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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #87, 97-06-09

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

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


985

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, June 9, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

STATEMENTS/ ANNOUNCEMENTS
1            Welcome Visitors; Introduction of Jim Foley, Deputy Spokesman
1            Algeria: Praise for Election, Voters; Concerns Raised by
               Observers
1-2          Croatia: Fmr. Sen. Paul Simon Heads OSCE Election Monitoring
               Group
2            DROCongo: A/S Shattuck Travels; Investigation of Massacres;
               Kabila Commitment to Investigation
2            DROCongo: No Decision on U.S. Assistance to Congo
3            Statement on Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group Meeting
3            Secretary's Travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong: Press Sign
               up Sheet

CONGO BRAZZAVILLE 3-4 Update: Fighting; Embassy Operations; Official Personnel Numbers, Evacuation; France Effort; American Citizens; Travel Warning 3-4 Presidential Elections, Ceasefire Talks 4 Whereabouts of USS Kearsarge; Potential for U.S. Role in Evacuation; Albright, Pickering Attention 4-5 DROC Mobutu's Forces Connection with Former Congo Pres. Denis Sassou Nguesso 5 Embassy Personnel Search for American Citizens in Brazzaville

ARMS CONTROL 5-6 Russia ForMin Primakov Alleged Remarks re Decoupling Missiles and Warheads

DEPARTMENT 6-7 Foreign Affairs Funding; Secretary Albright's Efforts re State Dept. Budget; Administration Commitment to Funding Issues 7 Secretary's Foreign Policy Speeches Throughout the United States

UNITED NATIONS / LEBANON 7-8 U.S. Vote Against Fifth Committee Resolution Assessing Israel for Attack on UNIFIL 8-9 U.S. Pressures on Lebanon Against Seeking Compensation for Israeli Attack

ALGERIA 9,16 U.S., International Assessment of Elections; Turnout, Media Coverage

KOREAS 9-10,12 ROK Food Aid to DPRK Dependent on Four-Party Talks; U.S. Policy on Food Aid 9-12 DPRK Missile Program: Technology Transfers; Missile Talks; DPRK Missile Sales

GERMANY 12-13 Markus Wolfe Ineligible for U.S. Visa Due to Terrorist Activity

PEACE PROCESS 13-15 Palestinian-Israel Talks in Egypt; U.S. Contacts with Parties; Objective of Talks 14 Requirement for Forward Movement in Process 14 Israel Policy on Har Homa Construction

INDONESIA 15 Violence in East Timor


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #87

MONDAY, JUNE 9,1997 1:35 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen; and welcome to the State Department. It's my great pleasure to welcome here two very good friends of mine - Ursula Aaroe, who is a Swiss diplomat based in Singapore, and her husband, Peter, guests of ours and friends from Cairo - welcome.

I also want to make an introduction, a very important introduction of Jim Foley. Jim. Jim has been tapped by Secretary Albright to be the new deputy spokesman here, replacing Glyn Davies. Jim is a foreign service officer. He has most recently been on detail to Senator Coverdell's office, up on Capitol Hill. Before that, Jim was the private secretary to three NATO secretary generals. He served with great distinction at NATO. Before that, he was a senior advisor to Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger, and Deputy Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger, when he was in both positions. Jim is an outstanding individual. He's got big shoes to fill, to fill Glyn Davies' shoes; but we think he can do it. Jim, the press corps is very tame - never a problem dealing with the press corps. I think you'll enjoy your tenure as deputy spokesman. Welcome.

I have a couple of announcements to make before we go to questions. First, the United States commends the government of Algeria for holding parliamentary elections and for inviting international observers to monitor them. We'd like to praise the Algerian people for their courage in turning out in such high numbers at the polls last week. The Algerian people are the best judge of how the election results will contribute to the process of national reconciliation in Algeria. A multiparty assembly holds the potential to move this process a step forward.

We do urge the government of Algeria to address the issues raised by international observers and political parties, as Algeria prepares for municipal and local elections. The election campaign also marked a commendable increase in the openness of Algerian television and radio. We hope that increased openness will continue, as Algeria moves toward peace, stability and democracy that so many Algerians have desired for such a long period of time. I'll be glad to take questions on that issue, on the issue of international observation, once we get to questions.

I also want to make a short announcement on Croatia. Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon will serve as the OSCE special coordinator for monitoring of the Croatian presidential elections this coming Sunday, June 15. The OCSE monitoring effort has a staff of 100 people - that includes 40 Americans, in addition to the parliamentary delegation from the OCSE member states.

Senator Simon was appointed by the chairman in office of the OSCE, Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen. Senator Simon will issue a statement on the findings of the international monitoring efforts on June 16.

I also want to let you know I just had a phone conversation with our Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, who's in Kigali. He accompanied Ambassador Bill Richardson to Lubumbashi and to Kisangani over the weekend for their talks with Mr. Laurent Kabila. John left the Richardson party when Richardson came back to the United States. John visited Kisangani on his own; he went to Goma, and he's now in Kigali.

We believe that it will now be possible for the United Nations advance team that will investigate the allegations of mass murder in and near Kisangani - for that team to arrive in Congo on June 20; and for the full investigation to begin on July 7. John Shattuck interviewed personally Rwandan Hutu refugees who were caught up in the atrocities a couple of months back. He has heard first-hand reports of killings by forces in the area of refugees most disturbing. As you know, when Ambassador Richardson met with Mr. Kabila over the weekend, Ambassador Richardson was able to elicit from Mr. Kabila a promise that the government of the Congo will cooperate with the United Nations in investigating these very serious allegations of mass atrocities.

We hope that Mr. Kabila will now turn these promises into action on the ground. It is one thing to make a promise. It is quite another thing to actually come through and make sure that every member of the government of Congo, including soldiers from the rebel alliance who may have been in and around Kisangani several months back when that town was besieged, that they be made available to the UN investigating team so that the people who committed these murders will be brought to justice. That's a very important commitment that he has made. What will be more important is to see that commitment turned into action by the Congo Government.

Secondly, I do want to correct a story in the papers over the weekend. This issue has to deal with American economic assistance to Congo. Secretary Albright has not made a decision on whether or not the United States will be extending assistance to Congo and what that amount will be. I'm not blaming the journalists and the newspapers here. I think there may have been some incorrect backgrounding out of some of the officials who were in Congo over the weekend.

I want to be very clear about this because I have talked to the Secretary about this. The United States will base our decision on whether we extend economic assistance to Congo on the actions of the government in Kinshasa. The actions will be very clear. It has to do with whether or not the government is going forward towards political and economic reform, or whether it's not; whether the government is going to cooperate on issues like investigating mass atrocities. These are important. For the life of me, I don't know how this $50 million figure got into the press. Again, I am not blaming the journalists. I am not blaming the newspapers.

I think there is some incorrect and ill advised backgrounding, and it ought to stop, because the Secretary of State makes these decisions. This is a very important decision, and she has not yet made this particular decision.

Now, George, just a couple of more things. First of all, I'm not going to read this, but we have a statement that the United States is issuing on behalf of the Israel-Lebanon monitoring group. It pertains to the meetings of the group on June 8th and 9th, yesterday and today, and it concerns a complaint brought to the group by Lebanon, in one case, and by Israel, in another. If you are interested, please refer to the statement that is in the press room.

Finally, the Secretary will be traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Hong Kong from the 24th of June to the 2nd of July. I would like to close the sign-up sheet by tomorrow because we do need to secure visas for journalists traveling with us. If you are interested and have not signed up for that trip, please do so. As of tomorrow, we will begin the process of trying to accommodate those who would like to come on the trip.

I fear we have more journalists who would like to come than seats on the Secretary's aircraft. But we will deal with that problem this week. George?

QUESTION: Could you bring us up to date on the situation in Brazzaville, across the river from oasis of peace and democracy, Kinshasa?

MR. BURNS: Well, I think you know that since June 5th, the situation in Brazzaville has been chaotic and violent. There has been continuing fighting between the Congolese military forces and the paramilitary forces loyal to the former president, Denis Sassou Nguesso. The situation remains quite confused as we speak. I just spoke to the head of our task force, up on the seventh floor, on Congo-Brazzaville. I can tell you that our American embassy continues to be operating, but under quite adverse circumstances. The embassy took an RPG hit over the weekend, also some small arms fire. We don't believe that this fire was directed at the embassy; we think it was just sporadic fire and it was coincidental. We have 28 American diplomats in Congo-Brazzaville. We'd like to bring that number down to 15 American diplomats in the next day or two if we can. The problem is, we've not been able to evacuate those Americans. It's simply unsafe to do so.

They are safe, and if we can get them out through the services of the French Government - you know the French have put in several hundred troops into Brazzaville today - or any other charter aircraft, we will do so. We will only do so under safe conditions. In addition to that, we believe there are approximately 200 private American citizens in Congo-Brazzaville, 75 of whom are probably in the capital city. The embassy is in contact with as many of those people as we can be through our radio network. We are advising Americans, any Americans listening to this through the Voice of America or BBC, to keep their heads down, to stay where they are, not to go out into the streets because it's quite dangerous in the streets of Brazzaville right now. We'll be in touch with them as the best way to get them out of Brazzaville as soon as we can.

Now, I will say that we're very grateful for the quick action of the French Government to try to protect international interests in Brazzaville. We're working very closely with the French Government. Politically, we believe in very strong terms that the government and the rebel forces ought to agree to an immediate cease-fire, and then to a restoration of the constitution, as it was in power before the fighting broke out. Presidential elections are scheduled for July 27th. We believe that if there can be a cease-fire and talks between the government and the rebel movement, it may still be possible to implement the presidential elections on the 27th of July.

The only other thing I'd say, George, is that yesterday we issued a travel warning, advising American citizens to defer travel to Congo-Brazzaville. It is our very strong wish that American citizens not travel there. It is simply too dangerous. They're literally taking their life into their hands if they choose to do that. Still on this situation, Bill?

QUESTION: Yes, Nick, yes, indeed. Two questions. One, does the U.S. have any capability with the Kearsarge in that - has the Kearsarge left that area?

MR. BURNS: The Kearsarge has left. It's no longer off the coast of West Africa. It's heading towards the Mediterranean.

QUESTION: And I take it the U.S. has no intentions of getting involved in the Brazzaville evacuation. That would be a French operation, strictly?

MR. BURNS: We're going to have to take this on a day-to-day basis.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BURNS: Obviously, what is first and foremost in our minds is the security of our American citizens -- private Americans, as well as our embassy staff. If they can be brought out by the French or by chartered aircraft, that is the best solution. But we will take this one step at a time.

Under Secretary Tom Pickering was involved in this crisis all throughout the weekend. Secretary Albright was briefed over the weekend. She was briefed on a couple of occasions today. So we are giving this high-level attention. It's a very serious situation for the Americans and the other foreigners who are trapped in Brazzaville today. Crystal.

QUESTION: Is the United States - there were reports - I believe it was in the Post today that Mobutu soldiers, ex-soldiers, have found a home with the ex-president.

MR. BURNS: With Mobutu?

QUESTION: No, no, not with --

MR. BURNS: The ex-president?

QUESTION: I'm sorry the ex-president of Congo --

MR. BURNS: Oh, Brazzaville --

QUESTION: Congo, Congo, not --

MR. BURNS: You mean, Mr. Sassou Nguesso.

QUESTION: Yes, there you go. And - I didn't know how to pronounce his name, and I wasn't going to try. So you did it for me. But there seems to be a rift going - a siding going on there, is the United States worried about this siding? And is the United States worried that there are going to be other eruptions in Africa? It seems as though we are in the midst of a lot of flash points --

MR. BURNS: It's a terribly unstable time in Central Africa, and, indeed, in West Africa, with the situation in Sierra Leone. But I can't say that we are aware exactly who all these rebel fighters are and whether not some of them may have been buttressed by former members of President Mobutu's presidential guard or military.

All I can say is that the United States is very concerned and disappointed that these rebel fighters chose to take up arms. There is a government in Congo-Brazzaville. The way to resolve problems is not to fight and kill people and produce mass chaos in this capital city and throughout the country, rather it is to sit down and talk through problems. That is the rational way to proceed with problem solving.

So we are very disappointed that this situation has come to pass. But our first concern has got to be the safety of our own citizens, always. After that, of course, we will want to exert whatever influence Ambassador Aubrey Hooks can, our very fine ambassador in Brazzaville, to see that a cease- fire is put into place.

Now let me just tell you, since I always think it is important to say when foreign service officers do good things, one of our consular officers, Ava Rogers went out over the weekend, taking great danger upon herself, to try to find American citizens who we thought were in a particular neighborhood in Brazzaville. She and a Marine guard went out. They were unable to get to the Americans, but our deputy chief of mission then went out and was able to get to a certain group of Americans.

These American foreign service officers are putting their own lives on the line and trying to help American citizens. That is their obligation and duty, obviously to defend American citizens, not to take their life in their hands, but to do what they can to help American citizens, and I wanted to draw attention to Ava Rogers, who I think acted heroically over the weekend to find American citizens caught up in the fighting. Jim.

QUESTION: On another subject. Have you been able to clear up what Russian Foreign Minister Primakov said or did not say last week about de-coupling nuclear warheads from the missiles?

MR. BURNS: I still haven't seen Foreign Minister Primakov's statement. But I can say I don't believe that there is any formal proposal by the Russian Federation to de-couple missiles and warheads. What we have is an agreement on de-targeting that was put into place by President Clinton and President Yeltsin back in 1994. That's a very important, symbolic agreement because it means for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear age that Russian nuclear missiles are no longer targeted at Boston, Washington, and San Francisco, and that ours aren't targeted at Vladivostok and Moscow.

De-coupling would be a farther step forward. It's not something that we are seriously, I believe, discussing with the Russians at the present time.

QUESTION: You say there is no formal proposal. Is there an informal? Have they broached the subject at all?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. You remember there is some linguistic questions about what President Yeltsin said in Paris back on the 27th of May. But I think most people who listened to that believe that he was talking about de-targeting, and that is what Yastrzhembsky said, the Russian presidential spokesman. He said that President Yeltsin was referring to the de-targeting initiative, which we believe is important, and which we are, of course, continuing with the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Nick, Secretary Albright has gone out of her way to develop good relations with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and to sell U.S. diplomacy around the country. Now that Congress is getting into actually dealing with your budget, do you have any evidence that this is going to pay off? Or are they going to treat it in the usual manner?

MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright believes that you can't have a strong foreign policy in the United States if you don't have bipartisan support for it, number one, on Capitol Hill; and number two, if you don't have support among the American public. That is why, for both of those reasons, she has made a major effort to go up to Capitol Hill, to work with Senator Helms and Congressman Livingston and others, Congressman Callahan -- others who are in positions of great influence, not only over our budget, but over appointments and over foreign policy issues in general.

I think it has paid off. If you look at the very strong vote in favor of the Chemical Weapons Convention, that did not necessarily have to go in favor of the Administration. But it did, I think, because we reached out both to Republicans and Democrats.

On the budget, I can tell you with 100 percent degree of certainty that a year ago today, we wouldn't have stood a chance at getting congressional backing for an increase in State Department funding to help us pay off the debt at the United Nations; to help us fund the operations of our embassies and consulates overseas; to retain a professional diplomatic corps, the kind that we need to have strong foreign policy. We haven't come to the end of the budget battle, as you know, in Congress, but we are doing okay.

Secretary Albright had some good discussions over the weekend. She is taking this as really one of her top priorities. She has made it one of her top priorities. It has got to be directed at Republicans as well as Democrats, because Republicans control the budget process right now.

Now, second, Rick, I just want to say that the Secretary was in South Alabama yesterday, in Mobile, Alabama. She was on Boston on Thursday. She was in Wilmington a couple of weeks ago. She has been in Houston. She has been in Grand Rapids. She is making these trips into the heartland all across the country and she will continue to make them because she really believes that the American people have to be treated with respect. They have to be told by their senior leaders that they are important enough that we will travel to their cities to talk to them about foreign policy.

We need the support of the people, as well, across the board. Not just on the budget, but on NATO enlargement, on the UN arrears problem, on chemical weapons and other issues. So she is going to continue this effort. This is not a four-month effort by Madeleine Albright. I think throughout the time that she is in office, you are going to see her traveling around the country and see her on television and on the radio.

QUESTION: You said that a year ago you wouldn't have stood a chance. What has changed in the past year besides the occupant of the Office of Secretary of State? Is she --

MR. BURNS: I think what she -- I think --

QUESTION: -- is she doing that Secretary Christopher was unable to do?

MR. BURNS: I think what has changed is that the President and Secretary Albright have communicated to the Congress in unmistakable terms that our budget, the international affairs budget, is among our top priorities. It is a priority. It is a legislative priority. It's a political and foreign policy priority.

Second, I think Secretary Christopher did a commendable job in being the first leader of this government to draw attention to the budget problem; to speak about it publicly; to talk about diplomatic readiness, as he did in October and November and December of last year. He and Secretary-designate Albright went to the President together to present their budget proposals. The President, of course, is now leading the fight. So I think it's a combination of the efforts of President Clinton, Secretary Albright and former Secretary Christopher that have brought us to this happier status from a year ago. That is that we have a much better chance at getting full funding for our priorities from the Congress.

QUESTION: On the weekend, the United Nations General Assembly Fifth Committee voted on a draw-up dealing with the UNIFIL force in Lebanon. Now, this was approved, except for two votes against - the United States and Israel. Can you explain to us why the United States would vote against such a resolution which asks Israel to pay $1.7 million to the United Nations in damages for the base in Lebanon - the United Nations base - and for treatment of the injured.

MR. BURNS: Right. Well, thank you very much. I want to just take the opportunity to reiterate our very strong policy that the United States supports UNIFIL as a stabilizing force in the region. We are deeply concerned that the actions taken by the Fifth Committee of the United Nations to assess Israel for the Qana incident will set a troubling precedent whereby the Fifth Committee, acting alone, is able to challenge the will of the Security Council - in this case, by directing how funds for a peacekeeping mission can be spent or cannot be spent. This matter, fundamentally, involves issues of international peace and security, which are the primary responsibility of a security council.

It is simply beyond the competence of the Fifth Committee to take the decisions that they took over the weekend. So we are arguing on procedural grounds, within the United Nations system, that only the Security Council has the power and the authority to designate a country, in this case Israel, to designate a country as being responsible for paying - for being assessed with the full cost of the UN mission. If this does go to the Security Council, the United States will be very active in this debate. But we had to defend Israel, and also defend the United Nations system itself from this precedent, which we believe is very unhelpful.

QUESTION: I am full of questions. Now, the Lebanese press -- today they were issuing reports that the United States is putting a lot of pressure on the Lebanese Government not to pursue a policy of asking for damages; because Lebanon sees this policy as a way of stopping Israeli attacks on its territories. They say that the ambassador, Jones, has met with the Prime Minister Hariri and conveyed this message to him. Not only that, but the United States has threatened not to support the renewal of the UNIFIL forces in Southern Lebanon when it comes to renewal next month. Is that true? I mean, if the United States don't support UNIFIL and UNIFIL is withdrawn, we know the situation will be very explosive in Southern Lebanon. Is there truth in these reports?

MR. BURNS: Well, first of all, as you know, I never go into the details of our diplomatic conversations with other governments. You wouldn't expect me to. I don't believe the government of Lebanon would appreciate it if I did that; so I won't do that today. But I can tell you this, Lebanon's demand for compensation from Israel for the families of the victims is a separate issue from the one that I was discussing previously. It's a separate issue. The United Nations did not vote on that issue over the weekend. I just would have to check with our experts and the people who are in charge of our Middle East policy, before I can give you an answer on that. Frankly, I haven't talked to those people about that particular issue.

When I was talking about precedent, I was referring to the activities of the budget committee. It's an entirely separate issue.

QUESTION: But Lebanon considers this as a precedent. They would like to follow this asking for damages to, as I said, to dissuade Israel from attacking its territories.

MR. BURNS: That is a question that needs to be addressed separately - the issue of compensation for the families of the victims. I'm sure that we'll be talking to the Lebanese Government about that.

QUESTION: Is there any truth in the reports that are saying that the United States is threatening not to support the renewal of UNIFIL?

MR. BURNS: Again, I don't want to betray the confidentiality of our diplomatic discussions. Andre?

QUESTION: Yes. On Algeria, I'm unclear about your statement. You're considering the elections are reasonably free and fair, or what's your assessment about the report of the observers?

MR. BURNS: I would not use the words free and fair to describe the Algerian elections, simply because the international monitors, in whom we have great trust, did not use those words. Clearly, there were some problems with the Algerian election in the way it was carried out. We do think it's positive, however, that people voted in great numbers; and it's positive that the government was able to open up television and radio to political debate and political discourse. So our statement is an attempt, really to congratulate the people of Algeria, first and foremost; and secondly, to ask the government to continue with this small step forward in openness, because we think that might be a way to provide some positive momentum in relations between the government and others. Lord knows, Algeria needs that after all the terrorism and the violence and the killings of the past several years. Yes, Bill.

QUESTION: Korea, Nick. A report this morning from Reuters, picked up by NPR that the South Korean Government has stated that there would not be any large-scale food provision to North Korea, unless the North Koreans joined four-party talks. Further, the report said that the U.S. was completely on board with that policy. Is that accurate?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's accurate. The United States' policy, which is what I can speak about - not South Korea's policy - is to extend food assistance to North Korea. Our ships are arriving. In fact, I think all of the $25 million - the food for which that is paying for - should have arrived in North Korean ports by now. That food is intended to help little kids in North Korea. We are not tying food aid to the political questions of the four-party talks. We will not do that.

Now, we want North Korea to come to the table on the four-party talks. Your guess is as good as mine whether or not they North Koreans actually accept our proposal. But on food aid, we'll keep going.

Now, on another related issue, Bill, our long-awaited proliferation talks are scheduled to take place on June 11th and 12th and 13th of this week in New York. Our delegation will be headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob Einhorn. I say scheduled, because the last time we thought the North Koreans would show up, and they didn't. I'm not going to be in a position of predicting the movements of North Korean diplomats. But we hope they show up, and we hope we have these talks because we do have a number of concerns about proliferation issues dealing with the North Koreans.

We haven't had talks, I believe, since Berlin in I think about a year ago - the Spring of 1996. These talks ought to go forward, and we welcome the North Koreans to New York City.

QUESTION: Could you outline what concerns you have about North Korea's missile program?

MR. BURNS: We've had a number of concerns - reports of North Korean transfers of equipment and technology to other countries. As you know, we look into those very carefully. We have not determined that there's been any violation of American law or of international sanctions law. But that's always on our minds. All of these missile issues involving North Korea, separately involving North Korea and China and Iran and other countries are of great concern to us. Bob Einhorn is our leading expert, and we felt it was important to meet with them to talk about these.

Now, we are absolutely confident, George, that the agreed framework, put in place two and a half years ago is in place, it's working. We are absolutely clear that North Korea's nuclear program has been frozen and will remain frozen. I want to make that clear. These are different issues that I'm talking about here.

QUESTION: Is there something that leads you to believe that they won't come to the talks? Have they applied for their visas in Beijing?

MR. BURNS: Well, having been burned a couple of times from this podium in predicting that North Koreans will show up for talks, I've just decided to take a pledge. I'm never going to predict again that they actually will show up in the capital. I'll just say I hope they show up. In all seriousness, they've said they're going to be there. We hope they'll be there. But we've gone through this a couple of times, where they've been asked to come to meetings, they've said they will and they haven't come. We just hope they will show up this week.

QUESTION: -- visas in Beijing? Have they --

MR. BURNS: That's always a way to tell - whether they've picked up visas in Beijing. I haven't asked our Beijing watchers to tell us if the visas have been picked up or not. But that will be an indication. The talks are just a couple of days away, so we hope very much that they're there.

QUESTION: Can we go back to my original - go ahead, Sid.

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back and say, you haven't determined that there's been a violation of U.S. laws on proliferation --

MR. BURNS: Right, or international laws that are applicable here.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BURNS: Yeah.

QUESTION: I thought it was - I thought you all - there was no question they had been selling ballistic missiles to several countries in the Middle East. There was a recent shipment of ballistic missile equipment to Egypt, which you all are investigating. It's been going on for years - not the Egypt part, but the others. What is it you all don't see, don't understand?

MR. BURNS: Well, Sid, before the United States takes any action, for instance on sanctions, we have to determine pursuant to the law and the letter of the law, that actually there's been a violation. We need to be able to prove that. Now, there have been a number of reports, but we have not determined that there have been any violations of the law - the law that concerns this -- U.S. law and also international law. If we do discover that there have been any violations of the law, we'll act upon it and we'll let you know about that.

QUESTION: Practically speaking, even if you did discover it and put some sort of embargo, sanctions on North Korea, which --

MR. BURNS: There would also be sanctions on the receiving country, which is very important.

QUESTION: Okay, well the --

MR. BURNS: But we've not determined that.

QUESTION: -- the countries that they sell missiles to --

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: -- we don't trade with them in any case.

MR. BURNS: Well, there are so many reports that involve so many countries, that I don't want to agree with that as a blanket statement.

QUESTION: Well, I don't see - these allegations go back - some must go back a decade, of North Korean ballistic missile sales. What's the problem?

MR. BURNS: There's no problem. Your government is doing its job. When allegations surface, we look into the allegations as best we can. We talk to the North Koreans and others about them. If we conclude there's been a violation of a law, then we uphold the law, as we are bound to do by our Constitution. If we cannot conclude there's been a violation of the law, well, then, we can't go to sanctions. You've got to be able to make a clear determination of what is sanctionable and what is not.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say, then, that the U.S. is continuing investigating North Korean missile sales, with an eye towards possible sanctions, which --

MR. BURNS: I would not write the story that way. I think that would be inaccurate. An eye towards possible sanctions would really be leading the reader to believe that the imposition of sanctions is imminent. I didn't say that. I just said the reason we have these talks is to address, directly with the North Koreans, concerns we have about proliferation in general, and about some of their activities. We are bound by the law to live by the law, and we will do so. But I can't announce a violation of the law if we haven't determined it. That's just the emphasation I wanted to make.

QUESTION: My issue, Nick, on food, are you saying, then, that the United States would not embrace the South Korean policy of insisting upon talks before delivering food?

MR. BURNS: South Korea has to make its own decisions, as do other countries. Japan has made its own decisions. The United States has its policy; and that is, we provide food aid for humanitarian reasons. We do not link that food aid to political issues.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. give any credibility to Mr. Hwang's, the defector, Hwang's statement that North Korea would fight unless fed by the South? I think that's basically what he said.

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that he's made that statement. The press may have said that he's made that statement, but I can't confirm that that statement was made by Mr. Hwang to South Korean government officials to whom he is probably speaking. George?

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the visa situation of Mr. Wolfe, of the former East Germany?

MR. BURNS: You know, I think I do have something on that, George, and I'm glad you raised that question. Yes. We're talking about Markus Wolfe, the former head of Stasi, right? The East German police. Well, he was refused a visa, as my records show, in 1996. He was deemed to be ineligible for an American visa under Section 212(a)(3)(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

This section states that aliens who have engaged in terrorist activities are not eligible for visas to travel to the United States. It covers several types of terrorist activities, including preparing and planning terrorist activities, providing material support to those who have committed or plan to commit terrorist acts. He was the deputy minister of state security for East Germany. He was the head of the ministry's foreign espionage branch. He actively aided and abetted and fostered international and state-supported terrorism when he was an East German government official. As the number 2 person in Stasi and the head of the espionage branch, he was absolutely in the decision-making channel. There's no question about that. By his own admission, he participated in determining the ministry's policy and goals and he's, therefore, ineligible.

We, in the State Department, do not believe it is appropriate to give him a waiver from Section 212(a)(3)(b) because we think it is inadvisable for someone who spent his entire career as an opponent of free German, West Germany, as an opponent of the German people, and someone who is anti- American and trying to bring down our government and sponsor terrorist attacks against us, why would we give him a visa? So, he is not coming to the United States. He can write his best-selling books, but he won't be able to enjoy the United States throughout the rest of his life if we have anything to do with it.

QUESTION: Do Germans need visas to come to the States?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do Germans need visas to come to the States?

MR. BURNS: He is prohibited from coming to the United States because he is ineligible for a visa. Therefore, if he showed up at Boston or Washington or New York or Miami or San Francisco, his name is on a look-out list. He'd be turned away from the U.S. immigration official. He would be sent back on the next plane to Germany. He doesn't belong in the United States.

QUESTION: There are a lot of international figures who sort of fit that bill. There's been such a great change over the last five or so years --

MR. BURNS: Markus Wolfe is not - he has not - we believe in redemption, Sid, for some people but not for Markus Wolfe. Not yet.

QUESTION: What's different --

MR. BURNS: Redemption is a very important principle in international politics.

QUESTION: What is the difference between Markus --

MR. BURNS: Obvious difference - I know where you're going.

QUESTION: -- Markus Wolfe and Yevgeniy Primakov and Yasser Arafat--

MR. BURNS: You're leading the witness, and I know where you're going.

QUESTION: What's the difference? Is he not --

MR. BURNS: There is a huge difference and I want to tell you between Yevgeniy Primakov and Markus Wolfe, believe me. Anyway, yes, sir?

QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything to say about the Palestinian --

MR. BURNS: We have a very good relationship with Yevgeniy Primakov. Secretary Albright works with him. He is the foreign minister of one of our friends, a friendly country to the United States, the Russian foreign minister. Markus Wolfe is an unreconstructed communist who believes in state terrorism against the United States. There's a big difference. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the Palestinian-Israeli talks in Egypt yesterday? And was there? Was there or is there any American representation? And how do you describe the U.S. role in those talks?

MR. BURNS: Well, we're very pleased that the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were able to meet under Egyptian sponsorship. We felt for a long time that when Israelis and Palestinians can disagree so much on the issues, the only possible recourse for them is to get together and talk face to face. The Egyptians were able to do that. We are very pleased that Egypt is playing such an active and constructive role in these negotiations. Osama el-Baz, the very able Egyptian negotiator, called Secretary Albright this morning and briefed her on the Egyptian view of what happened and what Egypt hopes to do over the next couple of days in promoting a second meeting. Dennis Ross has been on the phone constantly with the Egyptians and the Israelis and Palestinians. So, we are pleased.

Now, it is only a step to have a meeting. What we really hope will happen is that the Israelis and Palestinians will actually agree to compromise with each other and to move forward to talk about peace. That's the objective that Egypt and the United States and other friendly countries have.

QUESTION: I have a question related with the Chairman Arafat interview with Newsweek in which he said about it's the message, not the messenger, when he was asking how can we expect him to succeed where President Clinton failed about Dennis Ross. We wish for a serious and effective involvement in the American Administration, preferably at higher levels. What is your comment on this?

MR. BURNS: He has it. Chairman Arafat has that from the United States. That's my answer. He has from President Clinton and Secretary Albright the very strong view that this is a vital national interest of the United States to see the peace negotiations succeed. Whenever he wants to phone them or to write them, they are willing partners to him. Dennis Ross is the person who works for the President and the Secretary of State very ably in carrying out their policy.

So, Chairman Arafat has the involvement of the President and Secretary. What we need to see, frankly, is we need to see Israel and the Palestinians make the hard choices necessary to move forward in the peace negotiations. The United States cannot make these decisions for the Palestinian authority, nor for Israel. They have got to make the decisions, not us. But they will find that we are faithful and dependable and, at the highest levels of our government, active participant in all these issues. So, that is my response to the Time magazine or the Newsweek magazine interview.

QUESTION: Can you clarify - probably not, this suggestion that Israel has agreed to - I forget the exact wording - slow down the Har Homa development to a negligible pace or something?

MR. BURNS: No, I cannot. I can't do that because I am not aware that's the case. If I were aware that was the case, I wouldn't say it anyway. But I am not aware it's the case, very seriously, Sid. The Israelis and Palestinians finally are talking again. That's good. Let's hope they keep talking and they make progress. We will not, again, go into the details of what they are talking about because we have to be, as well as the Egyptians, we need to be, both of us, effective mediators between them.

QUESTION: But as far as you know, you are saying that that pledge was not made.

MR. BURNS: I'm just not aware of it, but I can't confirm it or deny it. I'm just not privy to that and I wouldn't say so if I were. Yes?

QUESTION: Is U.S. role mainly depending on telephone diplomacy, as your term?

MR. BURNS: No. We have Ambassador Indyk on the scene. Consul General Ed Abington is on the scene. Ambassador Ned Walker in Cairo. No. We have American diplomats working directly with all these people on the ground and we have Secretary Albright and Dennis Ross on the phone with them, so we have very active American involvement. If some of these countries, if some of these people in the Middle East, especially people complaining about whether or not we're engaged at a high level, if they only knew how high level treatment they're getting compared to a lot of other regions around the world where there are problems.

Secretary Albright is seized by the Middle East problem. She also must be seized by problems in Europe and in Latin America and in Asia and Africa. That is another message. We are there when they need them, but we also have to work on other problems around the world. The Middle East is not the only part of the world where the United States has interests and I think that should be understood, but sometimes it is not understood. Yes?

QUESTION: Nick, there are some reports that violence has been escalating in East Timor for the last few weeks and (inaudible) gets government position as well as public place. Do you have anything? It's also leads to some arrests of the East Timorese, you know, indigenous East Timorese. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BURNS: I don't have a specific comment on the incidents to which you refer because I just am not familiar specifically with who started the incidents and what happened. If you are interested, I can take that question and get back to you. But obviously, we hope for a peaceful resolution on all sides and by all sides of the problems in East Timor and problems pertaining to Indonesia's human rights record in general.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Yes. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: On Algeria, please. There are some press reports about the dispute among United Nations observers. Some of them say the statement issued is not objective, that it was drawn up by a small group. So, could you tell us about what is the assessment of the American monitoring group?

MR. BURNS: The Americans there were part of the international monitoring group, and I think the international monitors were quite clear. They did not say the elections were free and fair, but the elections did take place. I have made statement about them, and we just hope that something positive can now result in Algeria as a result of these elections.

Thank you. Thanks very much.

(The briefing concluded at 2:17 P.M.)

(###)


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