U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/10/16 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, October 16, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns MIDDLE EAST Hizballah Attack on Israelis in South Lebanon ..........1-7 U.S. Contact with Syria, Lebanon .......................1-2,4-7,9 Secretary's Travel Plans ...............................4-6,8-9 Amman Summit Goals; Secretary's Participation ..........5,8-9 Israel-Syria Peace Talks ...............................5-6 SYRIA Syrian Influence on Hizballah ..........................1-7 Counterfeiting in Bekaa Valley and/or Syria ............2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Proximity Talks: Site Selection .......................5-6,9-10,12 Peace Agreement: Implementation Force, UN Troops ......10-13,15 Road Blockage; Cease-fire Violations ...................13,15-16 Detention of Turkish Journalists by Bosnian-Serbs ......13 Human Rights Violations: A/S Shattuck Travel ..........13-14 Contact Group Mtg in Moscow; DepSec Talbott Arrival ....14-15 Holbrooke Whereabouts, Travel Plans ....................14,16 Alleged FRY Army Cross-border Actions ..................15 NATO Status of Secretary General Willy Claes ................16-18 Belgium Judicial Inquiry; Effect on NATO ...............17-18 IRAQ Results of "Referendum" on Saddam's Presidency .........18-19 CUBA Castro Visa Application ................................19-20 PAKISTAN Delivery of Purchased Weapons, Brown Amendment 20 Potential India Reaction ...............................20 CHINA President Jiang Remarks: Bilateral Relations, Taiwan ..20-21,24 Lee Teng-hui US Visit, Application of Three Communiques ..........................................20-24 JAPAN Concern Re Economic Espionage in the US; SOFA Talks ....24-25 ISRAEL Extradition of Abu Marzouk .............................25 TURKEY Parliamentary Vote; President Demirel Postpones US Trip .................................................25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1995, 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'll be glad to go directly to your questions.
Q Let's ask you -- we'll go through the usual routine. Six Israelis have been killed in southern Lebanon. After you finish condemning the attack, could you tell us, as you told us last week, Dennis Ross has been in daily touch. This was in a different context, of course -- negotiations.
Has Dennis, or anybody like Dennis, been in touch? Does the State Department feel Syria could have any influence over this? And has Syria been asked to try to exercise its influence?
MR. BURNS: As you suggested, Barry, we certainly do condemn this terrible attack. We share the grief of the Israeli people over the loss of their soldiers in this bomb attack. We deplore the violence that continues in southern Lebanon, and we strongly urge all parties that have influence on events in southern Lebanon to stop the violence at the earliest opportunity.
We understand the Hizbollah group -- which is supported by Iran -- or the Party of God, as it is known, claimed responsibility for this attack. Hizbollah is not a party to the peace process. It has opposed the peace process in the past and it currently opposes it.
Syria, we believe, does not control Hizbollah but Syria clearly has the capability to influence the behavior of Hizbollah. We would urge Syria to use its influence to control the violence, to end the violence, and to stabilize the situation in order to increase or enhance the prospects for peace in Lebanon as well as throughout the Middle East.
Q Was this said -- here, you're saying it in a public platform -- but was it also said in the context -- in fact, tell us, are there still virtually daily telephone contacts with Syria and with Israel, and is this message being said by our diplomats -- by American diplomats?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there has been contact made with the Syrian Government by our government since the attack on the Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. But, yes, this message will be transmitted privately as it is now being done publicly to the Syrian Government.
Q While we're on the subject of Syria, there's an article in this week's New Yorker about some superb counterfeit $100 bills which are circulating and are believed, according to this article, to be either manufactured in the Bekaa Valley or in Syria itself. What makes it a State Department matter, as well as Secret Service, is that Secretary Christopher is said in this article to have raised it several times with President Assad. Is that so, first of all?
And, second, do you know anything about the story itself?
MR. BURNS: We've seen reports about this. I would simply refer you to the Treasury Department on these particular reports of counterfeit dollars that may or may not be circulating not only in that part of the world but other parts of the world.
On the second question, I can look into whether or not that issue was raised in the most recent round of discussions that Secretary Christopher had with the Syrian Foreign Minister. They were fairly broad-ranging discussions. I just don't know if this one was raised or not.
Q Are you talking about news reports or intelligence reports?
MR. BURNS: News reports.
Q Have there been intelligence reports on this?
MR. BURNS: We never discuss intelligence reports. Even if there were -- and I don't know if there were -- then, we wouldn't discuss them.
Q When you talk about Syria exerting its influence to stop the problems, is one of the things you'd like to Syria do is to block its borders to arm shipments to Hizbollah from Iran?
MR. BURNS: We certainly would want to have Syria use the influence that it has to convince, by whatever means necessary, Hizbollah and other groups to stop the violence in southern Lebanon. I'm not in a position now to proscribe exactly what Syria must do. But I think we are clear about what the end result should be.
Q You talk about it as if it's sort of benign influence. In actuality, they are pro-actively aiding Hizbollah. It's not some sort of benign influence. I don't know what you carry on this charade as if Syria is sort of letting it happen, when they're actually aiding it. Why do you carry on this charade?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm curious about your choice of words here. I'm not very good at charades. I never was very good at charades, and I'm not trying to present a charade now. You've used the word twice, so let me just respond to your question.
I'm not trying to present a charade now. In fact, what I said just a couple of minutes ago is that we don't believe that Syria has direct control over Hizbollah, but we think Syria certainly has influence. We are asking Syria to use its influence. That does not confer any sense of this being a benign threat or a benign relationship.
By choosing to making it public this afternoon, I think we're couching this in very serious terms.
Q Can you give us some examples? In other words, there's an assumption here that really should be fleshed out. In what ways has Syria influence with Hizbollah?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not in a position to flesh it out for you.
Q What's the connection?
MR. BURNS: Because --
Q In other words, it isn't the way it's been described in one of these questions. But you do think there is some relationship. What is the relationship between Syria and Hizbollah that you feel Syria should use for good effect?
MR. BURNS: The relationship is one of influence. The Government of Syria, we believe, can influence the behavior of Hizbollah. We see that from incidents in the past and from activities in the past. We believe that continues to the present day.
Q Well, do they domicile Hizbollah leaders, do they provide information to them? Do they provide weapons to them? Do they provide money to them? Do they look the other way when Hizbollah goes out on a raid? Those are all questions. I don't know.
The State Department has been saying this for a long time. We could back to each year's Patterns of Terrorism, whatever. But currently, what is -- again -- what is the linkage that you would like to see used for good?
MR. BURNS: I think I'd rather be general today than specific. I'd rather just say, in general, what we have said, and that is, if a country has influence in a situation like this, we'd prefer that the influence be used. I'm not in a position now to go into a great level of detail -- I don't want to -- about what we think specifically should be done. We'll leave that to our private discussions with the Syrian Government.
Q I'm asking you what it is, what is the relationship between the two, that makes the State Department feel that Syria has enough of a relationship with Hizbollah to influence them?
MR. BURNS: That's a judgment we make based on a variety of sources and a variety of information.
Q Getting into -- without going into specific detail, one of the things that the State Department has expressed concern about in the past is that Syria has allowed the transit of weapons through Damascus airport into southern Lebanon. Is that still going on?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if that is -- you mean, going on over the weekend? Did that lead to this particular incident?
Q I mean currently, is it --
MR. BURNS: In general? It's something we can look into for you and get back to you on.
Q Nick, can I ask a question concerning the juxtaposition of the cancellation of the Secretary's visit to Damascus and the fact that the Syrian-Israeli talks are on hold with the increased activity of the Hizbollah?
The second part of the question would be, Hizbollah is now a legal political party in Lebanon. The Lebanese Government has said this all would end if only Israel would leave the occupied territories in south Lebanon and the south Lebanese army become a part of the Lebanese army. Has the State Department had any contact with the Lebanese Government over this latest incident?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure we will have contact with the Lebanese Government as well as the Syrian Government. I don't think anybody should try to defend Hizbollah in light of what happened yesterday. There can be no excuse for the type of outrageous incident that occurred. The Lebanese Government should not make that type of excuse if it indeed has done so today.
In response to your first question, there's no linkage between Hizbollah and the Secretary's travel schedule. The Secretary will be going to Amman because he had a commitment to go there. He feels it's an important enterprise, an important conference.
He's coming back to the United States because there was an equally important conference on Bosnia that will start here in the United States on October 31. He has global responsibilities. He can't be in the Middle East and be at the opening of the Bosnia Conference, and he's chosen to be at the opening of the Bosnia Conference.
Q A follow-up. Ha'aretz has already said that there is a linkage. In fact, the Syrian talks have led directly -- the lack of progress on the Syrian talks has led directly to increased activity by the Hizbollah in south Lebanon. The Prime Minister of Israel does not wish to proceed with another withdrawal from territory before the next elections and therefore the Syrian talks are on hold.
Is there any thought here in the Department on that, or is Christopher going to -- is the Secretary going to reschedule his visit, his projected visit to --
MR. BURNS: The Syrian track is not frozen and the talks are not on hold. But, clearly, there has been very little progress made on that track in the last couple of weeks and, indeed, in the last couple of months.
When the Secretary had to make a decision about how to use his time next week, he looked at two opportunities. One of the opportunities is indeed very pressing, and that is the opening of the proximity peace talks here in the United States. It's a situation in which the United States has direct influence, in which we have a certain degree optimism that there be a successful outcome to these talks. And oftentimes a Secretary of State has to decide where he can best engage himself and use the influence of the United States. He made a decision that at this time, that's in the situation in Bosnia.
That does not mean that he or anybody else has given up on the Syrian-Israeli discussions. They will go forward. The Secretary intends to engage personally in those talks when it will be useful for him to do so.
Q There were two thoughts, and then you dealt with one but not really with the other. The Secretary's travels aside, does the State Department accept the proposition on this front that if Israel cleared out, if Israel returned the territory or gave up the territory, that the outlook would be more beneficial, there would be more likelihood of peace, there would be less violence?
Because the State Department's view on other fronts has been that Israel should accommodate the people who have been attacking them and if there is a just settlement the violence will melt away.
The people who did this are being quoted as saying they are not attacking Israel, per se; they are simply going to keep it up until the Israelis pull out of southern Lebanon.
MR. BURNS: That sounds a lot like --
Q Do you buy that proposition that Israel should pull out of southern Lebanon or suffer -- or be faced with this perpetual bombardment?
MR. BURNS: There are a lot of propositions here, so I'm not going to give a simple answer, because there are three or four propositions in your question, Barry.
But the one that is most amazing to me is this Orwellian suggestion that the Hizbollah attack on the Israeli soldiers yesterday was not an attack upon Israel. That's sophistry --
Q Didn't they say their goal is to compel Israel to give up southern Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: Terrorists say a lot of things that are objectionable and that are untrue, and here we have another example. But it is clearly Orwellian to say that, "We're not really attacking this country, even though we've just killed six or seven of this country's soldiers." It is an outrageous thing to say, and that's just another reason why Hizbollah should be ostracized by the international community.
The United States will have nothing to do with it, and that's why we are trying to use our influence with Syria and others in the region to get them to act in the proper way to limit this type of activity in the future. In fact, "limit" is probably not a strong enough word --
Q But the statement --
MR. BURNS: -- to elect to eliminate it altogether.
Q But does the State Department -- do you have a position on those two issues? Do you have a position on Israel being inside Lebanon, number one? And do you have a position whether Israel -- the prospects of ending this violence would be enhanced if Israel pulled back?
MR. BURNS: The violence will end when the situation in southern Lebanon is conducive to a more stable and peaceful relationship between Israel and Lebanon. That is clearly not the case. It's clearly not the case after yesterday's incident.
I think you know what our position is on southern Lebanon and the problem in southern Lebanon. It's been the longstanding position due to the longstanding nature of the problems there. Our position has not changed as a result of yesterday's events or any other recent event, and I am not going to -- I don't want to answer, give a "yes" answer to your questions, because we simply are not in a position to pressure the Israeli Government on this issue, either publicly or privately.
Right now the Israeli Government is acting to defend its soldiers in southern Lebanon from terrorist attacks, and Hizbollah is responsible or those attacks. I think the onus of responsibility here lies with Hizbollah, not with Israel.
Q I understand. I know your old position, and you say it's still your position. One element of it is a secure border -- that Israel would have to have a secure border. Now, who can deliver that security right now? Syria, the Government of Lebanon? How? How can you unravel this?
MR. BURNS: It's very difficult to unravel, and it hasn't been unraveled in a long time, and the situation has been the way it is for a very long time. It's up to all the people in Lebanon, and it's up to those that have influence in southern Lebanon, specifically Syria, to create the conditions that would allow them to achieve the objectives that you cited for them in the first part of your question.
It is something that has to happen, I think, before there's going to be any real attempt to make a secure and lasting peace in Lebanon itself.
Q Nick, is it possible that the Secretary will return to the Middle East shortly after the opening of the Bosnian conference?
MR. BURNS: He currently has no plans to do so. It is always possible that he might return to the Middle East, and he will do so when it is in our interests to do so, and when he believes that by making a trip there and shuttling between Damascus and Jerusalem and going other places will make a difference.
He had to calculate on a decision about next week, whether or not he could be in both Amman to meet his commitment to King Hussein on the conference, and whether he had time to come back and open the Bosnian peace conference. Fortunately, he's been able to do that. But it was very important for him to be at the Bosnia talks. He is going to play a direct role in those talks.
He's not just going to open them. He intends to return to them at several junctures during the several weeks that we suppose those talks will be underway.
Q Is it hard to imagine if you look at the schedule of events between now and the first of the year that he wouldn't go back in the first part of October? You think about in --
Q In November.
Q -- in November. Think about events in Osaka and then Ireland and then Brussels and then the Christmas holidays? Can you imagine that he would wait until after the first of the year to be back in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: The schedule is very full, starting in about the second week of November -- the Secretary's schedule -- because of two Presidential trips, the second of which the Secretary will extend for NAC meetings, NATO meetings, and NAC-C meetings in Budapest.
So the windows for travel elsewhere are indeed very limited, but I'm not going to totally foreclose the possibility of him going out to the Middle East if the conditions are right for such a trip.
Q Nick, just before I ask my question, did you just mention that the Secretary is going to extend his journey with the President to include the NAC-C and OSCE meetings?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The Secretary will certainly be going to the -- I believe in the first week of December to Brussels and to Budapest for NATO and NAC-C meetings.
Q It will be one long trip, starting with the President. Is that what you're saying?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Okay, and my question now. You've already said that you're going to contact Damascus about this. On the flip side of that, will you be contacting Israel -- have they been contacted in an effort to keep them from retaliating? How do you feel about an Israeli retaliation in this instance?
MR. BURNS: I suppose that we've had conversations with the Israeli Government this morning. I don't know. I can't give you any specific details on those discussions, and we would leave any advice that we may or may not have to the Israeli Government private for now.
Q Nick, on Amman itself, is it where it was last week? In other words, talks with the King, but he won't have any other meetings? Syria, I suppose, is not going to attend anyhow. But will he do any other Middle East visits-- has it changed since you --
MR. BURNS: It hasn't changed at all, no. He intends to go there to lead the U.S. delegation to the opening of the conference, to make a speech at the conference, to talk about our support for a Middle East Development Bank, to the subject of our support for regional economic development throughout the Middle East, and for better cooperation between Israel and Israel's Arab neighbors on economic development.
He very well may have some bilateral meetings on the margins of this, but I don't believe he's got any scheduled yet. We don't have a firm schedule of what they might be.
Q Nick, you mentioned about the Bosnian conference. Has a selection for Site X been made?
MR. BURNS: It has not. Planning for Site X continued throughout the weekend, and the Secretary and his advisers are meeting in an hour or so to review that decision -- to review the options that are in front of him. There are a couple of sites that have been identified, and he hopes to make a decision on this within the next 24 hours.
Q Are people going down and looking at these places?
MR. BURNS: They're going down, up and sideways, looking at all these places.
Q You have Pat Kennedy and his folks --
MR. BURNS: Pat Kennedy is in charge of this project for the Secretary, yes.
Q But, I mean, they're actually going to places.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q They've been there.
MR. BURNS: Pat and a couple of other people have been to a number of sites, looking at the sites, trying to assess their suitability. We would like this to be a site that is large, that has good housing facilities for the heads --
Q And high fences.
MR. BURNS: Very high fences so the press can't scale them. Exactly.
Q And they can't get out.
MR. BURNS: And they can't get out. That's the reverse.
Q Can you talk a little bit about the timing of all of this? There was a piece in the paper this weekend that talked about U.S. concern about not being able to reach a peace agreement in time to get troops in place before the winter. How much of a concern is that?
MR. BURNS: I think that's probably unavoidable at this point. The winter is almost upon them in the Balkans. It's usually a severe winter, and it comes earlier than our winter, and any look at the calendar will tell you that even if these proximity peace talks are successful very quickly, there are a couple of other steps. A final peace agreement would have to be signed probably elsewhere, and only at that point would NATO be in a position to deploy a military force to help implement the peace.
So even by the very best and most optimistic scenario, I think we're talking here about if in fact troops are to be deployed, they will be deployed in the winter. I was puzzled at that article. Not at the people who wrote the article but some of the people who spoke in the article on behalf of the U.S. Government.
It is likely that if U.S. forces are to be deployed, they would be deployed in some part of the winter that stretches from November to April, in that part of the world. And there's really no way around that, and I'm sure that the military will do its very best job once it is given the orders by the President and by the NATO leadership to proceed.
We hope we get to that point, because that will mean that there have been successful proximity talks here, and a successful conclusion to the peace conference and the signing of a peace treaty.
Q So you could not foresee signing some sort of peace agreement and then having an interim before implementation troops were on the ground?
MR. BURNS: No, I think the plans are once the peace treaty is signed among these parties, then the implementation force would proceed to help implement it within days -- not in a matter of weeks, and certainly not in a matter of months, and you can't wait for the ice to thaw. You've got to get out there when the peace occurs.
Q Would you deny that there were some elements in the government who were thinking, perhaps, about just that scenario?
MR. BURNS: I've never heard that type of scenario in all the briefings that I've received and all the conversations that I've been in. The scenario -- let me just make sure I get it right, Carol -- that somehow there be a peace agreement and then you'd wait a couple of months until the weather got better? Never heard of it, except in this article. That's why I was puzzled by it.
Q Well, what would be the harm in letting the natural weather conditions impose the cease-fire. There are certain dangers in putting troops in, although Willy Claes said it could be done. But why not? Why not wait til just before the thaw, giving more time for negotiation and planning and thinking this thing through?
MR. BURNS: Because the war's gone on for many years. We want to stop the war as soon as we can. The cease-fire is in place throughout most of Bosnia, but it's not going to be permanent unless these parties can agree on a peace, and you want to use every day you can to spare further bloodshed -- to prevent further bloodshed.
It makes a difference if the war ends permanently in December, as opposed to March or April. It certainly does make a difference.
Q But you would have to acknowledge that this policy, beside the humane desire to see the war end, is driven partly by the fact that you know the British and the French and the others do not want to go through another winter of this peacekeeping, under the current arrangement. They would rather have a settlement and bring in peace.
So the weather does drive the diplomacy a bit, doesn't it? You're faced with a sort of a deadline. The Europeans have said, "Not another winter, please. We can't go through it this way."
MR. BURNS: You're referring to the United Nations forces.
Q Yes, that the U.S. will have to -- "If you expect us to go through another winter, you'd better be part of it."
MR. BURNS: No, our objective here is to make peace as quickly as it is possible to make it. That's our objective, and the United Nations has assured us, as well as other members of NATO and the Contact Group, that the United Nations forces will remain until a peace agreement is signed and until another force arrives to take its place.
We're just going to operate as quickly as we can, but this is kind of a surreal discussion. It may be that once the proximity peace talks are convened, it takes a long time to conclude them. It may be that they don't succeed at all; that they fail, in which case we'll have to think of other options.
We don't believe that the success of these talks should be assumed, and that therefore the deployment of a NATO military force is something that absolutely will happen. It will only happen if the parties reach a peace agreement which is signed.
Q I'd like to follow, if I could, back to the winter imposition of peace. Nick, what's the difference between having a cease-fire imposed by snow and ice and a cease-fire imposed by NATO troops?
MR. BURNS: Because cease-fires have not lasted. There have been 30 or 40 of them over the last four years. None of them have lasted. All of them have been violated, and people have died as a consequence, and we have a responsibility to use our influence to minimize the number of people who are killed and to hasten the end of this war.
Q But they almost never fight in the winter.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. I don't believe you can say that. I mean, you haven't seen some of the major offensives in the winter as you've seen in the summer, but people have continued to die; shells have continued to be fired. Remember what happened last winter in February and March in Tuzla and in Gorazde. There was certainly shelling of both of those cities as well as Sarajevo. We don't want to see a recurrence of that, Bill.
Q Nick, there's a report that the Serb are blocking the road access into Gorazde, which would seem to be against the current cease- fire. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that report. The latest information we had from the United Nations this morning was that the road from Sarajevo to Gorazde was open. What we understand to be "open," it means that there has been some mine clearing; that U.N. vehicles have traveled from Gorazde to Sarajevo. I don't believe that that road is open to civilian traffic, however, but I've not seen reports that it's been closed by the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Mr. Burns, as you know, two Turkish reporters are imprisoned by the Bosnian Serbs, and it's now one week they're in prison. Do you have a comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the facts surrounding this case. If they have been imprisoned by the Bosnian Serbs, then obviously we would call, along with Turkey and others, for their immediate release. But I don't have the specific facts in this particular case.
Any more on Bosnia?
Q What's going on in Sansi Most? Did General Shalikashvili have success in his trip to Sarajevo to get the Muslims to back off?
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Bill, I do have something to say on that issue. The Secretary decided late last week that the United States wanted to look further into the question of the alleged human rights abuses and atrocities in and around Banja Luka. He therefore asked our Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck to travel to the region, which Mr. Shattuck has done. He is today in the region. He is interviewing refugees from Banja Luka. He's in the town of Zenica.
He intends to interview as many people as he can in the limited time that he will have there, personally. He will then be having discussions with the Bosnian Government, the Croatians and others. He will be linking up, at least by phone, with Dick Holbrooke, who is in Moscow today. Dick Holbrooke has been representing the United States at the Contact Group meeting on Bosnia there.
This is an indication of how seriously we take the allegations of brutality in and around Banja Luka. Assistant Secretary Shattuck will be reminding everybody he sees that the international community will look into these allegations very seriously and very comprehensively. We support the activities of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, and we intend to make sure that those who are found responsible for the allegations of summary executions, of rapes and of other murders in and around Banja Luka will be held responsible by the War Crimes Tribunal and the international community.
As I said, Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is in Moscow. He stopped in Paris before traveling to Moscow. He had conversations with a number of high-level French Government officials, including President Chirac, in Paris this morning. Tomorrow he'll be going to Belgrade, and he'll resume, I think now, his fifth shuttle mission between Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb over the next couple of days.
His objective in this round of talks is to prepare a specific agenda for the Proximity Peace Talks that begin on October 31.
Q And Moscow, I know he's there now, but you sort of skipped over that one.
MR. BURNS: There was a Contact Group meeting today chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Ivanov.
Q (inaudible) Moscow?
MR. BURNS: Let me just take them one at a time. That meeting, I think, at least the first part of the meeting, is concluded. They will meet again tomorrow morning, and I think they culminate in a lunch there in Moscow before he leaves.
Before he leaves, he will see Strobe Talbott and Walt Slocombe, the Under Secretary of Defense, and others who will be arriving in Moscow tomorrow morning. Their delegation -- the Talbott-Slocombe delegation -- will pick up with the Russians the question of NATO-Russia cooperation, coordination, on an implementation force for Bosnia -- a military force for Bosnia -- the conversations that were begun by Secretary Perry eight days ago in Geneva.
Q Does the United States have a view on who was mainly responsible for the cease-fire violations of the past week? Both the United Nations and media reports from the area suggest that it was primarily the Bosnian Government and the Croatian forces who were doing the advancing. Does the U.S. have a view about this?
MR. BURNS: I think it would depend on what moment you take the snapshot of the action. There have certainly been instances over the past week where the Bosnian Government has taken the initiative in military action, even after the cease-fire took effect last Wednesday. On a couple of occasions we've seen the Bosnian Government initiate military action.
There have been instances during that time and in the days leading up to it, where it's clear that the Bosnian Serbs began military action. It depends on what town you're talking about, because there has been fighting not only in the northwest but in some towns south of Sarajevo, although that has been more limited.
So I think the fair and objective answer is, "Both of them." They're both responsible for violations of the cease-fire. They both should be held accountable. This is a point that General Shalikashvili made yesterday -- that we call on both sides to stop the fighting -- and he made that point to the Bosnian Government in his private meetings with them. We have made that point publicly as well.
Q One other question on that. There were reports also over the weekend of military activity by the Yugoslav army across into Bosnia and some threats that the Yugoslav army might intervene on behalf of the Serbs -- Bosnian Serbs. Can you confirm that there was such activity, that such threats were made, or is there any indication of any possible intervention by the Yugoslav army?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm those reports. We have seen the same reports. We have discussed those reports with the Serbian Government in Belgrade. I cannot confirm, and I do not in fact believe, that there have been any such troop movements across the border. But it's still a question we're looking into, as you might imagine.
Q Nick, if I can go back to my last question, is the fighting increasing or decreasing in the Sanski Most area, and will Dick have to spend his time addressing this issue when he goes back himself?
MR. BURNS: The best source on this question is the United Nations, and the general assessment of the United Nations is the cease-fire is taking hold throughout most of Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, there is still fighting today in the area of Sanski Most, and we continue to make the point -- and Dick Holbrooke will do that in his shuttle mission -- that we believe that all fighting should stop, and that these countries should prepare themselves for peace talks.
Q Another subject? How does the United States feel about Willy Claes these days? Do you think that the continuing cloud and pressure that he's under makes it hard for him to remain as NATO Secretary General, especially at this critical time?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher believes that NATO Secretary General Willy Claes has done an outstanding job in leading NATO through two of the biggest challenges NATO has faced in its history. The first, of course, is the present NATO planning to play the major role in the implementation of a Bosnia agreement, to say nothing of the action that NATO took in the first two weeks of September to make clear the international community's opposition to the Bosnian Serb military offensive that was underway this summer.
Secondly, Mr. Claes has done an equally outstanding job in shepherding NATO through the very difficult, yet vital question of NATO enlargement that began at the January 1994 summit, and that has proceeded throughout his tenure in office as NATO Secretary General. Secretary Christopher has the highest regard for Willy Claes.
Q Should he remain NATO Secretary General, though, that's the issue.
MR. BURNS: As you know, there is now an inquiry in the Belgium judicial system, so therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any judicial proceeding in another country. I think that Mr. Claes said himself on Saturday that he has taken note of the recent judicial action, and he will be considering whatever next steps he might take. So I think it's really up to Mr. Claes to define what those steps are.
Q Nick, I think he also said he would be asking the NATO Ambassadors for their view on that, so what are you telling Ambassador Hunter to tell him?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any conversations that have taken place since Friday afternoon. I know the Secretary has not spoken to him. I don't know if Ambassador Hunter has spoken to him or not. There may have been conversations. I'm not aware of them.
But certainly it would be inappropriate -- and you wouldn't expect us -- to make any public comments about this kind of a matter that is so sensitive and that pertains to judicial inquiries.
Q Nick, on that question, while I realize the circumstances were different, when there was a judicial inquiry going on in the case of Harry Wu in China, the Secretary called for his immediate release, and you stood here and called for his immediate release on the basis of humanitarian grounds and other things before the judicial process was complete there.
MR. BURNS: But that was a completely different situation, Charlie. Harry Wu is an American citizen who was being held unjustly by the Chinese Government. That's far different than the situation in which Willy Claes finds himself today.
We need to act in an appropriate way in situations such as this. It is certainly not appropriate for the United States or any other country to make a public comment on the judicial proceedings in a second country -- in this case Belgium. It's not appropriate at all, and we're not going to start doing that now.
Q I understand, but there were judicial processes going on in the country.
MR. BURNS: But that was certainly appropriate, because an American citizen was the subject of those judicial inquiries in China, and we have a responsibility to American citizens to protect them and defend them, even sometimes publicly, when they're in trouble overseas.
The case that we got started on today -- the situation of Willy Claes -- is completely different from that, I would submit to you.
Q Yes, but (inaudible) Harry Wu was a lawbreaker, and you --
MR. BURNS: Where are we going in this conversation? (Laughter) I'd be very glad to talk about Harry Wu for the next hour, but I don't want to talk any further about Willy Claes, for whom we have the greatest respect and who has done an outstanding job as NATO Secretary General.
Q I want to follow it, though. How difficult would it be for NATO at this time -- this point in time to have to go through this whole process of selecting a new Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: We're not engaged in that process. That is not the situation in which we find ourselves today. I think we're just going to have to wait and see what decisions Mr. Claes makes.
Q Nick, your comments about his outstanding behavior don't address the central question here. Does the mere existence of this judicial process -- without commenting on the process itself -- does the mere existence of it harm his effectiveness as Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: We have full confidence in him. We think he's done an outstanding job, and it's really up to him to make any further comments. Again, I just want to put the emphasis on this, Jim, in trying to answer your question as best I can. It's simply not appropriate for us to comment on the aspect of the case which is for the Belgian people and Belgian judicial process to examine. It's not for us to examine that question.
Q Nick, different subject? What do you think about the Iraqi referendum?
MR. BURNS: There's a lot one can say about the Iraqi referendum. Needless to say, we did not wait up late last night for the returns to come in from Basra; and, if I were Saddam's pollster, I think I'd be a little upset because he didn't get 100 percent. He got 99.9. (Laughter)
Furthermore, I have another thought, and that is that David Letterman might want to consider this for his "Top Ten Least Suspenseful Elections of all Time." (Laughter)
It is a sham. It is ridiculous to even call this an election. I mean, look up in any dictionary the definition of an election. It's not a one-man show where people are forced to vote and, when they walk into the voting place, instead of the campaign placards being 100 feet from the voting place, you have music blaring, "Vote for Saddam." And it's not the Australian ballot either.
This was a mockery of anything that anyone can call an election. It wasn't an election. It was simply Saddam crowning himself President for several more years, which is a great, great misfortune for the Iraqi people.
Q I don't necessarily take exception with your assessment of it, but there are analysts looking a little deeper than this. I think it's important to point out first it wasn't billed as an election. It's a referendum, a vote of confidence, so to speak. So I don't know for you to call it an "election" is exactly accurate. Not that I'm defending him, but that is (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't expect you to defend him. (Laughter)
Q There are those who are saying the vote, even though, leaving aside the way it was conducted, does endorse, shows a great deal of endorsement of Saddam Hussein, at the expense of the West. That is to say, it's more of a statement on the Iraqi view of the West than it is support for Saddam Hussein himself. What would you say to that?
MR. BURNS: I guess I'm surprised to hear that. We talked about Orwell earlier. We can talk about Orwel or Kafka. I don't know which one is a better fit in this situation. Do you really think and do objective people really think that those people walking into the ballot places throughout Iraq had free will? Did they have a choice? No. Usually in a referendum you have a choice. It's "yes" or "no." In this case, they didn't have a choice, because there was open balloting. People did not have a secret ballot. It was going to be visible to all of Saddam's officials and henchmen in the room how you were voting.
People were coerced into going to the voting places at the beginning anyway, and I don't see any semblance of freedom or free will or choice in any aspect of this referendum at all.
I don't know anyone who would defend this referendum except for Saddam's spokesman who did so this morning. I think he alone has defended this referendum. I haven't heard anyone else defend it.
Q Can we go to Castro's visit? Any decision?
MR. BURNS: We're still studying the visa application. (Laughter) It's a very, very tricky business. This is a difficult one, and we'll be making our decision.
Q Close call?
MR. BURNS: Well, it's hard to say. There's no rush. He intends to come here this weekend, so we'll be making our decision at some point this week, but we have not yet made a decision. We're still looking into this question. I know you have a great interest in it, and we'll announce our decision as soon as the decision is made.
Q Do you have anything on the latest transfer of weapons to Pakistan by way of the Brown Amendment?
MR. BURNS: I do. The Administration strongly favors the Brown Amendment. The Brown Amendment, we believe, supports the position that President Clinton took in April during Prime Minister's Bhutto's visit here. We believe it will help us forge a stronger and more flexible relationship with Pakistan, which is needed.
We are strongly urging both the House and Senate conferees to retain the Brown Amendment intact when they meet this week on the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.
The amendment will give the President authority to release to Pakistan military equipment valued at about $370 million that Pakistan purchased prior to 1990. It will help rectify a situation which is seen in Pakistan and by many in the United States as unfair. I think President Clinton spoke to that when he had his press conference at the White House with Prime Minister Bhutto. It will help us advance American interests in a number of important areas, including non- proliferation.
We believe that the transfer of this equipment does not alter the overall military balance in south Asia. All of the many experts that testified in the numerous hearings in the Brown Amendment agree with this assessment.
The Brown Amendment is a one-time release of equipment that Pakistan has already paid for and does not re-establish an arms supply relationship with Pakistan.
Furthermore, the controversial F-16 aircraft will not be released to Pakistan. So we continue to expect, for instance, that India will react responsibly to the Pressler developments and recognize that U.S. relations with India and Pakistan are not a zero-sum game.
Q Nick, do you have any comments on remarks by the Chinese President in his interview with Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report? Specifically, he was still talking about a sense of betrayal that he felt by the U.S. in the U.S. decision to allow the Taiwanese President to pay a visit to this country.
Secondly, he was saying that he was willing to exchange visits with the Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui. Do you have any comment on that?
Thirdly, he was going to seek further assurances from President Clinton later this month, during the summit, on Taiwan. Do you have any --
MR. BURNS: On the second question, it's really up to China and to leaders in Taiwan to decide that issue of whether or not there will be meetings.
On the first question, I would not use that particular word because I believe the United States was totally and consistently direct and up front with the Chinese Government on this issue. We have talked about it on numerous occasions throughout the summer. We have reaffirmed the one-China basis of American policy in the region, and we do not believe that at the meeting on October 24 it will be necessary to have a long and involved discussion of this issue, although I'm sure this issue will come up.
Q A follow-up on this. Specifically, President Jiang, in one of the interviews, said that a week before the U.S. made the decision to allow President Lee Teng-hui to come to the States for a visit, Secretary Christopher told, apparently, the Chinese envoy here that to allow Lee Teng-hui to come to the States for a visit would be a violation of the three joint communiques.
My question to you is, did the State Department or the Secretary himself give such assurances or make such a statement to the Chinese envoy here prior to the announcement?
MR. BURNS: There were a number of meetings with the Chinese leadership and the Chinese envoy when he was here, when he was resident in Washington before he left for four or five months, about this issue. I can't recall all the conversations that took place in those meetings.
But I can say this: We've discussed this at great length publicly. We've discussed it at great length with the Chinese Government. The Chinese Government understands our position, understands what it is and what it isn't. We have reaffirmed it, we've reviewed it. We've done everything we can over the last three or four months to make absolutely clear what our position is on the issue of visas and Taiwan; what our position is on China.
We have a one-China policy. We do not have a policy of one- China/one-Taiwan. There really isn't any mystery about this in U.S.- China relations. When the two Presidents get together, I'm sure they'll have a good conversation to review the history of the past couple of months. But there really is no need to belabor this issue anymore.
Q Nick, was the Chinese President telling the truth when he said that the Secretary told him, or told the Chinese side a week before the announcement of the visit, that such a visit would violate the three communiques?
MR. BURNS: I think the question itself is one that perhaps may be appropriate in other areas. It's certainly not appropriate now. We assume always that President Jiang would be fully straightforward in his public comments, and I'm sure he was in his private comments.
This issue has been debated long enough. Let's put it behind us. Let's get on with the real business of U.S.-China relations, which is that we ought to have a good and stable relationship; and we ought to be discussing in that relationship the really important issues that will be part of the future of the United States and China well into the next century.
Q So are you confirming that the Secretary, in fact, did say that to the Chinese Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: No. Since we're going to continue this, let me just step back. I'm not confirming private -- I'm not confirming -- not confirming -- what transpired in our private discussions with the Chinese. I don't have anything for you on that question.
There are a number of things that were said and some things that were not said in the meetings that we had before the visa was issued and after the visa was issued. I am not taking issue with anything that was said in the Newsweek article because, frankly, it's not in my interest to do that. I'm just saying, let's get on this relationship.
Q But, presumably, if it was wrong, the United States would want to set the record straight in order to, in fact, get this issue behind them.
MR. BURNS: It would be easy for us to pick any number of moments during the many conversations over the past couple of months and try to up the ante, or try to score a debating point here or there. I'm just going to resist that line of argumentation right now.
Q Nick, can I take another crack at this? On April 17, when Secretary Christopher met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian in New York, reportedly, there was a story -- very prominently printed in one of the leading papers of the United States -- that the Secretary told Mr. Qian that he personally canvassed the situation by calling a couple of members of the Congress. The answer he got was, no way to stop Lee Teng-hui from coming to the States for a visit. Was that true? Did that really transpire during the 17th of April meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Qian?
MR. BURNS: Okay. I'm going to make an exception to my rule with Carol now. I'm going to comment on that question because I was in that particular meeting and I remember specifically the exchange.
The Secretary did indicate to Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian at the April 17th meeting in New York that sentiment in the United States Congress was running very strongly in favor of a visa for President Lee Teng-hui. That was very specifically part of the conversation that day.
Q The Secretary himself has said publicly that he might not have made that point clear enough to the Foreign Minister.
MR. BURNS: Sid, I don't remember that statement.
Q At the Cambodian news conference in Phnom Penh.
MR. BURNS: I just said I don't remember. I wasn't challenging it factually.
Q But you remember --
MR. BURNS: Sid, I said I don't remember that conversation. I honestly don't remember it. You going to have to take my word on that. I would suggest that you do.
But the Secretary said a lot of other things, both before our trip to Asia and after. I think the Secretary was very clear with the Chinese Foreign Minister in the meeting on April 17.
But you know, this is a kind of surreal conversation. Again, we've had a couple now. Because this is the kind of conversation we had back in June when this issue was on the front pages. Since then, there have been two meetings that the Secretary has had with the Chinese Foreign Minister.
In the second meeting, very little time was spent on this issue because it had been exhausted in the discussion between the two countries and I thought exhausted here. If you're interested, we could have a special briefing. We could detail the chronology of this issue from April all the way up to next Tuesday. We could do a tick-tock on it. We can through everyday and who said what and who tried to score a debating point here. But that wouldn't really be, in my view, useful. It wouldn't be useful for the relationship.
Frankly, we are under no obligation to share with you all the conversation that takes place in private between our two governments, and I don't choose to do that today.
Kristen. Are we making another try on this one, or can we go onto another issue?
Q Nick, would you support -- will the U.S. support an exchange of visits by the Presidents on both sides of the Taiwan Straits? Would you encourage or discourage such a visit?
MR. BURNS: It's totally up to them. If they want to do that, if there's a mutual agreement, of course we'd support it. It's up to them. This is not a U.S. initiative. This is something that was said in a news magazine interview. It's up to the two sides to figure out their relationship.
We have some other questions. I think non-China questions. I was actually calling on Kristen. She's been waiting very patiently.
Q The question is, over the weekend, after reading a newspaper article about economic espionage in this country, numerous Japanese officials have said that they will outright ask the United States whether the reports are true.
One, is the United States under any obligation to tell them this? And is it in our interests for -- you know, they're mentioning the word "trust" in the bilateral relationship, especially given the difficulty over SOFA and other unease in the bilateral relationship?
MR. BURNS: The first point: We never comment on allegations of intelligence matters or facts pertaining to alleged intelligence matters. We just don't do that in public. In that sense, I cannot comment on the report in the New York Times yesterday.
I can comment on U.S.-Japanese relations which I believe are strong. I believe we're working through the problems on the implementation of the SOFA. The third meeting of the working group on that issue took place on Friday.
We would not be surprised if the Japanese Government was interested in pursuing discussion of this issue, but I really have nothing to say on the nature of that discussion which I'm sure will take place.
Q Has it started yet?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q Has that discussion begun yet?
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing to report. I think the Japanese Government has expressed interest in that discussion, but I have nothing to report to you on it.
Q Nick, one last week question. On Abu Marzook, who comes up tomorrow morning for possible transfer to the Israelis, has the Secretary authorized and approved the request of the Israel Government for extradition in view of the fact that this morning the two leading Hamas officials were let out of jail in Gaza? The PLO is trying to reach out to Hamas and bring them into the process.
Is the United States going to give this green card holder back to the Israelis?
MR. BURNS: Let me check on that and get back to you. I don't have an answer to that question.
Q The Turkish Prime minister lost a confidence vote in parliament. The President of Turkey canceled his trip to Washington which was on Wednesday. Do you have a comment on the current --
MR. BURNS: I understand that President Demiral has postponed the first part of his trip which was to have taken place in Washington -- the first part of his trip to the United States. Yes, we certainly understand from our embassy in Ankara that there was a vote in the Turkish parliament that went against Prime Minister Ciller.
Turkey is an important ally. We would certainly hope and trust that the Turks themselves, the Turkish politicians would now decide on the proper course of action to establish a government.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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