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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #51, 97-04-08

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

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


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Tuesday, April 8, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1     Secretary Albright Attended Bilateral Meeting with Canadian PM
      Chretien at White House
1     Secretary Speaking on CWC to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Today
1     Secretary to Speak at FSI 50th Anniversary; 4/9
1     Secretary to Address Annual Convention of The American Society of
      Newspaper Editors; 4/10
1     Secretary to Present Shakespeare Award to Patrick Stewart; 4/12
2     Secretary to Deliver Keynote Address at Naval Academy, Foreign
      Affairs Conference; 4/15
2     Five Statements on U.S.-Canada Bilateral Relations
2     Public Announcement -- Bahrain
3     Elections in Eastern Slavonia

CHINA 3-4 Signing of UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 4 Divisions in EU over UN Human Rights Convention Vote

NORTH KOREA 4-5 Additional Reports of Widespread Famine and Food Shortages in DPRK 5-7 U.S.-DPRK Missile Talks 5-6 Update on Four Party Talks

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 7-8 Upcoming Palestinian Delegation Visit to Washington/Minister Ashrawi-Dennis Ross Meeting 7,10-11 Reports of Violence in Hebron 8-10 USG View on Status of/Conditions for Peace Negotiations 12-13 Proposal of a "Fast Track" to Final Status Negotiations

DEPARTMENT 11-12 Release of the Office of Historian's Report on Nazi Gold

CWC RATIFICATION 12 Prospects of CWC Ratification

ALBANIA 13-14 Multinational Force and Stability in Albania


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #51

TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 1997, 2:16 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I've got a couple of things to tell you about. As you know, Secretary Albright was over at the White House with the President for the meeting with Prime Minister Chretien. At 3:30 this afternoon - just about an hour and 15 minutes from now - she's going to go up to Capitol Hill to give an address to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; make a statement on the Chemical Weapons Convention.

You know that Senator Helms and others have been holding hearings today with those people who are opposed. These are mainly former government officials from Administrations past opposed to the CWC ratification. She's going up to make an affirmative statement on why it should be passed by the Senate - ratified by the Senate, excuse me - and that statement is available to all of you - will be available to all of you shortly in the Press Office.

Second, I want to let you know that tomorrow the Secretary will be at the Foreign Service Institute at 9:15 in the morning to give an address on American foreign policy. She'll also be meeting some of our students and faculty members, including our Director, Tazi Schaffer there. As you know, the press is cordially invited to that.

Also this week, the Secretary, on Thursday, will address the annual convention of The American Society of Newspaper Editors. That's Thursday, April 10th at approximately 1:15 p.m. This, I believe, is the largest and most significant gathering of newspaper editors from across the United States. She intends to speak about a variety of foreign policy issues and then take questions from the editors. This is a group, I believe, of about 550 people.

This event is open to the press. If you would like to cover it, you need to check with The American Society of Newspaper Editors. It will be at the Marriott Hotel. That's Pennsylvania and 13th - Thursday, April 10th; right.

On Saturday, April 12th, the Secretary will present the Shakespeare Theater's Tenth Annual William Shakespeare Award for classical theater - the Will Award. This is to Patrick Stewart in recognition of his significant contribution to the on-going process of renewing and invigorating classical theater in the United States. This award will be presented at a black-tie dinner, to be held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. That's Saturday. That event is also open to press coverage. We have a lot of things for you.

Next Tuesday, April 15, Secretary Albright will deliver the keynote address on the occasion of the 37th Annual Naval Academy, Foreign Affairs Conference. This is part of their James Forrestal lecture series. This draws students from nearly 100 colleges and 18 countries to discuss ideas related to foreign policy.

The Secretary's address will be at 7:30 p.m., Alumni Hall, the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. She'll be addressing that conference. She'll also review a military parade earlier in the day - late in the afternoon - of midshipmen. That should be a great event. All of this is open to the press. The Press Office will be glad to help you with any arrangements if you'd like to go to Annapolis. That's Tuesday, the 15th of April.

On to some of the issues of the day. One more thing, actually, I should say, and that is, the Prime Minister of Canada has been here. The press conference just concluded. We have four statements about this visit that are available to you in the Press Office. These are statements on environmental cooperation between the United States and Canada, on science and technology, on border management, and on law enforcement and justice. That's in the Press Office.

Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the situation in Bahrain. I just want to mention again today that we have issued a public announcement today. This is available to all Americans here in the United States who are considering travel to Bahrain and to the many, many Americans who live and work in Bahrain.

This reflects the statement that was issued yesterday by the United States Embassy in Bahrain. Essentially, we are encouraging Americans to maintain a high level of security awareness. Civil disturbances continue in Bahrain. They do not appear to target Americans.

The U.S. Embassy continues to recommend that Americans exercise the strongest caution while following their daily business and social routines. The Embassy continues to receive information about possible terrorist threats to the United States military in the region, in the Persian Gulf region, including in Bahrain.

In response to these threats, the United States Navy has restricted liberty and barred visits to clubs, bars, and restaurants until further notice. The Embassy recommends that American citizens also avoid frequenting these establishments until further notice. Americans should report any suspicious incidents to the United States Embassy in Bahrain.

Americans considering travel to Bahrain may wish to consider this information when making their travel plans. This is being posted today. It's available to all of you in the Press Office.

Finally, I have a statement that we're issuing today on the situation in Eastern Slavonia.

The United States Government notes that Croatia will hold elections on April 13 for seats in the upper house of parliament and for local offices. The voting in Eastern Slavonia will be particularly important in accordance with the Erdut Agreement; and, for the first time, in the aftermath of the Balkan wars, Eastern Slavonian Serbs and Croats will vote for the officials who will represent them in a unified, integrated government.

This is a key step toward national reconciliation. It was foreseen in the Dayton process when Secretary Christopher and Dick Holbrooke negotiated the Eastern Slavonia covenant with the Croats and the Serbs. Now is the critical moment to move beyond rhetoric and to consolidate democracy. The United Nations Security Council has followed closely developments in the run-up to these elections and supports the election process as part of peaceful reintegration of people in that region.

Through the U.N. Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia, the international community has worked very hard to create the conditions necessary for successful elections.

The United States encourages all citizens of Croatia, including the residents of Eastern Slavonia to participate in this democratic process. We strongly urge the residents of the region to stay and take advantage of their rights as citizens of Croatia. By taking part in the elections, they guarantee themselves representation in the structure of governance and a future in Croatia itself.

We note that thousands of Eastern Slavonian residents have already registered to vote. International observers are in place. The United States will have over 100 election observers on the ground. Of course, we are, in this effort, very grateful for the work of the U.N. Administrator Jacques Klein, who also happens to be an American Foreign Service officer. He and his staff have made an extraordinary effort to hold these elections. The United States fully supports their efforts.

It is gratifying to see the situation in Eastern Slavonia reach this point. If you remember back to November 1995, Eastern Slavonia was one of the major sticking points at Dayton, Ohio, in the peace talks. It was Secretary Christopher's intervention in those talks on this issue on, I believe, November 10, 1995, that broke a very significant logjam. The fact that they're on the verge of elections speak volumes about where the Balkan process is. It's heading in the right direction, particularly in Eastern Slavonia.

QUESTION: Did you see the statement by China today concerning their decision to sign this international pact which, I believe, the United States has been encouraging them to do - international economic, social, and cultural agreement?

MR. BURNS: I heard about a statement on that. Unfortunately, I was not briefed on that by any of our experts in the building. But, nevertheless, we will look into that for you, George, and see if, in fact, these reports are accurate.

The fact is that we have encouraged China to adhere to certain international covenants governing human and religious rights. More importantly, we are looking for concrete, pragmatic changes on the ground in China's human rights practices and the way that China treats its own population. Frankly, we have not seen any significant change in the way that China treats its own people. Therefore, we are proceeding to support the resolution tabled by Denmark in Geneva at the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

QUESTION: Will you co-sponsor it, too?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I think so. I think the United States will co-sponsor it, yes, as will a number of other countries. As I said yesterday, we hope to defeat the efforts of those, including China, that wish to stop any kind of debate in Geneva about the human rights situation in China. That's the right forum for debate, and there clearly needs to be a lot of international discussion about the poor record - the very poor record - of the Chinese Government and the way it treats its own people.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the divisions in the EU on this subject?

MR. BURNS: It's unfortunate that there are divisions. One would have hoped - we certainly would have hoped - that the European Union would have spoken with a single voice, a unified voice, on this issue. We are very grateful to Denmark for having stood up for human rights around the world - in this case, in China - as Denmark has throughout its history. If you remember back to Denmark's record during the Second World War, it has an unmatched record for human rights observances during the last 60 or 70 years. The Danes are continuing in their very good tradition in that respect.

QUESTION: While we're in Asia, have you seen the reports suggesting that the food shortage is even worse than earlier reported and that there are evident signs of widespread starvation?

MR. BURNS: We've seen a number of those reports. In fact, Congressman Tony Hall just returned from a trip to North Korea. He gave very strong, dramatic statements to the press about what he saw about the deprivations and the food shortages underway in North Korea. I know that on April 4, the World Food Program Executive Director, Catherine Bertini, announced in Seoul that her organization would double its current appeal for North Korea to 200,000 metric tons of food commodities valued at $95.5 million.

The United States has not made a formal decision about additional food assistance to North Korea. However, we remain open to appeals by the United Nations humanitarian agencies. We are seriously reviewing this expanded request by the World Food Program.

I would also note that Cargill Corporation announced yesterday that it had reached agreement with the North Koreans for an initial, modest commercial sale of wheat in the near future. The exact terms, of course, are up to Cargill to reveal. That's proprietary information, but we hope very much that there can be efforts to meet the severe food needs of the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Do you have independent corroboration that there is widespread danger of starvation?

MR. BURNS: We rely on the World Food Program and the other United Nations agencies to be, in effect, the authoritative voice on these matters. We do not have an American Embassy, any kind of official presence, as you know, in North Korea. So we have always, historically, relied on these agencies to give us their best assessment. As you know, the United States has consistently responded positively to these requests for food assistance. We announced in late February, of course, $10 million in food assistance for the first appeal that was made by the World Food Program.

I also want to say - let me just add to that. I think since the Fall of 1995, we've given a total of $18.4 million in cash and in-kind donations to the North Koreans as a response to United Nations appeals.

Yesterday, I was asked about possible missile talks scheduled between the United States and North Korea. I did check on that.

The North Koreans have indicated to the United States their willingness to hold a second round of United States-North Korean missile talks very soon. We are currently working on the exact date and location for such a meeting, but I think it will be held quite soon. As usual, our great expert on these matters, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn will head the U.S. delegation. I'm not aware who will head the North Korean delegation.

The last such talks were one year ago, April 1996, in Berlin.

QUESTION: When is it?

MR. BURNS: We are working on the date and location for the talks, Sid. I expect to have something for you very shortly on that because I think that's being worked out.

QUESTION: Any word from the North Koreans on the Four Party talks?

MR. BURNS: No word yet from the North Koreans. We're hoping for word soon.

QUESTION: There's a bit of confusion. The North Koreans have said they've requested another high-level briefing, at the level of the Four Party talks briefing which makes it appear that the ball is kind of in the U.S. court now as to whether - can you clear it up?

MR. BURNS: As I understand it, there are no definite plans at the moment for a higher level meeting. The North Koreans have indicated to us their willingness to meet soon, to respond formally to the proposals that were made by the United States and the South Koreans. This was back in early March. I believe it was March 5th in New York, as you remember. That's what we're waiting for.

We assume they're going to come back to us and say, "Let's have another meeting." Whether that's a briefing or whether that's a forum for the North Koreans to make a formal response to us on the proposal for Four Party talks, we'll have to see but we think it's going to be the latter. Of course, we'll remain flexible here. We want to talk to the North Koreans - we and the South Koreans. We want to further these discussions. We want to make progress so that the Four Party talks can begin.

Yes, Sid.

QUESTION: Just on the missile talks. Could you sort of bring us up to date on what you want out of the missile talks, what kind of things you'll be discussing?

MR. BURNS: These talks are designed, as they were one year ago this month, to review the adherence by North Korea to international standards on the safeguarding of missile technology. As you know, the United States has placed proliferation and missile proliferation as one of the most important issues in our foreign policy agenda - our global foreign policy agenda. Whenever we can engage in talks with countries like North Korea or China on these issues, we do so. So that's a general response, Sid. If you're looking for a more specific agenda, I can consult with Bob Einhorn and get back to you.

QUESTION: Would you like them to join the MTCR?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Would you like them to sign on to the MTCR?

MR. BURNS: Obviously, we want to see the broadest possible inclusion of countries in the MTCR, because that's the major international regime that governs - that tries to limit the proliferation of missile technology and missiles themselves. But, if you'd like, I can consult with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Einhorn and see if we can get you something more specific before these talks are held.

QUESTION: Maybe you could talk to us after the talks.

MR. BURNS: That's another possibility. We'll see.

QUESTION: Could we go to another subject. Have you invited the Palestinians to send a summary delegation, and have you had a response?

MR. BURNS: We understand that the Palestinian Authority will be sending to Washington in the next couple of days a senior level delegation. We have not yet been told who those people will be, although we have some ideas, but we haven't been told officially. So I'll have to wait before I can give those names out. As the President just said a half hour ago, we're looking forward to this. It's the next step in our attempt to put the negotiations back together.

Meanwhile, Hanan Ashrawi is in town. In fact, she probably arrived about two minutes ago to see Dennis Ross. She'll be consulting with Dennis and Aaron Miller and others this afternoon. She'll be with some of the permanent representatives of the Palestinians here, and then we will await the visit of the senior level Palestinians; and at that point we'll have to consider where we are. We'll remain in touch this week with other regional leaders - Arab leaders - about the situation pertaining to the peace talks, and then we'll have to decide on the next steps.

Frankly, we believe that, as we said yesterday, we are at a critical, difficult moment in the peace negotiations, and clearly confidence has been lost on both sides. There's a need now to try to rebuild that confidence and a sense of trust, and that's where we are heading. We've got to try to piece back together a credible process where both the Israelis and Palestinians can believe that there is some reason to hope for progress. But the last thing I would say is just to reaffirm something that was said earlier today by the President, and that is that we Americans are optimists, and we are going to work hard to make sure that these peace negotiations are revived. That has been our experience over the last quarter century. We've been successful in doing this in the past, and we're going to work toward that end.

QUESTION: Have you seen the reports of new violence in Hebron and I think now three deaths involved?

MR. BURNS: We've seen the reports of three dead and over 100 people wounded in Hebron today in vicious violence - I mean vicious trouble, vicious violence in the West Bank - and obviously we hope for an end to the kind of violence that we saw today, and we hope for a resurrection of a different kind of climate where Palestinians and Israelis sit down with each other and negotiate their differences.

QUESTION: Albania -

MR. BURNS: Let's keep on the Middle East, and then we'll go to Albania.

QUESTION: As I understand it, Arafat will not be in the Palestinian delegation that comes. Does that diminish or dilute in the opinion of U.S. diplomats the mission of the Palestinians?

MR. BURNS: No, it doesn't, because we've been in pretty much constant communication with Chairman Arafat. We know what his views are. We'll be able to talk to him by phone, both the Secretary and Dennis Ross, and these people, of course, will be senior level people, among his closest assistants, and they will speak for him and for the Palestinian Authority. It is the next step in the process. But there will be further steps, obviously, beyond that as we attempt to revive these negotiations.

QUESTION: Was he invited to be among this group, do you know? Arafat.

MR. BURNS: I think it's his decision to send the delegation that he is sending. That's his decision. As you know, we, of course, would not turn down an opportunity to see Chairman Arafat. This is the way that he wanted to handle these negotiations. We respect that. The people who are coming, if they are the people who we think they are, are well known interlocutors of the United States and highly regarded by us. I think these will be very important talks.

QUESTION: As you work toward piecing back together, to use your words, the peace process, does the State Department or does the Clinton Administration feel that the visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu furthered that goal?

MR. BURNS: I think what you've seen in our comments over the last 24 hours is that we're at least moving again. We have people coming. We are talking to them - the Israelis and Palestinians. We are injecting ourselves into this process. The United States has offered ideas. We've asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to consider them. We'll ask the Palestinians to consider them. At the same time, we're listening to them. Hopefully, by the end of this process, we'll have convinced both of them that it's time to go back to face-to-face negotiations.

Obviously, it was a very useful visit by the Prime Minister, and we look forward to a similar one by the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Nick, as the President said yesterday, he used the word "precondition" - that an end to violence is a precondition to making peace in the Middle East. Will Mr. Ross tell the Palestinians that?

MR. BURNS: Our position on this has been constant for well over a month - zero tolerance - and that means that everyone involved in the peace negotiations has to dedicate themselves to that proposition, with the understanding - and I think this goes to your question - that progress in the peace negotiations can't occur in an environment where there is widespread fighting and violence. The situation has to calm itself domestically in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip before we can see real progress at the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Well, precondition is a very specific word, and while the President only used it once, let's assume he used it with some aforethought. "Precondition" means you can't negotiate until you get the declaration that the Palestinians have zero tolerance for violence.

MR. BURNS: I think, Barry, that all of us would - and I think the Palestinians would agree - that progress is not going to be made in an environment where there's violence from either side. There has to be zero tolerance for violence.

QUESTION: I'm not talking about progress, but I'll drop it, because I don't think you're going to answer the question. The use of precondition, unless he's using it loosely, means that until this happens, until there is a declaration of zero tolerance for violence from the Palestinians, the U.S. does not want to go ahead with seating the two parties at a table and negotiating. You need this first to go ahead; and not you need it first to do well, you need it first to do okay, you just need it first, period. Do you need it first, or, if you can find a way to get the two sides going without that red light you used to talk about, is that okay, too?

MR. BURNS: Barry, let me just try to summarize what I think the American position is, and that is what I know the American position to be, and that is that we want the Palestinians to do everything they can to choke off violence and terrorism. We want the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a resumption of negotiations. We want both of them to be true to the commitments that they've made to each other as part of the Oslo process.

Those aspirations that I've just put forth require both sides to take positive actions for peace, and they require both sides to think of the other as a negotiating partner with political needs, and that I think is the essence of the American position. We're looking for positive actions from Israel as well as from the Palestinians; and on violence we're looking for a clear renunciation of terrorism from the Palestinian leadership. We've seen statements by Chairman Arafat, and it's always good to see reaffirmations of those statements.

QUESTION: You're coupling the two sides again and what you want from both. The President yesterday made it clear there is no quid pro quo from the U.S. standpoint so far as the cessation of violence. Whatever you guys may think of Har Homa, whatever you may think of Jerusalem, whatever you may think of anything, he wanted as a precondition, a declaration that there is zero tolerance for violence. You are doing the customary thing -

MR. BURNS: Barry, that's a different -

QUESTION: -- of asking both sides to be - you know, to reconcile and make a compromise and all that. That may be your strategy, but I'm asking you simply about a precondition of the declaration against violence. But that's the last time I'll try it, I promise.

MR. BURNS: I just heard a new question from you, at least in my own mind.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) else I better rephrase it.

MR. BURNS: Well, you asked a new question in my mind, and you asked the President that question yesterday. You asked it.

QUESTION: I didn't ask if it was a precondition. He volunteered precondition.

MR. BURNS: No, you talked about the fact - you asked a very specific -

QUESTION: Quid pro quo.

MR. BURNS: That's right, and the President answered it the way, obviously, he wanted to, which is United States' policy, and I cannot improve on the President's answer to that question. It is not acceptable to think that Israel can go forward in a climate where there's continued terrorism, and that's what the President was saying yesterday. Israel should not have to pay something to have violence ended and terrorism ended. That's exactly what the President was referring to, and I'm glad you gave me an opportunity to just point to his remarks of yesterday. But I think your initial questions were slightly different, at least in my own mind.

QUESTION: Just for clarification, just for the record, my understanding - my recollection of what he said was that there would be zero tolerance for terrorism.

QUESTION: Correct, terrorism.

QUESTION: You keep using the word "violence." You're not equating stone throwing with terrorism.

MR. BURNS: No, I think we're talking about the type of terrorism that we saw nearly three weeks ago in Tel Aviv where a man walked into a caf and blew up innocent civilians, or where people try to blow up school buses - Palestinians trying to blow up Israeli school buses. That kind of terrorist activity is not going to be - cannot be a part of the peace negotiations, and we must have zero tolerance for it.

We do not approve of stone throwing. We don't approve of shooting bullets. We don't approve of knifings. We are against violence as well. But I think Barry's question yesterday -

QUESTION: --the question was about terrorism.

MR. BURNS: Barry's question yesterday was about terrorism, but I don't want to be mute here on the question of violence either. We don't support violence.

QUESTION: There are two - unsurprising, there are two totally different, differing - I don't know if you've been into this - accounts of what happened. The Israelis say that the seminary students on their way to Abraham's Tomb were attacked by tear gas. The Palestinians say there was no provocation. The seminary students opened fire on the Palestinians. Of course, you know what happened afterwards. Two others were killed and scores were injured by Israeli troops. Were those seminary students attacked by -- or does the U.S. know?

MR. BURNS: The United States does not know. We weren't there. American officials were not on the scene, so therefore we can't know. There are two different sides to this story. We regret the violence. We regret the loss of life. We regret the fact that over 100 people are injured, but we are not taking sides. We're not trying to point the finger at either side. The Israeli police and military officials will have to try to figure out which side is responsible, and there's a judicial system in place to handle that kind of process.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any second thoughts in light of this incident about Israel withdrawing from 80 percent of Hebron and turning over security in most of the town to the Palestinians? Do you think security - do you have any second thoughts about whether security can be maintained in light of today's incident?

MR. BURNS: We believe in the Oslo process. We believe in the commitments made in Oslo. This was a decision to redeploy from Hebron made by Prime Minister Netanyahu's government. Obviously, that government supports the decision. The Palestinians do, as do we.

What we do want to see happen in Hebron as well as in other areas where Israeli troops and Palestinian policemen come together, is we want to see cooperation between the Israeli military forces and the Palestinian police. That is essential. Everyone would agree that is essential to provide for a secure environment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

David.

QUESTION: Has the Department figured out yet which day it is going to release the Historian's report on Swiss gold? I gather it's being printed.

MR. BURNS: The Department has not yet figured out the exact day of the release, although I think it's going to happen in the month of April, I would venture a guess. I hope to be more specific about that as soon as I can. I did talk to Stu Eizenstat last week. We had a general discussion of when we'd like to do it, but we haven't settled on a specific date. It's very complicated, because information continues to flow into us about the activities of a variety of countries. Just over the weekend, new information about a country in Europe came in. We have to look through this. We have to search through our archives, and all of this work - a great deal of it - is being done - I just want to congratulate him again - by our Historian, Bill Slany, who does a terrific job. So when the time comes to set a date, we'll let you know about it, and Stu Eizenstat will be here, and he'll present it to you publicly.

QUESTION: If my colleagues will indulge me, another question, different subject. Have you - there's hearings today on CWC, and, of course, the Secretary will speak about it. Have your legislative people done any nose counting yet? Do you think that you can get two-thirds of the Senate to vote for it?

MR. BURNS: We are very hopeful that two-thirds of the Senate will reach the conclusion that they've got to ratify the CWC before too long. We are hopeful, and I would even venture to say we're optimistic, because we think it's unquestionably in our best interests. I think you need look no further than the bipartisan gathering on Friday at the White House where Colin Powell and James Baker, Republicans as well as Democrats, got together, and they spoke in one voice about the need for the ratification of the CWC and why it's in our national interest.

QUESTION: Nick, last night - back to the Middle East - Netanyahu in a speech to APAC, his third speech of the day, before getting on his airplane, flatly ruled out - and I'll get you the words, if you'll trust my reporting, that - he flatly ruled out giving up any part of Jerusalem, returning to the '67 borders or a Palestinian state. If that's his position, what is the point of pushing for final status talks, from the U.S. view?

MR. BURNS: But it's exactly -

QUESTION: What do you expect his position will be?

MR. BURNS: But that's what final status talks are all about. The Israelis and Palestinians agreed, as you know better than anybody, in 1993 that the final status talks would include these very difficult issues of Jerusalem - the future of the Palestinian-controlled areas - and all of that, of course, and all of the attendant problems that flow from them are designed to be discussed in these very important negotiations.

Our point is let's get there. Let's help the Palestinians and Israelis get to the point where they can discuss these problems.

QUESTION: They're not disheartened.

MR. BURNS: No, we're never disheartened, because I think the track record is that the United States needs to remain a positive, balancing, objective partner to both the Palestinians and Israelis, and we're going to keep this process going. You just heard the President say that not too long ago.

QUESTION: Can we take another swing at fast-track? It sounds like the French idea for NATO expansion. It seems to be disappearing.

MR. BURNS: Is this NATO or the Middle East?

QUESTION: No, this is in the Middle East. But it reminds me of the one- day life of the French proposal for the Big Four NATO powers to get together and talk about ways to make Mr. Yeltsin less alarmed about NATO expansion.

Netanyahu left town saying, "Hey, there could be other ideas." Have you guys put the kibosh on fast-track and not gone public with it? And why would you do that if -

MR. BURNS: Fast-track for final status talks?

QUESTION: Yeah. Since he says he's still committed to Oslo; he'd carry that out even while moving to fast-track. Is that a bad idea?

MR. BURNS: What has to happen, Barry, is that the two sides have to agree on any proposal to make it a successful proposal. So the Israelis and Palestinians need to agree. Right now they cannot agree on how they should meet - in what place, at what time, and what table, and how they should structure their talks. Right? So it's up to the United States to try to help them do that.

The President put some ideas in front of the Prime Minister. We'll put them in front of the Palestinians, and we'll try to move forward.

The President answered your question yesterday. He said what he said about that particular proposal. We've obviously heard it. We know the reasons why certain people want to push it. We'll now listen to the Palestinians, and we'll try to move forward with both of them on all these issues.

QUESTION: A couple of questions. First of all, I would like to know whether the United States thinks the government of President Berisha is some kind of an obstacle to the pacification of the country?

Second, what do you expect the results of the multinational force would be? Are you optimistic for that mission?

MR. BURNS: On the second question, we are hopeful that by April 14th the European force will have taken its place in Albania and that it will be an agent of stability in Albania.

On your first question, the obstacle to stability and peace are the armed insurgents who seem to think they're above the law in Albania, the people who chased Prime Minister Fino away from an important event over the weekend. So, therefore, I think all Albanians need to support their government. Their government is a broad-based government that includes all the major political parties, including the opposition - the former opposition. So that's the place to provide for stability in Albania. People in Albania need to look toward that government as the agent of stability and look at the armed people in the streets, the insurgents as the obstacles to peace and stability.

Thank you.

(Press briefing concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

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