U.S. Department of State 96/07/30 Daily Press Brefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, July 30, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS - Sympathy for Victims of Bombing at Atlanta Olympics ........ 1 - Secretary's Testimonies Wed (July 31) and Thurs (Aug 1) .... 1 - Communique Issued at Terrorism Summit/Transcript of Attorney 1-2 General Reno's News Conference - Statement on "This Day in Diplomacy" Historical Event ...... 2-3 MEXICO: - Corruption in Anti-Narcotics Efforts/Meetings at White ..... 4-5 House Today/Extraditions to US of Drug Traffickers/Corruption - Transnational Crimes Associated with Drug Trafficking ...... 5 COLOMBIA: Visa Denials Under Review/Sen Helms Ltr Requesting .. 5-6 Denial of Visas/Indictment Against Pres Samper HELMS-BURTON LAW - Special Canadian Panel to Review Law Under NAFTA ........... 6-7 - Possible EU Actions ........................................ 7-8 - Companies Divesting Themselves of Assets ................... 8 IRAQ: - Status of Res 986 Implementation Plan on Humanitarian ... 8-10 Assistance & Oil Sales/US Not Given Final Approval/Monitors/ Illegal Oil Exports Through Turkey - Reports of Iranian Incursions into North/Possible Conflict . 11-12 With Coalition Forces in North - Iranian Claims of Killing Kurdish Leaders .................. 12 - Report of Bomb Exploding in Saddam Hussein's Palace ........ 12-13 SAUDI ARABIA: - Update on Dhahran Investigation .......................... 13, 14-15 - Importance of Senate Confirmation of US Ambassador ......... 14 WEST BANK: Israeli Plans to Build Roads ....................... 13-14 DEPARTMENT: Senate Confirmations of Presidential Appointees ... 14 NORTH KOREA: More Flooding/Contacts
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 1996, 12:52 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome back, Ron. Feeling okay?
Q Hey, fine!
MR. BURNS: Excellent. I want to begin today by expressing sympathy on behalf of all the employees of the State Department for the victims of the bombing in Atlanta. Among those victims was a foreigner, a Turkish cameraman, Mr. Melih Usunyol. He died while rushing to the scene after the bombing, and we want to offer our condolences to his family and his colleagues and his friends at this very difficult time for them.
I also want to let you know -- moving on to another subject -- that the Secretary is going to be testifying tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. before the House Committee on International Relations. That's in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building. And on Thursday, August 1, he'll testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10:00 a.m., and that's at Room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
I'm sure we'll see many of you there. You're all welcome to come. The Secretary will be providing testimony on general foreign policy issues on both days -- on both Wednesday and on Thursday.
We have a communique from the P-8 summit in Paris, and you're all welcome to it. We have multiple copies in the Press Office that are available after the briefing. We also have the transcript of the press conference that Attorney General Janet Reno gave afterwards, and this communique sets out 25 steps that the P-8 nations have agreed to take together to combat terrorism. Attorney General Reno summarizes these in her statement and also presents the viewpoint of the United States Government on the importance of fighting terrorism and having all of us around the world adopt much stronger and more serious measures internationally and multilaterally to try to work together to combat terrorism around the world.
Now for the highlight of the day. I'm issuing today after the briefing our second "This Day in Diplomacy" press release, and I know all of you are going to be rushing down the hall after the briefing to get your hands on this. I know UPI is intending to put out a major alert around the world about it.
For those of you who are unaware of what we're talking about, we here in the Department have decided to try to bring greater light to diplomacy and the history of American diplomacy. A couple of weeks ago we issued a public statement, talking about the efforts of an American diplomat to release the hostages in Algiers -- the more than 100 American hostages from the 1790s who spent 11 years there -- and they were released successfully by an American diplomat.
Today, we're releasing a public statement about an event that took place on July 31, 1801, and this concerns the efforts of American negotiator William Vans Murray who completed the negotiations of the Convention of Mortefontaine. I know that all of you already know about this, but for those who don't beyond this room, I'll tell you that this convention was negotiated by the United States with the French Government and with the Government led by a Consul named Napoleon Bonaparte. It was the convention that essentially released the United States from its alliances with France -- the entangling alliances of 1778 and 1786.
It began a 150-year period of our history where we had no alliances, effectively, around the world -- certainly not with European powers. It was in essence, according to our historians here, the final act in the American war of independence, and it was a very substantial turning point in American diplomatic history, because it led the way to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
It was believed by President John Adams, who was President at the time, to have been his most substantial achievement in office -- this treaty which effectively separated the United States from the European continent and allowed us to develop the way we did as a young democracy without the entanglements and the complications of the European governments at the time.
So we're issuing this today, and I know that all of you will take notice, and George is going to write a piece on this for the Associated Press, and it just gives you greater insight into the contributions that diplomats have made and will continue to make to the United States.
Q We already covered that.
MR. BURNS: Was the AP even in existence in 1801?
Q No. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay, so you haven't covered it. You've got a scoop here, George, and in fact under the new rules you can dash out of here. I'll even give you this piece of paper, and you can write up your news report, and you'll scoop everybody, because Sid's got to stay here. We're going to talk about Bosnia and everything else.
Q Has the policy changed since 1801? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: The policy has changed. We now have alliances. We're back into the alliance game. We have been for about 50 years -- with the French.
Q President Adams did not win re-election.
MR. BURNS: He did not win re-election, and he believes that one of the reasons he didn't win re-election was this Convention of Mortefontaine.
Q (Inaudible) talk about politics.
MR. BURNS: Historians have observed that -- you know, we can talk about the politics of 200 years ago. Historians have observed that -- excuse me?
Q Are you speaking for the Adams Administration? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Listen, let me make a note here. To stretch this to the absurd, John Adams was from Quincy, Massachusetts. (Laughter) Of course, I can speak. And, had there been a Boston Red Sox, you know -- historians have observed --
Q They lost the World Series -- (laughter).
MR. BURNS: Okay, we'll get into this later. But read this. It's very interesting. But he did believe that this cost him the election, the next election, this treaty, which was the right thing to do.
That was fun. George.
Q Did you read the story in the Post today about the Mexican whistleblower who suggests that the Mexican counternarcotics effort is (a) not all that serious, and (b) corrupt.
MR. BURNS: Yes, we read the story, and I've talked to our Inter- American Affairs Bureau, and I can tell you that both the United States and the Mexican Government recognize that corruption is a serious problem, an endemic problem in Mexico itself.
We believe that President Zedillo has been making major progress in the fight against narcotics as well as the fight against corruption in general, and he has proclaimed narcotics to be Mexico's number one national security priority.
Today, the United States is meeting here in Washington -- in fact, General McCaffrey is meeting at the White House -- with top officials of the Mexican Government -- with Attorney General Lozano, with Foreign Minister Gurria and with the Mexican Ambassador, Mr. Silva Herzog.
They are having a daylong discussions about United States-Mexican cooperation in the fight against drugs. The Mexican Government has recently extradited 11 individuals to the United States, including four drug traffickers. The Mexicans have also deported two other individuals wanted in the United States, including Juan Garcia Abrego, who was on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list.
These extraditions are unprecedented. The Mexican Government had not been willing, of course, until just the last year or so to extradite their nationals to stand trial in the United States. It's a dramatic departure from historic Mexican policy, and I think it is a very good signal of the determination that President Zedillo is bringing to this effort with us, and we will continue to work with him and continue to have meetings of the type that we're having at the White House today.
Q Could you elaborate on the corruption angle that you led off with?
MR. BURNS: I think it's just fair to say that the statement is fact, that both the United States and Mexico -- and I want to stress the Mexican part of this -- understand that corruption has become a major and endemic problem in Mexican society -- corruption in many walks of life, not just corruption associated with narcotics.
The Mexican Government has stood up and said this publicly, and the Mexican Government -- President Zedillo has said he wants to fight this. It is one thing to fight a problem with words. It's another with actions. Here we see that the Mexican Government has taken significant actions with the extradition of these 11 people -- a departure from Mexican policy.
Contrast that with the actions of Colombia, which pale in comparison with the Mexican Government, and that's what we're looking for in our own hemisphere. We're looking for countries to be partners with us who will actually be partners in their actions, not just in their words.
Mexico has set a good example. The Mexicans would be the first to tell you and me that a substantial amount of work needs to be done to resolve these problems of corruption and narcotics, but at least they're heading in the right direction, and they've shown the political will to confront these problems.
Bill, do you have a follow-up?
Q Yes, thank you, Nick, and thank you, George. Nick, can the United States alone counter any kind of national security threat, say terroristic threat, coming through Mexico, using the good offices -- not such good offices -- of the drug cartels? Can the U.S. do this by itself, or do we need the Mexican law enforcement cooperation for our own security?
MR. BURNS: Narcotics is an international problem that doesn't know any borders -- narcotics transfers. Of course, we need the cooperation of other governments -- the Mexican Government, the Colombian Government, the Trinidadan Government, all sorts of governments in our hemisphere. We can't defeat the scourge of narcotics without that, Bill.
Q I'm talking about the scourge of associated types of threats to the U.S. security, so that if there is bribe lock in the judiciary police, which I believe there is, Nick, and also in the army, can we defend ourselves against terrorism, specifically coming through our southern borders?
MR. BURNS: What defines these transnational problems -- terrorism, narcotics, environmental problems, corruption, money laundering -- is the fact that they are not national problems, they're international, and therefore we need to see cooperation like the type we have with Mexico. We need to see conferences like the one we had in Paris today on terrorism.
Q Nick, yesterday, Senator Jesse Helms requested President Clinton the denial of visas to 25 Colombian officials and congressmen because of narco-corruptions. Is the State Department considering to take that decision?
MR. BURNS: The State Department has this issue under active review. As you know, we have denied President Samper and four of his associates visas. We have denied visas to other members of the Colombian Government and establishment. We haven't released their names, and we have under review other Colombians who may lose the privilege of coming to the United States, and a visa is a privilege, of course -- any visa's a privilege to go anywhere -- should we believe that that would help in our fight against narcotics trafficking.
So I can't say that we're going to publicly announce that we're going to revoke the visas of all the people in Senator Helms' letter, which I have here. He lists 25 people by name. We'll have to make that decision, because the Executive Branch, of course, needs to implement our policy, and we need to retain some flexibility here on this question.
But I think that we have met some of the concerns stated by Senator Helms, specifically concerning some of the testimony that's been given by Colombian nationals to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just recently.
We acted to decertify Colombia on March 1. We've revoked President Samper's visa. We have threatened other possible actions against the Colombian Government. We have a very tough policy.
I think that Senator Helms supports what we've done. I think he ought to continue supporting it.
Q After that testimony from "Maria," it is possible that the U.S. Government apply any indictment against President Samper?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we're planning any such thing. We've taken the action that we've taken which is to limit his access to the United States.
His future is up to the Colombian people to decide democratically.
Q Would it be possible?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't lead you in that direction. I wouldn't lead you in that direction.
Q Under NAFTA, Canada can now ask for the creation of a special panel or special group to study the Helms-Burton law. Do you expect that Canada will do that? And if it does, what will be the reaction, the response of your government?
MR. BURNS: We have told the Canadians that we are quite willing to continue any discussions they wish to have on Helms-Burton. We have certainly had a lot of discussions bilaterally. If they wish to have discussions under one of the NAFTA provisions, and we think it's appropriate given the provisions themselves, then I'm sure we'd proceed. But I don't believe we've been approached by the Canadian Government with any specific request. I could be wrong on this. I can check under NAFTA.
Most of our conversations have been bilateral. Secretary Christopher has talked to Minister Axworthy a number of times about this. Of course, our Embassy in Ottawa has been very active talking to the Canadians, and we've talked to the Canadian Embassy here.
We understand the sensitivities in Canada, and we understand the concerns. We're willing to work with the Canadians on this.
The Canadians, of course, understand that we'll continue to implement U.S. law.
Q On that subject, do you have any comments on the action the European Union took today in regards to Helms-Burton?
MR. BURNS: I saw a reference to action by the European -- I don't know if it's action. It's statements that they've made today.
Q Statements leading to actions?
MR. BURNS: But your specific question would be --
Q Your reaction to it?
MR. BURNS: We've seen from the European Union and other governments the possibility that they may take action which they believe is commensurate to the type of action that we are taking under Helms- Burton, namely, identifying certain companies who will have to essentially pay the price if they continue to violate what we believe is the right standard of behavior in Cuba.
We would encourage the European governments to understand the emotions in this country and the history that many Americans have, both Cuban Americans but also 5,911 Americans who are not of Cuban descent who had their assets nationalized by Castro and for which they were not compensated.
We believe the European governments ought to understand that this is a unique case in modern diplomatic history where one government refuses to compensate the nationals of another. Therefore, there is a reason why we've had to take extraordinary action against the Cuban Government, namely, Helms-Burton.
We'd encourage the European Union not to take any kind of reciprocal action against American companies because there's no basis for that. There is no cause for that. The United States has not caused injury to the European Union that is approximate in any way to the injury caused by Cuba against the United States and American companies.
So we think they ought to continue to discuss this with us privately if they have a problem with it but not take any action.
Q On the same general subject of Helms-Burton. Have you had any -- is there a progress report you can give us on any companies that might be divesting themselves of some of these assets?
MR. BURNS: We know that several companies have chosen to do that - - a Mexican company and other companies have chosen to do it.
I can also tell you that we have under review the possibility that other foreign companies will be notified that their senior executives and their partners will no longer be welcome in the United States. It's a very strong possibility in the near future, but I have no specific announcements to make on that today, Charlie.
Q I have a question on Iraq. The U.N. Security Council is meeting tomorrow about whether to start the humanitarian oil sales. From what I understand, all of the countries have signed off on the plan except for the U.S. It's unclear whether the U.S. will agree by tomorrow. Do you know what the holdup is?
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Gnehm at the U.N. told us that all of the government agencies still had to look over the plan, and that was a few weeks ago. So do you know what the progress is?
MR. BURNS: The holdup is intentional. It's good policy. The holdup is that the United States wants to be completely assured that all of the humanitarian distribution activities that are being planned and that the flow of those humanitarian goods into Iraq as well as the flow of oil out of Iraq will be properly monitored.
The Secretary General has signed off on a plan to distribute the food and medicine within Iraq, which we think is satisfactory. We, however, believe, and continue to believe, that the U.N. Sanctions Committee should show us, as well as the Iraqis, that there are a sufficient number of monitors in place to monitor the inflow of humanitarian goods and the outflow of the oil.
We hope that they'll be able to convince us this week that they have taken the proper steps to make sure that not one cent of the money derived from this plan will benefit Saddam Hussein. If we can be satisfied of that, we'll go ahead.
The reason we'll go ahead and support it is because we are the "fathers," if you will, of this amendment. We're the ones who suggested it. We wrote most of it, and we believe it's the right thing to do to help the victims of Saddam Hussein. We just want it to be done in such a way that the United Nations is not fooled by Saddam Hussein; that Saddam Hussein doesn't pocket any of these proceeds.
We think that we're well on the way towards that solution, and we hope very much that we can wrap this up in the next couple of days. But, frankly, we need to see the plans in writing and we need to satisfy ourselves that these are good plans.
If the United States is the remaining holdout, well, so be it. Good for us. It's the right thing to do until we're convinced that Saddam will not profit at all.
Q So the main point, then, is the number of the monitors? You'd like to make sure there's adequate monitors in place --
MR. BURNS: That's right; that's right. For both the humanitarian goods and the oil exports.
Q So you would characterize that as a main sticking point?
MR. BURNS: I think it's just a condition that has to be met and will be met, I'm sure, because it's in the interest, I think, of all of us to have this go forward. It will help the Iraqi people.
Q Are any political considerations being taken into account? For example, Senator Dole complained quite vocally when the U.S. initially gave their approval on May 20. Is there any political considerations you're planning on?
MR. BURNS: The United States never gave blanket approval. The United States has argued inside the United Nations, and we've said from this podium and others around town, that we couldn't give final approval until all of our conditions were met. These remaining conditions have not yet been met but we hope they will be soon.
I'm not aware of any kind of political consideration. The fact is that there is a bipartisan consensus in the United States on how we should be treating Iraq.
President Bush was the architect of this policy and President Clinton inherited and has embraced it. I'm not aware of any significant bipartisan differences on this issue.
Q How many monitors would you like to see?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the specific number. I know that our experts at the United Nations have given that number to the U.N. Sanctions Committee.
My sense from talking to our people at the U.N. this morning was that we are on the way towards a resolution, but we're not there yet. The United States is very, very satisfied and comfortable being the remaining holdout, if that's the way people want to describe us, until this plan is made more satisfactory.
Q On the Iraqi oil. There was a report in the newspaper this morning that there had been leakage in the embargo; that a pipeline through Turkey had been used to illegally export some Iraqi oil. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I've not seen the report. I'm unaware of that allegation. I know that steps have been taken by the Turkish Government, in essence, to clean out the pipeline that will be used in the export of oil under 986, because this has not been in use for many years. They've done the necessary steps -- logistical steps -- to make sure that it's ready when this plan is voted by the U.N. Security Council and it goes into effect. That's proper, and we understand why the Turks would want to do that.
But I just haven't heard this allegation that oil had been shipped out against the wishes of the United Nations.
Q Do you have anything more on these reports of Iranian incursions into Iraq yesterday?
MR. BURNS: We've seen those reports that a significant number of Iranian troops went over the border. The justification, as we've seen it from the press, is to chase the Kurdish group -- the Kurdish guerrillas -- not the PKK. There can be no justification for Iran crossing the border into northern Iraq. No justification whatsoever.
We've seen press reports this morning that the Iranian troops are departing. They should depart. Iran has no business in Iraq.
Northern Iraq is under the supervision of the United Nations. "Operation Provide Comfort" is in place, and we hope -- maybe we can be enlightened today about the vote in Ankara about "Operation Provide Comfort -- we hope it will go forward.
Iran is an outlaw state. It has no place in northern Iraq, and so we expect those troops to be fully withdrawn.
Q You're certain, then, that the troops did go across the border?
MR. BURNS: No reason not to believe it. This has been confirmed by a lot of different -- some governments in the area and by a variety of very reputable press sources. So we have no reason not to believe it. We don't have any independent confirmation of it ourselves, but we're operating as if it has happened. We've even seen some statements from the Iranian Government on it.
Our message to Iran is, get out of Iraq. Iran has no place in Iraq. The population of northern Iraq is under the protection of the United Nations and will remain so.
Q Does Iran run the risk of somehow getting caught up in -- entangled with coalition troops by going into these areas?
MR. BURNS: I think Iran -- well, it's a state that sponsors terrorism. I believe it probably has rational leaders in control in Tehran, and they would not want to put their troops into conflict with ours. I'm sure that will not happen. There are no reports of it happening.
Q Would they run the risk somehow of being mistaken for Iraqis?
MR. BURNS: Iran has no business in northern Iraq. One cannot foresee the complications that could arise were Iran to maintain its troops in Iraq. There are complications that could arise. There are mistakes that could be made. They ought to get out. It's under proper control.
Q The Iranians are saying that they killed about 20 Kurdish leaders while they were there. I understand they're getting support from the two Iraqi Kurdish parties in the region which are under the protection of "Provide Comfort" and which have continued (inaudible) with this government. Is this an issue that the Administration would raise with the Kurdish parties -- Iraqi Kurdish parties?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not aware of the fact that Iran claims to have killed a certain number of Kurdish leaders. I'm not aware the two major Kurdish groups with which we are in constant contact are somehow in league with Iran. I'm just not aware of that. I haven't been advised of that; don't know that to be true, so therefore can't comment on it.
I think Howard had a question. Still on this?
Q Go ahead.
MR. BURNS: Bob, did you have a question on Iraq as well? Yes, Bill.
Q Thanks, Nick. Just to kind of -- a little closure on a subject that had been brought up here a couple of weeks of a bombing reported at a palace of Saddam Hussein.
Israeli television said on Thursday that Saddam nearly missed death earlier this month when a bomb exploded. Does the U.S. Government have any opinion as to whether this actually happened? Is Saddam -- have we seen him? Do we know, is he functioning properly? Is he injured?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I answered this question yesterday. I don't know. We don't know. We don't have diplomats in Iraq. We don't have perfect knowledge of what's happening there. We do have certain ways of following events in Iraq. We don't talk about those means in public.
I can't corroborate the reports. I really can't respond to them.
Q Are we waiting to see if Saddam will emerge as unscathed and able to lead?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any evidence that he's not in charge, unfortunately. That's the way it is. That's the situation. He appears to be in charge.
Q A daily question, whether there's anything new on the Dhahran investigation?
MR. BURNS: As far as I know, no. We continue our work with the Saudis. Obviously, it's a high priority for the FBI and State Department, but I have nothing to announce in terms of the investigation.
Q Same region. Ariel Sharon seems to have taken the bulldozers out of mothballs and is embarking on at least a road-building program in the West Bank for starters. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any particular comment on the plans to build the roads because we are not -- this is quite recent, as you know, this announcement, just in the last 24 hours. I don't believe our Embassy in Tel Aviv has been briefed by the Israeli Government on these plans. I think we'll hold our fire until we are briefed by the Israeli Government.
You're talking about road construction now? Yeah.
Q Would you have expected them to preview this to you before they announced it?
MR. BURNS: The pattern, I think, over many, many years has been that the United States is aware of major developments, certainly.
Q (Inaudible) ill feeling that --
MR. BURNS: I'm not trying to make that. I'm very calmly answering Howard's question. I'm not trying to say anything more than I've said. Just that we haven't been briefed, so therefore it would not be appropriate for me to comment. I'm not trying to insinuate that somehow there's any amount of displeasure there.
I'm sure given the very good, open lines of communication that Ambassador Indyk has with the Netanyahu government that we'll be briefed shortly.
Q (inaudible) a preview on the fire that you're holding?
MR. BURNS: No, and fire can be good. It doesn't have to be negative. I have no idea what this plan is or what it represents or what effect it will have, so therefore I can't comment.
Q Nick, it looks like Congress will recess without having dealt with the appointment of an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. I'm wondering, at this delicate time, does that in anyway handicap our diplomacy with Saudi Arabia? Is there any holdup from this end?
MR. BURNS: There's no holdup from the State Department. We very much want Ambassador-designate Fowler to be out there. We're working hard along those lines with the Congress. There are a number of appointments, actually, that are held up right now.
It's very important for the United States to have an Ambassador in a leading country like Saudi Arabia. We have a very, very effective Charge 'Affaires, Ted Kattouf, but there's no substitute, of course, for an Ambassador.
Given the number of issues on our plate with the Saudis -- the continuing concerns about terrorist threats to Americans in Saudi Arabia, the protection for our military officers and soldiers and our diplomats, some of the discussions that the Defense Department has had over the last couple of weeks -- this really requires the presence of a senior person, an ambassador.
We would urge the Congress to move expeditiously on all of our ambassadorial appointments, including on some of our other appointments. We have an Assistant Secretary of International Organization Affairs who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. We do need this to happen.
Q Do you know if the Peterson vote was going to go forward today? It was delayed from last week.
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it will go forward today. We hope it will go forward but I just don't know if it will.
Q Nick, back on the Saudi bombing, has there been any narrowing down of suspects? I mean to say, are the -- has the U.S. ruled -- have the investigators ruled out involvement by nations or groups outside of Saudi Arabia at this point?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we have not made any public comments of that nature, Sid, about the investigation. We're not ruling anything in. We're not ruling anything out. The investigation is proceeding, but we're not in a position -- I'm not in a position to tell you who committed the crime and where that group of people is.
Q North Korea. There are more reports of severe flooding in North Korea. Do you have any confirmation of these reports? And, secondly, if they are correct, would the United States do anything to help relieve the situation?
MR. BURNS: Patrick, we've seen the reports. I cannot confirm them. We were in touch with the North Koreans in New York last week about a variety of issues. We will continue to be in touch with them on the four-party proposal; on the issue of remains of American soldiers from the Korean War. Eighty-one hundred Americans remain missing from the Korean conflict.
So a variety of issues have come up. I don't believe that flooding has been something that we've talked about with them a great deal, and therefore I can't anticipate any kind of measures that the United States would take to try to assist in that situation. I don't believe we have any requests to help them.
We've responded to a request for food aid, with $6.2 million in food aid, and that's a substantial contribution.
Q Isn't that shipment due this week?
MR. BURNS: That shipment is due shortly, yes, and, if you'd like, I can even give you the ship and the date of the arrival. Be glad to do that.
Q Do you know when President Clinton is going to sign the Iran/Libya sanctions bill, and has the State Department begun a look as to how it's going to enforce it? When it was still prospective legislation, we were being told that there was no close examination as to how it was going to be enforced.
MR. BURNS: The President will sign it. He said he will sign it. I don't know when that signing will be. We are beginning now to think about implementation of the bill, just as we, of course, had to face the prospect of implementing Helms-Burton -- a very difficult prospect with our allies; this issue is as well.
You've seen from the European Union, I think -- this gets back to Sid's question -- great unhappiness about this legislation. But the President has said he will sign it. It will become the law of the land, and therefore we'll have to implement it, and we'll do so to the best of our ability, mindful that again, as in the case of Helms-Burton, we'd like the focus of this legislation and the full force of it to be felt in Tehran and Tripoli and not in Europe. If there's any way we can minimize the effect on our European allies, we'll do that. But the law's the law, and we'll have to implement it.
Q Do you have any comments on Lally Weymouth's article in Washington Post today in which --
MR. BURNS: I normally don't comment on Op-Ed pieces, but in this case I'll make an exception, just to say that I'm not aware that she checked with Peter Tarnoff or myself. We're the two targets of her article. The U.S.-Turkish relationship stands on its own and has clearly withstood the test of time; is clearly in the vital national interests of the American people.
I don't know anybody in Washington, D.C. -- Republican or Democrat -- who would argue with that, who would argue that we should somehow diminish our commitment to Turkey, which is part of the thrust of this piece in The Washington Post.
Turkey is, without any doubt, one of the most important countries to the United States. What's happened here is that there's been a transfer of power -- democratic transfer of power, engineered by the Turkish people in a free and fair and open election.
The United States, at the minimum, with its allies, must respect the results of democratic elections. So we have undertaken, since the new government of Mr. Erbakan came to power, a series of diplomatic contacts. Peter Tarnoff was there. We've seen Turkish officials here in Washington. Ambassador Grossman has been hard at work on this. We're trying to form a new relationship with this government, and that's our job, and we're going to do it to the best of our ability.
What unites Turkey and the United States continues -- our NATO alliance, our belief that a new relationship by Turkey with Israel is important, a belief that Turkey has a stabilizing role to play in central Asia; in Bosnia, where Turkey has taken the lead on equip-and- train.
I am essentially just listing the attributes of this relationship, defending the basis of the relationship. That's what this Administration is doing. So, of course, we're going to have contacts with Mr. Erbakan, with Mrs. Ciller, and with the others who have been brought into the government who are new, and we're going to try to form the best relationship that we can.
This relationship stands on its own, should not be questioned, and some of the advice given in the piece is clearly the wrong way to go.
Q Some time ago you said you will be listening to the words of the new Islamist-led government as well as watching its actions. So far have you heard anything which wouldn't fall in line with the alliance between the two countries?
MR. BURNS: Words are important in an alliance situation -- an alliance setting -- as well as actions, and we've seen in the case of "Operation Provide Comfort," which was really the first test of the new U.S.-Turkish relationship -- we've seen very good words and actions from the Turkish Government. The Turkish Government is supporting in the Turkish National Assembly today the extension of "Operation Provide Comfort."
Maybe you know the outcome. It passed. Our correspondents in Turkey have told us it has passed. That's a great victory for Turkey and the United States and for the Erbakan Government, so we're pleased by that. We hope to see in Turkey's relationship with Israel continued good actions and words. In Turkey's relationship and obligations to NATO and to Bosnia, we hope to see the same kind of commitment by the Erbakan Government.
Q Nick, this one's coming literally out of left field, but Friday the Cuban and American baseball teams are going to face off in Atlanta against a backdrop of a lot of bitterness and mistrust between the governments. Of course, dozens of countries' athletes do this in Atlanta during the Olympics.
I'm wondering whether this is all just kind of a warm and fuzzy, a nice Olympic tradition or whether there are any sort of diplomatic benefits, if having the Olympics every four years, getting the chance to do this, builds bridges that lead to diplomatic solutions between countries?
MR. BURNS: I think that politics ought to be kept out. We here in the Department of State believe that politics ought to be kept out of the Olympics. The Cuban team is welcome, has been welcome in Atlanta and has performed very well in Atlanta, and we wish them luck, but we wish our team more luck when they play in the Gold Medal game, and we predict an American victory in the Gold Medal game.
Frankly, I think that it's good. Part of the Cuban Democracy Act is building bridges between the Cuban and American people, and, if sports helps to do that, so much the better. I don't think it's possible, however, for the benefits of people-to-people contacts in Atlanta to overcome the very, very great division that exists between the Cuban Government and the United States Government over the policies of Fidel Castro -- the autocratic policies of Fidel Castro.
So while we wish the Cuban athletes well, and they're certainly welcome to the United States, let's keep politics out of the Olympic games but let's continue to talk about what separates the United States from Cuba politically, because that's very important for the future of the Cuban people.
They're not free economically. They're repressed politically. They have no freedom of speech or association, and this is something that the European governments ought to pay a lot more attention to. They ought to pay more attention to the repression in Cuba and understand that that is the root of the Helms-Burton legislation.
Q Nick, there were rumors racing around last night that several more Cubans had defected. Have you all heard anything to this effect?
MR. BURNS: I just saw a Reuters report out of Atlanta in the last hour, saying that a Cuban coach -- the Cuban coach of the Mexican boxing team, Cuban citizen, had defected and was in Miami. I just saw that report. I have no way of corroborating that report for you, but I'm not surprised to see that kind of action.
Q Follow on that general subject just to (inaudible) yesterday -- no new visa requests, I think, from --
MR. BURNS: No visa requests. It looks like the Cuban team and the American team will play without the presence of Fidel Castro. So much for the better.
Q What about Alarcon? He was at one point coming and then not coming. Is he possibly coming again?
MR. BURNS: Any member of the Cuban Olympic team and any official of the team who is a legitimate member of the team or an official of the team is welcome in the United States to attend the Atlanta games and was given travel documents by our Interests Section in Havana.
I don't know if Mr. Alarcon was among them, but I can check on that. No reason why we shouldn't give that information to you if we've got it.
Q He was coming at one point. He was on the list, and then he was taken off the list.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
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