U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #22, 97-02-10
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
February 10, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1..............Memorial Services for Ambassador Harriman
1..............Secretary Albright's Trip to Houston, Texas
1-2............Secretary Albright's Activities This Week
1,17-19........Secretary Albright's Trip to Europe and Asia
1-2,3-4,20-21,22-23...Secretary Albright to Testify Before House
International Relations Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on
2..............Daily Briefing Schedule This Week
2-3............Status of Department Appointments
2,4-5..........Serbian Parliament Debate on November Election Results
2,4............Secretary Albright's Letter to Serbian President Milosevic
4..............U.S. Position on Sanctions
5..............Violence in Mostar
5,6............Status of Cease-Fire in Northern Ireland
5-6............Status of Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith
6-7............Possible Visa Request by Gerry Adams
7..............Restrictions on Sinn Fein Fundraising in U.S.
8-9............Presidential Crisis/Situation Update
9-10,12........Reported Use of Radioactive Bullets in Military Exercise
10-11..........Status of Dhahran Bombing Investigation/Saudi Cooperation
11-12..........President Clinton's Travel to Latin America/Venezuela
12-14..........World Food Program Appeal for Food Assistance
13.............Status of Joint Briefing on the Four Party Talks
14-15..........Aegean Sea Issues
15-16..........Saddam Hussein's Family
16-17..........U.S. Position on Scientologists Issue in Germany
19-20..........Status of Fighting/Situation Update
21-22..........Chemical Weapons Convention
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1997, 1:08 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department.
I've got a couple of things to go over before we go to questions.
First, I think you're all aware that the remains of Ambassador
Pamela Harriman were returned to the United States on Saturday
evening, and you may have seen on TV a very moving ceremony at
Andrews Air Force Base. Secretary Albright spoke at that ceremonial,
along with Ambassador Harriman's son.
We have opened a condolence book in our Protocol Office, which
is room 1232, for foreign diplomats stationed here in Washington.
Also, it's open to our employees here and to any of you who have
State Department passes. You're welcome to go to the Protocol
Office and sign the condolence book. That book is open between
today and Wednesday, between 10 and 12 and 2 and 4 for the next
three days. I'd also encourage you to visit the Exhibit Hall --
our exhibit on American diplomatic history -- where we have placed
a memorial dedicated to Ambassador Harriman.
I also wanted just to all let you know that the Secretary is very
pleased about her first trip as Secretary of State, which was
to Houston, Texas. It was important symbolically for her that
her first trip be to an American city and not to a foreign country.
She's also very grateful for the reception she was given by the
people of Houston, from the high school students to the very,
very large crowd at Rice University, and she's particularly grateful
for President Bush and Secretary of State Baker's meetings with
her and for their very clear public support -- very clear public
support -- for the Administration's position on the Chemical Weapons
Convention, on resources for our diplomacy embodied in our current
budget proposal, and for the call by President Clinton and Secretary
Albright that the United States make up its U.N. arrears. She
was very pleased to meet with both of them. President Bush in
particular was very gracious to receive her at his home on Saturday
morning, and I think you saw he gave a forthright public call
of his own, agreeing with the Administration on those issues.
It was certainly a good start to Secretary Albright's campaign
to try to build a foundation of bipartisanship to support her
foreign policy -- the Administration's foreign policy.
Her schedule this week, as she anticipates leaving this Saturday
on her worldwide trip, she'll be having meetings with advisers
throughout the week on various aspects of the trip, including
one today. She also is testifying twice this week. Tomorrow, on
February 11, she testifies before the House International Relations
Committee, and that's from 10:00 to 12:00 a.m. On Wednesday, she
testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign
Operations. Both of these testimonies will be on the Administration's
budget proposal and on various foreign policy issues. I know both
of these are open to the press.
QUESTION: What time is that?
MR. BURNS: 10:00 to 12:00 on both days. I anticipate that
we will not have regular press briefings either day. That's our
practice when the Secretary is up on the Hill. We do not have
press briefings here, but I will be here, and I'll do the usual
walk-throughs with the press, and we can negotiate the time for
that on both days.
One last item before we get to questions. We are following the
situation in Serbia quite closely. As you know, the law to recognize
the results of the November 17th elections is due to be debated
by the Parliament tomorrow.
The United States is looking for its quick passage and quick implementation.
Our approach towards the Serbian Government has remained the same
and will remain the same. We expect the Serbian Government to
take concrete action to deal with this political crisis and to
recognize the opposition victories in the November 17th elections.
Secretary Albright feels very strongly about this. She sent a
letter to President Milosevic over the weekend that was delivered
to him by our Charge d'Affaires Dick Miles on Saturday afternoon.
In that letter, Secretary Albright called on Mr. Milosevic and
the Serbian authorities to pass and implement quickly the elections
legislation and then to open a formal dialogue with the political
The Secretary also called on Milosevic to take positive steps
to resolve the situation in Kosovo, which has been very troubling
to us and to many others in recent weeks. She underscored our
expectation that Serbia must comply fully with the Dayton accords,
particularly with the provisions concerning war crimes. Those
are all very important issues, and she felt that she ought to
write him personally to let him know of the strong concern of
the United States on these issues.
QUESTION: Nick, kind of mechanical -- partly mechanical
questions. Are the pieces in place for the jobs here at State
-- you know, the major jobs, the Bureaus, the Assistant Secretaries,
even some of the Embassies? Do you anticipate any announcements
in the immediate future about who might take over European Affairs,
who's going to Germany? Actually, I think we know the answer to
both of those questions?
MR. BURNS: Do you really?
QUESTION: Yeah, would you like to know who's going to Germany?
You know that.
MR. BURNS: I'm not --
QUESTION: Anyhow -- but, no --
MR. BURNS: There's a lot of speculation.
QUESTION: In fact, you're going. No, do you have any --
has she made her mind up? Are those decisions taken, and might
we hear about them soon? There is chattering, but something we'd
MR. BURNS: It's very important. Secretary Albright is working
through all these decisions. She has an enormous number of personnel
decisions to make, along, of course, in concert with the White
House. The first concerns the senior-most positions in this Department
--the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Under Secretary for
Economic Affairs. Obviously, there are Assistant Secretary and
Deputy Assistant Secretary positions that need to be filled, and
also many important Ambassadorships.
All of these issues are being worked with by the Secretary with
Sandy Berger and with the President, and the White House will
make the initial announcements about these appointments. That
is the tradition here, and we hope that that process can move
as quickly as possible. But, as you know, because of some of the
recent legislation that has been passed by the Congress, there
is a Byzantine but useful and necessary process that must be followed
for anyone wishing to be appointed to a high position like this.
There are all sorts of financial and other ethical statements
that must be made -- security checks and the like -- and, when
that process is completed, then the announcement is made by the
White House. So she's working on it very hard, and she's been
working on it for a long time, but I've got no announcements to
QUESTION: And the other thing, going to the Hill, one is
appropriations -- both places are likely to be asking sort of
what I tried you on last week. Is she prepared at this point to
at least indicate where -- because she wants money for the State
Department, a seven percent increase -- will she be prepared in
these fora to say something about programs which she is confident
can be streamlined to save some money, or is that not worked through
MR. BURNS: I know Secretary Albright believes very strongly
that after having cut over 2,000 positions in the last four years,
after having closed 31 Embassies and Consulates, it's time for
our foreign affairs budget to be buttressed by additional resources,
so that our diplomats can have at least minimally convenient conditions
to work in overseas, so that we can make up our arrears to the
United Nations and the international financial institutions.
She is prepared, of course, to look at the issue of consolidation.
She has an open mind, but she's not made any decisions on it.
That's an area, I guess, Barry, which you could refer to as potential
streamlining, but she's not taken a position on it. She needs
to look at it. She's talked to the heads of the three agencies.
Obviously, Senator Helms and other members of Congress have particular
positions on this, but I can't anticipate what decisions she'll
make on that.
I think the whole impetus here is to try to get our budget raised,
not to cut our budget further, and we think, frankly, the budget
has been cut so much that we've already put in place a number
of efficiencies and reforms to make our operation more streamlined.
QUESTION: To go back onto Serbia. In this letter that the
Secretary sent to Milosevic, did she indicate at all what consequences
might befall Serbia if he didn't follow through with --
MR. BURNS: She didn't need to do that, because I think
Mr. Milosevic understands that the outer wall of sanctions will
remain in place for the foreseeable future, because Serbia is
in violation of the Dayton accords. Serbia has not acted, we think,
honorably on the Kosovo problem, and because we've been quite
disturbed to see the actions of the Serbian Government since November
17th. She did not spell out in any way any kind of change in the
Administration's position on sanctions, but sanctions, of course,
will be maintained.
QUESTION: But you could at least reiterate the Administration's
positions on sanctions. I mean, if she felt it important enough
for him to hear from her personally on the issue of the opposition
MR. BURNS: Carol, I'll have to -- excuse me.
QUESTION: Why wasn't it important enough for him to hear
from her personally --
MR. BURNS: I'll have to go back and look at the letter.
I'll read the whole thing through again. I glanced at it over
the weekend. But I can tell you this: She left no doubt. The tone
of the letter was quite tough. She left no doubt -- no doubt --
in Mr. Milosevic's mind that the outer wall of sanctions will
be maintained by this Administration, because fundamentally the
Serbian Government is not in compliance on these major issues
that I've cited.
QUESTION: Nick, staying on Serbia, the expectation in Belgrade
is that this may in fact -- the legislation may be in fact a new
ploy by Mr. Milosevic that once it's passed, the issue will simply
go to the Constitutional Court which will declare the law unconstitutional.
Would the United States view that as being a decision by an independent
judiciary or one that was -- that had Mr. Milosevic's imprimatur
on that? And I have a follow-up.
MR. BURNS: Because we've been down this road before, we
continue to retain a healthy dose of skepticism concerning Mr.
Milosevic and this pledge to recognize the opposition victory.
We've said specifically that the only result that will satisfy
the United States is if the people who won the November 17th elections
actually take their seats and have sufficient powers to do their
job, meaning the powers haven't been stripped away in some back-room
deal, which is another option that we've heard about -- another
option available to the anti-democrats in Belgrade.
So that's the litmus test that he must meet, and we're going to
be more impressed by concrete actions of that sort than we are
by these promises.
QUESTION: Staying on the Balkans, are you aware of the
report today of violence in Mostar? It seems to be getting worse.
There's been some criticism of the international community, led
by the United States, in terms of its willingness to see the Dayton
accord implemented in that part of Bosnia, particularly Mostar,
and that there has been insufficient pressure on Mr. Tudjman,
who is in fact the paramount influence on the Croats in that part
MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports -- I think credible
reports -- that Croat civilians fired on Moslem civilians who
were visiting a cemetery -- visiting the graves of their loved
ones in Mostar this morning. The United States condemns this violence.
We are calling upon the Croatian authorities and the Croatian
civilians involved to exercise maximum restraint and not to repeat
this kind of aggressive activity.
Mostar is a difficult issue, but the United States has done as
much as we can, and we've certainly given a considerable amount
of attention to Mostar. In fact, our Assistant Secretary of State,
John Kornblum, in Sarajevo last week for a Federation forum meeting,
had a specific meeting on the situation in Mostar. We've paid
quite a lot of attention to it, and we'll continue to do that.
But fundamentally the Dayton agreements rest on the efforts of
the people involved -- the governments and also the civilians.
They're the ones who have to make it live and make it durable,
and we're calling upon them to do so.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: Is the Administration -- with the breakdown of
the cease-fire in Northern Ireland, is the Administration re-thinking
its policy towards Northern Ireland? And what is the status of
Jean Kennedy Smith? Is there any move afoot to recall her?
MR. BURNS: The Clinton Administration continues to be fundamentally
and absolutely committed to helping the British Government and
the Irish Government and all the other parties who wish to renounce
violence and to be productive members of the peace process to
continue the peace process. The President and Secretary Albright
have a lot of confidence in Senator George Mitchell who is leading
We also have a lot of confidence in Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.
She has played over the last several years a very important role
in the United States' effort to be helpful to Britain and Ireland.
I can assure you that she retains the full and unequivocal support
of the President and Secretary of State Albright. There has been
no decision by the Administration to recall her because of any
perceived dissatisfaction with how the peace process has gone.
I say that specifically, because that was a charge made in a major
newspaper. That newspaper is wrong -- dead wrong on the facts.
She retains the confidence of the President and the Secretary
QUESTION: Is she due for normal rotation? Is her tenure
MR. BURNS: I simply will have to check into that. I don't
know exactly what her status is. But let me just say in that regard,
all American Ambassadors in the field, of course -- I mean, they
serve terms, and some stay longer and some leave when their term
expires. I'll just have to check and see what the status is.
QUESTION: She's been there from almost the beginning of
the Administration, I think.
MR. BURNS: Yes, she has, but I don't want to anticipate
a decision that would have to be made by the President and the
Secretary of State in that regard. That's true of all other Ambassadors
in the field. They're all expecting to serve out their full terms.
I know that many of them will end their terms at the three- or
four-year mark. Some will stay on, and I just can't anticipate
what decision is going to be made here. But I do want to draw
a very fine line here -- a clear line -- and say that she retains
the full respect of the President and the Secretary of State and
has their confidence.
QUESTION: I also asked you if you were rethinking your
policy at all? I wonder if you can talk about that?
MR. BURNS: I thought I answered it at the beginning.
QUESTION: Do you have any new ideas about how you'll proceed
from that here?
MR. BURNS: Senator Mitchell, of course, as you know, has
been active just in the last couple of weeks in reconvening the
talks in Belfast. We are constantly in touch at the very highest
levels with both the British and Irish Governments. We support
both of those governments, and, frankly, we support their position
that there's no seat at the table for organizations like the IRA
or Sinn Fein that do not renounce violence. That's a very clear
position that we've taken in support of the British and Irish
QUESTION: In that connection, is Mr. Adams welcome to apply
for a visa again to the United States if he wishes to?
MR. BURNS: I think that's very much a hypothetical question.
I'm not aware that Mr. Adams has applied for a visa to visit the
United States. But I think that he, and members of his organization
understand the clear position of the United States that there's
no position for them at the peace table until violence is clearly
renounced. We've seen over the last couple of months too many
acts of violence, indiscriminate acts of violence that take innocent
In that respect, we very strongly support the position of the
Governments of Britain -- the Government of the United Kingdom
and also the Government of Ireland.
QUESTION: Nick, one follow-up. How do you make peace if
Sinn Fein isn't at the table?
MR. BURNS: That's the question that Sinn Fein has to answer.
If Sinn Fein is truly interested in peace, it will renounce violence.
The people who want to make peace -- true peace, Judd -- peace
without terrorism, the British Government certainly, and the Irish
Government certainly, and a number of the other parties that are
talking to Senator Mitchell, those people are interested in peace.
If you're interested in peace, you have to meet the conditions
that the parties establish which are quite reasonable conditions.
People who throw bombs ought not to be allowed to be at the peace
QUESTION: Just one question. Will they be allowed to raise
money in the United States -- those same people? Should they be
allowed to raise money in the United States?
MR. BURNS: You know, Chris, we have a policy on that that
pertains not only to the situation in Northern Ireland but also
to any other part of the world. American organizations in the
United States are not under Federal law to raise funds to support
terrorist activities either here in the United States or overseas,
or groups that conduct terrorist activities. That's a very clear
position that President Clinton has taken not only pertaining
to the situation in Northern Ireland but also to the Middle East
and other parts of the world.
QUESTION: That was about two years -- plus two years and
a couple of weeks ago that he took that position. At that point,
of course, organizations had to be identified. There was some
work to do. Indeed, for instance, on the freeze, it applies to
12 specific organizations.
Sinn Fein -- can you say whether it is an organization that is,
number one, prohibited to raise funds; and are organizations,
or an organization that raises funds in its behalf, having its
MR. BURNS: If you're seen the list, you know what the 12
QUESTION: We know some of the characters, yeah.
MR. BURNS: As for Sinn Fein specifically, I just have to
check if there are any further restrictions on their activities
in the United States. I'm not aware of any change over the last
month or two, Barry, at all.
QUESTION: But if you hear of changes, would you at least
MR. BURNS: If we hear of any changes, yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether the U.S. is satisfied
that the Constitution has been followed in Ecuador?
MR. BURNS: Well, that's a very interesting and fast-changing
situation. Let me tell you what we know. We're following the situation
quite closely through our Embassy in Quito.
Our understanding at this hour is that there appears to be an
agreement in principle among the major politicians in Ecuador
that would allow them to resolve the political crisis peacefully
without any resort to violence.
This agreement calls for the appointment of an interim President,
with elections to be held in the first half of 1998, and a new
President to assume office by August 1998. But we know that there
are a number of issues that remain to be resolved before this
agreement in principle can actually be put into place.
We understand that the Congress has agreed to look at some of
the legal and constitutional ambiguities and work on ways to resolve
We are heartened by the willingness of these major political figures
to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis in Ecuador. We believe
that a prolonged state of uncertainty -- political uncertainty
-- would only damage the country's reputation; certainly increase
the level of political instability and also damage Ecuador economically.
We are heartened by the fact that the military and the national
police have shown restraint, and they have played a constructive
role as the politicians try to work out the problems. We hope
very much that that will continue, that all Ecuadorans will proceed
to unite so that political stability can be maintained.
QUESTION: You say heartened by the process. That was a
very straightforward statement. But can you take it an inch further,
or is too early to really tell about these deals -- the deal with
the caveats that you volunteered? Does the U.S. like what it knows
about this arrangement?
MR. BURNS: I think we're going to reserve judgment to see
what the final agreement looks like, because there are some remaining
aspects of this that need to be put into place.
We've been very careful not to try to insert ourselves in any
specific way into this political drama. We're not backing any
one of the three. We're not throwing our political support to
any one of the three. Ecuadorans have to resolve this themselves
without interference from the United States or other countries.
QUESTION: Aren't you concerned that this could lead to
a greater political role for the military that it has had until
MR. BURNS: As I said, George, I very specifically wanted
to note that we were heartened by the fact that the military and
the national police had essentially allowed the politicians to
work out what appears to be a political compromise, an agreement
in principle that would retain political stability. So, actually,
we think that the military has acted honorably, at least so far,
in this crisis.
QUESTION: Nick, there were reports on the radio this morning
-- and I'd ask about the veracity -- that the Ecuadoran military
has been consulting with the United States. Have we had contacts
with the Ecuadoran military? And, if so, can you talk about those?
MR. BURNS: Our Embassy in Quito has had contacts with,
I think, all of the political actors and other institutions, including
the military and the national police. But I don't want to insinuate
in any way that the United States is playing any major behind-the-scenes
role here because we're not. We are interested in Ecuador. We
want to Ecuador to continue to be a democratic country.
We'd like, obviously, for Ecuadorans to agree that there shouldn't
be violence in Ecuador; that this political crisis not turn into
a civil crisis. That's our interest. But we've tried very hard
not to be involved specifically because we didn't think that would
be helpful, nor do I believe that we have been requested -- nor
have we been requested -- to play that role.
Still on Ecuador?
QUESTION: No. Another issue.
QUESTION: In violation of an agreement with Japan, depleted
uranium bullets were used in military exercises in Okinawa. Can
you tell us why this occurred, and why it took more than year
to inform the Government of Japan?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to refer you to the Department
of Defense for the details. I know they have been talking to reporters.
I think the facts are that once the U.S. Government realized that
some mistakes had been made at the gunnery range, we did inform
the Government of Japan. I know that this morning Under Secretary
Walt Slocombe -- Under Secretary of Defense Slocombe -- called
the Japanese Ambassador to inform him fully of what the United
States had done to correct these problems. Obviously, it's a very
serious incident. We take it seriously. We have the greatest respect
for the people and government of Japan. We want to assure them
that we will be as open as possible as we follow this.
I do want to refer you to, for the facts and the details, to the
Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Has the Japanese Government protested?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Has the Japanese Government protested at any
MR. BURNS: The Japanese Government has certainly been in
touch with us and we've been in touch with them. We'll continue
our discussions on this.
QUESTION: New subject. The end of Ramadan is upon us. I
wonder whether at this stage the Administration remains satisfied
or is satisfied, I should say, with the cooperation that the Saudis
have shown in the investigation of the Dhahran bombing?
There have been suggestions that they may soon execute some of
the suspects they're holding in that bombing. Have American agents
been able to interview any of them yet?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change in our appreciation
of Saudi cooperation, our appreciation of the level of Saudi cooperation
since the President addressed this issue about a week back.
The fact is that we have been assured by the Saudi Government
at the highest level of full cooperation. It is our expectation
that we will receive full cooperation.
As to the details, as you know, we've been reluctant to speak
in a detailed way about this investigation. We don't want to compromise
it in any way. But the FBI and the State Department are in touch
with the Saudis on a daily basis on this issue. We'll continue
to be so.
QUESTION: Can I ask you this? Could full cooperation be
satisfied, according to your definition, if the suspects were
never talked to by Americans?
MR. BURNS: Full cooperation means full cooperation. You
know it when you see it. You understand it when it's being given.
"Full cooperation" means that the United States and
Saudi Arabia together will try to get to the bottom of the question
of who murdered 19 American military personnel at the al-Khobar
barracks. That's the key question. It's hard for me to define
that for you, David, because I'm not involved in these discussions
with the Saudis and I'm just not simply aware of all the various
criteria that have to be considered by us.
QUESTION: But the question is general enough so that maybe
you could answer it. The question is, does the U.S. have to be
satisfied that whoever is punished for this crime, that they're
indeed is substantial evidence that they committed the crime;
that they simply didn't dispatch some folks and close the books
You put "cooperation" in the future tense, you know.
This has been gone on for some time. You've been promised there
will be full cooperation. Simply put -- this is not my line of
work, investigating bombings -- what do mean by "cooperation?"
When the Saudis say to you, "It's all wrapped up, we got
it done; we're punishing the guilty," is that cooperation?
Or does the U.S. get to look at the evidence and make some sort
of a judgment whether the right people are being punished?
MR. BURNS: We have a clear standard here. We want the people
who conducted -- who planned and conducted the bombing of the
al-Khobar barracks to be brought to justice. We're not interested
in other people -- we're not interested in having people prosecuted
who were not responsible. We want the people responsible to be
questioned and then to be prosecuted, and we want justice done.
That's the standard I think that 19 American families bring to
this question. That's a very simple proposition. The Saudis know
that. We know it, and we want to work with the Saudis to see that
justice is done.
We expect that full cooperation will be extended to the United
States. That's our level of expectation here.
QUESTION: Iraq, they are throwing some threat to neighboring
countries, including the Gulf states. They said that they're using
this Dhahran incident as the (inaudible) to some basis to form
troops. This is very dangerous for Iran. Do you have any reaction
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, Savas, I didn't catch the question.
What's the question?
QUESTION: The question is, Iraq is threatening neighboring
countries, including Saudi Arabia. Their statement mentioned about
using the Dhahran events to attack the foreign troops from their
soil is a big and dangerous for us. The consequences is disastrous,
or something like that?
MR. BURNS: We have not determined who is responsible for
the Khobar bombing. Therefore, it's not possible for the United
States to make any kind of threats against other countries if
we don't know for sure who was responsible for the killings themselves.
So there's no reason why I should answer that question. There's
no link here that the United States has drawn.
QUESTION: It's the Iranian statement. It's not my statement.
MR. BURNS: Well, we don't pay attention to everything the
QUESTION: Nick, there seems to be a lot of unhappiness,
even resentment, in Caracas because President Clinton is not making
a stop there on his Latin American tour. This is a country that's
the number one supplier of foreign oil to the U.S. It's been the
lead democracy down there. It has a big $20 billion trade with
the U.S. So a lot of Venezuelans are beginning to feel that they're
being taken for granted. Do you have any comment on that, especially
in view of the fact that there was some reason to believe that
he would go there originally?
MR. BURNS: The United States appreciates very much our
relationship with the Government of Venezuela and the people of
Venezuela, and we'll continue to treat those relations as a high
priority. The fact is, the President is making a trip to South
American and to the Caribbean and Central America. He can only
go so many places. There are a lot of countries in the hemisphere.
There are over 30 countries in the hemisphere.
His schedule should not be any indication to the Government or
people of Venezuela that we are in any way not interested in a
good relationship, excellent relationship. We are, and we'll continue
to demonstrate that.
QUESTION: May I go back to Japan for a second?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Realizing that the Pentagon isn't having a briefing
and they've only talked through the spokesmen in Tokyo. But going
back to your comment about "you've been in touch with Japan,"
the Mayor in the area said he was concerned that the military
informed them a year after the incident occurred. What exactly
has Japan said to the U.S. about this?
MR. BURNS: We have provided detailed information on this
incident to the Government of Japan. We've told the Government
of Japan that we regret this incident, and we regret the fact
that the Government of Japan was notified late -- too long after
the incident. We will continue to conduct periodic surveys of
the island to assure the government of Japan and the people in
the region that there is no threat to them.
But, again, the Pentagon has some detailed guidance for you on
this, and I'm sure they'll be glad to talk to you about it.
I just want to raise one thing since we're on Asia, which is a
little bit troubling. That is, the Clinton Administration was
criticized over the weekend by the Washington Post for not considering,
in a serious way, the question of food aid for North Korea. This
was very puzzling to me -- very puzzling, indeed. Because we said
several times last week, publicly -- maybe the Washington Post
needs to read the transcripts or maybe they just need to pay attention
to what we're saying -- that the United States had met previous
food appeals from the World Food Program; that we did treat as
an urgent matter the humanitarian situation of the people of North
Therefore, quite puzzling to see this quite strong criticism of
the United States for not taking into considering humanitarian
concerns in addressing this question.
I can just tell you that the World Food Program, we expect, will
issue a new appeal for food assistance to North Korea this week;
that it will be similar to the one issued last year. When we receive
this appeal, we will very seriously study its analysis of the
food situation in North Korea. We will make our decision to provide
food assistance to North Korea based solely on humanitarian considerations.
As always, we'll talk to our ally, consult with our ally, the
Republic of Korea -- South Korea. But we said last week -- and
I just wanted to reaffirm this week -- that we are interested
in helping people in need around the world and that humanitarian
considerations will be the criteria that will apply here. It's
very puzzling to see this strong editorial criticism from a major
national newspaper when it is completely undeserved. We've been
paying attention to the situation. We've been talking to the United
Nations. We've been talking to the North Koreans. We've talking
to the South Koreans.
The Government is at work here. We're doing our job. We're doing
what we must to fashion a good, consistent policy on the Korean
Peninsula for peace. I think it's incumbent upon people who write
editorials to listen to what we say and to take it into consideration.
QUESTION: In the same newspaper, there was an op-ed article
by a former senior AID official which suggested that the famine
in North Korea could be worse than the famine in Ethiopia in 1984.
What's the State Department's assessment of that analysis?
MR. BURNS: We do not have an independent assessment of
the food situation in North Korea because we don't have any American
officials in North Korea. But we do rely upon the United Nations
and the World Food Program.
As you know, the United States has been a major contributor. I
believe the level of our contribution was $8.2 million in 1995,
to people who were affected by the flooding; an additional allocation
was made by the United States in 1996. So we have to rely on the
United Nations and on the food experts. But we do so -- and we
take their appeals very seriously; very seriously, indeed. I 'm
just puzzled by this criticism.
QUESTION: Has the United States ever used food aid to North
Korea as a bargaining chip?
MR. BURNS: Not that I'm aware of. In fact, I said very
clearly last week, repeatedly, we are not using food aid as any
kind of lever to convince the North Koreans to approach the negotiating
table in New York to have a briefing on the Four Party Talks.
I said last week consistently that we are interested in this question
on humanitarian grounds. I just want to reiterate that today.
We don't deserve to be criticized like this unfairly and inaccurately.
People ought to do their homework.
QUESTION: Nick, you say "not that you know of."
Are you leaving out the possibility that maybe in some other chamber
somewhere it has been used as a bargaining chip?
MR. BURNS: We've been trying to arrange a briefing on the
Four Party Talks. The North Koreans have decided that they cannot
attend those talks, at least at the present time, because they
have on-going private, commercial negotiations with Cargill and
other companies. We would like that deal to go forward. But we've
never used food aid as a lever against the North Koreans; certainly
have not because we have to pay attention to the humanitarian
QUESTION: Nick, for years, we used to do assessments of
the food situation in China and the former Soviet Union. We didn't
rely on the U.N. or any other NGO's for their assessments. We
have so-called national technical means to do that. The question
is, doesn't the State Department policymakers have access to national
technical means, analysis by the Department of Agriculture and
other agencies, that talk about the situation on the ground in
North Korea? Can we not make policy based on those assessments?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware, at least when I was working on
the Soviet Union, that we ever used so-called national technical
means as a sole basis to judge a situation. The fact is the two
situations are not analogous. In the situation of China and of
the Soviet Union, we had American diplomats on the ground. We
had an ability to bring in our own experts to assess the food
situation. We do not presently have that ability with North Korea.
Thus, we rely on the very good services of the United Nations
which we trust, and we work well with the United Nations and the
World Food Program in the past and I believe we'll continue to
QUESTION: The Institute for National Strategic Studies
of the National Defense University which is a U.S. Government
institution, I have to emphasized, is related directly to the
Department of Defense. Last Friday, it released its annual report
on the 1997 strategic assessments.
On Page 38, it published a map which it's partitioned Greece,
the fact of the Aegean Sea, with a line covering all the Greek
islands of the eastern Aegean. Very simple. It's promoting the
one owned Turkish map against Greece.
Since the section is dealing with U.S. foreign policy, I would
like to know the State Department's reaction to this particular
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, the National Defense University,
it's like a think tank, it's a school. People go there to study;
they write papers. It's a very important place, but it is not
a place where U.S. Government policy is made on foreign policy
issues. It's a place where diplomats and military officers go
for a year to reflect. They write their own papers based on their
own personal research.
So whatever is written by unto you in a study, is not a decision
taken by the Administration on a foreign policy issue. I want
you to understand that clear distinction.
QUESTION: According to the Internet today, the Director
of IMSS reports through the President of the National Defense
University to the Chairman, at the highest level, and the Vice
Chairman of the Joint Civil Staff to the Secretary and the Deputy
Secretary of Defense and to the commanders in the civil -unified
commanders, they issued the Director, since they assess the agenda
of the issue to meet the needs and requirements of the Department
MR. BURNS: I have the greatest respect for the National
Defense University. A lot of my friends have studied there. Our
own Glyn Davies studied there. He wrote a paper when he was there
which was not -- when Glyn Davies -- I wish Glyn were here to
defend himself. When Glyn wrote his paper and other people write
their papers, they do so in order to educate themselves and to
further their own study of foreign policy. These papers are not
official decisions by the United States Government. Think of it
as a retreat for a year, where people reflect and study.
If there's going to be any change in our policy in the Aegean,
which I do not expect, that decision will be made by the President
and the Secretary of State. You've not seen any decisions of any
changes in our policy in the Aegean made by the President or the
Secretary of State.
So I want to assure you, Mr. Lambros, there's no problem here.
I would read the paper and reflect on the paper and congratulate
the authors --
QUESTION: So you condemn --
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to condemn anything that I haven't
seen. I'm not going to approve it either. I can't see that from
QUESTION: No, no. Did you receive that --
MR. BURNS: No. I think NDU, which is a terrific institution
-- a terrific institution -- publishes hundreds of papers a year.
I don't have time to read them all.
QUESTION: It's propaganda purely. I would like you to comment
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't call it "propaganda." This
is academic research.
David was next in line, Barry.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering whether you can offer any
insights as to the state of family relations in the Hussein family
of Baghdad? For example, is Saddam Hussein's wife under house
arrest? Is Uday Hussein -- what kind of injuries he sustained;
anything you might have?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not a particular expert on the state
of affairs in the Hussein family which is a very troubled family.
I think, in this case, you might want to just trust the newspapers
and read the newspapers and be intrigued by it, but we have no
independent knowledge of the intrigues going on in Baghdad.
With autocratic dictatorial regimes, countries run by tyrants,
you often see, when they treat their people in a dictatorial manner,
it also sometimes extends to their family.
I think it's no surprise to see that Saddam Hussein has had problems
in this family. He is a disturbed person, and so we'll just have
to let that go as it is, and I have nothing much more that I can
add to it.
QUESTION: Do you want to give us a little bit of an advance
MR. BURNS: In this case.
QUESTION: Can you give us a little bit of a preview of
how the Secretary will deal with the Scientologists' issue in
Germany, because the Foreign Minister has been saying things,
as reported by Reuters, so evidently they want it on the agenda.
MR. BURNS: The United States has a very straightforward
position. I spoke to our Charge d'Affaires, J. D. Bindenagel,
last week, and J.D. assures me that the German Government -- you
know, we are in communication with the German Government. We've
explained our position as it was enunciated in the Human Rights
Report released ten days ago.
We also have a very firm public opposition to the repeated calls
by the Scientologist community that the Kohl Government is engaging
in activities which are similar to the actions of the Hitler Government
in the early part of the Hitler regime in 1933 and 1934. In fact,
I continue to get letters from these Scientologists and their
supporters. A lot of them are postmarked Hollywood, California
-- (laughter) -- and the letters say that I'm a terrible person,
and that John Shattuck is a terrible person, because we won't
agree with these absolutely ahistorical, inaccurate and outrageous
charges, comparing the current German Government to the Nazi government.
So if this issue is raised, I'm sure that Secretary Albright will
simply note what we have said in our Human Rights Report, but
solidly defend the German Government against this crazy, frankly,
charge that somehow the Scientologists are being treated the way
Jews were treated and communists were treated in 1933 and 1934,
which is the specific charge. They continue to take out advertisements
in newspapers and talk about this, and they're just wrong on this.
QUESTION: Yeah, you've made that point before, but so far
as their claim that they're the victims of prejudice and bigotry
in Germany --
MR. BURNS: And we've spoken to that, I think, four years
running in our Human Rights Report.
QUESTION: So if Mr. Kinkel is right, that it will come
up again when she's in Germany, will she stoutly stand behind
and affirm the human rights finding, or -- which I assume is the
U.S. Government's position on this.
MR. BURNS: If the issue is raised. Obviously, given our
respect for the German Government, Secretary Albright will give
-- her interlocutors will note the fact that for four years running
we've had these concerns, and we're not going to shy away from
them, because we are concerned by the treatment of Scientologist
in Germany. But we have a lot of respect for the Germans. I believe
this issue will be dealt with in a very fair, private way. We
have no interest in giving it more publicity, but we do feel a
compulsion, an obligation to protect and defend the German Government
from these outrageous charges.
If you look at all the countries that came through the second
World War, on the Axis side you can't point to a country that's
done more to educate its own population -- particularly the younger
generation -- about the evils of Naziism than the German Government,
and that includes the regional, the municipal governments. It's
in the German curriculum, the evils of Naziism, and to make this
comparison is an insult to the German people and the German Government.
QUESTION: While we're on the trip, just a quick one. Is
that a locked-in trip now? Is there the possibility -- is there
consideration being given to brief stopovers? I think, for instance,
President Clinton went on a trip to Russia. He found time to make
a two-hour stop, I think, in Kiev at the airport.
MR. BURNS: I remember that.
QUESTION: You remember?
MR. BURNS: I remember that.
QUESTION: A little chaotic, but --
MR. BURNS: It was a brilliant event, Barry.
QUESTION: Yeah, well, I mean, I guess I'm often on the
subject of --
MR. BURNS: And it led to the signing of the Trilateral
Agreement a couple of days later, which was one of the most significant
accomplishments of the Clinton Administration in the first term.
QUESTION: We both know how --
MR. BURNS: You were there. You realize the significance,
the brilliance of that diplomatic -- as I remember it --
QUESTION: Maybe I even predated the Administration, asking
about Ukraine, and, as we both know --
MR. BURNS: I think you did.
QUESTION: -- the Administration began to pay a little more
attention to Ukraine, and I want to acknowledge that, but you
know Ukraine became party to some of these agreements, got two
hours of the President's time. I'm not trying to make a case for
Ukraine. I'm just wondering if along the way some major countries
might be sandwiched in. What the heck, the pace is so insane already,
I guess you could throw in six or eight more countries -- (laughter)
MR. BURNS: Barry, are you excited about this trip?
QUESTION: I'm tired already. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Are you -- just thinking about it?
QUESTION: I'm thinking of Baker's trip --
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright has a lot of energy.
QUESTION: And I'm not saying you have to go to Luxembourg
like Secretary Baker did, but --
MR. BURNS: Luxembourg, by the way, is a --
QUESTION: No disrespect --
MR. BURNS: -- founding member of NATO and an ally of the
United States. We have excellent relations with Luxembourg, and
our Ambassador, Clay Constantinou, is an excellent American Ambassador.
QUESTION: You're not even going -- because we can do that
with a pool.
MR. BURNS: He's a great American.
QUESTION: We can cover Luxembourg, a stop, with a pool.
But what about --
MR. BURNS: Now, let me just -- you've asked an interesting
question. I have two points to make.
QUESTION: Okay, fine.
MR. BURNS: The first is you're absolutely right to point
to the very successful United States' policy towards Ukraine,
and you're right that in 1993, President Clinton and Secretary
Christopher gave a lot more attention to Ukraine than had previously
been given, and that resulted in the Trilateral Statement, which
led to the denuclearization of Ukraine, a major, major significant
development for the United States; and the fact that Ukraine is
now the single leading recipient of American assistance among
all the countries.
Having said all those wonderful things about the vital relationship
that we have with Ukraine, I do not anticipate any changes whatsoever
in the Secretary's schedule. It is so jam-packed with events and
activity, that I think to change it in any way, to add or subtract
stops, would simply throw everything out of kilter.
So she's going ahead with the schedule, as we described it to
you, from the 15th to the 25th of February, eight countries in
about ten-and-a-half days.
QUESTION: Quickly, will there be any gathering of officials
from other countries to see her?
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not aware of anything like that.
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of anything like that, no.
QUESTION: Nick, you called last week for --
MR. BURNS: Except in Brussels --
QUESTION: In Brussels.
MR. BURNS: And we've already described the events in Brussels.
QUESTION: You called last week on Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda
to stay out of the fighting in Eastern Zaire. The fighting is
continuing to spread apparently. Have you got any evidence that
those three countries are taking any notice of your request?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright had a very good meeting with
President Museveni last week about this and was assured by President
Museveni that Ugandan troops would not cross the border, and that
they would not participate in any way in the fighting. We expect
that that will be the case. We also expect that the other neighbors
will stay out. There have been very troubling and very serious
and credible reports, however, in the past, including just recently
that there have been cross-border operations into Eastern Zaire.
The United States is opposed to that, because we support the territorial
integrity of Zaire. We do not wish to see Zaire dismembered. But
the rebel offensive continues. The rebels have made further gains
over the weekend, and the United States would like to call again
today upon all the fighting parties to stop the fighting; to respect
the territorial integrity of Zaire, and to try to engage in peaceful
discussions about political problems.
We also believe that an effort should be made within Zaire to
encourage reform, political reform, and we'd like to see elections
scheduled in order to promote political stability within Zaire
QUESTION: Is there any thought for the U.S. to step up
its diplomacy? I mean, things don't seem to be getting any better
in that region.
MR. BURNS: The United States is following a very vigorous
diplomacy. Ambassador Dan Simpson in Kinshasha, our Ambassadors
in neighboring countries, have been actively engaged. The Secretary
of State met with the Ugandan President, and we'll continue to
be very much involved.
However, we by no means wish to insert ourselves as some kind
of controlling influence, because we have historically not played
that role, and it's up to these countries to exercise restraint
so that people are not victimized further. What is happening is
that 200,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees are trapped inside Eastern
Zaire because of the fighting. Mrs. Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner,
was in the region over the weekend, and she brought out very troubling
reports that concern us about the status of these people, and
there has to be a continuing effort made by the United Nations
and the governments involved to attend to the humanitarian needs
of these people -- the food and medical needs of these people.
QUESTION: May I go back to the Albright testimony for one
second? Could you sort of give us a preview, and is she going
to be saying the same things that she said before? In other words,
a marshmallow question for you: Why should anyone be paying attention
to the testimony tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: I think Secretary Albright is someone you should
always pay attention to. She's a very serious person; off to a
very good start, I believe, as Secretary. She's going to be testifying
on the budget, and you know that we believe that the budget has
to be increased -- the State Department and Foreign Affairs budget
-- so that we can do a couple of things.
We can make our diplomacy more effective. We can pay off our U.N.
and international financial institution arrears, and we can make
sure that our diplomats have the tools they need to do their jobs
overseas. That was the message she brought to Houston, Texas.
President Bush and Secretary Baker publicly agreed with her message.
I'm sure she'll also take the opportunity to remind the Congress
of our major foreign policy priorities, which she's been talking
about along the way over the last couple of weeks.
QUESTION: Do you think Bush and Baker will be persuasive
with the Republicans in Congress? Jesse Helms said he respected
her views, but making it very clear that he won't be deterred
in trying to streamline, as it puts it, spending. Not giving you
more money; giving you less.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright's major message in Houston
for the two days was on these issues: Chemical Weapons Convention,
resources, money for American diplomacy, we need to have a bipartisan
base. Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to work together.
But it was very helpful to see a former Republican President,
a former Republican Secretary of State, both of whom are very
respected people in our society, who were very successful in their
own foreign policy over four years -- to see them come out so
unreservedly and so strongly for Secretary Albright's position
and the President's position on these particular issues.
She came back encouraged that Republicans and Democrats can work
together. There was an editorial in The New York Times this morning
that strongly supported this position, that there should be bipartisan
support for the Chemical Weapons Convention. So she is encouraged.
As you know, she had a round of appointments on Capitol Hill last
week. She'll continue that this week. In addition to the testimony,
she will be talking to individual members of Congress this week.
When she gets back from her trip on the 25th of February, she'll
resume that. This is a major priority for the Secretary, and she's
working hard on that.
QUESTION: There was a letter in The New York Times yesterday,
signed by Caspar Weinberger, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Doug Feith,
who worked chemical weapons at the Pentagon, urging the Administration
to please stop wrapping the Reagan Administration in with the
Chemical Weapons Convention. It was an entirely different approach,
and that the former President would never have agreed to something
like this, because according to them you've already acknowledged
or conceded that you will not punish -- have no way of finding
out if there are violations nor doing anything about it.
Without this becoming an arms control seminar, is the Administration
still confident that this is a Reagan Administration initiative?
MR. BURNS: It's interesting. I think there's a little rewriting
of history going on here. It was Vice President George Bush that
led the way to prepare the United States for these negotiations.
At the time, you and I remember, there was a division in the Reagan
Administration. Vice President Bush, I think, led the successful
effort to commit the Reagan Administration to the negotiations,
Number two, President Bush and Secretary Baker negotiated it,
and Secretary Eagleburger signed the Chemical Weapons Convention
in January of '93. Maybe the losers in the intramural squabbling
back ten years ago are trying to rewrite history, but I wouldn't
be fooled by that, because I think that President Bush has spoken
very clearly. He spoke from his driveway in Houston, Texas, on
Saturday morning about how important it is that Republicans and
Democrats unite on this issue.
By the way, I mean, looking at a native Texan here -- Sid -- we
were really gratified by the graciousness of our reception in
Houston. It was quite extraordinary. Secretary Albright bought
a Stetson. She went to a Tex-Mex restaurant. She joined a couple
of us who are here today at the restaurant, and it was a very
QUESTION: Are you suggesting one of us --
MR. BURNS: No, I'm congratulating -- Sid's got his cowboy
boots on. I'm congratulating him for --
QUESTION: He's a Dallas person.
MR. BURNS: I was impressed. We were all impressed, and
Dallas, Houston -- you know.
MR. BURNS: We thought it was great.
QUESTION: On the Chemical Weapons --
MR. BURNS: It was a great reception.
QUESTION: On Chemical Weapons, Nick, could --
QUESTION: May I go back to the testimony, too?
MR. BURNS: Yes, let's stay on Chemical Weapons.
QUESTION: Is there any plan -- does the Secretary have
any plans to meet with Senator Lott, Mr. Helms' boss, regarding
the scheduling of a vote?
MR. BURNS: The Administration has already been in touch
with Senator Lott -- who's boss?
QUESTION: In theory -- his leader. His leader. Mr. Helms'
leader, I should say. Let me amend my first statement.
MR. BURNS: We've already been in touch with Senator Lott
about our concerns on this issue, and I'm sure we'll l continue
to be. I know that Sandy Berger went up a couple of weeks back
for a meeting with Senator Lott, and we have great respect for
him. We have great respect for Senator Helms, and we'll continue
to be in contact with both of them on this issue and others.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything back regarding the scheduling
of a vote?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of a scheduled vote on this issue.
It's a major legislative priority which the Secretary of State
is going to follow up on quite vigorously. You should have been
in Texas with us. We had a great time.
QUESTION: We got a call from several clients in Texas this
morning. The people of Texas were wondering why Secretary Albright
did not ride the mechanical bull. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Let me report to you. David Ensor was at the
Tex-Mex place. We didn't see any mechanical bull, and, if one
had been there, we would have journalists test ride it, and then
we would have considered it very seriously. But there wasn't a
bull there. It was a great stop. We enjoyed it. We saw the Astrodome.
QUESTION: Going back to the House testimony. Since she
is Tuesday and Wednesday before a House committee that won't have
anything to do with the Chemical Weapons, what exactly is -- can
you give us anything new she might be saying in her testimony?
Any other preview?
MR. BURNS: I think you all want to be a little bit surprised
tomorrow. She's going to be arguing for the budget, for the foreign
affairs budget. She'll be responding to questions from members
of the House of Representatives. This is fairly straightforward.
They can ask anything. So I don't want to get ahead of the Secretary,
and she's preparing her testimony. She's going to be meeting,
in fact, right now to go over it, and I need to get upstairs to
be with her to do that.
QUESTION: In other words as you sort of led into it. In
other words, will she be using the Texas trip to sort of say we
should be working together?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think very clearly she was gratified by
the message from Texas, which is Republicans support these initiatives,
as well as Democrats.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:03 p.m.)