U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #192, 96-11-27
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Wednesday, November 27, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Assistant Secretary Lord's Trip to Tokyo to Participate in
U.S.-Japan SCC 2plus2 Talks and Then on to Hong Kong....... 1-2
Update of Situation re: the Referendum Vote and Rump
Status of Nuclear Missiles Enroute to Russia and Ceremony 3-4
to Mark Handoff of Missiles/Disposal of Nuclear Material/
Status of New Government and Recognition by U.S........... . 2-4,10-11
U.S.-Israel Counterterrorism Talks/Results of Bilateral
Discussions/Expansion of Settlements in Relation
to Reduction in Loan Guarantees ......................... 4,13-15
Release of Mr. Hunziker/Details of Release/Effect on
U.S.-North Korea Relations/Submarine Case................ 4-8
Delegation Going to North Korea to Search for MIAs/Other
Meetings for Cong. Richardson in NKorea/Details of his
Visit/Possible Message for Sec. Christopher.............. 8-10
Nuclear Safety Concerns in Russia/U.S. Program to Fund
Peaceful Projects on Nuclear Issues...................... 11-13
Canadian-Led Mission/Support for MNF/Planning for Potential
Airdrops/U.S.'s Precise Role/Establishment of Airbridge
by Present Troops in Area/Need for Free, Full Access to Area
Numbers of Refugees Still in Area/Arrest of Suspected War
Criminals/Objection by Rwanda/Zaire to Airdrops.......... 15-20
Reaction to Cancellation of Cobra Helicopters/Update on
Talks on Supervisory Peace Monitoring Group.............. 20-22
Demonstrations in Cuba at Spanish Embassy................ 22-23
Sustainable Development Summit........................... 23
Possible New African Candidate for UN Secretary
General/Limited Term for Boutros-Ghali.................... 23-25
Update on Demonstrations/Holding of Runoff Elections/
No U.S. Responsibility for Nullification of Elections/
U.S. Maintains Outer Wall of Sanctions................... 25-26
Similarity of Situation in Zagreb/U.S. Response.......... 26-27
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Relationship between U.S. Peace Team and Palestinian
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1996, 1:07 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. We
have a significant birthday to recognize today and I understand that on
Sunday His Excellency Mr. Abdulsalam Massarueh will be turning -- he has a
significant birthday coming up and I don't know if you want me to out you
MR. MASSARUEH: I'm not going to --
MR. BURNS: He's going to be 60 years old and we send you and your family
our very best wishes. Congratulations. That's terrific. (Applause.)
Mr. Abdulsalam is a distinguished President of the Foreign Correspondents
Association and we welcome you here today.
QUESTION: Do you think we can embargo these remarks until Sunday?
MR. BURNS: We can do that, but, you know, under the new policy, the TV
and radio already has it, George, so --.
QUESTION: It's already out.
MR. BURNS: It's already out, exactly. Congratulations to you, sir.
I have just a couple of things before we go to questions. First, I want to
let you know about the travel plans of Assistant Secretary of State Winston
Assistant Secretary Lord is one of the inveterate travelers here. He just
returned this morning with the President from a -- I guess it was a l2-day
trip to Asia. He goes back to Asia on Saturday. Now the reason he did that,
and he didn't stay in the region, is because he was determined to come home
not only for Thanksgiving with his family but for the Redskins-Dallas game.
At least that's what he told us, and he said we could say that on the
So he is back for two days and then on Saturday he travels back to Tokyo
and from December l to 3, Assistant Secretary Lord will participate in the
meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, the so-called
2+2 talks, in which Secretary Perry, Ambassador Mondale, Japanese Foreign
Minister Ikeda and Japanese Defense Agency Director General Kyuma will be
the major participants.
This 2+2 meeting is a very important meeting. It will review the final
report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, the SACO Committee.
Secretary Christopher had a good discussion of the work of this committee
with Mr. Ikeda last week in Manila, and Ambassador Lord will then, after
this session of the 2+2, hold his own political and security talks with the
Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Following that, Ambassador Lord will travel to Hong Kong from December 4th
to 5th for meetings with Governor Chris Patten, Chief Secretary Anson Chan,
a variety of Hong Kong legislators, including the representative of the
People's Republic of China, Mr. Zhou Nan, and the Chief Executive Candidate
and Preparatory Committee vice-Chairman, Mr. C. H. Tung.
In his meetings, Ambassador Lord will stress the United States support for
a smooth and successful transition and continued political and civil
freedoms in Hong Kong after reversion.
This was a point that was made by President Clinton in Manila on Sunday
with President Jiang Zemin and a point made repeatedly by Secretary
Christopher in his meetings in Beijing with Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Qian
Qichen, a very important point for the United States and thus a very
important trip by Assistant Secretary Winston Lord.
Secondly, I just wanted to update you on the situation in Belarus because
we had a discussion of it yesterday and it is quite interesting.
Two aspects. First, on the political side, the United States continues to
believe that the efforts, the anti-constitutional efforts, by President
Lukashenko simply cannot be supported by the international community.
The fact that he and his followers have formed a rump parliament and have
disregarded the real parliament is an indication to us that he is not
willing to address the irregularities that were so evident in the
referendum vote last Sunday. As you know, the United States and the OSCE
and a number of European governments have pointed out the significant
problems with the way that referendum was conducted last Sunday. And we
remain extremely disappointed at the actions taken by President Lukashenko
this week which do not reflect in any way a commitment to democracy.
Now, that is the bad news. The relative good news is that on the issue of
the status of the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles, we now
understand from the Russian Government that the warheads from those
missiles have been transported into Russia, and they are now in storage in
The missiles themselves are presently on a train headed for Russia, and we
believe that train will cross into Russia very shortly.
Ambassador Ken Yalowitz, the American Ambassador in Minsk, participated in
a ceremony this morning that marked the departure of the warheads and the
missiles from Belarus to Russia. I understand that the Russian Defense
Minister, Minister Rodionov also attended that ceremony.
This is an enormous accomplishment, not only for the governments involved,
Belarus and Russia, but also for the United States.
In April 1993 at the Vancouver summit, President Clinton stated publicly
that it was his intention to work out an arrangement with Russia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Ukraine to remove the nuclear weapons from three of those
states and to transport them back into Russia, and to have a dramatic
schedule for destruction of those missiles in the future. That has now
This Administration came into power in 1993 and inherited a situation where
there were four nuclear powers in the former Soviet Union. There is now one,
and I think -- I don't think I am being too impartial or subjective in
saying that it was the political leadership of the United States, it was
funding, financial assistance, in the form of several billion dollars of
American assistance through the Nunn-Lugar program, and it was the repeated
efforts of President Clinton, Secretary Christopher, and Deputy Secretary
Strobe Talbott over four years of concerted American diplomacy that allowed
us to reach this day where people in our country can now have a Thanksgiving
where we don't have to worry that there are four nuclear states in the
former Soviet Union; there is one.
And with the one state that now has nuclear weapons in Eurasia, Russia, we
have an agreement through START I and through START II, which we would like
to see ratified, of vastly reducing the numbers of those weapons. So that
by the year 2003, the number of warheads on both sides, U. S. and Russia,
will be down to a level of roughly 6,500, from a high exceeding 25,000 just
a couple of years ago.
This is an enormous benefit for the American people and for the United
States, and we wanted to pay some attention to that this morning. A very,
very important day today in that part of the world.
Lastly, I would just say, I think I was asked by Barry yesterday, about
some talks that are occurring in Washington between the United States and
Israel, two sets of discussions.
The first was a meeting on the 25th and 26th of November this week between
the United States and Israel, the first meeting of the Joint Counterterrorism
Group. This was the group that was created, as you remember, in the wake of
the suicide bombings last spring. It was actually a signed agreement
between Prime Minister Peres and President Clinton on April 30th of last
This is a forum where we can discuss with the Israelis what we can do
together to counter terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. The
U. S. delegation was led by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Peter
Secondly, Under Secretary Tarnoff is hosting a lunch today for the Israeli
Senior Diplomat Atan ben Sur, the number two in the Israeli Foreign
Ministry. And this is the second part of the discussions we have underway
today, and that is political discussions, between the United States and
Israel on a variety of foreign policy issues.
So we are very pleased to host the Israeli delegation this week for both
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the decision of the North
Koreans to release Mr. Hunziker and the circumstances of that release?
MR. BURNS: I do. Let me just try to give you some background. I think we
feel we are better able to give you some background on this now that Mr.
Hunziker is free.
We have not heard yet privately from Congressman Richardson all the details
of his discussions with the North Koreans over the last several days, but
certainly I think it is appropriate for us to thank Congressman Bill
Richardson for his extraordinary efforts to travel to North Korea and to
negotiate the release of Mr. Carl Hunziker, who is the young American held
unjustly by the North Koreans.
Since the detention of Mr. Hunziker in August -- I think it was August 24th
of this year -- the United States has sought to obtain his release from the
North Korean authorities.
We raised this issue -- his issue -- with the North Koreans at every
opportunity in our regular meetings with them at their U. N. Mission in New
York. During his detention, Mr. Hunziker was visited, I believe, on four
occasions by the Swedish Charge d'Affaire in Pyongyang, Mr. R. K. Lovquist,
and we would like to extend to the Swedish Government and to Mr. Lovquist
personally the gratitude of the United States for Mr. Lovquist's and the
Swedish Government's interest in this case and the assistance that they
gave to Mr. Hunziker.
In mid-November of this year, the North Koreans informed State Department
diplomats in New York that they would be willing to release Mr. Hunziker if
we could arrange for him to be escorted from North Korea out of the
That led to the decision by Secretary Christopher and others to ask
Congressman Richardson to make this trip. As you know, he had been there
before. He is someone, we felt, had an ability to work well with the North
The North Koreans initially called, asked us, for a criminal fine of $l00,
000 to be paid for Mr. Hunziker's -- quote/unquote -- illegal entry into
North Korea, but obviously this was not paid.
Initially Mr. Hunziker was confined to a hotel in the northern area of
North Korea, close to where he crossed the border from China across the
Yalu River. In mid-October, after he had been formally charged with
espionage, a charge which was patently ludicrous, because he is an innocent
American that had never been affiliated with the American Government. In
mid-October, he was moved to a detention facility.
The North Koreans demanded that the bill for the hotel portion of his time
in North Korea be paid prior to his release, and I understand the North
Koreans calculated that the lodging and the fee for the meals amounted to
Now I understand the Hunziker family paid that fee. It is certainly
understandable to us why the Hunziker family took that action. I think any
of us in a similar position would have done that. But holding him was
unjustified and charging him for his detention was certainly unjustified.
We have no objection to the fact that the Hunziker family made this
decision. It was obviously the right decision for them, privately. But I
just wanted to make clear our view that he may have been in a hotel, but he
didn't enter the hotel voluntarily, and he was not able to leave the
hotel because he was under armed guard, and that to us, that to me,
amounts to detention.
I understand that Mr. Hunziker should be arriving in the United States
shortly. He'll be reunited with his parents and his siblings and friends
for Thanksgiving. I don't have any information as to his personal plans,
but we're very, very pleased that he has been released.
After he arrived at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, he did undergo a
physical examination by our military doctors there. And after that it was
determined that he was fit to fly back to the United States for the
reunification with his family.
That's about as much background as I can give you, George, but I'm willing
to take any questions on that if you're interested.
QUESTION: The other day Glyn said there were no U.S. concessions, but
just let me dot every "i." Was there a possibility of a third-party
concession? In other words, did the South Koreans do anything to facilitate
this by generally improving the environment or by doing something specific
as a quid pro quo?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any actions by South Korea, the Republic of
Korea, linked to this case. We have never seen Mr. Hunziker's case to be
linked with any other issue. We have not seen it to be linked to the
submarine issue or to the four-party talks or any other issue that we
presently have on our agenda with North Korea.
We saw this as a humanitarian case, because we know that Mr. Hunziker was
innocent of the charges brought against him.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) by the North Koreans suddenly agreeing with you on
the humanitarian aspect?
MR. BURNS: It's always difficult to ascertain the motives of the North
Koreans. As Secretary Christopher has said very often, it's a rather opaque
society. Perhaps Congressman Richardson will have some insights into that
when he talks to you and talks to us when he returns to the United States.
But from this distance it's hard to know why they've decided to do this. We
think it was obviously a positive decision, because he was held unjustly.
QUESTION: What impact, if any, will it have on U.S.-North Korean
MR. BURNS: He was held unjustly, and therefore the decision to release
him was the right decision. But it was the obligation of North Korea to
release him, because he wasn't guilty of the charges. We have a lot of
issues with North Korea. The four-party talks are on the table. President
Kim and President Clinton re-issued that invitation for North Korea to
participate with China and with us at these talks to try to secure a peace
agreement 43 years after the Korean War has ended.
The Agreed Framework is where the United States has vital national security
interests engaged. We want to maintain the freeze on North Korea's nuclear
program, and that is happening.
The submarine incident was a direct provocation by North Korea against the
Republic of Korea. As you know, the United States believes it's appropriate
for North Korea to offer some kind of gesture to atone for that provocation.
So there are a variety of issues on the table, but I don't think they're
linked to this case. I don't think that the resolution of this case
automatically means that we're going to make progress on the others. We
hope to make progress, and we'll continue meeting with the North Koreans in
New York, as we do regularly, on all these issues. But we need to, I think,
understand that they are not linked.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have any reason to think that gesture might be in
the offering (inaudible) Hunziker's release?.
MR. BURNS: Again, we hope that there is some type of gesture offered to
South Korea. We understand that, Secretary Christopher said the other day
in Manila, "We certainly understand the psychological impact and political
impact that the submarine provocation has had on the South Korean
This is not the first time that North Korea in recent decades has
undertaken a provocation like this. And certainly something has to be done
to show the South Koreans that North Korea is willing to work constructively.
QUESTION: Richardson referred to it but you haven't heard in any way from
MR. BURNS: I did hear that as part of his public comments to the press at
Yokota, Congressman Richardson said that the North Koreans -- he felt the
North Koreans wanted to put the submarine incident behind them. If that is
the case, if in fact that is what they intend to do, that would be positive,
but we do need to see some kind of gesture by the North Koreans.
QUESTION: U.S. delegations will be going to North Korea next month,
looking for the remains of U.S. soldiers missing in the Korean War. Can you
MR. BURNS: I don't have any specific dates for that delegation, but, as
you know, it's very important for the United States. I believe there are
more than 8100 MIA cases from the Korean War -- American cases -- and it's
our obligation to those families to do everything we can to find out what
happened to their loved ones. That's why we will be undertaking future
missions in North Korea. But I don't have any confirmation of the dates of
QUESTION: Was Richardson's visit there strictly related to the Hunziker
case, or did he get involved in other issues, and who did he meet
MR. BURNS: The sole reason for the trip was to secure the release of Mr.
Hunziker. I understand that as part of the trip -- I mean, after he had
finished his negotiations on Mr. Hunziker, the North Koreans did raise
other issues -- the variety of some of the issues that I've just cited to
you. We don't have any detail about those conversations.
I also don't have the name of his senior interlocutor, George, but I'm sure
that we'll be able to get that as soon as we have an opportunity to talk to
Congressman Richardson in more detail.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Belarus? How many SS-25s --
MR. BURNS: I think they just want to keep on North Korea, then I'll be
glad to go to this.
QUESTION: Was Congressman Richardson briefed before he went as far as the
U.S. position, and was he carrying any sort of message from Mr. Clinton?
MR. BURNS: Congressman Richardson was in direct contact with the State
Department and the White House before he left. He certainly had the full
support of the White House and the State Department and our entire
government as he undertook this trip, and he's been in regular touch with
us. He's also had the direct assistance of American Foreign Service
Officers who are Korean specialists on this trip and on other trips. So,
yes, we've been very closely in contact with him.
QUESTION: Where did he stay in Pyongyang?
MR. BURNS: I don't know for sure, but normally the North Koreans put our
American visitors at a guest house outside the city. But let's wait until
Congressman Richardson speaks before we know that to be a fact.
QUESTION: And is Congressman Richardson -- I mean, how would you describe
him? Would you describe him as an official envoy?
MR. BURNS: He in the past has undertaken a variety of trips around the
world -- not just to the Korean peninsula -- and they're mainly -- I can't
speak to every one specifically, but they're mainly -- his own trips. But I
think in almost all cases, he has gone with the full support of the United
In this instance, you'll appreciate the diplomatic delicacy of the
situation. We don't have official diplomatic relations with the North
Koreans. We don't have American envoys in Pyongyang. We felt, given his
prior trips, given the attention that he had paid to the food issue -- the
food deficit issue -- we felt that perhaps he had a way to talk to the
North Koreans that would be successful; and he has been successful. I think
Congressman Richardson deserves a lot of credit for what he's done. He's
had a successful mission to one of the most difficult countries in the
Still on North Korea? Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many State Department officials accompanied
MR. BURNS: Let me try to get that answer for you. But normally we do send
one of our officers with him -- Korean-speaking officers.
Still on North Korea? Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Did Congressman Richardson indicate he'd be carrying back
a message for the Secretary of State or the President?
MR. BURNS: Again, we haven't had a chance to talk to him privately. We've
seen his public statement at Yokota Air Force Base. So I don't know whether
there's any message he's bringing back. I will tell you that we will again
next week resume our meetings in New York with the North Koreans, so we'll
have an opportunity to be in direct contact with them.
QUESTION: The reason the trip was extended a day is because the North
Koreans wanted to raise these other issues that you referred to a few
MR. BURNS: I'm not completely clear about that. We thought the trip would
be a couple of days in duration. The North Koreans extended his stay, asked
him to stay, for another 24 hours. It's not clear whether that was to
finish the negotiations about Mr. Hunziker or to have Congressman
Richardson discuss or have them raise with him some of the other issues of
concern to them.
QUESTION: Let me go back to your statement about the meeting between the
Israelis and the Americans here in Washington.
MR. BURNS: Let's just finish with North Korea, with all due respect, and
I think that maybe Jim was ahead of you anyway on Belarus. But we'll go
back to that. Have we finished North Korea? Good. Jim.
QUESTION: How many SS-25 missiles are we talking about? How many
MR. BURNS: We're talking about just a few missiles left. I don't have the
exact number, but it was a very low number. I can get that for you after
QUESTION: And the number of warheads was also small?
MR. BURNS: That's right. So the big thing is there's no fissionable
material left in Belarus that could allow that country now to reconstitute
a nuclear device. The delivery system is being transported out. The nuclear
warheads themselves, obviously, have already been transported out.
QUESTION: And will that fissile material be turned directly over to the
United States or will the Russians make it part of the overall amount that
they're turning over?
MR. BURNS: What happens is, as you know, these strategic offensive
systems fall under START I, and the destruction schedule, I believe,
extends to December 4, 2001, but they also fall under a Russia-Belarus
What normally happens when these missiles are transported from Belarus,
Kazakstan and Ukraine is that they're sent back to the factory where they
were produced in Russia, and by a process of reverse engineering are
normally taken apart at the factory -- the warhead and the missile.
In some cases, as you know, there is a landmark multibillion dollar
agreement between the United States and Russia that calls for Russia to
export some of the fissionable material which has been diluted to the U.S.
Enrichment Corporation where it's used to power U.S. nuclear power plants.
But that's a separate deal, but sometimes the byproduct does end up in that
QUESTION: Do you still regard the Government of Belarus as legitimate,
and is there any consideration being given to withdrawing or recalling the
MR. BURNS: We have not made a decision to recall Ambassador Yalowitz.
He's a very effective, experienced career diplomat. He's a Russian speaker.
He's got long experience in that part of the world. We think that at least
at this point, David, leaving him there gives us a senior American official
who can talk to Lukashenko, talk to the other senior members of the
government, talk now to the opposition figures in a convincing way about
what we think should be happening and to protect our own interests.
So I think we'll certainly maintain the Embassy there in Minsk. The
Government of Belarus is recognized by the United States, and it's a member
of the United Nations, and we are choosing at this point to deal with that
government, to have diplomatic relations with it.
But I must say, our relations are suffering now because of the anti-
democratic actions and the actually gross violations of democratic norms
taken this week by President Lukashenko. He decides over the weekend that
he's not going to engage in any kind of compromise with the majority in the
legislature. He then holds a referendum that is not supervised or observed
internationally in an appropriate way; a referendum where the people don't
know what's going to be in the referendum question; where there's no access
to the media; and then when he's not sure he likes the reaction to
the referendum, he simply dissolves the legislature and forms a new
It's a farce. He has engaged in a farce this week, and we cannot support it,
and we have made that very clear to the Government of Belarus.
QUESTION: Could I slip in a question that is both nuclear and Slavic but
not Belarus. The Interfax agency is reporting out of Moscow today that the
head of the agency which is responsible for security at civilian nuclear
plants throughout Russia has said that he can no longer guarantee the
security of those plants; that because his employees have not been paid for
so long and because so many of the top people have quit, there is no
nuclear safety in Russia today at civilian plants. Do you know anything
about this? Does the U.S. believe that the matter is worrisome or that
things are under control? Is there any danger of another Chernobyl? What
can you tell us about it?
MR. BURNS: A lot of questions. David, what I can say is that I cannot
comment on this particular statement; I simply haven't seen it. But I can
say in general, I believe there are 24 nuclear power plants in Russia that
are of concern here. President Clinton and Vice President Gore from the
earliest days of this Administration -- and they raised this issue at
Vancouver in April 1993 -- have been concerned about this issue.
The United States has extended financial and technical assistance to the
Russian Government to help upgrade the safety of those 24 nuclear power
plants. We have also extended financial assistance through the Nunn-Lugar
program to preserve and extend the security around the fissile material
that the Russian Government holds for both energy and military purposes.
We have, as you know, given them Kevlar blankets. We have given them a way
to transport nuclear warheads in this process from Ukraine, Belarus and
Kazakstan in a safe manner. We have paid a lot of attention to this
problem. We have contributed billions of dollars to this problem in hopes
that we might upgrade the ability of the Russian Government to secure the
fissile material and to secure the nuclear power plants.
I cannot give you today a grade or a temperature reading which would in
effect say what the state of play is in Russia, because the primary
responsibility, of course, lies with the Russian Government itself. We just
have a concerted national interest in making sure we do everything to help
the Russian Government in an admittedly very, very challenging environment.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, do you trust the Russian Government? I mean, do
you think that you can deal with them in a serious manner?
MR. BURNS: The Russian Government is as concerned or more greatly
concerned than we are, than any of us in the West, about this issue; and to
his credit, President Yeltsin, also Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, have taken
steps to make this a major issue within the Russian Government itself. They
have tried to upgrade the safety of the nuclear power plants.
Some of those plants are the older RBMK reactors that are of concern here:
some of the reactors that were -- the Chernobyl type reactors, and some are
the VVER reactors that are slightly more modern. There are concerns about
both. They have shown, I think, a lot of interest, a lot of commitment to
It's a difficult situation for them, as it is a difficult situation for the
United States and our own country to make sure that we're doing the
responsible thing with both nuclear power and also with the disposition of
our own fissile material. It's always a concern.
The other program I didn't tell you about is an important one. We also have
funded a program to engage Russian scientists and nuclear engineers in
peaceful projects. We actually have a funding program to fund peaceful
projects so that we reduce the likelihood that any of them will be
encouraged to go and work for some of the pariah states that are currently,
we know, attempting to build a nuclear-weapons capability -- countries like
Iraq and Iran and Libya.
So we have, I think, politically and financially and every other way done
as much as we can to help the Russian Government in an admittedly very,
very tough situation.
Yes. Actually if it's another subject, I need to go back to Abdulsalam who
is next on the waiting list.
QUESTION: Could you please tell me if the United States and Israel will
share the ideas from this two days conference with the rest of the
participants of Sharm al-Sheikh conference on terrorism that was held last
year or early this year?
MR. BURNS: These are bilateral conversations. As you know, we have
bilateral conversations with Israel on the subject of terrorism but also on
the political talks. But certainly on the issue of terrorism, the United
States remains committed to the Sharm al-Sheikh process. We do maintain an
active diplomatic dialogue with the Arab countries, Europeans as well as
Israel, on this, and I'm sure will be very open to continuing that
QUESTION: Since you said that this is a joint counter-terrorism group and
there was that group in Sharm al-Sheikh, I thought that there was an
exchange that could be shared with other countries that took part in the --
it's not just a bilateral meeting.
MR. BURNS: They're not mutually exclusive. We have bilateral talks, and
there's a certain degree of confidentiality in any bilateral discussion.
But, on the other hand, both Israel and the United States remain committed
to the Sharm al-Sheikh process and would like to cooperate with Arab
countries, with the Palestinian Authority, to fight terrorism in the Middle
East and elsewhere. That's a very high interest that we all share.
QUESTION: Since we are in the area, the plethora of expansion of
settlements at the insistence of Mr. Netanyahu in defiance of just about
everything around the world to build more settlements, expand more
settlements in the West Bank and the area. I know you said something
yesterday about it, but what is this all about? I mean, this whole renewal
of expansion of settlements beyond the imaginary thing -- how much it is
related to the $10 billion which the United States pledged to finance
Israel for expansion or whatever, for building or assisting the Russian
Jews who came to Israel.
MR. BURNS: As you know, Mr. Abdulsalam, we have well known views on the
issue of settlements, and we reiterated those views yesterday, and the
settlements are a complicating factor in the peace negotiations between the
Israel and the Palestinians and the other tracks. We hold to that
Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly had a right to visit Ariel. I was
misquoted; a newspaper service reported me as saying that I objected to his
visit. Actually, he has a right to visit Ariel, but we do believe that the
expansion of the settlements would be a complicating factor, unhelpful
factor in the peace negotiations.
As for the United States loan guarantees, we have a very transparent
process here. At the end of September we announced a reduction in the loan
guarantees -- a financial reduction corresponding to the financial
contributions the Israeli Government made to settlements over the course of
QUESTION: On those reductions, however, according to the State Department's
own figures, there was some fancy bookkeeping going on there.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we said there was fancy bookkeeping going on,
just for the record.
QUESTION: I said that. The total determined to be spent on settlements in
the previous year, fiscal year, seemed to be $407 million. Of that, $347
million was wiped off the books and only $60 million was deducted from the
total amount of loan guarantees.
Does that not send a message to the Israeli Government about how seriously
the U.S. Government perceives this settlement expansion?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I can just refer you to the press statement that we
released -- I believe it was in the final days of September, just before
the turnover in our fiscal year -- and the report that we issue to the
Congress that we are obligated to issue to Congress on this issue. It goes
through the way that we calculate the reductions, and it accounts for all
the calculations. I don't have all of that in my head. We can get that
report for you.
QUESTION: I have it, and the figures I just quoted you are accurate from
the State Department -- in other words, 347 was wiped off the books,
leaving only a $60 million deduction?
MR. BURNS: The administration follows U.S. law, and there is a U.S. law
that requires the United States to make this determination. We follow the
letter of the law. The law speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have anything today on U.S. participation in the
Canadian plan to feed refugees in Zaire?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do. In fact, there's quite a lot, I think, that's been
happening in Zaire. It's a timely subject. First let me say you've seen
some statements out of the Government of Canada. The United States supports
the Canadian proposal to establish a multinational headquarters for a
humanitarian mission which would be based either in Uganda at Entebbe or in
This mission would be to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance
to the refugees and to facilitate the return of the refugees to Rwanda,
which, as you know, is one of the major goals of this operation.
The United States is prepared to participate in the multinational mission
under Canadian leadership, and we will contribute personnel to its
headquarters, its civil/military affairs units, and other support elements
while continuing to plan for potential additional mission tasks as they are
defined by the multinational force.
The United States will also contribute to the Canadian-led mission. We will
contribute U.S. personnel, many of whom are already in the region, who will
provide airlift, air control and related services in support of the planned
mission into Central Africa.
We look forward to working with the Government of Canada over the next
couple of days to finalize the details of the mission plan, including
establishing a political oversight group for the mission known as the
Steering Board; obtaining the necessary consent of the governments in the
region -- the Governments of Rwanda and Zaire -- and also we hope to enable
significant African participation in this multinational force, and we need
to define the rules of engagement.
As Secretary Perry said -- I believe on his flight to Italy, to Naples --
we are working actively with Canada and others to plan for potential
airdrops into Eastern Zaire. This planning will take several days. During
these several days, we want to work closely with the Canadians and others
to construct a practical concept for the operations of the airdrops, so
that the airdrops can be as safe as possible; they can be acceptable to the
concerned governments and the parties in the region, and that they
will be done in such a way that the delivery of the airdrops encourages
the refugees to return back to Rwanda.
Once that planning is complete -- and again I would expect this would take
a couple of days -- then we would expect to make a final decision as to
what can be accomplished effectively and what precise role the United
States can play in this effort, and I mean precise role. We want to be very
clear about the mission to which we will be contributing.
In the meantime, the United States is making sure that our military
personnel are ready for these potential airdrop operations, and we are
taking other steps that will allow the United States to be ready at a
moment's notice to embark on these missions, should that be necessary.
I would just remind you that we have 399 U.S. military personnel in Rwanda,
Uganda and Kenya. Their mission is to assist now in establishing an air
bridge for the region of people, of goods and of services which are
necessary to basically provide the foundation for this humanitarian
We continue to urge that humanitarian organizations operating in Eastern
Zaire especially be given full and free access to the area. That is a very
important factor here. In the past couple of weeks, the humanitarian relief
organizations have not been given the free access that they need to
implement, for instance, the delivery of the $140 million in assistance
that the United States recently pledged -- I believe last week -- to this
effort, and they have not been given enough flexibility to try to
determine where the refugees are.
Yesterday, the Zairian Government did give permission for several United
Nations and other private non-governmental organizations to go into Eastern
Zaire -- and specifically south of Goma -- and what they found was quite
surprising and quite positive.
Two teams of UN agency and NGO personnel were allowed to travel to the Goma-
Sake-Bukavu road -- down that road yesterday -- south of Goma. One team
traveled south from Goma and the other north from Bukavu. The team
traveling south from Goma encountered some 30,000 Rwandan refugees in
Minova, which is 30 miles southwest of Goma; and a few miles further south,
they encountered another group of 10,000 Rwandan refugees.
The humanitarian teams were able to provide the refugees with high protein
biscuits and with water. They called for trucks and buses and supplies to
the area to help these people, should they wish to return to Rwanda, which
we hope is the case.
So they believe on the basis of their day yesterday that this group of 40,
000 refugees, total, may be the spearhead of another large group of
refugees who may be trying to work their way away from the rebels and
If that is the case, that would be a very positive development indeed. It
would contribute to the flow of 600,000 people who have liberated
themselves over the past couple of weeks and have gone back home to Rwanda.
So you can see how important this free access of the humanitarian
operations is to the situation in Zaire.
QUESTION: Do you have any number on refugees remaining in Eastern
MR. BURNS: No, we do not, and this is a perilous process. Our best
estimates would be -- we would agree with the higher numbers. I think the
United Nations has said on the order of many hundreds of thousands. It
certainly stands to reason, if you remember what we thought the initial
group was -- over 1.2 million refugees; but we have no independent way, the
United States, of counting the refugees, and we are relying here on the
leadership of the United Nations. But certainly the numbers are quite
QUESTION: Nick, how would airdrops be arranged in a way that would
encourage the return of refugees to Rwanda? I mean, on the fact of it, they
would seem to have the other effect.
MR. BURNS: As you know, as Secretary Perry said, the United States is
prepared to participate, but we need to work out that question. We need to
make sure that they're safe. You don't want to drop by parachute supplies
around large concentrations of people. Obviously, you hope to drop them in
a place where people can get to them -- people who need them -- and we hope
that this would contribute to people who are attempting to return to
Rwanda. That is one of the purposes of our aid, to keep people alive, but
also to encourage them to return home, where we think it's safe for
them to return.
QUESTION: Nick, are you thinking of a kind of a trail of food? In other
words, drop the food in such a way that they will have to go towards
MR. BURNS: I can't speak specifically, because this is one of the
questions, Ben, that needs to be worked out with the Canadian military and
political leadership; and that is, let's try to create the objectives for
the airdrops, and let's try to understand what the logistical requirements
would be, and how you can do it in a safe and orderly way. I don't know
yet. We don't know yet how this would be done. That's why we don't
think it can be done today. We've got to take a day or two or three
to think through the logistical problems here.
As you know, that's been the watchword of the United States from day one.
We are fundamentally committed to helping the refugees, but we want to do
so in a way that is effective. The Canadian Government has provided
excellent leadership, and we're working with them today, and we'll be
working with them tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day on this issue.
QUESTION: Nick, do you support the arrest of people suspected in the
genocide who are being arrested as they cross the border?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States has supported the creation and
the sustenance of the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal. If the Tribunal has
indicted people and has a good reason to believe that certain specific
people are responsible for war crimes, we would support their arrest.
QUESTION: Same subject. How are you going to do an airdrop without having
anybody on the ground to make sure that the men with guns don't take the
food? Hasn't the problem always been these armed --
MR. BURNS: The Rebels.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: How can you drop food and have any kind of reasonable
expectation it will get to the people who should be getting it unless you
have troops on the ground?.
MR. BURNS: That is one of the issues that has to be thought through very
carefully. There has to be proper logistical planning to make sure that
when you actually drop the food, it gets to the people who require it, who
need it, and that's one of the issues that we are discussing with the
Canadians. I don't have a magic answer for you on that question.
QUESTION: Nick, same issue. Your statement would seem to indicate that
the Governments of Rwanda and Zaire have not given permission for an
airdrop or any other kind of operation to proceed. How difficult do you see
this permission process?
MR. BURNS: I've seen a statement out of the Rwandan Government this
morning, objecting to the Canadian announcement on airdrops. I have not
seen any comment from the Zairian Government. I think there's a process
here, Betsy, that's very important.
First, we need to work out with Canada and with our European partners, with
our African partners, the proper way to drop these supplies, if that is
what's going to happen, and to introduce a multinational force into Central
Africa. Very important concrete logistical questions have got to be thought
Secondly, if in a day or two or three or four we arrive at a decision to go
ahead, then we obviously will need to work with, and we would expect to
receive the cooperation of Rwanda and Zaire. Certainly, those countries
would want to support the efforts of the international community to help
their people. We'll work with them continually on that.
QUESTION: But Rwanda has not been very open to the humanitarian
organizations that want to go into their country to help the refugees, and
this is not armed people; this is people with food. They have not been open
to their coming into their country.
MR. BURNS: And this has been a source of concern for the United States.
We've tried to work very closely with the Government in Kigali on this
issue. We will not relent in our efforts to try to achieve a way to provide
the refugees with the food and water and medicine they need to survive and
to go back home.
If the international community is willing to come in, we would expect the
Rwandan and Zairian Governments to respond.
QUESTION: Today the Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman announced that
they canceled the ten Cobra helicopters procurement. I believe that the
Turkish Ambassador this morning delivered a letter to cancellation of this
deal. Do you have any reaction, or can you confirm all this event?
MR. BURNS: I can confirm that yesterday the State Department received
written confirmation from Ambassador Kandemir -- the Turkish Ambassador
here in Washington -- about the Turkish Government's decision to cancel the
request for the Cobra helicopters.
As you know, we had worked very hard with the Turkish Government on this
military transfer. We and the Turks thought it was the right thing to do
for Turkey, to enhance Turkey's security, but the Turkish Government has
now made a decision to cancel this request.
You know about the well known problems that we had here in Washington in
working out that request. We will go forward in other ways to be a good
ally to Turkey, to make sure that we have a military relationship that is
sound and that meets the needs of both Turkey and the United States.
QUESTION: And the same problem is, I believe -- is the other four
frigates issue, too, and I believe Senator Sarbanes is trying to stop this
MR. BURNS: Which deal is that, Savas?
MR. BURNS: Frigates.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that deal has been fully worked out, as you
say, with the United States Congress, but the United States Government
remains committed to it.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: You said we'll go forward in other ways. Can you open that up a
little bit? Do you have anything on the side?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything specific to offer, but it's important to
remind everyone concerned that the United States and Turkey are NATO
allies; that we are fundamentally dedicated to each other's security; that
Turkey has legitimate defense requirements; and that the United States will
be open, of course, to discussing that issue with the Turks in the
QUESTION: Also, Nick, Turkey, I believe, in the next five years they were
planning to buy $60 billion in defense procurement, and they were planning
to buy all this material from the United States. Can you think that this
kind of political or lobbying effort will effect this kind of deal in the
business between Turkey and the United States?
MR. BURNS: We hope that some of the problems encountered here will not
have a negative effect on Turkey's willingness to consider U.S. military
good and U.S. military hardware and software to improve Turkey's defense
We have a NATO relationship. We ought to be dedicated to each other's
security, and that would mean that we continue a defense relationship in
QUESTION: How many Cobras involved?
MR. BURNS: I believe they were talking about ten Cobras. I don't have a
dollar figure, Jim.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for Northern Iraq met in Ankara with participation
of three Iraqi groups, as well as Turkey, United States and Great Britain.
I understand they discussed the cease-fire line. A report on that was
submitted. Can you give us an understanding, your reading of the situation,
what this line will consist of?.
MR. BURNS: The United States did participate in the meeting yesterday of
the peace monitoring group, the supervisory peace monitoring group. I
believe that includes the United States, the U.K., Turkey, the PUK, the KDP
and the Turkoman population of Northern Iraq. I can't be specific about the
discussion, because as the intermediary here we want to have a degree of
But we'll continue to work with this group as part of our initiative to
bring stability to Northern Iraq, the effort that Ambassador Pelletreau has
been leading for the United States.
QUESTION: So, can you confirm if a certain cease-fire line has been
agreed upon so far?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that, no, Ugur.
QUESTION: You cannot.
MR. BURNS: No.
QUESTION: On a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: There were some reports yesterday of an incident seen in Havana
around the Spanish Embassy. Do you have information about what happened and
what is the situation today?
MR. BURNS: Well, I certainly can't speak for the Spanish Government on
this. I think you have seen some statements from the Spanish Foreign
Minister this morning which are very clear statements about Spain's
unhappiness with Cuba.
Frankly, from an American point of view, it is not surprising. Castro is
not a reliable person in dealing with other countries, and it is probably
one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime like Cuba's that when they
have problems internally, they tend to lash out and blame people outside.
Now, that may be what is happening here. We have seen that happen for 30-
odd years between the United States and Cuba. Cuba has tremendous internal
problems. They are always blaming the United States and maybe Spain is
being included in that group.
We obviously are very pleased that a European leader is now standing up to
defend human rights and democracy in Cuba, and I am talking now about the
Spanish Prime Minister. This is a Spanish-Cuban affair. I don't mean to
insert the United States into it, but as a way of commenting, it is not
surprising to us that this authoritarian leader, the last in our hemisphere,
is acting in this irrational way.
QUESTION: Excuse me. The question was whether you have information about
incidents in Havana or what the situation is today.
MR. BURNS: I don't. As you know, we have an Interests Section there, but
I haven't seen any reports from that Interests Section. They may be here. I
haven't seen them about the incidents. But I was commenting on a larger
issue which is the source of these problems.
QUESTION: I think next week there is going to be an environmental
development, sustainable development summit, in Bolivia, as part of the
Summit of America's Process. Do you have anything on that, any expectations
for the United States for what might come out of that?
MR. BURNS: It's a very important meeting and, as you know, there will be
high level representation on the part of the United States. And you know
that Mrs. Clinton is making a visit and the Vice President will be
participating, and others.
I don't have chapter and verse to give you, but we will certainly do that
at our next opportunity together.
Now, I should just tell you about our briefing schedule. We observe federal
holidays, so we will be closed tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. We will be open
on Friday. We do not anticipate to have a televised briefing on Friday, but
John Dinger, our Press Office Director, will be here to work with you on
any issues of interest to you.
We will resume our normal televised daily press briefings on Monday. I
believe the White House has the same schedule and I believe the Pentagon
has the same schedule.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, I have seen in the paper this morning that
Ethiopia changed, apparently, their mind on Boutros-Ghali. Can you tell us,
is this an isolated move or is it something more? Can you explain the
situation for us now?
MR. BURNS: Well, it appears to the United States that the door is now
open for an alternative candidate to emerge from Africa. The door is
clearly open. The United States has exercised its veto because we don't
wish to support Boutros-Ghali for a second term in office.
It appears to us that Boutros-Ghali has rather shallow support in the
United Nations itself and even in the Security Council. Should an African
candidate come forward -- and there was a very encouraging letter from
Prime Minister Meles today -- then I would expect there would be a very
active debate in the UN Security Council about that candidate.
I think it is clear from Prime Minister Meles' letter that the African
leaders now understand that they have an opportunity here to continue the
tradition of African leadership in a second term, albeit someone who is not
They need to seize that opportunity. The door is open to them, and if they
walk through that door, they will certainly have a willing partner in the
QUESTION: Let me follow up? You weren't here, but last week the Italian
Foreign Minister was in New York for, I don't know what kind of TV
assignment, and on that occasion he said that Italy or some other European
countries favor a new limited term, one year or two years. Can you comment
MR. BURNS: For Boutros-Ghali?
MR. BURNS: Well, the problem with that initiative, with all due respect,
and I am sure it was offered with the greatest sense of responsibility, is
that Boutros-Ghali rejected that offer that Secretary Christopher made to
him in their private discussions last spring. And he has given no
indication that he would be willing to entertain such an offer now.
But I should tell you, the United States has taken that offer off the
table. We are not inclined at all --
MR. BURNS: We are not inclined at all and we will not support any such
compromise offer. We have made a fundamental decision. We believe that the
United Nations needs new leadership. We are looking for a new alternative
candidate. The door has now been opened by Prime Minister Meles of
Ethiopia. It is time for someone, or a group of people, to walk through
that door. There will then be a very active set of consultations in the UN
Security Council led by a variety of countries, but with the participation
of the United States to identify the person who will succeed him.
The value of doing this, and let's not forget the value and the objective,
is to make sure that the next UN Secretary General has reform as his or her
major mission and therefore will be better able to attract the support of
all member countries including the United States, the largest individual
funder of the United Nations.
QUESTION: How do you think the United Nations to work after December 31st
of this year if Mr. Ghali's -- the successor to Mr. Boutros-Ghali will not
be appointed or voted or something like that?
MR. BURNS: We expect that there will be a successor to Boutros-Ghali by
the end of December.
Yes. That is the plan.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about Serbia? The reports today say that crowds
in the street have grown recently to 200,000, which is the figure that we
have seen. Does this strike you as unique either in terms of being a crisis,
or an opportunity to change the political situation there?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I can tell you that the situation in Belgrade remains
largely unchanged. There were large numbers of people in the street again
today for the third day running. The United States continues to call upon
the Serbian leadership, President Milosevic in particular, to reverse the
clearly unacceptable decision to annul the municipal elections that took
It is our understanding that, as you know, that President Milosevic
manufactured run-off elections today. This is completely unacceptable. The
people who clearly won valid municipal elections are being denied their
right to take a seat in the office to which they were voted by their
constituents, and holding run-off elections is not acceptable.
We also condemn the efforts of the government in Belgrade to stifle the
press, to stifle information available to the people of Serbia. Let me give
you an example.
The newspaper Blic intended to run an expanded edition of several hundred
thousand newspapers today and was denied permission to do so by the
Milosevic government, and that is clearly an infringement on the right of
the press to determine when they have got a story they want to tell people
Assistant Secretary John Kornblum met with the Blic editorial leadership
ten days ago to demonstrate symbolically our support for a free press in
Serbia. It is a fluid, dynamic situation. We continue to hope that the
demonstrations are peaceful, and we continue to expect that the Serbian
Government will not use force against the demonstrators in the streets.
QUESTION: Nonetheless, despite the line you have been taking here, the
demonstrators yesterday are reported to have marched past the U.S. Embassy
and did they, I believe, burn the American flag? In any case, there seems
to be an impression among those opposed to Mr. Milosevic and his lack of
recognition of the results of the election, that the United States supports
Mr. Milosevic, and that it is partly responsible somehow for the situation.
Is any consideration being given to taking steps to try to change their
view? Is there anything the U.S. can do to convince them that it is not
responsible for this?
MR. BURNS: Perhaps this is one of the problems with the lack of a free
press, the lack of a free media in Belgrade, because the realities are,
David, the United States is not responsible for the decrepit economic
situation in Serbia, for the lack of fundamental reforms, for the fact that
the government has taken extra constitutional measures to annul free and
In fact, we are on the record. We oppose the annulment of the elections. We
support democracy. We support media freedoms and we specifically condemn
the use of governmental powers to infringe upon the media.
We have a very clear record here and we are standing for the right
QUESTION: Then in that connection, do you plan any action on Milosevic to
show that you really don't support him?
MR. BURNS: As I said yesterday, the United States is maintaining its own
unilateral, outer wall of sanctions on Serbia as an expression, a concrete
expression of our displeasure on the issue of the anti-democratic actions,
the lack of commitment to the war crimes issue, and the problems in
QUESTION: You have a similar situation in Zagreb. Are you going to take
some actions against Zagreb, too, or are you just waiting to see --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is a similar situation in Zagreb, with
all due respect. There aren't thousands, tens of thousands of people on the
street. The government has not overturned fifteen municipal elections in
the last week.
We have a good relationship with the Croatian Government. We do have a lot
of concerns about the Croatian Government's lack of commitment to the war
crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords.
QUESTION: But it is similar because in Zagreb they have a mayor of Zagreb
from Tudjman's office. Actually they have trouble with the mayor for six
months, I think, maybe more, because Tudjman refused the opposition
candidate to be mayor of Zagreb, which is a similarity, and with those
people from 101 radio. Freedom of speech in Croatia is similar like in
Serbia. That was a similarity. So, do you have something from Bosnia from --
MR. BURNS: I don't accept the basis of comparison, with all due respect,
Envira. I think there are different situations. We have our own concerns
with the government of Croatia, but I went into great detail about them
QUESTION: Nick -- ?
MR. BURNS: I was just about to leave. You want one more question.
QUESTION: A last one.
MR. BURNS: Okay.
QUESTION: How do you --
MR. BURNS: People want to get home for Thanksgiving dinner. Got to put
the turkeys in the oven, you know.
QUESTION: How do you describe the relationship --
MR. BURNS: I've got guests coming over. (Laughter.) We've got guests. My
wife wants me to come home. She's watching.
QUESTION: All right. Last question. How do you describe the relations
between the United States peace team and the Palestinian Authority? I read
some reports that at a debrief between the Palestinian negotiators and Mr.
Ross and his team -- the United States team is presenting and negotiating
on behalf of the Israelis only. Do you have comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We have excellent relations with the Palestinian negotiators,
and we are there, Dennis Ross, Ed Abington, Martin Indyk, as intermediaries,
as facilitators, helping the Palestinians and the Israelis. We are friends
with both. We have a unique capacity to undertake that and we are committed
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, very much. Happy Thanksgiving.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)