U.S. Department of State 95/11/29 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, November 29, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcements Welcome to Education Office of Atlantic Council Interns 1 Secretary Christopher's Schedule: --Congressional Testimony; Discussions ................1 --Madrid, Spain Mtgs./Events ..........................1 --Brussels, Belgium Mtgs. of NAC ......................1 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Schedule ...................1-2 Report of Inspector General Review ....................9-10 Secretary Christopher's Mtg. w/Bosnian PM Silajdzic ...14 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Paris Peace Conference ................................2-3 Proximity Peace Talks Agreement --Signing .............................................3 --Reports of Renegotiation ............................3 --Agreement on Eastern Slavonia .......................4-5 --Arms Control Regime/Disequalibrium in Force Levels ..14-16 NATO Military Forces--Location, Numbers ...............5 Editorial Comment on Deployment of U.S. Forces ........17 NATO Selection Process for Secretary General Position ......5-8 MEXICO Report of U.S. Contacts w/Zapatista Rebels ............8 PANAMA Future Discussions on U.S. Military Presence ..........9 HAITI Request from Haitian Gov't. for Return of Documents ...10 Gov't. Statements re: Presidential Elections ..........10-11 General Cedras' Location ..............................11-13 Reforms/Withholding of USAID Funds ....................13 ALGERIA Inauguration of President Zeroual .....................17-18 MIDDLE EAST Katyusha Rocket Attacks into Israel fr. Southern Lebanon .............................................19
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1995, 12:53 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department Briefing. I'd like to welcome to the briefing today -- I believe we have some interns sponsored by the Education Office of the Atlantic Council. Welcome.
I have a quick announcement about the Secretary's schedule. I know some of you are interested in that. The Secretary will be leaving Washington Friday evening after his two days of Congressional testimony on Thursday and Friday. He'll be leaving for Madrid.
He arrives in Madrid early on Saturday morning. He'll have a meeting there along with U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Minister Solana. That will be a late- morning meeting.
He then will have a one-on-one lunch with Minister Solana. After that, the Secretary will be joining the President, who arrives, I think, mid-evening in Madrid.
On the President's schedule, there will be a dinner Saturday evening, and on Sunday morning -- throughout the morning -- a series of meetings that the President and Secretary will have with the EU leadership.
On Monday, December 4, the Secretary will travel to Brussels to prepare for the meetings of the North Atlantic Council on December 5 and 6. The Secretary then intends to return to the United States the evening of Wednesday, December 6 -- return to Washington.
He plans to spend next Thursday and Friday working with the Congress, talking to members of Congress about our hope that the Congress will provide an expression of support for the Administration on the deployment of American troops to Bosnia.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will represent the United States in Budapest next Thursday and Friday at the meetings of the OSCE and the NAC-C. Deputy Secretary Talbott will also travel to London during the afternoon and evening of the 8th for the opening of the London Conference on implementation issues concerning Bosnia.
The Secretary would very much like to join that meeting on December 9. Whether he will be able to do so or not, it will be a function of the status of the debate back here in Washington on Bosnia.
So that's a quick survey of his schedule. As you know, we've had a sign-up sheet available in the Press Office for those of you who would like to travel with the Secretary to Madrid and Brussels. If there are any people who haven't signed up who would like to, please see me or Nanda or Alison after this briefing.
Q That's a pretty complete schedule. But can you push it a little further? Do you have Paris penciled in yet?
MR. BURNS: We fully expect that the Paris peace conference would take place probably sometime the following week. We're not yet in a position to announce a date with the French Government. I believe the French Government would be the first to announce that.
Q Confirming that date up, because diplomats out of Paris are saying it's the 14th.
MR. BURNS: We've had a number of discussions with the French Government. We've just tried to match up our schedule with the French, and the French have to match up with a lot of other people's schedules as well.
As you know, we believe, and the French agree, that that meeting should take place after there has been a conclusion of the Congressional debate here in the United States. So it's just been an exercise in trying to match up schedules. As soon as we have a full agreement on a date, I think the French and the White House will be in a position to announce that.
Q Is there any disagreement or difference of view about the scope of what happens in Paris? Is it just a ceremonial signing, or is it an opportunity to discuss Europe in broader terms, to use Bosnia perhaps as a pattern for resolving any other conflict?
MR. BURNS: The French are right now discussing with us and with others the program for the Paris peace conference. There will be some meetings as well as a formal signing. I think there will also be some ceremonial lunches or dinners. I'm not quite sure.
When that discussion is completed, the French will announce it. It will be more than just a signing. There will be some meetings attached to it, and it will be an importance conference. We congratulate the French for offering to hold it. We think it's appropriate that this signing take place in France, considering the sacrifice that the French and other European countries have made over the last couple of years in Bosnia.
However, the other day I did get a question on this. I want to repeat that part of the answer, Barry. The Bosnian Serbs should understand, and all parties at the Dayton Agreement should understand, that what was initialed at Dayton on November 21 will be what is signed in Paris the week after next -- meaning there is no possibility to renegotiate any aspect of the Dayton Agreement because of any unhappiness with it.
The Dayton Agreement was worked out over three and a half months, the last 21 days of which were an intensive series of meetings. It represents some fundamental compromises that all the parties had to make. None of us who were there are in a position to renegotiate it. There is no way we'll renegotiate it. We will not contemplate any renegotiation.
So what will be signed in Paris will be, to the letter, what was initialed in Dayton.
Q Nick, who is pushing -- is this a live debate now, the effort to try to push for some sort of renegotiation on some aspect?
MR. BURNS: It's not a live debate in Washington or Bonn or Paris or London or Ankara, or anyplace else. It is certainly a debate, that I've seen in the press, in some of the suburbs of Sarajevo and in Pale and Mr. Karadzic's remarks yesterday to CNN. They have to understand that this agreement was signed on their behalf, initialed on their behalf by President Milosevic. It was then initialed the next day by Mr. Karadzic. He is not in a position to renegotiate this with us, and we are not going to engage in any discussions with him to renegotiate.
Q The Russians, the French, none of them are taking up the cause of the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I have heard no talk whatsoever in any European capital, much less in Washington, D.C., about any inclination to renegotiate. We're hearing it from elements of the Bosnian Serb community.
Q Nick, what's happened to the agreement on Eastern Slavonia? Has there been some correspondence between the Secretary and the Croatian President on that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any correspondence on it, Sid. I'm not aware of any letters in the last couple of days or since we last saw President Tudjman in Dayton. I'm not aware of any phone calls on it.
The agreement stands. It's an agreement that was reached on December 12 -- very important agreement -- and we expect it to be carried out fully.
Q How long -- what's the implementation period of that agreement?
MR. BURNS: The implementation period or the transitional period?
MR. BURNS: The agreement will go into effect when the Paris agreements are signed. As you know, the United Nations has lead responsibility to look at how to put this agreement into practice. There needs to be a transitional authority arranged for the region and some kind of transitional military force that will come in in order to effect the demilitarization of the area. All of this is spelled out in the December 12 agreement.
As you know, the transitional period will last for 12 months. There is an option that any party has to extend that period for an additional 12 months.
The United Nations has been debating these questions of how to establish the transitional authority, how to carry it out, which forces would come in to stand between the opposing forces there. But I don't believe the United Nations has made any fundamental decisions, and certainly has not announced anything about the results of their discussions.
Q That's not part of the NATO peacekeeping mission?
MR. BURNS: No. It's separate. It's separate. The United Nations will be taking responsibility for looking at the question of the transitional authority, including its military complement.
The NATO debates right now and the operational plan concern Bosnia -- how to implement the military annex of the Dayton peace accords.
Q No American troops in Eastern Slavonia is what I'm getting at.
MR. BURNS: Right now, we have not made any commitments to do that, no.
Q What about the American troops in other places that we're reading about?
MR. BURNS: In Macedonia?
Q Well, even Hungary, maybe? By some accounts, at least one in the Los Angeles Times, that American troops will be -- we know there are some Americans in Macedonia -- but American troops will be in Croatia. This is apart from the 20,000. Another 5,000. And maybe even in Hungary.
Is this related to the agreement in some binding way? You talk about initialing and not being able to revise. Has the United States made some ironclad commitment to send troops to several other countries?
MR. BURNS: NATO will be staging some of its forces in some of the surrounding countries. Those countries, including Hungary, have given NATO permission to stage, in the preliminary parts of the deployment, forces there. But I have to refer you to the Pentagon for the numbers that we're talking about in that respect.
But the great bulk of the NATO force will be stationed in Bosnia itself. Of course, for support services, you're going to have to have some forces in the outlying areas and some of the surrounding countries.
Q But 5,000 is a kind of sizable number.
Q On the schedule, is lunch Saturday, in part, an interview for a Secretary General, the next Secretary General, with Solana?
MR. BURNS: Interview?
Q The Secretary was interviewing people here who were candidates for the job. Solana has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary General. The position is still open.
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has a very good relationship with Foreign Minister Solana. They get along quite well. They've worked closely together on a lot of U.S.-European issues over the last year or so.
The process of selecting the next NATO Secretary General continues very intensively. It is taking place in Brussels, at NATO headquarters. It is a confidential and private process, and we're not in a position to talk about it in public.
Once the decision has been made by consensus, the smoke will go up and we'll be in a position to announce it. But I have nothing to announce today.
Q Is there a language --
MR. BURNS: A language test? I'm not aware of any language test.
Q A proficiency of French, is that --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any language test.
Q From an American standpoint, at least two contenders, apparently, have come up short of their ability to speak French in a way satisfactory to Paris?
MR. BURNS: Not from our point of view.
Q I wonder if the Americans had a language test?
MR. BURNS: The United States does not have a language test. There are two official languages of NATO: English and French. But the United States doesn't have a language test.
Q Nick, is Solana a candidate? Can you go that far? I don't know. He's certainly been talked about.
MR. BURNS: I believe right now the only government that has officially declared a candidate is the Danish Government with former Minister Ellemann-Jensen. I don't believe that any other government has publicly put forward a candidate at this time.
There are a number of people being considered. There are a number of names being discussed. It's being done privately and confidentially. We certainly don't want to make this public in any way, shape, or form before a decision is made. We had an unpleasant experience a couple of weeks back and are not inclined to repeat that experience.
Q Does the United States consider Solana an appropriate candidate for NATO Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: We have great respect for Minister Solana -- the highest respect for him.
Q What about Spain's role in NATO -- its unique role in NATO -- and the fact that Solana has been critical of --
MR. BURNS: He has been critically important. He just was in Barcelona yesterday.
Q (Inaudible) (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I'm just answering your question, Carol. I'll answer, and, if you're not satisfied, you can come back --
Q I will.
MR. BURNS: -- and you can even comment on my answer. I was going to say that Minister Solana has been a critically important figure in Western discussions on a number of issues. We have the highest respect for him.
Q But you're not troubled by the fact that Spain is not an integrated member of the NATO military, and that he has taken issue with some aspects of U.S. policy?
MR. BURNS: Spain is an important member of NATO, a valued ally, and I'll just keep it there. Are you satisfied with that response?
Q No. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I shouldn't have asked the question.
Q Some members of Congress today have written to the Secretary, also asking you to reconsider Solana as a candidate, because they oppose him, and I was just wondering if you had replied to that letter.
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the letter. I'm unaware of the letter.
Q Nick, are you ruling out the possibility of having a NATO Secretary General whose government is not a member of NATO's military wing?
MR. BURNS: All I'm going to say on this one -- since this is a private and confidential process -- is that a number of people are being considered. It's a very important choice, and I don't want to identify any of the people who are being considered beyond the person who's been publicly announced by his government.
Q Are there other candidates besides Solana? Are there other people being considered privately in this confidential channel besides Solana?
MR. BURNS: I haven't talked about Minister Solana as a candidate. You all have done that. Let me just note for the record, for all people who will read this transcript, that I haven't made that statement. That was made by one of the questioners.
There are a number of people being considered from a variety of NATO countries. We certainly would be comfortable with any of the people being considered -- they're all fine individuals -- from any of the countries, but I can't confirm who these people are.
Q And these are names beyond Ellemann-Jensen and Lubbers?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Can you say what these names are?
MR. BURNS: No. Good try, however. I can't say it in French either. I could say it in French, but I won't say it in French.
Q Different topic?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to.
Q There is a story today in a Mexican newspaper that said that U.S. diplomats had been in touch with the Zapatista rebels to discuss what they intend to do with what is apparently a rather large oil reserve in a region of the country they control, at least in part. Can you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the report, Sid, and I'm not aware of the supposed contacts. I really have nothing to say on that.
Q The contacts again. Do you have a comment on --
MR. BURNS: I'm unaware of any contacts like that. I just don't know. It hasn't been reported to me. I'd actually be glad to look into this for you and see what I can give you on this.
Q Can I stay in the hemisphere?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Stay in the hemisphere, yes.
Q Panama. There is a report that the U.S. Ambassador to Panama said the U.S. is not willing to pay one cent for maintaining bases in that country. Do you have any comment on it?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the Ambassador's remarks. I can tell you, however, that as a result of the last high-level contacts that we had -- Presidential contacts with Panama -- we and the Panamanians are interested in having a discussion at some point in the future about whether it would make sense for the United States to maintain some kind of military presence in Panama after December 31, 1999.
Those conversations have not yet taken place. I don't believe we even have a schedule of when they will start, but we think at some point in the future -- the not-too-distant future -- we'll have those conversations.
As for any payments, I can't envisage any scenario under which the United States would actually pay to maintain its military forces in Panama. That wouldn't be consistent with our view of the situation. So in that sense, while I haven't seen the Ambassador's remarks, I would certainly stand by what he is reported to have said.
Q Does the U.S. want to keep bases in Panama past 1999? Is that --
MR. BURNS: That's a question that we need to discuss with the Panamanians. It may be in our mutual interest to do so. It may not. We'll have to see. We have a number of years to think about this. We are looking forward to the discussions, but we have not made any decisions. We don't come to those discussions with any determined agenda to push forward. These are exploratory discussions.
Q There was a story in the Miami Herald today that Richard Nuccio, the Special Assistant on Cuba to the President, is under criminal investigation for revealing classified information to Congressman Torricelli in reference to Guatemala, and this apparently originated from Inspector General review here in the State Department. Could you comment as to the results that you've had so far in this investigation, and on what grounds the Inspector General sent it to the Justice Department?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the policy of our Office of the Inspector General is neither to confirm nor deny the existence of inquiries related to any individuals. That's the second part of your question.
On the first part of your question, I would just say that any question of this nature should be directed to the Department of Justice.
Q However, Linda Topping, a spokesman for the Department here, already commented or said to the Miami Herald that they in fact had forwarded the investigation or the results of the investigation to the Justice Department.
MR. BURNS: I did see those comments, but the policy of the Office of the Inspector General is not to confirm or deny the existence of any inquiry. If you have any questions on this, I'd refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q Nick, keeping up with this part of the world and also referring to other parts of the government, do you have anything on the documents in Haiti that we talked about yesterday that were at the Pentagon. Any movement on that? And also any updating on concerns within the Department here about the situation of President Aristide remaining in power?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, Charlie, I've talked to my colleagues at the Pentagon, and I know that there is an intensive review underway of the request that we have from the Haitian Government, stemming from their October 31 message to us that the Haitian Government would like these documents returned. The Pentagon is looking at that very intensively. The ball's in their court, and I think the State Department and the Pentagon agree that we should look at this seriously; that we owe the Haitians a quick answer and a thorough answer, and that's what we intend to do.
On the second question -- on the question of President Aristide -- we have a great national interest in seeing through our mission in Haiti, and that is the United Nations mission to try to insure a measure of stability in Haiti. We're going to see that through, through the early part of this winter.
We understand from President Aristide, from the comments that he's made over the last couple of days, that there will be Presidential elections on December 17. There will be a new President of Haiti inaugurated on February 7; that President Aristide does plan to adhere to the constitution and step down from office.
He has played a critical role since September 1994 and even before that in giving some hope to the Haitian people that they can begin to construct a democratic system. If you look at all the newspaper reports over the last couple of days, it's undoubtedly true that's there is a lot of turbulence in Haiti. There has been an increase in violence. There has been an increase in the number of people who have tried to leave Haiti illegally for the United States, and I think 577 of those people were returned yesterday.
But I think it's also true that beyond that, we're dealing here with a situation that is far preferable to the situation that existed before September 1994. The Haitian people have greater hope for a prosperous future at some point down the road, even though they have major economic problems that they have to live with, and they certainly have the framework of a democratic system that did not exist for many, many decades in Haitian history.
The United States has played a very positive, productive role here. I think our policy has been successful, and I think you'll see the confirmation of that when these elections are held and when a new President is installed on February 7.
Q Is there any question in your mind -- and you've said it once, but just to come back to it -- is there any question in your mind that there will be a new president; that President Aristide will step down after all the to-ing and fro-ing and the various comments that have
MR. BURNS: As Mr. Lake said on Sunday, there was some ambiguity in statements made last week by President Aristide. We believe that's been cleared up by the statements he has made, that his Prime Minister has made, and other assurances -- private assurances -- that we've been given by the Haitian Government over the last couple of days. We believe it's been clarified. There are, I think, 14 people who have declared for the Presidency, for the race -- the vote on December 17.
Among them is the leader of Lavalas, and so we think that the way is now forward for a good, open, free and fair election and for a new President in February.
Q Nick, does the United States have any idea about the whereabouts of General Cedras? Has there been any contact between him and the United States in recent weeks?
MR. BURNS: I suppose somebody in our government has some idea where he might be. Let me look into that. I don't know where he is right now.
Q As far as contacts, too?
MR. BURNS: As far as contacts?
Q Contacts as well.
MR. BURNS: I'd be surprised if there were contacts. I'll be glad to look into both questions.
Q These assurances -- have they come from Aristide himself directly to U.S. officials?
MR. BURNS: There have been a number of conversations with President Aristide, and National Security Adviser Tony Lake has had, I think the other day, a phone conversation with him. Our Ambassador, of course, has been in touch with Aristide and other senior Haitian officials, and it's our view that the constitution will be adhered to.
Q But is it accurate to say that Aristide has personally assured senior U.S. officials that he will follow --
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe that's accurate.
Q Nick, back on Rick Nuccio, do you know if he's still on the payroll?
MR. BURNS: He is certainly on the payroll of the U.S. Government, yes.
Q Nick, just to go back to Carol's question, Aristide has personally assured U.S. officials -- not through interviews and other newspapers -- but --
MR. BURNS: Yes, we understand from President Aristide that he intends to follow the constitution, and that is to have the elections for President on December 17 and have someone else the victor in those elections assume the presidency on February 7.
Q Can you say who he made those assurances to?
MR. BURNS: I'd rather not. I mean, we have a number of public pronouncements from him and from his Prime Minister, and we have, of course, had a series of conversations with him, going back many, many months on this issue, but extending until just a couple of days ago. So we're satisfied that President Aristide will be stepping down.
He's played the pivotal role in Haitian society. He's enormously popular, because he has done in a large part very good things for the Haitian population. I think he represents hope for the Haitian population, but a number of his allies will be contesting -- will be represented in this vote, and Mr. Preval is an announced candidate. He's someone who also has a lot of credibility in Haitian society.
So we think that stability can continue; that this can be a peaceful transfer of power. And, as President Aristide has said many, many times, and we've quoted from this line that sometimes in a nascent democracy like Haiti's, the second election is more important than the first, and this will be the second presidential election.
Q Nick, the U.S. is still withholding funds -- some aid funds in Haiti. One, I believe, is because of the lack of privatization of some of the government-owned parastatals, and the other, I believe, is reform of the civil service.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Has there been any movement on this?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not yet delivered $4.6 million as part of our $45 million assistance program, because Haiti has not yet taken the steps promised on privatization and on civil service reform. Once those steps are taken, then USAID will come forward with the $4.6 million.
I can tell you, however, that Senator Helms has agreed that -- and this is a separate category, Betsy -- $1.3 million in electoral assistance is now available through USAID to the Haitian people for the presidential elections in December, and that's an important decision. We're very grateful that Senator Helms has seen his way to this decision, and we think it will make a difference about a month from now when these elections take place.
Q But you don't have any update on where the first item stands.
MR. BURNS: I know that in all of our recent contacts with the Haitian Government -- Tony Lake's contacts, Strobe Talbott's contacts, Ambassador Swing's -- we've made a prominent issue out of the privatization effort, out of the need for civil service reform, and have explained to the Haitian Government it's not possible for us to extend the $4.6 million until these two reforms are made, as the Haitian Government committed to do, when we began the $45 million overall assistance program.
So that money has not gone forward, but we do have some active programs of assistance in police training and in reconstruction and in many other areas.
Q Another subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Why is the Secretary meeting with Haris Silajdzic today?
MR. BURNS: Prime Minister Silajdzic is in town. He's having a number of discussions with people in the Administration, including the Secretary. He's also going to be talking to Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill about the issue before the Congress, and that is whether or not the Congress should offer the Administration an expression of support for the deployment of troops.
The Bosnian Government has felt very strongly that the United States must be part of the effort to help implement the peace agreement. The Bosnian Government has requested the United States to participate in the NATO effort, and I think Prime Minister Silajdzic is here for both reasons -- to confer with the Administration and confer with the Congress.
So the Secretary wanted to take advantage of his presence here and have a short meeting this afternoon. I think he'll be meeting with Ambassador Albright as well and with others in our European Bureau.
Q Nick, when does the United States begin its processing of arming the Bosnian military?
MR. BURNS: That is a very important issue that we continue to discuss with the Bosnian Government, that we continue to consult with Congress on. As you know -- and the President spoke to this yesterday afternoon -- there is an important arms control regime that will be put in place, and we hope that there will be around a 25 percent reduction in the level of arms available to all the forces in Bosnia. We hope that that will be done on a voluntary basis.
That was part of the negotiations at Dayton. It's part of the Dayton peace agreement. If that does take place, I think all of us will be very pleased, and we'd be glad to help the parties achieve that figure.
If it cannot take place --- if there is not a voluntary reduction - - then we would like to try to achieve our goal of an equilibrium of military forces in another fashion, and that would be to help the Bosnian Government to increase its military capabilities, to build up its military equipment capacity, and we have had a lot of discussions with them and have to have a lot more to determine exactly what the outlines of that program would be.
I expect that certainly when the Secretary and Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili testify on Thursday and Friday, this will be one of the questions that the Congress will want to talk to them about, and I'm sure they will be ready to discuss it.
Q You do believe that there is inequity in the force level now between the Muslims and the Serbs? When the Secretary testified on the Hill -- I guess it was last month -- he seemed to indicate that you weren't quite sure about that, and now there's been a lot of water under the bridge?
MR. BURNS: That testimony was -- what? -- six weeks ago, I think.
MR. BURNS: What the Secretary said was that we wanted to be sure about the parameters -- we wanted to be sure about the numbers involved, and we wanted to get a comprehensive look at the situation to determine just what the disequilibrium was. We have been working at that since then. That effort began before that congressional testimony, its continued through the Dayton peace talks, and the Pentagon now thinks that it has a rough sense of the disequilibrium that does absolutely exist. The Bosnian Government does not have an equal -- certainly, by any stretch of the imagination -- equal military capacity in terms of equipment or firepower that the Bosnian Serbs and the Croatians and others do.
So there needs to be an effort to balance the situation, because we want this agreement to be self-sustaining. We don't want to be in a position, in our very carefully worked out exit strategy, our very highly tuned and carefully worked out exit strategy -- we don't want to be in a position when American and other NATO troops leave, sometime roughly a year after they're first deployed, where one of the countries -- in fact, the victim in this war -- is in a disadvantageous situation.
We'd like to achieve that balance by voluntary means. If we can't, we'll do it by a U.S. assistance program.
Q Can you quantify this disequilibrium?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to do that now. That's really a question for the Pentagon. I think we also need to have some more discussions with the Bosnians and the others in the region before we throw out numbers.
Q Did you say 25 percent?
MR. BURNS: Yes. That's the figure that the President used yesterday.
Q That must come from somewhere, that number?
MR. BURNS: That comes from part of the study that we've made of the military balance in the region, yes.
Q And the disarmament would only be on the part of the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: At this point, that is the preferred way to proceed, certainly; rather than injecting additional arms into a heavily armed area, we'd certainly like to see a process of disarmament take place. But if that doesn't happen, the Bosnian Serbs are on notice that we're not going to allow the Bosnian Government to be left in a situation where there is a profound disadvantage to the Bosnian Government -- say, a year or so down the road -- when the NATO forces will be departing.
Q When you look at this equation, you're talking about the Bosnian forces alone? Not the Bosnian Croat Federation?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q And the Croats won't be asked to disarm?
MR. BURNS: It's possible -- they will be in the equation. Anything is possible. But we just haven't gotten to the point where we've made specific requests yet. We need to get further into the discussion before we do that.
Q But has there been any thinking along the lines, if you only -- you have a Bosnian Croat Federation that seems to be roughly equal to the Bosnian Serbs -- those two together. If you arm the Bosnian Muslims so they're equal with the Bosnian Serbs, then the Bosnian Croat Federation has a distinct advantage over the Bosnian Serbs as far as weaponry goes.
MR. BURNS: That advantage is in population. That advantage is also built into some of the constitutional arrangements that were agreed to as part of the Dayton peace accords. That's life. The fact is the Bosnian Serbs are in a minority. That's life. It's the way it is.
Q One on Algeria?
MR. BURNS: Let me just note for the record that we were very pleased to see this morning -- before we leave Bosnia forever today -- some very good editorials from the Washington Times, Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post on the question of whether or not the United States should deploy troops. That's two times in two weeks that we've been pleasantly surprised by the Washington Times. I don't know if the Times has a reporter here, but I'd just like to congratulate the Times for its vision and foresight and wisdom on this question of Bosnia.
I've got copies I can pass out in the Press Room afterwards.
MR. BURNS: I sometimes comment on editorials. Only when they're good editorials. If they're negative, we usually don't comment on them.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q How does the United States now, with the benefit of the observers in the Algeria election and now that President Zeroual has been inaugurated, Nick, how does the United States view the results of that election? Was it a fair and democratic election?
Zeroual, reportedly, is reaching out to dissident factions, trying to reconcile. The people reportedly have rejected terrorism in this election. How does the U.S. Government view that?
MR. BURNS: We've commented on the elections. We did last week. We congratulated the Algerian people on having had an election in which up to, by some reports, 75 percent of the people voted. It's an amazingly large turnout considering the pressures on many parts of Algerian society and the terrorism that's existed there.
We hope as a result of the inauguration of President Zeroual that the government and the opposition forces can have a fruitful dialogue. We hope that the Algerian people can achieve peace and stability in their life. They have lived under terrible, terrible pressure with too much bloodshed for too many years.
Q Will the United States Government recognize Mr. Zeroual's legitimacy as President?
MR. BURNS: We have diplomatic relations with the Government of Algeria. We have an embassy there. We have an Ambassador there. We have a relationship with the government. Of course, we recognize the government. We recognize the election. We certainly recognize him as the President of Algeria, yes.
Q Still in the region, Nick. Things have not really quieted down in south Lebanon. Was the Secretary on the phone this morning at 4:00 a.m.? What's going on?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary, following his 4:30 a.m. conversation with Minister Shara, had two more conversations with him throughout yesterday. He also talked to Prime Minister Shimon Peres. We understand that the Katyusha rocket attacks into Israel have stopped.
We've been in touch with all the parties to urge restraint and to urge them to reduce the violence. We certainly will continue to monitor the situation very closely.
Q The Israelis have responded today?
MR. BURNS: We have heard reports that the Israeli defense forces have responded with some retaliatory airstrikes into southern Lebanon this morning, yes, but there have been no further Katyusha rocket attacks.
Q Have the Israelis been restrained enough for you?
MR. BURNS: We're just glad that the rocket attacks have stopped. It's a very serious development that put a lot of lives in danger. The Secretary worked hard yesterday to put an end to that. We believe we had the cooperation of Israel and Syria to do that, and we're very glad about that.
It is true this morning there have been some additional military incidents in southern Lebanon. Unfortunately, that is part of the activity in southern Lebanon that has been going on for a long, long time there. I wouldn't relate them to yesterday's attack.
Q How much credit would you give Syria for the fact that these attacks have stopped?
MR. BURNS: I would say that we believe that both Israel and Syria have acted to reduce the violence and have acted to impose a measure of restraint that would stop these Katyusha rocket attacks.
Q Apparently, Israel doesn't have direct influence over Hizbollah. So did Syria just call up Hizbollah and say, "Stop it?"
MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to refer you to the Syrian Government to answer that question. I can't answer it. We do believe, as we said yesterday, that Syria does have some influence on Hizbollah. I would just say that as a result of the contacts we made yesterday, we're pleased to see that the Katyusha rocket attack stopped.
Q The cause and effect seems pretty dramatic, though, huh?
MR. BURNS: All I can say, Carol, is that we appealed to the Syrian Government yesterday as well as the Israeli Government to arrest a very, very threatening situation to the Israeli population in northern Israel, and that has happened and that's a good thing.
Q Nick, just to pursue the matter, in the Secretary working hard yesterday to stop this did he talk to any Lebanese official?
MR. BURNS: He did not talk to Lebanese officials. But our Embassy in Beirut had conversations with the Lebanese Government.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
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