U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/30 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, June 30, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENT U.S. Delegation to International Mtg on Mine Clearance ..1-2 RUSSIA Successful Link-up of Russian Mir and U.S. Atlantis .....2 Yeltsin's Acceptance of Ministers Resignations ..........20 Gore/Chernomyrdin Meeting/Agreements re: COCOM, MTCR ....20 --Russian Conventional Arms Sales to Iran/Nuclear Sales .20-24 CHINA Status of U.S. Citizen Harry Wu/Consular Access Request .3-4,5-11 --U.S. Contacts with Chinese Officials ..................9-10 --Senator Helms' Letter to Secretary re: Harry Wu .......6-7 Arrest of Dissident Chen Ziming .........................11 Chinese Reaction to Tawain President Lee Visa to US .....3-4,10 U.S. Policy Toward China ................................4,8-9 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA French Defense Official's Criticisms of US policy re: Bosnia and UNPROFOR ...................................11-13,14 Reported Bosnian Government Boycott of UN Envoy Akashi ..13-14 Reported Serbian Military Build-up in Krajina/ Serbian Round-ups of Krajina Youths ...................14-15 IRAQ Status of Detained Amcits ...............................16-17 EGYPT/SUDAN Status of Relations/Reported Military Exercises/Border Dispute ...............................................17-18 Assassination Attempt on President Mubarak ..............18-19 --Reported FBI Assistance in Investigation ..............19 UGANDA Reported 5-Year Postponement of Elections ................24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 1995, 12:58 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of brief announcements, and then I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
First, former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will head a United States delegation to the International Meeting on Mine Clearance, convened by the Secretary General of the United Nations in Geneva from July 5 to 7. The U.S. delegation will be composed of representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Defense and the Agency for International Development.
The objective of the international meeting is to promote the work of the United Nations and to further enhance international cooperation in the area of mine clearance. In order to achieve this objective effectively the meeting will seek political and financial support from donor nations for various other mine clearance programs.
The meeting will also include a series of panels with experts in the area, and the experts will share their respective experiences in dealing with this problem.
I'd just like to note that this is an exceedingly important issue for people all around the world. There are an estimated 60 to 110 million mines that are present all over the world from many of the wars and conflicts of this century. The victims of these mines, when they are exploded by accident, tend to be civilians, and they unfortunately tend also in very great numbers to be children. They tend not to be combatants from the wars.
Many of the mines are left years after these wars have occurred. In Egypt, for instance, there are mines left over from the second World War, from the battle of El Alamein in the western desert, and there are mines left over from the war of attrition along the Red Sea. There have been in the last 15 to 20 years a number of civilian deaths in that area but also in other parts of the world.
The Secretary believes that all nations need to coalesce around this effort to combat the problem of mines and to find international solutions to it.
Secondly, I wanted to say a few words about this morning's link-up yesterday and today's link-up of the shuttle and the Mir spacecraft.
I think all of you saw the TV footage this morning of Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin speaking to our astronauts and Russia cosmonauts. The end of the space race has been brought about by the decision of the United States and Russia to combine efforts not only to link up the Mir and the Atlantis but also to build in the future an international space station. This tracks very closely the very effective political cooperation between the United States and Russia that has been developed over the last couple of years.
This is the first of seven planned space shuttle/Mir link-ups between 1995 and 1997, and these link-ups are intended to pave the way toward assembly of an international space station beginning in November 1997.
The American crew on this particular mission is comprised of six astronauts and among them is Norm Thagard, who trained at Star City near Moscow for a couple of years, who has been on the Russian space station Mir since March 16. He has now transferred to the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for the flight home. The Russian crew is composed of four cosmonauts, including two who will return to earth with the space shuttle Atlantis.
There are a number of experiments being conducted on board this link-up, and I believe the mission is intended to conclude next week; and with the conclusion of the mission, Norm Thagard will hold the record of longest American space flight of more than 100 days in space.
The reason I've mentioned this a couple of times this week is because it is important unto itself that the space race has ended; that the United States and Russia have decided now to cooperate in the second half of this decade and the next century in space.
Secondly, it does mirror the very big change in United States- Russian relations over the last couple of years. It's a highly significant development in our view.
With that, I'll be glad to take any questions you may have.
Q Do you have anything new on access to Harry Wu or new information on where he is?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a lot of new information, but I'm glad to go through what I have. Chinese officials have still not specified charges against Harry Wu, who's an American citizen, an American passport holder. Chinese officials have also not agreed to our repeated requests for consular access to him.
They have informed us that Mr. Wu is being detained in a hotel in the town of Karamaj, which is a town near the Kazakh-Chinese border in Xianjing Province. As we have previously stated over the last couple of days, there is a bilateral consular convention in play here. It is international law. It calls for American Government access to a detained American citizen within 48 hours after we request such access.
That is now two days overdue. The request was made four days ago. We fully expect the Chinese Government to live up to its international obligations to us and to permit us immediate access to Mr. Wu. We have sent an American Consul to Urumqi in Xianjing Province, and that person is now making his way to the town of Karamaj to go to the hotel where Mr. Wu is being held and to seek access to Mr. Wu so that we can inquire to his welfare, his physical welfare, his emotional welfare, and we can have discussions with Chinese officials about our request that he be released immediately.
That's our objective. That will be taking place this weekend over the course of the next day or two. This is a remote area of China. We do have this single American official in the region, but it is the responsibility and the mission now of this individual, this American consular official, to try to meet Mr. Wu.
I think that will only happen with the cooperation of the Chinese Government, and so we call upon the Chinese Government to give us that cooperation.
Q Yesterday -- actually, I think it was today, the President of China said the U.S. will pay a price for its wrong decision on the Taiwan visa, and the Foreign Ministry yesterday called upon the United States to make a sincere gesture of contrition. Does the United States have anything to be contrite for? How do you react to that?
MR. BURNS: We have nothing for which to be contrite. We are conducting our policy towards China on clear, unequivocal terms. We have a one-China policy, and that policy has been made clear from the President and the Secretary of State on down since the decision to grant the visa to President Lee of Taiwan.
There can be no confusion in Beijing about what United States policy is. There is no room here nor occasion for the United States to be contrite or to offer any examples of contrition. It is the responsibility now of the Chinese Government to respond to the repeated overtures made by the United States Government for diplomatic discussion on the issue of Harry Wu and on other issues in the bilateral relationship.
We have said repeatedly that we have not changed our policy on China. It is a clear policy. We've also said repeatedly we want to build constructive, stable relations with China because that is in our national interest; but we think it is just as much in China's interest as it is in our national interest to have that type of relationship.
I would simply note that that type of relationship can be brought about by Chinese actions.
Q Can I follow? Nick, is it possible to interpret these remarks, though, that China has taken -- realizes that it has taken some extreme measures here and backed itself into a corner and would like some gesture from the United States to let itself out?
MR. BURNS: The United States is making gestures every day by reiterating our very strong interest in a close relationship with China, a stable relationship, and reiterating our offer to have high-level meetings.
The United States is also making that clear by saying that our policy has not changed; that we recognize the People's Republic of China as the representative of the Chinese people.
Q Have the Chinese denied outright the consular access request, or are they still considering it?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, they have told our Embassy officials in Beijing that all of the requests that we have made this week are under consideration. We've now heard this refrain for four days, and it wears, frankly, a little thin. It wears thin because it doesn't stand to reason that they would deny us consular access. We have an agreement, and the agreement should be honored.
We have concerns about Mr. Wu's health and his welfare. We have been denied access to him. He's an American citizen. We have every right under international law to have access to him, and so we call, again, upon the Chinese Government to give us that type of access.
Q What kinds of concerns? Do you have some information that's come through other channels about his health and welfare?
MR. BURNS: Not specifically, but he's 58 years old. He is himself a survivor of Chinese detention over a long period of time, and any time an American citizen is missing, in effect, and we are denied access to an American citizen, we have concerns about the welfare of that person.
We cannot assure ourselves of what has happened to him, of what condition he may be in, of what kind of questioning he may be undergoing. It is the same situation, frankly, that we find ourselves in, in Iraq with Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon. We simply are not willing to be assured that an American is okay without having personal access to the American by an American Government representative.
Q Did they say anything, that he was okay, or how long they were going to hold him or what he was a prisoner for?
MR. BURNS: I am not aware that they've given us any really specific information on the conditions of Mr. Wu's detention or his physical, emotional welfare. I think we've been receiving very little information. We have received the mantra of, "We're looking into this. Everything is under consideration," and that's simply not good enough.
Q Did they tell you that he's in this hotel in today's conversation?
MR. BURNS: I believe it was yesterday's conversation that we were told he was in that hotel, yes -- in Karamaj. Up until then we did not know where he was being held. We had just heard press reports that he may be one place or another.
Q Do you have the spelling of Karamaj?
MR. BURNS: Yes. You transliterate it as K-a-r-a-m-a-j.
Q The Chinese said yesterday that you all are misreading the consular agreement. It's actually four days -- the time frame they're obligated to get back to you -- and not two? Could that be possible?
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you asked that question, Sid, because I'd like the opportunity to clear this up once again. There are two aspects of the Consular Convention that are important here and applicable to this situation.
The first is as follows: When the Chinese Government detains or arrests an American citizen, the government has an obligation to inform our government within four days of the arrest or detention of that individual. The Chinese Government met that obligation, because Mr. Wu, we understand, was detained on June 19, and we were informed on June 23 of his detention.
We incorrectly stated -- "we," here in the State Department -- on Monday that it was a two-day regulation. That was not the case. It's a four-day regulation. On Tuesday I said here from the podium that we had misspoken on Monday, we were correcting the record, and that we had to give the Chinese Government its due for having met that particular obligation.
There's a second provision in the Consular Convention. Once the American Government makes a request for consular access, then the Chinese Government has an obligation within 48 hours to meet the conditions of access, to grant us access. It has now been four days since that request was made. Therefore, the Chinese Government is in violation of our agreement on consular access.
That is unequivocal, it's clear, and no one can read anything else if you read the Consular Access Agreement. I believe the Chinese may have misspoken yesterday in saying that we were reading the Convention wrong, because the Convention can only be read one way in both the English and Chinese languages.
Q So it was June 26 when you asked for consular access?
MR. BURNS: We asked for consular access on Monday, and it is now Friday.
Q Nick, Senator Helms has written to the Secretary of State essentially urging him to threaten the Chinese with retaliatory action if they don't release Wu pronto. Has there been any reaction from the Secretary of State to that, or what is your reaction?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has received a letter. In fact, the Secretary had a good conversation with Senator Helms about this issue yesterday.
I can say that we agree very much with Senator Helms on several counts. We agree that Mr. Wu ought to be released immediately. We agree that until that happens, we ought to be given access to him under the Convention that we have in place with the Chinese Government. I don't think we have an argument at all with Senator Helms on this. I understand Senator Helms is a personal friend of Mr. Wu, and he's also someone that we respect greatly. We have an obligation to Mr. Wu to do as much as we can to release him.
I have said before, and I'll continue to say, it is not the time for threats in this relationship. It's not time to speak of retaliatory steps. It's time for the Chinese Government simply to meet its international obligations.
Q So you don't agree with the part of Mr. Helms' letter that is threatening and calls for punitive action?
MR. BURNS: Right now, we're trying to resolve this disagreement with the Chinese Government through diplomatic negotiations, and we're going to keep those negotiations as a center of our efforts for the time being.
Q That's about what the Secretary -- was that the message from the Secretary to the Senator, generally?
MR. BURNS: I think the Secretary just gave the Senator a description of what we've been trying to do this week, all the efforts we've made, both here in Washington and in Beijing, to convince the Chinese Government to live up to its international obligations.
Q Is there a timeframe for the time being?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe there is. We're going to take this one day at a time. Now that we have a consular officer in the area who, hopefully, will be able to make contact with Mr. Wu this weekend, we're just going to hope very much that progress will be made on this case.
Q Don't you find it at all ironic that this relatively new American is going to be jailed under Chinese detention on American Independence Day?
MR. BURNS: I think it's unfortunate. I think it speaks very poorly of China's ability and inclination to live up to its international agreements. It's most unfortunate. He is a highly respected individual. He has done a lot of fine work in monitoring the human rights situation in China. He's testified many times on Capitol Hill. He's met many times with members of this Administration, and we respect him and we don't him to be held on July 4th. We want him to be released as soon as possible. Tomorrow would fine, for starters.
Q Nick, do you feel frustrated by the fact that you and the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman seem to be talking across each other than to each other, correcting each other's mistakes?
Second question: The Chinese officials are alleging that the U.S. is now contemplating, if not conducting, a policy of containment toward China. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: The first one is quite easy to handle. I want to give my colleague in Beijing his due. I think he said the other day that the American Government had corrected a mistake that we had made in briefing the press, and we did. We corrected on Tuesday; I corrected it from this podium.
He, perhaps, at that time, had not heard also what I said -- maybe he didn't hear -- that there is a 48-hour access limit. The Chinese know that very well. I'm not aware that they're questioning their reading of the agreement at all. I'm not aware that in our private meetings they have put that into question. So let's just give the spokesman his due. This is probably a misunderstanding, but let's go forward with the clear understanding of what the Consular Convention says because we have an absolutely clear understanding of that.
On your second question: The United States is pursuing a policy of engagement with China. We believe, in the post-Cold War era, that we have an opportunity to engage both China and Russia in great power relationships to build constructive relationships. That is certainly, specifically, the decision that this Administration has made since the beginning of the Administration on a conceptual basis about how we should relate to China.
We are not in any way, shape, or form taking steps that could be seen reasonably to be containment. We're taking steps to engage the Chinese. We're doing that politically through high-level discussions. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Qian had a very good discussion in New York on April 17 about our efforts to work with the Chinese, in political terms, all around the world. We have done it with our military-to-military contacts, and we've certainly done it on economic issues, as you well know.
This is a policy that's very clear of engagement. I know there is talk in China that somehow the United States is signaling a policy of containment. It's not true.
Q So why wouldn't you -- if China cannot be trusted to live up to its international agreements, why wouldn't you be rethinking the relationship and thinking anew about other ways of dealing with China?
MR. BURNS: We're hoping to resolve this problem. We have confidence that ultimately this particular problem of Mr. Wu will be resolved.
But to step back a little bit, we have an enormous stake in our future relationship with China that is not only economic -- and that's where a lot of the attention is -- it is political and military as well.
China is one of the great powers of the world, and certainly one of the great powers in Asia. We are also a specific power. We have every reason -- and I think all Administrations since the late Seventies have seen this -- to engage China.
The policy that we are pursuing, by the way, is the policy that was put in place in 1979, built on the three communiques. It's been the policy of Republicans and Democrats in the United States since that time, and it remains our policy. I think the Chinese leadership is aware of that.
Q Are there any plans for high-level contacts with Chinese officials over this? I mean, either the Secretary to call someone or for Winston Lord to call in the Charge again?
MR. BURNS: We have done that. Win Lord called in the Charge on Wednesday and had a long conversation on Harry Wu on the issue of Mr. Chen Ziming, who is the re-arrested Tiananmen dissident. Win Lord was also able to convey to him, the Charge, some of the points that I conveyed earlier. The points being that we have a clear policy; that it's up to China to take some steps towards us to make it clear that they want to engage with us on this and other issues.
Q But there are no plans for further contacts beyond those that happened earlier this week?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think there are going to be a number of contacts, as we go throughout the weekend and into next week, of a fairly high level. Certainly, our Charge d'Affaires, our lead diplomat in Beijing, is going to be active, but also I'm sure Assistant Secretary Lord. I wouldn't discount the possibility of further high-level contacts beyond that, as the situation unfolds. Not at all.
Q The Chinese have said from the very start that they are not going to swallow the bitters -- as they call it, the bitter fruit -- of President Lee Teng-hui's visit to this country. Do you expect them to forget it? Or are you prepared to do something?
MR. BURNS: We took the decision that we did because we thought it was the right decision. We still think it was the right decision to issue that visa.
We also took the opportunity, before the announcement of the visa issuance was made, during the visit, after the visit, on many, many occasions to assure the Chinese Government that this particular visa decision did not indicate in any way any change in American policy towards China. So in our view what we have done is clear. It was the right thing to do, but we look forward to working with the Chinese on building a good relationship.
Q You said that Mr. Wu is travelling on an American passport. I assume he was travelling to China on that passport. Did he have a visa? What were the technicalities of his trip?
MR. BURNS: We know that he was on an American passport. We understand he had a visa to enter China. We also understand he had made several trips to China on that particular passport with Chinese visas in the past -- in the recent past; during the last two or three years.
Q Do you think the Chinese are -- I hate to use the word "justified." In the past, Mr. Wu did go with a film crew, photographed, at least from the Chinese point of view, highly embarrassing facilities where they harvest organs and detained political dissidents, and prison- labor manufactured toys for kids in the United States. Do you think they're at all justified in wanting to at least talk to him about that and to look into it?
MR. BURNS: They're not justified to detain him without telling him or us what the charges are against him. They're not justified to hold him without American Government consular access to him. First point.
Second point: Mr. Wu is a respected champion of human rights. As you know, human rights is a big, important part of our own dialogue with the Chinese Government. Mr. Wu has spoken out in a very forthright and direct way about his own personal experiences and about information that he has been able to uncover over the last couple of years that speak to a pattern of human rights abuses that are of concern to our government and are of international concern.
There can be no justification, we think, for limiting this kind of information from being made available to all the world.
That speaks to another point, and that's the issue of Chen Ziming.
On this broader issue of human rights, we think that political prisoners should be released. We think that Chen Ziming should be released on health grounds alone, and we think that other political prisoners should be released.
So the work that Mr. Wu is doing is fully consistent with our own interests in both uncovering human rights abuses and in asking the Chinese Government to be accountable for them.
Q If he has, in fact, violated Chinese law, and if they do in fact satisfy you on the notification requirements, would you then -- if they charge him and want to try him for violating Chinese law, would you then -- and they did give you the access you wanted and notification you want -- would you then demand his release or would you allow their legal system to grind on, as unfair as it may be?
MR. BURNS: We, in fact, do not know that he has violated Chinese law. We have been told very little about the Chinese Government, and that's the crux of the problem.
The obligation and the burden here is on the Chinese Government to speak.
Q So you're open to an explanation from the Chinese Government on this; is that --
MR. BURNS: What we to see happen is, we want to see Mr. Wu released. In the interim, we certainly want to be aware of whatever charges may be brought against him, if charges are to be brought against him. If charges are not to be brought against him, there is no reason to detain him.
I think we have to answer those questions first before we can deal with the situation that might evolve, hypothetically, down the line.
Q The French Defense Ministry held some kind of a briefing today for reporters, and a senior official has sharply criticized the Administration's policy. He says that the United States backs military action by the Bosnian Muslims and if the Europeans are neutral on this, it could lead to a chasm of difference with the Europeans. Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to comment when you don't know who is doing the briefing, when it's anonymous, and when the French Government has told us officially, in public or in private, anything along the lines of this individual.
As far as I know, we have not heard from the French Government, privately, and certainly have not seen any other French Government statements, that are consistent with the press reports that we saw from Paris this morning. So therefore I don't want to comment on an anonymous person who, for some reason or another, feels he or she does not speak for the record.
Q We have Administration officials here give briefings "On Background" from time to time as well.
MR. BURNS: We do.
Q He did make a specific charge that U.S. reserve officers are training a Bosnian army. As far as I understand, this is the first time a French Defense official said such a thing publicly.
MR. BURNS: And the allegation is nonsense. I'm not aware of any information that would lead anybody to that particular conclusion.
I can certainly speak about our larger policy. I'll be glad to do that, but I don't care to speak to remarks by an anonymous official.
I would point out again, it is inconsistent with what we've heard privately from people that we know who speak for the French Government.
Q You speak to the larger -- this would be a bad time for a row between the United States and its European allies. Are you concerned about the prospect of some kind of showdown?
MR. BURNS: With our allies?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. We have had over the last three weeks a series of consultations with our allies. They began in Noordwijk, when Secretary Christopher met with the Contact Group Foreign Ministers. There was unanimity in that five and a half hour meeting about what should happen -- UNPROFOR should remain and be strengthened.
There was no criticism of the United States in those meetings during the five and a half hours -- private meetings -- without headlights, without the lights of the media present.
Secondly, President Chirac came to Washington for a series of very fine meetings with President Clinton and Secretary Christopher. There was no criticism of the United States in those meetings. In fact, there is agreement on the strategic purpose of strengthening UNPROFOR; of having the United States try to assemble some funds to support the French, Dutch, Belgian, and U.K. decision to beef up UNPROFOR -- agreement on that point.
There were Defense Ministers meetings in Paris which were harmonious, in which we found ourselves in agreement with our European allies.
Malcolm Rifkind, the U.K. Defense Secretary, was here, and we had a very good series of discussions with him.
So I don't see the picture of any kind of problem with our allies. In fact, the decisions that the President made yesterday to establish a fund to help the Rapid Reaction Force get on its feet to provide military equipment, to provide lift, to provide communications, and to perhaps provide further monies down the road, is an indication of the fact that we're with our allies; that we understand one of the essential obligations we have is support our allies when they're in a tight position -- and they are in a tight position. They find themselves as part of an UNPROFOR which clearly is not meeting its obligations.
I think the courageous decision taken by the European allies is to change that situation.
The fundamental obligation that our government has is to support our allies. We're NATO allies. We have these commitments. We can't walk away from them.
I think you saw the letter that was issued last night by the Republican leadership, and I think you know what the response of the Administration is. We're going forward. We're going to support our allies; we're going to do what we can to strengthen UNPROFOR.
Q The Bosnian Government today has said they're not going to deal anymore with Mr. Akashi. They feel he now represents the Bosnian Serbs. Is that opinion that is shared by the Clinton Administration? Should Akashi be taken out of this process, because he's --
MR. BURNS: That's not a question for us. That's a question for Boutros Ghali -- for the Secretary General of the U.N. We couldn't comment on a question like that.
We understand, certainly, the frustrations of the Bosnian Government at this time when Sarajevo is being shelled, when little kids are being killed in the streets of Sarajevo, when food convoys aren't reaching Sarajevo or the enclaves. We understand the frustration that a lot of people in Bosnia must feel.
We have always had a great deal of sympathy and friendship for the Bosnian Government. We have an excellent relationship.
Secretary Christopher had a very good meeting with the Foreign Minister last week, with the Prime Minister a week before that. I just couldn't comment on Mr. Akashi. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to do that.
Q The same French official said that the French and the other UNPROFOR forces could get out of Bosnia without NATO's help and do it much quicker, in fact. Does this sound -- have you ever heard this before from the French or anybody else?
MR. BURNS: I'd like to meet this French official. This person has some interesting views. The first time I've heard a number of these views.
NATO met the other day in Brussels. The French were a part of those discussions. After several months of contingency planning, NATO adopted Plan 4104, which calls for NATO, led by the United States, of course, as a major troop-contributor, to, on a contingency basis, make sure that a plan is ready for the extraction of UNPROFOR forces from Bosnia.
I'm not aware that the French Government was opposed to that plan. In fact, I am aware and know the French Government supports it.
It would be very interesting for me to have this official surface, and we'd be glad to talk to him or her.
Q Do you have any more information now about the Serbian buildup in Krajina?
MR. BURNS: Roy, I don't have information beyond what we talked about yesterday, and that is that there appears to have been some leakage in the sanctions regime along the border. There has been a problem with rounding up Krajina youths who are in Belgrade; a big problem, and a lot of evidence to indicate that the Serb officials in Serbia were complicit in that undertaking which is a clear violation of the rights of those individuals who were rounded up. But I don't have any new information for you.
Q If a new system has been introduced into a theater -- in effect, a theater which is pretty volatile -- in this case, a T-84 tank, as the Croatian Government is alleging, and in some numbers -- 25/26 -- would the U.S. Government be aware of this, or would the Western countries be aware of this, through whatever intelligence means they have, or would they tend to, if they were aware of it, just keep it to themselves?
MR. BURNS: I think that the U.N. would be the best place to be aware of developments like that -- the introduction of a new type of tank or whatever, a piece of military equipment into a theater, because there are U.N. officials on the ground throughout the Croatia and Bosnia.
Q Apparently, this system was paraded the other day in the town of (inaudible) and it was shown on Bosnian Serb television and shown elsewhere as well.
It's interesting that after about four or five days of questioning you, you still do not have any confirmation that this is there. Is it not possible to confirm whether a new system has been introduced or not, and is there in significant numbers?
MR. BURNS: We get information from a variety of sources about activities such as this. We try to follow them up. However, we try also to be responsible and not to make public statements or quick judgments about events before we're able to confirm them to our satisfaction. That is why we have not been quick to denounce activities for which we have, at this point, initial information and for which we have not really made any solid conclusions.
Q What is the initial information you have?
MR. BURNS: We have information that is disturbing to us of sanctions violations and of leakages in the sanctions, not just in the theater that you're referring to but in the Bosnia and Serbia border in general. We've talked about that publicly. In fact, at great length yesterday, and we are following that up.
Q Would you take this question again. If it's on their own television, it obviously is there. The question is, is this a new system? And what is the impact on the balance in the theater; and how did they get there, also?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to continue to look into this and have people in the Department look into it, and glad to continue to take questions and other briefings on it.
Q Have U.S. diplomats in Belgrade received complaints from the Serbs that the Serbian police have been picking up people at their workplaces around the republic and taking them directly to Krajina?
MR. BURNS: We're aware of information -- that's right -- that Krajina youths -- young people from Krajina -- who are temporarily in Serbia, because of the war, have been rounded up against their will and are being taken for training and for deployment back in Krajina. We are aware of that information, and we're disturbed by it. We think that the Serbian Government -- at least parts of the government; certainly, individual officials -- have been complicit in that undertaking, that illegal undertaking.
Q Do you have any numbers?
MR. BURNS: I don't have numbers for you, no.
Q Different subject. Can you bring us up to date on the two Americans in Baghdad, if there is anything to bring us up to date on?
MR. BURNS: There's not a lot to say. Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon have been held for many months now. Mr. Krystosik, who is the Polish diplomat representing the United States in Baghdad, has been denied consular access to them for over two months. This goes beyond the realm of reason or sanity or civility. It speaks volumes about the nature of the current regime in Baghdad. We are extremely frustrated by this situation, and we are attempting, in a variety of ways, to seek a solution to this problem. We'll continue that.
We think about these two individuals everyday. There are people in this building and people in Baghdad and Amman who are responsible for ascertaining their welfare.
We try to get packages to them -- humanitarian packages of magazines, food, books. We're never really sure if the packages make it or not. We get receipts from the Iraqi guards, but we can't tell if the packages are, in fact, being received by these two guys.
They're being held in a very small cell, in a sub-standard prison in fairly miserable conditions. It's a shame that the Iraqi Government doesn't want to project a more civilized portrait of itself to the rest of the world.
Q Have the two wives made any inquiries about making a second trip?
MR. BURNS: I think they've told us that that's a possibility. I'm not aware that they've made any plans for a second trip. I understand that they do have the intention to undertake one at some point.
Q Yesterday, we talked a bit about the angry rhetoric that is being exchanged between Egypt and the Sudan. There are reports in the press today that the Sudanese have been conducting military exercises. Do you have any independent information that supports that, or any comment?
MR. BURNS: We don't have independent information that would support that particular activity. But let me just say we are following the situation closely because we have an interest in continuing our strong support for the Government of Egypt and our strong relationship with President Mubarak and the other officials of that government.
President Mubarak was very lucky, and we're grateful that he was very lucky to have survived an attempt on his life earlier this week. We have offered to him and to the Ethiopian Government, where the attack took place, all of our support to try to investigate the attack and determine who is responsible.
We haven't developed any information of our own that would lead us to implicate any particular individual or group of individuals. We've certainly noted the statements of President Mubarak and have no reason to question those statement, but we're not in a position to confirm them either.
But I think you know that our attention here is in our relationship with Egypt, which is a very important and strong one.
Pertaining to Sudan, I would just note there is a travel warning in effect -- a travel warning that dates from January 30, 1995, which warns American citizens against all travel to Sudan because of potential violence in the country.
We have made an effort over the last year or two to try to reach out to the Government of Sudan, to try to convince the government to have a more enlightened policy in terms of its political and economic orientation and in terms of its treatment of some of its citizens. I can't say that we've succeeded in convincing them to follow that path, but certainly we have a strong relationship with Egypt.
Q Nick, does the U.S. Government have a position on the contested border area between the two countries?
MR. BURNS: We don't take a position on it, no. We simply have noted the statements of both countries, and we hope very much that this situation can be resolved peacefully by both countries.
Q What do your maps show -- this is a contested area?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, it's been a contested area for a long, long time, going back, I think -- reaching even into the period of time when Britain was a colonial power in the area. We don't take a position on it. We are not asserting a view on it, but we are asserting one view, and that is we think that it behooves both countries to find a peaceful way through their disagreements. We certainly would not favor any escalation of the conflict at this time.
Q Do you -- the preparedness on the Sudanese side is said to be in preparation for some kind of Egyptian retaliatory attack because of the assassination attempt. Do you have any reason to think that Egypt is going to take some military action?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any indications that would lead me to that conclusion. I've seen the press reports. Of course, we've noted the rhetoric on both sides. One can understand the frustration, of course, that the Egyptian Government and President Mubarak personally must feel about what happened earlier this week, but we would counsel restraint and counsel patience and counsel a diplomatic solution to this problem.
Q There is a precedent for this sort situation happening to the United States in Kuwait with former President Bush. The United States responded by lobbing a couple of cruise missile at Baghdad. I note that you are counseling President Mubarak to exercise restraint. You don't think such retaliation as President Clinton did against Saddam Hussein would be justified on the part of President Mubarak?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure the two situations are analogous. The situation in Kuwait was a unique situation. The Iraqis deserved what they got because of their outrageous behavior, and I think this situation in Egypt and Sudan is quite different. It's in a different part of that region. The historical roots of that conflict are quite different, and we simply think it is best for all concerned that there be a peaceful resolution of this problem.
Q Nick, is there any suspicion that the attempt against President Mubarak may have been really not a serious attempt to actually kill him, but to create an incident? I mean, it's well known that he travels around in an armored car, and you don't attack an armored car with AK-47s and Kalashnikovs if you want to kill somebody.
But there was an important OAU meeting which was taking place which could have decisive consequences on the situation in Africa, and maybe somebody wanted to disrupt that.
If you were an Egyptian Government official or President Mubarak and five or six, seven, eight men rushed out in front of your car with guns and fired the guns and killed some of the Ethiopian security guards and wounded a Palestinian observer, I think you can only conclude that was a threat upon your life. Any time people take up arms against anybody, but in this case a head of state, one can only conclude, and this is what we conclude, is that this was a threat on President Mubarak's life. You have to take that seriously.
We're taking it seriously. We are offering our support to Egypt and Ethiopia to find these people and bring them to justice. We condemn the action, and we support the Government of Egypt in its efforts to deal with this crisis.
Q Nick, I know as of a couple of days ago no one had taken us up on that offer. Is that still the case -- the offer of --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they have taken us up on the offer. They've got their own people on the scene. They have very fine security services in Egypt, and I think they have their own confidence that they can handle this situation on their own.
We are open to any request that the Egyptian Government makes to us for assistance.
Q The New York Times reported yesterday that the FBI was there helping them out. Is that incorrect?
MR. BURNS: I will check on that. I'm not aware that that's the case, but I will certainly check on that.
Q Russia. What pro forma did the State Department or the Clinton Administration have to say about the departure of Yerin, Stepashin and Yegorov?
MR. BURNS: We just noted the announcement from Moscow a couple of hours ago that President Yeltsin has accepted the resignations of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Yerin; the Federal Security Service Chief, Mr. Stepashin; and the Minister of Nationalities, Mr. Yegorov. This is a decision that the Russian Government has made. It would be inappropriate for us really to comment on it.
I would say, however, that we continue to have a very deep interest in stability in Russia, to see the democratic and economic reform process continue. Vice President Gore has had a very successful visit to Moscow over the last couple of days. He met with President Yeltsin this morning. He had two and a half days of discussion with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
I think, as you've seen as the press reports come in, it was a highly successful meeting. We got a lot of done on this meeting. I think specific briefings are being given out there, but when we got the two delegations together, we were able to work through and make progress on a number of issues that have been at play for a number of years.
Specifically, we've resolved now completely the issue of Russian arms sales to Iran. That allows us to go forward and to support the immediate participation of Russia in the Missile Technology Control Regime and the regime that will be announced and established soon that will replace COCOM.
COCOM was a Cold War institution set up to contain Russia. There will now be a new successor regime created in which Russia will participate as a lead participant to fight against the problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of sensitive technologies. So we are very glad to see that.
There was also a lot of progress made on the issue of highly enriched uranium that is at the heart of the trilateral statement, agreement between Russia, Ukraine and the United States. That is the central engine that will bring the nuclear warheads out of Ukraine by next year. There were agreements on nuclear security, investment, some specific oil and gas energy deals announced. I think if our delegation begins to leave Moscow, they're satisfied that this meeting of the Gore/Chernomyrdin Commission has been very successful.
Q Follow-up. I thought the Russians had promised on at least two occasions that they were going to not sell Iran any more arms once they got done with these contracts.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Is this a third promise?
MR. BURNS: Back in September when President Yeltsin was in Washington for his summit meeting with President Clinton and then in December when Vice President Gore was in Moscow and again in May when President Clinton was back in Moscow, President Yeltsin reiterated each time that they wanted to achieve an understanding with us on the issue of their conventional arms sales to Iran; that they agreed that there would be no future arms sales to Iran. That's what was announced.
What was not worked out between the two governments and what the two Presidents asked Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Vice President Gore to resolve was the following. How do you work out the existing flow of conventional arms to Iran that are in the pipeline and for which contracts have already been resolved.
I understand that again -- and I'm reading it from a document now that I've just received from Moscow -- Russia has committed again to no new contracts. And as for the old contracts, these will ended within a few years, and they will not provide Iran with new weapon capabilities or alter the military balance in the region. That's what was at the heart of the issue back in September, especially when we first had the agreement by Russia not to enter into new contracts.
We said, "But what about the old contracts? What is the extent, the breadth, the depth of your arms relationship with Iran? How much money is at stake? What kind of weapons are you selling? How long do those contracts last? Will it alter the military balance, and will it give Iran an undue military buildup?"
It took all this time between September and June to resolve that question, and the Vice President just announced this morning that we have resolved it to our satisfaction.
Q So you've got a list of what they had contracted to sell, how much it costs?
MR. BURNS: That's right. And we have an agreement now, and we understand how long into the future these contracts go; what the military equipment is that is being supplied. We've also made a qualitative analysis of whether or not we think it affects negatively or positively the military balance.
Q Is that list sharable at some point?
MR. BURNS: No, at least not for the time being.
Q Nick, that list was so long about the agreements that have been reached, but did the Iran nuclear deal escape me or was that not in the list? We're still at the same old place on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Let me just say there are going to be a series of fact sheets issued by the White House from Moscow and from the White House here in Washington this afternoon that will detail all of the agreements, understandings, business deals that have been consummated over the last couple of days.
On the issue of Russia's possible future nuclear sales to Iran, the two Presidents asked again -- the Vice President and the Prime Minister -- to take responsibility for this issue. They have done that. They have had an initial discussion between themselves over the last couple of days.
I understand that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said in public that there could be no question of Russia giving Iran a nuclear capability, but that there were many issues within this major issue that had to be discussed, and there were no announcements that can be made at this point about any understanding that we have.
So we've got our work to do. We've got a ways to go with the Russians. I think you've heard Secretary Christopher say on a number of occasions, this is a high priority in the U.S.-Russian relationship. We're not going to let it drop. We want experts to meet. Certainly the Vice President will keep it at the top of his agenda. We intend to pursue this dialogue with the Russian Government.
Q Nick, when we were in Moscow, I remember President Clinton and President Yeltsin basically announcing the conventional arms agreement with Iran, and I remember four U.S. official standing up in an auditorium and explaining in detail that they had a long list of weapons that were in the pipeline, and they had come to an agreement.
Two questions: At that time they were unwilling to say whether ballistic missile sales were part of that, whether the U.S. would bless the fulfillment of continued ballistic missile sales to Iran from Russia, which they had done in the past -- which the Russians have done in the past.
And, secondly, why are you announcing this again? I don't see that there's anything at all different to what was announced in Moscow.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry about the confusion, but when we were in Moscow, we did not announce that we had an agreement with Russia on what would happen to the conventional arms in the pipeline. In fact, I think we said at the time that the Russians had reiterated their commitment not to sell new weapons to Iran, but that we had differences of opinion that remained to be worked out on the pipeline, specifically on how far into the future these sales would extend and on some of the specific technology that was under contract.
We now have an agreement on that portion that was at the core of the differences in September, December and May in all these bilateral meetings. We now have resolved to our satisfaction that the fulfillment of the existing contracts will not alter the military balance and will be limited in the future.
Therefore, we are now for the first time today able to say that we would welcome Russia into the COCOM successor regime to work on this kind of problem in the future. We absolutely did not announce, though, Sid, in Moscow that we had resolved all aspects of the issue.
That's why the Vice President went to Moscow intending to get to the bottom of this, this time around.
Q And the ballistic missile question?
MR. BURNS: I am limited in one respect. I have a kind of bare- bones facts here about what was accomplished. I don't have the specific fact sheets and a full explanation of what was decided today in Moscow, so I'm limited by that. It's certainly a question we can look into.
Q Can you take that one question, because Iran has identified that this Administration is the major enemy of the Middle East peace process. I would find it extremely strange and I'm sure the Israelis would as well if the United States was somehow agreeing to allow Russia to complete a ballistic missile contract with Iran. So if you could take that, please.
MR. BURNS: Be glad to look into it, yes.
Q Did I hear you -- no. Let's start over. Did the Russians agree to abrogate some of these treaties -- some of these sales, or are they just going ahead with all of the contracts that they had, and you're satisfied that it's not going to change the balance?
MR. BURNS: Steve, what I have here is that we have resolved the issue to our satisfaction; that the old contracts will end in a few years and not alter the military balance, nor will they provide Iran with new weapon capabilities.
What I don't have here, frankly, is a breakdown of all of the weaponry that was under discussion in the pipeline. I just don't have it with me. I was here. I wasn't in Moscow during the last couple of weeks.
Q As far as you know, the contracts that exist will be fulfilled. There just won't be new contracts drawn.
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. No new contracts.
Q But the contracts existing will be fulfilled?
MR. BURNS: That appears to be the essence of the agreement, but I would caution you to wait for the fuller readout that we can give you once our team returns.
Q Nick, on Uganda, about a week ago Ugandan President Museveni declared that there would not be elections for another five years, essentially setting up or concretizing a dictatorship in that country. Is the U.S. thinking of retaliating against these measures?
MR. BURNS: I really don't have anything for you on that today. I'll be glad to look into that particular issue.
Q Foreign aid cutoff?
MR. BURNS: I just don't have anything to say on that issue.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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