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U.S. Department of State
96/11/04 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman


Monday, November 4, 1996

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

 Tribute to Eleanor Lansing Dulles ............................. 1
 Farewell to Algerian Correspondent Mahal ......................31
 No Daily Briefing Tomorrow ................................... 31

 Update on the Fighting/Status of Cease-Fire ................... 1,3,5-7
 Update on Diplomatic Activity/Efforts re Situation ............ 2
 Refugee Situation/Food Situation/Assistance ................... 2,3-4
 U.S. Special Envoy to Burundi Wolpe Plans to Travel to Nairobi
  For Conference on November 5 ..................................2,9
 U.S. Rwanda/Burundi Coordinator Bogosian's Travel to 
Rwanda & Zaire .................................................. 2
 USG Team Coordinating with UNHRC on Refugee Situation ......... 2
 Secretary's Meeting with UN Special Emissary Chretien ......... 2-3
 Whereabouts of President Mobutu ................................4,5
 USG Officials Mtg with French Government ...................... 4-5
 U.S. Military Training and Equipment Supplied to Rwanda ....... 6-8
 Humanitarian Proposals by UNHCR/Other Governments ............. 8-9

 Status of Train and Equip Shipment/Replacement of Bosnian 
  Deputy Defense Minister/Others ............................... 10-13
 Reports of Indicted War Criminals in Republic of Srpska 
  Police Force ................................................. 13-14
 Reports of Indicted War Criminals Working in U.S. Sector ...... 13-14
 Federal and Local Elections in Serbia and Montenegro .......... 32,33

 Update on Israeli-Palestinian Talks/Dennis Ross Travel ........ 14-15
 Reported Israeli Officials Statements re Settlements ........15,17-18
 UK Foreign Secretary's Comments re: Palestinian State ......... 16-17
 Reported Israeli & Syrian Statements re Prospects for War ..... 18-19

 U.S. Policy re Afghanistan/Iran's Involvement ............20-22,24,25

 Status of Gas Agreement ....................................... 23

 Status of Investigation re Bombing .......................... 25-26

 Iraqi Kurdish Talks in Ankara/Pelletreau Returns to D.C........ 26
 Status of Implementation of UN Resolution 986 ................. 33

 Murder of American Citizen in Moscow .....................26-27,29,30
 President Yeltsin's Scheduled Surgery/PM Chernomyrdin's Role .. 27-28
 Status of ABM Treaty Discussions .............................. 28-29
 U.S. Public Announcement re Demonstrations/Strikes in Russia .. 29
 Ambassador Pickering's Return from Moscow ..................... 30-31

 Presidential Election Result .................................. 32

 Presidential and Parliamentary General Elections .............. 32

DPB #179

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1996, 1:19 P. M.

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have one brief statement to make, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.

We began the briefing on Friday talking about two American diplomats, Robin Meyer and Tom Pickering, both of whom have done extraordinary things in their career. Today we wish to note the passing of Eleanor Lansing Dulles who passed away at the age of 101. Eleanor Lansing Dulles served with distinction in the Department of State for two decades.

She helped establish the basis for the United States relationship with Germany in the postwar era, and she made a very, very important contribution to that. In the immediate postwar years, she served in the Office of the U.S. Political Adviser in Austria.

Barry, we're talking about Eleanor Lansing Dulles, who passed away at age 101. During the 1950s she served in the State Department's Office of German Affairs, where her most important accomplishment was the organization of the "Berlin Desk," which was the focal point of American policy towards Berlin during the decades aft1r the second world war.

She more than almost anybody else in those decades is responsible for creating U.S. policy towards Germany. She received many, many awards during her lifetime, and including some just in the last couple of years. Illness prevented her from receiving them personally. All of us at the Department, including some here who did work with her, wanted to remember her today, because she did pass away over the weekend. Thank you.

Q On Zaire. There supposedly is a cease-fire called by the Zairian Tutsis. Do you know anything about that?

MR. BURNS: We've seen preliminary reports just in the last hour or so that some of the ethnic Tutsi militia forces have declared a unilateral cease-fire in eastern Zaire. If these reports prove to be accurate, if they're true, this represents a positive step forward; one of the first pieces of good news that we've heard in about two weeks in eastern Zaire.

There has been a lot of activity over the weekend -- diplomatic activity. Our Ambassadors in Kigali and Kinshasa have been in touch with Vice President Kagame and also with Prime Minister Kengo about the dual objectives that I think the international community has to try to promote an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting that has caused the tremendous flow of refugees -- nearly 700,000 people -- from the camps in eastern Zaire. That's the first objective.

Secondly, to work with the international relief agencies in order to make sure that food and medical supplies and water can be made available to those hundreds of thousands of refugees who need it.

To serve that end, the Secretary has asked our special negotiator, Howard Wolpe, to travel to Nairobi for the conference called tomorrow, November 5, by the Kenyan Government, which we hope will be a conference of all of the major players in the region to discuss these two objectives and what can be done to serve those objectives.

In addition to that, the Secretary has asked that our special Rwanda/Burundi coordinator, Ambassador Dick Bogosian, travel to both Rwanda and Zaire -- he's leaving this evening -- over the next couple of days to have specific contact with both the Zairian and Rwandan Governments.

I can also tell you that a U.S. Government team departed last evening for Geneva, and that team, which is comprised of White House, State Department and Pentagon officials, will be working on-site with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to coordinate what the United States can do specifically to help Mrs. Ogata and the UNHCR on the refugee question.

In addition to that, we have an AID team in the region. We also have briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff and the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff on all these steps.

Finally, I should say, George, that Secretary Christopher will be meeting this afternoon. He'll be joining a meeting that Under Secretary Tarnoff will be having with Ambassador Ramon Chretien, who, as you know, is now the Special Emissary of Boutros-Ghali. Ambassador Chretien will be leaving, I believe, this evening or tomorrow for the region.

So quite a lot of diplomatic activity over the weekend and quite a lot of concern internationally about this situation.

Q Have you reached any judgment as to Rwanda's culpability? Is there any question now that Rwanda committed aggression across the border in a formal way with troops?

MR. BURNS: I think there's very little question that Rwandan troops crossed the border last week -- crossed the Rwandan-Zairian border into Zaire last week. There have been a lot of reports about the back-and- forth quality of that fighting, both in Bukavu and Goma over the weekend. We're trying to keep track of that as best we can.

We are limited, Barry, in one respect. We don't have diplomats on the ground in those two towns, but it does appear that those troops crossed the line last week.

Q Is the starvation prospect as dire as it seemed a day or two ago when the aid people pulled out and presumably just these people were simply left to die?

MR. BURNS: The UN relief workers were pulled out --

Q (Inaudible) the region -

MR. BURNS: -- because their lives were threatened, and because they could not get their jobs done, given the security conditions on the ground.

We believe that there is a humanitarian crisis in eastern Zaire. We're very worried about it, and we've been working, as you know, for two weeks now with Mrs. Ogata mainly, who is coordinating international efforts, and other relief organizations to see how the United States can be helpful.

I'd just like to remind you that the United States has put available $30 million to the UNHCR to fund relief organizations. That is in addition to the $875 million that we put forward in the last two years for humanitarian programs in Central Africa.

Q Except for water, they're going to be out of everything very quickly.

MR. BURNS: The problem seems to be that -- its access to provisions. The UNHCR has actually done a very good job over the last two weeks in pre-positioning food and medicine and water supplies for the refugee outflow, which has been quite severe.

The problem has been the fighting has interrupted the ability of the relief agencies to get to the refugees and to get these provisions to the refugees. Therefore, our strategy is two-pronged: not only to work with the UNHCR to make sure that supplies are available but to work politically to try to effect a cease-fire.

We're hopeful that the conference in Nairobi will get directly to that problem, and the Secretary's instructions that Ambassadors Bogosian and Wolpe travel to the region and that our team go to Geneva, of course, hopefully will serve both of these goals.

Q Do you know the whereabouts of President Mobutu?

MR. BURNS: We have seen press reports that he left Switzerland today for an undisclosed location. Those are only press reports. I cannot confirm them.

Q You don't know if he's planning to head back to Africa?

MR. BURNS: I do not know that, but we did see these interesting press reports that he got on a plane this morning. I know that Ambassador Chretien, the Canadian Ambassador, who will be the UN Special Emissary, was planning to see him in Switzerland. I don't know if this report is true. Obviously, those plans may change.

Q Nick, is any of this related to Tony Lake's trip to Paris last week? Is there some sort of concerted effort with France now?

MR. BURNS: As you know, National Security Adviser Tony Lake and Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff traveled to Paris on Thursday and Friday. Actually, the purpose of that trip was to have a comprehensive set of discussions with the French Government on a variety of issues -- all sorts of issues -- in U.S.-French relations, including the situation in eastern Zaire. But that was only one of many issues.

They had good discussions -- Lake and Tarnoff -- with the French Government. We're working closely with the French. We were in touch with the French all throughout the weekend at a variety of different levels, including some very high levels, and we believe that any effective international response will be a function of how well the international community is coordinated. Certainly the French have a big role to play here.

Q The wires are now saying that Mobutu has gone to Nice, France, where he has property and evidently large bank accounts. Do you know if this is any part of a deal by the French to try and get him out of Zaire, to try and stabilize the --

MR. BURNS: No, I'm just not -- I can't speak to that in any way. I just don't have any information on that. I would note, however, I think that Mr. Mobutu has been out of Zaire for several months, and you know he is ill. So this is not something that just happened -- the fact that he's out of Zaire -- in the last couple of days. I think it's been three months since he's been out of Zaire.

Q You welcomed the cease-fire earlier, but this is a cease-fire in which territory has changed hands, and the Zairian army has now been, I believe, displaced in that whole swath of territory. Is this okay? Is this acceptable, or do you want Zaire to have its power restored? I mean, you left that out of your statement.

MR. BURNS: I was reacting here, Roy, to just preliminary press reports that we've seen down the hall here, and we hope those press reports are true; and, if they are true, it's a positive step in the right direction.

The first objective here has got to be a cease-fire, because people's lives are at stake. I think we have to assume that with 700,000 people having fled the refugee camps, not having gone back to Rwanda -- of those 700,000, we think only about 1,000 of these Rwandans have gone back to Rwanda. In fact, they're heading west, not east -- west into Zaire, not away from Zaire. So that's got to be --

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: One thousand; roughly 1,000. That's got to be the central priority, a cease-fire. I will say, however, that we believe that country's sovereignty should be respected, and in this particular case, Zaire's sovereignty and territorial integrity ought to be respected by Rwanda and by the neighbors of Zaire.

So certainly in the long-term, Roy, by indicating that we're pleased that there could be a temporary cease-fire, that does not mean that we're somehow accepting any change of borders on a permanent basis.

Q Secondly, the Rwandan army, I believe, has connections and ties with the U.S. Government. I believe that we supply arms to them and training and trainers. So it struck me as a little bit odd that you were behind the curve so much last week on what they were doing in Zaire.

In fact, today Zaire has accused the United States of supplying equipment to Rwanda used in the assault. They specifically mentioned the speedboats donated by -- assault speedboats, they say -- donated by Washington.

What can you tell us about U.S. relations with the Rwandan army?

MR. BURNS: Roy, with all due respect, I just take issue with your characterization. I wouldn't say we've been behind the curve about what's happening there. We've followed it with great interest, and we've been very active diplomatically and also in supporting the relief efforts -- first.

Second, the United States in no way, shape or form encouraged or supported the Rwandan army or the Rwandan Government to attack Zairian forces. We were not involved. We didn't give any recommendations to that effect. In fact, if we had been asked -- and I'm sure we were not asked -- we would have told the Rwandan Government not to get involved militarily in the fighting. It hasn't been helpful.

I can't tell you every aspect of U.S. military assistance to Rwanda. But, as you know, we have had a relationship with that government. But certainly, whatever U.S. military assistance given to Rwanda or in Rwanda was not meant to serve any kind of offensive military operations against a neighboring state.

Q So then in fact are there specific restrictions and are their prohibitions on these, and therefore is some penalty that attaches to having crossed the border?

MR. BURNS: There are sometimes restrictions placed upon U.S. military equipment when it's transferred from the United States to another country. I'll have to check in the case of Rwanda to see what specific restrictions are in place.

Q When I said "behind the curve," I was thinking that you were saying yourself last week that you were relying on news reports as for the crossing, and there were several news reports at that time. And you said you had nothing from the Embassy. It just seems odd in light of the fact that there must be a very close relationship between the U.S. Government and the Rwandan Government.

MR. BURNS: We also have a close relationship with Zaire, as you know. The United States is not in a position of siding with one of these countries. We are trying to work cooperatively with both Zaire and Rwanda. We're not taking sides. We are urging both of them and pushing very hard diplomatically for Zaire and Rwanda to sit down together and at least begin with a cease-fire; then to sort out their problems.

A cease-fire would allow the relief organizations to get in and help the refugees, and that has got to be the primary Western interest; to help people who are suffering and who are in danger of being very badly hurt, if not killed, by this crisis.

Q Nick, can you --

Q Just to follow up. Did the United States supply assault speedboats as is alleged by the Government spokesman of Zaire today?

MR. BURNS: Again, I'm not the U.S. Government's expert on all military articles that have been transferred from the United States to Rwanda over the past two years. I'll look into it, Roy, but I want to leave you with a very strong impression. The United States has not been promoting or encouraging any kind of military use of force in Central Africa. Quite the contrary.

We have been urging at a very high level, very consistently, very toughly over the last ten days for the Rwandans and Zairians to step down from the present conflict. We've been aided in that by all of our friends in Europe.

Q Nick, would you look into --

Q Could you just determine whether those boats -- if we did donate them.

MR. BURNS: I'll be very glad to look into that for you.

Q Was any U.S. military equipment used by the Rwandan forces, I suppose would be an appropriate question, and, if so, did it violate the terms of the U.S. sale or gift of these weapons, whatever the weapons are, to Zaire?

MR. BURNS: I'm glad to take that question. Just one aspect of Roy's question I left unanswered. One of the reasons why I can't stand up here and give you a blow-by-blow accounting of this terrible tragedy is because we do not have American Government people -- as far as I know, I don't believe we do -- in Goma and in Bukavu and these places where the fighting is occurring.

Therefore, we are relying on press reports. We are relying on conversations with Rwandan and Zairian officials in their capitals. We do have an aid team in the area, but not in those two towns. I need to tell you when we talk in this forum about where I'm getting my information, and I wanted to make that clear. It doesn't mean the United States is behind the curve. It just means I'm trying to be fair and accurate in what I say to you.

Q I'm just sure that we must have some intelligence capabilities in that region, seeing as how it's a couple of weeks --

MR. BURNS: But that's different, Roy.

Q -- since we urged --

MR. BURNS: We do have intelligence capabilities in a lot of parts of the world, but I never talk about those, because we keep that kind of things private.

Q No, but it allows you to confirm a border crossing -- an incursion, because large numbers of troops are involved. There's a lot of radio traffic. It's not something that you would ordinarily not know if it happens, and especially in a place which is being closely watched.

MR. BURNS: I'm just trying to suggest very humbly that I not represent myself to be the person who can tell you about the state of the fighting on an hour-by-hour basis. It's happening thousands of miles away. There are not U.S. Government people in the midst of this fighting actually watching the fighting occur. I think it's important that you understand that.

We are on top of the situation diplomatically doing what we can using American influence to stop the fighting. We certainly, through the nearly $1 billion in assistance that we've given over two years, we're doing our part on a humanitarian basis.

I think Andre was waiting.

Q The French have asked for a meeting with the U.S., Canada, and European countries on setting up some kind of humanitarian operation in eastern Zaire, "securing the ground," as they say.

And, secondly, Mrs. Ogata has talked about humanitarian corridors that she wants to set up for the refugees. Is the U.S. prepared to act on any of those proposals?

MR. BURNS: They may be two different proposals. In the case of Mrs. Ogata, we do have a U.S. Government team that was sent to Geneva last evening to work directly with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to discuss the specific, logistical problems confronted by the UNHCR.

In the case of the French, we have received some ideas from the French in the last 24 hours. We're looking at them, but frankly we need to know a lot more information from the French Government about what it has in mind before we can possibly react to these ideas.

I think Patrick has another question.

Q Reports from Africa last week seems to suggest that Zaire would not go to this conference in Nairobi. Is it your understanding that they will? And if they don't, will it be able to achieve very much?

MR. BURNS: Our understanding this morning, here in the Department, is that Zaire will be represented in Nairobi tomorrow, which is a very good thing.

Secretary Christopher was briefed on this conflict twice this morning; in the first meeting, we were told that would take place.

We think it's very important that all countries be present in Nairobi tomorrow. We commend the Kenyan Government for having taken the initiative here in calling the meeting. Again, Howard Wolpe will represent the United States.

Q Do you have a position on the humanitarian (inaudible).

MR. BURNS: We simply need to know more about what is entailed in this proposal, George. That is not the case right now. We don't know what is required, but we have, I think, shown our seriousness and commitment by sending this team to Geneva. We'll be working directly with Ogata.

She was in New York much of last week. She met with Phyllis Oakley and George Moose and others. We've had almost daily contact. We have had daily contact with the UNHCR.

Q On another subject. Do you know if the Deputy Defense Minister of Bosnia has been removed?

MR. BURNS: I can tell you that despite some constructive comments over the weekend by President Izetbegovic, that would lead us to believe that Mr. Cengic will be leaving his position. I don't believe that step has been taken. So the supply vessel, the American Condor, continues to sit at anchor outside of Ploce harbor with many millions of dollars of military equipment on board.

Once this decision has been taken, once Mr. Cengic has been removed from his position, then this supply will go forward.

Q Is that the only outstanding issue?

MR. BURNS: That is the major outstanding issue. I think the other issues -- we had some concerns about the implementation of the Joint Defense Law and about perhaps one other person in the structure, in the chain of command. This was the most important issue.

We have received assurances -- again, as I said -- just over the weekend that this action will be taken. We want to see this action actually taken before we can step forward.

Q Why are you insisting that Cengic step down and not Vladimir Soljic, the Croat who you also consider a bad guy? How come --

MR. BURNS: We've only chosen to use one person -- to float one person's name publicly. That's Mr. Cengic. We certainly wish to see him step down because of his personal ties to the Iranian Government.

There is another individual that we are interested in. I can't confirm his name, but we've been promised that that individual will also be transferred from his current responsibilities to other ones.

Q Promised by whom?

MR. BURNS: By the Bosnian Government.

Q The Bosnian Government is promising that a Croat will step down?

MR. BURNS: I didn't indicate who the person was.

Q How come this second person, leaving the name aside, his stepping down is not hinged on the weapons shipments and only the Bosnian is?

MR. BURNS: They both are.

Q Both are?

MR. BURNS: They both hinge. I want to be fair to Sid. We are asking, as I said. We're asking for a couple of personnel changes here. One was Mr. Cengic. There's another individual. I can't float the name of that individual because we've decided not to do that. So there are two individuals.

I think we've told some of you in other fora in the past week that there were two individuals involved. There are two individuals here.

Q They both have to step down?

MR. BURNS: Yes. We believe that will happen.

I just want to let Judd follow up to that.

Q Can Cengic and this other gentleman take another position in the government? Is that acceptable, or do they have to leave the government?

MR. BURNS: It's not our purpose to try to ban these people from all government positions. Our purpose is to make sure that -- particularly Mr. Cengic and this other individual are not in the military chain of command, administering the one program that the United States has put forward to build up the capabilities of the Federation and thereby, we hope, by creating a deterrent factor, to prevent the outbreak of further warfare or fighting in the Balkans.

We believe that given Mr. Cengic's very close ties to Iran, his continued association with military and defense responsibilities is incompatible with the notion that the United States and other countries would be the major supplier and the major facilitator of this type of assistance.

Q Can you tell us what the other man's sins are?

MR. BURNS: The other man's sins are similar but not identical to Mr. Cengic's. I'm going to have to tantalize. It's something to think about this week. Let's see what this leads to, but I just don't care to give his name publicly.

Q Can you be more specific about the sins of Mr. Cengic? Obviously, he was responsible for procuring weapons for the Bosnians. He turned to the Iranians. He also turned to Shalikashvili. He turned to many people to try and get on, and succeeded in getting them. But you give the impression that he's some kind of Iranian agent just because of this operation which was at least, if not condoned, at least the U.S. looked the other way when it was done.

How can that be a condemnation of a person as being pro-Iranian? What we're getting from Bosnia is that he is very close, not so much to the Iranians but to Izetbegovic. That's where his loyalty lies; therefore, the reaction from the Bosnian Government to the request by the U.S. has been very strong, and I think it's the result that he has not been dismissed yet. Isn't this a problem?

Do you have anything more concrete indicating his so-called close ties to the Iranians other than the arms operation?

MR. BURNS: First, we expect that he will be dismissed because we've been assured at the highest levels in Sarajevo that he will be dismissed.

Second, the fundamental objection here is that he has an inordinately close relationship and continues to have it with the Iranian Government.

As you know, the United States does not believe that Iran has any kind of productive or useful or positive role to exercise in Bosnia. In fact, I'd just remind you that since the Dayton Accords were signed 12 months ago, we have interrupted this equip-and-train program at several points because we objected to the presence of Iranian-backed fighters -- Islamic fighters -- in Bosnia. We made sure that those organized fighting forces were broken up and most of those people were shipped out.

We don't think it makes sense to have a senior-level defense official in place administering a $100 million American assistance program when that individual has very close ties with the Iranian Government. There are a lot of other people in Sarajevo who can do that job and we won't have to worry about the Iranians whispering in the ear of this particular official.

Q Maybe then do something to prevent getting the Iranian troops out of there. Is that what the beef is?

MR. BURNS: I would just say that there were some people in the Bosnian Government who felt it was important to get the Iranians and the other Muslim fighters out and some who did not. I believe he can be put squarely in the second category.

Q There's been some reporting in the Boston Globe in the last several days about indicted war criminals on the Serb side working in top positions in Srpska. In one case, I think Friday's or Thursday's paper talked about them being in the U.S. zone. In fact, American officials essentially relating to one top official in Bosanski Samac. What can you tell us about this? It seems like an outright violation of Dayton?

MR. BURNS: The Boston Globe is a good paper. We've read the reports in the Boston Globe and elsewhere. This is a problem.

I'm speaking generally now. As you know, there are at least four individuals who are in the Republic of Srpska police force who are indicted war criminals. There's been a lot of comment from Mr. Bildt and Mr. Fitzgerald in Sarajevo. Let me add to that and say that the United States has now made it very clear to the Republic of Srpska that these four individuals should be fired from their present positions and they should be turned over to The Hague. That's the only possible recourse available to the Republic of Srpska.

If there are other officials in the Republic of Srpska who are indicted war criminals and have official-level positions, they also should step down. They should be sent to The Hague for prosecution. That is our position on all war criminals.

Q If this is in the area where the American army actually has its patrols, has its area of control, isn't there a special degree of responsibility here by the U.S. Government?

MR. BURNS: Roy, I'm not confirming the specific report about officials in the American zone. I can assure you that American officials are not to work with indicted war criminals. They are not to cooperate with them in any way. I can't believe that any senior Americans knowingly are working with indicted war criminals. It may be a case, if these reports are accurate, of people not realizing that some of these people are indicted. I just don't know.

I can't confirm these specific reports, but I can tell you about the other reports which we think are quite accurate because they come from the international police training force. There are four police officials who are indicted war criminals.

Q Those officials in Prijedor. The latest story had two officials in Bosanski Samac, including the mayor and the deputy mayor being indicted and, in fact, giving an interview and saying that he was expecting to be taken at any time. And, of course -- but he's not --

MR. BURNS: And that's not right. We and others are certainly looking into that report. You're right to raise it.

Q Have they been indicted? Can you give us the names of the people you want removed? If not, at the moment--

MR. BURNS: There have been over 55 people indicted.

Q No, no -- if the Globe would hate to -- presumably there are some honest people in Bosnia and Serbia and we'd hate to list the wrong people.

MR. BURNS: I'd just say, we have to check into those reports. I cannot confirm those particular reports.

Q Oh, I thought you said there were four people you would like to see --

MR. BURNS: I'm talking about distinct cases here. Roy has asked about the Boston Globe reports, about specific individuals working in the American sector. I'm saying, we'll have to check into it. I can't confirm those, but they do cause alarm.

There are four individuals who are police officials. We know they're indicted war criminals. They should be fired and they should be transported to The Hague.

Q Can we have those names later in the day?

MR. BURNS: I believe we've got those names, yes.

Q If it's possible.

Q Speaking of --

MR. BURNS: I think they want to stick on Iran.

Q This is an Iran question, not a Bosnia question.

MR. BURNS: Mr. Abdulsalam has question.

Q Can you give us a situation report about the Middle East talks -- Israeli-Palestinian talks? Will Dennis Ross be going back there?

MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we continue to monitor these talks daily. Ambassador Indyk and our Consul General, Ed Abington, are both involved on a daily basis with the Israelis and Palestinians.

Dennis Ross has been monitoring the talks from Washington. I think, as he told you last week, he will not be going out until after our elections. I don't know the specific date that he'll be returning. When we have that, we'll give that to you.

We're obviously hopeful to keep working with the parties for forward progress here, towards a quick resolution of the remaining problems.

Q Israeli Minister of Infrastructure, Ariel Sharon, this morning was quoted as he is planning to build three cities in the West Bank to accommodate 100,000 Israeli settlers. What's the position of the United States Government on such settlements?

MR. BURNS: We've seen some press reports on this. I believe the way that the Netanyahu government is that the Prime Minister and Defense Minister have to make final decisions on settlement construction.

I haven't seen any press reports about decisions by Mr. Mordechai or by Prime Minister Netanyahu about these specific settlements.

We've seen in the past that Minister Sharon and others make these announcements, but that doesn't represent a government decision. So until we see a government decision, I think I'll refrain from reacting.

You know our position on settlements. We think they are unhelpful. We say that privately to the Israelis.

Q But is the U.S. government asking whether the reports -- presumably --

MR. BURNS: I'm sure Ambassador Indyk is. He sees the Israeli Government everyday.

Q If it turns out that he's been told one way or the other, or maybe put on hold, could you let us know? If Sharon is --

MR. BURNS: We can talk about it again.

Q -- talking out of his own ambitions and he doesn't have the support of the government and the U.S. has been told as much, it would be worth reporting?

MR. BURNS: We'll keep following the issue. I'm sure you will, too.

Q Continue to follow up. This is creating a fait accompli on the ground. I think Mr. Netanyahu himself also created a fait accompli by lifting the expansion of the settlements.

Do you have any comment on the statements by the Foreign Minister of England, Malcolm Rifkind, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and outlawing the settlements in the Palestinian territory?

MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the comments by the Foreign Secretary of the U.K. We know he's on a trip there. He's a close friend of the United States. We very much support the fact that he's making this trip, just as we thought that the trip of the French President and Foreign Minister was positive as well.

Q But you don't know if he made that statement?

MR. BURNS: I have not seen that. I've not seen any comments by Secretary Rifkind.

Q If you can --

MR. BURNS: We've been following the wires pretty closely.

Q All right, if after you check it out --

MR. BURNS: You can show me what he said.

Q -- you can tell us whether it's helpful for a close ally to pronounce an outcome of something that is supposed to be taken-up in negotiations? You're not shy -- the U.S. isn't shy about chastising the French Government for taking positions that sort of pre-suppose things you're negotiating. You haven't even reached into the negotiations yet on this issue and here is the Foreign Secretary, presumably if he's quoted right, telling you what the result of those negotiations should be and I just wonder if the State Department likes its closest ally doing that?

MR. BURNS: Point number one: I have not seen any public statements by Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. We do know he's in the region, and we support the fact that he's taking the trip.

Point number two: He is the Foreign Secretary of an independent country. He has a right to say what he would like to say.

Point three: The United States has a very clear position on this issue. We believe that this issue is a final status issue. We do not pre-suppose or presume to know what the Israelis and Palestinians will do in their own final status talks when they begin. That's our very clear position.

Q If you have this position, could you make -- when Mr. Ariel Sharon was a Minister in the Israeli Government, and I'm going back to my question -- early remark -- that creating a fait accompli, creating facts on the ground, is this also something that has to be emphasized to the Israelis, to change the whole thing before the final talks?

MR. BURNS: Are you referring to the settlements?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: That position is perfectly clear to the Israeli Government. They know that's our position. It is repeated often, privately to the Israeli Government.

The fact is, the Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to together. They agreed in September '95, when they signed the Oslo II Accords in the White House, that they would discuss that issue -- settlements, the future of Jerusalem, refugees, the issue of a Palestinian state, or the issue of what comes next, all that is to be discussed between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Our view all along has been, that's the appropriate place for it. We shouldn't make our own independent comments or suggestions outside of the framework of those talks.

Q Mr. Sharon is not a minor person in the formula of the Israeli Government. He is the Minister of Infrastructure. Almost the coalition couldn't make it without him being the Minister of the coalition for Mr. Netanyahu. He has made that policy a long time ago of building more settlements and building more.

So this is a unilateral action by the Israelis at the time that they didn't set their agenda for the final talks.

MR. BURNS: Mr. Abdulsalam, we have contact from time to time with Minister Sharon. We deal mainly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense, Mordechai.

I would just bring you back t a fundamental point. We're not sure that the statements made by Mr. Sharon today represent a decision by the Israeli Government. There's a big distinction between public statements and government decisions. I think we need to find out, first, if this is a government decision. That would be much more important.

Q A last question. Last week, I think the United States, or rather the Israeli Government decided that they will double the weapons in the hands of the settlers throughout the West Bank and other areas. Do you have any comment on such statement?

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry I don't have a comment on that. I've not seen that specific decision by the Israeli Government. I'll take the question, though.


Q Speaking of public statements, the President of Syria today said that the prospect of war with Israel now is more likely -- his words?

MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to check into our wire services. I haven't seen any of these public statements. We've been looking at the wires all morning. We really have. Maybe you could, in advance of every briefing, show me all the really interesting news reports and I'll have more to say.

Q I'll make a deal with you. We'll call the embassies and ask them what they know.

MR. BURNS: (Laughter) You mean, our embassies?

Q You check AP, UPI and Reuters.

MR. BURNS: I do the embassies. You guys do the wires.

Q We suggest you check international wires. MR. BURNS: Is there some news service that we don't subscribe to? Sid, that's a very important question here.

Q This was at the airport after the meeting with the President of Egypt?

MR. BURNS: Just haven't seen that statement. Sid, I can tell you, we believe that both the Syrian and Israeli Governments understand the catastrophic consequences of any conflict.

I think you've seen some productive statements out of the Government of Israel, and that's in the last couple of days. The Government of Israel is saying the exercises that were undertaken were done so on a normal basis and there's no cause for concern. That's a productive thing to say. That's the right kind of thing to say. I just haven't seen the Syrian Government's statements.

Q If you could respond to that? If that changes what you're saying now, if you could respond to that once you've seen it?

MR. BURNS: I can't make any commitments, but I will look and see what President Assad may have said.

Q Do you have any comment on the Nathan Sharansky's statement in the Washington Post this morning that he's calling on the Israelis to prepare for war, and he's a Minister of the Israeli Government?

MR. BURNS: No, I didn't see that report.

Q Oh, my God!

MR. BURNS: I read the Washington Post cover to cover.

Q I have another Washington Post question for you, which is --

MR. BURNS: I hope I read this one.

Q Will you look at this --

MR. BURNS: We read a lot of newspapers here, Mr. Abdulsalam. We think we know almost everything. You've stumped us three or four times today.

(Multiple questions)

MR. BURNS: All these public statements -- we don't know anything about them. We've got to try harder.


Q The Iranian Ambassador -- I think to the UN -- wrote a rather interesting piece --

MR. BURNS: I saw that.

Q -- suggesting that the United States should talk to Iran about dealing with Afghanistan. Actually, you could also add Iraq. Iran just happens to be between those two trouble spots. I gather the U.S. attitude is, you don't want to talk to them.

But doesn't he make a rather interesting suggestion, and wouldn't there be some value in it?

MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say I agree with that. I would only say that we did see the op-ed piece in the Washington Post. We saw this piece. We read it. I can say, having read that piece, we'd just like to make one point.

Our Afghan policy is not directed against the Government of Iran. Our policy in Afghanistan represents the best that the United States can do in assessing that country's tragic situation of civil war over 18 years.

We believe that all of Afghanistan's neighbors ought to stay out of the fighting, not funnel arms to any of the factions, and that we should all support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy in order to try to effect some kind of agreement to end the fighting and have some kind of political process undertaken that would relieve the people of Afghanistan of this constant scourge of fighting.

That policy is well known. It's been enunciated publicly. We talk to a lot of countries. We talk to the Tajiks, the Kyrgyz, the Uzbeks, the Kazaks, the Russians, Pakistanis, all of China, all the countries that have an interest. We do not have a normal relationship with Iran, but we can have a normal Afghan policy without the benefit of talking to the Government of Iran everyday.

The Government of Iran knows our policy. If they want a dialogue with us, we have said in the past, it's theoretically possible, but the first couple of issues will be, why is Iran building a nuclear weapons capability? Why is it funding and directing the operations of terrorist groups? Why is it opposed to the Middle East peace process? Those would have to be some of the first items on the agenda.

We can get along and have an Afghan policy without talking to the Iranians everyday.

Q Isn't Iran a major player in that region?

MR. BURNS: Certainly, it is. But as you know, we have a strained relationship. They just celebrated the 17th anniversary of the attack on the American Embassy and holding a large number of American diplomats hostage for 444 days. They just had a public ceremony where they had demonstrations, "Death to America." This is not a normal country. This is a unique country -- a uniquely perverse place, at least in terms of the government leadership.

We feel no obligation to consult with them on a day to day basis about what we're doing.

Q Here they are inviting you to deal with a burning problem that could lead to permanent civil war. It's already been semi-permanent.

MR. BURNS: There's been a permanent civil war in Afghanistan -- 18 years.

Q They're offering to talk about it. It seems unrealistic if they're willing to talk about it, which is their immediate neighbor.

MR. BURNS: It's kind of interesting. You might gauge how serious this proposal is and to see where it was made. They make an offer to the United States in the op-ed pages of one of the American newspapers; that's a serious offer?

Q Well if you don't have a dialogue --

MR. BURNS: There's a way. We have a U.S. protecting power in Tehran -- the Swiss Government. There are all sorts of ways to talk to the United States. As we've said many times, we're not opposed to talking to the Iranians; we just have a very clear idea of what needs to be talked about. Why is Iran such a major funder of terrorism and a violator of international law in terms of its attempt to become a nuclear weapons state.

Q You seem to put a higher priority on terrorism and non- proliferation than you do on a war that is going on on the ground right now there, also just the instability with Kurdistan. They have a major role in both places -- a real role -- because they're there.

I'm puzzled why you don't look at these threats to security in the region on a same level?

MR. BURNS: Roy, I know you're not suggesting that somehow the fight against terrorism is less important, the fight against terrorism globally -- the threat to Israel, the threat to our Arab friends, the threat to Europe and the United States -- is less important than the Afghan civil war. I know you're not suggesting that.

Q But is it more important? Is the fight against terrorism more important than dealing with --

MR. BURNS: They're both important. We are the major country in the world trying to fight terrorism. No one has done more than us. That's why we have such a major focus.

We are actively involved with a lot of Afghanistan's neighbors in trying to help sort out the problems there, but we're neutral. We're not taking sides. That's not true of a lot of other countries, including, I suspect, Iran.

Q A different subject?

Q Same subject.

MR. BURNS: Yes. Patrick.

Q Are you aware of any U.N effort to organize an international conference, which is what Mr. Kharazi seems to be talking about?

MR. BURNS: We have seen some talk about some kind of international conference. We're putting our faith in the United Nations. If the United Nations develops a proposal for some kind of international meeting, I'm sure we'd consider it. I'm not sure we've seen a specific proposal, however, from the UN Special Envoy or the UN Secretariat in New York.

We want to work with the United Nations on Afghanistan.

Q What about the United Nations, Nick -- there was a story a couple of days ago in the Washington Post by John Goshko, talking about the United Nations, that the lack of payment by the United States to the budget of the United Nations is straining a lot of relations between the United States and the rest of the world?

MR. BURNS: A much higher authority -- President Clinton -- spoke to this in the fall at the United Nations. We want to pay our dues to the United Nations. If President Clinton is re-elected, this will be a major priority with our Congress.

I think Yasmine has a follow-up.

Q Iran, last week, had an international conference on the Afghanistan question. You declined to comment on that. There are some reports in the region that the U.S. sent some messages to the conference via some of its allies?

MR. BURNS: The Iranians had a conference last week. They didn't invite the United States. Big surprise.

We did talk to a number of countries who were at the conference because we talk to them everyday about Afghanistan. I'm not aware of any special messages.

Q Has the U.S. Administration reached any conclusion regarding a $23 billion contract -- gas agreement of Turkey with Iran? Because the Iranian Oil Minister is in Turkey today and he's expected to sign another bilateral, an agricultural cooperation protocol. How do you respond to that?

MR. BURNS: The United States is not enthusiastic about this proposed contract. We have told the Turks that, when it's been briefed to us by the Turks.

Frankly, we have been waiting for a fuller explanation from the Turkish Government about this deal before we could make a decision about whether or not it violates the terms of the D'Amato legislation which is now the law of the land. It's now U.S. law.

So we'll have to continue discussing this with the Turkish Government. We do not believe it's a good idea for any country to have normal relations with Iran. That's the American Government position.

Q Have you said to them, "Don't go ahead?"

MR. BURNS: We've certainly advised them of that.

Q I don't mean, putting down the oil deal --

MR. BURNS: We certainly have given a very clear signal to the Turkish Government; yes.

Q You've made this point to Turkey several times and they're going ahead. What does that tell you about their intentions to --

MR. BURNS: I want to give the Turkish Government a slight benefit of the doubt here. I saw a press report just before coming out here at 1:00 that there is a meeting today in Ankara involving the Turkish Prime Minister.

Obviously, we want to have our Ambassador and our Embassy staff check into this and talk to the Turks before we say anything more in public. I've just reaffirmed to you the well-known U.S. position on this deal.

Q How about the local elections held yesterday in Turkey? The ruling coalition partners have succeeded -- a special welfare party has succeeded -- in getting three males in three towns. How do you respond to that?

MR. BURNS: We don't comment on local elections. We don't want to involve ourselves in the internal politics of a friendly country like Turkey. I know there are elections in Serbia and Bulgaria and Romania. We can talk about those elections, because those are national elections that have an impact on those countries' ability to work with us internationally.

Q Can you give us your assessment of those elections later?

MR. BURNS: Right. We just have one more question on Afghanistan.

Q Doesn't the attitude toward Iran create a problem for U.S. foreign policy given that the Iranians had an international conference on Afghanistan? There also are other proposals. Uzbekistan has called for an international conference. I assume to that one the United States would be invited. But I guess also they would invite Iran to participate in this thing.

Isn't it necessary that if there is an international forum to discuss this that the United States can be in on it even if Iran is also a member? And if the United States does not, does this not leave openings for other countries like England, France, and others who will be participating in this to really become the initiative takers in the area on this thing?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about the ability of the United States to be influential. We are influential, by virtue of what the United States is.

There are a lot of diplomatic occasions around the world where Americans and Iranians sit in the same hall. We don't really meet. We don't normally meet with them -- our diplomats don't. We don't have much to say to them. But we have no fundamental objection to Iranians being in the same place that American diplomats are. That's not a problem.

Would we go to Tehran for a conference? We weren't invited. It was their call. So I think the problem is really Iran. It's not an American problem. It's an Iranian problem.

Q Would the United States go to Tashkent if the Iranians also --

MR. BURNS: We have an Embassy in Tashkent, and we have a good relationship with the Uzbek Government, and we're talking to the Uzbeks, the Kazakhs, the Kyrgyz and the Tajiks about this, as you know, because they're all front-line countries here.

Q Nick, also on Iran and the Saudi Arabian bombing. Jeffrey Smith wrote on Saturday, in following up his article on Friday, that Mr. Philip Wilcox of this Department says that Hizbollah cells operate under the guidance and with the intelligence of Iranian Embassies. Mr. Smith reiterated the fact that he believed that the information, Nick, about passports being obtained in Syria by Hizbollah operatives -- through the Iranians -- were still correct, and he also quoted Mr. Pelletreau as saying that there was credible evidence that Iran was assisting in training those Bahrainians who tried to overthrow the Bahrain Government some months ago. Have you any comments on this article?


Q You cannot comment on Mr. Louis Freeh going to the Saudi Arabian Embassy last week?

MR. BURNS: I believe the FBI issued a public statement yesterday, taking issue with some of the reports on Saturday. I'd just leave it to you to read the FBI statement. It's a very clear statement.

Q (Inaudible) on Friday when you were saying that you couldn't give any assessment of corroboration with the Saudis that Louis Freeh was pulling back some of his agents --

MR. BURNS: All I would do is direct you to his statement of yesterday when he said he's not pulling back his agents. I believe the FBI statement refers to the fact that there's a normal rotation of agents in and out of Saudi Arabia to work with the Saudis, and read his statement. I've got it here. I can read it to you. I won't do that, but I'll show it to you after the briefing.

Q The statement of cooperation still stands; that you don't know whether the -- you wouldn't want to make any judgment until the end of --

MR. BURNS: Excuse me. That was November 2. It's a Saturday statement, not a Sunday statement. The FBI says that the reports that the FBI is withdrawing its agents out of Saudi Arabia because of dissatisfaction with the level of cooperation by the Saudi Government are not true. And it goes on to say that the FBI is maintaining its agent force in Saudi Arabia. So everything I said Friday was consistent with the facts.

Q KDP seems to have difficulty in digesting some part of agreement reached last week in Ankara. They issued a statement, saying that the re-establishment of a regional government must be renegotiated. How do you respond to that?

MR. BURNS: It's not surprising to see these kinds of public statements. I would advise you to put your faith and to pay most attention to the joint statement that was issued out of Ankara by the KDP, PUK, the Turkomans, the British Government, the Turkish Government and the United States.

That's a joint statement that reflects the reality of what happened at the two days of meetings in Ankara. Ambassador Pelletreau is back. He's briefed the Secretary. Ambassador Pelletreau has received the congratulations of both Secretary of State Christopher and Deputy Secretary of State Talbott for everything he did.

He created a cease-fire in northern Iraq. He's created now a diplomatic process. There will be a second round of meetings in Ankara in mid-November. The situation now is far better than it was at the end of August and early September. I think Ambassador Bob Pelletreau deserves the gratitude of a lot of people, certainly here, and he has it for what he's done.

I'm sorry, Betsy. Yes.

Q Do you have any information on the death of the U.S. businessman in Russia? And are any U.S. law enforcement people going to become involved in searching for who did this?

MR. BURNS: I can confirm, based on conversations with the United States Embassy in Moscow, that Mr. Paul Tatum of Edmond, Oklahoma, was murdered brutally by an unknown assailant in Moscow, Sunday evening -- yesterday, Sunday evening, November 3.

The Embassy was notified shortly after his murder. Our Embassy officials have contacted Mr. Tatum's family, and they've expressed the deepest sympathies of the United States Government. We've offered all appropriate assistance to his family at this tragic time.

The United States deplores the murder of Mr. Tatum. We are working with the Russian Government to try to make sure that the Russian Government mounts a very aggressive investigation, a criminal investigation, into this brutal murder of an American citizen -- an American businessman who had been in Moscow for several years; who, as you know, was instrumental in creating the Raddisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel; who was well known to many in the American community.

We want to work closely with the Russian Government on this investigation. Betsy, I don't know if we will dispatch any American law enforcement officials. That will probably be only done at the request of the Russian Government, if that request is made.

Q Have they made any request for help, either of a forensic or personnel --

MR. BURNS: I don't know if they have. I know our Embassy has worked all day today -- last evening and all day today with the Russian Government, with the police officials, the municipal government of Moscow on this case. We take this very seriously.

It is the second time that an American has been murdered -- to my knowledge, an American businessman -- over the last three or four years in Moscow. We're very, very concerned about it, and, obviously, our sympathies go to Mr. Tatum's family.

Q Nick, as President Yeltsin is prepared for surgery, is it steady as it goes? Do you have anything to say about how are you going to proceed now with the leader of Russia under --

MR. BURNS: We understand that Dr. DeBakey is in Moscow, working with the medical team in the Kremlin. We don't know -- at least I don't know -- when the date of the surgery will be. Obviously, the United States wishes President Yeltsin the best for a successful operation and a full recovery, and we look forward to working with him when he regains his health.

In the meantime, as you know, he has delegated many of his responsibilities to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. We have an excellent relationship with him. The President and the Secretary of State and the Vice President will continue to work with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, with Mr. Chubais, with Foreign Minister Primakov, with others, in order to keep this relationship going.

Right now the relationship is very sound. The relationship is in good health. We have our differences from time to time, as we did last week on the ABM/TMD issue, but for the most part this relationship has really been quite successful.

Q It brings to mind -- could I follow with one quick question. Has the -- put this in shorthand -- has the problem over ABM deepened now? Is it not just that they wouldn't sign part one, but the whole agreement is up for grabs? Is that --

MR. BURNS: We hope not.

Q (Inaudible) quote this report --

MR. BURNS: We hope not. The fact is that we made an attempt last week to try to knit together the agreement that was clearly in place the last week of September when Secretary Christopher and Minister Primakov issued their joint statement.

We were unsuccessful in doing that last week -- not for lack of trying. We will keep at this. This is a major priority security issue, and we will make every effort in the next couple of months to see this through to completion.

Q Nick, you remember I asked you last -- when this first came up a couple of days ago -- whether the systems that the two sides had agreed could be tested without modifying the ABM Treaty and would not violate the spirit of the terms of the treaty -- whether that agreement, let alone the signing -- putting aside the signing -- had fallen apart. I'm not sure yet whether it has or hasn't.

MR. BURNS: I don't believe so, but the negotiations just broke off on Friday and Saturday, do I'd rather take that question and ask the people who were in the discussions, Barry.

Q What's the break-off mean then?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q "Broke off," "suspended" --

MR. BURNS: The talks?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: Oh, I would just say that we finished the latest round of talks unsuccessfully, and we are determined to go back in the future with the Russians to try to negotiate this conclusively and to have a positive outcome.

Q Did they say something like, "See you after Thanksgiving," or --

MR. BURNS: I don't know if a specific date has been arranged for the next round, but we are determined to do it.

Q Did they express a willingness to resume?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I think there's a willingness in both governments to resume conversations on this.

Q In that part of the world, last week the Embassy put out a notification to Americans to beware of unrest, demonstrations, strikes, starting tomorrow. Does that still stand? Have you got any update? Do you have any information about the sites outside Moscow -- where you're expecting --

MR. BURNS: I believe that notice was put out in both St. Petersburg, where we have a Consulate General, and in Moscow. It's a standard, routine notice. We do it in any country of the world where we think there may be significant, either in this case strikes, or demonstrations. We want American citizens to know what we know, so that they can make their own decisions about what they do, if they happen to be in those cities.

Q Do you expect this to be a nationwide event?

MR. BURNS: I do not know.

Q Can I ask, because it's so hard today to get a question in: You mentioned the elections in --

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. We'll try to make it easier in the future.

Q -- Bulgaria and Serbia and Romania.

Q Could we stay on Russia, please?

MR. BURNS: Okay. Why don't we --

Q Can we come to that after this question?

MR. BURNS: Yes, I'll be glad to.

Q Thank you.

Q I would just ask you whether the nature of the advice you give to Americans who travel to Russia or do business in Russia is going to change in the wake of Mr. Tatum's death?

MR. BURNS: We have not yet put out, or we have not put out, any additional warnings or advisories to American citizens after the death of Mr. Tatum. I think it is well known in the American business community that crime and corruption, including killings for business reasons -- hired killings -- are often unfortunately more the norm than anything else these days in some parts of the Russian business system.

We do not know the motive for the killing of Mr. Tatum. That is why we are encouraging the Russian authorities to launch a very aggressive investigation.

Q Does the Administration consider it now less safe for Americans or Europeans to do business -- for Americans specifically -- in Russia?

MR. BURNS: I think for the last five years there's been a combination of risks and opportunities for Americans -- obvious economic opportunities. There are some economic risks, but there are also some personal risks for any American traveling in Russia these days because of the pervasive crime on the streets of Moscow and the other cities.

Americans who live there understand this, and Americans there I know -- including Mr. Tatum -- take security precautions. Mr. Tatum took security precautions. He had bodyguards, and we see in this instance that was not sufficient to preserve his life, and that's a great tragedy.

Q But is it less safe now, Nick, than it was --

MR. BURNS: Because of the murder yesterday?

Q The conditions that led to that murder. Have the conditions gotten worse?

MR. BURNS: I'd have to consult with the Embassy in Moscow. I cannot make that determination on my own. There always have been risks, and I think the murder yesterday of Mr. Tatum is an indication -- very tragic -- of that risk.

Q Very quick one. Your remarks last week about Ambassador Pickering conflicted slightly with reports from there that said he's coming home to retire.

MR. BURNS: It didn't conflict at all, actually. I was just simply saying, really on behalf of all of my fellow Foreign Service Officers, we wanted to congratulate Ambassador Pickering for having completed his assignment in Moscow. He has completed it. He is now back in this building today, and I cannot announce any future plans for him. He will at some point announce his future plans. It's not my right to announce that for him.

Sonia, and then we have to wrap it rather quickly.

Q The national elections in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. Final tallies aren't in yet, but I'd like to know what your preliminary assessment is.

MR. BURNS: Before too many people drift away, including our distinguished President of the Foreign Correspondents Association, Mr. Abdulsalam, who's heading out the door -- please come back in. (Laughter)

Two words of note. I wanted to pay special attention to a gentleman who's seated in the back row. It's our friend from Algeria, Mr. Mahal, who has been a very distinguished correspondent here for many years. He's returning to Algeria. I wanted to wish you the best of luck. You've always acquitted yourself in a very professional way here. We're going to miss you very much.

The best of luck in your country, which we know is a troubled country, and we wish you all the best for the future.

Q Amen!


MR. BURNS: Secondly, I'm going to be merciful for once. I think it's probably appropriate that we not have a press briefing tomorrow, considering the fact that all of you should be at the polls voting, except for those of you who are foreigners, then you should not vote in our elections -- (laughter).

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: But those of you who are Americans should vote. No, no, no. I didn't say anything like that. I'm apolitical. Come on! Keep me out! I have succeeded for three months in staying out of this. Give me one more day, Judd.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: Yeah, right. I think the Red Sox in '97. That's the safest bet. So we're not going to have a televised press conference tomorrow, because the focus is going to be on our national elections. We will be available -- John Dinger and Glyn and myself -- to talk to you if you're here and probably to come over to your office here in the State Department around noon and talk to you about what's happening.

Q Speaking of --

MR. BURNS: Bill, I'm sorry. You have a lady before you. Three elections in Europe. Let me go very quickly, because I need to leave in about two minutes.

The Serbian elections were held yesterday. We understand that final results will not be in until Wednesday or later. There was an observer effort by the OSCE and by the United States Embassy in Belgrade. I must tell you that the American Embassy did note several problems -- problems concerning voter lists, problems with transmission of the vote count, problems of access to polling places by members of the opposition and by monitors and by the media.

These are problems that our own Embassy people have noticed. We will await the word of the OSCE as to its views about this election. I should also tell you the United States has deep, long-standing concerns about the development of democratic norms in Serbia and Montenegro, and that's all I've got to say about that.

As for the Bulgarian elections, the United States congratulates Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria's Union of Democratic Forces, who won a decisive victory in the elections yesterday in the presidential runoff.

The United States looks forward to working with Mr. Stoyanov, and, of course, our Ambassador and others will want to make to contact with him, as will all of us in Washington. We hope very much that Mr. Stoyanov will be successful in encouraging further reforms -- economic and political -- in Bulgaria.

Finally, the elections were also held -- presidential and parliamentary -- in Romania. This is of great interest to the United States. There were lots of American observers, including some from the government here in Washington, from our Embassy staff, and from others in surrounding countries.

They have characterized the voting as orderly and without significant incidents. Again, the official results are not yet in. It looks to be a very close race. However, exit polls indicate a strong showing by the opposition, led by the Democratic Convention of Romania. But we'll have to wait for the final results before the United States can make any specific comments about that election.

I have time for maybe one or two more questions.

Q On Iraq. In the last two days, there have been a number of instances where U.S. military jets sent missiles at what they perceived were Iraqis locking in --

MR. BURNS: I know that Secretary Perry has spoken to that this morning from the Pentagon.

Q Right, right.

MR. BURNS: I'd refer you to his comments.

Q Can you talk at all how this might affect 986, the possible implementation of 986?

MR. BURNS: 986 will go forward if the Government of Iraq is a rational, cooperative, interlocutor with the United Nations, which it has not been to date. But the United States wants 986 to go forward, to help the Iraqi people who are victims of Saddam and to help the Turkish Government, among others.

Sid, do you have one more?

Q Going back to the Serbian elections, you said the U.S. has long- standing concerns about the development of democracy in Serbia. I was wondering whether you are of the opinion that there is democracy developing there at all?

MR. BURNS: Concerns about the development of democracy. I did not meant to intimate that there is a democracy there. I wouldn't call Serbia a democracy.

Q The Washington Post this morning said that American Embassy officials in Serbia have been going around to the state industries and in a way, before the elections, almost signaling an endorsement of Milosevic's party.

MR. BURNS: Let me end the briefing on that note. Absolutely ludicrous. The United States is not supporting Milosevic or his party. We're not interfering in these elections, and, as you know, we've had our differences with Mr. Milosevic. We are not supporting him in these elections.

Thank you very much.

(The briefing concluded at 2:22 p.m.) (###)

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