U.S. Department of State 96/02/14 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, February 14, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Visiting Journalists from Nepal ..............1 DRL A/S John Shattuck Briefing on his Travel to Bosnia ..1 Resignation of Amb. to Canada James Blanchard ...........2 U.S. Concern for International Environmental Issues, Integration Into US Foreign Policy ....................2-4 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Congressional Concern re Alleged Karadzic Travel ........4-5 US, NATO Policy re IFOR Detention of War Criminals ......4-9 - Use of Force .........................................8 Call for Release of All Non-Suspect Detainees ..........9-12 Lack of High Level IFOR Contact with Bosnian Serbs ......10,13-14 Croatia, Serbia Cooperation with Policy on Detentions ...11-13 Investigation of Missing Men and Boys from Srebrenica ...12 Role of Karadzic and Mladic; Karadzic Travels ...........14-15 Determination of War Criminal Status ....................15 NORTH KOREA Alleged Defections, US Assessment of Stability ..........15-16 Funding for Delivery of Fuel ............................16 JAPAN/SOUTH KOREA Territorial Dispute of Islets in Sea of Japan ...........16-17 - U.S. Mediation, Advice ................................16-17 GREECE/TURKEY Possible ICJ Consideration of Aegean Dispute ............17-19 - US Policy re Sovereignty ..............................18 BANGLADESH Elections: Status; Violence; Observers ................19-21 SOUTH AFRICA/LIBYA/CUBA President Mandela Invitation to Qadhafi, Castro .........21-22 LIBYA/IRAN Louis Farrakhan Travel, Anti-US Remarks in Tehran .......22-25 - Congressman King Query re State Dept. Role ............24-25 RUSSIA/IRAN US Concern About Russian Arms Sales to Iran .............26-27 US Communications with Russia on Military Assistance ....27-28 JORDAN Proposed US Sale of F-16s, Consultations with Congress ..26-27 CHINA White House Meeting on US Relations With China ..........28 Chinese Troop Maneuvers Across Taiwan Strait ............28-29 Concerns re Proliferation, Human Rights, Intellectual Property Rights .......................................29-31 Amb. Sasser Talk with Jiang Zemin .......................30 MEXICO Counter-Narcotics Efforts; Upcoming A/S Gelbard Briefing 31 COLOMBIA Visiting Businessmen, Certification .....................31 ENVIRONMENT Impetus for Enhanced Emphasis on Environmental Issues ...31-33 Request for Periodic Compliance Updates .................32 UK/NORTHERN IRELAND No Travel Plans for Senator Mitchell, Special Advisor ...33
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 1996, 1:07 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon and welcome back to Lee Katz and Judd and other refugees from our trip. I have a couple of announcements to make before we go to your questions.
First, I'd like to welcome five journalists from Nepal who are here as part of a USIA program. They're here to study American print journalism and press coverage of the government and hopefully to learn something positive to take back to Nepal. I say that for your benefit, because I think most of what we do here is positive at this briefing. (Laughter) But you can be the judge of that after this briefing. You're most welcome. We're glad to have you here.
Second, for those of you who are interested in Bosnia, Assistant Secretary John Shattuck has returned early this morning from his long trip to Bosnia where he was, of course, in the Omarska mine area looking into allegations of human rights abuses. He accompanied Dick Holbrooke on the shuttle mission over the weekend, and he'll be available in the briefing room at 4:00 p.m. today for a briefing on his trip and to answer your questions on his trip.
MR. BURNS: I'll get into that later with you, Judd. I'm not sure that's going to be possible, but we'll get into it.
Q It's a public briefing, isn't it?
Q On the record or background?
MR. BURNS: I need to talk to him first about all this, so I'll be glad to answer your questions about the format after this briefing.
Q Well, we're pool, and I told our folks to have a camera here, so we need to know if that's not --
MR. BURNS: Yes. We'll talk about it afterwards.
Next I'd like to announce that our Ambassador to Canada, James Blanchard, will be announcing very shortly, just in an hour or two, that he will be resigning his post as our Ambassador to Canada in order to return to private law practice and other public activities here in the United States.
I announced this because Ambassador Blanchard has done an outstanding job as our Ambassador to Canada. He has been the steward of one of our most important bilateral relationships and I think probably the most successful bilateral relationship that the United States has anywhere in the world. He has the greatest respect from Secretary Christopher. All of us in the Department regret that he has made this decision, but it's obviously a good decision for him, and we wish him well in private life. He will be missed very, very much, because we all enjoyed working with him.
Finally, I wanted to make a statement about a theme that is the theme of the day here in the Department of State, and that theme is our concentration and our national focus on international environmental issues.
Secretary Christopher dedicated his staff meeting with all of his senior staff this morning to this issue. We received a briefing from two scientific experts on global climate change. Tim Wirth and our new Assistant Secretary of State for OES -- for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs -- Eileen Claussen both also made presentations.
As Secretary Christopher mentioned in his speech at Harvard last month, the President and the Vice President and the Secretary have identified international environmental issues and resource concerns as vital American interests, and this is a new concept for American diplomacy -- new for this Administration but new, I think, in the history of our diplomacy.
The Secretary, in his speech, noted that there is a direct link between the earth's environment and America's long-term economic and political interests. In his speech, he reviewed the Department's work to date on this issue, and he discussed his intention to integrate environmental issues more forcefully into America's overall foreign policy objectives.
He took steps today to explain this to our staff. I'll be making available to you after the briefing a memo that the Secretary sent around today to all Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries in this building, which sets out why he believes that environmental issues ought to be now a focus of our diplomacy and how that should be done in the Department and day to day around the world with our Embassies.
At the heart of this new expanded initiative, the Secretary has directed a series of specific measures to improve the integration of environmental issues into the regular planning and daily activities of the Department of State and of our missions overseas.
He's asked the Assistant Secretaries to work with Under Secretary Tim Wirth, with Eileen Claussen, and with Jim Steinberg, the Director for Policy Planning, to identify how the environment and population and resource issues affect key U.S. interests. He's also asked our bureaus to take at least seven important steps.
First, to integrate environmental and population goals into their work.
Second, to incorporate environmental issues into trip preparations.
Third, to include these initiatives in all of our conversations with foreign leaders.
Fourth, to designate a Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for global affairs issues.
Fifth, to incorporate the bureaus in our ongoing global environmental programs; meaning our regional bureaus -- the East Asia Bureau, the Middle East Bureau -- need to work more closely with our environmental experts to make these issues pertinent and relevant.
Sixth, to have each of our Embassies overseas designate a senior officer responsible for leading that mission's environmental team.
And, last, to try to focus public attention on this issue; on ways that environmental issues contribute to the overall health and security of the United States.
The Secretary has asked all of the Assistant Secretaries to submit to him by March 15 concrete steps they will take to implement this initiative.
The Secretary plans to be personally engaged on this, in making this a big part of our foreign policy. For instance, environmental issues will be one of the major issues in our trip to Latin America in just a couple of weeks, and the Secretary will also be making a major environmental policy speech in the early spring after he returns from his trips to Latin America and his trip to Russia and Ukraine and elsewhere.
So we do have available to you -- this is somewhat unorthodox -- it's a memo that he sent around today. We usually don't do this, but I wanted to give you a sense of what the Secretary means by this, the instructions that he's given in the Department. I think this is self- explanatory, and you can pick it up today after the briefing in the Press Office.
Q Nick, Senator Dole and three other Senators have written President Clinton, saying they're outraged by reports that Radovan Karadzic was able to go through checkpoints manned by Americans and other NATO troops.
First, to check the facts. This supposedly happened last weekend. That's several days ago. Has the State Department determined yet whether indeed Karadzic went through checkpoints manned by American or other NATO troops?
MR. BURNS: First, Barry, as you know, we just saw a copy of this letter just in the last hour, so I really can't comment on the specifics of the letter. Obviously, we here in the Department and in the White House will look at this and get back to Senator Dole and Senator Helms and the others who wrote this letter.
Second, Barry, on the question, we've spoken to this before. We were disturbed to see reports that Karadzic may have gone through a checkpoint over the weekend. As the military, as IFOR has looked into these reports, however, they've been unable to confirm this.
I think as Ken Bacon and Secretary Perry have explained publicly as of yesterday, our troops and other IFOR troops have a commitment to freedom of movement. So they are not stopping civilian cars at checkpoints. We don't want to stop civilian cars at checkpoints as a matter of course, because we want people to be free to move about the country. People could not move about the country for the last four years because of the war, and that's one of the central features of the Dayton accords.
However, we have taken steps just over the last 48 hours to try to improve the ability of IFOR to locate indicted war criminals who may be encountered by IFOR troops. Secretary Perry said yesterday that the United States will make sure that IFOR has a good collection of very clear photographs of the 52 indicted war criminals and most prominently war criminals number one and two -- Karadzic and Mladic; that IFOR troops that man checkpoints will understand that if they encounter these war criminals, they have an obligation, a duty to detain these people so that they can be transported to The Hague for prosecution, because they've already been indicted, and their next stop will be prosecution at the War Crimes Tribunal.
I want to be very clear about that. Secretary Perry said very clearly yesterday it is the responsibility of our troops if they encounter suspected indicted war criminals, to detain them.
It won't be the central mission, and he explained that, and Admiral Smith has also spoken to this. We will not launch search parties into the hills in Bosnia, but these people, if they are encountered, will be detained, and they ought to know this.
Q I guess I'm puzzled by two things. You began by saying you're disturbed. I don't know how you can be disturbed by the reports if the troops are not stopping passenger cars. I mean, if they're not stopping civilians, you're sort of disturbed at your own policy. I mean, what are you disturbed about? I don't quite get it.
And, secondly, what good do the photographs do. I don't imagine a suspected war criminal, as they pass the sentry post, you know, would kind of point at his head and stay there for a long time to try to match up with a photograph. He might be in the back. You know, if you've seen the movies, he might have his hat a little bit over his eyes. If you don't stop civilian passengers, how do you expect to encounter them?
MR. BURNS: Full stop.
Q Yes. Would you expect them to come out of the car and say, "Check me out"?
MR. BURNS: Okay, now we're back to the question.
Q Okay. There's something illogical, slightly illogical about this policy. I don't quite get it.
MR. BURNS: Barry, let me try to clarify this for you. I think it's very clear. It's clear to me. I think it's clear to everybody else in the government. We have a responsibility to detain indicted war criminals if they are encountered by our troops. That could happen in a variety of ways.
Sometimes there are checkpoints, because of security in certain areas, where cars are slowed down. Sometimes they're not. It's not the custom, however, to stop civilian cars. But sometimes people get out of their cars, and they walk around cities, such as Banja Luka, where Karadzic was sighted, if you believe press reports, just a couple of days ago.
If our troops sight someone in a car, walking around, in a room -- if they happen to stumble into an indicted war criminal, and if our troops recognize Mladic or Karadzic or any of the 50 other indicted war criminals, they will be detained. There's nothing illogical about that. In fact, that's very logical.
We were disturbed by the press reports, because it is highly disturbing to read that Karadzic may feel that he has the freedom to ride around the Bosnian Serb controlled areas and to hold meetings and to be a normal citizen. He's not a normal person. He has been indicted for war crimes that are reprehensible, that are the worst that Europe has seen in 50 years. He ought to know that we are going to be looking for him, and that sooner or later he will be detained, and he'll be brought to justice.
Q Okay, who will have these photos --
MR. BURNS: I just want to respond to your question. It's not illogical; it is logical. It's the right policy, and it's the right thing to do.
Q Logically enough, you'd figure a checkpoint would be the place to look out for people. If you're not stopping cars, you're not really looking out for them. You want them to fall into your lap at a cocktail party or something, in a lecture -- I don't know what.
But, in any event --
MR. BURNS: I disagree with that. I disagree with it.
Q Wouldn't the checkpoint be the place to check for -- if you're looking for somebody, wouldn't a checkpoint be -- I don't want to say "logical" again -- be the customary place to see if that person is coming or going in an area?
MR. BURNS: The primary purpose of the checkpoint set up by IFOR is to make sure that the military forces in the area are respecting the zone of separation that has been created so ably and so well by the IFOR troops and that they are not carrying into the zone of separation or anywhere near it weaponry that is not permitted under the rules of the Dayton Accords.
Sometimes there are checkpoints for other reasons. If there have been security incidents in the area, the troops may be stopping all cars, not just military cars. In that case, it's certainly pertinent for people manning checkpoints to know and to have inside their heads a sense of who these indicted war criminals are, but there are other ways to encounter them.
I think, Barry, the important thing here is for Karadzic and Mladic and their compatriots to understand that this isn't life as usual for them and it never will be again for them; that they cannot, and they will not be able to just wheel around Bosnia-Herzegovina at will and have meetings with whomever they please. They have to always think about the fact that they may run into people who will detain them. That's good. We hope to create some concern in their own minds.
Q Who will have the photographs?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Perry said yesterday that we would make the photographs available to NATO, to the IFOR troops, and specifically those who will be manning -- who will be out in public.
I believe that the War Crimes Tribunal Spokeswoman in The Hague said the same thing yesterday, that the Tribunal will also make every effort to make sure that NATO and IFOR have the necessary documentation, the necessary photographs so that our soldiers understand who these people are.
Q Nick, are the allies on board with this? Is there consensus with the allies about the procedures for detaining these guys?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that there is, because these procedures are not new procedures. These procedures were developed as we negotiated the Dayton Accords. They are written into the Dayton Accords. It talks about full cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal and the new rules of the road which are supplementary to Dayton -- they're not an amendment to it, but supplementary -- are certainly accepted by our allies. They've been fully briefed.
Q This procedure of giving out information and troops being more vigilant about looking for them, Perry announced yesterday is a tactical change. That was a change on our part, on the United States part. Are the allies also instructing their troops to do the same?
MR. BURNS: I would refer you to the comments of the NATO Spokespersons on this issue, who consistently over the last 24 to 48 hours have said essentially the same thing that Secretary Perry did, and that is that NATO will be vigilant; that NATO does understand that while it's not the mission of the troops to search in the hills for war criminals, it's certainly the obligation of troops to detain them when they do see them. NATO speaks for all the contributing nations of IFOR.
Q What happens when a troop -- a soldier or a group of soldiers -- encounters Radovan Karadzic? You know Karadzic presumably will not just surrender gracefully. Maybe he will resist. Maybe he'll try to run away. What do the troops do then?
MR. BURNS: They are to detain a war criminal when they encounter a war criminal, whatever it takes to detain a war criminal.
Q So if they have to use force, they can use force?
MR. BURNS: The IFOR troops have the ability to use force to accomplish their mission. This is, of course, part of the mission.
Q Nick, it's been stated at DoD, it's been stated by Leighten Smith, that under the circumstances it would depend upon the capability of, say, those at a checkpoint or those NATO people to successfully detain whomever they might suspect as being war criminals. They would have to receive orders from, I believe, Leighten Smith before they would take such action.
Mr. Karadzic, when he travels with quite a number of gunmen who would probably overpower most checkpoints. So it would be a matter of practicality, wouldn't it, and common sense?
MR. BURNS: What would be a matter of practicality and common sense?
Q Whether those NATO troops would act to detain anybody they suspect as a war criminal, as to whether they could do so successfully.
MR. BURNS: Well, Bill, now you're getting into the specific orders that our people would have and that's a question for the Pentagon and it's a question for IFOR.
I think Secretary Perry spoke for all of us yesterday when he very clearly delineated the responsibilities of IFOR troops. I think you should understand that his comments are certainly agreed to by everybody here at the State Department and throughout Washington.
Q The Pentagon has said it depends on the viability to detain and arrest without taking risks by the particular troops to --
MR. BURNS: Bill, you can create all the hypothetical situations you want. The plain fact is that if these people are encountered, they will be detained. They ought to know that, and they ought to be wary of that and they ought to have some cause for concern. It's good that they're going to feel a little sweat on this.
Q Secretary Perry also said yesterday that the Bosnians had released the six additional prisoners that they were supposed to release. It turned out that they had not done so. Can you update us on that?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to. We all arrived at work yesterday morning understanding that the remaining four detainees had been released by the Bosnian Government. These are Bosnian Serb detainees. That is what we read in the newspapers and that's what we understood.
I think the comment made was -- it must have been a comment, Sid, 30 hours ago. So this is old news.
The new news is that Secretary Christopher, as I told you yesterday, called President Izetbegovic and said that we had a commitment from the Bosnian Government that these four would be released. I understand that the Bosnian Government is claiming that the reason they continue to hold these four Bosnian Serb detainees is because the War Crimes Tribunal is interested in investigating these individuals. That is not true.
The War Crimes Tribunal informed the United States this morning from The Hague that they have no interest in these four individuals.
Therefore, these four individuals should be released immediately. That was the request that Secretary Christopher made directly to President Izetbegovic yesterday. We would like to reaffirm that request today. We are reaffirming it in person in Sarajevo, and we fully expect that these four people will be released.
Let's remember the rules of the road that Dick Holbrooke negotiated. If the War Crimes Tribunal does not have an interest in people detained by one of the parties on suspicion of war crimes, they cannot be held. We cannot have a situation where people are being picked up as hostages for a variety of reasons without respect to the interests and to the orders of the War Crimes Tribunal.
The Tribunal has clearly said, these people ought to be freed, so they must be freed.
Q So you're saying -- you now consider these people hostages --
MR. BURNS: No. I'm saying these people are detainees. There are other examples of people who have been taken, detained, taken prisoner just in the last 24 hours and there is cause for concern. We call upon all the parties -- all the parties, not just the Bosnian Government -- to honor the new rules of the road.
Q Who are these other people? Are you confirming that the Bosnian Serbs have detained some Muslims?
MR. BURNS: I understand the Bosnian Serbs have taken an AP photographer who is a Bosnian Muslim. They've detained him. They are holding him.
Obviously, the Bosnian Government, to give it its due, is concerned about this individual, and we would call upon the Bosnian Serbs to release all the people who are being detained and in whom the War Crimes Tribunal has not expressed an interest.
Q Have the Bosnian Serbs resumed their contacts with the IFOR people?
MR. BURNS: I'd just referred you to the IFOR spokesman this morning who said that for the most part, they have not. At the senior levels, and even at the mid-levels, the Bosnian Serbs are not engaging in the routine military contacts that are necessary to implement the Dayton Accords; that there is still some communication but at a very low level.
Again, here, we call upon the Bosnian Serbs to adhere fully to their Dayton commitments and to resume military contacts at all levels. This is a point that we will be making very forcefully and very clearly in the next few days directly to the Serb leadership and to all the other parties.
Q The Serbs have not told you that this AP photographer is a possible war criminal, have they?
MR. BURNS: All sorts of claims are made about people that are being held. But the pertinent point here is that Justice Goldstone has to have an interest if, in fact, the reason for detention is suspicion of war crimes.
Q Do you know if that's the reason for detention or not --
MR. BURNS: I've seen that expressed as the reason for detention. I don't believe there has been any interest expressed publicly by the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q In media reports?
MR. BURNS: In media reports, yes. Betsy.
Q You said yesterday that Croatia and Serbia had not signed on to these new rules of the road. Have you heard anything more from them on whether they are going to?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that they have signed on yet, and we're going to continue our attempts to request that they do sign on, that they become a party to these rules of the road because we do want to see a greater measure of stability in implementing these accords.
Q Has there been any attempts to try to get them to engage more openly with the War Crimes Tribunal? They had been balking at giving information as well as turning over people.
MR. BURNS: Yes, there has been an attempt. In Belgrade, Secretary Christopher convinced President Milosevic that he should open an office -- he should allow the War Crimes Tribunal to open an office in Belgrade. President Milosevic agreed. That is a good step forward -- a good first step forward.
The next step would be for the Serbian Government to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. When the War Crimes Tribunal wants to question individuals in Serbia about certain suspected war crimes, the Serbian Government should make those people available.
If the War Crimes Tribunal asks, as it has asked Serbia to, in effect, allow people who have been indicated to be transported to The Hague, that should happen. That hasn't happened, so that's cause for concern.
We've made the same request of the Croatian Government in both respects.
Q Nick, was it (inaudible) who delivered the demarche in Sarajevo?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Ambassador Menzies has been talking to the Bosnian Government about these four detainees? Yes.
Still on Bosnia. Let's go to Lee. Lee has not asked a question. Lee is just back from the Arctic Circle.
Q Where they're interested in --
MR. BURNS: The mind is clear, Judd said.
Q It's what?
MR. BURNS: Judd said your mind is clear.
Q As clear as possible. On the war crimes topic, which is the big talk in the Arctic Circle, do you have any final report on the fate of the thousands of Muslim men believed missing in Srebrenica?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Shattuck will speak to that later today. We presume, unfortunately and tragically, that the great majority of the men and boys there were murdered by the Bosnian Serbs. That is one of the reasons why Mladic and Karadzic have been indicted for war crimes, because they directed that operation.
Q How many people do you think the Bosnian Serbs are holding? I don't mean (inaudible) question. I mean the AP photographer. How many others, do you know?
MR. BURNS: We've seen reports of several others being taken -- being detained or taken prisoner in the town of Foce.
Q Could you spell it?
MR. BURNS: F-O-C-E.
Q The State Department -- we've seen reports, too. You're saying the Bosnians -- you have your own information, do you, that the Bosnians --
MR. BURNS: We believe those reports to be true. Yes.
Q Not to split a hair, it gets to be part of the situation. It's a terribly complicated situation. You have two countries that don't observe the rules of the road. You have Bosnian Serbs which aren't even a country. You communicate to the Bosnian Serbs through Serbia but Serbia doesn't buy on?
MR. BURNS: No, we have regular contacts --
Q So this is very strange --
MR. BURNS: We have regular contacts with the Bosnian Serbs through our Embassy in Sarajevo. Ambassador Menzies sees Bosnian Serbs leaders -- not Karadzic and Mladic; not indicted war criminals -- but Koljevic and Buha and the others regularly.
Q This doesn't cause you any concern about recognition or perhaps they will foment incidents to increase contacts with American officials? You don't see this as a potential problem giving them some status you may not want to give them --
MR. BURNS: No, the Bosnian Serbs were at Dayton --
Q I know they were part of the Serbian delegation --
MR. BURNS: (Inaudible) were at Dayton.
Q They were part of the Serbian delegation.
MR. BURNS: We spoke to them there. We had regular contacts with them.
Q They were part of the Serbian delegation. My understanding was that you tried to influence the Bosnian Serbs through Milosevic.
Certainly, when Christopher went out there he didn't go visit the Bosnian Serb quote "Government" end quote because you don't recognize any such rebel government? You see what I'm driving at?
MR. BURNS: I understand the question. At Dayton, and throughout the Fall, the Bosnian Serbs were part of the larger Serbian delegation, headed by Mr. Milosevic. So we normally spoke to Mr. Milosevic.
However, throughout the autumn, and to the present day and continuing into the future, we will have our own contacts direct with the Bosnian Serbs; not with indicted war criminals, but with the others in Pale. John Menzies travels there and sees them. They come to Sarajevo and see him, and that will continue.
The Bosnian Serbs are one of the major entities in the new state that is being created, and we certainly want to have continuous contacts with them.
Q Nick, are these people in charge? Do you view them as running the show there? Or with the re-emergence of Mladic and Karadzic's new-found visibility, are they in charge?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, it seems that Karadzic and Mladic still retain political and military power and influence among the Bosnian Serbs. That's most unfortunate and it should not continue in our view and will not continue at some point in the future.
Q Lt. Colonel Mark Rayner, NATO Spokesman in Sarajevo, this morning according to the AP wire, said that all emergency communications had been cut off. He's referring to communications between NATO and the Bosnian Serbs. He said "this unilateral boycott constitutes a serious violation of the Dayton peace agreement."
Ambassador Robert Gallucci said yesterday that the problem had not been completely remedied, this problem of contacts, Nick. He said that there had been some left that needed to be done. Could you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I agree with both Lt. Colonel Rayner and Ambassador Gallucci. I agree with both statements.
Q There were press reports earlier today that Karadzic was actually in Belgrade meeting with President Milosevic. Are you aware of those reports? Do you have any information to that effect?
MR. BURNS: I have seen those reports. I'm unable to confirm them. But if Karadzic does travel to Belgrade, the Serbian Government should arrest him and turn him over to the War Crimes Tribunal. That's our position on Karadzic travelling to Belgrade or to any other part of Serbia.
Q What if the reports turn out to be true that he has met with Milosevic and he has not been turned over. What would the United States do?
MR. BURNS: If the reports turn out to be true, if we believe them to be true, we'll certainly raise that directly in a very serious way with the Serbian Government. It's a violation of the Dayton Accords. Because the Dayton Accords talk about full cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal.
The War Crimes Tribunal has told Serbia there are 52 people, and the ones who enter your territory must be detained so that they can be prosecuted. That's a very serious violation of the Dayton Accords.
Q (Inaudible) Milosevic. I can think of one good reason why he would not be enthusiastic about having a War Crimes Tribunal office in Belgrade since he has been, by many people, targeted as the number one war criminal since he was the architect of ethnic cleansing.
Have you ever broached that subject? Has the United States ever broached that subject with him, about his complicity in possible war crimes by ethnic cleansing and such?
MR. BURNS: That is a job for Justice Goldstone. We recognize the purview of the War Crimes Tribunal to determine who is a war criminal and who is not. We fully support Justice Goldstone.
We've said often in the past, and I'll be glad to say it again, wherever Justice Goldstone's trail of evidence leads, we'll support him.
We're off Bosnia? Good.
Q On North Korea. We have seen some reports on North Korea that Kim Jong-Il's ex-wife has been missing and is presumed to have defected. Another thing, a North Korean seeking political asylum broke into the Russian Trade Mission in Pyongyang killing three guards.
Do you see any indication of this sort in North Korea or (inaudible) of the North Korean regime from these incidents?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, I've seen the press reports about the alleged defection of a wife of Kim Jong-Il. We cannot confirm that. We're not in a position to confirm that.
And your second question had to do with stability?
Q No. A North Korean seeking political asylum broke into the Russian Trade Mission in Pyongyang.
MR. BURNS: I have not seen a report of that. I have no information on that.
Q Do you have any information on the North Korean recent situation? What is your assessment of the North Korean situation?
MR. BURNS: The most important issue for us is the Agreed Framework and the fact that as a result of that, North Korea's nuclear activity has been frozen. That remains the case. The Agreed Framework is being implemented.
As you know, we've also made a modest donation to try to alleviate some of the humanitarian problems in North Korea. So those are the two major issues we've been working on with North Korea.
Q How are you doing on gathering the funds for this month's delivery of bulk fuel?
MR. BURNS: Let me take that question, Jim, and get back to you on it. We are determined to meet our commitments under the Agreed Framework. As you know, we are simply involved in trying to transport the heavy bunker fuel oil to North Korea. We do have a problem, and that is the Department of State has not received its appropriations from the Congress in order to fund our contribution to KEDO.
Obviously, we're working on a variety of ways, if that Congressional inaction continues, to fulfill our commitment. But let me try to get you a specific answer, Jim, as to where that stands today.
Q South Korea is holding military exercises in a group of islands in the Sea of Japan that are disputed between South Korea and Japan. Is the United States talking to its allies and giving them any sorts of messages, warnings, threats? Is the U.S. actively involved --
MR. BURNS: This is the dispute between the Republic of Korea and Japan over the islet in the Sea of Japan -- islets.
MR. BURNS: Islets. Excuse me. The United States position is quite clear and simple and short. It is that Japan and Korea should resolve this peacefully. We are giving that advice to both governments.
Q Do you have a position on whose territory it is? Or now that it's a dispute, should it be settled? Or you have no position on it?
MR. BURNS: You almost had it right. I thought you were --
Q Anything under dispute, you --
MR. BURNS: You could write the press guidance on it.
Q You ask for a peaceful resolution and you withdraw any recognition you may have over the territories. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Do you have a view on whose territory this is?
MR. BURNS: Yes, our view is that this matter should be resolved peacefully. (Laughter) We said that yesterday.
We could make a direct transition, Mr. Lambros, or do you want to stay on Korea. (Laughter)
Let's make a direct to the other islet dispute, just further West. Are you still on Korea? Okay, we can't make a direct transition. I'm sorry. That would have been nice.
Q Did you send that kind of message --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, I'm sorry.
Q Did you send that kind of message to the South Korean Government or to the Japanese Government?
MR. BURNS: I think in our contacts, which are close and regular with both governments, we've said we're not going to side with either one of them on any aspect, Barry, of this dispute; that we're going to simply hope and advise them and counsel them to resolve it peacefully and amicably.
Now we can make our direct segue to the Imia/Kardak problem.
Q According to today's dispatch from Athens right here, the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Theodore Pangalos, stated that the Greek Government had never sought to take this issue of Imia's sovereignty to the International Court of Justice, turning down your proposal to both governments of Greece and Turkey. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the statement by the Greek Foreign Minister. We obviously fully respect that statement.
Our interest here, as allies of Greece and Turkey, is to advise both of them and to help both of them, if they wish us to help, to resolve this peacefully and amicably.
If the Greek Government prefers not to take this to the International Court of Justice, there are many other ways by which this problem could be resolved. It could be resolved directly between Greece and Turkey peacefully and amicably. It could be resolved by other types of international mediation.
The United States could play a role. We don't need to play a role if the parties do not wish us to play a role. Our objective here is just to make sure that there is not a confrontation; certainly, no threat of military action or intimidation between two NATO allies. So that's the position of the Greek Government. We fully respect it, and we'll continue to be available to help if the two countries should wish us to help.
Q Can you comment on why your legal experts here in the Department of State separates the sovereignty from the ownership over the Imia Island when (inaudible) in any transition by any type of deed or treaty, possession, ownership, and the rest, of legal or property rights are transferred simultaneously at the same time.
MR. BURNS: We don't want to be part of the problem. We don't want to exacerbate the problem. We want to be part of the solution.
One way to be part of the solution is to be objective as we look at this question, and to urge both of them to reach some kind of settlement.
Q Already, you are part of the problem because you stated here -- right here from this podium on February 1 -- that automatically you do not recognize Greek sovereignty over this island.
MR. BURNS: I don't think that constitutes being part of the problem. I still think the United States has been helpful, objective, and interested in a peaceful resolution.
I think this is a very wise course that the State Department is on here, and we're going to maintain this course.
Q You believe the wisdom of State Department. What is the wisdom? Taking the sovereignty from an --
MR. BURNS: Sometimes wisdom is just implicit in the policy itself. I think this is probably one of those areas.
Q Nick, on another subject.
Q Same subject. Yesterday, you said the situation seems to go to the International Court of Justice. Today, the Greek Government said that it rejects the proposal. Yesterday, you had indications or information from the Greek Government that it wants to go to the International Court of Justice and today the Greek Government changed its position? Do you have any information?
MR. BURNS: We had understood that there was interest in resolving this dispute at the International Court of Justice. If that is not the case -- and there is a very clear statement today from the Greek Foreign Minister -- then, we will be available to the parties in whatever way they deem appropriate to help.
Ultimately, it's up to Greece and Turkey to resolve this problem peacefully.
Q Thank you, Nick. Arshad from the Daily Inquilab. A few hours just remaining for the most controversial election process in Bangladesh.
Nick, the on-the-ground situations are, if I could at least characterize the situation, the troops are patrolling the streets of Dhaka. Contingents have been sent to the rural areas.
It seems to me that there is an election confrontation in process. The opposition have declared a continuing strike for these two days. There is a scanty number of people expected to turnout -- maybe two person, four person, or five person -- whatever the number is.
Would the United States, after these elections run through, label it legitimate, keeping in hindsight that it may create another backlash in Bangladesh political scenario. What is your take on that?
MR. BURNS: We've said many times that we regret the fact that the opposition and the government were unable to reach a resolution to their differences that would allow fully contested elections because we understand that the opposition has called for a boycott.
Our view is that the United States Government deplores the violence that has left 14 people dead just in the last couple of days. We request all the parties to this conflict to end the violence and to try to resolve their problems peacefully.
We understand the seriousness of this situation. We're quite aware of the events in Dhaka and in other cities in Bangladesh and we're quite concerned about it.
The elections are scheduled for tomorrow. Our hope is that the people will go to the polls peacefully. The elections will be carried out peacefully. And in the aftermath of the elections, the opposition and the government will find a way to continue to work together.
Q On the question of legitimization of these polls, which has already been controversial and unacceptable to the opposition, do you think that at that point in time would the United States and Ambassador Merrill be in a position to maneuver in this rough ride (inaudible) -- the water is very choppy out there -- after this situation emerged?
MR. BURNS: I think the safest course for us is the one we've been on. We support democracy, we support elections, we support the peaceful resolution of problems. We've talked about that in a number of other instances today. That's the safest and wisest and best course for the United States to be on. We will continue to assert those principles as we watch the events in Dhaka.
Our main hope is that no more people die. Too many people have died already this week in Bangladesh.
Q But Nick, (inaudible) when only one party runs. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: Sid, you've followed the dialogue between Mr. Arshad and myself and Glyn Davies over the last couple of weeks. You know that there is an attempt to have fully contested elections. Unfortunately, the government and opposition could not agree on that, but the elections are going forward.
It's always good to allow people to have their say; to allow people to line up and express their own personal views.
Q So are you saying that you could then, at the end of all of this, declare that these elections were fair and legitimate?
MR. BURNS: We're simply going to have to wait and see how the elections proceed. The elections are tomorrow. There will be international observers as well as observers from within Bangladesh. We will certainly be looking for our Embassy to advise us as to how the elections were carried off and to the international observers.
Q But the fact that the opposition has said it would boycott the elections, in and of itself, is not enough for you to say now that they couldn't possibly be legitimate?
MR. BURNS: I think I just want to limit myself to what we've said, and that is, it's unfortunate that there could not be fully contested elections. We certainly would call upon all parties, which includes the government and the opposition, to try to find a way to have peaceful discourse rather than a resort to the violence that we've seen.
Q Another subject. President Mandela, the other day, reasserted his intention to invite Qadhafi to South Africa. What do you make of all of that?
MR. BURNS: I think Qadhafi and Castro were invited to South Africa. We certainly don't contest the right of the South African Government to determine who it wishes to invite to its country.
We will remind the South African Government, a very good friend of the United States with which we have excellent relations, that it's our view that Qadhafi is an international outlaw and that if he does go to South Africa, people there should remind him that he's responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103.
We believe the best course with Qadhafi is to isolate him. We certainly would have preferred continued isolation. So that's one message.
The message on Castro, I think, is well know. He's the last remaining dictator in our hemisphere. He is following policies that are blatantly against the human rights of the Cuban people.
So I think we'll, in our normal conversations with the South African Government, let them know how we feel about these two individuals and hope that while they're in a free country -- South Africa -- they be subjected to harsh criticism and harsh questioning about their own actions, which does lead me to another subject.
Q Who should be subjected to harsh criticism?
MR. BURNS: Qadhafi.
Q Qadhafi. Not South Africa?
MR. BURNS: Not South Africa. No. Qadhafi and Castro. The message is that the South African Government is free to make its own decisions. We would not contest the South African Government's right to invite to its country who it wishes to invite to its country.
If you look at the relevant U.N. resolutions, I don't believe this violates the resolutions -- an invitation. I think the resolutions do talk about, however, that countries should not enhance their diplomatic relations with Libya. We certainly don't expect that will happen as a result of this visit.
Q The invitation enhances Libya's standing?
MR. BURNS: It doesn't formally. As you know, we don't have an Embassy there. We think that the best course for countries is to isolate Libya.
Q If Qadhafi went on a world tour and was received -- I guess you can call this hypothetically -- by a number of countries, you don't think that enhances his esteem and gives his regime legitimacy?
MR. BURNS: What we hope, Barry, is that it will enhance the opportunity for free people to question him about the fact that he supported terrorism around the world.
Q Did you make any inquiries to the South African Government to ask Mandela why he's doing this, or would that be inappropriate?
MR. BURNS: I don't know specifically how we've approached this issue with the government. I know that we have brought it up, and we'll continue to bring it up, but we have great respect for President Mandela. We have excellent relations with South Africa, and I'm sure that the discourse we're going to have on this particular issue is going to be constructive.
Q You wanted to jump to something else? I was going to ask you about Congressman King's calling a hearing now.
MR. BURNS: I think Bill had a related question.
Q This is Qadhafi, but --
MR. BURNS: This is Qadhafi. Okay.
Q Is Qadhafi in Tehran?
Q Right, same thing. Go ahead.
MR. BURNS: Qadhafi in Tehran.
Q Qadhafi in Tehran --
Q Excuse me. Farrakhan --
Q Farrakhan in --
Q They're one and the same.
Q Go ahead.
MR. BURNS: I would just say that we have seen the press reports of the tour that Mr. Farrakhan has made of Africa and the Middle East. I think it's shameful that an American citizen, much less a major religious leader in the United States, would cavort with dictators like Qadhafi and the Iranian leadership.
I think it's shameful that he would stand in Tehran and declare that his fellow countrymen live in a country which is the great satan, when those people who stood with him in Tehran took American diplomats hostage.
It's extraordinary that first he went to Tripoli to stand with Qadhafi who bombed PA 103 and is responsible for the deaths of 269 people, and then went to Tehran to stand with people who support international terrorism all over the world, including terrorist acts against military personnel and American civilians.
It is shameful that an American citizen would not leave politics at the water's edge. There was a time in this country when that happened. That time, unfortunately, is past, and Mr. Farrakhan, I think, deserves severe criticism from his fellow countrymen for standing with the type of people he's standing with now.
Q The friend is the friend of our enemy, Tehran, Libya also our enemy?
MR. BURNS: I'm trying to follow the logic. But, Bill, I think I just want to limit myself to saying that he should know better. He is an American citizen. He has a following of a lot of people in this country who believe in him, and to go overseas and to criticize the United States so severely in such blatant terms and in such wrong terms is really shameful and inexcusable.
Q Is it seditious?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to leave that to others to answer that question. I can't answer that question. But I can answer a commonsensical question. If you round up 100 Americans and ask them, "What do you think of this?" I can guarantee you 100 Americans would say it's wrong. It's wrong for another American to go and to cavort with dictators who have inflicted terrorism upon the United States. The blood of Americans is on Qadhafi's hands and it's on the Iranian hands.
Q But it is not wrong for a friend of America like Mandela to invite Qadhafi to South Africa. That's his business, correct?
MR. BURNS: It's something quite different here, Barry.
Q What's different?
MR. BURNS: What's different? What's different --
Q Yes, what is different.
MR. BURNS: -- is that an American citizen stood and not only accepted the criticism of the United States by the Iranian leadership but contributed to that criticism when he was outside the borders of the United States. That is a wholly different situation than a third government or a leader who's not even an American inviting someone to visit a country.
Q I thought U.S. policy is to try its darndest to try to isolate Iran, Iraq and Libya, and that you don't approve of anything being done to help them economically, diplomatically or anything --
MR. BURNS: I didn't say we approved of it.
Q No, I know that, but I thought --
MR. BURNS: We don't approve of it.
Q -- you would disapprove of anything that might help them.
MR. BURNS: We do not approve of any activities to bring these countries out of the isolation in which they deserve to live and to exist. We don't approve of that, and I think you know that we probably will have a lot to say about this.
But I think that's a very different situation that an American citizen, a national leader, who goes outside the borders of this country and engages in the most outrageous criticism of our country.
Q Can I ask you about King's letter, if you're familiar with it? You may not be. Congressman King of New York has asked Mr. Christopher for an explanation whether the United States or the State Department, really, in any way served as a go-between or enhanced Farrakhan in his travels to Iran, and is he's reporting back to you?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any assistance that the United States Government has given Mr. Farrakhan for his tour of Africa and the Middle East. He's obviously carrying an American passport, which is issued by the State Department. I'm not aware that we knew about his trip beforehand. We are not receiving any reports from him during his trip.
We just see these outrageous images of Mr. Farrakhan standing with dictators all over the world, and I'm going to call this the way I see it, Barry. It is shameful that he's doing this.
Q Nick, you're basing your reaction, though, on information put out by government-run news agencies, or do you have some sort of independent confirmation of what he said, and so forth?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, Sid, but the paper trail on this one is all sorts of independent journalists in Tripoli and in Tehran, not just government reports. I've seen the government reports, too, and these outrageous quotes, and maybe there's an explanation for them. Maybe there's an explanation that I'm missing, and maybe Mr. Farrakhan will come back to the United States and he'll explain these activities. It's a free country. He is free to come back and explain why he stood with these dictators and criticized the United States.
Q (Inaudible) picking up, both carried by state-run agencies. I mean, it's a very important distinction.
MR. BURNS: It is a very important distinction -- I agree with you -- and I think we've seen a variety of reports from Tripoli and a variety from Tehran, unfortunately.
Q Do you believe Mr. Farrakhan's acts are treasonous?
MR. BURNS: I'm not competent to answer that question. We know very little about his trip, beyond what is broadcast on the airwaves. We see the words, and the words are shocking and shameful.
Q The Russian news agency, they report that Iran is the biggest customer for the Russian-made arms sales, and they said that they were planning another huge amount to export to Iran, also the arms sales. Do you have any concern about that, and also do you urge the Russian Government to stop this kind of arms export to Iran?
MR. BURNS: We have a great concern about the arms relationship that exists between Russia and Iran. We've made that concern known at every meeting between the Russian and American leadership, including last Saturday in Helsinki when Secretary Christopher raised it directly with Foreign Minister Primakov -- a great concern that will not abate, a concern that we'll continue to raise at every opportunity, and we'll try to convince the Russians that Iran should be isolated by Russia.
Iran is in Russia's back yard. They ought to be wary of a government that we believe is intent upon building its own nuclear- weapons capability.
Q Also on arms sales, what is the state of play of the proposed F-16 sale to Jordan? Is that now blocked?
MR. BURNS: The state of play is that the United States Government believes that this sale of F-16s should go through. We believe that the security of Jordan is important, and I believe we are supported in this by the Israeli Government. I know we are. We believe that this is a responsible step to take to transfer this type of technology to the Jordanians.
There have been questions raised by several people in the Congress. We are working very hard to answer those questions, and our hope is that we'll be able to answer all the questions with the Congress and have this go forward expeditiously.
Q Is it just a matter of procedural courtesy that the Administration didn't go to the Appropriations Committee first and bounce it off them, or is it, do you think, some underlying opposition to the sale itself?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the details of the legislative moves here, Jim. I just know that it's a high priority for the Administration. Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry have both spoken to that in our recent visits to Amman and during our recent meetings with His Majesty King Hussein.
Q On the Russia-Iran connection. Russia, you remember, backed off on centrifugal equipment when the President made an issue of it, and in Mr. Christopher's meeting with Primakov you got a promise that they wouldn't go through with their Iraq deal until Iraq's behavior was acceptable to the U.N. Did he get anything from Russia on technology for Iran, or did you part agreeing to disagree?
MR. BURNS: Minister Primakov explained in the press conference, as you remember, Barry, in Helsinki that Russia, he said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- would not deliver equipment to Iran that Russia believed would contribute to a nuclear-weapons capability.
Our argument to the Russians and anyone else -- the Chinese and others -- is any type of military assistance, any type of training assistance -- sending engineers to Iran -- inevitably contributes to an enhanced military capability which we unfortunately suspect will lead them down the nuclear path.
So our argument has been to everybody who trades with Iran in military goods and services and training, stop it, don't do it, because it's in your interests as well as ours not to see Iran develop --
Q But they didn't withdraw any elements of the agreement.
MR. BURNS: That was the nature --
Q They didn't withdraw any element, as they had in the past to centrifuges. They didn't withdraw any element of the agreement, did they, of their proposed deal?
MR. BURNS: The conversation was not that specific. It didn't get into the various transfers that have taken place. It was more general, and the Russian position was obviously described adequately by Minister Primakov.
Q You had experts like Lynn Davis there, but you didn't get into the nitty-gritty of this deal. Maybe March. You have another shot at them in March.
MR. BURNS: Let me just remind you about the nature of the Helsinki meeting. This was an information exchange between the two governments. We'll have a full ministerial in March, but Secretary Christopher did raise this issue, and I think that the Russians are very well aware of our position on this issue.
Q (Inaudible) the Russian position. There was a change there, and that's been their position for several years.
MR. BURNS: That's right. I didn't hear any change in the Russian position, right.
Q Nick, speaking of weapons transfers, there was a meeting over at the White House yesterday between most of the senior folks on China. Apparently there were some preliminary conclusions presented. I was wondering where the decision-making process on the Secretary's finding whether the ring magnets were in fact transferred, where that now rests, where you are in that process.
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the meeting was held. There was a full discussion of a variety of issues pertaining to our relationship with China, but no decisions were made in that meeting, as the White House, I think, indicated last night. We and the Administration continue to work very seriously and very hard on this issue.
I can't predict when a decision will be made. That's up to our senior leadership, obviously.
Q To follow, the Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that many thousands of Chinese troops are coming into the province just across the channel from Taiwan. 150,000 troops are going to be there. Nick, is this seen as possible intimidation of Taiwan, or do we think this is normal, or what is our policy on it?
MR. BURNS: The United States has seen indications that the People's Republic of China has moved military resources into provinces across from Taiwan, apparently in preparation for military exercises. We've said in the past that we believe these types of maneuvers which have been held close to Taiwan elections in the past are an attempt to intimidate the Taiwanese people.
We think that China should refrain from such activities, because we think the people should be free to vote -- the people in Taiwan, an emerging democracy -- without the threat of intimidation.
I can't tell you how many troops are taking part in this, but our impression is this could be a significant size military exercise. As we've said before, we do not see any evidence of any kind of imminent military action against China. We believe that China is using these military exercises to intimidate, and we don't agree with that policy, as Secretary Perry said yesterday.
We've repeatedly made clear, and I know that Secretary Perry reiterated the foundations of American policy yesterday. We've made clear that the People's Republic and Taiwan should resolve their differences peacefully, and we continue to urge a resumption of dialogue between Beijing and Taipei.
We have stressed to the Chinese leadership in numerous venues, including recently last week in our meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Li, the need to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Straits. We've said before that provocative military exercises or other intimidating exhibitions of military power are not conducive to an atmosphere of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.
We've also underscored to the Chinese leadership, and to the Chinese representatives in Washington at their Embassy, our concern that exports of nuclear weapons technology to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in third countries could run counter to the responsibilities of signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and China is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We continue to be concerned about human rights developments in China, especially regarding the human rights champion Wei Jingsheng. We're concerned about religious freedom in Tibet. We're disappointed at the fact that China has not taken us up on our offer to have with Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck a dialogue on these human rights concerns.
I wanted to make all these points clear as an expression of our policy toward China.
Q Is your concern limited to safety features, or are you concerned that China is shipping weapons to potential aggressors, and which countries are you talking about? We know, but can you specify? Do you mean Pakistan? Who are you talking about?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to specify a particular country, but I think that China knows what we're talking about -- nuclear facilities in other countries, in third countries.
Charlie, you had a question.
Q Well, I just wondered why you left intellectual property rights off the list.
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to complete the list, and Ambassador Kantor has spoken to that -- the fact that we don't believe that the Chinese have done a good job in fulfilling the commitments made to the United States last February. There is extensive pirating of CDs, which is a major concern of American industry, and we're going to discuss very vigorously these concerns with the Chinese Government.
Q Nick, on another subject --
MR. BURNS: Same subject, Charlie, and then we'll -- Sid has a question.
Q Your new Ambassador in Beijing, Jim Sasser, presented his credentials to Jiang Zemin today at a 30-minute meeting. Did he raise any of these points with him?
MR. BURNS: I have not received a briefing. I've not seen the cable reporting on Ambassador Sasser's first conversations with Chinese leadership, so I can't tell you.
Q In general, would it be a more ceremonial thing? He wouldn't necessarily be directed to dive right in --
MR. BURNS: Presentations of credentials are mostly ceremonial, but usually the new Ambassador and the government to which the Ambassador is accredited take the opportunity to raise general policy points. That's not unusual, and I would assume that happened today, but I don't have a readout on his meeting.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: I think Charlie had the next question, and then be glad to go to you.
Q Same subject, if you don't mind.
MR. BURNS: Not at all.
Q To sum up, what you're saying then is that China may have shipped prohibited nuclear weapons-related material to Pakistan that could trigger U.S. sanctions. But the White House has not decided on whether to impose those sanctions?
MR. BURNS: Not quite, with all due respect. No, I wouldn't sum it up that way, and for the record let me state that was Lee Katz from USA Today speaking, for the people who transcribe. This is now Nick Burns speaking: No, I wouldn't sum it up like that. (Laughter) I wouldn't.
I just want to point all of you to the very carefully worded statement that I made a couple of minutes ago on this issue, and that is my summary of our conversation on this issue -- with all due respect, but it was a good try.
Q On a different subject, what is the state of certification -- the process on Mexico in terms of their good-faith effort to halt the flow of drugs to the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we'll be announcing on March 1, Assistant Secretary Gelbard will be here with you in the briefing room to discuss the decisions that the President and Secretary of State have made about the certification process regarding a number of countries around the world.
I don't want to anticipate what decisions will be made, because I think that the Administration is in the process of reviewing all these cases.
Q Two questions, one in regard to the Gelbard statement. There is a group of Colombian businessmen who have been in Washington who are pushing for having Colombia certified. Have they met with anybody here at the State Department?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check on that.
Q The other thing is with regard to Secretary Christopher's statement on the upgrading of the environmental profile. Can you give an indication of why that is occurring now? Normally when something like this goes on, a Deputy Secretary post is created, there would be some specific reason for doing this. As far as I know, global warming this year has not been quite as warm as people have thought, especially in this area.
Have you discovered that the ozone hole has gotten bigger, or is there some specific reason for why this is now becoming a major issue (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: A very good question. To save time for everybody, I'll just refer you to the memo that's available in the Press Office. But the short answer here is that as the Secretary thought about American foreign policy priorities for 1996, he felt personally very strongly that it was high time for the United States to publicly declare for the first time that international environmental issues should be core vital issues for American foreign policy.
He declared that in his Kennedy School speech. But, obviously, in a government you need to send signals to the people who work on these issues that this is a priority; that this wasn't just rhetoric. The Secretary did that in a very dramatic way today. He devoted an hour with all of our senior staff to this issue. He has sent a very detailed memo to all of them, which I'm making available to you, which is kind of an unusual thing.
He's asked Under Secretary Wirth to meet the press, which he did this morning, and Under Secretary Wirth and Eileen Claussen just held an Open Forum with Department employees on the issue of global climate change. So we are signaling very clearly here today that from now on, for the life of this Administration, these issues are at the top of our agenda when we meet with the Chinese leadership or the Russian leadership and throughout our trip to Latin America.
In all the countries, the five countries, this will be a major initiative, and the Secretary will be making his own speech solely devoted to environmental issues, probably in the first part of April. We'll be announcing a site and a specific date for that a little later on.
Q Could we have a date? Could you try to give us a report on how this initiative was complied with, and maybe in three months, six moths? Could you pick a date?
MR. BURNS: Actually, what I'd like to do is --
Q We'll join in launching this thing. In the fourth year of an Administration, we'll launch this environmental initiative, but it would be nice to get a report on what good it did.
MR. BURNS: Actually, what I'd like to do is have Under Secretary Tim Wirth, who is leading this effort, come down to the briefing room maybe in the next month or so -- he is traveling -- to report to you and be available for questions.
Q He talked today.
MR. BURNS: He talked today, but I wanted to bring him here, on camera and on the record.
Q I don't suppose the timing of the initiative has anything to do with the U.S. elections and President Clinton's promise to focus on environmental issues?
MR. BURNS: You know that I'm a Foreign Service Officer, and I don't participate in a partisan way in the elections. I can tell you --
Q There are cynics among us.
MR. BURNS: And I'm sorry that there are cynics among you, because I think it's the collective judgment of the Secretary's advisers, but certainly his decision, that it is high time that the United States made this a core foreign policy issue, given the problems associated to all of us of global climate change, and get into the intensive round of diplomacy on the intergovernmental panel on climate change and all the diplomatic negotiations we're going to have this year on this issue.
As you look toward the Latin America trip -- all of you going with us -- consider this to be one of our major aims in the Latin America trip, to raise this profile, specifically with Brazil and with the Central American countries and others that we'll be meeting along the way.
I think we have one more question back here.
Q Just one question on North Ireland. Is the U.S. considering sending George Mitchell as either an intermediary or envoy to either Dublin, London or Belfast?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that Senator Mitchell has announced any travel plans. As you know, he is the President and Secretary's Special Adviser and Representative, and he'll remain closely involved on this issue.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
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