U.S. Department of State 96/11/27 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Wednesday, November 27, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENT Assistant Secretary Lord's Trip to Tokyo to Participate in US-Japan SCC 2plus2 Talks and Then on to Hong Kong....... 1-2 BELARUS Update of Situation re: the Referendum Vote and Rump Parliament............................................... 2-3 Status of Nuclear Missiles Enroute to Russia and Ceremony 3-4 to Mark Handoff of Missiles/Disposal of Nuclear Material/ Status of New Government and Recognition by US.......... . 2-4,10-11 ISRAEL US-Israel Counterterrorism Talks/Results of Bilateral Discussions/Expansion of Settlements in Relation to Reduction in Loan Guarantees ......................... 4,13-15 NORTH KOREA Release of Mr. Hunziker/Details of Release/Effect on US-North Korea Relations/Submarine Case.................. 4-8 Delegation Going to North Korea to Search for MIAs/Other Meetings for Cong. Richardson in NKorea/Details of his Visit/Possible Message for Sec. Christopher.............. 8-10 RUSSIA Nuclear Safety Concerns in Russia/US Program to Fund Peaceful Projects on Nuclear Issues...................... 11-13 ZAIRE Canadian-Led Mission/Support for MNF/Planning for Potential Airdrops/US's Precise Role/Establishment of Airbridge by Present Troops in Area/Need for Free, Full Access to Area Numbers of Refugees Still in Area/Arrest of Suspected War Criminals/Objection by Rwanda/Zaire to Airdrops.......... 15-20 TURKEY Reaction to Cancellation of Cobra Helicopters/Update on Talks on Supervisory Peace Monitoring Group.............. 20-22 CUBA Demonstrations in Cuba at Spanish Embassy................ 22-23 BOLIVIA Sustainable Development Summit........................... 23 UNITED NATIONS Possible New African Candidate for UN Secretary General/Limited Term for Boutros-Ghali.................... 23-25 SERBIA Update on Demonstrations/Holding of Runoff Elections/ No US Responsibility for Nullification of Elections/ U.S. Maintains Outer Wall of Sanctions................... 25-26 CROATIA Similarity of Situation in Zagreb/US Response............ 26-27 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Relationship between US Peace Team and Palestinian Negotiators.............................................. 27-28
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1996, 1:07 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. We have a significant birthday to recognize today and I understand that on Sunday His Excellency Mr. Abdulsalam Massarueh will be turning -- he has a significant birthday coming up and I don't know if you want me to out you in public.
MR. MASSARUEH: I'm not going to --
MR. BURNS: He's going to be 60 years old and we send you and your family our very best wishes. Congratulations. That's terrific. (Applause.)
Mr. Abdulsalam is a distinguished President of the Foreign Correspondents Association and we welcome you here today.
QUESTION: Do you think we can embargo these remarks until Sunday? (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: We can do that, but, you know, under the new policy, the TV and radio already has it, George, so --.
QUESTION: It's already out.
MR. BURNS: It's already out, exactly. Congratulations to you, sir.
I have just a couple of things before we go to questions. First, I want to let you know about the travel plans of Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord.
Assistant Secretary Lord is one of the inveterate travelers here. He just returned this morning with the President from a -- I guess it was a l2-day trip to Asia. He goes back to Asia on Saturday. Now the reason he did that, and he didn't stay in the region, is because he was determined to come home not only for Thanksgiving with his family but for the Redskins-Dallas game. At least that's what he told us, and he said we could say that on the record.
So he is back for two days and then on Saturday he travels back to Tokyo and from December l to 3, Assistant Secretary Lord will participate in the meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, the so-called 2+2 talks, in which Secretary Perry, Ambassador Mondale, Japanese Foreign Minister Ikeda and Japanese Defense Agency Director General Kyuma will be the major participants.
This 2+2 meeting is a very important meeting. It will review the final report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, the SACO Committee. Secretary Christopher had a good discussion of the work of this committee with Mr. Ikeda last week in Manila, and Ambassador Lord will then, after this session of the 2+2, hold his own political and security talks with the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Following that, Ambassador Lord will travel to Hong Kong from December 4th to 5th for meetings with Governor Chris Patten, Chief Secretary Anson Chan, a variety of Hong Kong legislators, including the representative of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Zhou Nan, and the Chief Executive Candidate and Preparatory Committee vice-Chairman, Mr. C. H. Tung.
In his meetings, Ambassador Lord will stress the United States support for a smooth and successful transition and continued political and civil freedoms in Hong Kong after reversion.
This was a point that was made by President Clinton in Manila on Sunday with President Jiang Zemin and a point made repeatedly by Secretary Christopher in his meetings in Beijing with Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Qian Qichen, a very important point for the United States and thus a very important trip by Assistant Secretary Winston Lord.
Secondly, I just wanted to update you on the situation in Belarus because we had a discussion of it yesterday and it is quite interesting.
Two aspects. First, on the political side, the United States continues to believe that the efforts, the anti-constitutional efforts, by President Lukashenko simply cannot be supported by the international community.
The fact that he and his followers have formed a rump parliament and have disregarded the real parliament is an indication to us that he is not willing to address the irregularities that were so evident in the referendum vote last Sunday. As you know, the United States and the OSCE and a number of European governments have pointed out the significant problems with the way that referendum was conducted last Sunday. And we remain extremely disappointed at the actions taken by President Lukashenko this week which do not reflect in any way a commitment to democracy.
Now, that is the bad news. The relative good news is that on the issue of the status of the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles, we now understand from the Russian Government that the warheads from those missiles have been transported into Russia, and they are now in storage in Russia.
The missiles themselves are presently on a train headed for Russia, and we believe that train will cross into Russia very shortly.
Ambassador Ken Yalowitz, the American Ambassador in Minsk, participated in a ceremony this morning that marked the departure of the warheads and the missiles from Belarus to Russia. I understand that the Russian Defense Minister, Minister Rodionov also attended that ceremony.
This is an enormous accomplishment, not only for the governments involved, Belarus and Russia, but also for the United States.
In April 1993 at the Vancouver summit, President Clinton stated publicly that it was his intention to work out an arrangement with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to remove the nuclear weapons from three of those states and to transport them back into Russia, and to have a dramatic schedule for destruction of those missiles in the future. That has now happened.
This Administration came into power in 1993 and inherited a situation where there were four nuclear powers in the former Soviet Union. There is now one, and I think -- I don't think I am being too impartial or subjective in saying that it was the political leadership of the United States, it was funding, financial assistance, in the form of several billion dollars of American assistance through the Nunn-Lugar program, and it was the repeated efforts of President Clinton, Secretary Christopher, and Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott over four years of concerted American diplomacy that allowed us to reach this day where people in our country can now have a Thanksgiving where we don't have to worry that there are four nuclear states in the former Soviet Union; there is one.
And with the one state that now has nuclear weapons in Eurasia, Russia, we have an agreement through START I and through START II, which we would like to see ratified, of vastly reducing the numbers of those weapons. So that by the year 2003, the number of warheads on both sides, U. S. and Russia, will be down to a level of roughly 6,500, from a high exceeding 25,000 just a couple of years ago.
This is an enormous benefit for the American people and for the United States, and we wanted to pay some attention to that this morning. A very, very important day today in that part of the world.
Lastly, I would just say, I think I was asked by Barry yesterday, about some talks that are occurring in Washington between the United States and Israel, two sets of discussions.
The first was a meeting on the 25th and 26th of November this week between the United States and Israel, the first meeting of the Joint Counterterrorism Group. This was the group that was created, as you remember, in the wake of the suicide bombings last spring. It was actually a signed agreement between Prime Minister Peres and President Clinton on April 30th of last year.
This is a forum where we can discuss with the Israelis what we can do together to counter terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. The U. S. delegation was led by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Peter Tarnoff.
Secondly, Under Secretary Tarnoff is hosting a lunch today for the Israeli Senior Diplomat Atan ben Sur, the number two in the Israeli Foreign Ministry. And this is the second part of the discussions we have underway today, and that is political discussions, between the United States and Israel on a variety of foreign policy issues.
So we are very pleased to host the Israeli delegation this week for both those talks.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the decision of the North Koreans to release Mr. Hunziker and the circumstances of that release?
MR. BURNS: I do. Let me just try to give you some background. I think we feel we are better able to give you some background on this now that Mr. Hunziker is free.
We have not heard yet privately from Congressman Richardson all the details of his discussions with the North Koreans over the last several days, but certainly I think it is appropriate for us to thank Congressman Bill Richardson for his extraordinary efforts to travel to North Korea and to negotiate the release of Mr. Carl Hunziker, who is the young American held unjustly by the North Koreans.
Since the detention of Mr. Hunziker in August -- I think it was August 24th of this year -- the United States has sought to obtain his release from the North Korean authorities.
We raised this issue -- his issue -- with the North Koreans at every opportunity in our regular meetings with them at their U. N. Mission in New York. During his detention, Mr. Hunziker was visited, I believe, on four occasions by the Swedish Charge d'Affaire in Pyongyang, Mr. R. K. Lovquist, and we would like to extend to the Swedish Government and to Mr. Lovquist personally the gratitude of the United States for Mr. Lovquist's and the Swedish Government's interest in this case and the assistance that they gave to Mr. Hunziker.
In mid-November of this year, the North Koreans informed State Department diplomats in New York that they would be willing to release Mr. Hunziker if we could arrange for him to be escorted from North Korea out of the country.
That led to the decision by Secretary Christopher and others to ask Congressman Richardson to make this trip. As you know, he had been there before. He is someone, we felt, had an ability to work well with the North Koreans.
The North Koreans initially called, asked us, for a criminal fine of $l00,000 to be paid for Mr. Hunziker's -- quote/unquote -- illegal entry into North Korea, but obviously this was not paid.
Initially Mr. Hunziker was confined to a hotel in the northern area of North Korea, close to where he crossed the border from China across the Yalu River. In mid-October, after he had been formally charged with espionage, a charge which was patently ludicrous, because he is an innocent American that had never been affiliated with the American Government. In mid-October, he was moved to a detention facility.
The North Koreans demanded that the bill for the hotel portion of his time in North Korea be paid prior to his release, and I understand the North Koreans calculated that the lodging and the fee for the meals amounted to $5,000.
Now I understand the Hunziker family paid that fee. It is certainly understandable to us why the Hunziker family took that action. I think any of us in a similar position would have done that. But holding him was unjustified and charging him for his detention was certainly unjustified. We have no objection to the fact that the Hunziker family made this decision. It was obviously the right decision for them, privately. But I just wanted to make clear our view that he may have been in a hotel, but he didn't enter the hotel voluntarily, and he was not able to leave the hotel because he was under armed guard, and that to us, that to me, amounts to detention.
I understand that Mr. Hunziker should be arriving in the United States shortly. He'll be reunited with his parents and his siblings and friends for Thanksgiving. I don't have any information as to his personal plans, but we're very, very pleased that he has been released.
After he arrived at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, he did undergo a physical examination by our military doctors there. And after that it was determined that he was fit to fly back to the United States for the reunification with his family.
That's about as much background as I can give you, George, but I'm willing to take any questions on that if you're interested.
QUESTION: The other day Glyn said there were no U.S. concessions, but just let me dot every "i." Was there a possibility of a third-party concession? In other words, did the South Koreans do anything to facilitate this by generally improving the environment or by doing something specific as a quid pro quo?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any actions by South Korea, the Republic of Korea, linked to this case. We have never seen Mr. Hunziker's case to be linked with any other issue. We have not seen it to be linked to the submarine issue or to the four-party talks or any other issue that we presently have on our agenda with North Korea.
We saw this as a humanitarian case, because we know that Mr. Hunziker was innocent of the charges brought against him.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) by the North Koreans suddenly agreeing with you on the humanitarian aspect?
MR. BURNS: It's always difficult to ascertain the motives of the North Koreans. As Secretary Christopher has said very often, it's a rather opaque society. Perhaps Congressman Richardson will have some insights into that when he talks to you and talks to us when he returns to the United States. But from this distance it's hard to know why they've decided to do this. We think it was obviously a positive decision, because he was held unjustly.
QUESTION: What impact, if any, will it have on U.S.-North Korean relations?
MR. BURNS: He was held unjustly, and therefore the decision to release him was the right decision. But it was the obligation of North Korea to release him, because he wasn't guilty of the charges. We have a lot of issues with North Korea. The four-party talks are on the table. President Kim and President Clinton re-issued that invitation for North Korea to participate with China and with us at these talks to try to secure a peace agreement 43 years after the Korean War has ended.
The Agreed Framework is where the United States has vital national security interests engaged. We want to maintain the freeze on North Korea's nuclear program, and that is happening.
The submarine incident was a direct provocation by North Korea against the Republic of Korea. As you know, the United States believes it's appropriate for North Korea to offer some kind of gesture to atone for that provocation.
So there are a variety of issues on the table, but I don't think they're linked to this case. I don't think that the resolution of this case automatically means that we're going to make progress on the others. We hope to make progress, and we'll continue meeting with the North Koreans in New York, as we do regularly, on all these issues. But we need to, I think, understand that they are not linked.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have any reason to think that gesture might be in the offering (inaudible) Hunziker's release?.
MR. BURNS: Again, we hope that there is some type of gesture offered to South Korea. We understand that, Secretary Christopher said the other day in Manila, "We certainly understand the psychological impact and political impact that the submarine provocation has had on the South Korean population."
This is not the first time that North Korea in recent decades has undertaken a provocation like this. And certainly something has to be done to show the South Koreans that North Korea is willing to work constructively.
QUESTION: Richardson referred to it but you haven't heard in any way from him?
MR. BURNS: I did hear that as part of his public comments to the press at Yokota, Congressman Richardson said that the North Koreans -- he felt the North Koreans wanted to put the submarine incident behind them. If that is the case, if in fact that is what they intend to do, that would be positive, but we do need to see some kind of gesture by the North Koreans.
QUESTION: U.S. delegations will be going to North Korea next month, looking for the remains of U.S. soldiers missing in the Korean War. Can you confirm that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any specific dates for that delegation, but, as you know, it's very important for the United States. I believe there are more than 8100 MIA cases from the Korean War -- American cases -- and it's our obligation to those families to do everything we can to find out what happened to their loved ones. That's why we will be undertaking future missions in North Korea. But I don't have any confirmation of the dates of that mission.
QUESTION: Was Richardson's visit there strictly related to the Hunziker case, or did he get involved in other issues, and who did he meet with?
MR. BURNS: The sole reason for the trip was to secure the release of Mr. Hunziker. I understand that as part of the trip -- I mean, after he had finished his negotiations on Mr. Hunziker, the North Koreans did raise other issues -- the variety of some of the issues that I've just cited to you. We don't have any detail about those conversations.
I also don't have the name of his senior interlocutor, George, but I'm sure that we'll be able to get that as soon as we have an opportunity to talk to Congressman Richardson in more detail.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Belarus? How many SS-25s --
MR. BURNS: I think they just want to keep on North Korea, then I'll be glad to go to this.
QUESTION: Was Congressman Richardson briefed before he went as far as the U.S. position, and was he carrying any sort of message from Mr. Clinton?
MR. BURNS: Congressman Richardson was in direct contact with the State Department and the White House before he left. He certainly had the full support of the White House and the State Department and our entire government as he undertook this trip, and he's been in regular touch with us. He's also had the direct assistance of American Foreign Service Officers who are Korean specialists on this trip and on other trips. So, yes, we've been very closely in contact with him.
QUESTION: Where did he stay in Pyongyang?
MR. BURNS: I don't know for sure, but normally the North Koreans put our American visitors at a guest house outside the city. But let's wait until Congressman Richardson speaks before we know that to be a fact.
QUESTION: And is Congressman Richardson -- I mean, how would you describe him? Would you describe him as an official envoy?
MR. BURNS: He in the past has undertaken a variety of trips around the world -- not just to the Korean peninsula -- and they're mainly -- I can't speak to every one specifically, but they're mainly -- his own trips. But I think in almost all cases, he has gone with the full support of the United States.
In this instance, you'll appreciate the diplomatic delicacy of the situation. We don't have official diplomatic relations with the North Koreans. We don't have American envoys in Pyongyang. We felt, given his prior trips, given the attention that he had paid to the food issue -- the food deficit issue -- we felt that perhaps he had a way to talk to the North Koreans that would be successful; and he has been successful. I think Congressman Richardson deserves a lot of credit for what he's done. He's had a successful mission to one of the most difficult countries in the world.
Still on North Korea? Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many State Department officials accompanied Congressman Richardson?
MR. BURNS: Let me try to get that answer for you. But normally we do send one of our officers with him -- Korean-speaking officers.
Still on North Korea? Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Did Congressman Richardson indicate he'd be carrying back a message for the Secretary of State or the President?
MR. BURNS: Again, we haven't had a chance to talk to him privately. We've seen his public statement at Yokota Air Force Base. So I don't know whether there's any message he's bringing back. I will tell you that we will again next week resume our meetings in New York with the North Koreans, so we'll have an opportunity to be in direct contact with them.
QUESTION: The reason the trip was extended a day is because the North Koreans wanted to raise these other issues that you referred to a few minutes ago?
MR. BURNS: I'm not completely clear about that. We thought the trip would be a couple of days in duration. The North Koreans extended his stay, asked him to stay, for another 24 hours. It's not clear whether that was to finish the negotiations about Mr. Hunziker or to have Congressman Richardson discuss or have them raise with him some of the other issues of concern to them.
QUESTION: Let me go back to your statement about the meeting between the Israelis and the Americans here in Washington.
MR. BURNS: Let's just finish with North Korea, with all due respect, and I think that maybe Jim was ahead of you anyway on Belarus. But we'll go back to that. Have we finished North Korea? Good. Jim.
QUESTION: How many SS-25 missiles are we talking about? How many warheads?
MR. BURNS: We're talking about just a few missiles left. I don't have the exact number, but it was a very low number. I can get that for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: And the number of warheads was also small?
MR. BURNS: That's right. So the big thing is there's no fissionable material left in Belarus that could allow that country now to reconstitute a nuclear device. The delivery system is being transported out. The nuclear warheads themselves, obviously, have already been transported out.
QUESTION: And will that fissile material be turned directly over to the United States or will the Russians make it part of the overall amount that they're turning over?
MR. BURNS: What happens is, as you know, these strategic offensive systems fall under START I, and the destruction schedule, I believe, extends to December 4, 2001, but they also fall under a Russia-Belarus bilateral treaty.
What normally happens when these missiles are transported from Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine is that they're sent back to the factory where they were produced in Russia, and by a process of reverse engineering are normally taken apart at the factory -- the warhead and the missile.
In some cases, as you know, there is a landmark multibillion dollar agreement between the United States and Russia that calls for Russia to export some of the fissionable material which has been diluted to the U.S. Enrichment Corporation where it's used to power U.S. nuclear power plants. But that's a separate deal, but sometimes the byproduct does end up in that process.
QUESTION: Do you still regard the Government of Belarus as legitimate, and is there any consideration being given to withdrawing or recalling the Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: We have not made a decision to recall Ambassador Yalowitz. He's a very effective, experienced career diplomat. He's a Russian speaker. He's got long experience in that part of the world. We think that at least at this point, David, leaving him there gives us a senior American official who can talk to Lukashenko, talk to the other senior members of the government, talk now to the opposition figures in a convincing way about what we think should be happening and to protect our own interests.
So I think we'll certainly maintain the Embassy there in Minsk. The Government of Belarus is recognized by the United States, and it's a member of the United Nations, and we are choosing at this point to deal with that government, to have diplomatic relations with it.
But I must say, our relations are suffering now because of the anti- democratic actions and the actually gross violations of democratic norms taken this week by President Lukashenko. He decides over the weekend that he's not going to engage in any kind of compromise with the majority in the legislature. He then holds a referendum that is not supervised or observed internationally in an appropriate way; a referendum where the people don't know what's going to be in the referendum question; where there's no access to the media; and then when he's not sure he likes the reaction to the referendum, he simply dissolves the legislature and forms a new one.
It's a farce. He has engaged in a farce this week, and we cannot support it, and we have made that very clear to the Government of Belarus.
QUESTION: Could I slip in a question that is both nuclear and Slavic but not Belarus. The Interfax agency is reporting out of Moscow today that the head of the agency which is responsible for security at civilian nuclear plants throughout Russia has said that he can no longer guarantee the security of those plants; that because his employees have not been paid for so long and because so many of the top people have quit, there is no nuclear safety in Russia today at civilian plants. Do you know anything about this? Does the U.S. believe that the matter is worrisome or that things are under control? Is there any danger of another Chernobyl? What can you tell us about it?
MR. BURNS: A lot of questions. David, what I can say is that I cannot comment on this particular statement; I simply haven't seen it. But I can say in general, I believe there are 24 nuclear power plants in Russia that are of concern here. President Clinton and Vice President Gore from the earliest days of this Administration -- and they raised this issue at Vancouver in April 1993 -- have been concerned about this issue.
The United States has extended financial and technical assistance to the Russian Government to help upgrade the safety of those 24 nuclear power plants. We have also extended financial assistance through the Nunn-Lugar program to preserve and extend the security around the fissile material that the Russian Government holds for both energy and military purposes.
We have, as you know, given them Kevlar blankets. We have given them a way to transport nuclear warheads in this process from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan in a safe manner. We have paid a lot of attention to this problem. We have contributed billions of dollars to this problem in hopes that we might upgrade the ability of the Russian Government to secure the fissile material and to secure the nuclear power plants.
I cannot give you today a grade or a temperature reading which would in effect say what the state of play is in Russia, because the primary responsibility, of course, lies with the Russian Government itself. We just have a concerted national interest in making sure we do everything to help the Russian Government in an admittedly very, very challenging environment.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, do you trust the Russian Government? I mean, do you think that you can deal with them in a serious manner?
MR. BURNS: The Russian Government is as concerned or more greatly concerned than we are, than any of us in the West, about this issue; and to his credit, President Yeltsin, also Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, have taken steps to make this a major issue within the Russian Government itself. They have tried to upgrade the safety of the nuclear power plants.
Some of those plants are the older RBMK reactors that are of concern here: some of the reactors that were -- the Chernobyl type reactors, and some are the VVER reactors that are slightly more modern. There are concerns about both. They have shown, I think, a lot of interest, a lot of commitment to this problem.
It's a difficult situation for them, as it is a difficult situation for the United States and our own country to make sure that we're doing the responsible thing with both nuclear power and also with the disposition of our own fissile material. It's always a concern.
The other program I didn't tell you about is an important one. We also have funded a program to engage Russian scientists and nuclear engineers in peaceful projects. We actually have a funding program to fund peaceful projects so that we reduce the likelihood that any of them will be encouraged to go and work for some of the pariah states that are currently, we know, attempting to build a nuclear-weapons capability -- countries like Iraq and Iran and Libya.
So we have, I think, politically and financially and every other way done as much as we can to help the Russian Government in an admittedly very, very tough situation.
Yes. Actually if it's another subject, I need to go back to Abdulsalam who is next on the waiting list.
QUESTION: Could you please tell me if the United States and Israel will share the ideas from this two days conference with the rest of the participants of Sharm al-Sheikh conference on terrorism that was held last year or early this year?
MR. BURNS: These are bilateral conversations. As you know, we have bilateral conversations with Israel on the subject of terrorism but also on the political talks. But certainly on the issue of terrorism, the United States remains committed to the Sharm al-Sheikh process. We do maintain an active diplomatic dialogue with the Arab countries, Europeans as well as Israel, on this, and I'm sure will be very open to continuing that particular process.
QUESTION: Since you said that this is a joint counter-terrorism group and there was that group in Sharm al-Sheikh, I thought that there was an exchange that could be shared with other countries that took part in the -- it's not just a bilateral meeting.
MR. BURNS: They're not mutually exclusive. We have bilateral talks, and there's a certain degree of confidentiality in any bilateral discussion. But, on the other hand, both Israel and the United States remain committed to the Sharm al-Sheikh process and would like to cooperate with Arab countries, with the Palestinian Authority, to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere. That's a very high interest that we all share.
QUESTION: Since we are in the area, the plethora of expansion of settlements at the insistence of Mr. Netanyahu in defiance of just about everything around the world to build more settlements, expand more settlements in the West Bank and the area. I know you said something yesterday about it, but what is this all about? I mean, this whole renewal of expansion of settlements beyond the imaginary thing -- how much it is related to the $10 billion which the United States pledged to finance Israel for expansion or whatever, for building or assisting the Russian Jews who came to Israel.
MR. BURNS: As you know, Mr. Abdulsalam, we have well known views on the issue of settlements, and we reiterated those views yesterday, and the settlements are a complicating factor in the peace negotiations between the Israel and the Palestinians and the other tracks. We hold to that view.
Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly had a right to visit Ariel. I was misquoted; a newspaper service reported me as saying that I objected to his visit. Actually, he has a right to visit Ariel, but we do believe that the expansion of the settlements would be a complicating factor, unhelpful factor in the peace negotiations.
As for the United States loan guarantees, we have a very transparent process here. At the end of September we announced a reduction in the loan guarantees -- a financial reduction corresponding to the financial contributions the Israeli Government made to settlements over the course of 1996.
QUESTION: On those reductions, however, according to the State Department's own figures, there was some fancy bookkeeping going on there.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we said there was fancy bookkeeping going on, just for the record.
QUESTION: I said that. The total determined to be spent on settlements in the previous year, fiscal year, seemed to be $407 million. Of that, $347 million was wiped off the books and only $60 million was deducted from the total amount of loan guarantees.
Does that not send a message to the Israeli Government about how seriously the U.S. Government perceives this settlement expansion?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I can just refer you to the press statement that we released -- I believe it was in the final days of September, just before the turnover in our fiscal year -- and the report that we issue to the Congress that we are obligated to issue to Congress on this issue. It goes through the way that we calculate the reductions, and it accounts for all the calculations. I don't have all of that in my head. We can get that report for you.
QUESTION: I have it, and the figures I just quoted you are accurate from the State Department -- in other words, 347 was wiped off the books, leaving only a $60 million deduction?
MR. BURNS: The administration follows U.S. law, and there is a U.S. law that requires the United States to make this determination. We follow the letter of the law. The law speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything today on U.S. participation in the Canadian plan to feed refugees in Zaire?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do. In fact, there's quite a lot, I think, that's been happening in Zaire. It's a timely subject. First let me say you've seen some statements out of the Government of Canada. The United States supports the Canadian proposal to establish a multinational headquarters for a humanitarian mission which would be based either in Uganda at Entebbe or in Rwanda.
This mission would be to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the refugees and to facilitate the return of the refugees to Rwanda, which, as you know, is one of the major goals of this operation.
The United States is prepared to participate in the multinational mission under Canadian leadership, and we will contribute personnel to its headquarters, its civil/military affairs units, and other support elements while continuing to plan for potential additional mission tasks as they are defined by the multinational force.
The United States will also contribute to the Canadian-led mission. We will contribute U.S. personnel, many of whom are already in the region, who will provide airlift, air control and related services in support of the planned mission into Central Africa.
We look forward to working with the Government of Canada over the next couple of days to finalize the details of the mission plan, including establishing a political oversight group for the mission known as the Steering Board; obtaining the necessary consent of the governments in the region -- the Governments of Rwanda and Zaire -- and also we hope to enable significant African participation in this multinational force, and we need to define the rules of engagement.
As Secretary Perry said -- I believe on his flight to Italy, to Naples -- we are working actively with Canada and others to plan for potential airdrops into Eastern Zaire. This planning will take several days. During these several days, we want to work closely with the Canadians and others to construct a practical concept for the operations of the airdrops, so that the airdrops can be as safe as possible; they can be acceptable to the concerned governments and the parties in the region, and that they will be done in such a way that the delivery of the airdrops encourages the refugees to return back to Rwanda.
Once that planning is complete -- and again I would expect this would take a couple of days -- then we would expect to make a final decision as to what can be accomplished effectively and what precise role the United States can play in this effort, and I mean precise role. We want to be very clear about the mission to which we will be contributing.
In the meantime, the United States is making sure that our military personnel are ready for these potential airdrop operations, and we are taking other steps that will allow the United States to be ready at a moment's notice to embark on these missions, should that be necessary.
I would just remind you that we have 399 U.S. military personnel in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Their mission is to assist now in establishing an air bridge for the region of people, of goods and of services which are necessary to basically provide the foundation for this humanitarian relief.
We continue to urge that humanitarian organizations operating in Eastern Zaire especially be given full and free access to the area. That is a very important factor here. In the past couple of weeks, the humanitarian relief organizations have not been given the free access that they need to implement, for instance, the delivery of the $140 million in assistance that the United States recently pledged -- I believe last week -- to this effort, and they have not been given enough flexibility to try to determine where the refugees are.
Yesterday, the Zairian Government did give permission for several United Nations and other private non-governmental organizations to go into Eastern Zaire -- and specifically south of Goma -- and what they found was quite surprising and quite positive.
Two teams of UN agency and NGO personnel were allowed to travel to the Goma-Sake-Bukavu road -- down that road yesterday -- south of Goma. One team traveled south from Goma and the other north from Bukavu. The team traveling south from Goma encountered some 30,000 Rwandan refugees in Minova, which is 30 miles southwest of Goma; and a few miles further south, they encountered another group of 10,000 Rwandan refugees.
The humanitarian teams were able to provide the refugees with high protein biscuits and with water. They called for trucks and buses and supplies to the area to help these people, should they wish to return to Rwanda, which we hope is the case.
So they believe on the basis of their day yesterday that this group of 40,000 refugees, total, may be the spearhead of another large group of refugees who may be trying to work their way away from the rebels and towards Rwanda.
If that is the case, that would be a very positive development indeed. It would contribute to the flow of 600,000 people who have liberated themselves over the past couple of weeks and have gone back home to Rwanda. So you can see how important this free access of the humanitarian operations is to the situation in Zaire.
QUESTION: Do you have any number on refugees remaining in Eastern Zaire?
MR. BURNS: No, we do not, and this is a perilous process. Our best estimates would be -- we would agree with the higher numbers. I think the United Nations has said on the order of many hundreds of thousands. It certainly stands to reason, if you remember what we thought the initial group was -- over 1.2 million refugees; but we have no independent way, the United States, of counting the refugees, and we are relying here on the leadership of the United Nations. But certainly the numbers are quite high.
QUESTION: Nick, how would airdrops be arranged in a way that would encourage the return of refugees to Rwanda? I mean, on the fact of it, they would seem to have the other effect.
MR. BURNS: As you know, as Secretary Perry said, the United States is prepared to participate, but we need to work out that question. We need to make sure that they're safe. You don't want to drop by parachute supplies around large concentrations of people. Obviously, you hope to drop them in a place where people can get to them -- people who need them -- and we hope that this would contribute to people who are attempting to return to Rwanda. That is one of the purposes of our aid, to keep people alive, but also to encourage them to return home, where we think it's safe for them to return.
QUESTION: Nick, are you thinking of a kind of a trail of food? In other words, drop the food in such a way that they will have to go towards Rwanda?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak specifically, because this is one of the questions, Ben, that needs to be worked out with the Canadian military and political leadership; and that is, let's try to create the objectives for the airdrops, and let's try to understand what the logistical requirements would be, and how you can do it in a safe and orderly way. I don't know yet. We don't know yet how this would be done. That's why we don't think it can be done today. We've got to take a day or two or three to think through the logistical problems here.
As you know, that's been the watchword of the United States from day one. We are fundamentally committed to helping the refugees, but we want to do so in a way that is effective. The Canadian Government has provided excellent leadership, and we're working with them today, and we'll be working with them tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day on this issue.
QUESTION: Nick, do you support the arrest of people suspected in the genocide who are being arrested as they cross the border?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States has supported the creation and the sustenance of the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal. If the Tribunal has indicted people and has a good reason to believe that certain specific people are responsible for war crimes, we would support their arrest.
QUESTION: Same subject. How are you going to do an airdrop without having anybody on the ground to make sure that the men with guns don't take the food? Hasn't the problem always been these armed --
MR. BURNS: The Rebels.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: How can you drop food and have any kind of reasonable expectation it will get to the people who should be getting it unless you have troops on the ground?.
MR. BURNS: That is one of the issues that has to be thought through very carefully. There has to be proper logistical planning to make sure that when you actually drop the food, it gets to the people who require it, who need it, and that's one of the issues that we are discussing with the Canadians. I don't have a magic answer for you on that question.
QUESTION: Nick, same issue. Your statement would seem to indicate that the Governments of Rwanda and Zaire have not given permission for an airdrop or any other kind of operation to proceed. How difficult do you see this permission process?
MR. BURNS: I've seen a statement out of the Rwandan Government this morning, objecting to the Canadian announcement on airdrops. I have not seen any comment from the Zairian Government. I think there's a process here, Betsy, that's very important.
First, we need to work out with Canada and with our European partners, with our African partners, the proper way to drop these supplies, if that is what's going to happen, and to introduce a multinational force into Central Africa. Very important concrete logistical questions have got to be thought through.
Secondly, if in a day or two or three or four we arrive at a decision to go ahead, then we obviously will need to work with, and we would expect to receive the cooperation of Rwanda and Zaire. Certainly, those countries would want to support the efforts of the international community to help their people. We'll work with them continually on that.
QUESTION: But Rwanda has not been very open to the humanitarian organizations that want to go into their country to help the refugees, and this is not armed people; this is people with food. They have not been open to their coming into their country.
MR. BURNS: And this has been a source of concern for the United States. We've tried to work very closely with the Government in Kigali on this issue. We will not relent in our efforts to try to achieve a way to provide the refugees with the food and water and medicine they need to survive and to go back home.
If the international community is willing to come in, we would expect the Rwandan and Zairian Governments to respond.
QUESTION: Today the Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman announced that they canceled the ten Cobra helicopters procurement. I believe that the Turkish Ambassador this morning delivered a letter to cancellation of this deal. Do you have any reaction, or can you confirm all this event?
MR. BURNS: I can confirm that yesterday the State Department received written confirmation from Ambassador Kandemir -- the Turkish Ambassador here in Washington -- about the Turkish Government's decision to cancel the request for the Cobra helicopters.
As you know, we had worked very hard with the Turkish Government on this military transfer. We and the Turks thought it was the right thing to do for Turkey, to enhance Turkey's security, but the Turkish Government has now made a decision to cancel this request.
You know about the well known problems that we had here in Washington in working out that request. We will go forward in other ways to be a good ally to Turkey, to make sure that we have a military relationship that is sound and that meets the needs of both Turkey and the United States.
QUESTION: And the same problem is, I believe -- is the other four frigates issue, too, and I believe Senator Sarbanes is trying to stop this deal, too.
MR. BURNS: Which deal is that, Savas?
MR. BURNS: Frigates.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that deal has been fully worked out, as you say, with the United States Congress, but the United States Government remains committed to it.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: You said we'll go forward in other ways. Can you open that up a little bit? Do you have anything on the side?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything specific to offer, but it's important to remind everyone concerned that the United States and Turkey are NATO allies; that we are fundamentally dedicated to each other's security; that Turkey has legitimate defense requirements; and that the United States will be open, of course, to discussing that issue with the Turks in the future.
QUESTION: Also, Nick, Turkey, I believe, in the next five years they were planning to buy $60 billion in defense procurement, and they were planning to buy all this material from the United States. Can you think that this kind of political or lobbying effort will effect this kind of deal in the business between Turkey and the United States?
MR. BURNS: We hope that some of the problems encountered here will not have a negative effect on Turkey's willingness to consider U.S. military good and U.S. military hardware and software to improve Turkey's defense capabilities.
We have a NATO relationship. We ought to be dedicated to each other's security, and that would mean that we continue a defense relationship in the future.
QUESTION: How many Cobras involved?
MR. BURNS: I believe they were talking about ten Cobras. I don't have a dollar figure, Jim.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for Northern Iraq met in Ankara with participation of three Iraqi groups, as well as Turkey, United States and Great Britain. I understand they discussed the cease-fire line. A report on that was submitted. Can you give us an understanding, your reading of the situation, what this line will consist of?.
MR. BURNS: The United States did participate in the meeting yesterday of the peace monitoring group, the supervisory peace monitoring group. I believe that includes the United States, the U.K., Turkey, the PUK, the KDP and the Turkoman population of Northern Iraq. I can't be specific about the discussion, because as the intermediary here we want to have a degree of confidentiality.
But we'll continue to work with this group as part of our initiative to bring stability to Northern Iraq, the effort that Ambassador Pelletreau has been leading for the United States.
QUESTION: So, can you confirm if a certain cease-fire line has been agreed upon so far?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that, no, Ugur.
QUESTION: You cannot.
MR. BURNS: No.
QUESTION: On a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: There were some reports yesterday of an incident seen in Havana around the Spanish Embassy. Do you have information about what happened and what is the situation today?
MR. BURNS: Well, I certainly can't speak for the Spanish Government on this. I think you have seen some statements from the Spanish Foreign Minister this morning which are very clear statements about Spain's unhappiness with Cuba.
Frankly, from an American point of view, it is not surprising. Castro is not a reliable person in dealing with other countries, and it is probably one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime like Cuba's that when they have problems internally, they tend to lash out and blame people outside.
Now, that may be what is happening here. We have seen that happen for 30-odd years between the United States and Cuba. Cuba has tremendous internal problems. They are always blaming the United States and maybe Spain is being included in that group.
We obviously are very pleased that a European leader is now standing up to defend human rights and democracy in Cuba, and I am talking now about the Spanish Prime Minister. This is a Spanish-Cuban affair. I don't mean to insert the United States into it, but as a way of commenting, it is not surprising to us that this authoritarian leader, the last in our hemisphere, is acting in this irrational way.
QUESTION: Excuse me. The question was whether you have information about incidents in Havana or what the situation is today.
MR. BURNS: I don't. As you know, we have an Interests Section there, but I haven't seen any reports from that Interests Section. They may be here. I haven't seen them about the incidents. But I was commenting on a larger issue which is the source of these problems.
QUESTION: I think next week there is going to be an environmental development, sustainable development summit, in Bolivia, as part of the Summit of America's Process. Do you have anything on that, any expectations for the United States for what might come out of that?
MR. BURNS: It's a very important meeting and, as you know, there will be high level representation on the part of the United States. And you know that Mrs. Clinton is making a visit and the Vice President will be participating, and others.
I don't have chapter and verse to give you, but we will certainly do that at our next opportunity together.
Now, I should just tell you about our briefing schedule. We observe federal holidays, so we will be closed tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. We will be open on Friday. We do not anticipate to have a televised briefing on Friday, but John Dinger, our Press Office Director, will be here to work with you on any issues of interest to you.
We will resume our normal televised daily press briefings on Monday. I believe the White House has the same schedule and I believe the Pentagon has the same schedule.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, I have seen in the paper this morning that Ethiopia changed, apparently, their mind on Boutros-Ghali. Can you tell us, is this an isolated move or is it something more? Can you explain the situation for us now?
MR. BURNS: Well, it appears to the United States that the door is now open for an alternative candidate to emerge from Africa. The door is clearly open. The United States has exercised its veto because we don't wish to support Boutros-Ghali for a second term in office.
It appears to us that Boutros-Ghali has rather shallow support in the United Nations itself and even in the Security Council. Should an African candidate come forward -- and there was a very encouraging letter from Prime Minister Meles today -- then I would expect there would be a very active debate in the UN Security Council about that candidate.
I think it is clear from Prime Minister Meles' letter that the African leaders now understand that they have an opportunity here to continue the tradition of African leadership in a second term, albeit someone who is not Boutros-Ghali.
They need to seize that opportunity. The door is open to them, and if they walk through that door, they will certainly have a willing partner in the United States.
QUESTION: Let me follow up? You weren't here, but last week the Italian Foreign Minister was in New York for, I don't know what kind of TV assignment, and on that occasion he said that Italy or some other European countries favor a new limited term, one year or two years. Can you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: For Boutros-Ghali?
MR. BURNS: Well, the problem with that initiative, with all due respect, and I am sure it was offered with the greatest sense of responsibility, is that Boutros-Ghali rejected that offer that Secretary Christopher made to him in their private discussions last spring. And he has given no indication that he would be willing to entertain such an offer now.
But I should tell you, the United States has taken that offer off the table. We are not inclined at all --
MR. BURNS: We are not inclined at all and we will not support any such compromise offer. We have made a fundamental decision. We believe that the United Nations needs new leadership. We are looking for a new alternative candidate. The door has now been opened by Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. It is time for someone, or a group of people, to walk through that door. There will then be a very active set of consultations in the UN Security Council led by a variety of countries, but with the participation of the United States to identify the person who will succeed him.
The value of doing this, and let's not forget the value and the objective, is to make sure that the next UN Secretary General has reform as his or her major mission and therefore will be better able to attract the support of all member countries including the United States, the largest individual funder of the United Nations.
QUESTION: How do you think the United Nations to work after December 31st of this year if Mr. Ghali's -- the successor to Mr. Boutros-Ghali will not be appointed or voted or something like that?
MR. BURNS: We expect that there will be a successor to Boutros-Ghali by the end of December.
Yes. That is the plan.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Serbia? The reports today say that crowds in the street have grown recently to 200,000, which is the figure that we have seen. Does this strike you as unique either in terms of being a crisis, or an opportunity to change the political situation there?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I can tell you that the situation in Belgrade remains largely unchanged. There were large numbers of people in the street again today for the third day running. The United States continues to call upon the Serbian leadership, President Milosevic in particular, to reverse the clearly unacceptable decision to annul the municipal elections that took place.
It is our understanding that, as you know, that President Milosevic manufactured run-off elections today. This is completely unacceptable. The people who clearly won valid municipal elections are being denied their right to take a seat in the office to which they were voted by their constituents, and holding run-off elections is not acceptable.
We also condemn the efforts of the government in Belgrade to stifle the press, to stifle information available to the people of Serbia. Let me give you an example.
The newspaper Blic intended to run an expanded edition of several hundred thousand newspapers today and was denied permission to do so by the Milosevic government, and that is clearly an infringement on the right of the press to determine when they have got a story they want to tell people about.
Assistant Secretary John Kornblum met with the Blic editorial leadership ten days ago to demonstrate symbolically our support for a free press in Serbia. It is a fluid, dynamic situation. We continue to hope that the demonstrations are peaceful, and we continue to expect that the Serbian Government will not use force against the demonstrators in the streets.
QUESTION: Nonetheless, despite the line you have been taking here, the demonstrators yesterday are reported to have marched past the U.S. Embassy and did they, I believe, burn the American flag? In any case, there seems to be an impression among those opposed to Mr. Milosevic and his lack of recognition of the results of the election, that the United States supports Mr. Milosevic, and that it is partly responsible somehow for the situation.
Is any consideration being given to taking steps to try to change their view? Is there anything the U.S. can do to convince them that it is not responsible for this?
MR. BURNS: Perhaps this is one of the problems with the lack of a free press, the lack of a free media in Belgrade, because the realities are, David, the United States is not responsible for the decrepit economic situation in Serbia, for the lack of fundamental reforms, for the fact that the government has taken extra constitutional measures to annul free and fair elections.
In fact, we are on the record. We oppose the annulment of the elections. We support democracy. We support media freedoms and we specifically condemn the use of governmental powers to infringe upon the media.
We have a very clear record here and we are standing for the right principles here.
QUESTION: Then in that connection, do you plan any action on Milosevic to show that you really don't support him?
MR. BURNS: As I said yesterday, the United States is maintaining its own unilateral, outer wall of sanctions on Serbia as an expression, a concrete expression of our displeasure on the issue of the anti- democratic actions, the lack of commitment to the war crimes issue, and the problems in Kosovo.
QUESTION: You have a similar situation in Zagreb. Are you going to take some actions against Zagreb, too, or are you just waiting to see -- ?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is a similar situation in Zagreb, with all due respect. There aren't thousands, tens of thousands of people on the street. The government has not overturned fifteen municipal elections in the last week.
We have a good relationship with the Croatian Government. We do have a lot of concerns about the Croatian Government's lack of commitment to the war crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords.
QUESTION: But it is similar because in Zagreb they have a mayor of Zagreb from Tudjman's office. Actually they have trouble with the mayor for six months, I think, maybe more, because Tudjman refused the opposition candidate to be mayor of Zagreb, which is a similarity, and with those people from 101 radio. Freedom of speech in Croatia is similar like in Serbia. That was a similarity. So, do you have something from Bosnia from -- ?
MR. BURNS: I don't accept the basis of comparison, with all due respect, Envira. I think there are different situations. We have our own concerns with the government of Croatia, but I went into great detail about them yesterday.
QUESTION: Nick -- ?
MR. BURNS: I was just about to leave. You want one more question.
QUESTION: A last one.
MR. BURNS: Okay.
QUESTION: How do you --
MR. BURNS: People want to get home for Thanksgiving dinner. Got to put the turkeys in the oven, you know.
QUESTION: How do you describe the relationship --
MR. BURNS: I've got guests coming over. (Laughter.) We've got guests. My wife wants me to come home. She's watching.
QUESTION: All right. Last question. How do you describe the relations between the United States peace team and the Palestinian Authority? I read some reports that at a debrief between the Palestinian negotiators and Mr. Ross and his team -- the United States team is presenting and negotiating on behalf of the Israelis only. Do you have comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We have excellent relations with the Palestinian negotiators, and we are there, Dennis Ross, Ed Abington, Martin Indyk, as intermediaries, as facilitators, helping the Palestinians and the Israelis. We are friends with both. We have a unique capacity to undertake that and we are committed to it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, very much. Happy Thanksgiving.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.) (###)
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