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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #204, 96-12-20

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Friday, December 20, 1996

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

     1 Statement on the 200th Anniversary of the Establishment
       of Diplomatic Relations with Naples

PERU 1-5,15 Update on the Hostage Situation at the Japanese Embassy 2-3 U.S. Security Team in Lima 3 Ecuador's Offer of Asylum to Terrorists 3-4 Japanese Role in the Hostage Situation 4 USG Meetings with Representative of Hostage Countries 14-15 Effect on American Business and Citizens in Peru/Peruvians Living in U.S.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 5-8 Dennis Ross' Trip to the Middle East 6-7 U.S. Settlements Policy/Hebron Talks

COLOMBIA 8 Foreign Minister Mejia's Visit to the State Dept. 8 Reports of Jailed Kingpins Running Cartels from Behind Bars 8-9 U.S.-Colombia Relations/Certification of Colombia/Extradition Law

IRAQ 9-10 Allegations of Captured CIA Spies 10 Letter from the Govt. of Iraq to the State Dept. 10-11 Operation Provide Comfort Status

GERMANY 11-12 Govt. of Germany Forms Group On the Church of Scientology

CYPRUS 12 Reports of an Imminent Announcement of a Solution to the Cyprus Problem

SUDAN 12-13 Congr. Richardson's Efforts to Free Hostages/Southern Sudanese Warlords

CHINA 13 Appointment by China of a Provisional Legislature in Hong Kong 14 Arms Sales

AFGHANISTAN 13-14 Update on the Situation in Afghanistan

NORTH KOREA 14 Update on US-DPRK Talks in New York 15 Suicide of Freed AmCit Hunziker


DPB #204

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1996, 1:00 P. M.


MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a press statement today, which is another in our series - I know you're all very interested in this - "On This Day in Diplomacy." This is very interesting. I really commend it to you.

This week, the City of Naples, commemorated the 200th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Bourbon Kingdom of the two Sicilys, of which Naples was capital. In the early days of the American Republic, this was a major diplomatic priority for the United States to have diplomatic relations with Naples because of the maritime traffic and because of the importance of that to the United States.

So this very well-written public statement gives you everything you always wanted to know about this issue; and the major point here is that it tells you a lot about the importance of diplomacy in our national security, which we in the State Department never tire of telling you about. So I just wanted to, before the holidays, offer this little present to you.

QUESTION: Might we ask who wrote it? (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: Yes. It wasn't me. (Laughter.) It was written by our Chief Historian, Bill Slany, in the Office of the Historian in the Bureau of Public Affairs. These are people who don't get a lot of press attention but who do great work. And I wanted to call attention to this as part of our never-ending effort to make all of you realize that diplomatic readiness and diplomacy are really important. How's that?

A Very good.

MR. BURNS: Good. Thank you, thank you.

George. I'd be glad to go to the lesser important issues of the day.

QUESTION: Well, could you give us an update on the situation in Peru, or do we have to go to Bill Slany for that? (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: If you wanted to talk about perhaps the beginning of our relationship with Peru, you'd go to Bill Slany. I can tell you about our situation today.

There really is nothing new to add -- at least from an American point of view -- to what we've said over the last couple of days. We continue to be very, very concerned by the situation of the hostages, many hundreds of them, being held in the Japanese compound in Lima. We continue here at the State Department to monitor this through a Task Force up on the Seventh Floor and through the really brilliant efforts of our American Ambassador, Dennis Jett, in Lima.

President Clinton and Secretary Christopher both spoke to this issue yesterday. We remain in very close contact with the Peruvian Government and with the Japanese Government and a variety of others. Our position is that these terrorists ought to release these innocent people swiftly and unharmed.

QUESTION: The team of advisors that went down yesterday. Is it correct that they are there to advise Ambassador Jett on security for Americans and not to consult with the Peruvian Government?

MR. BURNS: Their primary responsibility is to be available to Ambassador Jett to advise him on the security situation. Obviously, in a situation like this, you want to prepare to be able to handle any contingency that would affect American citizens; and we have l0, 000 of them in Peru. So that's the reason they were sent down, and that's why they're there; and they're carrying out their duties.

QUESTION: If the Peruvian Government would ask, would they be available for rendering whatever advice and assistance&#133;.?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe the Peruvian Government has asked. I think there's been some contact with the Peruvian Government on this issue, but I don't believe they've asked. As you know, the Peruvian Government is handling this issue on its own, as it should. It's bearing its responsibilities. It's also spent a lot of time talking to the Japanese Government, which is appropriate, given the fact that this incident is taking place on Japanese territory.


QUESTION: There is a report - I realize it may not be coming from this building -- that Delta Force troops or others, sort of covert troops, have gone down either within this contingent of security people or separately to Peru to be available in case they are needed. Can you verify that or speak to that?

MR. BURNS: I am not going to discuss any troop deployments. That's not the job of the State Department.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government pass on any warnings or hints that such a spectacular terrorist event might take place?

MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. You know we have an active watch around the world on terrorist groups and their activities. I just can't say whether or not we exchanged information with the Peruvian Government in advance of this hostage-taking about this particular group.

In general, I should say, this is really not the time - at least for those of us standing up talking, representing the U.S. Government -- to try to play the Monday morning quarterbacking role. We're giving our full support to the Peruvian Government here to resolve this situation expeditiously so that all these innocent people can be released.

QUESTION: Nick, there are wire reports that Ecuador has offered asylum to the terrorists. If that did occur, can you just give us some indication as to what the United States' reaction might be?

MR. BURNS: First of all, I cannot confirm those reports. I've seen the same one, but I can't confirm it. You'll have to direct that question to the Ecuadorian Government.

Secondly, I think all of us around the world who have an interest here, who have citizens in that capital in that country - obviously, we all desire to play a role. We all want to be helpful. We've got to allow the Peruvian Government some room for maneuver here. We've got to allow the Peruvian Government to have the capability to resolve this crisis, and we're not going to be giving any free advice - certainly, not publicly - to the Peruvian Government. We don't want to make their life more difficult. They've got a terrible crisis on their hands.


QUESTION: In order to better understand the relationship between the Japanese and Peruvian Governments on this, what is your understanding of what the rules of the game are in this situation? Is it Japanese territory, this Ambassador's residence? And, if so, does that mean that it would be a Japanese decision as to whether there were any use of force by the Peruvian Government or not?

MR. BURNS: I understand the Japanese do consider it to be Japanese territory, much as the United States considers our Embassies and Consulates overseas to be American territory.

David, I can't define whatever agreement that the Japanese and Peruvian Governments have worked out about jurisdiction, about a clearance, about who's responsible for the contacts with the terrorists. That's up to them, and I don't want to prejudge that for them. I don't know what kind of conversations they've had.

QUESTION: Is there a general kind of diplomatic practice in this kind of situation?

MR. BURNS: I can only speak from an American point of view. I think various countries have various interpretations of this general principle. The United States has a very clear one about our own facilities overseas, and that is that the United States Embassy in Lima, for instance - the United States Embassy - is American territory. But I really don't want to get into this in trying to interpret what the Japanese and Peruvians may or may not have agreed upon.

QUESTION: But Japan could offer them diplomatic immunity and get them out of there under the guise of Japanese diplomatic immunity, totally bypassing the Peruvians.

MR. BURNS: Offer who?

QUESTION: The terrorists.

MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know about that. I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't ascribe that motive to the Japanese Government.

QUESTION: Do you plan any meetings in Washington with (inaudible) countries in this issue?

MR. BURNS: We've had a couple of meetings with some of the embassies here in Washington of the countries that have been affected -- we started that two days ago, and we've continued it - just to make sure that we keep in contact with countries around the world to make sure we all have the same information and we can share perspectives on this. We have a very, very active interest in this, as you can imagine.

QUESTION: Are you saying that you've had meetings with diplomats from all of the countries who have captives?

MR. BURNS: No, I didn't say all the countries. I think some of the countries. I don't believe we've had meetings here in the State Department with all of them.

Ambassador Jett, of course, has been very active in Lima, talking to all of the embassies about this issue.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many countries, approximately, you have contacted with this issue?

MR. BURNS: I think we've contacted in Lima a great majority of the countries that have been affected. We've been in contact, as you would imagine, and we've had some contact back here. I don't have an exact figure for you, however.

QUESTION: Does that include Cuba?

MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know if we've had conversations with Cubans or not. It's certainly possible. I just don't know if we have.

QUESTION: Are you discouraging countries from offering asylum to the terrorists?

MR. BURNS: The position of the United States, when we are affected - when there's a terrorist incident, for instance, on our soil, where we're the primary point of contact with a terrorist group -- is that we don't offer concessions, and our advice to foreign governments is to follow that practice. That's our very strong view.

On the question of Ecuador, I think it just stands to reason that we ought to let the Peruvian Government make these decisions about how it deals with these terrorists, these killers, this nihilistic organization that has taken these people hostage, and we ought not to try to second-guess the government or make the life of the Peruvian Government more complicated. I think, as the President said yesterday, probably the less said the better about issues like this. We ought to refrain from the temptation, perhaps, to offer a lot of public advice.

QUESTION: Could I ask on another subject? Is Dennis Ross taking anything substantive in the way of a negotiating instrument when he goes to Israel?

MR. BURNS: I spoke with Dennis just a couple of minutes ago, and I also spoke to Secretary Christopher about his trip. The President and Secretary Christopher have asked Dennis to undertake this trip because they're very concerned about the drift in the Middle East peace negotiations, and specifically we're particularly concerned that the negotiating momentum on Hebron itself has pretty much come to a halt. We hope that Dennis' trip will create a new dynamic, rejuvenate, if you will, the Hebron negotiations for the redeployment of the Israeli Defense Forces from the City of Hebron.

Dennis is the primary intermediary between the two - the Palestinians and the Israelis. He certainly has some ideas of his own - American ideas - that he will be offering on this trip. But it's a very quick trip. He'll be back by the twenty-fourth, by next Tuesday. I think that perhaps the best we can hope for here is that he's able to convince Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu that they've got to re-engage seriously on Hebron. I think that's a very, very important goal. It may take some more time, however, for any final agreement to be reached.

I want to take the opportunity to clarify some misinterpretations of the American position that were quite evident in a couple of the major American newspapers this morning. First, I think Secretary Christopher spoke very clearly yesterday about our perception of where the Hebron negotiations are and about the fact that there have been some Israeli moves in the past couple of days that we believe now ought to be reciprocated.

It is not right to conclude from that statement, however, that somehow the United States, and specifically the State Department, have watered down the very clear - very clear - statements made by the President on settlements a couple of days ago. There was an interesting juxtaposition in some of the newspapers this morning, saying because the United States had made these statements on Hebron, it's trying to walk away now from the statements we've made on settlements. It's absolutely untrue.

The President of the United States spoke for this government very clearly on Monday about our position on settlements, and, frankly, about the problem we have with some of the decisions that have been made on subsidies, because they effectively pre-empt the negotiations, and they make it very difficult to achieve progress on that issue in the negotiations. These are separate issues. They haven't been combined by us. I wanted to be absolutely clear about that.

One of the papers, the Washington Times -- even ran the lead story in the paper -- essentially tried to link these two issues and infer that somehow the United States is backing down on this very important issue of settlements, and that's not the case. The President spoke for all of us, and we are all firmly behind the President, as you imagine.

QUESTION: Nick, though, leaving aside the linkage, which you're not going to deal with; the issue of settlements - the President was asked if settlements are an obstacle, and he said absolutely, absolutely. When you were asked that question Tuesday - when you were invited to use the word "obstacle," you declined, and I think that that has contributed to the problem.

MR. BURNS: I did not decline. As I remember - I mean, I'll take it out of the transcript, if you like, and read it to you. It's hard for someone like me to improve upon the words of the President of the United States. He's the boss. He enunciates American foreign policy. He was clear as a bell on Monday, and everything that we've said since then stands behind him, as you would expect. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear today.

QUESTION: Help us to understand. Is it fair to say that the U.S. Government now calling settlements - the existence of settlements or the Israeli subsidy to settlers -- an obstacle to peace is a ratcheting up of the language, is it not?

MR. BURNS: I think that the real importance of what the United States has been saying for a week now - it began late last week in this room, and it continued, much more importantly, at the White House on Monday, and Secretary Christopher continued it yesterday - we're concerned by actions or statements that make progress in the negotiations more difficult. I wanted to make that clear. It couldn't be more clear in our minds, and we were very disappointed to see this juxtaposition, because it does not exist - the juxtaposition to which I referred in the newspapers this morning.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: There's been a certain amount of editorial comment in the newspapers today I wonder if you'd like to react to. Do you disagree, by any chance, with - I'm sure you read them - a couple of editorials that suggested that the Administration should now get much tougher with Israel on the subjects of settlements; that the policy of nudging Israel along isn't working?

MR. BURNS: First of all, America's policy is working. Secondly, our position on the settlements could not be more clear, and the President spoke to that on Monday. Third, I find it very curious that editorial writers seem to want to ditch a policy that has in four years produced more success than at any time in the last 48 years. I find that very curious, indeed. All you've got to do is remember where this situation was four years ago today, before President Clinton took office in the last months of the Bush Administration.

The Israelis and Palestinians weren't talking. There was a military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We didn't have the September '93 or September '95 agreements. There was no peace treaty with Jordan and Israel. None of this had occurred.

Why in the world would we want to ditch that policy that has worked - a very patient, clear-sighted American diplomacy. So, obviously, we don't agree with that kind of editorial comment which, respectfully, we would say doesn't seem to be informed by the history of the last four years.

QUESTION: The editorials, as I read them, weren't necessarily critiquing the last four years' policy. They were saying that it is now time -- without regard to whether the policy has been right or wrong for the last four years, it is now time to be much tougher on the issue of settlements, vis-&agrave;-vis Israel; to call a spade a spade and tell them they cannot have it both ways.

MR. BURNS: All I can say -

QUESTION: And I wonder what your comment is on that suggestion.

MR. BURNS: My comment on that suggestion is look at what the President and Secretary Christopher have said over the last week. It's a very clear enunciation of our policy, and it's the right place for us to be.

QUESTION: These ideas that Dennis is taking with him, do they go to the process of the negotiations, or does he have some new negotiating language that he thinks might break the logjam?

MR. BURNS: Of course, I don't want to go into the ideas, because he hasn't arrived, and he'll want to float these privately, not publicly, but they encompass the breadth of the negotiations in, I think, both of the aspects that you talked about, Jim.

QUESTION: New subject.

MR. BURNS: Still on the Middle East? Any on the Middle East before we leave the Middle East? Yes, Patrick.

QUESTION: Do you know when he's going exactly, today or tomorrow?

MR. BURNS: Dennis leaves tonight with his small team of assistants, and he'll be in Jerusalem, I believe, tomorrow - tomorrow evening, and he'll be coming back on Tuesday. He'll be meeting with both the Israeli and Palestinian delegations. I want to make clear, Dennis' trip is focused solely on the Israeli- Palestinian talks. He's not going to be going to Syria. He won't be going to Jordan. He won't be going outside of meetings with the Israelis and Palestinians. It's a focused trip.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Colombia just finished several meetings with State Department officials. Can you tell us basically what was discussed and where the U.S.-Colombian relationship stands? Several issues - extradition, human rights abuses, using U.S. weapons, or allegations of it anyway.

MR. BURNS: I don't have a specific report on Foreign Minister Mejia's meetings here, but, if you're interested, we can get that from our Inter- American Affairs Bureau. I know she's here. I know there have been meetings, and, of course, we've got a well known policy on Colombia, which I'm sure that our diplomats were enunciating today in the meetings. But I don't have any specific report for you. Let's ask Tom Casey and his associates to try to get that for you.

Same issue?

QUESTION: Yes, please. The Colombian Government recognized a few days ago that the Cali Cartel leaders are threatening and bribing some congressmen from the jail. Do you have any comment about it?

MR. BURNS: We've known for a long time that the drug kingpins, specifically from the Cali Cartel, continue to run their drug empires from jail. These are extremely lax prison conditions which allow criminals to run multi- billion dollar financial empires from a jail cell, and we've repeatedly told the Government of Colombia about it, and we expect the Government of Colombia to take appropriate measures - tough measures - to toughen the conditions for criminals.

The reason you put people behind bars is to make them pay a penalty. They're not paying much of a penalty if they continue to run their empires, earn money and set themselves up when they're released from jail.

In a few weeks, the United States will begin again our annual certification about Colombia and other countries' performance on anti-narcotics measures, and we're going to have to evaluate the Government of Colombia, and this will be a factor. I can't anticipate the outcome of the decisions that the President and Secretary-designate Madeleine Albright will have to make this winter. But I can tell you, this is going to be an issue, and we are looking for stronger measures by the Government of Colombia. Nothing outrages, I'm sure, average Colombians as well as average Americans more to see someone who puts drugs on the streets that kill kids prosper in jail - live the high life, be able to run a drug empire from jail. It's wrong, and it's also no way to fight the narco-traffickers.

QUESTION: Regarding to the relationship between both countries, it is getting better?

MR. BURNS: The relationship between the two countries?

QUESTION: The relationship between both countries, the U.S. and Colombian Government.

MR. BURNS: Our relationship is what it is. We have one issue that tends to dominate the relationship, and the fortunes of the relationship ebb and flow, depending on how well we're doing on that issue. We can certainly point to some efforts by the Colombian Government, and particularly by elements of the Colombian Government over the past year to improve the effectiveness of the Colombians in fighting narcotics trafficking. But we are going to have to undergo this evaluation under our own law, and we hope very much that the end result will be more positive than last years, but I can't anticipate exactly which decision is going to be made.

QUESTION: Nick, does the U.S. Government still hold that Colombia might implement extradition?

MR. BURNS: We're always interested in bringing convicted drug kingpins, narco-traffickers, to justice. When they've committed crimes in the United States or crimes that affect Americans, it is sometimes appropriate for us to extradite. So that's another issue in the relationship.

Yes, ma'am. Ladies first, Mr. Lambros, and then we'll be glad to go to you.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the reports from Iraq in terms of them holding allegedly CIA spies that they're going to be airing on Iraqi television tonight?

MR. BURNS: We've seen the reports, and, frankly, if anybody believes these reports, they ought to have their heads examined. Saddam Hussein has made a history, as has other members of his corrupt regime, of lying to their own population as well as to the rest of us around the world about what's going on.

This is a well noted and tired propaganda ploy. We saw this authoritarian regime, the Soviet Union certainly, practice this kind of thing. We saw fascist regimes in Europe practice this kind of thing. There's always got to be a scapegoat for the problems of a corrupt authoritarian dictatorship like Saddam's. He's not accountable to his own people. He doesn't admit that he's destroyed the country's economic base and made it an international pariah, so he looks on the outside. What more convenient target than the Central Intelligence Agency. This is laughable propaganda, and I'd strongly advise you not to pay any attention to it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) any of the accusations about spying?

MR. BURNS: We don't trust Saddam Hussein; and, if Saddam Hussein wants to parade a bunch of people in front of television cameras and say they're CIA spies, as journalists I'd look very hard at that. I'd look very hard to see if you can confirm any of these accusations against these poor people - poor Iraqis. These are not going to be Americans, as far as we can tell from the press reports. He's going to parade a bunch of Iraqi citizens. They probably picked them up off the street and they didn't like their looks, didn't like their politics - (laughter) - and they shove them in front of TV cameras, and they throw them in jail to rot. It's a terrible thing. Baghdad's a very cruel place to live these days, and some members of the regime are even finding that out. So I would encourage you not to trust Saddam Hussein, not to give it any credence. It's propaganda, and he's doing this just to get attention - to divert the attention of his suffering people - and they are truly suffering in Iraq - from his corrupt regime.

Mr. Lambros, you want to talk about - excuse me, did you have a follow- up?

QUESTION: Yes, just a quick follow-up. There was a report that there was a letter delivered to the State Department, an official letter from the Government of Iraq. Can you tell us anything about -

MR. BURNS: I don't know anything about it, but I talked to our official in charge of our Iraq policy. He didn't mention it to me. We communicate with the Government of Iraq in mysterious ways. We have to send faxes to New York which can't be read by the people in New York. They can only be read by the ringleaders in Baghdad or the criminal gang there, and it's very hard to know who's writing and whether it's authoritative and frankly even when it's authoritative, they lie, as they admitted in their conversations with Ambassador Ekeus. They said, "We've been lying for five years about our efforts to build a nuclear weapons capability and a chemical weapons capability. So, frankly, even if they sent us a letter, we don't take them very seriously.

QUESTION: Are there any Kurds that helped the United States in this lineup that they're suggesting?

MR. BURNS: I have no idea who's going to appear in this lineup. We have no advance information. We have no diplomats in Baghdad. We just have a lot of pity for the people who are going to be lined up, because most likely they're innocent.

Yes, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: I have a question on Germany. According to -

MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Mr. Lambros. David would like to stay on Iraq. Then we'll go to Germany.

QUESTION: There was a report I heard this morning on the radio - BBC, I think - saying that Mr. Erbakan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, has announced that Turkey will not renew the ground-based portion of "Operation Provide Comfort"; that it is going to be allowed to expire, I believe, in January. Is that accurate? Has the Turkish Government so informed the U.S. that there's going to be nothing left except the overflying?

MR. BURNS: First, we are currently discussing with the Turkish, French and British Governments "Operation Provide Comfort" - so-called "Operation Provide Comfort." We have not yet come to an agreement with those three governments about the future operations in northern Iraq that are designed to contain Saddam Hussein.

But I can tell you this: I think we can confidently predict that as a result of these negotiations, in a week or two or three, we'll be able to announce to you that we intend, all of us, to maintain the "no-flight" zones in the north and south. We intend to maintain the strategic containment of Saddam Hussein, first.

Second, as you know, we had to pull out of northern Iraq a couple of months ago most of our ground-based effort, which provides humanitarian relief - U.S.-directed humanitarian relief to the populations of northern Iraq, Kurd, Assyrian and otherwise. The operations to provide relief will go forward. The United Nations and other non-governmental organizations are going to be running relief efforts, and we are currently contributing money to them. That will continue.

I think our great suspicion about Iraq's motives in particular will also continue as part of this strategic deterrent effort. So I think this report is probably a little bit ahead of the issue, because there have been no firm decisions made, no written agreement, but I would anticipate that those elements - the "no-flight" zones and humanitarian relief operations - would stay in place.

Mr. Lambros, yes.

QUESTION: I have a question on Germany. According to dispatches from Associated Press and Reuters, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in an unusual move announced yesterday the creation of a federal government committee as a solution to keeping people affiliated with the U.S.-based Church of Scientology out of public jobs. And today, actually, Chancellor Kohl's political party expelled three members. Could you please clarify the U.S. position vis-a-vis to these actions against a religious group?

MR. BURNS: Thank you, Mr. Lambros. I understand that - I've just seen a brief report from our Embassy in Bonn just in the last hour that the German Government has made a basic decision to form a group to take a look at the issue of Scientology in Germany. The report I saw was quite straightforward but did not have a lot of detail, and it essentially said that Chancellor Kohl and his Ministers had decided to study the issue in all of its aspects.

It did not, as far as I saw, announce any Draconian or repressive measures against the Church of Scientology. In fact, I think the German Interior Minister said in a press conference in Bonn two days - on the 16th of December - that Germany would not try to shut down the Church of Scientology in Germany, and that's good news, indeed.

As you know, the United States for four years running has had some concerns about the treatment of Scientologists, including Americans, in Germany. We've expressed them to the German Government. We've put it in our Annual Human Rights Report. We've spoken about it from this podium, and we believe that the religious freedom of the Scientologists ought to be respected.

I think the German Government has said things this week which are positive and has taken an action today which appears to be constructive. We need to study it in greater detail, and that is pretty much what I have to say about that issue.

QUESTION: One follow-up. I'm wondering if your recent established committee on religious freedom here at the State Department will look into this case in Germany?

MR. BURNS: I don't know if the new committee established by Assistant Secretary Shattuck, which looks at the idea of religious freedom on a global basis, will be concentrating on Scientology in Germany. I can ask, but that committee is intended to represent the well known American support for religious freedom, of whatever stripe, worldwide.

QUESTION: One question on this. According to reliable sources, your government is ready to announce the long-awaited U.S. initiative for a solution on the Turkish claims against Greece in the Republic of Cyprus in the first days of January. I'm wondering if it would be unilateral or collective announcement involving the Governments of the U.S., Greece, Turkey and Cyprus?

MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I'll have to check. I'm not aware of any impending, imminent American announcement on that issue.


QUESTION: A question on southern Sudan. I understand the NGOs in southern Sudan have reason to believe that the warlords may strike again in the sense of capturing some NGO representatives, and they're concerned about the precedent which was set about 10, 12 days ago by Congressman Richardson's negotiations which in effect rewarded the hostage-takers with rice and jeeps and so forth. The U.S. has come out with a strong stand against negotiations concerning the events in Lima, and I just wonder what you might have to say about the situation in southern Sudan.

MR. BURNS: First of all, George, let me just say I don't believe that Congressman Richardson engaged in any kind of improper activity or any activity that would be inconsistent with general policies and principles that we have followed in the United States Government for a long, long time.

As you remember, he was actually basically an intermediary between the Red Cross and other organizations and these hostage-takers, and this was an agreement between the ICRC and Kerubino, and I think it should be seen in that context. He was not negotiating on behalf of the United States Government. He was not representing positions of the U.S. Government. He facilitated the release of hostages, and he did it on behalf of an international organization - the International Committee of the Red Cross.

So I think there's a basic difference between that situation in Sudan nine or ten days ago and the situation today in Peru.

QUESTION: But it has the U.S. Government endorsement, because the Ambassador was there almost as a party to what was going on.

MR. BURNS: Our Ambassador was there, because we wanted to seek the release of the American and also the other foreigners being held, and we did so. I'm just saying I don't equate what happened there with what's happening now in Peru. I think they're entirely different situations.

QUESTION: Nick, tomorrow China is expected to appoint the Provisional Legislature for Hong Kong. British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has already chimed in with some warnings to China. Does the U.S. Government have any words of advice for Beijing and how it proceeds?

MR. BURNS: We're aware of this very worrisome development. Let me just say the United States supports open, accountable and democratic government in Hong Kong. It is an essential part of Hong Kong's successful business and political environment. The United States has frequently expressed, both publicly and privately, our view that disbanding the current elected legislature in Hong Kong is unjustified and unnecessary.

Assistant Secretary Win Lord made this point recently to the Chinese. He made this point to leaders in Hong Kong earlier this month. Secretary Christopher has made this point very clear to the Chinese leadership.

In the Joint Declaration, China made a commitment that Hong Kong's Legislative Council shall be constituted by elections. China has said subsequently that a Provisional Legislature will not operate for more than one year. The United States believes a legislature elected on the basis of open and fair elections should be put into place as soon as possible after reversion. This would enable China to fulfill the commitment it made in the Joint Declaration.

We believe that stability in Hong Kong's governing structures is vital to insure the continuing growth and success and prosperity of Hong Kong after 1997. The United States will watch closely what action the Provisional Legislature takes and how long that legislature lasts.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: I don't have a copy. Those are my words. I'm not issuing a written statement, but I've just said them, and I suppose you've all recorded them. I hope you have. I know the cameras have recorded them.

QUESTION: Anything new on the situation in Afghanistan?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any new developments that would have an impact upon the United States, except to say that we do follow events in Kabul closely from our Embassy in Islamabad in Pakistan. We do continue to hope that outside countries beyond Afghanistan will not try to contribute to the instability by supplying weapons, and we seek to promote, along with the United Nations and others, a peaceful and negotiated outcome to the basic differences that exist among the various militia in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Could you tell us how New York meetings with North Korea is going? How long Mr. Li will stay in New York, and is the U.S. close to agreement on the submarine issue?

MR. BURNS: I think that the talks between the United States and North Korea in New York that began yesterday and are continuing today have been serious and useful. They reviewed the major issues. They include, of course, Mr. Li Hyong Chol who is visiting New York - the North Korean official - and they include Mr. Mark Minton, who's our Director of Korean Affairs here in the Department of State.

We are still awaiting action by the North Koreans on some of the issues that we've publicly identified, including the provocation of the breach of South Korea's sovereignty in the submarine incident a couple of months back.

QUESTION: Do you know the schedule of Mr. Li? He will stay in New York next week, or are you going to -

MR. BURNS: Mr. Li seems to be enjoying New York. He's been there quite a while. I don't anticipate that he'll be coming to Washington. I think he'll probably be spending Christmas in New York, and we will probably see him again. He is a senior official in the North Korean Government, and we've been able to have serious and useful talks with Mr. Li.

QUESTION: What do you think about the Chinese aggressive military and arms sales in the Middle East, especially Iran, Iraq, Syria? They are establishing some corporation to deal in helicopters and missiles (inaudible). Do you have any concern on this subject, or are you just watching that?

MR. BURNS: Savas, I think we've spoken quite frequently about that issue here at the State Department Briefing, and I have nothing new to add to what I've said and what Glyn Davies has said many, many times. Glyn, of course, has in a much more articulate than I could have said it, but we've both spoken about this issue. (Laughter)

QUESTION: Nick, two questions back on Peru. First, of your group of experts that went down there, have they advised or are they looking to ways of suggesting for businesses - U.S. businesses working down there to scale down their presence in Peru? How is this going to affect the warning that the U.S. Government and the Department of State puts on Peru?

MR. BURNS: As you know, we issued the other night - two nights ago - a travel advisory for Americans living in Peru and visiting Peru. This is a very, very dangerous situation underway in Lima, as you know. It's an extraordinary situation, given the number of people who have been taken hostage and given the record of this terrorist group, which is quite brutal.

We've advised American citizens to take every precaution, to think twice about what they do in Peru, and that's primarily the reason we sent this team down there to help the American Embassy and Ambassador Dennis Jett prepare for any eventuality that might involve American citizens.

QUESTION: In light of the new anti-terrorist law here in the U.S., how would this affect alleged members of MRTA or Shining Path living in the U.S.? Will this have any consequences?

MR. BURNS: I don't have anything specific to say about that, except that when people break our laws, they have to be held accountable for them, and they ought to know that.

QUESTION: How long can this situation go on in Peru? I mean, they're getting water, food. This could drag on. We could be here three weeks from now talking about the same subject. How long do you think something like this could go on?

MR. BURNS: No one knows the answer to that. We just have to hope and pray that the Peruvian Government is successful in its contacts with the terrorist, so that all these people can be released safely. That's the primary objective here, and I think patience and vigilance are probably the two watchwords for all of us.

QUESTION: Nick, do you know why Mr. Evan Hunziker committed suicide?

MR. BURNS: No, we do not. And let me just say, this is a private matter. It concerns, obviously, his family. We have the greatest sympathy for his family. We've expressed our condolences to his family. It's a very, very sad case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:38 p.m.)


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