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U.S. Department of State
96/07/15 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Monday, July 15, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Amb Richard Holbrooke's Travel to the Balkans/Upcoming Mtgs
w/Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, & Serbia................... 1-2
A/S Win Lord Returns from Asia/Briefing on July 17 re
Secretary Christopher's Upcoming ASEAN & AUSMIN Mtgs........ 2
National Foreign Policy Town Mtg, July 18, at Department...... 2
Secretary Christopher's Travel to Asia........................ 3
US Position on Possible Reimposition of Sanctions............. 3,7
Amb Holbrooke's Mission to the Region:........................ 3-6
--Reinforce Compliance w/the Dayton Accords................... 3-4
US Continued Support of Amb Frowick's Decision on Elections... 4-6
Arrest of War Criminals Karadzic & Mladic:
--Provisional Electoral Commission To Decide On Karadzic's
Arrest/Alleged Report on the French Having UNSC Issue
Warrants & Clarify IFOR's Role re Arrests................... 4-5
--US on Future Arrests/Elections.............................. 7-8
--Bosnian Serb Police Chief's Warnings Of Attacks Against
IFOR Making Arrests......................................... 8
Helms-Burton Law: Implementation of Title III:
--No Decision Yet By Pres Clinton on Suspension............... 8-10
--Alleged EU Discussions Today on Retaliatory Proposals....... 9-10
--Addtl Letters on Title IV Sent to Sherritt Corporation...... 10-12
Pres Yeltsin's Health/Postponement of Mtg w/VP Gore........... 10-11
TURKEY, GREECE, & CYPRUS
USUN Amb Albright's Trip to the Region/Cypriot Issue on Agenda 12
--Alleged Report from Athens re US Deployment of Ships........ 12-13
--Alleged GOG Report on Turkish Involvement of the European
Union Mediterranean Project "Mecca"......................... 13
Status of FBI Director Freeh's Pending Bombing Investigation.. 13
--Security Support of US Military Troops:
--Alleged Press Reports re Moving Troops/DOD To Prepare Rpt. 14,18-19
--Status of Diplomatic Relations/King Fahd's Commitment to US. 14,18
Continued Leaks of Classified Documents to Washington Times... 14-17
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Monitoring Group Negotiations................................. 17-18
Israeli DepPM Eitan Stmt on Settlements/Talks to Continue
Between Israelis & Palestinians/Alleged Arafat Rpt to
Pres Mubarak on Israeli PM Netanyahu Unyielding............. 19-20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JULY 15, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State
Department. I have a couple of very brief announcements.
We issued a statement yesterday, Sunday, that
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke would be returning to the
Balkans. Secretary Christopher has asked him to travel to
the Balkans this afternoon to meet with the Presidents of
Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia to discuss the state of Dayton
Ambassador Holbrooke is here in the Department. He's
having lunch today with the Secretary. He's had other
consultations in the Administration. He, as you know, has
continued to serve both Secretary Christopher and Assistant
Secretary of State John Kornblum in an advisory capacity
since he left office in February of this year. This trip is
part of his advisory role.
He is uniquely placed, we think, to make this trip. We
are reaching a very important time in the process of
building peace in Bosnia where we need now to have the
parties commit in a way that they have not committed to date
to adherence to the Dayton Accords; specifically, to the war
crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords.
So Ambassador Holbrooke will be talking tomorrow in
Sarajevo with President Izetbegovic and with Prime Minister
Muratovic and the others about that issue.
He will go on Wednesday to Belgrade where he will meet
with President Milosevic about this issue, and on Thursday
to Brioni where he intends to meet President Tudjman.
Upon his return -- we hope that there will be enough
time for him to return here and on Friday brief the
Secretary of State -- Secretary Christopher -- before the
Secretary departs on his trip for Jakarta and Sydney. The
departure is scheduled for early Saturday morning.
Ambassador Holbrooke is undertaking this mission
because he continues to believe that the Dayton peace
agreement needs to be implemented to the full. We agree
with him, and we're very pleased that he's accepted this
assignment from the Secretary of State.
Two notices on briefings for you. The first is that
Assistant Secretary of State Win Lord, who is returning this
evening with Tony Lake, the National Security Advisor, from
their trip to Asia, will be here in the Briefing Room this
Wednesday at 12:30. He'll preview the Secretary's trip to
Jakarta for the ASEAN meetings and the ASEAN Regional Forum
and to Sydney for the AUSMIN meetings. So I'd invite you
all to take part with us here in the Briefing Room. He'll
be On-The-Record and On Camera.
Last, Secretary of State Christopher will open and
deliver welcoming remarks to the National Foreign Policy
Town Meeting, which is being organized by the State
Department here in the building. Secretary Christopher will
speak here on Thursday, July 18, at 8:45 a.m. It will be in
the Loy Henderson Conference Room.
If you remember, this briefing has been designed for
media primarily outside the Beltway, for media from across
the United States who normally do not have contact with the
State Department. We expect a very large turnout of your
colleagues -- both reporters and editors from print, TV, and
radio -- here in the Department for a full day of
On-The-Record briefings from State Department officials.
In addition to Secretary Christopher, who will speak at
8:45, Ambassador Craig Johnstone will speak on the issue of
resources; Dennis Ross will speak on the Middle East; Under
Secretary of State Joan Spero will talk about international
economic issues; Jim Steinberg will give a presentation on
transatlantic issues; Jeff Davidow on Latin American issues.
We will have briefings on East Asian issues, I hope by Win
Lord or someone he designates -- he's going to be very busy
this week --and presentations on Russian issues as well.
It's going to be a very good turnout. All these people
will be On-The-Record. All of them will be taking your
questions, with the exception of Secretary Christopher. I
expect he'll just have a statement to make at the beginning.
We would cordially invite all of you who normally cover us
to attend any one of these sessions in the Loy Henderson
There is a sign-up sheet, however. We do need to know
if you're coming and which sessions you're going to attend,
if you can let us know. A sign-up sheet is
available in the Press Office, and just contact anybody in the
Press Office after this briefing and identify yourselves and
let us know what you're interested in.
As you know, the Secretary is leaving for the trip to
Asia on Saturday. We have taken down the sign-up sheet for
that trip. We have a good group of journalists travelling
Q What thoughts does the Department have on the
possibility of sanctions against Serbia in light of the
impasse vis-a-vis Karadzic and Mladic?
MR. BURNS: Our position hasn't changed on that. The
reimposition of the sanctions on Serbia and the Bosnian
Serbs is an option available to the United States and to the
international community. It's a strong option and a live
option. It all depends on the compliance of the Serbs and
the Bosnian Serbs to the War Crimes provisions of the Dayton
Accords. It has been an option now, of course, ever since
the Dayton Accords were signed. But I think frankly,
George, just in the last couple of weeks -- I would say the
last four, five, to six weeks -- as we have assessed and
surveyed the situation, it's our belief that both the Serbs
and Bosnian Serbs could do a lot more to comply with the
Dayton Accords. We need a much better level and measure of
cooperation from them.
This is a message that Secretary Christopher passed to
them in Geneva, I believe it was the first of June -- the
Sunday in the first part of June when he was in Geneva.
It's a message that John Kornblum has passed repeatedly on
his trips, and it's certainly, I think, the focal point of
Dick Holbrooke's trip to the Balkans this week.
He will be looking at all Dayton compliance issues, but
he will focus on the issue of war crimes. He'll focus on
the issue of Karadzic and Mladic. I think that's the
primary focus for his mission.
I think it goes without saying that I would expect that
Ambassador Holbrooke would have very direct and very tough
discussions with these leaders on the war crimes issue. Of
course, he is in a position -- as someone who is a
consultant to the Administration but someone who was present
at the creation of this part of the Bosnian drama, he is in
a strong position to represent the Secretary of State and
Assistant Secretary Kornblum to send the basic message that
if compliance is not improved, reimposition of
sanctions, of course, remains an option available to the
United States and our partners.
Q Is this a last chance that he's conveying? It
sounds a little less than that.
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't want to describe it as the
"Last Chance Saloon," or whatever. It's an attempt by us to
reinforce again for them the critical nature of compliance
with the Dayton Accords. He is uniquely placed to do that.
He has spent hundreds of hours with these three individuals,
particularly with President Milosevic. He knows them well.
He's a very tough negotiator, and I think he'll get his
Carol, did you have a follow-up?
Q It seems like you're reaching a point of
desperation, that the final line is about to be crossed?
MR. BURNS: We're never desperate, Carol. We're always
calm. We have, I think, taken a very calm and methodical
approach to this.
In fact, if you compare the situation today to a year
ago, that word just doesn't apply. We have fundamentally
transformed the whole situation. We're certainly better off
than we were before. We have options at our disposal that
will hurt -- options that will make our views felt by the
parties, by some of the parties who are not complying.
We also are working very closely on the elections issue
with our partners in Europe and with the OSCE, and
particularly with Ambassador Frowick, and very much support
Ambassador Frowick's decision which he announced this
morning to delay the start of the campaign, the formal
campaign for the September 14 elections. He said he was
doing that until the end of this week -- delaying it from
today until Friday -- because he wanted to give the Bosnian
Serbs one last chance to see if they could find a way to
take Karadzic out of the political picture leading up to
those elections. He made a very strong statement, and we
agree very much with it.
I think the process would be that the Provisional
Electoral Commission will make some kind of a decision -- a
formal decision -- on this at some point in the future.
But, certainly, we applaud and support the direction in
which that part of the process is moving.
Q The French apparently are talking about having
the U.N. Security Council issue arrest warrants as well as
The Hague Tribunal. What's your view of that?
MR. BURNS: I've only seen press reports on that. I
don't believe we have any kind of official confirmation of
such an idea; so therefore, I couldn't comment on it. I'm
just not sure if it's accurate.
Q The French are also trying to, through the
Security Council, get a clarification of IFOR's role, or
perhaps a more aggressive approach with IFOR troops to war
criminals. Do you have a position on that? Are you aware --
MR. BURNS: Maybe it's a different phraseology -- I
thought that's the question I was answering -- Carol's
question. We've just seen press reports on that. We
haven't received, I don't believe, any kind of official
communication from the French Government. I'm not aware of
one; therefore, I don't have any comment on it. I think you
and we need to go back and check the full accuracy of these
various reports. I saw them yesterday, too. There were
lots of press reports on this, but I can't confirm them.
Charlie. I'm sorry, Charlie. Laura had a follow-up.
Q Actually, this is just a follow-up to Ambassador
Holbrooke's trip. It does appear to be, despite what you've
said, an act of desperation. You said it isn't. We're
reaching a critical point in the whole Bosnian scene.
Sending Ambassador Holbrooke, who has been out of the Bosnia
mission for awhile, back in would signal that there is a
great deal of concern that the parties are not complying and
perhaps there is a deadline that he's going to be delivering?
MR. BURNS: I guess I have a neuralgic reaction to the
use of this word "desperate." We're not. The fact is that
we're in the driver seat here and have been since
September/October of last year. We've completely
transformed the political and military landscape. If
anything, the desperation ought to be in Pale, in the ski
chalets there, where the people are increasingly cornered.
They're the ones who ought to be desperate because they're
facing now the possibility that the entire political party
that Karadzic has built will be thrown out of the elections
unless the political party itself gets rid of Karadzic.
If anybody needs to be desperate and feel desperate
today, it's Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. So we're
just going ahead and doing our business. The elections are
going to go ahead regardless. They're going to go ahead. We
hope they go ahead with the participation of the SDS, but
that remains to be seen, and it's fully going to be based on
their own attitudes here.
Also, Laura, the fact is that Holbrooke has been in
constant communication with the Administration since
February 21 of this year, the day he left. All of you who
know Dick will not be surprised at that statement. He's
used the phone. He's been down to Washington to see a
number of us.
We talk to him all the time, and he is a formal
consultant to the Administration. Let's face it, Dick
Holbrooke is uniquely qualified and uniquely placed to
undertake this mission. We're very glad he's accepted it.
The Secretary has asked him to undertake this mission. The
Secretary is talking over with him right now the framework
for his mission, and we very much look forward to hearing
from him when he returns.
Q As a formal consultant, does he get paid?
MR. BURNS: I don't think Dick needs to get paid. I
mean, Dick's doing pretty well on the outside in his current
job and a variety of activities. I don't know the answer to
that question. I've never asked him.
Q Could you find that out, please?
MR. BURNS: I'll be very glad to, although knowing the
U.S. Government as I do, I'm sure there's nothing we could
do to attract him financially to the position of consultant,
because he's certainly doing well enough on the outside
without our very meager offerings. But let me check on
that. I just don't know the answer.
Q When Ambassador Holbrooke came in, he said he was
going at the bidding of the President as well as the
Secretary of State. Which is it -- an envoy from the
Secretary of State or from the President?
MR. BURNS: I'd just refer you back to the statement
that we issued yesterday. The Secretary of State. He's a
consultant to the Secretary, and the Secretary has asked him
to go back to the region. The President is aware of this
and fully supports it.
Still on this issue, Jim?
Q Yes, still on that issue. Exactly what do you
want the Serbs to do? Do you want them to deliver these two
indicted war criminals in handcuffs to The Hague, or would
you be satisfied if they were simply separated visibly from
political influence and power?
MR. BURNS: Delivering them to The Hague in handcuffs
would be a good thing. That's one of our objectives, to
have them end up in The Hague. But I think it goes like
this, Jim. I think to be pragmatic and realistic, it would
be a good start if Karadzic, for instance, would be removed
from his positions of influence in the party.
He has just been renominated as head of his political
party, and he currently serves as head of his political
party. He ought to step down from that role or be forced
out of it, so out of influence. We also think it would be a
good idea if they were out of the country altogether, so
that there would be no chance of his exerting political
influence during the campaign.
Beyond that, we would very much agree with your
proposition that they'd handcuff him and send him to The
Hague for prosecution as a war criminal. We agree with all
of that, and I would just give them to you in that order.
Q At which point are you prepared to forego further
sanctions? In other words, if they'd comply with what your
first step was, would that be enough to remove the threat of
MR. BURNS: I think it remains to be seen. I'd rather
leave that in some doubt right now. I think they know that
they have got to work much harder than they currently are on
the provision with Dayton on war crimes, and they've got to
show us and demonstrate to us that they are worthy of
avoiding any penalties. And I use that word advisedly, and
I don't want to be detailed in prescriptions here. We'll
know it and they'll know when they have reached that state
of being, where they are much more cooperative than they
Q On the same subject, you stated just a few
minutes ago that the elections will go on, no matter what
the SDS does about Mr. Mladic, but the Bosnian Muslim
Government has stated, a number of times and has reiterated,
that they would withdraw from the election process if
Karadzic remains in power.
Now, is this what the Bosnian Muslims are telling our
government? Is this the reason for the urgency of sending
Holbrooke at this point?
MR. BURNS: The Bosnian Government was party and agreed
to the decision of the provisional Electoral Commission to
schedule the elections on September 14 and to have those be
national elections. I think that's the most meaningful
statement we've heard from them.
Q They are not communicating to the United States
MR. BURNS: They've made their voice heard in the
Electoral Commission itself, which is where the decision was
made. I take that to be the relevant Bosnian Government
statement on this issue.
Yes, another subject? Still on Bosnia? Howard.
Q The Bosnian Serb police chief in Pale has warned
of attacks against IFOR and international police monitors if
any attempt is made to arrest the two leaders. Any reaction
MR. BURNS: If he knows what's good for him, he won't
make remarks like that. The fact is that IFOR is there to
enforce the Dayton Accords. It has done so successfully.
IFOR has been very clear about one issue: Any attacks on
IFOR forces, on anybody belonging to the IFOR forces there,
will be met with a very determined response. I don't think
that this mayor should be foolish enough to continue
spouting off, as he is clearly now doing. So we take
seriously any threats against IFOR, and he ought to
understand and his supporters ought to understand that if
they try anything, they'll be met with superior physical
Q On Cuba. Has the Secretary made a recommendation
to the President on Title III?
MR. BURNS: The President, as Mike McCurry said this
morning, has been given a series of options on this issue.
He's looking at the options, and I believe we'll have a
decision by tomorrow.
Q And what is the Secretary's thinking about this
MR. BURNS: The Secretary's thinking is private. He's
communicated his views, of course, as you would expect,
privately to the President. It wouldn't be in my interest
or his to communicate those views publicly, certainly not
while the President is currently deliberating.
Q Is that because this is a politically
MR. BURNS: It's the normal way that we do business.
The Secretary gives private advice to the President. He
does not give public advice, and he certainly would not wish
that I would surface publicly his private views and private
recommendations to the President.
Q Well, it's not a unknown that he makes his point
of view clear.
MR. BURNS: Right. And I can tell you that the
Secretary has clear views on this, and they're understood by
the President, but it's up to the President to make the
decision, and the Secretary would not want me to get into
the business of talking about that publicly.
Q The Secretary has said on many occasions that it
was his intention under this Helms-Burton Act to maximize
the impact on Castro and minimize the impact on the allies.
Is that still his view?
MR. BURNS: That's been our general view all along, but
I wouldn't lead you to try to link that with any decision
made by the President. The President has recommendations
before him. He now will make this decision. We'll just
have to wait and see what that decision is.
Q I'm just going to try one more on this. Does the
State Department think that full implementation of Title III
would complicate your relations with the allies?
MR. BURNS: It wouldn't be reasonable, proper, wise or
politic or politically correct for me to talk about that
before a decision was made. But good try! (Laughter)
Q Are you aware that the EU is talking today about
drawing up retaliatory proposals to Helms-Burton? Did they
warn you that they were going to do that, and do you have a
MR. BURNS: I saw something about that on MSNBC. Very
interesting new network we're watching this morning. There
was a good report on it. I saw the ministers walk into the
meeting. That's all we know. I would say this:
Helms-Burton is a law of the United States. We believe that
Helms-Burton is consistent with our international treaty
obligations. We've said that since March 12 of this year.
We will implement Helms-Burton, and we ask our European
allies, including Canada, and we ask Mexico to understand
that and to work with us privately and not to try to
escalate the issue further than it already has been
Q But they have indicated -- in particular Canada
and Great Britain -- last week after you sent those nine
letters to the shareholders of the Sherritt Corporation,
they expressed their displeasure. Despite the fact that
you're calling on them to understand that you must implement
this law, how far are you going to take it to implementation
at the expense of the relationships with some of our close
MR. BURNS: Again, I can't speak about Title III -- I
mean, that was Carol's interest -- because again the
President must make the announcement on that tomorrow. On
Title IV, however, I can tell you, we are going ahead. We
sent the letters to the Sherritt board. None of those
people, unfortunately, will be able to enter the United
States after roughly mid-August of this year. I haven't
really counted it to know what the specific date is, but 45
days from last week when the letters were issued and for
very good reason.
Again, just very briefly, the Sherritt Corporation has
taken possession of a nickel industry -- a nickel investment
in Cuba that is the property of an American corporation. It
is unfair for Sherritt to have done this, and Sherritt now
has to pay the penalties under U.S. law.
We will continue implementing Title IV, and as of
tomorrow, of course, we'll be able to talk about what
decision has been made on Title III.
Q Do you know what the drill is tomorrow --
announcements, briefings, etc.?
MR. BURNS: I would refer you to the White House. I
think this announcement will come out of the White House,
and I'd refer you to Mike McCurry and Jim Fetig and Brian
Cullin for how they're going to handle it specifically. I
think they're still in the process of deciding on that.
Q Do you find it peculiar or worrisome that
President Yeltsin suddenly went on vacation when he was
scheduled to meet with Vice President Gore?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to know and really to
respond adequately to your question. Vice President Gore
made a statement on this this morning, saying that his
meeting this morning had been postponed until tomorrow.
There is a meeting scheduled for tomorrow at Barvikha, and
the Vice President said he was looking forward to that.
I'm just not in a position to assess for you the state
of President Yeltsin's health. That's an assessment that
has to be made by the Russian Government.
I believe you had a question. I'm sorry.
Q No, it was --
MR. BURNS: It was answered? Okay. And then you're
Q Speaking of Title IV, could you tell us (if the)
U.S. Government sent other advisory letters to some foreign
MR. BURNS: On Helms-Burton?
Q Yes, advisory letters.
MR. BURNS: We sent advisory letters to a number of
companies some time ago. But the additional letters
informing the Sherritt Corporation that the law in fact
would apply to that corporation were sent last week, and I
believe that's the only corporation that had the second
round of letters sent to it.
I don't want to foreclose the possibility that now
other corporations in foreign countries would receive the
second round of letters. Is that clear?
Q Actually, my question is there was a Reuters
report on Friday that said the U.S. Government sent advisory
letters to three companies -- French companies, Israel
companies and Spanish companies?
MR. BURNS: I'm just looking to Glyn (Davies) because
Glyn briefed on Friday. But I believe the facts are
currently that Sherritt Corporation is the only corporation
that has received the letters that tell them that their
principal shareholders and senior executives will now fall
under the provisions of Title IV.
It is possible that we will send another series of
letters to other companies, but I don't believe we've yet
MR. DAVIES: But the first round of letters, that's an
MR. BURNS: Yes, the first round of letters have --
it's complicated. The first round of letters, as I said,
have already been sent to a number of companies; but I
believe that Sherritt is the only corporation that received
the second round of letters which actually tells them
they're in violation -- they are in violation and will now
come under the provisions of the law.
Q Can you tell the number of companies -- how many
numbers, or how many companies?
MR. BURNS: No, we've never done that. We're very
secretive here, and we very rarely give out the numbers and
sometimes even the names of the corporations, much to your
Q (Inaudible) you had asked your European allies to
work with you privately. I mean, what do you mean by that?
Can you elaborate on that?
MR. BURNS: We're not interested in having an open
public debate about this is what I mean, and there has been
probably too much of that in the past couple of months. We
prefer to continue to have private discussions. We
obviously have a major disagreement here, a very clear
I don't believe we'll be able to bridge that
disagreement any time soon, but we need to continue talking
about our respective views. Better to do that privately
Mr. Lambros, I believe you're next.
Q Do you have any readout on Ambassador Albright's
visit to Athens today?
MR. BURNS: You know, I don't, but perhaps by tomorrow
we'll have something to say about her trip, which began
today and which I think runs six days. It's through the
Mediterranean and Greece and Turkey and Cyprus -- a very
important trip where she hopes to make some first inroads in
resolving the problem in Cyprus, at least in this latest
round of discussions.
Q One more question. Could you please comment on a
lot of reports from Athens that your Administration is
planning to deploy U.S. warships in the middle of the Aegean
Sea between Greece and Turkey for security reasons in that
MR. BURNS: I have nothing to say on that. I have no
information on that. It's the first I've heard, so I have
no comment on it. If you're talking about U.S. warships,
the best place to go would be the Pentagon; but I have
nothing to say on that.
Q Yesterday the Government of Greece, they
announced that they were against the Turkish involvement in
the European Union Mediterranean Project, which they are
calling that (inaudible). When Madeleine Albright is in
Athens and Ankara, are you planning to open this subject or
discuss this subject also?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specific issue; I did
not see those reports. I can certainly tell you that our
continued belief is that Greece and Turkey should resolve
the problems between them. The United States will continue
to be a good and faithful friend to both of them, but I have
no further comment on that particular issue.
Q Do you have any readout of FBI Director Freeh's
trip to Saudi Arabia and his discussions with the Kingdom on
security and the case?
MR. BURNS: I don't. I think I should leave it to the
FBI, to Director Freeh and his spokespeople, to talk about
his own trip. Obviously, we were fully involved. Our
Charge d'Affaires, Ted Kattouf, was fully involved; but I'm
going to leave it to the FBI and Justice to characterize the
We continue to participate in the ongoing investigation
-- "we," the U.S. Government -- with the Saudi authorities
and remain hopeful that we will sooner or later find out who
did this and have them punished.
Q But do you know if he got to see King Fahd and
got any commitments from him?
MR. BURNS: I don't know about his specific itinerary,
so I'd refer you to the FBI on that.
Q Perhaps you could characterize the level of
cooperation. Presumably Director Freeh went not because the
level of cooperation is so great but perhaps because there
were some problems.
MR. BURNS: Again, since Director Freeh just completed
his trip -- I believe he returned yesterday -- I would leave
it to Director Freeh and his staff to handle that question.
We continue to work very hard with the Saudi
authorities to find out the origins of the bomb against the
building at Khobar, and we will continue to work with them
to apprehend the killers.
Q How do you feel about those comments, though -- I
believe it was the Defense Minister -- on the whole subject
of moving some of the troops to a different location to have
perhaps a lower profile and for their security -- the fact
that he's come out and said that's not going to happen? It
doesn't seem that they are cooperating.
MR. BURNS: We have seen the press reports. In fact,
there were a lot of press reports yesterday on this; and
frankly these press reports do not correspond to our
discussions with the Saudi authorities on that particular
issue, and these are senior Saudi authorities.
I know that the U.S. military is preparing a report on
the requirements that we clearly have to protect our
soldiers, and that report will be conveyed to the Saudi
authorities. I don't believe it has yet been conveyed, and
there is a U.S.-Saudi agreement at the highest levels that
together we will do whatever we have to do to protect our
troops -- United States troops in Saudi Arabia.
So I cannot confirm these reports that one member of
the royal family, Minister Sultan, has made this clear.
Q Could you go a step further, though, and say
affirmatively that you feel confident or the U.S. Government
feels confident that it has Saudi Arabia's agreement to make
these troop movements?
MR. BURNS: That is a decision that the Saudi
Government has to make with primarily the Defense
Department. As I said, I think that this story is a little
ahead of the facts. The facts are that the U.S. military,
the Pentagon, is preparing a report for the Saudi Government
for steps that we can take together to protect our troops --
certainly to take steps to enhance protection for our
troops, considering the fact we've had two bomb attacks now
that have killed many Americans.
Since that report has not yet been conveyed to the
Saudis, I can't tell you that there is an agreement or not
because we haven't even made our requests formally known to
Q Do you have anything on the publication of the
Primakov letter to the Secretary which appeared in the
Washington Times this morning?
MR. BURNS: I can't say we were surprised, George.
There's been so much of this, this trail of leaks to a
particular reporter in the Washington Times. My policy on
this has been to say that if someone is leaking highly
classified documents, I will not reward that person by
responding to the leak.
I will tell you, however, I was a little bit surprised
by the Times when it printed an alleged letter from Primakov
to Secretary Christopher and, if you look very closely --
this is in the Times today, and this I think is a front-page
article -- there's a signature block that says "Primakov,"
and then underneath it says "Source: State Department."
It was very helpful of them to put that there, I
suppose; but I found that very odd because I can tell you,
since we are the branch of the State Department that
presents information to the Fourth Estate, we did not
publish this letter or any letter like it. We don't publish
diplomatic correspondence from one Minister to Secretary
For the Times to publish it as a "Source: State
Department" conveys an impression that the State Department
gave this letter to the Times to print. We didn't. We
didn't do that. We wouldn't do that. Any diplomatic
correspondence between Primakov and Christopher is going to
remain confidential, so I'm not going to talk about it.
Q By describing it --
MR. BURNS: It was odd. It was a very odd thing to do,
I thought, for a major newspaper.
Q By describing it as a leak, are you confirming
the accuracy of the letter, though?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to talk about the letter at
all, because I would reward the leaker, who is violating
U.S. law, somewhere inside the U.S. State Department. I
just can't, Jim. You understand the reasons why I can't do
that, to be completely serious for a moment.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do understand what you're asking. I
Q If I understand exactly what you're saying,
you're saying that you, as the official Spokesman of the
Department, and the people who work for you did not
officially give this out. But you're not saying that
somebody in this building of thousands of people may not have
passed it along?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think it's -- we have a problem here.
We have somebody inside the U.S. Government who has access
to classified information who is passing it on to a certain
reporter -- Bill Gertz at the Washington Times. There's
been a steady stream of these leaks to him.
I'm not going to deny that there have been leaks in the
past and that this may have been a leak. I was very
surprised to see us as the source of this because I can tell
you authoritatively we do not give letters like this to any
newspaper, including the Washington Times.
Q How many people have access to the Secretary's
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that someone could give you an
exact count, or maybe even a count approaching that. I
don't know how many. I suppose it's a fairly high number.
You never can tell about leaks. You never know where
they're coming from. You never know who is doing them.
They are routinely investigated -- and I mean routinely;
they're always investigated on a routine basis. Our success
in finding out who is leaking documents is hit-or-miss. Not
only our success in this Administration but over, I think,
the course of many Administrations.
All I know is that to leak a highly classified document
is wrong. It's also illegal.
Q Who would be investigating this?
MR. BURNS: The proper authorities. It depends on the
agency involved. In this case, our Diplomatic Security.
Q Is the IG investigating this?
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q Nick, what are the ethics of this? Is the
reporter culpable that takes these documents and publishes
MR. BURNS: Bill, in the past I've chosen not to
comment on the reporter's end of it. I have only commented
on the U.S. Government end of it, meaning what are the
responsibilities of an employee of the State Department who
has a Top Secret clearance and who takes a Top Secret or
highly classified document and gives it to a reporter.
There are very clear laws that say it is illegal for an
employee of the State Department or any other branch of the
U.S. Government to do that. I'm not going to comment on the
reporter's end of it.
Q You're not saying that the reporter should cease
MR. BURNS: I'm just not going to have any comment on
it. But I'm certainly in a position to comment -- I want to
protect the State Department and let the readers of the
Washington Times know, through all of your services, that
we did not give this document. They ought not to do this in
the future. They ought not to say that the source is the
State Department when it clearly isn't the State Department.
Q Doesn't that help you?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q Doesn't that help you?
MR. BURNS: It doesn't help us at all. It looks like
we're just giving diplomatic correspondence at will to
reporters. I'm sure the Russian Government wouldn't want us
to do that, and we don't want to do; so it doesn't help us,
no. Good try, though.
Q Do such letters circulate to interested
committees on the Hill?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Do such letters circulate as part of a normal
MR. BURNS: When Congress requires information --
various committees of Congress -- on our diplomacy, they
routinely ask us for classified documents. I have no idea
of knowing whether this document was one of those
transferred to the Hill, and I'm not pointing my finger at
the Hill at all. I'm pointing it clearly at people in the
Executive Branch of the Government.
Q Do you have anything on the Lebanon talks --
Lebanon Monitoring Committee talks?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Have you gotten word back from the capitals now
that everybody has signed off on the agreement?
MR. BURNS: I believe the agreement is a done deal. It
was announced here by Glyn and others on Friday.
Q It wasn't a done deal. They had gone back to the
capitals for signature.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if there was to be a formal
signature. The agreement was reached here and the document
has gone back to capitals for information.
MR. BURNS: I believe, Sid, we're quite comfortable
with the way the negotiations came out on Friday. We
believe that this is, for all intents and purposes, a deal,
and that the Monitoring Group now is established and has
certain responsibilities, which you'd know about -- I
believe you had a briefing on this. The Monitoring Group
finally is in place.
Q The briefer said it would be a couple of weeks.
Are you saying it's now up and functioning?
MR. BURNS: The agreement is in place, Sid. It's going
to take a couple of weeks to physically move people to their
assigned positions and all of that, yes.
Q Just one final question on Saudi. Have
diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia been
strained or suffered as a result of the on-going
MR. BURNS: Carol is answering the question. Do you
want me to pass the microphone? I'm just reading your lips
No. Not at all. Our relations with Saudi Arabia
remain very good, very positive. Prince Bandar was in last
week to see the Secretary. They had an excellent meeting,
and we'll continue our very good, strong relationship with
the Saudi authorities.
Q On the question -- just to go back to the
question of where the request to move troops is with the
Saudis. You're saying they're considering it?
MR. BURNS: I was very specific that the Defense
Department has to make a report -- is going to make a series
of suggestions to the Saudi authorities. We'll then need to
work out those suggestions with them into a course of
action. That's exactly where we are.
Q That means they're considering the request?
MR. BURNS: The request hasn't been made officially to
them. The report by the Pentagon, as I understand it, has
not yet been conveyed to the Saudis. Therefore, they
couldn't consider a request that has not been given to them.
Q Why are you doing the report for the Saudis?
MR. BURNS: Report, memo, series of suggestions, list
of things to do -- the United States has an obligation to
protect its troops. We are now drawing up a list of
measures which we believe would enhance protection for our
troops. We're going to continue working with the Saudis on
that. We'll make a formal report to them. We'll give them
a formal list of suggestions and then work with them on that.
I just want to be clear about where we are in the
process, which leads us back to yesterday's wire stories
which I believe were not entirely accurate.
Q They didn't ask you to say -- they didn't say,
"We'll think about it. Why don't you prepare -- write down
your ideas and give them to us so we can consider them
MR. BURNS: I wasn't in the room in Riyadh or in Jeddah
when these conversations were held so I can't tell you how
the conversation went. We have a very clear commitment from
King Fahd that he will do what he must to cooperate with us
to enhance and improve security for our troops. That
commitment was given to the President and to Secretary
Perry. We take it very seriously because he's a valued ally
of ours and we trust him. So we trust that we will work
well with the Saudi Government on this.
Q Could you imagine them turning down a direct
request to take certain steps to ensure the security of U.S.
MR. BURNS: I think given what has happened in Dhahran
and in Riyadh since November, we would expect the highest
level of cooperation from the Saudi authorities.
Q Nick, also on the Middle East. Rafael Eitan, who
is the Deputy Prime Minister in the new Israeli Government,
talked yesterday about Israel moving ahead with a plan to
triple the size and number of Israeli settlements in the
West Bank. Have you seen that? Does that give you any
MR. BURNS: It's long been the United States position
-- certainly, the position of this Administration -- that
settlement activity is a problem and a complicating factor
in the Middle East peace negotiations between the
Palestinians and the Israeli Government.
The Israelis and the Palestinians agreed in their
Declaration of Principles that the issue of settlements
would be taken up in final status talks. Those talks
formally began in early May. We hope very much that they
will resume. Our position, therefore, that I have
enunciated today on settlements -- a long-standing position
-- remains true. That would be my basic reaction to
Mr. Eitan's statement and the statement from some of the
settler groups that they plan to triple the number of
settlers and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Q Was a statement along these lines made by
Netanyahu when he was here talking to the President and the
MR. BURNS: If it was, I'm just not aware of it. I
didn't hear anything publicly on that and wasn't aware that
it had been conveyed privately.
Q There seems to be a prejudice on the part of Mr.
Arafat in speaking to Mr. Mubarak of Mr. Netanyahu being
unyielding -- the Israeli positions being unyielding. It
seems this is kind of a self-defeating attitude on the part
of the Arabs.
How does the U.S. Government view the prejudgment of
MR. BURNS: I don't want to accept all the premises of
the question. I haven't seen the press reports. I think we
said quite a lot on this last week when Prime Minister
Netanyahu was here. We have the greatest respect for the
peace negotiations, the peace between Israel and the
Palestinians. We want to support it.
We are in constant communication with Chairman Arafat.
We support continued U.S. economic assistance to the
Palestinians. We firmly hope that the Palestinians and
Israelis will continue their discussions. That's a part of
the peace negotiations; that must continue. But I can't
comment on press reports.
Q Does the U.S. Government see Mr. Netanyahu as
being sincere in his desire for settlement?
MR. BURNS: I think the President spoke to this better
than I could last week. We hope the peace negotiations
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
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