U.S. Department of State 95/11/07 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, November 7, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Statements U.S.-European Atomic Energy Community Agreement .........1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Cooperation/Support of War Crimes Tribunal/War Criminals .1-14,20-24 --A/S Shattuck's Trips to Region .........................2,7,16,23 Proximity Peace Talks in Dayton ..........................14-26 --Eastern Slavonia Problem ...............................14,17,25-26 --Arrest of David Rohde, CSM Correspondent ...............14-15,17- 18,24-25 --Issue of Two Missing French Pilots .....................15,17,25 --Mtgs. on Federation Issues..............................15-16 --Mtgs. on Implementation/Constitutional Issues ..........16,18-20,24 --Human Rights ...........................................17-18 --Territorial Issues .....................................19 Secretary Perry's Comments on Deployment of NATO Troops ..20 RUSSIA President Yeltsin's Physical Condition ...................26-27 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS ................................27-28,34 NATO Consideration of NATO Secretary General Candidates ......28-31 CUBA Travel to Cuba: Reports of New Cuban Initiatives .........31-32 Meeting of Exiles Hosted by Havana .......................32-33 CHINA/TAIWAN Report of Plans for Two Military Exercises ...............33 JAPAN Trial of U.S. Servicemen in Okinawa ......................33-34 AFRICA Assistant Secretary Moose's Trip to Region ..............34 APEC Leaders Mtg./President Clinton's State Visit .......34-35
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1995, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a short announcement to read, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
I want to call to your attention a statement which will be posted just after the briefing, which announces the signing of a new agreement between the United States and the European Atomic Energy Community for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. This agreement was signed today, November 7, in Brussels, by our Ambassador to the European Union, Stuart Eizenstat; and by the European Union Commissioner for Energy; and by Sir Leon Brittan, who's the Vice President of the European Union.
The new agreement provides an updated, comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and EURATOM. It seeks to facilitate such cooperation and provides for strengthening controls reflecting our shared strong commitment to nuclear non- proliferation.
If you're interested in this issue, we can give you additional information beyond the statement that we're going to be issuing.
With that, George, I'll be glad to go to your question.
Q Do you have a comment, any comment, on the story in the Post today about Judge Goldstone saying that the U.S. has not been putting forth information about atrocities in a timely manner to the War Crimes Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: Let me start by reviewing the facts. The facts are always pertinent. The facts are helpful, I think, to all of us in looking at this issue.
The United States is the strongest supporter of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. That, I think, is indisputable. I think Judge Goldstone will tell you that. I think that objective people, looking at this situation, would tell you that.
We are the largest financial contributor to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. We have seconded over 20 people as prosecutors and researchers to work on a full-time basis on The Hague on the issue of war crimes.
The United States has drawn attention to the issue of war crimes. Secretary of State Christopher has sent John Shattuck to the Balkans four times in the last two months to investigate war crimes and to turn over the information that he produces to the Tribunal. Mr. Shattuck left last night on his fourth mission, and he arrived in the Balkans today.The goal of his trip, over the next four or five days, is to unearth information about the alleged brutalities that we believe occurred at Banja Luka over the last month, at Srebrenica and Zepa in July
So I think it is important to remember what the United States has done to date to support the Tribunal. We're fully committed to supporting Judge Goldstone, in particular. He's arriving here next week. He's going to be received at a very high level in the United States Government. We are making a very strenuous effort within our Government, and that includes other agencies of the Government beyond the State Department, to respond to his request as rapidly as possible.
We will continue to provide information, as much information as possible, to the Tribunal to assist in its investigations.
I think you also know, George, that we have put the issue of human rights and the issue of war crimes squarely on the agenda at the Dayton talks. Mr. Shattuck visited Dayton on Thursday, last Thursday, to have direct conversations with President Milosevic and with the Bosnian Serb leadership at Dayton on this issue.
So we are confident, even after reading the article in The Washington Post this morning, that the United States has done what it should have done and that we've led the international community in supporting this Tribunal.
Q But the fact of the letter and it raising these issues of timely turning over of material -- is that true or false? Did he write that letter, make those complaints?
MR. BURNS: Judge Goldstone wrote a letter to the United States Legal Advisor, who is stationed at the United States Embassy in The Hague. It was a rather long letter. I know it's been leaked to The Washington Post by somebody in this Government, so I'm not going to reward that person by telling you everything that's in the letter. But I can tell you -- and I think this is a fair rendition of the letter -- that the letter gives positive praise to the United States -- I've seen the letter -- positive praise to the United States for a number of the actions we've undertaken.
It does make a request for additional information, and it does say that in certain cases there has been a lag time between requests and between provision of information.
I would just note that we are talking about thousands of pages of information. In some cases, we're talking about requests that sometimes are difficult to ferret out of a government as large as ours, and we're making every effort to comply with the request as well as we can.
I can tell you what the political signals are in this Government. We are sending political signals from the Seventh Floor of the State Department to the rest of this building and throughout the Government that the United States Government should cooperate positively and quickly with the War Crimes Tribunal.
We're delighted that Judge Goldstone will be here so we'll have an opportunity to discuss some of these concerns in private next week. As I said, he'll be seen at a very high level of this Government.
Q Did the U.S. Government reply to the letter?
MR. BURNS: The letter was just received a couple of days ago, Elaine, and we didn't expect that it would appear publicly. It has appeared publicly.
As I understand it, in The Hague we have regular conversations with Judge Goldstone. I believe there have been some phone and personal conversations since he sent the letter. Since he's coming next week, we'll reply in person at a very high level to all of these concerns. But I do want to accentuate the fact that this particular letter also says some very favorable things about the United States, and I do want you all to consider the facts. The facts are important. The level and the consistent nature of the support from this Government for the Tribunal is unquestioned.
Q One thing I understand has not been supplied so far is these intercepts that have been reported for several months and never denied by this Government, which indicate there were conversations between General Perisic and General Mladic during the siege of Srebrenica, and the attack on Srebrenica and the conquest. These, I believe, Judge Goldstone did request specifically, and I understand they were not supplied. Have you or has the State Department located them, or are you in a position to deny that they exist?
MR. BURNS: Roy, we had an interesting exchange on this last week, and I think we'll have the same kind of exchange this week. That is that you ask a question about intelligence information. You know I can't speak to intelligence information ON THE RECORD, and you know I will not do that.
I will not confirm that we have a request for that kind of information. I can't confirm that we've delivered that kind of information in the past -- that we've agreed to requests, or denied requests. I just can't talk about that in public.
Q I understand that not only this Government monitors such conversations but so do other governments. I mean we, of course, in the press don't have the capability. We have to rely on governments to be doing it. But I'm kind of mystified why, if this material is there, it is held in such secrecy and such classification, because what we're talking about here is one government -- namely, Serbia, and its army -- supporting the conquest of a U.N. safe area.
You know, you can talk about this as intelligence and as classified, but the fact of it is that the public ought to know about this. There is no excuse, if you have it, for not making it available. And hiding behind the intelligence protection -- it just doesn't make sense here.
MR. BURNS: I don't agree that the public has a right to know everything that is classified in the U.S. Government. The reason you have classified information is to prevent that information from being made public. That is the definition of classified information.
If we agreed that the American public and the American press corps should know everything that we know, then we wouldn't have a system of classification. We wouldn't have fences around Government buildings; we wouldn't have safes in our offices.
We've had classified information in this Government probably for well over 200 years, and I'm sure we'll have it for the next 200 years. We try, as best we can, to give as much information to the press corps, but some of the information -- particularly information that is gleaned by our intelligence agencies -- is off the boards.
Now, getting back to the War Crimes Tribunal. It is true that in the past couple of months we have provided some intelligence information -- information that you and I would consider to be intelligence information -- to the War Crimes Tribunal. It is true that we have additional requests for that type of information. We'll try to comply with those requests as much as we can, as best we can.
I can't tell you our batting average is going to be a thousand on this, Roy. It's going to have to be taken on a case-by-case basis; and I think this accounts for the fact that when you do get requests from an organization of this type, you do have to look at each question on a case-by-case basis and make a judgment about it.
Q You haven't answered Roy's question, if I may, it seems to me. You've said that, of course, there has to be intelligence information, and of course there does; and Roy probably wouldn't disagree with that. But he's asking you whether it is proper for the U.S. Government to have information which implicates the Serbian Government in the taking over of a U.N. safe zone and to hold that information secret.
MR. BURNS: To be fair to me here, as someone trying to answer your questions, you've put me in a very difficult position, because you've asked me a question that directly pertains to intelligence information -- to sources and methods, in this case -- and you've asked me to comment upon that publicly. I cannot do that.
Now, my refusal to do that is warranted. It's consistent with what every spokesman for every government has done in the last couple of decades, and my refusal to do that should not constitute any kind of implicit agreement with your question -- or with the premises of your question. I just cannot answer questions pertaining to intelligence information.
Q I'll put the question in a different way. If this sort of information exists, if there is any sort of classified information about conversations that might implicate the Yugoslav military command in the massacres in Srebrenica, does Judge Goldstone and his team have a right to this information?
MR. BURNS: We believe that Judge Goldstone's investigation should be pursued vigorously and it should lead wherever it logically goes. We are trying to be helpful to him. We've turned over a mass of information to him; we'll continue to do that.
We will cooperate with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal as best we can. We'll transfer as much information as we can, as is possible. He knows that. I think he's had a good level of cooperation from the United States Government.
That's the standard that we'll use in answering your questions like this.
Q But, Nick, one of the 25 questions in the annex in Judge Goldstone's letter is specifically to get information about these alleged intercepts. Does he have the right to have an answer to that question?
MR. BURNS: Well, first, I don't want to acknowledge even implicitly that that is, in fact, what he's requesting, because that is in a private channel and should be kept in a private channel even though some people have chosen to violate that channel. I don't want to reward those people.
Q Let's go back to the theoretical. If Judge Goldstone requests information that has been in Newsday and other publications since August about intercepts of conversations, is this something that he has a right to, in pursuing war crimes trials?
MR. BURNS: We will cooperate with him as best we can. We'll look at each request from him seriously. We'll discuss those that are important to him personally with him, and we'll give him as much information as we possibly can.
Q Okay. Let me ask the question, go to Roy's question in a different way. Does the United States Government have any evidence to support the claim that Mladic talked to Yugoslav army commanders in advance of or during the siege of Srebrenica?
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q Maybe you --
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question, because I have not personally reviewed all of the information available to us of whatever kind and gleaned from whatever source. I do not know the answer to that question.
Q Can you take it?
MR. BURNS: Well, I can take the question. I'm not sure I'll be able to give you an answer. If the answer delves into the intelligence realm, then I won't be able to give you an answer. If the answer does not delve into the intelligence realm, or cross over that line, then perhaps I will.
I am not trying to be unfair to you, Roy. I am not trying to dodge the question. You know what I can and cannot say. You know what questions I can answer productively and those that I can't.
Q I suspect what you are saying is that if the answer is yes, you can't give it, but if the answer is no, you will give it. In other words, if you find a denial, you would deny it. But if it is confirmed, you won't confirm it. (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: Come on. You're setting an awfully high standard here, that I suspect most of my predecessors, if not all, have not met, and I can't do that. What I can do is, I can tell you that we have a good relationship with Judge Goldstone. And I think he will be the first to tell you that when you all get a chance to talk with him next week.
No country has done more than the United States to turn over information to Judge Goldstone that he believes is relevant to his investigation of suspected war criminals. Every political signal that is being sent in this building and around town, from Secretary Christopher on down to everybody in this building, is to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal; do as much as you can to help the War Crimes Tribunal.
Why else would we be sending John Shattuck out to the region to glean information, uncover information, for Judge Goldstone? Why else would we have been talking as early as July l2th from the State Department Press Briefing Room about the allegations of human rights abuses in Srebrenica? And I think we were the first country to talk about it.
Every action of our government, -- and I think this is an important point, to respond to all the questions that have been asked this morning -- every action of our government since July has been consistent with the notion that we have an obligation to help the War Crimes Tribunal. And we have done more publicly along those lines than any other government.
We feel we have a very good record, and we'll stand by it.
Q Nick, does the United States volunteer information to Judge Goldstone?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Or does it only respond to his request for it?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not a passive relationship. There are times in the case of this particular letter, where Judge Goldstone makes specific requests, that we consider for him.
There are other times when we volunteer information. The case of Mr. Shattuck is a very good one. He has developed information specifically from his interviews with the refugees in Srebrenica which he turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q It is conceivable that the United States does have information that it has not volunteered and has not been requested that is now not in the mix.
MR. BURNS: Okay, I'm still processing that, but -- (laughter) -- yes, I think that -- I'm just a little bit slower than you are most days. You're better than me on most days. And, yes, the answer to that question is yes, I think it is conceivable that is the case.
Yes. Do you want to stay on this issue?
Q Yes. I don't think anyone, or not too many people, doubt that the United States is cooperating in every way it can with the War Crimes Tribunal when it comes to evidence that might suggest that Bosnian Serbs have committed atrocities in Bosnia.
The question, and the reason we are running around with this one, as you know, is that it isn't entirely clear, to the press corps at least, that the United States is cooperating in every way possible when there is evidence to suggest that Serbs might have been involved in war crimes.
Obviously you are trying to carrying on talks in Dayton. It could be a problem for those talks if certain individuals, governments, were implicated in this.
So you have obviously got some mixed interests here, and we are trying to understand how you are balancing those interests. And by not saying, and being unwilling to discuss this evidence and these reports that there are intercepts, you leave us wondering whether or not you are really willing to give the War Crimes Tribunal any evidence you might have that would implicate people like General Peri -- I can't pronounce his name --
MR. BURNS: Perisic.
Q Perisic, or others close to Milosevic, in this matter. You leave us wondering, and perhaps that is how you want things. But I would just like to point out to you, in addition, that there have been, and they are not infrequent, occasions when the spokesmen and senior officials of various administrations have produced intelligence evidence when they thought it was relevant or important to do so. The most recent one I can think of is Ambassador Albright at the United Nations with some photographs.
So I think --
MR. BURNS: You know, I think it was a very good thing for her to have done. I think she was applauded world-wide.
Q Might it not be a very good thing to produce the intercepts?
MR. BURNS: Let's not dance around the question any more. Let's go to the heart of your question, and that is the issue of Mr. Milosevic.
The fact is that he has not been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal, and so the United States has chosen to deal with him. He is at Dayton. He is head of the Bosnian Serb delegation. We'll continue to deal with him.
We granted him a visa because frankly we thought that achieving peace was the most important priority here.
The second fact is that the United States has said that we won't deal with indicted war criminals. And so we have not dealt with Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic. They were not invited to the United States. They are not welcome here. If they come to the United States, we will exercise our obligations under international law to the War Crimes Tribunal to make those people available to them, to the Tribunal, for prosecution.
And the third fact is that we believe -- and I am glad to reaffirm this on the record today -- that the War Crimes Tribunal investigation -- and this goes directly to your question -- should lead where the evidence takes it. And if it takes it to any city in the Balkans, to any person in the Balkans, to any sitting official, so be it.
The fact is that after four years of war, peace is important, justice is important, and the War Crimes Tribunal is trying to reach a just resolution of the problems that emanate from the outrageous abuse of human rights by the Bosnian Serbs over the last four years, and by some Croatians. As you know, there has been a Croatian indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal.
That evidence should lead wherever it takes the War Crimes Tribunal. We'll say that every day on the record. That is what we are saying privately to Judge Goldstone. We are not putting any barriers in his path. And I think he knows that and I think he'll tell you that next week.
Q Do you deny that the United States is trying to prevent the indictment of Mr. Milosevic by withholding intelligence data that could implicate him?
MR. BURNS: Again, Elaine, I'd love to be responsive to that question, but, you know, you've put me in the position now where I have to comment on intelligence issues. If there is another way to phrase the question, perhaps we could do it.
Q I'll phrase it in another way.
MR. BURNS: But I can't answer a question pertaining to intelligence information.
Q Is the United States -- do you deny that the United States is trying to prevent the indictment of Mr. Milosevic by withholding any evidence that could implicate him in war crimes?
MR. BURNS: I am unaware of any effort to do so.
Q Mr. Burns, do you receive daily intelligence briefings here? Are you receiving -- are you up to date on U.S. intelligence -- one?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I'm surprised you ask me that question. How far do you want to take that question -- am I receiving -- what kind of intelligence briefings?
Q Well, briefings regarding these matters that we're discussing here?
MR. BURNS: Senior officials in this government receive, as everybody knows, a daily digest of intelligence information each morning. I'm a recipient of that information. Although in my present job, I don't spend most of my time looking at intelligence information. I deal mainly with you, and I'm dealing mainly with press information, but I do have access to it.
The universe here is extremely broad, so perhaps we can narrow it down.
Q I would say that I had the impression that you did not have complete knowledge of these intelligence matters, certainly, concerning --
MR. BURNS: Let me just take you back to Elaine's question. I think Elaine has asked a very important question -- the question she just asked. I speak for the State Department at these briefings. I gave Elaine a direct answer to her question. I think that speaks for itself.
Q Okay. But my question is, do you personally know, have knowledge of these things and not be able to say?
MR. BURNS: Not in this case, no.
Q Not in this case?
Q Secretary Perry said -- oh, I'm sorry.
Q First of all, I'd like to come back to the point, you said the U.S. feels that Judge Goldstone should follow the evidence to wherever it leads.
Just to spell out Elaine's question in a different way, the point is that the evidence may very well lead to Milosevic but that the evidence that leads to Milosevic may very well be in the hands of the United States.
The question asked -- and it really is a basic one -- is, should that evidence lead to Milosevic, how can you not give it to Judge Goldstone? Your answer was to the question, "Are you withholding," your answer was, "I am unaware that we are withholding." It is not a denial.
MR. BURNS: Listen, I hate to do this. I would rather give clear and direct answers to questions than give ones that take us around in circles. But the questions are going around in circles. They're going both ways around in circles.
You asked a question, with all due respect, that has to do with intelligence information. I cannot talk about intelligence information from this podium. I can't say, yes, we have it; or, no, we don't have it, or this or that. I can't do it. There have been attempts to rephrase questions which I've tried to answer directly.
Q We're going around in circles today because you have, today, given a novel definition of the basis and the reason for classifying information.
MR. BURNS: Which is what?
Q You said the reason is that because there is a classification system. If we didn't have a classification system, or if we didn't have something to classify, we wouldn't have a classification system; or maybe you put it the other way around.
That is not the reason, as I understand it, that things are classified. Matters are classified -- at least I've always thought the definition was -- because of national security concerns.
My question is, what is the national security concern that justifies classifying a conversation? I gather it was on the open line -- it was not even encrypted. It was not even in code -- on the open line between General Perisic and General Mladic. What is the U.S. national security justification for classifying that?
MR. BURNS: First of all, I don't agree with your description of my previous answer. I just want to put that on the record.
Secondly, I think that most Americans -- you take the average American anywhere in this country -- if you ask the average American do we need intelligence agencies; do we need a system whereby certain information developed by the United States Government should be kept confidential or classified; should be kept away from that citizen or the American press corps. I think that the overwhelming majority of Americans would say yes.
The reason we have classified information is because various governments over the last couple of hundred years, of all political stripes, have decided that it's in our national security interest to have some information that we don't make public. If we make it public to you and the American people, it's also public to our adversaries and our enemies. So there is an absolute, rational reason to have classified information. I hope we don't disagree on that.
Because we have classified information, people like me in jobs like this are not able to talk about that information in public. If we did, we'd be violating the rules of the road and we would be making transgressions where we should not. So I can't talk about intelligence information.
I can't confirm -- what you're trying to get me to say is, yes, we have particular information that would be crucial to the prosecution of these war crimes. But I can't confirm that we have information that you describe as intelligence information. I can't confirm it.
Q Judge Goldstone seems to think that you have this information and that you're not sharing it with him. So we're asking two different questions. One is the public's right to know. The second is, does a person who is responsible and who, as a judge, could be relied on to keep secrets, if indeed the national security interests of the United States were at stake, have a right to this information?
MR. BURNS: He has a right to expect from the United States what he is getting, and that is a very broad measure of cooperation, in a situation where we're going to give him as much as information as we can.
Q I'd like just to go back on this point that the public has great understanding for the government classifying whatever it can in order to protect intelligence sources. I'm not quite sure where you're getting this from. But it seems to me that argument --
MR. BURNS: I'm getting it from American history. You can't deny the facts. The fact is that the Jefferson Administration had secrets and classified information that it kept from the public as does the Clinton Administration, and as did every Administration in between.
I don't think we should spend too much time on this, but I'm willing to entertain one more question.
Q I'd like to just finish the point. The argument is, if you want to have -- in a democratic society -- you want people to be informed so that they can come to judgments on what the government is doing, they need the maximum of information.
The object of the government should be to declassify the maximum and not to try to justify the classification of --
MR. BURNS: Okay, I can handle that question. I can answer that question. The fact is that most people, I think, agree that we ought to have some information that is private -- number one.
Number two: There is no more open society than our society; no more open government than our government.
President Clinton has taken an antiquated system where we had 30- year declassification. He's reduced it to 10-year declassification. I can tell you that has led to a change in the way that we do business here.
President Clinton wants fewer documents classified. He wants a much higher threshold for decisions on what should be classified and what should not be classified, and he wants us to do as much as we can to be responsive to the American public on freedom of information. We take that very seriously.
But there is some information that for national security reasons we do classify at a very high level and therefore keep out of the realm of public discourse, including State Department briefings.
Q In this case, you would say the reason you cannot provide it is for national security reasons?
MR. BURNS: Yes. That is by definition. That is the essence of the matter when talking about classified information. That's the only possible rationale. If you cannot say it would harm national security, then you shouldn't classify it.
Q (Inaudible) what's going on in Dayton?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to segue to Dayton. Let me just say, in keeping with our constant effort to keep you as informed as we can about proceedings in Dayton, Ohio, I had a phone conversation, a conference call with Dick Holbrooke and Carl Bildt. I can report to you the following, and I'm speaking here on behalf of Carl Bildt and Dick Holbrooke.
Eastern Slavonia -- the issue of Eastern Slavonia -- has remained a crucial issue at these talks, and discussions are continuing today about Eastern Slavonia.
I understand that President Tudjman will be returning to Dayton tomorrow. I understand that Peter Galbraith, the United States Ambassador to Croatia, Thorvald Stoltenberg, the U.N. Special Representative on this issue, have decided to stay in the region, to stay directly in touch with the local Serb population in Eastern Slavonia.
I would expect an emphasis on this issue of Eastern Slavonia over the next couple of days when President Tudjman returns. Very important issue for the United States and for the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Secondly, I can tell you that the status of David Rohde, the Christian Science Monitor correspondent who was incarcerated unjustly by the Bosnian Serbs, has been a big issue at Dayton over the last 24 hours.
Last night, when Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott was in Dayton, when he had dinner with President Milosevic and President Izetbegovic and Prime Minister Silajdzic, Strobe Talbott raised the issue twice -- the issue of David Rohde twice -- with Mr. Milosevic.
This morning, Assistant Secretary Holbrooke delivered a letter -- a personal letter -- from Secretary Christopher to President Milosevic on the subject of David Rohde. I can tell you what that letter said. It said that Mr. Rohde should be released immediately; that there is no justification for his being held by the Bosnian Serbs.
We call upon the Bosnian Serb leadership to release him immediately.
We talked yesterday about the kangaroo court, the lack of civil law, lack of rule of law, that led to the arrest and the charges against Mr. Rohde. There is no justification for holding him any further.
I also want to note that Ambassador Holbrooke has raised again with President Milosevic the issue of the two French pilots who are missing since the early days of the NATO air campaign against the Bosnian Serbs. This is an issue that French Ambassador Jacques Blot has been raising on his own. The United States and the European Union want to be supportive to France at the Dayton Peace Talks on this issue.
Concerning the Federation which, as you know, from the very first day of these talks in Dayton has also been a focus of the participants. The talks are moving forward today. Both of the mayors from the city of Dayton along with the EU Administrator, the German, are taking place; the talks are talking place.
The two mayors have been meeting --
MR. BURNS: What did I say?
Q You said Dayton.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry; I'm sorry. No, I don't think we're at the point yet where Dayton has two mayors, one Croatian and one Muslim.
Okay, let's correct the record. Let's correct the record.
The two mayors of Mostar -- the Croatian mayor and the Muslim mayor, Mr. Orucevic and Mr. Brajkoviv, are meeting with each other and meeting with members of the European Union delegation and with the United States. Ambassador Steiner -- the German Ambassador, Mr. Steiner -- and Dan Serwer, the American, are chairing these meetings. We are particularly interested in making progress on these Federation issues. It's particularly important to have both mayors of Mostar there.
I can tell you that Ambassador Bob Gallucci, who is responsible for issues concerning implementation after a peace agreement is signed, is in Dayton today. He was there last Thursday. He went back today to have meetings with the European Union and with the Balkan participants on implementation issues.
I can also tell you that the European Union team, under Carl Bildt's leadership, has had an intensive set of meetings with several of the delegations on constitutional issues.
Finally, Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck left the United States last night. He is now in the region, in the Balkans. He is personally looking into the human rights issues, the issues having to do with the War Crimes Tribunal.
I'm not going to be giving out his itinerary in advance for obvious reasons -- for security reasons. But as he leaves each place, I'll be glad to go into what he did there, who he saw and what his impressions were.
Q Izetbegovic is predicting a Federation agreement in the next day or two. Can you confirm that?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that. Let me, just for the record, state that President Izetbegovic did not speak to reporters in Dayton. He didn't say this on the record. I understand that there is some kind of a report given to the Cabinet in Sarajevo which was then leaked to the press in Sarajevo. I just want to say that because I know a lot of you have an interest in knowing where this information is coming from.
I can't confirm that information. I can't confirm his statement. The talks are difficult, the talks are challenging. We'll continue to try to make progress on this issue.
Q Did he violate the news blackout ground rules?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he did, because he did not speak to anybody on the record in Dayton.
Q Did you talk to Ambassador Galbraith about the talks with Tudjman on Slavonia? Or do you have any other knowledge of how that's going and what the sticking points are at the present or --
MR. BURNS: This is a difficult issue. Ambassador Galbraith and Mr. Stoltenberg are on the ground in Eastern Slavonia; have been talking with the local population, trying to build on the draft agreement and constitutional principles that was reached last month.
President Tudjman will be returning to Dayton. I think there will be many conversations with him about this issue of Eastern Slavonia.
Q Nick, how would you characterize the cooperation of President Milosevic on human rights issues, including David Rohde, the two Frenchmen, Mladic, and Karadzic?
MR. BURNS: I think, Elaine, the best way for me to answer that is to say that we're more interested in action, in positive deeds rather than in promises.
We have heard over the last couple of months from the Serbian Government and the Bosnian Serbs a lot of promises on the issue of human rights, promises of access to Srebrenica and Zepa, access to the sites that David Rohde uncovered a couple of months ago where we believe massive human rights violations took place.
Now, more recently, there have been promises by the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian Government about access by reporters as well as governments to Banja Luka and Sanski Most.
I think the record has been fairly uneven by the local authorities in giving journalists access and sometimes problematic in giving governments access. There's been one huge problem, and that is the case of David Rohde who was going into some of these sites to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
John Shattuck was told directly at a senior level in Belgrade and also by representatives of the Bosnian Serbs that journalists would have access. David Rohde, I think, went off under those conditions. Instead, he's been detained and arrested.
Obviously, there has to be a much greater and more positive level of performance to accompany some of the good words that we've heard. Deeds are much more important than words.
Q Does this auger well then for what is hoped for in the constitution, which is that international human rights monitors and the War Crimes Tribunal representatives will have full access to parts of the Serb republic?
MR. BURNS: If that, in fact, is the result of Dayton, if that is built into a final peace agreement, then we would expect any peace agreement to be adhered to in all respects by all the parties. That's a fundamental point for these negotiations.
In the case of David Rohde, in the case of access by journalists to sites throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, which may be the sites of human rights violations -- which probably are -- I think we've had more of a problem with local authorities than anyone else. But, ultimately, national authorities are responsible for local authorities -- the actions -- in this type of environment, for the actions of local authorities.
That's particularly true in the case of Mr. Rohde. That's why we've appealed to President Milosevic directly as well as to Mr. Koljevic and Mr. Buha in Dayton.
Q A good part of my initial question, which is, how would you characterize Mr. Milosevic's cooperation on Karadzic and Mladic?
MR. BURNS: In what respect, Elaine? Cooperation on what issues?
Q In that the position of the U.S. Government is that they cannot run for election and, according to Secretary Christopher, NATO will not deploy its troops if they are still in positions of power?
MR. BURNS: I can't describe the types of conversations we've had at Dayton because that would violate the rules that we've all agreed to.
Q Even just to characterize whether he's been cooperative or not?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't care to do that.
Q Is it possible there have been changes --
Q Federation progress -- does that imply that the framework of the constitution is also progressing? I'm presuming that you can't have a Federation without a constitution governing the relationships?
MR. BURNS: Ultimately, all these issues are linked under the umbrella peace agreement. You're right to draw the linkages; but again, just as with Elaine's question, Jim, I'm going to have to say that I don't want to give any on-the-spot judgments about how things are going -- things are going well on this round, not well on that round. That would really violate the conditions under which these talks are taking place and to which all the participants have agreed.
Q Nick, do you have any word that the issue of territory has been discussed at these talks? You've listed all the issues as they have been introduced. I don't recall the issue of territory.
MR. BURNS: That issue is the central issue that has separated these parties. Of course, it's been discussed but I really can't go into it in any level of detail. It's certainly been discussed, Ron. It's really at the heart of this issue.
If we're going to have a peace agreement at Dayton, that issue has to be successfully dealt with.
Q Have there been any changes agreed to by the parties jointly so far in Dayton to the fourth draft of the constitution, Annex number 4 that was issued on November 1 at 11:50?
MR. BURNS: How do you know that? Eleven fifty --
Q No, I'm just asking about the fourth draft?
MR. BURNS: It is true that we did give a draft working document on the constitution and a draft constitution to the parties on November 1. They have been working on those issues.
As I reported earlier, Carl Bildt and his European team have been working specifically on these constitutional issues.
I can't report progress either way -- positive or negative -- because that would bring me over the line in trying to bring us all into the negotiations, where we don't want to be.
Q So we're not characterizing whether anything has been positive or negative. Have there been any changes at all agreed to on the constitution that was --
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing to report on that, David.
Q Izetbegovic said that he expects the talks to end in about a week. Do you know what he's talking about?
MR. BURNS: Again, this is a Sarajevo press report commenting on a written report that was received in Sarajevo. That's an interesting line there. I'm not sure if these are his words. He hasn't spoken on the record.
All I can say is, we have not set a timetable for the talks. I think it's fair to say the talks will continue throughout this week. As for their conclusion, I don't think anybody knows right now. These are very important talks. They're very complicated. There are all sorts of issues on the table which will require fundamental decisions by the governments involved and by the hosts and the intermediaries.
I don't think anybody can foresee right now, George, the end date for these talks.
Q Nick, Mike McCurry -- in, I think it's Germany -- said today that the United States would probably have to deploy troops within days of a peace agreement.
On November 1, Christopher said in Dayton that NATO would not deploy troops if Karadzic and Mladic were still in power. Does this mean, for all practical purposes, that their removal from power has to be part of the peace agreement in order for NATO to deploy within days?
MR. BURNS: They're linked issues but they're also somewhat separate in the sense that the military plan Secretary Perry -- I also saw his remarks this morning. Secretary Perry was obviously speaking directly to the press on the fact that if NATO troops are to be deployed, they would have to be deployed within a matter of days -- some people have said four or five days, 96 hours, whatever -- after a peace agreement is fully signed, after the final "i's" are dotted and "t's" crossed.
Separately but, you're right, somewhat related, Secretary Christopher said last week that as we look at that phrase, if we get to the phase where a peace agreement has been signed, we're in the post- agreement era. We cannot conceive of the new government of Bosnia- Herzegovina having in command positions indicted war criminals, and specifically those two indicted war criminals. You can put them together. I think that they're both true statements, accurately reflecting what we think will transpire.
Q But then what is the logical consequence of this? If you can't have indicted war criminals in the positions of power when NATO deploys -- and NATO has to deploy very shortly after the peace agreement goes into effect -- is it appropriate to conclude that their ouster from power would have to be part of the peace agreement?
MR. BURNS: I think it's appropriate to conclude that the issue of human rights and the issue of war crimes are a major issue at Dayton and certainly are a subject of the negotiations and certainly will be part -- at least, some questions will have to be answered before a peace agreement is signed. There is no question about that.
I'm a little bit reluctant to engage in hypothetical guessing as to exactly where we're going to be, exactly what choices we'll have to make on Day One after a peace agreement is signed.
I think I've told you that Secretary Perry's comments are obviously the views of this government and the military point of view. Secretary Christopher's comments last week, which we've reaffirmed almost every day, are also the views of this government.
So we need to certainly answer some of the human rights questions before we can go forward.
Q About human rights questions. You know, there is kind of a contradiction in the American position. I'm sure you've already discovered it. This is that you're both asking Milosevic to cooperate with the Tribunal, which means to turn over any indicted suspects that are in his realm of control, and at the same time to oust Karadzic and Mladic, or make sure that they're ousted from their positions of power.
But the two of them, if they were turned over to the Tribunal, clearly know the connection with Milosevic himself because he, in a sense, directed them -- certainly, you would have to argue -- in the early days and probably up until very recently, if not to this day.
So aren't you asking Milosevic, in a sense, to turn over people who will implicate him and lead to his own indictment, and therefore you're asking him to negotiate his own demise? I'm just using a logic train of the facts as we know them. Isn't this an impossible thing to ask any leader to do?
MR. BURNS: I don't agree with all the premises of your question. I don't believe we're asking anyone to do what you suggest we are.
What we are asking all participants at Dayton to do, all signatories to a future peace agreement to do, is this: to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal, not only up until the day they sign but every day after they sign. That's a fundamental, clear American position: that the War Crimes Tribunal is important; that justice as well as peace is important; and that all participants must have this in mind and must make a commitment to it. That's very specific. But I can't really be much more specific than that.
Q Let me just read you Mr. Arkan's -- Mr. Raznjatovic's comments a couple of weeks ago in an interview. He is somebody who knows Milosevic pretty well. He said, "If we ever extradite any Serb, the state and its leader will go to ruin. I do not believe that Milosevic will yield to those demands. If he does yield, the people will pronounce him a traitor, and nothing will save his face."
That is an attitude of somebody who himself might be indicted. It's certainly the attitude of Mladic and Karadzic. If they are indicted and transferred to the Tribunal, clearly they're going to sing about Milosevic.
MR. BURNS: I hope Mr. Arkan, or so-called "Arkan," understands he's a criminal and a terrorist, that justice must also prevail as well as peace, and that the War Crimes Tribunal is a serious international undertaking that will have the clear and consistent support of the United States.
Q My question is, how can you ask Milosevic both things at the same time, knowing that it carries implications for his own survival?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm to you because of the rules that we've all agreed upon what we're asking any of these participants and what we're not, beyond what I've said; and that is, as we look at a final peace agreement, we believe that a clear commitment by all parties to support the War Crimes Tribunal should be part of that agreement.
Q Which is a more important goal for the United States: the political/diplomatic achievement of a successful outcome in Dayton and subsequently Paris, or a successful outcome to the War Crimes Tribunal's actions and their desires?
MR. BURNS: They're both important. I don't believe it is intellectually true that somehow there is a zero-sum game going on here; that somehow you can have peace but you can't have justice, or you have justice but you can't have peace.
The fact is -- let me engage in some more poll-taking here, at least, my version of it. Ask the average American, the average citizen of the world what they want to happen in Bosnia. They want peace. But people also want justice, and we're pursuing both. Peace is a very high objective.
A lot of people criticized the United States for granting a visa to Mr. Milosevic to come to Dayton; a lot of high-level people did that. We think that that criticism was misplaced because you can't make peace without the people who made the war. You can't choose your negotiating partners; you inherit them from the situation.
It is very important that the United States lead the way towards peace. That's what we're doing at Dayton.
It's also very important that we be true to the basic ethics and a basic sense of morality that I think most Americans have when they think about foreign affairs. Most Americans want war criminals to be prosecuted, and the United States Government wants war criminals to be prosecuted, too. We're acting to support that effort.
Q Nick, do you think it's possible, given the way things have worked out in the inheritance you have, to move as vigorously as a government on the issue of justice at this point as it is to work on peace? In other words, can these things move with the same strength in tandem right now given the inheritance you have?
MR. BURNS: They have to. They're inextricably linked. They're tied together. The war crimes issues are the subject of the Dayton talks. They're inescapable. We can't run from them. Steve, we've got to push both hard at the same time.
If we had not sent -- if Secretary of State Christopher had not sent John Shattuck to the region four times in the last five or six weeks, if we had not been the leading country to turn information over to the War Crimes Tribunal, if we had not given the War Crimes Tribunal 23 people to help it do its work, if we hadn't given it $8.5 million this year, then I think all of you could sit there and say, you're not supporting the War Crimes Tribunal.
Name a country that's done more. Let's even go back about -- remember, the debate about the creation of the Tribunal itself. There are a number of countries who said, "Don't create this kind of institution." The United States said, "We must create this kind of institution."
So to posit a situation, or to construct a situation where somehow -- and here's the criticism that I'm hearing today from this briefing. The United States Government has two competing priorities: peace and justice, and we're favoring peace. It's wrong. We are acting on behalf of peace in having led the way towards Dayton, led the way towards the cease-fire, led the way from relief for the people of Sarajevo, sponsoring the peace talks, and committing on the record that we'll have young Americans go and help implement the peace once it's achieved.
Those are commitments that we've made that we're following through.
We've also made public commitments to Judge Goldstone and to the War Crimes Tribunal, which we are living up to. We've invited him here to talk with us next week, and we're going to show him great respect, and we have a great interest in what he is doing.
There is no zero-sum game here. There aren't competing trade-offs. We've got to pursue both.
Q Reconstruction loans is a part of the talks? I was just curious.
MR. BURNS: The issue of reconstruction, of economic development, of reconstructing the infrastructure of Bosnia-Herzegovina are a part of what is being discussed at Dayton and will become very important once a peace is signed. These are some of the issues that Ambassador Bob Gallucci is going to be leading on in the United States Government and with our partners.
Are we still on Bosnia? I know there are some other issues that people want to get to.
Q One more.
MR. BURNS: Roy, you have a question on David Rohde, and, Bill, you have a question. Okay, let's take them one at a time.
Q Any indication that the Serbs are going to press additional charges against him, such as spying?
MR. BURNS: We have no way of knowing what the Serbs are going to do -- the Bosnian Serbs who are holding him. But they should listen to the message from the United States, and that is release him. This is an important issue for us. A person has been detained unjustly. He should be released.
Q Has there been any feedback from the various letters and requests and appeals that have been sent out in the last week? I mean, --
MR. BURNS: We have had all sorts of conversations with Milosevic, with Koljevic, with Buha, with other officials in the region. I can't go into all of them, but we are pressing every angle and every opportunity to secure his release.
Q Is there any consideration being given to slowing the pace of the talks until they do release him, and also the French pilots?
MR. BURNS: That would reward thugs among the Pale leadership and we are not going to do that.
Q Does the Pale leadership as represented in Dayton actually have influence and control over their counterparts in the Republic of Srpske?
MR. BURNS: The proof will be in their actions.
Q Well, so far they don't.
MR. BURNS: The proof will be in their actions, and we are looking for actions not just good promises.
Bill, a final question on Bosnia, and then we are going to leave Bosnia forever.
Q This may open up something, I don't know.
MR. BURNS: I hope not.
Q I hope it closes it. Nick, can you say at this time, have you heard from Mr. Galbraith or Mr. Holbrooke about the threats of the Croatian government to take action at the end of this month in Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: We have seen some of the public statements out of Zagreb. There is a negotiating channel available to the Croatians and to the Serbs on this issue. There is no justification whatsoever to threaten the use of force or to use force to resolve this problem.
It can be resolved at Dayton. It should be resolved at Dayton, and that is our intention.
Q Do we believe that this is -- does this government believe that this is posturing or a real problem, and will there be a crisis in 23 days in Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see on that. We are relying on the good will and the commitments made by both governments.
Q Do you have any further information on the state of President Yeltsin's health?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on that, Betsy, is that President Clinton saw Prime Minister Chernomyrdin just after Prime Minister Rabin's funeral yesterday and burial in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told the President that President Yeltsin was feeling better.
That's good news for the United States and for all Americans, as well as for all Russians. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that President Yeltsin is looking forward to continuing his direct work and direct dialogue with President Clinton.
I would lead you away from drawing too many conclusions from leaked information, or too many conclusions based on what the United States Government thinks or doesn't think. It really doesn't matter what the United States Government thinks about President Yeltsin's health, because frankly I'm not convinced that we have the best view of his health. I think his doctors do. I think government officials in Russia do. I'd listen to those people as they describe President Yeltsin's health, and I direct you to them for an authoritative account of his health.
Our position is clear. President Clinton has written him. We have great sympathy for him. He has been ill now twice in the last couple of months. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery, and we hope very much he will be able to return to his full duties as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we are working very well with many members of his government. We are getting a lot of business done with them, and U. S.- Russian relations are on stable footing.
Q Can you tell me if they have requested any outside medical help in treating him from the U.S. or from other sources?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any request made by the Russian Government. But then again, I wouldn't be in a position to be aware of all requests. That is really a question for those who speak for the Russian Government.
Q Does the U. S. Government believe that Yeltsin suffered a serious heart attack?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have any reliable information about the nature of his heart problem. We have descriptions of the ischemia problem from his doctors and from the Russian Government. Obviously we have a great interest in this because he is a very important leader to the United States, a very important country.
But, Elaine, after having worked for five years on Russian affairs, and having seen the type of information that we can produce, I would really put a lot of weight on what you hear from Moscow as opposed to Washington on this issue.
Q You say that you are not aware of any requests by the Russians, but does that rule out the option of the United States offering aid? Has the United States offered any aid to Russia?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you on that.
Q Will Dennis Ross or somebody else be going out shortly to the region?
MR. BURNS: Well, Dennis Ross returned with the President and the Secretary to Washington. I think they got in around 4:30 in the morning, 5:00 in the morning.
The Secretary, as is his style, was able to catch some sleep on the plane. He is back at his desk and was at his desk mid-morning. He is now working on a number of issues.
I know that the Secretary returned with a very heavy heart from Jerusalem. He had enormous respect for Prime Minister Rabin, deeply felt, personal respect. They had a very successful relationship.
I think President Clinton, of course, spoke for all Americans yesterday about his relationship and the feeling of all Americans. I think what I would say, Roy, on the question of the Middle East today is that the President's message to the Israeli public yesterday, as well as to the Arab countries, was that the United States will continue to act on behalf of peace; that everybody in the region has an interest in promoting peace; and that is always where the United States will be.
Q Does this translate into any specific request to Secretary Christopher to prepare or to have some brainstorming or to send somebody out -- in other words, on how to carry on the legacy?
MR. BURNS: Again, I think we have to respect the great trauma that Israelis are feeling. There is a seven-day period of mourning. Acting Prime Minister Peres must now form a new government. There will be the appointment of some senior ministers in that government who will have important portfolios concerning Middle East peace.
I think we have to let the Israeli Government and the Israeli people work their way through these issues and through this great national trauma over the next couple of days. I don't think it will be helpful for the United States to begin giving them public advice about what they should and should not do.
But I don't want to lead you with the impression that we are just trying to avoid comment. We have a very clear view of American national interest in the Middle East. We have a clear national strategy that is meant to pursue peace between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, to help Israel and the Palestinian community work out their differences in implementing the two agreements that have been signed.
You can be assured that the United States Government under President Clinton and Secretary Christopher's leadership will be pursuing that policy very aggressively. But I have nothing to announce by way of visits or meetings or initiatives.
I think we have got to give Acting Prime Minister Peres some room here to form a new government, and for the Israeli people to cope with the disaster that many of us would equate to what happened to the United States in l963 when President Kennedy was killed. This is an enormous trauma and we have to respect that.
Q Do you have anything on the NATO Secretary General's contest?
MR. BURNS: No news. It's very important to the United States who the next NATO Secretary General will be because of the great challenges that NATO is going to face, George, over the next couple of months, much less the next couple of years.
Secretary Christopher has done a lot of work on this. Over the weekend he had conversations with four or five of his foreign ministerial counterparts in Europe. There were a number of conversations after the funeral and burial in Jerusalem yesterday as people had quick meetings with each other, as both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher did.
I would just remind you of what we have been saying. You are probably sick of me saying this, but I think I ought to say it for those of you who haven't heard it. The United States is a leading member of NATO, a leading military power. We have a direct interest in achieving a NATO consensus on the issue of the next Secretary General.
We are working very hard on this problem. There are a number of candidates who have surfaced publicly, at least two. There are other people who have been discussed throughout this process; and we hope to achieve as soon as we can a NATO consensus around one individual -- a strong, experienced person -- to lead NATO into the next century.
Q Is the United States trying to slow down the Lubbers bandwagon?
MR. BURNS: I think it would be unhelpful for me, George, to comment on any individual candidates because before a consensus is reached, we don't want to do that. We don't want to put ourselves in the position of saying we like this person or we don't like that person. So I just don't want to comment on that.
Q Are you suggesting there are other candidates? Yesterday you suggested there were other candidates perhaps being considered. Are additional interviews being contemplated with the Secretary?
MR. BURNS: Well, Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Ellemann-Jensen are declared candidates, declared by their governments. They are publicly announced candidates. There are a number of other individuals who have been discussed.
Secretary Christopher, who is coordinating this effort, feels very strongly that there has to be a -- of course you want to know the person that you are agreeing to for such an important position.
There are some candidates that he knows well. There are others that he hasn't known well, and a few of them were Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Ellemann-Jensen, both of whom served in senior positions really before the Secretary came into office. So that is why he wanted to take the opportunity to invite them to lunch and breakfast last week, as he did.
If, in the future, the consensus forms around one candidate, which I hope and know it will, then of course we'll want to have a comfort level about who that person is and our own experiences with that person.
Q Has the Secretary met, or does he have plans to meet with any unannounced candidate for the position?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that he's met with any unannounced candidate for the position.
I really can't answer the next question, because we'll just have to take that as it comes. He wants to make sure that he has a very good sense of the views of these candidates on NATO enlargement, on the deployment of NATO forces to secure a Bosnian peace, on a number of the other challenges confronting NATO. If it's necessary for him to meet someone personally, he'll do that. I just don't know if that will happen or not because I'm not sure where -- none of us are sure today what kind of consensus NATO is going to reach.
Q Is NATO sending out questionnaires?
MR. BURNS: No. I can tell you that no questionnaires have been sent out to anybody.
Q You know, it's kind of a mystery, because there are no other candidates.
MR. BURNS: It's meant to be. This is one of those situations where we have to wait for the smoke to rise and see what color smoke it is.
It's a consensus operation. The United States, led by Secretary Christopher, is talking every day to our senior colleagues in Europe. Ambassador Hunter, our Ambassador to NATO, has had daily conversations with his counterparts. We've had a million conversations; we may have a few million more before this is settled.
It is a little bit mysterious; it's meant to be mysterious. This is consensus. The United States cannot decide on a candidate and say, "This is who it's going to be." France cannot do that either, by the way. So both countries, as well as all the other members of NATO, have to get together and decide on one candidate together by consensus.
Q Are we looking for additional candidates is my question.
MR. BURNS: Are we looking for -- ?
Q Additional candidates.
MR. BURNS: We're going to consider whoever seems to be the best choice, and we're going to have a consensus-type set of discussions about that where you bounce ideas off other countries and you share opinions of certain people. Then, sooner or later, countries coalesce around a single candidate and we announce it. That's how the process works.
Q (Inaudible) looked at themselves as candidates, and nobody else has. You say that there are other candidates. It sounds like you're out there beating the bushes trying to find somebody else.
MR. BURNS: We're not beating the bushes. (Laughter) There are a lot of very impressive Europeans, including Mr. Lubbers and Mr. Ellemann-Jensen, who would do very well in the post.
You see, we're getting back to the initial conversation we had today day about Bosnia. I can't share all the information that we have in the Government on this, but you wouldn't expect me to. You'd be disappointed in me if I did, I think.
Q We already do. (Laughter) Also surprised.
MR. BURNS: Also surprised.
Q Can we change the subject? I'd like to know -- a Ministry spokesman in Cuba talked yesterday about changes in new regulations to Cuban Americans traveling to the island, and I would like to know your position on putting regulations on Cuban citizens by the U.S. Government.
MR. BURNS: We've seen the press reports about this conclave that was organized by the Cuban Government with some of the exile community here in the United States and elsewhere throughout the world. We have not been told by the Cuban Government that there will be any change in the Cuban Government regulations that currently inhibit American citizens of Cuban origin, or other American citizens, from traveling to Cuba. We've not been told specifically about any new initiatives. We've just seen the same press reports that you have.
But let me just raise a pertinent point here. If there is to be a change in the regulations that currently inhibit a lot of Americans of Cuban ancestry from traveling to Cuba, I think that the Cuban Government has to be mindful of one thing. It's a totalitarian dictatorship. It has chosen to deny entry to many Cubans living abroad whose political beliefs it deems unacceptable.
That, of course, is a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's a direct violation of international law, and it stands against everything that the American people believe in.
So if there is going to be any change, we would hope it would be across-the-board change, evenly applied, so that the Cuban Government wouldn't pick out some of the most vociferous critics of the Cuban Government living in Florida or New Jersey or elsewhere and deny them entry based on what they've said in a free country -- the United States.
Q They explain that they don't want enemies of the revolution, and people that have not been involved in hostile acts will not have any problem entering Cuba. Are you going to ask for them to explain what they mean -- whether that means a demonstration in Hialeah, or they mean --
MR. BURNS: I think you've asked a very good question. I mean as a dictatorship, a totalitarian dictatorship -- which is what the Cuban Government is -- they have an obligation to explain to the Cuban American community what they mean by that.
Those are two kind of code words and slogans from the Cold War. That sounds like a fairly broad definition to me. Anyone who's spoken out against the Cuban Government, I would wager, might fit into either one of those descriptions.
We think that any change of policy worth it's salt, if it's going to be meaningful and constructive, has got to allow critics of the Cuban Government -- as well as those who may favor the Cuban Government -- to travel to Cuba.
That's really a question that the Cuban Government has got to answer.
Q Nick, I think from the other end there's a group this morning that plans to travel through Mexico to Cuba, defying the U.S. Treasury regulations that attempt to discourage these kinds of trips. Do you have any problem with that?
MR.BURNS: Problem with?
Q With Americans traveling to Cuba without getting Treasury licenses.
MR. BURNS: Frankly, on that one, I was not aware of this convention -- this meeting -- before it took place. As you know, in our system the Department of Treasury is responsible for licensing Americans to travel to Cuba. So I'm going to have to refer you to what kind of criteria the Treasury was using as it looked at all these applicants last week and what decisions the Treasury Department made.
The fact is that a lot of American citizens were able to travel to Cuba for this meeting. It was a fairly large meeting. The State Department certainly didn't stand in the way of anyone to travel.
But on specific questions pertaining to licensing, that really is not for me to talk about. It's for the Department of Treasury.
Q One more.
MR. BURNS: Actually, Bill, let me be fair to some of the other people who had their hands up.
Q A question on China. Do you have any comment on the Chinese plans to conduct two separate large-scale military exercises on the eve of Taiwan's legislative and presidential elections?
MR. BURNS: I have not been informed of those military exercises, so therefore I'm going to decline to comment on them. I'm not aware that the United States Government knows about them.
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to, yes.
Q Today the servicemen in Okinawa are going on trial. The families of the defendants came out and they made a number of allegations; and essentially they're saying "Well, racism is going to enter into this," but the other main problem is that a number of statements -- the apology by Perry and a number of other statements that have come from different spokesmen here -- may have biased the trial. Is it the State Department's feeling that they are getting a fair trial?
MR. BURNS: We're confident that the trial will be -- the examinations of the question of the outrageous incident in Okinawa, the rape of a l2-year-old girl, will be carried out in a full and fair way by the Japanese Government.
The suspects are charged under Japanese law with arrest and confinement, and with rape resulting in injury. It's our understanding that the length of the trial and the scheduling of future court sessions are at the discretion of the court. We understand the next session has been scheduled for early December.
In Japan, an individual found guilty of rape may receive a sentence of up to life imprisonment, although we understand that in the past those convicted of this crime often are sentenced to shorter jail terms.
The United States is confident that the trial will be carried out in a full and fair way, that the guilt or innocence of the three servicemen charged in this case will be judged according to the evidence.
The United State Government was profoundly disturbed by this incident. There's a deep sense of outrage in our Government about the fact that a young girl was violated. There's a deep sense of shame in the United States Government, which I think Secretary Perry has spoken to very effectively and very sincerely over the last couple of months. The incident was an aberration in the close, supportive relationship that the United States and Japan have enjoyed for many decades. When the President and Secretary Christopher travel to Japan next week, they certainly will carry with them this sense of strong commitment to the U.S.-Japan security relationship and a strong commitment to see that justice is done.
Justice is in the hands of the Japanese courts and the Japanese system, and we think that the Japanese will carry out this trial in a full and fair and equitable way.
Q George Moose is running around Angola and he said that, I think, President dos Santos is coming here in December. Is there any plan to bring Jonas Savimbi here to try to resolve some of those differences?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Moose is in Africa. He's traveling to a number of African countries, including Angola. I don't know if we have such plans, but I'll be glad to check into it, Ron.
Q I have one more on the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Let me just go back here for one more.
Q Yesterday, Mr. Burns, you mentioned the United States delegation to the APEC meeting which will take place next week in Osaka. But recently it is whispered that President Clinton might cancel his trip to Osaka. Is there any possibility of cancellation of his trip?
MR. BURNS: I have no indication of that. We're looking forward to the APEC Leaders Meeting, as well as to the state visit by President Clinton to Japan. Of course, you really ought to ask the White House about that, but I have absolutely no indication of that.
A final question.
Q One more.
MR. BURNS: Then we'll call it a day.
Q: Okay. Thank you, Nick. This comes from a UPI wire from Damascus a couple of hours ago. It says that Farouk al-Shara told Warren Christopher (sic) that Warren Christopher had relayed Mr. Rabin's decision to freeze peace talks with Syria until the Israeli elections in April. Can you confirm or shed any light on this?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that, no, not in any way, shape, or form.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:24 p.m.)
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