U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #16, 97-01-30
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 30, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to Ms. Lazar, Spokeswoman of the Romanian
1 Public Announcement on Abu Marzook
1 Release of the Department's 1996 Country Reports of Human Rights
1-2 Statements Re: Burma and Detentions in Nigeria
2 A/S Kornblum's European Travel
10-11 Secretary Albright's Travel Plans
2-3 Romania's Candidacy for NATO membership
12-14 NATO Expansion
3-4 Negotiations Between Syria and Israel
4-5 Possibility of Permanent War Crimes Tribunal
5 Human Rights Report/Church of Scientology
6-7 White House Reports
7-9 War Crimes Tribunal/Compliance with Dayton
Accords/Train & Equip
9,15-16 President Fujimori's Talks in Toronto/Hostage
12,14-15 U.S.-China Talks Re: Human Rights/Attitude
Re: Hong Kong/
16-17,18 Religious Freedom/WTO Membership
14,22 Human Rights Report
17-18-19 Rewards Program/Case of Abu Marzook
19-20 Human Rights Issue/Certification Decision
20 Alleged Human Rights Abuses
20-21 Human Rights Record
21-22 Possible Sale of F-16s
22 Human Rights/Elections
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 1997, 2:06 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back. Thank you for waiting
today. I want to introduce a very special guest.
Gilda Lazar is the Spokeswoman of the Romanian Foreign Ministry.
She is spending three days with us to see how the American press works and
how we prepare ourselves to do battle with the American press on a daily
basis. She is most welcome. She'll be with us tomorrow as well as, I hope,
part of next week. So welcome.
Nice to have you with us.
A couple of things before we go to questions. I wanted to make sure that
you saw last night a public announcement that the State Department issued
on the extradition of Hamas official, Abu Marzook.
We talked about it in the briefing yesterday. Last evening, we simply
issued an announcement which said that lawyers for Hamas political leader
Abu Marzook announced yesterday that he's withdrawn his challenge to
extradition to Israel. The State Department has no specific information
regarding threats against Americans.
Hamas has no prior history of targeting U.S. citizens or facilities, but
we can't discount the possibility of random acts of anti-American violence
in the Middle East.
This is an announcement really for American citizens. It's not a
political announcement. It doesn't bear on the case of Mr. Abu Marzook,
but I thought it was worth noting because we didn't have a chance to talk
about it yesterday.
We've talked a lot of about human rights today. We've issued our annual
country reports. The United States wishes to reiterate, in the case of
Nigeria, it's grave concern over continuing and new detentions of people
without charges in Nigeria. We are urging the Nigerian Government to
release all prisoners detained for political reasons and to account for all
detainees. We call for their release to their families or the commencement
of rapid and fair trials in regular courts of law consistent with
international standards of due process.
The reason we're issuing this statement today, which you can find in the
Press Office, is because just recently over the last couple of months the
Nigerian Government has detained three former Presidential candidates,
apparently without charge, and only because of their opposition to the
current government. The detention of these individuals for essentially
political reasons is inconsistent with the supposed transition to democracy
which the Nigerian Government likes to talk about. I refer you to this
statement that we're issuing today.
A couple of final notes. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum and
his interagency team are departing for Rome this evening.
They'll participate in a Contact Group meeting on the Balkans tomorrow in
Rome. Mr. Kornblum will then proceed to Romania for discussions on
bilateral issues with senior Romanian officials, including Prime Minister
Chiorbea. He will take advantage of that opportunity to express the very
solid United States support for Romania's progress in democratization and
on economic reform.
He will then travel to Sarajevo where he's going to be chairing a meeting
of the Federation Forum. He's scheduled to return to the United States on
I also will be issuing a statement on Burma. The United States deplores
the attacks by the armed forces associated with Burma's State Law and
Restoration Council -- the SLORC -- on unarmed civilians in three ethnic
minority refugee camps in Thailand on January 28-29. The attackers set
fire to two of the camps, destroying the homes and belongings of more than
10,000 ethnic Karen refugees.
The attacks resulted in three deaths and several injuries. Among the
victims were Thai civilians.
The United States calls on the Government of Burma to cease its support
for repression and violence against the ethnic minorities and to respect
international humanitarian principles and their obligations towards
refugees inside of Thailand. This is a particularly outrageous act by the
SLORC and the groups that work for the SLORC.
Having said all that, Barry.
QUESTION: Is Romania a potential candidate for NATO?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not excluded any country that is a
member of the Partnership for Peace from NATO membership.
We've not yet decided in NATO which countries will be invited in Madrid
next summer, in July, to participate in negotiations towards membership.
We'll be working that out within NATO over the next couple of months.
I'll tell you, we've been impressed by the progress that Romania has made
politically and economically. We've been impressed by the commitment that
Romania has made to the Partnership for Peace.
In saying that, I'm not indicating that they're a leading candidate or not
a leading candidate. All Partnership for Peace countries are candidates
for NATO enlargement in the future.
QUESTION: Well, we know what was on the on-deck circle, and I just
wondered if the circle has been enlarged. The same three or four countries
are always mentioned. I don't know why.
Presumably, because they've advanced in their market systems and in their
democratic institutions. You're saying such nice things about Romania, I
wonder if Romania is now on the same level with Hungary?
MR. BURNS: I'm saying nice things about Romania for two basic reasons.
One, the Romanian Government deserves it because of the reforms they've put
in place and we have an outstanding Romanian Government official with us.
We always want to be polite.
But I don't think she wants to come to the podium today.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Southern Command?
MR. BURNS: She hasn't asked. I don't believe she's asked.
You haven't asked for the Southern Command, have you? It's an inside joke,
really. The Romanian Government has made very important progress and we
need to recognize that.
Barry, the United States Government has never designated anybody of being
in the on-deck circle for NATO enlargement. But we will be working that
out with our NATO allies over the next couple of months.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Syria and Israel?
An extension from yesterday. Maybe not as lengthy as yesterday.
Mr. Halim Khaddam, number two, I guess, in the hierarchy in Damascus --
maybe two or three -- two, probably -- has now said that when negotiations,
if and when they resume with Israel, they ought to continue where they left
off. Now, he's not saying there's an agreement, as far as I understand but
he is saying -- after all, the two sides spoke for sometime, maybe over
several years -- and that even though there's a new Israeli Government,
let's pick up where we left off.
What does the U.S. think of that, or does the U.S. think it's a brand new
deal if they ever get them together, they can start from Square One?
MR. BURNS: First, I've not seen the comments by Mr. Khaddam and,
therefore, I don't want to comment on them, particularly.
But I will try to answer your question, Barry. It's a good question.
The President said the other day at the White House that we want to be
helpful to Israel and Syria in helping them move towards peace negotiations.
Now, if that happens, if Syria and Israel decide to sit down together,
perhaps with the United States with them at the table, then President Asad
and Prime Minister Netanyahu will have to make a decision about what is the
basis for those negotiations; what is the agenda for the negotiations;
what's on the table; what's not on the table. They're the only two
people that I know of who can make that decision.
But we believe, now having seen the recent progress on Hebron, that it
makes sense for Israel and Syria to consider seriously the resumption or
revival of the negotiations that took place last year in the United States.
We'd like to make that happen.
We will exert all of our efforts to try to make it happen.
But, fundamentally, Barry, it's going to depend upon the actions and the
will of Syria and Israel to see that these negotiations are revived. We
cannot make that decision for them.
QUESTION: I understand. But the policy line has been calibrated just a
little bit differently, a little more specifically.
Mr. Berger had a session with the reporters yesterday and said it isn't
enough to hope and to want to have peace, but we want the parties to engage
in worthwhile negotiations. Of course, he says this -- to the two parties,
and only one of the parties is coming here and it's not Netanyahu, and
he'll be here pretty soon. It's kind of a message to Netanyahu, but it's a
message to both.
Would it be worthwhile for them to start where they left off, or again
does the U.S. say it has no position; it's up to the parties to decide if
they sit down, when they sit down, where they pick up?
MR. BURNS: It is fundamentally up to Israel and Syria to determine that
particular question. If they do wish to talk to each, they've got to
decide the basis of those talks.
QUESTION: (inaudible) spoke about creating a permanent force for
apprehending them, trying, I guess, war criminals. Can you give me a sort
of status report on that, and how does it relate to the existing War Crimes
MR. BURNS: This is an idea that has been talked about and discussed
internationally for quite some time, for a very long time in fact, and it's
been an idea that we in the Clinton Administration have at least discussed
internally. The President obviously referred to it yesterday. It is an
option for the future.
We're not aware of any specific proposal, at least in the coming months,
but it's certainly an option in the future. In the meantime, as Secretary
Shattuck said, we will be concentrating our own efforts on supporting the
Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal and the Balkans War Crimes Tribunal in The
Hague. We've done so very specifically with money, with advisers, with
people from our own government who've gone to work for those Tribunals; and,
as you know, we are considering a variety of options to strengthen the
ability of both Tribunals to make sure that the people who are indicted
actually end up in the dock on trial. That's the objective.
QUESTION: Nick, tell us about the trip --
QUESTION: Follow up on that. Has not this idea been discussed not only
internally but also in NATO and in Europe --
MR. BURNS: You mean the idea of a permanent tribunal?
QUESTION: Not a permanent tribunal but a force to go after --
MR. BURNS: Well, that's a different question.
QUESTION: Okay. Alright. Then let me segue to - going to the idea of a
force to go after war criminals.
MR. BURNS: Charlie, the United States wants the people indicted for war
crimes in Bosnia to be put on trial and prosecuted.
We have supported the efforts of Justice Louise Arbour to strengthen the
tribunal. In fact, she'll be here in the Department tomorrow morning to
discuss the issue of the tribunal with Secretary of State Albright, and we
look forward to that meeting.
We are reviewing a number of options that would allow all of us internationally
to provide greater support to the tribunal, but I don't want to get into
QUESTION: This year's Human Rights Report on Germany documents far more
extensively than in previous years German Government discrimination against
members of the Church of Scientology. Is this expanded coverage an
indication that the discrimination against both German and American
Scientologists has in fact grown worse over the past year?
MR. BURNS: The Human Rights Report on Germany for 1996 we think is a
good and balanced report. There are some very positive trends in German
society. These are not particularly the actions of the government but the
actions of the German people. There's been a downward trend in violence
against foreigners, and that's for the fourth year in a row -- a 50 percent
reduction compared with 1995.
There's a downward trend in anti-Semitic acts. That has been continued in
1996. The overwhelming majority of the perpetrators of both anti-foreigner
and anti-Semitic acts are frustrated, disaffected youths. They're on the
fringe of German society. They don't represent the bulk of the German
people. There was a decrease in the numbers of allegations of police
I think we as Americans need to point out what is positive on the German
human rights scene. On the Scientology question, I would urge you to read
the report very carefully. There was some advance reporting in the press
here in the United States about what would be in the Scientology report,
and you will notice that some of the strongest language in the newspaper
reports do not appear in the human rights reports issued by the Clinton
The report that we have issued today continues to express concern of the
United States over the treatment of Scientologists in Germany, particularly
American Scientologists. In this regard, we note the call by a youth wing
of one of the major political parties for a boycott of the film "Mission
Impossible," because its star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist. We here in
the State Department gave that four stars, two thumbs up. We think
it's a good movie. We would encourage Germans to watch it, and we
don't believe it's proper to see that movie banned anywhere in the world.
It's a good product of Hollywood -- American cinema.
There was also a resolution by one of the German political parties that
Scientologists be subjected to police surveillance. Fortunately, the
German Ministry of Interior decided that that was not proper or permissible
under German law, so we need to be balanced in our assessment of this
question. We will continue to note our concern about the treatment of
Scientologists in Germany. But I know I've said this before -- but I feel
compelled to repeat it again -- the Scientologists in the United States,
associated with some Hollywood moguls and Hollywood stars, have taken
out full pages of advertisements in the International Herald Tribune,
in The New York Times, asserting in The Washington Post, asserting that
the German Government's treatment of the Scientologists in 1996 is
comparable to Hitler's treatment of the Jews in the early period of
Hitler's rule in 1933 and 1934.
This is an outrageous, inaccurate historical claim. The German people and
the German Government deserve better than this. The German Government, of
all the axis governments in the second World War, has done a very fine job,
from Conrad Adenauer to Helmut Kohl, in educating the German people about
the evils of Naziism, and Germany has overcome it, and Germany is a free
and democratic country and does not deserve this kind of ahistorical,
inaccurate criticism from Americans or from others.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that. The human rights violations, as you
document in your report, in Germany, would you consider those to be a
violation of the international human rights accords to which Germany is a
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've said that, and, if we felt that, I
think we would have said it. We have been concerned by the treatment of
Scientologists. But, look, in the great scheme of things in the world --
look at the rest of -- many of the other reports that we've issued today.
The problems in Germany are in no way comparable to problems in Iraq and in
Sudan or in China or in Iran. You know, countries that have severe human
rights problems. Let's put things in perspective here.
QUESTION: Mr. Shattuck referred to these reports on Cuba that was
published by the White House two days ago. Do you have any reaction what
the impact been of these reports in Europe or in Canada, and the Cuban
Government has already said it is an effort to destabilize the Cubans.
MR. BURNS: You'd expect the Cuban Government to say that, because the
Cuban Government does not like it when people stand up and tell the truth
about the Cuban Government. The report issued by the White House, mandated
by Congress, attempts to do one thing. It's a message to the Cuban people.
When you join the rest of the hemisphere in a transition to democracy, you
will be supported by the United States and by other countries and
by international financial institutions. The report even says we
think there will be billions of dollars in assistance available to Cuba and
to the Cuban people once communism ends and democracy takes over, and
that's inevitable, because Castro cannot continue to be the relic that he
is forever. Communism is not going to take hold in Cuba forever. Some day
democracy will return, and we simply wanted to point out the advantages to
the Cuban people and the support that they will have when they march down
that road towards democracy.
QUESTION: So the other countries have no reaction yet, no comment
MR. BURNS: We seem to have gotten the attention of the Cuban Government.
That's nice to see.
MR. BURNS: No, this is about the Cuban report. They've commented upon
it. They don't like it. Well, that's tough. They don't like it because
they're a totalitarian country that doesn't like it when people tell the
truth or exercise freedom of speech, but we Americans believe in that, and
we'll continue to tell it like it is on Cuba.
QUESTION: Nick, speaking of telling it like it is, Madeleine Albright
has said that she was giving the Tribunal her full backing.
Shattuck was asked to explain what that meant, and his answer was a little
mushy. Could you explain exactly what does that mean? Does that include --
MR. BURNS: Let me defend my good friend John Shattuck.
He is anything but mushy on the subject of human rights. He's been quite
specific. Secretary Albright will be meeting Justice Louise Arbour, who
runs the-- as you know, is the Chief Prosecutor for the Commission --
tomorrow. They will discuss a continuation, of course, of what the United
States has already done to support the Tribunal. We're the leading
financial contributor to the Tribunal. We have secunded over 20 U.S.
Government employees, most of them attorneys, to provide the staff for
Justice Arbour, so that we can prosecute the war criminals from the Balkans,
and we are examining additional options to strengthen the ability
of the Tribunal to prosecute the people who committed the atrocious war
crimes throughout the Balkan wars.
So I think that's pretty specific. That's what our agenda is, and I know
Secretary Shattuck - Assistant Secretary Shattuck was referring to that in
his very specific and I thought very appropriate comments.
QUESTION: But does this full backing include the idea of using a
military force to round up the war criminals?
MR. BURNS: I couldn't possibly comment on anything specific like that;
just to say that we are considering a variety of options.
We want to strengthen the ability of the Tribunal to prosecute war
QUESTION: Nick -
MR. BURNS: On this issue? Why don't we stay on this issue.
QUESTION: The Dayton Accord already has mechanisms in it to take care of
the event where you don't have cooperation by the parties. You've had a
letter from the Serbs, saying they're not going to hand over Mladic or
Karadzic. Mr. Tudjman continues to have indicted war criminals living in
Zagreb. Those mechanisms in the Dayton Accords call for the reimposition
of sanctions on the Serbs and possibly the imposition of sanctions on
anyone else who doesn't cooperate. Is that mechanism, which exists, one
of the options that's being looked at?
MR. BURNS: It is an option available to the international community, but
that is a decision that only the combined members of the community on the
Security Council can take. But let me tell you, John, Mrs. Plavsic made a
statement the other day that they wouldn't comply with the Tribunal. Well,
she's fundamentally not in compliance with the Dayton Accords if she says
that, and we've reminded her of the signature of her associates on the
Dayton Accords, both from Dayton and from Paris -- first.
Secondly, the Bosnian Serbs have found out because they're not complying
with the War Crimes Tribunal that they're not receiving much of the
billions of dollars of international assistance that Carl Bildt, the
European Union, the United States and others, are delivering. So the
Bosnian Government is going to receive a lion's share of that as long as
the Bosnian Serbs are fundamentally not in compliance, and that gets to
your question on war crimes.
In addition to that, we've told Mr. Milosevic that there's no chance of
the outer wall of sanctions, which deny him IMF and World Bank support,
there's no chance of them being lifted if he continues to flaunt the
Tribunal. We've raised very specific concerns with President Tudjman and
the Croatian Government about the repeated failure of that government to
turn over certain specific individuals who we know are living in Croatia to
The only government that has a positive record is the Bosnian Government
is Sarajevo, which has turned over a Moslem citizen to The Hague for
prosecution, and which by and large has cooperated with the Tribunal and
the rest of us. I think we ought to take some time to commend the Bosnian
Government for its commitment to justice here.
QUESTION: At the same time, we just agreed to sell 15 helicopters to Mr.
Tudjman. I don't know what kind of message that sends. Second of all, in
the arm-and-train program, a lot of that -- the arms and the money -- are
going to the HVO, of whom the indicted Bosnian Croats were either civilian
or military leaders. So there seems to be a bit of a tangle here in
terms of messages that are being sent.
MR. BURNS: I don't see the tangle, because, first of all, the equip-and-
train money is directed towards making sure that there's no more war; that
there's no incentive for the Serbs -- the Bosnian Serbs to start another
war. That I think stands on its own two feet.
Secondly, the equip-and-train money is directed at the Federation military
forces, and Ambassador Jim Pardew gave a press conference in Sarajevo
yesterday where he detailed quite specifically where that money is going,
and it's not going to go to war criminals.
Third, the ambition of the Croatian Government is to be accepted as a full-
fledged member of the European and international Western community, and
we've said repeatedly that its behavior on war crimes issues will be a
determinant of whether the United States supports that process.
So I think we have, John, sent a stiff message to Croatia as well as
Serbia about the war crimes issue.
QUESTION: (inaudible) about the special forces White House
confirms. There is a consultation about special forces, but you said
MR. BURNS: I would just draw you to Secretary Albright's comments on
television on Sunday, and that the fact is we want to strengthen the
ability of the Tribunal to be successful. We're looking at a number of
options, but we've not wanted to be specific about that, and I can't start
doing that today.
QUESTION: Yes. President Fujimori of Peru will be coming into
Washington this Saturday. Can you confirm whether Secretary Albright will
be meeting with him and whether the hostage situation in Peru will be
debated during the meeting?
MR. BURNS: We obviously have seen the reports that President Fujimori
will be meeting on Saturday with Prime Minister Hashimoto in Toronto. I am
not aware that the Peruvian Government has advised us that President
Fujimori will be coming to Washington.
If in fact he is, I'm sure he'll be warmly received, but I'm just not
aware that there is a request for that officially. So I would direct your
question to the Peruvian Government, and in the meantime, if we hear from
the Peruvian Government, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Nick, are you going to be able to announce --
MR. BURNS: I just want to --
QUESTION: The hostage situation -- has it been discussed recently
between the Peruvian Government and the U.S. Government?
You still have a team down there.
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Dennis Jett, our Ambassador in Lima, of course, is
in contact with the Peruvian Government on this. Our policy hasn't changed
on this issue. We obviously support the efforts of the Peruvian Government
to have this terrible situation ended peacefully. We call upon the hostage-
takers to release the 72 hostages immediately and unharmed.
We understand that there's a possibility of some direct talks between the
government and the hostage-takers. This refers to the establishment of a
commission, and we hope that those talks -- face-to-face talks -- will
start as soon as possible. We're hoping for a peaceful resolution of this
situation, and we're going to continue to hope that the hostage-takers
don't succeed, and that these people are released unharmed.
MR. BURNS: Still on Peru? No. I think Norm had prior place here
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if you were going to announce the
Secretary's trip, which Secretary Shattuck seemed to suggest you would be
going to do?
MR. BURNS: Oh, the Secretary has already announced the trip. She
announced it last Friday. She said she'd be taking a trip around the world,
to Europe and Asia. We have not been able to be more specific with you --
QUESTION: Dates, places --
MR. BURNS: -- since then and I'm not going to be able to be specific
today. Let me just tell you where we are. I talked to Secretary Albright
just after noon. She is still looking at a couple of things -- the
sequencing of the trip, the final dates of the trip, and we're still
talking to several of the governments involved about the trip. Once we
complete that process, once the Secretary makes a final decision on the
dates of the trip, the order of the trip -- it's going to be both in Europe
and in Asia, so it's a circumnavigation of the globe -- and we have
final agreement with all the governments on the schedule for the trip,
then we'll be very pleased to announce it to you.
I would expect that would happen, probably in the early part of next week.
But I cannot confirm any of the particular countries nor the schedule, but
I will get that to you as soon as I can, because I know a lot of you want
to make plans.
QUESTION: (Multiple questions) she's coming.
MR. BURNS: Because I'm not in a position to do that, because I talked to
the Secretary today, and all the decisions pertaining to this trip have not
been made. Frankly, announcements of American Secretaries of State trips
are normally made in Washington, D.C., by the State Department itself, and
I think we'll just -
MR. BURNS: Normally. That's a prediction that we'd like to continue
here in the Albright regime. We announce the trips.
We announce the dates. We announce the countries. We believe in -- we're
QUESTION: When you announce the dates and the countries, which all of us
know anyhow, could you -- (laughter) -- could you tell us -- there
may be --
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I've seen some things in the newspaper that
are just not right about the trip. I'm going to keep you all guessing.
QUESTION: Okay. Maybe you can pack more countries in.
MR. BURNS: You never know. We're very unpredictable.
QUESTION: Maybe one a day may be too easy.
MR. BURNS: We like to keep you in suspense.
QUESTION: I'm not in suspense. I'm doing my laundry.
Nick, can you --
QUESTION: Is India on the --
QUESTION: No, India is not. Nick, can you talk about -- if you can't
talk about the places, I think the philosophy of this is very interesting,
and maybe you can address that, because, after all, despite your lack of a
formal announcement, a lot of people are writing about this trip, the
notion of -- the selection of the countries seems to be -- even if you
won't talk about them -- seems to be sort of different from the past.
There seems to be less protocol and etiquette and more going to the places
where the action is. Can you discuss in any way, without violating
any of your self-imposed rules as to specificity, how she's making this
selection? Why instead of going to Canada, Mexico or the 16 NATO countries,
she's spreading her net further and going to places that the U.S.
relationship isn't always so pleasant.
MR. BURNS: First, Barry, without confirming anything that you've said,
let me just say that Secretary Albright, when she met with you on Friday in
this room, said that she'd be going to key foreign capitals. There's been
a long-running debate in American society about whether or not we're an
Atlantic power or whether or not we're a Pacific power. Secretary Albright
believes that we are both, and that both Europe and the Pacific are
important to us economically, strategically, militarily and politically.
Therefore, it was her idea -- her personal idea -- as her first trip as
Secretary of State overseas, she ought to undertake a trip that encompassed
both of our strategic areas of vital interest -- Europe and the Pacific.
So she'll be going to capitals in Europe. She'll be going to several
capitals in Asia and the Pacific.
I think that reflects the fact that she believes that we are a global
power with global interests, and this argument about whether Europe or the
Pacific is more important is really not an argument worth having, because
they're both important, and there's no need for us to choose. We're going
to be operating under her leadership very aggressively in both areas.
I think there's something symbolically quite important about her selection
to make her trip to both continents. But I also would just respectfully
submit that she ought to have a couple of days to nail down the final
details of this trip before we service it publicly. You can't believe
everything you read in the newspapers, despite what my parents taught me
when I was a kid. You know, they said, "Read the newspapers." But
now I find that sometimes I read the newspapers, and there are inaccuracies.
Not in your columns -
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I would never criticize you.
QUESTION: China. Could you give us some kind of an update on what's
going on with these talks between the Chinese Government and the U.S.
delegation regarding human rights concessions?
MR. BURNS: The talks are proceeding. Sandy Kristoff and Jeff Bader,
Peter Eicher and others are proceeding with their talks. I expect they'll
be back next week and report to the Secretary and others in our government.
It's our tactical decision not to talk about the specifics.
QUESTION: Mr. Shattuck seems extremely sort of not optimistic about the
MR. BURNS: I think the best assessment of -- the best description of the
human rights situation and our perspective on it came from President
Clinton the other day in his press conference.
He spoke quite forthrightly, and I direct you to his remarks on the human
rights situation in China.
QUESTION: But it's the feeling that China is really not going to make
any concessions, and the end result is going to be that the U.S. is going
to co-sponsor this, because --
MR. BURNS: You heard Assistant Secretary Shattuck repeat the formulation
that we have used on that issue. Secretary Albright has not yet made a
specific decision on that question, nor can she until we have further
discussions with the Chinese and further deliberations with the Europeans
and further discussions within our own government. But at the proper time
she will make a decision, and we'll move forward.
QUESTION: What were some of the substance of the talks with Leon Brittan
on that issue?
MR. BURNS: As I said yesterday, there was a very good discussion with
Sir Leon Brittan and with Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo about the issue
of human rights in China, the responsibilities that Europe and the United
States share to promote human rights around the world.
QUESTION: Was the Dutch Foreign Minister persuasive in his strong
statements? By the way, I didn't realize that he had said this to the
Washington Times, too, there, and he said it before us that he thought a
lot of consideration had to be taken of -- that a lot of consideration had
to be given to the sensibilities of the Russian people and Russia. This
thing I keep asking about, a lot of us keep asking about, you know,
the Kozyrev notion, don't build -- not only Kozyrev -- don't erect
new "Iron Curtains." Don't humiliate the Russian people by spreading an
alliance whose work is basically done to Russia's borders.
Is the U.S. moving -- have the Europeans made any dent, and particularly
the Dutch Foreign Minister, in U.S. thinking on that subject?
Where is this -- where does it stand now? I mean, I don't hear the word
"charter" anymore -- the Christopher notion there will be a special charter,
was it, with Russia? I forget what the word was, but we --
MR. BURNS: Let's talk about the charter.
QUESTION: Where are we?
MR. BURNS: It's important.
QUESTION: Tell us where we are.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright had a rather long discussion with Foreign
Minister Van Mierlo here the other day about this issue, and I'm very
pleased to report that as a result of that discussion there is no question
that all 16 members of NATO, including the Netherlands and the United
States, agree with the decision that NATO will be expanded; that the
decision to invite new members into NATO and to identify them publicly will
be taken at Madrid from the 7th and 8th of July. No one disagrees with
I think what Foreign Minister Van Mierlo has been saying publicly about
the need to be sensitive to the historical view of the Russians is embedded
in our strategy. President Clinton in January 1994, when the decision was
made to expand NATO in Brussels, went on to Moscow and gave a speech at the
Ostankino broadcasting center where he talked about the following.
Europe will be peaceful, united and stable in the 21st century if the
following things happen. NATO is expanded, moved eastward; new members
taken in from the formerly communist countries. Number one.
Number two: NATO and Russia engage in a discussion for negotiations over
a charter that would define the military relationship between NATO and
Russia and keep that relationship stable and peaceful.
Number three: That NATO will reform itself and modernize itself
internally. And I would point to the decisions taken at the Berlin meeting
of the North Atlantic Council in June of 1996 that identify those issues.
All that is happening, and I understand that Secretary General Solana will
be having his second negotiating session with the Russian Government on the
charter on February 23rd in Moscow.
QUESTION: The word is still "charter."
MR. BURNS: The word is still "charter."
QUESTION: That ties relations --
MR. BURNS: If it's not a charter, it will be some kind of understanding
or treaty. It has to be.
QUESTION: I think there's some legal --
MR. BURNS: It has to be identified and negotiated between NATO and
QUESTION: Not a pat on the back.
MR. BURNS: -- and Secretary General Javier Solana is the principal NATO
negotiator on this issue, and the United States has great trust in him. So,
Barry, I think it's all happening, and I don't see any distance --
appreciable distance -- between the European members of NATO and the United
States on this question.
QUESTION: Nick, about the Human Rights Report. When I looked at the
Human Rights Report and the Turkish part, you never hesitate to name, for
example, the minority as a Kurd or the other groups. But, on the other
hand, when you look at the Greece part, you are very careful to not name to
(inaudible) minority as a Turk, and also in your report is mention about
some Turkish language secondary school. I wonder which ethnic minority
group (inaudible) is it French, Italian or according to your report?
MR. BURNS: Savas, I would just say that the United States has had -- for
many years has publicly discussed the issue of human rights in Turkey, and
we continue that today with the publication of this report. Those are
serious concerns, but it does not diminish in any way our respect for the
Turkish Government and people, and the fact that we have an alliance
relationship that will continue.
I think it's Turkey's foundation as a secular democracy --
MR. BURNS: A secular democracy, Savas. That will be very important as
we continue our efforts to bring Turkey into Europe. We want the European
Union and others to be open to Turkey and to bring it further into the
Western system so that Turkey will be firmly embedded as a Western
QUESTION: That answers the question?
MR. BURNS: That answers the question.
MR. BURNS: I answered his question. It did, Barry. It did. It answered
it the way I wanted to answer it. (Laughter)
You don't have a right of review, Mr. Lambros. We're going to go on to
QUESTION: On Hong Kong, which I don't think has been mentioned yet. How
does this report, the Human Rights Report, inform American foreign policy
regarding China and Hong Kong -- I'm looking at the facts or the implication
that China's record on human rights doesn't appear to have improved over
the last year. How does this report inform foreign policy with Hong
MR. BURNS: I would direct you to President Clinton's comments on that
specific issue, because I always want to be specific in answering
reporters' questions. President Clinton spoke to your question the other
day. We have continuing concerns over the treatment of the residents of
Hong Kong, over the maintenance of their civil liberties as we approach
reversion on July 1.
As the President said the other day, we have continuing concerns, and they
have not abated over the performance -- the behavior of the Chinese
Government towards its own people. This is a major issue in U.S.-China
relations and will continue to be. It is not the only issue in U.S.-China
relations. There are many others.
As Ambassador Sasser has been saying publicly over the last couple of days,
we need to have a balance in the relationship. China is too big a country
to have a relationship with the United States centered only on one issue.
So we'll continue to talk about human rights. Secretary Albright says
she'll tell it like it is on human rights, but she and others will also be
concentrating on the economic and political and military issues that we
must discuss with China to have a stable relationship and a peaceful
QUESTION: Nick, to follow --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, I think there's a follow-up.
QUESTION: If Secretary Albright does go to China, as is expected, is
this like something that will come up in her talks with the Chinese
Government, and specifically will she discuss --
MR. BURNS: Again, I cannot confirm Secretary Albright's visit to China.
When the time comes to announce her trip, we'll talk about where she's
going. But, when she does meet Chinese leaders, wherever that may be, she
will raise the issue of human rights -- certainly -- along with all the
other issues in the relationship. A delegation this week is discussing a
wide variety of issues, which includes human rights but is not solely
QUESTION: A follow-up.
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think we have a follow-up in the back.
QUESTION: The Human Rights Report criticizes Peru for its prison
conditions and military tribunals. Are you concerned that this could
undermine President Fujimori in the hostage crisis?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it will undermine President Fujimori's, we
hope, successful actions in this hostage crisis.
We've had long-standing concerns. We've made them public. We have an
obligation to make them public, about some of the conditions in which
American citizens are held in Peru, and in the way that American citizens
have been tried -- sometimes by military tribunal, not by civilian
I don't believe this should have any impact whatsoever on our hope for a
successful, early and peaceful release of all the hostages.
QUESTION: If President Fujimori were to come on Monday, would human
rights be brought up in the discussions with the President?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see what President Fujimori's travel schedule
is. If he does come, I'm sure that the issue of the hostage situation will
be the leading issue.
QUESTION: Nick, if I might, on the human rights issue, especially that
of freedom of religion, I'll read from this report briefly: "In China, the
government intensified its policy of severely restricting and bringing
under official control all religious groups, including Christians, Muslims
It further says here under religion, generally, "A disturbing aspect of
the post-Cold War world has been the persistence and in some cases the
intensification of religious intolerance, religious persecution,"
My question to you is, Nick, what is the trend currently based on this
human right reports and past reports? Is there now a decline in religious
freedoms worldwide? Is it going in the wrong direction?
MR. BURNS: First, on China, as you know, our report talks about the
repression of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists which is of great concern to
the United States. Secondly, as Secretary Albright said to you just a
couple of hours ago, she's going to be attending the first meeting of the
Special Commission that we have formed here that does look at the issue of
the persecution of various religions around the world -- of Christians, of
Muslims, and in some cases, of Jews, of Buddhists, many other religions.
She'll be attending that.
John Shattuck has formed a group of eminent Americans and others to look
at that. I think that speaks to our commitment to religious rights.
QUESTION: Does this Department feel is the current trend in religious
MR. BURNS: We always hope that the trend will be positive, and we'll
work towards that.
QUESTION: Nick, I have two questions. One has to do with China. The
U.S. has said that they don't feel that China is ready yet for entry into
the WTO. Does your decision on that -- is that impacted by the human
rights report? Is human rights part of your assessment of their readiness
to enter this organization?
And I have a follow-up.
QUESTION: On the question of WTO membership, which is one of the leading
issues, currently, in U.S.-China relations, the United States has said
quite consistently that our market access concerns must be dealt with in a
satisfactory way, both in the WTO talks but also bilaterally between the
United States and China, before the United States can actually vote for
the accession of China into the WTO.
We support the objective of China becoming part of the WTO. But our market
access concerns must be addressed. In that context, I should note that we
have repeatedly discussed, as Ambassador Barshefsky did yesterday, the
issue of agricultural products which are of particular concern of the
United States. This is no surprise to the Chinese Government. We've
talked to them extensively in private, and I'm sure our delegation in
Beijing has repeated this concern this week.
QUESTION: On something entirely different. The U.S. has something
called the Hero Program which rewards people who give information that
leads to the capture of terrorists and others that the U.S. Government is
looking for. How effective do you believe this program and others
MR. BURNS: Our program saves lives. It helps prevents acts of
terrorism. It helps put terrorists behind bars. Just in the last couple
of years, we, in the State Department, have paid out over $5 million to
over 20 individuals who have given us important information that has helped
us and other governments to locate terrorists and to bring them to
I would note, specifically, the case of Mr. Ramzi Yousef. This program
played a critical role in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef who has been, of
course, responsible for the World Trade Center bombings.
I understand that we received on our Internet address, which is www.heroes.net,
50,000 inquiries a month from all over the world, people who think they
have information about acts of terrorism that have been committed or may be
Interestingly enough, we have now the ability through the Internet to
reach countries, which are state sponsors of terrorism and which in the
recent past have not allowed the Department of State to take out advertisements
in their newspapers, to advertise the Heroes Program. I'm thinking
specifically here about Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
When we want to catch a terrorist, one of the things we do is, we
advertise the fact that in the case of the two Libyans who bombed the Pan
Am flight in December 1988, killing 269 people, there is a $4 million
reward for each of these individuals for anybody who can give us information
that would allow us to capture these individuals and bring them to justice
here in the United States -- a $4 million reward.
Now, in previous years, we haven't been allowed by some of these rogue
states to advertise this program in their countries but they can't stop the
Internet, because they can't shut down the phone lines. So through our
program on www.heroes.net, anybody in those countries can let us know if
they have information about the two Libyans who killed 269 people or the
other people who may have been responsible for terrorists acts. This is
one way where we've tried to modernize ourselves in the Department
and make sure that we can have technologies serve the larger interests
of the United States.
QUESTION: Do you know how many hits have come from these countries or
what interest is shown --
MR. BURNS: Fifty thousand log-ons per month -- 50,000 people --
MR. BURNS: Worldwide, into our internet - our Home Page on terrorism, on
the Heroes Program. We've encouraged people in Iraq, Iran, Libya, who may
be reading this briefing on our Internet address, www.state.gov. We
encourage all those people who will be reading this tomorrow in some of
these rogue countries -- let us know if you think you have information and
access our web site, our home page, and we'll get back to them. Isn't
that terrific way that technology can help us catch criminals? It
QUESTION: It's a good jobs program, too. On the first question, WTO,
I'm not sure you answered whether China's performance on human rights helps
or hurts or --
MR. BURNS: I very specifically noted --
QUESTION: It doesn't have any impact, does it?
MR. BURNS: -- that market access concerns are the critical factor in
determining the position of the United States on that issue.
QUESTION: Right, not how you treat your own people.
MR. BURNS: Market access concerns.
QUESTION: Same topic.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: You noted at the beginning that Hamas is not targeting
Americans specifically. But Musa Marzook, yesterday, through his lawyers,
did raise a few grievances and complaints about the American legal system.
Members of his family and some members of Hamas did react directly in
threatening Americans that if he will be extradited, there will be
consequences. In light of that, and the fact that the lawyers formally
announced that they will draw their legal effort to halt this extradition,
what is the script, the scenario of the decision-making process now
in the next two months? And I'm asking you because Justice is referring
questions back to State. What will be the decision-making process about
timing, about who has the final say, and when this will happen?
MR. BURNS: First, good question, Chaim. I just want to note that the
process here is the following. The issue of the case of Mr. Abu Marzook is
before the Justice Department.
It's a law enforcement case, a judicial responsibility. The State
Department has not been asked to take action on this as of noon today, when
I last spoke to relevant people here. So we'll just have to wait to see
how this case proceeds on a judicial basis before the State Department can
take any action whatsoever.
It's not on the Secretary of State's desk. It's not on the desk of
anybody here in the State Department.
But the reason for issuing the public announcement is simply to alert
American citizens of a possible ramification of the case of Mr. Abu
Secondly, I should say, we have noted some rather irresponsible and wild
statements made by certain supporters of Mr. Abu Marzook about threatening
terrorist acts against American citizens. Anyone who threatens terrorist
acts against American citizens ought to think twice because we have a
fundamental obligation to protect American citizens wherever they are and
all the reasonable governments with which we deal. That includes, by the
way, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are dedicated
to making sure that terrorism is a thing of the past in the Middle
We've received very good cooperation from the Palestinian Authority on the
issue of terrorism, generally, as we have from the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Colombia is a country that's had a problem with human rights
in the past. Also, it's a country that's watching very closely what you're
reported in the human rights report, with issues like certification coming
up. How do you see the situation in Colombia in terms of human rights?
MR. BURNS: First, on Latin America in general, the trends are positive
over the last several decades because democracy is ascendant and there's
only one autocratic regime left -- Cuba.
On specific countries -- Colombia, of course, is a country that deals with
a variety of internal problems. I think we note in the report the problems
associated with paramilitary violence and sometimes the activities of local
police authorities. We obviously will assist the Colombian Government in
whatever way we can to improve the situation.
QUESTION: (inaudible) regarding freedom of the press in Colombia also?
MR. BURNS: We have a worldwide concern for freedom of the press. That
pertains not only to Colombia but to every country in the world.
QUESTION: Since the Government of the United States -- the certification
is pre-close. Colombia is waiting for positive certification -- decertification,
actually. It seems like the
United States doesn't trust the military forces in Colombia, according to
this report. Also, it can damage the possibility the certification
(inaudible). What is your comment about that?
MR. BURNS: These are two different processes. The human rights reports
are an objective assessment of the situation in the country. The
certification decision is totally dependent upon the actions of the
Colombian Government in fighting narcotics trafficking and the cartels.
It's a different question. We will be making a certification decision -- a
decision on certification on the issue of certification. I don't know what
decision will be made. That will be made by Secretary Albright and by
Ambassador Gelbard and others in this government.
QUESTION: The military forces -- in their report about the military
forces, is it going to affect
or is it going to --
MR. BURNS: I understand why you're asking the question but I just don't
want to anticipate a decision. We can only roll out one report at a time.
Today is human rights day. We'll have a narcotics day shortly. Then we'll
have a terrorism day.
QUESTION: Is the report going to affect somehow the decision about
MR. BURNS: It's a good question, but I do want to separate human rights -
- the question of human rights report from narcotics certification. They
are separate. We'll take all factors into consideration when we make our
decision on narcotics.
QUESTION: Following up on Latin American human rights.
Last Saturday night, in Argentina, there was an assassination of a
journalist in Mafia-like style. Looking at the reports on human rights in
Argentina, you just notice two trends. Two comments.
One, in '96, there were several attacks on journalists. I would add, none
of them were solved. The second point is police brutality.
This journalist was investigating the police in the province of Buenos
Aires. Because of the timing, I don't think it could possibly been
included in this report. I would ask you if you have any comment, if there
is a possibility of --
MR. BURNS: It's certainly a legitimate question. Let me look into it
and try to get you an answer. I'll talk to our -- I'll probably direct you
to Lee McClenny and Tom Casey in the Bureau of Interamerican Affairs. Just
a couple more questions.
QUESTION: How would you rank Brazil in relations in human rights in
relation to the other countries and in relation to last year? Would you
say, according to the definition of countries in transition, that Brazil
was a country in transition or a country in full democracy?
MR. BURNS: First, I don't wish to compare one country to another. The
case of -- Brazil is obviously a great country.
We've noticed some concerns about the status of street children and about
But let me just say, President Cardoso is an individual who suffered from
human rights discrimination in the past, someone who personally is aware of
what it's like to live under a government that is not a government of laws.
He has, of course, presented a human rights plan to the Brazilian people.
He has appointed a human rights ombudsman. Because of his own personal
experience and because of his own enormous credibility, we are not in a
position to question him. In fact, we support very much what President
Cardoso has done. He's a man of great, great credibility. He has an
excellent relationship with this government.
QUESTION: So do you see any improvement from last year?
MR. BURNS: Anytime the President of a country fundamentally dedicates
his government and people to improve the human rights situation, as he has
done, we have to applaud that. So we applaud the efforts of President
QUESTION: I'm sorry. My second question. You see Brazil as a
democratic country or a country in transition?
MR. BURNS: Brazil is certainly a democratic country.
It's a country that is modernizing in many ways. It's a very good friend
of the United States. Secretary Albright had a very nice discussion with
Minister Lampreia two days ago. Secretary Christopher visited Brazil last
year. Brazil is in the forefront of the countries with which we want to
have improved relations.
We have a good relationship already.
Just a couple more questions. It's getting very late.
QUESTION: How important are these reports of democratization in Latin
America? In other words, how much of a role -- you said that that trans-
Latin America have been positive this year. How much of that was due to
reports such as these or U.S. pressure on the region to democracy?
MR. BURNS: It's due to the Latin Americans. It's due to the people of
Guatemala who have overcome their civil war; it's due to the people of
Nicaragua who had a free and fair Presidential election. It's due to the
people of El Salvador who are celebrating their fifth anniversary of
democracy and freedom.
The people of Latin America have liberated themselves and made themselves
into democracies, and I think we have to respect that.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia: Do you have anything on a U.S. sale of F-
MR. BURNS: To Saudi Arabia? I know that we've been discussing the
question of military modernization with the Saudis.
As you know, we have an extraordinarily close relationship with the
Our military has worked for years with the Saudis on military readiness.
Saudi security is vitally important to us. There have been discussions
between U.S. industry and the Saudi Ministry of Defense on the possible
replacement of the Saudi F-5 fleet. Those discussions continue.
That said, I don't believe we've received here in the U.S. Government any
official notification of an intention to purchase F-16s. If we do receive a
request, we'll, of course, review that with the Pentagon. We do have these
ongoing discussions. I just wanted to note them.
QUESTION: The two groups of countries mentioned by Mr. Shattuck, one in
those that the record went for the positive developments; the other one is
going downhill. Turkey was not in either group.
Here, in the report, it says the report was uneven and deteriorated in
some respects. So your (inaudible) overall assessment in Turkey,
the situation is the same as the year before?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it is, essentially.
QUESTION: Essentially, it's the same?
MR. BURNS: We continue to be concerned by a variety of human rights
problems. But we'll continue to have an excellent relationship with the
secular democratic government of Turkey.
QUESTION: This is despite the fact the pages devoted to Turkey -- 41
pages -- is second longest after China. You are still saying that the
situation, basically, remains the same?
MR. BURNS: We have continuing concerns that we've expressed on an annual
basis. Those concerns continue. It's important for us to document as best
we can the situation in Turkey. But I do want to point to the fact that
we'll have a responsible and cooperative discussion of these issues with
the Turkish Government.
We hope to see an improvement in the performance on human rights, but we
have an alliance relationship that I don't want to put into any question.
We really have to leave. Last question. Very quickly, and then Mr.
Lambros is going to have the last word.
QUESTION: Elections will take place in Pakistan on Monday?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Also, the problem is the human rights report (inaudible)
Pakistan. Also, every two to three years, the government in Pakistan are
MR. BURNS: We understand there will be elections. The election
campaign, we understand, has been relatively low key and largely free of
violence. We hope that the people of Pakistan vote in great numbers and
vote freely and fairly. We're not going to involve ourselves in any way in
the elections. We are simply going to observe them happening. There will
be some international observers, including a U.S. team from the National
Democratic Institute. We always support democratic, free, and fair
Mr. Lambros, last word.
QUESTION: How large is the Greek minority in the former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia since there is nothing in the report. To my surprise, you
(inaudible) and ethnic Turks but not even one Greek. Why?
MR. BURNS: Do I get $400 or $800? This is a Jeopardy -- it's a factual
question. I'll be glad to ask the Greek Desk to try to give you our best
assessment. I don't have the answer on top of my head, so I guess I don't
win Jeopardy today.
(Press briefing concluded at 3:03 p.m.)