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                        U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                          DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
                               I N D E X
                     Thursday, September 14, 1995

                                          Briefer:  Nicholas Burns

Holbrooke-Milosevic Meeting, Serb Ideas re Sarajevo .........1-9,11
Other Holbrooke Meetings, Travel to Zagreb, Mostar ..........1
Secretary Christopher Conversation w/ Izetbegovic ...........1,3
Pause in NATO Air Strikes, Targetting .......................2,4,10
Russia: Talbott-Kozyrev talks re Bosnia, Talbott Travel .....2-3
Call for Restraint in Fighting ..............................7
Displaced Serbs, Refugees ...................................7
Definition of Heavy Weapons .................................8
Possible NATO Involvement in Enforcing Peace in Sarajevo ....8
Coordination of Eventual Peace Conference ...................9
China Protests NATO Air Strikes in Bosnia, Role in Process ..15

Protests Clinton Mtg w/ Dalai Lama ..........................11-12
U.S. Policy on Mtgs w/ Taiwan Leaders, Relations with
   China ....................................................13
U.S. Policy on Tibet, Concern re Human Rights ...............13-14

Deaths of American Hot Air Balloonists ......................15-18
Two American Balloonists Detained, Released .................16-17

Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations ............................18
Israeli-Syrian Military Chiefs of Staff Talks ...............18

Budget Reduction:  Possible VOA Reductions ..................18-19

DPB #138
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1995, 1:17 P.M.
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. If you would like to talk about any issue, I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have. Q Can you tell us about the deal between Holbrooke and Milosevic? MR. BURNS: What I can tell you is that Dick Holbrooke, who began the second phase of our peace offensive last evening in Belgrade, had an ll-hour meeting late into yesterday evening with the Serbian President, Mr. Milosevic. This was preceded, during the course of several days, by other contacts made by the European Union -- Carl Bildt -- and by the Russian Government -- First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov -- with the Serbs, and others in the region. As a result of the meeting last evening, Mr. Milosevic asked Dick Holbrooke to convey some Serb ideas on a possible agreement towards peace concerning Sarajevo. Therefore, Mr. Holbrooke postponed the planned Contact Group meeting that was to have taken place today in Geneva; and instead he's traveled to Zagreb for meetings with the Croatian President, Mr. Tudjman, and separately for meetings with General Janvier and Mr. Akashi. Dick Holbrooke then went on to Mostar, where he is now meeting with the Bosnian President, President Izetbegovic. Prior to that meeting, the meeting with President Izetbegovic, Secretary Christopher had a very good and full conversation with President Izetbegovic about the ideas that President Milosevic has offered. These ideas are being evaluated by the United Nations and by NATO, and we are awaiting the results of their evaluation. As President Clinton said this morning, there is some reason to hope for progress. There is some reason to hope that these ideas might be able to contribute to a peaceful outcome of a very difficult situation in and around Sarajevo. We believe these are potentially very significant developments this morning. Meanwhile, we understand that NATO has announced a temporary l2-hour halt to airstrikes, pending a possible agreement. Now, I'm not going to be able to go into any specifics on the ideas that have been offered by the Serbian Government because these discussions are taking place not only in Mostar and Zagreb and Sarajevo but also in Belgrade. There are simultaneous discussions going on in a number of cities and capitals in that part of the world, and the negotiations we hope will bear some fruit, but the announcement of an agreement has not yet been made. Let me take you to Moscow, where the American Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, had a three-hour meeting today with the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev. Their discussions centered mostly on the situation in Bosnia, in the Balkans in general. They also looked ahead to next week, when Secretary Christopher and Andrei Kozyrev will meet in New York, and further ahead to the U.S.-Russian Summit that will take place in the United States between President Clinton and President Yeltsin. I think on the basis of Strobe Talbott's conversations with Minister Kozyrev, I can say that they were open, frank, and constructive conversations on Bosnia. The Russians, as you know, are calling for a cease-fire and an end to the airstrikes; and Deputy Secretary Talbott conveyed the views of the American leadership, including those of Secretary Christopher, that the United States very much wants to turn this situation away from war and towards peace. That's why we have Dick Holbrooke's diplomatic delegation in the region. I understand that Minister Kozyrev and Deputy Secretary Talbott underscored for each other, and agreed upon, the importance of having the United States and Russia work closely together to help the countries in the Balkans move toward peace. As a result of the meeting today in Moscow, both the United States and Russia support very strongly a comprehensive solution towards the problems in the Balkans -- a comprehensive peace conference that both of us hope might be scheduled in the future. Tomorrow, Deputy Secretary Talbott will remain in Moscow for the better part of the working day there. He will be seeing a variety of Russian officials. He will be returning to the United States and to Washington tomorrow evening. That is what I have to report about the situation in Bosnia today. Q Nick, did Talbott and Kozyrev discuss a possible Russian role in the arrangement that's being considered by the U.N.? MR. BURNS: They did not discuss any specific Russian role -- if you're referring to a military role -- in the arrangements that are being discussed; but, of course, the Russians have been actively involved, and we think very productively involved, in the diplomatic discussions. As I said, First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov was in Belgrade over the weekend for talks with Mr. Milosevic and others in the region. The Russians have consistently said, and have consistently acted upon this week, a desire to further the peace negotiations. So I think that there is a U.S.- Russian understanding today and agreement that both of our countries should help the countries of the region work towards peace. Q Well, I'm referring to the possibility of Russian peacekeepers being stationed around Sarajevo? MR. BURNS: There is no discussion of that in Moscow; and, as I understand it, there has been no discussion of that idea in any of the meetings that have taken place today. I've seen the press reports to that effect; and I think I can say, with a great degree of certainty, that there is absolutely no truth to them. Q Can you describe President Izetbegovic's reaction to the Serb ideas in his conversation with Secretary Christopher? MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher had an opportunity to present our understanding of some of these ideas, and let me just tell you that the Secretary was up for much of the evening talking to Dick Holbrooke and to others in our Government on the phone about this. So just as President Izetbegovic arrived in Mostar -- he arrived late due to bad weather -- the Secretary had a good chance to characterize the Serb ideas, to describe them. Following that conversation, President Izetbegovic went directly into the meeting with Dick Holbrooke. As I understand it from the Secretary, Izetbegovic mainly listened and did not convey his own opinion of the ideas. I believe that's taking place right now with Dick Holbrooke, and that meeting is ongoing. Q Nick, this whole thing can grow and grow and still be balanced on the issue of the Bosnian Serbs. What sense do you have of the way they view this, and obviously you have a certain degree of confidence that Milosevic speaks for them? MR. BURNS: I think you'll have to ask them for their view of these developments. It's difficult for you and me to talk about some of this today because we are in the middle of these negotiations and they're taking place in several venues. So I just simply can't go into detail of what is being discussed. We are hopeful that there can be an agreement based upon these ideas that could possibly be announced later in the day. That agreement would not be announced from Washington; it would be announced by the appropriate authorities on the ground -- namely, the United Nations and NATO. So, we are waiting for the U.N.'s evaluation of these ideas, whether or not these ideas meet some of the concerns that the United Nations has had about the situation in Sarajevo. Steve. Q Should there not be an agreement, whether later today or in the nearest future, is it safe to assume that NATO would then call a halt to its bombing pause and resume operations over Bosnia? MR. BURNS: Well, as I listen -- I think the best thing for me is to quote NATO. As I listened to the NATO spokesman just about ten, fifteen minutes ago, before I came out here, he said that there is an agreement in NATO this morning -- and, of course, the United States participated in this discussion -- for a temporary pause which would last roughly twelve hours, and he specifically said -- this is now the NATO spokesman -- that should this agreement not materialize, should some of the commitments not be met, then of course NATO would resume its air strikes. Q Any idea when this pause would begin? MR. BURNS: I would have to refer you to NATO for the specific hour, but I believe the pause is now in effect. Q Do you know when it started? MR. BURNS: No, I don't know the exact hour, but as I read the tickers and as I listened to Jamie Shea from Brussels, the pause is in effect right now, as we speak. Judd. Q Nick, if the Russian peacekeepers -- the question of the Russian peacekeepers has not come up to guarantee the security of Bosnian Serbs around Sarajevo, which presumably would have been their role, what guarantees, if any, have been given to the Bosnian Serbs to get them to move their heavy weapons? MR. BURNS: That gets us into the details of some of these Serb ideas, and some of the conversations that have taken place in Belgrade, Zagreb, in Mostar, in Brussels, and I can't go into those, because it would really jeopardize unnecessarily the state of the negotiations right now and would not be helpful to those negotiations. Q How many parties will there have to be to this agreement? Would the Croatians have to do certain things as well as the Bosnian Muslims or not? MR. BURNS: As I understand it, we are really talking about Serb ideas concerning the situation in Sarajevo, and so certainly the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs and the U.N. and NATO are involved here. From the Western perspective, the international perspective, the United Nations and NATO have a leading role here. Member governments, of course, are following this. The American Government has led this diplomatic initiative and we are actively involved. But it is the United Nations and NATO that have to look at this, these ideas, and determine if, in fact, they represent ideas that can lead us to peace and that can perhaps even in the next couple of hours or days lead us away from the situation that we have had over the last couple of weeks and the very difficult situation in Sarajevo. Q It seems clear, given that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is carrying the ideas around, showing them to the others, that he thinks they may represent the answer. Is that right? MR. BURNS: Well, yes, of course. We would not have conveyed these ideas in the way that we have, postponing a meeting in Geneva today of the Contact Group, having Dick travel to three cities in Europe, if we didn't think these ideas had promise. I would just direct you to the comments the President made this morning at the White House. I believe the President said that there is some reason to hope for progress, that we hope that these ideas can contribute to a peaceful outcome of the situation. Q Nick, this story has been dribbling out over the past few days. I was wondering if the Serbs had in fact communicated this to NATO, the U.N., the United States before Holbrooke returned to Belgrade yesterday, and if his mission there yesterday was a refining one rather than a receiving of ideas one? MR. BURNS: No, I believe that the first time that anyone in the international community had heard of these ideas was last evening during the eleven-hour marathon meeting that Dick Holbrooke had with Milosevic. That was the first time that the United States had heard these ideas, and I am quite sure the first time that the United Nations and NATO had heard of them. That is why Dick traveled this morning to Zagreb to meet with Janvier and Akashi to apprise them of these ideas, to convey them specifically to them, and also to President Tudjman and now to President Izetbegovic. So I believe this all started, quite sure it all started last evening. Q And how did the U.N. officials react to this, can you say? MR. BURNS: Well, I wasn't in the meeting and I haven't spoken to them, so I really can't characterize their reaction. I can say, though, Steve, I think these ideas are being considered very, very seriously by the United Nations. Q During the eleven-hour meeting, did President Milosevic say he had General Mladic's agreement to these ideas? MR. BURNS: I think it is fair to say that, yes, that President Milosevic, as you know, has formed a joint delegation with the Bosnian Serbs, and that he believes, in fact that is sure, that the Bosnian Serbs are in agreement with the ideas that were presented. Of course, I haven't characterized those ideas. Bill. Q Nick, my favorite subject. In this eleven-hour engagement in Belgrade, did the subject of a freeze of offensive military operations, excepting NATO and U.N. military operations, did that come up, and, specifically, with regard to some of the offensives that have taken territory recently? MR. BURNS: Well, I believe these ideas center around the situation in Sarajevo, and I think that they focus on that situation. But I can't go into the details of what these ideas are because I have been asked not to do that. Q Yesterday -- go ahead. Q Just let me follow. So you have no information beyond Sarajevo, and you cannot comment specifically. Can you tell us, have there been any more offensive operations or gains of ground by Croatians or Bosnian Muslim forces? MR. BURNS: Yes, we believe that the military actions taken by the government of Bosnia and by the government of Croatia and by others in the area have continued over the last twenty four hours. We continue to be very concerned about this ongoing Bosnian and Croatian offensive. We have repeatedly urged them and all parties in the region at the highest levels not to take actions which could aggravate the situation in the Balkans. The United States believes that there can be no military settlement to the conflict in the Balkans. We believe that a negotiated settlement is the only possible outcome to that conflict, and we believe that all the parties, including Bosnia and Croatia, should focus their energies on peace talks, not on military activities. That call for restraint has been made once again to Croatia and Bosnia during the last twenty four hours. Q And their response? MR. BURNS: I can't characterize their response. I don't wish to characterize everything that we say to them, but we have been in communication with them. Q Nick, just to follow that, yesterday Dr. Karadzic said apparently that, as tens of thousands of Serbs had been put to flight, he said something to the effect that Serbia won't be a nation until Serbs learn to live as Serbs and not necessarily where their ancestors lived. How is the Department evaluating that comment? What is that saying to you? MR. BURNS: It's hard for me to evaluate that particular comment. We do know that the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross believe as many as forty thousand Bosnian Serbs may be evacuating a large section today of Bosnia, western Bosnia, and moving towards Banja Luka. It's a very serious situation -- these numbers approach the number of Bosnian Muslims who were forced to become refugees after the siege of Srebrencia and Zepa -- a very serious situation. We do call upon Bosnia and Croatia to exercise restraint. Q Does the U.S. and the State Department share the view of some analysts that has been bruited about recently that the Bosnian Serbs are not responding to the Croatians and Muslims because this is land they are going to have to give up at the peace conference anyhow? MR. BURNS: I'm not quite sure I understand the direction -- Q The supposition that the Bosnian Serbs are not resisting the advance of the Bosnian and Croatian military in that sector because this is land they are going to have to give up as part of -- to reach the 5l/49. MR. BURNS: Well, 51/49 is going to be the basis of any peace negotiation, but what comprises 51 and 49 has not been decided, if you know what I mean. Therefore, I would not give that suggestion much credence. Q Nick, you remember in your previous life how for months and months there were questions about defining an intermediate-range missile and a long-range missile and how, artfully or not, people on the Hill were causing problems for arms control agreements with the Russians, claiming that the Russians were fudging on the definition of a "weapon." I'm reminded of this because of the issue of the definition of "heavy weapons." Is it really that difficult to define -- or to put it another way, does the U.S. or NATO or the U.N. have in a drawer someplace the dimensions of a heavy weapon so there needn't been any hustling or even delay in defining what a heavy weapon is so far as removing it from the outskirts of Sarajevo? MR. BURNS: I think the United Nations, which is the relevant military authority on the ground monitoring weapons, undoubtedly does have a definition that it uses to determine what's a heavy weapon and what's not a heavy weapon. I can't recite the characteristics of it for you, though. Q Like pornography, you know it when you see it. MR. BURNS: You know it when you see it, Barry. Exactly. Q Can we go from there to ask the State Department, or you, if there then will be any reasonable cause for delay in a withdrawal of heavy weapons because the Bosnian Serbs are having problems figuring out which ones are heavy weapons? MR. BURNS: If there is to be any kind of an agreement about Sarajevo, if there is to be any kind of a future where the heavy weapons are withdrawn -- and we very, very much want to see that occur -- then I think the Bosnian Serbs also would know it when they see it. They own the guns. Q Would it include all mortars? MR. BURNS: I think that's a question, David, for the U.N. I don't have a specific set of criteria for what's a heavy weapon and what is a set of weapons that need to be withdrawn. Yes, Lee. Q You seem to rule out the use of Russian troops intermediately enforcing any peace agreement. What's the possibility of NATO troops becoming involved in enforcing any peace agreement either by September 25 or in general? MR. BURNS: I heard the date of September 25 this morning being bandied about. I don't attach any significance to that date. I don't know where it comes from. Ultimately, if we are to proceed with this peace progress, then we're going to try to convene at some point in the future an international peace conference. When that peace conference unfolds, if it is ultimately successful in resolving the differences among the parties, then there is going to have to be a way found to secure a peace agreement. The United States has said consistently over many years that we would part of that. Secretary Perry said two nights ago that he could not give you any kind of detail on what the magnitude of American troop involvement would be because we don't know what the shape of the peace is yet. So we have to wait, I think, further for those details. If we get to that point, that a peace agreement has been negotiated and that it needs to be implemented and secured, that will be a great accomplishment and we'll be very glad to look at that question. Q What about as part of the cease-fire arrangement by September 25? Do you see -- MR. BURNS: I know nothing about the deployment of United States or Russian troops to secure a cease-fire. I'm quite sure that the United States has not been involved in any discussions about that particular issue regarding a September 25 deadline. I don't know where it comes from. The United States is not entertaining this notion. UNPROFOR is in the field. We expect UNPROFOR to stay in the field throughout the fall and the winter. There is very little question in our minds about the fact that UNPROFOR will continue to play the leading role to monitor any of the developments -- positive or negative -- that take place there. Steve. Q If the process should reach an international peace conference, whose show would that be? Would it be a group of nations? Would it be the United States? Would it be NATO countries? Might it be the United States and Russia? Has some discussion gone into that? MR. BURNS: That has not yet been decided because we're still talking about the very difficult issues that separate the parties. We have not talked in any detail about where a conference would be and who would chair it, and so forth. There have been some preliminary discussions about that, but not detailed ones. So it hasn't been decided. I think, though, that the current arrangement whereby the Contact Group, and in essence, an expanded version of the Contact Group, is pushing forward towards peace, and is probably the most likely arrangement. We certainly want to keep this Contact Group and the expanded group of countries around it together. That's one of the principal reasons why Secretary Christopher asked Strobe Talbott to visit Moscow today. Q In case this all doesn't work out, there are reports in the newspaper today quoting Pentagon officials saying they're running out of targets within Level 2 bombing. Is that true? MR. BURNS: That's a question you have to ask the Pentagon. I think more appropriately -- not just the Pentagon -- NATO and the United Nations. Q You don't know the answer? MR. BURNS: I have not seen anybody say that on the record. I have heard Secretary Perry say on MacNeil/Lehrer the other night that the air campaign could continue for weeks. NATO has just announced within the last hour a temporary pause in the air campaign. We hope very much that the conditions will be produced by the Bosnian Serbs to enable that to continue. We'll have to see about that. If conditions are not met, of course, NATO would resume airstrikes. Q So you're saying it's up to the Bosnian Serbs, but actually, isn't the ball now in the Bosnian Government's court? They have to respond to these Serb ideas; isn't that right? MR. BURNS: It was a way of saying, David, that ultimately if the Bosnian Serbs are willing to create the conditions that would turn a temporary pause into a lasting one, then that would be a very good thing. The Bosnian Government does have to react to the ideas that have been conveyed by Dick Holbrooke from the Bosnian Serb joint delegation. Q Does the U.S. think that the Serb ideas are -- presumably, they want some kind of quid pro quo, some kind of behavior on the part of the Bosnian Muslims in response for their behavior. Does the U.S. think that their ideas are reasonable in that regard? MR. BURNS: That's really part and parcel of discussions that are underway right now. (Inaudible) MR. BURNS: I know you know. Q Can we switch subjects? MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly. Q China has strongly protested to the U.S. over President Clinton's meeting with the Dalai Lama. Do you have anything on that? MR. BURNS: We've consistently said that senior United States officials meet with the Dalai Lama because of our high regard for him as a religious leader and an advocate of peaceful resolution of disputes. We certainly want to show courtesy to adherence of Tibetan Buddhism. There was a statement out of the White House yesterday -- a press statement -- that the Vice President received the Dalai Lama in this capacity. The President joined the meeting briefly to greet the Dalai Lama, to express his support for the preservation of Tibetan religion and culture. So the meeting was certainly an appropriate demonstration of our high regard for the Dalai Lama and it's an expression of the courtesy that he is owed as a visitor to the United States. Q Will this have any impact on the U.S.-China relations? MR. BURNS: It should not have an impact on U.S.-China relations. We have enough on our plate. We have a lot of important things to do together. There will be an important meeting next week in New York that Secretary Christopher will have with Qian Qichen. This should not have an impact. Q Did you inform the Chinese of the meeting in advance? MR. BURNS: I don't know if they were informed in advance. Q Did the United States protest -- I'm sorry. On this same subject. There was a report that they had sent word in advance that they would protest any such meeting. Are you aware -- MR. BURNS: I can look into that. I'm not aware of it personally, but I can look into it. Q Nick, do the Chinese have anything to say about who the President of the United States meets with? MR. BURNS: Is that a question or a statement? The Chinese did have something to say this morning. Should they have something to say? That's really up to the Chinese to decide what they want to say. But we feel very comfortable that what happened yesterday -- the reception given the Dalai Lama at the White House -- was most appropriate. Q Let me rephrase the question. Is it an appropriate role for the Chinese to impose themselves on the scheduling of the President of the United States? MR. BURNS: The Chinese have decided to do that. They decided to comment upon a meeting that the President has had. We deal with this in our relationship with China and other countries on other issues. We deal with it very calmly and professionally. It was an appropriate thing to do. It was the courteous thing to do, and it's been done in the past -- in past years. It should have been no surprise to anyone that the President would have dropped in on a meeting with the Dalai Lama. Q In a previous question, you asked and you said you didn't know if they had been told in advance. Was there any reason to tell the Chinese in advance? MR. BURNS: I don't know if they were told in advance. If we told them in advance, there would have been a very good reason to do that. If we didn't tell them in advance, then -- Q There was no reason? MR. BURNS: There was no reason to do it. (Laughter) It's the brilliance of American diplomacy. We can have it both ways, and we will have it both ways. I'll look into this for you. Q As a precondition for an upcoming meeting with President Jiang Zemin, did the U.S. restate the position that Taiwan is a part of China? Apparently, the U.S. response has been that progress must be made on several fronts before that can be done. What exactly has to be done on -- MR. BURNS: Before there can be a head of state meeting? Q Before a statement would be made? MR. BURNS: A statement would be -- I'm sorry. I'm confusing (inaudible). Q They're asking to make a statement that Taiwan is a part of China. They want the U.S. to make this statement as a precondition, apparently, to a summit. The U.S. has responded, saying progress must be made on several fronts with the Chinese before any statement can be made. What is the U.S. specifically asking? What do the Chinese have to do in order to meet that? MR. BURNS: We have been asked if we could agree to a commitment on future meetings with leaders of Taiwan. Our policy in that regard is clearly stated and it is that any visits by Taiwan's leaders to the United States will be rare, unofficial, and for a private purpose and personal nature; and these requests for such visits will be considered on a case-by-case basis. That is what we have told the Chinese -- what we told them in Brunei when the Secretary met there with the Deputy Prime Minister; in Beijing, when Peter Tarnoff was there. We'll be glad to reaffirm that policy next week in New York. Betsy. Q Nick, do you have -- a different topic? Q Let me finish on this. I wonder if you were aware that the Chinese in their statement today said that they would only consider holding talks with the Dalai Lama after the Dalai Lama gave up the idea of negotiating for independence for Tibet. The Dalai Lama is on record, and told us as recently as Monday that he agreed to leave independence off the agenda of any talks. So it seems there is kind of a fundamental disconnect, and the Dalai Lama was asking U.S. help in pushing the Chinese toward negotiations. They seem to, for whatever reason, be deliberately misinterpreting -- I shouldn't say "misinterpreting -- deliberately choosing to regard what he said as a push for independence when he has stressed that it's not. I wonder if the United States sees an opportunity there to play a useful role as an intermediary? MR. BURNS: I don't believe we will position ourselves as an intermediary between the Dalai Lama and the Government of China. They have to have their own discussions. Representatives of both have to have their own discussions. We'll leave it there. Q Do you think the Tibetans deserve greater autonomy over their own affairs in the region -- in Tibet? MR. BURNS: We've said, and I said just a couple of days ago -- I'll be glad to repeat it -- that it's our policy that Tibet is part of China. As you know, the United States -- this Administration/past Administrations -- have never recognized Tibet as a separate, sovereign state. We have urged the Chinese Government to improve its human rights record and performance and conduct in Tibet and to grant Tibetans a significant say in the handling of their own internal affairs, but we have never sought, on Tibet's behalf, Tibetan independence from China. Q Significant say -- MR. BURNS: Significant say. Q More significant say than they have now? MR. BURNS: Certainly, I think it's implied "yes;" implied in the construction of that formulation which was very carefully worked out by the theologians on this issue. Q No separate republic there, huh? MR. BURNS: No, we're not calling for a separate republic; no. We believe that Tibet is part of China. That has been long-standing United States policy. Q The separate republic Bosnian Serbs will be a part of Bosnia? MR. BURNS: Each situation is unique, Barry. I don't think we want to mix and match Tibet and Bosnia. It would be too combustible. Q There seems to be a connection between China and Bosnia. I believe yesterday that the PRC objected to the military actions of NATO and the U.N. What is the reaction of the United States Government to that objection? Have the Chinese been invited in any way to become a party to the peace-making process in Bosnia? MR. BURNS: We disagree with the Chinese Government on the statement that China issued yesterday on the way they characterized the NATO airstrikes, number one. Number two, China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has been involved in Security Council discussions this week and in the past, on Bosnia. And, third, no, China is not a part of a diplomatic process on the ground in the Balkans. It's mainly the Contact Group and Italy, Spain, Canada, and a few others. Q China would not be welcome? MR. BURNS: I didn't say that. I just said they're not part of the diplomatic dance there. Betsy. Q Are we free? Different topic? MR. BURNS: I'm free. Q Okay, as long as you're free. MR. BURNS: I think I'm free from China. Q Do you have anything more today on the balloonists -- on those detained? Where the bodies of the dead are? MR. BURNS: Right, I do. Let me just take you through what we have done during the last 24 hours. We have been in regular contact with the Government of Belarus -- in Minsk. Our officials here have been on the phone with Ambassador Sergey Martynov, the Belarussian Ambassador to Washington. We have stressed to the Government of Belarus our expectation -- our very-strongly expectation -- that the Government of Belarus will cooperate with our Embassy in Minsk and ensure full consular access to the people who died -- to the remains of the people who died -- and to the people who survived. We do welcome the organization today in Belarus of a high-level investigatory commission. We expect that this commission will conduct a full, open, and impartial investigation of the events leading up to this tragic incident. We understand from the Government of Belarus that criminal proceedings have been initiated in connection with this tragedy. I would like to express again our very deep sense of outrage that in the 1990s, four years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, an error -- an incredibly grave error -- of this type could have been made. It is outrageous that two Americans were killed when they part of an international ballooning expedition that had flight clearances received and approved by the Government of Belarus. We have been in touch with the National Transportation Safety Board here in Washington. We're working with them to determine the best course of action on how we can work internationally to prevent this type of thing from happening again anywhere in the world but specifically, over the airspace of the Government of Belarus. Let me just say in that regard, it's with very deep regret that I can confirm the deaths of John Stuart-Jervis and Alan Bernard Fraenckel. These were the two Americans who were killed yesterday. We offer our condolences -- our very sincere condolences to the families of these two men. We have been in touch with the families. We are now working to arrange for the return of their remains to the United States. Our consular officer from the United States Embassy in Minsk, is in Beryioza, the town close to this incident, today. He has located the remains of the deceased. They are in his possession. We are aware of four other Americans who were traveling in two other hot-air balloons who were involved in the incident. Two of these individuals appear to be safe and are continuing their travels. Two other Americans, Michael Wallace and Kevin Brielmann, who were forced down, have indicated that they were not harmed as part of this incident. Again, we feel a deep sense of outrage in this building over what happened. It should not have happened. This mistake should not have been made. Q Do you know where Wallace and Brielmann are? Are they still in custody? MR. BURNS: No. I believe they are in contact with our Consular Officer, and I believe they will be making their way towards Minsk, and I assume on to either Western Europe from where they started, or to the United States. I don't have details on their travel plans. Q You said that there were going to be indictments, I believe was the term you used. Could you tell me against whom? MR. BURNS: Well, I am only relying here on some of the information that we have been given by our Embassy in Minsk. We understand a criminal investigation has been initiated in connection with this tragedy. I would assume that pertains to the military personnel from the Government of Belarus who are responsible for this tragedy. Q Doe the Government of Belarus owe the families an apology, and has it offered one? MR. BURNS: It certainly owes the family of these two men an apology. The Belarussian Ambassador in Washington is a very fine man, and I am sure that he has already done that, or will do it. Q No, wait. I'm sorry. One more. There are reports that the Belarus authorities have said that although the group that organized the balloon race said that they had received clearances from all these countries, Belarus said that they never received final word that balloons were going to be coming over their territories. Do you know the truth in there of this --? MR. BURNS: Well, you know, Betsy, I think this is one of the issues that the United States, working through the Department of State and the Department of Transportation, will look into with the Government of Belarus and with other international authorities. But let's be clear about something. This is not 1975, it's not 1965, it's not the Cold War. A hot air balloon drifted over an air base in Belarus. For what possible reason would that balloon be shot down? What possible excuse can they have to shoot down a balloon? Whether or not the particular people on the ground had received a clearance, it was a balloon. It wasn't a jet fighter, it wasn't a bomber. These weren't tanks on the ground. There is no possible excuse the Government of Belarus can offer to try to escape responsibility for this, and I am very surprised to hear the statement -- I had not heard it -- but I am very glad to react to it quite forcefully. Q Nick, another subject? MR. BURNS: Yes. Q There is a report out of the Mid East quoting a PLO negotiator that says that on September 2lst, next Thursday, there is going to be possibly a signing ceremony in Washington on the next phase of the PLO/Israeli peace agreement. Do you have anything? Have you heard that? MR. BURNS: I have not heard it. As you know, the Israeli -- Q (Inaudible) -- a big if. He said if ever it is resolved this weekend --. MR. BURNS: Right. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams continue their work. We understand that they have a series of meetings planned over the next couple of days. If they can conclude a peace agreement, if they can resolve their differences over many of the issues -- including the very sensitive issue of Hebron -- then, of course, we would gladly welcome the agreement. And if they would choose to sign the agreement in Washington, D.C., at the White House, we would be very, very glad to host that. I have nothing at all to announce in that regard today. Q A related subject: There's a couple of radio reports that say the Syrian and Israeli military chiefs of staff are going to be coming back to Washington. Is there anything to announce from that podium? MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you on that, no, Sid -- nothing at all. Q O.K. MR. BURNS: I think we've got just two more here. Q Yesterday you were talking about the budget. You know, it's a problem. And if I'm correct, if I correctly remember, you were talking about the Voice of America would be affected in this budget cut. Can you tell us: Are you planning to close some language services or to cut some broadcasting percentage-wise? MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher outlined a number of the possible budget cuts that the State Department would have to make should the current bill before the Congress become law. We very much hope it won't become law, and the Secretary said that he would advise the President to veto such a bill. The bill calls for a $l.2 billion reduction in the request made by the State Department for a $5.6 billion budget. Now, let me put it into perspective for you. A $5.6 billion budget to fund the operations of the State Department is less than the amount that the Congress wants to give the Pentagon -- in excess of the Pentagon's request that the Pentagon has said it doesn't even want. That just lends a little perspective to the debate that's going on in Capitol Hill right now. And the Secretary is very concerned about our diplomatic readiness -- our ability to project American values and American views on events like Bosnia and China on a daily basis around the world. He has said that the Voice of America would have to take very severe cuts if this budget does go forward. Secretary Christopher believes that our diplomatic readiness is an essential part of our national security. It is the way that we try to anticipate crises, head them off. It's the kind of activities that Dick Holbrooke is engaged in -- to negotiate peace agreements. We also need to have the Pentagon military readiness because sometimes crises break out and you have to use military force. Both are important for national security. The Congress has to understand that there are twins for our national security. We're very concerned about it. The Secretary spent most of yesterday afternoon on Capitol Hill talking directly to Senators about his concerns, and he'll continue to do that. Q Thank you. (The press briefing concluded at l:57 p.m.) (###) To the top of this page