U.S. Department of State 96/01/25 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, January 25, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Secretary Christopher's Meeting with Argentine Foreign.. Minister di Tella.....................................3-4 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Secretary Christopher's Meeting with Justice Goldstone..1-3,8 Provision of Information Pertaining to War Crimes.......2,4-5 --Evidence Linking President Milosevic to War Crimes....4-5,9 --Financial Support for War Crimes Tribunal.............8-9 Prisoner Exchange.......................................5-7 --Status of Missing People..............................7 Departure of Foreign Forces.............................8 Status of Mladic and Karadzic...........................9 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Plenary Session for Wye Talks/Progress of Talks.........3,10-13 21-22 Role of U.S. in Talks...................................10 LATIN AMERICA Secretary Christopher's Travel Plans in the Region......13-14 Colombia: Visas of Military Officers/Popular Referendum.14-16 TAIWAN Transit Visa for Vice President Li......................16 Relations with China....................................22-23 UNITED NATIONS Plan to Revise Subscriptions and Dues...................16-17 RUSSIA Meeting with Foreign Minister Primakov..................17 Economic/Political Reform...............................18-20 AUSTRIA U.S. Delegation to Discuss Arms Caches..................20-21,22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 1996, 2:51 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome everyone to the State Department briefing. I want to take an opportunity to recognize a distinguished visitor from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, in case any of you have ever been there -- Major John W. McCance, who is the Public Relations Officer and Director of the 445th Airlift Wing. Major McCance was instrumental in providing the stellar services that all of you enjoyed for 21 days at Wright-Patterson. Thanks for coming today.
MR. BURNS: Everything, Barry. Everything good that happened there is testimony to Major MCance.
Q We'll Take him to Ponderosa for lunch. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Thanks, Barry.
Q I want to give you all a brief report on the meeting that the Secretary just concluded with Justice Goldstone. The Secretary welcomed him to the Department. The last time that Justice Goldstone was here the Secretary was out of town -- as I remember, he was in Japan at the time -- and Justice Goldstone saw Deputy Secretary Talbott.
Secretary Christopher phrased Justice Goldstone for his work personally to create the War Crimes Tribunal, which the Secretary described as a major and positive factor in Bosnian peace.
The Secretary specifically said that the United States will continue to give unstinting financial support; we will continue to make sure that Justice Goldstone has enough people -- lawyers and researchers -- to conduct his investigations. As you know, more than 20 officers of the U.S. Government have been detailed to work directly with Justice Goldstone. We are also the largest financial contributor.
The Secretary said that the United States will continue to deliver intelligence information to Justice Goldstone and the War Crimes Tribunal and all other information at our disposal pertaining to war crimes.
Justice Goldstone, for his part, thanked the United States Government for its assistance, including the financial and personnel assistance. He reported to Secretary Christopher in some detail on his meetings over the past week with General Joulwan, with the new NATO Secretary General, Mr. Solana, and also with Admiral Smith.
Justice Goldstone said that he was completely satisfied with the arrangement that he has worked out with Admiral Smith for security provisions relating to the investigations that the War Crimes Tribunal has already carried out and will continue to carry out.
In that respect, they talked about the very good cooperation that John Shattuck has had with the War Crimes Tribunal. Last week when John Shattuck went into Srebrenica, he took with him two investigators from the War Crimes Tribunal. They were able to take photographs and make notes. This gets to the question of whether or not anyone could hope to tamper with the sites and with the evidence. The sites have already been looked at -- the major sites -- not all the sites, but the major ones. We already have a very good idea of what happened there. So any attempt to tamper with these sites will be fruitless.
They agreed that we need to be closely in touch, the United States Government and the War Crimes Tribunal.
Barry, do you have any for me?
Q Sure. Can you chew and spin at the same time? (Laughter).
MR. BURNS: I can usually do that. Just watch. (Laughter).
They also agreed that we had to pay close attention to implementation of the Dayton Accords.
Justice Goldstone asked for a description of the U.S. view on implementation. The Secretary said we're very satisfied that a zone of separation has been created but we continue to believe that the parties -- specifically, the Bosnian Government -- needs to do a much better job of complying with the commitment to release all prisoners.
Justice Goldstone earlier today saw Secretary Perry. He is now in a meeting with Assistant Secretary Shattuck. That meeting will go on for some time. I know he is available to talk to the press. He doesn't have a press conference scheduled today but he will be available over the next couple of days in the United States to speak directly to you.
In addition to that meeting, the Secretary also did some planning today for his participation at the Wye talks. The plenary session began this morning at 9:30 a.m. at the Wye Conference Centers. The participation was by all of the delegations.
Yesterday, in the initial sessions, I understand that the Generals from Syria and Israel did not participate in the very first conversations. This morning, they joined the conversations at 9:30.
The focus this morning was on security issues, as well as on a number of non-security issues. Ambassador Ross expects the discussions to continue throughout this afternoon.
The Secretary is slated to arrive there in a short time. He'll have a meeting late this afternoon. Then as soon as the sun goes down, he will offer a dinner for all the delegations. The Syrian delegation, of course, is respecting Ramadan and has been fastening and so they'll have an early dinner. The Secretary, I would expect, would leave between, say, 7:30 and 8:00 and return to Washington.
I'll have further information for you tomorrow morning on the Secretary's participation in the Wye talks today.
Finally, let me just tell you very briefly, the Secretary met for 30 minutes this morning with Foreign Minister di Tella. They reviewed various aspects of the Dayton Agreement. The Secretary expressed appreciation for Argentina's active role in restoring peace and security to the former Yugoslavia.
They also discussed progress in implementing the goals of the Miami summit -- the Summit of the Americans -- and the importance of continued Argentine leadership and efforts to promote a democratic Western hemisphere. The Secretary, in fact, along with Mr. McLarty who participated in the meeting with the Secretary -- Mack McLarty, the President's counselor -- lauded the role of Argentina in the follow-up to the Summit of the Americas. We're looking forward to the hemispheric ministerial on money laundering which will be attended by Treasury Secretary Rubin and Argentina will be participating in that.
They also discussed issues concerning bilateral cooperation. If you're interested, we can go further into that.
Q Roll back to the human rights matter. Mr. Shattuck was there. It was quite a significant stop, finding evidence, or at least eyewitness accounts of mass burials. How is this material -- what form does this material take? How does he give it? Does he give it today? Is he giving it to Justice Goldstone? Are there papers? Could you go into some depth as how Shattuck's findings are given to the human rights people?
MR. BURNS: In the case of John Shattuck's trip to Srebrenica over the weekend, he was accompanied by two of Justice Goldstone's people. So they shared the information that they developed at the sites that they visited.
But, in general, Barry, what we are doing is, we are turning over all types of information, mostly in written form, to the War Crimes Tribunal. We have information that we have developed based on conversations that a number of different people in the U.S. Government - - civilian and non-civilian -- have had with refugees. We're turning that over to them.
We've had discussions with governmental representatives and some of the NGOs in the area, which is being turned over -- the information from those conversations -- turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal. Of course, you know we have a very broad intelligence capability in the United States Government.
When we glean information through intelligence means about the atrocities committed during the war, we turn that information over. So it's mainly in written form.
One of the problems that Justice Goldstone has had by his own admission is that the volume of material that has come into the Tribunal in The Hague is so great, he has had to expand the number of people available to him just to sift through the material to ascertain what is vital information, what is important and what is tertiary to his investigations.
Justice Goldstone did note -- I forgot to mention this -- that they're working hard on further indictments and he expects further indictments will be made in the coming months.
Q In all this evidence-gathering and whatever information the U.S. considers to be honest, whatever the word would be, have you found yet any evidence linking Milosevic to the horrible war crimes in Srebrenica and in other places in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any information in the possession of the United States that implicates President Milosevic.
Q Nick, you mentioned the Bosnians and their failure to release prisoners. I noticed Foreign Minister Sacribey was in the building today. Who is he seeing? What's that about?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Sacribey has been in the United States for a few days. He's been in Washington for two days. He's met with Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke who is in the building today. He's met with John Kornblum who, has you know, will be succeeding Mr. Holbrooke. He's met with Ambassador Bob Gallucci, who is just about to make another trip to Europe concerning Bosnia, with Ambassador Bill Montgomery, who has come back to the Department from his Ambassadorship in Bulgaria, to work with Ambassador Gallucci on these Bosnian issues. So, a number of meetings.
Q Are you transmitting to him the message that there will be consequences if the Bosnians do not release the prisoners (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, that message has had to be transmitted to him. Most significantly -- as you know, Secretary Christopher called President Izetbegovic two days ago. Today, Ambassador John Menzies went into see President Izetbegovic and reiterated this message.
The message is crystal clear. Mr. Sacribey understands it as well. Our ability to have a normal relationship that would include assistance on equipping and training the Bosnian military will be fundamentally affected by how well Bosnia meets its commitments that it made and it signed -- signed documents to on December 14th in Paris on the Dayton Accords.
Q But do you have anything measurable yet? These warnings, or reminders have been going on for several days.
MR. BURNS: They have.
Q Have there been any releases?
MR. BURNS: Yes. There continue to be some releases on a daily basis. The problem is, Barry, that while maybe upwards of 300 people have been released, that's probably just under half, and perhaps a little bit more under half, of all the prisoners at least that we are aware of who ought to be released. So we're looking for full compliance on the issue of prisoner release. We're looking for full compliance on the issue of the foreign fighters, the mujahedin and others who are present in Bosnia.
Q Nick, you don't think that Bosnian compliance will affect the Secretary's travel plans, do you?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. In fact, I think, Sid, someone asked about this yesterday. I'm very glad to say that the Secretary is bound and determined to go on this trip. He'll be leaving late next week. He'll be visiting Sarajevo, Tuzla, Belgrade, and Zagreb.
If these provisions have not been made, if compliance is not complete, the Secretary is just going to have to pound the table harder than he normally would in discussions with the Bosnian Government.
We see this, Sid, as a critical issue. We've just begun to implement the Dayton Accords. If the United States and the other sponsors of the Dayton Accords -- our European allies -- allow any one of the parties to violate a major provision of the agreements, then we fear the agreements will be tarnished and that they, in the future, could unravel. We're not going to permit that. We've got too much at stake and they've got too much at stake. It's in their national interests to meet their commitments to us. We're bound and determined that they will do so.
Q Did Mr. Sacirbey convey to you, as he did to us, that by tomorrow they're going to release 300 more, which seems to be the last of the --
MR. BURNS: We've heard many promises about when this will happen, and we're just going at this point adopt a wait-and-see attitude. We're very hopeful, and we expect that there will be a complete prisoner release.
Secretary Christopher was pretty much told that in his phone call. We'd like to see it happen immediately, but I'm not going to bet on when it's going to happen. We're just going to wait and see. And, if there's full compliance, then we'll congratulate the Bosnian Government, and we'll move on, because we do want to have a supportive, friendly, cooperative relationship with the government in Sarajevo.
Q Did he say that in his meeting with the Secretary -- that he -- that they were going to release --
MR. BURNS: It was a telephone call two days ago. Sacirbey did not meet with the Secretary.
Q With Holbrooke then.
MR. BURNS: With Assistant Secretary Holbrooke?
Q Did he issue a --
MR. BURNS: I think more importantly, given the hierarchy of governments, the Secretary heard from President Izetbegovic two days ago that there would be complete compliance. We're looking for early and complete compliance.
Q But the Foreign Minister said -- apparently said today that there will be 300 released tomorrow. Is that the message that he conveyed to you here?
MR. BURNS: We've heard a variety of statements, and there have been a variety of commitments made. We're now looking for action.
Q Did he make that commitment today? I mean, I'm -- today, specifically, did he --
MR. BURNS: There have been commitments made today, yesterday, the day before, last Friday, last Thursday -- lots of commitments. Now we're looking for action.
Q How about the Bosnian Government's request for the missing people --
MR. BURNS: We have great sympathy with that request.
Q Did you get any positive approach from the Serbian side?
MR. BURNS: When Assistant Secretary Shattuck talked to President Milosevic the other day in Belgrade, he was assured that there would be that kind of response from the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs. The International Committee of the Red Cross has now set up a task force to develop a complete, or as complete a list as possible, of missing people -- Croatians, Moslems, Serbs, people of all types who are missing from the war, and we fully support that.
We're involved in that, and we're giving information to the Red Cross to supplement those lists. We do have great sympathy with the Bosnian Government that their missing need to be identified; that the Serbs need to cooperate with them.
Q Can we ask about Wye, or are we still on this? Middle East talks --
Q There's one more topic here, if I might. Nick, on the matter of the Iranian Muslim radical fighters called mujahedin, I think I said incorrect "nomen" for them -- I think that's a holy name. So let's call them Iranian fighters. Has this topic been brought up with Mr. Sacirbey today or any time that you know about? And across the line -- across the zone of separation, people like Arkan and his paramilitaries and others like him, have they withdrawn from the Bosnian Serb section -- the question I asked the other day.
MR. BURNS: The second question, Bill, is a question for IFOR and people on the ground. I'm not aware of where Arkan may or may not be at the present time.
On the first question, we probably reminded them about 100 times in the last few weeks of their obligation to get all the foreign fighters, motley crew, mujahedin, fighters, whatever you want to call them, out of Bosnia.
Q I just have one question about the Secretary's meeting today with Goldstone. Was he satisfied with what the U.S. is doing? Is he asking for more? I mean, what was --
MR. BURNS: Justice Goldstone was fully satisfied with the arrangements that he has made with Admiral Smith for IFOR cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal for the specific purpose of investigating war crimes -- fully satisfied -- and I think you'll hear him say that in his media appearances in the next couple of days.
Q Did he give you the names of indictments that might be coming down in the next couple days?
MR. BURNS: He did not, no. He operates on a confidential basis, and he did not. He said that they were busy working on indictments. He expected several, if not many, new indictments in the coming months -- new indictments.
Q I understand that the Tribunal may be having some financial problems, and that in fact some of the trials may have to be delayed because of not having enough money. Did Judge Goldstone bring this up? Is there going to be an effort to raise some money to keep this going?
MR. BURNS: Yes, he has mentioned that to us on his previous visit here in November, and he mentioned it again today. He's now meeting with John Shattuck to talk specifically in part about this. He's very concerned about it. He has a mountain of information that needs to be processed in order to turn that information into indictments and prosecutions and convictions.
We believe that our European partners have a direct interest in increasing their financial support and their support in the form of people to Justice Goldstone. We have certainly done our part, and we're willing to do as much as we possibly can. Now other nations need to step up.
Q Earlier in this briefing, Nick, you said in answer to a question that you're not aware of any evidence in possession of the United States to link President Milosevic to war crimes.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Is the United States aware of any information in others' possession or in the possession of the Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: I am not aware of that. I have never heard anyone else in my government talk about any other information that's not in our possession that may implicate President Milosevic.
We have said consistently from day one, that Justice Goldstone's operation should be objective, impartial, and independent of the politics of the area; and that the trail of information should lead wherever it should go, and that those who are responsible should be indicted. We very much believe that to be the right way to proceed, and we will support him in that effort.
Q Nick, you've long said from the start that it would be inconceivable to imagine Mladic and Karadzic being around in the wake of the Dayton Accords. What's their status now? Are you satisfied that they've faded away enough?
MR. BURNS: No. No, they certainly haven't faded away. I think as far as we can appreciate it, they don't surface publicly much anymore, but we believe they are still in power. Mladic is commander of the Bosnian Serb military forces and Karadzic is the political leader in Pale, and that is disturbing, because these two people as indicted war criminals have no place in the future government of the region.
We will continue to assert that point, and we continue to believe, Howard, that they will be gone shortly.
Q Could I try you on Wye?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Remember, when we were in Damascus, I guess, we got a little bit of a description of how the Syrians are going about things. I'm wondering about the Americans. When the talks break into subgroups, as they did today, to -- one group to take up security issues and the other terms of peace.
Dennis Ross is the overall mediator. Do you -- for instance, General Christman is there. Does he sort of lead the discussion? Can you give us some idea? Does Ross go back and forth between the groups? Mechanically, I'm wondering where the U.S. input -- of course, the Secretary, you know, is going up there, and he's going to be involved. Can you give us some kind of idea of how the American mediation role is being played out?
MR. BURNS: By the way, I don't believe I said that they had split up into groups.
Q I know you didn't.
MR. BURNS: I know that yesterday the diplomats met, and today the diplomats met with the Generals in plenary session. Obviously, they're having lunch together -- not the Syrians today, but others -- and they're meeting each other at various points, and so there are individual discussions.
There are not set rules. We have been at this a long time, and sometimes we chair meetings and submit the agenda and lead discussions, and sometimes we watch them talk and comment. Sometimes we're very active in the conversations, and sometimes we listen more.
No set rules. We haven't said that we need to chair and control every meeting, and we certainly encourage as much direct contact and direct discussion as is necessary and possible.
Q Nick, during the Dayton talks there was a lot made of the computerized maps and all. Is there that sort of arrangement with computers and CD-ROM and maps that you can -- the Golan Heights you can flash into different sorts of scenarios?
MR. BURNS: These are not quite as high tech talks as the Dayton talks were at Wright-Patterson, but we will obviously use whatever resources we need to use to try to demonstrate -- to illustrate issues. In the case of Dayton, we illustrated map issues through very sophisticated technology, and we have that technology available to us concerning the Golan Heights and other regions, but I can't lead you -- I don't want to really get into it in a very specific way.
Q But they are looking at maps?
MR. BURNS: Oh, they're certainly looking at maps. You can't have these types of conversations without looking at maps, absolutely.
Q (Inaudible) General Christman?
MR. BURNS: Very much so. General Christman is someone who has accompanied the Secretary, as you know, on many of his trips. He is one of our most senior and distinguished military commanders, and he's very knowledgeable, and I think they respect him, and he is an active participant with the other generals in these talks.
Q Nick, when they look at the maps, I mean, they all know what the Golan Heights is. What types of things are they doing with the maps? I mean, looking at different scenarios for how the map might be - -
MR. BURNS: They're looking at the maps and studying the maps and looking again, and that kind of thing -- what you'd imagine they'd do.
Q Memorize the map.
MR. BURNS: Memorize the map, yes.
Q Twice now in recent days the Secretary said he'd try to move these things along. They're at the point now where -- he's used the word "trade-offs" a couple of times (inaudible) basically suggesting it's time to strike some compromise.
Have you detected -- has the U.S. detected anything like that happening yet?
MR. BURNS: I can't really speak, Barry, to that question pertaining to what happened yesterday afternoon and this morning. I just don't have enough specific information to answer that question.
Q The Secretary said this morning -- at least what I heard -- was that he doesn't really even expect them to get into any real deal- making during these days.
MR. BURNS: No, he didn't say that, with all due respect.
Q That's what I --
MR. BURNS: What I took the Secretary to mean when he spoke to you this morning was that he wouldn't lead you to expect that there will be significant breakthroughs at Wye, because the Secretary needs to follow up and talk personally to President Assad and Prime Minister Peres.
He did not say that there wouldn't be significant negotiations. There are clearly significant negotiations going on right now.
Q He was talking about tentative moves, and he would have to go back and massage them before they could decide even if they'd made any progress. That was what I took from --
MR. BURNS: I think he was trying to lead you away from the expectation that peace in our time would be declared tomorrow night or next Tuesday. Clearly, he needs to follow up these talks at the highest levels, and the only people who can make the decisions that must be made to achieve peace are in Damascus and Jerusalem. They're not at Wye.
But the people at Wye are quite significant, because they are all tied directly and personally to Assad and Peres, and therefore they speak for them. There are significant things going on at Wye. There are significant talks going on.
Q I hear what you're saying. The people at Wye are not empowered to make deals.
MR. BURNS: The only people who can make the compromises necessary for peace are the President of Syria and the Prime Minister of Israel.
Q Then what are they doing in Wye if they're not negotiating and --
MR. BURNS: They're negotiating the issues that have divided Syria and Israel since 1948. They are looking at various options and ways that differences between those two countries can be bridged. They are defining areas of common ground, and they're defining areas of discord so that the President and the Prime Minister can look at these questions and decide how the talks should be pursued.
It's akin to what Dick Holbrooke was doing in August, September and October before the Dayton talks. Dick Holbrooke was out talking to lots of different people. He didn't get a peace on those trips, but we finally did get peace at Dayton.
These things have to operate in stages. They're evolutionary. There's nothing abnormal about this.
Q But Holbrooke stepped out after, I think, a week -- several times during that two or three month period, with pieces of paper with signatures and agreements and declarations of principles and --
MR. BURNS: Yes, and no two negotiations are alike. This is quite dissimilar from the Dayton process and the Bosnian peace.
Q In the personnel department...Holbrooke is going. Are you losing Mr. Watson as well? Where's he going?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, as you know, is departing on February 21. He's issued his letter of resignation to the President and the Secretary. Ambassador Alec Watson, Alexander F. Watson, our Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, has apprised Secretary Christopher that he will be leaving the Department in March of this year.
Ambassador Watson is one of our most distinguished career diplomats. He has been in the Foreign Service for over 34 years. He's chosen to begin a new chapter in his life in private life, and his departure is going to be a very great loss for the State Department. The Secretary has enormous respect for him. He regrets that Assistant Secretary Watson has to leave, and I can assure you his departure is not linked at all to any kind of policy issue. It's simply a private decision by him to move on and do other things.
Q Will he ever get a trip under his belt before he starts this new chapter?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary very much hopes so. The Secretary is planning the first significant trip by an American Secretary of State to Latin America since August of 1988 when Secretary Shultz made a long tour of Latin America.
The Secretary said this morning he'll be going to Argentina. Since we have not yet worked out the final details of the trip with some of the other governments, I can't tell you now the list of countries, but I can tell you this. You can assume he'll be going to the obvious countries with which we have very close ties -- very large countries in South America -- and you can assume that this is a trip that will not be limited to South America but will be a hemispheric trip.
I expect that the Secretary will be going beyond South America to at least one or two other capitals.
Q It won't be limited to Spanish-speaking countries either, will it?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't know how to answer that question.
Q (Inaudible) today? Anyhow --
MR. BURNS: I don't know how to answer that question. We'll have to see where it come out.
MR. BURNS: The Secretary is looking forward to this, and we hope that within a short period of time we'll be able to announce the dates of the trip and all the countries.
Q Can you give us the general area Mr. Watson is going to?
MR. BURNS: I can't. That's really for him to announce. I mean, I think he's got an opportunity in private life.
Q Private business?
MR. BURNS: It's up to him to announce that.
Q Nick, can we just have a sound bite? Will the U.S. Government revoke any visas to the Generals of the Colombian military?
MR. BURNS: Can you repeat the question? Is it future tense or is it past tense or is it present tense?
Q The Washington Post is saying that State Department officials have said that several -- at least six members of the Colombian military's visas will be revoked.
MR. BURNS: We have not revoked any visas of any senior-level military or civilian officials of the Colombian Government. We've not made that decision. I am unaware of any immediate future prospects to do so.
Q Then why would Ambassador Miles Frechette say that several visas or a great number of visas would probably be revoked?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, Ambassador Frechette's remarks may have been taken out of the context in which he was speaking, and that he was --
MR. BURNS: Yes, absolutely. I know you're shocked to hear that, Barry. (Laughter) But it's true. It's incredible, but it's true. Ambassador Frechette was speaking about a wide variety of options available to the United States well beyond visa questions, in terms of our policy towards Colombia, and he was not speaking specifically about visas. I talked to everyone who should know about this subject this morning in the Department, and they assured me that no visas had been revoked, and we have no present plans to take that action.
On the wider question of the political crisis in Colombia, as you know, we are watching that crisis with great interest, given our relationship there, and we'll allow the investigation to continue, and we'll allow it to take its course. This is for the Colombian people to decide before we say anything of significance.
Q Will the Secretary go to Colombia?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he has any plans to travel there.
Q Nick, speaking of that issue of the people of Colombia deciding this particular matter concerning President Samper and those allegations, does the Department have any kind of commentary or encouragement with regard to a popular referendum to settle the issue?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do have a comment on that. My comment is that that's for the Colombia people to decide. (Laughter) Sorry to disappoint you.
Q That's what referendum is about.
MR. BURNS: Sorry. I like to build the suspense.
Q Does the United States take --
Q Go at it another way. Are the people named in The Washington Post article welcome by the United States Government to come for a visit?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that if those people have visas, those visas have not been revoked.
Q So they can come as they wish.
MR. BURNS: People who have visas can travel on those visas unless those visas are revoked.
Q If they were to apply for a visa, would they be granted one?
MR. BURNS: That's a different question. When you apply for a visa, that's a confidential process, and that's a process where we look at many factors in determining whether even a foreign government official should have a visa, but that's a different process altogether - - a different question altogether.
Q What about Vice President Li? Does he have his visa yet? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I knew somehow we'd talk about Taiwan today.
Q (Multiple comments)
MR. BURNS: This is the visa part of the briefing, yes. Foreign policy via visa issuance.
Vice President Li's trip is now becoming a little bit clearer to us. We're receiving details on the trip, on the proposed transit of the southern city in the United States, and once we have all the details from the Taiwanese authorities, we'll make our decision and announce it to you.
Q Nick, on another subject --
MR. BURNS: Still on Taiwan. Jim's next. Seniority has its place here, Bill.
Q Does the United States Government take any position on the plan by the Europeans for revising United Nations subscriptions and proportional dues?
MR. BURNS: Right. I think it's fair to say, Jim, that United States law establishes the percentage of funds that the United States can contribute to peacekeeping operations, and that percentage is below the proposal made by the European Union.
Obviously, there were some good intentions here. We know that many of our allies in the European Union had good intentions in delivering this proposal to us and to the United Nations. We look forward to working with them cooperatively on this issue, but I'm afraid that because the Congress and the Administration have worked out a specific percentage -- 25 percent -- it's going to be very difficult for the United States to go above that.
Q So assuming that numbers are to some extent negotiable, does the principle that they're talking about appear to show any promise compared to the present system?
MR. BURNS: I think, Jim, to be fair to them and to us, what we need is to have a fuller look at what they propose. We need to have some of the details from them and the background. But I do want to stake out a little bit of interest here on the numbers.
Q Has there been any progress made on the Primakov meeting with Christopher, either at the head end of the trip or at any other time?
MR. BURNS: We are making progress on that issue. We're making progress. I would anticipate that we'd have something to convey to you tomorrow on that. I think it will be conveyed simultaneously out of Moscow and Washington tomorrow.
We're very pleased that Foreign Minister Primakov and Secretary Christopher are in sight of a decision to have a meeting. The Secretary thinks it's very important to get together with him, to get to know him better, to define a working relationship and a common agenda leading to the April summit. So we're close. We're not quite there, but we're close.
Q As you work towards this, would this be included in the next travel?
MR. BURNS: We hope so. We hope that the Secretary's next trip would include his visit to the Balkan capitals, to the Middle East, and then we hope a meeting with Foreign Minister Primakov.
Q In a northern city.
MR. BURNS: In a neutral location, meaning not in the United States and not in Russia. We have to work out some remaining details and once we do -- and I hope by tomorrow morning, early tomorrow morning, nine or ten -- we'll have that decision made, and I'll be available at nine or ten tomorrow morning to let you know about that.
Q Will enough things be added on so this will flow into the Latin American trip?
MR. BURNS: No. Fortunately, for all us -- you and me, Barry -- that will not be the case. We'll come back here before we go to Latin America. Chris is next.
Q On Russia. President Yeltsin is reported to have said this morning that there will be no change to economic and political reform, something which, I think, last week from this podium you called for a reaffirmation of that. But at the same time he's appointed or named a new Deputy Prime Minister. He doesn't seem to share all the reformist tendencies of Mr. Chubais.
I wonder if you have any comment on the President's remarks and the appointment of Mr. Kadannikov?
MR. BURNS: We're pleased to see that President Yeltsin and others in the Russian Government have, in the last couple of days, reaffirmed their intention to continue economic reform and also the general foreign policy and political direction of the Russian Government. It's absolutely essential to the health of good Western-Russian relations that that be the case. Because our relationship with Russia -- United States relationship with Russia -- is based upon reform. That is what has brought us all of the benefits in security and foreign policy and economics over the last three to four years.
I've taken note of the new appointment of a First Deputy Prime Minister. We certainly are looking forward to discussions with him. He's in a critical position because the IMF, among others, is now negotiating a $9 billion credit line with the Russian Government. He's in a key position to negotiate that. There are also a lot of bilateral U.S.-Russian economic arrangements in which he will play a critical role. So we're looking forward to our working relationship with him.
Q Are you saying that appointment is a reaffirmation in and of itself?
MR. BURNS: No, I did not say that.
Q I'm wondering --
MR. BURNS: What I said was --
Q Do you take the appointment as evidence that Mr. Yelstin remains committed to reform, or is the jury still out on this --
MR. BURNS: What I said was, the recent statements by President Yeltsin and others made publicly, but also a number of statements made to us privately in Moscow over the last couple of days have encouraged us to believe that the Russian Government will meet its commitments and will continue its general reform orientation.
On the question of the replacement for First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, we're looking forward to a good working relationship with him.
I can't say that many people in the senior levels of our government know him well but they're looking forward to meeting him.
Q One of his first statements was to promise to help domestic industries which are in trouble in Russia, which hardly seems to be a reaffirmation of free market reform?
MR. BURNS: I don't think the idea that as an economic minister you would be concerned about the health of your domestic industries is mutually exclusive with some of the international economic commitments that Russia should make.
It's a simplistic way of looking at it, really. I think what we have to do is judge the Russian Government on its actions. The actions that are most important to us are the commitments made to the international financial institutions and to us in the areas in which we work together.
Q But, Nick, that's code. One of the sign posts, whether someone is interested in reform or not, is whether he wanted to keep non-productive dying industries going because, indeed, they provide jobs and have other benefits and cushion economic change. You're not a little bit alarmed that this might signal that he isn't terribly interested in rapid reform? Or maybe you would like a slower pace of reform. I don't know.
MR. BURNS: It's very important that we not prejudge people. It's very important that we allow people to take office, have a chance to work at their jobs and work with us.
I do remember January 1994, when the code and the conventional wisdom in governments and the press was that Russian reform was failing because of the departure of Gaidar and Federov. In fact, it didn't fail. It accelerated.
So I think we need to be fair here. We need to give people a chance to prove themselves, with the understanding that the fundamental bedrock foundation of the relationship is commitment to reform. That's what we'll be watching.
Q Do you have anything yet on the schedules of Chernomyrdin and Chirac who are both going to be here next week?
MR. BURNS: President Chirac will be a guest of President Clinton, so it will be for Mike McCurry to talk about that aspect of things. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will be a guest of Vice President Gore. It will be the sixth meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.
It's a very important Commission. I think eight Cabinet Secretaries in the United States will be taking part in these meetings, and we're looking forward to his visit Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of next week.
Q You remember, this was to be an occasion for a reaffirmation of the Russian Government; that his visit will be an opportunity for the Russians to renew their commitment to reform. Is the visit taking on any less of an importance than it seemed to have a couple of weeks in that respect?
MR. BURNS: Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is a pivotal individual in the Russian Government. He's in charge of the economic reform program. Therefore, what he says about it publicly and privately is vitally important to us, and it will give us a much greater understanding of the current mood and direction of the Russian Government.
Q Briefly, on our newly discovered favorite topic: Austria. There is a delegation that's supposed to leave tonight to Austria. Can you tell us more about who these people are, who is going?
MR. BURNS: Certainly. I'll be glad to. The United States is sending a good, strong delegation to Vienna for meetings with the Austrian Government to work with Ambassador Swanee Hunt in trying to give the Austrian Government detailed information on the location of all the arms caches and their contents.
The delegation will be led by Don Kursch, who is a very experienced Foreign Service officer on Austrian and German Affairs. He has already left. He'll be accompanied by experts from the Department of Defense, one of whom is an expert in explosives, and others in the U.S. Government.
I talked to Ambassador Hunt last evening. She believes that the United States has made the appropriate commitments, public and private, to the Austrian people that we will help them identify all these sites and unearth them and then put this incident behind us.
Q Why are you so reluctant to tell us exactly who the people are and which Departments they are from?
MR. BURNS: I simply don't have available to me a complete list of who they are. I talked to Don Kursch; I know he's leading the delegation. He's the most important person on it.
Q And what about the files that they are supposed to bring along? Are these sort of the original files from the Fifties, or are these sort of a little tampered with so that --
MR. BURNS: Whether they're bringing the yellowed documents, whether we've transformed them into something else, I don't know. But it will be the information that was recorded in 1953 about where these arms caches are and what is in them.
Q I have a question. Hold on. A much easier and much lighter topic. Since there are significant talks being held at Wye, has the Syrian Government, to show the significance of these talks, has the Syrian Government at all detailed what it's vision of peace might be to any of the negotiators, since this is the second round of talks?
MR. BURNS: I think the best example of the Syrian inclination to give us a view of how they approach these talks was in Secretary Christopher's last meeting with President Assad in Damascus, where President Assad gave the Secretary a very clear sense of his commitment to moving forward in these talks.
As you remember, the nature of the talks in Damascus, on the Secretary's last trip there, were more detailed than in previous visits. There was a different tone and a different atmosphere and it included more people, including some of the experts on the Syrian Delegation.
These are the atmospherics. This is the tone. Sometimes atmospherics and tone are important.
Q Yes, of course, But are they starting to spell out at all their vision of peace in these talks?
MR. BURNS: That is a question that is, of course, of deep concern to the Israeli Government. If these talks are going to succeed, of course, that will have to happen.
Q Can I have one more question on Austria? Why is it that the Clinton Administration has not been briefed as the incoming Administration by those who should know that this huge amount of arms are in a foreign country?
MR. BURNS: As far as I can gather -- and this is somewhat of a murky affair -- this, unfortunately -- I think we said this was a degree of embarrassment -- this issue was really found in our attic, so to speak.
John Deutch, the new Director of Central Intelligence, very much believed that we should try to reconcile ourselves with some of the past activities of the agency and other parts of the United States Government. He insisted that this matter be brought to public light, and we very much agreed with him.
I can't say then that during the transition or during the early days of this Administration there was any briefing of senior-level people in this government. In fact, I think there weren't such briefings until just the last couple of weeks. Obviously, there may have been people in our government -- perhaps some of the career employees -- who were aware of this. But for whatever reason, they chose not to bring this issue to light.
Q What about the earlier Administrations? Had they been brought up to date?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for earlier Administrations. I just don't know what went on in earlier Administrations.
We can check on that. Kursch, I believe is Don's last name. We'll check on that for you.
Q The Chinese Foreign Ministry's response to Mr. Tyler's article; can we do that one? Can you do that one for the record?
MR. BURNS: My colleague, Shen Guofang, I believe was quoted yesterday -- thank you, Barry -- as saying that China intended to pursue a peaceful path with Taiwan, if I'm not mistaking his remarks. We certainly believe, as Secretary Christopher said this morning, that China ought to resolve any problems that it has with Taiwan peacefully.
Q But could I ask, Mr. Shen said this morning, according to AP, the report that the Chinese officials sounded a warning or conveyed a message to the United States side is entirely groundless. Is that true and accurate?
MR. BURNS: As I said yesterday, we're not aware of any imminent threat to Taiwan. Secretary Christopher spoke to this quite authoritatively this morning.
(Press briefing concluded at 3:36 p.m.)
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