U.S. Department of State 96/12/12 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokeman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Thursday, December 12, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT 1 Readout of Secretary Christopher's Trip to NATO Ministerial Meeting 1 Best Wishes to Abdulsalam Massarueh, Chairman of Foreign Correspondents Association 1-2 Secretary Christopher Breaks Record for Miles Flown as Secretary of State 5-7 Human Rights Day Celebration Today at the State Department 6 Friends of Lebanon Meeting on Dec. 16 6 Statement on Behalf of Co-Chairmen of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group 6 Statement on U.S. Policy on Zaire 7 Travel of Amb. Kornblum and Implementation of Bosnia Peace Accords 20-21 Richard Nuccio's Status as State Dept. Employee NATO MINISTERIAL MEETING 2-5 U.S.-French Relations 4-5 French Dissention on Reforming NATO Relations with non-NATO Europe SAUDI ARABIA 7-9, 20 Al-Khobar Bombing Investigation: Iran's Role/U.S.-Saudi Cooperation 10 Iranian Links to Saudi Opposition Groups FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 10-12 Serbia: Political Dialogue/Opposition Groups/Demonstrations/U.S. Mtgs with Opposition Leaders MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 12-14 Killing of Settler Family in the West Bank/Effect on Hebron Talks/Effect on U.S. Policy 14 Syrian Connection to Terrorist Groups TURKEY 14 Reports of Military Cooperation with Iran NORTH KOREA 14-15 U.S.-North Korea Working Level Meetings in New York 15-16 CIA Director Deutch's Comments on the Situation in North Korea COLOMBIA 16-17 Kidnapped American Citizen CHINA 17-18 Defense Minister Chi's Remarks on Tiananmen Square US-EU SUMMIT 18-19 US-EU Relations/Policy Differences WHITE HOUSE APPOINTMENTS 19-20 Reports in the Foreign Press Critical of the Ethnicity of Clinton Appointees
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 1996, 1:16 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Glad to see you all. I only see two people from the trip, and it's good to see Charlie and Barry here. The Secretary of State had an excellent trip to Brussels. It was an historic summit meeting because there is now no turning back. NATO is going to expand. The decision has been made. The countries to be admitted will be announced in Madrid on the 8th and 9th of July.
NATO and Russia will now undertake to negotiate a truly historic charter that will define the relationship between NATO and Russia in the future.
Secretary Christopher feels that the NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels accomplished its purpose. There is no turning back. We are going ahead. It was a very positive meeting.
I have a couple of announcements to make. But before I do, I just wanted to extend on behalf of all of us at the State Department our very best wishes to Mr. Abdulsalam Massarueh, who is the Chairman of the Foreign Correspondents Associations. He is a very fine man. He comes to nearly all the briefings. As you know, he has been ill. Our very best wishes go to him and his family.
Jim, I believe you might want to give us an update on his condition.
MR. JIM ANDERSON: Yes. Abdulsalam suffered what appears to be a mild stroke two days ago. He's now in GW Hospital. The State Department will be relieved to hear that he's speaking again, as normal. He's going through various scans today to see how severe the damage was. But at this moment, he appears to be in good spirits and in reasonably good health. They're awaiting the results of these scans.
MR. BURNS: Glyn (Davies) and I have both sent messages to him and to his wife. We are very, very hopeful that he'll make a recovery and that he'll be back with us soon here in the Briefing room.
I want to just let you all know, Secretary Christopher returned last evening on his Boeing 707 on what is likely to be his last foreign trip as Secretary of State. Upon landing at Andrews Airport, at around 8:00 p.m. last evening, Secretary Christopher had flown overseas, since he took office, 785,620 miles. As you all know, that is a record for an American Secretary of State. It's the most mileage that an American Secretary of State has ever flown in American history in a four-year period.
There was a very nice party on the plane given by the Secretary's staff and by the aircraft crew. Many nice things were said and many fine presentations were made. The Secretary was given a replica of a 707. This is an extraordinary aircraft. They were made in the late Fifties and early Sixties and they're still flying; we're still flying in them. Maybe that's why a lot of you don't want to travel with us anymore.
There was a nice presentation from the crew of a hat and a medal. I must say, there was a very elegant presentation made by your leader here, Barry Schweid, who made a beautiful toast on behalf of the traveling press corps and all of you back here, and who presented a nice photo of the Secretary standing right outside that door to the Secretary. This was a photo made available by the Associated Press.
I want to thank Barry for having been so nice to step up and say such nice things about the Secretary. Thank you.
Q More accolades. We heard, for instance, the Czech Republic Minister thanking the Secretary for his interest in (inaudible). Apparently, this wasn't entirely universal. It seemed like Charlie and I -
MR. BURNS: I don't know why you get that idea.
Q -- who were on the plane -
MR. BURNS: The story was in the press about that this morning?
Q -- and others who are not here but were on the plane weren't advised about the French behavior at the dinner, if those reports are accurate. I wonder if you -
MR. BURNS: You may have been sleeping through part of that, Barry.
Q We saw some of this.
MR. BURNS: There was a conversation. No, I mean sleeping on the plane. I don't mean sleeping -
Q Oh, I see. We have seen some bruises. We have seen the French present the Secretary, who doesn't speak French, with five French novels - paperback versions. I just wondered, are those reports correct? Did the Minister walk out, and did the Ambassador turn his back and find reason to talk to an aide while the Secretary was being honored at the NAC dinner that night in Brussels?
MR. BURNS: It was a rather extraordinary day in Brussels on Tuesday for a variety of reasons. I've gone into some of the reasons. Those are the substantive reasons.
Let me just say this On-the-Record and under the glare of these television lights, and we can perhaps have a further discussion when the lights are turned off.
Secretary Christopher was really deeply touched by the presentations made to him at the NAC summit on Tuesday. It was really quite extraordinary. Throughout the day, in the NATO hall, many, many, many of his colleagues stepped forward either at the beginning of their interventions or at the end to say very nice things about him, about their relationship with him, about what he had done to build up NATO over the last four years; what Secretary Christopher had done to try to define the new relationship with Russia and to define the rationale for enlargement.
At the end of the day, Secretary General Solana - at the very last order of business, at the end of the day on Tuesday - made an extraordinarily kind and generous statement in tribute to the Secretary of State. The Secretary is very grateful for that. As you know, he didn't encourage this. He doesn't look for that. He is a man who doesn't toot his own horn, but I think he was very touched by it.
There was a very fine report this morning in the Washington Post by, I think, one of the best journalist around, Bill Drozdiak, who is an excellent journalist. There was only one slight factual inaccuracy in that story. The factual inaccuracy was that the tribute by Secretary Solana did not occur at lunch. The tribute occurred at the end of the day, at the NATO hall. Obviously, I think the world of Bill Drozdiak. He's a superb journalist and has an excellent reputation. I would commend that article to you.
I think that's about all that is appropriate for me to say. But perhaps we can have a further discussion when the lights are turned out.
Q While we're still On-the-Record, does the Secretary think the world of the French Foreign Minister, would you say, as you do of Bill Drozdiak who we all, of course, like and admire?
MR. BURNS: Bill Drozdiak is an excellent journalist. He really is an excellent journalist.
Q (Inaudible) basketball player.
MR. BURNS: He was a very good basketball player.
Q I don't know whether Mr. de Charette can play basketball. But what do you think of him as a diplomat? What does the Secretary think of that kind of treatment?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I've said, I think, what I want to say On-the- Record today. We'll have a further discussion in a couple of minutes when we get together. We have a relationship with France - with France - that is of long standing. It goes back to 1781 at Yorktown. It's proceeded since then. France is a NATO ally, and we sometimes have our disagreements with the French, as you know. Sometimes they probably -- they have their disagreements with us. But, on the whole, France is a NATO ally. I prefer to comment on the relationship between the two countries. That's how I would answer your question.
Q Let me ask you one last question, a factual question. When last visited, the French were the only dissenter that we knew of from the plan to revise - we can get into acronyms now and drive each other crazy - but to revise the structure of NATO's relations with the eastern and central European countries.
Can you say for the record if France objected during the proceedings? And is that something that disturbs the United States? Evidently, everybody else was - I don't know if the Greeks had spoken up, but I think everybody else was for you.
MR. BURNS: The Greeks and Turks and did speak up about this.
Q What about the -
MR. BURNS: I think the Greek and Turkish positions were identical on this. That's a good thing.
The Secretary of State - Secretary Christopher put forward a proposal for an Atlantic Partnership Council which we believe should be, in effect, the successor to the NACC. The NACC was created in 1991, as the first post-Cold War institution to try to unite Europe. We think the NACC, with all due respect, has outlived its usefulness and now needs to be modernized. So the rationale is that you would, in effect, integrate the NACC with the Partnership for Peace and create a structure that would be truly dynamic and relevant to the needs, particularly of our partners in central Europe and in the former Soviet Union.
I must say, when the Secretary presented this proposal on Tuesday morning, it was met with near-unanimous approval, I think, by 14 of our NATO partners; the 15th partner is the United States, because we proposed it. That leaves a 16th partner. That 16th partner was France, which had some reservations. Minister de Charette enunciated those reservations.
We hope very much that France will agree now with all of the other members of NATO between now and the Madrid summit, that it really is a very good idea to create this. We'll try to work very cooperatively with the French Government on this. If one of the problems is, they need to know more about the proposal, or hear again the rationale, I'm sure our Embassy in Paris and those of us here at the State Department will be very glad to present those views to the French Government.
Q Nick, before you leave the other episode, just for the record, the French have said On-the-Record that it didn't happen?
MR. BURNS: I would just point you to the slight factual inaccuracy in the story, but otherwise the very fine report this morning.
Q In other words, it did happen but not at the lunch?
MR. BURNS: I think I've said what I can say on this, but I'll be glad to talk about this in our other session.
Q You didn't happen to note at the luncheon whether the French Foreign Minister was there during the tribute - the second tribute by Solana?
MR. BURNS: As I said, Sid, I think I've said what I can say On- the-Record, but there will be some further conversations on this.
I had some other things I need to talk about.
Q Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: Let me just go through them very briefly. I would encourage all of you to attend the Human Rights Celebration at 4:00 p.m. today, upstairs on the Eighth Floor. The Secretary is hosting it, and it's our Annual Human Rights Day celebration.
It's true that few if any of the world's Foreign Ministries have celebrations like this. The United States does. We undertake these celebrations to remind ourselves and to remind our public of the importance of human rights. This event has special meaning for Secretary Christopher. It was when he was Deputy Secretary, in the Carter Administration, that he began the effort to catalogue, on an annual basis, the human rights performances of governments around the world. He was not only present at the creation; he was in many respects the creator of this exercise. He believes in it very much.
When he was in private life in California, he also, of course, has spent a lot of time on the human rights issue, as all of you know.
The ceremony today will honor four Foreign Service officers who are the recipients of the new award for exceptional achievement in the field of democracy and human rights. They are Louis Mazel from Windhoek, Nambia; Janice Weiner from Ankara, Turkey; Julie Winn from Port-au- Prince, Haiti; and Robin Meyer from Havana. Robin Meyer was kicked out of Havana by the Cuban Government because of her reporting on the human rights violations of the Cuban Government itself.
There will also be some greetings from several Nobel Peace Prize winners to the Secretary and to this event, which will be read. It's an open press event. I would encourage you to go.
I also wanted to let you know that on Monday, December 16, the State Department will be hosting a meeting of the Friends of Lebanon. Secretary Christopher will lead the U.S. delegation. He'll chair the meeting. Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon will lead the Lebanese delegation. We expect delegations from more than 20 countries and the international financial institutions to also attend this meeting.
We're convening it at 9:00 a.m. You'll have an opportunity to cover this event upstairs in the Ben Franklin Room.
The purpose of this event is to focus the world on the priority need for economic reconstruction in Lebanon itself and to make sure that all of us are doing what we have said that we would do to bring Lebanon back into the international community and to help Lebanon - help Prime Minister Hariri in his excellent and prodigious efforts to try to rebuild Lebanon.
Let me just also tell you a couple of more things. I have a statement that we're posting today, after the briefing, on behalf of the co-chairs of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group. It refers to a meeting of the Monitoring Group between the 9th and 12th of December about a complaint brought by Lebanon of a violation of the April 26, 1996 Understandings. It pertains to an incident relating to the villages of Kfar Tibnite and Nabatyeh al-Fawka on December 7, 1996. I would commend that to you.
Further, I have a statement on Zaire - a lengthy statement on Zaire - which we're posting after this briefing. Essentially, this statement reviews the position of the United States in depth concerning the situation in Eastern Zaire, and specifically calls upon the rebels in Eastern Zaire and the governments neighboring Zaire to refrain from any incitement of violence, any use of force for political purposes. It commends the Kenyan Government for having called the December 16th meeting on Monday in Nairobi to talk about the situation in Eastern Zaire.
There are a couple of important things that are happening. Today, Ambassador Raymond Chretien, who is the Secretary General's Special Envoy to Central Africa, reports to the Secretary General on his findings.
Tomorrow, the Canadian Government hosts in New York a meeting of the Multinational Force, and Assistant Secretary George Moose will attend that meeting. Monday is the meeting in Nairobi. So there's a lot happening in Zaire, and we have a public statement.
Finally, we left John Kornblum in Europe. He's in Berlin today giving a speech on U.S.-German relations. He will soon, tomorrow, proceed to Mostar, where he will chair a meeting of the Federation, and then to Sarajevo where he'll be talking to the Bosnian Government about the Dayton peace accords. On Monday, he will be attending in Geneva a conference on refugee issues, hosted by Mrs. Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. I wanted to point that out to you, because Ambassador Kornblum continues to be fundamentally very directly engaged in the Bosnian peace accords.
Barry, anything else? Steve?
Q A matter of housekeeping. Will the Secretary be available to questions at this session at 4:00 o'clock today, or is it only going to be remarks?
MR. BURNS: No, he doesn't intend to take questions, but you'll be able to hear his address - which is quite good; I've read it - (laughter) - in fact, it's -
Q English or French?
MR. BURNS: It's in English, not in French. English is, of course, you know, a language that's spoken all over the world. It's a very important world language, and he'll give a very fine address, and then you'll be able to hear some of these award recipients and hear some of the other messages from Nobel peace prize winners.
Q On Iran. There's been a lot of reporting about events in Saudi Arabia and potential Iranian involvement in the bombing at Dhahran and more reporting that the United States is preparing to do something or is preparing plans to do something. Can you talk about these reports and where the United States stands on all of this now?
MR. BURNS: We haven't forgotten about the bombing of our facilities in Riyadh or the bombing of our barracks at Al Khobar, and those of us - and there are some in this room who were there - will never forget the images of Al Khobar about 18 hours after the bombing.
Nineteen Americans died. Over 250 people were wounded. We are dedicated to fining out who did this and to bringing them to justice. As you know, we are working closely with the Saudi Government and FBI Director Freeh has made three separate trips to Saudi Arabia to work with the Saudi Government at the highest levels.
The Saudis are undertaking an investigation. I understand, Steve, that investigation is not yet complete; that there are no final conclusions. Therefore, we'll have to await the final results of this investigation; and, when the results are in, we will do everything we can to help the Saudi Government bring those responsible to their fate, which is to meet a prosecutor and to be judged for their crimes.
Q The reports say that the United States has been given information by the Saudis that implicate Iran as a sponsor of that bombing. Is that true?
MR. BURNS: I just can't speak to that, because the report is not final - the conclusions have not been final - and we have made a decision that we're not going to talk about any preliminary information that is made available to us until we see all of the information and see the final conclusions.
Q Are you saying the U.S. report is not final?
MR. BURNS: No, the Saudi investigation is not final. As we receive information from the Saudis, we are evaluating that information. We take an enormous interest in it, and we're using all of the assets of this government, which are considerable, to try to find out who did it, but we've made a decision with all of you that we're not going to be talking about this in any kind of detail at all until the results of that investigation are full and conclusive.
Q But, Nick, why talk about it at all, since it's -
MR. BURNS: Because Steve asked, and I'm trying to be helpful in answering questions.
Q According to the wires, Mike McCurry talked about it today -
MR. BURNS: Mike said essentially exactly what I just said, Bill.
Q Yes, but you take - you're saying that the report that the Saudis have offered is dubious, and it has to be checked over?
MR. BURNS: I didn't say that at all, Bill. You're putting words in my mouth that do not reflect at all what I have just said. I object to your characterization of my remarks.
Q Do we see the report then as credible, that the Saudis have given to us?
MR. BURNS: Which report?
Q The secret report that they have offered to us about -
MR. BURNS: I'm not discussing secret reports. I have never mentioned any secret reports.
Q Well, back to my original question. Why would this even come out at the White House at all, with any qualification at this time, if the United States was not convinced as to the complicity of Iran? That's one question. The second question is most of the investigative reporters that have really looked into this matter say that Iran is involved, in fact giving the orders. Can you respond to those two points?
MR. BURNS: Investigative reporters are one thing. Reports by security agencies of Saudi Arabia and the United States are quite another, and we're going to await the final, official reports of the competent security authorities here. We cannot base U.S. policy on press reports, with all due respect for those of you who write them. We have to base them on the facts that governments produce.
Q How close does the U.S. get to the evidence in this probe?
MR. BURNS: We have a commitment from the highest levels of the Saudi Government - in fact, from King Fahd - that there will be absolute and full cooperation by the Saudi authorities with the United States. That commitment was given to President Clinton and Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry. That is the standard that must be met, and we hope it will be met, certainly.
Q Does that mean what you hear? When you hear what you hear, it's already been filtered through the Saudis? You don't get a direct - the U.S. doesn't get a direct look at the evidence; they get a Saudi interpretation?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question, but Director Freeh has taken the lead in coordinating with the Saudis on this, so perhaps that's a question that the FBI can answer better than I can answer.
Q Well, this is a diplomatic question, too. I mean, I'm sure the FBI does the best it can with the situation presented to it, but it would be the State Department that might know to what extent the Saudis are indeed letting the U.S. have a front-row look or are insisting that this material is something for them to evaluate first and then to give their judgments to the U.S. Government. You don't know which is the case, do you?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the type of reports that are being made available to us - whether they're raw reports, whether they are analyses of reports or summaries. I just don't know. That's a question that perhaps you can direct to the FBI. But I would like to leave you, Barry, with a statement I made previous to that, which is we expect the highest quality of cooperation, of course, from Saudi Arabia on this incident, because the victims - 19 of the people were Americans and 250 people were injured. That's a lot of people and most of them were Americans.
Q On another subject. Do you see -
MR. BURNS: Chris would like to stay on the same subject, Jim.
Q If you would give us some indication what the State Department's analysis is of Iranian links to Saudi opposition groups in general?
MR. BURNS: I'd have to look at our human rights reports, and I'd have to look at our terrorism report to give you a definitive answer, and perhaps I can take that particular question, Chris. But, in general, Iran has widespread links with terrorist groups, revolutionary groups, terrorist groups in the Middle East. Those links, I think, are obvious to all, and the evidence is quite clear Hizbollah and Hamas are two of them, of course. That's one of the reasons why the United States believes that our European partners should join us in isolating Iran, which is a great, great threat to security in Europe as well as in North America.
Q There may be any new evidence emerging in the next few months which might persuade European countries of that fact?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see. We endeavor everyday to try to uncover evidence as to who is sponsoring terrorist acts and terrorist organizations around the world, and right now I would say Iran is at the top of the list. Iran is at the top of the list of those countries that support terrorism.
I want to give Jim an opportunity to go back to his question.
Q The Serbian demonstrations are now, I think, in their 23rd day.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q Do you see any change in the situation? Do you see any erosion of Milosevic as a Serbian leader, and do you see any possibility of this dialogue that you have been trying to encourage?
MR. BURNS: Well, I don't think -- we see no evidence of any kind of dialogue between the Serbian Government and the demonstrators, and that's a great pity. What we've seen over the past couple of days is blatant efforts by the Serbian Government to intimidate the opposition. The brutal treatment of some of the young demonstrators who have landed in Serbian jails, and there's every reason to believe these reports, is objectionable and is contrary to any standard of decency that a country should uphold, particularly a country in the middle of Europe.
Secondly, I can tell you that our Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade, Dick Miles, has met with Mr. Milosevic just in the last couple of days, and Mr. Milosevic frankly does not appear to have any kind of deep understanding about what's happening on the streets of his country, meaning he doesn't appear to get it that hundreds of thousands of his own citizens are taking to the streets everyday, sometimes in the worst possible weather, to demonstrate against him. He doesn't appear to understand that the hole that he is digging for himself gets deeper and deeper everyday. He's isolating himself from the United States and from the rest of the West.
The NATO Ministers did agree unanimously on Tuesday to condemn and deplore the actions of the Serbian Government. Today, our Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff has just finished a meeting in the last 45 minutes with a member of the Together Coalition, Mr. Miodrag Perisic. One of the intentions of this meeting was to keep in touch with the opposition, to symbolically strike the note that we want to stand by the opposition in its basic demand that people's voices be listened to and people's votes be counted. So we continue to be extremely disappointed in the actions of the Serbian Government.
Q The meeting with Tarnoff was here?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it was, just upstairs, just in the last hour.
Q Nick, can we separate the election issue, which I think is what NATO focused on. It's always the first thing the U.S. lists. Generally there are three things you speak of, complaining. Let's talk about the opposition a little more than we have heard so far. Okay? The U.S. may indeed - if they are, please say so -- based to the basic principle that leaders should talk to opposition forces, period.
If that's your point, fine. According to some accounts, a lot of this opposition opposes Milosevic for not being nationalist enough, for not being tough enough, for having capitulated, as they see it, to the U.S. on the Dayton peace accords, for having backed off from his goal of uniting Serbs throughout the Balkans.
Do you have any problem identifying - the U.S. Government - with "the opposition," or is it a varied opposition, or is it the principle you're upholding? Could you get into this opposition group particularly, in fact this fellow that Tarnoff has talked to?
MR. BURNS: We have not become here the political backers or supporters of a particular political party in Serbia. We are trying to uphold, along with all of our allies in Europe, democratic principles that we think that a modern European state should adhere to. So we have objected to the fact that elections were stolen; that people's votes were not counted properly; that there were fundamental abridgements to the democratic process; that in the streets just today the Serbian police prevented the demonstrators from moving down a street. So they actually interfered with a demonstration today.
In general, we believe that freedom of speech, freedom of the media, freedom of assembly, ought to be respected. These are fundamental tenets of a democracy.
Second, we've called upon both the government and the opposition to talk to each other, to initiate a dialogue, so that they can figure out a solution to the political paralysis and the state of crisis in Serbia today. We have not tried to micromanage that process and to define what the outcome should be, and we have certainly not said that we are championing the opposition versus the government. We've called for decency. We've called for civil liberties to be respected and for democratic principles to be demonstrated. That's what we've done, and I think that's pretty clear, and that's what we'll continue to do.
The meeting today that Under Secretary Tarnoff had was an extension of our efforts to keep in touch with the opposition so that we know what they're thinking and saying and we have a better view of their purposes. Some of the members of the opposition have held various political views in the past. We don't agree with all of them, but we certainly agree with the rights of those people - whoever they are and whatever they believe - to stand in the street and say this is what I think, and the Serbian Government has not respected that right in any way, shape or form.
Q Following the ambush on the Israeli settlement, Prime Minister Netanyahu brought forward two conclusions. One was that Arafat isn't going to be tested insofar as his ability to apprehend those who committed this, and the other one was that the settlement project will actually go on. How do you see the incidents - the conclusions that I just mentioned and what will be the effect on the Hebron agreement, if any - to your assessment.
MR. BURNS: The United States strongly condemns the brutal act of terror near Beit El, and we offer our condolences to the families of the victims. This is yet another example of the enemies of peace trying to destroy the hope for a future of peaceful co-existence between the Palestinian population and the Israeli population.
We have welcomed today - and we do welcome today - the cooperation in trying to find these killers - the cooperation between the Israeli police and the Palestinian Authority police. We encourage both of them to work closely together to bring these criminals to justice.
I would note that the Palestinian Authority has detained, I think, as many as seven people on suspicion of the murder, and the Palestinian Authority has indicated its opposition to the fact that this murder took place. It has also indicated its intention to cooperate with the Israeli police in getting to the bottom of this.
Q (Inaudible) affect the Hebron agreement in any way?
MR. BURNS: The Hebron agreement should be concluded. The negotiations on the redeployment of the IDF from Hebron should continue, and they should be consummated, and the United States remains centrally involved in that, both on the ground and from Washington, D.C.
Q New subject. In the past when the Palestinian boy was killed, apparently by an Israeli settler, the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Mr. Abington, visited the family to pay - to express condolences to the family. Do you expect the American Consul in Jerusalem to visit the family in Beit El who lost its two members of the family?
MR. BURNS: I think it was quite appropriate for Consul General Ed Abington to visit the Palestinian family. That was, I guess, a month or two ago. That was a tragic incident. Today, the United States is saying with a very clear voice that we condemn this act of terror, and we call it an act of terror, and we certainly offer our condolences to the Israeli family who lost a mother and children and the others wounded. We will, obviously, continue to try to do the right thing in offering those condolences to the Israeli society in general. I don't know what Mr. Abington or Ambassador Indyk will do, but I know many times in the past, American Ambassadors and American diplomats have gone to express their condolences directly into Israeli homes and at funerals.
I just don't know what happened today, so I'm a little bit limited in telling you what the intentions of our diplomats are. But we clearly offer our condolences to those poor people whose lives were taken by a terrorist.
Q Have you seen the report that the PFLP has claimed credit for this?
MR. BURNS: We've seen a report from Damascus - I believe a wire report - of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, so- called, has claimed credit. This is a despicable terrorist organization - has been for many, many years; obviously continues to be, if they are nihilistic enough and brutal enough to claim credit for a murder like this.
Q Some would observe that the peace process itself is in a dangerous drift. Do you think that this shooting at Beit El might serve to refocus this Administration both policy-wise and personnel-wise in the peace process?
MR. BURNS: With all due respect to your question, I know it's meant to get into an issue that's a legitimate issue. Our Administration does not need any event to refocus us on anything in the Middle East. We are focused and have been for four years on peace in the Middle East. I think one thing we've learned over many decades in the Middle East as an active intermediary is that you cannot allow events like this to reward the terrorist and reward those who want to kill the peace process.
You have to keep focused on peace, and that's what Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk and Ed Abington are doing, among others.
We do not need any reminding of that. The United States has always stood for peace. We've always acted on behalf of peace, and frankly we've done quite a lot to bring about peace. The peace process will go forward. How well it goes forward will be a function of the commitment that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority bring to it together. They've got to work together, and Hebron, obviously, is a good place to start - completing the Hebron negotiations.
Q To follow up, Nick, as you mentioned the announcement came from Damascus. Is that into your mind that this places responsibility on Damascus in a way of harboring those headquarters or giving safe harbor to those headquarters who are actually sending the people who commit those acts of terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I have no information that would connect the Syrian Government to the tragedy today, but I can say this: We have been very clear in our annual terrorism report ,and Syria is prominently listed in that report, about our fundamental objection to the fact that the Syrian Government does allow terrorist organizations to have offices and to have refuge in Syria itself.
Still on the Middle East? Savas.
Q Next week is the Iranian President Rafsanjani is planning to visit Turkey, and it's an official visit. We heard that the Turkish and Iranian Government, they are preparing some kind of draft military cooperation agreement between Iran and Turkey. As a NATO ally, do you have any concern about this kind of agreement which Turkey will sign with Iran?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say we've seen some press reports on the issue that you mention, but I don't believe we've had any discussions with the Turkish Government on any proposal for the Turks to have military cooperation with the Iranians. Should that be true, we would be greatly concerned. Turkey is a NATO government, and we believe the Turkish Government ought to understand a fundamental fact -- the Iranian Government is a government that sponsors terrorism, trying to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. All of us need to isolate Iran, not to bring it back into the community of nations but to isolate it, and certainly any kind of military cooperation would not make sense. If we have a chance to corroborate this report, that's certainly a point that we'll make directly to the Turkish Government in Ankara.
Q Maybe just to follow up, the detail I heard was it was a defense industry cooperation. Would that make a difference in your assessment?
MR. BURNS: That does not sound like a good idea to us. Why would any NATO country want to help Iran enhance its defense production capabilities? Iran is an aggressive, terrorist state. It doesn't make sense, and we would be opposed to it.
Q North Korea. Lost a little track of -- little bit lost in some of -- the situation is with the meetings. That meeting was held already this week? Is there another one?
MR. BURNS: Yes, the meeting was held. I'll be very glad to tell you about it. United States and North Korean officials held a working level meeting in New York yesterday. We have these meetings nearly every week. As in the talks on Monday, the North Korean side included Mr. Li Hyong Chol, who's the Director of American Affairs in the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from Pyongyang. The lead of the American delegation was Mr. Mark Minton, who's our senior officer who deals with Korean affairs here at the Department.
The discussions were a continuation of the talks from Monday. They covered the submarine incident, the Four-Party proposal, the Agreed Framework, some other bilateral issues of interest to the United States. I would characterize the talks as serious and useful, but I'm not in a position to go into the details of these talks.
Q Well, could you - there were several things the U.S. wanted once, has long wanted from North Korea. We can go through them - I mean, I could list them, if you like, but we all know what they are. Did they come through in any way on any of these issues, particularly the gesture you want - I suppose an apology to South Korea over the submarine.
MR. BURNS: I am not in a position to say exactly what the North Koreans committed to or did not commit to, but let's just briefly review what we want in the relationship. We want the Agreed Framework to continue and want North Korea to adhere to it, and there's every indication that that is happening.
First: We want the Four-Party proposal to be accepted so that there can be a set of negotiations on a future peace treaty for the Korean peninsula. We would like some gesture offered by the North Korean Government to the South Korean Government for the inexcusable submarine incursion a couple of months back. Those are just some of the leading issues that we talk about with the North Koreans. But I can't characterize the discussions themselves, but those are our positions that are well-known to you.
Q (Inaudible) any of those are on liaison offices (inaudible)?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any discernible progress on the liaison offices, no.
Q Is the U.S. now satisfied with North Korea's position regarding making some kind of gesture to the South over the submarine incident?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've seen any indication of one. So perhaps, we're not at the end of that issue, no. We need to continue to focus on that issue in the relationship.
Q North Korea. The CIA Director, John Deutch, testified yesterday at the Senate Intelligence Committee that North Korea (inaudible) break off the war against South Korea or be collapsed by international inclusion, or enter the road to the reunification of Korea. Do you agree with this prediction? If not, what's your prediction on North Korean reunification?
MR. BURNS: I think obviously Director Deutch reflects the views of the intelligence community and the United States Government, and we take no issue whatsoever with what he said yesterday on the situation in North Korea. He's a senior level official, a member of the Cabinet, and he speaks for the U.S. Government on this issue. Of course, he does.
Q An Alabama businessman was kidnapped Tuesday in northern Colombia, and I wonder what the latest information you have on him is - if there's been a ransom request, any identification of who the gunman might have been who reportedly took him, and what the Department is doing?
MR. BURNS: The American Embassy in Bogota learned on December 10 of the kidnapping of a United States citizen working in Colombia.
The United States condemns the use of kidnapping in this case and all other cases. It's a cowardly crime. The Embassy is continuing its efforts to learn more about this incident. We are working with the Colombian authorities, and we are dedicated to making sure that we do everything possible with the Colombians to free this individual from his captivity.
In the absence of a Privacy Act Waiver from the family, I am not at liberty, under the law, to divulge the name of the person who has been kidnapped, but we know who he is. We have great sympathy for him. We'll do everything we can to try to end this. But the Colombian authorities, obviously, have first and primary responsibility here. It's their country, and they've got to help us find these kidnappers and free this individual.
Q Has there been a ransom demand, do you know?
MR. BURNS: I do not know if there has been a ransom demand. I do not know, but I can check on that for you. Perhaps we'll have an answer on that tomorrow.
Q Without getting into the individual's name, can you say what group? Has a group claimed responsibility for it?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if anyone has claimed responsibility. I don't believe our Embassy had seen any kind of public statement or received any private communication from the kidnappers.
Q Did this individual - what was this individual doing in Colombia? Was he working there?
MR. BURNS: Again, there is not a Privacy Act Waiver that's been offered by the family. So under the law, I cannot discuss the individual or his or her background.
Q For the record, Nick, on Tuesday, Defense Minister Chi, at the Defense University, received a question on Tiananmen. He gave as an answer what's the party line, the PLA line, on the Tiananmen Square massacre. He said that no Chinese had been killed in the square; that some PLA personnel had been killed by demonstrators.
Basically, I would like to know, Nick, does this differ with the U.S. Government perception of what happened in Tiananmen Square?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it does.
Q How so?
MR. BURNS: It's very clear, based on all the sources available to us and all the voluminous reporting - press reporting and other reporting from our Embassy - that many people died in Tiananmen in 1989.
The Bush Administration denounced the events in Tiananmen. History cannot be rewritten. People died. Obviously, part of the problem that we have in our human rights dialogue with the Chinese is this pattern, not only of discrimination against people's denial of civil liberties but, in many cases, the brutal treatment of people who are simply trying to stand up for democracy and civil liberties. That absolutely happened at Tiananmen and people did die there. Among them were many of the people - young students - who were protesting for their human rights.
Q Is Mr. Chi mistaken, sir, or is he liar?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I think I've spoken pretty clearly today about the views of the United States. We normally don't get into name-calling from the podium. But I think we've made very clear our sense of what happened and our sense that it is simply not true that no one died at Tiananmen; it's just not true.
Chris. Still on this issue? Sid.
Q Don't you find it somewhat odd that one of the architects of what happened in Tiananmen would go to such great lengths to try to explain away, when he was a guest here in the United States, at the War College, knowing full well what U.S. sensitivities - international sensitivities - are?
MR. BURNS: We did not agree with his remarks. We would not have advised him to make those remarks, and they were unfortunate. They were not only ill-timed, they were inaccurate.
Q Nick, the U.S. European Summit is coming up on Monday. The last time Jacque Santer was in Washington, he, I guess, ruffled a few feathers by his remarks at the podium in the White House about U.S. laws towards Cuba, Iran, and Libya. Do you expect that issue to overshadow this summit as well?
MR. BURNS: I don't. In fact, tomorrow, I have a statement to make on that summit. We can go through some of the issues that I think will be taken up.
I think there's been some progress made on the issue of Cuba, just in the last couple of weeks; and that is, the European Union has stood up and said publicly, in a public statement, that democracy, or the lack thereof in Cuba, is an issue for Europe; that human rights -the consistent pattern of the gross violation of human rights of the Cuban citizens is of concern to Europe. That's progress, because we didn't see those statements out of Europe the last time we had these summits. So we're pleased about that.
Perhaps we can focus the discussions where they should be, on the antiquated nature of Castro's regime and keep the focus and spotlight there.
Q One more - a general question on the same subject. Is the State Department finding it easy to deal with the European Union, as a whole, on foreign policy? Are you expecting to do that more and more over the next few years rather than with individual countries?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we do have a discussion of some foreign policy issues with the European Union. But by and large, most of our work with Europe is done bilaterally on pure foreign policy issues. Some of the trade issues, of course, are centered in the U.S.-EU relationship.
For instance, on an issue like human rights in Cuba, we deal with governments individually as well.
Q The European Union countries are trying to formulate, or at least there are moves toward a common foreign security policy. Is that something the United States welcomes?
MR. BURNS: We certainly welcome any effort to unify Europe and to increase the effectiveness of the European Union. We deal with it, and we will continue to have a political dialogue as well as a trade and economic dialogue.
I just wanted to point out, particularly in the political realm, we will continue to have very vigorous discussions of political issues with individual member governments. I don't expect that to change at all.
Q Nick, is the U.S. Government getting any complaints, officially or unofficially, about the ethnicity - real or imagined - of some of the appointments for the next Administration?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any complaints, Barry. The "ethnicity" of the appointments?
Q Yeah, there's been stories to the effect that at least one Los Angeles Times story that some of the Arab governments, or at least the Arab media, thinks that too many Zionists - I suppose is the way they would refer to them - have been appointed. They're not always right about the ethnicity of the appointments, but still -
MR. BURNS: No, they're not.
Q -- this seems to be a theme there, and I wonder if it had reached an official level?
MR. BURNS: I did see that extraordinary story which tried to summarize some of the press commentary. I don't believe these are governmental commentary.
Q (Inaudible) some of these countries are really -
MR. BURNS: That's true. Sometimes the press reflects the views of some of these governments which are authoritarian governments. It's hard to know how to react to an article like that because if it's true, that some of these newspapers and magazines in that part of the world has such a twisted, distorted view of life in the United States, it's alternately laughable and tragic.
As Glyn Davies said the other day, some of these newspapers and journalists just ought to get with the 20th Century before we get into the 21st Century. Women ought to play a major role in leading societies all over the world. Now, we will have the Senate, willing, the first female Secretary of State. That's a great thing for the United States. It's a great example for the rest of the world.
We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society. We're the best representative of that anywhere in the world. It is absolutely the right thing for the United States Government to have as part of its personnel structure representatives from all groups, ethnic and religious groups in the United States. No country and no journalist should take exception to that.
We absolutely reject these laughable and outrageous articles that have appeared in the Arab press and some other countries around the world as well.
Q You don't know if any of them are government-inspired articles?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know. I hope not. I'd certainly hope not. Those governments would be sadly mistaken if they want to get off on the best foot with us over the next four years.
Q Nick, can we go back to the Khobar Towers investigation for just a minute? If the United States finds evidence that there was some state involvement in the bombing, will we retaliate? And do we have contingency plans to do that?
MR. BURNS: The United States wants to bring those people responsible to justice. That's the first order of business.
Secondly, the United States obviously always retains the right to defend itself or to take whatever action is necessary to defend its national interests. But I cannot speak specifically, in answer to your question, because there are no final results, conclusive, of this investigation. We have to wait. So your question, with all due respect, is slightly hypothetical.
Q Has the State Department commented on a letter to President Clinton from 16 lawmakers, "We are concerned that continued efforts to punish Mr. Nuccio on this matter - will have a chilling effect on the willingness of Executive Branch employees to exercise the statutory obligation to inform the Congress of illegal or improper conduct."
Mike McCurry's response was, "This matter is being dealt with in accordance with the National Security Act."
My question is, national security for whom? You're probably familiar with a New York Times editorial which states Mr. Torricelli had disclosed documents to 20 cases of Americans killed or subjected to human rights abuses in Guatemala. Americans deserve a truthful accounting of the events of the past 40 years; Americans also deserve a diplomatic service that looks after their interests and refuses to tolerate the complicity of foreign governments and the mistreatment of American citizens.
The question is, if someone in the State Department, as a matter of conscience, is forced to break rules and then is punished for it, you have a delicate issue of who is an accessory and who is, in fact - are the rules legitimate in this?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on that issue - and I understand why you would ask the question - is that Rick Nuccio continues to work in the State Department. He works in our Latin American Affairs Bureau. He is Special Advisor to our Assistant Secretary of State. He's held in very high regard by a number of people in this building, including myself. We hope that he'll continue to work here.
The State Department did agree to the review of the question that was prompted about a possible violation of the handling of classified information. That review is conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency. The judgment was that Mr. Nuccio's access to the almost highly classified information in our government would be denied for a year. I think the clock started the day that decision was made, about a week ago.
Those are the facts. But I think I've given you, at least, my sense of that question.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
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