U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/07/13 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, July 13, l995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns CHINA UN Conference on Women--Beijing Location ...............1 --Religious Expression of Delegates ....................1-2 --Possibility of Mrs. Clinton's Attendance at Conference ..........................................3 Secretary Christopher's Mtg. w/Former Secretary Kissinger ...........................................3-4 Prospects for Christopher/Qian Mtg. in Brunei ..........4-5,7 U.S.-China Relations: High-Level Mtgs ..................5,8,10 Granting of Visas to Taiwan Officials ..................4-12, Harry Wu Case: Consular Access .........................6-7 Mercedes-Benz Contract w/China .........................8-9 U.S.-German Discussions re: Jiang Zemin Mtgs. in Germany .............................................9 Reported Demands for Return of Chinese Amb. to U.S. ....9 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA War in Bosnia --U.S. Position on Attacks on Safe Havens, Detention of UN Personnel, Detention/Abuse of Refugees, UN Mandate, Rapid Reaction Force .......................12-13,21-22,29 --Eastern Enclaves: Srebrenica, Zepa, Goradzde .........14-15,18-19 23,25-28 --Status of Refugees: Separation of Males, Moslem Women ...............................................13,15,22-23 --U.S. Assistance/Aid/Support ..........................15-16,20,25-26, 32 --Status of Detained Peacekeepers ......................14 --Contact Group Mtg. in London .........................13-14,17-18,20 --U.S. Contacts w/Milosevic ............................16-17 --Issue of Unilateral Lifting of Sanctions .............24 --Former Secretary Kissinger's Remarks .................30 --Widening of War ......................................14,31-32 --Multilateral Lift and Strike .........................27 SRI LANKA Gov't./Tamil Tigers Conflict ...........................32 JORDAN Municipal Elections ....................................33 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Dennis Ross' Trip to Region ............................33-34 CUBA Construction of Juragua Nuclear Power Plant ............34-35 AZERBAIJAN Report of President Heydar/Turkish PM Mtg. .............35 FRANCE Report of "Deal" with Iran .............................35
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JULY 13, 1995, 1:05 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
Q You've had Harry Wu's wife and Newt Gingrich talking about the desirability, perhaps, of moving the Women's Conference in Beijing to another site because of the various drawbacks of that location. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MR. BURNS: I do. Let me just give you a little bit of the history on this. The sites of U.N. conferences are decided on a regional basis. When the United Nations had to decide where to hold the U.N. Conference on Women, it was clear that it would be in Asia. The only Asian country to step forward to volunteer to host this conference was China. This decision was made several years ago, before the Clinton Administration took office, and the Bush Administration decided to join an international consensus in the U.N. to have China host this conference. That's point number one.
Point number two is that we are only two months away from this conference. It does not seem to us to be practical to think that this conference can now be moved.
Point number three is the United States intends to attend this conference. It's an important conference about the future of women around the world, and we will attend. We will send a delegation.
Q What is your position on the American delegates carrying bibles to the conference?
MR. BURNS: We believe it is very important that all of the American participants should feel free to express themselves freely and to express themselves certainly religiously, if they wish to bring bibles, if they wish to bring Korans, if any delegate wishes to bring any religious book.
China has undertaken an obligation to the United Nations and to all the participants in the conference, in holding this conference, to respect the human rights of the participants and to allow them freedom of expression. It would be illogical and unreasonable to assert that Americans could not bring bibles to an international conference.
So we will be reminding China and the United Nations of the importance of all participants having the right to express themselves freely, including in religious terms.
Q I saw a wire story that said, however, that the State Department is warning women who were going that carrying a bible or trying to engage in religious activities could lead to their arrest and that there would be little that the State Department could do to help them out of this fix.
MR. BURNS: It is certainly true that when one travels to a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. If you violate the laws of that country, then you might face the legal system in that country.
In this particular context, however, this is an international conference. China does have very specific obligations to the international community in holding it. I can assure you that from the Secretary of State on down in this Department, we believe it is very important that Americans, in this case -- American citizens have the right to express themselves freely, and they specifically should have the right to bring bibles to an international conference.
The briefing that was held the other day for prospective American delegates concentrated on describing the conditions in which the delegates would find themselves in China. Certainly, the Department of State did not wish to convey, and is not conveying today, any kind of warning that people should not bring bibles to this conference. We think it's very important that people should feel free to express themselves as Americans, and not to feel that they're going to be punished for it by the Chinese Government. As I said, we will be making this point very clear to the Chinese Government.
We are confident that China will live up to these obligations that are so clear, as a host for this conference.
Q Has the Department made any recommendation, or is it considering making a recommendation as to whether the First Lady should attend? It's fairly widely known that she would very much like to.
MR. BURNS: That's a decision that the First Lady will have to make. The White House can speak to that. I simply can't speak to it, Steve.
Q Nick, what can you say about the Secretary's breakfast with former Secretary Kissinger?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary had breakfast with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger this morning here in the Department. They had a one-hour meeting. Assistant Secretary of State Win Lord and the Director of the Policy Planning staff, Jim Steinberg, also attended.
I understand that former Secretary Kissinger briefed the Secretary on his perception of events in China. He briefed him on the discussions that he had with the Chinese leadership. I know he met with Premier Li Peng and also with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen. They discussed some of the specific issues on the U.S.-China agenda -- in fact, all the major issues, I think, on that agenda, including some of the issues that have been so much in the news, such as the Harry Wu case, recently. They had a very good discussion.
They also touched on the Bosnia problem and all the issues surrounding the Bosnia problem.
After that, I believe that former Secretary Kissinger went up to Capitol Hill for some testimony. There will be some further meetings over at the White House this afternoon.
Q Did Kissinger make any observations as to the way the United States has been handling this issue -- not just Wu, but the overall deterioration in relations? Did he suggest that some of the Congressional calls for tougher action were warranted?
MR. BURNS: I believe that he certainly gave his assessment of U.S.-China relations, and I believe they did get into what the United States can and should do to make an effort to strengthen our relations with China and what China has to do to make that effort. But I certainly wouldn't want to characterize Dr. Kissinger's views. I think it's up to him to do that.
Q How about any explanation that he might have been able to help you with in terms of exactly what's going on in China? Is this mostly internal politics?
MR. BURNS: I think the Secretary found this to be a very helpful and useful breakfast. He had lunch with Dr. Kissinger before Dr. Kissinger left on the trip. They had decided ahead of time that they wanted to get together after the trip. It's particularly useful because we are in a challenging time in our relations with China. So the Secretary was very pleased by the breakfast and found Dr. Kissinger's views and advice to be quite helpful.
Q But no details?
MR. BURNS: No details.
Q Nick, will there be a future consultation between the Secretary and former Secretary Kissinger?
MR. BURNS: Will there be future consultations?
MR. BURNS: I know that they are often in touch about global issues, not just China. As I said, they discussed the situation in Bosnia as well. Secretary Christopher has a lot of respect for Dr. Kissinger.
Q Two questions. Have you heard yet from the Chinese whether there will be a meeting with the Foreign Minister during the ASEAN conference; question one. And -- I forgot the second question.
Do you find it likely that the President of the United States will accept the invitation of the Chinese to stand up and say again what U.S. policy is toward China and also promise not to issue visas to Taiwanese officials?
MR. BURNS: First question first; second question second?
Q As you like.
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has said, and I believe I mentioned yesterday, that he would very much like to have a meeting in Brunei with Foreign Minister Qian of China. We have discussed with the Chinese, and are discussing, the prospects for such a meeting. We haven't arrived at a mutually agreed time and date, and I don't believe we have a commitment yet from the Chinese to hold this meeting.
We think it's very important to have this meeting because, as we've said many times in the past, it's important to have high-level diplomatic contact to resolve either misunderstandings or differences of opinion on major issues. We certainly would like to use this meeting to that effect.
Secondly, Steve, on the broader question of United States policy towards China, let me just note again that it's the very firm and clear policy of the United States to acknowledge the long-standing position we've taken toward the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China. We have a one-China policy. It's based on the "Three Communiques" from the 1970s.
The President has emphasized that particular point in the meeting he had with the Chinese Ambassador in early June, I believe it was on June 8. The Secretary of State has emphasized that on a number of occasions, and a number of others who speak for the Administration publicly have also reviewed that.
We have a very strong and continued interest in a good relationship with China, and we have a one-China policy.
But I would also say that the United States and China share a mutual interest in having a strong relationship. It is not something for which the United States has a sole or unitary obligation. Therefore, it is very important for the Chinese Government to also demonstrate an interest in this type of relationship.
Senior officials of this Administration have taken many opportunities in the past couple of weeks to reaffirm this policy to the Chinese leadership. As I said, we've made frequent public reaffirmations of the policy as well.
Q What about the visa issue?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q The visa issue?
MR. BURNS: The visa issue, for --
Q Their demand that the United States not, in the future, issue visas to Taiwanese officials?
MR. BURNS: We said, I believe, in announcing the decision to grant the visa to President Lee for his unofficial visit to the United States, that we did so because it was a unique circumstance, a unique event; and we also said at the time that any future visa requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis by the United States Government.
Q Dr. Kissinger said a few minutes ago on the Hill that he had made a strong representation to Prime Minister Li Peng on the subject of Harry Wu. Without going into the specifics of what exactly he said about his meetings with the Chinese officials, which I gather you don't want to do, can you tell us whether as a result of the discussion over breakfast with Dr. Kissinger the Secretary has now got a different view, either a more optimistic or more pessimistic view about the prospects for a solution of this problem?
MR. BURNS: I can't say that his view has changed either negatively or positively on the case of Harry Wu. We are continuing to assert our right to see him, to have consular access to him. As I said the other day, we hope that will be frequent consular access, and we will press the Chinese Government for frequent consular access to him.
Our Consul General met today with a senior official of the Consular Branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and made that point.
Our Charge d'Affaires in Beijing had another meeting today with the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs in which he also reaffirmed our request for the immediate release of Mr. Wu and for the immediate access of American Government officials to him.
Q What was the response?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that we received a response that would indicate that his release is imminent. We did not receive a response to that effect, and we were told that our request for more frequent Consular access was under consideration. We certainly hope that will be the case and that we'll be given frequent Consular access.
Q Nick, your counterpart in Beijing said this morning the United States should have patience in dealing with the Harry Wu case. Do you make anything of that?
MR. BURNS: We have a right under the Consular Convention to be able to see him and to visit him, and that's important in any prisoner's case, particularly important in the case of Harry Wu because of his age and because of his health and, frankly, because of his prominence and the concern we have over his treatment. We want the treatment to be good. We want him to be accorded full rights. We want him to have an opportunity to have an attorney of his own choosing.
We have shown a great deal of patience since June 19, the day on which he was taken into custody. We demonstrated a great deal of flexibility and patience throughout the time when we were denied Consular access to him. I think the time has come for Harry Wu's immediate release; and so rather than say that we're content to be patient, I would say that we are anxious to have him released freely so he can come back to the United States to his family and continue on with his life.
Q China, when it was talking about its demands for the President to restate the one-China policy and stop issuing the visas, said something about no more high-level meetings. Is this related to the lack of commitment for a meeting with Secretary of State Christopher in Brunei?
MR. BURNS: I simply don't know. It's hard always to interpret some of the statements that you hear from any country. In this case we've made very clear our interest in high-level meetings. We think they're important. They must occur if the relationship is to move forward, and clearly this relationship should move forward.
Q Nick, notwithstanding your call for immediate release and your call for more frequent access, aren't you in fact -- doesn't the United States have its hands tied by the Consular Convention of one visit for every 30 days? Now that they've given it, if they don't wish to do any more than that, they are within their rights?
MR. BURNS: They are certainly within the limits of the Consular Convention to permit a minimum of one visit per month. We just don't think that is reasonable. We would ask the Chinese Government and have asked them to demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility and of reason in this matter. We think that would be the most humane treatment of Harry Wu, for whom we have a great deal of concern.
Q I have a Bosnia question.
MR. BURNS: Let's finish China, and then I'll be glad to go to Bosnia.
Q Since all the speculation about the visa and what President Clinton should do is based on an unsourced story, perhaps you could tell us whether the Chinese have given the United States that same message, that they would like President Clinton to make some statement about the one-China policy and also to promise not to issue another visa to --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that has been expressed to us at a high level of the Chinese Government, but I think we've heard that from a number of Chinese officials since the troubles over the visa to President Lee began. A number of Chinese officials have expressed to us the need for a clearer statement of American policy.
We have replied to them on every occasion -- and are glad to reply again today -- that we have enunciated time and again an extremely clear and open policy towards China, that no one can mistake the American policy towards China, that it has not changed. It has received bipartisan support in the past from a number of Administrations, all of them since the early 1970s, and we think that should continue.
We have no interest in changing our policy towards China and have not changed it.
Q Since there have not been any high-level meetings with the Chinese since this issue came up, would it be fair to say that at every meeting -- every low-level meeting -- they've expressed this in every low-level meeting you've had with them?
MR. BURNS: No, I can't say that, because there are lots and lots of meetings that do take place in Beijing, in Washington and around the world; and I just simply can't confirm that this issue comes up at every meeting, but it has come up frequently.
Q Nick, a German company just won a billion dollar minivan contract in China, beating out two U.S. firms. Do you think Mercedes won that fair and square, that it was just business, or do you see any linkage to the political situation?
MR. BURNS: I would just note that the Chinese Government spokesman replied to this same question yesterday, and he said that the decision by the Chinese Government to undertake this project with Mercedes-Benz was based purely on commercial considerations. We would certainly expect that to be the fact. We would not expect that overt political considerations would influence a deal of this size.
We follow the decision-making process on these major industrial and commercial projects quite closely. They're important to us because China's an important export market, an investment market for American firms, and we continue to believe that it will be possible for American firms to do well in China, and we continue to encourage American firms to invest in China.
Q Also on Germany, has the Department got any word from its German counterparts on the meetings that German officials have been having with Jiang Zemin and his group visiting German now, and does it know whether the subject of either Harry Wu or U.S.-China relations in general was brought up by either side in those meetings?
MR. BURNS: As you'd expect, given the very close alliance relationship between the United States and Germany, we had a number of good discussions with the German leadership before the visit of Jiang Zemin, and the German Government was certainly aware of our interest in the Harry Wu case and other prominent issues in the U.S.-China agenda.
I don't believe -- at least I'm not aware -- that we've received any high-level briefings on the meetings that took place over the last couple of days in Germany.
Q We're in danger of beating a dead horse --
MR. BURNS: We do that every day. That's okay.
Q China said they would only return their Ambassador to the U.S. if the President personally denounced independent Taiwan and they promised not to repeat the visa. Will you acquiesce on those two demands?
MR. BURNS: Can you repeat the two demands again? I'm not sure I've heard them in that order before.
Q That President Clinton personally denounce an independent Taiwan and that they promise not to repeat granting President Lee a visa in the future. Those are contingent on their returning their Ambassador to Washington.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that we've ever heard such demands officially from the Chinese Government put in that light. We've seen a number of newspaper reports that touch on that particular issue. I have just expressed to you a little bit earlier our very clear policy on the issue of visas for officials from Taiwan, and that is that they will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Q Will the President -- has he indicated that he will stand up and say so himself?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe the President has indicated any such thing. We've just seen a newspaper report here in the United States just in the last couple of hours. I think the President at various times in the past has spoken very clearly about China policy, and I have spoken very clearly about our policy on visas for officials from Taiwan.
There's no possibility, I think, of expanding on that because it is what it is. It's fairly clear.
Q You said a moment ago that you didn't think there had been any sort of change in the Administration's policy towards China. You don't think that issuing a visa to the President of Taiwan constituted any sort of change in the policy?
MR. BURNS: We think it was entirely appropriate for us following the foundation of the Three Communiques for that visa to be issued, and we stand by that decision.
When I speak about China policy and there having been no change, there's been no change in the concrete foundation of U.S.-China relations based on the Three Communiques that there is but one China, and that Taiwan is part of China. That is the policy of the United States. That has been the policy of the United States for five Administrations and will continue to be the policy of this Administration. We have no interest in changing that policy, nor will we in the future.
Q If I could ask you to elaborate on that just a little bit more. You speak of President Lee's college reunion as being a unique circumstance, a unique event, and then you say that future visa requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Your second statement suggests a repeat that future visas could be granted, and your first suggests that this was a one-time only event. Can you try to bridge those two for me, please?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure they need bridging. I think the two of them are quite compatible. The fact is that we issued a visa to the President of Taiwan. That was an appropriate decision for the United States to make, and we stand by that decision.
In announcing that decision some time ago, we also said quite specifically that future requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis. That has been made clear to officials on Taiwan. It is certainly clear to the Government of China. It's clear to all of us who work on these issues.
Q Isn't it a precedent?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me.
Q Isn't it a precedent and an important precedent?
MR. BURNS: Isn't what? What is the antecedent?
Q The granting of the visa to the President of Taiwan.
MR. BURNS: No. We never said that it was a precedent. We don't believe it's a precedent. We've never communicated to anyone in any way, shape or form that it is a precedent. We said simply, " we're issuing a visa". This was a unique case. We will consider future such requests, if they are made, on a case-by-case basis. That's all we've ever said on an authoritative basis.
Certainly from this room, and I think certainly from the White House, on this issue we've been very clear about the terms of the issuance of that visa and about any future requests. We've never said anything different.
Q If I could quickly follow up, an official was quoted blindly in the Times this morning as saying that it was unlikely that another such visa would be issued any time soon. Are you prepared to put those comments on the record?
MR. BURNS: What I've said today is American policy. What I said just -- I think I repeated now twice, and I'm going to let my remarks stand there.
Q Nick, before the visa was issued to President Lee, the Administration was basically saying that we can't do this -- until shortly before it was issued, there's no way we can do this because the Chinese would regard that the whole basis of the relationship between Washington and Beijing would be undermined. So all the Chinese have really done is live up to the expectations which you built up before changing your mind.
MR. BURNS: I didn't say that. Secretary Christopher didn't say that. I don't believe anybody on the record ever said that, and that wasn't the assumption that we brought to the question.
Q Is it not the argument that was made, though, against the pressure from Congress until the decision was made to give the visa?
MR. BURNS: We believe that it was an appropriate thing to do, and certainly within a reasonable limit of our policy towards China to issue the visa. We do not regret that. We think it was the right thing to do.
But I want to repeat, we said at the time that there was no precedential value here, and we continue to believe that's the case. It's very difficult for me to respond to unnamed officials who were recorded several months ago. I don't know who the people are, but I can tell you that we believe in issuing the visa, that it should not confuse anybody about what American policy towards China was or is. We continue to tell the Chinese Government that -- that the visa was an issue that was dealt with by the United States Government, but it has no effect on the basic foundations of our policies towards China or our understanding of the sole legal basis of the Chinese Government as representatives of the Chinese people.*
___________________ *The U.S. recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.
MR. BURNS: Bosnia. I knew we'd get to it sooner or later.
Q The President said today that we need to restore the integrity of the U.N. mission, that events now are certainly a challenge to this mission, and that it must either be resolved or there will have to be changes there. Can you explain what he meant?
MR. BURNS: First of all, let me say I agree with everything the President said.
Q What did he say?
MR. BURNS: I think what the President said was very clear and certainly pertinent considering the situation. With your agreement, can I just maybe back up -- I'll get to the question -- and just tell you what we know today about the situation on the ground, because that will maybe help as we go through these issues.
The United States believes that continued attacks by the Bosnian Serb forces against the U.N. safehavens and the continued detention of United Nations personnel, the continued detention and abuse of the refugees -- the tens of thousands of innocent civilians -- are a flagrant and brutal affront to the United Nations peace efforts.
We strongly support the United Nations' mandate and, as the President indicated this morning, the reinforcement of U.N. capabilities in Bosnia. The United States is discussing available options with all of our allies and with the United Nations, but it is the United Nations that will make the final decision on what future steps will be taken to uphold U.N. Security Council resolutions.
We are extremely concerned about the fate, the situation and the treatment of the up to 40,000 refugees from Srebrenica, and we call upon the Bosnian Serbs to allow full access by the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees to all refugees in the enclave. We hold the Bosnian Serb leadership responsible for the safety and the good treatment of all of the refugees, and we expect that they will support the evacuation only of those refugees who wish to leave the enclave.
Let me just stress the following point. UNPROFOR's humanitarian mission is really its central mission. It has always been its central mission for the last several years, and it is even more critically important now given the tragic events of the last couple of days.
The refugees need food and they need shelter. They need housing, and they need protection from the Bosnian Serbs. It is our view that the central argument that UNPROFOR should stay in the field is based in a very large part on this critical humanitarian mission of UNPROFOR.
If UNPROFOR is not in the field and if future tragedies occur like the one in Srebrenica, which they surely will, then who will take care of these refugees? How will the international community express its support in a meaningful way about these refugees? That is the point that we wanted to accentuate.
The Contact Group met in London yesterday. The United States was represented by Assistant Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke.
The discussion in London centered on the crisis in Srebrenica, on the efforts of Carl Bildt, the EU negotiator, to try to achieve some progress on the diplomatic front in his conversations with the Serbian leadership and with the Bosnian Government leadership. We understand that Mr. Bildt will be active in the next couple of days on all of these issues.
I would just summarize the Contact Group meeting by saying that three things were agreed upon. All countries -- and this includes, of course, the Russian Government -- agreed that the situation is a disaster for the people of the region and for the United Nations.
Second, that it is imperative now that Mr. Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister, should return to his diplomatic activities in working with both the Serbian Government in Belgrade and the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo.
Third, there is a critical importance of preventing the spread of this war to Croatia, to Kosovo, to Macedonia. All the Contact Group countries believe it is important to work together to contain the present conflict.
I would also just say that we continue to discuss with our allies who have troops on the ground the very important question of what they intend to do on the very serious question of the eastern enclaves and the fate of the eastern enclaves. We continue to discuss that situation with the United Nations.
A few more facts, as we understand them this morning. The Dutch Defense Ministry has reported to us in The Hague that there are now 48 Dutch U.N. peacekeepers currently being held by the Bosnian Serbs; 38 are being detained in Bratunac and the remaining 10 have been taken to a police station in a town south of Srebrencia.
All reports from the Dutch indicate that these men are being well treated and are safe. We call upon the Bosnian Serbs to release them immediately.
The remaining 400 Dutch peacekeepers are in Potocari monitoring the evacuation of the refugees as best as they can in an extremely chaotic situation. They are attempting to distribute what little supplies they have left -- in fact, among their own supplies -- to the refugees.
I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of the Secretary and others here in the State Department to say that we admire very much the bravery of the Dutch U.N. battalion in Srebrenica. We commend the efforts of the Dutch today and yesterday to protect the many innocent civilians caught up in this tragedy.
The Dutch, under a very difficult situation -- under very difficult terms -- are trying to do the best they can to protect the refugees and to monitor the behavior of the Bosnian Serb forces towards the refugees.
We believe that what has happened over the last 24-48 hours is one of the largest single population transfers since the war began. The Bosnian Serbs are now saying that they will move all 40,000 refugees in Srebrenica to government-held territory. To our knowledge, they have so far taken 6,000 refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, from the U.N. camp at Potocari and brought them to Bosnian Government-held territory.
We also understand that an additional 2,300 refugees are now at the U.N. air base in Tuzla and that 3,500 refugees are waiting in the border town of Kladanj.
There are more than 30,000 refugees who remain in Potocari. They have almost no food or water. There are no shelters and no toilets.
The Bosnian Serb army has blocked a U.N. aid convoy at the border this morning. I understand just before I came into here that one convoy -- I don't know if it was the specific one that was blocked this morning -- was able to get through with some food and other shelter relief.
The United States is working with the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, with the International Committee of the Red Cross, to do everything that we can to make sure that there is adequate food, water, medical supplies, housing supplies -- to be able to take care of these people once they do, as we hope, all reach safe government-held territory.
We are particularly troubled by reports that the Bosnian Serb army has taken male refugees, including some young boys, to Bratunac as possible war criminals, as they've been described by the Bosnian Serb military forces.
It is absolutely essential that international authorities have access to these prisoners of war in accordance with the laws of war that are followed by civilized nations. We call upon the Bosnian Serbs to permit international monitoring of the detention of these individuals as long as it persists.
I would just say, finally, concerning Zepa, that there has been renewed fighting there early this morning. We understand there was a Bosnian Serb tank attack on a small town south of the enclave, but we don't have any further information at this point about Zepa.
I would also say, as a final word in our description of the situation as it stands this morning, that the United States is working very hard with the UNHCR, the World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross to respond to an extremely grave humanitarian crisis in Bosnia today.
We have allocated $130 million for Fiscal Year '95 -- for this year -- to the effort of humanitarian relief in Bosnia. We will expedite any assistance that we can. We will meet any request to us from these non- governmental organizations because we do have a responsibility -- all of us in the international community -- to see what we can do to help defend and protect the refugees.
Q Two questions. First, could you bring us up to speed on what the current state of communications is between Milosevic and the Administration; and whether or not the Administration thinks Milosevic has any responsibility, culpability, control -- whatever you want to call it -- over what's going on now in Srebrenica?
And the second is, did any new thinking emerge from the Secretary's breakfast with Dr. Kissinger this morning in terms of alternatives?
MR. BURNS: On the second question, Karen, there was a brief but good discussion on the situation in Bosnia. Obviously, the Secretary has spent a lot of time over the last couple of days meeting with his senior advisors on this issue. On that particular issue, the Secretary was in a position to brief Dr. Kissinger on what we're doing, what we're thinking, what we're hearing from the United Nations and the allies.
I'm sorry, your first question again?
Q Milosevic. What is the state of communication, and is he believed to have any control over the current situation?
MR. BURNS: We communicate with Mr. Milosevic through our Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade. Ambassador Bob Frasure has not been out to see him in several weeks.
Mr. Bildt, the EU negotiator, is taking the lead on the Contact Group negotiations with Mr. Milosevic. I'm not aware that there is anything that directly ties Mr. Milosevic to the events of the past couple of days.
It's our assumption in watching these tragic events unfold that the Bosnian Serb leadership -- particularly now the military leadership -- is directly responsible for what is happening and were perhaps the conceptualizers of this most recent atrocity.
Q Is there any point in continuing to negotiate with Milosevic under the current circumstances?
MR. BURNS: I think there's very much a point in continuing the negotiations because the issue of Belgrade's willingness to adhere to a very tightly controlled sanctions regime on the Bosnian Serbs is, of course, a point of pressure, we think, on the Bosnian Serbs. It's clearly had an effect on the economy of the Bosnian Serb-held areas over the last year or so.
We've been most dissatisfied, as you know, with the application of those sanctions, with the monitoring of those sanctions -- the application of those sanctions on the Bosnian Serbs. There have been a number of leakages -- some very important leakages.
We said last week, in voting at the United Nations, to turn over the sanctions, to roll over the sanctions; that we were, in essence, warning the Serbian Government that the standard of performance had to improve for us to be favorable in the future.
Q Nick, to follow up on Mr. Bildt's renewed diplomatic efforts coming out of the Contact Group meeting, why isn't he going back to Pale? Since you've just said that the Bosnian Serb military leadership seems to be behind the latest thing. Why isn't he going to Pale to talk to them?
MR. BURNS: I wasn't at the Contact Group meeting, but I understand from Dick Holbrooke, with whom I did talk last evening, that the consensus in the Contact Group was that it made sense now to continue the effort to try to bring Serbian Government pressure to bear on the Bosnian Serbs, although we know that there are some interlocking relationships that still exists between Belgrade and Pale and that the sanctions regime has been leaky, has been extremely leaky.
The Contact Group political directors felt it was important to continue that effort.
I believe the consensus in the room was that it would simply be inappropriate at the present time to have Mr. Bildt go to Pale.
Q Inappropriate on what basis?
MR. BURNS: Inappropriate considering the outrageous behavior of the Bosnian Serbs over the last couple of days.
Q And you think their not going won't lead to more inappropriate behavior?
MR. BURNS: We don't believe that going there would decrease their inclination towards outrageous and brutal behavior towards innocent civilians.
Q Nick, there was a report in the Independent today saying that there were certain foreign ministries who realized already before Srebrenica fell that the eastern enclaves were indefensible and that they were gearing themselves to prepare a new operation around Sarajevo, sacrificing the eastern haven. Has that been any part of the discussion in this Department? And, if not, what concrete measures would you be prepared to take to re-establish all the safehavens in the eastern part of Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I'm not prepared to describe -- and I really can't describe -- all the conversations that take place in this building. But I can tell you that the President has spoken this morning about the importance of maintaining U.N. protection for the eastern enclaves. That's very directly what the President said to the press earlier today.
Secretary Christopher firmly believes that, and Dick Holbrooke at the Contact Group meeting last night asserted that as a fundamental point.
What we are hearing from our allies is that while, certainly, these enclaves are difficult to defend militarily by U.N. peacekeepers, whose primary purpose is humanitarian, we and the international community do not want to forsake these enclaves.
We have taken the position that our allies that have troops on the ground, and the United Nations, that has the responsibility for operations in Bosnia, must now decide what they intend to do regarding Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica. We have said very clearly that the United States is prepared to support them in whatever action they intend to take -- and that they agree on taking -- towards these enclaves. That was part of the discussion last night.
I don't believe that discussion has finished or that the -- I don't believe it's fair to say that the allies have fully decided what their course of action will be, but once they do decide, you will see that the United States gives very firm support to them.
You've asked one of the more pertinent questions that is challenging everybody in the West today. Let me just take the opportunity to reassert another very important point, and that is, the United States has NATO allies in the field, some of whom now -- many hundreds of whom -- are in danger. It would not be in the best traditions of this country if we left them exposed, if we left them alone, and if we fail to give them the support that they deserve.
Everyone feels frustrated by the situation and angered by it. There is a certain sense that the international community has failed in a very concrete way in Srebrenica.
But having failed in Srebrencia, we must now redouble our efforts to make sure that we don't forsake our allies; that the international community meets its obligations. The United States must be, and must have firmly in the forefront of our thinking, allegiance to our allies - - faith with them, and to stand with them -- and that is what is paramount in the minds of people here in Washington and that is what is guiding American policy.
Q What is the process by which these decisions will be taken. It seems to me that what is happened is that you have -- the U.S. has been willing to take further action to secure these safehavens. The French have offered military action to recapture Srebrenica. And, as is classical, the British have been dragging their feet.
It seems to me that all along the line there's been this least common denominator that the one party that wants to pull back has determined the situation.
Why can't it be the case that the United States can get together with President Chirac and say, yes, you've got a good idea; we don't want to get involved on the ground, but if you want to commit your troops to do something, we will give you the logistical support. Then present this to the British to bring them on board, so that rather than the British tail lagging the UNPROFOR dog, or the NATO dog, the NATO dog could get the British tail to wag once in a while. Why can't that happen?
MR. BURNS: First of all, let me just take exception to your description of one of our major allies.
The U.K. has made a number of sacrifices -- the United Kingdom -- in putting many thousands of people on the ground and in taking the decision just in the last 30 days to increase their forces and to be one of the major troop-contributors to the Rapid Reaction Force. It is very easy for people on the other side of the ocean to throw stones at a country that finds itself in a very difficult situation, and we fully support the U.K. Government and Prime Minister Major in taking the decision to contribute to the Rapid Reaction Force.
The competent authorities on the ground, as you well know, are the United Nations and the troop-contributing countries. What has to happen now is that the United Nations' leadership -- in both New York and in Zagreb, and those on the ground in Sarajevo and elsewhere -- must make a decision as to what they believe they can do militarily. That decision will be informed by the major troop-contributing countries and by others who play a prominent role such as the United States.
The Contact Group meeting last night was one of the venues for that discussion. The United Nations' session in New York yesterday was another. There are a number of conversations taking place between military officials in all the countries that I mentioned. We hope very shortly that there will be agreement on a way forward.
We do not want to put ourselves in a position of giving very easy public advice to countries that are facing very difficult situations. They're the ones with troops on the ground. They are our NATO allies. Once they do make a final decision, we will support them.
Q Nick, in these discussions, what assistance have the Europeans asked for, and what is the United States prepared to provide?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that the European countries have asked for specific assistance in the last 48 hours. In the last month, they have asked for specific lift capability assistance. The United States Air Force is now lifting many thousands of soldiers from Britain and France into the theater -- into Croatia -- for deployment in Bosnia as part of the Rapid Reaction Force.
They have requested intelligence, logistics and communication support, and we are giving it. They have asked for financial support to fund all of these activities and others. As you know, the President has made a very firm decision to extend that financial assistance on a six- month basis, and we'll begin thinking about the next six-month stage very shortly.
So that's a clear policy decision that's been taken by the Clinton Administration to support Britain, France, and The Netherlands -- the major troop-contributors to the Rapid Reaction Force.
Q Next question, if I could follow up. The United States has been unable, given the constraints imposed by the Congressional leaders, to make its full U.N., 30 percent share, financial contribution. How is it possible for you to say that you will support whatever decision the Europeans make given those constraints imposed by Congress?
MR. BURNS: It's not only possible; it's absolutely defensible. The fact is that the Congress decided that it would not support the normal funding mechanism whereby the United States pays roughly just over 30 percent of the cost of a U.N.-assessed operation.
Given that political reality in the United States, the President decided that we could not leave our allies unprotected and unsupported. Therefore, he and others found a way to drawn down Defense funds to fund and finance this operation. That's a decision that he has every right to make as President. It's not being contested as far as I know -- that particular part of the decision -- by the Congress. That money is going forward. We're already spending the money. We're already lifting the troops. We're providing additional equipment that they think they must have to strengthen the Rapid Reaction Force and therefore UNPROFOR.
It's a decision that's in the best interests of this country. It's a decision that speaks to our need and, frankly, our obligation to defend our allies.
Q I'm not sure you answered my question that started all of this. Could you explain, please, the President's remarks? He said that the U.N. mission -- that its days are numbered unless it can solve this problem that it has of credibility; and that this must be resolved or there will have to be some changes there. Was he referring to the Rapid Reaction Force, to a pullout?
MR. BURNS: It's hard for me to improve on the President's remarks.
I would say generally -- apart from what the President said this morning, since I cannot improve on them -- that it's our very firm view that UNPROFOR has got to be strengthened. UNPROFOR, as it currently is structured and exists, is simply -- unfortunately, despite the best efforts of a lot of people in UNPROFOR -- not capable of meeting its mandates. Therefore, we have supported the Rapid Reaction Force as an attempt to strengthen UNPROFOR. We believe it deserves a chance.
I don't believe there is anybody who can guarantee that the Rapid Reaction Force will be successful, but it is worth a try. It's worth a try because we don't believe in a catastrophe such as the one that the international community and the refugees find themselves in.
It makes (no) sense simply to leave people who are in need. We believe that the way a responsible country should meet the challenge of a catastrophe -- albeit one that has gone very, very poorly for the United Nations, for the United States and everybody else concerned -- is to stand up and try again.
It is easy to say UNPROFOR has failed; therefore, let's withdraw U.S. support -- American support -- for UNPROFOR. Let's just leave, and let's wash our hands of the situation. It's very easy to say that. That doesn't speak to the reality of 40,000 refugees and the certainty that tens of thousands of more will be created by leaving. It doesn't speak to the fact that our NATO allies, who have been with us for the last 50 years, countless times have told us they want us to continue our support; and that if we do lift the arms embargo unilaterally, they will leave. It doesn't speak to the obligation that a great power like the United States has, in essence, to stay in a very difficult situation. That is what is animating the U.S. leadership and our policy this week.
Q Nick, do you have any confirmation of reports that I heard last night that there were, by the Bosnian Serbs, they took aside several Bosnian Muslim women to unknown places, and there's a great fear that the earlier massacres and brutality of the war -- of ethnic cleansing and massive barbarity of raping Muslim women -- was happening before and could happen again? Do you have any confirmation on this, or do you have consensus about these things, these reports?
MR. BURNS: We and the Dutch and the United Nations are looking very seriously and closely into that charge which we heard as well last evening and this morning. That is something that is one of the most brutal atrocities of the Bosnian Serbs that occurred several years ago - - this type of incident. If it occurs again, the Bosnian Serbs must and will answer to international public opinion and to the international community.
There is a War Crimes Tribunal that is in operation that is investigating the war crimes that took place a couple of years ago. That tribunal will certainly have a keen interest in the behavior and the control of the Bosnian Serb forces in this situation. We take these reports very seriously. We cannot confirm them, but we're very concerned about them, as we should be, given the past behavior of the Bosnian Serb military forces, which has been brutal and atrocious.
Q Nick, how does the U.S. look into that if it's not on the ground?
MR. BURNS: The United States looks into it through our contacts with the United Nations and through our conversations with our allies; and because of the fact that we do have a number of American citizens in non-governmental organizations who have been very helpful in the past in assessing these war crimes and through American citizens who work for the United Nations.
We are the central funder of the United Nations' operation. So therefore we certainly have an avenue to look into these charges. The U.N. is the best place to do it.
Q Before -- way back -- you spoke of there's a sense that the international community has failed; it's sort of a passive construction.
Is it the State Department -- grammatically -- is it the State Department's position that the international community has failed?
MR. BURNS: I said that I don't think anybody can look at what happened in Srebrenica over the last couple of days and call it anything else. It doesn't mean that UNPROFOR is a failure. It doesn't mean that we have to accept failure as a permanent condition; and it certainly doesn't mean that having noted the fact -- observed the fact that 40,000 people were driven out of their homes into the countryside, that we should just leave and wash our hands of it, which some people are advocating.
So by saying what I did, I meant to just call a spade a spade about what happened in the last 48 hours.
Q This can obviously go on and on because it's very complex. The closer the State Department moves to the position -- you've used words like "atrocity, a sense of failure." The closer you get to that, the more you erode -- the State Department, not you -- the more you erode the position that to do the kind of thing Senator Dole is asking could only make things worse. Because, as you accept the notion that things are outrageously, atrociously, impossibly horrible there, then the next question has to be, why not accept another option? Why not accept Dole's option, for instance, or Lugar's option, if what's going on now is such -- please don't go back to the Rapid Deployment Force. I realize you feel that may change things.
But apart from that, the State Department has raised no other possibility of somehow resolving your word "atrocity." Why is Dole so wrong then?
MR. BURNS: I don't accept your logic.
MR. BURNS: And maybe you're being a devil's advocate --
Q No, I'm not. I'm just wondering --
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q -- because you're beginning to -- the State Department is gradually accepting the notion that things are atrocious there. I don't know, what's worse than atrocious?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't know if these are your personal views or whether you're just playing devil's advocate.
Q No, it's not my personal view.
MR. BURNS: Let me respond to the charge. I think the logic in your question is badly flawed. Our belief is that if you accept unilateral lift and if you practice and implement unilateral lift, you will compound the humanitarian disasters; you'll exacerbate an atrocious and brutal situation for people on the ground, and you will take away the ability of the international community to help them.
It seems to us that the Bosnian Serbs are bent on a military solution to this conflict. So it is logical to think that there are going to further attacks on enclaves; there are going to be further battles. And as refugees are undoubtedly created from those battles, who will be there to take care of them and look after their needs if you just take the international community out of the equation; if you just let the two warring parties fight it out? That might be a nice, emotional, gratifying way to react to a very terrible situation. It allows you, as an American, or anyone else proposing this, just to stand back and say, "It's not my problem anymore." But it does not speak well to the actions of a country like the United States, and we're not going to take that -- we're not going to follow that direction.
Q It seems to have the -- it's not a zany, eccentric idea. It seems to have the support of a majority of the Senate, for instance?
MR. BURNS: It doesn't have the support of the Clinton Administration. It doesn't have the support of any of our allies. It doesn't have the support of the United Nations. We're going to follow the course that we have set for ourselves.
Q Nick, in answering Barry's question, is it an improper interpretation to say that really now the broad view by the United States in this whole situation is that the Bosnian Serbs have the upper hand and they are gradually going to create more and more of these situations that you see around Srebrenica right now, and there's nothing to stop them from doing that; so all the United States and international community can do is try to alleviate the pain of that situation?
MR. BURNS: I think there are two factors at work. One is that the United Nations and the troop-contributing countries have got to make a fundamental decision -- whether they will use military force or military strategy to try to either regain what has been lost or to protect what may be lost. That is a very important question, one that has not yet been fully answered and, as I said before, the United States will support decisions -- any decisions taken by the troop-contributing countries once they are taken.
So that's one part of the equation. There's clearly a military factor here at work for which the United Nations and the international community has responsibility. The second part is the central mission of the United Nations -- peacekeeping operations -- and that is to monitor what is going on, and it's also to provide humanitarian relief. No matter what happens on the first part, no matter if the international community decides to aggressively try to take back what has been lost or whether or not that decision is made to pull back and to accept the military course of events, the humanitarian mission will remain. It remains essentially important to the people who are losing their homes.
Q Is it correct from what you've said on the first point, the United States takes no position. The U.S. position is that the Europeans are the ones involved. They're the ones with the peacekeepers. It's their decision. We will support their decision. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: Almost but not quite. Almost but not quite in this sense. We certainly have views, and we are certainly expressing those views. We're going to express them privately, because we don't think it is right for us to be giving free advice thousands of miles away from the battlefield when our troops aren't there and when the Europeans do have men and women who face the threat.
So I wanted to distinguish that, Barry. But the rest of it, yes. I mean, the rest of it is that they have to make the decision as to what they're going to do along with the United Nations, and once they do make that decision, you will see that the United States is quite supportive of them.
Q Is the State Department -- on the funding -- you said it started already, so is the amount what the French and the British were expecting, or is the amount -- what the sum -- what told like two or three weeks ago, like $50 million instead of the $400 million expected?
MR. BURNS: We informed the British and the French and the Dutch a couple of weeks ago that in this initial six-month period we'd be able to supply roughly up to $60-$65 million in financial support for the activities -- for the support that they requested from us -- the military lift, the military equipment, the communiques and logistics and so forth.
They know that. They were told that several weeks ago. They know that is the reality. That is the extent of what we can do, given the limits of our own political situation here.
The United Nations is certainly informed of that. That process has already begun. The lift has begun. The equipment deliveries have begun, and we have begun to draw down the funds in the DOD budget to pay for those expenses.
Q Nick, one more question. Is Srebrenica still on the list of the safehavens for the U.S., or it's already been erased like we accept the reality or --
MR. BURNS: It's a very serious situation. 40,000 people are homeless, and the city has been emptied of its population. The population is under threat. We certainly consider it still to be a safehaven. The question of a safehaven has been violated. The city has fallen. The Bosnian Serbs have won a tactical military victory in their own eyes.
We have no reason to say now that it's no longer a safehaven, but it is what it is. It's a safehaven that has fallen. It's a situation in which the international community was not able to protect the people of that city.
The question is what will happen in the future, and that question, as I said before, is a question that first and foremost by all rights has got to be answered by the competent authorities on the ground.
Q Nick, (inaudible) and it looks like the other safehavens are being threatened by the Serbs, the Bosnian Serbs, and they are being bombarding other areas and all of the pundits who are there on the ground -- the analysts -- they say that other areas are going to fall. What is the strategy that you and the allies are developing to try to protect the other safehavens from the presence of this expeditionary force or whatever? What are the mechanics that you are working with?
MR. BURNS: It's one of the most important questions facing everybody involved in the conflict. It is currently being debated and discussed in Europe and in the U.N. and discussed with us, and we'll just have to see what decisions are made by the countries and organizations that have troops on the ground.
Q Nick, is lift and strike still the -- multilateral lift and strike still favored by the Clinton Administration?
MR. BURNS: We've said for a long time that we could support that. I don't believe it's pertinent to the present situation, because it's very clear that our allies don't agree with that. But they have a different course that they intend to stay; that they are in fact now bringing more troops into the theater. So it's a theoretical question but not really one that has much application for us, frankly, this week.
Q Right. But we would support if that happened to come up.
MR. BURNS: We said in the past that would be something we could support. But again it's not something that is grounded in reality this week.
Q Nick, this whole debate has a sense of the theater of the absurd. You talk about the U.N. having failed to protect the safehaven of Srebrenica. I mean, it failed to protect it not because it couldn't -- it didn't have the capability -- but there just wasn't the political will to do it.
As this discussion goes forward, what you outlined was, you know, do you try to regain Srebrenica and to what extent do you protect the remaining safehavens. I mean, realistically is there a political will to do any of that?
MR. BURNS: We're going to have to see what decisions are made by the countries that have troops on the ground by the United Nations as they assess their ability to do what I think you very rightly say is one of the major questions. You know, what will be the attitude towards the other eastern enclaves and towards the question of whether or not it makes sense militarily or politically to try to regain Srebrenica.
I would just say, Carol, it's the theater of the real. It's the situation that is presented to us, and it's presented to everybody else in the area. And we simply have to deal with the situation as it is.
Q Well, no, it wasn't just presented to you. I mean, the United States remains a major power and has played a major role, even though a limited role, circumscribed by its own desires, for all these years. So, you know, the dialogue of the last couple of days has very much seemed to want to distance the United States from what's going on and what's been decided, and that's certainly not realistic, and it's not true.
MR. BURNS: No one's trying to distance the United States from the conflict or our responsibility as a member of the international community for what happens there. We do take responsibility for the United Nations. We have to. We're one of the original founders. We're one of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Certainly, I'm not trying -- and I don't think anyone else is trying, speaking publicly here -- to distance ourselves from this conflict. I think we've been quite open with you about the situation as it exists.
The fact is that while one of the central question is what happens to the other enclaves. Do you retake Srebrenica. The fact is that there is as of yet no international consensus from the people who have the ability to make things happen there about what should be the answer to that question.
We are in a position to influence that debate, but we are not a decisive actor. We do not have troops on the ground. We've chosen not to put troops on the ground, because we don't believe it is in the vital interests of the United States to do so, which should always be the standard when a decision is made to put American troops into battle -- combat situations.
We took that decision. The last Administration took that decision. This Administration has reaffirmed that decision, and that is United States policy. So therefore, the United States has influence on the margins. We have influence in NATO. We are playing a role in NATO, and the United States aircraft have certainly participated in the air actions in this war. But I think it is quite well known we are not there as a troop-contributor, and the basic decision has to be made by the troop-contributing countries.
Q Nick, the story we all want to write is what the United States thinks will motivate the Bosnian Serbs to reach a settlement. What today does the United States Government feel that can be done to change the motivations of the Bosnian Serbs from one of a military attack on regions that they want to control to a willingness to negotiate about that?
MR. BURNS: We believe that protecting the U.N. mandates and living up to those mandates and having a firm policy of support for the mandates is one way, certainly, to influence the Bosnian Serbs. That has not worked very well. It has not worked at all in the case of Srebrenica.
We also believe that it may be possible for the government in Belgrade -- the Government of Serbia -- to use its influence, however one wants to define that influence, on the Bosnian Serbs to convince them to stop fighting and to turn to the Contact Group's Map and Plan, i.e., to turn to the negotiating table.
We also believe it behooves Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic and others in the Bosnian Serb leadership to think about the judgment of history. I think it's appropriate to say that during a week when there are 40,000 refugees that they have caused. It's appropriate to say that when there are allegations of brutal treatment of those refugees.
So that's a third factor that would normally influence a group of individuals, but if you look at the history of this century, some individuals seem to have been impervious to have. So if they're not interested in knowing that the international community will judge them one day, one way or the other, then perhaps the other two or a combination of the other two will have an effect.
That strategy has not worked very well up until now. It's really in the interests of the international community to try to make it work better in the future. We have decided to maintain our own involvement in trying to make that strategy work rather than leaving and saying that the -- or at least our own involvement is over. We think it's a difficult choice. It would be a lot easier to leave, but we decided to stay in the battle.
Q Are those the only two choices, though?
MR. BURNS: Choices?
Q Yes. Are the only two choices an admittedly failed strategy or disengagement?
MR. BURNS: Again, we've gone over this a lot, but I'll be glad to go over it again very quickly. As we have looked at the available realistic options, one would be -- and some people have urged this on the Administration in our own country -- to deploy a massive number of American troops to coerce -- to win a military victory or coerce the Bosnian Serbs militarily towards the peace table. We don't believe it's realistic, since the Congress would not support it and neither would the American people.
Another is to leave and essentially assert that UNPROFOR has failed, therefore it should get out, and we should let the parties fight it out. The Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serbs. We believe that that would lead to a greater number of refugees, further suffering, further bloodshed, more deaths, and a possible widening of the war.
The third imperfect option is to stay and try to make a very difficult situation somewhat better, and that's what we're trying to do.
Q Nick, this morning on Capitol Hill again former Secretary Christopher said -- I mean, Kissinger -- former Secretary Kissinger --
MR. BURNS: Kissinger. Secretary Christopher had a good day today. He's been hard at work. (Laughter)
Q Let me start again. This morning on Capitol Hill former Secretary Kissinger said that he opposes the idea of 60,000 troops being needed to withdraw 10,000 or 12,000 troops from Bosnia, and that he thinks it's a bad idea to have American troops go into Bosnia for such an ill-defined mission. Those were his words.
Do you think -- first of all, would you like to respond to that? And, secondly, do you think that you have the votes in Congress for the 25,000 American troops that would have to be involved in a withdrawal, if it comes to that?
MR. BURNS: David, you raise the case of a contingency, and that is if the United Nations decides to leave, for whatever reason, how would the United States get out in a combat situation in a very rough and difficult geographic terrain. The answer from NATO, working with the United Nations, is a contingency military operations Plan 4104 which does require in the judgment of our top military commanders -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others -- a considerable number of NATO forces which would be dominated by many thousands of American troops.
I think we'd have to leave it up to our military commanders to decide how they're best going to protect American soldiers when they go into battle. And, I think if they believe that we need many thousands of troops to carry out a mission of extricating the UNPROFOR force from a variety of locations in Bosnia, and they believe they can do that swiftly and effectively carry out a mission with the least cost to human life, including American life, we ought to listen to the professionals who have done so well in previous military actions over the last couple of years -- done so well in acquitting themselves professionally.
I wouldn't solely trust or agree with the views of an outsider on this. I think you've got to look to the people who have responsibility for the young men and women who will be put into that situation. I can't imagine that if this situation does unfold -- and we hope it will not -- but I can't imagine that the Congress of the United States would not stand up for our NATO allies at a time when they would need to be extricated from extremely difficult circumstances.
I mean, if you agree with the views asserted today, does this mean to say that we would leave Britain and France and the Netherlands to their own devices when we alone in many respects have lift capacity to bring them out? I don't think that would be the honorable thing to do, and the Administration is confident that we'd have the support of the American people and of the Congress if this situation does come to pass.
We hope it will not. We hope that UNPROFOR will be able to stay to carry out its humanitarian mission and to carry out the fundamental obligations it has under United Nations resolutions to the people of the area.
Q (Multiple questions)
Q Several times you've talked of your fear of spreading this conflict. Have you seen any evidence of the Bosnian Serbs heading towards the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or any other area, you know, in that region? Do you see an actual threat of that, or is that just your supposition?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any specific Bosnian Serb military movements this week that would widen the war in Kosovo or Macedonia or in Croatia. We are concerned about the situation in Croatia. We're concerned about the prospect that war might spread there in the future and concerned about some of the recent statements by the Krajina Serb leadership. We've made our views known to all parties concerned in that area.
I think, though, that in talking about our fear of the spread of war, we are just mindful of the recent history in that region, and we're mindful of the very strong ambitions of the Bosnian Serbs, and we believe it's important for the international community to coalesce to contain this present conflict in all of its horrible dimensions.
MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: One more on Bosnia, and then we'll go to a different subject.
Q Nick, I have this question. Since Srebrenica and the 40,000 refugees, has the Administration thought of extending any relief and humanitarian assistance (inaudible) because these people are really in a bad situation as they have already vacated.
MR. BURNS: Yes. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Food Program are all involved with the central organization of the United Nations in trying to get humanitarian assistance to the refugees. It's critical, because many thousands of them are down to one or two days of supplies.
Q (Inaudible) under consideration?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that it's specifically under consideration, Charlie, but we will certainly meet any reasonable request that comes from the United Nations and these international organizations to help the refugees. We absolutely stand ready to help.
Q Nick, a rather less publicized war. The International Red Cross says about 150 civilians have been killed in northern Sri Lanka in the last few days, including 65 who were sheltering in a church, which was hit by air force bombs. They also talk about 150,000 people made refugees in the last few days. Have you got any comment about how the Sri Lankan Government is carrying out its military offensive?
MR. BURNS: It's a terrible struggle underway between the so-called Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan Government. Hundreds of people have died in the last couple of weeks, and there was a terrible incident just this past weekend when a church was bombed and many, many people died.
We know that the Sri Lankan Government is looking into that particular incident in which its own forces may have been involved. We know that the Sri Lankan Government faces a very terrible challenge from the Tamil Tigers. And we know that the Tamil Tigers have been responsible for the most repugnant atrocities over the last couple of weeks and months, and we condemn the acts of terrorism by that particular group. And we certainly hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will be able to contain this violence.
Q Do you specifically condemn the bombing of the church, but your sympathies are more with the government.
MR. BURNS: I didn't say that we condemned the bombing of the -- we certainly condemn the deaths of the people and the acts that are responsible for it. But we know that the Government of Sri Lanka is looking into that particular incident. When I last was briefed on this, it was a fairly confused and indistinct situation in which we did not have a clear view of the exact circumstances in which those deaths occurred.
We're always certainly mindful and sorrowful at the loss of life. I would just like to say beyond the incident this weekend, it's very clear to a lot of people who has been responsible for the violence that has pervaded Sri Lanka, and the Tamil Tigers certainly have a lot to answer to.
Q Nick, do you have any comment or reaction to the first municipal elections ever been held in Jordan?
MR. BURNS: We know that elections have been held in Jordan. We congratulate the Jordanian Government and the people on the conduct of those elections. We have a very close relationship with the Government of Jordan and, of course, have a continued interest in stability and economic growth in Jordan.
Q Can you give us a situation report on Dennis Ross' shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I certainly can. Dennis was today in Damascus for meetings with Foreign Minister Shara and Ambassador Mualem. I believe he was going to meet President Assad. He met with him for four hours yesterday. He has been shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Damascus trying to see what the United States can do to further progress on the Syrian-Israeli track.
He called in and gave Secretary Christopher a full debrief this morning. They have spoken three or four times in the last several days. Dennis has also been asked to participate in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations at the request of both parties as they try to conclude their negotiations by their own target of July 25. We are doing everything we can to help progress on that particular track as well.
Q You said that at the request of both parties that he -- this is the first time that I hear that both parties asked Dennis Ross to sit --
MR. BURNS: Yes. I understand that both parties have asked Dennis to participate in conversations with them about the status of the talks and the central issues in those talks.
Q And he will, right?
MR. BURNS: And he certainly is. He flew down to Gaza last night, had a good meeting with Chairman Arafat. He has been in touch, of course -- direct touch with Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres. He is certainly going to meet the request that we become involved now in some of the actual discussions here. He is very well placed to do that, and I think he's got the credibility and the trust of both sides to do this.
Q One more time and I'll finish. The signatures will be the 25th or August 1st -- 25th of July or August 1st?
MR. BURNS: The target date established by Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres is July 25. I don't believe that's changed. We don't know whether they'll meet that target date. If they meet it, we'll congratulate them. If they don't meet it, we'll be very willing to work with them to finish this current round of negotiations.
Q On Cuba, do you have any reaction to the decision of Cuba to pursue the construction of Juragua nuclear plant?
MR. BURNS: We have a lot of questions about the Juragua nuclear power plant. We have questions about Russian's involvement and the assistance that Russia is giving to this. We certainly want to make sure, at a minimum, that any nuclear power plant constructed in Cuba meets international guidelines and meets international safety standards. We don't believe that is yet the case, that they've been given a stamp of approval by the competent international organizations, and we think that has to happen.
We also, as you know, take a very dim view about most international assistance to Cuba because of the authoritarian regime that has repressed the Cuban people for a long time now.
Q President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Heydar, offered to visiting Turkish Prime Minister, Mrs. Ciller, to control southern part of the Azerbaijan, which the invading Armenian forces -- they cut the two parts of the country. Do you have any reaction? Do you have any information about this subject?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the conversation that you described having taken place. We know that Turkey has a very great interest in stability in Azerbaijan. We know that there's a historical relationship, and the Turkish Government has been a very good friend to Azerbaijan.
We very much support Turkey's involvement in the Caspian Sea area. We very much support Turkey's involvement with the Government of Azerbaijan, but I just can't speak to the specific question you've --
Q Can you take this question?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly look into it, but I just don't know if we would be aware of this type of conversation.
Q Nick, the French oil company, (inaudible), has signed a deal with Iran today which replaces the Conoco deal. Have you got any comment on that deal and what it says about the effect of the unilateral American trade embargo?
MR. BURNS: We've seen reports of a deal. We've not been able to confirm that with the French authorities, and I think I should withhold comment until we do. We haven't confirmed it with the French Government. But I think I can say in general, we've certainly made it clear to our friends in Europe and in Asia that we think it is strongly inadvisable for them to promote their own companies economic involvement in Iran for very well known reasons. Because of the fact that we believe that Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and we think the international community should make an effort to stop Iran.
The United States has taken a very strong leadership position on this, and we'll continue that.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:25 p.m.)
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