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U.S. Department of State
95/07/06 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman

 
 
                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                           DAILY PRESS BRIEFING 
 
                               I N D E X 
 
                         Thursday, July 6, 1995 
 
 
                                       Briefer:  Nicholas Burns 
 
 
IRAQ 
  UN Sanctions Compliance/Ekeus Report ...................  1-6 
  Iraq's Statement on Biological Weapons Program .........  1-5 
  UN Resolution: Sale of Oil for Humanitarian Goods ......  4-5 
 
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 
  Discussions on Status of West Bank, Redeployment, etc.,    6-7 
  Palestinian Authority's Use of Donor Funds .............  7-11 
  Ambassador Dennis Ross' Trip to Region .................  9-10,14 
  EU Involvement in Peace Process ........................  11 
  Report of new Israeli Settlement on West Bank ..........  12-14 
 
CHINA/TAIWAN 
  U.S. Request for Consular Access to Harry Wu ...........  15-16 
  --U.S.-China Discussions/Contacts ......................  16-17,20 
  Allegations of U.S. Denial of Consular Access ..........  15-16 
  Secretary Christopher/Chinese FM Minister @ ASEAN Mtgs.   17-18 
  U.S.-China Relations ...................................  18-20 
  Possible Visa Requests of Senior Taiwan Officials ......  20 
 
IRAQ 
  American Detainees .....................................  19 
 
RUSSIA 
  Search for Fred Cuny ...................................  21 
 
INDIA 
  Kashmir--Two U.S. Citizens Taken Captive ...............  21-22 
 
CUBA 
  U.S. Review of Travel Policy ...........................  22-23 
 
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 
  War in Bosnia 
  --Rapid Reaction Force .................................  24-28 
  --Secretary Christopher, A/S Holbrooke Contacts 
       w/Carl Bildt .......................................  24 
  --Secretary Christopher, Bosnian FM Sacirbey Mtg. ......  25 
 
NIGERIA 
  Report of Nigerian Gov't. Arrest, Trial, & Sentencing 
    of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo.................  28-29 
 
VIETNAM 
  Normalization of Relations .............................  29 
 
THAILAND 
  Denial of U.S. Visa for Mr. Vatana .....................  29-30 
 
 
 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #99

THURSDAY, JULY 6, 1995, 1:09 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I don't have any announcements, so I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.

Q Nick, do you want to run through your policy on Iraq again? I mean, have they behaved sufficiently to at least to entertain the thought of lifting some of the sanctions against them, and do you anticipate some sort of a shattering disagreement with two would-be allies, France and Russia, over the issue?

MR. BURNS: Barry, the answer to your question is no. They haven't done nearly enough to warrant a lifting of the sanctions by the United Nations, and certainly the United States will adhere to that position when this question comes before the U.N. Security Council, I believe, on July 12.

Let me just go through for you what our policy has been for four years. This has been the policy of the Bush Administration, and now the Clinton Administration for the last two and a half years.

The United States believes that UNSC 688 sanctions should continue until Iraq forsakes terrorism, abandons its attempts to acquire and produce nuclear and biological and chemical weapons, ceases repression of its own citizens, and accounts for missing Kuwaitis and others who are missing from the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait -- and we're talking here about six to seven hundred people.

We, of course, noted the statements out of Mr. Ekeus yesterday. Mr. Ekeus has done an excellent job under very difficult circumstances. We are looking at Iraq's announcement -- its admission of guilt that it now admits that it had a biological weapons program. We're looking at that with a great deal of skepticism -- skepticism because we aren't naive.

For four years now under repeated questioning by the international community, Iraq insisted that it did not have biological weapons, and now it says it did. What happened to the 17 tons of growth material? Did Iraq ever attempt to create delivery vehicles for the biological weapons that it now says it was producing before the outbreak of the Gulf war in 1990 and 1991.

We have said repeatedly that we are concerned about Iraq's failure to comply with all of these relevant UNSC -- U.N. Security Council resolutions, and before there can be a serious discussion of modifying the sanctions regime, Iraq needs to demonstrate compliance with all of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions; not just on weapons of mass destruction -- that is a very important issue -- but also on the other issues that I mentioned.

I think as Ambassador Albright put it quite well yesterday, a la carte compliance by Iraq is simply not an acceptable way to proceed.

Q Is it conceivable with Saddam Hussein still -- must Saddam Hussein depart before Iraq can make that kind of change in their policies?

MR. BURNS: That's just something that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership is going to have to decide. If they want to integrate themselves back into the international community, if they want to be treated as a responsible member of the international community, they're going to have to comply with all of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

It's not just a question of doing or saying the right thing on biological weapons, it's all of them. Whether or not one can believe in redemption for Saddam Hussein, that's a question maybe for history. But we're going to look at their actions, and their actions have not been terribly impressive.

It is one thing to say after four years of international prodding that you now admit your guilt. It's quite another to explain what happened to the growth material. As I read this morning, the Iraqis are saying, "Well, the growth material was destroyed before the outbreak of fighting in 1991." Can we be sure of that? Do they have evidence of that? Were they developing delivery vehicles for biological weapons that could have killed millions of people?

These are very serious questions. They cannot be disregarded simply because the Iraqis have made what I would say is a self-serving statement about their past culpability on biological weapons. We take this question very seriously because we have an obligation to defend our interests in the area. On the question of biological weapons, we have an obligation to defend our own people, and so we're going to continue to pursue all of these issues, but frankly Iraq has to do a lot more to convince us that it's serious.

Q Have other nations cooperated with the United States or are they cooperating with the United States in the view that you just expressed? Are you going to the United Nations for an investigation? What's happening in a follow-up to this report that they were destroyed in 1990 or whenever they said these mass destruction weapons were destroyed?

MR. BURNS: First, the United Nations has the lead in investigating these particular charges about weapons of mass destruction, and again I'd like to congratulate Mr. Ekeus on having done an excellent job. We have great confidence in him.

We'll have to see what other nations think and what they say when the issue of sanctions comes up again next week at the U.N. Security Council. Obviously, as you all know, there are some countries who believe that if Iraq says the right thing, then perhaps Iraq should be let off quite easily. We don't believe that, and we don't believe given Iraq's past behavior toward its neighbors and on this particular question, they ought to be let off with just a simple statement.

They ought to be held to a very stiff test. That's what the U.N. Security Council voted on in 1991, and that's what we still believe.

Q Since you're on the Middle East, may I ask you --

Q Could I just follow up that last one? Who specifically are the "some countries" that you just mentioned?

MR. BURNS: I think those countries have made their views clear in the past. I don't need to go into them. It will be clear next week where countries fall on this issue. We will use the intervening time, of course, between now and next week to advocate with our fellow U.N. Security Council members and others who have a voice in this that while it is in one sense -- in one general sense, positive that this statement has been made by Baghdad, they have a long, long way to go, and we remain skeptical, and we think the international community for its own sake and its own interest should remain skeptical until there are concrete deeds that establish that there's been a change in attitude in Baghdad.

Q If Mr. Ekeus and his people become satisfied that Iraq has become in compliance with the demand that it forsake the effort to build weapons of various types, does the U.S. still think that it should hold sanctions against Iraq because it has not accounted for missing Kuwaitis, or because it's repressing its own people or some of these other things that you've listed? And do you think that you could convince the other countries to keep sanctions on Iraq even after Mr. Ekeus is satisfied, assuming he will be?

MR. BURNS: If that occurs, David, I think there will be some countries, I would predict, who would probably want to go along with the lifting of sanctions. What I have stated here today -- restated -- is nothing new. We've said for four years that the fact that the Iraqis have not accounted for six to seven hundred Kuwaitis from their illegal occupation of Kuwait is a very serious matter indeed. And we have committed the Kuwaiti Government that we will do what we can to help identify what happened to those people.

We've said that the issue of weapons of mass destruction in all of its ramifications is important to us. Is it reasonable that after four years of denying that it had a biological weapons program -- is it reasonable to say that a simple statement from Baghdad suddenly clears up all of the discussion of that issue, all of the problems associated with that issue. It's not reasonable.

By Mr. Ekeus' own account, there are 17 tons of growth material that were produced in Iraq. What happened to that growth material. A lot of these questions have to be answered. And in addition, we certainly do not apologize for our concern about Iraq's treatment of its Shi'a population in the south -- its brutal treatment of that population -- and we do not apologize for our concerns about Iraqi support for terrorism more broadly in the Middle East.

These were the four main areas of concern outlined four years ago by the United States, and they remain our areas of concern today, and Iraq has to speak to all of these questions.

Q Nick, is it fair to continue punishing innocent Iraqi civilians for the misdeeds of their government?

MR. BURNS: There are in fact many Iraqis who are paying for the misdeeds of their government. The United States has made it quite clear, as recently as this spring, that we would be quite open to voting favorably for resolutions that would allow Iraq to sell a portion of its oil as long as the proceeds went to providing humanitarian goods and services -- medical goods, badly needed food supplies -- to the Iraqi population.

There was a U.N. resolution worked out to that effect. The United States signaled that it would support that. The Iraqi Government pulled the plug on that resolution at the last moment. What does that say about the Iraqi Government's interest in the humanitarian concerns of its own people.

That offer remains on the table. We're interested in seeing the people are well fed, that their medical needs are being attended to, but Iraq chose not to go in that direction, and that tells you something. It certainly told us something.

Q What does it tell you?

MR. BURNS: It tells us that they're interested in playing games with this issue. It tells us that they weren't serious about their claims that somehow the international community was unfairly penalizing the Iraqi people. We provided through our partners in the U.N., a mechanism to help improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people -- of those people who in fact have paid the price for the behavior of the government, and the Iraqi Government turned that offer down.

So I would turn the tables on that charge, and say that the regime in Baghdad had an open offer from the U.N., refused it and must be held accountable for that.

Q Nick, do you think that the pressure for lifting the sanctions is so strong that the United States may be forced to use its veto next week?

MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see, Carol. I think that a lot of people are going to listen closely to what Mr. Ekeus says. He's a well respected figure. I think some countries will have a higher standard than others. We have a very high standard. We feel very strongly about this issue.

It has a direct impact on our national security interests. Any time you talk about 17 tons of biological growth material. Material that, if it has not been destroyed, if it is currently being hidden, could pose a threat to millions of people in the Middle East and around the world. You've got to take that threat seriously, and we do.

So I think we're in a skeptical mood. We need to be shown that there has indeed been a conversion or there's been some kind of redemption on the part of the Iraqi leadership. We're skeptical.

Q Will you use your veto if necessary?

MR. BURNS: We will do whatever we have to do to protect the four areas of interest that we've outlined, and we'll just have to see how the debate goes. But right now, we don't believe that there is any basis to lift those sanctions. We don't believe that there's been any action taken so far that would argue for a lifting of those sanctions.

Q You'll do whatever you have to do, including a veto.

MR. BURNS: We would hope to convince our partners who will look at this question with us, that it's just too early to change our policy after four long years where the international community has held together based on a single statement.

Q Nick, the mission of July 12, that's the date when the Security Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution which was drafted --

MR. BURNS: I don't know if the vote is scheduled for that date, Jim. But I know that the debate will be starting on that day, yes.

Q Nick, can I ask you about that -- the veto question, and all? Is it the U.S.'s expectation that this need not come to a vote; that some sort of compromise or some sort of arrangement can be worked out without forcing you to consider using your veto, without forcing a collision with Russia, France, and possibly others?

MR. BURNS: Our view is that we hope that the international community and our partners will have a historical memory of what happened four years ago in the Persian Gulf, and we'll have a memory of what has happened since -- specifically, the behavior of the Iraqi Government. So therefore it will not be necessary for the United States to act alone.

We wouldn't expect to have to act alone. We think a number of our partners are just as skeptical as we are.

Q There is a report that the PLO and Israel would sign an agreement relating to the West Bank in Washington on

July 24. Do you have any specific date, or anything like that?

MR. BURNS: As you know, both Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat are working hard towards their own deadline of July 25 to complete their discussions about the many complex issues before the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority concerning the status of the West Bank and redeployment and the hand over of authority and the other issues.

If the parties are successful by July 25, and if they wish to hold a ceremony to mark their success in Washington, D.C., we'd very much welcome that. We've made that clear to both the Palestinian leadership and to the Israeli Government.

Q Have you made any statement -- or I should say, has the State Department made any statement on the report that 28 letters are in the possession of a New York Times columnist dealing with orders from Arafat's top finance aide dealing with the distribution of the finances being given -- the funds being given him by donors which run contrary to the wishes and the essence of the contributors donations?

MR. BURNS: There was something in the press last week about this, about some of these charges. We have paid a great deal of attention to our work with the Palestinian Authority to try to make sure that money that is given by the United States Government is well spent, that it can all be accounted for. Both the State Department and USAID have put a lot of person hours into this particular question.

We're not aware of any major problem that would substantiate the charges concerning those letters.

Obviously, in any aid program -- and this one is not excluded -- there are problems in implementation. Sometimes there are problems in conceptualizing what the right thing to do is. But we have a made detailed study of the implementation of the money given by the United States, and we're not aware of any problems along the order of what that particular report referred to.

Q You spoke of major problems. Have there been minor problems that some people would consider major problems?

MR. BURNS: Ten years ago I was associated with the assistance program with the Palestinians, and more recently with the assistance program to Russia and Ukraine. I've never seen an aid program that's perfect. All aid programs suffer from the problems of implementation.

This particular one that's operating right now in Gaza and the West Bank is no different, but we have looked into these particular charges and we satisfied ourselves, both the State Department and USAID, that we don't have a major problem; that by and large the Palestinian Authority has acted in a good faith manner in disposing of these funds. In fact, it has been a good partner in deciding what is the most effective way that the United States can help this process.

As you know, we pledged half a billion dollars over several years to try to help the Palestinian people to deal with their economic and social problems. We have recently tried to speed up the implementation of a number of those programs, to speed up the delivery of assistance, particularly in getting other countries to make good on commitments to the Holst Fund that would pay for the salaries of municipal employees and police authorities in both Gaza and Jericho. We'll continue that effort.

We think that all countries have a responsibility to make good on the commitments that they have made over the year in the wake of the very dramatic progress at the negotiating table, and we'll continue that effort.

Q The problem is that since you give a clean bill of health, virtually, to the PLO on the use of funds given by the United States and other donor countries, why is it necessary, then, for Congress to ask for an investigation of the letters and their intent and the use of the money? And why is there such legislation being proposed in Congress?

Look, there's something wrong with this matter of how these funds are being handled. How do you account for that?

MR. BURNS: Congress has a responsibility because it allocates the funds and authorizes them to make sure that the funds are well spent as well. We certainly believe that Congress has a right to look into the disposition of these monies, but I'm not aware that there is any serious problem.

We believe, in fact, that things are going rather well. And so I'm not a position here to get into a long discussion about this particular issue because we don't believe the problem is nearly as great as the reports that you are signaling seems to say.

Q But there are 28 letters that the columnist wrote about. Does the State Department believe those letters are authentic?

MR. BURNS: I can't speak to the authenticity of the letters. All I can do is speak to the application of the programs and the way the funds have been disbursed, and we stand by our assistance program with the Palestinians.

Barry.

Q When Dennis Ross goes to the Middle East next week, does he work the Palestinian-Israeli issues? Or is he mostly dealing with Syria and Israel? And if he works the Palestinian-Israeli issues, does he get into the details? And if he does, does that signify not only you're willing to be the host but you agree with what the Israelis and the Palestinians are doing?

MR. BURNS: We certainly agree with what they're doing. They're trying to negotiate a resolution of their differences so that there can be a transfer of authority in at least part of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority; there can be elections, and so forth. We agree with that process.

Dennis Ross will be traveling next week to work on several problems. One will be the Israeli-Palestinian discussions. We've always been an interested party to those discussions. We've always taken an active role.

We've not always been in the room while the negotiations have taken place, but certainly he'll want to address both with Chairman Arafat, with Prime Minister Rabin, and Foreign Minister Peres our views on how this particular negotiation can be brought to a successful conclusion.

Secondly -- and by no means less importantly -- he will be following up on the Chief of Staff talks that took place last week between Syria and Israel. He'll be traveling to Damascus to meet with President Assad and also, of course, he'll be in Israel to meet with all the Israeli leadership.

We are directly involved and in the room in that set of negotiations, and we have particular views on how those negotiations can best go forward, and he'll be asserting those views.

Q Christopher will know that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiators have gone far beyond principles. They're into discussions of specific towns and specific --

MR. BURNS: That's right.

Q I'm just trying to sort of rephrase the question. Will Dennis Ross get involved in those kind of details? Will he say, hypothetically, to the Israelis, "Why don't you throw in Bethlehem next week," for instance?

Does he micro-manage this stuff? I know you're in favor of Israel giving up the West Bank and the Palestinians establishing themselves there. The question is, does the State Department get into the fine tuning of that arrangement, which not all Israelis think is the best thing in the world, of course?

MR. BURNS: We're an interested party. When the parties ask us for advice, when they ask us to be more or less actively involved, then we're willing to take those wishes into consideration.

Certainly, we have been involved, on a very detailed basis, in both sets of negotiations but particularly this one as well.

Q May I follow up on a question of the money? Some years ago the word "fungibility" was very popular in discussing funding in foreign aid. I just wonder if the investigation -- if your statement regarding that there are no major problems dealing with the money that the United States has given to the PLO, it may be that the PLO very cheerfully says, "Oh, we're not using your money for anything but good things; we may be using British money or Swedish money for different things that perhaps you are not interested in." Would you say that your investigation covers all the funding given to the PLO, or only that provided by the United States?

MR. BURNS: We can't be responsible for ensuring the implementation down to the last letter of every dollar that goes to the Palestinian Authority from any source worldwide. We are responsible legally for money that's given by the United States Government.

When Dennis Ross goes to the region, he always has discussions on this particular issue.

I just remind you about the Secretary Christopher's last meeting with Chairman Arafat in Jericho just a couple of weeks ago. Most of the meeting was not concerned by conceptual breakthroughs and peace discussions. It had to do with the details of trying to extend effective economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. It's an issue that not must mid-level officials, but the Secretary and Ambassador Ross are engaged in on a consistent basis with the Palestinian leadership. We take our responsibilities very seriously.

We're not aware of any problem -- any major problem -- concerning the application of American funds. But we certainly can't be held responsible for talking about all the funding that goes to the Palestinian Authority.

I would just say that Chairman Arafat has had a very difficult and challenging first year. Consider all the problems he faced when he returned to Gaza and Jericho. We think that the Palestinian Authority has brought a great deal of seriousness, credibility, and good faith effort to the question of economic assistance, specifically over the last couple of months, and we hope that effort continues.

Maybe this can be just the last question on this particular issue.

Q Alright. Just one more question. The German Foreign Minister -- I have another question on the money. But the German Foreign Minister was in Damascus yesterday, as I see the report, to discuss the peace process with Syria. I just wonder, where does Germany come in on a peace process with Syria and Israel and the rest of it?

MR. BURNS: The European Union has been a partner in these negotiations; a partner to the United States, certainly, and to all the parties all along the way. The European Union has also been a very generous provider of financial assistance to the parties. So therefore we fully support the efforts by Germany, by Minister Kinkel, and by the European Union as a whole, to be involved in this process. We want them to be involved. They're a positive force.

Q Nick, asking the question in a different way, there are reports that the price tag for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights will be that the United States will advance or give Israel $2.7 billion. Do you have any comments on these reports?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't have any comment because there are all sorts of stories about what the involvement of the United States would be in the event of a settlement on the Golan and between Israel and Syria. There's just no way of knowing right now what all the ramifications will be and how the United States will be affected.

But we are clear about one thing. We want this process to succeed. We think that both countries have made a strategic choice for peace. We're willing to work with them very closely to make that happen in 1995.

Q Nick, there's a report this morning that Israel had begun another settlement, I believe a couple of miles outside Jerusalem. Don't hold me to that. I'm not sure. Is that something Ambassador Ross is expected to raise with the Prime Minister? Will he raise it, and what will he say? What do you all think about it?

MR. BURNS: I believe there is a report of a new settlement near Ramallah, inside the West Bank. I don't think I need to restate our position on settlements. It's better known to this group than it is to many of us in government.

Obviously, such activity complicates the negotiations. We've made that clear. We'll continue to make that clear.

This is a question, however, that the parties have agreed under the Declaration of Principles to discuss. We're sure that as part of the permanent status negotiations, this issue will be discussed intensively by the parties.

Q A follow up. The settlers are saying that they were given permission by the previous government. Is it the U.S. opinion, if you have one on an internal matter like that, that that permission lives through into the next Administration, of the Rabin Administration?

MR. BURNS: That's a question for the Israeli Government and the Israeli citizens to work out.

Q But this government had promised that it would stop settlement activity. Realistically speaking, can this process wait for final status negotiations if, in the interim, these settlements are going to expand exponentially?

MR. BURNS: Settlements have been a complicated factor since 1967- 68. They've always been part of the difficulty of negotiating peace in the area. Fortunately, and just recently, the parties have decided that there's a way to discuss this problem and there's a place for this discussion, and they will discuss it directly between themselves. We think that's the proper place to put this discussion. We support the parties in that effort. Our own views are well known.

Q So even though you think it complicates the process, the United States is not willing or prepared at this time to make any more muscular statements to the Israeli Government about the need to rein this kind of activity in?

MR. BURNS: I think our views are well known. There is a place for these discussions. Both sides will hear from us on our views on this particular issue. But I think it's best left to the parties to make extensive public comments about this particular issue.

Q Nick, the Likud is making some muscular statements of its own, sort of toughening its warnings that it will not be bound by any agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Is the U.S. concerned about that?

MR. BURNS: That's another question for Israelis to discuss. We can only deal with one government at a time. We have a good relationship with the present government.

The present government has consistently applied itself seriously to the question of peace in the Middle East, and the present government has our admiration -- our strong admiration -- for its efforts. But we certainly wouldn't want to discuss or speculate on what is clearly an internal Israeli debate.

Q But you would wind up (inaudible) -- you would expect this agreement to last more than a year?

MR. BURNS: Whenever agreements are made -- international agreements are made -- when treaties are signed, when heads of state and leaders put their signatures to treaty, one assumes, as a basic rule of diplomacy, that the commitment lasts, that it endures. That certainly has been the case of the United States, in our own dealings with Israel, with Egypt, with the Palestinians, and others in the area.

Q (Inaudible) of the funds for building this new settlement. Does this go back to the $10 billion loan guarantees that the United States gave to Israel, and this money could be used -- because there were stipulations or conditions that no settlements would be built beyond the settlements which were in the plan when they gave the loan guarantees at that time? Is this a matter that needs to be emphasized, or something?

MR. BURNS: I think it's only fair to let the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority and others speak to this issue. It just surfaced in the press over the last 24 hours. At least, that's when I've seen it. I certainly don't want to get ahead of the parties in commenting beyond what I've already said on this issue.

It's only fair to give the Israeli Government a chance to speak to this particular issue, and I'm sure the Palestinian Authority will have its own views to express publicly.

I've expressed our views. Settlements are a complicating factor. There's a place for settlements to be discussed under the Declaration of Principles, a very specific place. The parties have agreed to that. I'm sure they'll discuss this particular issue.

Q But my specific question goes to the conditions for the $10 billion loan that the United States gave Israel, and about the circumstances -- if these funds will be spent on the matter of this new settlement next to Ramallah?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe it's relevant in this. Our view is quite strong. This is a complicating factor.

Q If there were to be a new settlement new Ramallah, would that be in contravention of the pledge made by Foreign Minister Peres to Secretary Christopher here in February?

MR. BURNS: As I negotiate my way through these land mines, I think it's best just to go back to my previous statement. That is to say, it is only fair to give the Israeli leadership a chance to speak to this before we speak extensively. They are well aware of our position on settlements. We've made that position public today as well as many, many times in the past. We've made it continually clear privately as well, and I'm just going to limit myself to what I've already said.

Q Can we change directions -- to Harry Wu's travails and the Chinese latest --

MR. BURNS: Anything else on the Middle East peace process before we go to China?

Q Do you know the dates for Dennis Ross' trip?

MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, it's been our practice not to give out the dates of his particular travels.

Q Mr. Peres said that all the statements of the Syrians and all of their declarations are not -- lip service regarding peace for Israel. Can you comment? Do you have any assessment or evaluation of such a statement?

MR. BURNS: No. If I spent all my time assessing or evaluating statements from the Middle East, then we wouldn't have anything else to do. So I think I'll just leave that one where it is.

Q The Chinese are saying that no agreement was broken on the Harry Wu case and complaining that in the past and in at least two incidents where Chinese met untimely ends in the U.S., the U.S. didn't notify them -- somebody in Philadelphia and somebody in Brooklyn. Perhaps you're familiar with the examples. Is there any basis for that type of accusation?

MR. BURNS: There's no basis for that particular accusation. Let me just quote from the consular agreement that's at issue here: "The United States -- the parties -- shall not be refused access after two days from the date of the request." That is direct, specific language from the U.S.-China Consular Convention.

The language is very clear. We made a request for access a week ago Monday. It is now Thursday. Access should have been given by this specific language -- "shall not be refused access after two days from the day of the request." They are now overdue. They are eight days overdue. There can be no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There can be no equivocating, there can be no confusion, there can be no different interpretation. They're overdue. they have a clear, international, legal responsibility to give us access.

On the second question, Barry. We did note -- as part of the briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry today -- the Chinese charged that the United States had been negligent in March of this year and in the winter of 1994 in not giving China consular access in the cases of two young Chinese who were apparently shot and killed -- one in Philadelphia and one in New York.

We have heard about these cases for the first time today from the Chinese Government. We are looking in -- "we," in the Department and others in the government -- looking into both cases to see if we have records of these incidents. If we do, we'll be glad to talk about them.

But let's take a step back. It is one thing to talk about two young men who were killed -- the pertinent question really is arrangements, unfortunately, for a funeral or the disposition of the remains. It's quite another to talk about an American citizen, an American passport-holder who crossed the border on June 19, who was detained without charge, and who has not been allowed to see representatives of the American Government in direct violation of our Consular Convention.

These two situations that have been posited this morning by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman are not at

all analogous. It is not a pertinent comparison for the Chinese Spokesman to make, and we don't accept the validity that somehow we've been guilty of transgressions in the past.

The point is, both governments have an obligation to honor this agreement. If we encounter situations where Chinese citizens are arrested or detained in the United States, we will honor the Consular Convention. We believe we have honored the Consular Convention in the past. We are not aware of any violations by the United States of this Convention in the past.

But it is time to stop playing a game of words. It's time to stop the rhetorical wars that have been going on now for a couple of days on this issue.

Let's bring it down to the simple, elemental, pertinent facts. These are that Harry Wu ought to be released. In the meantime, before his release, the United States Government ought to be apprised of his whereabouts and his condition and be given personal access to him.

We continue our efforts today in Beijing to seek high-level discussions with the Chinese Government on the issue of Harry Wu. Our Charge, Scott Hallford, is seeking high-level appointments with his Chinese colleagues. We very much hope that those appointments will be forthcoming.

Q It's the third day he's been trying to do that. Do they not respond, or do they give you some inadequate response?

MR. BURNS: Actually, yesterday, on July 5, Mr. Hallford had a discussion with the Vice Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Liu Hua Qiu, and had a conversation about Harry Wu. That's was just 24 hours ago. He is seeking additional discussions because we're going to raise this issue every day. We're going to raise it every day because it's important that we adhere to our own responsibilities to an American citizen.

I think all of you, or most of you, who are American citizens would want similar treatment if you were in such a situation in foreign country. It's our responsibility to try to help Mr. Wu. We're going to continue that.

Q Nick, in the statement in Beijing this morning, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman seem to say, "What are you bothering us with this for; he's in the hands of the security people, and we're not them." Is there any effort being made by the U.S. to contact the Security Bureau?

MR. BURNS: We are making efforts to contact all relevant officials.

We, as diplomats -- American diplomats, Chinese diplomats -- have a responsibility to be on the frontlines of a relationship. It is normal diplomatic process, when there is a problem between countries, for the Foreign Ministries to discuss those problems. That is certainly the case when it comes to citizenship and citizen problems. When an American citizen or a Chinese citizen is in trouble, you go to the Foreign Ministry, or you come to the State Department.

It is not unusual for us to address these concerns to the Foreign Ministry. Having said that, we are quite well aware that it may very well be the case that Mr. Wu was actually detained and may now be in the custody of a different agency, a different branch of the Chinese Government -- particularly some security officials. It may be that the Foreign Ministry needs to talk to those ministries -- the Chinese Foreign Ministry -- about Mr. Wu's case. That is also a normal, standard procedure. Nothing unusual here. We're not making onerous demands. We're making very simple requests.

Q Nick, is there any thought being given to some sort of other approach -- sending some kind of non-governmental envoy to Beijing; passing a message through the Germans? Apparently, Jiang Zemin is about to make sort of European tour. Anything like that?

MR. BURNS: Carol, we addressed this question yesterday. I'll be glad to go into it again today. We're going to be willing to consider any measure that would allow us to see Mr. Wu and to convince the Chinese Government to release him so that he can come back to his family and the United States.

However, having said that, the basis of our efforts, the thrust of our efforts, has to be to convince the Chinese Government that when we have problems, we need to have direct contact on those problems. We need to have meetings. We need to have discussions. That's where the basis of our efforts is going to lie.

Q Have you been able to set up a specific meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister when the Secretary is in Brunei?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is such a specific meeting scheduled.

Q Is that because the Chinese are balking at it, or a month beforehand is not soon enough to do this?

MR. BURNS: We're quite a ways away from the Brunei meetings; just under a month away.

I believe the Chinese Government will be in attendance at the ASEAN meetings. I believe the Foreign Minister intends to come, and, of course, we would look forward to any opportunity to discuss all the issues in the U.S.-China agenda with Foreign Minister Qian.

The Secretary has found that in the past he's been a very good and responsible interlocutor. The relationship is important enough to warrant it, but I don't believe there's anything on the schedule yet.

Q The Chinese are sort of having their way with an American citizen there. They're leaving our DCM hanging out on the line; they're cherry-picking who they'll see and who they won't; they won't see Peter Tarnoff; they'll be happy to welcome Ron Brown.

Are the Chinese dictating the terms of the relationship at this point?

MR. BURNS: No, they're certainly not. Because any relationship between countries, one that is going to be successful -- and this one must be successful in the next couple of years, into the next century -- has got to be based on the efforts of both countries.

The Chinese have taken a number of steps to express their displeasure over the issuance of a visa for an unofficial visit to Cornell University. There may be other reasons for Chinese behavior. But the Chinese have a responsibility to work with us to build a good relationship.

They're not dictating the terms. In fact, we have made it very clear over the past couple of days that we can't imagine going forward to have good relations without this elementary case being brought forward to a mutually satisfactory conclusion in the case of Mr. Wu. We're going to talk about this case every day.

So I think it's clear that while China perhaps has some issues that it would like to discuss further with the United States, we have issues for them. We are now discussing those issues publicly as well as privately.

Q Nick, does this apparent stand-off between the Foreign Ministry and the security ministries tell you all anything about succession in China?

MR. BURNS: I don't know if it does. It's probably hard to make a coherent analysis of that question based on the issue of an American citizen who showed up at a border on the wrong day at the wrong time, apparently. I think we would separate the two.

Q How would you equate the arrest and imprisonment of Barloon and Daliberti and Mr. Wu in terms of motivations and style of behavior of the two countries?

MR. BURNS: We certainly expect from the Chinese leadership stability and certainty and reason in our dealings. We hope that all three of those characteristics and attributes would be brought to this particular question, and we're confident we'll be able to work this question out.

The Iraqi leadership is a different scene all together. It's harder to fathom what motivates them. It's harder to understand their actions. They have acted in an entirely unreasonable way, uncivilized way, towards Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon. They've been criticized by the international community -- by everybody -- for what they've done to those two men who quite innocently found themselves, again, the victim of Iraqi brutality.

I would say that we look at them quite differently. Our relationship with China is fundamentally important to the United States. We have been able to make progress with the Chinese Government quite recently -- as recently as April -- on a number of very important issues, such as the North Korea Accord. We're going to continue that effort.

The Iraqi Government has a much further way to go to convince us that, indeed, we can believe in redemption.

Q Nick, also on China. With the worst in hindsight, do you think now it might have been a mistake to have left the Beijing Embassy without the experience and clout of an Ambassador?

MR. BURNS: That's really a question that can't be answered. Ambassador Roy had been extended -- Stape Roy -- for an additional year. He served four years. The normal term of an American Ambassador is three.

I think that the problems that have characterized U.S.-Chinese relations over the last couple of months would probably have left us in the same position had there been an Ambassador or not been an Ambassador.

Let me just say, we have great confidence in Scott Hallford and his staff. Foreign Service officers often find

themselves in the position of being in charge, as Charge d'Affaires of an Embassy, when an Ambassador has left. He has done a very, very fine job over the past couple of weeks in very difficult circumstances.

I don't know that the presence of any Ambassador would have made an appreciable difference. The Chinese Government has made a decision that they're not -- at least up until now that they're going to play a very unusual and unorthodox game on the issue of Harry Wu, and I think that game probably would have been played out. It's now time for the game to end. It's time for China to meet its international obligations.

Q Nick, what are the consequences --

Q You've been saying (inaudible) that you will raise the issue with China every day. Is there a time limit set for this? I mean, how long are you going to wait?

MR. BURNS: We're going to take it day by day. We're going to use diplomacy. We're going to use reason, and I think the mutual interests that China and the United States have in putting this issue behind us. This issue cannot block the progress that the United States and China must make in our political relationship, on economic and trade issues, on our security relationship, on our discussion of how to make the Pacific an area of stability in the 21st century.

These are the vital issues before the U.S. and China. Once the Harry Wu situation is resolved, we can get onto this. We can have high- level meetings. The offer of the United States to have such a meeting is on the table. We are ready, willing to talk whenever the Chinese are ready.

Q Do you have any visa requests from senior Taiwanese officials for the July 26 parties that Senators Dole and Simon are having on the birthday of Chaing Kai-shek and Madame Chaing is going to be there? (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: I wasn't aware of the party. I'm not aware of any visa requests as well.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to take it, David.

Q (Inaudible) both the Israel and PLO agreement and the Chiang Kai-shek birthday party? (Laughter) I mean, what --

Q On the subject of Americans missing and detained, is there anything new on Fred Cuny in the last few weeks? We haven't asked or we haven't been told if there is anything.

MR. BURNS: Vice President Gore met with Fred Cuny's brother in Moscow late last week. He had a long discussion with him over our efforts to find Fred Cuny and free him. The Administration has sent a two-person FBI team to Moscow. That team has been in Moscow since last week. It's working with the Russian security agencies and intelligence agencies to plot a strategy to try to methodically work through all the different leads that have come in to us and the Russians and to the Ingush and the Chechen leadership over the last couple of months.

The FBI team will then work very closely with the Russians and the Ingush and others to try to follow up on the leads. We have, of course, the right and we have the inclination to send American Embassy officials to Ingushetia, to Dagestan, to Chechnya whenever we think there's a credible lead.

Unfortunately, we are left in the very, very frustrating position of still not knowing now, going on four months, what happened to Fred Cuny. There are no credible leads that would allow me to tell you we're hopeful. We certainly are puzzled by the lack of credible information. We're puzzled by the fact that no group has claimed responsibility.

We are hopeful that he's alive. He's a great American, and many of us know him personally. He's done first-rate humanitarian work over the last couple of years in Russia and all around the world. And I think that a lot of people in this government, beginning with the Vice President and Secretary Christopher, Strobe Talbott, who knew him bring a personal sense of mission to this effort to find him. But there's nothing good that we can say right now -- nothing positive.

Q Nick, there are more missing Americans. Two have been kidnapped apparently in Kashmir. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BURNS: Yes. We're aware that two Americans and two citizens of the United Kingdom have been taken captive in Kashmir in the vicinity of Srinagar. This has been a dangerous area in the past. There is not a Privacy Act waiver in effect that would allow me to release the names of the two individuals. We are following up very closely with the Indian Government and the local authorities to try to do what we can to have these people released.

I believe that there has been a government -- excuse me -- a movement that has taken credit for this. We don't know much about this particular group, and we're certainly going to do whatever we can to work with the Indian Government to bring this matter to a pleasant conclusion, meaning the release of the two Americans and the two Brits.

The previously unknown group calls itself the J.K. Al-Faran Group - - F-a-r-a-n. It has apparently claimed responsibility, but I don't have any further information for you on this case.

Q Can we do Cuba?

MR. BURNS: Certainly.

Q Do you have anything on a possible easing of travel restrictions to Cuba?

MR. BURNS: The Administration continues to review a number of possible steps that might enhance our ability to increase communications with and provide support for those groups in Cuba who are working for democratic change, because we think that democratic change is what has got to take place in Cuba.

No final decisions have been made on whether any changes will be made to present policy or if changes are made, which measures could possibly be implemented as part of a change.

I would just remind you that any steps that will be taken with us will be fully consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act, with its major provisions, which are, first, an embargo against Cuba. We intend to maintain the embargo against Cuba.

And, second, the effort that both Republicans and Democrats -- people in Congress and people in the Administration -- believe must take place, and that is efforts to support those groups that want a different kind of future for Cuba after 35, 36 years of dictatorship. They want democracy. They want change. They want economic and political freedom.

If those groups are willing to work with us, we're willing to work with them. If there are ways that we can expand our contacts with them, we'll consider that. But we've not made any decisions.

Q How about the possibility of giving American news organizations permission to open bureaus in Cuba?

MR. BURNS: That could be one of the steps that we would take if we decided to modify our policy, to expand the policy. The establishment of news bureaus has been something that we've talked to, I think, members of the media about and also talked certainly extensively in the government about, but we have not decided yet to do that. It's just one of the possible steps that could be taken.

Q Why would you hold back on something as obvious as that?

MR. BURNS: It's a complicated issue. It's complicated in the United States. We certainly have an obligation to consult with Congress, because the positive thing about our policy to Cuba -- and there are many positive things -- is that the Cuban Democracy Act has been supported on a bipartisan basis by both the Administration -- this and the last Administration -- and by the Congress, and so we certainly want to talk to the Congress, talk to leading members of Congress, who have a stake in this issue, as well as interested parties in the United States, including the Cuban-American community.

Q Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: Bosnia.

Q On Cuba --

MR. BURNS: More on Cuba?

Q I just want to ask you, you said you're considering reviewing a number of changes. Aside from news bureaus, what other changes are you considering? I don't know if you can give us a couple of other examples.

MR. BURNS: I really don't, because that would just probably fuel the fire from this morning's newspaper article. I think we want to be a little circumspect about this. We're thinking about a number of steps. We're reviewing this, but we haven't made any decisions yet, and I think I'll just leave it there. If we do decide to extend the policy or amplify it or modify it, whatever, then we'll be able to talk about it at that time.

Still on Cuba?

Q Out of Cuba.

MR. BURNS: Out of Cuba. I think we had a Bosnia question here. I'll be glad to go to you after that.

Q Carl Bildt, I guess, after talking in Belgrade, said that negotiations, of course, remain the key to solving the problems in Bosnia, but that he didn't see any likelihood of success at the moment.

Given that rather dire assessment by him and others -- people who have been in Belgrade -- doesn't it make the Rapid Reaction Force look ever more like a rapid pullout force, because if negotiations go nowhere, how long can, in other words, UNPROFOR stay there doing what it's doing, and wouldn't the Rapid Reaction Force just be turning into a means of pulling UNPROFOR out?

MR. BURNS: The major countries behind the Rapid Reaction Force -- France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Belgium -- have all said that this is not a force that is primarily designed to facilitate the ultimate withdrawal of UNPROFOR. They have all said and made clear to us for a good month now that the purpose of the Rapid Reaction Force is to strengthen UNPROFOR. All of them say that they want UNPROFOR to stay in the field. Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary General, reiterated that yesterday, as did President Chirac, in Geneva.

We take, of course, these governments at their word, and we are working with them -- the Administration is working with them to see how we can support the Rapid Reaction Force. I wouldn't give up on the negotiations yet. They're frustrating negotiations. They haven't borne the fruit that we thought they might. We thought we might have made progress earlier with Mr. Milosevic.

I think Mr. Bildt has now had a taste of just how difficult it is to work with some of the parties in the area. We have great confidence in him. Secretary Christopher had a good conversation with Mr. Bildt yesterday, who phoned in from Mostar. Dick Holbrooke has been in touch, I think four or five times, over the last couple of days with Mr. Bildt.

We think he's doing a fine job. We think that we are on the same wavelength in general about what should be done. We certainly don't want to give up on negotiations. The effort again is to keep UNPROFOR in play so it can serve its humanitarian mission, as well as serve, we hope, the larger mission and perhaps more immediate mission of protecting the enclaves.

That, of course, depends on the actions of the Rapid Reaction Force, which is now just, we think, nearing a critical mass in its own deployment in the field, and it may be that we don't know the answer to the ultimate mandate of

the Rapid Reaction Force until they are operational -- fully operational.

Q Any plans for Frasure to go back any time soon? Any new diplomatic overtures from anyone in the works?

MR. BURNS: The Contact Group remains active. There was a meeting just last week. I think there will probably be another meeting soon when Mr. Bildt completes his current round of negotiations in the field.

We have no plans to send Ambassador Frasure. Right now we think that it's best for Mr. Bildt -- former Prime Minister Bildt -- to take the lead in these negotiations. He has our confidence. We'll see what can be accomplished. When he concludes this round, I'm sure we'll get an assessment from him over what the next steps should be, and we'll be glad to listen to that.

Carol.

Q Why is the Secretary meeting with Sacirbey today?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary is going to meet with the Bosnian Foreign Minister because they had pledged to each other that they would keep in close contact. There was a meeting ten days ago here in the Department. They meet today at five o'clock. Mr. Sacirbey has been up at the U.N. He spoke yesterday to the question of sanctions relief.

We are particularly interested in the views of the Bosnian Government on the role of the Rapid Reaction Force, on the situation on the ground in Bosnia -- specifically in Sarajevo and in a number of the embattled cities. We'd like to have Mr. Sacirbey's views on the diplomatic strategy that should now be employed to try to reach ultimately some day in the future a resolution of all these issues. He's an important person to keep in contact with.

I should also say Secretary Christopher, having worked with him closely, now that they're colleagues, has a great deal of respect for him; likes him very much. They had a very good meeting the last time the Minister was here and are looking forward to that again today.

Q Is France sending troops in for the Rapid -- you talk about these four countries and their firm commitment to a Rapid Reaction Force or a response force, not to a pullout force. Is France about to send troops in to show its commitment to this principle?

MR. BURNS: I understand that all of the --

Q (Inaudible) but I don't know that --

MR. BURNS: I understood that all of the countries were contributing troops to the particular force. I don't know, Barry, if there's a question of definition here -- whether there are troops that are being deployed from one unit in UNPROFOR to another or whether we're talking about new troops, but France is certainly contributing forces, troops, to this effort, as well as equipment.

To give France its due, we've worked well with France. France has been the leader -- among the leaders, certainly -- but I would say in many respects a diplomatic leader in trying to get this effort going. That was true at Noordwijk. Minister De Charette was the Chair of the meeting at Noordwijk. That was the crucial meeting, and President Chirac has shown good leadership on this issue as well.

Q Well, not to be argumentative that the French are also the leaders -- in the view that if this doesn't get done by, you know, the fall, perhaps -- let's not be there another winter, let's pull out --

MR. BURNS: That's something that the French will have to speak to. It's not our impression of current French policy.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: It's still on Bosnia?

David.

Q Still on the Rapid Reaction Force. By what yardstick should its success or failure be measured in your view, and at what point are you going to have to start considering funding for a second six months?

MR. BURNS: The answer to the second question, I think we'll have to start thinking of funding for the second six months fairly shortly, at the end of this summer -- August, I would think, September.

In answer to the first question, the Rapid Reaction Force, in our view, cannot be more of the same. It cannot be the rules of the road and the posture that resulted in all the problems over the last couple of months in UNPROFOR's inability to meet its responsibilities. We believe that the value of the Rapid Reaction Force is that it will strengthen UNPROFOR -- strengthen UNPROFOR's ability

to defend the mandate that it has been given to deliver humanitarian aid and protect enclaves.

The U.N. can't do that right now, and so we hope the Rapid Reaction Force will make a positive difference and a substantial difference. That's our very clear view of the Rapid Reaction Force.

Q And are you satisfied that Mr. Akashi will not be able to stop it from rapidly reacting, if necessary?

MR. BURNS: I think we've made clear our view as to what the force should be. We've made clear our difference of opinion with Mr. Akashi about what the force should be, and our difference of opinion with him on sending a letter to the Bosnian Serbs in attempting to define the mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force.

There are lots of different views floating around, and we have one, Mr. Akashi has another. I think that it will probably stay in those respective positions.

Q Two weeks ago you were using the word "effective" to describe your aspirations for the Rapid Reaction Force, and now you're talking about strengthening it. I think there's a big difference between strengthening it and being effective. You could add two people to strengthen it, but that wouldn't necessarily make it effective. How come you've dropped the word "effective," or am I reading too much into this?

MR. BURNS: Thank you for reminding me of that, because I think maybe this is a useful service here. No, what we mean by "strengthening," George, is effective, meaning the ability to deliver food to 1.5 million to 2 million people, which is not now happening. A few convoys are getting through, mainly because of the courage of some French soldiers and the courage of the commanders on the ground.

But not enough food is getting through. There are now some reports of starvation in Srebrenica. There were two reports of starvation of a young child and an elderly man in Bihac. This is extremely serious. And we congratulate General Smith and some of the people who work for him and some of the very courageous French soldiers who have gone by night now over the last couple of nights to deliver food convoys to Sarajevo and other cities.

It clearly isn't enough. The cities clearly need more support, and so you're right. The relevant word here -- what we mean by "strengthening" is that the U.N. force will become more effective in carrying out the duties which

it has been assigned, and that I think is -- to get back to David's question -- the crucial yardstick here by which we would attempt to measure the Rapid Reaction Force.

We have a question back here that has been waiting to be asked.

Q Yes. This regards Nigeria -- and Britain is already reacting to it. There are reports that the former President of Nigeria has been secretly sentenced to 25 years prison, and 15 others who were supporting him allegedly to overthrow the government are being sentenced to death.

What does the U.S. know about this, and what is it doing about it?

MR. BURNS: The United States remains deeply concerned about the whereabouts and safety of the former Nigerian President, a well respected international figure, General Olusegun Obasanjo. In the absence of publicly stated charges, there are rumors that he is being tried in camera by a military tribunal for participation in an alleged March coup plot.

If specific charges have indeed been brought, they should be made public, and they should be followed by an open and public trial. The United States is concerned about the secret trial now underway for 23 alleged coup plotters and urges the Government of Nigeria to provide due process, including fair, open public trials for all persons detained.

There was an arrest just a couple of days ago of Mr. Gani Fawehinmi at his law chambers on the evening of July 3. His arrest has been confirmed by the organizing director of his National Conscience Party, and no charges have been filed against him, but he is in custody. We take this case very seriously as well.

We have a problem here, and the problem is that the Nigerian Government is unwilling to meet a basic international standard of free and fair trial, and a number of these people who have been arrested and detained are responsible people. They're people who have the confidence of the international community, and we call upon the Nigerian Government to release them.

Q Nick, the British Government was in touch with the U.S. regarding this alleged sentencing of Obasanjo.

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q Has the British Government got in touch with the U.S., because it is already getting in touch with the Commonwealth and European partners regarding the alleged report about the sentencing of Obasanjo?

MR. BURNS: I'd have to check on that. We have very close consultations with the British about Nigeria, an ongoing discussion with them. I just don't know if in fact we had a particular discussion on this issue.

One more question on Asia here, and then we'll call it a day perhaps.

Q (Inaudible) was reporting various scenarios for normalization with Vietnam this morning, and I wondered if you could tell us anything about that.

MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the question of normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam has long been an issue. It is something that the President and the Secretary of State have pledged to look into. It will be based on Vietnam's commitment to working with us in a responsible way to give a full, open accounting of the remains of our MIAs and POWs and of the status of our MIAs and POWs.

We are now looking at information given to us by the Vietnamese Government after the last trip by Assistant Secretary of State Win Lord. We're assessing that information. This is now a question that I think will shortly be before the President, and we'll just have to wait and see what kind of decision the President makes on this issue.

Q Just one more quick one. Mr. Vatana, a Thai -- politician in Thailand, a member of the new ruling coalition, and the national police chief of Thailand have called upon the United States to make public its charges against Mr. Vatana, why he was denied a U.S. visa. The police chief said they investigated -- what do you call it, all Thai politicians -- and found no evidence of collusion with narcotics traffickers. Do you care to comment?

MR. BURNS: I spoke rather extensively to this question yesterday. I spoke to it Monday. I said I think I've expressed the views of our government on this issue. I'm not sure it would be helpful for me to expand upon those comments today.

Q Well, why are you not -- why will you not provide this man who you're essentially charging with an offense, a grave offense, an international offense, which is likely to make him a pariah in his own country and around

the world -- is already a pariah in the United States -- why are you refusing to make those charges public?

MR. BURNS: We've made a decision on a visa application, and we don't normally make those decisions public, nor do we normally share that information with people outside that process. I think it's pretty well known now what our position is on this general issue. This is just a subset of a bigger issue, and I just prefer to stand by my comments yesterday.

Q Well, you know, of course, that he is -- as a result of that decision, he's barred forever from entering the United States.

MR. BURNS: Consular Officers have a legal responsibility to assess the validity of an application for a visa, and I don't want to be in a position to second-guess a decision made by a Consular Officer, and we're simply going to have to stand by the decision that was made in that particular case for that visa.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: I don't know specifically when it was made.

Q Could you take that question, please?

MR. BURNS: We'll certainly look into it.

Q Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:16 p.m.)

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