U.S. Department of State 95/11/08 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, November 8, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Statements Georgian Presidential and Parliamentary Elections .......1 Foreign Policy Address by Deputy Secretary Talbott ......1 Secretary Christopher's Welcoming Remarks at OSAC Conference ............................................2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA NATO-Led Implementation Force ...........................2 Future Roles Of Indicted War Criminals ..................2-3,7-10,16-18 Participation of President Milosevic in the Peace Talks .3-4 Case of David Rohde .....................................4-6 A/S Shattuck's Travel In Region .........................6-7,18 U.S. Support of the War Crimes Tribunal .................10 --Definition of "War Crimes" ............................11 --Provision of Evidence to the Tribunal .................11-16 --Judge Goldstone's Trip to the U.S. ....................13-14 --International Support of the War Crimes Tribunal ......19-21 Human Rights Abuses .....................................22 Reported Constitutional Principles/Division of Territory.22-24 Possibility of a Peace Agreement ........................29,30 Secretary Christopher's Trips to Dayton .................30 CHINA Reported Plan to Conduct Military Exercises .............24 Dispute Over the Panchen Lama ...........................24-26 RUSSIA Safety of Nuclear Power Plants ..........................26-27 Compliance with CFE Treaty ..............................27 JAPAN Secretary Christopher's Luncheon with Japanese Ambassador ............................................28 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS ...............................28-29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1995, 1:12 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of short announcements and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
The United States congratulates President-elect Eduard Shevardnadze on his election on November 5th as President of the Republic of Georgia. According to preliminary results, President-elect Shevardnadze won over 70 percent of the votes cast.
While figures from the parliamentary elections are incomplete, it appears that parties from across Georgia's political spectrum will be represented in the new Georgian parliament. All parties are to be commended for their lively and constructive contributions to the dialogue on key issues during the campaign.
We congratulate the Georgian government and the people of Georgia on the first elections held under the nation's new constitution that was adopted, as you remember, just over two months ago. Approximately 65 percent of the people of Georgia participated in the elections, which have been described by the OSCE as being consistent with democratic norms. The elections provide ample evidence of the commitment of President Shevardnadze and the Georgian government to democratic principles.
We are looking forward to working with Eduard Shevardnadze and the people of Georgia as they continue to try to promote economic and political reform in their country.
Secondly, let me just note that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is going to deliver a foreign policy address entitled "U.S. Leadership in Meeting the Challenge of the Former Yugoslavia." That will be at the National Press Club tomorrow, Thursday, November 9th at l:00 p.m.
In addition, I think you know from the schedule that we put out this morning, Secretary Christopher will be making welcoming remarks at 2:l5, about an hour from now, in the Loy Henderson Auditorium for the participants in the Overseas Security Advisory Council Conference.
And with that --
Q Will there be Q and A after the Secretary's --
MR. BURNS: No, there won't. This is -- you know, the press is free to go in and witness this, but this is really welcoming remarks to the participants in the conference, so he is not planning to take questions.
Q The Secretary said last week it would be very difficult for NATO to deploy troops if Karadzic and Mladic were still around, and today there is a report in the Times quoting Administration officials as saying the Secretary misspoke.
Do you want to deal with that one?
MR. BURNS: You want me to answer a question as to whether or not the Secretary misspoke. That's interesting.
Q It's your job description. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Is that it, Norm? (Laughter)
The Secretary's comments, I think, speak for themselves, and I have spoken about those comments many times in the days after his comments.
The facts are that the United States is going to participate in a NATO-led implementation force if a peace agreement is reached. We firmly believe that Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic as indicted war criminals have no place in a future government in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In fact, we think that their continued presence in command positions -- I think those are the words that the Secretary used last Wednesday in Dayton -- would be inconsistent with any agreement that was reached by the parties in Dayton.
It is inconceivable to us that they would remain in power after a peace agreement is reached. This is a very clear position. It has been enunciated many times in public.
It has also been communicated, by the way, to the parties in Dayton and it is well known to the participants in the Dayton peace talks.
Q How do you account for the different voices on this issue?
MR. BURNS: Well, it is always hard to account for people who speak on background and don't want to go on the record. There are lots and lots of articles that have background comments by Administration officials. It is very hard to deal with them, because you don't know who you are talking about.
I can tell you quite authoritatively that we have a clear policy on this, that it ought to be clear from everything we have said over the last week, and that we were making these points in private meetings well before the Secretary spoke last week in Dayton.
Q (Inaudible) accepted by all the parties in Dayton?
MR. BURNS: Would you think that they would be?
Q I assume if you are discussing --
MR. BURNS: I think these are very tough points for some people to accept, but they are points that are important for the United States, important for the parties, because we are interested here in two things coming out of the Dayton peace process.
We are interested in a peace agreement. We are also interested in seeing that justice is served, and justice will not be served if people who are indicted for brutalities, for allegations of major war crimes against the civilian population in Bosnia-Herzegovina, if those people who are indicted are not held accountable for their crimes, and if they are not prosecuted for their crimes.
As a member of the United Nations and as the largest and strongest supporter of the War Crimes Tribunal, the United States has an obligation and will see it through to the end to assist the War Crimes Tribunal to do its job.
Q My question is whether, for example, Mr. Milosevic may have found this so difficult to accept in the context in which it has arisen that he has threatened to leave and that somehow he had to be talked into staying?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that he has threatened to leave. In fact, every report that I have from Carl Bildt and from Dick Holbrooke is that President Milosevic is fully engaged in these talks.
Just last evening he was invited to a dinner by French Ambassador Jacques Blot at a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, a French restaurant, oddly enough, and they had a good conversation, and today Mr. Milosevic is back into discussions, very intensive discussions on all the issues -- the constitutional issues, the elections, the refugee issues, the territorial issues, and the peace agreement issues.
So, Roy, I don't know where these reports are coming from, but, again, we are dealing here with people who do not want to put themselves on the record. They are unnamed, pretty murky. They are contradictory, and I think you can be assured that President Milosevic has been fully involved in these peace talks from the word go.
Q In other words, this issue has not blocked the talks. In fact, they are proceeding as if it has already been resolved on this issue?
MR. BURNS: It's a very important issue. I'm not going to hide the fact that it is a contentious issue in these discussions. Of course, you would expect it to be a contentious issue. But the United States has a very clear position on this issue in these talks.
Now, since we are on the subject of Bosnia, I want to say a few things about the talks today, but let me start first with David Rohde.
Q Could we pursue this point for a second before you go off on something else?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to come back to it, and I want to do that, but we spent about 25 minutes on this point yesterday, so I will definitely come back to it, Sid. But let me just talk about David Rohde.
Q (Inaudible) since yesterday, Nick. I mean, it's our briefing.
MR. BURNS: It's my briefing, too, Sid, so let me just say what I want to say on David Rohde, okay, and then I'll be glad to come back to it.
We did spend, I would think, Roy, you would agree, we spent a considerable amount of time on this subject yesterday, and I'll be glad to go back to it.
On David Rohde, the United States is very pleased, and we are relieved that he is well and that he has been released by the Bosnian Serbs. Secretary Christopher called him in Belgrade immediately after he reached our Embassy there. During that phone call -- the Secretary was over at the White House -- President Clinton got on the line and congratulated Mr. Rohde. He congratulated him for his bravery in facing the ordeal that he had over the last ten days or so. He congratulated him for his safe release.
The President and the Secretary both asked him about the conditions of his detention. They said that the American people have supported him and they thanked him for his bravery.
Now, Mr. Rohde, in all the conversations with the President and with the Secretary -- and I had a very long conversation with him after that phone call -- was very grateful to the United States Government for our support for him, for our effort to have him released.
He said, interestingly enough, and he will probably say this when he talks to the press in Belgrade -- he said he hoped he hadn't screwed up the Dayton talks, and he was assured by the President and the Secretary of State that he had not done so; that in fact the issue here, which is press freedom, the issue of access to the sites of human rights abuses in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a very important one for the United States, and that in fact I think we thought a good lesson had been learned by the Bosnian Serbs and the Serb delegation, and that is that Westerners need to have access to their region in order to investigate what happened in Srebrenica and Zepa and in Banja Luka.
He told us that he was in good health. He is very tired. He was deprived of sleep at least one night during his incarceration. He faced almost continuous interrogation by the Bosnian Serbs who held him, but he kept his cool and kept his composure and he said he had some indications from some phone calls that he had last week that his release might be imminent.
We first learned of his imminent release early this morning in Belgrade when our Charge d'Affaires in our Embassy in Belgrade was informed by the Serbian Ministry of Interior that he was to be released.
I understand that President Milosevic instructed the Serbian Ministry of Interior to drive to the town of Bijeljina, which is where he was being held, and to get him out of jail, which they did, and to drive him back to Belgrade.
At that point, when he reached Belgrade, Larry Butler picked him up, brought him back to the Embassy where he had his phone call with the President and the Secretary.
He has been given a release by the Serbian Government. In fact, he was even given a release form that was signed by the Serbian Ministry of Interior allowing him to stay in Belgrade if he wishes. There are no restrictions on his activities in Belgrade, although I do expect that he will be returning shortly to the United States, and he will be remaining in Belgrade at least for tonight. He is going to be staying with our Charge, Mr. Butler. He is going to have some chili and some Tuborg beer, I understand, before he returns to the United States.
I would just conclude discussion of Mr. Rohde by saying, as we look back at this incident, it was an outrageous example of dictatorial behavior, of a lack of rule of law in the region governed by the Bosnian Serbs. It was an outrageous episode.
But thanks to the efforts of our government and thanks to the efforts of the United Nations, the United Nations was very helpful to us over the weekend, he is now released, and I think some thanks should go to President Milosevic for having intervened with the Bosnian Serbs to have him released.
As for today, at Dayton, I understand from Carl Bildt, with whom I talked just a minute ago, that President Tudjman is on his way back to Dayton. He will be arriving in Dayton late this evening.
Mr. Galbraith and Mr. Stoltenberg, the special negotiators for the problem of Eastern Slavonia, will be staying in Eastern Slavonia. But with President Tudjman's return to Dayton, there will be an opportunity to resume at a very high level the important discussions on Eastern Slavonia.
Carl Bildt also said that the European Union delegation continues to focus on two issues principally, constitutional issues and federation issues, and those are a major focus for the European Union today.
Finally, John Shattuck, our Assistant Secretary of State in charge of human rights, has reached the Balkans. At Secretary Christopher's request, he has been in Zagreb and in Sarajevo, and he is now trying to reach Banja Luka.
His mission is to investigate the persistent and, we think, credible allegations of massive human rights violations by the Bosnian Serbs in July around Srebrenica and Zepa, and just in the past month around Banja Luka and Sanski Most.
If he develops information that we think is pertinent to the War Crimes Tribunal, then of course he will turn that information -- the United States will turn that information over to the War Crimes Tribunal.
He will in his talks with Serbian officials hold them to their commitments that Western journalists, as well as Western diplomats,. should have access to the sites where we believe these human rights violations took place.
He was also going out there to argue the case for the release of David Rohde. But happily, David Rohde has been released today.
That's a general update on the situation in Bosnia, and, Sid, I'll be very glad to go back to your questions.
Q Can President Milosevic on this constitutional issue -- I believe it is part of one of the drafts of the new constitution you all are discussing -- whether indicted war criminals can be -- can hold elected office.
Can Milosevic support that, and then not hand them over, and still get absolute sanctions relief?
MR. BURNS: This question of what happens to indicted war criminals is going to have to be decided in the Dayton Peace Talks. As we look at a future agreement, we cannot foresee an agreement that would permit these two people to stay in power, because we think it is simply inconceivable that they would continue to hold command positions, authoritative positions in a government after an agreement was reached because they are indicted. Any international force in the area would have the obligation to detain them and to arrest them and turn them over to the international War Crimes Tribunal.
As for the sanctions question, Sid, that is obviously an issue that is being discussed at Dayton. But under the ground rules that we have set down for these talks, I really can't get into what is happening on that issue, what is being negotiated. We'll just have to wait to see what kind of agreement is reached on that issue at the end of the talks.
Q Nick, can you foresee an agreement in which these two men could live in quiet retirement in Pale?
MR. BURNS: As I said before, Norm, the United States has several objectives as we negotiate our way through the Bosnian morass here in Dayton. One is to reach a peace agreement. That has to be a very high goal after four years of war. Because of our leadership, there is a cease-fire and because of our leadership there are peace talks. And perhaps with our leadership we'll be successful in helping the parties to achieve that first objective.
But an equally compelling and important objective is justice. One of the sordid features of the war has been the persistent abuses of civilians by the Bosnian Serbs. We think that indicted war criminals -- Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic are indicted war criminals by the United Nations and should face the international community -- we would not want to see them be able to live out their years in pleasure and in solitude without having to face their responsibilities.
Collective punishment is not the answer here. Individual accountability is the answer. If generals gave orders to slaughter civilians, they ought to answer in an international court. That is why the United States led the fight to create the War Crimes Tribunal. It's why we're the biggest supporter of the Tribunal.
Q Nick, a minute ago you said that if they were there -- Karadzic and Mladic -- that the international peacekeeping force would - - words to the effect -- have to find them and turn them over.
Earlier you stated, and others in the Administration, have stated that the international peacekeeping force is there to separate the forces and would not go hunt them down. Which is the policy?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly not inconsistent. Let me take you back to the Congressional testimony that Secretary Perry and Secretary Christopher had a couple of weeks ago.
It's very clear to us, as we think through the mandate for the military force that NATO will field after a peace agreement is signed, that the central mission for that force will be to separate the warring parties and to provide for the territorial integrity of the future state. They will not be engaged in the kind nation-building that unfortunately our military forces had to perform in Vietnam and in Somalia.
But Secretary Perry and Secretary Christopher were also quick to say -- and we've said since -- that if our forces in the course of performing their duties of separating the parties came across indicted war criminals, had encounters with them, then we have an obligation under international law to arrest them and turn them over to the proper U.N. authorities. That's an obligation we would take very seriously.
I think that's fully consistent, Charlie, with everything we've said over the last three or four weeks.
Q Just to follow it up, does that mission of arresting them if they "came across them" extend to going to look for them if they're hiding or if they get a report that they're in a village up in the hills somewhere? Does the mission of a NATO force extend to going after them?
MR. BURNS: I think that the future government of Bosnia- Herzegovina is going to have primary responsibility for dealing with this issue.
For your hypothetical situation, Charlie, there are 43 people who have been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. We understand that a great many more indictments are going to come from the Tribunal in the weeks to come. So therefore it's going to be up to the government that takes power, that is formed after a peace agreement is reached, to really have central responsibility for this.
We can't give our military an enormous number of duties to perform and expect that they can carry them all out effectively. So they're not going to have primary responsibility for searching for war criminals. But if they do encounter them, they'll have an obligation, and they will arrest them. I think that is fully consistent with what the two Secretaries said a few weeks back.
Q Nick, speaking of that subject, are there any provisions yet or thought being given to prevent these 41-or-so Bosnian-indicted war criminals from going on the international lam, so to speak, ahead of an agreement, ahead of a peacekeeping force being there to deal with them?
MR. BURNS: It's an interesting question, Steve. I don't know where they would go. There are a few pariah states, I guess, that are left in the world where they could perhaps hide, but those pariah states are very far from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
All of the United Nations members -- in Europe, in Central Europe and in Eastern Europe, in the former Soviet Union -- could not harbor them under international law. They would be fully obligated by international law to detain them and arrest them and not allow them seek refuge in their country.
While we're on to this, I want to restate a couple of points from our discussion yesterday. And I'm glad, Roy or Sid, to go into this if you care to, because there was a very interesting article in the New York Times this morning about United States obligations to the War Crimes Tribunal. I think it's fair to say that there is a lot of unhappiness in the Administration about that article because we think it is factually inaccurate.
But let me just go through this, and I'll be glad to take questions on it. The United States is the strongest supporter of the War Crimes Tribunal. That's not just rhetoric. There were some influential countries that did not favor the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal. The United States successfully argued that there had to be in order to meet this objective of justice at the end of the war.
We have detailed 23 American Government officials to The Hague to comprise the vast majority of the staff of the War Crimes Tribunal. We have provided $12.3 million to the Tribunal. We are the sole, large financial contributor to that organization.
We are providing, and have provided, thousands of pages of information to the Tribunal -- information that we have independently collected on suspected war crimes. We are in constant touch with Judge Goldstone. He's going to be here next week. He's going to be seen at a very high level of our government.
If the United States has intelligence information pertaining to human rights abuses, we will find a way to provide that to the Tribunal. The Tribunal, and only the Tribunal, can decide who has committed a war crime, who should be indicted, who should be prosecuted for war crimes. The United States can use our intelligence resources, as well as our diplomatic resources, to make sure that the Tribunal has sufficient information to indict and to convict.
I can assure you that if we have any information, whether it's open-source information, unclassified information, or intelligence information that we believe is pertinent to the question of war crimes, we will find a way to get that to Judge Goldstone. That is a message that we will communicate to him when he's here next week.
We obviously will have an interest in protecting sources of information, as we always do, pertaining to the intelligence realm. But we have an obligation to do this, and we will do it.
Q One of the questions that that raises is, how you define "war crimes." If the Serb army sends in forces and attacks and conquers a safe area and then subsequently there are war crimes, there's a question there: Does the fact that the Serb army from Serbia has helped constitute information that you would want to supply to Justice Goldstone?
MR. BURNS: Again, Roy, I think the most important thing to remember here is that the international community -- the United Nations -- decided that we would not individually try people suspected of war crimes -- not individually as countries -- that we would establish one tribunal to establish a standard for what a war crime is, to collect information, to indict, and to prosecute. That's a very important fact.
The United States cannot independently make a decision to indict someone for war crimes. We don't have a legal purview to do that. We have, in effect, turned that duty over to the War Crimes Tribunal. The Tribunal must decide what constitutes a war crime. I don't think this is a terribly difficult business, however.
If you look at some of the incidents that are now being investigated by the War Crimes Tribunal, the fact that 6,000 to 8,000 men and boys disappeared from Srebrenica and Zepa after the slaughter of both cities in July, and the way that they were exterminated, the way that they were incarcerated, obviously, in our view, constitutes a war crime.
The fact that in Banja Luka, just last month, 100 people were executed in a cement factory by the Bosnian Serb military, in our mind, constitutes a war crime. There are certainly, unfortunately, plenty of examples from 1991 and 1992.
So I don't think the question here -- at least, for those of us working on it in the government, Roy -- is what constitutes a war crime. I think the Tribunal has had a fairly broad definition of that issue.
The problem is, can you collect sufficient information to indict and can you then detain people and arrest them in order to prosecute them.
Q These crimes take place in the context of military support, under the protection of military support that has come over a period from Serbia -- from Yugoslavia.
So does the military support constitute evidence, if you have the evidence, that you would turn over? Or will you only turn over evidence of a specific crime, in a very limited context?
Q MR. BURNS: We're going to turn over all the information that we believe fits into the broad definition of a war crime. But in addition, and as you know from a letter that has been made public by Judge Goldstone, he has now requested -- made at least 25 additional requests of the United States for information. If he requests information of any nature, we'll look at that request seriously. We'll provide as much information as we can. I told you yesterday that the political signals being sent through this government -- from the White House and from the Seventh Floor, from Secretary Christopher -- are, to all of us in this building, cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal.
If Judge Goldstone comes to us and asks for specific information about secondary support, then if we have that information, we'll provide it.
As I said today, even if that information is in the intelligence realm, we'll find a way to provide it.
Q Michael McCurry said yesterday some information has been withheld from the Tribunal for national security reasons. You're saying now, a way will be found to --
MR. BURNS: I'm saying a way is going to be found. As we reflect on this question, George, and reflect on the conversations that we've all had about this over the last couple of days, it seems to us that we have a obligation, a moral obligation, and a legal obligation to the War Crimes Tribunal to help it do its work. If that means that some of the information that would be considered to be national security information is pertinent, then we'll find a way to get that information to them.
We will -- and I want to be careful to say this -- we will make sure that the sources of that information are protected. That is an obligation that we have, and that is standard practice. But we do have an interest and obligation to assist the Tribunal in any way that we can.
Q So, Nick, you're saying now that there were items you did not turn over because of national security reasons, but a decision was taken in the last day or so -- perhaps since the New York Times article came out -- that you will now attempt to turn that information over?
MR. BURNS: No, not exactly, Sid. In essence, I believe that we have met almost every request. We've tried to meet almost every request that Judge Goldstone has made of us.
It's true that in a recent communication, he pointed out that there had been a lag time; there had been delays, in some cases up to several months, between his request and the provision of the information. He let our people in The Hague know that there were some requests for information that were still outstanding. I don't think it is fair to say that we have consciously or consistently decided that we're not going to produce this set of information to him.
I think what he has requested is a speedier performance from some parts of the U.S. Government and on certain questions. I think he would be the first to say -- and I'm sure he'll be glad to tell you when he's here next week -- that there has been no country that has consistently provided more information than the United States.
We're not talking about an abrupt change here. We're simply talking about clarifying for you what the dimensions of our response will be. That's a very important clarification.
Q Nick, if you've gone over this, just refer me to it. Why is Judge Goldstone coming next week, and who requested that he come? He said he would meet with senior officials. Can you tell us who he will be meeting with?
MR. BURNS: He's coming because we have very close coordination with him. He is now facing -- he has already indicted 43 people. We understand that many more indictments will be coming down the road. We're his biggest supporter.
John Shattuck and others can provide him, we hope, additional information that will bolster his case. He's been invited here to have a series of discussions with us on these issues. He'll be seen at a very senior level. I don't have any specific announcements to make, but he'll be seen, certainly, at the Cabinet level and at several different agencies around town. He's a very respected figure. As you know, he's a South African jurist. He's done a magnificent job under very difficult circumstances in creating a new Tribunal with very limited resources, and he faces a major challenge and we support him in that.
Q The Administration has invited him?
MR. BURNS: We've invited him to come, yes.
Q Was it Secretary Christopher's idea?
MR. BURNS: I think it was probably Assistant Secretary Shattuck's initiative, but it's fully supported by Secretary Christopher. Secretary Christopher is well aware of his trip and well aware of everything we're talking about this morning.
Q Will the Secretary have time, before he goes to Japan, to either see Judge Goldstone or to go to Dayton?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, it looks like the Secretary will be in Japan when Judge Goldstone is here. If that is, in fact, the case, then I would imagine that Deputy Secretary Talbott and John Shattuck and others would be meeting with him here at the State Department, but he'll be having meetings at other agencies here in town.
Q Just to really be clear on all of this, though. He is not going to be given carte blanche on all information the United States Government may or may not have about war crimes, as I understand what you're saying.
You're saying that he would make an attempt to meet all of his requests but there may be certain pieces of information that still would not go to him?
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that -- I don't think it would be useful for him if we emptied out the archives and all the computers and just gave him millions of pages of information. He needs to come to us and tell us what he needs; what kind of information that would help him build a case against a suspected war criminal. We're going to be responsive to every one of those requests.
In addition to that, we're volunteering information to him.
What I'm saying today is, if we believe that we have information that is pertinent to the charge of a war crime, even if that information is in the intelligence realm, we will find a way to supply it to him.
There is a challenge here, as I said before -- it's worth repeating -- to protect the sources of information that our intelligence community has, and we will do that. We think it's possible to do that.
I think Judge Goldstone will find that he will have 100 percent cooperation from this government.
Q Why yesterday you couldn't give us the same statement you are giving us now?
MR. BURNS: Because yesterday we got into this Kabuki dance over -- I was asked to say --
Q It's a really tough time for you to try to answer it --
MR. BURNS: It was a very tough time for me yesterday.
Q Today is clear.
MR. BURNS: The questions are much more clear today than they were yesterday.
But with all due respect -- Roy and I have had a very good dialogue over the last week. Let me just continue it in one respect.
You had an understandable urge to get me to talk about specific intelligence information. A lot of the questions yesterday were along the line, "Can you give us intercepts; can you give us this intelligence information or that?" As you know, I can't talk about intelligence information.
But when I reflected upon this overnight, I thought we can certainly give you a clear definition of the type of information that will be turned over without getting into the specifics. I will not answer questions that are specific in nature, and you wouldn't expect me to do that. You would be disappointed in me if I did that. I think you would. I think deep down you would.
Q Nick, as along we're going back over yesterday and today, there's one thing that gets us into the dreaded hypotheticals, but I want to try and bring it up anyway.
MR. BURNS: Okay, Charlie.
Q You've made it clear that you're pursuing two tracks here -- the political/diplomatic peace process in Dayton and also seeking justice.
You've now said that you're willing to make available, in one form or another, sooner or later, any information that would help in these matters pursuing justice.
If you had information that might bring a negative impact on Dayton, would you produce that in a timely way to pursue the second track of justice?
MR. BURNS: It's a hypothetical. As you know, we have an abhorrence of hypothetical questions here at the State Department, but let me try to help you, Charlie, because we want to be responsive; we want to be helpful to you.
The best thing I can do is to quote you something that President Clinton said recently which is pertinent to your question: "These indictments are not negotiable. Those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, must be tried and if found guilty, they must be held accountable." That's President Clinton's quote.
Let me just say that the Tribunal must be free to act in such a way that if the evidence leads in any direction, they have a right to go there and they have the right to follow it through; and they have a right to expect that the United States will help them do that, if we have pertinent information that can help, wherever it leads at whatever time.
We're not protecting anybody here. We have no interest in protecting anyone as part of this process. We have an interest in achieving peace and justice. The justice part of that equation is very important.
Q How do you enforce an agreement with the Bosnian Serbs if they're going to have their own army, their own justice system -- really, it looks like their own state -- even if they agree to it on paper? Since NATO is not planning to deploy in their territory, and Karadzic and Mladic would probably seek refuge there, how do you enforce that?
MR. BURNS: This is not going to be an easy task, Roy. I think you've asked a very good question, which presents a challenge to everybody involved. It may be that these indicted war criminals seek refuge in places where they can't be easily found.
But just like the war criminals from Nuremberg, the international community is not going to put a timetable on finding them and incarcerating them. If it takes a year, if it takes five years, the international community, led by the United Nations, will persist in the effort to find them.
Roy, it's not going to be possible for the United States military, if it deploys, to search high and low for these people and have that as part of their primary mandate. They've got to be responsible for separating the forces. That's the best way to ensure the peace. But all of us will have a responsibility to keep these issues alive, and that's a very important one.
Q But the question is, isn't there some sanction that will be applied to, say, whatever state or entity decides to give this kind of sanctuary?
MR. BURNS: That will be determined by the negotiations at Dayton. I can't sit here and tell you that it will or will not be included in the final agreement.
What the United States would like to see in the final agreement is a written obligation and commitment from all the parties to the peace agreement, if it is reached, that they will cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. That includes the Serbs; it includes the Bosnian Serbs as well as the Bosnian Government and the Croatian Government.
There has been a Croatian indicted for war crimes, as well as the 42 Bosnian Serbs.
That will be part of a peace agreement. The United States will argue very strongly that it's an important feature that should mark the agreement -- and mark the pattern of international behavior after an agreement is reached.
Q You're saying it's possible, then, that indicted war criminals could find refuge in the area of Bosnia that the Serbs control, and they could sign an agreement; everyone could be happy, but they could still be there?
MR. BURNS: I'm not saying that they should. I'm not saying that the government should allow that to happen. I'm just speaking pragmatically and realistically, that we could find ourselves in a position -- well, the same position that we're in today. There are 43 people indicted and only one or two have been arrested.
The two leading indicted war criminals are at large and, unfortunately, are at work, as we saw in Banka Luka and Sanski Most over the last month.
I think the United States will try to use its influence to make sure that every party that signs this agreement lives up to the commitments in those agreements, including the commitments on war crimes. But, in a realistic sense, we will have to deal with the situation as it unfolds, and we will persist in trying to find these people.
Q This is not a facetious question either. Do you know if at any time in recent diplomatic history there has been an attempt to run a peace negotiation and also an investigation, and perhaps more than investigation, of war crimes that involve people who are trying to make peace?
MR. BURNS: I think like everything else pertaining to Bosnia over the last four years, this is a rather unique situation. We do have these dual objectives -- peace and justice. They are proceeding simultaneously. We're equally concerned about both.
I can't really, off the top of my head, find a historical precedent for you.
We don't see any other alternative, Steve. We don't think it would be right for us to pursue a diplomatic strategy and negotiations and completely cast aside the question of who is responsible for the brutalization of the Bosnian Muslim population over the last four years and the massacre of tens of thousands of people. We can't cast that aside. We've got to pursue both as best we can. That's what we're doing.
Bill, I'll go to you next.
Q You're saying that the U.S. wants all parties not only to agree that war criminals can't hold office but that they will also agree to hand them over for trial? Would you expect that to be some sort of side agreement, or actually in the constitution?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what form it will take, because I can't foresee what all the annexes to the final peace agreement will be.
But in a general sense, it is a point that we are pushing, a very important point that we think should be included in some way in the negotiations.
Q This, I think, has a bearing. Mr. Shattuck is going into harm's way, into the stronghold of these war criminals. Is he going to be going to the burial sites, doing some digging? Who is going to protect him?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I think one thing you'll appreciate is that it is a very difficult environment from a security point of view. That's why I've decided not to talk about his itinerary. You'll understand why I'm not doing that.
But his mission is to investigate war crimes. To do that, you've got to go to the sites. I won't be talking about where he's been and what he has done until after he's done it.
Q Will he be protected?
MR. BURNS: We're obviously taking measures to protect him, given everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks in that region.
Q Can you expand a little bit on Ambassador Blot's dinner with Milosevic? And more precisely, whether, as a result of your daily discussions both on the French and the American side with the Serbs, the fate of the two French pilots is clearer now? Is this thing moving in the right direction?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Jacques Blot hosted a dinner at a French restaurant in Dayton last night for Milosevic, Izetbegovic, Silajdzic, Sacirbey, Milutinovic, Holbrooke, Bildt -- the whole crowd there at Dayton.
I understand from Carl Bildt that the atmosphere was good.
Certainly, the issue of the French pilots has been a consistent issue for France as well as for the United States -- as well as for France and other allies at the Dayton talks.
I understand from Dick Holbrooke that we have raised the issue of the French pilots at every opportunity with the Serbian delegation and with the Bosnian Serbs who are present in Dayton.
Unfortunately, Andre, I can't illuminate this issue for you any further than I have. I think the French Government has to speak to this. But we don't know what happened to these two French pilots who were shot down in September. We hope very much they are alive.
If they are alive, the Bosnian Serbs have an obligation to turn them over to France at the soonest opportunity.
Q On the French question -- another aspect of it -- can you say what the French and British position is vis-a-vis the War Crimes Tribunal, and how vigorously they think that option should be pursued? As I understand it, they have never been very enthusiastic about it.
MR. BURNS: I think I'll leave the honor of answering that question up to my counterparts in Paris and London.
Q But if you're sending them conflicting signals in Dayton, if you guys are telling them one thing and the French and the British are telling them something else --
MR. BURNS: I'm not saying that, Sid. I'm not saying any conflicting signals are sent. I'm not the Spokesman for the Government of France nor the Government of the United Kingdom. I speak for the United States, and I can tell you what our position is.
To go to your question -- I'll try to be helpful here. The Bosnian Serbs cannot be under the impression that there is weak international support for the War Crimes Tribunal. What they're hearing from the greatest power at those talks, and a power that has significant influence to affect events in the Balkans -- the United States -- is that this is a bottom-line issue for us; that we are going to support this Tribunal through thick and thin, and that we're going to do it consistently and effectively.
If they think they can harbor war criminals, if they think we're going to forgot about this or we're going to negotiate it away as part of the Dayton talks, they're wrong. These are non-negotiable issues, from a U.S. viewpoint, at Dayton.
Q What exactly is the bottom-line issue? There's two or three.
MR. BURNS: The bottom-line issue is that the international community will pursue the question of war crimes, including indictments and prosecutions. The United States Government will support the Tribunal in that effort.
Q I don't think there's any question that everyone is going to support it.
MR. BURNS: So therefore no mixed signals.
Q Yeah. But the question is how it's approached in the documents or in the talks. Is the bottom-line position that the parties agree to this or we're out?
MR. BURNS: Again, following the ground rules that we established here, I'm not going to get drawn into a discussion of what specifically is being discussed and negotiated at Dayton. That will all become clear at some point in the future.
Q Why can't you just say it's a bottom-line issue and --
MR. BURNS: It is a bottom-line issue.
Q It isn't clear to me what the bottom-line issue is.
MR. BURNS: Sid, you asked a question of whether or not there would be conflicting signals coming from the West, the NATO allies, on the question of human rights abuses. I think not. Because the strongest and the largest power in that equation, and the host of the peace talks, is publicly saying today and has said for the last week, this is an important bottom-line issue. That's a very clear signal that's been sent to Belgrade and to Pale.
Q Nick, I'm sorry to drag this out. I don't think anybody is against punishing people who have killed other people under these circumstances. You're saying it's a bottom-line issue, and it's not clear to me what the bottom-line issue is?
MR. BURNS: Let's refer back to this entire briefing and yesterday's briefing. I'll just try to summarize it and perhaps we can leave this and go on to Panchen Lama and other subjects.
Q There's a reason we keep coming back to it, Nick.
MR. BURNS: Let me just try to answer your question, Sid. I think I've been very clear and very forthcoming in saying that there is unqualified, uncontestable, strong support from the United States for the issue of how to deal with war crimes. It's on the table at Dayton. The United States put it on the table at Dayton last Wednesday and Thursday. We believe it should be part of a final peace agreement.
We believe these people should be hunted down and prosecuted and jailed. I don't know what could be clearer than that.
Q But do you think that should be part of the agreement, that we think they should be hunted down, prosecuted, and jailed --
MR. BURNS: Sid, you want me to describe the details of an agreement that does not yet exist. All I can tell you is that the United States position at these talks is that the issue of human rights and commitments to work with the War Crimes Tribunal should be part of a final agreement. We've said that consistently. We've not changed our view.
But if you ask, "What conditions will be attached to that, what will the language be?" I can't answer that because I'm not writing the final peace agreement. That's being done in privacy at Dayton.
When the peace agreement is reached, you'll see it there.
Q Can I just ask you on Banja Luka, that area. A couple of weeks ago you gave us this fairly detailed rundown. At that point, there was some 2,000 to 3,000 men missing. Any additional information on that since there?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately not. There was a prisoner exchange in Sanski Most last week. I think 324 Bosnian men and teenage boys were released as part of that. Some of those people were refugees from Banja Luka. They were forced from their homes. They were taken captive by the Bosnian Serbs, and they were forced into labor for the Bosnian Serb military.
We don't know what happened to many of the husbands and brothers of the women who made it to Sanski Most and Zenica. We don't know if they were executed, as were the people who fell after the rape of Srebrenica and Zepa. We don't know if they have been conscripted. We don't know if they have been engaged in forced labor, but we're looking for them.
We don't even have a very good, explicit sense of how many of them there are. But all of the refugees at Zenica have consistently told the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United States Government that their husbands and brothers are missing.
These people were driven from their homes and now they're missing. We have an obligation to help find them. That's why John Shattuck was sent by Secretary Christopher to the region.
Q The constitution that's under discussion....Picking up where Steve left off just now....It's kind of unclear to me how this new state of Bosnia is going to operate. Because I gather that the constitution provides for two armies in one state, which I don't think exists in any effective way anywhere on earth.
I know that Mr. Holbrooke has said again and again that this is not a partition of Bosnia. Two armies in one state implies a partition.
Secondly, I gather that the draft of the constitution that's been reported already by the Times and ABC News doesn't provide for any central control of the external borders. It leaves that to the entities. So it looks like in every way it is actually preparing for partition.
Can you explain how this is not going to be a partition?
MR. BURNS: I certainly don't want to comment on leaked documents, so I won't do that. I can't comment on the negotiations for the constitution because that's off the boards here.
I'll take you back to September when there was an agreement among the parties on draft constitutional principles that provided for a unitary state. It provided for a presidency, a high court, and a parliament. It was quite specific in talking about the distribution of power in that country. It was quite specific that we're talking about one country, one seat at the United Nations -- one country with two groups living in that country and a certain degree of autonomy within that structure.
But the details of that, Roy, are at the very heart of the negotiations at Dayton. Of course, you know I can't go into those.
Q David Owen, who has had some experience with this whole set of negotiations and who knows, I think, what's at stake here in Dayton, said the other day that it is a partition, basically, and he said "And a pure ethnic partition." He said, "All the worse for that, but at least it will bring peace."
MR. BURNS: He's free to say what he wants to say. I would just note that we've come a long way since July; come a long way since Mr. Owen stopped being a full-time negotiator. Since he did, the United States has led the way towards a diplomatic triumph. A cease-fire has held throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. The stranglehold on Sarajevo has been lifted, and the people of Sarajevo are going to have a much better winter, although under very difficult conditions, than they have of any winter in the past four years.
We are now on the verge, we hope, of a peace agreement if these talks succeed. I think we've come a long way.
Q (Inaudible) a partition?
MR. BURNS: We are not on the verge of partition. We hope that the parties will agree to the creation of a single state.
What I'd like to propose is that -- I'm glad to come back to Bosnia, but I know there are some other questions out there today. Let's deal with those. Roy, and others, if you're interested in Bosnia, we can come back to them.
Q Nick, the question that I asked yesterday about whether or not you have any response to the Chinese plans to conduct military exercises on the eve of Taiwan legislative and presidential elections?
MR. BURNS: It's been the longstanding policy of the United States to seek to promote peace and security and stability in the area of the Taiwan Straits. This is in the interest of the United States, the People's Republic of China, and of Taiwan.
We hope that both Taiwan and the People's Republic of China will refrain from any actions which would increase tensions in the area.
MR. BURNS: I heard that. I think you have a follow-up.
Q The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman has specifically warned the Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, against his plans to make further overseas visits. He said that could result in serious consequences. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We have a well-known position on that, that is that China and Taiwan should work out their problems together peacefully.
On future visits to the United States, our position has been enunciated time and again over the last few months.
Q Nick, on the subject of China, something you've talked about before from the podium -- the Panchen Lama, second in charge of the Tibetans. The Chinese apparently have selected some monks to present their choice. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: I do, Sid. I think we have read the same newspaper article. We were interested in that article. As we have said in the past, you are right, the mechanism for formally recognizing a reincarnated Lama is a religious matter about which the United States is not in a position to comment.
However, we continue to be concerned that the Chinese Government and the Tibetan Buddhist religious hierarchy evidently have not reached an agreement on this particular question of the Panchen Lama.
We are especially concerned about reports that senior Tibetan Lamas may have been compelled to attend a meeting on this subject in Beijing last week.
We believe that the continuing controversy over the selection of the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama raises additional questions about the Chinese Government's commitment to respect for religious beliefs and the practices of the Tibetan Buddhists.
We note that freedom of religious practice is guaranteed under China's constitution, and certainly all Americans believe that religious freedom is an essential right as recognized in many human rights documents. The American people also feel strongly about the importance of religious freedom in China.
We call upon both the Chinese Government and the Tibetan religious authorities in Tibet and those in exile to consult closely on this matter in a spirit of good will and in a spirit of tolerance.
Q Why should the Chinese have any say at all in who the Tibetans pick for their second-in-charge religious leader? I mean, whose choice is it anyway, the Chinese or the Tibetans?
MR. BURNS: I think I have just said, we think that there should be a measure of religious freedom available to the Tibetan Buddhists. We are discouraged and we are displeased that various events have occurred over the past couple of weeks which would infringe upon those rights.
Q Why just the measure?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Why just the measure of religious freedom? You used the word "measure."
MR. BURNS: What would you -- do you want to give me an alternative phrase?
Q Religious freedom.
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think if you go back to what I just said before I answered that question, I think it is very clear that the United States, the American people, have an interest in religious freedom.
Q Has that message been passed on to Beijing?
MR. BURNS: We have a continual dialogue with the Chinese Government on this issue.
Q China says that traditionally, the Central Government has always had a say in the selection of the Panchen Lama.
MR. BURNS: It is true that Tibet is part of China. The United States recognizes Tibet to be part of China. We also think that religious freedom is important and particularly in this case.
Q Yesterday, the GAO released a report about nuclear safety and in this report, a Russian-built power plant -- two of them, one in Armenia and the other one is in Bulgaria, releasing radiation as much as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster's release of radiation amount.
Do you have any contact with the Russian Government on this subject? Do you reflect your concern on this subject?
MR. BURNS: We certainly do. I believe there are 59 Soviet- designed nuclear power plants on the territory of the former Soviet Union -- that's l5 countries -- and there are 24 Soviet-designed -- these are mainly VVER nuclear reactors in Russia itself. Since 1992, back to the Bush Administration, but certainly since 1993 when President Clinton came into office, we have tried to help the Russian Government to find ways to stabilize these nuclear reactors, to enhance security around these reactors, to enhance security within the reactors themselves, so that we might prevent future Chernobyls.
Bilaterally, the United States has contributed many millions of dollars in 1993 and 1994 for nuclear reactor safety. Multilaterally, since 1992, our G-7 partners have combined with us to have a broad measure of support -- programs, technical assistance for the Russian Government.
It's a very difficult challenge because there are a considerable number of these plants that are in varying stages of disrepair and decay.
I think that the Russian Government is as concerned about this problem as anybody else. They have an obligation to the Russian people to deal with this problem. We think they are doing that.
This problem is not going to be resolved overnight. It hasn't been resolved in the three years that the West has been assisting the Russians. We've got to commit to a consistent level of funding.
This brings us to another issue and that is, will Congress give the Administration sufficient resources to work on problems like this?
When we argue for American assistance to Russia, it is not just in the business and economic realm, it is also to try to improve safety at nuclear power plants. All Europeans and all Americans have an interest in that. We do not want to see another nuclear accident along the lines of that in 1986 at Chernobyl.
Q Another Russian subject. The Turkish Government is convinced that Russia will not comply with the CFE agreement, the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement, by November l7th. And for that reason, as a reaction Ankara is deploying, planning to deploy, additional forces on the border of Armenia and Georgia.
Do you have any reaction on this subject?
MR. BURNS: Well, as you know, we have had a good many conversations with both the Russian and Turkish Governments on the question of Russia's adherence to the CFE treaty. As a matter of fact, a lot of conversations just in the last week. We are confident that we can work out an arrangement whereby compliance will be adhered to.
It's a very difficult challenge and we are not yet at a point where we can say we have an agreement. We have got to work hard towards one by November l7th. I can assure you that the United States Government has been coordinating its policy with Turkey. We have sent a delegation to Ankara to discuss this with the Turkish Government. We understand the natural concern of the Turkish Government on this flank issue.
Yes. One more back here.
Q I was wondering if you could just give us a brief read-out on the Secretary's luncheon today with Ambassador Kuriyama from Japan?
MR. BURNS: The luncheon is ongoing, but it is intended to be a farewell luncheon for a highly respected individual who has contributed a great deal to U.S.-Japan relations, who has consistently worked well with this government. Also, it is particularly timely considering the fact that the Secretary will be traveling to Osaka and Tokyo next week.
Q Nick, do you have anything to say about the statements in Syria today on the meeting between Rifkind and Assad?
MR. BURNS: I have no particular comment. I will leave that to Secretary Rifkind.
Q Okay, are there some positive words on the peace process (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: It is always good to see positive words in the peace process, particularly at this time following the death of the Israeli Prime Minister.
The United States, of course, remains committed to peace in the Middle East. The President spoke to that at Prime Minister Rabin's funeral and burial the other day.
Secretary Christopher is working hard on this issue. He has had a number of conversations, of course, in Jerusalem and since he came home from Jerusalem about this. Our position hasn't changed. We are going to do everything we can to promote the peace process between Syria and Israel, and Israel and Lebanon.
Q Is that a responsible position, given the reaction, very violent reaction in Israel to the peace process?
MR. BURNS: Is the United States position responsible?
Q Yes. Say no. (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: You challenge me to say no. Let's get back into the poll business again. We did a lot of this yesterday.
If you surveyed the American population and said, "Should the United States Government act on behalf of peace in the Middle East?" I think every American would say, "Yes." Then if you said, "Well, is that a responsible thing to do, that the United States Government would act on behalf of peace?" I think every American would say "Yes."
It is absolutely responsible and in the national interest of this country to try to create an environment in the Middle East, after 50 years of war -- that we want to create a situation of peace. And it is very difficult, and we have been at it now for many decades, Republicans and Democrats alike, and there is a bipartisan consensus. You saw it the other day in the very impressive delegation that went to Jerusalem - - that we should pursue it. So of course it's responsible.
Q Is the peace process ongoing, or is it in suspension until April, until the elections in Israel or is it on-going?
MR. BURNS: It's ongoing.
Q It's ongoing.
MR. BURNS: It's ongoing.
Q Can we come back to Bosnia for one moment? You just now said, if I read my notes correctly, we are now on the verge of a peace agreement.
MR. BURNS: Well, wait a minute, Roy. I mean not today and probably not tomorrow.
Q You just said it.
MR. BURNS: No. I was speaking -- I think I was speaking -- I was speaking in response to your question about Mr. Owen --
MR. BURNS: -- and his remarks. If you look back at the period since the United States engaged itself as the leader of the peace process, July-August, there have been a number of positive things that have happened. There is a cease-fire. There are peace talks. And there is a possibility of a peace agreement, and we are on the verge of that because we have now started the peace talks in Dayton.
It is not at all assured that the peace talks are going to succeed. It is not at all sure that we are going to have peace. We are certainly on the verge, we hope, of concluding these negotiations successfully. But there is much, much that needs to be done over the course of the next days or weeks at Dayton to get there.
Q Is Christopher planning to go to Dayton any time soon?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher has said consistently that if it is useful for him to go to Dayton, if that makes sense to the negotiations, he will go there. I can tell you, he has no specific plans now to do that.
Q Nick, Reuters had a story yesterday that said the talks will be successfully wrapped up in a week. Would you care to give us some guidance on that one?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't agree with that. I can't confirm it. We don't know when the talks will be wrapped up either successfully or negatively. We don't know when the parties are going to make the fundamental compromises that need to be made, and we are going to stay there until they have an agreement.
Q Can you tell us how long you expect President Tudjman to be there this time, or is that confidential?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it is confidential. I just don't think we know at this point. He is returning tonight. We expect at least he will be there for a couple of days. As to his intentions to stay for the duration, I just don't know.
Q Do you expect any breakthroughs in Dayton?
MR. BURNS: I can't point to major breakthroughs. I can point to the limited success we had on the Federation last week in bringing Denares (?) of Mostar and the EU Administrator to Dayton, to the return of 600 refugee families to their homes, people who had been displaced from the war.
But other than that, we haven't announced any breakthroughs, and when there is a breakthrough, I think you will know about it.
Q Could we (inaudible) ten days or something, is it possible to get Secretary Holbrooke in here later this week at all?
MR. BURNS: It is not possible. He is going to remain at Dayton.
Q He'll stay there --
MR. BURNS: He had a good conversation with the President and with the Secretary today by phone. He briefed them on the status of the talks. You know, he is the host of the talks. He is in meetings 22-23 hours a day, knowing Holbrooke. He is getting very little sleep. He is working hard. He is not going to leave. He is not going to come back and say anything on the record.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:15 p.m.)
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