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U.S. Department of State 96/02/12 Daily Press Briefing
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Office of the Spookesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Monday, February 12, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1996, 1:17 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
[...]Q Well, you saw what was decided in Yugoslavia, and I wonder if you thought that the Bosnian Government's statement or pledge that it wouldn't make any arrests resolves the problem as far as the State Department is concerned.
MR. BURNS: As Dick Holbrooke said just a little while ago, the United States is very pleased by the statement made by the Bosnian Government, which puts forth essentially what we would refer to as "rules of the road," which do two very important things:
First, the statement reaffirms the right of people to have freedom of movement throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. That's an important principle established by the Dayton Accords.
Secondly, the statement also sets forth the Bosnian Government's understanding of the conditions under which people can be detained and/or arrested; and that is that that will only be done in conformance with actions taken by the War Crimes Tribunal.
We think this is a good outcome. It's a positive outcome, because both of these principles are important -- the principle of freedom of movement for everybody, but also the principle of justice -- that those who are responsible
for the worst atrocities will, in fact, be apprehended and brought to justice. Dick Holbrooke was sent to the region by Secretary Christopher to accomplish this mission.
I would just like to congratulate Dick Holbrooke for another masterful job of trying to help the parties implement these agreements and to make sure that these agreements do not fray as we go through this year.
Q Well, maybe there's a gray area, or at least there was last week. I don't know if it's still gray. But is it all right with the United States if the Bosnian Government, for instance, arrests people who are suspect but have not been indicted, or should it consult first with the War Crimes Tribunal?
There is obviously no "hot-pursuit" element, not even a "reason to apprehend" element? Must they wait for an indictment to detain any suspected war criminal?
MR. BURNS: I think the answer to that, Barry, lies in -- I don't know if you've seen the statement by the Bosnian Government, but let me just read to you. I have a copy here of a statement that was issued today in Sarajevo, and it says that "Persons may be arrested and detained for serious violations of international humanitarian law, only pursuant to a previously issued order, warrant or indictment that has been reviewed and deemed consistent with the legal standards established by the International Tribunal" -- the tribunal in The Hague.
What we understand from this is that people can only be detained or arrested when, in fact, those people are requested to be detained or arrested by the War Crimes Tribunal.
So, therefore, we now have, I think, a clarification that was missing when this incident -- the taking of eight people prisoner l0 days ago -- began.
Q But assuming the Bosnian Government retains some semblance of sovereignty -- I'm not sure it does, but assuming it retains some semblance of sovereignty -- does Bosnia as a nation have a right to arrest a war crimes suspect without getting an approval from the War Crimes Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: I would just have to repeat myself, Barry.
MR. BURNS: The Bosnian Government, after conversations with Dick Holbrooke this weekend, has issued this statement, which in our view is very clear -- which essentially says that in addition to the principle of freedom of movement the Bosnian Government will act in the future to detain and arrest people but only when in concert with the International War Crimes Tribunal.
Q It's probably sure in this case then the two high-ranking officers will be released, since they had not been named in a previously issued warrant?
MR. BURNS: No. I believe these are rules of the road that come into effect today. Now, on the people who were taken, who were detained, of course, as you know, four were released on Saturday. Now, that leaves us eight, I believe.
I just don't have anything for you on the status of the eight. We think at least some of them will be released, but as you know Justice Goldstone has expressed an interest in two of the people taken prisoner.
Q I think there was a report just before we came in citing Bosnian Government sources that they will, indeed, be transferred to The Hague. Are you familiar with that?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the report. I just have nothing for you on it.
Q If I can follow up, just getting back to the rules of the road, what are the rules of the road for IFOR and American troops regarding encountering indicted war criminals? There was a report over the weekend that Karadzic passed through at least four NATO roadblocks.
MR. BURNS: Right. We saw those same reports; we were disturbed by those reports. We are now looking into those reports to see if they are, indeed, accurate. If they are accurate, we'll certainly want to continue to have a close discussion with IFOR about the rules of the road that we understand.
I think, based on the Secretary's trip to Tuzla and to Sarajevo, where we had extensive conversations with our military colleagues and IFOR, it's clear to us -- and I think it's clear to IFOR as well -- that it is not part of the central mission of IFOR to search for war criminals. However, should IFOR troops come across suspected indicted war criminals in the conduct of their normal operations, then they are responsible to detain them -- and then, of course, to contact the War Crimes Tribunal about the disposition of these individuals.
There are 52 people who've been indicted on suspicion of some of the worst atrocities committed in Europe since the Second World War. We want to see those people brought to justice. That means we want to see them be given over to the control of the Tribunal. We want to see them prosecuted, and we want to see them incarcerated if they're found to be guilty of those crimes.
Now, if what happened over the weekend is true, it is disturbing; but we are looking into it. We don't know if it's true. If some of the IFOR troops do not have copies -- especially those manning checkpoints do not have copies of the photographs of the 52 -- we will endeavor to make those copies available to IFOR, because it's important that the soldiers out there manning checkpoints know who they're dealing with.
I do understand, however, from the Pentagon that, just to put this into context, it is not normal practice for IFOR troops to stop every civilian car. In fact, they are most intent, of course, in performing their duties and stopping military vehicles. So that may be one reason why, if this report is true, Karadzic could have gone through a checkpoint. He may not even have been seen by the soldiers in question.
I think we need to give the benefit of the doubt here to the soldiers who are doing their job so well in the field.
So, again, we are absolutely committed to support the Tribunal. We have just reaffirmed this over the weekend to Justice Goldstone.
I should say, Barry, in answer to your question, Justice Goldstone, I understand, after extensive discussions with us and with the Bosnian Government, stands by the rules of the road that have been issued today by the Bosnian Government -- is pleased by them -- and we think this does clarify a very difficult set of questions that arose last week.
Q (Inaudible) photos available?
MR. BURNS: The United States Government will be glad to, in concert with the War Crimes Tribunal, if necessary, because a great number of the troops are, of course, American troops there. So we'll be glad to be the conduit.
If the Tribunal would like to give the photographs directly to the military, that's fine by us too.
Q Nick, it's already been confirmed in Sarajevo that the Tribunal gave photos of l3 or l5 of them, and that doesn't seem to be the problem. The problem, as described by the spokesman of IFOR in Sarajevo, is that they are not distributing them; and they're doing it, it sounds like, intentionally because they say that if you tell a soldier, on one hand, that you're not here to hunt down indicted war criminals and, on the other, you give him a photograph which helps him to do that, that would send a confusing message to the soldiers.
So, in other words, it seems like it's a matter of policy by IFOR to avoid this.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't draw that conclusion; and I would not associate myself with that conclusion, with all due respect.
We believe that IFOR understands its responsibilities here. It is not a central mission, but it is certainly an obligation if they come across them.
Given that Karadzic and Mladic are important figures in the quest for justice in Bosnia, we think that if soldiers come across them they ought to be detained.
Q Is it now policy for the Muslim Government to detain a suspect long enough to check to see if that person is indicted or see that he might be suspected of being indicted? In other words, could this detainment situation continue?
And the second question: Now, what's the result? Do we have normal relations between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims in IFOR? Has it gone back to that situation? Are they still --
MR. BURNS: Two questions. I think I understand the two questions.
The first one I think I've answered, and I even quoted the language: "only pursuant to a previously issued order." That's a very strong, clear statement.
On the second --
Q Are they allowed to check that, to see if there an alarm?
MR. BURNS: No. I think those were the rules of the road that were followed that led to the detention of the individuals over the last ten days. The Bosnian Government is now saying that its actions will be in concert with -- that's my language, not in here but my language to describe it to you -- in concert with the International War Crimes Tribunal.
That is a change. It's different. And the statement that was issued this morning does not amend the Dayton Agreement; it's supplementary to it. We think it's consistent with the intention that is implicit in the Dayton Agreement.
On your second question, there is a very good piece in The New York Times this morning that I think answers your question. Mladic's order, which is in violation of the Dayton Accords, does not seem to be followed by his troops. In fact, Bosnian Serbs are going to meetings with IFOR troops. I understand there's an important meeting of the Joint Military Commission today.
I don't have a report on it, but we fully expected Bosnian Serbs to show up at that meeting. So it looks like Mr. Mladic is not issuing orders that are followed by all of the troops that are supposedly under his command, and that's a very good thing. That's a welcome turn of events.
We think the Bosnian Serbs ought to continue to cooperate with IFOR. It's essential to implement these Accords.
Q To follow, does the State Department feel that the sudden extradition of these two high-ranking officers to The Hague would then bring about any further problems with the Bosnian Serbs as far as communications are concerned?
MR. BURNS: We fully expect the Bosnian Serbs are going to abide by the Dayton Accords in all respects. When Secretary Christopher was in Belgrade, he made that clear to Mr. Milosevic -- that the human rights provisions of the Dayton Accords were of fundamental importance to the United States and that we continue to expect that they be adhered to.
Q As you say, Mladic may be giving orders that are not followed, but he does at least formally remain in command and some high Serb officials are claiming that he's very much the commander-in-chief of the Serb army. So we're compelled to ask you about your oft-quoted statement in November that this turn of events would have been inconceivable.
MR. BURNS: Yes. We said it would have been inconceivable. It's still inconceivable.
MR. BURNS: Yes. We said it would have been inconceivable. It's still inconceivable when we think about the Dayton Accords that have brought peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina and that hold the promise of a permanent peace.
As we look towards implementation of the accords, we still find it inconceivable that he should be the military leader of the Bosnian Serbs. We think he should step down. We think that other people should take over that responsibility, and we think his place is in The Hague. He belongs in The Hague. He should be tried for war crimes. He's an indicted conspirator for the massacres at Srebrenica and Zepa and for other massacres against civilians. That's where we think he belongs.
I don't want to back away at all from we said in October and November and December and January.
Q Are you surprised then that, for example, Radovan Karadzic is able to walk the streets of Banja and Luka and looking very much like a President? What is your feeling about these guys still being in their leadership position? Are you disappointed?
MR. BURNS: We're opposed to it. We think that Karadzic should also step down. He should not be free to walk the streets of Banja Luka. The people and local officials in Banja Luka, if they want to be true to the Dayton Accords, should detain him and turn him over to the War Crimes Tribunal.
I know this may seem more like a wish than reality, but I continue to believe, and all of us here in the government continue to believe, that their day will come. Sooner or later they are going to be detained and they are going to be tried by the War Crimes Tribunal. They're going to serve time because they're responsible for the massacres of thousands of people. That's going to be the ultimate justice that emerges here.
They may not be detained now. They may think they have free reign now. But they're going to pay for the crimes they committed against innocent people.
Q Is the State Department saying that Karadzic is walking the streets of Banja Luka?
MR. BURNS: I am just responding to a question --
Q I'm baffled. Once you get away from intercepting war crimes, what the role isn't -- that it isn't a central role -- I'm lost. There seems to be an absence of determination on the U.S. Government's part to certainly detain and turn over these two key people.
So, first, are they loose and about? Would they be hard to find or encounter? I forget what the passive word is you're using. Would GIs run into these folks if they happen to be on the same street? Do they walk about freely, operate pretty freely?
MR. BURNS: I don't think they've shown up in Sarajevo yet, Barry, but they certainly are in Serb areas of the region. They continue to assert control over the government and exert some political -- in the case of Mladic, obviously some military power. That's unfortunate. We're opposed to that. I think we've spelled out what we think should happen here.
Barry, I know where you're trying to lead me, too.
Q Sentries normally stop cars. You can't get into Andrews Air Force Base without having your press pass checked. But, Karadzic -- you don't want to stop every car. So all Karadzic is to sort of get down low. You give GIs an extremely passive role. Twenty-two old GIs carry a picture in their pocket of Karadzic. What are we talking about here?
Would you like the GIs to intercept these people, or would the State Department prefer that the governments there take on that role. Maybe that's the point -- that GIs should not be cops. Maybe that's what your point is.
But the central role, I understand -- the central role is to enforce the settlement. But how about a subsidiary role of arresting war criminals?
MR. BURNS: Okay. Let me try to answer the questions that I think are involved here, Barry, and let me just go over the ground once again.
We made a conscious, rational, and logical decision when IFOR was established -- we, in NATO -- that IFOR would not have as a central mission searching for war criminals through the hills over the next year.
The reason we made that decision is because we wanted to learn by some of the mistakes of recent history when American and other forces were deployed overseas in Somalia and in other places. It's referred to as "mission creep," and the Congress wouldn't have supported it. The fact is that our soldiers have a tough job. They have created a 600- mile zone of separation. They are policing that successfully.
Our soldiers have brought peace to Bosnia. They have brought now, we hope, a year of peace during which the parties can sort out of their problems. That mission is a very important mission. It's a daunting mission and very difficult to carry out. We've asked our soldiers to do that, and that's their central mission.
We've also said to them that while it's not your central mission, if you encounter these people -- I don't think it's a passive word -- encounter, see, find, if you see them in the course of your duties, detain them. We've got a lot of soldiers there. I don't think we can realistically expect that all of them will have implanted in their brains a perfect picture of who all these 52 people are.
Karadzic and Mladic are important, though, among the 52. I think it's certainly reasonable to expect that if Karadzic or Mladic wander into an area controlled by our troops, if they bump into our troops, our troops will detain them. That will help us achieve one of the major objectives of our operation there, which is justice after four and a half years of war, for those people who are primarily responsible for starting it and for wreaking the ravage that they did upon the countryside and upon the people.
So I think our position is clear. I do remain confident that over time these people can't hide.
It may be, if the report is true from this weekend, that Karadzic sped through some checkpoint; it may be that he wasn't stopped there. He won't be able to do that forever.
MR. BURNS: He won't be able to do that forever. Sooner or later he won't be able to hide. He will stumble into the arms of someone somewhere who will detain him and bring him to The Hague for prosecution.
MR. BURNS: For prosecution.
Q Nick, as you mentioned earlier, the Dayton Accords obligate the parties to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. Is there any evidence that the Croatian Government or the Serbian Government are using their influence in any way to bring the people -- the Croats and the Serbs who have been indicted -- to justice? And, if not, what is the U.S. Government's position on that? If you're not going to use your military power, are you going to use political leverage to try to get them to cooperate?
MR. BURNS: There's not a lot of evidence, sad to say, that they are cooperating. In fact, that was one of the major issues that Secretary Christopher addressed in Zagreb with President Tudjman and in Belgrade with Mr. Milosevic.
We do have some leverage here. Ultimately, the Croatians want to become part of Europe. They want to be integrated into European institutions. I don't think the United States and its European allies are going to look kindly upon that if, at the end of the day or during 1996, we don't see better cooperation by the Croatian Government with the War Crimes Tribunal.
In the case of Mr. Milosevic, he knows that the outer wall of sanctions is still erected, meaning that Serbia's admission into international organizations is in question and will not be granted until there is better cooperation.
The United States has also not established full diplomatic relations with the Serbian Government, in part because we haven't seen the type of cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal that we fully expect from the Dayton Accords. So there's an interest for us in pursuing this issue.
Secretary Christopher pursued it privately and he said so publicly during his recent trip, and we have some leverage here that the United States will be sure to put into play.
Q But at what point do you stop talking about your leverage and start to use it?
MR. BURNS: We are using the leverage. Serbia wants full diplomatic recognition by the United States. It's being denied that by the United States. Serbia wants us to do away with the outer wall of sanctions. We've kept them in place. That's leverage.
Q (Inaudible) Secretary Christopher saw Mr. Milosevic. Karadzic was reported to have visited Milosevic in Belgrade.
MR. BURNS: I saw the report. I can't confirm it, Roy. I don't know whether Karadzic was in Belgrade or not. It's something we'll certainly follow up on.
Q Is NATO capable, with its 60,000 troops and the world's greatest intelligence presence, as we've been assured by the Pentagon, of knowing and determining where Karadzic is at a given point and also Mladic?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Do we keep an eye on these guys.
MR. BURNS: We're not capable of that. We're not that good. Come on. No intelligence operation is that good. We can't know where people are every minute of every day. We try to know. We want to know where these guys are. We don't think they should be in positions of power; that they should step down. But I can't tell you, Roy, that we know where they are every minute of everyday.
Q Do we know in general where they are? Do we know if he went to Belgrade or not? Can we confirm things like that?
MR. BURNS: We assume that Karadzic is in Pale. Frankly, we're never sure where Mladic is. He just spoke out the other day for the first time in two months. He was in hiding. He was in seclusion. I don't know where he was hiding.
You know the terrain better than I do. It's a big region. It's wooded, and there are all sorts of places where these people could be hiding out. We don't know where they are all the time.
What they should know is that we're trying -- we're trying -- and they should know that the international community is going to look for them. They can't have a moment of peace, really, for the rest of their lives, until they are detained and prosecuted. They should know that. That should give them some pause.
Q IFOR has confirmed that Mladic hangs out for the most part in Han Pijesak, which is there major headquarters; that he was there the other day, apparently when Admiral Smith went there, but Admiral Smith was not admitted to the headquarters.
So in other words, I mean, they have a general idea, and the thing is, you know, if Karadzic is driving around Bosnia, do the NATO people not know what cars he uses and so on, I mean, so that -- we're not hunting him -- just to not let the guy slip through their hands again? I mean, are they taking any effort to make sure you don't have a repeat of the situation?
MR. BURNS: First of all, Roy, I don't want to just act as if this newspaper report is absolutely true. We're looking into it. We're trying to ascertain if it is true. I think you should give IFOR a break here. IFOR has a very, very difficult mission in Bosnia. They're performing exceedingly well. That was certainly the conclusion that Secretary Christopher came to when he visited some of the troops up in Tuzla. I think we ought to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are going to try very hard to fulfill this mission, which is not a central mission but which is certainly part of the responsibilities of our troops.
I don't know whether Mladic was in some town that Admiral Smith was in. I just don't know. I don't think you know either. These are all rumors; they're reports, and I can't act as if every one of them is true. But we're certainly doing our best, and we'll continue to do our best.
Anymore on Bosnia before we go to Bangladesh and Greece?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to go to Croatia.
Q Does the Administration support expanding the list of war criminals above the 52? I mean, the Bosnian Government must have a list of maybe hundreds of war crimes that they would like to present to The Hague and say, "These are all the people we'd want to arrest."
MR. BURNS: We absolutely support the efforts of the War Crimes Tribunal. That's the relevant body. If the War Crimes Tribunal issues further indictments which expand the list, we'll support the Tribunal, and we have every reason to believe that the Tribunal is in the process now of putting together another set of indictments. We expect them to come forward shortly.
Q Are they going to be looking at documents from the Bosnian Government then?
MR. BURNS: I would certainly hope so. The Bosnian Government certainly has information that it wants to give and has given to the Tribunal, and that's relevant information. We would hope the Serbian Government and the Croation Government would give information to the Tribunal. In the past, the record hasn't been perfect -- not anywhere near perfect on that score.
Q (Inaudible) your reading of the Bosnian Government statement earlier. I detect some disconnect here in what Holbrooke said after the meeting and what you read to us, because if I recall correctly, you said that the Bosnian Government will arrest people and deal with detainees consistent with the standards worked out by the Tribunal, but it doesn't say that they will only arrest people who have been indicted by the Tribunal. I want to make it clear whether -- if they stay within the standards, which could be just, you know, applying international law, whether they are still free to detain?
MR. BURNS: There's no possibility of Dick Holbrooke and I being inconsistent on this, at least with each other, because I know exactly what the statement says. He sent us this statement. Here's the statement right here. Dick sent it to us. We went through it with him on the phone. We think we know what it says. We think it's very clear, and I think the key passage here, Roy, is it's only pursuant to a previously issued order, warrant or indictment. That's very clear to us.
Q By whom?
MR. BURNS: By the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q But I thought -- could the Bosnian Government have issued an indictment and arrest somebody under its own indictment?
MR. BURNS: Let's just try to wrap this up by saying there was obviously a problem last week about everyone's understanding of the rules of the road -- by the parties, when it came to detentions and arrests and prosecutions of suspected war criminals.
As a result of Dick Holbrooke's trip, we believe that we have clarified that misunderstanding, and Justice Goldstone is pleased by this action on the part of the United States, and that is that the International War Crimes Tribunal is the relevant body here.
If the War Crimes Tribunal asks the Bosnian Government to detain someone on its behalf, then the Bosnian Government now says it will do so. The Bosnian Government will work in concert with the War Crimes Tribunal and only in concert with the warrants issued by the War Crimes Tribunal. That's a very important distinction, and we're glad it's been clarified.
Q (Inaudible) of the four individuals that they're still holding who have not been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: Yes. And what happens with those individuals, we'll just have to see what happens to those individuals.
Q (Inaudible) under their own indictment then. It can only be under a Tribunal indictment?
MR. BURNS: I'm referring to the language in paragraph 3. Have you not all seen this statement?
Q No --
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to make it available to you afterwards.
Q You may be clarifying rules of the road, but in some sense I think maybe it sounds as if you're denying the Bosnian Government the authority on its own to arrest somebody for a crime. Now, do you mean to do that?
MR. BURNS: Barry, all I can --
Q I mean -- period.
MR. BURNS: Good. Barry, good. We're making progress.
Q (Inaudible) I don't think you mean to.
MR. BURNS: We're making progress here. The problem that we had, that a lot of people had with the previous situation -- where the ten were taken prisoner -- is that that was done without any relevance to the International War Crimes Tribunal, without respect to any order or warrant or wishes of the Tribunal.
Now we have the Bosnian Government saying, "In our future actions, we will act according to the wishes and to the relevant warrants or indictments or orders of the War Crimes Tribunal." That's how we read this.
Q Is it likely that as a result of this that the Tribunal could now quite separately from its list of indicted war criminals come up with another list of people whom it suspects of being war criminals but does not have enough evidence to indict and that on the basis of that list the government --
MR. BURNS: Yes. In fact, there is an issue where this came up -- I think it was in December -- where the Tribunal asked the Dutch Government to detain an individual suspected of war crimes but not under indictment. That individual was detained by the Dutch Government, was questioned by the Tribunal. Unfortunately, the Serbian Government did not cooperate with the Tribunal in trying to gather the necessary evidence to indict, and the person had to be set free.
So, yes, there is a scenario whereby the War Crimes Tribunal might request the Bosnian Government or the Serbian Government or the Croatian Government to detain someone on suspicion, so that the person could then be questioned and then the decision by the Tribunal would either be indict, based on the examination, or to set the person free. So that is a scenario.
But, you see, that would occur in concert with the War Crimes Tribunal, at the request of the Tribunal; and, therefore, these rules of the road, to us, make sense. We think they're true to the spirit of the Dayton Accords, and they accomplish -- again, let's just wrap this up, I hope -- they accomplish two things: freedom of movement can be guaranteed for people who are not war criminals; and, second, justice will be done in the case of people who are under suspicion of being war criminals. I think we've done it, Roy.
Q (Inaudible) the paragraph one more time, because maybe I'm missing a word here. But, if I have it down, persons may be arrested or detained --
MR. BURNS: And detained.
Q and detained, pursuant to previously issued orders consistent with the standards of the War Crimes Tribunal, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Procedures will be developed for expeditious decision by the Tribunal and will be effective immediately upon such action. What I would recommend here --
Q (inaudible) that there has to be an indictment from the Tribunal.
MR. BURNS: Right. And we've just explained --
Q This would be their own indictment.
MR. BURNS: We've just explained -- I think Barry and Tom have made a helpful kind of -- asked some helpful questions here -- that there could be situations where the Tribunal asks a government, like the Bosnian Government, to detain even when someone has not been indicted. But that's been the case since the beginning of the Dayton Accords.
Q So it sounds like the Bosnian Government has its own indictment. So long as it's within the standards of the Tribunal, they can arrest somebody under their own indictment. That does not exclude it from that --
MR. BURNS: In concert with the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q That's your interpretation.
MR. BURNS: That's our understanding.
Q But it's not in the language.
MR. BURNS: Let's do this, so that we don't spend the next three hours on this question. Why don't you look at this. I'll give it to you after the briefing. If you have further questions, I'd be glad to respond to them.
Q Could I have one more go at Mladic and Karadzic? How concerned are you that they have such -- that they're taking on a high profile now?
MR. BURNS: We're opposed to their continued influence on the political and military situation. I think you know our position. I've stated it five times during the briefing.
Q I mean, how -- you know, how concerned are you that they have this profile? You're opposed, but how concerned are you?
MR. BURNS: Very. We're opposed to it and we're concerned by it.
Okay, are we moving on?
Q A clarification?
MR. BURNS: We've clarified -- I think we've clarified everything. I think we've satisfied you that we have the right policy here. Is that right, Barry? Are you satisfied, Barry?
Q I don't know. I don't have an opinion on your policy.
MR. BURNS: Okay. Well, I've got an opinion on it. I think we've got a good policy, and we're doing a good job, and Holbrooke deserves some congratulations for his performance over the weekend.
MR. BURNS: This is the final Bosnia question. I'm going to go on to Imia and Kardak.
Q So maybe I should put this ON BACKGROUND, but --
MR. BURNS: It's the only time I've ever wanted to go on to Imia and Kardak, by the way. (Laughter) I see Lambros here, and I can't wait to go at this question. It's been two weeks.
Q I'll waive this question for the record. Go!
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Bill. Thank you very much. You're merciful. Mr. Lambros. Oh, excuse me. One more.
Q Not on Bosnia, on Croatia. Croatian Defense Minister was here today. Do you have anything on his meetings?
MR. BURNS: No. He's meeting with various people in the Department, in the Department of Defense, and we saw him a week ago Friday with President Tudjman. He's someone with whom we consult regularly.
Q No, but he's today here. He had meetings.
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's right, he's here.
Q You don't have anything on those meetings?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a report on the meetings, no.
Q No, I really want -- a very basic, simple question. Under the Dayton Accords, does the United States have the authority to provide arms to the Bosnian army?
MR. BURNS: We committed as a result of the Dayton Accords to a program of equipping and training the Bosnian army. We expect to do that so long as all the foreign fighters are out of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Jim Pardew is sitting here in the Department of State, and he's organizing the program. He's made a trip to the region. We're working with the Turkish Government and other governments on this program.
Q And this was about the time where an announcement would be made which of two or three companies would oversee the arranging of training and equipping of the Bosnian army.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q I understand that hasn't happened yet --
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q -- but the mission seems to have been changing. According to reports you and I read while we were overseas, the Administration is thinking of providing weapons to the Bosnian army.
MR. BURNS: We were always thinking of doing that.
Q The United States providing U.S. weapons to the Bosnian army. This is under the Dayton Accords?
MR. BURNS: What we said at Dayton was that -- and we set up a timetable for this -- I think it -- D plus --
Q Not arranging for the weapons, not arranging for training and equipping, but turning over American weapons and also --
MR. BURNS: Oh, I see what you're asking.
Q -- canvassing Muslim countries again -- getting weapons for the Bosnian army.
MR. BURNS: What we've said is that we will coordinate and lead an international effort to equip and train the Bosnian military forces. Our objective here is to hopefully have an equilibrium, a military equilibrium of force, at the time that IFOR departs in roughly a year after their point of entry, which will be late next autumn.
Q (Inaudible) the U.S. does not want to be -- did not -- when all this testimony was going on before Congress -- the U.S. wasn't going to be identified as the supplier of weapons to the Bosnian army. If anything, it would be NATO that would be doing that.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's changed.
Q You don't -- because there was a nice long story about how the U.S. Government would turn over weapons -- Pardew is in charge of this and this is an imminent event.
MR. BURNS: We're going to coordinate, and we're going to lead an international effort. We expect that other countries -- Turkey and other allies of ours and friends will participate in this. It may be a case, Barry, that we're talking about the provision of excess defense articles --
Q That's what I'm talking about.
MR. BURNS: Uniforms, as opposed to heavy weapons. But, in any case, I think we've been clear that we're going to coordinate and lead. Other countries will participate. There will be this contract to a private organization here in the United States that will essentially pull this all together.
Q Can I --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q (Inaudible) change the Turkish from Kardak into Kardesh, because that means brother.
MR. BURNS: Is that acceptable to the Turkish journalist here?
Q Okay. The question is, according to high U.S. reliable sources, the Greek Government accepted the idea that the issue of the Greek island Imia should be addressed to the International Court of Justice, and the U.S. Government is very supportive to this effect.
I would like to know, number one, if the Greek Government notified the Department of State, and what is the reply; and number two, the Turkish Government accept the idea, too, and your reply to this effect.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, let me check that to see what the Greek Government has told us. It's been our view that it would be logical to have the International Court of Justice, in essence, be a place where this question can be addressed, where Greece and Turkey can work with the International Court of Justice to resolve the problem. That's our position.
I just don't know -- I've just come back today -- what we've heard specifically from the Greek and Turkish Governments as to that proposal.
Q The second question is, according to reliable sources, during the Imia crisis in the Aegean, Greek units of the Greek navy received orders not to fire against the Turkish commandos on their way during the Turkish invasion of the second island.
I would like to know if Mr. Holbrooke (inaudible) was aware of that; in the meantime, I'm still expecting an answer for so many days to my other question, if Mr. Holbrooke was aware of this second Turkish invasion.
MR. BURNS: The answer to both questions is I just don't know. I'm not in a position to know. Dick is in, I think, Bucharest now -- Dick Holbrooke. He, of course, is on a tour of Europe, and I just don't know what he knew at the time. He was involved in trying to resolve this. He was in many, many different phone calls. So the answer is I just don't know.
Q And the last question: According to the same sources, a part of the recent crisis in the Aegean was also an effort for the removal from the power of the Greek Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Christos Limberis -- L-i-m-b-e-r-i-s. I would like to know if Mr. Holbrooke was aware of that during the negotiations, if Admiral Limberis is finally going to leave his duties effective February 18.
MR. BURNS: I don't know. But let me just say I think Glyn Davies did an exceptionally good job on this last week, and I'd like to associate myself with anything that he said on this issue last week. (Laughter)
Q (Inaudible) some questions (inaudible) if you're aware.
MR. BURNS: I'm not -- are you aware of that -- last -- I think the answer is I don't know. I think it is. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay. I don't know.
Q Nick, it's a matter of fact, isn't it, that ten Turkish soldiers landed on the second island?
MR. BURNS: The question is --
Q What's the question about that?
MR. BURNS: The question is, was Ambassador Holbrooke aware of that while he was busy trying to resolve -- that was the question, Barry, and I just don't know. We can check with him out in Bucharest, but --
Q (Inaudible) do you know why, because the President was involved. The President was involved. Five Ministers, all the principals, as you say in the White House, and I cannot believe how the Turkish Government had the guts to invade the second island during the negotiations. So I would like to know if -- we need an explanation from the Department of State or somebody or from Mr. Holbrooke who was in charge. He was the chief negotiator on that evening. This is my question.
MR. BURNS: Right. I note the question. I will endeavor to do better next time, but I can't give you a good answer today.
Q On the same subject, another question. You suggest that to solve this kind of problem, to go to International Court of Justice. Yes, it's a good suggestion, but --
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Q -- this is not the only problem in Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. (Inaudible) look at the single by single, mini islands, or to territorial -- or whatever the ships -- Turkey and Greece has several subjects in the Aegean (inaudible) -- the territorial waters, the continental shelf and the air space. Do you suggest all this kind of subject has to go to the International Court or to sit and talk with each other in some kind of dialogue?
MR. BURNS: That's really up to the Turks and the Greeks.
Q But you are not saying that.
MR. BURNS: They are independent actors here. The International Court of Justice is a good venue to resolve a variety of problems between Greece and Turkey, not just the problem over Imia.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. (Laughter) Is that a good statement? We have the Turks and the Greeks agreeing with each other.
Q It is very important, because you're suggesting this issue should be addressed to the International Court of Justice, which is totally illogical, due to the point prior to the delimitation of the continental shelf, how?
MR. BURNS: I'm pleased that the Greek and Turkish journalists are agreeing that the International Court of Justice is a good venue. And in answer to your question, a variety of issues can be resolved there, we think, if Greece and Turkey are willing to put them on the table. It's up to them. We cannot dictate what issues go on the table. They have to make these sovereign decisions -- Greece and Turkey. I use the word "sovereign" expressly in your case, Lambros.
Any more on Greece and Turkey? We're out of that.
MR. BURNS: On Greece and Turkey?
Q What is it to --
MR. BURNS: One at a time.
Q It's very important. Every particular issue, it's a good idea should be addressed to the International Court of Justice or just this particular one?
MR. BURNS: We think certainly this one and any other issues between them that they choose to take to the Court of Justice. That's up to them. I think we've been clear about that.
MR. BURNS: It's up to Greece and Turkey. Absolutely.
[...]Q The allied forces and officials, they finished a meeting about "Provide Comfort." I believe it's the Turkish and U.S. officials at the same meeting. I heard that the Turkish side asked for some changes to "Provide Comfort." How do you see -- is the Turkish side request, is it acceptable for the United States?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a report on those particular meetings, so I'm going to have to take your question and get back to you on it. I'll be glad to do so.
Q On Northern Ireland, do you have any comment on the breakdown of the peace process -- the violence? And is the U.S. Government going to try to engage in some way to bring the parties together?
MR. BURNS: The President has spoken out on this. He issued a statement Friday night; the State Department issued a statement. Senator Mitchell has been, of course, commenting on this.
The United States certainly hopes that the peace process will not be derailed by this vicious act of terrorism. Our major objective right now is to see the cease-fire returned. It's to see a new commitment to the cease-fire by the IRA and all other parties.
The people of Northern Ireland are speaking very clearly. There was a large demonstration today by Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, and those people spoke clearly. They want peace. They don't want terrorists to deny the people of Northern Ireland their opportunity to have peace. It was a very eloquent statement made by the thousands of people who assembled today -- again, both Catholics and Protestants together.
So that's what the United States stands for. We're going to continue to press as hard as we can for a resumption of the cease-fire, for an end to the violence that has terrorized that country for so long.
Q Nick, do you think that Gerry Adams is the person that the United States Government needs to be dealing with? Or does this indicate that maybe there are other people who are the ones who have to speak for the IRA?
MR. BURNS: We're dealing with a variety of people on both sides. Mr. Trimble is in Washington today. He's having meetings with Administration officials. I know he met Senator Mitchell. I'm sure we'll continue to deal with Mr. Adams. I understand he may have something to say in a few days. In fact, just as I was coming out here, he was making some kind of statement in Belfast.
But I think our message to everybody concerned is, end the violence, return the cease-fire, and give people a chance that they clearly want for peace. The people of Northern Ireland are speaking on both sides -- Protestants and Catholics together. That's very impressive.
The political leaders and the leaders of the IRA ought to listen to the people of Northern Ireland.
Q One of the problems seems to be Mr. Major's suggestion to hold early elections in Northern Ireland. Do you share the concern that perhaps this derailed the process?
MR. BURNS: I think that the IRA is totally and solely responsible for their act of terrorism on Friday night that wounded so many people. I don't think there should be any excuse for an act of terrorism. Certainly, the responsibility should not be pinned on the United Kingdom, a close ally of the United States, which has acted in good faith in this process.
Q Nick, would this Administration reconsider its past actions of allowing Gerry Adams a visa to come to this country, and also for fund-raising to continue?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any such reconsideration right now. I think that we are putting our efforts, as I said, on the imperative of a return of the cease-fire. That's our message to all the leaders of the area -- private message and public message.
Q So it's all right if the IRA raises funds in this country, even after --
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm just simply limiting myself.
Q It's something to be considered.
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any effort to do so; I'm not aware of any effort to do so. But we want to see the cease-fire return.
Q Are you aware of any action at all directed at the IRA, except to plea for conciliation and goodwill?
MR. BURNS: By the United States Government?
MR. BURNS: I'm certainly aware of the very strong, forceful statement that the President issued the other night; and I think that expresses perfectly well -- perfectly well -- the views of the United States Government.
Q (Inaudible) trying to bring the parties together -- among them, Congressman Peter King. Are you aware of these efforts by these people? Do you support them?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that both the Department and the White House are aware of the variety of efforts.
I just want to limit myself to this: We support a return to the cease-fire. That is the objective now, in the wake of this vicious bombing.
(The briefing concluded at 2:ll p.m.)