U.S. Department of State 96/02/16 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, February 16, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Statements/Announcements Foreign Policy Town Meeting on 2/21 in Jacksonville.....1 U.S. Condemns Planting of Bomb in Central London .......2 U.S. Condemns Rocket Attack of Embassy in Athens .......2,6-7,17 U.S.- Internat'l. War Crimes Tribunal Agreements .......2-3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Rome Conference ........................................3-4,19-20,23 A/S Holbrooke's Departure/Amb. Gallucci's Bosnia Role ..4-6 IFOR Raid of Bosnian Safe House ........................17-19,21-23 Presence of Foreign Forces .............................17-19,22-23 Equip and Train ........................................20-21 Report of Closing of Independent Broadcaster in Serbia .25 MISCELLANEOUS Louis Farrakhan Travel .................................7-13,25 IRAQ UN Sanctions/Humanitarian Assistance/Oil Sales .........8-11,13 NORTH AFRICA Reports of Slavery of Black Africans ...................13-14 TERRORISM Terrorism List/Report ..................................14-15 The PKK ................................................16 HUMAN RIGHTS Release of Human Rights Report .........................15-16 CONSULAR AFFAIRS Consular Information Sheet on Greece ...................16 RUSSIA Report of Proposal for Chechnya Arrangement ............23-24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1996, 12:54 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I was hoping Barry would be here today, because it's the first day that the pitchers and catchers report. Maybe that's where Barry is. (Laughter) Maybe he's in Florida with the pitchers and catchers.
This is a good week. This is a week filled with birthdays. We had David Ensor's birthday yesterday. Sid, happy birthday. I understand it's your birthday today. You didn't tell us about this. And we are very honored by the presence of Carol Giacomo's son, Chris. And, Chris, it's your birthday, too, right?
CHRIS GIACOMO: Yes.
MR. BURNS: Happy birthday. That's terrific. Great to have you here. You can ask whatever question you'd like to ask -- (laughter) -- and, if it's on baseball, it would be better than if it's on Libya or Iran. (Laughter)
I have a couple of announcements to make to you before we go to questions. The first is to let you know that the first foreign policy town meeting hosted by the State Department will be held next Wednesday, February 21, in Jacksonville, Florida. It's being sponsored, along with the State Department, by the University of North Florida and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
It will feature two speakers from the Department of State: Ambassador Alan Larson, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gare Smith from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
This is open for press coverage, and we would encourage you to cover this town meeting and others. I think you know that we're planning 20 town meetings between February 21 and September from coast to coast. The purpose of these town meetings is to have the Department of State reach out to the American public, to private citizens, to business leaders, to academic leaders, local government officials, and to talk with them about the issues that we face in our foreign policy.
We did eight town meetings last year. We think they're enormously successful, and again we'll have 20 this year. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary Talbott and our Under Secretaries all plan to participate in these meetings this year.
My second statement is on the tragic situation in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The United States condemns the planting of a bomb yesterday in a crowded area of central London. The bomb was found and defused, but the incident, nevertheless, shows a callous disregard for human life on the part of the Irish Republican Army.
We are unalterably opposed to the use of terror, violence and intimidation in pursuit of political objectives. The United States will continue to support the aspirations of the people of Northern Ireland to achieve a just and lasting settlement through exclusively democratic and peaceful means. I think there was no better testimony to that sentiment in the last sentence of that statement than when the people of Belfast - - Protestants and Catholics alike -- demonstrated the other day for peace, obviously demonstrating against the terror tactics that have been used over the last week.
Another statement: As the President stated last night, the United States strongly condemns the act of terrorism against our Embassy in Athens yesterday. This was a cowardly act on the part of those who carried it out. The facts are that there was a rocket attack against our Embassy building, our chancery, a little after 11:00 p.m. last evening in Athens. Fortunately, no one was wounded or killed; but the perimeter wall around the Embassy was damaged, as was one building inside our compound and four cars in the parking lot behind our Embassy. Windows of nearby buildings and cars parked nearby were shattered.
Fortunately for us, Greek authorities have responded very quickly and efficiently to the attack. The Greek Government is investigating it, and we are working very closely with the Greek Government. High- level Greek officials visited the scene of the attack shortly after it occurred, and the Greek Government has denounced those responsible for this attack.
We will continue to cooperate with the Greek Government, and we'd like very much to be able to bring those responsible for this attack to justice.
Finally, I wanted to let you know that this week two agreements entered into force between the United States and the two international War Crimes Tribunals -- that for the former Yugoslavia and the one for Rwanda -- and the agreements pertain to the surrender of any persons charged or convicted of war crimes who might in the future be found in the United States.
These agreements were concluded in October 1994 in the case of the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and in January 1995 in the case of the Tribunal for Rwanda. They could not enter into force until the United States notified the Tribunals that our domestic legal requirements for accepting surrender obligations had been met.
The United States has done so this week as the result of the signing into law on February 10 of the Defense Authorization Act. The Defense Authorization Act included provisions authorizing the application of existing U.S. extradition laws to the surrender of any persons charged or convicted of war crimes by the War Crimes Tribunals.
Although we have no reason to predict that war crimes fugitives will in fact attempt to flee to the United States in the future, we want to be sure that we would be in a position to fulfill our obligations to the Tribunals if people indicted or suspected of war crimes did flee to the United States. We think this is an important move. We think it helps strengthen the War Crimes Tribunals, of course, which we fully support.
With that, Carol, let me go to your questions.
Q Do you have any readout yet from the meeting in Rome?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't have a readout from the meeting in Rome. It has actually not yet begun formally. But I can tell you that Dick Holbrooke is in Rome, along with Bill Montgomery, who is Ambassador Bob Gallucci's deputy, and Jim Collins, who is also there, and a number of other officials -- John Kornblum is there -- of our government.
The three leaders from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia will be arriving in Rome this evening. The formal meetings don't start until tomorrow afternoon, but Dick Holbrooke and his associates there plan to have discussions all throughout this evening into the early morning hours. He has one meeting scheduled for midnight tonight, all tomorrow morning, and then I think at mid-afternoon tomorrow Italian Foreign Minister Agnelli will open up the public part of the Rome conference. She will make a presentation on the issues to be discussed. She'll be followed by Carl Bildt, Dick Holbrooke, Deputy Foreign Minister Afanesyevsky of the Russian Federation. They'll all talk; and they'll be seated around a plenary table, and the press will be there to cover it.
After they make their presentations, the press will be asked to leave. This is very similar, you remember, to Dayton on November 1. Then I understand that Admiral Smith and General Joulwan will make presentations in private to the conferees about their evaluation of compliance with the Dayton accords. Mr. Bildt, Mr. Holbrooke and others will do the same on the civilian side, and there will be a number of discussions throughout the afternoon and evening on these specific issues that have to do with compliance with the Dayton accords.
I'd expect those meetings to continue all Saturday evening, all throughout Sunday, and then sometime, probably at three, four or five o'clock Rome time, on Sunday there will be a joint press conference, probably by the political directors of the Contact Group. That would be Dick Holbrooke, Carl Bildt representing the European Union, Mr. Afanesyevsky, and others.
Q Why isn't Gallucci there?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Gallucci just returned from, I think, more than two weeks away; and he decided on his own that he would send his deputy, Bill Montgomery, to this meeting. But that gives me an opportunity to say something about Bob Gallucci's role here.
As you know, Dick Holbrooke is going to be departing the State Department and government service on Wednesday, February 21, and he is going to receive a big sendoff from the Secretary of State and others. He'll be given an award by the Secretary, and I'll tell you more about that on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
His duties will be taken over in large part by Ambassador Bob Gallucci. Ambassador Gallucci, as you know, has been part of the peace team since October. He was at Dayton throughout most of the Dayton period. He has made a number of very lengthy trips to the area, and he will become our point person for all matters Bosnia when Dick Holbrooke leaves.
I can tell you that all of us here at the Department, including the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Talbott, have great faith in him. He's a person who was very successful as our point person on the difficult problem of North Korea in 1994 and 1995, and all of us are looking forward to having his leadership on this issue in the future.
Q That begs the question again, if he is taking over for Holbrooke, why is he not there at this critical moment? Why wasn't he there last weekend when Holbrooke went and had --
MR. BURNS: He was there last weekend.
Q He was there the whole weekend with Holbrooke?
MR. BURNS: He came back, I think -- I believe he got back on Monday from his trip. It might have even been Tuesday. I can check with him. Bob was out in the region, as I said, I think for a little bit more than two weeks. He just came back a couple of days ago.
When he was in the region, he had meetings with Milosevic, Tudjman, Izetbegovic, with a variety of other officials in all three governments, and he in effect was the Secretary's troubleshooter throughout that entire two-week period.
When we arrived in the region two weeks ago, he was there to greet us, because he'd been there, and he was, along with Holbrooke, the Secretary's principal adviser during the trip to the Balkans.
So I think we ought to give Bob a little bit of a break. He's been away from his family for a long time. If the present situation is any indication, Bob's going to spend a lot of time in Sarajevo and elsewhere over the next couple of months. So he just decided to send his deputy.
Q Is there any discussion of keeping Holbrooke on as a Special Envoy in this matter?
MR. BURNS: No, there isn't. Dick Holbrooke has decided for personal reasons to leave the government. He feels it's time to go back to private life. He has, I know, family considerations that are involved in that, and he needs to return to New York City. I think he's told the Secretary that he would be available for advice if needed.
But implementing the Bosnia accords is a business that has to be attended to on a daily basis. We believe that we have in Ambassador Gallucci one of the most effective American diplomats that the United States has. I don't think it's a question of inviting Ambassador Holbrooke on a consultancy basis to run these implementation conferences. That will be Ambassador Gallucci's responsibility.
Of course, as you know, John Kornblum will become Acting Assistant Secretary of State as of Wednesday and we hope, the Senate willing, formally Assistant Secretary of State shortly thereafter. He will also, of course, be playing a big role in all matters European. So those two gentlemen, along with John Shattuck and Bill Montgomery and others, are going to bear the brunt of the Bosnia responsibilities.
It's a full-time job, Carol, and Ambassador Gallucci is on it full time.
Q Ambassador Gallucci will be the lead man, play the role that Holbrooke has played in Bosnia, but he will not take over EUR; is that correct?
MR. BURNS: No. John Kornblum will become the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs which is the largest regional bureau in the State Department and certainly one of the most important. It has a huge number of responsibilities attached to it, including the Balkans. He works very well with Ambassador Gallucci, who will be the coordinator and the Special Representative of the President and the Secretary on all matters pertaining to the Dayton Accords.
Q Do you have any clues as to who might have been responsible for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens?
MR. BURNS: We have our suspicions. We are talking to the Greek Government about this. We're very hopeful that the Greek Government will be able to apprehend the people responsible.
I don't think it is useful for me to try to name names here, but we have some clues and those leads are being followed by the Greek authorities. We'll certainly give them any help that they need. They're very competent -- the Greek Government -- on this. We have absolute trust and confidence that the Greek Government will follow up these leads.
Q Do you see any connection between the high feeling that has been evident in Greece over the issue of the islet in the Aegean?
MR. BURNS: No. I would be surprised if there was this kind of connection. When you think about a terrorist act -- this was the classic definition of a "terrorist act", someone's trying to use indiscriminate force, power, to achieve a political end and doesn't mind if they kill people in the process; that's terrorism. Nothing can excuse terrorism. Nothing can excuse terrorism.
The United States is an ally of Greece and the Greek people know that.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q You say --
MR. BURNS: Who knows what their political end is. It's hard to fathom what a lot of these terrorists around the world want to accomplish. They don't mind killing people or maiming people or wounding them. That's for sure. You don't fire a rocket-propelled grenade against an American Embassy without thinking you may kill someone. That's their responsibility. They're going to have to live with that, and, hopefully, they're going to be apprehended and brought to justice.
But I wouldn't draw any connections here because if you look at the relationship between Greece and the United States, it's a very strong relationship. I know that the islets issue has been a controversial issue in Greece, but there's nothing that can justify this type of action.
I'll bet if you asked the Greek people, if you took a poll, the Greek people wouldn't support this type of action.
Q But, Nick, you wouldn't deny a rising tide of anti-American sentiment in Greece -- perhaps not in the government level, but among the people -- relating to the handling of the islet dispute and then the revelation of private discussions with Greek and Turkish officials by certain U.S. officials?
MR. BURNS: I would love to be able to agree with you on every question today because it is your birthday, but I can't, I can't. (Laughter) I'm not a pollster, and I can't tell you specifically what the Greek people think or don't think about the islets issue. I know there's a great deal of controversy about it. I know that there's some unhappiness in Greece about the way that the situation was handled, and we're respectful of that.
We have a very close relationship with the new government. We have high respect for the new Prime Minister. He'll be coming, as you know, to Washington shortly. The Greek President, Mr. Stephanopoulos, will also be coming on a State visit to the United States later this Spring. We have tight ties with Greece. We're alliance partners. I'm very confident that we'll go forward and have a good relationship with the Greek Government.
But I really do want to reject any kind of excuse that radicals might use, terrorists might use, for their actions against American installations. There can be no excuse for this type of action.
Q Can you tell us whether Louis Farrakhan is breaking any U.S. laws during his travels?
MR. BURNS: I cannot. I'm not competent to answer that question. That's really a question for the Justice Department or the Treasury Department, depending on which angle of this you're interested in.
All I can do is comment on some of the issues that I see in terms of an association with certain foreign leaders. I think I said the other day -- and I certainly stand by what I said the other day; I'll just reprise it again very briefly -- when an American citizen travels overseas -- but in this case, especially a prominent American, a religious leader, a national religious leader -- I think, as a private American citizen, that that person has an obligation to represent as a matter of conscience the interests of innocent Americans who have died at the hands of the Libyan Government.
The Libyan Government shot down Pam Am 103, and there are 269 families who don't have fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters as a result of that action. There are two Libyans who are being harbored by the Libyan Government who put the bombs on that aircraft, and that is reprehensible.
Whenever any American -- Mr. Farrakhan or anybody else -- travels to Tripoli, stands beside Qadhafi and doesn't raise that issue, that's cause for concern.
When an American leader goes to Tehran and stands besides the people who took our American diplomats hostage, who directly support the activities of Hizbollah, which has claimed the lives of Americans in Lebanon, that is cause for concern.
I think that it is shameful that an American leader would not raise these issues publicly when that American leader is standing beside people who don't wish anything good to happen to the United States. I'm referring now to the Iranian leadership and the Libyan leadership.
Q Can I ask you about Iraq? Mr. Farrakhan is quoted in Baghdad as having said that Washington's policy of sanctions there is wicked and is leading to the mass murder of the Iraqi people. How would you react to that?
MR. BURNS: I couldn't disagree more strongly with that statement. The person who started the war in the Gulf more than five years ago is Saddam Hussein. He unleashed the miseries upon the Iraqi people. Since the war ended in 1991, the United States has said countless times, and Ambassador Albright has said it again this week, that we will support resolutions in the United Nations Security Council to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.
We will support it if the resolution is tightly worded so that the exports of oil by Iraq -- $2 billion every six months; $4 billion on a annual basis -- the proceeds from those sales will only be used to help feed the Iraqi people, those who are having trouble being fed, who may be starving; to help clothe the Iraqi people; to bring badly needed medicines to the Iraqi people.
Some of the same people that Mr. Farrakhan saw in the hospital, we can help those people if the Iraqi Government would meet us half way in the U.N. Security Council. But what does the Iraqi Government do? What does Saddam Hussein do? He's built 15 palaces for himself since the end of the Gulf war. He continues to have a lavish lifestyle, as do his compatriots in the Iraqi regime. Are these the actions of a government that cares about the suffering of its people?
There's a way to resolve this. I would suggest to Mr. Farrakhan, he ought to see the situation in that light.
Q He's going around to these various governments and telling them that the show of support that he got during the million-man march shows that the United States is deeply divided and that many African Americans and other minorities in the United States actually support the ideas that people like Qadhafi and Saddam Hussein and the regime in Tehran support.
Does it worry you at all that a prominent American is giving the message that the United States is divided and that many Americans perhaps support these regimes?
MR. BURNS: He has a right to speak his mind. One of the great things about our country is that freedom of speech is enshrined in our constitution and always should be. No one contests his or anyone else's right to say what he or she feels overseas or in this country.
I certainly object and disagree with some of the statements that have been made. I think that we have a very strong country here. I think if you ask the American people -- if you took 100 Americans or 1,000 or 10,000 or a million Americans and said to them, "Do you support the actions of a Libyan Government that killed 269 people, among them a majority of Americans? Do you support a government in Tehran that finances terrorist acts against American citizens?" I don't think so. I think the vast majority, if not all, of the Americans that you would poll would say it's wrong to support governments like the Iranian Government and the Iraqi Government and the Libyan Government. That is the issue. That's the issue.
Q What I'm asking is whether you, as diplomats here, worry that your work may become more difficult if a prominent American, in your view, misrepresents the views of Americans abroad?
MR BURNS: No private American has an obligation to do government work when he's overseas. No one is asking Mr. Farrakhan to represent the American Government. He represents himself.
We will take care of our own business. Let me just tell you: the Iraqi leadership and the Iranian leadership and the Libyan leadership are very well aware and cannot be confused about the views and policies of the American Government on all of the issues that are caught up in this trip and the discussion that we're having today. They can't be confused.
Q You don't think Saddam will get the wrong message --
MR. BURNS: Saddam Hussein would be foolish to think that the American Government -- he would be foolish to misunderstand the policies of the American Government. We fought a war with him because of his misguided policies and we won that war and now he is suffering the consequences of that war.
The person responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people is Saddam Hussein. There's just no question about it.
Q But the question is: Do you worry that Saddam might get the sense that the American people are divided and therefore would therefore hold out longer?
MR. BURNS: He may be foolish but I don't think he's dumb. I think he knows that the American people are resolutely opposed to any kind of reconciliation with the Iraqi regime until Iraq atones for its misdeeds.
What happened to the 660 Kuwaitis taken prisoner -- innocent Kuwaiti civilians during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. He's never responded to that, but we haven't forgotten about it. What happen to the Kurds and Shi'its that he tried to decimate in March and April 1991.
He's got to be held accountable for his crimes. That's why the United States will not weaken the sanctions against Iraq. We will not vote for it in the U.N. Security Council until all those questions are answered and until Saddam Hussein accounts for the fact that he lied to the United Nations and to Ralph Ekeus and UNSCOM on his attempt to create ballistic missiles and chemical weapons and biological weapons. He has got a lot to answer for. That's where American focus should be on Iraq.
Q So Farrakhan may be misguided but he's not doing any real damage to U.S. interests?
MR. BURNS: Listen. The United States Government can take care of itself. We can communicate our own messages. We have our own policies, and Saddam Hussein is very well aware of what those policies are. I'm not worried about that.
Q On this subject. Mr. Farrakhan has been to all but two of the nations that are on the State Department's list of nations supporting terrorists. He will have visited all but two of those nations before this trip is over.
He said in Tehran -- he was quoted as saying that "God will give the Muslims the honor of bringing down the United States." Nick, the definition of "sedition" is to foment or incite rebellion or division. Is he not being seditious?
MR. BURNS: It's not a question for me; it's not a question for the State Department. There are laws to that effect, and the Justice Department, of course, is responsible for looking into that. Not the State Department.
Q I would follow by asking, Congressional research people are looking at five possible violations. One is passport violation, and that would be the purview of the State Department. Do you have any comment on his violating passport --
MR. BURNS: I don't know. If, in fact, the State Department does have purview over some aspect of this, of course, we'll look at that privately without any public comment until the matter is fully investigated. I really can't say anything more about it at this time.
I would just hope that when he does return to the United States, perhaps he'll have an opportunity to say whether he really did say those things. We'll see.
Q Nick, he is reported to be going to Syria next. Are you all aware of this, and has this government been in touch with Syria about this?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that the United States Government has had any contact with Mr. Farrakhan. We didn't have it before his trip. I don't believe we've had it during his trip. Perhaps some of our embassies came into contact with him in Africa. He was in a number of African countries. We have not been briefed on his trip. We're not receiving any reports on his trip, and we're not responsible for his trip. It's his trip.
I really can't take the question much further.
Q Have you been in touch with the Syrians over whether he is planning on coming --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have. We're not making his travel plans for him. We're not setting up appointments for him in foreign capitals. This is his responsibility, and I don't believe we have had any contact with the Syrian Government on his trip.
Q Nick, when he was in Damascus meeting with President Assad, would that also fit under your category of cavorting with dictators?
MR. BURNS: The difference here, Sid, is that, as you know, we have regular contact with President Assad, Secretary Christopher does and a number of our officials, Ambassador Ross. He's a key figure in the effort to bring peace to the Middle East.
I think the difference here, Sid, is that in the case of Mr. Qadhafi, there's no question that he is responsible for shedding American blood. In the case of the Iranian leadership, there is no question about their support for international terrorism -- no question about it whatsoever.
We have a much more regular set of contacts with the Syrian Government. We may not like everything the Syrian Government does. Syria remains on the terrorist list, as you know, but we do have a dialogue with the Syrian Government which is a mature dialogue.
When we see something that we don't like in Syrian actions around the world, we tell them that. It's a two-way street. We don't have that kind of dialogue right now with the Libyans, certainly. At some point, of course, we said many, many times in the past, we would be open to a dialogue with the Iranian Government. We haven't had much of one because there is not much to talk about right now with Iran.
So I think there is a difference -- a very great difference -- between those two situations.
Q The difference being the dialogue you have, not the actions of the individual country?
MR. BURNS: No, in the actions --
Q After all, you accuse all of them of supporting international terrorism.
MR. BURNS: Right. The difference here is that we're talking about terrorism also as it has an impact on American citizens.
Again, in the case of Libya, there is a very dramatic example of that which has never been atoned for, which the Libyans have never paid for but which they will some day. We want the two Libyan citizens responsible for putting the bomb on Pan Am 103 to be brought to the United States for trial. We want to convict them and put them in prison for the murder of 269 people. There's something very specific there that we want.
In the case of Iran, it's Iran's support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups that have inflicted punishment, death, injury, upon American citizens.
Q Nick, can I clarify something you said? You said the United States will not support lifting the embargo against Iraq until Iraq does certain things, including accounting for the POWs and answering some questions. You're not taking about the one-time exceptions? The United States will support the $4 billion permitted oil sale?
MR. BURNS: I'm not talking about that, no. The United States, as Ambassador Albright has said very clearly this week, is open to Resolution 958 which would allow for the exportation of up to $2 billion of oil during a six-month period to be renewed, but the proceeds can only be used for humanitarian purposes. That's very different than the other question: Will U.N. sanctions against Iraq be lifted?
What we've said on that is that we're not going to vote to lift those sanctions until Iraq accounts for all of the nefarious activities on ballistic weapons, chemical and biological, and on the Kuwaitis and the Shi'its and the Kurds.
Q Just to keep beating this horse a little bit longer -- there are press reports saying that the State Department has evidence of slavery in Libya being a continued practice, that black Africans are taken as slaves to Libya. Does the State Department have such evidence?
MR. BURNS: David, on that question, as you know, we issue an annual human rights reports. We do look into allegations of slavery. There have been some in West Africa, in the Sahel. I know there have been some in North Africa.
I think I'd prefer to wait and let the human rights report, which will be appearing shortly, to speak to that specific question. I have nothing that I can give you on it today.
Q Sudan also, there are reports that the State Department has evidence of slavery going on in Sudan.
MR. BURNS: In Sudan.
Q Which Mr. Farrakhan also visited and praised.
MR. BURNS: I don't have any direct evidence that I can pinpoint here. I do want you to know that we are looking into allegations of slavery in various parts of North Africa, other parts of Africa -- east and west.
As you know, there have been allegations in the past made about Mauritania. That has been the subject of our human rights report on Mauriania. So it's a question that John Shattuck is looking at and will be issuing a report. I don't want to get ahead of that report, and I certainly don't have anything in my head today that I can give you that would satisfy your question.
Q New subject. Bosnia?
Q Could I just ask you about Syria on the terrorism list? You say a new version of this list has recently been sent to Congress is it about to be sent, and is Syria still on that list?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't want to speak to that. I saw some of the press reports yesterday saying that the United States has already made its decision. I can assure you that those decisions can only be made by the highest authorities. Those decisions have not yet been made, and those decisions will surely be made and we'll announce them when the terrorism list comes out. I cannot, of course, indicate what those decisions will be before they've been made.
Q Nick, I looked into this some this morning. The terrorism list actually went up to the Hill January 15, containing the same seven or eight nations that it had previously. Are you referring to the terrorism report that looks back on last year's activities? Or is it going to be a new list issued in the coming weeks?
MR. BURNS: I'm referring to the fact that I do not wish to acknowledge, to agree or disagree that one nation is or is not on a terrorism list until we are ready to issue that report, until it's gone through all the channels in our government and with the Congress, that it must, before we can issue the report. I'm not ready to do that. So I can't confirm and I can't deny --
Q But it's public information.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. We're not ready to release this list. I'm not ready to confirm that Syria is on the terrorism list or that it's not on the terrorism list.
Q But it's --
MR. BURNS: It has not been released, Sid. I'm sorry.
Q The people on the Capitol talk openly about the list and who is on it and who is not.
MR. BURNS: No. My definition of the word "release" is, we release it from the office down the hall -- the Bureau of Public Affairs.
MR. BURNS: Sid, let's talk about a decision then or an announcement or an indication. I'm not going to do any of those things today on the terrorism list. I'm just not going to do it.
Q You said you're all reconsidering the list you submitted to Congress three weeks ago; is that what you're saying?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I didn't say that. I'm not going to talk about this issue until we're ready to announce it, release it, whatever verb you want to use. It's very understandable.
Q When are you going to release it?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the specific date. I can try to get that for you. Soon. Soon. The narcotics list, around March 1. A lot of lists coming out. Human rights report, very shortly; early March.
Q How shortly is --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q How shortly is shortly?
MR. BURNS: I don't think we've determined a specific date for the human rights report but I believe it will be early March.
It was supposed to have come out January 31. But because of the government shutdown, we decided to release it a little bit later.
Q On Syria.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q On Syria. We know that during the Middle East peace discussions, terrorist organizations including the PKK were been taken up in the meetings.
My question is, are you in a position to confirm that if a comprehensive peace accord has been reached, the United States would not make any distinction among terrorist organizations supported by Syria?
MR. BURNS: Would not make any distinction?
Q Between the terrorist organizations. For example, if Syria says, okay, for Hezbollah and Hamas and keeps the PKK, will the United States agree with that?
MR. BURNS: We don't support any terrorist group. We would advise all governments that harbor terrorist groups to stop it. That, in a nutshell, is American policy. We're not going to be in a position of saying, you can harbor that terrorist group but not the other; no. All of them are important.
On the PKK, it's a vicious group that is responsible for the deaths of innocent Turks. We oppose the PKK and all of its activities.
Q I have a question on Greece. May I ask?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q In this February 13 Consular Information Sheet about travel advice, the Foreign Ministry says under terrorist activities, "Civil disorder is rare. However, there are several active terrorist groups, including the 17 November organization which, at times, has targeted the U.S. Government, and the United States commercial interests but not tourists." Do you plan to change this item here?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see. In light of what happened last night, I'm sure our people in the Consular Affairs Bureau are looking at that question. I don't want to anticipate if there will or will not be changes, however.
Q And also these terrorist organizations are not new. Many Turkish diplomats and American diplomats have been killed before, and the Greek Government couldn't find anyone responsible for those. Why are you so hopeful and optimistic now that they are going to find them?
MR. BURNS: We have complete faith in the Greek Government. I think you saw by the actions last night and statements of the Greek Government they are seized with this issue, and they want to get to the bottom of the issue. We have complete faith that the Greek Government will undertake a full investigation.
I think we had a question on Bosnia. Laura.
Q Yes, thank you. There are varying versions of what happened yesterday when 11 or five or six individuals were detained by IFOR troops. Can you give us a clarification of exactly what happened? How many were actually detained, if there were some foreigners among them, and if any of them had diplomatic passports, as has been reported?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to give you as much information as I can. The primary source of information on this will be IFOR, which conducted the very excellent raid against the Bosnian safe house, and which continues to have responsibility for this.
But let me just tell you what we think about it. The United States strongly supports the actions of IFOR yesterday to arrest these people. We congratulate IFOR and specifically the French troops that took part for this very successful mission.
The continued presence of foreign fighters in Bosnia is a flagrant violation of the Dayton peace accords. All foreign fighters were to have left Bosnia on January 19 of this year. The Bosnian Government is already in violation and has been in violation for the better part of a month.
The United States has pressed and will continue to press the Bosnian Government to effect the withdrawal of all foreign fighters immediately. This has now become a major issue to be addressed at the Rome meeting this weekend.
As Secretary Christopher has said, the ability of the United States to proceed with equip-and-train will be in jeopardy until this problem of the presence of foreign forces is resolved.
We have repeatedly raised this issue at the highest levels of the Bosnian Government, specifically during Secretary Christopher's recent visit to Sarajevo. Now we have received extremely disturbing reports this morning that some Bosnian Government officials may have been involved in the activities of this facility.
We are seeking more information from the Bosnian Government. We are addressing our concerns directly to the Bosnian Government, and Ambassador Holbrooke will raise this issue directly with President Izetbegovic, and we expect full cooperation.
However, we have seen this morning a most extraordinary statement from the Bosnian Ministry of the Interior, in which it effectively criticizes the actions of IFOR to detain these people. This is a statement that has prompted many questions here in Washington, and this statement does not square with our understanding of the events yesterday. We call upon the Bosnian Government to cooperate fully with IFOR as it investigates.
I think you saw Admiral Smith speak to the press just short while ago about his version of events, which we fully support, and his view of the problem that's been created here. It is not tolerable for the Bosnian Government to allow foreign fighters, among them, we think, Laura, at least five Iranians, to stay on Bosnian soil, because they represent a likely and probable threat against our troops, and we will not tolerate that, as Admiral Smith just said.
The people, according to IFOR, in this house were found with explosives. They were found with information and drawings of IFOR facilities, according to the IFOR spokesman this morning, and that is reprehensible, and it will not be tolerated. There are a lot of questions that we're asking of the Bosnian Government right now.
Q What Bosnian Government officials might be associated with this?
MR. BURNS: We're looking into it right now, Carol. That's a question that we would like to have answered. We don't know all of the facts. We know that 11 people have been detained by IFOR. They are being questioned by IFOR. IFOR is taking the lead, and we're following IFOR's lead. We fully support IFOR.
One of the questions we'd like to have answered is, of the non- Iranians that were taken prisoner by IFOR, who are they, what do they do, and what's their role, and why were they there. Now to give the Bosnian Government its due, the Bosnian Government Ministry of Interior says that this facility was actually a facility meant to fight war criminals. Well, we hope very much that's the case.
We have some questions about this version of events. We hope that's the case, but we don't know for sure, and we're going to try to follow the facts, the evidence that will lead us to the facts, and we'll certainly take the appropriate measures.
Q Do you think President Izetbegovic was in any way involved?
MR. BURNS: We have no knowledge of that at all, no. I would not lead you in that direction. As you know, I think Admiral Smith and Ambassador Menzies saw President Izetbegovic yesterday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in Sarajevo. They brought this evidence to his attention, and we have every reason to believe that President Izetbegovic will do the right thing here, and he will make sure that this particular operation is fully shut down, and any other operations similar to it will be fully shut down. That's his obligation.
Q Nick, it has been almost four weeks since the deadline lapsed on removal of foreign troops. You keep saying you expect Izetbegovic to do the right thing. He's had a fairly lengthy period to do the right thing, hasn't he?
MR. BURNS: You're right, Sid, that there has been a flagrant violation -- excuse me, I've just got Sid's birthday on my mind -- (laughter) and, Judd, you and Sid don't really look alike. I apologize. I apologize to you.
Q We sat together on the plane, and, you know --
Q Correct the record.
MR. BURNS: Let me correct the record. That was Judd Ginzberg of CNN, not Sid Balman of UPI.
Judd, you're absolutely right that the continued presence of foreign fighters in Bosnia is a flagrant violation of the Dayton accords. We are disturbed by the fact that they were not out by the 19th of January; that on the 20th of January, when we protested that fact, they were not out. It is disturbing.
I can tell you one thing, though. We're going to continue very close observation of events there. The Rome meeting is the first in series of regular meetings that is meant to fulfill compliance. And, as one of the fathers of the Dayton accords, the United States will continue to work with the Europeans, the European Union, the Russian Federation, with Carl Bildt, to make sure that these accords are implemented. It won't be possible -- as we have said all week, but it's an important point, to reaffirm -- it won't be possible for the Bosnians or the Serbs or the Croatians to pick this article that they like and reject that part of the accords they don't like. They're not going to have that luxury, and that's the message that Dick Holbrooke is taking to Rome this weekend.
Q Is it fair to say that despite all the violations that you have seen, that none of these parties has yet paid a price for their not adhering to the Dayton accords?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't agree with that. The Serbian Government would like to have full and normal diplomatic relations with the United States. That is not an intangible objective for the Serbian Government; it's a major objective. It will not have that -- and Secretary Christopher made this clear -- until there's full cooperation.
The Bosnian Government, of course, has to think about the future. It's got to think about the day when IFOR leaves, when they will need to hold the peace agreement together, as they must and as we hope that they shall. They've got to think about their capability to do that. The Bosnian Government would very much like the United States Government to lead an international effort to coordinate training for the Bosnian military and significant improvements in the equipment of the Bosnian military.
As Secretary Christopher has said many times over in the last three weeks, that is in jeopardy unless we see full compliance, particularly on this issue of foreign fighters. The Croatian Government desires to have a full integration of Croatia with Europe, and I think the German Government and our government have made clear that's not going to happen either until there's full cooperation. So there's leverage here, and there are points that are being expressed.
Q The equip-and-train program, though, have you slowed it down? I know a couple weeks ago there was an estimate that you might let a contract for the training component within the next couple of weeks. Has that ever been done?
MR. BURNS: The timetable for that program is set in the Dayton accords. As you know, for the first 90 days of the life of the accords -- and we're, of course, only 50 some days into it -- no one is allowed to provide equipment to the Bosnian Government.
From Day 90 to Day 180, certain types of equipment are allowed to be provided, and from Day 180 after, certain other types of equipment. So we haven't reached that point. But Jim Pardew, who is the coordinator for this effort in the U.S. Government, has made a number of trips to the region. He is trying to put together an international coalition of countries -- Turkey and other countries -- that will help in this regard.
So things are happening, but the hardware is not going to be able to be delivered unless there's full compliance, and I think they're interested in the hardware and in the specific training that has also not been initiated.
Q So the bottom line is despite these violations, you're continuing to move ahead with that program.
MR. BURNS: I think the Bosnian Government understands the import of Secretary Christopher's words on this.
Q What's the legal status of the 11 arrestees? Who's holding them? Are they being charged under some law, and, if so, which one? Who's investigating or interrogating them?
MR. BURNS: IFOR is holding them. IFOR will hold them as long as it pleases. We'll fully question them and investigate the situation. I think that what happens after will be a decision that IFOR will have to make in conjunction with the Bosnian Government and others. Some of them may be citizens of a foreign country. I've seen reports that some of them may be diplomats of a foreign country. We'll just have to see. I can't corroborate those reports. Others may be citizens of Bosnia, so, therefore, we'll have to take some care to work out the disposition of what happens to these people.
Q But, I mean, who's going to question them? In whose court are they going to be tried if they've committed a violation of some law, and which law have they broken?
MR. BURNS: That all has to be worked out. Again, David, I think it depends on the case of each individual -- a lot depends on the citizenship of those individuals. There's no question that IFOR has the right to detain them -- not after what IFOR found there, and not after IFOR believes that they were planning operations against IFOR forces.
So IFOR has the right to keep them as long as IFOR wants to, and until IFOR is fully satisfied that they've gotten out of these people in terms of information what they need to. Then I think it will be a process of working within the law of Bosnian and whatever other countries are pertinent here to decide what is to become of these people.
Q If they are Bosnians and they're guilty of plotting against IFOR, would IFOR rely on Bosnia to try them?
MR. BURNS: That's a question for the Bosnian Government, and we fully expect the Bosnian Government to live up to its responsibilities here.
Q Nick, correct me if I'm wrong, but last week weren't we told that President Izetbegovic told the Secretary that all the foreign fighters were gone?
MR. BURNS: We have been told in Sarajevo, when we were visiting Sarajevo, by various officials in Bosnia that they believed that there was no longer a problem. We disagreed with that in our meetings in Sarajevo. We said that our information was that there was still a problem, and I remember Admiral Smith telling all of you directly on the aircraft that we were traveling on between Tuzla and Sarajevo, that he believed that there were two to three hundred foreign fighters there. That was his statement at the time, and we very much agree with his statement.
So we've had a disagreement with the Bosnian Government. But now this disagreement becomes quite dramatic and is in the spotlight of public and press attention because these foreign fighters and other people have been caught redhanded, and there are a lot of questions that have to be asked and a lot of questions that have to be answered now.
Q Back to the two issues of the original report. Is there evidence that the Bosnian Muslim government is complicitous with this training camp, just tolerating it, or covering it? And, secondly, what is the evidence -- and I didn't catch Admiral Smith's briefing -- what is the evidence that IFOR may be the target of these training activities, Nick? Can you say?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, I just have to refer you to IFOR for an answer to that question, Bill. IFOR is in charge of these people now, and IFOR is fully competent to answer these questions. IFOR is conducting an investigation.
On the second question, I simply refer you to the IFOR spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Rayner this morning, who said that when the French troops entered the building, they found not only materials, explosives, all sorts of terrorist paraphernalia, but also illustrations of IFOR facilities, which lead us to the conclusion that you'd think we'd derive from this information, which is that these people were planning nefarious activities.
Q There were building models. Those building models were IFOR facilities, some of them?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I just refer you to the IFOR spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Rayner, who detailed all of this for the press. I can't improve upon his information or statement.
Q I think it just makes the Rome conference even more important.
MR. BURNS: It adds of touch of drama to the Rome conference. It certainly does.
Q Nick, I`m sorry, these people are obviously engaged in fighting a war against the Serbs. You would expect them to have weapons and ammunition and explosives, presumably, and maps of the region. I don't understand the immediate logical conclusion that they were out to somehow harm IFOR.
MR. BURNS: Let me respond with some questions. What were Iranian citizens doing in that facility, when Iranian citizens are supposed to be out of Bosnia. What were they doing with illustrations of IFOR facilities, as Lieutenant Colonel Rayner has explained this morning. What were they doing. Those weren't facilities to fight the Serbs. Sorry. That's not a very believable excuse.
Q Go to Russia for a second? About Chechnya. There are some ideas floating around, some of them discussed in Finland last week, one of which involves Russia withdrawing gradually from Chechnya and relying on the neighboring regions -- Ingoshetia, Dagestan, Georgia, and so forth -- creating some sort of loose alliance to contain the Chechen fighters. You spoke yesterday about Russian expansionism quite strongly.
Would this sort of military arrangement be something that you would object to or something you would support?
MR. BURNS: I'm not familiar with this report, Sid, so I can't speak to it directly. I just never have seen it. You know the United States' position on Chechnya. We believe that Chechnya is part of Russia. We recognize Chechnya to be part of Russia's sovereign territory. There's no question about that, and we have spoken out pretty clearly for 14 months now that we don't believe the Chechen conflict can be resolved by military force, and that continues to be our advice to the Russian Government.
Q Would it disturb you if Russia entered into a loose alliance, an arrangement with these neighboring regions to contain the conflict in Chechnya?
MR. BURNS: Again, it's a hypothetical question in my mind, with all due respect, because I haven't seen the report. I can't speak to the veracity of the report or to its credibility.
Q It's not a report.
MR. BURNS: But I haven't seen it, and it matters what we say from this podium. We try to speak from a factual basis. I've never seen the report, and therefore for me to kind of spin out an answer based on something I haven't seen before doesn't make a lot of sense for me to do. It's not a constructive thing for me to do.
Q You can't deal with the general concept of it?
MR. BURNS: I can't deal with the concept, because I don't understand the concept. I haven't read anything about it, and we haven't talked to the Russian Government about it to determine if it's real or not. So I don't want to go down that line, with all due respect to you.
Q There was no talk of that in Finland?
MR. BURNS: There was no talk of this in Finland. Chechnya came up in Finland. Secretary Christopher raised Chechnya with Foreign Minister Primakov, but this aspect of the Chechen problem never came up.
Q You're certain there were no conversations at any level between officials in Helsinki about that?
MR. BURNS: I was in the meetings. I was in the plenary session with the Secretary, and I received, along with others, a full account of the Secretary's dinner with Minister Primakov. This aspect of the issue, Sid -- this proposal or whatever it is -- did not come up. I've never heard of it before until you asked about it. It's new. It's completely new.
Q Libya for a moment. Do you have any reactions to reports that Qadhafi is planning to donate $1 billion to Farrakhan in order that he might have an indirect influence on American politics?
MR. BURNS: That's a lot of money. I have no reaction. I don't know if it's true, and I think that's a question that should be directed to Mr. Qadhafi. I have no idea if that's true or not.
Q Serbia. Do you have anything about the decision of Milosevic to take over Studio B, a leading independent TV and radio stations in Serbia?
MR. BURNS: We've certainly seen that report, and it's always disturbing to hear that there are infringements on the right of the media, freedom of the press, to express itself. We understand that the Belgrade city authorities have taken action to close down Studio B, which you rightly describe to be a leading independent broadcaster in Serbia.
We consider this action to be another transparent attempt by authorities there to limit access to uncensored news and information, and we would ask the Serbian authorities to rescind the action taken that closes down Studio B and to allow Studio B to resume its operations immediately. We're Americans. We believe in freedom of the press. We don't think that freedom of the press should be abridged or circumscribed anywhere in the world.
Q Will it be taken up tomorrow in Rome?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it will be taken up in Rome. There's a very thick agenda now in Rome. I can assure you we'll take this up with the Serbian Government. If it's not taken up in Rome, I'm sure it will be taken up in Belgrade by our Embassy there.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
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