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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #14, 97-01-27

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1545

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

January 27, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

ANNOUNCEMENTS and STATEMENTS
1-2.......Secretary of State Albright's Activities:
1-2........--Telecons w/UK Foreign Secretary Rifkin/Egyptian FM Moussa
2..........--Courtesy call to Senator Ashcroft
2..........--First Speech to State Dept. Employees
2..........--First Senior Staff Mtg./Mtg. w/Assist. Secretaries
2.........Foreign Policy Town Mtg. in Richmond on January 30
2-3.......Multi-Party Talks in Northern Ireland Resume
3.........Release of Declassified Kennedy Admin. Documents

RUSSIA 3.........Chechen Elections 7.........Initial Albright/Primakov Discussion 7-8.......Gore/Chernomyrdin Mtg. 8.........Clinton/Yeltsin Summit 8-9.......Talbott/Chernomyrdin, Rodionov, Primakov Mtgs. in Moscow 9.........Yeltsin Participation in Russia/NATO Relationship Discussions

HUMAN RIGHTS 4-6.......Release of State Department Report on 1/30/97 ...........--Leak on Contents of Report re: Treatment of Scientologists in Germany

GERMANY 4-8,22....U.S. Position on Treatment of Scientologists/Scientologists' Public Relas. Campaign

NORTH KOREA 9-12......February 5 Briefing on Four-Party Proposal 10........Report of Agreement to Ship Nuclear Waste fr. Taiwan 10-11.....Report of U.S. Financing of Private Grain Deal

SWITZERLAND 12-15.....Nazi Gold Issue/U.S. Study/Resignation of Swiss Ambassador

SUDAN 15........Fighting in East/Reports of Fighting in South/Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea Mtg. 16-18.....U.S. Law on Financial Transactions between U.S. Companies & Sudanese

PERU 18-20.....Hostage Situation in Lima

FRANCE 20-22.....Discussions w/Germany on Nuclear Deterrence

NATO 21-22.....Command of AFSouth in Naples

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 23........Likud/Labor Legislators' Negotiating Plan

GREECE 24........Report of U.S. Legislation re: Imia Islet

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 24-25.....Bosnian Moslems turned back fr. Gajevi/Decision of Belgrade City Court re: Zajedno Election

BURMA 25-26.....Aung San Suu Kyi Award fr. Georgetown U.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #14

MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 1997, 1:10 P. M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Excuse me? I'm sorry about it too. In fact, with Carol's permission, I thought we would just have - now Carol, is it okay if we just talk about this for 30 seconds?

MS. GIACOMO: Yes.

MR. BURNS: I thought we'd just talk briefly about the Super Bowl, and all I want to say is that I publicly bet Sid some beer on the outcome of the game, and I lost the bet. So I'm a man of my word. I gave Sid this morning a six-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager, and even though we don't have the best football team in New England, we do have the best beer. Right, Sid?

MR. BALMAN: I don't know about that.

MR. BURNS: This is the highlight -

QUESTION: I thought -- (inaudible)

MR. BURNS: It was one six-pack. It was one. But Sid in return gave me the national beer of Texas, Lone Star, so I thought that was a fair deal, actually. Any other comments? Carol, I think we've ended this. Is that okay with you?

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: Yes. Okay. I wanted to let you know a little bit of what Secretary Albright has been doing. I think I reported to some of you on Friday she phoned Malcolm Rifkind, the U.K. Foreign Secretary, who was the first foreign leader she spoke to after being sworn in. She also called Foreign Minister Moussa of Egypt on Friday and had a long discussion with him on some peace process issues. She also, of course, received congratulations from Minister Moussa and the Egyptian Government on her swearing-in and her taking office as Secretary of State.

I think she's going to be making a series of phone calls to her foreign ministerial colleagues around the world over the next couple of days, just to be in touch with some people that she knows and others that she doesn't know so well. Similarly, she'll be making contacts with lots of people in the Congress, and this morning she went up and paid a courtesy call on Senator Ashcroft. So she'll be doing quite a lot of that in the days to come.

This afternoon at 3:00 o'clock, Secretary Albright will be making her first speech to State Department employees in the Dean Acheson auditorium. If you'd like to listen to that, I think we're going to pool that event, because there are going to be hundreds of State Department staff there. There isn't room for all of the press. If you'd like to be part of the pool, see John Dinger and his staff.

We'll pipe that in to the briefing room, if you'd like to hear it. It's a speech that she's going to give to talk about her priorities, the importance of the State Department, the Foreign and Civil Service, and I know that a lot of people around the building are anxious to hear from her.

There's not going to be a question-and-answer session to this, and so there's no opportunity for the press to ask questions. This is really directed at the employees in this building and those overseas.

Secretary Albright also held her first morning staff meeting this morning. She has a senior staff meeting that's going to be meeting regularly in the morning. She chaired that meeting. She then went and sat in on Strobe Talbott's daily meeting that he has with Assistant Secretaries. So she's getting around the building. She's boning up on a lot of issues. As I said, she's making these phone calls, and I think she's off to a very fast start.

I wanted to let you know that - remind you that the first State Department-sponsored foreign policy town meeting is going to be held in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, January 30. The speakers will be Ambassador Phil Wilcox, who's our Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, Director of Counter-Terrorism; Tom Pickering, who was formerly with the U.S. Foreign Service for 35 years, seven times an American Ambassador. He is making a guest appearance at my request, and he'll be speaking about Russia and the challenges of U.S.-Russian relations. Aaron Miller, who, as you know, is our Deputy Middle East peace negotiators, deputy to Ambassador Ross, will be speaking about the Middle East peace process.

This is open for press coverage. We plan to have at least 25 foreign policy town meetings across the country in 1997. This is the first. I know that Secretary Albright has given her full support to those of us in the Bureau of Public Affairs who are organizing these. I think you heard her say the other day that she intends to make early trips herself around the United States to talk to Americans about foreign policy.

I also wanted just to mark an important event, and that is that the multi-party talks in Northern Ireland resumed today under the Chairmanship of former Senator George Mitchell after a six-week recess, and I believe it's been resumed in Belfast.

The United States strongly supports the Northern Ireland peace process, which will face challenges in the weeks ahead. There are very important substantive issues that remain to be decided. Those opposed to the talks continue to mount acts of violence which are designed to poison the atmosphere and to scuttle these talks. A decision by the Irish Republican Army to forswear violence and terrorism and to help implement a lasting cease-fire would contribute immeasurably to the ongoing efforts led by the British and Irish Governments to end the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the United States again urges the IRA to take these steps.

The United States shares the view of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Irish Government that these multi-party talks, chaired by Senator Mitchell, represent the best way forward, and we fully support them. In that, we stand with the majority of people in the north and the south who are opposed to violence and want to see an end to the violence.

Last, I just wanted to say we are issuing today as part of our Foreign Relations of the United States series, which has been underway for many decades here, 2400 pages of declassified documents on United States policy in the Near East and in Africa during the Kennedy Administration. These documents supplement volumes of our foreign policy history that we have released in previous times.

Barry.

QUESTION: On Friday, we heard a lot of restatements of U.S. policy in many areas, but nobody asked about Chechnya, which is timely today. Would you like to check the box that this continues too? Also, I mean your view of their being only one Russia, and that includes Chechnya. Do you anticipate a renewal of fighting? All the leading candidates seem to be secessionists. Do you see any problem - does the State Department see any problem on that horizon?

MR. BURNS: We see the Chechen elections being held today as a very important and necessary step in the process of reconciliation between Russians and Chechens after the war. We understand that there has been a very high voter turnout throughout Chechnya. These elections are being observed and monitored by the OSCE, by a number of different non-profit organizations. There is a U.S. diplomat on the scene in Grozny. He is with the OSCE delegation. Our Embassy in Moscow is in touch with the Russians and Chechens, watching it very closely.

We hope, obviously, that the voting will be peaceful, and that the voting will be fair. It's too early to judge that at this point, but this is an important process. You saw from Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on Saturday a positive statement, saying that, of course, Russia would respect the wishes of the - excuse me - respect the process.

But let me be clear about the position of the United States. We long opposed the Chechen war from late December 1994 on. We felt it was a mistake. We also believe and have adhered to a very firm principle, and that is that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, and there's no mistake about that from our point of view.

QUESTION: Are the restrictions imposed on the Church of Scientology in Germany going to be the main topic of the Human Rights Report of this year?

MR. BURNS: The main topic of the Human Rights Report?

QUESTION: It seems so.

MR. BURNS: I doubt it. I doubt this is going to be the main topic of our Human Rights Report. Let me remind you, this Thursday, January 30, the State Department will unveil our 1996 Report on Human Rights conditions around the world. That report will cover events in over 120/130 countries, so this issue will be, I would think, certainly not the focus of the report. The report is country-specific. It goes country by country.

There was a leak, obviously, by somebody in the U.S. Government about the contents of this year's report. I think that's most unfortunate. I think it probably hyped the story more than it should be hyped. I don't think it's going to be surprising to see that issue addressed, however, in the report. Let me just say we have noted during 1996 developments in Germany concerning the treatment of the Scientologists, such as the calls by at least one important political group to boycott the film, "Mission Impossible."

We all thought "Mission Impossible" was a pretty good film. It's worth seeing. We would encourage Germans, Americans, Russians to see the film - it's a good film, starring one of our major American actors, Tom Cruise - highly recommended. I know there are some women in my family who might recommend it even more strongly than I do.

There is also another development. There was a resolution by one of the parties in Germany's ruling coalition, urging the government to place the Scientologists under observation by the German security agencies. Fortunately, that resolution was not acted upon by the German Government. In fact, the German Ministry of the Interior issued a report which notes that there is no legal basis and no evidence which would allow the Ministry to place the Scientologists under observation by the German security agencies. We thought that was a positive step by the German Government in response to a resolution by one of the parties in the ruling coalition.

The Scientologists fall under religion in our section of the human rights report. The Scientologists in Germany are being discriminated against merely as a result of their belonging to that organization, not because in our view - not because of any actions that they have taken. There's no question that there have been some unfortunate reactions to the Scientologists by members of the German Government and by members of some of the city and regional administrations in Germany. For four years, the United States has spoken out publicly about its concerns of the treatment of Scientologists by the German Government.

Having said all of that, which is, I hope, a summary of our position on the Scientologists in Germany, I feel compelled to say something else, which we have said before, but it's worth noting; and that is the Scientologists here in the United States and their supporters in Hollywood and elsewhere have unleashed a public relations campaign against the German Government, which is simply wrong-headed. Historically, it will - it's (a) historical, and I think they are guilty of historical amnesia.

I say that with all due respect to them, because they're free to say what they want in our country, but let's -- we have to take issue with what they're saying. The Scientologists and their Hollywood supporters are essentially saying - they're literally saying that the Kohl Government's treatment of the Scientologists is analogous to Hitler's treatment of the Jews in the early period of Hitler's rule in 1933 and 1934. Anyone who knows anything about German history would have to say that the Scientologists and their supporters are completely wrong about the facts. It is patently unfair to compare a democratic government, an ally of the United States, to the Nazi regime, when the German Government since the 1950s, since Adenauer, has done more than any of the governments of the Axis powers to educate its population about the evils of Naziism; when we remember in the spring of 1933 - we remember from our history - that the Nazi Government passed a series of laws which essentially stripped people of their basic human rights, and the Nazi Government set up concentration camps, namely Dachau and others, in 1933 and 1934.

The Nazi treatment of the Jews in no way can be compared to what's happening to the Scientologists in Germany today. It is an outrageous historical claim, and frankly, we in the U.S. Government feel a responsibility to defend the German Government from those charges, and we'll continue to do so. We've received a lot of private correspondence from the Church of Scientology on this, from Hollywood moguls about it, and we disagree with them, and we've told them that.

QUESTION: You know, Nick, the German Government doesn't regard Scientology as a church. In this country, I think after 1993, it wasn't regarded as a church either. Who made this decision, and what are the criteria for recognizing a religion as a church?

MR. BURNS: Well, Scientology - I don't know if there's an office in the U.S. Government that makes these decisions. I think you might ask the IRS about how it - what tax exempt status it gives to certain organizations, which would confer religious status on the organizations. The Scientologist claim that they have a religion.

What is important to us is that people who belong to a group not be discriminated against because of their association with the group. In this case, as I said before, it appears to us that many of the problems that the Scientologists face in Germany have to do with the fact that they are members of a group; not by the actions they've taken; not by whether or not they've violated Germany's laws or observed them.

But simply because of their association with a group, we come into play here because Americans who are Scientologists have been discriminated against in Germany - notably Chick Correa, a very famous musician, and we have to be concerned by that, and we've noted these concerns regularly.

But I do want to bring some balance to this discussion by saying that the United States Government does not associate itself with some of the claims being made by the Church of Scientology and its supporters about how egregious this treatment has been. There is no pattern of discrimination against the Scientologists that compares even remotely to what happened to the Jews and to others during the Nazi era.

QUESTION: But does Germany have the right in your mind to decide whether Scientology is a church? And, if they come to a different view than the United States, isn't it likely that they will act differently towards them?

MR. BURNS: It is absolutely within the right of the German Government to formulate its own laws and to execute those laws - to implement those laws. We as a country for two centuries have had concerns about human and religious rights around the world, and we feel compelled in our Human Rights Report -- in fact, we are mandated by Congress in our Human Rights Reports -- to speak out against abuses of religious rights and human rights, and that's why we have this series of reports that you'll see issued on Thursday. That's why for four years running, we have noted our concerns about the German Government's treatment of the Scientologists. That is the basis by which the United States Government comments publicly on these issues.

QUESTION: They view it as a sect, and they don't view it as a religion. They view their experience with sects in the past as having been very damaging to their history, and it has been.

MR. BURNS: We understand that. Let me just say, we have enormous respect for the German Government, for its current leadership. We are an ally to that country. We have a private discussion with the German Government which is open. I think there are very few surprises in the report in the Washington Post either for our government or for the German Government. There is no crisis in our relationship.

Again, we see positive the fact that the German Ministry of Interior has decided that there is no legal basis to put the Scientologists under legal or security scrutiny, which is a significant step and it does contradict, I think, some of the overblown rhetoric on this issue on the part of the supporters of the Scientologists in the United States.

QUESTION: There been accounts of former Scientology members all around the world about human rights abuses by Scientology. Did that play any role in preparing that report? Did they look into that allegation?

MR. BURNS: The United States Government is mandated by the Congress to look into the human rights behavior, or the human rights standards being followed by governments - countries - around the world. We don't put ourselves into the position of analyzing the behavior of religions themselves. There's no aspect of that in our own human rights reports.

We've heard the claims by the detractors of the Scientologists. We're not in a position to comment on those. We can't put ourselves in the position as a government of critiquing various religions. I have noted, I think, some of the concern that we have with the tactics of the Scientologists.

QUESTION: On the same subject. In these conversations with the German Government over this issue, as you've noted in past years -- this has appeared in human rights reports - has the German Government ever protested the State Department's criticism of these Scientologists?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I believe it's fair to say that the German Government has been troubled by the concerns that we have noted publicly. They don't agree with our characterization of the problem. You've even seen some public statements, I think, out of the Germany - not the government - but some of the political parties this morning to that fact.

We have a respectful dialogue with the German Government. We have to call them as we see them, particularly when it comes to human rights. When we have differences, we note those differences. But that does not mean that there's any fundamental problem in U.S.-German relations. On the contrary. There's no closer relationship that we have with any government around the world. There's no closer relationship or more important that President Clinton has with Chancellor Kohl. We have great respect for Chancellor Kohl and all of his colleagues. We find that our dialogue with them in private is quite constructive - quite constructive.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright spoke with Russian counterpart, Primakov. Is she planning to meet with him in the first week in February when he'll presumably be here for the Gore-Chernomyrdin meetings?

MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright has not spoken yet to Minister Primakov. I know she looks forward to doing that. She'll have a very important relationship with him. I don't know if Minister Primakov will be coming to Washington with the Gore-Chernomyrdin delegation. If he does, of course, she would want to meet with him, but I just don't know if he's going to be part of that delegation.

I think we have a follow-up to the German question.

QUESTION: According to Reuters, the U.S. has been told by the German Government through diplomatic channels not to interfere in the issue of Scientology. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BURNS: I would just refer you, Mr. Lambros, to my previous statement in this briefing, that since American citizens have been on the short end of some of these policies - American citizens who are Scientologists - we feel an obligation to defend American citizens.

As you know, Congress mandates that we speak out about human rights and religious issues around the world. There's no choice for any President or Secretary of State. We are mandated by law to issue these reports and to tell the truth and to call the shots as objectively as we can. These are objective statements made by the United States Government. There's no ill will intended here.

QUESTION: They asked not to interfere -

MR. BURNS: I don't know if the German Government has ever used that tone or ever asked us not to interfere. I think they are not happy with the criticism. But then again I think that our relationship can handle this. I think our relationship will go forward and be as strong as it ever was. Anymore on this issue? Can we go on?

Sid.

QUESTION: Is there planning underway to move the summit between President Yeltsin and President Clinton from Washington to Moscow because of President Yeltsin's health?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of it. As far as I know, President Clinton and President Yeltsin intend to get together. I don't believe that they have set a time or a place for that meeting, but we assume it will be sometime in March/April. I don't know where it's going to be held. We'll have to decide that with the Russian Government.

Let me just say a word about this issue. I know it's been swirling around in the press all weekend. We hope that President Yeltsin fully recovers from his illness. He has been the great, solid foundation that Russia has brought to the excellent relationship of the United States for -- during the Bush and Clinton Administrations has forged with the Russian Federation. So we wish President Yeltsin a speedy recovery.

We look forward to continued dealings with him personally and with his government. The U.S.-Russian relationship has many strengths. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will be here in just a week. There is contact between various Ministers of our government. Deputy Secretary Talbott just had a very successful three-day meeting with Chernomyrdin, with Rodionov, with Primakov, and others in Moscow. This is a solid relationship, and this relationship will move forward.

Carol. On Russia?

QUESTION: No, a different subject.

MR. BURNS: I think there's still some on Russia. Steve.

QUESTION: Yeah, Nick. As you approach the deadline for inviting new members to join NATO and as that issue continues to be an irritant, to say the least, between NATO and Russia, even though you're able to maintain contacts with the likes of Rodionov and Primakov and Chernomyrdin, isn't there a great absence in that dialogue about that subject without Yeltsin present? In other words, can those three men, for example, or any other three men added to that troika, really make any decisions about the future of the NATO-Russian relationship? So isn't that very much on hold while Yeltsin is out of the picture?

MR. BURNS: It's obviously very important that President Yeltsin participate in many of the discussions, and we expect that to happen. I know that the Russian Presidential Spokesman said this morning that President Yeltsin's meeting with President Chirac would go forward. As you know, just after the New Year, Chancellor Kohl was in Russia and met with President Yeltsin and talked about these European security issues. President Clinton has a meeting scheduled. So we fully expect to have the opportunity with President Yeltsin to discuss these issues.

Let's just remember what the objectives are here. The objective is European unity and stability in the next century. The way to do that, we believe, is not only to expand NATO but to have a new Russian relationship with NATO in the form of a charter. We believe that both those things happening will form the basis for the kind of world that we need to create in Europe. It's a very important set of discussions. It's part of what Secretary Talbott was discussing in Moscow, and Secretary General Solana is the point person for NATO. He had his first negotiations last week with Primakov. Those will go forward.

QUESTION: But given all of that, how can you develop a new pact with Russia - whatever you call it - absent Yeltsin? Are there signs from the Kremlin that Chernomyrdin or Rodionov or any of the other people can, in fact, make serious discussions, sign off on something like this?

MR. BURNS: President Yeltsin is in charge of the Russian Government. He's the only one who can make those determinations.

Steve, I would want to disabuse you of one notion and that is that somehow what's implied in the question is that we're starting at Ground Zero here. We've had discussions with President Yeltsin as far back as October 1993 about the idea of NATO expansion and a NATO-Russia dialogue and charter.

Secretary Christopher went out to President Yeltsin's house, beyond Moscow, in that month and that year to have those discussions. Since then, President Clinton has discussed it with President Yeltsin at every opportunity as have Chancellor Kohl and President Chirac and Prime Minister Major and others. There's no lack of consultations here.

President Yeltsin is very well aware of our views on the Russia-NATO relationship and on NATO expansion. Decisions have already been taken NATO. We're moving ahead with Russia and with the countries, we hope, that will be new members of NATO. They will be identified on July 7-8 of this year in Madrid.

We already have a dialogue which is well down the road on this issue. We believe that we can consummate these negotiations satisfactorily with both Russia and inside NATO.

QUESTION: What can you say about the reported postponement of the meeting which was supposed to have been held on Wednesday?

MR. BURNS: I can confirm that the North Koreans requested over the weekend that we postpone the joint briefing that we were to give on January 29 in New York City. We postponed that by one week. We have now accepted that request - the United States and the Republic of South Korea have accepted that request. We plan to meet next week in New York on February 5 for a briefing on the Four Party proposal that was made by President Kim and President Clinton.

The North Koreans mentioned to us, when they asked for the postponement, that they have put first priority recently on some grain discussions - discussions of the import of grain they are having, they are conducting - with some private Western companies. They want to conclude these negotiations -- I guess they believe they can in the next week - before they send their negotiators to New York for the briefing on February 5. That is a satisfactory explanation. This is not a North Korean decision to cancel the Four Party briefing. It is a decision just to postpone it by one week, so we expect a meeting February 5 in New York. We look forward to that very much.

QUESTION: What is the position of the State Department on the issue that Taiwan is going to ship some nuclear waste to North Korea and therefore the rift between Taiwan and South Korea over this issue?

MR. BURNS: I'm not sure that the State Department has taken a position on that. We've heard about the deal, but I'm not sure we know enough about it to talk about it.

Let me just say this, some positive things have happened concerning North Korea in recent weeks. We've seen the North state its deep regret for the submarine incident. There is every reason to think that implementation of the Agreed Framework continues to proceed normally. In fact, there's no indication to the contrary, including the spent nuclear fuel canning operation at Yongbyon, North Korea, and the delivery of heavy fuel oil by KEDO to the North Koreans.

None of this - the core issue in our relationship, which is the Agreed Framework and the freeze on North Korea's nuclear program - will be affected by anything else that's going on; certainly not affected by the delay of one week in some discussions in New York City on February 5. I know that we're going to proceed as best we can to continue to make progress with the North Koreans and the South Koreans on these important issues.

Sid.

QUESTION: Is the Clinton Administration willing to consider some type of financing for North Korea on up to 500,000 metric tons of grain from Cargill - Minneapolis-based Cargill? If not, is it willing to help push these negotiations along since they did break off last week without any date for resumption?

MR. BURNS: Sid, I just don't know that the United States Government has been asked to provide any kind of financing for this deal or any other.

As you know, there was a meeting of non-profit and humanitarian organizations in Washington on Thursday. Chuck Kartman, our Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, attended that meeting. We have no plans right now for the United States Government to contribute further food shipments to North Korea. But we've said many times that should there be a request by the relevant and effective international organizations, we'd consider it. I'm not just not aware, in addition to that, Sid, we've been asked to help in financing a private grain deal. I'm just not aware of it.

QUESTION: Are you willing to step into these negotiations between Cargill and North Korea?

MR. BURNS: Oh, these are private negotiations. So we would rarely step into a negotiation like this. I don't believe we are, it's up to this American company, other Western companies, and the North Koreans to proceed.

QUESTION: Since the North Koreans have put off one set of negotiations because of the other set, there seems to be some kind of a linkage between them. I wonder if you could address that?

MR. BURNS: You might want to consult the North Korean web site. They've got their own home page now. If they're really efficient like we are here at the State Department, maybe their Spokesman's briefing transcripts are on the Web right now.

In other words, I think it's fair to ask the North Koreans that. The North Koreans are always interesting. As Secretary Christopher used to say, "It's a rather opaque government and society. It sometimes hard to figure out exactly what's happening." They've told us that they're going to be in New York on February 5, so we expect that that will happen. They've also told us they'd have first priority on these very important grain negotiations. So we take that at face value.

QUESTION: The talks are on the 5th in new York. Do we know yet if the North and South will speak to each other fulfilling the KEDO and the nuclear framework requirements? Will they speak through us? Do we know anything about the structure?

MR. BURNS: I don't have any information. I haven't talked to Chuck Kartman and others, and the people who work for him - Mark Minton - about how they plan to structure these talks. I'll just have to get back to you on that. Bill, it's a very good question.

David.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I guess we have a follow-up, David. Then we'll go back to you.

QUESTION: Do you have the date and place of the bilateral meeting with North Korea?

MR. BURNS: A bilateral meeting?

QUESTION: With the U.S. and North Korea?

MR. BURNS: We have regular talks in New York that we always brief the South Korean Government fully upon. Are you referring to the regular talks we have weekly in New York?

QUESTION: Actually, which was scheduled - which you were supposed to have January 31.

MR. BURNS: We were supposed to have talks on the 29th of January on the Four Party Proposal with the Republic of Korea and the North Koreans. That has been postponed to February 5.

QUESTION: For a follow-up meeting with North Korea?

MR. BURNS: Will there be a follow-up meeting? I just don't know. We have regular contacts with North Korean officials to the United Nations.

David.

QUESTION: Switzerland's Ambassador resigned today here in Washington. That, as you know, followed the publication of a memo in which he described the allegations against Switzerland as a war and said Switzerland must fight and win on two fronts - foreign and domestic - and spoke of opponents who cannot be trusted. The newspaper that quoted this memo said he was referring to Senator D'Amato and to Jewish groups in New York. Any comment on this affair?

MR. BURNS: We've seen the resignation statement by the Swiss Ambassador. Frankly, we would have hoped that those quotes were not accurate. We would hope they weren't. If they were, it would be very troubling, indeed. Because Senator D'Amato is doing the Lord's work here. Senator D'Amato is representing a group of people in the United States who either personally were victims of the Holocaust or whose close family members were; who have a reason to expect that the Swiss Government will undertake an objective and fully comprehensive study of what happened to the funds - personal finances - of Holocaust victims before, during, and after the Second World War.

It's a very, very serious issue, and we support the efforts of Senator D'Amato and of the American-Jewish organizations to get to the bottom of this question. We fully support it.

As you know, the United States Government has undertaken its own study. In fact, it's being carried out by Chief Historian of the State Department, Bill Slany. It's going to be ready in a couple of weeks, we hope, for public viewing. Ambassador Eizenstat will have to review it, and I believe he'll have to decide exactly how and when we unleash it.

Our commitment to Senator D'Amato and the American Jews and others is, we will try to look at what the United States Government knew or did not know in the years following the Second World War and we will publish our findings objectively.

If it's true the Swiss Ambassador made these remarks, it betrays a fundamental lack of understanding about the commitment that the United States Government has to its own citizens and to the search for justice for people who had their human rights fundamentally violated during the Second World War. It's very troubling.

Now, let me just say, we are carrying on an objective, what we think is, direct conversation with the Swiss Government at all levels. Ambassador Madeleine Kunin is doing that in Bern. We fully expect that those discussions will continue; that the Swiss Government will do the right thing.

We welcome the intention of the Swiss Government to set up a compensation fund for Holocaust victims. This is an important first step in the process of coming to terms with the past. That's a process that all of us have a responsibility and not just Swiss, but Americans and Germans and everyone else. The Swiss are not alone. All of us need to look to see what we can do to provide, mainly, very elderly people, some measure of justice in the waning years of their life as they look back upon what happened to them and their families 50 years ago.

QUESTION: Without minimizing the Holocaust in any way, what is it the Administration finds so objectionable about the Swiss Ambassador's purported memo? What, in fact, is so unusual about a diplomat or a leader of a country drafting a memo laying out the state of play, diplomatically and politically, as you see it? Is it the use of the word "war" in context with this issue? What is it the United States is so upset about this memo? There's been plenty of memos out of this building that are equally inflammatory.

MR. BURNS: I doubt it. I'm not aware of anything that advocate waging war against the American people.

I think you should do this. You should direct your question to the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Government about what the Ambassador may or may not have said. I don't know what they'll want to say - confirm it or deny it or what. Frankly, we probably ought to let them speak for themselves on this.

I started this by saying, it would be most unfortunate if these remarks and these leaks prove to be accurate. We hope that they were not accurate, because any ambassador in Washington who advocates waging a public relations campaign against American-Jewish groups and against Holocaust survivors is just wrong-headed. It's just not the right thing to do. It's not going to succeed with the American people. You've seen the reaction by the American-Jewish community - by Jewish groups nationwide about this and by the international Jewish organizations headed by Mr. Bronfman, the World Jewish Congress.

These people have a legitimate beef with a lot of governments. They ought to expect from the United States Government some historical accuracy about what our officials knew in the late 1940s. We didn't participate in this, but if we knew something, we ought to surface that publicly. That's the commitment that Under Secretary of Commerce Eizenstat and others have made.

We would just be very surprised, Sid, and I think it's a legitimate line of inquiry to be concerned about anybody trying to wage a public relations campaign against Holocaust survivors. It doesn't make much sense, if that's true. You should ask the Swiss Government.

QUESTION: Nick, did the Clinton Administration formally ask or informally suggest that this Ambassador should be recalled?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that, Carol. In fact, I talked to Assistant Secretary Kornblum before I came to the Briefing Room. I don't believe that's true. He didn't understand that to be the case. I think this is a unilateral Swiss decision. I just would have to leave specific - Sid's asked a very good question, but I would leave that, really, to the Swiss Government to answer. Not to me.

QUESTION: Are you aware that he's scheduled to go home anyway in a few months?

MR. BURNS: I read the press report. The statement says that he was scheduled to go home in July 1997, so five/six months from now.

QUESTION: That's been sped up?

MR. BURNS: But they did link it to this affair. Sid, I just would direct you to the Swiss Government and Swiss Embassy for this, but I think we've said what we wanted to say. We hope these statements are not accurate. If they are, it would be very, very disturbing for the reasons that I cited.

Still on this one, Betsy?

QUESTION: Could you tell me where the status of this government's investigation stands?

MR. BURNS: Yes. Several months ago, the State Department was asked by Under Secretary Eizenstat, who was in turn asked by the President, to undertake a comprehensive study of whether or not the United States Government, in the latter part of the 1940s/first part of the 1950s was a party to or had any knowledge of the fact that the funds of Holocaust survivors were not returned to the survivors or their families after the Second World War.

We have said that we will be very straightforward publicly about what we find in our own historical files. Bill Slany, who is our very eminent State Department Historical, has done a lot of work in our National Archives, in State Department records, and he is circulating right now a draft of his report for comment and review inside the government. Once that report is in a final form, it will be released. The Clinton Administration will release it to all of you and to the American public.

QUESTION: Will it go to D'Amato before it's released publicly?

MR. BURNS: I'm sure we'll consult with Senator D'Amato beforehand because he's been the leader of the effort to try to uncover some of the historical facts about what happened and what didn't happen.

QUESTION: Nick, on Sudan. There are reports now that there are further attacks coming in the south of Sudan, coming from Uganda. Does the United States have any knowledge of new fighting now in a different area?

MR. BURNS: I don't have any recent information about any kind of attacks coming Uganda. We have just simply noted over the past couple of weeks our concern about the fighting and our hope that Sudan's neighbors will stay out of it.

QUESTION: Concerning a statement by President Bashir, he said that a few days after the fighting in the east had started there was a meeting in London on January 16 between the Presidents of Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea. Does the United States know anything about this meeting? And, if so, does it know anything about the contents of what was discussed at the meeting?

MR. BURNS: I just don't know what we know or don't know about that. We have very active Ambassadors in that region of the world. I just don't know if we were told about the meetings beforehand or after. I can take that question for you.

QUESTION: Thirdly, Qatar has made a statement condemning foreign aggression against Sudan. I believe Qatar is probably the fourth or fifth Arab state which has made such statements, including Iraq, Jordan, and possibly other countries. I wonder, is the United States concerned now that this is views within the Arab world as an aggression against an Islamic state and it could have repercussions in other places as a result?

MR. BURNS: We fully understand the concerns expressed in the Arab world. Everyone wants to see this conflict ended, at least I think most of the Arab countries and the United States.

The United States has been very careful not to point a finger at any of Sudan's neighbors because we simply don't have the evidence to do that.

I would also make one final point. The Government of Sudan ought to look within its own house and determine if its actions are always consistent with the international commitment to fight terrorism. The Government of Sudan obviously has a record that is quite disturbing in the treatment of its own people which obviously accounts for some of the fact that the eastern and southern parts of its country are in turmoil.

Sid.

QUESTION: Let's return to this issue from last week. The permission Sudan was able to get to go forward with this American oil company - or the American oil company it will get - and how that juxtaposed out with the Secretary's comments last week - I didn't really understand it - of "we'll be pursuing additional sanctions against Sudan?" The two don't seem to fit.

MR. BURNS: First of all, I preferred Secretary Albright's forthright public comments, frankly, to some of the charges made in the Washington Post, but then again you would expect me to say that the Secretary made it very clear on Friday. I think there's just some inaccuracies, or perhaps misunderstandings about the state of play concerning our laws on the part of the Post article - the people who wrote the Post article.

There was no exemption asked for; therefore, no exemption was given. I described on Thursday at great length what the law says and what the law asks for. So I think the article is just off-base in that respect.

QUESTION: But the law, as it now exists, does permit Sudan and Syria to engage in these types of transactions?

MR. BURNS: No, the law is very clear. The law tries to make sure that the Executive Branch of our government looks closely at financial transactions involving American companies with private companies or other entities in Sudan and Syria. If those transactions, once investigated, do not appear to us to have any link to terrorism or to a future act of terrorism or to a group that supports terrorism, then the transactions are permissible. That's what the law says.

But if you are Private Company A in the United States and it turns out that your transaction has been found to be permissible, there's no requirement for an exemption. Here, I think, is where there's a lot of the confusion. But that's what the facts say, having checked with Treasury and having checked with the experts in our own building.

Secretary Albright referred to actions at the United Nations. There is a resolution at the United Nations, which the United States intends to support, which would hold out the possibility of strengthening the sanctions regime against Sudan if Sudan's behavior over the coming year is not satisfactory to the international community, specifically on terrorism.

The United States will support that resolution in the Security Council, but I can check with our experts at the U.N. I don't believe that this resolution imposes immediate sanctions, or an immediate strengthening. I think it holds out the possibility should Sudan's behavior not be up to standards.

QUESTION: You don't see how these things contradict themselves?

MR. BURNS: No, I frankly don't at all.

QUESTION: On the one hand, out of seven nations - Sudan -- the seventh nation you name is international terrorism supporters - get a little different treatment. But at the same time, you're saying - get a little different treatment because in many cases, their behavior doesn't pose a risk for international terrorism. But on the other hand, because of their support for international terrorism, we are willing to support a bid for additional sanctions at the U.N.

MR. BURNS: With all due respect, Sid, I know why you're asking the question. Let me just say, the Clinton Administration put it down on the Sanctions List in 1993. Number one. We had sufficient concerns four years ago to do that.

Secondly, Secretary Albright has now said that we still have sufficient concerns; therefore, we ought to strengthen the potential sanctions regime against Sudan. In essence, Sudan is being offered a choice. If your behavior continues to be reprehensible in many respects concerning Sudan's lack of support for the fight against terrorism, then there's perhaps a greater penalty to play. That's what the Secretary was saying on Friday. I think that's fully consistent with the concerns that we've noted.

But the facts of our law are that two of the seven countries on our terrorism list do have these windows where they can be private transactions. Those windows may close in the future if their performance is not up to international standards. I think the Secretary was simply noting the fact that we have options.

QUESTION: Nick, can this government say for sure that you know where every nickel and dime in this Occidental Petroleum deal is going? In a country like Sudan where you don't even have a diplomatic mission anymore, because they're living elsewhere, how can you be sure that you know that this money is not going for terrorism? I just don't see it.

MR. BURNS: We have a pretty good understanding of who the terrorists are around the world. It's not perfect. We can't be perfect, but we have a pretty good understanding of who the major groups are operating in Sudan and elsewhere. It's a financial gain to those groups that we want to try to shut off. So we do the very, very best we can. Believe me, Carol, we look at -- the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control looks at this very carefully as do the State Department and the National Security Council.

QUESTION: Yes, but no set of sanctions that you've ever implemented has been airtight. I mean, there are countless examples of how trade and money just flowed, even though you had parameters in place. I just don't understand how you can be any more certain now that this money, which you are freely allowing to go - flow into Sudan, does not somehow siphon off to the very elements you say you want to -

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've ever made a claim of perfection, and I agree with you. Any sanctions operation like this cannot be foolproof or airtight. But we do know that one of the problems in the past, before the passage of the law in 1996, was that perhaps even unintentionally - unintentionally; sometimes intentionally - private firms in this country were engaged in financial transactions with groups that do sponsor terrorism. That's what needs to be choked off, and that's the purpose of this law.

I think in the main, the Clinton Administration has done an effective job in trying to cut off those financial flows --whether they were intended or not - from the private sector here in the United States.

QUESTION: Well, perhaps even a more relevant question is, at a time when the Clinton Administration is arguing strongly against terrorism, you seem to be sending a mixed message to the public, and how can you convince the public that you are serious about terrorism when there is this huge loophole that benefits American firms?

MR. BURNS: I think we can convince them in the following way. President Clinton is the first American President who's gone to the United Nations in September of 1995 to say, "This is one of the top American foreign policy priorities. It's at the top of our agenda." No American President before him said that.

Secondly, we are implementing effectively the laws that the Congress gives us, to try to choke off support for terrorists. We've made this a major national priority throughout the government. Our Ambassadors overseas know that there's no higher priority than this.

Third, we've had a lot of success in cutting off funds, in the Middle East especially and in Sudan to potential or actual terrorist organizations. We're doing our job for the American people, but it's a hard job, and it's not going to be a job that is error free, and where we attain some level of perfection. But it's one that we put a lot of resources into, and we take it seriously. So that's my answer. I think that's convincing answer.

QUESTION: Can I go to Peru for a moment?

MR. BURNS: Sure.

QUESTION: As you know, the standoff has been going on for quite some time. Has the U.S. become worried that there's no resolution in sight; that this could just go on indefinitely or that it will end up badly?

MR. BURNS: First of all, let me do this. Let me just repeat again our utter and complete condemnation of the fact that this group - the MRTA - has taken now 72 people held hostage. The hostages ought to be released immediately.

Second, we strongly support the efforts of President Fujimori to deal with this crisis, meaning he has made a policy decision not to make concessions. We support that decision, and we think that President Fujimori is in a very difficult circumstances, where his own brother and the senior members of his own government are held captive. Can you imagine any other government in the world dealing with this? He's done a very effective job.

We believe that the decision to establish the Commission of Guarantors is positive. It works towards a peaceful resolution of the situation. But we're not going to put ourselves in a position of second-guessing President Fujimori or his government. They are in a difficult situation. They're handling it admirably to date, and they've got our support.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. putting any more pressure on the Fujimori Administration to negotiate - to find for an end to -

MR. BURNS: We are not putting pressure on the Peruvian Government. We respect the right - it's their country. These are decisions that the President, President Fujimori, must make himself. We don't want to second-guess him. We applaud the fact that he's not making concessions to terrorists, and we applaud the fact that he's demanded their unconditional release, which, of course, is the policy that the United States Government also follows worldwide when we find ourselves in positions like this. But I don't want to minimize the problems. I'm not sure any government has ever faced a problem quite like this.

QUESTION: Last Friday, Ambassador Jett said in Lima that it would be a mistake if Peru resorts to violence in order to solve the crisis. Is this a softening of the U.S. position on how to deal with terrorists? I mean, we were talking about terrorists a little while ago.

MR. BURNS: It's certainly not a softening. Obviously, the American Ambassador, Dennis Jett, speaks for the American Government. He's done an outstanding job in Lima throughout this crisis. But our government's position, as enunciated by Ambassador Jett, is that we agree with the policy of no concessions. No one wants to see this resolved by violence, of course, but we've got to see what - the Peruvian Government will have to base its actions dependent upon what the MRTA terrorists do.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. willing to take a more active role at this point, to continue -

MR. BURNS: We've not been asked to take an active role. The Peruvian Government has decided to handle this on its own. We respect that decision.

QUESTION: How do you see the role of the international community in this?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: How do you see the role of the international community in this?

MR. BURNS: I think that the Peruvian Government has the sovereign authority and power to deal with this, and the right to deal with the situation as it must. If it wants to ask for the support of various states, I'm sure those states will be open to that. It has not asked for the support of the United States. We respect that, and we just hope that these hostages are released unharmed as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Your policy of no concessions - does it include no release of prisoners, and does it include also changes in the prisons?

MR. BURNS: Again, I'm not going to comment specifically on some of the demands being made by terrorists who are holding the lives of 72 people hostage. It's up to President Fujimori and his government to resolve this question as best they can. Our worldwide policy is no concessions. I think that speaks for itself. Everyone knows what that means.

QUESTION: France apparently is talking to Germany about extending its nuclear deterrent to Germany, and I was just wondering how the United States views this; whether you thought it was a good idea; whether you were worried that it might diminish in some way the U.S. role in Europe?

MR. BURNS: With all due respect to the people writing the articles and people asking the questions, I think this is one of those stories - and they come along from time to time - where there's not really much here - much there there; there's no much there there. In this sense, we're aware that the French and Germans have had a lot of discussions about the European security defense initiative and about a European defense identity within NATO. We are absolutely, 100 percent confident that any decision taken by France and Germany, which we respect, of course, will be taken within the confines, within the context of their NATO responsibilities.

NATO, of course, provides the nuclear deterrent for all NATO allies. But we've supported the effort by France and Germany and other European members of NATO to establish their own defense identity. This is all happening within the context of the wider framework of NATO. You remember the Ministerial meeting we had in Berlin in June of 1996. We encouraged the Europeans to go down this road, knowing that they're with us, they're allies, and that the larger framework of NATO exists, and they're operating within that framework. So we don't have any fundamental concerns here, and we'll follow this with great interest, as we do all of these matters.

QUESTION: But this particular aspect of it where France would provide some sort of nuclear umbrella for Germany, that particular element does not concern you at all either?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've seen the actual documents that contain this proposal, and I'm sure we'll get that soon. We'll look at. But the important point here is that nothing will happen out of the NATO context pertaining to nuclear weapons. That's the important point, and I think on that we are agreed with the French and the German and every other member of NATO.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) this as an issue, though - I mean, while, yes, there have been many long discussions about sort of the overall European security structure and France's role in it, this particular discussion between France and Germany - has the United States discussed this with both those countries in the past, and were you aware of this overture which has been in the press the last couple of days?

MR. BURNS: We've certainly discussed at great length all of these questions with the Germans and French in the past. Were we aware of this specific statement that we've made before it was issued? I don't know the answer to that question. But I don't think that's the primary question, because we're aware of the dialogue that France and Germany have had over a number of years, and we support it. I mean, the fact is that the reconciliation between France and Germany is one of the fundamental pillars of NATO, and one of the strengths that NATO has now. We fully encourage what Chancellor Kohl and President Chirac are doing to bring Germany and France closer together, not only in their defense relationship but in various other matters, including within the EU context.

QUESTION: So I'm absolutely sure I know what you're saying -

MR. BURNS: Always a good standard to hold me to.

QUESTION: Exactly. You not only approve, in general, of France and Germany sort of working closer together; you actually approve of France and Germany talking about France extending its nuclear protections to Germany?

MR. BURNS: Again, Carol, on that specific question, which is smaller than the broader discussions that Germany and France are having, we have not yet seen the document that has been written about in The New York Times and Washington Post and other places. We'll look at that document. We'll talk to the French and Germans, and then perhaps have a comment. But we are assured - we are 100 percent reassured - that whatever France and Germany do together militarily will not happen outside of NATO. It will happen inside of NATO. That's the important point.

You know, for a long time, as you know, from 1949 on, the United States did not look kindly upon the European members of NATO trying to establish a European defense identity. But this Administration has said this is a good thing. It's positive that the European countries do this. We've supported it, and in Berlin we specifically supported it, and we continue to support it. If this is what's happening, and we believe it is, then I'm sure we'll keep going down the road and strengthening the internal adaptation of NATO - strengthening all of NATO's institutions as we proceed with enlargement.

QUESTION: For the record, I mean, despite all this talk of harmony, there are instances in which the United States and France do disagree, such as -

MR. BURNS: I can't think of one. (Laughter) The United States - going back to Yorktown. Let's see. I remember one from last autumn. That was it. Actually, Carol, you're right to note that there are some tactical questions. For instance, the question of AFSOUTH where we've had the "who should command NATO's Southern Command in Naples." We've had some tactical differences.

But I should also tell you there have been some recent high-level discussions between France and the United States. But we're trying to work these differences out amicably. I know that Secretary Albright puts great stock on getting off to a good, positive start to our relationship with France. She's looking forward to meeting with Minister de Charette. President Clinton has an exceedingly close and important relationship with President Chirac. We're going to make a major effort to make sure that France and the United States are positive partners to each other in 1997. That's one of her priorities in Europe as she starts out as Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Are you near a deal on the Southern Command?

MR. BURNS: I just don't know. It's always perilous to predict a resolution of a question like that, which frankly has strong arguments and emotions on both sides, and I think we'll just have to wait and see how that proceeds. I know there's not a deal right now, but we're certainly working with the French and other NATO members to see that we can arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

I would hasten to say that the basic American position, of course, is unchanged on that particular issue.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could go back to the Scientology thing for just one question. Is there an agreed definition within the State Department on what is a religion and what is a cult?

MR. BURNS: The State Department has been very careful in its 200-year existence not to try to define that question. But we do note that the Scientologists say that they have a religion, and we do treat them as a religion in our Human Rights Report. But there's nothing that we can do proactively that confers upon the Scientologists the status of a religion in our country. That's not done by the State Department. We do treat them as a religion, because they are a serious established institution, and they say they're a religion.

QUESTION: In other words, if an organization claims to be a religion, as far as the State Department is concerned, then they are a religion.

MR. BURNS: With a commonsense definition of that word. If the New York Yankees, if Steinbrenner declares that the Yankees were a religion, we'd probably look askance at that. That's not going to translate very well into German. I'm sorry. If Bayern-Muenchen decided it was going to be a religion, we might look askance at that. But, I mean, let's just call it like it is. The Scientologists are a group of people who say that they belong to a unified religious faith. The big problem, Jim, is that we believe that they essentially face discrimination not by what they do, but because of their association in this group, which we categorize for the purposes of our Human Rights Report as a religion, even though we can't confer that status in any formal way. And that's the major point. Do they face discrimination because of their membership as opposed to what they do inside of Germany or any other country in which the Scientologists are based?

QUESTION: Nick -

MR. BURNS: Are you objecting to the Steinbrenner characterization?

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: George Costanza would object to that, Sid, but -

QUESTION: On the Middle East peace process, a document was produced out of Israel over the weekend that talks about a compromise between various sectors of that society on a final settlement.

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: Is Washington of the opinion that that hurts the final status talks? What do you think of this?

MR. BURNS: We don't really have an opinion. We note that some members of Likud and Labor, the two major parties in Israel, have gotten together, and apparently they've produced some kind of a document that would be the foundation for a negotiating position. The beauty of the Palestinian-Israeli arrangements are that the Permanent Status Talks, as we refer to them - or the Final Status Talks - provide a way for the Israelis and Palestinians to discuss that issue. So it's not for us to comment upon the negotiating positions of one side or the other.

But we certainly note it. We'll be interested in what it has to say, but we're not going to have any formal, public remarks to make about it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) absurd comment that (inaudible) agreeing on large parts of it, without commenting on the substance of what they're agreeing on.

MR. BURNS: Right, and that's the distinction here. It's always good to see members of Knesset from the Labor and Likud parties agree on something. It's always good to see for the future and stability of Israel. On the other hand, by saying that, I don't want to imply any kind of support or lack of support for that document. We want to be neutral about that, and let the Palestinians and Israelis control the negotiations, because they're the two proper parties to do that.

QUESTION: Was it discussed with the United States in advance?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I know that Ambassador Ross was aware of the existence of this document before it was announced publicly, yes.

QUESTION: But as far as the preparation of this document.

MR. BURNS: We were not involved, as far as I know, in the preparation of the document. This is an Israeli product between two political parties within the Israeli spectrum.

Mr. Lambros, you've been waiting for a long time.

QUESTION: Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is circulating a resolution in these days against Greek sovereignty over Imia. Specifically, the Senator calls the Government of Greece and Turkey to submit the issue of sovereignty of Imia to the International Court of Justice, and its decision should be bound by both countries. Do you agree to this effect?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specific resolution - by Senator Specter, did you say?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BURNS: I'm just not aware of it, so therefore I do not want to comment upon it.

George, before you leave, I just want to say one thing. I don't believe we've talked about Serbia. I just want to make sure the wires, our corps here, understand that. A couple of things - one on Bosnia and one on Serbia.

We understand that Bosnian Muslims who tried to return to the village of Gajevi over the weekend were turned back forcibly by Republika Srpska authorities. The Bosnian Muslims applied to return to their home village, and they made good on all of the guidelines and procedures. They did everything right in contacting SFOR and the other authorities. The Republika Srpska officials knew they were coming. It was bad faith on the part of the Republika Srpska authorities to turn them back in the way that they did, and the Republika Srpska has clearly reneged on its commitments made in the Dayton Agreement to facilitate the return of refugees and to avoid the destruction of property in this case.

I understand that a delegation from SFOR is going to be on the doorstep of Madam Plavsic in Pale very shortly to complain about this. The United States expects SFOR to continue to have the same level of engagement in dealing with incidents of this kind, as did IFOR. We take this incident over the weekend to be very serious.

In addition to this, moving on to Serbia, let me just say we've noted this morning the decision of the Belgrade City Court to uphold the appeal of Mr. Milosevic and his Socialist Party against the Zajedno victory in Belgrade - the important city hall race on November 17th. I understand this decision can be appealed to the higher Supreme Court, but the decision today by the Belgrade City Court is a step in the wrong direction, because it does not address the fact that the international community and the great majority of the Serbian people believe that the opposition, Zajedno, won the Belgrade city election freely and fairly on November 17th and had that stolen from them.

Because of that, but also because of the use of force against demonstrators in Belgrade over the weekend where many scores of people ended up in the hospital because of their ill treatment at the hands of the Serbian police, our Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade, Richard Miles, delivered a formal protest to the Serbian Government over the weekend, protesting the actions of the Serbian police.

The Serbian Government made a pledge a couple of months ago that it would not use force against the people who are demonstrating peacefully. It has now reneged on that pledge. It has violated it. It is using force. And it cannot hope to attract international support - certainly not from governments like the United States Government - if it continues to use physical force, police force, against innocent civilians in the streets of Belgrade or other Serbian cities.

QUESTION: Is this the first time that there's been a formal protest of this kind since the disturbances began?

MR. BURNS: It's the first time, Roy, that we've seen a systematic use of the police to intimidate and to employ physical force against the demonstrators. We saw inklings of this. In the last two weeks, we received some reports, as I know you did, about incidents in various cities - in fact, some very unfortunate ones last Friday - but we've now seen an unquestioned pattern of behavior and change of tactics by the Serbian Government, which is most distressing and most disappointing.

QUESTION: But also for the U.S. side, has Mr. Miles delivered a formal protest of this form previously?

MR. BURNS: This protest - this diplomatic demarche in the form of a protest - called on the Serbian Government for restraint and called on them to cease and desist, and it said that we would hold the Serbian Government responsible for their actions. This is the first time we've delivered a strong demarche on this issue, because we hadn't seen the pattern of physical abuse by the Serbian police until the last 8 to 10 days, but especially last Friday and Saturday.

QUESTION: But there was an occasion, I think, in December when one demonstrator was killed and another one was hospitalized.

MR. BURNS: Yes, and we were - it was our impression at the time that this was not a systematic decision by the Serbian Government to employ physical force across the board. They appeared to cross that river, unfortunately.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) any response from the Serbs?

MR. BURNS: I believe the protest was delivered to the Serbian Foreign Minister, Mr. Milutinovic.

One more question on Serbia?

QUESTION: On Serbia? No. If you have any -

MR. BURNS: Ladies first and then we'll go back - ladies first.

QUESTION: Thank you. Nick, do you have anything on Aung San Suu Kyi receive award from Georgetown University?

MR. BURNS: We know that Aung San Suu Kyi's husband, Professor Arias, received the award on her behalf over the weekend. It was obviously a very, very appropriate gesture by George Washington University, and we have the greatest respect for her. We continue to be in contact with her through our Charge d'Affaires, Kent Wiedemann, in Rangoon, and we continue to support the right of the National League of Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi and all of her supporters to expect that the SLORC will respect their civil rights and human rights and electoral rights in the future, although there's no indication that the SLORC is going to change its stripes.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

(###)


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