U.S. Department of State 95/10/31 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, October 31, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcement State Department & Coalition for Amer. Leadership Abroad Town Meeting--11/1/95 .................................1 LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS Status of START II and Chemical Weapons Convention Treaties ..............................................1-3 Status of Ambassadorial Nominations .....................2-3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Proximity Peace Talks in Dayton, Ohio ...................3-4 Secretary Christopher's Mtg. w/Members of Congress ......4 Prisoner Exchange in Sanski Most ........................4-5 --U.S. Embassy Officials' Participation .................20 Congressional Resolution re: Deployment of U.S. Troops ..5-6 War Crimes Tribunal: Information Submitted by U.S. ......7-8 Assistant Secretary Shattuck's Agenda w/Mr. Milosevic ...5,14-16 Report of Turkey/Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina Agreement ...16-17 MEXICO Chiapas: Report of American Military/Police Presence ....9 HAITI Establishment of Date for Presidential Election .........9-10 Economic Reform: Privatization ..........................10 COLOMBIA Colombian Foreign Minister's Visit to U.S. ..............10 Status of Cooperation w/U.S. on Anti-Narcotics ..........10-12 GUATEMALA Inspector General's Review of U.S. Citizen Cases ........12 U.S. Military Assistance/Cooperation Programs ...........12 NIGERIA Report of Hanging Sentence for Minority Rights Activist .12-13 CANADA Outcome of Canadian Referendum ..........................13-14,19 Letter to Secretary Christopher from Deputy Premier of Quebec ..............................19-20 RUSSIA Kurdish Parliament in Exile Mtg. in Moscow ..............17 Status of President Yeltsin's Health ....................18-19 TURKEY Vote to Extend Operation Provide Comfort ................17 GREECE Report of Signing of Military Agreement w/Russia ........18
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1995, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a brief announcement.
The Department of State and the Coalition for American Leadership Abroad are sponsoring a National Foreign Policy Town Meeting tomorrow, November l, here in the Dean Acheson Auditorium. Eleven American foreign affairs organizations are joining the Department of State as co-sponsors of this Town Meeting.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will speak at 9:00 a.m. and give the keynote speech on two of the most pressing issues in U.S. foreign policy today -- namely, first, the Congressional threat to America's capacity for leadership; and, secondly, why Bosnia matters and what the United States intends to do to play a leadership role both in the military and diplomatic spheres.
Others participating from the U.S. Government will be Brian Atwood, the Director of USAID; Joseph Duffey, the Director of USIA; John Holum, the Director of ACDA; Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth, and others.
I will be posting, after the briefing, a description of this Town Meeting, along with a list of the speakers and list of events. This is part of our continuing effort to reach out to the American public, to communicate to the public what the dimensions of American foreign policy are, as practiced by this Administration, and to make the case that the United States must have the ability to lead -- namely, the resources to lead -- if we are to preserve our position as the world's preeminent power.
With that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q I had a question about that Congressional threat. Where does the situation now stand with START II and Chemical Weapons Treaties locked up in the Foreign Relations Committee?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, both the START II Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention continue to be held up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Administration believes that both treaties should be put forward rapidly for ratification by the Senate so that they can then be ratified by the Russian Duma.
In the case of START II, which is arguably one of the most vital concerns of American foreign policy, this is a treaty negotiated and signed -- negotiated in l992; signed on January 3, l993. It will lower the nuclear threshold to its lowest-ever level since the dawn of the nuclear age, and by the year 2003.
It will provide for nuclear stability between the United States and Russia, which is a critical and vital feature of America's national interest. The Chemical Weapons Convention speaks to the great need to stem the proliferation of chemical weapons around the world, and particularly between the two countries that have held the largest stocks of chemical weapons.
So we think that both of these treaties, Jim, are in the national interest. Both should be put forward. If there are political problems that are preventing the ratification of these treaties, then those political problems should be dealt with, we think, separately and let these two treaties proceed along the track of ratification.
Q Are you negotiating with Senator Helms or is there a standoff now?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what to call it -- whether it's a standoff or a negotiation or a shootout. I don't know what to call it. It's certainly a disagreement though. It's a disagreement between this Administration and Senator Helms and others about how we should debate these issues together.
There are l5 American Ambassadorial nominations that have also been frozen. Some of these are to the most important countries with which we have relations.
A couple of them are in Asia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand -- all countries that are of vital importance to American businesses, the American people, as well as American diplomats -- all those nominations held up.
Q And does the Senate leadership have no ability to break the deadlock?
MR. BURNS: The deadlock has to be broken by both sides. The Administration has shown goodwill. We hope very much that the Congress will meet us half way and that we'll be able to agree together on a way to end the impasse.
There were some discussions two weeks ago that we hoped might lead to a resolution of the problems. They were led by a couple of Democratic Senators, including Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, and those discussions did not succeed at the time. So we hope very much that it might be possible either to resume them or to initiate others.
We certainly do want to see these treaties and these Ambassadorial nominations proceed very swiftly. It's not good for the American people, it's not good for the United States, to be without Ambassadors in l5 important countries. It's not good for all people around the world, but specifically for the American people, to have these treaties lying and collecting dust and not being put into effect because of political problems with the Congress.
Q I think you just stole Strobe Talbott's thunder.
Q Yes. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: No. I'm just trying to provide a little bit of interest in his speech tomorrow. It's going to be a very important policy speech. I know that a lot of you will be focused, as you should, on Dayton, Ohio. But while other people head off to Dayton, Strobe Talbott and several senior members of the State Department will be here talking about these important issues,
Q Speaking of Dayton, do you have any new information on arrival times?
MR. BURNS: I do, George. I'll be glad to go through what I have.
As you know, Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is flying to Dayton now. He'll be arriving shortly. He will be joined there by his Contact Group partners: Deputy Foreign Minister Ivanov; Carl Bildt, the E.U. negotiator; and representatives of France, Germany, and Britain.
I expect that President Milosevic will arrive on a chartered jet at about 5:00 p.m. this afternoon at Wright-Patterson. I would then expect that President Izetbegovic would fly in at around 8:00 p.m. and President Tudjman at around 11:00 p.m. this evening.
Tomorrow, the Secretary will be departing here, just before 8:00 o'clock in the morning, from Andrews. He will, when he arrives in Dayton, have a quick meeting with our negotiating team, lead by Dick Holbrooke. He will then have three successive bilateral meetings with each of these three leaders. These will be serious, important, substantive meetings that will extend into the early afternoon.
At approximately 2:00 to 2:30 -- and we'll nail down this time later on this afternoon -- the Secretary will open the Plenary Session of the Proximity Peace Talks with an address to the eight other delegations present, including the three leaders. Then the Secretary will have additional meetings and additional activities in Dayton. I expect that he would leave Dayton late in the afternoon or early tomorrow evening.
George, let me just tell you a couple more things, Bosnia-related.
Secretary Christopher had an important breakfast this morning with a large number of members of Congress. Among them were House Republican leaders Gilman, Callahan, and Rogers. Secretary Christopher and Assistant Secretary Holbrooke presented a detailed, comprehensive briefing on American strategy and American tactics for the Dayton Peace Conference.
I would describe this meeting this morning as serious, detailed, and very constructive.
After the briefing by the Secretary and Dick Holbrooke, there was a very good exchange of views and a very good discussion about what American diplomatic strategy is and what our hopes are for a NATO-led Peace Implementation Force to follow, once peace is achieved. There was an extensive discussion of these issues.
I believe it's fair to say that a number of members of Congress continue to have an open mind about the prospect of an American military deployment within the context of a NATO operation, and today's meeting was part of our continuing effort to try to convince the Congress and the American people that it's the right decision for the United States to play a leadership role and the right decision for us to be engaged.
Finally, I wanted to mention something that some of you have already been briefed about but not all of you -- that is, as a result of efforts made by Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, and a very aggressive intervention made by the United States over the last week, there was a prisoner exchange this morning in the town of Sanski Most, which was one of the towns bitterly fought over during the recent fighting in early October in western Bosnia. Three hundred and twenty-four Moslem men of draft age were exchanged today for l35 Serbs, a combination of military people and civilians.
We believe that these 324 men are among those who were missing as a result of the separation of refugees by the Bosnian Serbs at Banja Luka three to four weeks ago. You remember, when the Moslem and Croatian populations of Banja Luka were forcibly expelled from their residences in Banja Luka, the women and children were sent north to Zenica and many of the men were separated. We fear some of them were executed. We don't know how many, but there are reports that l00 or more were executed, and we believe that some of the others were forced into service as trench diggers, and in other capacities, for the Bosnian Serb military and for paramilitary units loyal to the Bosnian Serbs.
At least 324 of these people now have turned up in Sanski Most. They have been exchanged for Bosnian Serbs. It is a very good thing. We're very happy these men are alive, and they will now be returned to their families. They will not be able to be returned to their homes, because they've been forcibly expelled from them.
I do want to emphasize the role that Assistant Secretary of State Shattuck has played in this. He very forcefully raised these issues last week with President Milosevic. I can tell you that issues like this will continue to be on our agenda with President Milosevic as he arrives here in the United States later on this afternoon.
Q Nick, could I follow on the Congress? Let me start by asking the reaction of the Department -- the Administration -- to the vote in the House yesterday, a very clear margin there. Specifically, their resolution. Is there some way that that might be acceptable to the Administration?
And then, Speaker of the House Gingrich yesterday, with Mr. Mr. Dole, said something to the effect -- and these are not his words -- but something to the effect that he felt or feared that the Congress would be railroaded on Bosnia, dragged in without, let's say, any kind of oversight. Can you respond to that?
MR. BURNS: Bill, the President and Assistant Secretary Holbrooke have spoken quite eloquently to this issue. I would just say that it is highly unusual for any Congress to take a step on the eve of negotiations sponsored by the United States. It gives the appearance of disunity. It sends a message of disunity.
It is highly proper for Congress to ask questions. That's their constitutional obligation -- to ask questions and to ask the Administration to explain its position and to make a convincing case. We expect that to be the case, and we will do that.
It is something quite different, on the eve of vitally important negotiations to end a war that's gone on for four years, for Congress to try, in this case, to weaken the negotiating position of the United States. It was not helpful; it was not the right thing to do. I know that our negotiators go off to Dayton this afternoon determined to exert American leadership despite what happened last evening.
Q Is there discouragement by this vote yesterday? Congress is saying --
MR. BURNS: There's no discouragement, no. Because the Administration is absolutely convinced that we have done the right thing since mid-July, since the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa, and that is to exert for all to see, very plainly, a leadership role around the world on this issue.
We stopped the Bosnian Serb offensive. We freed up Sarajevo and lifted the siege of Sarajevo. We have negotiated a cease-fire throughout the country. We're sponsoring the peace talks, and we're going to lead the way to ensure the success of the peace, if it's achieved, by the introduction of American troops along with their NATO counterparts.
That is the right way for this country to lead. We go off to Dayton convinced that we're on the right path.
Q Yes, Nick. But they're saying, I believe, "Let us play; let us be a player in this process."
MR. BURNS: Everyone understands in this Administration that Congress has a constitutional obligation and right to be part of this process. The President just said that he would be consulting intensely with the Congress.
Q A different subject?
MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia. We'll come back.
Q Actually, I'd like to return to a subject that I know you covered extensively yesterday, but I'd like to try it again.
On the subject of the radio intercepts, there have been a number of press reports concerning radio intercepts that apparently the U.S. was familiar with between General Mladic and a Serbian commander before the fall of Srebrenica.
You chose not to address that subject yesterday because it's coming from intelligence reports. But oftentimes in the past you and others have used that podium to speak to the accuracy of those types of reports, or to state that they are inaccurate. And by choosing not to comment on that, you could lead some to speculate that perhaps they are true. Do you want to leave it like that? Do you have anything further to say?
MR. BURNS: Thanks for that really pleasant question, Laura, I really appreciate it.
Put this way: We never try to put ourselves in a position to confirm these reports. Because if we confirm these reports, then we'd be confirming activities.
By choosing not to comment yesterday, and by choosing not to comment today, I'm in no way signaling a positive or a negative. I'm just choosing not to comment in public on the record on intelligence issues. I would be in big trouble if I started to comment on intelligence issues. It wouldn't be the right thing to do. It would be a violation of the way we do business in this country.
Q Fair enough. But on the sort of bigger picture, if journalists are given access to the areas that Assistant Secretary Shattuck has tried to achieve in the past couple of weeks, to the areas around Zepa and Srebrenica, and if the ICRC and others get there and determine that there is evidence that there have been mass executions, and if information comes out that links this assault back to the Serbian Government, how does the Administration intend to deal with this information?
MR. BURNS: That's a good question. I think it's a fair question for me to answer.
What we are doing with all of the information that we've developed about Srebrenica and Zepa, as well as Sanski Most and Banja Luka, which took place in the last month, is to turn that over to the War Crimes Tribunal which is the proper authority to make the determination if genocide has taken place, if a war crime has been committed, and if certain people should be indicted for war crimes.
I said yesterday that all types of information that we have developed will be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal.
I understand -- and there was a question on this yesterday -- this is a confidential process that we have worked out in an arrangement with the War Crimes Tribunal. We provided, on a confidential basis, information; and this confidentiality is necessary to protect the integrity of on-going War Crimes Tribunal investigations; and in some cases, to protect classified information and for the physical protection of witnesses.
There is therefore no obligation to make all of this information public. In some cases, there is really no reason to make it public because we don't want to endanger people who have given us this information. As you know, we can't endanger the way in which sometimes we are able to acquire information.
But we are turning over both classified, as well as unclassified, information to the War Crimes Tribunal. So that's what we will do with this information if, indeed, we have or are developing it or will develop it in the future.
Q Will it have any effect on the peace talks in Dayton, if this information is developed during the time that these talks are going on?
MR. BURNS: As a regular part of our discourse with the Bosnian Serb leadership -- and we'll have Bosnian Serb leaders this afternoon and tonight and for the next few weeks in Dayton and with Mr. Milosevic -- we have raised human rights issues.
We've specifically raised the issue of Arkan who lives in Belgrade. We've raised the issue of both the executions that took place after Srebrenica and Zepa. We've raised the issue of the executions and forced expulsions and disappearances surrounding the siege of Banja Luka.
We have acted in every way we can to bring specific, detailed information to the attention of Milosevic, Buha, Koljevic, and the rest of the Bosnian Serb leadership. We'll continue that at Dayton, yes.
Anymore on Bosnia?
Q On Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: And then we going to go to Jorge. On Bosnia. Not on Bosnia. Then we're going to Jorge.
Q Latin America.
MR. BURNS: Welcome. I'm delighted to talk about Latin America, because I'm rarely asked about Latin America. It's a very important area for the United States.
Q That's why I come here once every three months.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Great to have you here. I'll see if I can be helpful.
Q First, are there any U.S. military or police advisors, experts of service in Chiapas, Mexico?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you there are no United States military advisors. Police experts?
Q Police experts.
MR. BURNS: In Chiapas. I think there are from time to time some touring regional agricultural officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Chiapas region. I can tell you, I'm not aware -- and I checked this morning -- of any American military or police presence in the area.
Q Some of opposition groups in Haiti say there would be not enough time for campaigns if presidential elections are held in mid- December. Has the United States received from the Aristide government any specific date for the election?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Secretary Christopher saw President Aristide in New York last week. He raised this issue. Deputy Secretary Talbott, Ambassador Swing, and others have also raised this issue.
President Aristide has explained that the establishment of a date for elections in Haiti will be done by the Electoral Council, which is independent of the President of Haiti.
I think President Aristide intimated last week that he expected, by virtue of his most recent conversations with members of the Council, that the date would be set fairly soon. So we are looking forward to that.
As President Aristide has said many times, and a lot of us have been pleased to repeat this, in a young democracy, the second election is sometimes more important than the first. This will be Haiti's second nationwide election in the span of a year and a half. It's terribly important election to provide for continued political stability there.
As you know, there were problems in the mechanics and in the implementation of the series of votes that took place from June to late July and into August. Others around the world have brought some of those problems to the attention of the Haitian Electoral Commission. We hope very much that the Electoral Commission will be able to learn from some of the mistakes of the past and carry out free and fair elections whenever they are held during the next several months.
Q Is the Clinton Administration worried that under the new Prime Minister, (inaudible) there would be a slowdown in privatization of market policies?
MR. BURNS: Privatization, we think, is at the heart of economic reform in Haiti. It has been an issue that we have placed a lot of emphasis on in our private discussions, as well as in our public comments.
In some of the recent conversations with President Aristide and with Prime Minister Smarck Michel, as well as with the new Prime Minister, who was introduced to Secretary Christopher last week in New York, we have made a point of advising the Haitian Government of how central we believe privatization is; how important to build investor-confidence. Haiti cannot remake itself on its own. It will need the private investment capital, the talent, the energy of people from the outside.
The best way to gain the confidence of those people is to promote large-scale economic reform. Privatization is at the heart of that.
Q Can you tell us about the visit by Colombian Foreign Minister Rodrigo Pardo to the State Department, and who he is meeting with?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe I have a lot of information on that issue, but I'll be glad to look into it and get you some information on that.
As you know, we have a complicated relationship with Colombia. There is one issue that stands at the heart of that relationship and that's narcotics and the fight against narcotics. You've seen, I think, some very clear statements, both from the State Department podium, but also more importantly from Assistant Secretary Gelbard and others, about the importance of the Colombian Government dedicating itself to comprehensive and productive cooperation with the United States on breaking up the Cali cartels and the other cartels; bringing their leaders to justice.
You heard the President speak at the United Nations a week ago Sunday about the importance also, for the United States and for other Western countries, of rooting out the front businesses of these cartels all around the world. We have frozen the assets of a number of those businesses, and we'll continue to take very harsh measures against these companies and against the cartels.
We need the cooperation of the Government of Colombia in that effort.
Q Who is he meeting; do you know?
MR. BURNS: I will look into his schedule here and be glad to provide you -- perhaps later this afternoon, in written form -- what we have on his visit here.
Do you have another one, Jorge? This is a lot of fun, by the way. We're onto new issues here. This is good.
Q He has one about Colombia.
MR. BURNS: Your follow-up, Bill?
Q Yes, I just wanted to follow. I did hear Mr. Gelbard yesterday at the Foreign Press Center, Nick. He made a very strong statement about lack of cooperation from some quarters of the Colombian Government.
MR. BURNS: And I've just seconded those statements. Assistant Secretary Gelbard is the leader here on this policy at his level, and I've just seconded his call.
Are things deteriorating? Some journalists from Colombia have remarked that they thought things would get worse.
MR. BURNS: There was a time earlier this year, say, between March and July, when we made some dramatic progress in apprehending some notorious narcotics traffickers, with the cooperation of the Colombian Government.
In recent months, that cooperation has frayed, and there have been some real problems. There have been some irresponsible allegations and totally erroneous allegations made from Colombia. You've seen a very quick reaction on our part that mirrors the private reaction we've had and the private dialogue we've had with the Colombian Government.
Q What's the reaction to -- I think you talked about this before. Nick, Mr. Gelbard said yesterday that our Embassy has been bugged, or was bugged or is being bugged by the Colombian authorities?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a comment on that. You wouldn't expect me to comment on that. I think, Bill, let's maybe just put this one to rest by saying the Colombian Government knows what it has to do proactively to regain the confidence of the United States.
Q Guatemala. Is the Administration satisfied with the investigation of abuses against U.S. citizens in Guatemala? And is the Administration prepared to restore assistance and cooperation with Guatemala on military and security forces?
MR. BURNS: The State Department Inspector General's office is just now completing its review of the Department's handling in the past, before this Administration took office, of American citizen cases in Guatemala.
I cannot comment on this report until it's finished, it's been reviewed by people here in the Department, and prior to the release of its findings.
Q What about the cooperation -- the military assistance?
MR. BURNS: What was the specific, Jorge?
Q Is the Administration prepared to restore military assistance to Guatemala and cooperation programs?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any comment for you, but I'll be glad to look further into that question.
Q Can I ask that report be made public?
MR. BURNS: George, I don't know how this particular report is going to be handled. Let me look into that as well. Normally, of course, it's certainly not made public, in any case, at this stage. It hasn't been completed yet so I just can't give you a preview. I can look into whether or not we'll have a summary findings available to you.
Jorge, thank you for bringing us onto the topic of Latin America. It's refreshing, and these are important issues. George brings us onto this subject with Cuba. It's good.
Q Let's go a little further. Let's go to Nigeria where there is a special tribunal that has sentenced a minority rights activist to hang for murder. Other governments, including Britain, have condemned this as the trumped-up thing that should be voided by the ruling military council. Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the condemnation that came from Great Britain. The United States has had long-standing concerns about the activities of the current government, its incarceration of a number of people on charges that we believe have not been substantiated in any legally responsible way.
We have repeatedly called for the commuting of sentences for people who have been held, particularly former General Obasanjo and others. We have very strong concerns about the way that the Nigerian Government is handling a number of these prisoner cases, including the one you just mentioned.
Q This one, specifically, has an environmental tinge and what is being alleged by Britain and, I guess, by Greenpeace, is that Shell Oil is in the area of this minority that the activist has been condemned to hang for boosting -- something like that.
Do you have any specific comment on this case -- in the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything more specific than I've already given you. If you'd like, I'd be glad to look into this further and see if there is any additional information.
I believe what I've said represents the essence of the way we view the situation in Lagos and throughout Nigeria. That is the government has been irresponsible in its handling of a great number of legal cases, including members of previous governments who seem to have been incarcerated because of their views and not because of anything they did to violate Nigerian law.
Q Do you have any response to the Canadian elections yesterday?
MR. BURNS: There was great interest in this government, and I think great interest around the United States, particularly states that border Canada in this referendum.
A number of us watched it with great interest last night; a very dramatic evening.
This morning, we are satisfied that U.S.-Canadian relations on stable footing. We are gratified that the United States and Canada will continue to have the closest possible relations and that Canada will be both strong and united. That's a very important fact for us, for we Americans. We have the longest undefended border in the world with Canada. We have the largest trading relationship with Canada of any country in the world.
What happens in Canada affects the United States. It's important to the United States.
The President, as you know, talked to Prime Minister Chretien last evening. We are certainly gratified this morning that Canada will remain united and remain strong. It has so many repercussions for the United States.
Many of us admire the way the people of Quebec, and the way that all Canadians, conducted themselves. It was a very civil debate on a very important and contentious issue. It was a debate that proceeded through the vote last night, with few exceptions, in a very peaceful way, with a voter turnout of 92 percent which is quite impressive.
Q (Inaudible) statement on the prisoner exchange. I have a couple of clarifications. The 324, you believe, were prisoners taken from the enclave at Banja Luka?
MR. BURNS: Yes. As a result of the fighting in and around Banja Luka, yes.
Q As I understood what you were saying, the United States played a role through John Shattuck by bringing this forcefully to the attention of Milosevic?
MR. BURNS: Yes. If you're interested, let me explain what I mean by that. He had an agenda with President Milosevic last week. He asked if President Milosevic knew of what happened to the many hundreds and perhaps thousands of men and boys, who were separated from their families, when they were expelled from their homes in Banja Luka and had not been heard from.
He asked the Serbian Government, and specifically President Milosevic, to use its influence to determine with the Bosnian Serbs what happened to these people. That's number one.
Number two, he asked President Milosevic to look into some of the specific allegations of human rights abuses. There was an allegation by refugees in Zenica of the mass murder of 100 people at a cement factory in Banja Luka three weeks ago.
There are allegations of notorious criminal activities by the terrorist Arkan, who lives in Belgrade and is a citizen of Serbia.
In addition to that, Assistant Secretary Shattuck asked for the right of access into Banja Luka by the United States Government, United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the press.
On the press, I understand that the Washington Post, and New York Times correspondents have been able to get into Banja Luka; correspondents for the Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Inquirer have been denied permission to go into Banja Luka. We have actively taken up the case of those two correspondents and are trying to get them into Banja Luka.
We want the world to be able to see what happened. We want the press, as well as our government, as well as international organizations, to be able to investigate. So it was a very specific agenda that he pursued with Milosevic. I can tell you, that will continue to be pursued as we proceed to Dayton.
Q Just to follow that up. Since this was successful, does this not appear to give the lie to some past statements by Milosevic who said, when pressed, for example, on the activities of General Mladic, that he has no control over this Bosnian Serb military?
MR. BURNS: At times, President Milosevic has said -- I think he said consistently, actually -- that he had no advance knowledge of what happened at Srebrenica and Zepa and what happened at Banja Luka.
At times, it is true in the past -- not in the case of Banja Luka -- he has said he is not able to control certain elements of the Bosnian Serb military leadership. In this case, we asked him to use his influence. We do believe that Serbia has influence in the Bosnian Serbs. Serbia has formed a joint delegation with the Bosnian Serbs for the Dayton peace talks.
Bosnian Serbs leaders -- the Vice President and the "Foreign Minister" of the so-called Republic of Srpska will be in Dayton with Milosevic's delegation. So we think there is influence there.
We want the influence to be positive. We want the killing to stop. We want those people who carried it out to be identified. Right now, we have heard some very good words. In practice, the application has been spotty.
Two journalists not allowed in. The international organizations have had some access to the sites. Have those sites been papered over? Have those sites been cleansed, if you will, so that we're not able to determine what happened there? These are important questions, and we're going to continue to pursue them with the Serbs as well as the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Do you think Milosevic is a different man from the one of, say, three years ago, when his attitude toward people of different religious groups were somewhat --
MR. BURNS: I don't think it's possible to say that someone, who championed a war three and four years ago, has suddenly gone through a process of complete redemption and is an entirely different person.
The Serbian leadership -- and that includes Mr. Milosevic -- bears a large degree of responsibility for the outbreak of war in the Balkans four years ago. They are individually and collectively responsible for starting this war and for prosecuting it the way they have. They cannot escape that responsibility. They live with that responsibility.
The people who have perpetrated the outrageous war crimes against innocent people should be found, identified, they should be arrested and they should be tried. The U.N. War Crimes Tribunal is attempting to do that.
There are two different patterns here that I'm talking about. It is important for Serbs and Bosnian Serbs to come to Dayton, Ohio, this afternoon because those people who started war, as Dick Holbrooke said yesterday, have to end it. It's their responsibility. Without them at the peace table, the war will not end. The war will continue. The atrocities will continue.
The only way to end the war is to bring those people to Dayton, Ohio, and have them end it. That's what we're trying to do.
Q Nick, I have a couple of questions to ask. I might start with Bosnia since we are at it.
MR. BURNS: I was sure we were going directly to Turkey. We're going to get to Turkey.
Q Last week, Turkey, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed an agreement in New York City to form a police force in and around the Bihac and Krajina region. Would you have any comments on that, is my first question?
MR. BURNS: I have no specific comment on that.
Q Second question: The PKK Kurdish parliament in exile met in Moscow inside the building of the Russian parliament -- the Duma -- for three days. Turkey already delivered a protest note to the Russian Government. Do we know what your position is on the PKK? What is your comment?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do have a comment. Very glad to answer this question. I know that the Kurdish parliament in exile, -- the KPIE, in English -- is holding a meeting in Moscow from October 29 to tomorrow, November 1.
As we have acted with other European countries in the past, when the KPIE has held meetings in those countries -- there was a case in The Netherlands a couple of months ago we've shared our concerns about this organization with the Russian Government. This is an organization which is financed and directed by the PKK -- the Kurdistan Worker's Party. That is a vicious terrorist secessionist organization whose attacks in Turkey and Western Europe threaten the lives of Americans as well as Turks and other nationalities.
We've repeatedly made our view clear that neither the PKK nor the KPIE should acquire or receive any legitimacy, any support, any hospitality from civilized countries. I would note that just about 30 minutes ago - 40 minutes ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it had opposed the holding of this meeting in Moscow. That was a very encouraging statement to see from my colleague, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Q Okay. And the other question I have would be on the extension of Operation Provide Comfort by the Turkish Government for three months. Would you care to comment on that?
MR. BURNS: The United States welcomes the vote in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, I believe on October 28, to extend the mandate of Operation Provide Comfort. This operation continues to serve the mutual interests of Turkey and the United States, as well as the people of northern Iraq above the 36th Parallel. It helps to enhance regional stability and it counters the continued threat, which we believe is posed by Saddam Hussein and his regime, to the people of northern Iraq.
We deeply appreciate the essential role that Turkey plays as a member and host of this coalition of countries, which provides security and humanitarian relief to the people of northern Iraq.
Q A different area. Greece and Russia yesterday signed a military pact; and Greece, I believe, is the very first country inside of NATO to sign a military pact with Russia. Do you have any comment on it?
MR. BURNS: Greece is a loyal member of NATO. I am sure that what you're describing is not what all of us would think of as a military pact. Greece has a defense relationship with the United States, a security commitment from and with the United States, and that has not changed.
If Greece has signed anything, I'm sure it's some kind of military relationship, a military agreement that provides for a new relationship with the Russian Government.
Let me just remind you: The United States has a military relationship with the Russian Government. We just had a joint military exercise with the Russian Defense Ministry last Friday, last week, at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was a joint action to blow up an American silo in wheat fields in Missouri. So there's nothing unusual for a member of NATO, a NATO country, to have a relationship with Russia. I'm sure what you're describing, because I would have known about it otherwise, is not what you and I would know as some kind of defense commitment. It's more a defense relationship.
I don't know much about this. I'll be glad to look into it for you. But I just want to allay any kind of sense that there's something untoward here.
Q According to the wire service today, a report from that, they said not "relationship"; it's a "pact" -- "military pact."
MR. BURNS: I understand "pact" to mean something very specific. So in responding to your question I'm trying to be specific in return to you, and I'll be glad to look further into this.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Q Nick, do you any information on President Yeltsin's health that you can share with us? For instance, did Secretary Christopher get any reassurances from Foreign Minister Kozyrev when he saw him in Amman?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that the Secretary had an extended conversation on this. I do know that the Russian press is reporting, and the Russian Government has announced, that President Yeltsin continues to be hospitalized, that he will remain hospitalized for several more weeks and will require some further medical care and rest after that.
We're very sorry to hear this. President Yeltsin is a good friend of the United States. President Clinton has already communicated, of course, with him by letter to express our sympathy -- the sympathy of the American people -- and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Q The issue of the Quebec vote again. Is there any concern about the closeness of the vote and the feeling that the issue, to a large extent, is still unresolved?
MR. BURNS: Fortunately, in democracies -- and Canada is a leading democracy -- it's nice to have a landslide, but you can also win by one vote. The proponents of those who prefer that Quebec not secede have won by more than one vote, and so that settles it -- at least, for the time being.
As far as the United States is concerned, we are satisfied that the Government of Canada is strong, that the country is united, and that we will continue to deal with our closest and most valuable neighbor on a very, very firm basis.
As for the future, that is solely a question for the people of Canada -- including the people of Quebec -- to decide as to what happens next. It's not the business of the American Government.
Q Just one other question. Is the Secretary going to respond, or has he already, to the letter from Bernard Landry?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary did receive a letter from the Deputy Premier of Quebec -- Monsieur Landry -- and I don't believe he's responded to it. It was not an entirely warm letter. I know the letter has been publicized in Quebec. I wouldn't describe it as a warm letter.
I would also take issue with some of the charges made in that letter. When the Secretary of State spoke, when the Canadian Foreign Minister -- Minister Ouellet -- was here, the Secretary simply described the basic position of the United States as we look north towards Canada, and that is that we have derived enormous strength on this continent from a united Canada.
It is appropriate for the American Secretary of State and the American President to comment on what happens, at least in the relationship between the two countries, considering the importance of the relationship.
So I don't know if the letter will be responded to or not, but I think I've given you a fairly clear indication of how we feel about, at least, aspects of that letter.
Q Nick, do you know if John Shattuck is going to return to Bosnia soon?
MR. BURNS: He has just returned over the weekend to the United States. He reported to Secretary Christopher this morning at 7:30 on the situation, as he saw it, from Belgrade and from Zagreb and other places.
We have had American Embassy officials from Zagreb go into the town of Sanski Most this morning to help facilitate the exchange of prisoners and to look into the allegations of human rights abuses. There is a possibility that John Shattuck may return. It is not yet nailed down. But, in any case, we'll have American Government officials on the ground in these areas for the coming days to look into these allegations of human rights abuses.
Q These people who got into Sanski Most -- were they able to report on any of the atrocities, or just on the prisoner exchange?
MR. BURNS: I believe they have been concentrating on the prisoner exchange for the last 48 hours, but their mission is to participate in the international investigation as to what happened in Sanski Most and Banja Luka. We take that seriously and we're going to put as many resources, including people, into this as we need.
Q Nice going.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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