U.S. Department of State 95/11/06 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, November 6, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Statements Vietnam--Two Americans Released from Prison .............1-21,24 Secretary Christopher's Trip to Osaka for APEC Ministerial ...........................................1-2 Overseas Security Advisory Council Mtg. .................2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Proximity Peace Talks in Dayton .........................2 --Mtgs. of Contact Group ................................2-3 --Draft Documents to Parties: Annexes on Human Rights, Refugees, Displaced Persons; Annex on Commission to Preserve Nat'l. Monuments ...........................3 --Federation Issues .....................................3 --Arrival of EU Administrator, Mayors of Mostar .........3 --Special Rapporteur of UN Comm. of HR: Mtgs. w/Parties .3 --EU Negotiator Carl Bildt's Mtgs. ......................4 --Russian Amb. to U.S. Lavrov's Mtgs. ...................4 --Status of Two Missing French Pilots ...................4 --Status of CSM Correspondent David Rohde ...............4-5,14-16,18-21 --Talbott/Lodel Discussions in Dayton ...................5,20-21 --A/S Shattuck Travel to Region .........................6,13-14 --Leaked Draft Document on Constitutional Arrangements ..6-7,9 --Issue of Eastern Slavonia .............................10-12 --Tudjman's Return to Dayton Talks ......................12 --Indicted War Criminals/War Crimes Tribunal ............8-10,13,16-18 --Press Access to Srebrenica, Zepa, Banja Luka, etc. ....14 ISRAEL Assassination of Prime Minister Rabin ...................21-24 NATO U.S. Discussions w/Allies re: Secretary-General Position 24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 1995, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I wanted to welcome -- I believe we have some students from George Washington University here today; welcome to our briefing -- also an intern, who will be assisting our Latin America Bureau this year.
I have a couple of statements to make, and then I will be glad to go to your questions.
First, the United States welcomes the news that American citizens Tran Quang Liem and Nguyen Tan Tri have been released from prison in Vietnam this weekend. U.S. Embassy officials assisted the men as they departed Vietnam for Bangkok yesterday on November 5. Mr. Liem and Mr. Tri were met by U.S. Embassy officials upon their arrival in Bangkok, where they intend to remain until their departure for the United States on Tuesday, November 7. They're scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on November 7. You will remember that both men had been arrested in November l993 for attempting to organize a conference on democracy.
Their release comes as a direct response to requests made by Secretary of State Christopher in recent meetings with the Vietnamese leadership in Hanoi and in two recent meetings with Foreign Minister Cam of Vietnam. This release is a welcome humanitarian action by the Vietnamese Government. It's certainly in the interests of better relations between the United States and Vietnam.
Secondly, I'd like to announce that Secretary of State Christopher will lead a delegation to Osaka, Japan, arriving on November l5, l995, to participate in the Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, otherwise known as APEC, and that Ministerial will take place on the 16th and l7th of November.
Other members of the Secretary's delegation will include U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Mickey Kantor, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena.
At this meeting, the APEC Foreign and Trade Ministers will prepare for APEC leaders, their approval on an action agenda that elaborates the steps to be taken by APEC member countries to implement last year's commitments made at the Bogor Conference.
Of course, at the conclusion of the Ministerial, the Heads of State of the APEC countries will arrive for the APEC Summit.
The Secretary is looking forward to this, looking forward to participating in the President's subsequent meetings in Osaka, and also to the visit to Tokyo -- the state visit that President Clinton will be making at Tokyo after the meetings in Osaka.
Third, I'd just like to say that the Department will hold its Overseas Security Council Advisory Meeting, the Tenth Annual Briefing, on November 8. Secretary Christopher will deliver welcoming remarks at approximately 2:l5.
The Department established the Overseas Security Advisory Council in l985 as a joint venture between the Department of State and private American companies to promote security for U.S. corporate personnel, their facilities, and their assets overseas. If there is any interest in this particular meeting, we'll be releasing a statement, following today's briefing, on it.
We'll also be releasing a formal statement on the Secretary's trip to Japan, and there's a sign-up sheet available for those of you who would like to leave here with the Secretary on November l4 for Japan.
With that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q How about an update on Dayton, with particular reference to the stories about Karadzic and Mladic?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to give you what I have.
I have spoken this morning with Carl Bildt, with Dick Holbrooke, and with Wolfgang Ischinger, who is the German Ambassador who represents Germany in the Contact Group.
The Contact Group has been meeting daily in the morning since the Dayton talks began last Wednesday, and they met again today to plan their day. That meeting is led by Holbrooke, Bildt, and Ivanov. I can tell you that throughout the weekend there were a series of meetings, and these meetings cover the entire range of issues contained in the General Framework Agreement and its Annexes.
I can confirm that on Friday afternoon the Annexes on Human Rights, on Refugees and Displaced Persons, and the Annex on the Commission to Preserve National Monuments were all given to the parties. This followed the action on Thursday in which the first four agreements, including the General Peace Agreement, were given to the parties. That has concentrated the work of the parties on some specific draft documents from the United States, the European Union, and the Russian Federation.
I can also say that through the weekend a lot of attention was given to Federation issues. In my discussion with Ambassador Ischinger this morning, he told me that after he and Dick Holbrooke chaired a Federation meeting with President Tudjman and President Izetbegovic they asked Michael Steiner, who is a German participant, and Dan Serwer, who is an American, to chair together a working group on Federation issues. They have had a series of meetings with the Bosnians and Croatians on that. They have produced an ambitious draft, which we hope will make a quantum leap forward in the work of the Federation in improving coordination between the two Federation members. The talks that have been held so far encourage us to believe that significant progress on Federation issues can be made.
I would also note that the European Union's Administrator of Mostar, Mr. Hans Koschnick, a German, will arrive tonight in Dayton, along with the two Mayors of Mostar, the Croatian and Moslem Mayors; and we are hopeful that the three of them, working with Mr. Steiner and Mr. Serwer, will be able to lead the process at Dayton towards much greater progress in confirming the statute of the city of Mostar and in confirming Moslem-Croatian cooperation in the administration of Mostar.
I was told by Carl Bildt this morning that a Mrs. Elisabeth Rehn, who is the Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights for the former Yugoslavia, spent all day Sunday meeting with the separate parties on human rights issues. In addition to meeting with Carl Bildt and with Dick Holbrooke, she met President Izetbegovic, Foreign Minister Milutinovic, Foreign Minister Granic, and other participants in the Dayton talks. She stressed the need for adherence to international law, on human rights, and for complete access to those areas -- Banja Luka, to be specific -- where the international community believes there may have been massive violations of human rights over the last month.
Carl Bildt had an exceedingly busy weekend of meetings. He meets with his EU team daily, as well as with the Contact Group. He had individual meetings over the weekend with President Milosevic. He had a dinner with Foreign Minister Granic, and he had a lengthy discussion of constitutional issues with the Bosnian delegation.
The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Sergey Lavrov, also visited Dayton yesterday to pursue a number of issues with all the delegations.
I wanted to give you a sense of the types of meetings that are occurring from a European viewpoint, as well as from an American viewpoint, because I've been asked to speak on behalf of the European countries throughout this conference. So, therefore, each day I'll be giving you a sense of what Carl Bildt and some of the Europeans are doing, as well as the Americans.
Along those lines, let me also note that Ambassador Jacques Blot, the French representative on the Contact Group and the French delegate to these talks, has been raising on a priority basis the fate of the two French pilots who you will remember were shot down during the NATO air campaign over Bosnia in September. He has raised their status in very strong terms on a daily basis with both the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs at these talks. The American delegation and Carl Bildt's delegation have also raised, on behalf of the French Government -- in support of the French Government -- the fate of the two pilots.
Let me talk for a minute about David Rohde, because David Rohde's status and the problem of his incarceration was a major issue at Dayton this weekend. David Rohde's family arrived in Dayton late on Friday evening and spent much of Saturday with Dick Holbrooke and with Ambassador John Menzies. Holbrooke and Menzies arranged a meeting for David Rohde's family with members of the joint Serb delegation, specifically with Mr. Koljevic. They did arrange for the family to speak with David Rohde by phone from Dayton, and his family was encouraged that he appears to be in reasonably good physical condition.
Now, on Sunday, yesterday, a United States Embassy official from Sarajevo, Walter Andrusyszyn, traveled by l3 hours over very dangerous and icy roads to reach David Rohde, where he is being incarcerated; and I want to give you a little bit of information on their meeting.
Mr. Andrusyszyn traveled to the town of Bijeljina -- B-i-j-e-l-j-i- n-a -- which is in northeastern Bosnia. He traveled there to try to secure the release of David Rohde. He met with him for an hour and a half and according to Mr. Andrusyszyn, David Rohde appears to be in relatively good health. But the Bosnian-Serbs, after many remonstrations from Mr. Andrusyszyn, refused to release him.
I also understand that the International Committee on the Red Cross was able to get a representative to see Mr. Rohde separately from the meeting with Andrusyszyn.
Let me just note that the way that the Bosnian-Serbs have handled the case of David Rohde has been utterly irresponsible. The United States Government was not apprised for five days as to his welfare or to his whereabouts. We were informed by a press release from Pale on Friday evening that he was being held on the charges of tampering with his press accreditations and taking photographs in illegal places.
This was a kangaroo court which judged him. These are kangaroo court type charges, well-known from the Communist era, well-known when Americans and others found themselves in trouble behind the Iron Curtain in decades past.
We reject the charges again Mr. Rohde. We call for his immediate release and we will continue to press as hard as we can both in Dayton and through our Embassy in Sarajevo and through our Embassy in Belgrade with the Serbian Government for the immediate release of Mr. Rohde.
There is no justification for holding him. He was carrying out duties assigned to him by his newspaper. He had been in this area before, and he had shown great courage in unearthing I think for the first time the evidence that led the international community to believe that there had been a great injustice done to the people of Srebrenica in mid July. He played the key role in unearthing the information that led to the allegations of massive human rights abuses against the Muslim population of Srebrenica.
We will continue to work on this case directly with the Bosnian- Serb and Serb leaders at Dayton and in their governments.
Let me also just note before closing that today was a busy day at Dayton. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Jan Lodel are traveling there to have a series of discussions with the Russian delegation there and with the other leaders.
Strobe Talbott will be hosting a dinner tonight for President Milosevic and President Izetbegovic and for the heads of the other delegations.
Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck will be traveling to the Balkans this evening from the United States. His mission is to again for a fourth time this autumn look into the allegations of human rights abuses. He will be visiting a number of places -- I don't want to go into his itinerary for security reasons -- but his mission is to look into these allegations to find as much information as he can, hopefully to find some of the people who have been missing, and to listen to those who have been made refugees, and try to piece together exactly what happened in Banja Luka over the last month.
Any relevant information that he develops on this issue will be turned over to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal. And when he is in the region, he will be meeting with our embassies, but also meeting with the International Committee on the Red Cross, and the other international organizations who have been able to pursue this story over the past several weeks.
He will also be looking personally into the case of David Rohde. He will be meeting with people who, we believe, who, we hope, can effect Mr. Rohde's immediate release.
Beyond that, the meetings continue in Dayton. You have all seen some press reports. There was a notable leak of a document over the weekend. And I would just like to say on that, on the document that was leaked, it's the first serious leak that we have had since the conference opened on Wednesday.
It is most unfortunate that someone, some participant, decided to leak this. Maybe that is not your perspective, but it is our perspective, because it is quite irresponsible. And this particular question of a constitution and of a draft paper on constitutional arrangements, I know personally of four different drafts of that document that have been written here, that have been reviewed here.
People have commented from the European Union and from Russia, parties had, and to leak one of the drafts -- I'm not even sure which one it is -- is really irresponsible. It may even give a misleading impression of the status of events.
So we certainly would call upon all of the participants in Dayton to adhere to the rules that they agreed to in coming to Dayton.
Q Do all four of those drafts have the same provisions regarding exclusion of Gravic and Mladic or anyone else charged with war crimes?
MR. BURNS: Well, in general the drafts are -- they are successive. They are obviously different because they improve each time they are reviewed.
So, draft one, it might be very different from draft three, and draft three from draft four.
On that particularly question, Andrea, I think -- I'm just going to have to leave maybe the press corps to wonder a little bit. We've --
Q But you don't want to leave us with the impression that the Administration is unclear on that point.
MR. BURNS: No, not at all, but I want certainly to leave in some doubt exactly which draft may be out there, and I also don't want to discuss the details of what we know to be an accurate draft, because that runs contrary to all of the preparations we have made for this conference.
We said from the beginning we weren't going to talk in detail or even in general terms about the issues that were being debated. They should be debated in private.
Q But once there is a leak, and it is obviously a very important leak, wouldn't it serve all of your interests, our interests, the public's interest, to feel a little bit more precise about it now that its out there.
MR. BURNS: That is just what encourages people to leak more, which we don't want. I can say this, Andrea.
Our own position, the United States Government's position is well known. Secretary Christopher spoke to it last week. I spoke to it in the Thursday and Friday briefings last week.
So I don't want there to be any misunderstanding about the position of the United States Government. But I do want to leave in some obscurity--
Q Could you just say --
MR. BURNS: I just want to leave in some obscurity what the specific draft that was leaked said, except for those of you who may have that draft, and then you are free to quote from it.
Q Could you just restate what the U. S. position is on that issue?
MR. BURNS: The U. S. position is well known on this issue, and that is that we cannot foresee a situation developing where in a post- agreement era, once an agreement has been signed and a new government is formed, that any indicted war criminals would play a role in command positions in that government.
Q Nick, (inaudible) that the Bosnian-Serbs are rejecting a link between war criminal provisions and a peace agreement. Is that your understanding?
MR. BURNS: I am not going to describe in any way the discussions that are taking place at Dayton. There are a hundred different meetings going on every day. There are lots of different discussions, and for me to leap into that and try to pick out one or two and give you a description would be highly misleading and irresponsible on my part.
Q But, Nick, Milosevic is being quoted as having, as believing, that he was misled; in other words, that it was not suggested to him before arriving in Dayton that he would have to make the concession of basically getting rid of Karadzic and Mladic altogether.
Is that true? Was he never warned that that concession would be expected of him?
MR. BURNS: The problem with the way those particular reports were written over the weekend is that I have absolutely no idea if they are true, because there is nobody on the record. They are unnamed people speaking on background saying that Milosevic thinks this, Milosevic thinks that, quoting other members of the delegation.
Q But you, presumably, are responsible for knowing what Mr. Holbrooke has said to Mr. Milosevic, and that's what I am asking you about.
MR. BURNS: Yes, and the problem that we encounter here is that we are not willing to go into the details of what is being said. We are in the middle of a negotiation here, so people are likely to say very many things.
Other people leak things which sometimes are true and sometimes they are not true. But I don't want to describe for you what people think, especially the heads of delegations, and I can't describe for you the pattern, the detailed pattern, of the conversations that have been held on all these issues.
But certainly they are talking about all these issues. It just would be unproductive for me to go down the road and start describing what the conversations are.
Q But I just wanted to ask you whether there is any precedent for a constitution under which there would be judges on the court who were not of the same nationality as the country that they were serving.
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there is a precedent or not, David, as an answer to that question. I don't know. I'm not aware if there is a precedent for that at all.
Q Nick, the issue, though, is what Milosevic was told before he got to Dayton not what's being discussed at Dayton, to follow up on David.
MR. BURNS: But the issue for me is, you are asking me to comment on what he has said to Dick Holbrooke or to Carl Bildt since he arrived at Dayton. I can't do that.
Q No, I'm not. I'm asking you whether Milosevic understood that this was a part of the draft before he got to Dayton; that this was the U. S. position on Karadzic and Mladic.
MR. BURNS: But see, this is somewhat of a surreal discussion here, because we don't even know, none of us in this room know what Milosevic said, because President Milosevic is not on the record in all of the newspaper accounts cited over the weekend.
I didn't see -- you know, it is very relevant, Judd. I didn't see one on-the-record quote, thankfully, from any member of any delegation from Dayton over the weekend.
We have these unnamed sources talking to newspapers. How can I confirm or deny anything that is being said here?
Q But, Nick, this is what Milosevic said in Dayton.
Q Here's a question for you. On landing in Dayton, had Mr. Milosevic already heard from the United States that he would be expected, in the course of coming to an agreement there, to dump Karadzic and Mladic?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to comment on that. I'm not going to comment for a very good reason. Because it is directly related to what's happening in Dayton and to all these other issues. Once we go down that road, we'll open up every issue for examination, which we don't want to do. These are private negotiations being conducted privately, and they'll remain that way until there is an agreement or something else happens at Dayton.
Q Can we try Slavonia?
Q (Inaudible) went straight from Dayton back to Croatia and said that the talks have only until November 30 to come up with a solution. After that, whether the talks are continuing or not, Croatia will feel free to make a move. This is not what Holbrooke said that Tudjman had agreed to before. What's your reaction to that statement?
MR. BURNS: Our reaction is that there is a negotiating channel to resolve the Eastern Slavonia problem. In fact, Peter Galbraith and Thorvald Stoltenberg of the U.N. are in the region today and have been for a couple of days negotiating this. There is no justification for a resort to military force to resolve this issue.
There is every opportunity here to resolve it peacefully. I think all sides, including the Croatian Government, set a date on the first day that they wanted to resolve it peacefully. That's what we hear from the Serbian delegation.
If that's the case, then these can only be threats intended to affect the course of the negotiations. We can sometimes understand that. The problem is, when threats are made at such a high level, they take on sometimes a different meaning.
I would just like to say today there is no justification for the use of force in Eastern Slavonia. This problem can be solved, and we have every reason to believe it will be solved by diplomats at the negotiating table. Peter Galbraith and Mr. Stoltenberg have been asked to return to Dayton by Wednesday evening/Thursday morning.
At that time, the discussions on Eastern Slavonia -- specific at Dayton -- will resume, and we hope to make progress.
I think that is the appropriate way to look at this problem.
Tom has a follow-up.
Q Is November 30 the deadline or not?
MR. BURNS: It is not for us. There is no deadline. We have not set a deadline to resolve any of these problems at Dayton. We're willing to stay at Dayton for a very long time, if there is a reasonable expectation that we can resolve this or other problems. So therefore to create an artificial deadline is most unhelpful.
Q Doesn't those remarks, though, make a mockery of the statement that you announced with great fanfare at Dayton the other day? How do you reconcile the statement, which you said you were making on his behalf, and his remarks?
MR. BURNS: I don't agree with the premise of your question. I think it is not surprising because we've seen these kinds of statements before. We saw them before Dayton.
We do have a commitment from the Croatian Government that it wants to support these negotiations. In fact, Galbraith and Stoltenberg flew back on Tudjman's plane. I can only ascribe these statements to negotiating tactics. We hope that they are only that.
Our position is quite clear. There is every opportunity to reach a peaceful solution. There is no reason to seek a military solution.
Q Is there anymore you can tell us, Nick -- this is relevant to this -- is there anymore you can tell us from Dayton on the Eastern Slavonia talks, or anything more from Zagreb?
MR. BURNS: There's nothing I can tell you from Dayton. The leaders at Dayton decided that Galbraith and Stoltenberg would move to Eastern Slavonia, to talk directly to the Serb population there. That has happened. You've seen press reports on that.
You've seen some press reports that the local Serbs have not yet agreed to the solutions being put forward by the United States and the United Nations. That, also, I would describe to negotiations. We're just going to have to keep plugging away at this, which I'm sure the two Ambassadors will do. We remain hopeful that there can be a peaceful solution.
Q On that point, I understand that the Serbs there have rejected the idea of Croatian sovereignty and they've also boycotted the talks. But I'm not quite sure what the state of play is. Is Holbrooke going to them and asking -- rather, Galbraith going to them and asking them to reconsider? Is anything scheduled? Where does it stand now?
MR. BURNS: Ambassadors Galbraith and Stoltenberg will be working in Eastern Slavonia. They did today, tomorrow -- Tuesday, and probably part of Wednesday. They will then return to Dayton where we will resume discussion of this among the heads of delegation. Certainly, between Tudjman and Milosevic and others at Dayton.
The fact is we have not yet reached a solution, but we believe that one is within sight and we'll keep working at it.
Q Are the Serbs boycotting the talks?
MR. BURNS: The local Serbs? It wasn't my impression. I know there were meetings over the weekend. If they're now boycotting talks, they should come back to the talks because nothing good will happen for that population until they agree to negotiate and they agree to compromise and they agree on some final arrangement to resolve these problems of sovereignty and of administrative control.
Q Are you not aware that the Serbs did not come to the talks on the weekend that were scheduled?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q There were meetings scheduled between the Croatians and the Serbs this weekend, but the Serbs did not show.
MR. BURNS: I know that the two negotiators had talks with the Serbs. Those are the talks that I was referring to.
We're going to keep plugging away at our attempt to bring both sides together.
Q Is Tudjman coming back to Dayton (inaudible), and how long will they stay this time -- one day, two days, two weeks?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to either question. There was an expectation that he would be coming back, yes, at the end of this week, but I can't tell you specifically which day. But he's expected back, on the first question.
Second question: That's going to be up to President Tudjman and, I think, up to events as well.
Q As a matter of policy, has the United States ruled out the granting of amnesty to any war criminals in the former Yugoslavia?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that the United States has the capability to confer that type of status. To give amnesty to anybody, that's a question for the local authorities in the state that will emerge, we hope from the peace talks, a future Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The leaders of that country -- the future leaders of that future country -- will need to decide on what type of people can hold positions in that government, both at the national level and at the local level. It's not a question for the United States to decide, and I don't believe we have the capability, Mark, to give anyone amnesty or to deny amnesty. It's just not really pertinent, I think, to what we are capable of doing.
Q What about the immunity by the War Crimes Tribunal, the Security Council sets the jurisdiction for the Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: That is a different question than the first question. On that question, the Untied States, I think, has made very clear that we believe that the War Crimes Tribunal should be free to do its work. We believe that the information developed by the Tribunal should lead wherever it logically should lead.
All those who the Tribunal has a reasonable expectation were involved in human rights violations and in war crimes should be indicted and then prosecuted. That's up to the War Crimes Tribunal. Judge Goldstone is going to be in Washington next week and we're going to have some conversations with him about all of these issues.
I think that's consistent with what we said in the past, and I really wouldn't want to take it much beyond that.
Q A new subject?
Q Does Mr. Shattuck have guarantees that he can travel anywhere he wants to in Serb-held Bosnia to investigate human rights abuses?
MR. BURNS: As a result of his meetings with President Milosevic last Thursday in Dayton, John Shattuck has a guarantee of access to all of the sites that are troubling to the United States and to the international community. He intends to exercise his right of access.
What I don't want to do, though, is tell you where he'll be on which day because there are some obvious security concerns in the region. I don't want to make his trip anymore complicated than it already is.
Q Does that guarantee also extend to reporters now who want to cover it independently either with him or just on their own?
MR. BURNS: This is a very important question. Obviously, more complicated now with the disappearance and the arrest of Mr. Rohde.
We have argued -- Dick Holbrooke and John Shattuck -- in successive meetings with Milosevic and Koljevic that the international press corps should be given free and unfettered access to Srebrenica and Zepa, to Banja Luka, to Sanski Most and to other towns where there is a reasonable expectation that human rights violations occurred.
We have been told consistently by Milosevic and by Koljevic and others that that will be granted.
There are a couple of journalists -- including, I know the Washington Post, Christine Spolar, and others -- who have been able to get access. There is the very unfortunate case of Mr. Rohde who was going to Srebrenica to exercise that right. We had been told that he would be given that right, and he has been detained on trumped-up charges, fallacious charges.
I think what we need to do is deal with the case of Mr. Rohde. We're arguing for his immediate release. We will not stop arguing for that until he is released.
I think that other journalists have to be, frankly, wary of these arrangements and have to take every precaution that they can to make sure that their trips are set up and agreed to in advance. By saying this, I'm in no way implicitly criticizing Mr. Rohde. I think he did everything that he could have to establish a mission for his trip and an itinerary for the trip. We believe he's been detained unjustly.
I just think it would be irresponsible for us not to mention to other journalists who are going in that, with the case of Mr. Rohde, there are some obvious risks here. We are mindful of those. We think the international press corps should be free to do its job, and that is to travel to these sites, to look into them independently, and to provide an objective analysis of what they think happened there.
Q You're saying these are trumped-up charges because he was traveling within Bosnia-Herzegovina and therefore did not need travel documents?
MR. BURNS: We're saying they're trumped-up because we know something about the people who have made them. These are officials from a government that created the war. I won't call it a government. It's a group of people in Pale who created the war, who carried out the massive violations of human rights into which Mr. Rohde was looking. They then may have had an obvious interest in trying to stop him from doing his job but that won't happen because Mr. Rohde is going to be released. We hope he'll be free in the future to carry out his duties as a journalist.
It won't happen because others among you, in your profession will follow Mr. Rohde and will look into these charges independently and will be there. John Shattuck will be there this week; Elizabeth Wren has visited the area, and the others -- the UN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross will follow.
They're trumped-up, they're obvious, and they're carried out by a bunch of people who have no standards of civil rights or press rights and who, I think, are going to have to face the music one day.
Q How can you be sure he's going to be released?
MR. BURNS: We have been told that he's going to be held for 15 days. He's already been held for eight days. We would hope very much that at least that would be the extent of it, although our preference is for him to be released immediately, before the end of the 15-day period.
Q Have you actually been told he would be released at the end of the 15-day --
MR. BURNS: There have been all sorts of commitments here. We'd be very unwise to take them literally.
Mr. Andrusyszyn was told by a number of people, in Bijeljina that he would be released shortly. Well, that was yesterday and it hasn't happened.
We were told last week that we'd be given direct access to him. It us three days to get access to him. We were not told for five days initially why he was being detained, where he was, what his state of health was. So I think we have to take, with a grain of salt perhaps, some of these comments. There are a lot of indications that his incarceration will be limited. We hope it's as limited as perhaps not beyond tomorrow, but we can't be sure of that.
Q Can I follow on that and ask you what it says about our relationship with Mr. Milosevic and with Mr. Koljevic, that they can arrange a phone call for the family to talk to him but they can't arrange a phone call for themselves to talk to the people who are holding him to release him. What does that say about Milosevic's ability to deliver the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I think it's obvious what it says -- that either he is sometimes able and sometimes unable or sometimes willing and sometimes not willing.
But, clearly, we're looking for a much greater commitment, and we're looking for deeds. The actions thus far have been irresponsible by the Bosnian Serbs -- totally irresponsible. We are looking for cooperation in Dayton, Ohio, as well as in the region.
Q Nick, I'm wondering if you would be surprised -- if you follow my logic here. Milosevic has become a central character in the Bosnian talks. Holbrooke spent hours and hours of time with him establishing these in the ground rules. He represents the Bosnian Serbs.
This brackets the talks. Secretary of State Christopher, after the talks concluded on the first day, says that he cannot conceive of a settlement that includes the two Bosnian Serb leaders. Therefore, would it be surprising that the man who is so important to the talks and represents the Bosnian Serbs would come to those not knowing that the Secretary of State couldn't conceive of a peace agreement that included them?
That is a very complicated attempt to get you to answer the question. Was he told before he arrived what the Secretary of State was thinking about Mladic and Karadzic?
MR. BURNS: I can't put myself in the position of Spokesperson for President Milosevic. I can't tell you what he was thinking. I can't tell you everything that he understood to be part of this process and understood not to be part of the process.
Q Would it surprise you --
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this. The way to look at the Dayton talks is not as an isolated peace conference but as a logical extension of a shuttle mission that began in August. This is just the latest round of the shuttle mission -- a shuttle by foot and not by aircraft.
Everything in the documents that have been passed over to the parties on Thursday and Friday of last week -- everything -- had been talked about in advance. Everything had been negotiated in advance. Not negotiated to their satisfaction; not agreed to. But everything had come up in the negotiations, including the question of the makeup of a future government, including the question of human rights that we have spoken about, including the question that we spoke about last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of war criminals and the right of indicted war criminals to take part in a future government.
I would say that there are probably very few surprises in Dayton, Ohio. But what we have in Dayton, Ohio, is a negotiation. So people who purport to speak on behalf of the Bosnians or the Bosnian Serbs or the Serbs say all sorts of things in the newspaper without attaching their names to it. It's very difficult to sort that out, Steve, and it's very difficult for me to respond to leaks on an authoritative basis.
Q Apart from this journalist episode, apart from the alleged leak, what you haven't given us so far today is any sense -- are they negotiating seriously? Are they getting anywhere on the other documents that they have? Is there something that you would characterize as progress or lack of progress, or what is happening?
MR. BURNS: That's a fair question. Let me just say, Jim, in response that I think -- and perhaps we played an unwitting part on this on Friday -- there was an impression, I think, in some of the media over the weekend that the weekend was filled with football games and soccer matches and bowling and swimming. Those are activities that a number of people engaged in, but I understand these were 18-hour days on Saturday and Sunday; that there were lots of intensive meetings; determined negotiations. I think all parties are very determined, serious, applying themselves, working very hard. Obviously, these are negotiations. They're not agreeing on everything.
I hope that you don't have the impression that somehow they took the weekend off. They didn't. They were at Dayton, within the confines of that base. For the most part, I know the Bosnian Foreign Minister and the Bosnian President spent a little time outside the base on Saturday, but that was the minority of the time.
I would describe them as determined, serious -- very serious -- discussions.
Q Do you foresee any circumstances under which the United States would be willing to have diplomatic relations with a new Bosnian entity in which there were war criminals in any positions of authority?
MR. BURNS: That's a question that's difficult to answer, David. It's difficult, in this sense: It's hard to make iron-clad promises or assurances about the future when you don't know exactly what the future holds.
But I think in the case of indicted war criminals, we have made our position clear. We have not changed our position since last week. It's the same position today as it was last week. We don't believe these people should be in command positions in any future government.
Q Mr. Milosevic knows that and knew that before?
MR. BURNS: I think that is well known to all the parties.
Q Could we go back to the question of the trial? You said that there was a kangaroo court. Was there actually a trial? And, if so, can you give us some of the details?
MR. BURNS: Oh, there wasn't -- Roy, you know the area better than I do. There certainly was not any trial that you and I would understand from our experience in a democratic country. These were security thugs who detained a person. They charge him with these dubious violations of Republica of Srpska law, and they say you're guilty and you have to spend time in jail.
This is not an uncommon experience in that particular part of the world, but it is one that we can criticize very clearly.
Q But the Bosnian Serbs have claimed that they were turning him over to the judicial authorities and therefore they implied that there actually was a court hearing. I was just wondering, since you had consular access, if you could tell us what you know about that court hearing.
MR. BURNS: Let me cite a few facts to maybe spice up some of what you're hearing from the Bosnian Serbs.
Mr. Rohde was not fully apprised during the five days of his incarceration of what the charges were against him. He had no access to counsel. He had no access to the United States Government, and he should have had access to the United States Government. He didn't know what his rights were and what his rights weren't because he's not in a democratic country. He's not with a group of people who have any appreciation for democracy or decency or standards of international law.
It is most unfortunate that he was subjected to this. He appears to be in reasonably good health. That's what Mr. Andrusyszyn has advised us based on the one and a half hour meeting that was held. But he has been denied his basic rights; he deserves those basic rights. The best way to give him his rights -- give him back his rights -- is to release him so that he again be a free man.
Q But coming back, was there a trial -- was there a proceeding of some kind? Do you know what day it was and --
MR. BURNS: I don't think we know the answer to that question. I've gone through all reporting cables from our Embassy in Sarajevo which describe in great detail everything he told Mr. Andrusyszyn. I don't believe there's any kind of a trial that you and I would recognize to be trial. He was simply informed of these charges and told he was guilty and told he was going to be incarcerated.
Q How can you then just express hope that he'll be released in a week's time, having served already a week? Under their own law, it doesn't sound like it qualifies for a legal sentence?
MR. BURNS: I can't express any degree of certainty about his release because we're dealing with people who are unreliable and irresponsible.
It's our hope that he'll be released based on some of the conversations that we've had. But actions are a lot more important than words in this situation.
Q Was he allowed by the authorities to go around? Everybody who knows something about Bosnia, and Bosnia itself...
MR. BURNS: To go --
Q To go around -- knows that no journalist can travel around in Bosnia Serb-held territories without an official escort. You cannot go to areas which you are not admitted to.
MR. BURNS: I just don't know the answer to the question of whether he was escorted or not escorted. I just don't know.
Q But did he have a permit to travel on Bosnian Serb territories?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if he did.
Q It's not the first time an American reporter has been taken into custody without benefit of legal counsel and sentenced arbitrarily abroad. In the old days, as you mentioned earlier, this used to be a major thing. Nick Daniloff is one case that comes to mind -- and sometimes at the higher levels, you even sort of stop the diplomacy until these things are cleared up because they become sort of symbols of how ineffective diplomacy can be.
Has anybody thought of putting a more hard ball on this, because since you've got three representatives of this government or this group which you describe as irresponsible, anti-democratic, etc. -- since you've got them in Dayton and they want to reach an agreement, obviously, or they wouldn't be there, have you thought of maybe toughening your stance in Dayton? I mean, taking -- and not just David Rohde, but I'm thinking of the two French pilots who are missing.
MR. BURNS: Roy, I can assure you that we take the case of Mr. Rohde very seriously, that we are going to pursue it and continue to pursue it until we get satisfaction, which is his release, his unfettered release, to become a free man again.
We are not going to let a few Bosnian-Serb thugs stop these peace talks. That would be crazy. That would hold all these talks subject to the actions of people in that region, people you can't trust, people who have been irresponsible in the past and I'm sure will be irresponsible in the future.
So we are not going to stop the peace talks, but we are going to use every means at our disposal to convince the Serbs and Bosnian-Serbs that he ought to be released.
Q So that maybe by carrying on in Dayton with negotiations and the way you are doing it, that it will be read as a signal that they can get away with this. Because, you know, there is a message in carrying on.
MR. BURNS: It is not business as usual, and I think they are hearing from us, from Dick Holbrooke and they'll hear from Strobe Talbott when he gets out there and they'll hear from John Shattuck. This is not business as usual. This is a very serious offense and we hold these people responsible for his welfare until he is released, and they ought to release him very soon.
Q What can you tell us about the bilats that were held today with Mubarak and Hussein and any communications with Damascus, either the Secretary's conversation the other night or any subsequent communications?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that Mike McCurry, I think, has already briefed on a couple of those bilats. I refer you to him out there.
The President has met with King Hussein and President Mubarak and a number of others, but the White House is handling all that, as you would expect, and the President's bilateral meetings are on-going, and they will be for another couple of hours.
I can tell you that Secretary Christopher, when he heard the news of Prime Minister Rabin's assassination on Saturday, called President Assad and King Hussein and King Hassan of Morocco, Chairman Arafat -- was on the phone with the Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Rabinovich, and, in fact, had another phone call with President Assad once he was aboard Air Force One yesterday afternoon.
The Secretary was profoundly affected by the death of Prime Minister Rabin. The Secretary will obviously speak for himself at the right moment -- but he was a man for whom the Secretary had the greatest respect and the greatest affection, and they worked very, very well together. I think both the President and the Secretary can speak to this far better than I can. The President spoke very effectively on behalf of the American people today.
Q Can you tell us about his phone call with Assad? You have been in touch with the traveling party.
MR. BURNS: Well, I don't care to go into the details of that. The first phone call on Saturday was intended to touch base and to talk about the arrangements that have been held today and talk about our intentions to have the President and the Secretary go to Jerusalem to represent the American people.
These were not long and involved conversations. These were not negotiations on the peace process. They were really to touch base personally with a number of Heads of State and trusted interlocutors in the Middle East peace process in a time of great grief. And that was the nature of the phone calls over the weekend.
Q I ask you this, because yesterday the line out of Damascus was very different from what was said today. Now did anything that transpired between Christopher and Assad on the phone yesterday have anything to do with the new statement that came out in the official media today?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to know -- it's hard to know what effect phone calls and meetings have on the Syrian leadership, but we were glad to see that the tone of some of the statements today in Damascus was better from what it was yesterday.
Q Did Christopher let Assad know that the tone yesterday was not helpful? I mean, was --
MR. BURNS: I just don't want to go into their conversations.
Q Have you been briefed on the conversations?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have.
Q Why did he feel the need to call him a second time if he had already touched base the same day?
MR. BURNS: Well, there are all sorts of issues pertaining to what is happening in Israel, the way that Prime Minister Rabin is going to be buried and remembered that were important. And so it wasn't -- I think it isn't surprising that there would be a phone call.
Q There's been a request for a filing break.
MR. BURNS: Fine. Filing break duly noted.
Q He's not going anywhere else --
Q The Secretary is coming back here?
MR. BURNS: No. The Secretary will be returning with the President this evening. They leave Jerusalem I think shortly past midnight, and they'll be getting back here very early. They'll be getting back here sometime Tuesday morning -- well past midnight, Tuesday morning.
Q Do you expect the Secretary to go back to the Middle East anytime soon?
MR. BURNS: He has no specific plans to travel back. He has made l4 trips to the region since l993. He is ready to go back whenever it's useful to further the cause of peace. Obviously, with the assassination of the Prime Minister, there's a lot that has to be thought through; and I think the Secretary, when he gets back from Jerusalem, will be doing that with his advisors, but there are no plans right now for him to return to the Middle East.
Q Dennis Ross -- what are his plans?
MR. BURNS: Again, Mark, I'm not aware of any plans for Dennis to return back. He's coming back with the party -- with the President and Secretary tonight on Air Force One. I'm not aware of any plans for Dennis at this point to go back, but I think it's fair to say that during the days to come -- during the week to come -- the Secretary and his team here will need to think through all sorts of questions that arise out of the very tragic events of the last weekend.
Q Is it fair to say, Nick, that the United States is not quite sure where it can or needs to go with the peace process?
MR. BURNS: No. I don't think it's fair to say that at all. I think the United States knows that we ought to always act on behalf of peace, but the President and the Secretary made a fundamental decision on Saturday afternoon. That was that they we would not -- all of us who speak for the U.S. Government -- would not engage in an analysis of what all this means for the Middle East peace process until the Israeli people had a chance to bury Prime Minister Rabin.
I want to adhere to that today. I'm not going to talk about the effect of this assassination -- of his assassination -- on the peace process. That's a subject we can get into in future days. But it's not proper; it's not proper for an American to do that on the day that the Israeli people and millions of Americans are mourning his death.
Q When you said that the Secretary and his aides would be thinking through this whole thing, what is the point of thinking it through? What's the need to do that? What exactly do you think needs to be done?
MR. BURNS: I think the need is obvious. There's been a cataclysmic event. A great leader has been slain, and it's obvious he was a key to the peace process. But I don't want to take the conversation beyond that.
Q Can I ask you to go back to questions asked before, back on Bosnia, about characterizing the talks there -- not as being serious or determined but, rather, is progress being made? And, if so, how much -- a lot, little, none? And, second, I wonder how successful you think you've been so far in keeping them private, as you call it.
MR. BURNS: On the second question, I think we've been very successful in keeping them private. There have been some most unfortunate leaks; and, believe me, that subject has been raised this morning at Dayton, Ohio, with the participants.
On the first question, it is impossible to characterize whether or not we're making progress. We won't know if we're making progress until a peace agreement is signed or until the talks fail. One of the two is going to happen, and it's not possible to take a snapshot on Day Five and say, "The talks or succeeding" or "They're not succeeding."
The talks are going on. They're intensely complicated. They'll continue to go on, we hope, until there's an agreement.
Q Apparently NATO will take a straw poll tomorrow to see who's going to be the new Secretary General. Does the United States plan to join a consensus or to withhold a consensus?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure what effect straw polls have in NATO, but I can tell you that the Secretary had two very good meetings with former Prime Minister Lubbers and former Foreign Minister Ellemann-Jensen last week. The United States continues to reflect upon the decision as to who should become the next NATO Secretary General.
The decision will be made by consensus within NATO. The United States is the leading power in NATO. We will have our say, along with our allies, and we'll make a group decision by consensus. We've not yet reached the point where we're able to engage in any detailed way in that kind of decision on consensus, but certainly there have been a number of conversations over the weekend and our allies about this choice.
It's a very important choice because of the two great challenges facing NATO: how to enforce a peace in Bosnia, how to enlarge NATO and pursue a new relationship with Russia at the same time.
Q Does Mr. Lubbers, the candidate from Holland, fit the criteria of the United States with regard to Bosnia and the expansion of NATO?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to discuss the merits of individual candidates. He is an announced candidate. Mr. Ellemann-Jensen is another announced candidate. We continue to look at both of these men and others, and we'll work out a decision with our NATO allies.
Q Are you saying that NATO clearly hasn't reached a consensus yet or that the United States hasn't made a decision as to which candidate it would support?
MR. BURNS: I think the first is a better way of describing it. NATO hasn't reached a consensus yet.
The United States has looked at a number of people. We will continue at some people. There may be new names which will come up. We don't know. We just don't know where this process is leading.
We need to continue our discussions with our allies and reach a consensus decision, but it's not possible to have one yet because the discussion hasn't reached that point where a decision can be made.
Q Does the United States have a favorite?
MR. BURNS: No, the United States doesn't have a favorite. We're looking at a number of candidates. Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
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