U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/09/07 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, September 7, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Condolences Extended to Former Secretary of State Shultz Upon the Death of His Wife, Obie Shultz .........1 RUSSIA/IRAN Nuclear Cooperation with Iran ............................1-11 --Prospect of Conditions by Congress on U.S. Aid to Russia/U.S. Programs ...............................1-3 --Status of Russian Contracts re: Nuclear Reactors/ Number of Reactors ....................................4-8,9-11 --U.S.-Russian Diplomatic Contacts on Issue ..............2-7 Russian Conventional Arms Sales to Iran ..................8 Iran's Efforts to Build Nuclear Capability ...............4-5,9-10 CHINA Status of Evidence re China Nuclear Sales to Iran ........11-12 Foreign Ministry Spokesman's Comments re: US-China Relationship ...........................................25 Prospects for Presidential Trip to China/High Level Mtgs between U.S.-PRC ..................................28 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Russian Criticism of NATO Bombing/Russian Role in Contact Group and Meetings in Geneva ...................12-13 Geneva Meeting Scheduled for Tomorrow, 9/8/95 ............13 --Prospects for Bosnian Serb Participation in Mtg ........13 --Joint Serb-Bosnian Serb Delegation .....................13,19-23 --Members of Delegations Attending Geneva Meeting ........13 --Holbrooke's Meetings/Participation in Geneva Mtg .......14 --Agenda, Schedule, Goals for Geneva Meeting .............15-20,21-24 --Duration/Limits/Conditions to Negotiations .............24 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece Mtg .....14-15 Secretary's Discussions with Asst. Sec. Holbrooke ........21 IRAQ Status of UNSC Lifting of Sanctions ......................25-26 Deputy Secretary's Recent Meeting with Ekeus .............26 Iraqi Kurdish Groups Meeting in Dublin ...................26 UNITED NATIONS U.N. Women's Conference/Mrs. Clinton's Role ..............27-28 IRELAND Gerry Adams Visit to Washington/Possible Mtgs ............29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1995, 1:26 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a brief announcement.
On behalf of Secretary Christopher, on behalf of all members of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service here in the State Department, we would like to express our condolences to former Secretary of State George Shultz upon the death of his wife, Mrs. Obie Shultz, Tuesday night in Palo Alto, California.
I think for all of you who traveled with her during the more than six years that Secretary Shultz was Secretary of State, she was a splendid woman. She was a woman of great dedication and great energy and vigor, and she's going to be missed by a lot of people here in the Department of State.
I think if you are interested, we do have some information on what you might want to do to pay your respects to the Shultz family and also some information about her burial. But we do want to pass on our very sincere condolences to former Secretary of State George Shultz.
With that, I'd be glad to go directly to your questions.
Q Let me take you back for the third straight day to the problem of Russian reactors. Let me try it this way. Has the State Department any reaction to the rumblings from McConnell's office and perhaps others on the Hill that they're so upset by the Russian determination to go ahead that they may block some aid to Russia? Is that something the State Department thinks wise or unwise or has no position on at this point?
MR. BURNS: First, Barry, we will continue to make clear to the Russian Government our very strong opposition to any type of nuclear cooperation with Iran. We have made that clear at the highest levels, from President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary Christopher on down throughout the last six or seven months. We will continue to make that clear.
We have seen some reports that some in the U.S. Congress might want to now condition our economic assistance to Russia and link it to this question. I think that Senator McConnell and others are well aware of our views on this issue of imposing conditionality.
United States aid to Russia serves United States' interests, and our assistance is and has been in this Administration and in the past Administration designed to help foster a democratic Russia, a Russia that can make a transition successfully to market economics; a Russia that can deal with its environmental problems, its severe environmental problems that have a great impact on countries around the world, and a Russia in which United States' business wants to invest.
Our economic assistance efforts are designed to meet all of those goals. They're very clearly in our national interest, and, if we were to condition the aid on any particular issue with which we have a strong disagreement or diminish it in any way, we would not only undercut our own national interests, we would undercut the very reformers that we have supported now -- the Bush and Clinton Administrations, Republicans and Democrats alike in this country -- over the last four years.
We think it is very unwise to pick out one or another of issues in this relationship which has a very broad agenda and is very complicated and to impose some level of conditionality upon it. We will argue very strongly for that position in all of our conversations with members of Congress.
Q Well, but, of course, your primary interest is the nuclear issue, and the threat does not go to Nunn-Lugar, it goes to other aid programs, at least from McConnell's office. So you're even against any selective retaliation, if that's right word?
MR. BURNS: Barry, we're against selective conditionality, any type of conditionality, because it is absolutely true that the Nunn-Lugar program lies at the heart of our efforts to create a new relationship with Russia. But what would prevent another member of Congress from coming along and imposing the exact type of conditionality on Nunn- Lugar, and I've mentioned, I think, the other types of our assistance -- economic assistance, people-to-people programs -- that clearly benefit the American people.
Why in the world would we want now to interrupt those programs just when they are beginning to be felt and to make some difference in Russia itself. So we feel very strongly about this, and we're going to adhere to our policy, which is one of engagement and not isolation of Russia.
Q Nick, I guess one of the issues or one of the things you'd have to balance here, is your aid more important to the continued democratic trend in Russia or is it more important to try to use whatever leverage you have to keep Russia from helping Iran becoming a nuclear power, and which is the greater goal?
MR. BURNS: Carol, they're both important, and there's no reason to think that we have to choose right now. We have said many times in the past -- the President has said, Secretary Christopher has said -- that it is a clear national interest for us to deprive Iran of the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and we're going to continue that very serious dialogue with the Russian Government.
That dialogue is not ended. There was an agreement at the May summit in Moscow between President Clinton and President Yeltsin that we would continue to discuss this problem; that the Russians would remain open to intelligence information and to argumentation on our side that they should cease and desist from those actions.
I can't report to you that we have made progress there that would end Russia's program with Iran, but we haven't given up the effort. So that's an important interest.
But at the same time, it is a very important national interest for us to engage with the country that was our main adversary for five decades during the Cold War, and this has been a bipartisan agreement in Washington over the last four years that Republicans and Democrats have, I think, shared some common ground on, and that is that we have got to find ways to link Russia into the major institutions of the West, and that includes economic integration, and that gets back to our economic assistance programs, as well as political integration.
So I don't see any reason why we have to say that today, on September 7, we somehow have to suddenly choose after four years of progress with Russia -- we have to choose between isolating Russia or engaging Russia. We've got to do both, and we'll continue to do both.
Q But it seems like you not only have made progress with Russia on this issue, it sounds as if Russia is expanding its -- or it's signaling an intent to expand cooperation with Iran. So the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction.
MR. BURNS: We have heard during the last two weeks from a Russian Minister who has a vested interest in the continuation of a Russian assistance program to Iran and who has clearly and always stood in public for that program.
We are also talking to other people in the Russian Government who perhaps may have a broader view about Russia's foreign policy, Russia's relations with Iran as well as the United States, and they are our principal interlocutors, and we're not going to give up our conversations with them.
Q Well, today you seem to have a different attitude than you had yesterday. Yesterday you said this Minister spoke -- you mentioned Mikhailov in particular -- spoke for the Russian Government, and now today you seem to be saying, well, (inaudible) is really only speaking for its own parochial interest, and other Russian officials were telling you something different. So which is it? I mean, does Mikhailov and his aides speak for the Russian Government, or are they speaking for themselves, and what is Boris Yeltsin and his people telling you?
MR. BURNS: We have to assume that Minister Mikhailov does speak for the Russian Government, and that's what I said yesterday, and I'm glad to reaffirm it today. We also have to assume that there are others in the Russian Government who have wider responsibilities for Russia's role in the world, and one of the arguments that we have put forth in our private discussions with the Russian Government is that Russia has got to be equally concerned, as we are, with the long-term implications of an Iran that is very close to Russia and that has a nuclear weapons capability.
We may have some disagreements. We clearly do have some disagreements with the Russian Government about Iran's intentions. It remains in our interest to try to convince them over the long term that Iran is, in fact, engaged in a drive to produce these weapons and have this capability, and we hope that we'll be able to convince the Russians of that.
Having not achieved the kind of success we had hoped for so far, it wouldn't make any sense to stop now. We've got to continue this effort with the Russians, and we'll do so.
Q Nick, what's the Department's understanding of the scope of the nuclear dealings between Iran and Russia? There are a lot of questions surrounding it.
MR. BURNS: Yes. We have had a lot of conversations with the Russian Government on this, dating back to last winter, and they have told us, as I said yesterday, that they intend to go into the plant at Bushehr, the unfinished nuclear complex in Iran, and finish the construction of a reactor there, and then perhaps provide assistance for the construction of up to three more. I think there's a total of four that I talked about yesterday.
And there may be other contracts that would give assistance, both educational and technological, to other aspects of what is called by Iran a "peaceful nuclear power industry." One of the problems that we have with those seemingly innocuous types of contracts is that any time you give educational opportunities, training opportunities or certain technology to in this case Iran's nuclear power industry and to their scientists and engineers, you do upgrade their capability to transfer that knowledge and that technology towards less peaceful means, towards a nuclear weapons capability.
That's how nuclear weapons are developed. They're developed by very smart people who not only understand the technology and industry, but have had some experience in the nuclear industry. We want to prevent that from happening.
Q Is that an increase in their program over what they had previously told you they were going to grant?
MR. BURNS: It's been sometimes difficult, David, to sort out exactly what the broadest possible dimensions of the program are. We've heard, I think, since January and February, a number of different things from the Russians. What I reported to you yesterday is, I think, the culmination of our understanding of what the potential is.
The reason I say "potential" is because they do talk about the possibility of in the future securing these contracts or actually constructing the light-water reactors. So these are not projects that are under way. Some of them are at least projects that may be initiated in the future, and there we think we have an opportunity to continue to use our influence to see if Russia might think twice about those future contracts.
Q Have they told you how many of these are light-water? And this commission -- you know, has it ever met? When has it met most recently? I know you make your point to them all the time and you make it publicly and privately and all, but, you know, we came out of that summit with a structure that seemed, the critics said, that kicked the problem down the street. Others thought it provided a mechanism for a compromise. It doesn't look like you're getting a compromise.
Anyhow, how many light-waters, and when does Gore-Chernomyrdin meet?
MR. BURNS: The summit meeting took place on May 9 and 10 in Moscow. There was, I believe, an expert-level discussion at the Deputy Assistant Secretary level on the United States -- that's Bob Einhorn -- with his Russian counterpart shortly following that. Vice President Gore also went to Moscow in late June -- I believe the 26th and 27th of June -- and he had a very long conversation about this issue with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
That is a very useful channel for us -- the Gore-Chernomyrdin channel -- because it fits nicely with the major thematic base of that channel, and we're going to continue to use that -- but not only that one. We're going to continue to use a variety of channels to get our message across.
Q How many light-waters, do you know?
MR. BURNS: Let me check on exactly how many are in the pipeline.
Q Did President Yeltsin inform President Clinton of the possibility of three other reactors when they met in May? If not, when did you all find about that?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I just can't recall if President Yeltsin talked in that level of detail about how many light-water reactors, because it's not just the --
Q (Inaudible). There's one they're going to finish that's under contract and the possibility of three more. I mean, that's not a sort of an insignificant detail. Was that the type of language President Yeltsin used with President Clinton? "We've got one under contract, and we're thinking about doing three more"?
MR. BURNS: I just can't recall, Sid, exactly what the terminology was.
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q When did you come to that conclusion? When were you informed that they --
MR. BURNS: We first had indications of this program and first began serious discussions back in the winter in January and February of this year.
Q This is the three additional ones.
MR. BURNS: About the entire dimension of this program. But we have heard throughout that process, as I just said a couple of minutes ago, varying stories about what the broadest possible dimensions of this program would be.
Q And President Clinton didn't think to ask a broad enough question?
MR. BURNS: Sid, why do you conclude that? President Clinton had a very good set of discussions. I said I can't recall the way -- the manner in which President Yeltsin described this to President Clinton. That does not reflect upon President Clinton's participation in that conversation.
Q The size of the deal you all are objecting so vehemently is not an insignificant detail.
MR. BURNS: It's certainly not.
Q I'm just trying to get at to whether these three are new, like in the last month, or whether is something you've all known about and haven't mentioned? That's all.
MR. BURNS: Fine. Yesterday, I spoke to the fact that we believe there are four. I have no reason to change that today. We think there are four. We've been told there may be four -- one-plus-three. We'll proceed on that basis.
Q Are these series of contracts a part of what Yeltsin spoke of earlier when he vowed to complete contracts on arms deals and other things with Iran and not to go further? Are they new contracts that have come into existence that vow was made? Are they entirely separate? Has the United States ever linked them in talks?
MR. BURNS: Steve, they're separate. The other pipeline to which you're referring has to do with Russia's conventional arms sales to Iran. That was an issue when we began to negotiate Russia's membership in a post-COCOM successor organization. Our position was that many, many summits throughout '93-'94 and into '95, that Russia could not be a full member of the successor regime to COCOM until we had a sense of the dimensions of the pipeline -- the conventional armaments to Iran.
That issue was resolved to our satisfaction at the Moscow summit. When we did get a full report from the Russians and had a chance to study it about the dimensions of the pipeline.
Q Was there ever any diplomatic thought or technical thought given to linking this whole issue of reactor sales to COCOM in that negotiation?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I think the two issues have been separate issues. They haven't been linked together.
Q Is there a reason for that?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there's a particular reason for it. The COCOM issue really goes back to the end of the Bush Administration; it was inherited by this Administration and was ultimately resolved by this Administration.
The issue of nuclear cooperation with Iran has just come up during the last, I guess, seven or eight months in this relationship; just since the beginning of 1995.
Q The possibility of four reactors, you said, as early as January or February?
MR. BURNS: That's when we begin to unearth information about the Russian-Iranian nuclear relationship. Starting then, we have heard a series of reports from the Russian Government. Sometimes conflicting reports.
When I said four yesterday, that is our latest understanding of the dimensions of this. That also is, I believe, what Minister Mikhailov said this week when describing the dimensions of the program.
Q You have to clarify it. You're not saying that you knew about the possibility of four that early? You didn't know about the centrifuges until a few weeks before the summit?
MR. BURNS: What I'm saying is that we began to unearth information about the program in January and February. That's right.
For instance, the centrifuge information came much later.
Q Yesterday, you used the term "research reactor" for some of these units. I presume those are smaller than a full-size power unit? When you're talking about four, are you including some research reactors in it?
MR. BURNS: I did use that because we believe that some of them, at least, will be, if they are constructed. These are future possible contracts.
Q But they wouldn't be full-sized power generators?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe research reactors are, no. I'm not expert on nuclear technology, but I don't believe they are.
Q Another question. I've been listening to your argument about how the real dangers of transfer of technology and the building of a technological base in Iran. Why doesn't that same argument apply to North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I think the reason it doesn't apply to North Korea is because the two programs are going in different directions. We, through the Agreed Framework, are negotiating a future in which North Korea will lose its capability to have a nuclear industry -- to have a nuclear weapons industry, certainly. That's our relationship with North Korea.
The problem with Iran's relationship with Russia is that the relationship is heading in the direction of adding to Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons. So on the one hand, the United States is hoping to stem proliferation of nuclear technology with North Korea. That's why we've been engaged in this Agreed Framework. On the other, the Russians appear, and the Chinese as well, to be assisting the Iranians in the proliferation of nuclear technology. I think there's a very great difference between the Agreed Framework with North Korea and Russia's relationship with Iran.
Q But you agree that Iran is a member in good standing of the NPT?
MR. BURNS: Iran is a member of the NPT. But the United States believes that despite what Iran says in public, despite the commitments it has made publicly, it is indeed engaged in an effort to develop nuclear weapons. That is one of the most serious issues that faces the United States and all of Iran's neighbors.
We have an obligation and a self-interest to try to prevent Iran from having that capability.
Q How much worse is four than one? Obviously, there's the issue of transfer of knowledge but there's also the issue of transfer of materiel. How much worse is four than one?
MR. BURNS: Four is certainly worse than one. One is bad enough. We would like it to be zero. That's the ultimate goal.
Q Nick, if I could go back to clarify it. As far as you all know, there's only one reactor that's actually under contract?
MR. BURNS: That is the reactor that was not completed at Bushehr and that will now be completed.
Q And the other three are just possibilities at this point, as far you understand it?
MR. BURNS: As far as we understand it. I'd really refer you to the Russian Government for their exact description of what they think they're doing here.
Q Also, there's a report that infers today that you've just found out about these three additional reactors. When --
MR. BURNS: No.
Q When did you find out about the possibility of the three?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I can't pinpoint the month or the day when we discovered these other things. I'll be glad to go back and look at that for you. I simply can't recall it right now.
Q In recent days, you said you were trying to clarify it. So it sort of led me to believe you had just --
MR. BURNS: We continue to try to clarify it. I just can't tell you that on July 17 or April 6 we came to this conclusion. I don't have that --
Q Is it a result of your recent consultations in the last week or so that you've now come to this conclusion, that there's the possibility of three additional reactors?
MR. BURNS: No. I don't believe so. I think it predates that. I just can't give you the exact timing.
Q Nick, has there been any --
MR. BURNS: Are you still on Russia?
Q Yes, yes. Has there been any consideration by the United States to compensate Russia for the price of these reactors that were sold to Iran? What is the thought? Is this a political or economic deal that the Russians are doing with Iran?
MR. BURNS: Let the Russians describe their rationale. I think that particular part of the Russian Government has been interested in foreign contracts because they need the foreign exchange. That's a very important consideration. But it is dwarfed by the potential negative impact of an Iran with nuclear weapons -- dwarfed by it, and that should be seen by Russia to be an important part of its own long-term future; that it prevent Iran from having this capability.
Q In dollars and sense, how much is this deal going to be? I think you might know about these four reactors. And was there any compensatory offer by the United States to satisfy the Russians if they need foreign currency and they need money from Iran?
MR. BURNS: There has not been a compensatory offer by the United States to, in effect, give the Russians money in return for a promise not to build these reactors. Not at all. Russia has an obligation, as a leading member of the international community, to try to stem the proliferation of nuclear technology.
Russia, as a nuclear power, has a special obligation for that. This is a very serious issue. We have a difference of opinion here with the Russian Government, and we're going to continue to pursue it.
Q Can I move this to Russia-Bosnia, or are there still Iran questions?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q Can I ask a related question? Since the worsening of U.S. relations with China, do you have any new evidence that testifies to the Chinese deal with Iran on the nuclear?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that we do. We have monitored that situation very closely. We will continue to do so. It is an issue of on-going concern, but we have not concluded that China is in violation of U.S. sanctions law or of its MTCR commitments pertaining to these possible activities.
Q Russia continues to protest loudly about the NATO bombings of the Bosnian Serbs. There's some inkling -- some suggestion from Yeltsin today that Russia might consider pulling out of PFP. Is there concern here about that?
MR. BURNS: We have seen press accounts of President Yeltsin's comments.
Russia is a full partner in the search for peace in the Balkans. Deputy Foreign Minister Ivanov will be in Geneva tomorrow. I believe he'll be seated beside Dick Holbrooke at the table in Geneva as a full member of the Contact Group.
Russia is a full partner because Russia can be an important actor for peace. The Russians have said very consistently for a long time that they do want the situation to transfer from war to peace. That is what we want as well. We want there to be negotiations. We're glad the Russians will be in Geneva tomorrow.
Dick Holbrooke has been in very close touch as has our Embassy in Moscow. We believe that in the final analysis the U.S. and Russia will cooperate very well on this issue, particularly as we turn towards negotiations.
Q Does that mean that their actions in being in Geneva and so forth count more than the bluster about the bombing -- do you think that's just for domestic consumption?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it's really for me to say why a head of state may have said something in public.
We certainly share a common interest with Russia in getting to negotiations, and that's what we're going to concentrate on. We do have a tactical difference with Russia over the question of airstrikes. We've had it for two weeks now, and we've had it at times during the past.
The United States has had tactical differences with other members of the Contact Group from time to time on other issues. There's nothing unusual in that. But we do think that we share a common ground with Russia in getting to peace.
We're glad that Deputy Foreign Minister Ivanov will be in Geneva. Dick Holbrooke looks forward to working with him.
Q Have you heard who is going to show up for the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: We have not. As far as we know, the Bosnian Serbs will be represented by the Serbian Foreign Minister, Mr. Milutinovic, who will be in Geneva tomorrow.
Q They won't have any people of their own --
MR. BURNS: We've not heard that they will. It's possible that they might, that someone might show up, but we have not heard -- we have not been given anyone's name.
Q Can I just note that the New York Times, as you probably know, reports two names today and says -- it's quoting a U.S. official, saying those two people will be there?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the same reports. I just don't have that information, David.
Again, we have no objection to Bosnian Serb officials participating, but we have not been told that they will be there. I would just refer you to the fact that there is a joint delegation that has been formed between the Serbian Government in Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb leadership. So we would assume that at least for tomorrow Foreign Minister Milutinovic would represent all the Serbs.
Q Nick, do you know the names of the other delegations -- all of the delegations? Is it unusual -- are the Serbs the only hold-out for telling us the names of all of their delegates to the conference?
MR. BURNS: We certainly know that Bosnian Foreign Minister Sacirbey will be there. Croatian Foreign Minister Granic will be there.
Q But I mean the full delegations. The Bosnian Serbs would be members of the full delegation as opposed to the head. Do we know the names of the full Croatian, Bosnian Muslim delegations?
MR. BURNS: I assume that we do. I assume that Dick Holbrooke and his staff -- his delegation in Geneva -- have been apprised of who is coming; who all the members of each delegation are. I'm sure we can get you a list of those individuals.
Now that we are on this subject, let me just give you a short report about Dick Holbrooke and about our thoughts about tomorrow.
I just had a very long telephone conversation with Dick Holbrooke who is now in Geneva. He split his delegation into multiple parts over the last few days.
General West Clark from the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to Brussels to brief NATO officials on the progress to date in the peace talks. Dick Holbrooke was in Rome last evening. He met this morning with the Italian Prime Minister, Minister Dini. He also met with the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Malcolm Rifkind, at the Rome airport this morning. He had a meeting at the same airport with the Bosnian Foreign Minister, Minister Sacirbey.
Holbrooke is now in Geneva. He's going to meet tonight individually with Foreign Minister Milutinovich, Foreign Minister Granic, and Foreign Minister Sacirbey to talk about the agenda and the substance of the meetings tomorrow.
We are working very hard to make the meeting tomorrow a success. Many hurdles remain to make it a success. We must, I think, see this as part of a process that will be very long and that will be very hard.
At Geneva, the substantive conversation tomorrow is going to focus on political and constitutional issues. There will not be a detailed discussion of the Map. There will not be a detailed discussion of all the issues; that will clearly make up the agenda for any peace talks when and if they are to be scheduled.
It will be the constitutional issues, and, I think, a discussion of the situation perhaps in Eastern Slavonia would also be in order.
The schedule is that at 8:30 tomorrow morning, at the U.S. Mission in Geneva, the Contact Group will meet with Dick Holbrooke and the American delegation. At 10:00, the three Foreign Ministers will arrive and they will begin their meeting. We would expect this meeting probably to last most of the day. And then late in the day when the meeting is concluded, I'm sure that Dick will have something to say to the press corps that is assembling now in Geneva.
Meanwhile, we are moving forward in our efforts to prevent a widening of the war in the Balkans. We understand now that the U.N. Special Negotiator, Cyrus Vance, will open talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Tuesday in New York.
We're very glad to see this progress. It is something that Dick worked very hard on in his meetings with President Gligorov and also with Prime Minister Papandreou when he was in Skopje and Athens over the weekend. We were very glad to a play a role in support of the lead role that the United Nations has played. This is an important aspect of our attempt to prevent a widening of the war in the Balkans.
Q How much time has Holbrooke spent since he left the Balkans, specifically in trying to dampen what are reported fears among some Europeans now that the point of diminishing returns has set in as far as this linkage of airstrikes, artillery barrages, and diplomacy?
MR. BURNS: I think that Dick has said very clearly -- as recently as yesterday and throughout the last week -- that diplomacy has got to stand on its own; that the international community is offering an olive branch to the Bosnian Serbs.
There are negotiations that will take place. There is a meeting in Geneva tomorrow. At the same time, let's remember why the air action and the RRF action was initiated a week ago Wednesday. That was in response to the vicious attack on the Sarajevo marketplace.
The U.N. and NATO have made very clear why the military force had to be used, why it had to be resumed a couple of days ago, and I'll leave to the military commanders on the ground to talk about that specifically. The diplomacy has got to continue because nobody believes that air power or conventional RRF action can solve this problem alone.
Q When you spoke to him, though, did he report to you that he is hearing from the Europeans that they feel perhaps diminishing returns has set in as regards the use of military force coupled, as you have stated from the podium, with diplomacy, to make diplomacy more effective?
MR. BURNS: He did not report that to me. He did not report that to me. I think that Dick, after several weeks in the region, is buoyed by the fact that we have begun to initiate a process for peace. We've begun to turn the tide of the situation from war to peace, but there clearly are problems that remain.
General Mladic seems determined to withstand the latest NATO-U.N. air action and RRF action. General Mladic should not underestimate the will of the United Nations and NATO. He has got to understand, as do all Bosnian Serb leaders, that the time has come for peace. The time has come to talk peace.
The invitation is open for tomorrow. The peace talks start tomorrow in Geneva, and the Bosnian Serbs ought to put their attention and their commitment in that direction toward peace.
Q You mentioned that diplomacy has to stand on its own, and also that you think that diplomacy is going to be long and hard. How long is the U.S. comfortable for diplomacy and talks, and back and forth to continue? Is there any kind of timeframe in which the U.S. thinks this has to be done before other action is taken?
And if the diplomacy -- if Mladic is not convinced that the time is to talk peace and air strikes do diminish in their importance, is the U.S. willing to then push for a link between airstrikes and Serb acceptance of the peace plan, as opposed to just airstrikes and protection of safe areas?
MR. BURNS: Tim, we're not going to put a governor on our efforts for peace. After four years of war and four years of frustration, and now after two weeks of a window of opportunity for peace, we're not going to set some kind of artificial limit after which we take extraordinary measures. We're committed to peace.
It is far preferable to have a shuttle going on in the Balkans and throughout Europe about peace than it is to see safe areas violated and cities fall. It's far preferable to see the images from the Balkans during the past two weeks than the images in July when Srebrenica and Zepa fell.
So we remain committed on a long-term basis to peace discussions. Ultimately, whatever military action the West undertakes can only be temporary. It can only serve certain interests. It cannot bring the situation to a complete peace. Negotiations can do that, and they must do that. We're going to work as hard and as long as we have to to bring peace to the Balkans and to help the United Nations, the European Union, and others to do that.
Q Are you comfortable that if negotiations continue into, say, January and February, that our U.N. allies will be happy to keep their troops through another Bosnian winter? And also, do you not expect that if negotiations drag on that the pressure from the Congress on the arms embargo will return?
MR. BURNS: I think it is obvious to everybody involved that a certain corner has been turned, in this sense -- in the United Nations effort. No one is talking about the withdrawal of U.N. forces from the Balkans. We have every reason to believe that U.N. forces will remain in the Balkans -- and in Bosnia -- this winter.
There was a lot of talk about that two months ago, but the situation has changed in that respect. Our European allies and the others who have troops on the ground are committed to keep the troops there.
We now have a peace process that has just started. There is no reason to pull the troops out now. There's every reason to keep them there, as a force for stability.
Q Can I follow up one more time on that question?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q When Foreign Minister Sacribey was here for the Bob Frasure funeral, he made a point of saying that there was a window of opportunity because of the military situation having been changed over a month or two, which Holbrooke echoed before he set off on his peace mission. Do you disagree with that now?
MR. BURNS: No, not at all. We think that the window of opportunity for peace was opened up by the restored will of the West from the London Conference, by the Croatian offensive which, on its own, changed the terms -- both psychological and the geographic terms of the war -- against the Bosnian Serbs and their supporters, and by the fact that the West lived up to the commitments of the London Conference a week ago Wednesday in initiating military action against the Bosnian Serbs.
Those three factors and others certainly have led to a change in the situation.
Q But Sacribey had put a time limit on it. He said a month or two before the window would close. Holbrooke, when he was interviewed before he went on this current round, said he agreed with that supposition -- that remark by Sacribey -- which you seem to be unwilling to put that kind of time limit on?
MR. BURNS: It depends on how many years we're talking about, or how far into the future you want to talk. The window is not going to remain open forever, but we have a long-term commitment. So we're not going to set for ourselves or for others any artificial deadlines that this peace effort is going to expire next week if we don't get what we want. We're not going to set those kind of limits. It's not in our interest to do so.
Q Following on that topic. By saying, ultimately, going into this that the use of military force would be only temporary and could be only temporary, aren't you saying that if Mladic can hold out until that vague period of time ends, that he is the victor?
MR. BURNS: I didn't define "temporary." "Temporary" could be quite a long time.
Q You didn't define his "resolve" either.
MR. BURNS: But what I did say was that the Bosnian Serbs -- and particularly the military leadership -- should not underestimate the will of the United Nations, which has been so clearly expressed over the last two weeks.
There is a consensus in the United Nations and NATO that the situation cannot return to what it was in July or a week ago last Monday when the marketplace bombing took place. It is very important that the West live up to its commitments. We are doing so now. The Bosnian Serbs should understand that the terms of the war have changed, and they've changed against them. It's in their interest to move towards peace.
Q Nick, is the United States convinced that General Mladic can be convinced to remove heavy weapons from the exclusion zone by aerial bombing; that it will work eventually?
MR. BURNS: We're convinced that the Bosnian Serb leadership will act in deference to its own self-interest, and act in a rational way and understand that this commitment that is being demonstrated on the ground by the power of the NATO militaries is a very firm commitment, indeed. The bombing will continue as long as the Bosnian Serbs make it necessary for it to continue. I think that's probably the best way to answer the question.
Q Why are you convinced that they'll behave logically?
MR. BURNS: They have behaved logically in very nefarious ways in the past, and now they've got to understand that their prior designs for a military victory, which clearly included the domination of all the safe areas and the control of all the safe areas, can no longer be achieved; that the terms of war have changed. And therefore they can only achieve stability and only achieve what is in their own self- interest through negotiations at the peace table.
Q So far the bombing has avoided the very heavy weapons that the West wants to see the Bosnian Serbs withdraw. Why is that? And will that avoidance continue?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to refer you to the NATO and U.N. military commanders who are responsible for the military action. They're the best people to talk about the military campaign.
Q Is it the Administration's conclusion that General Mladic is acting on his own in not withdrawing the weapons despite requests from Belgrade and from Karadzic?
MR. BURNS: We just can't say, Sid. We don't have perfect insights into the behavior of the Bosnian Serb leadership. There are several key members of that leadership. It appears that sometimes they agree on certain objectives and sometimes they don't.
All we know is that the people who control the military aren't drawing the right conclusions from the military action over the last two weeks, and they ought to begin to do so.
Q Who are the people who control the military?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, General Mladic. He's the overall military commander.
Q And does President Milosevic have any say over what the Bosnian Serb military does?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask President Milosevic that.
Q You have no independent opinion on that?
MR. BURNS: I think we do have an independent opinion, but I wouldn't share it publicly. We'll just reserve it for our private discussions.
Q How does Milosevic represent the Bosnian Serbs in Geneva then? He says he does. But what does that mean in a practical sense? Can he deliver them?
MR. BURNS: Well, ultimately --
Q He can't even get them to the table, so far.
MR. BURNS: I don't think that's the case. What President Milosevic said last week was that this joint delegation would, in some cases -- one or two individuals would represent the entire delegation, and there would be times when the Serbian Government would represent the Bosnian Serbs. That may or may not be the case tomorrow.
Q We're talking on two levels here. There seems to be a contradiction.
MR. BURNS: What level do you want to talk on?
Q You're talking about, "We're okay. We wouldn't mind the Bosnian Serbs showing up, but Milosevic says it's a joint delegation; it happens to be joint, but it happens to be only from one place -- from Belgrade. Go ahead with that, we can live with that." And yet when you describe the situation on the ground, you describe the Bosnian Serbs as stubborn, having their own views. You even suggest -- the State Department likes to suggest that somehow this defies Milosevic's coaching and his wishes that they behave more properly.
There's a problem there. I can't phrase it any better than that. I don't know how you can go into Geneva with some expectation that the Bosnian Serbs can be held to the results.
MR. BURNS: Okay, now I can answer.
Q Given their performance on the ground.
MR. BURNS: Now I can answer. I don't see a problem because following the announcement in Belgrade last week of a joint delegation, Mr. Karadzic said from Pale that the Bosnian Serbs were interested in peace talks. He subsequently said they wanted the process to go to Geneva. He said that it was fine for them if the process was based on a territorial parameter of 51/49, which was the U.S. proposal and the Contact Group map and plan offered.
All that was progress over where we have been for the last four years. So, ultimately, Barry, I think you and I would agree that what is going to make more sense and have more importance than the words -- and those were good words -- will be the actions. We'll have to see what the actions are tomorrow in Geneva and subsequently to that.
Q But can't one look at all these facts and think that the Bosnian Serbs are stalling, playing for time? Karadzic says he's interested in peace talks; Milosevic represents them. But the fact is, they haven't moved the heavy weapons and Mladic isn't cooperating. Does this look like stalling?
Can't one look at those facts and come up with that conclusion.
MR. BURNS: I think that the military people are clearly stalling, yes. But if you want to advance the situation from one of fighting and war to peace, you've got to work at it, and that's what we're doing.
The fact that there will be a Serbian Foreign Minister in Geneva tomorrow is a positive thing after four years of war; the fact that he will be representing or be accompanied by Bosnian Serbs is positive. The fact that we are beginning now to talk principles for peace on the basis of 51/49 is a lot better than talking about safehavens being besieged by the Bosnian Serbs.
What has happened since July is that instead of having an open military field where they could do what they wanted, they are clearly constrained militarily. You haven't seen in the last two weeks any significant attacks by the Bosnian Serb military on any of the safe areas.
The terms of the war have in fact turned against them. So what we are trying to do now -- we in the West -- is to continue the military action, because it's appropriate to do so, but open up a door for peace.
The fact that we don't have a peace agreement in our hands today should not let any of you think that somehow we haven't made a lot of progress. I think we've made a lot of progress. We'll have to see what tomorrow holds and see if we can make more progress tomorrow.
Sometimes -- and you all know this from history -- it takes a long time to negotiate peace treaties, and it is sometimes tempting to be frustrated because your government can't do it in a week or two. But after four years of war, we've come a long way. I think you ought to give the President and Secretary of State and Ambassador Holbrooke some credit for that.
Q Has Secretary Christopher been in touch directly with Holbrooke since he's been back?
MR. BURNS: He had about a 45-minute conversation with him this morning, yes.
Q Nick, you keep mentioning "let's see what the meeting holds tomorrow." I know that you all are not keen to go into a meeting without knowing or at least expecting something to happen at the meeting. Can you just give us from the U.S. point of view what do you hope the meeting will achieve, such that it can be declared to have met, you know, whatever goals were set for it? And, if it doesn't meet those in one day, then what happens?
MR. BURNS: We hope that the three participants will agree on what the principles are that will be the foundation for any future peace discussions. It's a simple agenda which is enormously complicated by that task.
Q The principles being the constitutional arrangements that they will talk within? At least everything but the map?
MR. BURNS: The principles will be the foundations that -- the agreements that must lie at the heart of the beginning of any comprehensive peace talks. Tomorrow is not a peace conference. It's not the beginning of peace talks. It's a meeting to talk about how you can begin them and what would be the agreed upon common ground -- the agreed upon principles -- to begin them. And we've talked about it in the past.
Q If they don't agree to that tomorrow, will there then be continued shuttle diplomacy to try to work to a point where they can have another meeting to complete that agreement?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to forecast defeat. What I'd like to do is hold out the prospect that we'll be successful tomorrow, and then I think that Dick Holbrooke and we will be in a position to tell you what we think follows that.
Q Are you confident that it will be successful?
MR. BURNS: I think we have certainly done a lot of work to bring the situation to the point where we have a prospect for a good meeting tomorrow. It's going to be a very difficult meeting, and I'd prefer not to handicap it right now, Tim.
Q (Inaudible) I don't understand. You said you hoped that the Serbian Foreign Minister shows up on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs. I don't understand that statement. Are you saying that you don't know when they're going to be representing the Bosnian Serbs and when they're not; and, when they sign the peace agreement, will they be representing the Bosnian Serbs? It seems like a huge oversight to me.
MR. BURNS: No, we don't have a huge oversight here. We've actually thought all this through very well -- the carefully worked out diplomacy for this meeting tomorrow. The Serbian Foreign Minister will be there. He's going to be meeting with Dick in just an hour or two. He's already in Geneva.
The Serbs have said that from time to time they will be representing the Bosnian Serbs at these meetings. I was asked the question, I think by Jim, would the Bosnian Serbs be there tomorrow. I don't know. If there are no Bosnian Serbs there, the Serbian Foreign Minister will represent them.
If there are Bosnian Serbs, he will still be the lead person at the table, and so I think it's fair to say that he will be representing them. The question I don't know is, will there be other Bosnian Serbs in his delegation as part of the joint delegation.
Q Can you have peace talk where the Bosnian Serbs are not represented?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. President Milosevic said that they could last week, and Mr. Karadzic echoed that comment.
Q What is to ensure that they're going to comply with whatever their patrons decide?
MR. BURNS: Their actions, and their actions are going to the most important indicator of whether or not they're interested in peace, and we'll always watch their actions very carefully. That is ultimately the most important thing here -- their actions.
Q You mentioned a moment ago that Eastern Slavonia might be a topic of discussion tomorrow. Are there principles about Eastern Slavonia that the U.S. believes need to be part of any sort of agreement on principles that would allow talks to begin, and what principles about Eastern Slavonia does the U.S. support?
MR. BURNS: It's clearly an issue that has got to be discussed at any meeting for peace of importance to the Government of Croatia as well as to the Government of Serbia. It's on the agenda because it's one of the major issues before them, and it's an issue that Dick Holbrooke has worked on with both President Tudjman and President Milosevic.
But beyond that, David, I just don't want to characterize exactly what we'll be discussing pertaining to that issue tomorrow.
Q Why do you think that the issue of Eastern Slavonia has to be on the table during the discussion about peace in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Because there are three major parties to the conflict in the Balkans, and clearly the Government of Croatia is a very important part of the wider peace process, and Eastern Slavonia is one of the most important issues to it.
Q Would it be safe to assume that Eastern Slavonia is supposed to change hands as part of --
MR. BURNS: That question and the resolution of that question is entirely up to the parties. It will not be resolved tomorrow. It will be discussed tomorrow but not resolved, I'm sure.
Q Have the Serbs set any conditions concerning what the principles would be on Eastern Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: There's been a very high level of detail in the discussions so far. But, as Dick Holbrooke is fond of saying, private negotiations must remain private, or secret negotiations must remain secret. I'm going to have to just choose not to get into that.
Q I thought last week Holbrooke said that the territorial integrity of Croatia would have to be intact, including Eastern Slavonia.
MR. BURNS: We've made a lot of statements about it, Jim. What I just don't want to do here is get into what we expect will happen on this question tomorrow, and I really don't want to describe the essence of the conversations among President Tudjman, President Milosevic and Dick on this issue. That's really for a later time, not to be done in public.
Q Nick, in announcing the talks Friday, there was a certain optimism, I believe, in these halls, if there wasn't euphoria, you stated specifically. Does that level of optimism now continue the day before those talks?
MR. BURNS: We were optimistic last week -- I believe it was a week ago today -- when we were able to say that there had been a procedural breakthrough in the quest for peace -- procedural because the three principal governments had agreed to sit down together. That was a very big first step.
Now we face an even more difficult hurdle, and that is can these three individuals and the others at the table agree on a set of principles that would underlie any subsequent discussions.
We are optimistic that we've come a long way, but we sense and we believe that we're only at the beginning phase of a very, very long peace process that will be difficult, complex. It will require a lot of patience and the avoidance of setting artificial deadlines at this point.
Q China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, when asked to comment on Mrs. Clinton's speeches, has warned the United States not to place new obstacles, new trouble in U.S.-China relations and has urged the United States to eliminate the consequences of Lee Teng-hui's visit. Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: I think his comments stand on their own. He said what he said. We remain interested in a good and productive relationship with China. We made a beginning towards resuming such a relationship at Brunei on August 1. Peter Tarnoff had a good set of talks two weeks ago. The Secretary is looking forward to his meeting with the Vice Premier and the Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, in a couple of weeks in New York. The U.S.-China relationship is exceedingly important to both countries.
Q The Security Council tomorrow is reviewing Iraqi sanctions, the regular 60-day. Can you state for us on the record or reiterate U.S. policy, and how, if at all, has this changed since the defections and so-called "success" of the Administration's policy ongoing in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: We in no way, shape or form would support any relaxation of the sanctions. There's no reason to relax the sanctions. If anything, what Mr. Ekeus has been able to unearth, what the Iraqis now have admitted about the incredible array of activities they undertook to develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons -- if anything, there is now much more information that needs to be analyzed and assessed by the West.
There is much more information that argues against the lifting of sanctions. I don't believe there is any country that is serious on the Security Council that will support the lifting of sanctions, given what we know, based on the defections and based on the information made available to the Security Council by Mr. Rolf Ekeus.
Q So they're not getting any Brownie points for independently turning over documents to Mr. Ekeus?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely not. I mean, why would we give Brownie points to a country that now admits that it lied and cheated. It lied to the world community, it cheated, and it tried to develop nuclear and chemical weapons. No Brownie points.
Q Do you have details on what has been uncovered since the Ekeus visit to Baghdad a couple of weeks ago?
MR. BURNS: We have. Mr. Ekeus was in the Department last week. He met with Strobe Talbott who was then the Acting Secretary, and there was a long discussion of what information had developed from the more recent conversations with the Iraqi Government. I don't have it here with me today, George. If you're looking for some particular detail, I'm sure we can get some for you.
Q Do you have any details about next week's meeting in Dublin between the Kurdish parties in Iraq? I mean, do you know what the date will be, what the level of U.S. representation will be, and what's on the agenda?
MR. BURNS: I think we posted an announcement last night saying that there will indeed be a meeting next week in Dublin between the two major Kurdish organizations in northern Iraq. It's part of our ongoing effort to convince those organizations that they ought to cooperate together for peace and stability in northern Iraq.
It's part of our very strong support for the Government of Turkey. It has a number of concerns about the situation in northern Iraq, particularly the security situation that affects Turkish civilians. So that's why we're undertaking it. It's part of an ongoing series of contacts that the Department of State has had with these two organizations.
Q What will be the level of U.S. representation?
MR. BURNS: Let me look and see if we can get the name of the person who will be representing us.
Q And is it true that an invitation was forwarded to the two Kurdish leaders to come to Washington afterward?
MR. BURNS: Let me look into that as well.
Q Tomorrow is the three Foreign Ministers -- Turkish, Syrian and the Iranian Foreign Minister -- they will gather and sit and talk about the Iraq (inaudible). Do you have any comment and reaction on it?
MR. BURNS: I really don't. I don't have any comment on that. We will maintain a very close dialogue with the Government of Turkey on that particular issue. I have no comment on the meeting you refer to, however.
Q How about the Iraqi opposition groups -- they decided not to sit and discuss about the future of Iraq in London. Do you have any reaction also -- yesterday?
MR. BURNS: I don't, no.
Q Did you catch the comment over the weekend that suggested the U.S. is being so tough on Iraq and Iran that it's antagonizing Syria, and that you run the risk of establishing a unique tripartite alliance of Syria, Iran and Iraq; that some of your friends in the area -- I mean, the columnist included Syria as a friend in the area -- are concerned about this aggressive policy.
I was going to ask you even before, but, of course, you know, it's easy to say we're getting support. But you're way out ahead of the rest of the world on a tough policy toward Iran and Iraq. Does that give you any qualms?
MR. BURNS: You know, it really doesn't. I saw the articles to which you're referring. I think they're rather far-fetched. We have a national interest in making sure that Iraq never again regains the capability to be a threat to its neighbors, the way it clearly was in 1990-1991.
We have a national interest, very clearly held, that Iran should not be in a position to threaten its neighbors with nuclear or chemical weapons, and we've talked earlier in this briefing about one aspect of that issue. This policy of opposition to the designs of both Iraq and Iran is strongly felt here. We may very well be out in front, as you say, of other members of the international community. It's the right place for us to be; we have to be a leader. Sometimes to be a leader you have to do things that other countries are not willing to do, and we're willing to do them. We're willing to stand up publicly and say that both Iraq and Iran ought to be isolated for their behavior.
Q But Syria isn't cheering on the sidelines, saying, "Go get 'em."
MR. BURNS: I don't know if Syria is cheering or not. You'll have to ask the Syrian Government what it's doing.
Q China. Back on China.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q In spite of the very straightforward language from the First Lady in her speech in Beijing, it seems that the Chinese reaction has been extremely mild, and that Chinese-U.S. relations are somewhat back on track. I know this is not something that will be arranged from this office, but is there any speculation or private discussions regarding a possible visit by President Clinton to China maybe later in the year if everything goes well on that track?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any pending Presidential trip to China. I'll have to refer you to Mike McCurry on that -- the White House Press Secretary in the Press Office. But I'm not aware of any trip to China.
There is a possibility that there will be high-level meetings between the United States and China this autumn. Secretary Christopher will begin that with his meeting with Vice Premier Qian in New York in a couple of weeks. As Peter Tarnoff said a couple of weeks ago, there's a possibility of further high-level meetings, but we've set no date for them. There's no agreement to have them right now. We'll have to see how things go in the relationship before that question can be addressed.
Q Nick, a very short one. Is Mrs. Clinton's presence in Beijing a plus or minus for U.S.-China relations?
MR. BURNS: That's the easiest question I've had all day.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm not going to be shy, and I'll definitely be candid. It's the easiest question I've had all day. Mrs. Clinton's trip to the Women's Conference was a great success. She spoke out forthrightly about issues of concern to every American. She represented the United States Government very, very well, and we have admiration for what she did. She's in Mongolia today. She's had a very fine visit to Mongolia. So it's certainly a plus for the United States.
Q How does it relate to relations between the two countries?
MR. BURNS: I think, as she said yesterday in her interview with CNN, the relationship is very important to both countries; and it's important to speak forthrightly about differences when you have those differences, and we clearly do have in some cases very profound differences of opinion with China.
Q Is Gerry Adams going to see anybody from the Department when he's in town seeing Tony Lake?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything for you on that right now.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:26 p.m.)
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