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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #58, 97-04-18

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


Friday, April 18, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

1           Welcome to Visitors to the Briefing
4           US Ratifies Protocol On Environmental Protection to the
              Antarctic Treaty

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 1-2 Dennis Ross Discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat

ISRAEL 1 Death of Former Israeli President Chaim Herzog

DEPARTMENT 2 Secretary Albright's Activities Today 3,14-17 Reorganization of Foreign Affairs Agencies 3 --Secretary Albright's Meetings re Reorganization and Implementation 3-4 Secretary Albright's Upcoming Public Appointments Schedule

NORTH KOREA 4-5,6-8 Meetings in New York Today 5-6 Status of US/International Food Assistance to North Korea 8-9 Prospects for Four-Party Talks

COLOMBIA/VENEZUELA 9,13 Reported Capture of Suspected Drug Trafficer 11 U.S. Position re Negotiations Between Colombian Government and Guerrillas

TERRORISM 10,11-12 Reported Terrorist Threats in Eastern Mediterranean Region 10,11,12,20 Department's Security Precautions re April 19 Anniversary

RUSSIA 12 Prospects for NATO-Russia Charter 12-13 U.S.-Russia Contacts re Charter

HONG KONG 13 President's Meeting with Martin Lee

CUBA 13-14 European Union's Decision on Helms-Burton/WTO

ZAIRE 17-18 Reports of Massacres in Rebel-Held Areas in Eastern Zaire 18 South African President's Invitation to Kabila and President Mobutu

UNITED NATIONS 18 New York Parking Program for UN Diplomats

ARMS CONTROL 19-20 US Efforts re Global Ban on Land Mines


DPB #58

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 1997 1:21P.M.


MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, welcome to the State Department. Nice to see a lot of friendly faces today. I want to introduce two guests, John Armstrong, the chief political editor of The New Zealand Herald. He is here with the USIA International Visitors Program; and a good friend of mine from the Vice President's Office, Tyler Beardsley. He's sitting right over here. Welcome. Welcome to both of you.

A very busy day here - lots to announce. So bear with me as we go through some announcements before we get to questions.

First on the Middle East. The Secretary and I spoke at noon today with Dennis Ross, who had just finished his meetings in the Middle East, in Jerusalem. Dennis had a very useful three days of discussions with the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. He saw Chairman Arafat and a delegation of security officials from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority late last evening, early this morning.

He then saw today, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Weizman, and then along with Ambassador Indyk, Dennis attended the funeral services for the former Israeli president, Chaim Herzog. Chaim Herzog, as the President said yesterday, was a truly great man who served Israel with great distinction over a 60-year period, and served the Jewish people even before the creation of the State of Israel with great distinction. He will be very sorely missed in Israel, but also here in the United States where he has many admirers.

During Dennis' visit to Jerusalem and to Gaza, he discussed with both the Israelis and the Palestinians the full range of issues that are on our agenda; that is, our desire to resume the political talks on the Oslo Process, to make progress on all fronts. He also, as I said, had significant discussions on security issues.

This is obviously still a time of uncertainty in the Middle East peace negotiations. Significant work remains to be done between the Israelis and Palestinians. There are important gaps and divisions that remain between the positions of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. But the United States is determined to keep at this and to keep these talks going so that we might find a formula to resume the political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Dennis Ross will be returning to Washington. He will arriving tomorrow morning. He'll be reporting to the President and the Secretary of State, and together they will decide on the next options available to us to push this process forward. Let me just read a statement that was issued, I think, just in the last hour -- you may have already seen it - by Dennis. This is the statement by Dennis Ross in Jerusalem:

"I will be returning to Washington this evening to report to the President and Secretary of State on the results of my discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. These discussions focused on ways to re- energize the peace process and to begin to restore trust and confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.

As part of this effort, I met last night with Chairman Arafat and senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials to explore ways to ensure security coordination and cooperation between the parties -- a process which serves the interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Those discussions were positive and the United States will work closely with the parties as they follow up.

On the basis of my report the President and Secretary of State will decide how best to pursue our objective of restoring the credibility of the process and re-energizing negotiations."

I'll be glad to take any questions that you have on this. This is pretty much all we can say today. But I did want to point you to that statement from Dennis and give you a sense of the flavor of the conversation that we had with him today.

Now, Secretary Albright went over this morning - continued her campaign to bring the issue of the Chemical Weapons Convention to the American people and to the United States Senate. She did eight television interviews today with local television stations in Cincinnati, Ohio; Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; and Denver, Colorado. She also did an MSNBC Desktop interview. Now, why did she do this?

She did it because we're in the final push for successful Senate ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. She'll also be doing a Sunday show this weekend, along with Senator Cohen. She believes it's very important that the American people understand what's at stake in this debate over the Chemical Weapons Convention; and how if we - if the Senate fails to ratify, the United States will end up with an undistinguished group comprised of most of the rogue, outlaw states of the world, such as Iraq and Libya, who are trying to develop a chemical weapons capability. We don't want to be in that group. We want to be in the group of states - and more than 60 of them are already in this group - that have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Secretary also met with Elizabeth Dole, the president of the American Red Cross. Mrs. Dole had just returned from Geneva, where she attended meetings on behalf of the Red Cross on the issue of land mines. She briefed the Secretary on those meetings, on the position of the American Red Cross. They had a very good discussion, a very good, positive discussion about our mutual view that a way ought to be found to make sure that land mines don't threaten millions of people around the world on a yearly basis.

Now, I know at the White House they began, about a half hour ago, a briefing on the issue of the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies. That briefing is being conducted by Elaine Kaymarck who is, of course, the assistant to the Vice President on this issue. I can tell you that Secretary Albright is very pleased by this decision - by the President and Vice President's decision to commence work inside the government and to work with the Congress on a plan that would modernize our foreign affairs structure here in the United States. Pursuant to the President's decision to create the new foreign affairs structure for the 21st century, Secretary Albright plans to meet with the Administrator of AID, Brian Atwood, with Director Joe Duffy of USIA, and Director John Holum of ACTA; and that meeting will be on Monday.

To begin the process of implementing the President's decision, the Secretary has asked the acting Undersecretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy, to take over the day-to-day responsibilities for implementing this historic decision. This is a very positive decision by the President and the Vice President to reinforce the effectiveness of the State Department and our foreign affairs agencies; to streamline our organizations; to avoid duplication, to do away with duplication; and to make sure that as we enter the new century as a great power, we have first-class diplomacy and first-class diplomatic institutions to go along with our first-class military. I'd be very pleased to take any questions on this issue.

A couple of other notes - I want to go over the schedule for next week. The Secretary will be meeting the Deputy President of South Africa, Deputy President Mbeki, for breakfast on Monday morning. There is no press coverage of that. But then there will be press coverage of a meeting later in the day, at 3:00 p.m., between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Severin of Romania. She'll also be meeting with the EU Commissioner Van Den Brook; and that's later in the afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

On Tuesday, as I told you, April 22nd, the Secretary will be appearing here in the briefing room to kick off the State Department's observance of Earth Day. She, Undersecretary Tim Wirth, Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen, will be inaugurating the first ever State Department environmental report - a global environmental report. That will be with all of you here in the press room.

On Wednesday, April 23rd, the Secretary will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Cohen. Excuse me?

QUESTION: What time?

MR. BURNS: 10:00 a.m., but we can get into specifics later. She will be meeting in the afternoon on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. with Foreign Minister Hamzik of the Slovak Republic. Then she'll also be seeing, later on that afternoon at 5:00 p.m., the OAS Secretary General Gaviria. Those are the appointments that I can tell you about for next week.

Now, let me just say a word about the Romanian and Slovak meetings. On Monday, April 21, Secretary Albright will meet with Adrian Severin, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Romania. Mr. Severin's visit symbolizes the deep friendship and close cooperation between our countries. The new Romanian government, under the leadership of President Constantinescu, represents Romania's intensified commitment to democracy, economic reform and integration with the West. We've also welcomed Romania's recent and very noble achievements, including a historic treaty with Hungary, democratic elections, the transfer of power, a courageous economic reform program. We recognize that these initiatives have come at a high cost and having to overcome the terrible legacy of the Ceausescu regime in Romania.

The Secretary and the Foreign Minister will be discussing bilateral and regional issues, including NATO enlargement and the government's economic reform program. Minister Severin will also be meet with Deputy Secretary Talbott, and participate in discussions with Assistant Secretary John Kornblum and other officials.

Now, to be balanced about this, let me just say something about the meeting with the Slovak Foreign Minister. On April 23rd, Wednesday, Secretary Albright will meet with the Foreign Minister of the Slovak Republic, Pavol Humzik. As with all of our Central European partners, the United States has maintained an intensive dialogue with Slovak leaders concerning their desire and intention to integrate into Western political security and economic structures.

The Slovak Republic has made impressive economic progress in the four years since Slovak became an independent country. Slovakia is cooperating fully in the Partnership for Peace. We've also been gratified by the Slovak Republic's contribution to peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Eastern Slovenia. At the same time, the United States has raised concerns publicly and privately over the last several months about various aspects of Slovakia's democratic transformation. We will continue to discuss these issues with Slovak leaders in the coming months, most notably during Minister Humzik's visit on April 23rd.

Finally, I'm issuing a statement today on a very important ratification by the United States of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This is actually quite interesting and quite important. I won't go through the whole statement with you, but let me just tell you this. This protocol extends and improves the Antarctic Treaty's effectiveness to protect the environment of Antarctica. It specifically prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources in Antarctica, except for scientific research. It commits all countries that have a presence in Antarctica to environmental impact assessment procedures so that we know that we are good and responsible stewards of the riches of Antarctica. And with that, I'll be glad, George, to go to your questions.

QUESTION: What's happening in New York? I hear the North Koreans are consulting?

MR. BURNS: Well, what's happening in New York is that - I believe that the meeting, the trilateral meeting among the North and South Korean delegations and our own delegation will begin at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

We're looking forward to this meeting. We hope that in this meeting we will make further progress in our attempt to convince North Korea to agree to our invitation to attend four-party peace talks to end the Korean War, 43 years after the armistice stopped the fighting. Now, we understand that the delay in the start of the meeting today was caused by the need of the North Korean delegation to check back with Pyongyang on some details of the negotiations.

That is not surprising. This kind of thing happens all the time in negotiations. I cannot anticipate how long these negotiations will go today. I did speak with Chuck Kartman at about 11:00 a.m. this morning. He said in a negotiation like this, it's very hard to predict how long it will go; whether they will finish up tonight, whether it will go into tomorrow, it's just something we will have to see about later in the day.

QUESTION: They had presumably all day yesterday to consult, too. Have the North Koreans raised some objections, asked for some changes in the proposal that the U.S. said no, and they had to go back to Pyongyang? Is there something going on here that you can tell us?

MR. BURNS: There is a lot going on. There is a lot going on. But I can't tell you anything that's going on. Look, there are negotiations going on. In negotiations, all delegations, in my own experience, always check back with capitals. Capitals give instructions, negotiators execute those instructions. So it's not surprising that they would have to check, and given the time differences between here and the Pacific - North Asia, not surprising whatsoever.

As to the content, we are trying to convince the North Koreans to agree to the four-party talks. It's as simple as that. But we haven't accomplished that yet. We hope to, but we'll have to wait a couple more hours, or maybe even a couple more days to see if that's going to be the case.

QUESTION: On North Korea.


QUESTION: I know you've talked about this an awful lot in the past, but can you give us an update today on American efforts and the question of hunger in North Korea?

MR. BURNS: An update?

QUESTION: Yes, I mean, I know in asking that question that you talked a lot about that. Where do we stand today?

MR. BURNS: Where we stand is that the United States has pledged $25 million in support of the World Food Program's appeal for aid to children under six in North Korea. The first tranche, $10 million, will be arriving in two shipments by our cargo vessels, American cargo vessels, on May 4th and I believe May --


MR. BURNS: Is it the 22nd, George? George has a prodigious memory. I said this yesterday - May 4th and May - whatever it is - I think a week or two beyond that, the first tranche. We would hope that we could execute the second tranche -- $15 million, 50,000 metric tons of corn -- quickly so that within two months that 50,000 metric tons of corn might arrive at North Korean ports.

This is a significant contribution. It represents, I believe, 40 percent of the volume that the World Food Program is looking for. And it represents our belief that there is a serious food crisis in North Korea, particularly affecting young children.

QUESTION: There are a number of foreign countries that are looking at North Korea with the same eyes that looked at Ethiopia a number of years ago. What is the sort of international view of Americans towards those countries? Are you prepared -- thinking of a leadership role in that regard? Are you calling for more assistance from other countries?

MR. BURNS: The United Nations World Food Program has taken the lead in the international effort to meet the food crisis in North Korea. We have great respect for the organization and for its past record of effectiveness in North Korea. Therefore, that's where the lead is. It's in New York.

We do hope that countries around the world will contribute to this request because this isn't about politics. It isn't about propping up the North Korean regime. It's about helping young children under the age of six make sure they don't starve and to alleviate their malnourishment. It's a humanitarian question.

QUESTION: One quick follow-up on that. Congressman Hall on Capitol Hill has been beseeching his colleagues to work in that direction, as well, so far not with too much results. Does the State Department applaud his activities or activity --

MR. BURNS: We certainly applaud the concern and the energy that Congressman Hall has brought to this question. He had a very important - he made an important visit there and came back with some significant views that he shared with the Administration.

The United States has acted - you know, when we act overseas, we represent all the American people including the Congress. We have extended $25 million in assistance, which is quite significant. It does meet, I think, our share of what the World Food Program expected would be done. But we do call on other countries to step up to the plate - to stand up and to contribute to this effort because, surely, it's very difficult to argue with a humanitarian imperative like this.


QUESTION: Nick, you don't find it at all unusual that the next meeting after your comments yesterday and Chuck Kartman's more or less ruling out any more new aid for the time being, that the North Koreans postpone this meeting this morning? You don't see any relationship there? You don't find it unusual?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't. In fact, I would think the North Koreans would be quite grateful for international assistance and for the leading role that the United States has brought to this. We are the leading contributor over the last two and half years to the United Nations food campaigns for North Korea.

I know that North Korean officials consistently in the past, leading up to these talks, have expressed their gratitude for the humanitarian efforts of the U.S. Government and the American people. So I wouldn't link those issues, no.

QUESTION: Well, but at the same time, they've asked for more - in terms of accepting the --

MR. BURNS: Well, Sid, I can't go into what has been said in the privacy of the confidential discussions underway up in New York. I just can't acknowledge what has been said and what hasn't been said. I just know that the United States has acted for the good here, and that our contribution is quite significant.

QUESTION: Well, I'm only pointing out the causal effect between your rebuff of their request for more food and their delay of this meeting - it was delayed first till 10:00 a.m. then till 2:00 p.m., now till 4:00 p.m., asking you to comment on that, and wondering whether you all - or have the North Koreans told you the meeting will resume at 4:00 p.m.? Or whether you all are assuming it will like you did with the other two times this morning?

MR. BURNS: Well, first of all, let's just put the record straight here. It's an alleged causal effect. This is your supposition, Sid. It's the Balman Supposition; it's not the U.S. Government supposition because I don't agree with it.

Secondly --

QUESTION: There are a lot of others who are making --

MR. BURNS: -- we diplomats are trained in one thing above all things, and that is to be patient. If we had gotten impatient about meetings starting on time at Dayton, Ohio, a year a half ago, we never would have dragged the parties across the finish line in November 1995. We were very patient then; we went into extra innings. We gave them a deadline, they didn't meet it. We went into extra innings, went to the bottom of the 11th. We got it done. We will be patient.

Chuck Kartman is a very experienced foreign service officer. He has served twice in South Korea. He knows the Koreans well. He knows the North Koreans well. This kind of thing is not unusual in international negotiations. We're not ruffled at all. We're patiently going about our business here at the State Department. We're going to put our shoulder to the wheel and make these negotiations succeed.

QUESTION: Well, you don't appear --

MR. BURNS: I just want to assure you, we're doing the right thing for all of you and the American people here, Sid.

QUESTION: Well, we're very relieved about that.

MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. I'm glad to hear it. I'm heartened by that statement.

QUESTION: -- the details, are the North Koreans conditioning their acceptance of the four-party proposal on anything?

MR. BURNS: Well, George, with all due respect, the negotiations - you know, I don't know whether we're at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end or where we are in these negotiations. I mean, the negotiations could end today successfully. They could end today in failure. They could go on until tomorrow. They could go to next month. I just don't know. Until they end, I just can't divulge the many, many secrets that we're withholding from you about the content of these negotiations. That's not my job. It's your job to find them out. It's my job to protect the integrity of the negotiations.

QUESTION: Nick, if I could just follow up on that, my question is, did the North Koreans tell you they'd be there at 4:00 p.m.? Is that firm? Are you all --

MR. BURNS: They didn't tell me anything. I've never talked to a North Korean in my life. I've never negotiated with them. I think, no, I'm sorry, I'm just trying to - I understand that the North Koreans said they'll be there at 4:00 p.m. Now, if they're not there at 4:00 p.m., and they want to come at 5:00 p.m., I think we'll still be there and the talks will begin. So we're going to be very patient about this.

We've been waiting 43 years to try to begin a process to end the Korean War. It never ended by treaty, it ended by armistice. A couple more hours is not going to make a big difference to us.

Mr. Eicher.

QUESTION: Thank you, Nick. Generally speaking, these discussions going on in New York, are they prerequisites, prerequisite issues to the acceptance of the four-party talks? Or can you even say that much?

MR. BURNS: No, if the North Koreans wanted to stand up in Washington Square and say that they wanted to go to the four-party talks, that'd be good enough for us. But they wanted to come here to New York, to the United States. They wanted to have a discussion with us about their response to our proposal. So we'll meet with them. They don't have to jump through any hoops. If they just say, we agree to the talks and we'll come, the talks will begin. We'll get together with the Chinese and the South Koreans and we'll schedule talks.

Again, this is a very important proposal. This is about peace and security in one of the most unstable and dangerous places on Earth - the DMZ that separates North and South Korea. 37,000 American soldiers are up there; hundreds of thousands of South Korean soldiers. We want to create an environment where they don't have to go to war, and where the security of our ally, South Korea, and all the people of South Korea can be protected. That is the aim of going to four-party talks and fashioning an agreement that will reduce the dangers, the military dangers along the 151 miles of the DMZ.

QUESTION: You're not saying that the North Koreans have already said, oh, we want to have four-party talks, but.....

MR. BURNS: I'm not saying anything like that.


MR. BURNS: Because I'm not reporting on the contents of the negotiations. Are you guys filibustering here? Do you want to keep me out here until 4:00 p.m., so then I can say the talks have started? I mean, there are lots of important issues. We've got the Middle East. We have CWC. We have the Red Cross. We have reorganization. We've been waiting a decade or two for that. We've got the Romanian foreign minister. We've got the Slovak foreign minister. We have Antarctica, which you never ask me about; and I've got a statement on it today. I'm loaded for bear. We've got Turkey; we've got Greece; we've got everything - Colombia. Yes.

Let's talk about foreign policy here. Lebanon, we've got all sorts of things. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. The Venezuelan authorities, with the help of Colombian police, captured a new drug dealer yesterday, last night. What is the reaction of the State Department on this new step in the fight against drugs?

MR. BURNS: Yes, I don't have any specific information on the capture of a drug dealer. But its the Colombians, right?

QUESTION: It was Venezuelan authorities with the help of Colombian police.

MR. BURNS: Venezuelan - if that has occurred, then we would obviously applaud it. But I'll have to look to our Bureau of Inter-American Affairs to give us some details on that. But obviously we applaud the efforts of Latin governments, as well as our own government, to capture drug dealers, bring them to justice. I just don't - I don't have any specific information on this case. Perhaps in the Press Office, we can develop that for you this afternoon. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On terrorism --


QUESTION: The Italian military intelligence has issued an alert for possible terrorist activities throughout the Mediterranean. They could target, eventually, the Pope, or so they say. Is the U.S. aware of such threats? And are you taking any measure in the area about this terroristic - -

MR. BURNS: In the Eastern Mediterranean?

QUESTION: The overall area.

MR. BURNS: The Mediterranean. Well, I'm not aware personally of these threats. But obviously the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East beyond it is often a place where there are terrorist threats and terrorist incidents. I can tell you that overseas, the United States puts a lot of effort, money, time into making sure that our embassies and consulates are safe and secure; and that our people who work there are safe and secure.

We are coming up to an anniversary here in the United States, April 19th, of the Oklahoma City bombing, two years ago tomorrow. We have taken, of course in the United States, at State Department facilities, we've taken extra security precautions, as you would expect us to do. If any of our ambassadors or consul generals, chiefs of mission overseas believe that they are under added threat, we encourage them as a routine matter to take extra security precautions. Now, what I cannot do is tell you the specific precautions that we've taken because that would defeat the purpose of taking them. We don't want to tell potential terrorists what we're doing.

But we have a fundamental obligation to protect our people here in the United States and overseas.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the specific threats? I was talking about the ones that the Italian military intelligence mentioned - the ones that could happen involving the Pope?

MR. BURNS: I'm not personally aware of those reports. We do work with the Italian government closely to coordinate our security efforts, and we have great admiration for the courage of the Pope. His Holiness Pope John Paul II, he went to Sarajevo, and there were security threats against him. But that was a successful trip, and it says a lot about the courage of his Holiness Pope John Paul II.

QUESTION: Personally - personally? Or are you talking about personally or the State Department?

MR. BURNS: Well, first of all, the State Department never comments on intelligence cooperation. Secondly, I am not - I was asked if I was aware of these reports. I am not personally aware of them. Even if my colleagues here in the building or in the Central Intelligence Agency were aware of them, we wouldn't talk about them.


MR. BURNS: But I did want to note the fact that April 19th is a significant date. And we are, of course, taking our own security precautions here in the United States.


QUESTION: Follow-up - back on Colombia. Could I ask if you have an answer today regarding U.S. recommendations or U.S. support for negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrilla groups?

MR. BURNS: All I can tell you is this, there was a canard floating around this briefing room and around Washington that somehow the United States recognized the guerrilla groups -- we recognized the two leading groups in Colombia as terrorist groups, as outlaw terrorist groups.

One of them has taken American citizens hostage and is still holding American citizens hostage. Others have killed Colombians, Colombian government officials and foreigners. So I want to dispense with this view that somehow the United States has legitimized these outlaw guerrilla groups that are fighting the Colombian government. We give every support to the Colombian government in its fight against terrorism.

QUESTION: But there was an interview on Colombian radio the other day with Ambassador Frechette, in which the proposal by the new defense minister Echeverry who apparently is proposing that negotiations be set up with the FARC and with the ELN, the two major guerrilla narco-terrorist groups in the area, and that Frechette expressed a positive viewpoint with regard to that. Now, this does not seem to be U.S. policy. But he did say this on the radio.

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry but Ambassador Frechette when he speaks represents the United States and U.S. policy. He is always in line with U.S. policy and was in this particular instance.

The United States considers these groups to be outlaw terrorist groups. We support the efforts of the Colombian government to defeat them. They've taken Americans hostage. How could be possibly ever say anything positive about them?

I really wanted to - I'm glad you asked because I was shocked that there would be any belief here among journalists that somehow we are aiding and abetting terrorist groups that are currently holding American citizens. It's ludicrous.


QUESTION: Speaking of the matter of - concerning threats against the Pope, I simply wanted to clarify, there's a Rueter wire in today's Post that the ANSA, the Italian news agency, is reporting that SISMI, that's Italian military intelligence, is reporting that Islamic militants were allegedly planning attacks against the Pope and other European assets, and that they blame the trial verdict in Germany, and they blame Iran as the inspiration for these attacks. Have you any comment on that?

MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm these reports. I have no independent way to do so. But obviously, we support any effort to protect his Holiness Pope John Paul II.


QUESTION: Nick on the -- to go back to the beefing up of security for the anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. Is this - is it your understanding this is a government-wide effort? Or is this purely a State Department effort in the United States, or is it also overseas?

MR. BURNS: I think all of us in the federal government are sensitive to the anniversary and the significance of that anniversary. I can tell you the State Department has taken efforts to protect our own buildings here. We have passport offices in 15 cities. We have a variety of facilities, and we've done that. But I won't tell you what that -- specifically what we've done.

Overseas, security upgrades are accomplished when the chiefs of mission believe they are necessary, depending on the local environment. I can't speak for the rest of the government, obviously, on what other agencies have done.

QUESTION: As far as overseas, I mean, beefing up for this - this anniversary, you are not doing that overseas now?

MR. BURNS: There is no reason to, really, overseas. Security upgrades overseas are based on local threats.


QUESTION: Another subject - the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Primakov apparently is going to go out of action for two or three weeks because, I believe, of a gallstone problem. Is this going to affect the Russia-NATO charter negotiations?

MR. BURNS: Well, first, we want to wish Foreign Minister Primakov a speedy and full recovery from his operation. Second, the negotiations with the Russian Federation continue. They are led by Secretary General Solana and member states of NATO participate. The United States has a very active dialogue, and I do anticipate some upcoming meetings between the United States and the Russian Federation on the NATO-Russia charter issue.

We were very pleased to see yesterday that President Yeltsin seemed hopeful about the conclusion of those talks. We are not there yet. More work needs to be done. But we would like to think that we can get this negotiated and signed and agreed to - agreed to and signed, you know, by the end by the May, certainly by the beginning of the Madrid Conference in July.

QUESTION: What are these upcoming meetings?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I can't be specific about upcoming meetings. Just, you know, normal consultations. And when we have something to announce, we'll announce it, if it's special. But we are in touch with the Russian Federation continually. Secretary Albright takes a great interest in this, Deputy Secretary Talbott leads the interagency group that is working with NATO and with the other countries and with the Russian Federation on this. So I know there will be lots of activity.


QUESTION: Any statement or thoughts from State about the President's drop- by meeting today with Martin Lee; and Mr. Lee's comments when he emerged that he has no doubt that the U.S. will defend Hong Kong's freedoms if they are infringed upon with the turn-over at all?

MR. BURNS: Only to say that Secretary Albright was very pleased to see Martin Lee on Monday. Martin Lee's had a very successful visit here, and we respect him. We respect what he stands for, which is political rights, human rights, and democracy in Hong Kong.

Secretary Albright is looking forward very much to her trip to Hong Kong on the 30th of June and the 1st of July to commemorate the reversion. And she will obviously have a lot to say publicly when she - before she arrives and when she arrives about the importance of autonomy, the maintenance of Hong Kong autonomy, and the maintenance of political and civil rights of the people of Hong Kong, the maintenance of the commitments of the 1984 Sino-UK Accord on Hong Kong.

It's very important. She felt she had to be there, and the - all elements of the Hong Kong establishment asked her to be there, including Martin Lee.

QUESTION: Nick, if I may go back to the Colombian issue again. The drug trafficker that was captured this morning in Venezuela has been labeled by the U.S. as one of the major drug traffickers after the Cali Cartel. His name is Justo Pastor Perafan. He has an indictment in the southern district of New York for drug trafficking. From the diplomatic point of view, is he a person that the United States would like to be - to see him tried in the United States?

MR. BURNS: Let me do this - let me take this question. Let's see if we can have a statement issued. We'll try to issue a statement today on this capture of this drug kingpin. If it's as significant as you say it is, and if we can confirm the fact with the governments involved, I'll be glad to make a statement and put it in writing today.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The European Union approved today officially the agreements with Helms-Burton law, to not take it to the WTO. Do you have any additional comment on this?

MR. BURNS: We're pleased by the decision by the European Union. It reflects the very good discussions that Undersecretary of Commerce Eisenstat had with them. We hope now that, as we work through this issue with the European Union in the months ahead, that we might focus with them on the priority issue of human rights in Cuba and the deteriorating situation in Cuba concerning human rights.

We're pleased that the European Union believes that that is a problem. It's a good sign that we can put behind us the quibbles and the arguments that we've had over these political issues and focus our joint attention on Cuba, which is where it should be focused.


QUESTION: Reorganization.

MR. BURNS: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Senator Helms' office has expressed pleasure at some of the details of the plan --

MR. BURNS: Expressed pleasure.

QUESTION: At some of the details of the plan.

MR. BURNS: That's good.

QUESTION: But has questioned - the Senator apparently has questions about the final status of AID, concerned that it is not brought - I guess, as I understand it - fully enough into the orbit of the State Department. Is this an ongoing process? I mean, is what - I guess what I'm asking is what will finally emerge be a product of further negotiation with the Hill, between the Administration and the Hill?

MR. BURNS: Well, certainly we'll want to work with the Congress on this implementation plan that Secretary Albright has asked Undersecretary Pat Kennedy to be responsible for. Secretary Albright went up to Capitol Hill yesterday afternoon to see Senator Helms to make sure that she was able to give him a personal briefing on the details of the Administration's plan.

I think the Senator was grateful for that. They've had a good relationship on this. Senator Helms had a long-term interest in reorganization, as you know.

Secretary Albright is very pleased by this because it allows us to take institutions that were largely created in a different era -- in an era when we were fighting the Cold War, in an era of big government -- and to streamline them; and to integrate, particularly, the levers of our foreign policy - public diplomacy, economic assistance and arms control, and to bring them under the central authority of the Secretary of State. We are looking to create a more efficient, leaner and more effective foreign policy machinery here. This plan of the President and the Vice President allows us to do that.

Just so you know, I'll just give you the highlights of this. I know Elaine Kaymarck has done this over at the White House. The State Department will be working as a high priority on implementation of the following plan: that the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency will be fully integrated with the State Department within one year by merging the arms control and non- proliferation functions of both agencies. The active director will be double-hatted, as the Undersecretary of State of Arms Control and International Security Affairs. Then there will be other positions created.

The U.S. Information Agency and the State Department will be integrated over a two-year period. During that process, the director of USIA will be double-hatted as the new Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. This is a very important process. The distinctiveness and editorial integrity of the Voice of America and our broadcast agencies will be respected. A new bureau will be created within the State Department to handle cultural and exchange issues. I am just giving you the highlights. There are more details that we can give to you after the briefing. I have a piece of paper that will do that for you.

The Agency for International Development will remain a distinct agency, but it will share certain administrative functions with the State Department and will report to and be under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State. Within two years, AID will integrate its press office and certain administrative functions. The International Development Cooperation Agency created in 1979 will be abolished. There will be further efforts taken by the Secretary of State by Pat Kennedy working on her behalf and the AID director to make sure that we can eliminate duplication and streamline our operations. This plan allows us to enter the next century with a much more effective way of making foreign policy and executing it; and it has the full support of the Secretary of State.


QUESTION: I'm curious. At the White House they were sitting there and explaining this, that there would be few, if any, job cuts because of the integration and little, if any, real money saved because of that. By my calculations, this accounts for about 20 percent of the overall foreign policy budget of the United States, which is 1 percent of the federal budget. So why is this so important?

MR. BURNS: It is important because there is, right now, a great amount of duplication in the foreign affairs agencies about the major activities that we undertake. I can speak for the bureau I'm in, have been in for the last two and a half years, Public Affairs. We have public affairs offices, press offices in each of the three agencies that we are talking about -- and then, of course, the press office and public affairs activities at the State Department. We're going to merge all of them into one office within the next two years. That will make your job easier and our job easier in communicating foreign policy to the press and to the public. That is just one example.

In the area of arms control and security cooperation, we have two agencies now who essentially do the same thing. It makes sense to be effective, to be streamlined, to avoid duplication; and it makes sense to expand the authority and the influence of the Secretary of State as the lead policymaker and the lead articulator and the lead implementer of United States foreign policy, worldwide. This is just good common sense. I think there's very strong support for it, I know here in the State Department, and I think within many of the agencies affected.

Now, obviously, we enter a time now where a lot of people, particularly in the three agencies, will be naturally concerned about what is going to happen. We want this transition to be smooth. We want it to be effective, and we want, obviously, the interests of all three to be taken into consideration as we implement. But the Secretary has a firm view that implementation must be done quickly and that's what she's asked Undersecretary Pat Kennedy to accomplish.

QUESTION: Is there any -

QUESTION: as regards Senator Helms and chemical weapons, ambassadors, State Department budgets and many other things.

MR. BURNS: I would be shocked if anything like that was even contemplated. No, I was listening to CNN earlier and I heard some of this mentioned by a very influential reporter live on CNN just after noon, and I was intrigued to hear all this. Actually, just to be serious for a moment - no, no, no, that was Judd Ginsberg who said that, for anyone reading a transcript. That was not me.

This reorganization effort has been thought about literally for decades. There was a very serious proposal a couple of years ago. It stands on its own. It should stand on its own. Now, we are going to have to work with the Senate, we hope convincingly on CWC. We want the Senate to act favorably on our ambassadorial appointments, on our other senior level appointments. I am not aware personally of any such linkages.

QUESTION: If you are avoiding a lot of duplication by this merger, how come the job cuts are either non-existent or very limited?

MR. BURNS: The duplication is bureaucratic. You literally have offices in Public Affairs here, in USIA, that basically are responsible for the same purpose. You have offices between our Political and Military Affairs Bureau and ACDA that have the same responsibilities. It eliminates layers from our bureaucracy. Now, obviously, we have a commitment to the foreign service officers and the civil servants who occupy all these jobs, and we think we can integrate people into some of the new functions that need to expand.

For instance, if the State Department Press Office is going to be integrated with the USIS, ACDA and AID press offices, and if all of you are going to be asking that central press office, in a couple of years, about aid issues, public diplomacy issues, we are going to need more people here. So we'll take on people, I assume, from some of those agencies. I can't be too prescriptive. I can't be too detailed because we haven't begun the implementation phase. But I think that just stands to reason that you're more effective when you're more centralized.

QUESTION: Well, I'll try again on Steve's question. You said this reorganization makes good common sense. It presumably made good common sense a year ago and good common sense two years ago, and it's certainly been booted about. In fact, it was proposed by the Administration early on and then there was a change of heart. Why now?

MR. BURNS: Why now? Because I think the stars were aligned in the right way. It is difficult to take three agencies and integrate it with another larger agency, the State Department. It is not easy.

There are going to be some people who are going to be unhappy with this. But the most important point is that the President and Vice President, the Secretary of State, are content with it. They support it. I understand that the three agency directors support it. So that's what is important. The stars aligned themselves correctly, everything was in the right place and the proper decision was made. I think you understand how these things come about. Sometimes it's more difficult than others. We had the support of Congress as well, and that's very helpful.

QUESTION: Nick, will this reorganization affect the foreign policy in anywhere?

MR. BURNS: Foreign policy?


MR. BURNS: Boy, for all those adversaries of the United States, they better watch out. It's going to make us leaner and meaner and tougher to deal with; for all friends of the United States, hopefully, more effective and more cooperative. I think it's a good - listen, as a career foreign service officer, I think this is a very good thing, personally, for all of us.

QUESTION: Now, leaner does mean fewer people, if I may mention.

MR. BURNS: No, leaner means fewer layers. It can mean both, and we are certainly going to have fewer layers. Personally speaking, I think it is an excellent, excellent idea, long overdue. I'm very pleased that this day has come; and I think that represents the views of a lot of people in this building.

QUESTION: On Zaire there have been increasing reports regarding what has been happening in the areas taken over by the rebels, reports of massacres and just all kinds of things. I was wondering if you have any confirmation with regard to what's going on on the ground and do you have any way of actually finding out more?

MR. BURNS: We have seen persistent reports, allegations of massacres in rebel-held areas in eastern Zaire. The United Nations has sent out a special investigator to look into these charges and that person is reporting to United Nations Headquarters. We take this very seriously, as a United Nations member, and we support the United Nations in its effort to uncover the origin and culpability of those who may have participated in these massacres.

On the political side, we very much support the efforts of President Mandela to invite next Wednesday, April 23rd, Mr. Kabila and President Mobutu to South Africa for peace negotiations under the auspices of the South African government and the United Nations. We encourage and urge President Mobutu and Mr. Kabila to accept this invitation to show up in South Africa; to participate in these peace talks; to agree to a cease- fire; and to agree to a political transition that will take them away from dictatorship and towards some form of democracy through elections.

It's too early to say we're hopeful or encouraged, but you have to commend the South African government and Mr. Sahnoun, the United Nations negotiator, for their determination and their perseverance on this issue.

Now, on the refugee side, we understand there have been some problems today up in Kisangani. The airlift of the people who are under grave threat, the refugees, was not able to begin today. There were some incidents between Zairian citizens and the UNHCR convoy that made that impossible. I believe the UNCHR is trying to work out these problems with the local authorities, the rebel alliance, and others. We certainly hope that these problems can be overcome.


QUESTION: I understand Mayor Giuliani today accepted the revised parking proposal. Do you have anything on that?

MR. BURNS: Well, I certainly hope that's the case. I know that our very fine ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, met with Mayor Giuliani last evening - yesterday afternoon, excuse me. Ambassador Richardson was able to describe the plan that has now been accepted by the United Nations. We are very hopeful that the mayor will understand that the State Departments plan is in the best interest of the city. It will help unclog the congestion around the United Nations, and it is fair.

The citizens of New York can be assured that we will force diplomats in our country to obey our laws and not to park next to fire hydrants at will and to pay their fines or else they will get their license plates taken away. So it is a good plan and we hope that Mayor Gillian has seen fit to support it.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: I would like to turn back to the terrorism subject.


QUESTION: A large group of experts in D.C., they believe that the reason of the Kohlrabi bombing, who is responsible of this, the Saudi pressure. The same group of experts believe that after the U.S. attacked Iranian target, the Saudi government scared for the retaliation. Is that true, or do you have any comment on the subject?

MR. BURNS: I can't possibly comment on that charge, no. The investigation continues. The Saudis and the Americans will work together effectively on it.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On land mines.

MR. BURNS: Which land mines? The ones that you lay for me every day here at the State Department Press Briefing?

QUESTION: No, no. There are two obvious competing efforts on land mines -- the American position which leads to a resolution under a disarmament conference and, of course, the Ottawa conference, which talks about bilateral arrangements, countries one-by-one each picking them up. And they get along fairly amicably even though there is doubt about each others' final result.

Generally speaking, international NGOs favor the Ottawa conference and have spoken out in that regard. Did Mrs. Dole raise that preference, first of all, with the Secretary? Did she attempt to convince the Secretary to listen to reason, some countries might say, to the Ottawa conference proposals?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to characterize Mrs. Dole's views. I'll leave that to her. You can pose the questions to the American Red Cross. I know she came back from Geneva and briefed Secretary Albright on the talks there.

The United States believes that the conference on disarmament is the best -- offers the most practical and effective forum for reaching and negotiating a global ban on land mines. To that end, we are working to establish an ad hoc committee in the Conference on Disarmament to create a negotiating mandate. That's very important. We have had a moratorium on anti-personnel land mind exports and transfers in place since 1992 and, as you know, the President announced on January 17th that the United States will now observe a permanent export and transfer ban. That also covers land mind technology and components.

So I think the United States has taken some effective measures on its own, but we now look to Geneva to the CD, the Conference on Disarmament, to make the further progress necessary. We respect really an operational process disagreement with the Canadian government, but we hope to work with Canada and others towards an eventual global ban on land mines.

QUESTION: The issue the NGOs often raise in their support for the Ottawa conference that the disarmament conference necessarily effects long delays to any resolution of land mines then was not raised by Mrs. Dole?

MR. BURNS: Again, I don't want to characterize Mrs. Dole's position. I was not actually in this meeting. It was a meeting that the Secretary really conducted on her own. I think it is really up to Mrs. Dole to comment on her own beliefs, not me.

QUESTION: Nick, one more going back to Oklahoma bombings. I understand that from reports no foreign bombings were involved in Oklahoma bombing, but why you have put the U.S. embassies and consulates on alert?

MR. BURNS: No, we put State Department buildings within the 50 United States. We've taken greater security measures because you know there are some groups in this country who are opposed to the federal government and there has been violence against federal facilities, most notably Oklahoma City on April 19th, 1995. There's a trial underway right now in Denver about that so I cannot speak about who might have been culpable or responsible. I can't speak to that aspect.

Foreign threats overseas are dealt with on a country-by-country basis by our ambassadors and our consul generals.

QUESTION: Have any embassies received any actual threats so far?

MR. BURNS: We receive threats probably every day around the world. We have over 260 missions overseas and there are threats all the time. It is a fact of life for diplomats, unfortunately.

Thank you. Have a good weekend.

(The briefing concluded at 2:13 p.m.)


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