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U.S. Department of State 96/04/30 Daily Press Briefing
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U.S. State Department Directory
U.S. Department of State
96/04/30 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Tuesday, April 30, 1996
Briefers: Nicholas Burns, S/CT Amb. Phil Wilcox
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 1996, 12:49 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
First, I'd like to welcome two distinguished visitors from Guatemala: Mr. Mauricio Barrera and Mr. Haroldo Shetemul. You're most welcome.
Mr. Barrera is General Director of a business-oriented newspaper -- a daily -- in Guatemala; and Mr. Shetemul is the Assistant Director of a weekly magazine. They're here on a USIA program to receive an overview of the press in the United States. So you'll see the American press corps in action today. Welcome.
Secondly, I just wanted to let all of you who did not know that Secretary Christopher addressed the AIPAC meeting today at 12:30 at the Washington Hilton. His remarks will be available to you shortly. He is being honored by AIPAC today for his efforts to bring a comprehensive peace agreement to the Middle East. On the part of someone who accompanied him last week and saw what he did and saw his tireless efforts on behalf of peace in Lebanon, I think it's richly deserved.
The Secretary is going to be heading over to the White House for the ceremony in just about a half hour in the Rose Garden and for the meeting between President Clinton and Prime Minister Peres.
I also wanted to announce that Secretary Christopher will be traveling to Mexico City on May 6-7 -- that's next Monday and Tuesday. He's going to lead a high-level U.S. delegation to Mexico for the 13th U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission meeting.
As you know, the United States has a critical interest in developments in Mexico. We have a unique and extremely important relationship with Mexico. The Binational Commission is one of our best tools for advancing our common interest with Mexico.
The meeting this year provides an oPortunity to strengthen our relationship with Mexico and improve the quality of life on both sides of our 2,000-mile border.
There will be an unprecedented number of Cabinet-level officials who will accompany Secretary Christopher -- Secretary Christopher being the Chair of the U.S. delegation. There will be 15 working groups between the United States and Mexico over two days. They'll cover every aspect of the U.S.-Mexican relationship, including trade and investment issues, legal affairs, anti-narcotics cooperation, environment and natural resources, migration and consular affairs, science and technology, and border cooperation. This year, health and energy have been added as new working groups.
As you know -- perhaps you don't know -- the Binational Commission grew out of a forum created by President Carter and by the Mexican President, Lopez Portillo, in 1978. It was formally established by President Reagan and President Lopez Portillo in 1981.
There's a sign-up sheet in the Press Office for all of you who would like to accompany the Secretary to this meeting. That sign-up sheet closes on Thursday after the briefing.
Finally, I just wanted to let you know that we have issued today a statement, just a couple of hours ago, about what we understand to be a flotilla of Cuban-American groups that will be travelling to international waters close to Cuba tomorrow on May 1. I would encourage you to read this statement. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to take that in the normal part of the briefing.
What we'll do now is, I'd like to turn the podium over to Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox. As you know, he's the U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He has been in that position since 1994. He is one of our most distinguished Foreign Service officers, one of our most distinguished diplomats. He's had a number of very challenging assignments in his career all over the world and here in the Department. He will brief you on the Department's annual report to Congress on "Patterns of Global Terrorism in 1995."
As you know, this report is Congressionally mandated. The Department is required to provide Congress with assessments of foreign countries where significant terrorist acts occurred, as well as on those countries that are on the State Department's terrorism list.
The Department has been producing this report for over 15 years, and this latest report covers the calendar year 1995.
Following Ambassador Wilcox's presentation, he'll be glad to take questions from you. When he is finished, we'll have a 10-minute adjournment, and then I'll come back and we'll resume the Daily Briefing on all other issues of interest to you.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Thank you, Nick. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
As you know, "Patterns of Global Terrorism" is published annually by Congressional mandate. You will be glad to know that it will be available this year on the Internet; the Internet address will be posted in the Press Office.
As President Clinton said when he signed the new Counterterrorism Act last week, combatting terrorism, both domestic and international, is a critical priority for this Administration. Although terrorism kills or injures relatively few people compared to other forms of violence, it inflicts an extraordinary psychological, political, and economic toll. It's random quality, the fact that it strikes without warning, the fact that it preys upon innocent victims, gives it a particularly evil quality. It increases our collective sense of fear and vulnerability. That's why we pay so much attention to it.
Terrorism is also a powerful, yet low-cost political weapon. It's also used for strategic purposes -- to bring down governments, to foment revolution, to reverse historical initiatives like the Arab-Israeli peace process, and to turn back political, social and economic change.
Historically, terrorists have failed to achieve such strategic goals. Although they often proclaim to be revolutionaries, today, they're most often in the rear guard rather than the vanguard.
They're predominantly reactionary and anti-democratic. In the court of world opinion, they and their causes are increasingly on the defensive, and that's where we want to keep them.
But the damage they inflict -- for example, the threat they pose to the Arab-Israeli peace process -- shows that terrorism still has strategic potential. We pay a great deal of attention to it, therefore, as a foreign policy priority.
Democratic open societies likes ours are especially vulnerable to terrorism. We have exposed infrastructures on which we are very dependent, and terrorists are increasingly mobile and technically sophisticated. That makes us all the more vulnerable.
The poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway last year are a clear warning that terrorists also may use materials of mass destruction. This is a new and ominous dimension of terrorism. We're taking measures to guard the United States against this, as are other governments.
Recognizing the threat posed by international terrorism to our foreign policy interests, the Clinton Administration has intensified our foreign policy efforts in this area. The new Counterterrorism Act, for example, which the President signed last week, strengthens our ability in many ways to deal with international, as well as domestic terrorism.
The major planks of our counterterrorism policy are spelled out in "Patterns," but let me review them because they're important.
We don't surrender to terrorist blackmail. We don't make deals. We treat terrorists as criminals, and we pursue them aggressively wherever they are, using extradition treaties and international treaties to the maximum.
We work to condemn and isolate state sponsors of terrorism. We work to strengthen our cooperation with other governments through diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence cooperation, training, cooperation in research and development, in document security, and in many other areas. We also go after fund-raising for overseas terrorists in the United States.
These policies, I'm pleased to say, are producing results. Active diplomacy, for example, and intensive investigation and good intelligence won the U.S. custody of almost all of the suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and three members of his gang, who are suspected for that crime, as well as for a plot to blow up U.S. civilian aircraft in the Pacific, were all brought into U.S. custody in 1995 as a result of very intensive U.S. efforts and close cooperation from foreign governments.
More and more nations like ours are treating terrorism as a pure crime which cannot be condoned or excused for political reasons. International cooperation is accelerating. There are lots of signs to this in 1995.
The P-8, which is an extension of the old Group of Seven, held a ministerial counterterrorism conference in Ottawa in December. That grew out of the Halifax summit last year.
There was a conference on terrorism in Buenos Aires last year which was the predecessor to a conference last week, to which I led the U.S. delegation on terrorism in Lima, Peru. The Guatemalan Government was an active participant in that conference. There is a growing consciousness and willingness to cooperate among the states of our hemisphere.
There's also a willingness on the part of the U.N. and other regional bodies to work together to condemn terrorism unambiguously. This is quite a change from a decade ago when there was a lot of ambivalence about terrorism for political reasons.
Let me turn to the statistics for 1995 and make a few comments. They're ambiguous. But the long-term trend toward a reduction in international terrorism continues. The peak year for international terrorist acts was in the mid-Eighties. Such acts have declined by roughly half since then.
Deaths in 1995 from international terrorism were about half the 1994 toll -- 165 versus 314. The number of wounded, however, soared because of the attack on the Tokyo subway. The number of Americans rose from four to 12. Attacks on U.S. Government and military personnel declined. There were 39 in 1995 versus 200 in 1986. This speaks well for the intensive security efforts that we have made abroad.
Aircraft hijacking has declined tremendously thanks to much stronger civil aviation security measures.
On the downside, terrorist attacks against businesses around the world have remained about steady. They continue to bear the main brunt of international terrorist attacks.
The attacks against all American targets rose slightly -- 99 compared to 66 in 1994. Yet, there were 187, by comparison, in 1987.
As in most previous years, some of the most devastating attacks took place in the Middle East. The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad intensified their terrorist attacks -- bombing attacks -- in Israel, killing 45. These suicide bombing attacks multiplied in early 1996.
As you know, an Israeli extremist also assassinated prime Minister Rabin.
Terrorism by states we've designated as sponsors of terrorism also continued to decline because of international pressure and unilateral and international sanctions.
Iran, however, is the exception. Iran assassinated seven dissident Iranian politicians, or dissident figures in 1995 compared to four in 1994. Iran continued its policy of giving material, logistic, and financial suPort to the rejectionist groups which are committing terrorism against the Israeli-Arab peace process.
Libya also continues to defy the mandates of the U.N. Security Council resolutions which oblige Libya to turn over the suspects for the Pan Am 103 bombing to the U.K. or the U.N.
Before taking questions, I want to stress an important point about counterterrorism. Defeating terrorists depends not only on good law enforcement, good intelligence collection, and professional counterterrorism efforts. It depends, to a great extent, also on a strong overall U.S. foreign policy and ample resources to suPort that policy.
Not always but often, terrorism arises from political, social and economic conflicts. These are often the breeding grounds for some of the most venomous and dangerous terrorist movements, and we in this country have led the way since World War II in helping resolve such conflicts and by mobilizing other nations to help us in that effort.
Our effort in conflict resolution and the cooperation we need from foreign governments requires resources, and our leadership depends upon our willingness to continue investing in conflict resolution and in such areas as economic development, population control and environmental protection.
Our spending in this country on international affairs has been cut by about 51 percent in real terms in the last decade, and we're now at the point where we're beginning to live off invested capital to maintain our leadership. If this trend continues, I'm concerned that our counter-terrorism interests, like many other U.S. interests in the world, are bound to suffer.
I'd be pleased to take your questions.
Q You know that Iran has continued to give material and financial suPort to terrorists. You didn't mention Hizbollah, but you mentioned those who have targeted Israel and the peace process. To what extent is that aid still channeled through Damascus?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: The Government of Syria still permits the Hizbollah to import weapons through Damascus, and, as you've said, Iran is the principal sponsor of Hizbollah terrorist activities. Our view is that all of the Hizbollah terrorist acts overseas, have been committed with the guidance and suPort of Iran.
Q (inaudible) you're saying that Damascus has taken some steps to restrain international terrorist groups. What kind of steps are you referring to exactly?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Last week, as you know, after seven days of difficult negotiations, Secretary Christopher was able to achieve an agreement among Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, in which the previous undertakings have been renewed and strengthened to prevent Hizbollah attacks across the border against Israeli citizens as one of the main features of that agreement.
That is an example of the efforts that Syria has made to restrain terrorist acts in south Lebanon.
Q Can I follow up? In the course of this last year, has Syria done anything to restrain the PKK?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: That's a point of real concern for us, because the PKK, like the Palestinian rejectionist organizations, continue to be allowed to maintain a presence and offices within Syria.
Q Ambassador, with all due respect, the example you gave haPened last week, whereas this report is, of course, on '95. Can you give us any examples of what steps Syria has taken in '95 to restrain the international activities of these groups?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I can say that Syria, in general, did take some steps to restrain the activities of all of these groups in southern Lebanon. Nevertheless, the fact that the Government of Syria still permits these groups to maintain a presence in Damascus -- groups which are committing terrorist attacks inside Israel -- is a very serious problem. It is one that we have raised repeatedly with the Government of Syria and which we hope will be resolved.
Q On your policy, the third point about bringing maximum pressure on states that sponsor and suPort terrorists and treating them -- imposing economic, diplomatic and political sanctions -- how does that jibe with U.S. policy towards Syria? We have continual contacts with them for good, pragmatic reasons, but it seems to be inconsistent with that third point.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: It's really not inconsistent. The policy of sanctioning unilaterally and urging multilateral sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism is not inconsistent with maintaining relations with these countries. We do have diplomatic relations with Syria, and those are very important, and we have used those diplomatic relations to good effect to work with the Government of Syria to urge it into a full participation in the peace process. So maintaining diplomatic relations and contacts with Syria is not at all inconsistent with the efforts that we have made through sanctions and to persuade Syria to desist from its suPort for these terrorist groups.
Q Could you give me an example of any economic, diplomatic or political pressure or sanctions that the United States has brought on Syria?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Yes. Under the law, under which we designate formally governments which are responsible for a sustained pattern of suPort for terrorism, we withhold various kinds of trade, and there are very severe limits on the kinds of items that the U.S. companies can export to countries which are on the state sponsor list.
Q Such as?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Any kind of weapons which could -- or dual-use materials that could contribute in any way to the suPort of terrorism.
Q Are they denied assistance as well if you (inaudible).
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Yes, they are. They do not receive economic assistance from the U.S. or other economic benefits.
Q What about the nuclear reactor project for North Korea?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: That is not proscribed by the law, and that is a very constructive effort to move North Korea away from a policy of developing nuclear fuel producing power plants, toward more benign forms of nuclear power.
Q Last question. I'm a bit mystified that Afghanistan is not on the list of countries that sponsor international terrorism. It seems to have a far worse record than some of the countries that are on the list.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Afghanistan, indeed, has a very poor record. Afghanistan, however, is not controlled by any government. There is a government in Kabul, but its sway does not extend far beyond the city of Kabul. Much of the terrorist activity which issues from Afghanistan comes from training camps throughout Afghanistan territory which are run by various warlords. While we have urged the Rabbani authorities in Kabul to do everything they can to use their influence to stop these activities, we recognize that it is a country that is effectively without a real government.
Q Back on the point of dealing with terrorist groups, leaving aside the question of Syria and also Iran, which was quite closely involved in negotiations last week, how do you -- can you assert that point when the deal that the Secretary brokered involves Hizbollah, a group that you name in your report as a terrorist group?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: The United States, as I said, does not foreswear contact with groups who may have some association with terrorism. In some cases, we have maintained these contacts because it's necessary to reduce the threats of terrorism, and the Secretary's negotiations in the Middle East last week were a very good example of that, and the result, I think, was a very good example of positive, energetic diplomacy which reduces an overall terrorist threat.
Q Don't those types of negotiations tend to bring this -- legitimize this group's activities --
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: No.
Q -- as legitimate resistance, which they claim?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Certainly not. We've done nothing at all to legitimize their activities, and we've been unqualified in condemning their attacks against civilians.
Q But you still deal with them?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We deal with them indirectly, and we expect those who have influence and control over them to use that influence.
Q This is Chung-soo Lee of Korean Broadcasting System. Your report said that the list -- in the terrorism countries list -- the list is sent annually to Congress, although countries can be added or removed at any time (inaudible) warrant. If so, if North Korea, as you say, give up the nuclear weapons development and accepts the four-party meetings and ease the tension at the DMZ and the deployment of forces backward, can you remove North Korea from the terrorism list before the next year's annual report?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We can remove a country from the terrorism list at any time. There are various conditions which a country has to fulfill before it can be removed from the list. It has to demonstrate by act -- by word and act that it has thoroughly renounced any kind of suPort for terrorism, and we hope that all seven countries on the list will do so, including North Korea.
Q So North Korea, you said -- North Korea still suPorts Rabbani. If they stop suPort for Rabbani, do you think U.S. is more willing to be (inaudible) of North Korea?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: In the 1970s and '80s, North Korea had a very serious record of committing very serious acts of international terrorism. North Korea has made statements, indicating that it no longer does suPort terrorism, but those statements would have to be matched by deeds. For example, a commitment to joining other countries in condemning terrorism and in other kinds of actions which would establish clearly that they have abandoned this policy.
I can't predict what precise combination of efforts by North Korea would be necessary, but, as I said, we hope very much that North Korea will move in that direction.
Q I am struck by your remarks that to get off the terrorism list, a country has to thoroughly renounce any suPort for terrorism. It says in the report here that there continue to be credible reports in 1995 of official Pakistani suPort to militants fighting in Kashmir, some of whom engage in terrorism. Can you sort of square the conditions that a country has to meet to get off the list to the conditions that -- you've aParently a separate set of criteria that you aPly to deciding whether a country should get on the list in the first place?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: No, the criteria are the same. There has to be a sustained record of suPort for terrorist activities before we designate a country and doing so is a very serious act, and so we look at the information carefully before we take those steps. We have been concerned about evidence of Pakistani suPort for terrorism.
On the other hand, the Government of Pakistan was extraordinarily helpful to the United States last year in a major anti-terrorist effort -- the arrest and extradition of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the leader of the World Trade Center, gang.
Q A year ago, or two years ago, perhaps, we considered putting Pakistan on the list of terrorist suPorting nations, state sponsors of terrorism, precisely because of its official suPort to militants fighting in Kashmir, some of whom engage in terrorism.
For two years now you've said that there continue to be credible reports of such official suPort, and I'm kind of curious to know why you've decided not to pay more attention to them.
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We pay a lot of attention to it, but there has to be a substantial body of evidence that is sustained before we will take that very important act, and we have not discerned that evidence exists in the case of Pakistan.
MR. BURNS: We'll take three more questions, starting with Charlie.
Q Ambassador Wilcox, can you address the link, if any, that you found between Ramzi Yousef and the people arrested in state-sponsored terrorism?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Obviously, we have looked very, very carefully and pursued all possible clues that there might be some state sponsorship behind the World Trade Center bombing. We have found no such evidence, in spite of an exhaustive search, that any state was responsible for that crime. Our information indicates that Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and his gang were a group of freelance terrorists, many of whom were trained in Afghanistan, who came from various nations but who did not rely on suPort or guidance from any state.
Q Ambassador, Turkey, one of the NATO allies -- Greece give permission to some PKK front organization to open an office in Athens. Also, they give another permission to (inaudible). Do you contact with the Government of Greece on this subject? Do you raise your concern on this subject?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: We have very close relations with the Governments of both Greece and Turkey, as you know, and counterterrorism is very high on our agenda with both governments.
Q Have you seen any evidence -- in fairly recent time -- of Iran or its surrogates targeting Americans or American interests, particularly say, in this country or in Europe outside the Middle East region?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I can't get into specific intelligence reports, but there is continued concern about Iran's terrorist activities and its capability of launching terrorist attacks around the world.
Q I guess without going necessarily into specific reports, you talk about Iran's attack against its dissidents and others. I think the question really goes to what degree do they seem to, in fact, be acting on the anti-American rhetoric with, indeed, actions to suPort folks or suPly weapons to those who may be attacking American targets, or to what degree is it rhetoric?
AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I think Iran has various motives, and certainly the anti-American animus is one of these, but it has various other motives -- the desire for hegemony in the region, a fundamental oPosition to the Arab-Israeli peace process. So it's not all the product of anti-Americanism.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(Ambassador Wilcox concluded his briefing at 1:21 p.m. After a short recess, Mr. Burns convened his briefing at 1:45 p.m.)
MR. BURNS: Welcome back to the State Department briefing. George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q I have no questions.
MR. BURNS: The Associated Press doesn't have any questions. Does that mean we just forget about it and call it a day?
MR. BURNS: Fine with me.
Q Not so fast. Not so fast.
MR. BURNS: There are other questions. Jim, let me go to you.
Q We've been looking at Bosnia and the fact that there have been clashes -- two Muslims killed when they were attacked by a Serbian mob, aParently while French IFOR troops looked on unwilling or unable to act.
Are you doing anything about that? Is the United States Government doing anything about that?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we've paid a lot of attention to the incident yesterday. The United States condemns the violence yesterday. That violence concerned the attempt by Muslim refugees to return to -- in separate instances -- to Doboj and Sarajevo. We certainly call upon all the parties to adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Dayton Accords. It's the only way to avoid bloodshed.
I know that we have been in contact with IFOR. IFOR reports that other potential confrontations along these lines were avoided due to the intervention of IFOR troops. It's the responsibility of the parties to ensure freedom of movement on their territories and to ensure the security of groups such as the refugees who were involved in these incidents.
At the same time, all the parties must make sure that they work and cooperate with IFOR and with the civil implementation authorities, including the international police training force, to avoid future confrontations.
Today, the United States Ambassador to Bosnia, John Menzies, met with both Republika Srpska officials and with the Bosnian Government to insist upon their assistance in avoiding these kinds of clashes in the future.
Ambassador Menzies expressed to them our suPort for the UNHCR and the High Representative Carl Bildt, both of whom wish to prevent violence and preserve the freedom of movement which is really one of the most fundamental rights given to people as a result of the Dayton Accords.
Q Is there any thought of giving these French troops who claim that they did not have anti-crowd control -- or crowd-control equipment -- is that to be added to the IFOR arsenal?
MR. BURNS: I know that IFOR is looking into yesterday's incidents, trying to determine what could have been done differently not only by IFOR but by the civil implementation people. If there are changes that need to be made, I'm sure that IFOR will consider them. But I don't have any immediate answers for you today.
I would put the onus for these incidents on the parties that provoke the violence.
Q Mr. Burns, (inaudible) said that the French soldiers could have done more.
MR. BURNS: It's really not my job to stand here and to judge French soldiers when I wasn't there. I think that the prudent thing to do is to have IFOR conduct its own review of what haPened and then leave it up to IFOR to determine which steps should be taken in order to prevent such incidents in the future. We clearly do not want to see a repetition of what haPened yesterday. That was the message that Ambassador Menzies gave very clearly to the Serb officials and to the Bosnian Serb officials and to the Bosnian Government.
Q What is the Bosnian Government's responsibility in that issue?
MR. BURNS: The Bosnian Government's responsibility is commensurate with that of the Bosnian Serbs, and that is to adhere to the Dayton Accords, to make sure that they are acting in every way consistent with the Dayton Accords, especially on this important principle of freedom of movement.
Q Does this mean that they have to prevent the people to even go to visit cemeteries?
MR. BURNS: People have a right to visit cemeteries. People have a right to return to the places where they may have lost their homes. People have a right to move freely in the territory of Bosnia- Herzegovina. That is a very important principle which we will defend.
Obviously, the parties that have a local authority in those areas have the primary responsibility to make sure that refugees are protected, even if they come from a different ethnic group; they are protected when they want to return to those areas. We're not arguing about that at all.
What we're trying to do today is call upon all the parties concerned to reaffirm their commitment to the Dayton Accords.
Q A last one. You said it was an incident that (inaudible) thanked citizens for a human shield. It means that it is official policy from Pale authorities or --
MR. BURNS: The Pale authorities have a lot to answer for. In many respects, over the last couple of months they have not lived up to the Dayton accords. We continually remind them of that when we see evidence that they are not acting in a fashion consistent with the Dayton accords. Today was an example of that when Ambassador Menzies contacted authorities in Pale to remind them of how they fell down on their own responsibilities yesterday.
Still on Bosnia?
Q Yes. Who did he contact, by the way? Who does the U.S. consider the --
MR. BURNS: He met with high-ranking officials of both the Republic of Srpska and of the Bosnian Government. I don't want to say which officials. I can assure you that it was not Mr. Karadzic. We don't deal with him. He's an indicted war criminal.
Q As long as we're talking about Bosnia, I want to give you a chance to update us on the number of foreign fighters still there, perhaps with numbers, lowered -- who knows --
MR. BURNS: Our best intelligence tells us that the number of Iranians present in Bosnia is quite low. As you remember, at the time of the Dayton accords -- November 21 -- the estimates ranged from 800 to 2,000. It was a very general range. Since that time, there has been a movement of Iranians out of Bosnia at the insistence of the United States and of the Bosnian Government subsequently.
We believe that there are still some Iranians who remain but not many at all.
Q Well, recently --
MR. BURNS: I don't have a number for you, though, Charlie.
Q Maybe a month ago it's been aProximately 100 or so. Is it still at that level?
MR. BURNS: I'd rather check with both our military officials there and our Embassy before I gave you a number. But I know there was some conversation about this last week. When we were in the Middle East, we had some reports on this issue, and we're pretty sure that the numbers are quite small.
But, nevertheless, we think it's important that all of them who cannot claim Bosnian citizenship -- not claim Bosnian citizenship -- ought to leave.
Q One more on Bosnia. Could at least -- just remind us -- under the Dayton accords, is it IFOR or the civilian police who are suPosed to enforce that freedom of movement at this point in the agreement?
MR. BURNS: In this type of incident, the parties primarily responsible for enforcing freedom of movement are the local authorities themselves -- the Bosnian Government authorities and the Republic of Srpska authorities. They have primary responsibility. It's their agreement.
The local police officials would have purview over this kind of incident. IFOR troops would not have this as their central responsibility. I think to give IFOR its due, IFOR has already created the conditions that have allowed for whatever freedom of movement there is.
Now it's up to the parties and the civilian police officials to see if that can be broadened.
Q Could you tell us what you know about a firefight involving U.S. Marines in Monrovia at the U.S. Embassy there, and was Moose at all in the area when this incident haPened?
MR. BURNS: Yes, in fact, we were on our break after Ambassador Wilcox briefed. We received some late-breaking information on this, Betsy.
First of all, unfortunately the April 19 cease-fire agreement has been broken. There has been considerable amount of fighting. This is a very serious violation of the cease-fire, and the United States is quite concerned about it.
This morning there were three separate attacks on the United States Embassy in Monrovia. The Embassy has been the target of hostile fire on three separate occasions by unknown assailants. I can tell you that the United States Marines, whose responsibility it is to protect the United States Embassy and our diplomats there, responded to the fire in two of the three incidents. In those two incidents in which the Marines returned fire, we believe that three of the attackers -- Liberian attackers -- were killed and one was wounded.
In the first incident, one of the Marines was grazed by a bullet. He was not seriously injured. He did not require medical attention, and he continued with his duties.
This is a very grave incident, and we call upon all parties -- all factions, all militia members -- in Monrovia not only to cease and desist fighting in general but to be very careful not to attack Americans and not to attack the United States Embassy.
As you know, we've had several diplomatic missions underway. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bill Twaddell was in Monrovia last week with a high-level U.S. diplomatic mission. On April 26, Assistant Secretary of State George Moose and the Presidential Envoy Dane Smith convened a meeting of the international community in Geneva to see if the United States and others could help lead the way towards better, more effective international suPort for Liberia.
Assistant Secretary George Moose is in Monrovia today. In fact, he's in the American Embassy, and he will continue his efforts to try to use the influence of the United States, working with a number of other countries, working with the factions in Liberia, to try to calm the situation and to restore a considerable amount of international suPort for Liberia.
You know that we have in effect issued a challenge grant to the West African peacekeeping force; if they can prove to us and the rest of the international community that they can be an effective fighting force -- an effective force for peace, I should say, in Liberia, then we will come to their assistance with badly needed financial aid and with other assistance.
We've had conversations with West African officials, including the Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings, just recently about this. So there's a lot of diplomatic activity, and unfortunately in the streets of Monrovia today some fighting.
Q Was there any indication that Moose was the target of these attacks?
MR. BURNS: We have no way of knowing that. I don't believe that any of these groups have claimed credit for this. We don't know who these assailants are. Obviously, they're among the many militia who are in action in Monrovia. But I'll tell you this: The United States will take steps to defend our Embassy and to defend our diplomats, and we've done so today quite effectively.
We think that they were random. We don't believe that this represents any kind of a concerted attempt to challenge the position of the United States. In fact, we believe that we're playing a quite beneficial role in the situation as it exists.
Q Nick, you may have said this and I missed it. Did they actually penetrate the Embassy grounds, or --
MR. BURNS: They did not. These were simply individuals who foolishly decided to fire on the U.S. Embassy. That fire was returned.
Q But Moose was in the Embassy at the time?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Moose has been in the Embassy most of the day.
Q So he was in the Embassy at the time that it was attacked?
MR. BURNS: There were three separate clashes this morning, and I'm told that he was in the Embassy for most of the day. I don't know, Sid -- since I don't have perfect knowledge -- whether he was there during the entire period of time.
Q How many Liberians have been killed?
MR. BURNS: Three killed and one wounded, as best we can tell. Obviously, I don't think there's any way that we can have a complete list of the Liberian casualties.
Q Was this a drive-by?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it was drive-by or whether they were on foot. I just don't know. We can look into that for you, George. That's a fair question.
Q Just one American --
MR. BURNS: One Marine was grazed. He was not seriously injured, and, as I understand, he did not even require medical attention from a physician or a nurse.
Q Nick, is there any thought to bringing Moose out of there?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Moose is going to continue with his diplomatic mission. We're not going to be deterred by this type of violence. He has an important mission, and that is to try to use the influence of the United States for good. We've been a force for good over the course of the last month. We intend to continue our diplomatic activity.
Q Can we call a filing break?
MR. BURNS: Yes, a filing break has been called by CBS and by AP, and we'll go on with the briefing.
Q Could I ask, Nick, the status of -- tomorrow is May 1, and there's a big parade planned in Havana, and I wonder in that regard what the status is of plans to implement the Helms-Burton Act?
MR. BURNS: David, I can tell you that the Administration will abide by the terms of the Helms-Burton Act. President Clinton signed that into law. That was as a result, I think, of perhaps an unprecedented degree of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill in the wake of the outrageous and illegal attack on American citizens -- the downing of two aircraft -- on February 24.
Since then, we have been working in the Administration to develop guidelines that would allow us to put all the terms of the Helms-Burton bill into effect. I can't tell you that it will magically begin on May 1, but I do want to point you to something else that has occurred, and that is that the State Department -- we released a statement this morning a couple of hours ago about the preparations for a Cuban- American flotilla to aProach international waters off the coast of Cuba tomorrow on May 1.
This morning's statement certainly discussed the potential dangers of these activities, and the Department of State -- the United States Government urges all concerned -- the organizers and the participants in the flotilla and any aircraft that may be associated with it, as well as the Cuban Government -- and I want to put a lot of emphasis there -- to exercise restraint in handling this event and to avoid unnecessary risks to themselves or to others, and to do everything possible to insure the safety of lives.
We are talking to the Cuban-American groups. They have a right to express themselves. They have a right to their point of view about Cuba, and we to a very large extent agree with their point of view. The Cuban Government is a totalitarian dictatorship. They do not have the right to violate United States law, to violate the provisions the President put into effect on February 24 or international law.
Similarly, the Cuban Government has a lot to answer for. It acted unwisely, outrageously and illegally on February 24 when it shot down United States private aircraft, unarmed Cessnas, in international waters, and that has not been contested at all by the Cuban Government.
The Cuban Government ought to know that it must exercise the maximum use of restraint as this flotilla proceeds tomorrow.
Q Can I just ask, will the flotilla be escorted by the Coast Guard, by air, by sea? What plans does the U.S. have?
MR. BURNS: I think you can rest assured that the United States Coast Guard will be in the area, as it has been on previous occasions. The FAA guidelines pertaining to the use of civilian American aircraft in this vicinity aPly. I think that there is good reason for the organizers of this to proceed with great caution and with restraint. It's also good reason for the Cuban Government to listen to what we're saying.
Q On the Helms-Burton Act, have any of the decisions that have to be made been made yet? For example, how is the thinking going now on a Presidential waiver of Title III? Have you gotten anywhere with enforcement of the act?
MR. BURNS: There's no question yet of a Presidential waiver. I think that would not even be a question that would be raised until late summer, so that's not been reviewed right now, David.
I think the difficulty has come with some of the provisions that are of concern to some of our neighbors -- Canada, the European Union and others. Those are difficult. We believe that they can be implemented and in a way that is consistent with international law.
We've had a considerable number of discussions with the Canadian Foreign Minister, with the European Union troika, and with others on this, and we are proceeding with some care and with some prudence before we actually announce the specific measures that will be in place.
I think, if I'm not mistaken, about a month ago we issued a public statement on this which we can make available to you which details how we're proceeding.
Q Do you have a date for when you might start any enforcement of --
MR. BURNS: I don't have a date immediately available to me, David. We can ask our Inter-American Affairs Bureau to look into this further for you.
Q Have you or do you plan to respond to the European Union's demand that the issue be taken to the World Trade Organization?
MR. BURNS: I don't see any reason for that. We believe that Helms-Burton can be --
MR. BURNS: We believe that the so-called extraterritorial provisions actually are provisions in Helms-Burton that can be and will be consistent with international law. We would ask our European friends to be patient with us. We've been patient with them. We've had a number of discussions with them on this.
We'd also ask them to consider the nature of the problem here. The problem is that -- and I think we are in a good position to comment on this. We're closer to Cuba than many of our European neighbors, and there's a totalitarian dictatorship that continues to repress its people; that murdered American citizens on February 24. It has a lot to answer for, and we'd ask our European friends to consider what actions they might take to further the isolation of the Castro regime.
Q Are you saying -- to paraphrase or to turn it around, you are saying that you will not allow the issue -- or you will not participate in any debate or case in the WTO?
MR. BURNS: I've been in the Middle East for a couple of weeks, and I'm looking to Glyn (Davies) for guidance here. I'm not aware that we've agreed to any kind of third-party arbitration. Glyn tells me we haven't, and he's the authoritative source.
I can't believe, Jim, that we would. The President signed Helms- Burton into law, and the consistent position of the State Department has been that Helms-Burton can be consistent, will be consistent with international law. We just ask our European friends for a measure of patience here, and I do want to point to the fact that we know what we're doing, and we know it's the right policy to isolate the Castro regime.
Q Nick, we asked this question twice of Ambassador Wilcox, but I don't think we got an answer. Since you just came back from the Middle East, you might have insight into this puzzle. What are the steps that's been reported here that Syria has taken in '95 to restrain the international activities of terrorist groups?
MR. BURNS: I thought Ambassador Wilcox gave you perfectly good answers. I'm surprised you'd even ask the question. I was impressed by how clear and persuasive his answers were.
Q No, he didn't give any examples. Are these really classified steps that can't be enunciated from where you're standing?
MR. BURNS: I was convinced by the merit of his argument -- the compelling logic of the argument that he put forward. I'll tell you this, though, Syria remains on the terrorism list for a very good reason, because of Syrian suPort for terrorist groups, including the PKK.
The PKK, as you know very well, has offices in Damascus. We regularly remind the Syrian Government of its obligation to stop its activities of suPort, indirect or otherwise, of the PKK.
We are also concerned about Syrian suPort for radical Islamic groups that have posed a threat to the Middle East peace process. I think Secretary Christopher made that very clear last week in his discussions in Damascus.
Q Obviously, in '95, Syria has listened to you; right? Because it says they have taken -- they did take some steps to restrain their activities.
MR. BURNS: Syria is still on the terrorism list, as Ambassador Wilcox just explained to you, for a very good reason. He explained, I thought quite well, that Syria has taken some steps. But certainly not steps, as he explained, sufficient to remove itself from the terrorism list.
Q Why can't we know about those steps?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what the problem is here. You may be looking for a detail of information that we cannot give out in this kind of forum.
Q Are they classified -- the information about the steps?
MR. BURNS: Some of the information, of course, that we have pertaining to terrorism is classified. We don't give classified information out publicly.
But I think the point here is clear. Syria is on the terrorism list for very good reason. There's a lot of evidence to keep them there until their behavior changes.
But we want to be certainly straightforward in telling you that we saw some indication in 1995 that Syria took some actions to restrain certain groups. I think it's aPropriate for us to call attention to that.
Q The Middle East?
Q North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Let's stay on the Middle East and then we'll go to North Korea. We'll stay on the Middle East.
Q Do you expect a meeting between Mr. Christopher and Mr. Arafat?
MR. BURNS: I know that Secretary Christopher plans to participate in the President's meeting with Chairman Yasser Arafat over at the White House. I understood that to be the case about an hour ago, that the Secretary would participate. I'm not aware that we have scheduled any other meeting between the Secretary alone and Chairman Arafat.
Q Foreign Minister Agnelli has gone to the Middle East on behalf of the European Union. In light of this article in the Washington Post this morning about a perceived rivalry between U.S. and French diplomacy, do you have anything to say about what the Europeans are doing in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: What I would say is, I know that Secretary Christopher has great respect for Foreign Minister Agnelli. He had a very good meeting with her in Damascus, the first day we arrived in Damascus; that first Saturday night. She, we thought on behalf of the European Union, played a very, very suPortive and pragmatic role. She did not aPear in the region with her own EU peace plan. She aPeared and represented the European Union along with some others simply to argue the case for a cease-fire which was subsequently achieved because of U.S. leadership, and to aPeal for calm on both sides. We cooperated very well with Foreign Minister Agnelli.
On the second part of your question, let me just say this. It's very clear to all of us who were with the Secretary last week that the considerable accomplishment of the cease-fire, the protection of civilians, that Secretary Christopher brokered was a largely American- inspired accomplishment.
The draft document that was negotiated for seven days and that was finally agreed to by Prime Minister Peres and Prime Minister Hariri and the Syrian Government was an American-draft document. The ideas were American ideas.
Secretary Christopher was, in effect, the father of the 1993 agreement which was an oral agreement. He then put together last week a written version of that agreement which is strengthened because it's broader and because it is in writing. There are very clear commitments made by all concerned about the need to protect civilians.
I know that Secretary Christopher feels that those seven days, however arduous they were for all of us and especially for him, were worth it. Because through the United States, through the influence of the United States, we were able to stop the fighting. Several hundred thousand refugees have returned to their homes in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel.
We now have ironclad, written protection that neither Israel nor Hizbollah nor anyone else will direct fire against civilians. I think the United States made a great contribution to peace last week. This document also calls upon Syria, Lebanon, and Israel to resume as soon as possible their negotiations for a comprehensive peace agreement which the United States strongly suPorts.
In those two negotiations, the United States has been the intermediary between Syria and Israel and between Lebanon and Israel. So I think, with all due respect to a lot of the comments being made, the United States deserves credit for what it did last week.
As for the French, I can tell you that France will play a major role. We need the suPort of France in these efforts, both on the monitoring group and in the consultative group. The monitoring group, whose procedures will be put together shortly under the leadership of the United States, needs France. It needs the participation of France.
The consultative group, whose objective is to provide for the reconstruction of Lebanon, will, I think, see a very major role played by France. Throughout the seven-day shuttle, Secretary Christopher was in contact with French officials. Other members of our delegation were in contact with French officials in Paris, at the Elysee, and other places.
I think the French understand what haPened last week. I think the French are prepared to suPort the U.S. initiative, and I think we'll have very good cooperation with the French in the future.
Q Can I extrapolate from what you said about Minister Agnelli, that she didn't come with her own peace plan. The French did. Do you now think that it was unhelpful for the French to put forward their own plan?
MR. BURNS: Frankly, there was so much discussion about this last week, Jim, that I just don't think that going back over all the -- everything that haPened -- is probably very useful. I'd only say this. In any negotiation, it is effective -- especially effective -- if there can be one channel for the negotiations.
When it became clear that channel was the United States -- and that became clear, certainly, in the first or second day of Secretary Christopher's mission -- I think that the mission proceeded smoothly and effectively, and it ended with very good results.
It's not, I think, advisable to have two or three or four channels for negotiations. It's always advisable to have one. The parties chose that. Israel, Syria, and Lebanon chose to negotiate based on the American draft and based on the efforts of Secretary Christopher.
I would say this, however. The French Government showed great sensitivity to the needs of the civilian population in Lebanon and Israel. The French Government has come forward with some practical assistance to them and to the reconstruction effort. I think we ought to put these arguments behind us. We're glad that the United States was able to arrange for French participation in these groups.
We think that France, the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the consultative group all have a role to play in suPorting Israel, Syria, and Lebanon to achieve the comprehensive peace. That clearly is the objective of all of us in the West.
Q Nick, the Middle East again. One of the Iraqi-Kurdish fractions leader, Mr. Barzani, when he had a meeting at Damascus, he claimed that the Iraqi oPosition is not successful because the Iraqi leftist or communist group has not joined the Iraqi oPosition groups. Do you agree with him?
MR. BURNS: Can we do the logic one more time. Mr. Barzani . . .?
Q He said the Iraqi oPosition group doesn't accept the Iraqi communist groups. For that reason, the Iraqi oPosition is not successful against the Saddam --
MR. BURNS: Without wanting to get into this in too much detail, because we have Mr. Robert Deutch, who is our expert in these matters, of course -- as our authority -- I think that we would aPeal to the oPosition groups in Iraq to unite. Unfortunately, they have been divided for the last four or five years. That has helped Saddam Hussein escape from the judgment of his own people.
We certainly would aPeal not only to the Kurdish groups but the other oPosition groups within Iraq to combine their efforts to speak out against the injustices of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Q What is the United States position against Mr. Barzani? Lately, he signed an agreement with the PKK leader, Mr. Ocalan.
MR. BURNS: I'm simply unaware of any agreement he may have signed with the PKK. I'm just unaware of it. I'll be glad to take that question for you, though, however.
Q Do you think it's at all possible to arrange a briefing by Mr. Deutch on this issue -- on his latest visit?
MR. BURNS: Have you ever had a briefing by Mr. Deutch before?
MR. BURNS: You haven't. (Laughter)
Q Try to have one.
MR. BURNS: Well, we'll see. Mr. Deutch is very busy. He's very busy. Let me check with our officials in the Near East Bureau to see if that might be possible or not.
Q We can go to him. He doesn't have to come here.
MR. BURNS: It's best to go through me on these matters, actually.
Q Did you resume POW/MIA talks with North Korea this week? If you resume, where? And who leads the U.S. delegation?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that there is an unofficial North Korean delegation in the United States. It's attending a conference in Atlanta hosted by the Korean-American Christian Coalition. It's going to visit several cities in the United States following the conference, including Washington, D.C.
I expect that the leader of this delegation, Mr. Ri Jong Hyok -- excuse my pronunciation; H-Y-O-K -- the Deputy Director of the Asia- Pacific Peace Committee, I expect that he will see Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tom Hubbard.
We certainly hope that we will resume talks on the return issue, which is an issue very important to the United States in the near future. At the moment, however, I think arrangements are still incomplete for the resumption of those talks, and I would refer you to the Pentagon for any further details on that particular issue.
Q I'd like to know why the State Department has not released information regarding the case of Diana Ortiz, the American nun, to returning to Guatemala. She has filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Her lawyer was told that the request was ready, but she hasn't received any information yet. Do you have any information -- when you are planning to release information?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say first of all, you know that the First Lady spoke with Sister Ortiz sometime ago. We certainly sympathize with her, with the suffering and pain that she experienced in 1989, and has experienced since because of her terrible ordeal at the hands of her abductors. We are doing everything in our power to expedite our own process within the Administration to see if we can be responsive to her request.
As you know, her case -- Sister Ortiz' case -- is part of the Intelligence Oversight Board's on-going Presidentially-directed review of various cases pertaining to Guatemala, including the case of Michael Devine and of Efrain Bamaca -- American citizens killed, disaPeared, or abused in Guatemala since 1984.
In conjunction with that review by the Intelligence Oversight Board, the State Department is now reviewing all of the documents in our possession that relate to the case of Sister Ortiz and the other Americans. I expect that review will hopefully conclude shortly and that they will have access to whatever documents the IOB -- Intelligence Oversight Board -- believes can be released to them. But we have great sympathy for her, and we certainly have great respect for her.
Q Back to the North Korean delegation. Would you give us the time schedule when the North Korean delegation visits the State Department? Will there be a photo session and what is the agenda?
MR. BURNS: I think that the talks will likely take place over the next four or five days. I'm not sure of the precise date, but I think it's in that region. Again, the American official will be our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Tom Hubbard, who, as you know, for a number of years has been our point person with North Korea.
Q So are there any participants from the Pentagon in this issue?
MR. BURNS: If Mr. Hubbard is meeting with them, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Pentagon was also present -- representatives present at these meetings.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:19 p.m.)