U.S. Department of State 96/06/19 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, June 19, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS: Introduction of Guests from Korea & Pacific .... 1 RUSSIA: Pres Yeltsin Cancels Visit to Lyon Economic Summit/ ... 1-2 PM Chernomyrdin Will Attend MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary's Trip to Israel & Egypt, June 24-26/Meetings .... 2-3 with Pres Mubarak, Chairman Arafat, PM Netanyahu/ Objectives of Trip/Return to Region Later in Summer Monitoring Group in Session/Expectations/Timing of Meeting/. 3-6, 9 Intent of Agreement/Negotiating Operational Responsibilities/ Purpose of Secretary's Trip/Future of Israeli-Syria Negotiations/Reaction by Arab Capitals to PM Netanyahu Speech/Length of Meeting/Composition of Monitoring Group PLO Leader Arafat Mtg with Chinese Leaders/Rpt of China .... 12-13 Building Industrial Zones for Palestinians US Position on Use of Orient House & US Access/Conduct of .. 13-14 Official US Business/Sovereignty of Orient House IRAN/LIBYA House Legislation on Penalizing Companies Trading With ..... 6-8 Iran & Libya/US Positions on Iran's Nuclear Intentions and on Libya's Failure to Turn Over PanAm #103 Bombing Suspects & Chemical Weapons Potential/Allies' Response CONGRESS: Micromanaging US Foreign Policy/Helms-Burton & ...... 8-9 Iran-Libya as Examples/Visa to Taiwan Leader/Executive Branch Responsibility BOSNIA/CROATIA/SERBIA Dates for Elections & Reimposition of Sanctions/Karadzic ... 9-11 in Custody Before Elections/Travel Plans of Acting Asst Secy Kornblum/Reality of What Can Be Accomplished Under Dayton Agreement MEXICO: Early Loan Repayment to US ............. Killed/US Support for Peace Efforts/Escalation of Violence/Appointment of US Special Envoy Wolpe/Travel by Asst Secy Shattuck
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19, 1996, 1:04 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'm very pleased to introduce to you today two sets of guests. The first is Mr. Hwang Yoo-Seong. He's a political reporter with a newspaper in Korea and is currently here courtesy of the USIA International Visitors Program. Welcome to you.
Secondly, we have members of the Diplomatic Training Program of the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Virginia. They're from the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. They'll be participating in a course at the Foreign Affairs Training Center for the next month. Welcome to all of you as well. Glad to have you here.
Barry? That's it. No announcements today. Go right to questions.
Q Actually, Charlie wanted to start?
MR. BURNS: Are you deferring to Charlie? Has he a baseball question?
Q The Yeltsin postponement. Implications? Something you can take in stride? Is Chernomyrdin a good stand-in so far as pursuing the various issues Clinton would have taken up with him?
MR. BURNS: Yesterday, during their phone call, President Yeltsin foreshadowed this issue for the President. He said that he was debating whether or not he should go to Lyon. Obviously, the political campaign is already in full swing for the second round of voting.
Today, Ambassador Pickering was informed by the Russian Foreign Ministry that, in fact, President Yeltsin would not be attending the summit in Lyon; that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin would attend in his place. This is completely understandable given the fact that the second round of voting will occur sometime in the first week of July -- either the third or the seventh. That decision has to be made.
The fact is, President Yeltsin has got to get out and campaign. We understand that. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is someone we know quite well through the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. He's met the President many, many times. The Vice President and the Secretary of State know him. He's a very effective, very competent representative of the Russian Federation, and we see no problem with this whatsoever. He'll be most welcome as a full participant in the Lyon talks.
Q And Secretary Christopher's travel plans remain the same; right?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The Secretary of State, for those of you who have not heard -- we announced this last night -- will be travelling on Monday morning to Jerusalem. On Tuesday, he'll have meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He'll stay the night in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he'll travel to Cairo. He'll meet there with President Mubarak who will have just hosted the Arab Summit. The Secretary is looking forward to getting a briefing by President Mubarak on that summit, and looking forward to a full discussion with President Mubarak about the Middle East peace process as well as U.S.-Egyptian relations.
We hope very much to have the opportunity to schedule a meeting between the Secretary and Chairman Yasser Arafat during this trip as well.
Chairman Arafat has been travelling in Asia. He was in Beijing, and I believe today he is in Hanoi. We're trying to reach him to see if he will be back in the Middle East and whether we could have a meeting with him on Tuesday or Wednesday in the Middle East. That's a very important link for us. We have worked very closely with the Palestinian Authority, and the Secretary wants an opportunity to share his views with Chairman Arafat.
With Prime Minister Netanyahu, this is the first opportunity the Secretary will have had, beyond their two phone calls, to sit down, have a comprehensive discussion about the new government's positions on many of these issues in the Arab-Israeli peace process as well as on U.S.-Israel relations. That is really the principal purpose of this trip.
We just have a very short window -- really, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Because by Wednesday evening, the Secretary needs to be in Lyon to meet President Clinton for the G-7 meetings. So therefore, it will not be possible for the Secretary to travel to other Arab countries although he expects at some point this summer -- in July or August -- to return to the Middle East for a full-fledged trip where he would visit Israel and many of the Arab countries -- the kind of trip that he has taken so often in the past -- for a full set of discussions with all of our partners in the Middle East peace process.
Q Could you tell us a bit about the Monitoring Group? It seems it's been resuscitated somehow. Why now? What is everyone expecting? Could you tell us about that?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Dennis Ross convened the Monitoring Group here in the Department just about six or seven minutes ago. The Syrians are represented by Ambassador Mualem; the Israelis by Ambassador Rabinovich; the French by the French Ambassador; the Lebanese by the Lebanese Ambassador.
We do have an agreement with the new government -- the new government of Israel -- to go forward with these talks. I don't have a lot to say right now because he's just convened the meeting. But after the meeting concludes today, I will report back to you. I'll come down to the Press Room and give you a sense of what happened there.
As we said just after the Israeli elections a couple of weeks ago, this is an issue that we wanted to return to as quickly as we could with the new Israeli Government and with Lebanon, Syria, France, and others. Because it seems to us, all of us must do everything we can to make sure that the agreement negotiated by Secretary Christopher is put into place -- the implementation part of it is activated as quickly as possible because this agreement protects civilians on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Q Were you particularly anxious to have this Monitoring Group convene before the Secretary of State's visit to the region?
MR. BURNS: It really doesn't have much to do with the timing of that trip. It has a lot to do with the fact that yesterday Mr. Netanyahu was successful in forming his government, and that's been approved by the Knesset; he has a majority in his coalition in the Knesset. He's now the Prime Minister of Israel.
We said some weeks ago, this would be the first issue we wanted to return to, and we've been able to do that today.
Q Are you operating on this, or proceeding on this as if there will be no revision in the agreement, no broadening of it, no strengthening of it?
MR. BURNS: I think the intent of the agreement, Barry, is shared by everybody, and that is, we want to protect civilians on both sides of the border. We'll just have to see what happens in this round of talks.
Mr. Netanyahu may or may not have new ideas to bring to this. We just don't know. We'll have a better idea of that after the meeting.
Q You've got to start some place. You're having meetings. Are you having meetings on the assumption the agreement, for instance, will not be broadened to try to protect soldiers as well? In other words, are you starting out on the assumption that the agreement stands as it is and if there is to be any broadening or changes, you'll hear about it subsequently?
MR. BURNS: I think so. I think that's a fair assumption to make. The agreement is about civilians, as you know. That was the basis of Secretary Christopher's shuttle mission during the last week of April.
Q And the conversations will be limited to the monitoring arrangement?
MR. BURNS: Yes, as far as I understand. I had a quick discussion with Dennis about an hour ago. That's the intention. You remember, just to catch you up, just before the Israeli elections -- I think the Friday before the elections which were held on a Wednesday, I believe -- we had the last meeting of the Monitoring Group here in the Department. It came very, very close to a final agreement on the responsibilities of all of the countries involved and the parties involved but did not quite get there. So we hope very much to make progress as quickly as we can.
Q Nick, is there any inference here, any implication for Israeli-Syrian negotiations from Syria's resumption of these talks with the Israelis?
MR. BURNS: I think if you're asking me to draw a broader picture here, it's a little bit hard to do that from this vantage point. This Monitoring Group has already been established. What has not been agreed to are the specific operational responsibilities of the parties. That's what needs to be agreed to now.
You pose a very different question. That is, does this mean anything for the willingness of either side to engage in the broader negotiations for peace? We have maintained our position, Barry, that the peace negotiations should go forward, including the Israel-Syria negotiations.
Our hope and expectation is that they will go forward; that both Israel and Syria will remain interested in these negotiations. I don't want to get into a predictions game about when that will happen and how it will happen. However, we do need to have, I think, this trip to Israel and some discussions with the Arab governments before we can have a very good sense of that -- of how that will unfold.
Q We tried last night but let's try again. Maybe something has changed in the interim. Will this trip, as brief as it is, conclude with an announcement that negotiations will be resumed on any front?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't expect that to be the case, and I wouldn't set up the trip for you that way.
Think of this as an exploratory set of discussions. The Secretary will have, I suppose, a couple of hours with Prime Minister Netanyahu and I'm sure will want to meet Foreign Minister David Levy and others.
It's our chance and it's their chance to exchange views on two sets of issues: The state of U.S.-Israel relations and the many, many issues that flow out of that -- number one; and, number two, the peace negotiations: Israel-Palestinians; Israel-Syria. That is a very important set of introductory discussions to have.
I think our objective here in taking this trip is to hold those discussions; get a better idea for ourselves of the thinking of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his advisors. Then, go on to Cairo and really have the same kind of general discussions.
This is not a trip designed to arrive at an agreement on Tuesday or Wednesday that this negotiation will resume or that will resume. It's really vintage diplomacy where you exchange views, get a better feel for the situation. Then two things will happen as a result of that. We would expect Mr. Netanyahu to come to Washington in the early part of July for conversations with President Clinton and Secretary Christopher. After that, we would expect Secretary Christopher to return for a full-fledged trip through the Middle East -- through the Arab capitals, and through Israel.
So look at this as the first step in that process of diplomatic discussions throughout the summer.
Q Nick, the agreement of Israel and Syria to meet here is quite different from the rhetoric that both Administrations have been putting out -- Israel, publicly; Syria, through its press.
Are you finding -- similar to Barry's question -- are you finding their reality is somewhat -- in reality, they're more flexible than they are in their rhetoric?
MR. BURNS: I think the rhetoric is sometimes important in this context. Again, we were pleased to see that Mr. Netanyahu, in his initial speech to the Knesset, talked about no pre-conditions for Israel's future discussions with Arab countries. That is positive.
We have also been pleased to see from many Arab capitals a willingness to go forward with Israel, to explore what might lie ahead in the peace negotiations; and we hope very much as we look forward to the Cairo Summit, that that will really be the spirit of the Cairo summit.
There's obviously concern in some Arab countries about what was said in the campaign and about aspects of the platform that has been published in Jerusalem. That is not surprising, given the history of the Middle East peace negotiations.
We would hope that the Arab countries -- but also including the Palestinian Authority -- would have an open mind before they have their own initial sets of discussions with the Israeli Government, and that's what we really hope for and expect right now, Sid.
Q Shortly before we came into the briefing, and my details are a little sketchy, but Congress -- the House passed a law foreclosing trade between U.S. companies or penalizing U.S. companies that do trade with Iraq and Libya and other rogue states. Are you familiar with that? Do you have a reaction?
MR. BURNS: This is the D'Amato legislation that has been working its way through the House and Senate -- or versions of it have been working their way through both houses. We have said quite consistently over the last couple of months that we understand the basic outline of this legislation as it's winded through the House and Senate, and we think we'll be in a position to support it.
I believe the final bill in the House was passed by a vote of 415 to zero just a couple of minutes ago. That says something about the degree of bipartisanship on the issue of Iran and of Libya and what the proper American attitude should be towards trade with those two countries.
It actually, Judd, specifically talks about whether or not the United States should penalize foreign companies that do business and that have investments with both countries. In the case of Iran, I believe the threshold in the House bill is a $40 million foreign investment or above -- $40 million or above would be the threshold.
We've said in the past that we could support it. We think it's very important to isolate Iran economically -- and here we have a difference of opinion with some of our allies in Europe -- because of Iran's intention to build a nuclear-weapons capability. We are convinced that that is what Iran intends to do.
No country has taken a more determined posture than the United States. You've seen from both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher's comments, including the decision in March 1995 to impose really an American economic embargo on Iran, that we are determined to pursue this policy.
In the case of Libya, the Libyans have not yet atoned properly, fairly or justly for their complicity in the bombing of Pan Am 103 in December 1988. There are two Libyans at large, and there's a reward out for them by the U.S. Government for information as to their whereabouts and to their arrest for prosecution in the United States.
Because of Libya's failure to act in a decent, normal, legal way and because so many Americans died in that flight, we think it's appropriate also to place these restrictions on Libya. We don't think it's appropriate for foreign companies to be investing at will in a country that has so flagrantly violated international law, murdered hundreds of innocent civilians, and which continues, we think, to harbor the dream of building a chemical-weapons capability.
So we do have profound concerns with both countries, and I think we are prepared to look favorably upon this legislation.
Q Does this invite the same kind of problems you're having with allies and trading partners over Helms-Burton, or -- it sounds like it may even be worse.
MR. BURNS: I hope that it doesn't elicit that kind of response from our allies and our partners, because I think that all of them must understand that all of us must sacrifice and must cooperate together and work together in order to put pressure on countries that are outlaw countries.
There is a threat to Europe and the Middle East states from Iran and from its drive to become a nuclear power. If we just stand by and idly let that happen, then we won't be acting in a responsible way. And should there be any penalty on Libya for its flagrant violation of international law in December 1988? Yes, there should, but there is a price to be paid, and that is all of us must sacrifice something -- in this case foreign investment -- to place greater economic pressure on both countries.
Q Nick, beginning last summer with the President of Taiwan, Congress has increasingly attempted to micro-manage foreign affairs. You all appear to be willing to let them do that. Are you not concerned that now that the door is open, there will be no closing it, and it will become more and more aggressive in forcing your hand?
MR. BURNS: The Administration has been the first to complain about congressional micro-management of our foreign policy and the implementation of it on many occasions in our testimony and public statements. I wouldn't count this example or Helms-Burton among them.
In both cases, now with this Iran-Libya legislation and first with Helms-Burton, there's been a very high degree of bipartisan cooperation -- Democrats and Republicans working together -- and the President signed the Helms-Burton legislation.
In the case of Iran-Libya, as I say, we've looked favorably upon it. The Congress has a constitutional right and obligation to speak out about foreign policy, to pass legislation. No one questions that right, and I don't think this really falls into the category of some of the abuses in terms of congressional micro-management, and there are many examples of that.
Q A follow-up to the question. I mean, by all evidence the State Department was not inclined to grant the visa on Taiwan, and you were on record as being opposed to many of the provisions of Helms-Burton before both passed overwhelmingly -- in the case of Taiwan, it was not a bill, but a sense of Congress -- passed overwhelmingly. Is that not a case of, as Sid put it, forcing your hand?
MR. BURNS: I think in general, we believe that the Congress has a right and responsibility to help us and the American people try to think through the basic strategy of American foreign policy.
We would like to reserve to the Executive Branch the implementation of American foreign policy. That's some of the micro-management -- and if you look at some of the bills telling us some of the aspects of where you should have consulates, where you should have embassies, aspects of legislation concerning Tibet -- that we have found to be overreaching.
But in this case, Judd, we're not talking about implementation so much as what should be the proper posture of the United States towards Libya, towards Iran. The two examples that you mentioned, I don't see either, really, as examples of congressional micro-management, and I should tell you that the President obviously supported the decision to grant the visa for the private visit of President Lee Teng-hui last summer. That was a decision that the Administration made and it made on its own.
Q Just a logistical question about the Monitoring Group. Do you have any idea of how long they planned to meet today or --
MR. BURNS: The Monitoring Group usually has marathon sessions, and they never have an end point. They have a beginning point, and that was 21 minutes ago. It's very hard to forecast how long it will go, but I will report to you once the meeting is completed.
Q (Inaudible) -- Lebanon.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Lebanon, France, Syria, Israel and the United States are the members of the Monitoring Group.
Q On Bosnia, there are reports today attributed to a senior official in the Bosnian Government that the United States has pledged two things to them: (1) that the go-ahead for elections would not happen until Radovan Karadzic was marginalized and out of the picture; and (2) that a date has been set to reimpose sanctions against Serbia if Karadzic is not marginalized by a certain time.
Is this true? Has there been a date set for the reimposition of sanctions?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the comments. I'm not sure which official you're referring to. On both counts the answer would be no, we've not made any such agreement in either case. What we said on the elections is that we hope very much that Karadzic will be in The Hague the day the elections are held, awaiting prosecution for war crimes; at the very least, that he is marginalized.
We think the elections should go ahead so that he can be de-legitimized, so that new political leaders can step forward to represent the Bosnian-Serb population. Those elections will go ahead. We've never promised any of the parties that they wouldn't go ahead if certain things didn't happen.
The second example again, Laura, was -- the second statement was?
Q If a specific date has been set for reimposition of sanctions.
MR. BURNS: Right. No specific date has been set. The decision to reimpose sanctions can be recommended to the Security Council by Admiral Smith or Carl Bildt. It really rests with both of them. We've talked to both of them about this issue. We do not have infinite patience here.
Our patience will run out at some point, but we've never set a date, and we've not told the parties that by a certain date we're going to do something else.
Q You just said earlier that John Kornblum was going back.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Can you give us a little bit more detail on when he's going back?
MR. BURNS: He'll be returning to the region next week. He visited -- after Florence -- Belgrade, for discussions on the war crimes issue with President Milosevic. Next week he'll visit all three capitals for full discussions on all the Dayton compliance issues.
Dayton is an interesting story today. There was an interesting piece -- I thought actually quite a comprehensive piece -- in The Washington Post. My only comment on that would be I think it's important to be realistic about what Dayton can accomplish. We were not naive when we signed the Dayton agreements last fall. We negotiated them successfully. When we stopped the war and brought about the peace agreement, we weren't naive about what could be accomplished at six months or at 12 months, and now we're at six months.
Sarajevo is not going to look like Charlottesville, Virginia, by September, and I think we are looking here at generational change that needs to occur. There are the physical scars from the war, the incredible destruction of the infrastructure of the country, and the misery of the people that has resulted from that. There are the psychological scars about the ability or inclination of the Serbs and the Croats and the Bosnian Moslems to live together and to work together.
All these things will take time, and the United States, I think, has had a realistic position about this. We think that elections can be held by September. We think that Dayton can succeed in forming a new country which is multi-ethnic. We never thought that that country would look like the United States or France or Belgium at the end of the first year of implementation.
There was an underlying current to the criticism, not just from the article, but in the general criticism about Dayton compliance that I frankly find puzzling. We have to remember what those people went through for four-and-a-half years and how far they have to go to heal the wounds of the war.
That's really the only rational and reasonable measure or yardstick to assess compliance with Dayton, because a lot of the criticism is that we haven't turned it into an ideal country. No, we haven't. And ultimately the responsibility lies with the Moslems, the Croats and the Serbs to remake their country and to remake their region. We can only help them.
But we did stop the war. We did help them negotiate the peace. Now we'll help them conduct elections. We're preserving the peace through 60,000 young men and women from NATO countries. We've done a lot to get them to the point where they are, which is continued peace.
No one's going to die this summer in Bosnia through warfare, unlike the last four summers, and that's a considerable achievement.
I would submit that that is at least a perspective and a framework that you should use in assessing the success or failure of the Dayton Accords.
Q Let's talk about Mexico and the early loan repayment, or are you leaving it to another agency?
MR. BURNS: Not at all, no. I'm very glad to talk about that. In fact, I had a discussion with Secretary Christopher about that just about an hour ago. He was called by the Mexican Foreign Secretary, Foreign Secretary Gurria, last night to inform him about the decision.
Let me give you the facts and let me just give you the Secretary's perspective. The facts are that Mexico has decided to repay $4.7 billion in U.S. funding ahead of schedule, and that provides very strong evidence of the success of our financial assistance strategy towards Mexico.
The round figures are that we provided $12.5 billion in funding to Mexico last year. The Mexicans have already repaid $2 billion in principal and over $1 billion in interest, and the repayment announced yesterday, last evening by the Mexican Government will reduce the level of outstanding U.S. funding to $5.8 billion.
The Secretary believes very strongly that this is a very significant decision by the Mexican Government; that it shows that the essential strategy put forward by President Clinton, working with President Zedillo was correct; that our national interests in Mexico are so profoundly important that we had to respond with this multi-billion-dollar program; that when we responded with the program that we did, we made the assumption that Mexico would get through its crisis, that the peso would be stabilized, that the Mexican economy would rebound, and that Mexico would be in a position to make good on the loan.
All of that has happened, which I think -- and remember how controversial this decision was at the time when President Clinton made it. I think, frankly, it shows the wisdom of the President's strategy, the fact that sometimes the United States does have to take extraordinary measures to support an ally like Mexico, right on our borders. It was the right thing to do; it is succeeding, and we are very gratified to see that under President Zedillo's leadership the Mexican economy is doing so well.
Q Back to the Middle East, to the Palestinian issue. In a wire from Beijing today, AP wire, it is reported that Yasser Arafat met with the Chinese leaders -- leadership -- Premier Li Peng, among others, I believe -- and they discussed specifically the problems with the new Israeli Government. The Chinese, giving support to Mr. Arafat, also said that not only were the talks fruitful but Beijing agreed to help build industrial zones for the Palestinians and offered other support as well. It didn't give any details on this. What's the reading from the U.S. Government on China getting involved in Palestine?
MR. BURNS: In this way -- we haven't had a chance to talk to Chairman Arafat. We're trying to reach him in Hanoi now to see if we can set up a meeting for next week. I'm sure at some point we'll get a briefing on this. China has had a long-term relationship with Chairman Arafat -- that's not surprising. I don't have any details on the talks.
Q Is China currently involved in an economic way with the Palestinians?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Chinese and the Palestinians. I'm not aware of the dimensions of their economic relationship.
Q Nick, on the subject of the Palestinians, does the U.S. have a position on how the Orient House should be operated by the Palestinians -- whether it should be used as -- how they should use it, how they shouldn't use it?
MR. BURNS: Do we have a position on how it should be used?
Q Whether Israel should permit them to use it as they see fit?
MR. BURNS: This is obviously a controversial issue, and I think it is best, as in all controversial and sensitive issues pertaining to the Middle East peace process, to allow the Israelis -- the Palestinians and the Israelis to work this out between themselves.
I think you know we've had a position on our own access to Orient House and our own participation there that's been consistent over the years. I think you know our position is that we do not conduct official business at Orient House. We conduct official business in Gaza and in Jericho, mostly in the past with the Palestinian Authority. From time to time our Consulate General -- at Jerusalem -- officers have for many years participated in meetings there; attended meetings and receptions there. But we've never conducted diplomatic business there. We do that now with Chairman Arafat in the two places that I mentioned.
Q Would you conduct official business there?
MR. BURNS: I said we have not in the past, and I believe we don't have any plans to do so. Chairman Arafat is based in Gaza. When Secretary Christopher sees him, it's normally in Gaza or at Erez, which is on the Gaza-Israel border. Sometimes the Secretary goes down to Jericho and meets him at the Government House there.
Ed Abington, our Consul General, travels throughout Gaza and the West Bank to meet Palestinian officials. But officials from Ed Abington's consulate general do not conduct business at Orient House. They attend receptions, and there is a distinction to be made there.
Q Ultimately, who do you think -- who has sovereignty, so to speak, over the Orient House?
MR. BURNS: Well, that's a loaded word, if I ever heard it. Since 1948, I think American spokesmen and assistant secretaries and secretaries of state have avoided talking in great detail about that word, because that's something for the Israelis and Palestinians to figure out on their own. There are final status talks. Jerusalem -- and the word "sovereignty" would relate to Jerusalem -- is a final status issue. It's not something that I would choose to deal with today in the course of the briefing.
Q Just a quick one on Albania. My apologies if you've already addressed this one. What's Washington's latest take on the latest re-run of their elections?
MR. BURNS: The Albanian Government sponsored a re-running of the elections in 17 constituencies on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Albanian Government only gave the opposition parties, I think, about six or seven days to prepare for the re-running of these elections.
The reason for the re-running was because there were gross irregularities reported by international observers in the first round of elections. We don't think giving the opposition six or seven days to prepare for the re-running was fair. We don't think it gave them a fair chance to run candidates and run an election campaign.
The opposition boycotted the re-running, so all 17 seats were won by official Albanian party candidates. We would like the Albanian Government to go back to the drawing board on this one to reassess its position, to work with the OSCE and the other international observers to see if there's a more fair way possible to settle these discrepancies about the initial elections.
So we're not pleased by what happened on Sunday. We have told the Albanians this. We are working with the OSCE and others to see if we can be influential with the Albanians. It's very important in democracy that there are essential elements of fairness, which seemed to be lacking on Sunday.
Q Amnesty International, in its latest annual report, provides a list of, I think, 20-plus U.S. companies which sell devices that can be used in torture to countries with poor human rights practices and advises this government to put a ban on such exports. Do you think this is a considerable suggestion?
MR. BURNS: I am aware of the Amnesty International suggestion. First, we have a lot of respect for Amnesty International and work with it on our human rights programs around the world.
The suggestion, as I understand it, that was made, was that somehow countries like the United States that sell arms to third countries are responsible if there are human rights abuses in those countries. That's how I understood the latest Amnesty International charge.
Q One is about the arms and the other is about the devices that are used in torture?
MR. BURNS: My comment on the first charge made by Amnesty International -- and it is not a charge directed just at the United States but at countries that do sell arms overseas -- is that I think Amnesty International ought to look where responsibility lies.
The responsibility for the treatment of a country's citizens rests with the government of that country -- whatever country we're talking about. I don't want to name any specific countries. I think that's a very important point.
The United States, France, the United Kingdom cannot be ultimately responsible for all of the actions of third governments with which we have relationships even if those relationships also include the selling of military hardware or arms. It's got to be ultimately the responsibility of the country involved for what happens inside that country.
It's the responsibility of the United States Government for what happens here in the United States. It's the responsibility of Turkey or the Philippines or France or Belgium. So we would just quibble with the general point being made by Amnesty International.
Q But Nick if you take that argument and then apply it to domestic issue like gun control, which this Administration supports very strongly, you're essentially saying that it's criminals that commit crimes with guns and that it doesn't matter -- you shouldn't control the weapons; you need to control the criminals?
MR. BURNS: I'm not saying that at all. The United States takes great care, in issuing licenses to American companies, to export military hardware or arms or guns to third countries. We don't allow American companies to sell guns to any country in the world. You have to get an export license to do so, as you know.
We have a very responsible attitude about that responsibility that we have to issue export licenses. We take great care here in the government to review the human rights records of individual countries.
But for an organization like Amnesty International to come out with a sweeping statement that somehow we are at fault for everything that happens in country "X," that does not stand to reason or to logic. Logic and common sense would dictate that governments are responsible for their own actions.
If you are looking for the cause of human rights abuses around the world and the source, you ought to look at governments. We do that all the time. We criticize the Nigerian Government because of the gross mistreatment of its own population; the Burmese Government which right now, today, is threatening an arrest warrant -- at least, there are reports of it -- for Aung San Suu Kyi. That's where Amnesty International should look. To try to tie in some responsibility to other countries like ours is simply not common sensical.
That's all I'm saying, Sid. I'm not trying to make a specific point.
Q Since you brought it up, what do you have to say about these reports on Aung San Suu Kyi's possible arrest?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the reports, and we are looking into the reports. We're very disturbed by them.
If these reports are true, this would represent a serious escalation in the Burmese Government's repression of the National League of Democracy and the supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi.
I believe there are still 121 detainees -- Democrats -- who remain in Burmese prisons because all they wanted to do was to go to Aung San Suu Kyi's residence and have a meeting about democracy. We call upon the SLORC -- the military junta that rules Burma -- to release these 121 people. We call upon it not to issue an arrest warrant for Aung San Suu Kyi. She's a Democrat. She's a Nobel Prize Laureate. She's a champion of democracy. She's trying to inject into Burma a badly needed dose of democracy, freedom and liberty.
So we have a very stiff message for the Burmese Government today on these reports.
Q What are you prepared to do if they go ahead and arrest her, send Stanley Roth back out to consult with the Japanese?
MR. BURNS: Sid, they haven't arrested her yet. I think you're asking me to delve into the hypothetical here.
What we're doing here today is issuing a fairly stiff warning to the Burmese Government that it ought not to arrest one of the greatest champions of human rights in the world.
Q Is there anything new on an envoy?
MR. BURNS: Nothing new, because Stanley Roth and Bill Brown have returned. They've been consulting the last two days within the Administration. There are some meetings underway here in the Administration about Burma; about what we should be doing to use our influence and that of others on the Burmese Government to try to get them to refrain from abuse of measures towards the Democrats there. But I have nothing in the way of an announcement on an envoy.
Q On Burundi. On Monday, you mentioned that you were looking into reports of another mass killing. Do you have anything more about that?
MR. BURNS: I think I may have reviewed this before, but let me just go through it.
We've seen credible reports of a massacre of at least 70 civilians in central Burundi last Thursday, June 13, which we believe were carried out by the Burundian army.
There was also a reported clash between the military and alleged Hutu rebels in the hills south of Bujumbura on June 13. The Burundian military reported that it killed some 50 rebels in this fighting.
As you know, on June 4, three relief workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross were killed in Burundi by unknown assailants. Those relief workers were in a vehicle clearly marked ICRC. That symbol is known all over the world. Those people should not have been targeted.
We urge the perpetrators of these attacks, as well as the Burundian Government, to stop their attacks on innocent people. We urge the Burundian Government to bring the assailants to justice.
We are very concerned about the continuation of inter-ethnic violence in Burundi itself.
We support the efforts of the former Tanzanian President, President Nyerere, to try to convince all the sides here to agree to some kind of political talks and to commit themselves to reconciliation rather than to trying to settle their differences by the use of armed force.
Q Do you see this as an escalation, Nick? These massacre figures are getting larger and larger as we go along.
MR. BURNS: There has clearly been a very disturbing escalation in political violence in Burundi in the reports of massacres; in the reports by the government authorities themselves of the hunting down and killing of rebels.
The President and the Secretary of State are concerned about that. The President has just recently appointed former Congressman Howard Wolpe to be his Special Envoy for Burundi. He'll work very closely with Ambassador Bogosian, and together they're going to be working closely with former President Nyerere.
We've also, as you know, over the last couple of months, participated in contingency planning operations up at the United Nations in the event that this situation in Burundi should slide further downward and should require the introduction of an international force to stop the bloodshed.
We all must keep in mind here the historical precedent not too long ago -- 26 months ago -- of the genocide in Rwanda. Given the history of the area, we must be mindful of that, and we must be very careful to make sure we're doing everything we can diplomatically to try to convince these parties -- the government and the rebels -- to stop the violence and to turn towards peace.
That's what Representative Wolpe will be doing when he does travel in the region as a Special Envoy of the President and Secretary of State.
Q Is Shattuck planning any trips to the region, given these recent massacres?
MR. BURNS: As you know, he returned not too long ago from a trip to central Africa. I don't know that he has another trip planned. It wouldn't surprise me that he would keep very closely involved in this. He can do some of that from Washington, some of it through international work. I don't have anything to announce by way of a future trip at this point. But we are very concerned about the situation in Burundi.
Q Nick, if I can just go back to Burma for one second. You're aware that this report was in one newspaper, of the impending arrest, and the Burmese Government has denied it. Do you have independent information that an arrest warrant has been issued for her, or are you relying solely on this report in one Japanese newspaper?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the report. We can't confirm it. I would be very glad, pleased to see a credible, authoritative denunciation of this report by the Burmese authorities. If that's the case, that would be at least some good news.
Beyond that, if they choose not to issue an arrest warrant, they should allow Aung San Suu Kyi to continue to act and speak freely, to meet with her supporters, and they should release the 121 people who remain detained by the Burmese Government.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:46 p.m.)
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