U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Tuesday, September 17, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Visitors ......................................... 1 Twenty-Four Bottles of Beer On The Wall ..................... 1 Secretary's Reception for Members of the Press Corps ........ 1-2 Secretary's Travel to UN General Assembly/Meetings ........ 2 Secretary's Travel to Africa, October 7- October 15 ......... 2-7 BALTIC COUNTRIES Anniversary of the Baltic States Return to the United Nations 4 IRAQ Status of Onward Travel by Kurdish Employees/Family Members . 7-8,17-19 U.S. Contacts with Iraqi Government/U.S. Demarche to Iraq ... 8-12 Saddam Hussein's Compliance with U.S. Warnings .............. 10-13 UN Weapons Inspections Team in Iraq/Departure From Iraq ... 13-14 Welfare/Whereabouts of Americans in Iraq .................... 13-14 Status of Implementation of Resolution 986 .................. 14-15 A/S Pelletreau's Meetings with Kurdish Factions ............. 15-17, 19-20 Kurdish Factions Fighting/Alliance with Saddam .............. 17 LEBANON Parliamentary Elections ...................................... 21 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Incident in Hebron .......................................... 21-22, 25-26 Status of Cairo Economic Summit Scheduled in November ....... 22-23 Ambassador Dennis Ross' Travel in the Region/Meetings ....... 22-26 CANADA U.S. Position on the Unity of Canada/Congressional Hearings . 26-27 Helms-Burton Legislation/Canadian Government Concerns ....... 27 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Vote Counting/Results ....................................... 27-28 War Crimes Tribunal/Indicted War Criminals .................. 28
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1996, 1:14 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a lot of things to announce today. I have some people to welcome.
Let me start with 14 students who are participating from AU -- American University -- in the Washington journalism semester. Thanks for coming, and welcome.
I also want to introduce to you someone who -- I think those of you who travel with the Secretary probably know -- is Captain Bart Weiss of the United States Air Force. He is one of the pilots on the Secretary's aircraft, and he has made a great mistake of coming to visit us today and subject himself to this press briefing. But we really appreciate everything that Bart and his colleagues from the Air Force do for us when we fly around the world -- their professionalism and their dedication and they're also just good people to be around. Bart, thanks for coming today.
It gives me very great pleasure to recognize
Mr. Henry Champ of -- some of you remember that Henry bet that Canada would defeat the United States in the Inaugural World Championships. I'm sorry, Henry, that didn't turn out to be your victory. It was our victory. The United States won 5-2 the other night. We had a bet. I bet the best beer in the United States, Sam Adams -- a case -- versus Moosehead beer. I have a case of Moosehead beer in the Press Office right now which will be shared with all the members of our Press Office staff to lift their spirits on days when you're particularly mean to us. But I do want to congratulate the United States and the Canadian team for a great world -- you'll get us next year. Thank you, Henry, for paying up on your debt to us. We thought you would be in here yesterday for that.
I also want to remind all of you that the Secretary will be having a reception for all of you, for the foreign and American press corps between 5:00 and 6:30 tonight in the Ben Franklin Room. This was an idea that was stimulated by my friend, Mr. Abdulsalam Massarueh and the Foreign Correspondents Association. We decided to make this an American and foreign correspondents affair. The Secretary is looking forward to being with you. It starts at 5:00. It will conclude 6:30 or beyond. The Secretary will be making a few remarks and circulating. He is looking forward to seeing all of you.
I also want to introduce Chris Bush. Christopher Bush is the new Presidential management intern, who is going to be working in the Press Office with us for the next two years. He comes to us from the University of California, San Diego, where he recently received a Master's Degree. He has a background in international affairs. Chris, welcome to you. We need you here, and you'll get to know all these people, I think, in short order.
Now, for several more announcements about the Secretary's travel.
Secretary Christopher will be traveling to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, for the opening of the 51st UN General Assembly. He has a very full schedule which begins on Monday morning with appointments lasting all the way through Friday evening. So he intends to spend the full week in New York.
As you know, he'll be joined by the President, and there will be a very important signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, probably on next Tuesday. This is going to be an important week for us because it's a chance for the Secretary to see major allies of the United States, partners of the United States from all around the world, as well as a number of other important countries.
I don't want to release the schedule now because it's still in the process of creation, but I will announce it in short order as soon as it's finished. Needless to say, we'll have a press office in the Waldorf Astoria as we normally do, a press briefing room. I will be briefing probably two or three times a day for those of you who will be up in New York. If you have any questions about this, please direct them to Nancy Beck of the Press Office who will be with us in New York, thank goodness, to organize everything next week.
I also wanted to announce a trip by the Secretary of State to Africa. Secretary Christopher plans to visit Africa between October 7-15. He plans to make a five-nation trip. He is scheduled to visit Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Angola, and South Africa.
Secretary Christopher will underscore during this trip the firm commitment of the United States to help further democracy and economic development and trade, regional integration and conflict resolution on the African continent.
The first stop on the Secretary's itinerary will be Bamako, Mali, where he'll meet with President Oumar Konare and other Malian officials to discuss that country's efforts, to strengthen democracy. Mali has made great strides in recent months on that, and to further national reconciliation.
The next stop will be Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where the Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and other prominent Ethiopians to discuss a variety of bilateral issues between our two countries and also regional issues. While the Secretary is in Addis Ababa, he will meet with the Organization of African Unity Chairman Salim Ahmed Salim on how the United States can best support some of the conflict resolution efforts that the OAU has taken a lead on.
After visiting Addis Ababa -- and I think there will be two nights in each of these capitals -- the Secretary will go on to Arusha, in Tanzania, for talks with President Benjamin Mkapa and with former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. He'll also meet some other regional leaders from central and east Africa on economic integration and development. He'll talk obviously about the problems in Burundi, the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal, and other topics of concern to that part of Africa.
Following the visit in Arusha, the Secretary will travel on to Luanda, in Angola, where he plans to meet with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and other key leaders in Angola. This is a very important stop. It's meant to stimulate further movement towards full, national reconciliation in Angola.
He also plans to visit UNAVEM, the United Nations Verification Mission in Angola, and to observe some landmine eradication activities taking place, as you know, because of the civil war. Landmines are a particular problem.
The final country that the Secretary will visit will be South Africa. The Secretary will be spending the better part of two days in Cape Town, South Africa, where he'll have meetings with President Nelson Mandela, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other officials of that government.
The Secretary plans to return to Washington on Tuesday, October 15. There's going to be a sign-up sheet available this afternoon in the Press Office. I intend to take that sheet down, probably at the close of business on September 23. I believe that's next Monday, if I'm not mistaken.
We're going to be passing out to you an information sheet from our health office. There are a variety of immunizations that you need to get, if you haven't traveled in this part of the world for sometime. You ought to start those fairly soon, by the end of this week or early next week. Just a word to you.
Two other notices. Today is the fifth anniversary of the return of the Baltic countries to the United Nations and to the international community after their liberation -- their self-liberation -- in September 1991. Five years ago today, the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania made their inaugural addresses to the United Nations General Assembly following a meeting with President Bush at the White House.
This event demonstrated the restoration of the independence of these countries, the independence that had been denied them for 52 years by the Soviet Union. It was the beginning of their re-integration into the Euro-Atlantic Community. It's very important that we remember this because of the importance of our relationship with these three countries.
The United States has very strong relations with them. The Baltic states have demonstrated that they want to be a part of the West. We're working with them politically, economically, and they are with us in Bosnia. Their troops are in Bosnia with us in the American sector. They're with us in Lebanon. These countries are all pointed in the right direction. We thought it was appropriate to take a moment to mark a very significant anniversary for them.
Finally, we, in the State Department, were very saddened to hear of the death of McGeorge Bundy yesterday at his home in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Bundy, as you all know, was President Kennedy's National Security Advisor. He was instrumental in decision-making during the Cuban missile crisis. He stayed on in government service as President Johnson's National Security Advisor until 1966.
Mr. Bundy continued his involvement in foreign policy as President of the Ford Foundation for ten years and then taught History at New York University. Toward the end of his life, he continued to be an effective public advocate for arms reduction and arms control. He used his talents and experience for the betterment of the world up until his death in Boston yesterday. He is well remembered by many of the senior people here at the State Department and many people who have been civil service and foreign service employees here. We wanted to take note of his passing and to extend our sincere condolences to his family and his friends.
QUESTION: The African trip, can you go into it a little bit more? Is there a theme here. If you care to, would you talk about the selection process? Would you address possibly that it's three and a half years, I guess, since the Administration and the Secretary is now, toward the end, going to Africa?
Do these countries have something in common -- some of the big countries like Nigeria intentionally off-limits so far as the Secretary's visit. He's going to five countries. Perhaps it's my unfamiliarity with Africa. I don't see any theme here, particularly, except that he wants to go to Africa.
MR. BURNS: Barry, the Secretary is very much looking forward to this trip. He's wanted to make this trip for a long time.
At the beginning of this Administration, the senior leadership of this Administration made a decision that the United States had to be active in Africa diplomatically and an active agent for national reconciliation for mediation and disputes among states. I think we've seen over the last three and a half years the Vice President and National Security Advisor Tony Lake and Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott; certainly Assistant Secretary George Moose has traveled tirelessly in this region -- we have broad interests there.
I think we've conveyed a sense of interest and commitment to improving our relations with African countries.
In deciding how to structure a trip by the Secretary of State, of course, we were faced with a number of challenges and opportunities. There are over 50 countries on the African continent. Of course, it wasn't possible to visit all of them.
The Secretary wanted to have a visit that was broadly representative of American interests which are quite deep and quite diverse. So you see here we are visiting Mali, which is a country that has stepped forward in west Africa and made some very important steps towards democracy and towards representative government.
The Secretary felt it was important to mark that and to give encouragement to it by a visit to Bamako.
East Africa, of course, was logical because we have found that the Tanzanian and Ethiopian Governments and other governments in the area have been very, very critical governments for us on these regional conflicts that we have worked on in Rwanda and Burundi and some of the other problems associated both with politics and economic development in east Africa.
The value, of course, of the visit to Tanzania is two-fold. One, we can have a good bilateral discussion with the Tanzanians but also take advantage of some of their expertise on some of these regional issues.
In Ethiopia, we can combine the visit there with the visit to the Organization of African Unity. I think it goes without saying that the visit to Luanda, Angola, is very important because of the long-standing -- going back now several decades -- interests of the United States in trying to promote reconciliation between the factions in Angola. We have an extremely effective Ambassador, Don Steinberg, well-known to all of you in the Press Corps because of his press job at the NSC. He has worked very hard to try to make the United States an active player in the Angolan conflict.
Then, finally to South Africa, because of the extraordinary changes there. Because of the very close relationship that the Clinton Administration has had with President Mandela, the Secretary felt it was important to continue to deepen that relationship. He's very much looking forward to his visit there. He'll be seeing, as I noted, not only President Mandela and Deputy President Mbeki but also moral and spiritual leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I think, Barry, this trip is -- it's certainly diverse geographically. It's diverse on a functional basis in terms of the issues that we'll be working on -- bilateral issues, regional issues, continental issues because of our deep concern about economic development in Africa and humanitarian assistance to people who need it there.
The Secretary wishes he could go to two or three times as many countries on the continent but he can't. We certainly will continue to work with the countries that we're not visiting on a very close basis.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary meet Mr. Savimbi when he's in Angola? Will he have time?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if that will be possible. He's certainly going to meet with the President, President dos Santos. I'm not aware of any visits scheduled -- meetings scheduled with Mr. Savimbi at this time.
QUESTION: Since his theme was national reconciliation, wouldn't he want to see the other side?
MR. BURNS: We're going to make every effort, Ron, you can be assured, to work on that and to make sure that the United States is in touch with all the actors that we should be. As you know, our Ambassador is and others who have visited have, and at this point I'm just not able to indicate if there is a meeting scheduled.
QUESTION: Nick, you don't expect him to go to Rwanda or Burundi or to meet with any of the players in that sad drama?
MR. BURNS: He will not be going to Rwanda and Burundi, but certainly in Arusha that issue will come up. As you know, former President Nyerere and the Tanzanian Government have played probably the key international role in the Burundi conflict. When he meets with the Organization of African Unity leadership, there's no question that both Burundi and Rwanda will be discussed.
Burundi -- our efforts to try to see constitutional rule restored and stability take place, an end to the massacres. In Rwanda, our very strong support for the war crimes tribunal and for trying to make sure with the African countries in the region that the tragedies of 1994 are not repeated. So, there will be discussions about both those countries in East Africa.
QUESTION: Back on Angola. Could you clarify the Secretary's thinking on meeting with Savimbi? He was, after all, an ally of the U.S. for five years.
MR. BURNS: I can take the question, and I can go back to the African Affairs Bureau, and I can get you probably a detailed answer on both of your questions. I'd be glad to do it.
QUESTION: On Iraq? Yesterday, you said that the United States was airlifting the Kurdish refugees to Guam, because there was housing there.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: But, apparently, the United States is now building tents in Guam, and so that seems to be at conflict with what you said.
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that report, Carol. Perhaps you can direct me to the report it's in, and I'll be glad to look into it for you. My very clear understanding was that there were excess officers' quarters available at Andersen Air Force Base -- many of you have been there. You've seen what an extraordinarily huge base that is -- and that the Kurds would be housed there.
If there are tents being constructed, I have not heard about it, but, since you've raised it, I'll be glad to look into it. Now that you've asked, let me just give you a status report, if I could, on where this operation stands.
The first two planes carrying respectively 469 and 323 people, a total of 792, have arrived at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam today. The first group was comprised of 264 adults, 187 children, 18 infants. The second group had 198 adults, 105 children and 20 infants.
Both planes left from the Diyarbakir Airport in Turkey. A third group of 465 people left Dyarbakir this morning, and a fourth plane has left with 462 passengers aboard. This operation is proceeding on schedule. We believe that the last Kurdish person will be out of Turkey on one of these planes by tomorrow for arrival Thursday, Guam time, at Andersen Air Force Base.
Since yesterday, four or five more people -- I think it's five, but I'll check that -- have come across the border. These are remaining family members of some of the people that we're trying to get out. So that brings the total of people involved to 2,080. I believe it's five, but I've heard both numbers "four" and "five" this morning.
So I wanted to update you on that. Just to be clear in answer to some questions yesterday, these are chartered civilian aircraft, and they're run by the International Organization for Migration.
QUESTION: On Iraq, you said you were asked yesterday whether we had sent a fresh note or demarche to the Iraqis, and you said "no." The Congressional leaders came out of their meeting with the President this morning and said very clearly that the President told them they had sent another demarche in the last couple of days. Can you square that circle for me?
MR. BURNS: There's no conspiracy here. What I said yesterday was true. Subsequent to my briefing -- in fact, to be specific, last evening -- we faxed to the Iraqis another demarche, and this demarche to the Iraqi Government put the Iraqi Government on notice that they were not to take actions that either threatened the safety of the coalition pilots or our ability to enforce the "no-fly" zones, "Southern Watch," and "Operation Provide Comfort" in the north.
The message that we conveyed to the Iraqis will remain in effect indefinitely. It has no expiration date. The United States will watch very closely to see whether Saddam Hussein backs up his words with actions, and I think you know now that the ball is in his court, that we think his actions will determine the actions of the United States, and we'll certainly be watching that very carefully.
So that, Sid, was delivered, I believe, last evening by fax from the State Department to the Iraqi officials.
QUESTION: Through anybody?
MR. BURNS: Faxed to New York -- to the Iraqi Mission in New York.
MR. BURNS: And then the Iraqi Mission conveys it in some way, I cannot describe, to its superiors in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, Nick, how do you then explain that several Turkish newspapers and their news agency reported yesterday prior to this briefing that that fax had gone out?
MR. BURNS: I would just have to assure you -- because I'm absolutely sure of what I'm talking about -- that those newspapers were wrong.
QUESTION: Nick, can I --
QUESTION: No, Betsy.
QUESTION: Can we get anything more on the contents of this demarche to exactly what we were telling --
MR. BURNS: I've really given you as much as we can say about this demarche. The demarche was more detailed than I have indicated, but we don't choose to bring those details into public for a variety of reasons. We'd like to keep this confidential between us and the Iraqis, if we can.
The important thing here is that the demarche was written in a very specific way and a very clear way, and so the Iraqis now have a very clear understanding of what is required of them. As the President said yesterday, the United States is not seeking a confrontation with Iraq, but we're certainly prepared to defend our national interests. We hope that by sending this demarche, that this crisis can subside.
QUESTION: But I thought you had made it very clear to Iraq in previous communications what was expected of them. How does this differ? I mean, does this just repeat it, or did you, you know, like use block letters, or, I mean, how did you make it clearer?
MR. BURNS: I don't think we used -- block letters? (Laughter) No, I don't think we did that.
QUESTION: No, big printing.
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe we did. But it was written in such a way that non-native speakers of English could understand it, and --
QUESTION: And the other one was not?
MR. BURNS: And the previous one was as well. The situation has evolved significantly since the delivery of the first demarche, which I believe was a week ago Friday -- sent by the State Department -- and our leadership felt it was important to send a second one.
In a situation like this, you don't want to have a lapse of communications when you think communications might be helpful in sorting out some misunderstandings, and that was one of the intentions of sending this -- one of the reasons why this was sent.
QUESTION: Nick, (inaudible) sort of box-score report you gave us yesterday on how well or how poorly Iraq is adhering to the demands, I suppose, of the original note. In other words, you spoke of them not -- or collectively the Administration spoke of them not improving their anti-missile defenses. They haven't threatened pilots since they said they weren't, but the jury was out on their neighbors. The jury was out on U.S. forces, and there was no mention of those UN resolutions -- at least the most pertinent one. Anything to add to that appraisal today?
MR. BURNS: There really isn't anything to add, Barry. As I said yesterday -- and General Shalikashvili spoke to this on television on Sunday, and there's really nothing that I can add that would change our appreciation of how the Iraqis are doing. I think by mentioning the fact that the safety of our pilots and our ability to implement the "no-fly" zones -- our ability to fly up to the 33rd parallel in the south, north of the 36th in the north, is very important. That is the focus of our message to the Iraqis.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the fundamental, vital American national interest here is to protect Iraq's neighbors from attack by Saddam Hussein. And that has been a -- I think Saddam Hussein understands that that is the core American interest here, and that there are certain lines that must not be crossed.
QUESTION: Nick, do you expect an answer from the Iraqis, through the diplomatic channels that you communicated with them, to the second demarche?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it's -- well, we'll see what happens. We'll see if there are answers or not. I think that the demarche is sufficiently clear and understandable that perhaps -- that we expect it will be understood, and we hope that the suggestions we've made will be complied with. That's the intent of the United States. Whether we hear back or not, we'll just have to see.
QUESTION: I'm a little --
MR. BURNS: And there's one follow-up, I'm sorry, Charlie.
QUESTION: Some countries who favor to reduce all of this tension, they are calling -- for instance, the Turkish Ambassador here in Washington called last week for opening a dialogue with Saddam Hussein or opening a dialogue with Iraq. Such a communication that you have initiated in the demarche, could it be an opening for the beginning of some communication and further contacts that possibly could lead to a dialogue or whatever?
MR. BURNS: First, just to set the record straight, I'm not aware that the Turkish Government has given us any -- has put itself on the record as saying we ought to have some kind of negotiation here. I think everybody who knows the history of Saddam Hussein knows that he understands very well, force, and doesn't seem to understand diplomacy very well.
The President said we're not seeking confrontation with him. We're not. But we're certainly -- we have deployed military assets in the area designed to make sure that he understands that containment of him is going to be the focus of American policy, so that he doesn't represent a threat to his neighbors.
QUESTION: You are not ruling out the possibility of (inaudible) such contacts or even demarches and communication to the level of opening up --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any plan to open up any kind of a set of negotiations with Saddam Hussein. That wasn't possible before the Gulf War with the Bush Administration. It doesn't seem to be possible right now, because we don't seem to have a willing partner for negotiations.
QUESTION: Are you getting --
MR. BURNS: I think Charlie was next.
QUESTION: Nick, I'm a little bit confused, and maybe it's just things that have happened over the last few days. What I'm confused about is a statement I think you made a couple days ago that we weren't -- if I'm quoting you correctly -- that "we want to keep him guessing." Now today you've said the ball's back in his court, which to me -- another way to say that is, "He can keep us guessing." Maybe I'm wrong in that, but --
MR. BURNS: You mean you guys -- you mean the press?
MR. BURNS: No, we never want to keep you guessing.
MR. BURNS: We always want to be very clear with the press.
QUESTION: My question is, with all that's taken place up until today, are we now at a situation where the U.S. will not do anything militarily unless Saddam violates one of the things you've laid out in the demarche?
MR. BURNS: Saddam Hussein knows what has to happen in order for this crisis to subside, and he knows that the United States means what it says. He's very well aware of what our concerns are, and I think I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Nick, is he doing what the United States says he must do?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I think we'll reserve judgment on that. We'll have to watch what his actions are. I think the jury is still out on that. You have to watch what the actions are, particularly concerning the "no-flight" zones and any possible Iraqi actions against our planes and pilots. That's the core of our interest here and the message that we sent to him.
QUESTION: But since he announced that he was not going to shoot any more missiles at airplanes, has he been doing what the United States wants him to do?
MR. BURNS: We're going to watch his actions. I'm not aware that there have been any shots fired -- missiles fired at our aircraft since the announcement on Friday. General Shalikashvili said on Sunday that the work to reconstitute the SAM sites in southern Iraq had apparently stopped.
We'll have to keep looking at both of those factors and at other issues that we haven't talked about publicly to really answer your questions, Steve, and to see whether or not in effect he is complying with our wishes.
Bill, then to Carol.
QUESTION: A little different issue here. The UN weapons inspection team, with a number of U.S. personnel, was in Iraq before the cruise missile attack. I understand that these people were at a rocket motor site three days before that rocket motor site was destroyed by cruises, and that these people had a very hard time getting out of Iraq, and that they couldn't get any aircraft -- anybody to come get them, to fly in and fly them out. They had to go out through Jordan. Can you confirm this, and basically are there any other Americans that are currently in Baghdad that would like to get out?
MR. BURNS: Bill, as you know, we've advised all Americans to leave Iraq. We did so at the beginning of this crisis and back on September 3rd, I believe, was the public notice, and we've reaffirmed that at several points along the way.
Secondly, we have been a major -- perhaps the major supporter of Ambassador Ekeus and the UNSCOM mission. The UNSCOM mission has not received the cooperation from the Iraqi Government that it should have just over the last two or three weeks. There was a mission there that did not result, unfortunately, in the completion of their work, because the Iraqi Government refused to comply with the basic request made by the UNSCOM mission.
We are a strong supporter of that effort, and we'll continue to be so, because in addition to posing a threat against his neighbors, Saddam Hussein is trying to build a nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capability. We know that. That's why there's a UN effort to stop him from doing so and to inspect his facilities.
The Iraqis have consistently thumbed their nose at that operation. That's a big concern that we have. It's been lost in a lot of the press commentary over the last few weeks, and frankly, I think that you and the press ought to talk more about this.
QUESTION: UNSCOM witnesses said that they were harassed by Iraqi secret police who thought that they had been spying at this rocket motor factory, to aid and abet the attack against it. Have you heard of any such report?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that. No, I'm just not aware of that incident.
QUESTION: They were harassed. Those people couldn't --
MR. BURNS: It's not surprising. They've been harassed in the past, and we've complained to the Iraqis. It's a great concern of the United Nations and of the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, what is the status of the oil-for-food resolution that they've spoken about, that they will bring it back to implementation?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change in UN Resolution 986. The United States, as one of the fathers of this resolution, wants to go forward. There are practical problems, because we cannot allow Saddam Hussein's agents to interfere with this operation in northern Iraq or to profit from it. So the United Nations Secretary General has suspended it.
We will be glad to talk to anybody in the United Nations about a wish to revive it, but only on a practical basis, taking into consideration the changes on the ground.
QUESTION: Do you expect that it will have a new set of rules for all of the procedures and arrangements that the Iraqis were doing with the United Nations prior to this crisis?
MR. BURNS: We want this to go forward, but it's very clear that the plan that had been adopted prior to Saddam Hussein's aggression in northern Iraq cannot be implemented, because it is a faulty plan. Irbil is in the hands of Mr. Barzani, but also is susceptible to the activities of Saddam Hussein's security goons and agents. It's very important that the United Nations now modify UN Resolution -- at least the implementation of UN Resolution 986,the plan -- so that the Iraqis can't profit from this.
We're not going to allow that to happen, but we do want it to go forward at some point. We've got to be practical about this and work on these problems that have arisen.
QUESTION: Nick, do you think that this will be done after the U.S. elections?
MR. BURNS: I can't anticipate when all these problems will be resolved. We want it to go forward, but we've got to assure ourselves Saddam Hussein doesn't profit from it.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the Pelletreau meeting with Barzani? When it's going to take place; what Pelletreau is saying to him? Is he carrying any offers of financial assistance, military assistance, and is he going to meet with Talabani as well?
MR. BURNS: The context first, because the context is very important. The United States has been in contact with these Kurdish factions for years; was in contact with Mr. Barzani and his associates, and Mr. Talabani until August 30th of this year, just before the outbreak of the fighting in northern Iraq.
We have said consistently over the last two weeks that the United States would like to re-initiate contacts with the Kurdish factions, because we believe they made a tactical mistake -- the KDP -- in aligning itself with Saddam Hussein; Mr. Talabani in aligning himself with Iran.
We've called upon both parties to disengage themselves from their alliances with Iran and Iraq. We think it's a terrible tactical mistake that will be to their long-term disadvantage.
With that as backdrop, Assistant Secretary of State Bob Pelletreau, who was accompanying Secretary Perry on his recent trip to the Middle East, stayed behind in Turkey; had some additional conversations -- has had -- with the Turkish leadership about the situation in Iraq. We are trying to work out a meeting between Mr. Pelletreau and Mr. Barzani on Thursday.
We have not yet decided where that meeting will take place, the time of that meeting, but I believe it will be on Thursday. This is fully consistent, of course, with our desire that the Kurdish parties turn back from factional fighting and turn towards the negotiating table.
Our objective is to have Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani agree to talk about their differences peacefully and across from one another at the negotiating table. The meeting on Thursday will not be a trilateral meeting. It will be a meeting between Mr. Pelletreau and Mr. Barzani.
We do hope that it will be possible for the United States to arrange a meeting with Mr. Talabani at some point in the future. The agenda for Thursday's meeting, I think, will be quite obvious to you. The United States will repeat our very deeply held concerns about the situation in northern Iraq; about the lack of stability caused by the fighting; our concern for the security of the Kurdish and other ethnic groups, Kurds and other ethnic groups, in northern Iraq; about the humanitarian situation in northern Iraq, where the United Nations has done a superb job in responding to humanitarian problems over the past ten days.
I think Ambassador Pelletreau will certainly repeat the advice privately that we have tried to give Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani in public, and that is, Mr. Barzani's relationship with Saddam Hussein cannot be in the long-term interest of his people or of himself. We think the only answer to the problems of northern Iraq is peaceful discussions to sort out these very bitter, long-held disputes between the two major Kurdish factions.
QUESTION: Well, what other ideas? I mean, do you have any other initiatives? Is he just going to go and repeat this stuff, or are you going to offer them higher-level mediation, some sort of increased aid package? How do you think at this point the -- where you failed before, how now can you persuade them to wean themselves from Saddam Hussein.
MR. BURNS: The United States was very active with the Kurdish groups until the outbreak of fighting. I disagree with your contention that somehow the United States failed here. If there's any responsibility here, it's with the two Kurdish groups for the outbreak of this fighting -- not with the United States. We did not encourage that. In fact, we advised against it.
I think if you look at the history of U.S. relations with the Kurds over the last five years, we kept our commitments. We did what we promised we would do. We protected them. We gave them humanitarian food and medical assistance. We saved them in March of 1991 from Saddam Hussein. I very much disagree with that contention.
Obviously, Ambassador Pelletreau has a very detailed agenda to go through. These are very important talks. They will remain confidential. We will not be giving out our entire negotiating strategy before we begin this meeting.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, Nick, one of the reasons allegedly the talks broke down between the U.S. -- that the U.S. was mediating between the two groups not so long ago was reportedly a $3 or $4 million in assistance that the U.S. was supposed to provide that it never did provide. I don't know exactly why it didn't provide it. Maybe you can help us on that. And is that one of the things that
Mr. Pelletreau will be telling Mr. Barzani?
MR. BURNS: Well, that story is absolutely false. I think we indicated to a number of you about ten days ago that it was, despite the fact that some of you decided to go with the story anyway. The fact is that if the Kurdish groups had agreed not to fight but to continue to talk, if they had wanted to set up some kind of arrangement for peace that required monitoring, and if money was needed to support that, the United States would have found a way to come up with that money.
It was not a lack of money that led to the outbreak of fighting between the two Kurdish factions. It was their own inclinations and their own tactics, and we very much disagree with their choice to fight rather than to continue to negotiate.
QUESTION: You described this relationship between Baghdad and Barzani as a tactical one. Why do you think it's tactical and not a strategic long-term decision by Mr. Barzani to permanently align himself with Saddam?
MR. BURNS: Because he's a very intelligent -- he, Mr. Barzani, is a very intelligent man, and we know he cannot believe that Saddam Hussein harbors any benign, much less positive, intentions towards the Kurdish people. You have to remember the history of this region, as the Kurds remember better than all of us.
Saddam Hussein tried to exterminate them in March and April of 1991. He was prevented from doing so by the United States and Turkey and Britain and France and other countries. The Kurds understand this. In our view, there's no possibility of a strategic alliance -- longer-term alliance. This could only be for short-term tactical gains, and it's our very deeply held view that this tactical alliance is a mistake.
QUESTION: Who requested the meeting?
QUESTION: You were helping the Kurds associated with U.S. relief efforts. What about reports that you're not inclined to assist Kurds who are helping or working with U.S. intelligence agencies?
MR. BURNS: There are several groups of people at issue here, and let me just try to give you the facts as we know them. We understand from the UN High Commissioner on Refugees just about two hours ago that there are probably roughly -- and this is a rough figure -- about 5,000 Iraqis of various ethnic groups who are refugees in northern Iraq, meaning people who do not wish to come under the influence of Saddam Hussein and who have left their homes and are some place in northern Iraq without a home. Most of these people are probably around the area of Sulaymaniyah or up against the Iraqi-Iranian border.
There are 40,000 Iraqis of various ethnic groups that have gone across the border into Iran who are currently being protected by the Government of Iran and by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees; the International Committee of the Red Cross.
We believe that the Kurdish groups, specifically Mr. Barzani's group, has a responsibility to make sure that the safety of these disaffected people is secured; that Saddam Hussein's agents are not allowed to exact retribution upon them as he did when the city of Irbil was fought for a couple of weeks ago.
We also believe that there are groups of people who were associated -- Iraqi Kurds and others -- with European non-governmental organizations, some American non-governmental organizations that did not have a relationship with the United States Government. These are mainly people working in humanitarian operations.
We know that the UNHCR is specifically concerned about the welfare of these people; that the UNHCR has called for neighboring governments to keep borders open, as the Iranian Government is doing, to help people who want to flee across borders; and that the UNHCR is calling upon other governments, European governments, perhaps to take steps similar to what the United States has done for the Iraqi Kurds who work directly for the United States in our humanitarian operations in northern Iraq.
George, I can't answer your specific question for obvious reasons. But I think in my answer, I've been able to cover the landscape and give you a view of how we look at these various groups of people.
QUESTION: The Iraqis -- or the Kurds, excuse me -- claim that there are about 10,000 Kurds in that region who worked for non-governmental organizations that were directly involved in "Operation Provide Comfort," who are languishing. Has the United States, (a) thought any more about trying to get those people out of northern Iraq; and has it (b) made any representations, stern or otherwise, to the Turks about opening their border to let those people in?
MR. BURNS: First, we think that the neighboring countries have a responsibility to allow people to take refuge inside their borders if their lives are threatened. There's no question that the lives of some of these people are threatened by Saddam Hussein.
Second, the United States believes that we've done our part. We have taken care of 2,080 people who made commitments to us over the last five years, who stuck with us, who worked with us on the humanitarian programs, and we've taken care of them.
They are in Guam. They have been paroled into Guam, and they're eligible for asylum status to come into the United States. I believe that will happen for the great majority of them.
The other people who are in northern Iraq, who perhaps worked for European NGOs or other groups, we hope that their rights are respected. We hope that their needs are taken care of by the UNHCR. We hope other governments, European governments, will now respond to the needs of these people and perhaps undertake operations similar to the ones that we have conducted.
QUESTION: Nick, who invited -- whose idea was to meet with Barzani? I understand that the initiative was the U.S. initiative for the meeting.
MR. BURNS: The United States has said since the beginning of the crisis we wanted to get back into contact with him. We did receive a letter from him more than a week and a half ago, I believe, saying that he wanted to have contact with us; that he had heard our public statements; that he agreed that there should be contact, and that he sought contact. On that basis, we've proceeded to make contact with him.
QUESTION: Did Turkey set up the meeting, though?
MR. BURNS: This is being set up by the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, along these same lines, Ahmed Chalbi is one of the leaders of the INC, the Iraqi National Congress. He will be here in Washington in the next two days. And he was involved like you, since 1994, when the fighting began between Talabani's forces and Barzani's forces, in trying to mediate differences between these two leaders, and he knows them very well, and he failed.
First, are you planning to meet him? Second, what leads you to believe that this time your mediation effort will succeed at a time when Mr. Barzani won militarily. You may be right that he may not strike a strategic deal with Saddam, but nobody's striking strategic deals in that part of the world anyway. If you know, since -- the differences between these two groups are not ideological; they are over loot, to put it bluntly, over dividing the financial revenues from the trade between Turkey and northern Iraq.
But there are political -- one major political distinction between both of them is the historic inclination of Mr. Barzani to strike a deal with Baghdad. While Mr. Talabani, on the other hand, played around with the idea of striking an alliance with the Turks at one time and then with the Iranians later on.
Mr. Barzani is telling a lot of his friends that he still harbors misgivings about U.S. policy; that he still remembers how his father died a lonely man here in northern Virginia, when in 1975 the United States abandoned him.
The reason I'm giving you this historical background is again to raise the question, what leads you to believe today that Mr. Barzani will be more accommodating to your wishes?
MR. BURNS: First, I don't know much about the travel schedule of Mr. Chalbi, and I'll be glad to check into it. I don't know what meetings, if any, we'll have. Second, we can't be assured that as a result of this initial meeting between Ambassador Pelletreau and Mr. Barzani that all problems related to the situation will be resolved. In fact, I highly doubt that that will be the case. It is a good start.
It makes sense for the United States to be in touch with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani because we firmly believe that a continuation of fighting is not in the best interests of the Kurdish people. It will only strengthen the hand of Saddam Hussein and of Iran. We don't wish to see the position of either Iran or Iraq strengthened further in northern Iraq. That's what we have in mind here. We'd like to see the Kurdish groups take responsibility for the situation in northern Iraq and to agree, at least, to stop fighting, and, at a minimum, to provide for the humanitarian concerns of their own people who have suffered tremendously because of this fighting.
As for the historical background, I appreciate it -- it's very interesting. I would just say one thing. The United States has lived up to its commitments to the Kurds. There have been few countries in the world that have done more for the Kurds than the United States.
QUESTION: Let's just do a follow-up on the Middle East. Did you have enough time to check those Lebanese elections?
MR. BURNS: I sure did. On September 15, Lebanon completed a five-week cycle of elections in which all 128 members of the parliament were chosen. Although the final results are not yet in, the elections appear to have proceeded smoothly and without major security incidents. Despite significant flaws, we believe that these elections represent a step forward for Lebanon. A relatively smooth process with significantly increased voter participation over the elections in 1992 underscores, I think what is obvious to all of us, the great desire of the Lebanese people to put the war years behind them; to focus on rebuilding their nation economically and politically; and to advancing the cause of national reconciliation.
We're very pleased that these elections took place. As you know, the Secretary, I think, has developed a very good relationship -- both with President Harawi and Prime Minister Hariri. We certainly look forward to further contacts with them.
QUESTION: Are you planning to look into those allegations of irregularities and even fraud that occurred there?
MR. BURNS: That's a question, first and foremost, for the Lebanese authorities who conducted the elections; and, secondly, for the international monitors who are in place. Our Embassy in Beirut has been quite active in looking at these elections. I really said what we choose to say today. Perhaps we'll have something more to say in the future.
QUESTION: Are you disturbed by what appears to be a clear case of conflict of interest when you have the Minister of Interior, who supervised the elections, was also a candidate in those elections?
MR. BURNS: I just have no comment to make on that particular charge.
QUESTION: In the city of Hebron there was a riot and explosion and blood spilled yesterday. The Palestinians wanted to implement the agreement that was in the book -- also the agreement between the Israelis to open the market and now the Israelis held them back and stopped them from doing that. As a result, there was some blood spilled in Hebron. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any particular comment. I have seen the news reports on that incident. I'm sure that under the new agreement between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat, they have the Steering Group, of course, in place. That would be the forum, I would suspect, for a discussion of the problems in Halhoul and Hebron.
QUESTION: There were words between Egypt and Israel over the statement by Mr. Netanyahu about the Egyptians postponing the economic summit about who is going to cut whose nose -- the "nose formula." Now, it's coming up; big stories about "keep your nose out of our affairs; we'll keep our nose out of your affairs." Do you have any comment on this?
MR. BURNS: The United States is a good friend of both Israel and Egypt, so I'm not going to join this debate. Just to say that Ambassador Dennis Ross, as you know, is in the region this week. He'll be in both Egypt and Cairo and in Jerusalem for discussions with the Egyptian and Israeli leaderships.
Secretary of State Christopher, who has been probably the most active supporter of these Middle East economic conferences since they began in Casablanca and were continued in Amman -- Secretary Christopher believes that this economic conference in Cairo should be held. He's made that abundantly clear to all of his Arab partners, including Foreign Minister Moussa and President Mubarak.
I know that Ambassador Ross will be repeating that very strong view of the United States during his trip. He left last night. He's in the region this week, and he looks forward to discussions about this issue -- also about the wider issues between Israel and the Palestinians -- Israel and Syria, while he's on his trip.
He's going to pay particular attention to some of the issues of implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, including the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Group and the positive way that meeting ended.
He'll also, in addition to meeting with the Israeli and Egyptian leadership, be spending some time with the Palestinian leadership in Gaza as is his practice on these trips.
QUESTION: The caveat that the Egyptians laid this morning, in this statement coming from Mr. Moussa about holding its economic summit that the contingent, or linked to the advance and the progress and the implementation of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis, they are saying that probably it will be held on condition that there will be progress. How do you interpret this?
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that these economic regional conferences are in the interests of Israel and the Arab countries. We certainly don't want to put ourselves in the position -- we, internationally -- of trying to calibrate every meeting to the ups and downs in the peace process. The fact is, there will be ups and downs in the future. We all need to remain constant, and calm, and steady as we help Israel and the Palestinians and Syria and Lebanon work through the problems.
So we very much want this conference to go forward because it will help the Arab world as well as help Israel.
QUESTION: What are the world stops -- I'm sorry --
MR. BURNS: Dennis -- I don't have his exact itinerary, but he'll be visiting Cairo, Jerusalem, and Gaza.
MR. BURNS: He will not be visiting Damascus.
QUESTION: He will not be visiting in Damascus?
MR. BURNS: He's chosen to go to Cairo and Jerusalem and Gaza.
QUESTION: There were reports that --
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe -- no, I don't believe anything of the sort. Ambassador Ross decided, after consulting with Secretary Christopher a couple of times last week and yesterday afternoon that his trip ought to be focused on those three places. Because the issues that he wanted to discuss are in those three capitals.
QUESTION: After he met with the Syrian Ambassador here in town, the Syrian Ambassador said that, "I didn't hear from Mr. Ross anything that would lead us to invite him -- that would make it useful for him to go to Damascus because he has nothing really for us."
MR. BURNS: I think Ambassador Ross is going to have a very useful trip this week, in the three places that I mentioned -- there are a lot of issues to discuss.
QUESTION: I'm lost a little bit on whether Hebron is in his brief or not. You were asked about Hebron -- you said that's something for the Steering Committee. Yet, you also said, as far as the Palestinian-Israeli track is concerned, Ross is going to work on the issues. Well, Hebron is probably the most volatile and (inaudible) of the issues. Could you sort of follow what I'm saying --
MR. BURNS: I understand what you're asking -- I'm sure that that issue will come up. The United States, of course -- and Dennis Ross, in particular -- has been involved in a very, very detailed way in discussing a lot of these issues and providing mediation. I think I told you three weeks ago at the Redskins home opener, Dennis went; didn't see any of the four touchdowns because he was called out each time for discussions with Chairman Arafat and others in his delegation, and the Israeli leadership.
So I think when he goes this week, he'll be very much involved in discussing all these issues. But the point is, the only way to resolve a dispute like that is in the Steering Group that has already been established by the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority.
We can help on the margins; we can talk to both sides; we can sometimes get them together and talk through a problem. But the Israelis and Palestinians need to resolve this. That's been our strong belief as the best way to move forward on all these problems -- on Hebron and others.
QUESTION: I understand, but there is a formula -- there is an agreement. The agreement is fairly specific. When Netanyahu was here, he gave his view why they can't -- Israel can't act now. So it isn't like you're starting a new problem with new ideas. It's just not clear to me what the U.S. role is.
When Netanyahu was here, it struck me that the U.S. role was to leave it, basically, to the parties to work out. Are you going to come up with some maybe more acceptable formula, one that you think the Israelis might accept right now? How do you --
MR. BURNS: We can talk about concentric circles. Obviously, the most important way to resolve all these problems, in the Oslo agreements, is for the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down together in an established process and to do it. They started that last week with the meeting in Jericho.
But there is a second circle, of course, where, among other countries in the world, the United States is very active on a specific basis -- detailed basis, in trying to achieve resolution of these problems. But it's a little bit more informal than the formal process established by the Israelis and Palestinians -- they're not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they're mutually supportive.
QUESTION: Also, on Syria, what can we take out of -- what's the message that he's not going to Damascus? Again, Netanyahu was here. We understood -- he speaks very clearly -- he made it very plain what his position was. Dennis then had a briefing and said his task now will be somehow to try to bridge these two positions -- we're talking, of course, about the Golan Heights, essentially.
If he's not going to Syria, wouldn't the natural inference be that there's nothing very viable right now so far as a U.S. bridging proposal?
MR. BURNS: As you know, during Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit, there was considerable discussion with the President and Secretary Christopher about the Syria track. The United States has put forward its own ideas; has conveyed them both to Israel and to Syria. We'll have to see how those ideas are received -- we'll have to see what transpires. He decided not to go to Syria on this trip. He decided that his efforts could be better placed with Israel and the Palestinians and the Egyptians on this particular trip.
We have a very able Ambassador -- Chris Ross -- in Damascus who is engaged in discussions, obviously everyday, with the Syrians about all aspects of our relationship and the Middle East peace process.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the issue of Hebron. My understanding from the Palestinians is that there was an agreement in the Oslo thing that this thing of a market will be solved before the deployment of Israeli forces from Hebron. They have repeatedly requested that they would like to initiate the work and go back to the market to exchange and possibly sell their vegetables and fruit from (inaudible).
Now, it is violent and blood was spilled yesterday -- tension is high. Could the United States -- Mr. Ross, deal with this issue possibly before he will deal with the large picture of the deployment of forces from there?
MR. BURNS: The United States very much regrets this incident and hopes that the Israelis and Palestinians can find a way to resolve the obvious problem that exists. Ambassador Ross, I'm sure, will be discussing this among the many other issues he has on his agenda. It's really all I can say about this issue.
QUESTION: Is his first stop Cairo?
MR. BURNS: I believe it is. But, you know, I don't have his exact itinerary. I just didn't have a final phone conversation.
QUESTION: Has he landed any place yet?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure he has.
QUESTION: You don't know where he is?
MR. BURNS: We can check for you -- I'm sure I can get that for you.
Any remaining questions? Henry has been waiting and Betsy -- Henry first, and then Betsy.
QUESTION: Canada: Sir, on the 25th of September, there is a hearing scheduled before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere. It's purpose is to look into American preparedness in light of the constitutional crisis. In other words, what Americans should do should there be separation in that country.
That committee has invited a State Department representative to testify. Will such a State Department representative testify?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, the Department of State will be unable to provide a witness for those Congressional hearings. We simply don't have a person available due to the press of business; the very important business that we have to do here.
QUESTION: Is that also -- could that be read that you do not agree with the principles of the Congressional hearing that at this particular time American preparedness for eventualities in Canada is not necessary?
MR. BURNS: I think our position on this general issue is well known. Our position is that Canadian unity, as the President put it so well before the referendum last autumn, is very, very important. The unity of Canada is important.
Canada has been, I think, by any definition, the closest and best partner of the United States throughout our history -- our history would have been very different had we had a different neighbor on our border. The unity of Canada is important to the United States.
QUESTION: Does it follow, then, that this Department thinks those hearings are ill-advised?
MR. BURNS: I think I've answered your question the way I thought it was best to answer it, given the circumstances.
QUESTION: Another question, just on another Canadian issue. Yesterday, two ministers of the government talked about retaliatory action against the Helms-Burton bill should that bill ever be used -- and I'm speaking now about the Title IV portion. Apparently, legislation will be put forward this fall that will give Canadians who may or may not be sued by the American Government relief in their own courts -- or at least the Canadian courts wouldn't recognize any actions taken in these courts. Is there any comment on that action from Ottawa?
MR. BURNS: We have, I think, a difference of opinion on Helms-Burton. We hope that in implementing Helms-Burton, we can do so in such a way that minimize the concerns of the Canadian Government and minimize the friction between our two governments because there is much more that unites us than this particular issue.
QUESTION: A final question on that, sir. One of the ministers, while talking at a press conference, said something to the effect that this issue has really gone away -- that the President wants to put it behind him, it will never see the light of day in the United States. Is he accurate?
MR. BURNS: The President signed the bill -- the President intends to implement the bill. We hope to implement it in such a way that is conducive to continued good U.S.-Canadian relations. We have every confidence that our two countries will remain the strongest of partners in the months and years ahead.
Let me just go to Bosnia. Your question is on --
QUESTION: The Middle East, still. There were some market reports about U.S. diplomatic sources asking Saudi Arabia formally to increase production. Can you confirm those wire reports of yesterday?
MR. BURNS: I cannot, no. Last one on Bosnia?
QUESTION: Something on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on Bosnia is that the voting count continues. Ambassador Frowick was supposed to have given a press conference in Sarajevo. We'll have to see what he says about the voting -- who received the most votes, who didn't, and about the process. Our own view of the process is that it was a great step forward for peace in Bosnia. We congratulate the Bosnian people on what they did in going to the polls on Saturday.
QUESTION: What about New York -- Christopher is going to meet probably Izetbegovic?
MR. BURNS: I think Secretary Christopher will have many discussions on Bosnia next week. It's a very important issue now in how we go forward after the elections to try to implement the new institutions that will be the foundation of a new state.
QUESTION: Judge Goldstone has given an interview which appeared in the wires and you may not seen yet. He had some fairly scathing things to say about the allies and their failure to capture Karadzic and Mladic -- saying that this could underline the entire war crimes process and possibly lead to very serious consequences for that region. Do you have any response?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen his statement -- I've heard about it. I would just say that the United States remains committed to the goals of the Tribunal, which is to bring the indicted war criminals to justice in The Hague for prosecution. With all due respect, I think no country has done more than the United States to support the Tribunal and Justice Goldstone financially and politically.
QUESTION: About the UN Secretary General issue. During the Secretary's coming trip to Africa, will he raise this issue because it might be appropriate to the next Secretary General could be from an African country?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure it will come up -- I'm sure this issue will come up. We've already been involved in a lot of conversations with African countries and African leaders about who will be the next Secretary General. It will be a big item on the agenda next week in New York -- I'm sure it will come up in the trip to the five African countries.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
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