U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 1996, 1:23 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department briefing. Thank you for waiting. I just wanted to wait until the White House press conference finished.
I have a couple of statements. The first is on Colombia.
The decision of the Colombian House of Representatives not to forward to the Colombian Senate charges of narcotics-related corruption against President Samper leaves unanswered many questions regarding pervasive narco-trafficker influence on Colombia's institutions. It will not resolve the resultant crisis of confidence in Colombia.
The United States Government maintains its support for the rule of law in Colombia, for Colombia's democratic institutions, and the many sectors of civil society in Colombia which continue to decry the impunity created by corruption.
In accordance with our laws, we are reviewing the cooperation we receive from Colombia in the field of counternarcotics. The United States Government's relations with Colombia will continue to be highly dependent upon the counternarcotic performance of the Government of Colombia.
I'll be glad to take questions on this in just a minute when I complete the other statements.
I wanted all of you to know -- to remind you -- that the Florence Mid-Term Review Conference on the Dayton Accords is underway. The United States delegation is led by Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff. He is accompanied in our delegation by John Kornblum, by Bill Montgomery, our Special Advisor for Bosnia, and by Richard Sklar, who is our Civilian Implementation Coordinator.
The others attending, of course, will be representatives of all the governments: The Prime Minister of Bosnia; the Foreign Minister of Croatia; Carl Bildt; Mrs. Ogata, the head of the UNHCR; Mr. Cotti, the Chairman in Office of the OSCE; Robert Frowick, who is the OSCE-Bosnia Elections Coordinator; and the NATO Deputy Secretary General Mr. Balanzino.
The aim of the Florence Conference is to look at the Dayton Accords six months into implementation and to try to assess the performance of the three parties in fulfilling the Accords. It will be a rather comprehensive look at all of the questions. It will focus, however, on elections and on civilian reconstruction.
The United States, of course, brings to this conference many views, based upon our own analysis of the situation, the on-the-ground reports that we have from the many Americans who are in the civilian effort and military effort, and from our Embassy in Sarajevo.
Following the conference in Florence, Assistant Secretary-designate John Kornblum will be travelling to the Balkans for meetings in Belgrade, in Zagreb, and in Sarajevo with all of the leaders so that we might have a first-hand view, almost on a weekly basis now, of developments in that region while we discuss these issues with all the leaders in the region.
Again, I'll be glad to go into any aspect of the Dayton Accords in a minute. I've got two more quick announcements.
I want to let you know that President Clerides of Cyprus will be in Washington on June 16-18 for a working visit at the invitation of President Clinton. He will meet President Clinton on June 17. Secretary Christopher will host a breakfast for President Clerides and his delegation on June 18.
This gives the United States the opportunity to reaffirm the excellent relationship that exists between Cyprus and the United States.
Certainly, we will want to discuss with President Clerides and his delegation how the United States can contribute to the ongoing international effort to try to resolve the problems of Cyprus. We'll also be willing, and very eager, to review a number of bilateral questions with the Cypriot delegation.
Last, I wanted to read a statement concerning the most untimely death in Vietnam of Le Mai, who was the Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister.
The State Department is shocked and saddened by the untimely and tragic death of Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Mai.
For many years, Le Mai worked closely and constructively with us on a host of complex issues in the ongoing process of normalizing the relationship between the United States and Vietnam. He played an instrumental role in advancing our efforts to account fully for Americans missing from the Vietnam war.
He was a highly regarded diplomat and friend to many Americans who worked with him, and he will be missed as we continue to deepen our ties with Vietnam and to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Vietnam.
We extend our sincere condolences to the Government of Vietnam and to his family.
I know it's somewhat unusual to read a statement like this, but I'm told by Assistant Secretary Winston Lord and many others that this gentleman, Le Mai, was the key figure for the United States in our attempt to uncover remains of American soldiers who fought in Vietnam. He was also a key figure in the normalization process that culminated last August in Secretary of State Christopher's visit to Hanoi, where we raised the American flag over the American Mission there.
He was a young man. He had a great future ahead of him, and we wanted to recognize his many accomplishments and contributions to our relationship with Vietnam.
The custom here is always to go to the senior correspondent from the senior news agency. That's Mr. George Gedda.
Q On Colombia, why not accept at face value the decision which was handed down last night? It sounds like you believe that President Samper is guilty.
MR. BURNS: Let me just say this. Let me just try to walk you through the logic of the United States position.
In the view of the United States, Mr. Samper's exoneration by the Chamber of Deputies was not based on an exhaustive review of the evidence. The United States stands firm in its support for the rule of law.
Now since President Clinton's determination on March 1, that the Government of Colombia was not cooperating sufficiently with us on counternarcotics issues, we have been reviewing Colombia's counternarcotics performance. We've been reviewing ways that we can improve the cooperation between our two countries.
I must say that as we go through this review -- and we've not come to the end of it, we've not made any decisions -- we'll keep in mind that we do have many options available to us. We are considering a range of initiatives to show that we stand firm -- we in the United States -- in the fight against counternarcotics trafficking.
Governments that reward corruption and allow trafficker influence to penetrate to the highest levels of authority will have difficult relations with the United States.
In the next few weeks, we will be asking the Government of Colombia to meet with us to review the goals for 1996, and beyond, in counternarcotics trafficking -- in the fight against counternarcotics trafficking. We do continue our cooperation with the Government of Colombia.
Just about a week ago, we delivered to the Colombia police six helicopters to replace those that have been destroyed by the fire of the traffickers, the drug cartels. We also plan to replace an airplane that was brought down by the traffickers.
We will continue to cooperate with those elements of the Colombian Government that have proven to be reliable partners in the fight against narcotics.
But I must say, as we review the performance, we are mindful that there has been a great deal of trouble that we have encountered in dealing with the Colombian Government on this issue, and we do retain options that will allow us to take further steps. We'll be reviewing those options over the next month. With that in mind, we hope to have a good series of discussions with the Colombian Government.
Q Some U.S. Government officials, they are talking about trade sanctions against Colombia because of the decision of the Congress of Colombia, can you elaborate about it?
MR. BURNS: We haven't made any decisions on that, but I want to point to what I just said: there are options available to us to express our keen displeasure with the very sorry state of counternarcotics cooperation between the United States and Colombia. We hope that there will be an improvement, and we are going to continue to work with those parts of the government that we believe are interested in this fight.
Q That is the main option against Colombia, in case they don't show up better work against the drugs?
MR. BURNS: That's certainly an option available to the United States. We've not yet decided to adopt that option, however.
Q (Inaudible) full range of options who might fall under that revocation of visas for Colombian officials, for example; tariffs, so on and so forth; suspension of counternarcotics assistance. Is that all under consideration, under review?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to list the specific options, but a number of them that you've listed are, indeed, options available to us, and there are more. The Colombian Government is aware of that, and we'll be making them aware of that in the ensuing conversations that we have over the next month.
We do want to see a better measure of performance. If the performance improves, of course, we'll all going to be more content and happier in our relationship because we'll be working together to fight the narcotics traffickers. If the performance does not improve, then we'll have to review our options.
Q Even if the performance improves, how can you be comfortable dealing with a President who has unanswered allegations of dealing with narcotics traffickers?
MR. BURNS: I think I've expressed our views fairly clearly this morning about what has just happened in Colombia, and the decision by the Chamber of Deputies.
Q A lot of people feel that the measures taken against Colombia are counterproductive in that it provokes strong nationalism and deepens the anti-American sentiment. Taking this view into account, what would be the final objective of the United States in taking action against, or taking measures against, the Colombian Government? --
MR. BURNS: We believe that the actions of the United States are justified, and we believe they are effective. So I would disagree with the criticism.
You know, our fundamental obligation here is to protect the American people against drugs. We have a big role to play in that -- all of us as Americans. We can try to reduce demand for drugs in the United States. That's the American part of this obligation.
But a very, very large role is the responsibility of source countries and producer countries, and countries that have traffickers with pervasive influence in their governments to try to reduce the effect and the impact of those traffickers and their own effectiveness. Some countries in this hemisphere have tried very hard to cooperate with us in that fight. Others have not tried hard enough, and I think you all know who they are.
Q How concerned is the State Department if the United States imposes sanctions on Colombia, that that will only help Samper gain more power in Colombia as it happened after Colombia was decertified on March 1?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's the case. We don't see the situation in that light. We also have to take decisions, as I just said, that are based in our own national security interests. Frankly, if the cooperation remains dismal, then there are going to be options available to the United States. I don't accept the rationale, though, and the argument that you're representing here.
Q The U.S. Government believe or not President Samper?
MR. BURNS: The United States Government has made a statement today that I've just read. I think that's a very clear statement. We've had our own private discussions with the Government of Colombia. We're going to judge the Samper Government on its actions. We judge all governments on their actions. Actions are more important than the words of the government, and we'll be looking very carefully at the actions now over the next couple of months of the Colombian Government.
Q On many occasions President Clinton has mentioned that the U.S. is not the world police, but this position -- the declaration seems like Washington wants some preparatory sign to -- I mean, the U.S. is not the world police. What is it all about?
MR. BURNS: The United States is not the world policeman, but we have to protect our own borders and our own people. And the actions of the Government of Colombia have an effect on the United States and the American people. Counternarcotics is not an issue that is solely Colombian, and it's not an issue that's solely American. It's an issue that all of us in this hemisphere especially have to fight together.
So what you do -- what your government does in Colombia has a direct impact on all the American people, and the President of the United States and all of us who work in the Federal Government have a responsibility to try to put in place policies with other countries that have a favorable impact on the American people.
It is absolutely all right to speak out about this. What you do in your country affects us, and, if the Colombian Government is not effective in fighting the narcotraffickers, it has a negative impact on us -- on poor kids in our cities. We have to be concerned about that. What could be more fundamental as a duty of any government?
So I know the line of reasoning. We've heard it before, and we firmly reject that line of reasoning that somehow this is some new show of imperialism by the United States. That's hogwash. This directly affects us.
Q Nick, the Colombian Government is going to post a new ambassador here in Washington, D.C. Is the U.S. Government going to approve somebody recommended for President Samper?
MR. BURNS: All I can tell you is that there's a time-honored, centuries-old diplomatic practice where an Ambassador is appointed by a government. That government seeks confirmation by the host government, and we'll go through that process, and I can't anticipate the end of it. I don't know who the individual is, so I don't want to -- I'm not trying to make any kind of major statement here. There is a process, and we'll go through the process.
Q Do you know at what level the talks with Colombia will be held at?
MR. BURNS: The appropriate level. I mean, certainly led by our Ambassador -- Ambassador Frechette -- in Colombia, but officials from Washington, from the various agencies here in Washington that have responsibility for this problem will also take part.
Q Nick, would the United States like to see a regional, international response to this issue?
MR. BURNS: We have a national responsibility to protect our own borders and our own people, but this is an international fight -- international -- so we do have, in the G-7, we've got narcotic cooperation with the Russian Government. We've got narcotics cooperation with many Asian governments, and certainly in this hemisphere we'd like to see better cooperation among countries.
I have nothing formal -- we're not formally proposing anything, but certainly we're open to any ideas that would improve the effectiveness of all of us in the fight against narcotraffickers.
Q What I'm thinking about is trying to get other countries to take a harder line with Colombia along with the United States, or --
MR. BURNS: It would be very nice to see other countries in our hemisphere and beyond take a harder line. It certainly would.
Still on Colombia?
Q Yes, the last question. How long is going to take the review -- the work is doing Colombia against drugs, approximately?
MR. BURNS: As I said, we'll begin these discussions with the Colombian Government. We'll assess in a month or two or somewhere down the road -- I don't want to be precise -- how we think those discussions are going and whether we see a change in performance, and we'll adjust our strategy accordingly.
Still on Colombia?
MR. BURNS: Cuba.
Q Mr. Santer was yesterday here in Washington --
MR. BURNS: Mr. Santer.
Q Santer, yes.
MR. BURNS: I thought you said "Samper." I was going to say -- (laughter).
Q No, no.
MR. BURNS: That would be interesting. I wasn't aware of any official working visit.
Q And he has a very strong statement against the Helms-Burton law and the White House and about possible reprisals in Europe, and today there is news that Canada and Mexico are also preparing a joint -- do you have anything on this?
MR. BURNS: We have been heartened two days ago by a public statement that there will be no public debate in the U.S.-EU summit about this issue. That did not take place. There were some very strong public comments yesterday.
We have some strong comments to make as well. The President spoke to this yesterday, and he spoke to it again this morning in the press conference that he just finished with President Robinson of Ireland.
As the President said, "The United States is fully justified in offering a strong response to the Cuban Government because of the policies of the Cuban Government against the democrats in Cuba and because of the unlawful shootdown of an American plane in international waters."
As I've said many times, we're going to try to implement this act in a way that maximizes pressure on Castro, minimizes it on our friends, and we do have a difference in approach here.
But I want to be clear about an impression, I think, that is out there that is incorrect. The United States Government through Helms-Burton and the American people through Helms-Burton are not trying to diminish -- we're not trying to make illegal -- excuse me -- in our laws foreign investment in Cuba.
We are simply directing our laws, Helms-Burton, against foreign investment in stolen American property, property that was stolen from Americans, nationalized by Castro, and for which the Castro Government never compensated the many Americans who are in this situation.
We are determined to shut down Castro's fencing operations in the Caribbean, and that's why we've agreed with the Congress to take these steps. We have had countless discussions with the Europeans on this, and frankly we'll be willing to have more. But we'd rather have that take place privately. That would be much more productive.
The Europeans ought to understand one thing: This is the law of the land; we're going to implement it.
Q When are you going to have the details of the law, the implementation?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q When are you going to have the guidelines --
MR. BURNS: Shortly. Shortly. We have developed them. They're clearing some final hurdles here, and we'll make them public shortly, and we'll take the other actions that we said we would take when we announced the first steps a couple of weeks ago on visas.
Q The same issue --
Q Have you sent any other letters?
MR. BURNS: We have not to my knowledge issued any other -- sent any other letters to foreign businesses that may come under the purview of Helms-Burton, but we will be taking some steps to formalize this by the end of June.
Q Same issue, Nick. President Clinton said yesterday that he's going to review the internationality of the law, and until recent -- the Mexican Government, especially Foreign Minister Gurria, and Canada says they told the Clinton Administration is going to try to change the law. Can you be --
MR. BURNS: The President did not say that, and certainly did not mean that, and just a couple of minutes ago he was asked this question at the White House. What the President said was -- and check the White House transcript for his verbatim remarks -- he did not say that we were going to review Helms-Burton. He simply said that the President in the Helms-Burton legislation has some flexibility in how the law is administered. You all know that. There is a waiver provision. And that he was simply reviewing that aspect of what options he had under the law.
The United States Government is not suggesting that there will be some kind of wholesale alteration of Helms-Burton. The President signed the law. It's our duty now, constitutional duty, to implement it, and we'll do that.
Q Oh, thank you, Nick. This is Arshad of Inquilab.
Q Related --
MR. BURNS: We have a related question; then we'll go to Bangladesh.
Q I have a related question. Can I get it in here? Okay. Nick, this has to do with Mexico and the drug interdiction in the Western hemisphere. Yesterday in a hearing on the House Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on National Security, a GAO report on Mexican narcotics was presented.
Basically, Nick, it was said what you've already admitted here, that the security of Mexico was at risk from the four cartels that are so successful in trafficking narcotics to the United States through Mexico. But it also says that the United States' security, security of this country, is being threatened by those cartels; and, furthermore, I'd like you to comment on that and this point -- that only two-thirds of the amount of cocaine interdicted in '92 is being interdicted -- was interdicted last year.
So, in other words, the efficiency of the enforcement is decreased. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the GAO report, so I don't want to comment on it. We sometimes comment on GAO reports around here, but I haven't seen this one, so I can't comment. You know, I think our views and the President's views and General McCaffrey's views on the fight against drugs are well known. It's a major priority of this government.
Q Is it a major threat to this government?
MR. BURNS: It's a major threat to the American people. It certainly is, and I think anyone in this country will tell you that.
Q Thank you, Nick. This is Arshad of the Inquilab. The Bangladesh elections just ended. What is your comment to that, and have you made any assessment of the observers' role now in Bangladesh under the co-leadership of former Congressman Stephen Solarz and Ambassador Merrill and the fine staff at the Embassy of Dhaka playing a wonderful role there, as I'm being told.
MR. BURNS: Thank you for the generous comments about our Embassy. I share them. The final results, as you know, Mr. Arshad, are not in, in the June 12 elections, but the information that we have shows that the Awami League -- the former opposition party -- is leading.
Reports indicate and reports from our Embassy tell us that there was a very high voter turnout; that polling proceeded in a generally peaceful manner. Our impression overall is that the voting proceeded in a manner that appeared to be free and fair, and we look forward to seeing the reports of the international election monitoring groups that are present, including one organized by the National Democratic Institute in which former Congressman Solarz is participating.
We congratulate the people of Bangladesh for their efforts to insure a transparent and fair and generally peaceful voting process, and we look forward to working with the government that is elected by the people of Bangladesh. Once the results are final, we'll know which government that is, and we'll want to proceed to establish a very good working relationship with that government so we can carry on a good relationship between our two countries.
Q A prominent Palestinian doctor -- excuse me, I don't recall his name -- it's alleged that he is being held and being tortured as we speak. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: You're referring to Dr. al-Sarraj, I believe, who is a prominent human rights activist. We have been in communication with the highest levels of the Palestinian Authority, and we've raised with those Palestinian officials our concerns about Dr. al-Sarraj's arrest and about his well-being while he's in detention. We've also stressed to the Palestinian Authority that it must live up to international standards of the rule of law and of human rights.
Beyond that, Sid, I have really no further comment on this case, because we do not have independent confirmation of his status. We are reading the same press reports you are, and we've thus raised this issue with the Palestinian Authority. But I know that we have not had any of our Embassy or Consulate officials in touch with him in this situation.
Q You're saying you haven't been able to confirm that he's under detention or that --
MR. BURNS: I just can't confirm the details of his incarceration.
Q But there's no question that he is under detention, right?
MR. BURNS: We've gone to the Palestinian Authority, and we've let them know our own views of this situation, so we assume that he is in detention. But we don't have anyone who's visited him, so therefore we don't have a firsthand account of the conditions of his detention, and indeed of the reasons for his detention. But we are making representations to the Palestinian Authority.
Q Would you like to visit -- would a U.S. representative like to visit --
MR. BURNS: He's not an American citizens. Normally, American Embassy and Consular Officers visit Americans in prison overseas -- in jails and prisons -- but not foreigners.
Q But you state concerns. What are your specific concerns about it?
MR. BURNS: We simply stated a broad concern that he be treated fairly and humanely.
Q Do you have lots of concerns about the record of the Palestinian Authority on human rights?
MR. BURNS: From time to time we have had discussions with the Palestinian Authority, and you can also check our annual Human Rights Report about the fact that while we understand there are sometimes tensions between the rule of law and the other factors that the Palestinians have to deal with, we think that a dedication to the rule of law and to international standards of human rights and decency is very important.
We've made that point in the past on a variety of cases, and we've made that point just in the last 48 hours to the Palestinian Authority.
Q So is this one of those cases where security is more important than human rights?
MR. BURNS: I'm not saying that, Sid. I can't make that judgment, because we know very few of the facts here. But we are concerned about the fact that he has been detained, and there have been reports about the conditions of his detention that we have raised with the Palestinian Authority.
Q Nick, some Turkish newspaper reports that the United States is against reconciliation between the northern Iraqi Kurds and the Government of Baghdad. Do you have this kind of policy?
MR. BURNS: We're against reconciliation between the Kurds in northern Iraq above the 36th parallel and the Government in Baghdad?
MR. BURNS: You know, we took a fundamental decision in establishing "Operation Provide Comfort" in 1991 that those Kurds would be protected from Baghdad, because Saddam Hussein tried to exterminate them in March and April of 1991, and we take that responsibility seriously.
As you know, we're currently working with the Turkish Government on a variety of issues related to "Operation Provide Comfort" in the expectation that the Turkish Parliament will undertake a debate and a decision about "Provide Comfort" shortly, in the next couple of weeks.
So I don't think we'd recommend that the Kurdish group seek any kind of political reconciliation with Saddam Hussein, because of the performance that we've seen over the last couple of years. Saddam Hussein is a dictator, and he's someone who has shown very little interest in the human rights of any of his citizens.
We think that the Kurdish groups ought to work together better for stability in northern Iraq, and we think that the continuation of "Operation Provide Comfort" is important as one way to accomplish that.
So we're not in the business of actively trying to put them together. Saddam Hussein has a lot to answer for. While we do respect the territorial integrity of Iraq, including the northern third of Iraq, we certainly want to see those people who live there free from his influence at this time.
Q About "Provide Comfort", what is the situation right now, because I know some study group is working in here and in Ankara also.
MR. BURNS: On "Provide Comfort?"
MR. BURNS: The situation is that, as you know, after Minister Gonensay's most recent visit, we've had a series of discussions with the Turkish Government about this, and we are working on many issues pertaining to "Provide Comfort," and we are hoping to resolve them. We are looking forward to a positive decision by the parliament of Turkey on this issue, because the Parliament, as you know, must vote on this.
Q Nick, also on Iraq. There have been inspections of a couple of sites -- weapons sites in Iraq were blocked in recent days. What is to prevent the Iraqis from removing material from those sites now that the inspectors are out of the country?
MR. BURNS: There's been another development in that today. The Iraqis denied UNSCOM -- the U.N. monitoring team -- access to two additional sites today. Therefore, at 4:30 p.m. today there will be a U.N. Security Council meeting to look at that question, after the very successful meeting of yesterday afternoon which passed a ringing condemnation -- a resolution condemning Saddam Hussein.
This is further evidence that Iraq's ability to shoot itself in the foot should not be underestimated. The Iraqi regime has shown time and again that it's willing to thumb its nose at the international community. If Iraq ever wants to have the main body of the sanctions lifted, it is doing exactly the wrong thing right now. It has just increased the doubts of all of us that it's got something to hide.
Ambassador Ekeus said yesterday that we must now be under the suspicion that the Government of Iraq does have something to hide; that they are trying to ferret out of these sites, sneak out of these sites, some of the illegal material that has been stored there.
We do have very strong suspicions that Iraq continues to try to build a nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capability, and we're very concerned by it.
Q What's to keep them now from sneaking stuff out of these sites in the dead of night when the inspectors aren't around?
MR. BURNS: Without proper U.N. inspection, nothing can prevent Iraq from doing that. Iraq agreed to the terms of the inspection. Tariq Aziz said this morning again that he will not allow Iraq to submit to the current inspection teams, to the authority of them, but he would be glad to accept some kind of group from the Security Council.
That's a non-starter. As Ambassador Albright said yesterday, "No way, we're not going to agree to that." He's going to have to live under our rules; and if they fail to observe our rules, then they're not going to get the sanctions lifted.
Q So the United States is not through some avenue keeping an eye on these two sites -- two, three, four sites?
MR. BURNS: The United States does what it can, using all the means available to us, to try to observe what's happening in Iraq. But it is the U.N. observer team, the UNSCOM mission, that has the primary responsibility and the ability to do that; but it does require the cooperation of the Government of Iraq.
They admitted last year that they've been cheating for five years and lying to the United Nations. They admitted that openly. Now they're trying to cover something else up. It's going to be a long, long time before those sanctions are lifted, and Saddam Hussein, who thinks he's smart now, is not going to profit by this. He's going to find that the continued application of the sanctions hurts his regime, and that is appropriate. They should hurt his regime.
Q Provide Comfort?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q How does this Administration view the Turkish proposal to close the military headquarters in Zakho?
MR. BURNS: Now you're getting into the talks and discussions and negotiations, which I don't want to do. There are a lot of issues being considered by the "Provide Comfort" partners that have been raised by a variety of the partners, including Turkey. I don't want to engage in a public debate about them. I want to let our negotiators and our diplomats handle this privately.
Q Do you know when the official response will be given?
MR. BURNS: The official response by?
Q By the United States.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that in the course of discussions at the appropriate time we'll tell the Turks what our position is, if we haven't already, and the Turks know that. That's no surprise. We'll be very open with the Turkish Government.
Q In that opening statement, you ticked off who was going to be at the Florence Conference. I didn't hear you say the Serbs or Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: Oh, yes, they'll be there; yes. The usual suspects will be there.
Q Nick, pardon my ignorance, but in the Pakistan-China M-11 controversy that's currently raging, does the Secretary again have to make a finding in this matter in order for the President to make a decision? And if that is true, where does that process stand?
MR. BURNS: I think one of the disservices of the leaked information to the Washington Times yesterday is that it completely scrambled this story for people like you and me who are not experts in the arcane nature of this law. The fact is that this issue needs to be addressed first by the intelligence community, and that has not taken place, as you know. There is no intelligence community assessment of this issue right now.
What was leaked to the Washington Times were people's particular pet peeves and views; and some outrageous statements were made about the State Department by people who obviously don't agree with the State Department which is not only unethical, it's illegal.
So the process is that the intelligence community looks at it and then the policy community looks at it. A lot of steps need to occur and a lot of barriers need to be hurdled before that takes place.
On this particular issue, I have to check, Betsy. I know that Under Secretary Davis has primary responsibility, as delegated to her by the Secretary, for most of these issues. On very important issues, the Secretary gets involved, as he did in the ring magnets case.
I just haven't checked to see what the procedure is in this particular case.
Q So you are saying that an intelligence finding has not formally been made in this particular matter?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speak in detail about that process. But I just want to correct a misperception that was left in the minds of many people from the article yesterday that somehow there had been a decision made, there had been a recommendation made. Wrong. It would be nice if that can come out in some of these major newspaper articles.
No decisions have been made. No recommendations have been made. A decision can only be made by the policy-making community, and that's the State Department and the White House.
Q But the intelligence community has to collect information and to have some report put out there as to what their findings are of the intelligence-gathering?
MR. BURNS: That's correct, and that has not happened.
I must say -- I've been on this job for almost a year and a half and I've never seen an instance where someone would not only leak a highly sensitive, classified document but finger, point at a particular individual in the State Department and name that person and say, "This is the person who is holding everything up." It's outrageous. It's also pathetic.
In any government, including our government, when you have a complex issue, you're going to have a spirited discussion of the issues. There are going to be people who have one opinion or another opinion. For someone who is part of that process -- and this cannot be a very important, high-level person who is leaking this information -- for someone who is part of that process to stand up and finger someone else is wrong. It's just wrong. We may never divine who this person is, but that person ought to be put on notice that his or her colleagues here in the government have absolutely no respect for that kind of behavior.
There was a great disservice done to Mr. Locke, who is a State Department employee. I can tell you that a lot of people are standing up for him today and standing beside him, including me.
Q Has the State Department given any thought to what this leak might do in relations between India and Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: I would advise the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan and the Government of China not to pay any attention to these leaks. These leaks don't amount to anything. They should pay attention to what the United States says to them officially through diplomatic channels. They know what we've been saying. As I said yesterday, we take this matter seriously, but we've not made a determination in this matter.
I think the three governments that you named are sophisticated enough to understand that when they hear something from us diplomatically, that's authoritative. When they read something in a newspaper that has been leaked, that's one particular person's point of view and he or she is not courageous enough to put his name to it, they ought to disregard it. That would be my advice.
Q But you seem to be sort of casting aside that this was the analysis of a branch of the CIA -- a memo that somebody shot out?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to give any credibility to leaked reports. Leaked reports, Sid -- what are they? It's someone's particular point of view. It doesn't represent necessarily the point of view of an agency or group of people. I wouldn't rely on leaked reports.
Q But it is based on a pool of information from which everyone can drawn an analysis.
MR. BURNS: We don't know. The problem with leaked reports as opposed to information that is given over the counter, On-the-Record, in full public view is that you don't know who the people are; you don't know about the credibility of the information; you don't know what they've left out. There's a lot missing here.
I think it just behooves everybody -- all of you who are reporting on this -- not to be prisoners of leaked reports, as some major newspapers and some reporters seem to be. They seem to be so hypnotized by them. They don't necessarily give you the full and accurate and complete picture.
Q The bureaucratic part of this aside, there's a potential for a major nuclear confrontation along the Indian-Pakistani border. You don't seem to be exercised about that at all.
MR. BURNS: No one has asked me about that today. If you ask me about it, I'll give you a response.
MR. BURNS: Why would I bring up issues that you haven't asked me about? I'm here to serve you. I'm here to answer all questions.
Q Please. Consider the question asked.
MR. BURNS: If we're talking about the report yesterday and the issue yesterday, I'll just repeat again today what I said yesterday. We've not made a determination.
Q But the tensions between India and Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: There are tensions on a variety of issues between those two countries, and we hope they can be resolved peacefully, amicably, cooperatively between those two countries.
Q Are there any special consultations, envoys, trips, ambassadors doing anything to defuse the problems that this report might have caused?
MR. BURNS: I can't point to any special envoys. We have two very senior American ambassadors -- Ambassador Wisner in Delhi and Ambassador Simons in Islamabad. I can tell you we've made clear to both Pakistan and India our views about the need for restraint. We've urged them to follow a course of restraint in repeated senior-level conversations. We've urged them not to be the first to deploy ballistic missiles. We've urged them to forswear production of fissile material for weapons. We've urged them not to test nuclear devices.
This is not just in the last couple of days. This is for a long time now. That's been the point of view of this Administration and the previous Administrations. We've had this on-going discussion with both India and Pakistan. We'll continue to have that.
As I said yesterday about the M-11 issue, we're looking into it. We are concerned by the reports, and we'll do the responsible thing here. But we're not going to be hypnotized by leaked documents, and we're not going to be forced into saying things we don't want to say about leaked documents either.
Q A lot of the things in the report say that this is becoming an issue of semantics in how ready the missiles are. What would you consider the necessary readiness of the missiles at Sargodha before the United States would take action?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not going to go into that question. That is an intelligence issue. I don't talk about intelligence issues like that.
Q Do you have anything on MIA talks in Pyongyang?
MR. BURNS: I don't. I know that they're on-going. We have a U.S. delegation in Pyongyang. I don't have a report from that delegation, however. We'll look for that in the coming days and try to get you something.
Q I have one more question. Could you tell me the schedule of the Special Envoys, Stanley Roth and Mr. Brown? Where are they right now? Are they going to Burma?
MR. BURNS: As you know, they've been in a variety of places. They've been in Manila, they've been in Singapore, in Tokyo. I believe this morning they were in Kuala Lumpur, and they may be heading to yet another country in the region, perhaps Jakarta.
When they complete their tour through the region, they'll return to Washington; I believe in a matter of a couple of days -- over the weekend. They'll report to the Administration -- to the State Department and the White House. We'll then, at that point, assess what needs to be done next.
They are not going to be visiting Burma on their present tour of Asia. But I cannot discount the possibility of a visit to Burma by them or other people in the near future.
Q Why is that? When you originally discussed this trip and announced it, it was "envoy to Burma" and not "and countries around the region." Why was Burma dropped?
MR. BURNS: I think the original White House announcement was an "envoy on Burma" as opposed to "to Burma." The idea here actually was to talk to countries near Burma that have influence on Burma, to try to share opinions with them and to try to develop some kind of common program that might influence the Government of Burma to respect the rights of its citizens in a way that it is now not doing. So that was always the original intent.
But I don't want to discount the possibility of a subsequent visit to Burma. That could happen, but I have nothing to announce on that.
Bill, last question.
Q Okay, thank you, Nick. On the Habitat Conference in Istanbul. The Holy See is basically stating that the U.S. is blocking negotiations over the issue of reproductive and sexual health, trying to add new language to something that I think was pre-agreed. What is the United States point of view on this particular matter with the Vatican, many developing countries and China, objecting?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a first-hand account from our delegation in Istanbul. But I do know that Melinda Kimble, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, has made a public statement saying that we'll continue to try to work out our differences with the Vatican on this issue.
Q Did Ms. Kimble say that the U.S. Government's delegation would continue to ask for these additions, or would work something out?
MR. BURNS: I didn't see any more detailed comment than that from Melinda Kimble.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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