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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #34, 97-03-10

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Monday, March 10, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

1.......Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal Opens
1-2.....Visit to Guatemala by Presidential Counselor Thomas McLarty

KOREA 2-3.....Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan Visit to Washington/Mtgs with US Officials/Four-Party Talks/Location for Liaison Office

GERMANY 3-4.....US Diplomat Expelled for Spying 16-17...Church of Scientology Tax-Exempt Status in US/Secretary-FM Kinkel Discuss Issue/German Position That Scientology Is Business Enterprise

VATICAN/LIBYA 4-5.....Establishment of Diplomatic Relations/Libyan Support for Terrorism/US Reward for PANAM #103 Bombing Suspects

ARMS CONTROL 5-6.....Senate Action on Chemical Weapons Convention/Rules of Implementation/Secretary's Commitment to Ratification/Continuing Talks with Congress

ALBANIA 7.......Government-Rebel Agreement/US Urges Implementation/US Concerns for Human Rights Situation/IMF-World Bank Team

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8-9.....Israeli Redeployment Decision/Withdrawals Negotiated or Unilateral Decision/Resignation of Palestinian Negotiator 9-10....Secretary-PM Netanyahu Discussions on Housing, Closing Palestinian Offices, Redeployment/FM Levi Visit Postponed 10......Secretary's Travel to Region and Elsewhere

RUSSIA 10-11...Deputy Secretary Talbott's Trip/Issues Discussed 11......Upcoming Clinton-Yeltsin Summit/START III Negotiations/NATO Discussions 12......FM Primakov Visit to US

MEXICO 12-13...Appointment of New Drug Czar/Congressional Opposition to Certification

CHINA 13,14...FBI Warnings to Members of Congress re Donations/Secretary's Knowledge 13-14...Conversion of Long Beach Shipyard to Cargo Port 14......Navy Vessels Making Port Visits to Pearl Harbor & San Diego 14-15...Dalai Lama's Comments on Cultural Genocide in Tibet

IRAN/TURKEY 15-16...US Position on Contacts with Iran

TURKEY 17......US Letter re EU Membership/Greek FM Comments That Turkey Belongs to Europe


DPB #34

MONDAY, MARCH 10, 1997, 1:07 P.M.


MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I've just got a couple of announcements before we go to questions. The first is just to note the fact that the International War Crimes Tribunal began today its first trial for war crimes allegedly committed against Bosnian Serbs. Three of the indictees on trial are Bosnian Muslims. The fourth is a Croatian. Their trial today marks a significant step forward for the War Crimes Tribunal. It says a lot about the impartiality of that Tribunal. It also says a lot about the Bosnian Government's willingness to extradite to The Hague, to transfer to The Hague, for prosecution its own citizens who are Muslims. That stands in stark contrast to the attitude and behavior of the Bosnian Serbs and, to a lesser extent, the Croatian Government which by and large have failed to adhere to their Dayton commitments in turning over indicted war criminals for prosecution at The Hague.

So we are watching this trial with great interest. I think it does say that the process of justice is moving forward in Bosnia.

On a separate subject, we are issuing today a statement on Tajikistan. I won't read the whole statement to you. It's available in the Press Room. But essentially it says the following: The United States Government welcomes the successful conclusion of the Moscow round of inter-Tajik talks with the signing by the government and the opposition of a protocol on military questions.

This protocol essentially will lead the way for the integration into the Tajik armed forces of the rebel military elements. That's a very significant step forward. We hope to build trust and to bring back some stability to Tajikistan which, in the last couple of months, has been a country racked by hostage-taking and fighting and killing.

The United States Government supports the U.N.-sponsored peace process in Tajikistan, and we commend, in particular, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative -- a German citizen -- Gerd Merrem who led the way and really showed excellent leadership in leading the way towards this agreement.

We call upon the Tajik Government and the opposition to implement the accords in the same spirit of compromise in which they were signed.

I also want to just, lastly, refer you to a White House press release of Friday, March 7. It concerns the trip to Guatemala of Mack McLarty, the President's counselor, who is also our Special Envoy for the Americas. He'll be visiting Guatemala on the 12th and 13th of March, this week, as the United States representative to the Central American-United States Trade and Investment Forum.

He's also going to be visiting a guerrilla demobilization camp in Guatemala during his visit. Mack McLarty has been the point person for the Administration for several years in Latin America on the Summit of the Americas. He has represented us throughout the hemisphere at trade conferences and business conferences, and I wanted to draw this to your attention. It's a particular important trip.


QUESTION: I understand the North Korean chief delegate to the talks last week came to Washington. What do you know about that?

MR. BURNS: Kim Gye Gwan was the North Korean Vice Minister who represented North Korea last week at the talks with the United States and South Korea in New York on the Four-Party proposal.

We have given permission for him to visit Washington. This is an unofficial visit. He will not be having official appointments while he's here. I believe he does have some private appointments. He's a guest of the Atlantic Council. I believe he'll be seeing some other individuals and organizations privately this week.

So I wouldn't anticipate any kind of work with us. We spent a lot of time with him last week, as you know, on Wednesday in the trilateral meeting and on Friday, in the bilateral meeting with the United States.

QUESTION: Did he ask to see any U.S. officials on his visit?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. He had many, many hours of discussions with Chuck Kartman last week. In fact, on Friday, they spent the entire day together. So I don't believe there's any need for that. He's accompanied by a small group of North Korean officials. He will be seeing private individuals here in Washington.

This has happened before. Last year, a Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea, Kim Jong U, visited Washington. At that time, he did have official meetings at the State Department. But since we've just concluded those meetings in New York, we felt no need to have them here at the Department.

QUESTION: Nick, two questions. Will he be looking at real estate for the Liaison Offices?

MR. BURNS: That's certainly a possibility. I think you'll have to ask the North Koreans. As you know, we have not yet agreed on the establishment of Liaison Offices. Further work needs to be done in our relationship and on that issue before we can take the step.

Obviously, the North Koreans are free to scout out real estate in the Washington area if they'd like to do that.

QUESTION: Presumably, if you had gotten a firm, formal answer from the North Koreans on the Four-Party Talks, you would have announced that, right?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I don't believe we've heard back. In fact, I think it was our very strong impression from the meetings in New York that Kim Gye Gwan needed to return to Pyongyang to brief his superiors. Then, we hope that the North Koreans will provide a satisfactory response which would be, in our view, an agreement by the North Koreans to join China, the Republic of Korea, and the United States in the Four-Party talks themselves.

QUESTION: Did you say he was a Vice Foreign Minister?


QUESTION: On another subject? Do you have anything to say about the report of an American diplomat being recalled or at least kicked out of Germany?

MR. BURNS: The reports that were in the newspapers over the weekend. Yes. Yes, right, I remember something about those reports.

You know, Jim, it's not our policy to comment on any stories that involved even the allegation of intelligence activities. I would simply note that we have a very broad, very successful political relationship with Germany. We have a military alliance with Germany and NATO. We have an intelligence and security relationship with Germany. We hope very much that we'll be able to take steps to promote that relationship in all of its dimensions and to ensure that the relationship -- the positive relationship -- continues.

QUESTION: Perhaps we can try this a little differently.

MR. BURNS: I thought Jim was very clear in his question, Carol.

QUESTION: Well, I'm trying to get away from the intelligence word which offends you so, or --

MR. BURNS: It's deeply offensive to me.

QUESTION: Is there an American diplomat -- was there an American diplomat in Germany who is no longer there? Are you one less staffer?

MR. BURNS: Carol, it's a unique way of asking the question. Carol, I just have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government have any plans to invite some German diplomat to leave?

MR. BURNS: I don't know why you would even raise a question like that when I've just finished saying that we have a very good intelligence and security relationship with Germany. We are committed to maintaining the positive nature of that relationship.

QUESTION: Do you have any (inaudible) diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Libya?

MR. BURNS: You're trying to get me into trouble today, I can tell. We're starting off badly this week. I have guidance someplace on that.

All I can say is, we did receive an indication from the United States Mission to the Vatican which is led by, as you know, the former Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn. Just to put in a plug for Boston.

We received an indication that the Vatican did, in fact, establish diplomatic relations with Libya today. The Vatican does intend to have a diplomatic representative in Tripoli.

As we have said before many times, the United States does not approve of anyone establishing diplomatic relations with Libya. We don't believe that Libya, as a government, that one can do business with cooperatively. I suppose if this going to happen -- it looks like it's going to happen -- we hope very much that in conversations that Vatican officials may have with Libyan Government officials, they concentrate on Libya's support for terrorism; Libya's opposition to the peace process, and the fact that we believe very strongly that there are two people in Libya who are suspects in the bombing of Pan Am 103.

The United States has placed a $4 million offer to anyone worldwide who can help us find those two individuals and to bring them to justice. So that's our agenda with Libya. But I don't want to -- I feel compelled to repeat something I said before here, and that is that I don't want to have you infer any criticism of His Holiness, Pope John Paul, II in these comments; because, as I said before, there are special pressures on me -- namely, my mother -- to make sure that doesn't happen.

QUESTION: There's a certain nuance in the way you phrase this, having nothing to do with the Vatican but having to do with the two men. You refer to them as "suspects." In the past, you've not even used that word.

MR. BURNS: I'm being technically correct here. We do believe in due process. So, obviously, we can't say that they are guilty until they receive a trial. But they're the leading suspects. Frankly, we have very little doubt in our minds, after the voluminous research that has been done in this case, that these two individuals are the leading suspects for who placed the bomb inside the cassette recorder that blew up Pan Am 103 and killed 269 people.

What we are asking the Libyan Government to do is to make these two individuals, whose likenesses are on a poster in our Press Office here, available to us for trial in the United States or the United Kingdom so that justice can be done 8-1/2 years after that airplane was brought down. Very little doubt in our mind they're the leading suspects, and that's why we've offered $4 million to anyone who can help us apprehend them.

QUESTION: Nick, is this tantamount to a recognition of the Qadhafi regime -- this recognition by the Vatican?

MR. BURNS: I believe the Vatican established diplomatic relations today. The Vatican went public with that today. Our view is that we think that countries ought to maintain diplomatic isolation of Libya. We don't agree that it's possible to have normal relations with Libya, with all due respect to the Vatican -- not to Libya -- because of Libya's policies which are so much at odds with all of us believe -- all of us in the West believe.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that the United States Government is disappointed in the recognition by the Vatican of a terrorist organization?

MR. BURNS: Bill, I've chosen my words carefully today in responding to this development. I'm going to stand by those words. We've told the Vatican that we do not agree with this decision.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed?

MR. BURNS: -- and we will continue to say that. We hope very much that anyone who happens to talk to Muammar Qadhafi or his colleagues will raise this Pan Am 103 issue. We can't forget the 269 people who were killed; 8- 1/2 years later, we simply can't forget. We need to press forward with that because there are American families and families all around the world who are wondering when justice is going to be done.

The United States and the United Kingdom are ready to help serve the cause of justice if these two people can be delivered to us.

QUESTION: A different subject. Senator Helms seems to have dug in his heels on the chemical weapons treaty. I wondered what your reaction to that is, and what new initiatives or potential the Secretary might see in being able to get this treaty through the Senate?

MR. BURNS: We obviously heard Senator Helms; read about his remarks over the weekend. We are going to continue our efforts on a priority basis to convince the Senate to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention by April 29. If we don't ratify, if the United States does not ratify by the 29th of April, we will not participate in the committee that draws up the rules of implementation for the Chemical Weapons Convention.

What position will that leave us in? We are a country that's already said, we're doing away with our own chemical weapon stocks. We know that there are other countries in the world that have them.

What we'd like to do is have an international convention that places limits on those countries. You'd think that the United States would want to be part of that. We must be part of that. If we're not part of it, we leave ourselves defenseless, with no way to help write the rules of implementation. So that's the strategic argument for the CWC.

The tactical question that you ask is, what's going to happen on Capitol Hill. We've made this a priority and we'll continue to follow it as a priority and raise it in every session with members of the Senate.

QUESTION: I just wondered. The Secretary herself has made this a priority and said it was one of the first things she wanted to get done. I wondered whether she felt any personal disappointment that she seems not had much influence so far?

MR. BURNS: The game is not over yet. Don't count us out. A lot of times in debates like this, it does go down to the wire. It wouldn't surprise us at all to see this go down to the wire.

We're going to maintain this issue as one of our most important Congressional issues; in fact, one of our most important foreign policy issues in 1997. We'll continue to try to convince the Senate this is the way forward. There are Republicans as well as Democrats who support the CWC. We'll rely upon them to see this through to ratification.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to consider any of the changes that Helms is promoting?

MR. BURNS: We're prepared to continue to talk to the Congress, obviously. The Congress has a very serious responsibility. No one in the Administration is trying to deny the Congress that right -- the Senate -- and that is to ratify a treaty which, in this case, was negotiated and signed by the Bush Administration. It was negotiated by Secretary Baker, signed by Secretary Eagleburger, supported by President Reagan as well as President Bush.

I think it's important to determine the historical roots of this treaty. It's bipartisan. It's good for the United States. Again, Carol, we're giving up our chemical weapons, as Secretary Cohen said on television yesterday. It's not as if by refusing to ratify we're going to be better off. We're not going to be better off. By refusing to ratify, we won't have chemical weapons ourselves. We won't be able to influence the international debate to limit countries that do have them.

By ratifying, we can become part of the regime that constrains those remaining countries that want to have a chemical weapons capability. That's a very important influence that we want to have in our foreign policy arsenal.

QUESTION: Nick, President Berisha has done a lot of the things you've recommended, like opening up a dialogue with his opposition, meeting with all these foreign envoys who come to Tirana. What would you suggest now, considering he's losing lots of towns in southern Albania?

MR. BURNS: We join our European partners in welcoming the agreement between President Berisha and the opposition in Albania, and that agreement is to establish a broad-based coalition government to hold new parliamentary elections in June, and we're very pleased that former Chancellor Vranitsky was able to lead the OSCE mission to Tirana on Saturday. He was joined by Congressman Eliot Engel as the American representative.

We now strongly urge all parties in Albania to implement this agreement, to implement the amnesty, the cease-fire and to work towards a formation of the new government. We do remain concerned about the human rights situation in Albania, and we urge all parties -- the government and the opposition -- to assure respect for human and political rights of all Albanians, including the right to free speech.

In this connection, we were encouraged by the apparent decision of President Berisha today to begin to lift the state of emergency which was imposed, and we hope that leads very quickly to a rapid removal of the censorship provisions put in place by the Albanian Government just last week.

We have stated before, and I think all of our European allies agree, that violence has no place in the political process and the democratic process. Therefore, we urge the opposition forces, particularly those in the southern part of Albania, to take advantage of this agreement to lay down their arms and to work within the democratic process to pursue their political goals.

We are mindful of the fact that this crisis was produced by an overwhelming economic crisis produced by the pyramid and Ponzi schemes that were prevalent in Albania. There is a World Bank/IMF decision to send a joint World Bank/IMF team to Albania to being to work with the government and the opposition and the citizenry as a whole to understand what happened; to try to prevent the re-emergence of pyramid and Ponzi schemes in the future and make the banking system a free banking system that is not encumbered by these illegal schemes.

That IMF/World Bank team has been prevented from arriving because of the fighting and the political turmoil, and we hope that as a result of the agreement over the weekend to establish a broad-based coalition government that the World Bank and IMF team might arrive, and we fully support that.

In the process, I would just add one further point. As we urge the opposition to lay down its arms and to cease its fire and rebellion against the government and to join the government now in a broad-based coalition, we also urge the Albanian army and police to observe the cease-fire and to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with individuals in the southern and northern parts of the country.


QUESTION: There have been, I guess, a variety of reactions to Israeli's redeployment decision last week. There's been violence in Hebron. The Palestinian negotiator has apparently submitted his resignation, and a senior Israeli official is saying the U.S. is going to have to step in. (A) can you react to all of this, and (B) does the U.S. have any plans to step in?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to say too much about the Middle East today, because the President's going to have a press conference in about an hour or hour-and-a-half with President Mubarak, but I think the American position here is well-known. The Israeli redeployment decision represents an expansion of Palestinian authority. Therefore, we hope that this phase of redeployment will be carried out as soon as possible, and we expect that the Israelis will do more in the second and the third phases of their redeployment on the West Bank.

QUESTION: Another issue. Mexico has appointed today a new drug czar --

MR. BURNS: We have a follow-up on the Middle East, and then I'll be glad to go to your question.

QUESTION: It may be a legalistic point, but Arafat and his people are claiming that according to the American letter of assurances, withdrawals would be negotiated and not be a unilateral Israeli decision. Is that indeed the case?

MR. BURNS: In this case, the Israeli Government -- the Israeli Cabinet made the decision as to the percentage figure -- the lower nine percent -- of the redeployment around -- I guess it was around Jenin and Bethlehem and a couple of other towns. So the Cabinet clearly made that decision.

The Palestinians and Israelis have a forum. In fact, they met yesterday when David Levi met with Saeb Erakat. They have a way to discuss any unhappiness, any differences or points of view, and I think I'm going to leave it to them to try to sort this one out, because we find in our stewardship of the Middle East peace negotiations, that's the best way. When there are questions like this, let the Palestinians and Israelis decide them.

QUESTION: According to the original agreement, would these consultations take place before the decision, or would it be a unilateral decision which would then be discussed between the two of them?

MR. BURNS: I think the Palestinians and Israelis are discussing just that question, Jim -- whether or not there should be consultations, what kind of consultations. They both have strong views. I think it's best to let them continue to discuss that without injecting the United States into that debate.

QUESTION: But, Nick, there's an American side letter that came out of the Hebron negotiations, and a call from Dennis Ross to the Cabinet saying that Israel has the right unilaterally to decide the extent of its withdrawal. Do you deny that -- any of that?

MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm just saying, I'm very well aware of what the Hebron agreement entails and what the side letters talk about, as are you, because some of those side letters were published by the Israeli Government. So I don't believe it's necessary to go into that question.

I am just saying tactically that it's best to let the Palestinians and Israelis discuss this, as they did yesterday and as I'm sure they'll continue to do. But the fact that the Israeli Cabinet made the decision, designated a percentage which was a little over nine percent, is irrefutable. They took that step.

QUESTION: What about the resignation of the negotiator?

MR. BURNS: Of the Palestinian negotiator?


MR. BURNS: All I can say is that we know that the Palestinians are unhappy with this decision. We encourage them to work with the Israelis to settle their differences on this and to continue to discuss their differences, and hopefully they'll be able to move forward together.

We said very clearly last Thursday night and say again today that we believe that this redeployment does expand the Palestinian Authority, which, of course, that's the goal of this set of peace negotiations. We expect that more will be done in the second and third phases. That's very important. I want to remind you of that today.

QUESTION: Would you like to see more done in the first phase, say 10 percent instead of nine?

MR. BURNS: We already made our comment on the first phase last Thursday night and Friday. The statute of limitations is up on that one. I can no longer comment on that. We made our point of view clear, I think, in noting that it expands authority, and we expect more to be done.

QUESTION: Can you also say anything more about the Secretary's direct appeal to Netanyahu on the housing issue. You know, specifically what she said and whether she's disappointed that in another case she's tried to use her influence, and it hasn't worked?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary did have a very long telephone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, in which she raised with him a number of the issues that we were working on in the wake of Chairman Arafat's visit here - - the Jabal Abu Ghunnaim housing decision; the decision to announce the threat to close the allegedly four Palestinian Authority offices in East Jerusalem.

She raised them. They had a very full discussion of both issues. I don't want to characterize the discussion beyond that for obvious reasons, but the United States had a particular point of view on both issues, and she represented that point of view in that phone conversation, as you would imagine.

QUESTION: What was the second telephone conversation then?

MR. BURNS: She had a number of them. She had one on Wednesday. This is the long conversation on these issues. Then on Thursday, I believe she had two or three conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but that pertained to the redeployment -- the decision by the Israeli Cabinet to redeploy at the slightly more than nine percent level. He was calling here to inform him of the Cabinet decision on those occasions. She also talked to Foreign Minister Levi at one point that day.

QUESTION: Did ask him at that time to go further with the redeployment or that wasn't --

MR. BURNS: Again, I don't want to go into the specifics of the conversation that she had. That should remain private, because it's part of our ongoing negotiations and discussions with the Israelis. But I think the point of view that she represented in that phone call reflected very faithfully what you heard in public, and that is that the United States, of course, did not believe that the timing of the East Jerusalem offices issue was appropriate, certainly not in the wake of the very controversial decision on Jabal Abu Ghunnaim -- and you know that the United States did not agree with that decision.

QUESTION: Is she going to the Middle East in April?

MR. BURNS: She's made no plans for a Middle East trip. At some point she'll go to the Middle East, but we need to complete the round of meetings here in Washington. His Majesty King Hussein will be visiting shortly, and we would have that meeting. She has to go to Helsinki with the President. She's got to go to Mexico City in April. So there are a number of things she must do. At some point she'll go to the Middle East, but she hasn't decided when.

QUESTION: During those telephone conversations with the Prime Minister, did she also ask him to cancel the visit of Foreign Minister Levi?

MR. BURNS: No, she did not.

QUESTION: Do you know why he has canceled his visit?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I understand that Foreign Minister Levi postponed his visit to Washington because of pressing business in Israel.

QUESTION: So they postponed it?

MR. BURNS: That's right.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about Strobe Talbott's trip?

MR. BURNS: We'll get back to Mexico in a minute. Strobe Talbott's trip last week?

QUESTION: Yes, to Moscow.

MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to. He had an excellent trip. He was there with the -- he did; he had an excellent trip.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: You shouldn't find that surprising. He's a brilliant diplomat. He usually has excellent trips when he goes overseas. He had an excellent trip, and he was accompanied by Ambassador Jim Collins; by Lynn Davis, our Under Secretary of State. They had talks with the Russians in Moscow on the European security issues, NATO enlargement, NATO-Russia charter. They talked about the CFE modification proposal, and there are some meetings coming up in Brussels this week -- NATO and Russia -- to talk about Russia's response to the NATO proposal on CFE modification.

They talked about START II, of course, and I hope it will be ratified by the Russian Duma. ABM TMD came up. A number of issues came up, and Strobe reported to the Secretary this morning that it was an excellent trip, and that it had achieved its purposes. Now we have Foreign Minister Primakov coming to Washington at the end of this week. He'll be seeing the Secretary on Saturday, and then I think an appointment at the White House on Monday. We hope that that visit by Foreign Minister Primakov will essentially set the stage for Helsinki for the meetings on the 19th and 20th with President Yeltsin -- a very important trip.

QUESTION: Are you persuaded after those talks that Yeltsin and Clinton at the summit will be able to put forward guidelines for START III negotiations?

MR. BURNS: It's very difficult to predict what will be accomplished by way of concrete measures at Helsinki. You and I have seen a lot of these summit meetings in the past. Part of the value of this particular summit meeting is that President Clinton has not seen President Yeltsin since last spring, because of the Russian elections and President Yeltsin's illnesses and because of their respective travel schedules.

So first and foremost, it's an opportunity for them to get together again personally, face to face, to talk about the whole expanse of issues between the United States and Russia/NATO and Russia. I think the primary issue will be the European security dialogue on NATO enlargement/NATO Russia.

I understand that Secretary General Solana had good talks yesterday. He was in Bishkek today in the Kyrgyz Republic, and he was quoted as saying he had excellent talks with Foreign Minister Primakov. He feels that the Russia- NATO negotiations are moving in a positive direction. I'm sure that President Clinton and Secretary Albright will want to move it further next week.

They'll certainly discuss START II and ABM and other issues. As to how much progress this made, it's a little bit too early to tell. We have to see first how Foreign Minister Primakov's visit to Washington goes. We'd like to make some progress there to ensure the success of the Helsinki meeting.

QUESTION: For planning purposes, could you let us know, when you can, the timing of the meeting with Primakov on Saturday and the press arrangements - - whether or not we get to see them?

MR. BURNS: Yes. We've not yet talked to the Secretary about any possible press arrangements. I don't know what she will want to do, but I'll certainly get that to you before the end of the week.


QUESTION: Mexico today has appointed a new drug czar who already passed a lie detector test. (Laughter) Do you have any comment on this, and has the United States run a check on this new guy or asked for intelligence from the United States to make sure everything is fine?

MR. BURNS: We note with great pleasure the appointment of the new drug czar, Mr. Mariano Herran Salvatti this morning by President Zedillo. This is obviously a step forward. It's been a difficult situation for President Zedillo to have his former drug czar now under suspicion of work with the cartel. This means that we can get back to business with Mexico on the experts level to make sure that we're cooperating very closely with the Mexican Government.

I know that Secretary Albright is looking forward to her visit to Mexico City early in April, because this issue will be front and center, and we stand by the decision, obviously, to have the United States certify Mexico. We're very much opposed to the efforts in Congress to reverse that decision, because we don't see how it helps the United States to walk away from Mexico when both of us are together, working together, in a fight in the drug wars -- in a fight to prevent drugs from coming into both of our countries.

The United States welcomes the appointment of Mr. Salvatti. We look forward to working with him. We obviously want to have the closest possible relationship with him and with his colleagues so that we can win this war in the fight against drugs.

QUESTION: You talked about opposition in Congress with regards to this certification to Mexico. Do you think that making sure that Mr. Salvatti is the right guy for the job would make people more -- I don't know -- more at ease at Congress?

MR. BURNS: We hope that today's announcement will convince those in Congress and those around the country and perhaps even in our own hemisphere who have any doubts that President Zedillo's commitment to wage the war against narcotics is genuine. We have absolute trust and confidence in President Zedillo. He has chosen this man personally. It's obviously and exceedingly important appointment in the wake of the resignation of Mr. Salvatti's predecessor, and, therefore, we think it's a highly significant appointment which ought to be welcomed by the detractors of our President's policy. I think it strengthens the case of the Administration that we've got to move forward with this certification decision and not change it and continue our work with the Mexican Government to win this war against narcotics.

QUESTION: About Mexico -- on Wednesday the House will vote to decertify Mexico. A large number of Congress people will be voting against the decision made by President Clinton. Do you know exactly what steps, for instance, Secretary Albright is taking to make sure that the relationship between Mexico and the United States is not at all soured, now that she's going to Mexico and the President is going to Mexico?

MR. BURNS: This whole drug issue and the resignation of the former drug czar has been a strain in U.S.-Mexican relations, but it's really because of the quick action of President Zedillo that we now can move on. Secretary Albright's going to be talking to members of Congress. The Administration as a whole, from the President on down, is committed to convince the Congress -- we want to convince the Congress that we should stick with certification.

We do not see how it helps the United States to walk away from Mexico, when their fight is our fight; when we have a common border; when we Americans can't win the war on drugs by ourselves. We've got to rely on Mexico to help us win this fight, and we just don't see any other alternative now that President Zedillo has shown such resolute action in the appointment of a drug czar. Thank you.


MR. BURNS: Yes, Bill, and then to Turkey.

QUESTION: A couple of questions, Nick. Diane Feinstein's revelations over the weekend. What's the reaction of this Department to FBI-generated information that the Chinese were attempting to influence the Congressional elections, as they have also been working in our Executive Branch? And I have a follow-up.

MR. BURNS: Bill, I just don't have much of a reaction at all. I think the Secretary of State made a very strong, clear statement about this late last week. The President has spoken about this -- spoke about it at his press conference. I have nothing to add to the reports over the weekend.

QUESTION: Secondly, Nick, there's a deal reported that a Chinese shipping conglomerate will take the naval shipyard in Long Beach, right in the very heart of our defense establishment there, and convert it into some kind of a cargo port. Is the State Department on board with this?

MR. BURNS: I know it's an issue that the Pentagon is looking into, and I'd like to refer you to my good friend and colleague, Ken Bacon, to respond to that question, because it is an issue that is directly in the Pentagon's purview and not the State Department's. But you give me a chance to say something that is both newsworthy and very important.

The People's Republic of China's navy -- navy vessels are making a port visit to Pearl Harbor this week, March 9-13, and will to San Diego, March 21-25. These are destroyers and oilers. They're on a training course in the eastern Pacific.

Why is this significant? This is the first port visit by these types of ships to the continental United States since the founding of the People's Republic of China back in 1949. It's the first visit by Chinese naval vessels of any kind to the United States since, I believe, a training ship visited Pearl Harbor in April of 1989, shortly before the Tiananmen disaster.

This reflects the fact that during Defense Minister Chi Haotian's visit to the United States last December, he and we agreed that we ought to re- engage on a military-to-military relationship with the Chinese Government. We ought to have dialogue among our officer corps, and, in fact, I believe there are some Chinese officers flying up to Seattle from San Diego to have a sit-down with their American naval officer counterparts. It reflects the fact that we've got to engage with the Chinese militarily as well as politically and economically. So symbolically, it's a very important step forward for the United States and China, and it begins this week.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one follow up?

QUESTION: Was the Secretary aware of the FBI warnings to Congressmen and women when she was in China, when she raised this issue?

MR. BURNS: The FBI warnings to Congress - I just don't know if she was or not, Judd. She did say that she raised the issue in China with Qian Qichen, and she was very clear in public about what their response was. Our view is that there is a Justice Department investigation of this entire issue underway, and therefore the appropriate place for questions, concerns, comments, information is the Justice Department.

QUESTION: And then finally --

QUESTION: How many ships are there in this flotilla?

MR. BURNS: As I said, it's the destroyers Harbin and Zhuhai and the oiler Nancang - three ships that are on a training course in the eastern Pacific, and they will be in, again, Pearl Harbor from the 9th to 13th -- that's right now, this week -- and then San Diego at our Naval base from the 21st to the 25th. I understand that General Shalikashvili will be going out to San Diego at some point for this visit. Again, very important symbolically to note the re-emergence of a U.S.-China military-to-military dialogue.

QUESTION: Not to detract from this matter, but the Dalai Lama today, in a human rights conference in Europe, announced, or proclaimed that the Tibetan race was under cultural genocide by the PRC. I think that's forced immigration, dilution of their population, and especially repression by the PRC. Does the State Department have any comment on his statement?

MR. BURNS: We have great respect for the Dalai Lama. We have observed the human rights situation in Tibet for a long time. We note our views on that situation in our annual human rights report - the last one which was just issued a couple of weeks back. I'd refer you to that, Bill. But we have long-standing concerns about the repression of religious and cultural rights of the people of Tibet.

QUESTION: Cultural genocide, does --

MR. BURNS: I did not used that word. We have long spoken out against the repression -- the cultural and religious repression in Tibet by the Chinese Government.

QUESTION: Were there post-Tiananmen Square sanctions imposed which would have prohibited such visits?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there were sanctions. I believe the Bush Administration and, for a long time, the Clinton Administration just followed a policy of no business-as-usual, no ship visits.

But as you know, we have a policy of engagement with China. We obviously still have abiding concerns with what happened at Tiananmen. But we have a policy of engagement which is political, economic, and military. So it's a symbolic departure. It's an important symbolic departure.

I think that these visits were announced by the Pentagon back in December when Chi Haotian was in the United States. I wanted to mention them today because the visits are actually occurring at Pearl Harbor and will at San Diego in just a couple of weeks.

Yes, Yasmine.

QUESTION: Iranian Foreign Minister Velayati is in Turkey today and he's on his way to Saudi Arabia very soon. What does the Administration think of these contacts? What do you think of the fact that Tehran was chosen to be the venue of the OSCE summit this year? And what would you react if King Fahd decides to participate?

MR. BURNS: The United States does not believe that countries in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world should engage in business-as- usual diplomacy with the Iranian Government. That is a government which is trying to build a nuclear and chemical weapons capability. It is directly funding Hezbollah and Hamas and other terrorist groups. It's resolutely opposed to the Middle East peace process.

It's not a government, we believe, that should be shown a great deal of courtesy. That's our general reaction to the world tour of Mr. Velayati.

QUESTION: Nick, since relations with Germany are now so incredibly good, would you still criticize the German Government for discriminating against Scientologists after yesterday's report in the New York Times on the unusual circumstances under which Scientology has gone to tax exempt status by the IRS?

MR. BURNS: That was an interesting report in the New York Times. I read it with great interest. It revealed a lot about the Church of Scientology. I believe that the Church of Scientology's tax exempt status is secure and there's not going to be an attempt by the Treasury Department to turn it around. So that's a reality that is a factor in our view of the treatment of Scientologists, but particularly American Scientologists who find themselves in Germany.

The good news is that in her visit to Bonn, Secretary Albright had a very constructive, cooperative discussion of this issue with Foreign Minister Kinkel. You saw at the press conference in Bonn that he dealt with the issue in a very clear way, as did she. We've not changed our policy and our views on the situation of Scientologists in Germany. We certainly have a very respectful, cooperative dialogue with the German Government and, together, we have condemned those newspaper advertisements of the Church of Scientology and their Hollywood mogul supporters which have tried to compare the current situation of Scientologists to the situation of the Jews in the early part of the Nazi regime -- the Adolph Hitler regime.

The United States has taken the lead, outside of Germany, in defending the German Government from those charges. I really think this is not an issue that's going to have a negative effect on U.S.-German relations. We note our concern. We will continue to watch the situation of Scientologists because we have been concerned about it. But we're dealing with it in a way that I think is satisfactory to both the German and American Governments.

QUESTION: Do you find it easier now to understand the German Government's position that Scientology is not a church but rather a business enterprise? And so the abuses of religious rights is not really the matter?

MR. BURNS: The difference here is that the United States Government does accord tax exempt status on the par with other religions. Therefore, we treat Scientology as a religion for the purposes of these human rights reports.

I think a lot of us have always understood the German Government point of view -- that given Germany's past, particularly the Nazi period in Germany's history, Germany has a special sensitivity and Germany believes it has a special responsibility to its own people on these issues, to combat right-wing extremism, for instance; to combat some of the militia groups and neo-Nazi groups that have arisen in Germany. We fully understand that German concern.

We do have a difference of opinion on the issue of the Scientologists. We remain concerned. But I do think we found a way to work with the Germans, which is very important because we do have an excellent relationship with Germany.

Yes, Yasmine.

QUESTION: There were stories in the German press today saying that the State Department has written to all the U.S. Ambassadors in EU capitals to campaign for Turkey's integration throughout the week before the EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Holland on the 15th, I believe. Is that the case? Was there such a letter or cable?

MR. BURNS: I will have to check to see if there was what we call a demarche cable that went out -- instruction cable -- to our embassies and consulates to ask them to speak to host governments about a particular issue.

I can only reconfirm to you what we said many times before. It is American Government policy to try to promote the inclusion of Turkey into Western institutions. That includes the European Union. We hope that the European Union will remain open to eventual membership. In the short term, since that is not likely to happen in the short term, we hope that the Customs Union will stay together and that the European Union can find additional ways to send positive signals to Turkey.

Some of the signals that were sent last week were not so positive. Turkey needs to be assured by its Western counterparts that it is welcome in Europe and North America. All of us need to send those positive signals.

QUESTION: Can you take the question on the specific cable, though?

MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to take that question.

QUESTION: In that context, how do you feel about Foreign Minister Pangalos' comment last week that Turkey belongs to Europe?

MR. BURNS: We agree with that comment. We thought it was a statesmanlike comment that showed great sensitivity on the part of a Greek official to Turkey's place in Europe. Foreign Minister Pangalos was a very tough defender of Greek national interests in the meeting with Secretary Albright, as he always is. But we thought that was statesmanship, and we commend him on that comment.

Thank you very much.

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


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