U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 96/10/04 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Office of the Spokesman I N D E X Friday, October 4, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome Visitor to the Briefing ............................. 1 Secretary's Trip to the Middle East ......................... 1-2 State Dept Investigation of Nazi Gold in Swiss Banks ........ 3 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary's Trip: Journalists Traveling/Schedule/Onward to Africa ..........2 Purpose of Trip/Meetings .................................4, 5 Readout of Secretary's Phone Call With PM Netanyahu ......8-9 President's Stmt Extending Duty-Free Products to Gaza ....2, 7-8, 12 and West Bank/Palestinian Commitments to US Goods/Volume of Trade Leon Panetta Visit to Israel Link to Secy Trip ..............4 Suggestion for "Madrid II" Conference/Accomplishments of ....5-6 Madrid Conference Issues for Talks at Erez/No Renegotiation of Oslo Issues/ ...9-10, US Participation at Erez/Other Issues, Including Tunnel 12-13 Assessment of PM Netanyahu's TV Address/Dividends of ........10-12 Washington Summit/Issue of Results/Trust ISRAEL: Loan Guarantee Program Rpt/Amount of Loan Guarantee ....6-7 Program for FY 1996 NAZI GOLD Study of Fair and Complete Distribution/Congressional ......3-4, 13-14 Interest/Possible Reopening Negotiations With Swiss AFRICA: Secretary's Visit/Upcoming Meetings in Mali, Ethiopia, .14-15 Tanzania, South Africa, Angola/Mtg with Jonas Savimbi AFGHANISTAN: US Envoy/US Contacts with Taliban/Rpts of .........15-16, Treatment of Women in Kabul/Taliban Outside Support 20-22 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA/SERBIA: Readout of Presidents Milosevic & ...16-17 Izetbegovic Meeting in Paris/Remaining Issues IRAN/LIBYA: EU Taking Helms-Burton Issue to WTO ................17 CUBA: Senator Helms Ltr to Secretary re Downing of Plane of ....18 Brothers to the Rescue KOREA/RUSSIA: Murder of South Korean Diplomat in Russia ........18-19 BURMA: Visa Retaliation Against US/Human Rights Violations .....19-20 Attacks on US Charge/New US Charge IRAQ: Report of Withdrawal of SAMs from North/Russian Help ........20 NICARAGUA: Winner of Upcoming Election/Daniel Ortega ...........22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1996, 1:11 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Just want Laura Logan to know I'm rooting for the Indians tonight.
MR. BURNS: Ever since Laura gave me the Cleveland Indians mug, they have become my second favorite team in the American League. Big game tonight. And my unscientific sample of diplomats in the State Department corridors here at Foggy Bottom is that we're totally with the umpires, too, on this one. Just wanted you all to know that.
QUESTION: Hey, Nick, (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Yes, yes, exactly. Let me welcome to the briefing Mr. Musthafa Helmy, an Indonesian journalist, visiting the United States through USIA's International Visitors' Program.
Let me also make a statement, just to get serious for a moment, about the Secretary of State's travel to the Middle East. As you know, the President announced this morning that Secretary of State Christopher will travel to the Middle East this weekend on his way to Africa to follow up on the Washington summit talks this week.
Secretary Christopher plans to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman Yasser Arafat on Sunday as the negotiations resume in Erez. These meetings will provide Secretary Christopher an opportunity to continue the discussions on the respective approaches to the negotiations and the best ways to produce results as quickly as possible.
As the President announced earlier this week, Ambassador Dennis Ross will work with and assist the two sides, Israel and the Palestinians, as they conduct these talks at Erez.
It is clear that the situation in the Middle East remains dangerous and requires an intensive and productive efforts. The President is committed to doing all that we can do to support Israel and the Palestinians and help them reach agreement on the difficult issues that divide them, so that they can move toward a future of peace and reconciliation.
I'll be very glad to take your questions on this in just a minute.
I also wanted to let you know that -- or draw your attention to the fact that we have a press corps going on the trip. If you'd like to join this trip, you're going to have to make your intentions known very quickly. I believe everyone has to be at Andrews Air Force Base by no later than 1:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. The Secretary is leaving Andrews mid-afternoon, tomorrow.
He expects to arrive in Jerusalem in the early morning hours. He expects to spend the day in Jerusalem. He'll be seeing Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat separately in Jerusalem and in Gaza. The Secretary will not be at the talks at Erez. Ambassador Ross will be at those talks. The Secretary plans to depart Jerusalem on Monday morning.
He will then proceed with his trip to Africa, sub-Saharan Africa -- to Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa and Angola. That trip concludes on Monday, October 14. He expects to return to the United States then.
So if you do have any desire to go at least on the first leg of this trip -- and we have very limited space available -- let one of us know after today's briefing.
I also wanted to draw your attention to a statement made by Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, yesterday, and that is a statement with the President advising you that the President signed legislation two days ago, which extends duty-free treatment of products imported from the West Bank and Gaza Strip into the United States. This is a particularly important initiative. It's one that's been long in the making. Over a decade of work has gone into this by the United States to give the Palestinian producers and manufacturers in the West Bank and Gaza duty-free treatment into the United States.
It's a treatment that Israel currently enjoys, and we hope that this does lead to further economic development and productivity, and we hope in the long run, prosperity for those Palestinian businesspeople who are working under very difficult conditions.
Finally, you'll find posted in the Press Office after this briefing a statement about an investigation into the Nazi gold issue -- Nazi gold in Swiss banks. Let me just give you a sense of it.
The State Department's Office of the Historian, led by our Chief Historian here, Dr. Bill Slany, will undertake a thorough and immediate study of the retrieval and disbursement of Nazi assets after the second World War. The State Department's review will focus on United States' diplomatic efforts in the post-war period, in the latter part of the 1940s, which includes our interaction at that time with the Swiss Government.
We hope that this review will provide a greater understanding of the role played by the United States and other countries on this issue at that time. This is an important matter and, therefore, will be addressed with the utmost urgency on the part of our Office of Historians.
However, a thorough examination by our historians will require several months, and we will make the conclusions of our study and our review public when that study is complete.
QUESTION: Could I ask a question about that issue?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: These documents presumably are already known to the U.S. Government. What new does he expect to find?
MR. BURNS: As you know, there has been a lot of tension given recently to the issue of whether or not Nazi assets were distributed fairly and completely in the latter part of the 1940s and the first part of the 1950s as Nazi assets were uncovered and retrieved and found in various places in Europe. That is a dispute and a controversy that has really been centered in Europe.
But in recent weeks, several members of Congress -- most notably Senator D'Amato from New York -- and the World Jewish Congress have requested the United States Government to undertake its own study about what the United States Government knew about the disposition of Nazi assets in the latter part of the 1940s; whether or not we had diplomatic contacts with the Swiss Government at the time -- the Swiss Government was the primary government involved in Europe -- and whether or not the United States contributed to a problem or did things that were correct, at least in our eyes, looking at this with some hindsight from the perspective of 50 years.
There have been enough calls and enough serious calls for a review of U.S. actions during the period that the Administration thought it was wise to undertake our own study so that we could assure ourselves of all the facts and make those facts public, because there is great public interest here in the United States.
QUESTION: On the Secretary's trip, could you give us a flavor of what he hopes to accomplish? Will he be carrying new ideas, or will this be in the form mostly of encouraging the parties to negotiate in good faith?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary is anxious to see Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. He thinks it's a good opportunity, taking advantage of the fact that he was already traveling -- had committed himself to eight days in Africa -- a good opportunity to review with them the basis for the Erez discussions that will start on Sunday; to discuss their own approach -- their respective approaches to the Erez negotiations; to communicate the very firm view of the United States that results are what matter; that we hope that these talks will be conducted with a great deal of urgency, with cooperation on both sides; and that we'll see results as soon as that is possible.
He felt it just made sense, given the fact that he was going to be in the general area, to fly early to Israel, spend a day there, visit Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu and have a good series of talks as these talks get underway.
As you know, he told you yesterday, and he said many times, that he will follow these talks with great interest. He will, I think, on a daily basis want to have update reports on what's going on in these talks as he travels through Africa. He is available, obviously, to make sure that he's involved in these talks at any time when that might be necessary, and this seemed as good a time as any at the start of these talks.
QUESTION: Is Leon Panetta's trip to Israel on Monday tied to these talks?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not familiar with the trip, and I think you'll just have to address that question to the White House. I'm not aware that it is. I'm not aware of any plans for a trip and, therefore, can't by extension link his trip to these Middle East talks.
QUESTION: Nick, Mr. Netanyahu last week (inaudible) negotiators about nine o'clock on Sunday morning. Does the Secretary plan to see him before that meeting or after?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we've worked out the hours, the final time of his meeting with the Prime Minister.
QUESTION: Does he have time, then, to go afterwards and then to Erez before -- touch in with Gaza before Mr. Arafat has to send his own negotiators off?
MR. BURNS: Ron, I just don't know about the sequence of events there. We're working out this schedule now through Ambassador Indyk and our Charge d'Affaires Ed Abington -- our Consul General, excuse me, Ed Abington in Jerusalem -- and we're just going to have to see how the schedule transpires.
QUESTION: Nick, this morning a group of Arab-Americans held a news conference, suggesting that it might be time to have a Madrid II conference in the sense that there's more than just a headache wrong with the peace process; that they've gone into a state of suspended animation, which needs resuscitation. Does the United States take any general view on whether it might be advisable to resume a full-scale Madrid II?
MR. BURNS: The United States does not believe it's necessary to convene a broad international conference of the type that you suggest or that people that you report about, Jim, suggest -- a Madrid II conference -- not at all necessary. The fact is that Madrid in October 1991 set out the parameters for these talks, and let's remember what we've accomplished since then.
There have been two agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and one of those, of course, needs to be completed -- the Interim Accords -- and we're confident that they will be at Erez. There's been a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan since then; negotiations at least begun, however fitful and problematic they are, between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon. Quite a lot has been accomplished. We're on the right track, and we can't allow the events of last week, no matter how horrible they were, to allow us to go off track.
We've got to stay focused on the negotiations that have already been agreed to in Erez. If those negotiations succeed, and the United States believes that they will succeed, then the Oslo Accords will have been fulfilled. They will be fully implemented. The Palestinians will have authority in Hebron as well as in other areas, and that will be a very positive step forward. Israel will have security, and Israel and the Palestinians will continue to work together beyond that.
So there's a lot to be gained from sticking on the present course, and there's already been a lot that's been accomplished.
QUESTION: Also on the Middle East, about six weeks ago I began asking, and still haven't gotten any response on, to what extent the U.S. credit guarantees for Israel have been subtracted from because of money spent by Israel on settlements or settlement-related activities?
MR. BURNS: I believe you're referring to loan guarantees by --
QUESTION: That's right. And I'm told now that the information has been given out in Israel, but it hasn't been given out here for some reason.
MR. BURNS: I don't know why the information hasn't been given out here. As you know, under the legislation, which authorized the extension of American loan guarantees to the State of Israel on a multi-year basis -- and I believe that legislation expires next year, if I'm not mistaken -- the Administration has to report to the Congress by September 30th of each year -- September 30th being the last day in our own fiscal year here in the Government -- and we did so.
On September 30th, just a couple of days ago, the Administration reported to Congress that, of course, on the contents of our loan guarantee program of this year, we subtracted $60 million -- six zero -- from the total loan guarantee amount to Israel under the course of the legislation as we are required to do, because the legislation stipulates that we must subtract a corresponding amount equal to an estimate of the amount of funds spent by Israel for purposes other than the purposes of the legislation.
So that was the figure this year, which I believe is lower than in past years, and that report was given to the Congress on September 30. It ought to be a public report, because our reports to Congress are ordinarily made public, and I'm sure we can get that for you.
QUESTION: Do you know the amount of the total loan guarantee for that year?
MR. BURNS: I can't recall it off the top of my head, but we can certainly get you that figure; in fact, I think shortly after the briefing from our Near East Bureau.
QUESTION: Just for purposes of the process, could you find out what happened to this request, why it is like dropping a penny down a well? You hear a --
MR. BURNS: Which request is that, Jim?
QUESTION: My request is why didn't we get a response to this answer -- to this question which I've been asking for six weeks?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. I apologize if you didn't get a response to it. I just didn't recall that you had asked it six weeks ago, but --
QUESTION: I've asked it numerous times.
MR. BURNS: These are public documents, and so they should be available to the American press corps as well as the general public.
QUESTION: On that process, could you look into it and see why these answers don't come back?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to do that. We'll direct your question to our Near East Bureau, and I'm sure the Near East Bureau right after the briefing can give you the relevant information that you require -- the total sum of our loan guarantees for fiscal year 1996 -- and it will confirm the figure of $60 -- six zero -- million that was deducted by the United States Government this year.
QUESTION: Nick, on the President's legislation he signed, concerning duty-free treatment of Palestinian goods, does this change the situation, or does this simply codify the situation? Were they getting duty-free treatment before or not?
MR. BURNS: They had not received that for a long time. It expands the duty-free treatment of products imported from the West Bank and Gaza. It reflects an issue that we have been working on for a long time. In fact, this was part of the Declaration of Principles signed on the White House lawn in September 1993. It provides the kind of tangible support for economic reform and economic growth that we have been interested in.
It grants them special trade status identical to those accorded to Israel under the Israel-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. This we hope will, as I said, provide new employment opportunities and lead to expanded foreign investment.
The Palestinians have agreed, in turn, to grant duty-free access on U.S. imports into the West Bank and Gaza Strip and national treatment within the territories. This will be helpful, of course, to U.S. manufacturers and exporters who wish to export products to the people who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Of coursed, that's well over 1.6 million people.
QUESTION: Nick, as long as we're on that subject, can you tell us anything about a call between the Prime Minister and Secretary Christopher today?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I'm sorry. I was remiss in not mentioning that to you. I meant to do that. Prime Minister Netanyahu called Secretary Christopher this morning. They discussed the Secretary's trip to Jerusalem -- his one-day trip on Sunday -- the fact that the two of them will be meeting.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Secretary that Israel had taken steps today to ease the internal closure on two Palestinian cities -- Bethlehem, which is just south of Jerusalem; and Jenin, which is the northern most major town in the West Bank, north of Nablus.
He also reported to the Secretary what we had seen on CNN, and that is, he gave a public address to the Palestinian population through Israel- TV's Arabic service yesterday. The Prime Minister also said that he hoped the Erez talks would be productive and successful.
The Secretary, of course, discussed our own approach to these talks. As you know, the United States hopes that we'll have positive results and very quick results from these talks.
Still on Israel?
QUESTION: Can I follow that?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask, or did the Prime Minister say why he took that step now as opposed to two or three days ago?
MR. BURNS: Which step is that, Charlie?
QUESTION: The easing of the internal closures?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that he did. He just simply informed the Secretary of what was announced publicly this morning in Israel, that there had been some easing of the internal closure. We'll just have to see the extent of the easing by the Israeli military forces in Bethlehem and Jenin and what it means and how effective it is.
QUESTION: Can you talk at all about what the content of the talks at Erez will deal with, what subjects they will deal with and what is the structure of these talks?
MR. BURNS: The talks at Erez are meant to deal squarely and solely with the implementation of the interim accords, the Oslo Accords, so that they can be completed and fulfilled. That means that all the major issues that remain to be agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinians will be discussed and we hope resolved.
Foremost among them is the Hebron, the redeployment of the Israel Defense Forces from Hebron. That's a very complex and very difficult issue. As you know, it was one of the major issues discussed here in Washington over the two days of the summit this week.
All of the other issues that flow from the interim accords will be on the table -- those that have not been resolved.
I want to be very clear. They will be discussing at Erez the implementation of the Oslo Accords, the interim agreement. There's no question here of renegotiating the interim accords. In fact, the Prime Minister assured President Clinton, and President Clinton reported to you at the press conference the other day, twice, that there will be no renegotiation of the Oslo Accords. It's a very important point for all the parties which will be negotiating at Erez.
The United States will be at the table in the person of Ambassador Dennis Ross to assist Israel and the Palestinians. We will be an active intermediary, as we always are. When Ambassador Ross is not physically present -- I don't expect he'll be there everyday during these talks -- another member of the United States delegation will be there. So there will be a continuous United States presence from Day One to the very last day at these talks.
The value of these talks, and what sets them apart from previous discussions, in the course of the current government of Israel, is that they will be continuous. They will not be episodic. You will not see the negotiators meet and then go away for three weeks. Continuous talks so that this issue can be finally decided, and the interim accords will be fulfilled and complete.
QUESTION: That means that the tunnel will not necessarily -- will not be on the table?
MR. BURNS: Only the issues that are relevant and pertinent to the interim accords will be the subject of negotiations at Erez. Obviously, there are other issues of concern to both the Palestinians and Israelis that can be brought up, and I'm sure will be brought up, at any point in their own bilateral discussions.
The United States certainly is not in a position to censor any party and raising issues at anytime in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship which occurs, of course, in a multifaceted basis. There are Israeli- Palestinian contacts by phone, there are meetings in Jericho and in Israel and in Gaza. But these talks are meant to be specifically concerned with the interim accords.
QUESTION: Just to clarify that, you're stating then that the other facets of this dialogue, or where the tunnel will come up, not at Erez?
MR. BURNS: I would expect that to be the case. I think the agreement between them is that the Erez Accords deal with the interim accords -- the Erez talks deal with the interim accords.
QUESTION: Trust and the creditability of the Israeli Government and Mr. Netanyahu has been the main issue for the Palestinians. Did this television broadcast successfully address to the Palestinian people that the Israeli Government was serious and intent on coming to an accord? Or does this continue to be the main problem?
MR. BURNS: I think it's probably too early to assess the success of the address yesterday by the Prime Minister. It was certainly a good step forward because the message that the Prime Minister gave to the Palestinian people, as we understood it, was one of extending a hand and saying that Israel was serious about peace and the Palestinians would have a partner in Israel.
I think you're right to focus on the issue of trust. One of the main casualties of the violence last week was trust between the leaderships, between Israel and the Palestinians. That trust had eroded. There cannot be effective negotiations between parties when there is no trust and creditability.
So one of the dividends, we hope, of the Washington summit was that in their face-to-face meetings, over four or five hours of them, they're able to build up a little bit of trust between them so that they can proceed in these negotiations. In fact, we hope that's what led to the decision to proceed with the negotiations at Erez; and, in fact, to expedite them.
But there has to be trust continuing through these negotiations in order for them to be successful. Each of these parties -- Israel and the Palestinians -- must see the other as a partner, a partner whose needs need to be understood and, in some cases, sometimes the needs need to be met halfway.
That gets to the issue of results. There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of months about the negotiations and about the issues. Now the negotiators -- Israeli and Palestinian -- need to get down to brass tacks. They need to accomplish something; they need to produce something. These need to be productive results, oriented discussions. They cannot be interminable, rhetorical exchanges. They need to be productive, practical, cooperative.
Both sides need to see the other as partners in a peace negotiation that will confirm a peace for everyone -- the Israelis and Palestinians -- and that will allow them to move beyond the interim accords to consolidate that peace in the future. That's a very important principle that our leadership -- the American leadership -- spent a lot of time discussing during the Washington talks.
QUESTION: You say a "little bit of trust" was established during the talks here in Washington. Does Israel need to take the initiative or take the greater burden now to reach out to the Palestinians to establish that they are sincere?
MR. BURNS: Both Israel and the Palestinians share a responsibility to make the talks successful and to make their relationship successful. It was certainly positive that the Prime Minister made an effort yesterday to extend a hand to the Palestinians. Because, as you know, there has been a great deal of frustration in the Palestinian community about the events of the last several weeks and several months. You saw that frustration expressed last week.
The United States believes very strongly that however frustrated the Palestinians might be, the answer is not violence. Their salvation will not be in violence. That's why the United States is so strongly opposed to the call yesterday by Hamas for, in essence, violent confrontation on the streets of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with the Israeli security forces. That's not the answer. That will only lead to more death and more destruction.
The only answer is the negotiating table. Fortunately, that's where they're headed on Sunday.
QUESTION: Going back to the trade benefits. Do you have an estimate of how much this trade is worth and what products are the territories currently exporting to the United States?
MR. BURNS: I don't have an estimate of the total volume of trade that took place last year, which would be a good barometer for you, or of the potential economic effect and a dollar amount of this step.
I can only tell you that the Palestinians have a growingly diversified economy. It traditionally has been an agricultural economy in fruits and vegetables and olives, but it's now being increasingly diversified.
The Palestinians are a highly educated population. There are software and hardware manufacturers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There's a growing service industry in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and there is a growing symbiosis and mutual advantage between the Palestinian and Israeli economy. So we want to be able to trade with the Palestinians. We want U.S. exporters to have access to their markets. We want to them to have fair access to our markets.
This has been a big issue for a decade because of the difficulties that the Palestinians had developing their economy through the Israeli military occupation of the 1970s and '80s and into the '90s. So we're very glad now to have equal treatment for their products.
QUESTION: Any figure for the last year?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the figures. We can probably get them. In fact, I'm going to ask the Near East Bureau, in addition to answering Jim's question, to try to answer your question.
QUESTION: About the leading (inaudible) from Hebron, is Mr. Netanyahu demanding any kind of modification in the interim accord, or the matter is only about the procedure or the implementation?
MR. BURNS: The United States is very clear that neither party is asking for a renegotiation of the accords. But the accords obviously need to be implemented.
In going through the negotiations on the implementation, I know that both sides are bringing several questions to the table. They have to identify the areas of concern to them. We cannot do that for them, but we will be at the table to facilitate the talks.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Christopher preparing some complete proposal to break the deadlock?
MR. BURNS: Since the meetings here ended on Wednesday afternoon, we've been discussing some of the substantive issues with the Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, we always contribute our own ideas when that's helpful. I think we now have agreed on a fairly good agenda for the talks on Sunday.
QUESTION: Can I get back to the Nazi assets?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: This review, does it mean that the United States might consider at some point reopening negotiations with the Swiss on these agreements -- the 1946 agreement?
MR. BURNS: I think it's just too early to tell. But there are certainly enough questions that are unanswered about the role of the United States, the role of the Swiss Government, the role of our interaction with the Swiss, that we felt it was important to go back into our archives -- and this is the job of our Office of Historians -- to trace the role of the United States and the actions of the United States and what we understood to be the facts back in the 1940s about this very emotional issue.
We understand that among -- particularly in the Jewish community in the United States and in Western Europe -- there are a lot of questions that need to be answered about assets and gold and other financial assets that were stolen from them by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
If we can serve to illuminate this issue for them, answer some of the questions that need to be answered, based on work in our own archives, we want to do that.
The Historians, of course, have a regular commitment and responsibility to document American foreign policy. Right now, they're documenting the foreign policy of the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. They work back in the archives, but they certainly will now make this highly urgent and priority matter.
It takes several of our Historians -- to put them onto this project -- and as I said, to do a thorough and complete job, we'll probably need a couple of months -- two to three months. We'll make this survey public when it is completed.
QUESTION: The Secretary is going to Arusha, I think. Can you explain the purpose of that? I think there's the War Crimes Tribunal there, and there will be some meetings. Can you go into that?
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you asked because the Secretary is just about to embark on a five-nation tour of Africa. He's very pleased to be visiting Africa. It confirms the great interest that the United States has given to Africa and the great involvement we've had there over the last four years.
In Mali, he'll be talking to the government there about the recent, very positive steps the government has taken to build a democratic base to Malian society. The Secretary is looking forward to his visit to Bamako.
In Addis Ababa, he'll be having discussions with the Ethiopian Government and the Organization of African Unity, about a variety of both Ethiopian issues but also Pan African issues and international issues.
In Arusha, he'll be meeting with the Tanzanian Government; also with the former Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere, on both our bilateral relationship but also to discuss with the Tanzanians -- because the Tanzanians have played a leadership role here -- many of the problems in central Africa, including Burundi and Rwanda, including the issue of the War Crimes Tribunal, stability in Burundi, the recent change in the government in Burundi, efforts that we all can make to try to provide stability in an area that has seen genocide just in the last two years.
In South Africa, the Secretary will be meeting with President Mandela and the Deputy President, Mr. Mbeki, with Foreign Minister Nzo, and with other leaders, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, to talk about the great and positive changes that have taken place in South Africa and the very important relationship that we've had. We've had a binational commission that Vice President Gore and Deputy President Mbeki have run to great effect and to the benefit of both countries.
In Angola, he'll be meeting with President dos Santos and, we hope, with Jonas Savimbi about the efforts to pursue national reconciliation in Angola. That's a very important question and a very difficult one.
The Secretary is looking forward to that discussion. We're all looking forward to meeting with our very able Ambassador there, Ambassador Don Steinberg.
The Secretary, I think, is due home on the evening of October 14 -- Monday evening, October 14. So it's a very full trip. It's an important trip.
There are other international issues I'm sure will be discussed during the trip to Africa.
QUESTION: Are you holding (inaudible) that Jonas Savimbi will actually go to Luanda to see the Secretary? I thought he said no?
MR. BURNS: We were disappointed. I think there was an important meeting that took place in Luanda a couple of days ago, and Mr. Savimbi did not attend that meeting. We were disappointed, and we would hope that he would attend international meetings and national meetings that can promote the process of national reconciliation there.
Judd was next.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. envoy in Kabul yet?
MR. BURNS: No. The U.S. diplomat who is to travel to Kabul has not initiated the trip. I don't have a date for the trip. It will happen, but that trip has not yet begun.
I think you know that we have had regular contacts over the last two years with the major Afghan factions, including with the Taliban. We intend to continue those contacts, not just with the Taliban but with all the other major factions.
The United States has been scrupulously neutral in the Afghan conflict. We've maintained contacts with all of the various factions.
During our meetings with all of them, we've expressed our views that they should stop the fighting and that they should work together for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and for a broadly representative government that reflects the basic human rights of all Afghan, including the treatment of women in Afghanistan.
We've also urged all outside powers to avoid assisting any particular group here. The Afghan war has gone on long enough. We think that all of us should encourage national reconciliation and not encourage continued fighting.
QUESTION: I assume you've seen increasing press reports about the treatment of women in Kabul by Taliban? Do you continue to be disturbed, I assume?
MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports about the treatment of women in the capital -- in Kabul -- and we have been concerned about the treatment of women in Afghanistan. We've expressed that to the Taliban but also to the other major Afghan factions.
Let me just say a word, if I could, before we break up about a very important meeting that took place yesterday in Paris. I think the French Government -- particularly President Chirac and Foreign Minister de Charette -- should be congratulated for having taken the initiative to invite President Milosevic and President Izetbegovic to Paris. It was a historic meeting in Paris yesterday.
We understand from the French and from the participants that it was a very productive meeting. They agreed -- Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina -- to establish diplomatic relations. They agreed that they would continue to support the Dayton peace accords; that they would ensure that no juridical or political actions impede the development of good relations between Serbia and Bosnia; that both of them accept the continuity of both states. Serbia accepts the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice-versa; that both would facilitate freedom of movement and the re-establishment of trade ties, the re-establishment of transport ties between the two countries.
We believe that this meeting in Paris yesterday represents a significant step forward towards stability in the Balkans. Again, I think the French Government deserves credit for having managed this meeting very successfully, for having taken the initiative to call it.
As you know, the French will be convening a meeting in Paris the first part of November -- an international meeting -- to think through what all of us need to do to further stability in the Balkans. Of course, the United States will be represented at a very high level in that meeting.
QUESTION: Nick, a follow-up?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: As you said, I think the Bosnian Government is recognizing Yugoslavia as the continuity of the old Yugoslavia. At least, that's how I saw it rendered.
MR. BURNS: You mean recognizing Serbia, you mean to say?
QUESTION: In other words, agreed that it would recognize Yugoslavia; not Serbia, necessarily. Because Serbia doesn't see itself as the international representative. It's Serbia and Montenegro as Yugoslavia. Bosnia, apparently, has agreed to that.
MR. BURNS: I am not aware that Bosnia --
QUESTION: Well, you said that -- because you said "continuity."
MR. BURNS: Yes, but continuity of Serbia and of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was very specific when I said that. That's our understanding, and, as you know, the United States believes that there are a variety of issues stemming from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia that remain to be settled.
In fact, that is one of the many reasons why we continue to impose the outer wall of sanctions on Serbia itself, because many of those succession issues have not yet been decided.
QUESTION: Also in Paris today, President Chirac has charged again the United States for the Helms-Burton Law and for all the other laws against Libya and Iran, and the European Union two days ago decided to follow with the suit against the United States in International Court. Do you have anything on this? And Canada has --
MR. BURNS: As I said before, the United States is displeased with the fact that the European Union is taking this issue to the WTO. We don't believe it's warranted. The President has appointed Ambassador Eizenstat -- Under Secretary Eizenstat to carry on a diplomatic contact with the Europeans on this, which he has been doing. We think this issue should be discussed privately between us and the European countries and the EU and not taken to the WTO at this time.
So we are in disagreement here, but it's a longstanding disagreement, and I'm sure we'll continue to disagree on this. The key thing will be to maintain the very good healthy relations that we have with all the European countries, putting this issue to the side, knowing that we're not going to be able to agree on it.
QUESTION: And also, Senator Helms wrote a letter to Secretary Christopher about the downing of the planes, saying that the United States could have prevented the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes. Has Secretary Christopher answered this letter? Does he plan to?
MR. BURNS: I am aware that a letter has been sent. I've not seen the letter myself. Anytime Chairman Helms sends a letter to the Secretary, of course the Secretary will answer it expeditiously. In this particular case, as you know, the aggressor on February 24 was the Cuban military and the Cuban Government. The victims were four private Americans in two Cessnas, unarmed Cessnas.
The United States Government did everything appropriately that day to protest this incident to the Cuban Government. I think if you look at the report of the International Civil Aviation Commission out of Montreal on this incident, it clearly places blame for this incident on the Cuban Government.
This incident took place in international space, not in Cuban airspace, as the Cubans allege. The Cubans were wrong about that. They lied about it. So I think that Senator Helms would be -- I think it would be prudent for Senator Helms and others who have been critical of the United States really to point their anger at the Cuban Government and not at the United States Government.
QUESTION: I have a question concerning the murder case of South Korean diplomat in the Far East part of Russia. There was some authorities questions to the North Koreans with regard to this matter. After the fact that North Korea mentioned the retaliation with regard to the submarine accident -- submarine incident, does the United States have anything to say about this matter?
MR. BURNS: The United States was shocked to hear of the murder of the South Korean diplomat. We've extended our condolences to the South Korean Government and to the diplomat's family. We understand that the Russian Government is pursuing a very vigorous investigation; that the Russian Government is doing everything necessary to pursue the murderers.
I think we'll have to leave it up to the Russian Government and its judicial arm to answer the question that you've just asked. We're not in a position to ascertain guilt here, but the Russian Government will pursue this issue in cooperation with the South Korean Government.
QUESTION: So the U.S. doesn't see this as a possible assassination attempt or a retaliation --
MR. BURNS: It would not be helpful for us to speculate, but we're not in a position to speculate. We're not conducting the investigation in Vladivostok.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: George, we have a couple of others behind you.
QUESTION: Do you have any response yet to Burma's counter move to restrict travel by U.S. citizens, and is this leading to some kind of greater breakdown in relations?
MR. BURNS: We did note here that the Burmese Government sought to retaliate against the United States today by putting into effect the sanctions that are comparable to our own on access to visas by United States Government officials and their immediate families. This is really ludicrous.
The Burmese Government is the one that has been a major and consistent violator of the human rights of its own people. It shut down the democratic elections that took place several years ago. It has arrested several hundred members of the National League of Democracy.
It has prevented Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers and her associates from convening peaceful meetings in Rangoon simply to express their beliefs about the situation in Burma. There's no question who the violator of human rights is here. This is a desperate attempt by the military dictators in Burma to try to do something to divert the attention of their own people from the real problem which exists in the Burmese Government.
I can assure you that it's not going to matter one bit to any of us in Washington, D.C., who make policy or implement it or talk about it, that we can't travel to Rangoon at this time, because we are able to maintain an American Embassy there. Marilyn Meyers, our very fine Charge d'Affaires, has departed Rangoon. On her heels were these outrageous attacks by the Burmese Government on her and on her behavior, which we have repudiated.
Kent Wiedemann, who's a very senior American diplomat, specialist in East Asia, will be taking up his duties as the American Charge d'Affaires in about 10 days' time. We expect that Mr. Wiedemann will be well treated, and that he will not be subjected to these scurrilous attacks.
It would almost be comical if it wasn't so serious. These people have made fools of themselves by the allegations that they've hurled against the United States -- the military dictators. In taking these steps today, they're not going to affect the opinion of the United States by one bit.
QUESTION: A compound question on Iraq drawn from Bill Gertz's article today. It's reported that SAMs are being withdrawn from the north by the Iraqis. Good news. Apparently the Russians interceded and some other governments interceded to have this happen. But it's also reported that the PDK -- the KDP, excuse me, Nick -- is receiving military help, military equipment, and there's heavy fighting with the PUK in the north. Can you confirm either/or?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm the article. You refer to a Washington Times' article, I believe. I can't confirm that, no. You'll have to ask the Pentagon. But, as you know, our general assessment is that Saddam Hussein has backed down; that things are relatively back to normal, as normal as they can be, in that part of the world; but the United States, given Saddam's history of provocative and reckless behavior, remains vigilant, and we're watching him. We're watching what he's doing with his military hardware on the ground, and we're enforcing the "no-flight" zones and enforcing them very vigorously.
QUESTION: Were the Russians helpful in getting the Iraqis to pull back these SAMs?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it is possible to discern the behavior of Saddam Hussein and to try to link it to actions of anybody else. So I just will leave it at that. I think we're in contact with the Russian Government on this. As you know, we had a disagreement with the Russian Government about the U.S. military action there.
QUESTION: Nick, just again on Afghanistan, you said you called on other countries not to be involved in pushing one party to the conflict against another. It's obvious that the success of the Taliban has partially come from the support from Pakistan; probably the Saudis are giving some support.
Earlier, of course, this was done with the okay of the United States, which was deeply involved in supporting some of these fundamentalist groups under a very mistaken policy of creating an arc of crisis in the area.
MR. BURNS: That was a long time ago.
QUESTION: That was quite awhile ago.
MR. BURNS: That was back in the 1970s.
QUESTION: My question --
MR. BURNS: I was in school, so I can't take the responsibility for that.
QUESTION: I know. And this, of course --
MR. BURNS: The Red Sox had just lost another playoff game, October 3, 1978.
QUESTION: I'm not saying you were responsible --
MR. BURNS: And we wear black every October 3, 1978. That was Bucky Dent's windblown homerun to the Mets of Fenway.
QUESTION: What I'm asking --
MR. BURNS: We also wear black on October 26, which is the date of the sixth game of the World Series when the Mets by a miracle beat the Red Sox.
QUESTION: I'm not placing blame on you --
MR. BURNS: So October is a bad month. I mean, Ron understands this and George does, too. When you bring up October '78/'79, very bad connotations. Not just because of the arc of crisis.
QUESTION: My question, Nick, is because of the concern --
MR. BURNS: It's on the record. I'm on the record here.
QUESTION: Because of the concern, Nick, of what that situation led to in terms of the drugs, the fundamentalism --
MR. BURNS: I'll be serious.
QUESTION: -- the creation of the Mujahidin. Have we made an effort to make sure that these networks, which were operating at the time, have not become the logistical basis for the support that's going into the Taliban today, privatized or in some other form?
MR. BURNS: I understand why you're asking the question. I can only say that the United States has maintained neutrality for a very long time. I won't take you all the way back to the arc of crisis in the late 1970s. But certainly in the life of this Administration, we have maintained neutrality in Afghanistan.
The United States does not favor any particular faction, and our very strong advice to the neighbors surrounding Afghanistan is that none of them interfere and to promote further fighting and further violence in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. Excuse me, David has one more question.
QUESTION: Does the United States believe that Daniel Ortega has become a good democrat, and does the United States feel that whoever wins the Nicaraguan election will be just fine?
MR. BURNS: Is this a trick question, David? (Laughter) I'm just searching my mind. Actually, I would not use the word "democrat." I would not use the word "democrat" to describe Daniel Ortega.
QUESTION: What would you --
MR. BURNS: He's a Nicaraguan -- (laughter) -- with a past, and we're all very familiar with the past; and considering his actions against the United States in the past, I think we need to remember that. I think we do believe in redemption -- (laughter) -- in some parts of the world.
We do hope the Nicaraguan people find peace and stability, and we hope that certainly all the good things that have happened in Nicaragua in the past several years continue. But we do remember the past as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:58 p.m.)
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