U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 1996, 12:08 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. As you know, Secretary Christopher is going to be speaking in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations in just about 45 minutes, so this briefing will have an end point.
When the Secretary begins to speak or at least when we approach that minute -- we're going to pipe his speech into the press room here -- you'll all be able to hear it. We'll also have a text of his remarks as soon as we can. I think that will probably be about 10 to 15 minutes into his speech when we'll have the final text for you, and I'll be available afterwards to answer any questions that you have on what he said.
Q Will there be Q and A?
MR. BURNS: There will be no Q&A, no. There's no questions and answers. This is the Council on Foreign Relations. It's just a set of remarks to people there. He earlier, just about an hour ago, saw the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York. That was not a press event, but he did go and address that organization. He had a good discussion with them.
I want to welcome to the briefing today some interns who will be working this summer for the Bureau of Public Affairs, our bureau. Courtney Chappell, who's a history major at St. Mary's College in Maryland, and Jose Sanabria, who's majoring in political science at the University of Puerto Rico. Welcome. We're glad to have you with us.
I also want to let you know we had a good day today in Florence at the Mid-Term Review Conference. I'm just off the phone with John Kornblum. I talked to him about developments there. The major development is that the Arms Control Agreement provided for in Article IV of the Dayton Accords was signed today in Florence. That's quite a significant agreement.
I'm issuing a statement on that. That will be available in about five minutes and certainly after the briefing to all of you who need it.
It provides for set, verifiable limits to reduce the amount of arms that any of these parties can hold, and it reduces them by a substantial margin. It provides for destruction of large, heavy armaments, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces and other significant pieces of weaponry.
It is verifiable, and most significantly it covers not just the parties to the Dayton Accords -- the Bosnian Serbs and the Federation -- it also covers Serbia and Croatia itself. It drastically reduces the amount of heavy weaponry available to any of these parties in the Balkan region.
This agreement was labored over for a long time. The negotiations began in January. But just over the last 24 hours, Under Secretary Peter Tarnoff and John Kornblum led the mediation among the parties around the clock that led to the agreement this morning in Florence. We're very pleased about it.
Secondly, as you know, Ambassador Bob Frowick announced this morning that he is recommending that the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina be held by September 14, as we had predicted. What will happen is that the OSCE -- (laugher) -- I just couldn't resist getting that little dig in there, for all of you who doubted our predictive powers. We predicted this, and it happened.
In any case, now the OSCE will formally consider Ambassador Frowick's recommendation, and I believe that the OSCE will complete its work by the end of this month, by the end of June. I do believe now we have a fairly clear consensus in the international community, among all of us who are responsible for the Dayton Accords, that there ought to be elections -- and there will be elections -- in Bosnia-Herzegovina by September 14.
John Kornblum will leave Florence tomorrow morning. He'll travel to Belgrade and to Sarajevo and to Zagreb. He'll have meetings with the heads of state of all those countries. This will be his sixth trip to the region in the last two months. It's part of our constant, continuous effort to not only monitor compliance but to be present to push forward for momentum in these negotiations among all the parties.
The one lesson that we have learned significantly since the Dayton Accords were signed is we've got to be present on the ground to push forward with these negotiations. So I think all in all, a very successful Mid-Term Review Conference in Florence. There are a lot of statements on the wires, and we can make some available to you -- comments by Peter Tarnoff and John Kornblum on this.
The other thing I wanted to do this morning is just to commend the Bosnian Government on the Bosnian Government's decision to turn over two indicted war criminals -- Bosnian Muslims -- to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, and these two men are suspected of gross mistreatment of Bosnian Serbs who were in their custody several years ago.
This is a very significant step. It's the first time that one of the parties has taken such a dramatic step, and here we have the case of the Bosnian Government turning over two of its own citizens who are suspected of war crimes. It marks a significant step, we think, in the willingness of the Bosnian Government and the others in the area to comply with the Dayton Accords' commitments on war crimes. We congratulate the Bosnian Government.
We know it was not an easy decision. We know it will not be universally popular with its population. It's the right decision. It puts the Bosnian Government squarely in compliance on the War Crimes provisions. We would hope that the Serbian Government in particular would take note of this action and the Bosnian Serb population, and that they would try to replicate what the Bosnian Government has done, because the vast majority of people who indicted as war criminals are Bosnian Serbs, and very few of them have been brought to The Hague for prosecution.
And with that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q Are there other Bosnian Muslims indicted by the Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: I can check on that. I mean, there may be, but I know that these are the two prominent individuals. I think you've heard of them before: Hazim Delic and Mr. Landzo. Delic was a deputy commander and Landzo was a guard at a prison camp in 1992, and they're accused of 49 counts of torture, rape and murder of Bosnian Serb prisoners.
Q Back on the arms control agreement, how does that affect the equip component of train-and-equip?
MR. BURNS: As you know, from the very beginning we've said that our first priority would try to bring down the level of armaments available to all of these parties, and, if unsuccessful in bringing them down to a certain level, we try to compensate by building up.
We have now brought them down to a fairly manageable level, but equip-and-train is still necessary once the Bosnian Government complies with our conditions on commencing that program -- still necessary -- and, of course, will provide weaponry and equipment to the Bosnian Government that will, of course, keep them below the threshold called for in the Article IV negotiations.
Q Just related to the Bosnian Government's action on the two accused criminals, were there any discussions between the Secretary and Mr. Milosevic or between John Kornblum and Mr. Milosevic? Did this enter into any of the play of Milosevic saying, "Well, nobody else is doing it, why should I?" or --
MR. BURNS: Well, yes, it did. Secretary Christopher has discussed personally with each of the three heads of state this issue, compliance with the Dayton Accords concerning the indictments of war criminals. I think that we have heard from some of the participants in those discussions, "Well, why should we do it, because others aren't doing it."
Now there's no excuse. The Bosnian Government has taken a very major step today in handing these two people over to the Tribunal in The Hague. That message ought to be heard in Belgrade, and we hope it is.
One of the major issues that John Kornblum will be taking up in Belgrade directly with President Milosevic is the issue of war criminals. When Secretary Christopher left Milosevic in Geneva two weeks ago, he said, "I'm going to send Kornblum out in about two weeks, and I would like to have him follow up on our discussion on war criminals. I'd like to see if there's a better measure of compliance; if you feel that there are steps that you can take that you're not now willing to take."
That's the major mission that Kornblum has this weekend in traveling to Belgrade -- to keep the pressure on the issue of Karadzic and Mladic and the other Bosnian Serbs and Serbs who have been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q Just to follow up on that theme, did Milosevic in the earlier conversations with the Secretary give any indication to him that he would be more forthcoming if other sides did so?
MR. BURNS: I regret to say I can't claim that. I wish it were true. Mr. Milosevic is going to have to make his decisions. I will just repeat what we've said before. He will be accountable and held accountable for his decisions. If there is a lack of action on war crimes, there will be consequences.
Q Are you still taken with the process as being some sort of a difficult impediment? In other words, the Bosnian Government obviously can hand over people immediately in its purview. But how about Milosevic? Are we past the point where the State Department had some -- the State Department accepts the notion there's something difficult about extradition, whether Serbia can deliver people in Pale, etc., etc.? Can they order them? Is that still a consideration, or is it now, as far as the Administration is concerned, a simple matter that Milosevic can just as easily deliver these people to the Tribunal, as for instance the Bosnian Government can deliver suspects on its territory?
MR. BURNS: We're not impressed by arguments from the parties that there are too many impediments -- legal impediments, practical impediments, social and political impediments. We're not impressed by those arguments. They signed on the bottom line at Dayton on November 21. They signed and they agreed to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal, and in the course of the negotiations over that language -- the verb "cooperate" -- we made clear to them -- Richard Holbrooke made clear to them what we meant by that, and they agreed that that meant they had to comply with extraditions.
They are not going to be able to wiggle out of this. This is a fundamental obligation, and the Bosnian Government has stepped up to the plate and has delivered. It's time for the Serbs. It's time for the Serbs to do so as well.
Q If I could ask you a question about the conduct of the elections and any aftermath of the elections. I'll give you two examples. If a woman living in Sarajevo wants to go vote -- lived in Srebrenica beforehand and wants to go vote there -- will IFOR make that possible?
Secondly, if someone, for example, a refugee, is elected mayor -- a Muslim refugee is elected mayor of what is now a Serb town, will NATO install him and protect him for the tenure of his rule there?
MR. BURNS: First of all, I think there's something implicit in your questions, with which I disagree, that somehow NATO, IFOR has to be the ultimate responsible party to enforce the Dayton Accords. There's a very important principle here. The countries that signed the accord -- the countries in the Balkans -- are the primary responsible parties. We are there to facilitate enforcement and compliance, but we can't be ultimately responsible for the two questions you ask. That's up to the Bosnians, the Bosnian Serbs, the Croatians and the Serbs and the others there.
In answer to your first question, as you know very well, a refugee can vote either at the place where the refugee currently is located or in the place at which the refugee resided in 1991, and that's the choice of the refugee. We hope to create by September 14 a situation where there will be sufficient freedom of movement that the majority of refugees -- and there are two million of them -- might have a reasonable prospect of making a fair decision between those two choices.
But I can't stand here and tell you honestly that every refugee will have unfettered access to the place where he or she used to live. I think that's probably too much to expect at this point.
Q (Inaudible) about the installation of elected officials? Or is that, again, going to rely on --
MR. BURNS: The primary responsible party for that decision -- for that action; excuse me -- will be the governments themselves. IFOR will try to help on the margins, but IFOR cannot make every decision and enforce every decision for the parties. I think we've got to begin to think of IFOR as a facilitative force.
Now, clearly, on the military side, it's been the principal driving force that has separated the armies, taken away the heavy weapons, put them in cantonment zones, and has kept the peace. It stopped the fighting and it has kept the peace.
But, as a facilitator on the civil questions like elections, you've got to begin to look at the parties as the major responsible actors. IFOR will help, but it can't be held accountable for every action that is taken or not taken.
Q Your last comment there that you can't say honestly that every refugee will be allowed to vote where they want. Would that also apply to people who are elected?
MR. BURNS: I can't say honestly that every refugee will be able to return to his or her place of origin. But, because we recognize that to be a problem in these elections, we have provided and we foresaw this during the Dayton negotiations last October that these refugees might vote where they are. They will still have a voice in these elections.
Q Sorry, just one more point on this. When a refugee out of the country votes, do they then lose their status as a refugee?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to the question. I suspect that the answer is "no," but let me get you a legal interpretation of that.
Q Anything new on the foreign fighters, and is Jim Pardew still in Sarajevo?
MR. BURNS: Jim Pardew is still in Sarajevo. In fact, I think he met with the press just about an hour ago. He has been working on the defense law and he's been working on the issue of foreign forces.
I'm sorry to say that he has not been able to see during his visit the kind of progress on the defense law that he had hoped for. That's no fault of his own. He's an excellent diplomat.
It is the fault of the two parties to the Federation who have not yet agreed to make the final compromises necessary to put the defense law into place. It's a very important issue.
The defense law provides for the integration of the two armies -- right, Barry? -- the integration of the two armies.
MR. BURNS: He is a diplomat. He used to work at the Pentagon, and he is now a diplomat. He's a very fine -- I think he would be pleased to hear that characterization. I'll let him know that you're concerned about him.
MR. BURNS: Anyway, let me get back to what I was saying, Barry. The defense Law is important because it will serve to integrate the two armies; create a joint command. They've not yet taken the final steps to put that defense law into operation. They've got to do that before they can reap the benefits of the equip-and-train provisions.
On the foreign forces, we have not yet received final certification from the Bosnian Government that the remaining handful of people are out.
Q Nick, can I submit the Pakistan-China story, if you can bear it one more time, from maybe a different approach?
I understand your position -- the State Department's view is that there's been no finding that China has delivered M-11 missiles to Pakistan. You told India not to -- as well as China and Pakistan -- not to listen, or not to pay attention to reports based on leaks.
Do you mind if I ask you, is there a segment of the -- if you don't want to use the word "intelligence" -- is there a segment of the U.S. Government that is concerned with the possibility that China, indeed, has provided Pakistan with M-11s, but there isn't a unanimity of view yet nor no final conclusion?
MR. BURNS: I think the most accurate depiction of the situation within our government is the following. We have seen reports that this kind of activity might have taken place. As I said the other day, we're concerned by those reports. We are following up with all the resources at our disposal in this government to check those reports.
We will apply American law should that be necessary. But at the present time, two very important things have not happened. There has been no recommendation to the policy-making community from the intelligence side of the house on this issue -- number one.
I need to go public and correct that misperception and kind of cross -- let me take one step over the line that I never like to cross and tell you that because I think there was a misleading part of some of the articles on that.
And, secondly, the people who make these decisions -- namely, people here in the State Department -- have not determined that there's been a violation. So those two things have to happen before the United States takes any kind of action on this issue.
Q When you say "reports," you aren't referring, obviously, to the newspaper reports. Reports of another sort, right?
MR. BURNS: I'm referring to all sorts of reports, including newspapers.
Q I know, but the U.S. Government doesn't depend on articles --
MR. BURNS: We don't depend on them. We sometimes find them interesting, however.
Q Do you have any other reports you're looking at besides the Washington Times?
MR. BURNS: Sometimes. Not all the time.
Q And the Washington Post?
MR. BURNS: We do not rely solely on the Washington Times to develop our wisdom on issues.
Q That's what I thought you would want to say. But when you said "reports," you don't mean newspaper reports?
MR. BURNS: I mean reports, in general; information. Information available to the United States Government.
Q Nick, could I follow?
MR. BURNS: On this subject?
Q You bet. There's a report yesterday in the wires that the Indian Government -- in fact, the Prime Minister announced that India will begin to deploy their short-range missile, capable of carrying nuclear warheads and continue, I believe, to develop their medium-range missile.
Secondly, the Chinese have flatly denied through their spokesman that they've ever transferred any missiles to Pakistan or have any intentions to do so. Does the U.S. Government accept the Chinese statement as true? Doesn't the Indian actions say that the Indians believe that there is something to these reports that the Times and the Post have published?
MR. BURNS: On the second question, we've seen the Chinese Government's statement. We've taken note of it. We are still looking into the matter, however.
On the first question, I do not believe the Indian Government has taken any steps in this matter. I don't believe that's accurate. I spoke to this issue yesterday, at some length, about our discussions -- our ongoing discussions -- with both India and Pakistan about this issue of proliferation, in general; our very strong views that we've made clear to both governments for a number of years about this particular issue.
Q Are you taking that from the wire story? Or is this on other reports?
MR. BURNS: Taking what from the wire story?
Q He quoted a wire story in asking about the Indian Government. I just want to make clear --
MR. BURNS: I have no information available to me from whatever source that would substantiate that story.
Q Can I take the other part of your reply? I also saw Guofang's denial. China denied that it had done this. When you are asked about that, you say, "We're still looking into the matter."
MR. BURNS: Yes. Obviously, what --
Q So the U.S. position is something less than a denial. You dispute the reports that the M-11s have been delivered, by the way, either in an assemble-your-own-kit or in a fully-assembled mode. You dispute these reports that this government has concluded that that's happened, but there's a shade of difference between "dispute" and "deny." China denies that it shipped these missiles. I suppose they mean in part or completely put together, assembled, to Pakistan. You're not denying that. You're looking into it, right?
MR. BURNS: What I just said was what I wanted to say, actually, and that is that we've taken note of the Chinese Government's statement.
In matters such as this -- and this was also true in the ring magnets case -- it's always important to check diplomatically in private channels with the governments concerned to get their point of view. Obviously, we are doing that.
Q You said, "We are still looking into the matter." You're not looking into the matter of the Chinese statement, are you?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't mean that at all.
Q I didn't you did.
MR. BURNS: The first point is, we've taken note of what the Chinese have said. It's always important to know what governments say privately and publicly on these issues. But we're still looking into the overall allegation that there has been a transfer from China to Pakistan, as I said the other day.
We've not made any determination on this issue, however. That's really the relevant point here for all of you: No determination has been made that there's been a violation of China's MTCR commitments or of United States sanctions law, which are both relevant in this case.
Q Nick, on the 1994 MTCR agreement Qian and Christopher signed, I had a question about that. My understanding of it was -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that agreement said that anything that has happened before now is wiped away. So anything that happened before that agreement was signed could not be considered sanctionable. Is that correct? If not, can you take the question?
MR. BURNS: If you're looking for some kind of authoritative, legal analysis, I can get that for you. I'd rather have one of our legal people draw that up for you rather than have me do it off the top of my head.
Q That's the way it was sort of -- somebody tried to deny it but the explanation boiled down to, "We're wiping the slate clean now because you've agreed to adhere to the MTCR guidelines." I was wondering whether --
MR. BURNS: I wasn't around in 1994, so I can't tell you from personal knowledge about those negotiations. But we certainly have people in the building who can give you an authoritative response.
Q The missiles -- the stuff was shipped prior to 1994, so that sort of let's you off the hook?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I think on this particular allegation, it's very important to remember what I said the other day. I said that we're concerned about it. We are looking into it. That's present tense. That means June 14, 1996, we are looking into this. It doesn't mean we've forgotten it. It doesn't mean we think this thing has been grandfathered. We are looking into it. We are looking into it. We're concerned by it, but we've not made any determinations.
Q (Inaudible) Pakistan's side of this story. The Indian Government does apparently intend to deploy the short-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Isn't it therefore not surprising that Pakistan would be seeking to deploy the M-11 in response?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm to you that the Indian Government has made any such decision. You're going to have to go to the Indian Government for an authoritative view of whether the Indian Government has made a decision to do that.
I can tell you that neither India nor Pakistan can be in any confusion about the views of the United States Government. We have very strong views on the issue of proliferation, which we make clear as often as we can in private through diplomatic channels and often here in public.
Yesterday, I made a statement about the kinds of activities that we would find objectionable and unwarranted concerning the international safeguards and agreements that are in place. So I just want to make sure that's fully understood.
Q Does the United States bear any responsibility for India's defense as was China's concern? How can you possibly object to India taking measures for the defense of India?
MR. BURNS: The United States does not bear -- sir, India bears responsibility for India's defense, obviously.
Q So India is taking steps to defend herself?
MR. BURNS: You are assuming that an action has taken place regarding Pakistan, and I can't make the same assumption.
Q No, no, Nick. You're saying proliferation.
MR. BURNS: Let me just follow this up.
Q It's the point.
MR. BURNS: The point is --
Q If India is defending itself, how is that proliferation?
MR. BURNS: Barry, there's an underlying assumption here that an action has taken place concerning China and Pakistan. The gentleman's question is based on a positive understanding of that assumption. I don't share that. I don't share that.
What we are saying here, there's been a public -- excuse me -- there's been a public allegation made --
Q Let me correct you on the question. My question has nothing to do with Pakistan. It has to do with the defense of India against a country which has invaded us in 1962; an area where China has missiles -- short-range, long-range, intercontinental -- and the United States bears no responsibility for the defense of India against China. How can you possibly object to India taking any measures it needs to defend herself?
MR. BURNS: India is responsible for its own national security, obviously. But the United States, as a matter of policy -- and all American Administrations have been united on this -- does not favor the increase in the number of nuclear powers in the world. We do not favor that.
We're trying to negotiate right now in Geneva a nuclear test ban treaty. All the current nuclear powers -- the declared nuclear powers -- are negotiating that treaty, and many other countries in the world are negotiating that treaty with us.
We want to see an end to all nuclear tests. We do not wish to see any countries emerge from now on and forever more and to declare that they are nuclear-capable countries.
Our policy on proliferation is, we ought to limit the number of nuclear powers in the world. We ought to limit the activities of those existing nuclear powers, in terms of testing. We should stop testing for all time. We should draw down on the level of nuclear warheads in the world, which we have done through negotiations of START I and START II with the Russian Government. We hope that the Russian Government -- the parliament will follow through on START II ratification this year.
Our policies are very clear. So there is a limit, of course, to what we think countries should properly do to defend themselves. We don't think every country in the world should go out and buy a nuclear weapon to defend itself; no. I'm sorry, that's not our policy at all.
Q (Inaudible) talking about nuclear weapons; we're talking about an M-11 missile that is not necessarily a nuclear weapon and India's right to deploy it in a way that meets its defense needs.
MR. BURNS: There are very clear international restrictions on the acquisition and use of ballistic missiles and other technologies concerning those missiles.
Q Your original statement was about proliferation. We don't have to prolong this. We're dealing with the possibility that China is delivering missiles to Pakistan, as against India, on its own, mounting a non-nuclear defense on the possibility that that is going on. I don't know how you can make one broad statement about proliferation which, to me, tends to mean transfer from one state to another of dangerous technology.
MR. BURNS: Barry, there are very clear international --
Q Testing is another --
MR. BURNS: -- limitations. There are clear international limitations about what states can do, in terms of whether they develop this weaponry on their own or whether they acquire them from third countries. Very clear limitations.
We also have general concerns about proliferation which are very deeply held in the United States; not just in our government but in our society, at large.
Q Are you saying that India's deployment of the M-11 would violate international treaties?
MR. BURNS: I refer you to the remarks I made yesterday on this issue and I'm referring you to our long-held position that there should not be proliferation of these technologies among India, Pakistan, and other countries in the world. That's all I'm saying, Sid. Very clear, well-known positions of the United States. No change in those positions.
Q Are there treaties that you know of -- if not, can you take the question -- that India would be violating by deploying --
MR. BURNS: I'd be very glad to take that question and give you an exhaustive list of our analysis of this entire issue. I can tell you, we don't stand for, we don't recognize and accept that there should be a proliferation of these kinds of missiles and technologies.
Q Can I ask you about Iraq? The stand-off seems to be continuing and even escalating a bit?
MR. BURNS: Yes. What's our present view?
MR. BURNS: Our present view is that Iraq continues to avoid its commitments to the United Nations Security Council. Iraq has refused Ambassador Ekeus access to the sites that he designated. We fully support the mandate and the efforts of UNSCOM -- the U.N. Special Commission -- to make these investigations.
Iraq has a clear obligation here. It's under U.N. Security Council Resolution 707. The language says, "Provide the UNSCOM inspection team with immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any site it chooses to inspect." Any site whatsoever. That means that Ambassador Ekeus gets to choose the sites, not the Iraqi Government.
The Iraqi Government doesn't invite in third-country diplomats. The inspections are done by professionals.
On four occasions over the last three days, Iraq has denied these inspections. That's a clear violation of the agreement.
Because of that, the United States and the United Kingdom have circulated a brief at the U.N. Security Council, just since yesterday afternoon, that would find Iraq in violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement in the Persian Gulf.
The United States does believe that the actions over the last two days constitute a substantial breach of the 1991 cease-fire. These are profoundly important violations.
What we want to do right now is bolster Ambassador Ekeus' mission and try to use international pressure and leverage to convince Saddam Hussein that he cannot pick and choose parts of an agreement that he wishes to follow and parts that he does not wish to follow.
Ambassador Albright has made our views known very clearly at the United Nations, and is representing us in this debate up in New York.
Q What do you mean by "bolster the Ekeus mission?"
MR. BURNS: We want to try to convince the Iraqis that the United Nations Security Council is united in its support of our interpretation -- our collective interpretation -- of the agreement. I've just read you some of the words of that agreement which are abundantly clear.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Judd.
Q On Colombia.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q You said yesterday that the U.S. is considering a range of options in response to the decision of the Colombian Congress to let President Samper off the hook. What effect -- how much hurt could the U.S. Government put on Colombia in this regard? I mean, how much leverage is there?
MR. BURNS: I think there's quite a bit of leverage available to the United States. First, the United States has options: the ability to restrict normal economic and social contacts between the United States and Colombia. We have a variety of options at our disposal, and we'll look at all of them, if need be, to express our concern about the influence of narco-traffickers in Bogota to the Colombian Government.
Second, should the United States decide to pursue any of these options, including sanctions, that would send a tremendously powerful psychological message to the Colombian Government. Most countries in this hemisphere cooperate with the United States, and we cooperate with them on these issues. The message is that Colombia would in effect be a pariah state, should we choose to go down this road.
There is a period of time available to the Colombia Government over the next month or two or so to convince the United States that it is going to be a more serious, more effective, more committed partner in the fight against narcotics trafficking.
As I said yesterday, we're going to have a series of discussions with them. If they can by their actions prove their interest in working with us, then perhaps these steps will not be necessary. But if they cannot, then these steps will be necessary.
Q Nick, a follow-up. You said yesterday also that you're continuing to work with those parts of the government which have proven themselves reliable partners in the drug war.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Do you think you can have as close a cooperation as you would like while President Samper remains the man at the top of the pyramid?
MR. BURNS: We can't choose the President of Colombia. We don't seek to. It's up to the Colombian people and the Colombian Parliament to decide who's going to be the President of Colombia. So we have to work with the present Government of Colombia.
There are many people in that government who are dedicated to the fight against narcotics trafficking, and we'll continue to work with them. We are going to be delivering helicopters and aircraft to parts of the government who we are working with effectively.
Q Nick, can I ask about the Middle East, if we can drop -- if we're through with Colombia.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q For weeks now -- a couple of weeks at least and last night the President, and I presume the Secretary of State, are saying, "Let's be patient," you know, "Let's not get excited." They're telling the Arabs, "Let's wait a while." Waiting for Netanyahu, I guess, is the theme.
Does all this waiting rule out the possibility of the Secretary doing some spade work of his own in going to the Middle East in advance of Mr. Netanyahu's now postponed trip?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I think with the decision by Mr. Netanyahu to delay his trip to the United States, probably to some time in July, we'll obviously maintain diplomatic contacts with him and constant conversation with him. The Secretary of State has not announced anything and certainly has not, I think, made any final decisions, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Q The reason I asked you is the message seems to be a little bit -- at least a little confusing to me. I mean --
MR. BURNS: Our message, Barry?
Q Yes, your theme seems to be -- you know, as you've been saying here just about every day, "Hey, give the guy a chance to form a government." The implication is there's nothing -- no burning issue now that needs to be addressed immediately. When he comes here, we'll find out what he has to say.
Now, if the Secretary makes -- you know, it's by definition a high-profile visit instead of sending someone like Dennis Ross who operates a little more, you know, furtively -- wouldn't that sort of --
MR. BURNS: Furtively?
Q Well, you know, he doesn't get a headline every day.
MR. BURNS: Dennis is a very open guy.
Q Yeah, I know.
MR. BURNS: I mean, he gives background briefings. He does all sorts of things.
Q Well, no, you've identified the briefer now. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Not in the individual briefing. He's a background briefer.
Q No, no, he goes on CNN, but he doesn't talk to us on the record.
MR. BURNS: He does go on CNN.
Q Yeah, and we're all pleased not to watch him. Listen, if the Secretary goes, which it's a high-profile event, do you buy on to what I'm trying to say here? I mean, will the Secretary demonstrate his own anxiousness, his own anxiety, by going off even while he's telling everybody -- you know, telling Arabs, who are about to have a summit meeting, "Hey, you know, let's wait and see what happens."
MR. BURNS: Barry, the Secretary is not anxious and doesn't have anxieties about this issue. He's a very calm individual, and I'm sure that the Secretary at some point will want to travel to the region. The Secretary will announce that when he's ready to announce it.
Q By the way, there's been some recent statements coming out of Israel, being interpreted variously. Mostly the analysis seems to be that Netanyahu is shifting gears a little bit here, having now -- saying that he now knows more about security under Peres than he did initially, and he seems to be less apprehensive about -- have you heard anything? Has the State Department or those people that do background briefings, have they heard anything that has caused them to reappraise their handle on the new leader of Israel?
MR. BURNS: We've heard many things, but I think it would be inappropriate for me in this setting to divulge any of them.
Q Want to do that on background later?
MR. BURNS: We'll see. I have time for maybe two or three more questions -- quick questions.
Q Do you expect talks -- peace talks between Israel and Syria to resume this summer?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to make any predictions. I think we're just going to have to be patient -- not anxious but patient. There's a difference between being patient and being anxious. Be patient and wait for the government in Israel to form itself, and then we'll have a clearer picture.
Q All right, now one quick one. Can I go -- have one more on that. I know we're limited for time.
MR. BURNS: We have limited time.
Q You're dealing with a Prime Minister who's different from his predecessors, meaning he's not necessarily willing to swap land for peace on all fronts. He may be willing to pursue Palestinian talks, for instance, and not give up the Golan Heights.
I just would like to hear if it's still the U.S. position that Israel is obliged under the '67 and '73 U.N. Resolutions to fall back on every front.
MR. BURNS: Barry, this is very interesting and provocative. Israel is obliged to fall back on every front?
Q Withdraw -- yes, it was the position of the U.S. Government --
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't pose a question like that. I don't want to answer that question. I don't agree with the question the way it's formed.
Q Then I'll rephrase it. Do the '67 and '73 Resolutions apply on all fronts? Now, you know what I mean.
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this: I said, I think, about a week ago -- I'm glad to say it again today -- the United States continues to believe that land-for-peace is the avenue to peace and continues to believe that a comprehensive peace agreement is desirable.
Q The Washington Post reports this morning that the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana is warning of a new wave of rafters coming from Cuba. So he says that most should not be let in. Is this true, and is the U.S. Government preparing for a new wave?
MR. BURNS: First of all, let me say that the head of our Interests Section in Havana is a very fine diplomat -- Joe Sullivan -- and he's done an outstanding job there. I don't want to comment on what appeared in The Washington Post this morning because it would be in appropriate for me to do so.
There was a leaked cable to The Washington Post, and I can't verify the authenticity of that cable. I can't, and I wouldn't ever do that with a leaked cable. I can just tell you on the issue of migrants, since May 2, 1995, we've had a program that has been very clearly worked out with the Cuban Government. It seeks to see Cuban migration take place in a safe, legal and orderly manner, as you know.
The intent here is to save lives, because many people lost their lives on the high seas trying to flee Cuba. We do want to see migration take place on an orderly basis, and we have worked out rules of the road with the Cuban Government that I think has made for a better system and a safer system for those Cubans who are opposed to Fidel Castro.
I have time just for a couple more. Do you have a follow-up?
Q Are there any specific plans in case this happens?
MR. BURNS: We have a May 2 -- I can refer you to the May 2, 1995, agreement that was announced here at this podium with the Cuban Government that I think has provided for a better, safer, more orderly, legal system that protects people who want to escape Castro -- protects them much better than the lack of a system that was in place before that really exposed people to the elements and to the brutality of the Cuban regime.
When people are returned to Cuba, our Consulate -- our Interests Section personnel, our diplomats, check up on those people. They are in contact with them, and that is a check against the negative influences of the Cuban police and the Cuban security system.
Q The Greek Government made public today a letter from Prime Minister Simitis to President Clinton, in which the Prime Minister informed President Clinton that Turkish claims in the Aegean disputes international treaties regarding the Aegean, and also warns him that those claims could seriously upset the stability in the region. Do you have a comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Dimitris, with all due respect, I would not comment on a letter sent from a Prime Minister to the American President. I would prefer to keep whatever was in those letters in the private, confidential channels that they deserve to be in.
Q But they're made public by the Greek Government.
MR. BURNS: The United States as a matter of policy does not discuss Presidential communications with other heads of government.
Q Can you explain the discrepancy between Ambassador Laney's claim that North Korea received $13 million in insurance claims for crop damage, and the South Korean Government's claim that they received $130 million in claims?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly tell you that to the best of our knowledge -- and we have looked into this -- Ambassador Laney's claim, I'm sure, is much closer to the mark. We do not believe that there were in excess of $100 million in crop insurance available to North Korea. We think that's a grossly inflated figure which is not accurate, and we certainly stand by the decision that we made to extend the $6.2 million of food commodities to North Korea.
Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 12:49 p.m.)
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