U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/02 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, May 2, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Fighting in Croatia ....................................1-7 --U.S. Diplomacy: Secretary Christoper Meetings; Telecon w/FM Kozyrev; Amb. Frasure Call to Mr. Milosevic; Amb. Galbraith Activities ............................1-2,4-5,6 --Contact Group Involvement in Mediation ...............2 Contact Group Mtgs./Work on Bosnia Ceasefire Arrangement ..........................................2 Enhancement of Economic Embargo/ Security for UNPROFOR Troops .........................3 NATO Airstrikes--Existing Arrangements .................3,6-7 CYPRUS Prospect of Cyprus Membership in EU ....................7 RUSSIA Iran: Prospect of Sale of Nuclear Reactors/ Gas Centrifuge System --Secretary Christopher's Discussions w/FM Kozyrev .....7-8,13,15 --Summit Discussions ...................................15 --Expert Level Talks ...................................15 Vladivostok--Detained Americans ........................19-20 ISRAEL Israeli Confiscation of Arab Land in East Jerusalem ....8-10 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Possibility of Syrian/Israeli Military Talks ...........10-11 IRAN U.S. Sanctions: Diplomacy/International Reaction .......11-13 CUBA Cubans at Guantanamo ...................................17 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement: Work on Next Round of Discussions --Consultations between U.S./South Korea/Japan .........18 IRAQ Detained Americans: Visits by Wives, Polish Diplomatic Access .............................18-19 Kurdish Security in Northern Iraq ......................20 FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA Security Situation .....................................19
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 2, 1995, 12:51 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'll be glad to go right to any questions you have today.
Q Do you know how many measures that you folks are about to invoke to help the situation in the former Yugoslavia, such as more monitors, maybe, along the dividing line? There is an interesting interview Mr. Holbrooke gave the Washington Times touching on that and some other possibilities.
MR. BURNS: He always gives interesting interviews.
Q He is really up to speed.
MR. BURNS: He is always up to speed. He is a very good diplomat.
I have a couple of things that I wanted to say, Barry, about the situation in Croatia, and if you would like to expand that, we can talk about Bosnia as well.
The United States is, obviously, very concerned by the new round of fighting in Croatia. We condemn in strong terms the indiscriminate attack on civilians in Zagreb, and we urge restraint on all sides and an end to the fighting.
We believe that U.N. authority should be respected by all sides and re-established in the region. We therefore support Mr. Akashi's efforts in the region today. We do not believe the situation should be changed by the use of force.
Today we have been very actively involved in trying to help redress the situation. Secretary Christopher has had a number of meetings here in the Department, and just a couple of minutes ago he phoned Foreign Minister Kozyrev. They had a very good talk. They agreed that the United States and Russia should work together to try to re-establish the U.N.'s authority in Croatia. They agreed that the parties should be restrained in their efforts. They agreed on the need for the Contact Group to get involved energetically on this issue in Croatia, and they agreed in all respects about their respective views on this situation today.
In addition to that, Ambassador Bob Frasure, who is our representative to the Contact Group, called Mr. Milosevic this morning in Belgrade, urged him to review the situation very carefully, and asked him, urged him, to counsel restraint upon the Croatian Serbs.
Ambassador Galbraith, our Ambassador in Zagreb, has also been quite active throughout the last 48 hours in Zagreb, trying to obviously get a handle on the situation and also to make some of the same points that the Secretary and Ambassador Frasure have been making.
Q Could you elaborate a bit on the Contact Group? When last we left that subject, the French were floating the idea of a Foreign Ministers meeting, and the U.S. thought maybe there should be a lower- level meeting first. How will the Contact Group get more active, do you think?
MR. BURNS: Well, let me just separate the issues of what is happening in Croatia with what is happening in Bosnia.
On the subject of Croatia, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Kozyrev have just agreed on the phone that the Contact Group should now re-engage quite assertively and actively in the Croatian situation.
As you know, the Contact Group and the United States had been successful in getting the parties to agree that the U.N. mandate in Croatia should be transformed, and that has taken place. We now believe that the Contact Group should become actively involved in trying to mediate the situation.
Barry, turning to Bosnia, the Contact Group met last Friday. It will meet again tomorrow in London, and on Friday in Paris. Our effort is to try to convince the parties in Bosnia to agree to a cease-fire, to work out the elements of a new cease-fire, and our offer, our long-held offer, of an arrangement whereby the government in Belgrade would recognize the Bosnian Government in return for limited sanctions relief is still on the table.
Ambassador Frasure met over the weekend with Mr. Milosevic and had good, productive discussions on this issue with him. And so we are going to keep the Contact Group actively involved this week and next on that issue, as well as the issue in Croatia.
Q How about some of those possible actions? We could run a threat again, which I guess is becoming rather hollow. You could put more monitors on the border. Anything like that in the offing?
MR. BURNS: We would like to put more monitors on Serbia's border with Bosnia. We believe it makes sense to do that. It is needed in order to enforce or at least enhance the monitoring of the economic embargo that is in place. We also obviously are going to work closely with UNPROFOR to see what we can do to beef up security for U.N. personnel in the region to make UNPROFOR more effective in its mission, which is to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people in the region.
Q On that last point of UNPROFOR and the interview with Holbrooke, he suggested that air strikes are still a possibility. I think you have been suggesting that they are not a real possibility since UNPROFOR won't pull a trigger.
Is that an accurate impression I have of the State Department view on air strikes?
MR. BURNS: Well, I think that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke was emphasizing that existing arrangements for the use of NATO air power in Bosnia remain in effect, and that is a useful reminder to the parties in the region as we proceed.
As you know, for most situations but not all, there is a "dual- key" arrangement that governs the use of NATO air power. If you are going to fly close air support and use air power to achieve certain limited objectives, there has to be the agreement of both the U.N. forces on the ground as well as NATO.
In the case of a "no-fly" zone, those rules do not apply. In the case of enforcing the "no-fly" zone, the NATO aircraft have the ability to decide -- or NATO has the ability to decide on its own that it will take action. That was not possible over the weekend. I think we discussed this yesterday in the incident over the weekend, because it wasn't possible to verify immediately the source of the bombing over the weekend.
Q Back to Croatia, do you have a clear idea of what happened in the last 48 hours and who is responsible?
MR. BURNS: Well, I think you know we have received a lot of reports about what happened over the last 48 hours, and we have relied upon our Embassy in Zagreb to discuss with the Croatian authorities what the objectives were of the fighting that took place yesterday, but essentially it was a Croatian force that attacked Krajina Serb forces in the U.N. Sector West.
There was a lot of fighting yesterday. I think you are well aware from press reports about the details of that fighting, and at approximately l0:25 this morning in Zagreb five missiles exploded in central Zagreb near a hotel, and there was a lot of fighting, additional fighting in and around Zagreb and the U.N. Sector West area. So there has been quite a bit of military activity over the last 48 hours.
Q But I think the Croats are saying anyway that they consider the operation finished. Is that your impression?
MR. BURNS: I've seen press reports to that effect, and we have begun to hear that this is going to be a limited military operation. That is certainly very much our hope and expectation.
Q Nick, you say that you would like to put more monitors on the border with Serbia. Does that mean you're going to put more monitors -- how is this --
MR. BURNS: That's one of the issues that I said is before the United Nations and it's being discussed in New York, and it's being discussed on the ground, about how we can do that and can we get the agreement of all sides that we should do that. We believe it's something that has to be done to make sure that the sanctions are effective.
Q That would mean U.S. personnel?
MR. BURNS: Not necessarily. I don't believe a decision has been made as to who these people would be or what countries they would come from.
Q You pointedly said that Ambassador Frasure has spoken to Milosevic about urging restraint on the Croatian Serbs. Given the fact that this seems to have been initiated by an offensive of the Croats, I didn't hear any urging of Tudjman for a similar kind of restraint. Is that part of the message?
MR. BURNS: It is. I've said a couple of things this morning. I'd be glad to repeat that particular point. We certainly condemn the rocket attacks on Zagreb this morning because innocent people were affected -- killed and wounded by those rocket attacks.
At the same time, I said previously that we do not believe that the situation ought to be changed by force on the ground, and therefore we call on both sides -- both the Krajina Serbs and the Croatian Government -- to withdraw their forces from the area and to respect the U.N.'s authority in the area.
Q Whose rocket attacks?
MR. BURNS: These were Krajina Serb rocket attacks.
Q The rocket attacks were theirs?
MR. BURNS: That's right. We believe they were, yes.
Q Where would they get these kinds of rockets, Nick? Where do you suspect they would get these kinds of rockets?
MR. BURNS: There are all sorts of theories as to how they could get them, but I don't know how they got these particular missiles. They're believed to be M-87 Orcon missiles with anti- personnel cluster bomb warheads, and to fire them at a city in which civilians are residing is simply not right, and it is contrary to everything that's decent. So therefore we condemn that kind of attack.
Q If I'm not mistaken, those missiles are manufactured in Yugoslavia?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm sitting here in Washington. These attacks just took place a couple of hours ago. I can't draw you a line as to where these particular bombs came from.
Q Do you suspect that these -- the Yugoslav army -- Serb army - - regular Serb army is involved in this, in resupplying the Krajina Serbs, that they might be behind some of this?
MR. BURNS: In the past, we've had concerns about that type of supply operation and that link. But I can't tell you that this particular -- that the ordnance used in the attack this morning came from that supply -- that source of supply. I just don't know.
It's obviously something that the United Nations forces in the area are going to look into and have to look into, and I'm sure will look into, and we'll be interested in their report to us.
Q Why are you urging restraint for Mr. Milosevic in this situation? What do you not want him to do?
MR. BURNS: We have urged, in Ambassador Frasure's telephone call this morning, Mr. Milosevic to use his influence in the area with the Serb communities to pull back their forces from the fighting. He's someone who does have influence throughout the region, not just in his own area.
Q Nick, when you say you call on both sides to withdraw forces, does that mean you're urging the Croats to restore the status quo ante in Sector West, or whatever you call it? In other words, to give up the land that he's captured in this offensive and to allow the Serbs to restore their de facto control over it?
MR. BURNS: We believe that the U.N.'s authority in Sector West ought to be not only respected but re-established, so the answer is yes.
Q Nick, is it my remembrance that air strikes -- that the air strike agreement that currently exists is for Bosnia and not for Croatia?
MR. BURNS: The "no-fly" zone pertains to Bosnia but not to Croatia, yes. And the incident that occurred this weekend that we discussed yesterday took place in Bosnia, not in Croatia.
Q So if they wanted to call in -- if this escalated and U.N. troops were at risk, could raids be called in in Croatia?
MR. BURNS: We hope it doesn't come to that. We hope that we're going to be able to achieve through diplomatic means very quickly, working through Mr. Akashi, an agreement that there will be a cessation of the fighting in U.N. Sector West.
The U.N. has a responsibility to protect its soldiers, its military and civilian personnel in the area, and that's very much in the minds of the U.N. leadership and Mr. Akashi today.
Q Are you planning to intervene unilaterally in any case?
MR. BURNS: In Croatia?
Q In the Bosnia (inaudible) area.
MR. BURNS: In Bosnia?
Q Where the U.N. forces on the ground --
MR. BURNS: The United States is not contemplating any kind of unilateral action. We are working through the Contact Group, and we're working closely with the Contact Group. That's one of the reasons why the Secretary decided to call Foreign Minister Kozyrev just a couple of minutes ago, because he thought it was important to be in touch personally, because we're quite concerned about, not only the situation in Bosnia, but the new fighting in Croatia.
Q In the same interview, Mr. Holbrooke stated inter alia that the U.S. lobbied for Cyprus to be invited to European Union membership. Since the island could only join the EU as a federation, if that is the case, what would happen to the UDI -- the Unilateral Declaration of Independence -- which has been declared illegal by the Turkish side, separating the fact of Cyprus. Can you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I think I'm going to let Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's comments stand as they were given to the Washington Times editorial board yesterday. I have no reason to question those comments or to second-guess them. He's one of our senior diplomats, and we have great confidence in him.
Q If I can switch subjects, did the Secretary and Mr. Kozyrev discuss Iran in his phone call?
MR. BURNS: It was a very brief phone call this morning, and it was a one-issue call. Minister Kozyrev is still in the United States. He was at a conference in Atlanta this morning, and I believe he issued his own statement which very much parallels what I've told you today about our view of the situation in Croatia.
So the Secretary decided after a couple of meetings this morning with his advisers that he ought to be in touch personally with Kozyrev to exchange views and to urge Russia to adopt some of the same diplomatic contacts that we have employed this morning. So I believe it was just on that phone call -- but I can assure you that in the many hours they spent together last Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, that the situation of Iran was prominent in those discussions.
Q Was it a (inaudible) that they were talking about Iran?
MR. BURNS: They had a multi-level engagement last week. They were here at the State Department, in the White House, and they met on the tennis court last Saturday.
Q Did the Secretary tell him the ball's in their court now on that issue? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: The ball is definitely in the Russian court on Iran, yes.
Q What was the score?
MR. BURNS: That is a highly classified bit of information. But suffice it to say, I don't think Pete Sampras has anything to worry about from either gentleman. (Laughter)
Q Did Kozyrev play both sides of the net? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: No, I believe he leapt over the net at the end of the match. But, no, he was just on one side of the net, Barry.
Q Nick, there are reports and statements coming from Cairo, New York, and the Gaza Strip regarding the Israeli action of confiscating and expropriating Palestinian property inside Jerusalem. The United States Government didn't make any statement regarding this at the beginning. Now, since the action has been known publicly and Mr. Rabin declared that, what is the reaction or the comments of the United States Administration? If there was no reaction or comment, will you be commenting on this? Will Ms. Albright in her capacity as the Ambassador at the United Nations -- and she's now in the region -- be discussing this with the Israelis? So what is the situation regarding this very touchy issue?
MR. BURNS: We were asked about this last week, and at the time we said that our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem were looking into this very important matter. I would simply say in response to your question that this is a difficult issue, and it's difficult to see how this type of action, this land confiscation, can be helpful at this time in the negotiations. And I would leave my comments there.
Q But did the U.S. -- well, you can't undo, I guess, what's been done, but is there any -- have you given any instruction or any advice to the Israeli Government beyond this action? You say it can't be helpful. That's after the fact, right?
MR. BURNS: We weren't aware of the action --
Q Your opinion isn't helpful.
MR. BURNS: Barry, we weren't aware of the action before it was announced. We weren't party to this decision before it was announced.
Q Are you saying like, "Don't do it again," or --
MR. BURNS: When it was announced, we decided to look into the facts of the situation, because, as I said the other day, we don't always base American foreign policy on press reports. So sometimes one has to look into the facts of the situation. We've done that, and in response I can tell you after a certain amount of conversation in this building about this issue that we don't see how this is especially helpful at the present time.
Q Are you asking Mr. Rabin to reverse the decision, since this is not a matter of national security? He's going to build some settlements, some houses for settlers who are around Jerusalem, and he wants to build a police station, when he could build it in another place.
MR. BURNS: I think I'm going to leave my comments where I've left them this morning.
Q You have confirmed that "X amount of land" has been confiscated, is that right?
MR. BURNS: We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the press reports, having looked into them.
Q Do you know the size of the area?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the figures in my head. I know it's in two parts of Jerusalem, one north of Jerusalem -- Beit Hanina -- and another south of Jerusalem. But I don't have any detailed information on exactly how many dunams of land it is.
Q And going back to the question you were asked the other day, is this consistent with the assurances given by Foreign Minister Peres during the Blair House discussions a couple of months ago?
MR. BURNS: I think what I will do, with all due respect, is direct you to the Israeli Government for their comment on that issue. There was some discussion of the general issue of settlements at Blair House on February 12, but I don't think it's appropriate for me to characterize for the Israeli Government an Israeli Government position on this or to characterize the nature of Foreign Minister Peres' discussions with the Palestinian leaders at Blair House. That's up to the Israelis to do.
Q Well, just so we know we're talking about the same thing, according to Christopher, the assurance that was given to him by Foreign Minister Peres was in the morning of the Blair House afternoon talks here at the State Department. That's the assurance I'm talking about, and that's one that he mentioned at the White House briefing.
MR. BURNS: Yes, and I believe the way it was expressed by the Secretary was in quite general terms about settlement activity. I went back and looked at those comments. It was not specific. It did not mention "Jerusalem;" it just mentioned "settlements."
Q Could we have someone from the Middle East department to brief us all On the Record or on Background about this issue? It's very, very explosive now. I understand statements from Egypt and other places that even they're not working on the NPT, which is coming the 12th of this month.
MR. BURNS: I'm available everyday to talk about the Middle East.
Q We would like someone, if you can.
MR. BURNS: My friends who work full time on Middle East affairs are occupied with a lot of the diplomacy right now. So I'm willing to stand up everyday and take any questions you have.
Q We're delighted by that, you know.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure.
Q (Inaudible) statements from you.
Q What happened to the idea of the Syrian and Israeli military -- senior military commanders coming here for peace talks?
MR. BURNS: That's something that we still would like to arrange. As you know, the Secretary met last week with the Syrian and Israeli Ambassadors to the United States. Their talks take place under our auspices and our efforts to bring them together to discuss the full range of issues, including the very important security issues, continue. But we are not at the point yet where the two countries have agreed to bring their military representatives to those talks.
Q Are they here in the building, or have they been meeting?
MR. BURNS: I can't say that there have been meetings everyday. I know that Ambassador Ross has been active, and the Secretary has certainly been active. It's not been our practice to give you a detailed accounting of each and every session. But let me just assure you there have been meetings, and those meetings will continue.
Q Nick, just to go back to the Jerusalem question. You say it's not helpful at this time. Can you say what you mean "at this time?" I can assume what you mean, but I can't report that. Why is it not helpful at this time -- what do you mean by "not helpful?" What is it they're doing that is hurting something?
MR. BURNS: There's a peace process underway at this time. So this kind of action, we believe, is not helpful at this time because of the - - was that good?
Q How does the issue of Jerusalem play into this equation? How does that fit into the peace process?
MR. BURNS: I served in Jerusalem about 10 years ago. The first thing I learned was to say as little as possible about the legalities concerning that city and its status because our position is so well known. It's better known to people in this room than it is to me. So I don't think it's really even useful for any of you to have me try to elaborate on it?
Q What is the position of the United States?
MR. BURNS: It's so well known that all of you could recite it back to me.
Q Can I go to another country?
MR. BURNS: Anybody want to stay on the Middle East? We're having so much fun on the Middle East.
Q Is there any reaction to the French decision to the Iranian sanction issues? This morning, I believe, the French Foreign Minister, announced that they're not obeying your offer to trade sanctions against Iran.
MR. BURNS: I do have a reaction. I'm glad you asked.
Q Does it help?
MR. BURNS: Does the reaction help? (Laughter) You can be the judge of that. I haven't given you the reaction yet.
We did not expect from our allies an immediate, positive response. Because we've just had 24 hours to brief them on the nature of the President's decision and on his speech and his statement on Sunday evening.
We do expect to have an opportunity today and in the coming days to have quite detailed conversations with all of our allies -- with the Russians, with the Chinese, and others -- on the issue of Iran. That's by way of introduction.
I just want to raise a couple of issues with you. The United States has a lot of experience in the Middle East. We have close ties to nearly all of the region's countries with some notable exceptions, including Iran.
We have heard from all of our friends in the region, without exception, a very high degree of concern about Iran's future, about Iran's intentions to develop a nuclear capacity in the future. We know, through various means and sources, that the Iranian Government is intent on developing a nuclear weapons capability, and we want to prevent that. That was the reason why the President and the Secretary decided that we had to take much tougher measures to try to isolate Iran.
Iran can't be treated like a normal country because the reality is that it is a state that would have a hugely destructive force at its disposal were we and the international community to stand by and watch it over the next couple of years develop nuclear weapons.
This is a question of leadership. The President and the Secretary have decided that the United States has to play a leadership role. We know that this decision poses some difficulties for our allies in Europe and in Japan. We know that they need some time to think about this. We've certainly seen some of the immediate reaction this morning.
We look at this as a long-range venture. We know it's the right decision. We know that we have a responsibility, as the world's leading power, to prevent the development of another nuclear weapons state in the world and the development of a nuclear weapons state in the hands of the radicals in Tehran.
It is a question at this point of leadership and vision. I would submit to you that the President and the Secretary have given the world that leadership and vision. We will work over the coming days and weeks and months and years, if need be, to convince our allies that this is the right way to go.
I was very glad to see, just before I came out here, a press statement from the Government of Japan that it has decided in reaction to the President's and Secretary's call for international action to postpone a $542 million loan. We're very gratified to see that action taken by the Government of Japan. We would call on our other allies around the world to take this action.
Finally, I would just say -- and then be glad to answer additional questions on this -- that the issue of Iran will be one of the top issues in the President's and the Secretary's discussions in Moscow on May 9-10-11. The degree of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran in the future will be a key factor in Iran's quest to attain the nuclear weapons capability that we've talked about. This will remain a major issue in our relationship with Russia.
Q Nick, if Russia supplies the gas centrifuge to Iran, will we cut off aid to them? There was a U.S. official cited in a report over the weekend saying that.
MR. BURNS: There are two issues of concern here. Let me just amplify in your questions, if I might. We have been concerned for a long time about the prospect of the sale of two nuclear reactors by Russia to Iran. We are doubly concerned by reports from Moscow, that the President and the Secretary have both referred to, that in addition to that sale the Russians may also have agreed to sell in the future, or to provide in the future, a gas centrifuge system or a reprocessing system to Iran. This adds to our concern because it would allow Iran to take a great leap forward in its development of a nuclear capacity. Not just because Iran will be receiving technology that it should not have, but because of the provision of scientists and technicians along with that deal.
The Secretary raised this issue quite forcefully with Foreign Minister Kozyrev last Wednesday here at the State Department. We have been assured that the Russian Government will look into this second area of concern. We hope very much that in the discussions in Moscow, we might be able to hear that they've decided not to go forward with this.
So I think it's very much a live issue in the U.S.-Russian dialogue, and I wouldn't want to anticipate what the United States intends to do if the Russians do not relent on this particular aspect of the sale.
Q Is there some sort of statutory requirement to cut off aid if they get this gas centrifuge. That's the way it was presented in this report. It's my interpretation of it.
MR. BURNS: I used to know these statutes almost by heart. I've forgotten some of them, but that's something I can look into for you. I believe that there are a number of Congressional restrictions that do apply to the provision of U.S. assistance, but I can certainly look into the specific one for you, Sid. I just don't want to do it off the top of my head here.
Q (Inaudible) expect an immediate, positive reply from the Europeans and Japan. But there apparently was an immediate, negative reply today by the European Union spokesman who said that the European Union is not going to go along with the U.S. request for sanctions. Have you seen that?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the press reports. I've seen a number of comments from a number of European capitals. I'm certainly not in a position to deny those. They appear to be direct quotes from government officials there.
I simply meant to say that we were not under the illusion that somehow this statement would be met with unanimous approval around the world, because it involves a significant amount of trade that a number of countries -- Japan and the Europeans -- have with Iran. It's quite complicated for any government to work out these issues.
We took over a month to look into this issue on an interagency basis. We had quite involved discussions here in the government about what the proper option was for -- what the proper course was for the President to take.
But the President has decided -- and the Secretary of State very much supports -- a course of toughening the sanctions. All I want to leave you today with is the impression that we're going to keep working with our allies to convince them that this is the right decision for them as well as for us in the long term.
Q The statement I saw by the European Union spokesman was pretty unambiguous; it was a flat rejection. You don't accept it as such?
MR. BURNS: All I'm saying is, I'm not aware of the specific, private discussions that we've had today in Brussels. I'm sure that those discussions are on-going. So I don't want to treat this as a categorical rejection. And even if there are absolutely categorical statements that come out capitals in coming days, all I'm saying is, this issue is important enough that we need to pursue it with our allies. We will pursue it with them, and we'll try to convince them that certain activities should not be continued.
The President and the Secretary have both spoken to the nature of those activities over the last couple of days.
Q Nick, to follow up. Since the Secretary has meetings with Kozyrev, have there been another other conversations with the Russians on this issue of the centrifuge plant? And do you have any further indication that, in fact, Yeltsin might announce at the Moscow summit at least this part is history?
MR. BURNS: There had been additional contacts with the Russian Government since the discussions with Minister Kozyrev, which ended on Saturday.
We have expert level talks underway on the issue of Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran. These are the discussions that Secretary Christopher and Minister Kozyrev agreed to when they were last in Geneva on March 22.
Q Lynn Davis and Mamedov?
MR. BURNS: Under Secretary Davis did have conversations with Deputy Minister Mamedov. They have both appointed people from their respective staffs to have on-going -- in this case -- almost daily contacts about the whole range of issues. Those discussions have been carried on this week as well as last week. They'll continue, I might add, right up to next week in Moscow.
Q What about the essence of the question: Have they indicated in these talks, then, that the centrifuge part of the deal is -- they're going to renege or not go through with it?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speak for the Russian Government, but I can speak for our expectation. This issue will now be very carefully reviewed in Moscow. We hope and expect that there will be detailed conversations between the two Presidents next week, and we very much hope that the result will be that the Russians will decide it's not in the Russian Government interests or anyone's interest to go forward with this particular sale.
Q Have the Russians said that they would, or you just expect that they will?
MR. BURNS: Based on the conversations we've had, it's my understanding this is going to be reviewed.
Q Nick, just to clarify. This particular sale that you just referred to? Is that the gas centrifuge sale?
MR. BURNS: The gas centrifuge.
Q -- and not the new nuclear plants?
MR. BURNS: We're interested in everything. We believe that the Russians should decide that all of it should be turned off. But I was referring, in response to Carol's question, to the gas centrifuge technology.
Q I have a Bosnia question, to go back. But I'll wait if there's more on Russia or Iran.
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q You have said in the past that what would motivate Serbia to accept the latest Contact Group proposal is that it will at some point want to re-enter the world community. That motivation doesn't seem to have stirred Belgrade.
Why does the Contact Group then persist in this course of action if there doesn't seem to be any motivation for the other side to even look at it further?
MR. BURNS: We don't want to emulate Sisyphism. If we didn't think this proposal had any chance of acceptance in the region, we would not pursue it.
On the basis of Ambassador Frasure's talks over the weekend, we believe there is at least the possibility that not only Belgrade but other parties in the region would want to point towards and agreement along the lines that I discussed earlier in this briefing, and so we think it's worth trying.
We don't have the option of just walking away from this. We've got to remain engaged, because a lot of our allies have troops on the ground, and we have a continuing American interest in seeing that this terrible conflict can some day in the future be resolved peacefully rather than through fighting. That's our overall objective in Bosnia, as it is in Croatia.
Q I'd like to ask a question about Cuba.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Could you -- would you a little bit bring us up to date on the diplomatic process by which this decision today was arrived? I mean, who did this?
MR. BURNS: Who did this?
MR. BURNS: The Attorney General has just had a press briefing at the White House and -- on the record -- and that briefing was going on when I came in here. So I've decided and am glad to tell you that I don't think it's wise for me to try to replicate that press conference, not having had a chance to witness all of it, because I was preparing other things. So maybe we can go into this tomorrow.
But just suffice to say that the United States has ongoing contacts with Cuba. We have a mission in Havana, and they have a mission here, and this agreement was worked out between the two governments. A number of U.S. government agencies were involved in that effort.
But beyond that, since the Attorney General has spoken to this issue just in the last hour on the record, I think I'd like to let her comments be the official U.S. Government statement and explanation of this agreement, and it's quite fulsome.
Q There is a report today quoting a senior State Department official saying that the North Korea talks will happen in Geneva within a week. Is that where things stand? If not, where do they stand.
MR. BURNS: Things stand as we talked about them yesterday. We received a response yesterday. It was positive. We're looking forward to the next round of discussions. We intend to send a letter back to the Vice Foreign Minister shortly, within the next couple of hours, and we hope to work out within the next couple of days an agreement on where these talks will be held and their timing. But we're ready to talk. We're open to these negotiations.
Q Can you confirm South Korean reports that the U.S., Japan and South Korea will be holding strategic consultations prior to the resumption of talks with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen any particular reports out of South Korea on that, but we've always consulted with the South Koreans and the Japanese before and after each of these negotiating sessions with the North Koreans, so I would expect we would do the same this time.
Q One more. Have the wives of the two prisoners in Iraq been to see their husbands again?
MR. BURNS: Yes, and I have a little bit of information on this, if you care to receive it.
I understand that Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon were able to see their husbands for a second time yesterday, May lst. So they were able to see them for the first time on Sunday. The second visit was yesterday. Their visit lasted for five hours. Both women have stated that the visits are personal and the conversations they have had with their husbands have been private.
The Iraqis indicated today that there might be a chance for a third visit. That may already have happened considering the time difference, but I don't have a report on whether or not it took place.
While we are very much encouraged that Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon have had a chance to see their husbands twice now, we remain very much concerned that Mr. Krystosik, the Polish diplomat, continues to be denied access to them. As I told you yesterday, very concerned that the packages and letters that he had prepared for them, and thought were in their possession had not been delivered to them until Sunday. So these two gentlemen, unfortunately, had to wait for two weeks, nearly two weeks, without any word from the Polish Government or the American Government on what we were trying to do to get them released, and on the status of their wives trips. They were surprised by all the developments that took place on Sunday.
This is clearly not the way for any government of any stripe to treat innocent people. Gerry.
Q Have they seen -- have the two wives seen any Iraqi officials?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they have. I think they probably had some contact with Iraqi officials at the present and I think through the Foreign Ministry.
One of their objectives in going to Baghdad, in addition to seeing their husbands, which was their primary concern, was to meet Iraqi Government officials and to put their personal humanitarian cases before Iraqi officials. We very much hope they have that opportunity.
Q Do you know if they have had it yet?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information that they have had those meetings yet. We hope that they will be arranged.
Sid, I'm sorry. You had a question?
Q He's next.
Q On Skopje. Former Secretary of State James Baker in an article in the Los Angeles Times for the security of Skopje favors inter alia the use of force with well-armed troops on the ground supported by air power.
Any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't -- I am still working through the piece. I have seen the piece. I don't have any official comment from the U. S. Government on that piece.
Q Okay, thank you.
MR. BURNS: Betsy?
Q Do you have anything more about the Americans that were reported held, I believe, in Chechnya on espionage charges?
MR. BURNS: No, it wasn't in Chechnya. I believe that there were three American business people who were detained briefly over the weekend. These were business people resident in Vladivostok. They were detained and released over the weekend in the town of Posyet, which is located in that part of Russia, the southern part of Russia that is near the border with both China and North Korea.
They were on a holiday weekend, travelling by ferry and car to the border area. They were detained and questioned by Russian authorities at Posyet. They were held -- two of them were held for six hours. They had valid visas and passports in their possession. The third was detained overnight because he only had a copy of his passport with him.
I believe they have been now released. We have not received any allegations by them of mistreatment; all of them have returned to Vladivostok. Our Consul, the American Consul in Vladivostok, is now looking into this incident and discussing it with Russian authorities to see if we can avoid a repeat of this same kind of affair, because we have now a great American business interest in Vladivostok and the Russian far east in general. We want American business people to invest in that part of Russia, and to feel that there are conditions conducive to living and travelling and working in the area. That is also an interest that the Russian Government shares with us, so we hope to work out with the Russians procedures whereby this kind of incident can be prevented in the future.
Q Do you have anything about the security arrangement in northern Iraq? Some Kurdish groups are there preparing something.
MR. BURNS: I don't have any specific or recent information except to say that we very much agree with the Turkish Government. It is in interest of the two main Kurdish factions in northern Iraq to provide security in northern Iraq, so that the problem of PKK terrorism, which emanates from northern Iraq as well as from inside Turkey, can be eliminated. And that concern about PKK terrorism is something that we share very deeply with the Turkish Government.
Q Thank you.
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