U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #54, 97-04-14
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
Monday, April 14, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1-2 Secretary Albright/Time Magazine
2-4 Secretary Albright Mtgs.: Czech FM Zieleniec/Hong Kong's Martin
Lee/ Former President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter
4-5,7-9 Secretary Albright's Weekend Activities: Telecon w/Arab
Leaders/ UN SecGen Annan/Australian FM/German FM/Acting FM of
5-6 Secretary Albright's Upcoming Travel: Naval Academy on 4/15;
Policy Speech on Asia/Grand Rapids, Michigan on 4/16
6,12 Missile Talks w/North Korea in NYC on 5/12-13
6,11 World Food Program Appeal for North Korea
6,10,12 4/16 Trilateral Talks w/North & South Korea re: Four-Party
6,12 Bilateral Talks w/North Korea on 4/18
6-7 Swearing in of Congressman Pete Peterson as U.S. Ambassador to
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
7 Amb. Indyk/PM Netanyahu Mtg. on 4/13
9-10 Reports of Missile Activities/Deployments
12-13 Agreed Framework
11,17-19 Food Situation
13 Report of Oil Agreement w/Russia
13-15 Reports of Iranian Involvement in Al Khobar Barracks
14-15,19 German Court Decision re: Mykonos Bomb Attack
15-17 Diplomatic Immunity Cases:
19-20 Allegations of "Bugging" of Hotel Rooms by U.S. Officials
20 Security-Private Amers. Urged to Leave/No Decision on Official
20 South African Mediation Efforts/Status of Temporary Ceasefire
20-22 Rebel Leader Kabila: U.S. Contacts/Ideology/Support
22 Americans in Kinshasa
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, APRIL 14, 1997, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
QUESTION: What about Wally, the Green Monster?
MR. BURNS: I think it's an abomination. Don't you? It's an abomination.
It's an affront to our decent values and right thinking. Do you know what
we're talking about? This new mascot, Wally, the Green Monster at Fenway
Why do we have to be like all these other baseball teams with these modern
mascots? Why can't we just go back to our traditions - our traditions in
QUESTION: Yeah, we don't like it - so let me ask you a question, Time
Magazine says the 25 most influential people in America, are Tiger Woods -
MR. BURNS: Tiger Woods and Madeleine Albright.
QUESTION: Madeleine Albright -
MR. BURNS: That basically sums it up what's happening in the news
QUESTION: Dilbert - and Dilbert is third.
MR. BURNS: Who?
MR. BURNS: Oh, Dilbert.
MR. BURNS: Well, kids know about that. I don't know anything about
QUESTION: Could you say how the Secretary feels about being in -- sort of
placed between Tiger Woods - but ahead of Dilbert?
MR. BURNS: I could tell you this, there is some discussion in -
QUESTION: And you're talking about PR now, right?
MR. BURNS: Yes, there was some discussion today - we didn't discuss Wally,
the Green Monster, that abomination at Fenway Park. But we did discuss, the
Secretary was very impressed by Tiger Woods' amazing victory over the
weekend at Augusta National and the fact that he set two records, and that
he is going to be here in D.C. for the U.S. Open in June. And she would
like to meet him.
QUESTION: Is she going to be throwing out the first golf club?
MR. BURNS: She is thinking - she is thinking of - no, no, not throwing
out the first golf club. That's not how it works, Barry.
MR. BURNS: You inaugurate the tournament by standing up at the first tee,
and you know.
QUESTION: How is her form?
MR. BURNS: Well, we're going to - we'll see. She's -
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Don't use the same guys you used for the -
MR. BURNS: Barry, that was sinker ball. And I thought - it was unhittable.
QUESTION: Yeah, it was -
MR. BURNS: In any case, she's a great admirer of Tiger Woods. She didn't
say anything about Dilbert. But that was good to see the Secretary on the
cover of Time Magazine with Tiger Woods. I think she was very - she was
QUESTION: How about Don Imus?
MR. BURNS: Don Imus, no comment. I personally have no comment on Don -
but I have many comments, but I can't make them publicly about Don
A couple of announcements. Welcome to the State Department briefing. The
Secretary has a few meetings this afternoon I wanted to tell you about.
First, at 3:00 p.m. today she'll be meeting with the Czech foreign minister
- Foreign Minister Zieleniec. And that is a meeting that will kicked off by
statements and some questions from all of you to both of them.
The Foreign Minister is already here in the Department. He is having lunch
with Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott. They're discussing, among other
issues, European security issues, Partnership for Peace, NATO enlargement
issues, where both of our countries have a major interest. And we're very
pleased to welcome the Czech foreign minister today.
Also at 4:00 p.m. the Secretary will be seeing Martin Lee, who is the head
of the Democratic Party, the largest political party in the current Hong
Kong legislative council. And this is to discuss issues related to progress
on the reversion of Hong Kong this summer.
And that includes a discussion of the protection of civil liberties,
fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law in Hong Kong. There is going to
be an opportunity for you to at least have a camera spray with Martin Lee
at 4:00 p.m. I mean, she is doing Q&A at 3:00 p.m. I didn't want to do two
Q's&A's at 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.. But she will have a camera - we will
have a camera spray.
That meeting should have been on the public schedule. John and I did not
know why it wasn't. Because I announced it on Friday. So I apologize for
any confusion this morning on the Martin Lee meeting.
QUESTION: So Nick, is the Secretary afraid to answer questions with
Martin Lee for fear it might infuriate China?
MR. BURNS: No, not at all. In fact, if that were the case - if the
Secretary was afraid of Chinese reaction, she wouldn't be meeting with
Martin Lee. But the fact is, she is. And as Mike announced this morning, I
believe the Vice President will be meeting with Martin Lee later this week.
We're welcoming him to Washington. But our own procedure - and this is
really my call - is that when there are multiple meetings during a day, you
do Q&A - we do a public question and answer session with journalists at
one of them. That's been my pattern here.
QUESTION: Nick, can you -
MR. BURNS: That's what I recommended. And you are welcome to ask whatever
questions you want to ask at 3:00 p.m.
QUESTION: As you know, we're not restrained. We ask about the news - and
MR. BURNS: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Yeah, but sometimes it's a little awkward because there's a
visitor who obviously -
MR. BURNS: There is a lot of news pertaining to the Czech Republic -
QUESTION: -- thinks his country is important, too -
MR. BURNS: There are other issues, as well.
QUESTION: I think all of us would be quite willing to swap the 3:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. --
MR. BURNS: We have already made the -
QUESTION: -- so we can ask about Hong Kong at the 3:00 p.m.
MR. BURNS: We have already made - we have already made the arrangements,
QUESTION: All right, we'll ask Mr. Lee about Czechoslovakia on the way
MR. BURNS: And then ask Foreign Minister Zieleniec about Hong Kong, okay,
that makes sense.
All right, now, further, the Secretary will be seeing former President
Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter this afternoon, here at the State Department.
The Carters are in the Department for four or five hours this afternoon -
and they're talking to a variety of our officials on a variety on
We have regular contacts with them on issues ranging from the Korean
Peninsula to Central Africa and East Africa, to the Middle East peace
negotiations. And this is part of our regular contacts with him.
As you know, the Secretary was a member of the Carter Administration over
at the National Security Council on Mr. Brzezinski's staff. And so she's
looking forward to seeing former President Carter and Rosalyn Carter at, I
believe it is 5:30 p.m. this afternoon, for a private meeting.
I want to let you know about that in case - because this is a big event to
have a former president here with us in the State Department. Over the
weekend, the Secretary was very active. She was on the phone on a couple of
issues. The first was on the Middle East.
She talked to Chairman Arafat yesterday at length about the current state
of the Middle East peace negotiations. They exchanged views and she also
talked to Sheik Zayid of the United Arab Emirates. And this - these calls
really completed her round of calls to Arab leaders.
And I think she called - I'll have to check specifically - I think it was
nine or 10 Arab leaders since last Wednesday to exchange views about the
present situation. She also talked to Secretary General Kofi Annan about
the situation in Zaire. She talked to the Australian foreign minister, Alex
Downer, to German Foreign Minister Kinkel, and to the acting Spanish
foreign minister on the issue of China human rights, the human rights vote
that will be coming up tomorrow in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Commission.
And I think all you know that the United States intends to co-sponsor a
resolution, the Danish resolution in Geneva, tomorrow. We do anticipate
that China will try to prevent discussion of its record - record - through
a vote of no action.
This is a motion, a vote of no action. The United States believes that as
the world's premier multilateral human rights forum, the Human Rights
Commission is a particularly appropriate venue. In fact, it's the real
thing. It's the genuine international venue for a discussion of human
And we hope very much that the other countries that are members of the UN
Human Rights Commission will take a stand in favor of the universality of
human rights principles and that they will vote with Denmark and the United
States and other countries to bring the issue to the floor for a formal
discussion and for a vote.
We really would hope that a no-action motion would not succeed because that
would deny the United Nations the forum for which it was created, the UN
Human Rights Commission, and that is to discuss difficult issues pertaining
to human rights of a very large segment of the world's population.
That's an important issue for us. And that's why she made these phone calls
to the Australian, German, and Spanish governments over the weekend.
Now, the Secretary is going to be traveling tomorrow afternoon, just down
the highway to Annapolis, Maryland, to the Naval Academy, in late afternoon
- I think it's 4:00 p.m., John (Dinger)? Or is it 4:30 p.m.? We'll get the
She is going to begin and observe a parade of midshipmen. She begins it by -
I understand - ordering the parade to begin. That's part of the formality
of the Naval Academy. And then she'll observe for about an hour a parade of
She has dinner with the brass at the Naval Academy, with the leadership at
the Naval Academy. And at 7:30 p.m. she is going to present a major policy
speech on our Asia Policy, United States policy towards Asia.
Now, I'll be out there, as will several others from the State Department
with her, and if you do want to cover that event - if you want to be out at
the Naval Academy, you need to talk to Nancy Beck or Alison Shorter of our
staff, and please do that this afternoon so we can get a sense of numbers
and get a sense if anybody requires any assistance from us including
On Wednesday, the Secretary is traveling to Michigan, to Grand Rapids,
Michigan to participate in the re-dedication of the Gerald R. Ford Museum
there. And she will have a private lunch with former President Ford and
then make a speech at the museum. And that speech will cover a number of
issues that are currently important to us in our foreign policy.
She is also working this week, obviously, on the Chemical Weapons
Convention, because we do expect that that is nearing its conclusion in the
Senate, as it approaches a vote for ratification. And this is one of her
major priorities and will be. She'll be very busy talking to members of
Congress this week on the Chemical Weapons Convention.
A couple of other issues of note - things that I have been asked about. We
have agreed now on the date and venue on our missile talks with the North
Koreans. The talks will be held in New York City on May 12th ad 13th, and
the focus will be on concerns of the United States regarding North Korean
The head of our delegation will be Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bob
Einhorn. This is a big week for Korea issues. As you know, the United
States is now finishing its international deliberations on the issue of
whether or not to respond to the augmented appeal of the World Food Program
for a greater level of food assistance for North Korea.
I would expect that within the next 24 hours that I'll have an announcement
to make on that issue, probably tomorrow and not today.
As you know, on Wednesday we begin our trilateral talks up in New York City
with the Republic of Korean and North Korea. And this is to receive an
answer from North Korea on our mutual proposal for a four-party peace talks
to conclude successfully --- well, to conclude the negotiations concerning
the end of the Korean War of 43 years ago, and also to determine ways to
promote stability - security stability on the Korean Peninsula.
This is going to be an important set of talks. I talked to our chief
delegate Chuck Kartman this morning and he believes that these will be
lengthy discussions on Wednesday. It's not at all clear that we will have a
final response from the North Koreans on Wednesday, for those of you hoping
to cover it.
It may be we get that later in the week. We don't know yet. We'll just have
to see what happens. But there are bilateral talks scheduled for Friday in
New York. And I just wanted to make sure that all of you knew they were two
days of talks - and that I couldn't promise a definitive statement on
Wednesday. Perhaps we'll get it. Perhaps we won't. We'll see. And that's
how we approach that this week.
Finally, I just wanted to confirm to you that Congressman Pete Peterson
will be sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam on April 29th, at the State
Department. He plans to arrive in Hanoi on May 9th.
This is a very significant presidential appointment. Mr. Peterson, when he
is sworn in as ambassador, will, of course, be the first American
ambassador to Vietnam and the first high-level representative of the United
States at that level, of course, since 1945.
That concludes the announcements I have today.
QUESTION: Nick, you reached the end of a chapter, I guess, in talking to
people about the Middle East situation. Can you now tell us what is
MR. BURNS: Well, I can tell you that we have had a good round of
discussions with the Palestinians that culminated in the phone call
yesterday between Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat, following on the
meetings of with the Palestinian delegation on Thursday and Friday of last
We have remained in touch with the Israelis - Ambassador Martin Indyk had a
lengthy meeting last evening in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
While I can not predict publicly what the next steps might be, I think
Secretary Albright might have something to say about that at 3 o'clock. So
it is going to be a very busy press session at 3 o'clock this afternoon.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary talk to Mr. Arafat about the U.S. aims for
zero tolerance on terrorism?
MR. BURNS: She covered all of the issues that we have been discussing
with the Israeli delegation, and that includes the issue of terrorism and
the insistence, I think on all of our parts, that there be zero tolerance
for terrorism. We did note on Friday that we believe there has been better
security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian authority over the
course of the last week. We hope that continues, but there has to be zero
tolerance. She discussed that and all the major issues pertaining to
the peace negotiations.
QUESTION: Last thing. Jesse Helms, Senator Helms, in a by-lined article
today begins, "In the past month, Yassar Arafat has led a terrorist
Palestinian group to assume it has his approval for acts of terror against
Israel. He has urged the Arab League to resume its boycott of Israel. As a
result, the peace process has plummeted to its lowest depth in recent
Does the Senator have it right about the past, at least?
MR. BURNS: In what respect, Barry?
QUESTION: Is what he says, Arafat has let terrorist Palestinian groups
know that they can do; is he right in that?
MR. BURNS: I think we've spoken to that question about a hundred times in
the last couple of weeks, and I couldn't possibly improve upon anything
I've said or, more importantly, what the President and Secretary Albright
have said. We have a standard. The President has made it clear publicly, as
has Secretary Albright. Zero tolerance. And that message has been
QUESTION: The Senator - as Speaker Gingrich in a similar way the other
day - he is speaking about why things are in such a sorry state now and he
is linking, as Gingrich did, Arafat to the terrorism. Do you agree with his
MR. BURNS: Well, we have spoken to that question many times. It has been
asked in a thousand different formulations. And we have said that the
Palestinian Authority must meet this challenge of zero tolerance, 100
percent effort. That is what is required here. And we are pleased to note
that there has been some increase in the cooperation enhancement with the
Israeli government in Hebron, in Gaza, and elsewhere over the last week.
But we want to move ahead with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli
government and not keep our eyes on the past but on the future, because
if we debate forever on all these questions on the Hebron negotations,
on Oslo, if we debate forever who was right and wrong in the past, we will
lose sight of the imperative of making progress in the future.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea of when the United States is going to come
forward with these "new ideas" that you have been discussing?
MR. BURNS: We have already come forward with them to the Palestinians and
the Israelis last week and over the weekend.
QUESTION: Do you have a set program that you have followed?
MR. BURNS: We have given them some ideas that we hope will bridge the gap
between the two of them. They are substantive ideas and they are being
considered by both. And as I said, you know, Secretary Albright might have
something further to say about this at 3 o'clock.
Yes, are we done with the Middle East? Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Yes. As far as today's visit of Mr. Zieleniec here in
Washington, next week Mrs. Albright is meeting Slovak Foreign Minister
Hamzik. I would like to ask was the U.S. view on the Czech and Slovak
relations since the split of the former Czechoslovakia or the chances of
both nations to join NATO. And on the present somehow, somewhat tension
that arose between the two nations.
MR. BURNS: Well, obviously, we want to see an improvement in relations
between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. That stands to reason. We have
seen the public statements that have been made over the past week or so by
some of the leaders on both sides. We would like to see the two of them get
along, improve the relationship, certainly economically. At the same time,
we have separate relations with both of them. They are independent nation
states. Our relationship with the Czech Republic is particularly good these
days. That will be the accent of the meetings today with the Foreign
Minister Zieleniec because the Czech Republic is a leading economic
reformer and a leading member of the Partnership for Peace, which is
doing all the right things in modernizing itself to be a full member
of the Partnership for Peace. And as a potential member of the European
Union, of course.
So this meeting today, I think, will be a discussion of the major issues
but we have very few problems with the Czech Republic. With Slovakia,
however, of course, we are disappointed that there hasn't been the kind of
economic reform, political reform, in Slovakia as we all had expected a
couple of years ago when Slovakia became an independent country. The United
States does not believe that the problems between Slovakia and the Czech
Republic should complicate American relations or NATO relations with the
Czech Republic. Those relations are going forward full speed ahead,
as you know. We will have to deal with Slovakia and hope that our own
relationship with Slovakia can improve, but that will be a test of
Slovakia's own commitment to reform. That is a very important factor in the
way that we have looked at our relations with all the countries of central
Europe. Yes, Carol?
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Has North Korea deployed the NoDong missile? There is a report
that it has recently deployed this weapon.
MR. BURNS: Carol, I can't confirm for you whether or not that missile has
been deployed, but I can tell you - you've seen some statements out of
Japan this morning, statements of concern about that. We have concerns, not
only about that missile but about various missile-related activity of the
North Koreans. And that is why we have sought and have now achieved a
scheduling of a meeting with the North Koreans on the 12th and 13th of
May to discuss a variety of these concerns.
QUESTION: Why can't you confirm it? I mean, do you not know?
MR. BURNS: The United States normally does not put itself in a position
publicly to confirm events of that nature. You ought to address yourself to
the North Koreans. They have a website. They'll be in New York. They do.
Have any of you looked at the website to see if the answer to the question
is there? I'm trying here, Carol. I'm trying to be forthcoming.
QUESTION: Not very successfully.
MR. BURNS: Well, we try. One hundred percent effort. That's all you can
ask of me, right?
QUESTION: If you say you are concerned, though, you're concerned
specifically about this?
MR. BURNS: We're concerned about a variety of missile-related activities
and various allegations that have been made. And that is why we have sought
these talks with the North Koreans. I think we last spoke to them formally
in April 1996, so it is high time for another meeting.
QUESTION: In reports like this though, I mean, you talked last week about
the possibility of setting new talks with the North Koreans.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Did this report somehow make scheduling these talks more urgent,
or was this already - were you already planning to announce this?
MR. BURNS: We have long had concerns about various activities of the
North Koreans, various missile-related activities. What that is, Barry, is,
you know, various allegations of sales and transfers and developments. We
see a lot of reports and we believe we need to look into all of them and
discuss them directly with the North Koreans because they are very
important. Proliferation is one of our major global concerns. I can't be in
a position here of confirming launches of missiles or sales of missiles
until we have all the information at our disposal. What has to happen
first is, we have to meet with the North Koreans to get their view of what
has happened - very important talks led by Bob Einhorn.
QUESTION: If the North Koreans agree to accept these peace talks this
week, what are the chances that the U.S. will move on its commitment to
ease sanctions, trade sanctions?
MR. BURNS: I simply don't want to get ahead of the story this week. Let's
see what the message is from the North Korean delegation in New York this
week. We hope it is positive. We hope the North Koreans will accept our
proposal for four-party talks. We urge them to accept it. As the South
Korean government and the South Korean foreign minister said today, this is
a proposal that makes sense for the South Koreans and the North Koreans
and for stability in the Korean peninsula. A very important proposal.
Let's just take it one step at a time. If we get a positive answer, we will
obviously try to begin those talks with the Chinese government and the
others and see how relations develop from there. But I don't want to
predict what steps we would take.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) your extreme concern that you have voiced over the
food situation in North Korea. What are the chances that you will give more
aid, greater than $10 million, tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting question. I can't announce the U.S.
response to the World Food Program appeal until tomorrow. If I started
saying, you know, bigger than a bread basket then you would have a story to
write today and not tomorrow, and I think you need a story tomorrow. Today
you have enough stories. Don't you think so?
QUESTION: Well, maybe we would have a story today.
MR. BURNS: I can't talk about it until tomorrow.
QUESTION: Are you establishing some sort of linkage between the food
contribution and these other issues?
MR. BURNS: No, we have never had a linkage. We look at the food requests
on a humanitarian basis. We do not link the food requests. We do not link
the food requests to other issues in our relationship.
QUESTION: Should we drag out the - I think I can almost remember what was
said by the Secretary when she was in Korea in deciding on food shipments,
we will look at their overall behavior. And I don't want to misquote. She
never specified what she meant, but it suggested that I know this is a
humanitarian country and all that but I suspect that she was looking at a
larger picture too when she was speaking of food aid.
MR. BURNS: Barry, when the Secretary -
QUESTION: -- in South Korea announced their shipment, she was talking
about looking at the whole picture. I am sure those quotes are there.
MR. BURNS: Barry, when the Secretary announced the initial $10 million
U.S. contribution, I believe that was in London before we got to Asia...
QUESTION: All right, but on that trip.
MR. BURNS: The rationale that we put forward was that there is no
linkage. We've said that very consistently. I don't quite remember what the
Secretary said or didn't say in Seoul, when we had that press conference
that afternoon. But I can tell you that longstanding U.S. policy is that we
QUESTION: You believe - you said you believe that the talk will be
lengthy. Does that mean you will be getting into the issues of substance,
such as agenda for four-way talks, venue, date, and such?
MR. BURNS: Well it will just depend on what message the North Korean
delegation brings to New York. We hope it's a positive message of
acceptance of the four-party proposal. I really just was trying to give you
heads up in terms of how you cover this event, and what expectations you
have. It may be we have a very clean event on Wednesday - there's an answer,
we report that to you, and there's a story. It may be that we have - we're
going to have a second meeting, of course, a bilateral meeting on
Friday. It may be that we get an answer on Friday. I just don't know.
I didn't want to commit us to producing a story for you, or an answer for
you, or have them produce an answer on one day. We'll have to see how the
QUESTION: Are we still on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes, still on North Korea?
QUESTION: Speaking Friday - Friday's meeting - what will be the agenda of
the meeting? The Liaison Office, or missile talks, or similar issues?
MR. BURNS: No, the missile talks will be held in May. The agenda for
Friday's meeting are some of the issues that - all of the issues that we
work on with the North Koreans, from the agreed framework to the issue of
American Missing in Action, and remains of Americans Missing in Action from
the Korean War - over 8100 cases that are -- very high national priority is
placed upon that issue. All the different issues that we deal with with
the North Koreans.
QUESTION: What is your understanding of the Liaison Office?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: The Liaison Office, opening a Liaison Office?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I don't - I don't - I have nothing to say. We continue to
discuss that with the North Koreans, and I'm sure that will be part of the
agenda this week, but I have no announcements to make on that.
QUESTION: Can I do Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I think we still have one more in Korea.
QUESTION: Just today the North Koreans have threatened to pull out of the
framework agreement. Any reaction to that statement and how that might
affect the --?
MR. BURNS: On the agreed framework?
QUESTION: That's right.
MR. BURNS: Phasing North Korea's nuclear program -
MR. BURNS: Didn't see that statement, don't believe it to be an accurate
reflection of North Korean behavior because, as of today, North Korea is
meeting all of its obligations to us and the Koreans and the Japanese in
the agreed framework. We are monitoring their observance of that agreement,
and it is satisfactory. So let's look at the performance and the ground. I
don't think there's any reason to be concerned there.
QUESTION: Official newspapers in Baghdad have published details today of
a big oil deal Iraq signed with Russia last month. They say that the
Russians will spend about $200 million over the next three years,
developing oil fields in Southern Iraq. What does the U.S. know about this
deal, and what's your view of it?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information on any such deal. I'll have to
take the question and look into it. Yes, I'll be glad to.
QUESTION: Specifically, could you take the point the Russians seem to
think that it will not violate sanctions because the first few years will
only be preparatory. If you could take that specific point --
MR. BURNS: I find that very hard to believe. If that is, in fact, the
Russian government position - I don't know if it is or not - but that
doesn't seem - that doesn't seem to fit our understanding of a lot; but
let's look into this and see what the facts are.
QUESTION: What can you say for this government regarding this tangled web
of terror that's being unveiled, especially this weekend, by investigators
at The Washington Post regarding the Khamenei-Rafsanjani -
MR. BURNS: Are they part of the FBI team, or is just -
QUESTION: (Laughter.) They probably are; we hope so. They certainly are
making more public progress.
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
QUESTION: But, Nick -
MR. BURNS: Well, they're making more public news, I don't know if it's
progress or not.
QUESTION: We have a witness from the trial in Germany that says it's the
Supreme Security Council of Iran.
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Rafsanjani assigns the murder orders.
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
QUESTION: We have a link from the Canadian witness to the -
MR. BURNS: But these are all just things that you -
QUESTION: -- to the Al-Khobar bombing
MR. BURNS: -- read in the newspaper articles. But what we have, if you
want to use the royal we and the government, the U.S. government, the FBI
is still working on this investigation with the Saudi authorities. That
investigation is not yet completed, and we have not yet made any determination
as to who is responsible. Obviously, we'll finish that investigation at
some point, and will capture - we will apprehend, or the Saudis will
apprehend, someone will - the people who bombed the Al-Khobar barracks,
and they'll be brought to justice. That's the American objective.
QUESTION: Yes, Nick, and now we have threats by this Supreme Council of
Iran against Western European governments for the action taken last week,
after the trial was completed on the Mykonos bombing. What reaction have
you to that?
MR. BURNS: Well, that's extraordinary chutzpah on the part of the
leadership of Iran, to threaten European governments when the German trial,
the Mykonos trial, showed quite conclusively that there is a link between
the Iranian government and that terrorist act - the assassination of four
individuals. It seems extraordinary to assert that somehow the problems
with the Europeans, the problems with Iran - and we commend the European
Union for suspending its diplomatic - its dialogue, its critical - you know,
its critical dialogue with the Iranians, so-called. And we think it's
positive that they've all, with one exception, all the EU members
have withdrawn their ambassadors from Tehran.
And we urge the Europeans to join us in a policy of containment against
Iran. That is the American policy. It will not change. In fact, the
rationale for that policy has been strengthened by the revelations of the
German prosecutors, and by the outcome of the trial.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be wise at this point, with the evidence that is
coming to light, to increase the disincentive for terrorist acts by Iran,
especially what they might do in Bahrain against US. Naval --
MR. BURNS: It behooves all of us to be on the watch, and to be mindful of
the need to create an international containment strategy around Iran.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the situation with the negotiations with Europe on
MR. BURNS: I think Stu Eizenstat, Undersecretary of Commerce -
QUESTION: Do you have any updates?
MR. BURNS: Stu Eizenstat really said it all the other day. If you want, I
can - I think he had a press conference, there's a statement. If you have
any specific questions, I'll be glad to take them. But it's a very good
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the wife of the Ukranian diplomat who
was arrested Saturday night for drunk driving?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do. Let me just try to get you updated on some of the
other cases first, Betsy.
There have been four cases of drunk driving. Let's see, we have the
Georgian case, Mr. Makharadze. There's the Russian case. There's the Kyrgyz
case; and now the Ukranian. In the case of the Russian that we discussed on
Friday, the State Department will send today to the Russian Embassy a
request for waiver of immunity so that Vadim Savelyev can face prosecution
here in the United States for drunk driving.
We have requested the Kyrgyz Embassy to also lift the diplomatic immunity
of Mr. Atabekov who was stopped by the police on suspicion of drunken
driving. Now we have the case of the Ukrainian couple. At about 11:25 p.m.
Saturday evening, Olesya Yarotskiy, the wife of a diplomat at the Embassy
of Ukraine was involved in a three-car accident on Wisconsin Avenue. No one
was injured, fortunately. She agreed to take a roadside breathalyzer test,
which she failed.
The Washington Metropolitan Police cited her with driving while intoxicated;
failing to pay full time attention as a driver; following the cars ahead of
her too closely; and failing to exhibit a permit.
I understand that she's been officially charged with driving under the
influence of alcohol. So we are going to follow our standard policy. We're
going to ask the Ukrainian government for a waiver of diplomatic immunity.
If it is granted - I don't know about her husband - she will appear in
court for prosecution. If a waiver is not granted, her driving privileges
will be suspended for a year.
As you know, if a diplomat who has his or her license taken away for a year,
if that person is involved in another DWI or DUI incident, then they are
expelled from the United States. This is a growing problem.
The police of Washington, D.C., the various county police in Maryland and
Virginia report to us an increasing number of these drunk-driving
incidents. I think our message to the diplomatic community of Washington,
D.C., as well as that of New York City is, you must abide by American laws -
by state laws and by city laws. You cannot drive while intoxicated. If you
drive while intoxicated, you face the possible penalties of our legal
systems. If you fail to present yourself at court, you'll have your license
Surely, the people of this community, the Metropolitan D.C. community - the
two states and the District - should not have to worry about diplomats
driving around drunk and not facing the law. These people should face the
law, and that's the position the State Department has taken on every one of
QUESTION: Nick, you said this is a growing problem. Is it really a
growing problem - that is, are more diplomats drinking and driving, or is
it a growing awareness and then reporting among police jurisdictions?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly a growing problem when we're faced with a slew
of these over the last couple of months, and especially over the last
couple of weeks.
There is better reporting. We are encouraging the county police in Virginia
and Maryland to report these incidents to us because, in the past, many
were not reported to the State Department. We are encouraging the embassies
here in Washington to remind their employees that they must obey American
laws. We have very strict laws in this country about this. There is a very
heightened public consciousness about the perils of drunk driving and all
the people who are killed every year at the hands of drunk drivers.
Diplomats are not above the law. They should not be above the law.
That pertains to New York as well.
There was a very interesting article in the New York Times on Saturday
about the crazy debates up at the U.N. about moving the United Nations and
taking the parking problems up there to the World Court of Justice which
doesn't make any sense.
I can tell you, there have been charges lobbed at the State Department by
the City of New York that we're somehow soft on this issue.
We believe that diplomats in New York and Washington and throughout the
country must obey our laws. They can't drive drunk; they shouldn't park in
front of fire hydrants. When they incur fines, they ought to pay them.
Diplomats are not above the law. American diplomats overseas are not above
the law either.
QUESTION: Nick, (inaudible) on North Korea. Just go back for a second.
What I partly recalled was her statement that peace talks - how fast they
would go - could depend on how much the North Koreans are hurting.
MR. BURNS: That's a different statement.
QUESTION: Meaning their economy, their ability to feed -
MR. BURNS: That's more of an analytical statement.
QUESTION: Sure, it's an analytical statement.
MR. BURNS: The description of the situation, as it is.
QUESTION: It's also entirely logical.
MR. BURNS: That's certainly not, in my mind - now that you say it, I
remember the exchange. That does not represent a condition. It's more of an
QUESTION: Of course, it is. But it struck me as bad - in other places,
too, where there's poverty, where there are problems, in some cases we're
contributing to the low economic status of countries by boycotts and such
to force changes, to force countries like Iraq to behave in a different
The clear inference here was that North Korea's -
MR. BURNS: I don't accept those premises.
QUESTION: You don't think that's why we're working on Cuba and North
Korea, and Iraq the way we do?
MR. BURNS: I don't accept that the United States, for instance, is to
blame for the economic problems of Cuba or Iraq or North Korea; because
that's the premise in your statement.
QUESTION: Look, there's an economic boycott the U.S. has against Iraq,
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: And the economy -
MR. BURNS: The United Nations, actually, Barry, the United Nations.
QUESTION: Fine, but the United States is sometimes standing alone, as
Secretary Christopher said, for what they know will be right, even if you
didn't have support with the -
MR. BURNS: It's the right policy.
QUESTION: It's the right policy, (inaudible). All right, now the point is
that one of the unfortunate results of probably a brilliant policy is that -
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- is that people suffer economically, and people get very
hungry. And you can understand that. If there's an economic blockade, there
isn't food - food isn't as readily available in the country. What I thought
she was doing in Seoul was linking the appetite of the North Koreans to
come to terms on a settlement for North Korea - for the Peninsula - to how
badly they want to be accepted by the rest of the world. And one of the
ways you would know that they badly want to be accepted is that they -
is if they are having terrible problems feeding their own people. That's
all I meant. And it's probably what she meant, I would think.
MR. BURNS: I think, analytically speaking, it's probably true that
because of the dire economic straits and problems in North Korea, they are
looking for broader - they're opening up to the international community, to
the World Food Program, the other agencies of the U.N. They need help;
there's no question about that.
But I must respond very briefly to at least one of the premises that I
heard in your question, Barry, and that is that Saddam Hussein is
responsible, in Iraq, for the fact that some people don't have enough food
because he chooses to spend the money they have on palaces to himself; and
that's undeniable. And in the case of North Korea and Cuba, it's the failed
economic policies of Communism that have produced poverty. That was true of
the Soviet Union, and it's true of all Communist countries. It's a
failed system. You don't see this happening in much of the rest of the
world these days. You see it in Communist countries.
So I think it's important to note that the United States' policies of
containment, where are brought about for very good strategic reasons are
not to blame. In fact, those policies are a reflection of the fact that
Communism does exist in certain parts of the world and should be contained.
QUESTION: So you never withhold food as a corrective measure? You never
use food, are you saying, as an instrument of foreign policy?
MR. BURNS: Well, I'd say this: in the case of Cuba, we contributed more
humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people in the last year than the Cuban
government. In the case of Iraq, we facilitated the food-for-oil program so
that food can be received by the suffering Iraqi people. In the case of
North Korea, we've responded to every food request since 1995. We act out
of humanitarian principles. But if you're looking for the cause, the
underlying cause of these problems, it's the failure of these countries
to meet their responsibilities to their own people.
QUESTION: Speaking of the food situation in North Korea, how do you
assess their current situation, compared to five weeks ago when you had the
four-party briefing? Has the situation become bad, has the situation
becomes worse, or -
MR. BURNS: Well, the United States government itself does not have a
complete view of the food situation, but we rely on the World Food Program,
visiting Congressmen -- Tony Hall was just back last week from a trip
there. By all accounts, the situation is worsening. It is dramatically
worse than it was several months ago, or even four or five weeks ago. At
least our assessment of it is dramatically worse, and that's cause for
great concern. That's why we've looked at this request by the World Food
Program with a great sense of urgency. And we'll have an answer for
you tomorrow on our response.
QUESTION: Going back to Iran, the aftermath of the German court's
decision, Greece was the only European Union country that -
MR. BURNS: I was looking for Mr. Lambros today.
QUESTION: -- that did not withdraw -
MR. BURNS: I guess Mr. Lambros is not here today.
QUESTION: What's your message to Athens?
MR. BURNS: Well, of course we're disappointed that the Greek government
failed to join the EU consensus to withdraw its ambassador. We think that
given the facts laid before the German people in the Mykonos trial, it is
crystal clear what happened in the assassination of those people in the
Mykonos Café - crystal clear what happened. And the complicity of
the Iranian government is clear for everyone to see.
Therefore, we congratulate those European Union countries who've taken
resolute action, and we wish it were across the board.
QUESTION: Have you got anything to say about Austrian hotel rooms that
are apparently said to have been bugged? And there are accusations that
they were bugged by American officials.
MR. BURNS: Well, I'm aware that the Austrian weekly news magazine, Profil,
did service a report to this effect. You know, this happens all the time.
People accuse the CIA of all sorts of nefarious things. And we're shocked
by all these revelations, of course. And I just can't comment on anything
pertaining to an intelligence issue. But we read the report. That's all
we've got to say about that.
QUESTION: Nick, as the rebel forces continue to make advances in Zaire,
is the United States planning any sort of action there as regards, perhaps,
its own diplomatic personnel, or anything - any other contacts that would
increase the likelihood of a negotiated solution; or is that possible at
this point? Have you given up on that possibility? And finally, is the
United States, given a Kabila takeover, prepared to do business with a
government that is run by him, at least in the interim?
MR. BURNS: A lot of questions, Steve. Let me just try to take them one at
a time. Secretary Albright did have a conversation with Kofi Annan over the
weekend about Zaire. We are looking at this every day with a great deal of
interest. We are devoting a lot of time to it.
First and foremost, our major concern is the security of Americans. We
strongly urge Americans who are there on private business to leave because
the situation just does not warrant the continued involvement of private
Americans in Zaire given the potential risk to them because the civil war
continues. We are watching the situation of our official presence, our
official Americans in Kinshasa affiliated with our embassy with great care.
We have not yet made a decision to withdraw those people but we are
watching it on a day-by-day basis. And as you know, we have the military
capacity to take those people out to evacuate them as quickly as possible.
Now on the wider political issues, we are encouraging the South African
government to continue its mediation efforts. The South African government
is doing that. The Secretary had a good briefing on that from Deputy
President Mbeki a couple of days ago. We hope very much that Mr. Kabila,
the rebel forces and the government will agree to continue those negotations
under the auspices of the United Nations, and we hope those talks will
start again soon. They have not yet started. In the meantime, we hope that
the temporary cease-fire can hold, although there are indications that it
is not. We hope that further fighting can be suspended until the
peace talks are concluded. This is a very serious situation. Zaire risks,
of course, falling apart under the strain of this civil war, under the
strain of the humanitarian crisis in the north and of the political chaos
in Kinshasa. We believe in the territorial integrity of the country -its
sovereignty - and it is very important for us to see stability return to
Zaire. That is the overarching American focus. There are, of course,
continuing American contacts with Mr. Kabila. We reach him by telephone. We
have embassy officers in Goma who are in contact with rebel forces and
we'll continue those contacts. We will have to wait and see what develops,
what kind of government emerges in this transitional period in Zaire.
Obviously, we would like that government to be democratic, devoted to
elections, tolerant of alternative and opposition views, open to press
freedoms and civil liberties. Mr. Kabila does not have much of a track
record as a leader of a government; in fact, he has never led a government.
His ideology in the past has been authoritarian in many respects in his
devotion to Marxist-Leninist principles. We will deal with him as we can.
We will try to do our very best in influencing him to be an open leader if
he does become a leader, but right now that is not for us to decide.
That is for the Zairian people to decide and I can't predict the result
of the political struggle in Zaire itself.
I will tell you some disappointing news, and that is that the Rwandan Hutu
refugees still at the camps south of Kisangani still do not have permission
from the Rwandan government to either go overland to Goma for processing
into Rwanda or, for those women and children who are severely ill and
severely malnourished, they do not have Rwandan government permission to be
flown by the United Nations to Rwanda itself. People are dying from
malnutrition in these camps. Cholera has now broken out in these camps.
There is every reason for the Rwandan government now to move quickly
to avoid a humanitarian disaster. Just as we came to Rwanda's aid several
years ago, Rwanda now must make the decision to do the right thing and let
these people, especially the women and children, into Rwanda.
Now, the Rwandan government says it has security concerns; it doesn't want
some of the people who produced the genocide of 1994 to be returned. This
could be handled easily. Surely they can allow the women and children out
and then perhaps allow the men to go overland to be screened at Goma. There
has got to be a way around this problem, but we have been waiting now for
over a week for permission first from Mr. Kabila, well over a week, and
now from the Rwandan government. Meanwhile, people die and cholera
has broken out in the camps and surely the Rwandan government must do
There was a visit by a senior Rwandan government official to the camps this
weekend to inspect the camps to ascertain why these people wanted to
return. Well, they want to return because they are starving and because
they can not assure themselves of their own protection in Zaire itself.
This issue doesn't receive much press coverage but it is a big issue. It is
an important issue and we are focused on that issue.
QUESTION: How many people do you estimate there to be in those camps?
MR. BURNS: The people affected are in the tens of thousands, David. The
United Nations, with the financial support of the United States, wants to
bring out 20 to 30 thousand people from these camps- that is by air on an
emergency basis. Ultimately, we think 80 to 100 thousand people are at risk
here in these camps, 16 and 25 kilometers south of Kisangani. Something has
got to be done to help these people. The United Nations is doing all
it can. It has done a marvelous job of putting into place the assistance,
the food and medical assistance, to help these people. First it was Mr.
Kabila who held up their right to return, and now it is the Rwandan
government. And surely we can do better. They can do better than this.
QUESTION: Nick, just to follow up, Kabila apparently was very warmly
received in the Lubumbashi, according to reports today. Does the United
States Embassy in Kinshasa in its reporting have a sense of the kind of
support he has in the capital and, more largely, in the rest of the country,
which he still does not control?
MR. BURNS: It is very difficult to gauge that, although he has been
received enthusiastically, as sometimes happens when people arrive at the
head of a guerrilla army with guns in cities that have been liberated.
There are sometimes reasons for enthusiastic receptions. He does appear to
have momentum. His army has cut a wide swath though eastern and now
southern Zaire. They are in control of the second and third largest cities
in the country. This is a significant and serious fighting force and they
appear to have momentum.
We believe, as does the United Nations, that it would be a crime and a
terrible tragedy to see the civil war continue because what happens is that
innocent people are killed; there is further political chaos. We all want
to see political stability return to Zaire, so if there is a way to resolve
the civil war peacefully through negotiations in South Africa, we think
that is far better than having the rebels advance in Kinshasa, as they
appear intent on doing.
QUESTION: Any estimate of how many private Americans there are in
MR. BURNS: I believe the figures are about the high four hundreds of all
Americans in Kinshasa. I think we went though this the other day. I can get
the figures after the briefing. Roughly 250 or so embassy people, John, and
then the remainder private Americans. But let me - no, excuse me, my
embassy figures are off. The embassy figures are lower. That's right. Yes,
strike the 250. I'm wrong about that. The embassy figures are lower
and the private American total is higher. But let us, at the end of
the briefing, give you the figures that I think we supplied to Betsy or
Judd last week.
Sorry to confuse you. We'll take the question and we'll have an answer
within five minutes of the end of this briefing so come down to the press
room if you are interested in that answer.
QUESTION: I have a followup, Nick, to the questions by David and Steve. I
had a question I asked last week about the politics or the ideology of Mr.
Kabila. You say he is a Marxist.
MR. BURNS: I said in the past he has followed some of that ideology. I
don't know what he is now. He'll have to define that.
QUESTION: Does he have links or sponsorship from Fidel Castro or from the
Chinese or from any of the radical Arab nations?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know what the sources of his support are
currently, Bill, but he has been active for a long time. We will have
continued contact with him. We will continue to work with him as best as we
QUESTION: Are you concerned this man, in fact, might be going - taking
Zaire up to the left, far to the left?
MR. BURNS: Bill, we will have to wait and see what transpires. No one has
decided yet on the ground who is going to rule Zaire. Charlie?
QUESTION: Nick, last week we talked about whether or not the U.S.
ambassador had been in touch with Mobutu and I think the answer was no. Is
that still the case?
MR. BURNS: I think he last spoke to him, had a meeting with him, in
January. He has sought a meeting with President Mobutu. I can check whether
or not there was a meeting over the weekend. John is saying he doesn't
Thanks a lot.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:12 p.m.)