U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/07/12 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, July 12, l995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Statement concerning Secretary's Trip to Asia ..........1-2,3 --Possible Meetings with FM Kozyrev and FM Qian ........3 Vietnam POW/MIA Issue ..........................................2 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Ambassador Ross' Plans/Itinerary .......................2-3 CHINA Arrest of U.S. Citizen Harry Wu ........................4-7,9-10 --Meeting with Chinese Officials .......................4 --Access by Consular Officer/Details of Consular Visit .4-5,9-10 --Secretary's Meeting with Former Secretary Kissinger ..5-6 --Charges Filed Against Mr. Wu/Pre-Trial Investigation .6-7 Missile Sales to Pakistan and Iran .....................7 --Expert Level Talks ...................................7-8 --Compliance with International Law ....................9 Return of China's Ambassador to the U.S. ...............10 Reaction to Normalization of Relations with Vietnam ....10 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Status of the Enclave Srebrenica .......................10 --U.S. Reaction to Serb Attack .........................10-11 --Role of UNPROFOR/Rapid Reaction Force ................11 --Meeting of Contact Group/UN Security Council .........11 --Condition of Refugees/Dutch Peacekeepers .............12-14,16 Serb Mobilization Against Other Enclaves ...............13 Role Of U.S./Possible Troop Deployment .................14,17,28 Security of Sarajevo ...................................15 Proposed Legislation to Lift Arms Embargo ..............18 Role of Mr. Akashi .....................................19-20,21 Possibility of NATO Airstrikes Around Zepa .............23 Meeting of Contact Group/Proposed Solutions ............23-27 Russian Cooperation ....................................28-29 BOLIVIA Coca Eradication Program ...............................30
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 1995, 1:17 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a short announcement, and then I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
Secretary of State Christopher will travel to Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam from July 29-August 7. Some details of his travel are still being arranged, but I can share the following with you.
The Secretary will lead the U.S. delegation to the annual ministerial meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Post Ministerial Conference in Brunei from July 31-August 3. He will have meetings there with the Foreign Ministers, his colleagues of the ASEAN countries, and he will have a full discussion of economic, security, and political issues of regional and global importance.
In Malaysia, on August 3, the Secretary will meet with government leaders to discuss, again, a full range of bilateral and global, regional and global issues. He will advance our vibrant bilateral economic relations with Malaysia, discuss common security and other interests, and consult in advance of the APEC meetings in Osaka, Japan this November.
During his stop in Cambodia on August 4, the Secretary's meetings with government leaders and other events will highlight how far the Cambodian people have come from the days of the Killing Fields to today when they are working to consolidate democracy. He will discuss, again, a full range of issues. He will be the first American Secretary of State to visit Phnom Penh since John Foster Dulles in 1955.
And then in Vietnam, on August 5-6, the Secretary will formalize the establishment of diplomatic relations, open a United States Embassy, and, of course, stress the continuing importance of a full accounting for our POWs and MIAs from the Vietnam war.
He will engage the Vietnamese leadership in discussions on many issues, including the POW/MIA issue, economic relations, regional security issues, human rights and counter-narcotics. He will also pay tribute in many events during his visit to the young Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam during the war.
And this will be the first visit by an American Secretary of State to Vietnam since 1970, when former Secretary Rogers was there.
We're going to post a sign-up sheet in the Press Office directly following the briefing for those of you who would like to accompany the Secretary on this trip. And that sheet will close at noon on Tuesday, July 18.
So with that announcement, I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
Q Let me follow up your announcement. With the two days in Vietnam, will the Secretary use that time he has to look close-hand at the MIA situation? For instance, will he go to the sites, for instance, where Americans have said in the past they saw Americans who haven't been heard from? Will he get into the fields, so to speak, or will he rely entirely on what the Vietnamese tell him is the state of play?
MR. BURNS: The first order of business for the Secretary in Hanoi is to talk with Vietnamese Government officials about the POW/MIA issue. And I think among the first events he will have on Saturday, August 5, will be events that pertain to the POW/MIA issue.
We are still working out, Barry, the exact itinerary and details of some of these events. But I can tell you, that is the primary issue on the agenda; and, of course, he will be looking into this in a fairly intensive way.
Q On his way back, does the Secretary anticipate a stop in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Right now, Sid, there's no visit to the Middle East scheduled after the Asia portion of the trip. It's always a possibility. That would depend on progress. It would depend on progress in the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Syrians and the Israelis. And I think depend, in part, on the assessment that Dennis Ross brings back from the region when he does return.
As you know, Dennis has been in the region for a couple of days. He had a long four-hour meeting with President Assad in Damascus yesterday. He was in Israel today, talking with Israeli Government officials. I believe that he'll be in Gaza, or he is in Gaza at this time, meeting with Chairman Arafat.
He's had a number of good meetings. He is working to see what the United States can do to further progress on both tracks that I mentioned.
I understand on the Israel-Palestinian track, both sides have asked Dennis to engage with them in meetings this week on the particular set of issues with which they are dealing, which, as you know, revolve around the authority issue, the transfer of authority and also the redeployment issue from some of the West Bank cities, and the hope that the parties have announced that they might be able to have, reach, agreement on those issues by July 25.
On the Syrian-Israeli side, he's had a set of very good discussions. It's really not possible for me to characterize any specific progress he may have made because he's in the field and we only are getting sporadic reports in.
Q Nick, to go back to the Asia part of the trip. In Brunei, can you talk about any bilateral meetings that are now scheduled, especially with the Chinese Foreign Minister and, and/or, the Russian Foreign Minister? And if they're not yet scheduled, has the United States at least asked for them?
MR. BURNS: I know we have requested meetings with Foreign Minister Kozyrev and with Foreign Minister Qian. And I don't, I'm not aware that we have feedback from either the Russian or Chinese Governments on that, but we fully expect to have meetings with both Ministers and would like to have meetings with both Ministers.
On the Russian side, of course, we have, the Secretary has not seen Foreign Minister Kozyrev since the Noordwijk meetings at the end of May. There were a lot of issues that, on the U.S.-Russian agenda, that need to be discussed by the two men, and they've had a series of good meetings, dating back to January, mid-January of this year.
On the Chinese side, of course, it's well known that we are, we have some difficulties with the Chinese now -- a number of difficulties. And we think that a meeting would be a good way to work through some of those difficulties. It's always been our view throughout the time of troubles that we're experiencing with China over the last couple of months that the way to address problems is to discuss them directly. So therefore the Secretary is looking forward to a meeting with Foreign Minister Qian.
Q On China. Is there any new development in the Wu case?
MR. BURNS: Well, there are some things that I can relay to you that go a little bit beyond where we were on Monday.
First of all, our Consul General, who is, again, the Chief of our Consular Section in Beijing, Arturo Macias, has an appointment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Consular Department tomorrow afternoon, July 13, to discuss our very great wish for further American Government access to Mr. Harry Wu.
As you remember, the U.S.-China Consular Convention stipulates a minimum of one visit per month. We think one visit per month doesn't really serve the interests of the United States or Mr. Wu or the Chinese Government at this time. We'd like to have a greater number of visits, certainly, in the next couple of weeks. So he will be making that point to the Chinese Government tomorrow.
In addition, our Charge d'Affaires, our top diplomat in Beijing, Scott Hallford, met yesterday with a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And he relayed to him the great concern that the United States Government has for the case of Mr. Wu, for the urgency that we give to this question, for our great hope that Mr. Wu will be released immediately so that U.S.-China relations may get onto other issues on our agenda, because this is a fairly important issue on our agenda now.
And he made some of the same points about consular access that I have just made.
I do have a few more details on Monday's visit, when Mr. Macias went out to Wuhan in central China to meet Mr. Wu.
The visit was held at a pre-trial detention facility of the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan in central China. Mr. Macias informed Mr. Wu that under Chinese law no defense attorney will be permitted to consult with him until the end of the period of pre-trial investigation which began with his formal arrest last Saturday on July 8. And through Chinese officials, Mr. Macias was able to provide Mr. Wu with books, newspapers, and writing material, paper. I understand that Mr. Wu has requested some specific books, some classics -- actually, of American literature -- to be delivered to him because he has a lot of time on his hands and he wanted to have some good books to read.
Mr. Macias also provided, through Chinese officials to Mr. Wu, a list of Chinese attorneys that we wanted Mr. Wu to have.
As you know, I think, those of you who have been abroad and had some dealings with U.S. embassies, we normally keep, in most countries, a list of attorneys that we give to American citizens when they're in trouble. We cannot provide legal advice ourselves. We certainly cannot represent for legal purposes an American citizen -- in this case, in a Chinese court -- and we're not really in a position to recommend specific attorneys. But we wanted him to have a list. Because we think it's very important that he have the ability to choose his own attorney and not to have an attorney chosen for him.
We do have the right under Article 35, Sub-section (4) of the Consular Convention, to assist in arranging for legal representation. And in some cases, where a prisoner is isolated in his detention, that might be necessary. So we will obviously take a look at what we can do in that regard.
Mr. Wu stated that the food he was receiving from the Chinese was okay; that he was getting enough to eat; that he had been seen by a doctor. He is in an air-conditioned facility. It's very hot in this particular city.
And Mr. Macias reported to us, in his detailed reporting cable -- this is where I'm getting most of this information -- that the conditions under which he met Mr. Wu were exactly those under which prison visits have always taken place between American officials and American citizens with the exception of the glass partition; and I think also with the exception of the great number of Chinese officials who insisted upon monitoring the conversation.
I do know that they had to speak by phone; that they spoke in English, but there was an interpreter on the line so that the Chinese authorities could understand what was being said between Mr. Macias and Mr. Wu.
I don't have much more about the interview that did take place. As I said, though, we believe it's important that we have continued access to him, and we are seeking that access.
Q Follow-up. Has the Secretary seen or spoken to former Secretary Kissinger since Kissinger returned from China?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary will be seeing former Secretary Kissinger tomorrow. They will meet here in the Department. Former Secretary Kissinger had a series of meetings with I think all the senior leaders of the Chinese Government, and Secretary Christopher looks forward to getting a direct brief from former Secretary Kissinger on his meetings, on his assessment of the situation in China.
Q How senior? Li Peng? Who? Can you say?
MR. BURNS: I'm just relying now on just my memory of reading accounts of his visit. I believe he saw almost all the senior leaders of China during his visit.
Q (Inaudible) available to us?
MR. BURNS: Make --
Q The Secretary -- the former Secretary at some point?
MR. BURNS: It's entirely up to former Secretary Kissinger whether he wants to --
Q Oh, it's sort of up to you, up to State, too, you being the host.
MR. BURNS: -- whether he wants to see the press.
Q I'm sure he'll report on what he did to look beyond television or write an article, but before he does, if you could help arrange a photo op, it would be helpful.
Q What time is he coming?
MR. BURNS: I don't have details of the exact time of the meeting, but I know the meeting will take place tomorrow.
Q Still on Wu. You said a few days ago that the Department's legal experts were examining the charges against Mr. Wu. Have you discovered whether stealing state secrets is a capital crime or not?
MR. BURNS: I don't have specific information, David. The problem we have is that we're not in a position to substantiate the charges in any way. We've been given a very thin description of what the charges are from the Chinese, and we are seeking further information on what these specific charges are.
I don't believe that formal charges will be brought to him until this period of pretrial investigation is concluded, and that is how the Chinese describe the present phase of this event.
Q Have they suggested how long the phase might last?
MR. BURNS: I asked that very question this morning, and we're trying to get an answer both for you and for us. I don't know if there's a normal period of time that would characterize a pretrial investigation, but we're looking into that, too.
Q Nick, different subject. Dole --
MR. BURNS: Same subject?
Q Still China. This goes back to the issue of China's alleged missile sales to Pakistan and Iran. Is it still the Department's position that it would prefer to discuss these allegations with China before coming to any sort of conclusion about possible sanctions?
MR. BURNS: Well we are discussing these charges with Chinese officials. We do have an Embassy in Beijing, and they have an Embassy here. And this is an issue that is discussed on a regular basis between the two governments. So it's not a question of having to wait until we have an opportunity.
If there is a meeting between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Qian, I'm sure that this particular issue will be on the agenda, and will be discussed intensively. Our position hasn't changed. We have not determined that China is in fact in violation of either United States law -- United States sanctions law -- or the Missile Technology Control Regime, regulations that are both pertinent to this question.
Q These consultations on this issue are occurring -- have been occurring at the Embassy level?
MR. BURNS: They have been occurring. They have not been occurring at a senior level because since mid-April we haven't had any senior- level exchanges with them on the level of a Secretary or an Under Secretary or even an Assistant Secretary. And so we, of course, would like the opportunity to discuss these issues at a higher level, but they are discussed between the two governments.
The Chinese Government is aware of our interest in this issue -- the fact that it continues to be under review in the U.S. Government -- and that we would like further discussions. They're very well aware of that.
Q But didn't you agree in April to have expert-level talks, and haven't those talks been -- haven't the Chinese refused to have those talks? This is what I think some of us heard this morning from another State Department official, unless I've got it wrong.
MR. BURNS: No, you don't. I think you're right, Barry. On April 17, Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Qian agreed there should be expert-level talks. I believe that they were initiated in New York on the following day.
Bob Einhorn, who's our Deputy Assistant Secretary, was to have conducted those talks in Beijing a couple of weeks ago, and that visit was canceled in the wake of the controversy over the issuance of the visa to President Lee.
Q I know it's sort of more significant than having an fellow in the Embassy talk to a fellow in the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
MR. BURNS: It would be absolutely more significant and more important.
Q You've lost something. You've lost something, haven't you?
MR. BURNS: Well, we have the ability to transmit diplomatic messages, to give demarches, to make our point of view well understood. We'd like to do that at a more senior level, starting with Mr. Einhorn and going above that level, and we're looking for opportunities to do that.
I don't think, however, that anybody in this building believes that we absolutely must have those kinds of meetings before we can make a decision. Sid, to go back to your original question to me, I think if the information becomes available to us that we think is convincing an persuasive, we will make a decision. But I can tell you that as of today we have not determined that, given the information available to us, that China is in fact in violation of either U.S. or international law on this particular issue.
Q I may be mistaken, Nick, but it seems to me that about a month ago you said -- at least it was clear to me that we wanted to talk to the Chinese at a senior level first, and correct me if I'm wrong.
There was another official speaking today. They said that there is no flexibility; that if under U.S. law to make that determination you've got to go forward.
Has there been -- given the play between China and the United States lately, has there been a conscious decision to harden our position on this and not looking for the flexibility in the law?
MR. BURNS: We have not changed our position on this particular issue over the last couple of weeks. We maintain the position that this is a very serious issue that requires a continuous review by us. It's on our agenda. It has not been swept under the rug. But we do not have the compelling information, the certain information, the specific information that is needed to make a determination that China has violated the law.
Let me go back to the first part of your question. I can't recall exactly what I may have said a month ago on this, but I do know that in recent weeks I have confirmed with some of the senior people in this building that have responsibility for this issue that in fact we can make this determination on our own.
We are not hostage to future meetings. This determination can be made at any time. But I don't want -- in saying that, I'm not trying to signal in any way that we are about to make a determination or that we have changed our position. I'm not aware that we have received any new information that would change our position, and our position once again, to be absolutely clear, is that we are not now in possession of information that we believe constitutes a Chinese violation of international or American law.
Q (Inaudible) Charge d'Affaires -- since they're held with the Chinese officials. What was the Chinese official's response to the request that you made? Were they cooperative? Did they say they'd think about it?
MR. BURNS: The request for additional meetings? Mr. Macias talked to the prison officials on Monday about his interest in further meetings, but now he's going to go in tomorrow to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing -- a policy-making body -- and assert our interest in having some flexibility in interpreting the Consular Convention so that we might have more than one visit per month.
We think it's entirely reasonable, given the nature of this particular case -- given the prominence of Mr. Wu, given the importance that we attach to his immediate release, given the personal interest of the Secretary of State and of others in this case, and given our belief that this is a problem in U.S.-China relations, and that for U.S.-China relations to move forward on a sure basis, we need to resolve this problem.
The way to resolve it is for the Chinese to conclude that it's in the best interest of the United States and China to have Mr. Wu released, to be returned safely and freely to the United States.
Q But there's been no response to these requests at this time?
MR. BURNS: Well, we have made this request very clear to the Chinese authorities throughout this whole saga. Mr. Macias is going in tomorrow to make it again unmistakably clear, as Mr. Hallford, our Charge d'Affaires did in his meeting yesterday.
Q Nick, do you have an indication from the Chinese when their Ambassador might return to Washington? I know you said at the time that they stressed that there was no downgrading officially of relations, but in effect that seems to be what's happened.
MR. BURNS: We, I don't believe we have any indication of when the Ambassador will be returning to his post, so the Chinese Embassy is currently headed by a Mr. Zhou Wenzhong who is the Charge d'Affaires, as our Embassy is headed by a Charge d'Affaires because of the planned and orderly departure of our Ambassador, Stape Roy.
Q I want to ask you, have you heard anything from the Chinese about U.S. recognition of Vietnam?
MR. BURNS: One of the things that we did among the many, many things we did yesterday on Vietnam was to have all of our diplomatic and consular posts around the world inform their host governments that President Clinton intended to announce the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations, and we did that in Beijing. I did see a reporting cable to the effect that the message was delivered, and the Chinese acknowledged the fact and congratulated us upon the resumption of relations. I shouldn't say "resumption." On normalization of relations.
Q New subject. Bosnia. Could you tell us what the state of play is on diplomacy, please?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to. Let me make a few points first, then I'll go into the diplomacy. The United States condemns the Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica yesterday. We strongly call upon the Serbs to release all U.N. personnel, to permit the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Bosnian refugees -- the refugees who were forced to flee Srebrenica yesterday because of the inhumane attack upon Srebrenica.
We support the U.N. forces in the area. We support the continuation of UNPROFOR because it has made a contribution to the welfare of the Bosnian people. We believe the withdrawal of UNPROFOR would trigger a humanitarian crisis far beyond the dimensions of the current crisis with which the international community is dealing with today in Srebrenica.
We believe the Rapid Reaction Force offers the best means to strengthen UNPROFOR's ability to carry out the very clear mandate that it has been given by the U.N. Security Council.
The situation on the ground, as the diplomatic situation, is quite fluid. The United States intends to review with our Contact Group partners this evening in London all the aspects of the current crisis. We believe, as Secretary of State Christopher said yesterday, that there are no good alternatives available to the international community, to the United Nations or to the United States.
But among the alternatives that are available, and all of them are flawed, we think by far the most preferable is for the United States to continue to support UNPROFOR in all of its dimensions; for the United States to continue to support its NATO allies, one of which, the Netherlands, finds itself in an embattled position today.
This is not the time to leave our allies in the lurch; this is not the time to desert them when their backs -- some of them -- are against the wall. It is a time to stand with them.
So this evening Assistant Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke will be meeting with the EU negotiator, Carl Bildt, with the other political directors from the allied countries, from Russia and the Contact Group. They will have a full review of the situation.
In addition, I understand that Ambassador Albright is representing us right now early this afternoon in U.N. Security Council debates on a U.N. resolution pertaining to Srebrenica, and we hope and believe that that will be a very strong resolution condemning the action of the Bosnian Serbs.
So far, I am not aware -- in fact, I'm fairly sure -- there has been no request for specific American support in response to the events yesterday in Srebrenica. There has been no request to NATO for any NATO action to respond to the situation that goes beyond the action that NATO took at U.N. request yesterday in providing close air support.
Q General Mladic's on location. Elderly people and children have been carted away, thousands of them, destination unknown. The Bosnian President has called for the firing of Mr. Akashi. Apart from your condemnation of the Serbs' takeover of the safehaven in defiance of the U.N., what does the State Department think about all these events, please?
MR. BURNS: What we think about all these events is that they're most unfortunate; that they ought to be condemned because they demonstrate that the Bosnian Serbs once again have little regard for human life and for decency, and that they flagrantly violate U.N. resolutions.
We believe that it's important now to listen to our allies, those who have troops on the ground; to work with them; to support them in the course of action that they plan to take. It is not entirely clear to us what course they plan to take. That is the point of the Contact Group meeting tonight, and that is the point of the U.N. Security Council meeting this afternoon, and the additional discussions that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has been having in a number of European capitals. He has been in Spain. He has been in Paris, and he's now in London.
He has been busy talking to all of them about their appreciation of the situation, what they might wish to do now, and I think we must be in a position of waiting for our European allies who have troops on the ground to decide on their preferred course of action, and then, of course, the United States will support them.
Let me, Barry -- it might be useful just to give you our appreciation of the specific situation on the ground, because I do have some detailed information on that.
Obviously, everyone knows that the Serb forces have overrun the enclave in Srebrenica. We understand that there are an estimated 30,000 refugees that have fled first to the U.N. camp at Potocari, which is three miles north. We believe that an additional 8-10,000 more Bosnians will make their way out of the city to the camp today.
The latest reports that we have are that the Bosnian Serbs are -- the army is in control of the entire enclave, and this morning the Serbs also entered the U.N. camp at Potocari. We believe they may have distributed some food to the refugees there.
The Bosnian Serbs have said they plan to ship thousands of the refugees three miles east to a football stadium in Bratunac. In addition, 36 Dutch peacekeepers continue to be held captive. The U.N. reports that the Serbs captured two more U.N. observation posts late yesterday, adding six more Dutch prisoners to the 30 that have previously been held, and that's how we arrived at the figure of 36.
The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees reports that there is virtually no food or water for the refugees in Potocari, and aid workers fear a humanitarian disaster unless the Bosnian Serbs permit the delivery of aid pre-positioned in Serbia to the U.N. camp at Potocari.
Medical supplies for the more than 70 reported people who are wounded -- and these are civilians -- are very low. The United Nations is working on evacuating the refugees to Tuzla, where there are adequate supplies for the refugees in place. The U.N. has stressed today that only those refugees who wish to leave the enclave will be transported.
That leaves us with continued fighting around Zepa and around Gorazde, the other eastern enclaves. The United Nations is trying to follow that fighting closely. Both enclaves have been under attack for the past couple of days. In the case of Zepa, there was increased shelling overnight.
I understand that 90 Ukrainian U.N. peacekeepers are stationed in Zepa, which is inhabited by 16,000 Bosnians, most of whom are Muslim refugees who have fled there from fighting elsewhere in Bosnia.
Q Nick, didn't the United States join its U.N. allies in declaring Srebrenica a safe area? Is this what a safe area is when the United States commits itself to it?
MR. BURNS: The United States, indeed, joined many other countries in declaring this to be a U.N. safehaven several years ago. There were six, as you know. Now one has fallen, and there are five left. Two others are under attack.
Q What does that say about the U.S. and U.N. commitment?
MR. BURNS: What it clearly says, I think, is that the United Nations has not succeeded in protecting a very important enclave. The United Nations now, and the international community in general, has the task of trying to deal with the very great problems that have resulted from the fall of that enclave, namely many, many -- tens of thousands of refugees who are without food and water and are in a very precarious situation.
So, what the United States is doing is working closely with the United Nations to see how we can help in providing food, water, medicine to the refugees. We're working with our allies to try to consider with them next steps diplomatically and also of a security nature on the ground, and Madeleine Albright, our Ambassador to the United Nations, is now debating with the United Nations a Security Council resolution. It is an extremely difficult situation.
Q Is there any consideration being given to trying to mount some sort of military operation to reclaim Srebrenica? And, after you answer that question, what would you do -- what do you plan to do, if anything, about the other so-called safehavens?
MR. BURNS: We have seen, of course, the comments made yesterday by President Chirac and by Chancellor Kohl at their joint press conference in France. We are talking to our allies now -- those of our NATO allies that have troops on the ground -- to try to ascertain what they plan to do next.
It's not clear to us that there is any concerted, cohesive plan that is available to them now; that clearly must be worked out, that kind of strategy, over the next couple of days. Once that strategy is defined by them -- they're the ones with troops on the ground -- and by the United Nations, which has the responsibility to protect the enclaves and to adhere to the mandates -- once those decisions are made, the United States will be fully supportive of decisions made by our allies.
We cannot be this afternoon in a position of giving them free advice from the outside when they are the ones with troops on the ground. They have to make these decisions. But one thing will be very clear. Once they've made their decisions, the United States will support them and will support them to our utmost capabilities within the limits that we have expressed for some time now.
Q What about U.S. leadership in this situation?
MR. BURNS: The United States is making its views known to our allies. We are making our views about the Bosnian Serb offensive known to you and to the world through Ambassador Albright and through the statements that we are making publicly. As you know, we are the largest contributor to UNPROFOR, contributor of money. We are the major financier of the humanitarian effort.
We do not have troops on the ground. The decision to take further action in response to yesterday's events must rest with both the United Nations and with those countries that have troops on the ground. We have views. We are asserting our own views. We are discussing this with the allies, but we must wait to see what decisions and plans are made by them before, I think, saying much more in public about this.
Q Can we move to another safe area, Sarajevo? Secretary Christopher said yesterday that Srebrenica never was all that defensible. Sarajevo he said was. What is the U.S. view of what the United Nations can and should do in Sarajevo to protect it as a safe area?
MR. BURNS: I know that Secretary Christopher in all of his many comments yesterday in various media asserted a very clear U.S. position. We have recognized U.N. responsibility for all these enclaves, and we have taken that responsibility as a member of the international community and of the U.N. seriously.
What we believe must happen now is for the international community to recognize that a great injustice has been done once again by the Bosnian Serbs, and that the international community should consider its next steps. That is exactly where the diplomacy is, and that's exactly where the security thinking is today.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Specifically about Sarajevo.
MR. BURNS: The fighting has continued around Sarajevo. We're not aware that Sarajevo is in any imminent danger of collapse, as compared to what happened in Srebrenica yesterday. There are a much greater number of Bosnian Government fighters there inside and around the city, and it's not our view that Sarajevo is in any kind of imminent danger of a Bosnian Serb takeover.
Q Nick, I understand the United States' pursuit of its policy in not putting troops on the ground and so forth, but while you and your European allies are holding discussions on what to do next, thousands of innocent men, women and children are being carted off to a football stadium. We've seen all too clearly in the past what happens to people who have been ethnically cleansed.
My question is how can the United States, given its past history on this kind of a case, stand idly by and let what appears to be another round of ethnic cleansing and humanitarian atrocities occur?
MR. BURNS: First of all, let's be accurate about what we are hearing and what the United Nations is seeing. Given past practice, we do have a number of concerns about the capacity and the inclination of the Bosnian Serb forces to treat well and justly the captives -- civilian captives as well as military captives.
In 1991 and 1992, they displayed for all the world to see brutal tendencies towards people they had taken captive. They should not repeat those very grave and serious mistakes now. They should treat these people well. We are not standing idly by and ignoring this problem, Sid. We are asserting publicly that the Bosnian Serb army has a responsibility to treat these people well.
Now we are working through the competent authority on the ground, which is the United Nations, to deal with the refugee problem. The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees has direct international responsibility for this problem, albeit in extremely difficult circumstances given the shortage of food, water and medicine and given the precarious position of tens of thousands of refugees.
We're going to do everything we can within the United Nations structure to try to help those refugees, to try to feed them, to try to have them taken to Tuzla if they want to be taken to Tuzla, where they can be given proper shelter and care and be freed from captivity by the Bosnian Serbs, and we think that should happen.
We have another obligation, and that is to participate in discussions within the U.N. structure and to send messages to the Bosnian Serbs that the 36 Dutch peacekeepers ought to be treated well and released immediately.
We're going to be engaged as much as we can be engaged, to the limits of what we can do, to help regularize and resolve an extremely difficult and sad situation. We do not have troops on the ground. Our NATO allies do have troops on the ground. They now must consider what they are prepared to do to respond to yesterday's events. We're having those discussions with them today and we're prepared to support them in whatever decisions they take.
Q Given the response in the past to similar situations here about -- after you've talked about what the obligations of the Bosnian Serbs are, why should they be worried at all about how they treat the people that they're now in charge of? I mean, there doesn't seem to have been in the past the political will or the military capability to do anything about it, so why should they take your current words any differently?
MR. BURNS: We think it's important to voice publicly the obvious humanitarian concerns that the American people and the United States Government have in looking at the situation yesterday. We also think it's important, Charlie, just to assert publicly the outrage that a lot of people feel about what happened yesterday. I don't think that is -- I think that's the appropriate thing to do in this situation.
You're right that in the past lots of statements have been made -- lots of statements that have not had a practical effect -- and I think it's very clear for everyone to see that the Bosnian Serbs have often taken actions that were not replied to.
It is now a question for the United Nations, as well as for the countries with troops on the ground, to consider the situation and to consider what they think they can practically do. Since we don't have troops on the ground, we are not going to be a direct party -- responsible party to those discussions because we're not going to have to put troops into these enclaves or redeploy troops in a way that they figure they might want to.
But we do have a responsibility to support our allies. We are providing lift for the Rapid Reaction Force from both France and Britain to Croatia. We are providing logistics and intelligence support and equipment support, and we'll continue to do that. And we're going to stand by our commitment, the financial and military commitment that we have made, to support the implementation and full deployment of the Rapid Reaction Force.
Right now we think that the best thing that can happen is for the major troop contributors to decide that they're going to stay -- that UNPROFOR will stay; that they will strengthen UNPROFOR and make it a much more effective organization than it has been to date.
One vehicle to make it more effective will be to deploy a Rapid Reaction Force that has some teeth and that can in effect protect the responsibilities and defend the responsibilities that the United Nations has, clearly, from the United Nations Security Council.
That is why we believe it's in our interest and the interest of the international community to see the United Nations stay.
Q Senator Dole is going to propose a bill that would unilaterally lift the arms embargo, and many people seem to feel that he has enough votes not only to get it passed, but to override any Presidential veto. How concerned is this Department and this Administration by this?
MR. BURNS: We don't favor this bill. We haven't favored it in the past, and we still don't favor this bill. We don't favor it because our NATO allies have made unmistakably clear to us and to the backers of this bill that unilateral lift would lead to the withdrawal of UNPROFOR. It would lead to the withdrawal of the troop contingents from the NATO countries. That is not in the interest of the Bosnian people or of the international community, and we believe that unilateral lift would also add to the humanitarian problems because it would likely lead to an increase in fighting and it would torpedo any chance that the political negotiations have for success.
We are dealing here, once again, in an imperfect world with imperfect options. One option is to unilaterally lift. I've talked about the likely consequences of that. Another option is for the United States to deploy a great number of troops in the area to win a victory in the battlefield and to force political changes. That option clearly does not have the support of the American people or of the Congress.
In our view, that leaves us with another imperfect option and that is to keep UNPROFOR in the field, to try to continue to contain the conflict as UNPROFOR has done successfully in many ways over the last couple of years; to keep UNPROFOR in the business of feeding 1.5 million to 2 million people a day; to deal with the 40,000-plus refugees in Srebrenica or around Srebrenica now.
This is not a perfect option, but we have to live in the world of reality. We have to deal with the situation as it is, and we believe that this option is far preferable to the calamity that would be unleashed were unilateral lift to occur, and that's our very firm position today in looking at the events in Srebrenica.
Q But, Nick, if you're dealing in a world of reality, the reality is that Srebrenica has fallen. Zepa could fall soon. Gorazde is being shelled. And, if there is not the will by the U.N. to save these safe areas, then where are you? Are the Bosnians better off trying to defend themselves?
MR. BURNS: Srebrenica has fallen, but that does not end United Nations' and international responsibility to the people of the area. There are now tens of thousands of refugees that have been produced by the military action over the last couple of days. We have a responsibility to help those people. We can help them best if UNPROFOR remains in the field. If unilateral lift occurs and UNPROFOR withdraws, who will be in a position to help feed these people and house them and provide medical care.
Who will be in a position to monitor the sanctions regimes that have been put into place. The United Nations' operation in Bosnian over the last couple of years has been highly imperfect. They've made a number of mistakes, and they have failed in a number of ways to protect the people that they were pledged to protect.
But, on the other hand, they've achieved a number of things, and they have done some good -- that cannot be denied. And if you simply create an environment in which the United Nations leaves, you are left with a situation that we think will be far worse than what's happening today.
Q Nick, can you verify that the Serbs are separating the elderly and the children from the other folks? You realize the historical precedent for that, when, of course, the State Department also didn't act 60 years ago.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't have specific information about elderly people, women and children being separated from males. I do have information that a great number of people are being herded into a football stadium. Considering what happened three or four years ago in the same area at the hands of the same people, the Bosnian Serb military, we are obviously concerned -- greatly concerned, gravely concerned -- about this situation, and we are sending a public message today to the Bosnian Serbs that they have a humanitarian responsibility to treat these people well.
I don't think it's necessary for me to remind them or to remind you that there is an international War Crimes Tribunal that is investigating the atrocities that clearly took place three or four years ago.
The Bosnian Serbs will be held accountable by the international community for their actions then, and they certainly are being watched carefully by the international community now.
Q What about the Bosnian President's request that (1) NATO recapture the city; (2) you boot Akashi? Do you think he's doing a good job?
MR. BURNS: Do I think the Bosnian President is doing a good job?
Q Do you think Akashi is doing a good job? Do you think the U.N. is forcefully looking after these poor wretches in the former Yugoslavia?
MR. BURNS: Let me just take your questions in order.
Q What does the State Department think?
MR. BURNS: Let me take these questions in order. The troop- contributing countries clearly have some decisions to make with the United Nations about the way forward. We are now intent on pursuing our own discussions with them along these lines. That's number one.
As to Mr. Akashi, I think we've made it clear in the past that we have not always agreed with some of his actions. We certainly did not agree with his actions last month to assert a description of the mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force to the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale.
We took direct and public opposition to that action. But it's not for me or anybody else in this government to speak to whether or not Mr. Akashi should be fired. That's up to the U.N. Secretary General.
Q One last thing. A questioner used "ethnic cleansing," but the State Department is avoiding that phrase? Hasn't enough evidence yet whether the Serbs are engaged in another chapter, another phase of their ethnic cleansing operation? Must you know more about what happens in the stadium? Whether, perhaps, they will be served lunch and sent home?
MR. BURNS: Barry, we're not avoiding any of these questions, but we do have to try to ascertain the facts. All of us, I think, at this point are relying on press reports. I'm not aware that there are people reporting back directly that we talk to normally on the situation there. It's a chaotic situation where tens of thousands of people are on the road with nothing.
We have a responsibility to ascertain facts. That's what we're trying --
Q So that's a government --
MR. BURNS: We are talking to the Bosnian Government.
Q What do they tell you is going on? Do they tell you ethnic cleansing is going on?
MR. BURNS: Barry, we talk to the Bosnian Government every day, and we're talking to them today.
Sid asked me a direct question, and you've repeated the question: "Are we aware of certain reports that people are being separated?" I've told you, I'm not aware of those reports.
The reports alone are of concern to us, and we'll certainly look into them. We won't disregard them, and it's not business as usual. That's not how Americans react to situations like that. That's not how the United States Government will react to the situation.
Q That's how the United States Government reacted in 1939 -- to a totally parallel situation. You speak of the U.N. as if it's some distant operation on the moon. I mean, the State Department does.
Doesn't, Number one, the U.S. have the authority to ask NATO to carry out bombing raids that the President of the United States proposed when he was running for office but dropped when he got elected? Number two: Don't you have the moral authority in the United Nations? Why are you going around polling the Europeans before you decide what your position is?
MR. BURNS: We don't have the authority or inclination to deploy American military force in the area without conferring with the international body that's in charge -- and that's the United Nations, like it or not -- and without conferring with our NATO allies. No, it's not an option for the President or anyone else in Washington to decide that we're going to deploy American military force in some kind of abstraction. We have to deal with the situation on the ground, and that's what we're doing.
NATO forces, including U.S. war planes, were deployed yesterday because of a request from the United Nations. Those are the rules of the road here, and we've committed ourselves to those rules of the road.
Q Can I just deal with yesterday on that very matter? There were suggestions in the press that Mr. Akashi had once again delayed the reaction from the air that was requested. Is that true or not?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to speak to that because I just don't know. What I do know is that just before Srebrenica fell on Monday evening, NATO close air support was requested; NATO planes took to the air from aircraft carriers in Aviano, and they did not release ordnance because they were asked by the Dutch commander on the ground to turn back, probably because of darkness.
Yesterday morning, NATO close air support was again requested by the Dutch on the ground, by the United Nations authorities. Under the dual-key arrangement, NATO forces complied with that request, and NATO forces went into action. It was too late. NATO forces might have had some effect on a particular tank column, but it was clearly too late to prevent the fall of Srebrenica. That's the way it was.
So now we're dealing with a different situation, where the city has fallen, where you have tens of thousands of refugees, where you have the uncertainty of what happens next, what action does the United Nations next take, do the troop-contributing countries take?
We are operating today in a very turbulent environment. I think it means it speaks to the importance of the United States getting its facts straight about what's happening, number one, because of all the contradictory reports, talking with our allies, what Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is now doing in London, as we speak, trying to figure out what the allies want to do. If they're going to make specific requests of the United States, we'll listen to those.
We're going to be predisposed to support them in what they want to do.
Q Has the Secretary been in touch directly with any of his counterparts in this?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he has this morning. He's been in continual contact with a number of them over the last couple of weeks. He has been on the phone with Assistant Secretary Holbrooke a couple of times, and he's also met and been on the phone with Ambassador Albright.
Q Can I just follow a little bit further. Obviously, I think everyone in the room would agree that the fall of Srebrenica hurts the credibility of the United Nations and of all of its members -- the members of the Security Council -- who stated that it was a safe area.
How much damage to the credibility of NATO and the credibility of the United States do you think was done yesterday?
MR. BURNS: Admiral Leighton Smith spoke to this question this morning. NATO did what it was asked to do. Under the terms of engagement in the Bosnian conflict, NATO does not have the right to take independent military action in a situation like the situation that posed itself yesterday. We're not talking about air-to-air action, where it does have the right to initiate action if it is threatened. But in the situation like yesterday, NATO has to have a request from the United Nations.
NATO did what it was asked to do yesterday. It attacked the targets it was asked to attack. NATO remains ready to carry out the same type of action in the future if it is requested. I don't believe the credibility of NATO has been affected by this.
Q Given the 36 hostages -- the Dutch peacekeepers -- and the large volume of refugees are in some more or less danger around Srebrenica, do those two facts foreclose air strikes now around Zepa, where I understand at least two U.N. posts have already fallen, that the city is about to go?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it does foreclose NATO air action; no, it does not. If the United Nations commanders on the ground request NATO air support, NATO, of course, will meet those requests.
Q Has that request been made?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware it's been made in the case of Zepa.
Q Approaches to our friend Mr. Milosevic in the wake of the events yesterday?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not made, to my knowledge, any approaches to Mr. Milosevic in the last 24-48 hours. Mr. Carl Bildt was in Belgrade recently -- a couple of days ago -- and had a series of conversations with him. He's going to be reporting on those conversations to the Contact Group this evening.
Q We've made appeals to Belgrade before. Is there a reason why we wouldn't try that approach again?
MR. BURNS: There's no reason we wouldn't try the approach. I just don't have any information as to the nature of our contacts with him over the last 24-48 hours.
Q Nick, speaking to that point, the Contact Group has said it's willing to start up negotiations again based on the Map and the Plan -- if the Bosnian Serbs accept the Map and the Plan. I believe the Map and the Plan calls for the Bosnian Government to get the eastern enclaves. Do the Bosnian Serbs -- is it the Administration's position that the Bosnian Serbs, in any case, will have to give those back to get the peace process going again?
MR. BURNS: We continue to stand by the Contact Group Map and Plan. The offer is that this is the basis for negotiations and that offer remains on the table.
Q So they can't hold onto those cities and go into the peace process?
MR. BURNS: The offer remains on the table, to begin negotiations on the basis of a Map and Plan. The situation has, in some respects, been dramatically changed by the events of the last 24 hours. But that does not reduce our interest in ultimately seeing a political resolution of these problems.
As we reflect on the last three or four years, and the events of the last couple of days, it's clear to us that all the activity -- military, political, and economic -- of the international community is not going to ultimately resolve this conflict. The burden of responsibility does rest on the people of the area to decide that they want a political process.
We think the Bosnian Government has shown itself very much open and ready to political discussion, and the Bosnian Serb authorities clearly have not. As you legitimately ask a lot of questions today about what the United States and the Western response is going to be, also ask questions about what the Bosnian Serb responsibilities are.
Q Nick, a follow-up. Is there, in this world of imperfect choices, as you refer to it, is there some sense here in this building that if the Bosnian Serbs were to capture the three enclaves, which they're on the verge of doing -- the eastern enclaves -- that they would have the Map they want and then be willing to deal -- willing to talk about a political solution?
MR. BURNS: That would be a sign of severe bad faith on the part of the Bosnian Serbs. I don't believe it's a credible place to begin negotiations. The Contact Group has made clear where the negotiations can begin.
There were several assumptions that the Contact Group brought to that. Certainly, the fall of the eastern enclaves was not among them.
Q Realistically, though, if the Serbs came to you tomorrow, having captured Srebrenica and possibly Zepa, if they came to you tomorrow and said, "Okay, now we're ready to deal." You're going to turn it down? You're going to say, oh, no, no, and walk away?
MR. BURNS: I can't predict what the Contact Group or what the United States or others would do. I think it's a far-fetched hypothetical situation that probably won't occur -- that they would turn around tomorrow and say we're ready to deal. I don't think it's going to happen. I think they've clearly shown that they're seeking a military solution here.
They're seeking a military solution. They are attacking other enclaves. That is the obvious way they've decided to proceed. So now it is up to the United Nations and others to decide what the response to this should be.
The United States has a direct interest in this. We have views, and we are engaged in discussions about that very important question.
Q Nick, when this plan was approved by the Ministers, including the Secretary of State, back in Brussels -- I forgot when -- the Secretary was asked whether there are other options. He said there were only two options and both were totally unacceptable. One was carpet- bombing and the other is to pull out entirely.
You and others, and the Secretary, have talked now about -- it would be nothing worse than to pull out. Is that still the position, that the only two things that could be done -- and they're both unacceptable -- is carpet-bombing or a pullout? Isn't there anything in between? There was lift-and-strike, you remember, in the campaign. Is there any other action the U.S. could suggest or propose short of these impossible -- apparently -- impossible, unacceptable options? is there anything you can do there militarily?
MR. BURNS: I think the way you describe it, Barry, carpet-bombing --
Q It's his words.
MR. BURNS: Carpet-bombing is clearly not something that could be considered in a situation like in Srebrenica where you have refugees mixed up with the Bosnian Serb army. It wouldn't be effective and it would likely hurt the people you want to help.
There are a couple of proposals out there. Let's just review them once again, because we do have live in a world of reality, not the world of illusions.
There is one proposal that the United States should get involved militarily and seek a military solution; turn our vast military power to the advantage of the afflicted populations.
Q Like Senator Lugar's proposal.
MR. BURNS: That proposal, we believe, would not have the support of the American people much less the American Congress.
There is another proposal that basically says, since the United Nations has failed, let's have the United Nations withdraw and let's let the sides fight it out; let's allow arms to the Bosnian Government, and let's let them fight it out. The problem, again, with that proposal is that we think it would do several things.
We think it would lead to an intensification of the fighting, would cause more bloodshed for the afflicted people of the region, would kill the peace process -- the almost moribund peace process -- but at least there is one, and that it would lead to an increase in the number of refugees and there would be no one there to help them because the United Nations and the major troop-contributing countries have made it abundantly clear to us that if a unilateral lift is imposed, they will leave.
So, therefore, what competent body will be there to help the Bosnian people? Certainly not the Bosnian Serb authorities. That leaves us with another option. And that is to conclude that since UNPROFOR has not done very well recently, we ought now to try to strengthen UNPROFOR.
The Rapid Reaction Force may or may not be the way to do that. We think it can be a way to make UNPROFOR more effective. That's number one -- on the security side.
On the humanitarian side, we think that UNPROFOR remaining in the field allows the international community a direct channel to help people with food, shelter, water, and medicine. That's not inconsequential when you're talking about several million people that are dependent upon UNPROFOR.
It is far preferable for us to continue along current lines, however imperfect or frustrating it may, than to adopt either these of other two options which we think -- one has no chance of being implemented, and the other, clearly, would worsen the situation.
Q That's basically, except for the Lugar proposal, which is short obviously of carpet-bombing, that's the position the Secretary of State took in Brussels. There have been other suggestions -- other people in the Pentagon capable of selecting targets and carrying out limited bombing; having NATO carrying out limited bombing operations, for instance.
Are you so bereft of options that all you can do is either abandon Bosnia or send in hundreds of thousands of American troops, which you say the American people won't support? Aren't there military measures short of that, that might get your message across?
MR. BURNS: As we use our influence to try to convince the United Nations and the troop-contributing countries to stay, and if the current operation remains in place, there are, of course, in a tactical sense, a variety of military means that can be used to further the objectives of the United Nations. Some were used yesterday. They did not make a decisive difference. But perhaps in the future they could under another set of circumstances.
The Rapid Reaction Force -- which will amount to around 15,000 men, added to the current force -- they'll be more heavily mechanized and more fully equipped. That could be make the U.N. more effective, and we hope it will. We hope that's the decision that the U.N. commanders and the individual division and battalion commanders will elect to make it more effective, to strengthen UNPROFOR. That's what we hope, and that is the basis for our support for continuing UNPROFOR in the region.
Q From listening to you today, it sounds as if the American position has become one of "keep UNPROFOR there even if it is able to fulfill only a small fraction of its mandate." Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: Not fully. Not fully correct. No, not fully because I think it begs another question, and that is, how does the international community respond to yesterday's events where an enclave that it was pledged to protect was not protected successfully? That response will be forthcoming by the international community. That is a response that is being developed today and probably the next couple of days.
We have decided that we need to have very good conversations with our allies about what that response will be. I'm not in a position to anticipate what the decision of France, Britain, and the Dutch will be; what Boutros Ghali's decision will be, but we're certainly involved in it. I think that's another part of the matrix that you have constructed for us.
Q I have questions about past American commitments. Is the United States prepared now, if there is a request by the peacekeepers on the ground, to put its own forces in for emergency extraction?
MR. BURNS: We are prepared, as we've said in the past, I think, in the present situation, to support our allies in responding to the situation in Srebrenica. I'm not aware that there will be a request for emergency extraction in this particular case of the fact that 350-400 Dutch peacekeepers are, in effect, stranded between their former base and trying to find safe haven outside of the area. So that's a hypothetical at this point.
Right now, I think we're dealing with another kind of question; that is, what will be the response of the United Nations to the fact that an enclave has fallen and that other enclaves -- the eastern enclaves -- are under direct and very serious attack? There has to be some kind of international decision about that rather important question.
Now, you've asked a different question beyond that question. If some of the NATO countries -- the troops from NATO countries -- find themselves in positions where they must be extracted, will the United States respond? I think that the President and others have spoken to that.
In its fullest dimension, if there is to be a withdrawal of UNPROFOR sometime in the future, there is a contingency plan -- 4104, NATO Operations Plan -- in place to accomplish that. No one is now requesting that. It remains a contingency plan. It's not an active operational plan at this point.
The other question you have asked is perhaps in a more limited way -- would we respond to a request for help. These are our NATO allies, and so of course we'd respond to their request for help in that type of situation, but it's a hypothetical situation at this point.
Q How about Ukrainians, since they're not NATO allies, are they?
MR. BURNS: Ukraine is not a NATO ally of the United States, but Ukraine is a member of UNPROFOR and is a troop-contributing contingent, and we're just going to have to take things on a case-by-case basis.
Q Russia has been one of the main problems for UNPROFOR to have to act in Bosnia. Where do they stand now, and what are you doing to try to take them on the boat, because they have been holding up the whole thing? The Russians are the problem.
MR. BURNS: I think the Bosnian Serbs are the problem, and I would --
Q Well, for UNPROFOR to act.
MR. BURNS: I would give them first place, probably second, third and fourth place. I don't think the Russians should be put in the company of the Bosnian Serbs. The Russians are an important partner of ours in the Contact Group and we'll know a lot more about the Russian position after this evening's meeting.
But by and large, we've had very good cooperation from the Russian Government over the last couple of months. Let me just cite again the Noordwijk meeting of the Contact Group Foreign Ministers. When Foreign Minister Kozyrev was very open in his support for strengthening UNPROFOR, for deploying a Rapid Reaction Force, and for the United States' effort to try to come to some kind of arrangement with Mr. Milosevic.
We've had good cooperation with the Russians. We're not in a position to publicly take any issue with them.
Q There are a couple of particular policy questions I presume will be debated in the context of this Contact Group meeting and other discussions with their allies. One is what action should be taken against Serb antiaircraft systems in Bosnia. Yesterday not all of the planes were able to drop their ordnance, because there was so much antiaircraft fire.
Another is the Mt. Igman road and whether the Rapid Reaction Force should make it its job to secure it or not. There's been disagreement on that. Does the U.S. have a position on those two policy issues and any other specific questions like that about enforcing UNPROFOR's effectiveness?
MR. BURNS: On the second issue, I believe the French have made it clear to us that they would like to keep the Mt. Igman road open. Individual French soldiers have tried to keep that road open by night convoys over the last two weeks in very courageous actions, and we fully support that.
There's an important international obligation to try to keep supply lines into Sarajevo open, and we certainly stand by those obligations.
On the first question, it's a rather difficult question to answer. We'll just have to see what transpires in the future in terms of NATO air actions, but certainly NATO has the right and NATO aircraft have the right to protect themselves. They took measures to do that yesterday. There were missiles fired back at them yesterday, but fortunately none of the planes were hit.
Q Another subject?
MR. BURNS: Another subject?
Q Quick question. Apparently the Bolivian Government has undertaken a program of forcible eradication of the coca crop. Did they do this under pressure from the U.S., and is the U.S. pleased about this?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you, Judd, that we have made no demand for the Government of Bolivia to engage in a program of forced eradication of coca. We have encouraged the Government of Bolivia to continue its program of eradicating coca fields but compensating farmers who have had those fields.
We support the efforts of the Government of Bolivia to meet the targets of its own narcotics law, which is the eradication of 5,000 hectares of coca per year.
(The briefing concluded at 2:27 p.m.)
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