U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Monday, September16, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Visitors to the Briefing .................... 1 Introduction of Recipients of Department of State Awards .... 1-3 Romania and Hungary Sign Basic Treaty on Understanding, Cooperation and Good-Neighborliness......................... 3 Sea Turtle Protection Agreement Adopted ..................... 3 Upcoming U.S. Foreign Policy Town Meetings .................. 3-4 IRAQ Turkish Cooperation re Operation Provide Comfort/No-Fly Zones 4-5 Secretary Perry's Travel/Meetings with Turkish Officials .... 5,12 Turkish Cooperation on Departure of Kurdish Employees From Northern Iraq .............................................. 5 --Onward Itinerary of Kurds/Consideration for Parole into US 5-12 U.S. Diplomatic Efforts/Consultations with Allies ........... 12-14,19-20 U.S. Policy Toward Iraq/Saddam Hussein/What Saddam Has To Do 14-16,20-21 Reported "24-Hour Warning" Given to Saddam .................. 16-17 Status of Implementation of Resolution 986 .................. 18-19 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Iraq Situation and Middle East Peace Process ................ 17-18 Prospects for Secretary Christopher Traveling to Mideast .... 18 Status of the Peace Process ................................. 21-22 Reports of Syrian and Israeli Troop Movements ............... 22-23 LEBANON Parliamentary Elections/Results .............................. 23-24 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Bosnian Elections/Results/Next Steps ........................ 24-25,26- 27,28-29 Milosevic/Izetbegovic Meeting in Paris ...................... 25 Status of the Municipal Elections ........................... 27-28 CYPRUS Situation in Cyprus ......................................... 29-30 HAITI Presidential Security Unit Reorganization/U.S. Assistance ... 31-33
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 1996, 1:20 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'm sorry to be out a little bit late.
I want to welcome to the briefing today, 12 students who are participating in the Washington Journalism Semester at American University. I think you're sitting right over here, right? Welcome. Glad to have you here.
I also want to welcome Lee Siew Hua who is here from the Straits╩Times in Singapore -- one of your colleagues, a journalist who I believe will be stationed in Washington before too long.
Before we talk about Iraq and Bosnia and Haiti, and all the other issues today, I want to take a couple of minutes. I hope you'll understand why. I think you understand why. I want to point out to you, introduce to you, some of the best people we have working here in this building among our Foreign Service Officers, Civil Service and our professional staff.
Earlier today, the Secretary honored at an awards ceremony in the Ben Franklin Room, nine individuals who are recipients of our top Department awards this year, and these people were judged by their peers to have performed outstanding service to the Department and to the American people, and I think that they ought to be recognized publicly.
I'd like to start with our Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan, who received the Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award for her unmatched record of encouraging and developing talented Foreign Service Officers. As many of you know, Mary has long been recognized as one of our top senior officers and is someone who has taken the time to work with younger officers to show them the way and to be helpful to them in their careers. Mary, congratulations.
John Holzman, who is a very, very fine Foreign Service Officer, is not here with us today, but he was given the Baker-Wilkins Award as our Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission. That was for his work in a very difficult year in Islamabad and his work on counter-terrorism, law enforcement and nuclear non-proliferation. According to the Secretary of State, he serves as a model for all of his peers around the world.
Also not here but someone who I think is probably familiar to some of you who travel with the Secretary is Maura Connelly, who works in our Consulate General in Jerusalem. She's a Foreign Service Officer, and she received the Director General's Award for Political Reporting; for her excellent reporting and analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her reports were of great value to all of us who visited Jerusalem many, many times over the last year or two.
We do have here, Sarah Horsey-Barr. Sarah -- to receive the Luther I. Replogle Award for Management Improvement, for strengthening and improving personnel and financial management systems at the Organization of American States while assigned to the U.S. Mission to the OAS. Congratulations.
Also here, Scott Delisi received the James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence, which is granted every year to the outstanding mid-career Foreign Service Officer. Scott was recognized for his outstanding leadership in protecting Americans in a very difficult environment in Sri Lanka against threats of terrorism and just trying to help Americans live through a civil war there. Congratulations.
We have two Secretaries of the Year. From the Foreign Service, Christine Fulena was recognized for her outstanding support of the Bosnia negotiators who met in Geneva, along with all of us, at several points over the last year. Congratulations.
And not here, Barbara Barrett-Spencer is a Civil Service secretary. She's not with us. She has worked in support of the Chief Financial Officer of the State Department and was particularly important during the furlough last year.
Finally, I want to recognize two individuals the Secretary of State recognized this morning for valor: Kathleen List and John Frese for their extraordinary efforts during the recent hostilities in Liberia. Kathleen, congratulations. And John Frese probably needs no introduction. Although many of you may not have met him before, John, as you remember, was the security officer who single-handedly saved more than 100 Americans. I may be even under-estimating the number of Americans, John, that you're responsible for saving --
MR. FRESE: Pretty close.
MR. BURNS: Pretty close? -- during the fighting in Monrovia. I think all of us, including many of my hard-bitten, more experienced Foreign Service colleagues have told me that there is no better example of someone who put his life on the line to save American citizens than John Frese. John, congratulations.
I know you'll all join me in a round of applause for them. (Sustained applause)
I also told them that they do not have to sit through this briefing on Iraq and Bosnia and Haiti if they don't want to, but you can stay as long as you like.
Let me just tell you before I get to your questions, I'm posting today a couple of public statements. One is on the Romania/Hungary Treaty that was just signed, and that is a long awaited but very important treaty that puts behind Hungary and Romania several of the major problems that they have had for the past couple of years. It's a very significant achievement, and there's a public statement available on it. We can go into it at the briefing, if you'd like.
I also have a statement about the Sea Turtle Protection Agreement that was reached here in the Western hemisphere. I know, Barry, that some of you will be interested in that.
I also wanted to point --
MR. BURNS: Barry, it's actually important to a lot of people, you know. But I am going to personally autograph a copy of this for you and send it to you and hope that the AP will consider running a story on it.
I also want to let you know that we continue our U.S. Foreign Policy Town Meetings around the country, and tomorrow there's a Town Meeting in Miami, Florida.
QUESTION: Who's going to represent the State Department Press Office.
MR. BURNS: Representing the State Department will be Ambassador Harriet Babbitt, our Ambassador to the OAS, and our very own Glyn Davies, as well as Charles Sykes, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration.
There are a number of other Town Meetings being held -- one in Anchorage, Alaska, on the 18th of September; Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the 18th; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on the 19th; and Colorado Springs on the 19th.
As you know, we're holding 23 Town Meetings this year in order to talk to the American public about foreign policy. We have statements with a list of speakers for all of them.
QUESTION: The welcome mat is out there, but in Incirlik it isn't, and even though Mr. Perry didn't ask for any permission to use Incirlik, I ask you if not having access to Incirlik puts a crimp in any way with either flying "no-fly" zone patrols or should there be any military operation, which, of course, is a contingency. Can you operate just as well without that Turkish base?
MR. BURNS: Barry, let me just say I think that over the weekend we've seen that despite what some of you in the press are saying, actually the coalition is intact on Iraq. If you look at where Secretary Perry has been, we have a commitment from Bahrain that the United States will have over 20 F-16s there. We have a commitment from Kuwait on the F-117s, Stealth fighters, and also on the troops.
We were telling many of you and some of your colleagues yesterday that it was a mistake to go with the story that the Kuwaitis had decided against it, because they had actually decided in favor.
We have from Turkey very strong support for "Operation Provide Comfort," for the flights that are flown from Turkey in southeastern Turkey. So I don't really see any problem whatsoever in terms of Turkish participation in the coalition.
QUESTION: Well, I really wasn't asking about Kuwait and all that. That's all been registered. But on the Turkish situation, apparently American participation is -- the use of the base is so welcome that the Defense Secretary didn't even ask for it rather than get rejected -- rather than get turned down. The question really is, does this put a crimp in any military operation, should there be any necessary against Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I think the Pentagon would tell you that we have the military flexibility and firepower in the area to protect our interests, and any conceivable use of military power would be carried out effectively through the fact that we do have flight operations from Turkey, from Saudi Arabia, from Kuwait, from Bahrain, from aircraft carriers, from Diego Garcia.
The United States has overwhelming military power in the area, and we have a variety of options for the use of that military power. There are no problems that I am aware of.
QUESTION: As I understand it, Secretary Perry requested through Ambassador Grossman a meeting with Prime Minister Erbakan in Turkey while he was there; that there was no real answer given to that request, and that the Prime Minister left about the same time from the same airport to go on vacation when Perry arrived.
I'm wondering, is that recounting of a story true? And, second of all, does that speak of a very strong solidarity in this coalition?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I'm just not aware of everything that Secretary Perry did in Turkey. I know he met with
Mrs. Ciller. I think he met with the President, President Demirel. I'm just not aware of all the appointments that may have been requested and all that were given.
Needless to say, I think he had meetings with the highest levels of the Turkish Government, and I'm not aware of any problems associated with his visit in terms of the quality of his discussions. While we're on that issue, let me just say we've received tremendous support from Turkey on an important operation that is underway right now, and that is our operation to bring out of northern Iraq the 2,075 employees of the United States -- mainly Kurds -- who had worked with us in "Operation Provide Comfort" over the last couple of years.
I spoke with Ambassador Marc Grossman this morning, and I'm very pleased to tell you that all of the local employees who worked with the United States in northern Iraq have made it from northern Iraq into Turkey -- every single one of them -- and we do want to express our appreciation for the support of the Turkish Government and the Turkish Red Crescent Society. They've been very, very cooperative with us.
I understand from Ambassador Grossman that over the last 36 hours or so, all of the people in question who had taken refuge just up against the Turkish-Iraqi border were brought across the border safely. They were temporarily housed in Silopi; that a number of them have already made their way to Guam. In fact, there was a flight this morning out of southeastern Turkey that took the first 430 people to Guam. That was followed by another flight just about an hour ago with, I think, in excess of 350 people on board. By Thursday, every single one of the 2,075 people should have made it to Guam.
In Guam, they'll be temporarily at the Anderson Air Force Base, where they're going to be housed and protected by the United States. They will be in excess military quarters there, and that is U.S. territory. They will be eligible for parole into the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice will be working with them. The State Department, of course, which planned this operation will be giving assistance, and all of them will be considered for parole into the United States.
As you know, we have felt that we had an obligation to these people, since they stuck by us during the last five years, for us now to stick by them at a time when it was logical for us to conclude that Saddam Hussein and his security goons might inflict punishment or even worse upon them if these people came into the hands of Saddam Hussein and his security people. It was the right decision to take them out.
QUESTION: If they want to come here, has there been any preliminary interviewing or screening yet?
MR. BURNS: I think the intention of most of these people is, obviously, to seek asylum in the United States, and they will be considered for parole into the United States -- that's the correct technical term -- from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam.
This is a process, of course, that's got to be followed through according to all of our regulations. There are going to be forms to be filled out. There will be interviewed that they have to give to our Immigration and Naturalization Service officers. But our expectation is, of course, that we will look very favorably upon this, because we feel we have a commitment to these people.
QUESTION: Are you confident that you've screened out any potential PKK? I know the Turks are concerned that some PKK members might somehow filter through this. Do you feel that you've filtered them out so far, or will this be done on Guam?
MR. BURNS: We're very confident, because we know these people. These people worked with us, and they're well-known to us. We know who they are. We know who their family members are who are accompanying them in many, many cases, and I don't believe that that will be a problem. But, obviously, the necessary screening has been done.
QUESTION: Are these 2,075 people all employees, or does this include family members?
MR. BURNS: It includes employees and family members, yes.
QUESTION: Do you know how many are employees and how many are others?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a breakdown on that. I should tell you, though, that after my briefing and probably 15 minutes after my briefing, I'm hoping that Phyllis Oakley, our Assistant Secretary of State, who worked very hard on this over the weekend will come down to the briefing room and answer any more specific questions that you have.
But it was a very effective operation, because it wasn't easy. We had a group of more than 2,000 people just inside the northern Iraq border, and there was every reason to believe that those people were in danger. So we took the action that we did, in concert with the Turkish Government, to protect them, and Ambassador Grossman reported to us this morning that the operation went off without any problems.
QUESTION: Will she be able to answer questions or can you about how these people will be resettled and costs and all of that?
MR. BURNS: I think some of those questions can only be answered by the Department of Justice, which is the pertinent government agency here responsible for them once they get to U.S. territory on Guam. I imagine that Ambassador Oakley will be able to go into some of this, however.
QUESTION: Nick, is it different from --
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think we have a question here.
QUESTION: Do you know all these people, Mr. Burns, I'm sure they'll be coming with nephews, brothers, etc. Do you know all their family members as well?
MR. BURNS: Believe me, we know them all. We know all the individuals who have been employed by the United States, and we've done the right thing to insure ourselves that all the people that we've taken in, of course, have a legitimate fear of persecution, should they remain in northern Iraq, and that they do not pose a threat either to the United States or in this case, I think given the fact you're asking, to Turkey.
But they're only going to be in Turkey for a couple of days. This operation will be over by Thursday. All of them will be in Guam by Thursday.
QUESTION: Can I assume the answer is, yes, you have a pretty good idea of who is coming with these employees?
MR. BURNS: We have a pretty good idea of who is coming. We'll continue the -- one of the things that will happen at Guam is that they'll be processed as any normal person would be for consideration for parole. There will be, obviously, a lot of questions about their background, and so forth. The United States has a fairly sophisticated apparatus now to detect terrorists, if that's where your question is pointed. I don't expect this to be a problem.
George has been waiting very patiently here.
QUESTION: I want to talk about the refugees on the other side, toward the Iranian border. Apparently, they are in very difficult circumstances. We're talking about tens of thousands of people who are hungry and thirsty and cold at night. I just wonder what the U.S. is doing for them?
MR. BURNS: There are two categories of people. There are refugees inside Iran; there are refugees in Iraq near the Iranian border.
The UN High Commissioner on Refugees has verified the presence of roughly 40,000 refugees from Iraq who are in Iran. I believe the UNHCR has yet to visit all the refugee sites inside the Iranian border.
The UNHCR has teams in Western Iran close to the Iraqi border to try to verify the number of refugees and verify their status.
Mrs. Ogata, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, has pledged assistance to Iran. From what we know, the UNHCR is reporting the conditions that the refugee sites are generally good. The Iranian Red Crescent is providing assistance to the refugees.
The principal problem appears to be a shortage of tents and of blankets. The UNHCR has flown in 1,000 tents; is bringing in blankets and plastic sheeting and cooking equipment. The organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, has made preparations to provide for the health needs of up to 50,000 people. The World Food Program of the United Nations has sufficient food supplies available.
I think we're looking at a very well organized operation by the United Nations to respond to this refugee crisis. Apparently the border crossing is still open between Iraq and Iran for those Iraqi citizens who wish to seek refuge in Iran.
There is a smaller number of people, as far as we can gauge, George, inside Iraq. The UN's latest estimates and the number of displaced in northern Iraq is down to 20,000. It is still declining because, as you know, a number of these people have returned to Sulaymaniyah.
Those who are still displaced inside Iraq appear to be centered in villages surrounding Sulaymaniyah. There are no large concentrations of people that the UN is aware of at the border or on the road to the border. The ICRC -- the International Committee of the Red Cross -- is operating freely in northern Iraq and has sent a convoy of humanitarian supplies to the refugees around Sulaymaniyah.
As always, the United States is willing to contribute to either the efforts of the Red Cross or the UNHCR should that be necessary. I'm not aware of any special pleas that have gone out from either of those organizations. They seem to have the situation well under hand.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that no U.S. employees are among those who fled to Iran?
MR. BURNS: We cannot be absolutely confident of that. It's been a chaotic situation for the past two weeks. We know who we've brought across the border into Turkey for transport to Guam. There may still be some people out there who worked with the United States. Obviously, we will fulfill our responsibilities to them.
I think Charlie had a question and then Abdulsalam.
QUESTION: To clarify on this. Mrs. Ogata -- the UNHCR working in Iran/in Iraq on both sides of the border or only on one?
MR. BURNS: The UNHCR and ICRC are working on both sides of the border. Yes.
Mr. Abdulsalam, and then Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: The 2,075 that you mentioned, will they be resettled in the United States through the same procedure or resettling the Iraqi refugees after the Gulf war who were brought to this country? Because these are people who were working for the U.S. Government. The others were just citizens who escaped during the war?
MR. BURNS: These people will be considered for parole into the United States from Guam, which is a U.S. territory. That procedure is run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
QUESTION: They don't have to go through the whole procedure of the other people about four/five years ago?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the U.S. Government, as well as me, there are procedures. Anytime when a person is paroled into the United States or accepted as a refugee, which is a different process, there are procedures that must be followed. There are questions that must be answered. It does take time. That's why we've made the decision to bring them to Guam, which is a place where we have one of largest air force bases in the world. We have a great supply of officer housing that is not currently in use. It was a good place to keep them all together so they can have the support of their friends and family members with them to get them ready for parole into the United States.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long they will be staying in Guam before they will be brought to the shores of the United States?
MR. BURNS: We don't know exactly. It may be a matter of a couple of months. We just don't know at this point.
QUESTION: But you told us the last time that the 2,075 Kurdish refugees will stay in Turkey 90 days for (inaudible) "humanitarian purposes." You are telling us today that they will leave by Thursday. Why so fast? I'm asking this because according to the Post, these Kurdish refugees would be interrogated by Turkish intelligence officials to find out any connection between CIA and the Kurdish guerrilla (inaudible). Could you please comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes. When we were in the first days of this crisis considering what we could do to help the people who had worked for us in northern Iraq, one of the possibilities was a longer stay in Turkey and perhaps a trip to the United States. When it became clear that we would need to keep them some place for a considerable amount of time, we decided that Guam was the appropriate place to put them because that is a place which we know is secure, far away from Saddam Hussein; a place that we control with a good supply of housing.
We were concerned about housing, Mr. Lambros. The weather is getting colder in Turkey and northern Iraq. We didn't want to see these people exposed to the elements or living in tent cities when they can live in perfectly good housing on Guam.
QUESTION: Finally, by Thursday, they're leaving from Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Our expectation is that this operation of flying them out from southeast Turkey to Guam will be complete. We're running an air charter -- we're working with an air charter service. It's an inexact science. We've had two flights out, and those flights will continue very steadily, very calmly.
It's been a remarkably well-run organization. I think our Embassy in Ankara led by Ambassador Grossman deserves a lot of credit and the Turkish Government deserves credit. I know you'll be the first to congratulate the Turkish Government on what it has done and what the Turkish Government has done.
QUESTION: They must leave Turkey by Thursday?
MR. BURNS: Turkey is a great ally -- a NATO ally of Greece -- and we know the Greek people would step forward to congratulate the Turkish people for this humanitarian gesture.
QUESTION: One more question. Do you communicate with the Iraqi Government via the mediation of the Turkish Government?
MR. BURNS: Can we try that one more time. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Do you communicate with the Iraqi Government via the mediation of the Turkish Government?
MR. BURNS: The Iraqi Government?
QUESTION: For any subject?
MR. BURNS: We have a variety of ways to communicate with the Iraqis. One is through the Iraqi Mission at the United Nations in New York. Another is through Poland, which is our protecting power in Baghdad.
QUESTION: A couple of questions. Would the United States have liked the option of keeping these refugees in Turkey longer? And did the Turkish Government say, "We'll only cooperate for a few days and then you've got to get them out of here?"
MR. BURNS: Frankly, I just don't know all the back-and-forth. I wasn't involved in it. I do know that we were looking for one place that would be secure and where there was an availability of housing. We finally determined on Guam. It was a very complicated process. It took us a while to get to that decision late last week. In fact, it may have been -- the decision finally would have been made, I guess, on Saturday for that. That delayed the implementation of the operation to bring them across the border, but I can't give you a detailed answer to your question.
QUESTION: On Secretary Perry's trip. Erbakan is a new head of government. Given this is the first crisis with Iraq since he took office, wouldn't it have been appropriate for Secretary Perry, wouldn't it have been helpful for Secretary Perry to see him?
MR. BURNS: Carol, I'm limited by the fact I wasn't out on the trip with him. I don't know who he requested meetings with, and I don't know what people's schedules were like. I do know that he saw the people that we have mainly been working with -- most prominently Mrs. Ciller, who has been the major point of contact for the United States during this crisis.
I just can't be responsible for giving you what meetings he requested, what meetings were arranged. I don't know the answer to the question.
QUESTION: His trip was not arranged without the participation of the State Department?
MR. BURNS: No. In fact, Bob Pelletreau, our Assistant Secretary of State, was with him and has remained behind in Turkey to continue discussions with the Turkish Government. I just can't answer your question. I understand what you're asking. It's probably a question for the Pentagon or one that we can help you with, perhaps, if we talk to the Pentagon but I don't know the answer to it.
QUESTION: Why didn't Secretary Christopher make a diplomatic round to try to handle the diplomacy that attends to a situation like this?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher did, of course, as you know, on our trip to Europe last week. The Secretary had discussions with the British, French, and German Governments on Iraq. It was the most prominent issue during our five-day trip to Europe.
Secretary Perry's trip was primarily a trip designed to discuss military cooperation, as you know, with Bahrain and Kuwait, the basing of U.S. military aircraft and assets, troops, in both countries. So that was a trip, obviously designed, for a Secretary of Defense on the question of military cooperation.
The Secretary of State took a trip to Europe; talked to our three major European allies about the Iraqi situation.
QUESTION: Does the Administration now feel that perhaps more diplomatic -- more tending of the diplomatic garden would have been more effective if you had done it before the initial strike on Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I think we feel that we made the right decisions at the right time and took the right action. Frankly, I'm not aware that Saddam Hussein, since he invaded Kuwait five years ago, has ever been interested in diplomacy or has ever understood the language of the diplomacy. I'm not sure what there was to negotiate. After all, he didn't offer negotiation with us.
Let's just reconstruct the events here.
QUESTION: I'm not talking about Saddam Hussein. I'm talking about what the allies --
MR. BURNS: Let me just finish my point. Saddam Hussein was the one who started the aggression in northern Iraq without any warning to the United States or anyone else. We responded to that. There was a premium for a quick response by the United States because of Saddam's aggression.
We did consult with the allies. We consulted. As you remember, General Shalikashvili was in the region, before the U.S. air strikes, with Assistant Secretary Pelletreau. They saw the Egyptian Government and the Saudi Government and the Kuwaiti Government and the Jordanian Government. Secretary Christopher, the President, Strobe Talbott were all on the phone with the Turkish, French, German, and British leaderships. We had extensive consultations beyond that within our own alliance.
There were consultations. They were appropriate, and they were satisfactory from our point of view.
QUESTION: They weren't enough, though.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Obviously, they weren't enough?
MR. BURNS: The crisis with Iraq has evolved since Saddam sent his Republican Guard troops into Northern Iraq. We were in a position after our air strikes where Saddam Hussein was shooting at coalition aircraft. He was taking -- at least he began to take steps to reconstitute his air defense systems in southern Iraq, some of those that had been destroyed by the United States.
So, obviously, this crisis has taken a different turn which has required further military and political consultations. But I really reject the implication that somehow the United States has not been consulting.
We've consulted with everybody on this. Now, if countries don't want to agree with us, after having been consulted, that's their right. But don't fault us for lack of consultation.
QUESTION: Nick, are the views that you're hearing now from allies a factor in whether the United States takes further military action against Saddam Hussein?
MR. BURNS: Ultimately, the United States, as I think you've heard the President and the Secretary of State say over and over -- Secretary Perry -- the United States is going to have to do what's in its own national interests. Our actions will be based upon the actions of Saddam Hussein.
Of course, we're interested in the views of our allies. We take them seriously, and they do influence our appreciation of the situation and, of course, our appreciation of our own options in the future -- military and political.
Of course, they've got influence. We listen to them very closely. But, ultimately, we have to act to defend our own national interests.
QUESTION: Would you say at this stage, going back to the rationale last week that you laid out, or the rationale which you think Saddam Hussein had to do for the U.S. to call off the dogs, one was to stop threatening Iraq's neighbors -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait? Has he relented in any way?
I'm trying to figure out why the squishy, new soft tone emanating from the White House today -- if it's because of something the allies have said, something Saddam Hussein has said? I could think of other things but I won't; they're too speculative, like the elections.
Why is the U.S. now taking a softer -- has Saddam turned out to be a nicer fellow than he was last week?
MR. BURNS: No. No, he's not a nice fellow. He's up to no good. I think, Barry, what we're going to have to do here is watch him very carefully and watch his actions. His actions are much more important than the rhetoric that we've seen out of Baghdad.
The United States will act according to his own actions.
I think it's very clear to the Iraqi Government what has to be done to make sure that the situation returns to one of relative stability and relative peace. They've got to take the actions -- not as the President said this morning -- not to interfere with the coalition aircraft as we exercise our rights to implement the "no-fly" zones in the south and north.
The safety of our pilots will be an important factor. Our ability to continue the "no-flight" zones with our coalition partners will be an important factor. There are a lot of different issues that flow out of those two objectives that will determine the answer to your question. Saddam Hussein knows perfectly well what it will take for him to stop his own aggression.
Let's remember one thing. He started this. He started this with his own aggression and he knows what has to happen now to end it.
QUESTION: What about the specific criterion that I mentioned -- the behavior toward Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? Has the U.S. detected any easing of what seemed last week to you folks to be aggressive behavior?
MR. BURNS: That is the central question. On that question, I think we have to be realistic about Saddam Hussein. He has invaded his neighbors before, and he has threatened them since. We have got to assume that he is capable of doing both again. Therefore, we have a very pragmatic and realistic attitude towards him. We're going to judge him by what he does with his own military forces; not on what his Foreign Minister says, not on what his UN representatives say in New York -- these very fine statements that we see.
What are his actions towards our partners south, who are neighbors to him; particularly, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That is the essence of this whole game.
QUESTION: Last week you were talking about him not reconstituting his air defense systems. Various government spokesmen later said that, in fact, he had taken steps to reconstitute. Will that stand? Will those steps stand? Will the U.S. not do anything necessarily since he has --
MR. BURNS: I think you heard General Shalikashvili say on television yesterday that it appears to us that the Iraqis have stopped the work on some of the SAM sites in the south; stopped trying to reconstitute those systems that were destroyed by the United States.
We also have the statement out of Baghdad on Friday afternoon, our time, that Iraq would no longer target coalition aircraft.
Let's see if these statements are backed up by actions. We need to see over the course of the next couple of days if the actions are commensurate with the rhetoric. Certainly, Secretary Perry, who has had a very comprehensive set of discussions, will want to report to the President, discuss matters with the Secretary of State -- Secretary Christopher -- tomorrow when he returns.
QUESTION: Nick, there's a report out there this morning -- I believe it's by a Turkish news agency -- that says Secretary Perry informed the Turks that they had warned Iraq, sent them a demarche, that they would attack within 24 hours unless Saddam took specific steps along the lines of which you were talking about. As far as you know, is that report true?
MR. BURNS: I know nothing about a 24-hour warning. I believe it's not true. As we have told you consistently a week ago Friday, we sent to Saddam Hussein -- the State Department sent to him -- a diplomatic note, a demarche, which made it very clear to him what he had to do to end this crisis; what he has to do to end the crisis. That has been the basis of our public statements as well as our private conversations since then.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) diplomatic note over the weekend or last Friday?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any fresh diplomatic notes. But I think the one that we sent was sufficiently clear and we hope convincing that it will lead to better behavior by Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) no contact at the UN between the United States and Iraq? (Inaudible)
MR. BURNS: I can't say that. I can't report on all of our contacts. I'm not inclined to do so, and I can't say there has been no contact. But I told you about this very specific demarche that was delivered a week ago Friday. That, we hope, has been read very carefully in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Something must have had happened since Friday that lowered the temperature between Iraq and the United States and its allies. Could it be that because Turkey refused to cooperate, or Turkey did not allow the planes of the United States to go there from that airport, or that base?
The Saudis -- twice, the Secretary of Defense met with King Fahd and they did not come to an agreement. Kuwait and Bahrain have a different story. Could I understand from you what are these things that happened that brought this temperature down, and you're talking now of more exchange, or possibly accepting diplomacy from one side or the other?
MR. BURNS: I want to be very clear about this, because I think some of you are trying to ask, really, the same thing. What happens in the next couple of days is entirely dependent upon Saddam Hussein -- entirely dependent upon him. He knows that he needs to step back from his aggression. He knows, as the President said this morning, that the safety of our pilots and our ability to fly in the north and south is very important to the United States, France, Britain, and Turkey, and to Saudi Arabia and others who participate in the "no-flight" zones.
He knows that there can be no question about firing at U.S. aircraft in either the north or the south. There are a variety of other issues that are involved in this. He knows all about them. It's going to be his actions that determine whether the temperature is up or whether the temperature is down. The ball is in his court.
QUESTION: Nick, hasn't the U.S. stepping into this briar patch and the Iraqi military situation had very negative consequences on the Mideast Peace Process? You had the Arab summit in Cairo which was meant to try and push further a very difficult dilemma that has occurred in the Middle East situation. The discussions were primarily Iran and Iraq. The discussions were generally from the Arab countries supportive of Saddam Hussein and rather negative towards the U.S.
So hasn't this whole -- these incidents had a very negative consequences for the Mideast Peace Process itself?
MR. BURNS: With all due respect, we didn't step into the situation. We have been there for five years, and we have played a leading role for five years. It's an area of the world where we have very considerable national interests.
I don't believe that the situation in Iraq has had any appreciable impact on the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, or the hope that some day there might be progress between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon.
QUESTION: What about the score for that process in the Arab world? It seems as if --
MR. BURNS: It is in the Arab interest -- it's in the interest of all the Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority to continue the peace negotiations with Israel. It's in Israel's interest to do the same. I think this is a separate, a separate, issue from the problems caused by Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
QUESTION: Does he touch the Middle East peace somehow directly or indirectly?
MR. BURNS: Do you want to stay on this?
QUESTION: This is on the same triangle.
MR. BURNS: We don't do triangulation at the State Department.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One is to follow up on what Carol asked you. Given the kind of snafu that happened over the weekend with Kuwait, is Secretary Christopher considering a trip to the Middle East? Is he on the phone with the Kuwaitis? What's going on, on that?
Also, at the United Nations, the UN is taking every possible step it can to work again towards implementation of 986, except to put monitors in place. The latest snag is that the U.S. seems to be delaying the UN's oil pricing plan.
I know that 986 authored -- the U.S. authored 986. You've made that point before, but can you comment on that delay?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, I think Secretary Perry's trip which dealt with military questions has been a good trip. It's answered some questions about Kuwait and Bahrain that needed answering, and it had a very positive outcome.
The Secretary of State is going to continue his very regular consultations with all of our allies on this issue.
On the second question, the United States has said time and again, that we are willing to go forward with UN Resolution 986 on a practical basis.
The distribution plan was to have been centered in Irbil. Irbil is now not an appropriate place, at least, to begin those discussions, so we need to continue in New York to find a way to moving forward if that's possible, in the near term. I don't know if it will be possible or not. It just depends on whether or not northern Iraq is sufficiently stable to allow a program of this magnitude to go forward, remembering that our bottom line is that Saddam Hussein should not be able to profit from it in any way.
QUESTION: Why is getting the oil pricing plan in place? Why is that a problem since it's not actually starting the sale?
MR. BURNS: The United States is not the problem here, Saddam Hussein is the problem. UN 986 would have been under implementation, right now, if Saddam Hussein hadn't crossed the line and sent his troops into northern Iraq.
QUESTION: Nick, on the subject of consultations with our allies, there seems to have been a glitch, to use a rather sweet word about it, between the announcement that the United States would be sending ground troops to Kuwait -- more ground troops -- and Kuwait actually agreeing to receive them. Can you go through that sequence for us?
MR. BURNS: I really can't. It didn't happen in this building. I think more to the point, with all due respect, if I can offer some guidance and suggestions -- because I'm often the recipient of guidance from the press corps -- I think this story was overwritten. I think we had a positive answer yesterday.
We told a number of you, in phone conversations yesterday, that this is going to be a positive result. It ended up being a positive result this morning; had a number of newspapers and wire services running that the Kuwaitis had rejected this. Absolutely untrue!
We had a very consistent line. Secretary Christopher said in public, yesterday on "Face the Nation," that the Kuwaitis would agree to accept the troops -- yesterday morning. General Shalikashvili and Ambassador Albright said the same thing yet, somehow this was not believable. It turns out they were all right.
So I don't think this story ought to be misunderstood. I think the Kuwaitis came forward and they've accepted our troops and they've accepted our aircraft. In fact, they accepted our aircraft without any time, really, between the request and the decision.
QUESTION: Were there any assurances given that the troops would not be sent into action? Maybe the United States can elicit the desire to answer if it circumscribed its own action.
MR. BURNS: You put troops into a hot spot like that, if they have to be used, they'll be used.
QUESTION: But, Nick, ever since these consultations, there has been definitely a lowering of the temperature at this end. We're still searching for a reason why. People are saying, yes, but they're saying yes while you're lowering your voice, which may make it easier for them to say yes.
MR. BURNS: It is certainly positive that there are no missiles being fired at United States aircraft in neither the north or southern "no-flight" zones. That's positive.
QUESTION: And no interference with pilots --
MR. BURNS: And as General Shalikashvili --
QUESTION: -- and no air defenses being repaired. The only thing you haven't addressed --
MR. BURNS: He said yesterday, just to be fair to him, that some of the intelligence indicated that there was no further work being done on them, which is positive as well.
So, I think, Barry, we get back, to answer your question, the actions of Saddam Hussein will determine the temperature and any future steps taken by the United States.
QUESTION: If you take the four or five conditions that you laid out last week, it would sound like his track record is pretty good; he gets a passing grade. On several of the key issues, he's not provoking the United States. He's not interfering with the over-flights. Maybe you add that up and then you decide you don't have to hit him again and the allies say, "Well, in that case, you have our full cooperation."
MR. BURNS: If I were at the head of the class, I'm not sure I'd give passing grades, Barry. I think you're being too lenient. I think you're being too lenient. He is who he is. He's an aggressor.
We've set up a strategic containment policy to deter him from being an aggressor against his neighbors, and we are succeeding in that.
QUESTION: Correct, which may make military action less necessary, which may make allied acquiescence into an non-confrontational policy easier to attain?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see what transpires in the next couple of days concerning his own actions.
QUESTION: Not to be combative, but Saddam turned the thing on at his leisure through your relations with the coalition on this. The disarray forced you to send all sorts of military equipment there, and now he has turned it off at his own will. How can you say that Saddam is not calling the shots, vis-a-vis the United States now?
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you're not combative. I'll bet you would agree that one thing we've learned from the history of this century is that when people, who have been aggressors in the past, actually take steps to violate the rights of people inside their own country and threaten their neighbors, we ought to stand up and confront those people. That's what the United States has done over the last couple of weeks.
We have taken steps to contain him, and we are succeeding in that. That's the real story. That's the real story out of the last two weeks.
QUESTION: Nick, I want to get the issue of the relationship between this crisis and the peace process in the Middle East. You expressed your desire and wish to see the peace process continuing in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israelis. It looks like in the last 24 hours or 48 hours the peace process is coming to a halt.
The Arab League Ambassadorial or Foreign Ministers' statements were so tough as the statements by Mr. Netanyahu who really put a good challenge to the United States and almost -- challenged you, criticized you severely in the story that we read yesterday and it appeared in the papers today?
MR. BURNS: We don't deserved to be criticized. Our policy is too good for criticism on the Middle East peace process. Don't you think? You're a veteran of the Middle East peace process and you know that you cannot be taken in by the ups and downs, by rhetoric from certain capitals; anywhere that rhetoric is emanating from.
The fact is, we're going forward. It's in the Arab interest and in Israel's interest to go forward. How fast we go is going to be determined by the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt. The United States will be there to help. I see no reason for us to be concerned at all this morning about the Middle East peace process or its health.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the statements of Mr. Netanyahu yesterday that he made to Israeli radio on the eve of the new year.
MR. BURNS: I've just seen some press reports. I have not seen the full text of those statements, so I don't want to comment on them.
QUESTION: Based on these statements, which were made by Mr. Netanyahu, the legal Arab states for ambassadors meeting or summit they convened and ended yesterday -- came up with almost -- not to be negative as much as putting the whole thing under the microscope to test what is going to be there. There's going to be tough language, tough positions, and how the normalization almost -- the normalization between the Arab countries and Israel.
MR. BURNS: What really matters is what they say in private to each other, not in public. That's what we'll judge them by -- their private actions, what happens actually in the Middle East peace negotiations themselves. We just cannot concern ourselves with trying to grade each public statement made from all these capitals. We're not going to do that.
QUESTION: Are there any Syrian troop movements?
QUESTION: Syrian and Israeli troop movements? And do you have any word on what role the United States played in this troop notification?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is you've seen the same reports we have. I would just note that the Israeli Government has characterized these troop movements as defensive -- largely defensive -- and unthreatening. The Israeli Government doesn't seem to have the same level of concern as some of you. I see no reason for us to second-guess the Israeli Government's judgment on this.
QUESTION: The report that we've seen is that there is now an informal ad hoc agreement between Israel and Syria that they would notify each other of internal troop movements. Is that true?
And, two, did the United States play a role in putting that together?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. know why the Syrian troops are in motion? It may not be a threat. Israel may not consider it a threat.
MR. BURNS: I don't know what kind of discussions we've had with the Syrian Government on this.
QUESTION: Or whether you've had any?
MR. BURNS: Or whether we've had any on this particular issue. That's right. I can check on that.
QUESTION: Nick, the point of this story is not whether Israel feels threaten. The point is that Syria feels threatened and it's taken some defensive movements. Have you discussed that with the Israelis and --
MR. BURNS: Has Syria said that?
QUESTION: You just said it.
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't. No, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: You said they were defensive troop movements.
MR. BURNS: I would just note that the Israeli Government has characterized them as largely defensive in nature. So I think the really pertinent place to go is the Israeli Government. What do they think of these? They don't seem very concerned.
QUESTION: I would imagine you share the Israelis viewpoint of this. Do the Syrians have a reason to feel threatened by Israel?
MR. BURNS: Israel and Syria should make peace. They should make a comprehensive peace between them, so that Israel and Syria can live in peace in the future. That's our position.
QUESTION: Slightly different subject in the same area. The last round of parliamentary elections in Lebanon took place yesterday. Now I know your Embassy in Beirut did issue some preliminary statements, during the last few weeks after each round, but I was wondering if you have an overall assessment of these elections, parliamentary elections, giving the great deal of criticism that was leveled at them from many quarters, alleging irregularities and even fraud? Did you have a chance to look into it?
MR. BURNS: I think that we'll have to wait further word from our Embassy in Beirut before we can give you kind of an overall assessment, the elections just having been concluded. So I'd rather wait a day or two before we do that.
We normally do that in elections, because we like to see, obviously, the final results, try to assess whether the process was fair and also try to talk to the major politicians and political parties themselves.
QUESTION: Expect a statement from you --
MR. BURNS: I'd be very glad to try to get something for you this week, yes, on that.
QUESTION: Speaking of elections --
MR. BURNS: Yes, I thought we'd never get to it.
QUESTION: Yes. Would you like to go through what you think the elections in Bosnia turned out to be?
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that the Bosnian elections were a very good step forward toward implementation of the Dayton agreement. A good step forward for peace in the region.
As all of you know, I think most of the journalists there and the international observers have said that the elections did not have any violence attached to them. There were very few incidents. They were orderly. They were peaceful. The people of Bosnia had a chance after five years of war to vote for their future, and that's a very good thing.
I think Ambassador Frowick and the OSCE deserve a lot of credit for the way that they organized the elections. They were well organized. IFOR and the international police training force deserve credit for having provided very good security on election day, on Saturday, for those people, who wanted to cross the inter-ethnic boundary line and who wanted to vote in contested areas.
I can say that I understand that Ambassador Frowick may be holding a press conference about now, but that we understand that the results of the elections will not be in until at least tomorrow. Any results that you see in the wires will be preliminary based on 20 to 30 percent of the vote, so they won't be conclusive.
We also want to hear from the OSCE about its view about the manner in which the elections were held. I think the appearance is a very good step forward.
Our focus will be to work with the people, who win in the election, to arrange the meetings so that the new institutions can be formed and fully established and take over in Bosnia. The new Bosnian state can be formed with a presidency and a court a bank and the legislature. That will be the focus of U.S. efforts over the next month or so.
Dick Holbrooke, who was the head of our Presidential mission, is back. He's in New York. John Kornblum is still in Europe. He's meeting today in Paris, but he had some conversations yesterday with President Milosevic and President Izetbegovic about the way forward. As you know, the United States was instrumental in arranging a meeting that will be held shortly between President Izetbegovic and President Milosevic, and that meeting will be held in Paris.
I think, frankly, looking at this from a perspective, perhaps a more objective perspective, how the journalists and how the international monitors have looked at it, I think it was a very good day on Saturday.
QUESTION: Nick, who's going to organize this meeting in Paris -- chair it?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it will just be a direct meeting held under the auspices of the French Government, or whether the French Government and American negotiators will be at the table. I don't think that's been decided. The important thing is they'll meet when -- Secretary Christopher has brought them together, as you know, a number of times in Geneva -- three times -- over the last nine or ten months. They have sometimes met with Secretary Christopher in the room and sometimes met alone, and I think either way would be satisfactory, depending on what their wishes were.
QUESTION: Might you use Holbrooke again for this --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any plans to do so.
QUESTION: On your comments about the success of this election. The Soros Group had put out some figures, saying 200,000 refugees abroad may have been unable to go because they were effectively disenfranchised because of technical errors. This story quotes the UN spokesman as saying only about 14,700 of an eligible 150,000 displaced people crossed the internal boundary lines. I mean, those are very sort of substantial numbers of people, who seemed to not really be able to cast their ballots.
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think if you listen to the people, who organized the elections -- and they're the most competent people to speak to this question -- the OSCE believes that there was a good turnout; that for the most part, with some minor irregularities -- and there were some -- that people had a fair chance to vote.
I know the press has reported that not as many people cross the inter-ethnic boundary line as had been expected, but part of the reason for that could be traced to the fact that the municipal elections were not held yesterday, and there might have been a greater incentive for people to cross those lines to vote in municipal elections rather than national elections.
We're not displeased by the turnout. We think it's extraordinary that the elections were held at all. Think about where we were 12/13 months ago, where people were actually firing at each other, where there is no possibility of elections. I think that's a proper yardstick against which you should be judging this election.
QUESTION: And can you take us through the process that is now going to happen as you try to decide what transmutation of IFOR is going to be there after December?
MR. BURNS: I think the next steps are the following: The final results will be tallied in the next few days. Winners will be identified. The people, who win the election, will have to get together to form these institutions of the state. We need t o see how that process unfolds before we can make a decision on whether or not there will be a need for a security force to stay on beyond the mandate of the IFOR security force. I'm sure we'll have conversations with our allies about that.
We said last week -- and we meant what we said -- that we'd have to see what the environment was post-election. How the elections unfolded, what the success of the elections was, and particularly the process of forming the new institutions. That's going to be critical.
QUESTION: How long do you think this will take? Is the United States and its allies going to sit down on, say, December 1 and start deciding, or November 5 or --
MR. BURNS: I think we'd probably have some discussions before that, but we're going to take this one step at a time. I think the international community has done a very effective job in the last year in implementing the Dayton Accords. We've tried to manage each hurdle, each obstacle, as we've confronted it, and clearly we've got some in front of us right now, post-elections; and the critical one is will they all agree, the victors in the elections, to come together on a Serbs, Croats, Moslems -- and work together in these new common institutions that will be set up. That will have an effect on the security question, certainly --
QUESTION: But, I mean, doesn't NATO --
MR. BURNS: -- how we see that unfold.
QUESTION: Doesn't NATO need some reasonable amount of time to plan this kind of thing, or can you do it --
MR. BURNS: I think there's sufficient time for NATO to talk, and others, who are part of the IFOR effort, to talk about this question in advance of the final date, which would be mid to late December for the IFOR forces.
QUESTION: Nick, municipal elections. Will those be held while IFOR is still there to provide security, and the complaints by the Izetbegovic party that was filed -- quite a detailed complaint -- alleging irregularities all through the campaign and through the voter registration, and so on, particularly in the Republic of Srpska, and asking the OSCE to declare that part of the election void. What's your view of that?
MR. BURNS: Our view is, of your second question, David, that we're not surprised that some people may be unhappy with certain aspects of these elections. These are people who were fighting each other a year ago. I think, frankly, that the statement made by the SDA on Saturday -- very well written, obviously had been thought out, maybe even before Saturday, this statement; very well organized statement, a lengthy statement, with a lot of detail in it, probably written and thought about before Saturday. I think that statement was overcome, in most respects, by a public statement made by President Izetbegovic yesterday, in which he -- it's a very positive public statement -- thanks the United States and the international community; says that the Bosnian Government remains committed to full implementation of the Dayton agreement, and certainly indicating in his own press conference that any irregularities that they are concerned about will be dealt with according to Dayton, and that's the proper place. If people feel that there have been irregularities, there's a process underway by which they can have those complaints adjudicated.
We've seen some statements out of the Bosnian Serbs as well, David, of complaints about certain parts of the elections. We're not surprised, and they'll be worked through. I think it's really not a very serious matter at this point.
QUESTION: And municipal elections -- will IFOR be there to police those?
MR. BURNS: The strong view of the United States is that the municipal elections should be held in the next couple of months while IFOR is on the ground, yes, and we hope very much that that will be arranged.
QUESTION: Nick --
MR. BURNS: We're still on Bosnia.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Ambassador Albright, Secretary Christopher and yesterday President Clinton and today you said, and before Holbrooke said, that the U.S. Administration is quite satisfied or totally satisfied with elections in Bosnia, but how do you explain a huge gap between the U.S. Administration and U.S. media? As far as I followed, I read lots of really bad opinion about the U.S. Administration, and finally --
MR. BURNS: I was disappointed in the press coverage, too.
QUESTION: -- the Wall╩Street╩Journal says that it seems for U.S. Administration, everything is negotiable; and finally today they had a pretty strong editorial, New╩York Times, too. Anthony Lewis mentioned about Karadzic and compared Dayton in nine months and Karadzic. Could you please be so kind to explain, because I've never found anything in the media positive about U.S. Administration toward Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: I have, actually. There are a few lonely articles out there, extolling the virtues of our diplomacy, and I'll be glad to even send them to you. There are some good articles out there, and they're all right, by the way. The people who wrote those articles are right, and the people who have criticized us, I think, are off base. You're not surprised to hear me say it, but let me respond seriously for a minute.
The United States was right, along with every member of the Contact Group, and every major political party in Bosnia to insist that the elections be held on Saturday, because we would still pose the question to all of the cynics and the naysayers and the pessimists -- among them some of your colleagues -- and the question is this: Give us a better day for those elections -- two months from now, three months from now, a year from now, five years from now. When would the conditions have been demonstrably better to hold the elections.
See, we are by nature -- Americans are forward-looking, and we're pragmatic. We're not inclined to sit around for five years into the future, into the next century, waiting for that ideal moment when Bosnia looks Switzerland or Northern Virginia, Bosnia is Bosnia. You know that better than anybody. It's a country that has survived a war. It needs to have an election to go beyond the war.
QUESTION: Some journalists mentioned if you say to Africans, that Africa is Africa, that means that you are racist.
MR. BURNS: I can assure you that what we mean by that is Bosnia is a country that's just come out of a war, and the Bosnian people wanted to vote. In all the public opinion polls done in Bosnia, the Bosnian people said over the last couple of months, "We want to vote." All the major political parties, including the Bosnian Government, said, "We want to vote."
There are some people writing Op-Ed pieces sitting in armchairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York, in Los Angeles and London, saying, "Oh, it's not a very good idea." They are in their armchairs, but the people, who actually had to vote, said, "We want to vote." Should we trust the people on the ground, or should we trust the pundits removed by thousands of miles from the reality.
We preferred to put our faith and that of the international community into the hands of the voters, and it was the correct decision.
MR. BURNS: Yes, Cyprus.
QUESTION: According to some information, there is a big concern in the Administration regarding the ongoing tension in Cyprus. Also, some press reports on the island claim that Secretary Perry, during his recent visit in Turkey, conveyed a message from President Clinton to the Turkish Government regarding Cyprus and the situation there. Could you please confirm if there is concern in the Administration regarding Cyprus and about the message?
MR. BURNS: We are concerned about the situation in Cyprus, because we've seen political violence this past summer where a Turkish soldier has been killed, a young Greek Cypriot has been killed, and we think that the perpetrators of both crimes should be found and brought to justice.
We're concerned about the larger -- the climate that prevails right now, and Ambassador Ken Brill and the others involved in our Cyprus policy are trying very hard to do what the United States can to be a positive influence. There have been diplomatic messages sent to the Cypriot Government, to the communities on Cyprus, and to Greece and Turkey about this, and we'll remain very active.
QUESTION: Does the Administration fear, in the foreseeable future, any new hot incident in the island?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope that these incidents will not be repeated. There can be no justification for taking life because you have a political difference with someone, and we've seen that twice now. We've seen a Turk killed, and we've seen a Greek Cypriot killed, and both crimes are indefensible.
QUESTION: Could you comment on the appeal by Cyprus Government to your government against Turkey, which is trying now to stop Nicosia to exercise its sovereign rights even in the free area of Cyprus; more specifically, Ankara is threatening now the Greek Cypriots by force not to obtain any more arms for defense purposes.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I think you know that the United States would hope that Turkey and Greece would work together on the problem of Cyprus. That has not always been the case sometimes. It's not been the case over the last couple of decades, and we're working very hard towards that end.
QUESTION: The specific question is, could you comment on the appeal which has been filed by the Cyprus Government to your government with regard to this incident?
MR. BURNS: I really don't have anything to say about that.
QUESTION: Can you take this question?
MR. BURNS: I can look into that question.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR. BURNS: Two last questions.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything on the treaty between Uganda and Sudan I raised last week? Do you have any comment on the U.S. view of --
MR. BURNS: I thought that we had gotten an answer on that. If we haven't given it to you, perhaps just after the briefing we can do that.
George, last question.
QUESTION: Could you quickly run through what you have on Haiti?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Any particular aspects of Haiti you wish to discuss?
QUESTION: Well, does the U.S. have evidence that the Presidential security unit was indeed involved in political assassinations?
MR. BURNS: What I understand is that in response to some recent developments in Haiti, including some politically motivated violence against innocent people, President Preval decided to make some personnel changes in the security services at the palace. At his request the State Department increased the number of our own State Department security personnel, which had been in place for some time, assisting the palace security services, in order to augment the existing service and train new members of the security staff.
As you know, on Friday, just a couple of days ago, we sent State Department diplomatic security officers to Port-au-Prince for this purpose. This is not a new presence, as I said. We've had people there for quite a while, and I think that the security officers, led by a very senior security officer here, will be there for a fair amount of time. In order to make sure that President Preval's wish for a competent, well trained, orderly force is in place.
This was an appropriate step to take, considering the fact that there has been political violence in Haiti. We think it's a step that is consistent with everything we've done for the last two years now, to try to stabilize Haiti and bring the Haitian people an opportunity for something better than what they had under the dictators.
QUESTION: How many do you estimate are there now?
MR. BURNS: We decided we're not going to give out that number, because that wouldn't be very prudent or wise of us, considering the situation there. But a --
QUESTION: It's already been reported.
MR. BURNS: -- significant enough contingent that we and the Haitian Government can be assured that a very good security service is in place.
QUESTION: Well, Nick, can you address George's question that these changes were -- I mean you slough it off as personnel changes in the palace guard. The story is that the previous palace guard was involved in some of these assassination attempts and assassinations. I believe these may have been some of the people you all helped train. What does this say about the screening -- the U.S. screening process in Haiti and the general situation there?
MR. BURNS: I know we're into grading today. We want to give a letter grade to everything. I'd give us an "A" in Haiti. Look what we've done. And this is the way to answer your question, Sid. Over the last two years, we have done -- the United States has brought the Haitian people the opportunity for stability and peace, which they did not have prior to September 1994, and political killings were a matter of course before the United States took the action that we did, thousands of people killed and jailed.
Now we've seen another rash of political killings, and the Haitian Government has asked us for assistance, and we're giving that assistance to help the Haitian Government. That is appropriate. I think it just says, if I were to answer your question dead on, that we're continuing our efforts -- continuing our efforts -- to help stabilize the Haitian Government.
QUESTION: I thought the Haitian Government was stabilized. Has there been some regression? Does the United States see the need to bolster its efforts in Haiti now?
MR. BURNS: There have been a number of political killings that are quite worrisome to the Haitian Government, and everyone concerned, including the United States Government and this is one of the reasons why we've taken the action that we did.
QUESTION: What was the problem with the training initially that you failed to screen out these people who would become involved in political assassinations?
MR. BURNS: Let's just say that good training is a prerequisite for an adequate security service, and we have provided training in the past, and now we want to step that up and increase it, so that the current force serves the Haitian Government well.
QUESTION: Do you think in this next round, this newest round, you're going to be able to identify beforehand people who might be a problem?
MR. BURNS: That's really up to the Haitian Government. If we can help in that, we will do that, yes. As in any type of situation that has really been revolutionary over the last couple of years, you're always going to have left behind in the government some people who were part of the older system. Sometimes people can make a conversion to the new system, and sometimes they can't. If they're not doing their job and if they're in fact posing an unacceptable risk to the established and elected leadership, then it does make sense to change, and that's what we've done -- we've helped to do in response to a request from the Haitian Government.
QUESTION: Can you say whether these dismissed guards were trained by the United States?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question?
QUESTION: Could you take that question?
MR. BURNS: I'll look into that question.
(The briefing concluded at 2:29 p.m.)
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