U.S. Department of State 95/10/30 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, October 30, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcement Bombing of Pan Am Flt. 103: --Bureau of Diplomatic Security Award Program ...........1-3 --Memorial Dedication/Service ...........................2-3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Use of NATO Airpower/Dual Key Arrangement ...............3-4 U.S. Position on Defense of Eastern Enclaves ............4-5 Proximity Peace Talks ...................................22-24 --US Visas for Presidents Izetbegovic, Tudjman, Milosevic ............................................5-10 --Serb/Bosnian Serb Delegation ..........................8,22 War Crimes Tribunal/Human Rights Abuses/Atrocities ......6-8,9-20 --Opening of Banja Luka to Internat. Inspection .........10 --Internat. Inspection of Sites around Srebrenica, Zepa .12 Support for Suspension/Lifting of Sanctions .............14-15 Allegation of Weapons Drops near Tuzla ..................15-16 FRANCE Report of Sale of 550 Missiles to Taiwan ................20 MALTA Report of Shooting of Alleged Hamas Official ............20-21 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary Christopher/Syrian President Assad Mtg. .......21 CANADA Referendum ..............................................21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1995, 1:22 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have an announcement to make and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
On March 23rd of this year, the Department of State and the FBI announced an up to $4 million reward for information leading to the location and apprehension of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, the two suspects wanted in the brutal bombing of Pan Am l03, the flight of Pan Am l03 in 1988.
As the seventh anniversary of this bombing approaches, the Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security is undertaking new efforts to publicize this reward.
In addition to a new poster that we will be releasing and match book campaigns, we will advertise this reward in this week's edition of Al-Wasat, an Arabic weekly news magazine. Ads will also run in Al- Hayat, an Arabic language newspaper, and MBC, the Middle East broadcasting satellite service later this year.
The Department of State and the FBI will continue their close cooperation in publicizing the U.S. Government's absolute commitment to bring these two criminals to justice.
People with information overseas are urged to contact the nearest, U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or to write our post office box address, which is on the Department notice that we will be circulating after this briefing.
Domestically, people can contact the FBI or call the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. People can also provide information via the INTERNET.
And let me just show you, we will be circulating today around the world, but particularly in the Middle East in Arabic, a poster which has the photographs of both these individuals who we believe are responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight l03, and it has information in Arabic as to the nature of this $4 million reward, and also to where they can provide information to the local U.S. Embassy and Consulate, and this poster is also in English.
Q -- of the $4 million reward?
MR. BURNS: That is a representation of the money that is available to people if they provide, Roy, important information leading to the arrest, apprehension and arrest, of these individuals.
We also have, if any of you are interested -- I know all of you were interested last time -- we are circulating match books, which has been a particularly useful way to disseminate information about terrorists in the past.
Let me just note that ordinarily the reward -- the high amount of a reward is roughly $2 million for a crime of this dimension, but fortunately the U.S. Government's contribution has been amplified by $2 million from the Air Transport Association and the Airline Pilots Association. Each organization has pledged up to a maximum of $l million to supplement the reward by the United States Government.
Q But you know where these guys are, right? They are in Libya.
MR. BURNS: Well, we think we know generally where they are, in which country they may be hiding, but we don't know where they are in those countries, and that's an important piece of information for the United States and for international police authorities who are looking for these two individuals.
Q Bosnia question?
MR. BURNS: Any more on this before we go to Bosnia?
Q Yes, one more, please. I don't know if you mentioned this, Nick, I'm sorry if I didn't catch it, a White House release. There's a memorial service set for these victims on the 3rd, Friday at 2:00 at Arlington Cemetery. I understand they have a little memorial they are dedicating there.
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think this coming Friday, November 3rd, there is going to be a cairn dedicated to all the people who died on this flight. It will be -- the cairn will consist of 270 stones from the Lockerbie, Scotland area and it will rest on a granite base, and the names of all the victims of this terrorist act will be printed on the granite base.
There were people from 2l nations on this flight, including, of course, many Americans, and, as you all know, several employees of the Department of State and the U.S. Government who died in that crash.
Q Are those posters being made available to the media for picture purposes, do you know?
MR. BURNS: Yes. If any of you are interested, we'll be glad to give you copies of these posters, and you can use them to disseminate this information, as well.
Q I walked in late. I don't know if you touched on it, but speaking about bad guys, any reaction to the assassination in Malta?
MR. BURNS: Let me just make sure, Howard, that we don't have any other questions on Pan Am l03. And I want to give Andrea the first right, because she had a question before you walked in. Then we'll go back to you.
Q I had a question on Bosnia. The Dutch have released a report which apparently -- I have not seen a copy of it -- but apparently it categorically rejects the notion that they opposed air strikes around Srebrenica. Yet I took what Secretary Holbrooke said to mean that we argued very forcefully for air strikes with the Dutch. He said we were arguing with The Hague all night. Can you --
MR. BURNS: For the most part -- can I illuminate at all this problem? For the most part, and I can't reconstruct the events that took place over a week or so in as much detail as you probably want me to, we are very clear about the record of what happened.
As soon as the United States Government discovered that there was going to be an attempt by the Bosnian-Serb military and other para- military units in the area to, in effect, overrun Srebrenica, we argued very forcefully in Brussels and in other European capitals and in Zagreb and Sarajevo for a vigorous and determined response by NATO, by NATO air power, to deter the Bosnian-Serbs from carrying forth their plans to conquer Srebrenica.
That argument was played out over about two days, and because of the failure of the dual key arrangement we had not received the support that we wanted from the United Nations; in effect, the turning of the key that would have allowed NATO to deploy substantial air power, the kind of air power you saw subsequently in September.
As a result, on the morning that Srebrenica was overrun, the United Nations did turn the key. I think you remember there were four F-l6's, two Dutch and two American, that responded and were able to deploy -- in the very last minutes before the city was nearly overrun -- they were able to attack one tank and only one tank and then they disappeared from the scene. It was a very limited use of NATO air power at the very last moment. It didn't make any appreciable difference from a military point of view.
This was directly contrary to what we had been advocating. We had been advocating a substantial display of NATO air power, and the problem was not so much with the Dutch as with the United Nations.
Q Well, was the United Nations responding to the insistence of the Dutch that they not turn the key?
MR. BURNS: Well, I can't go into a detailed reconstruction of events that took place months ago. I do know that at times the Dutch were arguing for a vigorous response. At other times, the Dutch, of course, were concerned about the safety of their own peacekeepers there.
I don't think it is really proper to place the spotlight on that aspect of this unfortunate and tragic drama. I think it is proper to put the spotlight on the dual key, which failed, and failed dramatically. It was because of the failure of the United Nations, all of us, to react at Srebrenica on July l0, 11 and l2, that Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry went to London on July 20 and 2l and argued forcefully that the dual key as the U.N. and NATO had understood it, should be dismantled. And it was dismantled.
You saw then, six weeks later, during the next provocation by the Bosnian Serbs, the bombing of the Sarajevo marketplace, that NATO could respond with a massive display of air power that stopped the Bosnian Serbs in their tracks. NATO could not do that in July because it was handicapped by the United Nations dual key.
Q And I have one other related question, if you don't mind. In the Independent today, there is an interview apparently with General Janvier, who says that he in May recommended that these two enclaves be given up because they were not defendable, defensible.
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for General Janvier. I think he is going to have to speak for himself in the coming days as these questions mount from the international press corps, but I can speak for the United States.
At no time has the United States argued that the eastern enclaves should be given up. We did not argue that prior to July l0th and llth, when Srebrenica and, subsequently, Zepa were overrun, and we certainly did not believe that to be the case with Gorazde. We went to the London Conference just a week after the fall of Srebrenica arguing to protect Gorazde with real force.
You will remember the result of the London Conference. We drew a line in the sand in front of Gorazde, NATO did, and said you can't cross that line. When they crossed that line in Sarajevo six weeks later, we struck back effectively.
So the United States never supported, going back over the past year, turning the enclaves over to the Bosnian Serbs or leaving them in such an indefensible state that they would have been overrun in any case, and two of them were overrun, and that's a very unfortunate fact.
The consequences of that, I think, we are all living with now. You know, 50,000 people were made refugees from Srebrenica. 43,000 people fled to Tuzla. Six to eight thousand people from that city are missing, and we presume executed by the Bosnian Serbs. They were the most tragic consequences. It was a tragic set of mistakes that led up to it.
The United States tried very hard in the days preceding the fall of Srebrenica to counteract the impending fall with a massive display of air power, but we were not allowed to do that because of the dual key. We promised ourselves that weekend that we would never be put in that position again. That's why Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry went to London to turn that decision around, and they did.
Q Are we going to stay on Bosnia, or --
MR. BURNS: Be glad to.
Q If so, could you tell us what kind of visa you are going to give to the three presidents, particularly Mr. Milosevic?
MR. BURNS: All of the three presidents have been given visas. As you know, President Izetbegovic is a frequent visitor to the United States. He was in New York last week, as was President Tudjman. I believe they have multiple-entry visas that allow them to come and go. These are official visas that we extend to officials from visiting countries.
Mr. Milosevic did apply for a visa over the weekend. He has been granted a visa by our Embassy in Belgrade. He will be arriving in the United States at Wright-Patterson tomorrow night -- tomorrow afternoon, excuse me.
The other two leaders are expected to arrive -- President Izetbegovic, I think, shortly after dark; President Tudjman fairly late in the evening. All of them will be traveling directly to Wright- Patterson Air Force Base.
As for Mr. Milosevic's visa, it has been issued with the very strong and clear expectation that he is coming to thhe United States for the sole purpose of negotiating peace in Dayton, Ohio. He is not coming to the United States for any other purpose.
We would therefore expect that his travel to the United States would be limited to Dayton, Ohio, although, David, we have not expressed -- we have not issued the visa with any written conditions stipulating that. But we have already reviewed this issue with him and his advisers, and it is our strong expectation that Dayton, Ohio, will be the extent of his travel in the United States.
Q And when are the other two arriving?
Q If I could, I'm told -- I have not read it closely myself, but I'm told by those who have, that under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, one of the things that you have to determine before you issue a visa is that someone has not committed acts which could be considered genocide. And therefore by admitting him to the United States, with a U.S. visa, you are so certifying.
MR. BURNS: As we've said before, there is an international body that has been established to make this type of judgment. It's the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal. We're the leading supporter of that Tribunal and the leading financier.
Mr. Milosevic has not been indicted by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal as a war criminal. Two other people -- two prominent people, among many -- have. They are not welcome in the United States -- Karadzic and Mladic -- because they're indicted war criminals. If the War Crimes Tribunal should indict other people in the future, then we would treat them like the pariahs they are and deserve to be treated in that way. That's why we've taken the position we have with the other two.
It is not for the United States to pass this kind of judgment. It is for the War Crimes Tribunal. They have the most complete set of information on the events of 1991 and 1992 and will soon have more information on the events of 1995 -- July and October -- that we think are areas that the War Crimes Tribunal should investigate closely.
Q Are we giving up some legal rights to further prosecute a case by certifying Mr. Milosevic, as David points out --
MR. BURNS: Not at all. Not with anyone, and not just Mr. Milosevic. If anyone is indicted in the future by the War Crimes Tribunal, they will be subject to prosecution by that Tribunal. The United States, as a member of the United Nations and as a supporter of the Tribunal, will have a legal obligation to do what it can to help the War Crimes Tribunal apprehend and bring to justice those people.
Q Again, I'm not a lawyer and have not actually read the act. I'm told that under the Act, if the United States admits a person, one of the things they are stating officially is that they do not consider this person guilty of the crime of genocide. There is no waiver built into the law. So those I've spoken to who have read this suggest that it might help Mr. Milosevic clear his name; to have the U.S., in effect, state -- which it has, these people say, had to do by granting a visa -- that the U.S. Government does not view him as having committed the crime of genocide?
MR. BURNS: David, all I can say is that Mr. Milosevic is coming here to negotiate peace. You don't always choose your partners. He, in many ways, perhaps is not an ideal one for us to deal with but he is the person who negotiates on behalf of both the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs. In any negotiation, to be successful, you have to deal with the people who have made war in order to make peace. That is a fundamental reality of any successful negotiation.
If we chose not to allow Mr. Milosevic to come to the United States, then I can guarantee you one thing: there wouldn't be peace proceedings, peace talks at Dayton, Ohio, and there wouldn't be a peace agreement. The war would continue. I'm afraid to say that some of the brutalities that we've seen just in the last couple of weeks would be likely to be repeated by the Bosnian Serbs and their para-military units loyal to it.
In granting a visa to Mr. Milosevic, we are by no means stating anything affirmative. It is simply something that must be taken into consideration by the person issuing the visa. But it does not exclude the possibility for any person that in the future they would not be investigated if it was proper and if the information led in that direction by the War Crimes Tribunal. I'm making no statement about that connection because we're not able to do that. Only the War Crimes Tribunal can establish whether or not someone should be indicted.
Q What kind of visa is he getting, please? What type?
Q Are you going to publish a list of the 200-or-so delegates from the various nine nations that are coming?
MR. BURNS: I don't think we have a complete list yet. But at some point, on Wednesday, I'll be glad to try to get as complete a list as I can.
But in that particular delegation, I think Dick Holbrooke told you this morning, we would expect that Mr. Koljevic and Buha and others would be part of Milosevic's delegation, they are part of the Pale -- Bosnian Serb leadership.
Q What kind of visa is he getting, Nick?
MR. BURNS: He's getting an official visa that we ordinarily give to people visiting from foreign governments.
Q Can you tell us the exact number -- the description: A-1, A- 2, or whatever?
MR. BURNS: I can get that for you.
Q Is he being --
MR. DINGER: A-1.
MR. BURNS: John says it's an A-1.
Q A-1 -- is this not the visa reserved for heads of state?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me? I believe A-1 are for all official visitors. Aren't they, John? Diplomats, yes.
Q Do we actually recognize Yugoslavia? Is it a country that we have full diplomatic relations with?
MR. BURNS: I think you know the answer to that question as well as I do.
Q I don't.
MR. BURNS: It's not a member of the United Nations. It's an entity, certainly, that is the central force behind the war over the last four years. It has combined to form a joint delegation with the Bosnian Serbs, and we are negotiating with it on that de facto basis.
Q Larry Eagleburger, in December 1993 -- or '92 -- labeled Mr. Milosevic a "suspect for crimes against humanity." He said he had command responsibility. He said we know who the people are who have this responsibility, and then he named Milosevic.
In the meantime, the Tribunal has been established and they now have labeled the events in Bosnia as "genocide." They've even actually put some people -- or about to put some people -- on trial.
Finally, I do have the text here of this Immigration Act. It basically says, "Any alien who has engaged in conduct that is defined as 'genocide' for purposes of the international convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide is excludable." They define the word "excludable" in this as "ineligible," meaning ineligible to receive a visa.
So I don't quite understand -- maybe you could walk us through the actual legal arguments that were decided in this Department or worked out in this Department so that you could allow him in, considering this rather tight definition here in your own laws?
MR. BURNS: The standard is this: You don't have the liberty of choosing your negotiating partners. You deal with the situation as it is, and we are dealing with the Bosnian situation -- a messy, tragic, brutal situation as it is, first and foremost.
Secondly, we've tried to do a couple of things over the last year. First, we've tried to move ahead diplomatically, and we've done so. We are now on the verge of peace talks. Secondly, we've tried to stiffen the spine of the international community, particularly after the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa. We've done that. Third, we have done more than any country to expose the human rights abuses and the acts of genocide that have been committed against the Muslim and Croatian populations of Bosnia by Bosnian Serb military units and paramilitary units.
We have sent John Shattuck to the region three times over the last four weeks. We have now opened up Banja Luka yesterday and today to international inspection by the ICRC, the U.N., and by journalists. We have facilitated the travel of a number of American journalists into Banja Luka just in the last 24 hours.
These not the actions of a government -- our government -- that has any interest in sweeping any of this under the rug. They're the actions of a government that wants to bring them to light.
In that respect, Roy, our support for the War Crimes Tribunal is unqualified. The War Crimes Tribunal is free, and Judge Goldstone knows this, to take its information in any direction where it leads them. If that direction goes to Belgrade as well as to other places, so be it.
We have decided that we will treat people from the region who are suspected of war crimes on the basis of what the War Crimes Tribunal tells us. As people are indicted, they, in effect, become pariahs. They are not welcome in the United States.
The facts are that Mr. Milosevic is not indicted. The facts are that the War Crimes Tribunal has not said that he is a suspect war criminal; that he is a suspect of genocide. I am making no apologies for him in saying this. I'm simply stating facts.
As the War Crimes Tribunal adds people to this list, we will take note and we'll act accordingly. That will have an affect on who gets a U.S. visa and who doesn't.
Roy, both you and David have pointed to an aspect of consular law, which is the imperative, that if the United States finds anyone guilty of genocide, we can exclude those people from receiving American visas. Our definition of who is suspect or guilty of genocide is determined by the War Crimes Tribunal. It is a very serious charge, and it cannot be bandied about or thrown out at press briefings in an irresponsible way.
We're going to follow the dictates and the findings of the War Crimes Tribunal, and we will act accordingly.
Q Have you consulted the War Crimes Tribunal to ask whether they're investigating him?
MR. BURNS: Roy, as you know, I think there are 23 people from the U.S. Government who form the body of the War Crimes Tribunal. We are in very close, continuous contact with Judge Goldstone. We are apprised sometimes in advance of cases they are working on and cases they're not working on. If we had any feeling that somehow that a judgment was imminent, I think you might have seen us take a different course. But it is not for me to make announcements for the War Crimes Tribunal. That can only be done from The Hague.
Q If I can just follow up on the question of Srebrenica, because it somehow ties these things together, you refer repeatedly to the Bosnian Serbs doing this or that, including being responsible for the massacre of Srebrenica. Of course, Serb troops from Yugoslavia itself were spotted in Srebrenica. There's a lot of evidence of Serb presence there.
At least two newspapers -- one of which is my own, in August; another which is the newspaper in Berlin, the Tageszeitung -- have now reported that the United States and other countries have intercepts showing that the chief of staff of the Yugoslav army, who does report to Milosevic, was giving instructions throughout the siege of Srebrenica to General Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb forces. There are a lot of radio intercepts that are in the possession of his government and other governments which show that very thing.
So it makes Milosevic, it would seem on the face it, quite culpable for these very recent most events. And just to continue for a second, if you look at the events in Banja Luka that were committed by Arkan. Arkan lives in Serbia. He crosses the border from Serbia into Bosnia. When you go to Milosevic and ask him to call off Arkan, Arkan then announces he's going to leave.
Clearly, Arkan's presence there and his involvement in the latest attacks on civilians and the murder of civilians is completely tied with Milosevic.
Leaving aside what Larry Eagleburger said in December '92, based on the events of 1992, you've got the events of this very summer which implicate Milosevic, it would seem, in what you now call -- what certainly looks like genocide. So I don't see how you come to your judgment.
MR. BURNS: Our judgments have to be backed up by fact. They can't be backed up by supposition, and they can't be backed up by gut feelings. A judgment of whether or not to brand someone a war criminal has to be determined by factual evidence, and that is the sole place that it can be determined.
In the case of the Serbs, there's no question that there are connections between the Serbian Government and the Bosnian Serbs. There's no question that there have been many leakages in the sanctions, and we are quite disturbed by that.
I have seen press reports. I have seen conflicting press reports about whether or not Serb units were present around Srebrenica in July. The fact is we don't have -- we don't have in the U.S. Government -- any conclusive factual evidence that would link those two.
It's not to say it doesn't exist, but we don't have the type of conclusive factual evidence that one needs to make the kind of determination, Roy, that you seem to want me to make right now.
I would just tell you this: When John Shattuck was in Belgrade last week and talked to Mr. Milosevic personally and directly, he was able to elicit a fundamental promise. Not only would Milosevic allow international inspection of the suspected human rights sites around Banja Luka, but Milosevic would also allow international inspection of the sites around Srebrenica and Zepa that are the subject of some of the reports in the Post and Times over the weekend.
That is all to the good. We expect that these commitments will now be turned into action; so that not only will the ICRC and the U.N. and the United States be able to look where the refugees tell us the crimes took place in Banja Luka, they'll have the same access to Srebrenica and Zepa.
For what it is worth -- and I use the same verb that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke used just about an hour ago -- Mr. Milosevic claims that there is no connection. He claims that he did not support the Bosnian Serb offensive against Srebrenica and Zepa; and he claimed at the time that he did not want this to happen and would use his influence to stop it.
The fact is that it was not stopped. The fact is that the two cities were overrun -- that's what's really important here -- and that many thousands of people lost their lives and tens of thousands of people lost their homes.
Roy, we've decided as a government that we are going to look into these crimes and pursue them along with the international community wherever they lead us. We've decided to do that at a time when we are negotiating with the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs for peace in the Balkans.
The surest way that we know to stop future Srebrenicas and Banja Lukas is to have successful talks at Dayton, is to have a peace agreement that will end these atrocities forever. That is the ultimate responsibility of the United States, and that, believe me, is in part what motivates us as we prepare to go to Dayton on Wednesday.
Q Do you think the question of the radio intercepts that have been around now for months --
MR. BURNS: I cannot. No. I cannot take any question pertaining to any intelligence matter. I'm sorry. I never do it, and I won't.
Q The U.S. Government may have this data. It may be in another building and most likely, though, in this building, and because it's intelligence, you're going to tell us that you can't discuss it. But if this intelligence actually links Milosevic directly with the crimes that have occurred this summer, then it seems to me you are protecting Milosevic by not releasing it.
So either you have it, either the stories are correct or the stories are wrong, and it's all invented. But I think the material is there in the U.S. Government's possession, and it sounds like it's being suppressed.
MR. BURNS: Two quick points in response. Number one, we are turning over to the War Crimes Tribunal all sorts of information, of all varieties, including some of the types you just asked about, because we want to give the War Crimes Tribunal every opportunity to pursue every lead there is.
Second, we have brought these problems directly to Mr. Milosevic, directly to the Bosnian Serb leadership; and the nature of the questioning is a little bit surprising to me. It's almost as if in these allegations we're trying to cover up for someone.
It's almost as if this government had been mute over the last three weeks. Go back and check the record, by the way, of what was said from this podium and by Mike McCurry on July 10, 11 and 12 of 1995. As soon as we had an indication that there were reports coming from the Dutch garrison in Srebrenica of men and boys being separated from the women and children who went to Tuzla, we talked about that that afternoon, publicly from this podium.
Subsequently, the United States has done more than any country -- any country -- in fact, any institution to pursue these allegations of war crimes. We've gone to Milosevic directly. We have turned over the bulk of the information to the War Crimes Tribunal, and we're bringing it to light.
Secretary Christopher sent John Shattuck last week -- not in an attempt to cover anything up, but to expose the truth. We have an obligation to the truth. We have an obligation to the people who died to uncover the truth.
If we wanted to be politically expedient, you wouldn't see us talking publicly about this two days before the peace talks open.
Q Nick, just a practical question. Holbrooke said from this very podium that the talks in Dayton are sort of -- I won't say open- ended, but they could go on for some time.
Is there any contingency plan for what will happen if the War Crimes Tribunal returns indictments -- maybe not of Milosevic but of others who might be at those talks?
MR. BURNS: Whatever happens, happens. The fact is that Mr. Milosevic is coming here to negotiate an end to the war and for a beginning to the peace. You cannot make peace in Bosnia without the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs. It is entirely rational, reasonable and appropriate for the United States to give a visa to Milosevic for this purpose.
We have no control over who is on the list to be next indicted for war crimes. When the War Crimes Tribunal makes those announcements, we will respond accordingly, but that's the only reasonable thing that you can ask of us right now or that we can plan for.
Q Nick, the Government of Serbia has declared that it has not recognized the authority of the War Crimes Tribunal. As long as that continues to be their position, is it possible that the United States would support the lifting of sanctions against Serbia?
MR. BURNS: We will support the lifting of sanctions under the following conditions. If an agreement is reached, we would support the suspension of most of the sanctions. But, as Secretary Christopher said the other day, not all.
Secondly, if a peace agreement is then implemented, the United States would support the lifting of those sanctions.
There's also something, I think, that goes directly to the heart of your question, Tom, and that's this. We expect that these agreements will demand that all parties who sign a peace agreement at Dayton or initial one at Dayton and sign one in Paris will commit in writing to support the efforts of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Earlier -- many months and even, I think, more than a year ago -- we said this was an important issue for us; that we couldn't see lifting sanctions finally until all parties agreed -- specifically here Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs -- to cooperate. We expect that as a result of these talks, that that written commitment to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal will be included in the agreements, and therefore that would be met to our satisfaction.
Q On a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Any more on Bosnia? We have a couple more on Bosnia.
Q If I may go back a few months, it's been reported earlier that on February 10th and 12th this year, there were two substantial weapons drops outside Tuzla, and at the nights in question, the flight ban was supervised by U.S. Hawkeyes.
Tonight in a BBC program, a former UNPROFOR spokesperson -- spokesman Michael Williams is reported to be stating that the U.S. assisted or closed its eyes at these drops that were made from Hercules planes. Is there any way that you can comment on this?
MR. BURNS: There's nothing I have to add; nothing to say on that. There's nothing I can say on that. These are supposedly events that occurred in February -- a long time ago, as we speak. I just have no information available to me to make a comment on that.
Q (Inaudible) look the other way? Wasn't that approved last November; that you're not supposed to have intelligence -- or not supposed to collect intelligence or pass it on to anybody if there are shipments to the Bosnians?
MR. BURNS: There were certain modifications that were made, I believe, in the fall of 1994 as part of the discussions that we had with Senator Nunn and others. But I can't possibly comment on a question like that. With all due respect, I know you're interested, and it's a good question, but I can't comment --
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q You can't comment because there's been targets, or are you aware of this?
MR. BURNS: No. I can't comment, because I have no information about it, on what may have happened on two nights in February 1995.
Q Given the importance you attach to the War Crimes Tribunal process, can you comment on the six-month delay in the first trials and why that occurred and what you're going to do about it?
MR. BURNS: I think it's important for all countries to give support to the War Crimes Tribunal. I don't think I'm being parochial in saying that the United States has given perhaps more support than any country. It's been underfunded. It's been understaffed. It is operating by its own devices in The Hague. It needs the active financial and political support of all the countries concerned, and we certainly would call upon our allied countries and partners to give it the support that it needs.
I believe we've done our part, and we'll continue to do so. We have an absolute interest in supporting the Tribunal, and we will do so in the future.
Q Nick, a technical question in that area. A couple of years ago the U.S. was collating, passing on to the U.N. and making available to us reports on atrocities during the first leg of ethnic cleansing. Is there a reason why we have not seen similar reports since?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, but that's a good question. Let me check on that. It may be that because we are turning over all information to the Tribunal, it may be the Tribunal would like us not to comment publicly in the information we give them. I don't know. That's speculation on my part, but I can look into it and get you an answer.
Q Yes, Nick. Were there evidence in the hands of the Tribunal provided by us or other sources? There was a preponderance of evidence that pointed to Milosevic's complicity, as we have been discussing. Would Milosevic still be welcome? Would he be able to get a visa, or does he have to be convicted here before he can be excluded?
MR. BURNS: We have taken the position that indicted war criminals - - indicted war criminals by the United Nations Tribunal -- are not welcome in the United States, and you've seen the result of that position. Two individuals are not welcome here and will not be participating in the peace talks at Dayton. That is not the case with Mr. Milosevic. He is not an indicted war criminal.
Q And to follow up this -- one I asked last week, does the United States know? Does the United States have access to this information that the War Tribunal has or all the information that they have?
MR. BURNS: Bill, that's almost an impossible question to answer. We had access to the information that we've developed and we've given them.
Q Just one more point. On the radio intercepts that this government, I believe, has that indicate Parizic (ph) directing Mladic in the conquest of Srebrenica.
Has this sort of material been provided now to the War Crimes Tribunal, because as of about a week or so ago they hadn't?
MR. BURNS: I can't discuss intelligence matters in these briefings, and I will not do that. I did say in response to an earlier question from Tom that the United States is turning over to the War Crimes Tribunal all sorts of information; almost any information you can think of that we think is relevant and pertinent, and that we develop by all sorts of means; and that is because of our strong support to find the truth.
Q I had heard as of a week ago, radio intercepts have not been turned over, and these are specifics that the Tribunal had to request of the Administration, and I'm just wondering whether they've been turned over in the meantime. I mean, you can just make a blanket statement that anything they request, they will get, but you didn't say that.
MR. BURNS: Roy, we're dancing around this issue, aren't we, because I'm not going to talk. I'm not going to even repeat the words you've just used. I'm not going to talk about any questions related to intelligence information. I gave you, I thought, a pretty good answer just 15 seconds ago about what type of information we are turning over.
We're not hiding anything. I mean, the tenor of the questioning interests me a little bit, because if we were in other capitals and if it was perhaps another time, the tone would be appropriate. But you're talking to a representative of the government that is exposing these human rights abuses.
Nothing in the articles over the weekend surprised us or was new to us. In fact, as Dick Holbrooke told you, we worked for hours with those particular reporters who wrote those articles to provide them with information. It's in our interest to see these allegations pursued and exposed publicly.
You have every right to question -- to ask me any question. But to intimate that somehow we're covering up, that somehow we're not being truthful, that somehow we think that it's in our interest to just put all this -- sweep it under the rug -- that is absolutely unfair and unwarranted and contrary to the truth.
Q Nick, you made a very sweeping statement, saying that the United States does not have in its possession factual evidence to link the Yugoslav Army to the attack on Srebrenica. Considering how much anecdotal evidence was reported about that, that is a pretty sweeping statement.
MR. BURNS: It's a sweeping statement in this respect. I am not aware of factual evidence that we have either presented to the War Crimes Tribunal or that is available to someone like me in the government that would lead us irretrievably to that conclusion.
There are certainly reports -- press reports and other types of reports -- that link elements of the Serbian Government to a number of the activities of the Bosnian Serbs and their paramilitary units.
A lot of people have questioned the motivations and the support for Arkan -- the financial support and the institutional support for Arkan. A lot of people think that he is linked to the secret services in Belgrade.
We have a responsibility -- if we talk about genocide, if we talk about who is a war criminal and who is not -- to be factually accurate. My statement is an accurate statement of the evidence available -- the hard, factual evidence available to the U.S. Government at this time.
We have not stopped our effort to uncover additional evidence. There are questions that we are pursuing. They're interesting questions that we're pursuing. But before we brand anybody a war criminal or deny them visas, we have to have the type of evidence that you would expect a tribunal to have.
Again, in the final analysis, it's not for the United States Government to pronounce itself in a legal way -- it's for the War Crimes Tribunal -- and we'll support the War Crimes Tribunal when it does.
Q It sounds like you're backing off what Larry Eagleburger said in December of 1992.
MR. BURNS: How can I back off a statement by someone who's not part of this Administration, when it's 1995, not 1992. I represent this Administration. I can only speak for this Administration. I can't support or back up comments that were made three years ago. I can't have any comment on them. I don't have any comment on them.
But don't say that I'm backing off something that was said by someone who does not represent this government.
Q (Inaudible) the United States at the time and --
MR. BURNS: Yes, he did.
MR. BURNS: Yes, he did. And he is a highly respected person, and my comments make no comment on his comment. I just can't comment on his comment. (Laughter) You can't expect me to comment on the activities of past governments, past American governments.
Q Different subject.
MR. BURNS: Have we covered Bosnia?
Listen, my modus operandi, George, is just to answer all questions. I'm trying to be fair and open to the U.S. press. I'm ready to answer all questions, but we were going to China.
Q (Multiple comments)
Q (Inaudible) what is it -- since you wanted to -- I mean, I don't understand what is the status of a Secretary of State who makes an allegation in public, as the Secretary of State of the United States, based on information at his hand, and then two years later someone -- you know, the Spokesman for the Department says --
MR. BURNS: Three years later.
Q -- feels we cannot comment on his comment. But he was not making a comment. He was making a statement as the Secretary of State of the United States. Now, either it stands and it's accurate, or else it's inaccurate, because you've been able to disprove it and it's baseless. But it doesn't just --
MR. BURNS: Roy --
Q But it doesn't just exist out there --
MR. BURNS: Roy --
Q -- in the ether without --
MR. BURNS: Roy, I get the gist of it. I served in the last Administration. As a Foreign Service Officer, I have the greatest respect for Secretary of State Eagleburger. I cannot represent him. Those of us who speak on behalf of the Administration can only speak on behalf of one Administration at a time.
We're talking about what's going to happen in Dayton -- who is going to get indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal; who's responsible for these terrible crimes committed at Srebrenica and Zepa. They don't bear any official relationship with what was said or not said three years ago.
So I can only represent the Clinton Administration at this point. You can't put me in a position of having to corroborate or deny or affirm or support statements made three years ago, even by the most eminently respected people.
Q Do you have any comments on the French decision to sell 550 missiles to Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't have any comment.
Q Are you aware of this?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specifics of this sale.
Q Nick, do you have any comment or any information about the shooting of the alleged Hamas official in Malta?
MR. BURNS: On that, all I can say is that we have noted the reports of the killing of Mr. Shaqaqi. We can't determine and can't know who is responsible for his murder.
In our view, the motivation of the parties in the Middle East has to be focused on the peace process. Secretary Christopher was in Damascus doing that this morning with President Assad, and we will continue to support efforts to resolve the problems of the Middle East.
Q Does it look to you at this point to be a terrorist act?
MR. BURNS: I just can't say. We don't have, at least available to me, any factual evidence about this. We've seen the press reports. We've noted statements by both Israeli leaders and by Arab leaders, Palestinian leaders, but I am not in a position really to make that determination.
Q Do you have any information about the Secretary's meeting with Assad?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have as much as you would expect at this point, based on a couple of phone calls to his aircraft. He had a three-hour meeting this morning in Damascus with President Assad. The Secretary described it as a useful exchange of views. That follows the other useful exchanges of views he's had with the Israeli leadership, both over the weekend in Amman and in the United States last week.
I can't point you, as the Secretary did not after the meeting, to any dramatic breakthroughs as a result of this meeting. It's part of our continuum, our efforts to try to inject some momentum into the Syrian- Israeli track.
Q Did he find the talks positive?
MR. BURNS: I think the Secretary said he found them useful. I would certainly just want to use the words the Secretary used to characterize how he found him.
Q Do you have anything to say about the referendum in Canada today?
MR. BURNS: No. (Laughter) I think through the President and the Secretary of State, over the last two weeks, the United States has said what he should have said, wanted to say, and now it's up to the people of Quebec to vote today. We have a great interest in what happens because Canada is arguably our closest partner in the world.
We will await anxiously the results of this referendum as will you. Once the votes have been tallied and there's an official pronouncement of the breakdown, then we'll have something to say.
Q May I just ask a question on Canada, and the connection in the partnership, and return very briefly to Bosnia. You have stated how information will flow to all of the countries that are involved -- the nine units. But there are many countries, and Canada would be one of them, with previous experience in Bosnia. How do they stay in the loop at Wright-Patterson? I ask since you were giving me a view of the partnership agreement.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. How do --
Q You have already described how information flows to the various nations that are at Wright-Patterson.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Does the loop stop there? Do nations -- and Canada would be one of them that have participated in Bosnia but not with any representation at Wright-Patterson -- have any influence on the negotiations that go on there? Do they get any information of what's going on, or are they consulted?
MR. BURNS: I think, on the whole, these negotiations will be private. There won't be a lot of information, if any. Well, there won't be a lot of information coming from them. There will be one statement a day during this press briefing.
From time to time, of course, we'll want to keep our partners -- Canada included -- apprised of the general trend. If Canada's assistance is required to further the peace talks, I'm sure we won't be hesitant to ask.
Q When does Milosevic arrive? And how is he going to get these -- is he arriving directly there? Does that mean he's flying on a U.S. military plane all the way from Belgrade to Wright-Patterson?
MR. BURNS: I would expect the following. First of all, Dick Holbrooke is in Dayton this afternoon. Your colleagues are in Dayton receiving tours of Wright-Patterson from State Department staff. Dick Holbrooke will be back in Washington tomorrow for high-level meetings with Secretary Christopher and I believe with the President, but I refer you to Mike McCurry for an announcement of that encounter.
Dick will then return to Wright-Patterson in the afternoon -- tomorrow afternoon. His European colleagues will be arriving. Most of them were here over the weekend -- Carl Bildt was here. We saw him yesterday. The British, French and German representatives were here. They have all gone to Luxembourg today for a meeting of the fifteen foreign ministers. They all arrive tomorrow. Dick will talk with them in the afternoon, including Ivanov. And then I think, late afternoon, Milosevic arrives. Early evening, Izetbegovic arrives; and late evening, very late evening, Tudjman. They will all arrive on aircraft directly into Wright-Patterson. There will be open press events -- excuse me?
Q On U. S. military aircraft?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that Milosevic is coming by U.S. military aircraft. I don't believe he is. I can check that for you, but I don't believe so.
These are open press events. I don't believe there is an opportunity -- none of the leaders are going to make statements, but there is certainly an opportunity to photograph them. I don't believe there will be an opportunity to question them.
And they will go off to their housing, to their residence at Wright-Patterson. On Wednesday morning, Secretary Christopher will be arriving around 9:00-9:30. We have a sign-up sheet available for those of you who would like to accompany him.
The Secretary will have three bilateral meetings in the morning with each of the three leaders and then he will convene -- probably around 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon, he will convene the plenary session of the Proximity Talks. That is an open press event which all of you are invited to cover.
After that event, then we will, in essence, lower the veil and there will be no more press opportunities from Wright-Patterson until there is an end to the deliberations at Wright-Patterson.
Q Nick, you are saying that there will be no arrival statements, is that true?
MR. BURNS: By the leaders, yes.
Q Right. Do you have any idea when the Secretary is going to leave on Wednesday?
MR. BURNS: Depart Wright-Patterson? Depart Dayton for Washington?
MR. BURNS: Probably late afternoon. Because after the plenary, he will have some other activities. I am sure he will have a couple more meetings and other things on his schedule.
Q Do you happen to know from where Izetbegovic and Tudjman are coming to Wright-Patterson?
MR. BURNS: I can find out for you, David. Tudjman is coming directly from Zagreb. Milosevic is coming directly from Belgrade. Izetbegovic, I believe, possibly from New York.
Q Just one quick question, you say 2:00 to 2:30 Mr. Christopher leaves in the afternoon.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Is that the time you expect him to make his statement?
NB Yes, it is. And by tomorrow, I'll have an exact time for you on the convening of the plenary conference. But the Secretary will be in the conference hall with the other eight delegations, the United States being the ninth delegation, and he will address all the participants, including the three presidents who will be there. And that will be carried -- that will be open press.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:l4 p.m.)
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