U.S. Department of State 96/12/04 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Wednesday, December 4, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS/STATEMENTS Secretary Christopher's Meeting with FM of Guatemala...1 Movement of NGO Employees from Northern Iraq...........1-2 U.S. Concern Re: Alleged Human Rights Abuses in Zaire..2-3 London Conference of the Peace Implementation Council..3 Outbreak of Fighting in Tajikistan.....................3-4 Paris Bombing..........................................4 SERBIA Annulment of Elections/Demonstrations/Reaction of U.S.& International Community..............................4-5 --Letter from Judges of Serbian Supreme Court Re:...... Elections...........................................5 Voice of America Broadcasts............................6,9-12 Relations with Milosevic/Sanctions.....................6-8,26 ARMS CONTROL Comments of General Butler/U.S. Role in Reducing Nuclear Threat...............................................12-15 JAPAN Watch List for War Criminals/World Heritage List.......15-17,20 CUBA Migration Talks........................................17-18 EU & Helms-Burton......................................18 DEPARTMENT Presidential Appointments/Department Budget............19-20 CYPRUS/GREECE U.S. Meeting with Cypriot,Turkish,Greek Delegations/... Overflights of Combat Aircraft.......................20-21 Position on Greece's National Airspace..................21-23 ZAIRE/RWANDA Territorial Integrity/Peace & Stability/Fighting.......23-24 BURMA Membership in ASEAN/Restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi...24 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT: U.S Policy/Actions.............25-26 CHINA: Relations with U.S.................................27-28 NATO ALLIANCE: Command in AFSOUTH/NATO Enlargement........28-29 CANADA Department Meeting with Inuit Leader...................29-31
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1996, 1:26 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department. I want to introduce to you some distinguished visitors from the Pentagon: Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Bosick, Major Elizabeth Kerstens, and Captain Bryan Salas of the Plans Directorate in the DoD Public Affairs Office, escorted by our very own Julie Reside who is on a temporary -- I want to put an accent on that word -- detail to the Pentagon. Welcome back.
I have a couple of statements for you. First, Secretary Christopher met this morning with his colleague, the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Dr. Eduardo Stein. The Secretary congratulated Dr. Stein on the progress made by President Alvaro Arzu toward concluding a final peace agreement with the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity guerrillas, and that would end the 36-year internal civil war in Guatemala.
The Secretary's meeting with Dr. Stein coincided with another very important step today in the Guatemalan peace process. Today, in Oslo, Norway, the Government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity Group signed an accord which formalizes the cease- fire which has been in place since March of this year.
As a member of the Group of the Friends of the Peace Process, the United States would like to commend both sides -- the government and the guerrilla group -- for achieving this important milestone and for their commitment to signing a final peace accord this year, on December 29 -- later this month -- in Guatemala. Achieving a firm and lasting peace is the first crucial step towards national reconciliation and improved lives for all Guatemalans.
Second, I wanted to refer you to a statement that we made earlier today that we posted -- and I hope all of you have received it -- about the fact that at 3:00 a.m. this morning, Eastern Standard Time, the United States began the movement from northern Iraq of local employees of non- governmental organizations that either are based in the United States or funded by the United States, or both.
After crossing into Turkey, these employees and their family members will be flown to Guam on charter civilian aircraft. The International Organization for Migration is responsible for the chartering of the aircraft. Our American Embassy in Ankara is assisted by the Turkish Government. It's responsible for the operation to bring these people from northern Iraq into Turkey.
They'll be housed temporarily at a transit camp in Silopi and then they'll make their way on these flights from Batman International Airport to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Depending on the results of the final security reviews and the final checks at the border of the identification of these people, we expect between 4- to 5,000 people will make their way across the border in the next week or so and eventually on to Guam. Most of them -- the majority of them -- probably, after asylum processing, on to the United States to take up a new life in the United States.
We'd like to thank the Turkish Government for its continuing support of this operation. The Turkish Government has been a true friend of the United States throughout.
This is a very complicated process. I'll be glad to take questions on this in a moment.
I want to just mention one item on Zaire. Yesterday, the United States warned the rebel alliance in Eastern Zaire about the unfortunate rise in political killings -- killings by the rebels -- of innocent civilians over the past several weeks.
Today, an American diplomat, our Acting Deputy Chief of Mission from Kinshasa -- from our Embassy in Kinshasa -- met with the rebel leader Laurent Kabila and gave him this very clear message from the United States. The message was essentially the following:
The United States is deeply concerned about the allegations of political murders and human rights abuses in Eastern Zaire by elements of the rebel alliance.
We are calling on the rebel leaders to act immediately to investigate all reports of human rights abuses, to halt any operations that would take the life or victimize the innocent civilians who are trying to make their way back to Rwanda.
We've asked the rebel leadership to bring those responsible for these killings and human rights abuses to justice.
We are urging the rebel leaders to open up areas of Eastern Zaire under their control so that objective international monitors can make their way there and make sure that the international community has a way to account for these atrocities and, hopefully, to prevent any recurrence of these tragedies in the future.
I also want to let you know that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott represented the United States today at the London Conference of the Peace Implementation Council. That was a very important meeting.
Prime Minister Major was there, Foreign Ministers from most of the countries in the Balkans but also in Europe and North America were also there.
The general discussion -- and I'll be glad to take any questions on this -- focused on the need to coalesce over the next year to implement the Bosnian peace accords.
A very important message was sent to the parties. The message was essentially non-compliance with the Dayton Accords will essentially ensure non-delivery by the West of economic reconstruction aid to those parties. That is a particularly important message for the Bosnian Serbs who have not fulfilled their requirements concerning the war crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords.
It's a message also, of course, in general, for the Serbian Government. I know that Deputy Secretary Talbott met with the Serbian Foreign Minister this morning -- Minister Milutinovic. I'll be glad to go into that meeting, and what was said in that meeting, if you wish.
Finally, let me just say, we have a statement available for you in the Press Office on Tajikistan. Unfortunately, there has been a major and serious violation of the September 16, 1996 cease-fire in Tajikistan.
The United States Government is concerned about the outbreak of hostilities which has occurred in the town of Gharm and the Karotegin Valley in the past three days. There was an attack on December 1, initiated by the forces of the United Tajik Opposition which burned government buildings and took government forces hostage.
I would commend this statement to you as an expression of our concern.
Finally, and lastly, let me just say that the United States deplores the senseless violence and criminal attack on innocent people in Paris last evening. We want to express our sincerest condolences to the families of the individuals who died and to the victims -- more than 85 -- who were wounded.
We have worked in the past very closely with the Government of France in the fight against terrorism. We will continue that. If we can give the Government of France any assistance, of course, we'll do that as a NATO ally of France.
We understand the French Government is treating yesterday's bombing as an act of terrorism. The French Government has taken security precautions this morning in Paris which are appropriate.
I can tell you that our Embassy in Paris is reporting that none of the victims were American citizens.
George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: Could you say a little more about the meeting that Strobe Talbott had, and any other observations you may have about the demonstrations in Yugoslavia which appear to be increasing?
MR. BURNS: I actually have quite a lot on Serbia this morning that I hope may be of interest. But let me start by saying that the United States understands that the demonstrations are continuing today around the country. Not just in Belgrade but in other cities and towns.
We believe, again -- and this bears repeating -- that the Serbian Government must honor the results of the November 17 municipal elections. It must respect the democratic will of the people.
Let me just be very clear about the position of the United States. The United States is taking the side of democracy in Serbia. The United States believes that the voices of the Serbian people ought to be heard on Serbian radio and TV, ought to be heard in the streets of Belgrade and throughout the country; and that the votes of the Serbian people on November 17 ought to be counted fairly and allowed to stand as a true reflection of the sentiments of the population.
Slobodan Milosevic will not have our support if he continues his efforts to try to extinguish the flame of democracy that those protesters are carrying in the streets of Belgrade. That is a very important message for Mr. Milosevic.
We would note that there was a letter sent to the Serbian Government by five judges of the Serbian Supreme Court which criticizes the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Milosevic's annulment of the municipal elections. The fact that five judges have stepped forward very courageously and expressed this sentiment is a very stern reminder to us all of the importance of understanding why people are in the streets, why they are engaging in peaceful discussions.
I should also say that the Serbian Government and Mr. Milosevic should harbor no illusions about the concern of the international community. I think there was a nearly unanimous expression of support at the London Conference this morning about this point.
Any crackdown by the Serbian Government will provoke a harsh reaction from the international community, resulting in Serbia's further isolation from Europe and from North America and, indeed, from all of the international community.
We call again today on the Serbian Government to open and allow the reopening of Radio Station B-92 and Radio Index. This is a transparent effort to stifle the voice of the Serbian people.
Let me say this morning, Deputy Secretary Talbott had a very tough meeting with the Serbian Foreign Minister, Mr. Milutinovic. Deputy Secretary Talbott made clear today in London, to Mr. Milutinovic, that the recent annulment of the municipal elections is objectionable. He warned the Foreign Minister that Serbia would not be able to return to the family of nations until the Serbian Government implemented democratic reforms and respected the rights of its citizens, which includes freedom of the media.
Deputy Secretary Talbott also made clear our strong position that there must be no violent suppression of these demonstrations.
I understand that Foreign Minister Milutinovic made a promise that the Serbian Government would not use force to disrupt these demonstrations. In response, Deputy Secretary Talbott said that we would judge the Serbian Government based on its actions -- not on these promises, but on the actions. That is a particularly important point.
Finally, George, I think this is of interest to all of you. We've been in touch with the Voice of America this morning.
The Voice of America is expanding its Serbian language broadcasts today in response to the Milosevic Government shutdown of Radio Station B-92. I'm pleased to say that the Voice of America Serbian service will now carry over the next couple of days, as part of its normal broadcast, it will not carry programs originating from Radio Station B-92. They will effect a phone hookup. Early tomorrow morning when the citizens of Serbia arise, if they want to listen to the Voice of America, they'll be able to hear Radio B-92 through the services of the Voice of America.
For those individuals who would like to listen to this, they can find it on medium wave, 792 kilohertz. Let me just give you the times. Local times in Serbia: From 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning; from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00; from 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 in the evening; 11:00 p.m. to 11:30; and midnight to 12:30 a.m.
The Serbian people, listening to Voice of America, will be able to hear free and unfettered criticism of the Serbian Government, a fair and honest account of what's happening on the streets of Serbia. They'll be able to hear actual programs in Serbia by Radio Station B-92 through the phone hookup.
We think this is the very least we can do for the people of Serbia who are being denied free access to information.
QUESTION: Do you have any assurances that the Serbian Government isn't going to jam the Voice of America broadcast?
MR. BURNS: You know, jamming ended probably a long, long time ago in the midst of the Cold War. I don't think the Serbian Government is going to dare to jam Voice of America or Deutsche Welle or Radio France International or BBC, the four international broadcast stations which are still heard freely, unjammed in Serbia.
If the Serbian Government wants to shut off access to information by Serbian radio and TV stations, they've got to contend with the four radio stations that I just mentioned, including the one that the United States Government is responsible for, and that's the Voice of America.
QUESTION: In practical terms, what does it mean when you say that Milosevic won't have U.S. support if he continues to extinguish the voice of democracy?
MR. BURNS: We have had, over the past, of course, couple of years a relationship with President Milosevic. It's not always been a good relationship. We argue a lot. We don't have a lot in common.
Milosevic was at Dayton. Milosevic helped make the Dayton Accords successful and he's helped implement the peace over the past year.
Milosevic probably needs us at this point more than we need him. I know there's a conventional wisdom in the Press Corps that somehow the United States and other Western countries have to be concerned about his support for the peace process.
Our own view is that any Serbian Government -- any combination of Serbian leaders that arises in the future -- will have a self-interest as individuals but they'll also conclude that Serbia has a national self-interest in maintaining a commitment to the Dayton Accords.
Mr. Milosevic should not bank on any kind of dream that somehow the United States and other countries are going to be quiet at a time when he's suppressing the rights of the Serbian people.
QUESTION: Let me follow. That wasn't exactly what I meant, although it addresses part of what I meant. You have said from this podium that as long as Milosevic extinguishes democracy, the U.S. would continue to uphold the outer wall of sanctions. But the U.S. was upholding that outer wall anyhow, so what does it mean in practical terms? What more is the U.S. prepared to do to try to influence Milosevic's behavior?
MR. BURNS: I went through a very long list of the United States sanctions yesterday. I can do it again today, but I won't unless someone demands that I repeat them.
MR. BURNS: But what has happened over the last couple of weeks since November 17 is that because of Milosevic's actions, he has just dug the hole deeper, and he has isolated himself further. He's almost guaranteed that there's no way the United States is going to lift these sanctions -- which really hurt -- against Serbia, because of his repression of his own people.
Serbia is now an abnormal state. It does not have a seat at the United Nations. It does not have access to the funding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It couldn't participate this week in Lisbon as a member of the OSCE. These economic sanctions in particular are very difficult for the Serbian Government, because the Serbian economy has hit the skids.
So we're going to maintain those sanctions. We're also going to continue to find ways to help the Serbian people understand what's going on in their own country. That's why we're announcing today that VOA is going to be helping Radio B-92 broadcast tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: If you want to be any more specific about what you mean by "any crackdown by the Serb authorities will provoke a harsh reaction"?
MR. BURNS: Should the Serbian Government choose to crack down against these protesters -- and let's remember, the protesters are in the streets peacefully. There have been no reports that we've seen of any attempt by the protesters to incite violence or to use violent means against the government. They've been peaceful, and they're men and women and children and a lot of teenagers and young university students among these people.
There is no reason for the Serbian Government to crack down upon them. Should they do so, they would just further confirm Serbia's isolation and make it almost impossible for the Serbian Government to enjoy a normal relationship economically or politically or otherwise with any government in the West that believes in human rights.
That's the firm view of the United States, and I think you'll see that there are some strong statements coming out of our European allies this morning, consistent with those of the last couple of days along these lines.
QUESTION: Would there be certain steps taken to --
MR. BURNS: As I said before, the United States reserves the right, certainly, considering our own national interests, to take whatever steps we deem necessary to express our displeasure with future actions of the Serbian Government or to try to tighten the pressure on the Serbian Government. I've enumerated over the past couple of days what some of those steps could be.
We haven't arrived at that point. We would hope that the Serbian Government would cease and desist from its efforts to try to act like communist thugs from the Cold War period. We would hope that the Serbian Government would recognize that if there are any parallels here, they shouldn't be to 1956 or 1968, but they should be to 1989 when governments all over Eastern European understood that when hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets, you ought to listen to them.
QUESTION: You said that they want there to jam the Voice of America or Deutsche Welle or BBC. Is there any --
MR. BURNS: Or Radio France.
QUESTION: Or Radio France. Is there any concern that action with the other governments to similar things --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that VOA has been working with the other broadcast services from the BBC or Deutsche Welle or RFI. VOA was contacted by Radio B-92, and VOA was asked to do several things.
First, VOA was asked to put some questions that the B-92 journalists had into some interviews that I and other people did today with Voice of America on the Serbian network. We did interviews this morning to try to get our point of view out towards the Serbian people, and B-92 actually asked us some questions through this process.
Secondly, they asked for help, frankly, in trying to see if they could get their radio station up and running through VOA, and VOA was glad to respond.
QUESTION: You don't know whether the European radio stations have done similar things?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know if they were or not.
Mr. Lambros, on this subject?
QUESTION: Yes. Do you know if --
MR. BURNS: We're not going to make a transition to Imia and Kardak now. We're going to stay on --
QUESTION: Later, later.
MR. BURNS: A little later. I knew we would when I saw you her today.
QUESTION: Do you know if those dispatches by the Voice of America will be transmitted to the Serbian public from the VOA facilities in northern Greece, technically?
MR. BURNS: I knew there was a Greek connection here some place. (Laughter)
Mr. Lambros, that's an excellent question. Let me take that question. I'm not quite sure where our relay station is for the Balkan newscast.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. BURNS: We have an expert here, Mr. Ron Pemstein. 792 comes from --
QUESTION: Kavalla, Greece.
MR. BURNS: Northern Greece. So there you have it. So Greece is playing a role in transmitting the information to the people of Serbia.
QUESTION: Otherwise Greece is in the spot with this new development.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Otherwise Greece is in the spot again with those new developments.
MR. BURNS: What was the verb?
QUESTION: On the spot.
MR. BURNS: Greece is a -- I can't speak for the Greek Government, but we're very pleased that the Greek Government allows us to have a transmitter for VOA on its soil.
QUESTION: That's why I was ready to ask --
MR. BURNS: That's what democracy is all about, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Did you get the permission of the Greek Government to start to campaign something like that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that is required. We have an agreement with the Greek Government that Ron could probably tell us about that permits us to station the VOA relay station there. I'm not sure that we need to -- when VOA decides to say one thing or another, check that with any other government.
QUESTION: Greece is --
MR. BURNS: This is the broadcast station of the U.S. Information Agency.
QUESTION: Do you know that Greece has excellent relations with Serbia --
MR. BURNS: We have an excellent relationship with Greece, and I'm sure that will continue. (Laughter) I'm sure that will continue, Mr. Lambros, and your presence here is part of that relationship.
QUESTION: Nick, according to USIA, Bosnian Serbs, they don't believe in the Voice of America stories and that kind of thing. I'm sure you don't know today, but could you be so kind and prepare an answer for tomorrow. How many Serbs can hear and know about Voice of America, and how many of them are going to hear what B-92 is going to broadcast on Voice of America?
MR. BURNS: Ron, do you have another answer to that?
QUESTION: It's significant, because people in Belgrade, probably they know, but through Serbia, they have never heard about Voice of America, I'm sure.
MR. BURNS: Oh, actually, I would disagree. I mean, VOA has been transmitting throughout the Cold War to the former Yugoslavia, and I think a lot of people understand what VOA is and probably know where to get it on their radio band.
QUESTION: Nick, I'm from Sarajevo, and I know, I've been in Serbia for ten years, so I'm just asking do you have any clue?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the latest polls in my head. I'll be glad to try to take your question and try to get it. Let me just say that VOA is transmitting in Croatian and in Serbian.
QUESTION: Yes, and Bosnian recently they had seven minutes for --
MR. BURNS: That's right. We're transmitting in several different languages in the Balkans, and I would actually bet you a six-pack of Sam Adams --
QUESTION: A what?
MR. BURNS: -- just to pick a Boston-based beer company -- (laughter) -- that actually the great majority of people in Serbia know what VOA is and know where to find it. Ron, do you want to engage in that bet with me?
QUESTION: In big cities, maybe.
QUESTION: I've had enough calls when I've been in Belgrade about people complaining about what I've reported. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: See, this is a VOA correspondent here. But it's an interesting question, and I'll agree to look into it and try to get you a good answer.
QUESTION: Nick, these broadcasts, though, will actually be B-92. They won't be VOA talking about what B-92 broadcasts.
MR. BURNS: It's going to be a combination of things. VOA is going to have its normal programming into Serbia, with the reaction from the United States Government, from other governments, with an analysis, obviously, of what's happening on the streets of Belgrade and other towns. VOA is going to have a phone hookup with B-92, and we'll be transmitting actual B-92 programs into Serbia.
QUESTION: And the hours?
MR. BURNS: The hours that I cited are the hours that Serbian language VOA broadcasts can be heard on that band in Serbia. As part of those programs, there will be regular B-92 programming, which is a good thing to do, it's the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Do you have anything you care to say in response to General George Lee Butler who believes that the United States should be more aggressively working now to abolish nuclear weapons on the face of the earth?
MR. BURNS: I certainly read with great interest Jeff Smith's article this morning in The Washington Post, and we're aware that General Butler and others may be holding a press conference today and speaking out on this issue.
First of all, let me say since I don't believe General Butler has yet spoken, the following comments are not in response to him, because I'm not entirely sure he will say, but we have great respect for him. A lot of people in this building worked with him very closely and know him, and we have great respect for him and for General Goodpasture and the others who maybe associated with this effort.
But, David, let me tell you, the Clinton Administration has been committed since January 20, 1993, to reducing the nuclear threat that the American people have faced for four decades and to reducing the level of nuclear arms around the world, but particularly in our relationship with the Russian Federation, and reducing the greatest threat in the 21st century and that is the proliferation of nuclear technology, including fissile material.
We have put our money and our actions and our commitment where our mouth is on this. Let me just give you a couple of examples.
Over the last four to five years -- and this includes the actions of the Bush Administration as well -- the United States has made practical, substantive progress on these issues that I cited.
First, the United States has withdrawn and is dismantling thousands of tactical nuclear warheads that were deployed in Europe less than a decade ago.
Second, the United States and Russia are now dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons every year. We are in fact proceeding very rapidly -- more rapidly than the framers of the START I treaty envisaged in eliminating strategic systems under START I.
START I is in force, and all nuclear weapons as part of it have now been removed from Kazakstan and Belarus and from Ukraine.
Third, the United States and Russia have announced that we no longer target our strategic nuclear systems on each other. Under the START treaty, strategic nuclear forces in the United States and Russia will be reduced to one-third of previous levels. In fact, if the Russian Duma ratifies the START II treaty, as the United States Senate has done, by the year 2003, I believe the combined number of nuclear warheads in both arsenals will reach an historic low of 6,500. That is dramatically down from well over 25,000 nuclear warheads in both arsenals just a couple of years ago.
Let me also say that President Clinton took the lead in January 1994 in arranging the trilateral statement between Russia and Ukraine, and you remember in 1993 and 1994, one of the biggest foreign policy problems that faced Europe, the United States and the former Soviet states was this question of the status of the nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
In addition to this, the United States took the lead, along with several of our allies, in completing and signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. You remember President Clinton was at the United Nations in September for that ceremony.
We have signed relevant protocols to the Nuclear Free Zones in the South Pacific and in Asia. In addition to this, we since 1993 have supported the prompt negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
We take all of these obligations very seriously. There is no more serious commitment that any government can have than to protect its people from the threat of nuclear war, which is the most vital national security interest that the United States has.
I think that President Clinton and before him President Bush have taken dramatic steps since the end of the Cold War to reduce the nuclear threat to the American people, reduce the level of nuclear arms and create a new climate between the United States and Russia and indeed among all nuclear powers, which is dramatically lowered the threat of nuclear warfare, of the risk of nuclear accident to the people of the world.
Finally, I should say, David -- and I know this probably begs the question -- the United States continues to believe that nuclear deterrence plays a key role in defending the vital national security interests of the United States.
QUESTION: Therefore, the Administration plans to keep some of its nuclear weapons indefinitely.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Nick, in the negotiations on -- in Geneva on disarmament -- the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty -- the United States said during those negotiations as a goal they support the eradication of nuclear weapons.
MR. BURNS: Of course, we do. I mean, since the dawn of the nuclear age, successive American administrations and people all over the world have supported that as an ultimate goal. We do live in a world and we face a 21st century that we hope can be more peaceful than the current century. But we live in a world that is a dangerous world and where we believe that the continuation of the nuclear deterrence is the best way to protect the American people and our allies while we engage in these dramatic efforts to reduce the level of nuclear weapons and reduce the risk of nuclear war in general.
Certainly, in 1996, if you look back at 1986 or '76 or '66 or '56 or '46, we are safer now in 1996 than we have been at any time since the end of the second world war. That is a statement of fact, if you look at relations between the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom.
QUESTION: But as a theoretical goal, the United States supports eradication of nuclear weapons.
MR. BURNS: That is, of course, a goal that the United States -- successive administrations have committed themselves to. But, of course, we must live in the real world. We must live practically. We must prepare practically for the security of the American people and our allies around the world who are relying upon the United States to provide for their security.
MR. BURNS: Still on this subject or off this subject? Okay, fine.
QUESTION: The Justice Department issued a statement yesterday saying that it's going to come up with a watch list of Japanese war criminals, barring them to enter the United States. What role did the State Department play in the process of coming up with the list?
MR. BURNS: We were kept apprise by the Justice Department of its deliberations throughout this process over many, many months. Several months ago the State Department contacted the Japanese Government and let them know that there was a strong likelihood that the Justice Department would be taking this decision. We didn't want the Japanese Government, which is an ally of the United States, to be surprised by this decision.
But the State Department fully supports the decision of the Justice Department, and let me just review it very, very briefly. Under United States law, any person who, in association with or under the direction of Nazi Germany or any government that was an ally of Nazi Germany, participated in acts of persecution during World War II is ineligible to enter the United States.
The Department of Justice is required under our law to investigate all potentially excludable war criminals, no matter how long ago the crimes were committed. I'm going to have to refer you to the Justice Department, obviously, for any further details on this, because that is the relevant agency. But I think our law is very clear, and the Justice Department is doing the right thing here in implementing our law, which is under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
QUESTION: Why not sooner? Why did it take up til now to take this action?
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. As you know, there was a war crimes trial in Japan in 1946 at the time when the United States was intimately involved in the affairs of Japan during the five-year period following the second world war.
All I can say is that, as you know, there has been a resurgence of interest in the United States over the last couple of decades in the interests of war crimes pertaining to Nazi Germany but also pertaining to Japan. United States law, Section 212a(3)(e)(i), which I want to cite the reference to you in case you want to look it up, is very clear about this.
When American citizens and others who have been victimized by these war crimes come to the Justice Department and seek redress, the Justice Department has a very clear law that it must uphold and must implement. In this case, I believe that was the procedure.
There is no waiver of ineligibility for this law. As you probably know, citizens of Japan are not required to seek visas before they enter the United States. With a number of our allied countries around the world, we do not require that people of Japan, for instance, get visas before they come. But people who fall under this category and who are classified as part of this law should not seek entry into the United States.
At the port of entry, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, of course, maintains a list of roughly four million people on computer who are what we say -- the technical term is "excludable" under this law and other laws. Should there be any suspicion that an individual does fall under this law, they will be denied entrance into the United States at the port of entry.
QUESTION: I have one more related question. In Mexico, there is a World Heritage Committee now taking place, and Genbaku Dome, which was a target of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima city, is being nominated.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: And this issue is being considered, and I understand that the U.S. position is opposed to designate this. Can you clarify the position of the United States?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I'll be glad to. You're right that in Mexico City the World Heritage Committee is meeting, in fact currently, between the 2nd and 7th of December this week. This question has come up. The United States will not support the inclusion of Hiroshima as a site on this list, essentially because we have made the decision that we don't believe that war-related sites are within the scope of the convention. War-related sites by their nature are inherently controversial, and we believe that it's probably best not to include them on the list of sites that the World Heritage Committee takes up.
So we will respectfully decline to support the Japanese effort to have Hiroshima included in this site.
QUESTION: What is the list -- that sort of explains it.
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm not an expert on this. I'll be glad to take the question. I don't have a list of the sites that are currently included. I don't have it in my head or have it in front of me.
QUESTION: But, Nick, Auschwitz has already been included. Why?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I understand that Auschwitz was included some years ago, and the United States has made the decision that we don't believe that it is helpful to this committee to include any war-related sites on its list. Auschwitz was included. That's a decision that's already been taken. I think it's unlikely that decision will be reversed.
QUESTION: At the time did the U.S. oppose to include Auschwitz?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know when it occurred -- whether it was in this administration or previous administration. I'll be glad to take that question.
QUESTION: Nick, on Cuba. The conversations for the immigration that started today, I think, in Havana. Do you have anything?
MR. BURNS: You're referring to the migration talks.
QUESTION: The migration talks.
MR. BURNS: Yes. A U.S. delegation, headed by our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs John Hamilton, is in Havana for the fifth in a series of migration talks between the United States and Cuba. The talks began today. They continue until tomorrow, we expect.
I will have something to say about them tomorrow when they conclude, but probably not before. You know that the last migration talks were held -- the last regular talks were held in November 1995. They had previously been held before that approximately every three months. Of course, we were not able to have a regular series of talks in the winter of 1996, because of the international violation committed by the Cuban Government in shooting down the two unarmed Cessnas on February 24, 1995.
QUESTION: On the Helms-Burton, there are a lot of stories coming today that both the United States and the European Union are trying to get an agreement to avoid the panel on the --
MR. BURNS: At the WTO?
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: Not specifically, except I'm generally aware of the fact, of course, that the United States has taken the position internationally that the Libertad Act, Helms-Burton, is consistent with our international treaty obligations, including the WTO. I know that some European Governments contest that.
We in general believe that the temperature in this debate between Europe and the United States should be lowered so that together we can focus our efforts on promoting human rights in Cuba, and that's why the United States was so encouraged the other day when the European Union issued its statement on the importance of encouraging human rights and democratization in Cuba.
I think you'll find that the debate now is different. There is no longer as much argumentation in public between the European Union and member governments and the United States about this issue. I think Ambassador Eizenstat deserves a lot of credit, as does Sir Leon Brittan, for having brought us to a situation where any disagreements we have, we hope will be in private, and we'd like to focus our attentions on Castro, the last remaining autocrat in our hemisphere.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) there are not so many discussions in public. Are there many other dealings going on at the moment in private?
MR. BURNS: There's a lot of conversation in private, yes, absolutely, about this issue and the WTO and about other issues.
QUESTION: Nick, there's a lot of discussion today about the naming of the new Secretary of State.
MR. BURNS: Is there? I haven't heard. Really? What do they say? (Laughter)
QUESTION: And I was wondering if you had anything to say on this subject, and I have a follow-up.
MR. BURNS: Well, Betsy, it's really tempting me here, but I just have two things to say. First of all, we have a very serious problem, and the problem is that the French Government -- and, Andre, I want you to pay particular attention to this -- the French Government has made a particular demand that the next Secretary of State -- he or she must speak fluent French. (Laughter) So it's very difficult to comply with that requirement, Andre. That was just a joke, by the way. (Laughter)
We know that the French Government has a sense of humor -- it really does have a sense of humor. Actually, all I have to say on that subject today is I cannot possibly comment on any aspect of this. But my friend and colleague, Mike McCurry, I think gave you some good guidance this morning at the morning gaggle, which was reported in the wires.
QUESTION: Right now there are future matters in planning that's going on, like the State Department budget -- a very important thing for this building.
MR. BURNS: And Secretary of State Christopher is working very hard on that.
QUESTION: Well, he is an able, though lame-duck, Secretary, and so do you think that someone should be appointed sooner rather than later in order to get their finger in that pie, which the OMB is working on right now.
MR. BURNS: See, I'm biased. I have a particular view, and that is that I think we've got a very good Secretary of State. His name is Warren Christopher. He's Secretary of State until about January 20, thereabouts. He is working ten hours, 12 hours, 14 hours a day at his job. This week he has had a series of conversations with our budget experts and with Strobe Talbott and with Jim Steinberg and others about the budget situation. He's working very hard with OMB about the future of the State Department budget.
You know that Secretary Christopher believes that we have been under- funded; that we have a crisis, and that is that our diplomatic readiness has not been fully supported by the Congress of the United States. You read his speech at West Point. The Secretary will continue to argue until the day he leaves office that the United States has got to look very hard at this question of funding for our diplomacy and diplomatic readiness, as well as funding for our military readiness.
So we don't have a problem here, Betsy. You know, the President will make his decision on who the next Secretary of State will be, and, when he does, he'll announce it, and then that person, whoever he or she may be, will plan for confirmation hearings, and we'll say absolutely nothing about all that until the confirmation hearings are held.
In the meantime, Secretary of State Christopher is Secretary of State, and he will go to Brussels next week and represent the United States at the North Atlantic Council. He will work -- he'll give it every ounce of determination that he's got until the day he walks out of here. United States foreign policy continues. We do have a transition post election in this country. We will have cabinet changes and a new choice for Secretary of State, but in the meantime we have a Secretary of State who's working very closely with the President and the Vice President and the National Security Adviser.
The United States is working on, as you can see from this briefing, a variety of different issues, and we're doing a good job in promoting a good foreign policy for the American people.
Any follow-up? (Laughter)
QUESTION: Nick, on the four million people who are excludable, the list of war criminals, do you know how many of them are former Nazis?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to -- I'm sure we can get that figure, because, as you know, there have been a lot of Freedom of Information requests, and the Justice Department has been very open about its work on Nazi Germany, as well as Imperial Japan, about the war crimes that were committed by both during the second world war.
Mr. Lambros, I'm just going to defer the Aegean questioning for actually -- Dimitry actually had first dibs, and then we'll go to you.
QUESTION: Yes, about Cyprus. I want to ask you if Mr. Carey Cavanaugh proposed a moratorium regarding the flights of war planes over Cyprus to the Cyprus Government on the Turkish side in Lisbon, and what was the reaction, if you know of the two sides?
MR. BURNS: Yes, Dimitry, Carey Cavanaugh, who's our very able diplomat, who coordinates Greek and Turkish and Cypriot affairs, met with the Cypriot, Turkish and Greek delegations in Lisbon at the OSCE summit. He discussed a variety of measures aimed at reducing political tensions and the potential for violence on Cyprus, and the issue of overflights of combat aircraft was one of those measures that he discussed with them.
These discussions are continuing today, and we believe that these kinds of measures would be useful in themselves and would be particularly conducive -- we think they would be particularly conducive to helping build an atmosphere that would facilitate movement towards some kind of comprehensive settlement of the problems on Cyprus.
So we remain very much engaged on this issue with the Greek, Turkish and Cypriot Governments and with the two communities on Cyprus.
QUESTION: So in a way you confirm that the U.S. proposed some kind of moratorium to the two sides?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to be specific about what we proposed, except to say that one of our proposals and suggestions did cover this issue of overflights of combat aircraft.
QUESTION: You will have something tomorrow when the discussions finish?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to promise that. Ordinarily, we like to keep a lot of this private, and so that would probably mean I'm not going to be able to talk about it specifically, but we'll see what we can say. I haven't had a chance to talk to Carey myself, but perhaps I can do that.
Bill, I think Mr. Lambros had the next question.
QUESTION: The other day the Department of Defense with a written statement answered my questions regarding the (inaudible) stated that it does not recognize the present ten-mile limit of the Greek national airspace in the Aegean Sea, despite the fact that -- I emphasize -- that it's two miles short. May we have the State Department's position from the political point since it's a matter of policy, too?
MR. BURNS: The State Department position is identical with the Defense Department position.
QUESTION: So that means you agree whatever they say as far as for the Greek national airspace, so you do not recognize the present limit of the Greek airspace over the Aegean?
MR. BURNS: Yes, as is widely accepted under international law and practice, the United States views a country's national airspace boundaries to coincide with those of its territorial sea. And notwithstanding the Greek Presidential decree of December 6, 1931, of a ten nautical mile airspace limit, the United States has never recognized that Greece's national airspace extends beyond the sixth nautical miles of its territorial seas, because, see, we combine territorial sea and airspace, and we like to think that -- in fact, we insist under international law that they are equal; they are the same. And the Greek decree of 1931 is inconsistent with that aspect of international law.
This is not a new position. It goes back a long time -- longer than even you and I have been on this earth.
QUESTION: Why do --
MR. BURNS: And the Greek Government will not be surprised to hear that I've reaffirmed this position again today.
QUESTION: Let me remind you, Mr. Burns, that the other day the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, stated that Greece has the exclusive right to extend its territorial waters to 12, and it's something in process. Why then you are (inaudible) and why you are doing that now in public?
MR. BURNS: Because you asked me to. (Laughter) I didn't offer it. I try to stay away from this subject.
QUESTION: But I'm wondering why your government is doing that now against the ICAO, the Convention of the Law of the Sea of 1982, and the Greek Presidential decree from the 1920s, as you said. May we have the day in which your government has decided to do that? Why now?
MR. BURNS: It was some time after December 6, 1931, but I can't pinpoint the date exactly. Seriously, Mr. Lambros, I think what you should concentrate on here is this important principle of international law and practice that we view a country's national airspace boundaries to be equal to those of its territorial sea, and that is the important point here, and we'll be very glad to discuss this with the Greek Government, should it wish to discuss it.
QUESTION: But, Mr. Burns, the subject is still open. So far Greece has not decided what it's going to do with the territorial waters, so it's an open subject (inaudible) with Turkey. So I would like to know why then you are influence the (inaudible) between the two countries (inaudible) in public that decision now (inaudible) in the State Department. Why now?
MR. BURNS: We have open briefings here. You ask a question. We usually try to give you an answer, as we've done today. Again, I think there's not a lot more I can say about this. The Greek Government understands our position. We'd be very glad to continue any discussions with the Greek Government in private. Thank you.
QUESTION: About Africa, with the fighting spreading, chaos increasing in the Great Lakes area, and specifically with the Tutsi-led rebels capturing large parts of Eastern Zaire, what is the position of the United States Government with regard to a partitioning of Eastern Zaire and the creation of a Tutsi-ruled republic there?
MR. BURNS: Well, we have a very clear position. The United States respects the territorial integrity of Zaire. I'd like to reaffirm that today. The United States will not support in any way, shape, or form any effort by the rebel alliance to try to create any kind of artificial state in Eastern Zaire or to deny to the Government of Zaire its responsibilities in maintaining the international border with Rwanda and the other countries in Central Africa and East Africa.
It's a very important point that I wanted to enunciate. We have a good relationship with Zaire, a good relationship with the Prime Minister of Zaire -- Prime Minister Kengo.
We want Zaire to go much farther down the road in reforming itself towards some kind of democratic transition. Maintaining the territorial integrity of Zaire is a very important element of maintaining peace and stability in Zaire.
We've all seen the consequences of the lack of stability, promoted by the fighting, engineered by the rebel alliance and others.
QUESTION: And how to re-establish stability and a lack of fighting?
MR. BURNS: That's up to the Government of Zaire. It's also up to the rebel alliance to show some good sense here in stepping back from the fighting that it largely is promoting, unfortunately, in Eastern Zaire.
QUESTION: Two questions on Burma. It's looks as if Aun San Suu Kyi has been restricted to her home, if she's not under house arrest. There's been a crackdown on the protesters. Any reaction from the United States?
MR. BURNS: We understand that Aung San Suu Kyi is not under house arrest, though the SLORC officials asked her to stay at her home earlier this week when they were busy trying to disrupt the student demonstrations in the streets of Rangoon. They said this was for her safety, but I don't believe that and I imagine you don't either.
We understand that she does have plans to leave her home tomorrow. We understand the Burmese authorities have said she is free to do so. That is positive. She ought to be free to travel in and around Rangoon and, indeed, throughout the country.
We're concerned that the SLORC continues to place undue limitations on the freedom of movement of the National League of Democracy and specifically of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
QUESTION: Any reaction to ASEAN's move to admit Burma as a member?
MR. BURNS: This is a decision taken by ASEAN. ASEAN takes its own decisions, obviously. The United States has expressed to individual ASEAN members, as recently as the meetings in Manila two weeks ago as well as to ASEAN collectively, that we don't believe that Burma is ready for full membership in ASEAN. But the United States, of course, must respect the wishes of the ASEAN members. We'll continue to work with ASEAN in our post-ministerial dialogue every year and throughout the year. But we do have our own views on Burma. Those views have not changed.
The Burmese Government has done nothing to help us change those views. It continues to repress its own people. We're looking for some concrete actions, not only by countries in the West, but countries in the Far East that would help to convince the Burmese Government that it cannot repudiate the wishes of its own people and not pay some kind of penalty.
That's why you've seen the United States take some measures to try to heighten the pressure on the Burmese Government.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the Human Rights Watch Report this morning and to the comments of Mr. Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director? He was sharply critical of the Clinton Administration's policy on human rights, saying it's lost a number of opportunities and wasted a number of opportunities to use leverage, specifically in China, in Bosnia, and the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen the comments by this individual, by Human Rights Watch. But, in general, I find it odd that a group interested in human rights would somehow single out the United States for criticism when, in the case of Serbia, we were the first country to stand up publicly at this podium and condemn Slobodan Milosevic for stealing the Serbian elections.
I don't think any country in the world, bar none, has given more attention to the issue of human rights in China and where we're very actively supporting, probably as a point country, the rights of the people of Burma to assemble peacefully and to have their own elections respected -- the elections that were stolen from them many years ago by the SLORC.
I would, in general, take issue with that type of criticism that singles us out for particular treatment because we have a good record.
In Serbia today, we are standing up for democracy on the streets of Belgrade. We're doing so against the wishes, obviously, of a leader with whom we have worked closely in the Dayton peace accords. But we're doing that because it's the right thing to do and it represents the best of American values.
QUESTION: His criticism is not that the U.S. Government has said too little about human rights. It is that it has done too little about human rights.
He argues that the Administration has put human rights too far below trade as a priority. Do you have a reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: We're interested in human rights in Iran. The United States is the only country in the world that has shut off trade with Iran because of the human rights situation and the nuclear weapons situation -- they're attempt to build nuclear weapons.
We're interested in the human rights situation in Nigeria. As you know, we've sharply reduced the ability of the United States Government or American companies who do business in Nigeria, in part, because of the outrageous execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa last year and of other Nigerian human rights activists.
We have taken steps in China, as you know, to raise this issue at every opportunity. Secretary Christopher said very particularly on his visit to Beijing and Shanghai that this relationship between the United States and China will not reach its full potential economically, politically, or otherwise without some reversal of the discriminatory policies against the people of China.
So not only is our rhetoric strong, I think our actions are strong in those instances.
Look what we're doing in Serbia today. We're denying the Serbian Government a normal economic relationship, in part, because of its treatment of its own people. I think we have a good record here.
QUESTION: You said before about Serbia and about Milosevic in compliance with the Dayton agreement that they're not going to enter the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The question about Bosnia and war criminals was in close connection with sanctions against Serbia. You have the same threat now regarding those events in Belgrade.
Chris Hedges said that American diplomats here said that they had not delivered any specific threats to Mr. Milosevic regarding your threat -- sanctions -- and those kind. Could you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, this is not true. Our Charge d'Affaires, Dick Miles, met with Mr. Milosevic last week. He met with all leading members of the Serbian Government, including with the Security Chief. He met with all three major leaders of the opposition.
The message to the Serbian Government was very consistent. We will maintain our sanctions on you, and we reserve the right to increase them, if we choose to do so, because of your policies. That's a very clear message.
That message has been delivered by Mike McCurry and myself and Ken Bacon over the last couple of days. It's as clear as day.
QUESTION: The same kind of sanctions you're going to use if the Bosnian Serbs are not going to comply with that Dayton agreement?
MR. BURNS: The Bosnian Serbs are already the big losers, 12 months after the final signing of the accords in Dayton and Paris; big losers. The Bosnian Government is receiving the lion's share of international economic reconstruction assistance because the Bosnian Serbs have thumbed their nose at us on the issue of war crimes. So they're already losing.
The economic leverage is already being felt. If they want to go on losing, they should keep on doing what they're doing. If they want to win and if they want to help their own people, they ought to turn over the indicted war criminals to The Hague.
QUESTION: Do you have anything specific from London regarding Brcko and war crimes?
MR. BURNS: I do not, except to say -- I mentioned at the beginning of the briefing this link between commitment to the Dayton Accords and economic reconstruction aid.
Sid, and Patrick.
QUESTION: To go back to your statement on the relationship with China. You said that the Secretary said it would never reach full potential?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTION: I'm just curious --
MR. BURNS: He said that publicly and he said it privately to the Chinese leadership.
QUESTION: No. I heard him say it. I'm just curious, what more could -- what potential is out there that it hasn't reached now that they've decided to have reciprocal presidential summits, so on and so forth? Is there something you're holding out that you're hiding from us?
MR. BURNS: We have an economic relationship with China that is not as full in any stretch of the imagination as it is with Luxembourg or Mexico or Canada or France or Britain or many other countries in southeast Asia and east Asia and north Asia -- Japan, Korea, Thailand.
The ability on a wide plane about technology transfers, about licensing, certain types of technologies to be available for export to China. The ability to go forward on those issues is going to be, in part, a function of what we feel the human rights situation is going to be. We've said that many times. It's just a statement of fact, and that lies behind the statement made by the Secretary.
QUESTION: I thought the ability to go forward with the export of atomic power plants was related to proliferation, not to human rights?
MR. BURNS: I didn't talk about the export of atomic power plants. I talked, in general, about this issue of technology transfer and licensing. I didn't specifically refer to the atomic power plants.
QUESTION: The French Government has raised again in the last few days the question of the AFSOUTH Command in NATO. It's expected to come up, I think, in Brussels next week. Do you expect it to be resolved then? And, if so, how?
MR. BURNS: I think this is a very serious disagreement on a tactical-- an important issue between the United States and France inside NATO. I don't expect that it will be resolved by next week because of the serious differences that exist.
The United States position is, the Sixth Fleet is the basis of the Command in AFSOUTH. The Sixth Fleet is an American fleet. It ought to be commanded by an American. It's always been commanded by an American.
The United States is contributing the vast majority of naval and air assets of the commander, and therefore the commander should be an American.
I don't think the Congress of the United States or the American people would understand it if our troops and our naval forces -- the largest armada in the world -- were to be commanded by anyone but an American.
This issue, it will get resolved at some point in the future, but that is the American position. I don't believe the United States is going to change its position on this issue.
We do hope that we can continue the efforts begun by President Chirac, the courageous efforts by President Chirac, to bring France back into the alliance on a full-time and full basis -- full membership in the alliance -- after the decision by President DeGaulle in 1966 to take France out of full membership and participation.
We hope this process continues. We will work on this basis with the French Government. We will work with them in that spirit. We want France to be integrally involved in all aspects of the NATO alliance. NATO is stronger because of French involvement.
We'll continue to work cooperatively with the French and respectfully disagree on this particular issue.
QUESTION: Now on France and the United States. I understand maybe it's just a rumor that President Clinton wants the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland admitted by 1999.
At the same time, France is pushing for Romania's admission. Do you think this support of France for Romania will alter the chance of Romania to join these three countries in the first NATO enlargement?
MR. BURNS: First, I cannot confirm these rumors that you cite about those groups of countries. As you know, NATO has not yet made a decision as to which countries will be included in the first wave of NATO enlargement. NATO will likely make that kind of decision at the summit next summer -- that will be scheduled for next summer -- the NATO summit, the historic heads of state NATO summit that will be held next summer. But that decision has not been made. The who and the when have not been made; the what and the how have.
We're going to enlarge NATO. We know how we're going to do it. We have a plan to do it. We're working on that plan. That will be discussed next week by the Secretary and his ministerial colleagues in Brussels. But the Secretary and his colleagues next week will not decide who gets in and when they get in. That's a decision for the heads of state, which will be taken later on in 1997.
QUESTION: I'll ask you a couple of questions about meetings between State Department officials and a Canadian Inuit leader from Quebec was here today.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: First question is simply the purpose of the meeting and what's on the agenda to be discussed?
MR. BURNS: I understand that Mr. Zebedee Nungak, who is the President of the Makivik Corporation, the Inuit Party to the 1978 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, I understand that Mr. Nungak will meet this afternoon with our diplomats on the Canada Desk.
The meeting is a courtesy call at the request of Mr. Nungak to share his community's views on a number of issues. I understand he's also spoken here in the United States in several public fora.
We benefit from these kinds of meetings to learn the viewpoints of different groups and countries that are important to us. Canada is probably the most important country to us given the length of our border and the extent of our cultural and trade relationship.
QUESTION: Given -- if I can call it the reticence of the State Department during the last referendum, his position and the position of his people is very distinct. They are unalterably opposed to the separation of Quebec. It's a pretty interesting internal conflict that's going on there with territory. He's not a government official. So I'm wondering why the State Department agreed to meet with him?
MR. BURNS: We often meet all around the world with individuals who do not represent a government, or even a municipal government, but represent a community in a country that's important to us. It's not unusual at all for us to meet with native groups; in this case, with a Inuit group or with any other type of group.
I don't know if we've been too reticent. I think we've said very clearly that this issue is a internal Canadian issue -- the issue that you refer to of separatism.
We certainly believe, as President Clinton said -- very prominently just before the referendum last year -- the United States believes in a strong and united Canada. That's our position. It's been conveyed to the Canadian Government and Canadian population. It remains our view: a strong and united Canada is in the best interest of the United States.
QUESTION: Do you know off the top of your head if State Department officials have ever met with either provincial government -- officials from Quebec or their representatives here in the United States?
MR. BURNS: We have an outstanding Consul General in Quebec, Steve Kelly, who routinely meets with the provincial officials from the Government of Quebec as a matter of course in his duties. We do it throughout Canada. We do it throughout all countries.
For instance, in Russia, we meet with a broad spectrum of the political leadership there. We've had contact with all sorts of groups throughout the world in all these countries. In Israel, we meet with the opposition. In Germany, we meet with the opposition. It's nothing new.
QUESTION: Have you informed the Canadian Government that you plan to have this meeting today?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that our outstanding political consular in Ottawa, Christine Shelly, informed the Canadian Government about this issue. If she hasn't, Christine will now do it. I'm sure she will.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:29 p.m.)
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