U.S. Department of State 96/05/23 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, May 23, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Town Meeting in Dallas, Texas on May 30 ................. 1 Fact Sheet on UNSC Resolution 986 (Iraq) Released ....... 1-2 Secretary's Congressional Testimony Postponed ........... 2 Secretary Briefed by A/S Moose on Zaire, Burundi, ....... 2 Rwanda, Liberia and Central African Republic (CAR) Secretary Visits CAR Monitoring Group in Ops Center ..... 2, 17 CHINA Arms-Smuggling in U.S. Exposed .......................... 2-3 --Effects on U.S. Relations/PRC Govt Involvement ........ 3, 4-6 --Possible Sanctions .................................... 4 Three Gorges Project .................................... 21 RUSSIA ForMin Primakov Visit to Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela ..... 6 Relations with Cuba/U.S. Opinion of Relations ........... 6-7 CUBA DOS Letter to Canadians/Mexicans re: Helms-Burton ....... 6-7 Implementation Requirements for Helms-Burton ............ 7, 8 DOS Meetings w/Canada, Mexico, EU re: Helms-Burton ...... 8-9 Secondary Boycott and Extraterritorial Issues ........... 9-10 SAUDI ARABIA Future of King Fahd/Stepping Down From Power ............ 10-11 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Whereabouts of Ratko Mladic/Detention in Belgrade ....... 11 A/S Kornblum Meetings w/Milosevic, Tudjman, Izetbegovic . 12-13 Karadzic - Arrest of Mladic Could Endanger IFOR Troops .. 13 Amb Montgomery and Amb Menzies in Banja Luka ............ 13-14 Bosnian Gov't - Participation in Elections .............. 14-15 NORTH KOREA Defection of Pilot/Effect on Four-Way Talks ............. 15-16 Food Aid (Famine) ....................................... 16-17 IRAQ Lifting Sanctions ....................................... 16 CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC Safety of Americans (PCVs, Missionaries) ................ 17 Evacuation of Americans/Resucing Those in the Countryside 17-19 Contribution to French Efforts to End the Fighting ...... 17 ZAIRE/BURUNDI A/S Moose Meetings with PM Kengo and President Mobutu ... 19 GREECE Fake Document of Conversation: Clinton and PM Simitis ... 19-20 CYPRUS Joining EU/U.S. Suppports EU Membership ................. 20-21 BURMA U.S. Conversations with Neighbors/Asia Should Condemn/... 21-26 Commercial Investment/McConnell-Moynihan Legislation/ Sanctions/Travel Restrictions PEACE PROCESS Monitoring Group Meeting/Face-to-Face Meeting ........... 24-25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, MAY 23, 1996, 1:29 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing.
I want to let you know that our next State Department Town Meeting, the eighth in our series of 22 Town Meetings, will be held next Thursday, May 30, in Dallas, Texas. The speakers include Under Secretary of State Dick Moose; our Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs Al Larson; our Senior Advisor to Winston Lord, Mr. Yun, who will talk about Asia issues; and our very own Glyn Davies, who will actually travel to Dallas to open this meeting.
These Town Meetings are designed to have those of us in the State Department talk around the country about foreign policy issues with American citizens. We found the first seven meetings to be very effective and very successful from our point of view, and we'll continue them this year. We have 22 this year, and we'll continue them in l997.
Secondly, after many requests yesterday, I've decided to publish a Fact Sheet on U.N. Security Council Resolution 986. This is the agreement that allows Iraq to export a limited amount of oil. The proceeds, of course, as you know, go for humanitarian purposes. So following the briefing today, this one-page Fact Sheet will be available. What it does is outline the percentage of funds -- in fact, the dollar amount of funds -- that will go to each of the recipients, according to the United Nations. It also outlines in a general way the steps that need to be taken to initiate the first oil sales.
I would just make a couple of points that I made, I think ON BACKGROUND, to some of you yesterday after the briefing. Let me just put them ON THE RECORD.
The resolution, from our point of view, as Ambassador Albright has said consistently, is a good resolution for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Iraqi people will benefit from this resolution. Secondly, Saddam Hussein will not.
This resolution makes clear that Saddam Hussein will neither control nor have access to any of the financial proceeds; but certainly the Iraqis, who live in the three governments north of the 36th parallel -- mainly the Kurds; they're Iraqi citizens -- they will benefit. The Shi'a population in the south will benefit. The victims of Iraq in Kuwait will benefit; and Iraq will pay for the cost of the inspections -- the United Nations inspections -- over the past couple of years because it's been cheating on its commitments to the United Nations.
Roughly, one-third of the proceeds -- the $2 billion every six months -- will go to covering the costs of the United Nations and other administrative costs of running this program; and roughly two-thirds will compensate Iraqi citizens, including the Kurds, who are Iraqi citizens.
So I'm making this available. If you have any further questions on that, I'll be glad to answer them.
As for the Secretary of State, as you know, he was supposed to have testified this morning before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That testimony was postponed at the request of the Committee last evening, so he's been in the building.
One of the things he did this morning was to have a briefing by Assistant Secretary George Moose, who's just back from Zaire, about the situation in Zaire, Burundi, Rwanda, the situation in Liberia, and also the situation in the Central African Republic. The Secretary has been concerned about the situation in Bangui in the Central African Republic. So after the briefing the Secretary and George Moose visited our Monitoring Group, which is located up in the Seventh Floor next to the Operations Center. The Secretary talked to the people who are running that group. He's particularly concerned about the safety of our American Peace Corps volunteers. We have, I think, 85 American Peace Corps volunteers in the country.
The violence in Bangui has begun to spread out of the capital city and into the countryside, where most of our Peace Corps volunteers are located. The Secretary did receive a full briefing on the status of those Peace Corps volunteers and the situation in general. He is concerned about it, and I can go into that in more detail if that interests you.
Q Do you have anything to say about the arms-smuggling case exposed this morning in the newspapers? Have you had any contact with the Chinese Government on this? Do you expect this will in some way undermine relations, etc.?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that, obviously, this is a law-enforcement case. The law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. Government had responsibility for this. The Department of State was consulted and briefed about the case -- the operation, I should say -- at various stages, but we did not have a role in it.
As for the Chinese, because of the need for secrecy in the ongoing investigation of these people, we did not discuss this case, this operation, with the Chinese Government before the operation was initiated. Now that arrests have been made, we have contacted the Chinese Government today to inform them about the reasons for the operation. I think this is a law-enforcement case. I don't see why this needs to complicate U.S.-China relations at all. The fact is that there are American laws, and when those laws are broken, our Government has an obligation to enforce the law. China, I think, would need to understand that.
Q I'd like to follow that. The companies that had their representatives arrested, Norinco and Polytech, are state-controlled Chinese munitions companies. Is there any suspicion or indication at all that the Chinese Government could be complicitous in the smuggling of these weapons into the U.S.? Number one.
MR. BURNS: I just can't answer that question. Since this is a law-enforcement operation, as I said, we've just begun today to speak to the Chinese Government. I am aware of the allegation that two Chinese state companies were involved in these illicit activities, but since we've just begun our conversations with the Chinese I just can't answer that to your satisfaction.
Q And second, if I could say that, is there any indication that Justice has given the State Department as to whom these 2,000 weapons were bound and for what purpose they might be smuggled into this country?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, the U.S. Government has a very big interest in that question, but it is a law-enforcement matter. It is a judicial matter now. It will come before U.S. magistrates in our justice system here, and I know that the Deputy Attorney General had something to say about all this this morning -- Jaime Gorelick -- and I'd refer you to her comments.
Q Nick, are there any -- other than the law that applies, are there any sort of sanctions? Is there any sort of sanctions that might come into play because of this?
MR. BURNS: At this stage, Sid, I'm just not aware if that will come into play. As I said, this is a justice case in the United States, a law-enforcement case. Our primary concern, of course, was to stop the illegal activity that was ongoing. We have done that, and now the judicial system will kick in. Once we've had a series of discussions with the Chinese Government, perhaps we'll have more to say on some of these questions, but right now you'll understand why I can't say much.
Q But, I mean leaving aside whether sanctions will be considered or not, are there sanctions that might be applied to this case that you know of?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know --
MR. BURNS: -- the answer to that question.
Q How can you say this won't affect the U.S.-Chinese relationship when China's government-run companies are breaking Federal law, trying to sell weapons in the United States? I know you guys think things happen in China without the Central Government telling about it.
MR. BURNS: I was just, perhaps, inferring something from George's question -- whether it's appropriate for me to do or not. I was answering from the other side.
There's no reason for me to think that there can be any objection coming from China on this because we're talking about U.S. law here, and an apparent flagrant violation of U.S. law on an issue that concerns all Americans -- the importation of automatic weapons into this country.
That is now a judicial case, and I think that we should see this and the Chinese Government should see this as a judicial case -- a law-enforcement case -- in the United States.
We are going to have some conversations with the Chinese Government, as I said, today -- we are having them -- to apprise them of the facts of the situation, and we'll just have to take it from there.
Q But, Nick, this is not the first time.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. I'll go back to you.
Q This is not the first time that this has happened. This happened again; this happened before -- in the late eighties, I believe it was -- where the Chinese again were arrested in this kind of a sting operation where they were trying to bring guns illegally into this country. Surely, there must be something we're going to say more than just apprising them of what the laws of this country are. They know what the laws of this country are.
MR. BURNS: I haven't gone into our talking points with you -- our talking points with the Chinese -- for good reason. We're going to have the series of private conversations with them where, as I said, we apprise them of the facts; and if we do have concerns, then we'll apprise them of our concerns. I want to keep that out of the public spotlight for now. It's appropriate for us to have those private conversations.
In terms of what I can say today in this case -- I very clearly am circumscribed today by the fact that there has been an operation. There have been some arrests made. In our country, it's now a law-enforcement case.
If there are issues that emanate from this -- U.S.-China foreign policy issues -- I'm sure they'll emerge and we'll talk about them; but right now I can't talk about any of them.
Q At what level did you have the conversations with the Chinese? Was the Ambassador called in?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if the Ambassador was called in, but I think we're having conversations in both Washington and Beijing.
Q Can you find out if the Ambassador --
MR. BURNS: I'll certainly be glad to look into that, yes.
Still on China? Yes.
Q You said that you had the conversations with the Chinese. What was the initial reaction of the Chinese when you brought this to their attention?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any report from our China Desk on the conversations, so I can't characterize their reaction for you.
Sid, did you have a follow-up? I didn't want to now cut you off. Okay. Still on China?
Q On Cuba?
MR. BURNS: Cuba.
Q Does the State Department have any observations to make about the visit to Cuba by the Russian Foreign Minister and some of the statements he has made about their alliance -- continuing alliance?
MR. BURNS: I know that Foreign Minister Primakov is in a tour of a couple of countries. Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela, I think, are the three.
I have not seen any of his comments from Cuba. I know that the Russian-Cuban relationship has fundamentally changed since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in l99l. In fact, it began to change before that. It began to change in the late l980s.
You know that the Russians have ceased many years ago the large percentage of their economic support for the Cuban Government, although there are some activities underway that remain, including some activities concerning the Juragua nuclear power plant. Of course, we're very much opposed to the completion of that power plant for a variety of reasons.
Since I haven't seen Mr. Primakov's statements, there's not much more I can say.
Q Well, let me try paraphrasing him. Bouncing a couple of them off you, and see how much, what you think.
Basically, Primakov was quoted as saying that Cuba remains an important country in Russian relations and that it is important partly because of the trade relationship, which he suggested should prosper. Does that strike you as, you know, provocative or helpful to American foreign policy?
MR. BURNS: It does not strike me as necessarily provocative. I think I'll choose not to be provoked. Except to say -- except to say -- to be fair to you, Jim, that our position is so well known. I think you'd all be sick if I tried to give it to you in anymore than a sentence or two. But we think that Castro and his regime should be isolated by the international community -- isolated. We don't think that there should be an engagement or an increase in the engagement between Europe and Cuba.
Q It seems that -- you said "fundamental change;" yes, but now, with Primakov, it seems to be a change of the change. There is some concern around?
MR. BURNS: I'm not willing to, I think, agree with the statement until I see what he said, and until we've talked to the Russians to see what they do. His actions in these cases are much more important than the words.
All I can tell you is, having been a student of this myself since the 1980s, there's been a dramatic shift in the ability of Russia to work with Cubans; a dramatic historic reduction in their economic activity, although some economic activities still occur.
If that situation is to be changed, I don't think we've been informed about it. So I want to forego any comments today until we have a chance obviously to talk to the Russians, look further at what has been said in public. I'm not going to overreact to this.
Q (Inaudible) Cuba. A report in the Miami Herald this morning mentioned that the State Department sent a letter to two Mexican enterprises -- businessmen -- and one Canadian. It's like a warning letter regarding the Helms-Burton law that the State Department is telling those guys that after the implementation of the bill, they have to be outside of the United States. There has been a lot of reactions in Mexico against this law. We want to confirm that the State Department sent letters to these Mexican and Canadian businessmen?
MR. BURNS: Thank you. I think I can confirm that we have not sent any such letters to Canadians, Mexicans, or anybody else outside the United States. I think that will probably happen in the near future, however.
Let me just explain. You know that when the President signed the Helms-Burton legislation into law, we promised -- we in the Department of State promised -- that we would do a study of how best to implement that law; particularly as it affects citizens of foreign countries and particularly as it affects executives of companies that do business in Cuba, and those executives, of course, who own assets that were nationalized from American citizens. Those executives are the ones in question.
I think that fairly shortly we will be publishing for you -- publicly -- a set of the implementing requirements for Helms-Burton. As part of that process, I would think that we would want to be in contact with some of the businessmen and women in question who will, unfortunately, no longer have access to U.S. visas and neither will their immediate family members, but specifically their minor children and spouses.
We're not ready to do that today. Once we're ready to do that, either Glyn or I will make a public announcement of it. We'll explain to you, probably in writing -- we'll probably issue you a Fact Sheet -- so that's it's pretty well known in Canada, in Mexico, in other countries where citizens have substantial economic investments in Cuba -- pretty well known what the procedures are going to be. We have an obligation to tell people how this law will be implemented.
Q That means the State Department is going to participate in the meeting next week with the Mexicans, Canadians, and the U.S. officials. The Secretary of Mexican Commerce announced yesterday there's going to be a meeting next week with officials from the Secretary of Commerce of the two countries. So the State Department is going to participate in that meeting?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure which meeting to which you're referring. But I can tell you --
Q It's the second meeting regarding the Helms-Burton law.
MR. BURNS: We have conducted over the last month a series of meetings with Mexico, Canada, and our European allies to explain Helms-Burton; to explain what we think will be the implementing guidelines. We've told all of them that we will be back to them with a specific set of guidelines that will explain how we intend to implement this legislation.
I know that Minister Axworthy of Canada, when he met with the Secretary and had lunch a little while back, asked for that explanation. I know that Minister Gurria of Mexico is interested in that explanation, and, of course, we'll give it to them. We'll also announce it publicly because there's a lot of interest, obviously, beyond our borders.
Q Back to the original question. You were asked about letters to two Mexican enterprises. You said you could confirm that it hadn't happened --
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q -- but that it probably will happen in the near future. Were you referring to these two companies, or --
MR. BURNS: No. I'm sorry. Not to those two companies. What I'm saying is, since I was briefed on this issue this morning by the lead official in charge of this issue, I know that we have not yet sent letters to any foreign business people who might be involved -- affected -- by this legislation. I also know that we will be doing that in the near future. The day that we do that, we'll make a public announcement and, again, issue a public statement.
Q What's in the near future?
MR. BURNS: It's a little hard to predict. It's a little hard to predict because we still have a couple of other people -- bases to cover here in Washington and, frankly, maybe in private, with some other foreign countries. We have not yet made a decision when the day will be. I do have a commitment -- we have a commitment -- of long-standing that we need to get this out in public as well as sent the letters in private.
Q Next week more so than tomorrow, though?
MR. BURNS: It's very difficult for me to guess right now. I don't want to mislead you by trying to indicate it's going to be a day or two or three or four or five.
Q Still on Cuba. The President made a reference in his news conference in Milwaukee about explaining to the Europeans how the implementation is going -- the United States Government is trying to implement it in such a way as not to arm relations with other countries. I presume that goes to the secondary boycott on the extraterritorial issue.
Can you give us any idea how the U.S. Government plans to get around that specific problem?
MR. BURNS: Jim, there's no hiding the fact that this is an extremely difficult issue. We know that there's great unhappiness in Canada, in Mexico, in many countries of Europe about this legislation.
The fact is, however, as the President just said, this is American law. We are bound by the Constitution to implement American law. We will do so. We will do so, we hope, in a way that maximizes the pressure on Castro and minimizes the effect on Canada, Mexico, and our European friends. That's the basic rule of thumb that we are following, and that's the intent of the legislation, by the way.
The intent of this legislation is to tighten the economic vice on Fidel Castro. The intent of the legislation -- the central intent -- is not to disadvantage our European friends, our Mexican friends. But the difficulty comes in the fact that part of this legislation does affect foreign business people whose companies own assets that were nationalized from American citizens before the Cuban revolution. That is an important point for a lot of Americans.
Q A different topic?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q What is the State Department's opinion of the future for King Fahd of Saudi Arabia? Have you been informed that the Crown Prince will be reassuming powers and that King Fahd will be going to Europe to recover more fully from his stroke?
MR. BURNS: We have not been informed of that. We have an excellent relationship with His Majesty King Fahd. We have a very close relationship. We are very pleased that he was able to return to his duties after his illness, and we work well with him.
Q So Binford Peay, the Commander of Central Command, in an On-the-Record interview with Janes, said that that was the government's opinion -- that was his opinion -- based on information from the Saudis that King Fahd would be leaving power; go to Europe to recover; that there's been a villa renovated for him in Italy or Spain; that advance staff is already there. You don't know about any of that?
MR. BURNS: I think you can rest assured that what you're hearing from me is authoritative, and that any statements pertaining to our relationship with Saudi Arabia will be made by the White House or the State Department -- statements of this nature concerning the status of a head of state.
The fact is that the United States and Saudi Arabia are close friends. We have a variety of relationships -- economic, political, military. They're important to both of us.
We are working well with King Fahd, and we'll continue to do so. We would not think about intruding on the political situation there or questions that are most appropriately dealt with internally there by making public statements here. I wouldn't think about it.
Q You're just sort of suggesting, then, that this guy's comments were sort of inappropriate; not that they were incorrect?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the comments, so I don't want to comment on whatever was said. All I'm saying is, this is an important -- Sid has raised a very important issue. I want to give you a very clear answer. I'm not going to be drawn into speculation about this particular topic because of our respect for the country and the leader in question, King Fahd.
I know nothing that would confirm, Sid, the question that you've raised. I will just leave my comments right there.
Q (Inaudible) Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Where is Ratko Mladic? Where in the world is Ratko Mladic?
MR. BURNS: There will be a new board game out for kids, "Where is Ratko Mladic?" I think in his lair, northeast of Pale, he's been holed up there since he was defeated.
MR. BURNS: Mladic, probably. He's been holed up, as you know, in a kind of bunker since he was defeated last autumn.
We saw some press reports from this newspaper in Belgrade earlier today, that perhaps he had been detained in Belgrade or arrested.
Unfortunately, those reports are not true. We wish they were true, because we think he should be arrested and detained and handed over to the War Crimes Tribunal. Through our best efforts in our Embassy in Belgrade, our Embassy in Sarajevo, checking around with a variety of sources, we have not been able to confirm this report. We don't know anyone who has been able to confirm the report that he has been arrested and detained. So our best guess is, he's returned to his hideout where he lives most of the time in his isolation. He does emerge from time, as you know, as he did over the weekend.
We would be delighted to be able to confirm to you that he has been arrested, but we can't do that at this point.
Q You don't know for sure that he's back there in Pale?
MR. BURNS: We don't have absolute a hundred percent certainty, no, but that's our suspicion. That is our suspicion. Again, we're going to continue to look into this and follow this story as you are.
Q There were a couple of news reports out of Belgrade that General Mladic was actually seen in the company of President Milosevic last night, and perhaps that's what set off this whole series of rumors, because the assumption being that President Milosevic was obligated to arrest an indicted war criminal; and, if the two were seen together, then perhaps that is what he was doing.
Since John Kornblum met with President Milosevic yesterday, can you give us any idea what kind of exchange took place on the subject of turning over the indicted war criminals?
MR. BURNS: Sure. I can tell you this, Laura. John Kornblum didn't meet with Mladic in Belgrade. If he did, he would have made a citizen's arrest, but unfortunately he wasn't -- and John could do that; John's a big guy, he could do that -- (laughter) -- but he wasn't able to do that.
We haven't seen Mladic, as you know. Kornblum -- John, I think, has spoken to the press in the various places that he visited in Sarajevo, Zagreb and Belgrade, but let me just reprise for you what he said and what I said yesterday.
He did have a four-hour meeting with President Milosevic. One of the primary issues that he raised was Serbian compliance with the Dayton Accord provisions pertaining to war criminals, and the point that he made was that Serbia has an obligation to arrest Mladic and Karadzic and to bring them to justice.
Serbia's failure to do that is a great disappointment to us, to Carl Bildt and to others around the world, and we will continue to judge Serbia based on this issue. I reminded you yesterday, as John Kornblum did as well in the field, that the outer wall of sanctions remain; the possibility of further sanctions is open to us. It's an option that we could have available to us.
John also went to Croatia; met with President Tudjman, talked about Mostar, the Federation, talked about Eastern Slavonia, talked about the human rights situation in Croatia; and, last, he was in Sarajevo this morning. He met with President Izetbegovic, and they talked mostly there about the elections -- the September elections that the international community is planning.
I think John made to them the same point that I made in public yesterday. The Bosnians have been together with us in the Electoral Planning Commission -- the PEC -- and they have already agreed on the conditions for these elections. We don't think it's helpful, frankly, or useful to threaten non-involvement -- non-participation in the elections -- because the situation on the ground is not perfect, meaning Karadzic and Mladic haven't been seized yet.
John made that point, and I think now there's a greater understanding on the part of the Bosnian Government of our position, and I believe that the way is forward to hold these elections. It's important that they be held.
Q If I could just follow up on that, there is also a report -- a European network interviewed Mr. Karadzic yesterday and on the subject of an arrest of General Mladic. Mr. Karadzic said that if Mladic was arrested, that he could not be responsible for what he called the "uncontrolled response" of Bosnian Serb citizens, and he could not be responsible for the safety of the "guests" in Bosnian Serb territory -- "guests" being his word -- and I assume that's a reference to IFOR.
Is there some concern that by arresting General Mladic or his detention might somehow precipitate a reaction like that?
MR. BURNS: I think as one contemplates a scenario where IFOR or anybody else arrests these war criminals, it's obvious that that is a concern that there might be a quite vociferous reaction on the part of some of their supporters.
That does not, however, mean that we will refrain from arresting them if we come into contact with them. It does not mean that we don't think they should be arrested. We think they should be arrested; but speaking realistically, of course, it's reasonable to assume that there would be some kind of reaction.
Something that I think you haven't been told about, that we haven't been talking about, is the activities of Ambassador Bill Montgomery, and it does relate to your question.
Bill Montgomery, as you know, is John Kornblum's Deputy. He's a former Ambassador to Bulgaria. He has been in Banja Luka, and he traveled to Banja Luka yesterday with John Menzies, our Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Among other things, he underlined the point that the United States is committed to seeing that all the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina share in the benefits of peace.
Right now, Srpska is eligible for projects on most bases except for the fact that the Republic of Srpska leadership has not been adhering to the Dayton Accords. So you have a very unfortunate situation where the majority of the citizens in the country are receiving economic aid, reconstruction aid from Carl Bildt's operation, but a majority of the Bosnian Serbs are not.
We will continue to try to find and work with reasonable, moderate, pragmatic Bosnian Serb leaders so that we can extend economic assistance to them. Part of the fruits of getting rid of Karadzic and Mladic is that there will be a normalization of the relationship of the Bosnian Serbs to the rest of the world, and economic aid, which is going to be plentiful, will flow to them as well as to the Moslem and Croatian population.
Q Did them Bosnian Government tell Kornblum explicitly that they would now go through with the elections?
MR. BURNS: I think that the feeling -- the very strong indications he got was that they understood our position that we can't wait for the day when Bosnia-Herzegovina becomes a Jeffersonian democracy -- some kind of ideal democracy. This is a highly imperfect situation in a very troubled part of the world.
We think that it's possible to carry out elections -- in fact, necessary -- in this environment, and that we've all got to understand if we attach conditions -- all sorts of conditions to the holding of elections, they'll never be carried out.
There has to be reason and pragmatism here, and I think that John was able to convince them that that is in fact the right way to approach this.
Q So you believe that they are now on board with the elections?
MR. BURNS: We very much hope so, and that's the feeling -- the indication that he got, but I think your Reuters correspondent in Sarajevo ought to ask that question to Izetbegovic or Ganic and see what they say. We hope that they'll say that if the OSCE can confirm that the conditions are appropriate -- freedom of movement and that kind of thing -- then the elections should go forward.
Q Nick, he didn't get a commitment.
MR. BURNS: I hesitate, because one of the problems I had this morning, John got on a commercial flight to come back here, and I haven't been able to talk to him to get a detailed version of his conversation. He comes back tonight. He'll report to the Secretary of State tomorrow. Based on that report, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see continued American activity next week and the following week on these issues, including by the Secretary of State himself. I will most likely have something to announce in that respect tomorrow or early next week.
Q Any reaction to the defection of the North Korean pilot or the border incursion by North Korean boats?
MR. BURNS: Let me just take them in order. On the North Korean pilot, of course I can confirm what you already have seen on television, and that is that a North Korean Air Force pilot, flying a Korean War-era MiG-19, defected to South Korea, Thursday morning, Seoul time.
The MiG was met by aircraft from the Republic of Korea Air Force. It was escorted to a landing area. This is the seventh such defection that we know of, of a North Korean Air Force pilot since 1950, and I believe the first since 1986, according to the Pentagon.
I think it's obviously premature for us here in Washington to speculate on what caused his defection. I'm sure the Republic of Korea will make that known fairly soon.
On the second incident, we have seen the reports that some high-speed North Korean patrol boats may have crossed the line and into South Korean territory. We cannot yet confirm them, but we are certainly looking into these. We take the reports very seriously, and we obviously would regret any North Korean violation of the Military Armistice Agreement.
Q What effect do you think this will have on the four-way talks -- the proposal for the --
MR. BURNS: Oh, it shouldn't have any effect on the four-way talks at all. The four-party proposal is a very serious proposal that talks about the need for peace after 46 years of non-peace.
Excuse me, do you have a follow-up?
Q You don't think that the defection will cause a feeling of insecurity in North Korea that will maybe cause them to be less likely to come to the table?
MR. BURNS: We certainly wouldn't expect so, and we would hope not, because the North Koreans have a lot at stake. They need to have a better relationship with the South and with us and with others around the world. There is a way to do that, and that is to engage in the four-party talks, to continue with the Agreed Framework, which it is continuing to do -- freezing their nuclear program. I wouldn't expect this would have much of an effect at all.
Q Let me ask, Nick, do you -- the end of the sanctions -- how far is Iraq in your opinion to meet the conditions for the sanctions to be lifted? And isn't the problem Saddam Hussein? I mean, the position of the United States isn't that until Saddam Hussein is there, the sanctions will not be lifted?
MR. BURNS: I think Iraq has a long, long way to go before the United States will agree to lift the sanctions. The sanctions remain in place for a good reason. What happened to the many hundreds of Kuwaitis who disappeared in August 1990? Iraq has never accounted for them. That's one of the issues that in 1991 the international community agreed upon would be a factor in this decision.
How about Iraq's continued mistreatment of the Shi'a population in the south. Its attempts to intervene in the Kurdish areas in the north. But, most importantly, the fact that for many years Iraq lied by its own admission to UNSCOM, to Ambassador Ekeus, to the U.N. investigatory teams, about its development of all sorts of nefarious hardware -- chemical and biological and nuclear.
Iraq lied. How can we trust them now? I think it's going to take a long time for conditions to be appropriate for the United States to vote in the U.N. Security Council that those sanctions should be lifted. Saddam Hussein has a lot to answer for.
Betsy, do you have one on North Korea?
Q I have one on North Korea. You said yesterday that you all were studying the new report on the famine situation.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Have you reached any conclusions for further aid?
MR. BURNS: We have not, but we are looking at that report rather seriously and with great attention to it. The Secretary has been briefed at least on the status of the situation, and I would expect that we'd finish the process of looking at the various World Food Program reports and U.N. reports fairly soon and decide what course of action to take. But I have nothing to announce today.
Q You said at the top that the Secretary was concerned about the safety of the Peace Corps volunteers. Can you elaborate?
MR. BURNS: I can. Unfortunately, while we do not believe that foreigners, including Americans, are targeted right now -- being targeted in Bangui or outside of Bangui, unfortunately the fighting that was intense in Bangui has now spilled out into the countryside. That is where most of the Americans are -- both the American religious missionaries and the American Peace Corps volunteers.
So what we've done, as you know, I think to date we've brought out 86 Americans -- excuse me, 68 Americans, and we are now making an offer through our warden system, our radio network, to all Americans who are living in the Central African Republic to be evacuated by U.S. military aircraft.
I would expect that others would take advantage of this offer, and that we would be evacuating people shortly.
The Secretary was apprised of the very, very positive French military actions yesterday to save 10 American Peace Corps volunteers. He went up to the monitoring group today to get a firsthand briefing, including looking at maps about where some of these Peace Corps volunteers are living in remote areas of the country, to assure himself that everything is being done to safeguard them and to communicate with them so that they know what to do and what their options are.
If you're interested, I can tell you more about that incident yesterday with the French Government. That's what I told the African Affairs Bureau, one day too late, but anyway it's a heroic story.
But, in any case, our Embassy there is working very hard to communicate with Americans. We're also trying to do what we can to contribute to French efforts to convince the parties to end the fighting, but those efforts have been unsuccessful to date.
Q I wasn't in yesterday, so it sounds like the Peace Corps volunteers have an option to evacuate if they desire.
MR. BURNS: No. All U.S. Government personnel who are declared non-essential must evacuate. Those who are declared essential will stay. I believe the decision now is to try to evacuate as many of the government employees as we can. Of course, private American citizens cannot be forced to leave the Central African Republic, but we strongly urge them to do so, and we strongly urge all Americans not to travel to the Central African Republic.
Q So specifically, what's the situation then of some of these Peace Corps volunteers whose safety is a concern to the Secretary?
MR. BURNS: What is the situation? The situation is that we're contacting all of them and apprising them of the best way for them to get to collection points so that they can be evacuated.
Q Nick, are the French or the Americans considering going into the countryside far, far away from the capital and getting them?
MR. BURNS: There's no need to do that yet. Until today, the safest place to be was outside of Bangui. As I said, now there's some increased concern because the fighting is spreading. But, obviously, what we're not going to do is panic. As in the situation of Liberia, sometimes -- and, of course, it depends on the situation of any particular person -- sometimes people are better off staying where they are than trying to travel.
So we're just going to have to take this one day at a time, case by case, and make the right decisions for each person, depending on their circumstances.
Q But you wouldn't rule out going and getting them?
MR. BURNS: Can't rule anything out. We'll do anything to protect an American citizen. And, by the way, any group -- any armed group in the Central African Republic ought to understand that we will defend our citizens, and we're very, very pleased that the French came to the aid of American citizens yesterday -- the French military.
Q How many Americans are still there?
MR. BURNS: I would think that there are perhaps just under 200 Americans still in the country. I don't have specific numbers, but we started with 252. We've brought out 68. That brings us under 200.
Q Sixty-eight total or 68 today?
MR. BURNS: Sixty-eight total -- 13 and --
Q Oh, so no evacuations today then.
MR. BURNS: Thirteen and 55. Not that I'm aware of. I think that for a variety of reasons, the plane did not go out today, but I know that others -- people are being prepared for further evacuation.
Still on the C.A.R.? Any other questions on the C.A.R.?
Q How about Mr. Moose? The Secretary met with him. Was there any progress with Zaire on the other situation about Burundi?
MR. BURNS: I think that Assistant Secretary Moose feels he had productive meetings with Prime Minister Kengo and President Mobutu.
He made the very basic point that Zaire needs to do more to make sure that arms are not going to some of the extremist groups in the refugee camps in eastern Zaire; that the refugee population that is being victimized by these groups needs to be protected, and that Zaire must do its share to stabilize the situation in its own country. Of course, the situation spilled over from both Burundi and Rwanda. I think in that respect he feels that the message was delivered, the message is clear; that we do expect a greater and more positive measure of cooperation from the Zairean Government.
Q Yes, Nick, there is a document being circulated around Washington, which claims to be some kind of a transcript of the private conversation between Prime Minister Simitis and President Clinton last April. Could you comment on the authenticity of that document?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I can. We're aware of a forged -- fake document, not forged -- fake document being circulated. It's absolutely false and malicious. It is not the memorandum of conversation between Prime Minister Simitis and President Clinton. That memorandum of conversation has not been released to the public. It's in U.S. Government possession.
So it's false, and we'd like to say that very clearly.
Q You deny the whole document or parts of the document?
MR. BURNS: The whole document. It's a fabrication.
Q Also, yesterday I asked you about some statements of Foreign Minister Gonensay of Turkey regarding the Cyprus accession to the European Union and the U.S. position.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q May I have your comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes, and we've looked into this for you. The question of Cyprus' ability to join the European Union, in the absence of a political solution, is, of course, one for the European Union to decide, as are the modalities and timing of Cyprus' accession to the European Union.
Nevertheless, the United States supports European Union expansion, and we believe that European Union membership would benefit Cyprus.
Q A follow-up?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Well, I wasn't through, though. I had three points. I've just given you two.
The third point is that, obviously, Cyprus' accession to the European Union would be facilitated by some kind of intracommunal agreement on Cyprus and a final settlement, and that's where we're focusing our energies. But I believe my second point is very important. We do believe that Cyprus would benefit from EU membership and accession to the EU.
Q There is no solution prior to the discussions of accession? You don't support the accession?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't say that, but I understand why you're asking the question, because it's a fairly nuanced presentation here by our experts in the European Affairs Bureau.
The fact is that it's up to the European Union to decide this. We do think that Cyprus would benefit from this decision.
Q But for your position --
MR. BURNS: This is our longstanding policy. Thank you, Sid.
Q You've always advised that both communities have to find out some solution; then after enter the two-zone -- bizonal, bi-federal government -- but you said that this time and something is changing in your position. You are leaving to Europeans deciding on this subject.
MR. BURNS: The United States cannot dictate to the European Union which countries become members of the European Union. That's an obvious point, first.
Secondly, we think that Cyprus ought to be in the European Union. It would be good for Cyprus.
Third, if you want to speak on a more pragmatic level, obviously, Cyprus' accession would be facilitated, it would be easier for Cyprus to become a member were there to be a final solution or intracommunal settlement.
But I think my second point is very important, and I think it speaks very clearly, and as Sid very usefully suggested, this is longstanding U.S. policy. There's no change in U.S. policy.
Q May I follow up?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q You don't have a preference between "easier" and "harder" ways of accession?
MR. BURNS: No. No, we don't.
Q Nick, could you give me the official U.S. position on the Three Gorges Project, if there is one? The vice president of the project was here in Washington a couple of days ago and he was encouraging foreign investors into that project which, apparently, is a major concern for them. But there has been a lot of criticism most recently in Foreign Affairs Magazine, and I was just wondering what the official position of the United States is on this?
MR. BURNS: Let me check on that and get back to you.
Q Do you have any update on Burma?
MR. BURNS: What I can say is, unfortunately, the situation in Burma continues to worsen. Unfortunately, I believe, according to the National League for Democracy itself, as of this morning, 192 members of the National League for Democracy have been detained. That includes Aung San Suu Kyi's press assistant, unfortunately. I believe she was the one who gave the press in Rangoon this morning the figure of 192. This is deplorable that this democratic group would have nearly its entire membership -- of the senior membership -- most of whom were elected in 1990, in the elections that annuled -- it's deplorable that the military leadership there would have taken this step.
We very strongly oppose it. We call on Burma's neighbors to oppose it as well.
Q What kind of conversation do you have with Burma's neighborhood countries?
MR. BURNS: We have an active conversation under way.
Q What kind of reaction?
MR. BURNS: What is the reaction? Those countries will have to speak for themselves. I can't speak for any of them; but I can tell you we have an active conversation with them about the best way to deal with the SLORC, with the military leaders there.
Q Are you disappointed in the reaction of U.S. friends in the region, their failure to speak out very strongly against this?
MR. BURNS: Let me choose my own words. We believe that they should understand that this is a fundamental challenge to the future of democracy in Burma. The Nobel Prize Laureate, the democratic leader recognized by the democratic community of Burma, is effectively not free to talk to her compatriots. She has spoken out. She deserves international support, and we are giving her that kind of international support.
So, yes, I would say that Burma's neighbors in Asia, and all parts of Asia, ought to reflect on that and ought to join with us in condemning this action.
Q Nick, is there really anybody in this Administration that thinks as long as the SLORC is around democracy will break out in Burma?
MR. BURNS: It's very hard to say, but I'm not sure -- our view is that democracy should return to Burma, should be present in Burma. We can't dictate or even predict how that will occur. But the beginning, obviously, would be allow a courageous woman to meet with her compatriots and to talk about these issues.
Our own position is this. We have had fairly tough, restrictive measures in place on Burma for a long time. You know this probably better than I do. But since 1988, we have suspended our economic aid program. We have urged other potential donors, such as Japan, to limit strictly any development assistance to Burma, by itself or by the multilateral development banks.
We believe that our influence with other countries has, in practice, prevented most assistance to Burma from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
We do not promote U.S. commercial investment in Burma. We do not promote, as a government, U.S. trade with Burma; neither Ex-Im Bank nor OPIC provides loans or insurance for American companies selling to or investing in Burma.
I got a question yesterday from Carol. I didn't give her a very good answer. I'll try to give you a better answer today on the McConnell-Moynihan legislation. We support the intent of the bill. We share its goals. We very much share the concern of the Congress about the restrictions on democracy in Burma.
We do not rule out further U.S. sanctions against Burma. We are ready to explore various measures with the Congress. What we want to do is, we want to have an effective U.S. response.
So, Carol, I can't say that we have -- we've not gone to Senator McConnell or Senator Moynihan and said we support your bill in all respects. We are going to them to say we want to talk to you about this, and we're not ruling out any further course of action. We want to see how the situation develops in the near future. I know that's a very accurate representation of exactly where we are this morning with the Congress on this bill.
Q What sort of sanctions might have an effect -- that U.S. sanctions might have an effect on Burma?
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. In all situations, including this one, we want to be effective so we've got to search for the right mechanism.
Q Is there a mechanism available outside of the Security Council for the United States?
MR. BURNS: That's a question, Sid, perhaps you can answer as well as anyone. That's one of the questions that we have to ask ourselves as we go through this process. But, certainly, we think -- we've raised the temperature over the last couple of days. We have denounced the Burmese Government for its actions against Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, and now the detention of 192 people.
We do not accept the proposition that somehow they're "guests of the government" in a hotel someplace. We don't trust those statements, and there's no reason why we should.
As we've said before, we're also very disturbed about incidents of forced labor in Burma -- in the city of Mandalay and others. Entire cities have been emptied out to build public construction projects by the Government of Burma. They have used civilians, as part of pressed-gangs to carry out defense projects and civilian projects. There is a gross violation of human rights throughout Burma.
I think it's appropriate that the Congress should be seized by this. We're seized by it, too. I think the challenge now for Congress and the Administration is to work out an effective American response.
Q Are you saying that the Burmese have emptied out Mandalay, a rather large city, and there's now some sort of --
MR. BURNS: There have been incidents in the past where that has been the case, where towns have literally be emptied of their working population for projects; where people have been taken out of their jobs and homes and forced to work on civilian and military projects. Yes, there is evidence of that. We've talked about it before -- this is nothing new -- from this podium. But it is outrageous and it deserves to be repeated.
Q A new subject. I gather the Monitoring Group is meeting again today?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it is.
Q So what's the problem?
MR. BURNS: Yesterday, the intention was to have a meeting at 2:00. That meeting did not take place because as of two o'clock, one or two, I'm not quite sure -- I know it was one and it might have been two -- of the delegations had not yet received instructions from capitals. So Dennis Ross decided to postpone the meeting.
His intention today was to start at 2:00. I spoke to him late morning.
The situation is pretty much as it was yesterday. We have a draft -- an American draft. We are down to a few issues, and we're working through those issues. We're in the seventh day of our biblical labor and perhaps we'll go into the seventh day of our biblical night. Who knows?
Q Are you counting just days when they meet?
MR. BURNS: I'm counting days that they've met; days that they've met. The seventh day. Dennis agrees with me that there are biblical associations here in the sense that Christopher was out for seven days. He's been doing it for seven days. Perhaps we'll get lucky.
Q When are the "tablets" going to come down from the mountain? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Any final questions?
Q Dennis said there would probably be a meeting today?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Dennis said there would definitely be a face-to-face meeting today?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Dennis expected -- I think he's in it. I haven't heard it was cancelled. I think I would have because we were delayed coming out here because of the Presidential press conference. He expected to meet on the first floor with the same group with whom he has been meeting. He ready to work with them to complete the agreement on the duties of the Monitoring Group.
Q So they gave you guidance back from the capitals, then?
MR. BURNS: We think they're all prepared now to communicate to us the guidance from capitals, yes, yes.
Sorry, George, we have two hands up.
Q Back to Burma. Were there travel restrictions? President Clinton mentioned something about imposing travel restrictions to Burma? Is that --
MR. BURNS: President Clinton, today, mentioned that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we have imposed any travel restrictions on Burma. I can look into this for you. I'm just not aware of it.
MR. BURNS: I don't remember that at all. I haven't seen any reference to it.
Bill, did you have one last question or can we do it at the next session?
Q I think I'll come up there.
MR. BURNS: Okay, thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:21 p.m.)
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