|Sunday, 22 July 2018|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #130 (96-08-09)
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U.S. Department of State
96/08/09 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Friday, August 9, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 1996, 1:09 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
I also want to welcome Mr. Friso van der Oord who is an intern at The Netherlands Embassy here in Washington, D. C.
I have a couple of statements that I am posting for you after the briefing. One is that the Department of State is releasing today another volume in our history of the Foreign Relations of the United States series. This has to deal with U. S.-China relations in the turbulent period of 1958-1960.
It deals with the crisis in the Taiwan Straits in 1958. It deals with U. S. relations with the Nationalist Government on Taiwan and other issues. That is available after the briefing.
I also want to refer you to the third in our series of press statements on American diplomatic history that I know that Sid and others are particularly interested in.
As you know, we are trying to highlight the role of American diplomats in our national security, and this one deals not with a 200-year old event, as the past two did, but with the Atlantic Conference between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill which took place 55 years ago this week. The press statement that we are going to make available to you details the importance of the Atlantic Conference which led to the Atlantic Charter and the importance of the U. S.-British Alliance during the second World War.
So I really hope that all of you will take some time to look at that today.
I also want to let you know that I just spoke with John Kornblum who is in Belgrade. He has just finished a series of meetings with President Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leadership.
He and General Joulwan met for three hours today in Belgrade with President Milosevic. The two of them then met with President Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leadership, Mrs. Plavsic and Mr. Krajisnik, for an additional 45 minutes, and then John Kornblum spent an additional hour with the Bosnian Serbs.
Essentially the point that Kornblum and Joulwan tried to press with the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs was that we find the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs do be lacking in their commitment to the Dayton Accords, and how they have carried out the Dayton Accords over the past eight to nine months.
General Joulwan is very concerned about the military compliance in many aspects of the Bosnian Serbs with the Accords, and John Kornblum mentioned several civilian aspects of the Accords where we believe they have fallen short, particularly on freedom of movement, on freedom of the press, on human rights, on the disinclination of the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbs to comply with the war crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords, and specifically on that issue concerning Mladic and Karadzic. Kornblum asked that the Bosnian Serbs make an active effort to reinforce their commitments to the Dayton Accords, especially leading up to next Wednesday's meeting in Geneva between Secretary Christopher and the leaders of the region.
What they heard back from President Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs were very nice words about their interest in continuing their commitment and involvement with the Dayton Accords. The United States finds that actions are always more satisfactory than words.
John Kornblum has spoken to some members of the press. There are a couple of wire reports on this, but if you are interested, I can go into greater detail on this or any other issue.
Q Let's try Mr. Holum's trip to Moscow, but specifically Russia's problems, apparently, with their getting rid of chemical weapons. Does the United States stand ready in principle, or even has it gone beyond principle, to provide assistance, and as it has provided in dismantling nuclear weapons, assistance to help the Russians meet the deadline, of getting rid of what is, I guess, the largest poison gas stockpile in the world?
MR. BURNS: Right. This is a very important issue. John Holum is in Moscow to talk to the Russians about this. Essentially we believe the best way forward is for the Russians to ratify the chemical weapons convention. We are pressing ahead with our own ratification here in the United States, in the United States Senate. In fact, Secretary Christopher had discussed this with several leading members of the Senate while he was up on Capitol Hill last week.
As you know, earlier this year the Russian Government approved a nation-wide, government-wide, program to try to expedite their efforts to destroy -- at least partially at this point -- their chemical weapons stocks. And as you also know, Nunn-Lugar assistance funds over the last several years in part have been directed to help the Russian Government accomplish this, both in setting up a structure and a capacity to do it and also to help carry out the physical destruction, which is very complicated, as well.
So it is one of the more important issues that we have been dealing with since the early 1990s, with first the Soviet Union and now with the Russian Government. And John Holum's trip is an attempt by us to try to once again get the attention of the senior levels of the Russian leadership, both in the Foreign Ministry as well as in the Defense Ministry, as well as in the Kremlin, and to see if we can't have a better and faster route towards our mutual ratification of this very important treaty.
Q Well, I mean I think you have a commitment from them to move quickly in ratification and there is no question any more, I don't think, that they are in favor of the treaty. They have a practical problem evidently. I guess what I am asking about is whether, beyond Nunn-Lugar, the U. S. is going to do anything financially to assist them, or maybe in other ways, to cut that arsenal down and eventually eliminate it.
MR. BURNS: I think at this point we are confident that with the infusion of Nunn-Lugar funds over a multiyear basis, that the Russian Government does have the capability to deal with this problem, and to meet the commitments that it will undertake once this treaty is ratified.
John Holum's trip is an attempt to refocus the issue again on high level attention in Moscow. But, Barry, I wouldn't diminish the importance of the Nunn-Lugar program. It has probably been the most single, the single most effective instrument that we have had both with chemical weapons and also with the destruction of nuclear warheads with this part of the world over the last several years.
Q Would it be possible that somebody who keeps track of how money is used that could tell us later in the day how much Nunn-Lugar money has been used for the chemical weapons.
MR. BURNS: I'll bet Rose Gottemoeller knows the answer off the top of her head, but I'm not going to ask her to speak for the U. S. Government.
Q Don't let them (inaudible) (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think within an hour or two we can get you the figures of the amount of money we have spent on chemical --
Q If you can, for chemicals.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Sid.
Q Nick, do you think there is some disagreement between the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry over the wisdom in putting forth commitments under the Chemical Weapons Commission?
MR. BURNS: With the Defense and Foreign Ministries in Moscow? I wouldn't even venture a guess about, you know, the internal -- any kind of internal politics there. It is not really my place to do so.
We have to deal with one government in Moscow. We talk to a variety of people in the government, but I would leave it up to them to characterize their own positions.
Q (Inaudible) your wording on you want to get the attention of senior levels of both the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry and sort of on the side as well as the Kremlin. Why do you say it like that?
MR. BURNS: I say it because that's a realistic way of describing what the task is here. But I would also tell you, Sid, that that refers to our own government, as well.
As we have developed our own Nunn-Lugar program, that program has been run and administered by -- well, decisions have been made by both the State Department and the Defense Department, and also by the White House.
Their system is not too different from ours. They have different ministries each of whom has a role to play in this, and it makes sense for Mr. Holum not just to see diplomats but to see generals, as well.
Q On a related subject, how are you doing with the Indians on the CTBT?
MR. BURNS: I can't report any progress to you. As you know, Secretary Christopher had an important meeting with the new Indian Ambassador, Ambassador Chandra, yesterday. Secretary Christopher has sent a letter to the Indian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Gujral. In that letter, the United States makes very clear that we hope that India will decide that it should go along with the overwhelming consensus that has developed in Geneva that this treaty should go forward.
At the very least, of course, even if that decision is not possible by the Indian Government, that India should not block or deter the international community from going forward. Our goal, again, is to have the treaty sent to New York for signature by world leaders this autumn. It is a very important treaty.
As we look back over the nuclear age, the last several decades, there is probably no more important ambition that we have had, a realistic ambition, to end nuclear testing, and that's what this treaty would do.
Q Well, the rules of procedure of the Committee on Disarmament are somewhat arcane and sometimes obscure, but does India have an actual veto, or is it simply a matter of consensus that requires de facto unanimity?
MR. BURNS: I believe it does operate on a consensus basis, yes.
Q In the past, when consensus rule was blocked by one person, a way has often been found to steer around that one objector. The case that comes to mind most is Malta in the CSCE. After a respectable period, you just say, "Okay, you don't count any more. We'll just in effect ignore you."
Can that not be done in the case of India?
MR. BURNS: We would prefer that India join an international consensus that there ought to be a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a zero-yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we have not closed the door on that possibility. We asked the Indians not to close the door on it.
We'll just have to assess on a tactical basis what makes more sense for us in the weeks ahead and into September. Jim, I can't foresee what we may, along with many other countries, by the way -- it is not just the United States charting out these tactical steps -- what we may or may not do.
I think the purpose of the Secretary inviting the Indian Ambassador in yesterday was to give the Indian Ambassador, and by extension the Indian Government, a very, very clear view of the importance that Washington, that the United States attaches to this; the fact that there is an emerging consensus, we believe, in Geneva, of almost all the countries there; and, to hope that India, whose historic leaders, Nehru and Gandhi, of course, championed this in decades past, hope that India won't block the will of the international community.
Q They championed disarmament, and what they want, certainly -- one thing they want -- is the club that has nuclear weapons to commit themselves to disarm.
Did the Secretary tell the Indians why it is necessary for the U. S. to continue to maintain a heavy nuclear arsenal?
MR. BURNS: They met one-on-one, but I have talked to the Secretary about the meeting. I don't believe that came up in the meeting. But we have talked about that. And, in fact, I think Ambassador Ledogar in Geneva talked about that publicly just a couple of days ago.
The United States and all the other nuclear powers do not believe it is realistic to set that kind of a date for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. We prefer to deal not in dreams but in reality, and the reality is that we are on the verge of securing a treaty that would end all nuclear tests after decades of nuclear tests, and that would be a profoundly important objective.
The other reality, Barry, is that the United States has led the way, along with Russia, in trying to bring down the level of nuclear weapons in the world. We've made dramatic progress on that; and, if START II is ratified by the Russian Duma at some point in the next several months, then we will have by the year 2003 a total of roughly 6500 nuclear warheads on both sides -- a dramatic reduction in the number of nuclear warheads from just a few years ago.
That is practical, and that's realistic, and I think that's the answer that we would give to the dreams of India on that issue.
Q But they respond to that by saying that freezes the nuclear club at five.
MR. BURNS: I think that everyone would agree, Judd, that we have a greater degree of stability among the nuclear powers in 1996 than we have ever had since the dawn -- since the very beginning of the nuclear age; that the nuclear powers, led by the United States, have acted responsibly as stewards of these nuclear stockpiles; and, that we have acted to destroy them when we can.
You know President Clinton led the way to convince Ukraine and Belarus and Kazakstan and Russia to have three of those countries give up their nuclear warheads, and we have accomplished that. So, we can represent ourselves quite objectively as countries who have taken nuclear disarmament seriously, but we also must be practical and realistic. The nuclear powers are not going to be able to agree to destroy all nuclear weapons in five or ten years from now. That is not realistic.
We must do what we can practically to make the world safer. We have that possibility with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Why in the world -- when nearly all countries in the world favor this -- would we now step back from that because of the objections of one country? We don't believe that is a prudent or wise course.
Q The argument in India's case went one step further. The Indians counter all that by saying that they have two adversaries, one of whom is a nuclear power, the other is a threshold state. What kinds of -- what does the United States say to that Indian problem?
MR. BURNS: We think that there has been good-faith negotiations, including some of the states to which you refer but you haven't named, by those countries at Geneva. We think that this treaty that would ban all nuclear weapons is in the interests of all countries in the world, whether they are nuclear countries, threshold countries or non-nuclear. That is our very, very firm view, and we are not alone in this.
Foreign Minister Primakov and Secretary Christopher issued a joint statement, in essence saying that the United States and Russia had identical views on this. As you know, we have made some progress in Geneva over the last couple of days with other important delegations, including the Chinese delegation.
So we're moving forward. We are very close to this profoundly important objective. We don't believe it makes sense for one country to stand in the way of us attaining that objective.
Q Could I go back to the consensus procedure. Is the United States and its allies -- in this case Russia or the other nuclear powers -- are they exploring ways to get around the Indian roadblock? In other words, for example, Malta. Also, I can think of others in NATO -- the Greek practice of footnoting their disagreement while the rest of them come up with a consensus. Are those the sort of things that the United States is exploring with the other partners?
MR. BURNS: I would just say this, Jim. We are trying to move the Ramaker text, the language in the Ramaker text, from Geneva to a signing in the United States in just a month or two from now. There are still many impediments for us along the way, and we'll have to consider very carefully our tactical options. It really isn't my place to go into those publicly.
Q One more question. Was the meeting just yesterday between the Secretary and the Indian Ambassador one of an ultimatum to the Indians that a way will be found?
MR. BURNS: No, not in any way -- not in any way -- and I know that Ambassador Wisner also delivered a copy of this letter to the Indian Foreign Ministry this morning in Delhi. It was certainly not an ultimatum. In fact, it was a friendly letter. We have a very good and I would say vastly improved relationship with India over the last three years. We've put a lot of emphasis into it, including putting one of our two most senior American diplomats into the Ambassadorship in Delhi, Frank Wisner.
We are confident that we'll be able to continue working with them, but we do have a very clear point of view on the CTBT, and that point of view was expressed very clearly by the Secretary of State.
Q Nick, one issue seems to be whether or not India is identified as one of the countries which has to ratify this thing for it to go into effect. What's the U.S. view of that?
MR. BURNS: I think what I'm going to do, Patrick, on all of those is leave those kinds of questions up to our negotiators in Geneva. We don't want to set here any public lines that may be difficult to cross. I'm going to leave that out.
Q Before when you said we're just asking them not to get in the way.
MR. BURNS: No, Barry, our position, as I stated it yesterday and today, has been the following. We would hope that India would reconsider its position and join the consensus.
Q Right, but you --
MR. BURNS: If it cannot do that, then we hope that at least there will be a possibility of achieving final success on the treaty. What I don't want to do is go into some of the minutiae of the tactical steps in Geneva. I'm not in Geneva.
Q On a different point as well, in Venezuela, can you tell me what's been -- progress been made this morning in the Venezuela talks?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this. One good thing has happened. United Airlines and American Airlines are flying now into and out of Caracas, into the international airport outside of Caracas. That's good.
But on the other issue, and really the longer term issue of the safety standards practiced by the authorities in Venezuela, I understand that negotiations are continuing today here in Washington between the Department of Transportation and the Venezuelan Minister of Transport on that issue.
As you know, the FAA declared some months ago that Venezuela did not meet the international air safety standards -- the international airport did not. We have tried to help the Venezuelans meet those standards. This is a very important issue, obviously, considering everything that's happened on air transport in our own country over the last several months. We take it seriously, and we'll pursue these negotiations, we hope to a satisfactory conclusion, but I can't predict the outcome of these negotiations.
Q What's a satisfactory conclusion?
MR. BURNS: A satisfactory conclusion will be that Venezuela agrees to identify with the FAA specific steps that it will take to upgrade the security procedures and the capability of the officials at the international airport near Caracas, and to put those into place so that Venezuela can be formally upgraded by the FAA.
As you know, the FAA does have a rating system for various international airports, and I believe in Latin America there are three countries that meet the highest standards: Chile, Brazil and Argentina. There are other countries in the second category -- Venezuela is there right now -- and there are still other countries in the third category, which is completely, of course, unacceptable in terms of air standards.
This is a very serious issue, because we have a responsibility to inform the traveling public in the United States what the conditions are at foreign airports for air safety. We very much hope the Venezuelan authorities will now act to upgrade those conditions.
Q But in terms of the downgrade, which I understand was supposed to take effect today where Venezuela was going to be put into Category 3, was there an agreement that that would not take effect today or has it been postponed?
MR. BURNS: I am not aware of what decisions have or have not been made on that. That would be a decision taken by the FAA, not by the Department of State.
Q Do you have a follow-up?
Q Same subject.
MR. BURNS: Same subject.
Q You're saying then that the recent tragedies -- air tragedies here have had -- were what brought this to a head. That's why we -- the FAA had decided to go ahead and downgrade them --
MR. BURNS: No. In fact, the FAA's action, I think, was initiated in May of this year. I'm just saying with the heightened consciousness among our own public about the problems with air safety, we have to be very tough-minded. We must continue to be tough-minded about insisting that a minimum of standards are met by other countries in terms of air safety.
We insist upon that in the United States, and when there are problems here, the FAA acts. We have an international system in place that is very specific about what countries must do to meet international standards, and in this case the FAA decided that Venezuela had fallen short.
Q But, no, I know that the action --
MR. BURNS: So the actions were not taken subsequent to the TWA crash.
Q But the threat to downgrade them one level was made in the last several days. That's what precipitated the talks. Now I'm asking you is -- what I'm asking you is was that threat made as a result of recent air tragedies here in the last few weeks?
MR. BURNS: I've not talked about any threat to downgrade Venezuela further than it already is. Some of you have talked about that -- I have not -- and that's a matter for the FAA to talk about publicly.
Q The issue in Caracas is not security, is it? It's safety.
MR. BURNS: Security and safety standards, yes.
Q Oh, it is security also.
MR. BURNS: Security and safety standards, yes.
Q Security and safety standards just for the carriers or for the air control in general?
MR. BURNS: It's for the operations of the international airport there.
Q Nick, are Venezuelan commercial carriers free to land in the United States today?
MR. BURNS: I will have to check on that. I know that American and United are flying. I'll have to check on whether the Venezuelan air carriers are also flying.
Q (Inaudible) the impact of the sanctions, that they would be banned from --
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check on that.
Do you have a follow-up?
MR. BURNS: No follow-up. Barry, do you have a follow-up.
Q If there's not a follow-up, another subject?
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q All right. There's an obscure paragraph -- maybe two paragraphs in The Washington Times today about Iran making a complaint to the United Nations, alleging airspace violations by U.S. warplanes in the Abu Musa area and I believe Bushehr as well.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q Nick, have they complained to us, and have we been overflying their space?
MR. BURNS: I answered this question yesterday.
Q Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: There has been no United States violation of Iranian airspace. We had naval exercises and air exercises in the region in international airspace over international waters. We did not violate Iranian territory.
Q Nick, not to --
MR. BURNS: The Pentagon has also made the same statement.
Q Excuse me, not to put you on an impossible mission, but could you outline the State Department's position, if there is any, on Germany and the Church of Scientology and boycotts, etc.?
MR. BURNS: This is a tough day, Barry. (Laughter)
Q I hope it's not impossible.
MR. BURNS: It's not impossible. It's not a "Mission Impossible," but I like your pun.
Q Do you like the cruise control?
MR. BURNS: And everyone else will know why in a minute. Yes, the cruise control, exactly.
Let me just say, first of all, despite the many, many reports and the commentary, the State Department did not make a statement on this issue yesterday. I know there's been a lot of speculation in the German press that the State Department spoke out. We did not make any statement about Scientology yesterday.
On Barry's question, I would just lead you back to our human rights reports of 1993, 1994 and 1995, which do have language describing our unhappiness over the treatment of Scientologists in Germany. I'd refer you to those reports.
Q The general basis on the notion of boycotts, I mean, doesn't the State Department have a position on economic boycotts -- interruptions?
MR. BURNS: I wasn't talking about boycotts.
Q Well, I mean, you know, they're trying --
MR. BURNS: Certainly, we have no boycotts in place against Germany, nor have we --
Q No, no, I meant the attempts to boycott that particular film company or distribution of a film because of the religion of one of the actors in the film, or is this something the U.S. finds objectionable? I mean, that kind of thing.
MR. BURNS: I understand that there are some groups calling for a boycott of "Mission Impossible," starring Tom Cruise, because Tom Cruise apparently is affiliated with this religion. My only advice would be to German citizens, you ought to watch the film. It's a very good film. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: You got it, Sid.
Q Has there been a recent letter from the State Department to members of Congress on this issue, and, if there was --
MR. BURNS: Yes, there has. The State Department received inquiries from several leading members of Congress, including many members of Congress involved in the committees with oversight for foreign policy, and the State Department -- I believe it was Assistant Secretary Barbara Larkin -- answered those by noting essentially what I've told you: that we have had some ongoing concerns about the treatment of Scientologists in Germany.
Q A Russia question, on the occasion of the inauguration of President Yeltsin. There was a Jim Hoagland column two days ago, in which he said that it had become clear recently what Russia's price was going to be for acquiescing to the expansion of NATO, and that that price was a free hand in the Baltics.
Have you -- in discussing the issue with Russian officials, have they expressed that quid pro quo to the U.S. Government?
MR. BURNS: No, and I can tell you, David, based on my own years of experience in this issue, but also talking about everything up to August 9, 1996, today, is that the United States has consistently in our private discussions with the Russian Government, throughout the life of this Administration, going back to the first day of this Administration, actually made an opposite point, and that opposite point is that the Baltic states were once free and independent states, illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union in May of 1940; that we rejoiced in September 1991 when they were made independent; that one of the objectives of American policy in Central Europe is to make sure that the Baltic states remain Westward oriented, Westward focused.
We hope very much that the Baltic countries could one day become part of the European Union institution. The United States has funded the participation of the Baltic states in the Partnership for Peace. In fact, the Baltic soldiers are standing alongside our soldiers and Russian soldiers in Tuzla, in the American sector in Bosnia; that the whole course of our policy has been to reduce and eliminate the presence of Russian soldiers in the Baltics -- and President Clinton spent a lot of time on that in 1994, successfully, when the Russian soldiers withdrew from Estonia and Latvia; and that since then, I don't think there has been a country in the world that has been as consistent a supporter of the sovereignty and independence of these countries as has the United States.
MR. BURNS: No quid pro quo.
Q I'm not asking about U.S. policy. I'm asking whether the Russians have expressed a desire for this quid pro quo?
MR. BURNS: I've never heard such a request by the Russian Government privately or publicly.
Q (Inaudible) ask you on a different subject. There's a wire service report today quoting a Saudi opposition group as saying that the Saudi authorities under pressure from the United States -- the Kuwaitis, excuse me -- the Kuwaiti authorities under pressure from the United States transferred to the Saudis two Kuwaitis and two Lebanese men who were detained in connection with the bombing in Saudi Arabia.
Do you know anything about that, and do you know of any progress in the Saudi investigation into that bombing?
MR. BURNS: I don't know anything about the report. I know that the investigation in the Khobar bombing is ongoing; that the Saudis have not come to any definitive conclusions about who is responsible, and we are assisting in that investigation through the FBI and through the State Department, Diplomatic Security.
Q You know of no progress in that investigation?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any progress in the investigation, right.
Q Is there any truth to rumors which I believe are on the financial markets that all U.S. Ambassadors in the Middle East have been asked to stay on post and not go on vacation?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that. I will check into that for you, but I'm not aware of it.
Q This is a different question. What can you tell me about recent reports about U.N. forces being involved in a smuggling ring in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: We saw a very interesting press report, press article, this morning in The Washington Post, and clearly given the degree of specificity in that article but also given what we know about the U.N. police monitors, we think it's reasonable to expect that the United Nations would now investigate these charges about smuggling and corruption among some of the international police monitors.
We certainly don't wish to tarnish the group, many of whom have acted honorably and honestly, but certainly given the specificity of the reports, the United Nations ought to investigate them. They ought to monitor very carefully the activities of some of the people who have come under question. This is a U.N. responsibility which I'm sure they will undertake.
Q Have you talked to the U.N. at all? Has anyone --
MR. BURNS: I believe we have made this point to the United Nations, yes.
Q What have you said to them?
MR. BURNS: Essentially what I've just told you, that these reports concern us. They have got our attention. When you have very specific reports like this, it makes sense to review them, look into them very carefully and take any corrective steps necessary to resolve the problem.
Q Have you talked to any Bosnian Government officials at all or --
MR. BURNS: I believe there have been talks with the Bosnian Government as well, yes.
Q And what has come of that?
MR. BURNS: The United Nations must take the lead. The United Nations is in charge of this particular operation, and I think that we should allow them a period of time to investigate and review this situation. But it has come up in many of our conversations, and we are aware of it and concerned by it.
Q Colombia. What does the State Department expect from the Colombian Attorney General visit to Washington?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Valdivieso is here. Of course, he has been one of the people with whom the United States has worked cooperatively over the last year or so in Colombia. He is here to talk with the Drug Enforcement Agency and also with the Attorney General to discuss our counter-narcotics cooperation between Colombia and the United States, which is the number one issue in the relationship, and we're very pleased that he's here. That's about all I can say about the visit.
Q A question, please. Why the State Department is considering Cali, Colombia, on list of dangerous cities for American people?
MR. BURNS: Whether we're considering placing Cali on a list of dangerous cities? Well, when we have concerns about certain countries or certain areas, we normally put that in a travel advisory for American citizens. I can check whether we have singled out Cali. I just don't know if we have.
Q You put out a notice yesterday.
MR. BURNS: Isn't that interesting. I'll have to refer to the notice that we obviously put out yesterday and consult the notice; and, if we put it out yesterday, you all can read it.
Q It was just posted as one of the most dangerous countries -- cities in the world. It just says that it's a dangerous place; be careful.
Q Is Washington on that list? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've yet put Washington on that list yet - no - although I can understand in part why some people would suggest that.
Q Yesterday, you said you couldn't confirm the D'Amato letter to Secretary Christopher, although in a quote some of the letter has already been published on the wire services. Can you confirm for the record that such a letter was sent, warning that the Turkey deals on a natural gas deal with Iran would violate --
MR. BURNS: I'm looking at Glyn for an answer. I don't think either of us knows whether or not the Secretary has received the letter from Senator D'Amato.
MR. BURNS: You have copy of it, Mr. Lambros? Maybe you can pass that up, and we'll look at it and --
Q Senator Alfonse D'Amato sent a strong letter to the Secretary of State, asking him to speak with the Turkish Foreign Minister in order to avert the agreement between Turkey and Iran on pipeline. Senator D'Amato is characterizing the particular deal as dangerous, provocative and a direct challenge to his policy vis-a-vis Iran. Any comment on this specific proposal?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, thank you for your efforts to educate us all about what's happening with the Congress and relations in the State Department.
Q I'm quoting a letter by D'Amato to Secretary of State.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Maybe we'll have a copy of the letter afterwards. This refers to the press reports that there may be an intention on the part of some in Turkey to go forward with the oil and gas deal with Iran, right? And we've talked about that in the last couple of days.
All I can do on that is refer you to the new legislation that the President signed on Monday. There's a cap beyond which companies cannot go or else they risk U.S. sanctions. We'll have to see what transpires here. If this transaction is above $40 million, if it does occur in the future, then it would be subject to the legislation.
Q The Turkish Prime Minister --
MR. BURNS: Let's take one at a time.
Q The Turkish Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan, is scheduled to arrive tomorrow in Tehran to discuss trade ties between Turkey and Iran. According to Western Policy Center of California, in 1995 Turkey concluded in 23 years of $20 billion gas deal. In 1995, Turkey and Iran enjoy $955 million in import/export. Since these activities are a clear violation of the new U.S. law imposing sanctions against foreign companies investing heavily in Iran, could you please comment further for this Turkish-Iranian affair?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, you remember the law is prospective. It does not cover past transactions. It only covers transactions after last Monday, the day the bill was signed.
Q What does that mean? That means --
MR. BURNS: It does not cover deals that were consummated in 1995 or in 1963. It covers deals that are made after this Monday, whatever date Monday was.
Q Who is going to be enforcing the Iran/Libya sanctions bill? Is it going to be State Department or Treasury?
MR. BURNS: It will be a combination, depending on the issue involved and the possible violation. Treasury does have a specific role, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the State Department also has a leading role.
Did you have a follow-up?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q You work (inaudible) right now?
MR. BURNS: Oh, very closely. We're working very closely with Treasury.
Q When will we see some regs come out for Iran/Libya?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we'll publish a new set of implementing regulations. We'll certainly need to decide that on a specific detailed basis in the government. I don't know if we intend to publish that and make it public.
Did you have a follow-up?
Q I have a general policy question related to this issue. It seems like besides the United States, very few countries are going with the spirit of dual containment of Iran. I mean, France, Germany, Turkmenistan has its own deal. Two weeks ago at a congressional hearing a State Department official said even Armenia has its own substantial trade agreements with Iran. What makes people at the State Department so sure that this policy is working?
MR. BURNS: We've had a long discussion of that at every briefing this week. I don't want to try to be too repetitive here. Let me just try to be very brief.
We think we're right. We think that Iran, because of its continued intention to develop a nuclear weapons capacity and also because of its support for international terrorism, ought to be contained and isolated. Unfortunately, our European allies do not agree with us on the tactics. They do probably agree on some of the objectives but not the tactics.
We believe that we are right. We believe that we're following the correct course, and we hope over time as the critical dialogue continues to fail to motivate Iran -- which we believe it will -- that the Europeans will come over to our view that we need to have a much tougher policy, a more confrontational policy, if you will, with Iran. That is where we are.
Sometimes countries have to lead, and the United States is clearly leading, and we are alone leading right now, but we are quite comfortable to remain in that position, because we know that one of the lessons of this century's history is you cannot overlook efforts by authoritarian countries like Iran that are clearly directed against the national security interests of all of us.
I'd remind you of one last thing. Europe feels the effects of this kind of terrorism in a much more profound way than the United States. If you look at the number of terrorist incidents in the world last year, the majority were in Europe. The European countries ought to take note of that and do something about it.
Q Do you think there's a lack of understanding on the part of Europe? After a while they will catch up with the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: There's a difference of opinion. They have a rational view. It's their own view. I don't mean to belittle it at all. There's a difference of opinion, but we believe we're right.
Q But, on the other hand, you can understand the Europeans' position, given that Iraq's oil supplies are more or less off-line, the Russian oil situation is chaotic, and the Europeans derive about a fifth of their oil and gas supplies from Iran. They're obviously interested in maintaining that as a secure source of their energy.
MR. BURNS: There is sufficient oil available in the world to fuel all the economies of the West. The question is, are we going to allow our short-term commercial desires to overwhelm our clear longer term interests in making our own people secure from the effects of terrorism, which is being directed by a state, Iran, throughout the Middle East against European interests, against American interests.
If we do nothing to respond to this threat, we'll simply encourage the Iranians to become more aggressive. There is a logic to our position which I believe the Europeans have not been able to devalue.
Q Different subject. Do you have anything else today on Boris Yeltsin's health? We saw him this morning. He did not look well.
MR. BURNS: From the perspective of several thousand miles and the television, it's very difficult to make any kind of statement. We obviously wish him well as he begins his second term. It was an historic day for the Russian people. It's the first time they've had a President in 1,000 years inaugurated, freely elected by the Russian people. It's a great turning point in Russian history, and I think the Russian people can look back with pride at what they have accomplished over the last five years.
We have an excellent relationship with that government. We have a lot of business to do. We're looking forward to that. I cannot speak to the question of President Yeltsin's health in any authoritative way that would be of assistance to you. That is a question for him and for his advisers, and I really think that's the only proper place to address that question.
Q Did you ever get an answer to whether he had applied for a visa or not?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe President Yeltsin has applied for a visa to the United States recently.
Q Has the United States offered to Yeltsin that he could undergo treatment here?
MR. BURNS: I just am not in a position to answer that question. I just don't know.
Q On Chechnya, the reports are that hundreds are dying in Grozny. Nick, has the U.S. gone to the Yeltsin Government in any kind of renewed effort to bring about a cease-fire?
MR. BURNS: I would just repeat today what I said yesterday, and that is that the United States does not believe that the Russian Government or the Chechen rebels can achieve a military victory in Chechnya. All of this fighting resumed this week by the Chechen rebels and the Russian Government will come to no good end.
The tragic irony is that more than 35,000 people have died and a majority of them are Russian civilians, and there are civilians being killed in the streets today because of the fighting. Our very strong recommendation is that they return to their June 10 agreement and negotiate this. There is not a military solution to the conflict.
Sooner or later they're going to have to resolve it by compromise, and that's our recommendation to both of them.
Q Has the U.S. formally through our Ambassador proposed any --
MR. BURNS: The United States has supported the idea of negotiations. We've supported the June 10 agreement in the Kremlin between President Yeltsin and the rebel leadership.
We supported the OSCE mission, and we continue to support the OSCE mission, whose objective is to stimulate these kinds of negotiations.
Q Back to the nuclear issue, when Secretary Christopher visits Geneva next week, if the treaty has not yet finished, will he change his subject to more CTBT rather than Bosnia peace accords?
MR. BURNS: No. I think the Secretary, through his meetings with Foreign Minister Gujral, with the Indian Ambassador yesterday, with Foreign Minister Primakov, letters and phone calls, has acted on this issue and will continue to, but the entire day in Geneva is going to be occupied by trilateral meetings with the three Balkan presidents, and there is too much to accomplish there to think that he can divert for any substantial period of time to the CD, to the Conference on Disarmament.
Q One more thing, there is a report from Geneva that U. N. Secretary Boutros-Ghali asked U. N. Human Rights Special Envoy to do something for his re-election campaign. Have the United States Government asked the United Nations about this report?
MR. BURNS: I have seen the press report. I am not aware of the specific incident. There is a charge that a certain U.N. diplomat went to a certain region to campaign. I don't have a view on that. But we have, through our mission to the United Nations, advised the United Nations officials that they should be very careful to stay away from this controversy over the election of the next U. N. Secretary General, just as American government employees are staying out of our own national elections here in the United States.
I just have time for maybe two more questions. Yes.
Q Now that the oil sales are going through - the Iraqi oil sales - is the U. S. State Department getting involved in the OPEC procedures? OPEC still has to release some further details as to how U. S. companies can bid for this oil.
Also, do you expect the U. S. Mission to the U. N. to be actively advocating that some of these awards go to U. S. companies?
MR. BURNS: I know that we will remain involved with the Sanctions Committee in the implementation of U. N. Resolution 986. American companies are eligible to participate in the awarding of contracts. We obviously hope that American firms do well in their competition for those contracts.
But, you know, we are one state among many. There are many other countries who also wish their firms well, and we'll have to see how this is implemented.
It is a U. N. operation. The United Nations is responsible. The United States did its part by delaying its implementation so that we could be assured Saddam Hussein did not enrich himself from the operation.
Q Can you do a last question about Colombia? Is U. S. Government working more closely with the Colombian Attorney General than ever with other Colombian Government members?
MR. BURNS: We work very well with the Colombian Attorney General. He is a very responsible person who is dedicated to fighting the narcotics trafficking in Colombia. We work well with other Colombian Government officials, as well. Many people, more than you probably think, given the heated rhetoric that we sometimes have, the heated exchanges in public that we have with the Colombian Government.
It will be most helpful if the Colombian President who is head of the government was as dedicated to fighting narcotics trafficking as many of the people in his own government.
Q Yes. According to a lack of reports, including the Washington Post, Iran, Turkey and Iraq are fighting against the three Kurdish major groups under Jalal Talabani, Massoud Barzani and (inaudible) in the entire region of Kurdistan. The fighting however is focused in northern Iraq with the Iranians present in an area which is under U. N. protection through Operation Provide Comfort.
What is the U. S. reaction on this fighting against the Kurdish people?
MR. BURNS: Well, this is -- I'm glad we can end on this question, because it provides me an opportunity to say something very important, and that is that there is no room for Iran in northern Iraq.
The United States and our Provide Comfort partners will provide for the security of the Iraqi Kurdish people in northern Iraq, the people who Saddam Hussein wanted to exterminate in March, 1991.
Operation Provide Comfort continues with the very important support of the Turkish Government. The United States is in touch with the major Kurdish parties through the Dublin negotiating process. Iran has a history of meddling in the affairs of the states of the region. Iran's intention is to destabilize many of its neighbors, and nothing good can come of Iranian influence, whether it is physical in cross-border operations, or political.
And, believe me, the security and stability of northern Iraq can be assured through the efforts of the United States and Turkey and Britain and France. We don't need Iran in northern Iraq, and we call on Iran to stay out of northern Iraq.
Q And the last, as asked yesterday, do you have anything on the Aegean issue, on the new Turkish threat against the territorial integrity of Greece?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything new for you, Mr. Lambros, besides our oft-stated policy on this issue.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:56 p.m.)