U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #52, 97-04-09
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
Wednesday, April 9, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to Visitors
1 Secretary To Deliver Keynote Address at Gerald R. Ford Museum in
Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 16
2 Secretary's Speech at the Foreign Service Institute Today
2 Secretary to Participate Today in President's Mtg with
Congressional Leaders on Ratification of Chemical Weapons
2 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Mtg. with Cambodian Leader Sam Rainsy
3 Release of FRUS, 1964-1968, Volume on Arms Control and
3-5 Situation in Zaire/US Call for Resumption of Negotiations and
5 International Access to Remaining Refugees
5-6 Adherence to Constitutional Processes in Selection of Prime
6,8 US Efforts to Assure Safety of Americans
7 Diplomatic Contact with President Mobutu
8-9 Role of South Africa in Peace Negotiations/Deputy President Mbeki
Mtg. With Secretary Albright
11 Protection of Economic Assets
9-10 US Review of World Food Program Appeal for Additional Food
9-10 U.S.-DPRK Missile Talks/No Date Set
10 Update on Four Party Talks
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
11-12 Secretary's Meeting Tomorrow with Palestinian Delegation
12,17-18 Secretary's Calls to Middle East Leaders
13 Responsibility for Violence in Hebron
13,15-16 Possibility of Travel by Secretary to the Region
13-15 Next Steps in Peace Negotiations
15,19 US Playing Central Role in Peace Negotiations
20-21 Flight of Iraqi Airline Carrying Haj Pilgrims
21 Foreign Primakov's Comments on NATO-Russia Charter Negotiations
21-22 Deputy Secretary's Meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov
22-24 US-Danish Co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution on China's Human
24 Robert Pelletreau Comments on Need for Wider Dialogue
25 Recertification: Report of New Extradition
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 1997, 1:33 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department.
Glad to have you all with us. A lot of news today.
I want to welcome to the briefing today, Mr. Kim Joo Eun, a South Korean
journalist visiting the United States through the Meridian International
Center. Welcome. And two Hungarian journalists: Peter Kovesdi and Peter
Radnai, who are here from Hungary visiting.
Secretary Albright will be traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on
Wednesday, April 16, to deliver the keynote address on the occasion of the
rededication of President Gerald R. Ford's Museum. Secretary Albright will
begin her keynote address at 2:00 p.m. at the Ford Museum and will take
questions from the audience at approximately 2:30 p.m.
She'll be flying out to meet President Ford, to have lunch with him, to
give this speech, and then she'll be coming back late in the afternoon to
Washington, because she has an evening event that night.
There will be other events that take place during the rededication
ceremonies, including a panel discussion, which will include Henry
Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and Alexander Haig, to
discuss contemporary relations between the United States and Europe.
Secretary Albright won't be in that panel, but that's another event that's
taking place, I believe the following day. I can check that.
Former Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush will have a joint press conference
on April 17th, the next day, to talk about the rededication of President
Ford's Presidential museum. Secretary Albright has been honored to be asked
to participate in this event, and it's another way for her not only to have
discussions on a bipartisan basis this time with the former Republican
President about the goals of American foreign policy, the need for
engagement, the need for bipartisanship. It's also another opportunity for
her to get outside of the Beltway to talk to the American people about
American foreign policy. So that's April 16th.
The previous day, as I said yesterday, she'll be up at Annapolis to give a
major speech that evening to Midshipmen at the Naval Academy and to the
Naval Academy leadership about other issues in American foreign policy.
Secretary Albright today went over to the Foreign Service Institute. She
kicked off our day-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the
institute. She gave a speech, which I suppose all of you have by now - or
you should have it; we have it available for you. She talked about the
importance of resources for the Foreign and Civil Service and the
importance of training the next generation of American diplomats.
I know that there was a good panel discussion this morning, moderated by
Tim Wirth, which included Richard Haass and Sam Lewis, and that our former
colleague, Bob Gallucci, gave the luncheon address - a luncheon that was
hosted by Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott. So it's been a good day over at
the Foreign Service Institute.
The Secretary will be participating in an event later on this evening over
at the White House with President Clinton. This will be a meeting that the
President and the Secretary have with senior members of Congress - the
congressional leadership - about the Chemical Weapons Convention and the
need for prompt ratification of the CWC.
Secretary Albright was on the phone this morning, talking to a variety of
senators who will be voting on this to ask for their support on this bill,
and that remains one of the major priorities for our foreign policy.
Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott had a meeting this morning with Sam Rainsy,
the head of Cambodia's Khmer Nation Party. Deputy Secretary Talbott
condemned the March 30th grenade attack on a demonstration in Phnom Penh
led by Mr. Sam Rainsy and expressed concern about the impact of political
violence on Cambodia's ability to hold free and fair elections in 1998.
Deputy Secretary Talbott expressed relief that Mr. Sam Rainsy was not
seriously injured and outrage that others were killed and wounded. He
offered condolences on behalf of the United States to the families of those
Cambodian citizens who were killed.
The United States has called on the Royal Government of Cambodia to conduct
a thorough and speedy investigation resulting in the apprehension and
punishment of those responsible for this vicious attack. The United States
continues to be a strong supporter of the democratic process in Cambodia.
We are deeply concerned that acts of violence such as this could put at
risk the significant progress toward democracy that Cambodia has made since
the U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993, and that progress was certainly
evident during Secretary Christopher's visit to Phnom Penh in August of
As a friend, the United States has been telling Cambodia's leaders candidly
of our concerns over recent trends, including cases involving freedom of
expression and freedom of the press, and how these trends might jeopardize
international support for the process of change in Cambodia.
The United States continues to urge all Cambodians to reaffirm their
commitment to building democratic institutions; to safeguarding democracy,
including freedom of expression; and most notably freedom of the press.
I want to let you know that our Historians are releasing another volume in
the History of the Foreign Relations of the United States series. This
volume covers the period 1964 to 1968, "Arms Control and Disarmament," and
it focuses on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 and some other significant arms
negotiations in which the Lyndon Johnson Administration participated, and
that statement is available to you in the Press Room.
Finally today I wanted to say a few words about the situation in Zaire, and
this is really along with the situation in the Middle East, which we have
been working on very, very closely this morning. Secretary Albright has
focused on the Middle East and Zaire today. The situation in Zaire is quite
The United States welcomes the April 8th Joint Communiqué by
delegations representing the Government of Zaire and the Alliance of
Democratic Forces for the liberation of Congo-Zaire - that's the rebel
alliance. The statement was issued following four days of peace talks
mediated by the U.N. negotiator, Mohamed Sahnoun, and also assisted by
senior South African Government officials.
While the Government of Zaire and the rebel alliance acknowledged that many
issues are still to be resolved, their communiqué highlights some
important points of agreement, including commitments to Zairian sovereignty
and territorial integrity; commitments to negotiations and a cessation of
hostilities consistent with the United Nations' and the OAU peace plan for
Zaire; and to fundamental and democratic change, including a process of
transition that would lead to democratic elections in Zaire.
Following the issuance of this communiqué yesterday, the two
delegations have now adjourned temporarily to consult with their political
leadership. The United States urges both the Government and the rebel
alliance to resume negotiations as soon as possible, to agree to an
immediate cessation of hostilities and to continue progress towards a
comprehensive peace settlement.
The United States is pleased by the recent progress in these negotiations,
and we hope that that might continue. We hope that they return to South
Africa a soon as they can. There's been a lot of talk over the last 24
hours about the American position on Zaire, and I wanted to share some
thoughts with you.
The United States has been pressing very hard for many months now for a
negotiated solution to the conflict in Zaire and for a cease-fire, a
cessation of hostilities. We recognize that any solution to the problems of
Zaire - any negotiated solution - is likely to entail agreement on an
interim transitional government leading ultimately to elections. For these
negotiations to succeed, and if they're going to reach this objective of a
transition in Zaire leading to democracy and elections, the government of
President Mobutu, as well as the rebels themselves, must recognize the
status quo cannot be maintained in Zaire.
The United States does believe that the era of Mobutuism is over, and we
urge both sides to work together to find a negotiated settlement to the
current crisis, so that stability can be returned to the country and
representative government can be brought about. Certainly, the culture of
authoritarianism must disappear. Certainly, it's time for dictatorship to
end, and Zaire's leaders cannot live in the past.
What we are seeking is an orderly transition to democracy through
elections. That is the only way to insure stability, and we would like all
political parties and political movements and armed groups in Zaire to work
towards that end. The fundamental problem in Zaire is the state of
disrepair of the Zairian political system and of its economy. There are no
institutions remaining in Zaire that have credibility in Zaire itself,
among the Zairian people.
The slow pace of democratic reform in Zaire has perpetuated a system in
which ordinary Zairians have had little effective political representation.
Any accelerated political transition will be an improvement on the current
situation, and that is where I would like to emphasize the position of the
The Zairian people must decide who will lead Zaire. There must be a
transition, and it's fairly clear to us that President Mobutu is no longer
in control of the economy or the political institutions of the country.
It's surely true in Africa, as well as it is in Central Europe or Southeast
Asia or Latin America, that the people must decide who will rule them, who
will rule Zaire, and what kind of political system they should have.
I wanted to share those thoughts with you, which reflect the views of the
State Department and the U.S. Government, because there's been a lot of
talk over the last couple of days about Zaire, about the direction in which
it should head, and I wanted to make sure that our views were presented as
clearly as they can be.
QUESTION: Nick, you seem to be escalating your rhetoric much more than
you had been in recent days. You have the White House calling President
Mobutu a creature of history, I believe, or words to that effect, and
you're using language that you hadn't used before, and I wondered what has
brought that about?
MR. BURNS: It's prompted, George, by the very deep political crisis
underway in Zaire. The fact is that Zaire is one of the most important
countries in Africa. There's no question about that, given its geopolitical
location, given its economy, given the fact that it borders on nine
countries. Whatever happens in Zaire inevitably is going to affect what
happens in central Africa and in southern Africa and the stability of
nations neighboring Zaire, bordering Zaire will be affected by how this
political transition - how this civil war ends. We want it to end
peacefully. We don't want it to end violently. We want to see a peaceful
transition in Zaire to democratic leadership. We're very concerned by this
We have noted today some modest progress in the initial negotiations in
South Africa between the government and the rebel alliance, but one should
not be misled by that modest progress to think that the situation is going
to be improved; in fact, the situation is deteriorating. There are credible
reports now that Mr. Kabila's forces have taken Lubumbashi this morning. We
know, of course, that he has secured Kisangani and the whole eastern part
We Americans are very concerned about the territorial integrity of the
country, about the sovereignty that must exist if Zaire is to survive as a
nation-state, and it must survive as an integrated nation-state with its
current borders. Because we're so concerned about the situation today,
because we've seen this dramatic escalation of the violence, we think it's
important for us to speak out on the future.
I wanted to address one other aspect of this situation that's very
important. It's the humanitarian situation. The facts are that for the last
two weeks a great number of people have died in the refugee camps near
Kisangani because of the inaction of the leaders of that country and some
of the neighboring states. You remember last week we pressed Mr. Kabila for
six days to allow the United Nations to bring planes into Kisangani, and to
airlift out of Kisangani 20, 000 to 30,000 people who we believe are in
serious danger of either being malnourished or dying from starvation.
The United Nations has said that an estimate is that 120 people are dying
per day in these camps. Surely we cannot stand by and allow this to happen
without public comment. Finally, over the weekend Mr. Kabila gave his
permission for the United Nations to take these people out from the
Kisangani airport and by road, those who are less affected, to the Rwandan
But now we face another problem. The Rwandan Government is now dithering
and delaying in giving the necessary permission to allow these refugees to
be returned to Rwanda, and that is unacceptable. We need to see the
quickest possible action by the Rwandan Government to allow air flights
into Rwanda, to allow the land border to be opened, so that the Rwandan
Hutu refugees, and mainly the women and children who are in danger of
dying, can be transported where they can get adequate medical care and be
given adequate food provisions.
Fortunately, the United Nations has done an excellent job in trying to get
the food supplies into the two camps, 16 and 25 kilometers south of
Kisangani. The United Nations ought to be applauded by the leadership it
has shown and by the quick work. But the United Nations cannot succeed
without the continued cooperation of Mr. Kabila on the one hand, and the
future cooperation of the Rwandan Government.
We request quite seriously the Rwandan Government to give the necessary
permission for these people to be allowed to be helped by the international
community so that we don't see further deaths in these camps.
QUESTION: There's a report that the Zairian Prime Minister - I'm not sure
of this pronunciation - Tshisekedi has been arrested. Have you seen that?
Can you corroborate that?
MR. BURNS: There appears to be a chaotic situation in Kinshasa this
morning. The reports are - there's no reason to disagree with the veracity
of the reports, the accuracy of the reports - that President Mobutu has
fired Prime Minister Tshisekedi. He was barred from entering his office by
troops this morning, and he has been placed under house arrest.
Apparently, President Mobutu has now put in his place, and Prime Minister
Tshisekedi held office for roughly a week, a new Prime Minister.
Our Embassy in Kinshasa is looking into this series of events this morning.
Our view is that it's terribly important that constitutional processes be
adhered to in Zaire; that the government and the parliament consult on the
selection of a Prime Minister. Since the situation is so murky and so
chaotic, it is very difficult for us to know at this point, at this hour,
whether or not the proper constitutional processes were adhered to.
Therefore, if you ask, what do we think of this event, I'm going to have to
say, we want to get further information from our Embassy in Kinshasa. We
may have a situation where there are two Prime Ministers in Zaire or two
people who say they are Prime Minister; we may not. We need to get to the
bottom of this. Obviously, it's a question of major importance. Because the
Zairian Government has to negotiate an end to the civil war, it has to
provide for public security, it has to be a functioning government.
Today's actions have heightened the confusion rather than enlightening
people about the stability of the Zairian Government.
QUESTION: There are reports that Mr. Kabila is not only locking up
refugees but perhaps been involved in the mass executions of a number of
Hutus. Have you looked into those as - have you had a chance to look into
MR. BURNS: We are concerned by these reports, these persistent
allegations that when the rebel alliance took over territory in eastern
Zaire, there were massacres. Now, these are allegations.
The United Nations has investigated these allegations, and I believe that
the United Nations Special Investigators have supplied some preliminary
information to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. We await a
final comprehensive report before we can comment publicly, but we are
concerned by these reports. They won't go away. They are quite persistent,
and they come from a number of sources.
QUESTION: Nick, what is the thinking of the U.S. Government at this
moment on evacuating Americans?
MR. BURNS: The State Department has not made a decision to evacuate
American Embassy employees or dependents from Kinshasa - from our Embassy
in Kinshasa. As you know, we have in place now a voluntary departure
program for dependents should they want to take advantage of it. But we're
watching the situation very closely on a day by day basis.
Should the situation deteriorate in Kinshasa, should it be necessary to
evacuate people, we have the ability to do so. There are American military
forces in Brazzaville, just across the river from Kinshasa; in Libreville,
Gabon. The USS Nassau is, of course, on station off the West African coast.
Everything is in order should we have to proceed to an evacuation. But that
is not currently the order of the day. We obviously want to make sure that
our employees can be - that their safety can be assured and that they don't
have to live under any kind of threat of civil violence or political
As of today, we've not made the decision to do that, but we are watching it
QUESTION: Are you asking for Mobutu to resign, or do you think he ought
to be part of the transition to a more stable government after -
MR. BURNS: That's a question for the Zairian political leadership and the
Zairian Government to answer, whether or not Mr. Mobutu should resign.
That's really up to him. It's up to his political associates. It's up to
his political opponents. It's up to the Zairian people to decide that.
That cannot be a question for the United States to decide. But we do know
one thing: we think the time for dictatorship is over in Zaire and the time
for stability and democracy, if democracy can be achieved; we think that
time is approaching.
QUESTION: You're not shy about calling upon Saddam Hussein to resign. Why
are you not prepared now to say publicly what you're apparently saying
privately, that he should step down?
MR. BURNS: First of all, the United States does not run around on a daily
basis and advise governments to resign. That's a rather extraordinary
political measure to take. The reason why we've taken it in the case of
Saddam Hussein is because he's a special case - he's a special case. He's a
major violator of human rights, of United Nations resolutions. He's a major
threat to security all throughout the Middle East, so we treat him as a
special problem, and he is a special problem.
Now, Mr. Mobutu is another case. He's someone who has been in power for
three decades. Clearly, his regime has not resulted in an improvement in
the economic situation of the Zairian people. Quite to the contrary.
Clearly, these last years of his regime have just produced this incredible
array of instability that we see today. But it's not for the United States
to step into a situation like this and to add to further chaos. It's up to
the Zairian people - its government, its opposition - to decide these
questions; not the United States.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. still in direct diplomatic contact with President
MR. BURNS: Yes. We're in contact with his government. I don't know if
Ambassador Simpson has talked to President Mobutu in the last day or so. I
can check that for you. We certainly are in contact with his entourage and
his followers and people who report to him. I'd be glad to take the
question on whether or not Ambassador Dan Simpson has had a conversation
with him in the last day or two or three.
QUESTION: Nick, do you know approximately how many Americans are left in
MR. BURNS: I've seen a variety of numbers. I think it's several hundred.
It's not a huge number of people. That includes American Embassy employees
as well as private Americans, but let me try to get a better answer. If the
Consular Affairs Bureau is watching, or the African Affairs Bureau are
listening, perhaps they could just bring that down during the course of the
QUESTION: On the other side, Mr. Kabila has stated publicly he does not
wish to displace Mr. Mobutu. But tell us, what do we know from negotiations
and dealings with Mr. Kabila what he does want for Zaire and what he wants
specifically for a government? Is he a democrat? Is he a fellow that we
would want to be involved?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if Mr. Kabila has ever been described as a
democrat. I haven't seen that adjective attached to his name. We'll have to
see. He has been an opposition leader. He's been in the bush for three
decades. He's been a consistent opponent, historic opponent of President
Mobutu. There are lots of people in Zaire who have been in that camp.
I don't believe he has a track record as a leader of a government. He's
never led a government that would indicate what kind of ideology he would
bring to that job should he assume that job. We'll have to see.
Our strong hope is that whatever happens in Zaire and whoever emerges as
the leader of Zaire, that person ought to be committed to democracy the way
the South African Government has committed itself, under President
Mandela's leadership, to democracy; the way that it's happened in our own
hemisphere in Latin America, the way it's happened in Asia.
We think democracy is the wave of the future. It doesn't mean it's going to
take root automatically in Zaire, which is a country that's been riven by a
variety of ethnic, social, political, and economic problems since
decolonization. But that, we believe, is the best recipe for the future of
Zaire. We've made that known today publicly as well as to the Zairian
QUESTION: The Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I just want to see if there are any more Zaire questions out
QUESTION: Thabo Mbeki, the South African Deputy President, is headed here
directly from those talks in Pretoria. He arrives tomorrow. I understand
that he's got a meeting with Madeleine Albright tomorrow evening. How much
importance does the U.S. place on the Deputy President's role in resolving
the situation in Zaire? And, in general, how key a role can South Africa
play in the process?
MR. BURNS: Deputy President Mbeki's visit is well-timed because it does
coincide with this crisis in Zaire. We do look to the South African
Government for major leadership on Zaire. The South African Government,
more than any country in the world - that includes any European country; it
includes the United States - has played the leadership role under President
Mandela's leadership over the last six weeks or so to try to bring the
government and the rebels together. We're very grateful for that. We've
tried to support the actions of the South African Government.
We didn't have our own negotiators outside of Pretoria over the weekend,
but we very much support what the South African Government is doing. I know
that Secretary Albright, who is looking very closely at Zaire these days,
will want to have a full - get some advice, of course, from Deputy
President Mbeki and a full sense of how the South African Government sees
the way forward.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the U.S. food - consideration of food
MR. BURNS: Carol, I think based on consultations that we've had, meetings
with the World Food Program and the FAO as well as reports from a variety
of U.S. Government sources, we had some U.S. Government people on the
Congressional delegations that were in North Korea. There seems little
doubt to the United States that there is a serious and worsening food
shortage in North Korea. The evidence is too great to argue otherwise.
As we said yesterday, although we've not made any final decisions, we are
looking very seriously at the expanded request for food assistance from the
World Food Program. We're consulting both within our own government but
also consulting with other countries on a response to that food program.
I just want to note that we've always responded positively to requests,
since 1995, from the World Food Program and that we have been the largest
contributor to the United Nations food appeals for North Korea.
We understand the severity of the problem. We understand that World Food
Program appeal is going to be focused on children age six and
under. Surely, we all have a humanitarian imperative in any kind of
situation like this to try to be as helpful as we can to young kids like
QUESTION: A couple of follow-ups to that. When do you expect to make that
decision? Have you pinned down a date on the missile talks? And have you
gotten a formal response from the North Koreans on the Four-Party Proposal?
MR. BURNS: I would expect given the severity of the food situation and
the urgency of the appeal, the United States Government decision will be
made very soon, but I can't predict when that day will be.
On the second question, we continue to talk to the North Koreans about a
date and a place for the missile talks. There is a reason for these missile
talks. We do have concerns, as you know - ongoing concerns - about North
Korean disposition of some of its conventional - some of its missiles and
missile technology. We want to address those concerns with the North
Bob Einhorn will lead our delegation. We hope to work out an agreement very
soon for when those talks can occur and where they can occur.
On the last question, we've not yet heard back from the North Koreans or
anything further, but we do believe that there will be - that they will
hear shortly from the North Koreans about another meeting. We hope very
much the North Koreans will want to move down the road towards Four-Party
talks. That's our objective.
MR. BURNS: Judd's got a follow-up on North Korea.
QUESTION: Nick, there are reports in New York that there's a meeting
scheduled for next week. Is that what you're referring to? That shortly
you'll hear about their -
MR. BURNS: We have not scheduled a meeting for next week on the Four-
Party talks. We always have week to week consultations with the North
Korean Mission up at the United Nations. But I think we're talking about
something different here.
What has really been in the works for the last couple of days is the
possibility of another meeting that would address the Four-Party Proposal.
I have no update to give you on that today. We still are waiting. The ball
is in their court. We're still waiting for an answer.
QUESTION: But "soon" applies to that meeting? We expect something -
MR. BURNS: We hope the meeting can be held as soon as possible. Any more
on North Korea before we go - you want to finish up Zaire?
QUESTION: There's a combination of leaders, with what's happening now in
Zaire, it seems like there's a combination of leaders coming forth in
Africa involving former guerrilla leaders - Museveni, Kabila, Kagame,
Afwerki, who belong to a kind of network which has been together for many
years since they were all guerrilla leaders.
I was wondering, how does the United States view this combination of people
achieving prominence in Africa? Is this something positive, or does it have
some negative sides as far as U.S. policy in Africa is concerned?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to generalize about a group of people as diverse
as the group that you cited. It's up to the people of each of these
countries to determine, we hope freely and fairly, how these leaders emerge
and who leads their countries.
We want to be friends with all the countries that you mentioned. We are
friends with many of them. We do think it's important for Zaire's neighbors
to stay out of the current conflict. That's not been the case. Neighbors to
the east of Zaire and to the south of Zaire have intervened in this
conflict. It doesn't help the people of Zaire. It doesn't further the
process of a transition to democratic rule that we believe is important.
QUESTION: A follow-up. There's also a move, with the chaos in the
international markets, for a variety of companies to move into raw
materials, where there's a certain amount of stability. Obviously, this
area is an area where there is a lot of diamonds, gold, a lot of things
that would be of interest in this respect. Is there some concern that there
might be attempts to manipulate the political situation in order to do a
certain amount of raw materials grab by forces around the world?
MR. BURNS: We want to see the territorial integrity of Zaire preserved so
that economic life as well as political life can be stable. That includes,
obviously, any kind of private or public mining or manufacturing interests
that are in play here, in the southern part of Zaire, throughout the
country. Of course, there are very important economic assets that need to
be protected for the Zairian people and for the companies that have
investments in those assets.
QUESTION: Nick, can you confirm that Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinians
will be here to see Secretary Albright tomorrow afternoon?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Barry, it gives me an opportunity to talk about a variety
of issues in the Middle East.
The other major issue that Secretary Albright has been working on today is
the Middle East. I can confirm that Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat will be
leaving Gaza this evening, their time, to travel to Washington. We are
pleased that they're coming. This is the delegation that Chairman Arafat
pledged would arrive in Washington.
Secretary Albright and our Special Middle East Negotiator, Dennis Ross,
look forward to meeting with them tomorrow, in the coming days. These
talks, which we have encouraged, are part of our ongoing effort to try to
piece together the peace negotiations, to reinvigorate them, and to help
move them forward. They're very much an extension of the talks that the
President and the Secretary of State had with Prime Minister Netanyahu
earlier this week.
We presented Prime Minister Netanyahu with specific American ideas. We will
present the Palestinian delegation with specific American ideas to
resurrect the peace negotiations and to try to instill - re-instill - in
the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic an element of trust which, of course, is
necessary for the foundation of that.
As part of that effort, Secretary Albright has been spending an enormous
amount of time on the Middle East. This morning, she placed phone calls to
the Saudi Foreign Minister - Foreign Minister Saud; to Foreign Minister
Hamad bin Jasim of Qatar; to His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan; to Foreign
Minister Zouari of Tunisia; to Sultan Qaboos of Oman. She's hoping to place
a call to His Majesty King Hassan of Morocco later this afternoon.
These calls are part of her effort to keep the lines open to the Arab
world; to seek the advice and counsel of many of these leaders - King
Hussein, especially, who has been so constructive in the public and private
advice that he has given the United States and Israel and the Palestinians;
to try to seek some views, reaction from the Arab countries, to the views
of the United States to seek their views on the situation.
There is lots of activity behind the scenes. I would say that the
headquarters of the peace process this week is Washington, D.C., with the
meetings with the Israelis and Palestinians, with the telephone shuttle
diplomacy that Secretary Albright has engaged in this morning and will
continue to engage in with the Arab world and with the state of Israel. We
are focused on the peace process. We will remain focused on it because that
has been the historic role of the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, can I stop you on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Different ideas she will - different American ideas to the
Palestinians from the ones that were given the Israelis?
MR. BURNS: Pretty much the same ideas, because it takes two to tango.
You've got to have mutual agreement by both the Israelis and Palestinians
to make these ideas fruitful and to make the peace process succeed and let
it move forward.
QUESTION: Do you think you've had now your statement of zero tolerance by
Arafat for terrorism? Or does she need to make that request again tomorrow
and the next day when she sees -
MR. BURNS: I think that's a continuing concern of the United States, as
it is of Israel, as it is of many Palestinians. Terrorism takes Arab lives
as well as Israeli lives. It's mainly taken Israeli lives over the last
couple of weeks, but it's a continuing concern. There has to be an
unrelenting effort against terrorism by the Palestinian leadership.
We've also been very, very concerned by the recent clashes in Hebron which
have resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians and I think the
hospitalization of well over 120 or 130.
QUESTION: Did you ever sort that out, or find out if the seminary
students were tear-gassed before they opened fire?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that American Consulate General officials -
this is our Consulate General in Jerusalem - were present either yesterday
or today to witness the fighting that took place - the terrible fighting
that took place in Hebron.
It's going to be up to the Israeli police, the Palestinian police, and
judicial authorities to determine who is responsible for the violence in
Hebron. That's not a question that the United States can answer because we
weren't there. But Palestinians and Israelis were there. That has to be
answered - that question - by the proper police and judicial authorities on
The United States, however, is deeply saddened by the loss of Palestinian
life in Hebron. We're concerned by the great numbers of people who have
been hurt in the fighting. We want to see an end to the violence. Too many
people have been victims. Too many Palestinians have been victims. Too many
Israelis have been victims. We don't want to see anymore victims.
So it's time for both sides to try to work together to end the violence in
the streets of Hebron, on the streets of other West Bank and Gazan towns,
and time, frankly, for them to get back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) says that Madeleine Albright will be arriving April
25th. Is he well informed?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that particular report. I've heard about that
report. I've not seen it. I've not seen it in writing. I can tell you this:
I spoke to the Secretary at length this morning about this. She has not
made any plans to travel to the Middle East. Dennis Ross has not made plans
to travel to the Middle East.
After we finish this round of consultations with the Palestinians in
Washington this week, after Secretary Albright has completed her telephone
round of conversations with Arab and Israeli leaders, then we'll make a
determination about the proper next steps in the peace negotiations. I am
not excluding the possibility of American officials traveling in the
future. I couldn't do that. But I'm not aware of any plans. In fact, I know
for a fact, with 100 percent certainty, that there are no plans right now
for the Secretary to travel to the Middle East.
Obviously, she and the President have said many, many times over the past
couple of weeks, she will travel when it's necessary and when it can be
useful. Right now, the headquarters of the peace negotiations are in
Washington, D.C. We'll have to determine on a week by week basis whether or
not it's prudent for us, advisable, and productive for us to have the
Secretary travel. That's a decision that she and the President will make
QUESTION: Nick, will you be specific about what the United States is
looking for from Arafat? Do you want him to make a speech in which he
denounces terrorism; issue a statement, call off the violence, the protests
that are going on now; re-arrest all those people who were let go? What
specific steps will prove to the United States and to Israel that Arafat is
serious about violence?
MR. BURNS: We are looking at the Palestinians and Israelis together this
week. We had meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We'll have meetings
with Abu Mazin and Saeb Eraket. We're looking at them both together. We're
asking both of them to consider some American ideas so that they can agree
to get back to negotiations, get back to the Oslo process, get back to the
commitments that they made to each other.
One party is not more responsible for the success or failure of the
negotiations than the other. They're both responsible together. So while we
talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu about what Israel must do, now we talk to
the Palestinians about what they must do.
Obviously, one of the big issues of concern for the State of Israel - and
the State of Israel obviously has a right to be concerned about this - is
an end to terrorism.
The suicide bomber in Tel Aviv took the lives of innocent children and
women and innocent civilians. The Israeli Government needs to be assured
that there is at least 100 percent effort underway to choke off that kind
of terrorism. That is an issue that we have addressed squarely to Chairman
The Palestinians, obviously, want to be assured that all commitments will
be met. That's what both parties need to do: Meet their commitments to the
other, re-instill some trust in the process, and get back to the table.
These are difficult issues. It's certainly far preferable to be arguing
over a negotiating table than fighting in Hebron. It's certainly preferable
for that to happen.
QUESTION: You didn't answer the question, though. Why won't you be
specific about how Arafat could manifest this assurance?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to say what we want to say this week. The United
States has decided - and I think you heard this in the President's comments
and you've seen it in Secretary Albright's comments - we're not going to be
telling you in public everything that we're doing privately or saying
privately or proposing privately because we want to succeed in the
negotiations. The best way is to keep them confidential.
I'm not going to give you a sense of what our talking points are for the
Secretary's meetings in the next couple of days. But I can tell you, we're
working hard on it, very hard. Secretary Albright is seized by this.
There has been a lot talk about what should happen. We know that the
European Union has talked about European involvement in the general effort
to get the peace process underway. We welcome that. We welcome the efforts
of the Europeans to try to play a productive role.
We want to work with them. They want to work with us. In fact, I think
there's even been some written communications about this in the last 24
hours, to the State Department. But there's a central point here that has
to be raised. I think it's important to remind everybody about it.
The United States has the central role in the Middle East peace
negotiations. The United States will continue to play the central role
because that is our historic mission in the Middle East and has been for a
quarter century. We look forward very much to working with the
Europeans. But it's up to the United States to shoulder the
responsibilities for peace. It's in our national interest to do so. It's
the commitment we've made to Israel and the Palestinians. We are doing
I wanted to give you a sense of what the Secretary of State was doing today
to show you that we are doing that.
QUESTION: One of the places that she did not make a call, from your list,
is Cairo. Does the U.S. not look to the Egyptians for any help in this
MR. BURNS: We're in close contact with the Egyptian Government.
Ambassador Ned Walker, in fact, just over the last couple of days has had
very long, detailed conversations with the Egyptians. That will continue.
I'm sure the Secretary will be in touch with the Egyptian leadership at
QUESTION: If you (inaudible) contact, how could Osama el-Baz use the word
"plans?" Here's a man who has a long background; it goes all the way back
to Camp David. He was a key player in the Camp David talks. Here he is
saying the Secretary has plans. You're saying she's got to complete her -
she can complete her phone calls in about 12 minutes from now and the
Palestinians will be done tomorrow or the next day - whenever that is -
Friday afternoon. So - what? -- you'll announce the trip Friday evening?
Can he be that wrong?
Can Osama el-Baz, with whom you've had close contact, be so far off the
mark to say the Secretary has plans? He not only says "plans," he gives you
the dates - the 25th to the 28th. They are pretty good dates for all sorts
of holiday reasons, and working your way in between holidays. Why are we
being so cute about it? Not you. But why is the State Department being so -
you want to make one last call to Bahrain and then announce it? Is that the
I know you're talking to Qatar. But, basically -
MR. BURNS: I'll answer it when you're finished.
QUESTION: The pieces are there. You've talked to the Palestinians, you've
talked to the Israelis. There are just so many things you can do. You can
send Dennis back, you can send the Secretary, you can send them both. You
can have a summit. It's not that complicated. Isn't she going to the Middle
MR. BURNS: It's been my experience as Spokesman here that sometimes,
every now and then, in a blue moon, there is something in a press report
that's not completely accurate. It's been my experience.
QUESTION: It's been attributed to a very bright and informed man.
MR. BURNS: I don't blame Osama el-Baz at all for this. I think maybe
there's been some - you know that old game, when you sit around in a circle
with your kids and you tell a story and -
QUESTION: You telephone.
MR. BURNS: -- you telephone, and you go around the circle. You come back
full circle and the story is completely changed.
QUESTION: Like the message on terrorism; right? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: No, no. Barry, you've got to let me complete my punch lines.
That's not fair. That's been sometimes my experience with journalists, with
newspapers, with press - sometimes a wire report from a distant capital
arrives here and sometimes it just doesn't reflect actually what was said.
QUESTION: This is true with newspapers, too, and on television.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright -
QUESTION: But this wire report quotes an Egyptian diplomat by name with
specific dates and uses the word "plans." "Plans" is as definite as you can
MR. BURNS: I'm not going after the wire services.
QUESTION: We can wait.
MR. BURNS: You haven't given me a chance - I have to answer your
question. The answer to the question is, I know with a hundred percent
certainty that the Secretary has not scheduled a trip to the Middle East.
QUESTION: Nick, there are wire reports that go out from here that don't
reflect the reality of what has been said.
MR. BURNS: Wait a minute. AP and Reuters and UPI and Agence France Presse
always reflect reality here in the State Department. The reporters here are
excellent. They're second-to-none.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that?
MR. BURNS: I'm talking about some other reporters, thousands of miles
away from here. Right, Barry? (Laughter)
QUESTION: I guess. I've got to go.
QUESTION: You have cited several countries -
MR. BURNS: It's always less exciting when you leave. He just left. He
walked out once again.
QUESTION: You have cited several countries with whom Secretary Albright
made phone calls, contacts this morning. All of these countries are the so-
called moderate Arab countries.
MR. BURNS: She didn't call Saddam Hussein. She did not call the Iranian
leadership, and she didn't call Muammar Qadhafi, if that's what you're
asking. She did not call -
MR. BURNS: She did not call the rejectionist states. Absolutely not.
QUESTION: My question is, did she ask those -
MR. BURNS: And that was the right decision.
QUESTION: -- leaders not to heed the calls for a boycott of Israel, since
these are the countries who have some open challenge with Israel?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to go into the substance - the details of her
conversation, because those are confidential. But I will say this: It's
obviously the position of the United States that the Arab world ought to
reflect very seriously on its own interests here. It is not in the Arab
interests to cut off ties to Israel, either diplomatically or economically.
Look how much progress has been made in the last three years, compared to
the previous 46 years since 1948. Look how much progress has been made, and
that progress has been made because Arab countries stood up for what's
right - acceptance of the State of Israel, normal relations with the State
of Israel - at least the sensible Arab countries. We're not talking here
about Iraq and Libya, which are not sensible Arab countries.
Surely, they don't want to lose all that because there has been this crisis
in the peace negotiations. There have been crises in the past, and they've
all been overcome, and this one will be overcome, too, if there's good will
on both sides.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) violence in Hebron. The Palestinians now say that
Prime Minister Netanyahu has given the green light to the extremist
settlers to commit violence and undermine the peace process now.
MR. BURNS: I don't know who made those statements, but we don't agree
with them. The Prime Minister of Israel is not interested -- the Prime
Minister of Israel is not interested in creating violence in the West Bank.
I don't think it's right to accuse him of having fed this violence. I just
don't think that's right.
QUESTION: You've talked about - at least gone as far publicly as you're
willing to go at this point in describing what the United States expects
from Mr. Arafat. Could you within those parameters please describe what the
United States is seeking from Prime Minister Netanyahu as far as
confidence- building requirements for going back to the peace negotiations?
What is it that you would like to see, that the United States would like to
see from the Israelis?
MR. BURNS: I was very careful not to give you a specific idea of what we
are asking the Palestinian leadership.
QUESTION: Did you ask for a commitment to end the terrorism?
MR. BURNS: That goes without saying. Peace was made in 1993 between the
Palestinians and the Israelis, and a fundamental building block of that is
no terrorism, zero tolerance. What we're asking both to do is be serious
about peace, get back to the negotiating table, treat your partner as your
partner, be sensitive to that partner's political needs, and to negotiate
and to maintain the commitments that they've already agreed upon in 1993
and 1995 in the two stages of the Oslo process.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the series of phone calls the Secretary made?
You said - I think the words you used were "they're part of our effort to
keep lines open to the Arab world." Does that mean that she's having to
smooth ruffled feathers among those who feel that the United States is not
being tough enough on Israel?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't mean that. We have Ambassadors in all these
countries who have been keeping the lines open, but this is at a very high
political level. She feels it's very important for her to be in direct
contact with the leaders of the Arab countries that have been very helpful
in encouraging peace in the past, and we hope they'll be helpful in
encouraging peace now. That's the reason for these phone calls.
But she also feels that we're at an impasse in the peace negotiations. It's
a very serious moment, and the American Secretary of State needs to be
centrally involved, and she is. That's why I said that the headquarters of
the peace negotiations are not in Jerusalem or in Gaza right now; they're
in Washington. The United States is shouldering its responsibilities here,
and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: But there is a perception in some parts of the Arab world that
the United States isn't being tough enough on Israel. Is that something
that concerns you? Does that come up in the conversations?
MR. BURNS: We disagree with that perception, and we are very quick to
tell people that when they raise it with us privately. We disagree with
that. We are an impartial, objective country that wants the Palestinians
and the Israelis to succeed together. I think if you look at the track
record of the United States and what we've been able to accomplish in 25
years with the Egyptians and the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Israelis,
and the Palestinians and the Israelis, we have an ummatched record.
That's why I say that we welcome the involvement of all other countries in
these peace negotiations, but there's no question where the central role
is. It's in Washington, D.C. It's with our government.
QUESTION: Nick, you're saying that you disagree with that perception, and
yet two weeks ago when President Mubarak was here, he said publicly both to
reporters collectively and in an interview with my newspaper that in fact
perception in the Arab world is not that the United States is an evenhanded
negotiator; that that perception is changing, that it's shifting
dangerously, he says, because of the U.N. vetoes by the United States of
the resolutions. So I'm not quite understanding when you say that you
don't think that's the perception. We have the President of Egypt who's
saying, "Indeed, that is the growing perception in the Arab world."
MR. BURNS: We disagree with the perception, and that perception clearly
does exist in some Arab countries, but we disagree with it. I'm not arguing
with the fact that many Arab countries seem to be frustrated by the current
events or even by the positions of our government. But we disagree with
those perceptions, and we're calling on Arab countries to work with us
here, and I believe that will happen, because the United States has been a
good friend of the Arab world.
QUESTION: Nick, on China -
QUESTION: Could we stay on the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Yes, John wants to stay on the Middle East.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if the United States is still maintaining AWACS
in the Gulf and whether or not we saw the planes carrying Haj pilgrims from
Iraq take off from Iraq today and land in Saudi Arabia, and the consequence
of public relations and propaganda coup that your special case, Mr. Saddam
Hussein, has been able to realize as a result of -
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't call it this a coup. I think it's a major
embarrassment for the Iraqi regime. Obviously, we still maintain a very
vigorous military presence in the Persian Gulf, and we'll continue to do so
to contain Saddam Hussein, among other objectives.
What happened, we understand is that the Iraqi Government violated the
United Nations Security Resolutions by allowing an Iraqi plane to take off
from Baghdad to carry Haj pilgrims to Mecca.
Let me say two things about this. First and foremost, the United States
respects Islam. We have many millions of Americans who are Muslims
themselves. There's freedom of religion here in the United States for
Muslims to practice, and there ought to be freedom of religion for Muslims
all over the world.
Clearly, people who want to go on the Haj, people who want to celebrate the
Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which is coming up in a week or
two in Mecca, ought to be able to do so. There is a way for Iraqi pilgrims
to do that. It's overland. The United States has respected the right of
Iraqi pilgrims to go to Mecca and Medina ever since the end of the Gulf
But the United Nations has agreed - the United Nations - all countries, in
the Middle East, in Europe, North America, around the world - that Iraqi
planes ought not to travel on normal commercial air routes. Why? Because
Saddam Hussein has given away the right to be a normal person governing a
normal country. So we will proceed in the United Nations to raise this
issue of complaint, but it has nothing to do with the innocent Iraqis who
want to meet one of their obligations as a Muslim in their lifetime, which
is to travel to Mecca and Medina. We fully support the right of those
people to do so, and they have that right overland. The same is true of the
Libyan pilgrims, and there's a flight ban on Libya, of course.
QUESTION: There's a report that - correct - that the Iraqi plane out of
Baghdad violated the "no-fly" zone, and that U.S. aircraft flying
enforcement in that zone did not challenge -
MR. BURNS: I cannot speak to the path of the aircraft. I just don't know.
I can't speak to whether or not allied aircraft in the region knew about
the aircraft. I can just speak to the fact that Iraq has violated the
United Nations Security resolutions, and we will raise that issue very
QUESTION: Would you say U.S. aircraft are going to challenge Iraqi planes
in the future if there is another attempt at this kind of flight?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not for me to comment upon the disposition of
American military aircraft or allied military aircraft - British and French
- in that part of the world, in the southern "no-flight" zone. The "no-
flight" zone will be maintained. Obviously, we want to see the Iraqi
Government follow the rules, obey the rules. The Iraqi Government does not
have a right to object to this, because they lost the war, and they gave up
any right to object to these rules.
QUESTION: NATO. Apparently Primakov announced today in Paris that the
Russians would be ready to come to a meeting in Paris on the 27th of May to
sign a NATO-Russian Partnership agreement. Are things in place for that to
MR. BURNS: I saw the same press reports. We'll just have to check with
the Russians to verify what the Foreign Minister meant by those remarks. We
obviously want to get to the point where there's an agreement between
Russia and NATO on a charter. I don't believe a final agreement has been
reached on those charter negotiations. They continue and will continue in
the future. In fact, Secretary Albright will be discussing this tomorrow
with the NATO Secretary General who will be in Washington to visit her to
talk about those negotiations for which he has direct responsibility.
So we're hopeful about a charter. We want there to be a charter, but I
don't believe that NATO and Russia have agreed on the outlines of a charter
QUESTION: Did Primakov's remarks come as a surprise to you? Is there
something going on between the Russians and the French that the Americans
are cut out of?
MR. BURNS: Oh, that would never be the case, because France is an ally of
the United States, and France is a very good member of NATO, and France is
operating within the NATO structure. That means that Secretary General
Javier Solana is leading these negotiations. He will conclude them.
We hope that there was progress made in Paris between the Russians and the
French, and I'm sure we'll be in direct contact with the French to verify
what Foreign Minister Primakov meant. But I don't believe there's an end to
these negotiations quite yet, however much we would welcome that.
QUESTION: Is there a deal or the outlines of a deal between France and
the United States on the Southern Command issue?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've resolved all of the issues about the
Southern Command, no. Not yet, but we hope that we can, because along with
external enlargement we want to see a fulfillment of the internal
adaptation of NATO structures, so that they can be modernized for the new
roles that NATO must play.
QUESTION: One last question: Why is Mamedov coming?
MR. BURNS: Deputy Foreign Minister Georgiy Mamedov is here as part of his
normal consultations with our government. His host is Deputy Secretary
Talbott. That's normal. He's here in Washington, and he's here several
times a year. Normal consultations with our government about a variety of
QUESTION: Are they focusing on the NATO issue and also on the G-7 summit?
MR. BURNS: They focus certainly on both of those issues as well as a
number of other issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship.
QUESTION: Nick, I want to come back to this question you elaborated on to
some extent yesterday, and I know you've given an interview to Danish
television also yesterday regarding the resolution in the U.N. Human Rights
The reports have it that on April 4th the United States was in contact with
the Danes up at the U.N. and gave encouragement to them to go for this
resolution. It was described as being their initiative, which has been
supported by the U.S., but it seems as if the U.S. has been giving
encouragement to this even before the operation was put into motion. I was
wondering, is that the case? Has the U.S. been in favor of this, and why do
they want this - why are you so keen on getting this through at this point?
MR. BURNS: There aren't always conspiracies surrounding foreign policy
decisions. Sometimes things are very straightforward. In this case, we've
been talking to the Europeans for months - months, not weeks, not days -
about the U.N. Human Rights Commission deliberations on China. The Danish
Government decided on its own accord - they made its own sovereign decision
to sponsor the resolution critical of China.
The United States will enthusiastically support as a co-sponsor, that
resolution. There's nothing untoward. There's nothing complex about this.
This is just how international politics works.
The Chinese announced yesterday that China will sign an international
covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. This is a positive step.
The United States welcomes China's decision to sign and ratify one of the
two international covenants by the end of 1997. We had hoped that this
would be followed soon by a Chinese decision to ratify the other United
Nations covenant. There are two that we have focused on as particularly
Having said this, the United States continues to have a number of very
important and very serious concerns about China's human rights record,
including the treatment of people who express their political and religious
views peacefully; the preservation of Tibet's unique religious cultural and
linguistic heritage; a number of other issues - the treatment of Chinese
prisoners who are incarcerated.
Those concerns have not gone away, and that is why we are proceeding to be
a co-sponsor to the resolution in Geneva this week and next.
QUESTION: Nick, those concerns have always been there, I mean, and during
the period of what is described as constructive engagement with China, it
was decided not to make those into questions which would impede a broader
relationship with that country.
In terms of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, as I understand it, every
year the subject is taken up, and most of the nations - and again this year
I think most of the nations are not going to be supporting it - the French,
the Germans - the British will support it. Maybe that's a reason for us to
give support -
MR. BURNS: It's just not true that the United States has shifted
positions here. It's just not true. If you remember Secretary Christopher's
visit to China in November, Secretary Albright's to China in February, both
of them said very consistently, "We want to engage with China. We have
broad political, military and economic interests that need to be advanced."
But we're going to have to continue this running dialogue and running
American criticism of China's human rights record.
Secretary Christopher and Secretary Albright have consistently, publicly
been very critical of China on human rights. That hasn't stopped, and it
won't stop until the record improves.
At the same time, we have a variety of interests that must be met, and
that's why we have a broad policy of engagement with China, and that
QUESTION: You always take up this issue. You say in every conversation
you have with the Chinese, granted the human rights is always there. But
why make a big thing of it at this particular moment when the U.N. Human
Rights Commission, in which most of the European nation - most of the EU
nations -- will probably not support it.
MR. BURNS: That's their problem, not ours. We are a country that is
interested in human rights. We were built on that. Jefferson built this
country on that principle, on democracy and human rights, and we're not
going to forget it two centuries after our own birth. We stand for that
worldwide. The day the United States fails to stand up for human rights in
the largest country in the world is the day that we will have changed the
country, and I don't believe we'll ever do that.
So other countries may decide to take the easy way out; we're not. We're
going to stand up in Geneva, which is the proper forum for human rights
discussion around the world, and we're going to debate this issue.
QUESTION: The fact that Capitol Hill is rattling the sabers against China
MR. BURNS: This is going to have to be the last question.
QUESTION: -- would not be a factor in your decision? The fact that
Gingrich and some of the Republicans, Senator Helms, are making a big issue
of China would not be a factor in taking this position?
MR. BURNS: Listen, I think that's a rather cynical question. I think that
Senator Helms and Representative Gingrich and President Clinton and
Secretary Albright share the same concern. We're all Americans. We all want
to see innocent people in China have their human rights respected. There's
no partisan disagreement on this issue of human rights in China.
QUESTION: Bob Pelletreau, who is now a private citizen, made a speech
here yesterday and called for an increase of the existing informal ties
with Iran; said that U.S. should open up a wider dialogue with Iran, and
also indicated a lack of consensus in the containment policy towards that
country. Would you agree that there is a lack of consensus within the
MR. BURNS: I respect Bob very much. I have not seen his speech, so I
don't want to be unfair to him and comment on his speech. Our policy
towards Iran has not changed and won't until the Iranians change.
QUESTION: What kind of specific changes are you -
MR. BURNS: If they would end their direct support for terrorism and their
opposition to the Middle East peace process and stop trying to build
nuclear and chemical and biological weapons, that would be a good starter
for an improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations. But as long as they're doing
all three of those things, there's not going to be a normal relationship
between the United States and Iran. We have a national interest in standing
up for all of those three things that I talked about.
QUESTION: But he has been the head of the Near Eastern Bureau until very
recently, so obviously I think Mr. Pelletreau knows what he's talking about
when he says that there are different ideas within the Administration. Are
you saying as the spokesperson here that you do not expect any changes - or
any discussion at all on the Iranian policy?
MR. BURNS: I hope we have lots of discussion on Iran, but the policy -
Secretary Albright has reaffirmed the policy. The policy stays where it is.
The great thing about our government is you get to debate inside the
government, even if you don't agree with the views, but then everyone's
united once the decision is made by the President and Secretary of State
about what the policy would be. The President and Secretary of State have
given us a very clear policy, and we all defend it. It's the right policy.
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on Colombia.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: The Government of President Samper has sent to Congress an
initiative to reintroduce extradition. What is your idea about this
initiative, and how crucial the extradition issue is for the
recertification of Colombia?
MR. BURNS: We have seen reports this morning about this issue, but
frankly we don't know much about it. We'll have to seek more information
from the Colombian Government.
QUESTION: What about the project?
MR. BURNS: Not specific information, no. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:37 p.m.)