U.S. Department of State 96/08/02 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, August 2, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introd of Amanda Feinstein, Neice of Lee Feinstein, S/P....... 1 Farewell to John Ohta, Public Affairs Officer, EAP/ Introd of His Replacement, Lorraine Toly.................... 1 Secretary Christopher's Mtg w/Environmental Leaders & Other Environmental Issues........................................ 2-3 Secretary Christopher's Mtg w/Pres Clinton, VP Gore & A/S Kornblum's Mtg w/Croatian President Tudjman............. 3-4 US Removes Ukraine from ITAR List............................. 4 Visit of New Swedish PM Goran Persson......................... 4-5 Fire In Suriname Destroys Natl Assembly, Foreign Ministry, & Historical Archives....................................... 5 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Croatian Pres Tudjman's Mtg: --Importance of the Federation/Dissolution of Herzeg-Bosnian Institutions/Respect for Elections in Mostar/Press Freedoms. 5-8 --Commitment to the Dayton Accords............................ 6-8 CONGRESS Foreign Aid Bill: Support Needed For Consolidation of Economic Reform/Arms Control Issues.................................. 8-9 ARMS CONTROL: Support of US Military Sales to Countries.......... 9-10 IRAN/LIBYA: Alleged Rpts of Iranians Training Terrorists/Pres Rafsanjani Urges Arab Countries to Stop Selling Oil to US.............. 10-12 FBI Director Louis Freeh's Testimony on the Hill re Terrorism/ Two Libyan Terrorists Wanted For Pan Am Bombing............. 12 Alleged Letter Circulating At UN From Libyan UN Envoy re Denial of US Charges of Terrorism........................... 23-24 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Visit of Dore Gold, Aide to Israeli PM Netanyahu.............. 11 US Talks w/Israel, Syria, & Lebanon re Southern Lebanon....... 13,21-22 Israeli PM's Consideration of Redeployment from Hebron/ Commitments Under Oslo II................................... 13-14 Israeli Cabinet's Decision To Ease Prior Restrictions on Settlement Activity/No Decision on Expanding Settlements.... 20-21 SOMALIA: Death of Gen Aideed/Hopes for Political Reconciliation.. 14-15 CUBA Status of Robert Vesco: --US Consular Visit Declined/Extradition Request Denied by GOC 15-16,24 HAITI Alleged Rpt of Assassination Attempt on Aristide & Preval/US Troops Sent To Provide Protection for US Engineering Troops. 16-17 IRAQ Status of Humanitarian Assistance & Oil Sales/Monitors/ Turkish Govt re Exemption................................... 17-19 INDONESIA Mistreatment of Demonstrators in Jakarta/U/S Spero's Mtg with Opposition Ldr Mrs. Megawati/Secretary Christopher Supports US Statement to GOI......................................... 19-20 MEXICO GOM's Bicameral Congress Passes Landmark Reform: --First Direct Popular Election of Mayor/Tighter Restrictions On Campaign Financing/Greater Independence of Federal Electoral Institute......................................... 22-23 ALGERIA: Alleged Rpt of Religious Figure Murdered................ 23 COLOMBIA: DefMin's Affirmation SecGen of OAS Gaviria Involved in Release of Brother/US Support of Gaviria.................... 24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 1996, 1:16 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Delighted to see you all here today.
We have a couple of special guests. Amanda Feinstein is here visiting her uncle, Lee, who is a member of the Policy Planning Staff. She's a high school student from Millburn High in northern New Jersey. In addition to volunteering this summer at a camp for disadvantaged children, she's a fan of the Allman Brothers, which I support. I'm a fan of the Allman Brothers as well. Welcome.
It's with some sadness that we say goodby today to John Ohta, who all of you know, who is the stellar Public Affairs officer in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs. He has been with us for three years. He's returning to USIA to work on Korean and Japanese issues. His replacement, Lorraine Toly, is seated beside him. All of you will be working with her starting on Monday morning.
I just wanted to say to John, thank you very much for all of your help to those of us in the Bureau of Public Affairs. The USIA sends to the Department of State consistently good officers, and John is a very, very good example of that. John, good luck.
Q John is very good at returning calls to us.
MR. BURNS: George has said that John is very good about returning phone calls, which is a very important thing in press work, isn't it, George?
Q That's right.
MR. BURNS: You weren't referring that other people are not good at returning phone calls, were you? (Laughter) I'm not sensitive about that. I just thought I'd bring it up.
Okay. A couple of announcements. The Secretary has had a very full morning. He began today with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast with environmental leaders from the environmental community in the United States; from the business community -- their representatives of several major multinational corporations; and with academic leaders.
The purpose of this was to re-engage with the environmental community and the business community on this issue. The Secretary reaffirmed to them his commitment to make the environment one of the leading foreign policy issues for the United States and to make sure that the environment is integrated into our diplomacy, into what our consulates and embassies are doing and what people here are doing.
The Secretary asked Under Secretary Tarnoff, Under Secretary Wirth, and all of the regional bureau Assistant Secretaries attend this breakfast which they did. The Secretary told this group, and made an announcement, that we are establishing as of next week two environmental hubs in our embassies. One is in Jordan -- our Embassy in Amman, Jordan -- which will focus on Middle East water issues. That Embassy will now be responsible for trying to integrate environmental issues in the Middle East into American policy. Embassy Amman will be working with all of our other embassies and consulates in the Middle East on those environmental issues.
The second is in San Jose, Costa Rica. The Embassy in San Jose will be integrating our sustainable development goals, which the Secretary talked about in his visit to San Salvador earlier this year, into our policy in Central America.
The Secretary also announced that we'll begin new training programs for diplomats here at the Department of State on the environment. In fact, Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, next month is going to chair a conference inside the Department on international environmental issues.
We also talked a little bit about public outreach on this. There was some mention made by yours truly and others that it's sometimes been difficult to get the American press corps interested in reporting on environmental issues, and that we would be making an attempt to work with you and to see if we could give you further information about our environmental programs.
One idea I have is to bring Tim Wirth and Eileen Claussen, our new Assistant Secretary, here to the Briefing Room in the next month or so to brief you on climate change, where the United States has just made a major announcement on greenhouse gases and on binding commitments that we think countries should meet on the emission of greenhouse gases and on some of the other leading environmental issues.
So I wanted to flag this for you as a particularly important initiative by the Secretary and his continued belief that it's very important that we follow up on it.
The Secretary then left that breakfast and went over to the White House and participated in President Clinton and Vice President Gore's meetings with the Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman.
I can report on those meetings, as follows. President Clinton and President Tudjman agreed on the importance of Croatia for peace in the Balkans and for stability in central Europe. President Clinton supported fully the goal of Croatia becoming integrated into the western community of nations as an independent nation of central Europe.
As you know, Croatia would like to take part in some of the major European institutions. The United States would like to support that.
The two Presidents also agreed that it's very important to have full implementation of the Dayton Accords, particularly pertaining to the Bosniac-Croat Federation, which we believe is one of the pillars for the success of the Dayton Accords in the future.
The President underscored -- President Clinton -- the importance of the Federation and of continued adherence by Croatia, through the influence that Croatia has on the Croatian community, to that agreement.
In this connection, we agreed with the Croatians this morning that completing steps towards establishing a fully functioning Federation, including transfer of all relevant powers to Federation structures, the dissolution of the Herceg-Bosna structures and the establishment of a functioning city administration in Mostar, based on the results of the recent elections, that all of those were important steps that must be concluded in order to maintain momentum towards peace as we approach the September 14 elections.
As all of you know, that issue of Mostar was a very important issue for the United States in these meetings. The United States fully supports the European Union's position that the results of the recent elections must be respected by all sides.
President Tudjman drew attention to the agreement reached at the meeting of the Federation Forum in Sarajevo two days ago that was chaired by John Kornblum. This provides for full establishment of Federation structures by August 8. President Tudjman said that this step would be critical in assuring that Croatia could move to implement the results of the Mostar elections.
The United States itself is committed to implementing the July 31st agreement, engineered by Assistant Secretary Kornblum, on the Federation Forum. We're very pleased to receive President Tudjman today.
I have just a couple of other announcements. I will not read this but I am going to be posting after the briefing that the United States has decided to end its policy of denial on commercial defense trade with Ukraine by removing Ukraine from the ITAR list, the International Traffic and Arms Regulations list. This is effective today, August 2.
As you know, just about two weeks ago, we removed Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Kazakstan. Russia had been removed, I believe, in early April.
This means that there are now a number of areas related to military equipment, defense services, and defense technologies where trade will be permitted and possible with Ukraine. This is a major step forward for Ukraine and for the development of a very close U.S.-Ukraine relationship which, as you know, for three and a half years has been a very high priority of this Administration.
I wanted to draw your attention to a visit next week of the new Swedish Prime Minister, Prime Minister Goran Persson. He arrives on Monday, August 5, in Washington. He'll be seeing President Clinton on August 6, on Tuesday. Secretary Christopher will participate in that meeting in the Oval Office. Labor Secretary Robert Reich will also be seeing him.
This is the first official visit of Prime Minister Persson to Washington since his election in March. We have an excellent relationship with Sweden. This relationship grew in 1993 and 1994 out of our common commitment to work towards the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Estonia and Latvia where the Swedish Government played a key role.
Sweden is also a key member of IFOR. Eight hundred and fifty Swedish troops are part of the IFOR contingent in the American sector. So the Swedish and American troops are serving together. And Sweden, because of its new association with the European Union, is also an important partner of ours on European Union issues, on NATO issues, on Partnership for Peace issues. We are looking at this as a very important visit.
This follows up on a lot of good work done by the Swedish Ambassador here, Henrik Liljegren, to have Sweden and the United States work more closely on all these issues. We're looking forward to it.
Finally, I'm also posting a statement about a great tragedy that occurred last evening in Suriname. The Department of State would like to convey its deep regret to the people and government of Suriname following a terrible fire last evening that destroyed the National Assembly and many other government buildings. Our Embassy reports that both the Surinamese National Assembly and the Foreign Ministry burned to the ground and that a significant portion of the historical archives of the people of Suriname have been destroyed. Other buildings were damaged.
Fortunately, it does not appear at this point that anyone was killed or injured. There is an investigation into the cause of the fire. But we do want to convey our deep regret at this considerable loss to the Surinamese people.
Q Back on Tudjman. Are you saying that President Tudjman subscribed to all of those goals that you outlined?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I am. I meant to say that. In fact, when I went through the points with you, the points that I listed concerning the Federation, concerning the dissolution of Herceg-Bosnan institutions and concerning respect for the elections in Mostar are points that we're able to reach agreement on this morning. We're very pleased about that.
Because, as you know, we've been discussing these issues with the Croatian Government and with the Bosnian Croats for some time. We believe that this is a significant step forward. We now want to see, of course, all of it put into practice.
Q Nick, how can this -- can you convince us a little bit more, compellingly, how this could be a significant step forward?
President Tudjman has supposedly committed himself to the Dayton Accords and every dot and every crossing of the "t" since it was signed. Yet there has to be repeated, sort of get-togethers to try to make him recommit. How does this go beyond any other committal he's already made?
MR. BURNS: You're exactly right to note that President Tudjman and the other leaders signed the Dayton Accords. They initialed them in Dayton, they signed them in Paris, and they are responsible for fulfilling all of the commitments.
The reality of Bosnia is -- and you know this as well as I do -- the reality of Bosnia is that the implementation of the Dayton Accords has been problematic in several significant areas, no more so than the Federation and problems associated with building a Federation that's going to be strong and that's going to serve the interests of stability.
We have talked before about dissolving the institutions of Herceg-Bosna several times in the past eight months. We've talked before about respect for elections. The fact is that the Bosnia Croat community has thrown into doubt whether or not they'll respect the elections in Mostar, and now we have the Croatian President saying that they will. That is significant.
I will grant you that we've gone over some of these issues many times before, but significant that the President of Croatia in the Oval Office is committing to this today.
Q Has he ever committed to that before?
MR. BURNS: We've never had a specific discussion with him on the results of the recent elections in Mostar. That is, if you will, a newer issue than the Herceg-Bosna issue or the Federation issue. But it's important, we found, in trying to secure implementation of Dayton -- it's been very important for us to get together with these leaders from time to time. That's why Secretary Christopher was in the region in February, was in Geneva with them in June, and that's why we're going to continue meeting with them in the near future.
That's why John Kornblum has made repeated trips to the area, to try to make sure that at every step of the way, they are doing what they said they would do. And that's the reality of trying to implement the Dayton Accords.
Q Would the United States go any further in promising Tudjman that it would support Croatia's integration into Europe in any specific way?
MR. BURNS: We support it in a general way, provided that Croatia is true to its commitments in the Dayton Accords. That is essentially the basis of this relationship that we have, and that's the basis that European governments have as well. Our support is important to Croatia, plus fully normalizing our relationship in the trade area is important, too.
So I think the Croatians can expect that the United States will live up to its commitments. Of course, we will so long as we see positive action on the points that I mentioned this morning, just now.
Q But President Clinton didn't go any farther -- didn't go a step further and make a specific commitment?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that he did. I'm not aware of any specific commitments, Carol, no.
Q Are you confident that Tudjman speak for the Bosnian Croats, or will you alternatively use his influence with them to accomplish both those goals on Herceg-Bosna and the Mostar elections? It's one thing for him to support it, but --
MR. BURNS: Our experience shows that President Tudjman has considerable influence on the Bosnian Croat community, and that when he chooses to exercise that influence, positive things happen.
Q Nick, also on the Tudjman visit, did anybody bring up the suppression of press freedoms and other rights in Croatia?
MR. BURNS: That issue was raised. It was raised -- and I should say in addition to the meeting the President and the Vice President had, Foreign Minister Granic and the Secretary had a chance to talk, and Foreign Minister Granic came in to see Under Secretary Peter Tarnoff. So we did raise the range of issues here. In addition to the Federation issue, the Mostar issue, we have been concerned about the ability of the press to operate independently in the runup to the elections.
This concern is not related solely to Croatia. It's a specific concern we have with the Bosnian Government, and John Kornblum took this issue up with President Izetbegovic -- the issue of the open broadcast network -- when he was in Sarajevo two days ago. It's also an issue we've had with the Bosnian Serbs, so I think we've been able to spread this concern around to all parties to the agreement.
Q And was he able to give any assurances that things will improve?
MR. BURNS: We have a commitment from all of them, including a renewed commitment today that all sides will respect press freedoms. We can't have free and fair elections if the people who are voting don't have free access to the media, to independent, objective voices, who can describe the issues for the elections, who can represent the views of political candidates. That's the necessary requirement for a democratic election. We want to see the parties put those into effect.
Q Was it only in relation to the election in Bosnia, or were you talking also about the domestic press in Croatia, which apparently is not very free?
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of issues here. One pertains specifically to the September 14 elections. There are other issues that do pertain on a longer-term basis to the situation in Croatia itself.
Q Nick, while we're in that general part of that world, on opening up Ukraine and other countries to arms sales or military sales by the United States. During the debate on the foreign aid bill, several members of the Senate -- Democratic members -- pointed out a great discrepancy or disparity or disproportionate part of the American foreign policy, which is that the United States stands dead last in terms of giving, proportionately giving foreign aid. But it stands head and shoulders above every country in the world in terms of arms sales. Does the State Department agree that that is a disproportionate situation?
MR. BURNS: The Clinton Administration, from the President on down -- not just the State Department -- would like to see Congress be more forthcoming with budgetary resources to advance American national interests overseas. We are, I think, if you look at our GDP -- we are on a per capita basis if not the lowest ranking member, one of the lowest ranking members of the OECD countries in foreign assistance to disadvantaged countries, and that includes countries in central Europe and the former Soviet Union.
We're not proud of that. We'd like to see that situation change, and, if the Clinton Administration had its way, we'd have a considerably greater amount of resources available to us to serve the clear U.S. interests in trying to support the consolidation of the economic reforms in Central Europe and the Czech Republic and Poland and Hungary; also in Russia and Ukraine and Armenia and other places.
We have had a battle with the Congress. Over the last ten years, U.S. foreign assistance and international spending funds have been reduced by 51 percent in real terms. We are approaching the point where the United States will only be able to talk about leadership in the world but not in some ways, very important ways, be able to act on it. Our argument with the Congress is you can't have a foreign policy on the cheap.
Pertaining to the former Soviet Union, I should tell you somewhat paradoxically that while we're at the low end worldwide, we are one of the leaders in assistance to Russia and Ukraine and the other states of the former Soviet Union. But those funds have also been dramatically reduced from the high in Fiscal Year 1994, which was well over $1 billion, now down to only, I think, $600 million in the current fiscal year, which is a woefully small number considering our interests.
We're trying to bring down the level of nuclear arms in the former Soviet Union. We're trying to deal with the problem of proliferation of fissile material and nuclear weapons, and we're trying to support the economic revolutions -- positive economic reform revolutions underway.
The Congress, I think, needs to understand that the United States has to act in its own interest. We've got to spend some money, which is a very, very small percentage of the Federal budget -- one percent -- in order to remain a global power.
Q You haven't answered the other half of the equation, the fact that the United States stands head and shoulders above any nation in the world in terms of military sales. Do you consider that to be a healthy situation?
MR. BURNS: The United States approves American military sales to countries around the world when it's in our interest to do so. I don't think it's an unhealthy situation that the United States, as opposed to other countries, such as some of our European competitors in the economic area, is selling arms -- is selling F-16 aircraft, for instance, or selling advanced tanks or advanced conventional weapons. We normally sell arms to our allies and to friendly countries, and that can be a good thing. We do so in the expectation that our arms sales will provide for military stability in the regions in which they are occurring. But we do have a set of criteria that we use when we do engage in arms sales, and I could even go over those if you'd like.
Q I was just going to ask you if aggressive selling of arms in the sense that it soaks up other resources is healthy for those countries -- recipient countries involved?
MR. BURNS: That's a decision that these countries have to make themselves, but I think you can make a very good argument that in the Middle East our arms sales have helped to provide for stability. With some of our NATO allies -- certainly our arms sales have elevated the military capabilities of our NATO allies, and that's in our self-interest.
If you look at our alliance relationships in Asia and in Europe, I think it's a given that we should continue with arms sales relationships. You're asking a different question. Is it good for those countries? Are there tradeoffs with economic reform? We can't make those decisions for those countries. These are all independent countries. We can only respond to their requests.
Still on this issue or --
Q On the Middle East, a different issue.
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q Could you comment on the USA Today report about Iranians training terrorists abroad. Also, according to a report out of Tehran, President Rafsanjani today gave a speech in which he urged all Muslim countries to stop selling the United States oil as retaliation for the pending Iran/Libya sanctions bill. Is the U.S. worried at all that any other Arab country is going to stop selling us oil?
MR. BURNS: We're not worried. I think on the second question, President Rafsanjani can say what he likes, but I don't think he's going to have much effect on OPEC and our other partners around the world with whom we have an oil trading relationship.
On the first question, I can't confirm the very impressive headlines this morning in USA Today. I can tell you it's still our very firm conclusion -- and here we do separate from some of our European allies -- that Iran is the leading terrorist state in the world, the leading supporter of the major terrorist groups operating in the Middle East, and that Iran does directly finance and give guidance to a multiple number of terrorist organizations.
I did read the story. I can't confirm everything that was said in that story.
Q Can you confirm any --
MR. BURNS: Still on the --
Q You said you can't confirm everything. Can you confirm parts of it?
MR. BURNS: I didn't write the story, and I'm not familiar with all the claims made in the story. I can speak very generally and say we do believe that Iran is responsible for a great amount of terrorism in the world.
Q But specifically the allegation that Iran has sponsored 11 training camps in Iran itself, are the numbers in question but the fact of the training camps is true?
MR. BURNS: I don't know how many training camps they have. It wouldn't surprise me if they had a great number, but I just don't know how many there are. That's one of the facts I can't confirm. I'm not in a position to confirm that.
Q But you are confirming training camps in Iran.
MR. BURNS: They certainly have been helping to train and finance and guide and in some cases dictate to terrorist organizations in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East, which is a source of great concern. As you know, as the Secretary said two days running on Capitol Hill -- yesterday and the day before -- we have a considerable difference of view with Germany and some of the other European countries on this. They tend to think that they can talk to the Iranians about this issue, and somehow Iran's actions are going to improve.
We don't see any indication of that. So we're hard-liners, but hard-liners because we're very realistic, and we have our eyes open about Iran.
MR. BURNS: I think we have -- Bill, I think he's ahead of you in precedence.
Q (inaudible) Gold, who is a prominent aide of Mr. Netanyahu, is in town. Do you have anything about his activities? Does he have meetings with the --
MR. BURNS: Dore Gold, who is a top aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is in Washington today. He came into the Department. He came in for meetings with Dennis Ross and some of Dennis' peace team. They had good discussions.
Q On that story on Iran, is it now appropriate?
MR. BURNS: Sure, Bill.
Q Okay. Thank you. The report in the wires, AP, and I believe in the paper, which I haven't seen, is that up to 5,000 men and women are currently being trained at these terrorism camps within Iran, and that two Saudi dissident groups are being trained there.
Can you comment about those specifics, and what do you think about 5,000? Isn't that a rather large number?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm the numbers, Bill; and I can't confirm the numbers of people or camps or who's doing what. We know that Iran is engaged in this type of activity, but I'm not in a position to confirm numbers for you.
Q If I could just, finally, on terror. Louis Freeh was on the Hill yesterday at the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. He was quoted as saying that the U.S. is engaged in an increasing war with terrorists and can expect more terrorist activities in the future. He said that some recent terrorist acts are signs that the problem is getting worse.
Nick, he goes on to say that it could well be that we should try to kidnap the two Libyans that are accused of the Pan Am bombing -- or not to kidnap them but to bring them into custody in some fashion -- and that retaliation might be in order -- should be considered. Does the State Department buy that policy as Mr. Freeh --
MR. BURNS: I certainly would agree with Director Freeh's interpretation of the war that we must wage on terrorism, and President Clinton has spoken out about that a number of times recently.
On the second part of your question, Bill, I did not see all of his testimony nor have I read the transcript, so I can't comment on anything he may or may not have said.
Specifically on the two Libyans -- just to say that we have a multi-million dollar reward out for them. We know who they are. We've got their likenesses on matchbooks and posters all over the Middle East, and there's a very healthy -- more than $2 million -- reward out there for anybody, Libyan or otherwise, who wants to turn them in to us.
Their future should be in U.S. courts, and they should stand trial for the murder of 269 people, including many Americans, on Pan Am 103.
Q Nick, specifically on Hizbollah, does the United States know anything about a clandestine meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and Syria and Lebanon concerning the activities of Hizbollah?
MR. BURNS: A meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister --
Q Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MR. BURNS: And?
Q Syrians of some unspecified rank.
MR. BURNS: I've seen the press reports. I just can't add anything to them. I just can't add anything to them at all.
Q Well, is the United States involved in any current negotiations involving the future of south Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: The United States is involved in discussions with Syria and Lebanon and Israel in an attempt to try to get them to agree that the negotiations on the two tracks -- Lebanon/Israel, Syria/Israel -- should recommence. I don't know whether we'll be successful in that, but that's what we're trying to do.
Q And does the United States have any judgment about a policy called "Lebanon first"? In other words, separating the Lebanon track from the Syrian track?
MR. BURNS: I don't have, really, anything particular to say about that. Our long-term objective is to see these countries have peace. Israel needs to make peace with Lebanon as well as Syria. It's a very difficult proposition. At this point we're working on a procedural basis to try to make sure that they can talk to each other, but we have not yet succeeded in arriving at that point. As you know, the last time they did formally was at the Wye Plantation talks many months ago.
Q Nick, the Israeli Government is now tying their withdrawal from Hebron to closing offices of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Do you agree with this kind of linkage? Is it permissible in their Oslo I and II agreements?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen any official statements that make that link. We understand from Prime Minister Netanyahu that he is considering the question of redeployment from Hebron, which of course is part of the Oslo II agreement, and that this is a very complex issue for him and his government.
He and his government have talked to the Palestinians about it, and we are awaiting a decision, as are the Palestinians and everyone else. I wouldn't want to prejudge that decision.
Q Do you expect them to withdraw?
MR. BURNS: We think that Israel, as the President said the other day, should meet its commitments under Oslo II. Prime Minister Netanyahu, fortunately, has said that Israel will meet its commitments under Oslo II, and there are discussions underway between the Israelis and Palestinians on this particular issue as well as a number of others.
Q General Aideed apparently is dead, and I was wondering if the United States had any particular reaction to it?
MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports. I guess General Aideed's radio station announced today that he died yesterday, August 1, and the reports are that his death was brought about by some gunshot wounds received last week in fighting between Aideed's militia and forces loyal to the rival faction leader, Mr. Ali Mahdi.
We understand that he was to have been buried today in Mogadishu. We also understand from the radio reports out of Mogadishu that Issa Mohammed Siad, who is the Minister of the Presidency in Aideed's self-proclaimed republic, has become the interim president of the Aideed government.
We regret the ongoing violence that has prolonged the suffering of the Somali people. We understand that Mogadishu today is relatively calm. We certainly would call on all factions to continue to exercise restraint and to end hostilities. We hope that perhaps with the passing of General Aideed, the Somali people will be given an opportunity to figure out their own future, to play a role in that politically, and that a broad-based government could be formed that would free this long suffering country from the factional fighting that has been the rule of the road for many, many years now. So that's, I guess, Carol, our general reaction to his death.
Q The United States in the not-too-distant past was very active in Somalia, trying to bring the factions together and establish a kind of broad-based representation. Is there any thought to giving it another try now that a main obstacle has apparently passed?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States does not recognize any governmental authority in Somalia. We do not have diplomatic relations with the country. We don't maintain any longer an Embassy in Mogadishu. However, Embassy officers from our Embassies in Kenya, in Nairobi, and from Djibouti visit Mogadishu from time to time to have talks with the various factions, just so that we can continue to understand the politics of the country.
We've repeatedly urged a peaceful approach to problem-solving between the factions. Of course, these urgings have gone unheeded because it has continued to be a very violent place. Our hope now is that it can be a more peaceful dialogue.
I'm not anticipating, at least immediately, any sudden upsurge in American diplomatic activity in Somalia. We'll have to wait and see what happens. If a broad-based government can be formed, then I think the United States would be in a position to reconsider our diplomatic approach and perhaps to heighten our own political activity there. But I think we need to wait and see what happens in the wake of his death.
Q Nick, do you have anything on Cuba putting on trial a U.S. citizen, Vesco, who I understand is kind of a fugitive?
MR. BURNS: This is a very interesting case. Mr. Robert Vesco, whom all of you at least know about, is a fugitive from justice in the United States. He is wanted in several federal courts in districts all across the United States on a number of criminal charges, including money laundering and narcotics trafficking charges.
He, we believe, is an American citizen. Apparently he claims not to be an American citizen. We have tried to visit him while he's been incarcerated by the Cuban authorities. He has not wished to see any of our Consular officers from our U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
We sought his extradition to the United States from Cuba. That was refused by the Cuban Government, and that was about a year-and-a-half ago. There is an extradition treaty in place. It was signed in 1904, and it was entered into force in 1905. It was supplemented by an additional extradition treaty in 1926.
In recent years, the extradition treaty has not been invoked, and in this last case the Cuban Government refused to invoke it. We wish they would reconsider because Mr. Vesco is a criminal, and he ought to be tried in the United States. We do believe he's a United States citizen, but he is claiming to be otherwise.
Q Do you have anything on the trial itself? American observers there, for example?
MR. BURNS: I don't at this point. Since he's refused to see us and since the Cuban Government refuses to hand him over to us, there's not much that the United States Government can do, frankly. We'll have to see how the Cuban justice wheels grind. I'm sure they'll grind very slowly and imperfectly, as they normally do. We'll have to see what sentence, if any, he's given by the Cuban authorities. We'll continue to assert that he is an American citizen who deserves advice from Consular officers about the conditions of his incarceration, and we will continue to assert that he ought to be extradited. Obviously, our pleas are falling on deaf ears in Havana.
Q Do you have anything on the motives of the Cuban Government for his being put on trial?
MR. BURNS: The Cuban Government is not a government with which we see eye to eye. It's sometimes an unfathomable government in terms of their intentions, opaque; and I can't really tell you why the Cuban Government has put him on trial. Perhaps there will be press releases from the Cubans explaining why they put him on trial.
Q Nick, there was a report today that the United States quietly sent troops to Haiti last week because of concerns about an assassination attempt on Aristide and Preval. What do you know about that?
MR. BURNS: I would have you check with the Pentagon on the disposition of U.S. troops. I do know that we have engineering troops and advisers in place in Haiti, a very small number of them, and that we did dispatch last week a small number of American troops -- non-engineering troops, you know, regular troops -- to Haiti to do two things: to provide protection for these engineering troops and also to engage in some training activities.
I'm not completely sure about the numbers of these troops, so I'd ask you to check with the Pentagon on that.
Q But why would they need to go there to be a protective force?
MR. BURNS: We always want to make sure that our own forces, whoever they are, whatever responsibilities they're carrying out, are well protected; and it was a decision apparently made by the Pentagon that the engineering forces were in need of protection.
Q Are you concerned that there's an increased possibility of or an increased effort to assassinate Aristide or Preval in Haiti?
MR. BURNS: There has been continuing instability in Haiti. There has been a disturbing level of political violence, not just in the last couple of weeks or months but throughout the period post-September 1994. We are concerned about that, yes.
Q But my question goes to whether there has been a change that has made you more concerned and therefore you might have sent these troops to protect, in fact, Aristide or Preval from sort of action.
MR. BURNS: We remain concerned about the level of political violence there. We have a great interest in seeing the democratic government elected by the people of Haiti continue in power. We have a great interest in trying to help that government stabilize itself, and there are threats to the government, including threats from political violence. So we are concerned.
Are we more concerned this month than we were two months ago? That's hard for me to say. I think there's been a general level of concern here for a long time.
Q Were these troops, though, sent to protect those leaders?
MR. BURNS: I understand that they were sent for the reasons that I cited, which was to provide protection for the engineering forces.
Q Were the American forces threatened?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if they were specific threats or general threats, George, so that's why I advise you to seek guidance from Ken Bacon and Mike Doubleday over at the Pentagon, because, of course, the Pentagon normally announces the disposition of American troops beyond our shores and also the reasons for their disposition.
Q Can we change topics --
MR. BURNS: We can change topics.
Q -- to the United Nations. Is the issue of monitors still the primary reason why the U.S. is holding up the humanitarian oil sale, and also the Government of Turkey has announced it's going to seek an exemption to the trade ban with Iraq, sort of what Georgia has. What's the U.S. reaction on that?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, yes, we still have concerns that the plan established for the export of oil and for the importation of humanitarian goods by Iraq -- we have concerns that there be a sufficient number of monitors that will allow us to be reassured of our central point that the people of Iraq will benefit from the export of oil, not Saddam Hussein.
We have enough experience with him to know that agreements need to be checked. They need to be turned upside down, magnifying glasses need to be used, just to assure ourselves that proper precautions are in place that he can't enrich himself, and our goal is that he won't see a single penny of the proceeds.
We are quite comfortable taking the role of being the lone holdout on this issue -- quite comfortable because we know him. We know him better than a lot of other people up at the United Nations, and we're not going to let him fool the United Nations.
If the United Nations -- if the Secretary General can report to the Security Council that a plan is in effect -- or plan is ready -- excuse me -- that would provide for a sufficient number of monitors, then the United States in the Security Council will vote for it, because we were the father of the plan. We want this to happen. It was our idea, but it's got to be a good plan. It can't be an imperfect plan.
Q How many more monitors do you want who (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: I have to direct you to USUN and to the U.N. Sanctions Committee. I still don't have numbers from them; specifically, how many monitors we want in place. We want a sufficient number of monitors in place so that we can be assured they'll be no cheating by the Iraqis on either end. Export flows out; humanitarian flows in.
Your second question pertains to Turkey. I don't know that we have seen a specific request here in Washington for Turkey to receive an exemption from the U.N. sanctions in place.
Q I don't think they've actually made the request. They've announced that they're going to make the request.
MR. BURNS: Right. I don't know that we've seen a request. Therefore, it's very difficult for me to talk to this, except to say we believe that sanctions should be maintained in Iraq. Any exceptions would have to be given on an exceptional basis. They would have to be a very convincing reason, or set of reasons, for the United States to agree to that.
If the Turkish Government has announced anything, I'm sure the Turkish Government will seek out our Embassy in Ankara, the State Department here in Washington, to explain its rationale to us, but we've not yet, I believe, not yet had those discussions.
Q The Turkish officials, including the Prime Minister himself, have been saying that the U.S. Government has agreed to support this application in return for the extension of the "Provide Comfort's" mandate. You're saying that there has been no such give and take?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that. I'll have to check with our Turkish experts here in the Department. I'm not aware of that. I don't believe we've seen any specific request.
As I said -- and I think we'll want to look at any request and have private discussions with the Turkish Government before we can go forward with our own vote in the United Nations.
Q Do you have any reaction to what's been happening in Indonesia where lots of opposition people have been arrested recently?
MR. BURNS: The United States was quite disturbed to see the manner by which the demonstrators were treated over the weekend in Jakarta. We were seriously disturbed by the mistreatment of those demonstrators, by the denial of basic human rights, the freedom of speech to those demonstrators. We said that publicly a couple of days ago. I'm glad to repeat it today. We've made these views quite well known to the Indonesian Government.
Q Nick, how far do you share the Indonesian Government -- their opinion, that it's a kind of communist party agitation?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we are, through our Embassy in Jakarta, very familiar with the opposition there. Under Secretary Joan Spero, who accompanied the Secretary to Jakarta had a meeting with Mrs. Megawati, one of the opposition leaders.
We listened to her. Joan Spero and others, and Ambassador Roy listened to her; heard her view of the aims of her party. I would not say that all of the opposition are communist-inspired or communists themselves. I think the opposition is quite diverse, and certainly there are many non-communist groups in the opposition.
Still on Indonesia? Still on Indonesia.
Q The Secretary was asked about Indonesia in his Senate appearance yesterday. While he made some comments about the U.S. support for transition to political pluralism in that country, he did not take the opportunity to criticize in any way the recent events. I was wondering why that was?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary faced many, many hours of Congressional testimony on Wednesday and Thursday. He feels very satisfied with the testimony he gave. I can tell you, however, that the Secretary very much not only supports but looked at the statements that we made on Monday that were critical of the Indonesian Government.
Q But wouldn't it have had more effect if he, in fact, had said it himself when he had an opportunity yesterday?
MR. BURNS: Carol, all I can tell you is that I know that the Secretary fully supports the statement that I made on Monday and fully supports the reaffirmation of that that I've just made in the last couple of minutes.
I am not inclined to second guess the Secretary. I'm very sympathetic to people who have to stand up in front others asking them questions for hours at a time. Sometimes you give an answer that is partial, sometimes you give an answer that is full. I know that he is very comfortable with the way that we have articulated our policy this week on Indonesia.
Q Have you seen the announcement that the Israeli Cabinet decided to end the four-year suspension on settlement expansions.
MR. BURNS: We have seen press reports of the Cabinet decision in Jerusalem. We have not yet seen -- neither Dennis Ross nor myself or anybody else here -- the text of the Cabinet decision.
Based on the press reports and based on some of the discussions we've had with Israeli officials, I think we're clear about a couple of things. First, this is a decision to ease -- to ease -- some of the prior restrictions on settlement activity. Second, there was no decision made by the Israeli Cabinet today to specifically expand the number of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
We understand that this issue rests -- the Prime Minister has delegated this issue, at least in part for day-to-day responsibility, to the Defense Minister; that any decision to expand settlements would have to be taken by a special vote of the Cabinet itself commensurate with budgetary restrictions.
So I think it's a quite complex statement, as we understand it, although we have not seen the official text and therefore will continue to talk to the Israelis about what it means.
Q Did that come today in the discussions with Mr. Gold?
MR. BURNS: I believe it was discussed, yes.
On Israel, still?
Q On Syria and Lebanon --
MR. BURNS: Why don't we stay there and then we'll go to Colombia. Mexico? Okay.
Q With regard to the reports that Israel is contemplating some kind of a partial agreement with respect to south Lebanon with the Syrians and the Lebanese, how would that relate to any U.S. policy goals or interest respecting the Syrian obligation to withdraw its troops from Lebanon -- the Taif Accords, etc. -- and to the need for Syria to stop its, or cease its sponsorship of terrorist operations and headquarters reported to be in Damascus and in Lebanon?
And, third, how we would the State Department see the protection of Christians in south Lebanon under such a withdrawal?
MR. BURNS: I've seen a number of reports in the press about what is being discussed, what is not being discussed, what proposals are being floated. I can't speak to that.
The United States feels most comfortable when we conduct diplomacy on a confidential basis in the Middle East, and I think I'll remain true to that today.
Our objective here is quite clear. We'd like to see Israel reach a peace agreement with Lebanon and with Syria. Ultimately, we all believe that the territorial integrity of Lebanon is very important; that the future withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon is important at some point in the future.
But right now, we are really engaged on a procedural basis in trying to convince Israel and Syria to hold meetings, but we have not been successful, at least to date, in arranging that or helping to arrange that. We'll continue working on that basis.
Q Would you see those withdrawals as being contemporaneous, essentially -- Israel's withdrawal and Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: That's a question I just can't answer because that's not in our hands. That's in Israeli hands and Syrian hands and Lebanese hands. We'll just have to see what they all elect to do, but that's one of the long-standing problems, how that would be carried forth. That's very complex. I don't believe we are on the verge of resolving that particular issue, unfortunately.
Yes, on Mexico.
Q This week, the Congress in Mexico approved a new political reform. I was just wondering if the State Department has any comment on that?
Also, if the U.S. Government believes that these political reforms could put an end to the electoral corruption that's very famous in Mexico?
MR. BURNS: We understand that Mexico has embarked on landmark reform. We congratulate Mexico. I understand that President Zedillo on July 25, and the leaders of the four major Mexican political parties, put forward legislation that at least has now been agreed to by both Houses of the Mexican Congress.
We understand these reforms to be the first ever direct and popular election of the Mayor of Mexico City -- tighter restrictions on campaign financing in Mexico and greater independence of the Federal Electoral Institute, the body, of course, that governs elections in Mexico. Now that it has been approved by both Houses of Congress, it must next be approved by each of the 31 state legislatures in Mexico before it can become law.
We understand from the Mexicans, this process could be completed by mid-1997, in time for the Congressional elections.
We congratulate President Zedillo and the leaders of the major political parties for having supported this legislation. We congratulate the Mexican Congress for having affirmed it, and we now look forward to seeing this put into action.
We do think it will provide a better basis for the Mexicans not only to have greater political stability but also to attack the problem of corruption which, as you know, President Zedillo has identified as one of the major problems afflicting Mexican society.
Bill, you going to follow on Mexico?
Q Do you have any reaction regarding the terrorist acts, the assassination of a prominent figure of Algeria's church?
MR. BURNS: We saw press reports here in the Department this morning about the murder by active terrorists of a leading religious figure in Algeria. Needless to say, once again we must condemn terrorism in Algeria and must give our profound sympathy to the church, to the families of the victims, and to everyone associated with the cause of stability in Algeria. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms.
Q On Libya -- getting back to Libya. Just today, the Libyan U.N. envoy, he's circulating a letter at the U.N. denying some of the charges we've been making about Libya and asking for a special Security Council meeting to defend itself. In fact, he's invited Boutros Boutros Ghali to go to Libya and see that there's no terrorism there.
Would the U.S. veto even holding such a Security Council meeting on Libya?
MR. BURNS: This is really laughable that the Libyan Government would want to debate their support for terrorism at the United Nations. I don't know if we even would be interested in holding such a debate because the facts are so clear, two Libyans, supported and directed by the Libyan Government, bombed Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988, and they killed 269 people, including many, many Americans and three employees of the Department of State whose names are on our diplomatic plaque in the C Street Lobby.
These guys are guilty. They're going to be brought to justice. For the Libyans to assert that somehow they're free of any sin is ridiculous. It's not serious. No one takes Qadhafi seriously. No one takes this move seriously. We're going to continue to keep the pressure on them.
We call upon our European allies, many of whom trade with Libya, to keep the pressure on the Libyan Government.
Q You used to refer to these two Libyans as "defendants." Now, you are calling them guilty.
MR. BURNS: We have considerable evidence that they are guilty of having put the bomb on the airplane.
In the United States that's not sufficient, of course, to incarcerate people. You have to bring them before a court, which is a just court. There are no such courts in Libya, of course. It's a dictatorship. So we believe these people should be brought to the United States for a fair trial. They'll have the right to be defended by adequate counsel. But I would bet, on the basis of the information available to us, that they would be found guilty if they're brought to the United States for trial.
Q The Defense Minister of Colombia affirmed that the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, was directly involved in the release of his brother. He went to Cuba to negotiate with Castro.
Why is the U.S. Government still supporting Gaviria if he's trying to negotiate with governments like Cuba that you don't like?
MR. BURNS: We support him because he's a good partner of the United States; because he has done a very, very fine job in his position; because I cannot confirm to you all these various allegations about what happened with Fidel Castro and what didn't.
But if the Colombian Government is suddenly raising questions about this, they ought not to cast stones. The Colombian Government ought to concentrate on the fight against narco-traffickers and stop levelling charges at others beyond Colombia's borders.
Q A last question on Vesco. Is he just disclaiming his citizenship, or he's claiming another --
MR. BURNS: I just don't know, because we haven't had a chance to talk to him, but he apparently denies he's a U.S. citizen. We think he is a U.S. citizen. He should be brought to the United States for trial.
Q He's not claiming to be Cuban?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he is, no. Thank you. Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:09 p.m.)
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