Return to: Index of 1994 Daily Briefings || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State
96/06/17 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman

                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                           DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
                                I N D E X 

                          Monday, June 17, 1996

                                             Briefer:  Nicholas Burns

   A/S-Designate Kornblum/Milosevic Mtg & Upcoming Travel to
     Balkans................................................... 1
   Helms-Burton Article IV Implementation Guidelines Published. 1 
   U/S Tarnoff/Cypriot ForMin Signing of Extradition Treaty.... 2  

   Helms-Burton Law/Article IV Implementation Guidelines:
   --Identifying Corporation Principals/Future Visa Denials.... 2-3
   --US Prevention of Investment in Property Owned by AmCits... 2
   --Formation of the Law/Legislation Focus on Burden of
       Responsibility on Castro................................ 3-4
   --No "Blacklist" of Affected Companies To Be Published...... 4
   --No Additional Letters Sent Out............................ 4  
   --No Court Challenge to the Law in the US................... 5 
   --Investments Made After March 12........................... 6  
   --Canadian Law Permits Companies To Counter-Sue US Companies 4-5,7-8
   --Other Countries' Cooperation with the Law................. 7-8

   Kornblum/Milosevic Talks re War Criminals................... 8-10
   US Supreme Court Decision on Suits By Bosnian Victims of
     Oppression................................................ 9

   France:  Nuclear Cooperation Agreement/Chirac Stmt on Zero
     Yield on CTBT............................................. 10-12
   China:  Nuclear Cooperation w/US............................ 12
   China/Pakistan Reported Sale of M-11 Missiles/Weapons
     Proliferation in South Asia............................... 21-23

   --Step Forward in Russian Democracy Development............. 13
   --No Reports of Significant Irregularities.................. 13
   --Differences Between Yeltsin & Zyuganov.................... 13
   --Vote in Russian Duma to Reconstitute Soviet Union......... 13,14
   --Communist Platform/US Stake in Outcome.................... 14
   --General Lebed Campaign/Possible Alliance w/Yeltsin........ 15
   --US Relationship w/Russian Govt............................ 15-16
   --US Support for IMF Loan................................... 16-17

   Denial of Access to UNSCOM Monitoring Team
   --Need for Iraq to Comply With UNSC Obligations............. 17-18
   --Continued Humanitarian Sale of Iraqi Oil for Food/Medicine 18  
   --Sanctions/Other Options................................... 19

   Deployment of Syrian Troops Along Turkish Border............ 19-20
   No US Position on Exploratory Talks on Membership to the
     EU........................................................ 20  

   Turkish Govt on Sovereignty of Greek Island, Gavdos......... 20-21


DPB #97

MONDAY, JUNE 17, 1996, 1:39 P.M.

MR. BURNS: Welcome back to the State Department briefing. I've just got a couple of things to tell you, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.

I want to remind you that after the Florence Review Conference meeting the other day, on Friday, John Kornblum travelled to Belgrade. He had a meeting on Saturday with President Milosevic. The focus of that meeting was on the war criminals issue.

John Kornblum reaffirmed the very strong position of Secretary Christopher and of our government that Karadzic and Mladic be brought to justice and transferred to The Hague for prosecution as war criminals.

John let President Milosevic know that we would not relent in raising this as the highest priority issue pertaining to Dayton compliance. They also discussed Kosovo and media freedom, and they discussed various economic questions.

John Kornblum will return to the Balkans next week. He has been going on the average once every two or three weeks. He'll return next week to follow up on all the questions that were raised in Florence by the United States and our partners.

Second, I wanted to let you know that we are publishing today in the Federal Register the guidelines from Article IV of the Helms-Burton Act. This is, for those of you who are not experts on this -- I know many of you are -- this will be the implementation guidelines that the U.S. Government will follow as we implement Article IV pertaining to those people who have trafficked in confiscated property of U.S. citizens in Cuba. Published today. I've copies of that available in the Press Office for those of you who are interested, and I'll be glad to answer any questions on Helms-Burton.

Last, I wanted to let you know -- and we have a statement on this -- that in addition to the meeting that the President had this morning with President Clerides of Cyprus, Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff signed with the Cypriot Foreign Minister an Extradition Treaty. I have a statement on it. It effectively updates the Extradition Treaty that dated way back to 1931. It modernizes it, and it brings that aspect of our relations into the modern world.

So, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.

Q What more can you say about Article IV of Helms-Burton and the significance of this step?

MR. BURNS: I wanted to let you know this because I promised you, when we announced at least the first part of the guidelines, that I'd get back to you when we took this next step of publicly letting people know what the procedures would be like.

After having taken this step, we will now begin to identify people who will not be able to travel to the United States -- they or their spouses or their minor children -- because they are principals in corporations that now own property that was once owned by American citizens that was confiscated by Castro during the nationalization period of the early 1960s. It's a very important step to take.

We briefed all of the governments concerned -- the Canadian Government, the Mexican Government, other governments in Europe -- before we issued these guidelines today. I can tell you that throughout the summer we'll be proceeding with Article IV implementation. By the end of the summer, we should be in a position, frankly, where some people will not be able to use their U.S. visas should they possess them. If they do not possess a U.S. visa, they'll not be able to acquire one at an American Consulate or Embassy for travel to the United States.

That's effectively what the guidelines say, George. They spell out what type of people fall into this category. As you know, the language of the legislation, as written by the Congress, refers to "traffickers." But in laymen's terms, again, these are people who have acquired property that belong to American people, so we consider it stolen property.

A major point of distinction, George -- I think there's often confusion in the way this is reported -- is that we are not talking here about the United States trying to prevent foreign investment in Cuba. We are trying to prevent investment in property owned by American citizens. It's a very fine but very important distinction there.

Do you have a follow-up?

Q We basically know it, but Title IV says it, and all you're doing is putting it in appropriate bureaucratic language. There are no surprises.

MR. BURNS: There are no surprises in what we've released today. We had been asked to do this by a lot of the governments whose citizens will be affected by this legislation, particularly the Canadian and Mexican Governments.

Actually, we've been asked by some of the companies who may or may not be involved to take this step. So we've done it. We've consulted with our allies. Again, the next step would be to actually begin the process of denying travel to the United States by people affected.

And now those people, if they read these guidelines, will know who they are.

Q Nick, can you talk about how the U.S. Government massaged these regulations so that they met the goals that you had mentioned earlier, which is to say, put maximum pressure on Castro and minimize the sort of onerous implications on the allies?

For instance, it seemed to me, in just reading some stuff about this, sort of cursorily, that you had been talking about penalizing major shareholders. I don't know that that is still in there.

MR. BURNS: A lot of the massaging, if you will, Carol, took place during the drafting of the legislation and the final stages of consultations with the Congress before the President made his decision that he would sign the bill if it emerged in a form that we could accept.

What we didn't want to see was legislation that would have an impact on any company investing in Cuba -- any foreign company. We wanted to focus it on this question of fairness. We think it's a very fair question that if American citizens held assets -- financial assets or property or a plant in Cuba -- prior to 1959, it wasn't fair if that property were to be nationalized and then sold off by the Cuban Government as if it were their own to a foreign company.

So the legislation, and specifically Article IV, focuses on that.

I should also tell you, we've decided we're not going to publish a list of the companies affected. There's not going to be any kind of public blacklist. We think that would run contrary to what we're trying to achieve with our allies and our friends. We're not trying to humiliate or embarrass companies or countries here.

What we're trying to do is focus on the root of the problem, and that is that a communist government nationalized property unfairly, did not compensate Americans for that, and then sold it off. That's the important -- in those two respects -- are two of the important things that we've done.

In talking about the legislation, we want to keep focusing the burden of responsibility on Castro himself. He's the one who confiscated the property of Americans. He's the one who sold it off. It's his responsibility.

Ultimately, justice will be done for the Americans here but, more importantly, or equally important, for the Cuban people if Castro were to give up power and if some form of freedom -- democratic government -- can return to Cuba.

Q Have you alerted any more companies that they're likely to be found in violation?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've sent out any additional letters. But I think now if any companies around the world believe they may or may not fall under the purview of Article IV, it will be very clear to them if they do or not when they read these guidelines published in the Federal Register.

Judd, and then we'll go to Steve.

Q I'm a little hazy on the details, so forgive me. Something just blew on the wires that apparently a law is wending its way through Canada to allow Canadian companies sue --

MR. BURNS: That would allow them?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: To sue whom?

Q Presumably, I guess the United States or American companies that are affected here.

MR. BURNS: We've heard something about this. The Canadian Government has been talking about this. Indeed, other governments have been talking about this.

Of course, we do not favor the passage of such legislation.

I think it's very important that the Canadian people who are reading this transcript and listening to this broadcast understand one thing: This is not an attempt by the United States to identify Canadian or Mexican or French or British companies and unfairly try to exclude them from investing in Cuba. If they would invest in legitimate assets, then the United States Government would have no quarrel with that. But they're investing -- they have to understand this -- in stolen property of American citizens.

We have an obligation to American companies and American families and individuals who have been affected to protect them. That's a very important distinction which I believe is lost in the foreign commentary on this legislation.


Q Two related questions. One, do you know if there has been a court challenge yet to this law?

MR. BURNS: In the United States? Do I know if in the United States there's been a court challenge? I don't believe there has been a court challenge in the United States. We have heard talk -- again, from some other governments -- that they may seek to write their own legislation to, in effect, protect their own companies in this matter.

Q And secondly, on the principle that you've just stated, are you preparing guidelines to penalize people who invest in properties taken by the Bolsheviks from American companies in Russia, or by the East Germans from American companies that were in the eastern part of what is now Germany, or endless numbers of other countries that have nationalized American assets and then sold them over the years?

MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. Let me just give you a little bit of the history here very briefly.

The Bolsheviks, when they took power in 1917, did nationalize. Lenin and Stalin nationalized many American companies. They also froze the bank accounts of a lot of Americans who were holding Czarist bank notes and all types of foreign currencies in Russia.

The Soviet Union -- I believe in the 1930s, after Roosevelt established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1934 -- agreed to a series of negotiations with the United States that would, in effect, compensate the American companies who had been nationalized and compensate the Americans who held Czarist bank notes and other financial instruments.

So the Soviet Union and now Russia, as the continuation state of the Soviet Union, have agreed to seek redress for American citizens who were affected by the nationalization. That is true in the case of many other governments who have nationalized private American property over the years.

The difference here is that Castro never agreed to that. He stole the property of Americans. He never compensated Americans for that, and there is no mechanism currently established that would allow American citizens to seek redress for their financial injuries through the American and Cuban Governments. That's the difference. If Castro had agreed to that, if we had something in place, then I think this Article of Helms-Burton would not have been necessary.

Q The guidelines published today, I think it says that it applies to investments made after the approval of the Helms-Burton law. Since you have already sent some letters, have those companies invested after March 12?

MR. BURNS: Well, it does. I believe the law was signed by the President on March 12 of this year, 1996. The legislation, as you know -- we've talked about this before -- does say that those who were holding stolen property after March 12, will be affected. That also means that if a company wished to give up some of these properties, they would not fall under the purview of this law.

As you know, the Mexican company Cemex has informed the Department of State that it is holding property stolen from American citizens and it will give up that property. So Cemex, when it accomplishes that transformation, will not be subject to Helms-Burton and its executives will not be prohibited from entering the United States with American visas.

Q To give up -- what do you mean? They cannot sell it because it's stolen property. They cannot sell it, they just have to lose it?

MR. BURNS: I can't give financial advice here. I can't tell them how they should dispose of their property. But, certainly, if they give up the investment itself, even by giving it back to the Cuban Government, the company itself will not fall under the guidelines of Helms-Burton. But the responsibility will always lie with the Cuban Government, which was responsible for the theft in the first place.

Q So it is not only for new investments, it's for holding all investments as well?

MR. BURNS: That's right. Any company that has investments post-March 12, 1996.

Still on this issue?

Q Yes. The Canadian Government today just a few moments ago proposed a bill which would basically order Canadian companies not to comply with Helms-Burton, would fine them if they did comply, and allows them -- permits them to counter-sue. So if an American company suing them in American courts, they can counter-sue the American company in Canadian courts and face a double jeopardy.

How do you respond to that?

MR. BURNS: There are two articles that are relevant here: Article III and Article IV of the Helms-Burton legislation. Article IV guidelines were published today. They pertain to whether or not someone can enter the United States -- be free to travel and back forth. That's Article IV.

Article III, of course, deals with the issue of whether the American citizens who were affected, who have had their property stolen from them, can sue in U.S. courts. That, of course, is subject to a Presidential waiver should the President wish to exercise that. He has not yet made that decision.

I just want to be clear about the distinction between the two articles.

We would appeal to the Canadian Government and to the Canadian people to understand the sentiments of the American people. We've done a good deal of listening over the last couple of months on this issue. We've heard a lot of complaints from friendly governments like Canada.

I think it's time that the Canadian Government and the Canadian people listen to us. We have Cuba 90 miles off our shores. We've had to live with this dictatorship 90 miles off our shores for 36 years. We had four Americans murdered over international waters by the Castro Government on February 24. They ought to understand what prompted this legislation and what prompted the President to sign it into law. At a time when there's very little bipartisan spirit on most foreign policy issues, there is very strong bipartisan support for this law.

So we would hope to avoid some kind of a crisis with Canada over this because Canada is our closest ally. But we would appeal to them to understand our position here.

Q Nick, same subject. The original Helms-Burton law applied worldwide when it was discovered that some Palestinian-Americans were going to sue under it, the custodian of absentee property in Israel. It was changed, modified to apply only to I believe Cuba and El Salvador or Nicaragua, whatever? Anyway, it was narrow in scope.

What about applying the principle worldwide? Are you going to apply it to the vast properties, including the tentative site of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, which is owned by American Palestinians?

MR. BURNS: You've asked essentially the same question that Steve Erlanger asked, and I'd give you the same answer, but let me try to do it more generically. When governments are willing to cooperate with us on a reasonable and rational basis to try to deal with vexing questions of law and of customs and so forth, then I think we're going to meet them halfway.

But here we have a Cuban Government, a dictatorial, communist government which is unwilling to cooperate with us. We have no recourse but to protect our citizens. In the case of Russia, in the case of a lot of other countries around the world, they're willing to cooperate. They're willing to meet us halfway and to do the right thing. That's the distinction, and therefore I don't believe -- and certainly not with Israel -- I don't believe that there will be legislation necessary to force those friendly, cooperative governments to deal with us on a rational basis.


Q New subject? Bosnia.


Q You said that John Kornblum made his 553rd appeal to Milosevic -- I may be exaggerating a tad --

MR. BURNS: You're probably not, actually.

Q -- to comply and deliver up Karadzic and Mladic to the Tribunal. Was he more receptive this time, given the fact that the Bosnians turned over some Muslims last week?

MR. BURNS: If he'd been more receptive, I think maybe I'd be speaking about this in different terms today. The diplomatic word of the day is they had "candid" discussions; and "candid" means they talked, but they didn't necessarily agree.

We continue to hear from the Serbian Government, including President Milosevic's good words, but no action. In this particular game, "no action" is the most important point of emphasis for us.

The fact is that all the good words in the world are not going to help Mr. Milosevic comply with his responsibilities under the Dayton Accords. He has an obligation to give up these people who are living in Serbia or under Bosnian Serb control and let them be prosecuted for war crimes -- a very serious charge -- and he's failed to do that.

That is why the Secretary asked John Kornblum to undertake the mission. That's why he's going back next week. So I can report no progress on this matter.

Q A quick follow, then: He was not persuaded by the action of the Bosnian Government last week?

MR. BURNS: Unfortunately not. The Bosnian Government has set a very good example for Mr. Milosevic, but he's failed to heed that.

Q (Inaudible) that there was a Supreme Court decision today --

MR. BURNS: The Supreme Court of the United States?

Q Yes. Under which victims of oppression in Bosnia can sue the perpetrators in U.S. courts. Did you see that?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the decision, so I'll have to --

Q Do you want to say anything about it?

MR. BURNS: I'll have to refrain from comment until we subject this to our legal analysis.

Yes, Sid.

Q How long will Mr. Kornblum continue to go back to Belgrade? How many more times will the United States allow him to be stiffed by Milosevic?

MR. BURNS: Not another 550 -- if we use Mr. Ginsberg's figures, which I believe are, if not accurate, at least accurate in spirit. It feels like 550.

Not forever, Sid. I think that the Secretary, when they were in Geneva a couple of weeks back, gave President Milosevic a very stiff message that time was not on the side of those who had flagrantly violated the Dayton Accords, and that there is a limit to our patience and to our tolerance for a violation of a major part of the Dayton agreements.

We have decided that it's worth giving them some time to comply but not all the time in the world. The Secretary did not set a specific date, and neither will I do that here today. But I think Milosevic knows and the Bosnian Serb leadership knows that they don't have all the time in the world.


Q Different subject?


Q Why did the United States feel it was necessary to reach a secret agreement with the French on nuclear matters?

MR. BURNS: Why did we feel it was necessary to reach a secret agreement?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: Sometimes with governments, when you enter into agreements, you arrive at them openly and you have much fanfare and you sign them in public, and other times you decide to get together and just share things privately.

Generally, on the issue of nuclear cooperation, which, of course, exists with France, with Britain, with Russia in many respects, we normally tend to do those things behind closed doors. But I can assure you there's nothing conspiratorial here.

We've been engaged in cooperation, I guess for several decades, with France on nuclear issues. This is from our nuclear energy and nuclear weapons experts in our government. Considering the fact that France is our oldest ally in the world and a charter member of the Atlantic Alliance, it makes sense. What we've simply done under the recent discussions, as the French Government indicated today from Paris, is refine elements of our nuclear cooperation and to update it because we do want to work with France, which is a nuclear power, to insure the safety and reliability of the existing weapons held by the United States and France under a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.

As you know now, we have had a very important statement from President Chirac that he supports a zero-yield Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. France is now a partner of ours in trying to achieve that by the end of this month so that it can be signed in New York at the General Assembly in September.

So we'll continue to work with the French, and we'll continue to have nuclear cooperation agreements. I was not surprised to see it revealed today because it is consistent with our past practice.

Q Well, I mean, if you weren't -- if it didn't upset you and you're essentially -- I mean, I'd like you to confirm it on the record if that's what you're doing by implication. You're confirming that this --

MR. BURNS: Confirm --

Q -- that this deal exists.

MR. BURNS: The French Government came out today and said that there is a basic agreement on nuclear cooperation between the two governments.

Q Do you say the same thing?

MR. BURNS: I would just say that we've had it for decades, and we continue to update it. I tell you the trouble we get into, Carol: if we basically had statements and press announcements about everything we do, we'd do nothing else. So we have to pick and choose, and this one we felt fell under the category of activity which is negotiated privately and should basically remain private.

You know, we don't want to give out all of the details of our nuclear agreements in public, which is why I'm not going to do it today, beyond giving you the platitudes that I've just served up.

Q Was this agreement a prerequisite for getting France on board with the zero-yield?

MR. BURNS: I wasn't party to the negotiations, so I can't tell you what was said back and forth. I just can't comment on that aspect of it. I can just say that we were very pleased to see President Chirac come forward with his statement in support of a zero-yield Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.

Q Is the United States negotiating a similar agreement with any of the other nuclear powers, such as China?

MR. BURNS: I don't know if we have -- see, I'm not aware of all the details. I can't recite for you, even if I wanted to, all the details of our nuclear cooperation with France, so I really can't compare it to Russia or the U.K. But, suffice to say, of course, we have nuclear cooperation with the United Kingdom. We've had a growing nuclear cooperation with Russia that has developed over the last four-and-a-half years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

That's in the interests of all of us to have that. You want to have a relationship where you're making sure that your scientists are talking to each other, to insure the safety and reliability of existing stocks of nuclear weapons as they are held among the five countries. It's very important to do that.

And, might I add, very important to be able to set up a verification regime for any kind of nuclear Test-Ban treaty that does emerge from the Geneva negotiations.

Q Will you take the question, though, whether the United States is preparing a similar deal with China?

MR. BURNS: I can take that question, yes. I'd be glad to.

Q Nick, on the Russian election, the Secretary just said that the United States is going to support reform and reformers in the second round. Since all but one of the reformers was defeated in the first round, what are you going to do to support him?

MR. BURNS: Very artful question, Norm. Let me just say a couple things about the Russian elections, which I think deserve to be said. Some of you have mentioned it in your reporting.

These were the first elections in 1,000 years, where the Russian people had a chance to select their leader, and that is a profoundly important point. Second, the breadth of these elections, I guess next to India, really compares only to what India has recently done. Ninety-six thousand polling places, 107 million registered voters, of whom 70 percent voted; political candidates from 11 different parties which span the political spectrum there.

These were very important elections for the Russian people, and, as Secretary Christopher said, they really represent a significant step forward in the development of Russian democracy, because you had had over the last four years the April '93 referendum, but that wasn't a vote for President; it was a referendum on existing policy.

You had two Duma elections in December '93 and December '95. You hadn't had this kind of nationwide Presidential election before. I think that's the first point.

The second is we have not seen any reports of significant irregularities in the voting. That's important in a situation like this, given how new Russian democracy is, and given how unaccustomed many people are to this type of exercise.

Third, I think it's very clear that there is a big difference between the two men still standing: President Yeltsin and Mr. Zyuganov -- a big difference in policy, in orientation, in psychology about the type of country they want to see enter into the next century; and, importantly for Americans, relate to all of us.

The difference is that over the last four-and-a-half years, President Yeltsin and his advisers have put into place three things very important to us: a measure of nuclear stability and military cooperation with the West, specifically with us, with the United States, that is unprecedented, and that is of unquestioned importance to us. That's first.

Second, there is now a degree of foreign policy cooperation in Bosnia, in the Middle East, on European security issues, in Southeast Asia, in Africa and Latin America that goes way beyond anything that we were able to achieve with Gorbachev in the 1980s and early in 1990 and '91. This is unquestionably in our interests.

And, third, President Yeltsin has put into place a wide span of democratic, political and economic reforms that have fundamentally transformed Russia. So, I think that we look back in the last four-and-a-half years, and we see a relationship, that we have developed, that will in all respects, improve our national security and improve the way we can look at world politics because of the opportunities that flow out of the U.S.-Russia relationship.

We look at the Communist platform, and frankly what we see there is a return to command economics in the manifesto that was published just a couple of weeks ago. If you read it, it talks about renationalization state industries. It talks about imposing government control over prices and wages, and it talks about severe restrictions on the ability of Russian citizens to own property and to own land.

This would fundamentally be a roll-back to the policies of the 1950s and 60s and 70s. It would be returning to something, that in many ways, failed in the past rather than moving forward.

We were also disturbed, as you know, by the vote in the Russian Duma on March 15 to in effect reconstitute the old union of the republics of the former Soviet Union. Well, the other republics now free and independent states don't want that. I don't now any of them that want to return to the old Soviet Union.

So there's a lot in the platform of the Communist party which is disturbing. And we draw two lessons from that, Norm. One, there is a profound difference in the platforms of the two left standing. Second, we have a major stake in the outcome. It is not politically or diplomatically correct for the United States to endorse a single candidate. We will not do so. That would be a formal endorsement -- as many other countries have done, by the way, over the last couple of weeks -- it would be seen to be interference.

But it is certainly appropriate for the United States to point out what our interests are and to point out what we hope to see happen in the future, and that is we want to see some of these positive reforms over the last couple of years continue.

We are ready, as Secretary Christopher and Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott have said repeatedly -- we're ready for any outcome. No matter who's elected in early July, the United States will continue to put our national security interests in the forefront of the calculation as to how we can get along with Russia in the future. And we begin those national security interests -- the definition of those -- with our nuclear and military security interests. That's the most important thing at stake here.

Q Is the Administration not at all troubled by the pervasive corruption in the Yeltsin Administration?

MR. BURNS: Sid, I think that crime and corruption are a problem in Russian society in general, in the private life of Russia, and, of course, you've seen reports of corruption in various parts of the government. I can't comment on that. I'm not an authority on that, and I'm also not a prosecutor. But certainly crime and corruption are a big problem. That's one of the reasons why it appears General Lebed has done so well.

General Lebed campaigned on a platform that I think had great resonance with the Russian people, and that was putting crime and corruption on the top of the list of the concerns of the Russian Government. I think that's probably one of the messages that we heard the Russian people sending to their political leaders yesterday when they voted.

Q Since you raised it, do you foresee General Lebed siding with President Yeltsin?

MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that. I know from press reports that he met in the Kremlin today with President Yeltsin. I know in the past he has said during the campaign that he thought that Russia should move forward, not backwards. It's his decision as to what he does next, and I'm sure that he and President Yeltsin are discussing this, but I don't have any inside information. We'll just have to wait and see what emerges now in the coming days.

Clearly, they are in a position where there will be some coalition building over the next couple of days. We had 11 people run for President. Two will run off. Nine will have to go home or at least not run in the runoff, and those nine need to decide, if they're going to do this, which of the candidates they'll support.

So clearly we're in a phase now where the Russian politicians will be talking to each other about who will support whom.


Q I won't try to belabor you about the point about endorsing someone without endorsing someone. I mean, you've been around on that enough times. But are you prepared to cut Yeltsin a lot of slack between the rounds, if in fact he moves, as most people expect him to do, after the 21 percent of the electorate who voted for Lebed and Zhirinovsky, rather than the seven to eight percent of the electorate who voted for Yavlinsky and start taking a much stronger anti-Western/authoritarian/law-and-order position, including promises for a second term that have that same character?

MR. BURNS: It's an important fact, sometimes lost on all of us, that the United States does not have a vote in these elections, and therefore we need to sit back and allow the Russian people to decide this. During this period between the two rounds, the United States has got to continue our relationship with the Russian Government. We can only relate to one government at a time, and we don't choose that government. The Russian people do.

So when it comes to the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty negotiations that are reaching their climax in the next ten days; when it comes to the Lyon Economic Summit, hosted by the French Government, where the Russians will be represented, we'll have a lot of business to do on the Middle East; on Bosnia, where our troops are actually serving together up near Tuzla. We'll have a multitude of contacts with the current Russian Government.

We're going to judge that government on its actions. I don't think we're in a mood to cut slack to anybody at this point, Steve, because the job of our government is not to be charitable. The job of our government and our foreign policy is to protect the American people and to protect our very well defined national security interest. You know we've got a number of national security issues in play right now.

We've got the CTBT negotiations. We've got what we hope, following these elections, will be the ratification by the Russian Duma of the START II Treaty, which will bring down nuclear weapons to historically low levels by early in the next century. So we can't stop doing business.

As the President said this morning, he'll probably be talking to President Yeltsin in the next couple of days. I'm sure that Secretary Christopher is going to be talking to Foreign Minister Primakov. We're going to have across-the-board cooperation.

The Russian people will then vote in a second round. If a new government emerges, we'll have to deal with that government. If President Yeltsin is re-elected, we'll deal with him and his new government. That's the only choice available to us -- move forward, protect our interests.

Q I take your point. It's just that the United States has already cut Yeltsin slack for the election. The IMF has cut him slack over the last two months in it's monthly checking on the budget. People have stayed silent about his promises, about his decree ordering the Central Bank to deliver $1 billion to the government.

Are you prepared to take the same kind of stance if he suddenly starts making policy promises that go against your perceived national security interests?

MR. BURNS: I think, Steve, it's important to remember we don't agree with President Yeltsin on all issues. In addition to all the good things, the positive things that have happened, we've had a number of disagreements with him and his government. They're outstanding. Take the issue of NATO expansion, for instance.

So I don't agree with the premise of your question that somehow we've just rolled over in the last couple of months and told President Yeltsin, "Whatever you want to do is fine with us." On the issues that you mentioned, as far as I'm aware -- and we can check with our experts at Treasury on this -- Russia continues to fall in its economic performance of its fiscal and monetary policy within the framework established by the International Monetary Fund. On the order last week, the decree to the Central Bank to transfer roughly $1 billion worth of financial instruments to the government, we took the position that we would criticize this if this was undertaken without compensatory measures in Russia's monetary policy that would offset the probable inflationary impact of the $1 billion transfer. We were told by the IMF that those compensatory measures were taken.

Steve, I can meet you, if you want, on some of these issues and say, "I think we've done the right thing." It's no surprise that President Clinton supported the $9 billion IMF program in January and February, because it was President Clinton who went to Tokyo in July 1993 and asked our economic summit partners to undertake a multi-year program of monetary and fiscal support for the Russian Government, which has now turned into what? a $17 billion support program for the Russian Government.

But that wasn't charity; that was earned by the Russian Government based on its performance, and it was also in the interest of the United States that we undertake that program. It still is. Nobody in this government wants to see IMF support for Russia stall, as long as the Russian Government is still meeting the conditions laid down by the IMF.

Q New subject.

MR. BURNS: New subject.

Q On Iraq, Secretary Christopher was very critical in his statements earlier about the continued denial of UNSCOM inspectors to specific sites in Baghdad. The U.N. has already condemned Iraq. What is the next step? What is the United States prepared to do to -- how far are they prepared to go to make Iraq comply with these inspections?

MR. BURNS: The next step is to put into play a series of events that will in essence require Iraq to live up to its U.N. Security Council obligations. Iraq cannot choose who comes to inspect its illegal development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, which, of course, has been underway. Iraq itself has admitted that. It doesn't have the right to turn down Ambassador Ekeus when he shows up at Baghdad International Airport and then goes to a Republican Guard facility, as he did last week, to inspect it.

Ambassador Ekeus, I think, will be back, and the U.N. Security Council -- and this is unanimous -- supported by the Russians and the French, supports the United States' position and the U.K. position, which is he ought to go back and he ought to enforce its mandate.

If Iraq doesn't do that, frankly, the big loser will be Saddam Hussein. He will destroy any chance of lifting the economic sanctions on Iraq. As you know, it's been debated in the UNSC over the last couple of years, and there have been a number of prominent countries who have said, "We ought to think about the day when we relieve Iraq of the burden of these economic sanctions." Boy, those people are silent now. In fact, they're supporting the very tough position of the United States and the United Kingdom.

He is shooting himself in the foot, and the other day I said, "We shouldn't under-estimate his capacity to shoot himself in the foot." He's playing exactly the wrong game. Maybe it appeals to his nationalism. Maybe it plays well in the Baghdad Times, a government-controlled newspaper, but it's not playing well in New York, and he's not going to get the economic sanctions lifted, because how can we trust him? If he doesn't let Ambassador Ekeus into the facilities, we've got to assume he's got something to hide -- "he," Saddam Hussein.

Q I just want to clarify and follow, Nick. These actions don't have any impact on the oil sale for food and medicine, is that correct?

MR. BURNS: At the present time, we've taken the position -- and all of our partners have as well -- that we ought to continue with the humanitarian sale of Iraqi oil, so that the victims of Saddam Hussein -- the Kurds, the Kuwaitis and the Shi'a, among them -- can have some badly needed food and medicine brought to Iraq.

But the important thing to remember here is that Saddam Hussein doesn't get a penny of the proceeds from Resolution 938.

I think Laura had a follow-up, Carol.

Q Actually, another clarification. So if Saddam Hussein does not comply with these inspections, just not having sanctions lifted is the only step that the international community has or the U.N. has?

MR. BURNS: That's a huge step. Saddam Hussein is not going to be able to govern a normal country unless those draconian -- and I'm glad they're in place -- the draconian economic sanctions are lifted. He doesn't have a prayer of resuscitating his economy or of even building support among the Iraqi people for himself and his regime. The game is up for him if those economic sanctions continue. He cannot govern a normal country.

He should understand that, but they continue to take actions that we believe are contrary to their own interests. It's a fairly puzzling development.

Q Iraq has sort of lived with this situation for more than five years now. Is military action an option?

MR. BURNS: It's always an option. I'm not saying that we're near that, near selecting that as an option. It can never be ruled out, when it comes to Saddam Hussein, but I'm not trying to flag that somehow we're on the verge of it. We're not. His economy is prostrate. His military capabilities are vastly reduced from the Gulf war. His capabilities were destroyed.

He's not governing a normal country. It's a little fiefdom there.

Q But the argument might be that if things were so bad, as you say, he wouldn't be opposing these inspections as he is now?

MR. BURNS: Things are very bad. You can't always count on rationality with Saddam Hussein. You and I are looking at this as a rational exercise. Maybe the answer here is that sometimes he and his henchmen govern irrationally.

Q I've got two questions on Syria. The first one is similar to a question that was asked last week concerning deployment of Syrian troops along the Turkish borders. The U.S. mentioned the figure of 40,000. How concerned is the Administration about these reports. This one? And, second --

MR. BURNS: About the Syrian troop movements?

Q Yes. And my second question concerns the recent meeting of EU-Syrian Cooperation Council during which it was agreed that the exploratory talks should begin on Syria's eventual associate membership to the European Union.

Does the Administration support Syria eventually becoming a member of the European Union?

MR. BURNS: On the second question, I don't believe we've taken a position because I think it is not a very realistic possibility. These may be just exploratory talks, looking far into the future.

On the first question, I don't have anything to report to you on troop movements in Syria. We've seen the reports of them, but I have nothing to offer you on that particular subject.

Q I have a question on the issue of Turkey questioning the sovereignty of an island which was south of Crete named Gavdos, whether you have a position on that?

MR. BURNS: We sure do, and I'm glad to clear up any confusion about this matter. There's been a lot of confusion, but we have been assured by the Turkish Government that the Turkish Government, when it raised some objections to a NATO exercise taking place south of Crete, it only meant to raise some technical questions that the Turkish protestations had nothing to do with the sovereignty of Gavdos, this island south of Crete and that there can be no questions raised about the sovereignty of this island. This is a Greek island. Gavdos is Greek. Greece has sovereignty has there. The people who live on Gavdos are Greek citizens.

We've been very pleased to see the Turkish Government come forward and to clarify this situation. You remember, we dealt with this last week. We didn't want to make a public statement. We preferred to talk to the Greeks and Turks privately. It's now been clarified, I think, to the satisfaction, we hope, of the Greek Government.

Q A brief follow-up, if I may?


Q Can we infer from this that the U.S. is discouraging Turkey from raising issues of sovereignty over other island in the Aegean?

MR. BURNS: Questions of sovereignty really have to be discussed between Turkey and Greece, not between the United States and Turkey or the United States and Greece. It's up to the two of them, and there's now disputed sovereignty over Imia/Kardak and they need to resolve that.

So I'm very happy to report a resolution of this miscommunication, but I'm not able to report that all Aegean sovereignty questions are resolved. They'll continue to be a factor in the politics of the region.


Q Thank you, Nick. For the record, I would like to -- first, to apologize to you for a question that I asked you on Friday. I made two errors in that question on the Indian Government's reaction to reports about M-11s and Pakistan.

My question was the Prime Minister had recommended that this action be taken to deploy their missiles -- Indian missiles -- and that was incorrect, because it was Mr. Singh's former President --

MR. BURNS: I've already forgotten. Don't worry about it.

Q This is an important point.

MR. BURNS: Russia weekend events. You're nice to mention that. Thank you.

Q It's important to me, at least. Also, he was only saying "should," not "recommending." You were absolutely correct in your response. But I'd like to go further with that, especially --

MR. BURNS: That's a shame. You really want to pursue that question, Bill? I thought we've effectively dispose of that question on Friday.

Q No, no. The issue raised a few minutes ago, Nick, with regard to non-proliferation of Pakistan and India, and especially the proliferation of their Indian missiles. Have you any more to report, any progress or any news to report with regard to U.S. efforts in this non-proliferation role?

MR. BURNS: I think we had such a comprehensive discussion on Friday, Bill, I'd like to let -- I stand by everything I said on Friday. If there's any confusion, you can let me know, but I think it was quite clear what I was saying.

Q Nick, there's one key question that we asked you to take, a question which we asked you to take and we still haven't gotten an answer, which is whether India's deployment of the M-11 -- forget whether it's nuclear-tipped or not -- would violate any existing treaty?

MR. BURNS: I think the deployment of missiles is not -- I mean, I don't want to focus this discussion on legal criteria; I want to focus it on the issue of proliferation. We want to try to stem the proliferation of capabilities and of missiles and certainly of what those missiles can carry in terms of the types of warheads on those missiles. I think the crucial point for the United States is this: We do not wish to see countries that are not now declared nuclear powers become declared nuclear powers. We do not wish to see any non-nuclear power develop capabilities through their ballistic missile development or through their development of nuclear, chemical or biological warheads. We do not want to see that take place.

We want to see countries like India and like Pakistan, to name two -- just to cite two out of thin air -- we want to see them continue to try to bring down the level of weapons development in South Asia.

What we've told both the Indians and the Pakistanis is that this kind of arms race would be destabilizing, and it would likely increase the chances of a conflict. We've said the following: Neither India nor Pakistan should be the first to deploy ballistic missiles. I think this answers your question.

Second, they should forswear production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

And, third, they should not test nuclear devices.

Q I mean, it doesn't really answer the question.

MR. BURNS: I thought I did. I was trying to be helpful, Sid.

Q I know. You may not be able to say, but -- and it's out there somewhere, the answer to this question; we don't have to rely on the State Department to answer it for us. But legally speaking, does the United States think that India would violate international treaties by deploying the M-11? I understand the problems.

MR. BURNS: Sid, I'd have to know -- and this is hypothetical -- what type of warhead was on a missile. So I wanted to bring you back to the three areas where we've advised the Indian Government and the Pakistani Government not to develop their defense capabilities. We'd like to see a process of bringing down the level of development of weapons in South Asia. We don't want to see that proliferate, and I think that's the crux of American policy.

Q Has there been a response from either government to our --

MR. BURNS: We have many responses from both governments. I want to keep those in diplomatic channels.

Thank you very much.

Q Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:27 p.m.)


To the top of this page