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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #56, 97-04-16

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Wednesday, April 16, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

1       Welcome to Visiting Students to the Briefing

KOREA (NORTH) 1,7-8 Trilateral Talks in NY /Possible Four-Party Talks 7 Upcoming Missile Talks/Bilateral Talks

SAUDI ARABIA 1-2 Fire at Hajj Pilgrims Camp Outside Mecca

HUMAN RIGHTS 2,4-6 U.N. Human Rights Resolution on China 2 Secretary Albright's Comments in Address at Naval Academy 11 Secretary's Comments re Tibet in Address at Naval Academy

GLOBAL AFFAIRS/ENVIRONMENT 3 Visit of Paraguayan President to Everglades/Discussion of Environmental Issues 4 Release of Department's First Annual Environment Report 4 --Secretary Albright to Introduce Report on April 22

TAJIKISTAN 3-4 Improvement in Security Situation 3-4 Lifting of Ordered Departure for U.S. Dependents 4 Lifting of Travel Advisory

ARMS CONTROL 4 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Marks 10th Anniversary

RUSSIA 6-7 Reported Arms Transfer/Sales to Iran

IRAN 8-9 Reports Israeli Arms Merchant Supplying CW Components to Iran 13-14 Reports of Possible Iranian Involvement in Khobar Bombing

HONG KONG 9-10,13 Secretary to Attend Reversion Ceremonies in Hong Kong 9 --Prospects for Further Travel in Region 12-13 Possible Visit to U.S. by C.H. Tung

BURMA 9-11 Human Rights in Burma/Possibility of Further Sanctions 9-11 --Secretary's Comment's in Address at Naval Academy 11-12 Cohen-Feinstein Legislation re Burma

HONDURAS 13 Honduran Supreme Court Denies Extradition for Francois

DEPARTMENT 15-16 Possible Nominees for Ambassadorships

COLOMBIA 16-17 Efforts to Fight Narco-Traffickers

ZAIRE 17-18 UN Secretary General's Call for Peace Talks


DPB #56

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 1997 12:40 P.M.


MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to welcome to our briefing today eight students with the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, and their sponsor -- welcome. I also want to welcome some foreign service nationals who are here visiting the United States. These are the people who really make our embassies work overseas. And I'm particularly pleased to welcome three individuals from Central Asia -- Hadia Nazirova, from Tajikistan; Nikolay Savitsky of Kyrgyzstan; and Arkady Divinsky of Kyrgyzstan, as well. I've had the pleasure of visiting both of those countries. They're wonderful countries, and we commend you for the work you do for all of us in the State Department. We're very glad you're here.

I had a conversation with Chuck Kartman, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who's up in New York, meeting with the North Koreans and South Koreans. He took a break in the meetings to call, and he said that the talks were underway, on a trilateral basis. They're going well. We're certainly encouraged by the first few hours of the talks, and we hope very much for positive results from these discussions.

I would expect that when the discussions end this afternoon, there might be some press opportunities. There will certainly be a statement from the United States. I believe, the North and South Koreans will be making statements, as well, today. So I'd encourage you to keep abreast of that. I don't have anything to report more specifically because these talks are underway. But we're encouraged by the early progress that has been made. And again, we hope very much that as a result of these talks, North Korea will decide to agree with the four-party proposal, agree to peace talks with the United States, South Korea and China. That's a very important development. I'll be glad to take any questions on this.

We do have a statement today about the terrible tragedy in Saudi Arabia. The United States government was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic fire that claimed the lives of so many Hajj pilgrims at a camp outside of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. The fire broke out as more than two million Muslim pilgrims were preparing for prayers, prior to the culmination of the Hajj -- when Muslim pilgrims travel from Mina to Mount Arafat, the site of the prophet Mohammed's last sermon.

The United States Government, on behalf of all Americans extends our condolences to the victims and their families. As custodian of the two holy sites of Islam, the Saudi government fulfills an enormous responsibility of the annual Hajj. And it does that with great resolve and great skill. And while we're confident that the Saudi Arabian government is fully prepared to respond to the needs of the many thousands of people who are injured, the United States certainly stands ready to respond to any request for assistance by Saudi Arabia, by any of the countries who have Hajj pilgrims at that site.

I wanted to make one comment, if I could, on yesterday's vote in Geneva at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. We've reflected on yesterday's events with some care here in the State Department. And I must say, we continue to be deeply disappointed that a majority of the Commission's members voted to foreclose debate on the subject of human rights in China.

As Secretary Albright said last night in her speech to the midshipmen in Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy, we want to congratulate, first and foremost, the government of Denmark for its leadership on this resolution. The people of Denmark and their leaders have a very distinguished history of acting courageously in defense of human rights. And the Danish people -- the Danes distinguished themselves during the Second World War in protecting the Danish Jews. Denmark has stood up again on this effort to further express -- to further support freedom of expression and human rights in China and around the world. Denmark has been true to a very important international principle, and that is the universality of human rights all over the world.

The Chinese government's human rights practices are a legitimate topic for debate and for discussion in the UN Human Rights Commission. Indeed, China is the only country whose human rights record is regularly exempted from discussion at the Commission. The United States believes that threatens to undermine the Commission at a time when multilateral discussions of human rights ought to be growing, not limited in the international community. The fundamental purpose of the Human Rights Commission is not to pass resolutions, but to advance the cause of human rights in a broad setting.

And through our efforts and those of our allies, at this year's Commission, we have continued to cast a spotlight on China's human rights performances. I would just suggest very humbly that perhaps the press has a responsibility to look at yesterday's vote in a real-life context. And here is what I mean by that. The real losers in the vote were China's 1.2 billion people. The organization created to discuss their problems, living in an authoritarian society, that organization failed China's people yesterday. Despite what some commentators and some journalists are calling a Chinese tactical victory yesterday, I suspect this might be a Pyrrhic victory because all of the controversy surrounding this vote only served to cast international attention on China's human rights record, which is very poor.

There is a very big problem that the world has to look at. Denmark stood up for the principle of human rights, as did the United States. We regret very much that other democratic countries, especially many in Europe, chose not to stand up yesterday. The United States will continue to discuss human rights in China. It will continue to be at the forefront of our relationship with China and will continue to discuss all the other issues that make up the complex but very important U.S. relationship with China.

Now, I have a couple of other things I just wanted to go over with you today. A very interesting visit by the Paraguayan President, Wasmosy. He arrives in Miami tomorrow morning. He's going to tour the Everglades and the lower Mississippi River with our Undersecretary of State, Tim Wirth and with the Army Corps of Engineers and with the National Park Service. And we hope this visit will highlight for President Wasmosy and his delegation how the Corps and other American organizations are repairing the environmental damage caused by many of our own civil construction projects in the Everglades and in the lower Mississippi region.

President Wasmosy is a professional engineer, and he is the architect of the five-nation Eidrovia Project, which is a 24-hour, all-season waterway from Bolivia through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, to the Atlantic Ocean. The United States government shares the concerns of many environmentalists that the civil works related to the project could cause serious environmental damage to the Pantanal -- the world's largest wetland area. We hope that this visit will give President Wasmosy a firsthand look at how he might, working with other Latin leaders, be able to control and limit the environmental damage that this proposal will certainly lead to.

We have invited him in a very positive spirit, hoping we can work together because environmental issues continue to be among the most important that we address, and certainly one of the newer priority international concerns of American foreign policy.

I also want to note that in 1996 the State Department, as you know, under Secretary Christopher's leadership, launched an initiative to integrate environmental objectives into the mainstream of our foreign policy. Secretary Albright believes very strongly in that. As part of this effort, the State Department will release, for the very first time, on April 22nd , which is Earth Day, a report entitled, Environmental Diplomacy: The Environment and U.S. Foreign Policy. This report will outline our global and regional environmental priorities and describe the steps that we're taking to address them.

It is unlike the narcotics report and the human rights report. It doesn't grade countries, individual countries on their environmental practices. It outlines our own environmental agenda, and how we're working with other countries. That's why I thought that President Wasmosy's visit might be of interest to some of you who have an interest in Latin America and in the environment. Now, to honor Earth Day and to celebrate the first release of this report-which we hope will be an annual report -- Secretary Madeleine Albright will come down to the briefing room at 12:30 p.m. on April 22nd to introduce this report. She will be followed by Undersecretary Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen, who will brief you on the outlines of this report. It will be available in the Press Office on April 22nd. It's available on the Internet at the State Department website,, and I would commend it to you.

Two other items. This will interest those visitors from Tajikistan. The State Department has lifted the February 20th order requiring embassy dependents to leave our embassy in Tajikistan. There has been significant improvement there in the security situation there in Dushanbe, adequate to permit return to Tajikistan of family members of American employees. We are also lifting the travel advisory to American citizens. A new consular information sheet will soon be released to reflect this change.

And last, we've talked a lot about missile proliferation and problems of some countries exporting missiles to countries, rogue states that shouldn't have them. Well, ten years ago, April 16, 1987, the United States and its G- 7 partners announced the formation of the Missile Technology Control Regime that would restrict transfers of nuclear capable missiles and related technology. Since April of 1987, 21 additional countries have joined the MTCR. And several others have adhered unilaterally to MTCR guidelines. Over the course of the last 10 years, the MTCR guidelines and its annexes have become the international standard for responsible missile-related export behavior. There has been very important progress in elevating the attention that this issue is given. In fact, President Clinton has deemed it one of the great threats to the security of the American people -- missile proliferation. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, the United States would like to salute the Missile Technology Control Regime as an outstanding example of international cooperation that has helped to make the world safer for all people.

At the same time, a lot of work remains to be done. We face the challenge of extending export controls to all potential suppliers and transshipment points and of eliminating missile programs of concern. The United States' national security interests, therefore, demand that we continue to place a high priority on curbing global missile proliferation. And we certainly want to work with all of our partners to do that. We're posting a statement on this today.


QUESTION: Nick, on the human rights point, this is the seventh consecutive year, isn't it, that China has managed to avoid being branded a human rights violator? I just wondered, you know, what new strategy could the U.S. have up its sleeve? And frankly, did the U.S. fail to -- the U.S. tried very hard, or did it try and couldn't move such countries as France on a moral issue? And there were other allies there, even Canada, which made a big point of going to Cuba to try to promote human rights.

What went wrong? Wasn't it a high priority issue for the U.S.? And what's with the allies?

MR. BURNS: It has been a very high priority issue for the United States. We began formal discussions in January with the 53 members of the UN Human Rights Commission, on this particular resolution, the resolution on China.

Human rights in China, as I said, will remain at the center of our relationship with China, and the Chinese government knows that.

What went wrong? Failure of will on the part of the member states of the UN Human Rights Commission to recognize that the largest country in the world, which has a significant set of human rights problems, ought to be a subject for discussion. It's supremely ironic now -- I understand they have criticized Indonesia today. And there has been criticisms of Iraq, which is very much deserved, and very strong vote today to condemn the human rights situation in Cuba.

And that I think deserves some mention. In fact, we hope that the Cuban government will take notice of the deplorable state of human rights in Cuba.

What went wrong at Geneva? You will have to ask those governments that chose not to step up to the plate -- if they know baseball lingo -- or just to step up, stand up and be counted. I think that's understood in any language.

But as I said, Barry, the big losers are the more than a billion people who have to live under an authoritarian regime which denies basic civil and political liberties. It is tragically ironic that the very organization for which all of us around the world pay tax dollars to support can't even discuss the largest human rights problem. And that's the whole reason for this Human Rights Commission.

QUESTION: The big winners -- the big winners seem to be the industrialists, the capitalists, who have a great influence on U.S. policy, but not to the extent that you step away from the human rights issue. But in other countries, the economic interest seems to be so strong that the human rights concern is submerged. Isn't France about to walk up with some incredibly huge contract from China that might have been jeopardized if they took a moral stand?

MR. BURNS: Well, see, the United States prefers to think of our own national interests in an all-encompassing way. We have commercial interests that are very important to us in China. We pursue them and we expect that American firms will be treated freely and fairly as they compete with foreign companies in China. But we also have interests on military security issues in the Pacific. Secretary Albright talked about them last night at the Naval Academy. We have issues -- concerns about human rights, too. We're a country that prefers to put all of our interests on the table and discuss them with another country.

Now, some other countries might want to subordinate human rights to commercial interests. That's their choice. We don't adopt that policy because we think that does not serve our own national interests. We're a country founded on the principle of human rights. So we're going to be the last country in the world to ever deny the primacy of human rights internationally. We will never deny that. And that's why we will continue, whether it's in Geneva -- which doesn't appear to be a very good venue -- we'll continue in other cities, like Washington, D.C., Beijing, to talk about human rights with the Chinese government. Yesterday's vote will not deter us from keeping these issues at the center of our relationship.

QUESTION: Do you know that the French and also other Europeans, like Germany, are not discussing human rights violations with the Chinese?

MR. BURNS: No, listen, I didn't name any names today, and I'm not going to do that. I named one country -- Denmark, because Denmark deserves praise because it stood up for European, Western democratic values -- universal values.

We hope that all countries will continue to press China for a better performance on human rights so that the people of China can have a much greater measure of political freedom. But those countries have to determine how best to do that. We think we know -- that is to work privately with the Chinese; but also, when the annual time comes to debate a human rights issue in Geneva, to stand up to be counted. That's the view of the United States.

QUESTION: Could I ask you a question about -- you mentioned missiles. Have you seen the report in your least favorite newspaper that Russia is selling Iran anti-aircraft --

MR. BURNS: You mean the Cuban State Daily? You mean the organ of the Communist Party of Cuba? That's my least favorite newspaper -- Castro's hand-picked journalists who write glorious things. Oh, The Washington Times, okay, I'm sorry.

I've seen a report by Bill Gertz today, yes, and let me just say this. Let me just give you a little background here. At the September 1994 summit when President Yeltsin visited President Clinton at the White House, President Yeltsin pledged, at that memorable press conference in the East Room, that Russia would not enter into new arms contracts with Iran; that Russia would close out existing contracts within a few years. The details of that commitment were finalized in a meeting a couple of months later in early 1995, between Vice President Gore and the Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

At the time the agreement was reached, Russia advised us that one kilo- class submarine was expected to be delivered to Iran and other old contracts, such as those involving tanks, would be fulfilled. The deliveries under the contracts in the pipeline, the Russians said, would be concluded in a few years and did not involve any new weapons systems. And that's the critical point here. The United States agreed that some existing contracts could be fulfilled, but no new contracts.

Prior to the signing of that agreement with Russia, the United States assured ourselves that the transfers contemplated under the agreement would not provide Iran with any new military capabilities; that they would not alter the regional balance of power in the Middle East; or compromise the ability of the United States and our allies to protect our mutual interests. For instance, any transfers to Iran of advanced anti-aircraft missile systems, such as those, such as SA-10s or SA-12s, would provide Iran with dangerous new capabilities, and would certainly violate the 1995 agreement.

Now, we've continued to discuss this issue with the Russian government, at almost every major Russian-American summit. And I can tell you, based on those meetings, based on our conversations with the Russian government at the very highest level, based on all the intelligence information available to us, all the information available to us, the United States does not believe that Russia has transferred to Iran advanced missiles. And that's that.

Now, there are press reports that we see in the Russian press and now in the American press; so we'll continue to discuss this issue with the Russian government. We'll want to be assured of Russian government compliance with the 1995 agreement. But I want to be clear, the United States does not believe that Russia has transferred the missiles talked about in The

Washington Times story to Iran.

QUESTION: There's a difference between sales and actual transfers. Has there been a sale, or discussion of a sale?

MR. BURNS: We do not believe there has been a sale. We do not believe there has been a transfer of any kind of those weapons -- the shoulder- fired, anti-aircraft weapons that Bill Gertz talked about in his story this morning; and that's our position.

QUESTION: Or discussion of a sale?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Or discussion of a sale?

MR. BURNS: Well, I mean, now you're asking me to prove almost the impossible -- has any Russian ever talked to any Iranian about a possible sale? I don't know the answer to that question. There have been a lot of press reports that that has happened, that there have been some conversations. I cannot confirm that. I don't think I'm in a position to say no Russians and Iranians have never discussed it. But I am in a position to say, no sales, no transfers.

QUESTION: Can we go back to two days ago, unless you covered it at the beginning of the briefing, on the reports of North Korean missiles being deployed?

MR. BURNS: Ah, yes --

QUESTION: It was Monday, we had -- you couldn't validate the report. You couldn't authenticate the reports then. Do you know more now than you did then?

MR. BURNS: I do not know more. I cannot confirm the deployment of that missile that the Japanese and others have been worried about. But I can say, Barry, we're sufficiently concerned about North Korea's program -- missile development program, and reports of transfers -- that we have scheduled on May 12th and 13th in New York these missile talks with the North Koreans. And I'm sure that this issue will be raised by Chuck Kartman in our bilateral talks on Friday, when they're held with the North Koreans.


QUESTION: On North Korea, could you just -- let me try this one on you. You say that there may be briefings later today about the talks that are going on in New York. But things seem to be going well so far. Can you tell us that you do not yet have an answer from North Korea as to whether they're willing to join the four-party talks?

MR. BURNS: Well, I can tell you this, and I just had a brief probably five-minute conversation with Chuck Kartman -- he had just left the negotiating room -- that the first couple of hours of discussions were quite positive and encouraging.

We do not yet have any agreement that can be announced. Certainly, I think the discussions need to go on for several more hours up in New York before we will know if we have a final agreement that can be announced. And that's why I just wanted to tip you off. Obviously this is a very important story, and if the trends are positive and if there is an agreement, obviously we'll have an announcement to make this afternoon.

QUESTION: Is that because the North Koreans have come back with more questions about exactly what the ground rules would be in such talks?

MR. BURNS: David, I don't know the answer to that question. Chuck just told me that there are number of issues that he felt he had to go over with the North Koreans and the South Koreans. And he thought that would take until 5:00 or 6:00 this afternoon. Now, what I would expect -- if those talks are successful -- if they're successful ultimately, I would suspect that Chuck would have something to say in New York, that Secretary Albright would have something to say here, perhaps in a prepared statement. And that I'm sure the North and South Koreans will make themselves available to the media.

But I do want to caution you, there is no -- we haven't concluded these discussions. But Chuck reports that they have -- that they are encouraging, that there have been some positive things happening. And I think you have seen some positive statements by Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan, as he entered the meeting today. He said he thought they would be positive talks today. So all that is looking up. But we have to wait a couple more hours to see how this is consummated.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to Iran and arms. An Israeli arms merchant has been arrested allegedly for supplying chemical weapons components to Iran. And the arrest was supposedly or said to be at U.S. urging. And the issue is also said to have come up in meeting between Clinton and Netanyahu. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BURNS: I don't, Howard. It's the first I have heard of that. I'll be glad to look into that for you. But I will say this. We have a standard when it comes to Iran. We don't believe that any country in the world, or any private manufacturer in the world, ought to add to Iran's military capabilities with conventional missiles or related technology; with chemical or biological missiles; and obviously, with any nuclear technology. That is why we have consistently opposed many of the programs that China and Russia have underway that are to assist the Iranian nuclear power program because we don't want any training or any related civilian technology to give Iran a lead in developing military technology. So we have zero tolerance when it comes Iran and its own military capabilities.

Sid -- by the way, Sid, I was remiss. I should have welcomed you back formally. Congratulations to you and your wife and your son. Mia Isabella , I believe, she has a beautiful name. I'm glad you're back with us.

QUESTION: We've gotten calls and announcements, thank you.

MR. BURNS: That's terrific.

QUESTION: On the same report, several Israeli papers, radio, says that the man was arrested after the U.S. pressured Israel to do so; that the information about his location and activities was provided by the United States. Can you comment on that?

MR. BURNS: Yeah, again, this is the very first I have heard of this myself. I will check -- it's a legitimate question. I'll check into it.



QUESTION: On China, Secretary Albright last night mentioned -- and many administration officials have mentioned recently with regard to China -- U.S. cooperation in developing peaceful uses of nuclear energy in that country. There are presently a number of restrictions on some of the exports of the nuclear -- the U.S. nuclear industry to countries like China. I know General Electric has been talking with China about doing some exports but some of the laws in the U.S. have got to be revised. I was wondering, are you looking and reviewing the laws that now exist in the light of collaborating with countries like China in the peaceful development of nuclear energy?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any review of our laws. I think we have the proper laws in place. And the United States Government observes those laws. The problem on proliferation matters, in general, is that we need to ensure implementation of a variety of countries around the world.

QUESTION: Nick, is the Secretary considering wider Asia travel related to her Hong Kong event July 1st? You know, she is constantly asked about Asian -- always points out she hit Asia on her first trip, which is unusual or unprecedented in that -- no it isn't to Europe-centered foreign policy. Is this an occasion for her to go to Asia, and would China be considered as a stop, or does Hong Kong sort of negate that?

MR. BURNS: She has not made any decisions about whether or not she'll stop in Asia before she goes to Hong Kong or after. But just to review, because we did this very late last night, Secretary Albright has decided to go to Hong Kong for the reversion ceremonies on June 30-31. Let me just review briefly why she's doing that.

She was invited by the United Kingdom and China, jointly. It is obviously an event of major historic importance in Asia. She was encouraged by all senior members of Hong Kong's political community, and all the leading democrats, to visit Hong Kong for reversion in order to support those who want to see democratic rights maintained. This visit will afford her an opportunity, publicly and privately, to speak about the importance of maintaining the assurances in the 1984 Sino-U.K. Agreement; the assurances of Hong Kong's autonomy, the continued autonomy, continued way of life, and the observance, of course, of its political and human rights of all the citizens of Hong Kong. So that is why she is going to Hong Kong.

And she'll be making some decisions, I would think in the next month or so, about whether or not there is any other travel to Hong Kong. She met with Martin Lee the other day. And when she asked the question on Monday afternoon, "Should I go to Hong Kong?" He said, "You must come to Hong Kong." And that was really the view as our consulate surveyed the political landscape in Hong Kong of all the major political actors in Hong Kong. It is a very, very important event.

QUESTION: Speaking of the Secretary's speech yesterday, she mentioned further restrictions on U.S. investment in Burma. I thought the U.S. government had done just about everything possible. There's more to be done?

MR. BURNS: Well, first of all, thank you, Jim. I would commend to all of you the Secretary's speech last night. It was her first major full-length speech on Asia policy. This is an Asia week because we've got the North Korea talks going. We had the food aid decision yesterday. We had the China human rights resolution. We had the speech. The speech is available at

QUESTION: Will you deliver it, if we ask?

MR. BURNS: No, I won't do that for you, Barry. We can talk about the Red Sox or anything else, but not the speech. I would draw your attention to those remarks on Burma. The United States has not made a decision about whether or not we should invoke the sanctions provided for in congressional legislation last year. But yesterday's language was the toughest yet by any senior administrative official in warning the Burmese military dictatorship that should the human rights condition of the Burmese people not improve, they are looking sanctions squarely in the face.

And Secretary Albright said it more eloquently than I just did, and I would refer you to her language, but that's the message. It is a little shot across the bow to remind them that there is this weapon available to the international community, certainly to the United States. We continue to be dismayed by the treatment, discriminatory treatment, by the Burmese leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy and all the other democrats in Burma.


QUESTION: Let's follow that up for a second. Since you say human rights are universal, and U.S. concerns with human rights are also universal. Would it be too much to infer that shot across the bow of Burma might also be applied in certain cases to China?

MR. BURNS: Well, you know, there isn't, as far as I'm aware, any sanctions, legislation, that senior members of Congress have proposed for China. There is for Burma. And we have, of course, universal principles that we adhere to across the board, but you have to look at the tactics of trying to change a government's behavior from country to country.

Now a bunch of military dictators, like those in Rangoon, we think might sit up and take notice if the largest and most important country in the world, the most powerful country in the world, presents that threat to them. And we hope this will moderate some of their behavior, which has been quite disappointing in recent months.

QUESTION: And you think China would not sit up and take notice?

MR. BURNS: China is a different kettle of fish altogether. It is what it is. It is the biggest country in the world. It is a Asia-Pacific power. We have an engagement strategy with China and human rights is a big part of that. But we do have different strategies for different countries; and I think we'd be foolish not to. It wouldn't make much sense to have one strategy -- one set of tactics, excuse me, for all countries of the world. We have a certain policy that we implement to affect the behavior of the Cuban government. We have another policy for Cuba, China, and one for Burma; but the principles remain constant.

QUESTION: Do you have a Tibetan autonomy policy? Yesterday in the speech, she made a strong pitch that the Chinese treat the Tibetans with higher regard for their cultural differences, for their, you know, for their own ways. And the sentence ends very gracefully with the phrase, "inside, within China."


QUESTION: So the U.S. view of Tibet is as an integral part of China?

MR. BURNS: That's right. Tibet is part of China. But what concerns us about China's treatment of the Tibetan population is that we would like to see the religious, cultural and spiritual traditions of Tibet continued. And we'd like to see tolerance by the government of China for those. We certainly would like to see an openness by China to speak to the Dalai Lama and others about this.

QUESTION: You're not challenging the control of China of Tibet?

MR. BURNS: Tibet is part of China.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Burma for a second? It seems to me there is a law on the books, it's not just language from senior congressional figures - - there is the Cohen-Feinstein --

MR. BURNS: The Cohen-Feinstein legislation, right.

QUESTION: --which Clinton helped negotiate --

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: --and signed --

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: Right, which calls for a ban on American private investment to Burma under certain conditions.

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: Which this department believes have been met, as I understand it, and in inter-agency discussions has been overruled. Can you comment on that?

MR. BURNS: That's a provocative question, Mr. Erlanger, but let me just state the department's position. You're right, you're absolutely right. There is a law on the books, and the law says that if certain standards -- if certain criteria are met, one must go toward sanctions, one must adopt sanctions. The State Department, as well as the entire United States Government has not yet made the decision that we ought to go toward sanctions. That is a decision that the President must make, can only make, with the advice of the Secretary of State and others in the U.S. Government -- the National Security Council. The President hasn't made that decision.

But in asserting her point of view last night, Secretary Albright made it abundantly clear to the Burmese military leadership that this is a possibility, a strong possibility, should the human rights situation there not improve.

QUESTION: Did not the passage of the law -- it wasn't very long ago -- make that point of view more clearly and forcefully to the Burmese people? I mean, they're waiting for the government to act or not to act. The shot's been fired across their bow a long time before.

MR. BURNS: Well, in international politics, language is important. And what you say and how you say it is important. The fact that the Secretary of State, in a major policy speech, used language that was tougher and more direct than any other -- used by any other administration official, in my view, I think is significant. It's meant to send a signal, and we hope that signal is understood. Yes.

QUESTION: At the risk of covering ground we may have covered already today, have we discussed Chee-hwa Tung's decision to cancel his visit here?

MR. BURNS: We have not.

QUESTION: Can we? What's the American government's reaction to that?

MR. BURNS: Well, we were apprised by Mr. Tung that we would not be able to visit the United States before reversion occurs. We had hoped that he might be able to visit Washington for discussions here with our senior policymakers. We will, of course, rely upon our Consulate General Richard Boucher to be in close touch with him and the other leaders of Hong Kong -- Martin Lee and other democratic leaders -- up until reversion and after. And we certainly would have preferred that he could have come, but we understand the reasons why he cannot.

QUESTION: Can you explain what those reasons are, as far as you understand them?

MR. BURNS: I think you ought to look at his own public statements, and you ought to ask him. I don't mean to speak for him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the American government?

MR. BURNS: I think he's terribly pressed. I mean, he's got many, many affairs to attend to attend to, great responsibilities and very little time before Hong Kong reversion. And I think he feels that his place is in Hong Kong. But, please, you should look to him give the official explanation, not to me. But that was our understanding of his decision.

QUESTION: Obviously, the Secretary of State hopes to meet with him during the hand-over?

MR. BURNS: : Well, she has not yet decided on her schedule. But obviously, I think she'll want to meet with a representative cross-section of the Hong Kong leadership. And I would expect there to be some meeting with him.

But she hasn't made -- you know, she hasn't been advised what the options are for her schedule. She just made the decision about 36 hours ago that she'd be going.


QUESTION: The Honduran Supreme Court has turned down the U.S. request for extradition of Michel Francois. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. BURNS: : I was not aware of a decision. I'll look into it, Ron, try to get you an answer.

Mr. Eicher, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Burns. This morning, the National Council of Resistance for Iran held a news briefing here in Washington, ratified or -- excuse me -- confirmed the reports in The Washington Post this past weekend concerning the activities of the -- of the national -- excuse me -- the activities of the Iranian government in ordering various types of terrorist acts.

Now, their spokesman, Anasoudi Chitsas told us today that they can verify -- and they call upon their track record as being a very good track record -- through sources in the Iranian government, verify that Mr. Khomeni, Mr. Rafsanjani were involved in ordering the Khobar bombing. And the cite also that mister -- General Sharif was the operational chief for that bombing. And they linked -- they also linked him.

They sad that their sources --

MR. BURNS: : Let me just -- maybe we can cut this short just a minute.


MR. BURNS: : I think I know where you're heading.

QUESTION: I'm getting to it.

MR. BURNS: : You're getting to it? I think I know where you were heading - - what is my comment on these reports? My comment is that as Secretary Albright said, I think just yesterday, in answer to a question, we have not yet completed our investigation of the Khobar bombing with the Saudi Authorities. And until we do, we're not going to have very much to say publicly. But we are going to make sure that we never rest until these people are caught because they killed 19 Americans.

QUESTION: Nick, she also said that their evidences and such were to be shared with Western intelligence or to be shared with U.S. intelligence --

MR. BURNS: : And I don't speak for U.S. intelligence agencies.

QUESTION: I understand that. But --

MR. BURNS: : Thankfully.

QUESTION: Nonetheless, they have -- okay, I'll leave it -- I'll leave it at --

MR. BURNS: : Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: They think they have ratified --

MR. BURNS: : I admire your forbearance in this matter. But I really have very little to say beyond what I have said for about a year now, nine months now on this issue.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BURNS: : No, no, that's not -- Mr. Lambros, you'll have to delete that remark from your honorific, please.


QUESTION: Colombia.

MR. BURNS: : I just want to be commissioner of baseball, Mr. Lambros. That's my really -- they pay a million dollars a year and a lifetime pass to any major league stadium.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it won't be (inaudible.)

MR. BURNS: : Well, and all you have to do is be objective among the various teams. And I can be objective, right. The Yankees, Red Sox. That's the job I want, Mr. Lambros, baseball commissioner. Can you lobby the powers that be in New York about this?

QUESTION: Yes, we need you here, not over there.

MR. BURNS: : Yes, but that is in the United States -- it's the American national pasttime. It's New York -- that's part of the country.

QUESTION: Prague --

MR. BURNS: No, Mr. Lambros -- that's the job I want, Mr. Lambros, baseball commissioner. Can you lobby the powers that be in New York about this?

QUESTION: We need you here, not over there.

MR. BURNS: That is in the United States. It is the American national pastime. It is New York. That is part of the country. (Laughter.)


MR. BURNS: No, Mr. Lambros, baseball commissioner. Anyway --

QUESTION: Any comment on reports that John Negroponte will be your next Ambassador to Greece? And I'm wondering, Mr. Burns, why Greece does not deserve a better ambassador than Mr. Negroponte? (Laughter.)

MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, now you said --

QUESTION: I'm not going to proceed.

MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, you've got my Irish up. Mr. Lambros, let me make a few comments. The answer to the first question is, no, I cannot comment on the press reports concerning our next ambassador to Greece. I'm sure that the President will make an excellent choice. And when the President has made it, and when he's ready to announce it, he will do so; not me.

Second, John Negroponte, and I'm not speaking about him in relation to Greece, is a great American. He's a fine diplomat. He's one of our finest and most senior foreign service officers, and I really personally object to your characterization of him. I really do, seriously.

QUESTION: The Baltimore Sun -- he has --

MR. BURNS: Oh, I wouldn't believe everything you read in The Baltimore Sun, with all due respect to The Baltimore Sun. I've responded consistently over a year to these charges in The Baltimore Sun. They are without foundation. He's a very distinguished individual who's had an outstanding career in the State Department. He's served Republicans and Democrats. And I really object to peoples' names being dragged through the mud like this.

QUESTION: What about his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal?

MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, that's ancient history. That's ten years ago. And we've had special prosecutors in this country, and we've had court trials, and Ambassador Negroponte is an honorable person who has had an honorable career and he does not deserve this. And I'm not going to answer any more questions on it.

QUESTION: Nick, do you know about the unfavorable ruling at Tegucigalpa? Do you have something, a reaction to that?

MR. BURNS: I was just asked, and we're going to try to get you guidance on this this afternoon. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: My name is Max Londonio, from Colombia, not Columbia University.

MR. BURNS: That's okay.

QUESTION: I'm a visitor journalist working with EIR Magazine. I'm a very active in the fight against drugs, and I've been endorsing the Clinton Administration policy. I did receive death threats related to my attacks and denunciations to some -- government. I'm very concerned because of recent statements of American Ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette, who has insisted once more that there is no link between the guerrillas and the narco-traffic activities. Nevertheless, General McCaffrey and Robert Gelbard has been telling that there is actual link.

So my concern is how is it possible that Mr. Frechette is endorsing new negotiations for peace, recently proposed by the Samper government with these narco-terrorist groups? Because openly Mr. Frechette said that both he and -- both the Americans and the Europeans are in favor of this peace or democracy. So how is it possible seeing that this is an open -- this is in opposition to the Clinton Administration policy? I mean, it is clear that the British policy has been to endorse Samper government, but this is not the case with the Clinton Administration.

MR. BURNS: First of all, thank you for your question. And obviously we applaud you for your efforts to fight narcotics trafficking in Colombia. We share your concern that everything must be done by the Colombian government, the responsible authority in Colombia, to fight the narco-traffickers; to arrest them and prosecute them; and to send them to real jails where they serve real prison sentences. And Ambassador Frechette has been an outstanding American ambassador in Bogota. And he is fully in line with our policies and with General McCaffrey's policies, and those of the President on this issue. I don't see any distinction between what he has been saying and what General McCaffrey has been saying.

QUESTION: Yes, but these negotiations with the terrorists, I mean, they are linked to -- I mean, they are involved in drug trafficking, so you have a dual policy. Do you have some sense behind --

MR. BURNS: You know, the current Ambassador Frechette has earned many distinctions. He has been pilloried in the Colombian press because he stands up for the certification process, and he's been heavily criticized by the narco-traffickers. So, therefore, I think you can just rest assured that the is representing American interests very effectively there; and he understands, as do we, that every effort must be made by the United States to press the Colombian government for a much better performance on narcotics trafficking.

Mr. Lambros, no more aspersions on the character of American diplomats, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) attributed to you a statement by which you expressed displeasure at Athens' decision not to recall its ambassador from Tehran on the Mykonos case in Germany. Could you please confirm it?

MR. BURNS: : I didn't express displeasure. I simply noted that as of Monday, Greece was the only country that had not withdrawn its ambassador, but it has now done so. So congratulations to the Greek government for having withdrawn its ambassador from Tehran. We think that's a -- we support very much the Greek government decision, which is fully in line with the rest of European Union.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Have we discussed Zaire, too? Excuse me, but have we discussed Zaire?

MR. BURNS: : No, but there is an important issue to be discussed, a couple, yes.

QUESTION: Well, if I could just ask here, what's your government's reaction to Secretary General Kofi Annan's call for Laurent Kabila and President Mobutu to meet? Do you want to see that happen?

MR. BURNS: : We'd very much like to see that happen. That's a step in the right direction down the road towards a transition to democracy away from dictatorship. We understand that President Mandela is meeting with Mr. Kabila today in Cape Town. And we also understand the representatives of the government are en route to Cape Town.

We hope very much that the South African government, along with the United Nations, with Mr. Sahnoun might be able to put together these peace talks. We want to see an end to the fighting. And if the UN and the South Africans can engineer a real cease-fire, that will be a tremendous political achievement. And the South African government has already distinguished itself in these negotiations.

Second, we certainly want to see this transition. We want to see politicians grouped together in supportive elections so that the Zairian people can decide. And third, I do want to call you attention to the continuing humanitarian problems in Eastern Zaire. We understand now that discussions are still underway between the UNHCR, the government of Rwanda and the rebel alliance on whether or not the 80,000 to 100,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees can be successfully repatriated.

There is one glimmer of hope today. And that is that the UNHCR announced today that it hoped that the first airlift of Rwandan refugees might be launched on Friday. And that would bring out the first 80 children from the refugee camps south of Kisangani. People continue to die in these refugee camps from starvation -- malnourishment and starvation. Cholera has broken out. The United States has put money at the disposal of the United Nations to fly the people out.

We continue to await the decision of the government of Rwanda to allow women and children, at least, to be evacuated from the refugee camps so that their lives may be saved. And we commend the United Nations for its leadership. And we ask the Rwandan government to please consider this urgent humanitarian appeal. And we hope that Friday that airlift can begin. This airlift will be massive. They hope to bring out 20,000 to 30,000 people by air and the rest overland -- the rest of the total group of 80,000 to 100,000 from Kisangani to Goma into Rwanda. It's a very, very important issue.

Thank you very much.

(The briefing concluded at 1:27 p.m.)


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