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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #15, 97-01-29

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>


1122

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

January 29, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1	Welcome to Guests to the Daily Briefing
1-2	Release of the Department's 1996 Country Reports on
	Human Rights Practices,	January 30/Briefing Schedule

DEPARTMENT

2-3,17-18 Secretary Albright's Activities/Phone Calls and Meetings/Visits to USIA and to Capitol Hill 3 Town Meeting in Richmond, Viginia, January 30 4 Retirement of Ambassador Robert Pelletreau 8-10 Secretary's Meeting with EU Officials, January 28

AFRICA 3 Authorization of Assistance to Conflict Victims in the Great Lakes Region

CHINA 4-5 U.S. Delegation Meetings in Beijing

IRAQ 5-8 Situation in Iraq/ No New Military Maneuvers

ALBANIA 9 Continued Political and Economic Unrest/U.S. Technical Assistance

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 9 U.S. Commitment to "Train and Equip" Program

TURKEY 10-11 Support for NATO Expansion/Prospect of Membership in the European Union

CYPRUS 12 Issue of Membership in European Union

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 12-13 Israeli-Syrian Track/Discussions on the Golan

ISRAEL 13-15 Extradition of Abu Marzook

SUDAN 15 Bundestag Proposal for Peacekeeping Mission

NORTH KOREA 16 No Agreement Yet on Establishment of Liaison Offices 16 Joint Briefing Talks in New York, Feb. 6

RUSSIA 16-17 Chechen Elections

MEXICO 18 Counter-Narcotics Efforts


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #15

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 1997, 1:02 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Good afternoon. I want to welcome Mr. Antoni Styrczula, Spokesman for the President of Poland. We're honored to have you with us here today. I also want to welcome five students from American University, sitting right over here, who are involved in a co-op program. You're working the Bureau of Consular Affairs, I understand, so welcome to the briefing.

I want to go over with you all what's going to be happening - hi, John - what's going to be happening tomorrow in releasing the human rights reports. First, as you know, we're going to make this report available to you at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning on an embargoed basis. Our Office of Press Relations will have two pre-publication reference copies available; one in the Press Office and one in the bullpen. You may wish to make photocopies of individual country reports. You can do so one per customer.

Based on input from members of your State Department Correspondents Association, we have identified with you 21 countries of special interest where you may have special interest. We'll have copies of those 21-country reports available. Again, one per customer. They must be picked up in the Press Office. We don't have an ability to fax. Please don't send a courier because we're not going to have the people power to meet a thousand couriers at the joggers entrance of the State Department.

I also want to let you know that the entire report, which is voluminous, is going to be ready on view in the Press Office. I want to emphasize the fact that all documents are embargoed until 12:30 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., Secretary Albright will stand up at the podium and make a statement about the issuance of the human rights reports and she'll make some specific comments, as you would imagine. Following her - and she's not going to be taking any questions - following her, Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck will arrive at the podium and they'll be glad to answer your questions. So we'll have a full discussion here of any of the issues that you would like to address.

Following that, we'll have a break and then we'll proceed with the normal briefing on other issues, if there are other issues tomorrow, and I suppose there will be some issues.

In addition to coming down here to the Department and looking through this report at 9:00 a.m. on an embargoed basis, if you want to get an advance shot at it, you can look for the full text of the human rights report on our Internet Web Site, which is www.state.gov. We hope to have that up on the Internet by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

Finally, if you're interested in the book form before this reachs the _New York Times_ best seller list, you can simply apply to the Government Printing Office. For foreign journalists who don't normally come down to the State Department, there will be copies of this available at the Foreign Press Center over at the National Press Club. So you don't have to come here to get an early look at it. I want to stress the fact this is embargoed. We assume that, as in past years, there will be no violation of that rule. If there is a violation of that rule, of course, we'll have to review how we do business around here.

The 21 countries that have been identified by all of you as priorities range from Algeria to Turkey. That's just alphabetically. We have a lot of other countries in between. That's the list, and I'll be glad to go over that list with you should you care to do so.

QUESTION: Will it be available on disk as well?

MR. BURNS: On disk? Eventually. (TO STAFF) When will that be? Do you know? Not tomorrow. We're technologically pretty good here. We're not at Microsoft-level yet. We're trying, through.

QUESTION: Putting it up on the Net is probably on disk, too?

MR. BURNS: Right. But to be available to you on disk. Actually, that's a different story.

Okay. Let me just take you through what Secretary Albright has been doing. She's had some very active days. I've told a few of you last night that she began on Friday a series of phone conversations with her Foreign Ministerial counterparts around the world, really in no particular order. But she wants to be in touch with people she has met; with people she hasn't. She is going to be making a large number of these calls over the coming week or two.

Just to review and to be comprehensive about it. On the 24<SUP>th of January - last Friday - her first full day in office, she spoke, first, to Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and then to Foreign Secretary Amre Moussa of Egypt. On Monday, she spoke to the Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy. They had a good discussion of the Cuba issue and of other issues.

Yesterday, January 28, she spoke to Foreign Minister Mate Granic of Croatia; to Mr. Salim Salim, the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity; to Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine; to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; to Minister Insulza, the Foreign Minister of Chile; to Minister Lampreia, the Foreign Minister of Brazil; to David Levy, the Israeli Foreign Minister. Their conversation was abbreviated because the connection wasn't good, so she called David Levy back again today and had a long conversation about issues affecting our relationship with Israel and also the Middle East peace process.

Today, in addition to those phone calls, Secretary Albright visited USIA - the U.S. Information Agency - and she had a good meeting with Director Joe Duffy and his senior staff - about 30 people - about issues affecting the State Department and USIA and our common work together.

She's having lunch right now with Secretary of the Treasury, Bob Rubin, over at the Treasury Department. She'll be paying some courtesy calls on Senators this afternoon on Capitol Hill - Senator Specter, Brownback, and Lieberman. So that's the extent of, at least, the activities that I can talk about, or public activities today. She's been quite busy.

I want to remind you that we kick off our foreign policy Town Meetings around the country tomorrow in Richmond, Virginia. Here is the order of battle. Dan Hamilton of our Policy Planning Staff; David Satterfield, who is our excellent Director of Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs, a long-time member of our peace team. Ambassador Phil Wilcox, who is our coordinator for counter-terrorism; Ambassador Tom Pickering, retired Foreign Service officer now President of the Eurasia Foundation, will give the keynote speech. All of these people are planning local media - TV and radio - beyond the Town Meeting. We've never done a Town Meeting in Richmond. There's an active foreign policy association led by one of our retired Foreign Service officers, Ed DeJarnett, our former Ambassador to Senegal. I know we're going to have at least 320 people from the community - from Richmond - tomorrow and perhaps more than that. We're excited. This is the first of what I would expect to be about 25 foreign policy Town Meetings around the country.

I have two more things to give to you before questions. The first is to say that the President has authorized the use of up to $38 million from the U.S. Emergency, Refugee, and Migration Assistance Fund to meet the urgent needs of refugees, of returnees, and other conflict victims in the Great Lakes region in Africa. These funds are being provided to respond to the large-scale repatriation of Rwandan refugees which occurred, as you remember, in November-December as well as to the on-going emergency situation that exists in Rwanda and in eastern Zaire.

You will remember that in mid-November, Brian Atwood, the Administrator of AID, announced a $140 million humanitarian assistance program. This $38 million is from that $140 million fund. It's being spent in the following way. A lot of it will go -- $20 million - to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; other portions to the International Committee of the Red Cross, to the International Organization of Migration, and many millions of dollars to a variety of non-governmental organizations that have refugee assistance programs in the Great Lakes region.

We believe that over a million Rwandan refugees have returned home from Zaire and Tanzania during the last two months. But we also believe that approximately 200-to-300,000 Rwandan refugees remain in eastern Zaire. They have been trapped by the fighting in eastern Zaire. The access to them by the relief agencies is quite difficult. Food is in short supply. Disease has begun to break out among many of these people, and the situation, we believe, is urgent and therefore requires the immediate disbursal of funds by the United States and by other countries. I will be posting a sheet on this allocation of funds.

Finally, I want to say a word about our Assistant Secretary of State, Bob Pelletreau, who has his retirement party yesterday. He is a Foreign Service officer who spent the last 35 years in service to the United States as part of the Foreign Service.

Let me just give you a glimpse of his career. Since 1962, he has served in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria. He served as the United States Ambassador to Bahrain, as Director for Arabian Peninsula Affairs, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. He also served, in addition as Ambassador to Bahrain, as Ambassador to Tunisia. You'll remember he was in the forefront of the efforts to begin U.S. communications with the PLO in the early 90s, and then as Ambassador to Egypt, and in the last several years as Assistant Secretary of State.

All of us here at the State Department wish him well in his new career in the private sector. We congratulate him on an extraordinarily distinguished career in the United States Foreign Service. He epitomizes everything the Foreign Service stands for: Duty; patriotism, which is an unfashionable word but which aptly describes him; service to his country. He's going to be missed very, very much. He represents - he epitomizes what the Foreign Service can offer to the United States. Here is an individual who is the most senior and accomplished Arabist in government service. He has done an extraordinary job, and we need to continue, in his tradition, to train people here in the Department of State who can carry on his work. He's going to be missed by a lot of people in the Near East Bureau and many people beyond that.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I don't have any questions.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the delegation in Beijing? Have you gotten a readout as to how the talks are going?

MR. BURNS: We have a delegation, as I know all of you are aware, led by Sandy Kristoff from the National Security Council Staff; Jeff Bader, our point person on China Affairs here in the Department of State, and others who are in Beijing for a week-long series of talks on a variety - a great variety - of issues. They've been having meetings at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

I'm not going to be giving a daily report on their deliberations because we're not in the business of doing that for most of our delegations, especially ones like this. But I can tell you that they're there for a very good reason. We have periodic discussions with the Chinese, periodic delegations to review where we are in the relationship. This is an important time in the relationship. This is an important mission. When they return, perhaps we'll have something more to say, but I don't have anything in the way of daily reports on their activities.

Sid.

Will they be discussing the agenda for the Secretary's upcoming trip?

MR. BURNS: Sid, as you know, the Secretary of State is going to be taking a trip to Europe and Asia. She has not yet indicated where she's going. I don't expect to be in a position to do that until early next week. That's my answer to that question.

QUESTION: What going in Iraq, Mr. Burns?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me? What's going on in -

QUESTION: What's going on in Iraq?

MR. BURNS: Iraq. I'm sorry. I just missed the country. I couldn't quite get that. It's always hard to know what's going on in Iraq. We've seen, as Mike McCurry said this morning, some instability there and some internal political machinations. If you have a specific question, Bill, I'd be glad to answer it.

QUESTION: I would say more specifically, does the U.S. Government see these activities and reports as a power struggle for leadership in which Mr. Saddam Hussein is in some jeopardy?

MR. BURNS: I'm not in the business of analyzing what's happening, the palace intrigues in Baghdad, what's happening in the 15 palaces that Saddam Hussein has built for himself to enrich himself since the end of the Gulf War, at a time when the Iraqi people are suffering because he's building palaces. I'm not in a position to analyze those palace intrigues. But it's an unstable place. It has been for a long time because he rules, with a very narrow circle of advisors, concentrated on the people from Tikrit - his family members. We continue to watch the situation within Iraq very, very closely.

QUESTION: Just to follow briefly by asking, are there any troop movements to the north, to the south toward Kuwait? Anything indicated insofar as rebellions, or fighting amongst the army?

MR. BURNS: We believe that Saddam Hussein does maintain the military potential to threaten his neighbors, including Kuwait, but we have no evidence that Iraq is staging new moves to threaten its neighbors. I can assure you that we maintain a very close watch over Iraqi military movements, and we have adjusted in the past and we'll continue to. We've adjusted our own military presence in the Gulf to counter potential threats.

You remember the events in October of 1994 when Saddam Hussein threatened to invade Kuwait again. It was the dispatch - the very quick dispatch of a very sizable contingent of American forces by President Clinton that forestalled that.

I think it's fair to say that Saddam Hussein has intimate familiarity with what we can and have done in response to his threatening military moves in the area, and he would do well to keep that in the fore front of his thoughts. He should not mistake our resolve, as he clearly did in the summer of 1990. We have substantial military forces in the region. We have the capacity to inflict substantial damage on Saddam Hussein, should he get out of line again.

QUESTION: Nick, if there is no evidence that Iraq is moving troops or that there's any imminent threat from Iraq, what is all this about? Why are Pentagon officials, you know, sort of stirring the waters on Saddam, and why is the White House and the State Department feeding this right now? I don't understand.

MR. BURNS: Carol, I don't know who's stirring the waters. I'm not aware of any stirring of waters anywhere in Washington. I would just say that we've learned with Saddam Hussein that when he does peek his head up above the foxhole that he has dug for himself in the desert, it's always good to remind him from time to time about the reality of our relationship with him.

He learned a lesson in 1990 about the resolve of the United States, and he would be gravely mistaken to repeat even verbally any of the threats that he from time to time makes against his neighbors to the south. We just think it's prudent politics internationally to remind him of the reality of who's got the power in that part of the world.

QUESTION: But how has he poked his head up out of the foxhole?

MR. BURNS: Pardon?

QUESTION: I mean, what -

MR. BURNS: Oh, Carol, he does it all the time. I mean, just look at the events of the last six months. All sorts of threats by him or his government ministers against neighbors, and then we saw in September and we took action against these movements outside of the strategic box in which he has been placed by the people who defeated him in the Gulf war - namely, the United States and the international coalition.

It's not just the United States that takes this position. Embodied in U.N. resolutions is the concept of a strategic containment of Saddam Hussein, embodied in the UNSCOM mission, led by Ambassador Ekeus is the international will that we need to contain his ambition to build nuclear and chemical weapons. There is an international consensus on the containment of Saddam Hussein, and it is not a bad idea to remind him of that from time to time.

So we've just taken the opportunity of Bill's question to do that today. Thank you, Bill, for giving us that opportunity.

QUESTION: But that question was prompted by a background briefing yesterday at another institution in this town, which it seemed like the Pentagon wanted to raise this issue anew now which leads one to wonder whether there's any new information in the last month, in the last couple of weeks that makes you - you know, raises concerns, new concerns about Saddam.

MR. BURNS: There's no evidence available to us, and I think I can speak here for the State Department, but I've been in contact with the White House and the Pentagon as well. There's no evidence that Iraq is staging new military maneuvers or placement of its troops militarily to threaten its neighbors.

But we're not going to be romantic about Saddam Hussein. We're going to be realistic about him. Here's a man who has violated his agreements with his Arab neighbors in the past, who has invaded his Arab neighbors, and we're watching him, and he has to be on notice that we are watching him, and the message is, "Don't mistake our resolve - the resolve that was clearly demonstrated by President Bush and by many other world leaders in 1990 and 1991." There are no military maneuvers to worry about right now, but it's always good to put him on notice.

QUESTION: Nick, I understand the need to remove any ambiguity in Saddam Hussein's mind, but in his briefing yesterday, General Peay also said that - he was talking about Saddam Hussein putting his wife under house arrest and his son having gangrene in the leg. What on earth does that have to do with your message today?

MR. BURNS: Listen, Sid, you know, I think there was a very impressive briefing given at the Pentagon yesterday, and we would stand by what the CENTCOM commander has said ON THE RECORD, when he was on the record. Obviously, I can't speak to any background briefing, because we don't do that here. But the U.S. Government has a unified position - the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, other agencies of the U.S. Government - on Saddam Hussein. We've been effective in the past, and we plan to be effective in the future in containing him. That is the strategic objective that the United States has towards Saddam Hussein - containing him so he doesn't threaten his neighbors.

QUESTION: Is demonizing also a strategic objective for the United States?

MR. BURNS: We don't need to demonize him. He is a demon, and he's done it to himself. I mean, look, Sid, he took 600 Kuwaitis prisoner and they were never heard from again. What happened to the missing Kuwaitis? He invaded another country and inflicted punishment on the civilian population. He's responsible for the deaths of thousands of people there. He violated his commitments to all of his Arab countries. He's trying to build nuclear weapons. He's trying to build chemical weapons. He lied to the United Nations for five years about his program to build chemical weapons.

This is a guy - he's subjugated his own population and is guilty of massive human rights violations against his own people. He lets kids starve, because he builds palaces to himself but won't give them the food they need and the medicine they need to get along. He's created this image of himself, which is true, for himself. We haven't demonized him. He has become something quite dark in the landscape of the Middle East.

QUESTION: I agree with you, Nick, but to an observer you are trying to make sure that no one thinks he is becoming less of a demon with these briefings about putting his wife under house arrest and his palaces and popping his head out of the foxhole he's dug. What's the purpose of that?

MR. BURNS: As Secretary Albright said in her maiden press conference here the other day, she said, "Let's tell it like it is." When she addressed the Department employees, she said, "Let's speak plainly." Why in the world should we mince words about the reality of who Saddam Hussein is, given everything that he's done to destabilize the Middle East and ruin his own country?

We need to speak plainly from time to time about events in the world, and this frankly is a black-and-white situation, where we have a very, very serious disagreement with all of his policies and with who he is, and we're not going to have a normal relationship with that country as long as this guy continues doing what he's doing.

Still on Saddam, or we've exhausted Saddam Hussein, haven't we, Mr.Lambros? Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in yesterday's meeting between Secretary Albright and the two European Union officials, and I'm wondering if they also discussed the Aegean and Cyprus issues.

MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright had an excellent meeting with Hans van Mierlo, the Dutch Foreign Minister, and with Sir Leon Brittan of the European Union Commission. That meeting centered on the following subjects: on the Balkans, a quite lengthy discussion of Serbia and Bosnia and all of the attendant problems; on NATO enlargement and the NATO-Russia dialogue; on a variety of U.S.-European Union issues pertaining to the new transatlantic agenda; on the need to commemorate in some proper fashion the fact that 1997 is the 50<SUP>th anniversary of the Marshall Fund which saved Europe in the aftermath of the second World War and which represents the beginning of a new American relationship with Europe; and a very good discussion of Cyprus, of Turkey and of Greece.

That was essentially - those were the issues that were covered in Secretary Albright's meetings with the two Europeans, and she spoke to the press about some of this yesterday.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on events in Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria? A lot is going on in the Balkans today.

MR. BURNS: Did they talk about those events?

QUESTION: Do you have anything -

MR. BURNS: Do I have anything?

QUESTION: Yes, on Albania and Serbia and Bulgaria.

MR. BURNS: My goodness, I mean, I think I'd bore all of you. I could say a lot about Albania and Bulgaria. Very briefly, let me just say, because we haven't talked about it -- we're concerned about it - the United States remains very concerned about the current political and economic unrest in Albania. We have called upon all Albanians to address this problem through peaceful means. These are economic problems caused by the collapse of unregulated pyramid schemes, which have created substantial anxiety and hardship.

Our Ambassador in Tirana, Marisa Lino, an excellent American Ambassador, of course, has been in touch with the government. We are providing some technical assistance to the government in the person of two American economists - Dr. Peter Vander Nat of the Federal Trade Commission, and another economist from the Department of Justice. Dr. Vander Nat is an expert on pyramid schemes, and he is present in Tirana, trying to give some advice to the Albanian Government about the consequences of unregulated pyramid schemes.

So I've got a lot more to say. I won't do it, because I'm not sure it's required right now. We can get to it later if you'd like. But in Bulgaria, we understand that President Stoyanov has delivered a mandate to the majority party in the parliament to form a new cabinet. That's the Socialist party, and our Ambassador, Avis Bohlen, and her staff, of course, are watching this closely, because we want to see Bulgaria a stable, peaceful country where reform can continue. We have an important relationship with both of these countries, both Bulgaria and Albania.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) some Europeans are very angry about your support to the 250,000 Muslim army in Bosnia. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know who's angry with us. No one should be angry with us, because we're simply fulfilling the mandate of the Dayton Accords. The fact is the Dayton Accords stipulate that there should be a stable military balance among the former warring parties in the Balkans, and that's why the United States has engineered the $100 million commitment that we have to the train-and-equip program. That's why we're working very well with a variety of countries, mostly Moslem countries, to support the Bosnian Government. Our colleague, Ambassador Jim Pardew, gave a press conference this morning in Sarajevo, where he announced the very latest steps in the train-and-equip program.

We want to see an effective Federation armed force, and Ambassador Pardew has worked tirelessly for that. We want to see civilian command, civilian authority over the Federation armed forces. We want to see good relations between the Bosniac and the Croatian commanders. I think they've talked about an internal organization or reorganization of the Defense Ministry and Joint Command. There are procurement decisions to make. They have $100 million in U.S. support and substantial support from Arab and Moslem countries.

This program is a success, because the strategic rationale is, if you elevate the capabilities of the Bosnian and Federation military forces, you reduce the possibility of any inducement to further warfare on the part of the others in the Balkans who are previous combatants in the Balkan wars.

QUESTION: Could I go back on the EU talks.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: The Turkish Foreign Minister today said that Turkey would block NATO expansion if it doesn't get full membership in the European Union. That's one thing. And the other thing the Turks are very upset about is the sale of Russia's sale of an anti-missile aircraft system to Greek Cyprus. What is the United States doing to shore up support for its policies with the Turkish Government?

MR. BURNS: On the second question I'll be very brief. We've spoken many times in the last couple of weeks about the opposition of the United States to the acquisition by Cyprus of the anti-aircraft system made in Russia. But President Clerides has promised us that this system will not be operational during the next 16 months; indeed, none of the parts of the system will even be imported into Cyprus. He has given us an opportunity to try to lower the temperature and see that this issue is resolved.

I should also tell you that I have not seen a text of Foreign Minister Ciller's remarks, but I cannot believe that she's been quoted correctly, because Turkey is a member of NATO and has supported in January 1994 at Brussels the head-of-state decision to enlarge NATO. Turkey was present at the NATO Ministerial - the NAC Ministerial - in December in Brussels, where the decision was made that in Madrid on July 7<SUP>th and 8th of this year, NATO will identify its negotiating partners for the enlargement of NATO. There can't be any miscommunication or misunderstanding on that fundamental part. Turkey is supporting NATO enlargement, as far as we know.

QUESTION: On the same subject. Concerning Secretary Albright's talks with the EU, did she urge them to speed up EU membership for Turkey? Did she say that the United States was concerned that the process was dragging?

MR. BURNS: There was a very brief discussion, not specific, about the question of Turkey and the EU, but she did refer to the fact that we're very pleased that the Customs Union is working, I think Sir Leon Brittan reported to her that the Customs Union has actually worked quite well between Turkey and the EU. It's an EU decision, not an American decision, as to which countries should become new members of the EU as the EU enlarges, and Secretary Albright did not attempt to give any advice to the European leaders on that.

But she gave them a strong sense of the American view towards Turkey, and that is that Turkey is a European country; that Turkey's future is not only in southeast Europe, it's not only in south Asia or towards Asia, it is also in Europe; that we need all of us to make sure that Turkey is embedded in the major Western institutions - not only in NATO but in a stronger affiliation with the European Union.

That's our very strong sense of the importance of Turkey throughout the West, and there was a very strong sense of that in the conversation. But she did not give any specific advice, nor would she, on this issue of membership, because that's something for the EU countries alone to decide.

QUESTION: Was there any talk about the EU linking rather directly Turkey's membership in the EU with Turkey's progress on human rights, the Kurds and a resolution in Cyprus? And maybe I should ask the question a little differently. Does the United States believe that improvements on Turkey's human rights record on Cyprus are necessary prerequisites before Turkey gets into the EU?

MR. BURNS: Turkey is a member of the Western alliance of countries that have made Europe a stable place for the last 50 years. Turkey is in NATO, and Turkey is not going to be held to any conditions that no one else is going to be held to, to maintain its membership in NATO. The EU question is a separate question. That's for the European Union to decide, not for the United States.

But we are arguing - and I think the Bush Administration argued - but this Administration has argued quite strenuously that Turkey's place ought to be in Europe, affiliated with Western institutions. All of us recognize - and you'll see tomorrow in the publication of our Human Rights Reports - that there are human rights problems in Turkey, and we talk about them with the Turkish Government as well as publicly.

But there is a strategic rationale for maintaining Turkey's position in Europe, and the United States would not favor creating any artificial or any new conditions that might prevent Turkey from playing a full role in Europe. We're in favor of full inclusion by Turkey in these Western institutions. But sometimes, Carol, the decision is not ours. We don't have a vote in the European Union. This is up to the Europeans. But we've urged the Europeans to be open to greater association with Turkey.

QUESTION: Nick, are you saying specifically that the United States considers a direct link between EU membership and human rights and the Cyprus situation to be those kinds of conditions that you do not favor?

MR. BURNS: It's not for the United States to establish the conditions for EU membership. I want to be very clear about that. But it is our position, Carol, that one needs to look at the full scope of our relations with Turkey. The human rights issue is important; the strategic military relationship is important; the economic is. On balance, there is a strong case to be made by the United States that Turkey should be more fully integrated into Europe, despite the fact that there are problems on human rights. We ought to go ahead with this process, because Turkey is strategically and historically important.

The secular democracy that Turkey has been since the early 1920s is really the foundation upon which our relationship with Turkey has been built, and it's that secular democratic tradition which we believe is very important to preserve in uniting Turkey with the West.

Yasmine.

QUESTION: Does the Administration have or has the Secretary expressed here yesterday any concerns that Turkey may turn away from the West if the EU makes a permanent decision of rejection?

MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright did not say anything of the sort specifically, but we have said for a long time, and she's clearly conveyed yesterday the sense that it's important to send the right signals to Turkey. It's important to be open to Turkey - all of us in the West. The United States has certainly done that in its own policy, and we urge the Europeans to have a similarly open view towards the Turkish Government and the Turkish people.

QUESTION: Nick -

MR. BURNS: I think Mr. Lambros has a follow-up.

QUESTION: A follow-up - with the same -

MR. BURNS: You would agree with everything I've said, I'm sure, because Greece is a NATO ally of Turkey.

QUESTION: But answer this question, and then I will answer your question. Okay. With the same Turkey, do you support Cyprus to become a full member of the European Union as soon as possible, as in the case of Turkey?

MR. BURNS: The United States has an excellent relationship with Cyprus - the Government of President Clerides - and we wish to see Cyprus stable. We wish to see a resolution of the Cyprus problem, but the decision as to whether or not the European Union takes in new members is a European Union decision. It's not for the United States to give public advice to the European Union, but we certainly will urge that Cyprus be - that there be a European commitment to Cyprus, as there surely, clearly is already, in general. But I'm not talking about membership here.

QUESTION: You urged to become a full member (inaudible) or after the solution of the Cyprus problem.

MR. BURNS: It's up to the European Union.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Greece. You said earlier that they discussed all sorts of -

MR. BURNS: It was a very general conversation about all the countries. We all agreed that Greece and Turkey are valued members of NATO, and we all believe that quite strongly.

Sid.

QUESTION: On a different subject. There's been a lot of talk in recent days, especially about what did or did not - what Prime Minister Rabin did or did not agree to do in regards to Syria. The Syrian Ambassador here, Walid Moualem, says in an interview that he agreed to give it back - full withdrawal back to the '67 lines. The Israeli Ambassador says this morning that there was no such agreement, not through the Americans to Syria, not to Syria, not written, not oral, not - could you clear up all this confusion, please?

MR. BURNS: It's interesting to read all of this. I think the simplest thing for me to say - and I said this in the past - is if there had been an Israeli-Syrian agreement on the Golan in 1995, we wouldn't be standing here debating this. There would be peace between Israel and Syria, and there isn't a peace treaty - a peace agreement between the two today. So that's the first thing I'd say.

But I'd also say this from a process point of view. The United States is a mediator, intermediary between Syria and Israel. We'll continue to play that role. The basis of our credibility is that we don't talk in public about all of the negotiations. We don't confirm who said what or who agreed to what, and I'm not going to start that today.

But I will say this, just to finish this, Sid, that I think the President made himself very clear on this yesterday, Secretary Albright did on Friday. The United States wants to help Israel and Syria re-energize their peace negotiations. We want to see Israel and Syria make peace, as we do Israel and Lebanon. Therefore, completing the comprehensive peace agreement that is needed in the Middle East nearly 50 years after the creation of the State of Israel and the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war.

But our ability to do that will depend in great measure on the efforts of Syria and Israel and Lebanon, and we need to look to them for the strength and the resources and the vision to make the peace. As the President clearly indicated yesterday, we are ready to help them towards that goal.

QUESTION: Just philosophically now on this topic, is a deal a deal when it is verbal and not written and not signed?

MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm going to bring you back to my main point. If there had been a peace agreement agreed to in the fall of 1995, we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. But again I don't want to get between the Israeli and Syrian Ambassadors - men - we respect both of them. I don't want to get between them. I don't want to comment in any detailed way on who said what, who agreed to what - orally, written - because our reliability as a mediator is dependent upon our discretion. Sometimes in diplomacy, it's very important to be discreet and not to say in public everything that's happening in private.

Steve, on this subject?

QUESTION: Belatedly, Mr. Marzook said in a statement in New York today that he had given up his fight against extradition, because he was a political prisoner who could not get a fair trial in the United States. Thus, he was going to his primary accuser, Israel, to seek a fair trial. Does the State Department care to comment upon that allegation?

MR. BURNS: What I can do here - because this is a matter that the Justice Department currently has authority over - I can just tell you the background - what I think is pertinent, and I hope it will be helpful.

In May 1996, a U.S. Federal Court in New York found Mr. Abu Marzook extraditable to Israel. Under the terms of the U.S.-Israel Extradition Treaty and applicable U.S. law, that court found probable cause to believe that Mr. Abu Marzook had committed crimes under the Israeli penal code relating to numerous bombings and attacks on civilians.

The court's May 1996 Order of Extraditability was stayed while Mr. Abu Marzook challenged his extradition under procedures in U.S. law. If he is now abandoning that appeal, which seems apparent, the Order of Extraditability will be come effective, and the matter, of course, will have to be considered by the Justice Department. It's with the Justice Department, and if the Justice Department intends to proceed, at some point it will come over here at the State Department. That will be the mechanics of how this issue, like any other, is involved.

Pertaining to the legal aspects of what he's saying, about what he intends to do, I'm going to have to leave that to the Justice Department, because the Justice Department has authority over this case at the moment.

QUESTION: Nick, his attorney also said that extraditing him might damage the peace process, and he thought the State Department might step in on that basis and not extradite.

MR. BURNS: Listen, I'm just not going to get ahead of the issue. The Justice Department has the issue now. If at some point the issue moves to the State Department - to the Secretary of State's jurisdiction - then, of course, the State Department will become involved in this. But the State Department has not been given authority to act on this-- has not been asked to make any decision, and I've really got to leave it with the Justice Department now.

QUESTION: On what grounds can the State Department step in? How does that work?

MR. BURNS: No, it's just a mechanical process. If the question is extradition, of course, the Secretary of State has authority of decision- making on extraditions. There is an extradition treaty between the United States and Israel that has been in force since 1963. As you know, even in the past five or six years we have extradited to Israel several fugitives who have then been prosecuted under the Israeli legal system. So that's the process. But the Justice Department has the action now, Sid, so I don't want to get ahead of the judicial process that is underway.

QUESTION: Is there any choice, for lack of a better word, whether he goes to Israel-proper or to the Palestinian Authority for prosecution?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is.

QUESTION: Nick, I asked you earlier about this meeting of January 16 with the heads of state of Eritrea, Ethiopia -

MR. BURNS: I just want to make sure there's no follow up on Mr. Abu Marzook before we -

okay, yes.

QUESTION: The meetings with the three presidents from the Horn of Africa in London -- I'm given to believe also that Paul Kagame attended that meeting from - the Defense Minister of Rwanda. I was wondering if you have found any indication of when that meeting occurred and what were the subjects that were discussed at it?

MR. BURNS: No, I haven't. I would refer you to the governments involved - or allegedly involved in this meeting. I don't believe the United States participated in this meeting.

QUESTION: Can you tell me, then - yesterday, in the London Times it was reported that rebels in the Kivu province of Zaire were being trained by Ethiopian and Eritrean military instructors. Doesn't this really cast a strange shadow on the two crisis in Sudan and in Zaire and maybe indicate, with all due respect, to our closest dearest allies that somebody is fishing in murky waters or murking the waters in order to fish in it, in terms of both these crisis which seem to be interrelated?

MR. BURNS: I haven't read the London Times report, and I can't comment on newspaper reports that may or may not be based on a foundation of facts.

QUESTION: Can you comment, then, on a measure taken by the West German Bundestag that all the parties of the Bundestag, on the basis of a motion by two SPD members, have called for a fact-finding mission in eastern Sudan? This was also, of course, a request by the President of Sudan that the U.N. appoint a fact-finding mission. Would not the United States be in favor seeing that all the facts don't seem to be clear as to who is involved in this -- in a fact-finding mission in eastern Zaire?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't wish to comment on parliamentary proceedings in Germany. Germany is a democratic state and doesn't need the United States to comment on its internal political proceedings.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: It is reported that some North Korean assets were frozen at a banking institution in the United States. I have two questions. Number one, what is the size of the frozen assets? Number two, do you have any plan to remove the freezing of the assets?

MR. BURNS: I'm just going to have to get back to you on both of those questions. I'm not aware of this report. I don't have any information on it. We'll look into it and see if we can get you an answer.

Still on North Korea? Yes.

QUESTION: There's another report that the U.S. and North Korea have reached a tentative agreement on the opening of the Liaison Office. Can you confirm the reports? Do you know anything of this?

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I was looking at this piece of paper. I apologize.

QUESTION: The U.S. and North Korea have a tentative agreement on the opening of that Liaison Office.

MR. BURNS: Yes. You're asking what the status of that is?

QUESTION: Not the status. There is a report that the U.S. and North Korea had an agreement on the opening of the -

MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's the case. We have as a longer-term objective, and we set this with the authorities in Pyongyang, the opening of Liaison Offices in our respective capitals, but there's been no agreement to do that. There are some remaining technical details that need to be worked out before we can agree to the establishment of Liaison Offices.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: We're still working the issue; right.

QUESTION: This process, the U.S. and North Korea agreed on opening the Liaison Office by the end of the first half of this year?

MR. BURNS: This issue is on our agenda in New York when we meet with the North Koreans. But I don't believe we finished the discussions. I don't believe there is an agreement to open the Liaison Offices. We need to do more work on it.

QUESTION: Has the site of the (inaudible) talks been definitely been set yet?

MR. BURNS: I believe the talks will be in New York on February 5. We have every reason to believe that the North Koreans will be there, having proceeded with their own discussions on grain with private companies. We're looking forward to these talks.

QUESTION: Chechnya - the Sunday elections?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: Unofficial results give victory to a guerrilla leader called Aslan Maskhadov who wants independence from Russia. Do you have any comment on the conduct of the elections and its results?

MR. BURNS: We believe the elections in Chechnya were an important step forward in the process of reconciliation between the Russian people and the Chechen people. The OSCE has stated that the elections were conducted with no serious infringements upon the electoral process and that the results reflected the will of the Chechen voters.

We've seen reports that Mr. Aslan Maskhadov has won a decisive victory, but we understand that the official results will not be ready until February 2 - until this weekend. In the meantime, of course, we've also seen some very positive reports by the Russian Government in Moscow indicating their intention to work with Mr. Maskhadov in this process of reconciliation. We would commend the Russian Government's comments. They're quite responsible.

Yes, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Before yesterday, I told you that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania circulated a resolution against the Greek sovereignty over Imia islet. Specifically, this Senator calls the Governments of Greece and Turkey to submit the issue of sovereignty of Imia to the International Court of Justice and says that its decision should be bound by both countries. Do you agree on that?

MR. BURNS: I haven't seen Senator Specter's proposal so I'm quite hesitant to comment on it. But our well-known position is that we believe that Greece and Turkey should decide this question. Should they need the assistance of the United States or any other consensual body like the International Court of Justice, then, if they decide to do that, they will have the support of the United States. But the action here is with Athens and Ankara. Not with Washington.

QUESTION: To remind you, that even expressed by the President - you're supporting only the issue of (inaudible) Imia should go to the International Court of Justice?

MR. BURNS: I can't improve upon the very clear and, in fact, sometimes even brilliant statements the State Department has issued on this issue.

Yes, Sonia.

QUESTION: Can you say anything more about the Secretary's conversation with the Ukranian Foreign Minister, Udovenko? Did they talk at all about the Crimean problem? Is there any significance to the fact that she has spoken to him before talking to the Russian Foreign Minister?

MR. BURNS: I must hasten to say that the Secretary is making these phone calls not in any kind of order of priority: Number one is most important, number six is not as important. It's not the case at all. She is simply trying to reach people who are important. She's doing this without regard to any geographic preference. We have interests all over the world, so she's made calls to Latin America, to Europe, and she's making calls to Asia.

Sometimes the order of the calls is determined by the availability of the Foreign Minister in question. She had a good conversation with Foreign Minister Udovenko. There's no question about the importance of Ukraine to the United States, both in security terms as well as politically and economically. Ukraine is another country that we believe should have strengthen ties to the European and other Western institutions. Secretary Albright looks forward to good relations with Ukraine.

Of course, she wants to have the best possible relations with Foreign Minister Primakov. She's looking forward to early discussions with him. Russia will be a priority, of course, for Secretary Albright as well as Ukraine in our policy in Central Europe.

Bill.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. In addition to confirming revelations by Director Freeh about problems in cooperation in Saudi Arabia - the investigation of Khobar - the Attorney General last Thursday also confirmed that there were negotiations in progress with regard to difficulties, or impairments, in cooperation between the United States and Mexican law enforcement - drug enforcement - in northern Mexico, and said that there were going to be a series of discussions. I believe Mr. Madrazo, the new Attorney General of Mexico, was here on Monday.

What I want to ask, Nick, does the State Department have a role in these negotiations to straighten things out in Mexico with regard to U.S. law enforcement people being able to take their guns with them when they go to work, etc.?

MR. BURNS: Bill, there's an established process. General McCaffrey is coordinating American counternarcotics and narcotic strategies with other governments. He has a team. He relies upon the State Department, the Justice Department, and other agencies of the government. We're a united team.

We are talking to the Mexicans. The Mexican effort is important to both countries. We're satisfied with the progress that is being made. But, of course, we want to make further progress in the future.

QUESTION: The State Department is involved in this - let me clarify this. The State Department is involved in this process currently, Nick, with the Attorney General?

MR. BURNS: I think people want to go to lunch. That's the feeling I'm getting in the room. The State Department is absolutely 100 percent involved in the effort to have a good narcotics relationship with the Government of Mexico.

(Press briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)

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