U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Tuesday, September 10, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcements Welcome to American University Graduate Students ............... 1 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Trip to Paris ....................... 1 Assistant Secretary Kornblum's Trip to Bosnia .................. 1 Bureau of Public Affairs Info Packet, "The Elections in Bosnia" 1 CONTROL/NON-PROLIFERATION Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty --Pakistan--Report of Possible Non-Support of CTBT ............. 2 --Status of Australian Resolution .............................. 2-3 IRAQ Southern Iraq--Extension of No Fly Zone ........................ 3-5,10-12 --Report of Iraq's Attempts to Reconstitute Air Defense Systems 3 Situation in Northern Iraq ..................................... 5-11 --Hussein Issues Amnesty to Kurds/Lifts Economic Embargo ....... 5,8 --The Refugee Situation ........................................ 6-8 U.S. Call to Neighboring States to Receive Refugees ......... 7-9 U.S. Assistance to UNHCR and ICRC .......................... 7-8 --Prospects for Renewed Negotiations between Kurdish Factions .. 9 --"Operation Provide Comfort" ................................... 11-12 --Protection of Ethnic Groups who Assisted in Relief Operations . 12-14 COLOMBIA Resignation of Vice President Humberto de la Calle ............. 14 Colombian Narco-Traffickers .................................... 15 CAMBODIA Royal Gov't./Ieng Sary Faction Cease-fire ....................... 15 U.S. Support for 1994 Cambodian Genocide Act ................... 15 GREECE Reports of Alleged Greek/PKK Collaboration ..................... 16 HAITI GOHaiti-U.S. Discussions re: Political Killings ................ 16-17 U.S. Troop Presence ............................................ 17 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Report of OECD Extension of Voting ............................. 17 Decision to Extend OSCE Mandate/Municipal Elections ............ 17
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1996, 1:13 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of announcements. First I want to welcome three graduate students from American University who are studying journalism and public affairs. I believe you're seated right there. Welcome. Glad to have you with us.
Second, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is leaving Washington this afternoon for Paris. He'll be there for a couple of days until, I believe, Friday morning, where he'll be meeting with Russian officials and French officials on a variety of European security issues -- including NATO adaptation, the proposed NATO-Russia dialogue that Secretary Christopher proposed in his Stuttgart speech last Friday.
These talks were scheduled some time ago. They're part of the normal pattern of conversations that we have with the Russian Government and the French Government on these particular issues. He'll be accompanied by Jim Collins who, as you know, is our Ambassador-at-Large for the countries in the former Soviet Union, and Jim Steinberg, who is our Director of our Policy/Planning staff.
Further, on travel, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs John Kornblum will be departing Washington tomorrow -- Wednesday, September 11, for Bosnia. He plans to be in Sarajevo on Thursday, and then he and his interagency team plan to travel throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday and on Saturday -- the day of the elections -- in order to witness preparations for the elections and then the actual voting on Saturday.
He will be certified -- he, John Kornblum -- as an observer to these elections, and he will be making several unannounced visits to polling places on Saturday. He then after the elections plans to travel to Belgrade.; he plans to see President Milosevic on Sunday, and then on Monday he'll be in Paris for a NATO meeting before returning to the United States -- probably on next Tuesday.
Further, on Bosnia, the Department -- specifically the Bureau of Public Affairs, our very good people here -- have prepared a set of information for you on the Bosnian elections. This contains a summary of the Dayton agreement: basic statistics on economic assistance; figures on U.S. support for the elections; a description of how the elections will be conducted; information on the role of IFOR. It also has a very useful chronology for the events of the last 14 months -- since July 1995, which was the great divide when things started to improve in Bosnia because of the role of the United States and other Western countries.
It's available in the Press Office for you. I would encourage you to look at it, because it's got a lot of good information in it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Pakistani announcement, saying that they won't support the test ban treaty so long as India refuses to do so?
MR. BURNS: We've seen a press report to that effect. I'm unclear actually about this press report -- whether it represents the official views of the Government of Pakistan or not. We'll just have to see how that proceeds.
I can tell you, George, this is a very important day up at the United Nations. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has 126 co-sponsors to the Australian resolution, and we very much appreciate the leadership role that Australia has given the world on this issue. We believe that a final action on this could come as early as this afternoon up in New York.
The United States is working very, very hard to produce as big a vote as is possible, so that it will be clear to the very, very few countries around the world that they are holdouts; they are alone on this in their opposition to going forward with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
We set ourselves a goal of having this treaty signed this month -- September 1996, and we very much hope that can happen within the next couple of weeks -- the signing. But the vote is important, and the lobbying continues up at the United Nations -- and the United States is in the thick of it.
We appreciate what the Australians and others have done, and we appeal to those who have not made up their mind -- those countries -- to join us in this effort to rid the world forever of nuclear testing. This is one of the most important foreign policy objectives of the United States, but more broadly it is one of the most important things that any group of countries can do to provide basic security for all the world's population heading into the next century.
Anything else on CTBT?
QUESTION: You're not going to be able to sign it unless the Indians give in, right?
MR. BURNS: No matter what the Government of India does, if we have more than two-thirds of the United Nations -- the countries of the world, voting in favor of the Australian resolution, and all five Permanent Members of the Security Council -- all five declared nuclear powers -- voting for it, then we think we will have set up a situation where any country outside this framework that wishes to test nuclear weapons in the future would have to think very hard about doing that, because the will of the international community would be against that; the will of all the great powers of the world would be against it; and we think it would create a psychology in the area of nuclear testing that would argue against any nuclear tests in the future.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: U.S. military officials in the Middle East and here in Washington -- U.S. intelligence is still briefing today that Saddam Hussein has reconstituted four of the missile sites that you all hit last week. Is the United States prepared to go back, as they said they would, if he did so?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to those briefings, because I just wasn't part of them, and I don't believe any of them were on the record, -- I just can't speak to them. But I can tell you this: The United States is watching the situation in southern Iraq very, very carefully, and, as you know, the United States sent a very strong and very clear warning to Saddam Hussein at the end of last week -- that he should not move to reconstitute the air defense systems that were destroyed by the United States' air attacks last week.
The United States has very clear interest in Iraq -- and those interests are to deter Saddam Hussein from future aggression against his neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. By extending the "no-fly" zone in the south, we have effectively limited Saddam's field of military operation. He is a crippled military power, because he doesn't have any air force that he can use in the north or south of his country. We think this is the most effective way we can find to contain Saddam Hussein, which has been the objective of American and Western policy in Iraq since 1991.
But, Sid, on your specific question, I just can't help you with that.
QUESTION: But you're reiterating the warning today.
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. We're reiterating the warning that Saddam Hussein is clearly hurt, and he knows the price -- he knows the price.
QUESTION: That's not a warning, that's an observation. Are you reiterating the warning that the United States will go back and hit those sites if he tries to repair them?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I just reaffirmed a warning to Saddam Hussein, I'm going to choose my words very carefully. You can interpret them whatever way you wish, but I'm being very clear about the warning we sent to him last week -- he knows what it is.
QUESTION: You say Saddam Hussein is now a crippled military power, yet he still has one of the largest and most dangerous land forces in the Middle East. His military power has always been based in the Republican Guards, and they're still there. So are you not being a little optimistic in that assessment?
MR. BURNS: I'm speaking now to the major international concern about Saddam Hussein, and that is he could be a threat to his neighbors -- his Arab neighbors in the future, as he was in 1990 and 1991. In modern warfare, no matter what the size of your conventional ground forces are, one cannot hope to be effective without an effective air force.
His air force was destroyed -- to a very great extent, by the allied forces back in 1991. He has tried to rebuild it, but he's had very limited success in doing so. But what's most important here is that the United States and the United Kingdom, by extending the "no-fly" zone by one degree in the south -- have effectively narrowed even further his ability to fly and his ability to use his air force in any offensive military operations directed southward.
If he decides to deploy for any offensive military operations in the future, we will have a broader window to anticipate that and to take corrective and punitive action ourselves. We have a major and substantial American, British and French air force based in Saudi Arabia. We have a major air force base in Turkey in the north to protect our interests in the north.
So I disagree with those who are today saying that somehow, Saddam Hussein has regained the military advantage here. What he has done is, he's perhaps increased his influence a few kilometers in the north, but he's not done anything to enhance his military position in the south. Of course, that's where Saddam's strategic interests are.
QUESTION: Has the United States seen any signs of any military movements in the south that you can talk about?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is that the United States is using all of our assets to watch the disposition of his military forces in the south. Any attempts to reconstitute the air defenses, any attempts to use the Republican Guards, any attempts to redeploy military forces will be seen by the United States. We have perfect vision in Iraq. We know what he's doing. He will not be able to fool us if he attempts to engage in military operations southward.
QUESTION: Nick, you spoke of a few kilometers in the north. Can you be a little more precise on how much ground he's regained there and how much influence and power he's actually asserting there now?
MR. BURNS: Let me just try to take advantage of your question by giving you what we know about the situation in the north. First, let me start off with an observation.
Saddam Hussein issued today a broad amnesty to the Iraqi Kurdish population in northern Iraq, and he lifted the embargo -- the economic embargo -- that he had placed on northern Iraq.
I wonder if this is the same kind of pardon he issued to Hussein Kamel a couple of months ago. I also wonder if it's the same kind of beautiful words and nice reassurances that he issued in March of 1991 before he began his military campaign to exterminate the Iraqi Kurdish population in the north.
Our advice to the Iraqi Kurds, specifically to
Mr. Barzani, but also to Mr. Talabani is resist these blandishments of Saddam Hussein. Resist this pardon, this offer of a pardon. He gave a pardon to his son-in-law and then had him executed. He tried to make up with the Iraqi Kurds five years ago and then tried to destroy them.
It would be naive in the extreme to believe that Saddam Hussein cares in the least about the welfare of the Iraqi Kurds, and the only answer to their problems is to stop their fighting -- it's to return to the negotiating table. They have long held bitter divisions in the Kurdish community. They will not be resolved by fighting. They can only be resolved at the negotiating table.
Resist an alliance, if you're Mr. Barzani, with Iraq. If you're Mr. Talabani, resist the alliance with Iran. Iran will not act in the interests of the Iraqi Kurdish population. Our advice to them is, take the responsibility on your own shoulders to provide security, stability and ultimately peace for your own Kurdish population in the north.
If there is a measure of responsibility for the violence of the last ten days in northern Iraq, it rests in two places. It rests clearly in Baghdad. It also rests on the shoulders of Mr. Barzani who needs to think very, very clearly about what kind of relationship he's going to have with Saddam Hussein now that the KDP has made these advances in the north.
Let me tell you what we understand the situation to be in the north, and then I'll be glad to answer your specific questions.
The KDP, of course, has captured Mr. Talabani's position in Sulaimaniya, and we understand that there's a very large outflow of Kurds from Sulaimaniya, headed towards the Iranian border.
We believe that Saddam's forces played a part in this military offensive in the north. We don't believe that Saddam's conventional ground forces played much of a part at all in the operations, but we would be naive to think that his security forces, his intelligence advisers, military advisers were not present giving advice to Mr. Barzani during this military offensive.
I can also tell you that we believe the KDP controls most of the traditional Kurdish territory in the north, including territory previously controlled by Mr. Talabani; but we do not believe that Mr. Barzani yet controls all of the traditional Kurdish territory in the north. It is very much unclear to us what Mr. Barzani intends to do with this newly gained territory and what type of relationship he will have with Saddam Hussein once he is able to consolidate his control in these areas.
We are in touch on the major question of today, which is the refugee problem -- we're in touch with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are hearing from both of those organizations that they estimate the refugee population from the fighting to be between 10 and 20,000. Those are their figures.
We have heard wildly conflicting figures from other sources. We are not on the ground ourselves to give you our own estimate of just how many refugees may be fleeing towards the Iranian border.
We very much hope that both the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross can take the lead internationally to provide medical and humanitarian and economic assistance to these refugees. It is unclear to us if Iran will agree to allow these refugees to cross its border, but we believe that all neighboring states to Iraq have a responsibility to take in refugees if they present themselves at the border.
We're concerned about the welfare of these refugees, not only from a physical, humanitarian point of view but also from a political point of view. We've called upon
Mr. Barzani to make sure that he and his forces do not engage in political retribution against innocent civilians who find themselves under the control of the Barzani forces.
We certainly would be outraged as would all the world if we were to see in Sulaimaniya and see on the route to Iran -- that many of these refugees are following -- some of the acts of political violence, assassination, execution, and a basic violation of human rights that clearly occurred in Irbil after the takeover of Irbil more than a week ago.
We are helping the UNHCR and the ICRC to develop contingency plans for assistance to these refugees. Should either of these organizations request additional assistance from the United States, then we would be very, very responsive to any request from these organizations. We are the major funder of both the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We have been the major funder of humanitarian assistance in the north, and this seems to us to be the most effective way now to respond to the humanitarian situation by working through these organizations.
We understand that there are only very limited relief operations underway right now in the north because most of the relief agencies disrupted their operations and had their people leave at our request, at the request of the Turkish and British Governments, about a week ago after the takeover of Irbil.
So it seems to us that beyond the political/military situation, the major preoccupation for all of us today should be this refugee situation. Again, we call upon all neighboring countries, including Iran, to take in these refugees when they present themselves at the border.
QUESTION: What is the United States giving to these refugees making their way to Iran?
MR. BURNS: The help that we would give would be to the international relief organizations who would set up camps and set up relief operations to deal with the massive problems that are produced for individuals by warfare. There's been a outbreak of typhus in northern Iraq. There is a widespread lack of food. There is a lack of shelter in the mountainous areas in September. It's quite cold, and we're concerned about the availability of shelter for refugees.
We're working very closely not only with these international organizations but with the Turkish Government and with other governments who are interested in this, and a need to be interested, to see if we can come up with an effective humanitarian operation.
QUESTION: Nick, (inaudible) reportedly remains closed. You're recommending that those people in the PUK persuasion that are fleeing toward the Iranian border not return to Sulaimaniya, that they should not fall for Saddam's trick here again, that they might suffer the same fate as in Irbil; is that correct?
MR. BURNS: The refugees themselves are in much better appreciation of what is smart to do than us. We're not going to give advice from tens of thousands of miles away in terms of where they should go. But in terms of political alliances, any Kurd would be naive to believe that Saddam Hussein has good intentions toward them.
This offer by Saddam Hussein, this laughable and almost comical offer if it wasn't so tragic, for a pardon and for an end to the embargo will not be met by Saddam Hussein, I guarantee you. He has shown his true colors in the past and he hasn't changed.
QUESTION: The United States Government is lobbying with other governments to ask Iran to open the door?
MR. BURNS: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations are in contact with the Iranian Government. If, in fact, tens of thousands of refugees are approaching the Iranian border, it is the responsibility of Iran to allow those refugees safety because they cannot be safe in northern Iraq as long as Saddam Hussein or people working with him have control over that part of the country.
QUESTION: Nick, speaking of that, in calling upon the two sides -- the two Kurdish sides -- to stop fighting, what with Barzani so beholding to Baghdad and with Saddam Hussein's troops back, apparently, in control of the north or at least large parts of it, what is the United States' strategic and tactical plan should that call be met, should the Kurds stop fighting one another vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein and his troops in the north?
MR. BURNS: Our very clear intention, if the Kurdish factions stop fighting, is to help mediate their political differences. This is a long-standing commitment by us. We were negotiating with them in London up until the takeover of Irbil on August 30th and September 1st. We will be glad to go back to the negotiating table with them as will a number of our other partners in the West. That is a very important step.
Pertaining to Saddam Hussein, we have let him know in the clearest possible terms what the price of his future aggression will be. We hit him once last week and we will hit him again, if need be, to protect American interests.
QUESTION: Since you hit him the first and second time, he's only gone on, in his eyes, to bigger and better things in the north. His victory there is virtually complete.
MR. BURNS: On the contrary; since the United States' air strikes, we've seen a withdrawal of the greater part of his ground forces -- the 40 to 50,000 Republican Guard troops and their heavy weapons, including tanks. We've seen them withdraw southward since the United States' air strikes.
As you know, the principal message sent by the air strikes was, don't even think about threatening your neighbors in the south which is, of course, the heart of America's vital interests in that part of the world.
QUESTION: In talking about the north, he's extended his control there, and you alluded earlier today to the fact that the Kurds' victory is essentially being done with the help of Saddam and his forces.
MR. BURNS: There's no question that Mr. Barzani and Saddam Hussein have taken advantage of this window over the last couple of weeks to enhance their respective positions in the north. I don't deny that at all.
I'm just saying that the message that we sent to him was that aggression does have consequences. As you know, our primary strategic interests are in the south because our allies are in the south. Our partners in the Gulf are in the south -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Gulf states. We will protect them from Saddam Hussein as we did back in 1990-91.
QUESTION: Do you accept -- you said earlier you think the events of the last ten days have weakened Saddam Hussein militarily. Would you accept that he's emerged politically much stronger within Iraq and in the region?
MR. BURNS: There's no question that he has taken advantage of this opportunity over the last ten days vis-a-vis his own position in the north. There's also no question that he is now more limited militarily, on a regional basis, than he was ten days ago because of the extension of the "no-fly" zone. That, in many ways, was the most important step that the United States took over the last several weeks -- extending that "no-fly" zone. Because now we have him bottled up in the center of his country and he cannot hope to express any kind of military power southward which is where his interests really are.
QUESTION: You don't think there's anything the United States could have done to stop him doing what he did in the north? Granted, you say --
MR. BURNS: The United States made a decision -- I understand your question -- the United States made a decision that we would not intervene in the Kurdish civil war; that we would not intervene militarily in the Kurdish civil war. We made that decision consistent with our own national interests.
We gave the Kurds every opportunity for five years. We gave them political protection, we gave them economic and humanitarian assistance, we gave them a security zone in the north where they could run their own affairs in a highly autonomous way. The Kurds failed to meet that great historic opportunity for the Kurdish people. It's their responsibility for what's happened in the north.
We chose our field of operations very carefully. We will decide when we engage Saddam Hussein. We engage him in the south, and we're going to keep him guessing as to when and where we engage him in the future.
QUESTION: Is the north considered a safehaven, legally?
MR. BURNS: "Operation Provide Comfort" was set up by four countries in 1991 in response to an emergency situation where thousands of lives were in peril. We have been successful since then in carrying out "Provide Comfort." It was never set up as a safehaven under the United Nations. It was set up by the four countries that run "Operation Provide Comfort."
QUESTION: Nick, since you -- as you say, the KDP controls now most of Iraqi Kurdistan which is tantamount to Saddam Hussein controlling most of Iraqi Kurdistan. What is the purpose of continuing with "Operation Provide Comfort." To whom are you providing comfort?
MR. BURNS: First of all, Patrick, I would be a little bit cautious in asserting that Saddam controlled all the area. He certainly has expanded his own political influence in the north. There's no question about that.
What will Mr. Barzani do now? Will he simply turn over this territory to Saddam Hussein? Will he run it himself? Will he be the lackey of Saddam Hussein? Will he choose to be stronger and independent and protect real Kurdish interests? We will wait to see what Mr. Barzani does.
As for your second question, the strategic purpose of continuing the "no-flight" zone in the north is the following. Saddam Hussein cannot fly above the 36th parallel. Therefore, he has no military maneuverability in an offensive sense against Turkey or against Iran or against any other state in the region. We're primarily concerned with Turkey, which is our NATO ally. We think it makes great sense to continue the military "no-flight" zone because we want to limit him.
It must be incredibly humiliating for Saddam Hussein, especially as an Arab, not to be able to use your military forces; to have to live in your capital and not to be able to deploy your aircraft either north or south. It must be humiliating for him. Frankly, that's part of the message that we're sending in continuing these "no-flight" zones.
QUESTION: Do you really think Saddam Hussein, in his what you call his debilitative military state poses a threat to your NATO ally, Turkey?
MR. BURNS: You know, Sid, in the real world in which we all live, we have to operate on a very conservative basis. When an irresponsible autocrat like Saddam Hussein is in possession of all sorts of missiles and of offensive military hardware, we act to protect our allies wherever they are. Turkey certainly -- and Turkey can defend itself, by the way. It's a very strong country. But certainly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the other Gulf states, it makes imminent military sense to continue the "no-flight" zones for the strategic reasons in the region.
QUESTION: I have two questions, actually, if I may. One on "Provide Comfort." You said you were going to wait to see what Barzani and Baghdad will be doing. But there are wide surface reports from the region that they will be sitting down to sign an agreement of autonomy very soon. If this happens, what's going to happen to "Provide Comfort?" The mission was not only to enforce the "no-fly" zone but to protect the Kurds, mainly, if there is an autonomy agreement.
MR. BURNS: We're going to have to see what
Mr. Barzani chooses to do before we can answer that question. You're right that the mission in the north was a "no-flight" zone but also a humanitarian relief operation for the Kurds. We will have to consider whether or not we can resume that based on the security situation and based on what Mr. Barzani's objectives turn out to be.
QUESTION: So are you saying that there could be a need for a revision of the "Provide Comfort" mission?
MR. BURNS: At this point, we're in the middle of the storm. So I think we prefer to wait and see it end and decide what the requirements are on the ground.
QUESTION: My other question is about the operation which was supervised by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara yesterday to rescue 2,000 individuals. I understand they are now in Turkey. Could you give us some information about that? Who are they, and what's going to happen to them?
MR. BURNS: As the President said yesterday -- President Clinton -- we will act to protect those who have worked with us over the past several years. Most of these people worked on the humanitarian relief operation for the Kurds. Many of them are Kurds but not solely Kurds. There are other ethnic groups.
I would not want to reveal specifically the operational details of what we're trying to do to help them because that might imperil that operation. But you can rest assured that we are taking action today, as we have been for many days, to protect those people and to bring them to safety.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with Turkey's cooperation in --
MR. BURNS: We continue to talk to the Turkish Government about this problem.
QUESTION: Also, in answering our questions, you didn't deny that the U.S. was ready to do something to rescue the INC people as well. But this morning, some officials said that Washington didn't have anything to do with the INC people; all your effort was to help out the relief workers. Could you clarify that?
MR. BURNS: There's a very large number of people who worked with us in northern Iraq over the past several years. It's those people that we wish to help. We have a moral obligation to them, and we will meet that obligation.
QUESTION: Do you have a moral obligation or responsibility towards the INC?
MR. BURNS: We, of course, have supported in the past a variety of groups that have been opposed to Saddam Hussein. We hope that those groups might reconstitute themselves and provide opposition to Saddam Hussein. It would be a tragedy, if as a result of all of this turmoil and instability over the last several weeks, Saddam Hussein was left alone without an opposition someplace in the world.
QUESTION: Can you tell us who may have been rescued? Where they might be, specifically, with regard to who may have been moved from Iraq to Turkey?
MR. BURNS: I've declined to do that because I don't want to say anything that might impede this operation.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on-going?
MR. BURNS: As the President said, we're making an attempt here to help those people who have been loyal to the United States.
QUESTION: Are you agreeing with the number of 2,000?
MR. BURNS: I didn't confirm any number.
QUESTION: Is that number in the ballpark?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm a number for you. I just can't do it.
QUESTION: Two thousand U.S. operatives in northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I think it does them a disservice them, frankly, to use the word "operative." That has a connotation that you and I are quite familiar with.
Actually, most of these people are average people who live in northern Iraq. They're Kurds, they are Iraqi citizens, they are Turkmens. They're all sorts of people who have been engaged for the last couple of years in providing medical and food relief to suffering people. I think we ought to be careful how we describe them.
I think we ought to use words that are dignified and that describe accurately what they've been doing.
QUESTION: Whatever the word.
MR. BURNS: Well, the words are important, and I'm choosing my words very carefully because I think we have an obligation to be considerate of these people who find themselves in a position of great peril.
We don't trust Saddam, and I know you don't either, and we don't trust his intentions towards these people.
QUESTION: Whatever word you want is fine. But, if they're humanitarian workers with no real relationship to the United States, why should they be in peril?
MR. BURNS: I'm rejecting your terminology, just to set the record straight. I'm using my own terminology. These are people who we do have an obligation to, because they worked directly with us, with the United States. We're a country that meets our obligations and commitments.
QUESTION: Colombia. Nick, a disturbing report. Vice President Humberto de la Calle is resigning in Colombia, urging Mr. Samper to resign. Due to some very severe setbacks that the Colombian army has suffered from the FARC communist who are protecting the coca growers, do you have any comments on what looks like continuing deterioration of the Colombian democracy?
MR. BURNS: We understand that the Vice President of Colombia has announced his resignation. I don't have any particular comment to make in that regard except to say that we hope that this political crisis in Colombia will not overwhelm or distract the government from its central mission, which is to mount an aggressive and effective campaign against the narco-traffickers.
QUESTION: Can you comment on this collusion between the coca growers and I presume Cali cartel as well and the FARC?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to comment specifically except to say that we know who the narco-traffickers are. We know who works with them, and the Colombian Government does, too. The impetus here should be to arrest them and prosecute them and send them to prison, and not the type of prisons where drug kingpins have comfortable surroundings and run their operations out of prison, which unfortunately has been the pattern in Colombia.
QUESTION: Cambodia. Does the U.S. think that Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge official, should be let off Scot-free, that he should avoid trial for genocide as the Cambodian Government appears to be prepared to do?
MR. BURNS: This is a very complicated issue. Let me give you our response. We believe that the cease-fire between Ieng Sary, his faction, and the Royal Government of Cambodia is a step in the right direction, in this sense. The re-establishment of the Royal Government of Cambodia authority and control over areas of the country formerly held until very recently by the Khmer Rouge, we believe this would be a significant step toward increased stability in Cambodia and improved security for the population of the country.
We very much hope a peaceful solution can be negotiated that respects and strengthens the democratic institutions now in place in Cambodia, and that it might enhance the human rights and economic welfare of the people.
Our position on the Khmer Rouge and its senior leadership is well-known and long-standing. The United States strongly supports the objectives of the 1994 Cambodian Genocide Act, which aimed at bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice for the abominable crimes they committed between 1974 and 1979.
We hope that the information on the Khmer Rouge regime compiled by the Yale-Cambodia Genocide Program will provide a way for the Cambodian Government itself to use this information in its own operations to deal with the genocide that clearly took place in the 1970s and for the possible prosecution of those responsible.
As for Ieng Sary, he was one of the top officials of the Pol Pot regime, and I'm sure that the Cambodian Government will want to use some of the information that's been developed by the United States and others around the world on its own. It's up to the Cambodian Government, obviously, to decide what to do with him and what to do with other Khmer Rouge officials who were part of Pol Pot's terror against the Cambodian people.
QUESTION: Did you see the latest Bill Gertz story about supposed Greek collaboration with the PKK?
MR. BURNS: I glanced at the story. It's the same old deal, so I can't comment on aspects of a story that pertain to intelligence reports. I can tell you the government in Greece has denied similar allegations made in the past. In our last human rights report, we noted the fact that our ally, the Government of Greece, has denied these reports.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the situation in Haiti is now? Can you tell us what the extra American troops that are down there are doing, and how stable is the situation there in the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: Haiti is a country that we've paid great attention to over the last couple of weeks. National Security Adviser Tony Lake and Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott made a trip there quite recently. It just followed the series of trips that we've had down to Port-au-Prince over the last year or two.
They discussed a number of issues with the leadership of Haiti, including the economic reform agenda, but the primary issue were these allegations -- allegations of official involvement made -- that a number of individuals in Haiti in the government may have been involved in some of these political killings.
We believe these are serious allegations; that they require intense investigation, and we have recommended to President Preval that his government conduct an investigation. We believe that that kind of investigation is currently underway.
We are on top of this, and we are comparing notes with others who have an interest in Haiti, particularly the Canadian Government. We will, of course, pay very, very close attention to how this investigation proceeds.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied that those who are suspected of involvement have been removed from official duties pending the outcome of the investigation?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to that on a specific individual basis, but I can say that we, of course, fully support the investigation that's underway. We called for the investigation. I think it would be proper for us to refrain from specific comment on individuals until this investigation by the Government of Haiti is complete.
QUESTION: And the troops?
MR. BURNS: I just want to let David follow up.
QUESTION: The troops. What are the troops doing there, the extra troops?
MR. BURNS: I think the Pentagon has explained that there are a variety of reasons for the troop presence, and those reasons haven't changed.
QUESTION: Is the United States preparing to train new recruits for the presidential security unit in Haiti to replace those who may or may not have been involved in these --
MR. BURNS: No, I just don't have any information for you on that, George.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: There is a report that the OECD had decided today that some polling stations might stay open beyond planned closing, and there might even be balloting days -- on some days after the slated vote. Does the United States feel that that is a good idea?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that report. We'll have to look into it for you. I have not seen any official decision to extend the voting. We know that there's been a decision today that the mandate of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe should be extended to cover the municipal elections, which, as you know, will not take place this Saturday.
We think those elections should be held by the end of November, and we think that it's important for the OSCE as soon as Saturday's elections are through to begin working on the municipal elections. It's a very positive step forward that the OSCE will remain there until these municipal elections are held.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
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