U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Wednesday, September 11, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ARMS CONTROL Secretary's Statement on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty/ Chemical Weapons Convention ................................ 1-2 --India's Position on CTBT .................................. 3-6 --U.S. Position on Testing .................................. 3-6 --French Foreign Minister's Comments on Guarantees .......... 6 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA A/S Kornblum's Travel to Bosnia for Elections ............... 2,30-31 Richard Holbrooke Leading Private Mission to Bosnia ......... 2-3,30-31 Status of Elections of Bosnia/Prospects for Democratic Vote . 25-27 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Status of Israel-Syria Track/Issue of the Golan Heights ..... 6-10 IRAQ Situation in Iraq/Efforts to Contain Saddam ................. 10-14,19 Intra-Kurdish Fighting/U.S. Efforts/Refugee Situation/Aid ... 13-15,17- 23 Status of Operation Provide Comfort/Turkish Efforts ......... 15-17,19- 22 Countries Participating in Patroling the "No-Fly" Zones ..... 19 UNSC Meeting Today re Resolution Supporting Implementation of 986 ........................................................ 23-25 PANAMA Coordinator for Panama Canal Basing Issues .................. 28-29 UGANDA/SUDAN Agreement Between Uganda and Sudan .......................... 29 CYPRUS Shooting of Turkish Cypriot Solider ......................... 29-30 BALTIC STATES Discussions on Security Issues .............................. 30
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1996, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Nice to see all of you here today.
I want to begin today with a statement by Secretary of State Christopher on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The United Nations General Assembly's vote yesterday to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was a landmark decision that will strengthen the security of the United States and that of every nation in the world. It moves us toward the fulfillment of a decades-old dream that there will be no nuclear explosions anywhere. This dream has been shared by world leaders beginning with Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will prohibit any nuclear explosion, whether for military or peaceful purposes. It will effectively constrain the development and improvement of nuclear weapons and contribute to the prevention of nuclear proliferation and our ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament.
President Clinton's personal leadership played the key role in the success of these negotiations. The President's decision in July 1993 to extend the moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing laid the groundwork for the negotiations, and his announcement in August 1995 that the United States would support a zero-yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty paved the way for resolution of one of the central issues of the treaty itself.
Of course, this success would not have been possible without the strong and unstinting effort of so many allies of the United States and so many of our friends around the world. The Secretary would like to especially acknowledge the role played by the Government of Australia which led the effort to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the United Nations.
This treaty demonstrates the power of the international community to unite around a great goal and to act together to improve the security of all of its members. The United States calls upon all nations, especially those with a historic commitment to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to sign and ratify this treaty without delay.
We have another landmark arms control opportunity before us this week as the United States Senate is considering the Chemical Weapons Convention.
This convention is of critical importance to the security of the United States. The threat of chemical weapons, whether in the hands of governments or terrorists, is one of the most pressing security challenges we face in the post-Cold War era. The Chemical Weapons Convention is a crucial tool in our global fight against chemical weapons proliferation. It establishes an international legal basis to seek out and isolate anyone who seeks to develop, produce, or stockpile chemical weapons.
The Chemical Weapons Convention also has bipartisan backing. It was negotiated during the Reagan and Bush Administrations, and it now has the full support of President Clinton. We urge prompt ratification by the Senate of the Chemical Weapons Convention to demonstrate to the World our determination to defeat the rogue states or terrorists who would use chemical weapons of mass destruction against us.
That completes the statement by the Secretary. I will be posting this statement. It will be available to all of you after the briefing.
I also wanted to let you know, remind you, that Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum is leaving Washington this evening for the Balkans. As I mentioned I believe yesterday, he will be spending Thursday and Friday in Sarajevo, and Saturday he'll be monitoring the voting in Bosnia. And then on Sunday, he'll travel to Belgrade for discussions with Slobodan Milosevic.
In addition to that, I know that the White House is planning to announce that former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke will be leading the President's mission -- private mission -- to Bosnia. I would expect that announcement sometime later on today.
I know from talking to Dick Holbrooke that he will be coming here tomorrow -- to the Department -- to see Secretary Christopher and see other officials and to discuss this mission. This is a group of members of the private sector -- people from the private sector -- and some government officials who will be observing the elections on behalf of the President. He'll travel, I believe, Thursday night to the Balkans. He'll spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday watching the voting in Bosnia.
I'll try to see if we can make him available to some of you, if there's a possibility of doing that, tomorrow.
QUESTION: Nick, does the U.S. take India's "no, never" as final on the test ban? And more specifically -- and you know the Indian position -- will the United States avail itself of its opportunities to improve its nuclear stockpile without testing, without explosive devices? In other words, use techniques that are available to sophisticated nuclear powers like the United States to improve its arsenal? Or will it take the pledge to eventually forego nuclear weapons entirely as a means of satisfying -- I assume the Secretary refers to nations historically; interested in disarmament? He's referring to India which actually led the world in that campaign for many years.
MR. BURNS: On your first question, Barry, it was not unexpected, certainly, but it is most unfortunate that India chose to vote against the overwhelming majority of countries in the United Nations yesterday on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We still call upon India and the very few others who have voted against this, and who have said they will not sign it, to sign this treaty.
I understand that the treaty will be open for signature on September 24th at UN Headquarters in New York. If that date holds up, of course, I would expect that the President would sign the treaty when he visits New York.
We would call upon all states who have any doubts about this treaty -- and, fortunately, it's very few -- to reconsider their actions. Indian leaders, you're right, were in the forefront, in decades past, of the fight to end all nuclear tests. It is, therefore, somewhat ironic and most unfortunate that the current Indian leadership has not voted for this. Because as the Secretary's statement indicates as the President said last night, this treaty will end all nuclear tests anywhere in the world forever. It is of enormous advantage to all people in the world.
On your second question, Barry, the United States will continue, as will the other declared nuclear powers, to have nuclear weapons in our arsenal for some time to come. The challenge is, on a practical basis, to try to lower the level of nuclear weapons available to countries in the world and to take steps to preserve the security of these weapons, to avoid proliferation of either fissile material or nuclear warheads or the technology or the scientific and human talent to produce them. It's also to avoid the possibility of accidental nuclear launch.
I think our answer to India and other countries, which have argued for setting some kind of a date to destroy all nuclear weapons in the world is that it is not practical; that will not happen.
So let's focus our efforts on two things. Let's end all nuclear tests; let's bring down the level of nuclear weapons, and let's try to prevent the proliferation of nuclear technologies.
The Unites States has been a responsible country pertaining to nuclear weapons. We've led the way towards a drawdown and the level of nuclear weapons around the world.
QUESTION: One of India's arguments is that even while foregoing test explosions, the United States -- and, by the way, there were people in this building and elsewhere in the Administration who were in favor of continuing explosions. So this purist attitude was only taken by the President over the objections of many people in the Administration. That's then. Now is now.
MR. BURNS: That's a very serious charge. Let me just answer that.
QUESTION: Wait a minute. They wanted very, very, very small tests.
MR. BURNS: Barry, let me just answer that, and then I'll let you go back to your question. That's a very serious charge.
QUESTION: It's true.
MR. BURNS: If you go through a building or a Cabinet agency that has 25,000 employees in it, you're going to find a variety of views on a variety of issues.
On this particular issue, Secretary Christopher has fully supported the position of the United States and, in fact, led the fight in the Administration to get there.
QUESTION: Nobody is questioning -- the reason I mention this is --
MR. BURNS: I think your question would lead a lot of people to believe that was not the case.
QUESTION: No, no. Because you probably don't understand what I'm saying.
MR. BURNS: Why don't you finish your question.
QUESTION: So here's the point. Until last August, there were people in this building and elsewhere -- I'm not talking about clerks; I'm talking about senior policy people -- who wanted the United States to keep conducting small tests, tiny tests, for the purpose, they said, of keeping the nuclear arsenal up to date. They use all those arguments "safe and refine," etc., etc., etc. The President resolved that by saying "no tests."
India is saying, okay, you're not going to test but you still have other mechanisms in the laboratory for continuing to improve your nuclear arsenal. Some people wanted to do it with small tests.
What does the U.S. say to that argument? Will it promise or pledge not to advance, not to update, not to make more potent its nuclear weapons, let alone pledging to disarm?
MR. BURNS: The United States has pledged, by voting for the treaty, and we will sign it shortly, that we will not engage in nuclear tests on a zero-yield basis. I think that's the operative phrase here and the key part of this agreement. That is an assurance that the nuclear powers, since the dawn of the nuclear age, until now have not been willing to give. Now, we're willing to give it all five declared nuclear powers.
That is a significant step forward, and it ought to be enough for the Indians and others who have tried to stand in the way of this treaty.
QUESTION: You won't rule out laboratory experiments, other means of improving the nuclear arsenal? I know that you can.
MR. BURNS: I'm just going to limit myself by saying today, Barry, we've pledged, in voting for this treaty, to not test on a zero-yield basis, which is the key part of this.
QUESTION: To blasts. There are other ways to do it.
QUESTION: Nick, has the United States considered giving, offering India some security guarantees that might in some way alleviate its concerns?
MR. BURNS: In answering that, I ought to go back to Square One, and that is, we have a good relationship with India. Our disagreement on this should not mask the fact that, in fact, that relationship has improved; the health of it has improved in quality over the several years. We want to maintain that growth in the relationship.
India knows that the United States has good intentions towards India. I don't think that India fears -- certainly does not fear the intentions of the United States from any kind of military point of view. Far from it.
The United States has never been an aggressor in south Asia and will not be. So I'm not sure that this idea of any kind of security assurances, if that's what you have in mind on the part of the United States, would be necessary. Now, India may have other concerns in mind that have to do with the geopolitics of its own region.
Our advice to the Indians has been, let's not let those problems obstruct the path towards something that everyone has wanted for decades, including India's historic leaders -- Nehru and Ghandi. That is an agreement to end all nuclear tests. That's really been part of the conversation between us.
QUESTION: The French Foreign Minister today suggested that some sort of security guarantees from the nuclear powers may provide a way to sort of resolve this conflict with India. I wonder whether that was something that the United States has considered seriously or discussed with the French?
MR. BURNS: I thought you were referring to specific U.S.-Indian security assurances, of course, which would not be needed. I have not seen the statement by Minister de Charette nor am I aware of the proposal. So I would have to look at that before I could answer that question.
QUESTION: As far as you know, when the Secretary was in Paris last week and discussing the CTBT with de Charette, this did not come up?
MR. BURNS: It did not come up. The discussion last week focused on how we could succeed, have the effort led by the Australian Government succeed in the United Nations. It succeeded yesterday in a very dramatic and positive way.
QUESTION: New subject. There's fresh, new evidence in the Israeli press today, suggesting that the late Itzhak Rabin at one time did tell President Clinton that Israel is willing to withdraw from all or most of the Golan Heights, and that President Assad did agree to all of Rabin's security demands, which brings me to the question: Just how much value does this Administration put on known papers that were there between Israel and Syria as part of the American effort to mediate between them?
MR. BURNS: I know you don't really expect me to read to you or recite for you all the details of all the conversations that President Clinton and Secretary Christopher had with the late Prime Minister Rabin.
QUESTION: About the value of known papers and such, without going into details at all.
MR. BURNS: Right. All I can do is bring you to the present day and tell you that in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit, the United States is working with Israel and Syria to try to see if we can convince both of those countries to begin again their political discussions, which we hope at some point in the future might lead to a treaty between Israel and Syria.
QUESTION: Any general position on the principal question, do you place value on past agreements or not? This is (inaudible) this is just a general rift here between the --
MR. BURNS: The problem that I have in answering your question is that you are assuming that in fact there were these solid agreements in the past, and, of course, I can't speak to that, because that would reveal diplomatic conversations that should remain private.
QUESTION: All right, let's try it this way. Dennis Ross sort of tried to deal with this and did to an extent, so far as does this make his job more difficult, and he spoke at the White House the other night of trying to find a position between the Netanyahu position and the Syrian position.
If you can't speak about documents -- and everybody knows there was a document, but they weren't signed. There were enough statements by senior Israeli officials -- Ambassadors, etc. -- saying that under the right circumstances Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights if the peace terms were appropriate. There was talk of phases, but they would withdraw from the Golan Heights, in fact all of the Golan Heights was said from time to time.
The question is, these were not officially signed agreements. Does the United States think that the present government should be bound in any way by those assertions?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say I think there's a very great difference between what has occurred in the Israel-Palestinian track versus the Israel-Syria track, and I think I can answer your question by outlining that.
Israel and the Palestinians have signed two agreements, and the United States maintains that both parties should uphold the commitments adhered to in those agreements, the latest of which was signed in the White House on September 28th of last year.
On the Israel-Syria talks, of course, while there were a few meetings at the Wye Plantation and while Secretary Christopher was often an intermediary between those two countries, they never signed any agreement. Therefore, to ask either one of them to uphold elements of the private conversation seems to be a very different subject than the Israel-Palestinian talks where there was a written agreement.
There's a new government in Israel, and that new government brings some new ideas and a new orientation to the negotiations, the talks, and our own effort, Barry, as you know, is now focused on just getting them to talk directly to each other, and then we'll see what can be done substantively.
QUESTION: I understand. A quick follow-up. That answers the question, as far as I'm concerned. Now a quick follow-up about the U.S. position. The Secretary, during the weekend in London, spoke of his support for a comprehensive agreement. Does that mean the U.S. position is there should or must be an Israeli withdrawal on the Golan Heights?
MR. BURNS: Our objective is a peace treaty between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon. Obviously, the Golan Heights is one of the big issues that the Israelis and the Syrians will have to tackle at some point in the future. We are not going to declare what our own position is. We'll keep our advice private.
QUESTION: Did Dore Gold, who was here yesterday, stay behind after the Prime Minister left -- is he taking a proposal back with him for the resumption of the talks, some new wording? Is that being passed on to the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: Dore Gold was here yesterday and spoke with Dennis Ross at length after the meetings at the White House the previous day. I think as we've said for the last 48 hours, we have produced some ideas that we hope might lead to progress and convince Israel and Syria that they ought to re-initiate conversations. But, frankly, I can't stand here and predict early success for you, as this is a very difficult process with a number of obstacles in its way, and we'll keep working very hard on it. We'll just have to see how it goes and when we might be successful, if we are successful.
QUESTION: Do you consider this idea that the resumption of the talks should be based on territorial concessions as pertinent to the resumption of talks or as a precondition?
MR. BURNS: Israel and Syria will have to decide the basis for the resumption of talks, if there is to be any substantive basis whatsoever for it.
MR. BURNS: They'll have to decide that question. We can't offer public advice to them on how they frame that question.
QUESTION: No, but it's pertinent because the new Prime Minister is ad nauseam that he will enter the talks with no preconditions, as have the Syrians, and now it appears that everybody's putting preconditions on it. Can you clear it up?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't seek to clarify that, because, as you know, we prefer to negotiate privately.
QUESTION: And (inaudible) back to the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: You know, the Secretary said going back and forth, he meant figuratively. He didn't mean necessarily in airplanes.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTION: But since Netanyahu's been here, now we have the Dore Gold contact; Dennis has this task of trying to find a way between the two a formula. Has he or anyone else from the U.S. side given the Syrians a readout yet of the Netanyahu visit? Has there been any serious contact with Syria since the Prime Minister was here?
MR. BURNS: This is part of the pattern of our relationship with both countries. Obviously, now having heard the views of the Prime Minister and his advisers, we will be going back to the Syrians. I can't tell you whether that contact was made this morning or whether it will be made tomorrow, but it will be made.
QUESTION: At what level?
MR. BURNS: I assume through our Embassy in Damascus.
QUESTION: And these ideas that have come -- these ideas -- they'll be passed on to the Syrians. These new ideas for starting the talks.
MR. BURNS: Certainly. I mean, by producing ideas and by engaging in discussions, we're talking between two countries here, and so, of course, we're going to talk to both sides.
QUESTION: Different subject. Iraq.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: I'm just asking you about the future here. It seems that what the United States has done to this point has produced frustratingly little in terms of results from Saddam Hussein. By hitting him in the south, nothing has happened much in the north. The situation has continued to get worse. The refugee situation is dire, according to some reports, and he seems to be able to fire missiles, whether or not the "no-fly" zone has been extended.
I'm just wondering what option now is available to the United States that might achieve the goal here, and what is the goal in fact?
MR. BURNS: I think the proper way to view this -- I mean, if I could suggest this -- is to view it from a longer-term perspective. This effort to contain Saddam Hussein regionally did not begin last week with the American air strikes, and it won't end tomorrow or next week or maybe even next year.
We're engaged in a five-year effort, and it could go on for some time if Saddam Hussein survives in power, to contain him regionally. The goal, Steve, is to make sure that he does not have the military capacity to strike at Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That is the heart of America's strategic interests, and our actions last week served that cause by knocking out his air defenses in the south, which allowed us to extend the "no-flight" zone in the south.
He has perhaps widened his field of operations in the north. That could be temporary. His gains may not be lasting, and where it really matters, which is his ability to act as a state with other states in the region, he is severely limited by the actions of the United States.
You know we're flying in the north with the British and the French and the Turks, and this morning, as the Pentagon reported to you, there was a very brief illumination of an aircraft, but so brief that the planes did not fire back.
He's really not constituting much of a threat against the coalition aircraft right now. And in the south, we have extended that zone up to the 33rd parallel. He is constrained in a strategic sense, and that, I think, is the good news about what's happened to Saddam Hussein in the last week.
QUESTION: But the fact of the matter is, I think, that the Saudis have been less than eager to join in this current operation, simply because -- well, partly because they don't feel threatened. They see this as a dispute that is going on in the north, and it's a Kurdish problem, which they might join with Saddam Hussein in trying to solve much as he has if they had the choice and had to.
So what was the threat to the south, the immediate threat, the proximate threat, that caused the United States to react with missile attacks against SAM batteries when it wanted to punish Saddam Hussein for being nasty to the Kurds in the north. I don't understand.
MR. BURNS: We haven't forgotten history, and the history of the region is that when Saddam Hussein is not constrained by superior military force, he strikes out at his neighbors. He did so in 1990 and 1991, and we had to turn him back. If he tries to do so again, we will turn him back.
I think Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the other Gulf States all agree that Saddam Hussein is a long-term regional threat to them. That is why the Saudis continue to participate as an active member of the international coalition in the south.
The American aircraft that are flying hundreds of sorties a week in the southern "no-flight" zone are based in Saudi Arabia, and we're very grateful for the support given to us by Saudi Arabia for that operation. The aircraft flying hundreds of sorties per week in the north are based in Turkey.
So the coalition is intact, and the coalition continues to build walls around Saddam Hussein's Iraq, so that he now enjoys the liberty of flying his aircraft in the greater vicinity of Baghdad but not much outside the Beltway of Baghdad, if there is a Beltway around Baghdad, because the 33rd parallel extends into the southern suburbs of Baghdad itself.
So this picture that we have and is being painted for us by members of your profession that somehow Saddam Hussein in running amok and is emboldened and strengthened is a picture of some of his Kurdish allies in the north. It is not a picture of what he can do strategically, which is the most important factor for the United States.
QUESTION: Your profession (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: No --
QUESTION: Members of your profession --
MR. BURNS: Not me.
QUESTION: -- on the Administration -- diplomats and former Secretaries.
MR. BURNS: Not me.
QUESTION: No, no, I'm just --
MR. BURNS: Not Ken Bacon.
QUESTION: It's not just press.
MR. BURNS: Not Mike McCurry. Not Secretary Christopher or President Clinton.
QUESTION: The Turkish situation, apropos the refugee --
MR. BURNS: I just want to make sure Steve was --
QUESTION: Well, I still didn't hear an answer in there to the question of why you hit SAM missile batteries in the south when you're trying to stop him from doing something against the Kurds in the north.
MR. BURNS: We chose the field of battle against him last week. We were not going to allow him to choose the field of battle--first. Second, we chose to hit him where we thought it would hit him hardest and be most seriously felt, and that was in his southern air defenses and at his southern air bases to cripple his ability to pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Let's remember what the core of U.S. strategic interests are: to protect Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It's been that way throughout the Bush and Clinton Administrations. That's why we chose the targets in the south.
QUESTION: But there was no proximate threat to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at the moment of those missile strikes, as far as --
MR. BURNS: I would disagree. Anytime Saddam Hussein decides to come out of the box -- his box -- and roll 40 to 50,000 Republican Guard troops anywhere in Iraq means that all of us have to sit up and take notice and send him an unmistakable signal that he will not be allowed, as he did in 1990 and 1991, to try to take over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That's at the heart of U.S. strategic interests here.
The situation in the north -- I just want to try to complete the answer to Steve -- the situation in the north is exceedingly complicated. Here we have one Kurdish leader, Mr. Barzani, making the most unwise choice of aligning himself tactically with Saddam Hussein. This will not be a fruitful alliance, we predict, for the Kurds in the future.
We made the decision last week that we would not intervene in a civil war between two Kurdish groups, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was supporting one and Iran the other. Our strong advice to the two Kurdish groups remains, "You ought to sit down and discuss your problems and stop fighting and resist these alliances with Iran and Iraq," and the United States again today reaffirms our willingness to help the Kurdish groups accomplish that.
The Kurds have an opportunity to provide security for their people. It will not come through fighting. It will not come through an alliance with Saddam Hussein. He said yesterday, "General amnesty for all Kurds in the north, including Mr. Talabani." An end to the economic embargo. If they believe Saddam's promises, they would be most naive.
QUESTION: It's just -- you advised them not to.
MR. BURNS: They should not believe Saddam's promises.
QUESTION: All right. Can you bring us up to date what Turkey may be doing for the refugees and --
QUESTION: I'd like to follow up.
QUESTION: No, I am following up.
MR. BURNS: Well, Barry is following up.
QUESTION: We're asking about the people who are caught in this awful mess -- not their leaders, not the great powers.
MR. BURNS: I've compiled what I think is as much as we know about the situation throughout Iraq, Barry. Can I go through it? That might answer your question and others.
MR. BURNS: First, as the Pentagon said yesterday, the United States believes that Saddam Hussein is attempting to reconstitute his air defense systems in the south. The United States has warned him in writing last Friday not to do so, and he is on notice that should he do so, we reserve the right to take any military action we wish to counter the reconstitution of his air defense systems.
We mean what we say. We did hit him once last week. We are quite able to do that again, should he engage in activity which we believe would endanger the lives of American, British and French pilots in the south, and that's a very important interest that we have.
Barry, turning to the situation in the north. We are continuing to patrol the "no-fly" zone in the north with the French, the British and the Turks, and it's a very aggressive "no-flight" zone. The numbers of sorties are quite high, and the rules of engagement are that if Saddam Hussein's ground forces try to illuminate or lock on to any coalition aircraft, then those pilots have the right to respond, and Saddam Hussein is on notice. He ought to be on notice that those are the rules of engagement.
Concerning the refugee situation in the north, we have heard from the international relief agencies that there may be anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people who have been on the roads out of Sulaymaniyah and heading towards the Iranian border. These are highly imprecise figures. These are estimates by the people on the ground.
Today, we are hearing reports from these international relief organizations that a number of these refugees may have turned back from the Iranian border and headed back into Sulaymaniyah, perhaps because of the public promises by Saddam Hussein that no retribution will be taken against those Kurds who supported Mr. Talabani or those Iraqi citizens who, having lived in the north for the past several years, have been opposed to the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Our advice to all citizens of northern Iraq, all Iraqis in northern Iraq, is to be very, very skeptical about public promises from a man who has never kept his word, who has consistently tried to annihilate the Iraqi Kurds, and who has been responsible for the executions of thousands of people since he became dictator of Iraq, most recently the execution of his own son-in-law.
It is not clear to us whether the border with Iran is fully open. It appears that a number of refugees have made their way across the border into Iran. We also have received some information this morning that the Iranians are not receiving all the people who presented themselves at the border and not allowing them to come across the border.
You know what the position of the United States is that all neighboring states to Iraq have a responsibility to take in refugees when they present themselves. These people are not just refugees who are suffering economic deprivation. They are people who genuinely should feel a threat to their lives, should Saddam Hussein's security forces get ahold of them.
The UN High Commissioner on Refugees is sending a team from its office in Tehran to the border area to work with the Iranian authorities on the refugee situation on the Iraqi-Iranian border. We support the efforts of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to ensure that all refugees are granted asylum and protection, and that they are given the economic and medical assistance that they need.
Our Assistant Secretary of State, Phyllis Oakley, has been in touch with both the UNHCR and also the International Committee of the Red Cross. In fact, she met yesterday with the Director of Operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and she assured him of our willingness to participate in these operations, to help fund these operations, as we have done in the past.
The ICRC did not indicate yesterday that any additional funding was required at this point. We know that food and medical supplies, tents, plastic sheeting have already been located and are on their way to the border. There is also a combined UN team -- United Nations Team -- that is on the border trying to assess the totality of the situation pertaining to all these refugees.
So what we see today is a very chaotic, very complex, very difficult situation for tens of thousands of people in northern Iraq.
QUESTION: The Turkish part of this?
MR. BURNS: What I can tell you is that we continue to work with the Turkish Government in all aspects of this. We appreciate the fact that the Turkish Government continues to provide bases for "Operation Provide Comfort," the "no-flight" zone. We continue to talk to the Turks about the great number of people whom we would like to get out of northern Iraq, because we feel a debt of gratitude to them for having worked with "Operation Provide Comfort" over the last five years. I can't give you the details of that, because that operation continues.
QUESTION: Nick, on that point, these refugees, people you have been ferrying into Turkey, how long do you expect them to stay there, and who's going to pay for their safekeeping?
MR. BURNS: What I can tell you, Sid, is that we have identified several thousand people who were with us over the last five years, and these include people who have worked with us and their family members who are at peril because of their association with the United States and Turkey and Britain and France, and we're attempting to bring them to safety.
I do not want to prejudice that mission by telling you exactly where we're doing it and how we're doing it and when it will end, but it is ongoing.
QUESTION: Okay, but once these people are in -- the Turkish Foreign Ministry said today that they may be willing to help you out. I don't understand that statement since they're already there, but they may be willing to help you out temporarily. Is it your position that the refugees, if you want to call them that, should be allowed to stay in camps in Turkey indefinitely? What's your vision for how these people will be taken care of and processed, and who will pay for it?
MR. BURNS: When our operation is completed, I'll be glad to share with you the details of what we did and what we think should happen to these people. But, really, in order to protect their lives and the success of this operation, I don't want to give you details. I can't really answer your question. I don't want to give you details until this operation is finished. David, yes.
QUESTION: The removal of these people from the places where they were working around northern Iraq and with the change in the balance of power in northern Iraq, what is left of "Operation Provide Comfort," and to whom is it providing comfort at this point? Are you talking to your allies about restructuring it and perhaps changing its name?
MR. BURNS: It makes sense for the United States and other countries to try to bring this particular group of people who provided the work force for "Provide Comfort" -- to get them out of Iraq, because if we don't, we cannot be at all sure that their lives would be protected against the security goons of Saddam Hussein.
Your question is a very good question. The most important strategic aspect of "Provide Comfort" remains in place, and that is the four-nation effort led by the United States to contain him in the north. He, Saddam Hussein, does not have the freedom to operate militarily in the air above the 36th parallel, and he will not have that freedom for the foreseeable future, because the Turkish Government agrees with us that the "no-flight" zone should continue, as does the French Government, as does the British Government.
The other two legs are the Military Control Commission, and the emergency humanitarian operation on the ground. We had personnel, as did some of the other countries on the ground, to run those two organizations. We withdrew those people last week, because we didn't want to subject them to the fighting in northern Iraq.
I don't know when it will be possible to reconstitute those two operations. We've certainly not made the decision to end those two operations. They are suspended temporarily. Obviously, the situation on the ground will be one of the major factors in determining what we can do in the future.
So, if you will, to sum up, we now have to look to the international relief organizations to provide the kind of help that "Operation Provide Comfort" did in the past -- economic and humanitarian help. But we will continue to run the military mission, which has been so effective in containing Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: But is it desirable, if Kurdish allies of Saddam Hussein are now going to hold sway in northern Iraq, to provide those allies of Saddam Hussein with emergency humanitarian aid and military patrols, and so on?
MR. BURNS: It is certainly desirable to help innocent victims of fighting in northern Iraq, and that's why we support the United Nations in its effort to feed people and give people shelter, especially in the mountains at a time of year when it's pretty cold in the mountains.
I think we have a moral obligation, as we did in 1991, to reach out to the refugees and to help them. This assistance is not going to be given directly to
Mr. Barzani. It's going to go to individuals who have fled to the border, who are living in refugee camps or living along the road or living on the sides of mountains. It's not going to be turned over to someone who started the fighting in the first place.
QUESTION: Nick, could I follow on that issue -- that specific issue?
MR. BURNS: Sure, and then we'll go to Steve.
QUESTION: Nick, we haven't spoken about those people who have made it to the Iranian border or near to the Iranian border who are not being allowed into Iran. Are those people in danger of being pursued and captured? What's the status of that? What's the status of the policy of the Iranians? Who are they letting in, and are they going to protect those people that they have let in?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I think I have covered all those issues in my answers just in the last ten minutes. With all due respect, I believe I've answered all those questions.
QUESTION: No, I don't think, Nick. You talk about 2,000 people being withdrawn to Turkey, but what about --
MR. BURNS: And I said that it's unclear to us how many people have been allowed by the Iranian Government to enter Iran east of Sulaymaniyah, east and northeast of Sulaymaniyah, and that we're calling upon Iran to open its border to these people and to protect them from the security forces of Saddam Hussein; that we're working with the United Nations to provide these very people humanitarian support -- medical and food.
QUESTION: My principal point was, though, are those people under threat by Saddam's allies, the Kurdish allies of --
MR. BURNS: They're certainly threatened by Saddam Hussein, and I can't answer the question of what
Mr. Barzani's intentions are. We've warned him not to engage or allow his Iraqi friends to engage in the type of retribution and summary executions that occurred after the takeover of Irbil.
QUESTION: Then, finally, if I could, back to the issue of this whole matter of Saddam's friends taking over the Kurdish areas in the north. (1) Doesn't that eliminate the PUK influence against Saddam, the efforts to displace Saddam, and doesn't that also free more of his military to go south possibly?
MR. BURNS: The PUK of Mr. Talabani has suffered major losses, but I don't believe that the party of
Mr. Barzani, the KDP, controls all of the traditional Kurdish areas inside Iraq. Mr. Talabani does still have some influence, and it's hard for us to predict what's going to happen in terms of the balance of power between these groups in the future.
QUESTION: But you don't think Saddam has gained militarily?
MR. BURNS: I think Saddam Hussein has extended his reach in the north -- there's no question about that -- but militarily, where it counts, he continues to be bottled up by the United States and our allies where it counts. As I said yesterday, he ought to be -- he doesn't have the military freedom that any normal leader would have to deploy air and ground forces throughout his country. He's still very much a wounded figure -- he, Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Is the United States satisfied that Turkey is doing all that the United States would wish it could to facilitate this effort in the north, both in terms of providing humanitarian assistance to those left on that border and removing those, who are in danger because of the part about "Operation Provide Comfort"?
MR. BURNS: We're going to continue to talk to the Turkish Government about this problem. It's a major problem because it requires quick action and quick decision-making and a sense of decisiveness. That's what we are bringing to these discussions -- we, the United States -- and we hope very much that the Turkish Government will agree with us that we need to complete this operation quickly and protect these people.
QUESTION: Does that translate into a "no" to an "is the United States satisfied"?
MR. BURNS: Those are the words that I wanted to use in addressing your very good question, Steve.
QUESTION: Your other ally, France -- you said there are a lot of sorties being flown aggressively. Are they going up to the 32nd at this stage with you?
MR. BURNS: In the south the British pilots are flying up to the 33rd parallel with the United States, and the French are flying up to the 32nd. In the north, the British, French, Turks and Americans are all patrolling the entire "no-flight" zone in the north. Yasmine.
QUESTION: To go to the north again, you say this group of several thousand people that the U.S. has been trying to rescue have been cooperating with the "Provide Comfort." Are your allies, Turkey, Britain, France, available for this cooperation?
MR. BURNS: These people were the people were the employees of "Operation Provide Comfort," many of them. They're people who worked to actually run the humanitarian food and medical operation, and to staff the offices that we built in northern Iraq in March and April of 1991.
They're people who have been loyal to us. They're people who have worked with us in the effort to help the Kurds in the north and the other groups in the north, and therefore we have an obligation to them.
QUESTION: Are you saying Turkish claims that they didn't now such a number of people existed the area are baseless?
MR. BURNS: I have not heard those claims by the Turkish, and the Turkish Government certainly is aware of the very strong interest that the United States has on this question.
QUESTION: Just one thing: Turkey apparently has some concerns about thousands of people staying on the border for a long time, and this looks to be the major problem there. They remember about what happened right after the Gulf war. Are you telling anything to the Turks to give them some kind of guarantee that there will be some asylum granted to these people right after --
MR. BURNS: I know that we've had some extensive conversations with the Turkish Government today about this. The Turkish Government understands all of our thinking and all of our rationale. I'm confident that in the end we'll have a successful outcome here because of the combined efforts of the United States and Turkey.
QUESTION: But you realize your description before of these people fits the description of political refugees. It carries with it some obligation --
MR. BURNS: Certainly these people are refugees, because we believe that they're not able to go back -- stay in Iraq because of the fear of retribution, and in that case retribution means the worst.
QUESTION: What it means, may I suggest here on tape, they should be given some permanent sanctuary in a neighboring country, obviously.
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of ways to deal with this problem, and we're looking into a variety of options. It does require the cooperation of Turkey, and we are working with the Turks to have a successful outcome here, and I predict we'll have a successful outcome.
QUESTION: Nick, do you feel that the Turks, specifically Foreign Minister Ciller, is going back on the conversation she had with the Secretary over the weekend, and I'm told he came away from with an understanding that they would allow you to do this operation.
MR. BURNS: No, I certainly would not make that statement that you would want me to make here in addressing your question to me. We have had very good discussions with the Turkish Government, and the Secretary had a quite satisfactory phone call with Mrs. Ciller on Sunday. The Turkish Government has met its commitments in the past to the United States, and I'm sure the Turkish Government will in this instance.
This is a very difficult time for the Turks, because they have massive instability on their southeast border. They have concerns about that border. The United States has been the leading country in the world expressing understanding for the Turkish position, about threats to the Turkish border. We have said that we agree that it is the right thing for Turkey to create this security zone, if it is limited in duration and if Turkish troops aren't garrisoned there.
So I can't think of a country that has provided better support or been a better friend of Turkey throughout this crisis. Turkey has always come through for the United States when we needed it, and I'm sure that will be the case this time.
QUESTION: They already gave you assurances over the weekend. Why are they telling you they're changing their minds, or is it Mrs. Ciller not necessarily --
MR. BURNS: Sid, I never said anybody had changed their minds. I never said that. Let the record state that I never said that. Go back and check what I said. I was asked the specific question by Barry and Steve, and I've answered them.
QUESTION: It wasn't your understanding after the weekend conversation that this operation, whatever it may be, would be allowed to go forward unhindered?
MR. BURNS: I think Turkey and the United States agree on what must be done in the north: Continue the "no-flight" zone, provide security for those people whose lives are in danger, and protect the Turkish border itself. All those three things are important, and we're working together with the Turks on them.
QUESTION: So why has the operation been stopped by the Turks?
MR. BURNS: I never said that it had been, it's ongoing. The discussions are ongoing. The operation is ongoing, and I am predicting today that this operation will succeed because of the efforts of the United States and Turkey.
Do you want to join this?
QUESTION: Yes, of course.
MR. BURNS: I'm not surprised.
QUESTION: No, no, I have a very specific question. You're talking about political asylum. According to reports the Turkish Government is planning right now to send back by force, in northern Iraq, its own Kurdish citizen via the upcoming Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq as I understand, with full approval of the USA. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to address that question to the Turkish Government, Mr. Lambros. You're talking about here about actions of the Turkish Government. I can't help you with that.
QUESTION: But you had consultation in every aspect -- you are saying that every day that --
MR. BURNS: And I haven't heard that story. I haven't had that story at all.
QUESTION: If Iran will not allow the Kurdish people to enter the country, what are you planning to do to protect them?
MR. BURNS: I think I've outlined that here today. The UNHCR and the ICRC are taking the lead to help the refugees on the Iranian-Iraqi border, and we're supporting those efforts and are willing contribute to them further.
QUESTION: And one more question: In view of the unfolding new Kurdish refugee tragedy/crisis, I would like to know the State Department attitude to this effect: Are the millions of Kurdish people entitled to have finally the homeland or a kind of an autonomous status somewhere?
MR. BURNS: The Kurds?
MR. BURNS: We did our best to protect the Kurds in Northern Iraq over the last five years. They're now engaging in civil war. We'll have to see what the results of that civil war are, but we certainly wish the Kurdish population well, and we wish them better than an alliance with Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: But they are entitled to have a homeland or an autonomous status?
MR. BURNS: The United States has never taken that position, going back to the Second World War. We've never taken that position.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Still on Iraq, and then we'll go Bosnia.
QUESTION: Just one more on Iraq. At the United Nations today, the UN Security Council is meeting to draft a resolution supporting the implementation of 986 as soon as possible.
Number one, do you think this is a bit impractical given the situation in Northern Iraq? And, number two, is it discouraging, from the U.S. perspective, that there seems to be more interest at the UN Security Council in moving 964 than in condemning the Iraqi action, which they were unable to do last week?
MR. BURNS: On the second part of your question, it's nice to have rhetorical support but what matters is physical, reliable support. We got that last week from the United Kingdom. We were able to accomplish our military objectives because of the assistance of the United Kingdom. That matters in the final analysis a lot more than a statement from the United Nations.
On the first part of your question, the United States was the leading country in favor of UN Resolution 986. It was our idea. We helped to draft the resolution. We also helped to make sure that the operation would be effective by adding monitors to it.
We agreed very much with the Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, that it was impractical, at the time of Saddam's aggression, two weeks ago, to go forward with UN Resolution 986. We have said consistently, since then, that we would be very willing to talk about it again. There are these practical problems. There's a war underway in the north.
I think Irbil was, in fact, going to be one of the main distribution routes for this plan. So we're going to have to look at the plan, frankly, and see if it's a practical plan. If it's not, it's obviously going to have to be thought through. Ultimately we want the Iraqi people to be assisted by the international community, so that we can help them because they have been so victimized by Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: You said Irbil was supposed to be the main distribution point for the humanitarian relief. Is it possible that the Security Council could move that point to a different city?
MR. BURNS: Again, we are open to any conversations to move 986 forward, but there seem to be a number of practical considerations, like that one, that will have to be discussed by the United Nations officials in New York before we can, on a realistic basis, move forward. This is a very complex undertaking to have the Iraqis produce this oil and then have it distributed, and then to have proceeds from that oil come back in with an inflow of a massive amount of food and medical assistance.
We want to make sure of one thing, that the assistance goes to the people who need it and not to Saddam and his cronies.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. think that because Saddam obviously had the money to get this military effort together that proves that maybe the country is not suffering and has a need of this relief as has been indicated?
MR. BURNS: His capacity for cynicism appears to be unmatched because he brought CNN and other TV cameras into hospitals the other day to look at children, who are very sick and kids who don't have enough to eat. Yet that belies the fact that he continues to builds palaces for himself -- 15 since the Gulf War and he continues to spend money on military hardware.
If he really cared about his people, he would feed them and he would give them the kind of medical assistance that I'm sure all of his family members have, and he wouldn't spend as much money in trying to destabilize the northern part of Iraq and invade his neighbors.
There's a real contradiction here. I think the news media has a responsibility to point out, when those pictures are put on our television screens -- that the pictures are wrenching; no one disagrees with that. Everyone wants to help these unfortunate victims of Saddam. But there's a reason why these people are starving and have inadequate medical care, and that's because he's built all these palaces. He's got his foreign bank accounts. There's a black-market that his family runs, and he's spending all of his extra cash, that he's not spending on his own family, on rockets, tanks and aircraft parts.
I think the news media has a responsibility to open up the world to this contradiction.
QUESTION: This contradiction that you are talking about, does that preclude 986 from going forward at any time in the future?
MR. BURNS: The United States would like to see, on a theoretical basis, 986 go forward, but we have to deal with the practical concerns here.
Still on Iraq before we can move to Bosnia? David wanted to move to Bosnia.
QUESTION: Are there any circumstances under which the United States would not find the vote on September 14 acceptable or are you planning to certify virtually anything?
Under what circumstances would you have to reschedule the vote?
MR. BURNS: David, we've said that we want this vote to be democratic and we want it to be effective, so that we can say on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday -- whenever these results are clear -- that the people of Bosnia had a fair chance to go to the polls, wherever they wanted to vote, to vote freely and to have those votes counted, in a way that was clearly appropriate. That, I think, is a standard: Effective elections and democratic elections, and certainly as free and fair as that is possible.
We're not willing to sanction a sham. If a sham takes place, we'll call it so. We very much want these elections to succeed, and we've put a lot of effort into this. There are going to be over 4,500 polling places. The NATO forces are going to be providing security in several hundred towns. We'll be helping the OSCE and NATO to bus people securely, especially the refugees, who want to go back to towns, where maybe they're not wanted anymore so they can cast their ballots.
We have done the very best that we can over many, many months of planning. I can assure you, David, we do not want to be a party to any sham. We'll call it as we see it.
QUESTION: There is a certain major political figure in the country who has said exactly that, that it already is going to be a sham and called for the President to reschedule them on the grounds that it's too early for there to be a truly democratic vote. There hasn't been time for parties to organize themselves for the wounds of the war to heal enough and for the intimidation by the three major parties -- the three ethnic-cleansing parties -- that are currently in control of segments of Bosnia. That their control is so total that there will not be a free and fair election? If I mention his name, you'll tell me you can't talk politics so I won't name him.
MR. BURNS: I can't talk politics, but I can address your question. Now that you've almost mentioned his name, I should preface this by saying that I'm not going to respond to Senator Dole's comments because I'm not going to become part of this campaign. I'm a Foreign Service officer. I'm not a politician.
But let's speak to the issue, David, because you asked a fair question. There's an interesting historical parallel that just came to mind. You and I were both in Stuttgart last Friday. On September 6, 1946, when there were grave questions about what happened in Germany -- what should the German people be allowed to do; should they be able to run their country, or should they continue to live under occupation -- Secretary of State James Byrnes went to Stuttgart and said, "Germany should be run by Germans, and Germany should not only be rebuilt but re-invited into the community of European nations."
We have all seen, since then, what an extraordinary success Germany has been, and what an extraordinary ally Germany has been to the United States.
The situations are not exactly comparable, obviously, but after five years of war in the Balkans, isn't it time to let the Bosnian people decide their future, not international bureaucrats, not soldiers, not Radovan Karadzic? Isn't it time to let the Bosnian people go to the polls? However imprecise this operation will be, however messy it may be, it will not look like Vienna, Virginia. It will not like Manchester, England.
It will allow the Bosnian people to have a say in what kind of presidency, legislature, court, and bank will be established.
If we do not have the elections on Saturday, do you believe that conditions will be demonstrably better on January 14 or on April 14 or on August 14, 1997? We don't know and frankly, I wouldn't expect them to be much better.
Let's get on with the business of having the Bosnian people have the liberty to build their own state, because that's what the elections are.
Again, I want to come back to a point that I know that Tony Lake has mentioned -- that was in the White House statement issued on this yesterday -- and that I mentioned on Monday, the elections on Saturday are not the end of the Dayton Peace Accords. They're, in effect, the beginning of the next stage.
The next stage with the Bosnian people is to take into their own hands their governance and begin to rule themselves again after five years of war. We should give them that opportunity. And after the elections, we'll all have a chance to assess the conditions under which the elections were held.
I think then the next great political challenge will be, can we take the results of the elections and will the various political parties agree, on a multi-ethnic basis, to work together in a new legislature, to set up the new court, bank, and presidency? That will be a great challenge. We'll be in there working with those parties to fulfill that aspect of the Dayton Accords.
If democracy is ever going to take route, we ought to start now and not wait to some undetermined point in the future and let the situation fester as it is.
QUESTION: Can you shed any light on what Muhamed Sacirbey was doing here yesterday, who he met with?
MR. BURNS: I cannot. No. I didn't even know he was here. I can check. If you're interested, we can check and --
QUESTION: I saw him leave the building.
MR. BURNS: -- answer who he met with. Carol hasn't had a chance today.
QUESTION: Another subject. Is former Ambassador Negroponte going to be negotiating some new deal with the Panama Canal?
MR. BURNS: With the -- excuse me, I didn't catch the last two words?
QUESTION: On the Panama Canal?
MR. BURNS: On the Panama Canal. The Department of State is going to establish a position for a senior officer to be Special Coordinator for Panama basing issues.
As you know, we're going to face, in a couple of years, a very big decision about the Panama Canal. I know the Secretary of State has not yet made a final decision.
I know that Ambassador Negroponte is the leading candidate for that position. As I've said before about him, he is one of our most distinguished career Foreign Service officers. He's been in the Foreign Service for over 35 years. He's been Ambassador to Honduras and to the Philippines and to Mexico. He's also be an Assistant Secretary of State and he's been Deputy National Security Advisor under Colin Powell. He's a very distinguished man. If he is selected for this, he'll be an excellent choice.
QUESTION: When will the decision be made?
MR. BURNS: I think very shortly. A decision will be made very shortly.
QUESTION: The Secretary's decision or the President's?
MR. BURNS: Well I'm sure it's a decision, in the first part, a recommendation the Secretary will have to make. I don't know if the President will have to formally make this decision. I can check on that for you. This is a position, within the Department of State, to work with the Government of Panama.
On the question of the disposition of the Panama Canal, we've already agreed, of course, about ownership. But will United States forces remain in Panama after the treaty expires, and that's a question, as you know, we discussed when the President of Panama was here to visit the President of the United States.
We've not come to the end of that discussion by any means. So the feeling is, we need to have a Special Negotiator to work more or less full time on this issue.
QUESTION: Does the Clinton Administration want troops to stay there?
MR. BURNS: That's a question that we're looking at but we've not made any final determinations. It will depend on these discussions that we're going to have with the Panamanian Government.
QUESTION: When would they start?
MR. BURNS: When would the discussions start?
QUESTION: Discussions start.
MR. BURNS: Actually, they've already begun, really. They began with the visit of the President of Panama here, and they're on-going. We're at the stage now where we need to have a Special Coordinator for this issue. It has to be someone who is senior, who is respected in the region, as Ambassador Negroponte is, and who is an able negotiator. He certainly fits that description.
QUESTION: There's a peace treaty that's been signed between Uganda and Sudan, apparently negotiated by Iran. Do you have any comments on the agreement itself? Can you say why Iran has been able to do this and the U.S., with its influence over Museveni and also a certain leverage with the Sudanese Government, couldn't?
MR. BURNS: I can't give you any detail on that. I can certainly have our folks in the African Affairs Bureau get that for you. We could take that question and give you an answer.
QUESTION: On Cyprus. According to a Reuters dispatch, they killed a soldier in Cyprus the other day. It was a Kurdish national, who served in the Turkish army. They wounded one; it was his cousin.
Prior to the political assassination, both had an argument with the Turkish soldiers for the upcoming Turks invasion of Northern Iraq.
I'm wondering, number one, do you have anything on that? And, number two, how should the Turkish authorities will allow the British to conduct their own investigation since, as it was reported, the killing was carried out by the Turkish security forces in the occupied territory of Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Mr. Lambros, there continues to be an investigation into this crime. The United States hopes that the killers are brought to justice. I cannot really give you anymore pertinent information than that.
QUESTION: You don't have any idea, as far as this report that they were Kurdish nationals?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that report. We have to look into that.
QUESTION: There have been some reports in the Baltic press regarding security guarantees for the Baltics in the context of the new architecture of NATO with the enlargement and the formal charter between Russia and NATO. Do you have any specifics on what these guarantees would consist?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we have discussions underway this week with the Baltic countries -- with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania about a variety of security issues.
I don't want to go into the specifics of those discussions because they are on-going. We have a delegation in the Baltic countries right now.
I can tell you very generally and very briefly -- because we're running a little bit short of time -- that President Clinton, throughout the course of this Administration, has been in the forefront of those saying that the Baltic countries are European countries and that they ought to faced westward, as they want to be; that they ought to be part of the West as they were before their takeover in 1940 by Stalin.
We have a very strong, national interest in forging very close and friendly relations with them. Economically, Estonia is doing very, very well. They going to, I think in the future, have at least some kind of relationship with the European Union.
Militarily, we are funding the Baltic battalion, and it is serving with us in the American sector in Bosnia. So we've been able to develop these close ties.
On the security questions concerning NATO enlargement and the Partnership for Peace, I think we expect that the Baltic countries will remain very active members of the Partnership for Peace.
QUESTION: On former Secretary Holbrooke's mission this week to Bosnia, will he be working in coordination with the OSCE monitors or will he be an independent -- will his group be working independently? What does it add to have these extra eyes and ears? And will he be meeting with Milosevic at any point on the trip?
MR. BURNS: Right, Bob. Thank you. John Kornblum will be, of course, in his capacity as Assistant Secretary of State, our lead official on the ground, actually talking to the governments -- the Bosnian Government, the Serbian Government, and the Croatian Government about all the problems and opportunities and challenges that will result from the elections and all the work that needs to be done to make sure that the results of the elections lead to the establishment of institutions in the state.
Richard Holbrooke -- and, of course, the White House will formally announce this and will give more detail. Richard Holbrooke will be head of the Presidential mission, of private citizens and some government officials, who going there really to observe the elections and to talk to the election officials and talk to people voting to make sure that we have a first-hand view, in this case, by a very experienced, able diplomat, Richard Holbrooke -- to assess the question that David Ensor asked, and that is, were these elections essentially good, fair, effective elections. So he'll be reporting back to the White House and the State Department -- he and Ambassador Holbrooke -- on that particular question.
John Kornblum will stay in the region after the elections to meet with President Milosevic and then go to a NATO meeting. He, of course, will be on the ground as well. So I think we've got very experienced people to answer the questions that we're going to have to answer after these elections are held.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:21 p.m.)
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