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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #59, 97-04-21

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

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


1499

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, April 21, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

ANNOUNCEMENTS
            Secretary Albright's Activities:
1           --Breakfast Mtg. w/Deputy President of South Africa Mbeki
2           --Mtg. w/Directors of USIA/ACDA, Acting Dir. of AID
2           --Mtg. w/Romanian FM Adrian Severin
2           --Mtg. w/Hans van den Broek, European Commissioner
2           --Presentation of "The Environment and U.S. Foreign Policy"
              Report
2-3,14-16,  Peter Tarnoff, Special Advisor to the Secretary, Leads
18-19         Delegation to Europe 
3-4         U.S. Congratulates Bulgaria on Free and Fair Election
4           Statement on Central African Republic-Steps Toward Peace
4           Statement on Burundi: Forced Regroupment Camps

NORTH KOREA 4,25 Statements by Senior DPRK Hwang Jang Yop/U.S. Access 4-10 U.S./ROK/DPRK Talks in New York 5-9,24 Food Aid

RUSSIA 10-14 Status of Romanov Jewels

SAUDI ARABIA 16 Khobar Barracks Investigation

IRAN 16-17 Report of Alleged State Dept. White Paper on Iran 17 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act

INDIA 19-20 U.S. Congratulates India on Selection of PM Gujral

ZAIRE 20 U.S. Travel Warning to Americans 20-22 Ordered Departure of Dependents of U.S. Embassy Personnel 21 Mobutu & Kabila Invited to South Africa by President Mandela

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS 21-22 UN/Diplomatic Parking

VENEZUELA 23-24 Arrest of Colombian Drug Trafficker Justo Pastor Perafan

COLOMBIA 24 Report of Resignation of Justice Minister

INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 24 Report on Gov't. Seizure of Bank Accounts


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #59

MONDAY, APRIL 21, 1997 1:14 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: I have to file an official protest with the Correspondents' Association. There's gambling going on in the State Department. I am shocked, shocked. I know it goes on in the Secretary's aircraft, at press conferences all over the world, but the State Department briefing, George? Have you ever seen anything like this in your career, George?

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.)

MR. BURNS: You have, okay, well -- (laughter). Okay, moving right along. Excuse me?

QUESTION: This way the day's not a total loss.

MR. BURNS: Exactly. (Laughter.) Oh, now, Jim, we haven't even had the briefing yet. I've got all sorts of news. We're going to make headlines today. Okay? All right.

Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Nice to see you all after a weekend. I thought I'd review with you Secretary Albright's schedule today - what she's been doing, what she's going to be doing this afternoon. I have a couple of announcements, in addition to that.

The Secretary met this morning for breakfast with the South African Deputy President, Mr. Mbeki. They had a good discussion of a variety of issues, including the very prominent issue the South African government has taken a leadership role on -- and that is the efforts to lure Mr. Kabila and President Mobutu to South Africa with the United Nations' special representative, Mr. Sahnoun, in order to get them to talk peace with each other.

Unfortunately we have just seen a wire from Kinshasa that President Mobutu is now saying he will not go to South Africa, which is quite disappointing, because we think that the only way that any progress is going to be made in the current civil war in Zaire is for the two protagonists - President Mobutu and Mr. Kabila - to sit down together and, hopefully, to agree on a cease-fire and a political way to resolve their problems, not a violent way to do so.

We remain hopeful that under the leadership of President Mandela and Deputy President Mbeki, the South African government and the United Nations can be successful. We will certainly give them all necessary support in that endeavor.

The Secretary, after breakfast, met with the Director of USIA, Joe Duffy; the Director of ACDA, John Holum; and the acting Director of AID, Jill Buckley, along with our Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott and others. This was the first in a series of regular meetings to make sure that, as we launch the implementation of the reorganization of our foreign affairs agencies here in Washington, it's done so in a very cooperative way; and done in a way that will be open and inclusive and lead to the best possible results.

As you know, the Secretary has asked Undersecretary of State Pat Kennedy to coordinate the efforts of all the agencies as we seek to consolidate and integrate over the next several years. He is going to be establishing a variety of working groups to let this happen. And as I said, the Secretary will be meeting regularly with the agency heads to make sure that this process unfolds in as good a way, positive a way, for all of our employees here in all of the agencies as can be done.

In just about an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes, the Secretary will be meeting with the Romanian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Severin. We're looking forward to this visit. Romania is a very impressive country. It's a reforming country, and there's a lot to talk about - about our bilateral relationship and about European security issues. You all have a chance to attend a press conference at 3:00 p.m. in the Treaty Room and ask questions to the Secretary and Minister Severin.

At 4:00 p.m. today, the Secretary will be meeting with Hans van den Broek, who is, of course, the EU Commissioner involved in all the major EU foreign policy decisions. They'll be talking about a full range of the issues that now occupy the United States and the European Union. That is a camera spray. There's no questions attached to that, but you are welcome to come to that camera spray.

Tomorrow, as you know, the Secretary will be down here at noon to present the first-ever State Department report on our environmental diplomacy, which is entitled The Environment and U.S. Foreign Policy. This report outlines our global and regional environmental priorities and describes the steps that the United States is taking to address those priorities. After her short statement, the Secretary will depart. Undersecretary Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen will then make very short statements and be available to you for questions on any environmental issues that you want to ask about.

I hope to make this report, which I think is around 32 pages, available to you tomorrow morning in the Press Office. What we normally do, John (Dinger), is we make it available to the press early. We embargo it, and then at noon you are able to write stories on it, especially for the wire services if you want to get a quick report out. Of course, we will have this on our web site at www.state.gov. Increasingly we find a lot of journalists turning to that web site.

Now, a couple of other things that I want to tell you about. This Friday was a very sad day for a lot of us here because Peter Tarnoff stepped down as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. I think all of you have had dealings with Peter, experience with him over the last four years now.

Peter had a very distinguished tenure as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, working first for Secretary Christopher, and then now for Secretary Albright. He is a remarkable diplomat. He brought great creativity and great skill and leadership to our foreign affairs. He was the point person for this Administration on a lot of very tough issues over the last four and half years, and he did a masterful job.

He is also exceedingly well liked and well respected by everybody in this building that I know, including, and especially the foreign service and civil service people who have worked for him. All of us were very, very sad to see him go. He had a rousing send-off last Friday afternoon by a variety of people here in the Department.

Now, just to show that he is truly indispensable, before he goes off happily into his next life on the West Coast, he has been asked by the President and the Secretary of State to be their special adviser for the Denver Summit, which takes place, as you know, I think on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of June this year in Denver, Colorado. He hosted, last weekend, a meeting of the P-8 political directors to prepare for that meeting, and he will be involved in all the meetings until then and will be in Denver.

In addition to that, Peter Tarnoff, as special adviser to the Secretary, was asked by the Secretary to lead a State Department delegation to Europe, which left yesterday. This mission is to consult with our European allies on our respective policies towards Iran. The delegation led by Peter Tarnoff will explore with our allies practical steps that the international community can take to change Iran's objectionable behavior, including its support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and its opposition to the Middle East peace process.

As you know, the United States believes very strongly that the Iranian Government's support for terrorism damages not only American national interests, but the national interests of all of the European countries, as well, of course, as the Middle Eastern countries.

Peter met this morning, in the Hague, with Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, representing the current EU presidency. He's now gone on to Bonn for meetings with the German Government. He'll travel to Paris and London before returning to Washington on Wednesday evening. The United States, through all of our ambassadors overseas, has been in close touch with our European allies since last week about this issue of how do we respond to Iran. We hope very much that Peter Tarnoff's mission can be a successful mission. I'll be glad to take any questions on that.

Just a couple of quick announcements. The United States congratulates the Bulgarian people on the successful completion of another free and fair election in Bulgaria. The Pro-Reform Coalition of the United Democratic Forces won a decisive majority in these elections. With almost all of the votes counted, they've won more than 52 percent of the vote. I believe that amounts to 136 seats in a 240-seat parliament.

We congratulate the United Democratic Forces. We urge them to move quickly to form a new government, and to continue the urgently needed reforms - economic and political reforms, which the caretaker government and President Stoyanov have accelerated. This election was a tribute to the impressive progress made by Bulgaria in consolidating its democracy. The United States stands ready to work with Bulgaria to meet the difficult challenges ahead.

Now, two quick statements on Africa. I will post these; I will not read them in full. The first is on the Central African Republic. The United States congratulates the parties to the longstanding conflict in the Central African Republic on the important progress they have made in restoring peace to their country. We hope that the return of the rebels to their barracks on April 18th is the first step towards national reconciliation. We welcome the news that the rebels have begun laying down their arms, under the supervision of African peacekeepers. Special thanks go to General Amadou Toure and the international committee that has been so active in bringing back stability to Central Africa.

Finally, on Burundi, the United States strongly endorses the Arusha Summit's call for the disbanding of forced regroupment camps in Burundi, and for allowing the affected population to resume their normal activities. We urge the Burundian compliance with this provision of the Arusha communique, and will continue to monitor developments in the camps. I have a fuller statement available to you on Burundi. George.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the comment by the North Korean defector, to the effect that war is an option of the North Korean authorities?

MR. BURNS: Well, as Secretary of Defense Cohen said yesterday, there's no question that the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is one of the most dangerous spots on Earth - that 151-kilometer-wide zone. The United States has deployed 37,000 troops to the Republic of Korea, and we've done so for many decades because we are fundamentally committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and the North knows that.

We will maintain the American presence in the Republic of Korea, in South Korea. We will defend our ally, South Korea, obviously, if there is ever a situation where the security of South Korea is threatened. However, I think we need to remind ourselves that all of the international diplomacy with North Korea over the past couple of months has been to orient the North away from any threats towards war or any plans to initiate any conflict with the South and with the United States.

That is why the United States and South Korea have jointly proposed the four-party peace talks. It's why we hope that the North Koreans, despite all the missed meetings over the last couple of days, might still accept our proposal for the four-party peace talks. We are working well with the North Koreans, and effectively, on the issue of the agreed framework - possibly the single most important issue to the United States, to South Korea and Japan. We have frozen North Korea's nuclear program.

We have also responded successfully, and we think quite vigorously, to North Korea's wish for food assistance, with the $25 million proposed by the United States in the last two months. So despite the rhetoric that one sometimes hears too often from Pyongyang, and despite what Mr. Gwan has said, we think that actually the events seem to indicate that the North Koreans at least are opened to further talk with the United States, with South Korea, with Japan, with other countries in Asia who are interested in peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

But the fundamental point, of course, that we must always remember is that the United States is committed to the security of the Republic of Korea. That's why our troops are there. That's why they're forward deployed. They are ready, and we are confident that if we can continue some of this political progress, we can diminish the talk of conflict. But we're certainly ready to defend the Republic of Korea if we have to.

QUESTION: What's the story in New York? Why have the North --

MR. BURNS: Why did you spend all weekend in New York? When did you get back?

QUESTION: Why are the North Koreans basically leaving you guys hanging? And is there a realistic possibility that they will have a senior negotiating session anytime soon?

MR. BURNS: Well, just to review the state of play, we were supposed to have had a meeting on Friday and then one on Saturday. Last evening, the North Koreans asked suddenly for a meeting. So there was an informal informational session in New York last evening. Our leader of our delegation, Chuck Kartman, was here. So Mark Minton, our very capable office director, represented the United States. There was an exchange of views last evening.

Now, I understand that there is the possibility of another working-level session this afternoon up in New York. Chuck Kartman, who is now in Washington, and with whom I spoke on a couple of occasions this morning, is prepared to return to New York for any meeting of the three delegations that the North Koreans wish to propose. At this point, however, the North Koreans seem reluctant to come back to the Republic of Korea and the United States for the kind of full working session that we had anticipated.

The offer of four-party peace talks is still on the table. We hope the North Koreans will accept it. Whether they will or not is anyone's guess. So there is a bit of a muddle in New York right now, a diplomatic muddle. But I can assure you, it doesn't change the policy or the attitude of the United States; or for that matter, the Republic of Korea. The offer's on the table. It's a good offer. We think it makes sense for North Korea to accept the offer.

With all this talk that we've heard over the weekend of people threatening war, and with the talk of a food crisis, this is surely the time for North Korea to turn towards the United States, the Republic of Korea and China and to begin these talks towards peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. That's the goal of the talks.

QUESTION: But, Nick, how long are you going to wait? I mean, realistically, if North Korea continues to string you out over the course of the next week or so --

MR. BURNS: Well, I think that there are probably two answers to this question. The first answer is, we can't wait forever. We can't keep our finely-tuned and highly-charged diplomatic team ready in New York forever. At some point we've got to tell that team to stand down. That's not today because I think there will be a working group. We hope there will be a working level session. We still do hold out the possibility of a full session led by Chuck Kartman, our American negotiator. But we'll just have see if the North Koreans are interested in that kind of meeting.

The second answer is, even if the delegations disperse in New York at some point this week, the offer by President Clinton and President Kim still stands - the offer of four-party talks. If for any reason we're not able to consummate an agreement this week, that offer will still stand on the table - stay on the table, excuse me.

QUESTION: The South Koreans are saying that the North Koreans have demanded more food aid, and they want the United States to make some sort of commitment about lifting sanctions. Is that basically what's on the table? Is that what's blocking this?

MR. BURNS: Well, yes, I think that the North Koreans have raised the issue of food assistance throughout these meetings in New York, the meetings that were held last week. They continue to raise it. Our response is that we don't link food aid to these political talks for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

In fact, we don't believe that food aid should be a pre-condition or a condition, or linked in any way to these talks. Now, having said that, I think the North Koreans can see good faith on the part of the United States. We have responded twice now in two months with a total of $25 million to the UN food appeals. We're the largest single donor over the last two years. We've already responded positively to the United Nations when North Korea has been in trouble on the question of food. So I think we've shown our good faith on that issue.

But clearly the North Koreans just need to make a fundamental decision. Do they want to go forward with four-party talks or not? The offer remains on the table. But I don't think the delegations can just sit there - all that high-priced diplomatic talent from the State Department -- forever.

QUESTION: The issue --

MR. BURNS: They've got to get back down here to Washington and work on some other problems.

QUESTION: What about the issue of lifting - the United States lifting sanctions?

MR. BURNS: Well, the United States is not in the position to take any further action until we see where we're going in this relationship. The sanctions remain in place, and with good reason.

QUESTION: Nick, would this current model be attributable to the timing of Mr. Hwang's arrival in Seoul and his public statements? Is that possibly making the North Koreans nervous?

MR. BURNS: I have no idea. I just don't know. I don't believe they have stated so to the American delegation. I have no way of knowing what is going on in their minds. They just have to make a straight up and down political calculation here, a national interest calculation.

We think it is in North Korea's interest to go to the four-party talks because we need to move forward with the issue of peace and stability on the Peninsula. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Have the South Koreans indicated to you how long they are willing to stay in New York?

MR. BURNS: Well, I don't want to get into that. We obviously are in very close touch with the South Koreans. South Korea is our ally, our joint negotiating partner. But I don't think it's time for anybody to make threats.

I'm just trying - we're trying to be forthcoming here. If they want a meeting of the full delegations, we'll have a meeting of the full delegations. If they want a working level meeting, an informational meeting, we'll have one of those. But whatever happens, the offer is going to remain on the table. That's the important point today.

QUESTION: You say that the North Koreans have raised a food issue. In what regard?

MR. BURNS: Well, let's just review the bidding here. The North Koreans told the United States and South Korea, we want to come to New York to give you an answer to your offer for four-party talks. That's why we held the meetings in New York last week.

We didn't get the answer. We haven't got the full answer. We have some preliminary indications, but not a full answer. They do continue to raise the food issue in the course of those political talks. They want the issues to be joined. Our view is, we are responding adequately and vigorously and with some compassion, from a humanitarian point of view, to the desperate food situation of the North Koreans. The United States has been the leader in that regard, other countries are stepping forward.

So the North Koreans ought not to worry about that. Food aid is going forward. But let's not link food aid or any other issues as pre-conditions or conditions to the four-party talks proposal. It's so important, we've got to move forward with that on its own basis.

QUESTION: They want a long-term humanitarian aid commitment from the United States? Is that what they're talking about?

MR. BURNS: I can't speak specifically. You will have to ask Kim Gye Gwan and the North Korean delegation what they want. I can't speak specifically to what they're telling us because I don't want to betray the confidentiality of the negotiations.

But it's obvious from the public comments that you've heard in New York - and I felt we had to say this today - that they are raising the food aid issue. We just hope to assure them that food aid is coming. It's coming through the United Nations and through private voluntary organizations. They ought to be assured that we have made a good faith proposal on the four-party talks.

QUESTION: If you're not able to get an answer on the four-party talks, will you continue with the U.S.-North Korea bilateral?

MR. BURNS: We haven't made that decision yet. We're not predicting failure yet; we're optimists. We prefer to think that the North Koreans will want to have this meeting at the highest level, that is with Chuck Kartman, and that they'll want to move forward. If they don't, we'll have to deal with that situation as it comes along. Charlie?

QUESTION: Different subject, Nick?

MR. BURNS: Still on North Korea? David.

QUESTION: Nick, you said that you are responding adequately to their request for food, and you said that the North Koreans ought not to worry. But food program - World Food Program officials on Capitol Hill last week were saying that the situation looked so serious that there might be - that the kinds of contributions that have so far been offered by the U.S. and others might not be anywhere near adequate to avoid mass hunger before the end of the summer in North Korea. So don't they have every reason to worry? And don't they have every reason to try to use whatever bargaining power they have to get more food?

MR. BURNS: First, I think it's a very important point that the United States has responded to every appeal by the World Food Program since 1995, over two years now. We've been the leading contributor. When the World Food Program came forward in late January and said we need food for North Korea, we responded. When they came forward a couple of weeks ago and said we need an additional batch of food, we responded.

If the World Food Program comes forward again and says, it's not enough from the international community, we need more, we would obviously look at that very seriously, as we do all requests from the United Nations. So I don't think it's fair to leave the impression here that somehow the United States is falling down on the job.

We've responded to every appeal. But we can't create the appeals. We rely upon the World Food Program to tell us what the need is, what they need from individual member countries of the United Nations. What you've seen is a very generous contribution from the United States. This may not be the end of the story. If there are further appeals for food, then we'll look at that very seriously on a humanitarian basis -- not linked to any of these political issues. We even said last week, if the North Koreans come to New York and reject the four-party peace talks, we will go forward with our food aid. It is not linked in our mind.

We haven't told the North Koreans you have to agree to the four-party talks if you want food aid. We've not said that. We've said we're going forward on a humanitarian basis. So I don't like the implication - not necessarily by you, David, but by other people on the Hill - that somehow the United States is not doing enough. We've responded to every appeal; and if another one is put before us, we'll look at it.

QUESTION: They've also said the Japanese and the South Koreans have not come up with the amount of aid that the World Food Program was asking for. They are waiting to hear what the answer is. And that is, I guess, the North Koreans' concern.

MR. BURNS: All countries need to make their own decisions. We believe this is a humanitarian crisis. We believe it is a serious food deficit; and we believe countries ought to react to this the way they would to any other part of the world when there's a serious food crisis. All of us have a humanitarian imperative to help. It's not, obviously, just a question for South Korea and Japan. It's also a question for many other countries around the world. Asian countries that are close to North Korea, geographically - closer than we are - also have an international responsibility to act. We're convinced of one thing - there is a genuine food crisis in North Korea.

QUESTION: On Sunday you were saying that this is sort of a chicken and the egg situation. And some experts think that instead of sort of insisting that the North Koreans accept peace talks and enter into that process, and then having the Americans and the South Koreans deal in a much larger, systematic way with their food problem, that there should be a package deal. You know, they accept the peace talks simultaneously with lifting sanctions or there being some huge donation from the Japanese or the South Koreans.

Acknowledging all that you've said before, I just want to see, is there any thought being given to that kind of a deal, given the situation you're in now, which is an impasse?

MR. BURNS: We do know that the people of North Korea are desperate for food assistance. It's been 43 years, going on 44, since the Armistice was signed in 1953. Surely we don't want to link the provision of food assistance to political talks. It may be another 40 years before we can get a peace treaty signed. Who knows? It may be four months; it may be 40 years. So we don't want to link food aid to the peace talks, because we want to get the food to the people who need it quickly, without any regard to politics and to international negotiations. That's the first thing to say.

Second, there's an offer on the table. The offer was made April 16th, 1996, at Chezu Island, by President Kim and President Clinton. It's a good faith offer. It's time the North Koreans decided whether they want to accept the offer or not. That offer is in the national interest, we believe, of North Korea to accept because it provides them a way, along with China, to talk to the U.S. and South Korea about how we can diminish the DMZ; how we can establish something in the longer term that might represent a peace treaty that will protect all Koreans - North and South. That surely has to be in the interest of North Korea.

So we're not in the business of linking all these issues. We think it's a straight up or down proposal, very fair, very clear. Yes.

QUESTION: Can I try and clarify that you said that eventually the U.S. side would have to stand down. Can you just say if that's days or weeks or longer than that?

MR. BURNS: Oh, it's hard to predict. We have a lot of patience. We're patient people. We want these talks to succeed. We have our team in New York. Chuck's ready to take the shuttle up to New York whenever the North Koreans want to meet. Chuck will lead the team, Chuck Kartman.

It just stands to reason, we can't stay there for a year. We can't stay there, probably, for a month; maybe not even for a couple of weeks. Who knows? Maybe not even a full week. But we can certainly stay another day or two, and then we'll have to see what happens. Charlie.

QUESTION: Bring us up to date on the State Department's role in the standoff over the Romanoff jewels?

MR. BURNS: This is a very weighty issue. Let me tell you, I have a firsthand report from the Corcoran Gallery - it's by our very own Phyllis Young. Phyllis is too modest to come into the press room and to be counted, but she gave me this wonderful brochure, Jewels of the Romanoffs: Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court. She said it was a marvelous exhibit - Romanoff jewels, Romanoff costumes, Romanoff memorabilia. She thought it was great. Phyllis is a very reliable and dependable person, as you all know. That's my firsthand report from the Corcoran.

The other issue here is the one of contracts. This, to us, is a pretty straightforward deal. There was a contract between the Russian Government and an American private organization that has been formed to enhance cultural relations between the United States and Russia. Now, that contract called for this exhibit to be shown at the Corcoran Gallery here in Washington, in Houston, and, I think, on to San Diego after that - Memphis, I'm sorry - and then perhaps to San Diego after that.

Now, apparently, what we have here is a dispute over the contract. One side says - both sides say - the other side is not fulfilling the terms of the contract. Meanwhile, you've got this poor couple with their refrigerated truck parked in front of the Corcoran. Now, fortunately, it's a very sophisticated truck and they've got the air conditioning climate control system going on to protect these fabulous riches of the Romanoff era. At least for now, no one has come to blows outside of the Corcoran Gallery, in parked cars or in the truck or whatever.

We just hope very much that the two sides can resolve this dispute, because surely if the United States and Russia can decide we're going to de-target our nuclear missiles, if we decide that we want to work in space together in the 21st century, our troops are working together in Bosnia, certainly our cultural experts ought to be able to decide the fate of whether a truck drives to Houston or whether the goods are put in a plane and flown back to St. Petersburg.

This is not an issue of war and peace. It's not an issue of life or death. It's the issue of the fate of an art exhibit. It doesn't, as far as I can see, have any negative consequences for the United States-Russian relationship because there are private organizations - at least on the American side - that are responsible here. We think contracts are important in our country. We think contracts ought to be preserved. Contracts are the essence of a democratic society. You say you're going to do something, you do it. So they've got to figure out how they're going to meet their respective obligations to this contract.

But I found - and it's an interesting story, and I heard it on NPR, this morning, an interview with the truck drivers. It's a human interest story. But I think it's been a bit overblown. It's not war and peace, and I think the nation's going to survive; and I think U.S.-Russian relations will survive this, too. Fair enough?

QUESTION: No, back to the original question.

MR. BURNS: I answered the question.

QUESTION: No, I don't think so. Is the State Department playing any role in trying to resolve this contractual dispute? And if so, at what level?

MR. BURNS: Because we always want to see all disputes resolved - that's in the genetic make-up of all diplomats -- we have offered - our office director, Tom Lynch, who is a Russia expert, has talked, I think, to the Russian embassy here, and I think he's even had some discussions with the American organizers. I'm not sure I'd describe us as in intermediary, however.

We think that these are responsible, mature people. They ought to be able to work out this dispute between themselves.

QUESTION: Nick, did the Secretary raise this issue when she spoke to Primakov last week?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe this issue came up. I can check that for you. I don't think it did come up. Yes. Again, this is not the number one issue in the relationship right now.

QUESTION: Is this on her radar? Is she concerned about this? Has she voiced any opinion on it?

MR. BURNS: She's certainly aware of what's happening, as are all Washingtonians. How could we not with all the local press reporting minute by minute on this? I don't believe she's taken any action on it. I think we have to trust in these very senior people who are already involved. The Russian embassy is involved. Former Congressman Symington is involved. We wish them well. We want the dispute to be resolved because Phyllis Young tells us this is an exhibit worth seeing. We'd like the American public to be able to see this exhibit in Houston, in Memphis, in San Diego.

QUESTION: Has the State Department offered their diplomatic expertise in negotiating a settlement to this controversy?

MR. BURNS: I believe at this point we've just been somewhat consultants to the affair. We've talked to both sides, and perhaps we even offered some good faith suggestions. I wouldn't describe us as an intermediary, however, or as a mediator. I think it's really for them to resolve it.

It's a legal contract. You've got attorneys working on it. You know, when you get attorneys in a room, sometimes it takes a while. One attorney says this is what the contract says, and the other attorney says, no it doesn't, it says this. That's where you are right now. These are private attorneys; they're not representing our government, for instance. We don't have a role in this except we want to see it resolved as soon as we can, as soon as it can be.

QUESTION: Nick?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: On a different subject --

MR. BURNS: This is a very important issue.

QUESTION: Big, big deal, here.

MR. BURNS: Almost as important as parking in New York, which is another matter of war and peace. That issue is so important that they don't even have time to discuss Zaire or nuclear arms control. They are discussing parking spaces in New York. This is a very important issue. It tells you a lot about diplomatic priorities at the United Nations.

QUESTION: Two quick things. The Russians say that there isn't a contract. And I wonder in saying -- you saying that there is a contract -- you are taking the position of former Congressman Symington --

MR. BURNS: You're trying to drag us into this issue. You're going to drag me kicking and screaming.

QUESTION: They say there is no contract. They say there was supposed to be one and there was an agreement to sign one. It hasn't been signed and therefore the deal is off, they say. What is your position?

MR. BURNS: I'm going to read the press guidance. Our experts in the Russian office have said the following. "Question," trying to anticipate questions, "What are the issues in the dispute over the Romanoff jewels?" "Answer: The Department is not in a position to comment on the contract issues raised by the various parties. Discussion has been underway among the attorneys and representatives of the parties concerned."

Contract issues, attorneys - put the two together, you have a legal problem (laughter) - a big problem, and an expensive legal problem. We sincerely hope --

QUESTION: Can I try one more?

MR. BURNS: Yes. The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation, headed by former Congressman James Symington - now, he is a very distinguished individual, he really is, and a man of good faith. He felt that there was a contract here and they promised the art museums in Houston and Memphis and San Diego that these riches of the Romanoff collection would be exhibited to the American people. That's an important issue. I can just describe that as an important issue.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the Russian diplomatic cars are, in fact, blocking the truck? And if so, are they violating U.S. law?

MR. BURNS: Yes. I think there's no question to anyone watching the local news networks that those Russian embassy cars are very definitely blocking the truck. Now, according to the best source available, which I think is National Public Radio because I listen to it faithfully, National Public Radio reports that if the truck drivers really wanted to bust out of there, they could, with some minor damage to the fenders and perhaps even the license plates -- I think that's highly symbolic -- of the Russian cars. But, there has been forbearance and dignity and restraint imposed on all sides and that truck has not busted out of there, because the Corcoran Gallery wants to resolve this - and the American organizers - peacefully, with the Russians.

I guess that's the only silver lining here. Everyone's acting with great dignity as they stand in front of the Corcoran for the last six days arguing about this.

QUESTION: Once again, the question --

MR. BURNS: Which is - I'm filibustering. I'm not interested in questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I can see that. Are those cars violating U.S. law?

MR. BURNS: Okay. I think they're very clearly blocking the truck. I would have to consult our attorneys, to be fair, about whether it was a violation of - you mean U.S. national federal law as opposed to D.C. law?

QUESTION: Parking law?

MR. BURNS: I think the question I will take is, are those cars violating any D.C. City ordinance, parking or vehicle ordinance? I think its a fair question. I'll be glad to take that question. I would doubt there's a federal law involved here, but possibly a city ordinance.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. BURNS: Do you really want to move -- anybody else have a question on this?

QUESTION: Yes, on another subject.

MR. BURNS: Okay, good.

QUESTION: On Iran and Peter Tarnoff's trip.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: I'd like to know more about what he's planning to do; how you can have said repeatedly in recent months and certainly in recent weeks that U.S. policy hasn't changed, when clearly his initiative is an effort to change the policy in some way - at least you're considering a change in the policy. If you are going to develop some sort of a road map to - so that the Iranians can see if they do X, Y and Z, they might have better relations with the West - that's a change in the way the U.S. has been operating, even though I'm sure you're going to say there is no change in policy.

But at any rate, can you talk a little more specifically about what he's trying to do and what your discussions have been with the Russians on this issue?

MR. BURNS: Okay. On the answer to the first question, I do not share your assumption, Carol, that the United States is looking for a way to change our policy, or has changed our policy, or that Peter Tarnoff's trip represents any change in U.S. policy. In fact, U.S. policy remains constant on Iran. We believe that Iran should be contained, economically and every other way because Iran is a threat, and you know why we say it is a threat to the rest of us.

There has, though, been an event that has changed the scene a little bit and that is the Mykonos trial, which clearly links the Iranian Government to these murders, according to the German prosecutor and according to the court case. Given that, given the fact that the European Union has pulled back its ambassadors, I guess with the exception of Greece - formally pulled back its ambassadors from Tehran; given the fact that the Europeans are meeting this week to talk about what policy initiatives they should take, if any, in response to this, this is clearly the best opportunity that we have had to talk to our European allies about the basis of their policies.

We know what our policy is. We know it is the right policy. We'd like now to be in a position to argue with the Europeans that they ought to seriously consider specific measures that would be realistic in making sure that all of us confront the threat that Iran poses to the West and to the Middle East. That is really the nature of the trip - discussing quietly, without a lot of fanfare, and certainly without going into detail on my part or Peter Tarnoff's part, specific ideas with the Europeans for how we can strengthen the Western international policy towards Iran.

QUESTION: So what you foresee, though, is steps that the Europeans would take, such as sanctions to try to establish a common front against Iran. Are you in any way considering some sort of a blueprint where you say to Iran, if you do X, Y and Z, the West would respond in kind to establish some sort of a dialogue or whatever?

MR. BURNS: Carol, I cannot be specific, but I can say, we're trying to fashion joint policies with the Europeans that will get at the strategic objective that I think we do share with the European Union, and that is, can we modify Iran's behavior?

Now, we believe that you need to be tough with Iran. That's why we cut off American trade. That's why we've urged Russia and China, for instance, not to export any kind of arms to Iran - or any other country, for that matter, to export arms to Iran. That's the American view. We haven't softened. We haven't changed the American view.

Now, I don't know how far the Europeans are willing to go. I can't predict what decision the EU will make, what members states will make, but we're certainly - now, we have a window of opportunity to consult with them on a friendly basis about our view of Iran's behavior and about what we think is the best way forward.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is that your policy hasn't worked either. It hasn't changed Iran's behavior?

MR. BURNS: Well, it's the right policy. Just because Iran has not changed its stripes, doesn't mean the United States should give up and go home. If Churchill had done that during the 1930s, then the coalition against Hitler would not have prevailed.

We have got to be firm in our resolve that Iran is an outlaw state, that its foreign policy is destructive to international interests, and therefore, we must have a tough policy towards Iran. That is our view. But I can't get into the details of what he is talking about.

QUESTION: Basically, you want the Europeans to impose the same kinds of sanctions that you have against Iran; is that correct?

MR. BURNS: Well, that would be our ideal scenario. But I don't know if that's realistic, frankly. I don't think we hear that coming out of the European governments. If the Europeans are not willing to do that, then perhaps there are some other things that we can do with them that would at least be stronger than the Western front, as it now appears.

Obviously, because we believe in our policy, we would hope that all other countries would replicate it. If they are not going to do that, then what measures are they willing to consider now in the clear light of the Mykonos trial to see Iran as it should be seen, as an outlaw state with very aggressive - very aggressive - intentions towards its neighbors.

QUESTION: On that point, Nick, at a conference this morning, some German and American experts suggest that since there is such divergence, and there is no immediate prospect of it being totally removed, it could be used in sort of a variation of the good cop-bad cop procedure. In other words, the United States would supply the stick and the Europeans would supply the carrot, and working together - as long as they chose to work together - might be more effective to have divergent policies. Is that one of the possibilities that he has been - that the Department has been thinking about?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to acknowledge what are the detailed issues we are discussing with the Europeans for obvious reasons. We will have to see what emerges from this. But clearly it is a time for us all to reflect on the Iranian government's policies.

QUESTION: And just one more on - the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Cohen, said yesterday, Nick, I'm sure you read, that we still don't have the full story on the investigation of the Dhahran bombing.

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: It's not completed. So in the meantime, while this investigation goes on -- and I think he means to say we don't have a definite on Iran, or any other country or group -- but, Nick, what is going to safeguard American assets worldwide, especially in the Middle East while this determination is being made?

MR. BURNS: Bill, we have not determined who bombed the Khobar barracks. But we have taken - both our diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East, in general, and our military forces -- we've taken extraordinary measures to protect all of our people, military and foreign service. We will continue to make that the highest priority that we have. You can be assured of that.

QUESTION: Nick, you were saying defense is the only alternative at the present time, is that correct?

MR. BURNS: Until we conclude the investigation with Saudis, we are going to make sure that our efforts to promote security for Americans is unparalleled, and we'll continue those efforts. Steve? Yasmine, on Iran, yes.

QUESTION: Is it true that the State Department refrained from publishing - or issuing a white paper on Iran's terrorist activities last week?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I just couldn't get into that. I've never seen a white paper, the white paper that was referred to in the article over the weekend. Never saw it myself.

QUESTION: -- story suggested yesterday that there was supposed to be such a paper --

MR. BURNS: Well --

QUESTION: And that also the State Department had to send a clarification to the European - to the embassies in Europe because of not issuing the paper.

MR. BURNS: On the first question, I just personally have never seen a white paper, and so I can't talk about a white paper.

On the second question, there were some press questions that were raised in the wake of Stuart Eisenstat's agreement with the European Union on Helms- Burton, on whether or not ILSA -- the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act -- would apply. The very clear answer to that is, we made no commitments, legal or otherwise, that the European countries would be given an exemption from the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. We were talking about Helms-Burton, and you know the arrangement that Stu worked out and I think the Europeans formally asked the WTO today to drop the WTO complaint.

But in the case of Iran-Libya, we expect - we hope that countries will meet the standards of that act. Or else they will be in violation of it, and we don't want to see that happen.

QUESTION: But, Nick, you said you've never seen a white paper. Are you aware of the existence of one?

MR. BURNS: I am not personally aware of the existence of a white paper.

QUESTION: Not personally aware?

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: Are you peripherally aware?

MR. BURNS: I'm not peripherally aware of one. I'm not personally aware of one. I've never seen one.

QUESTION: Okay, so you are saying it doesn't - it never existed?

MR. BURNS: You know, I'll have to canvass opinion here. I mean, The New York Times says there was a white paper. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't. I mean, I can take the question, is there a white paper? But I have never seen one. I have never heard of one.

QUESTION: I could be a brown paper. It could be a green paper.

MR. BURNS: No, no, no, a paper - a paper (laughter.)

QUESTION: Nick?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: India has a new prime minister --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran for one second?

QUESTION: On Iran?

MR. BURNS: Yes, and we do need to go to India. But, yes, David.

QUESTION: The Tarnoff mission?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: Will it be simply to talk? Or will Mr. Tarnoff also listen? Is the United States willing to amend its policies towards Iran if that would achieve a united front against Iran --

MR. BURNS: You know, we can talk and listen in the same meeting. We are adept at that. Yes, of course, he's going there to listen to the views of the Dutch and the German and the British and the French, and of other European countries, through our ambassadors. We're definitely --

QUESTION: What's going to be on the table of changes in U.S. policy if the Europeans were to meet halfway?

MR. BURNS: Oh, when I say we're going to listen, we're going to listen respectfully to the views of these European countries. We are quite confident about the correctness of our policy. We are sticking with our policy on Iran.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: India has a new prime minister --

MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. Yasmine, did you want another on Iran. Let's just stay with this, then we will go to India.

QUESTION: Pardon the repetition, I am sorry, but you are saying we have the right policy. You are saying we are seeking a joint policy with Europe. And you are saying it's not realistic to expect that they will, you know, start sanctions or anything. So are - is the United States open at this point to make some kind of modifications or arrangements in its own policy so that there will be joint efforts against Iran coming from the West?

MR. BURNS: We can only control the levers that we have here in Washington. So our policy remains constant. We don't know what the Europeans are going to do, but this is a good time to talk to them about their own deliberations, hoping that they will take stronger measures to make it clear to Iran that its current behavior is unacceptable internationally.

What the Europeans do is up to European countries to decide. We respect their decisions. We will respect their decisions. But clearly, it's a good time to talk and if we can have mutual efforts, we ought to have them. Yes.

QUESTION: Let's try one more time, Nick.

MR. BURNS: Let's try.

QUESTION: India has a new prime minister.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: That means the Foreign Minister became Prime Minister of India.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: So how do you view him and also he's supposed to be in Washington on April 12th on a five-day visit as foreign minister.

MR. BURNS: First of all, the United States congratulates Mr. Gujral on being chosen as the new Prime Minister of India. We expect to continue the very good relations we have had with him personally and with his new government. We hope that the trends over the last four years, which have been very positive in U.S.-Indian relations, might continue. Now, he was to have visited Washington. He had to postpone that visit because --

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. BURNS: He was to have visited just last week, I believe. But he had to postpone that because of the political crisis in India. I know Secretary Albright has been trying to get a hold of him by phone, and I'm sure will be successful in that. She's also written him a letter. We very much want to be in direct contact with him soon. Of course, Ambassador Wisner will be doing that in Delhi. This is an exceedingly important relationship, and we hope now that our relationship can move forward now that the Indian Government appears to be stabilized through this recent reshuffling of Cabinet seats and the appointment of Mr. Gujral as Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Is he still coming to Washington as whatever - Prime Minister?

MR. BURNS: Is Mr. Gujral coming to Washington?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BURNS: That will be up to him, obviously, and we'll have to talk to him about the best way to initiate early contacts between Washington and Delhi. In the meantime, of course, we have the most senior American diplomat anywhere in the world in Delhi - Frank Wisner. He will be personally representing the wishes of the President and the Secretary of State in his early contacts with Prime Minister Gujral and the rest of the government.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea why he was coming to Washington? Was there any special agenda or any --

MR. BURNS: Yes, he was coming because Secretary Albright has a particular interest in India and Pakistan and South Asia, in general. She understands the fundamental importance of a good Indian-American relationship, and she wanted to have early contact with then-Foreign Minister Gujral. He's Prime Minister now. He has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. So he and his new foreign minister and others will obviously have to decide on the best way forward, when to initiate these contacts. But as I said, we'll certainly be doing that through Ambassador Wisner.

QUESTION: Any change in the U.S. policy toward India because he's a career diplomat, or he's known to Washington, than the previous Prime Minister?

MR. BURNS: Well, we would hope to have a continuation of the very, very good relations between the two countries. We do have respect for Prime Minister Gujral. We know him quite well. He's a very able man, and we wish him every success and every bit of luck as he takes on his new position. Yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: At the top of the briefing, we talked about some of the political developments on Zaire. Can you bring us up to date on the status of American citizens and numbers with the situation in Kinshasa?

MR. BURNS: Yes, there was some press confusion on Friday afternoon -- I regret that very much - about the announcement that we made. Late on Friday we made a very simple announcement. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Zaire, due to the uncertain political and security situation and the potential for unrest throughout the country.

Now, in the past we've said recommend, urge. We now warn because it's very clear to us that the situation is unstable. Americans ought not to travel to Zaire. Secondly, the State Department decided late on Friday to order the departure of dependents of U.S. embassy personnel. We have not ordered the departure of the people who work in our embassies, just the dependents. I believe, depending on who you talk to, this is a grand total of one or two people. John thinks - I rely on John - John says it's one.

So unfortunately, there were some press reports that we ordered all Americans out of Zaire. We haven't. We have ordered, apparently, one American - a dependent of an employee - to leave Zaire. We are maintaining the American embassy staff in Kinshasa. As you know, we have a small but very, very hardworking staff. We currently have 42 employees and seven adult dependents at the mission. I guess all minor dependents had left some time ago. Most of the seven adult dependents also hold jobs at the embassy. Those in essential positions will be permitted to remain.

So, as I said, the actual number might be one. It could possibly be two. In the meantime, we'll keep our employees and our embassy at its current strength. In addition to that, there are 387 private American citizens in Zaire, 265 of them live in Kinshasa, and those people are still there. Now, the person who is being ordered out will leave by commercial means. So the U.S. military, which is currently in Brazzaville and Libreville and off the coast of West Africa, will not be involved in this effort to take the one person out.

I wanted to be very clear about that because there was a lot of confusion, and I'm sorry about that. Now, on the political front, Charlie, President Mandela has invited Mobutu and Kabila to South Africa. Unfortunately, it now looks like there's just continued haggling over when they go and where they go. We think it's important for the Zairian government and rebel alliance to respond to the South African Government and the United Nations, and respond favorably. Laura.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that announcement affected only one person, usually when you issue an announcement like that it is an indication that your concern has heightened. You know, it's an indication that the United States is sort of moving closer to some of the next steps. Can you say what triggered that announcement?

MR. BURNS: Well, just our sense, Laura, and I think you've seen in the words that we use and the verbs that we use in our statements, that we have an increasing sense that the unrest in Zaire is not going to end any time soon. There is a political stalemate. The rebels are hundreds of miles away from Kinshasa. They do not currently present a military threat to the capital. But there is a standoff, there's a lot of political instability. There were demonstrations and strikes last week.

So we really think - we warn American citizens not to go to Zaire. It's too dangerous. We certainly urge all Americans there to leave. Although we're not ordering the private Americans out, we urge them to leave. We just think it's important to keep as lean an embassy staff as we can. This was one way to accomplish that, albeit in very small numbers. We are not prepared to make the decision that American employees should leave because we think they are fulfilling a very important function for the United States. These are veterans, diplomats. They are used to tough conditions in that part of the world, and we're trying our best to support them in every way we can from Washington. Steve.

QUESTION: Parking in New York.

MR. BURNS: Just that? Any general comment? I can just --

QUESTION: Well, it seems that the --

MR. BURNS: -- tee off on that question?

QUESTION: The United States has folded its tent a bit and slipped away on this issue, right?

MR. BURNS: Oh, no folding of tents, no. I think there should be some more generous backgrounding out of City Hall in New York on this issue than that. The fact is that we don't have a deal yet. We are still talking to the city of New York and to the United Nations about the best proposal that both of them can agree on to adjudicate this dispute over parking. But there are some pretty fundamental lessons here, and fundamental points that the United States Government is putting forward.

First of all - and first and foremost - any diplomat in New York must obey our laws. If they violate our laws, they must pay the fines. That is fundamental. We do not look kindly on any diplomat parking in a police lane or parking in a fire lane or in front of fire hydrant or parking on the sidewalk. All of those things occur.

Last year, the Russian mission had 8,000 - let's check the numbers here - 8, 154 tickets. Bulgaria had 1,349; Indonesia, 1,273; Egypt, 1,184; Brazil, 1, 117; Nigeria, 766; Ukraine, 767; Israel, 627; North Korea, 613 - they can't have that many diplomats in New York - China, 623; the Iranians, 463.

Now, our view is - and we do resent some of this backgrounding out of some politicians in New York that somehow the State Department is wimping out. We're not wimping out. We're asking diplomats in New York - we're demanding that they observe our laws and pay the fines when they incur those fines.

We're trying to work out in New York a system that has been very successful here in Washington. That is, if a diplomat incurs a fine and doesn't pay it, there's a penalty at the end of the year to that individual -- or in this case, probably to the embassy of the individual. That will hurt because peer pressure will come into play here.

If some third secretary doesn't pay his 23 parking tickets, then some first secretary or someone else is going to have a license plate taken away. We think that maybe there will be, finally, some-self interest involved in this system to make sure that they pay their tickets. That is a very important principle.

But I think the other thing that's got to be said is, let's keep it all in perspective. The whining from the diplomats in New York, the complaining from the city, is getting a little bit old. Let's all just have cooler heads prevail. Let's resolve the problem. The State Department has put a very fine plan on the table; and if they just accept the plan, we can carry it out as we have here to great effect in Washington, D.C. So that's the way I would respond to your very general question, Mr. Hurst.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BURNS: You're welcome. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yes, is there any statement about the capture of the narco- trafficker in Venezuela?

MR. BURNS: Right.

QUESTION: The Colombian narco-trafficker?

MR. BURNS: Yes, the United States congratulates the Venezuelan Government for arresting the notorious Colombian drug trafficker Justo Pastor Perafan last Friday in San Cristobal, in Venezuela.

Mr. Pastor Perafan is wanted in New York for spearheading trafficking groups that have smuggled more than 30 tons of cocaine into the United States since 1988. Prosecutors in New York have unsealed an Eastern District of New York indictment against Pastor Perafan, and the United States Government has requested the Venezuelan Government to extradite Mr. Pastor Perafan to the United States.

In addition, we understand the Colombian authorities are requesting Mr. Perafan's return to Colombia to face illicit enrichment charges. This guy's in big trouble. We hope very much that this extradition request can be heeded, and that he can face trial here in the United States for selling cocaine to people on our streets.

QUESTION: What happens if Venezuela denies the extradition?

MR. BURNS: Well, I'm not going to assume that. That's a hypothetical question. The ball is the Venezuelan Government's court. We'll see what decision it makes, and we'll go from there. But we have a commitment here, working with Venezuela and Colombia, to try to stem drug trafficking in our hemisphere. Here's a good place to start.

QUESTION: Nick, on the same subject?

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there anything that the U.S. can do to pressure Colombia to try to get this guy over here, as opposed to leaving him in Colombia where he might face four or five years --

MR. BURNS: Well, he's in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BURNS: He's in Venezuela, so the U.S. extradition request is to Venezuela because that's where he's being - that's where he was apprehended and that's where he's being held currently.

QUESTION: But is there anything the U.S. Government could do to have Colombia, let's say, back off so he can - so the Venezuela Government can take into account the U.S. request for extradition to the United States as opposed to him going back to Colombia?

MR. BURNS: We've made our views known to the Venezuelan Government because that's the proper government here. That's the government that currently has him in custody. I think the Colombian Government understands the wishes of the United States. We hope to work cooperatively with all three on this case and on other cases. Betsy?

QUESTION: There are reports out of Colombia that the justice minister has resigned. Do you know the status of that?

MR. BURNS: I saw a wire just before coming out here. I simply don't know the facts, can't confirm them.

QUESTION: Nick, on the same subject, do you know anything about the Dallas Morning News report on Friday evening about how the federal government plans to - or planned to begin today seizing bank accounts, handling an estimated $1.5 billion in illicit drug profits from banks around the country?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't. I don't know anything about that.

QUESTION: You recognize the role of the Venezuelan authorities. Are you aware that Colombian police supported the arrest of Perafan also?

MR. BURNS: We understand there was cooperation, and we certainly congratulate the Colombian Government as well as the Venezuelan Government for having apprehended Mr. Pastor Perafan.

QUESTION: What (inaudible) do you expect that Venezuela would take to decide which country should have Perafan?

MR. BURNS: This is a decision for the Venezuelan Government. I'm not going to get into any public advice here for what they should do. Obviously we've asserted an extradition request and we hope that request be met. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Going back to talks with North Korea.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: Did they demand any specific kinds of grains or quantities?

MR. BURNS: I can't go into the specifics of the negotiations. They did talk repeatedly about food assistance, but I don't want to get into the details of it.

QUESTION: Would you confirm whether you have been permitted to have a chance for U.S. direct questioning Mr. Hwang Jang Yop?

MR. BURNS: Yes. As Secretary Cohen said yesterday, we've been assured by the South Korean Government that we will have direct access to him, and we look forward to that.

QUESTION: Any particular timeframe on that?

MR. BURNS: I don't know when that will happen. Obviously he's just arrived in Seoul today. He's been through quite an ordeal over the last several months, but the United States will have access to him. That's very important considering the role we play for the defense of South Korea.

QUESTION: That was my question. So I take it, Nick, the United States then would have an interest to verify the story he tells about the conditions and about the mental state of the government of Korea?

MR. BURNS: We have an interest in talking to him about a variety of issues, yes.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:16p.m.)

(###)


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