U.S. Department of State 96/10/16 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, October 16, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Assistant Secretary Claussen's Travel to China, Japan and Korea/Discussion of Environmental Issues ............... 1 NORTH KOREA N. Korean Missile Program/Missile Tests/Framework Agreement . 2-7 Status of U.S.-North Korean Missile Talks ................... 7 Status of Amcit Arrested on Espionage Charges ............... 7-8 CHINA Assistant Secretary Lord's Travel/Discussions ............... 8,10 Arrival in U.S. of Chinese Dissident Wang Xizhe ............. 8-10 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli-Palestinian Talks/Dennis Ross Meetings .............. 10-12 IRAQ Update on Kurdish Factions Fighting/Meetings in Washington .. 12-21 SAUDI ARABIA Status of Dhahran Bombing Investigation ..................... 20 LEBANON Visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri ..................... 21-24 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Commitment of the Parties to the Dayton Agreement ........... 25-26
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #166 WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1996, 12:56 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. This is going to be a positive briefing today, and I was just presented with a gift from our senior correspondent, Mr. Barry Schweid. It's a magazine on France. I'm going to read it with great interest, because I'm a Francophile. I like the French, and I think France is a great country. I think we should start these briefings positively.
Let me just make one announcement, and then we'll go to questions. The announcement is that our Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, the Environment and Scientific Affairs Eileen Claussen will be conducting a round of bilateral discussions with some key policy-makers in China and Japan and Korea from October 18 to November 4.
These three countries play a key role in the environment, both in Asia but also globally. Assistant Secretary Claussen's meetings will focus on multilateral environmental issues such as climate change, sustainable management of forests, toxic chemical negotiations, international fisheries issues and endangered species conservation.
These visits will further the objectives of the Secretary's global and environmental initiatives to better integrate environmental concerns in all aspects of the United States foreign policy.
As you know, the Secretary, from his Stanford speech on, has made the environment a particular concern of this Administration and a real priority, including during his trip to Africa last week. I just wanted to note this trip for you, because the environment is front and center in our foreign policy.
Q Nick, North Korea. Any new word on their intentions so far as that nuclear agreement? Any word on a new North Korean missile perhaps?
MR. BURNS: I think our position on North --
Q I mean, have they responded to your admonition, your qualms, whatever, and actually really Win Lord's remarks? Is that agreement in safe hands, do you think?
MR. BURNS: Our position on North Korea's missile program, Barry -- if that's what you're asking about, and I think it is -- is well-known. We believe that the missile program is a threat to surrounding countries, and exports of North Korean missiles in the region and beyond the region can contribute to instability in many parts of the world.
We want to see North Korea cooperate in the ongoing international efforts to limit missile proliferation, and that point of view has been made very clear to the North Korean authorities on many occasions in our meetings with them in New York and in other places.
Q And have they made clear or clearer their intentions so far as the nuclear freeze agreement?
MR. BURNS: I think it's very clear to us that the Agreed Framework is in place. It is being implemented. There has been no change that we've seen in North Korea's nuclear program. It's frozen.
Q So there's no need for some sort of a pause that Mr. Lord was quoted as saying the other day?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Lord was not referring to a pause or a division in the program. He said the other day in his press conference there might be a delay in delivering some of the assistance from KEDO --
Q Well, that's quo for the quid, I mean.
MR. BURNS: -- but we all understand that the nuclear programs of North Korea will remain frozen. Therefore, the Agreed Framework is in place.
Q But will the reactors' delivery -- will energy supplies be delayed for any reason? For the submarine reason? For any reason?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Lord spoke to this the other day. I can't really improve on his comments, but the important thing for the United States is that the program remains frozen. That is our vital national security interest in North Korea.
Q But do you have evidence that North Korea is preparing a long-range missile test?
MR. BURNS: I couldn't possibly comment on that, but I did give you our analysis of this issue in general and our concerns about it and the fact that we've talked to the North Koreans about it.
Q Is that squared with the Japanese by chance?
MR. BURNS: Is what squared with the Japanese?
Q I think the report that Jim's alluding to came from the Japanese broadcasting network.
MR. BURNS: Is what squared with the Japanese, Barry?
Q Your concerns about North Korea's missile program -- that they're ready to test the new missile?
MR. BURNS: We talk to Japan and the Republic of Korea, South Korea, about all aspects of our policy on North Korea and discussions with North Korea. They're very well aware of our concerns, and I think they share the concerns.
Q Nick, can I follow up? I came here late, I'm sorry. So you cannot confirm the report that North Korea is preparing the missile launch test?
MR. BURNS: No. I just don't want to comment on those, but the beginning question was about our policy on North Korea's missile exports, and I gave, I think, our well-known policy.
Q Can you confirm that there is an Iranian team currently in North Korea which possibly is to witness the test or the facilities?
MR. BURNS: I cannot. No, I cannot.
Q When you say you can't, should we -- I mean, we don't to guess. Why can't you? Do we not know, or is it a security issue?
MR. BURNS: On the second question, I haven't heard about an Iranian presence in North Korea. On the first question, I choose not to. "Cannot" means I choose not to.
Q Yeah, but isn't the U.S. keeping a close eye on North Korea's activities?
MR. BURNS: Yes, absolutely. We're keeping a very close eye on what happens in North Korea. We have a variety of sources of information -- a variety of means to do that -- but we don't discuss those means in public.
Q Well, no, I wasn't asking about the means. I don't want to prolong this unnecessarily. Your inhibitions about commenting on what China might be up to in the world is a little more understandable, because you are very carefully trying to cultivate a good relationship with China despite all the bumps in the road.
North Korea, you -- I mean, the State Department doesn't hesitate to blast North Korea for untoward behavior, and I just wondered why a possible missile test is beyond the sphere of public discussion.
MR. BURNS: (Inaudible) on being too elliptical and forgive me --
Q Okay. No, it may be my fault.
MR. BURNS: But basically, as I read the news accounts this morning and the wire reports, they were based on alleged intelligence sources; and it's part of our gospel here that we don't answer questions based on intelligence sources or alleged intelligence sources.
So what I don't want to do is respond to some of the specific newspaper articles, because then I'd be responding to a line of questioning I don't want to undertake. But I can tell you what we think about this issue in general. I've said to Barry what I think, and that is well-known, long-standing U.S. policy.
Q But sometimes the indications are not intelligence alone. There's warnings to mariners, for example, or in the case of China in the Taiwan Straits, they were apparent and you or your deputy did comment on those preparations.
MR. BURNS: You're not referring to North Korea here. You're referring to something else.
Q No, I'm talking about, first of all, are there any warnings to mariners in this case? And, second of all, just to be consistent in the past you have talked about preparations for missile tests involving China.
MR. BURNS: Right. This is North Korea. The problem here is more the source of the information that was made available to the news media, rather than the issue itself. I want to be absolutely consistent in not confirming intelligence sources; in not confirming information that comes allegedly from intelligence sources. That's an important principle for us. I think I have the right to do that, and I think it makes sense for me to do that.
I'm very glad to comment on the issue. I've said that we think that North Korea's missile program is a threat to surrounding countries, potentially destabilizing not only in Asia but in other parts of the world. You've seen reports just in the last couple of months about North Korean missile exports to other countries in the Middle East.
So we've been clear about that, Jim, but I do have to draw the line and hold the line on the intelligence aspect.
Q And there are no warnings to mariners or shipping?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any.
Q You said something to the effect that we've talked to North Korea about this?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we have. We've raised it with the North Koreans.
Q Have you raised just general U.S. policy, as you've stated, or you raised concerns about a plan (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: We've raised a variety of issues with them.
Q Would there be any implications for North Korea, from a U.S. point of view, were they to test such a missile?
MR. BURNS: I think it goes without saying that we would like -- I think all of us in the international community want North Korea to act in a way that is stabilizing rather than destabilizing.
Now on the issue of its nuclear programs, in 1994, we dealt with that issue in a straightforward way, and now there's a nuclear freeze in place. On the issue of missile exports, we don't believe that these missile exports are stabilizing. We believe they're destabilizing, so we have great concerns about them, and we've made that known to the North Koreans.
Any actions that we think affect negatively the stability of our allies and friends in any part of the world, but particularly in Asia, is of real concern to us, and North Korea understands that that's going to be part of our relationship.
Q Nick, would U.S. policy change in any way were they to start testing such missiles and getting into the business of such missiles?
MR. BURNS: I think U.S. policy is clear to the North Koreans, and we have made non-proliferation a global concern. The President has talked about that in speeches to the Congress, State of the Union speeches. He's talked about it in his UN addresses, and that has been, I think, one of the major foundations of this Administration's foreign policy -- non-proliferation.
So there will be a price to be paid for any state which is a major violator of the non-proliferation goals of the United States and of most countries in the world. That is, if you will, one of the leading security challenges for the next century. As we've evolved here in the latter part of the 20th century, we've gone from a concentration -- a real fear of nuclear conflict between the super powers, and that fear is eroding with the end of the Soviet Union, with START I and START II -- which we hope the Russian Duma will ratify -- to a real concern about proliferation of ballistic missile technology, fissile materials, chemical and biological weapons.
You know that we have a grave concern about Iraq in that sense, about Libya. We also do in the case of North Korea, and we've made that one of our bottom-line issues with the North Koreans. I think, David, I wanted to put it into context a little bit. It gives you a sense of how important this is. This is not a tertiary issue for the United States. This is a front-line, fundamental concern of the United States.
Q How are you going to raise it with the North Koreans?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you that. I don't know. I know we've raised it recently, but I just can't tell you. We're not in the practice, given the unusual relationship we have with North Korea, of reporting on a daily basis about our diplomatic contacts.
You know that we see them in New York; that State Department officers, diplomats, regularly travel to New York and have meetings with North Korean officials there; and we also see them sometimes in other parts of the world. But the major point of contact is in New York.
Q Let me follow up. I'm just trying to get, is there some renewed -- if there's been some renewed concerns that brought on some new contacts about these missiles?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to exaggerate this. There's a lot of talk in the newspapers and the wires. I mean, there's a lot of press reports out there, and, of course, we have had some ongoing concerns.
Q We've got some other business with North Korea, or used to -- I don't know if you still do -- establishing liaison offices. Just a few weeks ago, you were quite willing to tell us about a meeting with the North Koreans coming up, you thought, the next day. Indeed it did.
When has the U.S. last seen the North Koreans? I mean, there were other issues, too. This relationship -- it's not exactly a loving relationship, but it's a working relationship -- seems to be shredding. I mean, you worried about the nuclear agreement, which was isolated from the other issues for the longest of time. Now I'm wondering if you're going to build up diplomatic offices. Is that still going on?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I think the last meeting that I know of that we had with them was mid-last week in New York, where diplomats from the State Department traveled to
New York and had one of their regular meetings with North Korean officials. Those meetings tend to cover a variety of issues.
Last week and this week, we are very concerned about the situation of Carl Hunziker, the young American who is incarcerated unjustly in North Korea. He's been charged with espionage. Those charges are groundless.
Mr. Ake Lofquist, the Swedish diplomat representing United States interests in Pyongyang, saw him, and
Mr. Hunziker denies absolutely that he ever signed any kind of confession regarding these charges on espionage. He denies that he was involved in espionage. We believe him. We've checked into this very carefully. He is innocent of these charges.
Now he is apparently and relatively in good health, considering his circumstances, but we continue to call upon the North Koreans to release him -- to release him immediately, because he is innocent. We raise other issues with them. We have this ongoing dialogue on the Agreed Framework. We have concerns about ballistic missile technology exports. We certainly have an intention at some point in time to establish liaison offices in Washington and Pyongyang. That's part of the schedule, but we haven't gotten to that yet, and I just don't know when it will be possible to actually establish those offices.
Q Do you known when Win Lord winds up in China by any chance?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me.
Q When will Win Lord go off from China to Japan? Do you happen to know?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the exact date. I believe it's going to be just in a couple of days' time. Assistant Secretary Lord, as you know, is still in China, and he continues to have meetings with the Chinese leadership. He met with -- if I'm not mistaken, with Mr. Liu Huaqiu, the Foreign Affairs Director of the State Council. He met with him today.
They discussed the Secretary of State's trip to China, which will be in mid-November. They discussed the situation in Korea; some bilateral issues, including human rights, and you know human rights have been on our agenda, quite importantly, over the last couple of days because of recent arrests of some of the political dissidents; and the recent travel to the United States of a noted champion of human rights.
So that issue is front and center on our agenda with them.
Q So he's in the United States, then?
MR. BURNS: Yes. He arrived in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. I don't want to speak for him. It's up to him as to when he speaks publicly.
As you know, he was paroled into the United States by the Attorney General because of a very strong fear of persecution should he have remained in China or should he have returned to China once he had left.
He arrived in the United States legally, because the United States Government made the decision that he should arrive in the United States and be given refuge here.
Q Has China asked for deportation?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if China has asked formally for that. I'll have to check into that. I have some complaints by the Chinese Government about this incident, about the manner in which Mr. Wang left China a couple of days back. Our only concern, of course, can be about not the emigration part of this but the immigration. The fact that someone has traveled to the United States, he entered our country legally. We made it possible for him to do so because we felt that there was a significant fear of persecution.
Q Are there any circumstances under which he would be sent back to China, extradited to China?
MR. BURNS: I don't anticipate any. But you know there is a formal process that has to be undertaken here. Should he wish to stay in the United States, he would apply for asylum in the United States. There's a process there. It's not controlled by the State Department, as you know, but by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. So I'd direct questions to them, but I don't anticipate -- I'm not aware of any reasons why he would be sent back to China.
Q So he hasn't been given asylum?
MR. BURNS: Asylum happens when the person requests it and when it is considered and granted. In all cases, we do not discuss publicly when a person has requested asylum. The INS has to make its own decision about when it talks about the fact that asylum has been granted.
But given the fact that he was allowed to enter the United States by the United States Government, by the Attorney General, he was paroled into the United States because of a very well-founded fear of persecution. That tells you something about the fact that we know a lot about his case and that he is certainly welcome here in the United States.
Q Do you know how he got out of China?
MR. BURNS: I just can't go into that.
Q Did the United States have anything to do with --
MR. BURNS: I just can't comment on that.
Q Did the United States have anything to do with his travel?
MR. BURNS: I can't comment on that.
Q Didn't you say China objected?
MR. BURNS: I saw a public statement this morning from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a public statement on the wires objecting to the fact that he was in the United States; yes -- critical to the United States Government.
Q One way to break a dissident movement is to try to get the leading dissident to leave the country. This has been done in the Soviet Union. So I just wonder if this is something they objected to or something that pleased them because it's one more -- by their yardstick -- one more democracy-minded person gone.
MR. BURNS: That is a question for the Chinese Government. I can't possibly answer that question. But I would note that yesterday and today, there were very vigorous protests from the Chinese Government about this incident -- public protest by the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman.
Q Were these protests also done in the meeting with Winston Lord?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that. We have a very sketchy readout of his meetings today. Given the time differences, it wasn't possible for me to talk to him.
Q Something else?
MR. BURNS: Something else on --
Q Not your David. Israel's David Levy -- not your David Leavy -- thinks that an agreement is near.
MR. BURNS: We have David Leavy here, but he's not David Levy. He's David Leavy.
Q He plays it very close to the vest.
MR. BURNS: David Levy or David Leavy?
Q Yours. The other one, "Mr. Optimism" says an agreement is --
MR. BURNS: David is "Mr. Optimism?"
Q David is more cautious. He's on background anyhow. Their David Levy -- however you pronounce his name -- is speaking as if an agreement on Hebron is in the offing. You wouldn't be setting us up for a dramatic act of daring-do by Mr. Dennis Ross because yesterday you were puzzled by the optimism which sometimes suggests that the optimism is well-founded. You don't want to queer a deal before it's done. So, how close are they?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the talks -- as you remember, Dennis Ross had held talks over the last couple of days in Jerusalem, in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere with the Israelis and Palestinians, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat.
Today, the talks moved to Taba where they're originally scheduled to be this week. So the delegations moved down there with them -- Ambassador Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, and others. I can say that the talks have been productive. They're moving at a good pace.
But as I said yesterday, we still think there is significant obstacles that remain before the Israelis and Palestinians can agree on the issue of Hebron deployment. You've seen very pointed public statements today by Chairman Arafat on this issue -- very pointed, indeed -- which should lead all of us to conclude that there's still a lot more work that remains to be done.
The United States will stay at the negotiating table until this issue is settled.
Q In the person of Dennis Ross?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Dennis Ross is going to remain at the table. I can't say he'll be there everyday, as I've been saying all along. He may take a break for a couple of days or a week, depending on the length of these talks. He may stay. He hasn't made his own travel plans yet. But there will be an American everyday. If Dennis Ross is not there, Ed Abington or Martin Indyk or someone else will be at the table.
Q What are these major obstacles? Are they security; a division of Hebron maybe, the Solomon-like approach; divide it in half; give each half? Can you give us some idea of these obstacles that are in the way?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm just not able to do that. Because, as you know -- and I'll just repeat this for people who may be new -- we have taken the pledge. The pledge is that we will not discuss publicly -- "we," the United States -- what goes on in those negotiations. That's for the Israelis and Palestinians to decide if they want to discuss it publicly since we are, in effect, the facilitator here, the mediator. Our role is to be credible and discreet.
Q They're not renegotiating; right?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely not. The Oslo Accord stands. Commitments have been made. Commitments will be met. There's no reopening them or renegotiating them.
Q Would dividing Hebron be renegotiating?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q Would the partition of Hebron be an act of renegotiating?
MR. BURNS: Barry, you probably know the Oslo Accords better than anybody; better than at --
Q I just want to know what "renegotiating" means?
MR. BURNS: -- and the Oslo Accords are very specific. They talk about redeployment. Obviously, the terms of that, the implementation of that is being discussed. I think it's very clear what the Oslo Accords say.
Q Northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q The KDP delegation is in town. I wonder what's next. There are talks that the meetings have been postponed.
MR. BURNS: The meetings here?
Q Yes, at the State Department?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Is it going to be tomorrow, Friday? There are talks of the State Department feeling its way towards a mini Dublin-summit type of arrangement sometime in the near future? Would you care to comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the United States has been following events in northern Iraq with great care. The United States continues to be greatly concerned by the fighting between the PUK and the KDP in northern Iraq.
We believe that continued division among the Kurds is not in the best interests of the Kurdish people. They have a common self-interest in stability and in peace. Any further fighting will simply harm longer- term Kurdish interests and reward those beyond the Kurdish communities and Kurdish populations who do not have positive designs on the Kurds.
It's the responsibility, therefore, of the Kurdish parties themselves to make sure that they return stability and peace themselves to northern Iraq; they put aside their differences; they go back to negotiations and political discussions. That is our very strong advice to them.
The United States is calling upon both Iraq and Iran to stay out of the fighting in northern Iraq, not to involve themselves in that fighting. We are urging the KDP and the PUK to agree to an immediate cease-fire followed by political discussions.
Just about an hour and a half ago, Bob Pelletreau, our Assistant Secretary of State, completed two very important telephone conversations -- one with Mr. Talabani and one with Mr. Barzani. As a result of those phone calls, I can tell you that the meetings are scheduled for tomorrow morning here at the State Department between State Department diplomats and the KDP representatives -- will go forward.
Among those meeting them will be Assistant Secretary Pelletreau. Following that, over the weekend and into next week, I would expect that Assistant Secretary Pelletreau will travel to the Middle East. He has agreed now that he will have separate meetings with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani in the region.
The motivation here is to have direct talks with them so that Ambassador Pelletreau can convince them that it really is in their immediate interest to move towards a cease-fire and not to allow Iran and Iraq -- Iran or Iraq -- the opportunity to inflame the situation further.
The United States is making suggestions to both of them as to how they might bridge the differences, the considerable differences between them.
We have seen some press reports that Mr. Talabani has said that his forces will not attack the strategic city of Irbil. We believe that they ought to move towards a cease-fire, both of them.
Let's give Ugur a follow-up.
Q How about the meeting at the State Department? Will the KDP officials and American officials be the only ones present in that meeting?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We're not talking here at this point about trilateral meetings. Tomorrow's meeting here at the State Department is between the KDP and the
United States. The meetings in the region next week will be individual meetings that Bob Pelletreau will have with each of these leaders.
Q Isn't Mr. Talabani in Iran now? Where will Ambassador Pelletreau meet with him?
MR. BURNS: He will not be meeting him in Iran, I can assure you of that. I can exclude one country in the Middle East: Iran. They're going to work out together --
Mr. Talabani and Mr. Pelletreau -- where they'll meet in the Middle East. Mr. Barzani, likewise, will work out with
Mr. Pelletreau where they'll meet. They're busy doing that right now.
Obviously, since there's no agreement yet on the specific sites, I'm not in a position to talk about that much further.
Q One more question. Did Ambassador Pelletreau also call Ankara concerning --
MR. BURNS: We have been closely in touch with the Turkish Government all along the way here, on a daily basis. We'll continue to be so because Turkey is an ally. Turkey, I think, shares some of the same concerns that the United States has for the problems that instability can breed in northern Iraq. We're going to continue to rely upon the advice, the counsel, and the friendship of the Turkish Government in this matter.
Q (Inaudible) meeting here in Washington with the PUK?
MR. BURNS: At this point -- as you remember -- let me just take you back a little bit. As a result of a phone conversation that Bob Pelletreau had several weeks ago with Mr. Barzani, the KDP delegation is in Washington this week. So that was a prior invitation.
We're going to have a direct meeting with Mr. Talabani next week in the region. Following that, we intend to have intensified diplomatic contacts with both groups. I can't anticipate what they'll be and where they'll be now, but that is the commitment that we've all made.
Q But as you pointed out yesterday, there are PUK people based here in Washington. You could be --
MR. BURNS: Yes, they are, and we've been in touch with them everyday.
Q You have been?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We were in touch with the PUK representative in Washington several times a day over the weekend and into this week, and will remain in touch with him. The meetings here are between the KDP and the United States tomorrow.
Q To follow up on your statement, Nick, that you just made, the PUK forces that are positioned near Sulaymaniyah -- no, near Irbil -- should stand down, should just hold their ground and not confront the troops of Saddam Hussein that are protecting Irbil? Is that correct, that there might not be a --
MR. BURNS: There's a lot in that question, Bill. Let me be very careful as I make my way through the answer.
First of all, our strong recommendation is for both of these Kurdish factions to move towards a cease-fire, to stop fighting. It's in their interest to do so.
Second, Iran and Iraq should not get involved in the fighting.
Third, I can't confirm for you where the Iraqi forces may or may not be deployed in that part of the world. That's a question you ought to ask the Iraqi Government, where they've put their forces.
Q You would recommend to the PUK that they not confront the Iraq regular army, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: I didn't make that point. I'm simply making the point that it's in the Kurdish interest to stop the fighting and to go to a cease-fire. I didn't make any point vis-a-vis Iraq. I don't care to tread in that territory right now.
Q Isn't there a contradiction between what you've been saying about the possible Iranian involvement and what the Turks have been saying?
Secretary Perry yesterday denied what the Turkish Foreign Minister had to say about Iran's role in the PUK attacks, and so did you, actually -- is it still our assessment as of this morning that there is no Iranian involvement whatsoever?
MR. BURNS: I think we've been very consistent over the last couple of days in saying that we cannot confirm for you any direct Iranian or Iraqi involvement at this point in the fighting, but we certainly cannot exclude contacts between the Iranians and the PUK. It would stand to reason, given what they've said publicly, that there would have been some contacts. Direct that question to Tehran and direct it to Mr. Talabani. I can't be the spokesman for either -- the Iranian Government or Mr. Talabani.
I know that Secretary Perry said essentially the same thing as you reported yesterday. I have not seen Mrs. Ciller's statements on this.
Q But did Ambassador Pelletreau this morning receive any guarantees from Mr. Talabani on that?
MR. BURNS: On which question?
Q On Iranian support to that organization?
MR. BURNS: I can't divulge the contents of their conversation in great detail except to say that we continue to make the point to Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani that they should not -- certainly, we don't think that any Iranian or Iraqi involvement here would be positive. We think it would be negative. We're calling on them both to stay out and not inflame the situation.
Q About tomorrow's meetings, in the last meeting in Ankara, British and Turkish officials participated in the KDP-American talks. Is it going to be the case tomorrow morning?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check. I don't know exactly who will be in the room and from which countries. I can tell you this -- and we will check on the question for you -- that we will remain very closely in touch with the British Government but also -- especially the Turkish Government, given Turkey's proximity to this problem and the experience and perspective that Turkey brings to this problem which we respect very much.
Q France is going to be, also, in the meeting?
MR. BURNS: I think Yasmine was referring to the fact that when Assistant Secretary Pelletreau saw Mr. Barzani outside of Ankara a couple of weeks back, a Turkish diplomat and a British diplomat participated in that meeting. I think that was the antecedent here. I don't believe the French were involved.
Of course, France being an ally of the United States, we'll obviously consult with the French on this issue as well.
Q Before the meetings will take place?
MR. BURNS: We will have the normal diplomatic contacts. I know that we had contact overnight. Diplomatic messages were sent from the State Department to our allies in Europe and elsewhere last evening giving them our appreciation of the dangers involved in the situation in northern Iraq, asking for their support and continued consultations.
France is an influential country in that part of the world, and we seek French cooperation, obviously, on this issue.
Q You call these talks Pelletreau is going to have in the Middle East with these guys, cease-fire talks?
MR. BURNS: The United States is pushing and calling for a cease-fire. The talks obviously go beyond that. The cease-fire is an important element in what has to happen, we think, to return stability to northern Iraq, but there are many other issues that have to be discussed, among them the object here -- the objective of political discussions; that they would agree to sit down and not try to settle their affairs militarily but politically. Because, again, our core, fundamental assessment is, neither of them can win militarily on the battlefield.
But we believe that by stopping the fighting and agreeing, at least, to work together in northern Iraq, they can return stability to northern Iraq and hopefully keep the Iranians and the Iraqis out.
Q But at the very least, cease-fire talks -- Pelletreau is launching these cease-fire talks with the parties?
MR. BURNS: We're calling today as we did yesterday, as we did the day before, for a cease-fire.
Q Right. But Pelletreau is going to the region. He's meeting with the guys to be a sort of a mediation, a cease-fire -- cease-fire talks?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I think that's a little bit too simplistic, with all due respect. A cease-fire is one of the most important things that can be achieved but not the sole thing that can be achieved.
Q Can we call it a "peace process," then?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Would you call it a "peace process?"
MR. BURNS: We're trying to stimulate talks, political discussions and negotiations between the two Kurdish factions so that they can preserve stability in northern Iraq.
Q I think, conversely, what seems to be is that you've offered up the senior American diplomat for that bureau without any real agreement between the two factions; isn't that right? That may represent your concern but it's unusual, isn't it?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not unusual. The fact is that two Kurdish groups are fighting.
MR. BURNS: The United States is a friend of both, and we have good contacts with both. We've proven that. They are open to discussions -- both of them -- with us.
The objective here is to see, using diplomacy, if they can agree to end their fighting. That's a positive goal for the United States. It meets our own national interests in the region. It's the right thing to do.
Surely -- and I know you're not suggesting this -- but you wouldn't want the United States, being the influential country that it is, to just stand back and do nothing at a time like this given the interest that we and the Turks and others have in northern Iraq.
Q It's just that they're two forces that are less than major powers in the world, who are at each other's throat, and the United States doesn't generally -- I don't believe -- offer up a top-level diplomat to go trekking over to that part of the world without them at least agreeing preliminarily that there's a basis, a foundation for them to stop hammering at each other and to behave pursuant to U.S. interests and objectives in that region.
It could be an act of anything. It could be an act of desperation, an act of deep concern. I think it's unusual.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't use the first word.
Q I don't mean desperation. You don't know what to do. I mean it's a --
MR. BURNS: I would say that it's not at all surprising that the United States would dispatch a top diplomat to a region that the United States has said is of vital concern to the United States -- the situation in and around Iraq -- where we have invested an enormous amount militarily, politically, and economically over the last five years; where we fought a war five years ago against Iraq. Not at all surprising that we would remain, as the leading country here, involved diplomatically.
In fact, I would think it would be surprising if we didn't undertake this kind of mission.
Q Might he make other stops? Is Cairo -- an economic conference; it's a little bit shaky.
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Pelletreau is going to be having contacts with a variety of Arab countries -- Gulf countries -- next week. So in addition to the meetings with Talabani and Barzani, he'll be seeing some of the Gulf countries; yes.
Q One of his areas is --
MR. BURNS: This was a previously scheduled trip, by the way. He decided that in addition to the meetings with the Gulf countries, he ought to also have these two separate meetings with Barzani and Talabani.
Q I was also thinking of the economic conference in Cairo which has a little rockiness about it. That's an area -- economic cooperation that Bob Pelletreau spent some time working on. Will he be going to Cairo?
MR. BURNS: He's a former Ambassador to Egypt. He is --
Q And maybe Mr. Mubarak would like a senior --
MR. BURNS: -- who is respected greatly in the Middle East. I don't know if he's planning to visit Cairo. I actually think he was planning to visit the Gulf countries.
Q Can you say which Gulf countries?
MR. BURNS: I can't. I don't have his itinerary, but I'll be glad to get that for you at some point.
Q The Saudi --
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q The Saudi --
MR. BURNS: I just don't want to begin to list the countries because I don't have them, but I'll be glad to give that to you. We won't be shy about that.
Q On Saudi Arabia, could you give us an update, if you have one, on the status of the investigation of the Dhahran bombing? Is the United States still satisfied, after all these weeks and months, that the investigation is going as quickly as it can; that the level of Saudi cooperation with U.S. agencies is as good as it could be?
MR. BURNS: This is a very serious investigation. It's ongoing. We continue to work with the Saudis on it in the attempt to find the individuals who placed the car bomb in front of the al-Khobar barracks. We remain dedicated to working with the Saudis to find those killers and bring them to justice.
Q Is there any progress? Is anyone getting anywhere with it?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the FBI and our diplomatic security agents are involved in this investigation. I don't believe they've held any press conferences, giving you the sense of how it's going. I think we'll just -- we prefer to operate privately on this until we have something to say.
Q But you are happy with the way the Saudis are pursuing the investigation?
MR. BURNS: We are cooperating well with the Saudis on this.
Q Nick, just to come back to Ambassador Pelletreau for a moment. Is he hoping at all to attend any kind of trilateral talks in the region, or at least separate talks?
MR. BURNS: He's not planning any. He's planning separate meetings with both of these leaders.
Q Nick, Baghdad has offered to mediate between the Kurds. So has Tehran. I believe the English are already involved. Are we coordinating with the English on mediating --
MR. BURNS: In mediating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland? I don't believe the United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland has agreed to any talks with Saddam Hussein on this issue.
Q No, no, no. Between the Kurdish factions. The Brits are already talking.
MR. BURNS: The U.K., being one of the closest allies of the United States --
Q The U.K.
MR. BURNS: -- has been involved with us in talking to the Kurds. As for Saddam Hussein's offer, he's never been big on diplomacy in the past. He prefers military force. I don't think the Kurdish parties ought to take him up on his offer because he's not a reliable person.
He, in fact, tried to exterminate the Kurdish people in March and April of 1991. He's not reliable. He wouldn't be a good person to mediate between them, and those negotiations would not be good-faith negotiations, because he's got other ambitions in northern Iraq.
So we would encourage the Kurds not to take up this offer. I don't see any indication that they're going to take up the offer.
Q We are coordinating with the British -- the British Government on this?
MR. BURNS: We are working very closely with the United Kingdom and Turkey -- Turkey being a front-line country in this drama.
Q I'd like to talk to you about Lebanon. The Prime Minister is coming, and he'll be meeting with the Secretary tomorrow. Why hasn't the ban yet been lifted, especially in light of two extraordinary testimonies from Terry Anderson and Joseph Cicippio, who I would imagine know pretty intimately the dangers that are there, and they say the danger is no longer there.
MR. BURNS: First of all, as I said yesterday, the President and the Secretary are looking forward to their meetings with Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The Secretary will be hosting a reception for him tomorrow evening at Blair House. There will be meetings at the White House and at the State Department. This is an important visit.
He demonstrated, particularly during the April shuttle negotiations for the cease-fire and monitoring group agreement on the Lebanon-Israel border, that he is a very competent negotiator. He's someone that the Secretary in particular likes to work with and respects very much. We're looking forward to the visit.
We have a lot going on with Lebanon. We have an increasingly positive and normal relationship with Lebanon in many respects. We want to see Lebanon be the beneficiary of peace in the Middle East. We want to see the day come when Israel and Lebanon negotiate a final peace agreement.
As for the travel ban, as you know, it's in place. It will continue in place. This is an issue that our Near East Bureau, our Ambassador in Beirut and others, including the Secretary of State, look at regularly. It's been looked at recently, and the decision has been made to keep the travel ban in place.
But it is a question that we do return to regularly at several points during the year, and I'm sure we'll hear a lot about it in the next couple of days, because you know the position of the Lebanese Government on this. But our position, I don't think, will change in the course of this visit.
Q What does the U.S. want to see? What would they expect to see in order to bring forth change?
MR. BURNS: Our core responsibility to the American public, which travels in the millions every year, is to advise the traveling public on whether or not it's safe to travel in a particular country. Our belief is that it is appropriate for us to continue to warn the American public about dangers in Lebanon. We'd like to see the situation stabilize further. We'd like to see conditions in that country be appropriate for normal travel and normal tourism by the American people.
We want to see that day come. We want to see the conditions in place so that it can be lifted, but that decision has not been made.
Q Can you articulate what evidence there is to indicate that it is dangerous for Americans, particularly in light that thousands still continue to go in the last few years?
MR. BURNS: We believe, based on all the information available to us from a variety of sources -- and we look at this very closely and take it seriously -- that conditions are not appropriate at this time for full and normal travel by the American public to Lebanon.
Q Lots of follow-ups.
Q Since you raised the issue, can the United States Government foresee a Lebanon-Israel deal absent a Syria deal?
MR. BURNS: Clearly, what has to -- we want there to be peace between Lebanon and Israel and Syria and Israel. It's impossible to know the sequencing of that, when that day comes. We don't know when that day will come. That remains the longer term objective of the United States. It's obviously something that's not going to happen this week or next week.
Q You called him a very competent negotiator. Is he coming here to negotiate?
MR. BURNS: I referred in that statement --
Q I know you were referring to his --
MR. BURNS: -- to the shuttle talks that we had, and that's why I chose that word. He is a very impressive individual who's done a lot for Lebanon. He, more than anyone else, has led the way towards reconstruction in Lebanon after the devastating civil war. He's put his own personal efforts on the line here. He's a friend of the United States, and that's why he's being invited to the United States.
Q Will there be negotiations while he's here?
MR. BURNS: There will be discussions while he's here.
Q What are the prospects of having similar discussions, which is your word, with the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we have contact with the Syrians on a daily basis in Damascus, through our Embassy --
Q You don't have the Foreign Minister --
MR. BURNS: They have an Embassy here. We talk to the Syrians about a variety of issues. We have a lot of concerns about Syria, as you know.
Q Yeah. Would you say the level of discussion is rather parallel now? Might it get to be a little bit unparallel?
MR. BURNS: Parallel with what, Barry?
Q The pace of negotiating or not negotiating with the Syrians or with the Lebanese. Do you see the Lebanese sort of getting a little bit ahead of what I think is a moribund Syrian track?
MR. BURNS: You see, outside of the tracks -- the Lebanese-Israeli track, the Syrian-Israeli track -- in the Middle East negotiations, there's a very big relationship that the United States has with Lebanon, and there are a lot of different issues that come into play. There is the travel ban. There are economic and trade issues. There are political issues. We have a lot to discuss in the next couple of days beyond the Middle East tracks, but that will also be a focus of what we discuss.
So I don't want to simplify the Lebanese-U.S. relationship into simply discussions on that track. It's broader than that, particularly considering the contribution that Lebanese-Americans have made to our own country. It's a very important country to the United States.
Q Well, does this rich, multi-layered relationship -- does it provide opportunities to make headway with Lebanon on peace with Israel, or does that still require Syria's approval? Let's get down to the real facts, at least from this end. The Lebanese have not been free to negotiate without Syria's approval, and I guess what's in lots of our minds is whether you're about to try to shake Lebanon out of that shell. Okay, that's a rather blunt question.
MR. BURNS: Yes --
Q You could address it any way you'd like, but --
MR. BURNS: I'll give you my answer.
Q -- we've been dancing around it by asking if there are opportunities to negotiate, etc., so why don't we try a direct question. Is Lebanon in a position now on its own to negotiate peace with Israel?
MR. BURNS: I'll give you my answer, and my answer is that we will do everything we can to promote peace between Lebanon and Israel and Syria and Israel. Both are important. Sorry to disappoint you.
Q You're not disappointing me. You're locking the two in together again, and that answers my question.
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q Bosnia. You told us that the United States still has leverage over the Bosnian Serbs last week because the United States can withhold economic support for the Bosnian Serbs. On Monday, head of -- Alexi Buha said their main goal remains unification of Yugoslavia in spite of the Dayton agreement, even if they don't get the assistance money. So what kind of pressure will you be using on the people that just categorically say no?
MR. BURNS: You know, people aren't categorically saying no. Some people are playing games, and what we'd like to see from Mr. Krajisnik and Mr. Buha and Mrs. Plavsic is action that is consistent with their commitments that they signed up to at Dayton, Ohio, and that is that they'll work for a unified Bosnia and Herzegovina and work to create the institutions of that country following the elections that have just been held.
The words are okay, but the actions are much more important. We're holding them to that standard. It's a very high standard. We do have influence and leverage, and we won't hesitate to use it, including, if we find their actions to be disappointing, returning to the United Nations Security Council to talk about the reimposition of economic sanctions.
It was very good, indeed, to see that the Contact Group, when it met in London last week, had the same view on this particular issue -- all the members of the Contact Group. That was very important.
In addition to that, Serbia has a great amount of influence on the Bosnian Serbs, and you know the outer wall of sanctions are in place. They are effective sanctions. They are issues that Serbia cares about, and we don't hesitate to keep that in place because it helps to serve a larger goal of peace in that region.
Q Who exactly in the Republic of Srpska is the State Department dealing with?
MR. BURNS: We deal among the Bosnian Serbs with Mr. Krajisnik and Ms. Plavsic and Mr. Buha and others. We do not deal with indicted war criminals, among them Karadzic and Mladic.
Q What gives you the indication that Biljana Plavsic is willing to cooperate? She said that Bosnian Serbs are going to have their own elections in November.
MR. BURNS: They're not going to have their own elections. I know that Mr. Frowick has met with her. Mr. Frowick is facing a very big decision, the timing of the municipal elections, which will be established through the OSCE. He's got to decide on the exact timing. We're waiting for his decision. We respect him, and we have a lot of faith in him.
Mrs. Plavsic -- we're going to judge her on her actions, not on her words. There are not going to be any individual elections run by the Bosnian Serbs here.
Q Okay, thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
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