U.S. Department of State 96/07/02 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, July 2, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Press Office Summer Intern Maria Fernandez . 1 Washington Post Correspondent Michael Dobbs Wins Award ..... 1 TERRORISM U.S. Offers Reward for Information Regarding the Bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia ................... 1-2,3-6 --Previous U.S. Reward Offers .............................. 3 --Network Report re: Additional Threats to U.S. Civilians .. 6 --U.S.-Saudi Cooperation on Security Measures............... 6-7 MONGOLIA National Elections ......................................... 2-3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Carl Bildt and U.S. Statements re: Status of Karadzic ...... 9-12 Serbian Adherence to Dayton Accords/Prospects for the Reimposition of Sanctions ................................ 9-10 COLOMBIA Reported Diplomatic Cable re U.S. Amb.'s Recommendations re U.S.-Colombia Relations/Actions re Colombian Officials . 13-15 Current Status of U.S.-Colombian Relations/Anti-Narcotics Efforts ................................................. 14-15 TURKEY Under Secretary Tarnoff's Meeting with Turkish President ... 15 --Status of Transfer of Frigates to Turkey ................. 15-16 IRAQ Iraqi Implementation Plan for Resolution 986/UN Secretary General's Position on Implementation Plan ................ 16-17 RUSSIA Denial of Visa to David Harris, AJC Executive Director ..... 17 Reports of Anti-Semitism Increasing in Russia .............. 17-18 U.S. Contacts with President Yeltsin/Status of Yeltsin's Health/Yeltsin's Re-Election Chances ..................... 18-19 Contacts by Secretary Christopher/Deputy Secretary Talbott with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov/Others ........... 19 CUBA Two Companies Reportedly Violating Helms-Burton Legislations 19-20 VIETNAM U.S.-Vietnam Relations/Economic and Political Reform ....... 20-21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JULY 2, 1996, 1:05 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'd like to introduce to you a new intern here in the Bureau of Public Affairs, Maria Fernandez, our summer intern. She's just graduated from the University of California at San Diego, and she's going to be beginning her Master's Degree in Political Science at Cambridge University in England beginning in the autumn. Welcome, Maria.
I'd also like to take this opportunity, now that Mr. Lippman has joined us, to congratulate his colleague, Michael Dobbs. I think many of you saw in the Post this morning that Michael has won a very prestigious award, the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondents. This was based on Michael's reporting on the Bosnian war and on the aftermath of the Bosnian war. I believe the Press Club cited his sweeping, clear-headed grasp of historical, political, and economic factors that divide Yugoslavia.
So those of us here at the State Department wanted to congratulate Michael and the Washington Post on what I think is a very significant reward.
I have an announcement to make on Saudi Arabia, on the Dhahran bombing.
The Department of State is offering a reward of up to $2 million for information leading to the arrest and the conviction of those individuals responsible for the brutal and cowardly terrorist bombing of the Khobar barracks on June 25. That bombing resulted in the deaths of 19 American military personnel and the bombing injured over 250 other Americans.
This offer supplements the very generous $3 million reward announced by the Saudi Government.
There will be no rest for those who shed American blood. The cowards who committed this act had better sleep with one eye open. We will hunt them down and they will be found, and we will punish them.
This program -- this counter-terrorism program -- and the rewards program has been highly effective in the past. We have paid out in the past, in 20 different cases, $3 million to individuals who have been instrumental in giving us information that led to the arrest and conviction of terrorists around the world, most notably in the World Trade Center bombing in New York and in the Pan Am 103 case.
I'm going to be posting after this briefing a press statement that gives information for people who would like to contribute information to this program. Overseas, people can talk to the nearest consulate or embassy. You can call the FBI or the State Department here in Washington. You can also use the Internet. The public statement that we're issuing [see text following this briefing] gives all the points of contact. It gives the phone number that one can call, which is an 800 phone number here in Washington, D.C.
The Internet has been a particularly valuable way for us to develop information on these terrorist acts. The Internet, as you know, has over 20 million subscribers in 152 different countries. Among these countries are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan, countries all of which are looked upon by the U.S. Government as state- sponsors of terrorism.
The beauty here is that our messages reach these countries via the Internet without censorship. So people in those countries, or people in Saudi Arabia -- anybody who has information on this -- can contact us with information that we hope will lead to the quick arrest and the quick prosecution of the terrorists who killed the Americans at Dhahran.
My last announcement pertains to the elections in Mongolia. The United States congratulates the people of Mongolia on the democratic election which that country held on June 30. The turnout was close to 90 percent with some voters walking for miles to get to the polls, others riding on horseback for up to three or four hours to get to the polls.
The former opposition coalition, which is a democratic coalition, led by the National Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party, won 50 of the 76 seats in Mongolia's parliament. A new government reflecting these electoral results will soon take power. It will replace the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party -- a communist party -- that had been in place for 70 years.
We believe that all Mongolians can be very proud of these elections for the accomplishment in achieving now a transfer of power from the past -- from the communists who ruled in the past -- to people who say they want to bring democracy and greater reform to Mongolia.
This election was witnessed by former Secretary of State James Baker, by Senator Chuck Robb of Virginia, and by our own Kent Wiedemann, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.
This is really quite an interesting story and quite a historic turnaround for the people of Mongolia and a hopeful sign, and we wanted to bring it to your attention.
Q Do you have any details on previous rewards such as, which was the largest; which case yielded the largest reward, and so forth?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly get that information to you. As I said, since this program was created, we have paid out over $3 million in 20 different cases involving acts of terrorism against Americans. The most notable, I think, was the World Trade Center bombing.
As you know, we've also offered a $2 million reward in the case of Pan Am 103 and in other terrorist cases. We are committed and determined to find the people who bombed the Khobar barracks. And if this program can help us do that, then it will be a very good thing. If you put our $2 million together with the Saudi offer of $3 million, it's quite a substantial reward of $5 million available to those who have any information about the people who carried out this bombing.
Q Are you going to have "wanted" posters like in the past?
MR. BURNS: We are developing that. Obviously, to have a "wanted" poster and to have match books, which have been actually very successful, as a way to convey this kind of information, you need to have a likeness of the people. At this point, we are trying to develop that.
But what we're going to do is, we will distribute this information, as I said, through the Internet which, in some of the countries where terrorists work, is a highly effective way to do that because you escape censorship.
We're also going to do it via just public affairs campaigns within Saudi Arabia -- in Dhahran, in Riyadh, and in Jeddah. In fact, our Embassy is making a simultaneous announcement about this in Saudi Arabia.
We're also going to work in other countries where we think one should look for information on terrorist acts like this to make this widely known so that people know that there is a substantial reward out there if they have information that would lead to the arrest of the bombers.
Q You're saying that you are working on developing a poster of these people. Does that mean that you have some information about what these people look like?
MR. BURNS: We're working on a poster that would help us advertise the program. The question I think that Judd had was, or at least I inferred from the question, "Would there be a likeness of the people?" At this point, we can't draw a likeness but we do have some information that might be helpful.
Q Also, the question went to how you're circulating news in the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Right. We hope that this message goes out via radio and television in the Middle East and around the world because you never know where these clues -- where evidence will lead you and you never know where people are around the world who might have information about this particular bombing.
In the past, of course, we've had to go far afield -- in the case of Ramzi Yousef, for instance, to find him and to find information about his whereabouts half a world away. We'll go anywhere around the world to find information about these terrorists.
Q You say you're announcing this simultaneously in Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: Our Embassy is making a public announcement in Saudi Arabia; that's right.
Q That's just putting out paper there, or --
MR. BURNS: I'm not quite sure how they're doing it. I imagine they're putting out some kind of press statement. This is a Department of State program. It has been in existence for several years, and we found it to be a very effective way of enticing people to come forward.
Q Nick, is it your assumption at this point that the perpetrators might be found outside Saudi Arabia's borders or --
MR. BURNS: That's not an assumption that I believe one can make right now. We don't know who the people are who committed this terrorist act. We are following a number of leads. There's a reasonable proposition that since they were in Dhahran last Tuesday night - a week ago today -- they may still be there; someplace in Saudi Arabia.
There's also the proposition that they could be outside the country. We will find them. They're not going to get away with this. There is too much evidence left behind at the scene to allow them to get away with it.
Q Last week, when we asked Glyn whether the United States was going to offer a reward, he said that that would have to wait until there was a narrowing down of information, or a winnowing out of information. Does this imply that you now have enough speculative leads aimed -- which would aim/target certain people?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I can't go into that aspect of the investigation. You'll appreciate why.
We certainly wouldn't want to tip anybody off if we had any information as to who the bombers may be. We decided to come forward with the reward because we have found in the past that in particularly - - particularly -- dastardly terrorist attacks that are publicized, this is an effective way to get people to come forward.
Obviously, these people -- the two men who parked the field truck in front of the Khobar barracks -- got into the Caprice and sped away had accomplices. We assume they didn't do it on their own. We assume they had back-ups. We assume they had an organization that supported them.
We assume that because of human nature information about their activities is known to other people -- family members, neighbors. So we would appeal to those people to come forward. We are talking here about 19 Americans who died, 250 Americans wounded. We're also talking about 147 Saudis wounded, over 150 Bangladeshis wounded; and among the Saudis, five young kids.
Whoever did this had no regard for human life -- American life, Saudi life, or anyone's life.
Q Without going into whatever information you have or don't have, do you now have, one week after the explosion, some news?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in charge of the investigation. I believe those who are in charge of the investigation prefer to work in private and not announce publicly every time there is a lead, so I can't speak to that question.
Q Nick, if someone is picked up as a result of a tip, will the United States make an independent judgment as to his guilt or innocence before paying out the American part of the reward?
MR. BURNS: This program operates on the basis of common sense. If someone gives us information that leads to the arrest of someone who subsequently turns into the person -- we believe -- and the Saudis believe is responsible for the bombing, then we will be very generous in paying out this reward.
Q What I'm asking is, does the United States make an independent judgment, independent of the Saudis as to whether they've got the right person or not?
MR. BURNS: I think in the cases in the past, we've made the judgment to pay out the rewards when it's been reasonably clear to us that the people apprehended are in fact the people who are responsible for the bombing. For instance, if I can take the November bombing in Riyadh, there's no question in our minds that the four individuals who were executed were responsible for that bombing.
Q Can you comment on reports from -- there was a report on ABC News last night that there were additional threats to U.S. civilians in Saudi Arabia made over the weekend. They were supposedly faxed to King Fahd's private line and some other Saudi officials' private lines?
MR. BURNS: I saw the report on ABC. I cannot substantiate those allegations. I can tell you this. As you know, the President has ordered a review of the security around U.S. military installations in Saudi Arabia, and you can be assured that Secretary Christopher has asked Ted Kattouf, our Charge d'Affaires in Riyadh, to undertake all necessary measures to protect the American diplomats there and their families and to work with private American corporations -- and there are many of them, employing tens of thousands of Americans -- to see what we can do to help protect all Americans in Saudi Arabia.
It's a big task, but that is our responsibility, and we do take it very seriously. The people who committed this act must know that we will look for them, and we will find them.
Q When you try to heighten security measures, you obviously have to have the cooperation of the Saudis, and the last time you tried that, they didn't do it, and that's why you had the bomb explode. Have they promised you that they are going to cooperate now in whatever measures that you need to safeguard some people?
MR. BURNS: I don't agree with the logic of -- the sequence of the logic in your question. You know, security in a foreign country is the responsibility of the host country and of the United States. We have a responsibility for the security of our soldiers and our diplomats there as well as the Saudis.
We try to work with them as best as we can to protect our people. After the November bombing, our military authorities in Saudi Arabia did take measures to protect our soldiers. The Jersey barriers that were there, and I saw them last Wednesday night, our explosives experts tell us, had they not been put there after the November bombing, the entire building could have come down.
Q But if (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: I can also tell you in the 1980s, when President Reagan ordered a review of the security of all U.S. diplomatic installations overseas, a panel chaired by Admiral Bobby Inman, Admiral Inman concluded that there ought to be a 100-foot setback at particularly vulnerable installations overseas -- a 100-foot setback -- and that has been the guiding principle for American diplomatic installations around the world.
At Khobar there was a 100-foot setback. Frankly, nobody anticipated a 5000-pound bomb filled with TNT. Now that has happened, and we need to plan for it, and Secretary Perry ordered over the weekend the extension of that perimeter 400 feet, which was the correct move.
As for the allegations that somehow we were rebuffed, I think the Defense Department has spoken to that. I think the Base Commander has spoken to that, and I can add very little to that.
Q So the Saudis say that they will cooperate with any request you have of that nature.
MR. BURNS: King Fahd has told -- as I said yesterday, has told the President and told Secretary Perry that the Saudis will cooperate not only in the investigation, which is ongoing, but also in the task that we have of protecting Americans. We believe that commitment was made in all seriousness, and we believe that commitment will be delivered to us.
Q Nick, I have two questions. A follow-up here and to your comment. When the --
Q Filing break.
MR. BURNS: AP has called for a filing break. Duly noted.
Q May I continue?
MR. BURNS: Yes, you may.
Q Okay, thank you. When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed, just blown completely down and 200-plus Marines died, Nick, a very large bomb in a truck was brought in, reached the perimeter. What I'm getting at is they didn't anticipate that that large a bomb could be brought into Beirut. Why, in this particular case, was it not anticipated that a 5000 -- equivalent 5000-pound TNT explosion couldn't be brought to bear in Saudi.
MR. BURNS: It's very easy to have perfect hindsight and to be a Monday morning quarterback. The fact is this was the largest terrorist bomb in our history. It's the largest bomb, we believe, ever used by a terrorist group anywhere in the world, and perhaps you can sit there and say we should have anticipated this. Well, perhaps we should have.
Our people took the best measures that they could after the November bombing. They wanted to live. They wanted their people to live, and they acted in all seriousness. Now they're going to do whatever they have to do to protect the Americans there, and potential terrorists or existing terrorists should know that we will take every measure we must to protect our people, and, if attacked, we will respond.
Q And the second part of my question is what I asked you yesterday on background, Nick. You've got -- in the case of Beirut there was a lot of recrimination within the U.S. Government about who was to blame. I believe the Commander-in-Chief took the blame, took the heat and said, "The buck stops here."
In this particular instance, do we have to go through all this recrimination again?
MR. BURNS: I hope not, because I think it's unseemly when we were just burying 19 dead Americans. The fact is that I think the senior officials in this government are taking the responsibility. You saw Secretary Christopher go out there last Wednesday night. You saw Secretary Perry go out a couple of days later, and you saw President Clinton at Eglin and Patrick Air Force Bases on Sunday. They are standing up, and they are taking responsibility, and they're all doing what they must to ensure the security of Americans. I find it unseemly for you just to throw out these charges.
MR. BURNS: Bill, why don't we cool off for a minute. We'll stop this line of questioning. We'll go on to another line of questioning. If you want to come back to it, we can do that. Jim.
Q I'd like to switch to Bosnia, if I might. Carl Bildt is quoted today as saying that the letter signed by Karadzic yesterday is sufficient to avoid the imposition of any sanctions. That appears to be in contradiction to what you were saying yesterday, which is that remains an open question.
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the quote. I can't speak to that, but I can answer your question as best I can. Let me do this with some care.
Just to review the matter, here's what we insist upon, and what we have insisted upon for many months now. We insist that he step down immediately; that he abdicate all of his public powers. He no longer serve as President of the so-called "statelet," the Republic of Srpska; that he exercise no political influence within that "statelet" up to the September 14 elections and beyond; that he resign permanently -- not temporarily but permanently his offices, and he yield all powers to a new and independent leadership.
We think that leadership ought to be selected by the population of the area. That's the democratic way to do things, and we think that that new leadership should then prove to the international community through its deeds and not just its words that it is willing to abide by the Dayton Accords. We need to see a dramatic improvement in human rights and an adherence to the war crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords before we're going to be able to agree that there should be a normal relationship between the United States and the Republic of Srpska.
These are very important conditions, but we have articulated these, I think, very consistently since the Dayton Accords were signed. Now, should Karadzic decide that he wants to stay in power, that he wants to retain the chairmanship of his political party, the SDS, then I think that party could not withstand the challenge that the OSCE will certainly make to its legitimacy, should that party put forward candidates for election on September 14. That's what's at stake here.
If this entire political party wishes to see itself out of power and out of influence, then they ought to just keep Radovan Karadzic as their chairman. If they wish to play a role in the political life of the country, then they ought to get rid of him and have him step down.
Q Which of these two alternatives do you prefer?
MR. BURNS: Our preference is, if we get our way -- if we could deliver the perfect solution -- he would leave power; he would not exercise any political influence in the country; he would leave the country physically; and he would be tried in The Hague as a war criminal. That's our preference.
At the very least, at the minimum, he's got to be out of power and not be exerting influence in the runup to the election. This is what the United States has long believed. When Secretary Christopher was at Geneva, he said this publicly, just a couple of weeks ago. When we were negotiating the Dayton Accords and had finished, this is what we said should happen in the future.
Q There seems to be a degree of difference between what you're saying and what Carl Bildt is reported to be saying in Sarajevo. He seems to accept an easier standard, which is that signing the letter drafted by Bildt is sufficient to avoid sanctions. You're saying that sanctions are still a possibility because of these other conditions which remain unfulfilled. Is that right?
MR. BURNS: Sanctions remain a very strong possibility. Sanctions can be easily reimposed on the Bosnian Serbs, either by the suggestion of the High Representative, Mr. Bildt, or by Admiral Smith or by his successor, Admiral Lopez.
It's very easy to reimpose sanctions. We mean what we say here. If there's no change in the status quo, if Karadzic remains in power, you will not see the United States sit by idly and allow him to pull the political strings for these elections. We will take some action, and that is a threat, and it's a threat that we have made directly to him. It's a threat that is known to President Milosevic, and we will act upon it.
We're giving them some time to reflect upon the current state of affairs and to draw the right conclusions. What happened over the weekend, frankly, was ludicrous. You had Karadzic issuing this statement, which was immediately contradicted by Mrs. Plavsic, who said that there would be chaos, should Karadzic step down -- as if there hadn't been enough chaos among the Bosnian Serbs over the last four-and- a-half to five years.
You had her say that she still recognized Karadzic has the leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Carl Bildt did a fine job, in very difficult circumstances, of trying to exercise his influence and the international community's influence on Karadzic. Despite his very good attempt to get him out of office, Karadzic decided at the very last moment that he wasn't going to go along with it.
We very much oppose what he has said subsequently. We've opposed what Mrs. Plavsic has said, and we're going to keep the pressure on.
Q This is a procedural question. Is it possible for Admiral Smith or some American commander on the ground to invoke sanctions, or does it have to go through some sort of consensus procedure with Bildt and others signing on?
MR. BURNS: There's no dual-key here, and there's no convoluted process. It's a very clean process. Either the High Representative or the IFOR commander in Sarajevo, currently Admiral Smith, can make the determination that the Bosnian Serbs and/or Serbia are no longer in compliance -- have not been in compliance -- with the Dayton Accords. Should they make that determination, that recommendation goes directly to the Security Council where it is executed.
There does not need to be a vote of the Security Council to reimpose sanctions. It was deliberately made flexible and clean and easy by the American framers of the Dayton Accords so that we would hold some leverage over parties that chose not to abide by the accords that they signed, foreseeing the possibility that the Bosnian Serbs, who had acted so ignobly during the war, might choose to act ignobly during the peace, and they have. They are living under the direct threat of sanctions, and they ought to sit up and take notice.
Their entire political establishment will be de-legitimized by the OSCE and the international community unless they wake up and get rid of Karadzic.
Q Nick, it's a follow-up. After the confusion over the past weekend and the fact that there have been threats leveled at Karadzic for six months now and he's had plenty of time to reflect on his role in Srpska, does all this defuse the pressure, and why should he take you seriously?
MR. BURNS: Contrary to some of the conventional wisdom in the press, with all due respect, I think the pressure is rising against Radovan Karadzic. I think it is rising against him, because he will be responsible for the complete downfall of his political establishment if he continues to insist upon sitting in that old, fraying ski lodge in Pale. If that's where he wants to sit for the rest of his life and retain the chairmanship of the SDS, I'm sure he'll do it, but he's going to bring everyone down around him. They will not be legitimate political actors.
Q What makes him think that? He's gotten away with it for six months now.
MR. BURNS: I don't think he's gotten away with it. I don't think he's gotten away with at all. He's made a few attempts to get out and show his face in public. He had his tuxedo on the other day. But this is really a vain attempt to create a situation of normalcy. It's not. It's an abnormal situation. He pretty much has to live in his ski lodge. He's got his cronies around him. He can't go very far from Pale. Increasingly the NATO patrols will be patrolling the streets of Pale, and he's got to think about the possibility that he's going to be apprehended.
So this is not a contented and peaceful life for him. This is a life of great pressure. He's increasingly cornered, and he's got to think about his alternatives.
Q Will NATO get more aggressive in looking for him? Are you suggesting --
MR. BURNS: NATO continues with the same procedures that have been in place since December 14.
Q He's really only got to sit you out for six more months, though, before NATO's gone.
MR. BURNS: We'll see. We'll see what happens. He's got to think very seriously, Sid, about the elections on September 14, and if he wants his political party, as I said, to have any influence, he knows what he has to do.
Yes, still on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: No? Okay, yes, Colombia.
Q Nick, The Washington Post during the weekend released some information about a document that was sent by Ambassador Frechette, with a strong recommendation against Colombian Government and President Samper. Can you confirm? Does this document exist in the State Department?
MR. BURNS: Which document are you referring to?
Q Well, he sent a document with a strong recommendation against Colombian Government and President Samper that was released for Washington Post over the weekend. Can you confirm if this exists?
MR. BURNS: One of the jobs of Ambassadors is to report to the home base, Washington, D.C. -- to send in diplomatic cables, assessing the situation. Ambassador Frechette does that probably every day as Ambassador to Colombia. But what I cannot do is go into the details of any of those cables for you. That's private, diplomatic correspondence.
Q (Inaudible) this says Ambassador Frechette is asking for the cancellation of the visa of President Samper.
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm any information on any alleged cables. I wouldn't do that. That would violate the basis of my job here. I can't talk about classified information in public.
Q Do you have a reaction of the Colombia criticism of Frechette?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I'm not going to dignify -- you mean the Colombian criticism today.
MR. BURNS: The Colombian Government has come out with some very harsh criticism of our Ambassador which I will not dignify with a comment. It doesn't deserve any comment at all. He retains the unqualified and strong support of the President and the Secretary of State. Ambassador Frechette is a fine diplomat. He's going to stay in Bogota and continue to do his job.
Still on Colombia? Yes.
Q Can you confirm or deny that the State Department is considering cancelling the visas of President Samper or other ministers?
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not going to confirm or deny anything on that issue. We'll see what happens.
Q Or that the United States has the power of turning Colombia into a pariah state, given the decision not to extradite people from Colombia here on the petition that Attorney General Reno had made to the Colombians. Are there going to be further steps for turning Colombia into a pariah state?
MR. BURNS: We said a couple of weeks back that we would try to improve our counternarcotics cooperation with the Government of Colombia this summer. We have made several requests of the Colombian Government which have not yet been met to our satisfaction. We have other suggestions to make to them. Based on their performance, we reserve the right to take any steps that would protect our own national security. We said that several weeks ago and we meant it. I think we're probably quickly approaching the point where we have to make a fundamental judgment.
Q Would that include, for example, cancelling the rights of Avianca Airlines to land in the United States? Is that being considered?
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of measures that we could adopt, but I'm not going to confirm any of them for you today.
Q Do you have any comments about the information that was released for Washington Post about that issue? Does the State Department have any comment about the information that was released for Washington Post over the weekend?
MR. BURNS: There was a very fine article, but I don't want to comment upon that article for obvious reasons, because I can't comment on diplomatic correspondence.
Q How would you characterize the state of the relationship right now between Colombia and the United States, given all that has happened?
MR. BURNS: I think it's an important relationship for both Colombia and the United States, because we live in the same hemisphere. We have some common interests, we hope, in fighting the power of the narcotraffickers. That relationship and the health of that relationship, we believe, centers on that issue of counternarcotics cooperation. As you know and as has been made very clear, we believe the government in place in Bogota needs to make a greater commitment to the fight against narcotics trafficking. I believe ultimately whether our relationship is successful or not good or uneven will depend upon their level of cooperation.
Q You cannot confirm or deny the information, but however the report came out in The Washington Post. It obviously comes from somewhere. But would you say that those are the recommendations or views of Ambassador Frechette, or does the State Department agree or have the same views with regard to Colombia?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to comment. You really cannot expect me to comment upon a document like that. Diplomatic correspondence is private.
Q Given this, how could you -- how do you foresee the relationship between President Samper and the United States?
MR. BURNS: I think I just answered that question.
Q Specifically with Samper, though.
MR. BURNS: He's the President of Colombia, so we deal with him, and we'll continue to work with him if he's willing to work with us on counternarcotics issues and other issues. We'll see if he is.
Does anybody else have a comment upon this issue that they'd care to make? Okay.
Q We want you --
MR. BURNS: Well, no, I'm not going to make comment. We're going to turn from Colombia to Turkey. This is a welcome relief. Thank you.
Q Do you have anything about the Peter Tarnoff's meeting with Turkish officials in Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Under Secretary Tarnoff was looking forward to seeing President Demirel. I believe he also has a possibility of appointments with members of the new government, including senior members of that government. Perhaps tomorrow I'll have some kind of readout on his activities there, because, as you know, he's moving on tomorrow to Athens for very important meetings with the Greek Government.
Q Some press has published a report that Tarnoff is bringing some kind of message about the frigate issue. Is it in his agenda? Is he bringing this issue --
MR. BURNS: Mr. Tarnoff's agenda is to review all the major aspects of U.S.-Turkish relations, and the frigate issue is a major issue. We would like to see the United States meet its commitment to Turkey in transferring these frigates. We are trying to work with the U.S. Congress so that we can meet that commitment.
Q On Iraq, yesterday, you discussed how the U.S. is opposed to the Iraqi oil-for-food -- I'm sorry, food-for-oil in that humanitarian report. However, the Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali has to ultimately agree on any new plan that Iraq submits. Are you worried that he won't be supportive of the U.S., being that you're opposing his renomination to be Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe that's a concern. Let me tell you why. Secretary Christopher had a very good, correct, and open conversation with him in Lyon.
As you know, the Secretary General was on Lyon for meetings with the G-7 leaders. He and the President both had good conversations with Boutros Ghali. Boutros Ghali will be Secretary General of the United Nations until December of this year when we're sure there will be a new Secretary General selected. Until that time, there is a lot of business to do in the United Nations. We expect full cooperation from him and I'm sure he expects full cooperation from us.
This issue has got to be judged on its merits. You know that the Iraqis now are trying to violate the fundamental agreement made on 986. They're trying to bring in spare parts for their military, for their helicopters, and their conventional weapons. They're trying to bring in computers for their civilian industry. This wasn't part of the agreement.
The United States has an obligation to make sure that this kind of ludicrous behavior on the part of Saddam Hussein is not supported by the United Nations.
Q I understand that they are going to be submitting a new plan. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: As Ambassador Albright said yesterday, we look forward to seeing a new plan -- one that bears some relationship to the agreement that was carried out and not the chicanery that we saw yesterday by the Iraqis.
Q Just to clarify. You definitely don't anticipate any problem with the support of Boutros Boutros Ghali?
MR. BURNS: We would not expect so. He is a very distinguished man. He's a professional diplomat. He understands, I think, the need to continue working with us. I can tell you that we understand the need to work with him, to treat him with respect, and to do what we can to make sure that the United Nations functions well in his remaining time in office.
Q Do you have anything on Russian denial of a visa for the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee?
MR. BURNS: Yes. David Harris, who is the Executive Director of the AJC, applied for a visa from the Russian Government to attend a conference in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, that visa was not given to him.
We are told by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that there was some kind of administrative miscommunication. We have told the Russians that we would like this visa to be issued. We have made that representation to the Russian Embassy here in Washington and directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. We expect that the visa will be issued shortly. We regret the fact that this problem could not have been resolved sooner.
Q Have the Russians said they will issue it, or do you just expect it?
MR. BURNS: We expect that it will happen because the explanation seems to be some kind of administrative error and miscommunication. If that is, in fact, the reason, that should not deny a distinguished American from travelling to Russia, especially at a time when we do want to follow very closely the issue of the Jewish Agency in Russia, which is an issue of great concern to the United States Government.
Q But they've used that excuse on the Jewish Agency also, that it was just an administrative or bureaucratic slip-up.
MR. BURNS: You know that Ambassador Pickering has met with senior Russian officials on the question of the Jewish Agency. He's also met with Jewish Agency officials. I believe no country has given greater support to the Jewish Agency, perhaps outside of Israel, than the United States.
Q Is the Administration at all troubled by this pattern of bold-faced anti-Semitism in the Russian Government?
MR. BURNS: Sid, that's quite a charge. If you want to be more specific, perhaps I can respond to it.
Q We have the Jewish Agency, we have Lebed's comments, and now we have the denial of the visa to the President of the Jewish organization. What do you call it?
MR. BURNS: Sid, on the question of Mr. Lebed's comments -- comments about the Mormon Church, comments about Jews and Judaism are offensive and highly disturbing to the United States.
One of the great advances that the Russian people have made over the last five years is the advent of freedom of religion and the guarantee of religious rights to all Russians, no matter what their religious persuasion is. We fully expect that following tomorrow's election, whatever government emerges from that election will see religious freedom as a right that must be protected by all Russian Government officials.
Q Can you tell me, please -- two questions -- if any U.S. Government official has seen Yeltsin since yesterday? And, also, what is our level of concern about his health and his election chances?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that any U.S. Government officials have seen President Yeltsin for quite some time. I don't believe Ambassador Pickering has been with him for a couple of weeks.
I know that President Clinton spoke with him on the telephone about 10 days ago. You can check the date with the White House. I don't believe since then that there has been any phone communication with him. Not only in the last 24 hours, Betsy, but, really, the last week or two. I think that's the period.
In terms of the elections, we're, of course, going to follow the elections tomorrow with great interest because there's a lot at stake for the United States. As you know, we hope very much that the positive, forward direction of the reform movement -- political, economic, religious -- will continue as a result of these elections.
Q How concerned are you about his appearance on TV, his somewhat wooden and stilted appearance, not seeing him -- all of these things together -- is there concern in this country?
MR. BURNS: Betsy, we can only simply note the statements made by the Russian Government about President Yeltsin's health. We have no independent basis to know on our own what the status of his health may be. We have heard the same statements that you have.
What we hope is that the Russian people will vote tomorrow in great numbers; that there will be a high turnout. We look forward to hearing on Wednesday night or Thursday morning the results of this election. Because, as I said, there is a lot at stake for the United States as well as for the Russian people.
Q A follow-on, to go back half a question, in terms of U.S. contact or lack thereof -- while you've given us the answer on the fact that there hasn't been any direct contact with President Yeltsin, has there been any contact between Secretary Christopher, or perhaps Strobe Talbott, and Foreign Minister Primakov or any other official as to the health and status of President Yeltsin?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher had lunch on Saturday afternoon in Lyon with Foreign Minister Primakov. The President and the Secretary saw Prime Minister Chernomyrdin mid-Saturday afternoon in Lyon. Both of them reported that President Yeltsin had problems with his voice, and, thus, that was the reason for his absence from the public debate in the campaign.
Secretary Christopher has not had contact since Saturday with Foreign Minister Primakov. I do not believe that Strobe Talbott has [either].
Q Cuba: Can we discuss the latest Helms-Burton whispers? They are about two very prominent companies, Mercedes Benz and Siemens. Have they been told by the State Department that they're in violation of Helms-Burton?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they have. I'll have to check that for you.
Q While we're on the subject, the first batch of folks who were notified -- have you made the determination that these people are, in fact, in violation? Has that happened yet?
MR. BURNS: You remember the process that we have launched. Very shortly we'll arrive at the end of the first part of the process. Now that we have notified several companies that they may be in violation, during this next month or so we will actively begin the process of denying their senior executives and some of their family members visas or the possibility, if they don't need visas, of entering the United States. They know that. They know that we are approaching that date.
Q But none of that has happened as yet?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it has, no. When it does, I think we'll make that public.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Does the Department have anything to say -- has the Department (inaudible) with what's happened with the Congress and Vietnam in the last three days?
MR. BURNS: We followed it with great interest, as you might imagine. Our mission there, headed by Desaix Anderson, has followed it because of the importance of Vietnam to the United States and the hope that we might improve our relationship with Vietnam.
We know these individuals. Secretary Christopher met with the three of them last August in Hanoi. Others in our government -- Winston Lord and Tony Lake -- will soon be seeing them on Tony Lake's upcoming trip to the region.
We have been able over the last couple of years to make some advances in our relationship with Vietnam: on the remains issue, certainly; in our economic relationship where we hope that Vietnam might give greater play to our American companies who are resident there; and in beginning to talk with the Vietnamese about our political relationships in Southeast Asia as a whole.
It is a relationship that is working, that does continue to have some problems, but it's a correct relationship which we hope will improve.
Q They appear to be following the Chinese mind -- economic reform without political reform. I imagine there is some human rights fallout to that.
MR. BURNS: The economic reforms have been most impressive. Vietnam's growth rates -- over eight percent -- have been the highest in Southeast Asia, which is saying a lot.
You're right, Sid. I think if you look at our human rights report, we continue to be disappointed and concerned by violations of human rights in Vietnam. That's clearly evident in our human rights report.
Q Can I go back to the Saudis?
MR. BURNS: Let's see if there are any other takers here. Are there any other issues here?
Bill, I'm going to let you get one try. But if you attack the Commander-in-Chief or my boss, I'm not going to answer your question.
Q No, no, Nick. I'm sorry. I must --
MR. BURNS: Let's see what's on your mind. Is there something useful we can do here? We've had an exhaustive discussion of Saudi Arabia.
Q Would you agree -- would you agree that there's really no place for blame, recrimination, political vilification in this particular matter --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q -- because there is a responsibility on the part of the Saudis, on the part of the U.S. whole chain of command -- the whole military chain of command -- and there is certainly -- that's for the defense; and the responsibility for the offense, on the part of the bombers in this particular case? Would you not agree, in fact, that those who have that responsibility have taken their responsibility?
MR. BURNS: Bill, the Saudi authorities and the American authorities -- civil and military -- bear responsibility for the security of Americans in Saudi Arabia. I agree with that.
(Press briefing ended at 1:51 p.m.)
STATEMENT BY NICHOLAS BURNS, SPOKESMAN JULY 2, 1996
The Department of State is offering a reward of up to $2 million for information that leads to the arrest and/or conviction of those individuals responsible for the brutal and cowardly terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran on June 25. This attack resulted in the deaths of 19 U.S. military personnel and injured 250 other Americans. This offer will supplement the generous $3 million reward announced by the Saudi Arabian Government.
Under the Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program, the U.S. Government offers rewards of up to $2 million for information that prevents or resolves acts of international terrorism against U.S. citizens or property, or leads to the arrest or conviction of terrorist criminals involved in such acts.
Overseas, people with information are urged to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or write to the following address: Heroes PO Box 96781 Washington, DC 20090-6781 USA
Domestically, people should contact the FBI, write to the post office box address, or call the Bureau of Diplomatic Security on: 1-800-HEROES-1
In addition, people can provide information to the Counter- Terrorism Rewards Program staff through the following Internet address: email@example.com
More detailed information on the Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program can be obtained through the following Internet address: www.heroes.net
The Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program has been an effective tool in combatting international terrorism. In the past few years, the U.S. Government has paid out over $3 million in approximately 20 cases worldwide for credible information received under the Rewards Program.
The U.S. Government will ensure complete confidentiality to people who provide information on past or future acts of terrorism. If appropriate, the U.S. Government will relocate people and their families to the United States.
The U.S. Government is strongly committed to the fight against international terrorism, and will work closely with the Saudi Arabian Government to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice.
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