U.S. Department of State 96/06/20 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, June 20, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS: Introd of Outgoing/Incoming Russian Embassy Press Counselors 1 ARMS CONTROL: India's Refusal of Signing CTBT/Relations with the US....... 1-6 CTBT Role/Consensus with Nuclear Powers & Other Countries... 1-2,4-5 Role of Russian Duma Ratifying START II Treaty.............. 2-4 Israel/Pakistan Position on CTBT............................ 3 BANGLADESH US Position on Outcome of Elections......................... 6 RUSSIA Alleged Report of Events in Moscow.......................... 6,8 Gen Lebed Role in Russian Government........................ 6 President Yeltsin Dismisses Top Officials Barsukov, Korzhakov, & Soskovets.................................... 7 Yeltsin Govt Consensus on Second Round of Elections/Voter Turnout................................................... 7 UN US Not to Support Extension of UNSYG Boutros Boutros-Ghali.. 8,11,13 --US on New Candidate for UNSYG............................. 8-9,13-14 --Consensus for Stronger Internal Reform & Commitment/ US Public & Congressional Support......................... 8-12 UN Development Program & World Bank......................... 14 UNDP Budget Cut by US Congress.............................. 15 NORTH KOREA US Congressional Lack of Funding for KEDO................... 15 Burden-Sharing of KEDO by Japanese & ROK.................... 17-18 SYRIA/TURKEY Need for Better Relations/Alleged Report of Troop Movement.. 15-16 US on No Imminent Threat of Conflict........................ 19 Turkey's Concern of Stmt at Cairo Summit re: Relations w/Israel.................................................. 19 Alleged Report of Syrian-Iranian Military Agreement......... 19-20 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Elections: --OSCE ForMin Cotti Poll of Nations on Certification for September/Blocking Karadzic as Candidate.............. 16-17 NIGERIA GON on A/S Shattuck's Characterization of Shooting of Mrs. Abiola/US Stand on GON's Charges..................... 18 A/S Shattuck Denied Meeting w/Gen Abacha.................... 18 GON's Report of Abiola Shooting............................. 19 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Relations Between Israel & Arab Countries................... 19
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 1996, 2:07 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
I have the pleasure to introduce a friend of mine, Vladimir Derbenev, who is the Press Counselor at the Russian Embassy, who is going to be leaving Washington. We regret that very much. And his successor, Mikhail Shurgalin. Mr. Shurgalin, welcome. I wanted to welcome them both and look forward to working with you, Mr. Shurgalin.
And with that, George, I'd be glad to go to your questions.
Q Do you have any comment on the Indian statement at the Disarmament Conference this morning on its terms for going along with an agreement?
MR. BURNS: This is a statement that was reported in the wires earlier today, the one you're referring to, right. We regret very much -- the United States regrets India's announced decision that it cannot at this point sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in its present form.
We're pleased that India still remains involved in the negotiations in Geneva. We hope that India will be able to join a broad, multilateral consensus in support of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We have just ten days or so remaining before the deadline for these negotiations. We want these negotiations to be completed, so that in the autumn President Clinton and the other heads of state of the nuclear powers and other significant countries can sign this agreement into force at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
We believe that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is one of the most important foreign policy priorities for the United States in the period ahead, and by that I mean well into the next century.
It is also an important foreign policy priority for all countries of the world who want to reduce the threat of an accident or a nuclear altercation and who want to make sure that the nuclear countries are acting responsibly with their possession of nuclear weapons.
The treaty that is emerging in Geneva is designed to represent the consensus of all the countries that are negotiating this treaty. While the treaty may not fulfill all of the requirements of every country, it will represent, we believe, a major and significant and historic step forward for the world.
India has cited two principal objections to the present treaty text: the lack of a time-bound framework for disarmament and dissatisfaction with the scope provisions of the treaty. While few nations support India's position on a time-bound framework for disarmament, the treaty does address the need for continued efforts to reduce the level of nuclear weapons globally.
And I might just add parenthetically -- we hope very much that after the Russian election, the Russian Duma might ratify the START II Treaty. That would bring down the level of nuclear warheads in the Russian and American arsenals to roughly 6500 arsenals from well over 20,000 just a couple of years ago.
That is the kind of significant nuclear reductions that the United States is interested in, and in fact is doing something about. By constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty constitutes a very effective measure for nuclear reductions in the world, which is one of the points that India has been concerned about.
With regard to the scope of the treaty, the treaty would ban any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and this test embodies the commitment to a true zero-yield ban on nuclear testing.
We will continue to work in Geneva with the other nuclear powers there and with all the other nations present at the Conference on Disarmament, and we'll certainly want to continue to work, very cooperatively we hope, with the Indian delegation to joint the broad international consensus in support of the Test Ban Treaty that we believe is currently taking shape.
Q Nick, can the treaty go into effect unless India signs it?
MR. BURNS: Sid, what I don't want to do is look into the crystal ball and answer all sorts of hypothetical questions. It is a fair question. I think what we'd like to do is lower the temperature a little bit, concentrate on the negotiations in Geneva -- that is one of the questions, among others, that has been raised -- and we hope that we'll be able to work productively with India and the other countries and arrive at a good solution just in the next ten days or so.
Q Have Israel and Pakistan taken the same position as India?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask both of those governments. I can't speak for them.
Q This question of whether it goes into effect without their three signatures -- something we discussed in the past -- and apparently the United States has come to the conclusion that it can't. So how does -- doesn't that mean now that you've failed in your effort to get the Test Ban Treaty?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. We're in the endgame of negotiations. It's not surprising in the endgame to see some countries take their dissatisfactions and make them public. It's not surprising that the pace of the negotiations picks up considerably in the endgame.
I remember very well the end of the START II negotiations back in 1992 and even in the first days of 1993 before it was signed, I believe, on the 3rd of January 1993 in the Kremlin. I remember the end of the Dayton Accords in the third week of November at Dayton when the toughest negotiations were -- and you do, too -- the toughest negotiations were in the last 24 hours.
We're not at all surprised that we haven't yet achieved a final result. We expect to have a final result by the 28th of June, and we expect to be successful. What I mean by "successful" is a success that will benefit India, the United States, and all other countries in the world that have an interest in this. We are a partner of India, and we'll continue to work very well, I think, with India on this issue.
Q Can your explain the American objection to the Indian solution, which is to fix a date -- set a date by which all the nuclear weapons in the world will be abolished, because India does have a problem in China. But the United States for some reason treats India and Pakistan as twin brothers, or Siamese twins, and even when you're asked about India, you mention Pakistan. What exactly is the American objection to accepting the Indian proposal to have a set date?
MR. BURNS: You know, the Indian Government is very well aware of all of our positions on these issues.
Q But what exactly is it?
MR. BURNS: We're working amicably with the Indian Government, and I prefer to keep the negotiating record private until the negotiations are complete. But I think you know that the United States under this Administration and all past Administrations, since the dawn of the nuclear age, has hoped for the day when we could make dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons.
I've just referred you to the major nuclear reductions treaty that exists -- the START II Treaty -- and we hope very much to put that into effect by the year 2003. That is dependent upon the positive actions of the Russian Duma. I think that shows that the United States and Russia are both working well and working together towards nuclear reductions.
I would also note that the position of the United States, that we should try to have a complete treaty text by the 28th of June, is supported by all the other nuclear powers. The Government of China made a very positive and constructive step forward just two weeks ago when it made its decision on peaceful nuclear explosions.
The Government of France, after the last French nuclear test, joined the consensus in Geneva for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Government of Russia, of course, has always supported this position, as has the Government of the United Kingdom.
So I think there is a consensus emerging among the nuclear powers and most other countries in Geneva, and we remain optimistic that we can conclude these negotiations successfully.
Q Can I go to Russia.
Q One more here. It sounds like the position of the United States is that it will not agree to abandon nuclear weapons.
MR. BURNS: I think you know very well that the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France all possess nuclear weapons. We are declared nuclear powers. All of us will retain, at least for the time being, a nuclear capability. We are mindful of the major responsibility that we have to contain and limit severely the threat of any kind of nuclear altercation. We are all acting responsibly.
Since the dawn of the nuclear age, there's never been a time like now, when the threat of nuclear war has been so vastly reduced, when the nuclear powers are sharing information together, they're engaging in historic nuclear reductions. There's never been a time like this.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations would culminate a 15-to-20-year process that has improved immeasurably the security of every person on this planet. That is what is at stake here.
President Kennedy talked about the goal of a Test Ban Treaty. It's been a goal of Americans, Russians, Chinese, Europeans for a long, long time, and we would ask all countries to join us in achieving that goal. It is within our sight.
Q Are there any sort of assurances that India is seeking that they have asked the United States for?
MR. BURNS: Again, we have been very actively involved with the Indian Government in these discussions, and will remain so. But to be successful, I think I want to keep those discussions private.
Yes, Mr. Arshad.
Q Thank you, Nick. This is Arshad of the Inquilab. The Bangladesh elections just concluded --
Q Can I ask another question, please.
MR. BURNS: Yes, still on -- is there a follow-up on this, Judd?
Q To follow up on that question, surely the U.S. recognizes the view from New Delhi is not the same as the view from Washington. I mean, the United States is a nuclear power. India is not but faces a nuclear power and has had an historic rivalry with it. You are sensitive to that concern, aren't you?
MR. BURNS: We have a very good relationship with the Indian Government, which I think Indians and Americans would agree has improved significantly over the last four years, and that's a solid achievement for both Indian and American foreign policy.
We're quite well aware of the views of the Indian Government, of its historical perspective. We respect it, and certainly we've taken it into account. We are working well with the Indian delegation and the Indian Government on this issue, and I think we'll continue to proceed in that fashion, Judd.
I think Mr. Arshad had the floor.
Q Thank you, Nick. The Bangladesh election has just concluded yesterday, and the Awami League has emerged the largest party about to form the next government. Nick, the international observers have given their views and opinions, especially the NDI, headed by its co-leader Stephen Solarz, former Congressman. What is the United States' position on this election's outcome, and looking into the future of the next government in Bangladesh? How the United States hopes to have the relations, which is unique by itself, and how it is going to promote it in the days to come?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Arshad, we were very pleased to see the elections go forward peacefully and in an atmosphere of stability. Especially considering the events of the last two months in Bangladesh, that is a considerable achievement for the government and for the opposition. I believe you are right that there has been a consensus among the observers, having pronounced themselves on the elections; and while I don't know if all the official results are in yet, that may take a little bit of time. But in any case, we will await the official results of the electoral commission.
We will look forward to working with the next government of Bangladesh. The United States wants to pursue a friendly, good, constructive relationship with Bangladesh.
Q Russia. What's going on with the elections now over and two coups reported -- two different types of coups reported against the Yeltsin Government? I understand yesterday the Defense Minister, Lebed, reported that the situation in the country was dangerous and explosive, then he accused top Generals of plotting a coup. I understand later that this was toned down somewhat. The Russians themselves at the Embassy have said that this is not as explosive as it sounds.
But this morning NPR reported that some people high up in the security apparatus in the Kremlin had plotted against Yeltsin -- one, his bodyguard, his personal bodyguard -- and that Lebed had come out and said that this is quite a serious matter and there will be much consequence to those who are involved.
Is there any success in these plots against Mr. Yeltsin? Any truth to them?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I don't accept the premise of your question that somehow there's been a period of coups, or attempted coups. I think if you look very carefully at the statements of General Lebed and the others in the Russian Government, I think some of the initial press reports may have been overblown about both events.
Needless to say, the facts are this morning that General Lebed is in charge of the Russian Security Council as well as being National Security Advisor to President Yeltsin.
Three top officials -- Mr. Barsukov, Mr. Korzhakov, and Mr. Soskovets -- have been dismissed by President Yeltsin. President Yeltsin has spoken out publicly and confirmed these actions. I can't add anything to the very dramatic events of the last 24 hours in Moscow. You'll have to go to the Russian Government for an analysis of it.
I can tell you what was positive to see, coming out of these events, was the reaffirmation by President Yeltsin and General Lebed and the other senior officials of the Russian Government that the second round of the elections will go forward.
Mr. Chubays has spoken out and said that perhaps some of those who were dismissed did not want to see the second round go forward. We think it's highly significant that President Yeltsin responded decisively for elections.
The Russian people will now decide the future of the Russian Government and the future of Russia itself. That will occur on or about July 3, or some other date to be agreed upon.
We really can have little more to say than to certainly agree with that reaffirmation that the people should decide these questions of the direction of the country and the composition of the government.
Q But does the United States Government believe that these three who were dismissed today were indeed working against the electoral process or against Yeltsin's presidency?
MR. BURNS: We have no way of knowing that. All we know is that the first round has taken place. The Russian people want to vote. Seventy percent of them turned out on the first round. We certainly look forward with anticipation to watching the conduct of these elections and to see the final result. We have a lot at stake. The United States has a lot at stake in these Russian elections.
We want to see them held and held successfully and fairly, and we look forward to working with the Russian Government that is chosen by the Russian people.
Q Nick, how serious was this? Was this a real threat to democracy in Russia -- these events?
MR. BURNS: It's tempting to try to answer the questions, but I think I'm going to refrain for one reason, one very good reason. We're sitting here in Washington. These events took place thousands of miles away in Moscow. We can't possibly know everything that led up to them. We weren't there. We're going to have to rely upon the words of the Russian Government and the others involved in these events for an analysis of the events.
I'm very glad to talk about the elections and U.S.-Russian relations. Those are separate issues.
Q A different subject: The U.N.?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Do you have any position on Secretary General Boutros-Ghali saying today that he would hope that the United States would reconsider its opposition to him seeking a second term?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we do have a position. I think, as you know, after very careful consideration over the last five or six months, the President and the Secretary of State have decided that a new leadership should emerge now for the United Nations.
Therefore, the United States will not support the extension of Secretary General Boutros-Ghali for a second term in office.
This Administration -- the President and the Secretary of State -- believe very strongly that the United Nations must emerge in the 21st Century as a successful, productive, and efficient agent for the good in the world.
In order to accomplish that, we believe a new U.N. Secretary General should be identified; someone who will have reform of the United Nations -- reform of its bureaucracy, reform of its financial cost-accounting system, and someone who can bring a fresh look at the peacekeeping operations and the other responsibilities of the United Nations to make the United Nations successful.
We are not among those who believe that the United States should retreat from the United Nations. We believe as host nation, as founder, as the greatest supporter -- financial and otherwise -- of the United Nations, we need to remain engaged. But to remain engaged and to maintain successful American support over a long period of time, we need new leadership.
We do not have any particular candidate to put forward at this time. But Secretary of State Christopher has now had a series of conversations with his counterparts -- in Russia, France, in the United Kingdom, in many other European countries, with the Japanese Government -- and we will continue those in the hope that all of us will be able to identify a candidate who will emerge this summer or this autumn and be elected late this autumn as the next U.N. Secretary General.
We do not take this decision lightly. We take it with great respect for the work that Boutros-Ghali has done throughout his career as an Egyptian diplomat and as leader of the United Nations. He has had a distinguished career. He is a distinguished man. In many ways, he has had some successes over the last five years.
But the time has come to take a hard look at the internal machinery of the United Nations and to have bold leadership for the next century. That is why the United States has made this decision.
Q You are saying that is performance is lacking only in the area of administration; that he was a poor administrator; that he has not reformed the United Nations? As some of his supporters would argue that your differences with him are essentially political.
MR. BURNS: I do not choose today to make any negative comments about Mr. Boutros-Ghali. That would not be appropriate. I can tell you that Secretary of State Christopher respects him and has had a good working relationship with him. But we have made a fundamental decision, and it is irrevocable: that we believe a new leader should emerge. Whether it is a man or a woman and from which part of the world, we do not yet know.
But we will work very, very intensively in the coming months to identify that person along with all the other members of the Security Council and all the members of the General Assembly. It's a very important choice because the next Secretary General must lead the United Nations at a time of some crisis when there is a lack of confidence in the United Nations in many of the member countries and not just the United States; when there is a bloated bureaucracy, when a greater effort needs to be made to bring the finances and personnel and other systems under control at the United Nations, and most importantly, where the actual programs of the United Nations need to be made more successful around the world because they benefit people.
If you think of all the U.N. agencies and all the good that they do, think of the potential there, we all must remain committed to the United Nations.
So, as I said, we don't have a particular candidate in mind, but we're going to work very hard at this.
Q Are others in agreement among those with whom you have consulted that new leadership is needed?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for other countries, especially unnamed countries. I can tell you I think there's a variety of views out there. I think Boutros-Ghali has a great many supporters around the world, and he's earned those supporters through all of the hard work that he's given to the world as Secretary General over the last few years, and we respect that, and we understand that.
It is true, however, that the United States, as a leading member of the Security Council, does have the ability to make sure that the new Secretary General is a new person, someone with a different perspective, someone who is ready to take the reins into the next century.
I think, as you know, we are determined to push in this direction.
Q You said that there was a lack of confidence in may of the member countries, not just the United States. Could you point to some of those countries that lack confidence in the U.N.?
MR. BURNS: I don't care to do that. I'm not the spokesman for any other country but the United States, and I'll let other people speak for other countries.
I can tell you, based on the considerable number of contacts that we have had with other Foreign Ministers -- in some cases, with heads of state -- I think -- well, there is no degree of unanimity in the world about this question, certainly. I don't pretend there is. There certainly is a consensus that reform must be pushed at the United Nations, and that all of us must make a commitment to see the United Nations become a more successful organization. We are dedicated to that.
I should say, since we're talking about this subject, the United States has to make a commitment to this organization. As you know, we are in arrears by $1.1 billion to the United Nations. We want to make the best possible case that we can before the American people that this is a changing, reforming, dynamic institution.
If we can make that case, along with the next Secretary General, I believe that this Administration and future Administrations will be more successful in garnering a greater level of public and Congressional support for the United Nations.
Q Isn't that really what's behind all this? Isn't this -- the attacks by Senator Dole and by other Congressmen in the Republican Party, on Mr. Boutros-Ghali, has led, basically, the Administration to abandon him?
Mr. Burns: Not at all. Let me tell you why. Let me take you through the time-line.
The Secretary of State began his initial consultations on this issue within our Administration in 1995, well before Senator Dole emerged as the contender for the presidency and well before the first primaries -- Democratic or Republican -- were held. Throughout the latter part of 1995 and the first three months of 1996, the Secretary met with others in the Administration, including on March 25, with the President.
The President made this decision on March 25. Between March 25 and today, the Secretary has had a number of conversations with Secretary General Boutros-Ghali; some in person, some on the phone. He's had a number of conversations, as I said, with other leaders around the world.
We have given our views, frankly and directly, to Secretary General Boutros-Ghali. He understands our decision. It was made well before, Ben, any of the recent calls for his resignation from some of the politicians in the United States, were made. I think that's a very important point to remember as we talk about this issue.
Q With all due respect to the time-line, Boutros Boutros-Ghali is very unpopular in Congress, and you've had a lot of trouble getting Congress to fund the U.N.
Ben's question still -- regardless of the status of Bob Dole's candidacy, is his question still valid? Is that point still valid?
MR. BURNS: I don't think the point is valid for the reason that I gave, but let me offer a second reason, and that is, the Administration and the Congress have, I think, been in agreement on the need for internal reform at the United Nations for a long time. Not just in the last year but I think for pretty much the life of the current Clinton Administration.
When we went out to San Francisco for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations last Spring, the Secretary asked that several members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- accompany him to a meeting with Ambassadors to the United Nations from some leading countries so that the Ambassadors of leading countries could hear from our Congressmen what they had already heard from our Administration: A concentration on the issue of reform, so that we spend less money on the United Nations; fewer people will work there; it is more effective and efficient, and it achieves a better result for the poorer people of the world who are the main beneficiaries, in the poorer countries of the world -- the main beneficiaries of the United Nations.
I think there is a bipartisan consensus in the United States on this issue of reform in the United Nations. I think Republicans and Democrats have remarkably similar views, in the main. So I think that's another answer to Ben's question.
But I should make clear, just to cap this off. We are not among those who have the bumper stickers in their car -- "Get the U.S. out of the U.N." We believe the United States, if anything, should be more actively involved in supporting, financially and politically, the operations of the United Nations.
Thus, we've come to the decision that we need to have a new leadership.
Q Nick, on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Anymore on the U.N. before we go to Bosnia?
Q Some people use the word "reform" of the U.N. But what they really mean is to weaken the U.N. and make it less involved in sovereign affairs of countries. What is the U.S. view on that?
MR. BURNS: That has all the appearances, with all due respect -- and I know you'll understand -- of a trick question. But let me give you a basic answer.
We want to strengthen the U.N. The United States Government wants to strengthen the U.N., not weaken it; strengthen it to help fight poverty around the world and to help resolve conflicts around the world; to do all the very good work that the United Nations does.
The United Nations is often unfairly maligned for all the work that it does around the world.
The second part of your question, or the trick part of your question, is this. President Clinton and Secretary Christopher have always said and always believed that the United States Government alone makes decisions where and when Americans are deployed overseas on military missions. If that's what you're getting at, I can tell you there's a great distinction to be made on these questions.
We retain our own sovereign right to make these decisions, and no American President that I can imagine would ever give up that right. But that is not inconsistent, Ben, with the other idea that I mentioned, that you need to support the United Nations to do the things that the United States cannot do itself -- to attack world poverty and disease and to try to prevent conflicts where they occur.
The fact is that the United Nations has had some problems in peacekeeping. It's also had some successes, and they ought to be recognized.
Q You mentioned the idea of a new leadership started a year ago. What was the purpose of extending, or timely -- or the temporary extension, according to the New York Times story, for one year until the end of 1997, if you have the idea to get new blood or new leadership or new perspective?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly confirm what was in some of the stories this morning, that an offer was made for an extension of one year. An offer was made by the United States -- by Secretary of State Christopher.
The reason for that offer was quite simple. We do have respect -- great respect -- for Boutros-Ghali. He is a distinguished man. He indicated in the early part of the discussions with the United States a desire for at least some part of a second term. We tried to respond to that. He made the decision that he could not agree. We respect that decision. The offer was taken off the table.
Q Is age one of the criteria related to the new perspective of the new --
MR. BURNS: No. I don't think age has anything to do with it. People can operate effectively in their 70s and 80s in positions of leadership, and there are many, many demonstrations of that currently and in history. Age has nothing to do with it.
But I should also say that gender has nothing to do with it. There are many outstanding women in the world who are supremely well qualified for this position as well as men. I think we've come to the point where gender should no longer be an obstacle to achieve this position.
Q What is, let's say, U.S. job description of this new leadership? Because it seems now it's an American job description of this leadership.
MR. BURNS: It's not an American job description. We wouldn't presume to say it is. It must be a job description that the leading members of the United Nations agree on. Our suggestion, in our conversations with our friends and allies, including the Egyptian Government and others in the Arab world, would be this: Someone who is a capable diplomat who can become the world's top diplomat in many respects. Also, and very importantly, someone who can take the reigns at the United Nations in Manhattan, get control of the organization, reduce its expenditures, make it efficient, make it run better. Someone who can bring the institution, that in many ways reflects some of the priorities of the past, and make its priorities now relate better to the future challenges of the world.
That is a simple job description, but I think it represents accurately the thinking here in the Washington.
Still on this? Another subject. Yes.
Q You mentioned fighting poverty as one of the goals of the U.N. This morning, there are reports from the President of the World Bank where they said that they're fighting poverty. I was under the impression that fighting poverty is not so much the work of the U.N., but peace-making, and that the poverty fight is more the job of the World Bank and the multilateral banks.
MR. BURNS: It's the job of all of us. It's certainly the job of the World Bank but the United Nations Development Program has done consistently good work all around the world. I've seen its work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It's very effective. We want to see that kind of work continue.
Q Mr. Burns, why has the UNDP budget, if it's so good, been cut in half this year?
MR. BURNS: By the United Nations?
Q No, by the Congress.
MR. BURNS: Well, that's a very good question for the Congress of the United States. You know, this Administration, across the board, whether it's funding for the United Nations -- we haven't received the funding request we asked for. Therefore, we're $1.1 billion in arrears.
We haven't received the request that we asked for for KEDO. Here's a foreign policy priority that every American should look at and say, "That is vital. It's vital to freeze the North Korean nuclear program." We asked for a very modest sum of money to keep peace on the Korean peninsula -- $25 million. The House marked it at thirteen. Are we to understand that $12 million is going to stand in the way -- just a few million dollars going to stand in the way of the United States meeting its commitment on the Korean question? I don't think so.
We're going to push very, very hard to meet that full funding request of the Administration. Across the board, the State Department operations have been sliced by 40 percent in real terms by the Congress over the last four or five years. We closed 30 consulates last year.
The United States should remain a great power. It's the greatest power in the world, but we can't by rhetoric alone. We need the Congress to help us. I think this is a real issue for the American people. What kind of resources will the Congress give this Administration or any successor Administration to meet our national interests around the world?
Q On the Syrian-Turkish relationship. Nick, you recently expressed the concern of the United States over the rising tension between Syria and Turkey. Do you have any status report on your contacts with those two countries since you offered to mediate? Any takers, or do you --
MR. BURNS: Actually, I do, and I'm glad you asked the question. I think it's important for all of us that Syria and Turkey work well together, as best they can. We have seen the reports of some problems in that relationship. We've seen a lot of different kinds of news reports, and we certainly think that both countries have an obligation and a self-interest in making sure that they minimize their problems. We think that both governments will be dedicated to that.
Q Have you seen news reports about massing of troops on both sides of the border?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm anything about troop movements. I'm not an intelligence analyst, and I don't represent either government involved, so I don't care to go into that.
Q But what are you hearing from the two capitals? I mean, since you are -- I'm assuming that you're in contact with them.
MR. BURNS: We are in contact with both countries, as you would expect, but I can't tell you everything about our contacts. I don't want to try to confirm some of the rumors in the press, though. I don't want to be in the business of making this a me confirming or not confirming rumors.
Q Of course, but since you offered mediation, that's why.
MR. BURNS: That's really all I have to say on the issue.
Q Do you agree with that characterization that there are rising tensions between Israel and Turkey, and I don't recall you saying --
MR. BURNS: Syria and Turkey, you mean.
Q Syria and Turkey. I don't recall -- I remember the conversation two days ago, and I don't recall you saying that.
MR. BURNS: We believe that -- we've seen various reports, Sid, as we've noted, about supposed problems. We do not believe that there will be major trouble between Syria and Turkey. We believe that both countries are mindful of their own national security interests and the interests of peace, and we don't believe that either country will elect to have a confrontation with the other. We think that many of the reports are overblown about such a confrontation and exaggerated.
Q Nick, the Serbian Democratic Party in Bosnia has decided they want Mr. Karadzic to be their candidate -- at least members of the local board there. Is the United States going to block him from being a candidate?
MR. BURNS: Oh, absolutely, yes. It won't be just the United States; it will be the Organization of Security and Cooperation is Europe, which met today. Foreign Minister Cotti polled the 33 nations represented at the OSCE meeting, and all 33 expressed approval for the idea that elections can be and should be certified for September.
We would now expect a formal decision on certification to come out of Vienna very shortly. When the ballots are printed, Ron, Karadzic's name will not be on them. He's a war criminal. He's an indicted war criminal, and the Dayton Accords say that indicted war criminals cannot run for elective office in Bosnia.
Q What if he's written in by a majority of the Bosnian Serb voters?
MR. BURNS: Those votes will -- I'm sorry, if he gets one write-in vote or 1,000, it's not going to be recognized. He can't hold office. He's an indicted war criminal. He should be in The Hague on the dock, and he should be prosecuted. That's where he should be in September. We hope that's where he will be in September.
Q Nick, what will the position be if his political party nominates him as the candidate for that party?
MR. BURNS: He will not appear on the ballot. If people vote for him, he will not serve. I'm trying to think of a variation of a Shermanesque statement here. You know, if nominated, he will not serve; if elected, he will not serve. William Tecumseh Sherman had a different reason for saying that, but why don't we just use that as the basis for the international point of view about Karadzic.
Q KEDO. During the February summit between Clinton and Hashimoto, I believe Clinton asked for burden-sharing on the KEDO issue. Is it your contention that even with burden-sharing by the Japanese and South Koreans that the $13-million-amount will not be enough for KEDO to fulfill its mission?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it is. I think we Americans have to acknowledge the fact that the Republic of Korea and Japan are going to provide $4 billion to finance the construction of the nuclear reactors -- the light-water reactors -- and the other programs that will keep the Agreed Framework in place.
The United States has been asked to contribute $25 million, in part to underwrite the cost of transferring 500 thousand tons of oil to North Korea. $25 million versus $4 billion. That is a commitment that the United States ought to meet, and the message to the Congress of the United States is, if this is in our vital national interest -- which it obviously is -- then this is not a lot of money to pay for the security of every person in the United States.
Q Nick, do you have a comment -- yesterday the Nigerian Government accused Assistant Secretary Shattuck of lying in his characterization of the shooting of Mrs. Abiola? Do you have any response or comment?
MR. BURNS: It's preposterous for the Nigerian Government to accuse Assistant Secretary Shattuck of not being straight with the facts. As we have reviewed these facts, everything that John Shattuck said during his visit to Nigeria was based upon credible reports, including those who were eyewitnesses to the attack on Mrs. Abiola.
The United States stands by Assistant Secretary Shattuck's statements, his actions in Nigeria, and we certainly stand by our policy. It is probably too early to say whether the killing was politically motivated, but it certainly appears not to have been an act of a criminal for pecuniary reasons, but it seems to have been an assassination.
The Government of Nigeria should stop making unsubstantiated charges about American officials and start trying to find out who murdered Mrs. Abiola. Where are the witnesses? Where are the suspects? Where is the effort by the Nigerian Government to come to the bottom of this crime?
His characterization of the human rights situation, I might add, is based upon the fact that he met more than 50 people, during his several days in Nigeria, from all parts of the country and from organizations that are not in favor in Nigeria. He wanted a chance to meet General Abacha to confront him with some of the information that he developed. He was denied that opportunity, and that is most unfortunate.
So we are disappointed in the charges made by the Nigerian Government. We're disappointed, more importantly, by their actions on human rights, which are woeful, and the Nigerian people deserve better from their own government.
Q Nick, do you think the Nigerian Government might have been involved in what you're referring to as a possible assassination?
MR. BURNS: We do not know. As I said, it's too early to say with any credibility that this was a politically inspired attack. You know that Mrs. Abiola's husband is not in favor with the Nigerian Government. It's too early to say. We don't have the facts, but the Nigerian Government, which is responsible for law and order in Nigeria, ought to try to get the facts more vigorously than it is doing to date. Rather than spend time on criticizing American diplomats, they ought to get down to their own work.
Q The Nigerian Government has put forth an explanation that it was possibly a family feud; that other members of the Abiola extended family might have killed her.
MR. BURNS: That does not appear to be a credible explanation for what happened.
Q Can we go back to Syria, please, just to clarify something. You seem to be confirming that the U.S. has offered mediation between Ankara and Damascus; is that the case?
MR. BURNS: Not by any stretch of the imagination. I don't mean to imply that we are mediating anything. We have an alliance relationship with Turkey. We have a relationship with Syria, and we talk to both governments. Our assessment is that there is no imminent threat of any kind of conflict between Turkey and Syria. That's our assessment.
Q Also, Turkey. Turkey is very concerned that there will be a negative statement at the annual Cairo summit regarding Turkish-Israeli relations, and this is (inaudible) being pushed by Syria. Does the United States have a position on that?
MR. BURNS: We stand by Turkey's efforts to begin a good relationship with Israel. This is positive for both Turkey and Israel and, I might add, for the Middle East as well. If people are going to criticize Turkey for developing a relationship with Israel, why not criticize any number of Arab countries who have developed relationships with Israel over the past couple of years?
We want to see this trend continue. We want to see Arab countries and others in the Middle East, like Turkey, develop normal relations with Israel. Israel deserves it. It's in the interests of a lot of these countries to have relations with Israel, and we would fully support it and would not take kindly any kind of criticism of this relationship.
Q Did you hear anything about the Syrian-Iranian military agreement?
MR. BURNS: No, I have not.
Q There are a series of reports from the region that they are going to sign a military pact against the cooperation between Israel and Turkey.
MR. BURNS: I've not seen those reports. Perhaps you can bring them to my attention, and we'll look at them.
Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:48 p.m.)
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