U.S. Department of State 96/01/23 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, January 23, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Death of Alice Stanley Acheson .........................1 U.S. Support for Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty .........1 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Address at Carter Center ....2 Foreign Policy Town Meetings ...........................2-3,11-13 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Implementation of Dayton Accords .......................3-11 --Prisoner Exchanges/Releases ..........................3-4,6,8 --Separation of Forces/Zone of Separation ..............6-7 --Departure of Foreign Forces ..........................6-11 Investigation of Atrocities ............................8-9 Report of Search for U.S. Citizen Linked to Extremists .10 INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT Colombia: --Allegations by Former Aide to President Samper .......13-17 --Narcotics Certification by U.S. ......................13-14 --Extradition ..........................................15-16 --Report of Request for U.S. Assistance by Mr. Samper ..16 Bolivia: --Report of Denial of U.S. Visa Request for President ..14 Timetable of Narcotics Certification Report ............14-15 HUMAN RIGHTS Timetable of Human Rights Report .......................15 AUSTRIA Cold War U.S. Arms Caches ..............................17-24 CHINA/TAIWAN Request for Transit Visa by Vice President Li ..........24-26 Orphanage Abuse--Report of Detention ...................26 U.S. One-China Policy ..................................26 RUSSIA Secretary Christopher Mtg. w/FM Primakov ...............26-27 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Wye Talks ..............................................27-32 ISRAEL Timing of Elections ....................................31-32 BANGLADESH Elections ..............................................32-33 BURMA Report of Drug Lord Extradition Deal ...................33-34
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome to all of you. I have a couple of announcements to make before going to your questions.
First, on behalf of all Foreign Service Officers past and present, I'd like to take a moment to note the passing on January 20 of Alice Stanley Acheson, the widow of former Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
Mrs. Acheson lived a full century, and she was an accomplished artist; a very accomplished person who lived a very full and productive life and was well known for her support for the American Foreign Service.
She was a distinguished person who will be missed by all of us in the State Department, all of those who are retired and all of us who presently serve as Foreign Service Officers in the State Department.
Second, I want to note as well that this morning, in Geneva, at the Conference on Disarmament, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John Holum, delivered the U.S. statement at the opening plenary of that conference. In his statement, Director Holum conveyed a message from President Clinton to the Conference on Disarmament pledging United States support for the prompt conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
As you know, negotiating a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is one of the highest foreign policy priorities of this Administration in 1996. President Clinton said, in a good message to the Conference today, "The hard work of the Conference on Disarmament has brought within reach a momentous achievement: A true zero yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that will endure for all time." It's our objective to work very hard with our partners in Geneva towards a final negotiated treaty that can stand for all time and that can ensure a better future of security for all Americans.
Last, I wanted to note that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will be travelling to Atlanta, Georgia, tomorrow where he'll be addressing the members of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. This will take place at the Carter Center in Atlanta. The address will be attended by former President Jimmy Carter, by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and by the President of the Carnegie Endowment, David Hamburg.
Deputy Secretary Talbott will present an address, a speech, on American Leadership in Preventing Deadly Conflicts. Specifically the speech will address the effects of budget constraints on our ability to prevent such conflicts, the use of regional and international organizations to leverage our scarce resources, and the good works of non-governmental organizations in places like Haiti and in Bosnia and Nicaragua.
Deputy Secretary Talbott will have other activities in Atlanta. His trip there is part of a renewed effort by senior Administration officials, particularly those of us in the State Department, to travel more throughout the United States to speak to the American people about foreign policy issues.
This year, the State Department will be hosting and holding 22 foreign policy Town Meetings in cities from the East to West Coast and many cities in between. We'll begin that schedule with Town Meetings next month in -- a Town Meeting in Nashville and one in St. Louis, Missouri. This is part of our effort to try to explain to the American people the foundations of American foreign policy and to hear what's on their minds as well.
In each of these Town Meetings, senior Administration officials, people like Deputy Secretary Talbott, will be giving the keynote address.
Q I'm tempted to say your chances of felicity will be enhanced if they're not -- if the press isn't barred as they were from last week's Town Meeting here at the State Department.
MR. BURNS: Can I just respond to that?
MR. BURNS: The Town Meetings that we are going to be proposing -- we held in eight in 1995 --
Q The press were not permitted to -- (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I would never say that. You're referring to the press as the "town drunks?" I would never do that.
Q That's the insinuation from excluding the press from a Town Meeting. It doesn't make any sense.
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you why it did make sense. The Town Meeting that was held on Friday was a Town Meeting the Secretary had with Department employees to discuss the effects of the furlough, to discuss morale problems that have certainly been increased by the furlough -- the fact that so many of us were laid off, 72 percent of our domestic employees were laid off -- frankly, the Secretary felt, and those of us who advise the Secretary felt that he had to have a private talk with Department employees. He wanted it to be seen to be a private talk and he wanted it to be a private and serious talk. He was not looking score points in the media. He was not looking to send messages to the Congress. He wanted to have a talk with his employees.
The Town Meetings I'm referring to are quite different. This is when the Administration reaches out to the public and to the press and tries to talk about foreign policy issues. Each of these Town Meetings has a theme, depending on the interests of the city to which we are travelling. The press is more than welcome to participate in all of these.
Q Back to the business at hand. Mr. Shattuck has been in to see President Izetbegovic and now apparently has Izetbegovic's promise to go ahead with the prisoner exchange. That was delayed, of course, by their demands to know about the whereabouts of 20,000 missing Muslims.
That was hours ago. Can you give us any accounting whether the exchange has moved forward since? How many people have been exchanged? How many remain to be exchanged? Estimates will be fine, thank you.
MR. BURNS: I don't have an accounting of how many people have been exchanged. We know it's somewhere in the range of 300, but I don't have an exact figure. I just spoke to John about half an hour ago. He is in Frankfurt. He'll be arriving back in the United States tomorrow.
In his meeting with President Izetbegovic, John Shattuck pushed very hard for complete Bosnian Government compliance with the prisoner exchanges. It's their obligation to release all the prisoners that they currently hold.
In his meeting with President Milosevic yesterday, he made the same point. President Milosevic told him that he has a guarantee that the Bosnian Serbs will release all their prisoners. President Izetbegovic said that the Bosnian Government would continue the prisoner releases.
We hope and we expect that "continue" means all the prisoners will be released expeditiously.
We are determined that all of the parts of the Dayton Accords be adhered to, and that commitments made at Dayton be fully adhered to. That is the point that he made.
I would also draw you to Secretary Christopher's remarks last evening on PBS in which he said that, really, what's at stake here is our ability to have, in effect, a normal relationship with the parties to the Dayton Accords; that if they cannot live up to the Dayton Accords, they cannot be assured of full cooperation with us. For instance, on the issue of equip and train. We can't forward with equip and train if the Bosnian Government has not met its obligations under the Dayton Accords.
So it was a very serious discussion this morning. I know that John Shattuck left feeling that the Bosnian Government was headed in the right direction on this. He also had meetings with Admiral Smith, with Carl Bildt, with Michael Steiner, Jock Covey, all of whom are, of course, working on the civilian side of this issue.
Q Let me pick up quickly on two things. Clearly, you're saying you don't have a promise from Izetbegovic to release all the prisoners, just that prisoners will be released. Presumably, that could take any number of days or weeks or months. Am I correct, you don't have a promise to release all the prisoners?
MR. BURNS: You're correct. As I understand it from my phone call with John Shattuck, we do not have an ironclad commitment and promise. We certainly expect that they will be released.
The conversation was productive this morning. Now, we're looking for results from the Bosnian Government.
Q The other thing. The Secretary's threat, which was an unvarnished threat to withhold rehabilitation assistance, to withhold training and equipment for Bosnian Government forces, isn't that an unconditional -- speaking of what's unconditional and what isn't unconditional -- he said the commitment to exchange prisoners is an unconditional promise.
How about the U.S. side? Is there linkage? Where do you -- on what part of the accord do you draw your threat that if you don't get quid, there won't be quo?
MR. BURNS: I think the message to all three parties of the Dayton Accord is, you must fulfill all aspects of the Dayton Accord to have a good and friendly and productive relationship with the United States.
Q Mustn't you fulfill all your commitments of the Dayton --
MR. BURNS: We are fulfilling our commitments.
Q Not if you hold back rehabilitation assistance.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, Barry.
Q Am I wrong?
MR. BURNS: Yes, in this case. The Dayton Accord was an agreement freely entered into by three parties. There are very specific and public commitments made as part of that accord.
We assume first and foremost, as the foundation, the basement level, actually, of our relationship that the Dayton Accords will be implemented fully. If the Dayton Accords are implemented fully, then each of these parties can expect friendly and productive relations with the United States.
I think the point the Secretary was trying to make is that if they're not implemented fully, then the parties have to understand there will be limitations on what we can do. That message is abundantly clear, perfectly clear, to all the parties.
The Secretary certainly was not making a threat last night. He was simply issuing a reminder of the fundamental realities of life. One of the fundamental realities is, if you meet your commitments, we'll meet ours.
Q Obviously, we have no problem here. We understand that their commitment is unconditional. I was asking about the U.S. commitment. I didn't know it was conditional.
MR. BURNS: Our commitments are derivative of the central fact of life in Bosnia, which is the Dayton Accords. It's the central agreement that regulates life there and that we hope will ensure peace throughout the next year and beyond.
Q Was this reminder delivered in person by either Holbrooke or Shattuck or anybody to the leaders of the three countries?
MR. BURNS: You can be assured that in Dick Holbrooke's conversations last week with all the parties -- not just with the Bosnian Government -- and in John Shattuck's conversations we have made clear that we expect all these commitments to be met, all provisions of the Dayton Accords to be met.
Let's just review where we are. On the most important issue, Admiral Smith and General Joulwan report that we are doing very well on separation of forces. That's the major part of the Dayton Accords; the zone of separation has been created. That's the major function of the military forces that we have in the field. Things are going quite well on that score.
On the issue of prisoner release, we are dissatisfied and we are displeased that the deadline of January 19 has not been met, that these prisoner releases to continue to trickle forward, and that there is not complete agreement on adherence to this part of the agreement. We expect that all sides will meet it.
On the status of the mujahidin, the foreign forces that we know have been resident in Bosnia, we think that a majority of them have departed, most of them through Croatia, but that all of them have not departed. We are looking to the Bosnian Government to exercise its influence on these foreign forces to leave completely.
Q I'll let someone else have a chance in a minute, but when the Secretary addressed this yesterday, there was a bit of a blip there. He spoke of one specific problem that the foreign troops have married local ladies, and it's hard to separate them from the other troops. The assumption there is maybe a special allowance could be made.
It isn't clear the way he responded whether he's referring to Croatians particularly nor how widespread can this be. I mean, is this a major problem in getting the foreign forces out, or is it just an incidental situation?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary was simply referring to what many of us have talked to in the past, and that is that a very small number of these fighters have taken Bosnian citizenship, have acquired it mainly through marriage. If that is the case, we would think that they would be demobilized from their present military functions but would remain in the country.
This is a very small number, Barry. Most of these people are well known. The body of them are well known as Iranian mujahidin. They belong in Iran, they don't belong in Bosnia; and they will be sent back to Iran, we're quite sure of that.
So I think that the authority that has to be responsible for letting us know whether or not these conditions have been met is the Bosnian Government. But the Bosnian Government and these foreign fighters can be assured that the American forces are watching them very closely, and that we won't tolerate anything that is beyond the bounds of the Dayton Accords.
Q Nick, does the -- I'll use the word "threat" for lack of a better word -- you can use any word you want -- of not equipping and training apply only to foreign forces, or is it a point of leverage the United States will continue to throw in the Bosnian's faces whenever they're dissatisfied?
MR. BURNS: First of all, let me just say that we expect that the Bosnian Government will meet its commitment under the Dayton Accords. We've had good conversations with President Izetbegovic over the last couple of days on a couple of occasions, and we do expect that the Bosnian Government is going to do the right thing here -- implement the accord that it signed on December 14 in Paris.
I don't believe that a couple of months from now we'll be having these types of discussions on these issues. But it is an important reminder to all the parties that the United States is going to be rigorous in demanding that the Dayton Accords be adhered to fully, and that's the only point that the Secretary and John Shattuck and Dick Holbrooke have been trying to make over the last couple of days.
Q So it doesn't apply just to equip-and-train; it could apply to any number of issues.
MR. BURNS: All of these are important. Creating the Zone of Separation, pulling back the militias, was a very important step. Now IFOR has said that getting rid of the heavy weaponry within the Zone of Separation is very important. The prisoner exchange is important. The mujahidin is important. It's all important.
These are commitments made, and these parties have to understand they have to honor their commitments.
MR. BURNS: I'm just answering your question.
Q The answer is we can pull the equip-and-train -- we're willing to use this condition in other cases rather than just the issue of foreign forces.
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speculate on what we may or may not say or do in the future; but I think what the Secretary said last night is perfectly clear, and I`m sure it's perfectly clear to everybody in the Balkans. When he travels to the Balkans late next week and into the following week, he'll be making this point personally. By then we expect that all prisoners will have been released, and we expect that the mujahidin and the foreign fighters will have left. And, if they haven't left, the parties can expect that this will be the first item in our agenda.
Q Nick, another question on this. There's some fuzziness on exactly what the IFOR Commander agreed to in terms of inspecting and safeguarding alleged atrocity sites. I think the word used -- the phrase used was "area surveillance." Does that imply that from time to time IFOR will fly airplanes over, or will people actually be stationed on the ground at these places?
MR. BURNS: First, let me say the United States Government is fully satisfied that Admiral Smith and Judge Goldstone have worked out an arrangement that is mutually satisfactory to both of them. Both of them have a commitment -- all of us have a commitment to seeing that the atrocities are investigated and that those responsible for them are brought to justice.
I think Admiral Smith's joint statement with Judge Goldstone speaks for itself. It talks about the fact that Admiral Smith is satisfied that IFOR will be able to provide appropriate assistance at the appropriate time to insure area security. I'm just reading from it now, I'm quoting from it.
Admiral Smith agreed to accept an offer by Justice Goldstone to have a Tribunal official be a liaison officer with IFOR. He has agreed to a request by Justice Goldstone that they will work together on any specific request in the future.
I thought that what they have both said overnight has been very constructive. The fact is that Admiral Smith said that IFOR is already conducting aerial surveillance of the suspected sites. So any thought by the Bosnian Serbs that they could tamper with these sites is illusory and naive, because we'll know if they've tampered with the sites.
He also said that IFOR patrols are in the area. He said that when IFOR builds up to its expected full troop level, he'll have more resources to devote to this problem. Justice Goldstone has said in this statement -- and I think he said subsequent to the issuing of the statement when he was in Sarajevo -- that he's fully satisfied with this arrangement. If they're satisfied, we're satisfied.
Q Could we go to a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q If you're going to leave this, you twice now referred to the mujahidin. Are they the major problem so far as foreign forces?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Aren't there other forces in the country that you'd like to see out?
MR. BURNS: It's a motley crew. (Laughter) It's a motley crew, Barry.
Q (Inaudible) against their intrusion and now you want --
MR. BURNS: Barry, we've never supported them.
Q The situation is changed. All right. What's past is past.
MR. BURNS: And we certainly don't support it now. It's a motley crew of fighters from various causes around the world, and --
MR. BURNS: Barry, we have never given that kind of support to them.
Q Anyhow --
MR. BURNS: So the point is that the main body here are Iranians, Revolutionary Guards, and you know what we think of Iran. You know what we think of the work of the Revolutionary Guards, and we don't think that now with the arrival of 60,000 American and European and Asian troops -- we don't think these forces are needed. But, more importantly, the Dayton Accords call for their complete withdrawal.
Q Nick, on the subject of a motley crew, there's apparently "wanted" posters up at NATO checkpoints for a U.S. citizen who's been linked to Muslim extremists. Do you know anything about that -- in NATO checkpoints in Bosnia, on the lookout for an American?
MR. BURNS: I'm afraid I don't. I'll be glad to look into it an see what I can get for you, but I don't have any comment on that.
Q To tie up a loose end on the motley crew and the Iranians --
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Q -- and the few who might have married local women and therefore gotten citizenship. Where do those people stand?
MR. BURNS: Where do they stand? If some of these individuals --
Q Let me rephrase it. Will you make exceptions for those people?
MR. BURNS: It's not our decision to make exceptions. It's the Bosnian Government's obligation to carry out the agreement. If the Bosnian Government comes to us, as it has, and says that a very small number of these people have acquired Bosnian citizenship, and if they are demobilized, then I think that's a situation that one cannot argue with.
However, the great majority of the people there under the rubric of the "motley crew," the foreign fighters, are clearly that. They're foreigners. They don't have a title to Bosnian citizenship. They ought not to be there, and they ought to leave. So I think we know what we're talking about here.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia?
Q One more on "motley." Follow-up on the same thing. Americans in general that have served as part of the motley crew that have been fighters in Bosnia, do you know anything about that?
MR. BURNS: Well, I don't know --
Q Are any remaining?
MR. BURNS: I have not personally seen any reports in any venue about Americans as part of this motley crew. If there are, if American citizens have been part of the foreign fighters, they ought to leave too. They ought to leave. They're not needed.
Q Are you aware that any exist?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any. I'm not aware of any, no.
Q Nick, under "motley Serb paramilitaries". Have these folks managed to find some way to get back across the Sava? Are we monitoring them to know -- the ones that came from Belgrade, some of the notorious ones. Have they left Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I'm not quite sure who you're referring to, but let me just say that it's well known to all militia and all soldiers in the area that a Zone of Separation has been created. They know where they can and cannot be, and IFOR has given very explicit instructions to all militia operating in the area about where they can be, about the disposition of their equipment and their arms.
Q Nick, could I ask you a question about the foreign policy town meetings? Do you have a complete schedule of those already? Have they all been scheduled out?
MR. BURNS: We had eight of them in 1995, and they proved to, at least in our mind, to be such an effective way of reaching a lot of people on a regional basis, that we decided to do 22 this year; and this is an initiative that Secretary Christopher and Deputy Secretary Talbott actually personally inspired, and they personally asked us to broaden it.
We're going to be drawing up the final list tomorrow, and I'd be very glad to give you a full schedule perhaps by the end of the week.
Q I take it as a coincidence that you're going to increase the number during the election year.
MR. BURNS: Actually, what it does, Dick, it stems from a conviction on our part that over the long term -- whether it's an election year or not an election year -- the Department of State has got to reach out to the American people, explain what American foreign policy is, ask for their support as we conduct American foreign policy. We think rather that just getting up at a podium every day and speaking to all of you, it is equally effective to go out and speak to business people and to educators and to private people all over the country.
So I can assure you of one thing: That beyond this election year, we'll have the same commitment to this program in 1997. It's not election-year politics. In fact, the people who pushed it hard beneath Secretary Christopher and Deputy Secretary Talbott are Foreign Service Officers who, as you know, are independent and objective -- independent of politics and objective and neutral when it comes to a political campaign.
Q Did anyone suggest the State Department briefing room as a good place to have a town meeting, maybe with the Secretary of State? You can call it a news conference.
MR. BURNS: If all of you want to have a town meeting here, Barry, we can do it. You're all taxpaying private citizens.
Q We needed somebody key on. The Secretary of State, Deputy --
MR. BURNS: As I remember it -- let me just search my memory -- I think he stood in front of you about 24 hours ago, just upstairs. The Ben Franklin Room is just as good as this one.
Q Oh, you mean photo op?
MR. BURNS: Barry, wait a minute. Barry, Barry, Barry. He answered questions from the press corps, and he has done it consistently. Those of you who have gone on trips with us know that he's answered questions every day on those trips from the American press corps. Nothing to hide here.
Q Not the trips --
MR. BURNS: No one asked on that trip. There wasn't a great level of interest, as I remember. People were too busy doing other things.
Q Nick, on the subject of Colombia, how are you all feeling about President Samper today, given the Defense Minister -- I think it was the Defense Minister's --
MR. BURNS: The current situation in Colombia is one that we're watching very closely, and we certainly expect that the situation there will be resolved through a thorough investigation within the framework of Colombia's legal system and within the framework of Colombia's constitution.
Q Where did this leave the relations between the two countries, especially since the decision on whether or not to certify Colombia will be coming up very soon?
MR. BURNS: The decision as to whether or not we will certify is one that is a very important decision. People here in this building and around town are looking at that right now, and the President, of course, will make a decision by about March 1.
In terms of our relations with Colombia, there's a defining issue in that relationship, and that is the mutual commitment that we hope both countries have to fighting narcotics trafficking.
If I can look back at 1995 very briefly, I would say that we had some successes in 1995 with Colombia, and we had our defeats. We had areas where we were disappointed, and we had some areas where we saw significant improvement.
As we look toward the future, we certainly would expect that this Colombian Government and any in the future would commit themselves to fighting narcotics trafficking. That is the defining issue in the relationship.
Q Have you such a commitment now? I mean, is your confidence shaken a bit by the Botero disclosures?
MR. BURNS: On the allegations made by Mr. Botero, this is an internal matter, and we think it ought to be investigated, and we think it will be investigated within the parameters of Colombia's constitution and judicial system -- legal system.
You've asked a different question, and that is, are we satisfied with the level of commitment.
MR. BURNS: I think the most direct and honest thing that I can say is 1995 was a year of some success and some disappointment, and we certainly hope that 1996 will see an improved level of cooperation between our two countries.
Q The State Department cancelled a visa request by the Bolivian President, Paz Zamoro, because of allegations that he flew on planes of drug traffickers. In this case, Samper was accused of actually being funded by them.
What kind of measures -- or would you take similar measures against President Samper as President Paz Zamoro, or how would you treat the Samper situation?
MR. BURNS: As I said, it's up to people in Colombia -- it's up to the legal system in Colombia to have this issue work its way through the legal system. As we begin to see the results of the investigation that we understand will be undertaken -- a thorough investigation -- then we'll draw our own conclusions.
But it really wouldn't be prudent for us or logical for us to decide a course of action when we're not sure of the facts. We need to see what facts are produced by this investigation, and then we'll draw the necessary conclusions.
Q Will that push back the date of certification?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. No, I think we'll keep to that, because that's a worldwide certification. It involves countries beyond Colombia.
Q I understand it's an internal matter, but at the same time the Clinton Administration has placed drug trafficking as a high priority, and in this case the issue of certification is coming up very soon, and it's a matter which directly involves you. So how will you deal with that?
MR. BURNS: What I cannot do for you today is to anticipate what decision the President will make. He alone can make this decision on certification. He has the responsibility to make it. We need to put all the facts in front of him, and that's what we're doing now. Once the decision is made and we announce it, then you'll see where we are. But I simply don't want to anticipate what decision we'll make on certification.
Q Nick, is this report going to be on time, given the amount of time that workers were furloughed?
MR. BURNS: We have gone to the Congress on those reports that are due to the Congress on various foreign policy issues and said that some of them are simply going to be late because we went for a full month here with 72 percent of our employees forced to be at home.
There are other reports that we have to generate by law, and some of them are so important -- I think this one -- that we do want to keep to the timetable. I have not heard any talk in this building about extending the timetable on the narcotics certification report.
Q What about the human rights report? Which category is that?
MR. BURNS: The human rights report may lapse a little bit of time. I don't have a specific date for you. Normally it's the end of January. I don't know, John, if you've heard whether or not we're going to be able to meet that, but I'll look into that. When John Shattuck gets back tomorrow afternoon, we'll talk to him about that.
Q The terrorism report?
MR. BURNS: Again, I don't know where that stands, but I'll be glad to look into that. But some of these reports, specifically those -- a lot of them are due to Capitol Hill. The Congress is going to have to understand, I mean, because of its actions towards Federal workers -- 72 percent of us were at home during an entire 30-day period -- so there are going to be some reports that are late. But some are so important that we'll redouble our efforts and work overtime to get them done.
Q Does the U.S. recognize Botero's declarations?
MR. BURNS: We've certainly taken note of it. We're following the situation very closely through our Embassy in Bogota, as you would expect. We don't want to make at this point any substantive comments on these allegations because we're not equipped to do so. This is a Colombian matter, and it's for the Colombian legal system to decipher what this all means.
MR. BURNS: More on Colombia?
Q (Inaudible) this is the right moment for the U.S. Government to press the Colombian Government to re-implement the extradition?
MR. BURNS: In terms of extradition, the great thing about extraditions, in terms of my perspective, is that I'm not supposed to talk about them. When we are planning or requesting an extradition, it's not my place to talk about them. We usually talk about extraditions after the fact. So I don't have a comment for you on extradition.
I think what the United States Government expects is a high-level of cooperation with Colombia on narcotics issues. That's what we expect.
Q Nick, the Colombian newspaper said Mr. Botero's wife requests help to the Department of State and CIA. What do you say about --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. The first part of the question?
Q The Colombian newspaper said Mr. Botero's wife requests help to the Department of State and CIA. What do you say about --
MR. BURNS: I simply have no comment on that. I have no comment. I have no information on it and no comment to make on that. I'm not aware of any such request. I just have nothing to say on it.
Q Mr. Samper requests compensation to the U.S. Government. What do you say about it?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me? President Samper requested --
MR. BURNS: Compensation?
MR. BURNS: I have no comment. I have not seen those reports, so I simply can't comment.
Q What is the attitude?
MR. BURNS: What is our attitude? I think I've said it a couple of times in this briefing, and that is that narcotics will remain the central issue in our relationship with Colombia, and we expect a very high level of cooperation.
Any more on Colombia, or are we finished with Colombia? Bill, do you have one on Colombia?
Q I have one more. I'm not quite sure how to put this to get where I want to go, but let me try. Were there to be corroboration to these charges that Mr. Botero is making, would that be -- in the eyes of the United States Government, would that invalidate or make the regime of Mr. Samper unacceptable insofar as our relations with the Samper Government?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I think I've answered that question, with all due respect. I'm not going to make any judgments today about what these charges mean. It is appropriate for us to let the Colombian people and Colombian legal system work through these issues. Once these issues are clear, once the investigation is over, then we'll have something to say on this matter, but not until then.
Q Nick, would you return briefly to the subject that we discussed yesterday.
MR. BURNS: I'm very glad to.
Q Are there any new developments in terms of the diplomatic relations? Have you anything to tell us today that you could not tell us yesterday?
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you raised this, because I had a very good conversation this morning with the United States Ambassador to Austria, Ambassador Swanee Hunt. And if I might say this to the people of Austria, through you, Ambassador Hunt, I think, has done a very good job in the spirit of our wish to have close relations with Austria, to try to explain this publicly to the Austrian people.
I just want to review the major points that she has made. First, that this incident is a relic of the Cold War; that the aim of the United States in initiating the 79 to 80 arms caches, to building them, and to putting them there, was to help Austrian partisans fight a possible Soviet invasion of Austria, which in 1952 and '53 and '54 was not a far-fetched notion, considering the diplomacy and the objectives of the Soviet Union at the time.
We will work now with the Austrian Government and Austrian citizens to make sure that there is no threat to public safety in Austria. I would just reiterate another point that she made on Austrian television. We apologize to the Government of Austria and to the people of Austria for the fact that since 1955, successive American Administrations did not inform Austrian Governments of the fact of this program.
I would also say from a Washington perspective that this Administration, when it found out about this program -- at least at senior levels of the Administration -- took very quick action to inform the Congress and now to inform the Austrian Government and the Austrian people.
Very shortly, Ambassador Hunt will be providing to the Austrian Government specific information about the location of each of these arms caches, about the contents of each of these arms caches, and we will be ready to work with the Austrian Government to dig them up and to dismantle them.
Q Nick, you said yesterday you would look into the question of who the arms belonged to -- whether the United States wants them back. Did you get an answer on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a good answer on that. I think what we need to do here -- I think Ambassador Hunt will take the lead here -- is to sit down with the Austrian Government and to discuss all of these issues with it. We certainly want to wait to see what wishes the Austrian Government has before we pronounce our own solution to some of these problems.
Q So you would entertain a request by them or an observation by them that the weapons were theirs?
MR. BURNS: We certainly will be willing to listen to any request made by the Austrian Government. That would only be logical in view of the quite embarrassing situation in which we find ourselves today -- the fact that this program went on so long -- and it's the only place in Europe where it happened -- where the identity of this program was not known to the government.
My final thing to say on this question will be that Ambassador Hunt reports that the Austrian Government has really gone out of its way to try to cooperate with us in the last couple of days to devise a course of action that makes sense for Austria as well as the United States.
Q Nick, were arms involved in programs with other countries?
MR. BURNS: I think, as all of you know --
Q (Inaudible) for instance --
MR. BURNS: I think, as all of you know, there were programs like this but not identical to it with other countries in Europe. But the difference here is that as far as I know -- and we've looked into it this morning with some care -- in all of those instances these programs were initiated with the governments in case, and the governments in effect had control over the programs and were intimately familiar with them as the decades wore on.
Almost all of those programs were dismantled long ago. What makes the Austrian case so unique are two things. First, that it went on for so long without the knowledge of the Austrian Government, number one.
And I think secondly -- this is really a derivative point of number one -- that it took the United States so long to acknowledge the fact that it's absolutely inadmissible for this thing to happen without the knowledge of a host government.
So I think here as we look back on it, we think that the aim was noble and the aim was correct, and that was to try to help Austria if Austria found itself under occupation. I think that the Austrian people understand that. What went wrong is that Washington in successive Administrations, from the Eisenhower Administration on, until this one, simply decided not to talk to the Austrian Government about it.
Q Are you aware of the delegation coming to Austria, and do you know what it would consist of?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The State Department will be leading a delegation of officials from various agencies here in Washington to Vienna at the end of this week to work with Ambassador Hunt and to participate with her under her leadership in meetings with the Austrian Government to try to answer all the questions, including the one that Sid asked about whose weapons are there and what level of engagement will we have in trying to dismantle the arms caches. We really want to see this done in a very thorough and cooperative way.
Q What does "various agencies" mean?
MR. BURNS: Other agencies. Certainly the Pentagon. Other agencies in Washington.
MR. BURNS: I just don't know if they're part of the delegation, frankly.
Q Nick, you may have answered this question yesterday. Forgive me. I wasn't here. If the Austrian Government --
MR. BURNS: Your absence was noted.
Q (Laughter) You're taking --
MR. BURNS: Taking attendance.
Q I'll get a doctor's --
MR. BURNS: We're taking attendance these days.
Q Nick, if the Austrian Government didn't know about the arms cache, who did in Austria, if this was aimed to help the Austrian people? Somebody must have known about it.
MR. BURNS: We did talk about this yesterday. Very quickly, when the program was created -- I believe in 1953 -- it was worked out with the Austrian Government of the time and with other individuals in Austria.
But the problem is that after the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, with the departure of foreign forces from Austria, at no point thereafter did any Administration, from the Eisenhower on, inform the Austrian Government of the fact that there were these 79-80 weapons caches all around the country -- some of them quite large.
Q Nick, which agency of the U.S. Government was responsible for running this program?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I don't know enough about it to know which agency took the lead back in 1953. I'm not that much of an expert on it. But I think it's fair to say that many agencies, including the State Department, had a role in this throughout the decades.
Q But which agency uncovered the papers that revealed this?
MR. BURNS: I believe that was the Central Intelligence Agency that uncovered the papers, and I think it's a testimony to Director Deutch that in his effort to in effect "clean house" and to make sure that America's intelligence operations are fully up to date with our national priorities in the 1990s that he and others in his agency brought these issues to light within our government, and that we collectively decided that we had to go forward to the Austrian Government to inform them of this.
Q I take it there are some security considerations that keeps you from revealing certain information that we would like to have right now before Ambassador Hunt will (inaudible). Do they also include the names of some of the people in Austria -- within Austria who knew about this and have kept quiet for that long a period?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I know that what we hope to do is turn over to the Austrian Government very quickly, within a matter of days, the location of each of the arms caches, including very specific directions, because some of these caches are in rural areas, as to how to get to them.
And, number two, what's inside them, because you don't want to begin excavating before you have an idea of what kind of explosives, grenades, and so forth might be inside them. So we're going to proceed with some care on this.
As to who might have been involved in the Austrian side, that's not a question that I'm familiar with.
Still on Austria?
MR. BURNS: Still on Austria.
Q Actually, one question. You said this was the only place in Europe where these programs have taken place. Are you excluding similar programs in Asia or other places in the world? Did this happen in Korea, Japan?
MR. BURNS: Because I don't know everything that's in the attic of this country, I can't make a blanket statement like this. But I'm not aware of any program like this in Asia. I've never been informed of such a program. I'm not aware that we're dealing with any kind of problem like this -- like the Austrian problem -- in Asia. But I can't, obviously, give you theoretically any kind of blanket statement about the activities of this country during the Cold War in Administrations as far back as the Truman Administration.
But I do know that we're not dealing, I believe, with any Asian country on a problem comparable to Austria. What makes the Austrian situation unique is the fact that the United States Government chose not to tell the Austrian Government for decades.
Q I'm just interested in why you said that only -- this was the only case in Europe. Have you only been looking into Europe, or is there a possibility that this could have been going on outside of Europe, and you just haven't been looking for it?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure, as our national security planners in 1953 thought about a Soviet threat to our allies, it was mainly in terms of a land invasion westward in Central and Western Europe, and that's where most of these --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Is Austria an ally or a neutral country?
MR. BURNS: My answer was directed towards Europe as opposed to Asia, Barry. Austria has not been a NATO ally with the United States, no.
Q One further kind of transgression --
MR. BURNS: Austria was a country in which --
Q Did you compromise the neutrality of a country -- the U.S. Government did.
MR. BURNS: No, because, Barry, I think there's a central point you've got to remember. When this program was initiated, it was initiated with the knowledge and cooperation and consent of the Austrian Government in 1953.
The difference here is that with the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, the United States chose not to inform successor governments after that date. There's a difference.
Q (Multiple questions)
Q (Inaudible) which show that the Austrian Government at that time knew about it? I mean, had signed --
MR. BURNS: It's a very clear understanding, looking at the historical record. I don't know if we have documents to that effect. I suppose we do, because we're quite clear about that.
Q Or they just told them without giving them any written --
MR. BURNS: It could be the case, but we're quite clear. I don't believe that anyone has denied this. In fact, there has been some testimony by people within Austria who were part of this, just in the last couple of days.
Q Has anybody signed anything to the extent, yes, we know or --
MR. BURNS: I don't know if that's the case.
Henry, you have a question.
Q I was just wondering whether --
MR. BURNS: You were just kibitzing there.
Q (Inaudible) Canada should be concerned, and I'll pass --
MR. BURNS: I don't think so. Canada is the most successful relationship in history -- the largest and longest undefended border. I don't think so.
Q To follow up on Barry's question, does one assume, then, that these caches are only in certain zones of Austria? They would not be in the eastern part of Austria.
MR. BURNS: Actually, what we are waiting for here at the Department of State is a list -- what we are developing in the government is a list of where all these caches are. I can't answer that question until I know what's on that list.
Q In other words, in 40 years of housing developments and -- I mean, Austria, I'm sure, like most European countries has undergone some structural changes in 40 years.
MR. BURNS: I think so.
Q How did they avoid touching anything off? They didn't know - -
MR. BURNS: I understand that in the intervening years --
MR. BURNS: -- there were four or five of these caches that were inadvertently discovered by Austrians in the course of construction, but that the remainder have not been discovered. It's now our job to locate each of them and to unearth them, so that the Austrian people don't have to fear that any of these caches pose a threat to them.
Q On that point, Nick, yesterday you said -- sort of made a blanket statement there's no environmental hazard because of these caches -- solely ammunition and weapons. Today you're saying there may be hand grenades, which would be a clear environmental hazard. Can you --
MR. BURNS: Sid, what I know to be the fact is that there were no - - fortunately, no nuclear, chemical or other agents in those caches.
MR. BURNS: Barry, wait a minute. I'm surprised by your reaction. I think that's a very important statement for the Austrian people to know.
Q That's thoughtful.
MR. BURNS: However, there is -- thank you. We try to be thoughtful. But there were explosives and there was ammunition, and there were rifles and machine guns and other items, and so therefore we want to be very careful about how these are dug up, and we don't want it to pose any threat to the safety of people who may be living near them. Full stop. I think that statement shows the concern we have for a good relationship with Austria and to do the right thing and to fulfill our responsibilities now as we try to end this intriguing and interesting episode from the Cold War.
Q But in fact there is some danger posed to the Austrian public by these arms caches.
MR. BURNS: We're not quite sure. I don't think anyone can say that there's no danger. Okay. My statement yesterday was associated to the presence of these other dangers -- nuclear and chemical. But I can't stand here and say that there's no danger, and that's why we want to work through this very carefully with the Austrians.
Q New subject.
MR. BURNS: New subject.
Q On Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q The Chinese Foreign Ministry has confirmed that they have already put up a request for another transit visa for Vice President Li for the inauguration of Haitian President in February. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Vice President Li is building up the frequent flyer miles. (Laughter) He ought to fly first-class. I hope he flies first- class. He deserves it. He's got the mileage. Although in our government, when you fly around on commercial aircraft, you cannot build up the mileage. You're not allowed to by law.
We understand that Vice President Li is planning to transit the United States in early February en route to Haiti for the purpose of attending the inauguration of the new Haitian President. We are awaiting details of Vice President Li's itinerary from the Taiwan authorities. We will, of course, make a decision on this transit request once the information on the nature of his transit has been received.
You can look at this very much in line with Vice President Li's transit of the United States en route to another Presidential inauguration. This showcases the success of democracy in our hemisphere -- lots of Presidential transitions.
We looked at that request. The primary factors were we wanted to know what the nature of it was, what the transit would be, where it would be, for how long. Of course, we look upon transit visas as relatively routine matters. I'm sure that once we get the information from the Taiwan authorities, we'll make our decision.
Q Do you look at a map and see if that's the only way to get there? Could it be that Taiwan is testing the waters and could it be that the U.S. State Department is pleased that they're testing the waters?
MR. BURNS: It just means it's good business for the airlines. It keeps us working on these issues, Barry. These are routine matters. I'm serious. These are routine matters.
Q No, it's been a serious matter with China. It's a serious matter with Taiwan. I don't have my travel guide handy. But I wonder, is this the only way to get places is by transiting the United States?
MR. BURNS: Taiwan and Asia -- you cross the Pacific --
Q Maybe he could go under the U.S., transit the --
Q (multiple questions)
MR. BURNS: Barry, all I can say is this: transit visas are, in our view, routine. If the larger question is: Should this affect the U.S.-China relationship? The answer is no. Transit visas by officials -- from authorities from Taiwan are routine. They ought not to affect the relationship with the People's Republic of China.
Q If they're routine, then it would be a pretty safe guess that this will be permitted, wouldn't it?
MR. BURNS: I can't anticipate the decision that will be made. We have to just wait and see what detailed information is given to us. Then we'll make our decision, but it is routine and it ought not to alarm anybody. There is nothing untoward here. It's perfectly normal in this case. We've had transits in the past, including one just last week. I'm sure we'll have transits in the future.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Any more on Taiwan before we leave this?
Q CNN reported earlier today that a person who assisted in exposing the orphanage abuse has been detained by the Chinese authority for more than two months. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I've just seen the same press reports that you have. I've not had an opportunity to see the analysis on this from our Embassy in Beijing so I would prefer to withhold comment until we get our facts straight here.
Q Another one on Taiwan. Someone from as close as you can get to the Foreign Ministry in Taiwan made a speech in Phoenix to or from or on his way to Bermuda. Sorry. He said that he expects ties with Taiwan and the U.S. to be strengthened and that he expects eventual formal diplomatic recognition. Is there any change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: There's no change in U.S. policy. We have a one-China policy. We have official relations -- this bears repeating -- with the People's Republic of China. We have unofficial relations with Taiwan. It's well known. It's very well known. I just thought I'd help out.
Q Russia? What's the state of the Secretary's possible meeting with Foreign Minister Primakov?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary, when he called Foreign Minister Primakov when we were in the Middle East ten days ago, told him we thought it was very important to have an early meeting so that the two of them could get to know each other a little better than they know each other; work together to find a common agenda as we look towards the April summit in Moscow, the G-7 Summit and the bilateral U.S.-Russia summit.
We are now trying to work out a place for that meeting and a time for that meeting. It's sometimes difficult to get Foreign Ministers schedules to cooperate.
Secretary Christopher, as you know, has a very important trip scheduled and I'm afraid the dates will not change for his trip to the Balkans -- to Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. He's then going on to the Middle East for a very important trip concerning the Israel-Syria negotiations.
So we'll just have to wait and see whether or not we're able to arrange this early meeting. But the Secretary remains very, very interested in having this meeting with Foreign Minister Primakov.
Q It sounds like you've said February 1 in Geneva or no meeting?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q It sounds like you've said to the Russians February 1 in Geneva?
MR. BURNS: We've had a series of ongoing discussions with the Russians on this. As I said, we haven't worked a satisfactory travel schedule that would meet both Ministers schedule. I'm sure we'll be able to work out a meeting before too long. I just don't know if it will be next week.
Q What are you going to do about the Wye talks? Maybe you've been into this already. Do you have any briefing plans? Do you have any --
MR. BURNS: I think we're going to be a little more forthcoming this time. I think what we're going to do --
Q It can't be less. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Thanks, Barry. I appreciate your sentiments.
Q (multiple questions).
MR. BURNS: Excuse me.
Q Should we watch "MacNeil/Lehrer" or will --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Watch "MacNeil/Lehrer" or will we have actual contact with you?
MR. BURNS: It's the "Jim Lehrer Newshour" now, Barry.
Q I know.
MR. BURNS: I think what we'll do this time is try to operate on the "Bosnia model", and that is, I will have something to say every day about the Wye talks. I'll be in close contact with Ambassador Dennis Ross. That will start tomorrow. He's going to get out there at around noon tomorrow. They're going to convene at around noon, the three delegations. He expects to be there for three days. He then expects to recess over Saturday and Sunday, to reconvene on Monday, Tuesday, perhaps into Wednesday.
I'd expect the following. I'll have something to say every day. The Secretary will definitely be going out, probably Thursday to have dinner with the parties -- Thursday night. He'll have a private dinner with them, much as he did the last time. Then we'll see where we are.
It could be that Dennis wants to make a statement. It could be they all want to make statement. We'll just have to see where they are at the end of the trip.
But at the end of the trip, the Secretary, of course, will want to take the results of this trip on his trip to the Middle East for his personal conversations with President Assad and Prime Minister Peres.
Q Any warm-ups today and tonight?
MR. BURNS: Warm-ups?
Q Any pre-Wye consultations that you can know about?
MR. BURNS: I'm not specifically aware of any warm-ups with the delegations. I assume that has taken place; I would assume. Foreign Minister Barak has been here and he has seen the President and Tony Lake and Secretary Christopher for lunch. They've had a good opportunity to talk about these talks and talk about our hope for a comprehensive peace agreement in 1996.
Q This time are you going to release a list of the people attending?
Q You did the last time.
MR. BURNS: We did last time. We released a list of the delegations the last time. We'll try to do that again this time.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Ron?
Q Do you know if the military officials will joint these talks?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe the military officials --
Q At the beginning --
MR. BURNS: -- from all sides, including American military officials, will be there from the beginning.
Q Not to be too technical about it, but the Secretary said he would be at Wye more than he was in the last round. The last round was a four-hour stay, dinner, and some talks before dinner. As you look at it now, you're about matching that level on Thursday.
I'm trying to get some measure because we keep getting statements about a vigorous and intensified U.S. participation. I wonder if the Secretary planned to be up at --
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think that's been misconstrued. I can't remember the Secretary ever saying that he was going --
Q His personal presence.
MR. BURNS: -- that his personal presence. I know what he was saying, what Ambassador Ross was saying at the end of our trip to the Middle East, and that is that the United States is now playing a more active intermediary role than we had in the past. We are not just trying to bring delegations together. We are actively offering our own ideas and are an active participant in all these talks. It's the nature of it, Barry.
Q Just for the sake of people who really don't understand this type of language. Does this mean that the United States is now ready to make proposals about peace terms, proposals about the extent of Israeli withdrawal, proposals about security arrangements, and, of course, proposals about U.S. involvement in such arrangements?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to be specific about what we're saying. It's very specific. You've asked very specific --
Q Areas -- you said "areas."
MR. BURNS: You've asked very specific questions, and I don't want to be specific about the content of the proposals that we are making or even in which areas. But you can rest assured that we are taking on this role, and I think at the request of both parties.
Q Are you willing to get into a little bit of substance on these negotiations?
MR. BURNS: Always perilous, for you and for me.
Q When you say it's going to be a new deal --
MR. BURNS: The new deal is this time we'll talk. I can't guarantee if you're going to be happy with everything we say -- exactly, we'll have something to say.
Q I'll try anyway.
MR. BURNS: I don't think we're going to do a photo-op. Wye hasn't changed.
Q It hasn't nothing to do with substance, you know.
MR. BURNS: The photo-ops?
MR. BURNS: I think out of respect for everyone there and to keep these as private as they can be, I think we'll adhere to the same ground rules that we had before in terms of photo-ops.
Q Do all three parties object to a photo-op, or just the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: I think it's the agreement of all three parties that it's better not to have them. They really want to have a private environment. There will be time, if this peace process continues, for photo-ops, with all due respect. I understand why people are interested, but I did ask. That was the considered judgment that was arrived at.
Q Is it a three-way decision, is the question?
MR. BURNS: It's something --
Q You guys are in charge of this --
MR. BURNS: He has discussed with the parties and it's what they want to do; what we all want to do.
Q The U.S. is setting the rules?
MR. BURNS: It's collective.
Q It is collective?
MR. BURNS: It's collective.
Q Nick, the Secretary said yesterday that this is -- once again, he said this is a critical time for the peace process. I wanted to ask a question but I wasn't allowed to. Can you explain what he meant by that comment?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, we had a limited number of questions yesterday.
What the Secretary meant is that we think there is an opportunity for a comprehensive peace in 1996. But we have reached a point in the negotiations where it's very important now to make progress. He'll be making his 17th trip to the region the week after next. It's an important time where we think the progress is available as long as the parties reach out for it. That's why we think it's critical.
Q Will that window be affected by any decision the Israeli Knesset may take on when to hold elections? Is the U.S. a little bit apprehensive that the elections might be moved up?
MR. BURNS: On that question, Barry, I think that's a question solely for Prime Minister Peres and his colleagues and the Israeli political system to work out. We have no say in that. We have no control nor are we trying to influence that. We're just going to have to take the situation as it's given to us.
Q You don't have to try and influence it, but you can be affected by it. You can tell them this makes your --
MR. BURNS: As an objective matter, if elections were called, the negotiations, I assume, would be affected. The decision to call elections or not to call elections is not ours, and we're not getting involved in it.
Q How would they be affected -- the negotiations?
MR. BURNS: I think we've said many times, and the Secretary said as far back as last March on his trip to the Middle East, that 1996 is a interesting year for these negotiations because of the Israeli and American elections. We assume that past a certain point this year it will be difficult because of the elections to maintain a normal set of negotiations. That's why we hope for progress during the period ahead, during the months ahead, right now -- beginning right now.
Q Wouldn't it better, practically speaking, for Peres to ask the voters now for a mandate on return of the Golan rather than having you guys forced into making a deal and then the possibility that the Israeli electorate rejects the deal after President Assad --
MR. BURNS: The decision is for Prime Minister Peres and his colleagues to make; not for us. The United States will not force either side into a deal. If there is going to be an agreement, it's because Syria and Israel want there to be an agreement, and we'll just try to help along the way.
Q But doesn't the threat of the Middle East exploding become greater if they make a deal and then Israel is forced to back out? The United States must realize that.
MR. BURNS: I don't agree with the thrust of your question. All of us want to have a peace agreement. That's what's good for the Middle East and for the world. That's what we're working towards. It's up to the Israelis to decide what they're going to do in their own electoral cycle.
Charlie, did you have a question?
Q More of a sigh, I believe.
MR. BURNS: A sigh. Would you like --
Q Sorry if that was audible.
MR. BURNS: It was very audible here.
Q On Bangladesh. In spite of all the good efforts of Ambassador Merrill in dealing with the negotiations between the government and opposition, it now seems that (inaudible) has become visible; that that mission has been stalled.
The Prime Minister, in her nationwide address to the nation yesterday, stated that she is going to go ahead with the election boycotting the major opposition party --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q boycotting -- not without the major opposition parties; an election without the major opposition party. Those oppositions that have come into the fall elections are being handpicked. The oppositions are now way out.
Nick, the problem is here. Two things that have been visible and can become more perceptive in the forthcoming weeks. One is the conflicting stage that we are reaching between the opposition and the government following the election date that has been announced unilaterally by the Prime Minister without negotiation on the caretaker issue.
And, number two, there is a premption that if things go wrong, the army intervention -- there would not be any other choice other than having an army intervention and thereby stalling democracy once again.
What is your take on that, and how the United States views, in such a situation? Will the United States take the liberty of standing off from any type of misqued violence that erupts out of the situation? What would be Ambassador Merrill's next step?
MR. BURNS: I think what Ambassador Merrill has been urging on the government and all parties is an end to violence and confrontation and to promote, together, stability and peaceful negotiations. We certainly think that elections makes sense for Bangladesh. We think that elections are important to try to help the various parties cope with their political differences.
Ambassador Merrill has been a very effective spokesman for the United States in this effort.
Q Charlie is going to sigh again if we don't leave.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm here to answer questions. I cannot leave until the press allows me to leave. Kristen has the final question.
Q On Burma. There's been a report that the drug lord, Khun Sa, has cut a deal with the military government in which he swaps his lands for a promise to not be extradited to the U.S. Is the U.S., as a country, asking for his extradition? What's the reaction?
MR. BURNS: I can't talk about the "e" word -- extradition -- but I can talk about our concerns that this deal looks curious and suspicious; that we don't believe that Khun Sa should be let off with a slap on the wrist. He's a major drug trafficker. He should be brought up on charges. The United States would like to bring him to the United States to face those charges, and we've put out a reward for that.
I think our position is pretty clear and our doubts and skepticism about these developments are quite profound.
Q (Inaudible) give that government support for narcotics trafficking?
MR. BURNS: It may not be surprising but it's not satisfactory to us, and it's not the actions of a government that is interested in good relations with us or in good cooperation on the major international issue facing that part of Asia and facing us all in the Pacific.
Thank you. We'll call it a day. We'll convene again tomorrow.
(Press briefing concluded 2:09 p.m.)
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