U.S. Department of State 96/10/22 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, October 22, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS U/S Lynn Davis Travel to China, Nov. 4-5 for Discussion of Non-Proliferation and Security Issues...................... 2 Presidential Elections in Armenia............................ 2-3 CHINA U/S Davis Mtgs with Civilian and Military Officials/ Experts Mtgs to Prepare for Visit of Secretary Christopher.. 3 NORTH KOREA Reports of Missile Test....................................... 4-5 Possible U.S. Mtg with Foreign Ministry Official Li Hyong Chol in New York................................... 5-6 Continuing Tensions in Relations with U.S. and ROK............ 6-8 BOSNIA Second Mtg of Bosnian Presidency............................. 8-9 OSCE Decision re: Postponement of Municipal Elections/U.S. Expectation that OSCE Will Supervise 1997 Elections/ No Linkage Between Presidency Mtg. and Postponement of Elections/Technical Issues Affecting Postponement........... 9- 12,19 NATO Study on Possible Follow-On to IFOR Security Presence.................................................... 13 Role of Bosnian Serbs in Conduct of Municipal Elections....... 14-16 U.S. Role in Determination of Date for Elections.............. 17-18 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Dennis Ross Remaining in Region for Discussions on Civil Affairs and Other Issues.............................. 20-24 Sec. Christopher's Contacts with European Allies re: Status of Negotiations/U.S. Welcomes European Involvement.......... 24-29 IRAQ A/S Pelletreau Mtg. with PUK Leader Talabani.................. 29 Evacuation of Kurdish Refugees to Guam........................ 29-31 GREECE Sentencing of Turkish Minority Leader......................... 32 GREECE/TURKEY Disposition of Disputed Islets in the Aegean.................. 33
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 1996, 1:05 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. I want to welcome to the State Department briefing Mr. Sochea Leng, who is the Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Information of Cambodia. Thank you very much for being with us today.
I also want to read to you a note that was left on my desk this morning. I was very surprised to receive this from a colleague here at the State Department. I know the feelings of Yankee fans mean very little to you. (Laughter) Still, I would feel irresponsible if you were not warned about excessive hubris.
The last time a New York team lost the first two World Series games -- at home, no less -- was 1986. (Laughter) For all of you out there who don't know baseball, that's when the Mets beat Boston.
But I was thinking, Barry, another reason for you and I to root against the Yankees is that the Atlanta Braves began life as the Boston Braves. They won the world championship in 1914, I believe, and they won the National League pennant in 1948, Spahn and Sain --
MR. BURNS: -- you remember that, and a Day of Rain and all that.
I think the tabulations for the last five games is 48-to-2, Atlanta over the Yankees and over the Cardinals. We're still rooting for the Yankees to be swept.
QUESTION: So why are you leaking that out?
MR. BURNS: I thought this was one leak I could do. It's not national security information.
MR. BURNS: I have a couple of announcements. First pertains to China.
As Secretary Christopher has previously announced, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, Lynn Davis, will travel to China in advance of Secretary Christopher's visit to Beijing in late November.
Under Secretary Davis plans to be in Beijing November 4-5 to discuss the full range of non-proliferation and security issues. Her discussions will be preceded by other additional discussions with the Chinese Government at the expert level; both of these discussions intended to prepare the way for a successful visit on this issue by Secretary of State Christopher to Beijing around the 21st and 22nd of November.
I have one other statement to read. We're posting it in the Press Room at the beginning of the briefing. This concerns the Armenian presidential election.
On September 22, the Republic of Armenia held presidential elections. According to official results, President Levon Ter-Petrossian was elected with 51.7 percent of the vote. Opposition parties mounted effective campaigns as well, with the leading opposition figure, Vazgen Manukyan, capturing 41 percent of the vote.
Since the 1995 parliamentary elections, progress was made to improve the electoral process, including redrafting the election law and establishing a new central election commission.
Observers noted a well-managed process in many local precincts. However, international observers, including the OSCE, have reported serious breaches which overshadowed this process. Irregularities in balloting and vote tabulation, particularly in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, remain a cause of deep concern to the international community.
The United States calls on the Armenian Government to implement the recommendations of international experts in order to address these flaws and to build confidence in the integrity of Armenia's electoral process.
Regrettably, some opposition leaders chose to express their frustration through violence against the Armenian Parliament on September 25. While the United States strongly supports the rights of all Armenians to peacefully assemble and express their views, we condemn this type of violence which has no place in democracy and only polarizes Armenian society.
In responding to such acts, the United States calls on the Armenian authorities to ensure respect for due process and adherence to international human rights practices, including continued access to prisoners by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The United States, furthermore, urges the Armenian Government and opposition to continue to take concrete steps to promote reconciliation between them. In that context, the United States welcomes the announcements by the government and opposition to redress grievances on the election results in the constitutional court, consistent with Armenian law.
The United States welcomes steps by the government and opposition toward building an open political process. We call on all people and political parties in Armenia committed to working within the law to forge a political dialogue across party lines.
The United States remains committed to working with Armenia to help build an independent, democratic, and prosperous state at peace with its neighbors.
QUESTION: Nick, going back to the China announcement, will those experts and/or Under Secretary Davis meet with civilian as well as military officials, like the people who run munitions factories? And more to the point -- I know none of this is a surprise; it was all anticipated -- but, still, doesn't this reflect a kind of huge concern on the Administration's part with what the Chinese may be up to in the area of proliferation?
MR. BURNS: First, Barry -- the answer to the first question is that Lynn Davis will certainly meet civilian officials, foreign ministry officials, other civilian officials in the Chinese Government as well as military officials. In fact, I would think that civilian officials will be taking the lead for the most part in those conversations.
I don't know if she has any plans to meet officials of some of these state corporations. I don't believe there are any plans to do so but I can check for you.
The second question, Barry. This is not unusual to have a high-level -- very important visit and first visit in almost three years to China by a senior Cabinet member -- to have it preceded by expert-level talks or Under Secretary-level talks. We normally do this. We do this in the case of Russia, we do it with the Europeans, with others. We're simply trying to prepare, as best we can, for detailed talks by Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on this issue.
So I wouldn't read into this any undue or unusual concern about China's actions. As I said yesterday, we believe that based on the information available to us, China's record here is consistent with China's obligations and commitments. Nothing has changed in the last 24 hours to alter that point of view.
QUESTION: There's nothing you would like the Chinese to do on the proliferation front that they're not already doing?
MR. BURNS: To go back to the discussion we had a week ago -- the last time an intelligence document was leaked to the Washington Times before today's edition of the Washington Times -- we had an extensive conversation about this issue. I forget if you were here or not. I spoke On the Record for about a half hour on this issue. Nothing has changed since that day.
QUESTION: My question is almost related. Because you credit China with being helpful in certain areas, particularly with influence in North Korea.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Number one, is there some sort of a confidence now that the North Koreans plan to touch off a missile test? And have they responded in any way to the U.S.' request that they not do so? And what might China be doing for the U.S. in that regard, if anything?
MR. BURNS: I can't really update you on the proposed or reported missile tests better than I did last week except to say that we hope very much that North Korea will not undertake a missile test. We have told the North Koreans that, directly, in the talks that we've had with them in New York as well as through other means.
Should North Korea -- should these reports prove to be accurate, should North Korea undertake a missile test, that would be most disappointing to the United States and it would be a very serious issue between the United States and North Korea. That's clear.
I cannot confirm to you that they have undertaken such a test. We've just seen the reports.
QUESTION: Have you asked the Chinese to weigh in?
MR. BURNS: I can't take you through the specifics of our diplomatic conversations with the Chinese except to say that we do have a full discussion with China on the issue of North Korea. We talk to the Chinese about the submarine incident, about the Agreed Framework, the Four-Party proposal. I know we've talked about this issue as well.
QUESTION: Nick, is it your understanding that there's some Middle East delegations in --
QUESTION: Wait. Can we stay on the same subject?
QUESTION: There's Middle East delegations in North Korea to observe this test?
MR. BURNS: Middle East delegations? I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: Iranians and the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information on that whatsoever. Charlie.
QUESTION: Nick, can you go any further than just being upset? Have you told the North Koreans that there would be any consequences to such steps?
MR. BURNS: Charlie, we've said what we want to say in public on this issue last week and again this week. It will be a very serious development in relations between North Korea and a lot of countries, not just the United States. The North Koreans understand that.
We have said many times that we believe that - we've had long-standing concerns about North Korea's missile development program. We believe that any advances in that program would be a threat to surrounding countries and that exports of North Korean missile technology contribute to instability in other parts of the world as well. So we've got a record on this. We've been consistent on it.
We've made very clear to the North Koreans as late as last Friday in New York, just a couple of days ago. When we met the State Department diplomats met the North Koreans in New York, we made this point to them.
Still on North Korea?
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports in South Korean newspapers that Winston Lord will meet with a senior North Korean diplomat in New York?
MR. BURNS: I'm aware of the reports. What I can tell you is that Mr. Li Hyong Chol, the Director of American Affairs in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, will visit New York this week on United Nations business.
We're not planning any -- Assistant Secretary Lord is not planning to see him in either New York or Washington. Mr. Li will not be coming to Washington.
I'm not aware of any specific meetings planned with him. But since he's in town, it may be possible he will join one of the regular meetings that the United States -- the State Department -- conducts with North Korean diplomats up in New York. As you know, that is where we get a lot of our business done with the North Koreans -- on the submarine incident, on the incident of Mr. Hunziker who still remains incarcerated on unjustifiable charges, on this issue of ballistic missile tests. It wouldn't surprise me in the least should he appear at one of those meetings that we would talk to him and obviously go through some of these points with him. He's a senior official of the North Korean Foreign Ministry.
QUESTION: Does this raise to a new height the level of those talks in New York? Is that the highest ranking North Korean --
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it's the highest ranking person we've ever dealt with in that venue. Normally, these talks are conducted from the State Department by an office director or a deputy office director from our Office of Korean Affairs. Normally, that's how we conduct those talks.
Sometimes, other people go up for the talks. It depends. In this case, if Mr. Li shows up at those talks, we'd obviously talk to him.
QUESTION: So would it be fair to say that despite the incursion of -- despite the American held on spy charges, despite the potential of a missile test and some other irritations, U.S.-North Korean relations, if that's the right word, are about where they were a month or two ago?
MR. BURNS: I would say that we have made a decision that we're going to keep talking to the North Koreans despite all the problems in our relationship because we believe that by continuing to meet them, we might be able to make progress in some of these issues.
This is a time of great tension between the United States and the Republic of Korea, on the one hand, and North Korea.
You mentioned the submarine incident. There's the incarceration of Mr. Hunziker, who is innocent and should be released immediately. There is this issue of ballistic missile tests. There is the issue of the Four-Party proposals.
We need to make more headway with the North Koreans on all these issues. This is serious business, obviously -- all these discussions. The one thing we're very careful to do is stay in very close touch with the South Koreans and Japanese as we conduct these discussions; particularly the South Koreans.
We have stood by South Korea throughout this crisis. In fact, that was really the route of Winston Lord's trip to Seoul, to demonstrate publicly that the United States is standing by South Korea in the face of these provocations by North Korea. That's how I would propose you look at how we've set things up.
QUESTION: Are they showing any interest in the Four-Power Korean peace talks?
MR. BURNS: Not to my knowledge. As you remember, when the offer was made on Cheju Island by the President and President Kim, we said that we would be glad to have preliminary talks just to give the North Koreans a fuller idea of what we had in mind for these Four-Party proposals. I'm not aware that they've even taken us up on the offer of those formal preliminary discussions.
But the offer is still on the table. South Korea and the United States are together on this, and we stand together in keeping this offer on the table.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes, Patrick.
QUESTION: Is the United States willing to let South Korea slow down the implementation of the Agreed Framework as a response to the submarine incident?
MR. BURNS: I know that Assistant Secretary Lord spoke to this. We're going to maintain our commitments in the Agreed Framework. That's in our national interests. It's in the interest of the Republic of Korea.
I know that Assistant Secretary Lord did mention, however, in his press conference last week in Seoul, that some of the aspects of it can possibly be implemented more slowly than others. But in the final analysis, the United States will meet its commitments.
QUESTION: Who are the "we" in this case? The U.S. and South Korea will maintain its commitments?
MR. BURNS: Of course.
QUESTION: You're not speaking just for the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, I can speak for the United States in saying we'll maintain our commitments --
QUESTION: Technically speaking?
MR. BURNS: -- but we have every reason to believe --
QUESTION: That South Korea will?
MR. BURNS: -- that Japan and South Korea remain part of the arrangement here. They're providing, in fact, the vast majority of the funds to underwrite this operation.
QUESTION: You didn't announce anything coming out of Sarajevo today in your announcements about Armenia and China. Was this just an oversight?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Roy. "I didn't announce something on Sarajevo?" I'm fully prepared to go to Sarajevo.
My announcements are on the New York Yankees -- you all know the State Department's views on the Yankees -- and then on Lynn Davis' visit to Armenia. Having done that, and having talked about North Korea, I'm fully prepared to go and have a very animated conversation on the issue of Bosnia. Perhaps I should leave off that conversation and just give you -- are you interested in Bosnia, Bill?
MR. BURNS: Roy had the floor, though. So let's do Bosnia and then we'll come back to --
QUESTION: Talabani --
MR. BURNS: Talabani? Absolutely. We can talk about Talabani, we can talk about a lot of things today.
I think there are two important developments in Bosnia today. The first is that Assistant Secretary John Kornblum was able to arrange a meeting of the Bosnian Presidency, of Mr. Izetbegovic, Mr. Krajisnik and Mr. Zubak. It's the second meeting they've had.
He participated in the meeting. It was a long meeting, and I understand that one of the results is that these three gentlemen have agreed to a regular schedule of joint presidency meetings in a variety of locations in Sarajevo. That is a significant accomplishment, everything being relative -- a very significant accomplishment that they've agreed to a regular schedule of meetings when they, until today, had not agreed to do that.
It's an important meeting, a significant development, because these three gentlemen have decided at their first meeting that they would appoint together a council of ministers; that those appointments would be made by the end of this month, the end of October, so that the institutions of the new state would be constructed, people would head the new ministries that knit together this new state. It's a very important development, and we think just getting there today, having this meeting, is highly significant.
I can tell you that Secretary Christopher is very pleased with the work that Assistant Secretary Kornblum has done to arrange this meeting.
The second significant event today is that I understand that just about right now Ambassador Bob Frowick is holding a press conference in Sarajevo, where he is announcing that he has made a decision that the OSCE will postpone the municipal elections that were scheduled to take place in late November. I have something to say about that issue.
The United States does understand that after careful consideration, Ambassador Frowick has decided that the target date of late November for municipal elections is not feasible. He has decided to postpone these elections until next year.
The OSCE has been working hard to bring together the major administrative, technical and political aspects of these proposed municipal elections. The timetable under the best of circumstances would have been extremely tight. Ambassador Frowick concluded that challenges cannot be met on time to conduct the high caliber elections that certainly the United States and all of our partners, including the OSCE, sought for these elections.
Rather than holding the elections under these circumstances, we respect the OSCE's decision to postpone them. It is important that the parties to the Dayton accords agree to extend into next year the mandate of the OSCE to supervise the preparation and conduct of these municipal elections. It is still our expectation and still our very firm expectation -- and this point is being made to the Bosnian Serbs -- that the OSCE will supervise the preparation and conduct of these municipal elections in 1997.
The additional time being given now by Ambassador Frowick will allow the administrative and technical problems, so clearly present, we hope to be resolved. It will also give time to consolidate progress in fully implementing the Dayton accords.
So we've had a lot of conversations with Mr. Frowick over the last couple of weeks and specifically days on this issue. He's made his decision. He's made his decision. He is the responsible person. We're going to stand by him and support this decision.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) pointing any fingers.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm just awaiting your questions.
QUESTION: All right. Well, two logical questions: Isn't this a setback for the U.S. peace process, in the reconstruction process in Bosnia, and is it any group's fault, or is it the fault kind of shared all around?
MR. BURNS: I was waiting for you to ask that question. There's no question, I think, Ambassador Frowick will speak to this far more effectively than I can. But there's no question that one of the great problems encountered in arranging the elections in November was the unwillingness of the Bosnian Serbs to cooperate with the OSCE.
Ambassador Frowick believes that the problems encountered with the Bosnian Serbs can be handled, but time simply ran out. What I mean by that is it does take time to hold elections -- to decide you're going to have an election and then to set up the elections logistically and then to conduct them.
There had to be some kind of cutoff date this week where you had a make a go or no-go decision. The obstacles thrown up in the way of these elections by the Bosnian Serbs were quite considerable; and, frankly, there just wasn't sufficient time, given those obstacles, to be assured that the OSCE could actually conduct the elections, monitor the elections, help to supervise them and oversee them in time for late November.
The United States regrets very much the actions of the Bosnian Serb leadership over the course of the last couple of weeks on this issue. The Bosnian Serb leadership should understand that the ability and willingness of the international community to be helpful to them, economically and otherwise, is a direct function of their cooperation on this issue.
The OSCE is going to organize these elections in 1997. That is the view of the Contact Group. It's a very strong view of the United States Government, and we will be working and pushing on the Bosnian Serbs to make sure that they submit themselves to the authority of the OSCE, and that they agree that they will work on these issues with the OSCE cooperatively.
It's a very serious issue that's developed, and the Bosnian Serbs are on probation right now. In effect, they're on probation in the sense that we'll be watching how they operate and how they act with the OSCE.
QUESTION: Are they just playing games, or do they have a plan that is discernible now?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask Mrs. Plavsic and Mr. Krajisnik and Mr. Buha about that. We can't read their mind. They're clearly trying to disrupt the ability of the OSCE to do its job.
QUESTION: Are they trying to do more than that about the country?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Do they have any larger goals, do you suppose, in Bosnia- Herzegovina, than just meddle with --
MR. BURNS: You know, it's a day of contrast. Today is a day of contrast. On the one hand, you have the Bosnian Serbs over the last couple of days and weeks failing to be cooperative on the issue of municipal elections.
On the other hand, you have Mr. Krajisnik appearing in Sarajevo for a meeting of the joint presidency, going through with that meeting, and pledging himself to a further round of meetings. We hope that the good aspects of today will be replicated and some of the more negative aspects will not be repeated.
Is that it, Barry, on that issue?
QUESTION: I think some others got --
QUESTION: Was there a trade-off -- did the Serbs agree to go to this presidency meeting in return for having these municipal elections called off?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: And why are these municipal elections a different case than the national elections when the United States was absolutely adamant that they would have to go forward. Now you seem to accept this postponement.
MR. BURNS: On the first question, there was no deal here. There is no linkage. The United States did not agree and the OSCE did not agree that in return for Mr. Krajisnik showing up in Sarajevo for the good meeting that occurred today that we would all agree to postpone the municipal elections. No way. It is, as I said, a day of contrasts day, in terms of the behavior of the Bosnian Serbs.
On the second question, it was the uniform view of all major political parties, including Mr. Silajdzic's political party -- as you remember, Haris Silajdzic's political party -- that the elections in September, the national elections, should go forward. That was the uniform view of the Contact Group, and it was the recommendation of the OSCE, of Mr. Frowick.
This is a quite different situation. Here you have the major international organization given responsibility for this issue, saying we cannot arrange good, decent municipal elections by late November, given the circumstances on the ground. The two are, I think, quite different scenarios.
We still believe that the September elections, the decision to hold them was right, and that they resulted positively in letting the Bosnian people decide to create this new state and voting into office the people they voted into office.
QUESTION: How late will these elections be postponed?
MR. BURNS: The OSCE has not, as far as I know, made a recommendation as to when these elections should be rescheduled in 1997. It will be sometime in 1997.
QUESTION: Will there be Americans there, but in a different configuration, I suppose, than IFOR? Does this increase the likelihood that there will have to be some military presence, including the U.S., in Bosnia next year, if indeed not the IFOR force?
MR. BURNS: IFOR is going to keep to the same schedule of withdrawal that IFOR has set out and that NATO has set out, and that is for, in the case of the United States for our troops to be withdrawn, as you know, by some time in mid to late December.
That schedule remains. That schedule has not been affected by the decision made by Ambassador Frowick today. It is also true, I should say as the second point, that this now is -- this decision to postpone the municipal elections certainly is a factor in the ongoing NATO study to determine what kind of follow-on security presence, if any, will be required post -- in 1997.
Now, I want to be clear about something. NATO is in the midst of a very serious intensive study of this issue. There has been no decision that the ultimate judgment here is going to be, there must be troops in Bosnia in 1997. Neither has there been a decision the other way. This is an open question. It will be decided by the NATO leadership.
Secretary Christopher had a very good, long discussion with Secretary General Solana this morning on the telephone about a variety of issues, but certainly this issue. Secretary General Solana, I understand, basically told the Secretary the study goes ahead, and we'll have to see what the experts conducting the study recommend.
I would imagine that this decision, a very important decision, will be made sometime in November, and let's just see where it goes.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary in that conversation offer to -- well, I don't know if he can offer what the next administration might do unless it's another Clinton administration. There's some question -- I suppose there's some tiny question what the next administration might be.
But did he make an offer to cooperate, that the U.S. would participate in any NATO deployment?
MR. BURNS: The United States has said very consistently to other NATO countries, we agree to participate in the current NATO study about whether or not it is advisable to have a follow-on to IFOR security presence in Bosnia.
I just want to make this point relevant, that today's decision obviously is a factor in that complex decision-making process. It is a factor along with many other factors, and we're just going to have to wait until the NATO study is done, and then we'll see the President and Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry and Mr. Lake will all look at this, and the United States Government will make a decision.
But we cannot make a decision until NATO presents a set of recommendations to NATO countries. So, Barry, that's a long way of saying -- a long-winded way of saying -- we have not made any commitments. We're waiting for this NATO study to be finalized.
QUESTION: Could you be a little bit specific about what you'd like the Bosnian Serbs to do with these elections?
MR. BURNS: I think it's very clear. The Bosnian Serbs signed the -- initialed the Dayton accords in Dayton -- signed them in Paris -- and their obligations are to comply with the Dayton accords. The Dayton accords clearly talk about what has to happen; the cooperation to be extended on elections, all sorts of elections.
The OSCE has been set up as the responsible international body. The Bosnian Serbs have said repeatedly they would cooperate. In this case they threw up a roadblock and said, "Well, we're not sure we want the OSCE to organize these elections." They've got to cooperate fully. That means respect the authority of the OSCE.
Understand the OSCE and no one else, much less the Bosnian Serbs, will organize the elections; that the OSCE will decide when the elections are going to be held. They'll decide the conditions, the rules and the regulations. These are the same conditions that the Bosnian Serbs submitted to for the national elections. I think it's very clear, Sid, that's what's got to happen.
QUESTION: Nick, what are the obstacles (inaudible) specifically that the Bosnian Serbs have created?
MR. BURNS: One of the obstacles is Mrs. Plavsic refused to accept in conversations with Ambassador Frowick, Ambassador Kornblum and others, that the OSCE would be the central responsible organizing authority for the elections. That's just unjustifiable.
QUESTION: On that point, you said that the next set of elections will be organized by the OSCE, but what assurance do you have that the Bosnian Serbs will accept it next year? I mean, isn't it even less likely when they're more entrenched in their positions than now?
MR. BURNS: No. I think the Bosnian Serbs are going to have to reflect upon a very central point, and that is that the Contact Group has spoken in their last meeting -- or one of their meetings in London about a week back -- spoken unanimously in saying, "We will judge the Bosnian Serbs based on their degree of compliance with the Dayton accords." This will affect our ability to work with them.
QUESTION: But that's not a club exactly. I mean, you're going to observe them and admonish them. It doesn't sound like you're going to punish them in any way, and so --
MR. BURNS: Roy, I would suggest that you might want to give the United States and our partners the benefit of the doubt. Judge us on our past track record. Over the last 15 months, we've forced the Bosnian Serbs to stop their military offensive in September 1995. NATO inflicted military punishment upon them because of their killing of civilians in Sarajevo and their attacks on the safehavens.
We got them to agree to a peace process. We got them to Dayton. We got them to sign the Dayton accords. So far, we've had 60,000 NATO troops in Bosnia since December of 1995. We haven't lost one of those troops to hostile fire. Regrettably and tragically, we lost someone to an accident yesterday, an American soldier.
But we have accomplished our mission. We have a very good track record in working with the Bosnian Serbs and bringing them along. This is a particularly difficult issue. We've faced difficult issues with them in the past. They're going to have to understand that they're going to have no relationship with the United States if they don't cooperate with the OSCE, and they understand that.
QUESTION: But that doesn't say that they won't have any relationship with any of our European partners.
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think it does. You look at the Contact Group statement from London about a week back. Take it out and read it. There was a united Contact Group front on this particular issue.
QUESTION: Nick, (inaudible) from the Belgrade Government on the decision of the Bosnian Serb state partner joint presidency. Was most of it instrumental --
MR. BURNS: I'm going to be -- I hope you'll understand -- I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but I think that our guy, Ambassador John Kornblum, deserves the lion's share of the credit. He's been working on this day and night for a couple of days now. He's the one that pulled it together, and he participated in the meetings. So I don't want to share the credit with the Serbs in this. I don't know what the Serbs did or didn't do.
The Serbs know what they have to do. They have to continue to exercise some influence on the Bosnian Serbs.
QUESTION: Well, the flip side of the question was, have they not done enough in getting the Bosnian Serbs to cooperate on the elections?
MR. BURNS: The Serbs know what they have to do. The outer wall of sanctions still are in place against Serbia as well as on a couple of issues -- war crimes issues, Kosovo -- and those are important issues.
QUESTION: You say you have some sort of leverage over this ethnic group within a nation called Bosnia-Herzegovina, and yet you will continue to deal with the joint presidency, which has a Bosnian Serb as a member. How do you plan to single out just one ethnic group within this nation you recognize and somehow punish them?
MR. BURNS: First of all, it's a positive thing that the presidency met today. It's a very positive thing. You wouldn't suggest that we spurn Mr. Krajisnik for having agreed to come to Sarajevo for a meeting of the joint presidency.
MR. BURNS: Good, because I think we're clear about that. That was a good thing that the United States did.
Second, the Bosnian Serbs, of course -- you followed the elections in September -- they have their own parliament, and they have some local authority. And our ability to work with them in any capacity in Sarajevo is going to be affected by their overall behavior on these national issues -- on these election issues. So I think the message to them is quite clear.
QUESTION: How do you punish them, as you suggested you might? Just by not talking to them?
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of options available to us. We've talked in the past about the possibility of reimposition of sanctions. We've talked about that in the past. They're going to have to wonder what we can and will do, and they should know that we're very serious about this.
QUESTION: Nick, can you give us an update on this subject, if you can -- give us --
MR. BURNS: I think we just have a couple more remaining questions, before we fully convince everyone of the brilliance of United States policy on this issue, Mr. Abdulsalam.
QUESTION: Nick --
MR. BURNS: We have Mr. Morris. Would you like to defer to Envera? A lady before a gentleman, and then we'll go to Chris.
QUESTION: Regarding that brilliant policy, I really -- what makes you think that things are going in the right direction in Bosnia? You're trying to be optimistic, as far as I understood, but I still don't understand what makes you sure that things in Bosnia are going in the right direction, especially with the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: No one's being killed today in Bosnia, as far as I know. There's no warfare going on. That's something unusual, looking over the last five years. The reason why we Americans continue to look forward positively and refuse to become cynical and defeatist about this is that we and the Europeans stopped the war, and we helped the Bosnians make a peace. That is a fundamental fact..
It says a lot about American leadership -- active, effective American leadership. We're committed to the process. We refused to believe the naysayers who say that somehow we're going to fail now, when we succeeded in 1995, when it was much more difficult, when the odds were much higher against us.
So we're supremely confident that a continued application of Western influence, of attention, of diplomatic priority in the end is going to help this country get back on its feet and never go back to war.
But I would just end this by saying no one's being killed today, and that's a fundamental difference than most days over the last five years. The last year has been peaceful, and the Bosnian people have an opportunity to build a new state. We're relatively optimistic about the future because of that central fact.
MR. BURNS: Chris. Chris was next.
QUESTION: We may be flogging a dead horse here, but I'll just try it one more time. Just to go back to the date of the municipal elections. When they were originally postponed in September, the OSCE said we think they can be held next May. It was only because of pressure from Washington that this date in November was set at all. A lot of officials in Europe thought that the date in November was never a realistic one.
I'm just wondering how you answer the charge that perhaps the United States is micro-managing this too closely, and it's not really the OSCE which is in charge, it's the United States.
MR. BURNS: Chris, with all due respect, I know you don't share this; you're just asking the question. (Laughter) This is a ridiculous charge. Look, the United States has been -- the President in his speech in Michigan this morning talked about the United States being the indispensable country, and, I mean, we talked about having hubris with the New York Yankees.
Allow me to say this as an American Government employee, a spokesman here, but we have been the indispensable country. We have nothing to be embarrassed about. We have not micro-managed anybody. Ambassador Frowick is independent. He made a decision today based on his best appreciation of the situation.
I told you on Monday that the United States preferred that these elections go forward, and I told you that last week. That was our position. Ambassador Frowick has a different view on this question. We are choosing to support him, because it's very important that we support the OSCE; we support Carl Bildt; we support the other international agencies that are going to remain in Bosnia to work on this question.
No one's micro-managing this process, and I hope that no one is trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe on this, because we've been together on this process for a long time now.
QUESTION: Nick, you said earlier we have accomplished our mission. Did you really mean that to apply to the Dayton agreement as a whole or just what you tried to do in the first part of this year?
MR. BURNS: I just refuse to accept the ongoing criticism from both people in this room and people beyond this room that somehow Dayton hasn't worked out. Roy, you know more about Bosnia than anybody in the room. There's no question about that. We stopped the war and we made a peace, and no one can deny that. And that is the central point about American policy in Bosnia; everything else is derivative from those two central facts. Dayton is going forward, but we are encountering some problems, and they are encountering some problems as we go along the way.
That does not mean, as some of these overly cynical reports from the field say, that somehow everything is falling apart. If we'd believed those cynical press reports in 1995, we never would have had the London conference. We never would have had the NATO bombing campaign. We wouldn't have had Dayton. We wouldn't have had 60,000 troops in there.
We are succeeding in Bosnia. It is absolutely true. It is not possible to refute that central fact. The Bosnians are encountering problems, usually caused by the Bosnian Serbs, and we're determined to work on those problems. We have nothing to be defensive or embarrassed about.
QUESTION: Nick --
QUESTION: I would just like to stick with this a moment. In other words, so this statement stands. You mentioned technical and administrative problems, but you haven't given any details about what is really at issue here. I mean, some suggestions have been made that it has to do with a so-called Form P-2 under which people can vote, even if they've never lived in a town or really don't want to go there.
The Bosnian Serbs apparently insist on continuing this form, and I gather the OSCE and the United States wanted it to be dropped. Is that the issue that's at hand, or is it something else?
MR. BURNS: What I'd like to suggest is that Ambassador Frowick is conducting a press conference, held concurrently with this one, and I think his statement is already out on the wires. I know that your colleagues from most of your news organizations are probably with him, asking him these questions.
I think he's the responsible person to talk about the specific difficulties that he has encountered. All I want to say today is we support his decision. And we'll continue to work with the OSCE to prepare for elections in 1997.
QUESTION: The point behind the question is that what this has to do with is the actual control of the ground, the return of the two point something million refugees to their homes in some safe condition. And, if it's being put off for six more months now -- this election was going to be the watershed -- and, if it's being put off for that reason, I don't quite understand how you have any optimism that next spring the Bosnian Serbs will agree to conditions that they won't agree to now. I mean, it seems like the contrary is more likely.
MR. BURNS: There's really nothing new I can say -- this is a question that's been asked by a number of your colleagues -- except to say that we're in for the long haul. We're going to keep working with our colleagues and friends and partners in Bosnia. We're going to succeed. They're going to succeed, more importantly, in the end.
Yes, Mr. Abdulsalam.
QUESTION: We are going to the Middle East. Can you please give us an update about the talks, that they broke down yesterday in a sudden. I understand that Dennis Ross was called to Tel Aviv airport, and he returned to Jerusalem or to Tel Aviv or wherever. What's happening? Give us a special report, please.
MR. BURNS: I talked to Dennis Ross about an hour and a half ago. He just issued a statement. Let me read it to you. He just issued it before I came out.
"We delayed our departure last night, because we were in the midst of the most promising discussions to date on the issue of civil affairs. Those discussions, which continued until after 3:00 a.m. local time, necessitated a delay in our departure. The discussions made significant progress."
"We have been in consultations with both sides today. We will have another intensive session on other issues with them tonight."
About midday yesterday, as you know, Dennis held a press conference, and he said, "I'm leaving to come back to Washington at Secretary Christopher's instruction to consult, and then I'll be going back -- returning to the field."
I understand from Dennis that, as he said, just before he was about to depart, he was asked by both delegations to stay, because they wished to try to make some progress on civil affairs. As he said -- Dennis is a person who uses his words quite carefully -- they have made some significant progress on those issues. Now they're on to other issues.
We're taking this one day at a time. I have no idea what Dennis' travel plans are -- I talked to him about this -- except that he'll see how it goes tonight, and, when he wakes up tomorrow, he'll see whether his continued presence there makes sense. If it does or it does not.
Secretary Christopher was in touch with him last evening, also today; is following this very closely, and I think we've all learned -- I know you have -- in the Middle East that you've got to judge things as they go along. You can't become too high or too low. We're balanced as we look at this. Significant progress has been made, and that's positive. That has required his presence today in Israel and in Gaza, and he'll stay there as long as he feels it's appropriate.
QUESTION: So, the news conference yesterday and his saying that he's departing and going back to the United States did the job -- did the actual thing that bring them back together? Is that what --
MR. BURNS: You know, I can tell you --
QUESTION: He said that --
MR. BURNS: I wish I could claim that this was some type of elaborate scheme by the United States. It wasn't. He was coming back, and he got an eleventh hour phone call from one of the negotiators, asking him to stay. I think Dennis' inclination and decision to stay perfectly represents the President's and the Secretary of State's viewpoint that the United States should do everything we can to help Israel and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Netanyahu working on a deadline? My understanding that when the summit was here early this month, that the President gave Mr. Netanyahu 45 days to finish this issue of Hebron.
MR. BURNS: No time-line. You all asked that question of the President in the East Room. There was no agreement at the Washington summit on a date certain by which the negotiations had to be finished, but there was an agreement, publicly made, that they would stay at the negotiating table until they had an agreement.
QUESTION: Nick, you said one side called, one of the negotiators. They couldn't have both called simultaneously -- I suppose they could. Maybe he has two phones. But who made the first request? Which side?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't think I -- I mean, I'm going to let Dennis --
QUESTION: First you had them both wanting him to stay, and then --
MR. BURNS: They did both want him to stay --
QUESTION: I realize that.
MR. BURNS: -- but one side had to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Who wouldn't want him to stay.
MR. BURNS: Someone has to offer the first dance, right?
QUESTION: But as he was pursuing this with you, you talk about one negotiator, and I wondered who the initiative came from.
MR. BURNS: I think --
QUESTION: Were they talking with each other when they made the call to Dennis at the airport to come back?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know.
QUESTION: Did one say to the other: "I'll talk to him for us?"
MR. BURNS: I think I'm going to let Dennis decide whether he wants to answer that question. He's in the middle of the talks. I'm going to give him a little bit of leeway today.
QUESTION: You figure he'll answer that question.
MR. BURNS: Well, you never know.
QUESTION: Are we taking this a day at a time or a half a day at a time?
MR. BURNS: We're taking this a day at a time, Charlie. We're still on a daily basis here. He'll wake up tomorrow and see if it's advisable for him to stay or not. He hasn't made any plans. He hasn't decided to stay. He hasn't decided to leave. He's just there. He's there. He's working very hard.
QUESTION: Are the talks going forward on other subjects as well?
MR. BURNS: Yes. In fact, I think as Dennis' statement makes clear, in addition to the significant progress made on civil affairs, they are talking about other issues this evening, and they're into the evening, obviously, given the time difference.
QUESTION: Well, there are military issues and there are civilian issues.
MR. BURNS: Civil affairs, of course, deals with Hebron as well as -- there are aspects of all this.
QUESTION: (Multiple comments)
QUESTION: I thought they'd made progress on military, and now they've made progress --
MR. BURNS: They have.
QUESTION: So what third category is there?
MR. BURNS: I didn't mention a third category.
QUESTION: You said they're going on to other things. I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: Other issues beyond civil affairs.
QUESTION: About military, right?
MR. BURNS: Dennis did not specify what that was.
QUESTION: But, I mean, I thought military...
MR. BURNS: Barry, he said "other issues."
QUESTION: ...they had crossed the Rubicon on military...
MR. BURNS: We never said that.
QUESTION: ...and today they crossed the River Styx on civil, so I didn't know what else is left.
MR. BURNS: The United States never said -- either in the person of Dennis or myself -- that we've resolved one side of this, one of the sets of issues. We said we made progress. It doesn't mean we've answered every single question.
QUESTION: Let's try it another way. Is there a third mysterious field where significant progress is still necessary?
MR. BURNS: Barry, we have talked about civil issues and military issues. Now there may be other issues out there, but I'm just going to let Dennis define what the set of issues are.
QUESTION: Basically, you're not aware of any special hidden obstacles or issues, are you?
MR. BURNS: All we know is that nothing's over until it's over, and it's not over yet.
QUESTION: And the fat lady sings.
MR. BURNS: And the fat lady sings, that's right.
QUESTION: Nick, after Dennis made the news conference yesterday and took his attache case, and he was going to go -- come back to the States --
MR. BURNS: After having been away for 16 days, that's right.
QUESTION: Were there any contacts overnight before the announcement that he's going back to the talks, to resume the talks? Were there any contacts by either of the parties with the Secretary of State or with someone else overnight to bring about a change?
MR. BURNS: I know that the Secretary 24 hours ago understood that Dennis was going to leave. Dennis then called the Secretary very late in the day to say he had decided to stay because of these entreaties from the parties, and that was the first the Secretary heard of it, and the Secretary had a conversation with a number of people about that. So the Secretary is following this very closely. But this was a decision made in the field.
QUESTION: Will the final status schedule come out of this or out of the Netanyahu-Arafat meeting? Is that the U.S.' anticipation?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I can't anticipate.
QUESTION: Could that be the third area?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Could that be the third area, trying to tell them --
MR. BURNS: Final status talks are separate from the talks underway at Taba and Eilat. They're separate. The Taba and Eilat talks, as you know, are on the Israel/Palestinian agreement.
QUESTION: Hebron's been such a headache, and do you want -- don't you want to set a scenario for other simple issues -- whether Jerusalem --
MR. BURNS: That's up to the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat.
Still on this issue? Carol, yes.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about a letter? There's a report that the Secretary sent a letter to Dick Spring, in which he expressed concern about the EU role in the Middle East peace talks?
MR. BURNS: I know the Secretary was in touch by letter with a number of his colleagues in Europe, and I know with Foreign Minister Spring, because Ireland is the President of the EU currently. The Secretary gave, I know, the French Foreign Minister, by letter, our appreciation of where these negotiations were over the weekend, before President Chirac's trip. And I think there was also communication to Foreign Minister Spring.
But I should tell you, without going into the details of those communications, we think the European Union can and should play a positive, active role here -- a positive and active role in the Middle East. Israel and the Palestinians have made their own decisions. The United States will be the sole country present at the current talks.
They made that decision, and we have to abide by their decision. They haven't asked anybody to sit with them at the talks.
Frankly, it probably stands to reason, you don't want to create a mini-United Nations in Taba and Eilat. You want to have the two parties and the one indispensable country that has been there for 25-30 years as the active intermediary.
QUESTION: I was asking, when you were welcoming the French intervention, yesterday --
MR. BURNS: Wait a minute, Barry. I certainly welcome President Chirac's trip.
QUESTION: I realize that.
MR. BURNS: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Nick, there's a tonal change here. You may not want to get into it. But yesterday --
MR. BURNS: Let's let Barry finish his --
QUESTION: Yesterday, the question I put to you was, isn't the United States the one -- I don't know if I used the word "indispensable" -- but the party trusted most by the two sides to be the mediator? And doesn't the U.S. therefore have a kind of special role to play there?
MR. BURNS: Of course, we do.
QUESTION: And you were very welcoming of the French, and said they had been helpful all along. I didn't know what that was based on, but...
MR. BURNS: Barry, I just assume that you and I agree that the United States was the indispensable country, but that -- you asked about the trip of President Chirac yesterday, and others did.
The United States believes that it's positive that President Chirac is in the Middle East. We think that France has an active role to play as does the EU, as does the United Kingdom. I understand that Secretary Rifkind is going to be traveling just in a week or two to the Middle East. We welcome that.
We want to work with the Europeans. In fact, the Europeans have been the backbone of the financial assistance, as Mr. Abdulsalam knows, to the Palestinians. They have an integral role to play here.
But today I'm asked a different question. A different question, and so I'm giving you an answer that I've given several times in the past, including I think yesterday. I made reference to the fact that it doesn't make sense to have 20 countries around a table when you can have three.
QUESTION: I want to get the sense of what the letters reflected: the notion that it doesn't make a lot of sense to have everybody in the kitchen with their spoon in the stew? Or are you saying that we're trying to get a notion -- first of all, were they identical letters? I don't believe they can be, if you were thanking the French. Did several letters go out?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Did they go out to others than the Irish and the French? And what is the basic tone, or the basic message of the letter: get involved, but don't forget we're the indispensable party? Or don't get too involved? Or get involved as much as you like?
MR. BURNS: I'm glad you're not writing these communications!
QUESTION: I don't get a feel for what the U.S. wants the Europeans to do about this.
MR. BURNS: Let's take this on two levels. I think I can answer all the questions and satisfy you about the brilliance of our policy on this issue. That is the following.
In general, as I said yesterday, and as we've said all along, we need to continue working with the Europeans, but France and Britain in particular are very active, on this issue. We want them to be involved in the Middle East.
The Italian Prime Minister was in Cairo. The French President has been in Damascus and Jerusalem. He's going elsewhere. The British Foreign Secretary is traveling. It's all positive.
We can't have a successful Middle East peace effort without the Europeans. They were at Madrid. They're part of the effort. Full stop. That's our position, in general.
Now, specifically, on these narrow negotiations that are underway -- discussions at Taba and Eilat -- all I can say is the Palestinians and Israelis have chosen the United States and only the United States for these talks. It's their decision. And it probably makes sense given where they are in these particular talks, which are a sub-set of the overall context of these negotiations. It makes sense to go ahead on this basis.
QUESTION: Who did the Secretary's letters go to, if you can tell us?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that he wrote the French Foreign Minister and the Irish Foreign Minister. But let me do this. Let me take the question and give you a list of all the people that he was in contact with because it makes sense.
QUESTION: And whether it's the same letter?
MR. BURNS: All these letters are different, because each country has a different role to play.
I think Sid has the floor.
QUESTION: That's what the Secretary said in his letter: "We welcome your participation. We need it. But..."
MR. BURNS: I've been very careful just to give you a very general appreciation. Not the specific language.
QUESTION: But generally speaking, he said, "We welcome your help?"
MR. BURNS: That's the general message that we always give to the Europeans.
QUESTION: But they've chosen us for these negotiations?
MR. BURNS: No, no, wait a minute, Sid. I did not speak specifically about the letters. In fact, I said, I don't want to go into the details of the letters.
I was answering a specific question outside the context of these particular letters.
QUESTION: Excuse me, though. I tried to make the point that our questions are in the context of -- generally speaking --
MR. BURNS: And my answers were not.
QUESTION: -- but to reflect the message.
MR. BURNS: No, no --
QUESTION: You haven't reflected necessarily the message?
MR. BURNS: I want to be very clear about this. I've been speaking about U.S. policy, in general. I'm very willing to tell you that the Secretary of State has been in touch with his colleagues recently which makes sense because a number of them are traveling to the region -- Italians, British, and French. But I have very specifically not told you what was in those letters. I don't believe I should. It's diplomatic correspondence.
QUESTION: What is your statement of policy there?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Your statement of U.S. policy, the two thoughts, was not what the Secretary wrote to these people?
MR. BURNS: It's general U.S. policy. I can tell you the Secretary wrote these letters. I'm not at liberty to say what was in the letters. But you can be assured that these letters were sent -- were sent -- with great respect to the Europeans; that what I've said was reflected in those letters, and that we don't have a problem here. We don't think we have a problem.
QUESTION: What is a positive and active role you would like the Europeans to play? Does President Chirac's trip fit into that rubric of --
MR. BURNS: It absolutely does. First and foremost -- in the case of France and Britain -- you're talking about two countries that have had extensive, over a century-long experience in this region.
Secondly, they have a political role to play -- President Chirac, in his meetings with Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Rabin, and President Assad. He has a political role to play, which we hope can be positive in pushing forward these negotiations for peace.
Secretary Rifkind and Prime Minister Major have the same role to play. We welcome it. We encourage it.
The EU has been a very large contributor and has made a very, very big contribution on the economic end which is absolutely essential. The EU has been involved politically and economically, and we hope that both continue.
QUESTION: You don't want them at the negotiating table; right? Is that what it comes down to?
MR. BURNS: I think we can wrap all this up and go on. We have to talk about northern Iraq today.
I think that we can finish this up, because this has gone on way too long, and say, they have a role to play -- the Europeans. It's up to Israel and the Palestinians, in the context of the current negotiations, to decide who sits with them at the table. They made that decision. We accepted their invitation, and we're playing a very positive role.
QUESTION: The killing goes on in Iraqi Kurdistan. What progress -- has a meeting occurred between Talabani and Mr. Pelletreau? And does Mr. Pelletreau have a cease-fire?
MR. BURNS: A couple of things. First, Bob Pelletreau, having completed his meeting with Barzani yesterday, met today -- I believe may still be meeting today in Ankara, Turkey -- with Mr. Talabani. He has also been working the phones. He's been in touch with a lot of different people on this issue.
You know the goals of the United States. We'd like to get these Kurdish factions; convince them in this current diplomatic round to stop fighting and start talking. That's very simply put, what Ambassador Pelletreau's objectives are on this trip. Since he hasn't completed the meeting with Mr. Talabani, I simply can't give you any kind of summary of that meeting.
We understand the fighting is continuing in northern Iraq between these two factions. There's a back-and-forth quality to the fighting. It really depends who has the ball on some days, as to who is on offense as to what happens.
Unfortunately, and as we had feared, there seems to have been a problem created in the last couple of days -- refugees -- because of this fighting. It's tragic to see this. It's another reason why they should stop the fighting. We will continue our diplomatic contacts with the KDP and the PUK until the fighting has stopped.
I should also tell you, just to be complete, that the roughly 600 people who were evacuated from northern Iraq to Silopi, Turkey, yesterday, are now at Incirlik Air Base -- Turkish air base; NATO base -- in southeast Turkey. They are being flown in two separate civilian flights to Guam. That is happening today. I suspect when we meet again tomorrow all these 600 people will be in Guam.
They will be processed there for asylum into the United States as are the other 2,100 Iraqi, Kurdish, Turkoman individuals who have been taken to Guam by the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, is there any interview process? Remember what the poor Asians had to go through? Or is there a general assumption that if you don't like Saddam Hussein, you're a political refugee and he might get you for it?
MR. BURNS: There's an assumption being made about the 600. These are all Iraqi opposition figures who would be persecuted should they come under the sway of Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: But they don't have (inaudible) talk about thugs knocking at their door. The fact that they were opposition people, by definition, qualifies them as political refugees.
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, Barry, that's the sorry truth about Iraq. Saddam Hussein is so ruthless --
QUESTION: Yeah, but other ruthless places people have to go through the laborious process of convincing an administrative official of the U.S. Government that they have reason to fear for their lives, and some of them died at sea.
MR. BURNS: The tragedy of Iraq in the last 15 years or so is that Saddam Hussein is so ruthless that his political opposition has to assume it will be persecuted should those people fall under his sway. We accept that. That's why we've evacuated now 2,700 people to Guam.
These people are all being considered for asylum. It's our expectation that the vast majority, if not all of them, will be granted asylum into the United States. But there is a process:
The Immigration and Naturalization Service does question them; they have to prove they are who they are; we also don't want to see, of course, certain types of people -- known terrorists -- let into the United States. For instance, that's one thing that we look for. We don't expect to see those types of people, frankly, among this group because, in almost all of these cases, we know who they are -- we've worked with many of them -- among the 2,700. Many of them worked for us directly in the past.
QUESTION: Where does that leave the politicals -- I guess there are enough political opponents of Saddam Hussein remaining.
But you remember when the U.S. was blowing the bugle to the opponents of Saddam Hussein to rise up and bring them down -- you know, not so veiled messages; that you prefer some sort of a revolt.
Doesn't this take some of the steam out of the opposition -- these 600 folks leaving?
MR. BURNS: We look forward to the day when Iraq can be a stable, democratic country -- it's clearly not either right now -- and when the Iraqi people don't have to fear that because of their points of view or their family origin or their ethnic origin, they're not going to receive a knock on the door at night. We look forward to that day.
However, we do have a responsibility to the people we've taken out. Twenty-one hundred of these people and their family members worked for us. We would be negligent if we let them stay.
The 600 people, who we know to be opponents to the Saddam Hussein regime, they're people who we've supported in the past. We've supported their cause and their beliefs in the past. We have an obligation to them as well.
QUESTION: What about the other aid workers, Nick?
MR. BURNS: There is another group of several thousand people -- in fact, many thousands of people -- who worked for American and non- governmental organizations, European non-governmental organizations. We are still looking at whether or not it makes sense, whether it's appropriate to evacuate those people into Turkey for safe entry into another country, or the United States.
No decision has been made. We don't believe that the vast majority of these people are in the kind of imminent danger that the 600 or the 2,100 were in. Ambassador Pelletreau has made it a point to convince Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani that the Kurdish groups that do control most of northern Iraq have a responsibility to make sure that these people are not subject to political persecution by anybody.
QUESTION: No protection is being provided to them? Is there anything else that the United States can do short of removing them from the region?
MR. BURNS: These people are in a different category. The threat against them, we believe, is lower than the threat against the people we've taken out. That provides for you the rationale of why we've selected these groups of people. But we cannot say that the threat does not exist.
Northern Iraq is a very stable place. We're mindful that this is an issue that we need to decide. We are looking at it -- we're talking to the Europeans about it. We will make a decision at some point, but that decision has not yet been made.
QUESTION: Do you have any assurances that one of the factions or both factions, which is Talabani is affiliated with Iran, and Barzani with Iraq with Saddam Hussein -- that they will disassociate themselves from these alliances and possibly work together to unite?
MR. BURNS: Our very strong advice to both of them is to disdain any kind of alliance with either Iran or Iraq. We don't believe that Iran and Iraq have any type of role whatsoever to play in northern Iraq.
Any final questions? How about a new subject, and then we'll go to Greece.
QUESTION: You said that bringing these people here to the United States and making them naturalized American citizens, why don't you keep them in other third countries if you have any hope to establish in Iraq in the near future as a democratic country? You are taking the (inaudible) position in bringing to the United States. Can we describe that you lost your hope about Iraq's future?
MR. BURNS: One thing that I think the United States and other democratic countries pride themselves in is, we don't force people to act against their will. These people want to come to the United States. We're not in a position to force them to go elsewhere if that is their wish and if we feel that we have an obligation to them, as we clearly do.
QUESTION: The religious leader of the Turkish minority in Greece has been sentenced to six months in jail. Since the United States Administration is the champion of human rights, universally, did you get in touch with the Greek Government to protest this jail sentence?
MR. BURNS: I will have to look. I'm unaware of this incident. I'll have to look into it for you and get an answer for you at tomorrow's briefing.
QUESTION: On the other question. Is there a plan for a second meeting with Mr. Barzani, or rather a second round of talks before Ambassador Pelletreau leaves for the Gulf?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe Ambassador Pelletreau has decided what else he's going to be doing. He won't do that until he finishes the meeting with Mr. Talabani.
QUESTION: When is he scheduled to leave Turkey?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he has a firm date. These are open, diplomatic discussions.
Mr. Lambros has been waiting.
QUESTION: A U.S. Governmental source that the State Department, in full consultation with the Turkish Government, is considering now the jurisdiction over certain, inhabited, small islands of the Aegean to the direction of a re-reading of the Lausanne and Paris status for the purpose, they say, to resolve the so-called legal vacuum led by those treaties.
Could you please confirm if you have such a consultation with the Turkish Government to this effect, and comment -- an additional element over the partition of Greece in the Aegean? And I would like to know, how did you find this vacuum after 73 years?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I began this briefing with some baseball metaphors and analogies -- I'm going to end it with one. As Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." We've answered this question, I think, everyday for the last four or five days. It's up to Greece and Turkey to decide to work together amicably, peacefully, without the threat of force or the use of force to decide the disposition of these islets -- disputed islets. The United States is willing to help. But frankly, you really ought to be posing these questions to the Greek spokesman and the Turkish spokesman.
QUESTION: You are considering the jurisdiction over certain inhabited islands -- the U.S. Government?
MR. BURNS: We have a clear position, and we've expressed it 20/30 times at these briefings -- we have, with all due respect.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:09 p.m.) (###)
-31- Tuesday, 10/22/96
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