U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #14, 97-01-27
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 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
7.........Initial Albright/Primakov Discussion
8-9.......Talbott/Chernomyrdin, Rodionov, Primakov Mtgs. in Moscow
9.........Yeltsin Participation in Russia/NATO Relationship Discussions
4-6.......Release of State Department Report on 1/30/97
...........--Leak on Contents of Report re: Treatment of Scientologists
4-8,22....U.S. Position on Treatment of Scientologists/Scientologists'
Public Relas. Campaign
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
12-15.....Nazi Gold Issue/U.S. Study/Resignation of Swiss
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
18-20.....Hostage Situation in Lima
20-22.....Discussions w/Germany on Nuclear Deterrence
21-22.....Command of AFSouth in Naples
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
23........Likud/Labor Legislators' Negotiating Plan
24........Report of U.S. Legislation re: Imia Islet
24-25.....Bosnian Moslems turned back fr. Gajevi/Decision
of Belgrade City Court re: Zajedno Election
25-26.....Aung San Suu Kyi Award fr. Georgetown U.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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,
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?
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
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
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
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
(The briefing concluded at 2:18 p.m.)