U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/05 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, May 5 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcement New U.S. Funding for Humanitarian Refugee Assistance-- Former Yugoslavia .....................................1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Croatia --Status of Ceasefire/Fighting ..........................1-2 --Status of Sector West Population ......................7-8 Bosnia --President Carter Remarks on Mediation, Peace Talks ....2 --Contact Group Mtg./Plan ...............................3-5 --Strengthening of UN/Security of UNPROFOR ..............6-10 --Arms Embargo ..........................................8-9 CUBA Cuban Democracy Act/Embargo/Bilateral Relations .........12- 14 Helms-Burton Legislation ................................11- 14 Status of Dennis Hays, Nancy Mason ......................15 Migration Talks .........................................15 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary Christopher/Prime Minister Rabin Discussions ..16 GREECE/TURKEY Greek/Turkish Relationship ..............................16 PKK--Turkish Withdrawal of Forces from Northern Iraq ....16 --U.S. Contacts with Turkey .............................17 A/S Holbrooke Visit to Athens/Territorial Waters ........21 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement/Policy-Level Talks: --Letter to U.S. from North Korea .......................17- 19 --LW Reactor Project ....................................18 1953 Armistice Agreement ................................19 IRAQ American Detainees: --Access of Polish Diplomats/Wives ......................20 --Health Status .........................................20- 21 RUSSIA Chechnya: Search for Fred Cuny ..........................21 Status of U.S. Journalist Steve Levine Summit Access ....22 IRAN Development of Nuclear Program ..........................22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MAY 5, 1995, 1:26 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a short announcement to make, and then I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
The United States is providing new funding in the amount of $28 million for humanitarian assistance for refugees, displaced persons, and conflict victims in the former Yugoslavia, excluding Serbia-Montenegro. These funds will be contributed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the designated lead agency for the United Nations international humanitarian assistance effort in the former Yugoslavia.
The United States continues to be the major provider of food, airlift support, and other relief commodities for refugees and displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia.
This latest contribution will bring the total U.S. Government humanitarian assistance in that region to almost $850 million since the conflict began in l99l, and we have further information that we'll be posting about this initiative after this briefing. And with that I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q While you're on the subject, could you update us on the situation in Croatia?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I'll be glad to.
Ambassador Galbraith, on the ground in Zagreb, and the Secretary and Assistant Secretary Holbrooke here are watching very carefully the situation in Croatia. As you know, we're working to prevent an escalation of the situation to ensure the safety of American and U.N. personnel in the region and to promote a respect for the rights of civilians as well as POWs.
Mr. Akashi, the U.N. representative, has been busy trying to negotiate a cease-fire. The cease-fire in Croatia appears to have been respected for the most part, but reliable information on this is scarce. The situation is quite fluid, and we know there has been some limited fighting during the last 24 hours.
There have been, however, no confirmed rocket attacks or ground offensives since the U.N. cease-fire was announced 48 hours ago, although there has been the limited fighting that I mentioned.
Serb military holdouts near Pakrac reportedly surrendered yesterday after several exchanges of fire, and I would just remind you that the situation remains volatile.
As for the position of the United States on this issue, I think it is well known. We're calling upon both parties -- all the people involved in the current round of fighting -- to exercise maximum restraint, to cease the fighting, to observe the cease-fire, and certainly to observe and ensure the safety of civilians in the area.
We are working closely with the United Nations to try to promote discussions among the parties that would lead to solutions to the problems. And I think I'll let my comments rest there.
Q Nick, former President Carter said two things on a CNN interview yesterday. Number one, he seems to be offering himself once again as a mediator. Number two, he believes the talks should resume in Geneva with no preconditions -- meaning no advanced acceptance of the Contact Group plan. Could you respond both to his suggestion that he mediate and to the second point?
MR. BURNS: You're talking about in this case both Bosnia as well as Croatia, or just Bosnia?
Q It seems intelligent.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: O.K. You're referring to the conflict in Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: Okay. I just want to make sure I understood the question correctly.
As you know, we are in touch from time to time with former President Jimmy Carter and his staff at the Carter Center. I'm not aware of any recent contacts; I don't know of any.
The United States will continue its efforts within the Contact Group to seek a solution to the problems in Bosnia. Ambassador Bob Frasure, who is our representative to the Contact Group, is in Paris today for a Contact Group meeting. I do not have, unfortunately, a brief -- a readout, a summary of that meeting -- for you at this time. I have not received it from the European Bureau.
But I think you know what our objective is, and that is to seek a resolution of the problem through an agreement that there would be recognition of Bosnia in return for limited sanctions relief for Belgrade. And we've been working on that offer for quite some time
We believe that there is every reason to continue those efforts, and we'll continue them through the next couple of days and weeks.
Q Are you holding to the insistence that the parties accept the Contact Group plan as a basis for the talks to resume?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I mean the offer of the Contact Group for the parties to accept both the map and plan is still on the table. That is still the offer that we're talking about, and we have not changed that offer in any way. Q That's the basis of it?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q That's the basis for this kind of discussion?
MR. BURNS: That is the basis for it, that's right. It's both the map and plan.
Q And if there are parties who would indicate an eagerness for Jimmy Carter to get involved, would the United States welcome that?
MR. BURNS: It's a hypothetical question. He has been quite helpful, as you know, in the past. We're not aware of any efforts underway by the parties to involve him in the discussions at this time. So, not wanting to get into hypothetical questions, I would simply say that we're going to continue our efforts in the Contact Group along the lines that I described.
Q And in the context of the CNN program, Nick, I believe Mr. Karadzic pledged or stated that they would come up with a plan whereby 53 percent of the land in Bosnia would be under Bosnian-Serb control. Was there any merit; did the State Department see any hope in this statement?
MR. BURNS: We see lots of statements. We're interested in deeds. The government, the group in Pale -- including Mr. Karadzic -- know how to get in touch with us. We haven't been in direct touch in some time, but we are active in the region. The Contact Group map and plan offer is still on the table, and it's very specific. If they're interested in that, they should begin discussions with the parties -- with the Bosnian Government and with the Contact Group. We hope very much that that will happen, but I can't report to you that there's been any recent progress beyond a television show on that issue. That's what's important -- that beyond the rhetoric in this situation, beyond what political leaders in the region might say in public, that when they get to the negotiating table or when they talk to international representatives such as the Contact Group that have an interest in this matter, that they be serious and that they be committed to deeds as well as to words.
Q On your announcement of the $25 million for refugees --
MR. BURNS: Twenty-eight million.
Q Twenty-eight million, I'm sorry -- you said it doesn't include Serbia and Montenegro, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q But does it include Krajina Serbs, displaced Croatian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: It includes the rest of the region of the former --
Q So the Serbs are eligible if they are displaced from homes in Croatia.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe so.
Q You said that you believe there was every reason to continue the efforts of the Contact Group following the meeting with Milosevic. Can you enlighten us a little bit as to why there is every reason to continue?
MR. BURNS: The reason I said that is because I've been asked that question several times during the last few briefings. I've said that if we didn't believe there was any interest in this particular Contact Group Plan, if we felt that all sides had firmly and categorically rejected it, then, of course, we would pursue other avenues.
But in our diplomatic contacts with all of the parties over the last few weeks, we have noted some interest in this offer. We believe it still makes sense to have it on the table, and that is the basis of the Contact Group discussion in Paris today.
I should also tell you that the Contact Group is working on the problem of Croatia as well. As you remember that when Secretary Christopher talked to Foreign Minister Kozyrev by telephone earlier this week, they agreed that Russia and the United States had an interest in asking the Contact Group to take up energetically the issue of Croatia as well, so they have a very full agenda. It's the second Contact Group meeting this week, and I believe the third in the last eight days.
Q Will there be a ministerial (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Will there be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group?
MR. BURNS: We simply don't know. That will depend on whether or not the Contact Group and the parties can reach a point where we think that there is a reason to have a ministerial, and from the United States' perspective, that means that there will be options that we think can be concrete and have a chance at being successful in the talks.
The point here that I'm trying to make is that it's the objective of our ministerial level discussions not be just to share information and just to talk. We can do that every day through our diplomats in the region, and we can do it on a weekly or more than weekly basis through the Contact Group. But if you're going to bring ministers of five countries together in one place, there has to be some reason to think that that session can be productive, that something concrete can result from it.
That has always been the standard by which the United States -- this Administration -- has judged whether or not Secretary Christopher should participate in these talks, and that remains our perspective.
Q Nick, do you have any comment on the report out of Paris that Foreign Minister Juppe's remarks that are alluded to, "If fighting continues as it has been the last few days, that the French would have to think about withdrawing their troops in the next two to three weeks"?
MR. BURNS: Are those recent comments that you're referring to?
Q On the wires.
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that wire report. In the past couple of weeks, I think the French have made this statement in various ways. We have been in close contact with them, and, as I have said before, including just two days ago, the French are one of the more important members of UNPROFOR. They are the largest contributor. They are a very effective contributor. France is an effective contributor to UNPROFOR, and we highly regard their contribution.
We do understand the frustration of the French Government, particularly because the French have lost two peacekeepers in the last three weeks in Sarajevo. Secretary Christopher agrees very much with Foreign Minister Juppe that the United Nations has to work out arrangements with the parties on the ground, but specifically with the Bosnian Serbs to strengthen the role of the United Nations -- that includes Sarajevo -- to strengthen the position of the peacekeepers so that we can have some assurance that they can go about their duties with some degree of safety. And that has not been the case in Sarajevo over the last couple of weeks.
Q Just to follow up, have the French indicated to either Secretary Christopher, to Ambassador Frasure, to any -- to the Americans directly that they would pull out their troops in so quick a time as might have been indicated today. Even though you didn't see that story, have they said, "We're going to be out of there very quickly if this continues"?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they have communicated that particular view to us. They have certainly communicated to us and even as far back as the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Juppe in Paris in the middle of March they have real concerns, and that they are determined that those concerns be met. And we agreed with them. That's why we agreed with the French-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution a number of weeks ago.
So one of the duties of the Contact Group is to work on this problem, and it's certainly the responsibility of the United Nations, both in New York and of the UNPROFOR leadership in the region.
Q On the same subject of Mr. Juppe's talks. In the same interview, Mr. Juppe criticized the U.S. for being ambiguous on Bosnia, especially for encouraging the Bosnian Muslims to go on fighting. Do you have any reaction to that, or do you consider these words helpful?
MR. BURNS: My only reaction would be to say that the United States policy on Bosnia is not ambiguous, it's clear. The policy is, of course, that we want to see all parties contribute to an end to the fighting. We have not supported, in the case of either Croatia this week or Bosnia during the last month, initiatives to renew the fighting. In fact, we have told both governments that it is in their interest as well as everyone else's interest to see the fighting stopped, and to see that justice is done through negotiations and not through the barrel of a gun.
In saying that, I do want to add to that, that clearly the Bosnians are the victims of the warfare over the last couple of years, and clearly the Croatians have every interest -- and we support that interest -- in reclaiming sovereignty over Croatian territory. But we believe the best way to do that is through the U.N.-sponsored negotiations, however frustrating the process and difficult and complex that process has been for a number of years.
The United States also believes that the onus and responsibility for this war must be placed where it started, and that is with the Serbs, and in the case of Bosnia and Croatia with the Bosnian Serbian populations in the region.
Q I heard a radio report this morning. I'm afraid I'm a little sketchy on the details, but it seemed to be reporting that Croatians overnight had rounded up a number of Serbs and had taken them to parts unknown. I mean, that the men and the women and the -- the women and children had been separated from the men, and that the men had been taken away, and this was sort of raising fears of events that happened during the second World War with Croatians massacring large numbers of Serbs.
There seemed to be concern that they don't know where these people are. The Croatians have not been helpful in letting the U.N. know where they had taken these people. Do you have any information about this?
MR. BURNS: We have had discussions all this week about the status of the people within Sector West, specifically the Serb population within Sector West. We agree very much with the efforts of the United Nations to try to achieve a safe passage for both civilians and soldiers from Sector West out of Sector West if those people want it, as long as that is a voluntary process. I believe that there are a great number of people in Sector West who do want voluntary departure, and the United Nations is trying to facilitate that, and we support the United Nations in that effort.
As for the specific report, Betsy, that you've just given to us, I'm not aware of the specific incident, but we have raised this general concern with the Croatian Government. It's certainly a concern of Mr. Akashi and the U.N. authorities in the area. I don't have any evidence available to me that would substantiate that particular report.
Q There are other stories you've heard that caused you to raise the issue?
MR. BURNS: The issue has been raised --
Q About possible atrocities.
MR. BURNS: The issue has been raised in a very general way. There was a report about interference with ceremonies at a former concentration camp that was located in the area that is now referred to as Sector West. We've looked into that, and our Embassy in Zagreb has talked to the Croatian Government about that.
When our Embassy representatives checked into that, they found no evidence of vandalism. But we are hoping to take a closer look at that particular situation as soon as the situation permits. As you know, our Embassy is in a somewhat difficult position because Zagreb has been attacked twice this week by rocket forces.
But we have reminded the Croatian Government of its responsibility to safeguard civilians and soldiers in the area where the fighting is taking place this week, and I believe the Croatian Government has heard that message from us as well as from the United Nations.
Q What's the latest status about lifting the arms embargo to the former Yugoslavia? There has been a demand from the Bosnians to delay this until the winter is over. Is the Administration going to go ahead now with this?
MR. BURNS: I think you know the position of the United States. We remain opposed to a unilateral move to lift the arms embargo for obvious reasons. We believe it would complicate the mission of UNPROFOR and might even contribute to those who would like to see UNPROFOR leave the area. We think it would interfere with the humanitarian efforts underway to try to feed the population affected, and we think it would mean that Bosnians might have less protection from Serb attacks. It could also cause other countries to defy similar embargoes elsewhere. I think you know that's been our long held position, and there's nothing that I know of that changes that position today.
Q On that matter -- by the way, it's an AP wire out of Sarajevo by a fellow named (Inaudible) McDowell where Juppe is quoted, in part -- if France were to try to withdraw its peacekeepers and would find some resistance to that, would NATO be obligated to go in at that point? Question one.
Question two that came to my mind is, wouldn't this rather set a trend among other peacekeepers if the French go as the bell cow?
MR. BURNS: Interesting way to put it. You know our position, Bill, is that UNPROFOR should remain in the region; that UNPROFOR is carrying out an important humanitarian mission in the region. A lot of people -- well over a million people -- depend on UNPROFOR for their daily existence, for their food and supplies and for their security. UNPROFOR is a highly imperfect institution in the way it has carried out its responsibilities over the last couple of years. You know that the United States has long believed that UNPROFOR should be more assertive in the region. But having said that, we in no way want to see a withdrawal of UNPROFOR from Bosnia. We want to see it remain. We've made that clear to all of our Contact Group partners as well as everyone else in the region. So I think your question at this point is highly hypothetical. And we will work to see that UNPROFOR remains in the region.
Q Is it hypothetical to ask if they were in trouble or if they needed help, would NATO help them? Is that part of a plan that you can discuss?
MR. BURNS: We've discussed many times over the last couple of weeks that if a decision is made sometime down the road in the future to withdraw UNPROFOR, then NATO would be ready to assist in the withdrawal of UNPROFOR. There is even some contingency planning underway for that -- for that possibility.
But I want to stress that there has been no decision made to withdraw UNPROFOR. We are just planning on a contingency basis, which is proper and which is wise at this point; and that the focus of the diplomacy of the United States is in the other direction, both today at the Contact Group meeting in Paris and in general. We want to see UNPROFOR stay. We believe it will stay. We believe it has an important mission to carry out.
Q Nick, a different topic. Can you tell us, please, why this Administration does not endorse efforts by members on the Hill to tighten the sanctions against Cuba?
MR. BURNS: First, Betsy, the President and the Secretary said many times that our policy towards Cuba will remain grounded in the Cuban Democracy Act, which provides for a very strong embargo and very strong sanctions against Cuba as well as providing for an increase in people- to-people contacts between Americans and Cubans, which we believe is necessary and which we believe is the right of the people involved.
It is true that this week the Administration sent a letter to Congress -- in fact, on April 28. This was a letter from Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, detailing our views on the Helms- Burton legislation that is currently before the Congress.
In that letter, we stated that there are aspects of the bill that we can support, and that there are aspects currently drafted that would not effectively promote a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. That is the ultimate objective of the Cuban Democracy Act -- a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.
We're going to look forward to working with sponsors of the Helms- Burton legislation to discuss ways that we can strengthen the Cuban Democracy Act. But we do have some concerns about certain aspects of that legislation, and we've made those views known this week.
Q (Inaudible) from that --
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to, because I know this completes our reading of this legislation that has gone on for quite a long time. Long before I arrived at this podium.
There are aspects of the bill that we can support. Let me enumerate them in general terms.
These include making the embargo more effective, accelerating planning for assistance to Cuba under a transition or democratic government in the future. We very much hope that that takes place. We could support efforts in the bill to protect the property interests of Americans abroad.
As currently drafted, however, some of the bill's provisions would not effectively advance our ability to further a peaceful and rapid transition to democracy in Cuba. Let me enumerate them.
Our first concern is to ensure that the legislation not infringe upon the President's authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign policy, nor on his flexibility to respond appropriately to evolving or changing situations. A number of the bill's provisions could conflict in a secondary way with broader U.S. interests, including our compliance with major international trade agreements, such as the GATT, the WTO, and NAFTA. Also our arms control cooperation and support for democracy in Russia and our ability to defend these under international law.
We believe that there may be more effective ways than those the bill provides to protect American property interests in Cuba and to create incentives for a future Cuban Government to provide compensation for or restitution of U.S. properties that were confiscated long ago under the Castro regime.
So that is a very general review of what we can and can't support. What we're going to do now is concentrate our efforts with the Congress to try to achieve legislation that is supportive of the Cuban Democracy Act. We believe that our concerns can be resolved with the Congress through consultation. I think that's where you'll find the focus of this debate now -- in those consultations.
Q (Inaudible) NAFTA, though?
MR. BURNS: As I said, there are obviously some differences between the sponsors of this bill and the Administration. I have just laid out some of the differences in a general way. The differences are also enumerated in the letter that Assistant Secretary Sherman sent to the Hill a couple of days ago. We fully understand that. But any piece of legislation goes through a process of consultation between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, and that will happen in this case. We look forward to that. We hope, together with the Congress, we can be successful.
Q There is a feeling on the Hill that Cuba is now weak enough, economically, that if you were to tighten the embargo around it, it wouldn't take long before the country would sort of implode and then Castro would be forced to leave.
This Administration doesn't believe that this is a possibility and worth a try?
MR. BURNS: Betsy, this Administration strongly supports, and has always strongly supported, measures that will lead to a transition to democracy, away from totalitarianism, from the current regime, to democracy in Cuba. A number of the provisions in the draft legislation will contribute to that effort, and we will support them. We've told the Congress that.
A number of other provisions will interfere, we think, with other issues pertaining to Cuba and other global issues that are also important to the United States. So we're not against "Mom and apple pie." We're for it in this case. But we think that the legislation has to be drafted in such a way that it's going to be effective and in such a way that it won't interfere with our relations with other states, including a number of our closest allies.
Q Since this Department has considered this legislation so thoroughly, you can probably tell us whether, if it passes in its current form, the Secretary will recommend a veto?
MR. BURNS: That's an enticing question, Mark, but I'm not going to take up the offer because we're simply not at that stage.
We're at a stage now where we have finished our very comprehensive and careful look at this legislation. We've communicated our views to the Congress. Now we need to sit down and do the hard work of hammering out legislation that, hopefully, both the Executive and Legislative Branches can fully support so that America's policy on Cuba is strengthened and not weakened. That's what we stand for.
But we're not at the point where we want to look down the road and foresee a defeat for either side in this process. We'd like to have both sides contribute to a success.
Q Nick, how do you toughen the embargo without infringing on international trading law since none of our allies support the embargo?
MR. BURNS: The embargo that has been in place now for 35 years has always infringed in a certain way on international trade -- certainly, on American trade with Cuba. That's the basis of it. But we think -
Q It would infringe on international trade agreements, such as NAFTA and GATT.
MR. BURNS: And we do support the effort to strengthen the embargo when it is practical and effective and where it makes sense. But some of the provisions of this bill will work counter to those measures that I've just cited and they would interfere with other very important aspects of our relations with other countries. That's what we're concerned about.
Q Can I ask about the Middle East now?
MR. BURNS: We want to stay on Cuba, I think, and then we'll be glad to go to the Middle East.
Q Is any thought being given to the narrow issue raised in the proposed legislation under which Cubans who lost property would be allowed to lay claim to those properties through American courts or through the Treasury Department?
MR. BURNS: George, at this point, although I've been one of the readers of this legislation, I have not been as careful a reader as others. I think beyond what I've said today, I just don't care to go into the details. If you are interested, however, I'm sure that I can get you an answer to your question.
Q There have been numerous reports quoting senior Administration officials in the last three or four days suggesting that the actions announced last Tuesday could lead to some softening in U.S. relations with Cuba. What do you have to say about the reports?
MR. BURNS: I know there have been lots of reports in the press recently about what all the activity this week means, so let me just speak to that, if I could, and I think it will cover your question. The negotiations that resulted in the joint statement that was released earlier this week pertained to one issue only, and that was the migration issue. That was an issue on which we had very serious concerns that led to our decision to agree to this joint statement, and agree to the initiatives that we announced earlier this week. But that was the only issue that was covered.
We stand by the long-held American policy of an embargo against Cuba as expressed most recently in the Cuban Democracy Act. That remains American policy towards Cuba.
Q That really doesn't address the question of --
MR. BURNS: I hoped it would.
MR. BURNS: Let's try again.
Q You can keep your embargo and, for example, reinstate the remittances which President Clinton suspended last August, for example.
MR. BURNS: I have no information available to me that would allow me to say that we are considering such options. I understand your interest, and I've seen the press reports to this effect.
But what I understand from a number of conversations with high- level people in the building is that after the issuance of this joint statement the other day, and the very strong and serious modifications that we've made to the migrant policy, we are staying where we are on the Cuban Democracy Act. I have nothing else to offer.
Q The remittances were imposed outside the Cuban Democracy Act. I just want to make that point.
MR. BURNS: I understand that, too; but I have nothing to offer to that specific question, George.
Q Has any thought been given, in view of the fact that the embargo has not brought down Castro after 35 years and that Cuba is no longer an outpost of Soviet control or influence, of changing policy altogether, either lifting the embargo, shifting it, allowing free travel, as a way of assisting this transition to democracy?
MR. BURNS: The President and Secretary Christopher remain firmly in support of the current policy. We believe that policy will be successful over the long term, that there is going to be a transition to democratic rule in Cuba. I'm not in a position to forecast when that will take place, but we hope it's as soon as possible.
Q Speaking of transitions, has a replacement been named for Dennis Hays, or is Mr. Tarnoff going to continue to carry the Cuba brief?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that a replacement has been named for Dennis Hays. I will be glad to check on that for you.
I do want to repeat for you that the Secretary holds Dennis Hays as well as Nancy Mason, his Deputy on the Cuban Desk, in the highest regard. He had a conversation with Dennis the other day and hopes very much -- and in fact has asked that Dennis be treated not only fairly but in a very generous way concerning his next assignment. I believe that is being worked out. Nancy Mason will be going on to Montevideo as our Deputy Chief of Mission there.
I know that Assistant Secretary Watson will be acting very quickly to fill their void on the Cuban Desk, but I don't know the names of the individuals.
Q Would you release the Wendy Sherman letter to us?
MR. BURNS: Well, it's not been our practice to release letters from Assistant Secretary Sherman to the Congress. It's part of our discussion and dialogue with the Congress, and it's certainly up to Congress to take that decision, whether it wants to release the letter; but the Administration has not done that. In this case, I think we'll continue with that tradition.
Anybody else on Cuba?
Q One last question. I believe the Cubans announced that U.S.- Cuban migration talks will resume at the end of this month. Dennis Hays has led the U.S. delegation for the three rounds --
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q -- which have been held since last October. You probably don't, but could you take the question as to who will head the U.S. delegation to the next round of talks if, indeed, they will take place at the end of this month?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm that they will, in fact, take place at the end of this month. I will look into that and look into who will lead the U.S. Delegation.
Any more on Cuba? Okay, a different subject.
Q The Israeli press has reported that the Americans will submit bridging proposals on the Syrian track. I want to know whether there is any truth to that?
MR. BURNS: Well, fortunately for me today, Prime Minister Rabin is here. He's upstairs having lunch with the Secretary. They just spoke to members of the press. They're discussing all the issues pertaining to the Syrian- Israeli track, the Palestinian-Israeli track, the Jordanian track, and others. So I don't think it's wise for me to try to get into that today from the podium. Sorry.
Q Tension between Greece and Turkey seems to have increased as an angry crowd of demonstrators have attacked the Turkish Government spokesman during a visit to Thessaloniki. Is the Administration aware of the situation, and are you planning to get in contact with the governments?
MR. BURNS: We are aware of this particular situation, and we are acutely aware and have been for a long, long time of some of the problems in the Greek-Turkish relationship. We are a strong ally of both countries and both are valued members of NATO. We have every confidence that Greece and Turkey can work out these problems. In many cases, neither Greece nor Turkey calls upon the United States to assist in every one of the problems that does occur.
They both have strong governments, effective governments; and they ought to be able to work out these problems, and we would call upon them to do so.
Q You're not going to interfere unless you're called upon?
MR. BURNS: We certainly never interfere, and especially with these two countries, unless we're called upon -- and even sometimes at that point, don't even interfere.
Q (Inaudible) demonstration -- some of the demonstrators, they were carrying the PKK flag, which brings to issue the Turkish -- the Greek giving some free hand for training or safehaven for the PKK terrorists?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any information that would lead us to think that the Greek Government is actively supporting the PKK. I think you know our general position on the PKK. We think it's a notorious terrorist organization which deserves to be acted against. That is what the Turkish Government has been doing for a considerable number of weeks in northern Iraq.
Since we're on that subject, let me just say we are very pleased to see that the Turkish Government has acted upon its commitment to the United States and the international community to withdraw nearly all -- a substantial number of its forces from northern Iraq.
We are in contact with the Turkish Government, have been today, and are pleased to note that nearly all the 35,000 troops have departed. There may be -- we're not quite sure -- a limited number of soldiers on the other side of the border in mopping-up operations. But when Prime Minister Ciller came here, she assured the President and the Secretary that the Turkish Government would keep this operation limited in scope and duration; and she has done so.We support Turkey's fight against the PKK. It is absolutely necessary to protect the Turkish population from terrorist attacks and also the Kurdish population in northern Iraq and in Turkey from the activities of the PKK.
Q Has there been high-level contact between Ankara and the State Department today regarding the withdrawal of the forces?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Our Embassy in Ankara has been in contact with the Turkish Ministry of Defense and with the Turkish Government, other ministries, about this. We're very pleased to note this development. Q Do you have anything to say about North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I have -- (laughter) -- just a little bit to say about North Korea. The United States received a letter from North Korea this morning via the North Korean mission to the United Nations. We are studying the letter now, and I'm not able to get into the contents of the letter. Q Is it hopeful?
MR. BURNS: I have not been among those that are studying the letter that carefully, but I'm told that the response received today has not resolved the issues of venue and timing for the proposed policy- level talks. We are quite confident that we will resolve those issues shortly, and we look forward to these very important discussions that Ambassador Gallucci will be having with his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kang.
Q Will Gallucci be pressing the point that the Russians should be allowed to participate in the construction of the North Korean light- water reactor and be compensated by South Korea and Japan for that?
MR. BURNS: As you know, and we have spoken to this several times, it's not going to be the decision of the United States as to whether or not any third country will participate in the light-water reactor project beyond the country that we believe should be designated as having lead responsibility, and that's the Republic of Korea.
KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, was created to manage this project. It will be possible when this project gets underway for KEDO to manage subcontracts from the primary contract that we believe should be given to the Republic of Korea; and any nation, including Russia, would have the ability to apply for those subcontracts.
So that is the arrangement as we understand it, and I think we understand it quite well. I don't believe in that case that it will be on Ambassador Gallucci's agenda to push vigorously at this point for a Russian role. It's not our decision.
We have a difficult job ahead of us. We have an Agreed Framework in which we believe very strongly. We want the freeze on the North Korean nuclear program to be maintained -- and it is being maintained -- and we want to resolve some of the problems in agreeing to the full implementation of the Agreed Framework -- namely, who shall have responsibility for the project -- before we can get to the issue of who will receive subcontracts. That will, again, not be the United States Government; it will be KEDO.
Q Nick, will Gallucci now respond to this letter again?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The ball is now in the U.S. court -- (laughter) -- and we will respond. We will respond very shortly to this letter.
Q Did the Koreans offer a suggestion on time and venue?
MR. BURNS: I believe the Koreans did, and I believe that's one of the issues to which Ambassador Gallucci will be responding.
Q (Inaudible) -- they didn't -- a city other than Geneva, which was the U.S. position?
MR. BURNS: I meant what I said. We have not yet resolved the issue to our mutual satisfaction as to where and when these talks should be held. That's what's at issue right now. It's the only point that's at issue that prevents us from holding the talks tomorrow. So when Ambassador Gallucci responds, he'll be responding on that particular point. Since I don't believe he's had a chance to have a lengthy conversation with the Secretary, that has to happen before we're able to finalize our response.
Q Then you (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: That's right. Those are the two issues, Judd. Still on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Anything else on North Korea?
Q North Korea has banned the activities of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. What is your reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: I do have a reaction to that. We deplore North Korea's continuing efforts to dismantle the armistice mechanism. If North Korea hopes that these efforts will lead us to enter into bilateral talks on a peace treaty, it is badly mistaken.
Peace in the Korean Peninsula is a matter for Koreans in both North and South to settle. The United States is willing to assist this effort if both Koreas desire it, but we will not negotiate a bilateral peace accord with North Korea. A shut-down of the infrastructure in Panmunjom was communicated to the United Nations Command on May 2, along with the word that North Korea would no longer allow monitors to cross into its half of the joint security area at Panmunjom without specific advance permission.
This is a unilateral step, and it continues a pattern of actions by North Korea designed to subvert and undermine the 1953 Armistice Agreement, and we are opposed to it.
Q To follow-up. Can you comment on some of the South Korean press reports that the South Korean Government is trying to bring this matter to the United Nations Security Council?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any comment for you on that, no.
I believe Betsy had a question.
Q Anything more on the Americans in Baghdad?
MR. BURNS: Officials of our Consular Affairs Bureau spoke this morning with Mr. Ryszard Krystosik, the Polish Diplomat who represents United States' interests in Baghdad. He, unfortunately, has still not had access to Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon.
Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon met with their husbands yesterday in the Abu Gharaib prison for five hours. They were also able to visit their husbands today in the same prison for six hours. I understand that both Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon plan to remain in Baghdad until on or about May 15. They have single-entry Iraqi visas that are valid for one month.
Needless to say -- and I'm very glad to repeat this and go into any detail that you care to -- we continue to be extremely concerned and opposed to the actions of the Iraqi Government violating every standard of international behavior that denies the Polish diplomat access to them.
We hold the Iraqi Government responsible for the health of these two men. As you know, we have told you this week and CNN has reported a number of factors that indicate some serious concern about the health of these two Americans, and I wanted to reiterate that point today.
Q Nick, if I could follow that. Doesn't Iraq -- the government understand that if one of those gentlemen should die in captivity, it would be a tremendous public relations problem for them? Don't they understand the risks they are taking by holding our men?
MR. BURNS: I in no way, shape or form want to put myself in the position of trying to understand the mentality of the Iraqi Government because if you look at their behavior over the last four years, much of it cannot be described as rational. But I will repeat that they have the responsibility, since they're holding these two individuals against their will and the will of the international community, to make sure that their health is being taken care of. They're responsible for their welfare and they will be held to that accounting.
We are concerned about the health of these two individuals from the medical events that took place -- their visits to the hospital on Monday evening and Tuesday -- and from some of the initial reports we've had from Mr. Krystosik about the results of the medical examinations that took place.
Q Did both of them have heart problems, have a history of heart problems, or only one?
MR. BURNS: I just can't speak to their medical history. I do know that Mr. Daliberti expressed, at the very beginning of his incarceration, to Mr. Krystosik that he was having heart problems; and now we know that Mr. Barloon has had problems as well over the course of the last week or so.
Q It was reported to a Greek daily in Athens, by a Greek correspondent here in Washington -- but not me -- that Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, during his recent visit to Ankara, delivered officially the message that the Prime Minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou, does not intend to proceed with the extension of Gre ek territorial waters into the Aegean. Do you hear anything on this specific message carried out by Mr. Holbrooke?
MR. BURNS: I'm afraid I don't. I know that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke had a very successful visit to Athens and enjoyed very much his conversations with the Prime Minister. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has spoken many times of the great importance we attach to our relations with Greece, but I'm not aware of any specific conversation on this particular point.
Q Can you check it, please?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to check with the Bureau of European Affairs, yes.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Yes, Betsy.
Q Have you got more on Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: No. There is nothing that takes us significantly beyond that we have said in the past about Fred Cuny. We continue to have four American diplomats in the region searching for him. We continue to receive very good cooperation from the authorities in Ingushetia, which is a nearby region to Chechnya. We are working with the Soros Foundation. We're working with other NGOs in the area -- the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. We're working with the OSCE, which now has a mission in Chechnya. We're following up every possible lead.
At this point, I'm not able to tell you that we have any concrete information, positive or negative, about Fred Cuny's status.
Q Anything on Steve LeVine? MR. BURNS: I don't have anything specific, Roy, except to say that Ambassador Pickering in Moscow is working very aggressively to try to make sure that Steve has access to the Summit this week in Moscow, that he's able to travel to Russia and be admitted into Russia on a visa. We've been trying to work this out for well over a week, and we hope that we'll be successful.
Q One quick one, if I could, briefly, on Iran. For the record, Nick, what is the view of this Administration, this Department, as to why Iran is receiving nuclear attention, offers, negotiations, with both Russia and China at the same time?
And the second part of this question would be: What does this mean insofar as the possibility of creating rivalries between the Russians and the Chinese -- dissensions and manipulations? Are the Iranians attempting to manipulate the two superpowers here in this nuclear reactor race?
MR. BURNS: The other government in the region that I do not care to ever speak for or attempt really to understand would be the government in Tehran, so I think I'll decline to answer the last part of your question. Suffice it to say that the concerns that the Secretary expressed yesterday in his press briefing at the White House remain, are very deeply held concerns that the nuclear cooperation between Russia or China with Iran -- that neither should go forward, that it's against the interests of Russia and China, as well as the international community, including the United States.
Q Do you believe they're playing one against the other? I mean, Iran is playing one against the other -- China against Russia?
MR. BURNS: I just don't want to try to analyze the behavior or the policy of the government in Tehran.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:l5 p.m.)
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