U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1995, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome back to Ron and others, travelers, from Europe.
I have a couple of announcements to make, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
First, Secretary Christopher, as you know, returned late last evening from Brussels and Madrid -- a very successful trip. He had some early morning meetings today, some mid-morning meetings, and he has decided that he will be remaining here in Washington through early next week until he departs for Paris at some time mid next week.
Therefore, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will be representing the United States at the London Conference this weekend, December 8 and 9. That's a very important conference. It will be focusing on all of the civilian implementation issues that will be critical to seeing us through to a successful implementation of the Dayton accords. Deputy Secretary Talbott will be joined by a number of senior Administration officials for that conference.
As you also know, Deputy Secretary Talbott is in Budapest today and tomorrow at the OSCE Ministerial conference. That conference is focusing on issues that are also central to the Dayton peace process: to elections, which we believe will take place at some point between six and nine months after the accord is signed next Thursday in Paris; on the arms control regime, which we believe is critical in helping to make this a self-sustaining agreement; and on human rights, which of course is very important as we look not only forward but look backward at a number of the human rights abuses that took place during the prosecution of the war.
Secondly, as you know, Assistant Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke will be leaving tonight on a trip to the Balkans. He'll be visiting Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo.
His aims are to discuss with each of the three parties to the Dayton agreement the Paris peace conference, and also to look beyond Paris and look at a few critical issues.
First and foremost, he'll be talking to the Bosnian Government about the absolutely critical need for the Bosnian Government to say goodbye to the Mujahidin fighters who are currently in Bosnia, some of whom have been there for a number of years.
As you know, the military annex of the Dayton accord calls for the departure of all foreign forces. That includes the Mujahidin fighters, and Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be making this a priority of his trip.
He'll be also talking about the situation of Serbs, those who live in and around Sarajevo and elsewhere. As you know, we believe that the statements made by President Izetbegovic and other Bosnian Government officials, assuring the Serbs that they should stay where they are, that they should not leave their homes, that their civil liberties will be protected are very important statements. We'd like to see more statements out of the Bosnian Government. We'd like to see more statements that will assure the Serbs that their rights will in fact be protected. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be reviewing with the parties to the Dayton accords a number of other implementation issues that will be important after the agreement is signed.
As you know, Secretary Christopher will also be meeting with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, who is the President of the Democratic League of Kosovo; and that meeting takes place here in the Department at 3:00 today.
I'm going to do two other things before we go to questions. The first is just to report on the last meeting that the Secretary had last evening in Brussels. We were not able to brief the press corps because we left immediately after the meeting.
It was an extraordinary meeting with all of the Foreign Ministers from the Central European countries, and that includes the three Foreign Ministers from the Baltic countries -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This has become a tradition. This is the fourth time that the Secretary has met with these Ministers in the last two years. A number of themes came forward in this meeting which also were present throughout our trip to Madrid and to Brussels, and which we think are very important in terms of our leadership in Europe.
The first is that all of these Foreign Ministers said to the Secretary privately that American leadership and an American presence in Europe is absolutely indispensable to the future security and unity of Europe; and you know that European unity is the overarching strategic objective of this Administration's foreign policy in Europe.
Secondly, all of the Ministers -- and this was also true of the NATO Ministers the day before -- but all the Central European Ministers placed great emphasis on the renewed strength and unity of NATO, as demonstrated by the creation of IFOR and the deployment of IFOR in the coming weeks.
I think it's fair to say that as a result of the NATO meetings on Tuesday and the NACC meeting yesterday -- in which we included the Central Europeans -- that NATO is the supreme and core European security organization. It is the key to European stability and security.
Another point that came through in all of their comments is that NATO is at an historic juncture. The fact is that NATO will be undertaking its largest-ever military mission; and, as Secretary Perry said so eloquently the other day, the irony is that this mission will be one to implement a peace and not to fight a war. NATO, of course, was created nearly 50 years ago to fight the Cold War.
Two interesting developments arose in this meeting -- and I think throughout the two days in Brussels -- about IFOR. Number one, many of these Central European countries will be contributing troops to IFOR. A number of them -- the Czechs and Hungarians principally -- have given transit rights and will allow us to stay on their soil to provide support for our forces.
This represents a real opportunity for the Central European countries to take part in a very important NATO operation. We think that the experience that they will have in contributing troops and supporting this organization will be in essence far more important than anything they could have learned through seminars or through training exercises.
Secondly, the fact that Russia will be participating is quite important for the future of Russia-NATO relations. Russia has made a strategic decision that it wants to be part of IFOR. That's important to us as we build a Russia-NATO link in the future -- an understanding between Russia and NATO of how we're going to work together in Europe.
So we think, as we look back on this trip, that it was an extraordinary week; and along with the appointment of Javier Solana as the new NATO Secretary General, the decisions by the French Government to enhance their participation in NATO's military structures, we think that we come back from this trip with a great sense of a strengthened NATO and a strengthened American role in NATO.
Finally, before going to your questions, I wanted to read a statement on the death of Dimitri Antonovich Volkogonov. For those of you who do not know him, he is one of the great heroes of modern Russian history. He was the co-chairman, along with former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Malcolm Toon, of the U.S.-Russia POW/MIA Commission.
For the last four years, under both President Bush and President Clinton, and with the help of President Yeltsin and the stewardship of President Yeltsin, General Volkogonov played the leading role in helping the United States to find its missing POWs and MIAs, at least to trace what happened to them from, the second World War, the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam.
Ambassador Toon, who was his partner, issued the following statement today that I thought it was appropriate to read.
"The United States side of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission was very saddened to learn of the passing of General-Colonel Dimitri Antonovich Volkogonov, a fellow soldier for whom we had great respect, which only grew in the three-and-a- half years we worked together.
"While serving as the Russian Chairman of the U.S.- Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs, General Volkogonov widened the windows of communication with the United States on POW/MIA matters and was unswerving in his efforts to gain information which would help resolve painful questions about lost American and Soviet service members.
"Enduring great physical hardship, he has nevertheless demonstrated a strength of character so admired by his friends and colleagues. His work will leave an enduring legacy to Russia and to the world alike, and his memory will serve as a beacon to those who continue his efforts. We will miss him."
That was a statement by Ambassador Malcolm Toon. General Volkogonov uncovered the fate of American GIs who were taken prisoner by the Soviet Union after the second World War, 323 of whom disappeared into the Gulag. He helped us find the traces of a number of Americans, burial grounds of Americans who disappeared during the Cold War.
He was a remarkable man, and we thought it was appropriate for us to note his passing and extend our condolences to his family and to the Russian Government on his passing.
With that, I'll be glad, George, to go to your questions.
Q What do you have on the Secretary's plans after Paris?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything to say. The Secretary will be going to Paris some time next week. There's a possibility he may go a little bit ahead of the President to have some meetings, but that's not fully tied down yet.
I think you're probably asking if we have any onward travel outside of Europe, and the answer is there have been no decisions made yet. The Secretary is waiting for Dennis Ross to return to the United States some time tomorrow. He'll be discussing over the weekend with Dennis the results of Dennis' trip to Damascus and to Jerusalem.
The Secretary and the President, of course, will also be seeing Prime Minister Peres on Monday here in Washington. I don't believe that any decisions will be made about next steps in U.S. policy in the Israel-Syria track until after we've seen Prime Minister Peres.
Q Nick, can I ask a question, referring to your statement about the Mujahidin left in Bosnia. Presumably the only way you're going to know that they're all gone is to have some starting point, an idea of how many there are now. Do you have any estimate about how many of these Mujahidin fighters there are in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we in the United States Government have a down-to-a-man accurate estimate. We've seen varying estimates of the number of people. Some are in cohesive units. Some have been integrated into the Bosnian military itself.
But our message to our friends in Sarajevo and the Bosnian Government -- it's a friendly message, but it's a clear message, and that is the Dayton accords call on you to ask all foreign military forces to leave within 30 days of the signing in Paris. That's a clear commitment.
They have assured us that this will take place. They have told us many times that these Mujahidin fighters will be leaving. It's very important to us because most of the reports that we have -- and Bob Simons' very interesting report on Saturday evening -- place these people in the American sector.
We believe they do represent, possibly in the future, a threat to the American and other forces there, and we want that threat removed.
Q There have been reports in the Middle East that the Bosnian Government has already begun to issue some of them, who are, in effect, stateless persons who can't go back to Afghanistan, with Bosnian identification papers and passports. Do you know if this is so?
MR. BURNS: If they are not Bosnians by birth or naturalization, if they are indeed really foreigners, then they should not be given the right to stay and fight in a different uniform. They should be removed.
Most of these people have a different agenda -- a very different agenda -- than that of peace. We don't believe that their presence there is at all helpful, and we won't tolerate it.
Q Nick, is that why the Secretary of Defense said this morning that they were delaying the deployment of American troops in that sector by as much as a week?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary of Defense did not say that this morning. I read the transcript of the Secretary's remarks. He did not use the word "delay." What he said was that he was quite happy with the deployment of the enabling force. He said that it would take about a week to deploy, and he said there were no problems as far as he could say with the deployment of that force.
I saw some of the wire reports. Secretary Perry did not say that we would delaying the arrival of the enabling force.
Q But he did say, in fact, that it's going to slip by a week -- as much as a week.
MR. BURNS: He did not say it's going to slip by a week. He said he thought it would take a week for the full enabling force to arrive.
Here's what's going to happen. The enabling force will continue to be deployed. That has already begun. There are Americans on the ground in Bosnia -- in Tuzla and elsewhere.
As Secretary Perry said this morning, we expect that process to be completed in about a week. As soon as the peace agreement is signed in Paris, then, of course, the military plan, the operational plan of NATO, will be put into force and the full contingent of NATO and American forces will arrive on a staged basis.
General Joulwan gave the NATO Foreign and Defense Ministers on Tuesday afternoon a very detailed briefing of how this would be carried out. I can assure you -- and I've just talked to Ken Bacon and others at the Pentagon -- there is no change in our plans.
Q But it has slipped a week, though.
Q It has slipped a week, and Secretary Perry said -- what is it, four days ago on the record, on tape? -- that there would be 700 American troops, as part of a 1,400 NATO enabling force all in place by Friday. That's today, or tomorrow, rather. Are you going to have 700 U.S. troops on the ground by tomorrow? I gather you've got more like two dozen.
MR. BURNS: I don't know how many troops we have, specifically. That's a question you'll have to ask the Pentagon.
I don't see a problem here. The fact is that we've begun the deployment of the enabling force.
Secretary Perry said this morning that he was quite pleased with the pace of deployment and that he expected that to be finished by next week. That's what you would expect, the enabling force would be together and on the ground on or about the 14th of December.
I can't account for what was said a couple of days ago. I would just direct you to Secretary Perry's words. He doesn't think there's a problem with this.
Q In that connection, is there a formal date for the signing in Paris yet?
MR. BURNS: Yes, there is -- December 14.
Q The 14th?
MR. BURNS: Thursday, December 14, in Paris; yes.
Q (Inaudible) a hundred percent?
MR. BURNS: Sid, as far as we know, it's on track. The President is planning, the Secretary is planning, and many others of us are planning to be there for the ceremonies on the 14th.
Q If I could go back to the original question, not to beat a dead horse. Before the full contingent of the enabling force arrives, could it be that you want to make these points to the Bosnian Government and to the Bosnian Serbs through President Milosevic that the Mujahidin have to leave and also to work with the Bosnian Serbs in the neighborhoods around Sarajevo. Is there some -- is that being reflected in the pace that the troops are being to sent to Tuzla?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any linkage whatsoever between the deployment of the NATO enabling force and the separate diplomatic dialogue on issues that are contained in the Dayton accords -- the presence of Mujahidin fighters, the status of Serb civilians, Croat and Muslim civilians -- not at all. I don't believe there's any linkage whatsoever. We just sat through two days of meetings at NATO about the specific military deployment plan. Of course, as you know, Secretary Christopher is responsible for our diplomatic strategy. I've been in all those meetings. There's never been any indication that those issues are linked. I can categorically tell you that and deny that.
The diplomatic agenda here is very important on the Mujahidin and on the situation of all civilians -- Muslim, Croat, and Serb. Very important on our agenda. It was during the Dayton talks, is now, and will be after the Paris signing.
Q Nick, if the Bosnian Government has assured the United States that these Muslim fighters will be gone in the time allotted, why are you making such a big issue of it publicly today?
MR. BURNS: Because it's a big deal. The reason we're talking about it is because we know from various press reports and from other means that we have that these people are present in sectors where American forces will be deploying. We think their presence is incompatible with the peace effort and inconsistent with where we want the situation to go on the ground.
We're concerned enough about it that we're quite willing to tell you publicly that one of the aims of Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's trip is just to re-enforce the points we've been making and make absolutely sure that the agreement we have will be carried out to the letter.
Q It suggests to me that there's less than total confidence that the Bosnian Government is going to do what it said it's going to do?
MR. BURNS: We very much believe that the Bosnian Government will carry out its commitments. It's a very important commitment. It is not at all unusual that we would remind another country of commitments that they have. We are reminded by countries all the time of commitments that we have. It's an important issue.
You wouldn't expect us just to forget about this issue and assume that everything was in place. You would expect us to go into Sarajevo, have detailed conversations about the withdrawal schedule, and be absolutely assured in our own mind about what was going to happen and when it's going to happen, which is very important with Americans arriving there.
Q Nick, in the event that any of these Mujahidin are still there when American troops start to go in, what are the instructions for NATO forces if they run into foreign troops that have not left on schedule?
MR. BURNS: The agreement calls for these forces -- paramilitary forces -- to depart within 30 days. So it is likely that as American troops -- well, we have American troops on the ground now -- as the main body of troops arrive after December 14, it is theoretically possible and perhaps likely that some of these paramilitary people -- the Mujahidin -- will be there.
American forces are fully equipped to deal with any situation that arises. As you know, the President said to them -- to our soldiers in Germany on Saturday -- that they have every right to use any means to defend themselves. Those rules start the moment they set foot on Bosnian soil.
Q So their presence there won't prevent the Americans from going in?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. We already have Americans on the ground in Tuzla. We'll continue to build up the enabling force; we'll then embark on the deployment of the full force. The presence of these fighters will not at all affect the deployment schedule.
Q You said the Mujahidin fighters have a different agenda. Could you elaborate on that?
MR. BURNS: We know enough about these people, and certainly you in the press know enough about these people, to know who they are and where they're from and what their agenda is. It's a radical agenda. It's an agenda that is inconsistent with implementing a peace agreement. These people have no role to play in implementing the peace agreement, and their agenda is fundamentally different from our agenda.
Our agenda is peace in Bosnia. Theirs is quite different.
Q What do you suppose their after?
MR. BURNS: I think it's quite obvious what they're after.
Q I'd rather hear you say it.
MR. BURNS: George, why don't you take a guess and I'll tell you if I think you're right or wrong. (Laughter)
Q Are you talking specifically about the Iranians or the Afghans, or all of them?
MR. BURNS: All of the foreign forces -- military forces -- on Bosnian soil must depart within 30 days.
Q I know the requirement but --
MR. BURNS: All of them.
Q -- when you express concern, is your concern focused more on the Iranians and the Revolutionary Guard or on the Afghans?
MR. BURNS: All of them, because it's hard to distinguish. We've heard from the British about some of the incidents that the British have encountered. We've heard from the United Nations about some of the incidents that they have encountered; specifically, some of the U.N. vehicles being attacked in the last couple of weeks by, we believe, these forces. So they should be out of there. They should leave. They have no role to play.
Q (Inaudible) forcibly removed after 30 days if they're not out?
MR. BURNS: That won't be necessary because the Bosnian Government will live up to its commitment to have them out within 30 days.
Q (Inaudible) the Bosnian Government would have to forcibly eject them?
MR. BURNS: It's just hard to say. We would hope they would just leave peacefully and quietly and go back to whatever agenda they have, that George is very well aware of, outside of Bosnia.
Q That agenda has gotten them in trouble in their home country. Some are already under death sentences --
MR. BURNS: I can't advise them as to where they should go. I have no advice to offer them. They should leave Bosnia. Where they go after that is not our business.
Q (Inaudible) provide transportation or --
MR. BURNS: No. The United States is not going to be providing transportation for these people, no.
Q Why don't you give them a state?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Why don't you give them a state?
Q Nick, the American Muslim Council here in this country is saying that the Bosnian Government has reached an agreement with the Mujahidin fighters. They say that the agreement says, if they lay down their arms, they are free to stay in Bosnia. If they do not, they must leave.
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that's actually correct, that that's the case. What we understand very clearly from the Dayton accords is that they must leave the country. It doesn't mean that they must stay unarmed. They must leave the country. It's very clear. That's what the expectation is.
Q Do we know if they have made any sort of agreement with the Mujahidin to leave?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any agreement of that nature whatsoever, no.
Q Nick, regardless of what their agenda may be now, do you acknowledge that they played a great role in helping the Bosnian Government to at least defend themselves during a time when no other country, especially not the United States or any of the other Western nations, was willing to take such a role?
MR. BURNS: No. From an American viewpoint, these people are not people we want to be associated with. Their agenda is a radical agenda, and I'm not going to defend their presence there or condone it any way.
Q The U.S. trained a number of these people during the Afghanistan war?
MR. BURNS: Betsy, we don't know the names of these people. We don't even know how many people there are. We know from press reports and other means that they are there. Some of them have been there for a couple of years. But I don't have a roster in my briefing book here of names and countries and identities so I can't possibly comment on that question.
Q Nick, if I could follow up David's question about the Paris signing to the 30-day deadline. Several issues there. A senior Defense official has stated that U.S. forces in NATO there, in the Tuzla sector, will not engage indigenous military forces that may be in the four- kilometer separation zone. Instead, I believe the idea is to wait to engage -- "forcibly remove" was the issue -- but to wait for those forces, be they Muslim or BSA forces or whatever -- wait for those people to move out of the way; not to confront them but to wait for them to move out of the way.
The first question is, after 30 days, then what? What will NATO forces do if forces have not moved from the four-kilometer zone?
Secondly, could you comment on this issue --
MR. BURNS: Can I comment on the first issue?
Q Comment on the first issue, and then I'll hit you with one more.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't assume that foreign paramilitary forces will be inside the security zone from Day One. I wouldn't assume that. I would just refer you to the Pentagon for what the rules of engagement will be for the American military force.
Q What about the forces that are supposed to move? Is there a political mechanism by which those people will be invited to leave?
MR. BURNS: The Dayton accords are very clear about this. If you go back and read the military annex, it talks about what will happen within a certain time period after the signing of the peace agreement inside the security zone that will be established by the IFOR forces. It's very clear as to what the responsibilities of the indigenous forces are of all types.
Q If they don't move in 30 days. Then what?
MR. BURNS: They will move. They've made a commitment to it and they will move.
Q I've been told by a senior military official that it is absolutely necessary for NATO to be on the ground in order for those forces to have the incentive to move.
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's one of the reasons for deploying forces -- NATO forces -- to the area, to get the forces to withdraw to certain areas, to provide a security zone, and to police that security zone.
Q Nick, could you talk about the other matter that you mentioned Mr. Holbrooke is going to address himself to, which is that of the safety of Serbs, among others, once this agreement is signed?
You said there will be implementation issues connected with them. Could you expand on that? What sorts of implementation issues does the U.S. see with regard to Serbs in the suburbs of Sarajevo?
MR. BURNS: I think given all the talk about this over the last 24 hours, it's useful for me to review our policy on this, David, and then I'll go directly to your question.
The fact is that the Bosnian Serbs were represented in Dayton. They were represented by three Bosnian Serb leaders. Their joint delegation was headed by President Milosevic who spoke for them. He initialed the peace agreement on November 21.
Two days later, Mr. Karadzic initialed the Dayton accords. So we have President Milosevic and Karadzic both initialing the accords. They must live by every provision in the Dayton accords. That's their commitment.
What was initialed at Dayton will be signed in Paris. There will be no renegotiation in any way, shape, or form. There will be no annexes, there will be no side letters, there will be no written assurances in addition to anything that's in Dayton.
What was initialed at Dayton will be signed in Paris. That's absolutely clear.
As we look at the situation, the Dayton accords call for freedom of movement of all ethnic groups. That includes the Bosnian Serbs. It includes Muslims and Croats.
It calls for the civil liberties of all these people -- civilians - - to be protected. We believe those are important provisions. We believe that the Bosnian Serb civilian rights should be protected.
As Secretary Christopher said yesterday in Brussels, we ought to be sensitive. We ought to be sensitive to these rights as we should be sensitive to the rights of the Muslim and Croatian communities as well. That's all we mean to say by that.
We are pleased that President Izetbegovic has, at several junctures since Dayton, assured the Bosnian Serb population in and around Sarajevo that their rights will be respected. We'd like to see more of this. We think it's important to build up the confidence of these people. We'd like to see them stay in their homes.
We don't believe it's going to be useful if Serb civilians flee when the accord is signed because they suspect their rights will not be respected.
Yesterday, the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees decided to open an office in Ilidza. The Human Rights Commission decided to open an office in Banja Luka. The International Committee of the Red Cross will be on the ground.
It's very important that international organizations -- and this gets to confidence-building measures; it gets to some of the implementing provisions that I was talking about, David -- it's very important that these organizations play a role -- their own role -- in ensuring the civilian population in Bosnia that, in fact, their rights will be protected, that the international community is sensitive to these rights.
We think we owe it to these people, as the sponsors of the Dayton accords, to do this much. But does this mean that we're willing to renegotiate the accords? No, we're not willing to do that.
Q Would such a move as convincing President Izetbegovic not to have Muslim policemen police Serb neighborhoods but perhaps Serb police? Is that something you all might consider a good idea?
MR. BURNS: What is very clear, Sid, is that Sarajevo will be a unified city as a result of the Dayton accords. That's one of the primary benefits of the Dayton accords.
The implementation of unification, the steps taken to assert control over certain neighborhoods, will be very important. It's one of the things that we'll be discussing with all sides. I can't give you any detail on that right now because we're in the middle of discussions with all the parties on this.
These discussions are going to continue. The high representative, the civilian coordinator in Sarajevo -- and that person will be designated this weekend in London -- is going to have a very important role in this, in coordinating the work of the international organizations that I mentioned and coordinating the work of the local governments to make sure that everyone's rights are respected. That's an important obligation, and the London Conference will be dealing with this.
The Conference in Budapest is also dealing with issues of human rights as well as elections and arms control.
Charlie -- Howard. I'm sorry.
Q I guess the line until now has -- on Karadzic and Mladic -- it's been that it's inconceivable that they would remain in power. Are they under the same sort of 30-day deadline as the Mujahidin? Will they disappear in the same puff of smoke as the mercenaries? In other words, at what point does it become conceivable that they'll --
MR. BURNS: I don't know if anyone has put a specific time limit on it. I don't believe that's in the Dayton accords. What's clear in the Dayton accords is that indicted war criminals cannot be appointed to high office. They cannot stand for elections that will be held six to nine months from now.
The United States believes that these people -- specifically, Karadzic and Mladic -- have no place in command positions. They should remove themselves from office. We believe that will happen.
Q But its a week from the signing. Do you see any movement, anything happening?
MR. BURNS: We're just going to have to wait for the day when both of them step down. That day, we hope will come very quickly.
Q Along the same lines, what about Serbia's cooperation or lack of it with the Tribunal? Justice Goldstone is apparently pretty angry and raising the prospect of calling for renewed sanctions if they don't start cooperating.
MR. BURNS: Serbia has an obligation to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. That is stated specifically in writing in the Dayton accords. President Milosevic initialed those accords and will soon sign them. That's an important responsibility from the Dayton accords.
Indicted war criminals should be detained. They should be turned over to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. We're giving our full support to Justice Goldstone. We have not relented on that in any way. We'll continue to give him every support that he needs.
Q Nick, you've made several references to the Dayton accords, obviously, and also to Paris and signing them on the 14th. Will they be called the "Dayton Accords" when they're signed in Paris? There have been suggestions in certain French circles about another name being attached to it. Does the U.S. have an official view on this?
MR. BURNS: We've seen some very imaginative suggestions on this question. I have two points to make on this first, Charlie.
What I understand is that the document will probably be called something like "The Signing in Paris of the Agreements Initialed at Dayton."
MR. BURNS: Yes. I know as well as you that ultimately the marketplace decides these issues. The marketplace is really all of you -- journalists. We spent 21 days -- 21 hard-fought days in Dayton, Ohio, negotiating this agreement. Everything that was negotiated at Dayton and initialed there will be exactly word-for-word, signed in Paris.
So Dayton was a very important event because in Dayton, Ohio, for 21 days, the United States labored very, very, very hard to bring the three parties in Dayton to a successful conclusion of the Dayton accords. So as we proceed, I think the marketplace will look at the Dayton events as very, very significant events.
Q How about "The U.S. Leadership Accords?" Would you settle for that?
MR. BURNS: That would be perfect. I'm not sure we can achieve that, though, George.
Q Just as a footnote, the word "Dayton" does not appear in the accords. On Page 4, which is initialed, it says, "Done this day in Paris."
MR. BURNS: Yes, and everything I've read since November 21 refers to them as the Dayton accords. Really, the marketplace decides this.
Q Can I go to Columbia?
MR. BURNS: Are we done with Bosnia? I think we have a few more Bosnia questions, and then we'll go to Columbia.
Q On the Sarajevo Serbs again. If the reassurances of President Izetbegovic have not been enough, I wonder if you'd just be a little more specific on what you would like to hear?
MR. BURNS: I understand there was a demonstration today by Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo. Clearly, there is still some concern in the Bosnian Serb community about their future in Sarajevo.
The accord is very clear. This should be a multi-ethnic country. It is a multi-ethnic country. The war was fought, in part, over this. It should be multi-ethnic. Everybody's rights should be respected. That's a very serious undertaking.
We did not negotiate the agreements in Dayton, Ohio, to simply see a future where certain groups rights weren't respected. But just as it's important to respect Serb rights, it's important to respect Muslim and Croatian rights as well. That's the point that we're taking.
We think the situation is sensitive enough and difficult enough and the history is difficult enough that the Bosnian Government ought to continue to talk about this publicly, continue to give the assurances that it should, and find practical ways to deal with all of the issues that flow from this as the implementation period begins after December 14 -- everything pertaining to all the functions that go into local and municipal government.
That's what it really comes down to, and the London Conference will focus on this, and the high representative and his or her colleagues will, of course, be dealing with this on a daily basis when they are present on the ground in Sarajevo and throughout Bosnia, through the life of IFOR and well beyond the life of IFOR.
Q Demonstrations today were an American flag being burned in the Serb area of Sarajevo. Are you concerned -- in addition to the potential threat from the Mujahidin fighters, are you concerned that there will be armed resistance from Serb civilians in the Sarajevo area, as some have apparently vowed to do?
MR. BURNS: To be realistic, I think, as the Pentagon has testified and General Shalikashvili has testified on the Hill, there are obvious risks associated with deploying thousands of American and NATO troops, and we understand those risks. We all have to assume -- all Americans have to assume that there are risks in deploying American forces.
However, we do not believe that there will be any kind of strong, organized resistance to IFOR. The very important fact is that the leaders of these countries, including most notably President Milosevic, have pledged in writing to create the kind of environments that will be receptive to the deployment of NATO forces. That's another commitment that they have made, and they obviously all have influence over their civilian populations, and certainly influence over their armed forces, and even some of the indigenous paramilitary forces.
Q On the issue of the Russian troops attached to our brigade, there was at one time a few weeks ago a stipulation on the part of the Russians that their command people in Moscow would be able to veto orders. Has that been dropped, and is this now a done deal with the Russians on board?
MR. BURNS: We have a very clear understanding between Secretary Perry and Minister Grachev that the Russians and Americans will combine their efforts; that the Russians ultimately report up to General Joulwan in his American capacity as Commander of U.S. Forces Europe, and it's a real breakthrough.
A couple of months ago, I would not have predicted that Russia and NATO could have worked out an agreement to actually create a special unit together where a Russian brigade would join American forces in special functions. The fact that we've done it, as I said earlier, really speaks very well of our long-term strategic goal of building a way for NATO and Russia to work together in Europe.
IFOR suddenly represents -- both with Russia and with the Central Europeans -- a very practical way to promote the kind of security ties that we thought at one point would take much longer to develop, at least from the perspective of January 1994 when the Partnership for Peace was created.
Q Nick, does the Secretary have any assurances from Mr. Milosevic that he can pass on to Mr. Rugova about human rights in Kosovo?
MR. BURNS: We continually remind the Serb Government and President Milosevic of the importance of paying attention to, and respecting the rights of, the Albanian community in Kosovo. That will be one of the issues on the agenda today at the Secretary's meeting, and it's something that we've taken great care to keep on our agenda with the Serbs.
I can't say that we have any written iron-clad assurances on specific issues, but we have a general assurance from the Serbs that the rights of the Albanian community will be respected.
Q On another subject: Have you had a chance to examine the results of the latest round in the Egyptian elections, and do you think that they were free and fair?
MR. BURNS: The second round of elections took place yesterday on December 6 in districts where no candidate had won a majority of seats in the first round. In all, we understand that more than 600 candidates were competing in this second round yesterday for 317 of the 444 elected seats in the Egyptian People's Assembly.
We continue to be impressed by the fact that there was a large voter turnout, and that is particularly true in rural areas of Egypt. Initial reports in the second round suggest that a number of opposition party candidates have won seats in the double figures.
We still are concerned, however, about reports of irregularities and the harassment of candidates. In line with President Mubarak's public commitment to free and fair elections, we fully expect that the Egyptian Government will investigate charges of irregularities and follow up with the appropriate measures.
We note that many Egyptians have taken the initiative to observe and comment on the electoral process. We also note that Egyptian courts are already investigating allegations of electoral fraud and physical harassment and other violence at the polling places, and that the electoral results in many districts have been suspended by the courts, pending additional investigations.
I would also note that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior has begun to refer cases of police misconduct to the courts for investigation. So we believe it's appropriate to await the decisions of these courts and await the actions by the Egyptian Government on these various complaints and allegations about the elections before we engage in any more detailed commentary on the elections.
Q Did you have any observers on the ground?
MR. BURNS: I will check with you. (TO STAFF) Glyn, do you happen to know the answer, if we did?
MR. DAVIES: Unofficial (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Glyn was just saying that our Embassy observed unofficially. They were not part of an international monitoring effort. But let me check and see if there was a formal international monitoring group in Egypt.
Q Speaking of elections, are you concerned that in the Russian parliamentary elections coming up next week that the Communist Party appears to be the leading party?
MR. BURNS: I think we all know enough about Russian politics and Russian polls -- with all due respect to Russian polling organizations - - to know that it's very difficult to predict the outcome.
Remember back to December 1993 when people were shocked and surprised at the degree of support attained by Mr. Zhirinovsky and others. I think it's very difficult for those of us outside of Russia to predict with any degree of accuracy the outcome of these elections.
The fact is that there's a lot to be proud of if you are Russian, looking at these elections. I think 43 parties have organized and put together slates to run in these elections, and of these 43 parties we would assume that maybe five or six or seven would emerge with the largest share of votes.
But I think it's a very difficult situation to predict, given the number of parties, the number of candidates, and frankly the number of well known people who are on opposite sides of issues there. So what we're going to do is just wait for the 17th of December. There will be international monitoring of the Russian elections, and private Americans will participate in that. That's very important.
President Yeltsin has spoken publicly in the last few days about the importance that these elections be free and fair, and the fact is that Russia has come a long ways since December 1991 when Russia was created in the ashes of the Soviet Union. The fact that these elections are being held is quite important.
Q May I ask a question about Colombia.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q I want to know what your reaction is to the fact that the interrogation of Guillermo Pallomari of the Cali cartel -- that a transcript of his interrogation was shown on Colombian television last night?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any particular reaction to that.
Q Would it be safe to assume that since the Justice Department has protested to Colombia over this leak of information; that the source of the leak is coming from the Colombian side?
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing to say. I don't have any guidance on it. I've not been apprised of the issue. I'll be glad to look into it, but I would not anticipate we'd have a lot to say on an issue like that.
Q (Inaudible) the Human Rights Watch report in which the U.S. Government is criticized for a somewhat lackadaisical attitude on the question of protection of human rights?
MR. BURNS: I saw a press release by Human Rights Watch, and I know that Assistant Secretary Shattuck's people have just received a copy of the Human Rights Watch report, and they're beginning to look through it. Of course, we'll want to take some time and some care to look through it.
As an American, I don't think any of us -- I don't think the United States has anything to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. The United States in fact is the one country in the world that is the absolute champion of human rights. Our foreign policy stands for that. We issue our own human rights reports on an annual basis.
Interestingly, if you look at what happened at Dayton, Ohio, I think it's quite unusual in modern diplomatic practice that Assistant Secretary Shattuck played such a leading role. He was there every day of the last eight or nine days. He was in all the important meetings with Milosevic and Tudjman and Izetbegovic, working out the provisions on war crimes.
Most countries don't have their human rights Assistant Secretary or human rights champion involved at the end game of those negotiations, but Dick Holbrooke and Secretary Christopher felt it was very important to do that.
The fact is that we stand up for human rights every day around the world. So although we haven't read the report, I just wanted to make those general points.
Q When you're coming back with a response -- the Human Rights Watch praises the government for taking human rights into account in the Dayton accords -- maybe you could deal with specific criticism, which is that this Administration particularly has often placed commercial trade and investment interests ahead of human rights.
MR. BURNS: This Administration has put human rights at the forefront of its agenda. Trying to promote American exports is also an important part of the Administration's foreign policy. There needn't be some fundamental tradeoff between those two issues.
The fact is in the case of China -- and I saw the press report, and Human Rights Watch mentions China -- the fact is that we are very interested in closing the trade gap between the United States and China, and very interested in promoting American exports there.
What other country in the world, however -- what other country in the world -- has been so vocal in our opposition to certain human rights practices by the Chinese Government. When you think back to all the celebrated human rights cases of the last couple of years, the United States has always been in the forefront in talking about those issues -- far more than many other industrialized societies around the world.
Again, we'll look through this report. We'll look through it and see what they have to say, but Americans don't have anything to feel ashamed of, and we ought not to just assume that because some group criticizes us, they're right.
Q Nick, do you have any comment on Senator Bingaman's filibuster against the flag desecration legislation on the grounds that Senator Helms should stop holding up Ambassadorial nominations and the START II Treaty? Does the Administration support that filibuster?
MR. BURNS: I don't really have a comment on the filibuster at all, David. I just saw news reports about it this morning. I do know that we are working very hard with Senator Helms and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts to try to work out a resolution of the issue of the State Department Budget, the issue of consolidation, the issue of the Ambassadors. We're very hopeful that we'll be able to reach an agreement, and we're working well, I think, right now on Capitol Hill with both Republicans and Democrats towards a solution to these problems.
Q There are some reported comments by the Israelis, albeit unnamed, that they've grown disenchanted with the U.S. role in the Middle East peace process, particularly disenchanted with Dennis Ross. They are also saying that Prime Minister Peres is going to ask President Clinton to authorize a full-blown shuttle by Secretary Christopher -- a Kissinger-style shuttle. Can you address any of those?
MR. BURNS: That's very interesting. I think you've posed the question very nicely, and thank you. I know this is not you, Sid; you're just reporting what other people are saying, and please take it in that spirit. Unnamed people who don't have the courage to put their name to a quote are saying that the United States is no longer wanted, and then also they're saying that they want us to have a full-blown shuttle.
That's a very interesting contradiction. The fact is that both Israel and Syria want the United States to play a very big role in the Syrian-Israeli track. That's why Dennis Ross is currently in Israel and has been in Damascus.
Secretary Christopher is very, very much involved in all these issues, will continue to be, and the fact that Prime Minister Peres is coming to Washington to discuss this issue and others I think speaks for itself. I wouldn't put too much credence into unnamed people speaking on background about issues like this.
Q The Yomiuri Shimbun over in Japan has just released a poll that shows that the Japanese public has its lowest confidence ever in U.S.-Japan relations, in light of what's happened in Okinawa and the recent state visit cancellation, among other things.
But today the Commander of U.S. Forces in Japan has said that he feels that this problem has basically crested, I think is his word. Is that the State Department's feeling as well?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope that the problems emanating from the very tragic episode that took place in Okinawa on September 12 will dissipate. We hope the Japanese people understand that the United States wants to have a respectful relationship as partners, and that the presence of our troops there is to safeguard Japan as well as the United States, and Japanese interests as well as American interests. We've had a partnership that's succeeded for 50 years now.
The President very much wants to reschedule his state visit to Japan. We're working on that. The Administration is working on that very hard, and I think when the President goes to Japan, he'll have an opportunity to talk to the Japanese people directly about the great respect we have for them, for their culture, and the great sense of shame that all Americans feel about the rape that took place on September 12 in Okinawa. We hope the Japanese people understand that our futures are tied together, and that we have to continue to work at that together. It's our great hope that this tragedy will be overcome by positive acts by both sides.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
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