U.S. Department of State 96/10/24 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, October 24, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ISRAEL Statement by Secretary Christopher on the Anniversary of the Death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin .................... 1-2 IRAQ Status of Cease-fire in Northern Iraq/Contacts with Kurdish Factions ...................................................... 2 Ambassador Pelletreau's Planned Talks with Kurdish Factions . 2,12-13,22,23 Reports of Iranian and Iraqi Involvement in Fighting .......... 18 Turkish Government's Plans to Discuss Trade Issues at Talks . 18-19 U.S. Position on Northern Iraq/Iraq's Territorial Integrity . 19-22 Implementation of Resolution 986 ............................ 23,24 Situation in Irbil/Iraqi Presence ........................... 23-24 RWANDA/ZAIRE Situation and Fighting in Eastern Zaire/Refugees .......... 3,26-27 U.S. $30 Million Allocation to UNHCR for Projects in Great Lakes Region of Africa/Refugee Assistance .................. 24-26 ECUADOR Plane Crash/U.S. Offer of Assistance ........................ 3-4 CUBA Helms-Burton Legislation/Ambassador Eizenstat's Travel ...... 4,6 Cuba's Human Rights Record .................................. 5-6 Mexico's Concerns re Helms-Burton Legislation ............... 29-30 ALBANIA First Round of Local Elections in Albania ................... 4 DEPARTMENT First Recipient of the Secretary's Award for Exceptional Achievement in the Field of Democracy and Human Rights ..... 4-5 CHINA Case of Former Fulbright Scholar From Tibet Detained in China 6-7 U.S.-PRC Bilateral Relationship ............................. 29 SAUDI ARABIA Status of Investigation into Dhahran Bombing ................ 7-10,12 Report of 11 Suspects Arrested re Bombing ................... 10 Activities/Whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden ................... 10-12 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Progress in the Israeli-Palestinian Talks ................... 13-15 Dennis Ross Meetings and Whereabouts ........................ 15 Reported Call from Israeli PM Netanyahu to President Clinton 15-16 BURMA Reports of Renewed Restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi ......... 16 Detention of National League for Democracy Leader Kyi Maung . 16-18 Prospects for Additional U.S. Sanctions Against Burma ....... 17 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Second Shipment of Supplies for Train and Equip Program/ Issues of Concern to Be Resolved by Bosnian Government ...... 27-28 Reports of Croatian Concern re: Shipment .................... 28-29 TURKEY European Union-Turkey Customs Agreement ..................... 30 AZERBAIJAN Reports U.S. Delegation to Travel to Azerbaijan ............. 30 NORTH KOREA Continued Detention of American Citizen Hunziker ............ 30-31 U.S.-North Korean Talks ..................................... 31
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1996, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I have a lot of things to go through here, a variety of statements that I hope will be of interest to you. Let me do that and then we'll go to questions.
First, I'd like to read a statement by Secretary of State Christopher on the anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
You will have seen the statement that President Clinton has issued today. In fact, the President videotaped a message which is being shown on Israeli television. This statement is from Secretary of State Christopher.
"Today, the people of Israel mark the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The passage of time has not diminished our sorrow and our determination to reject the violence and hatred that struck him down -- and to pursue the lasting peace for which he dedicated the final years of his life -- is just as strong.
"Prime Minister Rabin's legacy is clear: A strong and democratic Israel; a historic process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians; a warm peace between Israel and Jordan, and a conviction that there can be no peace without security and no security without peace.
"He was a brave and great leader, and a cherished friend of resident Clinton, of mine, and of the American people. Our memories of Yitzhak Rabin continue to inspire our dedication to the causes which inspired him: The security of Israel, the unshakable bonds between the people of our two nations and the constant search for peace in a reason that has known too much war."
That is a statement by Secretary of State Christopher on the anniversary of Prime Minister Rabin's assassination. It's available in the Press Room for those of you who are interested after this briefing.
Let me go on and give you a sense of what is happening in northern Iraq.
In Northern Iraq: We've been in touch with both Mr. Talabani's forces and Mr. Barzani's forces this morning. They inform us that the cease- fire is taking hold in northern Iraq. It is in effect.
This is very good news. As you know, we announced last night -- yesterday afternoon, actually -- that we expected the cease-fire to go into effect around 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time here in the United States. That has happened. There were some reports of sporadic fighting, but that may have been a case of some of the forces. This is a isolated mountainous area not getting the word. It appears now that the cease- fire is taking hold in northern Iraq. This is positive news.
Ambassador Pelletreau, who is currently in the Gulf, is going to be returning to Ankara over the weekend. In the middle of next week, he will initiate diplomatic talks between the Kurdish factions. Both will be represented at the table with him and with representatives of the Governments of Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Assisting Ambassador Pelletreau will our be our Director for Northern Gulf Affairs, Robert Deutsch -- "Deutsch" the younger, as we refer to him here in the U.S. Government -- not to be confused with other "Deutschs" in the U.S. Government.
As I said, we have hopes that these talks might lead the KDP and PUK to maintain the cease-fire, to decide together on some form of political reconciliation so that the situation in northern Iraq can be more stable and more peaceful.
This is a situation where we've put a lot of diplomatic muscle into play over the last week or so. Ambassador Pelletreau has done an excellent job in bringing the situation to this point. We do want to thank the Turkish Government, in particular, and the Government of the United Kingdom for everything they've done to support this effort. I'll be glad to take questions on this in just a minute.
In addition to that, let me talk for a minute about the situation in eastern Zaire, which is very worrisome. I have a statement that's available for you as well on this.
The United States deplores the recent fighting in eastern Zaire. Such actions only tend to inflame the already-tense situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa. We call upon all parties to cease the violence and to diffuse the situation.
We also call upon Rwanda and Zaire to build upon their recent cooperation, which has been evidenced by high-level Zairian visits to Kigali, meetings among Zairian and Rwandan local officials, and their joint participation in the Carter Center summit process. We call upon them to work together to end the fighting in eastern Zaire.
The United States is working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Governments of Zaire and Rwanda towards the voluntary repatriation of all of the Rwandan refugees. As you know, there are 1.1 million Rwandan refugees living in Zaire.
We welcome the Rwandan Government statement urging all their refugees to return home. I do want to return to this in the course of the question period and answer period because I do have a lot of information to give you on that.
But let me just finish with our statements. There's a lot happening today -- a lot happening around the world.
To Ecuador: Yesterday, we discussed very briefly the great tragedy of the plane crash in Ecuador. I can tell you that the Ecuadoran Government has officially asked the United States for assistance to cope with this tragedy.
The scale of the tragedy is very, very large; 40 Ecuadorans have been killed by the crash of the airplane, all of them on the ground. You know this airliner -- American charter airliner -- was filled with fuel when it took off and crashed shortly thereafter. These 40 people were on the ground when the plane crashed. They were killed.
Three crew members on board -- all three crew members -- were killed. Two of them are Americans. I think yesterday we said that we thought three were. But upon closer inspection by our American diplomats from our Consulate in Guayaquil, who were on the scene at Manta, we believe that two of them have died. Their names are Hendrick Ropoll and Ernesto Luis Enciso. Our condolences go out to both of their families and their friends.
The United States Ambassador in Ecuador, Les Alexander, has declared this an emergency. He's requested authority to spend up $25,000 in State Department funds on this emergency.
The Defense Department is airlifting today 29 military burn specialists from Fort Sam Houston in Texas as well as some very urgently needed medication to Ecuador to cope with this terrible tragedy. I understand that there are 19 burn victims in the hospital who require specialized help. That's why the U.S. Government is sending this defense assistance and these burn specialists to Ecuador to help those people recover from their injuries and wounds and to help some of them survive.
In addition to that, I just want to let you know, in response to some of the questioning on Helms-Burton yesterday, Ambassador Stu Eizenstat is leaving today on a trip to promote a dialogue in North America and in Western Europe between the United States and all of our friends in both places on the issue of human rights in Cuba, and to discuss with them, further, the implications of the Helms-Burton legislation.
He'll be traveling to Paris, to Rome, The Hague, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Brussels. In each city, he'll be meeting with government officials, with business leaders, with non-governmental organizations to discuss Helms-Burton but also to discuss a very important point for the United States: How can we, in the West, together, combine to build support for those human rights champions in Cuba whose rights are being taken away by the Castro Government?
Two other announcements. This, I will not read but post. We do have a statement on the first round of the local elections in Albania. As you know, those elections have been quite important because of some irregularities by the Government of Albania in prior elections. I have a statement available for you, if you're interested.
Finally, I wanted to let you know that Secretary Christopher has established an award for exceptional achievement in the field of democracy and human rights. The first winner of this award is Louis Mazel, our Political Officer in Windhoek, Namibia. He had outstanding work in looking into the national multi-media campaign to attack the problem of violence against women in Namibia. He also mobilized indigenous women's groups, national government agencies, other public and private sector players to more fully protect women and secure their fundamental human rights.
You might be interested to know some of the runners-up for this award. One, Janice Weiner, our Human Rights Officer, in Ankara, Turkey, who worked on the problem of human rights in Turkey; Julie Winn, our Political Officer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who worked on human rights problems in Haiti itself; and Robin Meyer, our Human Rights Officer in Havana, Cuba, who is now back in the United States at the insistence of the Cuban Government.
This brings us full-circle back to Ambassador Eizenstat's trip and the importance of those of us in the West paying attention to human rights violations in Cuba and not just to Helms-Burton.
Those are all the announcements I had, and, Barry, I'll be glad to go into any of these issues.
Q Anything comparable for bringing to the attention of the world to human rights violations in other countries? Is there any such activity going on apropos to China, for instance? Whether the U.S., from this podium, of course, deplores China's human rights record? Do we send people all around the world?
It's the old bit, that Cuba is a special case, it strikes me. Is the Cuban record --
MR. BURNS: You really ask two questions --
Q -- that egregious compared, for instance, to China's?
MR. BURNS: You really ask two questions.
MR. BURNS: First, as you know, I don't think there's another government in the world that even approaches the United States in our universal coverage of human rights problems. We have our human rights report that talks about human rights problems in every single country in the world with which we have diplomatic relations and many with which we don't have diplomatic relations.
Second, we speak up regularly to talk about human rights problem in countries where the problems are quite severe, like China. Just last week, we had very sharp words to describe our reaction about the arrest in China of noted human rights activists.
What makes Cuba, in this case, a little different is this controversy over Helms-Burton. Some of our neighbors here in North America, and our European friends, want all of the discussion to be about their opposition to our legislation -- Helms-Burton. We're willing to talk to them about Helms-Burton but we think that since all these countries -- Canada, Mexico, France, Britain, Italy -- are democracies -- they ought to have at least an equal interest in talking about democracy in Cuba. Thus, Ambassador Eizenstat's trips.
Ambassador Eizenstat has a two-fold mission. One is to carry on a diplomatic discussion of Helms-Burton. The second is to try to mobilize a coherent Western response to the massive human rights violations in Cuba. They are massive, Barry. All political opponents of Castro jailed. As you know, some of his earliest associates in his revolution have been jailed for decades, in some cases.
The recent Concilio Cubano -- nascent human rights organization -- put down more than 50 people arrested and detained last February.
The human rights abuses in our hemisphere, in Cuba, are very, very significant and they deserve our attention.
Q In China? Does the U.S. intervene in behalf of a Fulbright musician, whose name I can't pronounce?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think I can shed some light on this. We talked about this a couple of days ago. This is the case of Mr. Ngawang Choephel. Thousands of Americans have actually written to us about this case -- written to the State Department about this case -- of an individual who has been detained.
Let me just tell you a little bit about him. There's no evidence that he's committed any crime. He is from the Tibetan region. He's a former Fulbright scholar from Tibet. We believe he's not been involved in anything other than pursuing his professional interests in the field of ethno-musicology. He's been involved in non-violent videotaping of traditional Tibetan dances. It seems a little curious to say, "non- violent videotaping." But we say that because he's been involved in trying to capture Tibetan dances on film and to capture that part of Tibetan culture.
He has not, as far as we know, been involved in any kind of violent activity. He's only been involved in ethno-musicology. He's trained as an ethno-musicologist. The taping of the dances is compatible with his professional interests. We're concerned that he's been detained. We don't believe there's any reason to detain him because we don't believe he's committed any crime in China. We've expressed this to the Chinese Government.
We think it is important to preserve Tibet's unique cultural and linguistic heritage. If Tibetans want to do that, they ought to be free to do that. We've expressed this to the very high levels of the U.S. Government, including the Secretary mentioning it in his September 25th meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Qian Qichen.
Q And the Chinese responded. What might he be charged with? Or is there anything --
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we had a satisfactory response from the Chinese. I don't know if we're aware of the specific charges against him, which is one of the problems.
Q But it's something to do with the dances you're speaking of?
MR. BURNS: It obviously has a lot to do with Tibet, and the continuing problems of human rights in Tibet. One of the problems is, we don't know what the charges are. Second is, we don't think he's done anything to merit incarceration. As you know, in this case, as in all other cases, we are urging the Chinese Government to release those people who are being held solely because of the expression of their political and personal views.
Q Nick, the Chinese Government also said today that the Tibetans ought to embrace atheism. It would be good for them. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: We believe in religious freedom all over the world, and we believe that the Tibetan people have a right to decide individually what kind of religion they're going to practice.
Q Nick, could I ask you some questions about the Dhahran bombing investigation. First of all, you've said in the past and would you say again today that the United States is satisfied with the level of cooperation from Saudi authorities on the matter?
MR. BURNS: First, David, as you know, that's an ongoing investigation, and that investigation, of course, is led by the Saudi Government and has involved the United States law enforcement agencies of the U.S. Government. I cannot comment on any aspect of the investigation until it's completed, and once it's completed, I'm sure there will be comments from both the Saudi and U.S. Government, but it's not completed.
As to the nature of our work, we continue to work very hard with the Saudi Government on this issue, because we lost 19 young Americans in Dhahran in the bomb blast, and we lost other Americans and Saudis in Riyadh in the bomb blast there.
We want to work with the Saudis to come to the bottom of this, but I just can't comment on any particular aspect of it.
Q Right, but can you comment on the level of cooperation? Is the United States satisfied that it has been getting a full enough briefing or full cooperation with the Saudis?
MR. BURNS: I can't comment in detail on all of the aspects of the cooperation, except to say that we've been in touch with the Saudis on a regular basis at high levels of our government and at other levels, and I know of no outstanding major problems -- I'm not aware of any -- in that cooperation.
Q May I just finish? Would the United States still be saying that -- would you still be saying that if you had not been allowed to interview suspects in the Dhahran bombing? Will the United States be satisfied with the level of cooperation even if U.S. investigators are never allowed to confront suspects in the bombing?
MR. BURNS: David, as I said, it's an ongoing law enforcement matter. You're asking me to comment on the methodology that's being used, on the degree of cooperation on very specific issues, and I'm just not in a position to make any comment whatsoever on ongoing investigations.
Q Then I can ask you, let's forget Saudi Arabia. Let's forget the name of the country, and let's take country X. If there's an investigation into a crime in which Americans were killed in country X and the authorities in country X would not allow American investigators to interview suspects in crime Y, would the United States find that -- consider that to be adequate cooperation or not?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware we have diplomatic relations with country X. (Laughter) I can't engage in hypothetical speculation. I don't know if you're referring to the Riyadh investigation or the Dhahran investigation.
I am talking here about the Dhahran investigation -- the investigation into the bombing of our barracks at al-Khobar. Since it's an ongoing investigation, since law enforcement officials from our government are taking the lead in that, we have a practice of never commenting on that. I know what you're getting at and I know what you're after.
Q It's an open policy question. It's not about this case.
MR. BURNS: In general, of course, we expect in any case like this the fullest cooperation, but I can't stand here and answer any specific questions about that cooperation, because I'm not involved in the team investigating. We're removed from that -- the team investigating -- the team of law enforcement officials -- they have made a policy of not speaking to the press. They've asked us not to speak to the press, and so I'm going to abide by their wishes.
Q But you just said they're taking the lead. You described them --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q If I heard you right, you said "law enforcement officials from our government are taking the lead."
MR. BURNS: Oh, on a factual basis, Barry. The Saudi Government --
Q No, the lead.
MR. BURNS: I said at the beginning the Saudi Government is taking the lead. It's Saudi territory.
Q Oh, the Saudi Government is taking the lead.
MR. BURNS: We have a group of law enforcement officials, mainly from the FBI, who are working with the Saudi Government, and they're working together. Those are the facts.
The questions here are different. David's questions are more qualitative. You know, what is the degree of cooperation. Are you happy or you're not happy. I think I've tried to do my best, but there's not a lot that I can say, because once I go down the road of trying to answer questions, I'm violating the pledge that we've made to our law enforcement agencies.
Q Could you say if there are any American investigators on the scene on a permanent basis? Any?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Are there any American investigators at all on the scene in Saudi Arabia and participating in this investigation, at least to the extent of being able to talk to some of the suspects?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I can't begin to discuss any of those questions. I'd have to refer you to the law enforcement agency in question, the FBI. I'm not sure the FBI is going to want to answer those questions either.
Q Can you comment on the report that 11 suspects have been arrested?
MR. BURNS: I just can't comment on it. I have no basis to comment on it. It's a law enforcement matter. I'm not a law enforcement official.
Q Are you aware of that report?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Are you aware of that report?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I've seen press reports this morning. I saw another Washington Times' special this morning --
Q Well, this is a separate --
MR. BURNS: -- and then I saw another piece out of Beirut this morning. The Washington Times' special was familiar to us. I guess this person exists. I guess we have to assume that this person exists. Somebody in the intelligence community talks to The Washington Post. This time it wasn't a leaked document, just leaked words.
That's very difficult to deal with, because we don't know who these people are. They don't want to put their names next to their comments. We don't know who the source is, whether it's low-level, high-level. Therefore, I can't really give it the time of day. I'm not inclined to give the time of day.
There's another way of doing work. It's the way all of you do the work, you interview people. You get them to go On The Record. You don't always have the intelligence community talking. You have actual policy-makers talking. It would be an interesting way for the Washington Times to approach its work. Perhaps it will one day.
Q Nick, does the United States have any idea where Mr. bin Laden is right now?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you where Mr. bin Laden is, but I can tell you something about our feelings about Mr. bin Laden.
In talking about him, I want to put up a wall between the prior questions on the Saudi bombings and Mr. bin Laden. I'm doing that because the Washington Times didn't put up a wall.
I can't talk to his association -- any potential involvement he may or may not have had in those bombings, because I don't know. There's an investigation underway into those crimes, those terrorist crimes.
If you put that aside for a minute and just ask me about Mr. bin Laden, I can say that he's a bad guy. He's an individual who we believe is engaged in activities that are terroristic, meaning he supports activities where the lives of innocent people are taken for his political objectives, and that is a good definition of terrorism. That's one definition.
He's been engaged in a lot of activity around the world that we find reprehensible. We try to follow his career, because we want people like him to meet justice. We want to bring them to justice when we can. So we're interested in him, and we'll continue to follow his career very closely.
Q Is any of the evidence that you have that he is a bad guy and is engaged in activities that lead to terrorism evidence of terrorism in Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to that. I think we even published a white paper on Mr. bin Laden, which we can probably make available to you. I can't speak to that question, David, but I can tell you that we're very concerned about him in general.
Q Without reference to the Saudi attacks, is bin Laden in the Sudan now, do you think?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Is Mr. bin Laden in Sudan?
MR. BURNS: I don't know where Mr. bin Laden is. I don't know where he is.
Q Nick, does the U.S. Government know where he is?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Does the U.S. Government know where he is?
MR. BURNS: The U.S. Government is a very big place. There may be people in the U.S. Government who know where he is. I don't know where he is.
Q Can we move back to the Kurdish situation?
Q One follow-up question on this, please. Nick, is there any specific point in the Washington Times' article of Mr. bin Laden today that you would take this opportunity to explicitly deny?
MR. BURNS: Marty, I've taken the pledge here.
Q I know.
MR. BURNS: And by the way, welcome. It's good to see you here.
MR. BURNS: Exactly. I've taken the pledge. I can't comment on any specific question or even a general question about this investigation. We have to allow it to go forward so it's unhindered, and we really can't engage in speculation ourselves about who may have been responsible for these bombings and who may not have been -- with all due respect.
Q Can we try the Kurds again? I'm interested in -- now that you have seem to have a cease-fire, at least for now -- what is in Pelletreau's brief for the next round?
MR. BURNS: Just to be a little bit comprehensive. He's in the Gulf. He's been in the United Arab Emirates. He's going on to Oman, to Muscat, for meetings with the Oman Government. He will then go back up to Turkey.
His instructions from Secretary Christopher are the following when he went out: to try to arrange a cease-fire. He's done that in cooperation with the Turks and the British, first.
Second, try to arrange political talks where both the KDP and PUK will face each other at the table to see if they can agree to make sure the cease-fire is permanent and that they should engage in reconciliation talks designed to insure stability and peace in northern Iraq. We think Ambassador Pelletreau has done an outstanding job. That's his mandate for next week.
He will chair the talks. He'll be assisted by the Turks and the British. He'll have an interagency delegation with him. In fact, we'll have some of our State Department, National Security Council and Defense Department officials travel with him or meet him in Ankara for these talks.
I can't foresee how long the talks will go. This will seem familiar to you. It will be a little bit like the operations of Dennis Ross. He'll have to take it on a day-by-day basis.
Q Dennis Ross. Did you say Dennis Ross? Then, guess what, he said there's been progress again. Now, if this progress is measurable and not just the fact that they are still talking is being considered progress, I can't imagine, even if it's the most minute progress, how the State Department can claim progress every day for 19 days and still not get any place, finally.
MR. BURNS: It's like that mathematical exercise when you halve everything on a day-by-day basis --
Q I took a lot of mathematics, but --
MR. BURNS: -- but you never get to the end.
MR. BURNS: But we're going to get to the end of this, Barry.
Q It's not exponential progress. You wouldn't call it --
MR. BURNS: Diplomacy is not math, so we'll get to the end of it.
Q No, but, gosh, you mention Dennis Ross --
MR. BURNS: We're not going to be limited by mathematical laws here.
Q Well, you probably have what? a two-day recess now coming up for the Sabbaths. I know you don't like to make predictions. Dennis is staying there, and he's making progress every day. When do you think you might get Hebron wrapped up, and you can move on to progress on Jerusalem and --
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm surprised to hear you say that, because you are a veteran of Middle East diplomacy.
Q I have had to write a lot of stories that said the United States said it claimed progress, and I never had a second paragraph. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Now, wait a minute. That's totally unfair. You know, for someone who has shown very good judgment --
Q Sometimes I've had a second paragraph.
MR. BURNS: Barry, Barry. (Laughter) There is a comeback, but I --
Q The second paragraph usually begins "however."
MR. BURNS: You have to give me a chance to answer that.
Q All right.
MR. BURNS: For someone who has shown such impeccable taste in baseball, Barry, I wonder about your judgment here in saying that. Look, the United States has said over the last couple of decades, but certainly over the last couple of years, we've always called it as we see it. I've often said up here there hasn't been any progress made on this particular day. We haven't always claimed progress, but, when we've claimed progress -- when we've said there's progress -- we've done it because we think there is, and I would just judge us by our record -- the record of the United States as an intermediary, especially over the last four or five years, since Madrid five years ago, where a lot of progress has been made in part because of the efforts of a country like the United States and Norway and some of the European countries. Pretty good. And we think we're going to be successful in these talks.
Q The bafflement here is there were two major -- we've been through this before -- but there were two main areas, military and civilian issues, and substantial progress has been claimed by the U.S. in both areas. Is there some mysterious third area in which there hasn't been substantial progress; there's just been progress?
MR. BURNS: No mystery, no conspiracy. Let's just review the record.
Q Have you got something new? I mean, is there some new obstacle that we're not aware of that --
MR. BURNS: No, the same old ones.
Q -- isn't yielding to substantial progress?
MR. BURNS: We didn't succumb to some of the predictions made by both Israeli and Palestinian reporters and some of you over the past week to say that victory is just around the corner. They're on the edge of an agreement.
In fact the next day after all those reports, I would come out here and say, "Don't believe those reports, because there are significant obstacles ahead." So here is where we are.
This week, as a result of the discussions that Dennis Ross has had, we believe that the Israelis and Palestinians have made significant progress on the issue of civil affairs, which is one of the big issues concerning Hebron. They need to make more progress on that and other issues, other issues being the questions of the redeployment of the Israeli Defense Forces from Hebron, which is embodied in the Oslo II agreement.
Dennis Ross called the Secretary very early this morning, around 6:00. The Secretary and Dennis had a long conversation. They reviewed the strategy of the United States as the intermediary in these talks. They reviewed some of the tactics that we've got to be concerned with in the next couple of days as we try to bring these talks to a conclusion at some point.
The Secretary told me that he had a very long, good conversation about both strategy and tactics. The Secretary has instructed Dennis to remain in the field on a day-by-day basis. He will remain there to be present at the negotiations. I understand for the last two days, they've really negotiated non-stop, including all evening and all night.
We will do whatever it takes to help the Palestinians and the Israelis get to the finish line. What is motivating us here is our friendship for both, and the fact that they have said to each other that they're going to stay at the table until they get an agreement.
Obviously, there will be some break, I think, for the Moslem holy day and the Jewish Sabbath. That is normal for these negotiations, and Dennis is going to be staying there, as far as I know, on a day-to-day basis into the future; no plans right now to return.
Q Nick, there's a report out of the Middle East that Netanyahu called President Clinton to complain that the Palestinians are dragging their feet in the talks. Do you know anything --
MR. BURNS: I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu phoned both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher, but now we're talking, I think, about 48 hours ago, and I know that they were good conversations that he had with both leaders.
Q This report refers to last night.
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check on that. I know there were earlier calls. The Secretary talked to him, I believe it was on Tuesday, and they were good conversations. We reviewed the bidding -- at least the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu reviewed the bidding in the Middle East talks, and I don't want to characterize what messages were delivered by either side.
Q But the U.S. does not feel the Palestinians are holding up progress.
MR. BURNS: Both sides are responsible for making progress. That's the way negotiations are.
Q Nick, there has been some suggestions in reports from Burma that Aung San Suu Kyi's movements have been restricted again, raising the possibility of perhaps renewed house arrests. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: Our Embassy in Rangoon has looked into these reports. We have not been able to confirm this report. We do know that in the press there has been mention that Aung San Suu Kyi has met on several occasions in the past week with some of her supporters in their homes in Rangoon.
If she's not being allowed to leave her compound -- if that report is true -- that would be a very disturbing escalation of the harassment that the SLORC has brought to the National League for Democracy and specifically to Aung San Suu Kyi.
What we are monitoring very closely today is the fact that Mr. Kyi Maung, who's a 78-year-old leader of the National League for Democracy, has been detained by the authoritarian figures in the SLORC, by the military, for questioning since October 22.
The United States calls on the SLORC, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, to release Mr. Kyi Maung immediately and unconditionally. Mr. Kyi Maung is one of the most courageous campaigners for human rights and democracy in Burma. He has gone to prison before for his political beliefs. He ought not to be arrested now, simply because he is associated, and a leader, of the NLD -- the National League for Democracy.
We renew our call on the Burmese Government to begin a political dialogue with the democratic opposition in Burma. That's been our consistent and strong position all along.
Q Can you give me some indication of where the U.S. Government is standing now? As you know, the law which was signed recently said that if there was a large-scale repression in Burma, that could trigger a ban on future investments. The wording, I think, is deliberately vague to allow the Administration some sort of leeway. How close are we to that possibly happening?
MR. BURNS: We're watching closely. As you know, the President made a decision some weeks ago to impose visa restrictions on the Burmese leadership and their families. Those restrictions are in place.
We also have seen the harassment of our previous Charge d'Affaires by the Burmese authorities. We now have a new Charge d'Affaires, Kent Wiedemann, and we hope he'll be free to exercise his diplomatic duties, as his predecessor clearly was not in her last days in office.
We are looking at this situation very closely. We retain the option of escalating in the type of sanctions that would be employed by the United States to express our displeasure with the actions of the Burmese Government.
We have not yet made the decision inside this government to go to further sanctions, but we always have the possibility of doing so. The Burmese authorities know that. We hope that this will in part, along with the efforts of other countries, convince the Burmese leadership that they need to respect international law and elementary standards of decency which they are not now respecting in their repression of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.
Q Nick, one detail. What spelling do you have for the name of this opposition figure?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Kyi Maung, I think transliterated K-y-i M-a-u-n-g. It's transliterated.
Q If he wasn't released, would that tip the balance in any way?
MR. BURNS: It's very hard to say. If he's not released, the United States would be seriously disturbed, because we believe that there is no reason for his arrest and detention. He is a human rights champion, one of the greatest in Burma. He's elderly. He's been in prison before and does not deserve this, and we're calling upon the SLORC to release him immediately.
Q Change the subject?
Q Northern Iraq.
MR. BURNS: We can go back and then go to you, Charlie.
Q From wire dispatch this morning, some reports that KDP claimed Iran has sent some troops to northern Iraq. Have you seen -- have you noticed any significant deployment -- troop deployment on both sides, Iran and Iraq?
MR. BURNS: We have watched this situation very carefully through all the means at our disposal, which are significant, and we have not noticed any significant military involvement on the part of either Iraq or Iran in the present fighting between the Kurdish factions in northern Iraq.
Q So you can't confirm this allegation?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm? Excuse me? I can say that we've not noticed any significant involvement. Obviously, there may have been some political support by both countries for their respective Kurdish parties and perhaps some provision of other assistance, including military assistance. But no significant involvement, and certainly no troop involvement, as far as we know, and we are watching the situation very carefully.
Still on this issue?
Q Both Kurdish parties yesterday said they expected to talk economy in next week's talks in Ankara. What is the U.S. position regarding the prospect of increased border trade between Turkey and the two Kurdish parties?
MR. BURNS: What we'd like to do in general is see the situation in northern Iraq return to some semblance of normalcy, and that would mean relative peace, no fighting, a cease-fire. It would mean stability politically, that the Kurdish parties work out some kind of arrangement between them.
Third, we do want to see a return to a normal flow of goods across the Turkish border with northern Iraq. That makes sense for the Turkomans, the Assyrians, the Kurds, the other Iraqis in northern Iraq. It also makes sense for the Turkish Government and people in southeastern Turkey. Assuming here that Turkey wants to go forward with that, which we do assume. That's something that we would encourage.
Q Do you have any long-range goal that maybe ought to be expressed? I mean, besides, you know, trade and all? I mean, is the U.S. trying somehow to promote some sort of a Kurdish autonomous zone or some semblance of self-government in northern Iraq? Is there something larger at work here than just keeping the two of them from fighting each other?
MR. BURNS: The United States has supported, since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the territorial integrity of Iraq, and we have supported a continuation of the present borders of Iraq. We don't believe that the Government of Saddam Hussein has any useful role to play above the 36th parallel.
We have not supported a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, nor will we do so. But we have supported the creation of conditions that will allow the Kurdish people to live in a stable, peaceful atmosphere, free of undue influence from Saddam Hussein, with some kind of normal relationship, economic, with Turkey. That has been our position.
We are continuing "Operation Provide Comfort" with the Turkish Government, the French and the British, because we want to keep the Iraqis out. We want to keep the skies clear of Iraqi influence, and we want to provide that measure of security for the Kurds.
It's their responsibility -- the Kurdish factions, particularly Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani -- now to exercise restraint and common sense, so that these conditions can be returned to northern Iraq. They've been missing now for a good, nearly two months.
Q Doesn't that imply some sort of self-rule? I mean, similar to what the Palestinians are now being given?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't compare it to what has been worked out between Israel and the Palestinians. The situations are completely different.
Q I know they're two situations. I know.
MR. BURNS: And this is a very unusual situation, because we do respect Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity. But we don't respect, nor will we submit to, the direct influence of Saddam Hussein in that region.
Q You know, the State Department's language has changed -- changed about a year ago or less in reference to Kurds. You no longer -- you used to say all the time -- not you, but whoever was there -- and I'd often ask about it -- they'd say Iraqi Kurds -- Kurdish Iraqis. Now you're talking about the Kurds. Is the U.S. moving in the direction of recognizing the Kurds as a separate and distinct people with sovereign rights of their own?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe -- I can check this for you historically -- I don't believe the United States has supported an independent Kurdistan since Versailles, 1919 or the early 1920s, and that's a long time ago.
I want to be very careful in the words I choose here. Obviously, there is a Kurdish people, but the Kurdish people live in many different countries, including Turkey and Syria and Iran and Armenia. They live in very many countries around the world.
We support the right of the people living in northern Iraq -- Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, Iraqi Sunnis, others who live in northern Iraq, to live there free from the influence of Saddam Hussein and free from the terror of Saddam Hussein's security forces.
Q I think you said the central government has no business in northern Iraq.
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's what we support, but we're not attaching -- we're not trying to create anything new and different in northern Iraq that you would define as a new state. We're not interested in that. We don't support that.
Q And you would accept Iraqi governance once Saddam Hussein is gone.
MR. BURNS: I think we've often said -- I know the Bush Administration said and this Administration has said we hope one day to return to a normal relationship -- the United States with Iraq, but it's going to be a very, very long time before that happens, because Saddam Hussein must atone for his crimes against the Kuwaiti people. There are more than 600 Kuwaitis who are missing from the invasion of Kuwait. His crimes against the Shi'a, his crimes against the Kurds. He's got a lot to answer for.
Until he leaves the scene, I don't believe -- I can't see the day -- it's very hard to see the day when we'll have a normal relationship with that government in Baghdad.
Q That wasn't my question. My question was ultimately Iraq will be able to exercise sovereignty over northern Iraq, and all that means. And sovereignty is more than just a declaration of the fact. It's governance and all that goes with it.
MR. BURNS: We currently do not recognize Saddam Hussein's right to exercise authority in northern Iraq. We do respect the continuation of the borders of Iraq.
Q That was a special (inaudible). Isn't that a new policy?
MR. BURNS: No. That's our --
Q Not wanting Saddam Hussein to repress people in his own country, etc., is, of course, a standing U.S. policy. You're saying "respect the territorial integrity of Iraq," but it doesn't extend to the north of the country.
MR. BURNS: No, no.
Q You're saying he has no business doing anything in northern Iraq.
MR. BURNS: That's not at all what I said. Let's just review the bidding and then probably go to the next subject. But let's review it so there's no misunderstanding.
The United States since March of 1991, the Bush and Clinton Administrations, has said we respect the current borders of -- the present borders of Iraq. We are not seeking to create a new state in northern Iraq, but we do not believe -- neither of the last two American Administrations has believed, and this Administration continues to maintain this position, that Saddam Hussein should have free reign in northern Iraq. Absolutely not.
Q Authority in northern Iraq. You also said he has no authority in northern Iraq, you said, which generally the head of a government has in a country that's in his -- in an area within his borders.
MR. BURNS: Saddam Hussein does not deserve to have authority to exercise influence over the people of northern Iraq. That's why "Operation Provide Comfort" was created.
Q It was to protect people. But to say he does not have authority in part of his country strikes me as going a bit further. That's all.
MR. BURNS: No.
Q He has no authority -- the head of the government of Iraq has no authority in his own country -- in a part of his own country.
MR. BURNS: This is consistent with the -- this is absolutely consistent with the position that the Bush and Clinton Administrations have taken for a long time -- five years.
Q Could I ask a question about --
Q You're talking in general terms about peace and stability in northern Iraq. We're not talking about any specifics of a potential future settlement between the two Kurdish factions. Is that because the U.S. is not yet sure what it wants those specifics to be or (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see where these talks lead. We have the goals ahead of us that I have outlined for you. We'll have to see what kind of arrangement they want to make, if any, if they're able to make one. We hope they'll be successful in calming the situation and in dedicating themselves not to return to fighting.
Q But do you have any specific proposals of your own that you'll be putting on the table next week?
MR. BURNS: We certainly have a lot of ideas, but I'm not going to expose them publicly. I think Ambassador Pelletreau should have the freedom to negotiate this privately.
Q Nick, could I ask a quick question about --
MR. BURNS: Yes, Sid, he's had his hand up for a long time.
Q Just one quick question. The Europeans announced at one point $2 million emergency food airlift to eastern Zaire and the conflicted areas. Is the United States taking part in that operation in Zaire?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I think I just want to finish northern Iraq. Then I'll be glad to go to Zaire. You had a northern Iraq?
Q The talks in Ankara -- will the oil deal for Iraq come into play that President Chirac was pressing so hard for today?
MR. BURNS: You'll notice that in Ambassador Pelletreau's statement in Ankara airport he mentioned this. He mentioned the importance that we all attach to UN Resolution 986, particularly the Turkish Government which has paid a very heavy price for having honored it. We're very glad the Turks have done so. So this is certainly an element of what will be talked about next week.
Q How does it come into play as far as -- would it be once the situation is stable there, then this deal can go forward sort of --
MR. BURNS: That's up to the United Nations. As you know, a UN official spoke up last week and said it was not possible to go forward now because of the fighting on the ground and the dislocation and instability produced by the fighting. The United Nations has the lead.
Turkey, the United States, the U.K. have a great interest. Turkey has the most interest. We're very sympathetic to the concerns of the Turks, but it's the United Nations that will have to decide to go forward or not.
Q Nick, about northern Iraq, the Turkish Government asked its allies for a more active role for the Iraqi Turkoman. But yesterday's statement -- both Pelletreau, White and also Ambassador Grossman -- doesn't carry on this subject. Can you give us some explanation? For example, next week's meeting, are the Turkoman included at this meeting also?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Pelletreau has specifically talked about his ongoing contacts with the Turkoman leadership from northern Iraq. He has met them, as you know, several times and will continue to be in close touch with them.
Whether they'll be included in the talks next week, I'll have to check.
Q You keep referring to the UN efforts on this. But as far as I know, Irbil was supposed to be the center for distribution of goods. What does the U.S. know about the situation in Irbil now? Are the Iraqi forces still there?
MR. BURNS: You're right that Irbil was supposed to have been the central distribution point. This is one of the problems that the UN has encountered in deciding not, at the present time, to go ahead.
As to the current situation, I'll have to check for you. I don't believe there's a significant Iraqi presence in the city but there may be south of the city.
Q Same question. What's the U.S. position on the safety of the oil shipments?
MR. BURNS: The safety of the oil shipments?
Q Yes. Who would guarantee the safety of the oil shipments?
MR. BURNS: The United Nations would monitor the oil shipments. That was the intention of the UN in putting together the plan under 986 -- monitor it. But, of course, the Turkish Government and the Iraqi Government and others would have a role in the oil shipments themselves.
Still on northern Iraq? Charlie, on northern Iraq?
Q No, it's a different subject.
MR. BURNS: Let me defer to Jim, then. Jim had a question on eastern Zaire.
Q On eastern Zaire, in this potentially catastrophic situation, the Europeans have announced an emergency food lift of $1.2 million as a beginning. Is the United States taking part in that operation?
MR. BURNS: The United States allocated $30 million in late September to the UN High Commission on Refugees for projects in the Great Lakes region of Africa. That money is in possession of the UNHCR. We're in contact with the UNHCR. This money is available to be spent for refugee assistance due to the present crisis.
I can also tell you that our American Embassy personnel from Kinshasa are in Bukavu monitoring the situation, trying to make sure that we're in touch with the international humanitarian organizations.
Let me just say, we've done a couple of things over the last 24 hours. First, we have met at the highest level -- we met at the highest level yesterday -- of the Zairian and Rwandan Governments to tell them that we condemn the violence, and we call upon those two governments, and the militias that they influence and that they have influence upon, to show restraint and end the fighting.
We have urged the senior Zairian and Rwandan leaders to meet face to face as soon as possible in order to diffuse the very tense situation that exists. We understand there may be some progress underway today in arranging such meetings.
We've also urged the Zairian and Rwandan Governments to arrange cross- border meetings of regional governors and prefects to ease tensions in the affected area.
We've seen in the past that sometimes meetings of local officials can be just as effective as meetings of national officials.
Let me just say something about the refugee situation. We continue to be extremely concerned about the refugees created by this current fighting in eastern Zaire and the potential of a humanitarian disaster.
We support Mrs. Ogata's call -- the UN's call -- for a halt to the ethnic fighting. I can tell you that in addition to the $30 million of support, we are standing by ready to assist in any way we can the efforts of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
Both the United States and the UNHCR have applauded the Rwandan Government's public announcements appealing for all Rwandan refugees to return home. We believe that the majority of the 1.1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire can return home safely.
I know that Mrs. Ogata will be briefing the UN Security Council on this particular situation tomorrow. We will work with the UNHCR to encourage the safe return of these refugees, to ensure that there are reception centers, food, and other relief assistance in place across the Zairian-Rwandan border in Rwanda.
The situation in Burundi remains such that it is not clear that the 145,000 Burundian refugees in Zaire can return to Burundi. I wanted to be clear about that distinction.
Q Two questions. Thirty million dollars: I'm not exactly clear. That's $30 million you gave to them for something else and you're now giving them the okay to spend it on refugee relief?
MR. BURNS: No. It's $30 million that we appropriated for the UNHCR to spend in the Great Lakes region of Africa -- this region. They have the money. There are U.S. funds. Jim tells us there are European funds that the UNHCR can rely upon in this very dangerous situation. The potential movements of people are awesome, if you think about the numbers of Rwandan refugees alone in eastern Zaire.
Q This is not new money, in the traditional sense?
MR. BURNS: It is money that was appropriated about three weeks ago by the United States Government, in the last week of September.
Q For this purpose?
MR. BURNS: For the potential of humanitarian crisis in the Great Lakes region -- this region. This money is available. The United States therefore is contributing, in a very substantial way, to try to redress the human suffering there.
Q Secondly, you say there may be some progress in convincing the Presidents of Zaire and Rwanda to meet -- can you --
MR. BURNS: I want to say the "senior leaders." The President of Zaire is ill and is undergoing medical treatment. I'm talking about the senior leaders of Zaire and Rwanda. They will have to define exactly who. We think they should meet. Because we think that both countries have influence upon the groups that are undertaking the fighting in eastern Zaire.
Q Your ambassadors' meetings there have given you some hope that that will happen; is that --
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Simpson -- Ambassador Dan Simpson -- has been in Kinshasa to talk to the Zairian Government about this. Our Ambassador in Rwanda has been in Kigali to talk to the government there.
I should say that we are also contacting the Burundian Government in Bujumbura. Ambassador Hughes is contacting them about this problem as well. I mentioned there are roughly 145,000 Burundian refugees in Zaire who are also suffering from this fighting.
Q They're receptive --
MR. BURNS: We believe that there's been progress in putting together a meeting. We can't announce one right now, but we believe there's been progress.
I know that the UNHCR is making preparations to receive and assist some of the refugees in Bukavu. It has enough food and non-relief food supplies to last from one to two weeks. There is a 68-truck convoy of relief supplies that remains stuck at the Zairian-Uganda border. That's a problem. That convoy should be let through to assist the refugees.
Q I'd like to move onto Bosnia and ask you about a report concerning tomorrow. In Ploce, a ship was supposed to be unloaded with U.S. military equipment for the equip-and-train mission. Are you aware that that is still going to happen? Are you aware of a report that says it's been canceled and a news conference associated has been canceled?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this: As part of our $100 million U.S. Government program to train and equip the Bosnian military, the second major shipment of military supplies has arrived at Ploce. It arrived today. It represents the balance of the U.S. contribution for this program.
The shipment consists of main battle tanks -- these are M-60 battle tanks; armored personnel carriers; light anti-tank weapons; small arms -- M-16s and ammunition.
This equipment will be transferred to IFOR-approved Federation military storage sites in Bosnia. But it will only be shipped to those storage sites once some remaining issues of concern to the United States are resolved on a satisfactory basis by the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo.
These issues relate to the implementation of key components of the Federation Defense Law and some additional steps needed to promote cooperation in forming the joint armed forces in the Federation.
Ambassador Jim Pardew, who, as you know, is the Secretary of State's Special Negotiator on this issue and who has designed and done a great job in implementing this program, is in Sarajevo. He met today with President Izetbegovic. He has met with other senior officials of the Bosnian Government.
We expect that once the Bosnian Government has taken these steps that we are requesting, then this equipment at Ploce will be transferred to the IFOR-sanctioned Federation military storage sites and for use by the Federation military forces.
This equipment is significant. We're talking here about, as you know, the provision of 45 M-60 main battle tanks. We're talking about 80 M-11 armed personnel carriers; 45,000 M-16 rifles -- just to give you a couple of examples of the significant military equipment, including 15 helicopters and 840 light anti-tank weapons.
Remember, the objective of this program is to upgrade the capabilities of the Federation defense forces so that they'll be a relative balance of power and that war can be deterred in the future. But the Bosnian Government has some responsibilities to us before we can undertake this.
Q Can you elaborate what they have to do?
MR. BURNS: I don't care to, because of the fact that there was a meeting with President Izetbegovic this morning. Because we've made ourselves clear in private, I think that we'll respect a code of silence here and see if the Bosnian Government can meet our wishes over the next couple of days.
Q Does this measure up to your concerns, for instance, on the motley crew? I know that was initially held up --
MR. BURNS: It has nothing to do with the motley crew. It has nothing to do with the allegations of a continued presence of foreign fighters in Bosnia. The Bosnian Government has met its obligations to us. There are no organized foreign fighting contingents present in Bosnia.
Q Several months ago, you said the Defense Law will have to be met and it was, right?
MR. BURNS: And there have been some remaining steps in that Defense Law that need to be implemented.
Q But its implementation -- I mean, the law was enacted --
MR. BURNS: The law has been approved. We now need to see some specific, tangible, concrete steps that it will be implemented.
Q Having to do with integrated commands, and things of that kind?
MR. BURNS: A variety of issues, but I can't get into the details.
Q Nick, just to clear for us. The Croatians are not expressing concerns about the Bosnians getting these weapons and blocking the shipment?
MR. BURNS: I believe Ambassador Galbraith has reported to the State Department today there's no such problem.
Q No problem with the Croatian forces?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you, the United States is firmly in control of this equipment, of course. We will transfer it to the Federation military storage sites when we want to. But we need to be assured of these remaining steps having been undertaken by the Bosnian Government.
Q There is nothing the Croatians need to do, need to say, before this shipment can go forward?
MR. BURNS: Ask the Croatian Government. There may be some things. This is in Croatia, of course, the transit point -- the supply point, excuse me. There may be some things that they've got to do concerning Customs. But that's just routine government work. It's not a problem.
Q Routine Customs?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q China? Nick, it's reported in the wires today that a Mr. Wang Xizhe, the Director of the Institute of American Studies in China, in an official party newspaper, warns that disputes between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan -- trade and human rights disputes -- could lead the U.S. into a Cold War with China.
Then, I believe he states further that the visit of Mr. Chi Haotain coming soon to the United States could be a very positive factor. What's your take on these reminiscent reports of gloom?
MR. BURNS: The U.S.-China relationship is stable. There's not going to be any Cold War. In fact, the relationship is improving. Secretary Christopher will be in Beijing in just a couple of weeks.
We seek to have a stable, peaceful, productive relationship with China well into the next century.
Q On Helms-Burton?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Last night, the Mexican Government applied a new look to protect the Mexican interference against the Helms-Burton law. How is the U.S. planning to deal with that law? And, also, how is the American Government trying to commit the Mexican Government to recognize the human rights relations in Cuba when the Mexican Government itself didn't recognize the human rights relations in Mexico?
MR. BURNS: On the first part of the question, we take the same attitude that we have towards the Canadian legislation, and that is, we think Helms-Burton can be implemented in such a way that it's consistent with the international obligations of the United States. We're quite willing to continue to discuss this issue with the Mexican Government and the Canadian Government. We would hope that the Mexican Government could join us to support human rights in Cuba.
Q On Turkey? The European parliament, this morning, suspended all financial assistance to Turkey to begin in 1997 under the agreement of the Customs Union. Have you any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the announcement. I'll have to look into it and see if we have a specific response, except to say that Turkey is a European country. It needs to be embedded in Europe. The United States supports the Customs Union agreement between the EU and Turkey.
The United States will continue its normal supportive relationship with Turkey.
Q Do you have any information about the U.S. delegation traveling to Azerbaijan? If so, the agenda and --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, we owe you an answer on this. You asked yesterday, and I apologize. But we can get you an answer by this afternoon.
Q One last one, Nick. The North Koreans say that Mr. Hunziker can't recite the Ten Commandments; he can't sing the hymn, so he must be a spy. Do you have anything to say about that? That's their quote from them, actually.
MR. BURNS: The North Koreans are holding an American citizen unjustly. He is innocent. He is a civilian. He has nothing to do with our government.
Their continued detention of Mr. Carl Hunziker, the fact that they brought very serious charges against him, the fact that we've not always had the easiest access to him by our Swedish protecting power, gives you an indication of the very serious concerns that the United States has here.
This young man's motivation for going to North Korea may have been to proselytize. But since we haven't had a lot of contact with him, it's very difficult for us to say exactly what his intentions were. But I can tell you -- I can tell you -- that he's innocent of the charges. He ought to be released immediately.
These particular charges brought against him in the press by the North Koreans this morning are absolutely ludicrous.
Q They said that he signed a confession, that he admitted to being a spy, and they demand an apology from the United States?
MR. BURNS: There's going to be no apology from the United States. We're demanding his release. When Mr. Ake Lovquist, the Swedish diplomat representing American interests in Pyongyang, visited Mr. Hunziker last week, Mr. Hunziker told him very clearly that he had made no such confession; that he is not a spy. We know that he's not a spy. He's innocent. The North Koreans have got to come around to the fact they're holding an innocent person. We have an obligation here in Washington to defend this person, and we're defending him.
The apology cannot be given if the offense has been made by the North Koreans.
Q The negotiation between the U.S. and North Korea is taking place in New York right now. I know. Especially, South Korea demanded that North Korea should apologize for the submarine incident. South Korea also wants a promise from North Korea not to repeat such incident. What is your position in this issue?
MR. BURNS: First, we never talk about meetings with the North Koreans until after they've taken place, but they do occur in New York regularly.
Second, the United States supported the unanimous Security Council resolution to condemn North Korea for its invasion of South Korea's territory in the submarine incident.
We agreed and submitted the armistice objection that was made to the North Koreans, and we fully stood by South Korea in every respect throughout this crisis. We will continue to defend our ally, South Korea.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:22 p.m.)
-29- Thursday, 10/24/96
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