U.S. Department of State 95/11/13 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, November 13, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcements/Statements Five Americans Killed in Riyadh Explosion ...............1-6,31-32 Secretary Christopher's Trip to Wright-Patterson AFB/ APEC Mtgs. in Osaka ...................................2-3,5-8 Possible Shut-Down of Federal Government ................24-26 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Proximity Peace Talks ...................................2-24,26-27 --Human Rights: A/S Shattuck's Report on Trip to Region .2 --Post-Agreement Implementation Issues ..................2 --Financial Structures ..................................2 --Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, Western Sirmium Agreement/ Transitional Arrangement ............................2,5,8-19,21 --NATO Peacekeeping Force ...............................16-18 --War Crimes Tribunal ...................................19-21,23 ARMS CONTROL START I Treaty Commitments ..............................27-30 CFE Treaty ..............................................35 GUATEMALA Presidential Elections ..................................32-33 CHINA/TAIWAN U.S. One-China Policy ...................................33-35
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1995, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have two brief announcements to make before going to your questions.
This morning in Riyadh an explosion, believed to be a car bomb, was set off at ll40 hours local time at the offices of the U.S. training mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
The American Embassy in Riyadh reports that the building sustained heavy damage. Current information indicates that five American citizens are dead, 35 American citizens wounded, many more non-Americans wounded, and at least one Saudi killed. Americans with family members in Saudi Arabia who are Department of Defense personnel may call the following number at the Department of Defense for further information. That number is 703-274-9424. Questions on the welfare of family members or friends who are private United States citizens in Saudi Arabia can be directed to the Department of State, to our Bureau of Consular Affairs, at this number: 202-647-5225.
The United States is outraged by this cowardly act of terrorism and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. The United States Government and the Saudi Arabian Government are fully cooperating in the situation. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz and American Ambassador Ray Mabus went to the scene of the bomb blast this morning, and together they coordinated the rescue efforts. The Government of Saudi Arabia has assured us of its fullest cooperation in the investigation, which is now in place.
Secretary of State Christopher offers his deepest condolences to the families of those killed, and we all pray for the recovery of those Americans who have been wounded. Three of the wounded Americans are in critical condition.
An FBI team will be leaving Washington this evening for Riyadh. This team will assist the Saudi Government in
collecting information in evaluating evidence on the explosion. We intend to assist the Saudi Government to find out who is responsible for this terrible outrage, and we intend to make sure that these people are brought to justice.
I'll be very glad to go into any aspect of this that you wish to, after my next announcement.
My next announcement is that Secretary of State Christopher will travel to Dayton, Ohio, to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, tomorrow morning. He intends to spend the day at the Proximity Peace Talks, and he will likely remain in Dayton until late Tuesday evening. He will depart Dayton late tomorrow evening for Osaka and the APEC meetings, and he looks forward to participating in sessions with APEC Leaders this week.
While in Dayton, the Secretary will focus his meetings with President Izetbegovic, President Tudjman, and President Milosevic on the core issues in the talks -- elections, constitutional issues, the Map, and territorial issues.
These talks are now at an intensive stage. The negotiators are deep into the heart of the core issues. These are challenging issues, they're very difficult issues, and a lot more work remains to be done in pursuit of a comprehensive peace agreement.
The Secretary was very pleased by yesterday's agreement on Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium. Secretary Christopher calls upon all the parties to make further progress in our search for a comprehensive peace.
In Dayton today, to further the American effort to move these talks forward, John Shattuck, our Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, who has just returned from Banja Luka, Sarejevo, Belgrade, and other points in the Balkans, will be reporting directly to the leaders about what he uncovered last week in the way of evidence -- we believe, credible evidence -- about human rights violations that took place over the last four or five months in the region. He will be having meetings with the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian leadership there.
Ambassador Bob Gallucci is also in Dayton today, working on implementation issues, post-agreement implementation issues.
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury David Lipton is in Dayton discussing financial structures for a Bosnia-Herzegovina post-agreement.
For those of you who would like to accompany the Secretary to Dayton, you're most welcome. We'll have, I think, probably between l2 and l4 seats available on the aircraft. There will be a sign-up sheet in the Press Office directly following my briefing today.
Q Nick, you said Map and territorial. Did you mean to include, or maybe I missed it, separation of forces as (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: That's certainly one of the major issues that has been discussed since November l. None of these issues is yet settled, so there's remaining work on all of these issues --
Q Well, (inaudible) territorial sounded redundant. I wondered- - All right.
MR. BURNS: -- with the exception of the Federation.
Q Can I ask you a Saudi question? Considering all the security precautions that have been taken the last few years with terrorism on the rise, or then on the rise -- now, I guess, back on the rise -- does the State Department suspect any kind of security lapse, and are there any leads as to who may be behind it?
MR. BURNS: Let me go to the facts first, Barry, and then I'll try to give you an answer to your question.
The building that was attacked housed the offices of the U.S. training mission for the Saudi National Guard. This training program has been in place since l975. The people who worked there were American military personnel, as well as American and third-country private contractors who participated in the work of the mission.
I understand that the building in which they're housed was a private Saudi office building that was leased by the United States, by the Department of Defense, for the purpose of housing the people who worked on this program.
Needless to say, all of us in this Government will do everything possible to try to investigate what happened to try determine the conditions which permitted this attack to occur. Then, there obviously will be an investigation into all aspects of this so we can assure ourselves of not only what happened but what we may do in the future to prevent such terrorist attacks.
As to who has claimed responsibility, I understand that two groups have publicly claimed responsibility. One is called Tigers of the Gulf; the other is called the Islamic Movement for Change.
I have nothing to share with you really on either group, except to say that this FBI team will be leading our investigation, our effort to cooperate with the Saudis, in hunting down the people responsible for this attack and bringing them to justice. That remains today the primary American objective as we respond to this terrible outrage.
Let me also tell you that a little later on this afternoon, at 4:00 p.m. at the Pentagon, there will be a BACKGROUND briefing by the Pentagon on all aspects of this tragedy.
Bill first, then Howard.
Q Well, I just wanted to follow up, to ask: Was the building secure? Was the parking lot secure? Was it accessible generally? Or do you know?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Bill, at American Government installations, at embassies and consulates, there's a very high degree of security. We learned, I think, many lessons from the terrible terrorist attacks that took many American lives in the l970s and l980s. This was not a U.S. Government-owned facility; it was a building that the United States Government had leased for the purpose of housing these people on this training mission.
Certainly, part of the investigation that the United States Government has now launched will encompass a lot of questions about what security measures were in place and what security measures should now be put in place, if there should be any changes to safeguard the lives of Americans who will remain in Saudi Arabia.
Our defense relationship with Saudi Arabia is critically important for both countries, and nothing that happened today will deter the United States and the Saudi Arabian Government from lessening their defense cooperation in the future.
Q Are you saying, Nick, that the parking lot was not secure -- there were no checkpoints or any security?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I'm not in a position to say that because I've never been to the building. It's easy to second-guess in the aftermath of a great tragedy like this. I think we should refrain from doing that. We're going to work privately with the Saudis and confidentially to ask questions. At some point we're going to have an obligation to come forward to the American people and present the facts as we know them about the security situation surrounding that building. We will do that.
But for the present time I think you're going to have to give us some space to try to ascertain exactly what happened.
Q Nick, can I just turn back to Dayton --
MR. BURNS: Carol and then Howie, you had a question.
Q -- briefly, because I want to ask for a filing break?
Given the comments you made about hard work to be done on a lot of issues, there has been some very forward-looking speculation in recent days about the possibility of an agreement coming together pretty soon. What's the likelihood of Warren Christopher being there for the conclusion agreement tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: I think it's extremely unlikely, if not highly improbable, that there will be a comprehensive peace agreement reached tomorrow.
MR. BURNS: Based on my conversation with Ambassador Holbrooke this morning, as well as conversations with the Secretary and others in this building, we still have a long way to go to reach an agreement.
Sometimes when you get to the heart of negotiations, the most intensive phase, you can kind of congratulate yourself that you have a Federation deal -- an agreement on a stronger Federation -- the agreement that Secretary Christopher witnessed on Friday.
We now have a deal on Eastern Slavonia, which was one of the major unanswered issues going into these peace talks. But if you look at the number of issues that are still in play and the great challenges of those issues, I think it's fair to say that a lot of work remains to be done.
The Secretary is going out there to push these negotiations forward, much in the way that he did last Friday when he went to Dayton. That's his purpose. We hope for a comprehensive peace agreement, but I can assure you I don't think anyone believes we're going to reach one tomorrow.
There is a movement here for a filing break. (Laughter) So be it, and we'll go on with the briefing. Everyone is duly notified.
I think Howard had the next question. I'll be glad to go. Howard has the next question.
Q Back to the two groups, you said you have nothing to share. Is that the case, or do you have nothing -- period -- on them? Have they been heard of previously?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing to share on these two groups. Needless to say, we were certainly aware of the existence of these groups before; but I think it's best for us to try to pursue our investigation. I don't want to get ahead of the FBI team that is traveling to Riyadh tonight to do that. I don't want to compromise their mission in any way.
But I think you can rest assured, as President Clinton said this morning, that we will put an enormous amount of attention into the problem of pursuing the people who placed the bomb at the building this morning.
Q Nick, what coverage is available tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: Okay. What I'd like to do is, maybe, if you want to go to Bosnia --
Q Just one more question because it follows up on Carol --
MR. BURNS: Well, we are inviting the American international press corps to go to Dayton with us. For those of you who will not be on the plane, you are most welcome to travel to Dayton privately. We will welcome you there at our beautiful media center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
I don't believe the Secretary will have any public appearances tomorrow. He is not planning and media interviews. There aren't any public events planned. This is a private schedule of meetings. I will be giving you briefings throughout the day as to his progress and as to the status of the talks.
Q No photo-ops?
MR. BURNS: No photo-ops planned. The press center will be opened probably as of nine or so tomorrow morning, but if you check with the Press Office after the briefing, we'll give you an exact time on that.
Q More logistics. What are the chances that the Secretary will not go to Osaka?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary is planning on going to Osaka. He is planning to fly late tomorrow evening. The United States is an important member of APEC. The Secretary has had a very deep commitment to United States relations with Asia, and he is deeply committed to the work of APEC, so he certainly plans on going to the meetings.
Q What if there might be a peace deal later in the week or earlier the following one when he is supposed to be away?
MR. BURNS: Right now, the Secretary is planning on spending a full day, and I would say well into the late evening hours in Dayton, working with these heads of state trying to push these talks forward as he did on Friday, and his plan is to go to Osaka.
Those are the plans that he has made. Those are the instructions he has given his staff to execute, so we are doing that.
Q If neither the President nor the Secretary were in the country and there were to be a peace deal agreed upon, how would that be handled?
MR. BURNS: Well, I'm not sure we'll have that problem. If there is going to be a peace deal, I'm sure we'll have high level attention even above the level of Assistant Secretary Holbrooke focused on that.
Right now, I can tell you my own appreciation of the situation there based on my conversations with Dick Holbrooke and others this morning is that there are a great number of challenges ahead for these countries negotiating at Dayton, Ohio.
It is true that that they have reached a very intensive level of negotiations. I think right now the negotiations are literally going around the clock. I don't believe they are even taking any time off. There is some conversation going at every hour of the day in Dayton, Ohio.
All of the most difficult issues are fully engaged. There are very specific discussions now and debates and negotiations on the Map issues, the other territorial issues; on the other issues that I mentioned, elections and constitution. They are right in the thick of it and no agreement is imminent right now.
So what the Secretary hopes to do is go to Dayton and push the parties forward towards an agreement, and he hopes he can make some difference in going there tomorrow, and then he will be going on to Osaka.
Q When is he coming back from Osaka? And did he have Thanksgiving plans?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary intends to go to Osaka for the APEC meetings, to Tokyo for the state visit of President Clinton to Tokyo, and then to return to the United States, I think, a week from tomorrow. Those are the current plans.
I believe he does have Thanksgiving plans, and we hope that there will be brilliance in American diplomacy in the ensuing days and all of us can have Thanksgiving, but whether or not that materializes, we'll just have to see.
Q (inaudible) that the talks may break, they may take a break and come back in a week?
MR. BURNS: We are not looking forward to any -- we are not planning any break in these talks. We have created our diplomatic biosphere at Wright-Patterson with the intention of convincing the parties that now is the time to make peace.
We are not interested in breaks in these talks. We are not interested in partial agreements. We are interested in a comprehensive peace. The parties ought to know that. They do know that. They have Ambassador Holbrooke reminding them of that every minute of the day.
Q Is everything wrapped up on the Eastern Slavonia agreement, meaning that Stoltenberg and Peter Galbraith are not going back to Dayton?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that Ambassador Galbraith will be returning to Dayton. I talked to him yesterday. He is in Zagreb. I don't believe he has an intention to come back, but I'll correct myself if I am wrong on that. He didn't mentioned it to me.
We are very pleased by the agreement on Eastern Slavonia. Coming into these talks, that was one of the more difficult issues because the prospect of renewed fighting in Eastern Slavonia, renewed fighting by Croatia and the local Serb population and possibly by Serbia itself was a very daunting one indeed.
We were concerned about it, and from the first day of the talks when Secretary Christopher was there on November lst, he identified Eastern Slavonia as one of the major issues. We were pleased that he was able to push the negotiations on Eastern Slavonia along when he was there on Friday.
He had specific meetings with President Tudjman and President Milosevic individually and then together early on Friday evening, and around seven on Friday evening the Secretary made a number of suggestions for how that problem might be resolved, and we were very glad to see that Mr. Milanovic and Mr. Sarinic were able to sign the agreement yesterday in Eastern Slavonia itself.
It's a very, very important fact because we think it prevents war from breaking out in Eastern Slavonia. Secondly, we hope that it will lend momentum to the core issues that are now at play and remain undecided at Dayton.
Q Which troops are going to control Eastern Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: Well, the agreement, if you look at the agreement, calls for the United Nations Security Council to establish a transitional authority. Within thirty days after that authority takes place, the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, will be demilitarized.
As part of that demilitarization effort and as part of the effort to keep the peace, the United Nations -- the transitional authority would call in some type of international peacekeeping operation. It remains to be seen which countries will contribute to this. It remains to be seen how many troops will take part in this effort. This is something that the United Nations must work on in the coming days and weeks.
Q Is the U. S. inclined to participate in this force? Would we like to participate in this force? Can you tell us anything about our attitudes regarding getting in at least to Eastern Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not made any commitments about U. S. participation in this particular force. We will certainly be interested in the discussion at the United Nations about this, because we have an interest in seeing that peace is preserved once it is established.
We have made no commitments. We will just have to see what countries are willing and able, capable of deploying troops for this faction.
We also, I think, Tim, need to have the United Nations and the transitional authority itself ascertain what the fundamental military mission is of the force; how many troops will be required to carry it out. All those questions remain to be answered.
Q How soon do you expect the U. N. Security Council to complete this work?
MR. BURNS: I think we would like this work in establishing the transitional authority, in putting that authority in place, to be carried out as quickly as possible. I think it will take several weeks to do it. It is very complicated, but we certainly hope, if there is a comprehensive peace agreement that the preparations to secure the peace agreement on Eastern Slavonia would not lag behind a comprehensive peace, but would certainly -- would proceed with it in time and in terms of speed.
Q Who is responsible for demilitarizing the region?
MR. BURNS: That would be up to the U. N. -- to the transitional authority identified by the United Nations. I am being careful here not to say United Nations transitional authority because the United Nations Security Council will establish a transitional authority.
Whether that is a U. N. operation, whether that is some kind of special operation designated by the United Nations remains to be seen. We are gratified that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Boutros Ghali spoke very positively and favorably this morning of the inclination of the United Nations to be very helpful to the international community and in setting up an arrangement, a transitional arrangement, that will be effective, that will work.
Q Does the U. S. believe that should be a NATO operation?
MR. BURNS: There are no plans to make it a NATO operation now. What we have to do is see what the United Nations decides is the best way to proceed. We will be active in those discussions, but there are no specific plans to make it a NATO operation at this point.
Q On Eastern Slavonia, --
Q (inaudible) sounds just like what happened under the Vance plan. How does this differ?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure what the question is. What aspect?
Q Well, I mean, the idea was to demilitarize all of the Serb- held territories then, and the U. N. was sent in to supervise it, and it was a total failure.
Now why is this going to be different this time? What enforcement mechanism will you have? I don't see that this is an advance on the previous regime, which was a failure.
MR. BURNS: We think it's quite positive, Roy. I don't know if you do, but we think it's quite positive that the government in Croatia, at the head of state level, has assured us privately, and his top official, his Chief of Staff, Mr. Sarinic, has signed a document that commits Croatia to a peaceful resolution of the problem of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium.
This agreement talks about the eventual reintegration of this area into Croatia after a transitional period, between 12 and 24 months. That's positive. It's positive that the local Serb community has also signed this document and has also pledged itself to a peaceful resolution of the problems of the area.
The alternative, Roy, as recently as Saturday -- as recently as early Sunday morning in the region -- was that if this problem was not resolved Croatia had threatened the use of military force to resolve the problem to its own satisfaction. That's the situation as we dealt with it pragmatically.
When Secretary Christopher went to Dayton on Friday, this was the problem that he put before the two leaders -- Tudjman and Milosevic -- late in the afternoon, after the signing of the Federation agreement. He had a series of meetings, and he encouraged them not to use physical force -- military force -- to resolve their differences but to use the negotiating process.
I think the United States was instrumental in bringing this about, and we're very pleased about it. I don't see under what basis we'd object to a situation being transferred from one of potential war to one of peace through negotiation. That's a very positive development for everybody concerned.
Q Peace is obviously the goal here. But I'm not quite sure how you get there unless you have enforcement of the agreement. The U.N. has been an notoriously ineffective enforcer up until now, and especially in Eastern Slavonia.
Since you've ruled out NATO taking a role, then how do you have enforcement of this agreement?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, President Tudjman has committed himself to enforcing this agreement. His representative has signed the agreement. The representative of the local Serb population, Mr. Milan Milanovic, has signed the agreement. That's important.
Secondly, when the transitional authority is established, it will also establish some kind of international peacekeeping force. That is different than anything that has happened in the past. We believe that that force can help be the guarantor of a peace.
Q Can you make that agreement available to us, by the way?
MR. BURNS: I think it's up to the parties to do that. We have not done so. We'll have to check with the parties to see if there are any problems with that.
Q If you can't make it available, we have the problem of not knowing whether this is really solid, or how solid it is -- let us say - - to make it positive.
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to go into any detail of this agreement that you'd like. I read it through yesterday afternoon. I think I understand it fairly well, and I'll be glad to answer any questions you have on it. But let me go to Steve first.
Q Nick, I'm very curious about it. If it's not a United Nations interim administration, if it's not a NATO interim administration, what kind of institutional framework is this going to be drawn from? Is it just going to be the U.N. says, "We'd like to have men X, Y, Z, or women, W, Q, and R from different countries who will come and administer this place? I don't understand this kind of arrangement.
MR. BURNS: The arrangement is, Steve, that the U.N. Security Council has been requested by the parties to the agreement to establish a transitional authority. It remains to be seen whether that authority is a U.N. mission or whether it's a special mission that is established by the United Nations. There are other examples around the world of special missions -- the Sinai operation is certainly one that was established in 1979 after the Camp David Accords.
It could be the U.N.; it could be a special operation established by the United Nations. Similarly, with the military force that would help to secure or guarantee the peace, the same is true.
The United Nations Security Council will work through these problems, and it will establish the best type of authority and subsequently a force that it believes is necessary to secure a peace.
Q Would the United States, if asked, send forces to become part of the peacekeeping group?
MR. BURNS: First of all, the United Nations Security Council has not yet met to consider the question. There is no formal request for American troops. The United States has made no commitments to mobilize troops for this purpose.
We have an interest in making sure this agreement is carried out. We'd have to consider that question very, very carefully. As I say, there is no predisposition to do so. There are no advance commitments.
We certainly hope that a number of countries would come forward to participate in this force.
Q Nick, has Tudjman -- excuse me, Barry -- has Tudjman unconditionally called off the threat of war here? Or is it conditional on implementation? One question.
The second question is, does Secretary Christopher believe that this agreement fully diffuses the threat of war in Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: The answer is yes to both questions. We believe that this agreement certainly provides for a peaceful resolution of this problem; and certainly no force or country in the region should believe that there is an alternative now to military force. In having signed the agreement, Croatia has committed itself to a peaceful resolution of this problem.
Therefore, there is no reason for Croatia to believe that at any point along the line it can resort to military force. We said that to President Tudjman personally. We've said it publicly a number of times during the past few weeks. It's still our position.
There was always a negotiating channel open to Croatia. It has now been exercised positively by Croatia and the local Serb population. It's a very good thing.
So there's no recourse to military force available here.
Q If the area is not demilitarized, does Croatia then have the right to move in with its own forces?
MR. BURNS: The area will be demilitarized. That is a commitment that is part of this agreement that the international community must make. It's going to happen.
Q As Roy said, these commitments have been made before and have not --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q These commitments have been made before and never been carried out.
MR. BURNS: The situation is entirely different from the situation, with all due respect, that Roy is positing for us.
We are now at a point, after four years of war, there is a possibility of realizing a comprehensive peace agreement. As part of that, we have the momentum now on Eastern Slavonia.
The international community wants to assist these parties in securing the peace, and we will do so. There's no reason to be cynical this afternoon about this agreement to think it won't be carried out. It will be carried out.
A number of us in the international community have an interest in seeing that it is carried out.
Q How does the Administration envision paying for the transitional authority and the peacekeeping force that will be --
MR. BURNS: That remains to be determined. It's one of the issues that the U.N. Security Council will be looking at.
Q How does the U.S. envision this being paid for?
MR. BURNS: I think we're going to have some private discussions in the U.N. Security Council first, Terry, before we get into that publicly.
Q You are prepared to go on in some detail about how solid this plan is, and yet you seem to be unwilling to go on the record on how it will be financed, how it will be organized, or how the U.S., which, after all, negotiated this agreement, envisions this institution working. They can't --
MR. BURNS: Terry, I can't make commitments on issues that have not yet been fully addressed by the United Nations Security Council, which is the pertinent international body that will be looking at this.
I can tell you that we have a commitment from the Croatian Government, the local Serbs, and the support of the Serbian Government for this agreement. We didn't have anything like this, Terry, as late as yesterday morning. We now have it.
I think even those of you who are skeptical would agree that this is a fairly positive development.
Q I think the Security Council is going to look, after all, to the United States -- which pays a large share of peacekeeping costs, and the U.S. which played the key role in negotiating this agreement -- to outline what its views are as to how this would be paid for and how this would be set up and how this would function.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that the Untied States representative in those talks will have a lot to say and will certainly have a point of view. But I don't want to publicly surface that point of view before we've had a chance to discuss it privately, frankly, with our allies and others in the international community.
Q Nick, who has troops on the ground in East Slavonia now? How many Russian troops are there? And how many troops is it contemplated might be needed to police such an agreement?
MR. BURNS: David, that's one of the questions that's got to be decided by the transitional authority once it's established. The work of the U.N. Security Council is to ascertain the military mission of an international force and ascertain how many troops will be required to fulfill that mission. That work needs to be done, and we hope it's done rather quickly.
Q The first half?
MR. BURNS: The first half, I don't have troop figures. I can look into that question for you.
Q There are 400 Russians there, are there not?
MR. BURNS: There are some forces in the area. I can certainly look into that and try to get you good, accurate figures.
Q All along you've made clear the importance of a settlement in Eastern Slavonia to a comprehensive peace. At the same time, in Bosnia, the U.S. considers peace too important an operation to be left to the U.N.
I'm just curious. Can you give us some understanding of the U.S. thinking which suggests that peace in Eastern Slavonia is either more likely or commitments are more likely to be carried out and therefore you don't need to take the position that you have on Bosnia, that if there is an agreement, it's going to be a NATO operation; it's not going to be left to the U.N. which has been somewhat ineffective there for a number of years. Why a distinction?
MR. BURNS: The U.S. position on the U.N.'s presence over the last couple of years -- specifically, UNPROFOR -- has been quite clear. We never believed that the dual-key worked well. It failed us quite dramatically in mid-July, and it was done away with a week after the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa.
We will not resurrect a dual-key operation, if we are to successfully implement a peace agreement throughout Bosnia.
The core of an effort to secure a peace in Bosnia must, we believe, be carried out by NATO -- by the existing forces of France and Britain in the region, which will, of course, be NATO forces, and by an inclusion of a significant number of American troops, Canadian troops, and others to bolster the French and British forces. That's very important.
We see no other way, from a military point of view, to effectively supervise and implement a peace agreement. I think, Tim, the best thing I can tell you is that that is part of a lesson I think that all of us have learned from watching the operations of the United Nations over the last couple of years.
The first part of your question: Peace in Eastern Slavonia is only part of the problem. It doesn't represent the totality of the problems facing the international community. We believe that the United Nations can effectively debate the establishment of a transitional authority.
It doesn't necessarily mean this will be a U.N. operation. It could be, or it could be a special operation that countries around the world combine efforts on to produce together. That question remains to be seen.
But, certainly, that is less of a daunting task -- the task of policing an Eastern Slavonia agreement -- then is the task of helping the new country, Bosnia-Herzegovina, get on its feet, of helping it to defend its borders, separating the hundreds of thousands of troops that have been clashing for four years. That is a major task which we think requires the commitment of NATO forces.
Q So essentially you're saying that the task in Eastern Slavonia is a task, since it's less difficult, is a task that the U.N., or whoever the U.N. appoints, can handle?
MR. BURNS: We have believed, and the argument we put before the American public and the Congress, is that we believe that NATO is the only effective fighting force in the world that can successfully implement a Bosnian peace agreement.
The Eastern Slavonia-Baranja-Western Sirmium peace agreement is just a part of that. So I think it's obviously true that that is not as daunting a military task as is the task of policing an entire comprehensive peace agreement for Bosnia itself.
Q Have the Croatians requested U.S. presence?
MR. BURNS: In Eastern Slavonia? I actually don't know if I've got anything to share with you on that, but I can certainly look into that.
Q Two questions. Following up on Tim's question: Is this a Chapter 6 or a Chapter 7 operation in Eastern Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: Again, I'm unable to answer that question because the United Nations Security Council must meet and discuss the issue. A transitional authority must be established first before any of those questions can be answered.
Q The second question is human rights. Obviously, that was a major part of the agreement. I'm a bit in the dark as to what's in it.
I've heard -- and this is not my cynicism coming out but a source - - that there are human rights provisions but there really is no enforcement. Maybe you can disabuse this particular point of view.
Q One of the responsibilities of the transitional administration would be to help the return of refugees to the homes that they have lost or to have them receive just compensation for the homes that they lost.
All people who have left the region, because of the war who were forced to leave the region, now have the recourse to present themselves to this transitional authority, once it is established, to put their individual cases before it. That's a very positive thing for the many, many thousands of people who were forced from their homes.
Q The Serb side -- what protections are there for the Serbs who are there now so that they don't all flee?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, we think that the highest levels of internationally recognized human rights should pertain to all people in the region, not just ethnic Croatians but also to ethnic Serbs.
In signing the agreement, I think that Mr. Milanovic understood that the rights of ethnic Serbs would be respected in these areas. We would certainly expect that would be the case, and that's one of the primary responsibilities of the transitional authority.
Q Nick, with the United States committed to a NATO force to implement the peace overall, if it is agreed to, would it be too cynical to suggest that perhaps this, as a smaller part of that peace, would also go to a NATO enforcement group after that peace accord is reached? Because the Administration has made such a point out of saying it's not going to be sending U.S. troops until there is a peace agreement.
In other words, will it flip-flop to NATO once there is a peace agreement overall?
MR. BURNS: With all due respect, Steve, I think it probably is too cynical to say that. These are difficult questions to answer. Because, as I've said, a number of steps have to be taken.
The United States Security must consider the question: transitional authority established.
The transitional authority must address the questions that you've asked today. I'm not in a position to give you answers to those questions. But I can tell you that the United States Government fully supports this agreement; that we'll put all of our efforts into supporting the agreement, as will our European allies, as will the Government of Russia, which also supports this agreement.
So we're not in a doubting mood this morning. We're certainly pragmatic and realistic. I certainly understand where some of these questions are coming from, considering the history of the last four years.
I do believe there is a new momentum in the area for peace. Perhaps some of this is forced upon the parties out of self interest. So be it. Let's take advantage of this opportunity for peace and let's move forward. That's the view that we have in looking at the Eastern Slavonia deal, it's the view we have going to Dayton tomorrow.
Q We've gone around this before. But today some Croats have been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. In light of that, I'd like to go over again with you, what price -- what cost there might be for a government that does not turn over indicted war criminals to The Hague?
You now have Croats as well as Serbs. In the eventual peace deal, eventual settlement, the U.S. view -- what will happen to a government that holds people and doesn't turn them over?
MR. BURNS: David, we also heard the indictments from The Hague this morning; six Bosnian Croats indicted for alleged mass violations of human rights from 1993. This brings to 52 the number of people who have been indicted. This now includes citizens of Serbia, Montenegro; it includes Bosnian Serbs, it includes Croats. There has been one Croat citizen indicted before this, so there are seven ethnic Croats who have been indicted out of the 52.
The United States expects that all countries in the region will respect the work of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. We expect that as part of a final agreement, all countries and all parties to this agreement -- specifically, all parties of this agreement -- will commit themselves to cooperation with the Tribunal.
The work of the Tribunal is too important to be shunted aside during the Dayton peace talks. In fact, we have not done that as host of the talks. We've put this issue of human rights squarely on the table.
John Shattuck is making his second trip to Dayton, Ohio, for personal discussions with President Milosevic and Mr. Koljevic and others as part of the Serb/Bosnian-Serb delegation.
We are receiving -- in just two days we will receive Judge Goldstone here at the Department of State. He'll be seen at the very highest levels. Deputy Secretary Talbott will be seeing him as will others at a higher level around town.
We have said repeatedly, and I'm glad to reaffirm today, that whatever information the United States develops on war crimes will be delivered to the War Crimes Tribunal. Even if that information is intelligence information, we will find a way to make it available to the Tribunal so that it can be effective in both pursuing indictments and in pursuing prosecutions.
People who are indicted -- these 52 people -- are not welcome in this country. The United States would exercise its responsibilities to the Tribunal should these people attempt to come to the United States.
Q What I'm really asking is, what price a government would pay were it not to turn over people? You've said they're going to have to sign something saying they will cooperate. What if they don't cooperate?
For example, will a government -- let's say Croatia, if there's evidence that they have, say, these six Croats that were indicted today in their territory -- be denied anything -- membership in the United Nations, eligibility for loans from the IMF, you name it. Is there any stick or carrot that you are going to use to enforce compliance?
MR. BURNS: It's not a normal custom of governments to make public comments based on worse case scenarios. Sometimes you have to think about the worse case scenario --
Q In light of the Balkans -- the worse case scenario is a pretty safe --
MR. BURNS: Sometimes you have to think about worse case scenarios as you plan your activities and as you develop policy. We've certainly taken everything into account.
We are making a point to all the governments and parties involved that they have to cooperate with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. I am not in a position -- and you wouldn't expect me to be in a position -- to make public threats, but we certainly have made our views known privately.
Q There's a report in a Belgrade publication that Karadzic and Mladic are willing to step down with the promise of immunity afterwards. Is that unacceptable under your scenario?
MR. BURNS: They may be willing to do so. I'm not sure that deal is available to them. In fact, I'm quite sure it's not available to them from an American Government point of view.
What possible interest would we have in pursuing such a deal? We have said that justice, as well as peace, is one of our objectives of the Dayton peace talks. "Justice" means that those people responsible for the massive abuse of human rights throughout the last four years must be individually responsible for their acts.
There's no question in our minds that Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic, as leaders of the Bosnian Serbs are responsible individually for the massacres at Srebrenica and Zepa; for the massacres at Banja Luka, and for many, many other massacres in years past.
There is no deal -- and we are not going to support such a deal.
Q What's the degree of the militarization sought in the agreement on Eastern Slavonia? What, if any, weaponry will the Serbs there be allowed to keep?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, this area will be completely demilitarized within 30 days after the establishment of the transitional authority. The authority will have to determine to which level -- the level of demilitarization. Will the people be allowed to keep hunting with rifles? Well, I suppose so. Will they be allowed to keep tanks? Absolutely not.
You have to devise a practical way to work out an answer to your very good question.
Q Apparently, the Secretary in Dayton was disappointed that more progress had not been made in Bosnia itself on territorial issues. Is he returning tomorrow because there has been progress made there in the last two days? Is there something that --
MR. BURNS: The Secretary called upon the parties, in leaving, to make more progress. He felt that the parties were quite a distance from a final agreement. I think it's still our view that they are at a great distance from a final agreement. He will go to Dayton tomorrow in order to tell them that they've got to make more progress; that they've got to deal with these fundamental issues and make the fundamental compromises to get a final peace agreement. That's the spirit with which he goes there.
He's going there to use the influence of this government, as the President's chief foreign policymaker, to send a clear message. It's two weeks Wednesday -- two weeks that these talks will have been underway. They're not going to go on forever.
I think that the parties are -- some of them have cabin fever; some of them believe that they probably never want to see Wright-Patterson Air Force Base again. Maybe that will act as an incentive to the parties to continue negotiating.
I know that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is trying every way he can to impress upon all these delegations that we're not going to stay there forever. They've got to work very hard to make peace.
Q What I'm trying to find out is whether there's a sense that a new opportunity has been created to bring these to closure, or whether there's a fear that there's a threat that things could actually be stalling?
MR. BURNS: I don't think there's -- we're somewhere between those polar opposites. We're certainly not perched on the edge of success, on the edge of a peace agreement. We don't have a peace agreement fully drafted and just awaiting signature. It's not going to happen tomorrow morning. But neither are we in a situation of despair.
Rather, I think it's fair to say we're right in the middle of the hardest part of the negotiations. All the posturing that has been possible to accomplish has taken place; all of the skirting around the issues has taken place. All these parties are deep into each issue.
They're either going to make the fundamental choices that they must make or they're not. We'll know at some point in the future what the answer to that question is.
So we go out there with a pragmatic view of what kind of progress it is necessary to make, but certainly with a degree of confidence that these countries can make peace; that a peace agreement is possible for them.
The Secretary is going out to use all of his influence and all of his efforts to make the case for peace.
Q Would it be correct to say he is setting a one-week deadline? He'll be back in a week from Asia and he anticipates there will be results by the time he comes back?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe that's the case. He's going out there to say, "Let's move forward." We're not imposing any artificial deadlines on the parties.
Q A question on the War Crimes again. Can you explain to us, under the agreement signed on Friday, who exactly is responsible now or, let's say in 30 days, for handing over those Bosnian Croats? Because they are in the territory, the Federation, right now.
MR. BURNS: That would be the responsibility of the governing authority in the area. You're right to say that would be the Federation government. If there's a comprehensive peace agreement and the government that we expect to be the implementor of that agreement emerges as the responsible government, then it will be responsible for making sure that any citizens on its territory are subject not only to indictment but to prosecution.
Q These are really top people in the Herza-Bosnia regime.
MR. BURNS: So be it. So be it. Wherever the evidence leads. If the evidence leads to top people, that's where the evidence leads. Everyone -- pertinent government authorities -- will have a responsibility to turn them over.
Q But isn't this going to affect even the creation of the Federation or the strengthening of the Federation?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope not. There was an agreement signed on Friday to strengthen the Federation; to strengthen it in a number of practical ways. We believe that that work will go forward.
Q Is there anything in the Federation agreement that would prevent these people from holding office in the Federation?
MR. BURNS: I can look into that for you. I'm not actually sure of the answer to that question, Norm, so I'll look into it for you.
Q I'd like to ask you an arms control question, if we could switch gears here?
MR. BURNS: Sure. Just a minute. Can we just complete -- I'll be glad to do that. I just want to complete any Bosnia questions. We can then devote our full attention to arms control.
Q While you're in Japan, who is going to be briefing on Bosnia, or will someone be?
MR. BURNS: That brings us to another issue: Government shutdown - - the possible shutdown of the United States Government. If the government does shut down tomorrow, there will be no briefing in this room. You know why? Because the people who actually light the room and power the equipment, who are the experts in allowing this to be carried on radio and TV, will not be here.
Our press office will be staffed. John Dinger, the Director of our Press Office, will be here. Glyn Davies, our Deputy Spokesman, will be here, and a few others. In my particular bureau, the Bureau of Public Affairs, roughly 12 to 15 percent of the bureau is excepted. The rest of the people will be furloughed. So we'll be operating at a reduced capacity.
But we do understand that the Press Corps has a right to ask questions and we'll attempt, with limited resources, to answer them.
While we're in Japan, of course, Glyn Davies is Acting Spokesman here. We'll give every effort to keep you apprised of what's going on.
Q What about the rest of the building?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the Department has had to go through an exercise to determine essential personnel under the guidelines that have been handed down by the Office of Management and Budget. I can tell you that the Department of State will participate in the shutdown of non- essential functions tomorrow.
The process will be that all employees are expected to report to work. If there is a shut-down, it will be of those who are not essential. The majority of personnel here in the United States will be asked to go home on a leave-without-pay basis.
Of the 8,900 people who work for the Department of State in the United States, in Washington and Boston and Los Angeles and other places where we have offices, roughly 80 percent will be furloughed. Eighty percent of the people in this Department will be furloughed. We have to do this to conform to the budgetary and other guidelines given to us by OMB.
The situation is slightly different overseas where we have a fundamental responsibility to American citizens. I think the situation in Riyadh is a very good example of that this morning, where our Embassy was on the front lines assisting Americans wounded and taking care of those killed in the tragedy this morning.
For our work force overseas, roughly four-fifths of our American employees will be at their stations. It has been determined that they are excepted personnel for the purposes of this shut-down.
Now, we will stop processing passports. We will stop issuing passports here in the United States. We will stop issuing visas to foreigners who want to come to the United States. We have to do this to conform to the guidelines.
For those American citizens who have a life or death emergency, who need to travel overseas and don't have passports, we will make it possible for them to get passports. Likewise for foreign citizens who need to travel to the United States on a life and death basis, we will try to be flexible enough to issue visas to those who need to come to visit, say, a sick relative, or to attend a funeral here in the United States.
Because of the situation as it is with the Congress, it cannot be business as usual here in the Department, and the Secretary has asked that we all take steps to cut back and these are the decisions that Under Secretary Moose and others have made.
Q Is it a good time to turn the lights off here in the building?
MR. BURNS: Right now? You mean today? You mean figuratively?
Q Tomorrow morning. I'm saying this is a good time to be sending people home?
MR. BURNS: It's never -- you know, I think part of the frustration that a lot of us who are career government employees feel is that it is, especially given the attitude of the Congress these days on this particular question, it is not possible to stop American foreign policy. It is not possible to stop the United States from having vital national interests around the world.
We have got American Foreign Service Officers, Civil Service people, on the front lines overseas, because American citizens need them to be there. Now there are a couple of essential operations that we will continue with no cutbacks, and one is the Bosnian peace talks.
All of the Americans in Dayton have been declared to be excepted personnel. They will not be furloughed. We can't stop the Bosnian peace talks because of the actions of the Congress and we can't hold American foreign policy hostage to the actions of the American Congress. So we will keep the Bosnian peace talks going.
We are going to talk about arms control in a minute. We have some people in Vienna negotiating what we hope will be the final stages of adherence to the CFE treaty by November l7th in Vienna. We have other people talking about START I implementation; START II ratification; the Conventional Weapons Treaty, and all of those efforts need to go forward.
We simply can't stop the world. That may be the view of some on Capitol Hill, but it is certainly not the view of any pragmatic or realistic person.
Q Will those talks continue as the Bosnian talks do?
MR. BURNS: Well, we will try to keep our international negotiations going, particularly those that are pertinent to national security, our vital national security interests. There are a lot of conferences that will have to be suspended; a lot of normal work that diplomats do every day that will have to be suspended.
Let me just go to Lee and then we'll go to arms issues. Any other questions on the government shut-down?
Q Two questions. One I'll tie in with the government shut- down. Do you know how big the excepted delegation is in Dayton, U. S. delegation?
MR. BURNS: I can -- I have a general idea of how big Ambassador Holbrooke's team is, but I want to be accurate, so let me get the answer to that question and we'll get it to you.
Q The second one is, I'm sorry. The second one is -- forgive me if this has been asked before, but there are reports that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is making plans to go elsewhere for Thanksgiving. Is the U. S. delegation planning to wrap these talks up by Thanksgiving?
MR. BURNS: We sure would hope to wrap these talks up by Thanksgiving. Whether we will be able to do that or not remains an open question. If the talks are still going by Thanksgiving, I imagine we will just keep them going right through Thanksgiving and maybe Milosevic and Izetbegovic and Tudjman will get to know what an American Thanksgiving is like.
We prefer that not to happen. We think that have been given every opportunity at Dayton to discuss these issues, and we certainly would hope that there will be a comprehensive peace agreement reached before that. But we will keep at it as, Lee, as long as we have to. We are dedicated to these peace talks.
I want to give Bill a chance here.
Q Do you have some comments about a START I agreement on space launchers? I have some questions about that agreement. I wonder if you could address them.
First, as I understand it, the START I agreement does not have any provisions for moving first stages of ICBMs that are converted into space launchers outside of the national territory -- in this case, Russia and the Ukraine.
The new agreement specifically does permit that, and it doesn't regard it as foreign basing of ICBMs, which is banned by the treaty.
Isn't that a substantial modification of the treaty that creates new obligations under the treaty?
MR. BURNS: The fact is it isn't. I think we addressed your concerns last week in a statement that we issued here in writing and also in some of the things I said on Thursday from the podium.
The fact is the United States has not allowed Russia or any other signatory of the START I Treaty, namely ourselves, to do things that we think are contrary to the fundamental objectives of the START I Treaty as it was negotiated by President Bush.
You know, we can quibble about some of these details, and I can get experts from our side and experts from your side, but the --
Q The issue is, if the Russians decided to take the warheads off an SS-25 and declare it a space launcher,
would they be permitted to move that to any facility in the world that they declared is a space launch facility?
MR. BURNS: The issue is, I think, that in the article that was written by The Washington Times, a front page article, there was a basic charge there that the United States had done a dramatic turn-around in terms not only of our understanding of the treaty's obligations, but in the adherence of other countries, namely Russia, to that treaty, and that is fundamentally not the case.
Q Like I say, can you answer the question as to whether they declare an ICBM a space launcher? Under this new agreement there is no prohibition against them moving it outside the country.
MR. BURNS: I answered your question last week. I answered it specifically. You know, we were faced on Thursday morning with a front page article in The Washington Times alleging that this Administration was selling out our national security interests. That was essentially the editorial line that I read between the lines. That's not the case.
Q The article, which I wrote, didn't state that. It stated that if they declared them space launchers they can move them out of the country.
MR. BURNS: It was a fairly provocative --
Q You haven't answered that.
MR. BURNS: Maybe you don't write the headlines, but there was a fairly provocative headline in that story, page one, "The United States -- an abrupt turn-around in our positions on the START I Treaty." It just isn't so. And you know --
Q It isn't so. That's what I'm asking.
MR. BURNS: I issued a public statement on why it isn't so last Thursday.
Q It didn't explain it.
MR. BURNS: I explained it. I also talked about it from this podium on Thursday. You weren't here, but I did talk about it. You know, if you would like, we can set up a special session, a special briefing session. We can get the people who have negotiated this and the experts in this building who are responsible for seeing this thing through to full implementation talk to you about it.
Q Well, since you issued a fairly strident statement, I think you should be able to explain it yourself. Otherwise, it raises the question as to whether you knew what you were talking about when you issued the statement.
MR. BURNS: Bill, I did know what I was talking about. I used to work on Russian issues for five years, actually. I worked on Russian issues when this was being negotiated and when it was signed. We issued the statement that we did, frankly, because we felt that the article was irresponsible, because we felt based on leaked documents you perhaps had a partial view, a partial understanding of this issue, but certainly not a complete one.
So we took the liberty to issue a strong statement. I wouldn't call it strident. I think it was strong. It was certainly an affirmation of our understanding of what the treaty commitments are on the part of the United States and of Russia.
I can arrange a special briefing for you if you would like to talk about all the esoteric details of this agreement, which is not my job.
Q Just a couple of quick questions, OK?
Under this new agreement, the Russians will be able to set up foreign space launch facilities. Will the U. S. be able to verify the START accountable missiles at those facilities?
MR. BURNS: That question was answered in the statement that we issued, and I'll be glad to duly note all your questions, Bill, but I'm not going to get into a detailed --
Q I wish you would, because no one at the White House or ACDA or yourself last Thursday were able to answer them for me.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, Bill. I don't know who you checked with at the White House and ACDA; but there are a lot of people in the Department of State, and I believe at the White House, who could answer those questions.
Q Okay. And then the last question, if you could take this question: If the Russians remove the warheads from an SS-25 and declare it a space-launch vehicle, is there any prohibition under the START Treaty that prevents them from moving that missile system, without the warheads, to any place in the world that they declare to be a space- launch facility?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to take the questions. I'm not sure we're going to respond to a paper that tends to specialize in leaked U.S. Government documents.
Q Well, clearly --
MR. BURNS: I don't think anybody here in a responsible position believes that documents should be leaked or that we should reward those who leak documents.
Q Well, I don't know. The story did not refer to any leaked documents.
MR. BURNS: We issued a very clear public statement about our position on this and I'm going to let that public statement stand.
Q O.K. But I'm telling you that your statement is incorrect because my story did not say that missiles would be exported. It says, "missiles converted as launchers." Let's be on ON THE RECORD for that.
MR. BURNS: Let me just be ON THE RECORD in asserting that we think that the article was incorrect, that we think that we are in a position to know what our Treaty commitments are and are not, and we stand by the statement that I made on Thursday.
Q And you'll take the questions that I asked?
MR. BURNS: They've been duly noted -- they've been duly noted.
Q Can I follow up? In this --
MR. BURNS: He insists on following up. Do you really insist on following up? (Laughter)
Q No, I don't insist upon following up.
MR. BURNS: People are leaving in droves. Look -- Howard's leaving, he's not interested. (Laughter) Howard, you're not interested?
Q But it is -- I think it's very relevant.
MR. BURNS: Betsy has other pressing questions on U.S. foreign policy.
Q After Betsy I'll be happy to follow.
MR. BURNS: Betsy.
Q Saudi Arabia. Did the U.S. have any indication or any knowledge of threats against U.S. personnel or Americans in Saudi Arabia prior to this attack this morning?
MR. BURNS: I just can't say. I can't say for the following reason: We normally, obviously, try to track those groups who we believe to be terrorist groups or groups who support terrorism. We try to ascertain threats before they are made real.
In this case, a terrible tragedy occurred, and a group -- someone, or some group of people -- are responsible for the deaths of five Americans and one Saudi citizen.
As part of our investigation, Betsy, of this incident, we'll be looking into everything that was done by the U.S. Government before this. We'll be looking into what we knew or did not know about the activities of the two groups who have claimed responsibility, and because they've claimed responsibility doesn't necessarily mean that one of them even did it. We're going to try to follow the truth and try to follow it where it leads.
Q A couple of questions on Saudi Arabia.
One, was the United States the only tenant in that building?
MR. BURNS: I would refer you to the Pentagon for that. The Pentagon, Department of Defense, leased the building for the purposes of housing the military personnel and the civilian personnel who were working on the training program.
Whether there were others in the building, I just don't know. It was a private office building. At least part of it, if not all of it, was leased. But there is going to be a briefing at 4:00 to give you these kinds of facts on the background of this tragedy.
Q Have the two groups that have claimed responsibility -- have they, to your knowledge, claimed responsibility for any violent acts before this?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. Both are minor, shadowy groups. I just don't know what they've claimed in the past and what they may have actually done. But I think it just points up a fundamental reality about the world as it is.
We talked earlier about not being able to stop the world. You can't -- because there are people out there, sadly, who want to kill Americans.
Q Didn't one of these groups --
MR. BURNS: There are people out there who want to engage in terrorist acts and it's wrong, and we've got to all band together internationally to stop it.
Q Didn't one of these groups issue a statement last spring demanding that all Westerners leave Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: I know that one of these statements issued this morning talked about the need to remove Americans from the Middle East. That won't happen. I'm sorry to tell the supporters of that group that the United States is going to remain in the Middle East to safeguard our vital national interest there. We will continue to have a defense relationship with Saudi Arabia, as the American public would expect us to have.
Q Nick I have --
MR. BURNS: Yes. Let me just go here and here (indicating).
Q Do you have any comments about the Guatemalan election yesterday? (inaudible) peace process?
MR. BURNS: I have some basic comments. You know that there was voting over the weekend in Guatemala. As you know, I think just a small percentage of the votes have been counted, so it's not possible to determine right now who the victors are. But we congratulate the Guatemalan people for the peaceful, orderly, and civic manner in which yesterday's elections were held. According to international observers, there were no serious instances of irregularities or of violence.
Preliminary indications are that about 40 to 50 percent of the electorate chose to vote. This is a significant increase over voting levels of a year ago when there were two special elections held in l994.
We're pleased that the cease-fire announced back on November l has been respected by both sides. The army remained in its barracks during the voting, which is
positive, and the civilian police provided adequate security for those who wanted to go to the polls. This, we believe, contributed to an atmosphere which we think was largely free of intimidation and of conflict.
As I said, the Tribunal, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which is responsible for the vote-counting, is doing that now. It may take several days for the votes to be tallied.
Q Nick, this is a different subject. Recently you granted an interview to China TV from Taiwan. In the interview you explained that America's one-China policy was not ambiguous. But somehow because of the way one of the questions was put to you and the way you answered the question, the U.S. one-China policy did seem to become more ambiguous than ever. (Laughter) How do you explain why?
MR. BURNS: Thank you. (Laughter) I'm looking toward your explanation on why I've confused you.
Q The question by the correspondent of China TV is: "Do you see any possibility that the U.S. Government might change its policy that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China in the future?" And your reply was: "I don't see any realistic possibility that the United States will change its China policy. We are comfortable with it. We think that it meets our interests, as well as the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait."
So the question and answer left the impression that the United States now does believe that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China.
MR. BURNS: We started to resort to the democratic process here at the briefing in the last couple of weeks, and I just want a show of hands? Who here thinks that that answer was ambiguous about the one- China policy?
Q Okay. You're not even voting for this position. (Laughter) So I think I win. (Laughter)
With all due respect, I think anyone who looks at that, as it was phrased in English -- and you've asked your question in English; I think you understand the language as well as anybody here -- knows that that was an unambiguous answer. The United States has a one-China policy.
MR. BURNS: And we've had one since the late l970s, we haven't changed. We won't change. We promise not to change the one-China policy.
MR. BURNS: We have no thought of changing it. We're not going to change it.
Q Let me finish my question.
MR. BURNS: We never even think about changing it.
Q To my knowledge --
MR. BURNS: We never would think about changing it.
Q -- the one-China policy of the United States only says that Taiwan is part of China. It has never said that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China (laughter), and there is a big difference between the two.
MR. BURNS: I know it well. (Laughter)
Q A very sensitive --
MR. BURNS: No wiggle room, Ron.
Q A very sensitive issue to --
MR. BURNS: I don't need wiggle room on this one.
Q -- both the government and the people of Taiwan. So I think my question is --
MR. BURNS: Well --
Q -- as simple as this: If the U.S. China policy has not changed, I think there is a need for the U.S. Spokesman to set the record straight.
MR. BURNS: I'm very glad to do that. Thank you for the opportunity. I always try to take the opportunity of every question asked by correspondents from Taiwan or correspondents from the People's Republic to set our policy straight.
We have a one-China policy, full stock. That policy hasn't changed. That policy will not change.
I think you can rest assured that we have not been busy cooking up any different schemes over the weekend or in the last couple of weeks. In my interview with the television broadcast from Taiwan, I simply stated what we've stated countless times over the last couple of months -- that is, our policy has not changed. I think everybody on
both sides of the Taiwan Strait can be assured of that. We have an unambiguous clear, well-thought-out, well-conceived, and logical policy.
Q Do you regard Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China, but only China; right?
MR. BURNS: Goodness gracious! I don't know what I can do to dissuade you from thinking that I'm single-handedly trying to change the course of U.S.-China relations. I am not. I am totally faithful to the President and the Secretary of State and the policy that they have followed, which is the policy of five successive Administrations.
Q Terrorism. One more?
MR. BURNS: Okay, I'll just take one question back here on Turkey. Bill, we can get into this afterwards.
Q Okay, Mr. Burns. There's an article here that states that Turkey said it expected Russia to fulfill its promises concerning the CFE. Do you accept also?
MR. BURNS: Do I accept?
Q That Russia is going to fulfill its promises?
MR. BURNS: We think that all signatories to the CFE Treaty should fulfill their responsibilities -- all signatories, including Russia; yes.
(The briefing concluded at 2:26 p.m.)
(###)To the top of this page