U.S. Department of State 96/07/19 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, July 19, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introd of May Kahali, Advisor to President of Lebanon....... 1 Opening of Olympic Games/Department Providing Support......... 1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Announcement by Special Envoy Holbrooke/Karadzic to Resign as President and Withdraw from Political Activity.............. 1,6-7 --Importance of Implementation of Agreement/Possibility of Reimposition of Sanctions for Non-Compliance.............. 2-4 --U.S. Remains Committed to Efforts to Send Karadzic and Mladic to the Hague for Trial by the War Crimes Tribunal................................................ 5 --Reaction of Bosnian Government............................ 8 Responsibility for Apprehension and Arrest of Karadzic for Prosecution by War Crimes Tribunal.......................... 9 Conditions for Removal of "Outer Wall" of Sanctions........... 11 Effect of Threat by Amb. Frowick to Bar SDS from Elections.... 12 MISCELLANEOUS Department Assisting NTSB and FBI in Investigation of Crash of TWA Flight 800.............................................. 13 Media Reports on Security at Athens Int'l Airport............. 14-15 FAA Review and Certification of Athens Int'l Airport.......... 15,21-22 Political Tract from "Movement for Islamic Change" Delivered to AL-Hayat/No Specific Connection to TWA Flight 800 Crash..... 17,20 SAUDI ARABIA Continued Concern for Security of Americans................... 16,18-19 Secretary's Meeting with Governor of Riyadh/Discussions to Include Bombing at Al Khobar................................ 16 NORTH KOREA Delivery of U.S. Food Aid Not Linked to Four-Party Talks...... 22 Amb. Lilley Op-Ed on U.S. Contributions to KEDO/U.S. Commitment to Freeze North Korean Nuclear Program....................... 24-25 Timetable for Delivery of U.S. Food Aid....................... 25 CHINA Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister Qian Qichen/Discussion of Future Presidential Visit............................... 23 MEXICO Attack on Military by Guerrilla Group in Guerrero ............ 27 TURKEY Amb. Albright Meetings with Senior Officials/Consultations to Resolve Cyprus Issue....................................... 28
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JULY 19, 1996, 12:50 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to introduce May Kahali who is a communications advisor to the President of Lebanon. We are very pleased to have you here. Very, very pleased to have you with us in Washington.
I also wanted to say a word about the opening of the Olympic games today. In addition to being the world's biggest sports gathering, a huge international event, the Olympics are a diplomatic event of significant note, and these are the most inclusive games in history. For the first time, all 197 members of the international Olympic movement will be sending teams to these games, including the first team from a democratic South Africa and the first team from Cambodia in 24 years.
The Department of State is very proud to provide extensive support for the Olympics under the direction of Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff. We have been planning for these games for more than a year, and our various bureaus -- Diplomatic Security, the Consular Affairs Bureau, our International Organization Affairs Bureau, and the Office of Protocol -- have been providing support to the organizers of the games themselves.
I also wanted to say just a note, a word, about what happened in Bosnia this morning.
As all of you know, the Special Envoy of Secretary of State Christopher, Richard Holbrooke, announced this morning in Belgrade that he had reached an agreement with the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs that Mr. Karadzic would step down from his positions of responsibility. He will step down from his position as leader of the main political party of the Bosnian Serbs and step down from his position as President of the so-called Republika Srpska.
This is a significant step forward in our effort, our continuing effort, to implement successfully the Dayton Accords. I think implementation will be very important. We want to see over the next couple of days and over the next couple of weeks the Bosnian Serbs adhere to the agreement that they have signed, signed by Karadzic and Plavsic and Buha and Krajisnik.
We want to see effective implementation so that Mr. Karadzic truly returns to his ski chalet in Pale; he does not engage in any kind of political activity whatsoever as the campaign for the elections begins; he does not appear on television, appear on the radio, appear in public in any form; and he bears no responsibility and conducts no activity pertaining to the September 14 elections.
This is a very important commitment made by the Bosnian Serbs and we will be watching to see that the Bosnian Serbs undertake these commitments.
I would also say that the United States is not entirely satisfied with this agreement from the following perspective. We are pleased that Mr. Karadzic is out of influence -- he no longer influences the political situation there -- and pleased that he is out of power from both of his political positions. But we remain committed to see Karadzic, an indicted war criminal, end up in The Hague and on trial for some of the worst crimes committed in Europe since the Nazis. That is the fundamental American position and the commitment that we have given the parties and that we made very seriously at Dayton when we negotiated the peace there.
I think the effect of today's announcement is multilayered. First, we believe this will re-energize the Dayton peace process itself. Had Mr. Karadzic not stepped down from the position of power that he had until today, the elections would have faced a number of challenges, including a possible boycott from the Bosnian Serb community.
That will now not happen. Ambassador Bob Frowick of the OSCE made a statement today saying that the elections would go forward as planned on September 14 and the political campaign would be launched and be underway, and that Karadzic would not be part of it. That is a positive development.
I think it also, we hope, presages the end of Radovan Karadzic's political career. We hope this means that he will no longer be an effective and active political actor on the scene by giving up the presidency and giving up the head of his party. We look forward now to working with the parties -- the Bosnian Government, the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Croat community -- on successful elections on September 14.
I would point to two factors as being particularly important in bringing about this decision engineered by the United States.
The first was the threat by the United States to use our considerable influence to see sanctions reimposed on Serbia and the Bosnian Serb community. That is a threat that was heard throughout the region, a threat made by the United States at many points over the last several weeks.
Second, I would point to Ambassador Frowick's call more than ten days ago to bar Karadzic's political party from the elections, should he remain at the head of that party.
I think the combination of these two threats provided sufficient leverage against the Bosnian Serbs that prompted them to sign the agreement that was negotiated by Ambassador Holbrooke.
Secretary of State Christopher is very pleased to see this agreement. He sees it as a significant step forward. He does want to see implementation. He will be meeting with Dick Holbrooke later on this afternoon here at the State Department for a comprehensive debrief on this week's activities, and we will continue to play a leading role in the months ahead to see if the Dayton Peace Accords are implemented successfully, and to see the peace is the outcome of this year's struggle in Bosnia.
Q How do you know that Karadzic won't be able to direct things from the wings, as a kind of behind the scenes power broker?
MR. BURNS: Until now, Karadzic, as you know, has not shown his face in public very often; but he has been able to go on Bosnian Serb television, on radio. He appeared at a political rally two weeks ago this weekend. Under this agreement, he has now put in writing and stated publicly that he will not be able to undertake any of those activities.
So, effectively, George, he has been stripped of his political power and his political influence in a public way on these elections. And that's a very important development.
Now I can't say that, in his lair, in his ski chalet there in Pale, he will not meet with people or talk to people or perhaps even dispense political advice. But I would expect that he will be marginalized increasingly.
Other candidates now from the Bosnian Serb community will come to the fore. They will be competing for the leadership positions, and after the elections on September 14, there will be new legitimate political actors elected by the people. I think we will see that Karadzic's star will continue to wane, and we hope very much this does mean the end of his political career.
Q What about Mladic?
MR. BURNS: Mladic remains in indicted war criminal, and as we noted last week -- the one year anniversary of the brutal Bosnian Serb assault on Srebrenica and Zepa. We are mindful of the responsibilities that the parties have and that we have to see him brought to justice, ultimately brought to justice. Justice would be that Mladic would stand with Karadzic in The Hague. He would face the international community, face a prosecution for the war crimes that he has clearly committed, and would serve, we hope, a long sentence for those crimes. That remains our objective.
Q Nick, we have seen a lot of agreements signed in this Bosnia conflict, many of them with little follow-through.
What will the U.S. do if there is no follow-through on this agreement?
MR. BURNS: Well, we have never had an agreement like this. This is a copy of the agreement that was signed last night in Pale by Karadzic and in Belgrade by the other Bosnian Serbs. It's the first time that Karadzic has said he would do two things: Give up his presidency of the Republika Srpska -- and he said it here in writing -- and also give up his leadership of the party.
Now the paper is important; but as I said before, Betsy -- before you came in -- what's more important than the paper will be to see that these commitments are actually translated into reality on the ground. That's why, in addition to welcoming this development, we think that implementation of this development, of this agreement, is going to be the most important factor, and we will be watching. If the agreement is not undertaken to the letter by the Bosnian Serb leadership, then we retain some substantial measures that we can take against them -- such as the reimposition of sanctions, such as arguing against their participation in the elections -- should they not comply with this agreement.
Q Nick, you in your statement described the Secretary as pleased. Is he pleased at half a loaf? Does he want more?
MR. BURNS: We have said for a number of months now that we had four objectives for these war criminals: that they be out of influence, out of power, out of the country, and in The Hague. We have accomplished two. It is a good start. It's a first step in the right direction, and the Secretary is pleased about that. But the Secretary is not fully satisfied with this agreement because, of course, we have not yet been able to convince the parties to do what they must do and to which they signed up when they signed the accords; that is to send these war criminals to The Hague. We won't be fully satisfied until that happens.
Q General Mladic, where do things stand with him?
MR. BURNS: General Mladic remains, as you know, in his lair, his military headquarters. He has not been as active as Karadzic publicly. He remains an indicted war criminal, and you know we think he should be in The Hague as well.
Q Did you demand -- it was one of your "four" here -- that Dr. Karadzic leave the country, and why did he back down on that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to go into, and I can't go into the entire negotiating history of the last couple of days because these negotiations took place in Belgrade, not in Washington, D. C.
All I can tell you is we have an agreement that strips Mr. Karadzic of his political positions and of his power. That is significant. It's a first step. But, Roy, I said this in answer to a couple of questions, and I am really repeating myself here. We do want to see them in The Hague.
Q You say that you basically accomplished half of the four objectives. But it is questionable whether he is really out of influence -- I mean by your own statement that he can receive visitors, dispense advice freely, and influence decisions, you know, for the next months if not well beyond.
MR. BURNS: You know, a lot of his political influence, it seems to us, derives from the fact that he was an active politician. He was the head of the Republika Srpska and the head of a political party. He exercised the functions of both positions. He can no longer do so. He is publicly committed here in writing to step down from those two positions, and let me just read you what he has also committed to.
"Dr. Radovan Karadzic states that he shall withdraw immediately and permanently from all political activities. He will not appear in public or on radio or television or other media or means of communication or participate in any way in the elections." He has committed to this publicly. This is being circulated now among his constituency, the Bosnian Serb population. This is a significant, a significant, draw-down of his own authority; but I'm not going to kid you to say that somehow we can stand here and say that he won't have conversations with his political associates.
The good news is that there will be new political leaders elected by the people as of September 14, and Radovan Karadzic will not be among them.
Q So aren't those leaders, in fact all of them, hand picked by Karadzic himself?
MR. BURNS: I think there are differences within the Bosnian Serb political community. You know that. You're an expert on this area. There are people in Banja Luka specifically who oppose the current political leadership in Pale.
I think we're going to see a number of candidates put themselves forward, and whoever is elected by the Bosnian Serb people is going to have a different mandate, a legitimate mandate, than Karadzic ever had, because he was never elected democratically.
Q Well, he was elected to the last parliament.
MR. BURNS: Do you think they were democratic elections?
Q In 1991 --
MR. BURNS: Do you think they were democratic elections?
MR. BURNS: You think they were?
Q They were --
MR. BURNS: I think what we'll see on September 14 under international supervision are free and fair and democratic elections.
Q Do you really think they're going to be free and fair?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope that they'll be free and fair, yes, and that's what we're working toward. Now, the responsibility for that, of course, is with the parties themselves, the Dayton Accords. The Electoral Commission is trying to help them, as is the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, specifically Ambassador Frowick. We'll do everything we can to help them produce free and fair elections.
Q Coming back to the point I was trying to make --
MR. BURNS: And they certainly would not have been fair elections had Karadzic either run for office, which we prohibited him from doing, or had he exercised public influence on these elections, which he now cannot do.
Q But the problem is this: This is so late in the election process that I believe he was chosen or chose himself as Chairman of the commission that chose all the candidates for the SDS, which is the dominant party.
So, in other words, Karadzic's people, assuming the party has its influence, are the ones who are likely to be elected.
MR. BURNS: First of all, Roy, the election campaign itself was suspended by Ambassador Frowick until today to acquire this outcome that we have achieved.
Secondly, perhaps some of Karadzic's people are Karadzic's people, because they had no choice -- because he was the top guy, because he held the two top positions in Bosnian Serb society. Now that he has supplanted himself, now that he's taken himself away from those two positions, we'll have Mr. Buha and Madame Plavsic occupy those positions. We have no love for either of them, and we certainly have had our differences -- strong differences -- with both of them on a number of important issues.
But when different people assume these two positions of power, they won't be beholden to Radovan Karadzic any more. He will not be able to influence them in the way that he clearly could up until this morning.
Q But --
MR. BURNS: I think that's a significant difference.
Q But the candidates of that party answer to him, because they were his hand-picked candidates.
MR. BURNS: But he's no longer the big ward boss here, because he doesn't have the ability now to dish out the patronage or to make threats based on his positions of political power -- the fact that he was the President, the fact that he was the leader of the political party. He has been stripped of those positions. Other people will now inherit that power.
I'm not trying to tell you that we now somehow have a new community of values with the Bosnian Serb leadership who will succeed him. We clearly do not. But he's out of the game; and, if this is fully implemented, he will truly be out of the game. We'll watch for implementation. As you know, Roy, to put a cap on this, we're not fully satisfied and won't be until he's in The Hague.
Q (Inaudible) stripped of his authority --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. What do we hear from the Bosnian Government on this?
Q Prime Minister was here last week, and he said as long as he has influence, there is no elections. Do they like this agreement? What do they --
MR. BURNS: Vice President Ganic was fully briefed on this by Dick Holbrooke yesterday in Sarajevo on the prospect of this agreement. I heard Vice President Ganic on the radio this morning say that they were satisfied with this outcome. I've seen a public statement by the government which is skeptical on the implementation side, and I think appropriately skeptical. I think we all ought to be skeptical until we see this announcement turned into reality, but we do expect that to happen.
So I would expect that the Bosnian Government would appreciate the efforts of the United States; that the Bosnian Government would fully participate now in the elections on September 14, as will the Bosnian Serb population.
Q If he's stripped of all his political power and is no longer the big ward boss, as you said a moment ago, presumably he'd be stripped of all his privileges of those offices and the perks of them. Why wouldn't it be possible to just go in and, and even with the civilian police forces there now, and put handcuffs on him and take him to The Hague?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what his political or military protection is. It may be that he'll retain his retinue of bodyguards. I don't know. We'll have to see. The responsibility for apprehending him because he is a fugitive in a sense -- he's an indicted war criminal; there's a warrant out for his arrest, international warrant issued by the Tribunal -- the responsibility lies directly with the parties to the agreement, the Bosnian Serb authorities, Madame Plavsic, Mr. Buha, Mr. Krajisnik -- and lies with President Milosevic in Belgrade.
We are looking to them to exercise this authority. This is the part of the discussions this week that we're not satisfied with. They have refuse to take the steps of apprehending themselves, these war criminals, and turning them over to the Tribunal in The Hague for prosecution.
We still expect them to undertake these steps, and the NATO forces, the IFOR forces, still have the same rules of engagement that they have had since December, and that is that if they encounter them, they will detain them and turn them over to The Hague.
Q Calling on Madame Plavsic to arrest her predecessor in office and turn him over to The Hague; IFOR, with no change in their rules; but what about other police organizations that are operative there? Why couldn't anyone -- why do you have to wait for the Bosnian Serb Government, which hasn't been elected now -- I mean, if Karadzic turns over his power, then there is no elected leadership there to act in this way.
MR. BURNS: We will recognize that what you're suggesting is some kind of a citizen's arrest by anybody or any group of people within the Bosnian Serb community. We'll recognize that. If someone apprehends Karadzic and turns him over to IFOR forces, of course, we'll accept that. Of course, we would then make sure that he ended up in handcuffs in The Hague.
We're not saying that it's only Plavsic and Buha and Krajisnik and Milosevic who have this responsibility. But clearly as the leaders of the community -- and two of them have signed the Dayton Accords; Milosevic and Buha -- clearly they have the responsibility on paper by their signature of the Dayton Accords to do this.
Q Not to correct you, but they merely witnessed the accord.
MR. BURNS: Their signature are on -- the witnesses signed, Sid. They signed at Dayton. You watched them. I think we had even the press watch this. You saw the witnesses sign, and therefore they are parties to the accords. The Bosnian Serb political leadership present at Dayton in the combined negotiation with President Milosevic agreed that there will be full cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal. That is written into the Annex of the Dayton Accords, and you've seen it. Therefore, they're committed.
Q This agreement is merely witnessed by Milosevic. It's not --
MR. BURNS: It's witnessed by Milosevic and his Foreign Minister, Milutinovic.
Q But as a point of international law, I don't believe that commits them to uphold this agreement.
MR. BURNS: They have clearly committed to the Secretary of State's emissary, Dick Holbrooke, that they are not only on board; they will see that this is implemented. That's a commitment to the United States, which I think is a quite serious and important commitment.
Q But you agree that the paper reflecting this and not the understandings around it does not specifically commit them to enforce this.
MR. BURNS: No, I don't, because the interpretation of an accord and the commitments made prior to the signing of the accord are every bit as important in real life politics -- international -- and one government, the United States Government, will hold the Serbian Government accountable. They helped produce this agreement, so therefore they are responsible for it, just as much as anybody else.
Q Did Holbrooke offer any carrots to Milosevic for this agreement?
MR. BURNS: If that's a euphemism for a "deal" -- "carrot?" "deal?" -- let me address that. I'm glad you raised it.
Q He had a stick, I know, but did he have some carrots that he offered?
MR. BURNS: There were no deals made here, and, if you can think about what a possible deal might be, you might say, "Well, did Holbrooke agree that as part of this, the United States would promise never again to threaten the reimposition of sanctions." No, we did not, and I'd like to say again on the record today, the United States reserves the right to argue for the reimposition of sanctions, which can be called for by the IFOR Commander or the High Representative at any time, and we reserve the right to exercise this at any time from now into the future. We've not given that up at all. That's a very important consideration.
Q On a slightly different hypothetical than the hypothetical you just raised and said, did Holbrooke say to Milosevic, "Get him to sign this much of the deal, and then don't worry about them being arrested or taken to The Hague?" Is that sort of put off for a while --
MR. BURNS: No, he did not.
Q We'll let it slide.
MR. BURNS: It's a good question, but he did not. He clearly communicated to the Serbian leadership and to the Bosnian Serbs present that apprehension for transport to The Hague and prosecution at The Hague remained a very high priority of the United States.
I'm telling you today the Secretary of State believes that to continue to be a high priority, and we will operate on that basis.
Q There's other things that Serbians want beside the promise not to reimpose sanctions. They'd like normal relations with the United States. Is the United States now in the process of reconsidering its stance on such things as foreign assistance, opening an embassy, etc., etc., with Serbia?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any such consideration or any steps towards that, Sid. We have said many times that we're not going to be ready to fully normalize our relations with the Serbian Government -- that is, to go to ambassadorial relations; to argue that the Serbs should have a seat at the United Nations; to argue that they should have access to the assistance of the international financial institutions, the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions.
But we're not willing to give up that outer wall of sanctions until we see greater and more consistent cooperation on the war crimes issue and greater cooperation on the issue of Kosovo, which is also an important issue, and those concerns remain with us.
Q Do you know any details of the negotiating process? Did Holbrooke ever walk out? Did he rescue this agreement from the jaws of defeat, or anything like that?
MR. BURNS: Let's just say that Ambassador Holbrooke, who's a very creative diplomat, deployed his usual negotiating tactics and exhibited his customary negotiating style. He's a very, very tough, committed and relentless negotiator. He had a very specific objective in sight when he left here on Monday after talking with Secretary Christopher. He agreed with the Secretary on his instructions and on his objective, and he attained it, and I think he deserves congratulations.
I think the other person who deserves our congratulations is Ambassador Frowick, because I think it was his public threat to bar the SDS -- Karadzic's political party -- from the elections that had a decisive influence on the minds of the other Bosnian Serb leaders, not Karadzic but the others, because they looked into the future, obviously, and saw that they would have no role in the elections; therefore, could not become legitimate political actors after the elections and would have to live and serve under others who would be elected on September 14.
I think that in combination with the fact that the United States made it clear that reimposition of sanctions was a possibility, combined to influence the behavior of Karadzic and his associates.
Q Since he attained his specific negotiating goal, then do we assume that he did not have as his negotiating goal the removal of Mr. Karadzic from Bosnian territory?
MR. BURNS: That is a goal of the United States and the international community -- removal from country and transfer to The Hague. But at this point we believe the immediate question at hand here, Roy, was the elections; how to preserve the possibility of free and fair elections that would be universal where all political parties could participate.
We were not willing to go ahead with elections that would not be fair, meaning elections that had Karadzic's party running with Karadzic at the helm. We've now achieved that objective of taking him out of the picture.
Q So the short answer is yes, it was not his goal specifically to have him removed from Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: The short-term tactical objective this week was this agreement that we've reached. The longer term strategic goal is to see these war criminals on trial and prosecuted.
Q There's a report that Israel has given the U.S. some help in the investigation of the TWA crash. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of anything like that.
Q Has the U.S. been in touch with other countries to ask help? Has it received offers of help in the sense of investigating, you know, possible --
MR. BURNS: Let's talk about TWA for a minute, because I know it's a big interest here. You know that the National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI are the two principal federal agencies involved in investigating the origins of this crash, and that remains the case at this hour.
The State Department is giving and will give any assistance needed to both of these agencies, so that we can find out as a government what happened; and, if there are individuals or groups responsible, find them and deal with them.
As you know, those two agencies are the sole agencies making significant public statements on this, and I'm not going to change that today. We are doing what we must and what you would expect us to do to help the FBI and the NTSB in this investigation. The Secretary has been personally involved, obviously, in following this very closely. He has had several different meetings with different agency heads on this, and he'll continue to be actively involved when he's off on his trip.
He leaves tomorrow for Jakarta for the ASEAN meetings. He'll be meeting the Chinese Foreign Minister, the Russian Foreign Minister, the Indian Foreign Minister and others, and then on with Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili at the end of next week to Sydney for our annual defense talks with the Australians. The Secretary returns here Sunday, July 28. But he will follow all of this, obviously.
He will follow all this, obviously, from his trip.
Q Can you tell us some of the things he's doing to -- I mean, that we should expect you to be doing to aid those to agencies?
MR. BURNS: The State Department is not in the lead here. We are assisting the federal agencies that are in the lead, and for the moment we'd like to keep our activities private.
Mr. Lambros, on the TWA incident?
Q Without violating the rules of the freedom of the press, as a U.S. representative, as a U.S. Government representative, could you please take a position on hundreds unacceptable and biased reports in the last two days by CNN, ABC, CBS and other American media against not only the Athens international airport but Greece in general -- presented Greece almost as an area of international terrorism, using this unfortunate and tragic event of TWA.
As an example, let me to quote only yesterday's Washington Post. "Athens is known as a base of terrorist." How do you explain this unusual phenomenon? Could you please comment?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to give Judd and Ralph -- where is Laura -- Laura, Betsy; Michael Dobbs and Tom Lippman are not here to defend themselves. You've just attacked all of my friends. These are the people I work with on a daily basis, Mr. Lambros.
Q We just quote the State Department.
MR. BURNS: They just quote State, and I haven't said anything like this, Mr. Lambros. To be serious for a moment, because Greece is a valued NATO ally of the United States. I don't detect in my personal, constant observance of the TV people here, of the networks in the United States, of our major papers anything like what you're talking about.
These are journalists doing their job. They're reporting a very important story to the American people and doing a fine job. I don't accept the premise of your question.
Q There's no question. I'm talking particularly of their context, and would like to know if you take a position, if you agree with whatever they say about Greece as an area of international terrorists?
MR. BURNS: We don't have to agree with everything that journalists say or write but do respect the fact that they have to do their job. I don't detect this kind of conspiracy that you seem to think is out there.
Q I'm talking about the context of the reports.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I can't share your concern. I think the press is doing a fair job.
Q But why did they not focus more on JFK International Airport of New York City since this particular airport had the last word on security procedures prior to the takeoff of the tragic TWA plane?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on Athens airport is the following: There was a determination made in March of this year -- March 1996 -- by the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, that security at the Athens airport did not fully meet international standards.
Subsequent to that determination in March 1996, which we spoke about publicly, as you remember, the FAA worked closely, as I understand it, with the Greek Government to try to enhance and improve security at the Athens airport.
There was a subsequent FAA inspection of Athens airport in May of this year. The inspectors determined that the Athens airport was now -- was then in full compliance with international standards that are appropriate here. That is all I can say about the activities of the U.S. Government here.
It is true that there are airline flights that originated from Athens airport during the 1980s that were targets of terrorist attacks, and that I think provides some of the backdrop to the interest of some of the people in this room -- the journalists, your colleagues -- in this issue.
We have tried to work as best we can with the Greek Government, and the FAA has determined as of May that the standards of the Athens airport are satisfactory and effective.
Q But to answer my question, as far as JFK, I told you this particular airport had the last word on security procedures prior to the takeoff, and I would like your position on this.
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to judge what was done prior to the takeoff of the TWA flight. The plane then went to New York and became Flight 800, and I have very little else to say about this issue.
Q Do you know where this tragic TWA plane spent the night prior to the explosion?
MR. BURNS: I do not, but I'm sure that's probably publicly known at the time -- now. I don't, but ask TWA. I mean, that's a question for TWA, not for me.
Q So you don't know where the plane, this particular plane, spent the night prior to the takeoff?
MR. BURNS: We do not have a national airlines in the United States, point one. We don't have a national airline. These are all private companies. I would refer you to them. The FBI and the NTSB are looking into all aspects of this matter. I refer you to those two agencies to answer that question. I'm not competent to answer that question.
Q Do you have anything to announce on the status of the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: I do not have anything to announce about the status of our presence, except to say that we continue to be concerned by the security situation, obviously, that our people, our civilians, American civilians, diplomatic officials and our military people face. As you know, we issued a public statement last week, drawing the attention of all these people, the 40,000 Americans who live there, to the worsening of the security situation in terms of the number of threats that we are receiving. This is a very high priority.
The Secretary of State, Secretary Christopher, met this morning with, as you know, the Governor of Riyadh, and the basis of that discussion -- he was here on a private visit, by the way -- the basis of the discussion and the extent of it really had to deal with the Al Khobar bombing, with steps that the United States and Saudi Arabia can take together to improve security for the Americans there, civilians, diplomats, military officials.
Secretary Christopher has given very clear instructions to our Embassy in Riyadh to take whatever steps necessary to protect our diplomats. Given the fact that the United States has been the target of two bombings in Saudi Arabia -- 24 Americans killed since November, hundreds wounded -- you would expect us to do what the Secretary is doing and Secretary Perry is doing, and we'll continue to be concerned about this.
Q Is there any consideration to recommending dependents leave or anything of that kind?
MR. BURNS: Nothing to announce at this point, Judd.
Q Nick, have you all further evaluated the letter, or statement, which you received yesterday, which would seem to further threaten U.S. people?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we've looked very carefully at a -- it's not a letter, just to be precise. It is what I would describe as a political tract. It's from a group called The Movement of Islamic Change, the Jihad wing in the Arabian peninsula.
It's a political manifesto that was delivered apparently on July 16 to the Al-Hayat newspaper chain in London. The London offices of the Al-Hayat newspaper. The United States Government obtained this political tract yesterday morning, July 18, at around 10:30 in the morning. We were given this letter, this tract -- it's not a letter -- by a major American news organization.
We gave the letter immediately to the FBI and to other agencies of the U.S. Government. It was a copy of a typed Arabic script letter. We had it translated here in the Department by our professional Arabic linguists -- native speakers of Arabic, professional translators -- and I've got the letter -- the tract -- in front of me. I shouldn't say "letter." I can tell you it is a general fulmination against the American military presence in Saudi Arabia and against the Saudi Government.
At the end of the letter it talks about the prospect of an attack on the United States forces, we believe, in Saudi Arabia. This seems to be a very general threat against our forces in Saudi Arabia. I know there's been some talk about the specific language at the end of this tract, whether or not it refers to some kind of imminent threat. We do not believe it does.
The Arabic word for "tomorrow" is "bukra." The word used here is the Arabic word for "dawn," which is a very different word. It has very general meaning about the future, and we don't believe that this particular tract at this point -- there's nothing in it that would lead us to believe it's connected with the tragic incident concerning TWA Flight 800.
Q Are you aware of any other such statements as this out there that threaten U.S. citizens or military and diplomatic people, either in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the Middle East that could possibly be linked to TWA?
MR. BURNS: I am not aware of any specific threat before it happened, before the accident occurred, against TWA Flight 800. I am not aware of it. We are aware of this piece of paper which we don't believe bears any reference to the tragedy of the TWA flight.
We have had specific threats against our installations in Saudi Arabia, and we've talked about that publicly. We issued a public statement on that last week. But I'm not aware that the United States Government received any threats against TWA, against the air route, New York to Paris, before the accident occurred.
I am not aware of any subsequent threats since July 17 -- the last two days -- I'm not aware. Now, other agencies of the U.S. Government may have received warnings that we're not aware of. I doubt it, but I'm not aware of it. Really, on this, you know, I think your ultimate authority will continue to be the NTSB and the FBI.
Q Are you ruling out any possible involvement in the TWA bombing by this group?
MR. BURNS: What we are doing, Sid, is very clear. The FBI's, I think, underlying public message is, "We're not ruling anything in. We're not ruling anything out." You can never speak with 100 percent certainty in these matters, and we certainly don't presume to be doing so. But we've been asked by all of you to give you our best assessment of this political tract, and our best assessment is, this is a threat against the United States and the Saudi Government but the United States in Saudi Arabia.
It is consistent with the many threats that we have received from organizations like this, and from this particular organization, about our presence in the Middle East; not about civilian air traffic elsewhere in the world, such as here in the United States.
Q You report that there was a worsening situation in terms of number of threats in Saudi Arabia? Could you please give us an idea how many threats are issued a day, and are they all from the same organization or from this organization?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to be specific, but I will refer you to the public announcement made by the State Department last week about the very great concern we have for Americans in Saudi Arabia. We wanted all Americans who live in Saudi Arabia to be aware that we think the security situation is of concern; that they should take all appropriate measures to protect themselves; that the private Americans -- they'll have to make their own decisions about whether they want to be there, but we'll give them all assistance that we can give them, and I'm thinking of the corporations now -- Mobil and ARAMCO and others -- to help them.
It's our obligation in situations like this to be as open as we can with the American public about things that we understand diplomatically and through other means.
Q I understand that other European countries received threats in Saudi Arabia. Are you coordinating with our allies in Europe about these threats?
MR. BURNS: We're coordinating very closely with the Government of Saudi Arabia, which has primary responsibility to protect American citizens in Saudi Arabia. I know that we are talking to a number of other governments about this situation. I don't know if we've taken any steps to coordinate with them. We're coordinating actively and physically -- through physical measures to protect people in Saudi Arabia -- Americans.
Q Could you clarify a couple of points that you've just touched on, on this TWA bombing -- excuse me, TWA crash -- and we hope it's that.
Nick, the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing in Riyadh of the American facility, is that the same group as this Movement of Islamic Change?
MR. BURNS: I believe that this group is one of the groups that claim responsibility, but, of course, we don't know if that was a credible claim. This particular group has claimed responsibility for lots of different incidents in the Middle East. It's been a very active group, Xeroxing statements that they distribute to news organizations. That seems to be one of their main activities.
Q Another point, is this the only tract that has been received by the Department of State and analyzed, regarding this TWA disaster? Did it specifically mention a surprise and a particular time frame for this event that they were warning about?
MR. BURNS: Again, I don't believe that this political tract -- we don't believe that it refers to the TWA disaster. It is the only political tract that I'm aware of that we've received here in the last couple of days, here in the Department of State in Washington.
Our Embassies sometimes receive various manifestos and threats. That's commonplace for Embassies. Again, Bill, I've already covered this, but I would just note that we don't believe that there's anything specific in terms of timing about this general threat, and we don't believe it's specific to the TWA crash. We believe it is a general threat against Americans in Saudi Arabia.
Q Two days ago, Secretary Perry announced that the U.S. Government is planning new measures with several countries where there are U.S. forces and also U.S. missions. He counted several countries, which include Bosnia and Turkey. Did you get any threats against your missions in Turkey and against your forces in Turkey?
MR. BURNS: We don't always talk about all the threats that we receive, because it is an unfortunate fact of diplomatic life that nearly all of our Embassies and Consulates overseas at some point face public or private threats from various groups.
We take them all seriously, and we look into all of them, and we do everything we can to protect our diplomats overseas -- our Embassies and our Consulates and the lives of our people and their dependents, and we'll continue in that fashion.
Some threats are higher alerts than others, and the Saudi ones are getting particular attention these days from the senior leadership here at the State Department.
Q Given the scrutiny you're giving these threats as they relate to Saudi Arabia, do you have anything to say about the newspaper in London, Al-Hayat, failure to hand this threat over to any identifiable government officials, whether it be the United States or other countries?
MR. BURNS: It would be unfair for me to comment, because I'm not aware of the circumstances under which this political tract was given to Al-Hayat. I'm not exactly aware of what time of day it was. Did it come over the fax at 4:00 in the morning and no one was there? I don't know.
So absent the kind of knowledge that one would have to have to make a credible statement on this, I think I'm going to punt on that one.
Q You say they haven't come forward since then to explain?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. Again, we have a very large diplomatic establishment around the world. I can't know what all of our diplomats are -- who they're talking to, what they're saying. I just know that we've looked at this very carefully from a linguistic point of view and from a political point of view.
We have people in this building who have lived in Beirut and Riyadh and who are Arabists, who speak the language, understand the culture, who know these organizations and have had experience with them. Our best guess, our best analysis, is that this does not have an impact on the current investigation. But, nonetheless, we've turned it over, and we'll let the FBI make the final judgment on that.
Q You said the linguists looked at this, and you have experts from different parts of the Arab world. Did they make any determination what dialect this -- because you can tell in Arabic whether it's the Gulf or --
MR. BURNS: Oh, yes. We have Arab speakers who speak North African dialects, who speak Levantine dialects, who speak Egyptian Arabic -- which is the classical Arabic, as you know -- and we have made sure that a variety of people have looked at this six different ways. This is an important document that we had yesterday, and we looked at it with great seriousness. And I've said about all I can say on this issue.
Mr. Lambros, is this again on this particular issue? Are we going back to the Athens airport?
Q Yes, that's it exactly.
MR. BURNS: That's unfortunate. Is there a new angle that you have that you want to try out on us?
Q May we have the State Department's assessment today for the Athens international airport?
MR. BURNS: The State Department is not competent to address security at the Athens airport. That's not part of our job. The FAA is competent and issued a statement in May, which I think speaks for itself. It used the word "effective." The FAA said it thought that the standards were "effective." The FAA speaks for the United States Government in these matters, not the State Department.
Q And as far as you're concerned, that statement stands?
MR. BURNS: The FAA is the competent federal agency. We must respect the views and the competence and the professionalism of the FAA.
Q And as far as you're concerned, that FAA statement still applies today to the Athens airport?
MR. BURNS: That is the current U.S. analysis of the safeguards at Athens airport, yes.
Still on this issue?
MR. BURNS: Thank goodness, we're going to leave this issue. Very good.
Q On Wednesday Assistant Secretary Lord criticized North Korea for asking for concessions before the four-way talks, and I believe Secretary Christopher has also criticized North Korea. Does this signal a new policy of linking humanitarian aid with the four-way talks?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we've not done that. I think of food aid as humanitarian aid, and we have promised $6.2 million in food assistance through international organizations to North Korea, which has a big problem in feeding its own people. We did not make that public commitment conditional on North Korea's acceptance of the four-party proposal.
We are going ahead with that proposal, trying to convince the North Koreans -- the Chinese, the Republic of Korea and the United States are trying to convince the North Koreans that it's in their own interest to accept this proposal, meaning to begin a political discussion with four countries about the objective of a peace agreement on the Korean peninsula. It seems to us to be the right thing to do for all of our interests.
Q But if North Korea were to make additional requests for humanitarian assistance, food aid, would they be linked to the four-way talks?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it's part of the political dialogue right now because they already have a substantial commitment from us and from the rest of the international community. Therefore, it's hypothetical and not really of interest to us.
Q Has the United States decided to invite the Chinese President to Washington for a state visit early next year? And when the Secretary meets with the Chinese Foreign Minister, will they work out the details of the visit?
MR. BURNS: When the United States is ready to announce any kind of trip like that, of course, that announcement will come from Mike McCurry at the White House. Secretary Christopher said publicly in his speech a couple of months ago in New York that he felt -- and this is the view of the U.S. Government -- that it makes sense for there to be an exchange of visits by our national leaderships, including the President and President Jiang Zemin, in each other's capitals. We very much hope that will be the case in the future, in 1997. We've not made any specific announcement about when that would take place and which capital would be visited first.
We do know the following. Secretary Christopher will meet Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian in Jakarta in a couple of days. They'll have very important discussions there about this issue and about other issues.
Secretary Christopher will see Minister Qian in September in New York. We will see the Chinese leadership again in Manila at the APEC summit at the end of November. There are many opportunities now for us to engage with the Chinese in the wake of Tony Lake's very successful visit to Beijing.
We have a feeling that our relations are on an upward trajectory, which is very good news after the very tumultuous year of 1995 in U.S.-China relations. We feel we're on the right track. We feel we're making progress on some issues, and that's a very good sign, indeed, as the Secretary heads off to Asia.
This is an important trip for the Secretary because Asia, of course, is a place where the United States is a power, a Pacific power, where we have vital national interests, a number of them; a number of very important allies in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and others; but also a very important relationship with China.
The Secretary, I think, as he surveys the trip, sees his meeting with Qian as one of the more important meetings that he will have -- one of the more important meetings on the trip.
Q Deputy Assistant Secretary Wiedemann has been quoted as saying that the U.S. hopes the Chinese President will be able to come, say, in the first quarter of 1997.
MR. BURNS: I would just remind you that the White House will announce any timing of Presidential visits or Presidential invitations, and the White House has not done that. That's the place you should look if you're looking for an answer to that particular question.
Q Former Ambassador to Korea Lilley wrote an Op-Ed today in the Post saying why should the Congress fund the $25 million for KEDO when Kim Jung Il spends $134 million on, you know, whatever house refurbishing and big birthday parties for himself, etc. How do you all respond to this? He was criticizing it.
MR. BURNS: Well, when Ambassador Lilley was active diplomatically, there was no agreement with North Korea to freeze its nuclear program. Since this Administration took office, there has been an agreement worked out by the United States to freeze that program. And there has been this international institution set up -- KEDO -- to enforce the agreement.
Is Ambassador Lilley suggesting that it is not in the vital national security interests of the United States to see the continuation of the freeze on North Korea's military nuclear programs? And if the price of that is $25 million, when Japan and the Republic of Korea are paying billions of dollars to freeze that program, is he saying that we can't afford that?
If we can't afford $25 million, then we are no longer the type of power that the Clinton Administration believes us to be: a world power, the world's preeminent power. It should not be beyond the Congress to find $25 million in a budget of several hundred billion dollars to fund a vital national interest, which is the continuation of the freeze.
We have a major disagreement with the Congress and with Ambassador Lilley.
Q You haven't addressed his argument. I mean, his argument is not that we don't have enough money and we can't fork it over. The argument is why should we when they are spending all of this money. I mean, that's -- can you address that?
MR. BURNS: We have made a determination as a government, we made it in November 1994, that despite the totalitarian nature of the government and society, despite the outrageous policies of the North Korean government towards its own people, we were going to work with them to freeze their nuclear program; that there was a higher interest involved, mainly preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world.
That is a very high national interest. I don't believe anyone, any credible person, can argue with that. Twenty-five million dollars is not a lot of money to achieve that objective. That's the Clinton Administration's argument with Congress.
Q He's using the same argument that you all used in another case, with Saddam Hussein, when he was trying to get permission to sell his oil; he's still trying. You said he should quit building palaces and start feeding his people with his own money. I mean, isn't the argument --
MR. BURNS: The problem, Sid, is this. Saddam Hussein is hopeless. (Laughter) He's hopeless. He is a hopeless cause, and we are going to have nothing to do with him. We have chosen for tactical reasons to work with the North Koreans, and we are going to continue that. Our allies, Japan and the Republic of Korea, have chosen the same policy. We are working, the three of us, together. We now have the support of the European Union and of other governments around the world.
I don't know anybody in Washington, inside or outside the government -- I don't know the Ambassador, the former Ambassador -- who doesn't think that this was the right decision, to engage the North Koreans on this issue. So I don't think there is any argument here. I think it's the end of argument. We've got the right policy. We are doing the right thing, and we are doing it very capably. That's my impression of our own policy.
Betsy. Is this a follow-up?
Q Do you -- no, well, it's a North Korea question.
MR. BURNS: All right, we'll do this one.
Q Do you have any idea when our food aid is due to begin arriving?
MR. BURNS: I can take that question. Let me take the question. We are delivering it through the non-governmental organizations. And let me take the question. We can probably give you a statement tonight on what we are doing.
Q Some on the Hill are saying that the question isn't the policy or whether the United States has the money, but that the Administration hasn't been forceful enough in getting countries like the European Union to contribute.
MR. BURNS: I think that is laughable, and I rarely would use that word. I am speaking officially here, and we have some decorum, right, at the State Department briefing. It's laughable.
Our two major allies have committed to $4 billion.
Q I think they are saying --
MR. BURNS: Our two major allies --
Q -- that Japan and Korea --
MR. BURNS: Talk about burden sharing. We are committing $25 million, and somehow this is unfair? I don't understand the argument.
Q Their argument would be that the United States and North Korea (sic) and South Korea are providing a lot of money for this, and the United States has been providing a lot just having troops in South Korea, that those three countries have done enough. The United States should have gone to European countries for some burden-sharing in this issue.
MR. BURNS: Well, the countries directly affected in North Asia are contributing $4 billion -- the countries that helped us negotiate the freeze and who help us run KEDO and have sponsored KEDO. They appropriately are paying the lion's share. That is burden-sharing in our Asia policy.
We have asked the Europeans to contribute, individual countries as well as the European Union. They are contributing. We had better watch it. If the Congress has its way, Luxembourg's total is going to be more than ours. So we had better watch it here and make sure that the United States is doing its fair share.
The argument shouldn't be are the Europeans doing enough. The argument should be is the United States doing enough, if we can't come up with $25 million. Are we doing our share. Our answer is no. We've got to come up with $25 million.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. We have a couple other of your colleagues -- you are free to leave, but I mean, I don't want to -- these are very --
MR. BURNS: Friends of mine are asking questions.
Q On Mexico.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Mexican military were recently attacked by what seems to be a new guerrilla group in the southern state of Guerrero. Last time, about three weeks ago, you couldn't comment about this specific issue. Is the State Department worried about the last activity of this movement, and has there been any kind of assistance or offer of assistance to the Mexican Government by the U.S.A? And do you foresee this new movement to affect the image -- in terms of the image that Mexico has been trying to recreate after the Zapatista movement?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it affects the very good friendship and cooperation that we have with Mexico. It doesn't affect our view of the Mexican Government's very professional, competent policies in economics and in foreign policy.
We are aware of the group. I'm not aware of any request for assistance from the Government of Mexico to the United States concerning this group. I think this is an internal Mexican affair. We should not intrude upon this unless the Mexican Government desires our assistance, which I don't believe it does.
So I just think I'll leave my comments there.
Q (Inaudible) just to ask you --
MR. BURNS: We are going to wrap this briefing up pretty quickly. Very quickly, Bill.
Q Is there any indication that the drug cartels of Mexico are in any way associated with this guerrilla violence, not only in Guerrero but I understand in Veracruz?
MR. BURNS: I have no way of knowing that. I just don't know the answer to that question.
Q Just one more on Cyprus. Any read-out on Ambassador Albright's visit to Cyprus -- (inaudible) by the Turkish invasion forces?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do have something on this, Mr. Lambros. I am very glad to answer this question.
Ambassador Albright is concluding her trip to the Mediterranean. She met with President Demirel in Ankara, with Prime Minister Erbakan, with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ciller, with Under Secretary Oymen, and Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Bir.
She had very good, productive talks in Turkey. They were friendly, they were constructive; and she continued the consultations that we have undertaken on the problem of Cyprus, where the United States is offering ideas to try to resolve the problem of Cyprus and really create some movement in the political negotiations among the major actors there.
She also had good discussions with the Turks on bilateral U.S.-Turkish issues concerning Operation Provide Comfort, which is a very important issue to us.
The situation in the Aegean, relations between Turkey and Greece, Bosnia -- for instance, the Equip and Train Program where the Turks have been a very, very staunch ally of the United States -- and other questions.
So, she and Ambassador Beattie are returning tomorrow to the United States, and they have had a very successful trip.
Q What about Cyprus, I asked you.
MR. BURNS: I've really said what I can say on Cyprus. We have begun a new political effort to try to inject forward momentum in the Cyprus negotiations. We have offered our own ideas. We have had very good talks with the Greek Government, the Turkish Government, with the parties in Cyprus, the Cypriot Government, and I think we are satisfied that we have done what we can this week. We'll continue this effort. Ambassador Beattie will be returning to the Mediterranean for further discussions on the Cyprus problem in the months ahead.
(The briefing concluded at 2:50 p.m.)
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