U.S. Department of State 96/06/10 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, June 10, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Secretary's Speeches on Middle East, New York, June 14...... 1 Appointment of Amb J. Stapleton Roy to Career Ambassador.... 2 Secretary's Attendance of NFATC Class....................... 2 MIDDLE EAST Hizbollah Killing of Five Israeli Soldiers.in Lebanon....... 3 Prime Minister Netanyahu: --Forming Israeli Government/Travel to the US/Conversations with Ambassadors Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk............. 3-5 Arab Summit Conference, Cairo, June 21-23................... 5 US Financial/Economic Assistance to Palestinian Authority... 5-6 Arab Condemnation to Turkish-Israeli Military Cooperation... 13 Israel Normalizing Relations w/Neighboring Countries........ 13-14 Egypt, Syria, Saudia Arabia's Peace Agreement w/Israel...... 13 Iraqi Exclusion from Arab Summit............................ 14 Amb Christopher Ross Mtg w/Syrians re Explosions in Syria... 14-15 KOREA Rpt on North's Nuclear Threat if US Food Aid Not Forthcoming/ North Official's Threatening Remarks...................... 6-7 North-South Talks........................................... 7 USG Response to Food Aid Issue/Dimensions of US Response/ Link Between Humanitarian Aid & Concessions/Freeze on Nuclear Activities/Conference to Establish Peace Treaty/ Remains of US Servicemen.................................. 7-9 North Korean Response to UN Appeal for Food................. 9 RUSSIA Discussions on CFE Treaty................................... 9-10 CARIBBEAN BANANAS European Preference/Effect on Drug Cartels/US-EU Summit/ Secretary's Talks with Trinidad & Tobago/Drug Policy & Strategy................................................ 10,21-22 BANGLADESH Elections/International Monitoring Group.................... 11 CHINA Nuclear Test/Support for CTBT/Secretary Briefed on Negotiations US Contacts w/Government re Test/Size of Test............. 11-13 UK/NO. IRELAND Belfast Talks Open/Sinn Fein in Talks/Senator Mitchell Named Chairman.................................................. 15 CUBA Use of OAS Judicial Committee on Helms-Burton............... 16 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Amb Pardew Talks on Equip and Train/Departure of Foreign Troops/Defense Law & Problems............................. 17 Secretary's Mtgs with Frowick and Cotti on Elections/ Obstacles Remain/Call for Specific Date at Florence Mtg/ Dayton Accords Language on Elections/OSCE Certification... 17-21 JORDAN Secretary, King Hussein Lunch/Press Arrangements, June 11... 22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JUNE 10, 1996, 1:01 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of announcements.
First, Secretary of State Christopher will travel to New York on Friday, June l4th, for two policy addresses related to the Middle East.
The first will be at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at 11:00 a.m., and this speech will discuss the Administration's efforts over the last four years to pursue a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, which, as you know, is the main objective of American policy in the Middle East.
This session will be closed to the media. It is one of the regular meetings that the Secretary has with the Conference of Presidents.
The second, the same day, just a little while later at l2:45 p.m., will be an address entitled "Investing in the Future of the Middle East and North Africa in the Next Century." This is at a conference sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations which focuses on economic relations in the Middle East as a run-up to the Cairo conference. As you know, the Cairo economic summit this autumn will be the third economic summit, after Casablanca and Amman, to focus on the priority issue of building economic relations among the Middle East states.
The Secretary will discuss the importance of the economic conferences, the very strong support that the United States gives to them; and the positive impact these conferences have had in building economic ties among the countries of the region.
The remarks by the Secretary will begin at 12:45 p.m. They will be open to pool coverage and we'll make a text of the Secretary's remarks available to all of you back here in Washington. I hope that we can even pipe the audio back into the briefing room for those of you who are going to be covering that.
The second announcement I have is just -- it's a very pleasant task. It's just to let you know that the Secretary of State, a little later on this afternoon, will be formally appointing Jay Stapleton Roy, our Ambassador to Indonesia, to the personal rank of career ambassador, which is the highest rank in the Foreign Service.
I think during the last sixteen years, since the passage of the Foreign Service Act, which really created the modern Foreign Service back in 1980, there have only been l4 Foreign Service Officers who have attained the rank of career ambassador. Among them, people you will recognize -- Ambassador Roy Atherton, our former Ambassador to Egypt; Ambassador Art Hummel; Walter Stoessel; Arthur Hartman; George Vest; Terry Todman; Mort Abramowitz. Right now in the Foreign Service, we only have two serving ambassadors who have the rank of career ambassador -- Frank Wisner in India, and Tom Pickering in Russia.
So Stape Roy joins their ranks. And obviously these are only the most outstanding Foreign Service Officers who ever achieve this rank. He has had a very distinguished career. As you know, he is both an Asian expert and also a Russia expert. He has been Executive Secretary of the State Department. He has been Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian Affairs. He is a graduate of the National War College. He has been a Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangkok and in Beijing. He has been Ambassador to Singapore, to China, and now to Indonesia.
So, as a fellow Foreign Service Officer, on behalf of his colleagues, I wanted to recognize this appointment and congratulate Ambassador Roy on this very, very high honor. This is an appointment commission which is signed by the President of the United States.
Last, I wanted to let you know about another activity of the Secretary of State this afternoon. He is going to be travelling over to the Foreign Service Institute, the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, in Virginia. He is going to attend a class there for managers on how to effectively manage a diverse work place.
His visit there demonstrates his personal commitment to encouraging diversity in the workforce here in the State Department and encouraging managers in the State Department to promote this objective.
When the Secretary took office in l993, he established this as one of his major objectives in response to the many lawsuits that have been brought against the State Department on equal employment opportunity grounds. This morning in the senior staff meeting, the Secretary asked all of us who manage people here in the State Department to take this responsibility very seriously. He is going to the Foreign Affairs Training Center to make this point, to listen to the people who are putting this into place, and he expects that all of us in the State Department will pursue this quite vigorously.
Q Do you have anything to say about the violence this morning in Southern Lebanon, and is it a violation of the April agreement?
MR. BURNS: I do. We have obviously been watching this situation in Southern Lebanon quite carefully here this morning in the State Department. We understand that Hizbollah guerrillas attacked an Israeli patrol early in the morning. The IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, have confirmed that five Israeli soldiers were killed in that attack.
This incident occurs while Israel is in the process of forming a new government, and the last thing that we need now, all of us who support peace in the Middle East, is an upsurge of violence in Southern Lebanon. We very much would call upon Hizbollah to cease and desist on its attacks on Israeli soldiers. An upsurge in violence only serves the interest of those who reject the peace negotiations.
Now as for the second part of your question, George, I think it is just too early to know whether this represents any kind of violation of the agreement that the Secretary of State put in place on April 27th.
We don't have all the facts. We do understand that there has been an Israeli military response to these attacks on Israeli soldiers within the security zone. I don't at this point have any information to share with you on the nature of the response and where the response was directed.
I can tell you this. We think that the Monitoring Group which has been established should complete its talks about the rules of the road that it will put in place to make its work possible.
At this point, the Israeli Government is in the process of being formed, so I think we are all going to have to be patient and allow the Israeli Government, the new Prime Minister, to form his government, to put in place not only his ministers but a program, a policy program, a program of action.
Once that has taken place, we will want to get back to these discussions as soon as we can. I believe the French Foreign Ministry made a similar statement this morning. I would associate ourselves with that statement, but we do have to give Mr. Netanyahu some chance to form his government. I think, quite fairly, Mr. Netanyahu deserves an opportunity to look at these negotiations and to put his own imprint on them should he wish to do so.
Q Is Mr. Netanyahu coming to the States on the 25th of this month?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the Prime Minister-elect has accepted President Clinton's invitation to visit Washington. We have not yet agreed on a date, because I think that is partially, if not perhaps even totally a function of when he finishes completing his new government and when that government takes office.
We don't know when he'll get to the end of the process of naming ministers and of agreeing on a program of action, a policy program for the government.
Q Over the weekend, I heard the story that Mr. Netanyahu refused to meet with Dennis Ross when he requested to go and see him after he was elected as the next Prime Minister of Israel and that the State Department sent Mr. Martin Indyk in his place to talk to Mr. Netanyahu.
MR. BURNS: That's a very curious story.
Q Well, you know --
MR. BURNS: You must rely on the source. I know that's not your source.
Q I mean, I heard that. I don't know about it being a reliable source or not.
MR. BURNS: Well, let me reject it on all counts. Martin Indyk is the Ambassador of the United States in Israel. He did go to see Mr. Netanyahu last week and they had a very full conversation about a lot of different issues. But you would expect that. That's the role of an American Ambassador in a country overseas.
Ambassador Ross, Dennis Ross, of course has also been in contact with Mr. Netanyahu by phone and with all sorts of people in the Israeli Government and in the new government that will be formed.
A possible visit by him has not been rejected by the Israelis. I think we all agree, we have agreed in various phone conversations that the Israeli Government needs to be formed first before any such visit can take place. And I'm sure, at the right time, Dennis will travel to Israel for a visit with the new government.
So I can categorically reject this rumor that has been floating around. Nothing to it.
Q What is the United States' expectation from the upcoming Arab summit conference next week in Cairo, the 2lst-23rd of June?
MR. BURNS: Well, we are very pleased that the Arab countries will be meeting in Egypt. We certainly applaud the leadership of President Mubarak. As you know, President Clinton had a good phone conversation yesterday with him, with President Mubarak, from Air Force One. Mike McCurry told you something about the nature of that conversation.
The Egyptian Government has been responsible in its comments. Certainly President Mubarak has been keeping the door open, as Secretary Christopher counselled this morning. Our own piece of advice would be this, and here I am just really repeating something that Secretary Christopher told you an hour and a half ago, and that is that the Arab countries ought to keep the door open. They ought not to prejudge a government that does not yet exist, that hasn't been formed.
Let the Israeli Government be formed. Let the Israeli Government adopt its own program, policy program, a program of action. Let us all work with the Israeli Government to continue the peace process, to continue our objective of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. That's what the United States wants. We believe that under responsible management, and certainly Egypt will exercise responsible authority, this can be a positive conference. We hope it is so.
Q One last thing. The Washington Times ran a story Saturday that US assistance, and the pledge to assist the Palestinian Authority, will be reduced, or it's about to be reduced because the pressure will be mounting from Congress and Congressional quarters who are affiliated or linked with the Likud and Mr. Netanyahu. That was the story in the Washington Times.
I want your feelings about this, and has there been any funds sent to the Palestinian Authority after Mr. Netanyahu was elected from the funds that the United States pledged to give to the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BURNS: On your second question, I'll just have to check. Disbursement of funds occurs all the time, and it occurs through normal government channels, with the Palestinian Authority. I can check on whether any funds have been disbursed after the Israeli election. There would be no reason not to, because in answer to your first question, the United States will meet its commitments to the Palestinian Authority. $500,000,000 of assistance over five years. We're not going to shrink from that. In fact, it's in our interest to continue it. And the Palestinian people deserve it, as does the Palestinian Authority.
There is a very limited amount of funds, and you know this quite well. It has been held up on the Congress, in the House International Relations Committee. And we are working with the Congress to try to free up those funds, because we believe they should be provided to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian people need signs, visible signs of support from all of us who support peace, and the United States has been the leader in that process, and we are going to continue that.
Q People are concerned that new reality on the ground is creating a situation of uncertainty about many things in the peace process and the assistance, and this is why the questions are coming up from -- which I hear from the Palestinian Authority and other places. So it's good that you made that --
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you asked the question, because the Palestinian people can be assured that we're going to meet our commitment of financial and economic assistance to them.
Q Nick, do you have anything on a Japanese newspaper story that is being widely circulated in Asia about a North Korean official who was here a few months ago, threatening the United States with four nuclear bombs he said North Korea had that it was willing to use against South Korea and Japan if the United States would not agree to further food aid?
MR. BURNS: I know nothing about it. It sounds preposterous. I've never heard about it. North Korea's nuclear program is frozen by the actions of the United States Government and remains frozen to this day.
Q The Japanese newspaper quoted U.S. officials -- military officials, actually, in Japan as --
MR. BURNS: I can't believe they were quoted accurately. I've never heard about this. It sounds to be most improbable and sensational, and I wouldn't rely on it, believe me.
Q When the North Korean official was here -- Mr. Kim actually -- a couple of months back, did he in his discussions with officials in this building -- did he make any remarks to that effect or close to that effect?
MR. BURNS: Since November 1994, we've had the Agreed Framework in place. North Korea's nuclear activities have been frozen, and since that time, I don't believe there's ever been a conversation in which any threats of that nature have been made against the United States, nor would I expect that to occur from the North Koreans, because it would be inadmissible and unwise for them to do so. I have no evidence, no information, to back up the rumors that you've heard in the Japanese press.
Q If I could follow, Nick, what of the talks between the North and South -- have you anything that you can report -- those that are being held in China -- and is the food relief response adequate in the eyes of the North Koreans, or have they told us that that's enough to help or what?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, you'll have to ask the Republic of Korea and North Korea about any possible meetings between their officials. I'm not the right person to ask that question.
On the second question, as we said on Friday, the United States is prepared to respond positively to the World Food Program. The President has not yet made a formal decision. We are consulting and have been over the last couple of days with the Republic of Korea in Japan, and we do believe that there will be an international response, because we think on humanitarian grounds there is reason to consider this request quite seriously.
It is not linked to any other issue in the discussions ongoing between the United States and North Korea which also involve the Republic of Korea.
Q Could you say if a decision went forward, what the makeup will be -- aid would be?
MR. BURNS: No, that's not how we would do it. If the President makes a positive decision, then we'd announce the dimensions of the U.S. response after the President makes a decision -- you know, how much we'd be donating, and so forth. I'm not in a position to do that today.
Q Has there been a response from the Koreans that you can report -- the North Koreans?
MR. BURNS: From the North Koreans to the U.N. appeal for food?
Q Yes, to the U.N., but to our joining in that.
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of one. I mean, there could have been a response in some diplomatic conversation over the last two days. I have nothing to give you on that, though.
Q Senator Dole issued a very strong statement on Friday, saying there should have been a link between humanitarian aid and North Korean concessions. He points out, you know, they have this ballistic missiles program; they have -- they routinely violate the demilitarized zone. Is this the right address to ask that question, or should it be elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: If it's a political question, this is not the right address, because I'm not a political person. If it's a foreign policy question, I'm glad to respond.
Q All right, it's a foreign policy question. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Thank you. It sounded like a foreign policy question. You're very artful, George. That was very good. I'm taking the fifth on this election, so let's put the election aside and put partisan political asides.
But on the merits of the issue, George, the United States has put in place a program -- very successful, I think everyone would agree -- to freeze North Korea's nuclear activities. That's to protect the national interests that we clearly have on the Korean peninsula.
Second, the President and President Kim have proposed a conference to establish a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula, one that has been lacking for 46 years, also in the interest -- 43 years, excuse me -- also in the interest of the United States.
Third, we are now conducting a series of discussions with the North Koreans on remains, and there is a DoD delegation that is currently in Pyongyang. So it's not as if we're not paying attention to all these important interests of the United States regarding North Korea. We are paying attention, and in fact we've put out, we've charted, a course which I think will lead to peace and security on the Korean peninsula if all these things can be implemented.
But, if you put all those things aside for a moment and just recognize, as the United Nations has, that there is a profoundly serious humanitarian crisis under way regarding the food situation in North Korea, it stands to reason that the American people -- who are charitable by nature, who do want to respond to help people in need -- that the American people would want to support food assistance to North Korea.
I think we can support food assistance to North Korea and at the same time protect our security interests that are so evident in North Korea. And, frankly, I don't see this distinction that has been made in some of the comments pertaining to the Administration's proposed plan of action.
Still on North Korea? David.
Q Defense Minister Grachev today welcomed the agreement by the West to make some concessions in the Conventional Forces Treaty under which they will be allowed to have larger forces on their flanks. He also mentioned -- and really this is the point of information I want to ask you -- that there is supposed to be a three-year delay on implementation of parts of the agreement.
Is there a three-year delay, and, if so, does that apply even if Mr. Zyuganov wins the election?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to take the second part of your question pertaining to a three-year delay and get you a specific answer. I don't know if we're talking about the entire treaty or parts of it or what.
MR. BURNS: That's why I want to check on that first. In response just to the first part of your question, I wouldn't describe this as a process of American or Western concessions. The fact is that we had three -- well, three/four years of discussions with Russia about the CFE Treaty. We were happy to conclude them last weekend in a way that we think promotes America's national security interests, as well as the interest of a lot of our allies in Europe.
The agreement is a good agreement. It really does reduce the possibility quite dramatically of any kind of conventional conflict in Europe, which for 40 years was the major preoccupation of security strategists and of American Presidents and Secretaries of State.
So we stand by the agreement that was negotiated. We think it's a sound agreement. We think it's good for our allies, and I will get back to you on the specific question that you have.
Q I don't know if anyone has asked you about bananas today.
MR. BURNS: Not yet.
Q A number of Caribbean Prime Ministers are at the White House, asking President Clinton to reconsider the Administration's challenge to the European preference for Caribbean bananas. They're saying if they lose this, that it's going to leave the whole eastern Caribbean open to further penetration by the drug cartels, and their request is being supported by the Congressional Black Caucus and other organizations. Do you have any thoughts about that -- about the implications of that decision if the Administration goes through with it?
MR. BURNS: I can't give you our specific program of action, because, as you know, there will be a U.S.-European summit this week here in Washington. We are going to discuss this issue in depth with our European colleagues.
I don't want to try to prejudge the outcome of those discussions in public today. I can tell you we're aware of this issue. When Secretary Christopher visited Trinidad in early March, Trinidad and Tobago, he had a very long discussion of this with the Prime Minister and with other officials of the government.
We have heard from most of the Caribbean nations. We have heard indications of quite serious concern on their part. We've heard from the Europeans as well. So we need to factor in all of these comments and factor in other interests that we have, and I believe in a couple of days we'll be prepared to speak more forthrightly and publicly about this.
Q Thank you, Nick. This is Arshad of the Inquilab, Bangladesh. Forty-eight hours left for the election in Bangladesh, beginning on June 12. Nick, what is your comment on the forthcoming elections, number one? And, number two, is that the United States Government has sent a very strong election observer group under the leadership of former Congressman Steven Solarz. So my expectation would be -- our expectation would be, you know, what is the position of the United States as far as this election is concerned, and in retaining and consolidating democracy in that part of the world?
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Mr. Arshad. The United States supports the holding of this election. We understand that there have been a considerable number of political problems in Bangladesh concerning the last election and the runup to that election.
We believe that it behooves all parties -- the government, the opposition and others -- to refrain from violence; to allow these elections to be conducted fairly and openly and peacefully and allow the people to decide the course of these elections in a fair way.
It is good that we have international observers, and among them former Congressman Solarz who is an expert on South Asia. He's an expert on many parts of the world, but this is one of the areas of his expertise. We will be looking forward to hearing the reports from the international observers, as well as the reports that we will receive from Ambassador David Merrill and our Embassy staff in Dhaka.
Q Do you have anything on this China offer to stop the nuclear testing?
MR. BURNS: The China offer to stop the nuclear test.
MR. BURNS: First, I think I should say that -- I should just note for you that the White House issued a statement on Saturday regretting the fact that China had conducted a nuclear test at the Lop Nur facility on Saturday.
Second, we were pleased last week that the Chinese Ambassador to the talks in Geneva made a productive, very constructive speech in which he said that China would no longer insist on peaceful nuclear explosions as part of a forthcoming Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty negotiation.
So we hope very much that the Chinese Government will work with us over the next three weeks in Geneva to finish the negotiations for a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. If we can achieve this, then one can be signed by the Presidents of the five nuclear powers and others in New York in September.
This would be a major achievement for all countries of the world -- all nuclear powers and all non-nuclear powers. It would mean that after four decades of nuclear tests, we would now look towards the future and have a future with no nuclear tests, which would be a great advantage for everyone living on the earth, for the national security of all the countries involved. It is one of the major foreign policy objectives of this Administration this year, and we're going to put all the diplomatic muscle that we can into the negotiations over the next three weeks in Geneva.
The Secretary has been briefed. He was briefed by John Holum this morning -- the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency -- about the negotiations in Geneva. The Secretary is following them very closely. Obviously, if he needs to get involved at any stage, he will do so. It's a major priority. We want to make it work, and we'd like to see China get on board, as well as the rest of the countries get on board, a final consensus so that we can sign the agreement in the autumn.
Q Any more detail, Nick, on the size of the explosion Saturday; where did you say it was?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you the size of the explosion. It was an underground nuclear test at the Lop Nur -- L-o-p -- two words -- N-u-r -- facility, which I believe is in northwest China. The statement released by the White House regretted the action. It urged China to refrain from further nuclear testing. It urged China to agree that we should have a treaty -- a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty to ban all nuclear tests. So a quite forthright statement by the Administration.
Q Was the U.S. informed in advance by China that it would be conducting this test?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q Follow to that? Nick, did you talk with the Chinese since the test and voice your opposition?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We've not only spoken publicly, we have certainly voiced our regret to the Chinese Government. We're also, as I mentioned before, working very closely with China in Geneva to try to get over the final hurdles in the negotiations toward the Test-Ban Treaty, and we do welcome some of the statements made last week by the Chinese Government.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Still on China? Any more on China?
Q I just have a brief follow-up to David's question. I saw it was reported that this was a 5.6 Richter explosion. That's a pretty good-sized thermonuclear bomb, isn't it?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm that for you. I don't have those figures.
Q Last week, three Arab countries' summit -- they produced a very strong condemnation to Turkish-Israeli military cooperation. Also, they urged Turkey to give up this agreement. I believe two of the three countries are your strong allies -- one is Egypt and other one is Saudi Arabia. I don't understand what is the problem, and do you have any real reaction on this Arab summit declaration, whatever?
MR. BURNS: You're quite right that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are good friends of the United States. But it's also correct to say that the United States fully supports a process of normalization for Israel in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East. Israel has been denied normal relations with countries in the region for nearly 50 years, and it's high time that Israel has been allowed by other countries to reach out with economic relations, with security relations to other countries.
It's very positive that the Turkish Government and the Israeli Government have taken steps to expand their ties and to bring themselves closer to each other, and to work together economically and militarily, and we fully support that. The United States fully supports the efforts of Turkey and Israel to become friends.
Q Follow-up on that. What do you think is the motivation of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- well, Egypt, which has its own peace agreement with Israel. Why would it be so opposed to this kind of arrangement?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to refer you to the Egyptian and Saudi Governments for an answer to that question. All I can do is give you the U.S. perspective and remind you what Secretary Christopher said again this morning: Let's not close the doors on relations with Israel, on countries' relations with Israel in the Middle East. In fact, let's open the doors and open up the possibilities, because Israel will continue to exist as a strong country in the Middle East, no matter what government is in power in Israel, and it really does stand to reason that a number of Israel's neighbors would want to have good relations with it. And not just talking about the countries that are contiguous to Israel but other countries like Turkey.
Q The Washington Times portrays the increase in the number of contacts between Syria and Iraq as a hostile action against Turkey, Israel and the United States. Is there a concern in the Administration about the increase in contacts with those two countries?
MR. BURNS: We certainly noted that there has been that pattern. I can't give you -- say anything more than that we think that Iraq should continue to be isolated because of its aberrant behavior, and we would not encourage any country to have close relations -- supportive, productive relations with Iraq at this time, certainly not in the security sphere, because Iraq cannot be trusted, and it has proven that.
We were talking about the Arab summit before; the last time an Arab summit was called was in August 1990 in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Therefore, we think it's very appropriate that Iraq be excluded from the Cairo Summit, and we do agree with the decision made by the Arab leaders to exclude Iraq.
Q According to the Washington Times, Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad held a secret meeting in April. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: If it were secret, then I didn't know about it. (Laughter) I don't. I have nothing for you on that. Nothing for you.
Q What can you tell us about the meeting between Ambassador Chris Ross and the Syrian Foreign Ministry officials last week?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Ross is a very active diplomat. I don't know if he had just one meeting. He could have had many meetings. It would have been natural for him to do so, given all the diplomatic activity in the Middle East these days. I don't have anything specific to share with you about a particular meeting.
Q I'm referring to the reports about his being called to the Ministry, to be protested about the statement last week dealing with the explosion.
MR. BURNS: I think the Syrians have made their point clear in public that they're unhappy that the State Department has noted the fact that there have been a series of explosions throughout Syria -- not just in Damascus -- recently; and we have an obligation -- and the Syrians ought to understand this -- to Americans traveling or residing in Syria to let them know that there have been this series of mysterious explosions in order that they may take the proper security provisions to safeguard themselves.
In a democratic society, that's what governments do. Governments talk openly about things that are real, about things that happen, and we think these explosions happened; and we have no interest in hiding those explosions from Americans who ought to be aware of them. That's how democratic governments act.
Q Are you able to say how many, where, and so forth?
MR. BURNS: It's not up to the United States Government to count explosions. We think we have a fairly good idea of how many explosions there have been and where they are. We have, of course, shared that information with the Syrian Government, but we've given a general warning to American citizens, because that's the right thing to do.
Q Do you have any points on the opening of the talks in Belfast on the future of Northern Ireland?
MR. BURNS: We do. We're very pleased to see that the talks opened this morning; pleased to see that both Prime Minister Bruton and Prime Minister Major were there. We would just note that we think it's positive that they selected Senator George Mitchell to be the chair of these talks. He has done an outstanding job, and we hope that these talks will propel the parties toward a future of hope and promise and peace.
This is something that only the people of Northern Ireland can do, of course, is to actually create a situation of peace on the ground. The President has said many times that the United States will stand by those who are negotiating for peace in Northern Ireland.
On the question of Sinn Fein, the British and Irish Governments have made it clear that Sinn Fein can only take its seat if the IRA puts into place a cease-fire, and there is no place for violence or the threat of violence in these peace negotiations. We think it is important that Sinn Fein take part in these negotiations, but the avenue, the vehicle, toward that is an IRA cease-fire.
Q Is this (inaudible) that the talks can really make any meaningful progress at all without the participation of Sinn Fein?
MR. BURNS: We think the talks have gotten off to a good start this morning. We think they should continue. We think the people of Northern Ireland, the Protestants and Catholics, should put their faith in these talks and support these talks, as we will continue to support them.
It's really up to the IRA to decide if Sinn Fein will have a place at these talks, and that's the responsibility of the IRA to make that decision. We implore the IRA and call upon the IRA to introduce this cease-fire.
Q Will Senator Mitchell be briefing the Administration on any formal basis regularly?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that he'll be -- he and others -- I'm sure others in the British Government and the Irish Government will be briefing the United States Government on these talks. I would expect that to happen, and I wouldn't preclude Senator Mitchell having conversations with people here.
I think he's going to have his hands full, obviously. He's going to be very busy, and I think his primary points of contact will be the governments involved and the others involved who are participating in the talks -- the British and Irish Governments and the others.
Q Last week in Panama, the Assembly of the OAS finished with a very strong criticism of the Helms-Burton law. Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: I commented on Friday on that. Following Ambassador Babbitt's comments, we reject the use of the judicial committee in the OAS to take on Helms-Burton. It's not the appropriate place to do so. It politicizes the judicial committee, and we think there's a proper place for these discussions. Lord knows, we've had hundreds, if not thousands, of discussions with the Latin countries and the European countries -- Canada and Mexico -- about Helms-Burton over the last couple of weeks. We understand their concerns.
They ought to understand a couple of things. It's the law of the land. We implement U.S. law. We're going forward with it. We're going to try to put the pressure and turn up the pressure on Castro. That's the right policy. Turn up the pressure on Castro. He's an autocrat. Support the democrats in Cuba. The Europeans should do that. The Europeans should reflect on that.
Carol, and then, Bill, I'll go to you.
Q Nick, have you gotten any feedback from Pardew on his talks in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Jim Pardew started his talks yesterday in Sarajevo on equip-and-train. What he's trying to do is two things. One is to ascertain that there has been now a complete withdrawal, if you will, disappearance, of all the foreign fighters who were in Bosnia. I continue to believe and understand that there are only a handful of foreigners left. They are demobilized already. There are no fighting units. There are no armed groups living in the countryside. These are four individuals that we are looking for -- actually, the Bosnian Government is looking for -- who will be in essence kicked out of the country as soon as they can be located.
Once the Bosnian Government can confirm to us that that is the case, they will have leapt over a very important hurdle towards equip-and-train.
The second thing that Jim Pardew is working on is the Defense Law. We thought in Geneva a week ago Sunday that the Defense Law had been fully agreed to by the Federation partners. That was not the case. There was some backsliding, some new problems came up, and he's there to work with them on those problems. We think he can be successful in his mission.
So hopefully in the very near future, we'll have hurdled the two major barriers to the initiation of the equip-and-train program, and we're going to commence it once we're satisfied that those two barriers have in fact been hurdled.
Q How long is he supposed to be there?
MR. BURNS: I don't know his exact itinerary. I think it's just a couple of days, but, if you're interested, we can check on that for you.
Q A related question: There was a story in The New York Times over the weekend, quoting Swiss Foreign Minister Cotti on the elections, and the tone was very -- it sounded as if there was quite a bit of disagreement between the Swiss Foreign Minister and the United States on the question of elections and also the date by which a decision would be made.
Has that been cleared up, or is that still as contentious as it seems?
MR. BURNS: I think there may be a little bit less than meets the eye to the story than that particular story represented. But let me tell you this: John Kornblum had a good conversation with Minister Cotti on Friday. We have a good process here. There is open communication between us, the United States, and the OSCE and among all the parties to the Dayton Accords in Geneva.
The Secretary had a very good meeting with Minister Cotti, as well as a meeting with Bob Frowick, who is the responsible official on the ground. All of the Contact Group Foreign Ministers in Berlin said publicly that the elections should go forward; that a date should be set for elections by September 14. All the Balkan leaders, including President Izetbegovic, said in Geneva a week ago yesterday that there should be an early date set for elections.
I think that's significant. I think that answers some of the questions raised in The New York Times' article. There's no question this is a difficult situation. These countries have just come out of a war, and the conditions on the ground are not perfect for elections. They're not perfect. There are a number of obstacles. But if the past is any indication, Cambodians walked through the minefields to elections, and they elected a new government.
Angolans also walked -- many of them miles -- to voting booths, and Salvadorans did as well. Three very specific examples of countries emerging from civil war who transcended the problems of the civil war to let the people decide, and fundamentally this is what this is all about.
Are we going to let the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina decide their future, decide who will represent them in the assembly and in the presidency, or are we going to delay that and allow this interregnum to continue?
We think that despite all the problems establishing an early date for elections -- which I believe will happen at Florence this Thursday and Friday -- I believe there will be a public call for a specific date in September for these elections. I then believe the OSCE will act in the second two weeks of June to codify that call.
If we can do that, then all of us will have a target date, and we'll be able to put some pressure on the three parties to this conflict, using the resources of the OSCE to actually improve conditions on the ground between late June and early September when the elections are going to be held.
So the United States strongly supports the holding of elections, and we believe that these can be free and fair elections, and it's much too early to give up on that prospect right now.
Q Did Cotti tell Kornblum in that call Friday or in some subsequent contact that in fact he would -- that he agreed with your position, and that he would go forward and set a date for the election by September?
MR. BURNS: I believe that based on the conversation that Secretary Christopher had with him a week ago yesterday and the conversation that John Kornblum had three days ago, that there is a large measure of agreement between Minister Cotti and ourselves. We respect him. He's doing an excellent job. We're working very closely with him.
I can't speak for him, and I think there may be issues on which we diverge. But on the large issues, I think we're together. I think that's also true, very importantly, with all the parties to this conflict. They're the ones who have to make the elections work. They all want the elections to go forward. They want a date to be set. They want conditions to be improved to make the elections effective.
I wanted to draw your attention to the language of the Dayton Accords here. The Dayton Accords request the OSCE to certify whether elections can be effective under current social conditions. The Dayton Accords do not say that the conditions have to be pristine or Jeffersonian -- you know, northern Virginia standards.
We're talking about a country that has been at war and people who have been refugees and people who have been blown out of their homes, and they're going to have to deal with those conditions, but we still think an election can take place under those conditions effectively.
Q You said that there were some issues on which you and Cotti disagree. What are those?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't want to pinpoint them. In diplomacy, usually you accentuate the positive and you downplay the negative, and I'm not going to turn that maxim around now. But I think, putting that aside, having been in these conversations, I can tell you that there's a large measure of agreement. There are some areas where perhaps we don't see perfectly -- that we aren't perfectly together -- but in the large and important issues, I think we are.
I do expect at Florence a public call for a specific date for elections, and then the OSCE, which is the responsible organization, will take up that recommendation by Mr. Frowick, and they will have to decide. It's their responsibility to decide, and we'll live by their decision.
Q So you're not saying that you expect the OSCE to go along with the Florence declaration. You're just --
MR. BURNS: I'm saying that I think at Florence there will be a recommendation made public, and then the OSCE has to meet, and they'll probably meet around July 20th, and they may even make a trip to Bosnia --
MR. BURNS: June 20th, excuse me, Judd. June 20th. They may even want to send some people to Bosnia-Herzegovina again to just see conditions on the ground, and they'll make a decision. I believe that decision will be positive, because all the countries want a positive decision, and all the Contact Group partners want a positive decision.
There's really a surprising degree of consensus on this question. Now, there is, obviously, a lot of concern that we do everything we can to improve the conditions between now and September so that people have a fair chance to vote.
No one is saying that the conditions are ideal today. No one is saying that the conditions even approach the desirable today, but we've got to work between now and the election date to get that done. We think that as a tactic setting the date improves the chances of creating better conditions for the elections.
Q Even if you say that it is up to the OSCE to make this certification, why has the United States been so far out in front, coming very close to flatly declaring that there will be elections? Doesn't that at least give the appearance of undermining OSCE jurisdiction or authority on this issue?
MR. BURNS: The United States is in many ways the father of the Dayton Accords. It was the United States that led the parties to Dayton, and it helped the parties negotiate the agreement at Dayton. We know the Dayton Accords backwards and forwards. We know the requirements.
We also have a very strong national interest in seeing the Dayton Accords succeed. We believe that the elections are one of the most important channels for success or failure of the Dayton Accords, and, should they succeed, we think the Dayton Accords have a chance of leading the Bosnian people to peace.
Should they not succeed, and should the elections not be held or should they go wrong, we think that that would be a very, very negative trend. So we have an obligation to speak out internationally about how we perceive conditions on the ground. We've got a lot of people there who are expert in conditions on the ground, and I think that the international community wants to know what we think. And we do most of our negotiating in private, as you know, and we share most of our beliefs in private, but we do not hesitate to make our beliefs public when we think that can have a positive effect on the situation on the ground.
When you're a democracy, you've got to stand up for democracy, and one of the central mechanisms of a democracy is elections; letting people decide, not bureaucrats, not international peacekeepers, not civilian administrators, and goodness knows, not indicted war criminals sitting in Pale.
We really want to place our trust in the Bosnian people. Let them decide. And the elections are the only way to do that right now. That's why we are speaking out.
Q Thank you, Nick. Another topic. Back to bananas and Burton. On the drug policy for the Western Hemisphere, last Thursday in the House Western Hemisphere Committee, Chairman Burton and Robert Gelbard from this Department, had a very acrimonious exchange -- in fact, I believe Burton accused Mr. Gelbard of lying -- just showing that there is great division within this government on U.S. drug policy. And I understand also from the testimony that the crisis in Mexico and Colombia is just as deep as we fear it is. This also came from a private source that particular day.
Could you comment on how can we be successful in a drug enforcement policy when we are fighting here in Washington in this way?
MR. BURNS: I can assure you there is no fighting within the Clinton Administration, and I want to stand by Assistant Secretary Gelbard. I want to publicly stand by him. This is an easy one. He has enormous credibility throughout our hemisphere, he has enormous credibility within this Administration, and he has got the confidence of the Secretary of State.
And I can assure you that there are no divisions under the leadership of General McCaffrey on our counter-narcotics strategy. In fact, the Secretary and a lot of his colleagues in the Cabinet have met essentially to approve many of the decisions already made by General McCaffrey.
If there are divisions, they take place, you know, in our relations with other branches of government. But we stand by the strategy that we are putting in place. We think it can work, if it has the support of the American people and the Congress. We hope it will.
Q Was there some impediment by the Congress, especially this Committee?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Congress. But we're confident that we are doing the right thing.
Q Will King Hussein meet with the Secretary during his visit to Washington?
MR. BURNS: Yes. King Hussein will have lunch with the Secretary tomorrow. There will be a press conference, a press opportunity before that meeting, at lunch, I think at 12:30. I might be off by l5 or 20 minutes, but we'll post the time this afternoon. There will be a press opportunity in the Ben Franklin Room preceding that.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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