U.S. Department of State 96/10/29 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, October 29, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Mr. Wei Liu, Correspondent, Peoples Daily ........ 1 Deputy Secretary Talbott Speech at Colombia University ...... 1-2 "This Day in Diplomacy" Fact Sheet: Lend/Lease Aid to Russia 1 Diplomatic Security Agents Recognition ...................... 2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Republic of Srpska Violator of Article IV of Dayton Accords . 2-3,18- 19 COLOMBIA U.S. Support/Monitoring of Anti-Narcotics Efforts ........... 3-5 MIDDLE EAST Syrian-Israeli Border: Reports of Military Activity ......... 5-7 Ambassador Ross' Return to Washington ....................... 6-7 CUBA Amb. Eizenstat's Travel: Democracy in Cuba/Helms Burton ..... 7-12 Case of Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown .................... 25-28 NORTH KOREA Status of Mr. Hunziker ...................................... 12-13 U.S.-North Korean Mtgs. in NY ............................... 12-13 Possible Ballistic Missile Testing .......................... 13 ARMS CONTROL/NON-PROLIFERATION Report of Russian Monitor Visit to Oak Ridge ................ 13 India's Position on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ........... 19-20 Report of China Missile Sale to Iran ........................ 28 IRAQ UNICEF Report on Humanitarian Situation ..................... 13-17 --Proposed Fund for Emergency Food Shipments ................ 15 TURKEY/GREECE Reported PKK Incursions Into Turkey ......................... 17-18 Aegean Islets ............................................... 21 JAPAN U.S. Support for UNSC Rotational Seat ....................... 20-21 ZAIRE Fighting in Eastern Zaire ................................... 22-24 --U.S. Support for Regional Conference ...................... 22 --U.S. Contact w/UN High Commissioner for Refugees .......... 23 RWANDA Report of Allegation Against GOR re: Weapons Supplies to Militias .......................... 24 MISCELLANEOUS Alleged Contributions to the Democratic Nat'l. Committee .... 24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1996, 1:05 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon and welcome to the State Department.
I want to welcome Mr. Wei Liu, who is the Chief Correspondent of the Shanxi Province Bureau of the People's Daily, which is China's most widely read newspaper. He's here under the auspices of the USIA International Visitors Program. That's through the Meridian International Center. Very glad to welcome you here.
I also wanted to remind you that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is giving an important speech this afternoon at Columbia University. This speech is on the future of relations between the United States and Russia.
This speech helps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Harriman Center, the center named for Ambassador Averell Harriman at Columbia University. I hope to have copies of this speech available to you shortly in the next half hour. This would be an "as prepared" text that you could look at.
I know that joining Deputy Secretary Talbott at Columbia today will be Ambassador Pamela Harriman, who is there to take part in the proceedings, both in the speech and in a dinner this evening. She will be making remarks. Dick Holbrooke, our former Assistant Secretary of State, will also be making remarks up at Columbia, will also be making remarks up at Columbia. But the keynote speech will be by Deputy Secretary Talbott.
Fortuitously, we are also releasing today a press fact sheet in our series, "This Day in Diplomacy," which talks about lend-lease aid to Russia. Of course, the person who made it happen, working for President Roosevelt, was Ambassador Averell Harriman.
I would commend to you, as you look at Strobe Talbott's speech -- you might want to look back 55 years at the activities of Ambassador Harriman in the autumn of 1941. He took a very important diplomatic mission to Moscow where he talked to Stalin about the requirements of the Soviet Union in the face of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Out of that came the program that the United States put forward to help the Soviet Union in the first years of the war. Ambassador Harriman's mission was one of the critical diplomatic missions undertaken throughout the entire war. So the fact sheet that I'm releasing today -- in fact right now -- gives you a lot of detail about that diplomatic mission, which I think you'll find interesting.
You can get this also on fax-on-demand at 202-736-7720 and also at our Internet site at www.state.gov. All of our fact sheets -- in fact, everything we do these days -- is put on the Internet on a same-day basis.
QUESTION: Will there be questions and answers after Strobe's --
MR. BURNS: I think there will. This speech is not going to be piped in here. I don't know if you have some of your colleagues up in New York. This is an open event for the press. There will be press at the event in New York.
I also wanted just to mention the fact that the Department of State is very proud that two of our Diplomatic Security agents, Larry Salmon and Chris Reilly, received honorable mentions in the prestigious 1996 Police Officer of the Year Award. You met them here. They came and talked to you about their efforts in Burundi to save the life of Ambassador Bob Krueger more than a year ago.
As you remember, they put themselves in the middle of a firefight in Burundi and saved the Ambassador's life; returned fire and were able to get him out of there, and also to save the life of the Burundian Foreign Minister.
We're very proud of both of them. Both of them have had long careers in the Department of State. Their work is typical of the work our Diplomatic Security agents do, and I wanted to commend them personally.
Last, before we go to questions, I just wanted to say that there has been some discrepancy and a problem in communication in Bosnia about a very important point, and this has to do with whether or not the Bosnian Serbs have been faithful to their obligations under Article 4 of the Dayton agreements on arms control.
Unfortunately, our Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum has been misquoted egregiously, not by a member of the press but by actually some of the diplomats who were out there. I wanted to correct the record, because it was a very serious misunderstanding.
There have been some reports by some officials out there that the United States has essentially given -- has not cared, has not made any kind of protest about the fact that the Republic of Srpska has been a major violator of Article 4 of the Dayton agreement.
I talked to John Kornblum this morning, and he has consistently told the Republic of Srpska, as well as all the relevant IFOR officials, that the position of the United States on this question is the following.
The Republic of Srpska has under-reported equipment holdings to an egregious degree. They have exempted hundreds of pieces of equipment through abuse of accounting rules, and they've declared a reduction liability that in fact entails very few reductions on their part, meaning they're not meeting their commitments under Article 4 of the Dayton accords.
The United States believes that they should, and we are working with all of the people in the region to make sure that they should. I wanted to get this on the record that the United States has this position and that Assistant Secretary Kornblum has been very consistent publicly and privately in adhering to this position.
With that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: Amnesty International USA held a news conference this morning in which it said that U.S. military equipment supposedly earmarked for counter-insurgency operations instead has been earmarked to Colombian military units with an egregious record of human rights abuses. Do you have any response to that?
MR. BURNS: Just a couple of points. First, I understand that one of the ways that Amnesty International may have acquired some of the information was through leaked documents, and, as you know, I don't comment about leaked documents.
So putting that aside, I could say the following. The United States is and has been strongly committed to human rights in Colombia, and we've never hesitated to be critical, either publicly or privately, of the Colombian Government when we see that there are abuses that have taken place.
It is also true that we've been very much committed to trying to work with Colombia in the fight against narcotics trafficking and the production of narcotics. It's very true -- and I think that this may get to the heart of the matter here -- that Colombia has received a significant portion of the Department of State's anti-narcotics budget; and that as part of that, as you know -- and the President just made this decision in September -- are Colombians receiving a significant amount of defense articles, defense services and training -- for its anti-narcotics efforts.
As you know, our program in Colombia entails a $40 million defense drawdown that is part of this -- helicopters and C-26 observation aircraft and flight support equipment, field equipment, communications gear, river patrol boats -- will all be made available to Colombia.
The equipment is going to those elements of the Colombian military and the Colombian national police, which have counter-narcotics responsibility. As you know, we've tended to work with those parts of the Colombian Government that we believe are interested in fighting drugs -- fighting narcotics production and trafficking.
Elements of the Colombian military, the Colombian national police and the Colombian Attorney General's office are the three main parts of the government that we have worked with. We have given broad support to them for their efforts.
We are mindful of the fact -- both the State Department and the Pentagon are mindful of the fact that we have to have an effective monitoring system to see that this equipment is used for the purposes intended, not in any illegal or inhumane way against people, against people who are democrats, who stand for human rights in Colombia, but against the narcotics traffickers.
Because of that, we do have an end-use monitoring program in place through which the condition and use of United States Government-provided equipment is reviewed continually to make sure that the Colombian Government is complying with the terms of the agreement. That's an important feature of this program, and we do take it seriously.
QUESTION: How about the allegations that Amnesty --
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to the specific allegations. I wasn't at the press conference this morning. I have actually not even seen any press reports on it. I've just heard by word of mouth from people inside the Department and others that Amnesty made these allegations.
Obviously, Amnesty is a respected organization, and we do take seriously what Amnesty International says. We will be talking with them privately, and we'll also want to look at what they've produced, and we will follow up on this.
QUESTION: In your end-use system -- end-use verification system, have you found that any of the equipment given -- transferred to Colombia has been used in ways that might be suspect from a human rights point of view?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that we have, but we are checking into that now. We're obviously -- given the allegations that have been made by a very serious group, Amnesty International -- we are checking into that.
QUESTION: Nick, on another subject --
MR. BURNS: I think Tom wanted to follow up here, Barry.
QUESTION: The substance of their allegation is that this aid is supposed to be used for counter-narcotics operations, but it has been used instead for counter-insurgency operations. How do you feel about that argument -- let's say that distinction.
MR. BURNS: We are very clear that the military assistance that we provide to Colombia must be used for the purposes intended -- counter- narcotics. In Colombia, as you know, there have been charges made by some of the law enforcement agencies and the military that there's a mix in who is running drugs and who are the insurgents and who is part of the Mafia for other reasons in Colombia, or Mafia on other issues.
This is one of the issues that we need to be very clear with Colombia that the defense articles that we give are given for one reason only, and that is to fight narcotics production and narcotics trafficking. That's our position.
QUESTION: Nick, something else. On the Syrian border with Israel, is there any ominous scud redeployments or troop movements that you can tell us about? There are reports to that effect.
MR. BURNS: On which side of the border, Barry, are you referring to?
QUESTION: Syrian side of the border. Since I raise my question in terms of intelligence, of course, it will make it difficult to get an answer, but some things are quite visible. Has the State Department heard or detected anything alarming going on there?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of anything. Obviously, this is a border that we watch very carefully, given the interests that the United States has. You might want to refer your questions to the Syrian and Israeli Governments. I know there's been a lot of talk in the press in Israel about this particular issue, but I know of nothing in our own eyes here, Barry, that would lead us to any kind of cause of undue concern.
QUESTION: Did Ambassador Ross get back?
MR. BURNS: Yes. He arrived just a couple of hours ago. He's taking a well deserved day off after three weeks of continual negotiations, of not having seen his family, of not having had a lot of sleep. He'll be in the Department tomorrow. He'll be seeing Secretary Christopher and others here.
As I said, once Chairman Arafat returns from his trip through Europe and Ambassador Ross and Secretary Christopher have a chance to talk to Chairman Arafat, Dennis Ross will be heading back to complete these talks, which will end in a successful outcome, we believe.
QUESTION: Going back to Barry's question, there had been a lot of sort of related things going on in Israel and Syria. Israel has announced its intention to raise its defense budget by quite a large amount. Sources were saying it's to counter a possible threat from Syria. There's been a lot of Syrian troop movement recently. There's been a suggestion that President Assad saw that Yasser Arafat had some degree of success in the uprising recently in the occupied territories.
Yet you say there's no cause for undue concern. You don't see any heightening of tensions. You don't see that the possibility of conflict between the two countries is greater now than it was. You're not doing anything diplomatically, other than the messages passed since a couple of weeks ago to calm things down?
MR. BURNS: Relations between Syria and Israel are not good. They have never been good. The United States has tried to be a conduit for communications between the Israeli and Syrian leaderships, and we'll continue that. Our long-term goal here is to help Israel and Syria produce a peace agreement that would help produce an overall peace in the Middle East.
As regards to the military situation, we're not in the best position here at the Department of State to give you a sense of which military units are deploying where, on which sides of the border. But I can tell you that a lot of people in this government do watch that question closely, and we would obviously be taking certain steps if we thought that there was some kind of possibility of imminent conflict here.
We don't believe that's the case, and we believe that both the Governments of Syria and Israel understand the catastrophic consequences of any kind of conflict along the border. There are responsible leaderships in both governments, experienced leaderships in both governments, so we don't believe that somehow we're on the verge of any kind of crisis like that.
QUESTION: On that subject --
MR. BURNS: On this subject, yes.
QUESTION: On that subject, have you spoken to Dennis Ross, and have you asked him if he would have time to come down and visit with us?
MR. BURNS: You know, I didn't. That wasn't one of the issues that we talked about yesterday when Dennis called from Israel. But I have promised some of your colleagues that I will raise that issue with Dennis. I do take your request seriously, and we'll see what we can do. Please don't call him today. He deserves a day off. We can have a general agreement on that. He won't talk to you if you call.
QUESTION: Ambassador Eizenstat's trip?
MR. BURNS: Yes. What would you like to know? (Laughter)
QUESTION: Is he still trying to --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
MR. BURNS: Yes, he is. He's still trying. Ambassador Eizenstat, as you know, who is a special representative of President Clinton and Secretary Christopher for the promotion of democracy in Cuba, is currently on a trip to Europe to talk about democracy in Cuba or the lack thereof.
He has been in Paris and Rome. He's going to be visiting The Hague today. He is in The Hague today. He'll then proceed on to Stockholm and Copenhagen before returning to the United States.
His job is twofold: to discuss with the Europeans the well-known and oft-cited complaints that the European governments have about the Helms- Burton legislation, which is the law of the land here in the United States.
Second, to talk to the Europeans about something that we don't hear much from Europe about, and that's democracy in Cuba, and the importance of Europe standing beside the democrats in Cuba who are being jailed and harassed, intimidated and in every respect put down by the Government of Fidel Castro.
We're interested in talking about both issues, and we're willing to talk about the first, by the way -- Helms-Burton -- but we'd like the Europeans to agree that we should talk about both issues. That's what his mission is.
QUESTION: Has he got any promise on anything, especially after yesterday's agreement in Europe. What is he trying to do now? How has he reacted to this?
MR. BURNS: The United States is not happy with the fact that the European Union has put forward legislation or a bill that would essentially serve in their eyes as an anecdote to the Helms-Burton legislation. We don't think it's appropriate for the Europeans to take that step. I'm sure Ambassador Eizenstat is making that point.
As to his overall trip, I think we should let him come back and maybe explain in his own words what he felt he accomplished on this trip. It's a very difficult mission, but he's a very able diplomat and we have great confidence in him.
QUESTION: Nick, what makes it difficult?
MR. BURNS: What makes the trip difficult?
MR. BURNS: The fact that there is uniform opposition in Europe to Helms-Burton; that the EU has just taken a step which we believe is inappropriate and unhelpful in trying to create its own legislation on this issue which will not, we believe, serve to reduce tensions.
Our belief all along has been that we would like to minimize the impact of this bill on the Europeans and maximize it on Cuba. We're trying to minimize it on the Europeans. It doesn't help when the Europeans pass this unnecessary legislation. It doesn't help when the Europeans don't help us to try to maximize the international pressure on Castro.
Castro is the problem here. He's the guy who has created all the problems. He's the one who is a massive violator of human rights. The Europeans are democrats -- they're democratic countries. They ought to be concerned about this.
QUESTION: Is that a case of NBA in your face?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Is that in-your-face type of action?
MR. BURNS: By. . .?
QUESTION: What NBA people call in your face? By the Europeans. Are they trying to co-op you to just sort of brush you off?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what they're trying to do. I don't believe it's co-optation. I don't think it's brushing us off either. They like to talk about this issue. We have a lot of discussions on it. We've probably had hundreds if not thousands of hours of discussion on it. I don't think it's a brush-off. I think it's an attempt by the Europeans to show their displeasure.
We understand that they don't like this. But the fact is that it's the law of the United States.
As you know, under the Helms-Burton legislation, the President of the United States, whoever that will be in January and February of this year, has to make a decision about one important feature of Helms- Burton. That is the ability of American citizens to sue in U.S. courts. That hasn't been made yet. That's one of the reasons why we're consulting, to see what all the repercussions from that decision will be.
This is a two-way street. We need a little help from the Europeans. It would be very helpful, again -- I'll say this for the eighth time today and a hundredth time in the last couple of days -- it would be very helpful if they showed a little bit of concern for the victims of Fidel Castro. He's not a romantic revolutionary. It's fashionable in some parts of Europe to think that he is. He's an old man who is out of touch. He's the loan autocrat in this hemisphere. The Europeans ought to realize that.
We live near Cuba. We understand the Cubans, I think, better, than the Europeans do.
QUESTION: You're trying to minimize the effect of Helms-Burton. It is by suspending this ability of Americans to sue here, or there are other provisions that may be taken?
MR. BURNS: The President made a decision to essentially freeze that for six months and to make a final decision in the early part of 1997. It was, in part, an attempt by us to take a step towards the Europeans and show them that we're willing to talk although no final decision has been made by the President, I should hasten to add.
We'd like to see a little bit of reciprocity, a little bit of the Europeans understanding our position -- understanding the deeply-held feelings in the United States about this issue.
QUESTION: Is this unique European behavior?
QUESTION: Why is it not appropriate for the Europeans to take action to defend themselves against something that they consider to be improper extra-territorial legislation by the United States?
MR. BURNS: First, because we disagree with them on that point. We don't believe it's extra-territorial. We believe it is consistent with our international trade obligations.
Second, in appointing Ambassador Eizenstat, the President and Secretary of State were clearly signaling to the Europeans, we know that you have concerns about this; let's talk. Let's have a discussion about this. I will have a Special Emissary visit Europe. He's now done that a couple of times, and we'll keep the lines open. That would have been a far better way to handle it.
QUESTION: Nick, when you say you want support, you mean in the economic area; right?
MR. BURNS: We want Europe's support. We want Europe's support -- (inaudible) Castro.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know but --
MR. BURNS: On human rights issues.
QUESTION: -- you don't get enthusiastic support on Iran or Iraq or Libya. I suppose on Cuba. Except Cuba, the Congress and the Administration are treading in a kind of sensitive area that Jim has alluded to. What do you want the Europeans -- do you want them to make statements that Fidel Castro is a bad guy, or what? I don't know what they do for you particularly on Iran or Iraq.
MR. BURNS: That would be a good first step. Barry, you've made a very useful suggestion. That would be a very good first step.
The Europeans are democratic countries. They are champions of human rights in many parts of the world, and they are very quick to talk about human rights violations in Asia and Africa and the Middle East, for instance -- Middle East. We've heard a lot of that.
It would be interesting to hear that, and useful, about the major human rights violator in the Western hemisphere -- Fidel Castro.
QUESTION: Now on China, where you have a flourishing trade program --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Cuba. A couple of times you said -- you've emphasized that there is no final decision by Clinton on this issue. I just wondered how much you want us to read into that, the repetition of that point? Are you trying to signal anew to the Europeans that Clinton's decision earlier to invoke that title of the act is even more tentative than maybe it seemed at the time and that all we need is a little bit of cooperation by them to persuade Clinton, if he is indeed President again, to waive that section entirely?
MR. BURNS: First, you're right to say, first, we have to have our own elections here to see who will be President of this country in January and February. If President Clinton is re-elected, he's promised to look at this and make a decision. He has not indicated what action he will take. I cannot obviously commit him or anyone else in this Administration to a decision that hasn't even been approached yet. I think that's important to say, Carol.
We're not signaling here that we know what decision is going to be made. We don't. The President alone can make this decision in January and February of this year.
To get to your question, what I think it does signal to the Europeans, the initial decision in the summer to suspend this title and to make a final decision in the winter of 1997, it does say to the Europeans that we understand their concerns. This is complicated, and that we want to continue a diplomatic dialogue with them. That's what Ambassador Eizenstat is trying to do.
QUESTION: But you're putting the emphasis on suspension. My reading of his action was -- the presumption was that he was actually going forward. He did agree to invoke that section but suspended implementation. Maybe it's a question of glass half fuller/glass half empty.
It appeared to me that barring some extraordinary action on the part of the Europeans to have some sort of common effort to work on democracy in Cuba, that Clinton was pretty much locked into going forward?
MR. BURNS: Again, Carol, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to try to make this decision in public for the President. He has to make it when the time comes, in a couple of months from now. But I think I've given you the background here and the context, which indicates that we have taken a step forward towards the Europeans on this. We'd like a corresponding step towards us, but we don't frankly see it coming.
QUESTION: Nick, the (inaudible) of the prisoner in North Korea, is there anything new to tell us? Any prison visits perhaps? Anything on meetings in New York?
I don't recall that you've ever -- there has been that meeting with that higher-level North Korean official, etc. Can you bring us up to date? Is there anything new to report?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I can only tell you that we have no new news on the situation of Mr. Hunziker. We are still calling upon the North Korean Government to release him immediately because he's innocent of all the charges.
Second, we don't ever confirm meetings before they happen but there are regular meetings in New York that our State Department diplomats engage in with the North Koreans.
Third, Mr. Li, the senior North Korean diplomat, did meet with our officials last week; and I said that -- I believe on Friday -- I told people about that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) visits of Swedish diplomats? Nobody has had access to him?
MR. BURNS: No. I don't believe Mr. Lovquist, who is our Swedish diplomat/colleague, has visited Mr. Hunziker in over ten days.
QUESTION: Bill Richardson was supposed to go there about three or four weeks ago and never did. Is that back on track?
MR. BURNS: I don't know where that stands. I think Congressman Richardson probably has a lot on his mind right now with our elections approaching. I don't know where it stands. We'll get back to you if anything does happen on that.
Still on North Korea? Anything else?
QUESTION: Nick, Hans Blix of the IAEA yesterday said at the UN that North Korea doesn't allow access -- inspector to the nuclear sites over there in North Korea. Do you have any comment about that?
MR. BURNS: We would not take issue with anything that Mr. Blix said. One of the problems we've had with the North Koreans is that they're not transparent in terms of what they are doing with their ballistic missile development.
As you know, we have very serious concerns about the possibility they may undertake a test of their ballistic missiles which we believe would be unhelpful and destabilizing in north Asia.
QUESTION: Nick, at that same event -- I wouldn't have asked you except it's just come up here -- he made reference to Russian monitors going to Oak Ridge, I think. I don't know if that's something you have material on. We could find out otherwise, if you don't. Of course, is it previously scheduled monitoring venture, or is this something new going on here?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check. We have a very active program with the Russian Government, as you know -- exchanges of visits. I just don't know about this particular visit.
QUESTION: Also, on the United Nations. Have you had a chance to look into the statements made yesterday by Mrs. Ogata and her colleagues about a number of people facing imminent starvation in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we have. In fact, I believe the statements were made by Mrs. Carol Bellamy and also by the World Food Program -- UNICEF and the World Food Program. Both, by the way, headed by Americans; people who have done a very good job in these UN agencies in reforming them.
We've look at it. Let me tell you the following. I want to accentuate one thing. The United States is deeply concerned about the plight of the Iraqi civilians who are victims of Saddam Hussein, people who clearly don't have enough medicines and food; people who are living in extremely sub-standard conditions. We're concerned about individuals and, collectively, about the Iraqi people who have had to live under this dictatorship for a long, long time.
Frankly, we'll have to look more closely at some of the figures. We're not questioning them. But some of the figures from UNICEF are from the Iraqi Ministry of Health.
UNICEF is a reputable organization. We're not taking issue specifically with them except to note that some of the figures come from the Iraqi Ministry of Health.
But regardless of the figures, UNICEF believes and the World Food program believes that conditions are actually deteriorating. They're getting worse in Iraq, and that is cause of concern for the United States.
I would like to point out something that perhaps is not widely known or widely understood. It probably is by people in this room; maybe not by people beyond it. The United Nations' sanctions on Iraq do not restrict the export of Western food and medicine to Iraq. In fact, American companies are free with Treasury Department licenses to export food and medicines to Iraq as are European and Asian and African and Middle East countries.
That's not the problem. The problem is the willingness of the Iraqi Government to spend its own money to import food and medicine for its population, to make it a priority.
The Iraqi Government used to live high off the hog before its war with Iran in the late 1970s. They were flush with money -- oil money. They no longer are. Everybody understands that. So they've got to make choices.
They have finite number of dollars in their Central Bank. They've got to make choices of how they spend it. Let's look at how they've made their choices.
Since the defeat of the Iraqi army in the spring of 1991, they've been spending the majority of their money on trying to rebuild the Iraqi army, on building palaces for Saddam Hussein and his family throughout the Iraqi countryside. They have maintained a presidential yacht. They have maintained off-shore bank accounts, running into the tens of millions of dollars for the family -- sons, wife, other relatives of Saddam Hussein. This is where Saddam Hussein is putting his money.
He has a choice here. He can decide maybe we won't put the yacht out on the Euphrates this year. He can decide, maybe we'll shut down the palace for the winter -- three of the palaces, four of the palaces -- and use that money to buy food and medicine on the international market, which he is free to do, and the United Nations is not constricting his ability to do that, and he's not making those decisions.
And then very cynically, his Minister of Health and some of his Iraqi diplomats take the Western press and Western relief organizations through Iraqi hospitals, and orphanages, and into Iraqi towns and they show these heart-wrenching, terrible pictures of kids who are malnourished -- and they are. Our hearts go out to those kids.
But let's put the responsibility here where it lies. It lies with Saddam Hussein, and we should not be fooled by it.
In addition to that, the United States has tried to arrange a program where we would allow Iraq to export $4 billion worth of oil per annum. In return for that, take the proceeds and buy more food and medicine for the Iraqi population. That program was supposed to have gone forward in late September.
What did Saddam Hussein do? He got himself involved in northern Iraq. He took steps militarily he should not have done. His agents were running amuck in early September in Irbil, which was supposed to be the major distribution point. He's effectively prevented the United Nations from going forward with UN Resolution 986.
If you're looking for the guilty party here, my suggestion is, you need look no further than the palaces in which Saddam and his family are living.
QUESTION: One of the points the UN officials made was that there was a proposed fund of about $40 million -- $39.6 million -- to buy emergency food shipments. It has been vastly undersubscribed -- I don't think they've even gathered $2 million. Is the United States contributing to that fund? Do you plan to?
MR. BURNS: I will look into that question. I'm not familiar what the United States committed to or did not commit to at the UN as that was developed.
Let me make a suggestion. We'll agree to look into that question. Would Mr. Uday Hussein care to donate to that fund? Would Mr. Saddam Hussein or his uncles or cousins or brothers care to donate to the fund? I think this is a relevant question. This is not just a rhetorical argument here that we're putting up -- it's a relevant question. He's a leader of the country. Does he care about the people who are suffering in his country? It is the question, I think, that all of you ought to be asking about this.
QUESTION: Nick, do you think that Carol Bellamy and other officials who head these relief organizations are being fooled by Saddam Hussein? Why do you think they'd make this effort to make a huge public case about what they consider to be a crisis in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: They are people who are doing their job, and we commend them for doing their job. Their job is to point out to member states of the United Nations where there are significant problems around the world, and in this case, problems of malnutrition and a deteriorating situation. They've done their job.
I'm just suggesting that those of you who read about this not be fooled by Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Why don't they make the same case about Saddam Hussein as you do, in pointing out the full picture?
MR. BURNS: They are officials of the United Nations. Iraq is a member of the United Nations. UN officials sometimes aren't as free to speak as member governments are. The United States, as a member government, is very free to speak about this and that's what we're saying today. But we're not taking issue here with Carol Bellamy or UNICEF or the World Food Program. They're doing their job. They're pointing out that there's a problem.
We're just saying, in order to fix the problem, there are a couple of possibilities. One, that the UN will make an effort -- we're all for that -- UN Resolution 986, any special programs. But isn't it appropriate to ask the Iraqi Government also to make an effort?
It's certainly appropriate for us to point out where their money is going.
QUESTION: Nick, if you have estimates here, if they're in the building, as to these frills -- what they cost -- could you provide them, please?
MR. BURNS: It's some astronomical figure. It'll take us all night to count, but we'll try to do it. I'll try to get you that figure.
MR. BURNS: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Lots of countries in that area have palaces that come ahead of the people.
MR. BURNS: And most of them don't have starving people. Most of them do not have people who are starving.
QUESTION: Smaller populations.
MR. BURNS: Most of them have not fundamentally denied the economic rights of their populations.
QUESTION: To make the case -- if you have some rough figures ....
MR. BURNS: We'll see if we can develop a figure for you. That would be a very interesting exercise.
Still on this subject?
QUESTION: About the Middle East -- Syria. Today the PKK terrorists at different cities -- at three different cities conducted three suicidal bomb attacks and killed several innocent people.
According to Turkish officials, most of the terrorists came again to the Turkish-Syrian border. In the past, you were very careful to blame Syria on this subject. Can you comment on this situation?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the video. We've seen reports about the terrorist attacks today. We obviously condemn them because we're against terrorism.
We're not in a position at this point, several hours after these have occurred, to trace it back to those who are responsible. But obviously we'll give the Government of Turkey any support necessary to combat terrorism. You know that's been our position. We're a good ally of Turkey in this regard.
QUESTION: But (inaudible) housed in Syria, generally speaking.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: If not this particular attack, what is the Syrian connection to these folks that the State Department --
MR. BURNS: I can only tell you, as you know very well, that Syria is on our terrorism list; that Syria has been a direct supporter and funder of terrorist groups. It's of great concern to us, and we raise this issue regularly with the Syrians.
I just can't confirm the origin of these three attacks today because I'm not in a position to do that. That's something we'll continue to look at, Barry.
QUESTION: I've never heard anybody up here say before that Syria is a "direct funder" of these terrorist groups. I've heard them say they give them safe haven and some support, but there's never been mention of direct funding. Is that what you intend to say?
MR. BURNS: I stand by what I said. Still on this subject?
QUESTION: A different subject.
MR. BURNS: Okay. Howard, and then we'll go right down there.
QUESTION: You're opening comment about the accounting error in the hundreds of pieces of under-reported equipment. Can you get into what type of equipment --
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, I'm not in a position today to speak in great specificity about this, except to say the following: Article IV of the Dayton Accords does set certain limits for each of the parties.
As you know, General Eide has done a very good job in trying to work out with each of the parties their responsibility to comply very specifically with certain limits.
Unfortunately, there's been some miscommunication among Western governments and Western officials in Sarajevo about the position of the United States on this. Contrary to some of the rumors, we're not giving the Republic of Srpska a free pass on this. In fact, we think they're a major violator -- a major violator of Article IV. We have made that a specific issue with the Republic of Srpska, and we'll continue to.
QUESTION: Are we talking hundreds of tanks, hundreds of APCs?
MR. BURNS: Let me do this. I talked to John Kornblum this morning. We had a general discussion on this. I don't have the numbers with me, but we can get them for you.
MR. BURNS: I don't, off the top of my head; no.
QUESTION: Nick, when this story first came out in the New York Times about 10 days ago -- it was out of Vienna -- the NATO spokesman in Sarajevo explicitly contradicted it and said that is an incorrect story. We don't know of any under-reporting by the Serb army. Are you getting into a situation again where a NATO spokesman is saying one thing and the United States is saying something else on this?
MR. BURNS: We're very sure of our facts. In fact, General Eide, who is in charge of this program, has several times recently met with the Contact Group, asked for the support of the Contact Group members to press the Republic of Srpska to come into compliance with the Article IV Dayton commitments that they've made.
If General Eide believes that and if John Kornblum believes it, I think those are two people who know their facts and I think were together. I think there's some kind of miscommunication here on this issue. But, unfortunately, I can't take you through the numbers. We have people in this building who can.
For those of you who are interested, let's talk after the briefing. Maybe we'll even set up a special briefing on this this afternoon, if you're writing today or reporting today on it.
QUESTION: When is the next step if the U.S. is wrongly portrayed as not caring about this? How do we turn this around?
MR. BURNS: One step was for me to say something today to all of you. I can tell you, it's not a question of next step. We have been consistent about this, Howard, in private with the Republic of Srpska, with General Eide, with NATO, with IFOR, and with the other members of the Contact Group. We'll just continue doing what we're doing, which is trying to get these parties to comply with their Dayton commitments.
QUESTION: Ambassador Wisner was in town about 10 days ago speaking to a group of Indian and American businessmen. He said it's about time to put aside the CTBT controversy with India. For the time being, let's (inaudible) contaminate the overall relationship.
Does this mean that the U.S. has given up trying to persuade India? Does that mean, effectively, if India doesn't sign, the entry into force doesn't happen?
MR. BURNS: I guess three different questions in there. First, Ambassador Wisner was back. I know he made a major speech to the group that you referred to.
He, I think, was clearly enunciating the position of this Administration, and that is that we can't allow this disagreement over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to affect negatively other very important parts of the relationship with India. That's a commonsensical point, and it's one we believe in here at the State Department and in this government.
Second, we have not given up on the hope that some day India might decide to reverse itself and make a decision to take part in this treaty. We think it's highly significant now that not only have all permanent members of the Security Council -- all declared nuclear powers signed this treaty; President Clinton signing for the United States in September -- but well over 100 countries have signed as well.
There's an overwhelming consensus in the United Nations that this is positive. This treaty should go forward. It should be implemented. I think India is alone on this.
Third, as we proceed -- we have an excellent relationship with India -- I say that advisedly -- excellent -- far better than the relationship that I think existed four or five years ago. Ambassador Wisner has done a lot to improve it. It's not a relationship in which we agree on all issues.
We'll have to continue to discuss this issue with the Indian Government. It's not something that's falling off the radar screen.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up, Nick. At the UN, there are rumors that the U.S. worked behind the scenes to sort of topple India's chances of getting a seat at the Security Council and lobbied furiously and vigorously for Japan. Opposition leaders in India said this was sort of the fall-out of the CTBT. Any truth in that?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I wouldn't want to get involved in that kind of speculation. The United States supported certain countries for the rotational seats on the Security Council. Japan was among them. But Japan is one of the closest allies that the United States has. It may be the most important relationship in all respects that we have anywhere in the world, so it's obvious that we would support Japan whenever we can to take an active role.
As you know, we also support, in the future, when there is reform of Security Council, a permanent seat for Japan.
QUESTION: Since a displeasure and concern was expressed by the spokesman of the Greek Government, Mr. Dhimitrios Reppas, I'm wondering if you finally revoked your statement of October 22 about this position of the disputed islets in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, with all due respect, I'm just unaware if anyone has expressed displeasure about the Department of State or even specific individuals in the Department of State like me.
I haven't seen those statements, so I can't speak to them. I don't want to revoke any of my previous statements on this issue because all of those statements reflect United States Government policy.
If you go back eight or nine months on this issue of disputed islets, we've had a very consistent position. We've not changed our position. It's the right position to take, and it's well known to the Greek and Turkish Governments.
QUESTION: May I assure, otherwise, that your government, on this specific issue, agrees with the Turkish Government that there are disputed islets in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey and should be a disposition?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it's helpful to pick out certain words and attach too much diplomatic meaning to them. The fact is, we've been very clear about our position on Imia/Kardak. We're very helpful to the Greeks and Turks privately. Let's concentrate our efforts on those private efforts to help the Greeks and Turks resolve this problem.
QUESTION: What do you say about disputed islets or islands? Do you agree with the Turkish Government to this point?
MR. BURNS: We agree with both Greece and Turkey that the status of Imia/Kardak should be worked out peacefully between Greece and Turkey.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) I'm talking about the disputed islets or islands. That's why the Greek spokesman expressed concerns and displeasure about your statement. That's why I'm wondering if you revoked this statement.
MR. BURNS: I think in order to be respectful to the Greek Government, I should see first what the Greek Government has said about my statement, and then I can maybe properly make a reply.
Yes, sir, and then we'll go to Betsy.
QUESTION: About Zaire. The Osservatore Romano, which is the Vatican newspaper, has criticized the Western countries handling of the eastern Zaire issue, because they say that they concentrate more on refugees instead of seeing the real problem, which is to contain the fighting. Is your government -- is the U.S. Government trying to pressure Rwanda and Burundi to ask the groups which are fighting in eastern Zaire to stop or withdraw?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't agree that somehow the diplomatic steps here are more important than the fact that 400,000-500,000 people are homeless. So let's just review the bidding here. The United States has supported the call by the United Nations for a regional conference of Central African leaders to try to resolve this. We're supporting that.
We think it should be well planned, and we think specifically that the important regional leaders from Central Africa, from the Great Lakes region should attend this conference. But we support it, and we've been very actively supporting this for a number of days.
Secondly, our Ambassadors in Kigali and Kinshasha have been in to see the Rwandan and Zairian Governments every day for about a week to try to use our influence on those two governments to try to end the fighting in eastern Zaire.
Third, we are also encouraging sub-national leaders -- meaning local leaders in eastern Zaire, people who have direct responsibility for the situation in eastern Zaire -- we're urging them to meet their adversaries and to try to work out some steps on the ground to end the fighting and to help the refugees.
Fourth, we have been in constant contact with Mrs. Ogata over the weekend -- last Friday at the United Nations, over the weekend. Tomorrow I think there will be a delegation from the United States Government traveling to New York to talk with Mrs. Ogata at the United Nations. Ambassador Albright has talked to her.
We're giving every assistance that we can to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and we have put at the disposal of the UNHCR $30 million in American assistance to help the refugees. We have an AID disaster relief team in the area, looking beyond the $30 million, at what we can do.
So I think we've done everything we can diplomatically to draw attention to this problem, to be responsible in using our influence with the governments in the area and with the United Nations.
Let me just tell you the situation of the refugees is very, very severe. We're not sure of the totals of the numbers here, but we may be talking about up to a half a million people who have had to leave the refugee camps in which they've been living and to take to the countryside because they fear for their lives; and they ought to fear for their lives, given the history -- they have every right to fear for their lives, given the history of that particular area, and remembering what happened in 1994 in that area.
We want to give these people every logistical support that we can, but the UN is taking the lead here. I think that the United States and other Western Governments have acted very responsibly here.
QUESTION: But yesterday the UN withdrew from Bukavu. They've gone to Nairobi. And also you are talking about Rwanda and Burundi refugees. You are not talking about Zairian refugees now, which have been created by these new events.
MR. BURNS: We're talking about refugees who are Rwandan, the 1.1 million Rwandans who have had to flee Rwanda over the last two years because of the genocide there; 145,000 Burundians and Zairians, people who live in eastern Zaire, who have also had to flee the fighting. We're talking about them as well.
The United Nations temporarily pulled back some of their relief workers over the weekend because their lives were in danger because of the failure of these militias to respect the fact that there are international relief workers in the area trying to help the people who are the victims of these militias.
So I wouldn't be too critical of the United Nations. I think the United Nations has done what it can to in this situation. We absolutely reject the charge that somehow the United States or other countries in the West haven't done enough. This is a problem where African leaders have to be centrally up front and concerned, and we in the West will help, and we're helping in very significant ways: logistically, with money, with diplomatic support.
As you know, in the case of Rwanda, we supported the creation of the War Crimes Tribunal in Rwanda. We have put over $875 million -- the United States alone -- into Central Africa, into Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Zaire over the last two years; $875 million in economic support and refugee support. We're doing all we can, but we need the help of the leaders of these factions and of some of these governments, particularly the Governments of Rwanda and Zaire.
QUESTION: Do you think the Government of Rwanda is supplying weapons to the militias?
MR. BURNS: We don't have any independent confirmation of that. We've seen the charge that has been made, and it's a very serious allegation, and we've raised it with the Rwandan Government.
QUESTION: You don't have a --
MR. BURNS: I don't have a confirmation. We've raised it with the Rwandan Government.
QUESTION: You mean you've asked them if they're doing that or, if they are, to stop?
MR. BURNS: When we say we've raised it, we normally raise issued that are of concern to us. We would be opposed by that. We would be opposed to it -- excuse me.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any comments at all regarding requests to the Justice Department to investigate whether Taiwanese businessmen have been pressured to contribute to President Clinton's re-election campaign?
MR. BURNS: I spoke to this issue yesterday and really have nothing new to offer on this particular issue. I thought I was very clear about where the ball was on that.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up. The gentleman did serve in the State Department in another post prior to the job in the Taiwan office. It's been reported -- at least in a couple of places -- that he may have left because his superiors were not happy with his work. Is that correct? Under what circumstances did he leave his work at the State Department?
MR. BURNS: I can't trace all of his career for you. I know he worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser and in the Office of Foreign Missions, but I believe his service in the Office of Foreign Missions was in the 1980s during the Reagan Administration.
I have seen public comments that while he was in the Reagan Administration in the mid-1980s, he was asked to leave his position in the Office of Foreign Missions. It did not happen on this Administration's watch.
Just to review the bidding, again I want to be very clear about this, our Inspector General's office, which is, as you know, a very independent office here and should be, did receive these allegations in June of this year and passed them on immediately to the Justice Department, which was the appropriate thing to do.
QUESTION: I have several questions on an article in Newsweek magazine this week on Cuba. Was the State Department aware of Cuban air force training exercises directed at low-flying, slow-moving targets prior to the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft in February? And, if so, were Brothers to the Rescue warned about these exercises?
MR. BURNS: Let me review the bidding here. The United States Government repeatedly cautioned Brothers to the Rescue and other groups about the inadvisability of entering Cuban airspace without authorization from the Cuban Government.
We believed at the time, and we obviously believe in hindsight, that that would place them in grave danger. We made this appeal privately to Brothers to the Rescue on several occasions, and, if you check our records here -- I'd be glad to give you the transcripts -- we've probably raised this issue publicly from this podium three or four times before February 24. We publicly cautioned Brothers to the Rescue from undertaking these types of missions so close to Cuban territory.
In fact, I remember at least on two occasions issuing press releases -- written press releases -- where we made this exquisitely clear, perfectly clear, in public as well as in private. In addition to that, we warned the Cuban Government not to overreact if this type of situation unfolded. We warned the Cuban Government repeatedly, privately, as well as publicly in these same press statements about the Cuban Government's obligation to exercise the utmost discretion and restraint consistent with international legal principles and laws and regulations concerning civilian aircraft.
We've deposited, by the way, these documents with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which in its judgment on February 24 clearly -- clearly -- ruled that the shootdown occurred not in Cuban airspace but in international airspace, and that in fact one of the planes that was shot down was clearly flying northward, not southward. The ICAO has ruled the Cuban Government has been at fault here.
It seems to us that this shootdown was a carefully calculated and brutal attempt by the Cuban Government, preordained and planned, to strike at Brothers to the Rescue; and that the international condemnation -- Time Magazine ran an article on this -- ought to be directed at the Cuban Government. Time Magazine asserts that somehow the United States Government has some responsibility for this. That's hogwash, because we know that Mr. Roque, who is the Cuban agent who infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue and who left them a couple of days before the shootdown, went back and reported personally to Fidel Castro.
This was premeditated murder on the part of the Cuban Government, and the Cuban Government knows it, because that's what Mr. Roque's activities amount up to. For any magazine in the United States to assert that somehow the United States Government dropped the ball here is just rubbish. The facts don't bear out. They don't support that claim.
I just want to take you through this, Betsy, because I know there is some press interest today in this. We have an unambiguous record here. It's deposited -- these documents -- with the ICAO, and I'll be glad to take you through this in further detail if you want to pursue it. It's a very serious charge that some news organizations have leveled against the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: That the State Department had advised other agencies that these people were going to be flying that weekend?
MR. BURNS: It was well known in the U.S. Government that on that weekend and in previous weekends concerning both flights and also concerning the flotillas that some of the Cuban-American organizations sailed right up to Cuban waters. That happened on several occasions. We were very open about it. The responsibility here lies with Cuba. The facts of this case talk about premeditated murder of four Americans on two unarmed civilian aircraft. That's what the facts of the case say.
QUESTION: If this government was so convinced that the Cubans were planning this, why did they not go the additional step and provide a fighter escort for these two planes nearing Cuban airspace when the facts appeared to be so clear?
MR. BURNS: Sid, let the record show that I think you have a misunderstanding of the facts. The facts are that we warned Brothers to the Rescue and the Cuban Government about undertaking activities. We did not know until after February 24 about the activities of Mr. Roque, the Cuban agent who infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue; went back to Cuba; was very public; was treated as a hero; talked to Fidel Castro.
We know, based on our analysis of all these events after the fact, what happened. We did not know that the Cuban Government was going to shoot down two unarmed light aircraft and murder four people. Right? But we condemned it after the fact, and the facts established by the International Civil Aviation Organization are that Cuba acted wrongfully, in violation of its international commitments, and that the shootdown occurred in international airspace.
Had we known about this premeditation beforehand, obviously, we would have taken very, very severe measures against the Cuban Government. We did not know beforehand, but we suspected that the Cuban Government might overreact to any of these different flotillas or air flights, and we warned them repeatedly, privately and publicly, and I would invite you to check the record on that.
QUESTION: But these suspicions you didn't think were strong enough to warrant that type of step.
MR. BURNS: We're not mind readers. We did not know that the Cuban Government would maliciously fire at American civilian aircraft. We did not know that beforehand, but we know it now that they did, and that it was murder, and it's another reason why the European Governments ought to be concerned; ought to understand our point of view here in the United States.
President Clinton has said that this was the key event that led him and the Congress to complete the legislation, Helms-Burton, and have the President sign it, because of the outrage of the American people over this. If the Europeans are looking for a reason why Helms-Burton was passed, they ought to reflect upon this incident and what this tells them about Fidel Castro and his government. He's not the romantic revolutionary, benign revolutionary, that a lot of Europeans dream that he is. That's an illusion. He's a cold-blooded autocrat.
QUESTION: China. There's a substantiated story about China selling a very sophisticated air-to-ship missile to the Iranians that will be a part of their attack helicopter fleet, supposed to be deployed in the Straits of Hormuz or in the Persian Gulf.
Nick, first can you substantiate that the Chinese are indeed selling this kind of hardware?
MR. BURNS: First of all, they're not substantiated charges. These are leaks by unnamed people to the Washington Times, part of the familiar pattern of leaks to a particular reporter there.
Second, we have been concerned about the build-up of arms in Iran, which we believe is destabilizing in the Middle East, and we pursue these allegations where they lead. We will be glad to look into this, but I do want to point you back to the source.
QUESTION: Okay. So you're saying then if this were the case and the Chinese were involved, this would be something of great concern to the U.S., something we would talk to the Chinese about?
MR. BURNS: If it's the case, if these facts can be established by the United States Government and not by unnamed people leaking things to the Washington Times -- two different things.
QUESTION: Did the State Department send an emissary to New York today?
MR. BURNS: I think the State Department should take the high road today and say that -- the high road and the low road. Here's the high road. Anybody with a heart has to feel good about the Torre family -- Frank and Joe Torre. They're a class act. The Yankees won, and we're very disappointed about the Yankee victory, but so be it.
The low road is that there were a lot of trees killed for all that confetti that rained down upon the players today -- (laughter) -- and I wonder if the EPA should take a look at this situation. Just kidding.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:03 p.m.) (###)
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