U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/22 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, June 22, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns FORMER YUGOSLAVIA War in Bosnia --"No Fly Zone" Mandate ..................................1 --Rapid Reaction Force: Karadzic Letter; Effectiveness; Funding; Mandate; Dialogue w/UK, France, Netherlands .11-21 --Ambassador Churkin's Briefing of Contact Group Members .11-12 --Secretary Christopher's Mtg. w/President of Kosovo .....12 COLOMBIA Deaths of Two Missionaries/Five other U.S. Citizens Held .1 SYRIA Report of Threat Against Israel by Sec. Gen. Islamic Jihad ..................................................2-3 CHINA/TAIWAN Allegations of Missile Sales to Pakistan and Iran ........3,6-7,9 U.S.-China High-Level Consultations ......................5-7 Unofficial Econ/Cultural Relations w/Taiwan ..............8-10 ARMS CONTROL Nuclear Testing Issue ....................................10 RUSSIA Vice President Gore's Travel to Moscow ...................11 Dumas Vote of No Confidence in Yeltsin Gov't. ............10-11 UNITED KINGDOM Prime Minister Major's Speech ............................11 NORTH KOREA Report of Former President Carter Trip to Region .........21 GREECE Report of Greek Parliamentarians' Visit to PKK Leader ....21-22 Report of Greek Agreement w/Syria re: Jet Fighters .......21-22 SWITZERLAND Report of Swiss Bank Refusal to Trace Holocaust Victims' Deposits ......................................22-23 NIGERIA Detention of Former President Obasanjo ...................23
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 1995, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Delighted to see all of you here. Welcome back. I'll be happy to go to whatever questions you have.
Q What do you think of the U.N. rejection of the NATO request for permission to attack the Serb-held airfield in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say a couple of words on the issue of the "no-fly" zone in general, because it's been a subject of some concern in the press, and we want to allay any concerns that you may have on this.
The North Atlantic Council decision mandating the "no-fly" zone has not been changed. The United States continues to believe that the "no- fly" zone is a critical mission that must continue.
I know that Secretary of Defense Perry spoke about this publicly this morning at some length, described the incident that took place yesterday, and I think I would just refer you to his comments.
Q I understand there's an update on the situation with the missionaries in Colombia?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we do have an update on that very sad situation. Officials from the New Tribes Mission, which is the missionary group which has had several of its members taken captive in Colombia, have positively identified the two victims of the June 19 confrontation between Colombian army troops and guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. That's a terrorist group.
We deeply regret the deaths of Timothy Van Dyke and Stephen Welsh, two American citizens, and extend our deepest sympathy to their families and to their colleagues in the New Tribes Mission.
This was a senseless killing of innocent civilians -- senseless and uncivilized.
The Colombian President, Mr. Samper, has called the U.S. Ambassador, Miles Frechette, on June 21 to express his condolences and to offer the Government of Colombia's assistance in this matter.
We are aware that five other Americans are being held captive in Colombia, and three of those being held are with the New Tribes Mission.
Q What efforts, if any, are being undertaken to release them, to rescue them?
MR. BURNS: We are working very closely with the Government of Colombia to make every effort and to ask the Government of Colombia to make every effort to have these people released -- to secure their release.
In the past, rebels from the National Army of Liberation, as well as the group I named before -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- have conducted a series of kidnappings of American citizens. We can't confirm which group or groups may be responsible for the kidnappings of these five other Americans. But we certainly are asking the Government of Colombia to do everything in its power to find these people -- find the American citizens -- and to have them released. We believe we're getting good cooperation from the Government of Colombia in that process.
Q Has anyone heard from them? Does anybody know if they're alive?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what kind of contact there may have been between the five people who are being detained and others outside. It's our great hope that they are alive and they will be released. But the killings that took place on June 19 were senseless and we condemn them. We obviously hope that the Colombian Government will bring these killers to justice.
Q Nick, on a different subject, the Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad, who is in Damascus today, gave an interview in Damascus - - peace-loving Damascus -- in which he claims the Israeli Mossad killed one of their operatives in Gaza and threatens massive retaliation and bombings against Israel. Anything to say about Syria's willingness to allow this kind of activity to take place in Damascus?
MR. BURNS: First of all, Sid, I have not seen the statement to which you refer. This was a press statement?
Q It's a wire story.
MR. BURNS: A wire story? I've not seen that statement, so I can't comment on it.
Secondly, I'm not sure where the second part of the question is leading pertaining to the Government of Syria.
Q That they allow guys -- nice folks like this -- to operate in Damascus?
MR. BURNS: Since I can't confirm what the person said -- and I don't know exactly which person is being referred to -- it's very difficult to answer that question. But, of course, you know that we've made clear time and again our concern to the Syrian Government about the issue of terrorism in general. This is part of our annual human rights exercise. It's also part of our normal diplomatic conversations with the Government of Syria. It's a very serious concern that we have. But I'm not trying to link that latter statement to the first part of your question because I simply can't confirm what this gentleman may or may not have been saying.
Q Another subject, or do you want to stay with that one?
China and the Missile Technology Control Regime issue is again on the front page of the paper in New York. How does this issue differ from the last go-round on the Missile Technology Control Regime which was discussed when Secretary of State Christopher met the Chinese Foreign Minister in New York? These two separate things, a different report from the CIA, and when and how does the State Department then move on these reports and make a determination of "yes, it was a violation of the Control Regime, or no, it was not?"
MR. BURNS: We have had now for, I think, the life of this Administration a series of discussions with the Chinese Government on allegations of missile sales and components of missile sales to both Pakistan and Iran. You're very well aware of the discussions on Pakistan in 1993.
You're aware that in the fall of 1994, we reached an agreement with the Government of China on its commitment to MTCR guidelines -- Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines. So there has been, Steve, as a way of background, there has been a long conversation between this Administration and the Chinese Government on this issue.
The issue did come up at the April 17 meeting that Secretary Christopher had with Foreign Minister Qian. At that time, the two Ministers agreed that there should be periodic talks between the two governments -- mid-level talks, experts talks -- on this particular issue.
Subsequent to that, I understand, we have had a number of concerns about alleged proliferation. We've taken the reports of alleged proliferation very seriously. We continue to monitor and evaluate the reports of any transfers that could contribute to missile programs that are of concern to us.
The question of Chinese cooperation with Iran in the missile area is of great concern. Of course, we've had a similar -- not exact, but a similar -- concern with the Government of Russia on nuclear energy- related technology.
We have raised our concerns with the Government of China in the past. We will continue to do so. We had intended to raise this issue at a June 12 meeting that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn was to have had with his Chinese counterpart. This was the series of meetings that the two Ministers had agreed would take place. That meeting was canceled by the Chinese Government. We regret that very much.
We hope now that the Chinese Government will agree that it is important that we have an ongoing and specific dialogue on this issue.
I would like to say, however, that we have not made a determination as to whether or not China's activities constitute a violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime commitments, to which they are committed, or of U.S. sanctions law. This is a matter that is under review and will remain under review, and will remain at the top of our agenda with the Chinese Government.
We're looking forward to an opportunity to pursue these experts level talks so that we may bring these issues to the specific attention of Chinese officials.
Q Li Peng, in Minsk today, made it sound like those talks aren't going to happen for a long time. Have you seen his comments?
MR. BURNS: I've seen some general comments from Li Peng today but not on this particular issue.
Q I was making a leap there. He accused the U.S. of interfering in Chinese internal affairs. It makes it sound like it's going to take a while until relations get back on course; that was the sort of question I was asking?
MR. BURNS: I think you know our policy. We have a one-China policy. That policy is abundantly clear to the leadership in Beijing. We intend to pursue our relationship with China seriously. We need to have expert level talks on this particular issue -- of missile technology as well as on other subjects; all the bilateral issues -- the political, economic, and military issues; the human rights dialogue -- that are a part of the U.S.-China relationship.
We understand that the Chinese Government is strongly dissatisfied with the decision that we made to issue a visa to President Lee for an unofficial visit, private visit, to the United States.
We believe that we have too much going, too much of concern in the relationship to enter a period where we don't meet. We need to have meetings. We are making every attempt to have those meetings, and we regret decisions to cancel meetings.
Q Did you offer to have talks at the Tarnoff level in recent days?
MR. BURNS: George, I don't know what we have offered in recent days. I do know that there's an agreement between the two countries that we ought to have periodic meetings at a very high level, at the Vice Foreign Minister-Under Secretary level. Those talks have taken place in the past, most recently the week before the Secretary met Foreign Minister Qian in New York.
Under Secretary Tarnoff hosted his counterpart here in Washington for four or five days of discussions. We'd like to have those talks take place periodically. That offer is certainly on the books, and it was agreed to by both governments. I'm just not aware, however, personally, whether or not we have gone back over the last couple of days to make that offer again.
Q Nick, how long is the Administration prepared to hold off on sanctions until the Chinese decide they're ready to meet?
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting question. We would not, of course, make a decision to impose sanctions unless there was incontrovertible evidence available to us that China was, in fact, in violation of either U.S. sanctions law or of its MTCR commitments. Since we have not yet made that determination, I think it's fair to say that what we need to have is a series of discussions with them; and we also have to continue to look at the problem ourselves and continue to analyze the information that is available and that may become available to us. So all those things have to occur before we'll be in a position to make a decision that, in fact, there have been sanctions violations.
I just do want to emphasize the point that we have not yet made that decision.
Q It would be accurate to say, then, sanctions won't be imposed until you give the Chinese a chance to explain the situation?
MR. BURNS: I want to be very clear about this. Sanctions will not imposed in the absence of information that is incontrovertible that China is in violation of international agreements. The information can be developed in isolation, of course -- in isolation of a bilateral dialogue.
But because of the importance of this relationship, we believe it's important to discuss these issues, and we look forward to that opportunity.
Q How strong do you consider the information that you do have, and you've had it now for some period of time. Why have you not been able to move along toward deciding whether it is, in fact, sufficient to make those judgments?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to sound like a broken record, but let me just be a broken record for a minute. The only responsible course to take -- this is a very important issue for both countries -- is to make a decision on sanctions when the evidence is available, when it's incontrovertible and when we have an agreement in this government at a very high level that that is the case.
We are not yet at that point. We are not at that point, and so I think that's the most accurate thing I can say about the process by which a decision of this magnitude is taken.
Q I guess I was trying to get at the question of whether the information is not very convincing or conclusive in its own right or whether there are varying interpretations of the information as to whether it's conclusive or not within the Administration. Do you consider that you have good information and a decision is not being made, or it's not such good information and, therefore, you've got differing views? Can you clarify on what the quality -- what you consider the qualify of the information you have is?
MR. BURNS: It would be highly irresponsible of me to speculate in public about a private discussion that's ongoing inside the U.S. Government, and a discussion that needs to become a bilateral discussion with the Chinese Government. We almost never do that from the podium unless it's in our interest to do so, and it's not in our interests to do it in this case, so we won't do it.
Q Then you're saying that news report that suggest that the CIA has concluded something are incorrect, or are you saying that CIA conclusions are not enough to cause the United States Government to make a decision about this evidence?
MR. BURNS: I'll say two things. First, I never comment on intelligence matters, and, if I hear the word -- if I hear CIA, I just don't comment.
Secondly, we're going to analyze the information that's available to us. We're going to address our concerns with the Government of China, and then we'll make a decision. That's how this will go. But I'm not going to try to characterize either the quality of the information or characterize any preliminary views that people might have in this government, because there are lots of people from different agencies looking at this question.
Q Nick, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman earlier today described your offer of high-level talks as empty gesture, and he says that in order for the bilateral relations to develop, the U.S. knows what concrete steps it needs to take to repair the damage that has been done as a result of President Lee Teng-hui's visit to this country. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: It is a reasonable and constructive offer, and we aim to have good relations, stable relations with China. Both countries have an intrinsic interest in having a relationship that is stable, that is productive; a relationship in which we can advance forward on those issues where we have agreement, and where we can discuss issues of disagreement.
When you have disagreements in an important relationship, the best solution is always to discuss them in an open way. That is what we are attempting to do with the Government of China.
But let me just repeat something. We have a one-China policy. We don't have a policy towards China that is somehow murky or clouded. We have a policy towards China that is open, that is clear, and is based on the three Commniques and a one-China basis, and that's very clear.
Q But, Nick, given all this backdrop in U.S.-China relations, is it helpful for the United States to be sending a signal in meeting the Vice Minister from Taiwan of Economics here in Washington today?
MR. BURNS: I would say in answer to that that we have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and we're going to maintain, as I said before, a one-China policy. We have a sub-cabinet level economic dialogue with Taiwan, conducted between the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States.
There are discussions being held today at the Treasury Department. Larry Summers, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, is the chief United States adviser to the American Institute in Taiwan. He will be joined by economic officials from the State Department and representatives from other mainly economic agencies.
Vice Minister Sheu from Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs is chief adviser to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office. Consistent with our policy of conducting unofficial economic and cultural relations with Taiwan, the focus of today's meeting is on broad macro-economic and trade issues. We hope this dialogue will strengthen our important commercial relationship with Taiwan, which is our seventh largest trading partner.
Yesterday I took a question on this at the very end of my briefing, and I'm sorry if I misled anyone, because I wasn't aware of the particulars of these talks. But we've since gone back and talked to officials from AIT, and we've constructed this definition of the talks for you. So I hope this is a clear, authoritative rendition of what is happening today.
What is happening today is fully consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan. It is also fully consistent with the one-China policy that we have in our official relations with the Government of China.
Q If I could get back to the missile issue briefly. Can you say whether the discussions on this issue focus on category -- MTCR Category I violations or MTCR Category II violations?
MR. BURNS: At this point, Sid, I think I'm just going to refrain from getting into the particulars of what is being discussed in this government, because once I begin to do that I'm drawn into the particulars of who stands for what and who is on which side of the issue, and it will be very unhelpful for me to do that, so I'm not going to do that.
Q Just to make it clear yet again. What we're talking about now is the addition of the possibility or reports of a possibility of missile technology going to Iran. That's what makes this different at this point from the discussions that went on April 17, is that correct, because it was only about Pakistan at that time?
MR. BURNS: I think it's safe to say that our prior concerns in 1993 and 1994, yes, had been about possible sales to Pakistan. There is now new information that has been developed about -- alleged new information -- about possible activity towards Iran, and that is what we're looking into now.
As I said, it's an issue of concern to us. It's on our agenda, and it will remain under active review.
Q But there's also new information on Pakistan as well.
MR. BURNS: I've seen reports to that effect, that's right, but I don't have anything for you on that particular issue.
Q Back on Taiwan, I'm a little confused. You said you have a sub-cabinet economic dialogue with Taiwan. That implies, you know, official participation. And then you said we have an unofficial dialogue with them on this subject. I'm a little confused.
MR. BURNS: As you know, we don't have official relations with Taiwan. We have unofficial relations, and the relations are characterized by activities between the American Institute of Taiwan and its counterpart organization. As part of that unofficial relationship, it sometimes happens that officials from this government outside of AIT have economic and cultural discussions because Taiwan is our seventh largest trading partner.
That does not mean that in holding those discussions we somehow transfer a note of officiality to those discussions or that we are changing our policy in any way, shape or form toward Taiwan or towards China. We have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan that has this dimension to it. We have an official relationship with China.
Q Creeping officiality.
MR. BURNS: It's not creeping, because this is something that has taken place in the past and something that will continue.
Q Is this meeting physically in the Treasury building?
MR. BURNS: I understand it is, yes. It's in Treasury.
Q Can I just ask a question on meetings. Is Secretary Christopher meeting at the White House tomorrow on this nuclear testing situation?
MR. BURNS: I normally would not give a complete list of all the Secretary's meetings. He has public meetings. Meetings that we make public. He has private meetings. I am not aware of any meeting of that type tomorrow at the White House, but, even if there were to be such a meeting -- and maybe there will be, maybe there won't be -- I'm not going to be in a position of confirming it.
Q Do you have any further elaboration of what said yesterday about the nuclear tests?
MR. BURNS: I really don't. If you'd like to go through the issue again, we can do that. We've gone through it two days this week. Our position hasn't changed since yesterday when we last spoke about it. We have the same position on this issue.
Q Nick, on Russia, President Yeltsin reportedly gave a speech before the Duma this morning, and then in the afternoon there was again reportedly another vote of no confidence. According to the Russian constitution, apparently that after you've had two votes of no confidence within a certain period of time, either the Prime Minister has got to leave or the Duma is dissolved.
Do you have any reports on this? What is the position on that? And has that affected the planning for the Gore-Chernomyrdin talks at the end of June?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change to the schedule for the Vice President's travel to Moscow next week and to conduct talks, I believe, beginning on June 28.
On your first question, we understand that the Russian constitution provides for the following: If there is a second vote of no confidence which follows the first within a three-month period, then the President of the Russian Federation -- in this case, President Yeltsin -- is constitutionally required either to dismiss the government or to dissolve the Duma and call new elections.
I was not aware coming out here today that there had been a second vote. There was a vote yesterday of no confidence in the government --
Q There were radio reports on this.
MR. BURNS: I'm not able to confirm that there was a second vote.
Q Are you commenting at all on the situation in England with Prime Minister Major?
MR. BURNS: No, I think given -- you've heard the Prime Minister's speech -- given the nature of his speech, it's clearly a domestic matter, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment. I'd refer you to the White House for any possible comment, however.
Q Can we go back to Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I knew sooner or later we'd go back to Bosnia.
Q Have you seen the letter from Asushi Akashi to Karadzic in which he purports to calm their fears about the Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: We have not seen a copy of the letter. We had not as of late this morning. We were seeking to obtain a copy of that letter so that we could see what was in it.
Now that we're on the subject of Bosnia, let me give you some news in response to some questions that have been occurring, I think, at each of our meetings this week.
The Russian Ambassador to NATO, Mr. Churkin, has returned to Moscow. He has briefed this morning and this afternoon the Ambassadors of the Contact Group nations, including Ambassador Tom Pickering, our Ambassador in Russia, and we are now awaiting a report from Ambassador Pickering on those discussions.
So upon his return to Moscow from his sojourn in the Balkans, Ambassador Churkin has now briefed the United States and our other Contact Group members, and we'll be very interested in Ambassador Pickering's report on that meeting. We don't have it yet, unfortunately.
Q Do you have any response to all those questions that Roy and others were raising yesterday about the rules of engagement for the Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have a few things I can say on the Rapid Reaction Force. The Rapid Reaction Force will be part of UNPROFOR. UNPROFOR is authorized to use force, if necessary, in carrying out its mission in Bosnia. This would also apply to the Rapid Reaction Force.
The United States would like the Rapid Reaction Force to help UNPROFOR to continue its operations in Bosnia and to strengthen itself. This, of course, was the primary American concern heading into the Noordwijk meeting of the Contact Group Ministerial, in which Secretary Christopher participated. This was the result of that Ministerial that UNPROFOR would take this decision to stay and strengthen itself.
So when the U.K., France and the Netherlands proposed a Rapid Reaction Force, we quickly supported it. We still support it. We clearly and unequivocally support it, and we now understand that it will be part of the UNPROFOR mission.
We want this force to be effective, effective in helping UNPROFOR to fulfill its mandate, and we are asserting this view that it be effective; that steps be made to make it effective with our allies. We are emphasizing the importance that the force strengthen UNPROFOR, and that's an important point.
On funding, we're still discussing a variety of options here in Washington with members of Congress. A possible solution would be the creation of a voluntary fund which could be a combination of a financial contribution -- cash -- from the United States and equipment from the United States to support the Rapid Reaction Force.
This is one possible solution to the question of funding, but we have not yet achieved a final outcome of the funding discussions, and we look forward to that. The more effective that UNPROFOR and the Rapid Reaction Force can be, the broader support for it, I think, we'll see in the United States among both Congress and the Executive Branch.
Q Nick, I don't understand something. If it's going to be under the U.N., then the U.S. bellies up to the bar with 30, 31 percent. It's required to do so. How are you -- it sounds like you're trying to finesse this a little bit and saying putting it under the U.N. and then make a call for donations. I don't understand how you're able to get around your U.N. obligation.
MR. BURNS: I think it's clearly understandable in this respect, Sid. There is a discussion underway between the Congress and the Executive Branch about whether or not it is appropriate to fund this force. You know that. It's a public discussion. It's been underway since -- well, certainly over the last seven or eight days, and we are conducting that in discussions now with Congress to try to bridge the gap and resolve this problem.
We have a very clear position -- the Clinton Administration -- and that is that we support this force, and we'd like to be in a position to help this force come about. As I said, one possible outcome would be a voluntary fund, a combination of cash and equipment. That is a little bit different than some of the talk last week about a U.N. assessed mission of 30.4 percent, but that could be the outcome in this particular matter because of the discussions between Congress and the Executive Branch.
I don't want to say that will be the outcome because we're not there yet.
Q Nick, does that outcome still hinge upon answers from the French and the British about what this force is going to do, because you have said that it's going to be part of UNPROFOR, that UNPROFOR can use force by its mandate, therefore the United States wants the Rapid Reaction Force to continue and to strengthen that force, and you want it to be effective. But you have not answered the question about whether the British and the French have said that it would take offensive or more robust measures.
And I'm asking, first of all, have you gotten those assurances? And, secondly, does the level of funding depend upon those assurances?
MR. BURNS: Steve, let me say this. We are certainly asserting our view that this is a relevant question for the Clinton Administration, for the Executive Branch, and it's certainly a relevant question for members of Congress.
Mr. Rifkind was here over the last couple of days, and the nature of his discussions with both Congressional leaders and with Administration leaders was along these lines. We are interested in knowing what the specific intention of the troop-contributing countries is about the mandate of the force, about how it would react and respond to certain situations that will likely occur on the ground in Bosnia.
It's important for us to understand this because we believe the more that we can demonstrate that this force will be effective -- which I think is the best way to describe this -- the broader the support there will be in the United States.
Q Have you gotten those assurances or any answers?
MR. BURNS: We are in the process of getting them, but these are conversations not just with the Government of the United Kingdom but also with France and the Netherlands. These are conversations taking place not just in Washington but in the United Nations in New York and also on the ground in Sarajevo and in Zagreb.
Q Are you suggesting that UNPROFOR backed by the Rapid Reaction Force should, for example, shoot its way into Sarajevo to deliver aid?
MR. BURNS: I was not suggesting that in my comments today, Judd. I was simply suggesting that we have a dialogue underway with the three governments, and one of the central questions in the dialogue is what the mandate of this force will be.
I prefer to use the word "effective" in asserting that we think that the Rapid Reaction Force must be effective because we have a strategic interest in strengthening UNPROFOR. We have had a very specific dialogue, which I don't care to go into, with these three governments. I don't think it's appropriate to go into exactly what we are proposing or they may be proposing until we get to the end of that dialogue and there is some resolution of that matter.
But I have spoken before about the general climate in which all of these discussions take place. This is a period of transition. It's a period of critical transition and of considerable flux. UNPROFOR right now is not constituted to meet its mandate and responsibilities. It is our hope that UNPROFOR will be given the tools to strengthen itself and carry out its mandate.
The other alternative that some people are asserting is a withdrawal of UNPROFOR, and we think for a variety of reasons that that would be disadvantageous to the United States and to our allies because it would lead, we think, to a widening of the war, to more bloodshed, and it would probably cripple, at least in the short term, the political level talks.
It's a difficult choice here, because we have a situation on the ground which is highly imperfect and deeply flawed. But the conclusion we bring about in analyzing the flawed nature of UNPROFOR is not that it should withdraw but it should stay and be strengthened, and the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force is a very element in trying to strengthen UNPROFOR.
Q Well, Rifkind in a number of venues here seemed to be suggesting, at least to me, through my interpretation of it, that unless there's a greater commitment from the international community in terms of giving troops beyond the British, French and the Dutch that UNPROFOR can't meet those mandates, and he seemed to be suggesting the United States, among others, in this context.
MR. BURNS: We are in a period of transition. We are seeking answers to these questions. There are at least three major troop- contributing countries with which we are holding discussions; and, when we get to the end of those discussions, we'll have a much clearer view of what a uniform view is within the Rapid Reaction Force of its mandate and its role. I don't believe we're at the end of those discussions yet.
Q I think its mandate has been determined. Is it the Administration's understanding that one of its functions is to deliver humanitarian aid throughout the country with force, if necessary?
MR. BURNS: Sid, the mandate of UNPROFOR is determined. The mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force is not yet specifically determined. The mandate of UNPROFOR is to do several things, and one of the most important is to deliver humanitarian assistance to the more than half million people who live in the enclaves throughout Bosnia.
Whether or not UNPROFOR or the Rapid Reaction Force take the kinds of measures that you describe to deliver that aid is still an open question. It was an open question during Mr. Rifkind's visit here, and it remains an open question which we don't believe has been finally decided by the United Nations and the troop-contributing countries.
It's one of the questions in which we have a strong interest, and we're asserting those views in our discussions with these countries.
Q But are you saying that the United States favors the creation of a mandate that would make safe areas safe, for example, or are you just limiting your phraseology today to the use of the word "effective"?
MR. BURNS: I was trying to, George, but --
Q You succeeded.
MR. BURNS: I succeeded for a while. What we're saying, George, is that it's important that UNPROFOR fulfill its missions. We haven't changed our view as to the importance of UNPROFOR fulfilling its missions. But to be completely frank and direct, since we are in a transition point, and it is right now unclear whether or not UNPROFOR will be able to fulfill those missions, the discussions surrounding the mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force are particularly important and particularly interesting, and I'm not in a position to say that we have a 100 percent clear view of what the mandate and role of this force should be.
We are seeking that from our allies, but it just wouldn't be fair or honest for me to say that we are at the end of those discussions, because we're not. But that remains the crux of the matter.
Q But you said the force would be part of UNPROFOR.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q So it would have the same authorization as contained in the mandates that UNPROFOR has operated under, would it not?
MR. BURNS: Yes. It is part of UNPROFOR, so therefore in the question of having authorization to use force, if necessary to carry out its mission, we think that this would apply to the Rapid Reaction Force. That is clear.
But what is unclear is in a situation where UNPROFOR is not now able to fulfill its mission, what difference will the Rapid Reaction Force serve in allowing UNPROFOR to meet its responsibilities and its mission. It's our very strong hope -- we don't have a neutral view of this -- that the Rapid Reaction Force will be constituted in such a way that it is -- to go back to that word -- "effective" in allowing in the United Nations to carry out its mandate. That's our objective here. Again, we're not at the end of these discussions.
Q Have you asked the British, French and Dutch these questions and just not gotten answers, or have you been told that those questions are in fact open even at this point to negotiation? There's a difference.
MR. BURNS: We've addressed ourselves to all of these questions in our discussions with those three countries and with officials of the United Nations. The best thing I can say is that those discussions are ongoing and will continue for a short while. I can't choose a date when they'll end. When they end and when there is a clear view as to what the mandate is, we'll be ready to discuss it with you.
Q Because it didn't seem when Rifkind was here that this is in fact an open question, and he made it sound like it has been decided. Are you satisfied that these governments are still open to --
MR. BURNS: I think it is sure that these governments are open to further discussion of this. There has to be further discussion, yes.
Q Mr. President Carter is reported to be planning to go to North Korea as a go-between --
Q Could we stay on Bosnia for a second?
MR. BURNS: Let's go back to Bosnia, and then I'll be glad to go to your question.
Q Nick, there's a suggestion that if the British, French and Dutch say 10,000 troops are not enough to take that effective action as you suggest, or it turns out that on the ground it's shown that it's not enough, that the U.S. would favor increasing the size of the Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: Right now, Judd, we're dealing with a proposal that is of a force of roughly 10,000 troops. To my knowledge, we've not been given any alternative suggestion for a stronger force -- to my knowledge. We're dealing on the basis of that in our consideration of the funding issue, where you would have to calculate the annual cost, and that's roughly the size of the force that we have been advised is envisaged by the three major troop-contributing countries.
Q Is the idea to have voluntary contributions pay for this -- this is something that's been proposed by the United States in these discussions?
MR. BURNS: The discussions that are underway, just to be clear, are between the Clinton Administration and senior members of Congress. Of course, we're keeping our allies informed about those discussions and consulting with them, and they have a direct and great interest in those discussions.
One of the possible solutions is the creation of a voluntary fund; yes. There are other possible options, but right now we don't have a final answer to this question.
Q When you all sat down in Noordwijk and agreed this is a good idea, did the United States tell its allies that it's a great idea, but we're going to have to check with Congress first?
MR. BURNS: I think it's fair to say that at Noordwijk there was only a very general discussion of the creation of this force. I think it's also fair to say hindsight that there was a slight misunderstanding between us and some of our allies about the funding issue.
When it became clear what the troop-contributing countries had in mind by way of funding -- namely, that this would be a U.N. assessed operation; at least some of them said that last week -- then, we quickly asserted the view that, of course, we had to consult with Congress. Any Administration would have to do that.
This entails a considerable amount of money. It's the responsibility of the Congress to look into this question along with the Administration. So last week, I think, was the week when this became abundantly clear to us. Therefore, the question of Congressional consultations became most important.
Q What did the allies lead you to believe would be the source of funding?
MR. BURNS: When?
Q In Noordwijk.
MR. BURNS: Let's go back to Noordwijk and try to recreate a little bit the environment, to answer your question.
The Noordwijk meeting followed, of course, NATO airstrikes and the Pale ammunition dumps and the taking of several hundred hostages. The question in Noordwijk was: What is the future of UNPROFOR? Should UNPROFOR remain? Should UNPROFOR be withdrawn? What reaction would the major troop-contributing countries -- France and the United Kingdom -- have at this series of events?
We were very satisfied with the outcome of the five and half hours of discussions in Noordwijk on this issue; that all of the countries, including the United States and Russia, agreed that UNPROFOR had to stay and had to be beefed up. We were very pleased to see the suggestion that a Rapid Reaction Force should be created to give UNPROFOR more beef, more armor, more solidity, and to allow UNPROFOR to be able to stay in the region.
There wasn't, at least to my knowledge, any specific detailed conversations about how it will be funded, how it will be structured, and so on and so forth. Those conversations began after Noordwijk, and particularly after the Secretary's return from his subsequent visits to Lisbon and Madrid.
Then when we began to get into this question, it became clear that there might have been a misunderstanding about funding. That was clarified last week on the eve of President Chirac's visit. So for a week now we've been dealing with the problem of funding, with a very clear understanding of what we and the allies are talking about.
Q What was the misunderstanding?
MR. BURNS: We've gone over this a number of times. Let me just limit myself to saying, there was a misunderstanding because the United States was not completely clear from the initial conversations at Noordwijk that this would be a U.N. assessed operation. We are now very clear that is what the allied countries intend -- the troop-contributing countries intend -- and we're operating on that basis.
Q Can I follow on that? Because Rifkind, at the British the other night, said that it was clear in Paris, which was the Saturday after Noordwijk, or the same week, that this would be an UNPROFOR operation and therefore there is no need to discuss funding because funding would normally flow from that fact.
Was that this government's understanding at Paris?
MR. BURNS: Well, someday there's going to be a history written on Bosnia. The book is going to be several thousand pages long. This will be a sub-chapter. If you want, on some other occasion, we can go into all the details of all the conversations. But I think it's pretty clear where we are now, how we got here, and I think I've given you a fairly direct view of the issues with which we are now discussing with our allies.
Q A follow on that. I'm unclear what the discussions are about between the U.S. and the allies. Are you asking clarifications, or are you telling them that unless they make the Rapid Reaction Force really effective, you're not going to convince Congress to fund the force?
MR. BURNS: We're having very constructive, friendly, amicable, productive discussions -- non-controversial -- with our allies. Our solidarity with our allies is very important to us. The fact that they have made the decision to stay is important to us and motivates us to want to answer this question of funding.
We are asserting views in these discussions about what we think should happen; what type of focus the Rapid Reaction Force should have. We have views and we are asserting them. I don't want to go into the specifics of that because that wouldn't be very productive, and those countries are not going into the specific nature of the discussions either.
But we want to get to the end of this, and we want to have, as a result, the creation and the deployment of a Rapid Reaction Force -- strong U.S. support for that force and some solution to the funding problem.
I have offered one possible solution today, I believe for the first time, in our meetings together. That may be the end result of this. We just are looking forward to the time when we can move on, beyond the funding issue, to the issue of full deployment and to the primary focus here for the United States, which is, keep UNPROFOR there, bolster UNPROFOR, and try to get UNPROFOR into a position where it can perform the task it currently is unable to perform.
Q There's legislation on the Hill that the Administration has threatened to veto that would change the way the -- alter U.N. funding. It would give Congress more oversight over peacekeeping operations. The President and the Secretary of State have said it would infringe on his constitutional prerogatives to conduct foreign policy, that it would spell the end of peacekeeping.
Those comments, to me -- correct me if I'm wrong -- seem a tad hypocritical now; that you all are doing the same thing with this Rapid Reaction Force -- or attempting to do to influence the funding of this Rapid Reaction Force in a way that seems very consistent with what Congress wants you to do, in the first place?
MR. BURNS: We are dealing with reality. The reality is that the Congress and the Administration are discussing funding for a force. The Administration does not have the authority to go ahead on its own to make these kinds of financial commitments. There have to be consultations. The Administration is committed to them. We deal with reality. We don't deal with things that are in a world of illusions.
The reality is that these discussions have to take place. I wouldn't be as negative in characterizing this as you are, Sid.
Q President Carter is reported to be planning to go to North Korea after he received the invitation from Kim Jong-Il. Can you try to confirm that report?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm that report; no. I've seen press reports. I would just refer you to former President Carter on this issue.
Q Two days ago, I believe, a (inaudible) Greek parliamentarian they had a press conference in Athens. They announced that they visited the Syrian territory; they visited PKK terrorist organization leader Abdullah Ocalan, and they give him some kind friendship plaque. I don't know what it is.
Also, last week, some of the Greek defense officials, they visited Damascus. They had an agreement with the Government of Syria to base some jet fighters in Syrian territory.
I'm asking two questions: What is the reaction to this, is the first time Syrian-Greek parliamentarian to giving friendship to some terrorist organization leader? And the second one, what would be the reason to base, outside of the territory, some aircraft or air force plane based on Syrian territory? Do you have any reaction on both of these cases?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, I'm unaware of both events, so I don't have any specific reaction. But let me take the opportunity just to say once again, very clearly, that the PKK is a vicious terrorist organization; that we very much agree that Turkey has a right and responsibility to fight that organization because it is responsible for many acts of terrorism within Turkey that have victimized Turkish citizens.
Our position on the PKK is very clear, but I can't help you out on your specific questions because I'm unaware of the events.
Q Can I follow Sid's question? These two events, they are showing that the Syrians have a base for terrorist organizations. The world is very quiet on the Damascus government. Actually, we are saying this in some words but we are not acting actively against the Assad government.
MR. BURNS: We have made clear time and again our very serious concerns about the issue of terrorism with the Government of Syria and that will continue; that dialogue will continue. We've been very clear about that in our human rights reports and in our public statements.
Q Do you have any comment on yesterday's meeting between Secretary Christopher and Mr. Rugova?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have a short comment. They had an excellent meeting, a very good meeting. The Secretary was glad to have the opportunity to meet him and to exchange views on the situation in Kosovo.
This was a meeting that took place late in the afternoon. I believe it was 30 to 40 minutes in duration. We certainly look forward to the opportunity in the future to have further conversations.
Q There was a very fine piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the Swiss banking system's inability to trace -- or refusal to trace money that the Holocaust victims may have deposited and their inability to trace that money for the survivors -- unwillingness. Do you have any comment on this detail of the Swiss banking system? What do you think they ought to be -- more sympathetic to the survivors of Holocaust victims?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any specific comment on that article. I didn't see the article, so I don't want to comment on it.
In general, our government has had a commitment to trying to help American citizens who were victims of the Holocaust during the Second World War; bring their complaints to other governments, and we've been doing that for a number of decades. A lot of those issues are still alive and they ought to be kept alive because they're important issues to these people.
But as to the specific article in the Journal, I just don't have any reaction.
Q Could you just take that question and see if you can get anything on it?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to try to look into it; yes.
Q Nick, you had a statement yesterday on Nigeria, on General Obasanjo. Since then, there have been reports in Nigeria that he has gone on trial; behind closed doors, apparently. Do you have any updated statement on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The State Department issued a statement on this a couple of weeks back. The White House issued a statement yesterday. We have very great concerns about the welfare of the former President of Nigeria, Mr. Obasango. We understand he is under detention. If he has been brought to trial today -- and that is news to me -- but if he has been brought to trial today, it leads to further concern on our part about the activities of the regime in Lagos.
We have made very clear our opposition to these types of activities of detaining, arresting, without trial in some cases and without charges in some cases, leading members of former governments.
We call upon the Government of Nigeria to take every step necessary to release the people under detention who are clearly -- many of them -- innocent of any wrongdoing; and to bring those that it feels it has charges against to justice in a way that is consistent with international norms.
We've made our views clear about this in public because Nigeria is one of Africa's most important countries. We have a great concern about the welfare of people who have been responsible leaders in the past, and we think the future ought to be based on reform and the rule of law and not based on the current practices of the current regime.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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