U.S. Department of State
96/08/07 Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7, 1996, 1:11 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I've got two announcements to make.
The first is that Secretary of State Christopher is going to be traveling next week, August 12-15, to Brussels, to Geneva and to Sarajevo. This trip is going to focus on the entire range of issues that we and the parties are dealing with, leading up to the Bosnian elections on September 14.
In Brussels, the Secretary will meet with the Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Solana. He'll also meet with General Joulwan to discuss the important role that IFOR is going to play, providing a base of security for these elections in September. He'll be meeting with Carl Bildt and with Bob Frowick, the head of the OSCE Commission that has responsibility for the elections.
The Secretary will then travel on Tuesday evening, for meetings on Wednesday, to Geneva. In Geneva he'll be meeting President Milosevic, President Izetbegovic and President Tudjman. He'll have a series of meetings with them throughout the morning and afternoon -- and probably into the early evening, if the past is any indication -- with the three of them. They will be individual meetings. He may elect to bring them together for group meetings.
These will focus on compliance with the Dayton Accords but specifically on the September 14 elections. What advances need to be made to create the conditions for free and fair elections on September 14? What commitments that have been undertaken have not been met by the parties for these elections? How can the international community help to insure that there is press freedom in advance of the election, so that the print media and the television media are free to talk about the elections, to analyze the elections, and people are free to watch that and read that in their newspapers? That is a fundamental point that needs to be assured for these elections.
Of course, the Secretary will also be talking about the need for the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia to uphold the July 19 agreement with the United States -- that Mr. Karadzic will play no role in these elections, and that he will indeed be out of power and out of influence in the run- up to the elections.
After the meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, the Secretary will travel on Thursday, August 15, to Sarajevo. He will spend the better part of the day in Sarajevo to review progress made on civil reconstruction projects. The European Union and the United States have played a major role in funding and administering these projects.
He will convey to the Bosnian people, through interviews that he intends to give with the media there, the importance of these elections, the opportunity that the people of the country have in the September 14 elections to chart a new course for themselves for the future.
The Secretary's trip will be preceded by a trip to the region by Assistant Secretary John Kornblum, who leaves tonight. He will be visiting Sarajevo, Zagreb and Belgrade for meetings with all of these leaders and with many others, besides. He'll be working in advancing the Secretary's trip on all the issues that I've already mentioned.
I believe there will be a meeting of the Contact Group on August 12, that Assistant Secretary Kornblum will participate in, on most of these issues.
There is going to be a signup sheet available to you in the Press Office following the briefing, for those of you who would like to accompany the Secretary. We leave at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. We will be returning here late on Thursday evening. The Secretary will leave Sarajevo on Thursday afternoon and return directly to the United States.
Those of you who would like to come with us are encouraged to do so. The signup sheet will have to be closed by tomorrow, because we have only a few days to make these preparations for the trip. I'll be glad to take questions on this in just a minute, but I wanted to make one other announcement.
Some of you just witnessed the swearing-in of our new Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Jeff Davidow. There was a very large assembly up in the Ben Franklin Room. He is one of our most outstanding career diplomats here at the State Department. I think he exhibited both his wit at his swearing-in, in his remarks that he made, as well as his wisdom.
He is going to be undertaking his first trip to Latin America as Assistant Secretary of State. He leaves on Friday, August 9, for a 10- day trip that will take him to Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
In Ecuador, Assistant Secretary Davidow will attend the inauguration of the President-elect -- President-elect Bucaram -- and he'll consult with the President-elect and members of the new government.
In Chile, he'll be meeting with the leadership of the country in the context of the Consultative Framework that was established by President Clinton and President Frei in June 1994. This follows the Secretary of State's very successful trip to Santiago in February.
In Asuncion, Paraguay, Assistant Secretary Davidow will have discussions with that government's leadership on the importance of trying to continue to consolidate democracy and economic reform, especially in the wake of the very unfortunate events of a couple of months ago in Paraguay.
In the Dominican Republic, he will participate in the inauguration of President-elect Fernandez. He'll meet with him and members of his government. This emphasizes the very strong cooperation that we hope to have with the new government, now that there is a new President in the Dominican Republic. There's been a very dramatic transfer of power to a new generation of leaders in the Dominican Republic.
During the final stop of his trip in Haiti, he'll be meeting with President Preval and with other government officials on the host of issues that we have with that country, including, of course, to reaffirm our own interests in helping the Haitian Government consolidate itself and its rule -- to achieve law and order but also to achieve a measure of human rights in doing so -- and to talk about other security and law enforcement issues.
Later this year, I know that the Assistant Secretary will be making other trips to the region, and, of course, at the U.N. in September he'll be meeting with regional leaders.
I wanted to take time to go through this, because Latin America is an important part of American foreign policy, as defined by this Administration. This trip is the most important trip that we will have had since the Secretary's trip in February and March of this year. I want to congratulate Jeff Davidow on his swearing-in and wish him the very best.
Q (Inaudible) and also for the relief pitcher for the Red Sox.
MR. BURNS: Well, you know, I noted --
Q You know you're congratulating the Yankees now.
MR. BURNS: Well, no, I noted in his bio that he's been many things. He's been in the Foreign Service for 27 years. He's been our Ambassador to Venezuela and to Zambia. He has been a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and he's played a very large role in our policy towards both Africa and Latin America.
He went to the University of Massachusetts, so I assume that means that he's a Red Sox fan. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Yankees signed a Venezuelan (inaudible).
Q That's the bottom line.
MR. BURNS: I can't believe that he would do that.
Q Listen, your statement, please, on Bosnia spoke of the Secretary -- you know, his agenda, one, is to point out the commitments that haven't been kept, but Mostar -- for the moment -- I haven't looked in the last five minutes -- but you apparently have an agreement on Mostar for the time being.
What commitments -- could you tick off two or three or four, if you wish -- commitments that haven't been kept that ought to be highlighted?
MR. BURNS: There are some commitments that have been met, and we were able to reach agreement on Mostar. We're very pleased about that. The European Union deserves credit for that.
Barry, I think if we go back over the Dayton Accords and review them, one of the most important areas is freedom of movement -- freedom of movement that is essential to carry out these elections freely and fairly on September 14. Another is freedom of the press, where there has not always been a consistent record by each of these three governments in insuring that there is a free press before the elections. And, third, I would cite war crimes and human rights in general, where we still have several of the governments failing to turn over to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal individuals who have been indicted by the Tribunal on suspicion of horrible crimes against innocent civilians during the war.
So those are just three examples of issues that we'll be pressing on, and all of them are important. The Secretary, of course, has had these types of meetings before -- he's had several of them -- where he spends an entire day with the three presidents, with Carl Bildt, with General Joulwan and others -- Bob Frowick will be in Geneva -- to talk about the whole range of issues. He'll give a press conference at the end of the day in Geneva where you'll get a chance to ask him about this, and he'll put forward our assessment of the situation in Bosnia leading up to these elections.
This trip is being timed to coincide with this crucial month before the elections, where candidates are going to campaign, where we hope there's freedom of the press -- we hope the Open Broadcast Network will be established and fully functioning -- and where the United States wants to put some pressure on everyone concerned --
Q Now, let me ask you --
MR. BURNS: -- everyone concerned to make sure that these conditions are met.
Q One other on the Bosnia stop. I think you made reference to a series of interviews. You were speaking also of media freedom. The inference, but I'd rather you say it, does this mean he will be talking to local press to demonstrate the need and the value of the exchanges with officials? Is that what you meant by "interviews" --
MR. BURNS: What I said --
Q -- that he would be seeking out, you know, local Bosnian press people to try to make a point about --
MR. BURNS: In addition to meeting with those of you who will be traveling with us and talking to you, he will take the opportunity in Sarajevo to get out and talk to normal, average people. I'm not going to indicate ahead of time specifically what he'll do, for a variety of reasons -- some of which are security reasons -- but he will get out and meet average people on the street.
I think he'll make himself available to some of the local media in order to press this point of the important role the media is going to play in these elections. You can't have free and fair elections without a free media, and the conditions for a free media are being constructed. We want to make sure that the presidents there, each of them, understands how important it is to make sure that the media is free.
Q Are you saying that the Secretary is going to draw up his double-breasted blazer and go to the streets of Sarajevo, shaking hands and joking with the people?
MR. BURNS: I'm just saying he'll take the opportunity to meet normal people in the course of the day he spends there, but we'll have to wait until Thursday to find out how he's going to do that.
Q Nick, will he be seeing U.S. troops in the field?
MR. BURNS: Yes. He will not be going out to Tuzla. He visited Tuzla and visited the troops in Tuzla and addressed them in February. He will be visiting IFOR headquarters and will meet with the IFOR leadership in Sarajevo -- and that's multinational leadership -- on Thursday.
Q On another subject, could I ask you if you have seen the remarks by President Assad of Syria in Egypt today?
MR. BURNS: There's been a request we stay on the Balkans, and then I'll be very glad to go to the Middle East.
Q Have you seen what came out of the meeting between Tudjman and Milosevic in Greece? And do you have any view about it?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the press reports. I haven't seen any detailed reporting, however. There seems to be some kind of agreement to a mutual recognition. That would be a very good thing. We've been urging Serbia and Croatia to get along, to work together, and to recognize each other -- recognize each other's borders which should be respected. If that is what has occurred, that's a very positive step in the right direction.
Still on the Balkans before we go to the Middle East?
Q Just for the record, what is the U.S. assessment at this point about whether or not the elections will be free, fair, and democratic?
MR. BURNS: Our view is that the elections must be free and fair. That is the only way that people can have a fair chance to elect people to represent themselves.
We think it's very possible for the parties to work together and make this happen. It won't happen automatically, given the fact that they've been at war for so long, that there is an enormous amount of economic deterioration which prevents people from moving about as freely as they would like, and because there have been some problems with press freedoms.
One of the reasons for Secretary Christopher's trip is to reenforce all these points. We do expect that all these three leaders will take it as their personal responsibility to make sure that these elections are, indeed, judged by objective observers afterwards to have been free and fair. That is the only standard to which we can aspire.
We cannot have our sights set lower than free and fair elections.
Q Are you expecting Bosnian Serb leaders to be --
MR. BURNS: I expect so. That's been the tradition. Usually, Mr. Buha or Krajisnik or one of them comes with the Serbian delegation. We expect one or two or more of them to be in Geneva. That's always been the case, Ron.
Q I think you said that you seek assurances that Karadzic is not playing any role in the elections and yet you also said that compliance with the War Crimes Tribunal is required. Are the Bosnian Serb leaders who show up there going to be pressed to turn Karadzic over to the War Crimes Tribunal, or will Milosevic? Or is that a hope that's been abandoned?
MR. BURNS: There are two questions in there. On the first question, the answer is, we are going to press to make sure that the specific terms of this agreement, very carefully written by Secretary Christopher and Dick Holbrooke, are being adhered to. We have an easy way to monitor that. Have there been public activities by Karadzic? Is his face on campaign posters? Is he talking to the media? Is he holding mass party meetings? We don't believe any of that is happening now. We want to assure ourselves it's not happening and will not happen in the month ahead.
On the second question, every time we meet President Milosevic or Bosnian Serb leaders -- and John Kornblum was in Pale just over a week ago to meet the Bosnian Serb leadership -- we remind them that one of their fundamental obligations is to turn over Karadzic, Mladic, and the other indicted war criminals to The Hague. We will certainly remind them of that on Wednesday in Geneva.
Q There was a story, I believe, in The New York Times yesterday about this point, which said that the individuals within the OSCE responsible for monitoring the media and assessing its fairness didn't have the time to do that nor, according to the story, the interest. Is that something you can comment on?
MR. BURNS: I think this is a report by Christine Spolar who is a very good respondent. I read the story. We certainly are concerned by it.
We expect the OSCE, and I think the OSCE leadership expects, that its staff will make this one of their primary duties. That's one of the issues we'll be talking about with Ambassador Frowick in Brussels on Tuesday and in Geneva on next Wednesday.
Q The statement by President Assad of Syria in Egypt today at a joint news conference seems to give little prospect of resumption of negotiations with Israel.
One, would you agree with that? And, two, does this come as a surprise to you after your expressing hopes that the talks could be resumed?
MR. BURNS: I don't think anything surprises us any more in the Middle East. We're so intimately involved there. I think we certainly understand the feelings on all sides.
The United States policy remains very clear and very firm. We think there should be a comprehensive peace agreement. To arrive at that lofty goal, we need to have peace negotiations. There need to be discussions and contacts between the Israelis and the Syrians, the Israelis and the Lebanese, and the Israelis and the Palestinians.
It's up to them. It's up to all those parties to decide if they're going to undertake those contacts. As you know, the United States is quite willing and is right now quite active in trying to help those discussions come about.
We cannot make them appear magically. They can only happen through the efforts of the parties themselves.
Tom. You have a follow up?
Q To follow up on your response...You say the United States is quite active. Can you tell us specifically where and how?
MR. BURNS: I think I mentioned yesterday that both Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Dennis Ross have been involved in discussions between the Israelis and Syrians over the last couple of weeks to see if it's possible to restart the negotiations.
This is a very difficult proposition. I would not encourage you to believe that we have success waiting just around the corner. I think this is going to be difficult to achieve. There are many roadblocks in the way.
We are asking everyone involved to keep their doors and minds open to ideas generated by either side. In the final analysis, we don't see peace happening and peace occurring without these kinds of discussions. Sooner or later they have to happen.
Q Forgive me if I'm a little behind, Nick. I've been away. I want to know if you have an evaluation of Chairman Arafat's remarks yesterday?
MR. BURNS: We've certainly seen the press reports of Chairman Arafat's remarks. We are a little bit handicapped here because we don't have a transcript here in Washington of what he said. We've been relying on some of the good press reports that have been written.
Our policy on settlements is identical to what it was the last time we talked, and well-known -- very well-known -- and that is, that settlements are unhelpful. They are a complicating factor in the Middle East peace negotiations. Settlements ought to be discussed directly by the Israelis and Palestinians in the final status talks. There is a mechanism for that.
If there are problems on either side, they have the right to expect that they'll have a discussion about this. That's the process that was set up. That's part of the Israel-Palestinian Accords. So I think we'll just leave our answer there.
Q Nick, didn't Arafat make a speech? You speak of press reports as if they're is some kind of source story. I mean, Arafat went public. So I have a two-part question.
Was it news to the U.S. Government that Arafat was unhappy with Netanyahu's policies -- the latest policy statements -- on settlements?
And, secondly, wasn't the speech available for analysis here?
MR. BURNS: Apparently not. I asked our leading Middle East experts in the building this morning, people who follow this hour by hour, if they had seen a copy of these remarks. They said, no, unfortunately they had not.
I didn't mean to diminish at all the press reports. In fact, The New York Times report was thorough and comprehensive and a very good report. But if we're to react to an official statement like this by an important person like Arafat, we generally want to see the remarks ourselves before we have any detailed remarks.
Q I'm just curious about your relationship with Arafat. You seem to be up to the moment on Syria and on Israel and their relationship. This Arafat thing came like a bolt out of the blue to you guys?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't indicate that at all. In answer to your first question, Barry, we weren't surprised. We weren't surprised at all.
But Tom asked a question. In order to give you a more detailed answer, I'd have to see the text and I haven't seen the text. I thought I gave Tom a clear answer that is consistent with everything we've said for the last 25 years on this issue.
Q No, it isn't.
MR. BURNS: It's generally consistent, Barry.
Q You substituted -- on three occasions now, there is a new phrase to refer to the settlements and it's not the phrase that's been used for 25 years.
MR. BURNS: The general American view on settlements has not changed much.
Q The American view is that they are unhelpful --
MR. BURNS: Some of the phraseology has changed over the years. It has evolved over the years.
Q But, Nick, let's gnaw on this bone a little more. The American policy hasn't changed and the American statements haven't changed. What's changed is the government in Israel. The kind of statements that you issued when Shimon Peres was Prime Minister are, in fact, probably not quite so applicable to the current situation in which you have a belief or apparent belief by one side that the Israelis are prepared to circumvent the agreements that they made. What do you do about that?
MR. BURNS: Actually, what I just said to you -- and I'll be glad to repeat it: "unhelpful and complicating" -- about settlements, the fact that they're a final status issue, is exactly what I was saying when Prime Minister Peres was in power on the issue of settlements in 1995 and in 1996. Yes, Barry, absolutely.
Q (Inaudible) they were an obstacle and a hindrance --
MR. BURNS: No, Barry. You're talking about a time before the Israeli-Palestinian agreements. So it's exactly what we have been saying since I took this job in February 1995. True statement, Barry. An accurate statement.
I can't really improve upon that very clear reiteration of American policy.
Q Peres agreed with you and Netanyahu doesn't. That's the important distinction here.
MR. BURNS: I would just say this. If there's a difference between the Palestinians and the Israelis on settlements, there is now -- and this was not the case for much of the last couple of decades -- there is now an avenue for them, a place where they can talk about these issues. They have a relationship. They have discussions. They have final status talks. This is a final status issue.
Q Let me try the State Department on apparently two main points Arafat made and see if the U.S. has a separate or a different view. Okay?
He says the extension of settlements on the West Bank are a flagrant violation of the Palestinian accords. Are they?
MR. BURNS: If we have any views on that, we'd share them privately.
Q You won't say publicly whether you think the accords have been violated?
MR. BURNS: We share them privately with the parties. We think it's most helpful for us to allow any differences about the accords to be argued out privately, debated privately between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
But our own position on settlements is well known. When we say unhelpful and complicating, that means exactly what it says.
Q The second thing. Who knows what it means, but the implications are obvious. He says this expansion should be resisted "on the ground." Is that a pleasant statement to you?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what he means by that.
Q You don't know?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q It sounds a little combative, doesn't it?
MR. BURNS: I think you'd have to ask him for an interpretation of that statement.
Q But the U.S. is not distressed by that either?
MR. BURNS: We think that there ought to be a continuation of peaceful discussions and a peaceful resolution of disputes. The major advance between Israel and the Palestinians over the last couple of decades is this: they're no longer fighting about their differences; they're talking about them. We expect that will continue, that there will be no recourse to violence or force by either side to resolve their problems.
Q Can I ask you a quick logistical question? Is Mr. Ross in town today? Will he remain in town all day today?
MR. BURNS: Dennis Ross?
MR. BURNS: Dennis Ross is on a well-earned vacation with his family.
Q He's not working the Middle East subject today?
MR. BURNS: No, he's not. He's on vacation. His associates are working this issue.
Q Oh, I'm sure the issue is being worked. With your penchant for secret diplomacy, I'm trying to see Mr. Ross off on a mission that we'll hear about in November.
MR. BURNS: He's not, he's not. He's on vacation with his family at an undisclosed location.
Q I hope he has a good time.
MR. BURNS: I think he will.
Q Also on this subject, has the Israeli Government drawn down the current tranche of the loan guarantees?
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q Could you check that, please?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to look into that, yes.
Q And see if there's any offset because --
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to look into that.
Q -- of money spent on settlements.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Further on the Middle East?
Q Do you have anything on the monitoring group meeting tomorrow in southern Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: I can just tell you that there will be an organizational meeting of the monitoring group at Naqoura in southern Lebanon. The five parties to the agreement will meet together. David Greenlee, who is an American Foreign Service Officer, has been assigned to be the American representative to this group.
Following our discussions with all the parties, the United States will chair this group, as you know, until December. Mr. Greenlee will chair the group. He and the French, the Syrians, the Lebanese, and the Israeli officials present at Naqoura tomorrow will be working out the specific procedures that the monitoring group will follow. They'll basically have a meeting to try to organize their efforts. He will be resident along with the French representative in Nicosia. When it's necessary to travel to southern Lebanon or northern Israel, they will do so -- Mr. Greenlee and the French representative -- and they will meet on their various trips representatives of the three governments from the region -- Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.
That's what we expect to happen to tomorrow -- a first meeting. We're very, very pleased that after many, many months of negotiation, we'll finally arrive at this point tomorrow.
Q I thought the representatives would be military officers; right?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q I thought that the representatives would be military officers?
MR. BURNS: I can only speak for the United States. Our representative is an American diplomat. We always thought that our representative would be a diplomat, not an American military officer.
There will be other individuals who will from time to time be part of these discussions and who will be representing the various countries involved. But the American representative is a Foreign Service Officer.
Q Do you expect the recent fighting in the south to be on the agenda tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that's one of the issues that will come up, yes.
Q Another subject?
MR. BURNS: Still on the Middle East? Anybody else on the Middle East?
Q Now that Madeleine Albright has indicated that the monitor issue seems to be solved, are there any other obstacles for the U.S. to going forward with the oil-for-aid agreement in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. I think Ambassador Albright made a statement about an hour ago up at the United Nations that the United States was now satisfied with the arrangements produced by the Sanctions Committee and we expect that now U.N. Resolution 986 will go forward. We're very pleased about that.
Q Is there any kind of indication when that actually will start to be implemented, when oil will start to flow?
MR. BURNS: That's up to the United Nations and to the people who will be implementing the program. We hope it will happen shortly. We're very pleased not only to see that the American plan now has been fully agreed to, that it's a plan that will make sure that Saddam Hussein doesn't get a penny from these operations, but that it will provide some badly needed support for Turkey.
Turkey has suffered a lot economically because of the imposition of the sanctions. Turkey has soldiered on. It's met its commitments. The Turkish Government has told us this week that it will continue to meet its commitments to enforce the sanctions. But now that 986 will go forward, Turkey will be able to open the pipeline and Turkey will receive some economic benefits from that. That's a very, very good dividend from this operation.
Still on the Middle East before we go elsewhere?
Q Are you saying that 986 will be enough to give Turkey relief? Or is this government going to be considering Turkey's request for further flexibility in trading with Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Turkey has formally requested further flexibility, further relief from the U.N. sanctions on Iraq. That request is before the United Nations. We'll be one of the countries -- "we," the United States -- looking at that.
I don't know what action will be taken on that. We do believe it's very important for these sanctions to remain in place. We believe it's important that all countries honor them.
We believe that at least part or we hope maybe the majority of Turkey's concerns can be met now with Resolution 986.
Q Does Jordan benefit from 986?
MR. BURNS: Does Jordan benefit?
MR. BURNS: I know that Turkey will benefit. A number of other countries --
Q The pipeline is obvious.
MR. BURNS: A number of other countries in the region who will be associated with this plan will benefit. I can't point you to specific benefits for Jordan, but I can take the question.
Q You know, I'm just trying to weigh several things: if the concern for Turkey in this building is as strong as its concern for Jordan, which was given an exemption. Indeed, if Turkey makes out all right because of the lifting in Turkey, then I guess a case can be made for continuing to exempt Jordan. But it sounds like you're saying Turkey doesn't have a case any more because 986 will provide enough revenue.
I'm just trying to get some feel for how the U.S. weighs one friend and another friend.
MR. BURNS: Right. Of course, the situation of all these countries neighboring Iraq is quite different. All of them have borne different responsibilities, and there's been a different effect on the economies of each.
We do believe that it's important that the sanctions remain in place and that all countries who are part of them continue to honor them. We've been very pleased to see that the Erbakan government has reaffirmed its commitment, and we think that 986 will help Turkey.
I just can't anticipate what specific decision the United Nations will make on Turkey's request; but I do note in answering your question that at least part, and perhaps a good deal, of the request will be met by 986. I think it's an important statement to make.
Q Does this government have any preference about which country should be selling the food and medical supplies to Iraq?
MR. BURNS: That is not up to the United States to decide. That is being worked out -- has been worked out, really -- by the Sanctions Committee. So we don't want to choose among countries; the Sanctions Committee is able to do that.
Q But since you're also emphasizing Turkey's case, do you think priority should be given to Turkey, for example?
MR. BURNS: I think that the Sanctions Committee is the proper place for that kind of decision-making, not the State Department.
Still on the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I think maybe closer to what we're talking about. Yes.
Q I was just wondering if the U.S. has pressed at all to be one of those countries that supplies Iraq.
MR. BURNS: I can check for you. I don't believe so. We are not seeking any sanctions relief. We're content to continue to apply the full force of our efforts behind the sanctions. But if you're asking if American private companies will be involved in the supply of humanitarian goods to Iraq, I can check on that.
This is all being handled by the United Nations.
MR. BURNS: It's not being organized by the United States.
MR. BURNS: We simply were the sponsor; and we were the one that held out, frankly, to make sure this plan was tight and that it was going to be well implemented so that Saddam Hussein would not be able to profit from it.
You had a question?
Q Yes. The additional security measures that the United States announced recently to protect the troops and their dependents in the Gulf -- do they include beefed up security around diplomatic posts, such as Embassies in places like Riyadh and Kuwait and other Gulf states?
MR. BURNS: We have taken a number of measures to increase the security at our diplomatic posts, our Embassies and Consulates throughout the Middle East and in many parts of the world just recently; but I will not describe to you what kind of improvements we have made.
Q Is this in reaction to threats or just a precautionary measure, or what?
MR. BURNS: In the case of Saudi Arabia, it's in reaction to the very specific threats we've received since the al-Khobar bombings, and in the case of the region as a whole to the general climate in the Middle East over the past year or so.
Q Any reaction to the posters and the announcements rewarding - -
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that anyone has come forward with information that would allow us to locate the bombers, but we are hopeful that this financial inducement of $2 million will be attractive to people who may have some knowledge.
It's clear that a terrorist group bombed the barracks -- killed Americans and wounded many, many others. Obviously, there are others beyond the terrorist group who know about this. Maybe they're family relations, maybe friends, maybe business associates.
We're appealing to anybody who has information here to come forward with that information. And if the information is conclusive and satisfactory and leads us to these people, then there's a significant financial reward for those people.
Q Yesterday Ken Bacon, in taking questions regarding a USA Today article we've discussed in here about eleven Iranian camps training terrorists, two groups of Saudis -- terrorists working there, 5,000 in number.
Nick, Ken said it's not that big an operation as reported, but he did not deny that there was, in fact, an operation. So I would ask you: What does the State Department have to say with regard to the DOD's assessment, to its own assessment of numbers at camps and activities of terrorists in Iran?
And my second question would be: There's a number of people beginning to clamor for some kind of military strike against these camps. What would you say to them?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, I agree with everything Ken Bacon said yesterday, and I have an identical view with him. The State Department and the Defense Department are completely in line. I just want to assure you of that.
MR. BURNS: Your government's working well and efficiently.
On the second question I have absolutely no comment.
Q Have you looked into whether the Turkish petrogas deal with Iran would come under the new sanctions?
MR. BURNS: We have not been apprised by the Turkish Government formally or officially that there is any deal in the works, although we have seen a lot of press reports about it. And I would just simply refer you to the legislation. If any foreign company -- state-owned or private -- makes a greater than $40 million investment in the oil and gas industry in Iran, that company will feel the full effect of the sanctions. I think that the authorities of this company in Turkey ought to be aware that these are prospective sanctions, but prospective from last Monday morning, two days ago. Therefore, they're in effect right now; and if any deal is consummated next week, for instance, that deal, greater than $40 million, would certainly get our attention and we'd act upon it.
Q And have you seen the comments from Paris and also from Bonn about further possibilities of counter- sanctions, counter-legal action?
MR. BURNS: We've seen a lot of comments from a lot of governments around the world, including in France and Germany, about the legislation. We obviously stand by the President's decision to sign it and to implement it, and we will implement it effectively.
Q Elsewhere in the world, can you let us in now on the visa for the Taiwanese Vice Premier -- stopping over here on his way to the Dominican Republic?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I can tell you that the State Department received a request from the Taiwan authorities -- it was submitted via the American Institute in Taiwan -- a request that Mr. Lien Chan be permitted to transit the United States for the purpose of attending the inauguration of the new President of the Dominican Republic on August l6.
This permission has been granted for Mr. Lien. It is consistent with the fact that we have granted similar transits in the past. I understand he'll be arriving in New York City on August 12. He will depart New York on August 14 for Santo Domingo. On August 17 he will return to New York to change planes en route to Taipei. He will not stay overnight in the United States on his return to Taiwan. He, of course, will be staying overnight on his incoming voyage.
We expect that there will be no public activities conducted by Mr. Lien during his transit to New York; and, of course, there's no possibility whatsoever of any kind of official meetings with him because we don't have an official relationship with Taiwan. We have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
We have informed Mr. Lien of our decision, and we understand that he will be providing us with the appropriate travel documents.
I should also say, in anticipation of your questions, that we have certainly discussed this with the Government of the People's Republic of China.
Q When you say, "we expect" -- I have a couple of questions. When you say, "We expect there will be no public activity," he's been told this?
MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly, he and his advisers have been told that since this is a transit visit and since we do not have an official relationship with Taiwan, there can be no question of any public activities. This is consistent with prior transit visas that were issued to Taiwan authorities, most recently in February of this year, when Mr. Lien's predecessor transited the United States to attend the inauguration of President Preval in Haiti. There were no public activities surrounding that visit and certainly no meetings with U.S. officials.
Q Do the Chinese -- mainland Chinese people, government (inaudible) have cause to be irritated by this?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think this is just part of the normal business that we have done. There are many precedents this year and in years past for this. It certainly does not affect in any way our official relationship with the People's Republic of China, and I would expect there to be no difficulties whatsoever about this.
Q What was their reaction, since you discussed it with them?
MR. BURNS: I don't know about the specific reaction. I did see some public statements. I'd refer you to some public statements made by my counterpart in Beijing this morning, I think, that indicated some displeasure on the part of the authorities in Beijing. That's not surprising, although I do not believe that this will cause any kind of problem in the U.S.-China relationship.
That relationship, by the way, has improved in very significant ways over the last few months, certainly I think due to the efforts of Secretary Christopher and Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. We're now looking forward to other meetings with him in September in New York, and the Secretary is looking forward to his visit to Beijing. Tony Lake had a very successful trip to China.
So the relationship has really improved quite dramatically over, say, the summer of 1995, just a year ago, and we're very pleased about that.
Q If somebody checked out an atlas -- I mean, this is about the fourth time you've granted visas to Taiwanese on their way some place outside the U.S. Is this the normal travel route, or do you think just possibly they're trying to make a political point?
MR. BURNS: I think there would be some cause for concern if perhaps his destination was the Marshall Islands or New Zealand or Australia, but the fact is that --
Q But if you were going from Taiwan to Venezuela, you, of course, would go through New York, right?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I mean --
Q Or me.
MR. BURNS: I'd probably go through Boston -- (laughter)
Q Catch a game.
MR. BURNS: I'd catch a game at the cathedral of baseball at Fenway Park.
Q It just doesn't strike me as a natural way to go to Venezuela, but maybe --
MR. BURNS: I hope that doesn't confuse people who are reading this in Asia, but Fenway Park is the cathedral of American baseball. In any case, Barry, the Dominican Republic is not far from our shores --
Q No, no.
MR. BURNS: And to get from Taipei to the Dominican Republic, I think it's reasonable that you'd have to fly over the continental United States; and given the fact that --
Q You're tired. Go a cup of coffee.
MR. BURNS: -- there is need to rest and perhaps even some reflection before this. I think it's reasonable that we have entertained and now approved a routine request for a transit visa.
Q Seriously, do you think the Taiwanese are trying to make a political point?
MR. BURNS: These inaugurations have been in the Dominican Republic, they have been in Haiti, they have been in our hemisphere. So I don't find anything surprising about it.
Q But do you think -- without trying to say whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, do you think the Taiwanese are trying to make a political point by transiting the United States with this frequency?
MR. BURNS: I just wouldn't know. I'd have to leave that to others far more expert than me to analyze that question, Barry.
Q Nick, is there any special reason why you're not addressing Mr. Lien by his official title this time? I remember early in February when the last Vice President came, you were addressing him by his official title, but not this time. Is there a --
MR. BURNS: There's no special reason, no. No special reason.
Q There are so many assumptions here, as if we all understand - -
MR. BURNS: We operate in mysterious ways here at the Department of State, often.
Q Some of these discussions are held against a backdrop as if we all are part of some conspiracy and we all know the --
MR. BURNS: That's not my --
Q No, no. I don't mean conspiracy in a devilish way. I mean let's ask a straightaway question.
MR. BURNS: I have faith and trust in you all.
Q Why can't a Taiwanese official come to the United States, stay and go to a ball game, talk to some people or have lunch downtown? Why must a Taiwanese visit to the U.S. or a stop in the U.S. be so circumscribed?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we don't have an official relationship with Taiwan. We have an unofficial relationship. The only official relationship we have is with the People's Republic of China, and you know the history of that. It's been carefully worked out and carefully adhered to by the United States Government.
So it's very important that when we look through these requests, that we make sure that our own actions here are fully consistent with the obligations, commitments and considerations that every administration since the 1970s, Republican and Democrat, has given to this issue.
Our relationship with the People's Republic of China stands as our official relationship, and the commitments we've made must be adhered to. When the United States gives its word, we must keep our word. The same goes for China, of course. It's a two-way street. So we do take this very seriously, and it's the best way to answer your question.
Q Still on China. Do you have any announcement on the U.S.- China accord on the CTBT, and, since China is now out of the way, how are you going to work on India?
MR. BURNS: I have no announcement to make. I'm not in Geneva. I'm not the negotiator. We have a very fine negotiator there. Let me just say a word about the CTBT.
The signing of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the autumn in the United States remains one of the primary foreign policy objectives of the United States in the period ahead. We are giving it everything we've got. We are negotiating with a great deal of seriousness and purpose.
I think it's very important not to try to judge these negotiations in midstream. They clearly are not at the end. We clearly have a long way to go in these negotiations. We have not achieved victory. We've not achieved agreement that this treaty should be signed in the United States in the autumn, along the lines of the text presented by Mr. Ramaker, which is the text that the United States believes is the basis for signing.
So I'm going to refrain from declaring victory until the final day, and we are very far from the final day. These are very complex negotiations and very important ones, and I'm going to resist some of what I've seen in the press today, which is saying, "We're almost there," or, "We've made all this progress," or, "We've made an agreement." I'm going to resist all of that, because none of it is so.
We are in the middle of negotiations. We don't have final resolution, and the way to achieve final resolution is to do so confidentially without resort to dramatic public statements.
Q (Inaudible) the Indians, who seem to be --
MR. BURNS: We hope that India will agree to see this treaty signed in the United States this autumn. We hope that India will not stand in the way of the treaty.
Q Nick, another subject. The Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, a couple of days ago, when he was here, announced that he had asked Richard Holbrooke to be a part of the Baltic Economic Cooperation Council, and during his meeting with the President, this had received the blessing of the Administration. I know that Richard Holbrooke now is operating in his capacity of private citizen, but has there been any coordination here, since this is a very important diplomatic task, and will there be any kind of input from the State Department in this cooperation?
MR. BURNS: Dick Holbrooke remains an adviser to Secretary Christopher on Bosnia and other issues, and we value his continued advice and support for this Administration. I do know that he has been invited to participate in this, and he's got to make his own decision, of course, but we'd encouraged him to be involved on this and other issues.
Let me just say one word about the visit of the Prime Minister. It was a very important and successful visit. Sweden has emerged in northern Europe as a leader on the issue of Baltic Sea security and security cooperation among the Baltic Sea states, which include Russia, by the way.
Prime Minister Persson actually held a meeting of all the Baltic Sea states, and he engineered a meeting between Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and the Estonian Prime Minister -- a meeting that had not been possible to hold until the Swedes put it together.
In his meeting with the President yesterday, he presented Sweden's ideas on the need to help support the independence and sovereignty of the Baltic countries to bring them into Western institutions and to help provide for their future security.
The United States fully supports the initiative of Prime Minister Persson, and we're very glad that we have a partner in Stockholm that makes this a priority issue in northern Europe.
Q Last week two visiting students from Taiwan were arrested by police at the Atlanta Olympic games for waving their national flag, the flag of the Republic of China, during a table tennis match. It is understood the International Olympic Committee prohibits the Chinese Taipei team from displaying their national flag.
But there's no reference in the IOC Charter as to whether fans in audience should be subjected to the same restrictions. The U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone on this soil, including foreign nationals, the right to freedom of expression. But, unfortunately, the Atlanta police, acting upon a protest from the Communist Chinese team, chose to violate the constitutional right of the two students. What is your comment on this?
MR. BURNS: I understand that the Atlanta organizers worked out -- and the IOC, the International Olympic Committee -- worked out with the Taiwan authorities the conditions for Taiwan's participation in the Atlanta games. Among the conditions were that the Taiwan team would not march into the stadium or fly the flag that is flown in Taiwan, but a different flag, representing some international Olympic symbols; that the team would be known as Chinese Taipei.
On the back of every ticket printed for the Atlanta games -- and there were millions of them -- it clearly states that flag waving of flags not belonging to the teams or not recognized by the IOC for the teams would be prohibited.
The action taken against these two individuals was taken by the Atlanta organizers, by the IOC, and by local authorities. The United States Government here in Washington had nothing to do with this. It wasn't part of our purview, and we simply would refer you to the Atlanta organizers and the IOC for any further comment.
Q Do you disapprove of what they did?
MR. BURNS: I think it's important to note the following. The Taiwan authorities agreed to all of these conditions with the International Olympic Committee and with the Atlanta organizers -- the name of the delegation, the type of flag that would be flown -- and they were apprised of the fact years ago in anticipation of these games, and on the back of every ticket this prohibition would be clearly defined for any spectator, as well as participants in the games.
The United States Government had nothing to do with the agreement the Taiwan authorities freely entered into -- had nothing to do with this --
Q But by his description, people in the stands flying a flag.
MR. BURNS: The Olympic games, as you know, are unique. All the participants and all the spectators agreed to certain -- or at least were aware of certain conditions. So I'd just refer you to the Atlanta organizers and the IOC. You're correct in the first part of your statement that this is a free country, and normally it wouldn't be a problem for anyone to carry the Taiwan flag down the streets of any city in this country.
But the Atlanta games, of course, established very different conditions, and I have to refer you to the International Olympic Committee and the Atlanta organizers, if you're interested in pursuing this.
Q When the Palestine flag came up, your position, if I remember it correctly, irrespective of our own views, this is an issue that really is for the Olympic Committee.
MR. BURNS: And that was agreed to by the Olympic Committee.
Q Right. Is that your view of the Taiwan situation as well? Whatever the U.S. Government's own views may be, they're deferring -- the U.S. deferred to the Olympic Committee on this?
MR. BURNS: In the case of the Olympic games, of course, there are a number of sensitive political -- international political issues that had to be worked out about participation, because not all of the 197 participating teams represented nations that are in the United Nations, for instance. The Palestinian delegation is a very good example of that.
MR. BURNS: All of these delegations had to work out their own participation and issues like flags and names and colors with the International Olympic Committee. The United States Government took no view on these issues -- did not insert ourselves -- and had no responsibility for the agreements that resulted from these discussions.
Q Nick, the two students that were arrested had nothing to do with the delegation from Taipei. In other words, they had nothing to do with the -- what may -- what Taiwan authorities may or may not have agreed to.
MR. BURNS: I'd just refer you to the International Olympic Committee, because --
Q When they are on U.S. soil, do they enjoy freedom of -- the right of freedom of expression?
MR. BURNS: The great thing about the United States is that everyone on our soil, citizens, foreigners, are free. Okay? But the participants in the games -- and I think you might want to redirect your question, really --
Q We are not --
MR. BURNS: -- direct your question to --
Q They're fans in the stands.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. Can I finish my thought?
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Thank you, Barry. I think you ought to direct your question to the Taiwan authorities as well as the International Olympic Committee. It was clearly written, I understand, on the back of every ticket in the hand of every spectator -- not participant -- that this kind of activity -- that certain kinds of activity would be permitted and certain kinds of activity would not be permitted.
Again, we had nothing to do with this. I'm simply explaining to you what has been explained to us by the International Olympic Committee.
Q What language was it written in, Nick?
MR. BURNS: Probably the universal language now, the language that is the language of most of the world, and that is the English language, the language of the United States, the language -- one of the two official languages of the Olympic games, the language that most people speak.
Q Do you know if those two individuals --
MR. BURNS: And the ticket was probably -- Barry, thank you very much -- the ticket was probably written in French as well.
Q I guess you don't know if those two --
MR. BURNS: French is a beautiful language, by the way. (Laughter)
Q They also have freedom, liberty and --
MR. BURNS: They sure do.
Q Cuba. Do you know what the status of the Cuban defector who hijacked the plane to Guantanamo -- do you know what --
MR. BURNS: The last I checked, he was still at our base at Guantanamo, but let me check again and see if we can give you an update.
Yes, we have another question back here.
Q The Vice President of Rwanda, Kagame, is in town.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q He's quoted today by the French press that -- he's saying that Rwanda is not going to take sanctions against Burundi, in spite of the fact that Rwanda was at the meeting in Arusha where it was decided that they are going to participate in the sanctions. What did he tell you in your negotiations with him?
MR. BURNS: Vice President Kagame is going to be here meeting with Tony Lake, Bill Perry, our Secretary of Defense, with Acting Assistant Secretary Twaddell and Under Secretary Tim Wirth here, and we're going to discuss a lot of issues with him, including the War Crimes Tribunal, stability in Rwanda. I'm sure we'll discuss the situation in Burundi.
Whether or not Rwanda decide3 to go forward with sanctions against Burundi is Rwanda's decision, certainly not the decision of the United States.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Q I'd like to keep it for a second. Has the U.S. had recent discussions with Cuba on the Vesco situation?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we've had significant discussions. Mr. Vesco has spurned our attempts to visit him. He is, we believe, an American citizen, but he does not wish to speak to our diplomats at our Interests Section. We had requested Cuba in the past to extradite him to the United States, because he's wanted in several federal jurisdictions for significant offenses, but the Cuban Government has rejected our requests for extradition. We're very disappointed in that.
Q If I could quickly follow, is the United States content for him to serve his -- whatever his prison sentence is going to be in Cuba before extradition?
MR. BURNS: We're only going to be content if he's extradited to the United States and he is prosecuted here in the United States on money laundering and narcotics charges.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
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