U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #8, 97-01-14
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
January 14, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1-2 Secretary Christopher's Farewell Speech at John F. Kennedy School at
2 Statement on Burundi-Violence/Call for Ceasefire/Talks
3-4,23 Suspicious Package on Second Floor of Dept.
26-27 Funding for Foreign Affairs/Dept. Reorganization
2-4 Statement by Belgrade Election Commission re: Together Coalition
5 Blocking of Nis Election Results
3 Assistant Secretary John Kornblum's Trip to Region
5 U.S. Trade/U.S. Official Contact/Aid to Pro-Democracy Groups
5-7 Proposed Arms Sales to Syria
7-13 Procedures for Monitoring Traffic Records of Foreign Diplomats
--Case of Georgian Diplomat Makaradze
13-16,25 Letter Bomb Investigations/Incidents
16 Mr. Cavanaugh's Trip to Region
16-17 --Delivery of Anti-Aircraft System
16-17 --Measures to Reduce Ceasefire Line Incidents
17 --Mtg. w/FM Pangalos in Athens
17-18 --Discussion of Steps to ReduceTension/Support for Comprehensive
18 --Mtg. w/Dutch FM van Mierlo
18 --Report of Ciller Visit to Cyprus
19 --Report of Proposed Referendum on Union
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
20-24 Arafat/Netanyahu Mtg. in Erez
20-22 Special Middle East Coordinator
24 Follow-On Negotiations
22 Report of Request for Delay in Deportations
26 Report of Dalai Lama Invitation to Taiwan
26 U.S. Arrearages
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 1997, 1:15 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State
Department. As you know, Secretary Christopher will be traveling to Boston,
Massachusetts; specifically, just across the river from Boston - Cambridge,
Massachusetts - tomorrow. He's going to be giving his farewell speech as
Secretary of State to the students and faculty of the John F. Kennedy
School at Harvard.
He'll be taking questions from the students. He'll then have a lunch
given to him by Joe Nye, who's the new Dean of the Kennedy School, and
he'll have some other events up in Boston in the afternoon.
We've made arrangements to have his speech and the Q&A piped into the
briefing room here at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
MR. BURNS: Actually, one of the other purposes of going to Boston
tomorrow is to congratulate the New England Patriots on their victory and
to predict again, as the official policy of the State Department, that they
will win 27-20 over the Packers.
Sid's going to get his Lone
Star beer ready.
The Secretary, I predict, will refer to the New England Patriots in his
remarks tomorrow, but I can't tell you - it's a secret - what he's going to
say about them. We have to stay tuned and pay attention. That's part of
QUESTION: There's no briefing tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to go with the Secretary to Boston.
Glyn is going to be here and, depending on the news, he'll brief after, or
he'll do a walk-through. He hasn't decided yet. But we'll announce
publicly tomorrow morning - Glyn will announce - so that those of you who
do not normally come here will know that you don't have to come. But
anyone who wants to cover the Secretary's speech is welcome to come to the
Briefing Room and then hear it here.
If you'd like to come to Boston, you're also welcome to come to Boston.
Sid, you might want to come. You might want to read the Boston Globe
sports page about the Patriots and how they're preparing for Brett Favre
and - what do you think? We'll take you on the plane with us if you want
QUESTION: The best laid plans. . .
MR. BURNS: (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay.
QUESTION: Will we get an advance text of the speech?
MR. BURNS: Well, advance text -- you know, it's like the Middle East
Peace Process. You never want to make a promise of ultimate victory. We
will try very hard to get you a text, but the way these things work,
sometimes the piped-in version of the speech itself arrives before the text,
and don't ask me to explain why that it is, but it is. It seems to be one
of the laws about speeches. We'll try very hard to get you a text
of the speech.
I don't have much to say before we go to questions, except that we have a
statement on the situation in Burundi which I'm posting in the Press
Office. Let me just read the first part of it only. The United States has
been very concerned, as you know, about the recent violence in Burundi. We
deplore the recent violence. The Burundian army has confirmed the January
10 killing of over 120 Burundian Hutu returnees who had reportedly been
expelled from Tanzania the same day.
This is an atrocious massacre. It's part of the pattern of violence that
has been quite evident in Burundi over the last several months. The United
States continues to call for a cease-fire in the fighting, and we call for
all-party talks to restore stability to Burundi.
Our Special Envoy, Howard Wolpe, has been traveling extensively in
Central Africa, working on this cease-fire. He's been in Burundi and
Tanzania and Kenya over the weekend, and he'll continue his efforts to
represent the United States in that region.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the latest developments in
Belgrade where it appears that there has been a dramatic retreat by the
MR. BURNS: Yes. We certainly took notice of the statement this
morning by Radomir Lazarevic, who is the head of the Belgrade Election
Commission - a statement to the effect that the Commission will now accept
Zajedno's victory in the Belgrade city assembly - Zajedno being the
Together coalition of the opposition parties.
This appears to be a step in the right direction. However, the United
States will withhold final judgment on this development until the details
are worked out, and most importantly until we can see that this result is
I would just note here that Mr. Lazarevic also announced today that the
Milosevic party has the right to appeal during the next 48 hours.
Unfortunately, what we've seen over the course of the last two months - and
we're almost right at the 2-month mark, almost, for these elections - is
that the Milosevic Government will periodically offer what seems to be an
olive branch to the Zajedno coalition, only to withdraw it.
I think we have to be mindful of that pattern of behavior as we look at
today's announcement. We're a little bit skeptical here at the State
Department about this announcement. Our main point has been and will
continue to be that the Serbian Government ought to respect the recommendations
by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and the OSCE delegation --
the recommendations that the victories by the opposition in all of the
constituencies, in 15 of the 18 constituencies, be respected.
We will remain skeptical, frankly, on this question of Belgrade until the
duly elected members of the Zajedno coalition actually take their seats in
the Belgrade city assembly and elect a head of that assembly. That is
their right, because they won the elections on November 17th, and I think
we're just going to reserve any kind of commendation for the Belgrade
Government until that happens.
You know that we're working with other members of the international
community, specifically our European allies, trying to work together to
convince Mr. Milosevic to follow the prescriptions of the OSCE.
I can also tell you that John Kornblum was in Bosnia over the weekend.
He met with all three members of the Bosnian Presidency. He met with the
Council of Ministers. He today was in Zagreb and met with President
Tudjman, and I believe he flew today to join Strobe Talbott in Paris for
his meetings there.
I believe Strobe has meetings in Bonn tomorrow.
So John Kornblum has been our point person, has been in the Balkans, and
I told you yesterday he did not go to Belgrade, and for good reason. We
have a very fine Charge d'Affaires, Dick Miles, in Belgrade. We do have
communications with the Belgrade Government, but at this time we see no
reason to send a higher level emissary there.
QUESTION: Nick, can I - before we get started on it, could I ask if the
State Department has or if you have any word about a suspicious package
coming to the State Department?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We had a -
QUESTION: Could you tell us about it?
MR. BURNS: We had what we thought was a bomb scare here in the
Department about a half hour ago. There was a suspicious package on the
second floor, and I think our Diplomatic Security people, quite appropriately
- because they were unsure what was in this package; it was in a closet
next to a fire extinguisher - they were unsure about the package which
largely did not identify itself. They called the D.C. Bomb Squad which
came and looked at the package.
It turned out to be a package of 1996 NATO calendars.
(Laughter) This is one of the offending calendars here. I hope this
isn't a bad omen for 1997, which is supposed to be the year of NATO. But
let me just say very seriously, Barry, I talked to the Diplomatic Security
person who was in charge. I just talked to him before coming out here.
They did the right thing.
QUESTION: What -
MR. BURNS: They did the right thing, because when we are trained and
they are trained when there are suspicious packages, you're conservative in
the way you look at them, and you take all appropriate measures, including,
if necessary, calling the bomb squad, which happened. Now, fortunately for
all of us here in the building, it turned out to be nothing to worry
QUESTION: Who decided it was a suspicious package? Whose suspicions
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I mean, obviously someone had to notice
QUESTION: Did someone telephone and say there's a -
MR. BURNS: One of our employees happened to notice - saw the package
in a closet, noticed it, didn't recognize it, was suspicious about it
because of the way in which it was wrapped -
QUESTION: Fine, okay.
MR. BURNS: -- and alerted the appropriate security officials in the
building. I'm just saying I think everybody along the line did the right
thing here, and we want to thank them for caring about our mutual
QUESTION: Going back to Belgrade for a moment. Is it clear to the U.S.
Government that the Election Commission has the constitutional right to
overrule courts which ruled to the contrary in the past?
MR. BURNS: Given the fact that you're dealing with an authoritarian
government in Belgrade, the Election Commission has now made a recommendation
- apparently has made a recommendation.
It's now up to the government of Slobodan Milosevic to make the decision
to concur with the decision of the Election Commission.
If it's necessary in their own system of government, which is, of course,
highly flawed in terms of our own standards - if it's necessary for Mr.
Milosevic to defer this question to the courts, I'm sure he'll do that, and
perhaps even he'll get the right answer this time that he didn't get from
the courts. They gave a very different answer a month and a half
Suffice to say, Jim, this is a long way of saying if Milosevic wants to
respect the results of the election, we're sure he can find a way to do so,
especially building upon this - apparently on the surface - positive step
forward today by the Election Commission.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have any carrots for Milosevic to go ahead and -
apparently Nis is also involved in respecting the results - if these things
happen, are there any carrots the United States has for Milsoevic?
MR. BURNS: Yes, Ron, on Nis we hope very much that this announcement
today signals an end to the efforts by the government authorities to block
the results being respected in Nis. We had been hopeful a couple of days
ago that perhaps the Nis elections - the people who won the Nis elections
might take their seats.
That hasn't happened.
I don't know if we've got all sorts of carrots dangling out there. I
know that he's in a hole - he's dug his own hole.
He got to find a way to climb out of that hole to achieve elementary
things: respectability internationally, a decent political relationship
with Europe and North America, an economy that can perhaps improve by
further trade. All of those things, I think, are in peril and in much
doubt if Mr. Milosevic continues to act like an autocrat and not like a
QUESTION: Following up on that idea, is the U.S., though, going to
continue what you've mentioned yesterday, that you're going to end any
promotion of trade with Serbia; that barring your remarks about high-level
officials, that you won't have any high-level official contact, and you're
still looking at aid to pro-democracy groups?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We're continuing with all the things that I talked
about yesterday. We're going forward with all of them.
QUESTION: Can we move on to the South African proposed arms deal with
MR. BURNS: Yes, unless there are other questions on Serbia. We kind of
do things in a group here, and then we'll be glad to go to South Africa.
QUESTION: Just to ask a question for South African Broadcasting.
What's your reaction to comments made by Nelson Mandela's spokesman today
that he's disgusted - detests the kind of behavior the American government
offered - the [African] Government's reaction to your comments to what's
happening in South Africa and is insulted by the American Government's
attempt to hold a gun to South Africa's head.
MR. BURNS: My goodness, I haven't seen those remarks, but I can just
say that we have a very good relationship with the Government of South
Africa, and I'm sure that will continue, because our heads of state have a
good personal relationship, and we've been able to do a lot of business
with South Africa.
We want to continue that.
We said yesterday that in light of the allegations and reports that South
Africa was considering a substantial arms sale to Syria, which is a
terrorist state under U.S. law, that we were worried about that. We were
concerned by it. We would raise this issue with the South African
Government. We have done so in both Pretoria and in Washington. We'll
continue to do so.
I also said yesterday that we didn't have all the facts on this, and that
part of our effort right now was to seek the facts from the South African
Government, and we will do that.
We're working on it, and you can rest assured that we'll continue to take
this issue very seriously, because we have to be concerned about the
application of American law here.
But the United States Government is not going to make any decision and
cannot make a decision on this issue until we get all the facts from the
South African Government. I would suggest that we do that amicably and
cooperatively in the tradition that we've established with the Mandela
Government over the past couple of years, and that's how you'll see us talk
about this issue.
QUESTION: I thought there had been deterioration in relations between
America and South Africa, with those sort of comments saying, "What we find
particularly insulting is for someone to hold a gun to our head and tell us
what to do."
Does the threat to withdraw the $82 million of aid still stand if this
arms deal does go ahead?
MR. BURNS: I would encourage you to look very carefully at what I said
yesterday. I will tell you, I was a little bit surprised to see the way
that some news organizations covered my remarks and Mike McCurry's remarks
yesterday. Both of us talked about the fact that we were aware of
allegations; that we'd raised these allegations with the South African
Government, and that we would continue to do that. It was a very serious
issue, because it was a matter of law here, and it also is tied to the
international fight against terrorism, Syria being a state sponsor of
But we were very careful to say that we didn't have all the facts, and
that obviously we're going to be talking to the South African Government
before anything happens here. We hope very much that they would not go
forward with any proposed sale.
So I think that these were measured comments yesterday. No one's putting
a gun to anyone's head, and we intend to work with the South African
Government amicably and cooperatively on this.
QUESTION: Nick, can you explain the nature of the contact between the
United States and Pretoria? I mean, did you call on the Ambassador here?
When did that happen?
MR. BURNS: I don't know specifically at what level this issue was
raised. I did check, and I know that it was raised both with the South
African Embassy here in Washington, and also our Embassy went in to see the
South African Foreign Ministry in Pretoria. I don't know if our Ambassador
or their Ambassador were involved in these discussions in the two
QUESTION: Did that happen today or -
MR. BURNS: I think it's happened in recent days, and those contacts
preceded the press reports. We've been aware of this for some time - not
for a long time, but for some time.
QUESTION: But there were no contacts in the last 24 hours?
MR. BURNS: I suppose there were contacts in the past 24 hours. I
don't know every time an American diplomat talks to a South African
diplomat. I'm sure there were contacts in recent days because this is a
prominent issue. It's in the news.
We've said that we're seriously concerned by it and we are.
QUESTION: I just wondered, after your remarks yesterday whether there
had been any contacts in which the South Africans may have said to you, "We
don't understand the nature of our sale," or said anything -- provided you
with any information that perhaps alleviated some of your concerns?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have yet received - I think we're in the
process of receiving from the South African Government a full description
of what may or may not be in the works. Until we receive a full
description, we're not going to be able to determine the relevance of this
issue to U.S. law and, frankly, the degree of seriousness of this issue.
But I do want to repeat again today what we said yesterday. We don't
believe that countries should provide military assistance to state sponsors
of terrorism, Syria being clearly one of those states.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to give us more on the traffic violations of
Mr. Makharadze today?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I am. In fact, I think we ought to do that in a
little bit of depth and detail because it's quite complex and I don't want
to leave anything unsaid.
We have been reviewing the issue of Mr. Makharadze's behavior since the
tragedy of a week ago Friday. We have verified that Mr. Makharadze was
issued a District of Columbia notice of a traffic violation on May 8, 1995,
for passing through a red light for which he paid a fine of $75.00. In
addition to that, he was twice cited in Virginia: On April 22, 1996, for
speeding in excess of 80 miles per hour for which he paid a $179.00
fine; and again on January 3, 1995, for improper lane change for which
he paid a $56.00 fine. This was in connection with a minor traffic
We're also aware that he was stopped on August 22, 1996, in the District
of Colombia. We have not been able to verify in the DC records that he was
issued any citations in connection with this stop.
That's the specifics about Mr. Makharadze, and that's what we're aware
of. We were not aware of any of these traffic violations, as I understand
it, until we actually checked with the relevant police authorities. The
standard procedure that we have put into place and that we'll certainly try
to re-enforce is that when diplomats are stopped in the DC area or the New
York area, where they principally are, or in San Francisco where we
have a lot of foreign diplomats, we ask the local police departments to let
us know when people have been stopped for serious violations or even minor
traffic violations. I'll tell you in a minute the reason why we do
We don't have our own law enforcement jurisdiction here at the Department
of State so we're dependent upon the District of Colombia, the Virginia
counties, and the Maryland countries.
We depend entirely on them. We actually conduct training seminars with
the local law enforcement authorities here in the DC area and in New York
to explain our concerns about violations of U.S. and local law by
diplomats. We especially emphasize the need for police to contact us when
diplomats are cited.
In fact, on the back of every Department of State-issued driver's license,
and all foreign diplomats have driver's licenses issued by the Department
of State, we provide two telephone numbers and a fax number requesting that
the police send us citations - and those are our numbers - if a driver has
been ticketed. We actually assign points to diplomats when they incur
These points are based upon the Association of American Motor Vehicles.
They're just like the points that you or I would get if we're guilty of a
If a diplomat builds up 12 points or more on their State Department
driver's license for violations occurring within a two-year period, we
automatically suspend driving privileges for 90 days.
In the case of Mr. Makharadze, as I said, we did not know, I think until
last week, about the four traffic infractions that I've just told you
about. We wish that we had been in position to know that.
Let me just continue because it gets actually a little bit more
QUESTION: (Inaudible) ever get to know?
MR. BURNS: It's episodic. It's an imperfect system, Barry. We rely
upon the cooperation of local police authorities.
They do tell us about other diplomats who have been either convicted or
accused of traffic violations or other misdemeanors or criminal offenses.
But in terms of driving violations, we do have records.
In this particular case, for some reason - and it must be pure coincidence
because we're dealing here with two different police - maybe three
different police departments - we just didn't get the information.
Now let me just finish this because I want to be comprehensive.
Every time we are apprised that there's been a violation of our traffic
laws - in this case, by a diplomat - we notify the embassy of the diplomat.
We send a letter informing the embassy of the type of violation cited and
then we follow up with the relevant court or the relevant administrative
agency to make sure that there's been a fine paid or some action has been
Here's where it gets particularly interesting. If the citation can be
resolved with payment of a fine, the diplomat is expected to either pay the
fine or contest the matter in court.
If a diplomat wants to contest the violation, then he needs to waive his
or her diplomatic immunity. The diplomat is expected to obtain a waiver to
appear in court.
For more serious traffic violations, for which payment of a fine is not
an option, where there's some suspicion of a greater violation of the law,
then the Department formally requests a waiver of diplomatic immunity, and
that is the case that we're in right now with Mr. Makharadze. We have
formally requested that his diplomatic immunity be waived. If the waiver
is not granted, then essentially we assign points to that diplomat's
record. If the points build up, we take unilateral action to take his
driver's license away. If the offenses are particularly egregious, we
expel that diplomat from the country.
So we take this obligation that we have very seriously.
I think I told you yesterday that in 1996, we suspended the driver's
licenses of ten diplomats; in the last four years, we have expelled eight
diplomats from the United States because of a consistent pattern of driving
under the influence of alcohol.
So I wanted to go through this in some detail because we do have a system
in place. It does work if we get the cooperation of the local police
QUESTION: Do his offenses add up to 12 points?
MR. BURNS: The four infractions, I think, would add up to eight, not
QUESTION: Wait a minute. If you use the 12-point system, isn't
speeding a six-pointer in the District?
MR. BURNS: We're dealing here with a couple of different jurisdictions.
We're dealing with Virginia. I'm not sure if there are various counties in
Virginia, as well as the District of Colombia.
QUESTION: Nick, I don't want to make it more complicated than it is.
I'm just saying, the fact that you say 12 is a critical line for you, if
that's the approach you use, it would stand to reason that six would be the
points for speeding; and I just wonder - not to be scientific about this,
but there's a third way in the District. You can pay the fine without
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTION: Okay. So it isn't the fine, certainly to a monied person.
It's not the fine that's the problem, if you can afford to pay the fine.
It's the points which will cost you your license. Okay?
MR. BURNS: Barry, let's remember what's relevant here.
In the case of Mr. Makharadze -
QUESTION: They can dig into the embassy petty cash and pay the
MR. BURNS: In the case of Mr. Makharadze, we did not know until last
week about these various traffic offenses. So therefore, we were not in
the position to build up the points and to warn him and his embassy. But
that's what our system allows us to do when we have the information from
the police departments.
We have taken action against diplomats. We've taken away driver's
licenses and we've expelled people from this country for inappropriate
behavior and for breaking our laws.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) did not have the record, did not know the points
until last week -
MR. BURNS: Of Mr. Makharadze; that's right.
QUESTION: -- and did not at any point ask Georgia for his driver's
record, when he sees the points adding up or -
MR. BURNS: Bill, we didn't have the information. Therefore, we were
not in the position to have any suspicion. Therefore, we didn't make any
request of the Government of Georgia.
QUESTION: So this is basically a lack of reporting -
MR. BURNS: And we're not cast any blame here. We're just trying to
say, there's a system, we need the cooperation of the law enforcement - the
police departments - and we're going to redouble our efforts to make sure
that they understand how interested we are in the driving record of people
who are stopped.
QUESTION: One more point, Nick. Had he been asked to take a breathalyzer
on any of those stops?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea. I wasn't the police officer in question.
You'll have to ask the local police authorities.
QUESTION: Nick, in talking about the points assigned by the State
Department to each diplomat, what are the criteria?
How do you assess - the report comes to you from -
MR. BURNS: The local police department.
QUESTION: The local police department?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: So they don't go into that. They will give it to you and you
will assign that -
MR. BURNS: We assign it based on the point system which is established
by the Association of American Motor Vehicle authorities.
I think it's a commonly understood point system.
QUESTION: So you think it's basically not common for a foreign diplomat,
for his government to provide his driver's record to the State Department
before you give him any kind of license; is that correct?
MR. BURNS: It's not the question here. A person is given a license
and then the person resides in the United States.
I'm talking here about what happens about their behavior in the United
States once they're given a driver's license.
QUESTION: But you weren't tipped off, then, that he had a drinking and
MR. BURNS: The State Department - I'm not aware that any part of the
State Department was tipped off by anybody; that there were episodes of
this -- and I can't say that we're aware of any episodes where alcohol was
a factor except for possibly the last one, but that's not for us to decide.
That's for the U.S. Attorney to decide.
QUESTION: Would it not be wise for the State Department to ask Georgia
and other governments for the driving records of new diplomats?
MR. BURNS: We assume when people apply for driver's licenses as
diplomats that they fill out the application forms truthfully and honestly.
In this particular case. I don't know what the facts are pertaining to Mr.
Makharadze. I'm not aware of what his driving record may have been in the
Republic of Georgia.
QUESTION: Was he asked on the application about offenses in Georgia?
MR. BURNS: As I say, we assume that those applications are filled out
truthfully and honestly. I haven't seen the application form.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, there seems -
Q (Inaudible) you said that this would have added up to eight
points on the four violations. But we don't know what that fourth
violation was, so how do you know what the points would be?
MR. BURNS: Okay, let me do this. Since I'm not adding the points and
since I've never received a traffic violation, so I'm just completely -
never, never, never. Perfect record.
QUESTION: You have the limo, don't you?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the limo, Barry. Glyn's got the limo. Where
is Glyn? The PA limo? That's Glyn. No, no, I drive myself.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) is driving in a limo.
MR. BURNS: Jamie maybe, Glyn maybe, but I'm not. (Laughter)
I have never received a parking ticket in a foreign capital.
However, I have for parking illegally outside Fenway Park in Boston. But
that was warranted, under the circumstances as an officer. Come on, I'm
just trying to get to the ballgame.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) trying to parse this too finely.
If you were to yank the driver's license for accumulation of points of a
diplomat, and the diplomat continued to drive -
MR. BURNS: No.
QUESTION: --if a diplomat continued to drive without a driver's
MR. BURNS: No, it's illegal. Diplomats -
QUESTION: I understand it's illegal. I understand it's illegal but
people do it all the time. Even non-diplomats.
MR. BURNS: I don't know anybody who does that, Charlie.
You hang around a different crowd that I do.
QUESTION: Well, perhaps, but it's a fact.
MR. BURNS: Here's the deal, as I understand it. If you rack up
sufficient points to have your license revoked by the Department of State -
you're a foreign diplomat - you cannot drive for 90 days because you don't
have a driver's license. If you drive without a driver's license, you're
breaking our law and you would incur the further wrath of the State
Department and further punishment.
QUESTION: My question, to finish it, is, but one is still covered by
diplomatic immunity, is one not - a diplomat, that is?
MR. BURNS: Yes, that is true. But we have to rely here upon the
truthfulness and the honor of the embassies involved.
I must accentuate one point. A great, great majority of diplomats in the
United States follow our laws, observe our laws and do not break our laws.
We're talking about a minority of people.
QUESTION: Does that also include paying the fines if they are in
violation of traffic laws? The great majority do, is that what you're
MR. BURNS: The great majority of diplomats in the United States are
not running around violating our laws. I can't tell you whether they're
paying fines or not paying fines. I know that some diplomats do pay fines.
Some diplomats lift their immunity for traffic violations and face the
consequences. Others do not.
QUESTION: On the system that you have, doesn't it imply some judgment
on the part of the State Department to assign points?
As in the case in New York, which is not exactly the same, some of these
tickets may be disputed. If they refuse to pay or recognize that ticket
for a traffic violation, it doesn't necessarily imply that they were guilty
MR. BURNS: We assume in relatively minor matters - relatively; crimes
that are not felonies like speeding or reckless driving - we assume that if
someone is unwilling to lift his diplomatic immunity, then perhaps there is
some reason to doubt. We have to err on the side of caution here. We have
to err on the side of protecting the American public from people who may be
making improper use of their driver's license and who may be endangering
the public safety. We err on that side. I think it's appropriate for us
to do that.
QUESTION: If they pay the fine, so I understand then the points are not
assigned by the State Department?
MR. BURNS: You know what, let me do this. Let me take that question.
I can give you an answer at the end of the briefing.
I want to be absolutely sure of that. It's quite complicated, obviously.
QUESTION: Do diplomats who don't pay their traffic fines get towed or
booted as all American citizens do?
MR. BURNS: That's a question for the local police authorities.
It may vary by jurisdiction. I don't know. The State Department doesn't
have a tow truck and we don't write tickets. Wish we did. We really have
to rely on, in this area, the police jurisdictions of two different states
and DC - the District of Colombia.
QUESTION: New subject, I hope. President Mubarak seems to suggest, at
least, that it's impossible for these letter bombs to have originated in
Egypt. He says that the postmarks and the stamps could have been faked.
I'm wondering whether the U.S. shares that doubt?
MR. BURNS: We think it's proper to investigate this.
The facts are that at least the first round of letter bombs were
postmarked "Alexandria, Egypt."
The FBI is looking into this. The FBI has been in Egypt.
It's also been up in New York looking at the letter bombs delivered at al-
Hayat in the United Nations building yesterday. The FBI is in charge of
this investigation. The State Department is trying to cooperate and give
all assistance to the FBI.
It is not possible to say that they did not originate from Egypt. We
don't know. That's under investigation. But it's at least a suspicion
because the FBI showed you on television and told you about the fact that
the original batch was postmarked "Alexandria."
QUESTION: Given the fact that there have been so many of these letter
bombs here in the United States in the last two weeks, how come we haven't
established a reward program?
MR. BURNS: We normally establish a reward program - and I just speak
normally; I don't know if in all cases - when we have some idea, after a
thorough investigation of who may have been responsible for a crime. For
instance, Pan Am 103, we know who did it. We have strong suspicions that
there are two Libyans, affiliated with the Libyan Government, who are being
harbored by the Libyan Government itself. We've issued a substantial multi-
million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of those
In this case, I think we're at the beginning of a very worrisome series
of developments. We're trying to get to the bottom of that with the FBI in
the lead. If we believe that we have a better chance of identifying the
culprits by offering a reward problem, we'll do that. But I think the FBI
and the State Department have just not made that determination because
we're at the beginning stages of it.
I should tell you, we do have a very thorough letter-screening set of
procedures here at the State Department as do all American embassies and
consulates. In fact, we've just been recirculating two people who open
mail in the building a set of guidelines of what to look for, what to be
suspicious of. We've got a copy of this poster in the Press Office, if
you're interested. You can look at it after the briefing. And if you're
really interested, I can go through it here. I won't do that unless you're
QUESTION: The question about the package that you found earlier. If
the DC Bomb Squad - if you were so worried about it that the DC Bomb Squad
was called in, why was this building not evacuated?
MR. BURNS: All I can tell you is that I wasn't there so I can't tell
you all the steps that we went through to locate that package. But given
the heightened concern, I think it was prudent for us to call the Bomb
Squad. Perhaps there was a time when this wasn't so much of a worry that
one wouldn't have done that. I think it was prudent to do it. It all
happened very quickly. I don't know the reason why the building was not
evacuated, but I can check on that for you.
QUESTION: I would like an answer to that, specifically.
MR. BURNS: Fine. I'll be glad to look into that.
QUESTION: My question had to do with the Bomb Squad.
I don't question that at all.
QUESTION: About the letter bomb (inaudible) from Alexandria, Egypt, at
the National Press building but no bomb. (Handing paper to Mr. Burns.)
MR. BURNS: Do I really want to touch this? You want to take this
outside? You can just help me out here.
You received this postmarked "Egypt." Have you given this to -
QUESTION: It was checked by the Secret Service. They opened it.
MR. BURNS: It was checked by the Secret Service. So, good. Have you
read the letter? Do you want me to read the letter on C-Span? You
probably don't want me to do that.
QUESTION: I haven't opened it.
MR. BURNS: I think all of us need to be more mindful now of letter-
opening procedures. I was fascinated by the story of the al-Hayat
correspondent at the U.N. who took the appropriate measures to protect
herself yesterday. We've told all of the people in our own offices who
open letters to be aware of the guidelines. I would encourage you all, if
you're interested, to go to the Press Office and look at the guidelines.
They're sensible, but they're based on experience about what most
people who send these things normally do. I think they're sensible
guidelines to look at.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that. Looking at - you mentioned the last two
weeks and looking ahead to this Monday, is there a particularly heightened
sense of concern among the Administration about perhaps mail going to
Capitol Hill Monday?
MR. BURNS: I'd refer you to the FBI on that. I can't answer that
question. But I think it's just sensible for all of us to be aware that
this happening and to take necessary precautions.
QUESTION: But as sort of an overview, how is the U.S. viewing
MR. BURNS: We're very concerned about, as you can imagine.
People sending letter bombs to Leavenworth, to the United Nations, to the
National Press Club building here in Washington - journalists being the
recipients of this - we're very, very concerned about it.
QUESTION: Nick, this is probably a question better asked elsewhere. But
do you think the American Postal Service is open to this kind of terrorism -
is vulnerable to this kind of terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I'm not competent to answer that, really.
You'll understand why. You have to address that to the Postal Service and
to the FBI. I think there's no question that there is heightened
consciousness of the problem. All of us throughout the U.S. Government
have been told to make sure that people who open mail are aware of the
general signs of a letter bomb. They're quite specific, and we can bring
the poster in here, if you'd like, and show it to you, or you can see it
afterwards. Whatever you'd like to do.
Carol, did you have a follow-up on this? I think Carol was first, Mr.
Abdulsalam, and then we'll be glad to go to you.
QUESTION: On Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: It sounds like both the Cypriots and the Turks have a
different take on what happened yesterday with Carey Cavanaugh than you.
The Cypriots are saying that there's basically - it sounds like there's no
agreement on, or nothing of a breakthrough on the confidence building
measures that you talked about; and the Turks are saying that the crisis is
not necessarily over?
MR. BURNS: Let's just review the bidding here. President Clerides
gave Carey Cavanaugh concrete assurances that no part of the components -
none of the components of the anti-aircraft system - will be delivered to
Cyprus for the next 16 months. That provides us some breathing space. It
provides the Turks - the Turkish Cypriots, the Greeks, the Cypriot
Government a breathing space to resolve that problem amicably and
On the second set of issues which refer to the cease-fire lines, I
checked again today with Carey Cavanaugh, with our European Bureau. He
received assurances of full support for these measures along the cease-fire
lines. We understand that the United Nations forces in Cyprus, representatives
will be discussing these particular issues with the Cypriot Government and
the Turkish Cypriot leadership at the end of this week. That's a positive
I think "full support" certainly doesn't mean, and I didn't intimate at
all yesterday, that means they've signed on the dotted line. "Full
support" means, we think, full support to negotiate these things very
seriously and to look towards a solution to prevent the kind of thing that
Two people dead in the last six months because of problems on the cease-
QUESTION: The Cypriots seem to suggest that you guys are claiming
credit for something that is much more nebulous than you're making it
MR. BURNS: No, we're certainly not claiming credit.
In fact, if any credit is due, it's due to the Cypriot Government and to
the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Denktash, for having agreed to give full
support to these measures. We would give the credit to both of them, and
that's a good thing. We don't need credit. We're not always looking for
QUESTION: What do you say to those in Turkey who say that what the U.S.
is trying to sell is a major assurance from President Clerides; it is, in
fact, an inevitable waiting period for the assembly and transportation of
MR. BURNS: We don't agree. The Cypriot Government had other avenues
it could have taken to expedite the construction of the anti-aircraft
system. It did not have to wait 16 months if it really believed it was
necessary to deploy it earlier. So we take issue with that and say that
this is a significant step forward by the Cypriot Government.
In general, let me just say, we think that yesterday was a good day.
We're certainly not going to stand here and try to add fuel to any of the
fires that may still be burning over there - the rhetorical fires. We
think it's time for the Turkish Government, the Greek Government, the two
communities in Cyprus - the Cypriot Government - to step back, exercise
restraint in what they say and what they do and try to resolve these
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the talks in Ankara and Athens?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I know that Bob Pelletreau chaired the talks this
morning in Ankara. They began early this morning.
QUESTION: I meant the talks about Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: Oh, further on Carey Cavanaugh?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. I thought you meant the talks in Ankara. Yes,
I can say that Carey was in Athens today. He met with the Greek Foreign
Ministry leadership. He met with Foreign Minister Pangalos. He and
Minister Pangalos reviewed Mr. Pangalos' diplomatic mission to Belgrade
which, as you know, the United States felt was very helpful. Carey
Cavanaugh briefed Minister Pangalos on his own visit to Nicosia.
In all of Mr. Cavanaugh's meetings in Athens, he reviewed the results
that we achieved with all the parties in Cyprus, the steps they've agreed
to take along the cease-fire lines and the further steps that we believe
must be taken to reduce the sense of tension and to build support for a
comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Included among these steps is a possible moratorium on flights by Greek
and Turkish military aircraft over Cyprus. This item remains under
discussion, and we will pursue it with the parties.
I also understand that Carey Cavanaugh met with Dutch Foreign Minister
van Mierlo who is in Greece in the capacity as the - the Netherlands
capacity as EU President. They discussed coordinating steps between the
United States and the European Union on Cyprus.
QUESTION: Did Mr. Cavanaugh get any assurances from the Greeks that
they would go along with this moratorium?
MR. BURNS: I believe I'd like to just leave it where I said, and that
is, these are serious issues that ought to be discussed. They remain under
discussion, so I don't believe we've reached full agreement on that
QUESTION: The Turkish Foreign Minister Spokesman criticized you for
your tone of the explanation or your statement against Turkish officials.
Do you have any word for them?
MR. BURNS: I regret to hear that. I stand by what I said yesterday
and last week. But I'd like to put the accent on trying to move forward
now. Now that President Clerides has given us some space - all of us to
move forward - let's see restraint on all sides and let's see progress on
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Defense Minister again today?
I'm not sure. Someone in the Defense Ministry had something - very
provocative words again today about the issue. I understand that Mrs.
Ciller is going to be going to Cyprus. Do you have anything to say about
it? Have you seen that statement?
MR. BURNS: I've not seen the statement, no.
QUESTION: You think it's a wise move for Mrs. Ciller to go into Cyprus
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that she is going to Cyprus.
So I'd rather not comment on hypotheticals in this case. We've said what
we have to say. We meant what we said. That message has been delivered to
the Turkish Government, privately and publicly.
It's time to move on towards cooperation among all the parties.
That's where the United States would like to go.
QUESTION: They seem to be ignoring you?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't think they're ignoring us, Sid.
I don't believe that's the case at all. I think we've got their
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: A different subject.
MR. BURNS: Yes. Belarus; and then Mr. Abdulsalam, you'll take the
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked you about the talk out of Moscow, about a
MR. BURNS: So, comments by the United States on that?
QUESTION: How do you feel about this idea? And do you think, in fact,
that this is an effort by Moscow to try to somehow lay a marker ahead of
NATO enlargement, show displeasure?
MR. BURNS: We're a little bit limited in what we can say for the
following reason. We've just seen Mr. Yastrzhembsky's comments. We've not
been apprised by the Russian Government or by the Belarusian Government of
this idea that they might propose a referendum on a possible union. We've
just not been apprised of that officially. We've only seen the press
reports of Mr. Yastrzhembsky's comments. We need to know a lot more about
what is in store here, what they have in mind, what the timetable
might be, what this union might represent.
As you know, we certainly believe that any kind of change of borders, any
kind of integration between states in that part of the world or any part of
the world ought to reflect the will of the people, not just the will of the
governments involved - the will of the people.
In the case of Belarus, it's a little bit difficult to assess the will of
the people. We hear what the government says everyday. We're not really
sure what the people are thinking.
So we're going to reserve judgment on this. We're going to try to find
out what the facts are. And then at the appropriate time, if, in fact,
this does go forward - I don't know if it will or not - then we'll perhaps
be in a better position to assess it.
QUESTION: In the past, on subjects like this regarding Moscow, the
statement has been, "It's okay with us as long it's not coercive. I notice
you're not saying that.
MR. BURNS: I remember very well from '93 and '94, when I was working
on this issue, what we would say, and we would not just say "coercive,"
with all due respect. We always talked about the fact that this needed to
be voluntary, meaning that it needed to reflect the will of the people of
It's one thing for a President of a country, like the President of Belarus,
to stand up and say, "Let's do this." It's quite another for the people to
say in a valid referendum or a valid way of assessing their opinion, "Yes,
I don't believe that's happened yet in the case of Belarus.
QUESTION: Can we ask - a statement that was made by Dennis Ross over in
the last few hours, I think, of the agreement, that it's about coming, or
something like that?
MR. BURNS: Oh, he did not say that.
QUESTION: No, I mean, just that it might be coming or something -
MR. BURNS: Right. Dennis Ross and the Secretary have talked twice
today. The Secretary, of course, has been following this issue very, very
closely. I spoke to Dennis about two hours ago, and here's what I can tell
As you know, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting
in Erez tonight, and the position of the United States is fairly clear. We
believe the main substantive issues, both the Hebron issues and the non-
Hebron issues, have been resolved.
There are a few details left, and our view is it's time for Chairman
Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu to make a deal. It's time that they
finish this agreement. It's time to wrap it up. It's time to end the
negotiations successfully and conclusively. It's time to make this thing
work, and that's our message, and we hope very, very much that this meeting
tonight will result in agreement.
Whether it will or not, this is the Middle East. It's always difficult to
MR. BURNS: Any follow-up, Mr. Abdulsalam?
QUESTION: I was going to ask if Dennis is going to be present until
that agreement will be -
MR. BURNS: I believe they've asked Dennis Ross to be present at the
discussions tonight. He has been the mediator of this agreement specifically
over the last couple of weeks.
He's been centrally involved.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think Sid was first.
QUESTION: A related subject. Yesterday in his speech to the Council of
Jewish Presidents, the Secretary said that Madeleine Albright had asked
Dennis to stay on. Has Dennis accepted that recently?
MR. BURNS: I know from my conversations with a lot of people, but
specifically Secretary-designate Albright and people around her, that she
has the highest regard for Dennis Ross. She is not in a position to make
formal appointments, as you know.
She has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Once she's confirmed,
she'll begin to make public her appointments for her senior associates here
at the Department. So I think we're just a little bit ahead of this story,
but obviously Secretary Christopher said what he said, and I think all of
us - I know Dennis was very touched personally by what Secretary Christopher
said about him yesterday. I think all of us here who work with Dennis
consider him to be one of the finest public servants we know. In fact, I
can't think of a finer public servant that I've known in my career in
government, and that transcends politics.
He's worked for Republican administrations. He's worked for Democratic
administrations, and I think you've seen the President, the Secretary of
State, and now Secretary-designate Albright all say - all give him a real
vote of confidence. But she cannot make appointments, obviously. She
doesn't want to presume confirmation by the Senate, so we'll just have to
wait and see who she appoints formally.
QUESTION: You can't clarify what the Secretary was talking about
MR. BURNS: The Secretary was very clear. But again I want to be clear
that Secretary-designate Albright has to respect the role of the Senate in
this process, and that is to give its advice and consent, and she does not
want to do anything that would anticipate that decision - that ratification
of vote by the Senate, and she's been scrupulous about that, as you know,
since her announcement by President Clinton.
QUESTION: Not to argue, it's too fine a point, but apparently she has
asked Dennis to stay on.
MR. BURNS: Sid, I didn't say that. I'm being very careful to say she
is not in a position to make any public announcements as to who her senior
associates will be, and I'm certainly not in a position to do that if she's
not in a position to do it.
We have to respect the constitutional process here in our own government.
The Senate speaks next. The Senate will vote at some point on her
nomination, and all of us here hope that that will be positive, but that's
up to the Senate.
QUESTION: Nick, if Dennis will remain on the job, does this require an
approval by the Senate, or is it the President's envoy?
MR. BURNS: Again, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Let's wait until Secretary-designate Albright is confirmed, if she is to
be confirmed. Once she makes her appointments, we'll be glad to let you
know which of those need to be confirmed by the Senate and which do not.
There are a variety of positions here that need to be confirmed. There are
a variety of positions that do not need to be confirmed.
QUESTION: Nick, following up on your wrapping it up, what do you
consider "wrapping it up"? If it's an agreement but they don't actually
sign it, and what happens if they don't wrap it up?
MR. BURNS: It's like the old saying: "We'll all know an agreement
when we see it." It's time for them to make an agreement. It's time for
them to conclude an agreement, to wrap up all the details, to shake hands
and say, "We've done it."
QUESTION: And what happens if they don't? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Ask me tomorrow morning. Let's talk tomorrow morning.
We'll have the briefing at 7:00 o'clock in the morning, and we'll talk
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
MR. BURNS: I will go to you next. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you, Nick. On Nicaragua, there's still bad
blood after the election and the President-elect is having, I think, a
pretty - is making every effort to reach out to the Sandinistas. There
have been some ambushes in the countryside; some threats by the Sandinistas
of going back to guerrilla warfare. And then there's the request from
President Aleman that the United States defer any deportations of
Nicaraguans by the United States because the economy can't handle it.
Can you speak to either of those issues?
MR. BURNS: I can assure you of this, Bill. There's no bad blood
between President Aleman and the United States. We have the highest respect
for him. We intend to work very closely with him, and, as you know, we're
delighted that the constitutional process worked in Nicaragua and that
people had a chance to vote freely.
As for the deportation question, we have seen a public statement. We've
seen press reports of it. We checked with our Embassy this morning and
with our Bureau here. We've not been alerted by the Nicaraguan Government
to any kind of formal request for any delay in any deportations, and in any
case the deportations are the work of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, and I'd refer you to them for a comment.
QUESTION: And about these threats of armed conflict by the Sandinistas -
the disgruntled ones?
MR. BURNS: Nicaragua's gone well beyond civil war. It's on the path
towards reform and democracy. It ought to stay there. It has the best
wishes of the United States as it heads down that road.
I think we want to go - yes.
QUESTION: Nick, first question related to the - you mentioned it's the
time to sign an agreement or to come to a conclusion.
When is the time that the State Department will disclose the guarantees -
American guarantees to this agreement?
MR. BURNS: If there is to be an agreement, that will be announced by
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat, and we will have something to
say. We're very rarely speechless on these issues. We'll have something
to say after the agreement is reached - publicly - and, if you want to ask
questions about aspects of this agreement, I'm sure Mike McCurry and I will
endeavor to answer those questions as best we can.
QUESTION: Yeah, my -
MR. BURNS: But preceding their meeting tonight, I have no substantive
comments to make on the outlines of this possible agreement - and it's
possible, it's not 100 percent sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday you - referring back to the mail bombs, and I don't
have any letter to give to you, by the way -
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. (Laughter) Then you won't get
nervous. I'm a little bit nervous. I think that was - do you remember a
time when anyone delivered a letter bomb to the Spokesman, George, in your
career? (Laughter) I know I have a lot of enemies out there in the press,
but I didn't think it was bad.
QUESTION: All time first.
MR. BURNS: All time first. Carol, what do you think?
Any memory of this?
QUESTION: I have a (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Okay.
QUESTION: Nick, do you know where the 1997 NATO calendars are, by any
MR. BURNS: This is the 1996 NATO calendar, Barry. See, that was
particularly ironic about this. These calendars are out of date. We'll
probably use them for kindling, but there are 1997 NATO calendars. I
actually have one. Would you like to see it?
QUESTION: No, no. It's all right. I'm waiting for the expanded NATO
MR. BURNS: I have a Red Sox calendar on my door of my office, too.
(Laughter) Expanded calendar. No, that doesn't come out until after July
QUESTION: (Inaudible) three new months in it?
MR. BURNS: Did I fail to answer your question?
QUESTION: I was trying to ask my question.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. (Laughter) Barry, we have a question.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) talking about things like that, you know, the
Israelis say even though it doesn't have to be -
MR. BURNS: I try.
QUESTION: Even though it doesn't have to be submitted to the Knesset,
they have these little niceties about a democratic way, so they're going to
send it to the Knesset anyhow. Do you know if there is some sort of
ceremony entailed and more specifically either to the initialing or the
formal signing but, more to the point, will the United States be the host
or even participate in a large way so far as this implementation agreement
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any kind of grand ceremony planned for
Washington to mark this implementation agreement.
Let's remember what this is. This does not fit with the historic nature
of either the Oslo Accords, where there were two Washington White House
ceremonies. This is an aspect of the second Oslo Accord. It's part and
parcel of the second accord, and therefore it is something that we think
should have been done and should have been agreed to long ago. We'll be
delighted if it happens - if it happens. We're not predicting it will
happen, and I'm sure we'll obviously have something to say publicly, both
the White House and the State Department. But this is a time for
serious work, and, if this agreement can be reached, it's time to get on to
further work on the peace process.
QUESTION: Is there some after - call it follow-on, if you will -
negotiations on issues that are not - I'm not talking about final status;
I'm talking about, for instance, the so-called safe passage route between
Gaza and the West Bank; whether the Palestinians will have an air field in
Gaza. Will the U.S. participate in these negotiations? Should we expect
never to see Dennis again, or what is the plan so far as the U.S. trying to
mop up - and they're more than mop up; they're more than details, they're
MR. BURNS: Poor Dennis has been there since shortly after Christmas,
just a couple days after Christmas.
QUESTION: We miss him.
MR. BURNS: We miss him, too, and we want him to come home. We hope he
can come home soon. Barry, that's up to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
They decide if they want somebody in the room with them. They decide if
the United States should be the intermediary or the mediator or the
facilitator of their conversations, and we'll respect their wishes. I
think they found that we are an indispensable part of these negotiations,
but it's up to them.
Yes, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Do you have any other question, Barry? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay.
QUESTION: Nick, about the mail bomb, yesterday and today you confirmed
that the Egyptian Government has pledges to cooperate with the FBI and
Embassy and all these people.
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's correct.
QUESTION: That's correct. It seems from whatever people - official
people in Egypt are announcing that there is no cooperation.
I mean, am I wrong, or you have another explanation of cooperation?
MR. BURNS: The Egyptian Government has pledged its full cooperation to
the United States Government to investigate these crimes - the sending of
the letter bombs to the United States, to Arab journalists as well as
American journalists, as well as to American Government installations, and
we expect full cooperation from the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: Nick (inaudible) people are mentioning, including officials,
that this is first you accuse or let's say the letters are coming from
Alexandria; and, second, that they are going to investigate by themselves
and then hand you the outcome of that investigation.
MR. BURNS: We hope this will be a cooperative investigation.
We're not accusing anyone of anything. We are trying to follow the lead
of evidence. The FBI is in charge. The FBI has said publicly it thinks
our letters - it knows our letters have Egyptian postmarks. Those facts
cannot be disputed, and the evidence must be followed up and analyzed by
the FBI and the Egyptian authorities.
The final results of the investigation will be announced by the FBI, and
I assume the Government of Egypt will have something to say about that,
too. But we must follow the investigation.
We cannot turn away blindly because we don't like where the evidence may
lead. We must follow where the evidence leads, and that's what the FBI is
trying to do.
QUESTION: Nick, can you enlighten me a little bit - the legal adviser
of Embassy is more or less FBI representative - is the only person who is
in charge to investigate these things?
MR. BURNS: The FBI is in charge of the investigation, not the State
Department. The FBI asks us for cooperation, and we give it when they ask
QUESTION: Nick, can I just follow up. Your language is a little bit
like the case of the Saudi bombing where you stressed that they've pledged
to cooperate, but you're not quite saying whether they are indeed
MR. BURNS: They have pledged to cooperate. We assume they will
cooperate. I'm not on the ground in Egypt to give you a sense of what the
level of cooperation is. But Egypt is a good friend of the United States.
It's a very responsible country, and I'm sure it will do the right
QUESTION: Nick, on China, the Dalai Lama has been invited to visit
Taiwan. China is warning him not to. Sort of a mine field. Do you have a
comment on the Dalai Lama's right to visit Taiwan, Taiwan's right to extend
the invitation, and Chinese ruling on the issue.
MR. BURNS: I'm just not aware of the Dalai Lama's travel plans. I
don't know anything about them.
QUESTION: Could you take that question, Nick?
MR. BURNS: The Dalai Lama is obviously free. He's a free person, at
least in terms of his travel to the United States.
I don't know anything about his travel to Taiwan. The question being?
QUESTION: Comment on China's -
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to look into it for you, yes.
QUESTION: On the U.N. dues issue, there was quite a lengthy story in
the Post today, talking about Clinton's plans to propose a payment plan for
$1 billion. Can you talk a little bit about that? Is that accurate?
MR. BURNS: As always, the President has to publicly surface his budget
proposals to the Congress. He will do that shortly, in the next couple of
weeks, around the State of the Union address. Needless to say, I think the
President and the Secretary of State and Secretary-designate Albright have
all said the United States wants to make good on its commitments to
pay its dues and its arrearages to the United Nations. We do not
want to be lacking in our support for the United Nations, and we plan to do
The specific way of doing that, of course, is to present to the Congress
budget figures, but I cannot surface those for you. I can't confirm any of
the figures in The Washington Post story. I'm not contesting them. It's
just that I can't talk about it. It's the President's prerogative to
present this; it's not mine.
QUESTION: Are you confident that the President will be asking - apart
from the U.N. dues, will be asking for more overall funding for foreign
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to wait and see. I mean, the President's
budget is never final until the President gives the final sign-off, and I
don't know where that is over at the White House, but I imagine that
they're still working on it.
QUESTION: Nick, so far as spending is concerned, the nominee, like the
Secretary, but he didn't hold to that point very long, has suggested an
open mind on whether the AID agency might be wrapped up with the Arms
Control, and there's some reorganization, obviously, that would save money.
Do you know if any work is being done on that? Any brainstorming on
possibly blending these offices, or is that simply something she told the
Committee and will await her appearance here?
MR. BURNS: I think Secretary-designate Albright's remarks are self-
explanatory. There is an issue out there. There has been for many years.
As to what she and others in the Administration will want to do on that
issue, I just don't know at this point.
QUESTION: Is there any work going on, on it, so far that you know
MR. BURNS: I actually don't know the answer to that question. Thank
(The briefing concluded at 2:17 p.m.)