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U.S. Department of State
96/02/20 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman


Tuesday, February 20, 1996

                                                 Briefer:  Nicholas 

Secretary's Lunch with NATO Sec Gen Solana ..............1
Secretary's Lunch/Meeting with Ukraine President Kuchma..1
Secretary's Visit to Kiev in March ......................1
Town Meeting in Jacksonville, FL, February 21 ...........1
Delayed Briefing Time, February 21 ......................1
Holbrooke to Brief, February 21 .........................1-2
Awards Ceremony, February 21 ............................2

Supplying Planes to Colombian Drug Traffickers ..........2-3

Arrest of Abrego to Effect Certification ................3-4, 29

Mostar: Reunification, Joint Patrols, Arrests ...........4-6, 10
Lifting of Economic Sanctions on Bosnian Serbs ..........6-7
Bosnian Serbs Encouraging Serbs to Leave Flee Sarajevo ..7-8
"Instructions" in Violation of Dayton Accords ...........8
Rome Meeting ............................................8-9
Raid on Safe House ......................................9
Fate of Iranians/Others Found in Safe House .............9-10, 12
Evidence of Plot Against IFOR ...........................10, 12
Remaining Foreign Fighters ..............................11-12 
Equip-and-Train .........................................11
Bosnian Serb Attendance at Military Meetings ............12-13
Continuation after Holbrooke's Departure ................13-14
IFOR and US Troops Withdrawal from Bosnia ...............14-15

Return of Defectors; Hussein Falling from Power .........15-18

Resumption of Wye Talks and Secretary's Participation ...18-19
Orient House Ban on Foreign Ministers ...................25-26
USG Position on East Jerusalem ..........................25-26
Israeli/Palestinian Talks in Europe .....................26-27

Louis Farrakhan Meetings w/Assad, Others, in Anakara ....19-21

Solana Discussion of Aegean Issue w/Secretary; Visit ....21

USG Evaluation of Elections .............................22-23

Extension of Zone of Sovereignty ........................23

Decision on Nuclear Transfers from China to Pakistan ....24-25

Gov't Will Not Allow Dissidents to Meet .................27-28
US Businessmen Meeting with Castro, Message from DOS ....28

US Representation at ASEAN-EU Meeting in Bangkok ........28-29

Certification ...........................................29


DPB #27

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1996, 1:04 P.M.

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of announcements to make before we go to your questions.

The first pertains to the Secretary's schedule. As you know, the Secretary is having lunch now with the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Solana. Tomorrow, the Secretary will host for lunch, Leonid Kuchma, the President of Ukraine who is making a visit to the United States. President Kuchma will be meeting with President Clinton tomorrow and also will be here at the State Department for a working lunch with delegations on both sides.

This is a very important meeting. President Kuchma is reformed-minded. He's made dramatic steps on economic/political reform, constitutional reform, in Ukraine. He is a major friend and ally of the United States. Ukraine is certainly a priority for the United States.

The Secretary saw him in Helsinki. There will be a meeting tomorrow. The Secretary will also be traveling to Kiev in the third week of March when he goes to Europe in concert with his trip to Moscow.

Also tomorrow, February 21, is the Jacksonville Town Meeting, the first of our 22 Town Meetings that will be held between now and September. This is an opportunity for the State Department to reach out to the American public and talk about foreign policy issues. Tomorrow in Jacksonville, we'll be talking about economic issues and also about human rights issues. I think I went through the schedule for that with you last week.

In addition, tomorrow, the briefing will start at an unusual time, around 1:30 p.m. because of the lunch with President Kuchma. I do want to be able to give you a sense of how that lunch went. I hope that around 1:50 or 1:55 p.m., Assistant Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke will come down on his final day in office and give you some parting thoughts about his tenure as Assistant Secretary of State and answer any questions that you have.

Then, at 2:30 p.m., we're going to begin a series of awards. Part of it will be private and part of it will be public. Let me just take you through that.

The Secretary is going to meet in his private office with all of the people who played a role in the Dayton peace process on the part of the United States delegation. He'll be giving all of them a group superior honor award. He'll then meet privately with Mrs. Katharina Frasure and will give to her the Department's Distinguished Service Award and the Secretary's Award and Medal in honor of her husband, Bob Frasure.

Those events are closed to the press. Following that, in the Ben Franklin Room, at approximately 2:30 p.m., perhaps a few minutes later, the Secretary, in a session open to the press, will make remarks as will Secretary Perry and as will Assistance Secretary Holbrooke.

The Secretary will then confer upon Dick Holbrooke a very high award followed by an award for the peace team that worked with Dick Holbrooke through the summer an fall, and into this winter, and followed by another award for all of the Americans who were at Dayton.

Again, the three of them will speak and you will have an opportunity to see that up in the Ben Franklin Room. That's tomorrow at approximately 2:30.

George, welcome back. With that, you look like you've just come from Latin America.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: Very good. We're going to Latin America next Sunday.

Q The L.A. Times has a story today about Ukraine supplying planes to Colombian drug traffickers. Have you seen that story?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I've seen that very lengthy story. I would say, in response -- I note that the Ukrainian Government - - the Foreign Minister in Kiev spoke out quite forcefully this morning rejecting any Ukrainian part to provide or sell aircraft to drug dealers. I'd refer you to that Ukrainian report.

Obviously, the report is disturbing. It certainly attracted a great deal of attention here in Washington, and we'll certainly raise this report with President Kuchma's team once they arrive here, I believe, tonight and in meetings tomorrow.


Q Nick, on Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: Still on Ukraine.

Q One quick question. I'm a little confused. You cited the Ukrainian -- you said the Ukrainians have denied the report; right?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I just wanted to refer you to a press report. There's a lengthy wire report out of Kiev in which the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has rejected the allegations made in a story by the Los Angeles Times. I just wanted to note that for the record and to also say that this report has excited some interest here. We'll be raising it with the Ukrainian delegation.

Q Does that mean you don't accept the denial at face value?

MR. BURNS: No, it doesn't at all. It just simply means we're going to follow up with the Ukrainians, as you would expect us to do, on a charge of this nature. I'm not making a claim either way. I'm not saying that we have a lot of information about this. We clearly don't have a lot of information about it. We need to check into it further. The appropriate place to do that is with the Ukrainian Government which is going to be here -- at least it's leadership -- tonight and tomorrow.


Q On the related issue from the Colombia/drug side, can you ask you a question about Mexico, please? I know certifications or re-certifications are not due for a few more days, but do you have any news for us on that front? And can you tell us whether or not the arrest a couple of months ago or maybe last month of Juan Garcia Abrego indicates the Mexican Government might be working in at least a positive direction?

MR. BURNS: Charlie, I can tell you, as you know, the certification process on narcotics is mandated by law; that the United States will be announcing its decisions on certification or, in some cases, decertification on March 1, but that no decisions have yet been made. I certainly am not in a position to announce anything until March 1.

Assistant Secretary of State Gelbard -- Bob Gelbard -- will be here to make those announcements.

Pertaining to Mexico, I would just say that Mexico is obviously one of our closest allies, and a country very important to us. We've cooperated on a broad range of issues, including narcotics. Whatever the final decision on any of these countries -- not just Mexico -- it will be designed to advance our counter-narcotics goals.

Yes, Sid. Be glad to go to Bosnia, yes.

Q I was a little confused about the Secretary's comments up there an hour or so ago, Nick. He said that Mostar had been reunified and that the joint patrols were going forward, clearly trying to paint a rosy picture of things there. But, in fact, reports from there say that there's been attacks throughout the city -- Croats on Muslims -- that police officials are saying the joint patrols are not going forward; the Croats haven't got a list or a fax. Can you explain why the Secretary said what he said?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary's comments were completely accurate based on the first-hand account of events we have from Mostar this morning, as related to Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke. He painted a very realistic picture of what's happening.

Here's what's happened: as a result of the Rome meeting and the long conversation on Sunday afternoon that Dick Holbrooke and Carl Bildt had with Izetbegovic and Tujdman, Mostar has been unified this morning. What do we mean by that? For the first time in three and a half years the barricades have come down in Mostar. People can walk from east to west and from west to east in that city that's been divided. That is a very real and important accomplishment.

Secondly, the joint patrols have been set up which were called for in the Dayton Accords and which were reaffirmed on Sunday at Rome. This builds on the plan -- the very good plan put into operation -- by Hans Koschnick who is the EU Administrator for Mostar. It builds on months of work by Mr. Koshnick; by the Europeans, especially. We want to congratulate the Europeans.

It is the first step in normalizing life in Mostar. By no means are we trying to paint a rosy scenario. You're absolutely right, Sid. This morning, we understand that there were fistfights between Croat and Muslim youths. But, happily, we do not have any reports of gunfire, the use of arms, or explosives which, as you know, was the order of the day for the past three and a half years.

So a good first step has been taken. I would say taken because of the success of the Rome conference over the weekend. But, clearly, given the tensions in Mostar and given the continuing distrust between the Croatian and Muslim communities, there's a lot of work that has to be done.

But the fact that the barricades came down is a very important symbolic and tangible event. What we need to do now, of course, is build on that. We would expect that there will be troubles ahead and there will be difficulties ahead but we will work with the Europeans and with Carl Bildt to do whatever we can to make this agreement remain in force.

We were encouraged. I think Assistant Secretary Holbrooke was encouraged by the conversations he had with President Tudjman as well as President Izetbegovic over the weekend on this issue.

Q But the police patrols, they're saying they're not going forward. You're saying they are, and the officials on the ground are saying they aren't?

MR. BURNS: We understood they were going forward. Sid, if there's been some delay, I'll be glad to check it again after the briefing. We're just going to make every attempt to make sure that part of the program does go forward because it's part and parcel of the agreement.

Q If you'll excuse me, the perception created by the Secretary saying one thing and the people on the ground saying another leads one to the conclusion that the U.S. Government is quite interested in keeping things looking very rosy when in actuality they're not?

MR. BURNS: That's ridiculous. It's ridiculous because I stood by the Secretary this morning when he made his remarks. He did not say it in a way that I would characterize as "rosy." He was straightforward and factual and just telling you what we had heard this morning.

I was in with the Secretary just before he came out with Mr. Solana, where we received a first-hand report by phone on the situation in Mostar. He simply told you what he had heard in that phone call.

We are very practical and pragmatic. I think we're realistic when it comes to Bosnia. We expect difficulties and problems ahead. We've been through too much with these countries over the last couple of years, but certainly over the last couple of months, to be rosy about any aspect of this problem. We're being realistic, and I think you're being unfair in describing the Secretary's reaction this morning.

Q The Secretary, in his remarks, said that the United States would be looking very carefully at the question of lifting sanctions on Bosnian Serbs. Could you -- was that a warning to the Bosnian Serbs, another warning to the Bosnian Serbs? What sanctions are specifically on the Bosnian Serbs as opposed to Serbia?

MR. BURNS: Carol, I would read it as a warning that the Bosnian Serbs have got to live up to what they agreed to over the weekend and to the Dayton accords.

We have agreed to consider the lifting of sanctions which, as you know, is called for in the Dayton Accords. It pertains here to the judgment by the IFOR commanders that the Bosnian Serbs have complied with the major military provisions of the Dayton Accords in terms of the zone of separation and separation of warring parties and so forth.

But it also pertains to general compliance, in our minds, and I think the Secretary feels that based on what happened this weekend at Rome, where there were a lot of promises made, we now need to see those promises actualized and fulfilled and implemented.

We're not going to rush this afternoon to the Security Council to give U.S. support to lift those sanctions. We're going to see how the Bosnian Serbs act over the next couple of days and make sure that they are true to their word at Rome and to their word at Dayton, and that these commitments are actually implemented, and I think that's our posture.

If we see good cooperation on the ground, they'll see good cooperation from us on sanctions relief in the Security Council. If we don't see good cooperation on the ground, then we're going to have a problem.

Q And what sanctions are we talking about, specific to the Bosnian Serbs versus those that are applied to Serbia?

MR. BURNS: As you know, the sanctions on Serbia have been suspended. That took place some time ago. These are sanctions on the Bosnian Serbs -- the regions controlled by them -- and, as I said, the Dayton accords spelled out what it would take to lift those sanctions. It's something that they asked us to consider over the weekend.

It was a major issue that President Milosevic and some of the Bosnian Serbs brought to Rome. We listened. We understand that there will be an opportunity for us to speak in the Security Council in a couple of days or maybe a week, but we're going to have to see what compliance is like on the ground first.

Q You can't define what it is that's in place now.

MR. BURNS: These are basic economic sanctions in place and have been in place for some time.

Q Are you worried as far as the compliance that the Bosnian Serbs appear to be encouraging Serbs in the suburbs of Sarajevo to leave, despite the assurances that they won't be harmed?

MR. BURNS: That is a somewhat separate issue from the one that engendered the first question, but it's a good question, nonetheless. We are concerned by the reports this morning that the Bosnian Serb leadership is encouraging people in the various suburbs around Sarajevo to leave. We think that that is not warranted by the facts on the ground, and specifically not warranted after the commitments made by the Bosnian Government over the weekend and after the general amnesty law, which was passed by the Bosnian Parliament last week.

So we would ask the Bosnian Serb leadership to reconsider this advice, and we certainly would encourage the Bosnian Serb population to stay where they are as we approach in the third week of March, D plus 90. D plus 90 is the day on which the Bosnian Government will take over -- in terms of police patrols and protection -- those areas in which it will have authority according to the Dayton accords.

That's an important day. The Bosnian Government has an obligation to assure the Serbian population that transfer will go well; that people's rights will be respected. But I think it is just too early and precipitous for the Bosnian Serb leadership to be making this call for people to leave Sarajevo. We don't think it's warranted.

Q If I could follow --

Q Nick, people are being encouraged to leave, or are they being pressured and possibly even forced to leave?

MR. BURNS: It's unclear from the press reports. We have seen press reports that transportation has been made available for people. We've also seen press reports where people have said, "We've been instructed to leave." So it's something that certainly our Embassy in Sarajevo and I think Carl Bildt's organization will be looking into quite carefully.

Q Are instructions to leave a violation of the Dayton accords?

MR. BURNS: It's hard to tell, Bob, if it's a violation of the Dayton accords when we're not completely sure -- going to Chris' question -- whether this is mandatory advice from the Bosnian Serb leadership or whether it is somehow just advice where people can make their own decisions.

People are obviously free -- there's freedom of movement; there should be at least -- people are free to do what they want. We are just speaking here to the wisdom of having the Bosnian Serb leadership give this kind of advice in public when we think it's well ahead of the time where they should be doing that, if at all.


Q Yes, Nick, let me go to Rome on this particular issue. This wire report, AP wire report, says between 20 and 40,000 Bosnian Serbs have left the five neighborhood districts up to this point. Ambassador Gallucci said this was a very serious matter that was being worked on intensely. What came out of Rome? What came out of the talks this weekend on this issue?

MR. BURNS: It was discussed at Rome, and our very strong advice, as was the advice of the European Union, to the Bosnian Serbs was to have your population stay in place. It is, we think, unwise to try to have them create new refugees. There aren't many places for these people to go. Their homes are in Sarajevo.

The idea in unifying Sarajevo, in bringing down the barriers there, in allowing freedom of movement, is to allow Sarajevo to remain a multi-ethnic city. It's always been a multi-ethnic city. We think it should be a multi-ethnic city. Serbs have a right to live in Sarajevo, and they ought to feel safe in doing that.

We understand the personal concerns that average people would feel, given the political climate, and, therefore, it's not just up to the Bosnian Serbs to do the right thing and not panic and not give unwise advice. It's up to the Bosnian Government to continue to send the right and positive signals to the Bosnian Serb population as they go along.

While we're on Bosnia, why don't I just go down --

Q Stay on --

MR. BURNS: Excuse me.

Q This is presently failing -- this effort -- to assure the Bosnian Serb population. It's being a uni-ethnic city, is it not?

MR. BURNS: We're just going to have to see what happens in the future, Bill. We don't believe it's in anyone's interest to have the Serbs leave, en masse, Sarajevo, and we're going to try working through the Bosnian Government, the Bosnian Serb leadership, and the civilian effort there of Carl Bildt to try to do what we can to advise people to stay.

On a couple of other issues pertaining to Bosnia from this weekend, I understand that as a result of the raid on the safe house last week, three of the Iranians caught there red-handed have been deported. The Iranian diplomat, the person who showed diplomatic papers, was deported by the Bosnian Government, and the two other Iranians, who did not have diplomatic status, were also deported.

Dick Holbrooke and John Kornblum had an extensive conversation about this issue with President Izetbegovic over the weekend in Rome. It's our expectation that there are still some unanswered questions here; that we are awaiting further actions from the Bosnian Government; that we'd like to have a full accounting of what this installation was.

They have taken the minimal steps here of deporting the people who were caught red-handed, and that's a very good thing. We are still concerned about the presence of foreign fighters there. We are not convinced that all the foreign fighters are out. How could we be, given the fact that some of them were found in this safe house last Thursday? We're going to continue to press that particular issue.

Q In addition to that issue -- and I'll be glad to answer questions on it -- the Bosnian Government is still holding in detention the three individuals from the incident that took place several weeks ago when they detained 11 people. This is unwarranted. They should release them immediately.

President Izetbegovic again assured our diplomats over the weekend that they should be released. Justice Goldstone has no interest in them. They ought to be released immediately.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia, I think.

Q (Inaudible) safe house, in fact.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q The four (inaudible)

MR. BURNS: No, one was released last Friday morning.

Q Back on Bosnia. While you're checking reports, you said in Mostar that you had reports of fist fights but no gun fire. We have reports that there were snipers and several Croat armed people were arrested by IFOR or other police forces. Could you check to see --

MR. BURNS: Be glad to check on it. I haven't seen those reports, but I'll be glad to check on it for you, Jim.

David, you had a question on Bosnia.

Q On the safe house, was there any evidence in the safe house to suggest that anyone in that house might have been interested in IFOR installations?

MR. BURNS: I can only tell you, General Burns said publicly over the weekend, when he said that there was such evidence, and that is consistent, David, with the initial reports and other reports that we received on Thursday and Friday and Saturday about that particular incident. It's very disturbing.

Q But you recall that there were also IFOR officials saying on Friday that while they found bomb-making equipment and found Iranians, they didn't find any evidence of plotting against IFOR.

MR. BURNS: I've seen the conflicting reports, but the on- the-record quote that I found most impressive was from General Burns who said that he felt that they did find illustrations and other paraphernalia, which would lead them to the conclusion that some of these people were thinking about targeting IFOR facilities. That's a very serious development.

That's why I said before that there are still some unanswered questions here. There were very suspicious operations underway in that house, and we're not entirely convinced of what was happening there.

Q To continue on the same point. When Mr. Holbrooke was talking to President Izetbegovic, what does -- how many foreign fighters does the U.S. are still in Bosnia? How many does Mr. Izetbegovic say are there, and when are they leaving?

MR. BURNS: I think the people who can best estimate that are in IFOR. Admiral Smith said two to three hundred, if I'm not mistaken, when we were in Bosnia. I don't see any reason to question that figure.

There were some in the Bosnian Government who told us during the Secretary's visit and subsequent to that, that there were no foreign fighters left. Well, that claim has been repudiated by the fact that the Iranians were found last week. I think it just stands to reason that if there were Iranians there, there should be others elsewhere.

That is consistent with our own intelligence and our own judgment. We're not going to rest until the Bosnian Government has demonstrated to us that all the foreign fighters are out. Now we'll be giving some suggestions to the Bosnian Government as to where we think those people might be.

Q Isn't the real deadline D plus 90, since that is when equip-and-train is supposed to start, if you're satisfied that the Dayton accords are being honored by the Bosnian Government?

MR. BURNS: The real deadline was January 19. That deadline was violated, and every day since then, they've been compounding that violation. But you're right, D plus 90 is the date at which the United States and its allies could start equipping, as well as training, the Bosnian military.

Secretary Christopher has said and this still stand, our ability to proceed with equip-and-train is in jeopardy as long as we are not absolutely convinced about the presence of foreign fighters in Bosnia. And I mean absolutely convinced that there are no foreign fighters left in Bosnia. That is still a pertinent and timely statement to make.

Q Can I follow? Is President Izetbegovic one of those officials who said there were no foreign fighters in Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: We've had a series of discussions, Judd, with Bosnian Government officials. We've heard a lot of claims from them. We're more interested in actions right now. We've heard a lot of claims, and a lot of the claims haven't turned out to be quite accurate, so we're much more interested in actions.

Just to round out the Bosnia discussion before we leave it, I wanted you to know that Dick Holbrooke and John Kornblum called President Milosevic this morning and talked to him about another issue that we really haven't touched on here, but just to round out our look at Bosnia course, and that's the continuing imperative that the Bosnian Serbs comply with the requirement to show up at military meetings.

General Tolimir yesterday couldn't quite make it to the George Washington. Today, General Walker was able to go to Pale and meet with him, and we fully expect, based on Dick Holbrooke and John Kornblum's call with Milosevic this morning, that in fact that very critical factor will now be met by the Bosnian Serb leadership.

Q Can I go back just to the connection between the Muslim government and these terrorists -- these Iranians, and the two questions basically: Why did the Iranians -- why were they allowed to leave if they could witness to the connection? And, two, what was learned in Rome when we took this issue to them -- to the Bosnian --

MR. BURNS: They were deported. They were deported, and that was the right decision to make. IFOR did not have the right to hold them forever. They had the right to hold them and question them but not forever. This incident took place on Bosnian Government territory. Therefore, the relevant legal authority was the Bosnian Government, and these three were deported, which was the right decision.

Q What evidence does IFOR have of Bosnian Muslim complicity with these Iranian terrorists?

MR. BURNS: I'd direct that question to the Bosnian Government, and we're certainly directing our questions there.

Q What was the scene in Rome when we confronted them?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to go into all the private discussion there. I let you know that it was raised. We feel very strongly about it, and we'll continue to push this issue.


Q New subject?

MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia. Betsy.

Q Nick, how concerned are we that Milosevic is not going to be able to comply with demands that Bosnian Serb military people show up; that he, in fact, does not control these people?

MR. BURNS: Say what you will about President Milosevic, and certainly we've had our disagreements with him in the past, and I'm sure we'll have them in the future. He's been effective at meeting his commitments. That track record began on August 30 when the NATO bombs started falling; when he began his negotiations with Dick Holbrooke, and he has met the great majority, but not all, of his commitments since then, and we're relying on him as the leader of Serbia and as someone who has extensive influence over the Bosnian Serbs.

We're relying on him to meet his commitments, and that was part of the nature of the phone call this morning, as well as the conversations that took place with him over the weekend.

Q And he was -- and Holbrooke and Kornblum were reassured by what he said?

MR. BURNS: I think our prevailing mode of operation this morning, Betsy, is a little bit skeptical in this sense. We take these people at their word -- all these people, Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Government and Croatians -- that they're going to carry out these accords. But we are realistic. We've certainly had realistic point of view over the last couple of weeks, and we've seen a lot of transgressions and a lot of deadlines not met and a lot of parts of the agreement violated.

So when I say "skeptical," it is skeptical in this sense: We're more impressed by actions than words. It's good to hear that things will happen. It's better to see that they happen. And that's the view that we take this week.

Q Can I ask one concerning Ambassador Holbrooke's departure tomorrow? He was clearly central in pulling this whole thing together and, as we've been discussing here for some time now, there are many open areas remaining. How big of a hole is it going to leave for Ambassador Holbrooke to leave tomorrow at this point? How tough is it going to be to hold this agreement together and the implementation with him gone?

MR. BURNS: He's a brilliant diplomat. I think by anyone's account, he's done an outstanding job. There will be more testimonials to him tomorrow, including from me. So I will spare you that today.

The short answer, Bob -- and we talked about this when Carol asked on Friday -- is that Ambassador Bob Gallucci is also a very, very fine diplomat who did an outstanding job on the North Korea problem. The President and the Secretary have asked him to take on this responsibility to fill the hole created by the departure of Dick Holbrooke, and I think Bob Gallucci has everyone's confidence that he can do that.

John Kornblum will also be very much involved as the new Acting Assistant Secretary of State, along with many others. But we have confidence that the United States will continue to be well, if not brilliantly, represented at all these meetings.

We know that there's a lot on our shoulders. We know that as the father of this accords, we can't leave them. We've got to make sure that we're involved in the diplomacy day by day, and the other thing I'd say is that Secretary Christopher has made a commitment, obviously, that he's going to remain personally involved, directing the efforts of all these people. I wouldn't be surprised to see Secretary Christopher have some more meetings in the next couple of months with some of these Balkan leaders.

Q Nick, what is your understanding of the month in which all NATO troops are to be out of Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: IFOR troops, you mean. I can only speak in this case for the American contingent, but the President and the Secretary have spoken to a commitment of about a year. They went in just before Christmas -- four or five days before Christmas of 1995 -- about a year. We've not tied ourselves down to a specific date. About a year means about a year. It won't be a lot less, and it won't be a lot more.

Q About December of next year.

MR. BURNS: About a year. But I can't say "about" means December or what else it means, but about a year. That's pretty clear.

Q Do you know why some U.S. troops have already been withdrawn from Bosnia? Maybe you better address this --

MR. BURNS: I think that's a question for the Pentagon. I think we're still building up. We're not drawing down. Some people may have been rotated out, but, if they're rotated out, others will be rotated in to replace them. But that's a question for Ken Bacon and Admiral Smith and the military people.

Q So there is no slow withdrawal taking place currently of U.S. troops?

MR. BURNS: No, we're just building up. In fact, I think when Secretary Perry spoke to the press last week, he talked about the latest troop buildup figure. We're building up. We're not drawing down.

Q Well, they already adjusted down to 18,500 from 20,000. Is this going to be a further adjustment or --

MR. BURNS: I have to refer you to the Pentagon on the numbers of American military personnel in the area, but I can tell you we're not drawing down. We are not drawing down. We've got a big job ahead of us.

Carol, still on Bosnia?

Q No, I wanted to change the subject.

MR. BURNS: Thank goodness. Any more on Bosnia? I think we've done it for today.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: AP relay team. The perfect hand-off, Barry. You've got the baton, now you can sprint down the track.

Q The two Iraqi defectors. What do you make of the fact that they're going back?

MR. BURNS: This is a curious story. Let me just say off the top, Carol, that we haven't been involved in this. We've not given any advice. This is not our decision, and General Hussein Kamel's decisions are his own decisions, and I think that really is all I can say on this.

Q You mean the whole group, though. When you say "we," you're not talking about State alone.

MR. BURNS: We haven't been involved in giving him advice of whether to go back or not.

Q No, but the U.S. Government.

MR. BURNS: The United States Government -- not just the State Department. And these are his decisions. He made a decision. It's a very interesting decision.

Q But does it make you doubt the quality of the information that he has passed on? Does it suggest to you that maybe he was allowed to leave, so that he could somehow provide misinformation to the West?

MR. BURNS: I'm not sure we have that kind of Machiavellian spin on things, with all due respect. Most of the people to whom I've talked this morning are -- it's perhaps stunned disbelief more than anything else. I don't think anyone's thinking that this was some kind of grand plot by Saddam to fool us in the West. He's not in a very strong position to do that anyway, because he's fairly weak.

But I would say this about Hussein Kamel's revelations last summer. They did play a part in UNSCOM's deliberations, in Ambassador Ekeus' deliberations, and they just added to the evidence -- the monumental set of evidence -- that spoke to the wide violations of U.N. resolutions and international law by Saddam Hussein as it pertains to chemical and biological and ballistic missile proliferation.

He has dug for himself a very, very -- "he," Saddam Hussein -- a very, very deep hole, and I think Hussein Kamel's evidence and testimony last summer -- it didn't break the back, but it certainly added to the weight of the evidence against Saddam Hussein. That was a contribution that was made by Mr. Kamel.

Q But you have no cause for reconsidering the information that he provided in any respect? Are you having second thoughts, maybe it was misinformation?

MR. BURNS: Maybe we can't write that chapter yet. Maybe the next chapter will be how is he received in Baghdad? Is there going to be a red carpet? Is he going to prosper? Is he not going to prosper? We'll just have to see what happens to him.

But disregarding him, the weight of the international evidence that was produced independently of him is very, very convincing, and it's accepted by all the international community, including those people who wanted to give Iraq a break a year or so ago. Everyone now believes that the sanctions should be maintained in Iraq, because the weight of the evidence is so strong against him. They lied and they cheated and they did all sorts of things to try to confuse the United Nations.

Q Nick, the word in Amman is that he went back essentially because the United States was not prepared to back him as a rival to Saddam Hussein. Have you --

MR. BURNS: Hussein Kamel is what he is, and we know very well what role he played in the war, and certainly in actions against the minority populations. I don't think there was ever a question of the United States backing him as a rival. We certainly found some of his information useful. There's no question about that. But he's gone back. It's his decision. We'll have to see what happens now. David.

Q Do you think that he was -- I mean, the speculation when the word came out that he was leaving was that either he was a double agent or that he was not very bright. (Laughter) Do you lean towards the latter view? (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: I'll take a drink of water first before answering that question. Always good to take a drink of water when you want to reflect just for a couple of seconds.

We don't know him well, and he made his own decisions. I can't tell you why he made this decision. I suppose there was perhaps some rationale behind it, but his decision is going to have to stand as it is. We weren't involved in the decision, David, and he's gone and --

Q Are you aware of any assurances he might have received from Saddam Hussein as to his safety?

MR. BURNS: All I've seen is what's in the press. I'm not privy to any kind of private assurances he may or may not have been given. I assume, if this was a rational decision, that he was given some assurances. Given Saddam Hussein's track record, I'm not sure how much those assurances are worth, but that is what it is.

Any more on Hussein Kamel, or can we move on from Hussein Kamel?

Q I don't know about this Administration, but, what the heck, it's the U.S. Government. Would it be unfair to ask you on this occasion what happened to all those predictions about Saddam Hussein falling from power? You know, all those strong rhetorical assaults; how the Iraqi people would rise up? The people closest to him were said to be the ones most likely to distrust him and remove him, and you wouldn't have to use force, as you didn't in the Gulf, to get rid of him.

He seems to have more staying power than the U.S. thought, no?

MR. BURNS: That was the last Administration.

Q It was.

MR. BURNS: That was definitely --

Q Some of us are carryovers.

MR. BURNS: I know you are, and some of us are carryovers, but I worked in the different Department in the last Administration, Barry.

Q Soviet Union.

MR. BURNS: Right. Well, the Soviet Union is gone. Happily, the Soviet Union is gone. Thank goodness it's gone. I remember that talk, Barry. That was in 1991 and 1992. This Administration has not spoken out in the same vein, but I think this Administration has, with the Bush Administration, certainly the belief that Saddam Hussein was -- if he wasn't finished by the Gulf war, he was nearly finished. He's severely weakened. Iraq will never play in the Middle East the role that it could have played, had he not started two wars in the 1980s and 1990s and wrecked his country and ruined his economy.

If he's not finished, Barry, he is in a severely weakened state. He can't do to his neighbors what he would like to do economically and militarily, and at some point in the future, Saddam Hussein will pass from the scene, and the Iraqi people will be better off. Perhaps then the Iraqi people can begin to rebuild their lives.

For the meantime, all we can do is keep the sanctions on, because they deserve to be on, and they're going to be kept on for a long time until he complies with all the resolutions, and that's going to be a very difficult test for him.

Q Can I ask one quick one on the Middle East, which is when do the Wye talks resume?

MR. BURNS: The Wye talks resume on February 28 at the Wye Plantation. U.S., Syrian and Israeli delegations -- the same people who met in the last round. We're very pleased that these negotiations will be continuing during the Israeli elections.

We have a date for the new elections in Israel, May 29, and, as you know, Secretary Christopher and President Assad and Prime Minister Peres all agreed that it made sense to continue the momentum and to preserve what has been gained so far in the negotiations to date.

Q Is the Secretary going to go out there on the 28th?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary is going to be leaving next Sunday, the 25th, for Latin America, for the first trip by an American Secretary of State. It's an important trip. I'm sure it will be covered by all the major news organizations to Latin America.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: That's unfortunate. He'll be returning probably around the 3rd or 4th of March, and he'll certainly go over to the Wye conference center and participate in the talks, because they'll be going on into the next week.


Q Into the second week of March?

MR. BURNS: Absolutely, yes. There's a lot to talk about.

Yes, sir. I thought there'd be an interesting segue here into some of your issues, if not the same issues.

Q What is your reaction to the meeting between Farrakhan and Assad?

MR. BURNS: I haven't seen any reports on Mr. Farrakhan's meeting with President Assad. I haven't seen many reports.

Q A three-hour meeting.

MR. BURNS: A three-hour meeting?

Q Well, if you haven't seen it --

MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the reports to that meeting. I've spoken about other aspects of Mr. Farrakhan's tour through very interesting capitals, but I just don't have enough information about what he did or what he said in Damascus.

Q Well, could you --

Q You have no reaction to that -- maybe he will join Wye.

MR. BURNS: I highly doubt it. He won't be a member of the U.S. delegation.

Q You've been so free, you've been so fulsome in your reaction to his stops along the way. Now he's sort of closing in on an orbit of American interest, because the U.S. and Syria, of course, are working very closely together in the Middle East. It isn't quite like an outcast state like Libya, Iraq. Syria is part of your modus operandi to bring peace to the Middle East.

Could NEA or someone take a look at it and maybe let us have a reaction, because they hosted a major meeting there -- the Syrians did -- and also President Assad met him for three hours, and it was in the press on Saturday -- three days ago.

MR. BURNS: It's a relatively short meeting.

Q Three hours?

MR. BURNS: A relatively brief meeting.

Q I think Assad rolled his sleeves up on this one.

MR. BURNS: Let me just say this. Mr. Farrakhan went to a number of countries on his recent tour. Nigeria was one. South Africa was another. He didn't just go to Libya and Iraq and Iran, and now he's in Syria. He has a right to freedom of speech. He has the right to say what he wants to say, but we have a right -- I have a right -- to take issue with what he says, and I fully stand by what I said about his actions in Tripoli and in Iran. Those were the actions that were most disturbing in terms of his association with authoritarian figures, dictators, who have American blood on their hands. That's a very, very serious development.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: I think that visits to Syria, visits to Nigeria, visits to South Africa -- however they may turn out -- are in a different category. But my remarks last week -- and I fully stand by what I said -- pertain to the two people who I believe have a lot to answer to the American people for in terms of terrorist acts against American citizens.

My point was that when an American leader goes to those countries, if he doesn't talk about actions in which Americans were killed, I think that is reprehensible.

Q Your choice of pronouns is interesting. When you use the word "I" and "my." Are you saying that in those cases you were not speaking for the Administration?

MR. BURNS: I speak for the State Department here, and I can tell you that what I said was fully supported by the person I work for -- the Secretary of State.

Q If Farrakhan, when he was in Ankara, after the meeting with the Turkish religious -- not the religious -- fundamentalist party leader Erbakan, he made a statement -- he said that Turkey has come to some point to choose secularism to sharia?

Do you evaluate the Turkish political situation the same way as Mr. Farrakhan's way?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't think I would evaluate it in those terms. Turkey is in a transitional period -- transitional in an electoral sense where now a new government is attempted to be formed by Mr. Yilmaz and Mr. Erbakan. We are, of course, as an ally of Turkey, a defense ally, are watching that with great interest and are looking forward to the final resolution of this so that there will be a new government formed and we can work with that government on all the issues that are so important to the United States and Turkey.

So I wouldn't frame the issue anywhere near the terms that it was framed by him over the weekend.

Q On Mr. Solana's visit. Does the agenda of the discussion include the recent clashes in the Aegean? And also Mr. Solana later this month will visit Greece on an official visit. Does he commit any proposals to the Greek Government regarding this crisis and the problems in the Aegean?

MR. BURNS: That's really a question, Dimitri, for Mr. Solana himself. I wouldn't be surprised if the issue came up in the discussions here in Washington because it's a prominent issue involving two NATO allies.

What his plans are and what he will do, I think, is really up for him to describe. As you know, the United States will continue to do whatever we can and are requested to do to help Greece, an ally, and Turkey resolve this problem.

Mr. Arshad.

Q Yes, thank you, Nick. Arshad of the Daily Inquilab. Before going to my question, Nick, I owe you an apology. By mistake, your name has been quoted in one of my recent reports.

MR. BURNS: What did you say? Is it good or bad?

Q What's the mistake?

Q The mistake has been corrected.

MR. BURNS: Good!

Q So I apologize for the inconvenience it may have caused you personally.

MR. BURNS: I'm not quite sure what you said in the article. Do I want to know? (Laughter) It might spoil my weekend.

Q The questions now --

MR. BURNS: We'll get into that later.

Q The Bangladeshis are waiting to hear from you, Nick, about the reaction and views of the U.S. Government following the most controversial election.

Does the U.S. Government still think that the recent election in Bangladesh was fair and democratic? Will the U.S. Government continue support to be in big government as a democratically-elected government, judging on this present election?

The last part of the question is, the opposition leader, Sheik Hasina, made a clarion call and appeal to the President of the Republic; political parties call upon the Bangladesh armed forces to intervene into the crisis to restore peace in the country and conduct a free and fair election, participated in by all major political parties, including ruling (inaudible) under an interim caretaker civilian government with the present President, as head of the state.

Now, the question is, will the United States Government oppose such a move of all party participation, free and fair election to that effect? I would like to have your kind comments.

MR. BURNS: Thank you, if you'll promise to tell me what terrible things you said about me in the newspaper after the briefing.

By all accounts, Mr. Arshad, last week's elections in Bangladesh left a lot to be desired, in this sense. There are reports from a variety of sources which indicate the elections had serious flaws in administration as a result of actions by supporters of both the opposition and the ruling party.

Most important, however, it does not appear to us that the election resolved the underlying political impasse that has bedeviled Bangladesh in recent years. We hope that Bangladeshis, the citizens of the country, and all their leaders will renew their efforts to find common ground. We continue to call upon the government and the opposition -- all parties -- to avoid violence.

Q As a follow up to that, Ambassador Merrill has done a splendid and thankful job.

MR. BURNS: He has. He absolutely has.

Q Would the Ambassador be kind enough to take any fresh initiative to bring back the warring factions (inaudible) after this embattled elections? What is your take on that? Will the Ambassador make the move now to make a reconciliation process for a fresh election?

MR. BURNS: Mr. Arshad, I think that probably puts too much on Ambassador Merrill's shoulders. We will act to support democracy and to support a resolution of problems by non-violent means. Those are the principal issues that concern the United States as we look at this political crisis in Bangladesh.

It is up to the government and to the opposition and all Bangladeshis to solve Bangladesh's problems; not the United States. If asked by all parties, we'll be glad, of course, to give advice. We do that privately.

Q Just the last part of the question. Is the election being fair enough to be judged as legitimized by the United States?

MR. BURNS: I think I'd just refer you to the statement that I made -- the comments that I made in response to your first question. That is how we look at those elections.

Q An easy one for you. Do you have any reaction to the Japanese Government's extension of its zone of sovereignty to the 200- mile limit which would include these famous rocky islands?

MR. BURNS: That's not an easy question, Jim. That's false advertising.

I have not seen the statement. I'll have to look into that. I simply have not seen the statement, Jim. Be glad to look into it.


Q Has the government come any closer to reaching a decision about what it should do about the alleged nuclear transfers from China to Pakistan? Or is that issue still being carefully considered?

MR. BURNS: That issue is being carefully considered. Thank you. It's a very difficult issue; a very difficult one, indeed, and it's still being considered. I can tell you that the Secretary has not made any decisions nor has he made any recommendations to the President on this issue.

Q Another part of the same issue. I know you covered it slightly last week, the issue of arms transfers from here to Pakistan being delayed. The Pakistani Foreign Minister said he believed the U.S. is considering such a delay, and he says that Washington has a moral imperative to allow the transfer to proceed. I wonder if you had anything on that?

MR. BURNS: The Brown Amendment just came into law last month, in January. Of course, we want to make sure that we have full discussions with the Congress as we seek to implement the Brown Amendment.

But as I said last week, I wouldn't expect us to do that in the next couple of days. I think there are other factors we need to look at and we'll, of course, proceed with the decision shortly. We're in continual touch with the Pakistani Government on this issue.

Q But it is linked to the issue of the transfers in China?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to say it's "linked." That's an awfully direct word. I think that there are many factors, including the allegations of sales by China to Pakistan that, of course, are a factor in this decision. We'll just have to factor everything in. But we are in continual touch with the Pakistanis. They will not be surprised. They are not surprised by any of this. We're quite open with them about what's happening here in Washington.

Q Nick, what about the Orient House ban on Foreign Ministers. Has that been raised?

MR. BURNS: It has not been raised in this particular briefing. The question is, "What is the U.S. . . ."?

Q What does it do to change the way in which Ed Abington and others are going to operating with Faisal Husseini, who is obviously the "Mr. Jerusalem" of the Palestine question?

MR. BURNS: We'll continue, I'm sure, to have -- I'm sure Ed Abington will continue to have close contacts with Faisal Husseini, who is a respected leader of the Palestinians on Jerusalem and other matters.

I understand that our diplomats -- some of our American consulate diplomats -- our mid-level officers -- have been to Orient House on one occasion or another. It's not been our practice to have most of our meetings, however, with the Palestinian leadership at Orient House. The Secretary has not. He's met in Gaza or Jericho with Chairman Arafat.

Ed Abington normally, I think, travels to Gaza or Jericho to meet with Chairman Arafat.

In general, this is a question that, really, the Israelis and Palestinians have to work out. They now have direct lines of communication with each other. I think the time has come, probably, not to expect others to work out all these problems but to have them work their problems out directly.

Q A follow-up on that. Does this mean that the United States is now, in a sense, abandoning its traditional stance with regard to East Jerusalem -- that is, recognizing that the Israelis are going to be able to implement any laws that they might want to and prevent the Foreign Ministers or others from meeting with Palestinians in East Jerusalem even though it's occupied territory under U.S. policy up to this point?

MR. BURNS: I would separate the two issues -- the two questions -- that have been raised here. On the first question: Orient House. I don't see any useful purpose in the United States suggesting some kind of compromise solution to this problem. I think it's up to the Israelis and Palestinians to work out the problem.

I have noted that for a number of years American officials have met, including this year, in Orient House with Palestinians.

On the second question, which is a much broader question, I can tell you, in a very straightforward way, that American policy and our position on all the issues concerning Jerusalem have not changed.

This is a final status issue that the Israelis and Palestinians will be dealing with as of May in the final status talks. Our position has not changed one iota. We're not changing our position on Jerusalem.

Q Are you critical of the Israeli Government? Do you think it should have been discussed?

I sort of get the impression you're thinking it's of no great moment that there are ways to work around this; there's no shortage of places to meet, etc. Was it politics? Was it showboating? What is the State Department's judgment? There's no criticism, is there, or is there?

MR. BURNS: We've seen the announcement by the Israelis. We would just urge the Palestinians and Israelis to work out whatever problems are associated with this. I don't know how this is going to be implemented, Barry.

All I can do is just tell you, in the past, we've been there. We note that others have been there, including quite recently, I think the Swedish Foreign Minister was at Orient House to meet with the Palestinian leadership.

On the question of Jerusalem, more broadly, I wouldn't infer any kind of change in American policy based on the fact that we think that Israelis and Palestinians should work out the problem regarding Orient House.

Q Do you have any problem, by the way -- as you obviously know, Jerusalem is already central to the political campaign. It's just gathering force.

Does the U.S. have a position on whether these talks -- a couple of professors who were apparently forerunners of the Israeli-PLO agreement are having over the future of Jerusalem with the prominent Palestinians in Europe. Does the U.S. have an opinion whether this helps or, again, of no great consequence, whatever? Because it's becoming an issue. It's a very contested issue this past weekend.

MR. BURNS: I've seen those press reports. I cannot corroborate those press reports. I have no knowledge myself of any meetings that may be underway.

Our view is that when the final status talks begin, then these issues pertaining to Jerusalem come into full play between Israel and the Palestinians.

Q Are you saying the U.S. -- it's hard to ask if the U.S. was consulted about talks you're not sure are taking place.

MR. BURNS: I have no knowledge of these talks. My only knowledge of these talks is from the newspapers, so I simply can't corroborate the report, the rumor that there have been such talks. I've seen names associated. I know it's more than just rumors. I just can't corroborate it.

Q Can you take the question as to whether Dennis or any of the peace team have talked to these people who are allegedly having these talks in Europe?

MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to look into it. I don't know if I want to take the question. I'll be glad to look into it.

Q Why wouldn't you take the question?

MR. BURNS: I normally take factual questions that I can't answer myself. I will be glad to look into it. But as you know, our modus operandi has never been to give all the details of everything we talk about with all these parties.

It's the first I've heard of it. I have no knowledge of this whatsoever, so I'll be glad to look into it.

Q Dennis Ross is going over to the Embassy today to join -- I think it's students -- around 5:30 with the Ambassador. I don't know --

MR. BURNS: They've done that before.

Q Have they?

MR. BURNS: In fact, just on the eve of our last trip to the Middle East, Ambassador Rabinovich and Dennis had a joint press meeting with journalists here in Washington. I'll be glad to look into it, Sid.

We have a couple more questions.

Q On Cuba. There was supposed to be a meeting on Saturday, the 24th, of this Cuban political dissident organization (inaudible) and apparently they are going to be allowed to meet. Do you have anything, or have you received any information from --

MR. BURNS: Whether they'll be allowed to meet?

Q (Inaudible) allowed to meet. They wanted to meet on Saturday and the Cuban Government does not allow them to meet now.

MR. BURNS: I'll have to look into that specific question. But let me just say on the issue of Cuba, in general. We know that since last week a great number of Cuban human rights activists have been arrested and detained in Cuba itself -- about 50 people have been arrested. Of those, about two dozen of them remain in prison. This concerns us very much. This represents an attempt by the Cuban Government to prevent the conference that was planned for the 24th and 27th. I'll have to look further into your specific question to see if we can satisfy that.

But we are concerned about this crackdown on human rights activists. It's unwarranted but it's unfortunately typical of the behavior of the Castro regime.

Q Nick, do you have anything to say about the meeting over the weekend between the American businessmen, including two of Bobby Kennedy's sons, and Fidel Castro? Castro apparently said he was under the impression they were carrying a message or two from the State Department?

MR. BURNS: No. I'll have to look into that. I'm not aware that any messages were carried from the State Department. I'll be glad to look into it and see what I can tell you on that.

Q (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: I know I do. Thank you.

Q Nick, on March 1-2, there will be a meeting in Bangkok with the European Union and the Asian nations, a kind of EU-Asia summit. I want to know, with what kind of interest and concern, if any, the U.S. Government is watching this conference?

MR. BURNS: We're aware of it. We're aware of the dialogue that's underway, on a permanent basis, between the European Union and some of our Asian friends.

It's a very good thing that this is happening -- for trade reasons, for political reasons -- and we encourage it. I have nothing specific to say on the issues. But of a general nature, that's how we see things.

Q Will the U.S. Government be represented in the conference?

MR. BURNS: Let me check on that for you. I'll be glad to check on it for you.

Q Can we do one more on certification and, in regards to Colombia, any prospects for certification? Also, a report in the New York Times this weekend where it said that some U.S. officials were against granting certification again to Mexico because it was increasing used as a conduit for drugs coming from countries such as Colombia?

MR. BURNS: I think I've answered that. With all due respect, I've answered that question. Certification: March 1. That's when the announcement comes, but not before.

Q Nick, can I put this on the record? I associate myself with Mr.Balman's first question. On the photo-op this morning, there was a perception that that photo-op was managed insofar as who got to ask the questions and --

MR. BURNS: Shocked. I am shocked.

Q I would like to ask you, sir --

MR. BURNS: Managed?

Q Yes, sir. Would there be a possibility of rotating those who might be able to be called upon? Are you going to continue to call upon people --

MR. BURNS: I would never --

Q -- or is it a closed shop?

MR. BURNS: I've been on the job a year today. I would never claim to have successfully managed all of you in a press conference. I called on the people who I could see visually. There were a lot of people behind cameras I couldn't see. We took four questions this morning. I'm sorry, I thought it was a good encounter between the Secretary and all of you.

Q Could there be a rotation so that we will be encouraged to come?

MR. BURNS: I'm going to leave that to the senior people in the room -- Barry, Carol, Jim, and others to work out with all of you.

Q Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

(Press briefing concluded at 2:02 p.m.)


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