U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/09/13 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, September 13, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns RUSSIA Attack on U.S. Embassy ...................................1,3-9 --Travel Warnings for U.S. Citizens ......................5 --U.S./Russian Relations .................................5-7 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Trip to Russia ................19,21 DEPARTMENT Congressional Action: Funding for Department Operations ..2,25-26 Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship/Diplomatic Service ......27-28 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Offensives by Croatians and Bosnian Government ...........9-10 Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's Diplomatic Mission .......10-12 --Accomplishments of Peace Initiatives ...................11 Continued NATO Air Campaign ..............................12-13 --Role of Italian Government/Inclusion in Contact Group ..13-14 --Role of Canadian Government ............................14,15-16 --Report of Ceasefire Arrangement ........................14-15 Continued Attacks by Bosnian Serbs .......................16-18 --Safety of Bosnian Serb Civilians .......................18 Implementation of a Peace Treaty .........................19-20 BELARUS Deaths of Hot Air Balloonists ............................21-25 IRAQ Negotiations Between Kurdish Factions in Dublin ..........25,26 UNITED NATIONS Negotiations Between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ..................................27 NORTH KOREA Establishment of Liaison Office ..........................28
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1995, 1:32 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I apologize for being late. I was just on the line with Belgrade, trying to get a readout on Dick Holbrooke's discussions today, and we can talk about that in a couple of minutes. But, first, I have two statements that I'd like to make before we begin the question-and- answer phase of this briefing.
The first concerns a situation at the United States Embassy in Moscow. At 8:25 this morning, Eastern Standard Time, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the front of the United States Embassy building in Moscow. The grenade penetrated a wall on the sixth floor and was stopped by a large copy machine. There were no casualties or injuries and the building was immediately evacuated. The grenade was fired from a commercial and apartment building across the street from our Embassy. I don't believe anybody has been apprehended yet by the Russian authorities.
The Embassy received no threats or advance notice prior to this attack and no group has yet claimed responsibility. The Russian authorities responded immediately and have provided excellent cooperation. They have increased security for the Embassy, and the Embassy has also taken its own measures to enhance the security of the Embassy buildings and of our employees in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.
Secretary of State Christopher has been fully briefed on this incident, and just a little while ago Deputy Secretary of State Talbott was in touch with the Russian Ambassador here in Washington, Yuli Vorontsov.
The United States obviously deplores this act of terrorism, and we of course will continue to expect the full and complete cooperation from the Russian Government in ensuring the safety of our diplomatic personnel in the Russian Federation.
I will be glad to take questions on this, but I want to make one more statement before we go to questions.
I wanted to take a moment to echo some of the thoughts that Secretary Christopher put forward to many of you yesterday, and this is about an issue that is very important people in this building and to many people in this Government and one that Secretary Christopher has a very strong and determined position on. That is the recent Congressional action to restrict U.S. engagement and U.S. leadership in the world by slashing funding for State Department operations.
If the Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill passes, the Congress would be jeopardizing America's national security, compromising United States national interests, and undercutting United States leadership around the world. For example, under the current proposal, the United States would have to close 50 to 60 of our diplomatic posts overseas. We would have to renege on our commitments to international organizations. We would have to furlough many of our skilled diplomats; and we would have to silence America's voice overseas, which is the Voice of America.
I think no better example demonstrates how important United States engagement in the world is to the American people than what has happened in Bosnia over the last couple of weeks. Successful leadership depends on two factors: the credible use of force, and the diplomatic ability to make peace.
The United States has proven that it has the finest armed forces in the world, but that is only one part of America's national readiness and America's national power. We also need a very high degree of diplomatic readiness to keep America strong in the world, and the good work that has been done by Ambassador John Menzies at our Embassy in Sarajevo, by the American diplomatic team on Bosnia, could not have been realized if we didn't have trained personnel ready to take the place of our colleagues who lost their lives three weeks ago as part of the American peace mission.
Secretary Christopher intends to fight these devastating budget cuts with determination. He intends to make the case to the American people that in the post-Cold War era there are still dangers to America's national security interests and this is no time to make the American eagle an ostrich.
So with that I'd be very glad to go to your questions.
Q You probably don't want to speculate as to who might be behind the incident in Moscow, but I'm going to try anyway. Do you suppose it's Balkan-related, or perhaps pipeline-related? A decision on that pipeline is imminent, and there was a mysterious assassination attempt in Georgia last week, which may have been pipeline-related, anyway?
MR. BURNS: George, we have no way of knowing who is responsible for this outrageous act of terrorism against our diplomats and against our Embassy building in Moscow. I've seen and heard a lot of the speculation this morning, both here and overseas, about who may have been responsible and for what reason. We simply do not know.
Q You say you hold the Russians, basically hold the Russians accountable for protecting the Embassy. Was there a lapse in security that allowed -- either on the Russian side or on the American side -- that allowed this to happen? It was just across the street.
MR. BURNS: I believe what I said was that we would continue to expect the full and complete cooperation of the Russian Government to ensure the safety of our diplomats in the Russian Federation. Any host government, including our Government here in Washington, bears a very large degree of responsibility for the safety of diplomats in a particular country. That is definitely true of the Russian Government's obligations.
I am not at all trying to indicate that there was any lapse of security, but there was a very serious terrorist attack against our Embassy and our employees need to be protected.
We have received this morning, following the grenade attack, very good -- in fact, I would say excellent -- cooperation from the law enforcement agencies in Russia; and we fully expect that that will continue. It was important that we make that point because we take very seriously any threats to the lives of American diplomats anywhere in the world.
Q Just to follow-up, you say there's going to be enhanced security at the Embassy now. Why was there a need to enhance security if it was adequate?
MR. BURNS: Sid, most American embassies, particularly those in large cities, in large countries like Russia, have a very high level of security, both around Embassy buildings and in the way that American diplomats conduct themselves.
In this case, as well as in many other cases around the world, the host government provides a very high level of security. The security precautions that were taken by the Embassy leadership and by the Russian Government were certainly adequate to protect American citizens, but now we've had a demonstrable threat against American diplomats. We've had a terrorist attack this morning. So, of course, we're going to enhance security.
There's a difference between a high level of security and measures that you would take to upgrade that. There are always things that you can do to enhance security. You can restrict the movement of certain people; you can do all sorts of things.
I'm not going to talk about how we're going to enhance the security because that wouldn't be in our interest to do so, but of course we're going to do that in reaction to the rocket attack this morning. It certainly doesn't mean by doing that that somehow the previous level of security was inadequate.
Q Nick, is there an special investigative team going from here to Moscow?
MR. BURNS: Right now, the investigation is in the hands of the Russian authorities. Normally, when this type of incident occurs, the Diplomatic Security Bureau of the State Department does send a team to an Embassy to work with the regional security officers to ascertain how the attack could have occurred, the nature of attack, how you can help to prevent such attacks in the future. I'm sure that we'll do that in this case, but I have nothing to announce right now.
Q Have you gotten any information so far about the type of grenade this was? I mean did it have any markings that indicated it might be military, or -- ?
MR. BURNS: I just don't have any information on that whatsoever. I think you've seen some film footage of some of the material that was left at the scene of the crime, and that is in capable hands in the Russian security services tonight, Russian time.
We will work very closely with the Russian Government to try to determine who was responsible for this.
Q Are there any travel warnings or such for Americans living in Moscow or in Russia? Are Americans safe there now?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing to announce in the way of travel warnings at all right now.
Q Are Americans safe there now? Is it the Department's assessment that Americans in Russia are safe?
MR. BURNS: When you travel anywhere in the world -- when American citizens travel, they have to take the normal precautions that you have to take in the modern world. Russia is a country now, since its transition from communism to democracy and free market economics during the last four and a half years, a country in which, in many of its major cities, has a very high level of crime. Americans have been victims of those crimes. There has not been a high level of terrorism in Russia, to date. Until this morning, the United States diplomats had not had any problems relating to terrorism in recent times.
So, obviously, American citizens should take the normal precautions that they ought to take in any major European or North American city. But I'm not announcing this afternoon any additional travel warnings to American citizens. I can't preclude that in the future, but I have nothing to announce now.
Q Can I try George's question from a slightly different tack. Do you think that the super-heated rhetoric out of Moscow in recent days -- "genocide" for example -- creates a climate that might lead to anti- American attacks?
MR. BURNS: We are going to continue to work with the Russian Government to resolve the disagreements that we clearly have about some aspects of the Bosnia problem. I don't believe that anything that was said publicly in the last few days would compel or convince any individual to do what someone did this morning at the American Embassy in Moscow.
Whoever perpetrated this crime was either sick or a zealot. I certainly don't believe that one ought to associate the Russian Government with this act this morning. The Russian Government has reacted quickly this morning. They very deeply regret this incident. I don't want to link these two thoughts in any way.
Q I wasn't suggesting that this was what was intended, but you did use the word "zealot."
MR. BURNS: I used the word "zealot" because -- try to get into the mind of someone who fires a grenade into an embassy building. Either they have a political ax to grind, which is clearly not the political agenda of the Russian Government, or they're sick. It may be a combination of the two. That's what terrorists normally are; they're normally sick people with political delusions of grandeur.
I just can't speculate beyond that, who it might have been.
Q By saying "sick or a zealot," you seem to be eliminating the pipeline alternative -- that it was just business. After all, that is usually what -- usually, they're business disputes in Russia nowadays.
MR. BURNS: David, which end of the business deal are we on here? What is the business deal?
It's hard in the aftermath, the immediate aftermath, of a terrorist incident to speak with any degree of specificity about what the motives were of unknown people. We simply don't know why this act was perpetrated. I think that our focus now has to be in working with the Russian Government to get to the bottom of this and to hope that the Russian Government will be able to apprehend the criminals who are responsible for this. Speculating about it is interesting, but I really can't do that.
Q Does the Embassy have security cameras pointed outward?
MR. BURNS: Many embassies do. I can't quite recollect if this particular Embassy does. I wouldn't be surprised if it did, but I can check on that.
Q You don't think, then, that if these anti-Western statements continue to be emanated from the Russian Government that either American diplomats or American citizens are in greater danger in the next few days?
MR. BURNS: Lee, we do not have a "Jihad" on the part of the Russian Government against the West. We have a political disagreement over the use of NATO airpower in Bosnia.
We have disagreements with governments around the world every single day of the year. We have disagreements with our closest allies every single day of the year. This is a particularly serious disagreement because it goes to the heart of an issue in which both Russia and the United States have a compelling interest, and that is peace in the Balkans.
Russia has been our partner for peace. I believe it will continue to be our partner for peace. Russia does not believe that NATO's use of airpower, backed by the United Nations, is appropriate. We disagree. We believe the use of NATO airpower is not only appropriate, it's wise, it's sensible, and it is going to convince the Bosnian Serb leadership, sooner or later, that they've got to turn to towards peace.
So we have a big disagreement here, but I don't think you should conclude from this disagreement that somehow the state of U.S.-Russian relations is going to suffer in other respects. There is too much that unites Russia and the United States. There's too much common ground, and there is a lot of self-interest -- mutual self-interest -- that will compel the United States and Russia to get along in the future on arms control issues, on economic issues, and on political issues all around the world. I'm quite confident of that judgment.
Q So no one has asked them to cool the rhetoric as such? Neither Deputy Secretary Talbott nor anyone in Moscow has asked them to lower the rhetoric a little bit for the safety of Americans?
MR. BURNS: Lee, in the aftermath of this terrorist attack this morning, I don't know exactly what was said and not said between the Kremlin and our Embassy in Moscow.
I can tell you, however, that some of the rhetoric has been unwarranted, has been entirely misplaced, and has been grossly unfair. The President spoke very eloquently to this yesterday as did Secretary Perry, as did I at this briefing, about the grossly unfair charge of genocide from the Russian Government. That charge was answered this morning by a very unlikely figure -- by Mr. Karadzic, from Pale, who said, publicly, that there had been very few civilian casualties as a result of the NATO military action over the past couple of weeks.
In fact, as Secretary Perry and the President both said yesterday, NATO has gone to extraordinary lengths to minimize casualties as part of the air action over the last two weeks.
You can't unleash 3,000 sorties and not think that you're going to have some level of civilian casualties. But we've tried to minimize them as befits the traditions in our own countries and our sense of our responsibility to minimize civilian casualties.
Let's turn the charge of genocide and brutality to where it belongs. It belongs 10 miles down the road from Sarajevo in Pale. The Bosnian Serbs are the ones that have unleashed barbaric attacks against civilians. If countries want to hurl charges -- incendiary charges -- around, they ought to look towards Pale, not towards the West.
Q If I could go to the subject of Bosnia and the objections of the Russian Government -- could I at this time go to Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely.
Q What brand is that copying machine, by the way, that repelled the grenade attack? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I am sure that in the great tradition of American capitalism, there will be a commercial on our television sets within three days about this stellar copying machine that stopped the rocket- propelled grenade.
I will seek an answer to your question. I think that's a legitimate question, Sid. I think I will seek that.
Q Given the budget cuts, how soon do you think it will take for them to get a replacement? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. Thank you. You've given me an opening to talk about the budget again. Have you had enough on the budget?
Barry, you don't think I should take it?
That's a very good question: How long is it going to take to get a replacement machine?
Let me just be serious for a moment. I understand that there was someone standing at that copy machine five minutes before the grenade hit. Someone could have been killed in this attack, and we were very, very lucky that no one was harmed -- killed or wounded in this attack.
This was a serious attack against an American Embassy, and we take it very seriously.
Bill, you want to talk about Bosnia.
Q Can I have one more on Russia?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q Twice, on the perpetrators of the attack, you've used the word "individuals." Why? Have you ruled out groups? Why is that?
MR. BURNS: We simply have no idea who these criminals are. Whether it's a group, whether it's an individual, whether it's some individuals, I don't know. That was a loose term that I used.
Q One of the reported objections of the Russian Duma and the Russian Government Executive has been that of the gains -- alleged gains -- being made by Bosnian Muslim troops and Croatian troops in Bosnia. Despite the statements of Mr. Granic yesterday who told us that they would be restrained, they would be quiet, they would await the results of the peace process, and that they did not plan any military action, there's a Reuters report, Nick, from Sarajevo where Mr. Akashi is announcing that the town of Donji Vakuf has apparently fallen to Bosnian Muslim troops and that the Croatian troops have taken, in the last day - - Croatian troops -- have taken Sopovo. Another Bosnian Serb village.
I think the Russians are saying NATO and the U.N. are using airpower against the Bosnian Serbs while these other forces, rather than standing down, are moving and taking ground.
The British have come out, frankly, in another Reuters wire and said that we could condemn what Croatia is doing in western Bosnia. Now, does the United States Government condemn what Croatia is doing in western Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I got the question. (Laughter) The United States has repeatedly urged all parties in the region at the highest level not to take actions which could aggravate the situation in the Balkans.
We believe that a negotiated settlement is the only possible outcome to this very tragic conflict, and this is our principal objective -- a negotiated outcome. We believe that forbearance from military action is the only way to enhance the opportunities for peace. We welcome President Izetbegovic's assurances that the government in Sarajevo would not take advantage of current U.N. and NATO military operations.
This applies to all parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, not just the safe areas, and the calls for restraint that we have put forth as recently as yesterday in this building with the Croatian Foreign Minister by Secretary Christopher pertain most especially to the Bosnian Serbs -- not just to the Croatian Government and the Bosnian Government -- but also to the Bosnian Serbs; and it pertains to all the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, not just to the safe areas.
We didn't start these appeals yesterday or today. We started them several weeks ago when the military campaign started, and that's our policy.
Q Beyond urging restraint, is there anything you can do to encourage restraint on the part of the Muslims or Croats?
MR. BURNS: We're urging it and we are encouraging it, and we're using all of our diplomatic powers of persuasion to convince them that there is not likely to be much advantage to be gained by piling on and by filling in behind NATO and the U.N. It's a very serious development, and we're taking it seriously, and those governments understand that.
Q Doesn't this make it more difficult for Mladic to surrender his weapons -- the fact that, apparently, the Muslims and Croats are on the move?
MR. BURNS: It shouldn't, and our message to General Mladic remains the same. The international community has pledged by the stationing of UNPROFOR in the area to protect all civilians in all safe areas, and that pertains to the Bosnian Serb communities in and around these safe areas, in all parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, not just to the Bosnian Muslim or Bosnian Croat population.
This is, in fact, the central role of the United Nations' presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that is to protect civilians -- all civilians. That is a message that General Mladic should understand.
If I could, with your forbearance, I'd like to just -- now that we're on Bosnia -- tell you that Dick Holbrooke is in the middle of a meeting now with President Milosevic in Belgrade. He went into that meeting about four hours ago. I called just before coming out here, which is one of the reasons I was late, to see if I could get Dick, but he was ensconced with President Milosevic.
Dick has said very little in public today. The objective of his current peace mission is quite clear. He began today on behalf of the President and Secretary Christopher a new round of diplomacy, which is designed to maintain momentum in the U.S.-led peace initiative.
It's designed to try to help the countries of the region that have been at war for four years to turn away from war and to turn towards peace. I think this is a good opportunity to review, as Dick undertakes this mission, what we've been able to accomplish in the last two months.
We have been able, since the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa, to shore up the international presence in Bosnia. There was a lot of talk, a lot of questioning in July, in the wake of the fall of those two cities, about the sustainability of UNPROFOR in the region. No one is talking about that now. UNPROFOR is going to stay in Bosnia.
There was a Bosnian Serb military offensive under way this spring and summer in eastern Bosnia that has been stopped in its tracks, and certainly the mortal threat that the Bosnian Serb military offensive posed to the safe areas, the remaining safe areas, has been ended. Very unfortunately, it was not ended before Srebrenica and Zepa fell.
I think we have begun to turn the tide of this war. Not just "we" the United States, but "we" the international community, and "we" the parties on the ground, from war towards the imperative of peace.
The peace initiative is showing some promise. We have been able to have a successful first meeting in Geneva. Dick Holbrooke's objective right now is to get into very detailed discussions of the difficult issues that are at the heart of this conflict -- the Map, the Contact Group Plan to end this war, the possibility at some point of a cease- fire, the necessity of organizing an international peace conference.
All of these questions -- Eastern Slavonia, mutual recognition, cross-recognition among the three parties -- are at the heart of Dick Holbrooke's current diplomatic offensive. Certainly, the time has come for peace. The Bosnian Serbs bear the lion's share of the responsibility for the atrocious situation that these people are in all over the Balkans, and they bear responsibility now -- and this includes the Bosnian Serb military leadership -- to take the appropriate and logical conclusion. As Secretary Perry said last night, they have a losing hand.
They have a losing hand. They cannot achieve on the battlefield their historic dream of a greater Serbia. They have got to go to the negotiating table. That's why the President and Secretary have sent Dick Holbrooke to the region. He'll be there over the next couple of days. After Belgrade today, he will go to Geneva for the Russian- hosted, Russian-shared meeting of the Contact Group tomorrow in Geneva.
He will then go tomorrow night to Zagreb for a meeting Friday morning with President Tudjman. I imagine then he will resume over the weekend and into early next week the shuttle diplomacy among Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. We have high hopes for this peace process, but we understand that it's going to be very, very difficult to achieve a successful result -- very, very difficult indeed -- and we need to be patient about making quick progress. Progress may indeed be very slow.
Q General Mladic may have a losing hand, but he seems to be refusing to fold. There's no sign of Serb compliance yet. Meanwhile, Boutros-Ghali is calling Janvier and Akashi to New York, and there are reports this morning that they are unhappy with the escalation, as they see it, of the bombing campaign. We, of course, know what Russia is doing.
You have been saying all along that you don't plan for failure, but isn't it time to address the question of what to do if Mladic refuses to move those weapons?
MR. BURNS: NATO is going to stay determined -- remain determined to continue the air campaign until the objectives of that campaign are met. There is no weakening of resolve in the NATO alliance. There is no weakening of resolve in the U.N. Security Council.
The Russian Federation put to the U.N. Security Council yesterday a resolution that would have in fact have interrupted the NATO air campaign, and that resolution was turned down by the Security Council because the Security Council reaffirmed, as late as last night, that UNSC Resolution 836 provides authority for NATO and the U.N. to undertake this kind of action.
We are not going to slow up. We're not going to relieve the pressure. We're going to keep the pressure on. It is very likely that Mladic and his compatriots will try to wait this one out. They'll try to wait until the West cracks, and they'll try to wait until the bombs stop falling.
We're going to continue our two initiatives on two parallel levels, and that is -- parallel routes -- that is, a continuation of the military campaign, a continuation of the search for peace, and the search for peace, second round, began today in Belgrade.
Q Nick, how would the Administration --
Q Follow-up. Could I follow up on that?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q On the Alliance weakening or not weakening, is there any change in the Italians and whether or not they've had a change of heart and allowed the F-117s to come into Aviano?
MR. BURNS: Another reason I was late -- another excuse that I have for getting out here late is that I had a long conversation with our Ambassador in Rome, Reg Bartholomew, and he reports very good cooperation between the United States and Italy.
Italy is a strong supporter of the NATO military action, as it supports our diplomatic action, and on the question of deployments of our military assets, that's really a question for the Pentagon. The Pentagon has not announced anything yet. I don't believe the Italian Government has announced anything either.
So we are discussing, of course, as everybody knows, many issues concerning deployment, but it's not for the State Department to comment upon that specifically.
Q Nick, could you clarify the U.S. position on whether Italy should be included into the Contact Group or not? And you said yesterday it's a European issue. Does that mean that if the Europeans want the Italians in, you will propose it?
MR. BURNS: It is most definitely a European Union issue. It's been an issue that has been debated very intensely and intensively in the European Union. The United States has taken the initiative at several points over the last couple of weeks to include Italy, Spain and Canada in an expanded Contact Group format.
All three countries are important allies of ours. We are very comfortable with that format. It is not our decision as to whether or not Europe should be represented by two, three, four or five countries. That's a decision for the European Union.
But because we have to operate within a certain framework, we have taken the initiative through Ambassador Bartholomew on a daily basis and through Dick Holbrooke who visited Rome -- had talks with Prime Minister Dini last week -- to make sure that our coordination with the Italians is very intensive and complete and full.
I think the Italians will tell you that they have no gripe with the United States, and that they have very good cooperation with the United States.
Q Who decides (inaudible)? Is that a North American issue?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q Is Canada a North American issue?
MR. BURNS: No. I mean, this issue is for the Contact Group to decide on the EU level, and the question here pertained to Italy.
Q Yes, but who would decide if Canada was to be a part?
MR. BURNS: It would be a group decision.
Q Nick, as far as the airstrikes, yesterday and again today you say there will be no relenting. But is there in fact a compromise being discussed that involves removal of most -- all tanks, most artillery pieces, leaving some in place, U.N.-monitoring of the weapons in a nation-wide cease-fire?
MR. BURNS: If that kind of arrangement is being discussed, it would not be done by American diplomats. It would be done by the United Nations' officials who have responsibility for this kind of thing on the ground.
The United Nations is the main conduit to the Bosnian Serb military leadership, and specifically General Janvier. So I'll have to refer you to General Janvier and the U.N. on that particular issue.
Q So how would the Administration, the main pusher for these airstrikes, backer -- excuse me -- feel about that sort of arrangement?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to reveal publicly everything that we think about the situation. We certainly want to see the guns silenced and the guns removed. That's an American position. That's an imperative if the siege of Sarajevo is to be lifted, if people can live a peaceful winter. We do have points of view that we are communicating to the United Nations, to other NATO members, to our allies, to the Serbs.
Dick Holbrooke is doing that right now, but we're not the lead negotiator, and it doesn't make any sense to reveal our positions on very critical and sensitive issues in public.
Q But clearly you're not ruling it out.
MR. BURNS: It's not for us to rule things in or out. It's for the U.N. and the Bosnian Serbs to have a conversation about what it's going to take to get those guns down from around the hills surrounding Sarajevo. That is the objective that the U.N. has enunciated, and it's a good objective.
Q Is it your understanding that those conversations are taking place between the U.N. and the Bosnian Serbs about a compromise for the removal of the weapons?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. Should there be a compromise?
Q No. Is it your understanding, the building's understanding, the Government's understanding, that those conversations are taking place; that there are negotiations between the U.N. and the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing to offer on that today.
Q Since Canada was raised in connection with the Italian situation, and you say there are special efforts made on the part of the United States to involve the Italians in the process, what are you doing for Canada, if anything?
MR. BURNS: Canada is in many respects our closest ally, and we have continual contact with the Canadian Government through our Embassy in Ottawa and also through military channels in NATO about the NATO operation; and Canada has also been included expressly in many of the most important recent meetings of the Contact Group.
Q Is it your understanding that Canada is satisfied with that situation?
MR. BURNS: I think I would direct that question to the Canadian Government. We believe that Canada should be fully involved in the range of activities in the Balkans, because Canada is a major contributor to the efforts for peace, and we take that obligation very seriously.
There is a question here, I know, that a lot of you are asking about -- how big should the Contact Group be. That's a very sensitive issue, and I'd prefer to leave that for private discussions. But I think in general I can give you the very strong sense that the United States has acted over the past couple of weeks in a way that would include as many countries that are critical to this -- and Canada is certainly critical -- as possible.
Q Is the United States prepared to accept General Janvier's judgment as to what is necessary to render Sarajevo safe?
MR. BURNS: The United Nations has enunciated, articulated, the conditions that have been given to the Bosnian Serbs that would warrant a cessation of the military campaign. We have never disagreed with those conditions, and in fact they make sense, and it's up to the United Nations now to continue those discussions with the Bosnian Serbs.
Again, this is a question that we have come back to time and time again, and I understand why you're coming back to it. This is not a difficult proposition for us all to figure out. It's a fairly simplistic proposition. If the Bosnian Serbs would simply stop aiming their weapons, firing their weapons -- as they have countless times over the last couple of days at safe areas -- if they would pull back the weapons from the positions that they currently occupy, if they would act in a way that is consistent with their publicly expressed desire for peace, they would make it easy on themselves. There would be a cessation of the NATO air action overnight, and U.S. officials have been clear about that.
But they don't do that. You have to look at their actions. We've heard a lot of words from these people for four years. We've heard lies. We've certainly heard lies over the last couple of weeks. They said they're pulling out when they're not pulling out; they're pulling back when they're not pulling back.
So you can't trust the words. You have to trust the action. Let's review the actions on September 9 and 10. In Sarajevo: reports of sniping, machine-gun fire, shelling; four wounded, one killed by Bosnian Serbs. Tuzla: 11 shells reported on the 10th of September; wounded.
Mt. Igman: 20 shells, seven rockets. Gorazde: machine-gunning. In the southwest beyond the safe areas, Serb tanks fire into Croatia in the Bihac pocket. The Bosnian Serbs continue military actions. Are these the actions of a government, of a group of people that want peace? Should NATO in the face of this type of action withdraw its use of air power? Absolutely not.
NATO is going to press forward and the United Nations Security Council approved that last night. So that's where the situation is headed. Self-interest would dictate that these people, specifically General Mladic, act in their own self-interest, and that is pull back from a military option and turn towards peace.
That's the message that the bombs are carrying, and that's the message that Dick Holbrooke is carrying.
Q How does that stiffen the U.N. spine?
MR. BURNS: The U.N. Security Council acted last night very clearly to back the NATO military operation. I don't think any spines need stiffening today.
Q (Inaudible) from those remarks; did you mean to suggest that if the Serbs just stopped firing their weapons, that that would be enough?
MR. BURNS: No, I did not mean to suggest that at all. I used these very specific examples of actions by the Bosnian Serbs, which indicate that they still have this compulsion to fight. Certainly, beyond stopping all this type of action, they've got to comply with the conditions put down by the United Nations. The judge of whether or not they've done that will be General Janvier and his colleagues in the U.N. military command.
Q Nick, will a cessation of the using of those weapons -- would that bring about a possible cessation or suspension of air action --
MR. BURNS: No.
Q -- until something else --
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Well, then what about the --
MR. BURNS: No. Bill, I believe you've asked the same question that Carol has asked. If they simply stop attacking safe areas and the Bihac pocket, are they going to be let off the hook? No. They've got to do something about the placement of their artillery that currently poses a potential threat to the citizens of Sarajevo. It has threatened them all throughout the past four years.
MR. BURNS: As General Janvier said a couple of weeks ago, the conditions include a relief from attacks on Sarajevo and other safe areas, U.N. access and freedom of movement to Sarajevo airport, to the land route from the airport into town, and the removal of heavy weapons.
On the second one, on the airport, the blue route -- at least one is open.
Q The airport's been opened. He specifically said they had to guarantee the safety of the airport.
MR. BURNS: And we want the airport to open. But the land route is open. I think there are about 200 vehicles a day that are now coming into Sarajevo with food, with the united colors of Benetton -- you know, all these things that have made life a little bit more palatable for people than it had been previously.
As we look towards winter, what the United Nations wants to accomplish is a relief from the stranglehold so that food and other materials may continue to get into Sarajevo.
Q Nick, the Bosnian Serbs say they don't want to withdraw those guns because they fear for the Serb sector of Sarajevo. Do they have any reason to fear for that sector, and is there anything that the West can do to allay those fears?
MR. BURNS: I think one way to allay those fears is to state very clearly and unequivocally that one of the central -- as I did just a few minutes ago -- one of the central missions of UNPROFOR has been and will continue to be the protection of all civilians in all safe areas. And "all civilians" means Bosnian Serb civilians as well as Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croats and others in the region -- all civilians.
Should the weapons be withdrawn from around Sarajevo, the international community would have the obligation and the responsibility to try to protect all civilians, including the Bosnian Serb civilians who would remain inside Sarajevo, inside other safe areas.
Q Would Strobe Talbott have gone on to Moscow had he not publicly committed to that trip ahead of the Russians' trotting out the charge of genocide? In other words, had that charge been made a day earlier, would he now be planning to go to Moscow?
MR. BURNS: The Russian charge of genocide was preposterous, and I think it's been commented upon by this Administration from President Clinton on down. Put that aside. It's not a rational charge, and Karadzic has spoken to that this morning.
Deputy Secretary Talbott felt very strongly, as did Secretary Christopher that the time had come for good and comprehensive consultations with the Russians on this issue of the Balkans on the military dimensions, on the diplomatic dimensions. I think, yes, he would have gone ahead even if those statements had been made a day earlier, Steve.
Q Nick, can you tell us who he's meeting with?
MR. BURNS: I can't. I know I spoke to him just a few hours ago. He's leaving in a few minutes. He'll be in Moscow tomorrow morning. He'll spend about 24 hours there. He has requested various appointments in the Russian Government. I think they'll be principally with the Russian Foreign Ministry. When I spoke to him, we had not yet received confirmation on the specific appointments that had been requested. I'm sure he will be seen at an appropriately high level.
The Russians are committed to this type of dialogue. There has been a lot of back-and-forth communications between the two governments over the last couple of days and weeks. The Russians want this dialogue as well as us.
Q Nick, it was reported in the Financial Times yesterday that this subject had come up in the talks with Mr. Churkin, that there might be a role for the Russians in the military force that would need to be assembled to enforce the peace and to put the peace into place in Bosnia.
Was that an accurate report, and is this Administration beginning to think about the composition of a military force for such a purpose?
MR. BURNS: We are beginning to think and consider inside the Administration at a very preliminary level with allies the question of how would the international community safeguard a peace treaty. How would we implement a peace treaty. What kind of military contribution could be made to benefit the parties if they agree to a peace arrangement.
It's a question that we would be delighted to deal with, because it would mean that we had achieved a lot of progress on the diplomatic front. It's very difficult, as Secretary Perry said last evening, to tell you how many troops would be involved and whose troops, because we don't know the shape of the peace. The parties haven't agreed to it yet. Once we know that, then we'll be able, we and NATO, to make the appropriate plans. As for Russian involvement, I think it just remains to be seen.
Q That's why I was surprised that there was a report that it was already being discussed with them. Is that an inaccurate report?
MR. BURNS: I think it remains to be seen. I don't believe there have been detailed discussions either inside NATO or between NATO and Russia, or any other country outside of NATO, as to who might participate in such a peace implementation plan.
Q New subject?
MR. BURNS: New subject?
Q One on Bosnia. Just coming back to the Bosnian Croat and Muslim offensive. Isn't your call for restraint a little bit unconvincing? Because you also issued a similar call for restraint to the Croatians before they attacked Krajina. Now you're effectively saying that that has unlocked the entire situation and enabled the peace offensive to go ahead.
MR. BURNS: This call for restraint, which we are reaffirming today, which we have made on several occasions publicly as well as privately over the last couple of weeks, should be heeded very seriously. It's a very important and seriously delivered call for restraint. Restraint is what is required.
There is always going to be an opportunity -- and maybe even an rational call -- for military action on the part of one party or another. That's the problem with the Balkans. They've been heeding those calls for four years. It's time to stop heeding them. It's time to contribute the international community's sponsorship of a peace process. That's where the situation should head.
Q New subject?
MR. BURNS: Anymore on Bosnia?
Q Just briefly. Nick, what specifically are the Russians asking NATO-U.N. to do in Bosnia now? And what are they saying -- what kind of influence can they effect with the Bosnian Serbs to help bring about a cease-fire, cease-bombing situation?
MR. BURNS: Those conversations are taking place at a diplomatic level between the United Nations and the Bosnian Serbs. I think it's very clear what the conditions are. They have been enunciated publicly time and again. They can't fail to be understood by the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Do we have any details of the Russia objection to what the U.N. and NATO are doing?
MR. BURNS: Do we have any details on the Russian objection? We've seen what they said publicly. We've had a lot of private conversations.
One of the objectives that Strobe Talbott has, as he heads off to Moscow right now, is that we need to have a comprehensive set of discussions with the Russians. They need to have a very close appreciation of our point of view as we do of theirs. We are going into these discussions with a very determined view that NATO military action should continue and a diplomatic offensive should continue.
Charlie, and then we'll go to Turkey.
Q Geographically close by but a different subject. There's a report out of Minsk that two Americans flying in a hot-air balloon race were killed, shot down, and that an Embassy officer had gone to the site to investigate. Do you know of this, and do you have any comment or report on it?
MR. BURNS: This is an extremely serious incident. Let me take you through it and let me give you a comment.
The Belarusian authorities -- the authorities of the Government of Belarus -- in Minsk -- confirmed to the United States today that a hot- air balloon was shot down over Belarusian territory on September 12.
Unfortunately, two Americans -- the two-person crew, American citizens -- were killed in this shoot-down.
A second hot-air balloon made a forced landing. It's two-person American crew is safe and unhurt. The two crew members have been in touch with our Embassy in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
A United States diplomat -- a consular official -- has been dispatched to the town of Beryioza in Belarus where the remains of the two Americans who were killed are located.
The Government of Belarus has promised full and open cooperation, including full consular access.
The balloonists were participating in an international balloon race sponsored by a Swiss air club. According to the Swiss air club, flight clearances had been received in advance from all European countries, including Belarus.
We have been in touch with the Belarusian officials -- government - - both here in Washington -- with their Ambassador here in Washington -- and with the government in Minsk. They have expressed regret over this tragedy. They have promised that an official government commission will investigate.
Now, to our comment. We made it very clear to the Belarusians that there was a delay in notifying us about this incident. This incident occurred 24 hours before we were apprised of it -- our Embassy in Minsk was apprised of it. The delay in notifying us is unacceptable.
We have called upon the Belarusian authorities, and do so again right now, to cooperate fully with our Embassy in Minsk and ensure full consular access for American diplomats. We also called upon them to conduct a full and thorough investigation. We welcome Belarus' commitment to set up a high-level investigatory commission. We deeply regret this incident, and we deeply regret the tragic loss of two American lives.
Q Does the shoot-down appear to be by the Belarus military?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q By the military?
MR. BURNS: Yes. It was the Belarusian military.
Q Using what sort of weapons?
MR. BURNS: I don't have that information, David. It's one of the questions that we're asking the Belarus Government right now.
Q Was this in daylight?
MR. BURNS: I believe it was in daylight.
Q Was the weather good, do you know?
MR. BURNS: I don't know about the weather.
Q What have they told you so far about how this could happen?
MR. BURNS: Very little. We're trying to get details from them. They've told us that, I believe, they had sight of the two balloons; they were in sight; that they apparently tried to make radio contact with the balloons. I don't know if the balloons had radios. They just don't know that level of detail. This is completely unacceptable, the fact that this balloon was shot down. The fact that we weren't apprised of it for 24 hours is unacceptable. It's not the way that friendly countries should act towards each other, and we are making very strong diplomatic protests, and I'm making a strong one right now publicly to the Belarus Government.
Q Were there other balloons over the Belarus air space?
MR. BURNS: There was another American balloon. As to whether or not there were other balloons as part of the Swiss operation, let me try to get that for you. I think we can probably find that out.
Q We have gotten some details on this from the Swiss club or whoever was sponsoring this. The report that I have says that the balloon was flying near an air base and an adjoining missile base. Do you know if that was part of the flight plan? Did the Swiss club say that was --
MR. BURNS: Charlie, I don't know if this was part of the flight plan. I don't know the exact flight plan. We do know that there were flight clearances sought and achieved by the Swiss air club that was responsible. This was a private expedition of balloonists. They had flight clearances received from the Belarusian air authorities.
What I don't know, Charlie, is: what was the flight clearance path; what was the actual path. But let's be serious about one thing. No matter what the facts of that particular question turn out to be, in this day and age -- in the post-Cold War era -- for this type of thing to happen is deeply regrettable.
Q How do you know that the Belarusian military was responsible?
MR. BURNS: Because we have been informed of that fact.
Q What branch of the military, and what weapon was used?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, Mark. I have not been briefed on that. I think it's fair that we take your question and try to get you an answer.
Q Is the Administration considering any sort of punitive action against Belarus at this time?
MR. BURNS: The Belarusian Ambassador has been called into the Department. Our Ambassador in Minsk has gone in to talk to the Belarusians. I'll just leave it there.
I think we need to have a full investigation of this incident. The Belarusians have agreed to set up a high-level investigatory commission. That is a logical first step. We will work with that commission to try to seek the facts and the answers to many of the questions that you've asked today. We don't have some of these answers yet.
Q When was the Ambassador here? Has he been here already?
MR. BURNS: I believe he was here as I came out to brief.
Q Can you spell the name of the town where they came down, near where they --
MR. BURNS: Yes, I'll be glad to. B-E-R-Y-I-O-Z-A -- Beryioza is the phonetic pronunciation that I have.
Q Can you release the names?
MR. BURNS: There's a Privacy Act, of course, that governs our behavior. Once the next-of-kin have been notified of the death of these two individuals, then our Consular Affairs Bureau will release the names of the two. We cannot do that by law until the next-of-kin have been told of this.
Q Is anyone from the U.S. being sent to help investigate?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. We have just begun dealing with this in the last couple of hours, but I can look into that for you, Christen.
Q When did they notify you exactly?
MR. BURNS: I believe that the hot-air balloon was shot down September 12. We were notified today, September 13; 24 hours later.
Q New subject. The Iraqi Kurdish groups and the Iraqi National Council representative, they met at Dublin. I wonder what's your reaction or revelation on this latest session? And the second part of the question: We heard about the British diplomats also; they joined in this meeting.
The representative and the government officials, they have a reaction on that. The British diplomat said that the U.S. Government invited them to join this meeting. Can you comment on it?
Q Can we have a filing break?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I do have one more thing to say that I think is pertinent to some of the issues we've discussed today. I would like to get this out on the record.
Let me just quickly answer this question. I know the reason why you want a filing break. There is a meeting underway in Dublin, sponsored by the United States. It's objective is to try to bring together the two main Kurdish groups in northern Iraq so that they might work together much more cooperatively than they have in the past towards providing a stable and peaceful climate for the citizens of northern Iraq above the 36th Parallel.
Let me just very quickly say something that has to be said before a filing break is called; and that is, some of the comments in the Washington Post this morning by a United States Senator about the American Foreign Service and the State Department.
I would like to step back from my role as Spokesman. I'd like to comment personally about what I think about these statements.
The statements were to the effect that American diplomats are people in striped pants, with tall hats and long coats, and that therefore the activities of these diplomats don't amount to much in the world because there are higher priorities for the American people. Therefore, the State Department budget ought to be eviscerated.
I would like to offer a personal comment as a Foreign Service Officer that that particular Senator ought to reflect upon the activities of our Embassy in Minsk this morning, the activities of our Embassy in Moscow this morning which was attacked by a grenade; and he ought to reflect on the fact that instead of striped pants American diplomats were wearing flak jackets in Sarajevo, have been sleeping in sleeping bags with sandbags around them. And that a very prominent American diplomat was wearing a flak jacket in an armored personnel carrier three weeks ago when he fell to his death.
This comment is really intolerable, and it is most unwise, and it is deeply offensive to the American Foreign Service.
Any other questions? You have a filing break, I think.
Q Thank you.
Q Can I pose this question? It might be the wrong day to follow up on this particular issue between Bosnia and Moscow and the slashing of State Department funds, but the inclusion of Britain in this peace process -- are we witnessing the first steps towards internationalization of this process between Iraqi Kurdish factions?
MR. BURNS: The Provide Comfort operation is an important one, and it is international. It compromises the activities of several countries. So I don't think it's unusual that the search for stability in northern Iraq should be international.
Q How would it help -- the inclusion of British in the Dublin Summit?
MR. BURNS: Britain is a very influential country. It is an ally of the United States, and we often combine our efforts with the British Government.
Q Can we expect other allies to become part of the process in the future?
MR. BURNS: That will just have to be decided, I think, on a case- by-case basis.
Again -- let me just try to get at the heart of the question.
Q Yes, please.
MR. BURNS: We have the deepest level of cooperation with the Government of Turkey on this question. The Government of Turkey and the Government of the United States have worked together since March and April l99l in northern Iraq to help the population there that was so severely attacked by Saddam Husayn. The Government of Turkey is an NATO ally of the United States, an exceedingly important ally. We have the closest possible cooperation in Operation Provide Comfort. That will continue.
Q There seems to be some kind of a problem on the negotiations between Greece -- the fight in New York. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: There is an ongoing negotiation sponsored by the United Nations by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance as lead negotiator, by a U.S. Presidential Emissary -- Matthew Nimetz. They're up in New York. They are shuttling back and forth between hotel rooms. They are trying to achieve a resolution of the long-standing diplomatic disagreements between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece. The United States fully supports the U.N. efforts. We hope there'll be a breakthrough for peace. We hope that we'll be able to normalize our relationship with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a result.
As I understand it this morning, there is yet no conclusion of those talks. We'll just have to wait with some hope that they'll conclude successfully.
Q I need to get a comment from you concerning Belize and the former American citizen Kenneth Dart. Does the State Department have an opinion about an American citizen who renounces citizenship and then seeks to enter the foreign service of another country and return to the United States as a diplomat representing that country?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we do have an opinion. (Laughter) I don't anticipate a positive decision on this very unusual request.
Q Does the State Department have influence over the candidates presented for posts, like Ambassador or Consul General?
MR. BURNS: We can't really decide who's going to be presented to us, but it is normal -- it is centuries-long practice in diplomacy -- that a host government has the first right of refusal. In this case, I think I'm indicating that the first right of refusal may be applied.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. You have one more question? I'm sorry.
Q When is the U.S. team going to Pyongyang for the Asian-U.S. negotiation?
MR. BURNS: We have a technical team that at some point will go to Pyongyang to talk about the establishment of a U.S. Liaison Office. Technical arrangements need to be worked out. A North Korean team has visited Washington in the past couple of months -- a technical team -- to also discuss with us the establishment of a Liaison Office here in Washington, but I don't have anything to announce yet on the travel of that team, the American team, to Pyongyang.
Q Thank you.
(The press briefing concluded at 2:33 p.m.)
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