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From: Thanos Tsekouras <thanost@MIT.EDU>





Friday, June 30, 1995

Briefer: Nicholas Burns



French Defense Official's Criticisms of US policy re:

  Bosnia and UNPROFOR ...................................11-13,14

Reported Bosnian Government Boycott of UN Envoy Akashi ..13-14

Reported Serbian Military Build-up in Krajina/

  Serbian Round-ups of Krajina Youths ...................14-15




DPB #97

FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 1995, 12:58 P.M.



Q The French Defense Ministry held some kind of a briefing today for reporters, and a senior official has sharply criticized the Administration's policy. He says that the United States backs military action by the Bosnian Muslims and if the Europeans are neutral on this, it could lead to a chasm of difference with the Europeans. Do you have any comment?

MR. BURNS: It's hard to comment when you don't know who is doing the briefing, when it's anonymous, and when the French Government has told us officially, in public or in private, anything along the lines of this individual.

As far as I know, we have not heard from the French Government, privately, and certainly have not seen any other French Government statements, that are consistent with the press reports that we saw from Paris this morning. So therefore I don't want to comment on an anonymous person who, for some reason or another, feels he or she does not speak for the record.

Q We have Administration officials here give briefings "On Background" from time to time as well.

MR. BURNS: We do.

Q He did make a specific charge that U.S. reserve officers are training a Bosnian army. As far as I understand, this is the first time a French Defense official said such a thing publicly.

MR. BURNS: And the allegation is nonsense. I'm not aware of any information that would lead anybody to that particular conclusion.

I can certainly speak about our larger policy. I'll be glad to do that, but I don't care to speak to remarks by an anonymous official.

I would point out again, it is inconsistent with what we've heard privately from people that we know who speak for the French Government.

Q You speak to the larger -- this would be a bad time for a row between the United States and its European allies. Are you concerned about the prospect of some kind of showdown?

MR. BURNS: With our allies?

Q Yeah.

MR. BURNS: Not at all. We have had over the last three weeks a series of consultations with our allies. They began in Noordwijk, when Secretary Christopher met with the Contact Group Foreign Ministers. There was unanimity in that five and a half hour meeting about what should happen -- UNPROFOR should remain and be strengthened.

There was no criticism of the United States in those meetings during the five and a half hours -- private meetings -- without headlights, without the lights of the media present.

Secondly, President Chirac came to Washington for a series of very fine meetings with President Clinton and Secretary Christopher. There was no criticism of the United States in those meetings. In fact, there is agreement on the strategic purpose of strengthening UNPROFOR; of having the United States try to assemble some funds to support the French, Dutch, Belgian, and U.K. decision to beef up UNPROFOR -- agreement on that point.

There were Defense Ministers meetings in Paris which were harmonious, in which we found ourselves in agreement with our European allies.

Malcolm Rifkind, the U.K. Defense Secretary, was here, and we had a very good series of discussions with him.

So I don't see the picture of any kind of problem with our allies. In fact, the decisions that the President made yesterday to establish a fund to help the Rapid Reaction Force get on its feet to provide military equipment, to provide lift, to provide communications, and to perhaps provide further monies down the road, is an indication of the fact that we're with our allies; that we understand one of the essential obligations we have is support our allies when they're in a tight position -- and they are in a tight position. They find themselves as part of an UNPROFOR which clearly is not meeting its obligations.

I think the courageous decision taken by the European allies is to change that situation.

The fundamental obligation that our government has is to support our allies. We're NATO allies. We have these commitments. We can't walk away from them.

I think you saw the letter that was issued last night by the Republican leadership, and I think you know what the response of the Administration is. We're going forward. We're going to support our allies; we're going to do what we can to strengthen UNPROFOR.

Q The Bosnian Government today has said they're not going to deal anymore with Mr. Akashi. They feel he now represents the Bosnian Serbs. Is that opinion that is shared by the Clinton Administration? Should Akashi be taken out of this process, because he's --

MR. BURNS: That's not a question for us. That's a question for Boutros Ghali -- for the Secretary General of the U.N. We couldn't comment on a question like that.

We understand, certainly, the frustrations of the Bosnian Government at this time when Sarajevo is being shelled, when little kids are being killed in the streets of Sarajevo, when food convoys aren't reaching Sarajevo or the enclaves. We understand the frustration that a lot of people in Bosnia must feel.

We have always had a great deal of sympathy and friendship for the Bosnian Government. We have an excellent relationship.

Secretary Christopher had a very good meeting with the Foreign Minister last week, with the Prime Minister a week before that. I just couldn't comment on Mr. Akashi. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to do that.

Q The same French official said that the French and the other UNPROFOR forces could get out of Bosnia without NATO's help and do it much quicker, in fact. Does this sound -- have you ever heard this before from the French or anybody else?

MR. BURNS: I'd like to meet this French official. This person has some interesting views. The first time I've heard a number of these views.

NATO met the other day in Brussels. The French were a part of those discussions. After several months of contingency planning, NATO adopted Plan 4104, which calls for NATO, led by the United States, of course, as a major troop-contributor, to, on a contingency basis, make sure that a plan is ready for the extraction of UNPROFOR forces from Bosnia.

I'm not aware that the French Government was opposed to that plan. In fact, I am aware and know the French Government supports it.

It would be very interesting for me to have this official surface, and we'd be glad to talk to him or her.

Q Do you have any more information now about the Serbian buildup in Krajina?

MR. BURNS: Roy, I don't have information beyond what we talked about yesterday, and that is that there appears to have been some leakage in the sanctions regime along the border. There has been a problem with rounding up Krajina youths who are in Belgrade; a big problem, and a lot of evidence to indicate that the Serb officials in Serbia were complicit in that undertaking which is a clear violation of the rights of those individuals who were rounded up. But I don't have any new information for you.

Q If a new system has been introduced into a theater -- in effect, a theater which is pretty volatile -- in this case, a T-84 tank, as the Croatian Government is alleging, and in some numbers -- 25/26 -- would the U.S. Government be aware of this, or would the Western countries be aware of this, through whatever intelligence means they have, or would they tend to, if they were aware of it, just keep it to themselves?

MR. BURNS: I think that the U.N. would be the best place to be aware of developments like that -- the introduction of a new type of tank or whatever, a piece of military equipment into a theater, because there are U.N. officials on the ground throughout the Croatia and Bosnia.

Q Apparently, this system was paraded the other day in the town of (inaudible) and it was shown on Bosnian Serb television and shown elsewhere as well.

It's interesting that after about four or five days of questioning you, you still do not have any confirmation that this is there. Is it not possible to confirm whether a new system has been introduced or not, and is there in significant numbers?

MR. BURNS: We get information from a variety of sources about activities such as this. We try to follow them up. However, we try also to be responsible and not to make public statements or quick judgments about events before we're able to confirm them to our satisfaction. That is why we have not been quick to denounce activities for which we have, at this point, initial information and for which we have not really made any solid conclusions.

Q What is the initial information you have?

MR. BURNS: We have information that is disturbing to us of sanctions violations and of leakages in the sanctions, not just in the theater that you're referring to but in the Bosnia and Serbia border in general. We've talked about that publicly. In fact, at great length yesterday, and we are following that up.

Q Would you take this question again. If it's on their own television, it obviously is there. The question is, is this a new system? And what is the impact on the balance in the theater; and how did they get there, also?

MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to continue to look into this and have people in the Department look into it, and glad to continue to take questions and other briefings on it.

Q Have U.S. diplomats in Belgrade received complaints from the Serbs that the Serbian police have been picking up people at their workplaces around the republic and taking them directly to Krajina?

MR. BURNS: We're aware of information -- that's right -- that Krajina youths -- young people from Krajina -- who are temporarily in Serbia, because of the war, have been rounded up against their will and are being taken for training and for deployment back in Krajina. We are aware of that information, and we're disturbed by it. We think that the Serbian Government -- at least parts of the government; certainly, individual officials -- have been complicit in that undertaking, that illegal undertaking.

Q Do you have any numbers?

MR. BURNS: I don't have numbers for you, no.


MR. BURNS: Thanks.

(The briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)


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