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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #33, 97-03-07

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

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


1364

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

March 7, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

DEPARTMENT
1     Welcome to Visitors and students
1-3   Secretary's Schedule
2     Statement Inviting FM Primakov from Russia to Meetings in DC to
      prepare for the Summit
4     Announcement of Death of Amb. Sievering
20    Death of Prime Minister Manley of Jamica

SECRETARIAT 8-10 Secretary's Meeting with Hungarian FM 15-16 Secretary's Interview on Lehrer 17-18 Announcement of Appointments for Secretary's

HONDURAS 10 Drug Arrest of Michelle Francois of Haiti

NORTH KOREA 3 Bilateral Meetings in NY with North Korea 20 North Korean Delegation Visit to DC

BOSNIA 3 Appointment of Amb. Ferrand as Brcko Supervisor 3-4 Meeting on Brcko in Brussels 4-8 Cohen's Remarks about the Postponement of Elections

COLOMBIA 4 Eradication of Coca production

ISRAEL 10-11 Insult from Member of Knesset to Amb. Indyke 11-12 Press Conference in DC

INDIA 12-14 Bills in US Congress on Independence for Khalistan

JAPAN 14 Aviation Talks in Tokyo

RUSSIA 16-17 Appointment of First Deputy Prime Minister

SAUDIA ARABIA 17 Amb. Fowler MEXICO 18 House decision on Decertification of Mexico 18-19 Meetings with Mexican Government 19 Allegations against Mexican Gov't officials

CHINA 21 Changes to Legal Code/Chinese Resolution at the UNHRC

TURKEY 21-22 Turkey Membership in EU


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #33

FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 1997, 12:40 P. M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: It's Friday. Pardon? That's right. The President has a press conference at 2:00, so we will get through this. Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I'm looking - Sid is not here, but we'll wait for Sid.

I want to welcome Mr. Zeljko Ivanovic, who's Director of the Montenegrin Independent weekly news magazine, The Monitor. Thank you very much for being with us today. He's visiting the United States through the International Visitors Program of USIA.

I think we also have a group of high school students - is that right? -- from Portage High School - from Northern High School in Portage, Michigan. You must be Detroit Tigers fans, is that it? Right? Okay. There are very few Tigers fans here. We are Red Sox fans here, but we'll welcome you anyway. (Laughter)

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: We're Red Sox, George. Aren't we Red Sox fans here?

QUESTION: You may be. (Laughter)

MR. BURNS: Where is Barry when I really need him?.

QUESTION: What are we?

MR. BURNS: I'm up here. I'll say we do like the Boston Red Sox. We don't mind the Tigers. We hate the Yankees. Those are the rules.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: As long as you're willing to abide by the rules.

I thought what I'd do is take you through the Secretary's schedule and then a couple of other items before we go to questions. The Secretary is meeting today with Egyptian Foreign Minister Moussa at 3:30 p.m. and then later in the afternoon, at the end of the day, with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Minister Udovenko.

Yesterday afternoon, she met with the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Kovacs. That discussion centered almost exclusively on the European security issues, as you

would imagine; on the NATO enlargement, NATO-Russia treaty issues and Hungary's place in the Partnership for Peace -- Hungary's interest in playing a bigger role in Europe. I'll be glad to go into any aspect of this meeting, should you care to do so.

QUESTION: Why was it secret?

MR. BURNS: It was not secret.

QUESTION: Then how come it wasn't on her schedule?

MR. BURNS: It should have been. I didn't realize it wasn't.

QUESTION: It was on the schedule for cameras and stills only.

MR. BURNS: There you go. You know what, actually that's right. We had a camera - we had a photo spray and nobody showed up. We just had our official photographer. We were waiting for the wires, waiting for VOA to come, but no one showed up.

QUESTION: They would come but not on camera. We have no camera.

MR. BURNS: No, we don't operate secretly here. We operate with openness. Anyway, I'll be glad to tell you anything about that meeting, should you like to ask questions about it.

I also issued a statement last evening that the Secretary has invited Foreign Minister Primakov to visit Washington before the Helsinki summit. He will be arriving for a lunch and a meeting next Saturday, March 15. He'll be here until Monday for meetings with the Secretary and other U.S. Government officials. The purpose of his visit is to review U.S.-Russian relations before the Helsinki meeting.

As you know, the Secretary and the President will be leaving, I believe, Tuesday, March 18th for Helsinki for the very important summit meeting with President Yeltsin. I'll be glad to go into that, should you have any further questions.

In addition, next week, on Monday, March 10th, the Secretary will be attending President Clinton's bilateral meeting with President Hosni Mubarak at the White House, and she will have her own meeting with him before that bilateral at Blair House, but there won't be a talking part of that for the press, because we'll defer to the President.

Late in the afternoon, she'll be seeing the British Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, who's here for a visit.

On Wednesday, March 12th, the Secretary will participate in International Women's Day and on Monday, I'll have more information about that. Then just filling out the week, on Thursday, March 13th, she'll have a bilateral meeting with the Polish Foreign Minister, Minister Rosati; and then on Friday, March 14th, with Swiss Foreign Minister Cotti. Then, of course, on the 15th with Minister Primakov. She continues to have a very active schedule.

Just a couple of things. As you know, today is the day that we're having our bilateral meeting in New York with the North Korean delegation, and I'll be glad to take any questions on that. I know that there's going to be a background briefing up at the United States Mission in New York at 7:00 p.m. tonight. I hope to have something to say towards the end of the day myself, and I'll try to make that available to you. This is the long- promised bilateral meeting that will concentrate on the major issues before the United States and North Korea.

QUESTION: What time (inaudible).

MR. BURNS: It will just depend on when the meetings end, George. I'll have to talk to Chuck Kartman, who's representing the United States up there. I don't know what time the meetings will end.

QUESTION: Are you On-the-Record on this or On Background?

MR. BURNS: I'll hopefully be On-the-Record. Some good news from Bosnia. The High Representative, Carl Bildt, has appointed an American Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Robert William Farrand, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, as the Brcko supervisor. You remember when the Tribunal announcement was made on Brcko a couple of weeks back, we also said that an American would be the person who would implement this decision.

Ambassador Farrand has had a distinguished career, both in the United States military and in the United States Foreign Service.

He served in Moscow and Prague. He's also served back here in the Department in European Affairs and Human Rights Affairs. Carl Bildt issued a statement today, announcing this appointment, and we're very pleased about it. Pleased because we think we are making progress on Brcko.

Today in Vienna, Carl Bildt and the Austrian Government hosted a meeting on Brcko implementation. John Kornblum, our Assistant Secretary of State, represented the United States. We're very pleased to announce that some significant progress was made at this meeting on Brcko.

First, they decided that all of us who are supporting the Bosnian peace process will devote significant financial and material resources for the economic reconstruction of Brcko, including repairing housing and infrastructure in the city.

Second, there was a decision made to increase the international police and training force. This is particularly important, because Brcko is a very sensitive issue between the Serbs and the Moslems, and in this period where, for the next year, Brcko will effectively be under the supervision of Ambassador Farrand, it's going to be very important to have adequate police officers from the international force in Brcko.

Third, there will be a major attempt made to stimulate commerce, repair roads and open up the city to the return of refugees and freedom of movement.

And, fourth, to establish some specific principles with the Serbs and Moslems on refugee return itself, which has been a very difficult issue in Brcko.

So we're pleased by the meeting today. We think it made some progress.

My final announcement is a very sad one before I go to questions.

Yesterday morning, a distinguished colleague of ours, Ambassador Nelson Sievering, Jr., passed away after a long illness. Since 1993, Ambassador Sievering had been United States Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Under his personal direction, the United States has played a central role in the vital work of strengthening the IAEA and in eliminating nuclear weapons programs in Iraq and in North Korea.

He is a veteran. He served in the U.S. Navy during the second World War. He has long been a public servant for the United States in many different capacities in Washington and most recently before taking his four-year assignment at the IAEA, he had been a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's survived by his wife of 51 years and two sons, and all of us at the State Department want to give his family our sincere condolences on his passing.

George.

QUESTION: You said the other day that you were expecting that the Colombians would resume the eradication program today after this technical pause. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BURNS: George, we were told yesterday that the suspension of the coca - the aerial eradication program to destroy coca in Colombia - was a technical decision and not a policy decision, and that it would be resumed shortly. We had hoped to understand by today whether that's happened, but I don't believe we have any news from the Colombians.

We hope very much this is technical; that they're just trying to improve their methods to eradicate coca, because Colombia has become over the last year the second leading producer of coca in the world. There's been a 32 percent increase in coca production, which is a very disturbing trend, and we've told the Colombian Government that it must dedicate itself to eradicating the coca, much of which, of course, is destined for the United States, for our cities.

QUESTION: Nick, on Bosnia, can you explain the rather sharp difference of opinion between Defense Secretary Cohen and the State Department on the issue of municipal elections?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any sharp differences here, Carol. I think Secretary Cohen, as I heard him - I saw him on CNN this morning; I saw in the wires yesterday what he said - he said that he was disappointed. I think all of us are disappointed that once again it's necessary to postpone these elections. You remember, we were hoping to hold the elections in November of 1996, last November, and then they were to be postponed until this spring - next month - and then July and now September. I think that's what he was referring to. But I'll be glad to take you through our logic here.

QUESTION: I would like to sort of pursue this just a little bit more. I mean, yesterday you said not only that you were disappointed, and the more sort of compelling point was that you were fully behind the decision of the OSCE and Frowick on this.

MR. BURNS: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Cohen made no similar statement. In fact, he criticized sort of the civilian operation and the fact that it was taking so long to get institutions and restructuring and rebuilding going. So as far as it seems what's on the record, there is a difference of opinion. Do you think what - - were Secretary Cohen's comments agreed between all the different branches of the government?

Do you support what he says about his feeling that the LSEE and the institution-building is going too slowly?

MR. BURNS: Carol, I think all of us are agreed here in the U.S. Government that, of course, we're disappointed that these elections had to be postponed once again. But we do support the OSCE. The Permanent Council met yesterday in Vienna. They made this decision to postpone the elections by only eight weeks, from July until September. Ambassador Frowick actually made a special trip to Washington to talk through his concerns - his rationale for a postponement with us, and we fully support Ambassador Frowick's recommendation and the decision by the OSCE.

The fact is that eight weeks is not too long to wait to make sure - absolutely sure - that free and fair conditions for the municipal elections will be present in September. We think it makes it sense to agree to this postponement, and that is U.S. Government policy. I think that Secretary Cohen was simply expressing what a lot of us feel. It's tough work in Bosnia. You have a schedule for implementation, whether it's refugee return, whether it's reconstruction or whether it's elections, and sometimes the schedule can't be met.

I think all of us share his frustration and understand it. On the other hand, I would say we have had a thorough discussion with the OSCE, and we do believe that it's adequate; that this is a good decision; this decision makes sense, because the elections have to meet very high standards. They have to meet international standards. They will be monitored internationally, they'll be supervised internationally, and we believe that test can be met.

Let me just tell you what the United States is going to do, because there's some news here. You can update the story. You can move it forward. We believe it's important to get supervisors and trainers on the ground now to prepare for these elections which will be held next September. A group of 33 American election registration supervisors will leave for Bosnia on Sunday. They will be joined very shortly, in the near future, by approximately another 100 Americans who will be working with the local election commissions to make sure that the registration process - the process of actually registering the voters in all these municipalities is done in a way that meets international standards.

In addition to that, the United States intends to supply ten members of the permanent election staff of the OSCE office in Sarajevo.

This will be the staff that essentially sets up the election machinery and will be responsible for running the elections next September; and actually beyond the ten people who will be staffed in Sarajevo, in addition to the 130, who will be in the field in municipalities, we'll probably end up contributing a larger number of people to that central headquarters.

So the United States supports the decision by the OSCE, and we're going to help the OSCE to organize these elections and, hopefully, make them successful elections.

QUESTION: When was the decision made to send these people out this weekend?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I think the decision was made - I think we've had this in the works for quite some time, but it was only made final, because I know at the beginning of this week, we didn't have an OSCE final decision on whether or not the elections should be postponed. Ambassador Frowick came in with a very firm recommendation.

Of course, we know him well. We respect him. We listen to him, and he convinced us that it made sense to wait for these eight weeks. Then we finally committed our volunteers, who will be working with him.

QUESTION: Go back to Cohen, though. So he expressed everybody's frustration, but did he represent U.S. policy in the comments that he made about the elections?

MR. BURNS: You know, whenever the Secretary of Defense speaks in a public forum, he is representing the United States.

The Defense Department has a very important role to play in Bosnia, obviously, considering our troop commitment there. It was appropriate for him to talk about the issue. Again, I want to say, we've discussed this here over the last couple of days. I think a lot of people who have been involved with Bosnia over a number of years in this government do feel a sense of frustration and disappointment that while we've made tremendous progress in ending the war, negotiating the peace and now trying to secure it, sometimes things don't move as fast as one would like. But we're going to stay in there and apply American pressure and American involvement and, hopefully, try to make the situation better.

QUESTION: If he was representing U.S. policy, why didn't he say that he supported the delay?

MR. BURNS: I think we've got to be fair to Secretary Cohen here. I saw - he gave an impromptu press conference. I believe he was up in Tuzla. He was probably asked a variety of questions.

I saw a little video clip.

You can't expect someone giving a press conference - and I have a lot of sympathy with this - to always role out your five or six points. Maybe he felt the need to give an abbreviated answer.

I will defend Secretary Cohen and say, obviously, when he speaks, he speaks for the record, for the United States.

I gave you a fuller answer today. But I can assure you, having talked to the Pentagon today and the White House, all of us are together. We all agree that this decision is a good decision - this OSCE decision; that the eight-week delay, we hope, will improve the chances that these elections will be successful.

QUESTION: Do you wish, though, that he had gotten the other part of the guidance which was to say that he supported -

MR. BURNS: I think you're holding him to a standard that is too high. If I give an answer here, on an issue that we've talked about, and I just say one point and I don't give you all my auxiliary points, does that mean that I've failed in my job?

I don't think so.

He gave a very good press conference yesterday. He dealt with a variety of issues. We're certainly satisfied.

QUESTION: Isn't that rather - I'm sorry, not to belabor this, but isn't -

MR. BURNS: Carol, you're very interested in the story.

QUESTION: It's Kabuki theater. It seems to be the rather central point is -

MR. BURNS: I don't think it's Kabuki theater.

QUESTION: -- you either support the delay or you don't.

He clearly did not say he supported the delay.

MR. BURNS: I think this is probably the last thing I can say. I'm just repeating myself. I'll be glad to do it one more time. I think he just shared with you a sense of frustration that all of us feel.

I gave you yesterday and I've given you again today our official reaction. It's been the State Department has worked with Ambassador Frowick. I know we have a unified government this morning on this issue.

QUESTION: What about his comments which seem to make it even more firm than before that U.S. troops will be out definitely in '98?

MR. BURNS: I think that's what the President, Secretary Christopher, and now Secretary Albright has said for many months - that when we made the decision late last autumn to commit American troops to the SFOR operation, it was done with the clear understanding with our European allies and the other contributing nations that we would be there for about 18 months. That clock started two months ago.

So what Secretary Cohen said this week I think consistently throughout his trip is absolutely consistent with everything that Secretary Albright and others have said.

QUESTION: How many are in the -

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the election --

MR. BURNS: The group that's leaving Sunday has 33 American election registration supervisors. They will joined by an additional 100 people, in addition to those -- 133 -- these are people who will actually be out in the cities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina actually trying to organize the registration. But then the OSCE is going to have a central election staff in Sarajevo. We're going to contribute at least ten people, probably more, to that effort.

So the United States is making a very big contribution to Ambassador Frowick's efforts to run these elections. You remember last September, the national elections were very challenging. These municipal elections will be equally challenging.

QUESTION: Are these contract workers or are they State Department employees?

MR. BURNS: These are volunteers, people who are volunteering.

Most of them are not State Department employees. They're Americans who have expertise in election campaigns, in registration, in international supervision of elections. They've been recruited by the State Department to form part of the international staff that will make up the OSCE effort. We're very grateful to these Americans who will spend the better part of nine months working on this issue.

QUESTION: On the election delay itself, is this the last election delay?

MR. BURNS: We think so. We think there's every reason to believe, having looked at this very, very carefully. We've consulted with Ambassador Frowick. We consulted with the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna. We've consulted with allied partners, with the Government of Bosnia- Herzegovina, with our U.S. military contingent.

We believe this is the last suspension, meaning that these elections should and will take place in September 1997. But it's better to get it right. It's better to hold elections that can meet the test of free and fair than to hold quick elections that do not meet that test. It's a very difficult environment. You shouldn't underestimate the challenges here, for all of us.

Thank you, Carol, for giving me that opportunity to say so much about Bosnia today. It seems like old times. It seems like 1995 again.

QUESTION: Nick, since the photo-op was not open to the rest of us with the Hungarian, can you say if the Secretary gave any commitments to the Hungarian -

MR. BURNS: First of all, just to be a little pedantic, the photo-op - John (Dinger), did we advertise the photo-op? I thought we did.

QUESTION: Cameras and stills only.

MR. BURNS: I always think that writers should have every opportunity to go to a camera and still events.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you and John Dinger talk about these things?

MR. BURNS: John and I are a seamless operation here. I was shocked to come out and see only our official photographer.

I thought, why isn't the American press corps interested in this event?

QUESTION: We're not invited.

MR. BURNS: I was ready to brief. No one called me. I just sat by my phone last night waiting for the calls. They never came. I had nothing to do.

QUESTION: Now, you've got a question to answer about it.

Did the Secretary give Mr. Kovacs any commitments about Hungarian chances for NATO membership?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary had an excellent meeting with Minister Kovacs. She knows him quite well. She's met him frequently in the past.

The meeting really consisted of a very long and detailed conversation about the NATO enlargement process, the NATO-Russia dialogue, the Partnership for Peace activities that Hungary has been a central player in.

The fact that Hungary has been the host of a very broad set of U.S. military infrastructure as a staging ground for the Bosnia operation over the last 15 months; a very positive meeting. We have an excellent relationship. There are no problems in our relationship.

Ron, you know that the Secretary cannot give any commitments on NATO membership to central European countries. The United States will not make this decision alone; 16 countries will. NATO has not yet decided which countries will be invited to participate - to negotiate NATO membership after Madrid. But sometime I would think, in May/June/early July - before July 8-9 - NATO will make that decision and will make it public on the 8th and 9th of July in Madrid.

The United States will certainly have a list of its own candidates as we negotiate this. It was very clear from our trip to Brussels two weeks ago when the Secretary met Secretary General Solana that there is no consensus in NATO yet. You've seen a lot of our European allies publicly say "we support this country, we support that country." The United States has never done that. We've never said publicly, "We support Country X, " and we're not going to start now. We are waiting until the late spring, early summer, when Secretary General Solana will attempt to - and I'm sure he'll be successful at this - get the 16 countries together and develop a unified NATO position on which countries should be invited to negotiate the membership. But that won't happen for several months.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion of what Hungary needs to do to be in that first rank?

MR. BURNS: No. I think it's obvious. You have to be a member of the Partnership for Peace. You have to be a democracy.

You have to have to civilian control of your military.

Hungary has been one of the leading members of the Partnership for Peace. Hungary has proved itself in many ways through its hosting so much of our United States military as we've gone into Bosnia and come out of Bosnia, brought supplies into Bosnia. Hungary has been a leading member of the Partnership for Peace in other ways. It also has troops on the ground in Bosnia. I think it's finding, what the Baltic countries are finding - Ukraine, Russia - that there are a lot of practical benefits from involving themselves in the Partnership for Peace, including in this real- life exercise in Bosnia.

QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything on the drug bust involving the former police chief of Port-au-Prince who apparently was arrested in Honduras?

MR. BURNS: I have nothing - what's the guy's name?

QUESTION: Michelle Francois.

MR. BURNS: Michelle Francois. He's a bad guy. He's a very bad guy. But I have nothing for you on the specific question you asked. He's a very bad guy. You know why he's a bad guy.

He was part of the ruling junta in Haiti; all sorts of very, very serious allegations against him - from his time as being one of the dictators that rule Haiti and his subsequent activities.

But I have no specific comments to make on George's very specific question.

QUESTION: Are you aware of a rather ugly little incident in an account between Ambassador Indyk and a member of the Knesset at a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that, no. I'm not aware of an incident. I know that there was a -

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: Yes. Jim, would you remind repeating the question?

QUESTION: Yes. I was asking if Nick was aware of an ugly incident reported at a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin between Ambassador Indyk and a member of the Knesset?

MR. BURNS: I think I know what you're referring to. This is when an ethnic epitaph was hurled at Ambassador Indyk. I believe he's accepted an apology from the individual. I can check that for you. I won't even repeat what the gentleman said - if I call him a gentleman.

Ambassador Indyk has represented the United States with great, great distinction over the last several years through very difficult times, including the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. Everyone who knows him knows that he's an honorable person. He does not deserve - he does not deserve to be insulted publicly. He represents the President, and we expect that all members of the Israeli Knesset, including the individual in question, will treat our Ambassador with dignity. I think that point has been made to the individual in question. It's not a problem that pertains to other members of the Knesset.

We have an excellent relationship with Israel. I think Ambassador Indyk has found that he has had an excellent relationship with nearly all members of the Knesset regardless of political party.

QUESTION: Is the United States protesting?

MR. BURNS: I'm going to check on this. I think Ambassador Indyk has - I think there's been an apology offered. I think there's been an apology offered. So let's close the matter. But United States representatives ought to be treated with dignity, especially no one deserves to be criticized for their religion.

QUESTION: Nick, that as an example as well as what the Israeli Ambassador here had to say yesterday about the Albright-Arafat Commission, and to yourself, wouldn't you say those are signs of increasing tensions between Israel and the United States?

MR. BURNS: I don't know all the details of what happened to Ambassador Indyk. I'm glad there's been an apology.

As for yesterday's surprising press conference, all I can say is, I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what was said and what was not said.

Let me just say one thing that's very important off the top here.

We have an excellent relationship with Israel, with the people of Israel, with the state itself, and have had for 49 years, and with the Government of Israel - the current Government of Israel.

The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Levy, Martin Indyk - they all have very, very fine relations with the current Israeli Government. Those relationships are based on the trust between the two countries and the commitment that the United States has to Israel's security and to what Israel is as a state. I want to be very clear about that.

As for yesterday's very surprising press conference here in Washington, all I can say is this: I wasn't there. But it's important to remind some people that when we speak from this podium, we speak On-the-Record for the U.S. Government. Everything that I said this week on the U.S.-Palestinian Committee is obviously - it goes without saying - it's U.S. policy.

Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat will be the co-Chairs of the U.S.- Palestinian Joint Committee. That Committee will have, as kind of Executive Secretaries, Nabil Sha'at and Aaron Miller.

We expect that Committee to meet.

The reason why it was formed and the reason why President Clinton felt it was important to appoint Secretary Albright as a co-Chair is because we want this Committee to deepen United States relations with the Palestinians. We want this Committee to be a vehicle to improve the relationship, to make sure that both of us are meeting commitments to each other; that the United States is doing everything it can to help the Palestinian people economically and politically.

I think you saw in the way that we treated Chairman Arafat this week -- with great respect. He came here on his own; he was treated with dignity by President Clinton and Secretary Albright; that we have a relationship here that is exceedingly important to the United States - exceedingly important.

The value of that relationship for the Israelis is, if the Palestinians can be a good, consistent negotiating partner to the State of Israel, then everybody benefits - the State of Israel benefits, the Palestinians benefit, and we do, too. We're just trying to build trust and confidence - we're trying to rebuild trust and confidence in the Palestinian and Israeli relationship.

We would really hope that when people speak on behalf of their governments, they'll do so in that spirit. Let's build trust and confidence. Let's not be negative. Let's not try to drag people down.

QUESTION: On India? For the last few days, we have been talking about the Vice President's letter on Khalistan. Yesterday -

MR. BURNS: Did you read Al Kamen this morning? Is that why you're asking me this?

QUESTION: Yesterday, two bills were introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Condit, Rohrabacher, and Burton. One is for self-determination for Khalistan. The second bill is that development assistance to India should be cut off unless the President certifies that there are no human rights abuses in India.

Now, the Indian Embassy and the Indian Government is saying that all these bills and all these writings in the U.S. Congress are out of context and there is no truth whatsoever. What I'm saying is, many of these Congressmen doesn't know where India is on the world map. Also, many of them don't know where is Punjab on the Indian map. Don't you think bills like this will hurt U.S.-Indian relations?

MR. BURNS: You know, we have a separation of powers in the United States. Congress and the Executive are equal branches of government. We don't control everything that individual members of Congress do.

What we can say, however, is that the United States Government, in the person of the Clinton Administration, does speak with a unified voice. We recognize Punjab to be an integral part of India. It's part of India. It is not independent. We do not recognize Khalistan or any Republic of Khalistan.

It was most unfortunate that that letter was sent from the Vice President's office. The Vice President's office and we have acknowledged that was a great mistake. We regret it. We apologized to the Government of India. I know that the Government of India understands that this is not U.S. Government policy.

U.S. Government policy is that Punjab is part of India. We do not recognize Khalistan. I think we've convinced the Indian Government this week that this was a technical error and that too much should not be made of this. It was just a technical error.

QUESTION: How about the human rights business in India?

What's the Congressmen's target-

MR. BURNS: I have really nothing specific to say on that except that we do have a human rights report. I would just recommend that you look at that human rights report. We have an excellent relationship with India.

I know Ambassador Wisner today congratulated the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan on the resumption of their talks after a hiatus of three or four years. The Ambassador spoke about our hope that this could represent a positive turning point for both India and Pakistan, both of which are friends of the United States.

QUESTION: Do they consult with the State Department, or do you advise them on what they put in the Congressional Record "as is" what they received from the -

MR. BURNS: I can assure you that the State Department is not consulted when individual members put things in the Congressional Record - not most of the time. Members of Congress are free to offer bills and resolutions as they see fit. We have a separation of powers here. The Clinton Administration does not draft legislation and does not pass laws. I really urge you to recognize the separation of powers. But I want to be clear about the Clinton Administration.

We do not recognize Khalistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) letters of (inaudible) policy between the two countries?

MR. BURNS: No.

QUESTION: Because the Secretary of State and the President also received these letters from Congress.

MR. BURNS: The letter that was sent out was wrong, and it has been retracted. We've been very clear, several times this week, including in Mr. Al Kamen's column, about our position.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) letters from Congress - I mean these bills from Congress, do they affect any policies?

MR. BURNS: Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

These particular ones will not affect U.S. policy because we are not going to recognize Khalistan. Punjab is part of India - full-stop, case closed.

QUESTION: On Japan. Do you have anything about the aviation talks that were concluded yesterday?

MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe I do. As you know, there was a first round of talks held in Tokyo in January. We held a second round of talks this week, the 4th through the 6th, here in Washington with Japanese officials. We discussed a possible framework for negotiations towards a new civil aviation regime between the United States and Japan.

We explained our strongly-held view that a liberal, market oriented civil aviation agreement is the best way to go forward. It's in the best interest of the private carriers and shippers and passengers and communities in both the United States and Japan.

I would describe the talks this week as a meaningful exchange of views. The United States explained again our proposal. The Japanese Government discussed the basis for their own June 1996 proposals. We exchanged ideas. I think at the end of the day we have a better idea now, and the Japanese have a better idea, of our respective positions.

There was an agreement to have another informal exchange of views, a further round of talks, which will be held at the earliest available opportunity. I think that will be held perhaps not in one of our capitals but at a place, a city, between the United States and Japan. In the interim, we'll be reflecting upon the discussions this week.

QUESTION: Sounds like there's no progress?

MR. BURNS: Sounded like that to me, too. (Laughter) It does. I guess I've been on the job long enough. It sounds like we had a good exchange but we haven't really made any significant breakthroughs.

Thank you, George, for that very helpful comment.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions about the Secretary's interview last night on the "Lehrer" program.

MR. BURNS: Sure.

QUESTION: At least according to the transcript, she made a statement to the effect that there's never been an armistice between the Koreas. I just wonder whether this was a mistake or typo, or whether she has a view that's at odds with the public --

MR. BURNS: I don't have a perfect recall of all the language last night, and you can't always trust transcripts, by the way.

I see a lot of mistakes.

QUESTION: It's the official State Department transcript.

MR. BURNS: Even official State Department transcripts - I'm just kidding. (Laughter) I'm just kidding. Obviously, there was an armistice in July of 1953. There has not been a peace agreement. That's obviously what the Secretary is referring to.

QUESTION: And also when she's referring to China and the contributions flap and the fact that she had discussed this with the Chinese in Beijing, she said, "I was told that they had nothing to do with it," and I wondered if you could clarify that. Are there leaders in Beijing saying that they didn't know what the Embassy was doing; that the Embassy was freelancing?

Did the leaders say that they opposed it and they would take action to make sure this didn't happen again? Elaborate, if you can.

MR. BURNS: I thought the Secretary's comment there was quite clear, and I couldn't possibly improve upon it.

QUESTION: Do you know what she means by that statement, though?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: Well, it's just not clear to me.

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, but I thought that her statement was forthright and clear, and I have nothing that I can add to it.

QUESTION: None at all.

MR. BURNS: None at all.

QUESTION: Why did she feel it was necessary to pursue that topic with the Chinese?

MR. BURNS: I'm just going to have to refer you back to what the Secretary said last night. She answered a question forthrightly and directly, and I just don't have any information that could possibly be of any benefit to you in improving upon that answer.

QUESTION: It can't be that direct if there's some confusion about what it means, though.

QUESTION: It must have been at least 20 words.

MR. BURNS: I'm not confused.

QUESTION: So would you explain it?

MR. BURNS: No. This is an issue that I just don't care to discuss, because the Secretary has gone On-the-Record on it.

I think that's as much as she wants to say and as much as I can say, and it's much better to have it in her words than mine. She's my superior.

QUESTION: Do you know whether it has been discussed at all with Chinese Embassy officials here in town?

MR. BURNS: I have no idea. I don't know the answer to that question.

QUESTION: Could you take that question?

MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to take it. I cannot promise an answer, but I would just encourage you to just read what the Secretary said, and I think it's sufficiently clear. We have nothing more to say on this particular issue; nothing that I certainly could say.

QUESTION: Could I -

MR. BURNS: Excuse me, George. Carol just had a follow-up, George, and I'll be glad to go to you.

QUESTION: It's a different subject. I wondered if you had a reaction to Yeltsin's appointment of Chubais?

MR. BURNS: We just saw on the tickers, just before I came in here, that Mr. Chubais - Anatoly Chubais - has been appointed as First Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic reform. We know him well. We worked with him when he was head of the privatization effort for a number of years, and we've worked with him in his capacity as Chief of Staff. He's a very talented, very tough advocate of Russian national interests, and we respect him and look forward to working with him.

We were encouraged in many ways by President Yeltsin's speech yesterday. He's back. There's no question about it. President Yeltsin is back. He was vigorous. He was decisive. He

laid out a very forceful, coherent domestic and foreign policy agenda for the Russian people. The President looks forward to seeing him in Helsinki in just about a week and a half.

George.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that Al Kamen. Another part of his column referred to the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. BURNS: I really don't have anything to say. Al Kamen's column - it is what it is. (Laughter) And, if you have a specific question, perhaps, George, but I don't have any general comments to make on that.

QUESTION: Is the IG investigating this sort of allegation - I guess it's an allegation. Is it something even worth investigating?

MR. BURNS: Let me just say this. I think that if you look at the December 2, 1996, issue of the Glasgow Evening Times, you will find there in a very small column - but it's there - you will find a retraction on the major allegation that was made by that paper concerning Ambassador Fowler. That's a retraction. That means they've taken back what they've said in print. I would encourage you to read that.

For the rest of it - for your separate question - I would just say we're talking to Ambassador Fowler, and we're looking into this issue.

QUESTION: Why are you looking into it?

MR. BURNS: That's what I have to say. You saw Al Kamen's report. We're talking to Ambassador Fowler. We're looking into the issue that was raised in the Al Kamen column.

QUESTION: Can I ask another question. Apart from normal sort of bureaucratic procedures, are there any other reasons why it's taking so long for nominations for Secretary Albright's team to go forward?

MR. BURNS: I think it's just a reflection of the fact that we live in a time where there's an amazing number of rules and regulations and laws which govern the appointment of senior officials to this government. When someone is asked to take a job, they have to fill out a huge stack of forms. They have to go through a number of interviews. All this needs to be vetted by attorneys, lawyers and by other people; and appointments can't be made - they can't be announced - until this entire process is finished. This is all before Senate confirmation.

So we're very pleased that the White House has announced the appointment of Tom Pickering - Ambassador Tom Pickering - to be the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Ambassador Stu Eizenstat to be the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.

The Secretary has determined - she at least has made some initial choices for a variety of senior posts - but the White House and others need to look through those suggestions and to make sure that all the boxes are checked before official announcements by the White House can be made. We live in a time where this takes months. It's a reality.

QUESTION: Is she having in trouble, though, making certain, if this is in fact a goal, that her staff is diverse and it's not just white men?

MR. BURNS: I think that has been for a number of years -- not just for this Administration and this Secretary of State but many in the last decade -- that's been a factor. That's been a factor in the appointments process. I don't believe she's had any trouble. I know she's very anxious to have people appointed as quickly as that can happen, but she understands that the normal procedures must be followed, and she supports that process. She's willing to live by that process.

In the meantime, the Secretary is being advised by a number of senior people here. She has adequate staffing here. The business of our foreign policy is being carried on, and she's working, as you know, non-stop, seven days a week as a very vigorous Secretary of State.

Yes, Bill.

QUESTION: I'm sorry for being late and would ask if you've covered the results of the House International Relations Committee vote yesterday - an overwhelming 25 to 7 vote - to overturn or reject the certification of Mexico. I think they suggest that this ought to be done on a national security basis. Do you have any reaction to that vote, and how are the relations and negotiations going with the Congress and the Administration on this issue?

MR. BURNS: The Clinton Administration stands by its decision on certification. We think it's the right policy for the United States and Mexico. We hope to convince the Congress of that.

QUESTION: And, Nick, to follow up, Sandy Berger, Mac McLarty and a number of others were in Mexico City, I believe, on Wednesday.

Have you anything to report on their meetings with Mr. Gurria and other officials?

MR. BURNS: They had a very good set of meetings. It was an effective and productive trip. I can't comment specifically on the meetings themselves, but we're very glad that it was possible to have these consultations with the Mexican Government.

QUESTION: Did you get any pledges from the Mexicans that would help with this issue in the Congress?

MR. BURNS: We've seen that President Zedillo is fundamentally committed to the war on drugs. He's made it his top priority.

He's taking decisive actions to work with us, and this is the whole point: that we're in this fight with Mexico, and if we walk away from Mexico, we'll just be simply hurting ourselves.

QUESTION: Nick, finally, does the Administration - especially this Department - see it as a red flag that there is at least some witness - it came over the Reuters wire earlier this week - that the Defense Minister Cervantes may have been protecting the Arellano Felix family in Tijuana from aggressive efforts to arrest them, to extradite them to the U.S. by Mr. Gutierrez. Do you find any validity in that?

MR. BURNS: I just know nothing about it, Bill. I can't even venture a comment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Wait. We have two more questions. We have Yasmine and then - yes.

QUESTION: Nick, U.N. Commission on Human Rights commented in Geneva on Monday and several organizations, I believe, including Amnesty International, have criticized the U.S. for protecting countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia from scrutiny at the Commission. Could you address that criticism, and could you update us about the position of the U.S.?

MR. BURNS: Yes. We have the greatest respect for a lot of the human rights organizations around the world, but, frankly, that's a very puzzling charge. I don't understand it. First, there's no country that speaks out more often in public about human rights than the United States. We have our human rights exercise. We report on every country in the world. That's congressionally mandated. We're the leading champion of human rights. I don't see how they can possibly criticize us for protecting countries, especially when we've been so critical of China and so critical of human rights abuses in Burma and Iraq and Iran and a number of the other major violators of human rights around the world.

I just think they ought to do their homework. They ought to read what we say and pay attention to what we do, and maybe they should stop making all these pronouncements and get down to the serious work that we're engaged in. Ambassador Nancy Rubin will be leading our delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission as of Monday morning. She's a very distinguished individual, and she's going to represent us well, and you'll see that she's going to be an effective advocate of human rights around the world.

QUESTION: Also on another subject, is the U.S. aware of any high-level contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

MR. BURNS: In general?

QUESTION: No, I mean very recently, a visit from Iran to Saudi Arabia?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of it. No, I've not heard anything about it.

QUESTION: Nick, on North Korea, I was just wondering, there are reports that the North Korean delegation will be visiting Washington at the invitation of the Atlantic Council. I was just wondering - (1) if their visa status would agree with such -

MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to defer to John on this.

I just don't know.

QUESTION: And just to finish the question, and (2) if they come, are there any plans to meet any government officials?

MR. DINGER: The DPRK raised the issue in New York with us Wednesday, and we're looking into whether it's possible.

MR. BURNS: So we're looking into whether it's possible for them to travel for this private meeting in Washington, D.C.

But our bilateral meeting is taking place in New York today.

At that meeting we're going to review all the major issues on our agenda: the Agreed Framework; non-proliferation issues, of course; the remains, the 8,100 MIA cases left over from the Korean War; the exchange of liaison offices between our two countries; the food situation; the Four-Party Talks proposal. We expect all of that to be on the table in the meeting currently underway, and our side is being led by Chuck Kartman, as you know.

QUESTION: So right now their visa status only allows them to be in New York. There would need to be a change in visa status to go to Washington?

MR. BURNS: I believe so. These officials are either visitors from Pyongyang or they represent the North Korean mission to the United Nations. There is no North Korean office in Washington, D.C., as you know.

Ron.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about another Caribbean leader who has died - Michael Manley of Jamaica?

MR. BURNS: Yes, and we did earlier today. I'll be glad to repeat it. We extend our sincere condolences to his family, to the people of Jamaica. He was a very important leader for the Jamaican people for a long time. There were scrapes between the United States and Prime Minister Manley from time to time.

But there was also some very good work done, particularly on the commercial and investment side, due to Prime Minister Manley's leadership. He was a very significant historical figure for Jamaica, and we respect that and offer our condolences to his family and to the people of Jamaica.

QUESTION: You talked about the aviation talks. I was wondering if you'd give the same readout to the Maritime talks with Japan that are going on.

MR. BURNS: Yes. I don't have anything on the Maritime talks, but we can try to get something for you from our East Asia Bureau.

Sid.

QUESTION: Have you all been informed of these changes the Chinese have made to their legal code, and do you have any comment on them?

MR. BURNS: We welcome the steps to bring criminal procedures and the legal code closer to internationally recognized standards.

However, no changes in law or procedure can in and of themselves insure due process and the rule of law because words on a paper don't mean as much as actions on the ground. I would just reiterate our long held American position that we're going to be watching the implementation process; we're going to be watching the actions, as opposed to the words, very closely.

I'd like to reaffirm our long held position that those people imprisoned in China for the peaceful expression of their political views ought to be released. There are other significant areas of concern - freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of expression; and all those basic freedoms enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, enshrined in our own Constitution and our own Bill of Rights, which are universally held to be important for people around the world, all those are being denied to the Chinese people.

QUESTION: And is this - there's been a couple of changes, a few releases in advance of the Human Rights Conference. Are you all buying what the Chinese are selling?

MR. BURNS: We are continuing our consultations with European countries and the European Union about a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Commission that would be critical of China and human rights. We are proceeding toward that. We haven't closed the door completely. We have not closed the door completely, but we are proceeding in that direction, and Secretary Albright has been quite open with the Chinese leadership about that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) what you are saying to the Chinese human rights leaders in China?

MR. BURNS: We look at this as a long-term process. We're trying to, all of us around the world, encourage long-term change in the rule of law, in the criminal code and in the practice of human rights in China. I don't think it's reasonable to expect miracles or abrupt changes in the short- term, but we have to stand up as Americans for the people whose rights are being denied.

That's a fundamental American trait, and it distinguishes American foreign policy, and it's a central part of our foreign policy.

QUESTION: It appears in Financial Times and other newspapers with reference to Turkey's full membership in the EU.

President of EU, a Christian Democrat, said, "The EU had cultural and Christian values different from Turkey." What is your response to this approach that EU should be a Christian club?

MR. BURNS: We don't write the bylaws of the European Union, and we don't get to decide who gets to be a member. But the United States believes that Turkey - our NATO ally - is a European country, and we don't believe that religion should have anything to do with association in NATO, certainly, and it hasn't had anything to do for 50 years.

Turkey is one of our strongest allies in Europe. If you take all the European countries and put them together, it's one of our strongest allies and most important allies, and we have long argued with the European countries that the European Union ought to be open to Turkish association. We congratulate the European Union on its Customs Union. We think it ought to build on that and eventually to Turkish membership. That is the American position.

That's what Secretary Albright in her discussions with our European allies on her trip - that's the position that she took.

QUESTION: So religion shouldn't be taken as a criterion.

MR. BURNS: The United States would never favor that. We get along with Christian nations, Moslem nations, with the state of Israel, and we don't look at religion as a defining feature of whether or not a country should be a member of an organization that is important to us. We would never take that position, and we have a deep respect for Islam and good relations with many Moslem countries. That's a very important point.

QUESTION: Nick, don't you find it a little bit inappropriate for the Chancellor of Germany, which has a rather spotted history, to say the least, regarding views on religion in Europe, to be taking a position like this in this day and age?

MR. BURNS: Sid, we have the greatest respect for Chancellor Kohl. He's one of our very closest allies. Germany's a country that is very closely associated with the United States. I'm not going to be critical of him, because he's a great ally of the United States. I'm speaking generally here. I'm speaking about our relationship with Turkey and our hope that the European countries will remain open to closer association with Turkey.

None of us strategically should want Turkey to decide in the 21st century that it's not a European country. None of us should want Turkey to go in its own direction. We should want Turkey as a secular democracy to be embedded in Europe and the West, in Europe and North America. That's our strategic vision for the Turkish relationship with all of us in the West.

Yasmine.

QUESTION: Chancellor Kohl has said, though, that he was annoyed by the U.S. position, pressing European countries, including Germany, on Turkey. Could you address that criticism?

MR. BURNS: Our position is what it is. We believe very strongly in it. We have told the Europeans that. We'll continue to tell them that very respectfully. We do not choose members of the European Union. That's up to the EU, but we do have a view, and we will continue to raise it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:34 p.m.)

(###)


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