U.S. Department of State 96/06/12 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, June 12, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Intro of Members of KAL-007 Families Association............ 1 US Humanitarian Assistance to North Korea................... 1 US Position on Provisions of FY97 Foreign Operations Bill re Aid to Azerbaijan...................................... 2 US Senate Confirmation of Nominations of Foreign Service Officers to Rank of Ambassador............................ 2-3 Foreign Service National of the Year Award.................. 3-4 NORTH KOREA Food Aid: --Contribution by Japan and ROK/Evidence of Shortages/ Possibility of Additional US Aid.......................... 4-7 --Distribution through World Food Program................... 8 US Servicemen's Remains/Status of Four-Party Talks Proposal/ US Interest in Stability in Korean Peninsula.............. 7 NON-PROLIFERATION Reported Sale of M-11 Missiles to Pakistan by China......... 9-12 --Leaks of Intelligence Material............................ 9-12 CUBA No More Advisory Letters Sent Out to Foreign Companies re Helms-Burton........................................... 12-13 US Reaction to Concerns by Mexico, Canada & European Govts Over Helms-Burton......................................... 12-13 TURKEY/GREECE No Heightened Prospect of Altercation....................... 13 Dispute over Aegean Islets.................................. 19-20 PANAMA Drug Trafficking: --Law Enforcement/Money Laundering.......................... 14 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Sec Perry on US Troop Withdrawal by December 20/No Decisions on Follow-On Force........................................ 14-18 Training of Bosnian Troops in Turkey........................ 18-19 CYPRUS Reports of Fears of War..................................... 19 RUSSIA Jewish Agency: --No Action to Close Offices/No Interference with Jewish Emigration................................................ 20-23 --Amb Pickering Mtg w/Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt............... 20,23 --Some Suspension of Jewish Activities...................... 21-23 CHINA Report of Additional Nuclear Explosions..................... 24 AFGHANISTAN Alleged Report on USG Mtg w/Warring Leaders................. 24 BAHRAIN Attempted Destabilization by Government of Iran............. 25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 1996, 1:06 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Good afternoon, George.
I'm very pleased to welcome two very special guests today: Hans Ephraimson and Necola Truppin. Both are members of the KAL-007 Families Association. You will remember the tragedy of that flight in September 1983. It was shot down and many, many people perished. Both of them lost loved-ones on that flight, and those have worked very closely with the United States Government to try to work with the Russian Government to uncover all the answers to that tragedy, and I just wanted to welcome you both here today. Very glad to have you with us.
I have a couple of statements. The first is on North Korea. In response to a consolidated appeal from the various United Nations agencies, including the World Food Program, and after consultation with the Governments of the Republic of Korea and Japan, the United States Government has decided to provide $6.2 million worth of humanitarian assistance for use in flood-related relief in North Korea.
The floods during the 1995 harvest destroyed significant portions of rural farmland, resulting in widespread food shortages and in malnutrition. These floods have exacerbated an already significant food shortage in North Korea, which the World Food Program estimates may exceed one million tons this year.
This American assistance will be in the form of PL-480, Title II, emergency food aid. Specifically, for those of you who are not familiar with the PL-480 program, these will be food commodities, and we'll be providing 3500 tons of corn soy blend for children under age five, as well as 6,600 tons of rice and 3,000 tons of cornmeal for the flood victims.
The United States has chosen the World Food program as the channel for this assistance because of its ability to closely monitor the distribution of this assistance and to ensure that the aid from the United States does reach the people in need.
Let me just remind you the purpose of this aid by the United States is to respond to a very grave humanitarian crisis in North Korea that's been identified by the United Nations.
I do want to accent the point that we engaged in consultations with the Korean and Japanese Governments -- the Republic of Korea. I also want to accent the points that the food from the United States will be distributed to farmers and people mainly in rural areas who have been the victims of the floods. This is not general assistance to the government in Pyongyang. It is assistance, direct assistance, to the people who have been affected by the floods.
We're convinced that the food situation, based on the reports that have been given to us by the United Nations, is actually quite severe, and that there is a possibility that the situation could deteriorate further, absent a response from the international community.
That's why we very much support the decision of the Republic of Korea to extend its own food assistance to the North Koreans, and that's why we have worked very closely as well with the Japanese Government.
We are convinced that had there been no response from the international community, there would have been a chance for malnutrition and famine on a fairly large scale in North Korea, and that is the rationale for this assistance.
I'd be glad to go into any aspect of this with you following my other announcements.
I will not read the second announcement; I'll just refer you to it. It will be posted in the Press Office following the briefing. It is a statement on the United States position on aid to Azerbaijan, and just in brief, there was an amendment passed by the House yesterday concerning aid to Azerbaijan, which we feel is restrictive in some ways and which we believe may be injurious to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan, which we fully support. That statement speaks for itself, but I'll be glad to go into it, should you wish.
Two notes about the Foreign Service. Yesterday, we were very, very pleased the United States Senate confirmed the nomination of several Foreign Service Officers to become Ambassadors. Ken Brill to Cyprus. Day Mount to Iceland. Dick Morningstar for the rank of Ambassador. He coordinates our aid to the former Soviet Union.
George Ward to Namibia. Sharon Wilkinson to Burkina Faso. Dane Smith to Senegal. Dane Smith has been our envoy to Liberia. David Halsted to Chad. Chuck Cecil to Niger. Prudence Bushnell, who was the senior Deputy Assistance Secretary of State in the African Affairs Bureau, to Kenya. And Morris Hughes to Burundi.
This follows the confirmation last week on June 4th of other Foreign Service Officers to Ambassadorial positions, and it leaves three people on the Senate's executive calendar who await nomination: Princeton Lyman, as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. Chris Hill, well known to all of you who were at Dayton, for Ambassador to Macedonia. And Alfred Decotiis for the rank of Ambassador. He'll be serving at the 50th UNGA session.
There are, in addition, 29 Department of State nominees, including four other Assistant Secretaries, who are awaiting action by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And among them, Al Larson, who we hope will be Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs; John Kornblum for European Affairs; Barbara Larkin for Congressional Affairs; and a couple of other prominent people on that list.
So we are pleased by the Senate action. We would ask the Senate, of course, to confirm all the nominations put forward by the President.
Finally, I just wanted to share very briefly a very, very impressive award that was given by the Director General of the Foreign Service, Tony Quainton, this morning to a Foreign Service National. The person is Nawab Ali, who is an Afghan and who has taken care of American properties in Afghanistan throughout the civil war there, at a time when the United States has not had an Embassy open. We don't have a diplomatic staff, but we have people who manage the property.
We have, I think, close to 19,000 Foreign Service Nationals who are the heart and soul of our Embassy and Consulate operations all around the world, and many of these people do not get the recognition that they deserve. Mr. Nawab Ali received the award as FSN -- Foreign Service National Employee of the Year -- this morning. He received a letter from the Secretary of State, and he received $5,000 for this award.
But his story is extraordinary, and, if you'll bear with me just for a minute, I'd like to tell you about it. As you know, we withdrew American personnel from Kabul in 1989. Mr. Nawab Ali, who had been at various points a household domestic and a guard at the Embassy, emerged to be one of the primary people responsible for safeguarding American property in Afghanistan during the last seven years.
He became a regular courier for us between Kabul and Peshawar where we do have a Consulate, and he risked his life on that journey, which he made, at least some parts, by foot and by donkey and by bus. He had to make it through areas where there were bandits, where there was civil war, and there were people who wanted to hold him up.
He and his staff have guarded the American property in Kabul from armed looters. They have been there as our Embassy, our Chancery, our Ambassador's residence, our Deputy Chief of Mission's residence -- all vacant -- have been attacked by rocket fire. They have been there when people have tried to break in and loot the Embassy, and he has managed to keep our Embassy property together, to safeguard it, to make sure that it has not been ransacked.
The citation given to him this morning is that he exemplifies the most profound virtues of fidelity, bravery, leadership, initiative and dedication. And I wanted to take a moment to make this tribute to him, because I think we owe him and the other 19,000 Foreign Service Nationals a lot -- those of us who do serve in Embassies and Consulates around the world.
Q How long he has been fighting this?
MR. BURNS: He's been there since -- well, he's been effectively managing our property since 1989, but he's worked for the United States Government for a considerable period of time before that.
Q On aid to North Korea, how long is this aid supposed to last, or more specifically is this supposed to tide them over until the fall harvest?
MR. BURNS: The assistance is intended to get them through the worst of the famine and food shortages this year. That means the summer and autumn, until the harvest. I understand, George, that the need is considerable. It's well over one million metric tons of food assistance.
The assistance from the United States-- and the other international assistance -- would represent only a part of that one-million-ton figure. It may represent 70-80,000 tons.
Therefore, the North Koreans are going to have to find their own resources to make up the difference, and that was always intended. Some of you yesterday asked about whether or not North Korea had crop insurance. We believe that at least some of the state firms there may have had some form of crop insurance.
The fact is that they simply don't have the resources to provide -- even with that assistance -- to provide the assistance that their people need. Thus, the rationale for international food assistance. But the main point I want to make here is that the North Koreans also have to contribute the majority of the resources to purchase food on the international market so that people can be fed this year.
Q Do you expect South Korea to step up with donations? There have been reports that --
MR. BURNS: The Republic of Korea has committed to, I think, just a little over $2 million in assistance, and I know the Japanese Government is planning a very significant contribution, which I believe will be roughly on the scale of the United States. This is positive. We also expect that other countries will come forward with food assistance on purely humanitarian grounds here.
Q Does the United States have any evidence that the North Korean military has large stores of food that hasn't been tapped into?
MR. BURNS: We don't have that kind of evidence. As you know, we've said many times before North Korea is a fairly opaque society. We do not have a diplomatic establishment there. There are very few Americans and foreigners who can travel in North Korea. Therefore, we have the barest possible knowledge of the situation on the ground.
All that we know is that people in the countryside, particularly, are experiencing significant food shortages, and this is on the recommendation of food experts from the United Nations who have traveled just in the last month or two to North Korea. It's also based on some of the conversations that Congressman Bill Richardson had in Pyongyang and on the short tour that he made of the countryside north of Pyongyang.
So we don't have much doubt that there's a food shortage. You can ask why that shortage has been produced, and there's probably a variety of reasons to account for it. But we think on a humanitarian basis it's incumbent upon us to respond when people are suffering.
Q Nick, do you have any idea where this food may actually be shipped from, and when is it due, approximately, to arrive?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly ask the question. Normally, of course -- these are American food commodities, so they would be from American farms, and normally the process is that they usually ship from one of our major ports, Baltimore or San Diego -- probably in this case San Diego -- and the food will be shipped as soon as possible. If you're looking for schedules, transportation schedules, we can ask AID for that.
Q So it could be as much as three weeks to a month before the U.S. contribution actually gets there.
MR. BURNS: This will not be immediate. I believe that the bulk of this, if not all of it, will be shipped by sea, not by air, and usually with bulk food commodities, that's the only way to effectively deliver food assistance, certainly with raw commodities like this.
Q Nick, what about the political side of things? Where does the four-party talk proposal stand? What about anymore missile talks with North Korea? How about the cooperation on the remains? Where do all those stand?
MR. BURNS: The remains talks are on-going. As you know, we have a U.S. Government delegation in Pyongyang this week discussing the remains issue. There are more than 8,100 remains from the Korean War -- American remains -- that are of great concern to us. We want to make as much progress on that as possible.
On the four-party proposal, the ball is in their court. We've said many times to them privately as well as publicly that we are willing to give them a detailed briefing on the proposal. We're willing to hold talks on the proposal. We think that 43 years after the end of the Korean War, there ought to be a peace agreement for the Korean Peninsula.
We're very hopeful that they will now decide to accept this. They have not told us that, however, and we are awaiting word from them. The proposal is on the table.
Q And the missile talks, no date for a new round of those?
MR. BURNS: Not that I'm aware of. I can check on that for you, but not that I'm aware of.
Q So, basically, there's been no movement on the political side?
MR. BURNS: There hasn't been movement on the four-party proposals. There has been continued application of the Agreed Framework. North Korea's nuclear programs remain frozen because of the U.S. efforts.
Still on North Korea? Still on North Korea? I want to make sure -- we'll finish North Korea before we get to the M-11 question.
I'm just predicting what's going to happen here.
Q Is this your final option, to rescue the victims of the flood? Or are you considering to give them another assistance at some point in the near future?
MR. BURNS: As you know, this follows a $2 million shipment of American food commodities in March. This is our latest attempt to deal with a profoundly important humanitarian situation.
We're not planning any future shipments, but, of course, we're always open to appeals from the international community, most specifically including the United Nations here.
Q The U.S. policy, as I understand it, is to bring about a change of government, a change of policies in North Korea. If this famine was to topple the government, why act to end it? Why not just let the government fall under its own weight?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that we've ever stated the policy in quite so stark terms. Our policy in North Korea is to do several things. Our policy towards the North Korean Government is to freeze their nuclear program, which would have represented a threat to the United States and the American people, had it continued. We did that through the November 1994 agreement worked out by Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Gallucci.
Second, we have a profound, vital national interest in stability in the Korean Peninsula. That's why Americans fought on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s. That's why thousands of American men and women in uniform still serve there in the 1990s. That's why the President has put forward, along with President Kim, the four-party proposal. Because we want to assure stability on the Korean Peninsula -- a vital, United States national security priority.
We also, obviously, at some point in the future, would like to see a measure of freedom come to the people of North Korea, a freedom that has not been there since the communists took over in the 1940s.
So we have many objectives towards North Korea. On a humanitarian basis, however, Sid, sometimes you have to put aside your political differences with a government, no matter how reprehensible that government might be, to its own people. You've got to respond to the needs that individuals have around the world.
This is a humanitarian gesture by the United States. It is meant to help the victims of the floods in North Korea -- farmers, people who live in the countryside. These people are not Politburo officials. They're not members of the North Korean military general staff. These are simple people who don't have enough food.
I think the American people, being charitable as they are, I think the American people will support this.
Q You don't think it wouldn't amount to a coddling of North Korea, as some have suggested?
MR. BURNS: I find objectionable the use of the word "coddling." It's not your word; you're just repeating it. I think it's entirely inaccurate.
The Clinton Administration has taken decisive, important steps to freeze the nuclear program. Now, to try to try to ensure stability in the Korean Peninsula and the safety of our own men and women in uniform there -- our soldiers there -- that's not coddling people in North Korea. It's responding to security threats against the United States. We've done it very well. I think there's very little to criticize, frankly, in our policy towards North Korea from an objective point of view. So I don't agree with that line of reasoning at all.
Q Nick, with no diplomatic presence in North Korea, how are you going to manage this (inaudible)
MR. BURNS: As I said, these commodities are going to be distributed through the World Food Program which does have people on the ground. I should also tell you that the World Food Program is going to be hiring additional monitors to ensure the distribution of this food. And if it asks for additional monitors, we will be very glad to respond with Americans to participate in that effort.
Q Mr. Burns, do you have any comment on a story which appears in the Washington Times today saying Pakistan has deployed (inaudible) Chinese M-11 missiles?
MR. BURNS: You know, I'm surprised you asked about that. I didn't think there would be any interest in this.
Q I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: I have a couple of things to say. First, don't take any of my comments as referring to the alleged contents of intelligence reports. I don't talk about intelligence reports. The article did. So my comments now are not meant to respond to any of the discussion of intelligence material in the Washington Times.
The second point -- it's really a personal point for me, as a government employee, someone who has a signed a contract not to divulge classified information -- is that it is very disturbing to see this continuation of intelligence material leaking to major newspapers.
Now, there are leaks and there are leaks. But leaks of highly classified, sensitive intelligence information is against the law. It's also unethical and it's against the code that civil servants and foreign service officers have. It's highly disturbing to see it, and that's my personal view.
I would just tell you substantively, to respond directly to your question, that the United States will continue to monitor and evaluate reports of any missile transfers that could contribute to missile proliferation anywhere in the world. We take reports of alleged proliferation very seriously. We spend time on these issues. We looked into them. We use all the assets at our disposal to look into them.
But I must tell you, we've seen these charges. We've not made a determination. The United States has not made a determination that China has conducted activities inconsistent with its October 1994 commitments to Secretary of State Christopher.
We have not made a determination that either China or Pakistan have engaged in activity that would be sanctionable through the transfer of missiles from China to Pakistan. That's our position.
Q Can you please (inaudible) past few months? Is there any time limit by which you determine whether its there or not?
MR. BURNS: There's no time limit. We can only determine if there's been a violation of the MTCR guidelines or U.S. sanctions law if we have evidence that is compelling, that meets all the requirements of the very -- you've seen this complex law the way it's written. We've not yet made that determination.
Q By saying that you haven't made a determination, you are implying, at least -- and I'd like you to state this straight out, if you can -- that you are investigating or considering the possibility that Pakistan has deployed nuclear-capable M-11s?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on that, Carol, is that we've seen the reports. We've seen a press report. We've seen other reports. This is not new. This issue has been around for sometime. We've talked about it many times before here.
Anytime we see a report like this, we take it seriously. It concerns us. We look into it. But I can tell you that as of June 12, 1996, at 1:25 p.m. in the afternoon, we have not determined that China has violated the MTCR guidelines or U.S. sanctions law.
Q What seems to be new here is that not that China has transferred components or not that China has transferred full systems, as some allegations in the past have held, but that Pakistan has actually deployed these missiles?
MR. BURNS: The problem that I have, standing before you today, is that we have in the Washington Times this morning some documents that have been leaked to the Washington Times. I cannot confirm for you the authenticity of documents that I have not seen and I can't discuss and I'm not willing to discuss, as a matter of principle, intelligence information or intelligence documents, in general.
You understand the restraints that I'm working under.
Q I understand, but I'm not asking about documents, per se. Let me try this question a little differently.
Has the United States received information to the extent that there may have been a new development on the issue of M-11 missiles to Pakistan, that new development being that Pakistan has actually deployed these missiles?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not able to get into this question because then I'd be getting into an area that I cannot discuss competently or appropriately in an open session like this.
Q The main thing that I would like you to answer is, until now it was being said that the (inaudible) were in the box; they were not opened. Do you have any new information that they have been opened and they have actually been --
MR. BURNS: I just can't answer that question. You're asking me to go into an area -- I understand why you're asking the questions. I respect it. I'm not trying to be evasive, but I cannot answer questions like that because I'll get into areas I'm not competent to discuss.
Q Nick, are these reports causing concern that would lead to an urgent investigation on the part of this government of this particular allegation?
MR. BURNS: I use the word "concern." We're concerned by these reports. We are looking into them.
Q So you're saying there is a new effort to --
MR. BURNS: There is a continuation of our on-going effort to look into this matter because there have been allegations made throughout the time that I've been here in this position, and we continue to look into those reports. It's a continuation of an effort to look into this, yes.
Q If the missiles are deployed, would that trigger U.S. sanctions against China and Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: Listen, I think it's very clear under the law what represents a violation of the law. It's very clear; the law is a public law. You can read it for yourself.
I can assure you that if we determine that there has been a violation of the law, we'll act accordingly. We take our responsibilities to adhere to the law and to fulfill it very seriously. We know what our responsibilities are. We know what the guidelines are.
Q So it's not so cut-and-dry -- is that --
MR. BURNS: It's a highly complex issue. It's a highly complex issue, as many of these questions are. The technical issues. Not the issue of the law. The law is very clear. The complexity concerns the information that you get, whether that information is credible information. It's a very laborious, painstaking, detailed process to make a determination like this.
We will not shy away from a determination if the evidence leads us to that. But I can tell you, we're not at that point yet. I've just told you that we've not made a determination.
Q New subject.
MR. BURNS: Same subject.
Q The Times report clearly told us, the State Department officials are trying to water-down the effects of these reports and they're trying to wiggle out of this?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to dignify that part of the story with a comment. You've got these people who are supposed experts On-the-Record taking shots at the State Department. You've got people On Background who aren't courageous enough to identify themselves taking shots at the State Department. Why should I dignify that with a comment? I think it's reprehensible of people to identify people in this building and criticize them if they're not willing to come forward. I'll invite them to the briefing to come forward if they want to do it. They won't. They won't want to come forward.
Q (Inaudible) and other investigation into leaks in the Washington Times?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know. All I know is that it's against the law to give to people who aren't cleared for it -- namely, journalists -- classified information; highly classified, sensitive information. It's against the law.
Q A different subject? Helms-Burton --
MR. BURNS: That's not a different subject. We've been dealing with that for weeks.
Q Prime Minister Chretien and President Zedillo have just announced that they are going to use Chapter 20 against the United States under NAFTA for Helms-Burton. I want to know the reaction of the U.S. Government?
Also, President Zedillo has called Helms-Burton a mistake by the United States. I want to know if the State Department has sent more advisory letters to foreign companies?
MR. BURNS: On the second question, I don't believe that we've sent any additional letters to companies, although, as you know, weve laid out the process two weeks ago. By the end of June -- the end of this month -- we will have taken further steps to implement that part of Helms-Burton.
On the first question, we're very well aware of the concerns that Mexico and Canada and European governments have expressed about the Helms-Burton law. It is the law of the land. We will implement that law. We will continue to discuss it with our friends and our allies around the world, including today.
There is a U.S.-EU summit today. I assume that there will be a conversation about Helms-Burton in every European-American meeting, [as in every] Canadian-Mexican-American meeting over the past couple of months we've been discussing this issue. We'll continue to do so.
Q National Greek TV said that U.S. State Department officials consider a Greek-Turkish collision possible. Would you like to take this opportunity to confirm or deny this assertion?
MR. BURNS: I would just tell you what I said yesterday. I do not think there is a heightened prospect of any altercation or confrontation between Greece and Turkey. Again, I wouldn't pay much attention to people who are talking On Background about this. I'd pay attention to what we're saying authoritatively On-the-Record.
Q And not TV?
MR. BURNS: It's national TV. I'm not responsible for Greek national TV. I don't believe there is an increased chance of a confrontation. I do believe that the new Greek Government has indicated a wish to improve its relations with Turkey.
Turkey, of course, itself, as you know better than anybody else, needs time to work out its own internal political questions before there can be some stability in the government there. But once that happens, I'm sure the Turkish Government that emerges from the current situation will want to discuss with Greece how it can resolve some of the problems.
I think too much attention has been given to these unnamed reports and these rumors in the press, frankly.
Q Did you see the story about Panama and drug trafficking in the New York Times today?
MR. BURNS: Sure did.
Q Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: Sure, I've got something to say. We read that report very carefully. I can tell you, as you know, in March, President Clinton certified Panama concerning its narcotics efforts.
Panama, we think, has performed very well in eradicating illegal drugs -- crops -- performed well on law enforcement operations.
There was a recent arrest of Jose Castrillon Henao by the Panamanian authorities.
The largest problem in Panama remains money laundering. It is a significant problem. Although Panama has changed its banking laws -- it has established a financial analysis unit to help detect money laundering -- there's still more to do.
But we do believe that the Panamanian Government is a responsible and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against narcotics. We do believe the Panamanian Government shares our concerns about the influence of narco-traffickers and the power of the financial resources of the narco-traffickers. So we'll continue to work with them.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Did you see Secretary Perry's comments this morning?
MR. BURNS: I did.
Q About the U.S. -- well, at least, his recommendation would be that U.S. troops remain in Bosnia on a follow-on mission. Is that a statement of U.S. policy?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this, Sid. It remains the U.S. position, as Secretary Perry said this morning -- if you look very closely at his remarks -- that we expect that the American troops -- the men and women there -- will be withdrawn on or about December 20. That would be the fulfillment of the year-long commitment made by President Clinton.
The focus that we have over the next six months is to maintain the military mission, maintain its focus on the military activities, try to see if the military can play a role in helping with the elections and with freedom of movement.
Secretary Perry did say today in the interview [that] no decisions have been made about any kind of follow-on force. He said there have been no discussions about this. He was really responding to a question, almost hypothetical, "Well, what if someone raises this issue in the future?"
I would just tell you quite clearly that no decisions have been made; no discussions have been held. I was at the Berlin meetings last week. There were no discussions on this formally, and I didn't detect any informally either, although there has been a lot of talk about it in the press.
So I would draw you back to what he said. No decisions and IFOR will be out, he said -- and this is entirely consistent with what we here at the State Department believe -- by December.
Q You call it IFOR or you call it something else, he's still saying he would recommend that American ground troops stay -- stay in a follow-on force. It sounds like a trial balloon to me.
MR. BURNS: I'm just not going to engage in any speculation on this. I think it's pretty clear what we've been saying, and I stand by what I said yesterday and what I said today.
Q You don't think that Perry's comments, though, him being a Cabinet officer with a certain reliable reputation in this town, that his remarks do not at least confuse people about what the thinking is, especially given the context of the discussions that have been percolating in NATO and different capitals and here as well? You are trying to hold to the line that IFOR will be out by December 20, full stop.
He's at least publicly discussing the possibility of a follow-on mission. It's obviously being discussed by senior people.
MR. BURNS: I'm not confused at all. I talked with Ken Bacon this morning. Ken is travelling with Secretary Perry in Macedonia. Ken and I completely agree on what was said. I've looked at his transcript. He said no decisions have been made. He was clearly responding to a hypothetical question.
We get a lot of hypothetical questions in this business. Sometimes you respond, sometimes you don't. But I can tell you, the President's comments on this remain the American policy, and that is that the troops will be out by December. We are planning for that.
Q Let's ask the same hypothetical question Perry was asked. Would the State Department recommend troops stay if NATO made that determination for a follow-on force?
MR. BURNS: I don't answer hypothetical questions and I don't speculate.
Q You said "sometimes."
MR. BURNS: Sometimes we do. I used the royal "we." Now, I'll use the first person. I don't answer hypothetical questions. Have I ever answered a hypothetical question, Carol?
MR. BURNS: When? (Laughter) Go back for the last year and a half. I don't remember any hypothetical questions. I don't like them. I don't like them.
Q Nick, you're saying that the Administration is dedicated to keeping its promise, especially in this campaign time, to have the troops out by December? Why would there be any discussion on this at all until after the elections in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: A very good point, Bill. I actually agree with that. Until there are elections, it doesn't make sense to have any kind of discussion like this at all. You're absolutely right. I think that's a good point.
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. Give me a chance to respond to Mr. Eicher who, I think, has posed a very nice way of looking at this. The fact is, we're six months into this mission. We have succeeded in our military mission because of the labors of our soldiers and the performance of our soldiers. Now we're on to the largely civilian side of the Bosnian implementation -- elections and economic reconstruction. The troops can play a role in that.
But having already succeeded, and assuming that the elections will go forward in September, we think that there is every reason to believe that these troops will be out. That's where we're headed -- withdrawal of the troops by December.
The President of the United States has said that. Secretary Perry said it today. Look at his remarks. He said he expects the troops to be out by December. That's where I want to leave this.
Q You keep trying to make a point about the fact that there have been no official discussions about this so far. I believe that Perry made the comment to reporters today that there would be -- at least informal discussions -- at the NATO Defense Ministers meeting on Thursday.
He's talking about it; people are talking about it.
MR. BURNS: Check his transcript. I've got it in the Press Office. He was responding to a hypothetical question about discussions down the road, well after the elections.
Frankly, we've got too much to do. We shouldn't be focusing on this question. Let's focus on the question Bill wants to focus on -- the elections and civilian reconstruction. Thank you, Bill. You've made a very useful comment.
Still Bosnia? Yes.
Q As far as I remember, maybe one month ago, it was the same discussion between the State Department and the Pentagon. The Pentagon says that there is going to be something different; and the State Department said a firm 20th of December. You know that Tarnoff said during the hearing at the Congress -- it was a big deal because of his December 14, like the last day.
Tell us, is there some differences between the Pentagon and the State Department? Some people from the Pentagon say that it is going to be January, at least; maybe February next year.
MR. BURNS: The Secretary of Defense said, in his comments to reporters, enroute to Macedonia, he expected the troops to be out by December. The President of the United States said that, the Secretary of State has said that. That's good enough for me, to have those three people saying the same thing. Nobody in this government has said that we think the current troop presence in Bosnia will extend into the winter, beyond the roughly a year formulation that we've used. Roughly a year means "roughly a year." It doesn't mean 18 months. It means roughly 12. That's what you've heard the President, the Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense say.
Q Finally, that means the last soldiers are going to be home by next Christmas.
MR. BURNS: Maybe, maybe not. "Roughly a year" means there's a possibility some people will have to stay beyond Christmas day but not too far beyond it.
Q And, Nick, Turkey has begun some initial training of Bosnians, and some days ago you told us that you agree and you welcomed that Turkey position. Do you change your mind?
MR. BURNS: You know, we never change our mind about anything. (Laughter) We really don't. We have brilliant policies and we execute them brilliantly, and there's never really a need to --
Q That's not including (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: No, we always say we keep the option open, and we've kept the options open, George.
Q Yes, but Turkey agrees to halt training of Bosnians, Pardew said. Why? Why they stop?
MR. BURNS: Actually, what we said last week was that the Turks have initiated some training. We would have preferred that the training would have been delayed until the last foreign fighter left. But the Turks have started, and we're going to accentuate the positive here. Turkey's with us in this program. It has been a major supporter of the U.S. initiative, and once the last foreign fighter has left, which I believe will be shortly, and once the Defense Law is passed, then we will initiate our program. The Turks will be a big part of that, and we're grateful for the support of the Turks.
The Turks are acting consistent with the best European values here and Western values, and I think that some of the other European countries ought to emulate Turkey in this regard.
Q Does that mean that the United States asked for that, to stop production near Ankara?
MR. BURNS: No, we have not. We've had a series of discussions. We would have preferred that the training had been delayed. The fact of the matter is, it wasn't. It was initiated, and we see eye-to-eye with the Turks. We've had a good private discussion about this.
Q You advised them to stop?
MR. BURNS: No, we just told the Turks that we're not going to start our program. We would appreciate no further efforts by the Turks until the last foreign fighter has left, and Mr. Pardew is still in the area. He's still in Sarajevo. He's still working on this problem, and we hope he'll be successful in his mission.
Q Nick, did these foreign fighters leave on a Greyhound bus today?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I didn't check the manifest of the Greyhound bus. I think they're all going to be out very soon. We're down to just a trickle -- just a few isolated people, and I think they'll be out very soon, Charlie.
Q Nick, Cyprus. Yesterday, U.N. General Secretary, he issued a report that (inaudible) is concerned on the arms race on the island. Do you have --
MR. BURNS: Concerned about --
Q Arms race at the island. Do you have the same feeling (inaudible) about this subject?
MR. BURNS: Our belief is, and our position is, that we all need to make an effort to try to resolve the problems of Cyprus, and we've been at this now for a long time -- over 20 years. John Kornblum, our Assistant Secretary-designate -- who I hoped will be confirmed by the Senate very shortly -- has made this clear publicly. He has had extensive conversations with all the parties to the conflict.
We have special Ambassadors -- two -- working on this, and we have a very competent Ambassador in Nicosia. We're paying attention to this problem, but we don't believe there's any rational reason why we should be raising the diplomatic temperature and talking about war games and scares and a future of conflict. We actually want to turn the situation in the other direction.
Q Talking about war games, yesterday also the Greek Defense Minister has -- he got the war power, I don't know, from the cabinet or the parliament. The ongoing effort for increasing the tensions between the two countries. I know you are trying to, you know, advise both countries, but do you have any concrete effort for the two countries to solve this problem, other than the International Court of Justice?
MR. BURNS: You're talking about the disputed islets now. Now that is up to Greece and Turkey to choose a mechanism to -- if it's a third-party mechanism -- to resolve the problem. We haven't changed our position, and we're willing to be helpful.
Q Day by day the tension is increasing.
MR. BURNS: The two parties, Greece and Turkey, have primary responsibility for resolving this. If we can be helpful, we will. They know our address. They know that we've offered our own suggestions as to how to resolve it, including the International Court of Justice. It's up to them to decide a mutually agreed upon venue to resolve the problem. We'll be there if they want us there. If they don't want us there, we won't be there. This is really up to Greece and Turkey.
Q Apparently, Russia is cracking down on the Jewish Agency.. I wondered how you felt about that, and to what extent the Clinton Administration had discussed the issue with the Yeltsin Government.
MR. BURNS: We have been involved in this issue. Our Embassy in Moscow has confirmed that local authorities in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Rostov-on-Don have taken no action to close the Jewish Agency's offices in those cities.
We have no reports, and we, of course, have an Embassy and several Consulates in Russia -- no reports that Jewish emigrants are being prevented from leaving Russia.
We do continue to treat the de-registration of the Jewish Agency in Russia and the possible suspension of its activities as a matter of very great concern, and we have raised this repeatedly with the Russian Government. Like freedom of Jewish religious and cultural expression, the ability of Russian Jews to emigrate is an important element of our relationship with Russia.
Yesterday, Ambassador Pickering met with the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Goldschmidt. He will see him again tomorrow. We are in close touch with the Jewish officials as well as the Russian Government. The problem now is not that offices are being closed. There may have been an office closed in Sakhalin last month. Most of the offices are open.
The problem is that some of the activities of the Jewish Agency in Russia are being restricted, although we don't see that extending to the ability of people to emigrate. There are a variety of programs -- cultural programs, support programs -- that the Jewish Agency runs for Jews in Russia, and some of those activities are being restricted. It is a very great concern, and I can assure you we've made it known to the Russian Government.
Q What is the Russian Government response, and why do you think this crackdown is happening?
MR. BURNS: I can't answer the second question, really, intelligently for you. It's hard to fathom why government officials -- and I think these are not senior people; these are mid- and lower-level government officials -- would take this kind of action. Hard to fathom, because Russia is a new democracy. There has been a vast expansion in civil liberties of the people of Russia over the last four-and-a-half years, and that ought to be extended to all Russians, including Jews, not just Christian Russians.
So we've made that point to the Russian Government, and we hope very much that these problems can be cleared up.
Q Well, the fact, though, that -- you say that there hasn't been any interference with the emigration of Jewish Russians --
MR. BURNS: We have no reports from our Embassy in Moscow and our Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok -- our three Consulates -- that there has been any effect on the ability of Jews to emigrate from Russia because of these problems.
We are watching this. It's not because we are blind. We are watching it very carefully. The problem seems to be an infringement upon some of the activities of the Jewish Agency offices in the various cities throughout Russia.
Q So consequently, Jackson-Vanik couldn't be re-invoked and that wouldn't be an issue here.
MR. BURNS: I don't think it's an issue here, and I don't believe that we're getting any resistance on the part of senior government officials. I think that we're talking about bureaucrats here, and we want to get to the -- we feel a responsibility to work on this issue, because we have long been a champion of the rights of Russia Jews.
We were the major champion of the rights of Russian Jews during the 1970s and 80s -- the Carter Administration, the Reagan Administration, the Bush Administration -- and the Clinton Administration has continued that. There's been a vast improvement in the attitude of Russian officials about emigration and a vast emigration. At least 550,000 people have emigrated to Israel alone over the last four years, so we've seen significant improvement. We'd like to see those trends continue.
Q You've sort of answered my question, but let me rephrase it to get a clearer answer. You don't think that this is a systematic policy of the Russian Government by --
MR. BURNS: We certainly --
Q -- twice that it was --
MR. BURNS: We don't believe it is, and we certainly hope it will not become that. We can't believe it will be. This is a government that has opened up the press -- press freedoms -- it's opened up civil liberties. It's given people rights that people have never had in a thousand years of Russian history.
It's one of the most dramatic developments of the last four-and-a-half years anywhere in the world -- the expansion of civil liberties in Russia. We think that the Russian Government, the current Russian Government, will continue that. We think the current Russian Government is dedicated to freedom of expression and freedom of movement and freedom of emigration, and we continue to have a relationship based in part on that assumption.
Q You don't think, though, that in the midst of a heated campaign, the Russian Government is not capable of playing on traditional anti-Semitic fears in Russia?
MR. BURNS: I can't account for all the activities of Russian bureaucrats, because some Russian bureaucrats are impeding the activities of the Jewish Agency, and we are critical of that. I'm being critical of it right now in my comments, but I don't think that extends up to the senior reaches of the Russian Government itself.
Q Could you be more specific about what they're impeding?
MR. BURNS: If you'd like, I can go back and get you specific examples, but certainly these agencies -- the Agency in Moscow, the Agency in St. Petersburg -- run various social support, religious programs for the Russian Jewish population as well as programs to advise people on the requirements for emigration from Russia. Some of those activities have been restricted.
It's hard for me to say in St. Petersburg it was "a, b and c." I'm just speaking quite generally now, but I think it really involves issues like this.
Q Nick, what is the purpose for the Ambassador to meet with the Chief Rabbi? I would think he'd want to be protesting at the Foreign Ministry rather than meeting with the Chief Rabbi.
MR. BURNS: I didn't say that was the extent of Ambassador Pickering's activities. Ambassador Pickering has been very active on this issue. He and other American Government officials have talked to the Russian Government directly and will continue to do so. I wanted to point out that, as a matter of symbolic support as well as practical support, the Ambassador met with Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and will do so again tomorrow.
I think that's a very clear demonstration from the President's personal representative in Moscow of the concern the United States Government has here. I think it's appreciated by the Russian Jewish leadership, frankly.
Q Is he trying to get a read on how extensive -- what exactly is going on with the Jewish Agency from someone --
MR. BURNS: We've been in constant contact with the Jewish Agency, and we'll continue to be so.
Q Do you consider the Jewish Agency a branch of the Israeli Government?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, is this a trick question? (Laughter)
Q It's a Russian allegation, according to The New York Times and Washington --
MR. BURNS: I believe these are Russian organizations. These people are Russian citizens. They're not Israeli citizens. They don't become Israeli citizens until they make aliya and move to Israel. These are Russian citizens. They're subject to Russian law. These organizations are established under the Russian legal system, and these people are patriotic Russians or citizens of Russia, and they happen to be Jews. So I don't see the big problem here, and that's why we are very seriously trying to get a handle on the situation and represent some of these concerns to the Russian Government, because we've been a long-time champion of Jewish rights in Russia.
Q One unnamed Russian official in the paper today said that it was a front for MOSSAD, the Israeli --
MR. BURNS: As Spokesman I have a problem with unnamed officials. There are, what, three or four million Russian officials throughout the Russian federal government across 11 time zones. I have no idea if it's the mail clerk or whether it's a cabinet minister. I can't know. So all I can do is tell you what we're hearing from the Russian Government. I don't believe this is a problem at the higher reaches. I think that's a significant statement.
Q So the Russian Government doesn't control the lower regions, what we control from --
MR. BURNS: Sid, you know, come on! (Laughter) This conversation is deteriorating. I think I've said what I have to say on this issue. I know there are some other questions here before we conclude. Did you have a question?
Q China. Do you have anything on reports that they conducted more than one explosion over the weekend?
MR. BURNS: Let me check into that for you. I've seen various reports. One report was that there were two, that followed quickly upon each other. I will check into that and see if we can get you any more detail, and that was not immediately apparent to us but came apparent after we made our first statements on this.
Q There are some press reports that United States Government is planning to sponsor a meeting of warring leaders of Afghanistan. Is there any -- will you confirm that?
MR. BURNS: I have no information on that. I'll be glad to take the question and ask our South Asia Bureau about it, but I have no information on it.
Q With regard to the domestic political situation in Bahrain, does the State Department have anything new to add to what Mr. Davies said last week on it?
MR. BURNS: I agree with everything Glyn Davies has ever said on any issue from the podium, including this. Bahrain is a long-time friend of the United States. Bahrain has been a partner of the United States in the Gulf. We have an excellent relationship. We have a distinguished Ambassador, David Ransom. We follow the situation closely.
We're very concerned about the attempts by outsiders -- namely, the Government of Iran -- to try to destabilize Bahrain, and the Bahraini Government has taken action to arrest those who have been implicated in the civil disturbances and illegal activities that have occurred in Bahrain. As you know, we have been in contact with the Bahraini Government at the highest level from our government. The President has been in contact to assure them -- the Bahrainis -- of our continued friendship, our continued support.
It's just another example of the nefarious activities of the Government of Iran. The Government of Iran wants to destabilize governments in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East with which it does not agree. The Government of Iran stands for terrorism, opposition to the Peace Process and general anti-democratic activities. And the Government of Iran ought to be singled out for criticism because of its activities.
Q Follow-up, Nick. You don't think there are any indigenous causes of unrest in Bahrain.
MR. BURNS: There could very well be indigenous causes but stimulated by the activities of the people in Iran -- the Government in Iran.
I think we have -- you had a question.
Q Yes. I just wanted to understand, every two or three months the intelligence community leaks in New York Times or Washington Times or somewhere and the answer appears to be the same. So why is it happening like this on the same issue?
MR. BURNS: You ask the Washington Times. I can't account for the "friends of the Washington Times." You know, you hang around with certain people, you get certain reports, I guess. I can't account for that. All I can do is tell you about U.S. law and about U.S. policy, and I've told you today we've not made a determination. Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:58 p.m.)
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