U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/04/28 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, April 28, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns Phillip Wilcox COUNTER-TERRORISM Introduction of Ambassador Phillip Wilcox, Coordinator, Counter-Terrorism ........................1 State Department Report--Patterns of Global Terrorism .1-5 --Gerry Adams/Peace Process in N. Ireland .............5 --Linkages Among Drug Cartels, Org. Crime, Terrorists .5-6 --West Bank Terrorist Acts ............................6 --U.S. Statutory Definition of Terrorism ..............6-7 --Nuclear/Biological/Chemical Terrorism ...............7 --Terrorist Technology--Spread of Information .........7-8 --Linkages Among Domestic & Foreign Terrorists ........8 --PKK Narcotics Trafficking ...........................8 ISRAEL Report of Plan to Confiscate Land in East Jerusalem .....9 RUSSIA Foreign Minister Kozyrev Remarks re: Cooperation w/Iran .10 Search for Fred Cuny--Stepped-up Activity ...............11-12 President Clinton/Secretary Christopher/FM Kozyrev Mtg. .17-18 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Bosnia Contact Group Meeting in Paris ..........................12-13 Discussions with France re: UNPROFOR Troops .............15 Situation in Sarajevo ...................................13-14 Contingency Planning for UNPROFOR Withdrawal ............16 Senator Dole's Proposed Legislation re: Arms Embargo ....18 IRAQ Detained Americans--Arrival of Wives in Amman ...........16 --Attempts by Polish Diplomats to Visit Detainees .......17 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement--Response to U.S. Offer for Talks ...10 CHINA Golden Venture Vessel--Asylum Requests ..................18-19
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 1995, 12:49 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I would like to begin today's briefing with a special session with Ambassador Philip Wilcox, the Department's principal officer on counterterrorism issues.
Ambassador Wilcox assumed the office of Coordinator for Counterterrorism on August 17, 1994. He is a career Foreign Service Officer. He has served with great distinction in the Department in a variety of positions, most recently as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of the Intelligence and Research.
He will be talking to you today about the State Department's report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism in 1994." Following his briefing, I will be available for the regular briefing on other issues.
Ambassador Wilcox, welcome.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Thank you, Nick. Good afternoon. It's just a coincidence that the publication of "Patterns of Terrorism," which the Secretary sent to the Congress today comes just a week after the Oklahoma City tragedy.
The statutory mandate for "Patterns of Terrorism" is to report on international terrorists attacks, whereas the Oklahoma City crime, as you know, we're almost certain an entirely a domestic crime.
The Secretary and the President have repeatedly stressed, as you know, that the threat of terrorism, both domestic and international, are among our very highest priorities. For that reason, we publish this report annually, and we are making a major effort across the board to combat international terrorism here in the Department.
"Patterns" is a detailed survey of politically-inspired violence against non-combatants involving citizens of more than one country, or the territory of more than one country. This year, I am happy to report that you can all read it on the INTERNET.
We prepare this report because of our mandate to coordinate an aggressive policy against international terrorism. You may recall that last October the Secretary, in his Georgetown University speech, said that fighting terrorism and international crime were among the very highest priorities of this Administration.
Working very closely with Justice, the FBI, and the intelligence community, we're building and reinforcing a stronger structure to combat international terrorism through cooperation and to complement our domestic efforts here at home.
Our policy has three basics: First, we don't make deals with terrorists. We don't submit to blackmail.
Second: We identify those nations who sponsor international terrorism, and we bring to bear unilateral U.S. sanctions and we encourage other countries to join us in collective sanctions.
Most important of all, we reinforce the rule of law against terrorists. Terrorism is, above all, a crime and it's encouraging that increasingly other nations around the world regard it as a crime and are bringing to bear the full force of the law against terrorists.
In support of these policies, working with other agencies, we have a very active agenda of consultations with other governments around the world who share our concern about terrorism.
We have an anti-terrorism assistance program, which provides training to government officials around the world. We've trained some 15,000 foreign officials in 80 countries over the last decade. We coordinate very closely with the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies in a program of research and development on counterterrorism technology. We have active, collaborative programs in this area with the U.K., with Canada, and with Israel.
We're also working very closely with Treasury on the implementation of Executive Order 12947, which is designed to block any flow of funds from U.S. sources to terrorists organizations which threaten the Middle East peace process.
I think you're all familiar with the State Department's rewards program, which provides up to $2 million in rewards for information that leads to the prevention or resolution of terrorist attacks against Americans.
All these efforts, I am pleased to say, are showing some results. As you may have read in your copy of "Patterns," the incidences of international terrorism in 1994 were actually down. There were 321 last year compared to 431 the previous year. This contrasts to 665 acts of international terrorism in 1987, which was the peak year for international terrorism.
Through a combination of very active diplomacy and law enforcement cooperation with other governments around the world, more terrorists are being arrested, prosecuted, or extradited as nations increasingly look to law enforcement as the best weapon against terrorists.
There's less ambivalence in the world today that terrorism is simply a crime; whereas, in the past, there was often a tendency to tolerate terrorism, to look the other way, because of the political motivation of the terrorists.
There's another reason for the decline in the incidence of international terrorism. There are several other reasons. The old Soviet Union was a refuge and a supporter of terrorists groups. It's now gone. The new era in South Africa, the beginnings of peace in Northern Ireland are other factors in this recent decline in international terrorists incidents.
But I want to emphasize that while this statistic is a positive one, it does mask some negative, new developments. For example, domestic terrorism, which we do not record in a detailed, comprehensive way in our "Patterns," and political violence, in general, is probably more serious today than it has been in recent years. So there's probably been a net increase in this kind of violence.
Also, although the number of incidents of international terrorism are down, there's a trend toward an increase in casualties during the last two years. Part of this is the bombing of the AMIA Cultural Center in Buenos Aires which took over 100 lives. But there's also a tendency, which we see, of terrorists seeking out mass civilian targets and going after non-official civilian targets which are softer and less protected.
Needless to say, there has been a sharp increase in terrorists attacks against the Middle East peace process, and there is a very dangerous and vicious rear-guard action led by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to destroy the peace process. I emphasize that it's a rear-guard action. We believe it will fail, but nevertheless it's a serious menace which we don't minimize.
There are also other Islamic extremists groups who are confronting both the West and Israel, as well as the mainstream Islamic community, who are waging campaigns of terror in such places as Algeria, Egypt, and Pakistan.
Iran is still the leading sponsor of state-sponsored terrorism. It continues to assassinate dissidents abroad. It maintains direct support for the Hizbollah, which is one of the most dangerous and lethal terrorist organizations. It continues to support the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie, and it is using its resources -- money, materiel -- to support those groups which are using terrorism against the peace process; and the Iranian propaganda against the peace process continues at a virulent level.
Libya, another one of the state's sponsors, continues to defy the mandate of the Security Council. It has refused to yield up the suspects in the Pan Am 103 bombing and the UTA 772 bombings.
The threat of terrorism, using materials of mass destruction, is also a serious problem and it has been made more real and tangible by the recent gas attacks in the Tokyo subways. The Tokyo attacks raise another worrisome new specter, and that is, terrorism committed by psychotics or deviant religious elements. It's a more difficult kind of terrorism to understand and to monitor and deter.
All of these dangers, as well as the growing sophistication and mobility, technical competence, the ingenuity of terrorists, their ability to use modern communications, makes them a more dangerous threat around the world. So we must -- notwithstanding the decline and the incidents of international terrorism -- recognize that it is still a very, very serious threat to our national security and to that of our friends, and to redouble our efforts abroad just as we're doing here at home.
I can't over-emphasize the need for these kinds of efforts that I've described against international and domestic terrorism, per se, including the new omnibus counterterrorism legislation which the President has proposed. But I want to stress something else also. Our counterterrorism strategy abroad is only as good and only as strong as our foreign policy. In order for this policy -- our counterterrorism policies -- to succeed, in order for us to cooperate effectively with foreign governments at every level -- as we've been able to do in the past -- requires a strong U.S. engagement across the board, supported by adequate American resources throughout the world to protect our political, economic, and security interests.
No less important, countering terrorism goes beyond the counterterrorism techniques, the law enforcement, and other means that I've described. It means, strengthening and maintaining our traditional role in helping to resolve those tough political, social, and economic conflicts which are one of the breeding grounds for terrorism.
Thanks very much. I'll be glad to take your questions.
Q I realize that a decision was taken above your pay grade, but was the invitation of Gerry Adams to the White House consistent with your first pronouncement there on policy not to deal with terrorists? I ask also because Margaret Thatcher, last night, wondered how President Clinton would have felt if the Oklahoma bombers had been invited to 10 Downing Street.
Other occasions -- I suppose the argument has been "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Was that invitation consistent with that policy?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We don't accept that formulation that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." Terrorism is terrorism. We make no bones about it.
There was a very strong basis and evolution which led us to believe that there was a real prospect for a peace process in Northern Ireland. We were right. That process is unfolding. Our various initiatives have helped to promote that process.
Terrorists can be redeemed. Over history, some of them have been. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen very often. If individuals or groups who have committed acts of terrorism, who have paid the price, want to cleanse themselves of that, we welcome that. That goes for nation- states who sponsor acts of terrorism. They're not indelibly branded as nation-states if they want to take the right steps to get rid of that taint.
Q CIA Director-designate John Deutch said on Wednesday at his confirmation hearings that there are dangerous linkages that we see now among drug cartels, organized crime, and terrorists. I'm wondering if you could expand on that? Do you see the same signs?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Yes. There is a lot of money that is raised by the drug cartels which is being used to fund terrorist acts, particularly in Latin America. There is a strong nexus between the wave of domestic terrorist acts there and the narcotics industry.
The narcotics money that is being laundered throughout the world is often mingled with money that's being made by the various international criminal syndicates. So there is a clear nexus here.
Some terrorist groups, like the Hizbollah, have been involved in some kinds of narcotics activities. Not all of them, but some of these international groups. The domestic terrorist groups in Latin America are often involved directly in narcotics affairs.
Q Do you see any domestic impact on the United States from any of this, or is it mostly domestic impacts in Latin America and other places? Is there any domestic --
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: There is definitely an impact of domestic terrorism on the United States. It threatens American tourists, American citizens, who are in those countries, and if an American is a victim of terrorism in any country, it becomes by definition an act of international terrorism.
But certainly the wave of violence that is promoted and funded by narcotics money in Latin America is a very definite threat to Americans.
Q Ambassador Wilcox, does the Clinton Administration think the bombing in Israel by Baruch Goldstein, which you mention in this report, is an act of international terrorism?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: It is an act of terrorism. I'm not aware that there were American citizens or dual nationals who were victims of that terrorist incident, and because of the unresolved status of the West Bank, we do not and have not traditionally included acts of terrorism committed in those areas as acts of international terrorism.
Q You mentioned -- I think at the beginning you said terrorism is an act of political violence against non-combatants. In that sense, would you regard an attack on an Israeli army patrol as an act of terrorism? Or take a British army patrol in Northern Ireland, would that be an act of terrorism?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Let me read you our full definition, then I'll see if I can interpret. Terrorism is premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub- national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
That is one definition of terrorism. That comes from a U.S. statute.
There's a great debate about the definition of terrorism, and one can argue that this may be inadequate, too broad or too narrow. This is the one, however, we use for purposes of our analysis and gathering information.
Military forces who are on active duty are not considered -- we do not consider them non-combatants. Military forces who are off-duty, such as those Israeli soldiers who were killed at the bus stop at Beit Lid were non-combatants and were victims of terrorism.
Q Mr. Wilcox, do you share Secretary Perry's concern that North Korea might become a supplier of either fissile materials or atomic devices, supplying those to terrorists like Hizbollah or others that might in turn use them on this country. Are you concerned about that, and are we prepared to counter this kind of ultimate terrorism?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We are deeply concerned about the prospect of terrorists getting a hold of nuclear, biological and chemical substances and using them for terrorist purposes. North Korea is one of the seven nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States.
North Korea has not engaged directly in acts of terrorism since the 1987 bombing of the airliner, but it still continues to harbor terrorist elements inside North Korea and therefore still qualifies as a state sponsor.
North Korea and South Korea and the United States, as you know, are engaged in an elaborate and complex dialogue on how to adopt a new form of nuclear-powered technology which would not pose a threat of proliferation.
But I know of no information which suggests that North Korea has diverted any kind of radiological substance that might have found its way into the hands of terrorists.
Q Since the Oklahoma City bombing, a lot of attention has been given to what might be called "Cyber-terror" -- the proliferation of everything from inflammatory rhetoric to bomb-building recipes on the INTERNET. Have you seen anything similar internationally, and do you have any evidence that extremist or terrorist groups within the United States are communicating with groups -- I don't know, getting trade craft instructions or encouragement from groups abroad?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I worry a lot about it, as we all do. The spread of information about terrorist technology is a grave threat. It's more and more accessible to terrorists anywhere. We do have a Constitution and a First Amendment in this country which is a serious constraint to the control of that kind of information. But, believe me, it's a very worrisome thing.
MR. BURNS: One more question, please.
Q Could you answer the second part of the question about connections between the foreign terrorists and domestic?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: The domestic terrorists who are being charged with the Oklahoma City incident or just in general?
Q In general.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: There are certainly links between extremists elements in this country and their counterparts elsewhere on the right and on the left, and there are links between religious extremist groups in this country and their counterparts overseas, and that's a very dangerous problem.
It is a problem that the Department of State, the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI work on together, so that we can combine information from the domestic and the overseas sector and monitor and arrest, if necessary, these terrorists.
Q Can you be more specific about particular groups that have linkages, foreign and domestic?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: There are elements in this country which are connected with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with Kach and Kahane Chai, for example, and there are others as well.
Q Ambassador, one of the international terrorist organizations, PKK, (inaudible) narcotic activities in Europe and also in the United States?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I know of no narcotics activities by the PKK in the United States. You're quite right that they have been involved in narcotics trafficking in Western Europe and elsewhere.
Q Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Thank you.
Q The linkage between Iran and Algerian terrorists? What is the help provided by Iranian Government to the Algerian Islamic group?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: There's information in a domain which I'm not able to discuss here because that information is classified, so I think I won't have any comment on that question.
Q Thank you.
(Ambassador Wilcox concluded his briefing at 1:15 p.m., after which Spokesman Burns opened the Daily Press Briefing.)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. I'm prepared to answer any questions you have on additional subjects.
Q Do you have any comment today on the reports in Israel that they're going to be seizing 130 acres of land for settlement activity in East Jerusalem?
MR. BURNS: I believe I was asked about this yesterday. Our Consulate General in Jerusalem and our Embassy in Tel Aviv are looking into these reports. We're making inquiries, trying to determine exactly what is happening, so I don't have a judgment that we can bring to bear on this.
Q Can you identify the land? The Washington Post headline calls it Arab land. Does the U.S. Government have a position that the land is indeed Arab land?
MR. BURNS: As I said, I have read the same newspaper articles that you have.
Q They prejudge the land as being Arab land. I wonder if the State Department agrees that it's Arab land that's being seized or taken, or whatever?
MR. BURNS: Our Embassy and Consulate are looking into that question and many others surrounding this, so I can't corroborate what was in the press on this.
Q One of the questions you were asked yesterday, if so -- if these reports are so, are they consistent with the commitment made by Foreign Minister Peres to the Secretary in March, or whenever it was, at Blair House?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to characterize an Israeli Government position. That's for an Israeli Government spokesman to do.
Q Nick, I don't understand why you don't have a handle on this. It's well talked about in the Israeli Government. It's been well publicized in the press. What is it you all are trying to get a handle on -- whether the Israeli Government intends to do it, whether the press reports are accurate, or are you just seeking to avoid commenting on a controversial issue?
MR. BURNS: Sid, normally we don't base American foreign policy on press reports. Press reports sometimes excite some interest in Washington and other places, and this one is certainly of interest to us. But it's really incumbent upon us to look into the facts of the case on the ground, and we do have diplomats who can do that.
So I do think it's a little bit unreasonable to suggest that we don't have a handle on it, and that somehow I'm not being responsible by giving you a judgment when we don't have independent U.S. Government corroboration of the facts of the case.
Q I don't know if the State has anybody auditing Mr. Kozyrev at sites today. He covered the planet in his presentation in answering questions. One point he made was that Russia would not back off the Iran deal, and he said they wouldn't provide him with nuclear technology. What they're trying to do is prevent such things by having to deal with Iran, and said it was comparable to the U.S. deal with North Korea. Is there any parallel between what the U.S. is doing with North Korea and what Russia is doing with Iran?
MR. BURNS: I've not seen Foreign Minister Kozyrev's remarks. I don't believe we had anybody auditing those remarks this morning, but I'm glad to comment on the general view that somehow Russia's cooperation with Iran is analogous to U.S. negotiations with North Korea.
I would simply say in the case of North Korea, the United States and the international community are trying to dismantle an existing nuclear program, and we hope to be successful in doing that, and that is based not upon wishful thinking. It's not based upon trust. It's going to be based upon a solid program that we hope will be implemented and independently verified.
On the other hand, you have another country, Iran, which we believe has designs to become a nuclear power and to have a nuclear capability; and we believe that working with Iran, as Russia and China are doing now, will add to that capability -- will enhance Iran's and quicken Iran's capability to become a nuclear-capable country. The provision of technology, the provision for training purposes -- training facilities - - and of technicians and scientists is going to help Iran to develop that capacity, and we are opposed to that.
So we think that somehow the charge that because we are working with the North Koreans to destroy their nuclear program, to take it down, is somehow analogous to what Russia's doing to Iran. That is simply not true, it's not accurate, and we don't accept the analogy.
Q On a different subject. Relating to terrorism by Japanese cult, which is being connected to the attack on the subway line, recently the Russian Government shut down their branch office in Moscow and starting to ban their activities. And this cult has also a branch in New York. What is your government going to do with it? Are you prepared to ban their activities, watching the development in Japan?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry Ambassador Wilcox is still not here with me to answer that question. I assume that is a problem in which, of course, the Department of State has an interest but which the FBI and the Justice Department have lead responsibility in the U.S. Government, so I would direct you to them to answer that question.
Q Anything more on Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a lot on Fred Cuny except to say that four American diplomats traveled to the Caucasus today to participate in the search for him. All four diplomats are from our Embassy in Moscow. Two went to Dagestan and two went to Ingushetia.
They will follow up with the Russian military authorities, with Interior Ministry officials on the ground, and with anybody who we think has a lead to try to find him.
In addition, I understand that the OSCE mission that arrived in Chechnya on Tuesday has also been instructed by the Hungarian Government, which is Chair of this mission, to make it an active issue for them as well, and they are participating in this investigation.
Just to remind you, Secretary Christopher and the President talked to Foreign Minister Kozyrev about this, and the President talked to President Yeltsin about it. So we have stepped up, in fact, over the last 24 hours our activity here. I'm sorry to say that I don't have any information to give to you on his whereabouts.
We are, as I said before, pursuing any leads that become available to us, but right now there's no positive or negative information that would give us a better indication of where he might be.
Q Were two of those four the same diplomats who went there earlier in the week?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe so. We sent two diplomats earlier in the week. They went back to Moscow 48 hours ago. They reported back to Ambassador Pickering, and then Ambassador Pickering subsequently decided to send an additional four Embassy officers to the region.
Q Nick, can you tell us anything about the meetings that are going on today about Bosnia? There was a meeting this morning and I believe the Secretary attended and General Shalikashvili also, and I gather there's a meeting at the White House also. What is going on?
MR. BURNS: Bosnia is a constant source of attention and preoccupation in this Administration, as you would imagine, given the events on the ground in Bosnia. I can't confirm each and every meeting that does take place, however, and we're not in the habit of doing that. But I can tell you that we're following the situation very closely. The Secretary is following the situation in Sarajevo closely.
Ambassador Bob Frasure is in Paris today for a meeting of the Contact Group. I checked just before I came out here. We do not yet have a report from him. Perhaps I'll have something later in the day, but I don't now.
Q Does the U.S. Government think that some of the comments by senior French officials, that they would like to withdraw from Bosnia, are serious or are they electioneering? Is there a real threat that the troops might be withdrawn, and that the U.S. might have to help them withdraw?
MR. BURNS: We take France's comments seriously, because France is a close ally, and the French contingent, I believe, is the largest contingent in Bosnia and one of the most important. For a number of weeks now we've been discussing with the French Government bilaterally but also within the Contact Group their concern which Foreign Minister Juppe has made very clear -- their concerns that the cease-fire needs to be extended, that the political negotiations need to be put forward, and that the safety of the troops in UNPROFOR has to be upgraded. The French have lost two troops in the last two weeks.
So we understand their concerns, and we share them. We believe, however, that it is in the continued interest of the West to maintain UNPROFOR on the ground. As you know, we have long felt that UNPROFOR could in many instances be more a more assertive institution. It is obviously a highly imperfect institution, but it is also an institution and a body that is feeding up to 1.5 million people. That has by all accounts limited the casualties throughout the warfare, and that is playing a useful role.
So our efforts at the Contact Group and in New York in Ambassador Albright's discussions on this issue are to try to find a way to keep UNPROFOR going.
The current preoccupation of the Contact Group is to discuss the possibility of extending the cease-fire that is due to expire in a couple of days. It's also to try to see if we can pursue with Belgrade our continued discussions about a recognition by Belgrade of Bosnia in return for limited sanctions relief.
So those two issues -- the package deal and also the issue of the extension of the cease-fire -- are the focus of today's discussions and have been the focus of the diplomacy for a couple of weeks now.
Q Do you know what the situation is in Sarajevo Airport?
MR. BURNS: The situation in Sarajevo in general is quite grim. As I understand it, the last road into the city, the Mt. Igman road, has been closed by the Bosnian Serb forces. This effectively seals the city to all but uniformed UNPROFOR troops, and the Bosnian Serbs continue to bar humanitarian flights into Sarajevo airport and to prevent civilians from traveling on U.N. planes.
I guess we're two days now before the end of the cease-fire period, and I note that the U.N. today said that the situation is slipping towards a full-scale war. That was the U.N. spokesman. The U.N. spokesman noted that there are many areas of very heavy military activity.
What we are attempting to do through our diplomacy and using our influence is to try to extend that cease-fire, so that the fighting that is now occurring throughout the region can be contained in the future and a larger war can be avoided. That is the focus of our diplomacy.
Q Is this the U.S. judgment -- the situation is slipping?
MR. BURNS: That is not the U.S. judgment. I was simply noting the judgment of the United Nations officials on the ground. As you know, we have a diplomatic mission in Sarajevo, led now by a Charge d'Affaires, and we're receiving reports from that mission, but I was simply quoting a U.N. judgment.
Q Do the Serbian activities serve as an indicator of their attitude, which is that they're not going to cooperate?
MR. BURNS: I think they indicate a certain attitude that they don't have a lot of respect for the U.N. resolutions that are supposed to govern military and diplomatic activity in the area, and it's certainly an indication of a point of view which we firmly oppose. You know our point of view. We think that Sarajevo -- access should be open to Sarajevo for diplomats and for the citizens of Sarajevo, and we think the fighting should be stopped. So there's a very wide gap, obviously, between our position and the Bosnian Serb position.
Q The fact that there is then such a gap, the United States and its allies have always used at least as a potential source of pressure, airstrikes. Are we at this stage of frustration where airstrikes might be considered?
MR. BURNS: That is a question that UNPROFOR and NATO alone have the responsibility for. So I think I would leave that question to them. Everyone concerned is frustrated by the situation and angry about the situation, particularly some of the incidents that have taken place over the last couple of weeks in Sarajevo pertaining to American officials. And by the continued Bosnian Serb shelling of cities -- the enclaves where innocent people are being killed and wounded.
That is a message that we have given to them and will continue to give to them, but it should stop.
Q Thank you, Nick. All reports that I've seen in the last couple of weeks say that the Muslims -- the Bosnian Muslims do not wish to have the cease-fire either re-established or extended. I take it it's the same with the Bosnian Serbs.
Nick, have we got any new information? Have we made any new contacts there in Sarajevo to talk with Mr. Silajdzic and others about their role in this? They've been on the offensive now for a month, and I understand there are three major areas of fighting in the country, and further the Department of Defense verified what was said here a couple of days ago in this room about a massive Bosnian Serb offensive coming soon.
But basically the question is, do the Muslims want to play ball with us?
MR. BURNS: We've made our position known to the Bosnian Government, and that is we think the cease-fire is worth extending, and we hope that military activity can be limited so that people's lives can be preserved. I mean, we've made that clear to both sides during the last couple of weeks.
Q Have they responded recently -- I mean, in the last few days -- to say yes or no or we'll wait?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you about our recent diplomatic contact. As you know, Ambassador Frasure was not able to get into Sarajevo last weekend to have discussions with the Bosnian Government, and our mission there is carrying out discussions, but I don't have any recent information to give you about them.
Q Let me finish this. Is there any opening from any other diplomatic channel -- from the Russians, from the French, or anybody else -- to indicate that this cease-fire can be re-established?
MR. BURNS: The Russians, the French, the United States, the Germans, and others are all together trying to find a way to extend the cease-fire. I think we have an international agreement in the Contact Group that the cease-fire should be extended. That's taking place today in Paris. Unfortunately, since I don't have a readout on those talks, I can't give you a lot more.
Q Nick, a follow-up on the political director-level talks in Paris today. Is there also on the agenda the question of a Foreign Ministers' level meeting?
MR. BURNS: That has been proposed in the past, and it has been proposed just in recent weeks; not by the United States but by others. It's our view that it was appropriate to meet, first, at the Contact Group level -- the representatives level; in this case, Ambassador Frasure's level. For any meeting to take place, we think it's got to be well prepared and there's got to be some reason to think it can produce something of concrete value to the process and be successful. At this point, the United States felt that it was important to get the Contact Group's reps in the room together to look at the full range of options that are on the table, and to do that first.
Q Would the United States agree to a Foreign Ministers meeting if the French pulled the peacekeepers out?
MR. BURNS: I can't say, Barry. The French --
Q (Inaudible) of course, if you're going to have a Foreign Ministers level meeting.
MR. BURNS: We would very much like to convince the French Government and others that UNPROFOR should stay, and that the French contingent and other contingents should stay. We've made point very clear to all the participating governments over the last couple of weeks.
Q Nick, what is the status of contingency planning for the withdrawal of troops should that become necessary? What American personnel are on the ground preparing for such an eventuality, if any?
MR. BURNS: As you know, there has been contingency planning carried out in NATO. There have been discussions with the U.N. about the possibility, if it should become necessary, to extricate UNPROFOR from the Balkans. The United States has participated in those discussions.
I believe there's an 80-person contingency team that is on the ground in the region preparing contingency plans. I can check on the exact number; there are about 15 American communications specialists and technicians with that team. But we can check on the exact figure for you.
Q Do you have anything on the women going into Iraq to see their husbands?
MR. BURNS: I understand that Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon have arrived in Amman. The Iraqi Embassy in Amman was closed today because it's Friday. We believe it will be opened tomorrow. We hope very much that they'll get their visas sometime this weekend.
We understand that their plans are to leave Amman as soon as they get their visas. Our Polish diplomat, Mr. Krystosik, is in Amman. He's with them. He will drive them to Baghdad as soon as they get the visas, and we hope there will be meetings and reunions scheduled with their husbands shortly thereafter.
It's hard to foresee the timing of this. It's difficult to predict. They could be in Baghdad as early as tomorrow night if everything worked very smoothly. It could also take a number of days. We'll just have to see how quick the Iraqi Embassy is in Amman.
Q Any further efforts -- I hate to bring up the same old issue. He's in Amman, so he can't be trying to see the two Americans.
MR. BURNS: Actually, we have four Polish diplomats who are resident in Baghdad, and they form our protecting power in Baghdad. Those that have been left behind in Baghdad have been trying for the last 48 hours -- both yesterday and today -- to get into the Abu Ghraib Prison to see the two Americans and they have been denied access to them.
Q Again, without explanation?
MR. BURNS: As far as I know, Barry, without explanation.
Q Anything new on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Nothing new on North Korea. The ball is in the North Korean court. Ambassador Gallucci sent his letter on Tuesday evening. We have not yet received a reply to that letter.
Q Do you know why a meeting that was scheduled for 45 minutes with the Secretary of State and Kozyrev and the President turned out to be 10 minutes long yesterday?
MR. BURNS: Well, let's just review the timing of all these meetings. The Secretary spent over two hours with Foreign Minister Kozyrev on Wednesday evening -- Wednesday afternoon and evening. You'll have to direct the question to the White House. I'm not aware that the meeting with the President was ever scheduled for 45 minutes. I think it was always scheduled to be a very brief meeting, because we had planned a couple of days in advance a telephone conversation between President Clinton and President Yeltsin. So I wouldn't read anything into the fact that they had a 10 to 15 minute meeting, which I believe was the length of that meeting. I don't think it was every envisaged that it would go further, but feel free to check with my former colleagues at the National Security Council.
Q You were talking about the possibility of a Foreign Ministers' meeting, which brings to mind whether Christopher's meeting with Kozyrev is indeed the last pre-summit meeting between the two of them. I guess they could meet again before the summit in the context of Yugoslavia also -- what? -- or is that it?
MR. BURNS: We don't have any meetings scheduled between now and May 8, which is the day that the President and the Secretary leave Washington for Moscow.
If you look back on the recent diplomacy, the Secretary and Mr. Kozyrev have had three meetings now since January -- two in Geneva and one in Washington; many hours of discussion. I think the Secretary feels that they've done a lot of planning for the summit. It's going to be well prepared, and we have a pretty good indication of where the two countries are on most issues.
Q But are the London talks done? Is that all over with?
MR. BURNS: Oh, yes. The London talks were completed several days ago. These are Lynn Davis' talks in London.
Q Apparently, Senator Dole is in the process of fine-tuning his embargo-lifting legislation. Is there anything that could be done to that legislation that would make a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo acceptable to the Administration?
MR. BURNS: I really can't speak to that too much. Obviously, we know that there's talk in the Congress. The Administration is in touch with both parties in the Congress about this issue. I don't have any kind of detailed information or planning that I can give you at this time.
Q Just one more, Nick. Thirteen Chinese women are seeking asylum in this country, fearing deportation and murder of their children if they were sent back to China due to the State-coercive abortion policies. Is it possible that this could be further reviewed, or that their departure could be delayed so that they can have these babies?
MR. BURNS: We've looked into this issue, and this issue has been with us for a long time. This issue of the status of these individuals -- I think you're talking about the Golden Venture vessel people -- is an issue for which the Immigration and Naturalization Service has responsibility. The State Department does not adjudicate asylum requests, but the INS does.
Having said that, I can tell you that we remain concerned about the reports of coercive family planning practices in China, and we've raised this issue with the Chinese Government on many occasions.
Q Would the State Department be willing to ask for a delay in the deportation of these women?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, the authority, under U.S. law, rests with the Immigration and Naturalization Service; not with the State Department. The State Department does not have the right to adjudicate in asylum requests for someone once they're in the United States. That is the province of the INS; not of the State Department. So I'm afraid that you'll have to direct that question, or I'd invite you to direct that question to the INS.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:38 p.m.)
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