U.S. Department of State 96/03/08 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, March 8, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcements/Statements International Women's Day Ceremony-- Remarks by Secretary Christopher ......1 Secretary Christopher's Announcement re: Bosnia Organizational Structure in Dept.......1-2,19 --Departure of Ambassador Gallucci .....1,18-19 Ambassador Kornblum's Trip to Balkans ......1-2 Terrorism Summit in Egypt ......2-9 --Secretary Christopher/U.S. Official Telecons .....2-3,5-6,8-11 Mtg. on Middle East Peace Process .....3 Secretary Christopher's Travel Plans ....3-4 Statement on Violence in Burundi ......4 State Department Authorization Bill .....25 BAHRAIN Secretary Christopher Mtg. w/Crown Prince..... 11-12,18 CHINA/TAIWAN Secretary Christopher/U.S. Official Mtgs. w/Mr. Liu ....12,17 --Missile Tests/Military Exercises ...................... 12,17-18 U.S.-China High-Level Discussions ......12-13 Transfer of Cruise Missiles to Iran ....13-16 Report of Transfer of Chemical Weapons Material to Iran ....14-17 ITALY Disappearance of Achille Lauro Terrorist ......9-22 IRAQ Internat. Chess Federation Championships .......23 GREECE/TURKEY Conflict re: Aegean Islets/Islands ..........23-24 CUBA Helms-Burton Legislation .....................25 RUSSIA Conflict in Chechnya........................ 25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 1996, 1:16 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of announcements -- in fact, several -- before we get to questions.
First, I just wanted to direct you all to the Secretary's comments this morning honoring International Women's Day -- the comments that he made at 9:00 this morning are available in the Press Office.
Secondly, I wanted to read an announcement from Secretary Christopher pertaining to the Bosnia organizational structure here in the Department.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced today that Ambassador Robert L. Gallucci will be leaving the Department of State to become Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He will assume his new post on May 1, 1996.
In his 21 years at the State Department, Ambassador Gallucci has had a distinguished career. Most recently, as you all know, he led the Administration's efforts to freeze the development of North Korea's nuclear program, and he served as leader of the group responsible for implementing the Dayton Accords in the former Yugoslavia.
The Secretary said this morning: "Bob Gallucci is one of the most effective public servants with whom I've had the privilege to work. The School of Foreign Service, its faculty and its students are fortunate to have the services of this fine scholar and diplomat. On behalf of President Clinton and the entire Administration, I'd like to express my appreciation to Bob Gallucci for his extraordinary accomplishments, and I'd like to wish him well in this opportunity."
The Secretary has asked Ambassador John Kornblum to oversee our comprehensive policy toward the former Yugoslavia. Ambassador Kornblum, who has been nominated by President Clinton as Assistant Secretary of State for
European and Canadian Affairs, is the top European expert in the Department of State.
As you know, he played a leading role in the Dayton peace talks and he has also served as the United States Ambassador to the OSCE.
Ambassador Kornblum will be assisted by two experienced European experts: Ambassador William D. Montgomery, and Rudolph V. Perina.
Ambassador Montgomery will serve in the position of Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State on Bosnia implementation issues. He was until recently the United States Ambassador to Bulgaria. He's an experienced person in Europe, having spent a previous tour in Belgrade, two tours in Sofia, and one in Moscow.
Mr. Perina was the Chief of Mission in Belgrade, as you know. He has just returned to become the senior Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs. He's had long experience in European and NATO affairs, including assignments in Moscow, Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna.
Secretary Christopher also said this morning that under John Kornblum's direction, I am confident that our new team will use their extraordinary skills and experience to implement successfully the Dayton Accords.
Ambassador Kornblum will be travelling on Sunday to the Balkans. He's going there to meet with leaders in Sarajevo, Zagreb, and Belgrade on Monday and Tuesday in order to impress upon them the strategic imperative of implementing successfully the Dayton Accords and to work with them in all the range of compliance issues that stem from the Dayton Accords.
Turning to the Middle East, the Secretary has been hard at work for the last 24 hours trying to help the President to organize the summit of the peacemakers in Sharm Al-Sheikh on Wednesday.
He called early this morning Foreign Minister Primakov. He's also talked to Foreign Minister Shara of Syria, Foreign Minister Attaf of Algeria, Chairman Yasser Arafat, and he also had a discussion with President Ben Ali of Tunisia.
As you know, the United States and Egypt have invited all of these countries and many more from the Arab world and from Europe and beyond to take part in this summit.
The purposes of the summit are three-fold, as we see them. First, is to have Arabs stand with Prime Minister Peres, with the United States, with Russia, with our European allies, to send a dramatic and powerful signal of opposition to Hamas and opposition to terrorism -- and of support for peace.
Secondly, to discuss ways to combat terrorism effectively in the Middle East; and, third, to maintain and to build support for the peace negotiations that have been underway between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon.
As part of this effort, our special Middle East coordinator, Dennis Ross met this morning along with Assistant Secretary Bob Pelletreau and Toni Verstandig, with European Union senior officials responsible for the Middle East. They agreed that the United States and the European Union would intensify our consultations and our coordination on these issues and that we would maintain an open channel of communications on all issues pertaining to the Middle East peace process.
They agreed with the Europeans on the importance of this summit in Sharm el-Sheikh which will, of course, focus on how the European Union and the United States can work with the Arabs and with Israel for peace.
For those of you who are going to be travelling with the President and the Secretary, you have a couple of options. One is, you can sign up for the White House press charter which will be leaving sometime on Tuesday. David Johnson at the White House will have details on this, and you can accompany the President and the Secretary together to Sharm el-Sheikh and then onward to Israel.
Second, you can wait until probably Tuesday evening and you can take the Secretary's plane. The Secretary will not be flying on his plane from Washington; but the State Department plane will be going directly to Israel to await the arrival of the Secretary there and the Secretary's onward travel.
Third, you can find your own commercial arrangements to meet us in Israel. There is a sign-up sheet for this trip.
As you know, the Secretary's trip is going to extend beyond the President's. Not necessarily in the Middle East but certainly overseas and will be quite extensive, all the way up to March 23 or 24.
There's a sign-up sheet available in the Press Office. It's going to have to close at 3:00 today because we do have to arrange for visas for several of the countries, especially for Russia and for Ukraine.
I have a final statement. It's on the situation in Burundi.
The United States is deeply concerned over reports that more than 70 civilians have been killed in recent days in attacks in northwestern Burundi. We condemn these cowardly attacks against innocent children, women, and older people. We deplore these latest incidents in a pattern of deaths of both military and civilians in various parts of Burundi.
In Burundi, violence breeds violence. These attempts to destabilize the tenuous political situation and to create violence in the region underscore the urgent need to foster reconciliation and accountability. The United States will continue to work with all of our friends in the international community on ways to defuse tensions and to prevent such outbreaks of violence in the future.
We call upon all parties in Burundi to renounce violence and to work towards national reconciliation.
Q Could we go back to the statement you made about the Sharm el-Sheikh conference? I think the second point you made suggested that there would be some work actually done there in trying to come out with counter-terrorism measures.
Could you either set me straight that it isn't that kind of a conference and that's ceremonial and speech-making? Or, indeed, will there be some attempt by these various heads of government -- heads of state -- to come up with measures -- specific measures?
MR. BURNS: I think we don't know at this point, Barry. The summit has just been announced today by both Egypt and the United States. Obviously, we'll be working with the Egyptians, with the Russians -- our co-sponsor in the Middle East peace process -- and with others on the structure of this meeting, on the specific agenda.
But I wanted to note that as something that will be discussed. Because tangible and practical steps taken internationally to combat terrorism of course, is what this is all about. In addition to standing beside Israel, which this conference will do, and in addition to building support for the peace process, we want to encourage discussion among our
allies on how we can all band together to take effective measures against Hamas.
One thing we've been talking about in the last couple of days is continuing to choke off support -- financial support and political support -- for Hamas; from wherever that support comes: Inside the West Bank and Gaza, or beyond the West Bank and Gaza in the region.
Secretary Christopher said the other day that we were concerned about external support for Hamas, and we remain concerned. We'll be discussing that issue, of course, at the summit, but also in the run-up to the summit.
Q The three or four people he spoke to, including the Syrian Foreign Minister -- what? -- they all said they would be there?
MR. BURNS: What the Secretary did in those phone calls was to extend an invitation to each of their governments to participate in the peace process. It's not my business to announce --
Q To the conference?
MR. BURNS: Yes, in the conference. It's not my business to announce their acceptance. They'll have to do that on their own. I think the Russian Government has already said that President Yeltsin will be attending this. I know that President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl have said they will be there.
We are now going to await word from some of the governments in the region, specifically the Arab governments, as to whether or not they will attend.
Q In his conversation with the Syrian Foreign Minister, did the Secretary ask for a public expression of opposition to terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I didn't have that detailed a conversation with the Secretary on what was said back and forth. But I can tell you, Barry, that since the bombings we have called upon Syria, as well as all other Arab nations, to publicly condemn the suicide terrorism of Hamas.
I think it was quite important that the Crown Prince of Bahrain this morning made a public, very clear and strong public statement of condemnation of the suicide terrorism of Hamas. That was important. We'd like to see that from other countries in the Arab world.
The Jordanian Government, the King and the Prime Minister have made strong statements. The Tunisian Government has made strong statements; the Egyptian Government. We'd like other Arab countries to do likewise.
Q What commitments have you gotten from Arab Governments about attending the conference?
MR. BURNS: As I said in response to Barry's question, I'm not going to become the spokesperson for all the Arab countries today. We're just going to have to wait and see what decisions they make.
We are confident that a number of Arab governments will be represented. Of course, you know that President Mubarak will be there. Chairman Arafat will be there. King Hussein has said that he will attend. We'd very much would like to see representation from other Arab countries. That was, in part, the purpose of the Secretary's phone calls this morning. He'll be making other calls.
Our Ambassadors in all of these Arab countries will be working with the governments over the next day or two to see if we can attract their involvement. But it's going to have to be up to them to announce the decisions that they make.
Q Nick, if Syria doesn't show up, how should that be read? And how will it affect the peace process?
MR. BURNS: Carol, it's a hypothetical question that perhaps we'll have to deal with; perhaps we won't have to deal with early next week.
Syria has said privately to the United States and also publicly that it has made a decision to move towards peace with Israel. That was one of the foundations of our stewardship of the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. We take that statement seriously. It is always good to see actions that buttress statements, and we're looking for those actions in a number of respects.
Q Conversely, if they do not show up, don't you think that that belies whatever rhetorical representations they may have made to you and others?
MR. BURNS: We're not in that situation yet. The Secretary has extended an invitation to the Syrian Government. I'm sure the Egyptian Government has done the same to the Syrians.
The Syrians now have to consider whether or not they will participate. I don't want to anticipate a negative response. I would rather let the Syrians decide what they want to do and then we'll react to whatever decision they made.
Q Will the United States be drawing any conclusions about nations -- specifically Arab nations -- that do not come to the conference regarding their support for the fight against terrorism?
MR. BURNS: Our view is that every country in the Middle East has a stake in fighting terrorism; that the fight against terrorism is not Israel's alone. It's Israel's with the Arab countries.
I would rather answer in a positive light, Sid. I think it's been very good to see Jordan and Egypt and Tunisia and Bahrain now condemn the terrorism. We'd like to see further statements.
Since I don't know who is coming and who is not coming, it's very difficult to give you a better answer than that.
Q What assurance can you give President Assad or his government that if the Syrians show up at this conference they won't be put under a harsh, negative spotlight for hosting terrorist organizations in Damascus?
MR. BURNS: Mark, I don't believe the invitation this morning was couched in those terms. I think the invitation was, there's a very important conference that's going to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh; you ought to be there. We think your participation is important. It's that kind of thing.
Maybe your question is more towards how the press is going to frame this issue. But certainly that's not how we in governments would frame the issue.
Q Isn't it inevitable that if Assad or Shara comes to Cairo, they will be put in a very uncomfortable spot?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it's inevitable. We normally have a discussion with the Syrians on a great variety of issues -- peace process, our bilateral, economic and political relationship. Syria is on the terrorism list. It remains on the terrorism list. We often talk to Syria about Syria's support for terrorism, and it is a concern of ours.
I think, though, that there's a larger issue here, Mark, and that is Syrian participation would strengthen the international effort to isolate Hamas and to condemn Hamas for its brutal tactics.
Q Nick, a quick clarification, please, if I may. Does the Secretary not -- did they not respond to the invitation on the phone, or are you not putting yourself in the position of giving their response?
MR. BURNS: I think both, Barry. In some cases, I think they may have indicated their response --
Q (Inaudible) going to be there.
MR. BURNS: That's right. And in other cases I think they said, "Well, we'll get back to you." But since these are diplomatic discussions and since I can't represent these governments from this podium, I'd rather leave the public discussion to them.
Q Well, there are four countries involved.
MR. BURNS: Four countries plus the Palestinian Authority.
Q I'm sorry. Plus the Palestinian Authority.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q Well, we're pretty sure what four of the five will do, don't we?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary made five phone calls this morning. He'll be working throughout the day and the weekend with others by phone, but all of our Ambassadors are going to be working on this, too. So we're not just focusing our efforts, Barry, on four countries and the Palestinian Authority.
Q Doesn't this conference become, from the United States point of view, de facto support not only for Shimon Peres as leader of Israel but Shimon Peres as candidate for Prime Minister in the May elections, since without his victory there might not be much peace process to talk about at any rate?
MR. BURNS: I think the conference is meant to do many things. I listed three of the objectives as we see them. It's certainly meant to support the people of Israel who are living under the threat of suicide terrorism. I
think all of us have to understand that this issue of terrorism has to be dealt with and has to be discussed before we can expect the Israeli people to move on -- on the larger issues concerning the peace process.
We've been saying that for several days. I think it is a fact with which we have to work.
Q Following up on that, will the President or the Secretary --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Steve had a follow-up.
Q That doesn't answer the question. Isn't this U.S. support for the candidacy of Shimon Peres?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I think you know that all of our efforts this week are focused on helping the Israeli people deal with terrorism. That's why we shipped the seven bomb detection units that we did two days ago. That's why we agreed to host this conference.
I think rather than frame it in political terms, we want to focus on our obligations to the State of Israel and to the people of Israel, rather than think about it in political terms.
Q Will the President or the Secretary of State meet with Mr. Netanyahu while in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I just don't know, David. We haven't drawn up a full schedule yet. What we've done is schedule a summit in Sharm al-Sheikh on Wednesday. The Secretary, of course, will be going on to Jerusalem. He'll have some meetings there, but I don't believe he's yet decided with whom he'll be meeting.
Q Can you tell us roughly how many Israeli officials American diplomats -- I mean, senior officials -- have been in touch with in the few days? Peres. On the phone with Peres. The Secretary called Peres. The President called Peres.
MR. BURNS: Yes, that's right. There have been several conversations.
Q What I'm driving at, has anybody been in touch with the Likud leadership which, according to the latest polls, has a majority. If you're worried about the Israeli people, the Israeli people seem more favorably inclined toward the opposition, and I wondered if you were hedging your bets by having some contact with the people who may run Israel after May 29?
MR. BURNS: Quite a provocative question.
Q I just wondered.
MR. BURNS: And I'll try not to answer it in a provocative way. I'll try to just give you a straight answer. We have to deal in our relations with foreign countries and governments with one government at a time. We can't anticipate elections.
So we're dealing here with the duly constituted Government of Israel. The government is led by the Prime Minister. He's the person that we deal with day to day on state-to-state business. So it's no surprise then that the President and the Secretary have talked with Prime Minister Peres.
I know that they haven't talked with Mr. Netanyahu, but I can't exclude the possibility that Martin Indyk, our Ambassador to Israel, has had conversations with Likud officials. In fact, I'd be surprised if he hadn't in the normal course of his duties.
Q (Inaudible) discuss Moscow, I think the only person you've ruled out of bounds among leaders is Zhirinovsky.
MR. BURNS: We certainly have.
Q And when the Secretary goes to Moscow, unless you've changed the plan, he'll be meeting with a wide range of officials. That originally was the idea.
MR. BURNS: I expect that the Secretary will be seeing people outside the government.
Q Right. Some of them --
MR. BURNS: In the case of Israel, Barry, as you know --
Q Some of them with rather strange records.
MR. BURNS: You and I were together in Israel just a couple of weeks back or a month back on the Secretary's last trip, and the Secretary offered to see Mr. Netanyahu, but because of their mutual schedules, they couldn't work it out.
Q That was the one and only time in 17 trips, I believe.
MR. BURNS: No, that's not true. Last March the Secretary saw Mr. Netanyahu; had a good meeting with him. Of course, our Ambassador maintains contacts throughout the Israeli political spectrum. So I can assure you that the United States is paying attention to all parts of the political spectrum. But on a government-to-government basis, you can't expect us to negotiate summits with people who are not part of the government. You have to work with the government.
Q Before we leave the Middle East, in his talks this morning with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, did the Secretary expect to bring up the Human Rights Report issued by the State Department on Wednesday, which had some rather harsh things to say about Bahrain?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that issue came up, Jim. That issue has come up numerous times in our relationship with Bahrain through Ambassador David Ransom and others. But this morning I think the concentration was on the focal issue these days in the Middle East, which is the brutal terrorism of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and what we can all do to stop it.
Q Bahrain has some civil problems of its own. What is the U.S. view of that? Did it come up? Does Hamas have a role in the unrest in Bahrain?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that Hamas is connected in any way to the disturbances -- the civil disturbances of the past couple of months in Bahrain. We have a good relationship with Bahrain. It's been a good a friend of the United States.
As you know, U.S. Naval assets are positioned in Bahrain, and we've worked well with the Bahraini Government.
Q Just to follow up, you called them "civil disturbances." You see no outside hand in these disturbances?
MR. BURNS: You asked me about Hamas, Sid, and I answered a specific question. Hamas is just one terrorist group of many in the Middle East. I can't exclude the possibility that there are outside influences on the people within Bahrain who are causing some of the disturbances there.
I can't name them for you, but I can't exclude it. But what I'm saying in answer to your specific question is
that I don't believe there's any connection to Hamas. At least of which I am aware.
Q Can we have a filing break, please?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The wires have called for a filing break. Duly noted.
Q Can you discuss the substance of last night's meeting and dinner the Secretary had with the visiting Chinese delegate?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to disappoint you a little bit. I think we've made a decision here that with all the spotlight of attention on the U.S.-China relationship, we're going to let Mr. Liu's visit be conducted mainly in private.
As you know, the Secretary spent over two hours with him last night in a meeting and at dinner up on the 8th Floor here. He is meeting with Mr. Lake today. He will be meeting with other U.S. Government officials.
He's an important person, and we've taken the opportunity yesterday and today to raise with him a wide range of issues pertaining to our economic relationship, pertaining to security issues, and pertaining to the problems on Taiwan.
I can tell you that during the discussions last evening, there was a very long conversation about the missile test that China is conducting, we think irresponsibly and recklessly, in the Straits of Taiwan -- a vigorous discussion of that issue.
But what I don't want to do, Charlie, with all due respect, is to go into the details of that. We'd rather keep that private.
Q Has there -- to follow up -- come out of talks already or is it on the plans at all for any senior administration official to visit China in the coming --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any plans of any senior person to visit China. I can tell you, however, that we've made a decision as a result of our belief in the policy of engagement with China -- we can't isolate China; we've got to engage China, talk to China -- that we're going to be conducting many high-level discussions.
The Chinese Defense Minister will be here next month to meet Secretary Perry. I know Secretary Christopher would like to have a discussion at some point in the near future with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, and we'll keep up a regular series of discussions to try to work through and resolve the problems that we have.
I think we're aided in this by the arrival of Ambassador Jim Sasser in Beijing. He has made a difference. He has been received, by the way, at a very high level, with great respect. He's seen President Jiang Zemin. He has seen Li Peng. He's seen the Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian and many others, and we're very pleased about that, and we hope that trend continues; that Ambassador Sasser will continue to have access to the highest level officials in Beijing.
Q Nick, is there a disagreement perhaps or a difference of emphasis at a minimum between the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Secretary of State over the issue of whether or not cruise missile technology has been sold by the Chinese to Iran, and, if so, what to do about it? You saw what Mr. Holum said.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I did.
Q It sounded on the same day as if you disagreed with him.
MR. BURNS: I think I'd like to separate this into two issues, David, and I've gone back and tried to get some more detail on this for you. I think there's no question that there has been a transfer of anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran. Mr. Holum spoke to that yesterday.
Sid asked me a question on that yesterday, and I wanted to get back to you on that. I think there's no question about that.
But, secondly, I want to be very clear about one thing. The United States has not made a determination that in this case sanctions under the Iran-Iraq Non-Proliferation Act or other sanctions are warranted.
That doesn't mean that it's not possible for us to make that determination in the future. It also does not mean that we're going to make the determination -- or not. We're going to have to consider the facts, conduct conversations with the Chinese that have been ongoing for a month or two, and draw our own conclusions, understanding
that we have to be accountable under United States law and follow the dictates of United States law.
So I just wanted to be clear about that, because there was an inference in some of the reports yesterday that the United States was somehow on the verge of making this decision, and that's not the case.
Q Holum never said that.
MR. BURNS: I'm just talking about the press reports. I didn't say what Holum said.
Q Nick, what does the law, as you interpret it -- how much leeway do you have if a cruise missile sale has in fact occurred?
MR. BURNS: David, what we've got to do in this case -- and this holds true for the ring magnets case with Pakistan, between China and Pakistan -- we've got to look at the facts. We've got to conduct discussions with the governments involved, and we've got to determine objectively whether or not the technology transfer is sanctionable; whether or not the transfer is prohibited under United States law or international law. It depends on the issue that you're talking about, and you've got to have your facts straight. You can't do that on rumor. You can't do that based on press reports. You've got to do it based on objective analysis.
Q Follow on that subject. Jeff Smith had a story today about chemical activity in Iran and China. What do you know about that? What can you say about it?
MR. BURNS: What I can say about that -- I noticed that very interesting report and read it. We take very seriously all reports of possible transfers to Iran of technology related to weapons of mass destruction, but specifically in this case to chemical weapons.
We believe that Iran is engaged in an effort to create an arsenal of weapons which include chemical weapons, and we are actively engaged at all levels -- internationally and diplomatically -- to try to stem the flow of this type of technology to Iran.
I think you know our basic view about the Government of Iran and its intentions, and we don't believe it can be trusted with this type of technology, so we're looking into this.
Q Are you trying to suggest that Jeff Smith's article was the first you had seen of that?
MR. BURNS: No. I just said I find it interesting and I read it. That's all I suggested, and I spoke about how we're approaching this issue. We're looking into these reports as well.
Q And what can you say about China's role in all of this?
MR. BURNS: I can only tell you, Carol, that we're going to continue to look at the facts, and we have to establish objective facts and then determine whether or not sanctions are merited.
Q Nick, does this government see the cruise missile technology, the chemical weapons technology, the nuclear development that China is supporting for Iran as potentially useful or dangerous to Israel and other places in the Middle East as terroristic weapons, and have you so informed the Chinese that they'd be supporting terror through these programs?
MR. BURNS: One of the messages that we've delivered to China but also to Russia in terms of the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran is that not only would Israel be a possible and potential victim of Iranian terrorism, but also others in the region like Russia and allies of Russia and China in the region -- friends of theirs.
This is not an issue that concerns only Israel. It concerns everyone -- every country that inhabits the Middle East and even regions beyond the Middle East. We believe that Iran is an outlaw state that can't be trusted with this type of technology.
We believe that Iran wants to develop capabilities that would essentially amount to a flagrant violation of international law. We have stood up and taken very strong measures to try to isolate Iran. We'd like to have more support from our European friends who believe that somehow talking to Iran -- having talk sessions, diplomatic dialogue -- is going to convince the Iranians not to be bad guys, when the fact is that the Iranians, we believe, are impervious to any kind of dialogue with our friends in Europe.
So we'd like to ask our friends in Europe to join us in the effort to isolate Iran and to prevent this type of technology from reaching Iran.
Q Has China been engaged on these issues here yesterday or today?
MR. BURNS: These issues have regularly come up in our discussions with the Chinese leadership.
Q Nick, in light of the Hamas incidents, are you getting any sense that you're having more -- your arguments about Iran are any more compelling to the Europeans?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Europeans. But I would say that if you look at the trail of evidence that we believe links Iran with these events -- despite the protestations from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which we heard very clearly yesterday but don't accept -- we believe that is rather convincing. Secretary Christopher said that to you a couple of days ago.
Q I know, but are the --
MR. BURNS: Is it convincing to our allies? That's the --
Q Are the allies saying, "Okay, we're finally convinced, and we've got to do something"?
MR. BURNS: Our message to the allies is this: We understand you've decided to take a different tack -- a different tactical approach with the Iranians, but where has it gotten you. Do you see any difference in Iranian behavior? Has Iran stopped supporting the terrorist groups in the Middle East? No.
Is Iran supporting Hamas? Yes. Can you countenance that? We think not. That's the pattern of our dialogue with our European partners.
Q You can put the same argument exactly 180 degrees around. The United States has adopted a policy of isolation, and what impact have you seen from that?
MR. BURNS: The impact is that every time the United States sees any evidence that illicit material is being shipped to Iran, we talk about it privately to countries concerned, and we talk about it publicly. The United States has done the right thing here -- and I would say you have to give President Clinton his due -- I would say courageously taken steps to cut off American economic activity with Iran.
There is a hit there to American companies. American companies are disadvantaged because of the steps that we've taken, but we think that the greater good is being served. We don't want to see Iran achieve a capability to become a nuclear power or a power that has chemical or biological weapons.
So I would prefer, Jim, to see us in a leadership role here. I think we're going to be vindicated, the more information like this comes out, and we hope that our European allies will come around to our point of view.
Q On the specific issue of the material which might be used for chemical weapons, do you know what it is? Do they describe it as a medicine factory or an aspirin factory like the Libyans did?
MR. BURNS: We have a lot of information. Some of that information is derived from sources about which I cannot speak in public, as you know.
Q Different subject.
Q Finish up China very quickly. The meeting last night. Perry at an earlier photo op said that a clear message had been sent. Is that your understanding of what happened there last night?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. I think there's no way that the Chinese leadership could not have understood the clarity of the message sent by Secretary Christopher, Secretary Perry and Tony Lake last evening.
Q Were there any consequences discussed?
MR. BURNS: I mean, we've said all along -- and I think Secretary Perry spoke to this this morning -- that we believe that these missile tests are irresponsible because we don't believe that China can predict with any degree of certainty the accuracy of these missiles.
As Secretary Perry said this morning, if the missiles explode before they hit their targets, then parts of those missiles could hit innocent people or commercial vessels or naval vessels. The Taiwan Straits is a very busy area, and we think, therefore, it's reckless and provocative to conduct such tests in such a busy area.
We've advised the Chinese that they ought not to proceed, but they have proceeded, and therefore we've had these very stiff and clear conversations with them.
Q Are you saying that there's a serious danger to shipping in the Taiwan Straits?
MR. BURNS: I think the shippers have said, as we've seen -- most of the commercial shippers have said they're going to continue to transit the Straits of Taiwan. We said
several times this week that these are international waters. There is a right of innocent passage to maritime traffic and to naval traffic, and we will continue to exercise, as we must, our right to transit these waters.
One of the reasons, Mark, we've been concerned about the test is because we don't believe that China can with absolute accuracy predict exactly where these missiles are going to land, and that is dangerous.
We've also said that we don't believe there's any imminent threat of a military attack on Taiwan. What we'd like to see is for China and Taiwan to resolve their problems across the Straits of Taiwan peacefully but without these tactics of intimidation -- military exercises, missile test firings that are clearly designed to intimidate the people of Taiwan before the March 23 elections.
Q Didn't Secretary Perry say a couple of days ago in public testimony that he didn't see a danger to shipping?
MR. BURNS: I think Secretary Perry said this morning -- just check out his remarks this morning in public, when he met the Crown Prince of Bahrain. I think he very clearly said that one of the reasons why we're worried about these tests is because we can't be absolutely sure what the consequences of them will be.
Q Was there a discussion, therefore, of an increasing U.S. naval presence there to basically underline the fact that the U.S. considers that to be international waters, and that we have right of free passage?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Perry spoke to this issue this morning, I thought quite well and quite clearly, and he's responsible for America's naval presence in the Western Pacific and I'm not. So I'm going to leave it to Secretary Perry to be on the record on that today.
Q New subject, Nick?
MR. BURNS: Just one more, George.
Q When Assistant Secretary Holbrooke left here about two-and-a-half weeks ago, we were assured that passing the portfolio into the hands of Ambassador Gallucci would give the continuity and professional oversight needed to see through the civilian side of the implementation of the Dayton accords.
I'm just curious, now that he is leaving, is his portfolio going to be shifted among these three people you mentioned -- Secretary Kornblum and his two senior
assistants -- or is there going to be one person managing the whole portfolio?
MR. BURNS: When Dick Holbrooke left, the Secretary made a decision that Ambassador Gallucci would assume his responsibilities for the former Yugoslavia, for the implementation of the Dayton accords. But Ambassador Gallucci has been given, I think, what one would understand to be a once-in-a-lifetime offer to become Dean of one of the premier academic institutions in the United States, dealing with foreign policy.
He's decided to accept that offer. Of course, the Secretary has accepted his resignation with great regret because he's a very distinguished public servant, and the Secretary has now made a decision that Ambassador Kornblum will effectively lead United States efforts, not only in all countries in Europe but specifically pertaining to the implementation of the Dayton accords. He'll be assisted by Ambassador Montgomery and by Rudy Perina. That's the decision the Secretary has made, and that's why I wanted to lay it out in some detail for you today so there's no misunderstanding about it.
Q Nick, can I ask about the Klinghofer case? The Italian rationale for releasing the Palestinian is that all inmates are granted leaves from prison after a certain amount of time behind bars. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: I think that logic will not be understood by the American people, and it will not be understood by the family of Leon Klinghofer. I think it's important, George, to review the basic facts; that in October 1985, a 69-year-old man in a wheelchair was assassinated by a terrorist. His body was dumped overboard.
As a result of that, the terrorist was convicted of murder and incarcerated, and inexplicably, I think, to the American people, he was let go on a 12-day pass, and he did what you'd expect him to do. He's now a fugitive from justice.
We've got a lot of questions about this affair. We are working very closely with the Italian Government. Ambassador Bartholomew was in to see Prime Minister Dini and in to see the Foreign Minister. We expect that the Italian Government will launch a nationwide manhunt for this murderer. We expect that the Italian Government will do everything it can to bring him to justice.
In Italy, as in the United States, it is sometimes true -- and in this case true -- that local magistrates and
local judicial authorities establish the terms of imprisonment, and I believe the decision to release this murderer was made by local magistrates.
I frankly cannot understand why that decision was made. It was the wrong decision, and those people are now responsible for helping to bring this guy back to justice. This is a bottom-line issue, I think, for the American people, and the Italian Government has to understand that.
So far, we've been hearing the right things from the Italian Government. We want to see that cooperation continue.
Q Nick, can I follow up on that? Given the nature of this case, is the United States prepared to offer a reward for the arrest and capture of this guy?
MR. BURNS: That is an option that's under serious consideration. This man is a terrorist and, as you know, Carol, in many cases in the past couple of years we've offered very substantial rewards for people who can give us information leading to the arrest of that person.
That decision has not yet been made. It's under discussion in the Administration and with the Italian Government. I don't have anything to announce today, but it's one of the options that we could pursue, should the efforts to find this person fail.
Q What's holding up this decision? Why not just proceed?
MR. BURNS: First of all, we've tried to establish the basis -- the facts, in this case. When did he abscond from justice? Where do we think he is? We've tried to work with the Italian law enforcement authorities as well as with the Italian Government and the local authorities. We are discussing with them a number of ways that would enhance our ability to capture this man. He is a terrorist. He's not just a criminal; he's a terrorist. He is guilty of one of the most dramatically tragic crimes of the 1980s. Everybody, I'm sure, in this room remembers that.
Q Because time is of the utmost in a case like this, it would seem to me that if you are going to have a reward, you would announce it immediately and move forward.
MR. BURNS: We are in the early days on this. We've been working on this just for a couple of days now. I think it will give us a chance to sort through all the options. But I can assure you we're determined to bring this man to justice.
Q Are you still convinced that he is in Italy?
MR. BURNS: We have no way of knowing if he's in Italy or not; no way of knowing. I've seen some of the background comments by unnamed Italian Government officials, some of whom believe he may not be Italy; some of whom seem not to understand the depth of emotion in the United States about this issue.
I think it's better to see the comments of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Italy who seem much more understanding than some of these people in the Italian Government who speak on background.
Q Have you issued any kind of alert to try and find him in countries other than Italy?
MR. BURNS: Has the Italian Government done so?
Q Has the United States?
MR. BURNS: The United States is working with all the relevant police and law enforcement authorities in Italy and in the countries around Italy to try to apprehend him.
Q Nick, you say this is a bottom-line issue for the American people. Is it also a bottom-line issue for the Clinton Administration in its relations with Italy?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I said what I said. It's a bottom-line issue for the American people because the American people want murderers to be brought to justice. I'm sure the Italian people share that sentiment.
We have a good relationship with the Government of Italy. Italy is a NATO ally. Italy, from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on down -- the Government in Rome has been very constructive in its dealings with us. But I wanted to register for you the outrage that many Americans feel about the decision by these local magistrates to let this guy go.
Q As you did with the Farrakhan case, you're not talking about the government, but you're talking about individual Americans such as yourself. Can you tell us what the U.S. Administration --
MR. BURNS: I'm speaking for the U.S. Administration, Sid.
Q So it's a bottom-line issue for the U.S. Administration in its relationship --
MR. BURNS: Sid, don't put words in my mouth. Don't put words in my mouth. I said a variety of things about this and I've tried to make several points about it.
Isn't it obvious to you that this --
Q No --
MR. BURNS: Wait a minute. Can I finish my statement? Isn't it obvious to you that this would be a bottom-line issue for any American who is thinking about it?
I want to tell you it's a very important issue for the American Government, and we have transmitted that message to the Italians.
Q It's not a --
MR. BURNS: Why are we quibbling about words? I think you know what we're trying to say here.
Q You called for a nationwide manhunt in Italy for this man. Does that mean there isn't a nationwide manhunt for this man going on?
MR. BURNS: That's we've asked the Italian Government to do. The Italian Government has said it will do so. That's what we continue to call for.
We don't know whether he is still in Italy. If we have evidence that he's left Italy, we're obviously going to have to pursue our search beyond the borders of Italy.
Q What have you heard from the Italian Government in terms of what they are doing?
MR. BURNS: We've heard many things. Obviously, because I don't want to compromise the chance to capture this individual, I'm not going to tell you everything that we've heard. But we've obviously been in very close touch on a political level and a law enforcement level.
Yes, George. We'll come back to you, Mr. Lambros.
Q The International Chess Federation says there's a prominent American chess player who cannot participate in a tournament in Iraq this summer. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: We saw the announcement by the International Chess Federation that it somehow has decided to hold the championships in Baghdad. This is a curious decision, in two respects.
The first is that the Government of Iraq is going to have to shell out a lot of money to host this tournament, including, we think, part of the prize money. The Government of Iraq has been up in New York at the United Nations complaining that it doesn't have enough money to feed its people because of the international economic embargo on Iraq.
It tells you something about Saddam Hussein's priorities; that instead of feeding people, he's going to host a bunch of chess grandmasters.
It also tells you something about the International Chess Federation. I don't know why they chose Baghdad as the place for this tournament when they could have chosen any number of good cities in the Middle East or anywhere in the world.
We think Iraq ought to be isolated, and we don't think that anybody should give Saddam Hussein a platform where he can try to resuscitate his image which is really at the bottom, isn't it? So we think Iraq ought to be isolated.
I can't just tell you what decisions we're going to make if American citizens want to travel to Iraq to play chess.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
Q According to Athens News Agency, the Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Panglos is reported to have said that if Turkey repositioned its Fourth Army Corps on the Aegean coast, Greece could demilitarize the islands.
Could you comment, since the U.S. Government is aware better than anybody else that this specific Turkish army is threatening the territorial integrity of Greece over the islands in the mainland?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I'm just going to use my stock answer here, and that is, we would call upon Greece and Turkey to resolve their problems peacefully. I'm not aware of this specific incident that you've raised this morning. But I think you know our position on issues to pertaining to Greece and Turkey.
Q The President of the Republic of Greece, Mr. Kostandinos Stephanopoulos, stated yesterday regarding your suggestion: "We should state internationally that we are prepared to go to the International Court of Justice if Turkey agrees." May we have your comment?
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that the International Court of Justice is a good place for Turkey and Greece to try to resolve the dispute over Imia and Kardak peacefully. If Turkey and Greece would like us to participate, we'll be glad to. If they'd like to participate by themselves, that's okay with us, too. That's a very positive statement.
Q There's (inaudible) State Department officials dated February 20, 1996, Turkish defense (inaudible) General Cetinkaya claims, inter alia, "The extension of the Greek territorial (inaudible) cannot be just considered within the scope of internationally recognized navigational rights and freedoms." I'm wondering, what is your reply since this Turkish official disregards totally the existing law of the Law of the Sea of December 1982?
MR. BURNS: I can't improve on the 85 times we've commented upon this issue in the last month or two. I just can't improve on it. You know our position here. We're not going to take the side of Greece or Turkey against the other. We're going to be a good friend of both countries. We're going to try to be an effective mediator.
Q My last one. Since last Wednesday, the Greek parliamentarian, Mr. Christos Rokofilos, a very close friend to the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, was in Washington. According to reliable sources, he was on a mission on behalf of the Prime Minister and actually, and as I was told, (inaudible).
Since he met with officials from the Department of State and with counsel at the White House, may we have the names of the officials and the results of his talks?
MR. BURNS: Probably not. (Laughter) With all due respect, Mr. Lambros --
MR. BURNS: -- because I respect you. Because we have to have diplomacy that's not carried out in the glare of these lights here. We have to have some diplomacy that's carried in private. I can't even confirm for you that this gentleman came to the United States. I have no idea if he did not, but I can't give names.
Q The State operations bill, are you happy with it?
MR. BURNS: No, we're not happy with it. The Secretary has looked at the State authorization bill. The Secretary is prepared to recommend to the President that the President veto this bill because of the insufficient funding that the Congress would give the Administration to conduct the foreign affairs of a superpower.
Secondly, because of some objectionable additions on foreign policy issues pertaining to Tibet, pertaining to the Taiwan Relations Act, and other issues.
And, thirdly, because we don't believe the consolidation ought to be forced. We believe that the President's prerogatives, in terms of constitutional prerogatives, have to be respected.
We've made all of these points clear to the Congress. I anticipate now that we're going to have many, many conversations with the Congress in the lead-up as this bill works its way through the committees in Congress. But we have determined that there are objectionable portions to this bill which would require at least the recommendation of a Presidential veto.
I think we have one more back here.
Q On the Helms-Burton law that was approved this week and that the President probably will sign next week, there is a lot of resistance and disapproval of this law overseas.
The State Department officer who testified this week said that there was very much opposition. Have you received more protests about this thing? Are you dealing with the European Government about this?
MR. BURNS: We've received many expressions of concern from many friends and allies around the world. We believe, as the President said yesterday, that this bill meets our international obligations, and we'll continue to have discussions with our friends about our obvious point of difference here.
Q Just one more. Mr. Yeltsin doesn't seem to know what the true situation is. He's got some kind of reconciliation plan. Do you have any comments on this new combat in Grozny?
MR. BURNS: Only to say that it's been tragic to see how many people have been killed. We hope very much that the Russians and Chechens can reach some kind of political settlement.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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