U.S. Department of State 96/07/23 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, July 23, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Students From American University's Washington Semester Program............................................ 1 Birthday of Senior Correspondent of USA Today Lee Katz........ 1 Town Mtg, July 25, in Minneapolis/St. Paul.................... 2 On-The-Record Briefing, July 25, at Press Briefing Room....... 2 AttyGen Janet Reno, U/S Peter Tarnoff, & A/S Phil Wilcox To Represent US at G-7 Summit, Paris, on July 30th............. 2 US Strongly Condemns Massacre in Gitega, Burundi.............. 2-4 A/S John Kornblum's Travel To/Upcoming Talks in the Balkans... 4-5 Bosnia Federation President Ganic's Visit to Belgrade......... 5 US Sends Equipment to Bosnia to Support Open Broadcast Network 5 US Welcomes Agrmts Between Govt of Tajikistan/Tajik Opposition 5-6 BURUNDI Alleged Article on USUN Amb Albright Requesting Rpt from UNSYG Boutros-Ghali on Deteriorating Situation/Possible Contingency Planning of Intl Force.......................... 6-7 COLOMBIA US/GOC Civil Aviation Discussions: --DOS' Involvement in Dispute Between Two Airlines............ 7-9 Visit of ForMin Mejia/Counternarcotics & Aviation Issues...... 7-8 DOS Announcements/FAA Role on Travel Warnings for Various Airports --Athens/Lagos................................................ 10-11 IRAQ Denial of Access of UNSCOM Monitoring Team/GOI In Violation of Agreement w/UN re Inspections............................... 11-12 ARMS CONTROL Leak of Classified Document/Alleged Report re China Sale to Syria/No US Determination On Issue....................... 12-15 Secretary Christopher at ARF/ASEAN Mtgs re CTBT Draft Treaty: --Russian/US Support Joint Stmt Issued........................ 20-22 US on Restraint of Arms Sales in Chile/Arms Sales Policies.... 22-23 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Amb Dennis Ross' Travel to London & the Region................ 13 French Govt Involvement/Chairing the Monitoring Group......... 18-19 German Govt Role in Return of Two Israeli's Remains & Prisoners/ Positive Working Relationship w/GOI & GOL................... 19 --No Change of US Policy Towards Iran......................... 19 VIETNAM Congressman Pete Peterson's Hearing/Nomination as Ambassador.. 15-16 SAUDI ARABIA Update on Bombing Investigation of Al Khobar Bombing/ Authorized Departure of Family Members...................... 16-17 MISCELLANEOUS DOS' Role in Security Issues re TWA Flight 800 Tragedy........ 17-18 KOREA US Talks w/China re Proposed Four Party Talks................. 19 Secretary Christopher's Talks at ASEAN Mtg re Food Aid/ Four Party Talks............................................ 20 CHILE MOD Criticism of Amb Comments re Civilian Control of Military. 22 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Amb Holbrooke's Remarks on Jim Lehrer Newshour re Longer-Term View of Karadzic Situation.................................. 23 A/S Kornblum's Travel to the Region/Issues to Be Discussed.... 24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JULY 23, 1996, 1:04 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to welcome today 15 students from American University's Washington Semester Program -- mainly high school seniors, I understand, from all over the United States, participating in a three-week seminar on U.S. foreign policy. So welcome to all of you.
This gives me particular pleasure to see Mr. Lee Katz seated in the back row, because we allowed a very important anniversary to go unnoticed yesterday, and that is the fact that he reached a significant age yesterday. He is now truly a senior diplomatic correspondent of USA Today. I can't divulge his age, but I understand it's the kind of age when you're a baseball player, you're over the hill. When you're a football player, you've probably been retired for ten years, but there's no retirement age for you, Lee, I think. Thank you for coming. Thank you very much.
Do you have a statement you want to make to us?
MR. KATZ: Yeah, I went two for three the other day, so --
MR. BURNS: Excellent!
MR. KATZ: So I'm not over the hill.
MR. BURNS: Despite your advanced years.
MR. KATZ: Yes.
MR. BURNS: That's good.
MR. KATZ: It's the same as the State Department Spokesman, I might point out.
MR. BURNS: We're the same age. See, I share your pain. I understand what it's like to turn that round number.
MR. KATZ: You bear it better.
MR. BURNS: Okay. I wanted to remind all of you that the Department is going to be organizing another Town Meeting this week, Thursday, July 25, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, featuring Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gare Smith on human rights, and Ambassador Bill Montgomery who, as you know, is an important adviser to the Secretary on implementation of the Bosnian agreement.
This Town Meeting has nearly 800 people signed up for it. It's one of our more successful. As you know, we have 23 Town Meetings across the country this year to talk about U.S. foreign policy.
We're going to be organizing an ON-THE-RECORD briefing here tomorrow at 3:00 o'clock, for those of you who are interested, and it will be given by Ambassador Jim Pardew who, as you know, is our Special Representative for Military Stabilization in the Balkans. He's coordinating the equip-and-train program for the Bosnian Government. The briefing is 3:00 p.m. here in this briefing room tomorrow afternoon, for those of you who are interested.
Yesterday, I was asked who will be representing the United States at the July 30th Ministerial meeting in Paris on counter-terrorism. Attorney General Janet Reno, Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff and Assistant Secretary of State Phil Wilcox, our Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, will be the three U.S. Government representatives.
Secretary Christopher will be in Washington that day, because he'll be meeting, along with the President, with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
I wanted to say a few words about the situation in Burundi. Yesterday, the Department issued a public statement on the deteriorating tragic and very violent situation in Burundi, and we've given a great deal of attention to this problem over the last couple of months but certainly during the last several days.
I'd like to reiterate and reaffirm today the very strong condemnation that the United States has over the massacre in Gitega, in Burundi, over the weekend of 300 women and children -- innocent people.
On July 3, 80 women and children were also massacred. This is outrageous, and it's evil, and this cycle of violence must cease.
The international community cannot allow the extremists in Burundi and Rwanda to set the agenda, and the international community is resolved to work together to use our influence on these governments, working with the governments of Central Africa, along the lines of the Arusha peace process, to try to end this cycle of violence.
And I'd like to forcefully restate a position that we have enunciated before, but that has not received -- I think -- a great deal of attention; and that is, under no circumstances would we tolerate a government installed by force or intimidation in Burundi, and the United States would work to isolate such a government. Constitutional processes must be followed.
The only viable approach that we know of to stop the violence and to end the slaughter of women and children -- innocent people -- is for the African countries, but more importantly for the authorities -- the political leaders of Burundi and Rwanda -- to follow the Arusha peace process and to work with the other African Governments along those lines, to follow up the very good work that has been done by former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere.
What the United States has done since April and May of this year is the following: National Security Adviser Tony Lake traveled to Central Africa, to Burundi, on May 14 -- to urge publicly for reconciliation, for refugee repatriation, to demonstrate our concern over the violence in Burundi, and to specifically warn Burundians that the United States would isolate and oppose any government that came to power by force. And I want to repeat that warning today.
On June 17, the President and the Secretary of State named former Congressman Howard Wolpe as the United States Special Envoy to the Burundi peace process. He has spent much of the intervening time in Central Africa, talking to the Burundians and Rwandans and talking to the governments about this problem.
Assistant Secretary of State George Moose and our Special Coordinator, Richard Bogosian -- Ambassador Bogosian -- have also traveled, both of them, to the region during the last several months. And we have dispatched an American military planning team to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to work with the governments sponsoring the Arusha peace process, to advise them on ways to set up an effective operation to try to stem the violence.
As you know, we've been also working with Secretary General Boutros-Ghali at the United Nations to lend our support for contingency efforts, to think about ways by which the international community can be effective in stemming the violence.
The United States will not offer troops to any international force that may or may not be produced in the future, but we will be prepared to offer our lift, communications and other logistical military support that can be useful.
In addition to the massacre over the weekend and the July 3 massacre, the United States is gravely concerned by the events over the last couple of days concerning Rwandan refugees in Burundi. Over 13,000 Rwandan refugees have been forcibly repatriated into Rwanda from Burundi over the last few days. Some 6,000 other Rwandan refugees have fled into the hills from the camps to avoid being forced back to Rwanda over the border.
We believe that Rwandan officials were present at the camps with the Burundi authorities when these forced expulsions took place. While both the United States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees continue to encourage the voluntary return of Rwandan refugees to their homes, we strongly oppose forcible repatriation.
The United States calls upon the Government of Burundi to honor its obligation to provide protection for these refugees on its territory and to respect the principle of non-forcible return. Forced repatriation is not only in contravention of international law and humanitarian principles, it also adds to instability in Central Africa itself.
The United States also calls upon the Government of Rwanda not to be a party to these forced returns by the Burundian Government. Complicity on the part of Rwanda undermines its promises of unconditional voluntary return of refugees in both safety and in dignity.
I have a couple more announcements on a very busy day here. I'd like to let you all know that Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum and his Bosnia negotiating team intend to return to the Balkans early next week. They will continue to work on -- what has become for us over the last year -- one of the priority issues in American foreign policy: to insure that the Dayton peace accords -- engineered with the help of the United States, are fully adhered to -- and specifically, the part of those accords that pertains to war crimes and to human rights.
Ambassador Kornblum will be talking to the Serbian Government -- and to others in the region, about making sure that the agreement reached last Friday -- with Radovan Karadzic, is carried out to the "T," meaning that Karadzic is out of influence and out of power, and that no attempt is
made by Karadzic to insert himself into the political campaign -- the electoral campaign, that is now underway.
As a direct follow-up to Ambassador Dick Holbrooke's trip -- as you know, there was also a very significant visit today by the Bosnian Federation Vice President Ejup Ganic to Belgrade, where he had several hours of discussions with President Milosevic and other Serbian officials.
It was the first time that a Bosnian Federation official had traveled to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Ambassador John Menzies, our Ambassador to Bosnia, and Mr. Dick Sklar, our Economic Assistance Coordinator also made this trip. The conversation with the Serbian authorities had to do with logistics -- opening up rail lines, roads, communications -- trying to regularize business travel between Serbia and Bosnia so that economic normalization can return to the area. We see this visit today by Vice President Ganic as a very significant visit.
In addition to that -- those announcements on Bosnia, I wanted to let you know that the United States is also delivering, beginning today, the first equipment that will support the open broadcast network in Bosnia. This is a project designed to support an independent media in Bosnia -- specifically, to enhance the capability of the independent TV stations. This is to weave them together in a web of support by the international community -- which is valued at $10 million -- to give them equipment and to give them technical training so that these TV stations throughout the country can play a role in the electoral process -- in the campaign, in the free transmission of ideas and of political views.
This independent TV network -- we hope, will begin operations shortly. It combines TV stations in Sarajevo, in Zenica, Tuzla and Mostar; and it also includes Bosnian Serb TV journalists who are working right now in Banja Luka. It's a very important project that is being supported with $2 million of American money. But the European Union -- Japan, Germany, Sweden are also supporting this. And as I said, the total value is $10 million.
Finally, there is a statement -- in addition to the other statements that I've already read and told you about on Central Africa -- we have a statement today on Tajikistan. I will not read it in full; just let you know that the United States welcomes the agreements on a cease-fire and exchange of prisoners between the Government of Tajikistan and the Tajik opposition. This was worked out over the last couple of days in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. These negotiations were facilitated and engineered by the United Nations Special Representative for Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem. I think he deserves a lot of the credit for this success as does the Government of Tajikistan.
Q Back on Burundi. The Post has a story today about Burundi. There's a sentence there near the bottom which says that Ambassador Albright had asked Boutros-Ghali to report to the Council in greater detail about the situation inside Burundi. And she added, "The United States would need 24-48 hours to take stock and decide what it might do next." Do you know what that's all about?
MR. BURNS: I know that there's been a lot of discussion over the last couple of days up at the United Nations about the deteriorating situation in Burundi.
I can just tell you, George, that the United States -- as I said, has already participated and would be glad to continue to participate in contingency planning organized by the United Nations for any possible response that the United Nations chooses to make about the situation there.
For instance, if the United Nations wanted to suggest that some kind of international force might insert itself to return the situation to one of stability. Now I want to be very clear -- the United States will not be prepared to contribute to troops to this effort, but we do have military lift -- communications, and other resources that are rather unique and substantial. We have advised the United Nations that we would be willing to consider contributing some of those resources.
In addition to that, we are very active diplomatically.
Q How close is the U.N. to making a decision on an international force?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it's close to making a decision. I think there's been talk over a long period of time -- several months -- about the possibility of this coming to a head. I don't know if that situation warrants it now. That's something that the U.N. Secretary General, Mr. Boutros-Ghali, will have to consider seriously along with other member states. There are other governments beyond Africa -- some European governments, for example -- who will also have, I think, a major role to play in the discussion up at the United Nations.
So Ambassador Albright, I think, is saying here that she certainly is willing to participate in any discussion. We have a very high level of diplomatic involvement. We have, I think, a keen appreciation for some of the problems because of the travels of Mr. Wolpe and Ambassador Bogosian and Assistant Secretary Moose -- Tony Lake. And so we do have a lot we can add to this conversation.
Q She's implying that the decision-making time is imminent, but you're not suggesting that yourself?
MR. BURNS: When I say "imminent," would I lead you to believe that a decision would be made today or tomorrow? No. If "imminent" is several weeks, possibly; but certainly not the next day or two, as far as I understand the situation there.
Q I have one on Colombia. I understand yesterday there are people -- (inaudible) Columbian negotiators there discussing the American Airlines claim that they want to regain their route they had to Colombia, so on and so forth. I was wondering if you had anything on the meeting, what went on, any readout?
MR. BURNS: We have been engaged in civil aviation conversations with the Government of Colombia. I don't have anything specific to report to you on them.
I can just tell you that we hope to resolve some of the outstanding difficulties and differences that clearly exist right now. We hope to resolve them amicably.
I should also tell you -- I think I got a question yesterday -- about the visit of the Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia. She will be here this week -- she will have a full schedule. She'll be seeing Assistant Secretary Davidow, Assistant Secretary Gelbard, Assistant Secretary John Shattuck here in the Department. She'll also meet Ambassador Babbitt, the United States Ambassador to the OAS.
She'll be over seeing General McCaffrey and also officials of the National Security Council as well as the Department of Justice.
We have a very full relationship with Colombia. Needless to say, given the events of the last several months, we would like very much to improve our relationship with Colombia.
The focus of her visit, if I had to choose any one issue, would be counternarcotics. As you know, we would like the Colombian Government to work with us more closely on counternarcotics cooperation. We're looking for deeds, not just words. I think her visit in that sense is an important visit.
Q Is it going to be raised with her?
MR. BURNS: Oh, absolutely. The issue of counternarcotics will be raised in every meeting with her.
Q Civil aviation?
MR. BURNS: Civil aviation? I suppose that would also come up given the fact that there are on-going negotiations.
Q I know that you don't have any details on the meeting, but can you at least tell me if it's correct that negotiations have stopped for a while? Or when are they going to resume?
MR. BURNS: I understood that we were continuing our talks with the Colombians on the civil aviation issue. Perhaps after the briefing, we can get you a more detailed answer from our Inter-American Affairs Bureau.
Q Nick, on that subject, why is the United States mediating a dispute that involves two American carriers?
MR. BURNS: You know, the United States often gets involved in civil aviation issues all over the world -- with governments and with airlines -- if we can be helpful, because we have a great interest in ensuring access by American carriers to foreign markets. I don't find it unusual that we're involved in this case.
Q But it really doesn't mean -- specifically, it doesn't involve the Colombian Government, as I understand it, but these two airlines vying for this route, that one of the airlines dropped two years ago, to an airport that you all don't even consider safe. Can you talk a little bit about it?
MR. BURNS: I'm not an expert in these negotiations. If you want to talk about it in greater length, we can find somebody in the building who is, or we can talk about it again tomorrow. I don't have anything more to offer you on these particular discussions, however.
Q What is the precedent for the United States getting involved -- the State Department getting involved in a mediation that doesn't involve a foreign issue?
MR. BURNS: Let me remind you that the State Department has the lead in the U.S. Government for the negotiation of civil aviation agreements. The State Department takes the lead; our Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs does. So that's not unusual.
But, Sid, if you have a particular interest in this set of negotiations, we can find the negotiators who will talk to you.
Q There's just been several questions over the last week or so and no real answers.
MR. BURNS: We can ask. Tom Casey in the Bureau of Interamerican Affairs -- he believes, as I do, that we should be forthcoming with the press. He and I will work together to get you someone to talk to on this.
Do you have a follow-up?
Q Without getting in major details, given so many tensions between the United States and Colombia in recent months -- the certification -- do you have any hope that there will be a resolution on this matter?
MR. BURNS: On the civil aviation matter? We certainly hope so. We certainly hope so. It's certainly not insurmountable. We do have a complicated relationship. It's complicated by the failure of the Colombian Government to take the necessary steps to fight the narco-traffickers, in our opinion. That remains the focal point of U.S.-Colombian relations.
Q I understand the last resort in this matter would be sanctions. Do you believe that --
MR. BURNS: Are you referring to the civil aviation case?
MR. BURNS: I think what I'd like to do, if both of you are interested, we'll have Tom Casey arrange some kind of a briefing for you. I really can't take the issue any farther than I've taken it, however. As you can see, I'd much rather talk about counternarcotics than civil aviation.
Yes, Lee. I should have called on you -- even George probably would have given way had you led off the briefing today.
You feeling okay this morning? Are you feeling energetic?
Q I could barely get up this morning. (Laughter) Speaking of safety, what do these warnings mean -- when the State Department passes on, as we were talking about the safety of the airport in Bogota and I believe the other one that has been cited as not having full safety procedures in place is the airport in Lagos, Nigeria -- what does that mean for the travelling public? What does that mean -- what goes into that certification? And what does it mean when that is withdrawn and reinstated as in the case of Athens?
MR. BURNS: In the case of Athens? Right. I think in every case the Federal Aviation Administration is the lead U.S. Government agency responsible for certifying for the American travelling public that a particular airport is safe or not safe for foreign travel. The State Department issues -- sometimes will issue -- public notices. But the work is done by the FAA.
In the case of Athens Airport -- I wish Mr. Lambros was here to defend the Greek honor -- I can tell you that as of May, the FAA had publicly issued a statement certifying that Athens Airport has effectively met international standards for air safety.
Now, in the case of Lagos and sometimes other airports around the world -- if those internationally agreed-upon standards are not met and if the FAA inspectors and investigators believe the airports to be unsafe in any way, then the United States Government has an obligation to let the travelling public know that. We do that by posting public statements, by informing travel agents.
You've seen it at the airports when you go through the detection machinery. Oftentimes, they will have notices about which airports around the world are not considered safe. Lagos, in the past, has been one of those.
That's generally, Lee, how the process works.
Q Is that a statement that people shouldn't travel there or should be extremely wary? What kind of message is the State Department and the FAA trying to send when they issue such advisories?
MR. BURNS: We want the United States Government to be accountable to the public and we want it to be forthcoming. The message is that people should be aware that in certain airports around the world, we don't believe the conditions -- the safety conditions, the security conditions, the detection devices, the security process as people check in for flights, as bags are taken through turnstiles -- we don't believe that those conditions meet international standards.
Therefore, we think the American public ought to know about that. People have to make their own decisions about whether or not they will travel to those airports. But, certainly, they need that information to make a rational decision about whether or not they should travel.
There has been a lot of talk about the Athens Airport. I do want to remind you that the FAA, although it had questions in March/April of this year, those questions were resolved. In May, it certified that the Athens Airport was safe for travel.
Do you have a follow up, or like to follow up?
Q Iraq has been up to its old tricks, denying UNSCOM access to sites that they want to inspect.
There was an agreement reached in June which was supposed to give them access to some of these sites, but since then they have even bridged this agreement.
That UNSCOM team is now out of Iraq. What action does the U.S. favor in responding to this non-compliance?
MR. BURNS: We favor a very skeptical international attitude about any suggestion that sanctions should be lifted on Iraq. If Saddam Hussein thinks that somehow this is the way to convince not only those who are favorably disposed towards him, but also the U.N. Security Council, that sanctions should be lifted, then he's doing the wrong thing. He's sadly mistaken.
Every time Ambassador Ekeus and his team show up in Iraq -- every time they go there -- they are stymied by the Iraqi authorities in their attempts to visit suspicious facilities; in this case, a suspicious facility outside of Baghdad which UNSCOM had reason to believe had been the site of some illegal and nefarious activity having to do with weapons of mass destruction.
It makes you wonder, once again, about Iraq's trustworthiness, about its word, about its ability and inclination to carry out its international commitments.
After the last go-around, a month or so ago, the Iraqis came forward in New York -- the representatives of Saddam Hussein -- and in Baghdad and said "we won't do it again; we'll treat the United Nations fairly; we'll let you in; everything will be above board."
Well, UNSCOM showed up, as you know, yesterday morning and they were denied access to the facility they wanted to visit. So I think what Saddam Hussein is doing, he's about 200 feet down in the hole and he's still digging and the dirt is flying up. To extricate himself from the hole is going to take many, many years. Because the United Nations is rightly skeptical and the United States is quite willing to wield our veto power on the Security Council to make sure that any country foolish enough to wish to ease sanctions on Iraq will not gets its way.
Q Are you willing to ratchet-up, sort of up the ante, on Iraq? Is there any further action that you want to take -- that this government wants to take -- to find them somehow in breach of the 1991 agreement, or --
MR. BURNS: We believe that they are in violation of the agreements that have been made between Iraq and the United Nations on the issue of inspections. They're clearly in violation of those agreements.
Not all countries share that point of view, surprisingly. Some countries are willing to continue to give Iraq the benefit of the doubt. Those countries, we think, ought to look again.
We're going to have a very skeptical attitude, Betsy. I think it forms our point of view on other issues where Iraq comes up. The Iraqi Government cannot be trusted.
Q While we're in the region. This story here says, "CIA suspects that China is sending missile parts to Syria." Do you also suspect that Syria is up to something these days?
MR. BURNS: I never discuss intelligence reports, especially when they appear as leaked intelligence information in the Washington Times. I just don't do it as a matter of principle.
Q How do you know this is leaked?
MR. BURNS: I have a strong suspicion. The track record is there. But, in any case, if you'd like to discuss the issue -- you could reformulate the question. I just can't discuss intelligence issues. A major paper says, "The CIA believes this; the CIA believes that." The CIA is many things. He may be talking to one or two people in the CIA. He should say that. I'm not going to comment on CIA views on that issue. I read the article very carefully.
Q It lists here factual details. Don't you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: Which the CIA has not published for the benefit of the Washington Times or the rest of the Press Corps. So therefore I won't talk about the CIA's views.
I can tell you, however -- because I know you are a responsible journalist, we've not made any determination based upon these allegations. We've not made any determination under U.S. law, sanctions law, or under international law about these allegations.
Q Is this the sort of thing that Dennis Ross may again raise when he visits Syria soon?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Ross is in Syria today. I don't know whether or not he'll raise this. We raise, on a regular basis, our concerns on a variety of issues.
I don't believe I faxed him the article in the Washington Times this morning. He may be unaware of this latest revelation from the Washington Times.
For those of you who do not have the benefit of knowing, Dennis Ross met in London yesterday with King Hussein, with Sultan Qaboos, and with Prince Bandar, who was visiting London, about a variety of Middle East issues.
He is in Syria today meeting with Syrian Government officials. He will travel on to Jordan and to Israel before returning here over the weekend.
Q To go back to the original question -- you say you haven't made any determination. Are you investigating the allegations?
MR. BURNS: Whenever allegations are made of a serious nature, we look into them. We certainly look into them very carefully, as you would expect us to do. But we have not made any determination based on our inquiries on this issue.
Q Can you say exactly what it is you're looking into?
MR. BURNS: Go read the report. We're looking into some of the allegations made in that report.
Q As you said, we can't rely on that.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't rely fully on that.
Q So we'll rely on you to say exactly what allegations you're looking into; your definitive word.
MR. BURNS: If I do that -- if I do that, Sid, then I'm rewarding people inside the government who leak information, who talk when they're not supposed to, and I don't really want to do that. I don't feel like doing that, frankly. I don't feel like rewarding people who leak consistently to the same person at the same newspaper on highly classified intelligence information. It's against the law to do that. Most people here don't agree with that. Almost everybody doesn't agree with it.
But I can tell you in response to the question, that we have not made a determination on this issue.
Q You are investigating it?
MR. BURNS: We are looking into it. I don't want to use the word "investigation." That's a specific word I don't care to use, but we're looking into it.
Q Can you say what sanctions --
MR. BURNS: Not because it was in the Washington Times, but because we've seen these allegations in the past.
Q Can you say what legislation or international agreements in violation of those allegations it might fall under?
MR. BURNS: Various international agreements and various U.S. law.
Q MTCR, for instance?
MR. BURNS: MTCR is one of them. While we're on -- I'll go to this in a minute. Let me take any follow-up questions that you have.
Q No, this isn't following up.
MR. BURNS: You have a follow up?
Q You're looking into this not because it was a Washington Times story, but there were allegations like this before. So you're saying that there are allegations by other sources?
MR. BURNS: On most of these issues about allegations of improper arms exports from one country to another -- and, as you know, this takes on many dimensions in that region, in both Asia and the Middle East -- we are aware of reports, allegations. The Washington Times doesn't break every story on these issues. We're aware of them and so we look into them.
Sometimes a newspaper will actually break a story and we're unaware of the allegations. We look into them because the American public and you all expect us to do so, and it's the right thing to do because we need to be in conformance with our laws. That's in our interest. I can't speak more specifically about it than that.
Q So you're not willing to say if this allegation concerning the specific Chinese firm is new to you or not?
MR. BURNS: I'm just saying that we are looking into it. We didn't start looking into it at 7:00 this morning when we opened up our edition, or our copy of the Washington Times. So, certainly, we've seen some of these allegations in the past.
The important thing is, we haven't made a determination. That would, of course, be very serious, indeed. We agreed to make a determination on this issue.
Q Could you talk about the status of Congressman Pete Peterson with respect to his nomination as Ambassador to Vietnam?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to. As you know, Congressman Peterson will be on Capitol Hill in about 25 minutes. He'll be meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to have his hearings on his nomination by the President to be Ambassador to Vietnam.
I believe it was last Thursday or Friday, lawyers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff pointed out to the Administration that under Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution, members of Congress may not be appointed to a civil office under authority of the United States that has been created during the Congressional term where the member has been seated.
Our State Department lawyers, White House lawyers, Justice lawyers look to this question over the weekend. Based upon a very thorough, legal study and considerable number of conversations within the Administration, it is our intention to go forward with this nomination, to have Congressman Peterson have his hearing today. We hope the Senate will confirm him.
Based on our reading of the Constitution, which we believe is authoritative, we do not believe that the office of United States Ambassador to Vietnam has been created. We believe it will not be created until the nominee actually takes up that office, is actually appointed.
So, therefore, if the Senate confirms Congressman Peterson's nomination, he will not be appointed by the President until January, until after the current Congressional term ends. That would, of course, meet the obligation that we have to be fully consistent in our actions with the Constitution.
It will also allow a distinguished American, a former POW -- six and a half years in Vietnamese prison camps -- and a distinguished Congressman to serve as our first Ambassador to Vietnam.
So that is the legal justification that the Administration is putting forward today to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I believe that Congressman Peterson will be making his case.
Q It's been delayed.
MR. BURNS: Oh, did the Senate put it off?
MR. BURNS: When I came out here, it was still on.
Q We just got a fax.
MR. BURNS: You just got a fax. But just let me say for the record, he is willing to go up for these confirmation hearings. We expect if in the last half hour since I've been out here the hearing has been delayed, postponed, it will be rescheduled. He'll have a chance to have a fair hearing from the Senate, and we expect him to be approved by the Senate because he is a distinguished American. He's an excellent choice for the job. We need an Ambassador to Vietnam. We have a very active relationship with Vietnam.
Again, the President's intention will be to formally appoint him in January, after the current term of Congress ends.
Q Do you have anything more on the Khobar bombing and the pull-out of dependents from Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the announcement that we made yesterday about an authorized departure, that departure is voluntary. The American community -- official and non-official -- has been briefed on this. I don't know if any Americans have taken advantage of this or have declared their intention to take advantage of it, so I don't have a lot of news for you. But that's a personal decision that each of these dependents -- spouses and children -- of American diplomats and military officers working there, a personal decision they will have to make.
Q Any more on the bombing? Any new information about --
MR. BURNS: About the Khobar bombing?
MR. BURNS: No. The FBI investigation continues into the Khobar bombing. The State Department -- specifically, our office of Diplomatic Security -- is giving direct and substantial support to that. We're working with the Saudi Government, but we have not yet determined which group, individuals, were involved in the bombing of the barracks.
We will not rest, of course, Betsy, until we do find out, and we will find out. That's our track record. We usually get to the bottom of these things. We usually find the people who've done it. In the case of Mr. Ramzi Yousef and others, we incarcerate them, we prosecute them, we throw the book at them. That's how terrorists should be treated.
Q Could you go over -- while I realize that there's been no specific link to terrorism in the TWA flight 800 -- could you go over what the State Department is doing to look into any possible theory on terrorism or help people who might be investigating that route just as precaution? For example, people on watch lists. Are there people in the various bureaus who are helping investigations, that sort of stuff? Are people assessing any threats from any specific groups, and do you think that any threats that may have been received on this are credible?
MR. BURNS: Lee, as you know, the National Transportation Safety Board has the lead in the U.S. Government on the investigation into the crash of the TWA flight last Wednesday night, and the FBI is the lead agency assisting the NTSB.
The State Department is involved. We are assisting both agencies, particularly the FBI, as you would expect. We are playing a secondary role. There has been no determination by those agencies as to what caused the crash. Therefore, it has not been possible, of course, to determine if any foreigners, individuals or governments, because we don't know what caused the crash in the first place.
The State Department is doing what you would expect us to do, to look into all the hypothetical situations that may or may not have been present on last Wednesday, and we are pulsing our system, giving it everything we've got, to be helpful to these two agencies. But beyond that, of course, you wouldn't expect me, Lee, to give out much more information than that.
Q Did you see the story about renewed French interest in becoming involved diplomatically in the Middle East peace process?
MR. BURNS: Renewed?
Q French interest in getting involved in the Middle East process.
MR. BURNS: Was there a particular story on that?
MR. BURNS: I didn't see it. Obviously, the French Government has had a longstanding interest in the Middle East, going back to the beginning -- France has, as a country, going back certainly to the 19th century. They were very active diplomatically at the beginning of this century, very active in the 1950s, and active recently.
Secretary Christopher and Minister de Charette had a very good lunch in Lyon during the Summit where they talked a lot about how we can coordinate on Middle East issues. We think it's positive that France is involved as a leading actor in the Middle East. Minister de Charette has made a number of successful trips to the region.
We're the co-chairs, France and the United States, of the Monitoring Group that we hope will keep the peace on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border. So we welcome French involvement. It is longstanding. It is historic. It goes back centuries. It makes sense for France. It makes sense that an ally of the United States would be with us working in the Middle East.
I should also pay tribute to the German Government while we're speaking, as we did yesterday. The Germans have done something quite extraordinary -- Chancellor Kohl's personal representative has -- in arranging for the return of the remains of Israelis and of Islamic fighters and of arranging for the return of some prisoners. This is a very positive step forward, applauded by the Israeli Government and the Lebanese Government, and the Germans deserve credit for having put that together. So we welcome participation by other countries.
Q Nick, the Germans did that through engagement with Iran, not through isolation with Iran. Does that give you reason to think your policy -- you might need to rethink your policy towards Iran?
MR. BURNS: No. No, the United States has the right policy towards Iran. We believe that we know the Iranians quite well, based on bitter experience and based on our observation of their behavior internationally, and based on their direct support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, and their direct and unqualified opposition to the Middle East peace negotiations. That's enough for us, Sid. We haven't changed our view of Iran.
Q But you're praising Germany for --
MR. BURNS: We are praising Germany for having worked with the Israeli Government and having worked with guerrilla groups in Lebanon and with the Lebanese Government to do what is right on a humanitarian basis, to let families know ten years after the disappearance of two Israeli soldiers, for instance -- let them know that the remains of those two individuals were located, and that they can be returned to Israel for proper burial. The same is true for Arab families who have been wondering for a long time what happened to their children and brothers and fathers in some cases.
So I think the Germans have acted on a humanitarian basis and have done a very good thing, but that does not change our opinion of the orientation of the Iranian Government on these issues.
Q President Clinton said yesterday, and I think it was in Los Angeles, that there has been an encouraging response from China about the proposal for four-power talks on Korea. Can you elaborate on that at all?
MR. BURNS: Just to say that we had a series of good conversations with the Chinese Government. We believe that the Chinese Government is interested in going ahead on the four-party talks. Now it is really left to the Korean government to decide that it wants to accept either the opportunity to have a briefing on this initiative put forward by the United States and the Republic of Korea or to begin the talks immediately.
As you know, Secretary Christopher, of course, is in Jakarta, and he is talking to various Asian leaders, including the Republic of Korea. There will be a trilateral meeting that he will have with the Japanese and Korean Foreign Ministers, and I'm sure this will be one of the issues, North Korea, in general -- the four-party talks, the food aid situation -- that will come up at that meeting.
I should also just bring to your attention the fact that the Secretary has had a very busy day in Jakarta. He met this morning with an Indonesian human rights group. He was at the ARF and ASEAN sessions today. He had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Primakov, in which they had an agreement and in fact a joint statement issued between the two of them on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Their joint statement calls for the international community to return to Geneva on July 29 and to proceed on that date to agree to the June 28 text of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that was put forward by Chairman Ramaker, the Dutch Chairman of the Conference on Disarmament.
This is a very significant joint statement by the United States and Russia, and the Secretary is very pleased that he and Foreign Minister Primakov now will go forward together to convince the other leading countries -- the threshold states and others, members of the Security Council who are involved -- towards an agreement.
We'd like this to be agreed upon in Geneva so that this autumn a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty can be signed by the United States and all of our other partners, and we can fulfill a vision that President Kennedy had more than 30 years ago for an end to all nuclear tests, which is of importance to everyone in this country.
Q The people covering that photo op statement took it to mean that the United States and Russia were saying they would sign the current draft treaty. Is that the correct --
MR. BURNS: I was not there, as you know. I'm here, and they're there, but let me read the language.
"The Russian Federation and the United States of America are prepared to support the draft treaty on the comprehensive banning of nuclear tests, as it was proposed on June 28, 1996, by the Chairman of the Special Committee on the Conference on Disarmament." That's Chairman Ramaker.
"Although it is a draft which does not fully satisfy both sides," the statement goes on to say, "we urge other participants to support this draft, so that when the CD resumes on July 29 in Geneva, its participants can make a decision to approve the draft treaty and to send it for approval and opening for signature at the U.N. General Assembly this autumn."
I want to stick very specifically, Sid, to the language in the U.S.-Russian joint statement. Since I'm not in Jakarta, I don't have the benefit of having been in the meeting to tell you what may be behind some of those words.
Q But can you say, Nick, a couple of weeks ago a disarmament official called reporters and said President Clinton was going to make a decision on whether he would sign this. No decision was ever announced. What is the U.S. position?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the United States, since June 28, has been active diplomatically, speaking to all of our P-5 partners, to the threshold states and to other states involved -- and there are 40, 50 of them centrally involved -- in these negotiations about our belief that we ought to support the June 28 draft of the treaty put forward by Chairman Ramaker. That is the U.S. position.
You're right that we did not enunciate that publicly, but we did not do so for tactical reasons, because we wanted to have private discussions first.
Q I still don't understand, but the U.S. is prepared to sign this treaty now?
MR. BURNS: The United States is prepared to support the draft. We need to go back to Geneva to have discussions about that draft treaty text, and hopefully what will emerge from those discussions is an agreement based on the compromise text put forward by Chairman Ramaker.
What I can't tell you is, Sid, we'll agree to every word that's currently in the draft. I don't know. I'm not the negotiator. I don't want to limit Ambassador Ledegar or John Holum by answering your question the way you want me to answer it. I'm trying to give you a carefully nuanced view of this.
Q And the U.S. would support it, whether India, Pakistan and Israel sign it or not.
MR. BURNS: We are appealing to India and Pakistan and other states to agree to Chairman Ramaker's text. We are appealing to them not to stand in the way of the international community which clearly wants -- clearly the consensus around the world is we ought to have a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we're very active diplomatically all around the world putting that strategy forward.
Q Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador in Chile criticized that after six years still the civilian authority are not in full control of the military. The Minister of Defense of Chile says that these comments are a mistake and criticized the American Ambassador to say that. Do you have any comment on that? Do you support the Ambassador's comments about the civilian control of the military forces in Chile?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen our Ambassador's statement. What I'd like to do is take a look at the statement and then come back to you tomorrow with a response. We fully support our Ambassador, a very distinguished man whom we saw in March of this year during our trip to Santiago, who has played an active, very leading role on this and other issues.
I can at least say that much, but I do want to look at his statement and give you a specific answer by tomorrow.
Q And what about the lifting of sales of arms to Latin America and specifically to Chile. There are rumors that you are the only agency in the government that are really against that. The Pentagon is pushing you to try to get the lifting of the ban.
MR. BURNS: Well, that's what rumor has. Rumor has it that. But I can tell you that the reality is a lot more complex; that we have had a policy of restraint of conventional arms sales in this hemisphere to many of the Latin governments. We believe it's been a very effective policy for the United States, especially in a period of great change in our hemisphere.
There is a review and discussion of that policy underway in the U.S. Government, but no decisions have been made to change the policy, and so I'd like to leave that one there. But on your specific question on the Ambassador's remarks, which I'm sure were fully consistent with American policy, I'll get back to you tomorrow. He's a very distinguished man and, of course, we fully support him.
Q About the arguments that you are -- you know, you are losing jobs and business in Latin America when other countries like France are selling aircrafts and arms to the region?
MR. BURNS: Arms sales policies are worked out very carefully around the world -- American arms sales policies. One of the considerations, of course, is the impact on industries here in the United States of whether or not we're willing to go forward with sales of conventional or other weaponry -- any place in the world. We certainly listen to the defense industry in this country.
But that's not the only factor, and, as you know, we have had a policy of restraint in place in our own hemisphere; and all around the world we've taken the position in a number of cases not to sell weapons sometimes, because we think it would be destabilizing, lead to proliferation or have other unintended -- perhaps intended or unintended negative consequences.
So we'll have to look at this very carefully. The State Department, of course, will be a very active participant in this review, and I wouldn't lead you to believe that any decision is imminent on this either.
Q Nick, on Bosnia. Richard Holbrooke yesterday had talked about getting Karadzic out of Pale but said that sending him to The Hague would be a long-term goal. So in the near term where would you like him to go?
MR. BURNS: As I understood Ambassador Holbrooke's remarks on the Jim Lehrer Newshour, I thought he was talking about a longer-term view of the situation, and our longer-term view is that Karadzic and Mladic should end up in The Hague as war criminals, prosecuted for their crimes.
In the meantime, we are going to do everything we can to implement the agreement that Holbrooke made with Milosevic and Karadzic and the others to keep Karadzic out of power and out of influence. When John Kornblum goes to the Balkans next week, when he travels there, that will be his focus, to make sure that Friday's agreement is being implemented.
The longer-term objective of American policy is to see Karadzic in The Hague, in the dock, in handcuffs, on trial for war crimes.
Q But he did say that the next step would be to take him out of -- for him to leave Pale. But it's your understanding this would be a long-term goal.
MR. BURNS: This is American policy that he should in The Hague, but it's not the next objective for John Kornblum for his trip next week. I don't want to lead you to believe that somehow one of the objectives for the trip next week is to have by the end of the week Karadzic in The Hague. We would like that to be the case. That would be a great outcome, but I don't believe it will be the outcome.
Karadzic is entrenched in Pale. He's refusing to heed the wishes of the international community to go to The Hague for trial, and John Kornblum will be focusing, I think, on a real and practical objective for next week, and that is to make sure that the agreement negotiated last Friday is being fully implemented, as well as to pay attention to the other Dayton implementation issues that are at the center of John Kornblum's agenda.
Q Where is he going?
MR. BURNS: He'll be going to Sarajevo and to Belgrade and to Zagreb.
Q Why did Mr. Holbrooke announce this trip yesterday? He was the one to announce Ambassador Kornblum's trip. He made it sound like there was more to this mission than what you just told us --
MR. BURNS: Well --
Q And --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. I'm sorry.
Q I would like to ask specifically, will Mr. Kornblum be negotiating for Karadzic's removal from Pale or not?
MR. BURNS: Dick Holbrooke is a very good friend, but with all due respect, I don't think he intended to formally announce the trip yesterday. We're formally announcing it today. I think he just mentioned in the course of the interview that he knew that John Kornblum would be going to the Balkans, and I know that the objective of his trip is to work on maintaining and carrying out the agreement already made with Karadzic.
But, obviously, our longer-term objective is to see him in The Hague. I want to be very clear about that. I hope I've answered both of your questions to your satisfaction.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, George.
(The briefing concluded at 1:57 p.m.)
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