Return to: Index of 1994 Daily Briefings || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

.
U.S. Department of State
96/12/17 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman

                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                        DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX

                        Tuesday, December 17, 1996

                         Briefer:  Nicholas Burns

DEPARTMENT
1  Welcome to Catherine Quinones
3  Dedication of the Main Exhibit 
3  UN Declaration Against Corruption and Bribery
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
2-10,   Update on Hebron Talks; Subsidies for Settlements; U.S. Policy
         Towards the 
13-14  Legality of Settlements; U.S. Views on the Status of Jerualem; 
        Deductions of Loan Guarantees; Other Hebron Issues
NORTH KOREA
10-12  Four Party Talks and Aid to North Korea
12-13  Update on the Submarine Issue
TURKEY
14  Greek Prime Minister's Views on Turkey and the EU
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
14  Minister Dini's Meeting with Secretary Christopher
15  OSCE Delegation to Belgrade to Monitor Municipal Elections
RUSSIA
15-16  Six ICRC Workers Murdered
CHINA
16-17  Li Hyong Chol Meeting with Secretary Christopher

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #203

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1996, 1:01 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Good morning. Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to introduce to you Catherine Quinones, who's an intern from Stanford University. She is a history major, and she is a movie reviewer for the Stanford Daily. So we've given her her first assignment. She has to go see "The English Patient" this weekend and come to the briefing on Monday and - see, it's a wonderful movie.

Q It's depressing.

MR. BURNS: It's a very good movie, Barry. (Laughter) I think it's the best movie in the last 20 years.

Q Does she personally know George Shultz?

MR. BURNS: George Shultz. Well, you can ask her. Do you know George Shultz?

Q No, I don't.

Q He's a nice man.

MR. BURNS: But what was George Shultz's view on settlements-that's the question. Thank you, Catherine. Nice to have you with us.

Q There's a piece in The New York Times today, the C Section, on the real Count Almasy by the way.

MR. BURNS: Oh, yes, I've seen that.

Q He was not a nice guy.

Q He's not a nice guy at all.

MR. BURNS: It's still a good movie.

Q The real Count Almasy.

Q He was a real English -

MR. BURNS: It's still a good movie. I have to hurry up through this briefing, because I understand Roger Clemens has a press conference that he's going to have in Houston.

Q Mo Vaughn.

MR. BURNS: Mo Vaughn said that Roger Clemens does not speak for him. Mo Vaughn is loyal to the Boston Red Sox. Not like that traitor, the Benedict Arnold of our times, Roger Clemens.

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: Barry, we can talk further about that if you'd like. Roger Clemens does not speak French, so I don't think he speaks any known language actually.

Q Greenwell signed with Japan.

MR. BURNS: It's okay if Greenwell signed with Japan. He's a bum, too.

Q (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: They're a bunch of bums, Barry. We don't need them. We'll win the pennant without them.

Q Do you know how much money Clemens is making?

MR. BURNS: The Red Sox paid Roger Clemens over the last ten years enough money so he can retire and buy an island in the Caribbean, if he wants to. He doesn't need the measly $4-$5 million that the Blue Jays -

Q The Secretary this morning made the statement -

MR. BURNS: The Secretary has given me wide berth here on baseball matters, and he understands that from time to time - you know, when you're pressuring me for comments, that I've got to put the State Department on record, which is what I did yesterday. The Secretary has always backed me up on baseball matters. I never criticize the Los Angeles Dodgers. As long as I keep away from the Dodgers, I'm okay.

Q But it's okay to say the Israelis -

MR. BURNS: The Israelis did not sign Roger Clemens, so we don't have to talk about this. But if the Yankees had signed, it would have been a greater crisis for us all. All right, we've gotten that off our chest.

Let me just recommend to you an event at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon. It's open press. The State Department has never had an exhibit on American diplomatic history in our 200-year long history. Well, we are building one right now, and, if you go down to the Exhibit Hall after the briefing, you'll see that most of it's put together. Secretary Christopher is going to come down. We have several hundred invited guests. In fact, a lot of former ambassadors, a lot of former assistant secretaries and under secretaries of state are coming back for this event. He's going to inaugurate it, cut the ribbon. He's going to make some remarks about the value of diplomacy, about diplomatic readiness, about what the Congress should do to give the State Department greater resources to do its job in the future - remarks that are familiar to you from his West Point speech but an issue that he feels quite strongly about.

So we really want to invite all of you to come. It's going to be a very nice event, and you'll get to see 17 panels on our diplomatic history from Thomas Jefferson to Warren Christopher; also some cases that take on special issues like the Dayton peace accords, the modern Foreign and Civil Service; the role of Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs. It's actually quite interesting, and we uncovered a lot of interesting historical artifacts all around this building in putting this together. So I really encourage you to come down.

I just have one more thing, and that is that we're issuing a statement today. You'll find it in the Press Room after the briefing. The United States applauds the adoption yesterday by the United Nations General Assembly of the U.N. Declaration against corruption and bribery in international commercial transactions. We believe this is a significant step in the global effort against commercial bribery and a clear call for action by national governments to eradicate this practice.

As you know, President Clinton began to speak out about this issue in 1993, and this Administration has made this a major issue in multilateral gatherings, and we're very pleased that the United Nations General Assembly has decided to take this action. It's a rather long statement, and I've just given you the first part of it, but I commend it to you.

Barry.

Q We'll make a deal with you. We'll go to the exhibit if you'll tell us - this is called bribery - if you'll tell us why suddenly out of the blue after almost daily telling us without any specifics that the negotiators on Hebron were making progress did the Secretary and you decide today to register your - I think you said you were very disappointed. Can you be a little more specific what caused this? Is it the passage of time or -

MR. BURNS: Just the brilliance of the questions that were put against us.

Q How's it going in Hebron, you mean? (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: I couldn't find a way to get around the question. I think Judd - maybe it was Sid that asked me. Actually, as we look back on it, we believed the elements of a Hebron deal were quite apparent in late September or early October and should have been put together. We've been working with the Israelis and Palestinians on this, and we'll continue to work with them.

It is not unreasonable for the United States and other countries to be disappointed that this agreement, which is fairly straightforward, should not have been put together by now. We are asking the Israelis and Palestinians to put their shoulders to the wheel to get the deal done. This is a time of great tension in the Middle East. You don't want to wait forever to negotiate a deal when that deal is in front of you.

By the way, I should say, Barry, that these comments are directed not at a particular negotiator. They're directed at both. They bear equal responsibility for these negotiations.

Q Will the - well, first of all, we're aware of some sticking points. Would you care to identify them, or would you like us to ask you questions about whether they're resolved or not?

MR. BURNS: It's not my practice to identify the particular sticking points in the negotiations.

Q All right. Then how about this proposition? The United States has weighed in now with an opinion - you might even call it pressure - on the settlements issue. Is the U.S. prepared to weigh in on one side or another, specifically on one side or another, to get the Hebron deal completed?

MR. BURNS: We are willing to use our influence with both of them to get the Hebron deal completed. We have on the ground two American diplomats who are involved in the negotiations - Ambassador Martin Indyk and Consul General Ed Abington. We have here Secretary Christopher and Dennis Ross - all four very much involved, and we'll stay involved. But it's not a question of the United States putting pressure on Israel or putting pressure on the Palestinians. We're really encouraging both of them to make progress, understanding that in the final stages of a negotiation, you do get down to these tough issues, and you need to encourage both to compromise in order to get the final result.

Q No, but if the issue is, for instance, how heavily armed police should be, or is there a right of hot pursuit by the Israeli troops, possibly phrased with different words to make it less offensive, I guess, to the Palestinians - has the State Department until now or will the State Department say, "We think that's a good idea, we think that's a bad idea"?

MR. BURNS: Without commenting specifically on those issues, Barry, yes, we have views. We have views. We make our views known privately, and we offer suggestions. We offer ways to get around a problem in the negotiations or to slice through a problem, to resolve a problem. We're an active intermediary. We're not passive.

Q Nick, yesterday at his news conference, the President was asked if the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are an obstacle to peace. He answered, "Absolutely." Does that mean, then, that this phrase, "obstacle to peace," now becomes what was called the other day "the mantra" by the State Department on settlements?

MR. BURNS: The President obviously spoke very clearly on this issue yesterday, and I can't improve upon the President's remarks except to say that I think he answered two questions, I believe, on this issue. In the first question, he went into some detail about the real nature of the problem of announcing new subsidies for existing settlements, and the nature, as the President said, is the following: that when two countries are in a negotiation and when they've already decided that a certain highly emotional and highly problematic issue will be decided in the next stage of the negotiations -- i.e., the final status talks - that it doesn't make sense and is not helpful for one party to the negotiations to take pre-emptive steps on that issue.

That's what the State Department said Friday. That's what we said yesterday, and that's what the President said yesterday. So we've been very clear and consistent about this since the announcement by the Israeli cabinet on Friday of this new decision to subsidize the existing settlements, and the President's remarks obviously speak for themselves.

Q My question, however, went specifically to that phrase. Is that now embedded in U.S. policy that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are "an obstacle to peace"?

MR. BURNS: I think, Jim, I'd prefer to say that our policy is clear to the Israelis as well as clear to the Palestinians on this issue. The words, I know, sometimes take on larger meanings. I know there are comparative analyses of what did the Carter Administration say versus Baker versus Clinton and Christopher. I think our President made himself very clear. He chose the words he wanted to use, and he answered the questions the way he wanted to answer them.

Q One other question about the statement of U.S. policy, which, as you say, sometimes has great weight. Are the Jewish settlements illegal under international law?

MR. BURNS: I think one thing that has changed -- I saw The Washington Post this morning do this comparison. The Carter Administration says one thing; the Reagan Administration says this. Bush, Clinton. What has changed and what does distinguish this Administration's public comments versus all of our predecessors is the following: there is an Israeli/Palestinian understanding of 1993 and 1995, and the second understanding talks about this issue being discussed in the final status talks.

That has led us to the conclusion that we're going to reserve most of our comments on this particular issue, as well as the status of Jerusalem and the other really difficult issues to our private conversations with the Israelis and Palestinians. We don't attach as much meaning, perhaps as you do, to branding it illegal or complicating or unhelpful or an obstacle to peace.

That's why we prefer not to say very much, because we think that our role as intermediary is going to be enhanced if we restrain ourselves publicly and if we leave our clear advice and our frank views to private discussion. So it's a very polite way and perhaps not a very satisfactory way in your view of not wanting to answer the question.

Q But there is a difference between unhelpful and an obstacle, isn't there?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q There is a difference between saying settlements are not helpful and they are an obstacle.

MR. BURNS: You heard President Clinton yesterday. He answered the questions that were posed to him in a very clear way, and I think the message was sent and the message was felt, and it's hard for someone as lowly as myself to improve upon the President of the United States.

Q We just need to know that when you say our views are well known, what they are?

MR. BURNS: Our views are well known. Look at what the President of the United States is saying and go from there.

Q Nick, the judgments by the Carter Administration that settlements were illegal was based on their reading of international law. That law isn't changed one way or another by interim agreements to take up certain issues at a future time. So if you don't want to say whether the Administration has fallen all the way back to the hardest line of any Administration, which was the Carter Administration, that's your prerogative. But it isn't the change in circumstance that determines the legality of the settlements. They're either legal, because occupying forces are entitled to move in civilians, or they are illegal because they change the configuration illegally under international law.

So you want to beg Jim's question, that's your prerogative, but the international law has not changed.

MR. BURNS: Good point, Barry, but let me just say this. My inclination in answering the question goes along the following lines: what has changed are the circumstances. And what has been very clear since the late 70s is that this is one of the major issues of dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians - and all sorts of charges have been traded about this issue. What changed was they decided to stop arguing in public and to start negotiating in private in the final status talks. Because that's where they are, they have decided they're going to sort this out privately. We think it's best for us not to have a high profile public statement on this every day, because we want to be helpful to them, and we want to improve our ability to be effective. That's why I'm choosing to respond the way I am.

Q Nick, David Bar Illan - I believe he's one of the Prime Minister's spokesmen and advisers - just before the briefing began - dismissed all this mincing of words on what settlements are or are not, as described by the United States. He called it "semantic posturing." Is it just semantic posturing, or is there something - is there a deeper move in this Administration to pressure Israel towards concessions to the Palestinians?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's a polite way to refer to the words of the President of the United States who, after all, is a very, very clear supporter of the State of Israel and has followed, since he came into office, a policy of support for Israel's defense needs, support for the security of Israel, real friendship for Israel in a thousand different ways. So when the President of the United States speaks, we very respectfully would hope that other friendly governments would listen with respect.

Should we have disagreements, which is normal in any relationship - we have disagreements with the French. We sometimes have disagreements with Israel. When we have them, let's reserve those disagreements for private conversations and let's continue to have a respectful public dialogue.

Q Leaving aside for a moment the propriety of such a comment, history would show that when Israel is backed into a corner, as they appear to be now, that bad things happen. Are you not concerned about that in your escalation of words towards what they're doing?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe that Israel is backed in a corner. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. Israel's security is assured, and the United States has a profound attachment to the security of the Israeli people, and that is clear.

Israel and the Palestinians together face this historic challenge - to build a peace between the Palestinians and Israeli peoples. They've made tremendous progress. Our view is, they should continue on that road. They should not deviate from it; they should not fall off the commitments of 1993 and 1995. That is a message for both of them, not for one of them, but for both of them, in general.

Q Is there any diminution of the United States security commitment to Israel?

MR. BURNS: No. None whatsoever. Our policy towards Israel is clear and hasn't changed.

Q Nick, does the U.S. Government believe that it can be possible? And how so can it be possible with Israeli settlement announcements, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Palestinians, Mr. Arafat, allowing Hamas to demonstrate and rail against Israel as they have in the past? How can there be trust? How can there be goodwill for an agreement in Hebron?

MR. BURNS: Bill, they've already made tremendous progress over the last four years. Surely, they can go the rest of the way on Hebron. Yes, we believe a deal is possible; very possible.

The Prime Minister of Israel said this morning, he thinks a deal is just a few days away. Let's hope so. We don't know how far away it is. We think it's rather disappointing that they haven't got a deal yet. So we encourage them to make progress quickly.

Q Can you comment on Yasser Arafat allowing Hamas to have a demonstration on the West Bank?

MR. BURNS: I don't know if that was, in fact, the case. All I know is this: we believe it's important for both Israel and the Palestinians to do and say things that move the situation forward towards peace and not away from it; away from confrontation and towards compromise and cooperation.

Q Nick, the President and the Secretary of State are both lawyers. Can you find, or can someone help you find, anything in the Interim Agreement that prohibits Israel from granting tax benefits to people who live on the West Bank?

MR. BURNS: You know, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not inclined to perhaps look for that myself. All I can say is that the President and Secretary of State have enunciated U.S. policy and U.S. reaction to these events as have I. Our position is quite clear.

It gets to the psychology of the negotiating process. It gets to the sense of trust and commitment in the negotiating process. That's what is important here. Both sides are responsible for that. Not just Israel but the Palestinians as well.

Q All right, if you have no legal backing and it's more spiritual, in a sense of trust, would you apply the same -

MR. BURNS: Barry, let me be clear about what I'm saying?

Q Doesn't that fairly summarize what you're saying?

MR. BURNS: A little bit. Let me just be clear about what I'm saying. That is certainly part of the problem here. I just said that I wasn't willing to look into the legal part of it. I don't have a text of the Interim Agreement in front of me, and I'm not a lawyer. But I'm quite willing to talk to the heart of the problem which was implicit in all of our remarks over the last couple of days.

Q Dennis Ross pretty much struck that point -- the sense of trust, the sense of commitment, which he thinks, he said yesterday, is demonstrated by taking hard decisions and keeping to them. So you're talking about a sense of trust.

Jerusalem also was -

MR. BURNS: And commitments.

Q And commitments. Jerusalem also was designated as a final status issue. Is it the Administration's position that nothing should be done in Jerusalem? Neighborhoods shouldn't be changed, streets, people moving from one area to another? The tourist tunnel was open. Are all those things in violation of the commitment of the Interim Agreement?

MR. BURNS: I can't comment on all those issues, specifically, Barry. We'd be here all day if I chose to do that. But, in general, I can -

Q But in time, will they settle it?

MR. BURNS: I can respond to you in general. And that is to say that we do have views on a variety of issues - these tough issues - but we're going to reserve them for our private conversations. The United States is not going to make itself publicly part of this debate between the Israelis and Palestinians. We're not going to begin to take sides on every issue.

We have commented on several issues: Settlements issue - right? We've commented on the demonstrations when they occurred in September. But we've chosen not to comment on the full range of issues in front of the negotiators because that diminishes our ability to be effective. I respectfully just don't want to go into analyzing each and every -

Q I'm just giving you some examples that you could play off if you wanted to. Israel's settlement policy, even though it hasn't begun any new settlements and kept that promise, is in conflict with the commitment made to the Palestinians in the Interim Agreement, is what I understand the Administration's position to be. Has Israel done anything in Jerusalem that, similarly, is a break of a commitment, of a pledge, of a trust?

MR. BURNS: I don't have a catalogue of recent Israeli actions in Jerusalem in my head, and so I don't wish to make a comment on that, except to say that when there are problems on any of these issues, we do talk about them. But our best way to do that is privately, not publicly.

Q Well, you went public yesterday. That's why we're asking today.

MR. BURNS: We choose to do so from time to time when we feel it's important.

Q That's why we're asking today.

Q Nick, yesterday - I believe it was Jim who asked whether the new announcement on settlements and tax breaks and so forth would trigger the legislation and calls for reduction in loan guarantees. Is that something you can deal with today?

MR. BURNS: I'd rather try to get you a written response to that, Sid. It's a very involved program. But as you know, deductions are calculated at the end of the fiscal year. I believe it was in the last couple of days in September of this year when we informed you that $60 million-odd dollars --roughly, $60 million; I think it was slightly more than that - was deducted from the amount of loan guarantees for actions over the past year.

But the loan guarantee program, I think, is going to end in Fiscal Year 1997. So therefore it's very difficult for me to say whether there will be new deductions because we've already made deductions in September, and deductions are always made looking ahead 12 months. It's very complicated legal issue.

I've just given you a general sense of it. What I'd like to do is get our lawyers to give you a considered response here because it is so involved, and it does pertain a matter of law.

Q (Inaudible).

Q Just for the record -

MR. BURNS: Pardon?

Q The law (inaudible) -

MR. BURNS: If the loan guarantee program ends, then there's no longer a question of deductions.

Q There's no longer a mechanism to discourage settlements; right?

MR. BURNS: There are a variety of ways to exercise influence and to exercise one's point of view; not just through this particular program. The purpose of this program is not to exercise punishment. The purpose of the program is to help the Israeli Government - mainly in Israel; solely in Israel - construct housing for its population.

Q Just for the record, in the last fiscal year, the amount determined to have been spent on Israeli settlements was $307 million. Of that, all but $60 million was wiped off the books. The same thing happened in the previous fiscal year. I think the figure then was $245 million. All but $60 million was wiped off the books. Does this, in retrospect, do you think, send a message to the Israelis or to the Palestinians about how serious the United States takes this issue?

MR. BURNS: I think they know from the remarks that the President and Secretary of State that we do take this issue very seriously, first.

Second, we apply the law as it is written, and we have a responsibility legally to do that. We are faithful to all aspects of this law, Jim.

Q On North Korea. Could you describe this package that the United States, South Korea, and North Korea, and perhaps China, that you all have been working on this last week or so that apparently have elements involving renewed aid to - more aid to North Korea, convening of the Four Party Talks and an apology from North Korea to South Korea for this submarine infiltration?

MR. BURNS: No, I cannot. All I can do is tell you that we've having meetings with the North Koreans. There was a working level meeting in New York yesterday. There's another meeting today.

Mr. Li Hyong Chol, the senior diplomat from the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is still in New York and he's participating in these meetings.

We're talking to them, as you know, about our agenda. Our agenda involves the submarine incident. As Secretary Christopher told you just a couple of hours ago, we continue to believe that the North Koreans need to offer some type of gesture to the Republic of Korea - South Korea - for this flagrant violation of South Korea's sovereignty. We're talking about the continuation of the Agreed Framework in all of its permutations and about the commitments that need to be made by everybody involved to keep that going. We're talking about the Four Party talks proposal, which we hope will lead to a new peace agreement for the Korean Peninsula. There are a variety of bilateral issues.

We talk about all these issues all the time. I personally am not aware of any package being put together. I know the story you're referring to. It was a very interesting story in U.S. Today, but I'm personally not aware of that kind of package.

Q If the United States and North Korea and South Korea are able to get past this issue of a gesture, if they do actually come forward -

MR. BURNS: It's a very important issue for the Republic of Korea, and we support the Republic of Korea in its request that some type of gesture be made.

Q If it is made, is there a possibility of renewed food - humanitarian assistance for North Korea? Is that something that might flow from that?

MR. BURNS: We've always said on that issue, understanding the very severe situation in North Korea, that we'll take our cue from the United Nations - the World Food Program and the other United Nations agencies that have experience in North Korea. We have responded twice to U.N. appeals for food aid.

I'm not aware of any impending or imminent announcement about additional food aid, but we'll always agree to look at any request. It's a serious request.

Q The pace of these talks with the North Koreans in New York has picked up, obviously - twice this week.

MR. BURNS: We have this gentleman here, Mr. Li Hyong Chol, who is the Director of American Affairs in the North Korean Ministry in Pyongyang. He's a senior official. He is an interlocutor who brings a lot to the table. Our Korean Desk Director, Mark Minton, and he have these discussions, and we find them to be useful discussions.

Q Nick, even though you're not aware of any pending U.N. appeals concerning food aid or food needs in North Korea, the subject of possible U.S. food assistance is being discussed in New York; is that right?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know if it's being discussed specifically. I don't know if it's being discussed specifically. All I know is that we've said since the last tranche of U.S. aid was delivered that we are open at any point in the future to further requests from the U.N. I'm not aware that the World Food Program has gone public with any kind of request. It's an issue, George, but I don't want to lead you to believe it's the first issue on our agenda. I think the others that I mentioned are probably discussed far more frequently.

Q Any chance Mr. Li will come down to Washington and have an announcement -

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there's any idea that he would come to Washington. I think he's in New York and we're very comfortable meeting him in New York. We don't have meetings in Washington, as you know. We don't have a North Korean mission. We don't have a U.S. Mission in Pyongyang. New York is a convenient meeting place.

Q So once you have agreement with North Korea, and North Korea agrees to express some kind of (inaudible) on issues, do you expect North Korea to have an announcement in New York?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I just don't know where the announcements would be. It's up to them, really. If there's any agreement reached by the United States with North Korea, we would, of course, work very closely with the Republic of Korea - our ally - as we always do on these affairs. Where we announce it is simply a function of where we are at the time and, I suppose, where they are.

Q Would there be an announcement given the North Koreans' feeling about publicity?

MR. BURNS: We're pretty open here at the State Department. If you ask questions and we have some kind of agreement in the future on any of these issues, I'm sure I'll be glad to tell you about it. So if they're not going to be open, we'll be open.

Yes, Betsy.

Q Is the U.S. telling them that there needs to be some kind of apology for the sub incident before the U.S. is willing to go forward or that it is part of any kind of a package which may be - I mean, you're saying that it's something that we would like to see them do. Are we telling them that it is something they must do?

MR. BURNS: It's a very important issue. It's one of these issues that really has to be resolved. We've used the word "gesture." The North Koreans need to decide how they can appropriately atone for the egregious violation of South Korea's sovereignty. We hope that they will take such action expeditiously. It's very important. It's a very important issue politically in Seoul but also an important issue for the population in the country.

There's been a major violation, and very dramatic, of a sovereignty of an ally of the United States. So we support South Korea in this request for a gesture. Let's leave it up to the North Koreans to define exactly what that will be. I think they know what the threshold is here. They know what they've got to do, and we're waiting for them to take that step.

Q And we are saying, they must take a step?

MR. BURNS: Oh, they must. It's very clear. They must take this step.

Q How long will it take this meeting to go?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q How long will it take this meeting?

MR. BURNS: How long will the meeting go?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: We'll continue to talk to Mr. Li Hyong Chol as long as it's useful for us to do so. I don't know what his travel plans are. He probably enjoys being in New York more than Pyongyang. It's a good place for him to be.

Q Nick, could I go back just for a moment to the Middle East. This morning the Secretary said -- in talking about the negotiations -- he said ,"Hebron and other interim issues." What are the other issues?

MR. BURNS: There's the redeployment issue - the redeployment of the IDF from Hebron. There are some associated technical issues. Some of them have not been included in the formal discussions on Hebron and are being dealt with off-line. I can't enumerate for you. But I remember, after the President's summit here in late September, there were a variety of other issues.

Yes, Demitri.

Q Nick, I have a question regarding a statement by the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mrs. Ciller. Mrs. Ciller, upon her return from the European Union meeting in Dublin, said that Greece is right to fear from Turkey's military might; and if the hand that Turkey has peacefully extended is rejected and Turkey be left out of Europe, there should be a real reason for Greece to be afraid.

Since the United States is a close friend and ally of both countries - Turkey and Greece - does the U.S. think that these kinds of statements are helpful for reducing the tensions in the region? Also, do you think this kind of attitude by Mrs. Ciller in Turkey, is helpful for Turkey's integration into Europe?

MR. BURNS: There are a couple of different issues here. First, the United States expects that all of our NATO allies, including Greece and Turkey, will work with each other cooperatively, without any kind of threat of the use of force. That's a basic principle among allies. I think all NATO allies would agree with us on that characterization of that issue.

Second, we very much support Turkey's inclusion in European institutions and have made that clear with the European Union as well as with other European countries bilaterally and will continue to do so.

Third, I've not seen Mrs. Ciller's statement, so I don't wish to comment on it publicly without seeing it first. But I think my first answer probably gives you a way to report back to the Greek readers about our general attitude on these issues.

Q In principle, does the U.S. support those kinds of statements between allies?

MR. BURNS: I said in the beginning, we never support and would never countenance any kind of threats among allies, or, in this case, between two allies. I just don't know what else Mrs. Ciller's said. I don't know if she's being quoted accurately. We have to be fair to her. But I think, in general, no, we don't support any kind of threats by one NATO ally against another.

NATO is a collective defense organization to preserve the collective security of all. It is not an organization where members have ever fought each other or should fight each other, and we don't believe that's going to be the case. We believe that Greece and Turkey will be able to resolve their problems.

Q Serbia?

MR. BURNS: Serbia, yes. We have to go to Serbia.

Q About one hour ago I saw Minister Dini, Foreign Minister of Italia, leaving the building. Do you have anything about his meeting with Secretary Christopher, especially?

MR. BURNS: No, that meeting, unfortunately - I was not able to attend it because I had to prepare for this briefing. I think Serbia was going to be a principal issue on the agenda, because Minister Dini just came from Belgrade in his talks with Milosevic and with the opposition. I can perhaps get you a report further in the day, but I know Secretary Christopher expected the discussion on Serbia to be quite supportive, because we think Italy and the United States have pretty much the same view.

What I can tell you is that the United States is very pleased that the former Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, has accepted the appointment to lead the special OSCE delegation. We're very pleased that the OSCE acted so quickly, just in four days, to form the delegation, to attract a very well-respected and high-level European politician to lead the delegation. He has the full support of the United States, and we understand that that delegation will be departing for Belgrade shortly. That's very positive.

We hope that the OSCE delegation can engage in the following. We hope that it can work with the Belgrade Government to make sure that all the votes that were put in ballot boxes on November 17 be counted fairly; that in 15 of the 18 mayoralty races, that there is an opportunity now for the Serbian authorities to agree to go back and recount; and if the results of the elections are as we expect - that the opposition won those elections - those results should stand and the opposition should take office in those municipalities.

So we have a very strong hope that the Serbian Government will respond to the OSCE delegation. As you know, we have some skepticism about President Milosevic's commitment to the OSCE, and in general we have a lot of skepticism about his inclination to deal with this issue fairly. We do put a lot of faith in the OSCE.

Mr. Milosevic met today with some student demonstrators in his office, and apparently he told the demonstrators that anybody who has broken the law - i.e., these election officials who stole the elections - they will be punished. Well, let's see. We would like to see that happen. We would like to see the people who have broken the law be punished for that, but we have some skepticism that that will in fact take place.

So we're watching the situation carefully. As you know, John Kornblum, our Assistant Secretary of State, met in Geneva at his invitation with Vuk Draskovic and other leaders of the Together Coalition on Sunday. That was an excellent two-hour meeting, and we believe the opposition continues to have the right to demonstrate in the streets - they're demonstrating peacefully - to speak out, and we certainly would encourage the Serbian Government to open up a formal dialogue with the opposition.

Q Nick, in spite of President Milosevic's comments indicating it might have been his underlings who miscounted the votes somehow, do you have any doubt that the decision to overturn the elections came right from Milosevic himself?

MR. BURNS: Very little doubt. That's why it's so important for Mr. Milosevic to act in a just and fair way towards his own population, and that's why you've seen such strong statements from the United States on this.

Q Nick, on another subject. I'm sure you've seen the reports of six medical workers being killed in Chechnya. Do you have any insights, or have you talked to anybody in Russia, for example, who might have any insights as to who did this?

MR. BURNS: We do not, but we are very, very disturbed about the reports that six medical workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross were killed in their sleep. They were from Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Spain. They were there doing international humanitarian work. We don't know who committed this act. It's a barbaric act, and we are condemning it in the strongest possible terms.

We call upon the Chechen authorities - this took place 11 kilometers outside of Grozny - the Chechen authorities to do everything they can to track down the murderers. We have great sympathy, obviously, for the ICRC's inclination to suspend its operations in Chechnya. It's quite understandable. You cannot have an international relief organization work in these conditions, where people who are there objectively to help both sides are gunned down in a most cruel and merciless fashion.

We will continue to support the ICRC, and, of course, whatever we can do to help in this matter, we will do.

Q Nick, do you have anything, Mr. Li Huaqui of PRC? He's meeting with Secretary Christopher.

MR. BURNS: Li Huaqui. Yes. He's meeting this afternoon, I believe, at 3:30, 3:45 with Secretary Christopher. We will not have press coverage of that. If you're interested, I can get you a readout of that meeting. If you come to the inauguration of the Diplomatic History Exhibit, then we'll give the readout the press. If you don't come, then you'll miss the big scoop about U.S.-China relations.

Q (Inaudible) linkage?

MR. BURNS: That's just the way it is - yes, linkage. Kissinger did it. We can do it, right?

Q (Inaudible) will participate in the meeting?

MR. BURNS: Secretary of State Christopher and Under Secretary Tarnoff, and I don't know if Ambassador Lord is here. If he's not, I'm sure Jeff Bader, our Director of Chinese Affairs, will be among the people participating for the U.S.

Q The issues?

MR. BURNS: He's here at the invitation of National Security Adviser Tony Lake for a couple of days of discussions, and he's got a very strong position as Minister of State. I think we'll deal with the major issues on our agenda, which are quite, I think, transparent to all of you. Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

(###)

To the top of this page