U.S. Department of State 96/06/05 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, June 5, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Public Affairs Intern Cynthia Echeverria... 1 U.S. Companies to Participate in Transactions Involving Iraq Under UNSC Resolution 986............................ 1 U.S. Deplores Murder of Kudirat Abiola..................... 2-3 Opening of U.S. Information Center in Pristina, Kosovo..... 3 IRAQ Designation of Proceeds from Sale of Iraqi Oil............ 3-4 -- Accounting and Control Mechanisms.................... 5 -- Criteria for Allowing U.S. Firms to Participate...... 7 -- Timetable for Iraq to Comply with Criteria........... 15 -- Licensing Procedures Administered by Treasury Department......................................... 16 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Future of Peace Process Under Netanyahu Government/ Discussion of Status of Jerusalem........................ 5-6 CUBA OAS Resolution to Review Validity of Helms-Burton Legislation/Propriety of Review by Inter-American Juridical Committee...................................... 8-11 President's Decision to Waive Title III of Helms-Burton............................................ 12 CHINA Arrest of AmCit in Shanghai on Charges of Imports.......... 12-13 SYRIA Reported German Firm Assistance in Building Chemical Weapons Plant .......................................... 13-14 Al-Hayat Report on Explosions in Syria.................... 14 Increase in Tension between Syria and Turkey.............. 15 MEXICO Investigation of Citibank for Possible Money-laundering... 15 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA Schedule for Elections.................................... 16-17 Gen. Joulwan Confirmation of Extension of IFOR Patrols.... 17-18 IFOR Personnel to Work Closely with OSCE on Freedom of Movement............................................... 19 NORTH KOREA Report of Secret Contact with ROK in Peking............... 19 AEGEAN Report of NATO Turkish Official's Remarks re: Naval Exercise Scheduled for Area South of Crete........................ 20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 1996, 1:14 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have three announcements.
Before I go over the announcements, I wanted to welcome Cynthia Echeverria, who has just joined the Bureau of Public Affairs. Cynthia, would you like to take a bow? She just joined the Bureau of Public Affairs this summer. She's going to be working in our new Regional Media Outreach program. We're trying to expand coverage of the Department of State, beyond all of you, to regional newspapers, local newspapers, cable TV and radio across the United States.
She is a recipient of a Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which is a program sponsored by the Department of State and is designed to prepare students to work in the Foreign Service after their graduation -- after their completion of a Master's Degree, and she currently is studying for a Master's Degree at the University of Maryland. Welcome, Cynthia.
Barry, welcome. We were afraid we'd have to go through a briefing without you.
MR. BURNS: Exactly. I have three announcements. The first concerns Iraq and U.N. Security Council Resolution 986.
The Administration has decided to allow American companies to participate in transactions involving Iraq under U.N. Security Council Resolution 986. Our decision will permit American companies to buy or sell goods or services, including oil and humanitarian supplies, to the extent permitted by the United Nations resolution and by the U.N. Sanctions Committee. And you all know the conditions, of course, under U.N. Resolution 986.
This is the so-called "oil-for-food" arrangement that Iraq recently agreed to. It is a humanitarian exception to the U.N. economic embargo against Iraq, which is still in place. It does not represent any lifting of the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, and the proceeds from these oil sales are destined to compensate the victims of Iraqi aggression and to purchase humanitarian supplies -- the victims being Kuwaitis, Kurds in northern Iraq, Shi'as in southern Iraq and other victims of Iraqi aggression.
The oil revenues will be tightly controlled to insure that they benefit the Iraqi population and to prevent anybody who was planning on any abuse of this resolution. And as you all know, we've made the point several times over, Saddam Hussein will not see a penny of these proceeds. All oil revenues will be destined for an escrow account established by the United Nations Sanctions Committee and under the control of the Sanctions Committee.
We have decided that it is appropriate for American companies to take part in oil transactions or humanitarian good transactions because we in essence were the father of this resolution; we fully support it. Any American firm that wishes to participate in such transactions with Iraq under UNSC 986 must be licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department, and that's the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and I'll be glad to go into any aspect of this with you.
My second announcement pertains to --
Q Can I call a filing break, Nick?
MR. BURNS: Yes. NBC has called for a filing break. Duly noted.
My second announcement pertains to Nigeria and the death of Mrs. Kudirat Abiola. The United States deplores the killing of Mrs. Kudirat Abiola on June 4, 1996 -- yesterday -- by unknown assailants in Lagos, Nigeria. We urge the Government of Nigeria to diligently pursue the killers and ensure that they are identified, that they are duly prosecuted in an open court, and that they will pay for this reprehensible crime.
Kudirat Abiola was the wife of Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Mashood Abiola, who was the presumed winner of the 1993 elections which, as you know, were annulled by the Nigerian military. Mrs. Abiola was an outspoken critic of the Abacha Government. She was an advocate for her husband's release, and she, herself, had recently been arrested and released, and she was awaiting trial on charges brought against her by the military government in Nigeria.
The United States reiterates its call for the release of Chief Abiola, and we do reiterate today our very strong concern about her murder yesterday. We're calling upon the Government of Nigeria to take this very seriously, and to apprehend the killers and bring them to justice.
My third announcement is much more positive, and it's actually good news, and that is that this morning in Pristina, in Kosovo, Acting Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum opened our U.S. Information Center in Pristina. This office will be operated by the U.S. Information Agency. It's an important day, because it represents the very deep concern that the United States has about events in Kosovo, our wish to remain in contact with the population there, and it will be a place where all the people of Kosovo can have access to information about what is happening in Kosovo, in other parts of the country and in the Balkans in general.
It is a visible sign of our interest and our concern for the situation in Kosovo, and it represents our commitment to a peaceful dialogue between the populations there. We're very pleased that this happened today, and again, if you have any questions on this, I'd be very glad to go into them.
I would just note one more detail, and that was that Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, who is the head of the League for a Democratic Kosovo -- someone we've talked to very consistently over the past few years -- he was present at the ceremony this morning.
Q Nick, I was just wondering, it would seem to be very complicated to distribute the reparations from the Iraqi sale. Do you have any idea how this is going to be done? And also, doesn't it involve at least some incursion into Iraqi territory?
MR. BURNS: The proceeds from the sale of the oil are going to be designated very specifically for the victims of Iraqi aggression, and I think about two weeks ago we issued a fact sheet -- and I'll be glad to make it available after the briefing -- which details what percentage of the funds will go, for instance, to the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq; what percent will go to the families of Kuwaitis missing from the invasion of Kuwait in 1990; what percent will go to other victims of Iraqi aggression.
Some of this money will go to those of us in the international community, including the United States, who have had to pay for the United Nations Inspection Regime, UNSCOM, headed by Dr. Ekeus. So we know where the money is going to go. We've already apportioned it on a percentage basis, and I think the most relevant point here is that Saddam Hussein won't see a penny of this money. Not a penny will pass through his hands. He won't see any of it. He won't have an opportunity to use it to build a 16th palace. He's built 15 since his defeat in the Iraqi war -- the Persian Gulf war. He won't be able to use it to persecute his enemies.
This is going to go to the victims of Saddam Hussein, and that's why we think it's such a good deal, and that's why we think it's appropriate that American firms be involved in this.
Q He's probably the least leader of palaces in that area. Some of your best friends have more palaces.
MR. BURNS: But, you know, 15's a lot, Barry, especially for someone who was so soundly defeated. He was trounced during the Gulf War.
Q I know, but he's just a wimp compared to some of the palace-builders out there.
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not sure I'd agree with that characterization.
Q Well, we've been out in plenty of palaces.
MR. BURNS: He's not really a wimp.
Q How does it stand now? There are two -- no, in palace building? Palaces.
MR. BURNS: He might be a wimp in some people's eyes --
Q No, palace construction --
MR. BURNS: -- but he's certainly evil. There's no question about --
Q Summer palace and winter palace -- (laughter)
MR. BURNS: In Iraq, you don't need a winter palace because basically, you know, summer.
Q Is this six-month sales -- that is the deal now, right? It's reviewable after two sales?
MR. BURNS: It's reviewable at any point actually, but it's going to be formally reviewed after six months, and then maybe we'll re-up. We have an option for another six, and we'll do that, and the program will continue. But, if there's any abuse, it's going to be shut down -- it's going to be stopped -- and we expect that there won't be any abuse because of the very tight accounting and control mechanisms that we put in place.
The United Nations will control the escrow account, so the payments for Iraqi oil will not go to the Central Bank of Baghdad. They'll go into an escrow account established by the U.N. Sanctions Committee, and again, the regime of thugs and other -- we could call them other things -- but the regime there in Baghdad won't see any of it.
Still on Iraq. Anything else on 986 before we move from that?
Q In the same neighborhood.
MR. BURNS: In the same neighborhood, okay.
Q Nick, early interviews of Mr. Netanyahu's close advisers are clearly indicating a shift from the land-for-peace transaction that was a basis for the Peres Government. Will we see an adaption of American diplomacy to the new Israeli proposals which are somewhat less than a comprehensive peace or a step-by-step approach to peace with Syria, actually a de facto peace but not a comprehensive peace -- maybe a back-to-Madrid formula?
MR. BURNS: I'd say this: We've certainly seen some of the same comments and reports that you have. I think it's useful to note that Prime Minister-elect Netanyahu has said quite clearly and publicly that he alone speaks for himself and for his government that's currently being formed, and I think that's a relevant point.
Second, I don't think, as the Secretary of State has said quite consistently over the past week, it doesn't make sense for us to begin commenting upon these issues until the government is formed in Israel, and until that government has taken a position on these issues.
We ought to give Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers some time to make the decisions about who will be in the government and to decide what their policies are going to be. But I can tell you this as well, as a final point -- United States policy has not changed. The United States supports a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East, and we support land-for-peace. Our policies have not changed.
Q Different subject?
MR. BURNS: Any other questions on the Middle East? David.
Q Thank you, Nick. Does the U.S. believe that an Israeli Government would be within its rights to decline to discuss the subject of the future of Jerusalem in final status talks?
MR. BURNS: As I said, David, I think that would fit under the rubric of our policy hasn't been changed. We fully support the peace agreements. I would just note that Mr. Netanyahu has said quite consistently throughout the campaign and after his election just in the last week that his Israeli Government, of course, will honor the existing peace process. He has said many times in public statements, including just about an hour ago when he reacted to the summit held in Aqaba this morning -- he says that he is interested in peace, his government will be interested in peace, that he's looking forward to working with his Arab neighbors.
So I think that's the way to answer your question, and our positions haven't changed either. We believe that these things should go forward.
Q What I'm asking is whether he has the right under the agreement that's already been reached to refuse to discuss one of the subjects that, as I understand it, is supposed to be discussed in the final status talks? Because he's, as you know, saying publicly and since his election that he will not discuss the future of Jerusalem in talks with the Palestinians.
MR. BURNS: That is one of the issues that falls under the rubric of the final status negotiations, and those negotiations, you know, were opened early in May. I think we're just going to have to wait until he forms his government and takes a position before we'll know the final answers. But I think it's quite clear -- I want to be quite clear about the United States position here, and that is we haven't changed our positions on any of these issues.
Still on the Middle East? Anything on the Middle East?
Q On Iraq?
MR. BURNS: On Iraq. Yes.
Q Can you -- this idea of allowing American companies to participate and the salesmen floating around for about a week, can you elaborate a little bit on what the discussions were on maybe why they wouldn't have been allowed to?
MR. BURNS: We just wanted to take some time to make sure that we had looked at all the angles here and looked at what the obligations of American companies would be, what the opportunities would be for them before we made an important decision. Because, as you know, there are U.N. sanctions in place against Iraq. I think they'll remain in place for a long time because Iraq has been a serious, major league violator of its commitments to the United Nations on a whole variety of issues.
But having looked at it, and having examined it very carefully, we felt it was quite appropriate for American firms to be involved because we believe in this resolution. We believe this is the way to help the victims of Saddam Hussein, the Kuwaiti people, and the Iraqi people. Therefore, it's very appropriate for U.S. firms to be involved. We hope very much that they will be treated on a fair basis, and we'll be watching to make sure that our American firms are treated fairly.
Q Aren't these funds fungible? Isn't there a fear that Saddam could simply take the money he has been spending on food and use it for weapons?
MR. BURNS: As I've just said, nothing is fungible here. First of all, he's bankrupt. Okay? He's wasted a lot of money on palaces, and he hasn't been able to export oil for five -- almost six years now. That's his major source of revenue -- of export revenue. The situation is in dire straits. He's got people who are hurting; the Iraqi people are hurting, which is why the United States drafted, supported, sponsored, and shepherded this legislation -- this particular resolution, excuse me -- through the United Nations Security Council.
It's not fungible. He doesn't have enough money to go out and build all these weapons. If he does try, he should know that we're going to be watching through the U.N. team that regularly watches his behavior. He's not going to be able to get away with cheating on weapons production without us knowing about it.
Again, I think the final point -- I think you were here before -- and I want to accentuate this. He won't see a penny of this money.
Still on Iraq? Anybody on Iraq?
Okay. Different subject. Jorge.
Q On the OAS. Yesterday, the United States called 23 American countries cowards and interventionists because they asked the Inter-American and Juridical Committee to look into the Helms-Burton legislation. Do you think that this Inter-American Committee has jurisdiction to look into this legislation?
MR. BURNS: I would just note -- and I think it's an important point -- that we don't think that the juridical body that looked into this does have purview, or should have purview over these matters. So we would respectfully suggest to the Organization of American States that the committee that looked at this should not have had, in effect, jurisdiction over it. It doesn't fall under the purview. We've made that point yesterday. We make it again today.
Secondly, I would remind you and remind the OAS and all member states of the OAS that Helms-Burton is the law of the land. This Administration has the responsibility -- a constitutional responsibility -- to implement the law of the land.
I don't think this law is going to change anytime soon because it was supported by Republicans and Democrats and signed by the President of the United States. If, in fact, what countries and organizations around the world are trying to do is to get us to basically back down and change the law, I just don't think that's a realistic proposition in 1996. I don't think it's a realistic proposition for 1997.
So what we want to do is work with our neighbors, our allies, our friends in order to maximize the effect of this legislation on Castro, where it belongs, and minimize the impact on our friends, but we will implement this law.
I think our friends and allies around the world need to understand that. They also need to understand this -- it's an important point. Castro murdered four Americans on February 24 who were flying in international airspace. Americans, back in the early years of the Cuban revolution, after 1959, all sorts of Americans had their property stolen by the Cuban Government and they were never compensated for it.
I think some of these countries around the world ought to pause and reflect on that. Do they want to be trafficking in stolen goods? So these are the arguments that we use in responding to some of these charges that somehow the United States is not doing the right thing by implementing this legislation, which is our constitutional responsibility.
Q You're always saying that Cuba is in a minority of one in this hemisphere. Hasn't the United States been put pretty clearly in a minority of one in this vote in the OAS?
MR. BURNS: We may be in a minority of one, but we're going to stand by our position. Sometimes you're the only country taking a particular view on an issue but you stand by it because you have to stand by it, because it is the law of the land.
Look, I think the United States has shown a remarkable degree of forebearance in our public comments about this issue. The countries that are teeing off on us now ought to just sit back and cool it and understand that we're going to implement this law, and we ought to have very good, private, constructive conversations about this, but let's end the public bickering about it. We're not interested in that.
I'm sorry. He had a follow-up, and then I'll go right to you and then to you.
Q My question is regarding, specifically, the Inter-American Committee. The resolution asked the Inter-American Juridical Committee to look into the legislation. What you are saying is the United States will not acknowledge this Inter-American Committee's jurisdiction?
MR. BURNS: We think there was an inappropriate use of the Inter-American Juridical Committee. We think it politicizes what is a juridical body, and we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this particular committee on the Helms-Burton legislation.
We have had conferences, meetings, phone calls, faxes, demarches, letters, interviews. We've done everything over the last two or three months to try to explain to Canada, Mexico, the Latin countries, the European countries what this legislation is. This is not a failure to communicate on our part. We're willing to have a hundred more meetings with them if that's what it takes to try to calm things down and get this issue straight.
What we're not willing to do is recognize the jurisdiction of a committee that is a juridical committee, which has been politicized by the actions of the OAS.
Q A follow-up on that point. Speaking of communication, have you considered suggesting to the Cubans bilateral discussions on compensation? This is what you've done with communist countries in the past like East Germany, the Chinese, etc.?
MR. BURNS: Let me check my watch here. My watch says 1996. I believe the revolution took place in 1959. This is not directed at you, George. If Castro is complaining that we're not willing to talk about compensation -- the Kennedy Administration, the Johnson Administration, all the way through this Administration would gladly have talked about having Cuba honor what would be a reasonable commitment to American companies, but that hasn't been the case.
Q But your own ground rules forbid any discussion beyond immigration issues with Cuba?
MR. BURNS: It's just a little late in the game. We're 36 years after a revolution. In the early years of that revolution, Castro illegally, under international law, nationalized American companies and then did not compensate the American owners of those plants. So what happens? In the ensuing years, foreign companies move into these same plants that Americans built and paid for and they take them over and they run them at a profit.
The Americans are left without any benefit, and I think that is a relevant fact here. We've received now a litany of complaints from many countries that are friendly to the United States. Let me just offer one to them. This is something that they should think about.
Q Nick, in reading your speeches and your briefings -- exactly a year ago your position was different regarding Chapter III of the Helms-Burton. I mean in a couple of briefings you mention this is not about politics -- I mean, the election year, the Helms-Burton.
But you mentioned that the President signed the law because of the shootdown of the planes. What is the difference between a year ago? It's only the planes that changed President Clinton's view regarding Helms-Burton?
MR. BURNS: I think the President has said this best. This particular bill took a long time between its inception and its signing by the President. The Administration, of course, looked very carefully at it. It didn't take a position at one point; worked with the Congress, with the relevant committees at another point. But after February 24, as the President has said a couple of times recently, the effect and the impact of that shootdown on the American people, on the Cuban-American community, on members of Congress and members of our Administration was quite profound.
The President felt that in light of that, and looking at the bill -- and looking at our national interest, which is in isolating Castro -- increasing the impact of the sanctions on him, the President felt it was the right decision to sign the bill, and he did so.
Q You're defending right now the right of the Americans to compensate on the use of their properties in Cuba. A year ago your position was very different. You acknowledged that this could have some problems with the international community.
I also want to ask you if the State Department have sent another -- warning letters to another, you know.
MR. BURNS: On the second question, I'm not aware that we have but I check for you. I think I outlined, when I announced the sending of the letters, what the process would be; that by the end of this month, by the end of June, we would be prepared to take action against certain companies that were trafficking in nationalized American property.
On the first part of your question, I just respectfully disagree. A year ago, if you had asked me the question, "Do you think it was fair for American firms to be nationalized and not compensated?", I would have said, "No, it's not fair." Castro ought to do the right thing and at least talk about compensation.
That is an important issue but it's not the central issue. The central issue is, will communism survive in Cuba? Will Fidel Castro survive in Cuba?
I can't predict when communism is going to fall in Cuba, but it's fallen almost everyplace else in the world. I think he is isolated in our hemisphere, and the day will come. The day will come when communism will fall and Castro will disappear. That is, of course, one of the objectives of American policy, to see democracy and freedom return to the Cuban people.
Q If the Juridical Committee does find that the Helms-Burton law is not in conformity with international law, the United States, as a member state of the OAS, is it not going to be forced to comply?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not recognized the jurisdiction of this committee. We will not change our law or the implementation of our law because of the deliberations of this particular committee.
This is a juridical committee. It's not a political committee. It has become politicized, and we object to that.
Q The President also has by July 15, I believe, to decide whether or not he's going to waive Title III. Do you not believe then that domestic politics has any role in this at all?
MR. BURNS: I give briefings on foreign affairs. I'm just an average citizen. I'm not competent to discuss domestic affairs, and it's not in my interest to discuss them and I don't discuss them. Those questions can be directed to others. I can comment about foreign policy and about the law of the United States, which we have an obligation to uphold here. I can't anticipate what decision the President will make. That's up to him; and, of course, the White House would announce that decision.
Q Do you have any indication that he might waive Title III?
MR. BURNS: If I had an indication I wouldn't share it with you, because the one thing you never want to do is get ahead of the President of the United States. It's his right to decide this at his own time and his own pace.
Q New subject?
MR. BURNS: New subject.
Q Do you have anything on the American national that was arrested in Shanghai on smuggling charges by the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: I believe we have something; yes. I'm just going to try to find it. If I can't find it, what we'll do is we will go on to another question and the guidance will be brought to me, because I'm quite sure we have something on this. Yes, I do. I've got it.
The United States Consulate in Shanghai was notified by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau on June 4 of the arrest of an American citizen in Shanghai on June 3.
According to Shanghai authorities, the American is being detained on charges of illegal imports in violation of customs regulations.
We expect that a United States consular officer will visit the American tomorrow, on June 6.
We do not have a Privacy Act waiver from the American citizen. Therefore, I cannot give you his or her name, and I cannot provide any additional details on this case. You understand the Privacy Act limits very much what I can say until the citizen in question grants us the right to speak about it in public. This is as much as I can say now.
Q Do you see any linkage between this one and the AK-47 case?
MR. BURNS: There's very little information available to us in this case. As I noted, our consular officer has not yet visited this citizen in question. We have cursory information from the Shanghai authorities. Therefore, it's impossible for me to make any connection with any other event until we get more information.
Q Is it possible that this is a kind of Chinese retaliation against the AK-47 case?
MR. BURNS: I have no way of knowing. Let me just say -- I have no way of knowing that -- let me just say, there shouldn't be any question of retaliation, because the people who brought the several thousand AK-47s into the United States are going to be prosecuted in our judicial system because they violated American law. I think the evidence will lead to that. So there can be no possible acts of retribution here, and I'm sure we will not see that.
What we have heard from the Chinese Government -- from the Foreign Ministry Spokesman -- is that China is going to look into this and will take these charges very seriously, as China should.
Q Yesterday, Jim Anderson asked a question about whether German firms were involved in helping to construct a chemical weapons plant in Syria. Do you have any information about this? Are you aware of any such plant or of German involvement?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I know that we've looked into that. I can tell you that at this point we have no information beyond the reported investigation in Germany about this subject. We have no information.
Obviously, given the press reports, this is something that we will continue to look into, but I have no information to relay to you today.
Q Do you know, using national technical means, whether such a plant exists in the location that it is reported in this article?
MR. BURNS: I'm not the right guy to discuss national technical means. Of course, I never discuss national technical means. I can't really help you on that end.
Q Is the U.S. asking the Syrians about it?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, we're concerned about the report and we're following up. I can't detail for you exactly -- I don't want to detail for you exactly what steps we're taking; but suffice it to say, we're interested in the report. We will follow up as much as we can because this kind of allegation must be taken seriously.
Q The London-based Arabic paper, al-Hayat, reporting on the U.S. advisory -- the advisory of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus over the weekend, said that Turkey was behind the explosions in Syria.
MR. BURNS: Who said Turkey was behind --
Q The al-Hayat newspaper quoted some sources saying that Turkish agents were behind the explosions in Syria. I know the answer was "no" yesterday, but is there any information at all about the source of these explosions?
MR. BURNS: I have no information whatsoever to substantiate the claim made in the newspaper about Turkey's involvement. None.
We simply issued the advisory we did because there have been a number of explosions in Syria in recent weeks and months. American citizens who are travelling in Syria or living in Syria have a right to know from us that these events have occurred, although we cannot account for them. We have no information to relay to you about the source of these bombings.
Q Ambassador Al-Moualem, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, denied the existence of such explosions. I know that in the advisory you're talking about a partial confirmation of the events. What does it mean? Do you know any number? Do you have any number, because people are talking about thousands of explosions over the last month. Do you have any time span?
MR. BURNS: I certainly stand by the advisory that we issued. I stand by the facts as they were represented in that advisory. I can't tell you exactly how many bombings have occurred, however. I can't give you an exact figure.
Q Is there any --
MR. BURNS: At this point, I don't want to get into trying to estimate. But, needless to say, a sufficient number so that we think American citizens should be apprised of them.
Q Just one last question. Is there any concern or awareness in this Administration about the increase of tensions between Turkey and Syria?
MR. BURNS: There's awareness. These are issues that we normally deal with in diplomatic channels, and we do deal with them from time to time when the countries involved request us to. Certainly, we would hope that Syria and Turkey could have a normal relationship.
We have made plain our fact, in our terrorism report, that we're concerned that there is terrorism directed against Turkey that emanates from Syria. We've made that clear to the Syrian Government, that we are concerned about that. I think it's useful to remember that Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States. We have an excellent relationship with Turkey, and we'll stand by Turkey.
If we can be helpful in resolving some of these problems, we will.
Q Is the State Department participating in the investigation of the money transferred from Citibank with the money of the brother of the former President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari?
MR. BURNS: I think that's a question for other agencies of the U.S. Government and not for the State Department. The State Department does not track financial flows. We're not a law enforcement agency, and we don't have such powers to operate like that in the United States.
Q But some soldiers in Mexico mentioned that the State Department has given to the Mexican Government some information -- not exactly about the money -- but the movement of the brother of the former President of Mexico?
MR. BURNS: I just don't have anything for you on that particular issue.
Q On Iraq, is there any estimate of how long it will take for the Sanctions Committee to set everything up so that the oil sales can actually begin?
MR. BURNS: It's probably a matter of weeks -- actually for Iraq to comply with the regulations of the resolution so that the United Nations Sanctions Committee can be sure that everything is the way it should be.
This resolution was passed a couple of weeks ago, and so I would think it would be hopefully relatively soon. We want to see the victims of Saddam's aggression helped as soon as possible. I think if you're looking for an exact date, you might check with the United Nations in New York.
Q Also regarding Iraq, do you have any specifics on the licensing procedure for U.S. companies? Will there be individual licenses? When will companies know the exact details of the terms and conditions?
MR. BURNS: I would direct you to the Treasury Department, which is the relevant U.S. Government agency, to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. I'm sure they'll have all the information that U.S. companies need. Again, we hope that this will be a fair, competitive process, and that U.S. companies will have a fair way of landing some of these contracts.
Q Bosnia. Two related issues, Nick. Mr. Sacirbey and Mr. Izetbegovic, I believe, both have spoken out that there can be no elections on schedule, I believe in September, one of the conditions being the capture of Mladic and Karadzic impeding this election process.
Then the second issue is the stepped-up patrols, and I understand you talked to General Joulwan -- had a little briefing from General Joulwan yourself. Could you bring us up to speed on that, and there's also been some negative reports from the U.N. on the readiness for elections in Bosnia, and can you address that particular issue?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Elections and patrols. On elections, as you know, Secretary Christopher had many, many hours of discussion in Geneva on Sunday on this issue, and it's useful to note that the three Balkan Presidents -- Izetebegovic, Tudjman and Milosevic -- all agreed publicly in the statement that was issued in Geneva on Sunday that the date for elections should be held. No one disagrees on that.
The United States strongly believes that we should set the date for the elections. We would expect that a recommendation to that effect would be made at the Florence Mid-Term Review Conference on June 14, and that we would then expect the OSCE to meet and formally take this decision, as Minister Cotti said the other day in Geneva -- the Swiss Foreign Minister -- by the end of June.
This is going to happen. It's going to happen and these elections are going to be held because this is the necessary step to take to consolidate peace. There needs to be a new government in place, a new court, a new presidency. They need to think about getting beyond their phase of warfare into the phase of peace.
They need to de-legitimize the war criminals, the indicted war criminals, who ran the Republik of Srpska, and that will happen, because Karadzic and Mladic and the other indicted war criminals will not be allowed to run in these elections. All that will happen, but I think what you've got to understand is that the United States firmly supports this, but it's just not the United States; it is the three leaders themselves.
All the members of the Contact Group said yesterday in a formal statement in Berlin issued after the meeting, this is the right way to go, to set the date for elections. There is a broad international consensus that these elections should be held.
On the second question, there has been a remarkable degree of disinformation and miscommunication on this issue, and I'm glad to set the record straight. General Joulwan and Admiral Leighton Smith told Secretary Christopher Sunday morning in Geneva that IFOR had decided to increase the number of patrols throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina because IFOR has met the requirements of its core military mission and is now able to release a certain number of soldiers for patrolling duties on foot and in vehicles throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, including in and around Pale.
I think that Karadzic and Mladic will now see more evidence that IFOR is present in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think we're going to see the heat turned up on them, as Secretary Christopher said yesterday.
Unfortunately, some of our colleagues in the Pentagon decided on their own to knock down the story, and they were wrong, and they know they were wrong. They were inaccurate in what they said, and unfortunately some people who speak out of Sarajevo said the same thing. So we talked to General Joulwan yesterday at the NAC-C meeting in Berlin, and he reconfirmed and strongly urged us to put this on the record that the order has been given. The patrols will be increased, and the heat will be turned up on the indicted war criminals. It's absolutely clear what's going to happen.
Q Nick, if I could follow up, is this intended to decrease any movement or activity by the indicted war criminals leading up to the elections? Would this then satisfy the demand of the Muslim -- Bosnian-Muslim leaders that these two -- especially these two principal indicted war criminals be eliminated from the process -- be arrested? Has that been dropped?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask them, but they have -- they're members of the Electoral Commission. They've signed up to the Electoral Commission regulations, which say that the elections must go forward, and that's our full expectation.
Q One more question.
MR. BURNS: On Bosnia?
Q Yes. If the elections will not be held, what will (be) the status with the U.S. troops in the area?
MR. BURNS: We prefer to be optimists rather than pessimists. We think the elections will be held. We think the Dayton peace accords will be fulfilled. I mean, you can engage in thousand different hypothetical scenarios of what might go wrong. Why do that? Why do that when we're accomplishing our mission in Bosnia.
Q There are so many who are fighting each other, and I don't know how the U.S. troops --
MR. BURNS: Actually, no one's fighting anymore. There are no serious reports of fighting in Bosnia. The fighting was stopped by NATO, and now the peace is being secured by NATO, and that's a very good thing. So I don't want to go down that path of debating worst-case analyses if they haven't occurred. Actually, the trends are positive. They're slightly positive in Bosnia.
Fifteen to 20,000 people per day crossing the inter-entity boundary line. That wasn't happening in the early months of the implementation of Dayton. A year ago today, nobody was crossing those warring lines -- no civilians were crossing the warring lines -- and they've now disappeared.
Q In his conversation with General Joulwan, did he offer any other suggestions as to how IFOR might be able to help free and fair elections occur? For example, is there any thought being given to escorts, protection for anti-Karadzic Bosnian Serb candidates in Srpska?
MR. BURNS: He did offer, in general, a view as to how IFOR could be helpful in leading towards the election and providing for freedom of movement. Secretary General Solana has also done that over the last couple of days. In fact, they've issued some press information on this that's available out of Brussels.
In general, in addition to stepping up the number of patrols immediately in Pale and in other areas, IFOR personnel -- soldiers -- are going to be available to work very closely with the OSCE on the issue of freedom of movement. And, as we draw closer to the elections in September, I'm sure the OSCE will have some specific requests to make of IFOR in that regard.
Also in general, I think General Joulwan has always believed, quite correctly, that IFOR's main military mission of creating a 1,050 kilometer-long zone of separation and the ability of IFOR to knock down the barriers in the cities and in terms of inter-urban travel will be the most effective thing they can do in facilitating freedom of movement.
So, if you will, they've already accomplished a great deal to expand the freedom of movement in the country, and they're willing to do more and to meet requests to do more by the OSCE. We saw this -- Secretary Christopher saw this -- as a very positive development. He received these assurances directly from General Joulwan and Admiral Smith, and we were dismayed to see some of the contradictions to this by people in official positions. I think I can tell you quite authoritatively what we heard and what's going to happen.
Q If we go back to those people today, they will change their tune, do you think?
MR. BURNS: I certainly hope so, because when I brought this problem to the attention of General Joulwan yesterday, he encouraged me to go out on the record to describe our conversation and to say that he has given this order, and it will be carried out.
Q It has been reported in Seoul and in Washington that there has been a secret contact between North and South Korea in Beijing Can you confirm such a contact? And, if it is fact, do you welcome such a contact or not?
MR. BURNS: The United States would welcome dialogue and contact between North and South Korea. I do not have any information for you. I have nothing for you on any current assessment of contacts between North and South Korea, and I would leave it to both North and South Korea to comment on any contacts.
I can tell you this, however. It's our very strong mode of operation that we always consult with the Republic of Korea on any important issues pertaining to the North.
Q On Greece and Turkey in the Aegean -- that goes together, I guess. A high-level Turkish military official at NATO headquarters in Napoli stated on Monday that a Greek-inhabited island south of Crete -- and you know where Crete is --
MR. BURNS: I do know where Crete is. It's a lovely place.
Q -- constitutes a disputed area --
MR. BURNS: It belongs to Greece by the way, right, as I remember.
Q Okay, that island --
MR. BURNS: None of these Turks are claiming sovereignty over Crete. Good.
Q No position.
MR. BURNS: No, not "no position." It's Greek territory. (Laughter)
Q So this small island, which is very close to Crete, is -- he called it a disputed area, and because of that a NATO naval exercise, which is planned for September in that area, should not take place. Does the U.S. Government have any position?
MR. BURNS: I don't have an immediate comment, because I've not seen the report, and I'm not quite sure which island we're talking about. There are a lot of islands in that area, so let me take that question and get back to you.
Bill, one last question?
Q One more on the Bosnia matter. In the discussions with General Joulwan, Nick, did the topic come up of there being any increased risk of provoking a firefight with these people that protect Mladic and Karadzic if they were -- not accidentally -- but if they were incidentally contacted? Isn't there a possibility of inflaming the situation that would affect the elections adversely?
MR. BURNS: I can assure you that while you have to foresee a variety of possibilities in any kind of military action, our troops are there and the other NATO troops are there to do their job, and they will do their job, and they'll enforce the peace. I would urge the Bosnian Serbs not to be so foolish as to try to provoke our forces. They're there to enforce the peace, and they will do so.
Q And these are primarily French troops that would be patrolling around Pale, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speak about which contingents, which nationalities, will be involved in these patrols. That's up for NATO to tell you about.
Let me just say before we leave, I just want to welcome the official spokesman of the United States Mission to the United Nations, Jamie Rubin, who has just joined us. Anything you want to offer, Jamie? Nothing? Okay, thank you very much.
Q Thank you, Nick.
(The briefing concluded at 1:58 p.m.)
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