U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #33, 97-03-07
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
March 7, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
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
8-10 Secretary's Meeting with Hungarian FM
15-16 Secretary's Interview on Lehrer
17-18 Announcement of Appointments for Secretary's
10 Drug Arrest of Michelle Francois of Haiti
3 Bilateral Meetings in NY with North Korea
20 North Korean Delegation Visit to DC
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
4 Eradication of Coca production
10-11 Insult from Member of Knesset to Amb. Indyke
11-12 Press Conference in DC
12-14 Bills in US Congress on Independence for Khalistan
14 Aviation Talks in Tokyo
16-17 Appointment of First Deputy Prime Minister
17 Amb. Fowler
18 House decision on Decertification of Mexico
18-19 Meetings with Mexican Government
19 Allegations against Mexican Gov't officials
21 Changes to Legal Code/Chinese Resolution at the UNHRC
21-22 Turkey Membership in EU
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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.
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
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
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
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
And, fourth, to establish some specific principles with the Serbs and
Moslems on refugee return itself, which has been a very difficult issue in
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
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
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
QUESTION: When was the decision made to send these people out this
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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: 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 -
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Wait. We have two more questions. We have Yasmine and then -
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.)