've made those concerns known to the Chinese Government over a long period of time.
The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister is here. He has been meeting for the last couple of days with Under Secretary Tarnoff. He's meeting with a variety of other government officials and our concerns on the human rights issue are being made very clear to him. They're part of our normal agenda with China. Nothing has changed in that respect.
Q (Inaudible) see Wei Jingsheng is anything of a special case? I mean, that is the case which is gaining most publicity, certainly.
MR. BURNS: It's been a case in which we've taken a great interest, a particular interest, and we've made our views clear to the Chinese Government about what we think should happen in this case. But we do have a larger commitment to human rights issues in general, so it's a very broad agenda.
Q Would you quantify -- I believe you said "great number of cases." I mean, are you talking about dozens, hundreds?
MR. BURNS: I can't quantify. No, I can't quantify it for you from here.
Q Can you say something more about these meetings with Liu, because, I mean, three days of meetings with the Under Secretary sounds like you're in pretty serious negotiations. Is this preparation for a possible trip by the Secretary of State to China or a Presidential trip?
MR. BURNS: Under Secretary Tarnoff has had an ongoing series of meetings with the Vice Foreign Minister. It was agreed between Secretary Christopher and the Chinese Foreign Minister that we'd have these regular contacts. I believe the last meeting was in early to mid- September of last year.
So this is a normal set of contacts. It is meant -- it is designed to address the full range of issues on our agenda, so that deals with human rights, trade issues, military issues, political issues pertaining to global problems around the world. He's been here for two days. He's had a couple of meetings with Peter Tarnoff already. They've got another meeting and a lunch scheduled for today.
He's going to be also meeting others in the Administration. He'll be seeing Deputy Secretary Talbott when he returns; this evening, Under Secretary Lynn Davis. I believe he'll also be seeing Secretary Perry, Tony Lake, the National Security Adviser, and John Holum, the head of ACDA.
Q You said something about human rights. Could you flesh out any of the other areas of discussion?
MR. BURNS: I really can't. The talks are underway. In fact, I believe he's in the middle of his talks with our officials here in Washington, so I don't think it would be wise for me to go into the details of what we're talking about now. When those talks conclude, we'll be in a better position to do that.
Q A follow-up. You didn't really answer the question, though. Is the Secretary considering a trip to China this year?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any planned trip to China at this point, no.
Q Are you expecting anything specific to come out of this set of very intensive, high-level meetings with the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: We obviously have great expectations for our relationship with China. It's an enormously important relationship. We're very hopeful that there will be further high-level meetings. I'll probably be in a position tomorrow to talk about the scheduling of another high-level meeting between the U.S. and China. I hope to have something tomorrow for you on that.
Q Could you ask Under Secretary Tarnoff to come pay us a visit?
MR. BURNS: What I can assure you is that we'll try to get to you a much fuller rendition of the substance of these talks. I'm reluctant to do that simply because we're in the middle of the talks. You can understand that.
Q Could you take the question as to whether the Spratly Islands issue came up and the military moves by China in that area? Could you take the question?
MR. BURNS: I can check and see if we have had a discussion with the Vice Foreign Minister this week on the Spratly Islands. I think you know of our concern about the tensions in the South China Sea concerning the Spratlys. We've been in touch with all six of the claimants on the Spratlys' problem recently, and we have ongoing concerns which I know we've expressed to the Chinese Government in the last week or two, but I can certainly check if it came up this week. I would be surprised if it didn't come up this week.
Q Yesterday you spoke about U.S.-Russian relations in the context of Chechnya. Have you gotten any indication, either in response to anything you've said, or to meetings with Secretary Talbott, Secretary Perry, Secretary Christopher, that the Russians are going to do anything along the lines you would wish them to do? Are they just ignoring your pleas?
MR. BURNS: I thought I spoke fairly fully to this issue yesterday. Again, Deputy Secretary Talbott is not yet back in Washington, he returns tonight, so I haven't had a chance to talk to him about his specific discussions.
All I can say in answer to your specific question is this: We have made our views on Chechnya abundantly clear to the Russian Government since late December. There can be no mistake about that in any great detail, and it's very clear what we think should happen now.
The Russian Government has to decide on its own what it's going to do, how it's going to continue to deal with this problem. We've offered a lot of ideas. Now, one of them has been accepted, and that is to agree to an OSCE group in Chechnya. That group -- I believe we talked about it yesterday -- is going to be arriving in mid-April, and the task of that group is going to be to promote human rights, investigate past human rights violations, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
I'm basically reading you parts of the agreement that was concluded in Vienna yesterday. We take this seriously. We're pleased that the Russian Government has agreed both to the mandate of the group and the fact that the group will have a permanent presence in Chechnya.
Q If I could just go back to China, just one last question -- the meetings here. Did the Vice Premier -- what's his title? -- meet with John Shattuck? And did the Clinton Administration ask the Chinese, specifically ask them for the release of Wei?
MR. BURNS: I believe that Assistant Secretary Shattuck is traveling in Asia this week. I'm sure that if he was here he would have had a meeting with the Vice Minister, but he's away from Washington.
I can tell you, Sid, though, that human rights is a major part of our agenda with the Chinese. It's been a focus of the talks this week, and I can certainly get you an answer on the specific question of whether he raised this specific individual case.
Q Whether we asked for the release --
MR. BURNS: That's right. I will get you an answer to that question.
Q Can we go back on Russia?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Despite the fact that you spoke strongly yesterday, and others have before you, there's sort of this recurring pattern of, perhaps, unsavory juxtaposition of events: You make strong statements, the IMF releases $6 billion worth of money for Russia, and the Russians the very next day say, "Sorry, but we're continuing on the same course."
Is there any more consideration within this Administration of taking some kind of step that would indicate a penalty to Russia for ignoring your very strong concerns on the issue of Chechnya?
MR. BURNS: Carol, we have a basic difference of opinion with the Russian Government on the issue of Chechnya. We've had this difference of opinion since late December. We have no interest in masking this difference and we've been quite open about it, and I think I was quite open about it yesterday.
We also have an enormously important relationship with Russia, of which you're well aware. Many of our most vital national interests are tied up in that relationship, and, as the Secretary said in his speech in Bloomington a couple of weeks ago, we don't think it make any sense at all to help advance those national security interests to try to penalize the United States and the Russians on certain aspects of the relationship.
Let me just give you a couple of examples. The IMF did vote yesterday to extend a major $6.8 billion standby loan to Russia. This is a very significant development, it's been three years in the making, and the total of this loan exceeds the total value of international assistance to Russia to date since December 25, 1991, the date that Russia came into being.
We think it is critical for our interests that economic reform continue in Russia. We think it's critical that the process of the dismantlement of the nuclear weapons in Russia, the progress that we've made on START I and START II, continue.
These are vital national interests, and so we think because we have a difference of opinion on Chechnya, which is important, we think it would be contrary to our national interests to conclude from that difference that it somehow makes sense to end cooperative programs that are benefiting the American people. And certainly what the IMF did yesterday strengthens the reformers, advances the course of economic reform, and therefore advances our own interests.
Certainly what Secretary Perry was talking about last week when he was in Russia and what Strobe Talbott was talking about over the weekend, the process of Nunn-Lugar funds going to Russia to help them dismantle nuclear weapons, is absolutely in our national interest.
So we're not going to pick out single issues in the relationship and exact punishment on the Russian people or the Russian Government because we have a difference of opinion.
Q Do you have anything on the talks in Berlin with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I don't. Those talks began today. I think you know what our objectives are in those talks. We're looking forward to hearing reports from our delegation, but they just began at eight or nine this morning, Berlin time, and I don't have a report on them.
Q Do you have any response to the North Korean statement against -- I mean, asking the United States to change its position on the light-water reactors? I think it's coming back again and again, but after the resumption of the talks, do you have any response?
MR. BURNS: My only response would be that the North Koreans are very well aware of what our position is on the issue of the Korean standard model reactors and our negotiators will be reviewing that with them today.
Q Do you know what was on the agenda of Under Secretary Tarnoff's discussions this morning with the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations?
MR. BURNS: I do not. I'm sorry.
Q Do you know anything about the status of the U.S.-U.K. air talks at all? Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: Another issue on which I am completely unprepared. I apologize. (Laughter)
Q Thank you.
Q I have two questions, Nick. Arafat has said that the weapons are being smuggled into Gaza and the black-markets on the West Bank and Gaza -- in fact, this American who was killed may have been the -- the weaponry may have come from Israel rather than from Gaza. And he's saying that they ought to shut it down.
If the FBI should determine that this indeed is true and can trace those weapons to Israeli armories, would the American Government make their views known on that to Israel?
MR. BURNS: Please don't ask me to get ahead of an FBI investigation. I don't want to do that. But let me just say one thing: If anybody has an interest in security in Gaza, it's not only the Palestinians, it's the Israelis. And that is my answer to the first part of your question. The Israeli Government has a very strong interest in preventing these types of terrorist attacks, and I cannot imagine that they would in any way, shape, or form be involved in it. I think it's a ludicrous story.
Q I tried yesterday, but I'll try you again. The FBI's intervention suggests -- points out there is an American interest in pursuing the murder of an American citizen. Like I tried yesterday, is there a Lockerbie-style situation here where the U.S. would -- and I don't think it's hypothetical; I think it's a matter of law whether you can exercise it or not -- is the U.S. going to try to get involved in the prosecution? Demand that whoever planned this be turned over to American authorities for trial?
MR. BURNS: I apologize for the fact that I was unaware yesterday that the FBI team was on its way.
Q No, no. I'm just saying now that the FBI is involved, it's even more relevant today.
MR. BURNS: I would just note that this team has a responsibility to work alongside the local authorities, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to investigate the crime. Under the Long-Arm Statute passed in 1986, it is possible for the United States to prosecute people in U.S. courts for terrorist attacks upon U.S. citizens. And at this point I can't predict what advice the FBI will give the Department of Justice and the rest of the government on this issue. But I wanted to note the statute itself.
Q Nick, if I could move to India and Pakistan and interests of China, the Indians say that they must have their nuclear weapons and their long-range missiles to defend against the Chinese, not against Pakistan. The Pakistanis say that they have weapons that can be assembled very quickly for use, and I take it they're not going to give them up.
Has there been any progress in the last few days here with this visit of Bhutto to bring these three parties to the table to do something about reducing a nuclear threat in that region?
MR. BURNS: I think the President spoke in great detail yesterday about the results of our visit -- his visit with Prime Minister Bhutto. I'm not in a position to characterize all the discussions that took place at lower levels and that might have concerned the three countries that you mentioned.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:16 p.m.)
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